Monday, December 21, 2009

“Shaping Things” by Bruce Sterling

This is a diminutive book size with a big title about the design of created objects and the environment by author and journalist, Bruce Sterling. Sterling’s science fiction works have received critical acclaim. The book is certainly worth a read. Shaping Things was published by MIT Press in 2005 and designed by Lorraine Wild and Stuart Smith of Green Dragon Office, Los Angeles.

Bill Moggridge, cofounder of IDEO, supplies a quote for the back cover by saying the book is, “a manifesto for the future of design, impeccably crafted by Bruce Sterling and enhanced by the delicately emphatic graphic design intelligence of Lorraine Wild… Shaping Things hovers between science fiction and design fact, pushing forward into the future and showing how design happens.”

In chapter four, “The Personal is Historical,” Sterling discusses the correlation of science fiction and design “reality”:
By no accident, American design and American science fiction both date to the 1920s. In the visionary work of say, Norman Bel Geddes, with his gargantuan transatlantic airliners and inhibited Hoover dams, it’s easy to spot a science-fictional sensibility that hasn’t yet been caged and tamed. In their youth, both design and science fiction centered unashamedly on wonder, speed, and spectacle.

Their deepest and more lasting commonality is their fierce love of gadgetry. Design loves the glamorized object; while science fiction loves rayguns, robots, time machines, and rocketships—imaginary objects whose one great unity is that you, the reader, are never going to own one. There is no danger of science fiction’s pet gadgets becoming obsolete and disenchanting you. The tide of wonder never ceases for technologies that remain fantasies.

Suppose, however, that you become genuinely interested in gadgets—not as symbols of wonder to be deployed as sci-fi stage props, but as actual, corporeal physical presences. It may dawn on you that you are surrounded by a manufactured environment. You may further come to understand that you are not living in a centrally planned society, where class distinctions and rationing declare who has access to the hardware. Instead, you are living in a gaudy, market-driven society whose material culture is highly unstable and radically contingent. You’re surrounded by gadgets. Who can tell you how to think about gadgets, what to say about them—what they mean, how that feels?

Science can’t do that. There’s no such scientific discipline as “Gadgetology”. If you want to write effectively about gadgets, you must come to terms with design. And it pays to make that effort of comprehension, because, in science fiction, as in any kind of fiction, it improves the work remarkably to have a coherent idea of what you’re talking about.” (pgs. 28, 29).
This passage from Sterling made me think about the nature of things (realities) connected with a philosophy of art. One of the original faculty members of Dordt College, Professor Nick Van Til, once offered this definition of understanding art when he said:
Susanne K. Langer, a philosopher with a special interest in aesthetics, defines art as “the creation of forms symbolic of feeling.”1 Calvin Seerveld, while maintaining the emphasis on symbol, modifies and expands the definition to read, “Art is the symbolic objectification of certain meaning aspects of a thing, according to the law of coherence.”2 I would further modify the definition by substituting the word “reality” for a “thing.” That would eliminate the possible impression that the symbolization has to be limited to a tangible or ponderable entity. Art is more a symbolization of mood, feeling, and idea, though “thing” in it broadest sense, as opposed to “nothing” might be appropriate.
In response, or reaction, to this definition I prefer the word “thing” because I believe it’s a word that alludes to both tangibility and feeling expressed in an artifact.

The art historian James Elkins suggests in his book, Why Art Cannot Be Taught: a handbook for art students (2001) that an area of common ground for both fine art students and design students is to study, together, the nature of objects and things.3

I think so too, but, how about you?

1. Susanne K. Langer, Feeling and Form, Charles Scribner, NY, 1953, p. 40.
2. Calvin Seerveld, A Christian Critique of Art, The Association for Reformed Scientific Studies, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, 1964, p. 39.
3. James Elkins, Why Art Cannot Be Taught…, University of Illinois Press, Urbana and Chicago, 2001, p. 83.

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Friday, December 11, 2009

marian bantjes

THE PURSUIT OF DESIGN: MARIAN BANTJES Editor’s note: We thought you might find this video clip interesting, but, perhaps you have seen it. Anyway here it is.

A portrait of world-renowned designer, illustrator and typographer Marian Bantjes during her appearance at the recent Design Matters Live event presented by Adobe and the AIGA. Marian shares her love for the design community and the importance of staying connected, even while working from her idyllic rural home studio. She speaks about her transition from a more traditional design career path to a much more personally fulfilling mix of work. Marian has an obvious love for what she does, sharing some of the inspiration for her recent projects as diverse as hand-drawn valentines to the type treatment for the “Want It!” campaign at Saks Fifth Avenue. Marian’s insights in this portrait are important for anyone who cares passionately about design and respects the craft of the artist.

Credits: Producer: Rachel Talbot Associate Producer/Sound Engineer: Matthew Hendershot Editor: Lance Edmands Assistant Editor: Hei-Man Yu Camera: Michael Coleman Additional Camera: Michael Tucker, Rachel Talbot Design Matters Live poster: Marion Bantjes Animation: Colin Yu Music: Music Box Design Matters Theme: RJD2

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Saturday, December 5, 2009

Dordt Alumni in Design: Jamin Ver Velde

An example of Jamin Ver Velde's forté for Dordt College’s graphic identity and sports promotion.

We recently invited Jamin Ver Velde to be our monthly featured alumni and we appreciate that he took time to send this piece to us. In addition to being the graphic designer on staff at Dordt, Jamin has helped advise students working on Signet, which is Dordt's yearbook. In addition, in 2008, he along with Jamey Schiebout were symposium presenters at Dordt — in an event affiliated with an alumni graphic design exhibition — Editor.

After graduating from Dordt in 1999, I eventually followed Jamey Schiebout (see September alumni post in DC AIGA) in the newspaper business, unknowingly filling his exact position after he moved on. For me, also, it proved to a very appropriate place to get a good start in the graphic design world. Within the weekly routine there was enough variety, creativity, and standard to keep me hungry for more. I was given a lot of latitude in the creative process because of the nature of the industry. Working for the media necessitated the ability to work under non-flexible deadlines and, therefore, minimal approval process. More often than not, the time crunch proved to be more of a stimulus for creativity rather than a hurdle. I was fortunate to work for a rare breed of small town newspaper that valued creative design.

After two and half years in the newspaper industry, I moved into my current full time position at Dordt College working for the Advancement Office in the public relations and marketing sector. After being told that I needed to come on board as soon as possible, I caught up on the work within three days. This was certainly a new (and confusing) situation for me. I sought out more ways to use my interests for the benefit of the college. I saw a need for a much better photo archive and prompted the office to purchase a couple of cameras to enhance the graphic materials while also serving to document the college’s history. I made a very conscious effort to unify the brand identity of all the Dordt materials. I’ve always been a big believer that repetition breed’s familiarity which breed’s trust, so priority number one was to standardize the representation of the Dordt logo.

