Blogs The Gradient

Jonathan Lethem, Chronic City, p.13

“Did I read The New Yorker? This question had a dangerous urgency. It wasn’t any one writer or article he was worried about, but the font. The meaning embedded, at a preconscious level, by the look of the magazine; the seal, as he described it, that the typography and layout put on dialectical thought. According […]

“Did I read The New Yorker? This question had a dangerous urgency. It wasn’t any one writer or article he was worried about, but the font. The meaning embedded, at a preconscious level, by the look of the magazine; the seal, as he described it, that the typography and layout put on dialectical thought. According to Perkus, to read The New Yorker was to find that you always already agreed, not with The New Yorker but, much more dismayingly, with yourself. I tried hard to understand. Apparently here was the paranoia Susan Eldred had warned me of: The New Yorker‘s font was controlling, perhaps assailing, Perkus Tooth’s mind. To defend himself he frequently retyped their articles and printed them out in simple Courier, an attempt to dissolve the magazine’s oppressive context. Once I’d enter his apartment to find him on his carpet with a pair of scissors, furiously slicing up and rearranging an issue of the magazine, trying to shatter its spell on his brain. “So, how,” he once asked me, apropos of nothing, “does a New Yorker writer become a New Yorker writer?” The falsely casual “so” masking a pure anxiety. It wasn’t a question with an answer.”

Godard’s Intertitles

E: Hey, where’s that blog post you were going to finish two weeks ago? A: I, uh, have been working on it. E: Really? It looked to me like you were watching movies. A: I was refreshing my memory. E: Uh huh. What’s this post about then? A: It’s about Jean-Luc Godard. And it’s done. […]

E: Hey, where’s that blog post you were going to finish two weeks ago?
A: I, uh, have been working on it.
E: Really? It looked to me like you were watching movies.
A: I was refreshing my memory.
E: Uh huh. What’s this post about then?
A: It’s about Jean-Luc Godard. And it’s done.

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Stills selected from Pierrot le fou, 1965 ↑

Jean-Luc Godard, arguably the most radical of the Nouvelle Vague filmmakers, is an artist whose imaginative typographic title sequences, intertitles, still and animated imagery inspires me as a designer. Posted here, are stills selected from four of his films from the mid- to late 1960s.

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Godard inserts text and image into a variety of contexts, including, but not limited to: handwritten letters, neon signs, shop signage, book and magazine covers, collages, grafitti, posters, cinema marquees, corporate logos, the pages of comic books, advertisements, newspapers, children’s books and political pamphlets. Pierrot le fou (above) is rich with contextualized text. Its narrative is reinforced by the images of handwritten letters between protagonists, signs from the places they travel, and a book called, “La bande des pied nickelés,” a cartoon about a group of ne’re-do-wells who make their living scamming the bourgeois. Cropped and blinking neon signs highlight specific words, or segments thereof (e.g. “Riviera” becomes “vie), a mercurial device well-suited to Pierrot le fou. Overall, the embedded texts add meaning and beauty to the film, with patterns of live action and still text reminiscent of a graphic novel. There are few purely typographic titles in this film, but all have dotted upper case “I”s and capital letters centered on black backgrounds—the default Godardian style—set in Antique Olive, a face newly developed in the early 60s by Fonderie Olive.

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Stills selected from Masculin féminin: 15 faits précis, 1966  ↑

In Masculin féminin, Godard begins to use purely typographic intertitles, a break from earlier films’ embedded texts (e.g. the book cover argument between lovers in Une femme est une femme, 1961), or alternating texts and titles (e.g. Les Carabiniers, 1963 and Alphaville, une étrange aventure de Lemmy Caution, 1965). Devoid of imagery, these intertitles look like “title cards” from the silent film era. Unlike silent film titles—which provide dialog and narration—the content both reflects the thoughts of the protagonists and comments on the culture-at-large, addressing film, politics, and commercialism. Like previous films, Godard continues to play with language. Letters drop in and out to reveal new words, as in the the closing title, when “Féminin” becomes “Fin.” Formally, the titles are consistent: dotted upper case “I”s and centered justified text on black backgrounds, likely set in a custom version of Futura with a shortened “M” centre vertex. The film, shot in flat black and white, manages beautifully with white text.

