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EYE ON DESIG N #05: DISTRACTION

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EYE ON DESIG N #05: DISTRACTION

Dearest Reader, If we could have your attention, just for one second, we’d like to ask you to take a breath, quiet your mind, and note what first pops into your head when you hear the word “distraction.” Most of our initial reactions (unsurprisingly) involved tech­ nology: We’re distracted by screens, social media, and accidental internet k-holes. We’re interrupted by ads we don’t want to see, deluged by articles to read, and pulled away by the constant pinging of push notifications, status updates, and unread emails. This is where we started for the Distraction issue1, but like the beginning of every time-swallowing, path-splintering rabbit hole, it’s not where we ended up.

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1_Liz procrastinated prepping for pitch meetings by making her kitchen (almost) sparkling clean.

One of the darker sides of distraction is undoubtedly how companies profit from it. When our attention is commodified, designing new ways to divert and capture it is lucrative business. No one does this better than porn sites2, and in one of our main features we explore how they pioneered live chat, video streaming, credit card processing, pop-ups, web promos, and other UI elements we now consider commonplace on the G-rated web, too.

2_Madeleine procrastinated writing her piece by going through every single advert on her Instagram feed and reporting it as offensive. This frenzied, frenetic mode of absorbing information is also reflected in new styles of design. As one of the educators who participated in our roundtable discussion about Instagram and design school3 put it, “You see this collaging and appropriation of styles, and mashup of visual styles together, because that’s how we consume content now.” Add to that a dark sense of humor, a reverence for ’90s rave graphics,

3_Meg procrastinated leading the roundtable discussion by editing everyone elseʼs stories instead of working on her own.


and an irreverent tendency toward “antidesign,” and you’ve got “acid graphics,”4 a contemporary design trend that we decided to take a long, fun, and heady look at in this issue.

4_Emily procrastinated researching “acid graphics” by creating a very long Spotify playlist, also themed “distraction,” and sharing it with the team to help them get their work done. But distraction isn’t all doom and gloom and data mining5. In fact,

5_Tala procrastinated from writing and designing her piece by researching instant image background removal tools, downloading one, and realizing that it doesn’t really work.

6_Perrin procrastinated from writing her profile on game designer Roberta Williams by rediscovering a childhood favorite from 1992, “Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis,” which she played (and won) from memory. With so many things vying for your attention, we hope this issue will be the kind of distraction that inspires slow reads, a shift in perspective, and puts a beautiful, physical object in your hands, designed with wit, criticality, and immoderation by Ann Richter and Pia Christmann of Studio Pandan. Love from around the world, The Editors7

7_Liz Stinson, Madeleine Morley, Meg Miller, Emily Gosling, Tala Safie, and Perrin Drumm.

EDITORS’ LETTER

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a bit of escapism can be a very, very good thing. Lots of the designers you’ll meet in this issue have something they spend their time on—DJing, making jewelry—that pulls them away from design and brings them back to it more fulfilled and inspired. Two of our longform features center on women interaction designers in the 1980s and ’90s, who used nascent video games6 and experimental webzines in ways that would change their industries forever. And one writer’s ode to Flair, the beloved, opulent, short-lived magazine in the ’50s, celebrates the sumptuous, over-the-top pleasures of maximalism in print.


Table of Contents 11 6 12 Editors’ Letter

Designers’ Letter

All of the Lights

EYE ON DESIG N #05: DISTRACTION

How Times Square became the glowing heartbeat of New York City By Liz Stinson

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Artist Spotlight: Yuichi Yokoyama In his manga Travel, the artist carves out moments of stillness in a whirring world

Queen’s Quest

Hands on My Hard Data Online pornography is designed for the ultimate money shot By Madeleine Morley

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Design in Dimensions Miglė Kazlauskaitė’s jewelry is an extension of her graphic design By Meg Miller

The world’s first graphic computer game designer is famous for all the wrong reasons By Perrin Drumm

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Style Before Substances

A new, futuristic take on “acid graphics” is well and truly here. But for how long? By Emily Gosling

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Things I’m Doing on Our Conference Call Right Now When I work from home, no hour-long meetings can hold me down. Multi-task ftw.

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Please @ This Design Class Instagram builds community at the same time as it fuels anxiety. How can design educators use the best parts of the platform, and leave the rest?


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The Rise of the #MuseumMirrorSelfie

It’s easy to consider art selfies an act of vapidity and distraction—but they also bring exhibitions outside of institutions and into the wider, digital world By A. R.   practice

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Too Much of a Good Thing Is Wonderful Making history’s most beautiful magazine just took an impossibly fabulous editor, connections to the upper echelons of society, and buckets of money By Rachel Syme

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Does designing “delight” into products serve short-term needs at the cost of long-term harm? By Alex Rothera

A Graphic Designer’s Screen Time Report

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Screen shaming for your own good. You’re welcome. By Tala Safié

The ever-changing art of the screensaver

Picking Up the Cyber Slack

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

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Don’t Click

The Delight Dilemma

Multimedia artist Jaime Levy was at the forefront of web design before websites even existed By Claire Evans

Forever Young

“Brown People Are Cute, Too!”

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Who said games are just for kids? Here are our favorite design diversions for those who are still children at heart.

For DJ and illustrator anu, a diverse creative practice is about more than making lots of different work

Down the Rabbit Hole Designers illustrate their past 24 hours of browsing history

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What Kind of Procrastinator Are You? “Non-procrastinator” is not an option, so stop kidding yourself


To distract you, we came up with the idea of pop-ups. Advertisements for other articles in the magazine attempt to divert you from the page that you’re currently on. Or they try to sell you something that you may or may not need.

To perplex you, we’ve chosen Phase, a variable font by Elias Hanzer, as our main display typeface. It presents a nearly endless amount of styles and possibilities.

To distract you, we highlighted unimportant elements in the publication, such as the page numbers and the gutter. We color coded the gutters, transforming the minor, unimportant space into a functional system that’ll help you orientate yourself.

To confuse you, “cacophony” became a keyword for thinking about the art direction of this issue. We decided to use a variety of different styles: for an article on porn sites, for example, we worked with the painter Lina Ehrentraut, whose rough, painted surfaces juxtapose the sleek world of the computer. Elsewhere, we included more overtly digital illustrations and various photographic genres, too.

To give you a break, we designed a series of pages inspired by screensavers, which we scattered throughout the magazine. Our printed screensavers are an homage to these moments of relative stillness, when we procrastinate too much and images of idleness appear on our screens.

To procrastinate, we went on holiday together to Greece. Let’s call it a “workation,” because we had to work on the design of this issue simultaneously, regularly swapping mindsets as we switched between work and holiday mode. As independent designers, the lines between work and leisure are often unclear.

DESIGNERS' LETTER

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Designers' Letter

To challenge your attention span, we began the magazine with a Wimmelbild, which is a German word that literally means “teeming picture.” It’s basically a microcosm of the whole issue in one image. Can you stay focused for long enough to find us amongst the crowd?

To distract you, our pull-quotes elbow into the text, much like pushy push-notifications.

To grab your attention, we’ve used a fifth silver spot color. It stands out vibrantly against our paper stock, glittering so brightly that it could tantalize a magpie.

To start off, when the Eye on Design team asked us to design their “Distraction” issue, we immediately started dreaming up crazy, excessive layouts where no space remained untouched. We imagined fragmented articles interrupting one another; a variety of visuals competing for attention; blinding, crazy spot colors and all kinds of unnecessary information hidden in French folds. The idea was to be big and loud, and we almost got lost in creative daydreams. Luckily, the editors reminded us that it was still important that the magazine be legible. Despite our imaginations running wild on occasion, we’ve tried our best to concentrate on the most effective ways to keep you focused on the content... while at other moments keeping your focus at bay.


All L   ight How Times Square became the glowing heartbeat of New York City


of the s 13

By Liz Stinson

Photography by Chris Maggio


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The lights never turn off in Times Square, not even at 10 a.m. on a sunny day midweek. You emerge from the 42nd Street subway station and they’re right there glowing in the daylight—7,500 bulbs shimmering in sync on the marquee of the most spectacular McDonalds you’ll ever encounter. This is the border of Times Square, a district in central Manhattan that stretches from 43rd Street between Broadway and 8th Avenue up to 50th Street, just past a 68-foot-tall kinetic digital screen advertising Coca-Cola.

The further you edge inward from Times Square’s boundaries, the more the city seems to turn itself inside out. Its nerve center is a place of pure excess—too many people, too much light, and too much noise. Times Square has changed plenty since it first received its name, but it has always been a place defined by deliberate chaos. In the late 1800s, the underground subway first snaked its way through a stretch of land around 42nd and Broadway called Long Acre Square, bringing business development, theater, and nightlife to the once rustic area. By the early 20th century, advances in electricity and the advent of neon transformed the newly commercial area into a beacon of entertainment1 and advertising that has stayed alight, more or less, ever since.

Times Square is ugly by design. Today, Times Square is a giant pop-up advertisement specifically designed to grab hold of your brain and not let go. Buildings are covered in digital screens that stretch across entire facades and display an ever shifting array of ads that cover the towers in a patchwork of technicolor blankets. It’s a garish, mind-melting display of consumerism, and it’s entirely by choice. Times Square is ugly by design. Buried deep within city zoning documents are rules and regulations that state just how much space should be dedicated to the glowing signs (a lot)2, where they should be placed (as visibly as possible)3 and how they should be displayed (very brightly)4. Most of New York City abides by regulations that aim to limit the size and scope of signage. By contrast, Times Square is designated a special signage district that requires building owners to invest in over-the-top signs. “Here, you can go as big as you like,” says Anthony Caruso, vice president of real estate & public affairs at Clear Channel Outdoor and treasurer of the Times Square Advertising Coalition. The city created these regulations in 1986, a moment when Times Square was scrubbing off the tawdriness associated with the area due to the sex industry that emerged during the Great Depression

ALL OF THE LIGHTS

1 In the 2007 book Times Square Spectacular, author Darcy Tell wrote about early 20th-century Times Square signage: “The most popular attractions in the district were free: enormous electric advertising signs that sprouted on roofs all over Times Square. Even on Sunday evenings, when the theaters were closed, crowds came to stroll up and down Broadway at the latest dazzling spectaculars.” 2 Special Times Square signage requirement: There shall be a minimum of one #illuminated sign# with a #surface area# of not less than 1,000 square feet for each 50 linear feet, or part thereof, of #street# frontage on Seventh Avenue or Broadway, except that for any one #zoning lot# no more than five #signs# shall be required.

New York’s nerve center is a place of pure excess—too many people, too much light, and too much noise.


and thrived through the 1970s. Developers were interested in building large office towers for white-collar workers, but they weren’t so interested in plastering advertisements to the side of their multi-million dollar investments. For some, revitalizing Times Square meant scrubbing it clean and erecting glass towers. But glitz and grime had always been the area’s calling card, and the city wasn’t going to let a few new buildings turn a tourist attraction into another staid officeland. In a 1986 application for a zoning amendment, the city planning commission stated its case: “The proposed amendment to the Zoning Resolution is a response to accelerating changes in Times Square that could threaten its unique character, which for nearly a century has made this space symbolic of the vitality and dynamism of New York City itself.” Extinguishing Times Square’s over-the-top nature, they wrote, would be extinguishing its lifeblood. Preserving the characteristic gaudiness that made Times Square a worldwide symbol of excess turned out to be a savvy business plan: Today it costs between $  1.1 million and $  4 million a year to buy advertising space in Times Square, with much of that going to the developers, who typically own the signs on any given building.

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3 Special Times Square signage requirement: At least 75 % of the #surface area# of #signs# required shall be placed at an angle in plain view of not more than 45 ° to the Seventh Avenue or Broadway #street line#. 4 Special Times Square signage requirement: A minimum of 25 % of the required minimum aggregate #surface area# of #signs# shall comprise #signs# each of which shall attain for a minimum of 25 % of its #surface area# at least 1.5 LUTS incident illumination.

Glitz and grime had always been the area’s calling card.


In the more than 30 years since the city legitimized Times Square’s claustrophobic aesthetic, it’s become the glowing heartbeat of the city, recognizable to people around the world with a single photograph. It’s a place that’s foreign to visitors and natives alike, even those × who bear the brunt of its contradictions every day while //********************************* walking to and from work. //* proceed to page 46 ************** “We want Times //********************************* Square to look a little cheesy,” Caruso says. He tells me this on a blustery morning in early spring while standing on the corner of Broadway and 43rd Street. Above us, a 1,200-square-foot screen that his company owns is broadcasting a high-resolution advertisement for Netflix. Compared to the 17,000-square-foot sign just up the street, the screen we’re looking at is almost tasteful. It looks like a flat screen TV that’s been blown up to city scale. Today, all of Times Square is like this. Illuminated vinyl signs stretch across entire building facades. Corners are blunted by signs that protrude in an attempt to grab the attention of passersby. The digital screens get bigger, brighter, and sharper every year, and the constant march towards technological relevance isn’t going to stop. It’s all a bit paradoxical. In a time when targeted digital advertising rules, developers in Times Square are squeezing as much screen space as they can out of the finite physical world. The effect of this visual cacophony is that real visibility itself can be surprisingly difficult to achieve. The city estimates more than 380,000 people walk through Times Square every day. That’s 760,000 eyeballs potentially taking in the more than 230 signs that fill the district. It is impossible to measure exactly how many people linger on a sign for the seven seconds it takes to count as an “impression,” but what’s clear is that Times Square elicits a rare form of distraction that even the most internet-trained brain can barely process.

EYE ON DESIGN #05: DISTRACTION

Queen’s Quest

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H   and on M EYE ON DESIGN #5: DISTRACTION

By Madeleine Morley

Illustrations by Lina Ehrentraut


ds My

HANDS ON MY HARD DATA

Online pornography is designed for the ultimate money shot


EYE ON DESIGN #05: DISTRACTION

I’m looking at porn with a woman I met on the internet. To the left of our Skype video chat, a checkerboard of video stills merge into one single disingenuous orgasm. Bodies grind and groan in their windows, holding positions with dexterous ease. As we scroll and browse the various clips, animated porno gifs bounce irritatingly in the margins of the screen, trying to catch our gaze. “PornHub wants us to come here, open up a video, open up another, and lose our afternoon Vegas-style,” says Missy Kelley, the woman I’ve just met. Kelley is a UX and AI product design director who I connected with via email. She’s recently updated the Make Love Not Porn website, the “social sex” video-sharing platform spearheaded by Cindy Gallop and brought into public consciousness after her 2009 TED Talk went viral. I figure Kelley has something to say about the interface design of popular sex sites, which, according to most current web design lore, are chaotic and poorly designed. “Sites like Pornhub obviously want to monitor our engagement by providing one dopamine hit after another. It’s all about fast consumption and clicks,” says Kelley.

“The question of whether or not a design is ‘good’ always takes me to the question of whether it’s fulfilling its function, which PornHub seems to be.” If we side with the popular opinion that minimal, stripped-back interfaces improve user experience, a black background with bright orange Arial and a swirl of animated sidebars advertising lonely, local MILFs is not the stuff effective web design is made of. Yet it’s no coincidence that Pornhub, xTube, RedTube, YouPorn, xVideos, xHamster, and more all feature very similar interfaces. What appears underdesigned is in fact highly strategic. “The question of whether or not a design is ‘good’ always takes me to the question of whether it’s fulfilling its function, which Pornhub seems to be. Sites like it are so immediate,” says Kelley. “From your


search results, you know what’s about to happen in a video. But you’re also distracted by the content surrounding your clip, so while you’re watching, you’re also thinking, what’s next? And then you continue to click.” I skip from a clip of three tanned, hard bodies gyrating against a palm tree to another featuring a butch woman with tattoos and a strapon winching a woman in UGGs on a marble kitchen counter. Next, I fall down a rabbit hole of clicking: I find porn with body hair, masks, nipple-piercings, stretch marks, balloons, Tasers, cupcakes. Beyond the pencil-thin women with bleached-blonde manes adorning the homepage lies a tour of human sexual diversity, if you know how to find it. Our culture very rarely talks about what is meant by “porn.” For some, it means certain websites and carefully honed search terms; for others, it’s a vague memory flickering in a darkened room at 3 a.m. Some find porn an embarrassing mimicry of “real” sex; others feel enslaved by their desire for it; and many more enjoy watching it as part of a daily or weekly routine, seeing it as a space for fulfilment, relaxation, or discovery. And while we might not discuss personal browsing habits with one another publicly, that’s not to say that our searches go unobserved. With tens of millions of people visiting mainstream tube sites such as Pornhub, xHamster, and xVideos each year, online porn is part of that

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HANDS ON MY HARD DATA


same world of algorithms and data mining that drives most profit-making enterprises on the internet. Tube sites have data on what we click on and search for—information they use to predict our desires and feed content back to us. While you might be heading online for a quick fix, the UX design of a porn site is doing everything in its power to keep you clicking. Like all the data giants, porn tubes are designed to increase “attention retention” and “time on site.” The longer viewers browse, the more data they

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The UX design of these sites keeps users clicking by abiding by the age-old rule of desire: The best way to keep someone interested is to keep them guessing.

