Tuesday, December 31, 2013

a classic student project (continued): playing with letterforms à la Norman Ives

In the two previous blog pieces in which we featured graphic design work from Dordt College students, we continue the theme here with more examples of students’ work.

This classic project of closely cropped letterforms was influenced by designer and educator Norman Ives and is commonly found in most graphic design programs. Each composition closely crops the lower case “a” letterform to suggest and reveal the intrinsic artistic form and character of the letter. One of the goals of the project is to enrich ones imagining powers by handling positive and negative space.

© Kit Drennon 2013

© Kit Drennon 2013

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a classic student project (continued): close cropping of letterforms à la Norman Ives

In the previous blog piece in which we featured graphic design work from Dordt College students, we continue the theme here with a couple of examples of students’ work.

This classic project of closely cropped letterforms was influenced by designer and educator Norman Ives and is commonly found in most graphic design programs. Each composition closely crops the lower case “a” letterform to suggest and reveal the intrinsic artistic form and character of the letter. The goal of the project is to develop greater thoughtfulness toward the communicative function of typography.

© Amanda Oberman 2013

© Nathan Walter 2013

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Monday, December 16, 2013

a classic student project: close cropping of letterforms à la Norman Ives (1923–1978)

This classic project of closely cropped letterforms is commonly found in most graphic design programs. In essence, this project was inspired by the work of designer/artist Norman Ives. Dordt College students in Graphic Design 1 this past semester completed the examples shown here. Each composition closely crops the lower case “a” letterform to suggest and reveal the intrinsic artistic form and character of the letter.

Norman Ives’s work celebrates and cultivates the typographic arts. Designer Rick Valicenti says that Ives typographic compositions promote “the poetry of organic curves and rigid structures found hidden deep within an alphabet…”(1) 

The tension created by the juxtaposition of positive and negative spaces—or the figure and ground shapes—articulate a wonderful visual rhythm and pattern.

  1. Valicenti, Rick, et al. “Digital Glass Portfolio Series.” Thirst 3st. n.p., 12 June 2013. Web. 15 Dec. 2013. http://www.3st.com/work/skyline-digital-glass-portfolio-series#5.

compositions by © Shelby Herrema 2013

compositions by © Tanner Brasser 2013

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Saturday, December 7, 2013

Dordt advanced graphic design students explore the issues of childhood mortality

Records for Life: Reaching Children with Life-Saving Vaccines 
A Concept for Universal Child Health Records
poster size: 42 inches x 54 inches 

This semester, Dordt College’s advanced graphic design class responded to the call issued by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which was seeking help in redesigning the look and feel of child health records. The above graphic shows the collaborative poster that explains and details the students’ concept proposing a UPC/QR identification system for universal Child Health Records.

Student designers included: Daryl Bruinsma, Hayley Dahl, Rebekah Dykhuizen, Teddy Getenet, Brett Jasper, Jayson Korthuis, Caleb Vugteveen and instructor David Versluis.

Six million children between the ages of 0 and 5 die annually, worldwide. In response to this global health crisis, Dordt students and non-governmental organizations convened on Wednesday, November 20 to dialogue and explore the issues of childhood mortality and to share their thoughts. It was at this event that the graphic design students presented their project. Approximately 300 people were in attendance..

The project was a culmination of the Dordt’s semester-long AGILE (Approaching Global issues through Interdisciplinary Learning Experiences) Project, which examines a critical global issue and looks at creative solutions. This year's focus was on child and infant mortality.

The introduction on the poster written by the graphic design students states:

Child and infant mortality rates affect families and communities around the world. Mortality rates for young children are caused by many variables including health, nutrition, cultural practices, lack of education, and more. Healthcare for both pregnant mothers and young children is essential to allow newborns to grow and develop in a healthy environment. Immunizations and vaccinations are essential for all children at a young age. Unfortunately, the health record system in many countries often allows children to miss vaccinations, failing to stop preventable diseases. A simple, universal system would allow doctors, mothers, and other health workers to confidently vaccinate and care for young children.

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Sunday, November 24, 2013

Divisionistic luminosity in glass: designs by Thirst for Skyline Design

Pictured above are entry doors to the showroom of Skyline Design, which is located in the Merchandise Mart, Chicago. Some of the artifacts that appear in these photographs are designs by studio Thirst and recently commissioned by Skyline Design. Gallery photo by versluis.

Information from Thirst states, “Thirst has four series in the Digital Glass Portfolio curated by Skyline Design. The portfolio is a collection of works by artists that transform public spaces, from Anne Lindberg to Bryan Nash Gill, all working on a large scale in the medium of printed glass for interior architecture. The portfolio won The Best of NeoCon 2013 gold awards by Contract Magazine in both Surfacing Materials/Finishes and Wall Treatments.”

Samples of the Thirst collection are displayed on the table in the foreground and include the facial profile on the wall. Gallery photo by versluis.

The effect of Thirst’s designs rely on optical blending which is determined by the division of color values into individual units generated by the developer’s code. Whether using the unit forms of dots (as in the facial profile image above) or tightly cropping typographic forms (shown below), the singular units are grouped in a regular pattern to form an entirety according to the principle of similarity that derives the image’s impact. The design becomes interactive because it requires the viewer to combine the colors optically.

