Friday, December 30, 2011

Vintage circular barns—design of the elegant curiosity

Above is a photograph of a circular or round barn. This one was built in Michigan around 1916. Specifically, this small barn is a: “very ‘architectural’ [structure] in which the maximum storage of hay has been made possible by its mansard roof…. In this barn we see that narrow clapboards can be bent around and applied to the structural frame. Its color is red, complementary to the green grass.” [1] It’s interesting that some free-spirited farmers “ignored tradition to embark on a structure involving elaborate setup” [2] for the functional design and economical space in the circle. Photograph by versluis, 2011.

Note the minimal pattern of windows and how the design alludes to the modern metal grain storage bin.

  1. Arthur, Eric, and Dudley Witney. The Barn: A Vanishing Landmark in North America. Toronto: M. F. Feheley Arts Company Ltd., 1972. 149. Print.
  2. Ibid. 147.

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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Frank Lloyd Wright: A Language of Pattern

These are photographs of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Meyer May House in Grand Rapids, Michigan, which was built in 1908 and reflects Wright’s mature Prairie Style. The pictures were recently taken, just a few days past the Winter Solstice when the low angle of the sun at midday creates very strong shadows on the exterior elevation. This photographic study indicates how Wright utilized natural daylight in order to emphasize the horizontal and vertical compositional stability of his buildings—Wright had a profound sense of order. Photographs by versluis, 2011.

The photographic detail above shows the elaborate symmetrical structural frames and wide moldings that unify and extend the window openings up to the clerestory and onto the ceiling skylights. The effect functions to screen for privacy the open interior living room space. But, metaphorically, as Julie Sloan writes: “In this way, Wright now not only brought the garden inside, but the sky and the sun as well.” [1] 93.

Apparently the casement windows were sized according to the floor-plan grid system. According to Sloan, “there existed a symbiosis between window and plan…” and one of Wright’s Oak Park apprentices, Charles White, remembered in 1904, “All his plans are composed of units grouped in a symmetrical and systematic way. The unit usually employed is the casement window unit…” [2] 96.
  1. Sloan, Julie L. Light Screens: The Leaded Glass of Frank Lloyd Wright. New York: Rizzoli International Publications, Inc., 2001. 92-96. Print.

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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Green Patriot Posters at the Walker Arts Center


Above is a picture of the installation wall of Green Patriot Posters at the exhibition: Graphic Design: Now in Production at the Walker Arts Center (Minneapolis, MN) through January 22, 2012 and the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum (New York, NY) in the summer of 2012. 

Exhibition co-curator, Andrew Blauvelt writes in the accompanying exhibition catalog: 
[Started in 2009] “… the ongoing Green Patriot Poster project is conceived to explore the potential ways the third and fourth wave environmentalism might be represented or depicted, the project solicits ideas in the form of posters that are crowdsourced through a website where new entries can be uploaded, existing designs rated and commentary appended, or designs downloaded for use.” 

The poster series is a very interesting example of the democratization of the design, production and distribution of topical posters for public consciousness and responsiveness.

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Monday, December 19, 2011

“… but I became a graphic designer instead”

Above is the image of a satirical and paradoxical ad published in Adbusters, 2001—the “Design Anarchy” issue, which became famous (or infamous) depending on one’s perspective. The ad proclaims that the next major movement in design is Design Anarchy. Interestingly, it seems that the ad is a reminder of the nature of graphic design today where some of the best designers have been able to merge art with design and design becomes integral with art. As the acclaimed graphic designer Stefan Sagmeister wrote in 2005 “… and a new generation [of designers] who manage to work with one foot in the art world and the other in the design world, like the young Swiss group Benzin and the American designers involved in the ‘Beautiful Losers’ exhibition, including Ryan McGinness and Shepard Fairey.” [1]

Whether it’s art and design, the common word for both is integrity. British designer Neville Brody has wise insight for designers these days: “If you have integrity, you say no to things. You must say no to things that are morally wrong. I wouldn’t work for a tobacco company, for example. But I also believe in trying to work closely with clients. Microsoft dominates ninety per cent of the computer market—but by working for them, I’m saying the war is over. I want to try and get them to humanize their process.”[2]

  1. Sagmeister, Stefan. Foreword. How to be a Graphic Designer Without Losing Your Soul. Author, Adrian Shaughnessy. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2005. 7. Print. 
  2. Ibid. Shaughnessy, Adrian. 29.

The ad copy reads:
I wanted to be an artist but I became a graphic designer instead*  
Movements in Design: Arts & Crafts Movement, 1890s; Art Nouveau, 1890-1910; Futurism, 1909; Plakatstil, 1917; De Stijl, 1917; The Bauhaus, 1919; Art Deco, 1920s; Constructivism, 1920s; Swiss Design, 1940; New York School, 1940s-50s; Push Pin Style, 1960s; Postmodern Design, 1980s; New Wave Typography, 1990s; Design Anarchy, 2000s; *set in 40 pt. Helvetica

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Monday, December 12, 2011

Typographic current events—“The Font Wall” from the exhibition, “Graphic Design: Now in Production”

The Font Wall from the installation Graphic Design: Now in Production at The Walker Art Center, Minneapolis. Photograph by versluis, 2011.

