Monday, April 27, 2009

Post Structuralism and the Future of Graphic Design

Tonight we saw Post Structuralism, which is challenging hierarchies, where Deconstruction is questioning motives. Barbara Krooger is one inspirational artist who made her work in such a way that she had you “see the text and read the image”. I am personally a fan of her myself and thought some works such as the cover of Marie Antoinette was a beautiful example of her kind of work but not with the same seriousness attempt to bring into question what images mean to us and how the words interpret the meaning for us. Cultural Jam is a style that I have seen often where a familiar logo is used to promote your own cause or group. It is another version of this style where images that are associated with a certain feeling or thought are put out of context and given a new meaning. Though graphic design has evolved so much and it is believed that nothing new can be done, I believe design as well as other forms of art will always have something new to offer us. It will always have something new to say and we should not feel that being influenced by the history of design is not unoriginal, but a connection we make with that history only to make further connections to it in future with new ideas associated with it thus giving it new meaning.

Monday, April 20, 2009


Tonight we watched a video that took us through some of the stage of after modernism. From when modernism was considered brilliant and awarded to when it was torn, ripped, and literally blown up. The reactionary style of post modernism is clear in many cases where the door was opened for use of symbols and color.
It was said tonight that Postmodernism is "storytelling in the interest of the powerful". This is a time that asks, "who's side are you on?" Postmodernists rejected the old corporate style bringing new life and vibrancy back into graphic design. Especially for a culture fueled by sex, drugs, and music, during a time of war, this style was their voice. It also transcends any particular medium, embracing all forms of are and combining them in design. This when we consider to be the "end of originality". From this point on there is only repetition. Layers and fragmenting of information is common and very intuitive. New wave typography is quickly picked up by the corporate world as something to experience before it is read. This is how much of design was throughout the 80s. I thoroughly enjoy 80s style design though it is very easily recognized as a style of that period and seems to be coming back in some ways. The neon colors of this time are not really my style but I appreciate them for their boldness and how it was able to break molds and limitations.

Discourse #2

Paul Rand: The Modern Designer

• Graphic Design is Everywhere
• The Art of Visual Ideas
• Reflection of Economic Realities
• Before the Wars Design was Dry
• Ornament became a kind of Aesthetic Panacea
• WWII propaganda - High Politicized and Socially Polarized Nation
• Paul Rand - Arguably the Most Celebrated American Graphic Designer
• "Less is More"
• Sentiment and Subjectivity Supplanted Logic and Clarity of Purpose
• To Add Value and Meaning
• A Carefully Orchestrated Vocabulary of Simple Form
• The Evolution of Corporate Identity
• Playing the Variable Against the Constant
• A Modern Mark is a Simple Mark
• Stripes take a kind of Visual Identity
• Cross-cultural, Timeless, and Accessible

Graphic Design is Everywhere

These universal signs and symbols are examples of how graphic design is all around us. We use these symbols to communicate ideas that are understood by most any person of most any culture or background and education level. For Paul Rand these types of symbols were the most effective. Those that could cross cultures, languages, and degree of education to reach the vast majority. I would agree that these symbols serve their purpose well but can be rather bland and boring. It may work well for this type of communication but is not necessarily the best solution for all graphic design problems.

Less is More

This is an example of simple design. A design that uses simple shapes and lines to create motion and depth in the piece. Paul Rand believed that the more simple the design the more impact it would have. I believe that to be true in with most design. I think design is easily cluttered with useless elements that make it confusing or over designed. But something like this works really well and illustrates how simple forms can create a dynamic work. Again, I believe simple design is not always the solution because too simple can make it boring. But it is always smart to avoid unnecessary elements in design.

The Evolution of Corporate Identity

This is the update UPS had made to their corporate identity. Though it still maintains the general shape it did when designed by Paul Rand, it has a distinctly more modern look. The old UPS logo lasted some 35 years until it's redesign. I imagine the new logo will not last as long. Times change faster now and updates to corperate identities must be made in order to keep up with the times. I agree that having a consistent logo is beneficial so perhaps making minor tweets is the solution but staying with a dated logo is a bad business decision in my opinion. Not reinventing the wheel but updating with the times.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Missed Class Tonight

