Wednesday, April 28, 2010

“Persuader” Images on the Champs-Élysés in Paris

“What makes some brands inspirational while others struggle?” This is the question posed by ad executive Kevin Roberts in the website Lovemarks. Mr. Roberts is Chief Executive Officer Worldwide of Saatchi & Saatchi.

Awhile back, Roberts was featured in FRONTLINE’s report, The Persuaders. During the interview he responded to the question, “What is a Lovemark?” Although his response mentions Adidas, the same perhaps could be said about Nike or some other compelling brand. Roberts answers this way:
A Lovemark is a brand that has created loyalty beyond reason; it’s infused with mystery, sensuality and intimacy, and that you recognize immediately as having some kind of iconic place in your heart. And I’ll give you two personal stories of mine. Maybe eight weeks ago now, I was in Seattle talking to 3,000 college professors — not a very stimulating kind of way to spend the day. And I went to the Adidas concept store in Seattle. I didn't need anything, nothing. $880 later and four bags later, I staggered out of the Adidas store, and I felt great, because I love Adidas and I always have. There’s no reason for it. It's beyond reason. I didn't need anything in these bags. I bought stuff for my wife, for my kids, for me. I had no guilt, and I had no sense of “You stupid whatever, you just dropped 880 bucks.” I didn’t care; I felt great. I have loyalty beyond reason to Adidas, largely because of their heritage, their authenticity. If I try to rationalize how I’ve developed this — as I was growing up playing rugby, Adidas were the best rugby boots — but there's no reason really. I don’t know why. They commune with me.

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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

French Curves in Honfleur

These natural and painted wood entrance doors were all found on the same street and not that far from the harbor in Honfleur, France. As architectural antiques the doors are very inviting as well as being interesting examples of French decorative and functional design. The natural wood door displays classic spirals while the green and red doors show some stylistic elements of Art Nouveau. In addition, the cast iron metal work functions as glass protection.

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Saturday, April 24, 2010

Typographic Style and Class in Sioux Center, Iowa

Teacher, poet, and storyteller, the late Stanley M. Wiersma once said, humorously, that in Sioux County, Iowa, Orange City had style and Sioux Center had class. Or was it the other way around?

Anyway the letterforms on the Chamber of Commerce building, formerly the Sioux Center State Bank, does display a sense of style (and class). The extra, upper case, letter spacing certainly produces elegance. This photograph indicates the congruent appearance of the classical capital letterforms with the other façade elements. Actually, the concise letter spacing is dictated by the space that it needs to fill. Furthermore, the architectural elements of the half balusters form a regular rhythmical pattern on the parapet, which harmonizes with the incised letters.

As a side, this particular architectural style is the American Midwestern version of Beaux-Arts. In addition to having nineteenth century appeal Beaux-Arts was also a classic idiom popular, after World War I, in the early 1920s. The Beaux-Arts style was thought to characterize the common good virtues of order, dignity, and harmony.

Willi Kuntz believes, viewing letters like these serves as a teaching instrument by asking the following:
These kinds of questions are at the core of a typographic work. They show how a seemingly simple message can be deconstructed to reveal the numerous decisions that together affect the meaning and emotional tone of the communication.
While referencing the photograph above and gaining important insight for design — lets consider these questions by Kuntz:
Which of these words is most important?
Why are they arranged in this particular sequence?
How many letters are in each word?
What is the ratio between the numbers of letters in each word?
What is the total number of letters?
How many rectilinear, triangular, and curvilinear letters are in each word?
What is the typeface?
How tall are the letters?
How does the case contribute to the appearance?

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Milestone

The dc aiga blog is officially a year old. Since our launch on 18 April 2009 we have posted 102 miscellaneous pieces. Thanks to all who contribute to this site and to those who follow us. We’re especially appreciative for all the Dordt College alumni in design who so graciously agreed to be featured. We hope to continue this important aspect. These regular pieces about alumni are a great way for current students to see what our graduates are doing in the field and we hope that all those acknowledged were honored in the process.

Among the many highlights have been a couple of posts, namely “Eugene Masselink” and “Art Deco in Windom, Minnesota” that were “Observed” by Design Observer’s, Michael Bierut. Also interesting, was Change Observer editor, Julie Lasky’s essay titled “Superbeauty” that contained a link to our piece about Tord Boontje. In addition, the response to our posts about Carl Regehr and Robert Estienne were particularly gratifying.

We were pleased to give a shout-out about Giles Timms’ animation, Manifestations” and Roy Behrens’ new book, Camoupedia”, which is out on interlibrary loan again… it seems every time I need the compendium it’s not in our library, which means I may need to purchase the book for myself.

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Monday, April 19, 2010

Élysée Montmartre, Cabaret, and the “The Chérette”

This photo was taken from the side of the Elysee Montmartre as you begin to walk up the hill on the rue de Steinkerque. With letterforms composed of dots the old sign still suggests a cabaret marquee. At one time Steinkerque street was associated with licentiousness and brothels, but now the street is known as the “silk road”. The Sympa is a brand name discount clothing chain store.

Founded as a ballroom in 1807, the Elysee Montmartre became a Parisian nightclub spot for the wealthy and celebrities during the nineteenth century. Located on boulevard de Rochechouart, the landmark has been portrayed in literary and artistic works such as in the novel L’Assommoir by Émile Zola and in the artwork of Toulouse-Lautrec.