Within a year and a half at Dordt I had a full plate, so my focus turned from looking for more ways to help out to looking for which ways to help out. I concentrated more on adapting my position and skill-set to evolve as the needs evolved or thought it should evolve. I dabbled in web-related applications such as Flash and Dreamweaver, but realized my passion remained in logos, brand identity, and overall creative direction. My passion for this — inspired me to join forces with the webmaster at Dordt in a new part-time venture where we complemented each other extremely well. Moonlighting as Brand New Graphics, we started to take on side website jobs. I continued to also do print and logo design as well, but the demand for websites quickly took center stage for our business. Today, Brand New Graphics averages about three websites designed and developed every two months. Defining what our business is in one sentence I would say, “We are a creative branding agency built around website development for small to medium businesses.”

Here are two examples of websites designed by Brand New Graphics and indicate the range of clients they have served. Above is the “Timothy” website for Calvin Seminary and a website for the Ridge Golf Club, a public course.

As my career continues to evolve, I’ve been increasingly appreciative of a liberal arts education that recognizes the overlapping spheres of academia and knowledge. As a graphic designer and small (okay, very small) business co-owner I regularly draw upon business and marketing principles, psychological considerations, social situations, English and creative writing, public relations, and others. The older I get, the more I know I really don’t know. I truly cherish learning more every day, and still look forward to going to work every single day.

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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Desirable Ornamentation

Frank Lloyd Wright with two of his key associates: Wesley Peters and Eugene Masselink. A set-up shot, but, I enjoy how Wright is holding his pencil as a pointer. Photograph published in House Beautiful, November 1955 (page 242).

Recently, I found these pictures and text in vintage issues of House Beautiful magazine and thought about the balance between twentieth century modernist design, which advocates the elimination of superfluous decoration and how Frank Lloyd Wright considered ornament desirable. Perhaps we can gain insight through this pictorial case history. Featured designers in this piece are Mr. Frank Lloyd Wright and Mr. Eugene Masselink, who after Wright’s death, was affiliated with Taliesin Associated Architects.

Wright’s skill with ornament shows best when he had the chance to elaborate the minor and less significant details of a house into a rich brocade of design. [The rug shown above] is a fine example. Wright designed this rug for one of his houses, which was based on the house’s circular floor plan. As result the rug design motif emphasizes the circle and portions of circles—not only vertically and horizontally but also in the third dimension. So the rug simply makes the structural pattern visibly apparent in yet another way.

Notice how, even though design is complex, it still “lies flat.” There is no circle lying on top of another—as solids—which would make you feel you might trip or stumble. They intersect, but do not overlap. Notice how circles finally curl around concrete.

A utilitarian feature, a folding screen (designed and painted by Masselink), is lifted above mere satisfaction of a need by its pattern of color and gold leaf. Note how the design is agreeably related to the rectangular character of the structure and to the scale of the brickwork and to the rug beyond it…. Rug and screen are ornamental features, which strengthen the quality and character of the house.

The ever-changing play of light and color in this mural executed for a house planned by Charles Montooth, architect with Taliesin Associates, and is a constant source of delight. It derives from the forms and colors of bougainvillea and also from the circular floor plan of the house. Even the horizontal joints of the concrete blocks are controlling guides. Mr. Masselink has, with clear and colored glass and gold leaf, accomplished a work, which echoes the materials and the curved structure of the house. At the same time it is also in harmony with the natural forms of the foliage with which it is seen in relationship. The mural points up and compliments the happy merger between nature and architecture…. Notice how the mural extending through the glass wall and into the court.
Copy taken from House Beautiful, “Wright Considered Ornament Desirable”, October 1959 by Elizabeth Gordon (pages 246-249).

The quality of change in the mural (designed and painted by Masselink) results from the warm nature of its basic material; the background is cypress wood. To this have been applied areas of gold leaf, spattered gold, brushed and sprayed-on colors. The theme is based on the flora and fauna of the building's site in Florida.

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Dordt students win state graphic design contest

The following piece is from a Dordt College News Release written by Sarah Groneck.

A team of Dordt College graphic design students won an Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) design contest on November 19, edging out one of Iowa’s top graphic design schools in the process.

The Iowa e-Health website project and logo design contest is an initiative by the IDPH to provide Iowa residents with health information technology and encourage website use in addressing health issues.

Iowa colleges and universities were invited by the council to develop and propose a brand name and logo for the Iowa e-Health Project. Dordt was one of three colleges participating in the project. Iowa State University of Ames, which is highly ranked for its graphic design program, and Simpson College of Indianola, also took part.

Two Dordt groups—the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) student group and another graphic design group—presented the brand name “Iowa HealthLink” and three separate logotypes to the committee.

The council deliberated on eleven submitted designs, and selected Scott Vande Kraats’s design, with a design by Iowa State placing second. With a final vote, four out of six council members selected Vande Kraats’s logotype as the official chosen design.

The Dordt design team earned $500 dollars, and their brand name and logotype will be featured in health care facilities across the state of Iowa.

Students Amanda Brouwer (Escondido, CA) Sarah Groneck (Godfrey, IL), Katherine Gorter (Holland, MI), Piper Kroeze (Sioux Center, IA), Scott Vande Kraats (Sioux Center, IA), and Mark Veldkamp (Escondido, CA) traveled with graphic design professor David Versluis to Des Moines to present their brand name and logotypes to over 25 onlookers.

Versluis first learned about the opportunity through a business department professor, Brian Hoekstra. Versluis incorporated the logotype/brand name project into his Graphic Design III class curriculum and also requested that the Dordt AIGA student group take part in the competition.

“I wanted the project to give design students the experience of approaching a project in a classic way from analysis to design to implementation,” said Versluis.

“I knew that the graphic design class had some excellent designers, writers, and video producers,” said Versluis, also knowing that Iowa State University has a highly-rated art and design program. “If we organized as a cohesive group and did our best we could provide a highly professional presentation.”

Even if the team had not won, Versluis thought Dordt’s presentation went well.

“The Dordt student proposals were outstanding and very impressive,” said Versluis, “The decision to present with art mounted to large black boards was helpful and the presenters said just the right things about their design to the panel.”

The AIGA student group and graphic design group came together through the presentation.

“I was proud that it was my design that got the prize in the end,” said Scott Vande Kraats. “But it was truly a team effort, and if it hadn't been for everyone's hard work and Professor Versluis's keen sense of professionalism we wouldn't have had such a strong showing.”

IDHP will likely implement the logotype and brand name into the health care system by April 2010.

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Saturday, November 21, 2009


In this Jan. 7, 2005 file photo, artists Christo, left, and his wife Jeanne-Claude discuss their Central Park art project “The Gates, Central Park, New York, 1979-2005” as they walk in New York's Central Park. Jeanne-Claude died Wednesday night Nov. 18, 2009 at a New York hospital from complications of a brain aneurysm. She was 74. Caption taken from the AP FILE — (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews, File)

Reading the morning newspaper I came across an obituary piece about the passing of Jeanne-Claude last Wednesday night and I was saddened. It brought back memories, too.