Identified top left to right: Base 900: Zuzana Licko, 2010; Akkurat: Laurenz Brunner, 2005; Fayon: Peter Mohr, 2010; Sentinel: Jonathon Hoefler and Tobias Frere-Jones, 2010; Reimin: Morisawa, 2011; LL Brown: Aurèle Sack, 2011; Replica: Norm, 2008. A2FM: Hennik Kubel, 2010; Router: Jeremy Mickel/Village, 2008; Adelle: José Scaglione and Veronika Burian, 2009; Aktiv Grotesk: Fablo Haag and Ron Carpenter, 2010; Mommie: Hubert Jackson, 2007; Buffalo: Ed Benguiat, 2011; Underware: Liza, 2009. Van Lanen: Matthew Carter, 2011; Trilogy: Jeremy Tankard, 2009; Aperçu: The Entente, 2010; History: Peter Bilàk, 2009. Charlie: Ross Milne, 2010; Anchor: Eric Olson, 2010; Questa: Jos Buivenga and Martin Majoor, 2012; Kohinoor: Satya Rajpurohit, 2011; Rumba: Laura Meseguer, 2006; Fugue: Radim Pesko, 2008–2010; Unity: Yomar Augusto, 2010. [1]

Pentagram’s Michael Bierut once compared the design and proliferation of type fonts to that of the endless variety of songs and lyrics that people continue to produce. Bierut’s analogy seems apropos and supports the need for more font designs in order for many people to fulfill their desire for articulacy.

Thirst’s Rick Valicenti recently reflected a similar sentiment about type design in the December issue of Wired magazine that commemorates the legacy of Steve Jobs. In an article commenting on Jobs’ contribution toward font design, Valicenti writes:

“The intuitive operating systems Jobs created have democratized font design. Right now there’s an avalanche of incredibly beautiful typefaces from all over the world that could only be designed on a Mac. Typography, like music, is an art form that embodies a time and place and culture. When type designers plot points on the Mac, they record our moment in time—all in the contour of a letterform.” [2]

I especially appreciate and enjoy Rick’s passage, which is a very lyrical analogy.

  1. Lupton, Ellen. “The Making of Typographic Man.” Graphic Design: Now in Production. Ed. Andrew Blauvelt and Ellen Lupton. Minneapolis: Walker Art Center, 2011. 112-29. Print.
  2. Valicenti, Rick. “The Revolution According to Steve Jobs: Fonts, The Typographer’s Dream.” Wired Dec. 2011: 239. Print.

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Thursday, December 8, 2011

Typography and the metaphor of resistance

The above pieces are from the Walker Art Center Card Catalogue Collection. Each informational brochure coincides with exhibitions at the museum. In other words, each brochure or program is available at a particular show and you can conveniently collect and catalog them if you have the two-ring binder (like the Pantone® books).

For the 2010 exhibition titled Abstract Resistance, the Walker Art Center assembled seminal works by four generations of contemporary artists that relate to disturbing post-World War II historical events. As a starting point for the exhibition, curator Yasmil Raymond writes in the overview, “‘Michel Foucault’s assertion that where there is power, there is resistance,’ it [the exhibition] explores art made since World War II that has been shaped by traumatic events in complex ways.” The exhibition was gutsy and intended to upset the viewer’s comfort level.

The graphic designer for the Abstract Resistance exhibition informational piece utilizes an interesting type choice for the covers. The lowercase font design is Faricy Stencil Bold, which was designed by Chris Dickinson. However, the font is essentially Milton Glaser’s all upper case Stencil (the numerals are Glaser’s Stencil) from the late 60s; by comparison Dickinson’s font version has nuanced differences in addition to a lower-case design. Like Glaser’s Stencil letterforms, the “cutouts” in “Faricy Stencil Bold” seem rebelliously irreverent, from the frontlines, and suggesting resistance to indifference.

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Saturday, December 3, 2011

Julia Born: referencing the design practice/process

Here’s a selection from Graphic Design: Now in Production exhibition at The Walker Art Center, Minneapolis.

Above: Title of the Show catalog spread. “Einszweidrei” 2000, Publication, 22 x 33 cm, Offset print. Below: This piece is a mimetic semblance from an exhibition, Title of the Show (2009) by Julia Born and Laurenz Brunner. Cleverly appropriate for the Walker installation is the gallery wall display of a Title of the Show catalog spread in the form of “supersized” book pages. The Title of the Show exhibition received recognition for displaying devised, large-scale replicas of Julia Born’s graphic design projects. photograph by versluis 2011.

Providing background for this piece Andrew Blauvelt, co-organizer of the exhibition, Graphic Design: Now in Production writes:

“An exhibition and a catalogue by Julia Born and Laurenz Brunner, Title of the Show conflates the spaces of both productions while exploring the re-contextualization of design in a gallery setting. Created for the Museum of Contemporary Art, Leipzig, Title of the Show includes selections taken from Born’s projects—books, posters, postage stamps—enlarged and presented on the gallery walls. Absent the actual artifacts, the show relies instead on strategies of graphic design to represent itself. Photographed by Johannes Schwartz and transposed in scale, these displays become the pages of the accompanying catalogue, creating a mise en abyme of representations.” [1]

  1. Blauvelt, Andrew, and Ellen Lupton, eds. Graphic Design: Now in Production. Minneapolis: Walker Art Center, 2011. 63. Print.

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