Monday, September 25, 2006

Design's Velvet Rope

This article discusses the elitism of AGI, Alliance Graphique Internationale. After World War 2, when AGI started, it was the age of designers dressed in suits. Membership was regarded as a sign of the highest achievement in graphic design. At the time, AGI was one of, or the only, professional organizations in design.
Now there are tons of organizations. The article goes on to point out the impact AIGA has created and how AGI still exists, but seems to have faded from importance. “Does AGI still matter?” the author asks. You hear about it less and less. However, it still retains its elite standards. You have to be sponsored by a current member to become a new member. “ You cannot apply to become a member of AGI. If they think you’re made of the right stuff, the alliance approaches you”.
Since the aim of an organization should be to represent design’s interests and enhance public awareness; is an elite organization, like AGI, responding to those goals?
The author concludes that in the United States, AIGA, who accepts every designer, answers those goals better than an organization that puts elitism above everything.

How Can Brands Remain Really Good?

An article on STEP’s website discusses the issue of a brand’s “goodness”. It is a fitting addition to our recent discussions on sustainability. There are brands on the market, both start-up and established, which are fully embracing the emerging trend for green design and eco-consciousness. Having a corporate conscience is definitely “now”. This comes as no suprise, what with the growing consumer desire to choose organic foods, recycle and utilize green energy solutions. We all know the consumer drives the brand. A brand must do more than appear to be good through PR. To be successful with today’s consumer it must show genuine integrity and meaning in everything the brand says, does and delivers.

So how does a brand convey its goodness? Packaging.

Design is the key interface between the brand and the consumer. It’s the medium by which the brand communicates its message of goodness. This may be easier for a start-up company but it is not unattainable for the “big boys” as well. Two examples given in the article are: “Wild Hop” a new Anheuser Busch brew made from organic ingredients grown on a co-opt farm in California and packaged in 100% recycled materials, and “Biota”, bottled water packaged in a 100% sustainable plastic made from corn starch. With both products, visuals and materials combine to portray the true meaning of the product. This is the key to a good brand being successful. The packaging must reflect the brand’s good values in a genuine, gimmick-free way.

Goodness is without doubt here to stay. It will continue to increase, and brands must evolve and offer a goodness that is more than skin deep. Design should be the key focus, as an honest and meaningful way of promoting their good message. I can see it now...a store isle lined with packages adorned in simple type treatments, little to no imagery and natural earth tones. Each one just beaming with their eco-friendly message. Will it be a bore or a sigh of relief?

DO- Death 'N' Stuff

A post by Jessica Helfand.

This post focuses on cigarettes, using packaging to tie it to design.

Helfand questions packaging of cigarettes. How do you make one see rather than look? Warnings have been on cigarettes for a number of years. Even before the warnings existed, it was generally accepted that they posed a health threat. Yet people still smoke. How can they look past societal warnings?

350,000 Americans die of lung disease every year. She says change must happen. The government may step in, using the RICO act against the cigarette companies on charges that they hid smokings killing effects for years. However, she argues the goverment cannot be alone in bringing change.

Europe, for instance, has included a version of "Smoking Kills" in large type on cigarette packs for some time.

Now, the UK is planning on using shocking photographs instead. They are conducting polls on the content of the pictures to find which will be most effective.

Helfand laments that we, as a society, dismiss the epidemic.

Most of what she states is right on target. The screen has made cigarettes more glamorous, and those who smoke ignore blatant health risks. However, smoking rates have declined five percent in 5 years. Less and less of the college youth smoke, and the youth nationwide. It is a battle, I think, propaganda is winning. All the money the government poured into the school system to battle the allure has paid off. Even cities are banning smoking in buildings for health concerns (it will happen here very soon). I think the public is informed on the issue, and it is a personal choice. Taxes have doubled cigarette prices over the few years (supposedly to combat the weighty price added onto taxpayers by smokers dying in hospitals. Oddly enough, over half the smokers die before they can draw social security, with the others following quickly. The raised taxes make the public feel cigarette companies are being impacted while the government rakes in the money).

Cigarettes are bad. I get it. Now lets pour the same amounts of tax money as the anti-smoking campaign into stopping the arms trade, or studying the effects of overconsumption in our culture on the world. Or grade school educator's salaries.

Drive-in Movies

(I think I am an article behind, so here is my "catch-up".)

Time talks about a strange, revitalized movement going on in the U.S.: Drive-in Movie Theaters.

The number is actually going up (after years of going down). Fueled by a blast of nostalgia, vintage theaters and drive-in sets are being remodeled and reused. The number is now at 658, compared to fewer than 500 back in 1995 (drive-ins started in 1933 by a New Jersey salesman).

Websites like and are helping keep fans informed of where you can pull your car up to the screen.

A new generation is even taking up the reigns with their armament of modern technology. With DVD players, Digital projectors, iPods, FM Transmitters, etc. guerilla drive-ins are appearing. They literally drive in their equipment somewhere and begin showing a movie on a wall or sheet. People go to them by word of mouth. To get started, you can have your very own guerrilla "mobile movie" drive-in:

I remember going to a couple of Drive-ins. They were nice; like stepping into a time machine to "back in the day". You really go for the atmosphere. Come to think of it, I actually have all the equipment to do my own Mobile Movie (MobMov)! Maybe I should become a member?

Japanese Fusion

In Juxtaposition, there is a highlight about Gajin Fujita, a LA-based graffiti artist. But he's no ordinary graffiti artist. Born Japanese-American (now you can see why this article caught my attention :-) ), he developed a keen interest in Japanese Art, with the inception of Japanese Tatoos. This led him to learn traditional Japanese Art techniques (woodblock, gold-leaf, etc.) And as he passed graffiti murals on his bus ride to school, he found his muse and began infusing graffiti style with Japanese style to his paintings.

Now, if your interested in seeing his work, and can't go to LA? Then here's your lucky day! His first solo exhibition is in Kansas City's Kemper Art Museum. Titled, "Zephyr: Paintings by Gajin Fujita", the exhibition goes on from now to November 5th.

Links to his work:
Article 1

Maybe his online resume?

Kemper Museum

Artists' Studios

In an editorial for Art on Paper, publisher Peter Nesbett commented on visiting "artists' studios." He loves to visit the working spaces not just to see the art but to see the clippings, postcards, and reproductions taped to the walls, the works in progress, the collections of books, the abandoned projects on the shelves, the unusual found objects, etc.. It is a multi-sensory landscape in which to immerse oneself, although Nesbett always feels himself a tourist in a foreign land.

