Nicety Nice Nice
The Hoffmitz Milken Center for Typography [HMCT] South Campus Gallery presents “nice” – an installation designed and curated by the HMCT 2018 Typographer-in-Residence, Lucienne Roberts. The exhibition is open to the public, free of charge, and runs through September 23, 2018.
Roberts is a graphic designer, design writer/educator for over 25 years and is author of Good: An Introduction to Ethics in Graphic Design. Roberts’ London-based studio, LucienneRoberts+, is committed to making accessible, engaging graphic design with a socially aware agenda. The studio specializes in exhibition, book and identity design for cultural, education, arts and other non-profit institutions. In 2012 she co-founded GraphicDesign&, a publishing and curatorial venture that foregrounds how graphic design connects with all subject matter. GD&’s two most recent projects are Hope to Nope: Graphics and Politics 2008–18 currently running at London’s Design Museum until August 2018, and Can Graphic Design Save Your Life?
For this exhibition, Roberts’ starting point was a poster initially featured in the Hope to Nope exhibition carrying the following provocation: “Slogans in nice typefaces won’t save the human races.” The poster first appeared on UK city streets in late 2017 via flyingleaps, an artists’ street project founded by Adrian Burnham, whose particular interest is visual activism in urban environments. Created by British artist and graphic designer Tim Fishlock, working under his alter ego Oddly Head, the bold graphic slogan was a response to what he calls “an epoch of demagoguery and debacle.”
The message of the poster is apocalyptic — the human race needs to be rescued. Furthermore, it warns of the dangers that arise when meaning and aesthetics become disassociated, and designers design primarily for themselves. With the intentions of teasing out its meaning, and arguing for an alternative position, “nice” presents multiple re-workings of the poster’s message. Alongside displays exploring the power of the slogan through time, the definition of “nice” is used to describe different typefaces, and the democratizing effect of print and typography in sharing human knowledge and experience.
The first section of “nice” pairs a set of advertising, religious, and political slogans each opposite Oddly Head’s poster to ask if history bears out that its message is “true.” Another section displays email correspondence between Roberts and a select group of graphic designers and typographers including Erik Spiekermann, Paula Scher, and Hamish Muir, in which she asks them to cite five “nice” typefaces. “nice” also presents a collection of books, one of which is a rare facsimile of typographer/printer Giambattista Bodoni’s famed Oratio Dominica of 1806, in which the Lord’s Prayer is reproduced in 155 languages.
The design and installation process were assisted by Roberts’ colleague David Shaw — a graduate of Bath Spa University, designer at LucienneRoberts+, design educator at University for the Creative Arts where he is a platform lead for typography, and co-curator of Hope to Nope — as well as the 2018 HMCT Typography Fellow Lavinia Lascaris, a recent graduate of ArtCenter’s MFA Graduate Graphic Design (MGx) program. Additional installation assistance was provided by sign artist Jimena Gamio and HMCT ArtCenter students and staff Lulubi Garcia, Joshue Molina, Roberto Rodriguez, and Jorge Ruano.
About Steven Heller
Steven Heller is the co-chair of the SVA MFA Designer /Designer as Author + Entrepreneur program, writes frequently for Wired and Design Observer. He is also the author of over 170 books on design and visual culture. He received the 1999 AIGA Medal and is the 2011 recipient of the Smithsonian National Design Award.View all posts by Steven Heller →