Thursday, October 30, 2008

Form Follows Function

It is the pervading law of all things organic and inorganic,
Of all things physical and metaphysical,
Of all things human and all things super-human,
Of all true manifestations of the head,
Of the heart, of the soul,
That the life is recognizable in its expression,
That form ever follows function. This is the law. (Wikipedia)
It was this statement made by Horatio Greenough, that inspired architect Louis Sullivan, and was adopted as his most imperative rule when designing anything, and specifically in his case architecture. Frank Lloyd Wright, Sullivan's assistant, carried this torch, and applied it to all of his designs. It was arguably the mantras of these three individuals that had a major influence on Walter Gropius and the rest of the Bauhaus movement. The Bauhaus' architectural style was very reductive and obviously had a focus on the functionality within the spaces the created. "Ornament becomes an unnecessary relic, or worse, an impediment to optimal engineering design and equipment maintenance." (Wikipedia)

They looked upon added ornamentation as a crime, and concentrated on the grid and negative space. "Modernism in architecture began as a disciplined effort to allow the shape and organization of a building to be determined only by functional requirements, instead of by traditional aesthetic concepts. It assumes that the designer will determine empirically (or decide arbitrarily) what is or is not a functional requirement. The resulting architecture tended to be shockingly simpler, flatter, and lighter than its older neighbors, possibly due to the limited number of functional requirements upon which the designs were based; their functionality and refreshing nakedness looked as honest and inevitable as an airplane." (Wikipedia) This is even more apparent in the graphic design of the Bauhaus movement, which is credited with the creation of the typographic grid which is prominent in 98% of layout design we see today. 
The Bauhaus ideology has even been applied to many common products and items we use today such as kitchen ware, furniture(ie: Lamps, Chairs, Bookshelves, etc.). The teapot pictured below was designed by Marianne Brandt back in 1924. It was made out of silver, which contributes to its Industrial aesthetic and incorporates the circle, square, and globe, which strictly follows the basic forms of construction. I think it is the small common objects like this teapot that are the epidemy of the credos of Bauhaus design. Function ever follows form.


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

History of Art, Resource

Just found our entire textbook online, including all of the images:
The website in general, looks like a great resource for the history of art.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Russian Constructivism

“However, if I may say so,” Nicholas Petrovich interjected, “you deny everything or, to put it more precisely, you are destroying everything…. But it’s essential to construct as well.” To which Bazarov the Nihilist replied: “That is not our affair…. First, we must make a clean sweep.” Ivan Turgenev, Fathers and Sons (1862)

Russian Constructivism was as much about destruction and Nihilism as it was about construction. The aforementioned quote gives insight to their beliefs. The Russian Constructivists believed to build or start something new, everything previous had to be wiped out or destroyed, and rebuilt from a new foundation. Kazimer Malevich was the founder of Russian Supremacism, which was a precursor to Russian Constructivism and held a similar mantra. Malevich says, “The forms of Suprematism, the new realism in painting, are already proof of the construction of forms from nothing, discovered by Intuitive Reason. I have destroyed the ring of the horizon and escaped from the circle of things.” Malevich criticized art by severely reducing objects into nothing, which was a beginning for artist who sought to take themselves out of the art for a more Socialist connection with it. Vladimir Tatlin is credited with creating Russian Constructivism, and was also Malevich biggest opponent on the philosophy of art and design. There wer two factions to Russian Constructivism: the Constructive Realists and the Constructive Idealists. The groups differed in their goals, but shared the same goal of breaking with history and creating a new world.
Russian movie poster "The Living Corpse" designed by Grigory Borisov and Pyotr Zhukov 1929. This was a unique use of typography for the time
Contemporary Design by Mayakovs Pavloskiy.

Novyi Lef cover designed by Rodchenko using his own photography 1927. Russian Constructivism.

Bookshelf created by contemporary Russian designer.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

World War I Era Propaganda

I find that the poster art driven propaganda of the Allies and Central powers is an interesting topic, mainly because it serves as a indication of cultural values and design influence throughout Eurpoe an dthe United States. The posters goal was to rally support within each respective country and encourage enlistment within the particular branches of military service.

United States
The most well known symbol of American war propaganda (arguably still today), are the I Want for U.S. Army (1917) posters by James Flagg. The iconic image of Uncle Sam pointing to "you" to step up and serve for the military, oozed patriotism and served as a universal tool for enlistment. I find it funny that James Flagg based his illustration of Uncle Sam partly upon himself. Also notable, were the works of Howard Christy. His posters depicted female Americans donning military uniforms. These female illustrations are referred to as the "Christy Girl." The "Christy Girl" was influenced by the sexualized depictions of women in advertising throughout Europe in the Art Nouveau period. Christy's illustrations of women weren't overtly sexual, yet were balanced by fresh-faced modesty and vague suggestion. Overall, the American propaganda posters were very illustrative and subject based, also they have a hand-drawn quality to the text(especially the Christy posters).