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Stills selected from La Chinoise, 1967  ↑

Though stylistically more similar to Pierrot le fou than to Masculin féminin, the intertitles in La Chinoisecontinue Godard’s move toward the politicized texts he continues to use into the ’70s and ’80s. His presentation of images and titles reads like a manifesto, eerily predicting the political unrest of May 1968. The inclusion of embedded texts (e.g. color swatches, pages from comic books and political publications) reduces the contrast between mise en scène and intertitle. The contrast is also blurred as texts are altered, presumably by narrator or protagonist: 1) colored markers decorate a Karl Marx caricature, 2) suction cup arrows attack a collage of French thinkers and revolutionaries, and 3) “défendre” is crossed-out in favor of trahir. Large, cropped portions of books and newspapers highlight specific words, and function both as embedded text and typographic intertitle.

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Stills selected from Le Weekend, 1967 ↑

In Le Weekend, Godard returns to the purely typographic titles last seen in Masculin féminin. He inserts line breaks, shifts color, repeats titles and uses graphic elements (e.g. the crossed-out “Front de Libération de Seine at Oise”) to play with words, numbers, and their meanings. “Analyse,” broken into two lines, serves as the chapter title for an explicit pseudo-psychoanalytic scene in the beginning of the film. “Photographie” is cleverly renamed “Fauxtographie,” and is made more striking by strictly justifying the text letter-for-letter, achievable with an H/I hybrid letterform. There is even a speedometer, tracking the protagonists’ km/h throughout the film. Blue, white and red text is a common Godardian palette, usually referring to American cultural hegemony and aggression, in addition to rising tide of nationalism in France. In this film, the color scheme may also refer to the titles’ gradual shift from Gregorian calendar dates to French Revolution events. Formally, the colors highlight specific characters or words, and contrast nicely with the black backgrounds and the warm, sunny style of the live-action sequences. The mostly-justified, all-cap titles are again set in Antique Olive.

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Godard’s style developed from various influences in his life and career: 1) He came from a well-to-do Franco-Swiss family where poetry and philosophical texts were regularly recited. The reading and recitation of text is a common thread in his films, often represented typographically. 2) Godard has a reverence for, and an encyclopedic knowledge of film, including the works of F.W. Murnau, Jean Cocteau, and Alfred Hitchcock, all known for the style of their embedded text and imagery. Murnau, as a silent film director, used intertitles as they were first intended—to deliver dialog and narration—though he experimented with contextualization, using pages from old books and letters between characters. Cocteau, inserted his own untranslated handwriting into The Blood of a Poet. The film is not silent, and the writing is not necessary, though it adds texture and meaning to his work. Godard uses intertitles the same way, as vehicles for content and style not always immediately relevant to his narrative. Hitchcock, began his film career as a writer of intertitles. As a director he embedded texts into everyday cultural displays such as street signs, posters, bilboards and newspapers, a practice Godard repeats in films like Le Mépris, 1963, and Une femme mariée, 1964. 3) Godard was a film critic and a contributor to Cahiers du cinéma. Via intertitles and embedded texts, he continues to write, peppering his films with homages, critiques and references.

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Stills from F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu (updated), 1992, and Sunrise, 1927 ↑

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Still from Jean Cocteau’s The Blood of a Poet, 1930 ↑

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Still from Alfred Hitchcock’s The Farmers Wife, 1928 ↑

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A: See? Ive been reviewing some of Godard’s films to write this post. I’m thinking of a followup entry to add and discuss more stills from other films.
<silence>
A: Are you still there? Is this thing on?
<crickets chirp>

Spaceship Earth: The Image Archive of NASA’s Earth Observatory

This interview with Robert Simmon was originally published in Task Newsletter #2. How does one prove the Earth is round? In February of 1966, during an acid trip on a rooftop in San Francisco, Stewart Brand began contemplating the curvature of the Earth. The horizon sloped away from him on either side, buildings refused to […]

This interview with Robert Simmon was originally published in Task Newsletter #2.

How does one prove the Earth is round?

In February of 1966, during an acid trip on a rooftop in San Francisco, Stewart Brand began contemplating the curvature of the Earth. The horizon sloped away from him on either side, buildings refused to stand parallel, and the flat-earth fallacy became viscerally apparent. He was determined to broadcast this feeling, and called for a solution (in the form of a button), demanding, “Why haven’t we seen a photo of the whole earth?” This paranoia-tinged aphorism would lead to the creation of the Whole Earth Catalogue, a highly influential counterculture magazine that described the tools necessary to maintain a sustainable existence.

