Posts Tagged ‘Josef Muller-Brockmann’

Obsessed

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014
Ken Briggs, Left, 1950s

Ken Briggs, Left, 1950s

 

Recently, a young designer met with me and talked about obsession. “I’m worried it’s wrong, but I get obsessed about something and can’t stop,” she said. She wasn’t talking about Justin Bieber or heroin. She gave the example of string art. “I can’t stop looking for it online and want to learn how to do it.” Who doesn’t?” was my reply.

I don’t know where she heard that being obsessed was bad. Sure, if you’re stalking someone and build a shrine with sacrifices for them you may have a problem. But I’ve been working on my OCD family tree for years and never tire of it. Paula Scher makes wonderful paintings of maps. Marian Bantjes works with pattern. Massimo Vignelli couldn’t get enough Bodoni. Being obsessed is part of the job.

Ken Briggs was a British designer responsible for many of the beautiful posters for the National Theatre in London. Clearly, Briggs was obsessed with the New Typography, inspired after seeing a copy of Josef Müller Brockmann’s Neue Grafik. The posters relentlessly use Helvetica, golden section proportions and grids. But, Briggs took the rigid rules and tweaked them with surprising color choices and offbeat photographic solutions. He added a dry British wit to a sterile approach.

Briggs didn’t do this once, or for a couple of months. He did it over and over and over. And thank God for that obsession. The lesson here, obsession makes perfection.

 

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1992 in Black and White

Thursday, July 25th, 2013
Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

While I think wikipedia is a swell tool sometimes, it is not an educational substitute. Each term in my foundation class at Art Center I give an assignment that requires research. This term the students returned with presentations on politics and photography. It’s obvious which ones are just reading from wikipedia: “Social documentary photography is the recording of humans in their natural condition with a camera. Often it also refers to a socially critical genre of photography dedicated to showing the life of underprivileged or disadvantaged people.” My response, “And…?”

I used to assign a film poster which required watching a movie outside of the class room. How hard is that? It’s not reading Joseph Conrad. Then I found that people were only watching snippets on YouTube. So now, we watch the whole movie in class. This makes me feel like Bad Teacher.

In contrast to this is the enormous energy and effort that Robert Cha put into this publication. Robert worked on the Fires in Our Time book as an independent study with me. When he mentioned the 1992 L.A. Riots as a subject I expected a nice 18 page booklet with big headlines and photos. Instead, Robert created a relentlessly dense document that reports and deconstructs the riots. 300 pages of interviews, newspaper reports, television, and first hand accounts. This enormous amount of information would be enough, but Robert then applied a design solution that did not try to aestheticize the issue. His book dogmatically sticks to a rigid rule system. Each type of information is assigned a typeface, size, and position. The final result are pages that feel like elements slamming against each other, none willing to compromise.

Many issues and multiple viewpoints collided in Los Angeles after the Rodney King verdict. The riots were more than one thing. To minimize them and assign a pithy one line answer is a disservice to the complexity of the ongoing problem. Robert’s book is the best example of this put into concrete form.

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

 

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

 

 

 

 

 

Unsinkable Brown

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

unknown, Buffalo Bill's Wild West

Recently, a client asked for brown as a color option on a project. A couple of years ago, I would have resisted. But, brown has slowly been creeping into my mind. First, I found myself admiring the brown tile at the Honolulu Airport. Then, I decided I should move away from my earthquake safe Melmac dinnerware. So, I bought several settings of Heath Ceramics dinnerware.

The Heath colors are subtle, subtle and subtle. Seeing one brown combined with cream or tan plate convinced me that brown could be alright. Some of my favorite design solutions are brown. Does this mean I’m mellowing, or developing, God forbid, good taste? I still resist any attempt to put brown in bathrooms. Brown wall, tiles, fixtures, or accessories should never be used there. I won’t go into details, but how do you know if someone previously had an “episode” in the bathroom if everything isn’t bright white?

Heath Ceramics dinnerware

 

Heath Ceramics, plate colors

 

tile, Honolulu Airport

 

Reid Miles, Blowin' Country

 

Tomoko Miho, Nieman Marcus packaging, 1960s

 

Paul Rand, Idea magazine, 1955

 

Josef Muller-Brockmann, concert poster, 1955

 

Saul Bass, Bonjour Tristesse poster, 1959

 

Will Burtin, Scope magazine, 1951

 

A bad brown bathroom, 1977

 

No Splashing. No!

Thursday, October 6th, 2011

Bauhaus newsletter, 1929

Somehow by attrition, I have become the “go to” designer when color is involved. This amazes me because my color theory is pretty simple: everything works with everything. Just don’t be wimpy. I love hateful combinations such as almond, maroon, and teal. I’d make every project avocado, burnt orange, butter yellow, baby blue, and magenta if I could. But, oddly, I love black and white. It’s the color combination used the least. Everyone assumes it’s ubiquitous, so everything is full of color. When was the last time you saw a stark black and white ad, billboard, or television commercial? Color is an evil temptress; we attempt restrain, but are lured with the promise of excitement. Be brave. Try black and white. This isn’t black and white with a splash of orange. No. No splash. You must deny any additional color.

AdamsMorioka

Beverige Byrd Seay

Michael Bierut

unknown

unknown

Michael Vanderbyl

Tibor Kalman

Josef Muller Brockmann

Josef Muller Brockmann

Saul Steinberg

Sister Corita Kent

unkown

Marget Larsen

Paul Rand

Lou Danziger

Herbert Matter

Alvin Lustig

Michael Bierut

Herb Lubalin

AdamsMorioka

Michael Vanderbyl

The Circus is a Wacky Place

Friday, May 27th, 2011

Hubert Hilscher, 1967

As a design student, I was repeatedly told to study Polish poster art. This was in response to my work that was deemed, “too tasty, too polite.” I spent hours looking at these posters and…, nothing. They made no sense to me, and I could not understand what they meant, how they arrived at this odd aesthetic, or what they had to do with my work. Today, I realize the value of these posters. They transcend the expected. They follow an aesthetic that is fearless and non-traditional. And they allow for gesture and passion.

Now I find myself suggesting the same thing to my students. My students come back and say, “Professor Adams, I don’t understand what they have to do with my work.”  To which I say, “Look at them again.”

The CYRK (circus) posters were designed during the golden age of polish posters, from 1962 to 1989. The state commissioned these posters to promote a new, modern circus. The designers followed this assignment with non-literal, suggestive forms. Often, these contained hidden anti-Soviet and anti-Communism symbols.

In all honesty, they still mystify me. I can imagine how Josef Muller-Brockmann designed a poster, or Alvin Lustig, or even Yusaku Kamekura. They are beautiful and mysterious, but are from a culture so far removed from my reality, that Martians might have designed them.

 

from the Lou Danziger Collection

Wiktor Gorka, 1967

Maciej Urbaniec, 1970s

B. Bolianowski, 1976

J. Rozycki, 1975

Jan Mlodozoniec, 1966

Maciej Urbaniec, 1970s

Maciej Urbaniec, 1968

Waldemar Swierzy, 1970s

Waldemar Swierzy, 1970s

Waldemar Swierzy, 1970

Waldemar Swierzy, 1970s

Waldemar Swierzy, 1968

Roman Cieslewicz, 1963

Roman Cieslewicz, 1962