The Gradient: Design, art, and the gradient between, featuring the creative output of our in-house design studio.
Check out this time-lapse video of Job Wouters at work and hear him talk about his new piece Home. See more photos of the piece here. Job Wouters Home 2013 At the Walker Art Center in conjunction with Insights 2013.
Check out this time-lapse video of Job Wouters at work and hear him talk about his new piece Home.
See more photos of the piece here.
At the Walker Art Center in conjunction with Insights 2013.
Job Wouters Home 2013 As part of Insights 2013, we asked Job Wouters to create a mural inside the museum, which you see above. Here’s a time-lapse video of the mural installation, as well as video of his Insights lecture and some more pictures of Job’s adventures in Minneapolis.
As part of Insights 2013, we asked Job Wouters to create a mural inside the museum, which you see above. Here’s a time-lapse video of the mural installation, as well as video of his Insights lecture and some more pictures of Job’s adventures in Minneapolis.
Zzzine night was started by J Patrick Walsh 3. ZINE-TRADE-MEET-UP was started by Ryan Foerster. This is their first collaboration on a night to trade ‘zines’. Their zine Sump Pump will be available for trades. All welcome! Bring things to trade. NO $$$$$. Thursday, March 21, 5–8 pm, at the Walker. Read more here. “Also, we [...]
Zzzine night was started by J Patrick Walsh 3. ZINE-TRADE-MEET-UP was started by Ryan Foerster. This is their first collaboration on a night to trade ‘zines’. Their zine Sump Pump will be available for trades. All welcome! Bring things to trade. NO $$$$$. Thursday, March 21, 5–8 pm, at the Walker.
Read more here.
“Also, we will have ALL NEW ARTIST BOOKS IN THE PRINTED MATTER SHELF in the Walker Shop starting that night by Sam Falls, JSBJ, Howard Johnson, David Horvitz, Ryan Foerster, Seth Price, and John Dogg! Which is totally awesome all by itself.” —Michele Tobin
As part of Insights 2013, we invited each designer to address a different surface of the Walker, from the outside to the inside, the social to the virtual. Eike König was asked to create something for our website, so he and his studio Hort decided to take on the Walker masthead. They created five [...]
As part of Insights 2013, we invited each designer to address a different surface of the Walker, from the outside to the inside, the social to the virtual. Eike König was asked to create something for our website, so he and his studio Hort decided to take on the Walker masthead. They created five of their signature hand-drawn animations that will randomly load on the Walker homepage during the week of Eike’s lecture.
Here’s a peek at Geoff McFetridge’s fence design for the Walker Art Center. It’s only half installed right now, and as soon as we get the rest of it up (hopefully within a week or so), we will be presenting an in-depth interview with the artist about the project. Also Geoff’s recent Insights talk is [...]
Here’s a peek at Geoff McFetridge’s fence design for the Walker Art Center. It’s only half installed right now, and as soon as we get the rest of it up (hopefully within a week or so), we will be presenting an in-depth interview with the artist about the project.
“If surface is a kind of place, or site, the designer is its geographer. Surface is folded out in order to produce value, while it is folded in to secure it.” —Metahaven Poster design by Andrea Hyde For the 28th edition of the Insights Design Lecture Series, we’ve invited leading designers [...]
“If surface is a kind of place, or site, the designer is its geographer. Surface is folded out in order to produce value, while it is folded in to secure it.” —Metahaven
For the 28th edition of the Insights Design Lecture Series, we’ve invited leading designers from around the world to bring their talents to the Twin Cities and leave something behind when they go. The Walker is currently in the process of reskinning itself, so we asked each designer to inhabit a different surface of the Walker, from the outside to the inside, the social to the digital. Geoff McFetridge, for example, is creating a large outdoor mural that will wrap the building site fence while we are under construction. Job Wouters will create a hand-lettered mural inside the building (and will perform a live hand-lettering demonstration during his lecture). Hort invades our virtual surface with an online intervention. And Luna Maurer of Moniker will investigate our social fabric with some experimental audience participation during her lecture. Look for documentation of these four projects soon, and in the meantime you can buy tickets here. And if you can’t make it to the Walker, you can watch the live webcast on the Walker Channel. Also, this year we are encouraging groups to host Insights viewing parties. See below for links to more information about the speakers.
