Saturday, January 29, 2011

Susan Jackson Keig, a pioneer in the development of graphic design

Photograph credits: Susan Jackson Keig’s c.1982 blind-embossed business card from the collection of David Versluis. The black and white portrait is from 27 Chicago Designers. 27 Chicago Designers. Vol. 34. Chicago: 27 Chicago Designers, 1982. Print. The late Morton Goldsholl was posthumously honored as a recipient of a 2009 AIGA Fellow Award. Photograph of Ms. Keig accepting the award on Goldsholl’s behalf. Ms. Keig received the 2002 AIGA Fellow Award.

“Once they find out what you can do, they can’t do without you.”
—Susan Jackson Keig, Designer

Susan Jackson Keig design consultant, Chicago, is listed by R. Roger Remington in his Graphic Design History Resource as a woman pioneer in the development of North American design. Currently, at age 92, Keig still manages her design practice.

I first heard Susan Jackson Keig speak in 1982 at the annual STA (Society of Typographic Arts) fall conference in Chicago, where she and Bruce Beck gave an presentation on the history of the STA. The duo recalled memories with first-hand anecdotes, presenting a commendable early history of Chicago graphic design. They focused primarily on the charter members of a group called “27 Chicago Designers.” The STA was a professional association of graphic designers based in Chicago and founded in 1927. Keig and Beck were both STA Fellows, interestingly—Keig was conferred in 1964 and Beck a year later in 1965.

In 1983 I had the opportunity to meet Ms. Keig at an evening STA event featuring a guest design manager (I think it was Christopher Pullman, WGBH). As I introduced myself she was friendly and gracious, with a sense of Southern hospitality—perhaps a reflection of her Kentucky roots. I still have the business card that she gave me that evening. I was teaching at the time at Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, Illinois and Ms. Keig seemed interested in the school’s part of the family tree of the Dutch Reformed Church. At that time she was involved in the graphic identity for Chicago’s Prairie Avenue Historic District.

Ms. Keig has been honored as a Distinguished Alumna of the University of Kentucky College of Fine Arts where she graduated with a BA in art in 1940. In addition, in 2010 she was honored as an inductee into The University of Kentucky Hall of Distinguished Alumni. For the occasion the UK alumni association wrote a brief biography:

Susan Jackson Keig is an internationally recognized art designer in private practice. She also is a Fellow and past-president of the Society of Typographic Arts/American Center for Design, and she has lectured at Yale University, Heritage of the Arts SUNY and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Some of her design projects include an LP record and album for Buckminster Fuller, a medallion from the Free Congress Foundation for Margaret Thatcher, and the Clare Booth Luce medallion from the Heritage Foundation for Ronald Reagan.

She is a leading authority on the Shakers, their village at Pleasant Hill, and has more than 3,000 photographs of Shaker Village. This is her 40th year of designing and producing the Shaker calendar for Pleasant Hill.

She taught at the Institute of Design, Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, has had one-woman exhibits in Louisville and New York, and is a Distinguished Alumna of the UK College of Fine Arts.
A few years ago at an AIGA Chicago evening event called “Fresh Talent 2008”. Ms. Keig, speaking to the audience, optimistically and wisely said, “Once they find out what you can do, they can’t do without you.” These are indeed encouraging words to take to heart as graphic designers.

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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Unity of text and form

MoMA gift store shopping bag, c.1999. Size: 8.5” x 11.5”
From the collection of David Versluis

The name MoMA is used to form consistent pattern of a continual recurrence, repetitious and rhythmical nature. To achieve contrast and variation the line The Museum of Modern Art, New York is used to emphasize the slightly off-center in this fairly rigid composition. The neutral typographic style of “Helvetica” and “corporate gray” reinforces the unity of text and form. (1)

  1. Ruder, Emil. Typography: a Manual of Design. New York: Visual Communication Books; Hastings House, Publis, 1981. 134-98. Print.

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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Word and Image; posters from the collection of The Museum of Modern Art, 1968

Catalog dust jacket for Word and Image/Posters from the collection of The Museum of Modern Art/Selected and edited by Mildred Constantine/Text by Alan M. Fern. Published in 1968 by MoMA and designed by Massimo Vignelli, Pieter van Delft/Unimark International, 160 pages. Cover: detail from a billboard for Kessler, courtesy of Four Roses Distillers Company, New York. Catalog shown is from the collection of David Versluis.

