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.


Friday, November 7, 2008

I know we are past Art Nouveau in class, but I had to share this. It is a great example of design now based on design of the past. I was searching Chicago public art and found this fantastic blog devoted to just that. Following are images from that blog, of the subway entrance at Van Buren Street, which was a gift from Paris to Chicago in 2001. Look familiar?

Below is the image of the 1899, Hector Guimard designed, Porte Dauphine Paris Metro entrance.


Contemporary Examples of De Stijl

I've never really understood De Stijl. I guess I should say I never knew what it was about, nor did I do research to find out what it was about. I've always enjoyed the work of Piet Mondrian, but never had that "Oh, now I get it moment" until we looked at this movement in class. De Stijl was an attempt at creating universal harmony, order and peace. Strong horizontals and verticals were used along with the primary colors of red, yellow and blue. In De Stijl design, everyone is on the same playing field – it is universal and objective and does not apply to one specific social class. This design aesthetic has been consistently reproduced throughout the years. A few examples are below:

The image to the left is from a Wayerhaeuser paper catalog that I either picked up at a paper show or received in the mail at some point in time. In any case, I liked the piece enough that I saved it. I've always enjoyed this image. This person's "art car" almost seems to be too busy to fit into the De Stijl movement, however it fits the guidelines of strong horizontals and verticals, along with use of primary colors, black and white. The layout of the catalog definitely fits the bill as images are sparse, and a definite grid is followed. But then again, looking at the Mondrian, Broadway Boogie Woogie (second on the left), it doesn't seem to be a bit too busy.

This is a spread from the most recent Veer catalog. It says, "Nowadays everything has to be cool... They need to be... Bauhaus. Modernism... Clean living under German aesthetics. Less is more." The influence of De Stijl is once again obvious. Even the type is acting as a strong horizontal form.

Next is an example of De Stijl in architecture. There is a house in Kirkwood that is the perfect contemporary example. I'd love to take photo of it and post it here, but I'm not sure if that's okay to do, so I won't. The house is similar to the image on the left, the Schroder House by Gerrit Rietveld. It is white, with accent colors of blue, red and yellow, and is based on the shape of the square. It features several small square windows, is two levels like the one on the left, and has a balcony similar to this one. The garage is detached and built to match the house. Even details down to the mailbox and house number sign are built under the same aesthetic.

The last example I have is one of the pieces in the 2001 "Suite Home Chicago: An International Exhibition of Street Furniture" exhibit. I have been searching for the photo, it's around somewhere. I had it hanging on a bulletin board for the longest time. When I find it I will scan it and post it here. I was hoping to be able to find an image of the particular piece online, but have been unable to do so. If you remember the "Suite Home Chicago" exhibit, you'll remember it consisted of furniture pieces, that had been painted/sculpted by artists, similar to when they had the "Cows on Parade" exhibit. The piece that I wanted to mention is called Mon Divan and was done by the Chicago photographer, Victor Skrebneski. You can tell by the name of the piece that it is based on Piet Mondrian. It consists of two divans stacked vertically and painted white with blocks of red, yellow and blue, with black horizontal and vertical lines.

Graphic Design A New History, Eskilson

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Russian Design

The Bolshevik Revolution occurred during October of 1917. One example of design during the revolution is shown to the left - Kasimir Malevitch's Suprematist Composition: Airplane Flying, 1914-15. Suprematism seemed a bit too abstract, not literal enough for everyone to be able to understand. It didn't appeal to the masses like the lubki did. Around the same time Constructivism was also being practiced. The Bolshevik government saw the need to use mass-media to spread the Communist ideology around the world. Thus they established the concept of "agitprop." Thousands of posters were produced and posted in urban hoardings as well as spread throughout the country on boats, trains, and horse-drawn carts.

Qualities of design around and after the Bolshevik Revolution were influenced by Cubism, sometimes called Cubo-Futurism. Folk art (lukbok) was used along with symbolic colors to resonate with the community. Suprematism was an attempt at finding a new form to serve the people. It was objective, pure, and symbolic. Colors and shapes were meant to evoke emotions. Where Suprematism didn't sit well with the masses, the alternative was Constructivism. Constructivism was based on the idea of constructing a society. It utilized photo collage, symbolic color, images were manipulated to convey a message, geometric shapes, grid layout, and asymmetry.

Following are examples of design after the Bolshevik Revolution.

Image 1: Beat the Whites with the Red Wedge, El Lissitzky, 1919-20
Image 2: Kakao (Cocoa), Alexander Rodchenko, 1923-24
Image 3: Fragments of an Empire movie poster, Georgi and Vladimar Stenberg, 1929
Image 4: Inside spread from The Results of the First Five-Year Plan, Varvara Stepanova, 1932
(images from and

Also at this time design also utilized the lubki and color symbolism to appeal to the viewers emotions.
Image 1: To Horse, Proletarian!, Alexander Apsit, 1919
Image 2: The Struggle of the Red Knight with the Dark Force, Boris Zvorykin, 1919
(images from

Following are examples of more contemporary Russian design.

Image 1: More Light Let the Party know Everything, Sachkov, 1988
Image 2: Know who you are voting for, Kuznetsov, 1988
Image 3: Hurrah for the heroic deeds of the Soviet soldier!, Savostiuk and Uspensky, 1986, Organization of Solidarity of the People of Asia, Africa & Latin America poster –
Image 4: AIDS Attacking!, Avanov, 1989
(images from

The more contemporary design shows influences from the past, but is a bit more reductive.

Following are examples of current design with a Russian influence.
Images 1 & 2: Medoyeff vodka bottle
Images 3 & 4: Architectural Drawings of the Russian Avant-Garde
Image 5: 1996 MTV Video Music Awards Poster
(images from AIGA design archives)

Graphic Design A New History, Eskilson