The IBM Think Exhibit won gold at the 91st Annual Art Directors Club Awards. It was honored in the interactive category. The exhibit was created by SYPartners, Mirada, and Jack Morton. Take a look at all of the winners on Creativity.
Recently, after picking up Vectorism by Victionary (you heard me correctly), I started to fall in love with the work of Craig & Karl. You’ve probably seen their portraits floating around the world wide web. Craig & Karl combine whimsy with unique and bold illustration to create wonderful art. Well worth a look.
Paula Scher recently wrote a scathing review of AIGA’s newest design competition, Justified. It’s an important read for any designer who cares about this divide. In response to a discussion at work, I summed up the article.
Paula goes on for a bit, and I am sure that I have missed something. However, these seemed like the salient points. If I was to engage her in a conversation, I might offer the following:
Graphic design, like every profession, is evolving. We want a seat at the table, like every profession. We want our creativity to be acknowledged, as well as our impact. Frankly, and I think everyone in the community agrees, we want to remain relevant and be paid for our work. Every profession is grappling with these issues. They aren’t germane to graphic design. Accountants are fighting for relevance. Marketeers are fighting for relevance. And, on and on.
We don’t need competitions to surface great work. We live in a digital age. Great work is emerging every day. This work comes from all over the world, and it is elevated by the global community. I don’t know if Justified, as a competition, will work. Personally, I’ve always been baffled by design competitions. In a digital age, they might be irrelevant. And, that’s fine.
The AIGA, to remain relevant, is trying to define new criteria for the profession. If we want to measure impact, we need to define the criteria. In order to represent its constituents, the AIGA is trying to lead this movement. Are the current criteria correct? Probably not. But, effort matters. Through this effort, the AIGA will learn and evolve. If they don’t define the criteria on our terms, someone else will, and the criteria will not be in our best interest.
In our search for relevance, we must always seek balance.We see it every day. A business loses sight of what matters, and it falls apart. The AIGA is no different. It must strive for balance. The AIGA needs to engage the heart and mind. And perhaps, that’s what I hear in Paula’s note. She is losing heart. If the AIGA ignores her, it does so at its own peril.
If the AIGA is smart, it will seek that balance. It will keep its community in focus. It will convene difference to create strength. It will measure success in new and bold ways, bringing its members along on the journey. And, it will never lose sight of what matters.
On September 23, IBM opened the THINK exhibit in Lincoln Center. This one-of-a-kind experience realizes IBM’s commitment to making the world work better. If you are in New York between September 23 and October 23, when the exhibit closes, please make the trip. It’s a remarkable experience.
To quote Thomas Watson, “All of the problems of the world could be settled easily if men were only willing to think.”
Fubiz is featuring a series of photographs that emerged out of a collaboration between Michael Tompert and photographer Paul Fairchild. The photographs feature Apple products, after they have been destroyed. There is an abstract beauty in the destroyed objects, which have been shot, sliced, and burned.
Nando Costa has produced a beautiful series of letterpress prints, which were inspired by the artists who shaped his approach. The series includes interpretations of Hieronymus Bosch, Lygia Clark, Maurits Cornelis Escher, Wassily Kandinsky, Stephen and Timothy Quay (Brothers Quay) and Bill Viola. The prints were produced by Keegan Meegan in Portland. Take a second, have a look, and buy a print for your mom.
I recently discovered HORT, a unique design firm based in Germany. (Oddly enough, that doesn’t keep them from using a UK URL. Or, are they an organization? Who knows?) There is something about their work that is refreshingly raw, from the multiple explorations they have done for Nike to the refined work of their identity for Calle. Their work expresses an energy that is difficult to recreate. Definitely worth a look.
As many will tell you, the great lessons of design are rarely gleaned from a book or learned by sitting in a classroom. Design thrives on multidisciplinary experience, an immersion into the unknown and a search for the unknowable. If you are looking for such an experience, look no further than the hallowed grounds of the Saint John Will-I-Am Coltrane African Orthodox Church. One three-hour service will convert you and possibly, make you into a different designer.
As I sat in church, jazz music flowing over me and through me, I was amazed by the one-of-a-kind environment that the Saint John Will-I-Am Coltrane African Orthodox Church has consciously and unconsciously designed. If as Hank often said, design is simply a plan to make something, this plan was truly inspired. The church has all of the elements that are present in great design. First, it builds on tradition, breathing new life into something you know. Second, it breaks with tradition and reveals the stuff you have been missing. Finally, it disregards rules in favor of experience, and in this case, an experience that you will not forget. Here’s why.
