Jan Tschichold

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Adjectives don’t often pop into my head when I view a design, but when I viewed Jan Tschichold’s poster done for Laster Der Menscheit, the word unconventional popped up. First, I thought of this as a bad thing but then I realized that it’s just the opposite. It’s good to be unconventional; it means you’re different than most, that you’re thinking red when everyone else is thinking blue. The word seemed even more appropriate when I discovered that this poster was created for a movie because I have never seen a movie poster take an approach quite like this one.

The shapes and lines that make up this design give the illusion that it is three dimensional. It actually looks like a film being projected onto a screen due to the positioning of the shapes and how they interact with one another. Negative space plays an important role in this design because it makes the concept work. Tschichold placed all information in the shape that represents the light path from the projector, because it reality, that’s where the light would be. If he were to place the title and such in the negative space, the concept wouldn’t be as apparent or successful. Using line in the design also makes it successful. In the past I have had ideas like this but when I try to execute them I end up with a shape similar to the triangular shape, and the image. Including the lines that allow for this positioning to be possible never occurred to me.

Adding imagery to a Swiss design is a really nice way to break up the space and create interest. I feel that this design wouldn’t be half as successful if not for the image of the woman at the top. The inclusion of the image also contributes to the three dimensional aspect of the work. Her eyes are either closed or pretty close but they’re facing down which creates a path of interest from her to the text near the center, it looks like she’s looking at it herself. Her glance also plays an important role in interaction between the top and bottom of the composition which would be completely separate entities without her glance. Although this design is in black and white, the image includes many different shades of gray which again, creates interest in the design.

I would still use “unconventional” to describe this design even after discovering the film projector concept, which I have seen being done. “Unconventional” still describes the piece because of the way that Tschichold did it. Including the lines is similar, almost exactly like, leaving your grid in as part of your design. Most people never even consider showing the backbone of their work, or what made it so successful, so the fact that Tschichold did it is really neat.

Paul Rand

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“I came here to learn how to design, not how to use a computer.”  A quote from a student brought to the light by Paul Rand when discussing bringing computers into design schools. Like Milton Glaser, Rand isn’t opposed to designers using computers, he just believes, as I do, that designers shouldn’t rely on computers as much as they do. Both Rand and Glaser said something along the lines of “a designer shouldn’t be able to design solely on a computer until they’ve established their creative process and have an excellent understanding of design”. In 1938, Paul Rand designed a successful logo for Wallace Puppets entirely without a computer, and it is wonderful.

I really enjoy this logo because the presence of the human hand is so apparent.( Literally haha) The logo is so expressive and organic, but not without structure. Conceptually, the design is very strong. Being able to tell a story using just line like Rand has done, without being too overly detailed is really difficult.  So much about this design is appropriate to the client. Incorporating the hand is a tricky thing to do sometimes, but Rand has pulled it off. Without it, the design wouldn’t be as successful because it plays a key component in the story. Also, using a line of the same width throughout mimics a puppet string, and of course having the hand hold the string containing the logo brings in the final part of the Wallace Puppets story: the actual puppet show.  Rand has also used the line to bring together the top and bottom of the composition, creating synergy between them.

This is basically a contour drawing of an image and type interacting with one another. But that isn’t the only reason that the movement in this piece is so successful. Rand has balanced it so nicely that it all flows together to tell its story. Leaving the wrist lines opened on the hand drawing allows for a point of entry into the design, moving down the contour of the hand, passing through the nice interaction with the shapes of the nails, then down the string to the hand-rendered type. I really enjoy the way that Rand drew the hand with the ring and pinky finger jutting out; it provides a sense of closure within the design.

Nothing about this design bothers me. I love the face that this beautiful logo was created sans-computer, and also without color. Although this design is essentially one line, I don’t view it as being minimalistic. Probably because there is so much movement and the words almost look like their dancing or acting likes the puppets that the hand is controlling. No single letter is the same and this really creates interest because each has a personality of their own, working together to form a beautiful, successful, hand-rendered logo.