As an MFA student at Western Michigan University in 1977, I and a few other students had the opportunity to meet and engage in conversation with Christo and Jeanne-Claude. They came to WMU for a few days as guest artists along with curator/author Jan Vander Marck, who had became very close to Christo and Jeanne-Claude and was an early advocate of their projects. At Western, as in many other venues, they discussed their philosophy and work such as the Valley Curtain Project in Rifle Gap, Colorado (1972). And just few months before coming to see us they had finished Running Fence (1976) in Marin County, California. Having just completed the documentary film about Running Fence, they brought it along with them and gave a running commentary while we watched the movie. It was absolutely inspiring and delightful to be there with the two of them.

Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Running Fence, Sonoma and Marin Counties, California, 1972–76, © Christo, 1976, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum Purchase, Photo by Wolfgang Volz.

They were influential in that I learned how to develop skills in working with a public audience. In subsequent years it has proven to be very helpful as a graphic designer and artist working for clients, committees, church councils, and boards of directors. Through the insights into Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s art-making and implementation process of public art installation projects I was able to develop a firm yet patient attitude toward the client while working with and for an audience. Their work at times could be controversial with local governments and environment groups. However, Christo and Jeanne-Claude practiced without intimidating people and always, in my opinion, seemed gracious. This is something I’ve tried to practice in my own work for over thirty years.

A few years ago I asked that Dordt’s library purchase the video series of Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s body of work. Art and design students should check them out. One interesting feature of the boxed DVD set is a running commentary audio by Christo and Jeanne-Claude while the movie is playing, similar to what I heard over thirty years ago. It’s priceless!

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Saturday, November 14, 2009

Fish Series exhibition at Luther College, Decorah, Iowa

Installation View. “Spirit Lake, Iowa Fish Series,” an exhibit of Giclée prints by David Versluis, will be on display through Dec. 11 at Luther College in the Kristin Wigley-Fleming Gallery of the Center for the Arts. Luther will host a reception for the artist Monday, November 23, 5:15-6:15 p.m. in the Gallery.

Versluis’s artist’s statement:

“God must like the smell of fish – but dead fish? It’s interesting that God’s first blessing, stated in Genesis, was for the fish of the sea and birds of the air. The works in this series are intended to be free metaphoric associations but some viewers have suggested these images speak about environmental concerns.

This series of Photoshop assemblages began in 2004 and comprise digital prints featuring a beached and dead yellow perch photographed at Spirit Lake, Iowa, in 2002. The fish image itself is loaded with meaning and conjures up many metaphors and can be thought of as a primordial symbol.

Perhaps the underlying basis for this exhibition comes from a 1966 Christian Art magazine interview with New York artist, Joachim Probst (1913–1978) who coined the statement, “Art is the stand against decay.” Probst elaborates,

Now how do I mean that art is a stand against decay? The moment you say art has something to do with line, form, color, you bring it into life and this means a stand against decay. By decay I mean rot. You live in fear or you face it through art…

— From an article in Christian Art, An interview with Joachim Probst and edited by Helene E. Nelson, Graphic House Inc., Chicago, 1966.

Spirit Lake, Iowa: Fish Triptych, Digital Prints, 2004 —
from the permanent collection of Dordt College.

As a stand against decay, my artwork tries to suggest an exploration and inquiry into the art-making process through a deeper understanding of composition, subject matter, interpretation, medium and technique. In addition, my work shows an affinity for the construction of the elements of art/design, but it is also tries to be successful on multiple levels as a form of expression and communication. I try to make work that uses enough careful observation and detail so that it is able to sustain viewer interest. In other words, it’s about the balance between form and content.

Other themes in the work may allude to ideas about trompe-l'œil by the use of drop shadows and sliced images that seem to push the optical illusion of the paper surface. By emphasizing the halftone, moiré, pixilation, and transparency I consider this body of work as being honest with the digital media. The images seem to suggest the software technology and special effects that was used to make them. I also see these images as emblematic of metaphor, simile, the design process, and the art of Japanese fish printing (gyotaku).

Giclée printing for this series is eight-color inkjet archival inks printed on Hahnemühle German Etching paper, natural white, made from 100% totally chlorine free (TCF) pulp. Images were printed summer 2007.”

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reconstituted design

Café drop-ceiling panel proposal for the Urban Institute of Contemporary Art (UICA)
Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2009.

In the summer of 2009, a national call for proposals went out for architectural interior installation art and design for the new UICA building — completion date of Spring 2010. The stipulation and criteria stated that all designs had to utilize recycled or “green” materials with a maximum $3000 budget. Potential designers had to select one space from a choice of four: the reception desk, the ceramics studio ceiling, the film theatre ceiling, and the café ceiling and submit one proposal. The initial thought for this design came from an e-mailed message from somebody at Unity Christian High School of Orange City, Iowa asking if anyone had need of used CDs. The project began as a collaboration | discussion with Paul Hanaoka and Jon Dykstra.

A panel, which is displayed above, shows recycled CD disks snapped to clear jewel cases mounted to 24” x 24” acoustic ceiling panels, painted black. Identical and subsequent panels would fill the drop-ceiling metal grid system.

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Sunday, November 8, 2009

Dean Heetderks… Pantone 032C Red

Portrait of Dean Heetderks as he discussed his graphic design work to the Dordt AIGA Student Group last Thursday evening, November 5. As a side, Dean's favorite color is Pantone 032C Red. Photo by Paul Hanaoka.

Dean R. Heetderks, Creative Director and Director of CRC Proservices for the Christian Reformed Church came to Dordt last week and presented some of his work to the art and graphic design students. On Thursday evening, he discussed aspects of his interest/passion for graphic design, communication, liturgical art, and illustration. He was interesting, experienced, and an inspiring master.

Dean started his presentation by showing his favorite type fonts. His list includes the classics: Caslon, Bodoni, Univers as well as Minion, Lubalin, Georgia and Brickham for a script style. Not wanting to give advice he made suggestions such as, when given the opportunity, always try to do pro bono design assignments for organizations that need design help. Because, it provides the experience of working for a client.

His other suggestion was learn how to draw in order to draw out your ideas. Your drawings not be highly finished renderings but rather show your thinking process with rough sketches.

As for web development, Dean listed the following favorite websites and software as especially helpful for him: Smashing Magazine, Stuff White People Like, Stuff Christians Like, Life Hacker, BritBox, Six Revisions, A List Apart, Daring Fireball, and 22 Words. His other favorites: 1Password software, Adium, Disk Utility, DVD, Font ExplorerXpress, HandBrake, Highlight, iCal, Chrome, Firebug, Yojimbo, Transmit, MPEG Streamclip, Toast Titanium, UpperBlip, Snapz Pro X, Focus IE.

