Thursday, September 29, 2005

Moholy-Cow, Batman... New Typography

Honestly, half the time I spent reading this article I was trying to figure out what Moholy-Nagy was talking about, and the other half wondering if he even knew what he was talking about.

“The new typography is a simultaneous experience of vision and communication,” he writes. He says earlier in the article that clarity should be absolutely emphasized and communication should never be impaired by an a priori esthetics. How can you design something that appeals optically and not have aesthetics play a major role? Does type have to be clear and legible to be good? Can’t we simply appreciate a group of letterforms without having to figure out how to read it? I saw a lot of projects at the last critique that didn’t need to be clear and legible— because they simply looked interesting. Many people like Chinese characters because of their visual appeal but can’t read a stroke of it.

And then he goes on to brush aside hieroglyphics, calling them “inexact,” and refers to other ancient systems as lacking the clarity of modern languages and therefore lacking efficient means of communication. Nay, nay, I say. How can you call hieroglyphics inexact after you look at a wall carved up with those symbols and think how long it took to come up with something like that, not to mention the thought that went into preparing the inscriptions on those monuments? Inexact? I think not.

I do agree with Moholy-Nagy’s statement about the effective poster being one that impacts all the senses. But he insinuates that using photography exclusively—and not poster painting at all—will increase poster design’s effectiveness. I feel that eliminating any kind of art-making from a designer’s oeuvre with the sole exception of photography limits design, not liberates. To make interesting and dynamic design, I think it’s necessary to know about as many techniques and disciplines as one can because this opens up broad avenues of exploration and aids in the solving of difficult design problems.

To say that technology will eradicate past methods of art-making and design is to lose the fundamental skills that brought us to where we stand as designers in today’s world. New technology is merely a tool—a new way of stating a design problem’s solution. “New typography” embraces every tool and emotion and experience out there and that is what gives design its “elasticity, variability, and freshness . . .”

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

existential guide to hate...i mean type

"In the garrish mirrored and pseudocrystal-festooned canival-of-the-nouveau-riche milieu of Donald Trump's Hyatt, a gathering of those obsessed with the subtlest of detailswas staged..."

Sounds great, sorry I missed that one.

I know there are hordes of type geeks out there that notice things like "the insouciant teist of Palatino s's descender" or the "hungry maw of a lowercase Souvenir e...", I just don't think I'm one of them, and at the type geek convention of 1987, things were discussed that seem a little outdated. The adjustment and more importantly the digitizing of type was the hot, controversial issue. A battle was being waged in 1987 as to what would be the future of type design, and it pitted two schools of thought against one another: the purists, and the technoids.

Guess who won that little skirmish.

It seems ridiculuous to think about now, but how could type design not have grown away from being carves out of hunks of lead. Big metal letters didn't allow much freedom or flexibility, which the purists love. But they had to have seen the future of type as being digitized, desktop publishing as the new method, and the whole world being able to molest their cherished relics from ages ago. Change could have been embraced by the die hard purists to ease all the bitching and moaning that went on for years and years about the fate of type design.

If nothing else, this article was informative in that it provided clues as to how ITC decides what to do to an existing typeface, and how they license them to their customers. It is also a glimpse into the past when companies Bitstream used huge CAD machines to build type dot by dot, square by square using some strange and then futuristic sounding Bitmaps.

It's 1987: What the hell is a Bitmap? Ah, those were the days. Metallic colored Corrollas, KRS One's "The Bridge is Over" pumping out of jamboxes and Air Jordan II's on the feet of kids richer than you. But I digress.