Josef Muller Brockmann

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Being most notably known for his simple designs incorporating clean use of typography, shapes, and colors, I really enjoy Josef Muller Brockmann’s work.  I know the importance of keeping an open mind to different design styles so I am sure to do this, but I can’t help but enjoy the clean and minimal design. Brockmann designed a poster which I’ll refer to as Radfahrer-Achtung since that seems to be the headline. Despite having images, the poster still has a very Swiss feel to it. There is a yellow shape on the very bottom which creates a road for a man on his bike and a car which are on opposite sides of the design. Finally, the red headline text is placed in the top left corner of the poster.

Until now, I had never thought to include imagery in my Swiss-inspired designs, but wow, this is really nice. The placement and positioning of the images is so successful that I view them more as shapes than as images of a man and a car. I’m not really sure what this poster is for but I’m definitely still able to enjoy and appreciate it. An interesting narrative is created between the man and the car, especially since the man isn’t looking at and engaging the viewer.

Compositionally speaking, the piece is very strong. Placing the man and his bike slightly left of center takes a lot of the focus off of him allowing for focus on the car in the background. A relationship is formed between the man on the bike and the driver through positioning and direction of the arms, as well as the gaze of the biker. This arm positioning and gaze also create strong movement throughout the piece. The first element I see when viewing this design is the man, then I travel down his right shoulder to the red text, which leads me to the right elbow and then hand of the biker which is attached to the horizontal handlebars pointing me in the direction of the car. Once my eye gets here, it travels around the car to the arm sticking out and then back to the biker by way of his foot. I have trouble figuring out where to go next but since I’ve already seen all of the content, that isn’t an issue. Surprisingly though, I barely noticed the large yellow shape when I was doing the movement experiment. But, I wouldn’t want this detail to be omitted because it serves a purpose. Not only does it ground the man and driver, it also creates visual interest and a light weight on the bottom of the design.

Under the understanding that this piece is part of a series done by Brockmann, I am eager to view the rest. This piece is very inspiring because it’s so different from most other Swiss style designs that I’ve seen. Brockmann took a risk while sticking to his style which I’m sure is much more difficult than one would imagine. I have a great respect and appreciation for Josef Muller Brockmann and all he has done for the world of graphic design.

Lucian Bernhard

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There isn’t too much that can be done when designing in the sachplakat style, but Lucian Bernhard kept it interesting. His choice of bold, flat colors gave his work a signature style that remained fairly consistent throughout his body of work.  Illustrating the product as opposed to showing an actual photograph was risky at the time, but is much more interesting. Illustrating gave Bernhard the freedom to add a unique flair to the imagery without making it unrecognizable to the general public. A huge improvement from the Victorian era advertisements, Bernhard is simple and straight to the point.

A cigarette company called Novelta had a design done by Bernhard that slightly differs from his other designs. In this one, we see two illustrated, cartoon-like figures walking while using the product instead of seeing the product alone. The figures are taking up a large portion of the composition on the left side of the design, with the name of the company and product on the right side enclosed in a box. Creating a horizontal instead of vertical composition creates a lot of left-to-right movement which enforces the concept of the walking figures.

This is a really nice design because its effective. Although it shows the product in use, that isn’t the focus. Also, the figures aren’t engaging the viewer, they’re walking past the viewer which creates a narrative. The line work in the figures is really nice because it does the job of balancing the work while creating interesting and unusual movement.  My favorite part though, is the leg going through the text box. This not only creates a relationship between the left and right sides, but also breaks up the space while connecting the consumer to the product.

The one thing that I would like to play around with is the color. I like the orange because it pops and creates a lot of energy, but the blue on top of it is a bit jarring. It may just be my monitor, but I don’t even want to look at the text because the colors together hurt my eyes. I give Bernhard a lot of credit because no everyone would be able to create a variety of visual interest with the restrictions of using only the product image and name.  He certainly was the master of the sachplakat design.

 

William Drenttel

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I’m sure I am not the only one who found it extremely difficult to find a piece that I was 100% certain was designed by William Drenttel.  I chose to write about this series of covers done for Poetry magazine because I believe that Mr. Drenttel designed them himself, and if he did not, I’m sure he art directed them. So this is a series of three different magazine covers celebrating the 100th year of the magazine being printed. I find these to be really nice because they are simple and clean which is much different from most magazine covers.

