a brief summary by Emily #4
contents The Five-Dollar Toy Project 6 The Toy 15 Branding 21 It’s a Booklet, It’s a Poster, it’s a Boostler. Dutch Folio Project 32 Talking to Strangers and Other Terrors 35 Tom Frencken 39 Lenneke Wispelwey 42 rENs Studio 46 rENs Art Folio Bookforms: The Blog 62 Storyteller 64 Structural Integrity 66 Entering the Bookform 68 Hairline Fissures 70 Revolving Doors 72 Take a Five 74 Octopus 76 Crazy Dick vs. The Department of Transportation 78 Wonder 80 Aware 82 Skin Deep 84 Battle Scars 86 Entry 13
e toy To start off the new semester, on the very first day, we were given an impossible assignment: go to the hardware store with five dollars, and come out with your receipt and the materials to build an original and interesting toy. We had two days to come back to class with an idea.
I started doodling. I started off thinking about the kinds of toys that I liked to play with when I was litt le: stuff ed animals. I knew right away that I wanted to make something with a face and with a personality. However, I knew that the materials that I would need to make a plushie wouldn’t be available at the hardware store, so I had to dig deeper. I remembered what I liked about playing with stuff ed animals: my brothers and I would create personaliti es for them and have them play out stories. I enjoyed playing with toys that allowed me to exercise my creati vity. From there, I thought about those felt story books that kids take on roadtrips—they’re soft , squishy books that came with felt characters and objects that would sti ck to the pages so you could make them act out a litt le play. Maybe I could make something that took the fun of making stories with stuff ed animals and make it compact and portable. Again, felt would be diffi cult to fi nd at most hardware stores, especially under fi ve dollars.
So I started thinking cheaper and more accessible materials and I began to think about paper dolls—they were cheap, easy to produce, and a lot easier to design well then something made of twine, nuts, and young designers tears. The only issues were that paper isn’t durable and doesn’t self-adhere so I would lose the ease of use and portability factor.
So then, magnets. I knew magnets were available at Loweâ€™s, and with a quick Google search found that I could get all the magnet strips I needed and then some forâ€Ś just under fi ve dollars aft er tax! But the idea was only half there. Magneti c paper dolls are hardly an original idea, so I needed a fresh angle. I drew out some of my old characters that I doodled in highschool, a wolf named Klaus who had an eyepatch and a bunny named Beethoven who has one bandaged up nubby ear. Then I drew up just a bunny with an eyepatch. Then I gave it a horn, and a crown, and a tutu, and I called her Princess Bunnycorn. She was a pirate and a princess and a unicorn, and with enough magneti c accessories, she could be whatever you wanted too. I had some vague ideas about female empowerment for young girls in mind, but as I researched, I realized that magneti c paper dolls were already essenti ally made for litt le girls. So I thought, letâ€™s make one for someone else.
I stripped away every gendered thing about Princess Bunnycorn—and eventually everything else—unti l I was left with an amorphous white blob with a stupid litt le toothy grin. I showed it to Rachel Suding, who was (un)lucky enough to be sitti ng next to me, and she said, “It looks like an egg.” And so it was. I had an “argument” with my boyfriend about a month prior about how one pronounces the word “egg”. I said EHG, and he insisted AYG. He was wrong, but not in vain: less than a minute aft er I drew it, I knew what my toy’s name would be. Thus, an AYG was laid.
Building the actual AYG toy was relatively straight-forward, though a little tedious. I designed around 15 grayscale vector illustrations for accessories for AYGâ€™s first build, printed them out, and then stuck them to my adhesive magnet strips before cutting each piece out. Word to the wise, magnet strips are deceivingly difficult to trim with an exact-o knife; just cutting out each piece took me around four hours. AYG went over very well in our first in-progress critique. I did receive feedback that perhaps AYG should be in color instead of a gray palette, that something that should be happy and exciting was a little underwhelming because of my color choices. I tried AYG in a variety of different colors before deciding on keeping him in grayscale. The reason was that I felt as though color hurt the versatility and the neutrality of AYG. Pieces that I designed or one purpose (such as the round, triangular dog ears) were being utilized by users for other purposes, expanding the creative possibilities and combinations of the toy. If I were to color the pieces, it would ruin that.
branding AYG’s slogan came prett y naturally aft er I cemented his concept a litt le bett er. I always enjoyed toys where I could exercise my creati vity, and I wanted to recreate that experience in a stylish and fun way for adults. I wanted him to be a tool for boosti ng creati ve thinking, so playing off that idea while tying it into the egg concept I came up with “Incubate Your Imaginati on.”
The logo went through a couple phases— some playing with a nest concept to bett er support “incubati on”, another mimicking the shape of AYG himself—before I sett led on the idea of the logotype emerging from a broken eggshell. I did consider the negati ve implicati on of having a cute egg character and then feature a broken egg as my logo, but I felt that the logo was successful enough in other ways that it outweighed the risk of that connotati on.
incubate your imagination.
incubate your imagination.
all photos of AYG toy and packaging credited to Meena Khalili
My original idea for AYGâ€™s packaging was to conti nue playing up the egg puns by making his box shaped like an egg carton. This idea was short lived: I didnâ€™t want to use an actual egg carton as I felt it would cheapen AYG (who I was hoping to price point at around $15), and I didnâ€™t know how I would construct the carton out of plasti c. My mom had the idea of storing him in a ti n so that his packaging could be used for play even without access to a magneti c surface, which played into my original hope to make a compact and portable toy. I decided functi onality would come before cuteness this ti me. I wanted the design of the packaging to be simple and straightf orward just like AYG, so I made the exterior fl at white with a removable magneti c logo placed on the front. Finally, to solve my earlier issue of AYG appearing fl at and underwhelming, I made the inside of the ti n the same cheery yellow that appeared on the logo so that the packaging itself resembled an egg.