Recently he has noticed some of his visits with artists in their "studios" involve meeting at a coffee shop or an office, looking at images on a laptop. The research and evidence of process is hidden on virtual files on the computer. He states that he has always felt uninspired and unsatisfied by these meetings.

I just moved from a large house to a small home, and had to take apart my studio. The easy part was the computers and books, which have a nice loft/office area. The hard part has been all the collections: artists' postcards, torn magazine bits, old photographs, masks, animal bones, rocks, shells, seed pods, old pastels and watercolors, etc. etc. etc. These are the treasures that stimulate and excite me, and influence my art. How can these be found on a computer? They say so much about us as artists.

I agree with Peter Nesbet that a "studio visit" with a computer does not allow an entrance into the mind and personality of the artist. How do you feel?

The Future Album

Beck’s last album, Guero, gave the music industry a different way to think about what an album could be. It was “something to be heard, seen, and reconstituted by audience and artist alike.” By creating a series of different versions- visual, alternative, listener changeable- people are able to interact with the music. For Beck, the new potential for an album’s form continues to evolve. He feels that artists should approach making an album by embracing the existing technology.

Cover art has always been important to him (he has a strong art background), and he feels that album visuals have been devalued since more people are listening to music on their computers. Beck has been inspired to change this. He has been experimenting with ideas for his next album, like replacing album art with pop-up motion graphics. He would also have customizable cover art, so no two copies are the same. This would be accomplished by creating various sets of stickers available for the listener to interact with and create their own cover.

Another version of his new album would be viewable on Internet sites like YouTube. For this, he has filmed a series of homemade videos for each of the songs. He hopes that this visual version will add to the experience of listening to the album. Not all music labels would let their artists have so much control over approaches and distribution of their music- maybe technology is changing this model.

Beck isn’t the only one experimenting. Tom Gibbons and Josh Koppel, feeling that there was more to music than the music, missed being able to read lyrics and album notes and look at photos (as I do). Last year they created TuneBooks, a QuickTime multimedia file with lyrics, credits, photos and videos that can be downloaded along with an album. The hope is to revive sales of albums, instead of just singles, through the use of digital art for music. More work for designers!

Technology seems to be driving development of new ways to experience music, especially in album form, and that seems like a good thing. As one who has an iPod nano in my backpack and numerous vinyl LPs in my basement, I embrace the changes while appreciating the substantialness and visuality of the old.

WIRED, September 2006.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Art and Commerce

American PHOTO, jan/feb 06' talks about a commerical photographer named Helmut Newton. He is a subversive and perverse commercial photographer, that has a particular vision that a lot of commercial clients are looking for. His art was provocative, he did things other photographers wouldn't even dare to think of.

However, if you asked him if he considered his work to be artistic, he would strongly disagree, but accept other commercial photographers as artists. Newton told a reporter shortly before his death, "If my pictures happen to be exhibited in a gallery or a museum that's fine. But that's not why I do them. I'm a hired gun."

After his death his work, ranging from fashion shots to editorial and advertising pictures, was displayed in a collection titled A Gun for Hire. It is said that in each of these works you can find Newton's worldview, with mystery and obsession fused in.

Newton's work was exactly that, work. He wasn't concerned about making a point to the viewer, he was ready to prostitute his talent to make a living. He still had his vision, but he wasn't attached to anything. If you had the money and you allowed him to do his thing, that's all he wanted.

Newton didn't think of himself as an artists. It was a job for him. Even with that he still became an artist to the viewer. So this brings up a question is commercial photography really an art. Well Helmut Newton didn't think he was, but others did. What do you think?

Saturday, September 23, 2006

ID- Rags to Riches

A short, bloody history of the barber pole!

There was a time when you could glance down Main Street and tell which business was which simply by the symbols outside each shop. The local pharmacist displayed a mortar and pestle; the tobacconist, a wooden Indian. But today only one of these trade icons is still in widespread use: the barber pole.

The barber pole's origins date back to the Middle Ages, when barbers worked as primitive surgeons, most of whom specialized in bloodletting. The typical barber shop featured a pole for the patient to hold on to, to make his veins stand out in higher relief. After the bloodletting was done, the barber would hang the bloody linen bandages from the pole to dry. Many barbers then hung the pole outside. As the blood-stained bandages twisted in the wind, they formed a red-and-white spiral pattern that eventually became the graphic basis of the trade's painted pole. The modern pole's blue stripe is, depending on which source you consult, either a nod to American patriotism or a symbol of the patient's blue veins. And the sphere seen atop many barber poles represents—get this—the early barber's basin of leeches.

The man who had the greatest impact on the contemporary barber pole was a Minnesotan named William Marvy, who started a barber-supply business in 1936. Although he was a talented salesman, Marvy had long been fascinated by manufacturing, and by the mid-1940s, he'd become convinced that he could build a better barber pole than those he was selling.

By 1950 he'd perfected his version. With its Lucite outer cylinder, cast-aluminum housing, and stainless-steel fittings, the Marvy pole was lighter, sturdier, more durable, and more weatherproof than the others on the market. Hailed by The Wall Street Journal as "the first real improvement in the barber pole in a quarter-century," it was an instant hit, and Marvy soon gave up his sales routes and set up a manufacturing plant. The four other pole makers then in business began losing sales to him, and by the late 1960s, Marvy had cornered the market so thoroughly that his two remaining competitors were actually jobbing out their pole production to him. By 1970, he had the industry all to himself. Today it's safe to say that any barber pole currently operating in America is either a Marvy product or has been serviced with Marvy parts.

William Marvy died in 1993 (he remains the only non-barber ever enshrined in the Barber Hall of Fame), but his company still operates in St. Paul, Minnesota, with his son Bob Marvy running the operation. Although poles now constitute only about a quarter of the firm's grooming-supply business, they remain Marvy's signature product, and the company has meticulous records showing where each of its nearly 80,000 poles was installed. That includes pole No. 75,000, which is in the Smithsonian's permanent collection—leeches not included.

I found this article quite interesting, I had always inquired about the concept behind the pole. Did anyone knew about this story?...

