OUGD303 Evaluation

Posted: Friday, 3 June 2011 | Posted by Adam Townend | Labels: , 0 comments

My rationale was 'Typography and Layout focused delivering high quality design for print across a cross a range of media for the commercial, publishing and editorial sectors'.

The final module comes to an end. I come away proud of what I have achieved not just in this module but in the last three years. I've worked myself into the ground, and at times pushed myself physically and mentally to limits I didn't know I had. I know I work hard and get things done, and I am organised but that has been challenged by the amount of stress and strain I have put myself under for this module. To say I have been tested in every area is correct. However, I have been in control the whole time so discipline and rules have evidently been a strong factor within my approach.

Looking back at past evaluations I have always questioned my decision making and experimention involving the actual design process and the format a piece takes. In the past I have said I would like to experiment more with typography and layout, which I see now as the core of my practice. I feel this module that I have enabled myself to do that, as well as factor in new skills that I thought would help me beyond the course and in industry.

The quality and depth of my work I think has been replicated in this module as I set a large benchmark in the last one. I think what makes this body of work much more significant is the attention to detail and the introduction of print processes and stock choice. I was all too happy to use what was in the digital print facility in the last module but this time i have taken a much more industrialised view and designed with stock choice in mind and in some cases as a strong factor in the communication of the work (Anna Swingland identity). I pointed out in my first evaluation of the year that I needed to research into stock and I felt I did that during this brief.

My blog once again has been consistently strong and has enabled me to plan accordingly and shows a clear development of where my work has taken me. During the whole three years I have always put emphasis on how important it is to my practice.

I still know there are weaknesses in my work, and at times I felt that through taking so much work on, I felt like I couldn't sit back and reflect on my development as much as I wanted. I did, however, write evaluations throughout the year at key points. Perhaps the level of finish and attention to detail has been lost at times at the expense of me putting aside time to think before moving forward. The pace in which I have worked at has been consistent but I still think my final execution can be improved in some areas, when compared to some of my peers.

I have really enjoyed working as part of a collaboration and on live briefs as they are the ones that test me. I would not have been happy to do a few competition briefs or all self initiated briefs because of the kind of work I see myself doing beyond the course. I wanted to design for subject matters I knew nothing about because that is what half the job of a graphic designer entails. The collaborative practice saw me take a leadership role which I believe I performed well in. Liaising with clients and setting up meetings was something I felt comfortable with. I also enjoyed the art direction side to the collaboration as the other group members had ideas that we could all mould into something none of us would have thought of (A classic example was doing the type installation for the year book). As individuals we would have never done that.

I have digressed enough here, and I feel this evaluation could go on for too long so I will now bullet point things I have learnt during the module.

- I can finally see why collaboration can only be a good thing - more ideas, more development = more arguments but it also makes for a better outcome. At the start we all didn't want to give an inch because we were possesive about our ideas. In the end we rallied and made the right decisions.

- It's frustrating when people don't get your ideas but if the group members didn't the client would not either.

- Collaborations can involve a mini crit regularly. - we had a massive crit for the profile spreads which epitomised our approach.

Live Work and working with clients
- Having my first taste of clients has given me encouragement but has also brought out qualities I didn't know I had. I can be very persuasive in my approach, and sometimes get annoyed but also talk through ideas sensibly to convince the client.

- Clients are generally a nightmare. I had evaluated earlier in the year about how much clients frustrate me, but the experiences I had were all valuable. Here is a post evaluating what I found with some of my clients. blog post on clients

- Working and liaising with printers was an experience. Obviously every printer has their own requirements for artwork so getting in touch with them was really important. You really can't design in a bubble and expect the results. Seeing the process and the finals hot off the press was really rewarding.

I think the lessons I have learned from this module have put me in a good position to progress. I have won competitions, worked in collaboration with talented people and I have worked on some real projects for clients that were both very controlling and others that allowed me to express my opinions. All that, and I have stayed true to my design practice and rationale, which has evolved but the core of it has remained in place since the beginning on the FMP.

Flatland Brief

Posted: Thursday, 2 June 2011 | Posted by Adam Townend | Labels: , 0 comments

This is the brief for the Flatland project. The brief outlines the concept/proposition and deliverables for the project.

Leeds Loves Creativity Brief

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This is the brief for the Leeds Loves Creativity project. The brief outlines the concept/proposition and deliverables for the project.

Decades Brief

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Here is the brief for the Pop up Shop/ Decades project. The brief outlines the concept/proposition and deliverables for the project.

Giant Killer Brief

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This is the brief for the Giant Killers project. The brief outlines the concept/proposition and the deliverables for the project.

Year Book Brief

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This is the brief for the Interdisciplinary Year Book project. The brief outlines the concept/proposition and the deliverables for the project.

Garry Barker Brief

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This is the brief for the Garry Barker project. The brief outlines the concept/proposition and the deliverables for the project.

Identities Brief

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This is the brief for the Identities project. The Brief outlines the concept/proposition and the deliverables for the project.

Anna Swingland emboss test

Posted: Wednesday, 1 June 2011 | Posted by Adam Townend | Labels: , 0 comments

I wanted to give each promotional postcard a different feel. So I embossed the design onto this card to help differentiate between the things Anna does. I felt that the stock was dissimilar enough so the print techniques would help. I found that the deboss actually looked a lot better than the emboss so I flipped the car over and photographed the opposite side and flipped the image so it could go in my portfolio and no-one would tell the difference.

Full mock up

Charlotte Taylor - Idents

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This storyboard shows some sample screens that explain the idea I had to produce a range of idents using Charlottes work. The arrows that make up Charlottes identity run across the screen with the same video flipped horizontally playing inside the iconography. With the video playing the opposite way the outline of the icon is visible.

