CONTENT 3 9 19 Phil Patton Michael Dooley Rick Poynor Juana Capelluto
Off The Chart by Phil Patton
VOICE Most designers, I’m guessing, would find it hard to imagine voluntarily giving up control of color in their work. Yet that notion is being explored at several museums right now. Color Field painting, with its restricted use of brushes, is the subject of a show at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, as well as a citywide festival in Washington, D.C. Despite its name, the “Jasper Johns: Gray” exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, offers other new thoughts about color as well. Meanwhile, “Color Chart: Reinventing Color, 1950 to Today” at the Museum of Modern Art is all about artists who reveled in color as “found object.” Curated by Ann Temkin and running through May 12, “Color Chart” is about color out of the can, out of the box and off the shelf. I love color charts. They recall for me the color matching samples of stamp collectors, from my childhood. I can’t resist grabbing those paint strips found in hardware stores, in particularly irresistible hues. The artists in the MoMA show seem similarly attracted. They let chance or commerce pick their colors by using the colors as they come from the factory. In part, their use of color belongs to the century-long effort of art to escape from craft and become more intellectually respectable. The jokes about color found in the show are similar to jokes played with subject matter and materials by Duchamp or Johns or Warhol. The chart—like the target or map, the photograph, the number or letter—is a document. In the show are several paintings that seeme to resemble color charts themselves. Jim Dine pays homage to the Red Devil enamel chart, seen in many main-street hardware stores. Damien Hirst covers a wall with bite-sized color samples of house paint. A Donald Judd piece randomly deploys colors from the European RAL paint system. Both Gerhard Richter and Ellsworth Kelly produce what look like color charts but use chance to deploy color in a grid.
The commercial color chart made it possible for an artist to “phone in” one’s performance, as Lazlo Moholy-Nagy did in 1922. He ordered up five paintings from a maker of porcelain sign panels using a color chart and graph paper. He compared the process to playing chess by phone or mail. Surrendering control over color in this way was anathema to the Bauhausers, like Joseph Albers, working in the tradition of Paul Klee to seek the harmonies among colors. But other artists followed Moholy-Nagy: Sol Lewitt was happy to restrict himself (or actually those who executed his instructions for drawings) to three Koh-i-noor pencil colors or to the eight crayon colors in the basic Crayola pack. Another piece in the show made me think of crayons and the limits of color out of the box. Byron Kim plays on Crayola’s pre-Civil Rights era “flesh” crayon in Synecdoche, some 250 variations of tans and mochas suggesting human skin colors.
I was struck by how many of the artists in the show used paints from my area of interest: automobiles. Cars began with famous limits to color: Henry Ford’s Model T came in any color you wanted as long as it was black. The Model T came in black because black was the only color that dried fast enough for Ford’s factory. So, one of the most important color charts—and one included in the catalog—was that of DuPont’s Duco enamels. Introduced in the mid-1920s, the brightly colored auto paints for the first time dried fast enough for the assembly line. Duco made the Mo d e l T c h rom at ic a l ly ob s ole t e . (Ford reluctantly added a dark green.) Artists themselves have used auto paints. Billy Al Bengsten in California and Richard Hamilton in the UK applied them to canvas. Hamilton used auto paint in 1958 in Hers Is a Lush Situation, whose subject includes a 1950s Buick. (Alice Twemlow tells the painting’s back-story.) John Chamberlain is best known for his sculptures made
from crushed parts of cars, often with the paint still clinging to the metal. He is represented at MoMA by paintings from the 1960s made by spraying auto paint onto masonite. The titles come from pop music groups of the day, like Orlons and Dion, suggesting the limited palette of popular taste shared by auto buyer and record buyer. In 1971, the Italian artist Alighiero e Boetti juxtaposed two very similar reds used by two competing Italian motorcycle makers, Guzzi and Gierli (the latter now defunct), in Rosso Palermo. The two brands had fervent fans, whose rivalry was reflected humorously in the slight, yet passionately felt variation in color. The idea of the palette as readymade, like Duchampâ€™s urinal, something therefore â€œundesigned,â€? underlies the show. But the more you look, the more designed that palette looks. Of course, Martha Stewart and Ralph Lauren design palettes for house paints. And artistic movements have their own palettes, just as Picasso had his roses and blues.