Individually, the covers are successful and don’t need the support of the other two to be so. Deciding to enlarge “100 YEARS” and push it to the background is often a cliché move, but it works in this context. The fact that the magazine has survived for 100 years is a huge accomplishment and one that should be celebrated, so naturally we would want to see it large and foremost. However, you don’t want it to be the only thing in the layout leaving no room for anything else. So setting it in a light color allows for it to be a background motif while the scale allows it to be a main detail. The illustrations are interesting because they’re all so different.  I enjoy the way that they differ from the other design elements, but I don’t however enjoy the way they differ from one another. There is disconnect between the layouts because the styles of the illustrations are so wildly different. Also, I don’t get the symbolism behind the images that were chosen to be illustrated either. But that is due to my own ignorance of the magazine and its content.

Each of the covers are successful in their own way, but the first one with the blue text and unicorn is the most visually interesting. And it’s not because there is a unicorn involved. This cover has the most movement which was created by the long, smooth, curved lines in the illustration. Also, it is in this piece that I most enjoy the contrast between the type and image.  Furthermore, the top half of these designs are really nicely done, and the bottom halves seem lacking or incomplete. This is not so much an issue in the unicorn design because the line work in whatever object the unicorn is flying on does a great job of filling up the bottom negative space while creating a connection between the top and the bottom of the covers. Whereas in the other two designs, there is a separation between the top and bottom.

I don’t mean to be picking these designs apart. They are very nice, clean designs. But even designs created by the masters have their flaws. A big part of critiquing a design that I always seem to forget about is context: where and when. I can almost guarantee that I would feel differently about these pieces if I was an avid reader of the magazine and in 2012 I picked up one of these copies at the bookstore. They could be capturing the essence of the magazine and its values to a to a T and I would have no idea. So what I learned from studying these designs is that context is hugely important in art and design, and something that I need to seriously consider when studying a piece.

 

Armin Hofmann

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Armin Hofmann does nice, clean work with solid, highly contrasted colors. I really, really enjoy it.  A lot of his work is heavily type driven and even when he does include imagery; his editing of the photos turns them in to shapes of color.  His designs are very Swiss, which makes sense since he played a large part in the development of Swiss style.  Like Alexey Brodovich, Hofmann seems less interested in the content focusing mainly on the layout and design.  This is a common practice among Swiss style designers.

A piece that Hofmann designed for a Swiss Theater is a good example of his work because he included many of his common design choices. First, the work is highly contrasted consisting largely of black and white shapes. Second, although there is a significant amount of type on the poster, the content of the type is certainly not what Hofmann was trying to emphasize.  The shape that the type creates seems to be more important to him. Third, although he does use imagery in the poster, the way that he edited it makes it unclear so it looks more like shapes of color.

There is a lot of movement in this piece created by the long, vertical lines which push your eye to the bottom half of the page. The step effect created by the bottom shape helps to bring your eye to the imagery, then leading up to the tiny headline and back up to the body copy. The only small issue I have when I view this poster is the imagery in the corner. Although it is certainly interesting and breaks up the space nicely, it is so distorted that I really have no idea what’s going on. I think I see some cellos, maybe? Also, while moving across the piece, my eyes got stuck down there trying to figure it out. This is a wonderful design, and I really have no room to criticize a master like Armin Hofmann, this was just an issue that I encountered. Perhaps if I read the text or knew the context that the poster was meant to be placed in then I would understand.

The negative space plays a large part in this design, especially when referring to the movement of the piece.  Each element is compartmentalized into its own corner but the negative space helps to unite it all. Despite this being a Swiss style design, there is actually a lot going on in this piece. I would like to see different versions of it without certain elements to see how it affects the balance of the piece. Although I enjoy the vertical lines, it would be interesting to see the piece without them so the composition is more diagonal creating more of a relationship between the body copy and the imagery. Or maybe if the vertical lines and imagery switched places to create more interest in the bottom half. I know it seems like I don’t enjoy this piece since I’m picking it apart, but I really do. Armin Hofmann is an excellent designer that I have already learned a lot from. My wanting to deconstruct this design has nothing to do with poor choices on his end, but more to do with his designs inspiring me to try something new.

