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    • Image of the Day, May 15, 2013

      Today on Design Observer, Rick Poynor discusses the early conceptual work of Croatian designer Boris Bućan, including this silkscreen poster, titled Imaginary Museum 3.

    • Observer: Pinning Down Pinterest

      Pinterest—despite early criticism—has found its place in design as a respected archive of visual finds. Find this Observer column and even more design lessons in the August issue of Print. Pinning Down Pinterest While social media sites have so swiftly been taken for granted in everyday life, Pinterest still strikes me as a remarkable phenomenon. The site’s purpose, to allow the rapid collection of pictures, couldn’t be more straightforward. It takes only seconds to grab your heart’s desire and trap it alongside previous finds on one of your boards. Early reactions to Pinterest were sniffy. I’d heard the line about it being the preserve of women who love crafts. A close friend in design reacted with “Whatever next?” when I mentioned I’d signed up, as though Pinterest weren’t a venue where any self-respecting visual sophisticate would deign to be seen. Illustration by Christian Dellavedova. In reality, the site is so broad in its appeal that any generalization about its demographic profile or its members’ interests and tastes would be rash. By 2014, Pinterest was awash with designer-pinners—from Pentagram to lettering artist Jessica Hische to design educators Ellen Lupton and Kali Nikitas. The scale of some of this pinning is breathtaking, even if we confine ourselves here to graphic designers as a subgroup of pinners. In my first week on the site, I decided to follow Wayne Ford, a British designer and creative director who has boards on design, photography and fashion. At that point, Ford had around 53,000 pins spread across 193 boards; 86 days later, Ford had 64,800 pins across 319 boards. That’s 11,800 fresh pins in less than three months, or an average of 137 pins a day. Almost every time I checked, Ford had posted a slew of new pins. Did this hyperactive image-hunter ever take a rest? Wayne Ford’s Pinterest page. I asked Ford about his reasons for using Pinterest. What’s it all for? While he can’t recall when he officially joined the site, he thinks it was in early 2012, after a client’s marketing team mentioned it. “My sole purpose for signing up was research for a design project,” he says. “At the time, I pinned a few pieces of graphic design that I liked, some photography, a little architecture, and that was pretty much it. I didn’t see myself using it after the project was completed. Subsequently, I took on a few design projects for fashion clients, and as I [conducted] research for these, I found myself—to my surprise—using Pinterest as a tool to bookmark possible reference material, styles and trends. And I’ve continued to use it as my pinboard. I don’t like physically pinning things to my studio wall, so I suppose Pinterest has become my virtual pinboard.” Clearly, though, he would need a studio wall the size of several barns squashed together to accommodate 64,800 pictures. Pinterest facilitates and encourages a style of image-capture that far exceeds earlier practices and needs. Ford told me that he doesn’t devote huge swathes of time to Pinterest but collects purely as a reference for projects. It wasn’t his initial intent to pin large volumes of images. I think any pinner would agree that the site has the potential to become a time-consuming obsession in which the instant reward of acquiring an image, and the satisfaction of watching your collection expand, become paramount. Here, rounding up digital pictures is no different in essence from any other kind of committed collecting. If the aim were solely to compile project references, then the first 100 samples in a given category would probably be sufficient for the task. So what are the next 100 for? Most designers seem to use Pinterest for more general purposes of inspiration, gathering images of anything they admire. For instance, Chicago-based designer Denise Johnson—139 boards and 3,843 pins, last I looked—has a whole series of boards titled “inspire me,” followed by a designer’s name: Paul Rand, Milton Glaser, Neville Brody, Paula Scher, Saul Bass, Louise Fili, Jessica Hische and so on. (Throughout Pinterest, there are so many Paul Rand tribute boards I decided not to count.) Jessica Hische’s Pinterest page. As you would expect, Pinterest has a bottomless reservoir of boards devoted to subjects such as typography, logos, packaging, annual reports, letterheads, posters, book covers, album covers and illustration. As these open-ended titles imply, general boards of this kind can feature examples from any time or any place that happens to catch the pinner’s eye. Regular followers and passing visitors then copy what they want onto boards that might be similarly labeled, or quite different in intention. A book cover classified under that heading on one person’s board might be perfect for someone else’s lettering board. In this zone of mutually assured inspiration, in which any repin is a cheery thumbs-up, what you do with a pin that strikes your fancy is entirely up to you. I have to admit that I don’t find this generalized approach particularly engaging. A board labeled “typography” is too vague to say much, no matter how juicy some of its individual items might be. Such boards look random because what they are, in effect, is a big heap of things with no strong connection other than that someone likes them a lot. Sometimes the refinement of a person’s curatorial eye is enough to give the collection coherence within the board. Just as often, a mishmash of images will inadvertently reveal that the pinner’s grasp of the material isn’t so great. What I enjoy most on Pinterest is when someone pieces together a board on a well-defined theme so rich that it might even serve as the makings of a book on the topic. This could be about a publishing category or a particular publication. Under the name of Newmanology, Robert Newman, a former creative director of Reader’s Digest who has held several creative director roles, has created boards on “Sex & Drugs” book covers, Ramparts magazine and Evergreen Review covers. Instead of this focus, the board could be more narrowly iconographic. An English pinner with Gothic tastes called Tracey has a wonderful board titled “Cry then,” with photos and paintings of weeping eyes. Lelle Laflamme in Rome has one devoted to images of hearts, one about moons, and another about ampersands. Boards this super-focused compel you to study seemingly familiar subjects in a whole new light. Ellen Lupton’s Pinterest page. Many designers use Pinterest to collect images for particular projects or as inspiration for a certain topic, such as lettering. Some pinners have also created boards dedicated to legendary designers, such as Paul Rand. In the graphic field, Laflamme—215 boards and 97,534 pins (and counting)—is one of the most impressive pinners I’ve seen. I’d like to have asked her a question or two, but Laflamme is clearly a pseudonym. Whoever this connoisseur may be, Laflamme knows her graphic history and has broad international tastes: Russian Soviet graphic design (359 pins), Affiches françaises (648 pins—could she be French?), German graphic design (462 pins), and it goes on. In most cases, Laflamme even takes the trouble to caption pictures properly, providing the designer or artist’s name along with the date. I understand why people pinning for personal inspiration don’t bother with this, but images endlessly repinned without basic information shape an online culture in which decontextualization—the stripping out of meaning—is accepted as a matter of course. These floating pins breed ignorance, in other words, and graphic designers, as professional communicators, ought to know better than that. Pinterest is a great tool, with immense potential as a system for curating our pictures. It has made us the custodians of our own public image libraries. Now it’s time to stock the shelves a little more reflectively. Legends in Advertising Awards Show us your best ad designs, and enter the Legends in Advertising Awards. The top winners will be featured in Print magazine and all winners will be featured online. #Observer #Pinterest #RickPoynor

