Friday, March 26, 2010

A hallmark in Honfleur

This monogram is on a pilaster capital found in Honfleur, a coastal town, in Normandy, France. It’s perhaps a builders’ mark and dates to around the fifteenth century. On the other hand, perhaps it suggests an IHS: a monogram for the name of Christ Jesus.

A monogram is a design made by overlapping two or more letters to form a mark. Combining the initials of an individual or a company, used as recognizable symbols or logos, often makes monograms. Traditionally, artists and craftsmen on their pieces have used monograms as signatures especially when guilds imposed actions against unofficial involvement in the trade.

Just as today artisans and townspeople of the medieval era to identify themselves and authenticate their goods used merchants’ marks. They were the forerunners of hallmarks, printers’ marks and modern-day trademarks.

Peter Wildbur states in his handbook, International Trademark Design:
The marks were nearly always constructed around a vertical stem with the main elements at the top and base, and other elements flanking or crossing the center.

The reason for this particular form and for its continuing use over several centuries is not clear but it has been suggested that the early marks were derived from the Runic alphabet.
—Wildbur, Peter. International Trademark Design. first ed. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Company, 1979. 36. Print.

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

figure/ground tension on the Paris Metro

Shown here are Paris Metro subway letterform abstractions, which seem to function as decorative coverings, located at the Avenue Émile Zola station platform on line 10. Photograph by David Versluis © 2010.

These particular compositions use forms and counterforms that crop just enough of each letter to suggest its identity. Also, note the fine balance between positive and negative space. It seems that an ambiguous figure/ground relationship is generated when the pieces are viewed all together.

In their book “Graphic Design: The New Basics” and from the companion website authors Ellen Lupton and Jennifer Cole Phillips write:
Figure/ground relationships shape visual perception.
Stable figure/ground relationships exits when a form or figure stands clearly apart from its background. Most photography functions according to this principle, there someone or something is featured within a setting.
Reversible figure/ground occurs when positive and negative elements attract our attention equally and alternately, coming forward, then receding, as our eye perceives one first as dominant and next as subordinate. Reversible figure ground motifs can be seen in the ceramics, weaving, and crafts of cultures around the globe.

Images and compositions featuring ambiguous figure/ground challenge the viewer to find a focal point. Figure is enmeshed with ground, carrying the viewer's eye in and around the surface with no discernable assignment of dominance. The Cubist paintings of Picasso mobilize this ambiguity.

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Saturday, March 13, 2010


Robert Estienne

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Friday, March 12, 2010

Kurt Wirth: drawing, a creative process

Cover design (photograph by David Versluis) and below it is the dust jacket (1974) taken from Designer’s Books.

An overlooked book in Dordt’s library and one that needs to get out more often is titled, drawing, a creative process (1976) by Kurt Wirth. This book is an antidote for designers who seem to lose vocational interest in design once they get out of school and have been practicing for a while.

Wirth’s book seems especially prophetic in view of today’s proliferation of digital photography with its “cool” special effects, which often produces ubiquitous effects without very much insight.

Here’s a passage from the book that seems profound and fitting:
Many designers chose their profession because they could draw. So they proved their aptitude and were trained. Their work, so they imagined, should be self-determined and unmistakable. Sometimes even during their training, but generally later, they must sacrifice their personal inclinations and conceptions, their special abilities to the general trend. Their original motivation to the profession is gradually lost in ready-made programs and formulae before they have found their own way in designing. A later generation may perhaps see our profession differently and bring new impulses to it. Perhaps this book will encourage some members of the profession to remember their original motivation and to use drawing again in their designing.
Wirth’s book design is particularly compelling by juxtaposing a “classic” typographic structure in combination with expressionistic illustrations and pictorial layout. It’s impressive that he can generate such remarkable impact by combining Helvetica 55 with personal images. This book is certainly well worth your time to take a look at it.

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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Objectified — the Movie

Objects (artifacts) should be of interest to graphic designers. We received this message from Susan, a former colleague, now in the Twin Cities: “I just saw a program I think you might like for your classes concerning object design. It touches on the thoughtfulness and humanity of the design process so it reminded me of you.”

This is from Independent Lens, — their website:
OBJECTIFIED, by filmmaker Gary Hustwit, is the second installment in his trilogy on design (his first was Helvetica). Objectified encourages us to stop and notice our surroundings and to think critically about creativity and consumption. Who makes all these objects, and why do they look and feel the way they do? How can good design make these things—and by extension our lives—better? What about the environment and the social and environmental costs associated with global manufacturing and planned obsolescence?
Here are some previews:

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Saturday, March 6, 2010

dcaiga disguised as “word cloud”

This is the dcaiga blog illustrated as a “word cloud” image generated on 03.06.10.