it’s a booklet, i t’s a p o s t e r, Aft er AYG, his branding, and his packaging were complete, it was ti me to actually get to the heart of the assignment— creati ng a booklet and poster system to sell the toy. We were tasked with creati ng a poster that folded down into an eight-spread booklet, complete with photos of our work and 700ish words of original text about our product. The process for this half of the project was prett y straight-forward: I already all the vector illustrati ons I needed from building AYG, a strong color palett e, and a lot to say about my toy.
i tâ€™ s a b o o s t l e r.
My strategy for designing the booklet was to have simple, muted front and back cover spreads, and then pace out the content so that the most exciting spread was the last. I also added in large yellow egg shapes in the background of my pages to guide the viewerâ€™s eye, create interest, and break up the grid a little.
all photos on spread credited to Meena Khalili
photo credit to Meena Khalili
My idea for the poster was to create something fun and visually active that displayed just a sampling of the possible combinations for AYG. I originally had the AYGs lined up side to side around the logo, but changed it to a much more animated, staggered pose that helped convey a sense of energy that I think really strengthens the piece.
talking to strangers and other terrors
image found at lookmamaloves.files.wordpress.com
The first step of this project was to select three designers and artists from the Netherlands. We had to compile research both verbal and visual on their life, works, and inspirations. In addition, we also had to contact them directly and ask them a few questions to include in our research. After compiling our research and interview questions, we were tasked with creating a two-page spread for each artist including 250 words of body copy, high resolution photos, and a timeline of work or life events.
“Tom Frencken gets his inspiration from everything that surrounds him. All ideas and impressions are translated into his furniture, drawings, jewelry, accessories, and lightning. Great love for his profession and the magic of the world around him are clearly visible in Toms work. Averse to trends Tom is not to be stopped by the unknown. He creates his own surprising world and dares to be different. Tom prefers not to design with the computer, all products and projects are hand made in his studio to keep a finger on the quality and details. It also allows him to customize products from his standard collections. Tom makes balanced and robust designs in which comfort, quality and durability are very important.” Tom likes working with other designers, labels and producers and get to something new by sharing each other’s visions and solutions. The collaboration with Job Martens ( JOBSPROPS ) leaded to the JOBTOM collection that was launched in 2012. Tom and Job share a studio in a monumental building in the city of Eindhoven. In this studio they produce their own works and collections, their JOBTOM collection as well as joint projects.”
images on current and following spread credited to tomfrencken.nl
tom frencken When it came to communication, Tom was the coolest of the artists I contacted. He got back to me within two days and even sent me some high resolution images of one of his projects.
other. So they look really familiar at first side, but by the second look you see the specific character. Not perfect but very lovable. I wanted a collection of unique pieces that more affordable then for instance the work of Maarten Baas. New pieces normally begin by sketching them. From there I begin building them by hand and by looking at them, it’s all about the feeling and placing of the boards. I usually have them in every detail in my head, so even the color I already see by drawing the piece.
1) What got you interested in furniture design in particular? The “small” size of furniture I like. ( compared to for instance architecture ) There is so much detail in a chair or cabinet, all measurements and details are visible and as important, To make a 3D object interesting from all viewpoints. And the fact that this kind of design is mostly in someones house or company, and really is used by people and they might get to love it!
3) If you have one, what was your favorite project and why? The interior for ‘de Krabbedans’ in Eindhoven. They asked me to fully furnish there new location with my FURNITURE collection. All pieces are designed for a special purpose and all 25 are unique. This big project gave me the chance to see my idea in real. I used 4 shades of red for the finishing wich gave all the pieces even more character.
2) Many of your pieces feature very atypical, asymmetrical lines that look like they shouldn’t be able to stand, but they do. Could you tell me a little bit about your reasoning behind this style and your process when creating a new piece? The pieces of the FURNITURE collection are pretty archetypical models, and they get their soul and character by making them all just a bit different from each
Succes with your project!
tom frencken Tom Frencken is a designer of furniture, jewelry, lighting, accessories, and more.
He chiefly credits his surroundings in the Netherlands for the inspiration for his whimsical and unique pieces. The majority of his online store is dedicated to his strange furniture pieces. Frencken says that he enjoys furniture design in particular because of its “small size, in comparison to architecture, [but] there is so much detail in a chair or cabinet, all measurements and details are visible and as important, to make a 3D object interesting from all viewpoints.” He also enjoys the idea of making functional art for people to have in their homes and love. Many of Frencken’s furniture pieces feature very atypical lines which
make them appear unstable or broken, but are in fact fully functional. Tom says about his thoughts and processes behind this style: “The pieces of the FURNITURE collection are pretty archetypical models that get their soul and character by making them all just a bit different from each other. So they look really familiar at first side, but by the second look you see the specific character. Not perfect but very lovable. I wanted a collection of unique pieces that are more affordable then for instance the work of Maarten Baas. New pieces normally begin by sketching them. From there I begin building them by hand and by looking at them, it’s all about the feeling and placing of the boards. I usually have them in every detail in my head, so even the color I already see by drawing the piece.”