Kate's incredibly late/angry post

Sorry guys, but every time I sat down to do this i couldn't think of anything to say. I could not figure out why such a poorly written and pointless essay had been included in this collection. Then I looked at the author and it all made sense: its one of the guys that edited the freakin' book. So hopefully the other one's are better. Anyway, maybe I'm in too many english classes right now, but i'm not saying that the guy doesn't have any valid points. Its just that this shit jumps all over the place, and he never really expresses what he is trying to say. He has no thesis statement. He proves nothing. I mean the two questions he poses in the beginning of the essay are stupid to begin with, but Heller doesn't even answer them, which i'm pretty sure you're supposed to do in a quote "critical writing". "Are there design conventions for expressing racism?". I guess he tries to prove that there are by talking about the Nazi's. There is no arguing that their propaganda and everything associated with their party had a certain look. And of course today that look will be associated with racism and tyranny. But when he talks about it, it sounds like he is saying that there is something innately evil and menacing about the design. I'll start with the idea of the typeface, since I mildly agree with him there. Yea, Fraktur is intimidating. But if you look at Old English, which is also mentioned in the reading, it has the same characteristics. Slanting lines, angularity of form, points, etc. But nobody associates Olde English with hate. Because the Nazi's didn't use it. He says, "Anything set in Fraktur... takes on a decidely ominous look". No shit Heller! F-ing Nazi's used it. Of course you're going to associate it with evil and hatred. However, dude says himself that, "The Germans did not entertain design extremes...", because they wanted their stuff to reach the common man, the middlebrow. So obviously back in the day in Germany, Fraktur wasn't all that uncommon. And if that's the case, I'm sure that it was not automatically associated with hate at the time. We just see it that after growing up seeing that imagery used in Nazi propaganda. Am I getting too deep here? I'm just saying that the only reason this type is seen as evil (and not simply dramatic and archaic like Old English) is because the Nazi party set a precedent. If they had used Futura, Heller would be all "Futura is the most evil font of all time!!!". So I guess when you go back to his original question, yea there are design conventions for expressing racism. there are design conventions for expressign everything dumbass. But its merely a question of what we subconciously associate certain tpes and images with. Like the swastika. If I wanted something to look racist, and I was boring and didn't have an original thought in my head, yea i might put a swastika on it. But not because it so well designed and so clearly invokes a feeling of hatred that is not based on any historical use of it (this is sarcasm). Because everyone is used to seeing swastikas in Nazi imagery. What retarded Heller doesn't mention is that the swastika is one of the oldest used symbols in the history of amn, and thats its original connotation was luck and goodness. I am sure that there were very few people in China 3000 years ago thinking, "Wow, our symbol for good luck is designed really hatefully". Because it wasn't. The Nazi's didn't design it; hate isn't designed into it. People just get that feeling from it because we now all associate it with Nazi's. I'm sure Hindus (who I'm pretty sure still use the swastika in religious iconography) don't see a swastika and automatically think "hate". Similar to the whole Fraktur thing, if the Nazi's had used a little pink bunny rabbit as their symbol, we would all think little pink bunny rabbits were evil. I don't really know where I'm going with this, but I don't have to because its 7:30 in the morning and anyway, my shit isn't going to be in a book. Moving on, Heller's second question is "Can hate be well designed?" Are you fucking serious? That is the stupidest question ever. Of course it can be well designed. Anything can be well designed. I mean i think he basically says that by drooling over how wonderful the Nazi propaganda was for three paragraphs, But then he still claims that the KKK symbology is effective. That shit is obviously not well designed. Dude just keeps contradicting himself. Let me end this essay by ranting about his conclusion statement. First of all, your conclusion statement is supposed to sum up the points you have made in your writing. Since he didn't make any, of course the conclusion statement is going to be retarded. And I quote, "Therefore, the design of hate must be painfully obvious, relying upon tried-and-true symbols and icons that cannot be misconstrued, for they embody a history that cannot, and shoud not, be ignored". what dramatic cheesy bullshit. So basically he's saying you can't design something about hate without using Nazi imagery, or other symbols of hatred from the past. Fuck you Steven Heller, I am a 22 year old student from Ohio with average design skills and ideas and I guarentee (I don't think that's spelled right) that I can design something hateful without using a freakin' swastika or an old German typeface. Anyway that's all i have to say about this writing. Sorry this was more of a rant than a response, and I apologize also for the excessive amount of typos that are in here because i'm not going to proofread this. Even though no one probably read it because I am turning it in right before class. I wonder if I could use this Change Time & Date thing here at the bottom to make it not late. Tobias would probably figure it out. Damn. OK. later.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Here is Chris Ritter’s Post…

Chris Ritter
ARTG 327
September 11, 2005

Designing hate was an interesting issue, but I don’t think the article sufficiently supported its argument with current designs. I believe that Hitler was a mastermind at controlling art and design for propaganda reasons. Hitler was very interested in the arts and was very much aware of its uses. Using a unified font for propaganda and government use proved to be great for his cause because you would associate anti-Semitic messages to everyday things resulting in brainwashing an entire society. I do believe this is one of Hitler’s greatest decisions for his cause because everything we perceive fonts to communicate is completely sub-conscience. Manipulating what that sub-conscience says is what makes his approach so incredible.