The film would fade out and reveal charlottes identity although with the other relevant information at the bottom of the screen.

This has been a little bit of an after thought, but I believe it ties into the branding quite well. I think this idea could be developed much more but at this time I don't have the time or skills to develop this into a meaningful resolution.

Anna Swingland postcard

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To make the postcards more appropriate to the skills Anna possesses, I wanted to print on and experiment with different stocks and finishes. With that in mind I wanted to emboss one of the cards, and I felt this would be appropriate to the print making card.

Each card would be printed a different stock to differentiate but keep the design throughout consistent. This is the makeshift printing plate I laser cut and mounted onto mountboard. I am going to run some tests through the press soon.

Final Boards

These are the final boards. Barring spelling issues these wont change.



Garry Barker

Interdisciplinary Year Book

Giant Killers

Decades Posters

Leeds Loves Creativity

Evaluation point

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I am now in the final week of the degree, and things are more relaxed than I expected. I feel like I have everything in hand, unless something goes drastically wrong. My action plans have helped me pin point where I should be and what I have left to do. I still have quite a lot of PPD to do but the design practice work is failing into place well.

You can't help but look at what everyone else is doing, and the crit helped me get a feel for what is going on and what levels others are working too. It has inspired me to work that little bit harder because I want to achieve the best possible outcome, but I don't want to throw together extra ranges that I didn't plan for at the start of the brief, because it may not be appropriate and the level of finish could be not up to standard.

I would still like to expand some of the deliverables for some of the briefs but these will not be a part of the design practice boards as they are already designed and properly photographed. I will continue to work hard as ever, but I won't be looking over my shoulder as others to cram in extra work. I don't want to pad out any briefs, if it doesn't feel appropriate.

Store Promotion

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To expand on the range of deliverables for this brief, I felt it was necessary to produce store window promotion for the Leeds United superstore. The superstore is located at the stadium and is the only place you can buy Leeds United official merchandise. The footfall on matchdays is massive and the passing traffic comes straight from the M621.

I have mocked up both the front of the store and the road side. At this stage it was a case of keeping with the design direction of the book and correctly positioning the graphics to fit the displays.

Context shots

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A lot of my work for this module with the exception of Flatland and the Giant Killer publication doesn't require context shots. I did however take the opportunity to get some context shots today for the Giant Killer book.

I will also be posting some mock ups for the promotional stuff for that brief soon.

Other photos

Products photoshoot

Today I spent mostly taking product shots for my boards. These are the shots before post production. The shoot was pretty good, the light boxes in the photography studio give a better shot than shooting in the studio under normal light.

The lot!

Final proof from Duffield

Posted: Sunday, 29 May 2011 | Posted by Adam Townend | Labels: , 0 comments

Bitter sweet moment. Got the proof back off Duffield and I expected it to be a bit better for some reason. I thought it was going to be a proper mock up, but to no avail. We checked the images which were all up to scratch, and for all but one little mistake the book was sorted. Bit of hairy moment when we thought we might have to pay for it, but Clive accepted a new file at no extra cost.

Dan sorted out Clive with the new file and all was well.

These images were also taken by Dan.

Leeds book packaging

Posted: Thursday, 26 May 2011 | Posted by Adam Townend | Labels: , 0 comments

I finally decided on this for the Leeds book packaging. It has a black foil emblem with a custom cut sticker wrap around on a square matt black envelope. The book and contents fit inside perfectly.

Year book in print

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Thanks to Heather we got these awesome images of our year book in print. It does feel good to see this actually in mass production. I'm sure the novelty won't wear off over time either.

Decades - price tags

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Bridget recently said that every product had to have a price on, so I decided to throw together some nifty price tags that complimented my poster designs. I didn't have time to considered stock or finish because I had already ran way over my budget anyway. So i printed them on an uncoated card stock. They look real good. These will have a hole punch and will be threaded and stuck to the poster wraps.

Final Action plan

Posted: Wednesday, 25 May 2011 | Posted by Adam Townend | Labels: , 0 comments

I believe this is effectively, what I have left to do. I will probably add more things in besides this list if I have time but I am hoping to have all my products ready to shoot by friday morning for when I have booked a photography studio.

Evaluation point

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I am nearing the end of the module, and I have a feeling that I have really worked hard and achieved a lot of things that I didn't expect at the start of the module. The module has changed my perspective on a lot of things like

- talking to printers and clients
- working within a team
- preparing artwork for print
- the need to check and re-check proofs
- take into account budgets
- how much client power can influence a project

In terms of deadlines and workload, I could not have done any more than I have done. However, I feel I could have focused on getting the best results possible by exploring stock and print finishes much more. I have done this on some briefs, and I have looked at format, but I feel my work could have benefitted from properly exploring embossing, spot varnishes, and foils. The results I have had from the finishes I have tried have been not up to my expectations or my satisfactions. I envisage attempting to put this right to certain degree this week and next where I can take time to consider my options, now the bulk of my work is out of the way.

Overall, I am happy with what I have achieved up to now but its at the expense of the quality of finish.

Pop up Shop opening

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I took some time away from the studio to set up my prints for the pop up shop. The shop opened at 4 until 6 today, and is open all day tomorrow. I am quite happy with how they look. They look better in frames but the last minute price tags add that little extra.

Final Crit feedback

Posted: Tuesday, 24 May 2011 | Posted by Adam Townend | Labels: , 0 comments

Yesterday's crit went a little too well. There are a few things that I need to address but everyone suggested that I was on top of thingsand my work was strong enough to be happy with. I can't allow myself to slip into a smooth ride for 2 weeks so I must keep working at the rate that has got me to where I am now.

I sent off my design context book for print last night, as I couldn't spend anymore time on it without the fear of it not being printed in time.