The British posters stylistically were realistic illustrations, particularly the works by Alfred Leete. Similar to the works of Flagg, Leete created the equivalent of Uncle Sam for Britain called Britons [Lord Kitchener] Wants You (1914). Lord Kitchener propelled the genre of "pointing posters" through its usage of foreshortening and direct eye contact. Other British propaganda posters depicted images of family life and support of women, for example the works of Edward Keeley and Saville Lumley.

The Central Powers
The German propaganda has a completely different aesthetic to their posters. The posters were heavily influenced by the Sachplakat. I think that the German posters were much more modern and saavy then the works of the Allies, even if the images were dominated by symbols of violence, strength, and power. Two good examples of this are Das ist der Weg zum Frieden by Lucien Bernhard and 8 Kriegsanleihe by Julius Klinger. The most well known designer for the Central Powers was Ludwig Holwein. Holwein's posters were painterly and flattened like the works of the Beggarstaff. Both Bernhard and Holwein were very avante-garde in their approach to design in this period and evn more so post-World War I.

Friday, October 17, 2008

"to every age its art and to art its freedom"

In February of 1902, Alfred Stieglitz formed a new society in New York to advance the recognition of pictorial photography as an art. He named the society the Photo-Secessionists. He chose the word "Secession" based on its use by the artists in Germany & Austria who formed the Vienna Secession.

The founders of the Photo-Secession were Alfred Stieglitz, John G. Bullock, William B. Dyer, Frank Eugene, Dallet Fuguet, Gertrude Käsebier, Joseph T. Keiley, Robert S. Redfield, Eva Watson-Schütze, Eduard J. Steichen, Edmund Stirling, John Francis Strauss, and Clarence H. White.

The Photo-Secessionists had similar goals to those of the Vienna Secession. Where the Vienna Secessionists were concerned with "exploring the possibilities of art outside the confines of academic tradition." and "hoped to create a new style that owed nothing to historical influence." the Photo-Secessionists goals were: "To advance photography as applied to pictorial expression; To draw together those Americans practicing or otherwise interested in art; To hold from time to time, at varying places, exhibitions not necessarily limited to the productions of the Photo-Secession or to American work."

Their first show was held in 1902. They exhibited 163 framed photos taken by 32 photographers, 18 of which were Secession members. It received positive feedback from art critics, some thought that it revealed the aesthetic possibilities of the camera. Whereas others thought the photos too much like painting and dismissed the photos as a "pretentious display of imitation paintings."

The styles of the Vienna Secession were displayed in a magazine called Ver Sacrum. Ver Sacrum featured works of Vienna Secession members. Similar to the Vienna Secessionists, the Photo-Secessionists had a magazine called Camera Work. Camera Work existed from 1903 to 1917. 50 issues were produced, with cover art and typography done by Steichen. The first few issues were devoted to specific members of the secession, where remaining issues served as monographs of other secession members work as well as some of the leading European photographers. A few issues were even devoted to photographs of the past, displaying works of Hill & Adamson, and Julia Margaret Cameron. As well as photographs, the magazine included society activities, and essays and articles written by secession members.

All-in-all, the movement helped to generate beliefs in photography as an art. Up until this time, photography was used for science and topographic photography with purposes of documentation. Before the Photo-Secessionists, Julia Margaret Cameron, and combination print photographers such as Oscar G. Rejlander and Henry Peach Robinson started pushing photography towards an art form. Julia Margaret Cameron wrote in a letter to Sir John Herschel, "My aspirations are to ennoble Photography and to secure for it the character and uses of High Art by combining the real & ideal & sacrificing nothing of Truth by all possible devotion to Poetry & Beauty."

Beaumont Newhall, The History of Photography
Eskilson, Graphic Design A New History

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Kinetic Design

While discussing Art Deco in class, we learned a bit about the kinetic design of Cassandre. Cassandre used "serial" posters to convey movement and to express meaning, as seen in the Dubonnet posters below. As the images progress, the man shown is symbolically fulfilled by the drink as his body is filled in with color.

This reminded me of a lecture I attended at Washington University in 2002. The lecture was given by Chris Pullman, VP of design for WGBH Boston. One of his most recognizable works is the WGBH animated signature. The topic he spoke on was Motion Graphics. He showed us various examples, from a series of three bus shelter posters of a purple rabbit (shown below in grayscale) which changed from week to week to finally convey a message (using the same concept as the Dubbonnet ad above) to the Talking Heads video, "(Nothing but) Flowers" and their use of typography and movement in that video.

