Sunday, January 20, 2013

Welcome to Design History

Thanks for checking out our class blog. I've posted some helpful information here that is useful when taking the midterm or final exam. There is a short video that relates to our discussion question on conceptual imagery. Looking forward to a great semester and our journey through style.

Don't forget to check out the San Diego City College Graphic Design Program blog to find out about design related events in San Diego. Become a follower and grow your design knowledge and contacts.

Creative brainstorming


This week in the learning module we talk about brainstorming techniques. The surrealists were masters at putting the familiar in an unfamiliar setting. This is a simple method I've used for decades to come up with fresh concepts to solve graphic problems. In this example imagine you've been given the assignment to create a visual for an article on Growing the Green Economy.

Start by writing out the name of the article and select the key words.

Underneath each key word make a word list-free associate and write quickly any idea that comes to mind to represent that key word. Your list should be really long to find the best solution.

Force connections between the two key words. Put the familiar in an unfamiliar setting.
What about a piggy bank shaped like the U.S. Treasury building or a bank? What about a dollar bill that looks like astro turf and sprouting wildflowers?

Make small thumbnail sketches of how you would force connections between column one and two and simply go down the list trying out each idea. In this example I have a drawing of a figure watering a small plant that is a dollar sign.

Note: click play and let this short video completely upload, take a short break and come back and you can watch it all the way through.

Midterm Style Splitting

Print this out and study it for the midterm. You will be tested on the following styles in alphabetical order:

A Arts and Crafts
B Art Nouveau
C Cubism
D Dada
E Expressionism
F Futurism
G Surrealism
H Ukiyo-E
I Victorian
J Vienna Secession

There are clues that can help you split some of the styles of graphic design and modern art. Look closely at an image and use the style characteristics as well as other clues like language to differentiate one style from another.

The Victorian era is easy to recognize as the renderings are naturalistic [they look photographic] printed with chromolithography. You won't see the abstraction or stylization of image. It will look like it is in full color and often you will see a border that has all kinds of ornament in it. The passion for ephemera includes images of sweetness, nostalgia, children, butterflies, wildflowers, flags. If there is any typography the language would be English and the font selection decorative. Perhaps there are people in the image and they might be in Victorian attire.

Arts and Crafts couldn't be more different than Victorian. Often it is in black and white, one color or just a few unlike the full range of hues found in Victorian graphics. Leaves and flowers are highly stylized and abstracted and are often used to form elaborate borders. Horror Vacuii, a crowding of design elements in the field often results in very little white space. The affinity for historicism or use of past styles is evident especially when the imagery is medieval figures. As a private press movement you can also recognize if an image looks like a book. The fonts are more classical and not decorative as in Victorian graphics but they also liked to use initial caps. The language is English.

Ukiyo-e reveals itself through Japanese themes as a result of isolationism. You might see geisha girls, kabuki theatre, nature or scenes from everyday Japanese life such as women weaving. The method used was woodcuts and looking at these images you have a sense that you are frozen in time at floating objects in a floating world. If typography is present it would be in Japanese.

Art Nouveau might possibly get mixed up with Arts and Crafts but careful observation makes the difference evident. Both styles use stylized natural forms of birds, flowers and leaves. Art Nouveau had international popularity and languages might include French, German, Spanish and English. If there is typography and it is written in any language other than English it is a good clue that the image might be Art Nouveau. Look for the whiplash curve for bimorphic, curvilinear lines. Women look exotic as if they are removed from contemporary time and place. The use of a range of colors also helps you to seperate this style from English Arts and Crafts.

Tall, thin compositions and elongated figures and typography are an important part of Vienna Secession imagery. Stylization is used and flat, unmodulated color is an important indicator of the style. Typography is hand drawn and stylized, often very difficult to read but a strong visual match for the imagery. Possible languages might include English with references to Scotland, German and Austrian. Early works sometimes resemble stained glass windows with geometric spatial divisions conveying spiritual and mystical ideas. Highly stylized roses are a common motif.

In modern art, Cubism is most easily identified by the faceting of surfaces. It is like you are looking at the facets of a diamond and this is a result of simultaneity where the subject is viewed from several angles at once, the subject remaining stationary while the viewer or artist moves around the subject. Monochromatic palettes are seen in analytical cubism and geometric shapes. This style originated in France.

Futurism was born in Italy and often you will see futurist poetry or text in an image that might be written in Italian. They like to write the word futurista in their works. Free, uncontrolled typography and the use of onomatopoeia where words are used whose sounds suggest a sense or emotion. An example of this might be scrabrrrrrraanng or esplosione in a Marinetti poem. In figurative works the viewer remains staionary and the subject moves, the subject is represented in multiple positions at once. In graphic works letters suggest sounds from different sources heard at once. Graphic illustrations such as Depero would include the machine aesthetic such as robots, automatons or elements suggesting industry. Strong diagonal lines imply dynamism and futurists worshipped speed, technology, and war.

Dada can be identified by photomontage, absurdity, humor or social criticism. Ready made materials and found objects often find their way into the works. Random chance plays its part and Dadaists criticized the decadence of European society and a world they thought had gone mad with war. German is the primary language and you might see pieces that mock Hitler, or the Mona Lisa.

