Japanese graphic designer Masaaki Hiromura has made pictograms an integral part of the kanji characters he created for Tokyo’s Kitasenjyu Marui department store to come up with food words that can be understood in any language. The silhouette of the food appropriately replaces a stroke in the word so it can be read as text. Although Hiromura was probably focused on devising a witty and graphically interesting way to communicate to multinational customers who frequent the store, this display seems like the reverse of how written languages began in many ancient cultures. Japanese and Chinese characters started as pictographs, ideographic symbols describing objects and actions. Over time, these characters became less pictographic and ideographic and more visually abstract. What’s amusing about these pictogram characters is that we’ve come full circle.
Typography has always figured prominently in the work of American conceptual artist Barbara Kruger, never more so than in this installation at the temporary Stedelijk in the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. Kruger’s work is part of the series of “Taking Place” exhibitions, hosted by the museum to allow contemporary artists to express themselves in innovative and experimental ways in the unfinished space of the Stedelijk.
For her art installation, Kruger chose the museum’s largest gallery, the Hall of Honor, and wrapped the floor and walls with text printed at a monumental scale. The aphorisms set forth are emotion-charged, powerful and in-your-face unavoidable.
Over the past couple of weeks two separate stories appeared in the news. One was a report by Amazon that for the first time its e-books outsold its hardcover titles. For the quarter, Amazon says it sold 143 e-titles for every 100 hardcover books.
The other story, which appeared in San Francisco Bay Area newspapers, was about the town of Walnut Creek’s new library, which incorporated 17 original works of art at a cost of $300,000. The neighboring town of Lafayette (population 25,000) spent roughly $400,000 on paintings, photographs, sculptures and prints when it rebuilt its library last year. The local paper described this new crop of libraries with conference rooms, fireplaces, computers and cafes as “community living rooms.” Libraries are not just repositories for books anymore. Some public libraries are redefining their role by positioning themselves as knowledge centers free and open to the entire community – not a museum, not a school, not a social club, but a place that bridges the digital divide and draws together those who share a love of art and learning.
We recently ran across this post by Alissa Walker for Good.Is about an artist/motorist named Richard Ankrom who got fed-up with the dangerously confusing wayfinding signs splitting the 5 North onramp from the 110 Freeway to Pasadena. The lack of a 5 North overhead sign often caused drivers to wave their hand frantically to be allowed to switch lanes at the last minute and motorists who were cut off to wave their finger in an upward motion to express their annoyance.
In a bit of public service performance art, Ankrom used his hands more constructively and crafted his own freeway directions. The altered signage, which Ankrom put up in broad daylight in 2001, was appreciated by commuters like Alissa, but was not recognized as phony until Ankrom leaked his prank to local newspapers. That’s how it came to the attention of the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), which is in charge of freeway signs. Despite Ankrom’s confession, he wasn’t charged with defacing public property because, afterall, how is making something better and safer a crime? For the past eight years, Caltrans let Ankrom’s doctored sign stand. Then recently it removed it, and replaced it with an official sign that looks like Ankrom’s.
From Netherlands-based design firm, NuFormer Digital Media, comes a new way of projecting three-dimensional images onto a building exterior. Custom-designed to fit any building façade and scale up to any size, the video mapped objects are made visible by a set of powerful projectors. Without physically constructing new architecture or permanently altering the streetscape, NuFormer hardware/software technology enables users to transform an outdoor public space into a virtual yet live experience. Consider the possibilities to communicate, entertain, educate. Think of how 3-D projections can be used for advertising, product launches, conferences, concerts, festivals. This is a whole new medium waiting to be tapped.