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The Principles of Good Design


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Details

Editor Ross Stanton Designer Ross Stanton Contributors Arne Fehmel Aswin Sadha Antonio Carusone Alexandra Lange Atelier Bernd Kuchenbeiser Bryan Edmondson David Smithson David Bennett Dominic Hofstede Duncan ( Surname) David Corti Edwin van Gelder Emmi Salonen Eva Dijkstra Hamish Muir Hoon Kim Hitomi Ishigaki Jonathon Jeffrey John Simpson Johann Aussage Khoi Vinh Katja Gretzinger Korbinian Kainz Kenny Allan Lars Kjelsnes Michael C Place Mason Wells

Michael Dyer Mark Lester Marieke Stolk Marco Balesteros Marcus Gärde Markus Moström Michael Lugmayr Mathias Haddal Hovet Marieke Stolk Marcus Fairs Nicky Place Nicolas Bourquin Patricia Finegan Paul McNeil Rob Giampietro Ryan Van Kesteren Rasso Hilber Ryotatsu Tanaka Ryo Kumazaki RUNE HØGSBERG Sascha Lobe Tim Beard Timo Gaessner Thomas Williams Vanessa Gœtz Website www.designbystanton.co.uk Twitter Designbystanton

Contents Feature One Feature Two Feature Three Feature Four Feature Five Feature Six Feature Seven Feature Eight Design Observer Acknowledgments

04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20

Publisher 2010 LEEDS ART PUBLICATIONS LTD Desogn Context is published quarterly by Leeds Art Publications Ltd, Manor Mills, Ingram Street, Leeds, LS119BR. Printed in the UK by James (Digital Dungeon) Ltd. Published once per year. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission is strictly prohibited. All prices correct at the time of press, but subject to change. Paper 135gsm Naturalis for HP Indigo Typefaces Akkurat Regular Akkurat Bold


003 Insight

Thank you to everyone who has helped me put this publication together for my design context brief. Your work has influenced me greatly and has been fundamental to my development as a graphic designer. This publication acts as an achromatic notebook of thoughts and ideas from selected studios and individual designers. Not all my interests just lay in graphic design but in architecture and product design. From the beginning of this three year graphic design degree, grids, the use of white space and simplicity have always been an integral part of what I like to create. The elements of these designers work has been an inspiration and I hope this will give you an idea of the context of my design practice is.

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Tim Beard Bibliotheque

Bibliothèque Design 10–16 Scrutton Street London EC2A 4RU +44 (0) 20 7377 8060 studio@bibliothequedesign.com

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When did you start? Bibliothèque was established in 2003 by directors Tim Beard, Jonathon Jeffrey and Mason Wells, We are a creatively-led graphic design consultancy, based in London. How did working with the Design Museum on Rams’ retrospective come about? We had known about the Rams exhibition taking place in in Tokyo through contacts at VITSŒ, so when we were informed that The Design Museum was going to host the exhibition, we approached the curators to consider us as the designers. We were working on the Super Contemporary exhibition with the team at the Design Museum, and our credentials seemed to fit the bill. Previously we had produced the graphic design for Cold War Modern at the V&A, and we had self initiated an exhibition on the 1972 Olympic Design Programme by Otl Aicher – both projects having links to Dieter Rams, so we were confident that we were right for the job. Did it make your job easier or more difficult devising the graphic identity for a designer who has such a clearly delineated design ethos himself? We didn’t devise a graphic identity for the exhibition as such, it was more about extrapolating key visual elements from a selection of the products, (speaker grilles, calculator layouts, hi-fi interfaces etc). We used these to help organise the exhibition space and illustrate stories behind the development of the products - these worked as backdrops and introductions to sections. Rams’ quite clearly delineated design ethos only made our job easier, insofar that was such a vast array of beautiful objects to choose from. The layouts on many of the Braun products are excellent examples of three-dimensional information design. This is not just from the use of controlled typography, but also in the pragmatic use of colour, geometry, positioning and alignment of dials, switches, buttons, jackplugs and even screws.

As well as the graphics we also designed the spatial aspect – here we tried to keep the gallery as open as possible to reflect the linear development of many of the products. Simple open tables, allow the objects to be viewed from all sides, where very often the back is just as well considered as the front. Also seeing the sheer number of exhibits is quite astonishing, bearing in mind that most of them pre date any involvement of computers or digital technology in the design process. Did you work very closely with Rams on the process? The initial concepts and layouts for the exhibition were all passed on to Dieter for his approval. We were very keen that he supported our design direction, and our close relationship with the Deyan Sudjic and Alex Newson at the Design Museum, and Mark Adams at Vitsoe I think helped this. However, on the penultimate day of installation we had the good fortune of being introduced to Dieter as the exhibition designers. Our first (very nervous) question – did the exhibition meet his expectations? ‘Of course’ he said, ‘I can see how much hard work has gone into it’. He understood our graphic interpretation of the products, and he was keen to explain his own approach to graphic design within the sphere of product design. It was an absolute honour and an inspiration to get firsthand insight from one of the elder statesman of design. Take us through the results that you came up with? The exhibition features 244 objects across five sections spanning six decades. Our implementation uses several graphic processes – each appropriate to specific content. The entrance – an internal façade using the 606 compression system, spans the entire 15m width of the upper gallery. Key graphic elements are integrated using the visual language from selected products of Braun and VITSŒ in order to set the tone. The five sections – Dieter Rams solo projects, Braun team projects under


