Graphics AQA GCSE Notes

A run through of key words. Based on different materials, adhesives and such, used in processing.

  • Created by: Bexie
  • Created on: 27-05-12 17:57

Physical Properties of Materials 1


The ability to absorb physical impact without permanentley deforming. Glass (although hard), is NOT tough, because it easily shatters.


A hard material will not dent or scratch easily. Acrylic is an example.


Will hold its shape under load, not deforming when pressure is applied. Strong materials are often difficult to cut. The strength is dependent upon the type of load that is applied to it;

  • Tensile loads are stretching loads. e.g. A thin wire is difficult to break when stretched, but when squashed, it becomes deformed.
  • Shear loads are cutting loads. e.e. Like using scissors, two forces applied to one point.
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Physical Properties of Materials 2


Will be soft and moveable. For example, banners or flags are flexible.


This is the opposite of Flexibillity. Rigid materials are stiff and do not bend under their own weight. Used for forming structural items. e.g. Foam board.


A ductile material is one that is easy to form and change shape.


The ability of a material to return to its original shape when the applied load has been removed.

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Physical Properties of Materials 3


A plastic product will stay in the shape it has been moved to, after load is removed.


Materials that allow heat or electricity to flow through them.


Important to consider in designing. Often the strength:weight ratio is considered and a designer will attempt to get the best comprimise between the two.


Some materials have colour built into them (e.g. Red Acrylic), which is useful if we were to sand or cut the material (same colour all the way through).

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Non-Physical Properties of Materials


The final surface decoration or technique used on a product. Some materials are self-finishing (e.g. Some Plastics). Others need methods used, to help improve the quality of the product;

  • A finish could be paint, varnish, stain or dye.
  • A finishing technique could be sanding, filing or polishing.
  • Texture, is classed as a finish.
  • Adding visual aesthetics is also a finish. (e.g. adding a handle)


Some materials are more expencive to buy than others, so the type of material we buy may depend on how much of a budget we are allowed to spend.

Environmental and Sustainability Issues

Materials can be chosen for the positive environmental effects (e.g. Recyclable or Sustainable)

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Changing the Properties of Paper

Paper can be manufactured to give the material different properties for useage. Main ways of doing this are;

  • Laminating: The glueing of layers together to achieve a shiny board.
  • Coating: China Clay or Chalk can be sprayed onto the surface, giving a smooth finish.
  • Sizing: Paper or card is sealed by a chemical agent to improve its ability to accept ink. The sizing can affect the whiteness (brightness) of the surface material.

Paper is made by squeezing together damp fibrous material, which is then dried to form paper. This is produced in many different sizes and weights, for various uses. The most widely used size of drawing sheets is the A series. A0 has an area of one square metre, and each size halves as the series of sizes progressess.

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Types of Paper 1

Virgin Fibre Paper: Paper that has never been used before to make paper or other products.

Recycled Paper: Printed or unprinted wasterpaper, collected from offices/households. Contains a minimum of 70% waste.

Cartridge Paper: Often used for Graphic Design. Thicker than ordinary paper (good quality) and weighs between 120gsm and 150gsm. Texture is rough, semi-rough or smooth, depending on use. Can be bought at a medium cost.

Layout Paper (Tissue overlay): Is a strong, lightweight paper with a smooth finish and a degree of transparency. Inexpensive to buy, weighing around 50gsm.

Tracing Paper: Recommended use of medium, is pencil, pen and markers. The greater the weight of tracing paper, then the more expensive it is to buy. A thin translucent paper, used for making copies of drawings.

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Types of Paper 2

Bleedproof Paper: A smooth, hard paper. The paper has the ability to absorb and hold inks and water-based paints or felt markers. Moderately expensive to buy, weighing between 120 and 150gsm.

Cardboard: Available in sheets of different sizes, thickness and finish. Can be recycled as long as they are not laminated, but it can only be recycled four or five times before the fibred disintegrate. Two types of card are;

  • Corrugated Cardboard; Used in packaging.
  • Flat Cardboard; Used to make products such as cereal packets.

Corrugated Cardboard: It's versatile, light, robust, economic and environmentally friendly and practical. Inexpensive to buy. Can be bought in different thickness's.

Mounting Board: Stiff but lightweight and easy to cut with a sharp craft knife. The board is expensive and can be purchased in a variety of thickness's and colours.

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Types of Paper 3

Duplex Board: Is a large foam based board, that can be used for food packaging (such as take-away pizza boxes). May have a water-proof lining on the inside, and a waxy feel.Various different finishes, including metallic and hologrammatic.

Solid Whiteboard: Best card for printing on to, so usually kept for expensive products.

Greyboard: Produced from 100% recycled fibre, meaning it is biodegradable. Thick, but lightweight, with a smooth surface. The cross-grain, means it is tough in all directions.

