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  • A Chicago Tribune Geek-Out !

    Signed Ben Cohen, but I wasn’t able to find anything definitively specific about him. Ben Day Process – named after illustrator and printer Benjamin Henry Day, Jr., it utilizes series and combinations of dotes and textures for shading and color. Harold gray’s “pupilless “Little Orphan Annie”, Frank Willard’s “Moon Mullins”, Frank King’s AMAZING “Gasoline Alley”, and “Texas Slim by Ferd Johnson.

  • Paula Scher’s Mind-Bending Maps

    Print has been acquired by an independent group of collaborators—Deb Aldrich, Laura Des Enfants, Jessica Deseo, Andrew Gibbs, Steven Heller and Debbie Millman—and soon enough, we’ll be back in full force with an all-new look, all-new content and a fresh outlook for the future! In the meantime, we’re looking back at some of our favorite pieces, such as this one by Jessica Zafarris. Enjoy. A tempest of hand-painted words swirls, tumbles and writhes across a 7-foot-tall canvas, forming a map of the United States. A far cry, perhaps, from Pentagram Partner Paula Scher’s sleek, ubiquitous identity designs, but cartographic paintings have been the tailside of her creative coin for nearly 20 years. The design legend’s fascination with maps began in the 1950s, informed by her father Marvin Scher’s work as a civil engineer for the U.S. Geological Survey. “He was obsessed with accuracy,” she recalls. “He was the one who told me how inaccurate maps were. He said the earth is curved, and photography is flat, so what you see isn’t really what’s there.” Specializing in photogrammetric engineering (the science of the camera and how it captures imagery), Scher’s father invented stereo templates, a measuring device that made camera lenses capable of correcting distortions that occur when aerial photography is enlarged. If not for that invention, precise mapping software such as Google Maps would not exist today. In a playful perversion of this accuracy, Scher’s map paintings allude to distortion in the presentation of data on the web and in the media. Today, people look at charts, maps and infographics as if they are always completely accurate. That’s a mistake, she says, and a dangerous one. “Data isn’t neutral,” Scher says. “It’s gathered, which means someone is editing it. Someone will make a chart, and it might be right, but it’s not literal fact. You don’t know what factors are included or not included. My map paintings are nothing but opinion. I’m controlling the data any way I want and I’m blatantly open about it. I’m using it to create an impression.” New York City’s Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery showcased a new collection of Scher’s maps in an exhibition entitled “U.S.A.” It was the first release of 10 maps of the United States she painted between 2014 and 2016, taking an interpretive and chaotic look at various data sets including climate zones, zip codes and transportation flow—complete with cultural and political commentary. The pieces in the exhibition are, in Scher’s words, “all the same and all different.” “I did it largely because [it was] an election year, and I’m fascinated by statistics and the way people vote and the way people think and why they think that way,” Scher says. “I began looking at the country and population centers and what’s near something else. Where’s the North, and where’s the South, and where do they meet, and what do people really think about when they’re in the middle? When you look at things like that, you gain a sensibility about why things exist and how they happen and why we are the way we are. It’s right there on the surface of the map.” “US Demographics and Economy” detail Although she has created at least 55 wall-sized maps featured in galleries across the U.S., Scher’s adventures in opinionated cartography began on a smaller scale. Her earliest hand-drawn maps and word-dense visualizations of quotes in the media were more personal creative projects that documented the way she saw and felt about the world. One of Scher’s first projects in the same vein was a hand-drawn illustration of the United States for a 1989 AIGA cover. After that, demand for her illustrations swelled. But when potential clients sought to control the copy that comprised each intricate creation, Scher lost interest. She painted her first large-scale map in 1998 in her home, without considering that it would appear in a gallery or show. “It was around the time I was designing the Citibank logo in 1998; we had become completely computerized, and I never touched anything as a designer anymore,” she says. “Everything was made on a computer. There were no art supplies anymore. I felt completely odd, like I didn’t make anything. Even though I made a lot of things, I felt like nothing was happening. I realized I missed working with my hands. So we have this big house, and I thought it would be interesting to see one of those maps I painted really big. I thought it would be better.” She worked on her in-home map for nearly three years before, during a visit to her home, filmmaker and painter Jeff Scher (no relation) saw the painting and recommended Paula to his gallery. Scher starts the process of creating her maps with little planning—a look at several maps of a given region and any relevant data sets. “It’s aesthetic, and also emotional,” she says. “I describe it as abstract expressionist information—that you are taking information and manipulating it to create a sensibility.” “U.S. Geography and Climate” detail The words that appear in her map paintings describe the historical context in which she creates them as much as they comment on the geography and population of the region. None of the maps she has created are simple, but perhaps the most intricate of her recent paintings is “U.S. Counties and Zip Codes, 2016,” featuring a tangled background of postal codes and county names that extends into the oceans where Scher ran out of space. “After I finished it, I looked at it and I decided I was probably really crazy, and I was annoyed at myself [while painting it],” Scher says. “All of my maps, if you take them down, are usually population maps. They’re about place names, and you see them become dense or more sparse, and that’s all about population.” “U.S. Counties and Zip Codes” detail Scher has reinterpreted the entire world again and again—continents, countries, cities, even political landscapes and timelines of media coverage. In 2011, she also published a book featuring dozens of her maps, installation pieces, drawings and prints, appropriately titled Paula Scher: MAPS. Scher’s cartography speaks to the importance of place in her life and work. The chaotic style of her paintings—as well as her design work—is influenced in part by her life in New York City. “The loudness of my work as a graphic designer is a result of New York,” she says. “Things are packed in, they’re noisy, they’re irritating. And then on the other side, I think that the painting is all about being bombarded with media and how you see and hear things.” Scher’s maps may be impressionistic, but the narrative she constructs reflects the distorted, complex state of the world today—and encourages the rest of us to do the same. Like most sites, Print uses Amazon affiliate links, and may receive a small commission on them. #maps #PaulaScher