LA-based designer Geoff McFetridge is a leading figure in the contemporary world of graphic culture, working fluidly between the realms of art and design and the printed page and the moving image. Featured in the film and exhibition Beautiful Losers, McFetridge’s clever and engaging art has graced nearly every kind of surface imaginable—from limited-edition Nike sneakers and his own line of silkscreened wallpapers to laser-etched illustrations on toast for a music video by OK Go. His work has been shown around the world in cities such as London, Paris, Tokyo, Berlin, New York, Los Angeles, and Amsterdam and he was featured in the Walker exhibition Graphic Design: Now in Production. His Insights lecture also celebrates the installation of a temporary site-specific mural he created for the Walker.
As one of Europe’s most fearless design studios, Berlin’s Hort has consistently bridged the gap between aggressively contemporary aesthetics and big name clients. From glitchy animated GIFs to elegant hand-drawn illustrations, Hort’s aesthetics run the gamut, displaying an unflinching dedication to formal and conceptual play. In fact, Hort translates as “after-school care club” in German, and this spirit inhabits the multidisciplinary studio which founder Eike König refers to as a “playground for creative people.” With an early focus on record sleeve design and illustration, Hort’s output has come to span all genres and includes work for clients such as Nike, Universal Music, the New York Times, Wallpaper, Volkswagon, IBM, and Playboy magazine. Hort was named Germany’s Visual Leader of 2011 by the Lead Academy. Recently, the studio was presented the unenviable task of rebranding the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation, including the original signage on Gropius’ famous building. In addition to running Hort, König teaches graphic design and illustration at the HfG University of Arts, Offenbach, and travels the world conducting workshops and lectures. In conjunction with Insights, Hort will create a work specifically designed for the Walker website.
Job Wouters—better known as Letman—is a practitioner of the lost art of psychedelic and delirious penmanship, a letterer who’s precisely honed technique hides behind a world of unbridled alphabetic experimentation. Creating wildly unique work that nods to the past but transcends vernacular nostalgia, Wouters operates between illustration, graffiti, painting, and graphic design. The Amsterdam-based designer has worked for clients such as the New York Times Magazine, Audi, Tommy Hilfiger, Heineken, and Duvel, creating editorial illustrations, fabric prints, posters, typefaces, site-specific murals, and even body-paint designs. He is the recipient of numerous design awards and his first monograph was released by Gestalten publishing in 2012. He was recently commissioned by the Walker to create a mural. Wouters will perform his hand-lettering technique live during the Insights lecture.
According to the “Conditional Design” manifesto, Luna Maurer is interested in logic-based design as a tool to understand the ungraspable. Her work with interactive media bridges the divide between digital and analogue systems, often relying on deceptively simple rules to create complex organic artworks. Maurer is especially known for her participatory experiments in which she designs a process that requires the participants to implement—often in humble materials such as tape, markers, and sticky notes—algorithmic explorations of group thought that expose the process of making. Her work explores the relationship between people and technology, and she has created a breadth of projects—from an exhibition of 400,000 photos of the Amsterdam sky to a website designed in Microsoft Excel. Based in Amsterdam, her three-person studio Moniker balances applied commercial projects with self-initiated experiments. She is a visiting critic at Yale University School of Art and teaches interaction design at the Gerrit Reitveld Academy in Amsterdam. Maurer will present a “social experiment” with the lecture audience, unique to Insights 2013.
And you can always watch previous Insights lectures from designers such as James Goggin, Irma Boom, Project Projects, Experimental Jetset and more here.
“Interdisciplinary activity, valued today as an important aspect of research, cannot be accomplished by simple confrontations between various specialized branches of knowledge. Interdisciplinary work is not a peaceful operation: it begins effectively when the solidarity of the old disciplines breaks down—a process made more violent, perhaps, by the jolts of fashion—to the benefit of a new object and [...]