Key Points

- More development for Leeds Book
- Show off grids and guides more
- Adjust splash page on board for Anna
- More natural stock for Anna's stationery
- Take more shots in context

Leeds Loves Creativity - final postcard

Posted: Monday, 23 May 2011 | Posted by Adam Townend | Labels: , 0 comments

This postcard is now finished and I can send it back to Chloe to go to print. Amendments have been coming back and forth via email but these were text amends. The map that was supplied was pretty poor so I had to redo the text as it was way too small for the size of the postcard.

These should be sent to print on Tuesday.

Year Book Evaluation

Posted: Sunday, 22 May 2011 | Posted by Adam Townend | Labels: , 0 comments

I'd like to a few moments to reflect on my one and only collaborative brief of the FMP. I expected it be worse than it has been, but working with Luke and Dan has proved to me that collaborations can work and there are ways it benefits you as a designer. I have enjoyed the experience overall, and I felt we worked well as a team. I took a lot of responsibility when liaising with clients, etc, just because I feel like organisation is a strong part of my practice. I am meticulous, and I wanted to take a leadership role within the group. I am unsure of whether this is a good or bad quality but the team were happy for me to take on the role. The negative to me taking on this role was that I had to relay information to the different parties frequently to keep everyone updated.

As a group we discussed every aspect of the project, and having three in the group meant that one person couldn't take over. In the past I have felt that I have had more control over the project and so that is what I was used too. We all felt that we could put our ideas forward and to begin with it was more difficult as we were a little possessive over our own ideas. I think Dan and Luke have appreciated seeing the way I work, as I have appreciated the way that they work.

Things I have learnt

- Collaborations mean you can get more done - more ideas, more mock ups, greater breadth of investigation.
- It is frustrating when people don't get your ideas, but they are a good sounding board - if you can't convince them, you won't convince a client.
- Working with others means you don't want to let them down.
- Everyone brings something different - different skills can push your own ideas.


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I have featured Manual a few times on my blog, but this project is relevant to my context book so here we go again. Lovely logo type, so simple, but then, what I am really interested in, is how that is applied across print, web and in context.

The logotype is a stunning example of simple and impactful execution with minimum effort. It's one of those identities that just works. The concept of the cut is carried through to the business cards, which works well with the clean stock and subtle injection of colour. A one colour job that still has the impact needed. No need for fancy foils or embossing.

Context book - first draft full

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I think I need to add more into this book regarding screen and context examples as they are a little few and far between but its getting there. I think I will have to send this to print no later than Tuesday evening.

First Draft Presentation boards

Boards for all briefs. These aren't the finals and I plan to reshoot the stuff next week.

Brief 1 - Flatland

Brief 2 - Identities

Brief 4 - Year Book

Brief 5 - Giant Killers

Brief 6 - Decades

Brief 7 - LLC

Lou Dorfsmann - Gastrotypographicalassemblage

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I found these lovely shots of the work that Generation Press printed for the promotion of this exhibition exhibiting the work of Lou Dorfsmann, who carved a career for himself at CBS. The debossed poster is reminiscent of the 30 foot wall typography display.

The original fonts were designed by Herb Lubalin.

Great idea that flows between live installations and print design

Design Context - Get on with it

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I've been struggling with definitive ideas about what I should do with this for quite a while. I've taken notes from tutors, looked at last years submissions and had discussions with friends. It should be an easy task but in truth, it hasn't been. I have skated round putting the research I have into any sort of categorisation too long. This has been down to a culmination of other work taking over that shouldn't have, such as the year book. However, we have been much more organised than last years books.

The design context book I am doing now will focus on typography for print design and in context. However, the focus will remain on the typography appose to the format its used in. Here are some of my initial layouts using the content I have so far. I have opened up my research to include a wider range of contexts, and that will have to be opened up even more to get a good selection of source material. This whole brief has seemed like a distraction, I am just glad I have got the design practice stuff mostly done so I could spend more time on this.


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Great use of typography. Gets you thinking about the formats you are designing for and their appropriateness to the brief. This is right up my street. It's simple, clean, and clinical, which is all I want to be.

Year Book final - cover and full colour proofs

Posted: Friday, 20 May 2011 | Posted by Adam Townend | Labels: , 0 comments

After a few problems with signing the artwork off, an hour before Clive arrived for the work, we finally got the go ahead to send to print. It was a difficult time and I had to keep going back again and again to the client to get things sorted.

Anyway, after all the tribulations and triumphs, here it is. We are expecting a full colour proof from Duffield, all in good time, which I am excited about.

Myself and Luke did covers for the front which I posted earlier. In the end we all decided to go with mine even though we would have preferred to get it absolutely spot on.

I photoshopped this quite a bit but it needed it. I just hope it doesn't come out too sharp.

The book looks great. Better than I had imagined, and myself, Dan and Luke are proud of our efforts even if it could've been done quicker.

Ellen Lupton Interview

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Lupton, Ellen (2006)
Interview, Lawrie Hunter, “Critical Form as Everyday Practice, An Interview with Ellen Lupton.” Published in Information Design Journal 14, 2 (2006): 130-137.

Curator, graphic designer and author Ellen Lupton is director of the M.F.A. in the graphic design program at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) in Baltimore. She is also curator of contemporary design at Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in New York City, where she has organized numerous exhibitions, each accompanied by a major publication, including the National Design Triennial series (2000 and 2003), Skin: Surface, Substance + Design (2002), Graphic Design in the Mechanical Age (1999), Mixing Messages (1996), and Mechanical Brides: Women and Machines from Home to Office. She has received numerous awards, including the Chrysler Design Award and the 1996 New York Magazine Award.