VOICE With color comes a sense of play, which the show grasps well. Frank Stella’s 1962 Gran Cairo, with its rainbow palette, is riffed off of by Jim Lambie’s Zobop!, a work executed for the MoMA show, splayed across the floor in colored vinyl tape. The day after I saw the show, I visited a design class where students used similar material. They could dream up any color they wanted on the computer, then print it onto adhesive vinyl. Whereas for the last century or so, as MoMA seems to suggest, the commercial color chart, created by technology, was all about limits, today’s industrial technology promises to color without limits. Could it be that the challenge to the designer and artist alike is to limit the palette? Coloring within the self-imposed lines—how bold.
EmigrĂŠ by Michael Dooley
VOICE For over a decade of typeface design and magazine publishing, Zuzana Licko and Rudy VanderLans have withstood virulent attacks from an entrenched design establishment as well as from their contemporaries. Throughout it all, they have continued to pursue their unique visions and, consequently, have been a prime force in revolutionizing the industry and cultivating a spirit of exploration. Brian Eno’s quip about the Velvet Underground that only a few thousand people bought their record but every one of them went on to form a band could apply as well to Emigré. Although the print run of the first issue was 500 copies and its circulation peaked at 7,000 several years ago, its reverberations are still being felt around the world. The magazine that VanderLans published and art directed, and the fonts Licko developed for it, have stimulated designers to defy, and even overthrow, entrenched rules and to set new standards. Neither Licko nor VanderLans set out to transform the face of modern design. They achieved their notoriety rather unconventionally. Bay Area designer Chuck Byrne, who has closely observed their careers from the beginning, explains: “In the last fifty years or so, making a reputation for yourself was basically a process of winning competitions, getting your work published, and going around pontificating to the world about how great you are. What drove the establishment crazy was that Rudy and Zuzana totally short-circuited this apprenticeship and became famous simply by designing for this international group of admirers.” Licko was born in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia, and moved to the United States at the age of seven. Her father, a biomathematician, provided her with access to computers and the opportunity to design her first typeface, a Greek alphabet, for his personal use. She entered the University of California at Berkeley in 1981 as an undergraduate. She had planned to study architecture, but changed her major to visual studies and pursued a graphic communications degree. Being left-handed, she hated her calligraphy class, where she was forced to write with her right hand.
VanderLans was born in the Hague, Holland, and attended the Royal Academy of Fine Art from 1974 to 1979. Initially aspiring to become an illustrator, he enrolled in the graphic design department. After an apprenticeship at Wim Crouwel’s Total Design studio, he did corporate identity work at Vorm Vijf and Tel Design. When his application to the UC Berkeley graduate program was accepted in 1981, he moved to California, where he met Licko. They were married in 1983. Also in 1983, mistakenly thinking he was applying for a job at Chronicle Books, VanderLans found himself at the San Francisco Chronicle. He was hired by the editorial art director to do illustrations, cover designs, and graphs. His frustrations with the harsh demands of a daily newspaper motivated him to seek other creative outlets. Emigrée was originally intended as a cultural journal to showcase artists, photographers, poets, and architects. The first issue was put together in 1984 in an 11.5” by 17” format by VanderLans and two other Dutch immigrants. Since there was no budget for typesetting, the text was primarily typewriter type that had been resized on a photocopier. Working with the newly invented Macintosh computer and a bitmap font tool, Licko began creating fonts for the magazine. Emporer, Oakland, and Emigré were designed as coarse bitmapped faces to accommodate low-resolution printer output. They were used in issued two, and, after several readers inquired about their availability, she began running ads for them in issue three.