Probably, by this time, Wordle is old hat:
Wordle is a toy for generating “word clouds” from text that you provide. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text. You can tweak your clouds with different fonts, layouts, and color schemes. The images you create with Wordle are yours to use however you like. You can print them out, or save them to the Wordle gallery to share with your friends.
How many words are in this layout? What font style is being used?

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Thursday, March 4, 2010

Dordt Alumni in Design: Matt Van Rys

Matt Van Rys is our featured alumni this month. We put this piece together with elements from his portfolio website that he did especially for us to use. We’ve selected just a few examples and so for a greater effect, you may, visit the site itself. —editor

Matt writes the following:
I graduated from Dordt in 2004 with a degree in art, emphasizing Graphic Design. Two months later, I started work as a graphic designer at Creative Resource Inc. (a division of Diamond Vogel Paints) in Orange City, Iowa. I have worked at Creative Resource for nearly six years and I am a part of a three designer team managed by our Creative Director, Dordt Alumnus, Jamey Schiebout. My primary function is as a print designer, working on projects such as packaging labels, brochures, forms, point-of-purchase signage, advertising and posters.

In addition to print design, I have also done some web design projects. Some examples include the Diamond Vogel website, the Peridium Powder website, the Old Masters website and the Axis website. I have also more recently worked on other digital delivery graphics such as email marketing; web advertising and video designing and animation.

This is a screen shot of the Diamond Vogel website.

Other components of my work include some commercial photography, shooting video and also occasionally writing. Collaborating with fellow designers or suppliers is an important part of some larger projects. The most challenging component of being a graphic designer in my experience is tactfully steering a client or customer to an effective form of visual communication that also looks appealing. I feel that my liberal arts education at Dordt has given me the tools to examine a project from various perspectives, not just that of the artist, and more effectively execute a solution.

This is the cover to an Old Masters presentation folder we’re currently producing.

GIDI CLOTHING CONNEXION: Nigerian Independence Day 2010 Shirt Design Pitch 2.

In addition to my work at Creative Resource, I also do some freelance work, which has helped me develop a better understanding of the business side of graphic design.

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Monday, March 1, 2010

fish prints, notable nishiki-e

Utagawa Kuniyoshi
Black Carp
c. 1842
Color woodblock print
Chû-tanzaku-ban: 15 1/8 x 5 3/16 in. (38.4 x 13.2 cm)
Japanese, 19th century, Edo period
Published by Tsujiokaya Bunsuke
Inscriptions: Ichiyu_sai Kuniyoshi ga Ichiyu_sai
Seal Publisher: Tsujiokaya
Physical Description: nishiki-e, tanzaku-e
Collection: Minneapolis Institute of Arts (MIA); Gift of Louis W. Hill, Jr.
Image is from the MIA.

The Minneapolis Institute of Arts is currently showing prints by Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797-1861) a nineteenth century Japanese artist. The exhibition is not very large, but the prints are of exceptional quality and indicate the wide range in Kuniyoshi’s body of work. Prints portraying various kinds of fish are fairly frequent in Kuniyoshi’s oeuvre(1). Carp can tenaciously swim upstream and are not fearful of dark depths. Thus, for the Japanese, carp are symbols of valor. The show ends this Sunday, March 7, 2010.

The following is from MIA documentation:
“This image of a black carp is from a series that pictures aquatic creatures. The carp, seen from above, seems to be languorously swimming toward the surface. Not only did Kuniyoshi render the fish with great care, he also managed to convey the impression that it is beneath the surface of water. Kuniyoshi’s careful attention to detail, one of the defining characteristics of his style, is amply evident in this print.”

Woodblock color print. Brocade picture. Polychrome print. A further development of the benizuri-e [i.e., a polychrome print using different blocks for different colors for a multi-impression print]. The impetus for its evolution came from the practice, which arose in the year Meiwa 2 (1765), of exchanging calendars, a practice indulged in by both high and low born individuals, by artists and art-lovers alike. It provided an opportunity for inventing and trying out new techniques.…(2)
(1) Fahr-Becker, Gabriele, ed. Japanese Prints. Köln: Benedikt Taschen Verlag GmbH Hohenzollernring 53, 1999. 164-65. Print.
(2) Ibid, 192.

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