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"graphic design" Category


The YellowPress Periodical #3


Friday, November 24, 2017

 

The Sun and The YPP3

 

the sun hockney1

An issue of the Sun, or any other tabloid newspaper, is designed to grab your attention, and to stand out on shelves filled with newspapers and magazines. The tabloid newspaper uses bright colors, large bold typography, and shocking headlines next to eye-catching suggestive photos. The cover of the YellowPress periodical #3 does not share many of these features, and it does not use any of these visual tools in the same way, but the publication’s bright red cover with it’s abstract black shapes still managed to grab my attention. Sitting on the shelf in the library it was the first item that caught my eye, and it intrigued me enough to pick it up and have a further look.

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The name YellowPress refers to yellow journalism or yellow press, a term used to describe what is more commonly known as tabloid or sensationalist newspapers, publications that focus on the amount of newspapers it can sell and not on actual journalism. The type of newspapers that will annoy you when you unintentionally encounter them in a shop or on a table in the hospital waiting room. Cheap, unprofessional and frequently unethical printed content. The YellowPress periodical is by contrast a publication platform for artistic research, based in the St Lucas School of arts in Antwerp, where the designer of the book (periodical) also teaches. The name is an allusion to this trivial form of journalism, that graphic designer Ward Heirwegh also refers to in the design of the publication.

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When it comes to the front page, the only immediately recognizable feature shared by a tabloid newspaper and the YellowPress periodical #3 is the use of color. The use of red on the cover could be a reference to tabloid newspapers, as their titles are often surrounded by the vibrant color known to evoke emotion. The red on the dust jacket has an eye-grabbing effect, but it’s also used inside the book with one full red page introducing each of the four chapters. On the lightweight almost newspaperthin pages the color has a different effect. The reflection of the full red pages on the white paper create the illusion that some pages are pink and the back of the red printed page appear to have a light pink tint. The last chapter of the book enhances this confusion by altering between red, pink and black text. The overall effect this has on the book is a soft glow of light red and pink throughout, creating continuous variation through an indirect use of the colors.

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The bright red dust jacket embracing the white cover of the book features the YellowPress Periodical logo – an outline of the letters YP – as well as four elements referencing the content of the book. A black rectangle, a line with black dots reminiscent of a map drawing, a row of three digit numbers, and a set of horizontal and vertical lines with one line covered in three black ovals make up the design of the front cover. The graphic elements are distinctively individual, but they also work together as one illustration due to their differences in form and their similarity in color. Already on the cover a play between the content and design becomes apparent, and shows that this is an unusual book with a very specific design language. Ward Heirwegh (the designer) mainly works within the cultural and creative field, and besides teaching graphic design conducts research into alternative means of distributing information (and takes photos of his work on wooden floors).

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The shapes are in fact abstractions of the issue’s contents. And they are all repeated continuously throughout their respective chapters. Calling the divisions in content chapters is perhaps not accurate enough as the YellowPress is a non-hierarchical publication where the contents are not arranged after importance or in the same way chapters would be arranged in a conventional publication, or how content is categorized in a tabloid newspaper. The black squares referenced on the cover are featured alongside typography pages that are an addition to first text, both by artists An Onghena and Hanne Van Dyck.

The use of graphic artworks is a major contrast to the tabloid newspapers use of offensive caricature drawings, but on a stripped down level they are in both cases illustrations supporting the written content. The black vertical line featured on the back cover under the dust jacket marks the margin for the pages, and is present throughout the book either alongside text or behind illustrations. It’s even there when it isn’t, as the text follows the same margin even when the line is not printed. In the second chapter the vertical line is replaced by a horizontal one, that separates text from illustration or other text.

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The layout is so far removed from the commercially driven newspaper layout that attempting to compare the two does not make a lot of sense. The same can be said of the design and the content of this magazine, so integrated that I’m hesitant to describe them as singular elements. The experimental nature of the design and the publication itself is pushing boundaries and exploring the limits of publication design. The challenge of integrating artworks, texts and illustrations from different contributors has been solved in such a way that the design becomes the content.

Elements like the vertical line are one of many elements that are played with, and this playfulness of the design is probably the most attractive element to me. The book constantly presents rules and systems that it, after establishing them,  chooses to go beyond or disregard. A sense of humor is present in the references to yellow press for instance in the use of a serious and not so modern looking typeface or in the ironic nature of the publications name, when the YellowPress’ content is so far removed from that of the yellow press. While tabloid newspapers today are a major contributor to an unstable political situation, the YellowPress is a tool for academics and artistic researchers to inform and educate their readers. The YellowPress Periodical #3 uses some of the same tools as a yellow press newspaper, but by altering their intention – using them to inform and not to sell, to educate and not to frighten – the visual language changes from noisy and disturbing to something beautiful.

 

The YellowPress Periodical #3, designer: Ward Heirwegh, Rietveld Library Cat. no: magazine

Words Don’t Come Easy


Thursday, November 23, 2017

A

 

Object

  1. A material thing that can be seen and touched. (Oxford)

2. A thing external to the thinking mind or subject.(Oxford)

3. Something mental or physical toward which thought, feeling, or action is directed.(Merriam Webster)

 

Conversation

  1. Exchange of sentiments, observations, opinions, or ideas (Merriam Webster)

2. Talk between two or more people in which thoughts, feelings, and ideas are expressed, questions are asked and answered, or news and information is exchanged (Cambridge, Oxford)

 

Recognition

  1. Knowledge or feeling that someone or something present has been encountered before.(Merriam Webster)

Identification of someone or something or person from previous encounters or knowledge.(Oxford)

The fact of knowing someone or something because you have experienced it before.

2. Acknowledgement of the existence, validity, or legality of something. (Oxford)

Agreement that something is true or legal (Cambridge)

3. Appreciation or acclaim for an achievement, service, or ability. (Oxford)

Special notice or attention (Merriam Webster)

 

B

 

F.R DAVID is a biannual journal- founded, edited and typeset by Will Holder-concerned with ‘the organization of reading and writing in contemporary art practice’. It is chunky: a rectangular block. Like a brick. Or a novel: An object. This is what drew me initially to the Autumn 2017 edition- ‘Recognition’- and is illustrative of an important aspect of Will Holder’s work. His interest in the thingness of words” is manifested physically, not only in the shape and feel of the journal (something which he plays with more explicitly in “Black my Story” an exhibition catalogue in novel disguise), but also in additional items that come with every edition- A book mark and a postcard- things that very much ask us to hold them in our hands. A specific rule defined at the founding of F.R DAVID stipulates that they are printed on the matte side of the card, the gloss side left blank (This is also true of the cover). Another, dictates that seemingly mysterious letters on the spine of each edition when placed together will eventually spell out F.R DAVID’s maxim ‘Words don’t come easy’. Of course, the 80s hit of French pop star, F.R. DAVID, whose name is appropriated hilariously as though it were the author’s on the cover of this intellectual, literary-art journal.)

This kind of inversion of commercial publishing convention is present throughout ‘Recognition’ (and the rest of Holder’s work): images are placed oddly on the page, sometimes even overlapping with the text; the typeface shifts incongruously to ‘American Typewriter’ for one text only; images of text are used at points rather than the typed words; footnotes expand uncontrollably to fill entire pages. By subverting our expectations, Holder makes us extremely aware of the materiality of every aspect of the publication- both literal/physical and linguistic. The event of publishing too becomes an object: Holder organizes performances with readings in strange, poetical formats with quite trance-like elements. Constantly he is reacting against the increasingly conventional, stream-lined nature of the graphic-design industry, a world of “branding agencies and viral strategy analysts”

 

fr-david-cover_950 R.F.Davis-Spread_1100

 

C

 

Will Holder told me about the role of page space and layout in his work in allowing room for multiple meanings:
“My work allows all present to have a voice, and often uses the page to score this polyphony and dissonance.”
In particular, he is concerned with the reader’s contribution to the meaning of a text; his work is conceived of as a collaborative exercise between author and audience and designer and printer and publisher and all who have played a role in producing it. The ongoing, dialogical qualities of book design become increasingly important with the modern explosion of information sharing. In an era very much preoccupied with notions like ‘fake news’ and ‘post-truth’ we need to find ways to re-legitimise published opinions.
“We could say that given today’s onslaught of information and multiple views, reading is an exercise in comparison, in order to distill one’s own position; and not regurgitate what others want you to”

 

F.R. DAVID being a journal, has to accommodate multiple voices more actively even than a publication with a single author. Each text is subject to the “inflection of [its] neighbours”. In catering to this and in embracing it, Holder intersperses separate texts in the ‘Recognition’ issue, using two different style sheets: While some typographical and formal limits are imposed for continuity, there is diversity within these limits, informed by the content. The original typesetting of articles has been maintained where Holder deems it relevant. And in all of these decisions he acknowledges the subjectivity of his own voice, pointing out “that relevance is dictated to me by my reading of the material”.

 

F.R. DAVID as well as many of Holder’s other publications uses primarily ‘The Doves type’, steeped, appropriately, in conversation and history and mystery: Its origins are in The Doves Press, founded in 1900 in London (since when it has been banished for almost a century to depths of the River Thames and then dramatically rediscovered). Its celebrated fount of metal type was designed with the intention of ensuring that it did not distract the reader from ideas within the text itself, ‘the thing intended to be conveyed’. The significance of this sentiment in relation to Will Holder’s intentions is apparent. So too is a playful irony: He is strongly conscious of the agendas of typefaces and the impossibility of one that obediently serves content, rebelling, in fact, in ‘the non-linguistic or extra-linguistic qualities of language’.

 

fr david preface Doves-Character-set-650x1055-July-2016

 

Mischievous subversion of a devise like this epitomizes Holder-style. He leaves questions- about the nature of the publication (a mysterious new magazine, ‘Staples’ with very minimal and odd content, for example, is entirely unexplained); the route we should take in reading it; and the boundaries between earnestness and farce, unanswered. We must surrender to the ambiguity of the work.

F.R.David, designed by Will Holder, Rietveld Academie library catalog no: magazine

The Kraft van Sandberg


Thursday, November 23, 2017

YELLOW

kraft

   kraft

RED

  kraft

BLUE

kraft

  RED

       kraft

              kraft

           kraft

CatalogueS_7eorihgeoirgh

size : 190 x 254

9 jaar stedelijk museum amsterdam

1954 – ’54

voorjaar 1954 tentoonstellingen

stedelijk museum amsterdam van abbe-museum eindhoven

collectie philippe dotremont

cat. 116

stedelijk museum amsterdam 4.7 – 28.9’59

50 jaar verkenningen

in de beeldende kunst

uit de eigen verzameling

en uit bevriende particuliere collecties in nederland

cat.212

stedelijk museum amsterdam 11 jan. – 18 febr. ’63

francis bacon

cat. 326

19.10.2017

Look what I found, this old and cheap looking dark Bacon catalogue! So small but yet so distinct. 5 pages folded together, with only two staples to bind them into one unified object. Kraft paper next to coated paper. Primary red next to brown. Full page picture on the cover and on the inside. These are combinations that catch my attention. They oddly fit together. The design is so particular, and yet I cannot find the name of a designer on the inside.
Why?
It turned out to be obvious. The catalogue was made at a time that Willem Sandberg was director of the Stedelijk Museum. And almost all the catalogues that were made then were his design.

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SC_9 SC_10

From 1945 to 1963, Jonkheer Willem Jacob Henri Berend Sandberg, better known as Willem Sandberg, was a Dutch typographer and museum curator, born on the 24.10.1897 and died at 9.04.1984, was the director of the famous Amsterdam modern art museum: the Stedelijk.

