Imaginary Interview – Menna Hafez

The chosen graphic designer for the interview is Ellen Lupton

It is important to give a brief history of Ellen Lupton as a graphic designer. Lupton is one of the few female designers not only in America but worldwide. This is because this profession is dominated by males as compared to the female gender. Apart from being a Graphic Design MFA program director of at Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) in Baltimore, she also works in the National Design Museum as curator of contemporary design at Cooper-Hewitt (Ellen, 2010). She was born in 1963 in Pennsylvania but grew up in Baltimore MD. She is a twin sister to Julia whose life has not been published as much as Ellen’s She has published several books of graphic designs in different spheres for a variety of audiences due to her love for typography and art. Below is an excerpt from an interview that I carried out with her:

screen-shot-2014-05-27-at-3-28-20-pm

Question: Who is Ellen Lupton as an individual and in the context of graphic design?

Answer: I am many persons in one being. First I am a mother of two lovely sons, Ruby and Jay; secondly, a wife to Mr. Abbot Miller; thirdly I am a sister to one and only twin sister called Dr. Julia who we have collaborated with in design work and have written few books together such as Design Your Life: The Pleasures and Perils of Everyday Things and D.I.Y Kids, just to mention the two.

Within the context of graphic design, my hands are full because apart from being a graphic designer, I am also a director and curator by equal measure and most importantly a writer. I have personally authored more than ten books and co-authored several excluding the peer review ones which I have done many times.

Question: I know you have been involved in many graphic design projects. Would you pinpoint one of your memorable projects by giving the facts how you commissioned this project?

Answer: I do not want to give an impression that I take a specialty in my different projects. I must mention that I do treat and value all my projects in equal measure. However, because you have asked about only one I would like to mention the one I did in 2006 which was about the Triennial. It was titled “Design Life Now.” The reason why I take this project with the exception is the fact that it was purposely designed to catapult the graphic design to the modern life. It was an eye-opener to the social media as it included some populist forms of new social media such as the open-source software, blogs, and D.I.Y magazines (Ellen, 2010). All these were designed to make design literacy part of the mainstream culture, thus helping to put my own desire and design in the public domain. To affirm this point, I need to point out that I am an avid blogger just for the purpose of constructively engaging the public on matters graphic design. I am much active on two blogs: design-your-life.org and DIYKids.org. These are two sites that constantly apply design to everyday life and are co-edited with my twin sister Julia.

Question: Thank you for that in-depth answer. Now, would you volunteer to us some of the restrictions and requirements that the project had to put in place?

Answer: Thank you also for asking such an important question. First, I want to make mention of Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) in Baltimore where I am the Graphic Design MFA program director. This is a special mention because, apart from the institution providing me with the graphic design lab that I have enjoyed working from, they availed to me some of the budding graphic designers who are still adventures and able to learn through taking academic risks. The project required such professionals in order to come to fruition. Another important requirement for the project were the resources (in terms of literature for research purposes and equipment; this was made available by the lab that we worked from). Secondly, when you talk of restriction, I may not be in a position to tell which restrictions you are inferring to; but I can tell you for a fact that I was restricted by the funds that were available to the project. We could only do as much as the point to which the funds allowed us. A caveat though, I am not lamenting of the scarcity of funds to cast the institution in a bad light. No, the institution has endeavored to ensure that it appropriates research funds accordingly and has been helpful to us only that the institution has several projects in different faculties that must also run.

Question: What were your intentions, viewpoint, and thoughts on this particular project?

Answer: You see, one of the notions that people have always held on to is that graphic design is a reserve for the chosen few: and that it should be within the realm of such people. But you realize that we are leaving in a global village and we must act like the same. Culture is dynamic and globalization makes it change in such a way that is terrific. Bringing graphic design to the social media was a way of reaching to everyone that values graphic design. Moreover, I think that it helped me to demystify this notion that it is only a reserve for the few. And I think the project helped in doing just that.

Question: How do you think your contribution as a graphic designer has impacted on your admirers and anybody that follows your work?

Answer: I am glad that I am not only a designer but also a curator too. Going by the nature of my work, I am glad that it has not only imparted knowledge to many but informed the general public because my graphic design work touches on different spheres of life.

Question: Lastly, How do you feel about the fact that you are one of the few females in this profession?

Answer: Awesome!!

Interviewer: Thank you for your time.

 

Interview with Theo van Doesburg

bio_van_doesburg_theo
Theo van Doesburg
Dutch Painter, Designer, and Architect 

 

In 1917, Piet Mondrian and Theo van Doesburg established the De Stijl movement – translating to ‘the style’ in Dutch. It included a utopian vision and avant-garde design. The intention of De Stijl artists is to reveal universal harmony via visual design. The movement’s core concepts include geometric shapes – such as straight lines, rectangles, and squares – and primary colors.

Today we will be speaking with Theo van Doesburg.

 

Q: It’s exciting to be speaking with you today, Mr. van Doesburg. How are you today?
TVD: I’m doing well, thank you.