launched FURNITURE collection
Lenneke Wispelwey (1979) founded her studio in 2008 in Arnhem. Till now she has mainly focused on working with porcelain. Her pastel coloured products with mathematic/geometric patterns are the result of a very low-tech way of designing. Lenneke finds a basic, simple approach to techniques and materials very important to communicate her vision and her way of working. She prefers creating a family of products because as an only child she had always a desire for a bigger family. Her work is also known for the use of different shades of one colour, and playing with the contrast between biscuit and glazed porcelain.Her love for curiosa, vintage and other remarkable items is showing in how she poetically displays her work in a bigger picture. She creates honest and harmonious designs, inspired by her own memories and found pieces from every day life. She feels her work should make people smile.
images on current and following spread credited to lennekewispelwey.nl
Things that she loves: Foamfountains, daisyflower-necklaces, shooting stars, Amelie, roadtrips, tropical cocktails, Portugal, put a smile on a sad face, mix and match, finding treasures, walk-in closets, handmade, old black and white family pictures, dinnerparty’s with friends, receiving mail the old fashioned way, foreign postcards, going to the theatre alone, pastel colours, fleemarkets, porcelain cups with colourful flowers and a golden rims, old records, cuckoo clocks, contrast, things that are so ugly they become beautiful again, clouds that look like bunny’s, italian icecream, my mothers apple pie, surprising a friend, dancing my butt off, Prince himself, kitsch.......”
Lenneke was the only artist to not get back to me, which was a shame because she ended up being one of my favorites. These were the questions I asked her:
3) One of the pieces on your site, “Fruit Platter”, is pictured with a dead bird on top. I think this is very visually striking. Could you tell me a little bit about your decision to present your art this way?
1) What is your dog’s name? (I know that’s not work related but he or she is on your website and is very cute.)
4) If you have one, what is your favorite piece, and why?
2) You certainly love your pastels. What is it about those colors that appeal to you, and how do they influence your work?
delicate and elegant, but practical
is a ceramics designer
for everyday use. Wispelwey
operating out of
describes her work as “honest
Armhem in the
and low tech” and “meant to be
Netherlands. Since opening her
used as well as admired.” She has
studio in 2008, her work has mainly
devoted herself to focusing on
focused on a line of porcelain pieces
expanding one family of products,
with eye-catching geometric shapes
citing her loneliness as a child
and lovely, soft pastels colors. She
wishing for a larger family herself
often explores different shades of
as her reasoning. Wispelwey finds
the same pastel on various related
inspiration for her work from her
pieces, alternating between biscuit
love of vintage odds and ends and
and glazed porcelain to achieve
her own memories, and feels that
different effects. Her vision for
her work should make people smile.
her pieces is for them to appear
awarded for eco-friendly design
images on current and following spread credited to madebyrens.nl
â€œWe are rENs. We always go our own way,but actively pursue collaboration. Spontaneity is important to us,but we perform extensive research before getting down to work,and love exploring boundaries. rENs (Renee Mennen and Stefanie van Keijsteren) operates as a duo in order to enable continuous sparring and pushing each other to the limit. This creates the twist in many of our designs.
Since we took off in 2008, we collaborated with partners like Desso, Cor Unum, Zuiderzeemuseum, Textielmuseum and Lynfabrikken. We followed our own hearts with red,a study into meanings and applications of that one specific colour with the strong connotations in multiple areas. Our studio is located in Eindhoven,on the area of Piet Hein Eek.â€?
My questions for rENs: 1) How did you to meet, and why do you think you work so well together? We met at the Academy of Breda, we were in the same year and field of study. We work so well together because we complement each other and we have the same working method. 2) You work in such vastly different mediums, from textiles, wood, paper, ceramic, and even mirrors-what kind of artists do you consider yourselves, and what is your favorite material to work with? We don’t have a favorite material. Each material is the base of a research and has it’s own beauty and flaws. We are product designers but mostly we are material researchers. 3) In your about section on your website, it says that you “followed your hearts into red.” What was the fascinating with the color red in particular, and why did you choose it? We chose to work with the colour red because it is so various. The color red is associated with passion but also with hate and it has a lot of different meanings, positive and negative.
we are rENs Renee Mennen and Stefanie van Keijsteren make up the design duo rENs. Since opening their studio in Eindhoven, Netherlands in 2008, the pair have worked together in creating unique and captivating artworks in mediums ranging from wood, carpet, and even mirror. Mennen and van Keijsteren met at the Academy of Breda and claim to work well together because their styles compliment each other and thy have a very similar working method. Despite their many dissonant artistic mediums, rENs does not have a preferred material to work with and consider themselves as much product designers as they do “material researchers” who experiment with the ways various materials interact for different effects, especially with the color red. “We chose to work with the colour red”, they say, “because it is so various. The color red is associated with passion but also with hate and it has a lot of different meanings, positive and negative.” The Rood by rENs clothing line, for example, experimented with 19 different red dyes with different intensities on various raw fabrics before transforming into unique wearable pieces. The Rood Wood project evolved from this idea, this time using s oak, ash, yellow poplar and mahogany wood to observe the woods’ reactions with the pigment.
launched Rood line
announced latest project, BLACK
rENs ar t folio Aft er completi ng our research spreads, we had to select one arti st to represent in a folio of work. I did consider focusing on Wispelwey—her style is very diff erent from work I’ve done in the past and I enjoyed working on her spread, but I was concerned that I wouldn’t have enough content because she didn’t reach back out to me aft er contacti ng her. I decided to focus on rENs.
