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From Here to There: Alec Soth’s America catalogue

“ON A GREAT SLAB OF MESOZOIC ROCK”   ACROSS THE CRETACEOUS HOGBACK   Above: image research for the catalogue From Here to There: Alec Soth’s America (2010)   From Amazon.com: From Here to There: Alec Soth’s America is the first exhibition catalogue to feature the full spectrum of the work of Alec Soth, one of […]

“ON A GREAT SLAB OF MESOZOIC ROCK”

 

ACROSS THE CRETACEOUS HOGBACK

 

Above: image research for the catalogue From Here to There: Alec Soth’s America (2010)

 

From Amazon.com:

From Here to There: Alec Soth’s America is the first exhibition catalogue to feature the full spectrum of the work of Alec Soth, one of the most interesting voices in contemporary photography, whose compelling images of everyday America form powerful narrative vignettes. Featuring more than 100 of the artist’s photographs made over the past 15 years, the book includes new critical essays by exhibition curator Siri Engberg, curator and art historian Britt Salvesen and critic Barry Schwabsky, which offer context on the artist’s working process, the photo-historical tradition behind his practice and reflections on his latest series of works. Novelist Geoff Dyer’s “Riverrun”–a meditation on Soth’s series Sleeping by the Mississippi–and August Kleinzahler’s poem “Sleeping It Off in Rapid City” contribute to the thoughtful exploration of this body of work. Also included in the publication is a 48-page artist’s book by Soth titled The Loneliest Man in Missouri, a photographic essay with short, diaristic texts capturing the banality and ennui of middle America’s suburban fringes, with their corporate office parks, strip clubs and chain restaurants. This full-color publication includes a complete exhibition history, bibliography and interview with the artist by Bartholomew Ryan. Alec Soth was born in 1969 and raised in Minnesota, where he continues to live and work. He has received fellowships from the McKnight Foundation (1999, 2004) and Jerome Foundation (2001), was the recipient of the 2003 Santa Fe Prize for Photography and was short-listed for the highly prestigious Deutsche Borse Photography Prize. His first monograph, Sleeping by the Mississippi, was published in 2004 to critical acclaim. Since then Soth has published Niagara (2006), Fashion Magazine (2007), Dog Days, Bogota (2007) and The Last Days of W (2008). He is a member of Magnum Photos.

From DLK Collection’s review of the book:

What I like best about Soth’s catalog is it’s overt subversiveness; while it of course contains plenty of images from the past 15 years and a handful of texts, it’s overall feel is unlike any other exhibition catalog I have ever encountered. The cover is both unpretentious and quirky. The essays wander all over the place, following exploratory tangents. Choice blog posts are interleaved, like little vignettes or thought bubbles. The obligatory artist interview is actually insightful and revealing. In short, the book is personal, real, and intelligently authentic, rather than packaged up in the normal trappings of haughty art world cool; it is joyfully nerdy and unabashedly eccentric.

From Nerose’s Amazon review of the book:

. . . there’s some smart texts by interesting writers, marred only by persnickety little blog entries e.g. bitching about photo-books with “America/American” in the title, but then, my goodness—this book is sub-titled “Alec Soth’s America”—right there on the cover. Sweet irony.

From the AIGA Archives:

During our typographic research we came across a DIY, simple-living magazine called The Mother Earth News, which we referenced for the general layout of the cover.

From Conscientious’ review of the book:

Alec Soth certainly isn’t chasing after the kind of “cool” the “MAC” guy seems to possess. That conversation’s title is “Dismantling My Career,” and From Here to There: Alec Soth’s America does just that, except it does it in such a way that’s not all that obvious whether or not there is something being dismantled here. After all, the artist is a very good friend of the old herring who might or might not be red.

From The PostModern Common’s review of the book:

This exhibition catalogue is more than a book, it is a guide to life using the medium of photography.

From Photoeye’s review of the book:

Everything you already knew and ever wanted to know about Alec Soth is accessible within the design of this book—and if you feel you have a few more questions about Soth the book didn’t answer, the photographer was even kind enough to provide his phone number and email address—you can’t miss it, it’s right there on the cover.

From Twin Cities Daily Planet’s review of the book:

Fortunately, the book contains more than critics’ analyses. There are plates representing the exhibit’s images, pages republishing some of Soth’s blog entries in ironically tactile raised letters, and a kind of art-book Izzy scoop: a little paper volume chronicling the artist’s search for The Loneliest Man in Missouri tucked into a pocket in the back cover.

