Saturday, April 28, 2012

Sabbatical at Thirst (3st) is drawing to a close—a final report

A Thirst staff meeting and group portrait, starting left, clockwise: Rick Valicenti, founder and design director, John Pobojewski, Cameron Brand, Romain Andre, Bud Rodecker, Baozhen Li, and Robyn Paprocki. Barbara Valicenti, Rick’s sister, is present via Skype. Photograph by versluis, 23 April 2012.

Three months ago Rick Valicenti asked me what my objective was for being at Thirst—what did I hope to accomplish while at the studio? At the time I had no specific agenda, although I was hoping to observe, absorb, and contribute collaboratively in the design process at Thirst. Mainly I was seeking the experience of being a part of a world-class design practice to help better inform my teaching practice.

It seemed that the best way to remain current in the changing field of graphic design was to be away from the classroom responsibilities and to actually be present with a dedicated and energetic design team.

As my time here comes to a close, I feel that most of what I was hoping to experience at Thirst has come to pass, mainly in the form of many interesting projects (several have been highlighted earlier). The most recent project I’ve been working on, during the last several weeks, has been organizing Thirst’s fall 2012 exhibition at Bowling Green State University (Valicenti is a graduate of BGSU). I’ve curated the most recent body of Thirst’s work in order to develop scale floor plans and elevation views for the exhibition.

Since my last report I have met some very interesting people who have either passed through the studio or have connections to Rick. One such person was Ed Schweitzer, Incognito Design. I also was introduced to Chicago design legend, Gene Bellini who with his wife, Kathy was attending an art auction at Wright. Gene is credited for designing the iconic Bullseye mark and symbol for Target. I had a particularly interesting conversation with the smart and inquisitive Rob Giampietro who was in Chicago as a featured speaker for AIGA Chicago’s initial Design Thinking series. Rob came to visit Thirst and was hosted and given a studio tour by his friend John Pobojewski.

On 18 April I presented a talk to the art department faculty (John Bakker, Ellen Browning, and Dr. Lou Systma) and about 20-25 interested students at Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, Illinois. It was a wonderful time. The event promoted me as being the “founder of Trinity’s Design Office and Design Program,” which I considered an honor and greatly appreciated. A portion of my talk reinforced the essential need for students to know typography and grid structure by showing Thirst’s Contract magazine redesign as a case study.

For an extra-curricular event I attended the melodic, yet Dada-like concert by Matt Carlson who performed with full control of his modular synth—amazing. The event was hosted by Lampo at the Graham Foundation.

On 27 April I’ll head to the Smart Museum of Art on the University of Chicago’s campus
for the official launch party of Graze magazine. Graze was art directed and designed by Dordt alumna Sarah Franken and the first issue will be available at the event. Congratulations Sarah—we’re proud of you!

Read More......

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Fisher Studio Houses (1936), Chicago — Andrew Nicholas Rebori, Architect

Andrew Rebori’s Fisher Building was inspired by the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair Moderne style and twentieth century Moderne was influenced primarily by French Art Deco style modernism. The Fisher building has been restored to its 1936 period.

The Building has been designated as a Chicago landmark; the marker states:
This rare Art Moderne-style design is also one of the city’s best examples of pre-World War II modernism. Further distinguishing the building is its handcrafted ornamentation by prominent artist Edgar Miller. The 12 residential units front on a common courtyard, and they are laid out on an extremely narrow site that runs perpendicular to the street. The building was commissioned by Frank Fisher, Jr., an executive of Marshall Field & Co.
Pictured starting at the top is an east elevation view. Followed by the north side courtyard and next to it is The Etude Music Magazine cover design, January 1933, which is an example of graphic design influenced by the twentieth century Moderne style. The magazine cover uses rounded geometric forms as indicated in the 1933 typography and the scroll-like banner that correlates nicely with the rounded geometric forms of Rebori’s architectural design of the Fisher Building. Lastly is a photographic isometric view indicating the building and site. Here are a couple of links (here here) to current information about the building.

Above is Edgar Miller’s mythological goddess Diana which is an example of his sculptural tiles. This ornamental piece is located on the front façade near the street and courtyard entry of the Fisher Building.

Read More......

Monday, April 16, 2012

AIGA Chicago’s 2012 Design Thinking Series I — Rob Giampietro: designer, writer, critic, curator, and educator.

Rob Giampietro’s fast-paced presentation at AIGA Chicago’s Design Thinking Series took place last Thursday night in the classy glass auditorium at Morningstar, Inc. AIGA Chicago’s biennial Design Thinking Series promotes the idea that “Design is always changing. It continually transforms how we engage with each other and our world in new and exciting ways. New processes, strategies and technologies are invented. Historical precedents are reevaluated and critiqued. Innovative storytelling and narrative techniques are formed.”

The April 12 event was first in the 2012 series. The summary and essence of Giampietro’s thesis is how writing informs graphic design practice—specifically, how the cooperative of writing, criticism, and graphic design articulate metaphorical ideas as messages to audiences. For Giampietro “metaphorical systems” are directly correlated to the design process and linked to form making. As a graphic designer and educator Rob Giampietro’s research and writing helps him, as he says, “reflect on ideas more deeply.”