To solve the issue of the extra page, I decided to make it simple: I would literally sti ck a new page in the center, and then, because of rENs focus on texti les, bind the pages together with thread.
photo credit to madebyrens.nl
The additi on of thread pushed me to include a tacti le element to my piece. rENs created an interacti ve piece called “in BOX”—it was a room lined with dyed carpet of varying textures that viewers could physically interact with. I wanted to recreate that experience in my rENs book, so I used six diff erent types of paper and both laser and inkjet printi ng to create a variety of texture throughout my book. Thanks to the die cuts on the front, three diff erent kinds of papers with very diff erent feelings are exposed just on the cover.
all folio photos credited to Meena Khalili
For content, I chose to focus on rENsâ€™s Rood line as well as other explorations into the color red. This gave my book a unified and bold pallet which I think really aided in giving the piece some emotional gravity.
metaphorical imagery found at s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com
I chose macro images of wood and fiber textures as my metaphorical imagery to reinforce the idea of this book being a tactile experience. rENs works with a ton of different mediums from wood to fabric to neon and glass, so I wanted the book to reflect that artistic diversity.
This book was honestly something that wanted to design itself as I went through it. I allowed this largescale dyed carpet piece to serve as the backbone for the entire folio, with each colored band dictating its own flowline that I carried through each page. I added even more cut-out boxes to the back to reinforce these horizontal lines and to expose my experimental type—the Emily that got to design this was ecstatic; the Emily that had to cut out a million little rectangles the next week hated her.
My experimental type was the little nod I included to the big “UH-OH” moment of this project. When I was about 85% through my layout design, rENs went and overhauled their entire brand identity including a new logo and website (now it’s actually RENS, not rENs). I freaked out a little bit at first, but looking at it closer, I found that all that had really changes was that more order and white space had been brought in—the pulsing, weird RENS energy was still there and I think I still tapped into it. Their new website displays their slogan/ motto prominently: “For us, the research nearly always becomes the product.”
imagery featured in folio credited to madebyrens.nl
On the very last page, I added in pink velum windows to my die cuts. My intention was to make the experimental type readable through it by having the pink negate the garbled text, but it wasnâ€™t entirely successful. My colophon is placed beneath the windows to complete the line sequence dictated by the flowlines inside.
storyteller We started out our semester long journey into the book form with two podcasts: an episode of Design Matters, and an episode of 99% Invisible called “Hold Out.” Maybe it was the sleep deficiency, or perhaps it was the low, hollow screaming sounds that had been ringing through my head since my first Bookforms session, but for whatever reason I found the podcasts (particularly Design Matters) to be very difficult to absorb. I attempted to listen along while I worked on my projects Tuesday afternoon, but I was unable to fully focus on both at once. I tried again that night, but as I sat and listened to the low, soft voices and slowly closed my eyes, I rather predictably fell asleep. It wasn’t until the next day that I found my perfect listening space: my morning commute. I needed only to devote
just enough attention on the road to not die, and the rest of my brain was free to bask in the rich, audial designer knowledge that I was certain would pour forth from my car radio. But it never came. At least, not in any way that was immediately obvious to me. Flash forward to 11:30 Wednesday night: Me, against my kitchen table, leaning over the smiling faces of a dozen happy little eggs that I created, pondering what was surely the inspiration for Pixar’s Up as well as the story of a graphic novelist who hated the term “graphic novel”, and how to make these three very different things live together in a blog post.
I needed help. When Edith Macefi eld needed help she turned to Barry Marti n. He was the constructi on superintendent for the development that swallowed her home. She should have been a thorn in his side, but he chose to become her caretaker and friend. Before she died and repaid his kindness with her now iconic home, she paid him back in stories. She told him how she had been a spy for the English government and how she had saved Jewish children from the Nazis in her youth. Barry admitt ed, aft er he inherited her home, that he could fi nd no evidence of this exciti ng past life of Mrs. Macefi eld and could not say whether the stories were true or not. I don’t think the veracity of a story, however, takes away from its power.
As designers, I believe that we are visual storytellers. It is our job to speak to the viewer where words cannot reach them. The stories we write in our professional careers more oft en than not will not be about or for ourselves, but I need to learn to craft them as though they were. I looked down at the sketches for my “Ayg”, a silly, cutesy product that I was honestly marketi ng towards myself and others like me because that’s where I was comfortable working. Comfort does not make for a strong arti st. Macefi eld turned down a million dollars to protect her home and Ware is constantly writi ng outside of himself for his art because working for the things that matt er are not always going to be comfortable.
Chris Ware, too, was a storyteller. In Design Matt ers Debbie Millman specifi cally asks Ware about one of his characters, a female amputee, and what it was like writi ng about a character so diff erent from himself. He spoke about the taboo he had always faced writi ng about women and the struggles of women in general, and how he, a man, could empathize or even understand. He wanted to push limits and barriers as a writer. The stories he writes are not always about him.
I feel that Ayg is a strong product, so while I am going to fi nish this project despite this realizati on, I am going to experiment with diff erent audiences and make a concerted eff ort for the rest of this semester to break out of my comfort zone and bring more variety to my work. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t want to grow as an arti st and a storyteller. It won’t be easy, but I believe it will be worth it.
photo credit to Niño M
structural integrity This week, we were instructed to listen to two more podcasts: A Design Matters featuring Massimo Vignelli, and a 99% Invisible episode titled, “Structural Integrity.”
