Sounds of the City: Evaluation of Progress and Final Piece

Save 1

Here we are looking at the progress of the final piece through each of the steps (that I saved it at).

Save 1: The intial basic shapes for the instruments and where to place them stage. I also did limited shapes for what and where I wanted details to be on the trombone and the accordion. I also pretty much finished the three woodwind pieces on the guitar at this stage, the only change to them being I later changed the colour. At this stage I wasn’t really happy with the harp shape I had or the drum designs (that were replaced with a square) I also decided here that adding lines rather than shapes sharpened areas too much so would rather stick to consistantly using shapes instead.

Save 2 and Save 3

Save 2: Main addition here is a background so that when I was choosing colours I had an idea of how they would look on the final piece. At this point I would like to note that uploading here brightens all of the colours of these pieces for some reason. For changes in the actual design I made the drum more square. This is due to when it was the only building without a flat base it messed with the composition of the bottom layer as a whole. With a rounded top it looked similar to the accordion next to it as well so this square design was born.
Other additions here include adding the windows onto the trombone building, moving the Woodwind instruments over to the right side and adding a French horn to add more depth to the right of the image. Finally the keyboard ‘road’ was added at the bottom so there wasn’t just a gulf of blank space under the image. A keyboard is a long straight rectangle so I thought it was the best instrument for the job.

Save 3: Church Organ added to the back of the piece. Gives it a varied, multilayered backdrop that breaks up the mass blue sky a little. The colour also makes the instruments in front more of a chance to stand out as the high contrast with the sky and everything meant the instruments faded into it a bit too much.
The harp returned redesigned at this stage with less randomly wavy lines giving it a neater look to fit in with the other instuments. The French horn was reflected so that it didn’t completely cover up the accordion behind it. Minor changes were done to the size of the ground space here and instruments were moved up and down to add more depth and balance the sizes of the buildings into a more varied composition.

Save 4 and Save 5

Save 4: All of the building details and colours finalised, other than minor changes to the horn buildings later. The circular section on the guitar was redone as it was before off center. The two side sections of the guitar were added so it fit in with the level of detail on the other buildings, but could represent the many different shapes guitars come in.
The shading added to the church organ piece in the background is one of the best decisions to add to the piece in my opinion. Without it, the space was too flat and empty but stilll needed to allow the rest of the buildings to be seen properly. The shading just adds more interest to the background.

Save 5: Guitar colours and details redone. The neck of the guitar had its windows gradually reduced in size the further down they went mimicing the look of a real guitar. I also added six small marks on the tuning part. My original plan had windows up here but I figured I had that covered well enough on the rest of the guitar and this section could be used to reinforce the look of the instrument.
The heads of the trombone and french horn were changed to match up with the style of the organ in the background. This fairly simple change makes them more identifiable as the instruments they are meant to be. The colour of the French Horn was also changed to fit in a more uniform way with itself like all of the other instruments in the piece are. Here is also were I began to think of the positioning of the music notes/sheet music cloud design but just with holding lines at this point.

Save 6 and Save 7

Save 6: With the city complete at this point I began deciding what music notes I would use, how many and looked up how you properly place them on sheet music. The first lines on this were my brief hope that just maybe I could use the broken looking brush tool to represent a cloudy song sheet. It ended up just looking like messy lines. I went back to my original idea after this of going with the cloud theme for the notes.
Save 7: I designed the music notes in illustrator using actual notes taken from sheet music as accurate templates. With a small selection it allowed me to make copies, resize and reshape as I saw fit.

Save 8

Save 8: To make the clouds I used a scatter brush consiting of a small circle which I could gradually build up and make the edges resemble a cloudy line. The flaw in this was I made the scatter brush green and couldn’t figure out how to change the colour so had to redo it. This was also the actual point I decided to figure out where you position notes on a music sheet as they looked just randomly placed here.

Final Piece

Because of the colour always being different when I upload it anywhere this is a screenshot of the final piece. I re-did the clouds in white as I said with pretty much the sameĀ  style. The only difference in how I made them this time is I did a single line with the scatter brush then built up from that line. Before I built up as I went along which ended up being a little less uniform. I also added an extra line because five lines seemed to be what most music sheets consisted of. I connected the clouds to some of the chimney-like structures just to connect them better with the rest of the image as I didn’t want the clouds to be just another part of the background. I added the music notes in at different depths in the clouds for the same reason.

Overall from the piece I have gradually become using Adobe illustrator. A program I’d tried a little in the past but always found my progress a little slow and clunky. Moving into using the pathfinder tool and simple things like alt dragging to make copies of shapes has made working in illustrator a lot more rewarding. Giving myself enough time to work on this as much as I did also improved the experience. Time management is a weakness I have and I feel by beginning to manage it better here the quality of work has gone up.


Sounds of the City: Building the final piece 2/3


I forgot to do an earlier progress update so I will just combine them here. The above image has most of the buildings I am to use, minus the drum (not added at this point) and the harp (not happy with the shape yet) at a stage were I am ready to add details and choose final colours for, something I have begun to do on the trombone building on the far right. The middle space is still looking quite empty so things may need to be rearranged and I decided to up the size of the pipe organs in the background in later progress.

An actual digital upload!

