MCAD Internship Guidebook
Borrowing from the vocabulary of office supplies, Minneapolis-based DesignWorks intern Andrea Hyde did away with brochure cliches by promoting the Minneapolis College of Art and Design’s internship program in the form of a dossier. A file folder-shaped guidebook features testimonials and images of student work alongside photos of actual MCAD students taken on the job at the internship in which they’ve been placed, and the playful cover features a punch-out Rolodex card with contact information for the program’s director. “I’ve never seen a school do something like this to place people in internships,” Blatter said. “I thought it was successful. I like the format and the way it’s put together.” Heller agreed: “It’s something you’d want to keep.”
The Believer: The Visual Issue
For the Believer’s December 2005/January 2006 issue on the theme of visual curiosity, designers Dave Eggers and Alvaro Villanueva used a die-cut cover with metallic ink to spotlight a DVD inside containing the premier issue of Wholphin, the newest McSweeney’s periodical. “I’ve always been intrigued by Believer covers,” Heller said. “I like that they get Charles Burns to illustrate them.” Heller found the rest of the magazine’s design “kind of horsey, but horsey in a fun way,” but Blatter wrinkled her nose as she flipped to the first page of a chapter: “How many typographic solutions can you have on one page?,” she said. “I don’t think the type is set all that well,” Heller agreed, “but it’s an interesting magazine and it has a decided personality.”
Tsunami: A Document of Devastation
A poster-size publication designed by Giorgio Baravalle, the creative director of de.MO, Tsunami documents the aftermath of the Sumatran earthquake in large-scale photographs that convey the enormity of the natural disaster. The jurors admired the way the images filled the perceptual field and applauded the fund-raising effort behind the piece, which was produced by the nonprofit organization Doctors of the World. “The emotional character is in the right place,” Earls said, but the jurors were concerned that some of the more traditional design issues weren’t resolved. They took particular issue with the small type. “What is this, like 4-point Helvetica?” Earls asked as he squinted to read Simon Winchester’s introduction. “It looks like it was produced by Ophthalmologists Without Borders,” he joked, adding, “I defy you to read this.”
To announce last year’s student competition to design a window display for the Hermes flagship store in Paris, Fernando Gutierrez, a partner at Pentagram Design in London, abstracted white lettering against an Hermes-orange background. A fissure runs through the type, mimicking the flow of a river, to help convey the theme of the competition: “The River as a Meeting Point for Different Cultures.” The poster, Heller remarked, “interprets Swiss formalism in an appealing way. There’s an abstract quality, but it’s also readable—you’re drawn into it magnetically by the basic forms.” “The white on the orange field is optically pleasing,” Earls observed, adding that the poster shows “a lot of formal dexterity.”
Anni Kuan Brochures: Pin and Gold
Amid the numerous high-end projects submitted for consideration, two newsprint catalogs designed by Stefan Sagmeister for his girlfriend, New York fashion designer Anni Kuan, stood out for their low-rent philosophy and imaginative use of inexpensive materials. The first, which takes the theme of pins and needles, includes a dozen small nails that can be used to tack the individual pages on a wall, transforming the book into a gigantic poster. The cover of the second catalog is embossed with a small square of gold leaf; inside, the pages spell out “Material luxuries can best be enjoyed in small doses,” a note Sagmeister jotted in his diary on a page entitled “Things I Have Learned in My Life So Far.” “There are such expensive projects in this competition, and I like the inventiveness of showing that you can also do something with very little money,” Blatter said.
Select & Arrange Catalog
The jury called the Select & Arrange catalog, produced by Swiss art director Cornel Windlin to showcase Vitra’s Home Collection, “a risky idea for a big company.” Inspired by Charles and Ray Eames’s philosophy that the best interiors are filled with furniture and decorative objects that have been acquired over time, Windlin commissioned an international group of photographers to shoot Vitra’s high-end offerings in the context of real people’s homes, mixed in with the rest of their furnishings. In one photo, a child’s stuffed donkey sits forlornly on Verner Panton’s Amoebe Chair; in another, an Eames shelf is stacked with LPs. Original illustrations of the company’s pieces are interspersed throughout the catalog, complementing the images of the eclectic interiors.