Regarding this particular design, Thirst’s information says, “Phone photographs of the visual details found “classic beauty” from fashion and media are converted into a grid of circles, each punctuated by dots and lines of complementary colors.”

A close-up of the classic matrix of “dots and lines of complementary colors” that comprise Thirst’s “classic beauty” designs. Graphic courtesy of Skyline Design.

The Alphablox design, is shown above just right of center. According to Thirst, “Alphblox uses custom software to tightly crop and color letterforms in abstract, beautiful visual rhythms, inspired by the work of designer/artist Norman Ives and the foundation assignments of the Bauhaus.” Gallery photo by versluis.

The following passage from Thirst wonderfully expresses the sentiment of Alphablox: “The poetry of organic curves and rigid structures found hidden deep within an alphabet become amplified, turning a typeset phrase from Shakespeare’s famous sonnet from As You Like It which begins ‘All the world’s a stage…’  into pure pattern.” Graphic courtesy of Skyline Design.

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Saturday, November 9, 2013

“a fine title, ‘Enlaced: a Burning Bush, Psalm 19’” —a quote from Calvin Seerveld at the Dordt College sculpture dedication

This past Monday afternoon, 4 November, the dedication of the Dordt College sculpture “Enlaced” took place with 25–30 people in attendance. The piece was recently installed west of Covenant Hall. The sculpture’s designer, Dordt College Art Professor David Versluis says, “The design is guided by a sense of an intertwining of a Christian perspective that’s found within Dordt College’s academic community.”

The dedication ceremony featured an introduction by Dordt President, Dr. Erik Hoekstra, acknowledgements by Versluis, remarks by Dr. Calvin Seerveld, and a prayer by College Chaplain, Rev. Aaron Baart. The photograph above and the one below shows Seerveld, who looks and sounds rather like a Rabbi, speaking at the dedication.

Seerveld was on campus that day as a First Mondays speaker (Dordt’s monthly speaker series). Regarding Seerveld, a Dordt news release states, “A prolific writer, speaker, and educator, Dr. Calvin Seerveld has dedicated his life to the study of aesthetics, redemptive art, and biblical wisdom.” Versluis says that the sculpture was inspired by Seerveld’s book Rainbows for the Fallen World where he characterizes Psalm 19 as all things are like “a burning bush of the Lord God.”

Here are Seerveld’s gracious remarks—taken from his notes:

Congratulations to artist Professor Versluis, to all who paid for Enlaced, and to Dordt College for promoting and receiving this artwork. It has a fine title: Enlaced: a Burning Bush, Psalm 19. 
This exceptionally good artwork, to my eye, is not strictly representational, but also not an “abstracted,” esoteric construction. 
It could be called a metaphor in COR-TEN steel. It sparks multiple suggestions:
Sure, the flames of a burning bush confronting Moses; the 7 (holy number) upright forms woven together suggest variety in unity…. Could there also be fingers of an unusual hand? 
This is not a monument, however—not pompous nor heavy set. There is upward movement; it appears almost airborne. Perhaps there is a letter design character behind it, telling you something, yet enigmatic…. It seems friendly to me, people-aware, safe, inviting, beckoning, sited for passers-by. 
Keeping in character with Professor Versluis and his modesty, quietly Christian…, redeeming [the want for] more attention—showing love for one’s neighbor, helping you to remember that your fellow student, prof, staff person cutting grass and cafeteria server, like Psalm 19 world-at-large are burning bushes! 
This is a very fine, larger-than-life, highly imaginative artwork. A surprise from such a quiet artist… that should remind generations to come: here at Dordt College, neighbors (Matthew 25), like trees and stones, are burning bushes—creatures of God’s grace for us to respond to with respect and love. We should thank God for the imaginative work/dedication that is present before us. (1)
  1. Seerveld, Calvin G. “‘Enlaced’ Sculpture Dedication.” Dordt College. Sioux Center, IA. 4 Nov. 2013. Address. 

Dordt College President, Dr. Erik Hoekstra giving introductory remarks at the dedication.

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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Alexander Girard: optical color blending suggesting the bright Mexican blanket.

Alexander Girard, American, 1907–1993
Manufactured by Maharam, American, founded 1902
Millerstripe Textile, 1973, reissued 2002
Wool and nylon upholstery
photograph by versluis

Reflecting the powerful effect of color this piece was displayed at the The Art Institute of Chicago in an exhibition titled, Sharing Space: Creative Intersections in Architecture and Design.

This exhibition, which occurred earlier this year, featured artifacts from the permanent collection of the Department of Architecture and Design.

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Sunday, November 3, 2013

“Spindles” / “Sprites”: Frank Lloyd Wright / Alfonso Iannelli

Concrete Spindle sculptures, Midway Gardens, Chicago. 1913-14.
photograph by versluis

This photograph was taken at the “Modernism’s Messengers: The Art of Alfonso and Margaret Iannelli” exhibition at the Chicago Cultural Center. This important show ended in August 2013.

For these pieces the exhibition label states: “Often erroneously referred to as Sprites by today’s historians, these well-known Midway Gardens sculptures were referred to as Spindles at the time of heir creation. Frank Lloyd Wright largely determined the design, but the playful personality of the executed sculptures can be strongly attributed to Alfonso Iannelli.”