But I tucked those thoughts away, and sat down to rework him in Illustrator. I cringed and hummed over every rendition, all while reminding myself through chant, Meena knows best, Meena knows best.
The 99% episode was about a fatal design flaw that snuck past the best engineers and designers behind Citicorp Center that could have potentially killed hundreds of people, and how an anonymous college student caught the mistake and saved the day.
I listened to “Structural Integrity” as I worked, and that’s when I projected a bit of myself onto Diane Hartley. Yes, I’m just a design student but she was just a student too, and she helped correct a glaring mistake that actual professionals made. Being a budding designer doesn’t mean that I don’t have any sense at all as a designer, and I had good, solid reasons as well as personal preferences for making Ayg the way I did. It was my project, why should I as the artist be forced to change it?
I found this piece to be especially inspiring since I too am a college student, and it’s nice to be occasionally reminded that while we are in training, we aspiring designers and architects do know some things and that big ideas can come from small places. This was especially relevant this week as I continued to work on Ayg. During Tuesday’s session, I received feedback that my grayscale brain child needed to be rendered in color. My immediate gut reaction was, no, I made Ayg gray and gray he will stay. I had reasons for making him black and white: aesthetic, maturity, flexibility of the pieces, and, admittedly, a gut feeling.
And still, I couldn’t shake that feeling that I was basing my decisions more than a little bit on emotion. Perhaps I was falling into that same pit hole as I wrote about last week—that I was designing for myself instead of for my audience. Something Vignelli said during his piece on Design Matters really stood out to me: that sometimes, people can’t distinguish between wants and needs. Did I need Ayg to be in grayscale, or did I just want it?
Even aft er I received affi rmati on Thursday morning that I could do whatever I thought was best, I’m sti ll a litt le unsure. I’m heavily leaning towards following my insti nct and doing grayscale, I’m sti ll doing even more iterati ons in color before I make a fi nal print just in case I’m wrong and I fi nd that perfect palett e. God willing, Ayg and I will fi gure something out together by Tuesday.
enter ing the b o o k fo r m The last few days, like the euphoria that follows running a marathon, have been good. Aft er the caff eine-fueled avalanche of anxiety and sleep deprivati on that was the concepti on and birth of Ayg, this week has been a breath of fresh air. My presentati on on Tuesday went extremely well, my photos from Thursday’s shoot look amazing, and I feel energized and ready to take on the next part of the project. As we move into the actual book-forming porti on of Bookforms, we also begin examining the grid in Layout Essenti als. So far, I love the book. I feel as though I’ve learned more about why grids are set up the way they are and when to use
what type in eight pages then I have in the last two years in design school. I feel that this week’s 99% Invisible episode, ti tled “The Broadcast Clock”, perfectly echoes how I felt diving into this textbook. The podcast revealed how, despite how smooth, eff ortless, and magical radio seems, it is actually operated by a rigorous and meti culously planned ti meframe so that every piece slides into place on schedule. This process is invisible to the listener.
As designers, we do the same thing with space that radio does with time; The layout of a magazine looks as effortless and as dependable as nature itself, with all the pieces tucked into their places in such a way that a viewer doesn’t even think about how it could be any different, the pieces are simply where they belong. However, beneath the magic of the perfect page is a carefully thought-out grid system with every photo, headline, and text box placed precariously within. Every detail, down the kerning of the text, is intentionally placed to guide the reader through the content the way the designer wants. Starting to read Layout Essentials feels like peeling back the façade of effortlessness good design forms and seeing the clockwork beneath that makes it all work. I’m sure it was no coincidence that we started reading just as we started constructing our booklets, and I’m excited to move on from the prelude of the class and onto the bookform itself.
h a i r l i n e f i s s u re s I listened to this week’s podcast, a Design Matters episode featuring illustrator and typographer Jessica Hische while working at my internship Monday night. I was in the middle of spooning microwaved noodles into my mouth as I listened to the story of this young womans’s journey to the forefront of the design world. Jessica Hische was practically my age when she had the absolute gall to send a two-thousand-dollar sample project to Louise freaking Fili and it worked. I was trying to imagine what it felt like to even have two-thousand dollars, much less be at the skill level to be hired by a major don’t-have-to-be-a-designerto-know-her-name designer at 22. That’s about when I dropped a fork-full of noodles down my top, but I saved it! I’m totally accomplishing things too! After the initial rush of soul-crushing inadequacy passed, I think I felt something akin to inspiration. That’s the pattern I’ve found often in my own design journey, especially this semester: break, then rebuild. I am in school actively acquiring the tools I need to succeed as a designer. I’m not at a Hische level yet, and I might never be, but if I push through the pain and rebuild week by week, maybe one day I can cut a paycheck doing what I love.
My main takeaway from the podcast was the importance of taking risks in art. This lined up eerily well with one of Meena’s “Rebel Rules” from her talk today: move out of your comfort zone. This rule applies to the art of design itself and the decisions you make in life. Hische took a huge leap sending that project out, and it totally changed the course of her career. When I was 14 my delinquent cousin told me that he punched walls to make his fists harder—that the hairline fissures in his knuckles grew back as rock hard, knotted bone and that with enough work, you could eventually punch straight through that wall. While tendonitis and arthritis are likely the long term result of such exercises, the idea behind it stuck with me. Sometimes growth hurts, but this process of breaking and rebuilding and jumping and failing and landing on your face is the price of greatness. I’m ten times the designer that I was this time last year. I’m actively improving myself. My knuckles are swollen, but I’ll get there. I couldn’t think of any cute way of tying in my project or the Layout Essentials reading, only that they too are coming along. I love this book and the way it puts into plain English concepts that I assumed had to be absorbed through sight or were purely instinctual, and I’m already implementing the tools I’m learning in both of my classes.