Taking over the direction of the museum after World War II, he put all his energy and ingenuity into changing the face of art in the Netherlands, starting by changing the face of the Stedelijk, physically and spiritually. He enabled the museum to a far more prominent place in society. Sandberg was a very resourceful man and faced these changes from many angles: posters, typography, architecture and of course also catalogues; he monitored all of these interfaces to the museum and actively involved in their production, creating by himself all that was linked to it. We can feel the influence of his vision until this very day. Looking at his catalogues today is looking into a life’s work of strong beliefs.
« I think that 328 catalogues were made under my auspices. I assume that around 275 were made by me and the rest by other people. Just guessing. »
Making art accessible to all, was one of Sandberg’s main goals. Envisioned the museum’s infrastructure in a perspective that would make it attractive to all and not only to serious bourgeois on a Sunday afternoon stroll.
« The background to my museum policy has always been that on the one hand I tried to encourage the staff to think of it as their museum, that they participate in it, and that on the other hand I wanted to give young people the feeling that it was their museum. »
One of Sandberg’s biggest aims was to change the relation of people to art institutions, making them more attractive. He even wanted the museum to come to the people, and make them spontaneously relate to the place. To accomplish this he promoted art among young people. Changing the status of art in society should begin by changing the status of art in the young people’s mind.

 

Child_Stedelijk

 

His work perfectly reflects this wider accessibility. Sandberg liked things to have simple and natural aspect. You could see it by the size of his catalogues, all pretty small and thin.

 

CatalogueS_11 horizontal

 

It is also one of the reasons he was drawn to wrapping paper and used kraft paper in much of his work, despite the critics he got about it.
« I could make catalogues the way I wanted. I was subjected to a lot of criticism, because of the packing paper I used in them. I wanted the pictures to be printed on the highest quality paper, but the text could easily be printed on packing paper or on normal newspaper. It didn’t have to be precisely right, just so. I am an anti-perfectionist. »

 

SC_19 Kind_2 1954_8 50Jaar_12

 

The bright primary colors he used inside of his catalogues, or on covers, mostly with his typography, where a legacy of the Bauhaus, a matter of taste, but also a choice to make the catalogues immediately attractive, their colors being absolutely eye catching.

Specific paper for specific content. The paper brings the content to life, makes it organic. It is what allows ink to exists: it gives birth to informations, narrations, visuals.

 

 9Jaar_Stedelijk_2 9Jaar_Stedelijk_12 100_3 1954_2

 

The paper’s choice plays with the reader senses. The touch, the looks, the sound, the smell. Surprisingly, as one can see in the Bacon catalogue, Sandberg’s choice of paper didn’t necessarily make the reader’s reading easy. The combination of kraft paper and the small Helvetica font even tend to make reading difficult.
A cover, hard or not, a content, thick paper, sometimes no cover. Content printed on the same paper, or similar paper that doesn’t draw attention to itself with a layout, pictures and colors. That is what readers are used to. I ran along the shelves of my bookcase but could not find any books that had a different choice of papers like Sandberg’s. Or only very few. Even though this choice can be partly understood because Sandberg had to innovate in times with little financial playing room. Therefore in the 40s and 50s this combination of cheap paper for text and coated paper for pictures was more common.
Sandberg’s signature can be found in his choice to make a wide contrast in his composition by putting kraft paper next to bright colours. When you put them together, obvious similarities appear between all of Sandberg’s catalogues. Yet they are all very different in a subtle way. Because of the choice of color, paper, or composition, that permanently changes. Sandberg’s design served the content and the artist that he was promoting. And even though he had his preferences, he would constantly innovate, like in the Léger Catalogue from 1957 where there is nearly no text to be found, but only this wonderful composition of pictures and ink in a well thought juxtaposition of several different kinds of paper.

 

 LEGER

LEGER_2

LEGER_9

« i believe

in warm printing

and i like vivid colors

in particular red and blue

sometimes yellow

i dislike violet and green

but for violent contrast

i rarely use brown

except

tobacco scrap iron

or wrapping paper »

When we think of books in general, we tend to think more about mind, intellect, and not about their physical presence in the world, with another purpose than to contain and to teach. Still the design of the book makes the difference from a simply nice object to contain with a purpose tending to share or propagate. Sandberg with his signature, made a difference.
Therefore I wish to leave you here with what I was left after diving into Sandberg’s work: the incapacity to unsee his signature, once it was seen.

Sources :
Willem Sandberg Portrait of an artist, Ank Leeuw Marcar, Valiz Amsterdam, Werkplaats Typografie Arnhem
Sandberg graphiste et directeur du Stedelijk Museum, Ad Petersen, Translation to french Daniel Cunin, Institut Néerlandais, Editions Xvier Barral

Rietveld Academie library catalog no: bac 12

Why not?


Thursday, November 23, 2017

64 pages bound between a red start page, a blue end page and slick grey canvas covers, held together by a yellow spine. Marite traced her finger over the slight dents of the lettering- “Topmotiviert” in a harmonious diagonal that fills the cover so effortlessly. The book felt molded to her, felt so comfortable and accessible.

 

Inside, colourful photos of the messy behind-the-scenes of a exhibition setup. One photograph per page, neatly cropped and centered, an orderly catalogue of obscure images. There is no text inside, not even on the start and end pages. The only text with the book is the title on the cover and brief publishing information on the back, as well as the library number: bill l 1. Mysterious, Top-secret. Marite’s curiosity is stirred, igniting her thirst.

 

The photos are taken by Linus Bill himself. His own works in a “state of limbo between being documentary and works themselves”, from the exhibition “Was nun?” at Photoforum Pasquart in 2011 in Biel, Switzerland. The book can be related to the rest of Bill’s works due to its manipulative relationship with size and form. Bill often creates small-scale graphic work such as screen prints, which he then blows up to large works. He has manipulated the size and context of his work in this book, minimizing large works to a small, delicate documentation. The enigmatic compilation is what intrigued Marite, a conundrum that doesn’t need to be solved. No questions asked. The book holds up autonomously without the backstory, becoming a new artwork. But she tried anyway, for the purpose of her project. Alas, she couldn’t live peacefully on with this simple affair.

 

A few days later, Marite is in class introducing her book to her peers. It doesn’t take long, her speech is straightforward like the publication and their practicality goes hand in hand. Her hand lay endearingly on the cover.

“You match the book, “ observes Henk, regarding the rhyme in the colour of the book and Marite’s grey sweater.

“Ha-ha,” she says, “grey and minimal on the outside, colorful on the inside” Quelle cliché. Is the title Topmotiviert also a reflection of her? A prophecy? What does this mean for her? A challenge perhaps? She ponders on her relationship with the book. They were subtly molding together, the book taking over and swallowing her. There’s a jitter somewhere inside her; how can 64 pages and two grey covers jolt her so jarringly?

 

When Marite got the chance to meet the publisher from Rollo Press, she had questions. She had studied the book and her affinity for the book grew stronger by the day. Her eyes had studied the immersive colors and her fingertips had studied the glossy, smooth, creamy-feeling paper, 200 grams at least. It pulled her in and she willingly floated into the depths of vibrant offset printed colors. Top-quality.

 

Hello nice to meet you thanks for meeting with me this won’t take long.

 

“So how did you come about publishing this book?” she started off general, studiously watching the publisher casually flick through it. He shrugged, “well Linus had some money left over from the institution for the exhibition and we had worked with him before so we thought why not.” Marite nodded seriously. Why not, she thought, it almost sounded like an invitation. The book was teasing her. Her heart jumped. Before her mind escaped to the clouds, she refocused on the interview.

“And this title, this diagonal, it’s so captivating,” she said, staring hungrily at the book.

“I just thought it would be kind of funny. It’s difficult to get a perfect diagonal so it’s pretty all over the place,” said Rollo. All its curves and edges, its perfect imperfections.

Marite’s chin quivered, “and the typeface? Is it…” she bit her lip, “is it… Helvetica?”

“Actually it’s a typeface made by a guy who teaches at Rietveld. It’s a font he discovered in an old children’s book and it’s got these really nice perfect round Os and this little wave in the leg of the R.” By this time, beads of sweat had begun forming in the nape of Marite’s neck and in the back of her knees. Her blouse felt tight.

“Thank you so much, it was lovely talking to you, I must go.” She pulled the book close to her chest and dashed out; knees weak, head swimming.

 

Arriving home, dusk setting over the city, she laid the book on her bed. The pink shadow of sunset caressed its canvas bound surface. Marite lit a candle. “We have become one,” she dragged her cigarette, eyes burning with lust. Top-love.

Adolf Loos vs Hansje van Halem and the importance of ornament in the contemporary world


Thursday, October 19, 2017

Adolf Loos was an Austrian and Czech architect and an influential European theorist of modern architecture. One of his famous buildings, Looshaus, is now one of the most representative architectures of the modernist movement, although at the time it was established it had received great opposition and contempt.

 

 

The industrial revolution, the sudden accumulated wealth, and the people who longed for the appearance of the nobleman came to the city to compete with the idea that they should be more splendid than anyone else and it is natural that such people despised Looshaus. Anyhow, Loos was established with his opinion, he believed that the ornaments were not beauty, but more as a self-display and that if an artist made commodities for aesthetic purpose, it would not reflect the way people live and would not have the necessary function. The ornaments were a crime for Adolf Loos, a waste of the craftsman’s time, they were made for the main purpose of aesthetic pursuit and must be eliminated from architecture and design. He said that if an artist produces household items for aesthetic purpose, it does not reflect the way people live and it is a crime to make the worker spend so much time on such a useless thing. Therefore, he can not be called extreme functionalist, rather, his ideals were to produce household goods and to build buildings by reflecting the people’s real life at the time. Alfred Loos want to send his message to people who are captivated only by their splendid ornament and life and who are trying to forget their past without being true.

 

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Hansje van Halem is an Amsterdam based graphic designer, she is mainly interested in typography, book design and other printing techniques but she also experiments with computer processed graphic patterns and drawings. Her work is centred on “exquisite” typography, it is a fusion of ornamental patterns and letters which become more then letter-forms, they are ornaments wth a specific function, they are meant to be read.

 

Ornamentismeanttoberead

 

There are 100 years between the idea that Adolf Loos had about the use of ornament and the way Hansje van Halem is using it today, and it is very interesting to see how, although their point of view regarding it is so distant from each other, there’s still a big connection between two, both indeed are giving great importance to the “function” of their work, Loos eliminates the ornament because there is no function in it and van Halem on the other hand gives a function to it though the use of typography.

 

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But how are the contemporary artists and architects actually reacting to the Adolf Loos’s ideas nowadays ? There are different manifestations of the ornament’s resistance in the contemporary architecture, The London-based FAT (Fashion Architecture Taste) for instance consider ornaments as an important and indispensable part of architecture, Charles Holland, partner of the FAT says in an article from the Financial Times: “The Loos argument is very interesting. As I understand it, he was saying that ornamentation was a waste of labour, effort and craft. With contemporary techniques and manufacturing it is possible to achieve a lot of complexity and intricacy with very little effort, so there’s a weird reversal of his argument. We regard ornament less as a guilty pleasure and more as a communicative tool. There is traditionally a kind of puritanism in the UK, a rather macho approach in which engineering and high-tech appliqué is OK. It can all be justified in practical terms but I think we can look more critically now at a modernism in which the motifs of industry were applied to architecture to make it look modern, which in itself is a kind of ornamentation.”

The current computer technologies are also playing a big role in the contemporary w  orld, this modelling and manufacturing technologies has allowed the mass production of the most complex forms and ideas. Evan Douglis is using this technologies to create new strange, forms which recall baroque and rococo decoration in their own new digital world, he also says: “The technology and the software at our disposal now gives us enormous control over form, equations can become a material presence. We’re interested in that intricacy between pragmatism and retinal exuberance – it’s something that bridges the disciplines, from architecture to furniture, interiors and product.”

 

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This new digital tools are helping designers and artist in their work as never before in our history and are also an easy way to experiment with forms, letters and of course ornaments, it makes the whole procedure more interesting and exiting, this is how Loos’s position, after a century, is slightly starting to become invalid, and the ornament on the other hand is on it’s way to decriminalisation.

a cooperative research by Yuriy Krupey & Eun Seo Lee

Is modernism still relevant today?