From Zippidy-Doo-Daa’s Amazon review of the book:

“THAT’S PRETTY MUCH IT…NOTHING ELSE TO SAY OTHER THAN GO OUT AND BUY IT…THANK YOU JAHI FOR BEING SUCH AN AMAZING FRIEND, AND PURCHASING THIS FANTASTIC BOOK FOR ME.” -EMILY KINNI

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is a Designer Statement? (Part 6): Canniffe, Bierut, Smith, Rezac, Baker

This is part 6 of an ongoing survey. See part 1 here, part 2 here, part 3 here, part 4 here and part 5 here. As a design candidate in the MCAD MFA program I was asked to write an “artist statement” which, as a designer, I found inherently problematic. In response I contacted designers whose work inspired and influenced me […]

This is part 6 of an ongoing survey. See part 1 here, part 2 here, part 3 here, part 4 here and part 5 here.

As a design candidate in the MCAD MFA program I was asked to write an “artist statement” which, as a designer, I found inherently problematic. In response I contacted designers whose work inspired and influenced me in some way, asking:

Is there such a thing as a “designer statement,” and if so, how would you go about creating one?

I received responses from 30 designers and studios which I will present here in the coming days. Many of the designers in this survey are represented in the current show Graphic Design: Now in Production.

——-

Bernard Canniffe

Vadim,

Education, in many schools, is failing its students. We need to prepare students to always seek truth, and engage in a world that is more interconnected than at any point in its history and paradoxically more fragile, dangerous and disconnected.

Institutions need to stop continually raising student tuition without changing what is taught and the way that information is delivered. One could argue that if we teach the way we were taught then we are failing our students.

The stakes are too high for all of us. We have to look at the bigger picture. We have to embrace at the micro and macro levels. Having students write a statement, a manifesto, become an “ism” is a waste of time.

The design statement should be placed in the pantheon of silly design ideas along with design thinking, the all-class critique and the name social design.

The real questions are why does writing a design statement make a design student a better maker? How does writing a design statement better prepare students to become global thinkers and leaders?

Academies are at their best when there is discourse. Institutions should be places where students can question everything. All students should be able to support the making through analysis and discourse, and I gain comfort from this graduate student who dared to ask.

Bern
——-

Michael Bierut

Dear Vadim,

Your question is sort of confusing to me, as perhaps it was to you. To answer it directly, I would say that I’m sure there is such a thing as a “designer statement” but that I generally manage to avoid composing one for fear it would limit the range of my activities.

Let me know if you think this makes sense. I don’t want to seem unresponsive.

Best regards,
Michael
——-

Justin M Smith

Hi Vadim

As it is most likely very apparent in my delayed response and procrastination of answering this question, I have an extreme indifference towards describing myself or my work. I believe these statements are often misleading and therefore unnecessary to make public in nature. Rather than speaking about my own practise I think it’s better to investigate the reasoning behind the “designer/artist statement”.

I believe there are two groups of designers/artists. Those who feel the need to inject/project their own thoughts and emotions into/onto the viewer directly and those who would like their art to be interpreted solely by the viewer themselves. Considering myself a member of the latter group, I believe the thoughts and intentions that surround work(s) should be somewhat intuitive based on their environment, date of creation and subject matter. A good example would be when the Washington D.C. based band Fugazi played the Alternatives Festival in 1989. Ian MacKaye was asked why he played music and all he could respond with was “It’s what I do.” It isn’t about the methodology and meaning that the band associates with their music, it’s about the listener’s thoughts, emotions, and interpretations of their music that count.

To me, many “designer/artist statements” are a poor excuse to explain art/design to the public who will in the end have their own opinions on the origin, methods and overall worth of the final product. Although it is indeed true, we all have purpose and methods that we know are not inherent in the final product, let’s leave some of the magic and mystery for our viewers to enjoy. I say out with “designer/artist statements”, let’s give our audiences the opportunity and pleasure of thinking for themselves and developing their own thoughts around the work! Who’s with me?!

Cheers, Justin.
——-


Matthew Rezac

Vadim,

Here’s my statement about statements:

- -

For me this becomes a simple issue of semantics. An MFA candidate is asked to craft an “artist statement” not a “sculptor,” “painter,” or “photographer statement.” By singling out a “designer statement” as somehow different they are admitting it is a false-equivalency.

The “artist statement” is useful in the context of grant-writing and curatorial concerns. Here an artist needs to articulate their vision to a specific audience: a jury, a curator, etc., etc.

Designers, in the traditional client-designer sense, have no need for this type of document. The game changes project-to-project and client-to-client … so, any statement drafted would be continually contradicted. Although, it is useful for designers or studios to have broad “mission” or “manifesto” — or whatever you want to call it — to guide and shape their decisions (aesthetic, business, or otherwise). However, I don’t see this type of statement as synonymous with an “artist statement.”

As the Graphic Design exhibition clearly shows, designers do operate as “artists” more and more — by producing self-initiated, clientless projects. In this instance the designer is essentially an artist using design as a tool, methodology, medium, or whatever.