(.)(.) In consumer culture, variety is the illusion of choice. It instills the belief that you’ll eventually find what you’re looking for. When you browse a store like IKEA, or the shelf of a supermarket, sheer overload implies that somewhere among it all you’ll find exactly what’s right for you. Amid an abundance of throw pillows you’ll surely find the right color combo to match your curtains; out of the 60 spiced-coconut granola cereal brands, you’ll eventually find the right mix of flavor and crunch. And in browsing and searching, you stay for longer—finding other products along the way. Porn tubes function on this same seductive principle. By giving you so much—almost too much—to look at, you keep clicking and browsing, believing that eventually you’ll find your perfect clip. “The graphical interfaces of pornographic video streaming sites create a space of dwelling, wandering, browsing, meandering, or prolonging engagement for the purpose of pleasure, or for keeping boredom at bay, idle distraction, and time squandering,” writes information scholar Patrick Keilty in his 2018 essay “Desire by design: pornography as technology industry.” Keilty likens porn tube design to IKEA, with its carefully plotted consumer pathways. He argues that in mining our browsing habits, the online pornography industry mediates sexual categories and fetishises racial, class, and cultural differences. Dissect the user-facing design elements of mainstream porn tubes, and you’ll quickly see a pattern emerge, one that is highly effective for upping attention retention and keeping eyes wandering. All

HANDS ON MY HARD DATA

produce. And the UX design of these sites keeps users clicking by abiding by the age-old rule of desire: The best way to keep someone interested is to keep them guessing.


sites include a similarly arranged cacophony of animation, gifs, live action, typography, logo, sound, page views, and gleaming “like” buttons. Logos always sit on the top left, followed by a thin search bar and a drop-down menu of categories. Rows and columns of video stills crowd underneath; live action advertisements sit on the right-hand side, which usually feature DTF singles or cartoon animal-women hybrids with impossibly large breasts. I’ve watched vloggers enter pornography sites for the “eye-tracker challenge”—that popular dare where YouTubers install eye tracking technology that follows their eyes on a screen and maps their sorry attempts to avoid looking at sexualized body parts on various websites. When faced with the swollen, bouncing cleavage in a live-action ad box, vloggers’ eyes dart right towards it. Tube interfaces compel the viewer to take in the entirety of the page: eyes are drawn clockwise, from logo to moving breasts, and then down leftwards, eventually falling on a bottom row of videos ready for perusal. “These spaces are designed to give viewers routes to follow while distracting them with an abundance of products,” writes Keilty. “In doing so, this mode of design promises satisfaction while delivering unintelligibility and disorientation in order to remove one’s sense of autonomy through capital-productive distractions.”

EYE ON DESIGN #05: DISTRACTION

28 {(.)}

The adult industry’s profits have long driven broader technological innovation, with the creation of new sales tactics and revenue streams like live chat, video streaming, secure credit card processing, pop-ups, and web promotions. We see those features on all kinds of sites, but they originated in porn. In the days of the early web, pornography proved to all e-commerce skeptics that consumers were willing to plug their credit card information into impersonal pop-ups. “The porn industry has served as a model for a variety of online sales mechanisms, including monthly site fees, the provision of extensive free material as a lure to site visitors, and the concept of upselling

Porn sites include a similarly arranged cacophony of animation, gifs, live action, typography, logo, sound, page views, and gleaming “like” buttons. (selling related services to people once they have joined a site),” writes Frederick S. Lane III in Obscene Profits: The Entrepreneurs of Pornography in the Cyber Age. “In myriad ways, large and small, the porn industry has blazed a commercial path that other industries are hastening to follow.”


Data, on the other hand, first entered porn after the rise of YouTube. By 2007, adult industry entrepreneurs had created numerous imitations of the video sharing service, including RedTube and YouPorn. Soon these sites caught on to the fact that their content-funnelling practice (mostly of pirated pornographic films as well as diverse amateur content) had created a massive, sprawling, and very valuable dataset. Funded by ad revenue, the tube sites—as with all streaming services at the time—tapped into their data to draw more users to their site, and for longer periods of time. It seems surprising that there’s such little objection to the spread of pornography that actively targets and mines its consumers. This may be because we don’t talk about the porn we watched last night with the same openness that we might discuss a recent Facebook thread. Brands, too, push porn out of their orbit (Google, for example, doesn’t allow pornographic content in its results unless a search term is specific enough). Despite their immense daily traffic, advertisers don’t advertise on porn platforms unless they’re also part of the adult industry. And so we’ve turned a blind eye to the use of our sexual data while riling against the use of our social data. Equally concerning, and rarely discussed, is the fact that one single company is gaining monopoly over porn’s distribution and production. It’s the same company behind each and every one of the tube sites I’ve been browsing. MindGeek’s unassuming website states that the design, development, marketing, and SEO company is “pioneering the future of online traffic”—but it doesn’t say what it actually shares on its nearly 100 websites, which combined consume more bandwidth than Twitter, Amazon, or Facebook. MindGeek currently operates most of the major tubes including Pornhub, RedTube, and YouPorn; it has 10 production companies (including Brazzers and Digital Playground) as well as ties to Playboy and other major studios. With MindGeek’s monopoly over all areas of its content, the adult industry is now in the paradoxical situation of working for a company that makes money from the piracy of its output: When the production company Brazzers shoots a video, for example, it then gets pirated and uploaded onto one of the tubes. “What we have now is an unprecedented centralization, along with the data economy that goes with it,” says Susanna Paasonen, a pornography studies expert and professor in media studies at Finland’s University of Turku. “As a result, it’s increasingly difficult to make a living as an independent pornographer.” And how precisely does MindGeek monetize all its data? “Well, it provides all kinds of services, and not just for porn,” says Paasonen.

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s p i T t 8 Ho for Page 65! Multitaski ng on Conference Calls

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“If everything goes according to plan, MindGeek will actually design the UK’s national age verification system. So in a way, MindGeek will make money from blocking access to its adult content in addition to making money for providing that content.”

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EYE ON DESIGN #05: DISTRACTION

8===D

In the ’90s, it took very little to set up a porn site that could turn a healthy profit. The first to make it were independent entrepreneurs and a range of individuals distributing and producing for various platforms. Porn viewers were able to find niche content if they knew how to search for it—making it easier than ever for people to embrace a diversity of bodies and fetishes, likes and dislikes. To many, the landscape was liberating. Previously—and for women especially—the pursuit of a broad range of sexual experiences had come with a sense of stigma and danger. But online, in the sprawling intimacy of the world wide web, people could discern and they could learn. With the rise of the tubes in the 2000s, images and videos needed to be more searchable, which meant the accumulation of metadata. “As a result, the taxonomy of categories in porn has grown rather diverse,” says Paasonen. “I would say that generally, the increase in the centralization of metadata and the categories that go with that has meant an expansion in terms of what people recognize. A certain porn literacy has come into being.” Acts that used to be marginal—kink or subcultural—have grown instantly recognizable through online indexing. And the answers that algorithms uncovered continue to assure people of the presence of the like-minded; no one is alone with her abhorrent desires, and no desires are abhorrent. “There has been an expansion in realms of possibility in terms of what bodies can do in porn, and I think that’s actually a positive thing because it generates particular kinds of learning,” says Paasonen. “But then, of course, what gets pumped to the surface tends not to be a huge diversity in terms of bodies and genders. In a way, it’s a dual process.” The tubes are a web of contradictions. While they offer visibility to a range of sexual preferences, at the same time they thrive on categories that perpetuate stereotypes and the exotification of ethnic difference. “As the tube sites are now so massive, they seem to offer that original ’90s promise of catering to every taste,” continues Paasonen. “But then, with the way that algorithms work, what will you actually find when you enter something into the search? There’s not much transparency in terms of what gets pumped up to the surface in the results.” Increasingly, the content that’s pushed to the top likely reflects what is profitable to MindGeek—say, the content created by the production companies it owns or sponsored content—not necessarily what is always most applicable to you or your search terms. Searching for “butch


HANDS ON MY HARD DATA


lesbian,” for example, may result in top hits pushed by MindGeek that don’t really fit the bill, but that doesn’t mean the database is void of content that might. “The live search results look very, very different from the listings of the most popular terms,” adds Paasonen. While Pornhub does publish yearly reports on its stats, it does so in the name of PR and clickbait; it’s not clear how accurate they actually are. MindGeek is not a listed

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EYE ON DESIGN #05: DISTRACTION

We’ve turned a blind eye to the use of our sexual data while riling against the use of our social data. company, so it does not have to release its data. Indeed, if you search across the entire Pornhub network live-stream, no two searches ever seem the same: at this moment in time, the words “Detective, Two girls bully, Dildo chase, Tight jeans outdoor, Panties, Pantyhose, Electric, Cucumber” flutter past. According to an interview with a developer at xHamster, it’s by looking at user data collected using Google Analytics that the site determines what videos to put on a homepage’s ‘Most Viewed’ tab. They’re also regularly running a variety of A/B tests—experimenting with different content to find out more about how certain demographics respond. The sites are therefore driven by what is most profitable and what’s deemed most popular. Given the number of people disabling cookie trackers, using proxy IP addresses to mask location, and logging out of their personal accounts, though, some have pointed out that it’s very likely that the tubes aren’t gathering reliable or accurate data. And in attempting to infer what its users want in order to drive up engagement, the tubes push certain acts and fetishes over others. In doing so, our sexual reference points as well as our desire is mediated by the logic of clickbait. Pornhub averted my interview requests for this article, though I did eventually get this quote from its head of design, David Rock: “Our ultimate goal is for Pornhub to be considered one of the best sites, not just in the porn arena, but on the entire web.” If we define what is best by that which serves its specific purpose most efficiently, and if we agree that the purpose of a data giant is to create an interface that will distract users in order to mine them, then Pornhub’s ultimate goal is easily within its reach.


ARTIST SPOTLIGHT

Yuichi Yokoyama In his manga Travel, the artist carves out moments of stillness in a whirring world

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What does it mean to “express time?” The phrase is one that the artist Yuichi Yokoyama often uses to describe his art, which captures brief, fleeting moments through the medium of manga. Born in 1967 in Japan’s Miyazaki Prefecture, Yokoyama completed an MFA in oil painting at Musashino Art University, turning to manga as an art form only after graduating. Since 2000, he’s created numerous manga—including New Engineering, Baby Boom, and NIWA—as well as paintings informed by the medium. Yokoyama’s designs lack any definitive storyline or narrative; instead, the artist is interested in the comic panel as a unit of time, and he explores texture and unravelling moments within its confines. Dialogue is sparse in his black-and-white, abstract universes, which are peppered with cool, distant characters. “Whatever theme or motif I select, what I am drawing is not the physical thing in the picture, but rather the particular sort of time that exists there,” he said in 2014, as an exhibition of his work opened at AISHONANZUKA gallery in Hong Kong. With his clear departure from traditional manga, Yokoyama has also described his art—which has also shown at Seoul Museum of Art and the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo—as a kind of “neo-manga.” In Travel, Yokoyama captures the intensity of going from point A to point B on a bullet train in an anonymous mega-city. The manga is based on his own experience riding local trains from Tokyo to the Kansai region, which takes roughly eight hours. While staring out the window on these journeys, he catches glimpses and occasional flashes of a blurred world outside. Travel dwells on those quiet moments of observation: a second of eye contact with a passenger in a parallel train, the whizz of a motorcycle on a road outside, the monotonous rows of faces pressed against the glass of a passing double decker. In a place of speed and movement, of constant whirring momentum and energy, Yokoyama’s panels carve out space for idle dwelling. The following four images are taken from his manga.


Yuichi Yokoyama, ‘Untitled,’ marker on paper, 16.9 x 12.2” (43 x 31 cm). Image courtesy of NANZUKA © Yuichi Yokoyama.

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Yuichi Yokoyama, ‘Untitled,’ marker on paper, 16.9 x 12.2” (43 x 31 cm). Image courtesy of NANZUKA © Yuichi Yokoyama.

YUICHI YOKOYAMA


Yuichi Yokoyama, ‘Untitled,’ marker on paper, 16.9 x 12.2” (43 x 31 cm). Image courtesy of NANZUKA © Yuichi Yokoyama.

EYE ON DESIGN #05: DISTRACTION


Yuichi Yokoyama, ‘Untitled,’ marker on paper, 16.9 x 12.2” (43 x 31 cm). Image courtesy of NANZUKA © Yuichi Yokoyama.

YUICHI YOKOYAMA


Dimensions

Design in Miglė Kazlauskaitė’s jewelry is an extension of her graphic design

By Meg Miller


Previous page: Miglė, various jewelry pieces. Opposite page, left: Miglė, Hand Bracelet Fine in silver. Opposite page, right:Miglė, World Italic Necklace in silver. All photographed by Justinas Vilutis, 2018.

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DESIGN IN DIMENSIONS

In the back of Miglė Kazlauskaitė’s open, sunlit studio in the Berlin neighborhood of Kreuzberg, a massive model ear sits perched high on a shelf. It’s the sort of gummy, plastic sculpture that you might otherwise find in an elementary school science class or the waiting room of a doctor’s office. Here, it’s the neglected, dismantled prop that once modeled a collection of earrings, necklaces, and bracelets in a campaign for her eponymous jewelry brand. Slender and simple in gold and silver, the pieces have an undeniable graphic element to them; the pendant of one necklace is a cast “global” glyph—that meridian-lined world icon often seen on the web—set in italics. A set of bracelets are clasped with a metallic hand, and elegant “reverse earrings” feature hoops that go behind the ear lobe (a very technical-looking diagram on the Miglė Instagram account instructs how to put them on). Before launching her own business in the summer of 2018, Kazlauskaitė studied graphic design at Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam, then worked as a print designer for Studio Manuel Raeder for four years. The two sides of her design practice— the 2D world of graphics and the 3D world of jewelry— never feel too distant from each other, a sentiment perhaps best exemplified by the rotating 3D graphic on the homepage of her website. We sat down with Kazlauskaitė to ask about the discipline that pulls her away from graphic design, her mode of making, and the creation of her brand’s striking visual identity with designer Eloise Harris.


What sort of projects did you work on at Studio Manuel Raeder? Manuel is not a standard graphic designer, he’s really multidisciplinary. But while I was there I was mostly working on books, which was really great. I think it’s a luxury to work in print today, and on really nicely produced artist books.

“I almost feel like I’m translating my graphic design ideas into this 3D thing.”

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What’s the major difference for you as a designer between working in print design and jewelry design? With jewelry, I work with my hands and there’s a materiality element to it, which I really enjoy. It’s also very immediate, because I do it all myself—I’m building something, and then in the end the product is right there. There’s no in-between moment with you and the screen, as with graphic design. That work can feel more abstract, because you’re doing something on a screen, and then it’s produced by someone else. Are there any parts of your graphic design and jewelry design processes that are the same? I often start out thinking of my jewelry pieces as a graphic designer would. For the World Italic Necklace, for example, I started out drawing sketches in Illustrator. But now I’m starting to develop a mode of thinking with the

DESIGN IN DIMENSIONS

Opposite page: Miglė, various jewelry pieces. Next page: Miglė, World Italic Necklace in gold vermeil. All photographed by Justinas Vilutis, 2018.

What was your experience studying and working in graphic design, and when did you start making jewelry? I went to Rietveld Academie thinking I wanted to be a graphic designer and being very sure of that, but when I got there I had the choice of doing a foundation course or going straight into graphic design. I decided to do the foundation course. It really opened up my mind to other disciplines because we got to try everything out and work freely. I remember thinking, “Damn, maybe I don’t want to do graphic design.” Even at that time I thought I might want to do jewelry, because I really enjoy working in 3D design. I also like the applied side to it—that jewelry is something you can actually use. But the graphic design department at Rietveld is just so great, and all the teachers were my idols, so I kept with that. After I graduated, I moved to Berlin and started working for Manuel.


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material from the beginning. In fashion, for example, there are two ways of building clothes: you can make a drawing first, or you can go straight to the mannequin and start making garments directly on it. I feel like the graphic designer’s way is the first one, where it’s all flat and then you construct it. But only now I’ve started working directly with the material and seeing what I can do with it, without starting out with a sketch in my mind. Your branding seems to be playing with the materiality aspect of your work in a specific way. What’s the concept behind your visual identity? The idea behind the visual branding is just to work collaboratively with friends. I’m such a control freak, it’s a big learning curve for me to actually be able to let go. But I think the results of working with and trusting someone else to do things for you is so much more interesting. I decided to ask Eloise Harris to be my co-art director because she’s very talented and has a different way of thinking from me. I always knew I wanted to work with [photographer] Justinas Vilutis for the first campaign. He had the idea to build these still lifes using the ear models. The jewelry is simple, in a way, and very straightforward, so we wanted to do something to complement that simplicity. It was quite random that we got obsessed with ear models; I remember ordering so many of them from all over the place. We ended up dismantling them and putting them back together randomly, and draping the jewelry over them. Do you feel that your experience in graphic design has informed your jewelry practice? Yeah, being trained as a graphic designer, and still doing some graphics on the side, really influences what I do. I almost feel like I’m translating my graphic design ideas into this 3D thing. The World Italic Necklace, for example, was the first piece that I created, and it started out as a joke because I was researching globe glyphs, and I thought it was funny to set a globe in italics. Then I thought it would be great to have it as a piece of jewelry! I made it for myself, and friends of mine decided that they wanted to have it, too. That was the first time that I thought this is something I actually want to do; before that I was just doing it to learn how to goldsmith.


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Que Que

g is f


The world’s first graphic The world’s computer first graphic computer game designer game designer is famous for famous for all all the wrong reasons the wrong

een’s est y B rin m r m e P ru D


The year was 1980, and Roberta Williams, a shy, soft-spoken housewife with little coding or design experience to speak of, rose from obscurity and designed “Mystery House,3” the first-ever computer game with graphics. It’s impossible to conceive of a computer or video game released today without any visuals, but the idea to include them had to start somewhere. And while she couldn’t have known it then, Williams’ kitchen-table hobby would become the origin of graphic design in the world of computing and technology—two industries that now dominate life as we know it. To refer to Williams’ childlike compositions and stick figurestyle caricatures as the equivalent of the cave paintings at Lascaux may be going a touch too far, but they were just as prescient. Then again, to limit her legacy to words and pictures alone is to tell only half

48 In the ’70s and ’80s, powerful new microprocessors made it possible to bring smaller, portable personal computers into the home. Later editions had two colors, green and purple, set against the black-and-white set pieces. Play the full game here: aigaeod.co/mysteryhouse.

