Wednesday, December 10, 2008

"AIGA Design for Democracy"

In class it was mentioned that AIGA redesigned paper ballots for voting which really caught my attention. Design still and always will serve a purpose to government.

I found this article on the AIGA website,, and found it quite interesting. It explains how AIGA is encouraging states and election jurisdictions to apply the design guidelines for voting ballots. These guidelines were created by the design members of AIGA to help influence and motivate designers.

These are two paper ballots that were redesigned using their guidelines. Do they look familiar? I voted using a paper ballot this Novemeber and it is almost the same exact design! They were clearly easy to use in my opinion. I think its so cool that AIGA directly influenced the design on the ballots that we use to vote for our president!

These images are from the link,, that's included in the article.

Russian Constructivism

I think Russian Constructivism was similar to the Bauhaus in my opinion, meaning that they were both way ahead of their time in how unique and well designed their artwork was. I find it interesting that they looked down on emotional artwork and wanted to create strictly objective forms that had universal meaning. The hand in particular has a very strong force behind it.

I'm so fascinated how they created these photomontaged images and texture within these posters by hand and reproduced them! The geometric structures and basic shapes and bold colors representing the communist regime in Russian at the time are quite moving. It would have been nice to see Tatlin's tower actually built! This is probably my favorite movement that we have learned in class simply because it links to my family's past, being from the former Soviet Union. In these constructivist photos I included, you kind see the constuctivism that went into each piece and see how they clearly represented this movement with the sharp geometric shapes and the hand built quality to them.

I borrowed these images from which was a site I found that included some interesting information about Russian Constructivism and many more photos of artwork.

Monday, December 8, 2008

The "Birth of the User"

It seems that the “user” came about in the late 80’s-90’s with the introduction of the computer and the internet. The user is different from the reader in that they are not as patient, where they go is sometimes more important than what they read, and the text they read can be more important than what it means.

The impatience of the user could come from a desire to read from paper rather than a monitor, but rather comes from culture. While on the web, there is a need to feel productive, rather than leisurely. The internet is used for searching and finding answers, even though you know you’ll reach some obstacles along the way.

But even now as I write this, I think about myself searching at the library vs. online – I know that not every book I pick up is going to contain the information I need. So I expect obstacles (as Lupton says the user expects to be “disappointed, distracted, and delayed by false leads.”) How is this different from searching online?

In the first couple paragraphs of the article, Lupton mentions “Typography becomes a mode of interpretation, and the designer and reader (and the designer-as-reader) competed with the traditional author for control of the text.” This is true to the web now-a-days as well. Websites are becoming increasingly more “designed” vs. the standard black Times New Roman on a white screen with blue and purple links. Web page designers are finding more ways to control the text to design a page, whether it’s by using Cascading Style Sheets to alter the text or creating an image to use on the page in place of text that can be selected with the cursor.

“In typography as in urban life, density invites intimate exchange among people and ideas.” I like this idea. It’s an interesting way to think about lack of white space as being a good thing. If the information is laid out in a clean and orderly fashion, then it is easier to make connections and comparisons and find information quickly and without problems. So many times it seems that lack of white space equals poor design. Much like the “design” of the Victorian Era, when many varieties of type and images were all thrown together on a page, with no real meaning behind the layout. But no matter how organized an area of information is, we as people can only interpret one piece of information at a time. The internet leads us to information overload easily.

So as designers, we need to do our best to design for the user so that they can understand what they are viewing, or reading, and make the best possible choices.


Sunday, December 7, 2008

David Carson and Nine Inch Nails

Just some cover art I couldn't post on comments...

Postmodernism in Pop Culture

"The disappearance of a sense of history, the way in which our entire contemporary social system has little by little begun to lose its capacity to retain its own past, has begun to live in a perpetual present and in a perpetual change that obliterates traditions of the kind which all earlier social formations have had in one way or another to preserve... The information function of the media would thus be to help us to forget, to serve as the very agents and mechanisms of our historical amnesia" (Jameson).
Postmodernism in its most easily identifiable form seems to be the re-hashing of retro styles or nostalgic subject matter. Normally in the form of parody or tribute, it is the recycling of an idea to identify or create new meaning to a concept. These combinations sometimes seem very unlikely and usually involve a blend of "high" and "low" art. For example, I cite Matt Groening's "The Simpsons" parody of Salvador Dali's "The Persistence of Time."
This is most commonly seen in: 
  • Film/TV genres
  • Photographic images
  • Typography
  • Color
  • Clothing
  • Advertising images 
  • Hair styles

Postmodernism is "history" represented through nostalgic images of pop culture, fantasies of the past. History can become the style, and historical representations blend with nostalgia. The end result is dependent on the original concept, but in the process develops its own narrative.

Alexey Brodovitch

Alexey Brodovitch (1898-1971) was arguably the most avante-garde layout designer ever. His layout designs influence and resonate through modern layout design and high-art photography today. He emigrated to the United States in 1930, and began working as Art Director for Harper's Bazaar, a well-known American fashion magazine, in 1934. Harper' s Bazaar considers itself to be the resource for "the well dressed woman and the well dressed mind." The focus was on the world of fashion, beauty and popular culture on a monthly basis. Brodovitch was one of the first designers that taught design as a professional discipline. Brodovitch's avante-garde philosophies revolutionized magazine design with his usage of "asymmetrical layouts, white space and dynamic imagery." His double page layouts are considered some of the best ever made, using practices that were groundbreaking for the time, such as bleeding photos over the gutter, using serif type faces such as Bodoni, and using the photograph as the overall basis of the spread. He is credited with influencing many leading photographers and designers, such as Richard Avedon, Art Cane, Hiro, Bob Cato, Irving Penn, Otto Storch, and Henry Wolf. Brodovitch was also known for commisioning the works of well known photographers Man Ray  Henri Cartier-Bresson, Horst P. Horst, Cecil Beaton, George Hoyningen-Huene. 