Thursday, October 19, 2017

poster-modernism

In the late 19th century, artists and craft-people in Europe already had a will of rupture with all the previous, too classics works. They saw in industrial revolution means of creating more accessible and more efficient productions.
This craving for newness emerged in Europe as new currents, such as Arts and Crafts, and later on, Art Nouveau, Jugendstil, Neue Kunst. 
On the same time, artists experimented new ways of expressing emotions and feelings. Abstraction developed in art slowly in western Europe, inspired by the recent opening of Japan to the world, but also by all the feedback from the arts and traditions of French, dutch, German and  English colonies.

Fauvists tried collages and works with simple shapes and colors, but still in a slightly figurative way. Also, we can see in Dada and Cubism a new approach in composition,  use of shapes and colors, and, in the case of Dada, photomontage.

 

dada collage

 

We can notice in Fernand Leger’s work some approaches of the principle of modernist graphic design. Illustrations, at the edge of abstraction, and a game with the letters, where it becomes an entire part of the composition, using stencil characters and foundry typefaces. The imprint  of the man’s work is now less visible, as the use of the machine and standardization of shapes and characters are now a solid part of the artistic production.

 

fernand leger

 

At this point graphic design, and, of course, being a graphic designer isn’t a status in itself. It consists of experiments by artists in western Europe, and artists alongside with architects and designers in the central and eastern part of the continent.

The early 20ties century in Europe has been the theater of a lot of revolutions and wars. Seeking refuge and peace, or simply trying spread new theories, architects and artists moved around in Europe. Starting from the 1918’s, The Netherlands, Germany and Switzerland become places where the intellectual Avant-Garde starts to develop, not in private, but as groups.

This results in the creation of collectives of artists, architects and designers, all teaching, and rethinking the place of design, art and architecture in this modern, industrialized society. They fully embrace that industrialization and the new means of production brought by it to create new, peculiar designs. Modernism is born.

We can isolate several groups working on the raise of modernism alongside Europe, inspired by new theories on fine arts (constructivism, Suprematism) from Russia and Italian futurism. Almost each central European country had its own movement: De Stijl for the Netherlands, the Deutscher Werkbund and later on the Bauhaus school in Germany, the Wiener Werkstatte for Austria, and Der Schweizer Werkbund for Switzerland.

They all had the same goal of one philosophy, that binds architecture, art, product design, and later, graphic design. To sum it up, we can quote Henry Van de Velde’s lecture to the Swiss Werkbund in 1947 :
“That chain, which has extended across the centuries, which in the end shows just one family, one single family of pure form and pure decoration, a unique style: one that is rationally conceived, consisting of pure forms determined by their function”.

 

das neue heim

 

Of course, these groups had to communicate, on exhibitions, but also monthly, to keep the Europe informed of their progress. They started using magazines and posters to spread their words. This is how graphic design entered and embraced modernism. Of course, it was a new mean of expression, and architects of the modernism, to remain within the modernist unity, applied modernist architecture principles to it. These magazines (De Stijl, Die Form, Das Werk, Bauhaus), even if their main subject was not graphic design, expressed the group’s beliefs on type and composition through their formal construction.

 

Die Form cover

 

Out went symmetry, ornament and drawn illustration; in came white space, plain letter forms  and photographs. 
But even after all those works, Europe had to wait until 1928 for someone to actually theorize graphic design, with Jan Tschihold’s “Die neue Typografie”. This book is the starting point of the idea of graphic design to be a separate kind of design, with its own principles. And as you can guess by its title, it explains the rules and ways of using the self-proclaimed new typography : lineal characters, absence of symmetry, purpose of the white space, hierarchy of the information.

 

Die Neue Typografie

 

With all those interventions, modernist graphic design became what we know today: sober, using photographs, collage, geometrical shapes and a small range of colours to illustrate, with simple, lineal fonts for the text.

But as the fascism rises in the 30’s in Europe, many intellectuals had to flee from Nazi Germany, and went to Switzerland, to other neutral countries, or to the USA.

Overall, to understand modernist graphic design and its aesthetic, we need to understand that it was created in a mean of efficiency, by people who were not graphic designers, and who experimented for a long time before finding something that would suit their beliefs. It is born out of architectural principles, and as a part of the modernist’s formal aesthetics. And it was so radical, and such a brutal change, that all along the 20th century and still today, we can feel its influence. Just look at you computer. The font you’re reading right now is probably Helvetica.

Thus, we may ask ourselves « is it still relevant to use modernist principles in graphic design ». That is, in our opinion, a legitimate question. It is true that, in a contemporary creative process, using 1930’s ideas might be perceived as some kind of stagnation, our even a regression in the thinking of graphic design. That is not our opinion. But as some ideas, or principles; for instance the universal grid, are killing the thinking and creative process in the long term, it is important to go further than that, and keep investigating what those developments of ideas has permitted us, and what is the next step, in this constant research of efficiency, and simplicity.

.poster neue

a cooperative research by Souheila Chalabi and Antoine Dauvergne

The Rebellious Anti-Catalogue


Wednesday, February 8, 2017

 

 

Wie die Räume gefüllt werden müssen

How the space needs to be filled

 

 

Front cover

This thin book with its soft flappy cover gave me a sense of preciousness.
It needed two hands to hold, it urged for my attention.
The white lp-size cover, its simple black typography yet incomplete
title made it mysterious. It sought more effort than a
quick look to discover the meaning.

LP-sized cover

Front and back cover

Flipping through the pages I was completely
surprised and somewhat confused as more and
more empty pages revealed themselves.

Beginning the book with white pages

Then eventually three huge images of an installation appeared. I would probably not have looked at them with as much care and appreciation
as I did, if it was surrounded by visual or written information.
The silent white pages that led up to these images made them
more valuable. The emptiness was key to this aura of worthiness.

1st image installation Aernout Mik

2nd image installation Aernout Mik

3rd image installation Aernout Mik

A fourth smaller image appeared after a few empty pages.

4th image installation Aernout Mik

The series of images started and ended with a white bar, suggesting a
beginning and an end of the empty space.

Transition emptiness to 1st image

Transition 4th image to emptiness

Than the catalogue ends with emptiness.

The last image disappears in white emptiness

Ending the book with white pages

In The Elements of Graphic Design [x], Alex W. White explains the functionality of emptiness in graphic design:

”Emptiness is silence, an open field, a barren room, a blank canvas, an empty page. Emptiness is often taken for granted
and thought best used by filling in. It is generally ignored by all but the few who consciously manipulate it to establish
contrast, to create drama, or to provide a place of actual or visual rest.”

The emptiness creating visual rest and drama are actually
simultaneously existing in this book. One would think
drama and visual rest would not be ableto co-exist.
The impatient ongoing episode of flipping white pages,
the dramatic surprise of a sudden huge image and then
the visual rest to read the image with great care.

Pjotr de Jong, the designer [x] and a dear friend of Aernout Mik [x],
shed some light on the being of this book. It all started with an
exhibition in Hannover. Aernout Mik had won the Preis des
Kunstverein Hannover 1995 alongside two German artists,
Bernhard Büttner and Michael Stephan.

The three artists were given a space in which
they were able to show their art. The German
artists asked the director ‘how the space had to be filled’.
Aernout [x] was astonished by this question and made it
clear that no one but himself would decide on how his
space was going to be. He took this German question
and used it to title his work.

He [x] was asked to make a catalogue for this
exhibition and this book is the result of that.
He rebelliously decided to make
the ultimate anti-catalogue. Bare emptiness
was in a similar style to his exhibition space,
the dominant theme.

Pjotr and Aernout spent their whole budget on
the most expensive synthetic paper available.
They maximized the size of the images and printed
them on full pages. Pjotr stated that the images
were badly printed because of the synthetic paper.
In my opinion they added to the mystery of the book.

This probably is the least informative catalogue ever made,
yet it’s the most memorable one I ever came across.

Aernout Mik : Wie die Räume gefüllt werden müssen. /Rietveld library catalogue no : mik 6

Debutant in design


Tuesday, February 7, 2017

 

 

‘You’ve got beautiful stairs, you know’
Een publicatie van werk door Ola Vasiljeva
Design door Julie Peeters

In magazine formaat publiceert Kunstverein Munchen een publicatie over Ola Vasiljeva. De kaft vertoont een simpele, snelle tekening van een man die lijkt te zijn gevallen. De achterkant een installatie, een gele verf marker balanceert op de top van een blauw glas in de vorm van een getailleerd overhemd.
Het ontwerp vraagt om mijn aandacht, maar waarom?

Kennis over het grafisch vormgeven van boeken heb ik niet en dus was ik van plan om de ontwerpster van de bovengenoemde publicatie te benaderen voor een interview.
Ik was, moet ik eerlijk bekennen, vrij nerveus voor mijn gewenste afspraak met Julie Peeters, en wachtte af op een antwoord op de email die ik haar had toe gezonden. Peeters, een grafisch ontwerpster geboren in België, en winnares van de fel begeerde boekdesign award The Goldene Letter, ‘Schönste Bücher aller Welt’.
Over titels gesproken.

 Schermafbeelding 2017-02-06 om 23.54.07               Schermafbeelding 2017-02-06 om 23.55.05

 

Enkele dagen gingen voorbij en een response bleef uit. De vragen die ik haar had willen stellen stonden geschreven op een pagina in mijn notitieboek. Ik las ze nog eens door en wierp nog een blik op de publicatie in mijn tas, die overigens al een aantal weken te laat ingeleverd was, en bedacht me dat ik de algemeen benodigde kennis op het gebied van grafisch vormgeven misschien wel wat had overschat.

Zonder Peeters, besloot ik mijzelf te interviewen met een selectie van de vragen die ik klaar had staan voor mijn interview. Ik waan mijzelf grafisch ontwerper en probeer op mijn eigen vragen antwoord te geven doormiddel van research naar grafische vormgeving in z’n algemeen, onderbouwt door mijn eigen onafhankelijke denkbeeld.

Wat is belangrijk bij het ontwerpen van een publicatie over andermans kunst?

Het lijkt mij een belangrijk gegeven dat er treffende overeenkomsten zijn tussen de ideeën en meningen over design van zowel de auteur als de grafisch ontwerper. Grafische vormgeving kan een visuele kunst op zich zijn, mits het doel van de publicatie dat toelaat.
In het geval van ‘You’ve got beautiful stairs, you know’, zal de vormgever een bescheiden rol hebben moeten aannemen, om zo het werk van Ola Vasiljeva zo veel mogelijk voor zichzelf te doen laten spreken. Wanneer een publicatie een artistieke uiting kan uitbeelden van zowel de vormgever als de beeldend kunstenaar te samen, geloof ik dat er sprake moet zijn van een zekere harmonie. Uiteenlopende ideeën kunnen geloof ik snel tot een onaantrekkelijke publicatie leiden.
De focus in het maken van een publicatie met daarin iemand anders z’n werk ligt in het zo goed mogelijk weergeven van installaties, tekeningen en teksten. Daarbij moet er voor worden gezorgd dat het uiteindelijke design binnen de esthetische stijl van de auteur valt. Goed overleg tussen de publicatie vormgever en de beeldend kunstenaar lijkt mij dus een essentieel gegeven in de totstandkoming van een goed product.

Wat is grafisch vormgeven?

