Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Classic Roman Style Letters

This photograph shows just a portion of the stone carved lettering, which indicates the entrance to the archaeological Crypt beneath Notre Dame in Paris. Photograph by versluis © 2010.

From Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris:

The archaeological Crypt under the Parvis de Notre-Dame de Paris was built to protect the ruins discovered during the excavations that began in 1965, conducted by the Commission du Vieux Paris. The crypt was opened in 1980 with the aim of presenting elements from the successive buildings constructed on the site from Ancient [Roman] times to the 19th century.
About Roman lettering Phil Baines and Andrew Haslam write in their book, Type & Typography:
[Iowan] Edward Catich put forward the theory that the stone V-cut letters of Trajan’s Column were not merely the product of a skilled stone carver using a chisel. He suggested that the letters were first painted onto the carving surface, allowing the spelling and length of the inscription to be checked before carving. A skilled calligrapher, Catich recreated the strokes he considered necessary to the structure of each letter.
A brush creates letters differently from a pen: it is turned as it makes strokes, and different amounts of pressure can be applied to create thick and thin marks. [1]
  1. Baines, Phil, and Andrew Haslam. Type & Typography. New York: Watson-Guptill Publications, 2002. 41. Print.

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Saturday, March 26, 2011

Good Taste, Bad Taste and the Amusement Factor

Photograph by versluis, copyright © 2011

Located on the east side of the small city of Pocahontas, Iowa is this monumental, twenty-five foot tall Pocahontas statue. This amusing statue is an attention grabber on Iowa’s Highway 3 where the road is a commercial strip through town. Pocahontas is namesake of the city and county and the statue is an emblematic “signature” of community values and virtues. The legendary story of Pocahontas is an endearing icon of honesty, respectability, and hospitality.

While the statue is not meant for commercialism, it does however fit into the architectural idiom of vernacular commercial forms. Presumably the attraction with its folk-art charm helps the economy of the area.

A plaque on the skirt indicates that Albert J. and Frank W. Shaw erected the statue in 1954. An armature and an applied surface utilizing a combination of cement and stucco, is a stable construction material that readily accepts paint pigments, support the structure.

The Pocahontas statue fits into the vernacular commercial builders portfolio along with “the giant ducks, giant milk bottles, giant coffee pots and other curiosities that once lined America’s highways. Ironically, the elements of this antiestablishment aesthetic have recently been co-opted by arbiters of [good] taste as [unvernacular and outsider art].” [1]

  1. Rubin, Barbara. “Aesthetic Ideology and Urban Design.” Common Places, Readings in American Vernacular Architecture. Ed. Dell Upton and John Michael Vlach. Athens, Georgia: University of Georgia Press, 1986. 482. Print.

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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

AIGA Dordt College Student Group Event: John Vander Stelt

John Vander Stelt, guest designer and presenter:
Creative Director • Graphic Designer • Illustrator • Artist
Wednesday, March 30 — 4 to 5 p.m.
Dordt College Department of Art and Design Lobby Display Area

John E. Vander Stelt has been in the graphic design field for nearly 25 years and has served clients in achieving a variety of visual communication and marketing goals. Currently, John is the creative director and graphic designer responsible for developing the graphic identity, advertisements, and various print collateral for Pizza Ranch, which is based in Orange City, Iowa.

In addition, John is an artist who has embraced his subject matter of family and small-town life. His love for art goes back to his childhood and his inspiration is sought in the family and small–town life he loves. Vander Stelt lives and creates his work in his studio in Maurice, Iowa.

Vander Stelt is a native of Maurice, Iowa and it is there, in the midst of the Heartland, where he seeks the inspiration for his work. Vander Stelt takes a traditional approach to the realism, which pervades his subjects. His artistic heroes include his Grandfather (John Vander Stelt, Sr.), Edward Hopper, Thomas Eakins, Grant Wood and Norman Rockwell.

John studied art from an early age and comes from a family with a creative spirit. The artist's friends, family and small-town surroundings are crucial elements in his work. He graduated from Northwestern College in Orange City, Iowa with a degree in fine art. His artwork is included in public and private collections throughout the country.

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Monday, March 21, 2011

Chicago Tribute Marker for László Moholy-Nagy

Photography credits (clockwise, starting upper right):

Sokolik, Frank. Moholy-Nagy at his desk, Institute of Design, Chicago. c. 1945. Photograph. Moholy-Nagy Foundation, Ann Arbor. Web. 21 Mar. 2011.
Set design for “Things to Come,” used on the cover of the brochure for The New Bauhaus. c. 1936. Photograph. Moholy-Nagy Foundation, Ann Arbor. Web. 21 Mar. 2011.
Versluis, David. Chicago Tribute Marker for László Moholy-Nagy. 2011. Photograph.

The Chicago Tribute Marker for Moholy-Nagy states the following:
László Moholy-Nagy
Artist and educator

László Moholy-Nagy came to Chicago in 1937 to direct the New Bauhaus, an experimental art and design school. One of the most creative personalities of his time, Moholy-Nagy was a writer, painter, photographer, filmmaker, teacher, set-designer, builder of light-space machines, and philosopher of new aesthetics. He believed that art offered a way to reorder society after the traumatic years of World War I, and technology would pave the way.

Hungarian-born, Moholy-Nagy served in World War I and received a law degree before joining the faculty of the Bauhaus, a German school for the modern application of art and technology. He joined some of the most innovative thinkers of the day—Walter Gropius, Marcel Breuer, Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, and Joseph Albers—and became a crucial figure in modern photography, pioneering the photomontage and developing the camera-less medium of the “photogram.”