Page shown is page 100 with the work of Ben Shahn (American), Ballets U.S.A. 1959 and Giovanni Pintori (Italian), Olivetti Tetractys. 1957.

Inside the cover on the dust jacket the teaser copy states:

In the last 100 years the poster has been an enormously popular art with a growing audience not only among professional enthusiasts, but the public at large. This pictorial history considers the poster as an art form interacting with other visual arts of its times as well as a social document.

The illustrations in this book are drawn from The Museum of Modern Art’s collection of over 2,000 posters, by artists working in all styles and media, from the powerful lithographs of the turn of the century to the “psychedelic” brilliance and technical ingenuity of today’s experimenters: work by Cherét, Bonnard, Lautrec, Mucha, Hohlwein, Kokoschka, Tschichold, Bayer, Kauffer, Cassandre, Picasso, Moscoso, Max, Gee, Shahn, Lionni, and Stella.

Alan M. Fern is Assistant Chief of the Reference Department, Prints and Photographs Division, the Library of Congress, Mildred Constantine who helped assemble the collection documented here in her former position as Associate Curator of Graphic Design, is Consultant to the Department of Architecture and Design and Special Assistant to the Director of the Museum of Modern Art.

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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Graphic identity for contemporary chic décor: Pavillon des Arts et du Design Paris 2010

These images show the graphic identity, poster, entrance signage, and interior spaces for the 2010 annual Pavillon des Arts & du Design Paris Showcase. Clicking on an image takes you to the source, but with one exception being the photograph in the upper right, which is by versluis and was taken from inside a Paris Metro Bus. The picture was taken last March 2010 as the vehicle was traveling on the rue de Rivoli and passing by the Jardin des Tuileries in Paris.

For some context, Kacee Taylor writes about the annual fair in the blog, Le Best of Paris:

This art and design exposition presents new pieces engineered by the biggest names in painting, sculpture, photography, drawing, tapestries, jewelry, antiques, and furniture to at least a crowd of 45,000 visitors. Internationally recognized, this 5-day event houses over 80 vendors sharing their unique visions, eclectic styles, and chic décor from all over the world. (1)
In addition, RetroStart in their blog states:
Pavillon des Arts et du Design is internationally renowned for showcasing the best works of historical, modern and contemporary decorative arts and design from the 1860 to today. Created in 1997, the event brings together an eclectic mix of the traditional with the contemporary and the great names with talents of tomorrow.

… some examples: Philippe Rapin, Pegaso, la Galerie Parisienne, Modernity, Galerie de Casson, Yves Gastou, Dansk Møbelkunst. (2)
The graphic identity of black, white, and red colors strongly suggests a throwback to Modern with the consistency and style of international graphic design of an earlier era. In interesting contrast to mid-twentieth century modern typography (Helvetica) is the symbol of the “orb” as “global figure,” which seems postmodern.
  1. Taylor, Kacee. "Pavillon des Arts & Design." Le Best of Paris. Le Best of Paris, LLC, 24 Mar. 2010. Web. 20 Jan. 2011.
  2. Akkerma, Pieter, and Margriet van der Wiel. "Pavillon des Arts et du Design Paris 2010." RetroStart. N.p., Mar. 2010. Web. 19 Jan. 2011.

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Monday, January 17, 2011

Paul Berkbigler, Guest Designer Extraordinaire from AIGA Nebraska

Mr. Paul Berkbigler makes one of his points during the Q and A session with Dordt students.

Last Wednesday, January 12, the AIGA Dordt College Student Group had a wonderful time gathered around Paul Berkbigler who came as a guest graphic designer. In addition to serving AIGA Nebraska as Director of Education Paul is owner of P.Berkbigler Design and Illustration, which is based in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Our colleague Matt Van Rys graciously took the following notes highlighting Paul’s insights —here they are:

Some notes on Paul Berkbigler: A fount of knowledge for budding designers and freelancers.

After studying, working and teaching, Paul has returned to the wild world of freelance graphic design.

His design passions include, but are not limited to:
  1. An illustrative spirit; loving simple visual elements and complex ideas.
  2. A deep love and respect for typography; not only figuring out how to fit a bunch of letters into a small space, Paul enjoys the richness of content and shape when using typography Paul emphasizes that when he designs, combining words and images, he likes to ask the question: how does this photo or text enhance the text or photo around it? How is the communication improved by this element? He follows a similar mentality with interactive work, asking how each animation, motion or interaction will enhance the viewer’s experience and improve the communication.
His freelance clientele includes many Christian organizations and non-profit organizations (about 2/3 of total client mix) and the additional 1/3 is standard commercial for-profit clients. Paul acknowledges being a bit OCD about typography, being able to needle with type in a design for hours. However, he mentions that not every project will be a gem and budget or client taste can limit a design.