This is all to say: if you are working in the “traditional” designer-client scenario a “designer statement” as equivalent to an “artist statement” is impossible. On the other hand, if you are a designer operating as an “artist” (clientless at long last!) then why not simply write an “artist statement?”

- -

Best,
Matthew
——-


Christopher Baker

Hey Vadim,

Sorry this took so long — unfortunately, I don’t have a hugely profound answer … but anyway…

Whether it is called an artist statement, a research statement, a statement of interest or a designer statement, I think the ultimate goal is the same; to help others understand what motivates you whether it be inspiration, core values, your persistent question or personal history. I believe that what differs is primarily the way people might read it. Even after Barthes killed off the author, most audiences still naturally look to the artist to confirm an artwork’s meaning. This is particularly true for artworks that are heavily abstracted. The artist statement becomes an important “key” for some that helps generate meaning. Further, it stands to establish an artist’s authenticity as an authoritative and thoughtful practitioner.

In the design world, outcomes are usually evaluated differently. The audience or client may not look to the designer to elucidate a design’s meaning, because other concerns — such as a design’s ability to meet various design goals — dominate. Like an artist statement, it should establish a designer’s authority, voice and core values, but it should also go one step further and address the designer’s ability to reflect those core values creatively within a space defined by design constraints. I must also acknowledge that as a communicative tool, these statements should reflect the author’s personal practice and be addressed to the appropriate audience. I have yet to meet any “pure” artists or designers.

Christopher Baker
——-

Look for the concluding part 7 soon!

GD:NIP #14: A good children’s book with decent story and appropriate illustrations, modestly printed and produced, would not be such a success with parents, but children would like it a lot. —Bruno Munari, “Children’s Books,” Design as Art, 1966

  “Back when Paul Rand wrote, “There is no such thing as bad content, only bad form,” I remember being intensely annoyed. I took it as an abdication of a designer’s responsibility to meaning. Over time, I have come to read it differently: he was not defending hate speech or schlock or banality; he meant […]

 

“Back when Paul Rand wrote, “There is no such thing as bad content, only bad form,” I remember being intensely annoyed. I took it as an abdication of a designer’s responsibility to meaning. Over time, I have come to read it differently: he was not defending hate speech or schlock or banality; he meant that the designer’s purview is to shape, not to write. But that shaping itself was a profoundly affecting form. (Perhaps this is the reason that modern designers—Rand, Munari, Lionni, etc.—always seem to end their careers designing children’s books. The children’s book is the purest venue of the designer/author because the content is negligible and the evocative potential is unlimited.)” —Michael Rock, Fuck Content (2005)

 

above: Bruno Munari lounging around among his children’s books

 

 

 

 

From the Archives – 1946-1960: “Useful Gifts” vs. “china frankfurter mustard pots”

Before there was Design Within Reach — or Room & Board or Crate and Barrel or West Elm or CB2 or Hive or Unica Home or our own Walker Shop, for that matter — there was Useful Gifts. From 1946 to 1960, these annual exhibitions in the Walker’s Everyday Art Gallery showcased the fruits of midcentury […]

Before there was Design Within Reach — or Room & Board or Crate and Barrel or West Elm or CB2 or Hive or Unica Home or our own Walker Shop, for that matter — there was Useful Gifts.

From 1946 to 1960, these annual exhibitions in the Walker’s Everyday Art Gallery showcased the fruits of midcentury modern design: “simple, well designed objects for everyday use that some day may counteract the present zany gift market,” as described in Everyday Art Quartlery No. 3, published by the Walker, which also remarked upon such zany and repellant offerings as “china frankfurter mustard pots with china mustard dripping about the edges.”

As a Midwestern counterpart to the Useful Objects exhibitions that MoMA presented starting in the late 30s (which grew into its “Good Design” program), items for Useful Gifts were sourced from local retailers; however, inverting today’s “buy local” ideal and the Shop’s new mnartists marketplace, the aim was to include things that were nationally recognized and widely available for purchase. The zany gift market endures, to be sure, but so does much of what’s on display in these images — the first two from the inaugural 1946 show, above and below, followed by three from 1948 and the last from 1956.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is a Designer Statement? (Part 5): Lehni, Geisler, Killian, Cezzar, Malinoski

This is part 5 of an ongoing survey. See part 1 here, part 2 here, part 3 here and part 4 here. As a design candidate in the MCAD MFA program I was asked to write an “artist statement” which, as a designer, I found inherently problematic. In response I contacted designers whose work inspired and influenced me in […]

This is part 5 of an ongoing survey. See part 1 here, part 2 here, part 3 here and part 4 here.

As a design candidate in the MCAD MFA program I was asked to write an “artist statement” which, as a designer, I found inherently problematic. In response I contacted designers whose work inspired and influenced me in some way, asking:

Is there such a thing as a “designer statement,” and if so, how would you go about creating one?