The fact that you can do that is scary since I wouldn’t know what typefaces could communicate “nigger” or “spic” as the article suggests. I may be naive, but I truly don’t believe there are any fonts out there with this kind of baggage, except for maybe the Old English font presented in the article. I looked at a couple websites of organizations that were mentioned, but I didn’t notice any major uniformity except for the lack of good design. I found that it didn’t support the arguments very well. All in all, I believe that it is possible to communicate hate messages through type as easily as any other desirable message type communicates, but I do not believe there is a current type that has that kind of ability as the hate groups I investigated are very poor art directors.

Here is Jeremy Hess’ Post…

Thinking Inside the box

The essay I read was one of the most rediculous essays
I have ever read. The writers of this essay are very
much against altering type. They are so close minded
to anything new and different that they are getting
lost in the crowd. Maybe if they spent as much time
designing as they do bitching about type faces I would
have heard of them. Upon reading this I began to
think of them as an old high school fottball player
that graduated 20 years ago and never went to college.
He just sits on the bleachers bitching abut what they
are doing wrong and how he would have done it. I
could barely bring myself to read the rest of this
essay because frankly I have better things to do , but
I pushed on.

Carter seems to be one of the few who has an
intelligent arguement about the direction of
typography. I does not believe that typography
stopped after the the metal press was obsolete.
Typography is evovling as our culture evolves and if
it stops our design will remain stagnent in a pool of
over user layuts. The opposition to the modern
typographer is not thinking out of the box. On the
contrary they have built themselves a cage and are
stuck in there own little world. With this mindset
they should by all rights last about 5 seconds in the
design world. As an artist I use typography to reflect
that particular design whatever it may be. If I need
to alter that font for the good of the design then I
will do so. The world moves so fast now that clients
want things done yesterday and the use of typepresses
is going the way of the dodo.

To limit your artistic ability because you have be too
punk and by doing so you are conforming to the ideals
artists hate to align themselves with. The writers of
this essay need to be more free thinking and not htink
inside the box or they will be living in a box. Ha Ha

P.S. Thanks for listening to my nonsense.

E.Romer Article #2 Reaction

As I read this essay, I came across a particularly true and insightful paragraph. It was on page 22, the second paragraph down. It mentioned that "Certain things work best when we are unaware of them." In the world of type and printed or computerized communication, as designers, we come to notice things that are not working right. We designers need to utilize the functionality of text and fonts. Typography needs to be balanced and has to function in accordance with its surroundings- it needs to serve its purpose. In most cases, this is true because the sheer fact is that most type is used for communication purposes. Typography is also used for elements in design - like using the letter forms for boundaries, repetition, illustration, construction, and symbolism - rather than as pure communication in the form of words.
It always bothers me when I see type or fonts used in a distasteful manner. I guess because, in part, I am schooled in the artform, but I also feel that if you are a legitimate designer, making a body of work that the public will view, you need to establish smart and integrated typography. It can't be an afterthought that was plopped next to a pictorial design. We put so much stock in the graphic design of things that the typography element is often overlooked in the vast majority of signage, advertisements, and logo designs. Integration of graphic design and typography is a difficult relationship to work out, it is often a problem with so many solutions and options that it boggles the mind. It is difficult to make the correct decision about what works best. That is why I liked the quote so much from the essay, it made me understand that type needs to be cohesive and work correctly in its element and it will serve its purpose.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Derek's take on the matter

Response to An Existential Guide to Type

I think the best quote from the article is Matthew Carter’s

“There are very few things you can say to distinguish type from other kinds of industrial design, One of them is that we design letterforms, obviously. That’s What we draw, but the real product is words. We don’t know how those letterforms are going to be combined linguistically. And essentially we have to make them so they can be combined randomly in any combination. It’s when the thing gets into words, gets printed, that’s the proof of it. That’s when it’s doing its job. So there’s a funny sort of remove. You’re designing something but you have no control over how it’s actually used. We are really word designers, but we can’t be” (32)

