We recently lost one of the giants of our profession, Massimo Vignelli. An internationally acclaimed modernist, Massimo left a strong mark on our collective culture. Having had the privilege to know him personally, I also came to appreciate him as a warm, personal and extremely generous individual. Massimo was highly principled, joyous, robust, and thoughtful, but above all, he was a man of great passion who lived deeply. I saw this last year when I asked Massimo, along with 14 other designers, to describe how he sees San Francisco for a promotional project. I expected remarks about cable cars, steep hills, great restaurants, the Golden Gate Bridge,etc. Massimo’s response was lyrical, elegant, insightful and heartfelt – like the man himself. I held onto his description to remind myself that at the heart of visual arts is a poetic soul. Here is Massimo’s impression of San Francisco:
“Summer temperature, suddenly a chilling wind, a drastic drop in temperature and awesome clouds billowing over the hill toward me. A preview of the end of the world. A city inside a cloud. Would I survive? Is it real? The rampant clouds are rolling one over the other, gradually absorbing the city, vanishing it around me.”
This is just too cute! When Cincinnati-based graphic designer Adam Ladd asked his 5-year-old daughter to identify some famous logos, he got back some astute answers. This is a very observant little girl who was more spontaneous, perceptive and honest than any focus group.
A UNESCO resolution called for 2011 to be observed as the International Year of Chemistry, with conferences, symposia, lectures, expositions, fairs and art exhibitions that focused on “the achievements of chemistry and its contributions to the well-being of humankind.” UK-based graphic designer/illustrator Simon C. Page (who created the incredible prints for the International Year of Astronomy 2009) was brought in to develop a poster campaign.
Years ago designer Saul Bass explained how he approached film title sequences to me when I interviewed him for an article. “Find an image that will be provocative, seductive yet true to the film,” he said. “It has to have some ambiguity, some contradiction, not only visually but conceptually. Not just isolating the prettiest frame, but finding a metaphor for the film.“
Beginning with his 1955 work on Otto Preminger’s “The Man with the Golden Arm,” Bass transformed the way film title sequences were perceived forever. He approached the task with a graphic designer’s eye, so that stills from his title sequences easily translated into a powerful iconic poster for the movie.
A weekend Fourth of July holiday project that designer Marta Harding produced with her husband, photographer Joshua Harding, this stop-motion video, “How to Make Dill Deviled Eggs,” is fun and instructive and maybe embedded with an embryo of an idea on the future of digital cookbooks. Who knows, maybe they are onto something.
Our musical notation system follows a convention that dates back centuries. By reading it, musicians can get an aural sense of melody, tempo and all the other instructions on how the score should be played. But what if the notations were shown in graphically different colors and dot sizes? This is a study done by graphic designer Laia Clos of Mot Studio in Barcelona. Clos explains that the self-initiated project started with a woman in her studio who has a knowledge of music. From there, they created a new graphic musical notation system called “SisTeMu,” which translates a musical score into simple geometric forms and basic printing colors, exploring the rhythmic and melodic harmonies found in the musical composition. The system somewhat simplifies the complexity and mathematical structure, making it accessible to the viewer through a visual narrative. For their first translation, they used the musical data for the lead violin part of Antonio Vivaldi’s baroque concerto, “The Four Seasons” (or “Lesquartrestacions”). In addition to producing a booklet documenting how to read the SisTeMu system, Mot Studio created limited edition posters of each concerto (or season) and a set of postage stamps, which you can order from Mot’s website http://tomedicions.bigcartel.com/.
Clos presented graphic extracts of her musical notation system on postage stamps, part of a limited print run of 300. The postage value is equivalent to Spain’s regular national charter.
Geometry, the mathematical study of shapes and their relative positions in space, lies at the heart of design and typography and the physical order of the universe. These posters by UK-based applied mathematician Simon C. Page for the International Year of Astronomy ’09 (IYA) depict the wonders of the universe through the use of simple geometric lines and circles. Page, a self-trained graphic designer, had originally created these images for a self-promotion piece, but the math-inspired art caught the attention of the International Astronomical Union and UNESCO, which asked to turn them into posters to promote the International Year of Astronomy’09, a global effort to raise awareness of astronomy. Retro in feel, Page’s posters aptly capture the beauty, dynamism, and mysterious orderliness of objects in space. They are available for sale from simoncpage.co.uk.
Anyone who has ever been involved in designing or managing a graphic identity program (pretty much everybody in design and mar-com) has experienced fleeting impulses to rebel. Rigid rules and authoritarian orders run counter to freedom of expression and creativity. But identity guidelines are the foundation of branding. Consistent and repeated use builds brand recognition. And yet! Just once, wouldn’t it be fun to run the logo in pinstripes or push the corporate colors into a more punk PMS shade? Or tell the “identity police” that being forced to use the logo is a blight on your beautiful cover design?