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Stefan Sagmeister

Lately, I've been reading a book called "Graphic Design for the 21st Century" , by Charlotte & Peter Fiell. There are many short interviews of various designers around the globe about their thought on design. Stefan Sagmesiter, from New York, is one of them. I found his quote to be very interesting. So, interesting that I had to put the whole thing down! :

"I am mostly concerned with design that has the ability to touch the viewer's heart. We see so much professionally done and well-executed graphic design around us, beautifully illustrated and masterfully photographed, nevertheless, almost all of it leaves me (and I suspect other viewers) cold. There is so much fluff: well produced, tongue-in-cheek, pretty fluff. Nothing that moves you, nothing to think about, some is informing, but still all fluff. I think that the main reason for all this fluff is that most designers don't believe in anything. We are not much into politics, or into religion, have no stand on any important issue. When your conscience is so flexible, how can you do strong design? I've seen movies that move me, read books that changed my outlook on things and listened to numerous pieces of music that influenced my mood. Our goal for the future will be to touch somebody's heart with design." - Sagmeister

I truly agree on all the points he touches on. But as I came to the last of the quote, I couldn't help but feel there was one that he left out: "fear". I think a lot of designers are afraid to design from their heart for a number of reasons. They hold back. I hate to admit it, but I do. I guess I'm a fluffer. :-( Maybe I'll have to change that...

ID - Lean On Me

Vitra Headline
Price: 1430; $1730 with armrests; $2800 in leather.

The HeadLine, Vitra's latest task chair may be better for the brain than the body, designed by Italy’s renowned Mario Bellini and his son Claudio. Vitra describes it as a “new ergonomic concept” due to its innovative means of reclining while supporting the head, neck, and shoulders. It’s clear that the HeadLine is a chair on a mission, a designer’s exercise that boasts interesting concepts. But in the pursuit of an ideal, its cushiness has suffered.

The designers intended the stiffness. Soft chairs are more likely than firm chairs to hurt your tush, causing coccydynia, a condition that has been compared to being impaled on a garden cane. Thus the hardness of the HeadLine’s bottom cushion is great for pinpointing your ischial tuberosities—or “sit bones”—which support your weight far better than either your coccyx or your soft parts.

The only time you sink into the HeadLine is when you recline in it: According to Vitra, the chair’s back has an internal plastic panel that changes shape as you lean, flattening the lumbar support so that your shoulders and back can rest comfortably. The chair’s seat is also biosynchronized with its back (they move in an ergonomically correct manner) to prevent you from slipping out of the chair as you recline. The entire set-up smoothly articulates to a considerable angle, keeping you comfortably supported with your weight properly distributed—if it reclined further, it might serve well as a dentist’s chair.

The chair’s reclining motion is meant to solve a problem you might not be aware you had: The designers claim that by allowing you to lean back in the archetypal posture of a daydream, the HeadLine “facilitates thinking as well as sitting.” It’s an impressive feat of engineering and design.

Beyond its failure to coddle, there are several simple things the chair does well. Levers and switches adjust the chair’s height, the force required to recline, the seat’s fore-aft position, and the height of the ever-present lumbar support. Therefore, it can accommodate people of different sizes, even though it looks made for large ones. And perhaps the highlight of the chair is Vitra’s “3-D warp-knitted fabric.” It feels superb, just coarse enough to keep you in place without feeling rough. The chair comes in perforated leather as well, but the fabric might be too good to pass up. I’d take a sofa made of it. Finally, it’s laudable that the chair is almost entirely recyclable and that half of it is made from recycled material.

I'm inquisitive to know how many of you would pay extra cash for comfortness. Me personally I'm ok with my $59 chair from Walmart :)

ID - June 2006, Michael Wiklund


Abstract Photography

Abstract photography is on the rise again, according to Lyle Rexer in Art On Paper. This is a reaction to the dominance of the documentary-style genre of the past few years.

By definition abstract photography is an aspect of photography that does not depict subjects as they would appear in natural world. Non-objective photography was popular with the AvanteGarde artists of the 1920s, such as Man Ray and Monholy-Nagy, who used solarizing and photograms as a way of moving away from the camera. It had a resurgence in the 1960s with artists such as Robert Rauschenberg.

Today, the photographer can make an image of something that looks abstract, or abstract an image itself by manipulating it in the darkroom chemically or by using digital techniques. Visual thresholds are explored and transformed into something else. The image can be rendered in such a way to allow the viewer to make new associations and interpretations. Or the photograph can become an object itself, minimal, meaningless, metaphorical, spiritual, etc., all depending upon the viewer's attitude.

This is of interest to me as I move my work to a more abstract level, using all the digital tools available, but still keeping a hands-on and chemical element in the process.


We each have a space, be it an office or studio, in which we do a majority of our creative work. Our spaces are unique, with our own individual touches surrounding us to inspire and spur creativity. Some of us need privacy to create, while others enjoy a more social environment. Have you ever considered how you might perform or react when transplanted into a new and different work space?

STEP magazine's "professional practices" guru, Shel Perkins, explores the characteristics that define a typical creative environment in terms of a graphic design firm. In his article he discusses issues one should consider when taking on the venture of creating a design studio.

I've seen firsthand how unique design spaces tend to be when compared to the more "standard" business interior. A majority of these work environments are wide-open, dynamic spaces. Shel notes the average design space to be 250-350 ft per employee compared to the business average of 200-250. At the lowest end of the scale are the "cubicle land" businesses with just 150-200 ft per employee.

Each design firm has to find the most appropriate mix of personal, team and public space. At one end of the spectrum, some firms are setup as one large work space shared by everyone. This encourages collaboration and sharing among employees. On the downside it can be noisy with various distractions. On the opposite end of the spectrum is the more traditional approach with each employee in a private office. This setup is conducive to uninterrupted concentration but is also isolating.

Most design firms opt for a hybrid of both layout styles. Their setup includes: large desktop areas for individual designers to work and control their own levels of lighting, temperature, noise, etc., social collaboration areas such as meeting tables or critique walls and public areas where the bulk of client interaction takes place.

I'm sure as a graduate group we have experienced a mix of creative environments. I personally am jealous of the uniquely designed and inviting open spaces I've seen in the various design firms I've toured. The chance to work more intimately with a group is something I look forward to. On the flipside, I cringe when I venture into the aforementioned "cublicle lands". I can't imagine being creative in such a constrictive environment. I'm curious what your reaction is to space...would you rather be on your own or among the group?