Monday, April 6, 2009

Symbols, Advertising, and the Swiss

Universal symbols are created and used during this period to explain things to people with images that are easily recognized and deciphered. They were designed simplistically so that they could be reproduced by just about anybody. This is also the period when advertising design begins. This is the form of design whose goal it is to make the viewer desire that which is being shown in the design. In this way, designers are responsible for giving products and companies a 'face'. That way people can easily recognize them and know who they are by a sign or symbol that's consistently used in the design as well as a consistent style to each advertisement.
We also learned more about Swiss design tonight. Their approach to design is very structured with grids and lines. Their goal was often to create movement in the piece. They were masters at this type of design and it has been imitated for decades. I have found myself to be very inspired by Swiss design as well. Though I try to use they kind of structure I also like to incorporate a more organic feel to my work.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Vision of the 20th Century

Art Deco is defined by the visual motion and movement that is created by the illustrated forms. A time when machines of war turning into machines of transportation. A time when cars are mass produced. It is were we see the birth of branding and when symbols become paramount to design and the message conveyed by the works (usually posters). Propaganda is used to scare and persuade people to act according to the motivation of the political movements. Illustrations were very powerful and Americans basically copied the European style. America didn't develop their own design style until later. Seeing how graphic design evolves reminds me of my own processes in developing my work. Styles need to be experimented with to see what's possible before you wipe the slate clean and try something new.

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Emergence of Modern Graphic Design

This is the period when graphic design begins to be taught and studied formally. Much of the architecture and design of this time is still done in new architecture and designs. Guidelines were drawn and in order to be considered a 'modern designer' you had to follow the rules. Many of the designs by these modern designers are still around and still fit with the current design styles of today. Simplicity becomes beauty, form follows function, and that which is economical is the most successful. Though modern design goes through this strict phase of dos and don'ts, it again is turned back to breaking the rules and recycling the designs of the past. Allowing design to open back up greatly benefited the field and it breaks free while still keeping in mind some of the things learned along the way. I can relate to the need of going through the motions to discover why certain things work, what they represent, and how the elements function. Making rules along the way is, I think, very natural. It's as natural as it is to, at some point, throw it all out the window and start again.

Monday, March 2, 2009

The New Typography - Discourse 1

• Modern Type Takes Form So Modern Consumers Absorb It Quickly
• Form Grows Out Of Function
• Clarity Is The Essence Of The New Typography
• Logical Organization Is Necessary
• Striving For Order Can & Must Be Expressed In Asymmetrical Form
• Large Differences In Weight Are Better Than Small
• Roman Type – International Type Face Of The Future
• Good Type Has No Other Purpose But To Be Of Utmost Clarity
• Pseudo Constructivism
• Many Mistakes Made

Ornamental type is described as the 'old typography'. It was a type based on aesthetics and beauty. Here is an example of just such type, full or ornamentation and expression. Where, in contrast, modern type is based on clarity and simplicity in form.

Here we see an example of how modern type is thought of today. The most successful is thought to be that which is almost invisible to the eye because of it's simplicity. A concept exaggerated in this piece, and where bad type is thought to be intrusive and loud.

This is an example of Roman Type. A simple type with clarity and structure, created through a grid system of geometric lines and shapes. It is what the author feels is "good typography".

I believe this is an example of what is referred to as Pseudo Constructivism. Mistakes found in type where the information is lost due to poor design. The type is difficult to read and the flow is poorly crafted.

Graphic Design for the Socialist Agenda

During this time period we see graphic design utilized to promote political ideals. Communist visions reject the idea of design as creative expression. The role of art is to oppose old orders and replace conservative visual art. The idea of one vision and equal rights between men and women becomes a repeating theme as well as a revolution and looking forward to a brighter future. Photos were considered more powerful than illustrations and were combined with bold text and colors to draw attention and promote the cause.
Artists working for the greater good called themselves Constructivists. All advertising and packaging were geared toward this social movement as well. The idea of this is sort of scary to me. Political agendas promoted through products used in everyday life sounds like something out of the Orwell classic 1984. All design has a profound influence on the general population and it's unfortunate that it's taken advantage of in this way. I am very interested in the psychology of design and using it in the best possible way so it is interesting to see how this has been done in the past. I suppose all design has a certain degree of manipulation.