In 1996, Ms. Lupton and J. Abbott Miller published Design/Writing/Research: Writing on Graphic Design, a collection of essays about design theory and history. Lupton has written numerous books on contemporary and twentieth-century design. Her critical guide, Thinking with Type, was published in 2004; her latest book is D.I.Y.: Design It Yourself, co-authored with her graduate students at Maryland Institute College of Art (January 2006).

LH: Please tell us about Design Writing Research.

EL: Abbott Miller and I founded Design Writing Research in 1985 as an “after-school program” where we could collaborate on experimental projects that merge theory and practice, writing and designing. By 1989 Design Writing Research had become a self-sustaining enterprise with a full-time staff and office space in New York City.

In 1997, we moved to Baltimore to teach at Maryland Institute College of Art. Soon after, Abbott joined the New York office of Pentagram and Design Writing Research became dormant. It remained an idea, but was no longer an active practice.

I launched the Web site DesignWritingResearch.org in January 2003 in order to revive the studio in the extra-curricular, quasi-underground spirit with which it was founded. The site is an archive of writing and a communications tool for my work as a curator and teacher. Having this site has put me in contact with students and designers around the world. A group of graduate students in Israel was reading the material on design and deconstruction, for example, and I constantly get questions and requests from students working on research projects. I now have two other Web sites, ThinkingWithType.com, a resource for teachers, students, and designers, and design-your-life.org, a blog about applying design thinking to everyday situations. The most interesting thing to me about all of these sites is how they put readers and writers into direct contact with each other. The Web is a social medium.

LH: Now you are a designer, a writer about design, and a curator. Is that like living in three different houses?

EL: To me, writing, design, and curating all fit together. It’s one house with a variety of functions, just as a real house is a site for cooking, cleaning, sleeping, entertaining. Design gives a physical form to the ideas generated through writing and curating. An exhibition, for example, uses lighting, materials, sequence, and the juxtaposition of objects, images, and text to tell a story. A book presents texts and images to readers in a way that either attempts to control the order of reading or provides a variety of ways to enter and exit a body of information. The way text is presented on a page affects how people read and understand it. Design enables the publishing of ideas, whether in a book, a magazine, or a Web site, and each of these media affects how readers approach the content. Design is also a way to create new ideas, although in my work, I would say the writing is the bricks and mortar.

LH: By time you graduated from the Cooper Union School of Art, you were already writing about graphic design and typography, particularly within a post-structuralist frame. What took you into critical writing so early in your design career?

EL: I come from a family of English teachers. My twin sister studied critical theory at Hopkins and Yale; she is now a professor of literary studies at University of California, Irvine. As a young person, my intellectual adventures were closely tied to hers, and she led me through many discoveries that ended up connecting with my own work as a designer. The insights of post-structuralist theory amazed me, because they were about recognizing the power and opacity of writing as a physical and intellectual medium. For me, the discovery of Saussure, Barthes, Derrida, and Foucault was life-changing, and those thinkers continue to inform my work today, even though my own writing (and mission) has become more transparent and populist. These writers showed that language is embedded in politics and society; that representation takes an active role in shaping content; that much of what appears natural to us is, in fact, a cultural product, and so on. Typography and architecture are not neutral containers for the content or programs they are thought to neatly accommodate. These are fundamental insights of modern and post-modern thinking.

LH: In Thinking with Type you identify the ‘grid’ as a major expressive tool. Rick Poynor, in No More Rules, says that you use the grid in a Saussurean way as a form of language, “…just as language is a grid which breaks down experience into repeatable signs…” How do you perceive the grid as a tool?

EL: Grids exist in the background of nearly all printed communication. Even the Microsoft Word document through which this interview is being conducted has a grid, consisting of the default margin settings of the page. As designers, we try to avoid defaults and use the grid in an active, deliberate way, sometimes rendering it visible. For example, the grid is a way to attack the oppressive linearity of discourse, allowing us to present multiple columns, parallel texts, and so forth. Designers use grids to disperse a linear document across space.

LH: Your recent (stimulating and enjoyable) book, Thinking with Type, has three sections: Letter, Text and Grid. Each section begins with a discourse on culture and theory issues that touch all media, and follows with practical demonstrations of the hows and whys of typography’s nature and behavior. Please talk a little about the ‘with’ in Thinking with Type.

EL: As a young art student back in the early 1980s, discovering typography was discovering how to write visually. I had always been interested in art, and I had always been interested in writing, and typography was the amazing medium that brought these two things together. For me, typography has always been a tool for thinking. You don’t really know what something means until you put it down on paper. All writers want to start editing their work the minute it moves from a generic “manuscript” (such as this Microsoft Word document) into a typographic layout, because words read differently once they are rendered typographically. In my Typography I course at MICA, each student, ideally, reaches a moment in the course when they are “thinking typographically,” when they are beginning to express ideas through the medium of type. (This is not about fonts, but about alignment, hierarchy, scale, grids, and so on.) To think with type is to be in a partnership with the medium—with its history, its discourse, its systematic nature as a common cultural artifact.

LH: What do you regard as your set of essential design tools?

EL: What’s essential to me is having access to the means of publishing. As a very young writer/curator at The Cooper Union, where I worked from 1985 to 1992, I had access to a digital typesetting system, a massive set of machines and output devices that generated columns of text on photographic paper. By today’s standards, that was a very crude system, but unlike most designers in the mid-1980s, I had direct access to typesetting, which gave me the power to publish, and to write directly in the medium of typography. Now, of course, the Web is the most exciting realm for publishing, and it’s changing our relationship to print. My “essential design tools” are the tools of publishing. Those tools keep changing, and it’s important to me to continue having access to them. When I went to art school in the early 1980s, the tools were stat cameras, hot wax machines, acetate, and ruby lith film. By the early 1990s, those tools had become Quark and Photoshop. Today, they include html, Flash, and database languages—as well as the best tool of all, the Sharpie marker!