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Dieter’s leadership, VITSŒ, Typology and Legacy are delineated by panel/ partitions that use product elements such as grilles, button layouts and interfaces relevant to each story. In each instance we have removed elements by routing away the geometric shapes of the products – the effect is as if the product has been deconstructed and re-scaled beyond the intended proportions. A seven metre-wide mural on the back wall (painted – as opposed to vinyl or digital runout) of the Audio 300 stereo system reinforces the rational approach to product layout. Finally technical illustrations that combine line artwork with photographic elements (allowing for subtle undulating forms, concave and convex buttons and changes in lighting) have been used in the subsequent exhibition marketing and a VITSŒ side-project – a seven colour A0 poster, featuring the famous ten principles. What other projects are you currently working on? We have just completed Wildlife Photographer of the Year at the Natural History Museum and are also working on ‘Magnificent Maps’ for the British Library, collaborating again with Universal Design Studio. Also we are just finishing an identity for a German luxury fashion brand, another book for Adrian Shaughnessy, an identity for a leading childrens charity. And somewhere amongst all that, we are working on the re-design of our web site, which should be done in time for the spring. Dieter Rams has 10 Principles of good design – what is Bibliotheque’s one principle of good design? Do good work. For us the quality of the work coming out of our studio is THE most important thing, above all else. You are only as good as your last job. Sometimes its easy to get sidetracked by commercial requirements, but for us the number one principle is absolute commitment to work of the highest quality. We try not to stray from that.

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Johann Aussage Pentagon

ohann@pentagon. +33 6 30 83 01 66

Could you tell me a little about your background and why you got interested in Graphic Design?

Every design solution begins with defining the problem and establishing boundaries. Could you tell me a little about your approach and thought process when tackling a new project?

I’ve always been interested in graphic’s in general, though I’ve studied global design myself, I’m currently working around interaction & interface design. When it comes to being clear to many poeple with an idea I find graphic design is one of the best ways to express an idea. How would you describe your studio’s creative practice. Our studio practice would be trying to keep simplicity and new ideas both on every project we start.

At first it’s not always about a specific project. I prefer to work from dialogue with ideas that comes to me whenever,and then maybe i can discuss about it with some friends if they play the game. To start a project I don’t take so much the boundaries in consideration. Then when need to make it fit in the brief and keep it as clear as possible. «Clear» can be a good synonyme for «simple» in the opposit of «easy». Each project is different from an other, and in my opinion the key questions are «why to do this?» and «to who is it for?», if you can answer

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those questions, then comes «how to do it?». In this order. What is your opinion on objectivity and subjectivity with-in design? I would say that objectivity is for admitted rules. It let’s subjectivity for all the rest. For sure there are trends and mainstream thinking that could look like norms, but they are not rules. For example Swiss graphic design from accidenz-Grotesk (H. Berthold AG - 1896) to Müller-Brockmann and now Norm could be defined as objectivity by numbers of people. Actually I must desagree, because they created those graphics with their own subjectivity. Objectivity might not be the point of design, just because anytime you think or draw something it appeal to your own sensitivity and all the choice your making.

Do you think a simple piece of design that has a limited amount of aesthetic distractions will last longer through time and therefore be timeless? If you think of graphic design, i think there is to much of social context for a poster or logo to stay for ever. Or it has to be tought out of any context other than «why» and «to represent what» think of Chanel or Bayer even Mitsubishi. For an object it’s maybe easier in the way that it’s useful and longlasting. If the shape match prfectly the fonction with good quality and simple aestethic, it will be a real «SuperNormal» object to quote Jasper Morrison and Naoto Fukasawa. A timeless piece of design might be the one you don’t see.


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Atelier Bernd Kuchenbeiser Freelance Designer

Studio Schwanthalerstraße 77 80336 München info@kuchenbeiser.de www.kuchenbeiser.de

Could you tell me a little about your background and when you got interested in Graphic Design?

with defining the problem and establishing boundaries. Could you tell me a little about your approach and thought process when tackling a new project?