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Still from “Mystery House,” 1980, via sierrawallpaper.com. Previous page: Still from “King QuestIV,” 1988, via sierrawallpaper.com.

If you’re a computer programmer or digital designer over the age of 40, this is probably how the future began for you. Two simple sentences and a cursor, blinking like a heartbeat, waiting for your command. To anyone else, it might read more like the beginning of an odd and boring story, but the format will be familiar to all those who have ever dabbled in microcomputing1. It was the same way all text-based computer games started: a bare-bones setup and an invitation to venture forth, uncover the clues, and win the game. But it wasn’t just the text, flashing on the screen of an 8-bit Apple II, that shot out like a siren call of the wild—it was the graphics. They were monochrome2, ridiculously rudimentary, and they blew everyone away.

1 2 3

YOU ARE IN THE FRONT YARD OF A LARGE ABANDONED VICTORIAN HOUSE. STONE STEPS LEAD UP TO A WIDE PORCH. ------------------- ENTER COMMAND? ░


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the story. Most accounts of her contributions to computer game design stop at what we can see onscreen. But what lies beneath the bits and bytes is a woman who became the unlikely heroine of a growing feminist movement in the tech industry, a strangely savvy business figure whose unconventional design process pioneered a new wave in game making, and a self-described “lazy,” direction-less young girl whose ambitions ballooned until they burst.

000001 //********************** 000002 //* self.inventory = [] 000003 //**********************

Roberta and Ken Williams, via parceladigital.com.

The Williams’ home in Simi Valley, California was equipped with far more hardware than the average ’70s household. Their very first computer was a teletype machine: a device that looked like a typewriter on steroids, and used something called an acoustic coupler to

QUEEN'S QUEST

Roberta met her husband, Ken Williams, 10 years earlier; she was 17, he was 16. A loner by all accounts, Roberta was an avid reader absorbed with fairy tales and fantasy stories that transported her away to better, more exciting places. “I didn’t have a lot of friends… I didn’t like who I was. Not at all. When I met Ken, he was very straight, very responsible. He worked from the time he was 12, and was really good at whatever he did. And I had no idea what I was going to do with my life. I didn’t want to go to college, and didn’t want to do anything but party…. He pulled me out when I was ready to go downhill.” They married before they were 20, promptly had two children, and soon Roberta became your typical housewife, changing diapers and getting dinner on the table when her husband came home from his work as a programmer for IBM.


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access the internet. It was essentially a portable terminal that allowed Ken remote access to the room-sized mainframe computers he worked with during the day. Like any computer worth its salt, you could use a Teletype to play games; in this case, text-based adventure games. The gameplay happened line by slowly transmitted line, and was only visualized by your imagination.

But remember, this is the ’70s, before most home computers— of which there were very few—had screens. So instead of typing your commands (“CROSS BRIDGE,” “TAKE BOTTLE,” “THROW EGGS AT TROLL”) on a screen, you typed them onto paper like a typewriter. Those commands were then transmitted via the ’70s-version of the internet4 and the next step in the game was then typed back to you. It may not sound exciting today, but at the time it was enough to get anyone with access to a home terminal completely enthralled. Tim Anderson, an early programmer responsible for the game “Zork,5” recalled that when the most famous of these very early games, “Colossal Cave6,” landed at MIT where he worked, “everybody spent a lot of time doing nothing but solving the game. It’s estimated that it set the entire computer industry back two weeks…. The true lunatics began to think about how they could do it better.” Roberta was one of those lunatics. Only she took it one step further and decided to write her own game—but hers would have pictures. “I just couldn’t stop,” she said7. “It was compulsive. I started playing it and kept playing. I had a baby at the time, [who] was eight months old; I totally ignored him. I didn’t want to be bothered. I didn’t want to stop and make dinner.” Williams’ husband Ken was an adept programmer, but the available technology made drawing even simple shapes a challenge. Not even his coveted new Apple II7 could create graphics (though it could display them), so together the Williamses used a VersaWriter, a tablet with a mechanical arm that digitized hand-drawn images. Once Roberta convinced Ken to help her (it took some doing—he was busy with a side hustle of his own, working on a Fortran8 compiler), she presented him with a story comprised of more than 100 different scenes and locations, dozens more than any previous game.

4 A particularly awkward phase in the history of computing, when the internet was transitioning from the military’s ARPANET to dial-up. 5 An early, “Colossal Cave”-inspired adventure game developed by four programmers at MIT. 6 If you’ve ever seen the early episodes of Halt and Catch Fire, “Colossal Cave” is the game the programmers and even their old-school boss stay up all night to play. Have a crack at it yourself: aigaeod.co/advent. 7 Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution – 25th Anniversary Edition by Steve Levy, 1984. 8 When you adjust for inflation, a brand new Apple II cost over $ 5,000 at the time.

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“Everybody spent a lot of time doing nothing but solving the game. It’s estimated that it set the entire computer industry back two weeks… The true lunatics began to think about how they could do it better.”


000004 //****************************** 000005 //* return s + choice1 + choice2 000006 //******************************

QUEEN'S QUEST

9 Programming language used for scientific computing. 10 A text adventure game developed by Steve Baker specially for the Apple II, and played via cassette tape. It promises the ability to “explore strange and far-off lands without having to leave the comfort and serenity of your home.” 11 A text adventure game by Scott and Alexis Adams, also played via cassette, where players explore a castle and try to wake Count Cristo from his coffin. 12 “Let’s Begin Again: Sierra On-Line and the Origins of the Graphical Adventure Game,” by Laine Nooney, American Journal of Play, vol. 10, no. 1, 2017. 13 A data processing language used primarily for business; first developed in 1959, standardized by 1968, and still in use in mainframes today. 14 “Let’s Begin Again: Sierra On-Line and the Origins of the Graphical Adventure Game,” by Laine Nooney.

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The plot of “Mystery House” was fairly straightforward. You begin by crossing the front porch and enter the “large, abandoned Victorian house,” which you find is not abandoned at all, but is actually occupied by seven other people who begin to die off as you explore the various rooms. You’re purportedly looking for a stash of jewels, but as you find one dead body after another, you forget the jewels and decide to figure out who the killer is—before you become their next victim. The storyline was inspired by Roberta’s beloved Agatha Christie novels and the board game Clue, while the gameplay—the use of text and language, the movement from screen to screen, the user’s ability to gather objects in an inventory, and to forge a path by solving puzzles—were all drawn from “Colossal Cave” and other predecessors like “Journey” (Softape)10 and “Voodoo Castle” (Adventure International)11. Many designers at the time would begin a new game based on what they could code, but Roberta, with her limited coding ability, began by storyboarding a narrative and sketching the settings. “Her design was a visual and spatial architecture long before it was ever a technical one... a series of bubbles and lines, each bubble corresponding to a specific room in the game,” said Ken12. Programming computers and writing stories may seem like two obviously different skillsets today, but in the early days of microcomputing, it was normal for one person to handle both the game design and the programming. Though Roberta knew her way around a computer, she certainly hadn’t mastered more than the basics of tricky early programming languages like COBOL13, so her design process necessitated a division of labor that was, in its own way, quite radical. It’s this separation of game design and game programming that made it possible for her and other creative, yet less technically skilled game designers to flourish. In fact, her outsider’s perspective was to her benefit. She didn’t know enough about computers to know what they couldn’t do, and so “she continually pressed the limits of what [Ken] thought he could program14.” But even Ken, who author Steve Levy described as a programmer “rising at quantum speed,” and one of the “world’s youngest, most recklessly ambitious software titans,” had his limits. The 100+ settings and pathways Roberta created for “Mystery House” were too much for a floppy disk to hold. Miraculously, he pared the game down to a slim 59 kb—that’s just over one half of one-tenth of a megabyte. For comparison, the popular computer game “Minecraft” is 100 mb; you can fit 1,700 “Mystery Houses” into a single unit of “MineCraft.”


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immediately got to work on more games, always with Roberta as the writer and designer and Ken as the programmer. They followed up “Mystery House” with “Wizard and the Princess” (1980), the very first full-color game. It sold 60,000 copies and spawned the King’s Quest series, which went on to sell seven million copies by 1997, becoming a major commercial and critical success that cemented Sierra as the era’s ultimate adventure game hitmaker, with Roberta as the reigning queen.

“At the time, I donʼt think we had much more strategy than just to have fun.” The Williamses hired more people, designers, coders, programmers. The company was growing fast, and Sierra was competing for talent with other prominent game publishers headquartered in sexier locations, like LucasArts, part of George Lucas’ game division in San Francisco, and Infocom just outside of Boston. Sierra, on the other hand, was located in the small town of Oakhurst, with a population just around 2,000. Hot, young tech stars rising in a burgeoning field weren’t likely to be attracted to a place that hadn’t seen much action since the

15 Download the original Sierra font, seen as this articleʼs page numbers, here: aigaeod.co/sierrafont.

Sierra On-Line logo via sierrawallpaper.com.

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Between 1979 and 1980, the Williamses finalized their first humble game, and Roberta soon found herself at the grocery store with a shopping cart full of Ziploc bags, which, when coupled with a photocopied sheet of paper, passed for game packaging. They had just placed an ad for “Mystery House” in a scientific computing magazine and the orders were streaming in (their phone was ringing at all hours, too, since they included their home number as a help line). From the start, Roberta and Ken’s primary goal was to make money with “Mystery House,” though their original intentions were modest: They wanted to earn enough to move to a quiet home in the woods. But after selling 10,000 copies of the game, they realized they’d tapped into something much bigger. In just a few years, their little game would go on to spawn a billion-dollar gaming empire and make them household names. Within five months they were on the road to their new home near the Yosemite mountains in California, but they didn’t exactly settle in for the simple life. Instead, they founded Sierra On-Line15 and


Still from “King QuestIV,” 1988, via sierrawallpaper.com.

QUEEN'S QUEST

16 Interview with Bob Box, quoted in Carolyn’s obituary by Laine Nooney, 2018: aigaeod.co/gamasutra. 17 “What Happened To The Women Who Built the Video Game Industry?” by John Adkins, 2017: aigaeod.co/mic. 18 Interview with Ken Williams in Adventure Classic Gaming by Philip John, 2006: aigaeod.co/classicgaming. 19  Sierra News Magazine, vol. 2, no. 2, 1989.

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Gold Rush. Ken and Roberta had to take who they could get and hope they could train them. One early Sierra employee, Carolyn Box, was a champion gold panner who happened to take up coding with her husband at the age of 40. “A month before the [coding] class ended, Sierra On-Line moved up here, and we basically just walked into their offices asking for a job, and they hired us,” she said16. Laine Nooney, assistant professor of media industries at New York University and leading expert on the history of home computing, noted that the area’s small talent pool meant that Sierra would “literally hire anyone who could program, or pick up a phone, or tape a box17.” “When Sierra started,” said Ken in 200618, “it was a very different world from what we live in today. Floppy disks were just being invented. The little bit of software that was being sold was shipped on audio cassette. Most products didn’t have packaging. There were no computer magazines beyond a few hand-typed newsletters. This worked in our favor. At the time I was a 25-year-old ‘kid’ with no experience running a business. In today’s competitive world, we wouldn’t have survived six months. But at the time, we could get away with horrible packaging… and giving no thought whatsoever to things like brand image. At the time, I don’t think we had much more strategy than just to have fun.” What emerged was a ragtag crew of energetic misfits, willing to move to the middle of nowhere for the chance to get in on the ground floor, where they could develop ideas and build brand new software with the latest tech. Many were whizzes who would go down in the annals of gaming history, and many others, like Carolyn Box, simply wouldn’t have been given a chance elsewhere—not because they weren’t talented, but because women had a harder time standing out in an industry that was becoming more male-dominated each year. Although computer science was popular with women, the LucasArts and Infocoms of the day had few women on staff, and even fewer in decision-making positions. By comparison, Sierra had a veritable army


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Stills from “King QuestIV,” 1988, via sierrawallpaper.com.

QUEEN'S QUEST


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Dear Sierra, This is a love letter, pure and simple… I do not fit the typical profile for adventure gamers. I am a 45-year-old woman, who works for L.L. Bean as a telephone order representative part of the year and travels with her husband the rest of the time... I write (freelance) when I travel, using my home computer primarily for word processing. I love adventure games. Like Roberta Williams, I have always been an ardent reader. I enjoy Shakespeare and Agatha Christie equally well… I am addicted. There seems to be no known cure. I hope no one ever finds one. Please continue to create forever… Thanks for everything, especially giving me an opportunity to say how much I love you. Forever yours, Elizabeth Hood Encouraged by the reaction from fans like Hood, Roberta made “The Colonel’s Bequest” (1989) starring Laura Bow, a determined student of journalism and a fan of detective stories. In “King’s Quest VII: The Princeless Bride” (1994), players have the option of not one but two female leads, Princess Rosella and her mother, Queen Valanice. This isn’t to say there weren’t any women in other games; on the contrary, there were lots of hyper-sexualized damsels in distress and “chainmailbikini babes,” as one woman designer called them. In the popular “Leisure Suit Larry” series (published from 1987–2009), the female characters easily outweigh the male characters, which would be fine if the entire point of the game isn’t to have sex with as many of them as possible.

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of women, including influential programmers and game designers like Jane Jensen, Christy Marx, Lorelei Shannon, and Lori Ann Cole, who said that Sierra “actively invited female designers.” At the same time, Roberta was beginning to push her storylines in new directions with strong female characters. In “King’s Quest IV: The Perils of Rosella” (1988), the title character usurps the series’ traditional male lead, Sir Graham, to become the first female protagonist in a graphic adventure. It was a bold move, and she wasn’t sure she would pull it off. “It hadn’t been done in our industry to have a girl heroine,” said Roberta19. “I worried about it while I was designing the game. I wondered if it was going to be accepted. I thought there would be some controversy, that maybe guys would write in and say, ‘I don’t want to be a girl,’… but it hasn’t really been an issue.” The game was an instant hit, selling 100,000 copies in the first two weeks. Fan mail poured in, most of it from women, whom Sierra estimated made up to 40 % of its players.


000007 //************************ 000008 //* IF(ATTACK.EQ.1)GOTO 79 000009 //************************

Stills from “Leisure Suit Larry III: Passionate Patti in Pursuit of the Pulsating Pectorals” (1989), via sierrawallpaper.com.


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Still from “Phantasmagoria,” 1995, via sierrawallpaper.com.

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It all came to a head in 1995, when Sierra released its most ambitious game yet and the jewel in Roberta’s game design crown: “Phantasmagoria.” It was the world’s first live-action video game, using real actors on computer-designed 3D backdrops and impressive audiovisual effects. The script was a 550-page horror story about the character Adrienne Delaney, a writer who moves into a remote mansion with her husband, who becomes possessed by evil, supernatural forces. The visuals are as graphic and disturbing as the plot, including a highly controversial rape scene, as well as gruesome deaths that required specialeffects magic to show Adrienne’s head split in half by a pendulum blade, or ripped apart by a demon, or consumed by flames. Producing “Phantasmagoria” was nothing short of a Herculean effort that went above and beyond Sierra’s normal operating procedure in every possible way. A cast of 25 actors and a 200-person crew worked for more than two years in a $1.5 million Hollywood-grade studio built specially for the game. Budgets ballooned as Sierra hired film professionals to handle the lighting, sound, camera, set design, and costuming. In addition to sounds effects, a musical score was composed and performed by a 135-voice neo-Gregorian choir. The original budget was $ 800,000, but in the end it cost $ 4.5 million to produce— more than a third of company’s profit margin at the time. When the game came out, it occupied a whopping seven CDROMs. It was rated “M” for mature, and was quickly banned from CompUSA and other retailers, condemned by religious groups and politicians, and in some countries it was refused classification altogether—which only made people want to play it more. In its first week, “Phantasmagoria” made $ 12 million, making it the best-selling game in the U.S., and Sierra’s top-seller to this day.


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Roberta’s ambitions grew along with her fame and success. Long before “Phantasmagoria,” she had a vision of creating a totally immersive game experience that would transform Sierra into a multimedia company that operated more like a film studio, more like Disney. “My goal,” she had said in 1983, “is to create the ultimate story… and revolutionize the entertainment industry. My ultimate goal is to be a film director and producer, but I do the best I can with computer games.” While Roberta may have had Hollywood-sized ambitions, her work routine was perhaps better suited for life in a small mountain town. She was allegedly hardly ever in the Sierra office, preferring to work at home instead, and though only a handful of Sierra’s ex-employees have gone on record, suspicions arose that Roberta wasn’t putting in the same time as her fellow designers.

After the early design and concept phase, Roberta tended to hand off the executional work to her team of artists and programmers before she came back in for quality control during the final testing phase. These were talented programmers who Roberta hand-picked to work on her flagship titles, many of which required significant technical savvy in order to meet her demands and her ambitious goals. “In the most difficult cases,” Nooney tells me in an interview, this meant “working more than eight hours a day, over weekends, for months at a time. More generally, many employees recount their time at Sierra as some of the most fun they had in their careers, but they also report being under tremendous, debilitating stress. This stress was extensive enough that some former employees still find these memories hard to discuss.” More than any other designer at Sierra, Roberta’s games were heavily marketed with her name and portrait prominently displayed on the packaging. She was “a useful marketing icon,” says Nooney, which only incentivized Sierra to put more marketing energy behind her games. Out of all the games Sierra released each year (the company peaked in 1993 with around 30 new titles), Williams’ were given pride of place on store shelves and in magazine ads, and her releases were strategically timed to coincide with prime annual selling seasons. “It was difficult, if not impossible, for other designers who joined Sierra later to receive the same degree of promotion or command the same volume of shelf space, because Williams’ games were already a legacy by the late ’80s,” says Nooney.