LH: Typography has always been a main theme for you. Rick Poynor points out that in a number of your books you and Abbott Miller have used Martin Majoor’s Scala typeface. In his introduction to your Design Writing Research, he writes, “…Scala is becoming a Design/Writing/Research house style, an appropriation that may be without precedent in critical writing.” What led to your adoption of Scala?

EL: I first used Scala in 1991, when Robin Kinross sent it to me in New York City on a floppy disk. Robin had written an essay for an exhibition catalogue, Graphic Design in the Netherlands: A View of Recent Work, published by The Cooper Union and Princeton Architectural Press. Robin’s essay was about Dutch typeface design. I used Scala for typesetting that catalogue, and I have been using it ever since. Scala is a magnificent blend of modern and literary/humanist traditions. Its forms reflect the origins of type in handwriting, as seen in the beautiful bowl of the lowercase a, but Scala is also exquisitely abstract, as seen in its severe, simplified serifs. Scala is coordinated with Scala Sans, making it a full-service typographic system. This has become a new standard in type design.

LH: In a recent DD+IDJ interview, Paul Mijksenaar said about his wayfinding design work, “Any discussion about typefaces lasting more than 5 minutes is a waste.” Of course Mr. Mijksenaar knows his fonts, and uses that knowledge wisely. How do you think subtle, sophisticated variations in font affect the consumer-user?

EL: Most users don’t think about fonts or notice them at all, but of course they affect our experience. I would say that the more knowledgeable the user, the more affected they are by choices of good or bad typefaces, just as a well-informed moviegoer will have a more critical experience of a film. Some of us go just for the plot; others are interested in how the thing is put together.

LH: Concluding his examination of current reading models in The Science of Word Recognition, Kevin Larson writes, “Word shape is no longer a viable model of word recognition. The bulk of scientific evidence says that we recognize a word’s component letters, then use that visual information to recognize a word. In addition to perceptual information, we also use contextual information to help recognize words during ordinary reading, but that has no bearing on the word shape versus parallel letter recognition debate. It is hopefully clear that the readability and legibility of a typeface should not be evaluated on its ability to generate a good bouma shape.” Do you think that the graphic design community pays substantial attention to information design/document design research on technical issues in communication?

EL: No. And I have not found the scientific research on legibility/readability to be of much practical interest, including the passage you have quoted above. Cumulatively, what all this research seems to confirm is the amazing power of alphabetic literacy to take hold of the mind and impose itself on us, even under poor conditions (bad typefaces, bad screen displays, and so forth). For better or for worse, most designers are not so interested in setting scientific standards for readability or legibility, and I’m not sure that’s a bad thing. The attempt to nail down what works best could end up stifling invention and change. The fact is, human beings are able to endure (and a enjoy) a vast range of typographic environments. In the Web design field, some people want to freeze the field into a set of standards, such as always putting nav bars in a certain place, or only having seven categories in a menu. But with a medium this young, it could be more harmful than helpful to lock it down so soon.

LH: In The ABCs of [circle square triangle]: The Bauhaus and Design Theory, you and J. Abbott Miller wrote, “Modern art education often discourages graphic designers from actively engaging in the writing process.” You argued for a new critical relationship between writing and design: “…the graphic designer could be conceived of as a language-worker equipped to actively initiate projects -– either by literally authoring texts or by elaborating, directing or disrupting their meaning. The graphic designer ‘writes’ verbal|visual documents by arranging, sizing, framing and editing images and texts.” That evolution has happened to some extent. What is the status of today’s graphic designer regarding the writing process?

EL: Some designers are directly involved in writing, such as Armin Vit and his people at Speak Up, or Jessica Helfand, Rick Poynor, Bill Drenttel, and Michael Bierut of DesignObserver.com , or writers like Dave Eggers and Chip Kid, who are writing for a general, rather than design specialist, audience. But I like to think of “authorship” as not just verbal, but also visual. What Abbott Miller is doing with exhibition design and book design falls into this category, where he shapes the curatorial content of a project without literally writing it. The work of 2×4 and Bruce Mau are clearly forms of authorship as well. And then there is Martha Stewart, who I believe to be one of the most influential designers of the 1990s; her impact is way greater, for example, than David Carson. I prefer the term “producer” to “author,” because it encompasses the larger conceptual process, as well as suggesting the hands-on, blue-collar aspect of making things happen.

LH: In a recent designobserver.com posting about the notion of designers taking on editorial aspects of their projects, Rick Poynor wrote, “…the designer-as-editor demand has never convinced me as a rallying cry…I believe designers have a level of ability, skill and talent that an untrained person is unlikely to be able to match. It’s exactly the same with editing.” He singles out you and Robin Kinross as designers who are highly competent and successful editors. When should a designer be an editor?

EL: I think designers can be fantastic editors, as long as they have a rigorous understanding of the written word. Editing, like typography, is a labor of love. It’s about the details, and it’s ultimately about letting someone else’s voice speak in its own voice. Anyone who sets out to edit a project needs to be prepared for the anonymity of the task—the many, many hours of invisible labor.

LH: You have written a number of times about Lev Manovich’s depiction of “the conflict between narrative and database that structures modern media.” Manovich sees the narrative-database conflict as a parallel to the relationship between syntagm and paradigm. He argues that there is an ongoing shift from narrative linearity to database synchronicity in our lives today. What implications does that shift have for the designer?

EL: Increasingly, the projects we design consist of bundles of assets and non-linear forms. This may have more implications for writers than for designers. A blog, for example, is a database, and as such it provides a different kind of reading experience; naturally it demands a different kind of writing as well.