Milton Glaser & Chip Kidd

Conversations like the one between Milton Glaser and Chip Kidd are really nice to have access to. Being able to hear their thoughts, processes, struggles…etc. is helpful because it allows young designers like me to see that everybody struggles, even the masters.

I think what shocked me the most was learning that Milton Glaser uses a computer more often than not. From watching interviews with other master designers, it seems as though they steer away from computers because they feel as though they do too much for you. So I was surprised, but happy to hear that Milton Glaser uses one. However, he’s also a strong advocate of handmade elements for the obvious reason of originality and uniqueness.  But also because you often discover something entirely different that you can do with your design because of an accident or something that you didn’t think of.  That being said, Mr. Glaser did state that he believes designers should not be able to use a computer until they’re in their 40’s, which I think is an interesting idea and one that would probably help  a designer think outside of the box.

At one point in the conversation, Milton Glaser talked about a project that he often does in his classes where he has each student write a detailed list of their diet which they give to another student who then has to create a narrative or drawing pertaining to this person’s surroundings and lifestyle. More often than not, the results were completely accurate.  This blew my mind because I feel as though it would be impossible to draw a narrative of someone’s life based on what they ate. But Milton Glaser wasn’t so astonished because he said that it’s all about attentiveness. Attentiveness regarding knowing and understanding where you are. He expanded on the idea of knowing where you are and the importance of it because you can’t go anywhere or grow as a person if you don’t know where you’re starting. I thought this was an excellent thought that many people often overlook. I was moved by it because I feel as though I’m at that point in my life right now; I’m not exactly sure where I am as a designer. I’m not talking about the career aspect, I know that I’m a student and will graduate and hopefully get a job so I can work towards being a professional designer. I’m referring to my creative process, how I solve a problem and how I know when the problem has been solved. I need a lot more work in this area so that I can grow as a designer, and as a human being.

Although I thoroughly enjoyed everything that Milton Glaser said, I wish that Chip Kidd would have talked more. He barely said a word about himself, only prompting Mr. Glaser with questions. I would have liked to hear him talk because he is a very talented and well-established designer. I know that in comparison to Mr. Glaser he may have a long way to go but that doesn’t undermine his talents, abilities, and achievements.  But putting that aside, I really enjoyed this talk because it inspired me in many ways, ways that I didn’t even realize I needed inspiring in. Applause applause.

 

Chip Kidd

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Looking at Chip Kidd’s work is so refreshing because it is all so different. I’ve been looking through his book cover design archive for a good hour and still have no idea where to begin, which in this case, is a good thing. I really enjoy the cover he did for the book: “The End of Overeating”.  On the cover, he presents us with a piece of carrot cake on the top and a few actual carrots on the bottom, with the title in between the two objects and a critic’s comment and the author’s name on the very bottom. I thought this was a really clever way to do a cover for this type of book because it takes one object (a carrot) and shows it in two completely different lights.

The concept of being a fairly healthy person is usually pretty straight forward, you put good in, and you get good out, most of the time. Everybody is different so there are different cases. But most people understand the idea that you should eat real carrots way more often than carrot cake. So it makes sense that Chip would make the cover so simple.  Choosing a white background also contributes to the concept of clean eating. If the background were any other color, not only would the food not be as much of a focal point, but the whole cover would send a very different message.

The movement in this piece is very nice. The direction that the carrots are laying in points you in the direction to go next. As humans, we read left to right and top to bottom so we begin where it says “The U.S. Top Ten Bestseller” which is a nice way to draw you in. Next, we see a piece of carrot cake that actually looks good, and real. Not like some of the food you see on covers that is so perfect looking that it is obviously fake, this cake looks delicious. Anyway, back to the movement.  So you’re at the cake, then the carrot is pointed straight down leading you to the title which is the “Ah-ha” moment which leads you to the carrots. THEN the carrots are pointed to the bottom left corner where the critic’s comment begins and finally the boldness of the author’s name leads you to the bottom of the cover where you end. Although it is a really simple cover, a lot went in to the little details to get the hierarchy just right.

