Monday, November 29, 2010

“The Visionary” at Ferris State University

Above: Publicity poster, (24 inches x 24 inches) designed by Versluis, for the “Prodigal Son” exhibition, The Father and His Two Sons: The Art of Forgiveness held at Dordt College this past summer and early fall. The poster features a watercolor piece by Robert L. Barnum, who’s a fine arts faculty member at Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Michigan. Barnum’s preferred medium is watercolor and one can easily see the influence of artist Thomas Hart Benton in Barnum’s artwork.

“His style is one of sweeping motion in the tradition of “regionalism,” a movement that grew in the United States from the early 1900s to World War II.”

For more information about Robert L. Barnum see this fine article called “The Visionary” at Ferris State University. Unfortunately, for those who are typographically sensitive, the article is set in Comic Sans.

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Friday, November 26, 2010

the impact of design in interior spaces

The top photograph is from the interior of the Hume House, which was built in c. 1890 in Muskegon, Michigan. Both the Hume House, shown in the bottom picture, and the Hackley House in the background were designed by David S. Hopkins in the late 1880s. The Hume House with it’s polychrome paint scheme of fourteen tones is indicative of late nineteenth century Victorian architecture. Photographs by Versluis, copyright © 2010.

As the top picture shows, the interior hallway entry of the Hume House displays more complex and transitional patterns of Art Nouveau/Jugendstil style stenciling. The design motif, interestingly, contrasts with “simpler” patterns of machine cut geometric woodwork. The interior is in the process of being restored to it’s historic 1915 appearance.

The exterior has been restored to it’s 1890 appearance and is considered to be an excellent example of “Queen Anne”/Aesthetic style found in the United States.

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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Simplicity and Boldness: Paul Rand

A Look at Architecture Columbus Indiana
Columbus Indiana Visitors Center
Identity Program, 1973
Cover, layout design, and logo by Paul Rand (1914–1996)

Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce, Inc., copyright 1991.
Published by Visitors Center, Columbus, Indiana
Sixth edition Softcover. From the collection of David Versluis.

Book description:
Black-and-white photos throughout with text that explores the architecture of the town. Graphic designer Paul Rand strongly influenced contemporary twentieth century graphic design with clever forms that were deceptively simple and perceptively bold. Also, Columbus, Indiana is a very fine destination trip.

From the Introduction of A Look at Architecture Columbus Indiana:
Columbus architecture has been the subject of feature articles in national and international publications, and each year thousands of people visit the city to view the buildings. In 1970 Columbus received the “Total Design” award from the national society of interior design for exemplifying “environmental rebirth.” Many individual buildings have been recognized by national organizations.

This guidebook is produced by the Visitors Center, a division of the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce Foundation, to enable visitors to learn more about Columbus architecture.… p. 9

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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Glorifying God with Light, Space and Sound — Eliel Saarinen’s Example of Exquisite Church Architecture in Minneapolis

The renowned twentieth-century modernist architect, Eliel Saarinen designed Christ Church Lutheran, 1949, Minneapolis, Minnesota. The left photograph shows the chime tower and sanctuary structures, which are of honey-colored brick. The photograph on the right is an east fa├žade detail showing the indigenous Mankato limestone wall and sculptural accent pieces by William M. McVey (1905–1995). Photographs by versluis ©2010. For additional photographs see Peter J. Sieger’s photo gallery.

Apparently, a modern style church building wasn’t the original idea of the building committee. Saarinen, as he had done in 1942 for First Christian Church in Columbus Indiana, suggested breaking away from the traditional Gothic and Georgian styles. He wrote, “The last drop of expression has been squeezed out of these once so expressive styles.” (1)

Because church architecture should express theology — the central theological question for Saarinen, as he developed plans for Christ Church, was “How does Christ communicate himself to his people and how can it be expressed architecturally?” For Saarinen, one way of answering that question is, “If a building is honest, the architecture is religious.” In fact, all of Saarinen’s buildings are characterized by integrity through an “honest” use of materials. Specifically in the case of Christ Church honesty is expressed through the design of acoustics and natural light. In addition, Saarinen did not try to hide the use of common materials: wood, glass, brick, stone, and concrete are all crafted together to form a worship space that conveys simplicity, dignity and tranquility.