HKU Education Guide
The cover of the 2005-2006 catalog for Utrecht School of the Arts in The Netherlands is dominated by an image of giant alphabet blocks stacked in the school’s common area, which read, “I Want It All I Want It Now.” Similar images pop up among the program descriptions; students are shown working and studying in the school’s departments, studios, and theaters, oblivious to blocks around them that spell out unconventional aphorisms, such as “A Good Composer Does Not Imitate, He Steals” and “If Everything Seems Under Control You’re Not Going Fast Enough.” The jury praised the Amsterdam-based designers, De Designpolitie, for enlivening the book’s otherwise austere aesthetic with such irreverence. “It’s very inventive,” Blatter said.
ReadyMade:How to Make (Almost) Everything
For their first book, ReadyMade cofounders Shoshana Berger and Grace Hawthorne assembled a group of projects uncommonly devoted to creative reuse: chandeliers strung with plastic cutlery and fishing line, rugs woven from lacquered shopping bags, 15 alternate uses for chopsticks. To reflect that eco spirit, San Francisco designers Volume, Inc., eschewed the recycled-paper look traditionally associated with environmentalism in favor of a playful, interactive design: The spine doubles as a ruler, the back cover can be converted into a picture frame, and readers are invited to propose their own uses for the remainder of the book. (The authors’ suggestions include “shim for an uneven table” or “pedestal for bowling trophy.”) “The leading is nice, and the use of the grid is smart,” Heller said. “It’s a smartly done book about everyday stuff.”
The memory game, a promotional piece for Maharam’s textile collection designed by the company’s graphics division, A4 Studio, evokes Charles and Ray Eames’s iconic House of Cards. A simple cardboard box houses two sets of 36 game pieces featuring “illustrated interpretations” of the company’s famous fabrics designed by, among others, the Eameses, Alexander Girard, Hella Jongerius, Gio Ponti, and Paul Smith. “I like the fact that it’s not a fancy box,” Blatter said, turning over the cardboard shell. “It just is what it is—beautiful and well done.”
Zagreb-based Bruketa & Zinic’s elaborate 2004 annual report for the Croatian food company Podravka transfixed the jury with its high-end production values: the molded plastic cover, the heavy, embossed paper stock, the perforated recipe cards. The book—earlier iterations of which have been favorites in this competition—is almost absurdly whimsical: A portrait of the management team dressed as chefs is accompanied by their favorite recipes (including “duck with mlinci” and “fried pilchards”) and the book comes with a tear-out tattoo of the company’s logo. But Earls noted that “it actually serves a function as well. It has a 10-K and financials, but it’s an exquisite object.”
The Elusive Truth!
This oversized catalog for Damien Hirst’s recent exhibition at the Gagosian Gallery in New York was yet another entry that wore its production values on its sleeve. Jason Beard’s design for the London-based firm Other Criteria—which included raised lettering on the cover, color plates framed by die-cut windows, a special inset designed to resemble a Boots pharmacy advertisement, and a short story by J.G. Ballard—proved irresistible to the jurors, despite their worry about the message they might be sending by choosing too many “ultra-big-budget” projects. Blatter expressed concern that “it’s all becoming about the money that’s available,” but she couldn’t find fault with the beautiful printing and the luxurious feel of the stock. Besides, Earls asked, “What’s wrong with the art of spectacle? The idea of penalizing stuff for having massive budgets is kind of ridiculous.”
Phaidon Press’s survey of the 100 most innovative fashion designers working today, as selected by a group of stylists, designers, curators, and critics, impressed the jury for the way art director Julia Hasting’s ornate packaging interprets the content inside—unevenly cut pages peek out like asymmetrical hems from underneath a pleated book jacket. The jurors felt conflicted about rewarding more examples of the book-as-object trend, but Heller pointed out that the book is more than just pure packaging in that it deals with material “in a way that is going to be inherently interesting to the book’s audience.” The jurors raised the increasingly troubling issue of “budget bloat” but agreed that in this case, the book deserved to be celebrated as a successful example of the art of the spectacular.
