Tuesday, March 29, 2011

About Helvetica

Helvetica. It's a typeface that is everywhere, a symbol of modernism, as neutral as Switzerland, and very simply, something that we can't seem to ignore in our everyday. The most powerful part of the movie for me was when Mike Parker said, "When you talk about the design of Haas Neue Grotesk or Helvetic, what it's all about is the interrelationship of the negative shape, the figure-ground relationship, the shapes between characters and within characters, with the black, if you like, with the inked surface. And the Swiss pay more attention to the background, so that the counters and the space between characters just hold the letters. I mean you can't imagine anything moving; it is so firm. It not a letter that bent to shape; it's a letter that lives in a powerful matrix of surrounding space. It's... oh, it's brilliant when it's done well." I think he followed this quote by something like went like, Helvetica is the best thing since figure-ground relationship done well. That must be sliced bread for the typographer.

The creation of Helvetica owes itself to Swiss typeface designer Max Miedinger and Eduard Hoffmann, it initially was called Neue Haas Grotesk, which was obviously more of a mouthful, and almost was called Helvetia, which is the Latin name for Switzerland. The typeface is used in American Apparel, in North Face, on subway and street signs everywhere, on the backs of garbage trucks, it's something that is honestly very ubiquitous to our modern world, and, Erik Spiekermann will argue, is an example of how bad taste is ubiquitous. However, most of the designers featured in this movie do not share Spiekermann's views, through his coaxing German accent, he describes not only his "incurable if not mortal disease" of being a typeomaniac, but how he prefers the rhythm and contrast of other typefaces instead of the more legible but static typeform of Helvetica. This is contrasted by Massimo Vignelli, who prefers his typefaces to read dog, but not to bark. As interesting as it was to understanding the impact of Helvetica in our world, I more enjoyed this movie because I could now put faces and personalities behind these designers, the romance that each person shares with typography, for the beautiful Swiss Modern type posters and designs, for the awe struck value of Will Crouwel's work. I can't explain it, though Helvetica has become so ubiquitous, I admire it's neutrality for it's cleanness, it's ability to take any word or phrase and give me impact not through some sort of handwritten personality per say, but through composition, typographic color, and dynamic layout. Though Helvetica can be a little squat for me, I did appreciate this documentary by Gary Hustwit.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Type on the Streets

Alexander took me on a lovely date.
One that consisted of him driving me around Lawrence and Kansas City and me jumping out of the car to take pictures of sweet typography. We enjoyed the 80 degree weather, I almost accidentally got into a stranger's car when I thought it was Alexander driving, and we dined on tuna steaks and fish tacos on the Plaza. I think this has been my favorite journal assignment yet.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

30 Conversations on Design

So, a brief summary of the videos that asked two questions (“What single example of design inspires you most?” and “What problem should design solve next?” )

Kit Hinrichs

typography, how letterforms are expressed.

what could be improved: going through security in airplane (more arcane), out of touch with design in 21st century

agustin garza

act of giving, holding offerings, ancient sculpture example of inspiring design

the integrity

where design is going to head next: environmental and social constraints will influence design. designers have the ability to seek solutions, will play a already present role in focusing on what is valuable and important (solving world problems)

ami kealoha

rubberband, different uses, ubiquitous, about the material, simply designed for tones of applications

design to solve noise and light pollution, rapid urbanization

design to solve health problems not only to add to consumerism

deborah adler

pieta by michealanglo, for the emotion it evoked, feeling empathy for mary, feeling connection towards the piece, raw emotion in the piece that we should all look for in design

a designer's strength should not be defined by their style or aesthetic. rather, it is about having a "love affair" with your audience, figuring out their problems and the desire to transform their problem into a solution.

emily pilloton

design as a process, not a product. mcgiver. fictional character, the original design thinker, most minimal resources, severe constraints. solutions are simple, often improbable but elegant.

design should tackle next: design as a untapped resource in public school systems (k-12), how we can offer the best parts of design (the process) for public education, design for education and design as eduction, redesigning education itself.