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Sunday, October 25, 2009

Dean Heetderks, designer and art director, will be at Dordt to discuss his work on Thursday, November 5 at 7 pm.

The Dordt AIGA Student Group is very pleased to announce that Dean R. Heetderks, will discuss his work as a designer and art director on Thursday, November 5, 2009 in the Art Department’s room 1223 at 7 p.m. For over twenty years Heetderks has served the Christian Reformed Church of North America as Creative Director and Director of CRC Proservices. He also serves as Art Director of The Banner magazine and Reformed Worship, a quarterly journal. Heetderks has authored some three dozen articles on the visual arts in worship, which have appeared in Reformed Worship since the publication began.

On Friday, November 6 at 10 a.m. to 10:50 in the Digital Media Lab, room 1310 he will attend the web design class and talk about design, function and the user. There will be a Q and A during the session.

In celebration of the 500th anniversary of the birth of John Calvin, Dordt College presents
The Calvin, Worship, and the Arts Workshop on Saturday, November 7, 2009.

During the conference, Dean will be a sectional leader presenting the topic, Out of a Heritage of Visual Austerity into a Culture of Visual Density: The Visual Arts in Worship. The conference brochure says this about Heetderk’s sectional: Art. Our worship spaces finally accommodate it, our membership is calling for it, and we can’t wait to get started. But how do we approach the visual arts in worship to ensure that we don’t fall into the traps John Calvin was trying to guide us safely past? In this session, through examples and practical tips, we’ll try to define and refine the proper place that art has in worship.

The Calvin, Worship, and the Arts Workshop is sponsored by Dordt’s Andreas Center.

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Saturday, October 24, 2009

New York based photographer, René Clement will show and talk about his current book project.

No Pictures! is a photograph, courtesy of Paul Hanaoka, which was taken when René Clement, was here last April. Clement’s photographs of the conflicts in Palestine/West Bank and Haiti were featured during Dordt’s Justice Matters Week.

At the invitation of the Dordt College AIGA student group, Clement will graciously take time from his project to come and discuss his book project. His presentation will be Wednesday, 28 October at 7 p.m. in the Dordt art department, room 1223. Look for posters on Campus. All are invited.

Documentary Photojournalist and portrait photographer, René Clement is back in Orange City, Iowa working on his most current project, a book, about the people of Northwest Iowa who are of Dutch ancestry. René is very interested in the cultural contrast between Europe and America. In particular, he looks at how the “new world” interprets it’s “old world” roots. The book has a Dutch publisher.

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Monday, October 19, 2009

Dordt competes against Iowa State University

Graphic design class takes on ISU in logo competition. Ed. note: this article was originally published 15 October 2009 by the Dordt College Student Newspaper, the Diamond. This piece was written by Sarah Groneck/Diamond Staff Writer.

Dordt’s Graphic Design III class and AIGA [student] members have a chance to gain statewide notoriety through a recent advertising initiative sponsored by the state government.

In search of fresh ideas for promoting its Iowa e-Health Project, the Iowa Department of Public Health contacted state colleges to participate in a name and logo design contest.

The project requires that students market their name and logo to their peers as well by creating a survey, presenting the name to a focus group, or through some other means.

Dordt College and Iowa State University are the only schools that are currently in the running. That means that Dordt has a 50 percent chance of winning $500 and gaining statewide recognition for a chosen logo and name.

“I would not have applied for the project if I didn’t think we weren’t capable of this,” said art professor David Versluis. “We have a good group of writers and designers in the class so that will help.”

Versluis assigned his Graphic Design III class to groups to work on the project. AIGA students are also taking part.

Some students are feeling pressure from the project. Only one logo and name may be submitted from each college, and the deadline is at the end of October.

“My first thought was that this is going to be a very involved and challenging project,” said Andrew Hornor.  “Half of it is figuring out exactly what it is we’re trying to represent, then coming up with a name for it, researching and focus-grouping it, and lots of detail work.”

However, others are excited by the project’s possibilities.

“I think that working as a team is a great thing for this project,” said Ryan Van Surksum. “We all have great ideas, but working in a group allows us to share our ideas with one another and build off each other’s ideas.”

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Saturday, October 10, 2009

Dordt Alumni in Design: Ben Meyer, will be at Dordt to discuss his computer animation work on October 23, 2009.

The Dordt College AIGA student group is delighted to announce that Dordt alumnus, Ben Meyer (class of 1994) is scheduled to present and discuss his computer animation work with students and faculty on Friday, October 23, 2009 at 1:30 to 3p.m. in the digital media lab, 1310. This is a continuation of the AIGA student group’s initiative to host monthly design professionals as guest speakers and visting designers. All those who are interested are invited to attend this event.

Meyer is assistant professor of digital design at The University of Cincinnati (UC), in the College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning (DAAP). Ben specializes in graphic design and computer aided animation, having worked in industry for international clients and having previously taught graphic design at Montana State University. The range of Meyer's experience includes development of animated children’s games for Hasbro, Inc., for Warner Brothers Studios as well as other clients. In addition, he has provided design expertise to such clients as Hewlett Packard Co., Motorola, Inc., Houghton Mifflin Co., the Museum of Jewish Heritage (New York City), and to PBS, for the channel's “Terra” program.

In terms of his own research, Meyer hopes to pursue scientific visualizations — computer animations related to medical research and forensics.

He is a faculty member in the Digital Design program, in which he’s responsible for most of the advanced motion graphic, and interaction design courses. Graduates from this program pursue careers in interface design, motion graphics, human factors, and information design. Ben stresses the import of giving students a strong foundation in type, composition, form, and animation.

As a side, DAAP is frequently ranked as one of the best art and design schools in the nation. Recently, Business Week ranked their design programs as one of the world’s elite. I.D. (International Design) Magazine listed UC among the globe’s Top 10 design schools. (Information from the UC website).

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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Dordt Alumni in Design: Jamey Schiebout

Jamey Schiebout, Creative Director-Creative Resource Inc. (Diamond Vogel Paints). Pictured above are page spreads from “The Miracle of Paint” and “The Miracle of Color” brochures.

I graduated from Dordt College in 1998 with a degree in Graphic Design. I started out by working in the newspaper industry. This was a great starting place for me as it instilled in me value of good page layout and working under very tight deadlines. From there I started as a designer working for a large corporation. As the only designer it was up to me to handle all aspects of print and web based marketing. Currently, I am employed as Creative Director at Creative Resource Inc. an in-house ad agency for Diamond Vogel Paints in Orange City, Iowa. At Creative Resource I oversee three full-time graphic designers. It is my responsibility to make sure all jobs are done on time and that projects meet the standards set by Diamond Vogel and other customers. I also need to keep all equipment up to date and make sure we operate efficiently and effectively. We work daily with the promotional items and materials including all print material, store displays, advertising, sales presentations, label setup and design, web design, photography, video and whatever is asked of us. It is a great position to be in as it opens me up to a large variety of design mediums and options.