Een grafisch ontwerper houdt zich bezig met het proces van visueel communiceren. Hierbij worden typografie, fotografie en illustraties op een efficiënte of artistieke wijze gecombineerd en samengevat tot een geheel. Het gaat om de visuele representatie van ideeën en beelden.
Omdat de print en het boek als medium al lang bestaan zijn ze veel ontwikkelingen doorgegaan op het gebied van vormgeving
Vandaag de dag hebben we een goed overzicht en een canon aan informatie over deze veranderingen. Het is interessant om te zien dat er her en der zekere regels zijn ontstaan binnen het ontwerpen van een boek, iets wat ons in het verleden misschien wel heeft tegengehouden om vooruitstrevend te zijn. De opkomst van het modernisme verschafte daarentegen een nieuwe blik op het design en ontwerp van een boek. Oude regels omtrent de indeling van tekst en afbeeldingen werden losgelaten en er ontstond een zekere artistieke mogelijkheid tot het expressief ontwerpen van een boek. Je zou denken dat, zoals men bij bijna elke tak van artistieke expressie denkt, dat innovatie in het heden moeilijk klaar te spelen is, omdat de geschiedenis ons leert dat er al vele jaren van vooruitstrevend denken over heen zijn gegaan en dat de nieuwigheid en noviteit overal wel een beetje van af is. Dit lijkt me een goed voorbeeld van een psychisch effect wat de uitgebreide informatie over onze geschiedenis met zich meebrengt. Ik geloof dat een weidse kennis over de historie van design een keerzijde met zich meebrengt, namelijk het versmallen van ons creatief denken. Kijk bijvoorbeeld naar alle ‘alternatieve’ of ‘onafhankelijke’ culturele stromingen die de afgelopen decennia zijn ontstaan. In feite zijn dit allemaal eindeloze herhalingen van voortijdse daden onder het mom van rebellie tegen de gevestigde orde, terwijl er wordt gedaan alsof het allemaal voor het eerst gebeurt, weten we diep van binnen wel beter.

Rem Koolhaas heeft op een van de ruiten van zijn schoenenwinkel in het centrum van Amsterdam een leus staan die het vooruitstreven en innovatief denken mooi vertaald.
‘We ended up breaking the rules of shoes, not just for the sake of breaking them, but simply by not knowing them’


Waarom wordt er vandaag de dag nog steeds zoveel fysiek gepubliceerd terwijl het elektronisch publiceren zoveel voordelen kent?

Ik geloof dat de grafisch ontwerpers van deze tijd een zekere nostalgische waarde toe hechten aan de print als medium. De fysieke aanraking van een boek is iets wat de wereld langzaam aan het verliezen is. Van generatie op generatie worden de boeken en tijdschriften exponentieel ingewisseld voor hun digitale opvolgers. Het lijkt mij dus een kwestie van tijd dat het aantal fysieke publicaties afneemt en de digitale publicatie stroom toeneemt.
Veel van de jonge grafisch ontwerpers in opleiding zijn vanaf hun geboorte opgegroeid in een digitale cultuur, zij zullen dus ook sneller grijpen naar een elektronische, digitale manier van niet alleen ontwerpen, maar ook publiceren.
Ik durf daarentegen wel te stellen dat de fysieke publicatie van het boek nooit zal uitsterven, gezien er voor veel mensen nog steeds en altijd zal gelden dat er niets gaat boven het kunnen vasthouden van een boek.

‘IN ORDER TO BUILD A NEW STRUCTURE, PIERROT NEEDS TO FORGET THE PRECISION OF LANGUAGE’.
(pagina 47,  You’ve got beautiful stairs, you know’)

Ola Vasiljeva : you've got beautiful stairs, you know. /Rietveld library catalogue no : vasi 1

Odd or Even


Tuesday, February 7, 2017
mariana castillo deball, manuel raeder, et al; revolver publishing; i don't have permission to post this image.

Never Odd Or Even (2005), Mariana Castillo Deball, Revolver Publishing

 

 

Scanning through all the possible titles in the list, I landed on something I recognised: ‘Never Odd Or Even’, by Mariana Castillo Deball (M.C.D.) I found myself attracted to it, because it reminded me of an album I used to listen to a lot when I was younger. Initially, I really didn’t like the front cover’s typography, but when I flipped it open, I found myself very confused about the way the book was structured. When I inspected the other pages, I decided this would be my book of choice. I thought the back cover and inside looked very interesting and beautiful, but I didn’t understand why it looked the way it did, what purpose it served, if it even had any.

When I started looking online, I could only find  a lot of information about the second volume, but the first volume only gave me two not very detailed links, one to the art foundation’s website and one to the publisher’s website. It became clear to me that it was a ‘book’ made up out of dust covers. It was some kind of art publication. The fact that it was sheets of paper specifically designed to protect books, protected by a layer of plastic seemed absurd and quite funny to me. Even though my main attraction was the construction of it, there are a lot of different styles of graphic design found throughout, which I found to be quite interesting, both together and on their own.

First, I indexed all the individual pages of my copy as follows. By doing this, it became clear to me that there is a discrepancy between the number of covers that are contained in my copy and what the publisher advertises. My copy only accounts for as much as twenty-two covers, whereas it should have been twenty-three. This number includes the outer cover, following the counting system of the second volume. Otherwise, there are two pages missing. Also, none of the books in this list exist in reality. They seem to do what art is known to do: imitate life. The publication kind of looks like an exhibition in itself and it actually is almost some sort of catalogue of the actual exhibition it is part of. I can’t support this factoid with photographic evidence, as there are no accounts to be found on the web. The exhibition seems to have taken place before museums, artists, or audiences started to upload any documentation on the web, but based on what is available online for the second volume, the before mentioned seems highly probable.

Never Odd Or Even (2005)              Never Odd Or Even Vol. II (2011)

So there were two minor design mysteries: it is unclear why the publication is formatted the way it is, but it is also unknown what the content of 1/23 of its totality is.

Could this missing piece hold the key to unravelling this mystery? Highly unlikely, but it remains a point of curiosity nonetheless.

To understand Volume I (2005) with as little information as there is available, we must resort to looking at Volume II (2011). With six years separating the two, there are some differences, but integrally they appear to carry the same concept — it’s a series and not two separate works after all. Volume II has some colour prints and more ‘pages’. Although I admit that I don’t know the exact way the exhibition was held in 2005, I think it’s not unreasonable to assume it was very much similar to how it was handled with the second one. To get a better idea of how it would interact with space, here you can have a look at the press release and photo album for the exhibition at the Grimmuseum in 2011.

Never Odd Or Even at the Grimmuseum (2011)

Never Odd Or Even at the Grimmuseum (2011)

Never Odd Or Even is a collection of dust covers for non-existing books and in the exhibition, the contents of these non-existing books are explored and theorised about, in works and performances that use text as their primary medium..

In an interview, Manuel Raeder has made clear that the outer cover’s typography has been designed by the artist herself — based on Tangram puzzle shapes — and the pages were done by the artists she invited to participate in this collaborative work. The latter being pretty clear just by reading the flap of the outer cover. Finding out about the inspiration for the type made me appreciate it a bit more. The collaboration apparently also extended into the exhibition surrounding the publication, working together on shaping how the public experiences the work. The second volume was published through Raeder’s publishing house ‘Bom Dia Boa Tarde Boa Noite’.

I contacted Raeder, with regards to the missing page, who worked on Never Odd Or Even together with M.C.D. I was really happy to see that he was very quick to respond. However, he didn’t readily have the information on hand, so he told me he’d forward my question to some others.  I didn’t contact M.C.D., as she doesn’t seem to have any contact information freely available.

When I inspected some pictures from the Brno 2016 exhibition, I noticed that not only did they exhibit the first volume of the work, but that the missing cover was actually squarely visible.

mariana castillo deball, manuel raeder, et al. revolver publishing            61sqE1-vTPL._SX355_BO1,204,203,200_

 

After doing a bit of C.S.I.-style zooming and enhancing, the title of the page appears to be a comic-book cover, titled ‘Horny Biker Slut #11’. This quirky title and cartoon imagery could make sense of the reason why someone decided to steal it from my copy, however inexcusable it may be. But there is one thing a bit strange about this particular cover. When I googled it, it actually exists and you can purchase it from Amazon for $19.99 + shipping. The fact that this title actually exists in real life makes it different from all the other titles, creating a whole new question altogether.

By this time, Mrs Schryen (someone working for Studio Manuel Raeder) got back to me. She informed me that there were in fact two covers missing; the above mentioned Horny Biker Slut #11, as well as one titled ‘Manhole covers vanish in the night’, which looking back on the Brno pictures, was also squarely visible.

contacto         manholecovers

I previously stated the Horny Biker Slut #11 cover existed in real life, but in the full publication version you can see above, it looks to be collaged together with the 11th issue of ‘Contacto Sexual’ on the back and both flaps, and something called ‘Histoire Porno’ along the spine. The other cover appears to reference, word for word, an article from the Guardian, dating back to 2004.

The fact that there is a second cover missing from our library’s copy means that the two volumes seem to be inconsistent in their numbering. The first one doesn’t count the outside cover as a ‘page’ and the second one does.

Life is a competion

Never Odd Or Even at the Grimmuseum (2011)

The artists involved in this project don’t seem to be concerned with consistency, correctness, nor the concrete.

 

Graphic design and Museum Identity


Monday, February 6, 2017

The most interesting thing about the book I chose in the library: For Every Dog A Different Master [x] was oversized texts which were intolerable for me. I was very confused how to perceive the texts on the book which did not seem like texts because of illegibility. At the beginning I thought it has something to do with different cultural background, which is that moderation from the balance between negative and positive space is highly valued in life generally in Asia. However, soon I had to admit that graphic design no longer can be classified its style by borders.

Since I have researched about Radim Peško [x] who is, editorial, typeface designer as well as photographer combined, I gazed that texts could become images and be totally looking different with the other not only by its size and composition, but also typeface itself. There was no much things to get from his other books which were about his photographs so I made a research about typefaces that he designed. Furthermore, I wanted to know what kind of impacts typeface can have because I used to marginalize it.

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karl_nawrot3

Lÿon by Radim Peško and Karl Nawrot


Stedelijk Museum is one of my favorite museums in Amsterdam since I came to the Netherlands. Stedelijk Museum exhibits modern and contemporary art and design to give visitors insight in their connection between art and life reflecting social issues. The Logo of Stedelijk Museum caught my eyes at first glance because of its confusing flow. The font of the logo: Union designed by Radim Peško is simple without ornament. The design of logo by Mevis & Van Deursen is controversial due to its readability. However, I think it is clear enough to represent the identity of Stedelijk Museum symbolically. The shape of the S represents the dignified history of the Stedelijk Museum and vibrant atmosphere.

Stedelijk-Museum-Logo

Stedelijk Museum Logo

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Signage proposal

Usually logo reflects the value and direction that the brand pursues. Throughout research about many kind of logos, it was interesting to see how the image of the brand remains in memory by the logo. Also, I was intrigued to investigate conspicuous components in the logo design such as typeface. Union is a typeface which was designed by Radim Peško. Union was designed based on Helvetica and Arial.

 

Helvetica was designed in 1957 by Max Miedinger. Helvetica’s design is based on that of Akzidenz Grotesk (1896), and classified as a Grotesque or Transitional san serif face. Originally it was called Neue Haas Grotesque; in 1960 it was revised and renamed Helvetica (Latin for “Swiss”).

Arial was designed in 1982 by Robin Nicholas and Patricia Saunders for Monotype (not Microsoft), it’s classified as Neo Grotesque, was originally called Sonoran San Serif, and was designed for IBM’s bitmap font laser printers. It was first supplied with Windows 3.1 (1992) and was one of the core fonts in all subsequent versions of Windows until Vista, when to all intents and purposes, it was replaced with Calibri. [x]

In brief, these typefaces have something to do with their intended usage. Helvetica was designed for print, while Arial was designed for laser printers and then adapted for use on computers.

 

Normally Arial has been considered as an imitation of Helvetica although both have its own uniqueness by each delicate details that they have. Look at the below pictures. For instance, the terminals of the lowercase in Helvetica cut off straight while Arial’s is cut at an angle. Arial has blander appearance and Helvetica has an overall less rounded appearance and slightly higher waistline. Due to these trivial differences, Helvetica looks more elegant than Arial.