The following reflects the greater context of the Iannelli’s body of art and design work: “They weren’t looking for the rarified environment of galleries and museums,” said Tim Samuelson, Iannelli expert and cultural historian for Chicago, curator of the exhibit at the Chicago Cultural Center. “They wanted to put vital, modern art where you could see it, just walking down the street or opening a magazine or going to a theater and seeing a poster on the wall.”(1)

  1. Burrows, Sara. “Art with a job to do: The Modernism of Alfonso and Margaret Iannelli.” Niles Herald-Spectator. Chicago Sun-Times, 10 Aug. 2013. Web. 31 Oct. 2013. http://niles.suntimes.com/things-to-do/arts/iannelli-DIC-08082013:article.

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Thursday, October 31, 2013

marian bantjes: floral arrangement, “Sorrow”

Earlier his summer graphic designer, Marian Bantjes was featured as a guest artist/designer at Chicago’s 2013 Pop-up Exhibition titled “Work at Play” at Block Thirty Seven. The exhibition ran June 1–30 in tandem with Chicago Design Week that began the week of 9 June.

One of Bantjes’s pieces, in the show, was this poignant table top flower installation titled, "Sorrow" that was made during an 8 hour period on 10 June 2013. This photograph was taken on 12 June at 2:30 p.m.

Bantjes work always seems thoughtful and personal. This unique flower installation suggests a kind of traditional floral “mass arrangement” that is orchestrated with many flower pedals/leaves in several striking colors.

Perhaps there’s also the suggestion of “Dutch Style” floral arranging with the naturalistic garden style tropical materials and perennials with groupings of similar flowers and implied grid lines. It’s interesting that the total effect seems like a hand-tied bouquet.

The hand-signed label for “Sorrow”

This is one of Bantjes’s Valentines, which was in the show. It seems to have a Dutch Baroque style, and is correlated stylistically to “Sorrow”.

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Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Dutch Influence on Peter Behrens

Chair, c.1902
Designed in the Jugendstil/Modern style by Peter Behrens (German, 1868–1940)
Ebonized oak and woven rush
Made by Anton Blüggel, German (Berlin).
39 3/4 x 18 x 21 1/4 inches (101 x 45.7 x 54 cm) Seat height: 18 inches (45.7 cm)
From the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago (photograph by versluis)

“This chair was designed as part of a dining room display for an exhibition of modern interiors at the Wertheim Department Store in Berlin.” —quote is from Philadelphia Museum of Art

The Dutch art historian Marty Bax writes, “Behrens’s views on the didactic relationship between the arts and craft and industry, and the determining role of aesthetics in the design process most likely were shaped by [J.L.M.] Lauweriks’s concepts. … (1)

Behrens is considered the most influential architect and designer in Germany before the First World War. The new ideas about the integration of art and industry he propagated at the applied arts school in Düsseldorf served as the richest ore to be mined for the pedagogical reform program the Deutsche Werkbund was to develop.” (2)

The label for this artifact published by the Philadelphia Museum of Art states:

Peter Behrens designed this chair for an exhibition of “modern interiors” at the Wertheim department store in Berlin in 1902, to which several other well-known architects and designers contributed, among them the Germans Richard Riemerschmid and August Endell and the Englishman Hugh Baillie Scott. One critic considered Behren’s dining room ‘one of the most interesting [interiors] of the whole series. It is a uniform creation where every shape is subject to the intention of an orderly will… A basic rectangular form… appears as flat ornament on the walls… in the porcelain service, the knotted carpet, and in relief on the silverwares. It takes three-dimensional form and… influences the shape of the furniture, the buffet and sideboard… as well as the construction of the backrest of the chairs.’
Behren’s geometrically systemized interior presented a marked contrast to the dining room of his own house in Darmstadt completed the previous year. There he experimented with the freely curved lines used by the Belgian Art Nouveau designer Henry van de Velde, whose house near Brussels had been widely publicized in Germany. Only in its arched back and waisted legs does this chair recall that earlier style, while its form is defined by the flat rectangular pattern of the pierced crest rail and horizontal stretchers that join splat and back posts. In its embodiment of an abstract geometrical order, the chair anticipates Behrens’s work for the Allgemeine Elektrizitäts-Gesellschaft (AEG), where as a pioneer in the practice of industrial design, he conceived not only the buildings but also the products and publicity material of this electric company. Kathryn B. Hiesinger and George H. Marcus, from Guides to European Decorative Arts: Design, 1900-1940 (1987) 6 (3)
  1. Bax, Marty. Bauhaus Lecture Notes 1930-1933. Amsterdam: Architectura & Natura Press, 1991. 17. Print.
  2. Ibid. 18
  3. “Collections: European Decorative Arts and Sculpture.” Philadelphia Museum of Ar. Philadelphia Museum of Art, n.d. Web. 27 Oct. 2013. http://www.philamuseum.org/collections/permanent/74927.html.

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Sunday, October 20, 2013

“Time well spent”—an I-29 barn-storming tour and a well-crafted workshop with Rick Valicenti: “Making it up as you go along, a preview for a life-long career”

Vermillion, South Dakota—9 October 2013: A group portrait taken of Dordt College and University of South Dakota workshop students with Rick Valicenti (center), Professor Young Ae Kim is on the far right (with hands on knees) and Dordt graphic design professor David Versluis is standing on the far left.