QUEEN'S QUEST

As someone who never went to college and who, by her own accounts, never expected to amount to much, Roberta’s ascent must have been as surprising to her as to anyone.


From top to bottom: (1) Still from “Mystery House,” 1980, via sierrawallpaper.com. (2) Still from from “King QuestIV,” 1988, via sierrawallpaper.com. (3) Still from “Leisure Suit Larry III,” 1989, via sierrawallpaper.com.

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The reason Sierra makes for such a compelling case is because it “reveals a history that intersects labor, class, and gender—a history the game industry very much needs to understand right now.”

QUEEN'S QUEST

As someone who never went to college and who, by her own accounts, never expected to amount to much, Roberta’s ascent must have been as surprising to her as to anyone, and she clung tightly to her acclaim as a creative leader and innovative designer. She didn’t get there alone, and she knew it, but once she got to the top she wasn’t likely to make room for anyone else. “As far as programming techniques go,” she said in a 1983 interview with Antic magazine, “anybody can do it. It’s nothing special. The specialness comes from the stories I make up, and nobody can do that but me. They can do it their way, but nobody can do it my way.” Still, being on her team was seen as an honor. “It meant you were considered to be the best at what you did,” says Nooney. Working their way through Roberta’s apprenticeship system is how many of Sierra’s promising up-and-comers proved themselves worthy of creating games and leading teams of their own. She developed lasting bonds with many loyal employees, but rubbed just as many others the wrong way. In that sense, she’s not much different than other powerful, highranking executives, but it does make it difficult to paint a portrait of Roberta as a leader who blazed a trail for women, which history is wont to do. She had every opportunity to champion promising young women at her company, and in tech and gaming in general, but that was never her endgame. From the outside her story seems heroic, full of rich and intriguing interludes, but the reveal is disappointingly simple. “I think we miss a lot when our sole attraction to Sierra’s legacy is fixated on Roberta, or even on Sierra’s larger cadre of female designers” says Nooney. “...it reinforces very conservative ideas about creative authorship and authorial intent.” In other words, neither Roberta nor any other talented game designer is solely responsible for the final product; it’s a group effort. The reason Sierra makes for such a compelling case is because it “reveals a history that intersects labor, class, and gender—a history the game industry very much needs to understand right now.” It’s certainly not the history Roberta ever set out to write. She was never a crusader for equity, never a spokesperson for the women in her company, let alone her industry. And it’s not just Roberta, it’s all the women we cherry pick as signs of progress. We like to assume that


EYE ON DESIGN #05: DISTRACTION

000010 //****************************** 000011 //* game_over = ">>Game over.\n“ 000012 //****************************** Soon after “Phantasmagoria” was released, the computer game industry underwent a drastic change. The rise of fast-paced action, racing, and shooting games in the mid-’90s like “Doom,” “Duke Nukem,” and “Quake” gave birth to a “hostile, exclusionary, hyper-masculine game culture21.” Roberta herself lamented the change. “I have never seen it this bad before in all my years of writing games,” she said in 199822. “There is such a dearth of games for women. I have never seen the shelves so empty.” By this point, the Williamses had already retired. After Roberta designed 18 original games and pioneered a number of firsts for the industry, she and Ken sold Sierra in 1996 to Comp-U-Card (CUC) in a deal that was soon revealed to be one of the biggest cases of financial fraud in the U.S. The details of the buyout are as fascinating as they are long and complicated, but the short story is this: a Sierra board member who worked at CUC falsely inflated his company’s worth, and CUC bought Sierra for a price it couldn’t afford. After the misdealings were revealed in an audit, stock prices plunged and CUC sold off its holdings as fast as it could. “It was the Enron of the ’90s.”23 Things quickly went downhill at Sierra, too. On February 22, 1999, on a day that went down in history as “Chainsaw Monday,” Sierra’s development studio was shuttered and two-thirds of the staff (about 250 people) were fired. The top executives had already fled to Sierra’s outpost in Bellevue, Washington, and it’s rumored that a mountain of original IP (concept art, early game drafts, unique code) were landfilled. What’s left is now owned by Activision, one of the world’s largest video game publishers. “Sierra has been cut back to bare bones,” Roberta lamented in an interview with Just Adventure shortly after the massive layoffs. “Of course, I’m not happy as to what has happened to Sierra. It was in

62 20 “A Pedestal, a Table, a Love Letter: Archaeologies of Gender in Videogame History,” by Laine Nooney: aigaeod.co/gamestudies. 21 “What Happened To The Women Who Built the Video Game Industry?,” by John Adkins, 2017: aigaeod.co/mic. 22 Interview with the Orange County Register. 23 Interview with noted game designer David Brevik, by Filip Nonkovic, 2014: aigaeod.co/hammer.

any woman who once stood alone, surrounded by men in the tech world— or the science world, art world, or political world—must have held a torch fuelled by some inner Joan of Arc or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The role of Roberta, Queen of Inclusion and Gender Parity, is something we’ve collectively written into the historical record. It’s not only wrong to place the weight of feminist activism on the unsuspecting shoulders of women like Roberta, it’s dangerous. This revisionist history may be inspiring for young women today, but a falsely positive story is a false story nonetheless. “Video game history doesn’t know how to make sense of her except to single her out,” says Nooney20.


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extremely strong shape and was doing very well when we sold it in 1996. Look at it now. It’s a travesty.” The world hasn’t heard much from Roberta since. She hasn’t designed any other commercial games, and she and Ken seem busy with their many homes and boats, which they regularly charter on excursions around the world. Ken even has a blog to chronicle his yacht purchases.

For someone who got so much personal fulfillment from her games, it’s hard to understand how Roberta could remove herself so completely from them. But in the end, it was never really about the games anyway—it was about the public’s reaction to the games. Roberta cared only as long as she was popular, and when her outlet for validation disappeared and the applause faded away, so did she. It’s not the storybook ending she might have written for herself, slinking away into the sunset instead of riding out in a blaze of glory—or any of a hundred other clichés that tidily end a story. But if a fairytale is about a prince and princess overcoming obstacles, rising to challenges, proving their worth, and succeeding against all odds, then Roberta and Ken’s story isn’t actually so far off the mark. After all, what fairytale did you ever read where the protagonist goes about solving society’s problems and righting centuries of gender and class welfare wrongs? In an interview Roberta gave just a few years after her first breakout success, “Mystery House,” she said24, “I feel that I’ve grown as a person. I can deal with people; I can talk to them without feeling shy. I know my own mind now. I’m not floundering around in a world in which I don’t quite fit. I feel I can create a world to be how I want it to be; and not just in games. I feel in control.”

QUEEN'S QUEST

24 From Antic Magazine, 1983; aigaeod.co/anticmagazine.

“Video game history doesn’t know how to make sense of her except to single her out.”


Things I’m Doing on Our Conference Call Right Now When I work from home, no hour-long meetings can hold me down. Multi-task ftw.

65

Doing my nails

Sweating a hangover

We’re talking spa-level pedicures. Each foot is soaking in its own bowl of warm soapy water.

If the mute option wasn’t made to mask my waves of nausea I don’t know what it’s there for.

Twitter rabbit-holing I’m all stalk, no talk, baby. Comment thread time stamps can’t incriminate me.

Kondo-ing my notes for this call

Dumping everything in the trash sparks so much joy.

Working out

Are you sure that’s a gym you hear, or just background noise at my local WeWork?

Daydreaming about vacay

What countries don’t get cell service?

Updating my LinkedIn I’m keeping my options as open as this agenda.

Pooper-scoopering

No way is that the sound of kitty litter scraping against a plastic shovel, that’s just a bad cough I picked up in our open-plan office.


Style

Substan Substa 66 A new, futuristic is well and truly here.


By Emily Gosling

Before nces ances � take on s c i h p a r g “acid But for ho w

long?


While the term “acid” mostly connotes a big, powerful LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) head-trip, it’s a loaded four-letter descriptor. “Acid” bears a cultural resonance far deeper than its noun form. The word variously conjures hippies, “mind expansion,” ’60s psychedelia, ’90s acid house, ravers, techno, wizened drug casualties, and Timothy Leary. Aesthetically, too, we have an innate and multifarious understanding of the word: paisley-spattered psychedelic swirls, op-art, and even a narcotic-tasting spirituality come to mind.

EYE ON DESIGN #05: DISTRACTION

Once you tune into them, as it were, you start to see acid graphics pretty much everywhere. Today, however, we have an updated understanding of “acid graphics” as a new wave of contemporary designers bring a future-facing take to a trope that may have once seemed naively utopian and nostalgic. While the acid aesthetic from past decades can carry connotations of “free love”—a mind-expanding kind of optimism that almost feels outdated in today’s world—this new style is tinged with irony and a darker sense of humor. Stylistically, there are of course still a few smileys in there, but mostly this new style of graphics is defined by a miasma of bright colors (there’s a hell of a lot of neon green); experimental typography (it’s warped, back to front, upside down, takes on the appearance of viscously dripping liquid metal); op-art-esque patterns; sci-fi futurism; and the odd ’70s throwback, with dystopian-tinged skies and desert scenes that owe more than a little to legendary ’60s studio Hipgnosis. Once you tune into them, as it were, you start to see acid graphics pretty much everywhere: across music posters and record sleeves, the style’s most natural home, but also in editorial design, branding, digital design, and elsewhere. Designer and art director Hugo Hoppmann, who’s previously worked with 032c magazine, describes the style as a “really trendy” look defined by “super organic forms” and “crazy lettering” mixed with a “heavy metal aesthetic” that draws on ’90s rave graphics, though created with modern tools—“lots of rendering and 3D stuff, but also pretty trippy.” He cites David Rudnick as the oft-aped touchstone of the current acid-mania in the design world. “You see so much around, but really it’s all building on his original work,” says Hoppmann. There’s even an entire Instagram account, @acidgraphix, devoted to the style. The feed was started in 2018 by Luigi Brusciano, a graphic designer by trade who works as a senior digital designer at a major fashion brand. On his Instagram page, real and speculative print and digital designs for posters are peppered with some cheeky renderings of graphics on tabs of acid.


Above: Jack Smith and Jeremy Rieger, Lotus, 2019. Image courtesy the artists. Below: Julia Ballman of Pppanik studio, 2009, created for Curated Trash, November 2018. Image courtesy the artist.


:) While it’s hard to know how this might correlate directly to a design trend, it’s worth noting that concurrent to the rise in acid graphics becoming so retina-searingly hot, the use of LSD has made a serious comeback. U.S. government statistics reported by Vice at the end of 2018 showed an almost fourfold increase in 18- to 25-year-olds who admitted to taking LSD since the mid-2000s (1.31 million in 2017 compared with 317,000 in 2004). It’s a leap we’ve seen in the UK, too. Until a few years ago, it seemed very few people were using acid, bar the odd bearded festival dude, or a few psytrance nuts (the sort of folk who are into poi or fluffy neon leg warmers). Recently though, the drug has had something of a renaissance: UK government stats show that the number of 16- to 24-year-olds who took LSD tripled from 2012–2013 to 2014–2015, from 0.4 % to 1.2 %, respectively; and the 2017–2018 Global Drug Survey also showed an increase, with around 47,000 more people between 16 and 59 using the drug than in 2016.

The return to the ’90s, too, ticks the 20-year-cycle box of trends veering in and out of eyeshot, almost like clockwork. Could the increasing prevalence of acid the drug be having an impact on that of acid, the graphic style? The application of intense, vibrantly colored patterns have long been common as a visual shorthand for the experience of tripping. In 1926, German-American psychologist Heinrich Klüver studied the effects of hallucinogenic substances on users, and noted that the visuals they experienced were often recurring geometric patterns—dubbed “form constants”—in “highly saturated colors.” This is mimicked in both the club imagery of the past and the acid graphics of the present; though those today are notably far more biting, and less utopian, than their ’60s psychedelia counterparts.

STYLE BEFORE SUBSTANCES

Above: Luigi Brusciano, Smile Tribute, personal project, 2016. Image courtesy the artist. Below: Jonathan Castro, designs for Skechers China, 2018. Image courtesy the artist.

For Brusciano, the term “acid graphics” is very much about “vintage” techno and rave flyer designs. He reckons that the proliferation of acid graphics is in part an evolution of the web-based Brutalism trend. “My personal opinion is that [a lot of creatives] were at a point with graphic design where we wanted to break the rules completely,” says Brusciano. “One of the eras where all the rules were broken was with [’90s] rave flyers: They were using horrible fonts, almost ‘antidesign.’” In an era where it’s easier than ever for everyone from graphic design students to your auntie with a cupcake business to create their own designs using simple-to-use digital templates, it makes sense that graphic designers would look, once again, to rule-breaking in order stand out. The return to the ’90s, too, ticks the 20-year-cycle box of trends veering in and out of eyeshot, almost like clockwork.


It’s not just drugs that hint at acid’s multi-pronged comeback. “Everything is acid,” declared the Financial Times of fashion’s menswear shows for Spring/Summer 2019, pointing out that most collections’ designers used intense acid colors alongside references to 1980s and ’90s acid house in floral prints, raver-like knitwear, and bucket hats. Naturally, that “everything” encompasses graphics, too.

:) One designer regularly cited as an exponent of acid graphics is Leipzig, Germany-based Anja Kaiser, whose work, in her words, is often characterized by “interrupted typography, fuzzy layouts, multiple compositions, and vibrating colors.” While she says she’s unfamiliar with the term “acid graphics,” her take on the descriptor is interesting: “I like the notion of visualizing in a biting and sour manner,” she says, sidestepping the hallucinogenic connotations of the word “acid.”

“I like the notion of visualizing in a biting and sour manner.”

INSTITUT FUER An den ZUKUNFT Tierkliniken 38, Leipzig

Hundert Records: DJ PAUPAU; Leibniz; DJ OK; DJ bwin



saule

OKLOU, LAUREN AUDER, MECHATOK, JACKIE, XIN PRESENTED BY

DE CEM BER

MARCH 16, ’18 IFZ

graphic design: Anja Kaiser

Photonz; marum

23:59

(PT)

MINA

LAUREL VIOLET mina: BLEID; live

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2018

CLUB \CULTURE FESTIVAL

WWW.BERGHAIN.BERLIN AM WRIEZENER BAHNHOF 10243 BERLIN

This page left: Anja Kaiser, poster for Balance presents SIREN with Laurel Halo, The Empire Line, 2017. This page right: Anja Kaiser, poster for NextGen. Opposite page: Anja Kaiser, poster for Cry Baby × Janus with Visionist, M.E.S.H., and Lotic at Institut fuer Zukunft, 2016. All images courtesy the artist.

“I imagine acid could also apply to subjective and emotional strategies like elaborating on visual dissonances, messiness, and coexistence,” she continues. “Eurocentric graphic design is loaded with dominant imperatives like the desirability of simplicity and clarity. I feel like acid tactics could be one way to challenge these concepts.”


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This page: Studio Cryo, posters for Palmės Diskoteka, Lithuania, 2018. Image courtesy the artist. Opposite page: Studio Cryo, poster for Drumstation VS Eternia event, Cross Club, Prague, 2018. Image courtesy the artist.

Indeed, challenging typical notions of beauty and desirability is a crucial component to acid graphics. Rudmer van Hulzen is a designer and art director at Dutch creative agency G2K, which has curated an exhibition showcasing international night club poster designs from the likes of Studio Cryo, Studio Feixen, Anna Kulachek, Bráulio Amado, and Jonathan Castro. “While many might dismiss these works as ugly, if you look closely at how they’re made and what they aim for, you’ll find that they are intentional and have a beauty all of their own. And you don’t need chemical stimuli to see it,” he says, adding that the posters that vibrate within the acid graphics style owe more to the attitudes of punk than the lysergic bliss renaissance of the ’90s. “I feel it has more to do with an independent, punk-like attitude equivalent to the DIY aesthetic of the Xeroxed hardcore punk flyers from the ’80s and ’90s,” he says, noting that the aesthetic is more about “going against the grain.” Perhaps in the wake of everyone Marie Kondo-ing every inch of their lives into clean, neat, order, the recent wave of acid maximalism has come along to fuck it all up again. Acid graphics are, in a sense, a provocation. “They’re saying ‘fuck you’ and [rebelling against] things like smooth color palettes, single tone backgrounds, beautiful photos… I guess they want to contradict all the ‘nice’ stuff that comes out of certain agencies,” says Lithuanian designer Mindaugas Gavrilovas of Studio Cryo. “Maybe it’s also trendy because of a few ‘superstar’ designers like David Rudnick or Jonathan Castro.” Hoppmann, however, is skeptical about both the label “acid graphics” and the dilution of the style as it has rocketed. “I don’t get really excited by it. For me, maximalism [can just be] lazy—just a lot of


crazy graphics. I’ve seen it a thousand times. Some are reallywell done when it comes to composition and the way people play with textures and create a nice clash, but I’m really going back to simplicity. [‘Acid graphics’] for me is too ‘cyber.’”

Perhaps in the wake of everyone Marie Kondo-ing every inch of their lives into clean, neat order, the recent wave of acid maximalism has come along to fuck it all up again.

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Domantė Nalivaikaitė, poster for Digital Tsunami’s event Forever 8. in Kaunas, Lithuania, October 2018. Image courtesy the artist.