Shown above are some design options I have worked on in the last couple of years. One of those projects was “The Miracle of Paint” and it’s sister brochure “The Miracle of Color” for Diamond Vogel. This was a corporate promotional piece that demanded a lot of creativity and time. I wanted to take the paint out of the can and show it in a different way. We did this by basically showing just paint by itself or with people and everyday objects in a way never seen before. Included in the design team of such a large piece were graphic designers, creative writers, photographers and video teams. It was my job to make sure that the entire team involved worked together through completion and then create a final design that would be seen as both fun and eye-catching. The project went over extremely well and continues to be used as a corporate marketing piece. The entire “Miracle of Paint” and “Miracle of Color” projects can be seen on the web at:

Menu Cover design for
Blue Mountain Restaurant, Orange City, Iowa. This is an example of 0ther projects that I have done at Creative Resource or as freelance work.

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009


At Matter ’09 (mentioned in a recent post) I met Thomas Turner, who is contributing literary arts editor for GENERATE Magazine, which is a new venture comprised of team members from around the U.S.A. Thomas, who is based in Newark, gave me his business card which states that GENERATE Magazine is an artifact of Emergence Christianity. His card carries the tagline: HOPE | KINGDOM | STORY, — “We read to know we are not alone.” – C.S. Lewis

I mentioned to Thomas that I’d spread the word. So, as their website says, “GENERATE Magazine exists as a forum to retell the stories of the grassroots communities and individuals who are finding emerging and alternative means of following God in the Way of Jesus. We hope to create an artifact of this historical conversation. These stories will be transmitted through narrative, works of visual art, documented performances, verse, fiction, non-fiction, essays, and interviews.”

So, if you’re interested – please check it out.

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

SD Student Day '09

From the South Dakota AIGA board:

Dear David,
This year we are partnering with the SD Ad Federation for our student day and would like to extend an invitation to the students at Dordt. The event is Thursday, October 22nd, 2009 9:00am–2:00pm (tours until 5:00pm). We are holding student day at CJ Callaways, 500 E. 69th St., Sioux Falls SD. Students can register online at $25 through October 9, $35 after. Activites include: Q&A at the round tables, lively panel discussion, agency tours, portfolio reviews, a tasty luncheon, and Keynote Speaker Hugh Weber from Deep Bench. It would be great to have any of your students who are interested!

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Friday, September 18, 2009

Matter ’09—Austin, Texas

As I report from the Seminary of the Southwest, Austin, Texas — I'm an attendee and contributor at Matter ’09, a creative theology conference. The theme for the conference is (Hebrews 12) Christian Relationships. My paper presentation, which occurred yesterday was Hebrews 12: “Our Relationship with God through Art and Text.” Pictured above is a piece titled, Coram Deo I (2007), which is a giclée digital print featured in the presentation.

The paper opens this way:

Perhaps you’re familiar with the lyrics of “Open our eyes, Lord,” which is a song that reminds us of Hebrews 12:2, where the Biblical author writes, “Let us keep looking to Jesus. He is the author of faith. He also makes it perfect. He paid no attention to the shame of the cross. He suffered there because of the joy he was looking forward to. Then he sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2 from the NIRV.

Thinking about this passage, in a broader Scriptural context, I came across a very interesting article in a vintage periodical called Christian Art, which according to it’s tagline was “a monthly review of art made for God’s greater glory.” The September 1966 issue ran an interview with the idiosyncratic artist, Joachim Probst (1913-1980). Probst speaks very forthrightly, from the heart, and self-assuredly yet his fragility and vulnerability seems to be revealed at the same time. He’s a self-described maniac. In addition to his artwork, Probst perseverance as an artist, which at times meant poverty.

In the interview Probst elaborates, “Now how do I mean that art is a stand against decay? The moment you say art has something to do with line, form, color, you bring it into life and this means a stand against decay. By decay I mean rot. You live in fear or you face it through art…” — From an article in Christian Art, An interview with Joachim Probst and edited by Helene E. Nelson, Graphic House Inc., Chicago, 1966.

Reinforcing Probst’s point, Nicholas Wolterstorff says emphatically: “This world of colors and textures and shapes and sounds is good for us, good for us in many ways, good also in that it provides us with refreshing delight” (Proverbs 8:30-31). We are a physical part of God’s creation, we are along with all created things creatures of God, and all things were created to serve and glorify the Lord.

The title of my series, “Coram Deo” literally means “before the face of God.” It carries with it the idea of living one’s whole life in the presence of the divine and to the honor and glory of God. While there’s a reality to living in the awesome presence of the Lord there is also mystery to the divine presence and this series attempts to conceptualize the mystery. From a creaturely perspective (type and text can be creaturely things), this body of work explores and attempts to visualize the mystery as colorful layers, emotive, and formal interests.

In a book, On Being Human, Imaging God in the Modern World, author Calvin Seerveld discusses our call to live life fully according to human experience by enjoying good creaturely things in the living presence of God, — “as a listening sinner or as sinful saint, sharing its truth with one’s neighbor." Good ways to begin to know our humanness is to hear the God of psalm 139 speak:
This Scripture tells us that to be a human creature is to be coram Deo, to live before the face of god, not just as a fact you cold learn, but also, as a lived experience. God knows you to the core of your human selfhood. We humans are creatures God knows heart to heart. Because we humans without exception worship, each one of us is consciously or self-consciously aware of the fact that the Lord’s faithful, all encompassing care attends us and penetrates past the maintenance of each hair of our head and touches us in our mother’s womb. Psalm 139 reveals the truth that the peculiar feature of human creatures is that the creator Lord holds us to be accountable persons in God’s holy presence.

Animals, plants and rocks exist coram Deo, too and respond gloriously to god’s will in their own way as animals, plants and rocks. Lions stalking prey deep in the jungle are looking to God for their food, says Scripture (Psalm 104:14-30). The colors with which God clothes wildflowers are praise more exquisite than Solomon’s finery, says Scripture (Matthew 6:25-34). The reaches of sky which give playroom to clouds jubilantly proclaim the stunning majesty of the Lord, says Scripture (Psalm 19:1-4). The bird, tree and stone on every street-corner witness that God of the Scriptures revealed in Jesus Christ is lord of heaven and earth, even before humans built their cities (see Job 38-41)!
Along with acknowledging God’s Covenantal sign of the rainbow Seerveld metaphorically expresses his view of the Covenantal theme as warm and “light” colors. To this, I would add that the light always creates shadows too and atmospheric light and shadows reveal the form.

The font used to develop the Coram Deo series is Boudewyn © 2004, which is an original type design by David Versluis and is a work in progress, begun in 2004. This digital type face was inspired by the wood carved typographic style on the Communion table (detail pictured above) of the Broadway (Westview) Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The carving, completed ca. 1904 was the work of Boudewyn DeKorne.