Radim Peško explained about this combination, “Union is intended for situations where Helvetica seems too sophisticated and Arial too vulgar, or vice versa.”. Eventually the new is evolved from the combination with the old. I think that the intention of Union implies the position of Stedelijk Museum.

Helvetica-and-Arial

Helvetica and Arial

Typeface Union

Union

Frequently graphic designers design typeface only for museum itself. Another examples for instance are: the identity for The Chicago Museum of Modern art (commissioned by the same designer duo Mevis & van Deursen and designed by Karl Nawrot) or Bauhaus-Archive Museum. Design studio L2M3 looked to the typeface Bayer Universal reflecting the heritage of Bauhaus typographical design designed by Herbert Bayer. Universal encapsulates the Bauhaus’ stark aesthetic by basic principle of typographic communication of Bauhaus,

1. Typography is shaped by functional requirements.

2. The aim of typographic layout is communication (for which it is the graphic medium).

3. For typography to serve social end, its ingredients need internal organization (ordered content) as well as external organization (the typographic material properly related).

Bauhaus-Dessau_main_building

BauhausA

Bauhaus and Universal

The interesting fact in design process of new identity of Bauhaus-Archive Museum: Bayer Next is that it retained originality but did not restrained its possibility. Sascha Lobe of design studio L2M3 [x] updated more than 555 glyphs and we see more than 10 different versions of each letters. The goal of Bayer Next [x], he says, was to create peculiarities within the typeface. This idea is contrasted with Bayer’s original ideal for simplifying typography down to a universal typeface as we see Bauhaus’ philosophy.

Bayer Next

Bayer Next

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Poster of Bauhaus-Archive Museum

I had thought this expansion and flexibility of identity does not give exquisite image of the brand in memory of public. However, good identity does not mean tangibility as a one certain figure. These examples, see below another example of Moscow Design Museum, are ubiquitous. This museum is based on Moscow but it is mainly imagined as a nomadic, pop-up museum. And, their identity was designed by Amsterdam-based Lava design studio [x]. The identity of Moscow Design Museum does not even emphasize its name to identify them but numerous and changeable icons for logo, which was inspired by Russian glass patterns. Good identity is adoptable for various applications and formations in digital society. Eventually typeface is recognized as one of the strong image although sometime they are not readable.

83813-mdm_05_posters-original-1365653025

bus

Moscow Design Museum

 

Katerina Sedá : for every dog a different master = kazdej pes jiná ves.. /Rietveld library catalogue no : sed 1

V&R … M&vD


Sunday, February 5, 2017

Frankly, when I read through the book-list, I could not find a book which made me feel interested just by the title. So I decide to walk through the library and choose.

IMGP0759-1024x685_Easy-Resize.com

The reason why I chose this specific book was its black smooth color cover with the dots typo, braille lookalike. It has caught my eye and wanted me to see and analyze its content. Page after page I began to realize there was a type of system that the designers, Armand Mevis and Linda van Deursen carried out. A designer makes choices. When it comes to book design, he or she is likely to decide on redaction, typography, grid system, editing, binding, format, print technique, paper quality and so on. The sum of these choices create a unified expression that tells us something. It can be a parallel language to that of the content of the book and it can be more or less emphasized and thought-out. Some would say it could even be devious in its intentions.

This is an exploration of a book of Viktor & Rolf, from a design perspective.

IMGP0760-1024x685_Easy-Resize.com

The cover consists of mat black thin board with the title in what looks like braille typography with dots which looks like sewing. The black cover folds in to almost full width of the very first and last page. I learn from the designer that this is a technical solution to add steadiness to the book.

It was published by Artimo in connection to Viktor and Rolf exhibition ANDAM. It is designed by the design office Mevis & Van Deursen. I interviewed Linda Van Deursen in connection to this essay to get further insights in the design choices and the conditions from which the book came to be.

IMGP0770-1024x685_Easy-Resize.com IMGP0765-1024x685_Easy-Resize.com

There’s an intriguing black colour inside the book in every page. This feature clearly communicates that it is a book mainly concerned with visual language or images. It resembles a visual preface or introduction to the book. The book has it owns signature, which is a brilliant manifestation of overlapping functions of the grid lines in the publication, categorizing the content by dots. Most of the paper types only occur in one single signature, this gives us a clue about the parallel function of the book.

I learn from that the book is a sort of material archive or assortment of papers of a specific kind. A rule that she set up for the book was that only two sided paper (meaning the paper has a different appearance on each side) of the type used in posters and envelopes (because they can’t be see through) were to be used. Not only does this create an intriguing visual and physical experience but it serves as a kind of metronome or conductor where the different surfaces of the paper are altered rhythmically but not predictably (you learn the rhythm and then it alters). This feature creates a playful element to the structure of the book. In addition to this, all rules seem to be broken at least a couple of times in the book which is a testimony to the sure instinct and playfulness of the designer.
I find out in every other pages, codes and images. This book doesn’t contain much text, except the references in the end of the book. cause there’s no text I started to take another good look at the repeating dot lines, placement and spacing of the images, composition and sizes of the images. I found out that any other collection has it’s own lay-out.

viktor-rolf-brand-profile-logo

Viktor & Rolf seal, designed by Mevis and van Deursen

For example the second collection in the book is mostly big pictures, mostly layered, the white dotted lines mostly separate the photo’s, but are black when most of the line is over another photo (with white collection photo’s). The fourth collection is only shown on all the right pages, left ones left black. The seventh has one big image per page, combined with a few miniatures. And so on. The repeating white lines always go together with the codes along side of them. There’s a code for every image on the page, therefore it’s always easy to look up what you’re looking at. It really feels like you have to follow this actual ‘timeline’ through the whole book. De pages with collection photos on them have a ‘C’-code, which stands for collection.

The rest of the images are pronounced with ‘NC’ which – duh – stands for ‘no collection’. These NC-works are basically all the other things they did, such as installations, perfumes and the photos they commercially used for promotion back in the days. All these NC pages have their own different lay-out too. When you go through the book at first, it may look really chaotic. If you slowly go through it from front to back, the way you are suppose to read it (timeline) it makes a lot more sense, because the changes in layout fit the changes in style and time of the collections.

9ca56d7e0772c9ef8a5cf7f235713378 E-Magazine-V&R

One other publication Mevis & van Deursen designed for Viktor & Rolf is the No.E Magazine as catalogue of Premiere Décenne at the Museé de la Mode et du Textile in Paris 2003/04 [x]. A publication reproducing all fashion magazine pages on V&R published to that date.
Around that same time (2005) Mevis & van Deursen published their own studio publication “Recollected Work” [x].

thisiswhatyouneed-892x1024_Easy-Resize.com

 

Viktor & Rolf : 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999. /Rietveld library catalogue no : 907.8 vik 1

Dynamic pages


Saturday, February 4, 2017

As soon as I opened Janet Cardiff’s The Walk Book in the Rietveld library, I knew I had found the book I was going to make my research on. There was not a single page that didn’t awake my curiosity on how the design had evolved.

The reason for this was the very dynamic and multidisciplinary design. Distinctive colors, shapes and placement of the content creates a chaotic and playful impression. Although you suspect the organized work behind it. Those responsible for this are the two designers, Thees Dohrn and Philipp von Rohden who shared the design agency Zitromat in Berlin. The later of which I had a chance to interview on a few points. I will share this with you as the text develops.

Let’s begin where the journey of the actual The Walk Book begins. It was initiated by a proposal from the art collector Francesca von Habsburg  to the artist in the early 2000’s. The hopes of von Habsburg were to enlighten many others to “the magical world behind Janet Cardiff, her creative talent, and vivid imagination”. She also says “Hopefully, it will reveal how she works in a playful, yet extremely serious manner (…)”.

For those who aren’t yet acquainted with Cardiff, let me give you a short introduction.

As this book investigates, she has created several video and audio walks. These are extraordinary works that allows the participant to experience a dualistic moment through the act of walking and continuously listening to her narrative. The act of walking unfolds the space along with the process of narration which creates both a corporeal and a visceral form of knowledge, as two intertwined levels of consciousness.

In my interview with Philipp von Rohden he shares with me that from the start the plan was only to make something like a small catalogue on approximately 120 pages for one of the “walks”, but as the actual result now shows it turned into a 345 page book.

One of the additions to the production was the artist’s own suggestion to turn the book into a walk itself. This is the reason for the cd on the cover. This inventive design allows even the front of the book to be dynamic, as another aspect of this multi-layered book.

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But it is not merely a cd that adds to the aesthetics of the book, the track-list introduces me, as the reader/walker to the book in a frisky way. It invites to a vivid insight into Cardiff’s work and welcomes you to approach the book in a non-linear fashion. The audio walk in itself makes the already expressive impression of the pages become even more alive. The book actually expands even outside the pages when brought along on a walk and your “real world” impressions become combined with the audio and the content of the book. Pictures appear almost animated and the content is even more appealing when you’re encouraged to dive into parts of the the material along with Cardiff herself. I start to detect the hidden codes for the different design layers. For example I notice differences in size and color of the text according to the different sounds or voices I hear.

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This brings me back to my research.

Perhaps it has already started to make more sense now that I’ve shared a little more on the actual subject of the book, and how she expresses herself. Fact is, that when I ask what is the organizational guideline behind this very expressive design I’m told that they based their inspiration on Cardiff’s own working process.

She works by collecting fragments and combining them to art pieces. Sounds, pictures, words. And this notion of collecting fragments is what initiated the design. A clear example is the special typeface used on the cover and also on titles inside the book. These characters were set up especially for this book and were created by finding typography elements and then combining them. Collecting fragments.

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Another design element inspired by the work process of the subject herself are the yellow highlighted words continuously occurring in the text, smaller sized sentences in between the lines in the middle of a text and the little arrows leading the reader away from the columns to imbibe some extra information that could be useful for understanding the text.

These features are not just there by chance, they are inspired by Cardiff’s own notes, which are actually embedded in the book as well in their full pride on pages 54-61 for example.

notes

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The result were these playful pages that by constant interruption prevent a traditional reading experience. Von Rohden comments on the way Cardiff highlights certain pieces of her notes, crosses out and adds words to the texts in between the lines, “is it just a comment? Is it important or not?” he asks rhetorically. This process is clearly applied to the design of the book and I think it’s fun to be invited to see the connection.

Further, I’m informed that they had 6 content layers when designing the book.

For example my suspicions when experiencing the walk are confirmed:

Cardiff’s voice is always blue,

and a little bit bigger

than the author Miriam Schaub’s texts that are black and seem regular sized in comparison. Another layer example are the pages in the back of the book that contains writings from exterior curators and are drained in a yellow color to divide them from the rest of the content.

yellow

Other genuine elements in this book that the artist herself is particularly happy about are the fold out pages to show the actual audio editing. Among other things, she also mentions the photos that are simply thrown into the book, detached so that you easily can hold them up in front of you when you experience the walk that’s included. I agree with her that these relatively rare book design elements definitely contribute to the exciting impression of this book.

The project went on for ca 2 years and the design process was short and difficult, described as a nightmare by von Rohden. But that doesn’t change the fact that he feels it was an honor to be a part of a project like this, and that it is rewarding to see that the book still seems to have some relevance after more than a decade.

I’m happy I got acquainted with this book, the artist and the design methods. Brought upon much inspiration for the future.

Thank you to Philipp von Rohden and Janet Cardiff for sharing your thoughts and knowledge about this book.