While this style is certainly having a moment, like any modish aesthetic, it might not be around forever. “As with anything that becomes trendy, it’ll slowly integrate into mainstream design,” says Gavrilovas. “So when it reaches that point and is no longer ‘underground,’ these weirder designers will find something else that will contradict the mainstream.” G2K’s van Hulzen gives it another five years. “Trends in style, color, and shape (in fashion, art, design) seem to be coming back every 20(ish) years. It’s kind of a waveform. It will be copied a lot, and people will become bored with it… I think nightclub poster design will always be on the forefront of graphic design in terms of trends, experimenta× tion, and innovation; and because of that, it has to keep on evolving.” As for what’s next, Hopp­ mann reckons the “counter-trend” emerging is more “organic,” focus­ ing on simpler things, and centered on evidence of a “human touch,” with simple art direction, clean typography, and great photography. “That ‘very trippy, lots of typefaces’ thing is maxed out.” The designer suggests that among the trend’s devotees, it’s not hard to spot the good design from the not-so-great, or the empty trendy designs from the ones grounded in a concept. “It can just feel really shallow,” he says. “It’s about taking a step back as a designer, going back to your roots and thinking, ‘What do you bring to the table that’s unique?’”

Delight

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To many, social media and education may seem like unlikely bedfellows. Formal design education is mostly localized, taking place inside of institution walls. It’s an opportunity to study, learn, experiment, and grow, and to do so within a community that can provide critical feedback. By contrast, Instagram is global, instant, and addictive. It’s not exactly designed to encourage constructive responses or thoughtful discourse. When it comes to graphic design, it favors polished end products over the messiness of process and the realness of failure.

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But Instagram has also proven to be an excellent platform for finding highly specific communities of like-minded people, geographic boundaries be damned. Unlike higher education, it’s available to anyone with an internet connection. And when used inside of an educational context, it can help forge connections— between people, between styles—and grant access to designers and aesthetic traditions that fall outside the often limited range of the traditional canon. As the social media platform tailor-made for visual media, it’s no surprise that Instagram is having an undeniable effect on style and form in contemporary design. In many ways, the classroom is an ideal place to make sense of this shift. So how can education and Instagram be used together to take stock of this moment in design and further the field? This is the overarching question we posed to three design educators from three North American institutions, who we invited to discuss this sprawling topic, starting with how and why they use Instagram in their own classrooms.


Cem Eskinazi is an educator at Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) and a type designer at Occupant Fonts. He lives in Providence, Rhode Island. On Instagram he’s @cemeskinazi. YuJune Park is a professor and associate director of BFA Communication Design at Parsons School of Design and a co-founder of Synoptic Office. She lives in New York, New York. On Instagram she’s @synopticoffice. Dori Tunstall is the dean of the faculty of design at Ontario College of Art and Design (OCAD) University and a design anthropologist. She lives in Toronto, Ontario. On Instagram she’s @deandori_ocadu. What I think is super fascinating is how, year after year, there seems to be an increase in comfort with, and I might even say preference for, connecting online rather than in person. Putting aside my own concerns about what this says about our society, I do find Instagram to be helpful in terms of building community and being able to share feedback in a way that oftentimes feels more open and honest than what my students might be willing to say in person or in class. I think Instagram is most powerful when it’s used to build community. It can become a bit of a virtual village center for my students. I have them create an Instagram account just for our class, and then use it to post daily progress on projects. It’s been extraordinarily successful in terms of having an ongoing dialogue.

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YuJune Park

“It can become a bit of a virtual village center for my students.” Dori Tunstall The platform has been an important tool for me in making the position of the dean more accessible. I’m @deandori_ocadu, and I post #deandrag every morning. I explain what I’m wearing and what I’m doing during the day. That’s so all of my students understand what the role of the dean is within the institution, and hopefully it helps them to navigate the system of the institution a little better. It makes them feel like they can come up to me easily because they liked my sunglasses or the scarf I was wearing.

At RISD, professors use Instagram to track the individual projects of students—it’s a good tool for updates. The graphic design department also has an official Instagram account, which students will take over from time to time. It gives them the opportunity for exposure, which is what a lot of students are looking for from Instagram. We also try to assign projects that ask students to make things for Instagram so that we can bring the platform into the critique, take it seriously, and ask higher-level questions. Cem Eskinazi

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DT I find it really fascinating the way in which students are playing with static images to give them a sense of motion and a sense of activity: animating graphics with motion, Boomerangs, gifs… YP

I recently read an article on the history of the poster. It was interesting to think about a certain cultural moment in time when posters in England were specifically for making pronouncements. In every historical moment there’s been a platform for self-promotion, with the goal of communicating to the widest audience possible. Today, Instagram has become that. DT Instagram post is the new poster!

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YP

Basically! Instagram is to the post just like, you know, the town square in late 1800s London was to the poster. One thing I’ve noticed as an overall trend is that form used to be something that you experienced in a moment. When you think of the poster, it’s this static medium. But design is increasingly becoming experiential, and it asks to be a form that people can interact with. Of course, you see static images on Instagram, and they’re designed to be legible and bold at the small scale of a phone frame. But then you also see really amazing things happening with Instagram Stories, which is about form as it happens over time—and kind of this mashup of real life and graphic gestures. DT Another tool that I find very valuable is live-streaming. A lot of times I’ll live-stream events so that the students who follow me have access to them. Or they won’t know it’s going on until they see the stream, and then they’ll show up later. It’s a feature that shifts the emphasis to community because it works in conjunction with being in a place and engaging in an actual experience.

“I find Instagram to be more interesting when it’s used almost like a phonebook—a way to connect with other people.” YP

Right. At Parsons, we have limited shared design labs, but we don’t have desk space for every student. Virtual space is the only space that can accomodate everyone together. And we’re an extraordinarily privileged school in many ways. For schools with less resources for art and design than ours, the vast majority of students have even less physical studio space. So while Instagram will never be able to build community in the way a physical space would, it does offer other opportunities for engagement with like-minded makers.


I find Instagram to be much less useful from a design education standpoint when it’s used in the way that Pinterest is used: for passive consumption. It’s like a coffee table book with beautiful images and no essays. I find it to be more interesting when it’s used almost like a phonebook—a way to connect with other people.

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It’s making the design community both more localized and more globalized. You are able to find people who share your vision for design. First, the geographical boundaries need to be broken down, but then this world can get very specific. Maybe you’re connecting with somebody 2,000 miles away and you both have a specific research interest and you’re able to build off each other. I find that to be really encouraging. Teaching has changed so much even in the 15 years since I’ve been in school. The whole master/apprentice model has kind of gone away. There’s been this radical flattening of that hierarchy, and I think Instagram has a role in that. There’s so much more room for different voices, and I find that incredibly exciting.

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DT It’s amazing to see communities of color finding their own artistic community on Instagram. You see that on Twitter, too, in the form of conversations, but on Instagram you see it really strongly in regards to visual media. One important aspect of the work that I do is helping people recognize that there are multiple modes of excellence in different cultural aesthetic traditions. Take the African diaspora, for example. On Instagram you can easily find work that’s happening in Africa, in the Caribbean, in North America. You can see the work × that’s being done by people who have traditionally been marginalized from mainstream magazines or big design competitions. So Instagram can be used to build internal community, but also to broaden access to different aesthetic traditions.


“Students still feel a very real pressure to be like European designers. Social media helps create a sense that there isn’t that kind of hierarchy anymore—there are so many other ways to be inspired.”

YP

Right, and people say, “Oh, but Instagram is overly curated.” But since when has the history of design education not been? There’s always been the canon. Instagram at least gives the chance for everyone to be invited to the table.

“There’s always been the canon. Instagram at least gives the chance for everyone to be invited to the table.” CE But

there’s another side to that as well. I teach sophomores, and I can see that it’s challenging for younger students because there’s a level of performance anxiety. They have to put themselves out there to join this conversation, but it’s not always the safest space.

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DT I always think of the performative aspect more as “curation,” though, and I think that can be useful, too. To some degree, Instagram is your digital portfolio in your pocket. When you’re a young designer networking with people, being able to pull out your phone and show the best of your work and talk about the process behind what you’re doing makes you more memorable to people.

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DT I do think it’s a very powerful tool for flattening the hierarchy. We have a huge diversity of students and having access to many different influences is really, really important in terms of making them feel like they belong in design. To an extent, we are still teaching a version of the Bauhaus, which comes from a particular place in a particular time within a particular history. We’re now beginning to dismantle and deconstruct it, but students still feel a very real pressure to be like European designers. Social media helps create a sense that there isn’t that kind of hierarchy anymore—there are so many other ways to be inspired. There are so many other people that you can connect with and find guidance from as you develop your own work.


CE One of the challenges that I’m having with my students is that with the rapid mode of consumption right now—just looking at image after image after image—I feel like they are losing their criticality a bit. Platforms like Instagram are super sleek, and it doesn’t really allow for the friction needed to ask critical questions. It privileges quantity over quality, and in that sense, it’s hard to bring the conversation back to, “What is this work really saying?” That’s been the biggest challenge for me, to pull students back from it a bit and make them understand that design is actually a process and not just the end product. Instagram really values that end product. It’s kind of like objectifying design.

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“Platforms like Instagram are super sleek, and it doesn’t really allow for the friction needed to ask critical questions.” DT I actually find that students mostly use Instagram to document

their processes. Maybe they come with very polished images at the end, but for the majority of my students, if they’re not posting selfies, they’re posting pictures of process, and their community is responding. They’re looking for feedback: Is this a process that seems to be working? If not, why is it not working?

“Form doesn't come from nowhere.” YP

I have similar challenges as Cem with students appropriating styles that, on a gut level, they find beautiful or compelling in some way. But they aren’t really asking the deeper questions: Why do they gravitate to that style? What social, political, and cultural factors merged to create a style like that? Form doesn’t come from nowhere. Dori mentioned the Bauhaus earlier—there’s a reason Bauhaus design looks the way it does. It came up during a post-war era when there was a search for a utility of form. When students appropriate a style without that knowledge or criticality, I find it makes them less effective visual communicators.

“When students appropriate a style without that knowledge or criticality, I find it makes them less effective visual communicators.”


CE Platforms

“Because we are taking and reusing things more than ever, we need to be asking where these images came from and what they mean.” YP

Design is always going to be an expression and a reflection of how people at a certain moment in time saw the world. You see more of this collaging and appropriation of styles, and a mashup of visual styles together in one design, because that’s how we consume content now. You go online and you’re going to see 10 different styles on a page at once. You have styles from the pop-up ads on sites to the style of the site itself. We live in a mashup world—that’s how we interface with content. Now our question is, “How do we do this type of design thoughtfully?” What I find concerning is when students do these mashups of appropriated material without asking critical questions about how these narratives are coming together, and how they influence one another. That can be dangerous. DT But

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when you have a strong discourse around decolonization in the classroom—what it is, what it means, and how it relates to indigenous appropriation and misappropriation—you’re encouraging students to question what it means to engage with and use something respectfully. When it comes to use and reuse, what are the relationships of collaboration that needs to happen? What are

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like Instagram are shaping the way we tell stories and changing the way we construct narratives. For my generation and the generation that’s getting educated right now, the prominent style of design is very appropriation-based and referenceheavy. There’s a culture of collaging different narratives together, juxtaposing image and text, or incorporating motion. It encourages people to use more found material, and, in a sense, puts less of an emphasis on originality. I don’t want to problematize this way of making, this collaging of narratives, or even the act of frantically consuming media. I think it’s very interesting, and I’m excited for my students to explore it. This is a generation that was born with the internet, and this is how we communicate and make things. As an educator, my point of view had been always to accept this fact and say, “Okay, this is how the world is right now, this is what the new generation of designers is given. So how can we work with what we have?” But it also requires a new heightened sense of criticality. Because we are taking and reusing things more than ever, we need to be asking where these images came from and what they mean.


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the boundaries of homage versus appropriation? What are the conversations—and this is the emphasis that we make at OCAD— that you need to have with communities or individuals from whom you want to borrow? To engage respectfully, you have to be in direct conversation and have a dialogue, and in many ways Instagram facilitates this. When reuse, appropriation, and misappropriation happen on social media platforms, our students engage in that critically. They would be the first ones to call out, “Hey, are you appropriating indigenous imagery? Did you get permission to do that? Have you spoken to the artists that you’re borrowing from?” They’re already aware of what’s happening on social media, so the thing that the institution is providing is the language with which to talk about it. How you engage in these discussions in the classroom ends up spilling over into how they engage in the conversations over social media. CE I was thinking of appropriation and reuse a bit differently. I tend

to frame this under the discussion of style: When students see a typeface they like, or a particular form pop up on Instagram, they may think it looks cool and decide to use it. But this heightened sense of criticality that we’re talking about tries to go beyond just reading an image. It also goes deep into the questions of “What does a certain use of a typeface or a drop shadow say about your work? Where did you get that?” These kinds of questions are becoming more important. YP

I agree. The conversation I tend to have on a day-to-day level with my students actually has more to do with style and its relationship to social, political, cultural, and historical moments in time. I would like to see more research and unpacking of why a form looks the way it does. In what period was it made? What factors led to it looking that way? DT Right, but the conversation you’re talking about is exactly what

we mean by “decolonization,” right? Pointing out that particular practices come from a time and a place and a history. And normally that history is rooted in colonization, in slavery. So let’s unpack that and then bring in alternative perspectives. Design is not neutral. It always comes from a time and a place and a politics that you have to engage with in order to figure out how you can best be respectful.

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The Rise of the #Museum Mirror Selfie

It’s easy to consider art selfies an act of vapidity

and distraction—but they also

bring exhibitions outside of institutions

and into the wider, digital world

By A.  R.   practice Text by Agnieszka Roguski Image concept by Ann Richter


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Jeppe Hein, YOU LOOK INTO MY HEART, 2017 © Studio Jeppe Hein & Johann König; photo: Johann König, 2019.

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Olafur Eliasson, Movementmeter, 2002, Lernacken, Sweden; photo: Benjamin Albrecht, 2019.

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Clockwise: (1) Foreground: Trix & Robert Haussmann, Spiegelobjekt Bogen (Detail), 1987/2014 © the artist and Herald St, London; background: Karl Holmqvist, Untitled (A Log-O-Rithmic Slide Rule Excersice…), 2012 © the artist; installation view KW Institute for Contemporary Art; photo: Ann Richter, 2018. (2) Mona Hatoum, Puzzled © Berlin State Museums: National Gallery © Mona Hatoum; photo: Ann Richter, 2018. (3) Jeppe Hein, prototypes, 2019 © Studio Jeppe Hein & Johann König; photo: Johann König, 2019. (4) Yayoi Kusama, Fireflies on the water, 2002, Le Tripostal, Lille; photo: Inès Boittiaux, 2019. This page: Mark Wallinger, Study for Self Reflection, Hauser & Wirth, New York © the artist; photo: Emily Smith, 2018.

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Clockwise: (1) Timo Nasser, Florenz-Bagdad, 2016, Maraya Art Centre, Sharjah, UAE © the artist; photo: Emily Smith, 2018. (3) Storie. Il Design Italiano © the Triennale Design Museum, Milano; photo: Ann Richter. (3) Slavs & Tatars, Reverse Dschihad, 2015 © the artist, installation view of Made in Dschermany © Albertinum, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden; photo: Ann Richter, 2018. (4) Jimmie Durham, installation view At the Center of the World, Hammer Museum, L.  A ., U.  S.  A . © the artist; photo: Agnieszka Roguski, 2017.

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THE RISE OF THE #MUSEUMMIRRORSELFIE

To visit a museum today means entering a visual landscape that goes well beyond the exhibition space itself. This is the “realm of the selfie:” optimized with filters, adjusted with sticks, and labeled with hashtags, selfies bring exhibitions outside of an institutional context and into the wider digital world of social media. Once thought of as spaces for silence and contemplation, museums and galleries no longer preserve the “sacramental nature” of artwork, as Brian O’Doherty put it in his 1976 book Inside the White Cube; rather, they open these works up to outside participation. Perhaps the rise of the “museum selfie” should come as no surprise. After all, museums have long served as stops on sightseeing tours, the sites of school field trips, and as popular destinations on empty Sunday afternoons—all situations that might compel one to snap a picture. And thanks to the self-portrait, the gesture of mirroring the self has been an iconic, even canonized part of museum spaces for several centuries. And yet, the act of taking a selfie is still largely stigmatized. Having been propelled into popular culture by teenagers, they can’t quite shake their reputation as the face of digital narcissism. In a museum context in particular, it’s easy to read them as a moment of distraction, with the selfie-taker focused more on her own self-image than the substance of the exhibition. And yet, these days you can find selfies incorporated into exhibition spaces, categorized as self-portraiture. In 2018, the Museum of Selfies opened in Glendale, California, as the first museum exclusively dedicated to the selfie. Art historian Michael Sanchez has even gone so far to compare exhibitions themselves to our social networks, claiming that artworks are no longer objects of the gaze, but are “programmed to connect with the right actors, to get into the right shows, to convey the right profile.” What selfies in museums expose, then, is more than a narcissistic, distracted self—they also “exhibit the exhibition” within a networked public, extending it beyond the actual institution, accelerating its reach, and multiplying its visibility.


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Asta Gröting, Not feeling too cheerful: reclining figures, facades and more © the artist, Carlier Gebauer; photo: Dominik Krauß, 2019.

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DD

The

Illustration by Milena Bucholz

Delight

Does designing “delight� into products serve short-term needs at the cost of long-term harm?

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I’m a designer at Google on the PerX Tripp NSDPAN sonality Team—yes, that’s a thing— T I y rendy M IO and my job is often to take questions N and statements like these and come up with creative responses and experiences for them. Originally an offshoot of Google Doodles, our team is made up of writers, artists, designers, engineers, filmmakers, coworker Ryan Germick1 likes to say, “Our and comedians who try to bring personality job is to give the Tin Man the heart he always and “delight” to Google products. Our job wanted.” Delight is, in many ways, an ambiguous is to humanize complex technologies like the Google Assistant—a voice-activated concept, but many of us experience some helper you can ask questions. In the case of form of it subconsciously in our daily digital “Tell me a joke,” my team and I write and lives, thanks to the rush of collecting social research the kind of jokes you might hear media hearts, likes, swipes, and favorites. from your dad like, “What do you call a gigan- Even the mechanical innovations of yesteryear are rooted in the idea of delight: the tic pile of kittens? A meowntain.” Maybe puns aren’t your thing, but our satisfying “click” designed into a Walkman work is ultimately less about nailing the per- CD player, or the flip of an early cell phone. fect punchline and more about making Delight has the power to make technology technology feel more welcoming. Or as my more approachable, but it’s also presented

GRAPHIXXX on Page 66

1 A principal designer at Google who leads the Google Personality team.

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“Do you love me?” “Are you real?” “What sound does a unicorn make?” “Do you know any jokes?” “I’m lonely.”