gong szeto

maps as visualization to tell stores, to explain

maps of military bases around iran

power of thoughtful design in telling story and transmit critical knowledge, design as a tool to make people smarter

k kirk and n. strandberg

iphone, interface (intuitive and revolutionary), consolidates, inspires others

problem should design solve next: already happening already Facebook and twitter--open up different avenues of communication

better wi-fi, better movement towards city wide wi-fi, universal ability compatibility in smart phones, better accessibility of smart phones (cheaper, more available)

ken carbon

ingénuité, utilité, beauty (in that order), if it's a great idea, and is useful, is going to be beautiful

q drum for water, water retrieval device, a large donut with a cap, pulled by a rope

simple, brilliant, makes life easier

#2: anything dealing with education. education + knowledge, leads to empowerment, which leads to positive change

tony hawk

apple products

lessening the intimidation of technology, doing what apple is doing right now by making new advancements still exciting and accessible

william drenttel

artifacts of graphic designs are not things we should worry about, rather, design that has more engagement with our world is more important, what inspires

design for scale change, not typography, not posters. focus on those challenges rather than print, and typical graphic design

start having expertise and knowledge, collaborating, find a way use design as a methodology, problem solving to lead us to solution to help the world.

So, I most connected to gong szeto's answer, of using design as the means to spread knowledge. I think that right now, as a graphic design student, the power of communicating ideas through graphic media is something that initially attracted me to this major, and has managed to keep my attention. It's tangible, it's concrete, and when it is done correctly, it is the personification of how beautiful the concept of an idea is.

If I was to answer these two questions myself, today, and I'm sure my answer would probably change due to my mood, of time of day, because right now I'm okay with being a fickle thing, I would answer as such:

1. The single example of design that inspires me the most is the work of my peers and fellow design students. The amount of potential I see motivates me to work harder and better, the passion that's there, the drive to improve, makes me proud to be one of them. I'm living in a time of real change, where my generation is passionate about using design to solve world problems, and taking classes with other students, and learning from my professors makes me unbelievably excited to design. This week I participated in a portfolio review day, as a baby sophomore in the program, it was intimidating at first to be in a room of juniors and seniors with their beautifully printed work all lined up, but I can't begin to describe how exciting it was to see everyone's work. It just pushes me to work harder so that I can create work like theirs. It was just the motivation I needed.

2. Design needs to solve education, whether that is the education system or the curriculum in our public school systems, it need to happen. Now. That's a problem we, as humans, need to solve.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Jonathan Harris

Jonathan Harris does it all. Computer programmer, charming nerd, thoughtful designer, motivated humanitarian, he makes every other twenty to thirty year-old feel like we've done nothing significant or remotely exciting in comparison to his work. Initial thoughts of the AIGA talk? Shit he's young. Next thought? Wow, his work is impressive, and his attitude toward his work (the internet, the way humans interact with the web, computer programming) is even more impressive, kinda overwhelming, and unexpected.

Harris is a programmer and a designer, and most importantly, a human. He dives into the purely rational, orderly, everything has a place and a right and wrong, every bug can be eventually traced to a source, programer. On the other hand, he wants things to be beautiful, wants to feel emotions with his body rather than the very cerebral and mind-talk interactions he has with his computer. He says this duality is difficult, he must make an extraordinary trade off as to be either a great programmer and a bad human being (distinct and unable to fully compartmentalize his work in the real world among other people), or a bad programmer and a great human being.

One of his most impressive piece of work was this program he developed for a show for MoMA that compiled all of the online dating statistics from all the online websites on the internet into this interactive design program that communicated all the different feelings and thoughts from these websites on an hourly basis. This is program, however, the design is exquisitely beautiful, he portrays each human within these balloons (pink for women, blue for men), these little isolated beings who are in the search for a complete match. Not only does the program mathematically determines matches, it is even more impressive in its endearing, and shockingly human gestures. His portrayal of information makes us think deeply about us as humans because online dating websites, which allot a few hundred characters for its participants to describe themselves, get to the root of who these humans are, what they want, and what they are about, and therefore are a pretty interesting snap shot of our society today.