 

The Walk Book /Rietveld library catalogue no : card 1

A Seer Reader


Thursday, February 2, 2017

 

I was trying to find a book in the library with a design which excited me; something I’d like to write about. I chose to pick up A Seer Reader for the assertive, bold cover design it boasted. By using red, white and black, the colour contrast is stark, the combination connoting power. The font type replicates typical, 70’s typography, with its sweeping thickness and curvy motion; it asserts a confidence. A shallow indent delicately engraves ‘A Seer Reader’, indicating the importance of the books title, over the authors name. The ‘A’ starting the title, leads a triangular shape centering attention to the middle of the page. Every element to the cover designed by Zack Group, makes for an eye-catching, attention-grabbing book. The cover enticed me to open the book, and discover what inspired me to chose A Seer Reader for my investigation on design. Surprisingly my analysis wasn’t the result of my initial drawing to the cover, (and therefore comes without credit to the books designer,) but moreover to the author, Ed Atkins.

 

I discovered that every page of the A Seer Reader was adorned with dancing doodles; playful, printed, pen-style drawings dangle from the words, interrupt the verses and sulk in the far corners of the pages. There are tiny squiggles, illustrations, and symbols referencing or resembling punctuation. The doodles appeared to me, to specifically elude each poem with unique visual imagery. I decided I’d like to discover why they were designed in the way they are. I’ll investigate the context the book is published within, and therefore the content of A Seer Reader. Focusing on the style of the font used for the doodles, their arrangement on the page, and the choice of imagery, I’ll analyze specific examples from the book in attempt to explain why the doodles are designed in this way.

A Seer Reader was published for Ed Aitkin’s solo exhibition in Serpentine Gallery during 2014. Working predominantly with video and language, Ed Atkin’s visual art is inspired by the poetry he wrote for A Seer Reader. Ed atkin’s solo at Serpentine consisting of sound works, text instillation and images revolves around a multi-screen video instillation named Ribbons, where Atkins attempts to emphasise questions concerning the relationship between real life and virtual concepts, objects and environments. He explains that his videos are a ‘…kind of poetry of their own’.’ ‘…interested in previously literary-theoretical concerns about seeing and reading, interpretation of metaphor, figuration and literality.’ He uses CGI to literalise what was once only possible in metaphor.

In Ribbons he creates a surrogate character resembling his own physical appearance in a haunting online replication of a life. Atkins intends to ‘re embody’ himself as a possibility of what we may become in an paradoxical way of spreading a message that we need to focus on developing a more powerful mortal life. Through this high tech HD animation he ironically uses his medium to do exactly the opposite by creating a virtual world.

The character developed by Atkins is a young white male, wearing a bald
head and an action man body adorned with tattoos, he has a habit for drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes. His appearance and his humanly habits reflect somebody stereotypically disapproved of, in today’s society. Atkin’s concern for the world we exist within, is evident in the design of the tattoos enscribed on the skin of his surrogate, Dave. Desperate phrases like ‘love please’ and ‘bankrupt’ are scrawled onto his skin to illustrate his story of conflict. They physically demonstrate the feelings Dave would have as a human, but as a virtual delegate, his being is absent from. On his skin; they’re positioned outside the human nervous system. I think this indicates a detachment from the animations human intimacy with himself.
After studying the videos Atkins produced for his solo exhibition, I noticed similarities in style between the doodles illustrating A Seer Reader, and the tattoo’s scrawled on Dave’s skin. It now became evident to me, that considering the importance of what the drawings suggest in his video work, the way they are designed in A Seer Reader will also have a special significance to the ideas Atkins questions in his work.

I’m curious as to why the doodles appear in the font style they do. They are printed on the paper in a scrawly handwriting in a biro or sometimes with a bold marker


fixed page

The independent, physical and primally instinctive movement of writing with a pen in ones hand, is raw and natural to the intellectual human being society knows today. Atkin’s uses the soon disappearing practice of writing by hand, to convey the humanly emotions of himself, or anybody in our society today, onto the virtual future we face (the skin of Dave). Therefore the font design that distinguishes the poetry in A Seer Reader, from the handwriting doodles can be compared to the contrast between Daves cgi skin and his tattoos.

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The poetry is written in a serif font type, commonly used in literature of today, its appropriate for clear messages to encourage the reader to focus on the content of text. It may be used to help develop the trust of the modern target audience, which is important if they are to value Atkins’ poems as high literature. By choosing a serif font which was developed digitally, Atkins paradoxically hints at what the digital world has already done to change the way our brains work, to raise questions regarding our future and technology. There is a confident, official level of professionalism created by digitally produced font, totally un-emotionless and un-personal for the reader of today. Its in these respects that the I relate the choice of serif font to Atkins virtual surrogate replica of a human. Both the poetry in sensible, digital serif font and the pinky rendered skin of the CGI Dave is tormented whilst illustrated by a real humans handwriting scribbles. The choice for handwriting therefore poses a conflict between some of the characteristic, fundamental elements of human development regarding language in the mortal world, (a practice at threat of,) the human’s of our virtual future; a product of our current society.

By using handwriting the design of the doodles appears uniquely personal; autobiographical. Atkins uses his own style of taking notes to project his personal concerns with society onto his surrogate; he plays with his ego, flipping himself into his virtual identity blanketed by his naked, surplus and mortal emotions Through his CGI in Ribbons. In A Seer Reader the intimacy created between the reader and Atkins, through his use of highly personal handwriting, implies the doodles are like entries to a diary, personal thoughts belonging to the artist. The doodles style in handwriting therefore allows us to understand Atkin’s truly distressed feelings towards our existence in the future he insights, in the mostly raw, open and honest way.

A consolidation thoughts form from Atkin’s head; the handwriting translates a universal language of emotion, in how each word is formed from the authors hand to the paper. The handwriting helps to illustrate Atkin’s feelings as he writes, and emotionally connects with each specific word. For example on page 92 of A Seer Reader, Atkins poem stabs at capitalism and using a current slang, (another characteristic typical to a human of our time,) he makes a metaphor for our choking industries; ‘butthole’.

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He illustrates with a pencil sketch of a butthole, labelled with more slang; ‘hey’. He adopts a loose, scrawly joined up handwriting to do so. It feels fluid, creating a casual, relaxed visual effect which allows the readers feel comfortable to laugh, as he playfully mocks the sincerity behind his poetry. By contrast the choice in design regarding capital letters, a larger size font to the majority of the doodles and sharp points determining the end of letters, suggest aesthetics which relate to an irrational state of urgent, abrasive, human panic.

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Page 103 in the handwriting ‘DONT DIE.’

Capital letters accentuate importance, taught in the grammar of the languages in our society, showing Atkin’s thoughts which should shout from the page. These features of the handwriting style show how Ed Atkin’s conveys different emotions through the doodles design, he plays with his readers to elude how he feels as the artist.

The design regarding the placement of the illustrations on each page and they’re relationship with the text arrangement is also of interest to me. The doodles are very specifically positioned, creating a new design and rendering a unique layout on each page. The notes are cheerful, their haphazardness and impermanence in position creates a youthful energy of its own. Many harass the text, dangling from the words, interrupting them like a vandalised high school text book decorated by an excited teenage rule-breaker. Upon flicking through the book I think Atkins creates a chaotic feel with the arrangement of the doodles. Maybe he does this in an attempt to question the power which our mortal life (represented by the emotive tattoos / doodles he writes by hand,) has, over the possibility of a virtual future (what his poetry represents). An issue presently discussed within his poetry, as well as what he represents with his surrogate Dave in Ribbons. Chaos raises concern to me, and suggests Atkins might be trying to raise awareness of his issues with the future and society today, through fear.

On some pages it appears the design regarding the placement of doodles serves purely for illustrational purposes. For example on page 86 a smiley mouth and a big floppy tongue curve and grin around the word ‘mouth.’

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The positioning of the doodle presents a clear visual anecdote of the text, as its placed directly next to the words, the reader sees them together creating imagery. The poem on page 94 begins with ‘down the line.’ Directly beneath at the end of the poem and the lowest point on the page is an illustration of 9 arrows pointing downwards.

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Again this provides a clear illustration of the text, but it also speaks of itself and the symbol is close to the bottom of the page, it feels they are going down as well as ‘being’ ‘down’.

I’m curious to understand if there is a relationship between the way the doodles are used for illustrational purposes which seem therefore to be in harmony with the poetry, and the concepts which lie behind Atkins exhibition at serpentine which A Seer Reader was published for. Despite the chaos of the doodles, and the lively energy they carry as they appear in different places for each poem, they do help the reader take their imagination further in their illustrative quality. If the handwriting doodles refer to issues regarding mortal life, and the poetry talks on the concern for the virtual future, then Atkins could be showing the bond between the illustrations of his thoughts, and his poetry. As one where he symbolizes how mortal life still has power to change the effect of the virtual world or what is to be of the future, as the illustrations aid the text.

The discourse structure (involving the positioning of illustrations with relation to the poetry,) may be designed as it is in A Seer Reader to give stage directions to the reader. It creates a similar discourse structure within the poem to that of a script. On page 46 Atkins places the handwriting scribble ‘nausea,’ in a new verse, in line with the direction the poem would be read in.

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Atkins allows these direct assertions of feelings to stand as lines by theirselves. They appear significant and with a different font (in scrawny pen,) they contrast to the rest of the poem, they work as powerful instructions. With their own space they order the reader to feel something. They also give relief to the poetry; a breath between verses to give time for the reader to reflect, to feel, before continuing to read. When looking at page 99 a short, six line poem is centred to the left of the page, so the text lays closest the core of the book.

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A poem which torments human’s obsession with eschatology, with disregard and humour. A slap-stick illustration of a hand, labelled ‘swallow,’ underneath, sits directly in line with the verses on the opposite side of the page. Aligned with the poem on a vertical axis, its clear the text and illustration are to be read one after the other; they have a connection, although they are separate because they imply a direction; a change of action. The illustration is cut right to the edge of the paper, giving the impression there is something to reveal on the next page. Its likely that after reading this grave poem, which makes dark humour about the possibilities of our future, the space allows the text and the reader to breathe. I think Atkins wants the reader to digest the words of this poem, look to the right and ‘move on,’ indicated by the encouraging instruction of a pointing finger to turn the page. In this case the positioning of the doodles may be used as a order to feel an emotion like a stage direction, or to initiate a direction.

Some doodles intimately relate to words in the poems. On page 57 a bold marker is used to underline the final verse in the poem, this draws attention to it and marks the line with importance.

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On page 30, the two opening words, which start verses following each other, are connected with a squiggle.

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When joined they spell the phrase ‘the something.’ Making a new verse within the poem. This statement also exists on the page now without relation to its context in the poem without the joining squiggle. This draws emphasis to the phrase and creates layers within the poetry.

In some cases the positioning of the handwriting squiggles make them a part of the poem, although they contribute letters in a different style to the rest of the poetry in its serif font. On page 67 the poem begins using letters O the handwriting style, to begin the first words of following verses.

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The size of the squiggly letter is obese to the rest of the text, it helps to compose a bold and grand opening word. This is a common design in a lot of literature, Atkins makes a reference to it in his own style in an impish attempt to add intellectual value to his poetry through his page design. The choice to have these in the doodle style instead of the serif font refers to the power the doodles have over the poetry on the page, as they refer to the dying practice of handwriting as a symbol signature of our mortal lives in society today.
I’d like to find out why Atkins chose to use this specific imagery, for his doodles. Many of the symbols he uses look similar to punctuation, commas, full stops, brackets. His choice to use marks in A Seer Reader and for the tattoos in his video, which are similar to punctuation, gives a further clue that not only the handwriting is being used as a symbol of our mortal life today. There are other reoccurring themes within his imagery, including hands, eyes, penis’ and delicately sketched vaginas. All parts of the human body. Atkins decision to design his illustrations using this imagery, again, references mortal
life and current society which he discusses along with his thoughts about the future in his poetry.

