Look

Look Magazine, Allen Hurlburt, 1969

I had a wonderful discussion today about Allen Hurlburt with Margaret Rhodes who is writing about him. Every year, someone pipes up about traditional publication design being dead. We are told that today’s reader views information differently and printed publications must change. If I listened to the current theory, every page should have multiple layers of information, presented in multiple typefaces, icons, and colors. A good page design should emulate a CNN screen. If I wanted to find joy in the barrage of information on a CNN or Bloomberg screen, I could take screen grabs, print them out, bind them, and put them on the coffee table.

The problem with this is pacing. Good publications are paced like film. There should be quiet moments, big explosions, close-ups, long shots, and points for contemplation. 500 pages of dense faux-information does not do this. That's wallpaper. Allen Hurlburt served as the creative director at Look Magazine from 1953 until 1971. His issues of Look are treasures. They follow a clear grid, are graceful, calm, and powerful at the same time. Look (no pun intended) at the way Hurlburt uses the typography to echo the content of the imagery and how the image content aligns with the grid. So nice. 

from the Lou Danziger collection and Past Print

Sean Adams

Sean Adams is the Chair of the undergraduate and graduate Graphic Design Program at ArtCenter, founder of Burning Settlers Cabin studio, and on-screen author for LinkedIn Learning/Lynda.com He is the only two term AIGA national president in AIGA’s 100 year history. In 2014, Adams was awarded the AIGA Medal, the highest honor in the profession. He is an AIGA Fellow, and Aspen Design Fellow. He has been recognized by every major competition and publication including; How, Print, Step, Communication Arts, Graphis, AIGA, The Type Directors Club, The British Art Director’s Club, and the Art Director’s Club. Adams has been exhibited often, including a solo exhibition at The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Adams is an author of multiple magazine columns, and several best-selling books. He has been cited as one of the forty most important people shaping design internationally, and one of the top ten influential designers in the United States. Previously, Adams was a founding partner at AdamsMorioka, whose clients included The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Disney, Mohawk Fine Papers, The Metropolitan Opera, Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History, Richard Meier & Partners, Sundance, and the University of Southern California.

Covering Covers

Lutz Roeder, Gebrauchsgraphik, June 1965

I've designed several magazines over the years. The cover is usually the land mine. Every hope, desire, and fear seems to coalesce around the cover. I lost one longtime great friend who was the photographer on a cover when the client rejected her beautiful and flawless image for a bad stock photo. It's the part of the project when everyone in the room has an opinion on what a good cover is. In all honesty, there are covers I worked on that are fugly fugly. These were designed by committee and I didn't have the fortitude to say, "You're wrong! You're bad people." But that rarely works either.

As you can expect some of my favorite covers do not have one giant face staring out, but take advantage of the magazine as a personal artifact that doubles as a poster. And if we're honest, we'll all admit we have purchased a magazine only for the cover. Which, I imagine, is liking someone simply because they have a nice face. And...?


Health Magazine, cover studies

Sean Adams

Sean Adams is the Chair of the undergraduate and graduate Graphic Design Program at ArtCenter, founder of Burning Settlers Cabin studio, and on-screen author for LinkedIn Learning/Lynda.com He is the only two term AIGA national president in AIGA’s 100 year history. In 2014, Adams was awarded the AIGA Medal, the highest honor in the profession. He is an AIGA Fellow, and Aspen Design Fellow. He has been recognized by every major competition and publication including; How, Print, Step, Communication Arts, Graphis, AIGA, The Type Directors Club, The British Art Director’s Club, and the Art Director’s Club. Adams has been exhibited often, including a solo exhibition at The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Adams is an author of multiple magazine columns, and several best-selling books. He has been cited as one of the forty most important people shaping design internationally, and one of the top ten influential designers in the United States. Previously, Adams was a founding partner at AdamsMorioka, whose clients included The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Disney, Mohawk Fine Papers, The Metropolitan Opera, Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History, Richard Meier & Partners, Sundance, and the University of Southern California.

Erotic Abandon

This is frustrating: I suggest that a student have more fun and freedom on a project and they return the next week with the most itsy-bitsy slight change. I don't understand the timidness. It's as if they believe God will strike them dead if they use a quickly drawn gesture, or too much color, or an enormously scaled grainy image. So I get the tidy and polite vector art solutions or lovely but dead photographs. It really drives me to murder. I'm the opposite of the cranky professors who say, "Oh, that's gone too far." I beg them, "Please, please go so far that everyone in the room is shocked and aghast at your complete lack of restraint."

I'm not pushing students to go outside of their comfort level and work in broad strokes to be mean. I don't want them to spend their lives designing tasteful wine labels and polite brochures. I want them to be wonderful.

The example I use is Herb Lubalin and Ralph Ginzburg'sEros magazine. Eros was short lived, only four issues from 1968 to 1971. By today's standards it tame. You can find more explicit imagery by doing a google search for "cat". Lubalin uses the page like a giant canvas, not a small magazine. When he uses negative space, he does past the comfortable spot. When he handles headlines, he does bad things like smashing the copy together in a corner. The images are dramatic and play with radical scale and cropping. At the same time, the thing is refined to death.

Partners at a law firm usually make more than graphic designers. That's ok because they have to wear real life work clothes and we don't. And we can have fun. That's the trade-off. Why be miserable and uptight, and a graphic designer. You can do that as a financial analyst and make much more money.