"Professional Practice: Facilities Planning—Part One" by Shel Perkins
STEP Inside Design, Sept/Oct 2006

DO- The Face of Oblivion

The Face of Oblivion is a new post on Design Observer by Kenneth Krushel. It is a personal experience with the corporate food market and the photographic pitch behind these products.

Krushel uses his experience with cable marketing 20 years ago as a comparison. The problem with the cable market, as the corporations and investors saw it, was only penetrating 40% of households. The number had leveled off, and they were looking for ways to enter the houses of the remaining 60%. They opted for a photographic campaign in a meeting Krushel attended.

He noted that none of these people seemed extraordinary in any way. They are not people one aspires to be (he can't quite figure how they picked the people to use).

He says, if you wander the aisles of a supermarket now, you will see these same people on assorted packaging. They haven't changed in twenty years; they are still mostly white, fairly bland and cheery people. He wonders why this is still the standard for the sell. Why do we aspire to, "at least on a consumer basis, ...such fictional, even farcical lifestyles?...[A] blur of anonymity[?]"

Obviously, these photos still get to the consumer public. We identify with these bland people as a whole because they are so normal. In some way, we all strive to fit in and follow the crowd. But, I think, by seeing complete normality as utopian, we are striving to be the perfect, bland family. No black sheep, no one who sticks out from the crowd. Just purely happy.

Or, maybe we are so used to seeing the food we eat packaged with these typical photos around it, we don't want to buy anything else. Maybe we always return to what we are most comfortable with.

The Girl's Guide to Writing and Publishing

The Girl’s Guide to Writing and Publishing

In the Jul/Aug issue of Print magazine, Jami Attenberg criticizes chick-lit authors for not thinking outside of the box. Each book fits into a neat formula of a girl meeting two guys, one right and one wrong, and goes to her gay male friend for advice. Eventually her actions lead her to the right guy and the novel ends.
After Candace Bushnell released Sex and the City, and Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones’s Diary, the chick-lit market skyrocketed. However, Attenberg says that while the market has skyrocketed, the chick-lit image has stayed the same. “The publishing industry loves to put its products into neat marketing boxes. Maybe over the next decade, chick-lit authors will learn how to punch their way out”. Attenberg has created a chart that links the similarities between around 30 books.
I think this article brings about an important question. How much do you listen, as the designer, to the creativity of a design and how much to what sells in the current market? Where do business and art meet?

Drawing on Observation

Before you became a professional – way before, when you were little – you probably had a lot of freedom in expressing yourself, with colored pencils, crayons, or finger paint. Do you still express yourself with this much abandon? As professionals, we seem to rely more on technology as our tool of choice, whether it be a scanner, copier, digital camera or computer program. We may feel that our drawing skills don’t have the “perfection” that these machines do.

Author/illustrator Danny Gregory believes that drawing skills will get rusty unless we use them on a regular basis. As creative people, our goal is to lead a creatively fertile life, so the best way to knock the rust off is to pick up a pencil and pretend you’re a child again. Start by getting a blank journal and, instead of drawing layouts or logo designs, draw your morning coffee, your lunch, your co-workers, your computer, anything. The key concept is OBSERVATION. Look closely and interpret details.

Gregory also encourages writing in this journal. Write down ideas, foods you’d like to try, places you’d like to travel, descriptions of your commute, etc. Again, the key concept is OBSERVATION. Gregory advocates trying different mediums also –experiment with various types of pens, markers, paint, or rubber stamps.

If you can make this a daily habit, just a few minutes per day, it can become a mini-vacation, especially in our stress-filled lives. The practice of journaling can help cultivate the part of your brain that OBSERVES. After a while, this can help you make links and associations more quickly when you’re trying to solve design problems. Some designers also advocate the use of artist journals to help them develop their own sense of style, by seeing what they like in the way of technique, color, or way of thinking. Some say that they can see a definite growth by looking through these journals after they have been doing it for a while.

Many of us probably feel that we don’t have time to do this, but maybe we should make the time. Maybe your drawing skills won’t get any better, but your observation skills should definitely improve. Has anyone tried this on a regular basis? What are your experiences?

“Just Draw” by Danny Gregory, HOW, August 2006.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

One thousand words...

The article I read, "One Thousand Words...," was a bit of an advertisement, but is was mainly from the photographer the article was about so it's okay with me. Also it was for a camera I desperately want. So if anyone feels the need to purchase a gift for me, this would be a great choice.

Dave Black, a sports photographer, talks about his experience when photographing the Kentucky Derby this year, which is done every year. Unlike most photographers Black planned out this one shot three months in advance. He also arrived at the Derby to set up the clamps at 8:30 in the morning to ensure a spot for the race at 5:30pm. I guess only the early bird can catch the worm. The camera he used was the Nikon D2x, with a nikkor 10.5 fisheye lens. He goes on to say how great the ergonomics of the body are, the great colors that come from D2x, and the reliability. So I will just sum it all up for you: Nikon is amazing, buy one, or you could just buy me one.

The photograph was published in the Blood-Horse. This magazine allowed Black a lot of freedom to take what he wanted, which is good since that’s the only way he would shoot. Black's images are unique, for one reason, and that is because he makes it so. He will look specifically for the odd or different shot, a shot no one else would think of. With the Derby he shot it from the top right corner of the start gate. A position no one else had.

Black studied graphic design and illustration in college and it wasn't until his last year he discovered his talent for photography. His fame came from being a gymnast throughout his schooling. He became a gymnastics coach after college and started photographing events. He became very good and was offered a job at the 84' Olympic games, where he launched his career in sports photography.

His background in gymnastics allowed him to know what the other photographers didn't know. He knew how the events worked, when important things would happen, like where they would be placed when they won. The shot that pushed his career forward was when Mary Lou Retten received an ovation for winning the gold. He was the only photographer to get a close up shot.

Dave Black sums it all by saying "Most photographers, tend to work very hard at capturing the moment. I try to find something that will separate me from whoever else is shooting that day."

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Radical Traditionalists

Radical Traditionalists

This article in Print magazine focuses on four L.A. based magazines and how they challenge the idea of what an art magazine is. The editors are multidisciplinary, such as Andrew Snyder, the former art director of the snowboard company Joyride, is now also the founder of Arkitip (pronounced “archetype”). Arkitip, Anthem, ANP Quarterly, and Swindle have each tried to “transcend the idea of a magazine”.