Q: You’ve revolutionized a movement. Your beliefs were clear, concise, and strong.
TVD: Thank you. The movement initiated due to a need to communicate – we had big ideas and truths to reveal. As artists, it came out in a visual language. I coined terms like ‘neoplasticism’ to further explain the new concepts.

Q: Why did you feel the need to coin the term ‘neoplasticism’?
TVD: It can be hard to explain abstract concepts. De Stijl artists needed a vocabulary that didn’t exist to explain this new concept. ‘Neoplasticism’ is a term unique to De Stijl and articulates the visual aspects of our core set of beliefs – primary color use, geometric shapes, strong horizontal and vertical line use, and a sense of balance and harmony that is unique to this particular style.

Q: Can you explain the De Stijl movement?
TVD: De Stijl is the style we use to express our concepts. I believe that painting, architecture, and design should be integrated into one. This is what spurred the creation of De Stijl. Our goals as artists, designers, and architects include revealing the harmony of the world through the use of geometric shapes, primary color, and prominent line use.

Q: What is it about you that made you into a revolutionary?
TVD: Thank you. I prefer to think of myself as a person who has an idea to communicate – an important set of beliefs to show the workings of the universe – my purpose is clear. It’s important to share this new knowledge in a clear way that others can understand, so as to reflect the truth of the universe in art. The integration of these creative fields is a step into the future.

Q: Why was it important to you to create the new art style?
TVD: Because nothing like it existed. Prior to De Stijl, each of these creative fields were treated as being separate. We needed to articulate the laws of the universe – the harmony, the balance. To do this, minimal design elements are required – as a matter of fact, only the most basic elements reveal this truth – geometric shapes, balanced compositions, and primary colors.

Q: What do you think makes De Stijl architecture successful?
TVD: The geometric shapes and primary colors create balance. The harmony of the universe is displayed in the visuals of the structures. The structure functions as an example of design, art, and architecture reflected in one piece.

van_doesburg_theo_6
Counter Composition in Dissonance 16 (1925) 

Q: Which piece of yours do you believe reflects the ideals of the De Stijl Movement best?
TVD: Each piece reflects the concepts of the movement in its own way. My favorite piece of mine, personally, is Counter Composition in Dissonance 16 (1925). This is because it includes the use of primary color, as well as all other formal elements!

Q: What makes your pieces graphic design?
TVD: They are simple designs used to communicate an idea.

Q: Can you define ‘harmony’?
TVD: Of course. In De Stijl, ‘harmony’ refers to the balance of design elements on the page – as well as their ability to reflect the balance in the universe.

Q: Your personal take on De Stijl is Elementarism. Can you speak on this a bit?
TVD: Of course. Elementarism ‘emphasizes subtle shifts in tones, tilting squares and rectangles at angles relative to the picture plane, and allowed straight horizontal and vertical lines to be colored, varied in length, and disconnected from one another.’

Q: What are your hopes for the future of design?
TVD: That the ideas of De Stijl permeate the blanket of the world and reveal to the people that the universal harmony and art are one. I would like to see the integration of art, design, and architecture continue.

Q: Thank you so much for your time, Mr. van Doesburg.
TVD: My pleasure!

 
Theartstory.org. Important Art and Artists of De Stijl. The Art Story Foundation. 2018. Web. Accessed March 21st, 2018.

Arithmetic Composition by Theo van Doesburg
https://www.artsy.net/artwork/theo-van-doesburg-arithmetic-composition

           De Stijl
http://www.tate.org.uk/art/art-terms/d/de-stijl

Theartstory.org. Important Art by Theo van Doesburg. The Art Story Foundation. 2018. Web. Accessed March 21st, 2018.

Imaginary Interview

I choose the “We can do it!” poster by J. Howard Miller in 1943 as the theme of the imaginary interview.

Good morning Mr. Miller. It’s an honour to have you on our interview show tonight.

Hi, I am so glad to be here. Thank you for inviting me.

Q: So let’s start the interview. I have so many questions want to ask you. Could you tell us something about yourself?

A: Yes, I am a graphic designer. I was studied at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh and I graduated in 1939. During the war I was living in Pittsburgh. I was hired to create a series of posters for the Westinghouse Company.

Q: Could you tell us something about your significant graphic design poster “we can do it”?

A: Yes, sure. This is a poster of a female worker in a blue suit. She looks attractive and strong through the muscle on her arms. She is an iconic figure of a strong female war production worker. The image representation and the slogan give audience a clear message and it is about female workers also can make achievement if they work hard in the factory.

Q: Does the company gives you lots if restrictions and requirements when you work on this poster?

A: I work for Westinghouse Company and this Company has a strict policy. This particular poster was only displayed during February 1943 inside our company. Actually, we can consider this poster was not showing up officially in the public at that time period. Basically, I followed the requirement from the company and I want to use simple elements to express the intention of the poster. It was not a stressful work for me.

Q:  What is the specific theme of this poster? Is it about to inspire women workers to join the war effort? Or it was a poster of recruitment during the war?