In the book, Christ and Architecture, authors Donald Bruggink and Carl Droppers write in chapter 2, The Word of God, “How does Christ communicate with his people? The answer of the Church of Jesus Christ reformed according to the Word of God is that Christ communicates himself to his Church through Word and Sacrament! This is the message Luther and Calvin found in God’s Word; this remains the position of those churches which are reformed according to his Word. God communicates himself through Word and Sacrament.” (2)

Saarinen’s Christ Church acknowledges that Christ communicates himself through Word (biblical preaching) and the Sacraments (Eucharist and baptism). One observes this in the chancel (the front of the sanctuary) with the centered table (alter) and the baptismal font on the left combining to form a unity that balances the size of the pulpit on the right. The counterpart of the outside cross high on the chime tower highlights the west wall of the chancel. A very minor criticism is that the size of the baptismal font is relatively small. However, to help achieve greater visibility a processional banner is utilized to highlight the font.

For full effect of the space one should attend a worship service to experience the liturgy and to understand the impact of the architectural design. Within the space, the tone and clarity of the music and flow of light through the interior enfold the congregation. As a result, the thoughtful program of this building correlates with Saarinen’s insights about modern architecture.
(1) Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce, Inc. A Look at Architecture. Sixth ed. Columbus, IN: Visitor's Center, 1991. 28. Print.

(2) Bruggink, Donald J., and Carl H. Droppers. Christ and Architecture, building Presbyterian/Reformed churches. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1965. 58. Print.

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Monday, November 8, 2010

Joe Sparano: Visiting Graphic Designer Notes

The following notes are from Joe Sparano’s visit to Dordt College last month and were submitted by Matt Van Rys, adjunct instructor in web design at Dordt. We certainly want to thank Matt for providing excellent minutes. —blog editor

Meeting Notes by Matt Van Rys:
Before getting into Joe’s presentation, it is important to note two interesting facts that came out at the very end of the Question and Answer section:
Superman Versus Batman? — Batman
DC Versus Marvel? — DC

The Black Knight Pinball Machine at the offices of Oxide Design Co.

Joe’s Employer:
Oxide Design Co., Omaha, Nebraska
Professional graphic designer for 7 years, graduated 2004 from University of Nebraska Omaha.
  • 3 Person Staff: (identified as right to left above) Drew (founding member – 9 years), Joe and Adam (newest member – 3 years)
  • Building: Old Hardware store with vintage Neon Sign, Wall with giant logo mark, Lego village with radio operated train in front window with OXIDE letters on train cars and The Black Knight Pinball Machine.
  • Workspace: Everybody has own workspace, but open to each other. Group space for meeting and concepting designs.
  • Open workspace allows for perpetual communication and free form design work. Ownership of individual work spaces, like shelves of toys, lego cup and other personal markers.
  • Workplace Dogs: Glady and Rosie!
Joe, Oxide and Problem Solving:
The ability to solve visual problems with unique solutions is the key to Graphic Design.

Sample Projects:
  • Ready Collective” — A company based in helping other companies and groups rethink or think differently. Challenge: Designing an identity to capture the idea of non-traditional thinking with clarity of the finished thought. Solution: Camel “R” and Croissant “C” etc. Using colors to relate R & C illustrations to the Ready Collective logo. Using unique marks to link off-the-wall ideas with a polished workable finished concept.
  • The Biatomic Point” — (A feeling shared by two people). Challenge: How do we illustrate a shared experience while combining the idea of science and rocking out. Solution: A simple mark that solves an arguably complicated problem. B + P with the lightning bolt rocking out.
  • BIG OMAHA” — Conference for technical inventors to meet with small business entrepreneurs. Challenge: How do we represent Connecting/challenge, Midwest and something big (the big new idea). Solution: Cow with various illustrations. What do people do with the Cow? Or, how do people react to new ideas? It’s about interpretation, response and problem solving.
Inspiration for Joe:
Darwyn Cooke (Illustrator)
  • Superb action of comics captured in relatively simple renderings.
  • Simplicity, don’t over complicate.
  • Mad Man (Television Drama) Writing for TV (Showing the Old Pitch) — Season 1 Finale, trying to concept a name for the Kodak slide projector. “Carousel” – captures the magic and fun of photo memories.
  • Jim Henson (Puppeteer – Extraordinaire) — Super Creative. Turning a small felt puppet into a character with personality. Solving a problem, with a simple Muppet solution and creating a lasting, memorable metaphor.
  • Clint Mansell (Film Score Composer) — Requiem for a Dream, The Fountain… Evoking emotion and experience from raw music.
  • The Spork (Plastic Utensil) — Solves a problem – perhaps one of the best solutions ever. Spoon + fork + plastic = giveaway solution to a complex restaurant problem.
  • The Oxide Blog: Hey Students Series – Sharing knowledge before it’s too late to learn it or use it effectively.