Two and a half years later, Apollo 8 astronaut William A. Anders captured what has been called “the most influential environmental photograph ever taken,”  an image of the Earth rising from behind the horizon of the moon.(A) Known as “Earthrise,” this photo was taken in a moment of unscripted curiosity, offering not only a view of ourselves, but a view of ourselves from the alien perspective of another world. What started with a serendipitous snapshot, and possibly an LSD trip before that, has become the driving mission of NASA’s Earth Observatory (E.O.) today.

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Exploring the Earth Observatory’s website may be the closest thing to holding a mirror up to the entire world; in the depths of this massive archive, vividly colored and hyper-sharpened satellite imagery portray melting arctic glaciers bumping up against shots of urban expansion next to hurricane data and deforestation patterns. These high-resolution files are precisely annotated and provided free to the public, intended primarily for educational usage. Some images, though, have become ubiquitous in our visual landscape, appearing in commercials, artworks, book covers, billboards, and even the background of your favorite touch-screen phones.

Robert Simmon is the art director of the Earth Observatory, and works for Science Systems and Applications, Inc. under contract to NASA. He and his team are responsible for creating these images, which are often composites of astronaut photography and satellite sensory data. In this interview, Robert discusses true vs. false color, accurate vs. effective data, and the art of designing an image to match what people expect versus designing an image that will change their minds.

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TASK — We are interested in the mission of the Earth Observatory, how these images get used in unexpected ways in culture at large, the E.O.’s relationship to the legacy of Earth imagery from space, and even a little about the design process of creating these images.

Robert Simmon — There are a few different missions for the Earth Observatory. The first is simply to make people aware that NASA looks at the Earth (we’re not just astronauts and Mars missions). We’ve also tried to create a site that’s an authoritative source for information about climate change and the environment. Our stories are reviewed by experts, we base the information on peer-reviewed research, etc. We intentionally present a broad overview of remote sensing and Earth science, as a counterpoint to the traditional mission and instrument-based focus of NASA public outreach. Many of our images present the possibility for new interpretations relevant to debates in popular culture, and I personally try to make a “soft sell” instead of beating people over the head with a certain perspective. I present them with something of a neutral tone, hoping that our audience will draw its own conclusions.

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Since our imagery is predominantly free, it gets picked up and used all over the place. Some images are especially contagious, such as the image of cities at night.(B) I’ve seen this image on magazine covers, newspapers, annual reports, web sites, and elsewhere. I was even on a radio morning talk show once to settle a dispute over whether or not the image was a photograph (it’s not, of course). The second most popular are some of the global renderings.(C) I’ve seen these on ads in bus stops, concert venues, and the default boot screen for the iPhone. With both images, I was simply trying to make an image that lines up with our expectations of what the Earth would look like from space. My design process is very much trying to get out of the way of the data. Inspired principally by Edward Tufte, I try to create graphics as close to 100% data as possible. So a lot of my time is spent removing elements (grid lines, shadows, gradients, etc.) from the default designs of Excel. I’m also very careful about color, both in natural- or true-color satellite imagery (images composed of the red, green, and blue wavelengths of visible light), and in maps of data. Our eyes and brains think certain things should look a certain way (clouds should be white, water blue, sand yellow, etc.) so I often need to correct imagery manually. With maps, most of the default color choices, including the very common “rainbow palette,” actually distort relationships between data. Unfortunately, many scientists are used to a certain presentation, so it takes a lot of convincing to get them to approve a change. A side benefit is that many of the more accurate palettes are easier on the eyes, so they invite closer inspection, rather than a cursory overview. I’m also convinced that a very clean, consistent, and polished design is more believable than a disordered and cluttered one, so I spend a lot of time revising designs until they’re just right.

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TASK — When you said that you often try to make a “soft sell,” were you referring to issues such as climate change and environmental abuse?

RS — Yes. It’s a reflection of NASA’s role in setting climate change policy: NASA is not recommending a specific government action, but collecting data and performing analyses so policy leaders can make informed decisions. A good example is our climate change site and Q & A. We try to let the data speak for themselves.