    • Illustration, Illuminated: Turning a Critical Eye Toward the History of Illustration

      This article originally appeared in Print Magazine. Subscribe to get Print all year long. Is the illustration field finally primed to get the critical eye—and appreciation—it deserves? Learn about the history of illustration in the academic world. Illustration by James Yang Back in 2010 in this column, I commented on the state of research and writing about the field of illustration, which I called its “missing critical history.” A survey of contemporary illustration had just been published, the latest in a long line of similar books, and it seemed to represent another missed opportunity to engage with the practice at a deeper level. I wasn’t referring to how-to books aimed at the student or freelance illustrator—illustration has some good ones—but historical and critical studies of illustration that treat the subject as a potentially serious art form, which I have always believed it to be. In the years since then, I haven’t been paying so much attention to illustration, though I remain a keen reader of Varoom! magazine, published by the Association of Illustrators in London, which I cited as a positive sign in my Print column. Then, last fall, I was invited to Rhode Island School of Design to deliver a keynote at the sixth annual symposium convened by a group of academics and scholars who form the Illustration Research Network, based in the U.K. The symposium’s spectacularly ambitious and provocative title was “The Illustrator as Public Intellectual.” I was so intrigued I agreed to take part immediately. It was an eye-opening event, attracting more than 30 participants from Canada, the U.K., Germany, Australia, India and Lebanon, as well as the U.S. In the manner of academic conferences, speakers presented papers organized by panels with sub-themes such as “Challenging Professional Identities and Roles,” “Visual Satirist as Public Intellectual” and “Illustrators Usurping Writers.” While a handful of well-known practitioners—Seymour Chwast, Nora Krug, Anita Kunz—took part in an informal roundtable discussion addressing cartooning and illustration as modes of authorship, most of the contributions were by educators who publish their research. These presentations were of a consistently high standard, and the conference was one of the most stimulating and inspiring I have attended in a while. What it brought home to me forcefully is that in the past few years illustration has become a field in which there is now a concerted international effort to establish benchmarks for the academic study of the subject, and to challenge perceptions elsewhere in academia that illustration is anything less than a fully fledged discipline with its own history and theories of practice. RISD went out on a limb to bring the symposium, usually held in the U.K., to the U.S., and it deserved a bigger audience—the number of attendees probably didn’t exceed the number of speakers. Any nonacademic practitioner who stopped by would have been excited by the intellectual energy now pulsing through the field—but bridging the divide between academic symposia and professional conferences, and exposing illustrators to this kind of investigation and inquiry, is a challenge. American illustrators already have the big biennial ICON conference first staged in 1999. This offers a plethora of workshops, as well as talks by stars of illustration, and it focuses on the practical and professional needs of working illustrators. It’s not the kind of event, on the face of it, where a presenter would have the temerity to unveil a paper titled “Metapictures: Signposts to an Illustrated Public Space,” as Stuart Medley from Edith Cowan University in Perth did at RISD. Yet the likes of ICON would be greatly enriched if it were possible. In my “missing history” column, I complained about the lack of a textbook attempting an integrated international history of illustration, pointing to how the study of graphic design had benefited from the arrival, in 1983, of Philip Meggs’ A History of Graphic Design, and from other general histories that eventually followed it. At the RISD conference, I learned that this shortage is now being addressed with vigor. Since 2014, a mammoth research effort has been underway by a team of more than 40 writers, coordinated by main editor Susan Doyle, head of illustration at RISD, with the assistance of Jaleen Grove and Whitney Sherman. Fully international in scope, The