A little bit about Paul’s networking. Networking and meeting people can be and often is a powerful tool for a freelance designer. Paul acquires much of his work through a contact that runs a PR firm. He also mentions that if you are specifically seeking to work for Christian organizations, you may need to start networking within or in sister organizations. It is often not a direct contact, but an acquaintance that will need work done. Your good reputation as a designer and businessperson is important; if you really prove yourself on the first design, you can often get full creative freedom on subsequent projects.

When asked about seeking internships, Paul suggests that if you find a company or group that you feel strongly about and be a polite nuisance. Without wasting time, perhaps request a portfolio review or ask for a lunch meeting to discuss how you really like a new addition they made to their body of work. Overall, if you are passionate about something, try to become a part of that world and make connections.

A few students were curious about collaboration. Paul strongly endorses designer collaboration, suggesting that several great ideas will make for a superb finished product. He also noted that the challenge in collaboration is personal ego. If everyone checks their ego at the door, ideas and responsibilities will flow freely, allowing the best candidates for each portion of the project to be utilized. In conjunction with collaboration, Paul mentions something I have called “digital organization”. When preparing your artwork for another designer, try to be as organized and clear as possible. Provide a simple and well-named file/folder structure and in layered Adobe Photoshop/Illustrator/InDesign files, name and order the layers so anyone can interpret what you’re thinking, even yourself. Several years down the line when you have to update the project, you may not remember you original structures.

Some tips Paul has for freelancers are particularly helpful. For time use, Paul is flexible with how he uses his time, but strict about keeping track of time on a job. He prioritizes his work based on the expected completion date from the customer. He creates milestones when he starts the project so there will be deadlines throughout; basically scheduling in reverse. Some additional recommendations for freelancers include: don’t be an awful boss to yourself, keep fairly normal hours and if you do rush work, be sure to charge extra. When asked about should all designers have an online presence, Paul suggests determining the need for an online portfolio based on your intended clientele and how best to reach them.

Paul’s advice is concise and spot on…I lost count of how many times I was nodding as he described experiences I have also had. His work is excellent and inspiring; I suggest taking a look at his online portfolio (which he hosts using the AIGA Behance network) at

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Saturday, January 15, 2011

“Bulles de Paris Tout P’tits” public awareness poster

This street poster, from March 2010, was located in Paris on the “Champs Elysées” and was a public awareness promotional piece for an association called Paris Tout P’tits. The poster appropriately and effectively uses the “Teddy Bear” identity. Photograph is by versluis © 2010.

The following copy describes the Association and it’s poster promoting a fund-raising event. The copy is from the Paris “Tout P’tits” website (Google translated, modifications are mine):

Paris Tout P’tits (Paris Tots) is an association to distribute food aid and hygiene for babies from disadvantaged families.
Paris Tots is a nonprofit association, founded in 1992 by two people: Monique-Helene Le Menestrel and Sylvain Gilbert, and intended to provide material support to poor families with children in infancy. The aid, which is offered as a package of formula, baby food, and diapers, corresponds to basic needs and personal care for a child.

The association relies on a team comprised solely of volunteers. It offers two reception areas for families and relies on public and private funding for its operation. All of its resources is devoted to the purchase of products for babies.

March 2010 auction at Christie’s of “Bubbles in Paris Tots”

Paris Tots commissioned a hundred cartoonists to draw their pieces on an art board. The theme of the designs were left to the choice of the artist’s imagination and humor.

The drawings and printed catalogs have been exhibited at Christie’s auction house in a sale orchestrated by François Curiel held on Wednesday, March 24.

The sale, which took place in a friendly atmosphere of connoisseurs, friends and supporters of Paris Tots, raised a substantial sum.

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Thursday, January 13, 2011

Illustrator George Akimoto and the early days of “Communication Arts (CA)” magazine

This is the October, 1961 cover for CA, The Journal of Commercial Art and Design, which features the concept spacecraft and outerspace illustration by the late George Akimoto (American). From the collection of David Versluis.