Harris compares the internet today as an adolescent, someone who's at the stage of growth where things can go very right or very wrong. He says that the elimination of the individual has occurred. The internet is also very much like this condo that everyone has a room in, everyone can have one, free of charge now a days and even websites offer everyone some sort of personalization, but every room is different, no matter what pictures we tape onto our walls. He says that a few dozen geeks, all male, mind you, have the ability to really design and decide for the rest of us, these computer programmers who, like Harris, have difficulty removing themselves out of their fake, beautiful rational world, and relate to other human beings (let along interact with them!), have the ability to create what our internet looks like today and tomorrow. Harris understands how scary this is, for a few to decide for all. And for a few dissociative humans to decide what our internet, our still growing adolescent internet, will be tomorrow.

Harris asks designers whether or not our work is benefiting our audience, not on a design level, but more importantly, a human level. Is our work doing something to help our fellow humans become better humans? Have we contributed to this overall goal?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

About Type

_ What are the advantages of a multiple column grid? Whereas columns increase flexibility and provide unlimited compositions options, multiple columns are better for more complex projects that require the interaction of diverse visual elements. Discourages symmetrical compositions too.

_ How many characters is optimal for a line length? words per line? 66 character line is regarded as ideal, this is approximately 10 to eleven words with an average of five letters

_ Why is the baseline grid used in design? Imaginary grid that type sits upon that allows for continuity within a design.

_ What is a typographic river? When there are uneven spaces between words that are justified, causing large gaps in the paragraph.

_ From the readings what does clothesline or flow line mean?The flow line or clothesline is an imaginary line that aligns horizontally to text and allows for easy readability and flow.

_ How can you incorporate white space into your designs?Leave margins of paper open, break text into smaller paragraphs and group them.

_ What is type color/texture mean?How type is used to create a visual tone within the text. Includes typeface, size, spacing, line measurement, etc.

_ What is x-height, how does it effect type color? The height of lower case letters of a typeface without ascenders or descenders, the higher the type color, the lighter it seems, it's also more readable.

_ In justification or H&J terms what do the numbers: minimum, optimum, maximum mean? If text is justified, there is reasonable minimum word space (usually M/5 or a fifth of an em), as well as their is a maximum word space and optimum word space in order to avoid bad rivers.

_ What are some ways to indicate a new paragraph. Are there any rules? Ornaments, drop lines, pilcrows and boxes and bullets can be used to mark breaks in streams of continuous text, outdented paragraphs, white space. One rule about paragraphs is to set the opening paragraphs flush left. In continuous text, mark all paragraphs after the first with an indent of at least one en or equal to the leading.

_ What are some things to look out for when hyphenating text.

At hyphenated line-ends, leave at least 2 characters behind and at least three forward. "Fi-nally" is okay, "finally" is not.

Avoid leaving the stub-end of a hyphenated word or any word shorter than four letters, as the last line of a paragraph.

Avoid more than three consecutive hyphenated lines.

Hyphenate proper names only as a last resort.

_ What does CMYK and RGB mean?CMYK is cyan, magenta, yellow black, the color model for printing. RGB is additive color model, uses red, green, blue light to produce color.

_ What does hanging punctuation mean?Quotation mark hangs outside line of text.

_ What is the difference between a foot mark and an apostrophe? A foot mark is often referred to as a dumb apostrophe, just like a inch mark is referred to as a dumb quote, they were common in typewriters and are straight apostrophes.

_ What is the difference between an inch mark and a quote mark (smart quote)? Inch marks were common in type writers, they are straight quotation marks. Quote marks is the one that should be used.

_ What is a hyphen, en dash and em dashes, what are the differences and when are they used. Hyphens are used to separate the worse in a compound adjective, verb, or adverb. En-dashes are used to express a range of values or distance. Em dashes is used to separate abrupt parenthetical elements.

_ What are ligatures, why are they used, when are they not used, what are common ligatures? Two or more letter combined into one character make a ligature. Ligatures used to improve the appearance of type are usually character pairs or triplets that have features that tend to overlap when used together. The ligature creates a smoother transition or connection between characters by connecting crossbars, removing dots over the i, or otherwise altering the shape of the characters, common ligature would be ff.