“Interdisciplinary activity, valued today as an important aspect of research, cannot be accomplished by simple confrontations between various specialized branches of knowledge. Interdisciplinary work is not a peaceful operation: it begins effectively when the solidarity of the old disciplines breaks down—a process made more violent, perhaps, by the jolts of fashion—to the benefit of a new object and a new language, neither of which is in the domain of those branches of knowledge that one calmly sought to confront.” —Roland Barthes
As part of the Walker’s Interdisciplinary Work Group (IWG)—a think tank exploring the “violent” process of clashing disciplines within our institution (maybe not violent enough, really)—I was asked to invite someone who inspired me and whose practice might embody a mixture of disciplines. It was the perfect excuse to bring out Julian Bleecker—a designer/technologist/futurist who creates “new objects” on a daily basis—though he might call them diagetic prototypes and suggest that their existence was not only plausible, but completely inevitable. When he’s not working in Nokia’s Design Strategic Projects studio, he is one of the founding partners of the Near Future Laboratory, a collective dedicated to “thinking, making, design, development, and research practice speculating on the near future possibilities for digital worlds.”
Over the past few years he has been developing the idea of Design Fiction—a practice exploring the symbiotic relationship between science fiction and science fact. As an attitude it has a lot in common with Critical Design as put forward by Dunne & Raby (in fact Wikipedia redirects a search for Design Fiction straight to the entry on Critical Design). Though where Critical Design offers tangible thought experiments critical of our personal relationships with products—often inhabiting the space of the gallery or academia—Design Fiction appears to be oriented toward the popular imaginary, more comfortable in the realm of Hollywood films, best-selling novels, Skymall catalogs, and Internet memes, more explicitly tackling the relationship between storytelling, media, and technological progress. And it might be more concerned with the fog of the feedback loop and the design process itself, in all its compromised and messy glory—the implications of business models, service design, copyright laws, product obsolescence, hacker spaces, Amazon Mechanical Turk and Alibaba.com, access to tools, etc.—instead of the clarity of the pure artifact on its pedestal (or kitchen counter). Julian even discusses the negative effects of design storytelling—Jurassic Park, for example, is held up as an example of incredible Design Fiction but potentially dubious science fact—a minority theory put forward into the public consciousness, bypassing the typical systems of scientific peer review, and dramatically altering the entire debate.
I’ve come to understand Design Fiction a bit like the inverse of Mundane Science Fiction (the Dogme 95 of sci-fi)—instead of science fiction authors dialing down the fantasy to tell stories of the near future, these are designers amping up the speculation to “tell worlds instead of stories.” Both theories feel a bit scrappy but highly prize a conceptual rigor: the refusal of Mundane Science Fiction to resort to impossible (and easy) ideas, and the dedication of Design Fiction to the process of making something real. “Less yammering and more hammering,” indeed. Both ideas also readily admit to having existed long before they were formally named, which seems appropriate.
I have personally been interested in the overlap of design and speculation for a while, but inviting Julian out in the context of the IWG posed a new set of questions: how can an organization like the Walker embed speculative practices into its workflow, how is interdisciplinary experimentation already inherently speculative, and when should our institution embrace a process that is not necessarily results-oriented—or at least, not in the typical sense? Speaking of mundane . . .
For our meeting, Julian spoke on his ideas of Design Fiction and led us through a series of workshop exercises designed to generate ideas for near future products. The IWG invited writer Susannah Schouweiler to sit in and write up her account of the proceedings. Here is her report on Julian’s presentation:
For the second in a series of eight planned discussions between now and December 2012, in early June members of the Walker’s Interdisciplinary Work Group (IWG) gathered for a conversation with Julian Bleecker, co-founder of the Near Future Laboratory and a researcher at the Design Strategic Projects studio at Nokia Design in Los Angeles. Specifically, IWG member and design director Emmet Byrne invited Bleecker to talk with our assembled group of Walker curators, programmers, and educators about his ongoing, hybrid creative work in the field of Design Fiction.
Unlike the more informal, intimate question-and-answer session a month prior with dancer and choreographer Deborah Hay, Bleecker’s multimedia presentation to the IWG was practiced, narrowly targeted, and information-rich—like a sprawling, workshopped TED-talk on his work at the intersection of imaginative play, storytelling, technology, art, and near-future design. Or, as Bleecker puts it more succinctly, “finding new ways of thinking about what’s possible.”