Democratization of Design

Found this blog post tonight on the democratization of design. It links to a full page article run by The Gazette in Montreal.

The basic point of the article is that good design is much more accessible these days - there are gobs of blogs devoted to the subject, stores like IKEA offer well designed, attractive products at affordable prices - even Home Depot and Lowes have more than just the affordable but not quite as attractive products, that people at one time were limited to because good design was expensive, and more difficult for the common person to get their hands on.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Music Sampling

Lately in class we've been talking about Postmodernism. We've discussed that one of the ways that Postmodernism manifested itself is through appropriating images and recontextualizing them. This got me thinking about music in terms of Postmodernism. A short paragraph can be found here describing Postmodernist music in terms of minimalism in compositions, however that's not exactly what I was thinking of. I was hoping to look more along the lines of today's musicians, appropriating songs or portions of songs from the past, and recontextualizing them. An example being music sampling. I also wonder if cover bands could fall into this category. Specifically a musician like Richard Cheese - The California lounge singer who does well known songs, "Vegas lounge style." The Wikipedia page on sampling has a lot of good information pertaining to the legalities of sampling and whatnot. One thing I was surprised to learn is sampling goes back as far as 1961! Thinking about sampling visually, it is also very similar to collage where they take bits and pieces from different songs, as well as their own, and "glue" everything together.

There are obvious examples that we've all heard before, such as Puff Daddy's "I'll Be Missing You" sampling The Police's "Every Breath You Take."

Or, Eminem sampling (one of my childhood favorites) Martika's "Toy Soldiers" in his song "Like Toy Soldiers."

One more example, this one from 1990... MC Hammer's "U Can't Touch This" sampling Rick James' "Super Freak."

Some artists choose to sample portions of the music, versus lyrics, such as Beastie Boys sampling AC/DC's "T.N.T." in "No Sleep Till Brooklyn."

Or probably one of the most famous, Vanilla Ice's "Ice Ice Baby" sampling Queen's "Under Pressure."

I will close with the following two quotes, as I think that they are right on target with designers appropriating images; learning from and paying homage to the artists who originally created certain pieces.
"Sampling's not a lazy man's way. We learn a lot from sampling, it's like school for us. When we sample a portion of a song and repeat it over and over we can better understand the matrix of the song." —Daddy-O of Stetsasonic, cited in Black Noise by Tricia Rose, Wesleyan Press 1994, p. 79
"When I sample something, it's because there's something ingenious about it. And if it isn't the group as a whole, it's that song. Or, even if it isn't the song as a whole, it's a genius moment, or an accident or something that makes it just utterly unique to the other trillions of hours of records that I've plowed through" —DJ Shadow, 33 1/3 Volume 24: DJ Shadow's Endtroducing..., 2005

images and samples from

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Design Resource

A great resource I've found while researching for my Russian Design blog is the flickr page of Alki1, found here.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008 - The Meanings of Type

A few notes on the article “Meanings of Type”:

1. Garamond – I had no idea that this typeface was the standardized type of the French government and used on all official papers. I’ve always appreciated Garamond for it’s aesthetic qualities and legibility – knowing that it was meant to be a “symbol of French enlightenment” gives me a whole new view.

2. Peignot – This in my opinion is one of the most over used typefaces out there (along with Comic Sans). This is one of those typefaces that gets used in applications that it doesn’t make any sense in – Applications where the type isn’t in a bit related to the piece it’s being used in. I know off hand that if I went around town with a camera I could find several examples of places it shouldn’t be used, but my camera is broken, and it’s raining outside. One example that comes to mind is the signage for the Hanley Industrial Court. I've tried Google mapping it but can't get an image that is clear enough for me to be able to tell if it's the same sign that they'd used several years back which utilized Peignot. The use of the typeface as the official type of the World Exhibition in Paris in 1937 is a much more appropriate use.

3. Template Gothic – One of the most commonly used typefaces during the 90's, this type "draws inspiration from Art Nouveau but evokes the present." It seems that a lot of "modern" typefaces that were streamlined and geometrical ended up relying on Humanistic influences to increase legibility and rhythm, but this one was a conscious effort to reject what had come before, and be playful but serious, and imperfect.


The Influence of Mass Media

Yesterday in class we talked about Marshall McLuhan and his "Global Village" which looks at mass media and society – how mass media is able to reshape society. This reminded me of a pretty funny, and interesting segment I saw on ABC's Nightline the day after election day, November 5. The title of the segment is "The Oprah Effect."

This five minute segment describes what the "The Oprah Effect" is and the host talks to a couple of guys who have tried to quantify what Oprah meant to Obama, in terms of votes during the primary election. They've estimated that Oprah is responsible for 1,015,559 votes for Obama. The video is entertaining, and worth spending five minutes on, regardless of which candidate you voted for. Nightline, in turn, developed this simple equation to sum it up.