Arkitip began in 1999 as a zine and has evolved every year with changed packaging and design. Today, it comes encased in plastic that contain collectible items, such as playing cards designed by Kaws, and a porn-star air freshener designed by graffiti artist Todd James (REAS). Inside the magazine, there are six to eight pages of original art without any comment save for a brief interview. Arkitip wants the art to speak for itself.

ANP Quarterly put out the first issue in 11” x 17” format and didn’t even bind it. They wanted to draw a connection between art and the community and encourage people to really interact with the pages. “You can cut it up, you can hang up the pages, you can make stuff out of it. It’s like a gift”.

Anthem is compared to an underground version of Vogue, with it’s glossy cover and perfect binding. It is different because its mission is simply to filter and convey the editor’s interests, rather than “showcase their artistic instincts”. Swindle focuses on key cultural moments from history and today. With “refined street art aesthetic”, Swindle is hardbound to encourage people to keep it like a book, a permanent resource as opposed to traditionally disposable image of a magazine.

Monday, September 11, 2006

CA - Is a Kodak Moment Really Forever

The August issue of Communication Arts is the Photography Annual. Lots of wonderful photographs.

“Is a Kodak Moment Really Forever?” (page 196) by Chris Wall, discusses the challenges of transforming a brand – taking a brand that has seemingly lost momentum and reinvigorating it. Typically this happens as brands begin to cycle down. This issue being the Photography Annual, Wall discusses the transformation that happened with Kodak.

Kodak had been at the top of their market for almost a century. Even though they had invented much of the technology that made digital photography work, they were slow to make the transition and were beaten out by HP, Sony and Canon. They were considered a film company, not a digital company.

Instead of trying to change their image into a digital powerhouse and forget their roots, Kodak took the approach of positioning themselves on the emotional side of the equation. They have tried to position themselves as being integral to all photography. They came up with “the idea of presenting Kodak as a meta and mega gallery, a place where virtually all the pictures that have ever been taken are kept. Magical yet practical. Digital yet emotional.” Keeping with the idea of a “Kodak moment.”

They used lots of snapshots as well as a few historical photos to populate the TV spot, website, cinema trailer, print and outdoor campaign. Their aim was to make an emotional connection with users. “The point isn’t that Kodak has been transformed from a film company to a digital company, but rather that it has reaffirmed with a digital voice that it has always been a company about pictures. And pictures have always been something to be captured and cherished and shared and protected, not tossed away.”

The article is an interesting case-study of a brand that was declining and its attempt to come back. It will be interesting to see if it works in the long run.

Another interesting article in the back deals with designers creating work without clients (Trigger, page 204). It talks about the challenges and benefits to designers initiating their own projects, becoming their own clients, an issue many of us have been looking at and discussing.

An article I didn’t get a chance to read yet (but would like to) deals with fair use of copyrighted material and gives a checklist for designers to go through to make sure they don’t run afoul of the law.

DO-This is My Process

Michael Bierut recently posted a commentary on design process in relationship to a client.

When dealing with clients, Bierut says, they want an outline of how the process will proceed right at the beginning. For instance, "(t)his project will be divided in four phases: Orientation and Analysis, Conceptual Design, Design Development, and Implementation." He points out, however, that this process is rarely true. It is simply something done to make the work sound more valuable to that client. Somewhere along the way (or right after the intial meeting), that proposal goes right out the window.

In actuality, he listens to what the client has to say, hopefully has some knowledge about that particular area, and then an idea pops into his head "like magic."

After that, it is all about the sell. Basically, the client just has to trust him.

I find that very interesting. In the end, it isn't really about hard work or a long, drawn out process. It comes back to talent.

When teaching students, we have two combating schools of thought. One is to reward them for the final piece; the other is to grade heavily on process expectations.

I tend to grade on both, but weigh more heavily on the final piece. I expect process, and count them down if they don't meet expectations. That isn't to say process isn't important to learn. I think the "magic" only happens when you are comfortable enough with yourself as a designer, (and I sure don't have magic every time I try to make something, so take this with a grain of salt) and have learned to discard bad ideas in your head. Truthfully, many projects need to be pounded out to reach a final solution. Quite often, however, one of those intitial ideas plays heavily into that final solution.

So, I would advocate process in entry level classes. The problem that comes into play is this; sometimes marginally talented students get by early on by hard work, but in the final semesters find other students, more talented ones, blow them away in class. Then, at least the ones who care, bust their butts to compete. Once they reach the "real world," will they ever get so long to work on a project? When the final solution has to be cost effective for the company there are few four week/eight week projects?

What does that make? Someone with a very hard work ethic that is (maybe) in the wrong field. (I was told, for instance, that I would make a fine asshole, but found that position doesn't pay well and has many applicants just standing line, waiting for their chance). I know we have a review system in place to supposedly stop this from happening, yet we let BAs graduate each year. We would be doing a them a service to point out that they are smart, extremely capable people who should do something they are better at?

STEP-The Rise and Fall of the Design Star

Marty Neumeier, designer ( and author of The Brand Gap, shares his views on design legends, past and present, and why stardom may not be what it used to be.

Neumeier defines a design star as one who “symbolizes a particular thing.” In the early days that “thing” was simply design, be it identity design (Paul Rand), movie title design (Saul Bass) or illustration (Milton Glaser). Today the “thing” is more abstract, such as creative anarchy (David Carson), borrowed historicism (Paula Scher) or high concept (Stefan Sagmeister). With the explosion of today’s design industry, you must be even more uniquely specified to get noticed. In the 30’s it was exotic enough just to be a graphic designer.

When asked if there is a star system, Neumeier replies that there is not an “official system...stars simply emerge in response to the design community’s need for them.” Schools need guest speakers to inspire students. Magazines need stars to interview and event programmers need speakers to entertain and challenge audiences. He does feel however that you can’t become a design star purely by accident. You have to want it and work for it and make the sacrifices along the way.

One of the biggest sacrifices is money. Designers who make the most money aim their work at the high profile clients. Our “heros” design for designers. For a design solution to get noticed it must “act a child who wants attention.” This affect is lost on a general audience who cares more about the “what” than the “how” of communication.

