Sunday, 25 October 2009

6. Hoefler & Frere-Jones

& Frere-Jones have commissioned hundreds of typefaces for various clients of which include Rolling Stone magazine (The Proteus Project), Nike, Disney, etc you can see their fonts on billboards, computer screens and even US Census forms (Interstate) and the presidential campaign for the now elected President Obama (Gotham).

(The Proteus Project)

When Hoefler & Frere-Jones work as a team one designer will sketch the fonts whilst the other adds a fresh perspective and acts as an editor and converse. A Hoefler typeface can be described as having very few right angles, very few straight lines.
Hoefler & Frere-Jones have been described as revivalists in a field surrounded by radicals. They create classic and timeless typefaces that still manage to capture an essence of a pop culture. They are craftsmen and they believe designing fonts is an art form that combines writing, history, language, history, as well as paying respects and homage to the homemade fonts created by signage painters of a time long forgotten. They have such an admiration for these designs of yesteryear that they rummage through the skips and rubbish piles of antique stores collecting old pamphlets, signage, etc.

A recent project of theirs involved drawing inspiration from and taking pictures of old handmade signage that still existed in Manhattan. From these images they discovered some fonts had almost no lower case, some were missing certain letters, and after months of designing, conversing and editing they were able to complete the typeface – the sans-serif typeface Gotham.

Hoefler’s typeface Knockout was recently used for the New York bid to host the 2012 Olympic games. I found it interesting to compare the strikingly different and very controversial London 2012 logo.

5 - Andy Warhol

I’ve always admired Andy Warhol’s album cover for the Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers and the self-titled The Velvet Underground and Nico. These were the first and earliest examples I had ever seen of album covers that you can actually interact with. The basic function of both is the similar: pulling down a zip on a man’s jeans to reveal his cotton briefs and peeling off a banana skin to reveal and phallic looking banana.

I also find it interesting and not surprising that the album cover would be objected in certain areas of the world. One such country was Spain and so an alternative cover had to be designed. Also, the 1992 re-release in Russia altered the zipper to feature the Russian iron sickle.

Warhol also worked on other Rolling Stones album covers.

Andy Warhol, particularly during the 1960’s, had a fascination with the consumerism, mass production and everything looking glamorous yet ‘plastic’.
‘I love Los Angeles. I love Hollywood. They’re so beautiful. Everything’s plastic, but I love plastic. I want to be plastic.’

Warhol named his studio The Factory and throughout the 60’s collaboration would become a defining and controversial aspect of his working method. Using the silkscreen, or screen-print method Warhol produced works based on famous American products, big name celebrities and dollar bills.

It was the aesthetic that interested Warhol, what was on the outside and how pretty it could look. Warhol himself appears to be a victim of the aesthetic, something that he would freely admit - he embodied it. Yet he believed that his work should comment and not particularly protest, on this mass generated beautiful and plastic aesthetic.
Warhol saw this mass production and endless repetition as information overload. People were constantly subjected to these images through their television, repeatedly endlessly to the point it just becomes banal and you just accept it.

Warhol’s works displayed a disassociation with art. This was encapsulated in his works 100 Soup Cans, 100 Coke Bottles and 100 Dollar Bills. The same image repeated over and over to the point where all you can see is the dollar bill or coke bottle. There is perhaps something behind all of these soup cans but one cannot see through these soup cans or more cannot see through their labels.

Warhol further emphasised this idea by his use of silkscreen. He didn’t bother to clean away the smudges and imperfections of the print caused by slips of the screen for example. It could pose the question ‘Would these ‘errors’ even be noticed by the viewers? Can they see beyond the aesthetic to spot the imperfections and the lack of skill and quality assurance?

I am quite interested in the Marilyn Diptych. A diptych is defined as two images that are attached by a hinge – a book. The left side of the Marilyn Diptych is coloured and the right is black and white and distorted. Marilyn Monroe had died a few weeks earlier. I see the coloured side as the side where Marilyn Monroe wanted to be a movie star - it’s all the glitz and glamour. It’s the Marilyn that has become immortalised on the movie screen. And the left-hand side represents Marilyn as the now very dead Norma Jean. The colours, the glitz and the glamor had now gone and we see the image as it originally was although now it has distorted. Having only 2 sides I see this more as a book cover than a complete book. I’m reminded of the saying ‘Never judge a book by its cover’. This is again fitting with Warhol’s interest in the aesthetic.