In the book Graphic Design Time Line the authors write that in 1959:
Communication Arts (CA) magazine is founded in San Francisco, California, by Dick Coyne and Bob Blanchard. Coyne is editor and designer. Freeman Craw designs logo. It began as The Journal of Commercial Art, but was called CA.” (1)

The context of the space theme for the CA cover, in 1961, probably relates to President John F. Kennedy’s special message on urgent national needs, which he delivered earlier that year before a joint session of Congress on May 25, 1961. In his message, Kennedy issued the challenge and goal of sending a man safely to moon and back by the end of the 60s decade. During the speech the President stated, “First, I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth. …”

(1) Heller, Steven, and Elinor Pettit. Graphic Design Time Line, A Century of Design Milestones. New York: Allworth Press, 2000. 144. Print.

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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A 1961 advertisement for S. Neil Fujita, graphic designer

This bold typographic advertisement suggests “big city” for a self-confident graphic designer and his agent. The ad was positioned in the inside front cover of CA Magazine, The Journal of Commercial Art and Design, October, 1961. From the collection of David Versluis.

The visual form of the print ad is about size, emphasis, and space. The bold upper case typography, which for the time period was likely set with a PhotoTypositor while the layout was made by hand with the cut and paste-up method. The final art for the printer was a mechanical on illustration board or a Photostat from which a negative was made.

Here’s a very fine AIGA article by Steven Heller, which commemorates the life of S. Neil Fujita who passed away last year.

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Friday, January 7, 2011

Herbert Matter, designer and photographer

This is page 36 from American Artist published in March 1956, which illustrates the cover design and a page from the 1954 New Haven and Hartford Railroad Annual Report that was designed by Herbert Matter, New York. The magazine layout also features a portrait of Matter and also a page from a Knoll Furniture catalog designed by Matter showing the furniture designs by Eero Saarinen and Florence Knoll. The illustration is from the collection of David Versluis.

The writer of the article Eugene M. Ettenberg states, “The annual report of the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad Company features the trademark, designed by Matter, which is used with equal success as an engine emblem and as a company insignia. Inside pages show the happy combination of photo and type, which softens the harsh matter-of-factness of profit and losses.”

The author of Graphic Design History, Philip B. Meggs describes Matter’s New Haven and Hartford Railroad trademark as, “The mathematical harmony of parts demonstrates how alphabetic forms can be unified into a unique gestalt.”

Check here for an “Observed Piece” honoring Herbert Matter that was nicely compiled by Michael Bierut an editor for the Design Observer.

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Tuesday, January 4, 2011

An AIGA visitor: Paul Berkbigler

Copyright for artwork and poster belongs to P.Berkbigler Design & Illustration © 2011.

The amazing Paul Berkbigler will be visiting Dordt College. As Paul says, “to talk about his life on the lamb as an escaped designer and illustrator working independently in the Midwest on projects across America. This event will offer you insights about the brave new world of working virtually from somewhere awfully close to your own living room.”

Join us in the Department of Art and Design Lobby from 4–5:15 p.m. on Wednesday, January 12 for an open Q&A session. This will be a chance to hear about how AIGA can directly help you.

Paul is a full-time, independent owner, proprietor and general honcho at P.Berkbigler Design & Illustration, which is based in Lincoln, Nebraska. Berkbigler also serves as Director of Education for AIGA Nebraska. His prior lives include: working at Studio X, a small design and illustration firm in St. Louis, Missouri, earning an MFA in graphic and interactive design at Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and serving as a full-time professor of design & illustration at Concordia University, Nebraska.

His professional specialties include layout & design, interactive media conceptualization, planning and implementation, motion graphic planning and creation, copy writing, play writing, editing, critical analysis, visual communication research, digital and hands-on illustration, printmaking and print process familiarity.

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Monday, January 3, 2011

Contemporary French poster design: La Francophonie

An example of a Parisian street digital “Rolodex” broadside station.
Photograph taken on Mar 20, 2010 by versluis © 2010.

Poster objective and context was to generate public awareness for the International Day of Francophones. Francophonie is a name that refers to the community of people and countries using the French language and cultural heritage.

The year 2010 marked 40 years of OIF existence. OIF is an acronym that stands for the International Organization of the Francophonie. In a unique event, the 40th anniversary of the OIF was celebrated in Paris on March 19 and 20, and at places throughout the world.

The poster suggests that the OIF is interested in global borders, boundaries, points of merger between languages, communities, and political and social networks. In addition, the poster designer uses “emblematic colors” as a means of symbolizing diverse cultural identities expressed through literature, drama, speech, art and music.

The OIF celebrated and dedicated its 40th anniversary as a sign of solidarity with Haiti.

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