A: From the poster, we can realize the main character setting is based on the working-class employees and she represents the whole group of working-class women. This poster definitely is not about recruitment. It is about inspiring women workers to join the war effort. It is a poster to encourage women to work hard and to contribute to the country. That is the intention of the poster.

Q: As a graphic designer, sometimes it is a little bit tricky to get a brilliant idea in the project that you get involved. What inspire you to create this poster? Do you use any reference?

A: Yes. I was inspired by Norman Rockwell’s work. He is an Americana and Realist artist and he created a painting for the Saturday Evening Post. The painting is about a woman works in a factory. The most interesting part is he added the name Rosie on the woman’s lunchbox. Rockwell gave me a fantastic inspiration. I used the same outfit that the woman he painted. I also used some figure of female workers as reference for the design of the poster.

Q: What the story behind this particular woman figure and could you tell us about who is she? Is she a friend that you familiar with?

A: Because Rockwell painting, the woman became known as Rosie the Riveter. She is not my friend. She is a “strong and competent woman that dressed in overalls and bandanna”. At the same time, she is also an iconic symbol of “patriotic womanhood.” When the U.S government was facing the problem of labor shortage, women were needed in the defense industries, even the civilian service and the armed forces. In that time period, companies want to build a figure of woman in the public to encourage women to make more effort to the war. Women were described as confident, brave, attractive and “resolved to do their part to win the war.” She is the strong connection between the war and the working-class female employee.

Q: What is the background when you create this work?

A: After the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese military, the U.S. government was in a serious situation. American government called manufacturers to produce greater amounts war products. There are a few conflicts between management and labor unions throughout the 1930s. The corporations were facing the problem of labor shortage. They need more women to make products and work in the factories. Making posters is a great idea to make women believe they are strong and confident to make contribute to their own country.

Q: Could you provide us with some useful advice to up-and-coming designers in graphic design?

A: Yes, I would like to…I mean as a graphic design, self-development and opportunities are important. The study and working environment can provide you so much space to improve yourself. I got attention from Westinghouse Company in my early career, I appreciate the opportunity that the Westinghouse Company gave to me.

Thank you so much for joining our interview.

463px-we_can_do_it

Work Cited:

“J. HOWARD MILLER.” Art.com.

“We Can Do It! Rosie the Riveter Description.” 24 May 2017.

Miller , Howard. “Michgan Played Early Part in Women’s Suffrage.” Wkar , Current State , 5 Nov.2013.

Imaginary Interview: Paula Scher

Imaginary interview: Paula Scher

 

Paula Scher is an American graphic designer who has been in the industry since the 70’s. Scher is most known for her works inspired by Russian Constructivism and her rebranding of The Public Theatre in New York. Scher was the first ever female principle at Pentagram which she joined in 1991

 

Q: Today we have Paula Scher in house to discuss one of her Russian Constructivist inspired pieces and her thoughts behind The Public Theatre rebrand

 

A: Thank you so much for having me

 

Q: Let’s start with your pieces inspired by Russian Constructivism. In particular the 1979 poster for the CBS. What was your thought behind this?

 

A: Well at the time this was created, the 70’s, this style of graphic design was not common anymore. It was a blast from the past shall we say. I wanted it to stand out in a way that made people take a double take.

 

Q: The poster includes other influences other then constructivist what were those?

 

A: The main influences were  from the constructivist movement, but also influences from futurist and dada also. This wasn’t your typical modern day graphic design. The type itself was Victorian wood type, it was really a mix of everything

 

Q: Now onto the Swatch poster, It was a replica of the original. What was the thought process behind that?

A: Honestly, for that one it was pure parody. It’s something i’ve been coined for, they call it “Post-modern design”

 

Q: So everything you did on those two posters would fall under this category?

 

A: yes. That is correct

 

Q: Now onto your involvement with The Public Theatre whats the story behind that?

 

A: The public theatre has been a client i’ve been working with for 24 years, it started when George Wolfe became the director of the theatre. Wolfe wanted something bold and new,very typographically heavy.

 

Q: What was your biggest struggle with the project? Seeing as though this was 24 years in the making

A: Definitely, creating this consistent image for the theatre, creating something that held up the theatres over branding yet left the viewer with something they had never seen before. In 1994 i had brought in that same Wood typography from the cbs poster. That all changed when a play came in called “Bring in ‘da Noise, Bring in ‘da Funk” and i went with this totally overhauled New York theme. Finally, in 2008 I switched back to that same wood type and it just got so boring so we changed that.

 

Q: So its seems as the theatre went through multiple branding phases but ultimately went back to the original execution. Why did you end up changing it again?

 

A: Well firstly there was the issue of these other theatre companies starting to catch on and copy The Public’s style. But also as I said before it was boring

 

Q: how did you end up solving this issue?

 

A: I realized that the actual issue was not really an issue in the first place. This whole inconsistency ended up being the perfect branding. The theatres image just had to be consistent for a season. So each season became different.

 

Q: What do you think worked with this inconsistent consistency?

 

A: I think people were able to get excited again? Each season no one knew what to expect which meant no other theatre company knew what to expect which made copying any of the Public’s themes obviously seem deliberate.