In 1987, the other founders had left Emigré. Working under the title Emigré Graphics, Licko edited screen fonts at Adobe Systems, Inc., while VanderLans, who had left the Chronicle, designed new magazines: GlasHaus for an organizer of party events and Shift for San Francisco’s Artspace gallery. He also continued to publish Emigré while Licko contsructed more fonts with bold, simple geometry, such as Matrix and Modula. Their cold, rational appearance served to anchor VanderLans’s free-spirited layouts. Emigré became a full-fledged graphic design journal in 1988 with issues ten, produced by students at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan. VanderLans concentrated on work that was being neglected by other design publications, either because it didn’t adhere to traditional canons or it was still in its formative stages. The issues, each built around a theme, have featured Ed Fella, Rick Valicenti, and David Carson from the United States, Vaughan Oliver, Nick Bell, and Designers Republic from Britain, several Dutch designers, and many others who were exploring new territory. Several controversial articles and interviews have appeared over the years, provoking other design publications to become more opinionated. In 1989, the fonts had become enough of a commercial success that Licko and VanderLans gave up freelancing and concentrated exclusively on their own business.
EmigrĂŠ, which had been published erratically, settled into a quarterly schedule. In designing EmigrĂŠ, VanderLans rejected standardized formats in favor of organic grid structures that reflected his enthusiasm toward the contents. Computerized page composition gave him the flexibility to reinvent the look of the magazine with every issue. Sometimes several articles would run through the pages concurrently, each text differentiated by font, size, leading, and column width, creating an impression of eavesdropping on several simultaneous conversations. Nuanced type variations within sentences created the mood and rhythm of spoken words. Even the logo has gone through several permutations. When their work began to receive public attention, it was attacked for promulgating visual incoherence and viewed as a threat to Modernist ideals and an affront to universal notions of beauty.
"Garbage, lacking depht, refinement, elegance, or a sense of history.” Massimo Vignelli was their most vociferous critic. Throughout the early ‘90s, he denounced the magazine and fonts as garbage, lacking depth, refinement, elegance or a sense of history. The text and typography were hardly indecipherable to its intended audience. In fact, Emigré was quite inviting and involving for its readers, who had a high degree of visual sophistication. People read best what they read most has become a credo for Licko and VanderLans and has been adopted as a rallying cry by designers eager to challenge preconceptions of type design and magazine layout. While Licko and VanderLans were being pilloried by traditionalists, designers who had once championed their work for its aggressiveness began to condemn it as too readily identifiable, and therefore unusable. Beach Culture magazine published an issue with a cover line that boasted Emigré fonts, although the logo itself was set in Licko’s Senator. Much of the initial opposition has abated, as the same designs and fonts styles once considered ugly have become assimilated throughout
mainstream print and electronic media. The Emigré sensibility has achieved commercial acceptance by popularizers like David Carson. No longer viewed as radical or unique, the work of Licko and VanderLans regularly garners accolades from many notables in the field. In 1995 Emigré reduced its page size to more conventional magazine proportions and adapted a relatively staid, conservative appearance. The contents also underwent a dramatic changer. VanderLans explains, “Instead of focusing on the designers’ intentions and the designers’ work, we decided to turn the tables and look at how this work is impacting our culture.” CalArts instructor Jeffery Keedy, who has been affiliated with the magazine for nearly a decade and who Keedy Sans typeface is distributed by Emigré Fonts, is now a frequent contributor, as are North Carolina State University professor Andrew Blauvelt and writer/designer Anne Burdick. Some readers have become put off by the academic, often pedantic tone of what they consider diatribes and manifestoes rather than essays. VanderLans is intrigued by the readers who categorically dismiss design writing and design criticism of any kind. Many designers simply do not see how it connects to them and their profession. How to make it relevant is a great challenge. Keedy sees the new emphasis on theory and analysis as a necessity. Emigré couldn’t continue as this subcult anomaly, a fanzine for the avant-garde, because the avant-garde is over. Rudy and Zuzana were in the middle of a moment of change in the eighties and the next generation is still doing the same thing.