Spread images via: http://westread.blogspot.fr/

Deep Impact

These are the questions I’m typically asked at speaking engagements: “What is your inspiration, are you hiring designers, and what is your favorite part of being a designer?” The answers are: “How much time do you have, sometimes, and working deeply with different businesses.” I like working with a client and learning about their industry or discipline in depth. It’s impossible to work for a medical client on a diagram illustrating the process of clinical trials without understanding the subject. Or to design signage for a hospital and not understand patient and doctor behavior issues.

Will Burtin never worked on the surface. His work is clearly the result of an impressive and deep understanding of the subject. He was a master of re-framing complex scientific and medical issues with design. His elegant solutions provided simple and clear access for an audience without deep medical knowledge. This goes beyond nice information graphics. His work with Scope magazine for Upjohn is a masterpiece of scale, shape, typography, and pacing. But, it also adds a layer of deep information about complex and confusing subjects.

It is convenient to say, “I don’t have time to learn this,” and fall back to the old bag of design tricks. The result is a perfectly adequate layout. But this is not only a disservice to the client; it is a lost opportunity to do dig into a subject deeply. Good design takes time, not because designers like to move a 7 point line of Garamond back and forth 1 pica. It takes time to learn, digest, and re-articulate with intelligence and craft.

images from the Lou Danziger Collection

Echo and one Funny Man

It's a sad fact that many of us were forced to buy a record at a record store, go home, listen to the one song you liked, and then hate the rest of the album. But, tough luck. That was how the world worked pre-digital music downloads. Horrible. Today, I can create my own playlist, ignore the crap songs on the rest of an album, and even take a walk while listening.

In 1960, however, true interactive music media was invented. Echo magazine was a "magazine you play on your phonograph." Pretty cool. You could read an article, and play a record bound into the publication. This made magazines seem stupid because they didn't have sound, and records equally dumb, because they only had liner notes. Boring.

Unfortunately, a magazine/record didn't catch on in 1960. In reality, the issue could have been manufacturing related. I have this issue, and I'll be damned if I can figure out how to separate the record from the pages. I don't want to put the whole magazine on the turntable and flip around. The cover may also have added to the confusion. Only today, did I realize that it's a representation of a phonograph player. For years, I thought it was someone's arm and hand who was very shaky.

The Look of Love

Every year, someone pipes up about traditional publication design being dead. We are told that today’s reader views information differently and printed publications must change. If I listened to the current theory, every page should have multiple layers of information, presented in multiple typefaces, icons, and colors. A good page design should emulate a CNN screen. If I wanted to find joy in the barrage of information on a CNN or Bloomberg screen, I could take screen grabs, print them out, bind them, and put them on the coffee table.

The problem with this is pacing. Good publications are paced like film. There should be quiet moments, big explosions, close-ups, long shots, and points for contemplation. 500 pages of dense faux-information does not do this. Allen Hurlburt served as the creative director at Look Magazine from 1953 until 1971. His issues of Look are treasures. They follow a clear grid, are graceful, calm, and powerful at the same time. We’re currently designing an annual report for one of our clients. When I explained the thinking behind our direction, I simply said, “Look magazine.” I didn’t need to say anything else. Everyone said, “Yes. Exactly. Perfect.”

from the Lou Danziger collection

Drag Me to Hell

Before TMZ and online gossip sites, there was Star magazine Scandals. Noreen claims I speak like I’m in a 1950s low-end movie. This may be true. From what I’ve been told, “Swell,” is no longer used in everyday language. I’d much rather speak in Star magazine headlines, “I’m not under thirty. I’m not an alcoholic. I don’t need another Hollywood bar designer get-together.” The verbiage is matched only by the design. This is proof that modernism failed. Less is less here, and once is never enough.

Is there a grid? Who cares when Fergie romps topless with her Texas millionaire as her children watch? Are there typographic consistencies? “Princess Caroline’s husband zooms to his doom. Kiss Papa goodbye,” does not need a common type size. The Scandal issue is the design equivalent of “Shock and Awe.” Every page is a barrage of information screaming at the highest volume. Every fact is extreme.

This is how all copy should be written, regardless of the client. The exhibition, Talk to Me: Design and the Communication between People and Objects, at MOMA should be renamed, “Stalker Machines Terrorize and Attack Innocent Hipsters.” The New York Times should reconsider headlines such as “Obama Administration Calls for Syrian President to Step Down” to “Pres Lashes Out in Furious Rage at Evil Tyrant.” See how much more exciting the news could be.

New Discoveries

I love working with clients who are smart. Duh. They know what they want, their business, audience, and how a design job happens. Cedars-Sinai is one of those for us. We’ve worked on several projects for them and each project continues to be challenging and rewarding intellectually and aesthetically. We recently completed the Cedars-Sinai magazine, Discoveries. Now I can boast about it, because I had only a part in its creation. Everyone in the office from Nathan, Monica, Chris, Terry, and Noreen worked to make a fantastic publication. Monica said it best when I asked her why she was happy with the final project, “This project was one of those wonderful examples of transcending the designer/client boundary and really working together as a team. We collaborated directly with Laura Grunberger at Cedars-Sinai and her staff; sharing ideas, refining concepts, and determining the vision for the magazine as a whole.” Monica clearly has a far better talent for articulation than I.

When someone asks me if print is dead, Discoveries is a great response. There is something about holding a physical artifact and spending time reading it, as opposed to looking at an article and reading a paragraph on screen. Colorgraphics printed almost 150,000 copies. And we used Mohawk 50/10, of course.

In the end, this project had a million moving parts, but the team worked together so flawlessly that it came together and looked effortless. That’s good design for me: work that looks easy not desperate. As I’ve said before, desperation is bad on a date, and in design.