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.