THE DELIGHT DILEMMA

“Our job is to give the Tin Man the heart he always wanted.”

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the tech world with a challenge: How do we ensure that the “delightful” things we’re building provide value and aren’t just superficial tricks that make people crave more screen-time? More importantly, how can we make sure delight is useful, responsible, and inclusive? For me, delight is often about easing people into new technology. I imagine the first experience of talking to a computer as similar to an awkward blind date or being introduced to a friend of a friend. You’ve heard good things, but when it comes to conversation, it can get a little uncomfortable. That’s where the jokes come in. Similar to overcoming stage fright, jokes are an easy way to build a shared connection. They test people, or in this case technology, to see what it understands, what it finds funny, or if it’s even listening. Rather than focusing on the awkwardness of talking to a robot, you get an introductory experience that’s


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person might find puns amusing, another might crave efficiency. That complexity is compounded when someone doesn’t ask for something as light and fun as a joke, but instead says to the Assistant in confidence, “I’m lonely…” or “I’m stressed.” In some cases, delight might not feel like “delight” at all— it might be a product that’s merely easy to use2 or one that makes a person feel safe and secure. If we take delight as a strict synonym of lightheartedness, we would be dangerous­ly misinterpreting the emotion. Designing for delight, whatever its definition, effectively means designing for the curious, fun, and quirky. Ideally, it’s an ex- emotional state of a person. And with that perience that makes you want to explore power comes responsibility. Silicon Valley what else the technology can do. has recently been reckoning with its role in But delight is subjective, both emo­ creating technology that’s addictive by detionally and intellectually, and quantifying sign. The swirling circles of stories, the cute something like humor or happiness isn’t new selfie face masks, the quick rush of straightforward. How can you really know if receiving likes, views, and retweets—these you’ve done the difficult job of delighting are undeniably delightful on a surface level, someone? I recently led a research effort to but we’ve also seen how the perfectly caliquantify Google Assistant’s humor, which brated social psychology behind these feais an admittedly bizarre job. The goal was to tures can be detrimental to mental health. build up a standard of research metrics and Studies of Generation Z are showing a direct data points for how humorous the Assistant correlation between how increased social is at any given time. Without giving away media and screen time lead to increased our formula for funny, you can imagine a levels of anxiety and depression3. Now is the time for designers who are system that responds to “Did you like that joke? Yes/No” and then works to optimize building technology products to ask ourselves: Is delight serving short-term needs jokes accordingly. Statistically speaking, jokes are subjective, and that’s especially true depending on where you live. Inherent in designing for delight is sensitivity to specific cultures and inclusivity. Anecdotally, we’ve found that punny jokes work well in the U. S., but they don’t translate well to Germany or the UK. In India, we saw user traffic increase exponentially for the joke response to “Sing a song” after the answer was rewritten to be culturally relevant. This gets at the core of the problem: Delight is a tricky sentiment. What pleases one person might annoy the next. Where one

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Delight is subjective, both emotionally and intellectually.

If we take delight as a strict synonym of lightheartedness, we would be dangerously misinterpreting the emotion.


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THE DELIGHT DILEMMA

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2 Deep Delight, as described by UX specialist Therese Fessenden, occurs when a product fulfills all user needs and is “functional, reliable, usable, and pleasurable.” A product with deep delight becomes almost invisible—it “just works.” 3 According to Dr. Jean M. Twenge of San Diego State’s latest research on teens, Twenge writes “Eighth-graders who spend 10 or more hours a week on social media are 56 % more likely to say they’re unhappy than those who devote less time to social media… those who spend six to nine hours a week on social media are still 47 % more likely to say they are unhappy than those who use social media even less.”

at the cost of long-term harm for users? Are we truly taking into consideration our audience’s emotional state? There’s clearly an opportunity to make technology more “fun,” but given the potential positive and negative impact of the products we design, it’s critical to examine how delight can be more than just a surface-level feature. So what’s the solution? Collectively, let’s hold our products and work to a higher level than designing to increase screentime and clicks. Let’s examine the longterm effects of delight, both positively and negatively. And if we do design for delight, letʼs make sure it’s to serve an ethical and inclusive purpose. Even if that’s as simple as telling jokes in every language.


Too Much of a Good Thing

Is Wonderful


Making history’s most beautiful magazine just took an impossibly fabulous editor, connections to the upper echelons of society, and buckets of money

By Rachel Syme


106 Cowles wrote those words from the tony Albany apartment complex near London’s Piccadilly Circus, where she lived in lavish style from 1955 until she died in 2009 at age 101. As her memoir title suggests, Cowles knew everybody. She was friends with diplomats, movie stars, and the Queen Mother, for whom she threw an annual birthday bash. She was a wealthy, worldly bon vivant with a bob the color of beachwood (in her earlier years it was the hue of clarified butter) and a trademark pair of oversized, tinted glasses, like she was keeping her eyes at all times protected behind the windows of a private limousine. She relocated from New York to England to be closer to her fourth husband, Tom Montague Meyer, who had made a fortune selling timber, and then she never left, spending the last half of her life serving on government committees and creating the American Studies department at Oxford University when she wasn’t hosting dinner fêtes for dignitaries.

Previous page, left: Cover of Flair, All Male Issue, July 1950. Image courtesy of the Herb Lubalin Study Center. Previous page, right: Cover of Flair, issue 1, February 1950. Image courtesy of the Herb Lubalin Study Center. This page: Cover of Flair, All Male Issue, July 1950. Image courtesy of the Herb Lubalin Study Center.

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“Most   women married to rich men hope for a yacht or racehorses or more jewels,” the legendary editor Fleur Cowles, then 88 years old, wrote in her 1996 memoir, She Made Friends and Kept Them. “But what I secretly longed for was the opportunity to create a ‘magazine-jewel’ which would reflect the real me.”


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But in 1996, Cowles was feeling nostalgic, and she spent much of it writing two books looking back at, analyzing, and commemorating a single year in her life: 1950, the year she created and edited a magazine called Flair. In addition to publishing her memoir, Cowles spent the year putting together a hulking, cherry-red coffee table tome called The Best of Flair, which rounded up all of her favorite spreads from the magazine. She always believed that Flair was her crown jewel, the project that would serve as a shorthand for her maximalist, sumptuous worldview. She called The Best of Flair her “longed-for ‘obit’”— if anyone was going to remember her, she wanted it to be through those pages.

In many ways, she’s gotten her wish; Flair is now something of a mythological talisman among writers and designers. Copies often appear for exorbitant prices on eBay, only to be snatched up by rabid bidders. People want to get their hands on the magazine itself, because it almost feels like it doesn’t really exist; it’s too fanciful, too playful. But seeing is believing: Flair was real, if only for an ephemeral, glamorous year.

Cowles held nothing back when creating Flair: it was a sensory feast. The magazine was remarkably innovative, and not just for 1950; Cowles wanted to make an object that was, above all things, tactile and surprising, like a children’s book for adults. The pages of the magazine had cut-out trap doors, pamphlet inserts, photo spreads with a flip-book full of captions running underneath the central image. The pages did not come in a single stock, but instead Cowles was known to pepper several types of paper throughout a single issue; the reader could flip from heavy cardstock to flimsy, onionskin newsprint to high-gloss fashion pages that felt almost slick to the touch. Over half of the 12 covers featured complicated cut-out overlays. The spring issue, which featured a painting of a rose on its cover (in her later years, Cowles would come to be associated with the flower), was particularly opulent: every single page smelled like tea roses. Cowles held nothing back when creating Flair: it was a sensory feast. You could touch it, smell it, marvel at its art direction, down to the

TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING

She always believed that Flair was her crown jewel, the project that would serve as a shorthand for her maximalist, sumptuous worldview.


This page: Spread from Flair, The Paris Issue, April 1950. Image courtesy of the Herb Lubalin Study Center. Opposite page: Advertisment for fashion designer Hannah Troy. Image courtesy of the Herb Lubalin Study Center.

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The ads were as whimsical as the papercuts and the surprise pamphlets, allowing the reader to experience the magazine as a holistic, unbroken fantasy. ads, like one for Warumba Cashmere, which encourages customers to pick up wooly sweaters in “sparkling, new Not Quite White,” or the Fouke Fur Co., which touted an Alaskan sealskin coat as “your white wine costume.” These almost subliminal messages lent Flair a sense of seamlessness; the ads were as whimsical as the papercuts and the surprise pamphlets, allowing the reader to experience the magazine as a holistic, unbroken fantasy. Cowles launched Flair after convincing her third husband, Gardner “Mike” Cowles Jr., scion of the Cowles Media dynasty (which owned the Minneapolis Star-Tribune and the Des Moines Register at the time, as well as several national magazines) to hire her to work for Look, a general interest magazine that heavily

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carefully placed advertisements. If the technology had existed in 1950 for lickable paper, Cowles likely would have made the magazine edible, too. Alexander Tochilovsky, the curator of the Herb Lubalin Study Center at Cooper Union, an archive devoted to iconic typographic and magazine design, keeps all 12 copies of Flair in the library, along with the Flair Annual, a hulking 1953 coffee table book that attempted to re-capture some of the magic of the magazine after its untimely death. He delights in showing off Cowles’ short-lived oeuvre to students. It breaks them out of their Helvetica ruts, he said, out of their constant worship of minimal, white space. Instead, Flair is an elegant cacophony, a jumble of color and ideas that worked due to the sheer intensity of Cowles’ vision. She was so hands-on that she oversaw every ad page in the magazine, often convincing companies to tailor their spreads to the editorial content inside. In the final issue, published in January 1951, she declared that the fashionable color of the season was “white wine,” an ivory shade with a slight yellow tint, like barrel-aged Chardonnay. Cowles, in a move that foreshadowed today’s magazine “advertorials,” urged several advertisers to subtly integrate the “white wine” concept into their printed material. The issue includes dozens of Chablis-tinged


This page: Spread from Flair, February 1950. Image courtesy of the Herb Lubalin Study Center. Page opposite (top to bottom): (1) Cover of Flair, issue 1, February 1950. Image courtesy of the Herb Lubalin Study Center. (2) Spread from Flair, ‘Shades and Shadows’ feature, January 1951. Image courtesy of the Herb Lubalin Study Center. (3) Spread from Flair, The Paris Issue, April 1950. Image courtesy of the Herb Lubalin Study Center.

EYE ON DESIGN #05: DISTRACTION

featured photography in an attempt to compete with LIFE. Fleur Cowles, understanding that women were often the people purchasing general interest magazines (and by extension, the products advertised in them), infused Look with more fashion, cooking, and home decor content, which brought in a new audience and, according to one Vanity Fair report, increased the circulation to 310,000. This success allowed Cowles to ask her husband for what she really wanted: the capital to start her own publication, which she called “a class magazine,” a book that would be more aspirational than relatable for the typical housewife. She was tired of spreads about the best linoleum; she wanted to do an entire issue on Paris, or hire Ernest Hemingway to write a travel essay, or commission Colette to gossip about her love affairs. She wanted her magazine jewel. And for one year, she had it. But outside forces wanted to see her fail. Editors at rival magazines tried to convince advertisers to stay away from Flair, threatened by the new, sumptuous, seemingly budgetless book in town. And pressures came from inside, too: some executives at Cowles Media felt that Fleur was exploiting her husband and siphoning off too much money from the company to feed her vanity project. According to Vanity Fair, by the time the magazine closed, Flair’s “before-tax losses had mounted to $2,485,000— averaging out to a 75-cent loss on each copy sold” (adjusted for inflation, that would be about $26,350,000 in 2019). The profit loss led Mike to kill off Fleur’s beloved magazine. That, and the fact that


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In the battledome that is the attention economy, Flair still stands out like a peacock. These days, as printed matter grows more and more rarefied, Flair’s mythos looms ever larger. It was a marvel, even during a time when magazines were abundant. No one else was hiring Jean Cocteau to write a miniature book about Americans in Paris, or a series × commissioning of irreverent Saul Steinberg portraits. No one else was perfuming their pages, or slicing them in half, or folding them into an accordion. No one else was cutting chunks out of their HAS  DESIGNED THIS POP-UP. covers, or hiring Simone GET IN CONTACT FOR de Beauvoir to write a YOUR PERSONAL POP-UP AD: personal essay about the value of women’s time, or WWW.PANDAN.CO showcasing the work of emerging couture illustrators like René Gruau by inserting their body of work into the fashion well in the form of a removable portfolio. Cowles’ work was so tactile, it feels distant from our world, but it also feels, in a way, like it was made for Instagram 75 years too early. In the battledome that is the attention economy, Flair still stands out like a peacock every time I see one of its covers or iconic spreads zoom past my eyes on social media. It still shimmers, with all the glamour and iridescence that Fleur Cowles longed to infuse into the world.

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Fleur soon found out that he was keeping a mistress, was the death knell for the Cowles’ marriage. Fleur tried briefly to revive Flair as a book series, but she could never rekindle the capricious alchemy that made the publication so singular in 1950, when she was taking wild risks with a blank checkbook.


Fleur Cowles with her husband Mike Cowles. Image courtesy of the Herb Lubalin Study Center.

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C A S E     S T U D Y A Graphic Designer’s

Screen Time Report You’re welcome.

Dear graphic designer, We give you a detailed report about how your device is used, apps you’ve opened, websites you’ve visited, and people you’ve stalked. Here, you can see your daily usage and assess who you are as a person. We help you evaluate your priorities and focus on what really matters. By Tala Safié

SCREEN TIME REPORT

Screen shaming for your own good.


D A I LY    R E P O RT Social networking You only get pity likes.

EYE ON DESIGN #05: DISTRACTION

Productivity

Drink more soylent—you don’t have time for lunch.

Entertainment Work is all the fun you’ll ever need.

Creativity

Mozart was writing operas at 12.

Not good enough.

Eat/sleep

19m

The rem cycle is overrated.

Exercise

0m

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1 hr 4m You don’t actually know these people.

Prioritize personal branding posts.

42m You can do better.

Only tax-deductible entertainment is allowed.

23m

SCREEN TIME REPORT

6

Do you even follow color trends when you post?

34m

SE TY LIM OUR ITS .

W unn e give y e you cessa ou the ry fro op this m you conte tion t n o you featur r caree t that block d e r# be ,w ist hav lieve t e’d lik goals racts e to . Wi e so hat t y m o our e co u ac make h tu n alg orit trol ov ally hm er s.


Tuesday

50%

1 3% less creative than last week

Thoughts about quitting the design industry

70%

20%

50% Ordering burrito delivery

Self-deprecation

15%

50%

30%

Thursday

Writing offensive tweets

Invoice follow-up

35%

Wednesday

Do you feel ashamed? good, it’s working.

Stressstalking

Monday email catch-up

Monday

Slack team bonding

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W E E K LY     R E P O R T

20%

Binging on r/design trolls after logo relaunch

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5% more anxious than last week We have another app that can help you with that!


Friday

Saturday

Sunday

90%

MOST PICK-UPS 31 times between the 7:30–8AM morning snooze AFTER BEDTIME USE @aigaeyeondesign LONGEST SESSION 48 min on delayed F train ride

10%

Searches for “Bar near me”

20%

Contemplating new sneaker purchase

30% Social Networking

Social Networking

Self-doubt

50%

20%

Texting a believable excuse to cancel brunch plans

 0% increase of career 2 change prospects

rk wo to ? t n s Wa for u

SCREEN TIME REPORT

8

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 5% less productive 3 We’re keeping than last week track.


ev er -c ha ng i art ng e h T

he t of

art

Don’t Click of the screensaver

he t of

e Th

ev er -c ha ng in g

sc ree ns av er

The ever-changing

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marily for pure entertainment. Soon, other software engineers would follow his lead and go on to develop some of the most iconic visuals associated with early computing. In the mid-1980s, computers were technical marvels that could, in reality, do very little unless you were fluent in programming languages. Word processing was in its infancy. The internet was still a crude idea. Apple’s MacPaint, released with the first Mac personal computer in early 1984, was the zenith of computational creativity,

“We wanted to make it interesting, but not something you’d want to sit down and watch for hours.” 1980s, some of the high-contrast computer but it was still a relatively simple program. screens that Norton Commander ran on “Anything you did on a computer at the were susceptible to “burn-in,” a phenome- time was a drudge,” says Bill Stewart, a UX non where overuse of certain pixels could designer who came up during the period. leave a ghost-like imprint on the screen. “Software was still really hard to use.” Stewart, now a senior UX design stratThe original purpose of SCRNSAVE was exactly as valiant as its name suggests— egist at UX Factor Design, is the creator its darkened image saved screens from per- of an early screensaver called Magic that twisted simple vector lines into perceptionmanent damage. When Socha first wrote the program, bending patterns. He later helped develop he couldn’t have known that his algorith- screensavers for After Dark, the most wellmic experiment would create an entirely known screensaver software program of new genre of graphics software built pri- the early Mac and Windows era. In the late

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Above: Satori, 1991 © After Dark. Bottom: Mowin Man, 1991 © After Dark.