 

Q: What were the positives of staying with the theatre for 24 years?

 

A: Definitely being able to try new things, tweak things and ultimately get to know a brand so well you’re able to just revamp parts of it yet still stay true to the roots. It made me realize that half of these things I tested over the 24 years would have actually been thought of.  In these 24 years I really understood and learned what i was doing.

 

Q: Well, thank you so much for your time Paula

 

A: it’s been a pleasure

Imaginary Interview – A.M Cassandre

grand-sport

Me: Ladies and gentlemen, today we have a great opportunity to invite A.M Cassandre, one of the greatest French painter, typeface and poster designer, to talk about one of his famous work: Grand sport la Casquette tous adoptée par les champions. It’s a great honor for me to chat with you face to face and share those valuable graphic design ideas.

A.M: Thank you, it’s a pleasure to share my own thoughts of graphic designs in public, also I appreciate you offer such an opportunity for us.

Me: Great, so can you tell us more about the work?

A.M: Sure. This is a commercial poster designed for a French cap company. It’s called “Great sport the cap all adopted by the champions”. Yeah the name of the cap is “champions’ choice”, which was designed as an exclusive edition for The Grand Sport. I’ve done this poster in 1925.

Me: What specifically impressed us is the illustration of the portrait. It’s there any reasons that you come up with this unique solution of painting?

A.M: Well as you can see, I used ink spray roughly made the silhouette of the man’s portrait, then accomplished with white contour lines for the “details” but not quite detailed. This kind of style was somehow inspired by the cubism arts. When I was working at the Parisian printing house, I’ve seen a lot of amazing works made by cubists, which had influenced my way of design. Cubism is beautiful, elegant and clean, it interprets the idea in the simplest way. For this poster, I rendered the portrait in a cubic style to not only emphasizing the product but also work with the overall composition, to provides a clear but also interesting information.

Me: I see, the man’s portrait has successfully become not only a graphic but more symbolic approach to the brand. In this case, can you explain why don’t you make the cap in “cubic” style as well as the portrait?

A.M: Here’s the thing. In my own perception, a commercial advertisement ought to make more sense to the audiences, also I need that target thing to stands out. Yet cubism is a fantastic art style, we also need to note the “balance” between artistic interpretation and information telling. I painted the champion’s cap in the realistic style, complement with the cubic portrait, it lets the cap stand out. When you stand in front of an abstract art, what draws your attention is the most colorful, detailed focal point, and that cap is my focal point.

Me: Make sense to me. Sometimes a commission art needs more attention on the harmonization rather than an emotional interpretation. Let’s talk about the typography, is there any specific intention for using this typeface?

A.M: Exactly. I designed the typeface, and this is the prototype of my future published sans serif typeface in 1935 called Acir Noir. This condensed letterform gives a good representation of geometry, and I keep the capital “O” original size for better contrast. Also, I specifically designed letter “s” as it represents the flow and movement through the composition.

Me: People usually compare your work to other cubist at that time period. How do you think that your style of design is different than others? 

A.M: Well, I have to say that most of my works are deeply inspired by Picasso. As a commercial poster designer, I “refined” his style but not much. You can spot several abstract arts through my works that look similar to what Picasso does, however, I took this kind of abstraction as an element of my composition but not let it take dominance. Instead of performing this style as an art work, I tend to intergrats the style into a unified, consistent piece. Artists at the same time period keep influencing each other and take advantages, that’s how art evolves.

Me: So in which aspect you think your work is unique than others?

A.M: Like I said, I design my own typeface.

Me: Thanks alot for taking your time with us, that’s the interview of the day. We appreciate all the valuable feedback and information you provided. We hope to see you next time!

A.M: My pleasure, thank you.

Work Cited:

https://sciencesource.com/archive/French-Sports-Cap-Poster–A.M.-Cassandre–1925-SS2869028.html

https://www.artsy.net/artwork/am-cassandre-grand-sport

Interview with Stefan Sagmeister

Q: Hello readers, welcome to today’s interview! With us, I have graphic designer, storyteller, and typographer Stefan Sagmeister to discuss his iconic AIGA Detroit poster. First things first, thank you, Mr. Sagmeister, for joining me; would you mind discussing your path as an artist that lead you to the creation of this design piece?

A: Hello, thanks for having me. Though I currently run a studio in New York city with Jessica Welsh,  Sagmeister & Walsh Inc., I’m originally from Bregenz, Austria. I studied graphic design at the University of Applied Arts Vienna, and later in Pratt Institute in New York After receiving a Fulbright scholarship. My first design job was at 15, where I worked at Alphorn, an Austrian Youth magazine, and have since gone on to work in Hong Kong, Italy and now New York. I pioneered a unique stylistic device in the 90s, a tattooed look for a poster for Lou Reed’s new album Set the Twilight Reeling. It was this kind of design style, using integrated hand-lettered type for a poster, that leads us to the AIGA Detroit Poster.

Set the Twilight Reeling (1996) by Stefan Sagmeister.

