Ontographio completio?

After many weeks of editing and attempting to find the most suitable blend of colours, fonts and visual aesthetics to showcase my ontographs, I feel that I have at last been able to present each in a unique, yet coherent and sensible way. Here I provide an overview of the development of my three Bogostian lists and discuss some of the changes I have made to them along the way.


The first of the ontographs I compiled was the broadest and hardest to present –It deals with terms that relate to the ‘concept album’ in a sparse and undefined manner. This first foray into the practice of ontography led to a very populated series of terms (over 500) that inevitably were fighting with each other for the viewers attention. This is perhaps largely due to the wide breadth of the subject matter. My second ontograph; a more personally significant list dealing with my band Kettlespider’s first album ‘Avadante’, hailed a similarly large amount of terms, including some that overlapped with the previous ontograph. Each of these two works certainly presented me with a confronting task as far as presentation was concerned.


In order for my lists to be as useful to my further studies as possible, I decided to use colour systems to categorise and group like terms, and chose appropriate fonts to suit the theme of each ontograph, striving for more insightful and ultimately more practical outcomes that would translate well to A1 size. With so many words and phrases in each list, this proved to be a challenge that required patience and some trial and error to resolve. Initially, I changed the colour of the background behind each individual word to meet one of five categories (essentially these were: sound, story, genre, influences, other). The first edits of these ontographs was simply to colour the text of the words themselves rather than the space behind them – which produced interesting results, particularly in the case of the yellow words not really standing out against the white background. I also gained a renewed perspective on the terms, having to assign them to categories once again – some of my categorisations did indeed change as my understanding had developed.


While the presentation quality increased in from these early edits, I found that my initial decision to assign five categories was described by my peers as slightly jarring on the eye and perhaps did not showcase the significance of certain words quite enough. While this initial categorisation process was useful for thinking deeply about my subject matter and furthering my understanding of each phrase by considering where in the overall context of my study it belongs – there were just too many colours in these early versions, and it all became a bit confusing to look at (the pictures I have can prove this).


Furthermore, as my cataloguing process for these two ontographs was largely a train of thought exercise – many like terms were grouped together as I pursued certain wavelengths. For instance, in some cases, there would be 14 blue words (sound and studio related) in a row as my thought process considered the recording process of a concept album. Adrian’s suggestion to combat this was to randomise the terms and categorise them yet again in their disassociated form. This proved to be the change that would give these lists a whole new life..



As I was snapping these new developments into action and experimenting with the ‘word randomiser’ program online, Adrian then set me the task of exploring the ‘materiality’ of the concept album in a third, and more specific ontograph.


This new ontograph required much more research, as I had never really delved into matters such as what a cd, vinyl record, tape reel, headphone, record sleeve etc were made out of, how and where and why. I assigned a simple three-colour category system to the 300+ terms in this dense and deeply researched list

(red: analogue/1970s/80s, blue: digital/1990s/now, and black: applies to both). This detailed but simply presented ontograph looked great when printed on plain white paper (I had been exploring coloured backgrounds for my other ontographs) and made the words stand out so much more clearly.


Upon sharing my new ontograph with the class and hearing their positive feedback, I knew that the next step was clear: I needed less colours and better defined categories for my existing ontographs, and I needed to print them on a plain white background. That way I would have three similarly formatted ontographs that each clearly delivered a different message, but contributed something new to the greater collective. (I would also abandon the ragged right edge formatting I had been experimenting with, and make every effort possible to fill out the entire page without sacrificing the clarity of presentation.)


While the ‘concept album’ ontograph and the ‘Avadante’ ontograph each adopt different colours to signify my categorisations (blue and orange for the former and blue and purple for the latter to mirror the album cover’s colour scheme) – my categorisation methods for the two lists were the same. Blue would represent ‘musical elements’ (ie. horns, tone, melody, the Moody Blues) and the purple and orange each represented ‘extramusical/non musical elements’ (ie. story, press release, beer). Terms that existed somewhere in between, that could be applied to both or neither categories – remained black.


Ultimately, these ontographs benefited from a ‘back to basics’ approach. I abandoned the 1970s style typography I had been toying with in my attempt to associate the ‘concept albums’ list with the classic ‘prog’ era. Instead, ‘Arial bold’ came to the rescue, which gave the terms in the ontograph further clarity and space, particularly after I changed the colours to the complementary blue and orange tones they now have. The thematic typography concept was not completely abandoned, however, as my ‘materiality’ ontograph is written in an industrial, box label appropriate, factory style font that nicely represents the nature of the terms.


Today I feel as though my ‘concept album’ ontographs may finally be complete. I enjoyed sharing them in class this morning and felt that I hadn’t previously tackled the sharing process with as much confidence as I did today. Although they were received well and are approaching the ‘print-ready’ stage – I still have some serious work to do on my accompanying essay, which will add further context, meaning and relevance to the work I have been doing on these ontographs throughout the semester. Wish me luck!

About simonwoodhonours

Simon Wood (Honours in Media and Communication) is an RMIT student whose specialist discipline is in the 'contemporary music industry'. For his honours study in 2013, Simon will be researching the ‘concept album’, and its significance within the contemporary music industry.
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