This sums up a very good opinion on the matter. Once you have made the typeface you have no control, and that should be understood from the onset. In the other time periods it took a lot more effort to tweak a typeface so much so that when it was finished you had a real piece of design and work to restrike all the letters. But today with the technology the way it is it is so simple to move and change type to fit your every whim. Whether or not it is right isn’t the issue the issue is whether or not it works. If your design is better because you removed a serif then you are justified in your position. You can take the opinion of the type purist’s but if it is going to hurt your ability to make the best piece possible then throw their opinion out the window.

Tim's Response to “An Existential Guide to Type”

In the article “An Existential Guide to Type,” by Karrie Jacobs, I understand the argument that the author is making, and while I agree with most of the comments dealing with the lost art of understanding the fine and subtle differences in type, I also see a person who seems to be longing for the past instead of embracing the potential in today’s technology and evolution. Sure, modifying a sacred type like Garamond might be considered a horrible thing, but things evolve… as they should. I feel as though a lot of the comments I want to say have already been said, so I thought I would discuss Paula Scher.
Paula Scher is a very interesting woman… The statements I read in the article that deal with her bitching about how ITC murdered Garamond made me think of her book, which I am currently reading, called Bigger is Better. Scher who is widely known for her Swatch Watch poster that used elements of Herbert Matter’s Swiss Travel posters, says “But the Swatch poster, a parody of a revered graphic icon, seemed to rankle a certain percentage of the design community that believes in the sacredness of mid-century modernism.” This seems funny coming from a person who is mad about slight variations in different versions of Garamond.
And on Adam’s comments about the computer, here is another quote from Scher’s book, that I also feel ties into this discussion, “I don’t have anything personal against the computer. I feel about computers the way I feel about cars: I need them, I drive them, I’m fond of them, but I don’t want to hang around and talk about them.” But she’ll gladly sit around and talk about type all day.

Designing Hate Response

This reading made me think about Hitler and the Nazi party. It's so true that whenever you look at the swastika, one of the first things that come to you is hate. It's a horrible thought that comes along with such a strong use of an icon. Hitler's use of the swastika shows how much a simple symbol can be burned into someones head. As designers this is something that we fight to achieve. Hitler's life is kind of similar to that fashion. He was a man who became a symbol for years. Everyone knows Hitler's face, A student in one of my other Typography class did a work of art that symbolized hitler, and all that was needed was his mustache for everyone to recognize who he was. He was an icon also for the fact of hwo amazing of a leader he was, maybe with not good beliefs, but probably one of the greatest leaders ever. How a person can force hate into so many peoples minds is incredible. To have so many people follow him with such crazy thoughts is mind boggling. Blonde hair blue eyes, the perfect race? Hitler, where was your blonde hair and blue eyes, and weren't you part Jewish? Didn't any of his followers notice this? He's like great design, he got people to feel something, create an attachment, advertise a thought or product that was opposite of what he was and have people buy it. Sounds pretty amazing to me, too bad he couldn't lead for something good. His design work was pretty interesting also. A friend let me borrow a book a year or two back that was art work created by Hitler. Pretty cool stuff. Anyways, to wrap this up, maybe we all need to go a little crazy to get our design to be remembered. Just maybe not that crazy. Hate is bad. Design is good though.

Hate Design Response

I had never really thought about the impact a simple symbol can have on someone, and never really even considered that the swastika was “good design”. After reading this article I agree with the author that hate can be well designed. If you consider good design to be something that everyone recognizes, and has different feelings about than I think Hitler did the job. A person in their 20s would have to live with their head up their ass to not know what a swastika is. Just like hate in this article, any “concept” can be designed well if it follows certain rules of good design. For example the peace sign has a simple design, and means a lot to almost everyone in the world. Positive feelings can be just as well designed as negative feelings. Even though I thought the article was a bit wordy, I agree with what the author had to say.