As there are two schools of Expressionism that originated in Germany it can sometimes be difficult to identify it. Die Brücke was known for bold contour drawing that expressed a deep sense of social crisis and empathy for the poor. Woodcuts and exaggerated distorted color, drawing and proportions are present. In Der Blaue Reiter you see thick paint and in the works of Kandinsky and Klee you see a search for a spiritual reality through color, form and line.

Surrealists works are sometimes confused with Dada. Does it look like a dream or a nightmare you might have had last night?
Dream imagery and personal symbolism are evident in these works. You can find illogical juxtapositions of elements and the familiar in an unfamiliar setting. Originating in Spain the images are often bizarre and unexpected and this makes it difficult to distinguish them from Dada. If the social criticism is missing and it is more like a dream then you are looking at surrealism.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Style splitting for the Final Exam: Part One

An easy style to identify is Plakatstil meaning "poster style" . Look for flat background color and a dominant stylized product with the name of the product written out. This style originated in Germany so often the text will be often be in German. There were many posters done during the war for both sides and other than selling products this is a common theme.

Art Deco was a wildly popular geometric style that went beyond graphics to typography, buildings [the Chrysler building], furniture, jewelry and product design. Known for it's zig-zag line, geometric shapes, and the machine aesthetic, in these works you will see streamlining and converging lines. Eclecticism and international motifs such as Assyrian and American Indian were incorporated into designs. A.M. Cassandre is perhaps the most famous art deco designer and many of his works are travel posters written in French. To see lots of Art Deco architecture head for Miami.

Suprematism: Non-representational. pure colors, basic geometric shapes, text looks Russian, often uses red and black on a beige colored background.

Constructivism characteristics include: Geometric shapes, asymmetry,diagonal lines and the text looks Russian, often uses red and black on a beige colored background.
A primary difference would be the first is non-representational [abstract geometric shapes] and the second has recognizable images.

De Stijl is noted for it's use of primary colors [red, yellow, blue] with neutrals [black, white and gray] and horizontal and vertical perpendicular lines. Launched in the Netherlands the movement included graphics, architecture and furniture.

The most important school of graphic design in history, the Bauhaus aimed to deliver a message and communicate. Function was more important than decoration and Jan Tschichold and others worked with the new typography. It was sans serif and asymmetrical. Purity, clarity and simplicity were goals and new approaches to photography included extreme scale contrasts, bird's eye and worm's eye photography. Montage was another method used and you can often easily identify these works as they have text that reads Bauhaus. Many pieces were promotional for the school as they produced graphic design, architecture, furniture and product design bringing a new unity of art and technology.

The Modern Movement in America has a Bauhaus influence but American content. Text will be written in English and have American themes. It can also be identified in the graphics created for the WPA or Works Progress Administration an effort to put unemployed artists to work during the depression. If you find a poster with text for a governmental program or agency such as the Rural Electrification Administration or Office of Emergency Management you are most likely in the right category.

The ITS or International Typographic Style originated in Switzerland and was incredibly popular with a long life span. Asymmetry, flush left/ragged right layouts and sans serif letters with bold words for emphasis are clues. Designs were reductive, objective with no superfluous decoration. The use of grids in the placement of images and text were key to
the style.

Style splitting for the Final Exam part 2

Mixing New York school up with conceptual image is easy to do. Look for the importance of shape as in 19-19, 19-5, 19-6, 19-20 in your bookplates in chapter 19. Search for that unexpected surprise such as the barbed wire in Paul Rand's Direction cover 19-1 or the flames in Saul Bass's 19-22. Content is American here unlike the conceptual image that could be American,
Polish, German or Cuban. If it is Polish, German or Cuban it is conceptual art.

Uniquely American approach with origins in European modernism
Playful, visually dynamic and unexpected
Analyze communications content-reduce to symbolic essence
Use of shape
Asymmetrical balance

This style is it a logotype or pictograph...olympic signage then you are in the right category. 20-14 and 20-46 are examples of the logo and pictograph.

Corporate identity
Logotypes and identities
Pictograph signage for Olympics and transportation

This category is most often confused with the New York School. A way to differentiate the two is that conceptual images are closer to surrealism with the familiar in an unfamiliar setting. New York school relies more on shape and unexpected surprises. Splitting these two styles is most likely your biggest challenge. American, Polish, German and Cuban based these can help you split hairs. Study 21-26, 21-42 and 21-58 and see how they all put the familiar in an unfamiliar setting.

Conceptual Image
Narrative information communicated with ideas and concepts
Familiar in an unfamiliar setting
Scale changes/substitution/visual puns and play

The larger category Postmodern Design/Digital Revolution will be used to describe visual images that include deconstruction,
new wave, retro/vernacular and digital era. If the image looks like it was created on a computer then you are looking at this period. The only subcategory of visuals that might fool you is retro [as it is meant to reference past styles]. Check out these images on 481-7 and look carefully at them. For example 23-40 where Paula Scher re-invents a famous Herbert Matter poster to sell swatch watches.

For the written part of the exam you should print out these characteristics.
Post Modern Design/Deconstruction
Broke with international typographic style communications
Communicated emotional qualities with expressive typography
Uses computers to generate layouts/typography

New Wave Typography
Stair stepped rules
Some evidence of grid underlying organization
Layering, overlapping [simultaneity]

Eclectic modernist European design of first half of century
Disrespect for proper rules of typography-placed in new ways
Kinky mannered type of 20s/30s

Friday, June 18, 2010