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In 1983, a computer programmer named John Socha created what is considered by most to be the first screensaver. The program, called SCRNSAVE, was barely a program at all—after three minutes of inactivity, it turned the screen into a blank, black square. At the time, Socha developed SCRSAVE for a mostly utilitarian purpose. He was the creator of Norton Commander, a file management program that gave computer users a way to interact with their files on early disk operating systems more easily. In the


EYE ON DESIGN #05: DISTRACTION

This page: Starry Night, 1991 © After Dark. Next page: Satori, 1991 © After Dark.

’80s, engineers and designers like Stewart, from the stagnant screen. He decided to Jack Eastman, and Patrick Beard (After code animations as a standalone program, Dark’s co-founders), were exploring what experimenting with arranging the lines the computer was capable of outside of into geometric patterns. He called it Magic. hard-nosed programming environments. “The line art was simple,” he recalls, “But The graphical user interface was still rela- the algorithm had some life to it.” tively young, and it proved to be a playScreensavers like Magic, and later the ground for anyone interested in experiment- graphics from After Dark, were designed ing with animation algorithms. to be playfully entrancing. Stewart says It made sense then that most early the mark of a good animation is something screensaver developers were computer that keeps your attention—but just for a science majors looking for a creative out- moment. “We wanted to make it interestlet. “It was a personal project,” Eastman ing, but not something you’d want to sit recalled in a 2007 interview with the web- down and watch for hours,” he says. After

site Low End Mac. Eastman first began experimenting with designing graphical screensavers while he was getting his Ph. D. in physics from the University of California, Berkeley. Similarly, Stewart was working on utilitarian software when he discovered that there was a way to turn his line charts into art. While designing the interface for a piece of accounting software, Stewart and his business partner Ian MacDonald began playing with animated line charts. He quickly realized that while basic, the animations were an unexpectedly whimsical break

Dark in particular was able to hone its breed of wacky graphics into a brand with screensavers that included winged toasters flying across the screen and psychedelic kaleidoscope patterns filling the black square. For many people, the animations filled a strange but satisfying role—screensavers were only visible once people stopped using their computer. “It was the way your computer behaved when it was doing nothing,” says David Reinfurt, a designer who runs the software studio O-R-G where he makes and sells artistically rendered screensavers for $ 25.

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Throughout the 1990s, screensavers boomed in popularity as more people bought personal computers for the first time. Screensavers came default on most PCs; they’d flicker on after a few minutes without any prompting, filling the screen with snaking pipes, labyrinths of bricks, and 3D block letters bouncing around a black background. None of the animations were art, per se, but the images were iconic in their own kitschy way. By the end of the decade, screensavers were no longer as technically necessary as they once were thanks to the low-contrast LCD screens

appeared from our screens altogether. Still, it’s that sheer lack of utility that has given them such a powerful place in the collective nostalgia around early computing. “Software is always judged by what it can do for you,” Reinfurt says. “Screensavers are clearly kind of useless, in the way art is meant to be useless. There’s something slightly naive about them.”

DON'T CLICK

that were becoming more common. Still, they persisted for a while as emblems of unadulterated fun on machines that were quickly becoming more ingrained in people’s everyday lives. In their heyday, screensavers were a diversion, a simple distraction that served no real purpose beyond bringing the screen to life. By today’s standards, the graphics are no longer remarkable; their novelty has been absorbed by the explosion of visual culture that we’re surrounded by daily. Today, a blank screen feels radical, which might explain why screensavers have almost dis-

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g n i k Pic Up r e b y the C k c a l S By Claire Evans

Photography by Nolwen Cifuentes


e Levy im a J t is t r a ia design Multimed b e w f o t n o r f re was at the fo s even existed ite before webs


EYE ON DESIGN #05: DISTRACTION

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Jaime Levy’s real name is not Jaime. She won’t tell me what her real name is, only that her parents named her after a Beatles song, and that she hates the Beatles—wishes they’d never existed—and so she’s Jaime, a nod to Van Halen, of all things, and the bionic woman, Jaime Sommers, her “idol” when she was just a punk kid growing up in the haze of Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley. Jaime Levy is, in all things, self-made. And when what she wants doesn’t exist, she makes that, too. As a graduate student at New York University’s Interactive Telecommunications Program in the early years of New York’s new media renaissance, she figured magazines would go electronic soon enough; in 1990, she started publishing her own interactive floppy disks, pointand-click magazines full of sound collages, rants, gig reviews, and games. The zines Cyber Rag and Electronic Hollywood made her famous in the emerging cyberculture, and when the web finally caught up, she adapted her DIY interaction design to online publishing, becoming creative director of Word.com, one of the first magazines to properly make use of the new medium’s affordances. Word was scene-altering: The first time the New York Times ran a feature on web browsers, it used Word as its example site, and even the Netscape browser had a button pointing straight to it (the button was labeled “What’s Cool?”). The site’s icon-rich design, heavy with streaming audio, experimental layouts, and interactive experiences, was so ahead of its time that it had a tendency to crash browsers. In those days, unmistakable with bleached-blond hair and a mouth as unfiltered as her hand-rolled cigarettes, Levy called herself the “biggest bitch in Silicon Alley,” a grunge prophetess of new media who wasn’t afraid to make waves, or make money. Her clients were rock stars—a floppy disk she created for Billy Idol’s 1993 Cyberpunk album was the first interactive press kit—and corporate giants alike. Samsung once hired her to create the “Malice Palice,” a dystopian chat room modeled after a post-Fall San Francisco, full of drug-pushing zombie bots and radioactive burritos. Silicon Alley, New York’s media-centric analogue to the Bay Area’s entrepreneurial internet boom, was her playground; Many East Village artists saw the web for the first time in Levy’s Avenue A loft, on a Mac II a hacker friend connected to a 28 k internet connection. At the tail end of the dot-com bubble, she was the CEO of a “production studio for the internet” called Electronic Hollywood, where she created interactive toys for major clients and authored a 16-episode


Tell me about being a teenager in L.A. in the ’70s. I grew up in the San Fernando Valley, and the two big things that shaped my teenage years happened when I was about 13: my parents split up, and I was obsessed with skateboarding. I’d ride to school, or I’d just ride to the 7-Eleven, hanging out with the guys, trying to be cool. And then at the same time, this idiot named Judge Paul Egly decided to enforce this thing called forced busing. So instead of going to the school really close to my house, I had to wake up at 6 a.m. and catch a bus and go to school in Crenshaw. I was bullied on the bus; I was literally the only girl. I spent

PICKING UP THE CYBER SLACK

Prev ious sp p a ge : Jaim read: Jaim e Le e Le vy ho v lding y showin g off a key Cybe boar r Rag d in front II, 19 of a s e r ve 9 1 / 1 9 9 2 . Pola r at t roid. he o P ffice s o f W h o t o g ra p hed ord.c by M om, ichae 1 9 95 l . Pho togra Levine. T pher his unkn ow n .

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Flash cartoon called Cyberslacker about life in New York’s IPO-fueled “trendy freakout.” As one of Silicon Alley’s most visible media darlings, she crashed along with the stock market in 2000, landing back in L.A., where she now teaches UX strategy at USC’s Viterbi School of Engineering.


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two years there, and it gave me a very hard shell, but it also exposed me to hip-hop music and break dancing. By the time I got back to being a ninth-grade “Valley Girl,” I was not the same person.

When did you find punk rock? Was that a big thing for you? Huge. Just as I was starting high school, I had my first job at the UA6 movie theater. These were more street-smart kids, and they dragged me

“It was everything about art and technology and music and storytelling and me jammed onto a floppy disk.”

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to a party where I heard The Specials, and ska music, and became obsessed—so obsessed with The Specials that I decided that one day if I had a son, I would name him Terry, after Terry Hall. And we know I have a son named Terry. Then you left L.A. to go study film in San Francisco. I immediately moved to the Lower Haight and started working at Skates on Haight. Within a year, the Mac came out and I started using a computer. More importantly, I was exposed to this thing called video art. I started shooting video, and back then it was all about getting access to edit bays, which was a huge deal. You either had to intern for a film or TV company or go to a college with a proper film and video department like SF State or NYU to get access to editing suites. San Francisco State was great because I got to be around artists who were experimenting with technology just for the sake of it. Lynn Hershman Leeson ran the multimedia Inter-Arts Center when you were a student at SF State. Was she an influence on your work? She was the most famous person there, so for sure. She brought in John Sanborn and all these other video artists. And it seemed to me the hippest thing, because I wasn’t going to make straight-up television. I was producing a lot of videos for public access. Filming [live, in-studio musical performances for] everyone from Faith No More to The Beatnigs. There was so much performance art and video art and experimental stuff in San Francisco, and you could live there for no money. I think the room I rented in some big Victorian was $120 a month. I’m so happy I got to experience San Francisco before it turned into the shithole tech bro place that it is now. Back then it was just all about burritos and experimental art. When did you start integrating computer animation into your film and video work? Around my third or fourth year. I met this guy who had an Amiga, and he was making these animated e-zines, but he was mostly uploading them


Jaime Levy , Electronic Magazine Co Photograph llector's Lim ed by Nolw ited Edition en Cifuente and three sig s, 2019. ned disk iss ues includin g Cyber Ra g, Cyber Ra g II and El ec troni c Hollyw ood.


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to a BBS, and the content would be things like his penis animated—it was just shock stuff. But the idea of integrating animation with the video… it was kind of a free-for-all, where you could do something that no one had done before. And then I saw this LaserDisc that was part of

“The disks were game-changing multimedia, because I think people saw a glimpse of what the web would be.” a museum exhibit. It was [an interactive video artwork] by Grahame Weinbren, and it was about two famous 19th-century texts, Goethe’s Erlkönig and one about the dreams analyzed by Sigmund Freud. But you could basically control the narrative by touching the screen or clicking around. I saw that and I was like, this is all I want to do with my life now.

Interactivity with video and storytelling. And someone said, “Oh well there’s this program within the graduate film school at NYU.” This was before the web, obviously, so I had to look it up on microfiche at the SF State library. I was too afraid that they wouldn’t let me in, so I decided I would just bum-rush the school. I went there just before Christmas break and it was snowing and I just walked in. I had bleached white hair. They saw me, and they were like, “What’s this person doing here?”

You eventually talked your way into a full ride at NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program. I told them I couldn’t afford to go there, but that I wanted to do things with technology that no one else had done. The program was full of people paid for by Citibank to design ATM interfaces. I was pretty much the first

Jaime Levy, interactive zines on floppy disk. Photographed by Frank Miles, 2015. Courtesy Jaime Levy. From left to right: Cyber Rag, winter 1990; Cyber Rag II, summer 1990; Cyber Rag III, New Year’s 1991; Electronic Hollywood, fall 1991; Electronic Hollywood II, the “Riot” issue, 1992.

EYE ON DESIGN #05: DISTRACTION

Interactivity.


“They’d come to the loft, and it would be alcohol and drugs, but imagine you could go over there and see the web for the first time.” Cyber Rag, one of the  first electronic magazines to be released on floppy, was your master’s thesis at ITP. I learned graphic design by doing interface design. I look at Cyber Rag now and I see interactive concepts in there that I think are actually kind of interesting today: buttons that swap in and out or animate across on the screen, which is totally unacceptable for a product that’s decidedly not a game. It was in black and white, and I was stealing art from Love and Rockets, and sampling all these noise bands—it was everything about art and technology and music and storytelling and me jammed onto a floppy disk. It was so distilled, in terms of bandwidth. I didn’t think I would ever finish it because the idea of compressing all that and making it play off a floppy was stupidly ambitious. I was so far ahead of my time, for better and for worse, so I had to send the disk out to all the magazines that I respected, like Mondo 2000 and High-Performance magazine, and the editors would get them and they’d look at them and they’d be like, “What the fuck is this?” And then they’d stick it in their computer and it would explode with all this content, and then they’d write about it.

You distributed the disks in bookstores and record stores, rather than at computer meetups. I love this intuition you had to go straight to the noncomputer people. Because even though it was a technological object, Cyber Rag wasn’t for the technoculture.

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ctive how, Intera igital art s sit y’s d r t e s r iv Un ts’ fi York tuden the s t N ew ters a paring for u p m , pre g co movin s Program L ev y ation wn. ic o Jaime n n u k n u omm pher Telec togra . Pho 1990

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artist. Now if you go there, it’s totally evolved into the school I wish it had been when I was there, but it doesn’t matter, because it was the only place in the world where they would let you do what you wanted to do with technology.


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It wasn’t for nerds. I was using the technology, but I was making it for Gen X-ers, and Gen X-ers weren’t nerds yet. They didn’t even own computers. At best they had the Mac Plus or the Mac SE, so that’s what I made Cyber Rag for. I went to all the hipster bookstores and galleries and said, “Here’s 10.” I couldn’t demo them, but I fronted them and then they sold out. People went gaga over them because no one had seen anything like it, and they were only six bucks. Eventually I sold thousands. The disks were game-changing multimedia, because I think people saw a glimpse of what the web would be.

Can you tell me about your CyberSlacker parties? Oh my god. What’s sad is that it was before digital cameras. It would have been way too lame to pull out a camera at one of these events because they were so cool. The first party, Phiber Optik—he was a hacker who went to jail—came over and hooked my Mac II up to probably the first 28 k connection to the internet out of the East Village. I had this big ass twostory loft in the East Village. Part of the party was to show all these people the internet. They’d come to the loft, and it would be alcohol and drugs, but imagine you could go over there and see the web for the first time, and here’s DJ Spooky playing. We were all partying and hanging out and talking about tech-driven art. It was all these interdisciplinary people coming together. We did the parties at the loft for as long as we could stand it, because they just grew. It was always about people bringing their computer stuff to show off, and trying to get the East Village scene up to speed with tech. When did you start designing for the web? Did you get it right away? Immediately. I was working at IBM as an interface designer and there was barely anything for us to do there. One day, my friend Kevin showed me the Mosaic browser and I just—no bullshit—walked out. I just saw a home page and I was like, “That’s my disk online.” I turned in my notice and I went home and found the one guy in New York who knew HTML and had him teach me.

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What did you bring to interactive media that nobody else could have brought? Fearlessness. I’m that person that got beat up so much in junior high and just didn’t give a shit, who could walk into a school and say, “I want to come here.” Insanity, relentlessness. That’s how I am when I set my mind to something. This despite the fact that I’m a girl and I don’t code. I could communicate with developers. Before the UX methodology existed, my way of communicating interactivity to programmers was by writing out experiences as “scenes.” I would literally write things like a screenplay: screen one, this is what can happen. Life was fine for me before wireframing became this mandated tool for expression.


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After the collapse of the dot com bubble and 9/11, you came back to Los Angeles and reinvented yourself. What were those early years in L.A. like? Horrifying. It was so bad. If I went on a job interview and if I was to pull out, “Here’s all my press from New York,” that did not go over well. Saying you were CEO of a dot-com company was not a good way to pitch yourself at that time. And because I didn’t have a portfolio of deliverables, like wireframes or site maps, I barely supported myself. I detoured to DVD authoring and design, but the only place that would hire me was a porn place. For six weeks, my job was basically to scrub through videos looking for the cum shots. To be making minimum wage in a shitty part of the Valley timecode logging pornography… I fell pretty hard. You had been like a rock star in New York. And a party girl. I think the farther you fall, the harder you land. But finally my then-husband had a friend who was an information architect and I was like, “What’s that?” And he told me, and I’m like, “Oh, you mean it’s

“A lot of designers, they’re just pixel pushers, man.” a structure of a website, this thing I’ve been doing in my head for 15 years? You just draw some lines on some paper and some boxes and arrows?” I decided I’m just going to become whatever this IA/UX/UI thing is.

VIP pass for a CyberSlacker party held by Electronic Hollywood Productions in 2000. Courtesy Jaime Levy.

EYE ON DESIGN #05: DISTRACTION

It seems a lot of people in New York saw the web and realized that what you had been doing was making websites offline. They came to you because you were the established person in a field that didn’t even exist yet. I never heard it put that way. But yeah, I was basically making websites offline. Razorfish and Word.com both came at me at once. Word was like, “We want you to be our creative director and we have $1 million.” Whereas Razorfish was like, “We’re going to make websites and you’re going to get paid in equity and be a third partner of this company.” Those were my two choices at that point. I went with Word, which was total freedom. We were the place [online] where people could come every day and see a new story that was nonlinear, with an ambient soundtrack. Every day a new technology would come out that we could leverage, like the ability to stream audio, or the ability to have an animated gif. Imagine!


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How did you find your way into UX strategy? I had already been doing strategy my entire career. I strategized how and what the products would be, dealt with the client, wrote the proposals, so all of a sudden I thought, “Oh, instead of being told what the product is, I could be put in room full of stakeholders who all have very different opinions, and figure out how to get a shared vision, how to build consensus.” After doing software design for decades, I knew exactly how the internet works and how content works. It was a new thing that I could learn about and fall in love with, and I’m still in love with it. I love strategy and especially how strategy intersects with user experience design. Why make a bunch of wires and argue with colleagues and stakeholders about the “look and feel?” I think I just got burnt out on subjectivity: “Ooh, I like this ’cause I like purple more than pink.” No, everything can be tested.

Still, there has to be a point where designers can make new contributions. Well, as a musician, can you tell me if there’s any opportunity to make some kind of music that’s never been heard in pop music? I used to wonder how there could be new songs left. How can it be that the combinations of notes haven’t been totally exhausted? But music is also about performance, production, culture, instrumentation. It’s harder though, right?