Q: So what exactly was the AIGA Detroit poster for? What caused you to make it the way you did? 

A: This poster was made for a lecture I was having at Cranbrook College near Detroit, back in 1999. It was sponsored by them actually, Cranbrook College and the Detroit branch of AIGA. The goal of this poster was to publicize the event, as well as take my tattoo poster design style to the extreme. You see, I’m very much into breaking the norm and touching upon taboos with my work. I’m not designing work that’s trendy or just because it will sell, my work is provocative and it can be seen here in my AIGA Poster.

Q: Provocative indeed. And definitely against the norm. How exactly did you go about creating this design what mediums did you use?

A: Well, instead of adding text digitally onto a photo, as I did with my album cover poster for Lou Reed’s Set the Twilight Reeling, I decided to have hand lettering added in a different way.  Rather, I had acquired the help of one of my assistants to carve the letters into my body with a knife – the tattoo poster style with a twist. And that’s essentially what can be seen in the photograph: I appear in the nude, bottom lip to my lower abdomen in full view, holding a box of band-aids. The words carved into include my name, the time and date of the lecture, my sponsors, etcetera.  Oh, as well as my slogan, “Style=fart”, a reminder to those in and out of my studio that reminds everyone that graphic design has to be more than just trendy, it needs substance.

AIGA Detroit poster (1999) by Stefan Sagmeister.

Q: Besides being provocative, was the concept behind having the words carved into your body? What were you trying to convey by using your physical as a tactile canvas for which to place your design?

A: The concept is simple, what better way to visually convey the pain that accompanies most of the studio’s design projects than to have it made real and physical on my own body. To have it made “tactile”, as you said.

Q: I see. This piece is fitting in terms of your sense of humour wouldn’t you say?

A: Haha, yes, I agree. My humour is self-reflective and I like to showcase it in my work. What this poster does is truly convey at once my  striking and humorous style, in addition to my ability to come up with a concept that is intriguing, thought-provoking, compelling, and execute it with a raw and straightforward technique.

Q: Well, sadly this interview has come to an end. Thank you again, Stefan Sagmeister, for joining me in this chit chat. Your insight into your background, thought process, and concepts have been very intriguing and truly eye opening. As you are arguably one of the best contemporary designers to date,  I can’t wait to see your future work!

A: Thank you, it was my pleasure.


Work Cited

Eskilson, Stephen F. Graphic Design: A New History. 2nd. ed., New Haven, Yale University, 2012. Print.

Heller, Steven. “Stefan Sagmeister.” AIGA, www.aiga.org/medalist-stefan-sagmeister. Accessed 28 Mar. 2018.

MOMA. “Stefan Sagmeister AIGA Detroit 1999.” MOMA, www.moma.org/collection/works/102915. Accessed 28 Mar. 2018.

Wikipedia. “Stefan Sagmeister.” Wikipedia, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stefan_Sagmeister. Accessed 28 Mar. 2018.

Imaginary Interview – Interview with Erik Nitsche

Imaginary Interview with graphic designer, Erik Nitsche the man who pioneered the design of the infographics.

Good evening Mr. Nitsche, could you tell me a bit about your childhood and how it influenced your decision to pursue design?

I was born in an art-minded family in Laussanne, Switzerland. Both my father and grandfather were photographers and we had alot of family friends who were artist. One of whom was Paul Klee, the Bauhaus expressionist artist. We had a close friendship and he pursued me to follow art not photography. Even though Klee had inspired me, I did not attend the Bauhaus school where Klee was a teacher. Instead I chose to attend the Kunstgewerbeschule in Munich.

How did you get started in graphic design and specifically desigining infographics?

I didn’t start right away actually. After graduating, I started working in Cologne, Germany and then Paris. I mainly did illustrations for avant garde magazines and newspapers in the Swiss style which grew popularity amongst the Bauhaus but was considered the opponent to the current Art Deco style of the French.

After rising conflict in Europe, I fled to America where I started doing set designs for Hollywood musicals. This lead to nowhere and I eventually moved to New York where I freelanced as a graphic artist for fashion magazines. I was a Swiss in graphic arts so finding work was no problem. I was very productive and worked for numerous agencys. I had the opportunity to work under Alexey Brodovitch when I designed for Harper’s Bazaar.

In 1940, I was asked to be the Art Director for Air Tech and Air News, a technology magazine showcasing the latest in aero dynamics and hydraulics. It was perfect for me. It had the swiss aesthetic and matched my love for logics and precision. Working there, was when I started experimenting with infographic designs.

I continued to work on this craft of infographic poster until the early 50s. My proudest moment was succeeding Herbery Bayer as the art director for Dorland International in New York.

How did you and László Moholy-Nagy came into contact in the 1950s?

When I started working for Air Tech and Air News, I had complete control over the visual design of the magazine. I definitely wanted to incorporate the Swiss style into the magazine but also the Bauhaus as I do regret not attending the school while in Weimar. Ironically Lászlo, at the time was working as the new director of the Bauhaus in Chicago. Through one of the publications of Air Tech, I assumed that’s how he came into contact with me.  He assauged my disappointment in not attending the Bauhaus when he referred me as “Who is this guy doing the Bauhaus in New York?”