Criticism: Type as Discourse Response

Criticism: Type as Discourse Response

“The Copyright laws in many countries are outdated. Type designs have so far not been included in U. S. Copyright laws.” As a Graphic Designer copyright laws for our designs are our only chances of survival. Without them many of our masterpieces will go unknown and of course “the biggy”, $$$$$$.
The designers of Type having no copyright laws to protect them from their type designs being printed without paying for them, is outrageous in the year of 2005. With today's technology there should be some kind of software with watermarks or something that distorts the fonts during transfer.
“One reason a typeface is considered a masterpiece is because the designer achieved optical harmony in adjusting the size and proportion of the parts. Not mathematically, but esthetically and perceptually.” With the first project in this class I felt that everyone has created their masterpiece in type. The skillful techniques that were used, the clarity that went into each and every symbol/font and topping them off with a touch of elegance. Studying my own symbols have made me realize the work that goes into something that may look simple but is not. My appreciation for type has grown enormously over the last few weeks.

Debbie Jordan

Designing Hate

After reading the article Designing Hate, it opened my eyes and made me think just how important graphic design and how many different ways design is used. This article was very interesting but it seemed to be more like an article on psychological warfare then design. While I'm not a Nazi lover, the swastika shape, color and over all design of the entire Nazi Army was a brilliant design and it was very successful in what they wanted to accomplish. People from all over the world recognize that symbol as a symbol of hate and even though the days of Hitler are behind us, we still get that feeling and can understand its power. Even in today's times, during the war in Iraq for example, Americans dropped flyers that had some sort of picture and text on them from planes to persuade terrorist to give up. Now, Hitler had a different meaning behind what he was doing than the Americans, but you can see that a symbol or certain colors can create a feeling good or bad in someone's mind.

Thoughts on Designing Hate

I think the connection between design and the legacy of the Nazis serves to illustrate further the power of design. It's terrible to say, but those guys over at Nazi headquarters were design geniuses! It amazes me to think that through the power of their propaganda, the Nazis were able to sway public opinion towards such a violent and extreme viewpoint. The artists who created the images of Jews as rats, mongrels, and pimps (Heller, p. 42) --- do they bear some responsibility for the holocaust? It really made me think about our role as designers in promoting causes, companies, and ideas. If we don't choose our projects carefully, we could end up with our name attached to a business, group, product, whatever that someday may come back to haunt us. Now, I would hope it wouldn't be an extreme a case as this, but it does get me thinking about what things I would definitely not design for (the republican party, for example).
Another thing this essay made me think about was symbols and their meanings. I wonder, do symbols come loaded with their own meaning, or does our use of them imbue them with meaning? Certain symbols used by the groups discussed in the essay such as the lightning bolt, thrusting arrow, and gunsight (Heller, p.43) seem innately powerful. The swastika, on the other hand, was an ancient symbol even used by our own military at one time, that will now always symbolize the Nazi ideology. To us it means racism, hate, and death; before Hitler used it as his mark, it meant none of these things. Even the fonts used on Nazi propaganda now remind us of something hard and threatening. Just like how you'll never be able to see anything written in the Tide, or Coca-cola, or Ford fonts without thinking of those companies. Using a distinctive font in any campaign, negative or not, can associate the font with the cause forever.
The essay also shows that design can legitimize. It can lend credit to causes sometimes undeserving of that credit. When things are well designed, (or, in the case of some of the hate group publications, designed in such a way that makes them look commonplace and seem as credible as mainstream newspapers) we're more likely to buy them or put our trust in them. Can good design make even undesirable or unworthy products and ideas popular? I definitely think it can. Looking at the Nazis just goes to show that no matter what you're selling, be it tacos or membership in a mass-murdering hate group, if your design is good, more people will be attracted to it.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Adam's Response to An Existential Guide to Type

"It's just like bing-bing-bing-bing...," he says, hitting the table with a steady, monotonous beat. "You know, rhythm is type. This isn't rhythm. That's nothing more than a tap. The minute you have this-" he adds a second beat with his other hand, "then you're cooking. The idea is that type has a feeling, and if it doesn't have that feeling it just goes..." And here Benguiat makes a noise that defies accurate transliteration. "If it doesn't have that feeling it just goes blaaaaahhh."