By investigating Ed Atkins process as an artist, focussing primarily on his exhibition at Serpentine Gallery 2014, and more specifically the video work Ribbons, I have come to various conclusions about why the doodles which intrigued me into investigating the design of A Seer Reader, are designed in the way they are. The handwriting style the doodles are written in, connotes natural human thought patterns, unstable emotions and ultimately the questions the author presents. Handwriting also serves as a symbol for language and writing in which could represent the typical medium used and developed throughout our human age. It therefore creates a tension with the computer generated font type used for the poetry, which might suggest the virtual future which Atkins discusses, as a running theme to his work. The doodles appear in totally different positions throughout the book, on each page. I therefore discovered various different reasons for the design of their arrangement. They can be placed intimately within contact of the poems, to draw attention to specific words or phrases, or to illustrate an idea directly which shows how human knowledge can still be useful for bettering the future, when considering the broader context of his practice. They can be placed in a location on the page which will give a direction to read in or indicate that one should stop reading to feel something. The placement of the doodles when they create letters which integrate directly with the poem, connate high literature as Atkins desires his writings to be read with sincerity as he discusses deep issues surrounding our society and regarding the future. Finally the chaotic feel created by the different placement of doodles on each page questions the urgency of the issues the handwriting stands for; the mortal world and its conflict with the virtual world of the future. To end my investigation I discovered that the imagery Atkins uses in the design of his doodles references English punctuation, and the human body. Again it links directly with his exhibition and his proposal of questions regarding our existence in the society we live in today, and its relation with the virtual future.

Not how but why it’s been made like this


Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Designed by COMA (a Dutch graphic design team working in Amsterdam and NYC)

Why ? First impression

Because of the colors. The weight. The shape of the cover. The transparent papers inside. The size of it. Maybe also because it looks like the books my mother used to have and read when I was little.

 

Why ? The object itself

hella copie

Physical aspect

Facing it, the object is shiny, composed of a large not centered title, a long and wide color picture placed horizontally in the middle and a silvery text at the bottom. The object looks humble, not pretentious. You easily guess it’s about a woman but the only thing you can see is male bodies holding red vases. The object wants to be complicated. By framing it’s cover with lines neither the text nor the picture are following, the object seems in a paradoxical state, containing without holding, focusing while spreading.

The object seems to feel comfortable on a table, it adapts to its surrounding. When you get in contact with it, it’s mostly homogeneous cold. At one point, the object asks to be touched further more.

After a week, the object seemed to reject the room I gave it on the floor. The colors of the book didn’t agree with the contact of the blue lino my room is filled with.

d5

Many try outs showed that the object is not cooperating with any of my pockets which made me think that it’s not the type of object you can easily bring with you. Maybe it doesn’t want to be shared.

The investigation on the book and its environment led to the idea that design make an object belong to a place. A shape could apply to many structures. For this case, I could say that the addition of the table and the hands are comfortable for both the user and the book.

It felt like the design of this book is a communication between vanishing in its environment (this conclusion came with experimenting the book placed next to the toilets for few hours) and being dedicated to a specific situation (open on a 75cm height table, in contact with both glances and hands).

 

illudesign

Why ? What does the contact of this designed book to a non-designer person ?

 

Non-Designer Person (NDP) : It’s a book.

Hypothetical Designer Person (HDP) : Yes. Can you guess how it was made ?

NDP : It has a blue wire that connects all the pages and the cupboard cover, so I guess it was industrially sewn. The pages are smaller than the cover.

HDP : Do you feel any rhythm in the layouts ?

NDP : Yeah, you can feel a harmony in the structure and links between texts and pictures. Sometimes the presentation wants to show an evolution, the composition is a bit repetitive. Maybe because of the grey frames that are always at the same place on each page.

HDP : How many colors do you see ?

NDP : Six. Blue, red, grey, black, yellow and white.

HDP : What do you think the colors are based on ?

NDP : I guess that the pictures taken for the book were inspiring for the designers, so the colors must belong to the topic.

HDP : How can design tell something without any words ?

NDP : In this case, you can follow a conversation between how the images and the texts are placed. There are smaller and bigger images, just like the text. The parallel is made by the composition and the sizes.

HDP : Without knowing what the book is about, can you guess the subject ?

NDP : The rhythm of the book is carried with transparent mat papers,  dividing the object in multiple parts. It feels like your are transported from a place to another in a spatial way. You also feel that the positions of the pictures are showing an evolution. As if the book is built through its topic.

HDP : Now that you wondered how esthetic can lead your glance, how do you meet the content ?

NDP : Content can be shown in so many ways. You can say something, and act in a way that says something else. Opening a book that you find esthetic, a book that attracts you and, then, realize that the content is disappointing, you feel like you’ve been cheated. Esthetics can fool you, because design is the structure of the content, it’s what make the content accessible.

HDP : How would you apply these ideas to this specific book ?

NDP : This book lied to me in a way. Because I felt like the content wasn’t worth the design.

 

Why ? How to meet a book without reading it ?

 Defining taste, instinct and anticipation

 

Either you hide your eyes, or you empty your brain.

The first part of the book that you notice is the spine, which is always trying to attract you. Showing all the information you need. Since I have to focus on the object, I blurred my vision to only see color spots on the shelves of the library. What is easily attractive to me is simplicity.

But then, the question that comes to me immediately is « How design can please me and others ? How can a designer can discuss beauty and attraction ? How to anticipate the singular tastes of people ? »

My instinct led me to this book in its visual aspect, and what I define as beauty could lead me to another interest, the topic. Beauty or visual statements can be the link to knowledge. It’s just like meeting someone in a club. First of all, you’re attracted by the spine, then by the cover, and, finally, by what’s inside (if you dare opening). Design is maybe about meeting an appearance to then go further, what makes you want to understand the attraction of what we define as « beauty ».

I’d say that design is the body while content is the mind. As your esthetic cannot please everyone, your mind is flexible, and the information you can get in a book won’t ever sound the same. Both esthetic and content can evolve but the link between how you show and what you show always works as parallel.

In fact, the book says something. The way you edit a book makes the object a story on its own. When you see the evolution of the images and the process Hella is going through, the discussion bellow the pictures emphasize this specific process. While the project is getting bigger, the information on the book are moving. Even though I feel like the book has a repetitive aspect, the pictures taken by Joke Robaard are a link between the content and the visual aspect. Esthetic is built but content is the starting point, so that’s when design has to adapt.

« [Maybe] Graphic Design will need to become a part of the thing and not the thing itself »

Michael Bojkowski

 

What seems interesting, reading back the first impressions I had, is that Graphic Design evolves with technologies. To me, this book can stand for a specific time of the book’s History (the 00’s) as Michael Bojkowski made me realize, questioning « Why graphic design ? ».

Hella Jongerius by Hella Jongerius / Rietveld library catalogue no : jonger 1

Communication / Expression


Sunday, January 29, 2017

"daled collection" cover

This is a book I choose from the library.

I find books very beautiful, both as reading material, but also simply as design objects. What got my attention when I chose this book is the very noticeable yellow paper band around it, with a line of cut out text over it. This creates two overlapping layers of text, which I find an intriguing choice both because of the unusual amount of text appearing on the cover and because of the confusing effect it generates.

Anyway, the book itself is actually simply a catalogue, yes, nicely organised and curated, but still just a very simple catalogue like many others, illustrating an art collection and describing it’s value.

The designer is Walter Nikkels [x], a rather well known dutch typographer based in Dordrecht. He had a very broad career, even winning two prizes for his work as a designer. He curated many books and catalogues, worked as a graphic designer for Stedelijk museum, but also curated several exhibitions and did the interiors for Museum Kurhaus Kleve.[x]

As I was researching him, I found that in 2013 he published a book called “Walter Nikkels: Typography: Depicted [x]” written and designed in collaboration with graphic designer Wigger Bierma, who actually taught at Rietveld until a few years ago. It is a chronological survey of Nikkels’ work trough images, a sort of dictionary of his visual voice.

Graphic design is a language that uses elements like typography, colour, composition and paper kind, to communicate information visually.

Each graphic designer develops a style during their career, and in a way, it becomes a personal voice. Sure, it’s usually very much related to the aesthetics of the historical context the designer is working in, there will always be a ruling combination of colours or the particularly popular font of the moment, but I think what makes a very good graphic designer, is the ability to develop a personality that makes his work recognisable and unique, but without becoming overly repetitive (and therefore boring).

Walter Nikkels worked mainly on museum catalogues, it’s very important to him for the content of the books to be neat and legible to the reader. In the Daled collection catalogue I borrowed from the library his attention to the balance and to highlighting the value of each image and art piece featured in the book is particularly evident.

He treats graphic design like architecture, the page like a vast blank space where elements are organised to give meaning and importance to the content, like art pieces in a museum. There is a great sense of rhythm in his work, and a great sense of silence, reached through colour, composition and most importantly, typography combinations.

couplet 5 card

 

“Couplet 5” Invitation card design (for Stedelijk museum 1995)

Vertical composition – The word couplet is divided in its two syllabs (cou – plet) written on two separate but parallel columns. Number 5 appears in the first one to balance the symmetry, maybe confusing the reader at first, but “couplet” is written in blue and orange letters (in contrast to the black number) guiding the reader’s eyes through the word.

Interesting in particular, even though hardly noticeable, is the difference in typography between the columns, the first one bearing text in regular style, as a pose to the second one in italic.

barnett newmann  notes

Catalog “Barnett Newman Notes” 1993

Use of vertical composition appears again – and, again, a peculiar orientation of text – to make a separation between the name of the artist ( Barnett Newman) and the book content (notes), while keeping the two together in the same composition.

 

 

schwitters

 

“Ich ist Silent” catalog, 2000

Once again a very simple, regular, geometric composition – Once again the variation of  typography (in this case spacing between characters and size) to maintain a certain composition 

 

It’s a form of graphic design that may not appear as very creative, in the sense that it’s mainly driven by practical purpose of clarity. I mean, there are many ways of treating the content of a book by making it more playful, while still keeping it very easily understandable.

Nikkels’ style definitely belongs to a more traditional kind of graphic design, focused on the meticulous search for the right balance in elements such as: the dialogue between text and image, the overlapping of different layers of text (like, as I mentioned before, on the cover of the Daled collection book), the choice of typos combinations and colours, the relevance of the background, composition, spacing, size, proportion and more.

However I think one defines balance for him/her self.
I mean, of course there are composition rules that one can’t ignore because they are shaped on the way we process visual input by nature, but balance doesn’t necessarily mean neat, and this took me a while to understand and accept.
I always just assumed that Walter Nikkels’ way, was the only way, because it makes sense, but I figured, it just really depends on one’s purpose at the end of the day.

By understanding balance and the rules of composition a graphic designer develops a “handwriting”. Manipulating and experimenting with the possibilities they offer, just like pretty much everything the art world. And this also made me think of the fine line there is between art and design. How personal can graphic design become before it is considered a form of expressive art?

But –
maybe it doesn’t make sense to separate the two anyway.

Everyone has an innate individual way of visualising words on paper. It’s in the way one writes notes or thoughts on a sketchbook, even. We are naturally inclined to express ourselves visually and this visual language is universally understandable no matter how personal it is. Graphic designers communicate information, as well as expressing themselves through their work.

And even Walter Nikkels. He filled a whole book depicting his graphic vocabulary, maybe a bit cold and hardly “expressive” in the strict sense of the word, but his style still features elements reflecting his individual personality, otherwise he wouldn’t have had a point in making the book in the first place.

 

Daled : a bit of matter and a little bit more : the collection and archives of Herman and Nicole Daled, 1966-1978. /Rietveld library catalogue no : 700.5 dal 1

 

Walter Nikkels Depicted /Rietveld library catalogue no : 757.3 nik 1

Buy Buy Buy + Lessons in the Capitalized Art Scene


Sunday, January 29, 2017

I was attracted to the book. My desire was driven by the tangibility of its opening mechanism. So simple yet so satisfying to open the binder. Almost a modern take on a grand old anglo-saxon book binding tradition, all that it almost needed was a royal institutional stamp in wax, now just to let me break the seal.