Neumeier does not see much opportunity to becoming a design star outside of the design community. He even questions if it would be worth it. Would a design star grace the cover of general-audience magazines, be interviewed on talk shows or host their own TV program? It’s just not likely.

An additional detriment to the rise of future design stars is the shift from lone genius to collaborative group efforts in design. Individuals will more and more have to share the spotlight with other designers, photographers, illustrators, copywriters, etc. However, according to Neumeier, the stars still have a role to play. The industry will always need inspiration and people to break barriers and challenge the status quo.

Monoculture vs Culture

Few months ago Robert Peters posted an article about Culture vs Monoculture. He talks about how identity lies at the very core of culture, and it is the key to our understanding of self. Culture encompasses language, traditions, beliefs, morals, laws, social behavior, and the art of a community. Understanding culture is imperative in avoiding identity crisis and rootlessness – and it's a prerequisite for the effective shaping of identities and communication. Yet, everywhere in our shrinking world, we can witness increased homogenization, erosion of indigenous culture, the emergence of non-places (uniform airports, generic shopping malls), and the advancement of what some theorists are calling 'serial monotony'.

Are globalization, free trade agreements, digital technology, the Internet, and increased mobility to blame? Ironically, all have contributed to both the loss of individual and collective identity, and at the same time, have literally "brought the world to our doorstep" along with the myriad of opportunities this presents for designers around the globe.

Aware of the advancing threat of monoculture, can the world's identity designers help conserve and revive those things that make human culture distinct and unique? Can we mine the historical depth of individuality and breadth of multiculturalism to bring new gems of identity to light? Is there still time to avoid losing our sense of who we are, where we've come from, where we belong, and why these distinctions are so important?

The Super Market Culture

There has been a deluge of photographs on the auction market this spring. According to Amanda Doenitz, in the July/August issue of Art on Paper, they are comparable to the photograph on the left, "99 Cent," 1999, by Andreas Gursky. They are very low-quality, being sold to opportunistic shoppers who don't recognize or care for quality, but are willing to accept unquestionably the artifically inflated prices.

The majority of the collectors want to purchase an image they are familiar with. They would rather own a Dian Arbus photograph from an edition of 75 that was printed years after her death than a one-of-a-kind vintage print made by the photographer him/herself. Doenitz describes it as an "I can own a brand-new print of the picture I saw in my grandparents' Life Magazine" mentality.

Consider Gursky's "99 Cent" photograph, which ironically is part of the high-end market for photography. In 1997, it retailed for $28, 000. One print in the edition of six was held back from the market. It was recently sold on May 10, 2006 at a Southby's contemporary art auction for $2,256,000.

Would you rather own an Ansel Adams image printed by Alan Ross or John Sexton or an original by a lesser know photographer?

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Genius: What Have You Done Lately?

David Galenson, a professor of economics at the University of Chicago, has developed a new theory that there are two fundamentally different approaches to creative genius: conceptual innovators (young geniuses) and experimental innovators (old masters). His recently released book, Old Masters and Young Geniuses: Two Life Cycles of Artistic Creativity (Princeton University Press), relates his path to this thought-provoking hypothesis.

How did an economist come to develop a theory about creativity? Galenson had previously researched the relationship between age and productivity in Colonial America, but after purchasing a painting and researching whether or not it was a good deal, he started investigating art prices as compared to the age at which the artist was when the piece was created. Seeing a pattern start to develop, he studied artist life cycles and which pieces of their work were considered important, and correlated everything he discovered into this new dual-model of artistic genius. He decided to apply the same methodology to poetry and other literature, music, architecture and filmmaking, coming up with the same results.

The Conceptual Innovators tend to do their breakthrough work when they are young, as evidenced by such geniuses as Pablo Picasso (invented Cubism with Les Demoiselle d’Avignon at age 26); F. Scott Fitzgerald (wrote The Great Gatsby at age 29); Wolfgang Mozart (composed The Marriage of Figaro at age 30); Maya Lin (designed the Vietnam War Memorial at age 23); and Orson Welles (made the film Citizen Kane at age 26).

The archetype of the conceptualists are the Experimental Innovators who, working by trial and error, make their major contributions late in their careers. Examples of this type of genius include Paul Cezanne (painted Chateau Noir at age 64); Mark Twain (wrote Huckleberry Finn at age 50); Ludwig von Beethoven (composed Symphony No. 9 at age 54); Frank Lloyd Wright (designed Fallingwater at age 70); and Alfred Hitchcock (filmed Vertigo at age 59).

It would be interesting to apply this theory to graphic design and photography. Who would your candidates be?

What Kind of Genius Are You?” by Daniel H. Pink, WIRED, July 2006.
“The Theory of Creativity,” by Doug White, HOW, August 2006.

Friday, September 08, 2006

"The Pond-Moonlight" $2.9 million

In the May/June issue of 2006, they reported the most expensive single photograph ever sold. "The Pond-Moonlight, by Edward Steichen." The photograph sold for $2,928,000, which became the second photographic image to sell over $1 million with in a 3 month period. Richard Prince broke that record in November. "The Pond-Moonlight," was sold in a special auction at Sotheby's in February. He only made 3 gum bichromate prints, from the same negative. Two of them are at the Metropolitan Museum and the other at the Museum of Art in New York.

According to Steichen's records, this exquisit photograph was taken in Mamaroneck, New York in 1904, while he was on a walk with his first wife and new born daughter. American PHOTO went on a quest to find out if this pond still exists today. With the help of Steichen's notes and the town historian, they feel they may have found this photographic Landmark.

The image they came up with for the origin of "The Pond-Moonlight" is completely different. There is no symetry, no composition, and the lighting is far from the original. The wear and tear of nature and mankind have reconstructed the birth place of the image. It takes on a completely different look and feel. It makes me wonder they have really found the right location, but I guess it shouldn't surprise me, with everything we have already lost in the world because of time why should this be any different.

I like this article because it allows those who don't see photography as an art to view it in a different light (no pun intended). Photography is now worth a substantial amount, and has the possiblity of becoming as important and influencial as a priceless painting or artifact.

ProfMelis Speaks/Asks questions/Demands Answers!

After 1st journals:

Thank you everyone for posting your blogs! Please do remember to read everyone else's and add a comment to at least one person's. The comment doesn't have to be long, just let them know what you found to be interesting about it. So by next Monday write about a new article and comment on one of last week's. I will read what you've written from Aberdeen South Dakota!