What the f***? Did this guy actually say anything? I re-read this excerpt two or three times before giving up on it.

But seriously, I understand both sides of the issue posed in this essay. I see the letterforms as amazing artwork and design by themselves. I appreciate the amount of time the designer puts into perfecting every part and function of the font. That being said, I honestly don't view them with such reverence that I would not alter them if the design would benefit from it.

My first typography teacher (who no longer works for the University and we are all better off because of that fact) chastised me one day for deleting a couple of anchor points from a letter in one of my designs. He claimed by altering the type, I was destroying the type designer's original vision. But if my design would suffer because I upheld the type designer's vision, I didn't understand why the hell I would want to preserve it. A client is just going to care that the piece looks good, not whether or not you upheld the integrity of the font you used.

I view type as another element in the design, like a photograph or illustration. Altering a photograph is essentially destroying the photographer's original piece of art, and the same thing goes for an illustration. But if the overall piece benefits from it, who cares? Possibly the photographer or illustrator, but should we have to worry about that?

I had a hard time reading how arrogant and nit-picky some of the people who attended Type 1987 were. Complaining about the alterations over the years as fonts were tweaked and digitized. They sound like Star Wars geeks who bitched when George Lucas released the Special Editions, or music snobs who think you have to listen to The Ramones and The Clash to say you like punk. I see it in all areas of art, though, from painting to photography, back to design. I think whenever people start to think that you cant do this or that, their creativity starts to go out the door, simply because they are imposing limitations on themselves.

"Digitizing Janson is like playing Bach on a synthesizer." "Bastardizing our heritage."

What arrogant bullsh**. Letterpresses obviously are no longer practical for most things anymore. We have to evolve as technology evolves or we die out. How else are newer generations supposed to view and appreciate the classic fonts unless they are evolved alongside the rest?

I know that this day and age, with our computers, printers and whatnot, that we have lost alot of the blood, sweat, and tears that used to go into this profession, and that's sad, but at some point you have to stop bitching and get on with it. We should recognize the way it used to be done, and in certain instances, revisit those processes. We shouldn't rely fully on the computer, I know that. In many ways, the computer is a crutch, but damn it's a comfortable one.

Designing Hate

While I was reading this article, I was reminded of a movie I saw last semester called Downfall. It was a really interesting movie about Hitler's last days alive. Even though the movie had subtitles, it was really intense and emotionally draining. It let the viewer in on a side of Hitler's life that I personally had never known before. He was so many different things to so many different people; he was an uncle, a friend, a lover and a leader. To many people he was the "only way". It's odd, but whenever I'd think of Hitler, I'd never picture him as and everyday man...well, because in many ways he isn't, but as I mentioned above, he was so many things to different people, but most of all, he was a dictator who, "etched hate into the minds of millions" as the article puts it. Everything about that man was insaine. Many people thought he was just crazy, but in reality he was probably one of the most intelegent men of our history. He knew what attracted people and how to reel them in. Just like a good design, he knew what to say and how to say it so it would attract the people. This is all I can think of when I read this article. It really is a great movie to check out. I saw it at a theater in Clifton, but it's probably available to rent by now.


Designing Hate Response

In response to our reading of Designing Hate: Is there Graphic Language of Vile Emotion?

I don't think that the idea of the Nazi's of World War II being ultimately stylish is by any means a novel thought. I don't think anyone in the class would say that they liked Nazi's, but I'll be the first to admit, they looked really really cool. Frightening, but cool. They adopted an ancient symbol and used it to symbolize fear and hate, and they did it well. I think this is stuff we've all heard though, and I found the article to be a little ordinary.

I definitely believe that good design can help any cause, nice or mean. The Nazi's were stylish, with their reds and blacks and what have you, and the leather was a nice touch too. Their design was solid and even if you're selling hatred and violence, if it looks neat, it's gonna work better. As I said before, it's attractive stuff and even though it means terrible things, when you see that Swastika, those lightening bolts and the black/red fields of color, it looks really nice. I think whenever anyone sees Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, they say "that's cool lookin" when Indy crashes the Nazi rally to get his Dad's diary back. Illustrator Andrew Bawidamann's draws/paints pin-up chicks, mostly in WWII fashion. Whenever he gets requests, it's ALWAYS for the Nazi chicks (he told us so in Illustration class). People adore the Nazi gals. The black leather and reds are fashionable, whether it's mean nasty fashion or not.