One of your most famous work would be for General Dynamic, could you tell me how you got work there and what was desigining their advertisements were like?

After my time at Air Tech and Air News, I became restless. I couldn’t manage to remain at one job for a long time. I felt being an office-person wasn’t right for me. That’s when I decided to move to Connecticut in 1950.

The Gotham Agency was one the first the contact me. They, at the time had the General Dynamics account and wanted me to work for them. The GD as I liked to call them, were in the conference for ‘International Conference on the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy’ in Geneva. They wanted to create a series of ads that convey a message of peace and not manufactors of destructive weapons. So in 1955, they asked me to lead as the art director in their new campaign. I was tasked to rebuild their identity from scratch. The General Dynamic were very secretive of their operations and so even as their art director, I wasn’t given alot of visual imformation to work on. That’s why I had to come up with my own visuals. Because of it’s discreet nature, I was forced into using symbolic expressions to not reveal anything specific. I also used geometric forms with different color planes to make very industrial visuals a little bit more poetic. The company was very pleased with my work and my contract was extended. By 1960, I’ve created a total new corporate identity including countless ads, posters, brochures and annual reports. The crowning piece of it all: ‘Dynamic America’, a 420-page book telling the company’s history, included all of my work for them.

Erik Nitsche - iconofgraphics.com   v 

So after working for General Dynamics, you went back to Geneva to start your own company? How did that came about and what work did your agency get the opportunity to work on.

By 1960s, the political climate in Europe changed so I moved back to Geneva, Switzerland where I started my own agency called Eric Nitsche International or ENI for short. We were a very small studio and mostly did work for local companies. We produced pictoral history books with themes like history of transportation, photography, astronomy, etc… One of our largest projects was a twenty volume set visualizing the history of music, where we explored classical to jazz, composition to instrumentation. It was time I stepped out of the world of corporate design. Working in Geneva was a breath of fresh air for me.

Massimo Vignelli is being interviewed by Luca Bolouse

Luca: Mr Vignelli, it’s an honour to speak with you today. How and why did you choose your design career?

 

Massimo: My first real interest was not design, but rather architecture from the time I was a teenager.  I was accepted to architecture at university. The architectural scene in Italy is a big thing especially in Milan where I was born. People were designing buildings, furniture and exhibitions.  So architecture was a natural fit with design.

 

I chose graphic design because I moved in to an apartment with a Swiss graphic designer Max Huber. So that’s where I learnt graphic design and where I fell in love with graphic design.  I always liked to try different types of design and materials.

 

Luca: How much is your design done on the computer nowadays?

 

Massimo: When I started there was a totally different set of tools than what people have today. Back in the day It was extremely and intensely manual. People used the pencil to contextualize their ideas and plan out what their work might be. This gives the designers a better sense of scale and visual analyzing.

 


Luca
: Please tell me some of your design process and ideas of making the iconic NYC subway identity and map?

newmassimomap2

 

Massimo: Until today, I believe that the map is the most clear map I have ever seen in terms of

information for the subways. Every line has a subway color and every station has a dot. There is nothing to fragment the legibility of this map. If you see today in 2008, the subway map is a total disaster!  One big problem with New York City, people couldn’t relate the geography with the lines so people were confused by that. When I released the map to the public there was much debate between New Yorkers because of this.  First of all they shouldn’t be comparing it to a geographical map or neighborhood map to a subway map.  Maybe my mistake was to push the boundaries further and made it more abstract by getting of everything else and keeping it minimal with just the lines and stops.  But otherwise it is so clear it’s unbelievable.

 

Luca:  Why do you think some of New Yorkers in 1972 reacted so bad?

 

Massimo: To be honest 50% of the people in the world is visual oriented and 50% of humanity is verbally oriented. So the visually oriented people have no problem reading any map. So I believe it’s based on opinion and I enjoy how some people disagree and agree. That’s what makes the world go around. Most critics said the stations were in the wrong places and the color scheme for the water around the city was colored beige not blue. In fact, it makes it clearer for readers to bring an easier color for contrast. I wasn’t going for a realistic approach to colour more for visual organization. I believe New Yorkers were thrown off by something new when this was released but then it started to grow on them.

 

 

Luca : What was it that the public misunderstood?

 

Massimo: The map was supposed to be accompanied by two geographical maps, one of a local neighborhood and one of the entire geographic footprint. There was also a verbal map which explained how to get from A to B. I couldn’t make it any easier. I feel it was too European or progressive for America in 1972. Maybe it was not meant for that time?

 

Luca: What would have you changed about the design if you were to do it again?