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Friday, September 11, 2009

sweet signage

Photo courtesy of

I was procrastinating the other day, and I found these cool signs that were done in a parking garage. Maybe we should have done this in the library...

...ya think? Check out the whole article here:

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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Design History: Marcel Breuer

Front and back views of Saint Francis de Sales Parish, Muskegon, Michigan, which was designed by Marcel Breuer and Associates and dedicated in 1966. Photographs by David Versluis © 2009.

It’s amazing when one encounters twentieth century modern architecture in smaller cities in the middle of the United States, especially, buildings designed by Bauhaus trained and internationally known architects. This is the case with the Saint Francis de Sales Parish of the Roman Catholic Church in Muskegon, Michigan that was designed by “functionalist” Marcel Breuer (1902-1981) in the early 1960s. In addition to being a practicing architect Breuer was, perhaps, better known for his pioneering furniture designs, particularly the Bauhaus tubular metal chair known as model no. B3, the Wassily (Kandinsky) chair (1925). And also his subsequent modern bent plywood furniture designs.

In the 1930s Breuer left Germany and joined Walter Gropius as a professor at Harvard University School of Design (1937).

In the reference book, Design in the 20th Century, Charlotte & Peter Fiell explain, “He founded Marcel Breuer and Associates in New York in 1956, and around that time, like Le Corbusier, made concrete his material of choice. He used this medium in a highly sculptural and innovative way for his design of the monumental Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (1966)” (pages 138-139).

Like the Whitney, the church in Muskegon is constructed with site-cast concrete in molds. In spite of a later addition, in front, the original impact of the church building is still very evident. One of the most striking features of this building is it’s mathematical, hyperbolic paraboloid form, which builds a structure constructed of entirely straight lines but the visual effect creates a curve. In other words, the back is opposite the front and the sides result in a curved surface. Other compelling features include the cantilevered belfry and the massive sculptured-relief cross beneath it.

As a side note:
Another example of Christian church architecture, by Breuer, is the St John’s Abbey Church located in Collegeville, Minnesota.

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Saturday, September 5, 2009

Have Portfolio Will Travel

Pictured above is the back and front sides of Paul Berkbigler’s portfolio. His pieces are packaged in a vintage hard shell “Samsonite” suitcase. Individual pieces were mounted on black boards. Bob Hankin presented his work as digital slides. While both have certainly found their own design voices—I wanted to ask Paul if he was ever influenced by the work of Charles S. Anderson of Minneapolis. Photographs by Paul Hanaoka © 2009.

The AIGA Student Group at Dordt began the new semester by meeting invited guests Paul Berkbigler, a practicing graphic designer and AIGA Nebraska Education Director from Lincoln, Nebraska and Bob Hankin, President of AIGA Nebraska and chair of the art and graphic design department at Bellevue University. The meeting occurred on Thursday evening September 3 in Studio/Room 1223 of Dordt’s brand new art space.

A witty and entertaining team of authenticity, Paul (on left) and Bob presented their work and discussed being graphic designers in a broader vocational context. The presentation concluded with the benefits of being a member of AIGA and highlighting some of the upcoming AIGA Nebraska Chapter events. They were great representatives for AIGA and the Nebraska Chapter. What particularly resonated with me was that both were strong advocates of giving back something to community, specifically as members of AIGA and being active volunteers. They encouraged students to be pro active practitioners and about the importance of participating in their professional group.

Over twenty students and art department faculty attended to hear and see these inspiring presenters. Student responses were very enthusiastic and positive too. A student declared, “I had a great time last night.” And someone else said, “It was a good experience, I really enjoyed both Paul and Bob’s presentations.” During the session students asked good questions and it was a fine interactive event and exchange.

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Monday, August 31, 2009

Ikea Verdana

Illustration courtesy of idsgn, a design blog

Have you heard about IKEA lately? During the past week there seems to be much talk on Twitter and various blogs about IKEA changing their typographic standard. For instance Design Observer’s Michael Bierut, in the Observed column, mentioned it on 08.28.09. And, just the day before, David Barringer published his very interesting short essay in Design Observer (08.27.09), “Is There Bauhaus in IKEA?” (see post).

In fact, this morning, I heard a report about IKEA on National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition” titled, (Business) “Ikea Switches Catalog Typeface, Faces Backlash,” (click to listen and read transcript). And throughout the morning we’ve heard from alumni like never before. For a little while our network kicked-in after Matt K’s e-mail gave us a heads-up about the The Font Feud from Minnesota Public Radio (MPR NewsQ blog) posted by Marianne Combs.

At the risk of being hit with red tomatoes… while I understand the controversy I actually like Verdana in the IKEA context. Verdana is “an honest typeface” designed by type designer, Matthew Carter.

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Saturday, August 29, 2009

Dordt Alumni in Design: Sarah De Young

Illustrated above is Sarah De Young’s web banner design for Replacement Press. A recent news release announced that Andrew and Sarah De Young of St. Paul, Minnesota have partnered to start Replacement Press. This new venture seeks to cultivate the literary voices of the next generation by publishing culturally engaged fiction by new and emerging writers.

Sarah (née Versluis) and her spouse Andrew De Young, both graduates of Dordt College’s class of 2005, have resided in St. Paul since 2006.

According to Sarah, who’s a contract graphic designer, “I’m a versatile graphic and production designer… who loves the form, function, and culture of design. For the past five years, I’ve provided brand and design solutions to businesses such as Target Corporation and for non-profits like the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. I thrive in fast-paced environments and take a thoughtful, expressive approach to the creative process.”

In addition to Target in Minneapolis, her client list includes Wilberforce Academy, an emerging international higher-education organization, as well as the MacLaurin Institute, which are both at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis. Sarah is currently working as a graphic designer with Ekcetra.

Again, referencing her website, Sarah highlights her professional skills as delivering polished designs and projects to present at creative reviews. She’s also flexible and dynamic and able to adjust to shifting priorities. And she’s an effective team member who collaborates productively with partners and teams throughout the creative process. All of these characteristics profile what many practicing designers should demonstrate in today’s business situation.

    Here is a page from Sarah’s portfolio.

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Monday, August 24, 2009

DC AIGA Student Group Meeting: Paul Berkbigler

A Paul Berkbigler portfolio piece

A Dordt College AIGA Student Group Meeting

An open invitation to all interested

Thursday, 3 September 2009
7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
In the Art Department Lobby

Featuring special guest, Paul Berkbigler
Professor & Owner/Proprietor of P.Berkbigler Design & Illustration
Lincoln, Nebraska

Paul will be here to discuss his design practice and answer any pressing questions you may have. Mr. Berkbigler serves AIGA Nebraska as a board member and director of education.
From the AIGA design jobs website, Paul says, “I’ve finished four years as a design educator at Concordia University, Nebraska and am now out on my own as a full-time independent. My prior lives include: working at Studio X, a small design and illustration firm in St. Louis, Missouri, and earning an MFA in graphic and interactive design at Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. My areas of interest/practice include: illustration, design, writing, performance, interactive media, video and audio production, photography and printing/printmaking.”