PICKING UP THE CYBER SLACK

Is UX strategy design? No, it’s what you do before design. You figure out what’s the product strategy, what’s the product? Who are we making it for? What features should it have? How are people going to find out about it? What are they going to do once they find out about it? How will the product make money? And then instead of building it, you prototype the most important parts and get customer feedback. Principled design is disappearing from the UX world; I have international students who have never taken even an art class who can make a native app using Sketch in two weeks. It’s so easy with all the toolkits. It’s all been commodified. If you’re a UX designer, unless you have five years of building digital products that actually see the light of day under your belt, your pay should be minimum wage. That’s all you’re worth to me. Because what have you done? Make some screens that have more than a few boxes on them, actually build some products. Make many, many prototypes. Do everything yourself, be truly hands-on and don’t just be like, “We’re going to design think our way through this.” I think there’s a lot of fakers out there. It’s not like we’re making a billboard or a packet of cigarettes—we’re making something that people are going to use. And so we need to know their mental model. That’s a lot more complicated. A lot of designers, they’re just pixel pushers, man. They’re not doing user research. They’re literally designing interfaces for themselves.


8 3 1 EYE ON DESIGN #05: DISTRACTION

It’s harder, but there are different tools, different opportunities. Right. And so many people have the tools. I’m not saying design’s over, I just feel there’s less opportunities to do something that’s innovative. It’s really, really hard, and it’s getting really complicated. You can’t just say, “Oh, I know how to do a wireframe. I’m a designer.” No, you need to understand all those other technologies that are related to it, so that you can actually make something that’s truly contextually connected. I’m talking about interaction design. Every design pattern has pretty much been done: we have the accordion, we have swim lanes, we have carousels, we have global navigation. I feel there’s less need for design or visual designers in the world of software design and that the opportunity for being creative is around integrating it with all of these other technologies—and the physical world.

I still think that’s design—it’s designing design. I like seeing digital products as jigsaw puzzles, so I say, “Let’s look at this app, and then look at that app, and take a piece of this functionality, and a piece of that, and put it together, like cooking.” It’s all about minimalist design. Less is more. What are the two or three things this thing needs to do? Let’s make it do them really well. Do you still think about your art practice? I did a bunch of shit in this 10-year period of my life from 1990 to 2000, and I would like to preserve that legacy, which means constantly converting it so that it will play on contemporary computers. I took my VHS tapes and my DVDs to this transfer place and I was like, “Can you get all this stuff onto this new hard drive?” I felt I was going to a kitchen appliance center. The DVDs had to be frozen to work and the videos had to be baked. I think about my heroes, all the video artists that inspired me, the only way you’re going to see their art, man, is if it’s in a museum. For all the artists at the time—including me, smack in the middle of it—if we aren’t actively converting our work, it’s all going to be lost.


PICKING UP THE CYBER SLACK

ntent, 1991. gazine disk co to Levy’s ma , collage of to contribute vy g Le kin as me Jai ter : Below rly ’90s. Above: Fan let fuentes, 2019. s from the ea by Nolwen Ci s and fan letter Photographed digital art show for s ial ter ma promotional fuentes, 2019. by Nolwen Ci Photographed

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Who said games are just for kids? Here are our favorite design diversions for those who are still children at heart

EYE ON DESIGN #05: DISTRACTION

Galapagos Game™ Pocket Version by Felix Salut

Designer Felix Salut’s pocket-sized, typographic building block game consists of 54 blocks adorned with nine different geometric shapes, which you can configure into an infinite array of letters, words, or abstract compositions. Felix’s original incarnation has already been acquired by Amsterdam’s Stedelijk Museum as a nugget of contemporary design history. High brow fun at its finest. felixsalut.com/Items/Galapagos-Pocket-Version

La Pita by Javier Bermejo

To play this elegant puzzle game, simply put together the separate wooden elements, arranging them so that they take on the feathery, bright appearance of a pita plant. Two or more players can get involved, taking turns to grow a construction together. Designed to mimic organic forms found in nature and based around the idea of growth not destruction, this collaborative activity is basically the opposite of jenga. ludusludi.com/product/sample-product/la-pita

Pap Yay by Hey Studio

Designed by Barcelona-based Hey Studio, this 10-piece puzzle block consists of six geometric animal puzzles. Sustainable and easily recyclable, the light game is made from paper and designed for toddlers, but with design this neat, it’s suitable for anybody age one to 100. heystudio.es/archivos/portfolio/ puzzle-illustration

Felix Salut, Galapagos pocket version. Photography by Vytautas Kunza. Image courtesy of the designer.

Forever Young


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Autonomic Tarot by Sophy Hollington and David Keenan

We know what you’re thinking… here we go, yet another beautifully illustrated tarot card pack. But if tarot is your game, this collaboration between writer David Keenan and illustrator Sophy Hollington is a must-have to add to your collection. The 30 card linocut deck combines traditional woodcut forms with glam-punk style illustrations. Sounds like fate to us. roughtradebooks.com/ editions/autonomic-tarot

Art Sqool by Julian Glander

Brooklyn-based illustrator and animator Julian Glander has created an outlandishly cute game for Mac and PC, which sees players star as the genderless “froshmin” and complete various art school assignments—such as “make art,” and the holy grail for all art-types, “achieve creative fulfillment”—which are then graded by AI. Glander deserves an A++ for this one. artsqool.cool

Byland by My Name is Wendy

We’re not exactly sure of the rules of this beautiful board game of strategy designed to encourage relaxation, but boy oh boy does it look lovely. Made from wood by French studio My Name is Wendy the game was born of a self-imposed exercise in designing beyond the printed surface. It never quite made it to production, but it’s still a nice little lesson in getting off the grid. mynameiswendy.fr


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For DJ and illustrator anu, a diverse creative practice is about more than making lots of different work

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EYE ON DESIGN #05: DISTRACTION

It seems anu (always lowercase, because it looks “nice and soft” like that) has found some sort of cheat that gives her more hours in the day than the rest of us. Based in Peckham, south London, but raised in Hounslow on the capital’s westerly outskirts, anu is an illustrator and a DJ with a monthly NTS show and gigs around the world. If that wasn’t enough, she also works three days a week for a record distribution company. Her illustration work is instantly recognizable: paunchy, genderless brown people bearing adorably weird faces with zigzag nostrils. We talk to her about how her music and illustration work feed each other, the importance of using creative platforms to further representation, and how trash TV can help assuage creative anxieties. There’s a lot of conversation at the moment around the importance of illustrators making images that don’t reinforce stereotypes around gender and body size and move away from homogenous, mainly white figures. To me, that feels like something you’ve always done with your work. When I was around 15, I was really into fashion photography and illustration—that was the route I wanted to go down. I noticed how all the drawings were of white people, and all the figures were very slim. They were all the same and it was so boring, so I started to play around with things. I’ve always liked to draw larger people, as they’re so much more interesting and fun to draw. There are so many more lines you can add in, and all of these lines add character. As I started to develop my style, the drawings became genderless. I thought that was really interesting because it was happening at a time when I was educating myself about the LGBTQIA+ community, and reading a lot of my mum’s books about race. When I first started drawing, I’d only really draw white people, and I think that was a reflection of how I was feeling about myself and the color of my skin. Growing up, I always wanted to be white; I hated the fact that I was Indian. So many brown girls in the UK go through that. As I became an adult, I experienced racism, which I didn’t really get growing up because of the area I grew


anu, illustration for NTS radio, March 2019. Image courtesy of the artist

How does the music side of things feed into that? With anything I do in music, I’m always trying to represent black people and people of color. Having a platform like NTS, my shows do reach a lot of people, and people who maybe wouldn’t normally listen to that kind of music. Growing up, music and drawing were big parts of my childhood, so it makes sense to me to put those two worlds together. When I started getting radio shows, I was able to make my own artwork and create something unique.

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What makes a really good party? Good artwork is so important because that’s what you’re going to see before you even go to the party, when you’re deciding if you want to go or not. Obviously, the lineup has to be diverse, not just in terms of gender but also in terms of color, people of all races. You also want a party that attracts a diverse audience. If it’s just loads of men, it’s going to suck. You want a club that feels comfortable and safe. And the sound has got to be good. I’ve read that your experience in art school wasn’t overwhelmingly positive. Why was that? It was a number of things really. When I went to London College of Communication for my foundation in graphic design, I didn’t have many friends there, and I was pretty anxious. It was such a change from where I grew up because there were only a few people of color.

BROWN PEOPLE ARE CUTE, TOO!

up in. I experienced things as a person of color and as a woman that angered me and encouraged me to do my own research, and speak to my parents about what it was like for them growing up. I really started to question who I was, and my identity. Now it’s really important to me that I only draw brown people because growing up, there weren’t any children’s books with brown people. In history class we didn’t learn about things like the British invading India. But as an adult, I was able to educate myself, and I became more angry. I think that shows in my work in a very subtle way. It made me want to showcase marginalized groups, but in a cute way. Brown people are cute, too! And genderless people are cute, and larger people are cute.


Opposite page: anu, illustration for NTS radio, March 2019. Image courtesy of the artist.

This page: anu, painting for NTS show with Russell E. L .   B utler, May 2019. Image courtesy of the artist.

EYE ON DESIGN #05: DISTRACTION

Then I went to Camberwell, and I found the illustration course there stifling. It felt like they really wanted students who are blank canvases, and they wanted the output to be really accessible, nothing weird. I’d been doing art all the way through primary school, and by secondary school, my drawings were becoming more like my style is now, which is a bit weirder. I had two or three years after my foundation where I was working and doing illustrations and stuff on my own, and I put on an exhibition while I was at uni of this character I’d come up with, snax. I had stuff going on in music at the time, and me and my friend set up a music magazine that I was doing all the illustrations for it, so I had lots of stuff to keep me interested in art without going to university. I dropped out after a year.


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What do you do to overcome that feeling? I smoke a joint, and I have a shower. With illustration, what’s worked for me recently is watching trashy TV like Real Housewives or The Bachelor. I just start drawing little things I see or write down the stupid phrases they say, and that will get me back into it again, and maybe help me come up with some weird ideas as well. Sometimes when I’m feeling down, I’ll put on some Japanese city pop like Tatsurō Yamashita. That’s really happy music for me.

BROWN PEOPLE ARE CUTE, TOO!

Do you ever have times where you think, “I can’t be bothered to find new music” or draw? Yeah, all the time. I have quite bad anxiety and I suffer from depression. If I’m feeling good, I definitely will want to go and play a gig because it’s what I love to do. But if I’m having a really low day, I’ll think, “I wish I didn’t have to do this,” even though once I get there it’s always okay. I often feel nervous about having late nights; breaking from your normal routine can be hard when you’re feeling low.


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Designers illustrate their past 24 hours of browsing history


× Ira Ivanova, graphic designer and art director  iraivanova.com  Berlin, Germany

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× Hicham Faraj, graphic designer  hichamfaraj.github.io  New York City, USA

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× Rita Matos, graphic designer and art director 

ritamatos.com  Lisbon, Portugal

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× Claire Lim, Pann Lim, Renn Lim, and Aira Lim, publishers of Rubbish FAMzine  Singapore

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× Mira Malhotra, founder of Studio Kohl  studiokohl.com  Mumbai, India

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It’s 4 p.m. No one vaguely normal can really be working at 4 p.m., ol’ slump-o-clock. What are you up to, in a bid to look busy?

beatmatching, having just downloaded the new version of Ableton Live. A ItPracticing just looks like you’re using your computer keyboard in a really weird way, right?

D

C

Taking a moment to focus on breath work, or indeed anything that can be B performed slyly at the desk. Everyone can tell you’re doing kegels, BTW.

C

B

Huh? No idea. Gazing out the window, scrolling mindlessly through Facebook, C then Instagram. Wondering what each and every colleague’s sex face looks like.

B

äWoke up, fell out of bed. Dragged a comb across your A  head. Found your way downstairs and drank a cup,

and looking up you noticed you were late. Found your coat and grabbed your hat. Made the bus in seconds flat. n đ&#x;Žľ Find a quiet spot to practice 20 minutes (at least!) of Transcendental Meditation. Roll out the yoga mat for morning practice, whizz up a green juice to-go, and bid “namasteâ€? to a new day. Tumble out of bed and stumble to the kitchen, pour yourself a cup of ambition. Yawn, stretch, and try to come to life. tone, moisturize. Put on the clothes for the day, D Cleanse, which were laid out the night before. Pack pre-prepared lunch.

Giving that desktop a good cleanup. Everything in its right place. D Finder > All My Files > purge, purge, purge.

A

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QUIZ

What Kind of Procrastinator Are You? “Non-procrastinator� is not an option, so stop kidding yourself

Wake up, sunshine. What’s your typical morning like?


Mostly A: The Hip-but-panicked You know your way round Discogs like the back of your hand, and your Juno downloads are bountiful. You’re a cool person, a lot of fun, and an absolutely godawful employee when it comes to doing anything vaguely useful with your time. You’d like to think you don’t care but you’re freaking the fuck out 97% of the time. Mostly B’s: The Health Nut Hesitator Wow, your skin really is glowing. And your chakras? Perfectly aligned. Those toned, toned abs and that NutriBullet wizardry sure are good for you, but maybe if you spent a little more time on getting some actual fucking work done and less on thinking about micronutrients, things would be a little rosier, promotion-wise. Mostly C: The Dreamer Hi, hello? Hey! Yes you! You’re not just away with the fairies, you’ve moved in with them and have been appointed their little leader. Creativity certainly does flourish when you have time to drift off into the imagination, but when you spend every minute up there in the clouds, it’s nigh-on impossible to deliver any work down here at the grindstone. Mostly D: The Organizer You certainly look like you’ve got your shit together, but be real: the only items on your list that get crossed off are the ones you’ve snuck in there because you know you’ve already done them. You may be visibly on top of emails, knicker draws, iCals, and so on, but just in lieu of doing anything actually productive. A tidy pencil holder does not a pitch deck make.

C

B

might still want to book your ironic-leaning Riot Grrrl VJ collective, Tits Akimbo, one day. Honestly, pretty serene. A bunch of emails from MyFitnessPal, carefully curated Medium newsletters from authors whose life goals and wellness targets align with your own. This question has been lost under your 45,687 unread emails. You’ve seen these, panicked a bit, and promptly ignored them. Must stop entering all those competitions you know deep down are just exercises in data collection.  strive for (and achieve) Inbox Zero. You maintain numerD You ous, meticulously kept folders. Anyone who doesn’t do this, you mutter to yourself, is a slovenly idiot and almost certainly can’t be trusted.

one? You have around four or five, and can’t even let A Which the most ridiculous of them go. Hey, someone out there

Hello inbox, my old friend. What does yours look like?

C B

WHAT KIND OF PROCRASTINATOR ARE YOU?

pounding early Coil-era Industrial maybe? You should probably make that into a mix, actually, even if it takes the rest of the day. It’s hard to focus when your energy is sapped by a stuffy office. Best go for a light jog, followed by a nutritious snack that involves something to do with spirulina. Might be a good idea to call an old school pal and ask them what they’d do in this situation. Reminisce. Research a nice little brunch spot to catch up at. It’s been years! simply impossible to work with a messy D It’s desk, so you tidy your (already minimal) one before tinkering about in the stationary cupboard for a while to find just the right tools for the task at hand, despite working solely at a computer. to create a playlist of motivational A Time music. A little rare Chicago Juke, some

You’ve done sweet FA all day. How do you make yourself really knuckle down?


Contributors Eye on Design

Issue #05 Design

Founder + director Perrin Drumm @perrindrumm

Studio Pandan is a graphic design studio based in Berlin, Germany, run by Pia Christmann and Ann Richter. @studiopandan

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EYE ON DESIGN #05: DISTRACTION

Managing editor Liz Stinson @lizstins Senior editors Emily Gosling @nalascarlett Meg Miller @megilllah Associate editor + art director Madeleine Morley @maddymorley Designer Tala SafiĂŠ

@talasafie

Copy editors Esther Gim Whitney Vendt Social media Plural

Writing Claire Evans is one-half of the pop group YACHT, the author of Broad Band: The Untold Story of the Women who Made the Internet (Penguin Random House), and an advisor to graduate design students at Art Center College of Design. @theuniverse Agnieszka Roguski is a researcher, writer, and curator living in Berlin. She collaborates with graphic designer Ann Richter under the collective A.R. practice. @agnieszka_muriel__ Alex Rothera is a designer, technologist, and entrepreneur focusing on products for health & social good. He is currently a product designer for Google & cofounder of Humane Engineering. @alexrothera Rachel Syme is a writer and cultural critic who lives in New York City. She is a regular con­ tributor to the New Yorker and the New York Times. @rachsyme


Milena Bucholz is an illustrator based in Berlin, Germany. Her clients include The Vinyl Factory, Noble Rot, and The Store. @mozzalena

Photography

Yuichi Yokoyama is an Eisner Award-nominated contemporary artist who was born in 1967 in Miyazaki Prefecture, Japan. His graphic novels include Color Engineering, Travel, Garden, and World Map Room.

CONTRIBUTORS

Lina Ehrentraut is an illustrator and painter based in Germany. She’s currently studying at the Academy of Fine Arts, Leipzig. She’s part of the Squash Collective, a group of friends that make zines and Nolwen Cifuentes is a photogexhibitions together. @linaehrentraut rapher based in Los Angeles. Her clients include i-D Magazine, Anna Haifisch is a comic artist and The New York Times Magazine, illustrator from Leipzig, Germany. Dazed & Confused, Bloomberg She co-founded the indie comics Businessweek and Refinery29. @nolwencif festival The Millionaires Club and likes printmaking as well as drawChris Maggio is a photographer ing comics. @the.artist942 living in NYC with 8.6 million Marie Mohanna created the of his closest friends. Often Wimmelbild at the start of this exploring the quotidian details of magazine. She is an illustrator American cities and their tourism, based in Paris, France. Her work his documentary practice sits has been exhibited in at ELCAF at the intersection of both obserand Graphic Design Festival vational and staged photography. @chrismaggio Scotland. @mariemohanna

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Illustration and Art


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Eye on Design magazine - Issue #05 “Distraction”