I received responses from 30 designers and studios which I will present here in the coming days. Many of the designers in this survey are represented in the current show Graphic Design: Now in Production.

——-

Jürg Lehni

Hello Vadim,

Thank you for getting in touch.

I personally always resented the notion of wrapping up my practice in one short statement. Artist statements tend to be too self centered and explanatory, offering a key to the reading of the works to be observed. Due to my constantly shifting interests between art, design and technology, I am rarely sure of the name of the hat I am currently wearing. After years of trying to find one short sentence that wraps it all up I realized that the name of the hat does not matter; rather than speaking of my interests and the involved disciplines, if anything the statement should talk of the work itself:

“Works collaboratively across disciplines, dealing with the nuances between technology, tools and the human condition.”

– (The last sentence being my current ultra-condensed ‘statement’ ) Is this of use?

Jürg

——-

Harald Geisler

Dear Vadim Gershman,

Thank your for contacting me.

To answer your Question:
“Typography is an art not in spite of its serving a pur- pose but for that very reason. The designer’s freedom lies not at the margin of a task but at its very centre. Only then is the typographer free to perform as an artist when he understands and ponders his task in all its parts. And every solution he finds on this basis will be an integral one, will achieve a unity between lan- guage and type, between content and form.

Integral means: shaped into a whole. There the Aristo- telian dictum that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts is assumed. And this vitally concerns typo- graphy. Typography is the art of making a whole out of predetermined parts. The typographer “sets”. He sets individual letters into words, words into sen- tences. ”

-From Designing Programmes, Karl Gerstner 1962, republished 2007 Switzerland (see attached PDF for context)

Also look at “A panel on architecture” Charlie Rose meets Peter Eisenman at minute 12

http://www.charlierose.com/view/interview/5865

“This is what I’m about…” It is not Eismann talking but Jay Chatterjee (Dean of the University of Cincinnati) talking about Peters statement and how it defers from competing architects.

— So into the unknown blue:
I don’t believe that design or art or typography needs a statement. Because a statement is a written document, but design, art or typography does not perform in the realm of writing. So the statement is about something else, it is external to what it states about. (Compare: Martin Heidegger, What is called thinking Lesson 2 – “We shall never learn what is called swimming, for example, “…” by reading a treatise on swimming. Only the leap into the river tells us what is called swimming.”) So when formulating a statement one has to be careful, the statement does not inherit the subject, it does not become the subject – but it points to the subject.

What can an artist statement be good for? An artist statement is good for others. If a statement is a pointer, others can follow into the direction of the work by following the pointer. Since a statement exists in the realm of the written others can write about it and even talk about it – others can relate to the statement. Most people who are extern to your work are nor artist, designer or typographer – they are unable to relate to the subject within the realm of the subject. Although an expert i.e. a designer can react direct to anothers designers design by designing (theoretical interaction within the realms of design).

What can the artist statement be to the artist? I believe research is overrated. So a statement shouldn’t be mainly about what happened in the past nor be comparative. A statement could be a pointer to the artist, to point(direct) him towards his art – as the artist is not the art him/her self).

The statements I gave upfront were very important to me (in the past and still today) to orient myself. To orient oneself can mean to relate ones position in distance to other positions. (So maybe artist positions would be more “relational” than artist statements.)

— Yours Sincerely,
Harald Geisler

——-

Nicole Killian

Vadim

Considering the conversation of “art vs design” an old conversation, yes I think there is such a thing as a designer’s statement. And for me it is synonymous with what my artist’s statement would be. I approach writing them from a transparent and earnest place, setting out to not only inform others on my intent in making but also to understand my work more, selfishly. Through writing artist’s statements for my projects in graduate school, my personal projects and work in general I can better illustrate an understanding of key themes running through my process, content and formal executions—they are all linked. In a world where everything is up for grabs and context means everything, statements can clarify even if they never leave your desktop sticky note.

Designer’s haven’t always had a voice, and with our calling shifting and changing through the years and oscillating between “art” and “not art”, we’ve created content and formed opinions. We’re not flipping graphically designed burgers, asking if our viewers and clients want fries with that (metaphor snagged from my mentor, Elliott Earls). The time for speaking is here and has been for a while. So why not write it down? Knowledge is power.

Nicole

(sent from my phone. forgive the misspelling)

——-

Juliette Cezzar

Vadim,

The phrase “designer’s statement” is always going to be a tense one. Designers are usually in the business of responding, rather than stating, and it implies that the economy of design resembles that of an art market (you make the stuff first, then sell it). And in parts of our design universe, it works exactly that way: a client or art director commissions someone like Todd St. John or Marian Bantjes for a signature style, not because they’re looking for someone to untangle communication problems.