Pictured is a take on the many, many failed attempts at tiling my Ayg poster from InDesign before I figured it out.
re v o l v i n g d o o r s This week’s assigned podcast was an episode of 99% Invisible titled “Revolving Doors.” As the name would suggest, this episode was about the design and execution of the revolving door. The door was created by Theophilus Van Kannel, an apparently viciously antisocial inventor, as a means of eliminating the need to hold doors open for others. In addition to reducing unpleasant human contact, the door had a plethora of other benefits; it served as an airlock of sorts that could keep warm air out/in and drive down the building’s energy consumption, and also served as a security tool as it only allowed a few people in at a time. On paper, the revolving door is smarter, more economic, and superior to the standard door in most ways. However, we have never seen it replace the original door design because people don’t actually like using them.
This raises an interesting point in design. It doesn’t matter how brilliant, thought-out, and revolutionary the idea is—if the user experience is poor, no one will want it. It’s worth considering as I put the final touches on my AYG poster and, more importantly, the booklet. It was enough to make me want step away from fidgeting around with my type and the strokelengths on my vectors for one night so that I can look at it with fresh eyes in the morning, actually read my book cover to cover, and see if it actually makes sense to me not as a designer, but as a user. The Layout Essentials reading was again informative but difficult to weave into relevance with my current project. Aside from the introduction of flowlines (which have changed my life), I am finding more applications for what I’m learning about grids on other projects, though I’m sure I’m bound to eat those words in the next week as AYG ends and the next project begins.
take a five So project 1 is finally, finally done and I can put AYG out of my mind for a little while, at least until it comes time to reassess and rework my design for portfolio day. The first thing I’ll want to revisit is the front and back covers to my booklet. Since it was brought up in critique, I can’t stop thinking about how (comparatively) little thought I put into it. Instead of letting the covers form naturally from the content, I did them first, said “whew done”, and focused the rest on my time and energy on making the interior of my book the best it could be. After seeing everyone else’s work in its professionally-printed and radiant glory, I was filled with all kinds of ideas on how I could’ve strengthened my piece by giving a little more love to my covers.
That being said, I am still very happy with how it turned out. I should be—thirteen little stars in the margin of my critique sheet say so. I think the second thing I learned is to have a little more confidence in my own ability. Don’t get me wrong, I think a certain level of doubt and cynicism in regard to one’s own work is an important part of motivating us as artists to become better, but a healthy balance between “I-am-perfection” and “I’m-literal-garbagewhy-am-I-here” is vital. I need reminders. I am happy with my work, but I did not feel like my piece deserved to be ranked alongside the other four designs that were selected to be presented, especially in light of how amazing some that weren’t talked about were. It is strange but reassuring for my silly illustrations and stupid egg puns to be recognized and appreciated and for me to be reminded that my creativity is valuable, I am a good designer, and that I deserve to be here.
octopus I listened to this week’s podcast, a Design Matters episode featuring Maria Popova, on Monday night. I decided not to write my thoughts about it until receiving the next project assignment so that I could have a little more relevant material to write about since I wrote my final thoughts about project 1 last night. The part of Popova’s interview that stuck out to me the most was when she was talking about her view on creativity. She said that it was in a way like a giant octopus, with its tentacles reaching into different minds all over the world, but with one body that connected them all together. She held the belief that there was no such thing as an actual original idea, that everything was a regurgitated composite of many other ideas. I think that this is a very humbling and somewhat relieving way to look at the creative process. Humbling, in that it says that you alone are not responsible for bringing a piece to life. The art you look at, the music you listen to, and the
books that you read all play a part in inspiring each creative work. It’s relieving for the exact same reason. Creativity isn’t some internal genius that artists possess and control but the collective effort of everyone who creates—that weight is not yours alone to carry. I think it’s fitting that we listened to this podcast the same week that we begin a project that revolves around absorbing and representing the creative work of other designers. It carries that same idea of gaining inspiration through other artists and using it to fuel our own works, this time in a more literal, direct manner than in past projects. Something I’ve noticed about our readings is how contradictory the “rules” of layouts can be: one page will tell us to obey a grid, and the next will tell us to break it. These rules really apply to utilizing different styles to elicit different emotions from the viewer, and in light of the next assignment, knowing how layout can change the overall feel of a spread is a very useful tool.
imagery featured credited to tomfrencken.nl and madebyrens.nl
crazy dick vs. the DOT I am actually prett y appalled at this week’s podcast. This episode of 99% Invisible told the story of a certain public art piece by a man named Richard Ankrom. Richard got confused by a poorly marked road sign, and then held a grudge over it for ten years. Instead of at least att empti ng to call the department of transportati on to correct this grievance, Ankrom decided to skip straight to taking matt ers into his own hands in an act of what Roman Mars adorably called “Guerilla Public Service.” Aft er spending months researching and painfully recreati ng the missing signage, Ankrom’s plan was to install the piece himself 30 feet over the busy highway. He was an arti st acti ng on his own for the good of the community, and I thought it was all really cool right up unti l he
started talking about his preparati ons the night before. He sat in a tree and contemplated the job before him, and briefl y considered that if he, an amateur, were to make a mistake, innocent people could be seriously injured or even killed. Then he shrugged and did it anyway. His friends watched on and eagerly recorded as he endangered himself and strangers. Crazy Rick’s at it again. Not one of them thought to reason with him or tell him how incredibly selfi sh he was being for valuing his art over human lives.