This piece isn’t take on my phone so you actually get a better idea of colours, details, shapes ect. From the last post I have arranged everything to pretty much where I want it to be. I am still deciding whether the buildings look better having the bases of them lined up at the bottom or at different heights. My problem is both of them look messy which may suggest that more rearranging is needed. The gap in between the drum and guitar building is reserved for the harp which I still need to redraw.

Various stages of harp

The harp is an odd shape that is giving me problems. The first one didn’t have any uniform in its outline and just ended up looking messy. The second one looked better, the right hand side is something I am happy with. it is just the pointed corner that I struggle with. The problem may just be the inside and outside corners are not being matched up and that is what makes it look wrong.
Once the harp is done I will have the basic shapes of all the buildings which will just leave the sound sheet clouds and building details left.

Sounds of the City: Building the final piece


This is the start of my final piece. I am using the rough layout as a template in illustrator which is really helping with the angles and scale of the buildings. Currently I have the basic shapes of the trombone and accordion buildings down. The colours and additional details to go on them are not yet finalised but I am thinking of getting every building to the same stage to make sure my composition works.
Changes made in the notes of the last post are easy enough to add in the digital creation stage, especially with things like the accordion building which just needed moving down.


The guitar building has been giving me some grief. Whilst not new to Adobe Illustrator I haven’t used it a huge amount and the pathfinder tool is something I have just started using first time on this project. The circular part of the building is either difficult or I am really overthinking how I am doing it but I am struggling to detach the lines I don’t want and keep the lines I do. For now I am making progress on the buildings I can do before I tackle it again.


Sounds of the City: A3 Layout notes


Started putting designs together to see how it would look A3. I numbered it too add notes on the areas I want to change before I move on to final composition.

  1. Lower harp building so that less of the thin end is showing and it doesn’t tower above everything else in the middle of the piece as much.
  2. Lower accordion building so that it sits on the ground level on same line as drum and french horn.
  3. Pull the two parts of the trombone together so the middle bit isn’t as spaced out. Actual trombone is closer together and being apart is making it lose this appearance.
  4. Add a piano underhang to the piece so that it doesn’t just end. I think having everything sat on the bottom of the page would leave too much blank space but I do need something there and this fits the theme.
  5. Add church organ in the background. It will make a good silloutte to fill the empty space in this area.
  6. Other woodwind instruments (or anything of that shape) can be added sparingly in areas behind main instruments if I feel things are too sparse.
  7. Do more research into the details on the side of the drum. Not completely happy with how it looks at the moment.

Peter Grundy Research


The above work is by Peter Grundy. His style is what I had in my head when thinking of the final look and design of my sounds of the city buildings and my zeitgeist leaflet. Flat, bold, simple shapes and characters.
The top image caught my attention because it is a seamless blend of two objects; Big Ben and a pencil. The reason I figure it is so seamless is because the two original shapes were similar before the merging even down to the shapes on Big Ben and the lines on the side of a pencil. For my own instrument building combinations I can consider this and look into instruments and building shapes that do work seamlessly as well. Something I imagine is easier with blocky instruments but will become more difficult with curved ones or were the drawn version of the instrument would have a lot of negative space.

The second image I looked at because the spacing of the buildings in the skyline is the right amount of spacing to give each object enough space to be seen individually whilst there still being enough on the page to clearly be a city, with landmarks to indicate which one. I think the bottom layer, street level element helps link it all together as it means there is no negative space at the bottom of the page that could break up the image too much. Trying to find the right amount of buildings in my own work is something I am struggling with as for my piece I am required to work in portrait forcing me to either pack things together more or have less buildings. Either way I need to think of my own composition carefully.

Sounds of the City: Ideas generation

These are the rough thumbnail sketches I made using the keywords from the mind map as inspiration. Words I drew the most inspiration from are the building elements of the city and the music scene found and produced within a city. As the thumbnails developed these two ideas merged together. I briefly set myself on using radio as the main image as radio can tell many sounds and stories of its city. I moved away from this idea when I decided I didn’t want to be so focused on one element and was worried that the city aspect of the brief may not come across as well as I wanted it too.

One thing I did carry across from the radio idea is the sound originating from a certain thing within a city. This went to a rough sketch of buildings shaped like musical instruments. The way I can interpret this is that the sounds produced by the city are coming together and producing its own music. Each city could be shaped differently to show its own unique sound but a city shaped liked musical instruments can represent this same general idea.

Rough sketches turned into me looking for ways to make instruments look like buildings. I have been trying to find a balance between making them recogniseable as instruments and making them look right as a building. It may end up being the case I need to choose either or, leaning more towards the instrument look. For final layout I am thinking either a skyline composition of the instrument buildings or a flat map with each instrument getting its own spot of land.

Sounds of the City: Ideas Mindmap

Ideas mind map I got down for the Sounds of the City brief which is also this competition that has had its deadline extended until our actual brief deadline. Convinient. The ideas that appeal to me from the map are pretty much any that involve buildings or archictecture but that was always going to be a common subject in a brief centered around cities anyway. I did mention in my first sounds of the city post that I liked the idea of picking up on an event within a city so things on the mind map like pubs, clubs, bands and concerts may be a good place to start looking for a way to develop further.
For something local to me, my town centre is currently being rebuilt so road works would be fitting but might put the sounds of the cities idea in too much of a negative light wheras I get the impression from the brief and competition that isn’t what they want.