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.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Far from the Madding Clutter

As an organization, The People are optimistic and try to avoid negativity at every turn.
As a designer though, going to a magazine store is a pretty difficult experience. It is a typographic acid trip.
There is a vast sea of niche lifestyle magazines, which, for the most part, lack any real savvy but are honest and maintain a readership through consistent content.
Then there are the self-conscious, fashion-y magazines that try to out-avant-garde each other every month or quarter. They cost loads to make. And deliver little. And there's a new one every time you turn around.
And for some reason, there are very few magazines that offer great content AND design.
In terms of content, Esquire, Arena, and Wallpaper bring something to the table.
When considering design, Purple Fashion Magazine, Cabinet and, the ever-inventive Visionaire are quite stunning.
There are only a few magazines that have a great offering i
n both categories.
Dwell is well-shot with good writing and engaging subjects specifically for people with an interest in architecture, design and interiors.
Swindle is a wide-ranging youth culture magazine which is edited by Roger Gastman (of While you Were Sleeping...) and art directed by Sheppard Fairey (Obey). There is a rotating door of guest writers, illustrators and photographers that maintain a newness necessary in any culture magazine. Many of them are young and ambitious, and there is something intrinsically "good" about that.
Stopsmiling is an excellent publication. The writing, photography and design is top-notch and consistent. What makes it really unique is that the focus shifts per issue and keeps the content fresh.
Icon was just guest edited by Peter Saville a couple of months ago. And though that issue was really good, many other issues are bogged down by articles about the design emporers. In general, it is well-shot and well-designed.
The best covers, however, are coming from a UK magazine called Exit. When every other magazine is zigging and zagging, maybe it's best to just _____. The content is ambitious. The photography is high-quality and in many cases, truly artistic. But mostly, it's the cover. The confidence to avoid the crash!, pow!, zing! of the magazine market is admirable. No photos. No feature-teasers. Just beautiful, iconic colors. And now with gradients! A salute to Exit.