Rick is listening to a question from a student while others in the background are putting up their posters on the wall. Just behind Rick stands Young Ae Kim who’s the graphic design professor at USD.

Dordt senior students are recreating their posters from memory using traditional cut and paste collage methods. A USD graduate student is in the background working on his collage.

From October 8–10 Rick Valicenti, founder and design director of Thirst, was at Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa for a barn storming tour of the area. The evening of the October 8, Rick gave a presentation titled “Time Well Spent” to the AIGA South Dakota Chapter at the University Center in Sioux Falls. Rick spent the night in Sioux Center, Iowa at Dordt College. On Wednesday the 9th we drove Dordt students to the University of South Dakota in Vermillion for a day long workshop with USD graphic design students. Then it was back to Dordt College for an evening encore (with slight changes) presentation of “Time Well Spent”. On Thursday the 10th Rick sent most of the morning touring Dordt’s campus and shared his insights with art and design students during the student Senior Seminar class.

The day-long workshop at USD was titled Making it up as you go along, a preview for a life-long career. Thirty-five design students participated with Rick for a productive, thoughtful, and reflective time together.

Here’s Rick’s entire syllabus for the workshop (published below with permission), however, as the workshop unfolded it became apparent that students needed more time to (re)make their posters and adjustments were made and the original syllabus became more improvisational. The questions were asked by Young Ae Kim:

“Making it up as you go along, a preview for a life-long career” a design workshop

What is the workshop structure?
At a high level it is a glimpse into the essential fact that being a designer is about being comfortable with NOT knowing where the next opportunity or idea comes from and how to embrace one’s own ability to nurture both opportunities and ideas throughout a lifetime. We will come to terms with the fact that others before us have navigated these waters and made wonderful work along the way.

On the practical level we will engage in the listening, responding, and then making process. This is the way of design.

  • What will we hear?—our inner voice and each other 
  • How will we respond?—intelligently 
  • What will we (re)make?—something meaningful, beautiful, soulful, and of course wonderful 
I am thinking we should listen to the past—the designers who have come before us. We will talk about their work, and in the end we will better understand what sensibilities we respond to and perhaps why we are moved by what they have brought into the world.

We will each re-make a poster design we have identified in as much exacting detail as possible using glue sticks to collage the color of pre-printed magazine pages or another printed matter. We can add colored tape, and anything else that seems relevant. Let it be know that we will be scribes bringing something from the past into the future. Our ability to get it exact will be our responsibility. We will be as precise as we can be given the tools at our disposal acting as if we are court stenographers or monks recording sermons. It should be good illuminating crafted fun.

It should be noted that we will not be able to look at the original once the process of replication begins. It will only reside in our minds eye during the making process. There will be no headphones AS OUR COLLECTIVE VOICES, SIGHS, BREATHING WILL BE THE ONLY SOUND that fills the room. Only serious play and focus will fill our two-hour making time. Each person will in essence be a human filter as they channel those who made this design before them.

The replication of something held close will be an act of creative respect, homage, and adoration. In doing so, we will serve as a human filter of the past welcoming it into the future all the while absorbing the vision, aptitude, and sensibilities of someone who came before us. In doing so WE WILL BE ONE WITH OUR SUBJECT.

This approach is different than the ubiquitous design school assignment of creating a poster ‘about’ a master designer or ‘in the style’ of that designer. This assignment is actually all about ‘being one’ with our subject matter which will be the thread that runs through my public lecture.

We will look, talk, see how close we came to the originals we replicated. We will make a few personal notes as to how it felt to channel someone else’s sensibilities and vision. We will assess our own personal creative stretch and growth. We will recognize our place in the continuum of designers. We will photograph our work and juxtapose it to the right of the original we will post this jpeg along with a closeup detail or two on a Facebook group page we make for the session. we will credit ourselves and we will acknowledge the original designer. we will send the Facebook post to our entire friend list. We will say goodbye to each other thanking them for sharing what will have been a most special day.

How do we prepare for this workshop? 
Think deeply about all of the poster designs they have seen and experienced throughout their life, in books, on the web, in the cineplex, wherever. Concentrate as to which of all these posters is THE poster design that moves them most. Collect thoughts as to why they are moved by this design.
  • Is it the composition? 
  • Is it the brilliant idea? 
  • Is it the color? 
  • Is it the typography? 
  • What is it that moves you? 
  • Research who did it, what year, what country, what firm, why, for what client, etc. 
  • Be prepared to discuss their discovery with the class. consider it a personal treasure on show and tell day. 
  • Before we meet capture an image of the poster. enlarge it in color at the highest resolution you can find. Bring a vertical 11" x 17" reproduction so we may hang it along with everyone else’s on the wall. Have a jpeg ready (see below) 
Trace the image understand everything you can about it know it as if you created it yourself by doing this you will get closer to being one with the subject.

What supplies are needed? 
Supplies will include: glue stick(s); x-acto blades 2-3 pieces of 15" x 20" (or larger) white illustration board; tape colored and/or clear gouache; brush magazines and printed stuff (START COLLECTING THEM NOW); no press type, no computer, no camera, no laser printer, no image making tools except their hands, eyes and mind however, each student will be encouraged to photograph their making process with a phone camera. Vine compilations of the making in time lapse are welcomed.