Foam board: Usually white, but other colours including back are available. Common sheet sizes are A2 and A3. Will cut with a clean edge, when a sharp craft knife is used. Useful for model-making.

Grid Paper: Printed square and isometric grids, come in different sizes. It is used as a guide for accurate drawings and can be bought at a low cost.

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Computer-Aided Design

Computer Aided Design (CAD) = Process of producing designs using a computer.


  • It's fast, once familiar with the layout of the software.
  • Easy to include variations, designs can be altered.
  • Standard components can be combined.
  • Designs can be seen in 3D, rotated and magnified.
  • Designs can be produced almost immediately.
  • Presented designs can look almost like photographs.


  • Initial expense can be high.
  • Staff training is needed and difficult to use when you're not familiar with it.
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Computer-Aided Manufacture

Computer-Aided Manufacture (CAM) = The process of producing products using computer technology.


  • Components are made exactly the same, time and time again.
  • Machines work non-stop, stopping only for scheduled maintenance.
  • Produces flexible production.


  • Repairs may be expensive. Specialist engineers may be needed.
  • If a machine breaks down, it may stop all production.
  • If design is flawed, products may be flawed.
  • Without regular checks, any mistakes made are repeated in large numbers. Wasting our money and materials.
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One-Off Production: Used for high-value, special items.

ADV: Easy to set up/Change. DIS: Very high individual cost.

Batch Production: Used for limited runs, such as books and magazines. Makes between 1-10,000.

ADV: Adaptable. DIS: Machines are expensive to buy and set-up.

Mass Production: Used when making 10,000+ of the same item.

ADV: Cost of individual item is low. DIS: Expensive to set up.

Continuous Production: 24/7 production. Making millions.

ADV: Easy to make items cheaply. DIS: Cannot change if demand falls.

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Packaging Materials

There is a lot of consideration, when it comes to the right material for packaging. Common materials used are;

  • Paper/Card. ADV: Cheap, Light, Easy to print on. DIS: Not strong or waterproof.
  • Thermoplastics (e.g. Bubblewrap). ADV: Waterproof, light, transparent, complex shape are easily made. DIS: Least environmentally friendly.
  • Metals (e.g. Steel or Aluminum). ADV: Strong, Waterproof. DISADV: Expensive.
  • Glass. ADV: Waterproof, Transparent. DIS: Breaks easily and expensive.
  • Softwoods (e.g. Pine). ADV: Cheap, Strong, Can be re-used.
  • Engineering Boards (e.g. Plywood). ADV: Very strong. DIS: One-off use.

The shape of these packaging can also vary:

  • Simple box. Made from Board. Die Cutting is the Process used to shape.
  • Bottle. Made from Thermoplastic/Glass. Blow Moulding is the Process used to shape it.
  • Bottle Lid. Made from Thermoplastic. Injection Moulding is the process used to shape it.
  • Blister Packaging. Made from Thermoplastic. Vacuum Forming is the process used to shape it.
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Tools/Equipment used

Tools used in a Graphics room include;

  • Scissors: Used for cutting paper, thin card/plastic.
  • Scalpel/Craft Knife: Used for cutting or scoring paper, thin plastic/board.
  • Cutting Mats: Used to give suitable cutting surface when using craft knives.
  • Rotary Cutter: Used for cutting paper, card, thin plastic/board.
  • Compass Cutter: Used for cutting circles in paper, thin card/plastic/board.
  • Safety Ruler: To help make straight line cuts with a craft knife.

Tools used in a workshop include;

  • Reciprocating Saw: Used for cutting plastic sheets, thick board/wood. It is easy to cut intricate shapes.
  • Coping Saw: Used for cutting plastic sheets, thick board/wood. It is easy to cut intricate shapes.
  • Hot Wire Cutter: Used for cutting rigid foam.
  • Laser Cutters: Used for cutting most materials with good accuracy.
  • Vinyl Cutter: Used for accurate cutting of card and sticky vinyl.
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Sustainability Issues - The 6 R's

Words that sum up what we need to do,  to reduce impact on the environment;

  • Rethink.

Is packaging really needed, or can other solutions could be found?

  • Refuse.

Designers are constantly thinking about how customers will react to the product.

  • Reduce.

Buying products that use less energy. 

  • Re-use.

Encouraging customers to re-use bags. Can other products be re-used?

  • Repair.

Being able to repair technology or products. So we are not buying new ones.

  • Recycle.

A way of recovering materials (e.g. metals, paper) so we can re-use them.

