Monday, October 30, 2006
I recently got a book from Phaidon Press entitled Area. It has incredible work from people round the world.
From the Website
Following the footsteps of Cream and Fresh Cream, 10X10, Blink, and Spoon, area is an up-to-the-minute, global overview of graphic design. This image-filled book presents the work of 100 of the world`s most innovative emerging graphic designers, showcasing work from such wide-ranging projects as corporate identity, poster design, book design, packaging, typography and CD cover design. The 100 designers were selected by a distinguished group of 10 curators from around the world - all highly established and influential figures in the field of graphic design. Each curator selected and wrote about 10 exciting talents whom they consider to have made a name for themselves on the international scene over the last five years.
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
Graphic Design vs. Illustration
Someone emailed me recently to point out that illustration isnÂt included in Design ObserverÂs list of "categories" Â the list you can see below, on the right of your screen. Art, typography and photography are there, but not illustration. Is this omission a simple oversight, or does it tell us something significant about the current state of illustration?
The professional world of illustration is widely believed to be in poor shape. As Steven Heller noted recently: ÂI am an advocate of illustration and saddened by its loss of stature among editors who feel photography is somehow more effective (and controllable).Â There are, of course, many reasons for illustrationÂs fading stature other than the commercial worldÂs hard-nosed preference for photography over the arty vagueness of hand-rendered imagery. The ubiquity of software that allows graphic designers to generate their own imagery is another factor, as is the rise of illustration stock libraries. Yet perhaps illustrationÂs current status owes most to its near-total eclipse by graphic design. To understand the contemporary state of illustration, we need to look at its relationship with graphic design.
There was a time when graphic design and illustration were indivisible. Many of the great designers of the 20th century were also illustrators and moved effortlessly between image-making and typographic functionalism. Traditionally, most designers viewed illustration with reverence; many even regarded it as inherently superior to design. And with good reason: design was about the anonymous conveying of messages, while illustration was frequently about vivid displays of personal authorship. Like artists, illustrators signed their work, and some were even public figures (no graphic designer ever enjoyed the fame of Norman Rockwell, for example). As Ed Fella, a practitioner with feet in both camps, sagely noted: ÂWhereas graphic design is more anonymous, all illustration is sold for its particular and individual style.Â
But during the 1990s, illustrationÂs "individual style" became a liability. Visual communication was colonized by tough-minded, business-driven graphic designers who gave their clients what they wanted: branding, strategy and the precision-tooled delivery of commercial messages. Even amongst more idealistic designers Â designers who embraced theory, political activism (no big-name illustrators signed the First Things First manifesto), and notions of self-authorship Â it became apparent that highly expressive graphic design could achieve some of the conceptual and aesthetic impact of illustration. The outcome of all this was that designers seemed to lose the habit of commissioning illustration, and most illustration was relegated to mere decoration.
ItÂs a much-touted nostrum that we live in a visual world. Sure, the media landscape is saturated with images, but these images are nearly always accompanied by words signposting us to some sort of financial transaction. Graphic designÂs eclipsing of illustration is explained by illustrationÂs lack of verbal explicitness. Graphic design is almost exclusively about precise communication, and its facility to combine words and images makes it a far more potent force than illustration. Milton Glaser has said: ÂIn a culture that values commerce above all other things, the imaginative potential of illustration has become irrelevant... Illustration is now too idiosyncratic.Â
I was made aware of the main reason for graphic designÂs supremacy in the commercial world from an unlikely source. In his book What Good Are the Arts, the English academic John Carey sets out to discover an absolute measure for artistic worth. Dealing with the visual arts, Carey concludes that there is no defining yardstick: anything we choose to call art, is art. ItÂs really a matter of personal choice. But halfway through his book Carey puts the case for literature. He sets out Âto show why literature is superior to the other arts and can do things they cannot do.Â
For Carey, literature is the pre-eminent art form: Âunlike the other arts,Â he writes, Âit can criticize itself. Pieces of music can parody other pieces, and paintings can caricature paintings. But this does not amount to a total rejection of music and painting. Literature, however, can totally reject literature, and in this it shows itself more powerful and self-aware than any other art.Â
The attributes Carey applies to literature also apply to commercial communications. Words rule. Explicit language coupled with explicit images (devoid of ambiguity and nuance) is the lingua franca of advertising and marketing. We seem to have reached a point in Western culture where the abstract is no longer tenable. We demand explicitness in everything, which perhaps explains the contemporary appetite for endless news, reality television, the depiction of graphic violence and hardcore pornography.
Graphic designÂs ability to deliver explicit messages makes it a major (if little recognized) force in the modern world: it is embedded in the commercial infrastructure. Illustration, on the other hand, with its woolly ambiguity and its allusive ability to convey feeling and emotion, makes it too dangerous to be allowed to enter the corporate bloodstream. Our visual lives are the poorer for this.
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
Ireland " Plan of Dublin " anonymous engraver, published in History of the City of Dublin, 1818. The original is a copper engraved plan measuring 37 x 25 cms, it has three vertical folds, one of which is visible in the image.
"Plan of London, Metropolitan Burghs and Southern and Eastern Environs " drawn and engraved by J.Bartholomew, published in The Imperial Gazetteer, 1866. The original is a lithographic plan with original hand colour. A detailed map illustrating mid-Victorian London, most of the rural environs shown are now within the city.
St Louis Windows
Ageing industrial edifices are obscured by the dust and marks accumulated in an abandoned storefront window. The montage of two images, mimics reflections in widows, playing out the disinvestment experienced by many industrial cities through the Mid-West. The dust and graffiti reaffirm the 2-dimensional surface of the prints themselves and the separation between the viewer and the looming building as well as the separation of the photograph from experience.
Photolithographs on black mulberry paper.
Left: 27x40". Right: 29x44". 2006.
Saturday, October 07, 2006
Friday, October 06, 2006
|TRADITIONAL METHODS||ILL EFFECTS AND DANGERS||SUBSTITUTE METHODS FOUND|
Etching copper plates:
Etching zinc plates:
Nitrogen dioxide poisoning damage to eyes, lungs, nasal membranes., skin damage.
'Bordeaux etch' non-electrolytic substitute for etching zinc plates.
|Hard and soft ground: |
Smoked turpentine based wax and asphaltum grounds; turpentine based wax and grease.
|Irritation of mucous membranes, Nausea, headaches, toxic or carcinogenic fumes when heated, depression of central nervous system.||Insulating ink ground: |
relief printing ink applied by soft roller - after drying as hard ground - before drying as soft ground.
powdered pine rosin; powdered asphaltum
|Rosin dust allergy, toxic rosin fumes, carcinogenic asphaltum fumes.||Fractint - grounding with relief printing ink, produced in press.|
|Stopping out: |
methanol (methylated spirit) based varnish.
|Headaches, skin and eye irritation.||Ethanol (alcohol) based varnish: shellac flakes dissolved in rubbing alcohol.|
|Cleaning of varnish or ground: |
methanol turpentine, naptha (white spirit, turps substitute).
|See above for methanol. Irritation of mucous membranes, depression of central nervous system, skin damage; suspected kidney damage.|| |
Vegetable Cleaning Agent (VCA) for ink .
|Cleaning inked plates or tools: |
turpentine, naptha (white spirit)
|See above for turpentine and naptha||Vegetable Cleaning Agent (VCA) or vegetable coooking oil - followed by household detergent. Ethanol for dried ink. Acetone for hardened ink.|
Max Ernst (German, active in France and U.S., 1891-1976). Untitled Etching and aquatint printed in three colors, for Hans Neuenfels Mundmündig. Cologne: Galerie der Spiegel, 1963