The article brings up the idea of adopting symbols and forcing them to mean different things. As Steven Heller says, the swastika isn't naturally a symbol of hatred and persecution. It's the way the Nazi's used it that made it terrifying. Hell, if a radical, powerful group of Mexicans decided to hunt down and kill young, skinny, white male design students and they used the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe and Futura on all of their hate literature and flags, I'd be super scared of it. I don't think it matters a whole lot what image or font you use, if you use it alongside violence and hate, it's going to be scary. Same with the KKK. I think when talking about a white hood with two little eye-holes cut out, I would think of a really stupid ghost costume. However, the KKK fancied it up a little bit, and now white hoods scare people. Watch out, perhaps slap-bracelets will be the next fear-inducing fashion!

Taking things people are used to, and switching them up a little bit is an easy way to slowly introduce people to new ideas. If you have a radical new idea, and you introduce it to the public in a radical way, it's going to be hard for people to associate with it. If instead, you use old symbols, plain styles and tried-and-true fonts to express your crazy ideas, it's going to be easier to get people to look at it and read it. Getting people comfortable is the first step in selling them something.

Oliver.....I hope no one reads this and thinks I'm a Nazi-lover...

Friday, September 09, 2005

Word Up.

Oh, Type Designer, May I Have a Word? A Comment On:
“An Existential Guide to Type,” by Karrie Jacobs

If the art professors at NKU should ask me why I want to be an artist or a designer at my portfolio review, the first thing I intend to say is, “Because I see infinite possibilities.” Some of which work, some of which don’t—but you never know which will work and which will not until you’ve tried everything, right?

If living in the post modernist era (or post-post modernist, as I’ve heard some social gurus of the art world trill after 9/11) is all about treading ground in one’s work already explored by another’s— or the reinterpretation of ideas without ever coming up with anything new— then I might be out of step with the times. For to see infinite possibilities sometimes means not treading worn ground. I’m not saying by any means that my work is destined to, or might one day, end what it means to be “postmodern,” but that’s not to say no one else will.

(God, how I passionately hate the postmodernist legacy. To me it’s an evolutionary dead end for art and design. When there are no more fresh ideas, I strongly believe this will be the death of civilization . . . I’ll save this rant for another day.)

Now let me contradict myself and admit that I’m a bit of a historicist and yet enjoy the “anything goes” mentality of some postmodern design. I prefer Garamond and the ideas of William Morris over anything coming out of the Swiss school; on the other hand, I’m not a fan of rules about kerning, leading, and alphabet “geometry,” and will not hesitate to break rules and smash letters together if it makes the piece “feel right.”

I mention all this because it sort of amuses me when type designers get together—in the case of the Jacob’s essay, at Type 1987—to discuss what they like, don’t like, rules and traditions about type that are being upheld or ignored, metal punches versus Macs, being trendy, being classic or reliable—all this from designers who, in some form or another, broke the preceding generations’ rules about typography and offered a new idea or interpretation through their work.

Much of this essay revolved around the questions, “What is a typeface?” and “If type foundries slightly bastardize Garamond to distinguish it from other foundries’ Garamond, is it really Garamond?” Karrie Jacob writes:

What emerged at Type 1987 was a confrontation between the
purists and the technoids: designers, small-press operators, and
miscellaneous type fundamentalists insisted that letterforms have
degenerated since the extinction of hot type . . . The computer
enthusiasts, on the other hand, exuded optimism and boasted of a
world full to overflowing with more and better faces.

The truth probably lies somewhere in between. In spite of our fabulous technology, has anyone ever really seen—or, better yet, used—the true Garamond? Do you happen to have a “favorite” Garamond? On a different note, while technology has allowed typefaces to overflow, are the faces really better? What would Garamond himself say if he saw, for instance, an ITC version of his work, where strokes were a little different and serifs adjusted to modern sensibilities? I think there’s a difference between evolving from a typeface and bastardizing it.