LH: In 1988 you wrote, “A powerful metaphor has informed post-war education in graphic design: the concept of a ‘language of vision.’ This abstract ‘language’ of line, shape, and color has been theorized as a system of visual communication analogous to but separate from verbal language, a distinct code grounded not in cultural convention but in universal faculties of perception.” Things have changed recently in terms of designer empowerment; are we closer now to having that language of vision?

EL: During the 1990s, many design educators turned away from formal analysis towards a more culturally based, referential approach to pedagogy. It was the age of multiculturalism, niche marketing, the “audience of one,” and so forth. Meanwhile, the designers of software programs such as Photoshop, Illustrator, Flash, and Final Cut were systematically organizing image-processing into menus of properties, parameters, filters, and so on, converting the Bauhaus theory of visual language—once a distant ideal—into comprehensive visual tools. So we do have a language of vision now, but it was created by corporate software developers. There are movements to create publicly owned tools, such as Processing.org and John Maeda’s Treehouse Studio. I think we are at a moment in time when the idea of universal tools and languages is becoming interesting again.

LH: Originally text was linear, given the bound book’s fixed sequence of things. Various devices were developed to support navigation: page numbers, footnotes, and the like; these led text in a less linear direction. You wrote, “Whereas talking flows in a single direction, writing occupies space as well as time. Tapping that spatial direction—and thus liberating readers from the bonds of linearity—is among typography’s most urgent tasks.” Do readers need liberating from linearity?

EL: If you are reading a novel (or watching a film), linearity is what you expect and value. However, many of our experiences of reading in our day-to-day existence are non-linear, such as reading the New York Times or sifting through a Google search. If one were forced to read the entire front section of the New York Times in order to get to the Op Ed page, few of us would ever get there.

LH: The materials which you have brought from elsewhere into you web site are simple, spare. What’s the thinking behind that reduction?

EL: I have kept the Web site really simple, mostly for my own sanity, but also because I like the idea of the digital text being disembodied, that it could be captured and repurposed by other people. The idea of separating form from content is driving a lot of work on the Internet right now. Whereas the great modernist pioneers of the 1920s built uniquely constructed pages that fused form and content, today there is a need to create text that will survive technological change and be readable on different output devices, from the printed page to a cell phone.

LH: In “Deconstruction and graphic design,” you and Abbott Miller wrote, “Post-structuralism’s emphasis on the openness of meaning has been incorporated by many designers into a romantic theory of self-expression: as the argument goes, because signification is not fixed in material forms, designers and readers share in the spontaneous creation of meaning.” Deconstruction as a style, or shall we say as an attitude, has been labeled history by some: can we still find post-structuralist design in action?

EL: Sure. The novels of Jonathan Safran Foer, for example. The architecture of Peter Eisenman. But what we were arguing is that post-structuralism and deconstruction are ways of looking at the world or ways of describing typography in an universal way, not in terms of a specific example of practice. The central principle of deconstruction is to look at a basic cultural assumption—such as the separation of mind and body—and to understand how the elements that appear to be opposites inhabit and infect one another. This way of thinking will never die.

LH: In “Critical Wayfinding,” you wrote, “Such icons [as Mona Lisa images serving to remind us that we are in the Louvre] participate in a broader phenomenon in the cultural landscape: the emergence of a hieroglyphics of communication, which overlays the contemporary experience of cities, buildings, products, and media with a code of repeatable, reduced icons, compacted chunks of information which collapse a verbal message into a visual mark. The expanding domain of this hieroglyphic speech poses subtle problems for designers in the next millennium: How can we create cross-cultural communication without flattening difference beneath the homogenizing force of a single dialect?” Twelve years later, are answers to that question emerging?

EL: The issue of the day is globalism, which is viewed by many designers primarily in terms of its negative impact on society and the environment. But there is a positive side to globalism as well, especially with regard to the possibility of global communication and broader access to information. Today, knowledge is the key to health, wealth, and opportunity, so creating information that lots of people can use can have a huge benefit. This means using a language that many people can understand, and technologies that many people have access to. This may be done at the expense of local traditions and customs. For example, I created a Web site to support and complement my book Thinking with Type. I get e-mail from people from all over the world who are using the Web site and don’t necessarily have access to the book.

LH: In 2000 you joined 32 other prominent visual communicators in signing First Things First 2000. renewing the call voiced in First Things First (1964) for a change of priorities in design work, for a “reversal of priorities in favour of more useful, lasting and democratic forms of communication – a mindshift away from product marketing and toward the exploration and production of a new kind of meaning.” Do you see signs of such a reversal?

EL: No. Most design activity remains in the corporate realm. This is where most opportunities for designers lie. What we need to do is find socially useful ways to operate within the stream of commerce.

LH: Curating such a defining institution as the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum of the Smithsonian Institution, how do you work to provide a viewpoint for the visitor/user?

EL: My exhibitions need to communicate to both the general public and the expert/insider audience. This is a huge challenge. It’s much easier to communicate to just one of those publics! Being forced to speak and write in this way has been a huge discipline for me, and, frankly, it’s harder to make design meaningful to the general viewer than to the viewer whose is life wrapped up in design practice.

LH: Exhibitions like Mixing Messages and Skin at the National Design Museum actually work to revise understandings and generate new perspectives. What is an exhibition?

EL: An exhibition is a physical place where objects, images, and texts communicate ideas. The goal, in general, is to use texts as little as possible (but as much as necessary), and let the visual materials dominate.

LH: In “The Macrame of Resistance,” Lorraine Wild identified technology as a generator of identity crises for designers: “Designers involved in new media projects often find themselves caught in team production based on the entertainment industry paradigm, where authorship is granted to the director, the producers, maybe the screenwriters, but typically not the people who create the visual nature of the product.” Five years later you pointed out that those same digital tools that threatened the trained designer’s existence also put the designer’s hands on the means of production, enabling the designer to become a producer. What is the situation today? Are increasing numbers of designers also producers?