But in the last ten or fifteen years, the value of signature style has been dropping, the perceived value of “design thinking” is at an all-time high, and even illustrators are dropping the commission model to make their own products. The project is becoming the unit, the thing discussed, rather than the designer. And assigning credit for these projects is increasingly complicated. While I totally get and enjoy the designer-as-artist, designer-as brand model, it usually doesn’t involve the kinds of projects I’d rather do.

So should there be a designer’s statement? On an individual level, trying to clarify what your bigger aims are is always going to be helpful. For a practicing designer, I think a body of writing rather than a short statement is a more reliable way to get there. For a student, most programs involve a big fat swim in the sea of self-reflection, a statement is probably imperative to prove that you’ve gone through that process. I can see where it’s useful to go through all the soul-searching that it takes to get there, and to do it in a context separated from all of the pressures of what everyone else is going to think or do in response.

Which I know is impossible. Bonne chance!

All the best,
Juliette

——-



John Malinoski

Is it possible for a designer to write an artist’s statement? A designer is not necessarily an artist but often the titles are swapped out without much thought. Artist’s statements are prevalent accompaniments and requests while no such official priority exists for designers. I have read or heard many designer’s thoughts through a variety of sources — manifestos, interviews, talks, lectures, critiques, performance, happy hour, so are these not designer’s statements? Try to be honest and critical of your work, reflect on it. Put these thoughts into words. Realize these words are not permanent and can change as you / we change — ” less is more ! NO ! WAIT A MINUTE ! Less is a bore ! ” If you are unclear or confused say so, do not mask frustration. Realize your expression and meaning in words consistent with your demonstration of visual matter. Honesty and truth are noble yet difficult goals, self reflection is healthy.

——-

Look for Part 6 soon!

 

Metahaven’s Wikileaks Fundraiser on eBay

Metahaven (the designers behind the Facestate installation in the exhibition Graphic Design: Now in Production) has created a series of WikiLeaks-inspired products to raise funds for the whistleblower group. Scarves, mugs, and t-shirts are currently on display at the Museum of the Image in Breda, The Netherlands, and is available on eBay for purchase/sniping. Installation […]

What is a Designer Statement? (Part 4): Sulki and Min, Stewdio, Brandt, Olson, Catalogtree

This is part 4 of an ongoing survey. See part 1 here, part 2 here and part 3 here. As a design candidate in the MCAD MFA program I was asked to write an “artist statement” which, as a designer, I found inherently problematic. In response I contacted designers whose work inspired and influenced me in some way, […]

This is part 4 of an ongoing survey. See part 1 here, part 2 here and part 3 here.

As a design candidate in the MCAD MFA program I was asked to write an “artist statement” which, as a designer, I found inherently problematic. In response I contacted designers whose work inspired and influenced me in some way, asking:

Is there such a thing as a “designer statement,” and if so, how would you go about creating one?

I received responses from 30 designers and studios which I will present here in the coming days. Many of the designers in this survey are represented in the current show Graphic Design: Now in Production.

——-

Sulki & Min

Dear Vadim,

Here is our answer. I hope this prove helpful. Good luck with your project!
—–

Is there such a thing as a “designer statement,” and if so, how would you go about creating one?

I think there exists such a thing as a “designer statement,” perhaps in a form different to an artist statement. In fact, a statement of intention and interest, with a certain rhetorical implications, written by a designer to support or supplement his/her design work, is embedded in a designer‘s everyday practice: in a formally written proposals, presentations, reports, publications, or in a simple e-mail message accompanied by an attached PDF. Of course we normally expect a design work to function as a self-contained entity, independent of an additional statement. But I think we expect the same thing for fine arts, too (not all the people who enjoy arts read artist statements). In some circumstances, however, a statement by a designer can affect the perception of his/her visual work, as much as an artist statement would affect the perception of the supposedly independent but in effect not so self-contained work of art. So, I think both a designer statement and an artist statement belong to a rather specialist realm, not of general public, and they both are important.

(Sulki&Min)
——-

Stewart Smith (Stewdio)

Hey Vadim

It’s very nice to hear from you. Sorry to drag my feet on this email! I’ve been here in Germany working on a project since after the holidays and it’s been intense. I don’t have a good answer for you. At Yale we were supposed to produce a thesis book before graduating. In addition to work samples it was supposed to have text describing our approach to design, so basically a designer’s statement. (Edvin Yegir’s is definitely worth a read and I think would qualify as a designer’s statement—a good excuse to get in touch with him.)

But for whatever reason I just couldn’t deal with the assignment. I wasn’t that happy at Yale to begin with and the assignment felt like it was fencing me in instead of being a foundation to build outward from. So I took some content that would have appeared in my thesis book and instead inserted it into other classmates’ books. Some of them allowed me to actually integrate my work into their InDesign files. Some of them didn’t allow anything so I just made some subtle bookmarks and such and hid them inside books randomly. Somehow I got away with not writing a real manifesto and not producing an actual book. (As far as I know I’m the only student ever to graduate from the program without producing a thesis book.)