 

Massimo: The design was inspired by Harry Beck’s 1933 London underground map. It had similar organizational principles and this really brought to my attention that New York a world famous metropolitan city needed something simplified for large masses and tourists. But my mistake was that included some geographical references, like Central park, Manhattan and Bronx. It should have been more abstract and more minimal.  If I were to do it again, I would take out those geographical references altogether.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Imaginary Interview: James Flagg

i-want-you-for-us-army

James Montgomery Flagg was born in 1877. He is American representational artist and illustrator, and he made remarkable achievements in fine art painting and cartooning. But the most remembered works are his political posters. In 1917, he made the famous political poster “I Want You for U.S. Army”. The poser made great influence and remembered by people. James Flagg takes a interview and he told us about his “I Want You for U.S. Army”.

 

Q: Can you talk about your political poster “I Want You for U.S. Army” briefly?

 

A: I originally designed the poster for Leslie’s Weekly magazine as the cover of a July issue in 1916, and named it as “What are you doing for preparedness”. In 1917, the United States entered World War I. My posters were used by the U.S. government for war propagandas and recruiting. The texts on the poster are also changed as “I Want You for U.S. Army”. During World War I, over 350,000 copies of the poster were printed. And the image was used again in World War II, over 400,000 copies was printed. I presented an updated version to the president Franklin Delano in 1940s.

 

Q: What do you think when you create the image? What makes it so effective?

 

A: I considered about the rhetoric appeals when I designed the poster. The Uncle Sam in the image pointing and making eye contact with the viewers attracted viewer’s attention. The patterns on the hat and colors I used on the character stir the viewers’ patriot emotions. Uncle Sam points at the viewers with the texts “I Want You for U.S. Army”, which gave viewers the feeling that Uncle Sam is speaking to them directly. The texts are conspicuous and easy to read. The sharp eyes and the words and evoke viewers’ the sense of patriot. It makes viewers feel that the United States is in great danger and they have responsibility to defend it.

 

Q: When the government finds you, do you feel confident to finish the job? What kind of situation you were under when you make the “I Want You For U.S. Army”?

 

A: I began to draw when I was a child. I sold my first drawing when I was 12. And I send my works to Life Magazine at the age of 14. And next year, I was hired by The Judge. And then I studied at the Art Students League in New York. I spent a year working in London before moving to France. I was professional with different media including watercolors, oils, pastels, charcoal, and pencil.  I would like to mix pen and ink in my works. I feel I was so struggle with my projects in the magazine. When I did the Uncle Sam for the Leslie’s magazine, the deadline was so tight and I don’t have many ideas for it. I was one of artists in the Division of Pictorial Publicity, and we are required to send the war propaganda and recruiting materials to the U.S. government.

Q: An old man has long white hair and whiskers, and wears blue swallow-tail coat and a tall hat with the Stars and strip. Nowadays, when people talk about Uncle Sam, the character in your posters comes into people’s mind. How do you make such a classical character?

 

A: Actually, I was refused to draw the character. The Leslie’s Magazine asked for it in 1914, but the model is hard to choose. When I created the character in 1916 for the magazine, it was so rush that I don’t have my model in my studio. So I just putted my own characteristics on the Uncle Sam. So he had grey waved hair and beard. After this, I realized people like this and I kept using myself as the model, and meantime I can save the model fees!

 

Q: What do you think with the future of the illustration magazine cover?

 

A: I’m not sure with how much influence but the photography must impact the magazine illustrations. The magazines may want more photography or modern art as the cover, and the future of traditional illustration may be in crisis.

 

Reference

Andrews, T., The Uncle Sam ‘I Want YOU’ poster is 100 years old. Almost everything about it was borrowed. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2017/04/03/the-uncle-sam-i-want-you-poster-is-100-years-old-almost-everything-about-it-was-borrowed/?utm_term=.dcba1781f318

 

Staff, M., From Jeeves to Uncle Sam : The Legacy of James Montgomery Flagg, retrieved from https://library.wustl.edu/from-jeeves-to-uncle-sam-the-legacy-of-james-montgomery-flagg/

Imaginary Interview with Otl Aicher

Selina Park

Q: Hello, today we have Otl Aicher, one of the great graphic designers who pioneered in international styles during the post war period around 1950-60s. Can you briefly tell us about yourself and how you opened up your career as a graphic designer?

A: Hi, my name is Otl Aicher, and I am a German graphic designer. Growing up with my best friend, Werner Scholl, whose siblings had been executed by the Nazis, I was strongly opposed to the Nazi movement. I was reluctantly drafted into the German army during WWII, but after continuous attempt, I deserted the army in 1945 and went into hiding at Scholl’s house. And from there I got married to Inge Scholl, an older sister of Werner Scholl’s, after the end of the war. My wife’s parents as well as siblings were executed by the Nazis. Her and I brought anti-fascist credentials to the International Style. I think this is the precursor to how international style, like its name, became distinguishable with communicable style across the globe regardless of the culture and language different people use. I wanted to create a design system that strictly opposes and rejects Hitler’s “Degenrated art” style, which was almost an “attack on modern art…display[ing] an attempt by the Nazis to distort the tradition of modern art” (Eskilson, 271), and his coercion in demanding to adopt the style.