EL: Yes, I believe that more and more designers are becoming producers. Likewise, you could say that more producers are becoming designers: that is, the tools of publishing are increasingly available to everyone, not just to those trained in the specialty of design. Design is truly a subject of universal interest and importance.

LH: Your recent book, Thinking with Type, is such an accessible work; though the concepts are explored to some depth, the initial framing of each assumes relatively little background knowledge. Now you have another title coming to press, D.I.Y.: Design it Yourself. Who is the target audience? Are you planning to Napsterize graphic design?

EL: D.I.Y: Design It Yourself is a design book for the rest of the world. Increasingly, what I am interested in is sharing the power of design with “non-designers.” (Although it may be that there are no “non-designers.”) We are living in a cultural moment when more people than ever are interested in design, have knowledge about design, and have access to the tools of design. Oddly enough, this fact has taken place in spite of our profession’s best efforts to explain itself as an exclusive professional discourse.

LH: Document designers and information designers in search of perspective and depth about the world of graphic design and typography would do well to read you. What other sources would provide such an empowering structuring of that world?

EL: Of course, everyone should read the books of Edward Tufte. Jef Raskin’s writings on interface design are very important, and Robert Bringhurst’s Manual of Typographic Style is the classic work on typography, full of brilliant insights. The best book I have read in recent years is Steven Johnson’s Emergence, about how cities, ant colonies, and contemporary computer programs are all organized as self-organizing swarms of primitive elements that combine together into something powerful and information-rich. The future of information lies in systems that are broadly distributed across a community of users, not focused in one place.

The Grid

Posted: Thursday, 19 May 2011 | Posted by Adam Townend | Labels: , 0 comments

I wanted to further my knowledge of the grid for this design context brief so with the help of books, such as Making and Breaking the Grid, I have developed the grid for my book based on the golden ratio, by calculating the appropriate margins for the format I am using. The golden ratio, originally used by the ancient greeks gives the perfect reading position for all my copy. I hope to use this grid for all my pages, however, I hope to get some full bleed images in there too.

Screen based typography

Posted: | Posted by Adam Townend | Labels: , 0 comments

An interesting article from Typotheque.

Electronic Typography: The New Visual Language
by Jessica Helfand

A talking Barbie lush as a foil for the Mac’s Speech functions; debates about the value of capital letters; Derrida, Saussure and Foucault; Oliver Sachs and Chaucer are all considered in this theoretical piece about the state of typography in new media.

As advances in technology introduce more complex creative challenges, screen-based typography must be reconsidered as a new language with its own grammar, its own syntax, and its own rules. What we need are better models which go beyond language or typography to reinforce—rather than restrict— our understanding of what it is to design with electronic media. This essay traces some of the experimental precursors to contemporary electronic typography—from Marinetti’s Parole in Libertà to George Maciunas Fluxus happenings—and looks at language as part of a more comprehensive communication platform: time-sensitive, interactive, and highly visual.

Today, we can visualize concepts in four action-packed, digital dimensions. Interactive media have introduced a new visual language, one that is no longer bound to traditional definitions of word and image, form and place. Typography, in an environment that offers such diverse riches, must redefine its goals, its purpose, its very identity. It must reinvent itself. And soon.

Visual language, or the interpretation of spoken words through typographic expression, has long been a source of inspiration to artists and writers. Examples abound, dating as far back as the incunabula and extending upwards from concrete poetry in the 1920s to “happenings” in the 1960s to today’s multicultural morass of pop culture. Visual wordplay proliferates, in this century in particular, from Filippo Tommaso Marinetti’s Parole in Libertà to George Maciunas’ Fluxxus installations to the latest mta posters adorning New York subway walls. Kurt Schwitters, Guillaume Apollinaire, Piet Zwart, Robert Brownjohn—the list is long, the examples inexhaustible.

For designers there has always been an overwhelming interest in formalism, in analyzing the role of type as medium (structure), message (syntax), and muse (sensibility). Throughout, there has been an attempt to reconcile the relationship between words both spoken and seen—a source of exhilaration to some and ennui to others. Lamenting the expressive limitations of the western alphabet, Adolf Loos explained it simply: “One cannot speak a capital letter.” Denouncing its structural failings, Stanley Morrison was equally at odds with a tradition that designated hierarchies in the form of upper and lowercase letterforms. Preferring to shape language as he deemed appropriate, Morrison referred to caps as “a necessary evil.”

Academic debate over the relationship between language and form has enjoyed renewed popularity in recent years as designers borrow from linguistic models in an attempt to codify—and clarify—their own typographic explorations. Deconstruction’s design devotées have eagerly appropriated its terminology and theory, hoping to introduce a new vocabulary for design: it is the vocabulary of signifiers and signifieds, of Jacques Derrida and Ferdinand de Saussure, of Michel Foucault and Umberto Eco.

As a comprehensive model for evaluating typographic expression, deconstruction has ultimately proved both heady and limited. Today, as advances in technology introduce greater and more complex creative challenges, it is simply arcane. We need to look at screen-based typography as a new language, with its own grammar, its own syntax, and its own rules. What we need are new and better models, models that go beyond language or typography per se, and that reinforce rather than restrict our understanding of what it is to design with electronic media.

Of course, learning a new language is one thing, fluency quite another. Yet we have come to equate fluency with literacy—another outdated model for evaluation. “Literacy should not mean the ability to decode strings of alphabetic letters,” says Seymour Papert, Director of the Epistemology and Learning Group at the MIT Media Lab, who refers to such a definition as “letteracy.” And language, even to linguists, proves creatively limiting as a paradigm. “New media promise the opportunity to offer a smoother transition to what really deserves to be called literacy,” says Papert. Typography, as the physical embodiment of such thinking, has quite a way to go.

