Art Direction

 

AdamsMorioka, Managing the Design Process by Terry Stone, book cover

There is a rather severe difference of opinion about using a cliché in the design world. I like them. They are clichés because we all understand them. As long as the idea is presented in an unexpected way, it’s all good with me. An arrow is cliché. “Oh, Sean,” I’ve heard, “Arrows are so 20th-century.” But, why be oblique and complicated when it is so easy to point someone in the right direction?

Arrows are wonderful because they are symbols that command. The viewer is not being asked, “Would you prefer to turn right, perhaps?” An arrow screams, “TURN RIGHT! TURN NOW!” How many other symbols can do that? Lester Beall introduced me to the wonderful world of arrows. Not, Lester, personally, but through Lou Danziger’s vast historical knowledge. At a time when design was racing faster toward more is more with less and less clarity, the arrow was a revelation. The zeitgeist of that time was , “make less with more.” I wanted to make more with less (follow me? More meaning, less stuff.). I could put an arrow on a poster next to a headline and the viewer would read this first. Who knew?

Unfortunately, arrows are a temptation. Like all wonderful things, too much is not good. Judicious usage is needed. As Groucho Marx said: “Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana.”

 

Mieczlaw Berman, collage, 1927

 

Herbert Bayer, sketch for a poster, 1923

 

Kurt Schwitters, Cover of Merz 11, 1924

 

Jan Tschichold, film poster Napoleon, 1927

 

Lester Beall, Poster for Rural Electrification Agency, 1937

 

Lester Beall, spread from PM magazine, 1937

 

Max Huber, poster for a race, 1948

 

Giovanni Pintori, poster for Olivetti, 1956

 

Paul Rand, poster, 1965

 

Shigeo Fukuda, poster for his work, 1971

 

Tadanoori Yokoo, poster for concert, 1963

 

Paul Rand, poster, 1948

 

Paul Rand, Cumins Annual Report, 1976

 

Chermayeff & Geismar, SeaTrain logo, 1960s

 

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