To begin, Bleecker describes Design Fiction for us, as “the fertile muddle where fact and fiction reflect and influence each other.” He says both design and science fiction work to open new lines of conversation, allowing people who are not inclined to think out of the ordinary, to begin to do so. “You can introduce a conversation about something quite speculative; when you’re talking about science fiction, no one says, ‘that’s impossible.’ We all understand the normal rules don’t apply.”
Design Fiction, in particular, he says, “involves thinking of the impossible as not just possible, but imminent, even likely.” But the work of Design Fiction goes much further than thinking and talking about what might be, to building on the ideas that emerge from such speculations: expanding the conversation by making something real, thereby taking it from the gossamer realms of conjecture to the work-a-day spheres of tangible, concrete probability.
He explains: “This work involves a symbiotic relationship between design fact and design fiction—things can happen because these conversations are in the world, percolating.” For example, we can see amazing, fictional technology in Hollywood films [like Minority Report, 2001: A Space Odyssey, etc]—indeed, that imagined tech is itself a big draw for audiences.
(Above: examples of Design Fiction in film)
And in a very concrete sense those technologies are real:
Someone designed a product, and designed it with an excruciating level of refinement, not just so it looks good on camera, but in such a way that the whole production team can understand how that tech fits in the story, why it’s there…. Using the lexicon established by the film to explain something real, some actual technology, it then becomes legible for a wide audience, because you have a conceptual anchor which introduces that technology (in the case of Minority Report, for example, gesture-based interfaces) into the popular imaginary.
He goes on: “The fact that the device you want to make doesn’t quite work yet doesn’t negate its reality—the conversation, the continuity of relationship between the idea rendered in the film and real technology is real…. A designer working on that film did enough to get things started to where an industrialist was ready to write a check to develop it for actual use. That’s real.”
Bleecker says such work involves “extrapolating from known to unknown… You can introduce a conversation about something quite speculative, but then expand that into an even more fulfilling conversation if you actually make the thing you’re talking about.” He goes on, “It’s usually a linear trajectory—from idea to prototype to materialization in some new future. You accrete more meaning in your explanation for what the future might look like as you build, get funding, and create something. You need to get it out of your head; once it’s made, you can describe it, show it and involve people in a discussion about its specifics.”
(Above: Apple’s iPad makes its first appearance as a diegetic prototype in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, 1969)
The Design Fiction process of actually creating something—going from conception to execution—facilitates a kind of thoroughness that distinguishes this work from mere speculation. In fact, Bleecker’s current interests are anything but remote: he tells us, right now he’s most interested in questions about the distribution of innovation. He offers a quote from novelist William Gibson by way of explanation: “The future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed … yet.”
Bleecker then offers this thought experiment. “I try to imagine what the end of the long tail for these innovations will look like; what does it look like at that point where future technology does become evenly distributed? Where it’s affordable, ubiquitous, mass-produced, almost junk? Like the PDA is now, or the record player, for example.”
He describes how thinking on such a question plays out in practice:
I think there’s something Design Fiction-y about that question. [How does our relationship to material stuff change with time and saturation, and what are the causes of those shifting desires?] To imagine these exciting new things, these innovations, as tomorrow’s crap—to put yourself in a time when you can pick up an iPad at the dollar store for $1.99, or two for $3. It’s a very powerful way of describing what these things might look like in the future, how they might work in the culture. Designing these things in reality, describing them in this way, does a sort of Jedi mind trick: This process makes people really believe, because in our daily lives we already understand how that exciting-to-banal process works—we see it all around us.”
He argues that you can disrupt conventional futures with Design Fiction: “If you really want to tweak habits or desires, you can start design conversations with these techniques, take them beyond ‘what are the new colors/price points going to be for 2013?’” Design Fiction, he says, plays in the fringes, outside the borders of the “conventional products’ sweet spot,” where the spheres of what’s “buildable, desirable, and profitable” overlap. Design Fiction adherents are drawn beyond safe “mods and tweaks” of existing products to the fast-shifting terrain where fantasies and speculations reside, to the quicksilver trajectories of the “magical, mythical, miraculous” in our many possible futures.