So basically I’m not the best person to ask. I seem to be unable to produce a real designer’s statement. But because I’m frustrated by that I suppose I do think it’s an important exercise. I wish I had something more coherent to add but it’s after midnight german-time and I’m fading fast. Let me know how your investigation of artist / designer statements go. Maybe Michael Rock (http://2×4.org) is also someone to ask. Or Glen Cummings (http://mtwtf.org) who is a fantastic guy and had the very unfortunate position of being my thesis advisor. (I think you may have met him through Juliette even?)

Ok . . . bed time!

+ Stewart
——-

Eric Olson (Process Type Foundry)

Hi Vadim -
Thanks kindly for getting in touch.

My answer is: I’ll be straight with you, I think this is irrelevant.

Hope this helps.
Best,
Eric O.

——-
Mr.Olson,

Thank you kindly for a sincere reply. I have already received a number of responses and their range alone is quite interesting. If nothing else, this survey shows a spectrum of current approaches to the practice of design and its relation to the practice of art (or a lack there of). On a personal level, it feels good to engage individuals whose work has inspired me for many years.

Thanks again,
Vadim
——-

Vadim -
Thanks for your endurance and understanding because my comment (upon reading it back) seems harsh! I don’t mean it that way at all. There are many tangled terms and titles in the field(s). How about graphic arts? Finger nails on the chalkboard!

Look forward to your results when you post them.
Best,
Eric O
——-

Erik Brandt

Dear Vadim,

How well I remember struggling with these same issues as a graduate student, as I am sure many of us have and always will. These questions never go away, indeed, they constantly grow in and out of themselves as time goes on. Today, I feel sure that there is no need to define a difference between artists and designers, and, speaking to your questions specifically, these issues are no different than the struggles of any person who seeks to make things, or is simply moving through life. It’s an essential question that people ask themselves everyday, why do I do what I do? Why am I here, who am I really? In short, if we agree that design is simply purposeful action, the question becomes, how am I designing my life, my experience, my reality?

With only my own limited experience to offer, I thought you might enjoy a look at how I addressed this issue in the introduction to my own thesis work at VCU from 1998. Hoping not to bore you, my work then centered around ‘unconscious’ visual communication systems, natural evolutionary schemes that have taken form over millions of years. I devised that work as a combination of multiple essays and formal projections, but here are the introductory paragraphs.

00:00 Ante Omnia
The orange tree grows oranges to perpetuate itself. It does so without cognitive intent and yet it has purpose. The tree does not know it creates an orange fruit that contains its seeds, yet it does so. The orange itself does not know why it is orange, but the orange orange serves to attract. The beings that are attracted to the orange use it as a source of nourishment. They eat for themselves, not for the tree, but they serve the tree regardless. Seeds ingested or released by this activity are sometimes carried further afar. Once there, they may take root and begin again an endless cycle of life. The orange tree succeeds in perpetuating itself and is spared of being surrounded by too many of its own kind.

All without knowing why.

00:01 In Abstracto
My work strives to capture the eye and then address the intelligence and imagination of the viewer. This does not mean that I weigh (or judge) the relative cognitive abilities of my audience, on the contrary, I try to create a space where viewers might find themselves in relation to the work on their own terms. For myself, I isolate, focus, estrange, and extend simple things.

Looking back, I find this simple orientation still very much appropriate to my current practice. Indeed, I still isolate, focus, estrange, and extend simple things, and I truly hope to be something like the orange tree.

Maybe someday.

All the best to you and your own search for meaning. Don’t worry if you get lost sometimes, and when you do, return to form and giving form to things! It will help reveal your path again.

Erik
——-

Catalogtree

Hi Vadim,

Thank you for your kind interest in our studio. We would like to answer your question as
follows:

Write a ‘Designer Attitude’ instead.

We think it is not about how you define yourself as a designer, it is about what you do when you end up in a place not covered by your definition. The most Beautiful sites are just outside the reservation.

We hope this helps, please feel free to contact us if you need anything else.
Best Wishes!
J&D
——-

Look for Part 5 soon!

