Posts Tagged ‘Paul Rand’

The Pleasure of Small Problems

Sunday, February 22nd, 2015
Sean Adams, Soviet Dialogues poster, 2015

Sean Adams, Soviet Dialogues poster, 2015

Last week, I finished a poster for Dialogues: Poster Art of the Soviet Union. I could do anything I wanted. I chose to stay away from 45 degree angles and Constructivist typography. They just didn’t go well with Khrushchev‘s testicle quote. I had a great time working on it, and hope it is useful for the event. But is it graphic design?

For a long time, the battle cry of design has been “problem solving.” Well, what isn’t? Create an urban signage system to help revitalize mid-Manhattan. Yep, problem solved. Design an information guide and website to help in an environmental disaster, check. Make an identity system and collateral for a homeless shelter, uh huh. But the problem with narrowing the focus of design onto only a tiny aspect is the inherent exclusion of anything that is deemed as not serious problem solving. If there isn’t a multi-page case study, with dense research, clear results, and a sans serif font, then it’s not design.

But where does that leave the work that is, frankly, just amazing without a giant purpose? Using the metric of justifying all design by the density of the issue negates most of the work that moved the profession forward. That Paul Rand Apparel Arts Magazine cover with the propeller, really? That had a deep purpose and widespread effect on the garment industry? No, so it’s out. The same goes for Saul Bass’ beautiful poster for The Music Center, Alexey Brodovitch’s Ballet book, and a long list of work that shaped me as a designer.

I’ll stick with not defining graphic design. It uses words, symbols, and images to communicate. Some of it solves problems that are big, some solve the problem of making me happy for a moment. That’s good for me. Leaving this open allows for work that may be simply ridiculously wonderful.

Paul Rand, Apparel Arts magazine

Paul Rand, Apparel Arts magazine

Saul Bass, The Music Center

Saul Bass, The Music Center

Alexey Brodovitch, Ballet book

Alexey Brodovitch, Ballet book

Alexey Brodovitch, Ballet book

Alexey Brodovitch, Ballet book

Colin Forbes, Metrics  poster

Colin Forbes, Metrics poster

Paul Rand, Container Corporation of America

Paul Rand, Container Corporation of America

Leo Lionni, AIGA Award

Leo Lionni, AIGA Award

Nothing

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014
Richard Danne

Richard Danne

I’ll keep this simple. I like work that doesn’t try too hard. It’s so easy to work on a project until I’ve beaten every last bit of life from it. It’s good to know when to stop. And the work I like best looks like the designer did one thing like set the type in Akzidenz Grotesk and then said, “Yeah, I’m done.” Perfect.

Young designers tell me all the time, “Are you sure, it seems empty.” But the idea makes it full, and in fact it’s not empty, it’s filled with a ton of negative space. I think of it like dark energy and dark matter. It’s strong enough to hold everything together. I deeply covet Richard Danne’s desk calendar from 1974. I think there’s that place in hell that I’ve mentioned before (the one where amateur musicians pull a guitar out at a party) for people who steal. But, I’d steal it.

All of these projects are confident and clear. They resonate with harmony because every tiny detail has been refined, refined, and refined. So try this on your next project. Do one thing and stop. It’ll be hard and the evil workings of layers in Photoshop or Illustrator will be calling, “Add more, add more.” Resist.

Richard Danne

Richard Danne

Paul Rand business card

Paul Rand business card

Please note the call room number

Please note the call room number

Ray Eames

Ray Eames

Reid Miles

Reid Miles

Brownjohn, Chermayeff and Geismar

Brownjohn, Chermayeff and Geismar

A.G. Franzoni

A.G. Franzoni

Fridolin Müller

Fridolin Müller

John Massey

John Massey

George Tscherny

George Tscherny

George Tscherny

George Tscherny

Paul Rand

Paul Rand

Louis Danziger

Louis Danziger

Carson/Roberts

Carson/Roberts

Richard Danne

Richard Danne

Raindrops on Roses

Friday, June 20th, 2014

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Sideways

Tuesday, April 9th, 2013
Gan Hosaya, 1969, ad

Gan Hosaya, 1969, ad

 

There are times when a project just looks bad, like dog crap. I slave over it endlessly, and then I realize all it needs is to be turned on its side or upside down. Voila, it works. That’s the issue when you don’t print anything out and only see it on a screen. Sure you can turn your screen upside down or turn it on its side, but that could result in dropping it. The easiest solution is to send a file to print and than flip that baby around in all directions. What was once banal and expected becomes avant-garde and unsettling.

I love work that is sideways or upside down. It gets away from the standard point of view that we have in everyday life which is straight on from about 5 or 6 feet tall. Miraculously, you can see a different view from above or below, or lying on the ground and seeing the world on its side. This is why God gave people bendable joints. Photography at the Bauhaus in the 1920s and 30s took advantage of this ad-nauseum. It was as if everyone there was climbing up the walls and hanging from the balconies. But the images are wonderful.

Posters and ads with moving vehicles are especially adaptable to this technique. Gan Hosaya‘s 1969 poster for Yamaha is one of my absolute favorite pieces of design ever produced. Think how dull it might have been if he simply let the image be turned 90 degrees. So the next time you’re out taking photos, climb up on a table and shoot everyone from above. You’ll be asked to leave, but end up with a snappy photo that isn’t the same head and shoulders of someone holding a drink.

 

Martin Munkasci, 1935

Martin Munkasci, 1935

Diving at the Valley Baths, Brisbane, Queensland, 1938

Diving at the Valley Baths, Brisbane, Queensland, 1938

Paul Rand, Apparel Arts cover

Paul Rand, Apparel Arts cover

Herbert Matter, 1935

Herbert Matter, 1935

Carl Ally Agency, ad, 1960s

Carl Ally Agency, ad, 1960s

Carl Ally Agency, ad, 1960s

Carl Ally Agency, ad, 1960s

Max Huber, 1957

Max Huber, 1957

Max Huber, 1948

Max Huber, 1948

Joseph Binder, Graphis magazine, 1948

Joseph Binder, Graphis magazine, 1948

Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, 1926

Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, 1926

Art Direction

Saturday, December 1st, 2012

 

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