Since time immemorial kids have developed their own slang language to communicate amongst themselves and make the older generation feel really out-of-it. If you want to be gnarly, you have to get with the program. Gotta know what’s phat to be cool. Dig it! Same goes with type fonts. Certain faces are so closely associated with an era, that like zoot suits and Nehru jackets, they become signatures of a decade. For designers, such typefaces serve as graphic devices to subtly evoke images of an era without going overboard with clichés. See if you can match these slang phrases with the decade in which they were most popular, and if you are really feeling sharp, name the typefaces too.
This tops doing wheelies on ice. Happiness advertising agency in Brussels, Belgium, got “Pleaseletmedesign” typehouse and a pro race car driver to create a font by choreographing the movements of the tiny Toyota iQ. The custom software was designed by interactive artist Zachery Lieberman. Do not try to duplicate this on the freeway.
Designer: After initial research, I focused on the oratorio theme of St. Francis. Here, the composition of the title expresses the particular cross in the shape of a “T”, called the Tau Cross, used by St. Francis and his disciples. I photographed this statue at Saint Francis of Assisi Church in San Francisco, where I live.
Client response: It is a happy musical piece, therefore, this dark brown color scheme is too sad. The vertical – horizontal type does not allow easy readability in the street. The subject should not be too esoteric.
Young people entering the design profession sometime think that the ideas of seasoned professionals never get rejected, that the design is immediately embraced by the grateful client who insists on doubling your fee because it is so awesomely good. In your dreams!! Design is not called a “process” without reason. More often, there is give-and-take, client clarification and addition of new (and often pertinent) information, analysis and refinement, and sometimes your favorite design isn’t chosen.
In this case, we asked Swiss designer Jean-Benoit Levy, who works for clients worldwide and is a member of the prestigious Alliance Graphique Internationale, if he would share the behind-the-scene reasoning of a poster he designed for a concert performance of Le Laudi di San Francesco d’Assisi for Choeur Faller in Lausanne, Switzerland. Levy has been creating the graphics for this oratorio choir group for the past three years, in collaboration with its president Jacques-Henri Addor. For this concert, Levy presented his first sketches in December of 2008 and after 16 different versions, a final design was chosen in March 2009 for the May performance. We picked five of the concepts he presented and asked him to summarize both his and his client’s response to each.
Editor’s Note: The global marketplace is real. Some brands are as familiar to consumers in Rio de Janeiro and London as they are to shoppers in New York City and Mumbai. That does not mean that the world now speaks a common design language nor approaches design in a universal way. What resonates in one culture may be rejected as odd, irrelevant or ignorantly offensive in another. In some cases, consumers may find the product appropriate, but the sales pitch tone-deaf and riddled with cultural clichés. Designers working across cultures confront the challenge of understanding differences in business and social customs, technologies, and typical design assignments as well as aesthetic preferences.
In the interest of broadening our knowledge, we are launching a “foreign correspondents” feature, beginning with our dear friends, Anita Luu and Sing Lin, two American designers who opened their Affiche International Asia office in Shanghai two years ago. An innocent question about the availability of Chinese typefaces led to a fascinating discussion, which is presented here.