History of Illustration is now written and in production, and is scheduled to be published by Fairchild Books in early 2017. If the daunting task of interweaving so many contributions lives up to the editors’ fighting talk on the project’s website—“illustration has always been the most pervasive and popular of art forms in the world … and is arguably the most influential”—then the book stands an excellent chance of decisively expanding our understanding of the field. My only hope is that the text and layouts aren’t orientated in content and style so far toward the needs of teaching (a tagline describes the initiative as “an educational resource for students, teachers and practitioners”) that the book neglects to propel its message outward to broader audiences in design, communication and the visual arts. If illustration really is as pervasive, popular and influential as they say, then everyone should know a lot more about it. But the signs of outreach are certainly encouraging. The editors took the trouble to introduce the project at ICON 8 in 2014, and in July they will speak about the book again, as it nears completion, at ICON 9 in Austin, TX. Another welcome initiative was the 2014 launch of the Journal of Illustration, a twice-yearly, peer-reviewed publication edited by Desdemona McCannon, a British illustrator and academic. Three issues have appeared, and as I write, two more are scheduled to arrive at the same time. In the first issue, Doyle describes the “general lack of understanding [of illustration] by the academic community outside of illustration,” and sets out the case for reform. “I have been asked repeatedly by colleagues as to what distinguishes illustration as a discipline,” she notes, “or even more negatively, ‘Is it a discipline?’” Illustrators in every branch of the profession would benefit from the elevation of the activity to the status of a fully accepted academic discipline, regarded as a branch of knowledge in its own right. But this growth can only occur through the processes and platforms of academic inquiry and discourse: research, writing, conferences, journals, textbooks, and plenty of them. Catching up with these still-new developments in the study of illustration—we are only talking about the last three or four years, after decades of existence as a professional practice—I could see what a milestone, and perhaps even a tipping point, the discipline has reached. For longtime watchers of graphic design, it’s striking to observe the pressure drop that has occurred within what we might broadly term graphic design studies (history, criticism, discourse). Graphic design wanted the same historical credibility for itself that illustration now seeks. This drive started earlier, if we take Meggs’ book as an indicator, and by the 1990s the discipline seemed to be getting what its more forward-looking members were convinced it needed. In 1994, for instance, the journal Visible Language published three—yes, three—simultaneous issues devoted to “critical histories of graphic design.” That indicated a field of studies on a roll, full of vitality and hope for change. But two decades later the intellectual and publishing momentum hasn’t been sustained, despite the numbers studying graphic design, and few believe today that graphic design history will someday achieve acceptance as a standalone academic discipline. How could it when graphic design, as it was historically construed, has become so unsure of what it is now, this uncertainty extending even to its often-contested name? Illustration, on the other hand, has everything to play for. It’s as ubiquitous as these researchers insist, and it can clearly be discussed in properly academic terms. In the span of ideas encompassed by The Illustrator as Public Intellectual, and in the enthusiasm of its speakers, the symposium reminded me of graphic design events I attended 20 years ago. There is the same sense of deep commitment to the subject, a pleasure in belonging to a network of colleagues engaged in a shared mission, and an energy to carry out the work that remains to be done. It will be crucial, though, to get the message out and entice practicing illustrators, and also designers who use and value illustration, into the public discussion. Related Resources: Online Course: Advanced Digital Illustration 50 Markets of Illustration: A Showcase of Contemporary Illustrators Starting Your Career as a Freelance Illustrator or Graphic Designer #illustration #Observer #RickPoynor

