Friday, October 26, 2007

Wim Crouwel & Massimo Vignelli in conversation at The New School (AIGA)

It is the attitudes of designers like Crouwel and Vignelli that breathe intensity into the world of design. Both are modernists and have established a strict set of rules for themselves when thinking about design. Their personalities are very different however, and it shows in their work and philosophies.
Vignelli is an absolutist, a purist and a staunch adherent to his rules about responsible design. He works with 5 typefaces that he feels very strongly about (Garamond, Bodoni, Helvetica, Univers, Century) and , if pushed to it, a couple of others. He works only with the grid. That pin at his throat is a Grid-pin that he designed and wears every day. His confidence is unwavering and his work backs up his philosophy. He spoke out about Emigre and Rudy van der Lans, saying that it is the worst thing to happen to typography. But he gestured repeatedly toward Jonathan Hoefler (in the crowd) as someone who is carrying the typographic torch. Agreed.
Crouwel, another man of strict conduct, is however, more of a seeker. It is clear that he is trying (and has always tried) to find something new. Throughout his career, Crouwel has developed new typefaces, and redefined applications for the Grid. He has been adventurous with color and our perception of typography. And his philosophies have, admittedly, changed over the years.
Both designers have advanced the visual state and mentality of design -- Crouwel through expansion, and Vignelli through refinement. Both, of course, are mandatory aspects of growth.
It is refreshing to hear the voices of these designers in the midst of a design world that is losing its sense of craft and its adherence to the fundamentals of typographic communication. Things that were said:
Fashion is the enemy of design, because fashion equals obsolescence.
Contemporary is the opposite of Modern.
The fundamental idea in all this is to use design-thinking to create logical, lasting constructs for the world. Flashy, fashionable approaches don't last and don't work, because they don't create a deep-running, emotional connection with the viewer.
Cleverness and fashionability will be forgotten while intelligence and style live forever.

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