House of Oracles:A Huang Yong Ping Retrospective
This companion book to the Walker Art Center’s Huang Yong Ping retrospective—a first for the Paris-based Chinese artist—is actually two books bound together as one. Produced by the museum’s design team of director Andrew Blauvelt and designer Chad Kloepfer, the front cover opens to reveal images of the artist’s work interspersed with excerpts from his notebooks reprinted on coated, half-sized, blow-in inserts. The second book, its cover printed in Chinese, includes essays on the artist’s development and influences as well as a lexicon. Blatter praised the clean simplicity of the design. And while the jury found the book’s often text-heavy pages hard to read, Heller called the layout, which occasionally features a single column of text spanning an entire page, “ballsy.”
The Graphics category is meant to reward aesthetics or formal dexterity, but it’s easy to get distracted by all the peripheral stuff—entry-form entreaties, visual puns, thoughtfully written text. So it’s a testament to the purity of Basel-based Neeser & Muller’s design that the jurors fell for this context-free entry. (There was little information submitted by the designers; the book is written completely in German.) Produced for Festival Rumlingen, an annual experimental music event held in Switzerland, the design features a tone-on-tone cover, a partial dust jacket, striking photography of the participating musicians, and a font created especially for the project. “The design isn’t super-risky,” Blatter said, but “it’s well taken care of. I love the way it’s put together, the typography looks great—it’s very clean.”
Head & Body Media Kit
A short “history of headlessness,” conceived as a promotional piece for MTV and Motorola’s new mobile-phone comedy series “Head & Body,” made the jurors laugh out loud. “I love this drawing of the Egyptian holding his head—for that alone I would vote for it,” Heller said. Produced by Dave Brown, a senior designer at Fibre in London, in collaboration with illustrator Peter Arkle, the media kit is hand-drawn and includes a neck tattoo of red stitching (to indicate imminent headlessness, naturally). “I like the way this is produced, and I like the stitching on the spine,” Blatter said. “It’s low-end, but innovative.” Heller was equally enthusiastic: “The story and illustrations are perfectly compatible. And I like the idea of taking your head off.”
Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture Coloring Book
Alexander Isley’s identity for the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in Pocantico Hills, New York, won accolades last year for its modern take on the “country-fair letterpress” style, and Isley continues to churn out unpretentious designs for the farm and educational center. Featuring soy-based ink on recycled paper, simple line drawings, and chickens—”always a favorite,” Heller joked—this activity book was praised for its straightforward nature. “It’s a breath of fresh air, man,” Earls exhorted. “It’s very professionally done—by somebody who actually does a good job.” “There’s no pretense about it, no guile,” Heller observed.
The Myths Series
Canongate’s boxed set of the first three volumes of this series, which features contemporary writers retelling classical myths, includes Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad (an update of The Odyssey), Jeanette Winterson’s Weight (adapted from the myth of Atlas and Heracles), and Karen Armstrong’s A Short History of Myth. The book jackets are illustrated with strong, simple graphics by Nina Chakrabarti and Marion Deuchars, with hand lettering by Peter Horridge and illustrations by Roderick Mills. Angus Hyland and Zara Moore from Pentagram Design in London did both the book design and the series’ identity. Praising the way the three books function as a unit, Heller said, “The hand lettering, the raw quality of it, the printing on matte stock—there’s just a pride of craft about them.”
Nicktoons Network Relaunch
Los Angeles-based Exopolis described the brief to redesign the graphic identity for Nicktoons Network on their entry form: “Nicktoons says ‘Make us look crazy in a good way’—we say ‘okay’ and create the freshest look in kid’s programming—everyone is happy but grumpy seniors.” The jury agreed, deeming the frenetically campy spots layered enough to withstand repeated viewings. With its rapid film work and beatbox theme, this minute-long ad, featuring an animated collage of the network’s programming portfolio, exuded an energy that would appeal to the network’s hyperactive demographic. “It has a kind of neo-Dada quality,” Heller noted; to Earls, the spot was simply “mind-blowingly cool.”
Court TV Outdoor Campaign
Designed by Trollback + Company creative director Joe Wright to feel like guerrilla marketing, Court TV’s outdoor ad campaign last year lured New York City viewers with black and yellow posters that aped the format of police tape and the vernacular of crime. The messages were simple but witty—buses tagged with “Witness Relocation” signs, taxis labeled “Getaway Car,” and, plastered over other posters on the city’s scaffoldings, “The Cover-Up.” “As an advertising campaign that uses subtle graphic cues, it works,” Heller said, “but it doesn’t go over the top. It made me watch Court TV, I’ll tell you that.”