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    • Rick Valicenti | Design Matters

      < Back cb3628c2-0957-43a2-a54c-7f855b8239f4 23def70f-b3d2-4ca0-bccc-eda69c1905f9 Rick Valicenti is the founder and principal of the design firm Thirst, where he has been creating and designing for over twenty years. His work has been featured in every major graphic design publication and he is also author of the book Emotion As Promotion. (01.13.06) Rick Valicenti GRAPHIC DESIGNER / LETTERER / TYPE DESIGNER 2006 AIGA / GRAPHIC DESIGN / TYPOGRAPHY Did Lucy Wainwright Roche have a choice?

    • PRINT Longreads-- Printmag

      PRINT Longreads Rick Griffith: A Love Letter to Design, a List of Demands, and a Stern Look Design Thinking Date As Rick Griffith details, he has never wanted—needed—design to decouple itself from so many things simultaneously, urgently and permanently. Read More Design Thinking Date Rick Griffith: A Love Letter to Design, a List of Demands, and a Stern Look Design Inspiration Date The Imaginals, by Brian Collins & J.A.

    • Gifts for Designers-- Printmag

      Gifts for Designers Last-Minute Gifts for Designers: Rick Griffith’s Words to Design (and Live) By Design Inspiration Date Rick Griffith’s “Introductory Ethic for Designers” and “Pledge for Spaces” are vital, pay-what-you-can letterpress prints. Read More Design Inspiration Date Last-Minute Gifts for Designers: Rick Griffith’s Words to Design (and Live) By Book Covers Date 30 of the Best Art and Design Books of 2020 Design Inspiration Date Gifts for Designers: Field Notes’ 99,999 Unique “Snowy Evening” Covers Book Covers Date Gifts for Designers: äntrepō, “Design for Design’s Sake” Graphic Design Date Gifts for Designers: Letterpress and LP Brilliance—With a Message

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