We will need a projector attached to a computer. a pdf of each poster from each student should be compiled into one multi-page pdf. each student sequence will be as follows:
  1. Slide 1: a black slide with their name in white set in any type face that best expresses who they are at any size and position on the frame. 
  2. Slide 2: a selfie 
  3. Slide 3: their favorite poster image 
  4. Slide 4: their second and third choices as one side by side slide repeat the sequence for the next participant 
Each student should be prepared to talk about their findings and listen to what the others have to say about theirs.

I always enjoy this time with students… let’s make it easy, fun, theatrical.

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Sunday, September 29, 2013

Designer Rick Valicenti gives presentation at Dordt College

SIOUX CENTER, IA – Design legend Rick Valicenti will share his optimistic perspective on communication design at Dordt College on Wednesday, October 9, at 7 p.m. Valicenti will present “Time Well Spent II” in the Ribbens Academic Complex classroom CL1444/1148. Event parking is located in the parking lot west of the Ribbens Academic Complex.

Valicenti is the founder and design director of Thirst, a Chicago-based communication design practice devoted to art, function, play, and real human presence. He has been influencing the design discourse internationally since 1988 and is a leading presence in design as a practitioner, educator, and mentor.

The White House honored Valicenti in 2011 with the Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt National Design Award for Communication Design. In 2006, he received the AIGA Medal, considered the highest honor of the graphic design profession. In 2004, he was recognized as a Fellow of AIGA Chicago. He is a former president of the Society of Typographic Arts and is a member of Alliance Graphique Internationale.

Several works of Valicenti are in permanent collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, Cooper-Hewitt National Design, and the Columbia University Rare Books Collection.

Valicenti’s presentation is sponsored by the Dordt College Department of Art and Design, AIGA Student Group, and the Co-curricular Committee.

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Friday, September 20, 2013

Chad Kouri: perceptual distortions

Chad Kouri
Xerograph Monotype Exercises
8 x 10—2013
© Chad Kouri

This is one of the pieces by Chad Kouri, which was on display at the 2013 Pop-up Exhibition: “Re/View, Work at Play” that ran during June in Block Thirty Seven at the Chicago Design Museum. The exhibition ran concurrently with Chicago Design Week. photo by versluis

The following information is taken for the exhibition label:

This series of ongoing experiments utilizes imagery from Jean Larcher's Geometrical Designs and Optical Art, which were created by dragging the book over the Xerox glass while a copy was in process. By using a machine whose sole purpose is to make multiples in order to create unique prints, the illusion not only lies in the work's aesthetic value, but also in concept—touching on contemporary themes in art and design including image usage and copyright, appropriation, authorship and originality.

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Friday, September 13, 2013

Pentagram’s Eddie Opara: “Stealth”

Eddie Opara
174 x 80 — 2008
© Eddie Opara

This piece was featured in the 2013 Pop-up Exhibition: “Re/View, Work at Play” which ran during June in Block Thirty Seven at the Chicago Design Museum. The exhibition ran concurrently with Chicago Design Week. photo by versluis

The exhibition label for this piece states:

Stealth is a marriage of two parallel themes on the visibility of identity. The dynamic form and function of the stealth fighter provides the dimensional impetus, whilst the text is homage to Ralph Ellison’s invisible man “I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me.” — an indication of how black people have been treated in society.

Pictured below is a lower left close-up of Stealth.

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Saturday, September 7, 2013

“Anamorphose”: an anamorphic / metamorphosis, metaphoric typeface by Simon Renaud

X, Y, Z
A is a name (Simon Renaud), Photographer: Véronique Pêcheux
15¾ x 23⅜ — 2013

This piece was featured in the 2013 Pop-up Exhibition: Re/View, Work at Play which ran during June in Block Thirty Seven at the Chicago Design Museum. The exhibition ran concurrently with Chicago Design Week. photo by versluis

The exhibition label for this piece states:

Anamorphose is a contemporary typeface drawn in a three dimensional grid that, while rethought to exist in a physical space, retains elements of Textura (used in the Gutenberg Bible). Anamorphose is anchored in the geometry of historic Blackletter typefaces and is created by hand. The forms are then photographed to visually echo digitally rendered imagery.
A is name is a Parisian studio founded by Simon Renaud and Jérémie Nuel in 2006. Their work centers on the design process in order to discover the artistry found in typographic forms and systems. As graphic designers, Renaud and Nuel utilize a systematic approach and methodology by researching the history of writing, science, and technology in order to develop an uniquely personal visual language.

Leeman, Frederick, Joost Elffers, and Mike Schuyt. “Anamorphosen.” Trans. Ellyn Childs Allison and Margaret L. Kaplan. Hidden Images: Games of Perception, Anamorphic Art, Illusion. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1976. Print.

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Thursday, August 29, 2013

Compliments for “Enlaced: A Burning Bush, Psalm 19” — a new sculpture for Dordt College, Sioux Center, Iowa

Enlaced: a Burning Bush, Psalm 19 — a sculpture for Dordt College
David M. Versluis, concept, design director, designer
8 feet at the base and 18 feet high
Weighs 6,550 lbs.
Southwest elevation looking toward Southview apartments

The dedication for Enlaced: a Burning Bush, Psalm 19 is scheduled for Monday November 4 at around 3:45 p.m.  Dr. Calvin Seerveld will be in attendance and will speak a few words. Seerveld’s “Burning Bush” insight from Psalm 19 in Rainbows for the Fallen World was part of the inspiration for the sculpture.