The will to decipher the formal properties of language, a topic of great consequence for communication designers in general, has its philosophical antecedents in ancient Greece. “Spoken words,” wrote Aristotle in Logic, “are the symbols of mental experience. Written words are the symbols of spoken words.” Today, centuries later, the equation has added a new link: what happens when written words can speak? When they can move? When they can be imbued with sound and tone and nuance, with decibel and harmony and voice? As designers probing the creative parameters of this new technology, our goal may be less to digitize than to dramatize. Indeed, there is a theatrical component that I am convinced is essential to this new thinking. Of what value are typographic choices—bold and italics, for example—when words can dance across the screen, dissolve, or disappear altogether?

In this dynamic landscape, our static definitions of typography appear increasingly imperiled. Will the beauty of traditional letterforms be compromised by the evils of this new technology? Will punctuation be stripped of its functional contributions, or ligatures their aesthetic ones? Will type really matter?

Of course it will. In the meantime, however, typography’s early appearance on the digital frontier does not bode well for design. Take email, for example. Gone are the days of good handwriting, of the Palmer Method and the penmanship primer. In its place, electronic mail which, despite its futuristic tone, has paradoxically revived the antiquated art of letter writing. Sending email is easy and effortless and quick. It offers a welcome respite from talking, and, consequently, bears a closer stylistic resemblance to conversational speech than to written language. However, for those of us with even the most modest design sense, it eliminates the distinctiveness that typography has traditionally brought to our written communiqués. Though its supporters endorse the democratic nature of such homogeneity, the truth is, it is boring. In the land of email, we all “sound” alike: everyone writes in system fonts.

Email is laden with many such contradictions: ubiquitous in form yet highly diverse in content, at once ephemeral and archival, transmitted in real time yet physically intangible, it is a kind of aesthetic flatland—informationally dense and visually unimaginative. Here, hierarchies are preordained and nonnegotiable: passwords, menus, commands, help. Software protocols require that we title our mail, a leftover model from the days of interoffice correspondence, which makes even the most casual letter sound like a corporate memo. As a result, electronic missives all have headlines. (Titling our letters makes us better editors, not better designers.) As a fitting metaphor for the distilled quality of things digital, the focus in email is on the abridged, the acronym, the quick read. Email is functionally serviceable and visually forgettable, not unlike fast food. It is drive-through design: get in, get out, move on.

And it is everywhere. Here is the biggest contribution to communication technology to come out of the last decade, a global network linking millions of people worldwide, and designers—communication designers, no less—are nowhere in sight. Typography, in this environment, desperately needs direction. Where to start? Comparisons with printed matter inevitably fail, as words in the digital domain are processed with a speed unprecedented in the world of paper. Here, they are incorporated into databases or interactive programs, where they are transmitted and accessed in random, nonhierarchical sequences. “Hypertext,” or the ability to program text with interactivity—meaning that a word, when clicked upon or pointed to will, in fact, do something—takes it all a step further: here, by introducing alternate paths, information lacks the closure of the traditional printed narrative. “Hypertextual story space is now multidimensional,” explains Robert Coover in the magazine Artforum, “and theoretically infinite.”

If graphic design can be largely characterized by its attention to understanding the hierarchy of information (and using type in accordance with such understanding), then how are we to determine its use in a nonlinear context such as this? On a purely visual level, we are limited by what the pixel will render: the screen matrix simulates curves with surprising sophistication, but hairlines and serifs will, to the serious typophile, appear inevitably compromised. On a more objective level, type in this context is both silent and static, and must compete with sound and motion—not an easy task. Conversely, in the era of the handheld television remote, where the user can—and does—mute at will, the visual impact of written typography is not to be discounted.

To better analyze the role(s) of electronic typography, we might begin by looking outside: not to remote classifications imported from linguistic textbooks, or even to traditional design theories conveniently repackaged, but to our own innate intelligence and distinctive powers of creative thought. To cultivate and adequately develop this new typography (because if we don’t, no one else will), we might do well to rethink visual language altogether, to consider new and alternative perspectives. “If language is indeed the limit of our world,” writes literary critic William Gass in Habitations of the Word, “then we must find another, larger, stronger, more inventive language which will burst those limits.”

In his book Seeing Voices, author and neurologist Oliver Sacks reflects on the complexity of sign language, and describes the cognitive understanding of spatial grammar in a language that exists without sound. He cites the example of a deaf child learning to sign, and details the remarkable quality of her visual awareness and descriptive, spatial capabilities. “By the age of four, indeed, Charlotte had advanced so far into visual thinking and language that she was able to provide new ways of thinking—revelations—to her parents.” As a consequence of learning sign language as adults, this particular child’s parents not only learned a new language, but discovered new ways of thinking as well—visual thinking. Imagine the potential for interactive media if designers were to approach electronic typography with this kind of ingenuity and openmindedness.

William Stokoe, a Chaucer scholar who taught Shakespeare at Gallaudet College in the 1950s, summarized it this way: “In a signed language, narrative is no longer linear and prosaic. Instead, the essence of sign language is to cut from a normal view to a close-up to a distant shot to a close-up again, and so on, even including flashback and fast-forward scenes, exactly as a movie editor works.” Here, perhaps, is another model for visual thinking: a new way of shaping meaning based on multiple points of view, which sees language as part of a more comprehensive communication platform—time-sensitive, interactive, and highly visual. Much like multimedia.

This doesn't directly relate to what I am researching but there are some key points in the article that include the language of typography for screen and how it reflects the spoken word. Email takes the spoken word out of context, which fails to communicate.