Garmisch-Partenkirchen Winter Olympics 1936. (Courtesy of International Poster Gallery)
Garmisch-Partenkirchen
Winter Olympics 1936. (Courtesy of
International Poster Gallery)
Ludwig Hohlwein, Olympics at Garmisch- Partenkirchen, Germany, 1936. (Courtesy of International Poster Gallery))
Ludwig Hohlwein, Olympics at Garmisch-
Partenkirchen, Germany, 1936. (Courtesy of
International Poster Gallery))

 

Q. As I mentioned shortly earlier, your works played major roles in defining this new design approach called, International style. Can you perhaps give us a brief outline of what International style is about, and the fundament lying behind it?

A. International Style came in handy when the “majority of large, multinational corporations felt the need to present a unified design front to the consumer” (Eskilson 298). It points at the development and implementation of a more formal and systemized design program that embraces the semiotic analysis behind its design system. Not only focusing on the aesthetics of the presentation of designs, is also focusing on how ideas “signify” our society (Eskilson 298). It can also be the result of the efforts from post-war period’s graphic designers to move away from Neo-classical styles that had remained as a design mainstay for a quite a bit of centuries. The international style basically speaks of the “new timeless” (Eskilson 299).

Q. You and your wife, Inge Scholl, with few other artists/designers founded Ulm School of Design in 1953, which became one of Germany’s leading educational centres for designs. What spurred you to take on that role?

A. As I mentioned earlier, we wanted to bring in and wide spread the anti-fascist credentials in International style. In the process of doing so, we sought for the development of more clean and organized feeling in terms of the appearance of design, and more universally communicable design system in terms of the context, then teach this to many young designers who will influence the world with the designs that we taught in this institute. In achieving those goals, “precisely measured axial grids, crisp geometric forms, sans serif type, and a minimal use of text” (Eskilson 298) became the distinguishing characteristic of the products of our school. We continued in bringing in more philosophical issues and worked hard to generate the semiotic analysis of the graphic design for each product we make, so that the products from our school not only perfects in its quality but also in embracing contextual ideas behind them.

 

Otl Aicher and his staff, Grid for the Munich Olympiad Pictographs, 1972
Otl Aicher and his staff, Grid for the Munich Olympiad Pictographs, 1972
Otl Aicher and his staff, Munich Olympiad Pictographs, 1972
Otl Aicher and his staff, Munich
Olympiad Pictographs, 1972

Q.In 1972, you became the art director of the 1972 Munich Olympics, and made your most significant contribution in the area of informational design by creating a system of pictograms that were understandable in spite of the multilingual nature of the people at the games. Where does the concept of universality come from and how did you manage to achieve such quality in your design system?

A. For the nature of Olympic games, where countless of people using different languages and have different cultures gather in one place, I figured that the concept of comprehensive design system is not only functional and desirable but also necessary in the case of such international events. International and polyglot audience had to find a way to communicate to each other and be informed about the games. This need for the universal language connects back to our Ulm School of Design’s principles of signifying ideas in our societies into the work of art or, in this case, design.

I sought for the efficient method that is able to be immediately identified by a multilingual audience. And that is when I came up with this extensive series of pictographs emphasizing the motion of the athletes and their equipment (Meggs 430). These pictograms are drawn on a modular square grid divided by horizontal, vertical and diagonal lines, composed of “simple lines and circles superimposed on a grid” (Eskilson 299). This reduction in the natural form down to the minimal use of element largely enhances legibility achieved in a very short period of time. So it will be recognizable at a glance. The complexity of the grid not only creates organized and cleanliness of their execution, but also permits an infinite range of permutation, never resulting these pictograms to look awkward yet very expressive of their motion.

Q. Were there any hardships in coming up with a design system for the Olympic games since it was for the government, where most of the time require for rather conservative design than progressive or innovative ones?

A. A lot of design works for the government, such as the earlier Olympic posters or propaganda posters during the war, had a strict guideline given by the government to follow. However, for this design system I create for 1972 Munich Olympiads was free of government limitations. After the war, many countries fell under the name of democracy, including Germany. Government no longer had an absolute power over us, and we had more freedom in creating our own design. So, I tried the best to bring everything from me into my design without being disrupted by regulations or guidelines.

In creating such universal design system that is immediately recognizable by anyone regardless of the person’s background or language, I reinforced the anti-fascist asset into it. As a German designer, I am aware of the terrible misconduct that the Nazis had committed to the people all over the world and feel sorry for all the victims, including my wife’s family, of this political tragedy. People had suffered and had hard times reluctantly adapting to Hitler’s overly promoted nationalism and political ideology as well as unjustifiable persecutions over races. In the means of reflecting upon his wrong doings, I dedicated even more to this project to allow it to embrace people from anywhere of the globe.

Works Cited

Eskilson, Stephen J. Graphic Design: A New History. 2nd ed., Yale University Press, 2012. Print.

McBroom, Brock. “Otl Aicher.” History of Graphic Design. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Mar. 2018. <http://www.historygraphicdesign.com/the-age-of-information/the-international-typographic-style/172-otl-aicher>.

Meggs, Philip, and Alston W. Purvis. Meggs’ History of Graphic Design. Hoboken, NJ.: Wiley, 2016. Print.