Assignment 4: shortlisted ideas

Oh, Assignment 4…

I’ve had SO much trouble landing on an idea for this that I’m happy enough with. I still haven’t. I’ve been thinking of ideas since before I started the Advertising section but have pretty much fallen out with every idea I’ve had.

What I want to do here is to summarise my objectives, the various ideas I’ve had (pros and cons) and where that leaves me in terms of refining what I DO want to do the assignment on.


In summary, the objective of Assignment 4 is to produce seven images for a calendar (cover page plus 6x 2-months-per-page).

If I’m following the brief (and I usually do, though this is one of my problems…) then there are a few key criteria that should be met:

  • Client is ‘a company that I find interesting which creates a calendar product for a market that I can relate to’
  • With ‘past imagery’ that I can look at and decide its relevance to the current market
  • Calendar is creative and ‘does not revolve around featuring the product’
  • Must also include the company logo and strapline, if there is one

My objectives

I have developed a few key considerations for this that may to may not converge on one idea; I may need to prioritise between contradictory criteria.

  • I want be more creative than I have been in the first three assignments
    • I’m disappointed in my own work so far on this course, it’s a little pedestrian
    • If I’m not wowing myself, I don’t expect anyone else to be overly impressed…
    • So I want to be more visually experimental
  • I want to apply what I’ve learned on the Advertising section of the course
    • I’ve learned things in this section that I’ve found really fascinating – the authorial nature of advertising work, with such deep and well-defined ‘meanings’ embedded in advertising photos – it’s almost an art in itself (or maybe a science…)
    • I’m particularly keen on the notion of implicit messages – the ‘clever’ ads where the viewer has to make the connection between the image and the brand message – the effective use of visual language impresses me
    • I’ve looked at other students’ work and think that for the most part, people have unfortunately missed the opportunity to really apply this kind of knowledge (there are a lot of local cause / charity type calendars are perfectly pleasant but show limited use of visual advertising techniques)
  • I want the subject matter to be something that I am genuinely interested in
    • And I’m trying to think about this as widely as possible!

Ideas so far

I’ve had several ideas that have stuck around for various lengths of time before I rejected them, and it’s in the rejection reasons that I’ve been refining the criteria above. So some of these are closer to being ‘right’ than others (but to repeat: I’m not fully happy with any of them!). In order of when they occurred to me:

1. Rob Townsend Photography

My initial idea was to go all off-piste and instead of doing it on an existing brand, to do it on my (so far imaginary) photography business. I was planning to use it as a showcase for some creative imagery of my own choosing

The visual twist was to be that the calendar text (i.e. month name, days, dates) would be incorporated into the images in-camera, e.g. written in pen on someone’s skin, printed on a t-shirt, on a wall as graffiti, etc.

Pro: creative/experimental; passes the (self-)interest test

Con: ignores large parts of the brief (almost all of it); self-indulgent; kind of cheating

2. Waterstones

Or any bookseller, to be fair. – the concept is really based around reading books and I needed a brand to hang it off.

The idea was close-ups of people holding books (hardback, no dust cover, so can’t tell what the book is), with drawings on their fingers that allude to the title/contents of the book they are reading – so it’s a kind of visual puzzle. The significance of using the fingers is to connote the physical feel of reading a real book rather than an e-book.

Pro: creative; uses some visual advertising techniques; I am interested in books; I like the ‘visual puzzle’ aspect

Con: I’m not sure I can think of enough different executions!

3. Five a Day

For a while I thought a social cause would be more interesting than a company, so I was brainstorming around healthy eating and in particular the advice to eat five portions of fruit and veg a day.

The pitch was that you should ‘reach out for your five a day’ and I planned to set up shots where a piece of fruit or veg would replace a common object that a person was reaching for (e.g. banana for a door handle, a strawberry for a light pull, carrot slices for coins, etc).

Pro: reasonably creative, visually; applies advertising techniques

Con: I realised that it’s VERY similar to my Assignment 2 concept, which also featured food surreally inserted into everyday scenes – so too much self-plagiarism

4. Nice Memorial

The city of Nice has been my second home for about 15 years and I was quite affected when the Bastille Day attack happened, and again when I visited Nice recently and saw the memorials still covering parts of the city.

