In The Design Method Eric Karjaluoto meticulously and generously details the journey he and his team at smashLAB follow through the creative quagmire. From a project’s early research stages; through strategies and cunning plans; past top-level conceptualisation and onwards, far beyond the edges of iterating, prototyping and more iterating; Karjaluoto’s design methods, rightly, leave little to fortuitous happenstance or creative genius.
It's tough out there. When you’re being paid to deliver great creative, on demand, everyday, you need a system. You need a design method; to manage the process, your client, your employer, your stress levels and your sanity. Methodology guides you through the blocks, around the obstacles and under the aquaducts of distraction.
I’ve introduced methods and systems into studios. Some have even worked. Some have been welcomed, some rejected. Others have been fought and a few have been embraced. I believe in processes because I’m not a creative genius; I’ve experienced the pressure and stress of demand. Due diligence has helped me to deliver sound creative – on time and to budget. What’s that thing Einstein said? About spending most of his time thinking about the problem and only a tiny bit of time thinking about the solution. The Design Method is all about that sort of thing. It's about following sensible procedures to take care of the business of design.
The Design Method describes more processes than you may ever be likely to eat. In doing that it might just help you find the ones that will work for you. It touches on things you’ll know, that’s what it did for me – Karjaluoto describes much that I already do, more that I wish I did do and a lot that I know I should do. On top of that it did one really great and helpful thing: it reaffirmed my faith in systems.
The Design Method provides the designer with the opportunity to find order in the creative mess. Not to stifle or restrict but to enable and liberate. If you’re starting out it could prove especially helpful – although it's likely to require discipline and diligence if you are to benefit most from what it offers. If you’ve been at it for a while, it might help you fine tune how you practise your craft.
One of the first really interesting things I learned about the discipline of interpretive design was that it has principles – and I love a principle: fundamental, underlying, guiding ideas. The six principles of heritage interpretation were first expressed by Freeman Tilden who is basically the father of interpretive design. He is The Man.
A couple of weeks ago I delivered a lecture to first year IMD students, introducing them to the idea of art direction. When I was preparing it; trying to find ways to describe the art of art direction; one of Tilden's principles sprang to mind. All six go like this:
Number one is brilliant. In number two, the idea that interpretation is "revelation based on information" is equally powerful. But for the task at hand, number four jumped out. Paraphrasing somewhat, I concluded that "the chief aim of art direction is [in a way] to provoke".
We were researching illustrators recently, for a project we might be working on. Can't say much about the actual project but it could be amazing. While I was digging around, I remembered Eyvind Earle.
Artist, author and illustrator, you might know Earle's work for Disney from around the 50s; he worked on background illustrations and styling for things like Sleeping Beauty.
Earle died in 2000 but he left behind a stunning legacy of artwork. You can see lots of it here and watch a revealing autobiographical video. I think it's his serigraphs (screen prints) that are the most remarkable. Astonishing work.
It was ages before I got around to buying Lars Müller's Lufthansa + Graphic Design – edition 05 from their A5 series. And I completely missed edition 06: HfG Ulm. Well, I wasn't going to make the same mistake with edition 07.
This is from the Lars Müller website:
This book is the first monograph dedicated to the designer Rolf Müller who is known above all for his design of the visual identity of the Munich Olympic Games in 1972. Shortly after graduating from the famous Ulm School of Design, his former professor Otl Aicher entrusted him with this work, which set new standards in international design. In parallel, he established his design firm Büro Rolf Müller in Munich.
On the basis of selected projects, the book attempts to sketch the mentality and methods of his design: For nearly four decades, the firm developed corporate identities, books, magazines and signage systems on the highest level. The firm’s projects include the visual identity of the City of Leverkusen, forged over several decades, and the magazine HQ High Quality for the company Heidelberger Druckmaschinen, of which 39 issues were published.