GD:NIP #13: Metahaven’s Facestate

“We are interested in the ways in which Facebook and government, Facebook and employers, Facebook and friends, Facebook and enemies constitute a power arrangement, and the way in which this constellation might influence politics, currency, and the social contract.” So says Metahaven of Facestate, a Walker-commissioned project in the exhibition Graphic Design: Now in Production. […]

“We are interested in the ways in which Facebook and government, Facebook and employers, Facebook and friends, Facebook and enemies constitute a power arrangement, and the way in which this constellation might influence politics, currency, and the social contract.” So says Metahaven of Facestate, a Walker-commissioned project in the exhibition Graphic Design: Now in Production. An Amsterdam-based studio for design and research, Metahaven was founded by Vinca Kruk and Daniel van der Velden to engage in projects intended to spark discussion and foster inquiry. Recent activities range from research around and product design for WikiLeaks to the identity design for Sealand, a self-proclaimed sovereign nation-state located on a platform seven miles off the British coast. In 2010, they released Uncorporate Identity, an anthology of work featuring the studio’s writings and visualizations of networks, politics, branding, and the overlap among all three. In an interview with Walker designer Andrea Hyde, the duo discusses how Facestate presents the tools, the vernacular, and the identity of a fictitious, but all-too-familiar social network.

Below, a selection of renderings and installation views of Facestate. Visit the Walker homepage for the interview


 

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From top down, left to right:

001.   Facestate logo

002.   Password / Passport. Facestate device.

003.   Handheld (Void). Facestate device.

004.   Face Recognition. Facestate device.

005.   Facestate device.

006.   Card Phones. Facestate device.

007.   Mask, Pool of Memory. Facestate device.

008.   Empty. Facestate device.

009.   Invisible Walls. Facestate device.

010.   Structure. Facestate device.

011.   Digital Wallet (Social Debt). Facestate device.

012.   View of installed devices under cases.

013.   Installation view of Facestate in Graphic Design: Now in Production.

014.   Phone with “tantalum powder” under case.

015.   Mobile Architecture; “No-Stop City” grid.

016.   “Social Capital is Mobile Gold.” Installation view of Facestate.

017.   “No-Stop City”  grid, after Archizoom Associati.

018.   Facebook Credits and Euro Zone Money Pyramid; Facebook currency.

019.   Mobile device featuring “mask” and poems.

020.   Currency Symbol. Facestate device.

021.   Currency Panel. Installation view of Facestate.

022.   Invisible Walls. Facestate device under case.

023.   “From Laws to Invisible Walls.” Installation view of Facestate.

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New images from the New York installation:

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From top down, left to right:

001.   Surveillance is social

002.   Face recognition

003.   Pool of memory

004.   Constitution as Terms of Service

005.   Mobile social wallet

All Metahaven, Facestate, 2012. Courtesy Metahaven, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, and Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum, New York. Photo Meinke Klein.

Graphic Design: Now In Production catalogue

Our catalogue for Graphic Design: Now in Production is now available. Above is the illustrated colophon for the book which gives a lot of detail about the production so click in at your leisure!   Book blurb: With more than 250 artists and some 1,400 images, this ambitious catalogue and exhibition survey the vibrant landscape […]

Our catalogue for Graphic Design: Now in Production is now available. Above is the illustrated colophon for the book which gives a lot of detail about the production so click in at your leisure!

 

Book blurb:

With more than 250 artists and some 1,400 images, this ambitious catalogue and exhibition survey the vibrant landscape of graphic designers who have seized the means of production and are rewriting the nature of contemporary design practice. Charting a rich vein of activity that cuts across wildly diverse fields, Graphic Design: Now in Production chronicles the postmillennial scene of all-access design tools and self-publishing systems, the open-source nature of creative production, and the entrepreneurial spirit of the designer turned producer. Part operating manual, part academic reader, and part sourcebook, the catalogue features writings by some of the field’s major thinkers, including Åbäke, Ian Albinson, Peter Bil’ak, Andrew Blauvelt, Rob Giampietro, James Goggin, Peter Hall, Steven Heller, Jeremy Leslie, Ellen Lupton, Ben Radatz, Michael Rock, Dmitri Siegel, Daniel van der Velden, Armin Vit and Bryony Gomez-Palacio, and Lorraine Wild. Freely mixing writing styles, from personal rants to the collective speak of Wikipedia, the book touches upon hundreds of topics. Picking up where the design authorship debates of the 1990s left off, this catalogue examines the evolution of graphic design in an expanded field of practice. It considers myriad issues, such as the changing nature of reading and writing, self-publishing and clientless design, the persistence of the poster and the book in a screen-based culture, the designer’s voice in the age of crowdsourcing, the visualization of journalism, the ubiquity of branding, and the democratization of design tools and software. Sprinkled throughout are numerous bits—factoids, explanations, and tangents—exploring everything from fake Apple Stores to Adobe DPS, Ghanaian coffins to cultural analytics, Scriptographer to heraldry.