VOICE There hasn’t been another paradigm shift, so there just isn’t enough hip, groovy new stuff to show. As the text has become foregrounded, many who purchased Emigré for visual rather than intellectual stimulus have lost interest. Chuck Byrne still sees much that is praiseworthy in the magazine’s layout. The emphasis has gone from individual spreads to these astounding studies in form spread out over a large number of pages. Rudy’s fiddling with Modernist concepts the way an accomplished jazz musician might play with a theme. His work has always been a lot more formal than most people realize. Licko’s fonts are also evolving in reflection of the magazine’s changing contents. After a variety of releases, including a set of pinwheel dingbats and a French-tickler version of Modula, she is putting her own spin on classical serifs with Mrs. Eaves and Filosofia, reinterpretations of Baskerville and Bodoni.
Respected typographers now publicly acknowledge the legitimacy of Licko’s font designs. Matthew Carter, a 1995 AIGA gold medalist, commented, “Two ideas seem to me to stand behind the originality of Zuzana’s work: that the proper study of typography is type, not calligraphy or history, and that legibility is not an intrinsic quality of type but something acquired through use.” Licko’s ascendance in a primarily male-dominated profession and her bypassing of traditional training have been an inspiration to a generation of font designers with access to computer technology. The market has been deluged with knockoffs of her style. She says: “It’s funny: when I look back on my work over the last twelve years, I realize that at first I had trouble getting people to take my work seriously, while now I have trouble getting them to stop copying my work.”
To the surprise of those who recall Massimi Vignelli’s earlier excoriations of Emigrée, he recently produced a direct-mail promotion for Filosofia, which led Licko to speculate on the possibility that “Massimo’s willingness to collaborate on our announcement reflects Emigré’s ability to bridge different approaches.” Although quite flattered to be the first of a new generation to be selected for the Gold Medal, the adversarial VanderLans is “not so deluded by the praise not to also realize that the award is part of AIGA’s concerted effort to appeal to a younger generation in order to remain significant as an organization. And I can appreciate that kind of thinking. If you believe you have a valid idea, which AIGA has, then it makes sense to try and sell that to as large an audience as possible.” Licko and Vanderlans have always claimed to eschew marketing strategy, maintaining that they produce their products primarily to please themselves. They have never denied accusations of self-indulgence. In fact, it is a point of pride. As a self-published, self-supporting venture, the self-proclaimed “magazine without boundaries” has been free to engage in highly experimental research and development. The fact that they have parlayed their passions into a successful international enterprise is simply a fortuitous byproduct. Emigré Fonts now offers around fifty type families designed by close to twenty designers. The best known is Barry Deck’s Template Gothic, a nod to vernacular signage, while the most notorious is Jonathan Barnbrook’s Mason, initially named Manson. From an office in Sacramento, Emigré Graphics also sells posters, T-shirts, and other peripheral items through its catalogue
VOICE and Internet website. A music label that was launched in 1990 is presently “dormant,” as VanderLans puts it. Licko and VanderLans invest as much time and effort in the business side as in the creative side. “Without our personal involvement in licensing contracts, distribution agreements, legal matters, accounting, etc., Emigré would simply not exist. Fact of the matter is, we consider ourselves as much businesspeople as we consider ourselves designers.” Byrne strongly agrees, pointing out, “Anyone who considers Rudy a wild primitive who doesn’t know anything about organizing information should look at any Emigré order form. They have always been the clearest, most concise designs for sending in the money.” Emigré, which has been famous for making the most of low-budget production values, has converted to full color with its 42nd issue, which was sent to the Emigré mailing list of 43,000 and is being offered free to anyone who fills out a reply card. The increased circulation is part of an attempt to attract advertisers. Keedy sees this as a smart move, one that will expand their audience. “There’s not a huge demand for the magazine right now, but I think this strategy will, in fact, create that demand. I see Emigré ten years from now as a slick, glossy special-interest magazine that has its own niche.” Naturally, people are going to say Rudy and Zuzana are selling out and going mainstream. They’re in a weird phase right now, and the question is, can they make it? I think they will. They have always been ahead of the market, not behind it. They’re very much in their time and always on the move. That’s the critical factor in all they’ve done.