Akademie X: Lessons in art + life

Attractive and seducing in its simplicity. The binder hits your tangible senses immidiately.

When first Akademie X lessons in art + life was opened, it contained a colorful index, for some reason I was drawn by its strict composition of its bars of pastel color, most likely because I am a long lost lover of chaotic mess and dynamic colors and these strict lines grabbed my attention as the opposite to my immediate visual desire. But also the paper-texture of the front cover was very rough, it gives a good balance between the soft pastel colors and the rough paper. It creates tension somehow.

Akademie X - Index

Akademie X - Index has a beautiful scale and the paper quality immidiately catches your attention.

I continued in my discovery of the book and was drawn by the interesting format, that the content was organized in. The complete book is a collection of educational looking, enlightening content. The content are various contributions from artists all together forming the fictional institution “akademie x”, the worlds first akademie without the boundaries of a physical institution. It is a collection of thoughts and exercises and light guidance in how to live a (healthy) creative life. On the back of the book it states; “This inspirational and practical guide on how to live a creative life has been devised by the world’s most thought-provoking artists + writers.” The content of the book differs from each other, every chapter is a contribution written by a specific artist. Additional to this, each contribution is supplied with a small section of photos of each artists major works. Because of the contributive element, each chapter has a different formatting (or more precisely; the formatting intended by the artist has been left untouched perhaps).Graphic Designer and Art Director Julia Hastings who has designed the book, has created the complete book in a beautiful colorful grid. Within this grid all artist contributions are placed centered in a white frame. The white frame has the rough rectangular dimensions reminding of an A4 xerox, which gives the intentional A4 feeling as well. Furthermore on some of the sections the A4 xerox has been added “archival holes” to give it the feel of an archived xerox paper.

Akademie X - Xerox Representation

Akademie X - Xerox representation; but is it authentic when its computer generated?

But it somehow questions me if it creates a dishonest feel however? Does the computerized graphic representation any good for the book, or should it have been a real scanned xerox, ugly and crumbled as it could be? But in fact perhaps giving it a more honest representation. The important graphical design take is the grid surrounding the imaginary A4 xerox.

Just like the notion that a digital music album of today, still necessarily have to be released in square dimensions. It tricks a conservative notion in us that the dimensionalized representation of an A4 (or the square music album) is giving the book (or music) authenticity, wereas the xerox scan might have created a messy output but more authentic representation. And perhaps a more real feel and less “anti-commercial” commercial look? Because is this book basically commercialized authenticity? What story does it tell?

That sets me into another troubling chain of thoughts. Researching upon the publisher made under the publishing house Phaidon; after browsing through the catalog of publishings it was easy to spot the certain anti-commercial yet commercial grip that is intended for the viewer. It is made pretty, just as mentioned above with the non-authentic A4 xerox. The quality of the paper is a little thicker than a regular 80g/m3 A4 inkjet paper, yet the paper texture is the same as a regular 80g A4.

Courier_New_2017

The hipocrisy of the post-digitalized world permeates the art world, authenticity will be absend during the next decades.

The heavily intended “courier new” layout font catches exactly the hungering market-ready segments of art students, intellectual art lovers and participants in the game of academic thinking, promising us the authentic experience for the flashing dazzling price of only 29,95 EUR. Nevertheless we are victims of todays best commercialized marketing-weapon: capitalized user experience (or experience economy). We are quickly dwelled into the narrative of “authenticity”. You, me and everybody remotely interested in capturing the “anti-neo-capitalized” authenticity which doesn’t exist in the western world anymore in my opinion. These fleeting moments of absolute truth is in fact just a marketed salesmen’s narration. You are not even aware of the fact, that it is a product you are buying yet. Courier-fonts and rough textured high-quality paper, lead their perceiving way, persuades you to think it is as real as what you handwrite yourself. The undecided white pages and lack of commercialized layout-settings makes you think you have a nice little treasure of undisturbed authenticity. Every word spelled out in the art worlds best authentic-yet-commercial-friend “courier new” makes you accept the narrative that this is not a commercial book, but a guiding collection of fine arts academy notes taken directly from the worlds best mentors and professors. Bring in Harry Potter’s Tom Riddle and his soul-sucking diary of truth. “This book will learn you to live a healthy creative life” could be the salesmen-slogan spelled out on the front cover, but then it would probably attract the silicon-valley entrepreneural segment (and not the intended in-crowd from the contemporary art scene).

In 1999 the american authors and economists B. Joseph Pine and James H. Gilmore wrote a book named “Experience Economy” and already in 1998, Pine and Gilmore wrote an article in Harvard Business Review stating “Welcome to the Experience Economy” proclaiming a new era of capitalized business models [X], based upon the design of experiences ultimately leading to excessive brand-value. This economic understanding permeates todays music industry, art scene and creative industries for good or for worse. In terms of the art world it dilutes the honesty and blurres the vision.

The most famous example was the capitalized Starbucks coffee experience.

The Starbucks coffee experience states that buying a cup of coffee from 2 cafés (a non-branded café and the other from starbucks), has the same given production rate, that the brew of beans costs for both cafés. Now the experience of coffee is what you are buying, that includes brand-value and the sub-cultural element of being a part of something, a community of coffee-lovers. You are an expert for the dazzling price of 10 EUR at Starbucks.

The most important element in this example is also the birth of anti-culture that automatically are created. More precisely put; counter-cultures to the specific structures, which automatically appears. The experience economist and marketing director’s supreme job, is then to capitalize it well too! In best case without you even noticing that you are being sold a new “counter-culture” product. So relax fellow art student, you are consuming capitalized products without even noticing it, the more awareness of your normcore behavior you spread the sharper your marketed profile gets.

Normcore understood as the counter-culture developed in the fashion industry as a counter-culture to the posh stylized look of the 2000’s. Normcore became the unpretentious, normal-looking phenomenon working against the same industry during the 2010’s. However, it was developed within the industry by the industry nevertheless, it’s just as transgressive [X] as the commercial fashion-culture it developed itself from, capitalized “hide-and-seek” in it’s purest form, now happening faster than ever before (or is it slower than ever before?).

Which leads to my dystopic conclusion; that the book (red. Akademie X) is a very well designed output of capitalized experience design – and values, wrapped into a nice little narrative about contemporary cultural succes.

Courier_New_2017_2

“If you buy this book, you will learn the basic steps in the secret language of contemporary art!”

You are perceived to buy the commercial starbucks coffee, disguised as an easy looking authentic cardboard cup of joe, with courier new fonts written all over the dark brown fair-trade cup full of promising brew.

“An artist should not make himself into an idol” is one of the commandments that the book states, even though the complete list of artistic contributors have been idolized and later on capitalized by thousands of museums, gallerists, art students, artists, intellectuals and academics worldwide. And no harms done by that, if you don’t take the cultural commandments for granted or listen to them.

But the western contemporary cultures excessive authenticity-hunt is full of hypocrisy in our post-digitalized, yet soon to be automated, world. We are soon based upon digital systems designs that are dictated by the linear neo-capitalistic ideologies. We just don’t want to admit it yet.

Now go out and write some more creative commandments and cultural stigmated dogmas with New Courier fonts.

We will need these statements to understand the hypocrit-era that we truly live in today.

 

Akademie X : lessons in art + life /Rietveld library catalogue no : 700.8 mor 1

 

External Book References:

  • Various Authors (2015) Akademie X: Lessons in art + life, Phaidon Press, London 2015, Printed in China

  • Pine, J. and Gilmore, J. (1999) The Experience Economy, Harvard Business School Press, Boston, 1999.

Transitions – from autonomous to applied arts


Sunday, January 29, 2017

A line, a letter, a page, a building, a photo, a book – separate stages that can either stand by themselves or remain transitioning points while executing somebody’s vision. It is common that an artist starts one’s creative process with making a sketch or writing down a sentence that popped out in the head, though, later on this idea might get a completely unexpected appearance. After the piece is created it will most likely be documented in a book, that sometimes serves as an autonomous work. Therefore, it is important to choose a right graphic designer to collaborate together for this process.

 

For my design research, I have decided to look into Alon Levin’s designed book ‘De Paviljoens: Journal of a Building 1992-2004’ that is a documentation of the former contemporary art pavilion in Almere.

 

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virselis

According to the Artistic Managing Director of the Museum De Paviljoens, Macha Roesink, the aim of this book was to expose the complexity of building such as De Paviljoens and document the history in a case study of the life of a building, in the form of a journal composed of accounts by many of the people who have been involved.

 

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Museum De Paviljoens

 

The building is transportable, like the ultimate kit, but it is standardized to meet building regulations. Documenting it in a book clearly makes it even more handy. I think it was not accidental that Alon Levin was invited to design the book as he himself works transiting from fine arts to design. To understand the concept of his way of working, it is important to look at his other projects.

 

In A. Levin’s book ‘Things Contemporary’ published by Dexter Sinister & Alon Levin, 2009 he talks about his interest in man’s eternal pursuit of order; not the ideal of order, which renders things absolute, resolve and static, but in the actual process of organizing things, which inevitably falls short. Artist takes up forms such as the triumphal arch, the victorious podium, or the Ferris wheel, and translates them into model-like wooden constructions and plaster forms reminiscent of the model. It creates images for the ambiguity of success and failure, for the instability of ideological, economic and scientific systems. Analogous to the accumulation and formation of knowledge in the “free encyclopedia” Wikipedia also Levin prefers, when he reused, deconstructed or repeated individual elements of his own works. Data, buildings and documents appear as moving building blocks in a constantly transforming and updating view of the world. To process this information, he uses charts, diagrams and transforms his knowledge into abstract geometrical shapes that later become sculptures or installations. Space-grabbing constructions from simple materials available in the construction market are based on the exploration of the technical and architectural achievements of the Western world and their significance for contemporary society.

 

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Things Contemporary published by Dexter Sinister & Alon Levin, 2009
 

Even though, it seems Alon Levin himself does not see switching from graphic design to fine arts as transitioning, I was curious to find out when and how do these two spheres meet. His pieces and texts are based on invoke either the incalculably large or the immeasurably small, hence the mathematical sublime, the way in which they thematise structure and collapse points. Using the design made for ‘De Paviljoens: Journal of a Building 1992-2004’ and photos of various installations I tried to create some ‘systems’ that could represent their ‘shape’. I discovered he used three sizes for the font, therefore a zigzag in my drawings representing ‘text’ in the book is in three different sizes. Considering purified and structured shapes he applies into his pieces I decided to replicate both pages and 3D objects into slightly modified, geometricized shapes. At some point I realized a certain rhythm appears, which blurs the line between two subjects of my research.

 

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2

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Left – sketches of installations by Alon Levin, Right – schemes based on ‘De Paviljoens: Journal of a Building 1992-2004’

 

In fact, these two ‘sequences’ I made are just my interpretations of Levin’s creations. They might transit into something new and exciting at some point and that would probably be sort of an example the way the original author was building them. In ‘Things Contemporary’ he admitted that during his studies at Gerrit Rietveld Academie he wanted to understand the power of manipulating information: not just consume it, but to actually make it. To try and understand how all the information we ingest daily is organized and what the thoughts and structures behind it are. I think one of the best representations of this attitude is in his project ‘The Basics of Growth’ that dealt with similar ideas in botany as in economy, making some comparison through books that A. Levin had published himself. The content of these books was from Wiki that provides the material for the content of a book. He later on transits from the book into 3D structure based on the same subject, which in this case was a greenhouse on the rooftop of the office building.

 

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The Basics of Growth

I presume researching the history of the pavilions, he applied this same method in a reverse version – firstly, understanding the building with its context and then transmitting it into a book.

Throughout my research I learned that the endless cyclical game is the fundament of Levin’s work – a natural flow that drives him from one medium to another.

 

De Paviljoens : journal of a building, 1992-2004 /Rietveld library catalogue no : 700.4 pav 1


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