Sculpture Project Credits:
Thank you to the donors for generously funding the sculpture project.
Dordt College Art Committee, Sally Jongsma, chair
Lauren Ochsner, maquette welder, Golden Prairie Art, Maurice, Iowa
William Morren Design, LLC, industrial designer, Hillsboro, Wisconsin
Daniel Dykstra, engineering/structural analysis, Grand Rapids, Michigan,
D+M Metal, Inc., manufacturer, Comstock Park, Michigan
Stan Haak, et al., site preparation and concrete foundation forms, Dordt College Maintenance Dept.
Mark Van Voorst, Van Voorst Concrete, Hull, Iowa
Nelson Wynia, Nelson’s Welding and Machine, Sioux Center, Iowa
Mike Wynia, supervisor, Hoogendoorn Construction Inc., hoist service,
Canton, South Dakota

Regarding the sculpture here are some compliments from esteemed colleagues and acquaintances:

“Having stood alongside David during the original proposals, many technical plans, and delays, its a joy and a privilege to see and experience the final result, in the flesh.”
Jake Van Wyk, Professor of Art, Dordt College. Van Wyk is an artist and teacher with over 35 years experience

“What a simple powerful presence it has.”
Roy R. Behrens, Professor of Art, and Distinguished Scholar, University of Northern Iowa. Behrens was a nominee in 2003 for the Smithsonian Institution’s National Design Awards

“It looks fantastic!…. And I love the name!”
Phil Schaafsma, founder and director of Eyekons, Grand Rapids, Michigan

“Brilliant”… “Magnificent”
Rick Valicenti, founder and design director of Thirst/3st, AIGA Medalist and Fellow of the AIGA Chicago. Honored at the White House Valicenti was awarded the Smithsonian Cooper-­Hewitt, National Design Award for Communication Design in 2011

“…it looks wonderful.”
Joseph Michael Essex, Partner, Essex Two, Chicago and Fellow of the AIGA Chicago

North elevation looking toward East Campus

East elevation looking toward Covenant Hall

Installation of the uprights to the baseplate on 20 August. Pictured R-L is a Hoogendoorn Construction worker, Nelson Wynia, Jake VanWyk

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Friday, August 23, 2013

A centennial piece: Purcell and Elmslie’s Madison State Bank “Skylight”

William Gray Purcell, American, 1880–1965 and George Grant Elmslie, American (born Scotland), 1869–1952
Skylight, 1913
From the Madison State Bank, Madison, Minnesota (demolished 1968)
Purcell, Feick and Elmslie, architects
Glass, zinc caming, (with three new replacement panels and new oak frame)
Mosaic Art Shops (E.L. Sharretts), Manufacturer, Minneapolis, 1912–1930
From the collection of the Minneapolis Institute of Art
Photograph by versluis

This large art glass piece which is on permanent display at the MIA in Minneapolis has the characteristics of a frame within a frame design by collaborators Purcell and Elmslie. The original panels of the art glass, comprising the top and bottom rows will be one hundred years old this year; the center horizontal section of three panels are very fine reproductions.

The museum didactics for this piece state the following:

This is a recreation of the central skylight located over the teller cages of the Madison State Bank. The skylight originally comprised nine panels, however, the square central panel and two of the long border panels seen here are reproductions. For the bank, Purcell, Feick and Elmslie produced a long, narrow plan for the middle of a block. The exterior featured a window wall with aqua, orange, and yellow terracotta ornament enlivening the brick façade. This was similar to Purcell and Elmslie’s other bank designs and also to Louis Sullivan’s National Farmers’ Bank in Owatonna (1908).

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Thursday, August 15, 2013

George Grant Elmslie and Alfonso Iannelli — two designers for the 1936 Oliver P. Morton School, Hammond, Indiana

George Grant Elmslie, American (born Scotland), 1869-1952
Main building cornice panel, Terracotta. 1936
Manufactured by Midland Terracotta Company, Chicago, 1919–39; Fritz Albert (American, 1865-1940), modeler
From the Oliver P. Morton School, Hammond, Indiana
(demolished 1991); William S. Hutton, architect, and George Grant Elmslie, designer
Collection of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, gift of Cathers and Dembrosky
Photograph by versluis

An interesting correlation of symbolism and motif exists between George Grant Elmslie and Alfonso Iannelli who were two designers for the 1936 Oliver P. Morton School, Hammond, Indiana.

A wonderful exhibition titled, “The Progressive Pencil: George Elmslie’s Prairie School Designs” is currently on view at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. Regarding this piece the exhibition label explains the following:

In the 1930s, Elmslie collaborated with the architect William S. Hutton on three public elementary schools in Hammond, Indiana: the Oliver P. Morton School, the Thomas A. Edison School, and Washington Irving School. All three received funding from the Public Works Administration, part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933.

The Morton school and the concurrently designed and built Edison school impressively combined Prairie School rectilinearity with Elmslie’s organic ornamentation and large-scale figural sculpture. This panel—one of a series crowning the cornice of the Morton school—features the dynamic “flying V” Elmslie favored, along with abstracted floral and foliate ornament.