Ok one problem though. As someone who likes carrot cake, this piece looks delicious. However, I also love carrots and these carrots aren’t looking too hot. They just look bland and dry. Now I know this is how carrots look so I would imagine that it’s hard to make them look good next to carrot cake, but I’m sure someone could’ve made them look better in Photoshop. Also, if I’m looking at this book in a Barnes & Noble, I’m probably going to go to their café where I can buy carrot cake and not carrots, so for me, this cover would make me do the opposite of what was intended. So if there was one thing that I had to change, I would make the carrot cake look a little less appealing and really work on making those carrots look damn good. That is all.

April Greiman

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Woah. April Greiman’s designs are wild, so many colors and shapes. I chose a calmer piece to study today because right now I wouldn’t even know where to begin with one of her seemingly more “popular” designs. The piece I chose is a poster created for Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. It’s definitely more on the type-driven side of the spectrum.  First and foremost, the visual hierarchy is very nice. I see the word “design” first, and then her name on the left, then the museums name, so right up front you know what, who, and where this is about/happening. She was successful in this aspect due to her scale, color and shape choices.

The image in the background is subtle but adds an interesting element to the piece. It is definitely more interesting than it would be if the background was just a solid color. But I am a little confused as to what the image is. At first, I thought It was a coat hanging on a hook, then I thought maybe it was a flag all bunched up at the top hanging on a pole. Now I just have no idea, so being an “outsider”, I’m confused as to how that image pertains to the event.  BUT, it doesn’t distract me from knowing what the event is, when it is, and where it is, which is most important.

The use of a simple sans-serif is a nice pair with the image in the background neither one clashes with the other or tries to be more important than the other. Greiman’s choice to incorporate those orange boxes was really nice because it helps create focal points as well as energy within the piece. Also, they allow the text to become more dynamic because of their position in relation to the text.

The whole design is pretty muted and quiet.  Which is hugely different from other work of hers that I’ve seen.  I view it as being a successful design because it provides you with the necessary information without boring or overwhelming you. To be honest, I shied away from Greiman’s work at first because it was so all over the place. But now that I’ve sat down and picked apart one of her designs, I see that she is a very successful and important designer who definitely understands the elements of design and how to make something work. I’m really looking forward to learning more about April Greiman and why she does what she does.

Milton Glaser

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Oh Milton Glaser, what a sweet guy, and so talented too! That’s a rare combination.  Viewing his collection of work, I don’t see a recurring theme that overpowers all of his work, which is good. It looks like he’s tried many different approaches and has found great success in a number of them. I was particularly pleased with the package design work that he has done. Initially, I was drawn to the beer package design, but maybe that’s because it’s been a really tough day.  But actually, all of his package designs are very well done and different. Different not only from other work of his but from other beer packaging.

But ill focus on a series of Big Bottle Varieties that he did for Brooklyn Brewery. These designs are simple and straight to the point. No fussing around. The name or number of the particular brew is at front and center, nice and big so there is no confusion.  A nice balance is created between the body and the neck of the bottle by adding a small band to the top comprised of the same shapes that make up the main label on the bottom. The colors are subtle and not overwhelming allowing you to focus more on the color of the beer which is important to a buyer.

The only thing that bothers me about these designs is the “B”. It looks like the logo for a baseball team. But, maybe I’m being ignorant and Brooklyn brewery is somehow linked to a Brooklyn team? Or maybe this was there preexisting logo so Mr. Glaser had to stick with it. Other than that, I love all of the typography in these designs. It is all appropriate and legible and I see no apparent issues concerning the relationships between the typefaces.

These designs are really nice. Each element works very well together and helps to form an identity among the bottles. The use of curved shapes really compliments the shape of the bottle. Although a common practice, the use of metallic ink or foil or whatever is used, is really eye catching and therefore would work when one of these bottles was sitting on a shelf surrounded by hundreds others. Personally, I enjoy the first, second, and third designs much more than the third and fifth, but that’s probably just me being picky about styles. All in all, these are beautiful designs, and I would definitely buy that beer.