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Reduction of Harmful Environmental Effects

So in summary of the 6 R's, we can reduce the effects to the environment in the following ways;

  • Offering reusable and refillable containers.
  • Manufactured from non-polymer materials (including card and paper), because this can be recycled easily and decays quickly.
  • Designed so that the amount of material used is minimised. (including thickness)
  • Materials such as Recyclable Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) are used. PET is 100% recyclable, lightweight and can be crushed/compressed. Is a sustainable material.
  • 'Bag Free' check-outs. Or offering a 'Bag for Life'.
  • Use of biodegradable polymers (e.g. Polylactide).
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A flowchart is a way of illustrating a sequence of operations that need to be undertaken when doing a task such as manufacturing a product or repairing a machine. In this way, it can also be used to find a fault and how to repair it. Key terms, involved with Flowcharts are as follows;

  • Inputs = What you add to a process (information or materials)
  • Outputs = The final outcomes of the process
  • Process = What is done in the process, or the steps involved.
  • Feedback = Information that informs the operator what is happening during the process.
  • Operator = The person who is controlling the process.
  • Flowchart = A diagram which explains the process, showing inputs, processes and outputs.
  • Operations = Individual processes and functions.
  • Feedback loop = The part of a flowchart which shows the operator where to go back if necessary.
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There is a wide assortment of adhesives which we can use to join different materials together. Including;

  • Glue Stick. (Used on Paper or Card) ADV: Cheap, easy to use, safe. DIS: Not a strong bond.
  • PVA. (Used on Card or Wood) ADV: Strong bond, safe, sets within 2 hours, colourless when dry. DIS: Can 'ripple' thin card if too much is applied.
  • Spray Adhesive. (Used on Paper or Card) ADV: Quick, Easy to reposition DIS: Not strong bond, need to wear mask when using, expensive.
  • Balsa Cement. (Used on Balsa Wood) ADV: Quick setting glue. DIS: Have to use in a well ventilated area.
  • Acrylic Cement (e.g. Tensol). (Used on Acrylic) ADV: Very quick. DIS: Can leave marks where excess is applied.
  • Epoxy Resin (e.g. Araldite). (Used on Everything). ADV: Very strong, sets within 2 hours, joins different materials together. DIS: Difficult to apply, stains paper or card.
  • Hot glue gun. (Used on Most materials). ADV: Quick to set (10 seconds). DIS: Difficult to use on fine model work. May burn hands when in use.
  • Double sided tape. (Used on Paper, Card and Foam board.) ADV: Immediate strong bond. DIS: Difficult to use.
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Types of Printing

  • Offset Lithography: Used for newspapers, magazines and books. Medium cost and high print quality. 

ADV: Common method, high quality, fast. DIS: Expensive set-up costs.

  • Flexography: Used for Packaging, bags and 3D surfaces. Medium cost, relatively high quality.

ADV: Very fast. DIS: Expensive set-up costs.

  • Screen printing: Used for Short print runs, T-Shirts, Posters. Lower Costs but Lower quality.

ADV: Good for short print runs, prints on absorbent surface. DIS: Slow.

  • Gravure: Used for high-quality magazines, stamps. High cost and print quality.

ADV: Best quality print process, fast. DIS: Very expensive set up costs.

  • Laser: Used for one-off items. High cost, fairly high print quality.

ADV: Immediate printing, no set-up costs. DIS: expensive individual prints.

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Improving your Sketches

Simple enhancements (listed below) can help to improve the quality of a quick free hand sketch;

  • Thick/Thin Lines

Outlines should be 'lined in' to make the shape stand out.

  • Tonal Shading

Illusion of 3D is improved with dark/light shading.

  • Colour

Attracts attention to important features. Highlights the shape, or represents materials used.

  • Texture

Materials can be represented by adding effects, through the use of lines or colour.

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Common risks in the Workroom

There are several hazards found in a workroom, which be should be aware of and the ways in which these risks can be reduced;

  • Bags/Equipment on the floor: Make sure these are put out of the way, so the floor is clear of obstructions.
  • Using a Craft Knife: Blade should be sharp and used with the correct cutting mat and safety ruler.
  • Eye strain from using a computer: Take a break every 20 minutes.
  • Dust from Sanding machines: Ensure dust extraction is on.
  • Loose clothing worn whilst using a machine: Tie hair back and roll sleeves up.
  • Using adhesive sprays: Use in a well-ventilated area.
  • Using a glue gun: Do not touch the nozzle and rest on stand when not in use.
  • Using portable electric tools: Ensure cables are out of the way, so they are not obstructing walk ways.
  • Carrying tools around the room: Carry in a safe manner, making sure all retractable blades are fully retractable.
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Paper Engineering

Mechanisms are used to provide movement in models, pop-up books and other products with moving parts.