Have a good weekend!


After 2nd Journals:

Do you want me to ask Seiji to ask Robert Grame and Bob Hower to view the blogs/comment if they feel like it/have time? This is particularly directed at those of you who have either or both of them on your committees? Also, shouldn't Jeff, Jemmy and Teresa be invited to do the same? What do you think?

Speaking of Seiji . . . still waiting for a second journal, and Jeff too . . .

3rd ones are due tomorrow and we're still on for all Tuesday meetings. I will be out of town at a conference Wed-Sunday. I will be putting readings for our October 20 discussions in your boxes after I return.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

STEP- White Space: Examining Racial Diversity in the Design Industry

An article by Terry Lee Stone in the July/August issue of STEP, discusses the growing realization of a lack of designer diversity. She worries the lack of diversity in our profession, once called, “The pinky ring on the hand of corporate America,” by Dugald Stermer, may serve to further marginalize design in a whole new way. Race is an issue that designers need to be concerned with in terms of the profession’s future.

And the current future doesn’t look promising. Numbers in design schools around the country are similar to the current industry breakdown with 86-90 percent of design students being white. There are a few exceptions where design programs mirror the communities they serve. For example, The New World School of the Arts in Miami has a Hispanic majority at 76 percent. The good news is that most schools interviewed for the article do have a diversity initiative in place. These initiatives support the hiring of minority faculty in addition to the recruitment of a diverse mix of students.

A lack of awareness is seen as the major culprit for the lack of minority students in design. Many individuals in the underrepresented groups don’t know that graphic design exists, let alone that it is a viable profession for a person with artistic talent. Another factor is the prohibitive cost of a design education. Scholarship and outreach programs are being implemented in some schools but it will take generations to transform the situation.

AIGA has recently launched a new diversity initiative to develop leadership policies, active programs for high school students, design students and professionals. AIGA president Bill Grant says, “There is a lot of passion and good intent in the design community, but there is also a lot of fear about not appearing to be politically correct. Fear-based reactions are not the answer. We have to be brutally honest with one another and be open to mistakes along the way.”

Lack of diversity is an issue that many today do find worth addressing. Steps are being taken and discussions are happening. We as designers need to open our eyes and our industry to being more inclusive, with the future of our profession in mind.

Agitprop PrimersAgitprop Primers

Agitprop Primers

In the July/ August Print issue, Agitprop Primers examines the role of children’s literature in Soviet Communist Russia. During this period, children’s literature became a political strategy of the communist government. In 1924, “ two years after the Central Committee of the Party announced its mission to develop a new kind of juvenile literature that rejected all of the bourgeois ornamentation and trivial fantasy that had characterized the pre-revolutionary period” (p51).
After 1917, with Russia bankrupt and about to start massive civil war, Lenin sought to inspire the people through children’s literature and illustration. Even if the children couldn’t read, they would want to learn after seeing the illustrations in the books.
Russia embraced the art world through their desire to have children grow into strong supporters of the Soviet ideals.
There were two main publishing houses during the USSR, Kryachko and Radugo. Radugo. Radugo published the two most popular children’s books of the time, The Big Cockroach and Seven Wonders. Radugo, like many of the publishing houses of the time, sought to “educate, influence, and shape a child’s personality” through modern illustration and typographic layout.

6 Trends Driving the Global Economy

A recent WIRED article inventoried 6 major trends that are currently driving the global economy:

1: The rise in peer-production, a shared, democratized web-society that includes everything from blogging and reviewing to photo and video sharing. All of us have knowledge or experience that’s valuable to someone, somewhere and is willing to share it. And web companies are constantly developing new tools to fuel this user-generated content trend. (We’re being very trendy here with our ART 820 blog.)

2: The rise in demand for multi-screen video content. People want to access videos on their computers, iPods, and smartphones and other devices, not just on their TV screens. Music labels and TV networks are changing their marketing strategies to include downloadable video content. (New work for designers!)

3: New technologies using DNA testing to personalize medicinal treatments for individual patients. The emphasis on products and services catering to personal tastes has spread to include “designer drugs” based on genetic profiles.

4: A focus on carbon reduction by companies looking to exploit a global market hungry for green technologies. As Europe and Asia begin to enforce limits on greenhouse gases that were imposed by the Kyoto Protocol, US companies want to compete abroad and get a head start on any restrictions that might be imposed here. (Are they in it just for the money?)

5: The increase in acquisition of small tech firms by large tech firms. Instead of investing time and energy in research and development, many companies are paying someone else to do this work by purchasing ideas from start-ups. And many of these small entrepreneurial companies are starting up strictly with the intention of selling out to a larger firm. Recent examples include the purchase of Skype by eBay, and the acquisition of Flickr by Yahoo.

6: An open access web environment, encouraging cheaper and better software. Many companies have discovered that browser windows have become perfect interfaces for commerce, network administration, e-mail and other business, making separate applications unnecessary.

As designers, not all of these trends might affect us, except maybe with their marketing potential, but as consumers, they probably will or already do.

WIRED, July 2006, reported by Chris Anderson, Eryn Brown, Kevin Kelleher, and Josh McHugh.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Art 820

In its July/Aug. 2005 issue, Art On Paper commissioned twenty three letters from established artists to a fictional recent art-school graduate. The idea was inspired by Rainer Maria Rilke’s “Letters to a Young Poet.”

The struggling young artist asks a question most artists have contemplated at one time or another: "Is it possible to maintain one's integrity and freedom of thought and still participate in the art world?" He/she has found him/herself overwhelmed by the challenges of making art and still making ends meet financially, and contending with the feelings of isolation, loneliness and insecurity common to all artists, especially those just out of school.

The established artists wrote to this young artist, relating their experiences and giving advice. Some of the advice was very simple and direct, such as: “Keep away from art fairs" and "Be careful of whom you let into your studio" and “Take time every day for your work” and “Read biographies of other artists.”

A bigger issue was financial integrity. “It is money that makes you ask about integrity. Money never stops jabbering but that does not mean that we must listen all the time (Durham).” “Don’t go into art for fame and fortune. Do it because you cannot NOT do it (Baldessari).” “Have lots of shows and sell lots of work but that alone will not fulfill you. Life in art is a long race but not a short sprint (Amenoff).”

