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.

Read More......

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.

Read More......

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.”

Read More......

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.

Read More......

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?

Read More......

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...

Read More......

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.”

Read More......

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.

Read More......