As a storyteller and system designer, Rolf Müller has left his mark on international design history with his work. His stance has had a decisive impact in shaping the way in which today’s communications designers view their profession.
It's as if I planned it. Following up the Avant Garde emblazoned presentation pack with Unit Editions simply marvellous compact version of their Herb Lubalin book. For a while, maybe five or so years back (maybe more) graphic design was all about Herb's most famous fonts, AG and semi-self-titles ITC Lubalin Graph. OK, that's a considerable exaggeration but the two fonts were pretty prominent for a while.
Way back in the mid-seventies it was the same. Good times for the International Type Corporation, co-founded by Lubalin at the beginning of that decade. The distinct thing about ITC was its house style. Even when re-issuing typefaces based on historical models, like Garamond, they imbued the design with a distinctly large x-height. Purists would argue that ITC Garamond is NOT Garamond. Controversial stuff.
The Unit Editions book is great; richly capturing the life and beautiful work of an important figure in typography and graphic design.
This years Pentagram holiday book records the strange case of the wild dog that sued the manufacturing giant. The plaintiff, one W E Coyote, disgruntled by the poor performance of products purchased from the defendant, the Acme Company, sought damages for loss of income and personal injury suffered following the use of the afore mentioned items.
With supporting diagrammage and wit, it's a very funny little book. The text, by Ian Frazier, was originally published in The New Yorker in 1990 and re-purposed here with products designed by Daniel Weir and illustrated by Simon Denzel.
You can read more about it here.
Maybe I'm wrong but I suspect that, when it comes to The Designer's Republic, you may be either a lover or a hater. Perhaps you either embrace their self-indulgent creativity or repel against the pomposity of it all. What's the big idea? You could ask.
Al gave me this album the other week. Not a particlular fan of the artist, he lifted the sleeve just because of its cover. And snapped it up after realising its creators.
I'll be frank: I don't fall into the first TDR camp; I'm not a lover. But…now time has passed and their impact has proliferated; and as I've grown as a designer and come to understand the importance of the agitators on the business of graphic design as a whole; I can see this kind of work in a different light.
If you were to scrutinise this album sleeve you'd discover all sorts of self-indulgencies that have very little to do with the musician's work inside: Pantone references, units of measure, holes that interact with what lies beneath. You might say, distrations. Flagrant disrespect for the true purpose of the album sleeve which surely should reflect the musician's artistry, not the graphic designer's.
And yet I can't help feel the celebration of the sleeve as an artefact, especially now we're so many years on (this album was released in 1999) and the format has become a thing of the past*, makes for an exciting experience. I think, had I picked this sleeve up forteen years ago, it might have annoyed me; seeing it now it just makes me smile. It's of a time. It's more like art now, which is perhaps how it was always intended to be.
* I say this because although vinyl is, obviously, still made and sleeve art still laboured, the format's place in the world has changed.
In 1956, Penguin's Head of Design Hans Schmoller asked Abram Games to come on board as a Consultant Art Director. The publisher was about to embark on its first foray into the world of the full colour pictorial cover. A bold and ill-fated move; the experiment was short-lived as the public were confused by such unnatural work.
Strange to think that mere full colour covers could have caused such controversy, but they did so Allen Lane pulled the plug. But not before Games had designed a new cover grid and rolled out thirty two editions; some designed by himself and others out-sourced to a select number of illustrators.
This whole episode in Penguin's rich history has now been captured by Games' own daughter Naomi; Abram Games and Penguin Books has been published by the Penguin Collectors Society and includes reproductions of the entire series of covers. It's available to non-members for a mere £9 from the Society's online shop – along side a whole load of other great publications from the PCS.
I was ever so slightly bowled over by this package that arrived last week. Superbly packaged in a bespoke printed envelope and wrapped in it's own unique tissue paper, my special letter forms part of Pauline Clancy's Wood Type project. You can find out more about it here. While you're over there, check out Pauline's other work. You might remember Pauline from this piece she did last year.