Above: stack of proofs

The design of this book is the culmination of a text-image strategy first employed in a campaign created to promote an exhibition of the Walker Art Center’s painting collection (2009). Inspired by museum founder T. B. Walker’s own salon-style hangings in his nineteenth-century mansion and our painting storage facility, this display style allows for a dense presentation of material and unexpected juxtapositions. Although dominated by its strong visual approach, the design also integrates textual material throughout its composition. In 2010, this layout strategy was used in a poster to celebrate the Walker’s twenty-five-year collaboration with the AIGA on the Insights design lecture series. For this catalogue, the strategy was elaborated and extended. Previously utilized in the design of a single poster or billboard, the layout approach was used to create more than one hundred pages of this 224-page publication. Small texts that we call bits are incorporated throughout the catalogue and represent a combination of original writing, aggregated authorship, and excerpted quotations. In this way, the design weaves together the voices of curators, “crowds,” and artists with images of works found in the show and beyond, including the supplemental and the tangential. This premodern style of arrangement, which attempts to impose an order and sensibility on an often incoherent assemblage of objects, speaks to our contemporary condition of information overload in an increasingly fragmented search-based culture. The Whole Earth Catalog was also a key reference point, both in terms of layout as well as the general intention of the book to provide “access to tools.” As part of the content generation phase we created a wiki, editable by Walker Art Center and Cooper-Hewitt staff as well as the guest curators, to collect all these bits of knowledge. The layout of this book was a unique process for us, in that every page was inevitably designed 2 or 3 times. We would take a first pass at the general layout, then assess the specific content, add in new texts and images, assess again, and redesign the page again. To say the generation of the book was “organic” is an understatement. The book clocks in at about 118,000 words with 1366 images (collecting image rights for this book was an endeavor in and of itself).

The book also includes the 21st issue of Åbäke’s “parasite publication” I Am Still Alive. This ongoing project only exists within other magazines and books, relying on publishers donating pages for Åbäke to use. This particular issue of I Am Still Alive is a transcript of a lecture presented as a play that Åbäke gave (and continues to give in various forms) about the form of the lecture as an art form. That’s right.

The book ends with a great essay called “School Days” by Rob Giampietro on the production of designers themselves—an overview of the influence of graduate programs on the field. Read more about it on Rob’s blog.

The book is a paperback wrapped with a thin, coated, four color dustjacket. We were looking for a very floppy book, something that falls open quite easily and is very easy to read. In order to achieve that we asked our paper mill, French Paper (which I visited in Niles, Michigan), to cut the paper on the opposite grain direction than what they normally do, to make sure that the grain fell in line with the binding of the book. Åbäke’s parasite publication is the only signature in the book that is cut in the typical grain direction, which is quite noticeable when you flip through the book.

In tandem with the run of the exhibition, the design department is also teaching a class called “The Designer as Producer” consisting of students from the College of Visual Arts (St. Paul), the University of Minnesota, and the Minneapolis College of Art & Design. (Look for posts on that soon.) We took the class on the final press check for the catalogue at Shapco Printing, and photographed them on press, ran back to prepress, chose the photo, color-corrected the photo, wrote the caption, inserted the photo into the layout (its in the colophon . . . see top of this post), burned the plates, and printed the final form. And of course we even caught some unexpected typos at the last minute . . . “in production” doesn’t even begin to describe this book . . .

 

GD:NIP #12: Parallel of Life and Art

Alison and Peter Smithson et al., Parallel of Life and Art, installation at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, 1952   © 2011 Tate, London   From the catalogue for Graphic Design: Now in Production:   In 1953, Alison and Peter Smithson, along with Nigel Henderson, Eduardo Paolozzi, and Ronald Jenkins mounted the exhibition Parallel of […]

Alison and Peter Smithson et al., Parallel of Life and Art, installation at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, 1952   © 2011 Tate, London

 

From the catalogue for Graphic Design: Now in Production:

 

In 1953, Alison and Peter Smithson, along with Nigel Henderson, Eduardo Paolozzi, and Ronald Jenkins mounted the exhibition Parallel of Life and Art at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) in London. Associated with the Independent Group, which emerged in postwar Britain seeking to introduce mass and popular culture into discussions of high culture. The installation was composed of 122 photographic panels with images drawn from a wide swath of society and culture arranged in a dynamic display utilizing the wall, floor, and ceiling planes.

Dubbing themselves “editors” rather than curators of the exhibition, the group explains in a press release: “In this exhibition an encyclopaedic range of material from past and present is brought together through the medium of the camera which is used as recorder, reporter, and scientific investigator. As recorder of nature objects, works of art, architecture and technics; as reporter of human events the images of which sometimes come to have a power of expression and plastic organisation analogous to the symbol in art; and as scientific investigator extending the visual scale and range, by use of enlargements, X rays, wide angle lens, high speed aerial photography. The editors of this exhibition … have selected more than a hundred images of significance for them. These have been ranged in categories suggested by the materials, which underline a common visual denominator independent of the field from which the image is taken. There is no single simple aim in this procedure. No watertight scientific or philosophical system is demonstrated. In short it forms a poetic-lyrical order where images create a series of cross-relationships.” —AB

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