Levers are used (a rigid piece of material that turns about a fixed pivot point) to;

  • Apply a force
  • Change the amount of force
  • Change the amount of movement
  • Change the direction of movement

Linkages are mechanisms which allow force or motion to be directed where it is needed. A reverse-motion linkage changes the direction of the motion.

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Roles within Graphic Design

Client: Employs or commissions the designer. They set the brief for the designer to work to. The client decides if a product can go into production.

Consumer: The person that the product is designed to be used by. A successful customer meets the needs of the consumer. Users want products that are:

  • Reasonably priced
  • Good quality
  • Functional
  • Attractive

Designer: Responsible for the planning of the product. Recognise a need for re-design, which could be caused by;

  • Demand from consumers
  • Competing product has been launched.
  • New manufacturing methods.

Occasionally a product will be designed, because the designer believes there is a gap in the market for it.

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Finishing Processes

There are several finishing processes available in manufacture, including;

  • Varnishing.

Used for protection and enhancement, with a low cost. Products this is used on, include Book covers and Packaging.

  • Laminating

Used for protection and enhancement, with a high cost. Products this is used on, include Book covers, Packaging and Print jobs.

  • Embossing.

Used for visual and tactile effect, with a high cost. Products this is used on, include Business stationary, invitations and packaging.

  • Foil Applications.

used for enhancement on special work, with a high cost. Products include, Book covers and photograph albums.

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Types of Permanent Fastenings

There are several types of fastenings, which can be used on a range of materials. 

  • Nails and panel pins.

Used to join large pieces of wood and fixing decorative features on models.

  • Wood Screws.

Used to join wood, metal or plastic and for pivots in moving parts in 3D models.

  • Nuts, Bolts and Washers.

Used for joining wood, metal or plastic and for pivots in moving parts in 3D models.

  • Set screws and washers.

Used for joining wood, metal or plastic and for pivots in moving parts in 3D models.

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This is NOT a Graphics materials or anything. However my teacher believes in may be useful to understand for the exam.

'Chuggers' = Charity Mugger. Basically a street fundraiser, who collar passers-by for donations to charity.

However more than half of the councils said that such street fundraisers were putting off potential shoppers. Mainly because of the aggressive tactics used, such as shouting or chasing after people. However this is also the main source of money, that charities use.

These people use hand-held money boxes to collect money, some even ask for debit card details for monthly withdrawals.

Collection boxes don't have to be hand-held though, they can also be counter-top designs. Features such as clear plastic casing have both benefits and disadvantages, as it makes people more willing to donate small amounts but can be easier targets for theft! So when designing, these features are to be kept in mind.

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Designer 1: Harry Beck

Harry is one of six designers which we MUST know for the exam. A question (worth a large proportion of marks) will crop up on one of these six. So be prepared. You may not need to know the background information, but learn the names.

Harry Beck (a graphic designer) designed the famous London Underground map in 1933, he realised that the distances between stations were not important because passengers only wanted to know what station they were at and which was next. 

Different colours were used for each of the different lines and standard symbols, represented interchanges and stations. This is a simple map, created from straight lines.

The way this is designed, means that even Non-English Speaking people can understand what it means, therefore it has become internationally recognised. 

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Designer 2: Alberto Alessi

Alberto is a designer who creates stylish kitchenware, which may not always be practical. His designs are very much for display purposes.

He has managed to combine mass production with good design, creativity and craftsmanship., so that they can be available for the use of everyone.

Alessi did not design items for himself but he made it possible for others to be creative, and he produced and marketed their designs. He employed many leading designers to help him.

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Designer 3: Wally Olins and Designer 4: Robert Sab

Wally Olins is a brand consultant, who uses graphic designs to promote products which are easily recognisable to the public. He creates corporate identities within Charities, Governments and even Countries and regions.

He originally founded an advertising agency called Wolff Olins, which was to become a major influence on developing corporate images in the UK and Europe. He has worked with companies such as P&O and BT, where the corporate image is included on every advertising campaign that they run.

Robert Sabuda went to college and learnt about book-making and printing. He taught himself paper engineering, later using these skills to create pop-up books. He published his own books himself, saying that both children and adults enjoy mechanical books.

He has produced a website, with examples of his work and has won prizes for his books.

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Designer 5: Jock Kinnear and Designer 6: Margaret

Although these are two separate designers, they essential produce the same thing. Road Signs.

Both Calvert and Kinnear managed to produce eye-catching and vibrant signs, which are clear to read whilst on the road. Not only did they design the overall shape and colour (white letters on blue for motorways, yellow letters on green for primary roads and black on white for secondary routes) of these signs, but also the type face which they later called 'Transport'.

They adopted the European idea of using pictograms instead of words to warn drivers of hazards. Calvert used her own background as the inspirations for many pictogram designs.

Various reflective smart material coatings have been used to improve the visibility and safety of the signs.

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