  • Frank Baseman’s Inner Ben Franklin

    Frank Baseman, proprietor of Base Press, is “channeling my inner Ben Franklin,” he says. Because “I live just outside of Philadelphia; my first name is Frank; Ben was a very accomplished printer; and several of the quotes I have been using were from witty ole Ben.”

  • Today's Obsession: Pong

    An original Pong unit. Photo from the collection at blinkenarea.org. Speaking from the Computer History Museum’s Revolution exhibit, here’s Atari co-founder Al Alcorn speaking about the development of Atari’s first game, Pong, in 1972. (Trivia: it’s based on a rudimentary tennis game from the Magnavox Odyssey system.) Pong has served as an informal blueprint for basic gaming interaction. It has yet to be overturned as the archetypal game, despite decades of innovations. Link via GamesBeat’s Dean Takahashi. #patricking

  • Signing Off

    Hi, designers. As some of you may know, today’s my last day with Print Magazine as a regular contributor. It would appear I’ve been writing Obsessions since the Chicago HOW Design Conference. Not last year’s HOW Conference, the one in 2005. At that point, Obsessions was a sort of catchall column, dedicated to curiosities of the technological sort—no real editorial direction there, just interesting things. It appeared every two months in the printed Print, very quietly. Now, the column has grown to be a daily publishing about technology, its intersection with visual design, design education, economics of design—basically, everything but design—appearing five days a week and then a more in-depth printed version in the magazine. And trust me, finding something to say that you hope is fairly insightful daily by 5PM (in the middle of the usual design deadlines) is no mean feat. Friends, I’m beat. It’s time for me to take a break and maybe write at a more leisurely pace. Aaron and Michael have asked that I pop back in from time to time, which I plan to do—and I may even start writing more in-depth on my own (you can follow @houseofpretty on Twitter for announcements). But for now, it’s Miller Time. Thanks to all of you for reading Obsessions through, my Lord, what has to be at least three paid upgrade editions of Adobe Creative Suite. Resources Recommended by Imprint Get Inspired: Color Inspirations Creative Workshop, filled with 80 Brainstorming Challenges Get an inside look at logo design from Chermayeff & Geismar Design TV: Improve your design skills with help from experts in the design industry. #patricking

  • Chwast’s Quote: Words of Wisdom from Seymour Chwast (and Martin Luther King Jr.)

    A notable quote from Martin Luther King, Jr., illustrated by Seymour Chwast—number 88 in a weekly series. 

  • Today's Obsession: Fair Trade

    At Stanford Social Innovation Review is an article damning, of all things, Fair Trade. Fair Trade has been one of the more visible buzz phrases among American retailers as we look for ways to make our global marketplace more equitable to small players… but it’s failing. The article explains why, and the reasons are kinda the same as the reason mainstream commerce fails: disconnection from supplier chain. New to the marketplace, however, is Direct Trade, practiced by some small retailers like Chicago’s own Intelligentsia Coffee. Direct Trade means that the merchant purchasing the goods bypasses trade conglomerations of all sorts and goes straight to the solo farmer, thereby giving the farmer a direct participation in the quality of their merchandise. #patricking