Warhol continued this style for a cover he designed for Rolling Stone magazine’s move to New York City in 1967. This repeated image this time was the New York born lawyer, congresswoman, social activist and leader of the Women’s Movement Bella Abzug.

‘If you want to know all about Andy Warhol, just look at the surface...There's nothing behind it.’

‘The reason I'm painting this way is that I want to be a machine.’

‘I like boring things. I like things to be exactly the same over and over again...Because the more you look at the same thing, the more the meaning goes away, and the better and emptier you feel.’

Saturday, 24 October 2009

4 - Robert Brownjohn

Robert Brownjohn, known as BJ, is best known for his work designing the James Bond title sequences for the ‘From Russia with Love’ and ‘Goldfinger’. Here BJ projected titles and images onto the bodies of curvaceous women and were risqué at the time but are truly inspired and display a clever interplay between type and image.

He studied at the Institute of Design in Chicago that was formally known as the New Bauhaus. He became the protégé of Laszlo Maholy-Nagy and much of his modernist influence can be seen in BJ’s work. His type/image projection for the Bond titles was probably inspired by Maholy-Nagy’s original cloud projections. BJ was also a fan of jazz and befriended musicians such as Miles Davis and Charlie Parker.

It is said that his most inspirational and playful work was related to music.

BJ believed that words have an emotional and intellectual affect on its audience. In 1956 he formed the design company BCG with fellow designers Ivan Chermayett and Tom Geismar where they were experimented with typography producing the book Watching Type Move. Here they showed that, through a certain placement on page for example, type itself could speak, have emotion, narrative and the power to move.



qu “o” te


BJ is also known for having a strong emphasis on sex in his work, especially the female anatomy. He was a fan of Playboy magazine and in the 1960’s he moved to London where the London’s swinging 60’s provided a more liberal attitude toward design and his own personal habits. His ‘lifelons’ campaign for nylon stockings presented the viewers with only the legs of a woman wearing stocking that is sensual enough without showing much else. The image of the legs was large on the page, the type plays casually alongside and the posters where placed in everyday locations such as the London underground.

In 1963 BJ designed a poster campaign for a pop art exhibition at the Robert Fraser gallery in London entitled ‘Obsession and Fantasy’. This poster presented its viewers with an image of a woman’s naked breasts, the nipples playing a part in of the letters ‘o’ in obsession. BJ saw this as representative of the connection that existed at the time between ‘soft pornography and social radicalism’.

In his article ‘Sex and Typography’, BJ wrote that the idea for this came from his ‘disordered mind’, describing the poster and its composition as an ‘integration of sex, typography and meaning’. The poster stimulates the senses in seeing and reading.

BJ’s work for the Rolling Stones’ album ‘Let it Bleed’ has a ‘before and after’ style cover. The front of the album has the band members playing on a cake that is sat atop of a record on a record player. On the reverse of the album we see the same image but now a piece of the cake has been removed, the record is smashed and the band member are no longer standing. The album cover has some poignancy as the image could be seen as an illustration of the devastating effects drugs can have as it did later in Rolling Stones’ career and on BJ himself.

3 - Gyorgy Kepes

Gyorgy Kepes: Hungarian-born painter, author, designer, author and educator. After immigrating to the US in 1937 he taught design at the New Bauhaus where he taught designers such as Saul Bass. Kepes was interested in unifying both art and science. His thought and work embraced both nature and technology.

Kepes’ art is avant-garde and kinetic ranging from abstract painting to photography, photo-design and exhibition design to large kinetic objects, systems and environmental/ecological organisms.

Above image is entitled Flame Orchard (1972), a 20ft (6-meter) field of burning gas flames that responded to music.

Whispering Signals (1972)
Oil on Canvas

One Integrated Flow of Production, from the Early Series, 1938

Gelatin silver print, gouache, and airbrush on paperboard

I am particularly interested in his photography work. Kepes used light as a creative medium and had a lifelong fascination with optical psychics, through photography, at first portraying them and then an investigation of their mechanics. He had always been devoted to examining the nature of light working with the concept of symmetry, balance and rhythm. His images are mysterious, otherworldly with abstract depths and forms that were created via experiments with light sensitive paper.

Illustration of Language of Vision (pages 1904-67)

Untitled Abstraction

The Two Faces o Juliet


“There is an age-old dialogue between man and light… Our human nature is profoundly phototropic. Men obey their deepest instincts when they hold fast to light in comprehensive acts of perception and understanding through which they learn about the world, orient themselves within it, experience the joy of living, and achieve a metaphoric, symbolic grasp of life.”