The following images are examples of "serial" advertisements.

The first sample image above is the "Hair Removal" ad that was mentioned earlier, done by TBWA Chiat/Day. This particular ad ran as print and television with a variety of subjects. Next to that is a set of three change of address cards for Barbour Index; a project that Ken Garland & Associates completed. Below that are two Time Magazine covers done by Mirko Ilic.

Another way to convey motion in a static design is by use of diagonal lines, angles, shapes and placement of object and type on a page. First, is a logo for Quick Maid, done by Ken Garland, which conveys the message of "quick" by use of shapes. Following that is an example of an illustration by Mirko Ilic using lines to show movement, and a poster by Cassandre.

Graphic Design A New History
Heller, Ilic, Genius Moves

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Typographic Research

Found this site today. It is a compilation of many interesting examples of typographic design. Check it out.

And here is an interesting video featuring Steven Heller regarding the design of typefaces.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Words can't describe what your eyes bring to life.

The following video is a commercial for VSP Vision Insurance:

Here are a few screen shots of the commercial:

Below is an image from the website, similar to the commercial that runs on TV.

The commercial and stationary image remind me of Guillaume Appollinaire's Calligrammes. Calligrammes is a collection of concrete poetry, signifying that the typography and layout reflect the meaning and content of the poem. The term "Calligramme" is a word derived from the Greeks, meaning "beautiful writing." Appollinaire's Calligrammes are influenced by the Cubist techniques. They use the same sense of "fragmented structure" and "simultaneous experience" that can been seen in a Cubist painting.

The Rare Books Collection at Wash U's Olin Library contains a copy of Calligrammes. I remember looking thru them, specifically taking note of Il Pleut, the first image below. The two following Il Pleut are titled, La Colombe Poignardée et le Jet d'Eau and La Petit Auto, respectively. To see more Calligrammes, visit UBUWEB.

Eskilson, Graphic Design A New History
images from UBUWEB

Thursday, October 2, 2008 - Designing heroes

Often times today, I think that we make "heroes" out of too many people who shouldn't be heroes (mainly, celebrities in magazines and television). But I guess it comes down to what your own definition of hero is. Merriam-Webster lists one definition of hero as "an object of extreme admiration and devotion" and another as "an illustrious warrior, a man admired for his achievements and noble qualities, one that shows great courage" and one more "the central figure in an event, period, or movement."

After doing a bit of research on Hohlwein, I've come to think that Hohlwein himself is a hero in the world of illustration. This site says that his work is "sought after and can be found in museums and galleries throughout the world." The person who runs this blog is paying homage to Hohlwein, his favorite illustrator, and has many comments from people around the world praising his work. This site claims that "a Hohlwein poster almost guaranteed success for the business."

The Eye Magazine article says that "A hero is one who rises above the ordinary and must therefore appear to be extraordinary." I think that Hohlwein has done just this. He has taken his talents as an illustrator and has used them to turn the subjects in his posters into heroes themselves, while becoming a hero to the illustrators of the present and future. He has done exactly what the article says must occur for one to be a hero in print: "The primary method is to use an exaggerated representational style, a form of ‘realism’ that romanticises and even beatifies those depicted. After the warts and blemishes have been removed and the muscles have been fleshed out, what remains is a heroic shell."

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Art Nouveau and Peter Behrens

About 20 years ago, my uncle gave me the coloring book seen to the left. At that point in time, I didn't know a thing about Art Nouveau. I knew what it looked like... the basic style of it, but didn't know about the history. While studying Art Nouveau in class last week I remembered this book. While reading through our textbook I found a familiar image that I didn’t realize was “famous” until now… Peter Behrens, The Kiss (seen on the right).

What I remember most about this coloring book is the bright, vibrant colors used in the image on the front of the book. The book has pictures printed on heavy weight vellum. When the pictures are colored and held up to the light, it simulates a stained glass window. It's a neat idea for a coloring book, and actually works like it's suppose to. The concept is interesting because it's marketed as an "adult" coloring book vs. something for children. When I did this picture, I colored it in the brightest colors of Crayons I had, completely opposite of the way that Behrens did the original woodblock print.

The original image is printed in muted browns with a gray background. It's easy to tell that this is an Art Nouveau image based on the curvilinear and organic line quality along with the flat shapes and colors. The couple portrayed in the image are abstract and don't fit into one demographic. The flowing shapes around the faces of the two people are actually their hair, intertwined. The muted colors and flowing hair are reminiscent of the work of Alphonse Mucha, and it's easy to see the influence of Japonisme by the flat forms and flat colors.

I'm curious to go to my parents house and dig up this old coloring book to see what other Art Nouveau images it contains.