With deference, the church uses tradition as a touchstone. If you attend other religious services, you will sing hymns, hear performances by talented musicians, be treated to a gospel or two, and last but not least, receive a healthy serving of sage and universal wisdom. The Saint John Will-I-Am Coltrane African Orthodox Church does not disappoint. It delivers in all of these areas; however, the delivery is unique.
The music is organic, never stopping, never starting. It is simply a necessary element. The gospel is delivered with a smile and a welcoming invitation, and in my case, it was delivered by a glowing woman, wise beyond her years. And, the wisdom, so often delivered with a hint of fear, is delivered democratically. Archbishop Franzo King is not above you; he is with you, staring you squarely in the eye. The paintings, as represented above, deliver Marie, Joseph, and the Baby Jesus. (And, of course, Saint John is alive in the room.)
How is good design different? It isn’t. Good design should build on tradition, turning what you know into what you’ve never seen. It should treat its audience as an equal, never pandering or underestimating the people to whom it speaks. Finally, instead of an intrusion, it should be a welcome addition. It should act like it has always been there, like it always will be there.
Yet, the church is not like any church into which you have entered. The first hour and 45 minutes were a jazz immersion. There was no surfacing for breath, as song bled into song, as dance and performance mixed with the proceedings of the morning. As Archbishop King put it, we were raising our praises and acknowledging our blessings through performance. It was a concert. It was an opportunity to dance. It was an experience to write about.
Like good design, the church’s service breaks with tradition. It is not a stayed ceremony with time allotments. It’s dogma is the lack of dogma. Like the thinking behind a piece by James Victore, it acts like it failed to learn the rules. If you don’t know them, then you aren’t beholden to them. And, the result is new; it’s fresh; it’s unexpected. Good design isn’t a sum of parts. Good design is a synergy of parts, a combination that breeds something new, something unexpected.
The final lesson, and perhaps the most important. The church welcomes all people, and this welcome extends well beyond convention. From performers entering and exiting during the service, to kids moving freely around the space, to unexpected additions, the importance of the execution does not outweigh the importance of the principle experience. Too often, design seeks to erase the possibility of romance and intrigue, replacing it instead with an empty search for perfection. A tightening of bolts that causes the machine to burst.
Not this church, a church where a 15-minute tap performance is seamlessly inserted into the experience, a church where people enter and leave freely, a church where children take on instruments and feel like a welcome addition to the experience.
In essence, it’s inspired. It is inspired by John Coltrane, a musician without equal who honored his relationship with a spiritual higher power. It is inspired by the church’s leadership. It is inspired by a nomadic and changing congregation, which immediately feels comfortable. And, it happens because it speaks to and fulfills a need for inspiration in all of us.
So, designers go fourth, and “Get your praise on!” Church is always in session.
The Saint John Will-I-Am Coltrane African Orthodox Church worships from 12:00 to 3:00 PM Sundays. It is located at 1286 Fillmore Street in San Francisco.
There is a wonderful entry on I Love Typography about the logic and launch of Commercial Type, a new type foundry. Right now, they have a small number of beautifully designed typefaces, which reflect the attention of the foundry’s founders. The Commercial Type web site is also a beautiful example of design.
I love to see the aesthetic of people directly reflected in their work. Follow Commercial Type on Twitter to learn about the latest releases.
“My paintings often start with a very busy layer of drawings. Most of those come straight from idea notebooks that I still keep for sculpture and installation work…so nothing is thrown away. If I can’t afford to execute an idea, I can at least include it in a painting so it can exist. For me there is an arc and if you start getting too skilled it’s always good to introduce another thing or medium so it’s interesting.”
I don’t watch Lost, the ABC cross-dimensional roller coaster. I do, however, love to look at well-designed posters, and Ty Mattson’s Lost posters recall the work of Saul Bass, who single-handedly redefined the Hollywood formula and created a new genre of movie design. Mattson brings his unique style to Lost, about which everyone in my office is always talking, and the results are nothing less than screen-printed beauties.
Do Ty a favor and supplement your looking with a little buying. His posters are available in the ABC store.
The Library of Congress has a huge, widely underused, and virtually unpublicized collection of historical documents and images. Although their web design comes directly from 1998, the images are truly incredible. Above, you’ll find scans from Alexander Graham Bell’s laboratory notebooks, and this is just the tip of the iceberg.
You might be familiar with the work of Jessica Hische from the Daily Drop Cap, where you can borrow a beautiful letter form, but she is also an excellent designer. Her portfolio includes an array of work, from hand done lettering to nicely executed logos to beautiful books. Take a look at the way she combines type, illustration, and design into seamless stories.