Concerning criticism and metaphor here are some excerpts from Rob’s presentation slides:

Criticism at its core is merely the act of revealing links between objects. —Rachel Rosenfelt, Editor-in-Chief, “The New Inquiry” 
In addition:  
The essence of metaphor is understanding and experiencing one thing in terms of another. —George Lakoff & Mark Johnson, “Metaphors we Live By”
  1. Metaphors are conceptual; they’re not just a matter of words. 
  2. Concepts are not always literal; many ontological concepts are highly metaphorical.…

Rob Giampietro, a principal at Project Projects, helped to design the SALT identity system in 2011. Above is a photo of the SALT identity installation (centered) as it appeared at Walker Art Center’s, Graphic Design: Now in Production show earlier this year. The identity is comprised of the “suggestive” (allusive) typeface Kraliçe, designed by Timo Gaessner. According to Ellen Lupton, in the exhibition catalog, “The graphic identity for SALT, a cultural institution in Istanbul, avoids the idea of a logo altogether.” photographs by versluis.

Read More......

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Quotations on creativity — Morton Goldsholl

“Bad Design is Useless and a Sham.” —Morton Goldsholl

The image shown above is a page spread from Rick Valicenti’s sketchbook (photographed with permission). In this case each page of Valicenti’s sketchbook measures about 3 x 5 inches. Interestingly, the size relates to Goldsholl’s preferred sketching and note-taking material… a 3 x 5 index card.

Here are links (here and here) to video interviews with Morton on the Chicago Design Archive.

Read More......

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Sam Jacob and Damon Rich: designing public spaces in an era of “no do-overs”

An interesting Graham Foundation event occurred on Thursday evening, March 29, 2012. The event was a two-person presentation titled “No Do-Overs: Compromise and Complicity in Architecture.” Pictured right to left are Sarah Herda, director, Graham Foundation; Sam Jacob and Damon Rich.

Sam Jacob is a director of London-based architecture office, FAT. With Charles Jencks, Sean Griffiths, and Charles Holland, Jacob co-edited the recent Architectural Design issue, “Radical Post Modernism.” Jacob also writes and edits strangeharvest.

Damon Rich currently serves as urban designer for the City of Newark, New Jersey, where he leads design efforts with public and private players to improve the city’s public spaces. Sam Jacob and Damon Rich revealed their own complicities and compromises, and discussed how these conditions can become grounds for creative and engaged forms of architecture and urban planning. The title of their presentation plays on Robert Venturi’s important book, Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture in which he advocates for an amalgamation of traditional and modern architectural idioms.

Regarding the presentation topic this is what the Graham Foundation promotional information states:
While grand visions are often considered the currency of contemporary architecture, the truth is that compromise—rather, the uncomfortable sensation of being compromised—is the natural state of the architect, and the condition under which architecture is made. For architecture, context is never pure or abstract; it is a site physically, economically, and socially inscribed by competing interests. These compromised positions and scoured surfaces are where architecture’s political and ideological subtexts are revealed. Yet from these cloudy waters, the most innovative, relevant, and unexpected forms can emerge. 
In the design process both designers seem to ask the same question: “who does architecture respond to?” Both Damon and Sam take seriously all contextual aspects into account (postmodernism). As they explain it, “we are weaving our work into the social fabric that’s already there.” This is design based on understanding the context.

Working with all the participants and constituents in a project requires that these designers develop a compromise or negotiation strategy, which involves “working the system” to some extent. In this way compromise as a smart strategy then becomes a synergy as a combined design and problem-solving effort—something all designers can learn from.

Read More......

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

fresh with energy: sabbatical status at Thirst (3st) weeks 6-9

I’m being re-energized at Thirst…. Much of my time in the last couple of weeks has been spent developing layouts for Rick Valicenti and Thirst’s 2012 fall exhibition at Bowling Green State University. Pictured above are elevation views of the proposed poster wall installation for the show. The show will represent Thirst’s work from the past as well as the most current production.

For over two decades Valicenti and Thirst (3st) have garnered the most prestigious awards that can be attained by a graphic design studio. Consequently, similar to the attitude of most student interns, I’m grateful just to be in the room at Thirst. As the adage says, “by being present you take on the honor of the individual.”

One of Thirst’s recent projects has been the redesign of Contract magazine. Accordingly, I’ve been studying the guidelines a designer will use when assembling subsequent issues of Contract magazine. The design guidelines are impressively detailed and have much pedagogical value as a case study for students. Actually, understanding the grid system and fine typography is very important at Thirst.

During the last few weeks the sabbatical work at Thirst has been steady and satisfying. I’ve helped contribute to a logo modification. I’ve also completed the design and implementation of the 24 Hale tearsheets for furniture designer Jonathan Nesci from whom I received a very nice thank you when he expressed appreciation for the work Thirst did for Hale. As Jonathan mentioned to Rick (referring in part to me), “your studio is always fresh with energy.” It was certainly nice of Jonathan to notice and mention it to Rick.

Here are some of the contacts and introductions I’ve had in the last few weeks:

Romain André, graphic designer. Rick and I reviewed some of his recent work.
Dana Arnett (VSA) who stopped by one afternoon.
Johnathon Strube, Firebelly University
Tom Vack, photographer

Read More......