Another theme that emerged in several letters was the integrity of being true to yourself vs. changing and growing. “Art is not safe. You have to find time to be yourself, to take chances. It is a gamble – it can be dangerous (Jonas).” ”You will change, become a new person, many times through the years. You will invent yourself out of circumstance and will. If you show your work now, that is being true to who you are now. When you show later, you are someone else. It can keep a kind of integrity to who you are at the moment (Ukeles).” “Your art, if original and worth something, expands all human freedom (Ukeles)”’

This group of 23 letters has now been published as a book of the same name. There are many issues discussed that I find interesting to read and contemplate as I enter graduate school.
The Next Step, is an article that caught my attention more than any other, mainly because I can relate to it, as well as other aspiring artists.

The Next Step, talks about the rut many assistant photographers get themselves into. They talked to a couple of different photographers about their experiences when they were assistants and the pressure and confusions that they faced during their career. The confusion and pressure I am refering to is not about the job itself but rather their ultimate goal for their career.

Micheal Murphee, a professional photographer, talked about his time as an assistant to Annie Leibovits. He discusses the choices that he was faced with. As an assistant you have small responsibilities, but you are still able to do what you love, and get paid for it. So the job is pretty great, it allows you to save money rather then spend it on supplies. The choice that many assistants are faced with is whether to spend that money on those fancy things their friends have (cars, computers, TVs etc.) or put it into your work and start your own business. Which is what a lot of assistants start out wanting to to do, but they get stuck in the trap, and never pursue their original goal.

Murphee, told American PHOTO, the only reason he has become a photographer is because throughout his entire assisting career he just kept reminding himself of his original goal, to become a photographer. Which is what most assistants fail to remember once they start making money.

So basically watch out for this assistants rut. If your ultimate goal is to make your own work, and make a career of it, just remember it and stay on track. Don't let the money fairy steer you away from the promise land.

Postcard Marketing

Have you priced display advertising or Yellow Pages listings? They can add up to big money in a hurry. What's worse: if you decide to spend your hard-earned cash on them, there's no guarantee that you'll get any response.

Martha Retallick (“The Passionate Postcarder”) found a way around this dilemma by using color postcards. They've been an essential part of my her marketing toolkit for eight years, and they've brought thousands of dollars worth of business to her Web and graphic design studio in Tucson, Arizona.

The Top 10 Advantages of Using Postcards

1. Postcard marketing is affordable, even for the smallest of studios.

2. Your competition doesn't know it. But they'll sure know it if you're advertising in the newspaper!

3. It's easy to track your results. Your card can tell recipients to bring the card to the clients-only party at your studio. Or, if you're a musical designer, your postcard can ask recipients to use a special ordering code when purchasing your latest CD via your website.

4. Postcards are versatile. In a single mailing, you can seek business from prospective clients, and solicit repeat business from existing clients. Better yet, a postcard isn't just something to send through the mail. You can use postcards as oversized business cards, newsletters and mini-information sheets.

5. Your postcards can "brand" you and your studio in ways that most marketing materials cannot. If you start and stick to a regular postcard mailing program, you and your studio will gain quite a reputation, perhaps even a little notoriety.

6. Testing an offer with postcards is easy. Just send your card to a small group of people and see how many of them respond. If you're satisfied with the results, then roll out a bigger mailing.

7. Postcards don't waste people's time - they don't even have to open an envelope to see your artwork or read your message.

8. Postcards don't take up a lot of space. Your clients can carry them in their shirt pockets, or carry them in their pocketbooks, for that matter. Hey, some of them might even create a postcard display on their refrigerator door!

9. Postcards are inexpensive to print.

10. Postcards are easy to redeem. If you're asking your customers to bring your postcard to that clients-only party at your studio, all they have to do is show up with the card.

After all it doesn’t kill to try this method, does it?..

Ugly Dolls

In "Giant Robot" magazine, there is an interview with the 2 creators of the plush toys known as "Ugly Dolls". Both met during college in an Art class. David Horvath is from the States and the Sun-Min Kim is from Korea (a guy and girl team). The process actually started out as simple, funny sketches. But steadily grew into a plush doll. They decided to pursue a course in making these "Ugly Dolls" despite a lot of denial/confrontation/threats from corporate toy companies in the beginning.

I actually own 2 of their dolls, and it was interesting to find out that the first 1,000 were handmade by Sun-Min (all before she discovered the sewing machine; now they finally got a manufacturer)! They get a lot of offers now from the very same toy companies that caused them problems. But they refuse to have their product go corporate and prefer focusing their sales in more "Mom & Pop" style shops. They could have also easily made them expensive, but wanted them to be affordable and practical. I admire that they are willing to stick to their guns and not be lured in by the "corporate machine". And being around small town communities all my life, I like the idea of building support for "Mom & Pop" shops.

The article/interview goes on to discuss the classic under-dog story of pursuit despite failures and the golden success at the end. But, the one thing Sun-Min said about the order of success stuck with me:

"If you set out to do something you love, it pays off with satisfaction, and then it pays off with money." - Sun-Min Kim

Their satisfaction is in the audience's reaction to their pieces. Lots of fan mail, of all ages. From collectors to kids in hospitals, these "Ugly Dolls" have slowly crept into the hearts of a loyal minority. Even to the point where they get random letters & postcards with pictures showing their "Ugly Doll" traveling in various parts around the world. In addition, the audience gets to interact with it physically and emotionally:

"The doll's face is simple, but whether it's smiling or frowning depends on a person's imagination." - Sun-Min Kim

I think getting their audience to have this kind of reaction/interaction must be enormously satisfying!!!

Monday, September 04, 2006

DO: Library by color

Recently on Design Observer, Rob Giampierto posted an article about arranging books. After a brief introduction on the Dewey system, he points out that while this works very well for large collections home collections may need a different system. How does one go about arranging a personal library? Is it by topic, by size, or my personal favorite, wherever I manage to throw it back on the self? He argues to try color.

How does color have a relationship to content? By rearranging your shelf, you may notice certain types of books are always published with a certain color cover, perhaps in order to change your view of the content, or just to help sell it. Also, you may notice relationships with other books. How does the content of your personal collection shift when noticing one book setting next to a book it has never neared before?

Ultimately, he says, it will at least make the books a better backdrop to your life, having a rainbow appear on a wall.