(Above: Death Star Over San Francisco by Mike Horn)
In Design Fiction, he says, “stories matter more than features, specs, wireframes, and engineering… Special effects dinosaurs are more effective when used in an exciting film like Jurassic Park, than they are in a plain old documentary talking about the science of dinosaurs, because you’re enrolling viewers into a well-drawn world, and the design within that world is all the more compelling for it. … [What’s more] a persuasive big-budget film rendering of [even hotly contested] science can so capture the imagination that it changes the real-world conversation irrevocably — and can therefore change the science itself.”
He says, “It comes down to the way in which we’re able to hold people’s attention, to engage them.” It’s about finding ways—through film, design, novels—to help us all look at the world a little differently. “We’re trying to find people who look at the world a little bit sideways, for that head-slap moment when you know you’ve hit on meaningful innovation—whether that’s a little tweak that makes a huge difference (e.g. wheels on luggage) or some big new idea put in practice.”
Design director Emmet Byrne follows up, asking Bleecker whether “there’s something inherently ethical about showing people how the future might be different than what we accept as the consensus future? That seems to be an element of critical design practice as well,” he says. “Is simply generating a meaningful conversation about what is and might be, in itself, a useful aspect of the work? Or is that not enough?”
Bleecker responds: “It’s fun to look at the world this way, to seek the head-slap moment and play with ideas; but I do think it’s also important to consider these things with a code of ethics. You’re never just doing it to do it, but to make the world a little bit better. Sometimes that’s been a very First-World thing I’ve made better because of a new design—like calling your mother gets a little easier, a little better, more enjoyable. But always embedded in the design work is the idea that we’re in the business of making things a little more playful, happier, and less unnerving for people.”
“And simply bringing an appreciation of the fact that the future isn’t determined,” he says, “that the future, on an individual scale, is still open to one person’s vision of what that can be”—that’s valuable in its own right, too.
The Walker design studio was featured in an exhibition called The Way Beyond Art: Wide White Space at the CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts. You can read an interview about the exhibition here. A catalog/reader based on the exhibition , edited and designed by Jon Sueda, is now published and available here. The exhibition investigates [...]
The Walker design studio was featured in an exhibition called The Way Beyond Art: Wide White Space at the CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts. You can read an interview about the exhibition here.
A catalog/reader based on the exhibition , edited and designed by Jon Sueda, is now published and available here. The exhibition investigates graphic design’s evolving relationship with the practice of exhibition making as it intersects with the visual arts and the work of both artists and curators. The exhibition, also curated by Jon Sueda of the San Francisco design practice Stripe SF, was originally on view at CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts in 2011. The publication includes texts by Claire Fitzsimmons, Project Projects, Tim Belonax, and myself, and transcriptions of lectures presented in the Wide White Space lecture series by Emily McVarish, Rachel Berger, MacFadden & Thorpe, and Eric Heiman. The book also includes an overview of the course Wider White Space, organized by Jon Sueda and the Wattis Institute, where students at the California College of the Arts (CCA) curated four satellite exhibitions about APFEL, Project Projects, the Walker Art Center, and Experimental Jetset.
Featured Designers in the Exhibition: APFEL, Irma Boom, Laurenz Brunner and Julia Born, Sara De Bondt, Mevis and Van Deursen, Dexter Sinister, Experimental Jetset, Will Holder, Indexhibit, Zak Kyes, James Langdon, LUST, Niessen & de Vries, Practise, Project Projects, Yann Sérandour and Jérôme Saint-Loubert Bié, Stedelijk Museum, Sulki and Min, Mylinh Trieu Nguyen, Hansje van Halem, and the Walker Art Center
It’s been seven years since we launched the Walker Blogs and with the release of our new website back in December we thought it was finally time for a refresh. You’ll notice that the design has changed to align with our new website and we’ve used the redesign process as an opportunity to rebrand each [...]