The concept was to produce a calendar with the twin aims of restoring the city’s tourist reputation and commemorating the 86 people who died in the attack. The idea was to produce classic scenes of Nice (beach, promenade, old town shutters etc) with the names of the victims subtly included in each image.

Pro: creative; area of passionate interest for me

Con: no real advertising techniques involved; tricky balance to achieve in terms of tone; if the secondary memorial message is too subtle, it’s just ‘pretty pictures’

5. Leica

I went full circle back to the brief to think about what brands I am particularly invested in. I narrowed it down to Apple and Leica, then rejected the former as it has such a distinctive and long-standing minimalist aesthetic that they are just too well-known. So I settled on Leica.

I intended to produce a set of images that depict the kind of photos one might take with a Leica (street, portrait, photojournalism, abstract etc) and that each one would have a red dot somewhere in the image (red dot denoting the Leica logo). Secondarily, I wanted the content of the images to connote Leica brand values, such as precision, heritage, quality etc.

Pro: fits the brief well; uses advertising techniques; allows me to be creative with the images themselves (very meta)

Con: I’d need to capture or create seven really great images that would do the brand justice, and I’m unsure of my ability to do this in the short time available! and it’s not quite as ‘clever’ as I’d like…

Next steps

I’m still looking for a better idea than any of these five, in particular an idea that lends itself to implicit messaging, my current fascination.

In the meantime, I might throw this out to other students for comment, and/or send this list to my tutor for any feedback and direction…


13 thoughts on “Assignment 4: shortlisted ideas

  1. Stephanie Dh. 14 September 2016 / 16:26

    Hi Rob,
    May be you should try to work on an image for each and see what feels the most interesting and challenging path to follow for you.
    2 and 4 are the ones that I would be the most interested in – but it is your interest that is the most important.


    • Rob Townsend 14 September 2016 / 18:39

      Ah, you’re right of course! I shouldn’t just sit around waiting for the muse to strike with a perfectly-formed sixth idea, I should get to work and try stuff.

      I’m thinking I may mock up 2, 4 and 5 and see what develops…

      Thanks for commenting, I appreciate it.


  2. Stephanie Dh. 14 September 2016 / 18:46

    I say that because sometimes I think I have a brilliant idea, but it does not necessarily translate well visually, while other ideas, less engaging in appearance, turn out to have more potential as soon as I start working on them…
    I am right now in the same phase as you are, toying with ideas for an assignment with no images yet and I’d better try and make some images if I want to be able to decide in which direction I am going!


    • Rob Townsend 14 September 2016 / 18:50

      It’s interesting, I must confess I don’t often mock up ideas, and usually get to an assignment concept by a lot of thinking first before I actually create anything. But that approach isn’t working this time! So time to try something new :-)

      Good luck with your assignment!


  3. Richard Brown 15 September 2016 / 09:49

    Of them all I like number 4 as i think that is most personal to you and I suspect the finished work will reflect that. Good ideas from Stephanie as always.


    • Rob Townsend 15 September 2016 / 09:51

      Thanks – I’m still thinking about no. 4, I just need to see if I took enough pics when I was there recently or whether it’s going to need another trip…!


  4. Anne Bryson 20 September 2016 / 15:52

    I would say 4 too Rob as it is the one you are most emotionally connected to and that is likely to be reflected in your images. When you say maybe another trip I wonder if that would be pushing the emotion too hard though? Maybe the ones you took when you were really feeling heir pain are the ones to go back to?


    • Rob Townsend 21 September 2016 / 10:39

      Hi Anne, I replied to your similar comment on Facebook but not sure if you saw that yet. I’m going back to Nice to shoot more pictures because I didn’t get enough usable images for my connect in the first trip. To be honest I’m not trying to get my personal emotions embedded in the images as such, I want them to be simultaneously celebratory and commemorative – my follow-up post explains it better:


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