TASK — You seem to suggest that the reason the Cities at Night image and the Blue Marble image are so popular is because they are designed to match our expectations of what they should look like. I would suggest that the fact that they are beautiful goes a long way as well, but this idea of dealing with pre-conceived notions ties in closely with ideas of Mundane Science Fiction, such as the “consensus future” — a mediocre version of what we tend to agree the future will look like (think Star Trek). Do you differentiate between these expectation-meeting images and other more abstract images that might show the data more accurately?

RS — I think this is an answer to a broader question than what you asked, but “confirmation bias” obviously effects how we interpret imagery. Recently, a climate change “skeptic” (denialist or contrarian are better labels) made his point by selecting a series of NASA images that confirm his preconceptions, even though they are at odds with quantitative analyses of the same data. You can see the discussions here. When dealing with images of data, there’s often a tension between people’s expectations — snow should be white, warm things are red — and accurate/effective representations of data. This is complicated by the expectations of the scientists that I work with, who often have been analyzing data for a decade or more, and are used to a specific presentation. So I have to weigh preconceptions, representational accuracy, and aesthetics, all of which influence the ability of people to interpret a figure.

TASK — The Cities at Night page reveals that Japanese cities appear to glow a bluer-green than other cities of the world and I can’t help but want to draw cultural conclusions from that fact, beyond the use of mercury versus sodium vapor lights …

RS — The difference in lighting types is likely a technological and historical accident, not a cultural difference. But culture absolutely influences the Earth’s surface. For example, the damage created by deforestation and farming practices in Bolivia creates a beautiful patchwork quilt pattern.(D)

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TASK — How easy is it for the layperson to interpret true photographs versus manipulated images of the Earth?

RS — Photographs are usually the easiest type of imagery to understand. Compare these images. An oblique photograph from the International Space Station (E) versus a nadir (looking straight down) photograph from the Space Shuttle (F) versus this radar image.(G) The more abstract, the more difficult to interpret. (I tried to find a topographic map of Everest, but they all have hill shading and other visual cues, so they’re easier to interpret than a pure contour or color-coded map.)

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TASK — I’m very curious about this caption I noticed on several images: “The image has also been sharpened using the sensor’s panchromatic band.” Could you explain how this sharpening process works, and what the “panchromatic band” is? As a print designer, I’m used to sharpening through Photoshop, based on aesthetic and printing criteria. Your process sounds like there is another level of data-accuracy embedded in the sharpening process.

RS — Signal to noise ratio is a critical limiting factor in satellite imaging: the Earth’s surface is a few hundred miles away from the sensor, and there’s a thick layer of atmosphere mucking things up in between. To increase the signal, instrument designers often include a high-resolution panchromatic band, which uses a range of wavelengths (often blue through near-infrared [slightly longer wavelengths than red], although some of the newer instruments use just visible wavelengths) to gather more photons without having to build a bigger telescope. The discrete bands (red, green, blue, etc.) on a sensor have a narrow spectral range, but collect light (more appropriately electromagnetic radiation) over a wide area. For example, Landsat has a 15 meter per pixel panchromatic band, and 30 meter per pixel individual bands (red, green, blue, near infrared, and two shortwave infrared) plus a 90 meter per pixel thermal infrared band. The visualizer (me) then combines the individual channels into an RGB composite. If I need better resolution to show small features, I need to add in the panchromatic band: hence “panchromatic sharpening.” One way to do this is to do tonal correction and color balancing on an image, and then convert to L*a*b in Photoshop. Then I would load the panchromatic band and adjust the tonal range to the pan-band to match the luminance channel of the RGB composite. Resample the RGB image to match the resolution of the pan-band, and then copy the pan-band into the luminance channel.

Easy, right?

The problem is that the panchromatic image usually contains near-infrared light. Vegetation is very, very dark in visible light (it’s converting sunlight into energy after all) but very, very reflective in the near infrared —as reflective as snow. Most pan-sharpened images have vegetation that looks seriously awry, so it’s back to the curves dialog to make adjustments. This method gets pretty good — but not perfect — results. Some software uses algorithms based on the specific wavelengths of each band to adjust the pan-sharpened image, but it still seems to take a lot of tinkering, so I don’t mess with it that often. (For example, most of the data in Google Earth is pan-sharpened, and none of it looks quite right). I prefer to stick with RGB imagery, and only do the pan sharpening when it’s absolutely necessary.