The Question and Answers (And some sweet Oxide Swag)
Q. Did you remodel the hardware store space at Oxide?
A. Actually an architect remodeled the hardware store prior to Oxide’s existence. We kept the huge bookshelf storage and removed the walls between desks to create a more open and collaborative work environment.

Q. Can you describe the collaboration?
A. Working together, specifically in the conception stage. Sometimes divide, but always conquering together.

Q. What’s the balance of Technology versus hands on?
A. The Oxide group starts by sketching together on paper. It creates an easy place to quickly create and also eliminate less than stellar ideas early on before bringing the computer into the picture.

Q. Internships @ Oxide?
A. In Joe’s case, he came to portfolio review night and he was called later for internship. A good way to start with any business is to simply ask for feedback on your portfolio. Also, represent yourself as a student, a work in progress. Most people will respect your honesty.

Q. General Typographic Work…Regular Design, Forms?
A. Oxide participated in the AIGA National Initiative for ballet standards. This project was a true genesis of Information Design, sort of extreme problem solving for an important but possibly confusing form that a wide variety of people would use.

Q. Does Oxide work in web design?
A. Oxide prefers print design, however, designing the look of something (a website, flash site, standalone app, mobile app) is fine, but other developers, programmers and designers can be more skilled and produce a finer finished product. We feel that it is sometimes best to hire a professional for certain tasks.

Q. What applications do you use primarily?
A. We use the Adobe Suite…not much for alternatives, but it is an imperfect solution. We use Illustrator for hard edge artwork and then move into Photoshop.

Q. How do you stay fresh?
A. Try to find design inspiration everywhere; always be on the look out for good problem solving. One example is great logos and problem solving.

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Thursday, November 4, 2010

Mies’s Modern in Chicago and a booklet by Michael Glass Design

The lead-in image shows the cover, last page with location map, and building list on the inside back cover.

This booklet, produced in 1986, is a kind of pocket catalog of architectural work by Mies van der Rohe that’s located in the city of Chicago. This 24-page booklet, which includes the cover, is a very fine example of solid editorial content with building descriptions by Wim De Wit and Catherine Ingraham. Terry A.R. Neff edited the copy. Most of the architectural photographs are from Hedrich-Blessing. The piece was designed by Michael Glass Design, Inc. of Chicago and published by the Museum Contemporary of Art, Chicago.

In the introduction, Lynne Warren writes, “Mies van der Rohe was not only one of the great architects of the 20th century; he was, because his work served as the paradigm of the Modern style, a figurehead around whom the aspirations and achievements of the Modern aesthetic could be analyzed and critiqued. This critique consisted of sometimes louder, sometimes quieter, complaints that the steel-and-glass towers of which Mies was responsible for filling the urban landscape were cold, austere, and inhuman. Recently the raucous forms and florid embellishments of what is called the postmodern style have brought out greater appreciation of the modern style’s simplicity and elegant beauty, and Mies’s contribution can be easily comprehended.”

Michael Glass’s piece captures the clarity of modern style architecture with a relatively simple one-column layout format with text typography set in Helvetica and justified. However, the last two pages indicated above deviates from the justified format as an anomaly with left alignment and ragged-right. The uppercase cover typography elegantly suggests and mimics the high-raise structure and linearity of Mies’s designed buildings.

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