Alfonso Iannelli
American (born Italy), 1888-1965
Screen for Oliver P. Morton School, Hammond, Indiana, 1936
Photograph by versluis 
Photograph taken from the exhibition, “Modernism’s Messengers: The Art of Alfonso and Margaret Iannelli — 1910 to 1965”

The panels were designed and made as multiples, stacked on one another and the joints grouted for the installation. The exhibition label for this piece states, “This panel was part of a decorative perforated terracotta screen above the entrance of the Oliver P. Morton Elementary School in Hammond, Indiana.”

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Monday, August 12, 2013

Margaret Iannelli, graphic designer

Margaret Iannelli (1893-1967), graphic designer and illustrator
Store poster for Bauer & Black Baby Talc, 1922
3-color, perhaps printed 2-color

This piece and the one below are part of the exhibition Modernism’s Messengers: The Art of Alfonso and Margaret Iannelli, on view in the Chicago Rooms at the Chicago Cultural Center until August 17. 

The exhibition tag for the piece above states, “Iannelli Studios developed an entire marketing campaign for Bauer & Black’s line of baby products based on Margaret Iannelli’s playful theme of toy animals.”

Japanese printmaking and European modernists influenced many young artists in the United States in the early twentieth century, including Margaret. In this poster the typography is hand-lettered and, along with the animal illustrations, was drawn with India ink to produce the color separations. The typographic lettering supplements the illustrated animal imagery perfectly.

The color complimentaries of orange and blue enhance each other well and give the poster a young and vibrant appearance. The gold/brown color suggests a mixture in specific percentages of the blue and orange.

Margaret Iannelli, graphic designer, hand-lettering, and illustrator
Proposed graphics for Character Magazine, 1934–35 (unpublished)
India ink and opaque white on illustration board

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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Religious tolerance as conveyed by the architectural design of Stanley Tigerman

Stanley Tigerman
Inter-faith Chapel Competition, Model, 2004
Painted wood and Styrofoam
Collection of the Art Institute of Chicago
Gift of Stanley Tigerman, 2012.620

This is a piece from the Sharing Space: Creative Intersections in Architecture and Design exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago—the exhibition is on view until August 18, 2013 in Galleries 283–285.

Tigerman’s layout metaphorically suggests gathering around a reflecting pool in a campfire fashion. This circular re-formation centers on love and unity that suggests transformation.

The following is information from the exhibition didactics referencing this work by Tigerman:

Chicago architect Stanley Tigerman is a major figure in postmodern architecture whose projects are always framed and inspired by heady concepts of irony, rupture, humor, and allusion. Since the 1960s, his architectural practice has covered a wide range of territory, from elaborate, yet subversive single-family houses to sensitive designs for disadvantaged children and the homeless. Exquisitely created scale models form an important thread throughout his career and communicate the complex tectonics, colors, and geometries of his work.
Regarding the inter-faith chapel concept, “geometry allows Tigerman to create subtle references to history and cultural practices.… The chapel’s 12 pavilions represent geometric abstractions of traditional religious buildings around the world, aligned around an empty center or universal space to face the correct cardinal directions.”

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Sunday, July 28, 2013

Chicago Design Museum’s 2013 Pop-up Exhibition “Work at Play”

The entry to the Chicago Design Museum’s 2013 Pop-up Exhibition titled, Work at Play. We had a delightful chat with Stuart Hall, gallery assistant, who stands in the background of this image.
A very interesting design exhibition occurred last month in Chicago. The 2013 Pop-up Exhibition titled Work at Play opened in conjunction with Chicago Design Week and ran for the entire month of June. Block Thirty-Seven, located at 108 North State Street, was the venue for one of Chicago Loop Alliance’s newest Pop-Up Art Loop galleries, a 17,000-square-foot space on the building's third floor. One of the charters of Pop-Up Art Loop is to: “Transform vacant Loop storefronts into vibrant temporary art galleries throughout the year. Taking its name from one of the original 58 city blocks established in 1830, Block Thirty Seven was there at Chicago’s birth. Today it stands as an iconic symbol of Chicago’s future.” The building is a symbol of regeneration and one of Chicago’s newest downtown landmarks.

The premise for the exhibition states, “For many, the compulsion to create is constant. It’s unstoppable. Beyond the hours at the office, we create, we make–we play. In an attempt to find our own voice, we may stumble upon a visual language that can speak for and, perhaps, inspire others. This year, we celebrate the blurred line between work and play.”

Here are a couple of examples from the exhibition:

Matthew Hoffman
Fresh Start/Start Fresh — 2013
44 x 77

Artist statement: “Fresh Start/Start Fresh consists of a rotational two-word ambigram created from a single connecting line. This optical illusion reminds us that every day can be a fresh start.”

Note: Shown above is my test of Matthew’s work where I took the liberty of playing with his word image of “fresh” by rotating and stacking it underneath. —thank you.

Thomas Quinn
Everything We See is a Perspective, Not the Truth — 2013
When viewing at a certain point, the text becomes aligned.

Artist statement: “Anamorphic typography is a special experience in which an arrangement of letters look perfectly set from a single point within a room, while looking wildly distorted from all other points. The message takes this experience and ties it to a larger point about seeing situations from another perspective.”