Even if the installation went without a hitch, Ankrom had no intention of telling anyone what he had done and he would have been happy to leave his sign there forever. If so much as one screw wasn’t in quite as tight as he had thought, that sign could have actually killed someone.
The parallels to my current Bookforms project are obvious. As for the readings in Layout Essentials, this week focused heavily on the part color plays in a system. Picking a palette has always been one of the first steps for my projects, mainly because it helps me visualize how I want a piece to feel before I begin. Interestingly enough, two of the three Dutch designers I chose are both heavily influenced by certain colors in their works. This makes my color choices even more central to the task of capturing the essences of their styles, and our book definitely has some good pointers on the ways I can use color to aid the overall designs.
Word did eventually get out however and actual Caltrans workers came to inspect Ankrom’s DIY project. They found that his craftsmanship was in fact up to snuff, and while they weren’t happy with his methods, there was really no harm done. Wow, said my literal first thought, you reaaally have to do your research. I don’t think what Ankrom did was okay, but to give him credit he did really do his homework—his handiwork was so good that the city wouldn’t have even noticed that it wasn’t their sign had someone not clued them in. A poorly researched and thought-out project could result in an embarrassing critique, or in catastrophe. Putting in the time and the research needed to do something right is imperative.
wonder This week’s assigned podcast was an episode of Design Matters featuring illustrator and writer Marian Bantjes. The interview started with Bantjes discussing her illustrative typographic style and the “downright weird” experimental pieces she would create. The focus of the episode, however, was on her recently published book I Wonder. The book is a collection of her thoughts and reflections on art and life in general, but the real interest around the book is centered on its presentation. The book is printed in full color with gold leaf spread throughout; each page is adorned with a variety of Bantjes’s trademark swirling patterns and motifs. Beyond the messages and lessons in the words, the book itself makes an artistic statement because the book itself is an artistic object. The way the illustrations are handled help to facilitate the book’s message, and guide the reader emotionally as they read. In what Bantjes has created, the act of turning pages and enjoying the spreads of the book visually has become a decadent experience.
It is in this idea of bookmaking as a journey for the reader that our Dutch folio project begins. This week’s readings in Layout Essentials were focused on horizontal hierarchy. Most relevantly, there was a chapter especially focused on using timelines on a spread as illustrative elements instead of just displaying information. This is cannot only be directly utilized in our current projects, but correlates with the kind of artwork that Marian Bantjes was talking about. Beauty can be used as an aid to written communication, or even guide the meaning of words. My takeaway from all of this is that I need to pay special attention to the way I handle my visual elements in this folio, especially since I’m representing another artists work. Making sure that I really pin down the feeling I want my audience to have as they read and interact with my book will determine my success, and for my own sake, I’d like to create a book that is beautiful and memorable as an object and experience.
imagery credited to madebyrens.nl
aw a r e This week’s assigned podcast was an episode of 99% Invisible ti tled “Awareness.” The episode told the story of the red AIDS awareness ribbon—a symbol that arose from a society that largely wanted to ignore the epidemic. The ribbon was conceived and mobilized by a group of New York arti sts called Visual Aids. The idea was to make something simple and understated that anyone could wear to show their support for those suff ering with AIDS and as an eff ort to bring AIDS into conversati on. The campaign was hugely successful—the boosted awareness led to both a bett er understanding of AIDS in America and in actual money driven towards research to cure AIDS. The campaign was so successful, in fact, that almost every organizati on
and cause imaginable has appropriated the ribbon symbol for themselves in a diff erent color. AIDS doesn’t even have the color red to themselves anymore; Mothers Against Drunk Driving and several substance abuse movements have claimed the color red for themselves. While I couldn’t really arti culate a way that the lesson here applies to what we’re doing in Bookforms aside from the idea that art has power and value in the real world, I did see an interesti ng parallel between the Visual AIDS vision and the eff orts of the arti sts I am creati ng a folio for, rENs. They both place parti cular importance on the color red, for prett y much the same reason.
Red can symbolize a wide range of emotions—Visual AIDS wanted a color to represent blood and death, but also passion, love “like a valentine”, and compassion. A great deal of rENs art focuses on exploring these exact connotations of red—what makes a red foreboding vs. comforting and warm? It will be important for me in my study of rENs to express their ideas and feelings towards the color red appropriately, and to carry that spirit of experimentation into my own work. This week’s readings in Layout Essentials focused on using type as a major illustrative element and basing a grid off of such elements. This is incredibly relevant and important to my project as I figure out how to tastefully incorporate experimental type into my folio.