Armin Hofmann by Rick Poynor
Legendary Swiss graphic designer and educator, Armin Hofmann is recognized for his immeasurable influence on generations of designers, teaching the power and elegance of simplicity and clarity through a timeless aesthetic, always informed by context. If the passionate loyalty of former students is any indication, Armin Hofmann is one of the most exceptionally influential teachers the field of graphic design has seen. He is also a designer of great accomplishment, a leading member of a remarkable generation of Swiss practitioners whose work and thinking continues to have a determining effect on the international understanding of graphic design. There is, however, nothing doctrinaire or circumscribed about Hofmann’s Swissness. His insights and practice transcend any sense of nationality or “school” and attain a level that many of those who experienced the challenge of studying under his tutelage would regard as elemental. A significant number of those students—among them Kenneth Hiebert, April Greiman, Robert Probst, Steff Geissbuhler, Hans-Ulrich Allemann, Inge Druckrey and the late Dan Friedman—went on to become leading designers and educators themselves. For Hiebert, author of Graphic Design Sources, who studied in Hofmann’s graphic design class in Basel from 1960 to 1964, he is “a person that radically changed me and my life.” “Wait till you get into Hofmann’s class . . . it’ll be like starting all over again,” a foundation course teacher warned him.
“So it was,” Hiebert writes in Armin Hofmann: His Work, Quest and Philosophy, “because Armin Hofmann didn’t let you merely utilize what you already knew. You had to strip that away, too, to immerse yourself into a new problem.” Only at the end of this prolonged rite of passage, Hiebert recalls, after everything superficial had been stripped away, would the student arrive at a piece of work that was legitimately subjective. The memories of Hofmann’s students evoke a powerful sense of his presence in the classroom. Everyone remembers him as a teacher of few words. “His charisma and energy were balanced with patience,” says Jerry Kuyper, who studied in Hofmann’s advanced class. “He believed in the individual’s ability to discover and create, which enabled him to often just stand back and watch.” Hiebert describes his “incessant roving, questioning, thinking-ahead eyes.” For Hofmann, the process of discovery was vital, however long it might take. He never imposed artificial deadlines; a project was only finished when the student had arrived at a satisfactory resolution. In this atmosphere, the smallest direction, a hand gesture to suggest a line of visual development, could prove decisive. “Sometimes it was simply a touch on the shoulder and him saying, ‘Ja, ja, just keep going.’ This little encouragement would do wonders and give the necessary confidence to go on,” says Allemann, a student from 1960 to 1965.
VOICE Greiman recalls time spent with Hofmann and his wife, Dorothea, at their home in Ticino in the summer of 1971, after studying in Basel. His manner was friendlier and more relaxed there. “He had abundant energy and liked to do very physical things like digging holes. He often made jokes. He had a charming playful side to him. Sometimes he would make Dorothea and I laugh very hard.” Near the end of Greiman’s stay, she received telegrams from Hiebert with information about her new teaching post at Philadelphia College of Art—she hadn’t applied. Hofmann confirmed the news. “There is no more I can teach you,” he told her. “You just have to get out there and start doing it.” So, at 23, feeling like she had been thrown out of the nest, she followed her instructor’s wishes and headed for Philadelphia.