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Sunday, July 21, 2013

Piet Zwart and El Lissitzky at “Sharing Space: Creative Intersections in Architecture and Design”

Piet Zwart (Dutch, 1885–1977)
Brochure for Bruynzeel lijstwerk, c. 1935
Tri-folded offset-printed flyer
Frederick W. Renshaw Acquisition Fund Art Institute of Chicago
Bruynzeel’s door and sash, mouldings and frames.
Photograph by versluis (taken through the picture frame glass)

At times it is easy to forget how radical the graphic designs of Piet Zwart and El Lissitzky were for their time.

For many years, beginning in 1930 Piet Zwart worked for the Bruynzeel company. In the beginning Zwart designed their annual calendars and other advertising materials. After a while he also served as an industrial and architectural designer for other products the company produced. In this piece Zwart utilizes scale and color of the hand profile that communicates and correlates handcrafted profiles of the wood mouldings. The black background bridges the negative space, typography, illustrations and photographic images. By highlighting the primary design elements the whole effect becomes very graphic.

A current exhibition at Art Institute of Chicago entitled, Sharing Space: Creative Intersections in Architecture and Design provides an interesting curatorial concept by juxtaposing several categories.

The exhibition statement explains, “In six sections—Color, Geometry, Structures, Hybrid, Surface, and Technology—objects are united by shared goals, strategies, and ideas, rather than by period or media.” The statement go on to say:

From the powerful effect of color to the rigor of geometry, this exhibition mines the permanent collection of the Department of Architecture and Design to reveal common creative concepts and formal strategies across the fields of architecture and design. These projects [such as the one shown above] in the Color section illustrate the diverse ways color can give design objects identity, improve functions, and promote new means of communication.
The piece shown below pertains to the Geometry section in the exhibition. Regarding this work, gallery information reads, “For graphic designers, geometry offers a tool for subverting conventional ideals of composition, as seen in the constructivist book cover design by El Lissitzky for a 1922 publication celebrating art in Russia.”

El Lissitzky (Russian, 1890–1941)
VESHCH = Gegestand = Objet, 1922
Cover design, Periodical
From the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago
Ada Turnbull Hertle Fund, 2009.507
Image from WikiPaintings (I’ve adjusted the color to more resemble the piece in the show)

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Thursday, July 11, 2013

John Ronan: Perth Amboy High School Project—facilities to facilitate a communal curriculum and program atomism

John Ronan Architects (founded in 1999)
John Ronan (American, born 1963)
Perth Amboy High School, Perth Amboy, New Jersey, Site Model, 2004
Plexiglas and other materials
Permanent collection of the AIC Department of Architecture and Design
Gift of Perth Amboy, New Jersey Board of Education, 2009.7
Photographs by Versluis 2013

This piece by John Ronan, an architectural office based in Chicago, is in the Creative Intersections in Architecture and Design exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago. The exhibition is on view until August 18, 2013 in Galleries 283–285. Architect John Ronan develops an intriguing merging of graphic images and color direction within a complex architectural space. Ronan’s design conveys communal unity with harmonized graphics and color program.

Close-up of the model indicating the graphical details. Middle image is courtesy of John Ronan Architects.

All information is taken from exhibition didactics:

In architecture, color is often used to demarcate space or redefine boundaries. John Ronan’s design for Perth Amboy High School utilizes color to identify five towers, each with a distinct program, and give the institution a visual presence in the community. 
John Ronan’s design for Perth Amboy High School blurs the boundaries between the institution and the community it serves. Formally, the design applied three organizational forms: the surface of the site is used for pathways, gathering space, and activities; a series of flexible buildings hold the academic facilities; and colored glass towers with distinct functions—one is, for example, a media center—are shared, with use for the school during the day and the surrounding community in the evening. As the tallest components of the design, the vibrant, translucent colored glass towers provide a signature feature for the structure and connect it visually with the surrounding area, just as its dual-use spaces connect it functionally. The overall complex is an elegant solution that encodes new formal relationships and rethinks the role institutions can play in their neighborhoods.

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Monday, July 1, 2013

Fabrication is currently in progress for “Enlaced”—a “burning bush” sculpture design by Versluis for Dordt College

Fabrication is currently in progress for Enlaced: a “burning bush” sculpture design
SolidWorks illustration of the red painted version (above) by William Morren
18 feet high x width: 7 feet wide
Seven uprights or fingers allude to the number seven as the biblical symbol for completion and perfection.

Earlier this past May we received the good news from Dordt’s Advancement Office to proceed with the large 18 foot tall sculpture, which had been proposed for the front of Convenant Hall and had been awaiting full funding.  Ideas for the sculpture go back to 2010; Versluis’s proposal was selected and approved in early 2011. Fabrication has begun on the Dordt College East Campus Sculpture.

The fabrication is taking place at D+M Metal Products in Comstock Park, Michigan. D+M Metal has been around since 1946 and provides engineering, fabricating, welding, metal forming, blanking and machining services. The photograph above was taken by D+M co-owner Bob Buist and shows the bottom half of one of the uprights being constructed. As Mies van der Rohe said, “God is in the details” and careful engineering and fabrication have been key elements in the project. The photograph above shows one of the sections being assemble and welded. Notice the construction detail at the foreground indicating the mortise and tenon along with a fish mouth joint (saddle joint) to join the top and bottom sections.

This photograph shows two completed uprights “fingers” placed together.

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