skin deep This week’s assigned podcast was an episode of Design Matters featuring Stefan Sagmeister. This particular episode was admittedly difficult to absorb. This was a “vintage” edition of Design Matters from the dark days of 2013. Debbie sounded like she was recording the interview with a Nokia brick phone, and it seemed as though she had yet to develop her signature edge as an internet radio host. She conducted the interview like a middle-schooler meeting Justin Bieber, at one point asking Stephan breathlessly if he had felt a change now that he was like, totally famous. Sagmeister shrugged audibly and told her that no, not really, and that he was really only famous to designers. I knew that his name sounded familiar, and after a quick Google search I found out why: we literally looked at his firm’s work in class just weeks ago, and I looked through his “Things I Have Learned” piece myself. Beyond Sagmeister & Walsh’s strange live-feed homepage,
I also found that Sagmeister himself is a king of experimental typography. Light, fabric, splatters of paint, hair, and even people are all up for grabs in his works, and his canvases range from thin air to human flesh. One piece I remember Steve Skaggs showing us back in Intro was a talk poster of Sagmeister’s where he had an assistant help him carve the details of the event into his own skin. It makes my own experimental type feel really pedestrian by comparison. This week’s Layout Essentials readings focused on designing functional grids that have to accommodate large amounts of information. God knows that this is relevant to our Bookforms project: six pages to accurately visually describe an artist’s entire body of work without it being a total mess is not easy to do. While I feel as though my layout is already coming along nicely, I still find these tips helpful and will probably implement them more in future projects.
imagery credited to madebyrens.nl
bat tle scars This week’s assigned podcast was an episode of 99% Invisible titled “Ten Thousand Years.” The episode centered around a unique design problem presented by the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in New Mexico. The plant is really a massive underground repository for nuclear waste—waste that will not be safe for another ten-thousand years. Human’s today can understand well enough the dangers of approaching radioactive materials—the problem arose from how to protect humans from the content of the plant for the full lifetime of the facility. How could a team of designers, anthropologists, geologists, and science fiction writers accurately speak to an audience that they have not met and will never meet? I was curious to hear the answer.
They discussed the pitfalls of any obvious solutions such as language or symbols. As different as we are now than we were ten-thousand years ago, human kind may be even stranger and more dissonant from us in the future. Language will change inevitably: there’s no way to make a sign that will be understood that far in the future. The meaning of symbols, too, changes: what could today say “danger keep away” could say something entirely different in a few generations. Idea after idea was shot down over this and that for years, until finally…
The episode ended. There’s an interim solution in place involving stone pillars, but according to the team in charge of solving the problem, a permanent solution will not be placed until 2028—45 years after the project was first commissioned.
Our folios are no different: understanding how my design choices will effect how a viewer understands and appreciates my book is vital to my book being understood and appreciated (both goals of mine.) This week’s reading in Layout Essentials was on handling layouts with minimal information and pictures without leaving a spread looking empty. This is an area I definitely need help in, I realized especially after being faced with the possibility of having to introduce some white space into my piece to match RENS’ new branding. However, I’m not sure that I’m going to undergo any serious design changes this close to the deadline. This weekend is all about putting the pieces together: printing, gluing, and slicing.
What I took away from this was that even with the best most creative and ingenious minds on the job, an effective design project simply cannot be completed without knowing the audience. Knowing how the target thinks and feels and understands symbol, color, and language is critical to the success of a piece.
Pictured is a very recent example of the sweat, tears, and blood I put into my work.
entry 13 This semester’s final podcast was an episode of Design Matters featuring Tina Roth Eisenburg. Eisenburg is a Swiss designer living in Brooklyn who has done work for the Museum of Modern Art, is the mind behind the CreativeMornings lecture series, and is the proprietor of her website/identity, Swiss Miss.
so at least in my own case, I’m left with two extremely different works in terms of color, content and tone to figure out how to balance and represent appropriately. On top of that, throw in four months of my own blog ramblings and silly pictures to organize and present alongside my work and I begin to face a bit of a challenge.
Swiss Miss is itself a very interesting site. What started out as a visual inventory became a popular site providing a daily stream of noteworthy, inspirational, and often very dissonant content. Just on the most recent page, entries range from tshrits with tiny chalkboards on them to “soothing spaceship sounds” to an animated reminder to keep breathing after Tuesday.
This week’s reading in Layout Essentials focused on breaking out of the grid structure, and then rethinking the way we use grids to achieve unique and unconventional results. I’ve never been great at using a traditional grid and sticking to it throughout a piece. I’m a big fan of reserved and clean design when other people do it, I just have a lot of trouble doing it decently myself. These chapters certainly appeal to me and I would love to experiment with the Bookform more through this project, but I also feel as though a more understated layout is called for to let my work do the talking. I think I’m going to go through the book again to perhaps get some ideas for the kind of style I want for my piece, and I can definitely see this book being a great reference tool for projects down the line.
So how does she do it? How does Eisenburg take topics and images and videos that all vary so greatly both in visuals and in content and make them all look like they belong in the same publication visually? That’s essentially what we have to figure out for our Bookforms final project. The AYG system and my rENs folio don’t even look like distant cousins to each other,
imagery credited to madebyrens.nl
This has been an excruciating, exhausting, and difficult semester. I lost sleep, hair, and even the occasional fingertip creating the pieces featured in this book. However, the amount of growth I have undergone in the last sixteen weeks is incredible. I made things that six months ago, I wouldn’t have believed I was capable of, and I can confidently say that I am ten times the designer I was this time last year. I can’t wait to see where this program will take me next, and I can’t wait to see what kind of designer I’ll be tomorrow. Thank you for taking the time to read my book, and I hope you have a wonderful day.
Emily Johnson ART 574 Professor Meena Khalili University of Louisville Fall 2016