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Carl Regehr | Brower Hatcher

Satellite 1982, a blind embossed print, by Carl Regehr

Brower Hatcher’s sculpture detail, Prophecy of the Ancients (1988) at the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. Photograph by David Versluis.

When I was just starting out as a designer I discovered the art of typography after seeing the work of Carl Regehr (1919-1983) that has resulted, ever since, in my great affection for letters. Regehr is known as a designer and educator as well as being a founder and the art director for Chicago Magazine. I recall Carl’s body of work from a show at RyderGallery, 500 North Dearborn, in Chicago—see the The Chicago Design Archive for examples and documents for information about Regehr. In November 1983, I served The Society of Typographic Arts (STA), as a member, by helping to take down the Regehr show and install the Ken Nimi Design exhibition. But, I knew something about Carl Regehr, the year before, when STA members each received a keepsake—a blind embossed print entitled “Satellite 1982” by Regehr. My print is 92/300 of the edition.

However, while I have the print, unfortunately, I no longer have the lyrical and poetical introduction that Carl wrote, which accompanied the print and expressed his love for letters. However, I’ll try to paraphrase what I remember about it and perhaps get close to the mark.

The overall theme of “Satellite” carried the metaphor that letters, are like stars, which constitute the constellations. All we need to do as graphic designers is to encourage interactivity with our material by reaching-out to the stars to arrange information like a celestial display. In addition, the metaphor may also suggest different cultural meanings of constellations throughout history or about navigating a course by the stars.

Regehr’s introduction generated a spirit of wonder, which is usually the first step in motivating one to reach-out to learning.

Hatcher’s presentation drawing from 1987. Courtesy of the Walker Art Center.

Interestingly, I think Regehr’s print correlates with Brower Hatcher’s sculpture, “Prophecy of the Ancients” (1988), at the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden / Walker Art Center. The Walker Art Center Collections and Resources website explains Hatcher’s piece this way:

In 1972 he began work on a series of steel sculptures that incorporated domed roofs. Hatcher makes sculptures that are a cross between sophisticated puzzles for the mind and visionary architecture. His stainless-steel mesh structures seem both whimsical and high tech, filled with floating objects such as turtles, tables, chairs, ladders, numbers, letters, and books. “Prophecy of the Ancients” was commissioned especially for the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden and consists of a futuristic wire mesh dome resting on six classical columns. An assortment of disparate objects that suggest cultures both past and present are suspended within the structure of the steel dome. The structure of the dome itself suggests complex constellations or a visual model of space. With this sculpture the artist provides an environment for meditation and thought.
Text for Brower Hatcher, Prophecy of the Ancients (1988), from the curriculum guide The Minneapolis Sculpture Garden: A Garden for All Seasons, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, 1998.
As a side note, some of Hatcher’s suspended objects are suggestive of Native American Zuni fetishes. On the other hand, Hatcher’s structure is reminiscent of a classical balustraded temple. It’s good to remember that the ancients thought of the earth as surface plane and the sky as the dome (hemisphere) of heaven. Architectural domes, both old and new tend to promote this concept too.

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

lively critique sessions

Elizabeth Catlett (American 1915-2012)
Glory (Glory Van Scott, b. 1941, producer, performer, educator, and civic activist)
Cast bronze, life-size, 1981

Muskegon Museum of Art, permanent collection
Drs. Osbie and Anita Herald Fund purchase, 2000.1
Photograph by David Versluis and taken with MMA permission.

The MMA website (the collections menu), states the following about Catlett’s piece: “The Elizabeth Catlett’s work is bold and powerful, shaped by her social viewpoint to reveal the strength, character, and struggle of African Americans. Glory represents a frequent theme in Catlett’s work, transforming the idealized classical bust into the image of an African American woman; and, in so doing, reveals a powerful dignity, serenity, and hope.”

Paul’s reference to humor in the previous post, “Design Police” is an important consideration when discussing art and design critiques. As many of you know critiquing design is challenging mainly because the needs of design students are not like those of the fine artist. The “website” is very helpful because it highlights rules in a lighthearted parody format.

But, I thought of something about the correlation of art and design critiques when reading the exhibition catalog by Melanie Anne Herzog titled, Elizabeth Catlett, In the Image of the People. Catlett who as a master printmaker and Mexican citizen began working with the Taller de Gráfica Popular (People's Graphic Arts Workshop), a community of printmakers committed to using the messages of graphic images to support social change. Much of the success of the Workshop was because of the spirit of camaraderie and teamwork in which critiques were conducted for works-in-progress. In Herzog’s 1991 interview, Catlett explained something of what the group’s lively critique sessions were like:

The criticism in the Taller was always positive, like somebody would say, “I think that you have a very good design, and it’s very clear, but why did you hide the hands?” And so they would say, “I can’t draw hands.” “Well, I’ll help you, or I’ll draw the hands.” Or they would say, “This symbolism has been used over and over, it’s time we had something new,” and so then they would have a general discussion of what you could use.… And it didn’t matter how many people worked on something, as long as it came out the best we could make it (Page 27).
Perhaps this description could serve as an exceptional critique prototype?

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Monday, August 10, 2009

Design Police

This website has some brilliant templates that should be printed out on sticker paper and brought to all design critiques. Or not, its a fairly passive aggressive thing to do. Still, it is a fairly humorous site...

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Friday, August 7, 2009

a worthy colleague

Past Go is a four-color lithograph, from stone, by Jacob Van Wyk (size: 22 in. x 29 in.). This print, from 1983, suggests a landscape (and black-top strip) that’s paradoxically presented in portrait format. It’s an important piece featured in a Van Wyk retrospective show at Dordt.

My colleague, Jake Van Wyk, who has been teaching at Dordt College for nearly twenty-years, has organized an impressive thirty-five-year retrospective exhibition. The show is on display at the Dordt Campus Center Art Gallery, and will continue until mid September. The show comprises a wide range of work—from drawings and prints to ceramics, as well as documenting the process of commissions. Van Wyk’s body of work is amazingly diverse with pieces that are representational, figurative, expressionistic, and abstract. With such a wide range it’s truly remarkable that each piece conveys a mastery of medium and technique especially evident in the multi-colored lithographs, printed from stone.

One similarity Jake and I have is we both have gone through the MFA program at Western Michigan University. As Jake was graduating from the program, I was just entering and actually moved into his old studio space on campus. We both studied under Mr. Curtis Rhodes, arguably one of the best multi-colored print lithographers in North America.

