Final Graphic Design Project


For this project, I created an inspirational poster that implores pianists to enjoy thinking outside the box. My hope for it is to be able to invigorate pianists struggling in learning to improvise. I hope those people can look at it and remember that “being unusual” is key for becoming an outstanding improviser.

My poster relates to my topic, improvisation on piano, because it is meant to serve as a visual representation of that topic itself. Like how improv is a departure from the normalcy of pre-established songs, my poster is a departure from the perceived norm of what playing a piano looks like.

If you look at my project’s rough draft, you can tell there was a total change of concept between that and the final draft. I had originally designed my poster to be an advertisement for a piano-teaching business I made up. Because of that, I designed it with a practical mindset, such as by including lots of text for communicating details about the business. It was meant to resemble a typical ad poster you might find taped on a telephone pole.

I was surprised when I was told it did not meet the standards for the assignment. It was heavily implied that every part of it was an error in one way or another. At first, I didn’t understand why. After all, I had made the poster using techniques from the tutorials and concepts from the readings. I had spent hours cutting the edges off my mascot with the Magnetic Lasso, creating an engaging background with Hue / Saturation Layers, and then making sure everything looked right.

The overarching criticism of my rough draft was that it was not “creative” enough, which was hard to understand. However, I think I have a grasp on the problem now: I had the wrong vision for the assignment. I am not supposed to invent my own boundaries for what the project can be, such as a practical-type poster for advertising. Rather, the criteria is to make something that looks like a single and connected image. Anything else does not work.

Realizing this, I completely scrapped my original poster and set to work on this one. Instead of presenting a business, my goal this time was to visually portray a “narrative” about the random nature of improvising. The unified whole would communicate that improv is a truly unpredictable art. Also, unlike the rough draft, this final draft would be a singular picture.

My core idea in portraying randomness was to have the hands playing the piano have an appearance that made no sense. I decided the best way to do this was to have the hands not be hands at all. Instead, they would be limbs from two different animals. One of the limbs I ended up placing was an eagle’s talon. The other was originally a cow’s hoof, but I realized it didn’t contrast well against the white piano keys. I therefore replaced it with a tiger’s paw, which did contrast well. Another benefit was that the tiger paw’s color was analogous to the eagle talon, so the paw had a higher degree of similarity with the talon than the cow hoof did. There is thus a stronger indication that these two limbs belong to the same pianist. It is also important to mention I positioned the limbs with the Rule of Thirds in mind. I placed each roughly on one of the vertical intersections.

After I finished the animal limbs, I realized I could further portray randomness by altering the appearance of the piano itself. As part of this new idea, I did not just want the piano to look odd; I wanted it to be impossible to comprehend. I wanted to show that a keyboard can go beyond its established look yet still be a keyboard, just like how music can go beyond established songs yet still be music.

Unlike for my rough draft, I have a couple inspirations I can name for my final draft. The eagle limb idea came from a TV show I watched recently wherein someone’s arm is an eagle talon. I thought this was a very engaging aspect to that character, so I used it to help my poster be more engaging. Another inspiration of mine was from a bit of research I did for this project. I read on that blurred backgrounds tend to be less “cluttered” compared to unblurred ones, which allows the foreground to better attract the audience’s attention. According to the website, this is especially useful for separating text from the background. If you look carefully at the non-keyboard parts of the piano in my poster, you can see I took this to heart. I blurred all the background material so the other images and the text could stand out.

From here on out, I will talk about the technical process for making my poster. The piano, first of all, is a photograph I took in my bedroom. After posting it in Photoshop, I used the Polygonal Lasso then Layer Via Copy to make a separate layer out of the keyboard portion. I distorted that layer using Distort in the Transform submenu of the Edit menu (which I found out about online), then I gave it a wave effect using Wave in the Distort submenu of the Filter menu (which I also found out about online). Once I had done that, I returned to the original piano layer and blurred it using Field Blur in the Blur Gallery submenu of the Filter menu. (That step was something I figured out myself). I set the layer to a low blur, since a higher blur looked distracting.

The animal limbs are both from free-to-share images I found. For each limb, I posted its original image in Photoshop then separated it using the Magnetic Lasso and Layer Via Copy. Next, I enlarged it, rotated it, then placed it where I wanted. Other than that, the eagle talon is unaltered, though the tiger paw has some additional edits to it. I made a vibrance layer as a clipping mask for the tiger paw and increased the saturation to brighten the orange color. I also used the Eraser Tool to erase some of the fur between the tiger’s toes so the paw would appear more hand-like.

The background behind the piano was unnecessary for the poster. I got rid of it simply by filling it with gray via the Paint Bucket tool.

The biggest challenge I faced in creating this draft was making the keyboard be as wavy as I wanted. Originally, I sought to make the waviness somewhat subtler. However, this proved difficult, as I could not figure out exactly what each slider did for the wave effect. I eventually settled for having the waviness be a little more extreme than I planned.

For anyone else trying to figure out the wave effect sliders, I recommend taking more time to research this effect than I did. I also recommend clicking less often when using the Magnetic Lasso Tool, since I feel that clicking often resulted in me including some unwanted background bits on the animal limbs.


“Reisenseeadler Fang” (eagle image) by 4028mdk09, 2009. Shared on Wikimedia Commons using the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

(Tiger image) by Gellinger. Shared on Pixabay. No attribution required.


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