  • Beyond the Graphic Novel: Gender-Bending Superhero Feminism

    The Regional Design Annual is the industry’s most prestigious and well-respected American design competition. Enter your work today for a chance to be spotlighted in the pages of our 2016 RDA issue. We’re no longer in Jack Kirby Land, kids: in one of British artist Margaret Harrison’s series of sexually charged superhero watercolors, Captain America is transformed into a muscle-bound, breast-enhanced Tom of Finland action pin-up, his star-spangled costume accessorized with a skirt, stockings, and high heels. In another he’s reflecting on Wonder Woman in a mirror while the Avengers’ Scarlet Witch rages below. These illustrations are also meant as indictments of male misogyny and rampant militarism, in the satirical vein of James Gillray and other political cartoonists of her native land. Harrison’s career spans more than four decades, and her work is now being celebrated with a retrospective catalog On Reflection: the Art of Margaret Harrison. “Captain America 2,” 1997. A pioneering feminist, Harrison co-founded London’s Women’s Liberation Art Group in 1970. The following year, her first solo gallery show was shut down the day after it opened for alleged indecency. Specifically, police deemed her Hugh Hefner — portrayed as a big-breasted, corseted Playboy bunny — to be offensive, apparently oblivious to the inherent irony of their actions against this already-ironic work. Undeterred, her art remains socially engaged. Among her most powerful are those that juxtapose texts with images in compelling cultural critiques. “Homeworkers,” a mixed-media assemblage, is a masterful, intricately composed indictment of female labor exploitation. And this year’s “Beautiful Ugly Violence” exhibition at New York’s Feldman Fine Arts Gallery included narratives by domestic abuse convicts which were typewritten and overlaid with delicately subdued wash drawings, often of seemingly innocent household objects, and arranged in comics panel sequences. As police once forced Harrison’s gallery owner to remove her paintings, the book’s author, Kim Munson, had been forced by Apple not long ago to remove “objectionable” cartoons from an underground comix history iPhone app she’d produced [story here]. This and other commonalities, such as a shared passion for workers’ rights, make Munson’s accompanying commentary and interviews with the artist empathetic and engaging as well as informative. right side panel of “Getting Very Close to My Masculinity” diptych, 2013. sketch for “Women of the World Unite, You Have Nothing to Lose But the Cheesecake,” 1969. details of “Beautiful Ugly Violence” exhibit, 2015. “Homeworkers” with detail, 1977. #feminism #comicbooks #art #CaptainAmerica #London #undergroundcomix #violence #MargaretHarrison #HughHefner #womensliberation #culture #MinnieMouse #sex #Politics #illustration #JackKirby #Playboy #mixedmedia #KimMunson #cartoons #WonderWoman #iphone #JamesGillray

  • The King's Stamps

    Never underestimate the power of the United States Postal Service to make your day. Mine was made when I received “Eric Gill’s Notes on Postage Stamps,” a booklet published by The Kat Ran Press (Cambridge, Mass.) with sketches and essay by Gill on his design of UK postage stamps. Eric Gill had exacting and pointed opinions about postage stamps, their purpose, and their design. Unfortunately, his theories didn’t always hold up when put into practice, and he had a less than successful career as a designer of stamps. Accompanied by nine of Gill’s previously unpublished preparatory drawings and sketches for stamps, Notes on Postage Stamps is a short, previously unpublished essay by Gill in which he succinctly lays out his philatelic ideas—some of which were a little too idealistic and some of which were spot-on. All of them are interesting and thought-provoking. Notes on Postage Stamps contains fifty-six full-color illustrations, most of which will be completely unfamiliar to historians and enthusiasts of Gill’s work. An afterword by Michael Russem chronicles Gill’s seven attempts at stamp design—only two of which resulted in published stamps. It is a joy to read and view. See some pages here. Copies are available in standard and deluxe editions here. And for more about the Kat Ran Press go here.

  • Today's Obsession: 40 Years of Sacrilege

    There’s a lot of paintings of Laughing Jesus which I’ve seen since I was a kid, but never seen attributed to anyone. The images was used widely in punk imagery, mostly t-shirts. It seemed sacreligious to present Jesus in the context of a piece of pop, even more so to show him laughing—even though it’s probably actually not. My guess is that he’s rarely shown jovial because it runs counter to Chritianity’s emphasis on quiet introspection. In 1999, Laughing Jesus became even more sacrilegious by being transformed into Buddy Christ, a thumbs-up, winking bro of a Christ, as depicted in Dogma, an early film from Kevin Smith. Fast forward even further, and we get douchebag culture, as popularized in the States vis a vis Jersey Shore, but actually existing worldwide in much greater concentration, since dance music culture is so much more prevalent outside the United States. And, completely without relation, someone somewhere decides it’s hilarious to make Christ sacrilegious again by LOLing him. Sometime during that period, A young man named Ansswa Murat and his brother are arrested in the Netherlands after being tracked down via a messageboard hosting pictures from their social media accounts. One of the photos clearly shows a phone number posted in a window of an office Ansswa is working in. The photos get a lot of circulation because Ansswa and his brother are fancy. Also tacky and ludicrous. A year later, one of the pictures from that series of shots gets uploaded to Tumblr, caption, “Is that you, Guido Christ?” Ansswa doesn’t look so much like Laughing Jesus, or any sort of actual Christ, but a mockery of Christian iconography (I mean, seriously, look at the overblown decor in the background). If there’s a Jesus he resembles, it’s Buddy Christ. Most recently, the picture seems to have been discovered again, and is now being used as a meme associated with LOLcats, in which Ansswa is captioned (with varying degrees of success) to pun on the notions of douchebaggery and Christ’s own activities. Whew. What I love about this entire exercise is that it clearly shows how the creative human mind can ping-pong back and forth between totally unrelated concepts because they have one, small detail in relation. That’s just fascinating, that we can get from a drawing, to punk rock, to a film, to a joke image—all in the space of about 40 years. Intriguing. #patricking

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