TASK — You mentioned that it was sometimes difficult to change the minds of scientists. Do you find that scientists have an easier time understanding the principle of “goodness of fit”?

RS — My entire design career has been at NASA, and my “clients” are scientists, writers, or public affairs staff. The scientists tend to be entrenched with a specific representation that they’ve worked with for years. I usually change their minds when an image becomes popular, or I can point to a scientific study that validates a method of presentation.

TASK — Some of the more abstract images, such as the patterns of deforestation or the fractal-like glaciers, are beautiful simply as compositions. Your primary goal with these images is to accurately present the data, but do you ever consider these compositions you create on a purely aesthetic level?

RS — I’m a bit obsessed with the aesthetics as a way to promote understanding. There’s reasonably good evidence that information that we find attractive is also more credible, so I think if I make beautiful imagery, people will understand it better. I also think people are more likely to take the time to study and learn from attractive images. I try to design on two levels: an instant understanding of the main point, plus a deeper level of understanding revealed on closer inspection. Beauty helps move people from a glancing view to longer study.

The images I make are not a form of personal expression, so I don’t consider what I’m doing to be art: it’s more engineering, which is my academic background. I use a set of rules derived from graphic design and visualization research (alignment, color choice, visual hierarchy, map projections, etc.) to determine each presentation. I guess that if I were an artist, my artistic statement might be “data are beautiful,” but that would be trite. When dealing with images such as these, self-expression can seem overrated. ✕

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NOTES TO THE INTRO:

Brand/Fuller

Brand had previously attended a lecture by Buckminster Fuller who cited humanity’s belief in a flat, infinite world as the basis of our ignorant behavior. Fuller even coined a term to correct this error, “world-around” instead of “worldwide,” believing that thoughtless use of obsolete scientific terminology only impedes intuition. The modern Flat Earth Society, founded in 1956, still exists today and has made such claims as: the world is a disc, with the north pole at the center; the U.N. logo represents a flat-earth underground movement that almost elected FDR the president of the world; the moon-landing was a hoax based on an Arthur C. Clarke script. Clarke later wrote to NASA’s chief administrator, “Dear Sir, on checking my records, I see that I have never received payment for this work. Could you please look into this matter with some urgency? Otherwise you will be hearing from my solicitors, Messrs Geldsnatch, Geldsnatch and Blubberclutch.”

Proper Attribution

The earthrise photograph has been attributed to both William A. Anders and Frank Borman over the years, both having claimed credit. The general consensus suggests that Borman shot the first “Earthrise” photo in black and white, while Anders shot the more popular color version several seconds later.

“The Most Influential Environmental Photograph Ever Taken”

Galen Rowell, wilderness photographer and climber. The photo (NASA image AS8-14-2383) has been credited with jumpstarting the environmentalism movement and even prompting the creation of Earth Day. Later, Stewart Brand would say, “The photograph of the whole earth from space helped to generate a lot of behavior — the ecology movement, the sense of global politics, the rise of the global economy, and so on. I think all of those phenomena were, in some sense, given permission to occur by the photograph of the earth from space.”

Orientation

Anders shot the original earthrise image in relation to lunar orbit, with the horizon of the moon oriented vertically, and the earth to the left. As the image became popularized, it came to assume a more traditional perspective with the earth rising from a horizontal horizon. See above(A).

Lawrence Weiner / Walker Moleskine notebook

For all your bits & pieces… Walker Shop

The Quick and the Dead

“On the first Sunday of 1969 Robert Barry went to Central Park with four capsules of radioactive material in his pocket. He had ordered them from a scientific supply catalog, choosing an isotope of his namesake, barium-133, the only one of twenty-two known isotopes of the element that does not dangerously decay within seconds or […]

“On the first Sunday of 1969 Robert Barry went to Central Park with four capsules of radioactive material in his pocket. He had ordered them from a scientific supply catalog, choosing an isotope of his namesake, barium-133, the only one of twenty-two known isotopes of the element that does not dangerously decay within seconds or minutes. He walked to the Great Lawn behind the Metropolitan Museum of Art and, in two locations there, inconspicuously buried the capsules. He then snapped a quick photograph at each of the sites, leaving behind what he called 0.5 Microcurie Radiation Installation.

