E' una buona forchetta

John Alcorn, Evolution by Design: Stephen Alcorn and Marta Sironi, 2014

I planned on doing a post today to rant about bad clients. Sure there are some that were indecisive or unclear, but I can only think of one who was someone I'd love to run into, when I'm driving and he was walking. Then I looked through Stephen Alcorn and Marta Sironi's book, John Alcorn: Evolution by Design. The ranting concept seemed small and petty compared to the vastness of the Alcorn work.

I'm not opposed to small and petty, but each spread is breathtaking. Steven Heller calls Alcorn the 4th Beatle of Graphic Design. He was the youngest (21) member of Push Pin Studios in 1956. His work with Push Pin and Lou Dorfsman at CBS is smart, sophisticated, and elegant. He never succumbed to a "cutesy-pie" approach common to illustration in the 1950s. As he matured as a designer, the work takes on layers of sensuality. There is no restrictive diet here; the shapes, images, and typography are rich and full.

This maximalism expanded when Alcorn moved to Italy. After 1971, the illustrations are a feast of vibrant and complex forms with pleasure and passion, like good Italian cooking. The work is a reminder of the joy in design. It reinforces the good parts, not the murderous tendencies and anger management problems, but creative expression and love of craft.


John Alcorn in Santa Croce, 1973 (Courtesy of Stephen Alcorn)

The Joyous Ecstasy of Wrongness

At times I feel like a traitor. I hate design. I drive to work and see a cool and hip poster and think, “Oh, yeah, seen that a thousand times.” I’ll work on an identity and create an incredibly clever solution such as when a “P” is also cat, or a comma, or a flying nun. I want to throw up.

This is when I realize its time to forget logic, clever solutions, puns, and the “correct” approach. And I do something really wrong. Now, what is wrong? Of course, hurting others emotionally is wrong (or so I’ve been told). In design, it seems that the wrong thing to do is to forget the rules and do something wonderful that makes no sense. Some of you are already getting angry and thinking, “Damn, damn, damn, well that’s just art.” See, it’s wrong.

One of my favorite examples is the campaign for the movie Where It’s At from 1969. I haven’t seen this movie and I have no desire to see it. But the posters are really, really, really bizarre. The designer took the psychedelic approach and teamed it with PushPin, children’s board game graphics, and European “Art” film (code for topless) imagery. These posters have everything one could want in a poster. Forget the poster solution of a clever one color solid shape of a comb that is also a crucifix; this is the joyous ecstasy of wrong.