Kepes believed that light was an essential tool in art and that ‘Artists afraid of light and the meaning of light.’

“In all major cities of the world, the ebbing of the day brings a second world of light…It is the world of man-made light sources, the glittering dynamic glow of artificial illumination of the twentieth-century metropolis…Washing away the boundary between night and day has lost us our sense of connection with nature and its rhythms. If our artificial illumination is bright and ample, it is without the vitality, the wonderful ever-changing quality of natural light. For the warm, living play of firelight we have substituted the bluish, greenish television screen with its deadening stream of inane images…”

2 - Saul Bass

Saul Bass is best known for his title sequences for film such as Stanley Kubrick’s Spatacus, Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho and Martin Scorsese’s Casino. I've been a fan for a long time now but I was amazed to discover just how influential his contribution to graphic design was and still is. The biggest surprise for me was when I realised he had designed the Kleenex logo and the redesigned Quaker Oats logo. These images have been in my life for as long as I can remember.

Other logos and corporate identities include AT&T, UNITED AIRLINES, EXXON, MINOLTA, BELL, my personal favourite and again a pleasant surprise the WARNER BROS. logo plus many more.

Looking at Bass' graphic design work the fist thing I think is 'minimal' and ‘modern’. Often quoted saying ‘symbolize and summarize’, these were the words that he lived by and this is shown in his work; careful choosing of single images that would set the tone of the piece. The Quaker oats logo is an example of Bass completely stripping down the original idea and setting it to only two (or one if you don't count white) colour.

Bass studied under Gyorgy Kepes who introduced Bass Maholy’s Bauhaus and Russian Constructivism from which Bass took much inspiration and can be seen in much of his works. In the image below we have the movie poster Bass designed for the film Vertigo, 1958 and next to that is 'Hand and Geometry' designed by Gyorgy Kepes in 1939. The work was a photogram with a faint image of a hand behind various linear patterns and a red dot.

Saul Bass was an ardent collector. What he thought was important was the intelligence behind the instinct of why one would choose a particular item and what that would give back to it’s collector.

“These tiny remains of ancient human civilizations, in addition to their intrinsic beauty, bring with them a special kind of mystery—a quality of the distant past, the unknown and unreality of it all. Like the best kind of design or film work, they communicate on two levels: the visceral or emotional level and the more complex intellectual level. The goal, and the ultimate achievement, is to make people feel as well as think.”

1 - M/M Paris

The first thing that strikes me when I see works by M/M Paris is passion and expression. The imagery just wants to jumps off of the page and emerge you in its bright colours, endless patterns and surreal imagery. With print-based work M/M Paris work with photography, illustration, typography and fuse them all together to create a visual roller-coaster and feast for your eyes. It all has a hand-crafted feel about it and it's all very organic and alive, whether it be incorporating human forms into shapes or have a human face awash in penciled colours and patterns.

My first thought would be that M/M Paris' clients are fashion and music. The imagery they create is fresh, rebellious, inventive and indeed they have worked for fashion magazines such as Vogue Paris & Arena Homme and musicians such as Bjork.

Although I don't care much for the image in the above picture I do like the font that M/M Paris have created. M/M Paris also directed their first music video with Bjork and although it begins well and has some nice visuals I did feel like it became very repetitive very quickly.

What I also like is how M/M Paris' works have a sense of controlled chaos. It's big and bright and loud but you can tell it is also sophisticated and not 'over-cooked'. Despite this sophistication though, I do wonder whether or not M/M Paris are more style over substance?

Here are a few more examples of works that I like:

Something else that stood out for me is the book 'Stanley Kubrick's Napoleon: The Greatest Movie Never Made'.

'French design studio M/M Paris were in charge of designing this massive book on Kubrick’s unfilmed masterpiece Napoleon. Tucked inside of a carved-out book, all the elements from Stanley Kubrick’s archives that readers need to imagine what his unmade film about the emperor might have been like, including a facsimile of the script. This collector’s edition is limited to 1,000 numbered copies.'

What I love about this is the sheer size and scope. I think it's very inspired. The leather bound book that houses smaller books has a decadent grandness about it. The book probably wouldn't look out of place if it was in the 18th century sitting on Napoleon's bookshelf. The size and effort put into this book gives a sense of how big a project and a labor of love the film was to Kubrick and how epic is would have been if it had actually been made.