Jules Chérét
was instrumental in developing the large format French poster in the last half of the nineteenth century. Amazingly, he would draw directly on a very large litho stone and work with registered layers of primary colors to generate a full color effect. His mature poster design style is characterized by the unity of words and images. The bold, hand drawn, typography quite often mimics the forms and twisting gestures of the central figures.

In his book, Posters, Bevis Hillier quotes novelist Joris-Karl Huysmans, who as an art critic, stated that he preferred viewing “the crudest posters advertising a cabaret or a circus” to looking at “the fiddle-faddle and jiggery-pokery of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts” — from the Le Voltaire issue of 17 May 1879. In other words, Huysmans was saying he appreciated seeing the commercial art poster more so than the fine art of the élite art establishment.

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Saturday, April 17, 2010

The French House Painter’s Sweater

Photograph © 2010 David Versluis

Seeing this house painter’s sweater in Ouistreham, Normandy reminded us of the work of Josef Albers’ geometric designs and visual perception, Anni Albers’ textiles, Henri Matisse’s cutout letters, and Alexander Calder’s playful spirals.

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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Heidegger: About the Nature of Things

Part 1a: 15 minutes. Produced by request from a Follower.

Part 1b: 15 minutes.

Thinking About “Things” Part 1 — Tuesday, March 2, An Evening With Philosopher and Dordt College Professor, Mark Tazelaar.

Regarding Robert Rauschenberg’s painting Pilgrim, Robert Venturi mentions the piece in his important book Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture, 1966. Venturi writes:
…the surface pattern continues from the stretcher canvas to the actual chair [chairs have stretchers too] in front of it, making ambiguous the distinction between the painting and the furniture, and on another level, the work of art in a room. A contradiction between levels of function and meaning is recognized in these works, and the medium is strained.
Marc Edo Tralbaut in his book, Vincent Van Gogh, discusses Van Gogh’s Boots, 1887, by quoting Martin Heidegger, who said, “Engraved in the hollow of a boot is the weariness of the steps of work. The rough and solid weight of the clog tells of the slow and obstinate trudge across the fields”.

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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

“Me, Myself & Design” 2010

Dordt senior student, Paul Hanaoka, presents his portfolio to Mr. Joe Sparano of Oxide Design Inc. of Omaha. As Sparano gives feedback, Dordt students, Andrew Hornor (background) and Mark Veldkamp (foreground) observe the review.

On Saturday, April 10, six of us from Dordt College traveled to the Concordia Campus in Lincoln, Nebraska to participate in “Me, Myself & Design” — an event organized by Mr. Paul Berkbigler, Director of Education, AIGA Nebraska. This festive occasion provides a great opportunity for students to meet professional graphic designers and to ask questions about what’s it like to work as a designer.

In addition to panel discussions and portfolio reviews, by the professionals, the event is an excellent way to connect with the AIGA member design community.

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Monday, April 12, 2010

Work in Progress

The 2010 Sioux County Oratorio Chorus Poster Project
Size: 11 x 17 inches
David Versluis, Designer

Background image is from quarter-sawn oak paneling (c.1500) found in the interior design of the Musée de Cluny, which is officially known as Musée National du Moyen Âge (National Museum of the Middle Ages) and photographed by Versluis. Light passages in the image were generated through Photoshop techniques that, although blurred, seems to bring out the Gothic and Renaissance styles.

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Monday, April 5, 2010

New Blog

Fellow DC AIGA members,

I set up an ad hoc online portfolio. Please take a look!



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William the Conqueror, as penitence, founded and built the Abbey for Men in 1067. The Abbey’s church, the Romanesque style Église St-Etienne, is the finest church of cathedral size and scale in Caen, France. This is an inscribed foundation stone from the Church’s Gothic ambulatory, which was built later in the thirteenth-century.

Because of the deterioration it’s difficult to determine clearly the typographic style. However, the incised letterforms suggest, perhaps, a Latin inscription in Roman “Square Capitals”, which were usually written without word spacing or punctuation. It could be my imagination but the carved letters feel Anglo-Saxon with a hint of Gaelic.

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Thursday, April 1, 2010

The irony of Matisse’s foliating shapes?

On display in the Atlantic Wall Museum, Ouistreham, Normandy, France, is this photograph, which shows a camouflaged German bunker positioned on the Normandy coast in the early 1940s. In the Battle of Normandy, World War II, Ouistreham marked the eastern edge of Sword Beach. The museum is also called the “Le Grand Bunker” and served, during the War, as a formidable German post strategically guarding the entry to the Port of Caen. The photo caption states, “Fire-control post camouflaged with regular patterns and covered with camouflage netting.” However the patterns are reminiscent of Henri Matisse’s leafy shapes along with the contrast of positive and negative space.

The irony of juxtaposing Matisse’s cutouts with German camouflage came to mind while reading Riva Castleman’s Introduction to Matisse’s “Jazz” book published by George Braziller in 1983. Castleman writes:
During the [German] Occupation Matisse was burdened not only by poor health but also by the strain of war and concern for the safety of his family. (Mme. Matisse was interned by the Gestapo and their daughter Marguerite was about to be deported.)

Knife Thrower, 1947, 6 color print
16.75 x 25.5 inches © Greg Kucera Gallery

Matisse began to conceptualize the “Jazz” book during the War and completed it, in 1947, after the War ended. A two-page piece in the book is called the “Knife Thrower”. Greg Kucera in his essay “Context for the Creation of Jazz” provides this insight:
The victor/victim duality of war is symbolized in the complementary but opposing dangers expressed in two related prints; self-inflicted danger in the case of the sword swallower and victimization at the hands of another in the depiction of the knife thrower and assistant.

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