It’s been seven years since we launched the Walker Blogs and with the release of our new website back in December we thought it was finally time for a refresh. You’ll notice that the design has changed to align with our new website and we’ve used the redesign process as an opportunity to rebrand each of our core blogs. It was an interesting exercise and allowed us to assess the state of our collective blogging efforts—how each of our (now) nine blogs serves a different audience, how they all have different use characteristics by their audiences, and how they could all be focused into tighter streams of content. The blogs definitely represent the long tail side of our publishing efforts—lots of small bits of specialized content for micro-niche audiences—so maintaining a strong emphasis on the personalities behind the Walker and their specific interests was key. And the rebranding process illustrated for us that when you present people with tangible criteria to change, such as a new name, tighter description, graphic—an understandable format to inhabit—it helps them better speculate on what their blog can be.
We decided on a system of flag graphics to represent the various blogs, since each blog is really a representation of a different group of people at the Walker (in most cases the individual programming departments). It’s a tricky balance to strike between striving for traditional, recognizable flag forms and having a graphic that cleverly plays off the title, but we’re glad to have a consistent vocabulary to build on in the future, especially since the blogs now match our comparatively monochromatic main site. I’m particularly fond of the Green Room’s flag.
Beyond the simple graphic forms, this is the first truly responsively designed Walker site—resize your browser window to see things reflow to fit a variety of screen sizes. Content and interface elements of lesser importance become hidden behind links at certain screen sizes. The main content area, on the other hand, stretches to fill a large width when called for. It leads to some pretty long line lengths, but gives our older, image-heavy content the space it needs to fit. We’ll be soon applying this technique to the redesigned Walker Collections, which features a strong publishing component. With the easy adaptations to tablets and mobile devices, it’s a good fit for our eventual goal of efficient multi-channel communications.
Other, smaller items of note include the addition of a grid/list view toggle in the top left to make skimming easier, smarter ordering of categories and authors (by popularity and date of last post, respectively), and a little flag animation when you roll over the left-side blog names (in full-width view).
In the Design department, we’re excited to further explore the gradient between design and art and we’ve got a ton of new posts lined up. We’re looking forward to sharing more of the work we make, what it means to work in-house for an institution like the Walker, and innovations in the field at large that we look towards. Check the far left column for a list of all the great Walker blogs and feel free to drop by the Walker Design department page.
And just for kicks, here are some rejected flag sketches:
The Walker and Printed Matter (NY) are teaming up to create an artist book outreach program of sorts, bringing the best of contemporary artworks-for-the-page to the Midwest. In collaboration with the Walker’s book buyer Paul Schumacher, Printed Matter will curate a selection of contemporary artist books, zines, and publications which will be displayed in [...]
The Walker and Printed Matter (NY) are teaming up to create an artist book outreach program of sorts, bringing the best of contemporary artworks-for-the-page to the Midwest. In collaboration with the Walker’s book buyer Paul Schumacher, Printed Matter will curate a selection of contemporary artist books, zines, and publications which will be displayed in an artist-designed bookshelf in the Walker Shop. As part of their mission, Printed Matter is looking for ways to spread what they do outside of NY, and this shelf will be the first in a series of shelves with other partners across the country.
To launch the shelf the Walker is putting on a weekend of book-related events called Over-Booked, two weeks before the New York Art Book Fair, Printed Matter’s gigantic annual event that takes place at MoMA PS1. Highlights of our weekend in Minneapolis include Printed Matter executive director James Jenkin’s talk about tips and trends in artists’ book publishing on Saturday, a local book arts fair, and an open house at the Walker’s library showcasing the lauded Rosemary Furtak Collection. Check it out September 13–15.
In the coming weeks leading up to Over-Booked and the NYABF we will be featuring interviews with our favorite book artists and designers such as Christopher Schultz, Eric Wrenn, Sandra Kassenaar, Paul Chan, Lucky Dragons, Paul Mpagi Sepuya, Omar Sosa, Chad Kloepfer, An Art Service, Jõao Doria, Jesse Hlebo, Ofer Wolberger, Josh Trees & Yvan Martinez, Adam Michaels, Roger Willems, David Schoerner, Alfredo Folch, Blair Richardson, Alex Fuller, Kyle Schlie, Yun Yu, Issue Press, Wayne Daly, and Other Means. We will also be publishing an interview with James Jenkins about the genesis of the bookshelf project, and an interview with A.A. Bronson about the future of the NYABF.
For more information about the event, check here.