The New Bauhaus, located in the old Marshall Field residence at 1905 South Prairie Avenue, closed for financial reasons after only one year. In 1939, Moholy-Nagy opened his own “School of Design,” which changed its name to “Institute of Design” in 1944. He directed the Institute of Design until his death. His textbook, Vision in Motion, became a standard text for art and design education worldwide. Moholy-Nagy lived here at 2622 North Lakeview Avenue.

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Sunday, March 20, 2011

“cabin of remembrance” in Michigan, no. 2

Hand-lettered sign found in a log cabin memorial built (c. 1956) by Peter Versluis (Henry Koster, carpenter) near Grand Rapids, Michigan. The cabin, in part, memorializes some of the homesteaders in Western Michigan during the 1840s and 50s.
—“May you leave this cabin with a pleasant consciousness that those whom we commemorate have helped to enrich your life.”

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Thursday, March 17, 2011

“cabin of remembrance” in Michigan

Hand-lettered sign found in a log cabin memorial built (c. 1956) by Peter Versluis near Grand Rapids, Michigan. The cabin, in part, memorializes some of the earliest Irish settlers in Michigan during the 1840s.
—“Wisdom is a friend which will never fail you.”

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Monday, March 14, 2011

Roy’s logotype

This homemade, vernacular road sign for an old archery indoor practice range is located on Highway 3 near Cherokee, Iowa. Roy is a rather uncommon first name and Roy’s logotype is rendered as a stylized calligraphic signature that seems unique and friendly. In addition, when a circle encloses the logotype the combination forms a mark that has visual impact of simplicity and strength. Obviously, the sculptural arrow reinforces the point (no pun intended) in a visually compelling way.

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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

intrinsic color and pattern

“The Juggler,” a Parisian street performer who seems to be playing for the camera, is performing near the Carrousel Venitien at Place Saint-Pierre in Montmartre. This location is below the hill from the basilique du Sacré-Coeur (Basilica of the Sacred Heart). Photograph © 2010 by versluis.

Besides being one of the best street performances in Paris this performer was also visually compelling by the intrinsic color and pattern of his attire. In addition, this photograph tries to capture the unruffled balance and symmetry of the juggler’s dynamic movements.

One of the things suggested by this photograph is a passage from George Nelson’s book, “How to See” in which he writes, “Just how much any of us sees of the most intimate personal environments is an open question. Can you describe to colors and pattern of any rug in your dwelling? The wallpaper in the bedroom? When were they last looked at?”[1]

  1. Nelson, George. How to See: A Guide to Reading Our Manmade Environment. Boston, Toronto: Little, Brown and Company, 1977. 224. Print.

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Thursday, March 3, 2011

new work: “Saint John Passion” performance poster

The 2011 Sioux County Oratorio Chorus Poster, © 2011
Size: 11 x 17 inches, 27.94 x 43.18 cm
David Versluis, designer and photographer

This crucifixion image is a photograph of a medieval French lifesize wood sculpture and predates J. S. Bach’s musical work by many years. However, the image still seems appropriate for promoting the performance of the Saint John Passion by the Sioux County Oratorio Chorus (Iowa). The sculpture is from the collection of the Musée de Cluny in Paris, which is officially known as Musée National du Moyen Âge (National Museum of the Middle Ages). Light passages in the image were generated by the shadows in the original photograph and created through Adobe Photoshop® invert techniques that reinforce the power of the image. Sometimes Photoshop can produce cheap special effects, but I believe the strikingly dramatic effect of the image in this poster signals an important theme in Bach’s work.

In scripture God expresses his style with exceptional word pictures and metaphors. As we approach the Lenten season next week (Ash Wednesday is 9 March) let us do so with imagination—“O lieber Heiland” (“O precious Savior”). [1]

  1. Schmidt, Thomas. A Scandalous Beauty: The Artistry of God and the Way of the Cross. Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, a division of Baker Book House Company, 2002. 7-8. Print.

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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A very nice “thank you” from AIGA Nebraska

Sending this keepsake in the mail is a great way to say thanks. Especially if you appreciate letterpress typography and printing as I do. This piece is also a fine epitaph for László Moholy-Nagy and I think he would have approved of the funky rendition of his quote.
All the best to the Board members of AIGA Nebraska and to Jim Sherraden—manager of Hatch Show Print in Nashville, Tennessee.

By the way, I learned all I know about wood engraving and letterpress printing from Jim Horton of Ann Arbor, Michigan—thanks Jim.

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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Integral design

With news last week of the big Boeing contract we thought about this print ad from our archives. The ad, which ran in the May 10, 1963 issue of Time magazine is designed to show a rational grid-like precision, which seems appropriate for “Testing, testing….” the Boeing 727.

In his book titled Typography, Swiss designer, typographer and teacher, Emil Ruder makes a strong case for utilizing grid systems in organizing type and pictorial elements on a page. In describing the Boeing ad we have adopted what Ruder states in his book, “The layout is based on a grid unit of [twelve] squares for various picture sizes, which allow for numerous positions and sizes. Consistency of design can be achieved by developing an underlying grid pattern to which all elements must comply”.

Ruder further adds, “…This pattern is the means of establishing a formal unity between the different amounts of text and different sizes and shapes of pictures. The pattern should not be conspicuous in the final result but rather be concealed by the diversity of the pictorial subjects and typographical values”. [1]

  1. Ruder, Emil. Typography: a Manual of Design. Trans. D. Q. Stephenson. New York: Hastings House, Publishers, Inc., 1981. 185-86. Print.

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