Artistically, Van Wyk explores traditional tools but he sees them in a new light, which presents exciting possibilities. According to a photocopied page (source unknown), that Jake gave me year's ago, entitled “Exploration of the Tool,” the author states, “tools may be considered more basically—not as ‘drawing’ or ‘painting’ tools, but as tools that make a mark of some kind when combined with some material.” This statement may be the essence for many of Jake’s pieces. He is very interested in action work, that is, as the piece continues to say, “the position of the hand, arm, or body, and how they are moved; the position of the tool and the portion of it that is grasped or used and the position of the material in relation to the tool enter into the exploration.”

I have great appreciation for Jake’s abstract work and one of my favorites in the show, a magnum opus, is his ambitious four-color lithograph titled “Past Go” from 1983. Jake works the space by dividing the layout with improvisational “marks” in gestured patterns, textures, and syncopated rhythms. With this work he emphasizes changes in direction through the marks, shapes, layering of subtle color, and slight fragmentation. Each mark, each stroke, of the lithographic crayon or the incredible richness of reticulated tusche made by a wide brush is expressively independent, autonomous, and yet coherent. This is a strangely beautiful piece that perhaps is best described the way Mikhail Baryshnikov described Merce Cunningham’s dance performances—as a “kind of organized chaos.”

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Saturday, August 1, 2009

thoughtfully appealing design

This is a photograph of Tord Boontje’s Rough and Ready (DIY) chair design made from recycled and repurposed wood pallets that took me a weekend to make. According to Boontje, since 1998, 30,000 chair plans have been given away—this plan was from his website. By the way, the chair is amazingly comfortable and strong. Photograph by Doug Burg, copyright © 2009 David Versluis.

The work of product designer, Tord Boontje is unconventional but very thoughtfully appealing. Boontje is known for, among other things, his DIY aesthetic and humanizing Rough and Ready furniture collection made from scrap pieces of wood from the lumberyard. Zöe Ryan in her essay, Graphic Thought Facility: Resourceful Design, states that Boontje has summed up his approach as follows: “I find it hard to relate to the prevalent plastic slickness and preciousness. With this furniture I want to develop my ideas about objects we live with, ideas about a utilitarian approach towards the environment we live in.” Disconcerted, Boontje has said, “society has lost the ability to make things and all we do is consume.”

In response to the abnormal affects of consumption are current signs and trends that conscientious businesses, progressive organizations and designers are creating a culture of discernment, responsibility, and fairness. While some designers have produced products such as posters, t-shirts and other things to advocate a cause or convey a viewpoint, others are exploring and discussing the spirit and mind of design.

A compassionate heart is the biblical correlation of justice and shalom—the concern for a flourishing creation and a proper Christian cultural response. Let us think of design as an act of benevolence, stewardship, worship and its impact on God’s creation. Minneapolis architect Charlie Lazor suggests that we view commodity differently—as something (product or service) that people value and find useful and yet sustainable. For those, who may eventually be designing for the marketplace where commodity influences and shapes graphic design, we can think in a way that sees commodity leading to human emotional responses, such as caring, satisfaction, delight, or amusement. Whether it is a high-end ergonomic office chair or an improved sanitation system in an under-developed country let’s try to envision commodity, the product, as host to the person who uses it and to view the potential of design as if it were empathetically welcoming a guest.

Finally, graphic design is an area in need of transformation. Indeed, there are some signs pointing to transformation initiated by both Christian and non-Christian designers. Christian graphic designers can collaborate and be instrumental in this transformation by first cultivating the mind of Christ, being filled with compassion and working as creational stewards for shalom as it relates to the thriving of every creature, culture, and society. This can be our response to God as Christian designers.

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Thursday, July 30, 2009


I think it’d be most accurate to say that the designers at Coca Cola “got it right” the first time through. Also, their team should be credited, through the years, for having made the decision to stick with the original design. It’s legible and perhaps a bit dated but (I hate to say it) unmistakably that cold, fizzy beverage for a hot summer day... we all turned 21 and drank beer instead, but that’s a different discussion. I remember the Pepsi logos from ’91 and on and feel like they’ve been getting worse with each new design. The 1905 Pepsi looks like a fun bike ride, which is great, but far more ‘old-timey’ than anything else on the chart, and they only kept it for a year before pandering to some cheap, mindless and grammatically incorrect gimmick. (“Drink Pepsi: Cola Delicious” Really?)

There aren’t many traces of when my dad was a student of graphic design — a few charcoal sketches of my oldest brother as a baby, the plans we draw out for home projects and some studies of the timeless Coca-Cola bottle (glass).

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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Dordt Alumni in Design: David Ver Meer

Editor — This month we asked Dave Ver Meer to talk about his design work since graduating from Dordt in 2005. As you’ll see Ver Meer is a versatile designer. We want to thank Dave, who writes:

I work at Alpha Omega Publications (AOP), a company in Rock Rapids, Iowa that produces homeschool and Christian school curriculum for grades PreK–12 with paper-based and online-based options. While working at AOP I’ve been blessed to have all the opportunities I could ask for to work on different types of projects and grow as a designer. About a year ago, I was promoted to a senior designer position where I help manage and give art direction to our junior designers. The types of projects I’ve done include the following: product/dvd/multimedia packaging, tradeshow booths, book covers, catalogs, magazine ads, brand identities, brochures, postcards, and e-mails.

In the past few months, I’ve started transitioning from print into web design and in the future most of the work I do will be web design related. A typical week for me lately involves giving art direction to the other designers and designing websites. AOP’s marketing department functions similar to an in-house ad agency. We are staffed with project managers, copy writers, editors, designers, and developers within our group. Many of the projects we do are started internally within the marketing department, but we also do projects for and service all the different departments and divisions within AOP.

I’ve picked out a small sampling of the work I’ve done. A recent magazine ad I did was for AOP’s annual spring sale that they have every April and May. The goals of the ad were to promote awareness of the sale and, most importantly, to have the readers act on the ad by purchasing their homeschool curriculum early to get the best savings. To test the ad, we sent similar variations of the ad out to a group of beta testers we have and received over 400 responses. Overall, the responses was very positive, and it gave us insight into how our customers reacted to the ad design and concept.

The Daily Focus book is a compilation of devotionals for each day of the year. It’s for both homeschool mothers and fathers, but we wanted to appeal primarily to mothers. I choose cooler colors that serve to help draw attention to the warmer colored spots in the design and give a peaceful feel to the cover. I also added subtle floral elements into the design and used a picture on the cover that would draw readers into the design.

The branding identity for GPS AgSystems was a freelance project for a local Trimble dealer that sells and provides precision equipment to farmers. I wanted the logo to be organic in form and also communicate the precision and triangulation aspect of the technology that allows for global positioning. For supporting design elements I choose to use intersecting oval shapes with smaller circles on them to abstractly illustrate orbiting satellites. The brown shapes at the bottom of the business card and letterhead serve to both ground the design and symbolize the farmland.

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