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Birth of Modern Graphic Design

As signs become increasingly important, minimalism became the norm. Posters communicate propaganda during times of war. Patriotism reflected in service. Futurism embraces the ideas of war and the machine age. Cubism embraces the relationships between forms and representation. This is an exciting time because it is where we begin to see the foundations of graphic design being formed. Many men of this time can be credited with this. Ludwig Hohlwien was a leading master in Plakasil. He was skilled in expressing emotions while reducing naturalism to symbolic messages. Stephane Mallarrre laid the foundation of "orchestral verse". This is when poets begin to consider the arrangement of letter forms as much as the words themselves by arranging the type to enhance it's meaning. There is a huge emphasis on the relationship between form and meaning. Futurism and Cubism come together to form modern graphic design and the Dada movement, started by Tristan Tzara, starts reacting to "a world gone mad". People seek freedom from convention. Duchamp brings into question the values held by people in the arts and challenges them with him work. Heartsfield worked with found images, rearranging them to create something completely different and sometime without meaning at all. Kurt Schwitter, an outsider to the Dada movement, created a movement of his own called Merz where he created extended cubist collages and type experiments that further seperated word from language. And finally, Surrealism challenged the psychie with exercises of freeing the mind and seeking alternate states of reality while modern photographic expression is pioneered by Man Ray.
All of these experiments lead to today's design from photography to type manipulation. It is all directly related to what I myself am currenlty learning in my design and photo classes. The birth of these ideas have formed what I know as graphic design today and it is facinating to see where it has come from and where it has gone. It also inspires a lot of ideas in my own design developments and encourages experimentation on my part to perhaps make my own impact on the direction graphic design is headed.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Tranforming the System

Art Nouveau was the beginning of the transformation to modernism. Design takes on a system for images and type. Examination of what the purpose of these elements are sparks a change in, what was before, a more sort of chaotic approach to design. This is when ornament becomes structure. Posters are still important to this time of advertisement and the blurring of sexual and provocative lines and limitations. Advertising obsorbs the transformation as most of the works were for product endorsements. Architecture and design merge to birth a new objectivity which distinguishes designers from fine artists. Geometric design begins to emerge which seems to make design more simple yet more complex. Sharp lines appear and linear patterns take shape. Mathematical patterns replace floral gestures. Then begins "new objectivity" where we see design reduced to it's simplest forms once again to create corporate identities and industrial symbols.
The most interesting observation here is how art, in general, keeps being redefined and seems to come full circle. We begin with simple cave drawings to communicate a story to the invention of simple symbols to represent large concepts. In a leap, art opens to new inventions that allow us to communicate on a much larger scale. Once this is established, the experimental stages fuel a disorderly style which is again narrowed back down to it's simplest forms with it's newly added maturity. I wonder if now design has begun to open back up again searching for new discoveries that will then be broken down to another more elegant simplicity. Or if design has plateaued to a more steady steam. In my opinion, with technological advancements, I tend to think it's more likely the former than the latter.

Monday, February 2, 2009

The Dark Ages of Type and the Revitalization

With the advent of the machine type setting came mass communication. This changed the world dramatically. Various type faces were produced and expressive type became popular. There were "battles in the streets" with poster designs using large type to dominate others. Seeing the possibilities of type bore an almost out of control design style, which was not much of a style at all. It was unruly and without any real design quality. Chromolithography, using lithographic stones to print component colors gave more illustrators jobs and illustrations started to dominate the mass media. Commerce changed the form of type which seemed to strip it of it's historical evolution. Soon advertising agencies emerged and the growth of magazines flourished. Political cartooning was invented as well as the greeting card. While type and design seemed to get out of control, there was finally a period of reflection where William Morris influenced a stepping back to rethink the fundamentals of design.
It seemed to take a lot of bad design to get back to a design structure that is expressive and well thought out. This is indicative of our culture's general tendancy to exploit our resources before realizing it's value. The most interesting part for me was having to go through a really low point in design before the happy turn it takes in really valuing the handmade or what we refer to as 'organic' style today.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Old Style Letter Forms Carried Through the Centuries

Since the Egyptians influenced the development of the alphabet, the written forms of communication have changed with each culture that inherited it. Contributions have been made from the Asian to Roman to Egyptian styles and forms. Each created their own interpretation of the written language. Some branched off while others refined their inheritances. Throughout the years, the written word has gone from holy and only accessible and understood by few to widespread and passed on to educate and expand the knowledge of the masses. The form changes were based on culture, mathematics, beauty, and simplicity for reproduction. Seeing the letter form make these transitions inspires an appreciation for the ease with which we are able to manipulate and reproduce letters, words, and full texts today.