Graphic Design- The UPC Problem

The UPC Problem (from “Visual Literacy” by Wilde and Wilde)

The Symbol:

Here is a link to a SMALL UPC SYMBOL and the LARGE UPC SYMBOL. Right click to save them to your folder and use them in your final product.

The Project: The Universal Product Code, or UPC, is one of the most widely used marks in the world, appearing on packaged food, magazines, books, CDs, and other mass-market products. Indeed, the UPC symbol has become a symbol of consumerism in the world. But because this image is seen so frequently, it is almost always taken for granted and consequently not really seen at all- it has become part of the invisible fabric of our daily lives.

With this in mind, the student will be using the UPC symbol as a building block to create a personal, political or social statement. The student will create four preliminary canvases using paper and pencil/pen/marker to experiment with the possibilities of the mark. Once those preliminary canvases are complete, the student will choose one of those canvases and execute it as accurately as possible on a larger canvas. There are no limitations on the work, except the boundaries of school appropriateness.

Analysis: The ever-present UPC symbol serves as a point of departure for a design activity that calls for experimentation with a familiar image. As with the Road Sign Problem seen on the Fall Semester exam and the Black Square Problem completed at the beginning of the year, the inherent familiarity of the subject gives a certain tangibility to the problem, but the success of the solution ultimately lies in the articulation of the graphic execution of the problem.

WORDS OF ADVICE: This problem calls for a light, playful solution. Remember that the key to this problem is one of COMMENTARY. The solution should make a statement about the way the student views the world.

An inherent aspect of the UPC symbol is that a "double entendre" comes into play, where the symbol retains its OLD meaning as a sign of consumerism, but will also take on new meanings, depending on the ideas of the student.

CANVAS SIZES: Please complete this project in YOUIDRAW (or Illustrator) at whatever size seems best. You can use color or just black and white, whichever works best for you. There are a number of sample canvases below for inspiration.

SYMBOL MANIPULATION: Students can manipulate the UPC symbol in any way that the wish, but the UPC symbol should still be recognizable on the canvas when you are done.


Submission: As usual, save this project canvas to your Google Drive and share the product with me when complete.

Grading: This assignment will be worth 50 points. Work that shows strong effort and though will receive 50 points. Students that do not complete this project will receive 0 points. Anything else, including sloppy or rushed work, will receive half-credit- 25 points.