With a half-life of slightly more than ten years, the barium isotopes continue to decay. So unless they have been unearthed, they are emitting a faint but charged bit of energy, like an invisible signal from a dying star, unbeknownst to the ballplayers, dog walkers, and picknickers on the grass above.” *

* Peter Eleey, “Thursday,” in The Quick and the Dead, exh. cat. (Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, 2009), 31.

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Museum Exhibition Title Graphics

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2009 National Design Awards from the Hirshhorn

This morning design director and curator Andrew Blauvelt spoke about Walker design at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C., as part of a public program series featuring 2009 National Design Awards recipients. The Walker was this year’s winner in Corporate and Institutional Achievement. Andrew spoke about technology and design alongside Jeff Han of Perceptive Pixel, later […]

This morning design director and curator Andrew Blauvelt spoke about Walker design at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C., as part of a public program series featuring 2009 National Design Awards recipients. The Walker was this year’s winner in Corporate and Institutional Achievement. Andrew spoke about technology and design alongside Jeff Han of Perceptive Pixel, later taking questions from Aneesh Chopra, U.S. chief technology officer.

The video from the panel is now available in case you missed the webcast:

[flash width="480" height="386" flashvars="autoplay=false"]http://www.ustream.tv/flash/video/1861947[/flash]

The first 11 or so minutes are without sound or are the audience getting in their seats, but after that, the quality is quite good.

In the afternoon, all the award winners were invited to the White House for lunch with First Lady Michelle Obama.

Working Knowledge: the Walker’s design fellows

This is a longer version of the interviews with visual arts fellows Dan Byers and Andria Hickey, and design fellows Mylinh Trieu Nguyen and Noa Segal, from a story in the July/August issue of Walker magazine. For nearly three decades, the Walker has been recruiting recent graduates and junior professionals to work as fellows in […]

This is a longer version of the interviews with visual arts fellows Dan Byers and Andria Hickey, and design fellows Mylinh Trieu Nguyen and Noa Segal,
from a story in the July/August issue of
Walker magazine.

For nearly three decades, the Walker has been recruiting recent graduates and junior professionals to work as fellows in its design and visual arts departments. As full-time, full-fledged staff, fellows experience the entire scope of graphic design and curatorial work in a museum, while bringing with them fresh energy and new ideas. A number of Walker fellows have also gone on to prominent positions at museums and design firms around the world. As their time here draws to a close, the 2008-2009 group talks about what brought them here, what they’ve experienced, and what’s in store as they move on.

= Noa Segal =

Before coming to the Walker… Graphic design seemed to me to be a practice that allows an intellectual engagement with content and form, and yet exists on a very visual and practical level. My educational path went through music and photography, but I felt that my interest in images and text was not coming to its full expression. The Gerrit Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam, where I completed my studies, was a great school that encouraged students to develop an ability to analyze the given or self-initiated content, and from that to bring into their design a full range of interests and sources of inspiration.

Coming here was . . . Almost like starting all over, thinking about and practicing design in ways that I hadn’t before. Working in this kind of a multidisciplinary place really had an affect on me—collaborating with people working in other disciplines made me reconsider and redefine, repeatedly, my profession and my position within it. I realized that it is fascinating looking back on the phases of the different projects i worked on (i.e proofs) at the walker and be able to see the change and the development of my ability to work with images and text, react to the people i collaborate with and design towards shaping each piece to the point where it delivered their content successfully and reflected my ideas about it.
(fig.1 – 7, different stages of work; fig.8.-9, the final piece: working on film flayer for Queer Takes: weekend of screening at the Walker June 23-26)

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Some of my favorite moments were . . . Feeling stuck, tired, uninspired—but being able to leave my desk and go inside the galleries, down to our amazing library, or to the cinema or the theater. Realizing that all of this amazing art is as close to me as my bed is to my shower—and it’s available to me every second of the day! Also, participating in discussions with the design staff that are deeply engaged, hearing how and what this studio would like to do in the future—great inspiring and educational moments that for sure I will try to carry on in my practice.

A belief i’ve developed . . . Is that design means always challenging yourself and trying new things, and that you can’t design without keeping a close relationship to the world surrounding us—culture, politics, nature, and so on.