Consider what Jacobs writes in the following: “A typeface from a hundred years ago is a time traveler, so we don’t always question its credentials, we don’t ask whether it’s the best of its day. We like it because it’s here. And we don’t want the survivors of the past to be corrupted by the present.” (30)

But I think the real issue is personal preference. Ed Benguiat, who abhors the idea of drawing on the computer, still designs letterforms by hand “because a computer doesn’t have a heart.” (p.26) And I’ve known graphic design majors who abhor drawing with their hands but still put our amazing work in twenty minutes on a computer. It’s all still “anything goes.”

In a similar instance, I disliked using power tools in sculpture class because I couldn’t feel any personal connection to my work against the whirr of machinery and the back-of-my-mind feeling that, inevitably, I would suffer some sort of horrible accident and cut off a limb while carving a lump of wood. This lack of confidence was what also reduced my appreciation for Photo I at the off, for I couldn’t decide who was in control: the camera, the film, the chemicals, or me? But after learning the limitations of the equipment—just like learning to navigate design programs—I found my hands more immersed in the activity than I had ever felt with, say, painting. Therefore, I have to agree with Matthew Carter’s assessment that, Mac or metal punch, it doesn’t really matter: “I think that there is no real truth to materials.” (29)

No, it’s the infinite possibilities that must drive us, or your own raison d’etre as a designer. In response to Paula Scher’s idea in the essay that foundries’ redesigning of typefaces is an attack on our heritage as designers, I propose this as a rule for typography—and only one rule: Know your heritage from its most basic roots, see where you fit in, and then pursue what you design with passion and a confidence that suggests nothing like it has ever been done before.

Second class or ??

“Certain things work best when we are unaware of them . . . If the design of a typeface, a text face, demands attention, there’s a problem.”
From An Existential Guide to Type, by Karrie Jacobs

This struck me as being a little uncanny because it's exactly what technical designers (scenic, lighting, sound) are sometimes told in theatre. There's this mentality in some design circles "to be seen and not heard," or that everything in the background-- set, lights, costumes-- should compliment what the actors are doing on stage, so the actor's art is first (although all such designers take great pride in their work). Some teachers suggest that if there's a comment (either positive or negative) on the stage design, the production crew has failed because it has detracted attention from the action of the play-- or something went horribly wrong during a show.

So... if a regular joe comments on the typography in a magazine ad, has the ad failed in its mission to communicate an idea about a product, or is it simply a good/bad typeface design?

(On a side note... even though theatre productions depend on set designers, and design firms and graphic designers depend on typographers, why does it seem like a typographer's role is being reduced to a "second class citizen" status if there is a prevalent idea that type shouldn't "demand attention," as Jacobs suggests?)

Friday, September 02, 2005

43,000 Reasons To “Take It Easy” This Labor Day Weekend

Happy Labor Day Weekend!

Hey, since we’re talking about “labor” how about some information:

In an address last March to the AIGA’s Schools of Thought II conference, Meredith Davis (NCSU College of Design Director) reported that in the United States there are over 1,700 two and four-year graphic design programs, CHURNING OUT OVER 43,000 GRADUATING STUDENTS EVERY YEAR! -CMYK Magazine, Summer 2005

It get’s better. Here are some interesting points from the U.S. Department of Labor:

• Nearly one-third of designers were self-employed—almost five times the proportion for all professional and related occupations.

• Creativity is crucial in all design occupations; most designers need a bachelor’s degree, and candidates with a master’s degree hold an advantage.

•Keen competition is expected for most jobs, despite average projected employment growth, because many talented individuals are attracted to careers as designers.
-U.S. Department of Labor

Have a nice weekend everybody!


Thursday, September 01, 2005

David Carson and the next step in typography

On the Hillman Curtis website, there is a documentary of the work of David Carson. Carson, who is known for placing type by interpreting the meaning behind the message, states:

“It seems like there was Nevil Brody, then I came along. And then the next thing doesn’t seem to have happened. It will, it is inevitable, but I never thought there would be this big of a gap.”

Any ideas why the next step hasn’t happened yet? Do you guys think this is because the Mac has taken a lot of the craft out of our profession? Especially when it comes to typography?