"He had abundant energy” Hofmann was born in Winterthur, Switzerland, in 1920. After studying at the School of Arts and Crafts in Zurich, he worked as a lithographer in Basel and Bern, and opened a studio in Basel. In 1947, he began teaching at the Basel School of Arts and Crafts after meeting Emil Ruder on a train and learning that the school was looking for a teacher. Hofmann would remain there for 40 years. In 1968, he initiated the advanced class for graphic design, and in 1973 he became head of the graphic design department. He first taught in the United States at Philadelphia College of Art in 1955, and shortly after began teaching at Yale University, where he played a key role until his resignation in 1991. In 1965, he published Graphic Design Manual, a distillation of the essential principles of his rational approach to teaching design. Nearly half a century later, the revised edition of this pedagogical classic is still in print. Hofmann saw his designs, in part, as didactic demonstrations of these principles. The posters he created in the late 1950s and 1960s for cultural clients such as the Kunsthalle Basel and the Stadttheater Basel possess great typographic and photographic purity of form. In a theater
poster, he interprets the dramatic experience of watching and listening with mesmerizingly large and grainy photos of an ear and eye, amplifying the impact by reducing the visual idea to its essential components. Another design assembles a formally perfect arrangement of fragments: column, music stand, section of cello, ballerina’s pointing foot, riding boot with spur. In Hofmann’s 1959 poster for the ballet Giselle, the stark white typographic tower of the title—note the intermediary dot of the “i”—holds the blurring halftone of the dancer’s pirouette in a state of dynamic balance and grace. A promotional poster for Herman Miller titled “Furniture of our Times” becomes a visual meditation on shapes for sitting on, visualized as a collection of near-abstract silhouettes. “In its purity of form and purposeful expression, Hofmann’s work is uniquely personal,” says Allemann. “It also has soul.” For Robert and Alison Probst, who was also Hofmann’s student, these enduring designs are the work of “a master of his craft with a superior sense of aesthetics. His work deals with the universal language of signs and symbols, often including serendipity and always aiming for timeless beauty.” It is easy today to underestimate the impression that these posters made in the streets. Hofmann’s sparing use of black
and white had an argumentative and even ethical purpose. In the early days of the post-war consumer society, his work proposed (we might now think over-optimistically) a visual culture founded on an ideal of thoughtful restraint. “I have endeavored to do something to counteract the increasing trivialization of color evident since the Second World War on billboards, in modern utensils and in the entertainment industry,” he writes. “I tried to create a kind of counterpicture.” The coming of color TV only strengthened his resolve; all the “musicality” of color was lost. To generate expressive energy in a design, he would use color only in carefully determined patches within a neutral area. “I feel that a sensible and meaningful form of advertising can be achieved by simplification of the formal language and by restraint in the treatment of the verbal message,” he writes. “I was not prompted by advertising considerations in my work but rather by a feeling of regret that an important economic instrument should have begun to affect the cultural life of society so adversely.” To appreciate fully what Hofmann achieved—what he stood for—we need to remember that his dedication to visual resolution represented a larger vision of civilized society. He belongs to a generation that sought to find a new visual language that would be
VOICE appropriate for a complex technological world. “What few people have realised about Hofmann is that behind the artistic beauty of his design was a strong conviction about cultural, moral and social issues,” said Friedman in 1994. “He has high morals and a strong regard for environmental and social justice,” notes Probst, now dean of the College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning at the University of Cincinnati. Allemann points out that Hofmann did not participate in the exploitation of Swiss Style by the corporate world. “He could foresee that what began as a utopian theory would turn into a style. This was something he was not interested in. Time has proven that he was right.” While Hofmann’s posters are widely celebrated, there are aspects of his work that deserve, even now, to be better known. He was an artist as well as a designer, with a strong sense of structure and space; he created wall reliefs, glass paintings, floor tiles and mosaics, acoustic walls, and other sculptural pieces.
In all of these art works, as with his students’ projects, he sought a kind of musical resonance, to which he gave the German word Klang. Hiebert describes this quality as the “convergence of visual logic and perceptual vitality.” “Es muess klinge—it has to be sonorous—was one of his famous sayings,” recalls Allemann. What comes across, again and again, in the tales of those who studied with Hofmann is the generous spirit of a man who, by trying to express what he had to say as simply as possible, incised a deep and lasting impression. “I owe everything I know about design to Hofmann,” says Steff Geissbuhler. “He shaped me as a designer and a person.” Inge Druckrey remembers how Hofmann would take his students on field trips to see ceiling paintings in an early Romanesque church, modern architecture at Ronchamp, or the colored boats and beautiful light of an Italian fishing village on the way to Venice. “There was no lengthy commentary,” she says, “only the expression sauschoen, which meant ‘just look at it, this work is terrific.’” The same could just as readily be said of Hofmann’s designs. Only by looking hard will we be able to see.
COLOPHON Juana Capelluto American University Juana Capelluto Anna Leithouser Juana Capelluto Avenir Franklin Gothic Adobe Garamond Typography 2 December 2017