= Mylinh Trieu Nguyen =

Design first sparked my interest when … I was studying in my dorm at UCLA and heard a student next door animating a cartoon airplane to the words of a John Denver song. It wasn’t what she was making, but more the idea of realizing it that captivated me. She was taking this vague idea in her head and making it into a tangible thing in the world. I wanted that ability.

I wanted to become a walker fellow because … I was questioning the importance of what I was producing. I expanded my practice into the contemporary art world, collaborating with friend and artist David Horvitz as ASDF. This in turn made me more encouraged about my role as a graphic designer, and led me to apply for the fellowship.

My high points and low points here involved … Being assigned my first big project. This daunting feeling overwhelmed me; it was nothing less than that. But through all of the trial and error, working with Andrew Blauvelt and spending countless evenings in the studio (crying), the Walker’s annual report is one of the most gratifying pieces I’ve made. Moving to Minneapolis itself was a test of emotional endurance. The change in geography and social dynamics made it hard at first, and often lonely. But you really develop strong relationships with the other fellows and the people you work with.

Moving on from the walker, i will be … attending Yale’s MFA program in graphic design, developing and expanding my current interests, garnering new ones, and, I hope, cultivating a clear and cohesive methodology. I also want to continue producing work under ASDF, travel, and experience life outside the realm of “work.”

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http://www.mylinhtrieu.com/index.php?/ongoing/minnesota-nice

Designing Obama: Sol Sender and Scott Thomas at the Walker

  As far as I can tell, Scott Thomas was here at the Walker as recently as last November when we screened the film Typeface, featuring his group The Post Family (verified, I think, by this interview with local letterpress firm Studio on Fire, who also presented their work at the same screening). Though come to […]

 

obama-o-logo-blue-gradientAs far as I can tell, Scott Thomas was here at the Walker as recently as last November when we screened the film Typeface, featuring his group The Post Family (verified, I think, by this interview with local letterpress firm Studio on Fire, who also presented their work at the same screening). Though come to think of it, that screening took place only a couple of days after Barack Obama’s election win, so maybe he was still hard at work in Chicago. Regardless, Scott will be speaking at the Walker on Tuesday night about his role as the Design Director of the historic Barack Obama campaign and its groundbreaking branding effort. Joining him will be Sol Sender, the man who spearheaded the development of the Obama logo, possibly the most hope-drenched and emotion-laden piece of vector art to ever enter the public consciousness. The blog posts (and conspiracy theories) about this identity are e n d l e s s, but there’s nothing like hearing it straight from the horse’s mouth. Moderating the discussion will be Paul Schmelzer, editor of the Minnesota Independent news site and author of the blog Eyeteeth. You’ll also be able to check out a special exhibition of posters from Threadless Loves Democracy, a challenge to design the most unique and conceptual call to vote.

Designing Obama
Tuesday, May 12, 2009   7:00 pm
Walker Cinema


Cooper Hewitt National Design Award for Corporate Achievement (^_^)

It was announced this week that the Walker is the recipient of the Cooper Hewitt National Design Award for Corporate Achievement for 2009. The award is given to institutions that “use design as a strategic tool of its mission and exhibits ingenuity and insight in helping to advance the relationship between design and quality of […]

It was announced this week that the Walker is the recipient of the Cooper Hewitt National Design Award for Corporate Achievement for 2009. The award is given to institutions that “use design as a strategic tool of its mission and exhibits ingenuity and insight in helping to advance the relationship between design and quality of life in the United States.” Some previous winners were Apple, Google, Target, Aveda, and Nike.

The award recognizes the history of design at the Walker, which dates back to the 1940s, when “design” was referred to as “everyday art,” a concept used to bridge the gap between people’s daily lives and the heady world of modern art. Since then, the Walker has hosted numerous exhibitions displaying the best of product design, graphic design, interior design, and architecture; published the influential magazine Design Quarterly; commissioned world famous designers to create everything from our building expansion to our custom typeface; maintained an in-house design studio and fellowship program; and integrated design into the fabric of the institution.

Now here’s Andrew to tell you all about it:
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JVrMFcBuVag[/youtube]

Speaking of Andrew, Mr. Blauvelt is featured prominently in Gary Hustwit’s new movie Objectified, which played to sold out crowds last night here at the Walker (it was great—definitely a sister film to Helvetica). If Hustwit plans on making a third movie about design, I’m hoping that he chooses to expand upon Andrew’s story about the Bionic Hamster.

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