When I studied music and composition in Heidelberg I realized, that I am probably not the most gifted composer. Instead my interest in the formal presentation of my student projects started to grow. In the end I spent more time in copy shops and the library, realizing fancy bindings and researching on book design and typography, than at the piano. Another spur was my love for album covers. I admired Barbara Wojirsch’s designs for ECM. After a one-year intermezzo in a small design studio I studied visual communication at the Merz Akademie in Stuttgart. At this time Wolfgang Weingart was teaching typography basics at the Merz and later I studied with Jürgen Hoffmann and Berthold Weidner who both worked for and with Otl Aicher. 20 years later I am finally working for the company whose album covers led me to graphic design: ECM. How would your describe your creative practice? My design is driven by content and context. My work is more concerned with curating information and giving it room to flourish than with the production of graphical artefacts. Paraphrasing Helmut Schmid I would say that I am using typography as a means of exposing the design which is already inherent in the problem. Reflecting my working methods, it seems to me that there are as many as there are different types of work. At least you can say they are all strongly interwoven with language and music - the most direct forms of communication. I am not interested in blowoffs, my design is anti-virtuoso. Every design solution begins

With every project I am starting from zero. First, there is not the idea. First, there is language. “In the beginning there was the word”. The idea is hidden in the subtext and needs to be developed or sculpted out of the unshaped mass of language. This forms the message. Now you need rhythm, orchestration - Klang. I am working with typography, which is of course a restriction. From orality to literality with a mechanical bastard: the font. It’s like playing a cembalo. You need taste, a sense for space and the knowledge of how to keep your instrument in tune. My creativity comes only into being within restrictions. The tight limitations set by budget, briefing and production possibilities are the motor for my design process. How would you describe the key design elements of simplicity within design? I have to tell you that I’m not after simplicity. I definitely prefer the unforced, the natural to the religious purity of minimamlism. In my experience, there is often a certain complexity even in the most simple designs. The key elements of my practice are space, rhythm and materiality mostly expressed in straight typographic solutions with a clear focus on readability. To make typography that is a joy to read, you really have to know the typeface you are using -- with all its problems and advantages. Therefore I have a certain repertoire of workhorse-fonts which I know

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very well. It’s like an intimate relationship. You wouldn’t change your partner every week. Do you think a simple piece of design that has a limited amount of elements will last longer through time? I firmly believe in the concept of continuity. Don’t count the elements you are using, but be patient, humble and honest and give yourself time to evolve. Then you can try to establish an attitude through consistent work. And finally you will be able to offer simple solutions. The process is more important than the longevity of your designs. Dieter Rams believes in functionality over form. What is your opinion on this? Don’t believe what designers tell you, believe what you see and experience. Functionality is as important as form. Who knows that better than Dieter Rams? What is you favourite piece of design and why? My favourite piece is always the piece I am currently working on. At the moment it is the iPad-version of a magazine I recently designed: “mono.kultur” is an interviewmagazine from Berlin. The concept is: one issue, one person, one conversation. For issue #26 I did the design, the photography and the interview with ECM-founder Manfred Eicher.

Who or what are your current creative influences. I am influenced by the people I meet, love and work with and simply by any cultural expression I perceive. Furthermore I love the films of Andrej Tarkovskij, the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, the designs of Jean Prouvé, the architecture of Le Corbusier, the writings of Heinrich von Kleist, the poetry of Paul Celan, the photography of Irving Penn and the drawings of Cy Twombly. Maybe I am even more influenced by the things I don’t like.


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Remake 45 Main Street, No. 609 / Brooklyn NY 11201 718 801 8469 info@remakedesign.com

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Michael Dyer Remake


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Could you tell me a little about your background and when you got interested in Graphic Design?

How would you describe the key design elements of simplicity within design?

I was always good at drawing, which resulted in my attending art school. In my second year, I had to decide on which major to pursue. I hadn’t fully connected with painting, printmaking, photography, etc and I’m not really certain why I chose graphic design. At any rate, I wasn’t ready for it. During my second year I had an accident that required I withdraw from school. I spent the next year at a state university studying a variety of other things (mathematics, geography, cultural anthropology, lithography...), which was wonderful. I then went back to graphic design and started my second year over again, this time with much more focus and maturity.

I’m not sure I understand this question. What do you mean by “key design elements of simplicity within design?”

How would your describe your creative practice? Well, the term “creative practice” is very broad and somewhat vague, no? Do you mean my studio as a whole, or my own personal process, or something else...? Every design solution begins with defining the problem and establishing boundaries. Could you tell me a little about your approach and thought process when tackling a new project? It always begins with a discussion - with clients, their audience, collaborators, with one’s self. Definition of the problem can take many forms - sometimes I think the “problem” itself can be imposed, albeit somewhat artificially. What I am suggesting is that the problem, as such, can be as much of a construct as the solution; both can be entirely circumstantial and fabricated. I like to see design as a problem-solving process, but I think this is a conception and language that is aimed more at clients than at accuracy. It’s a conceit, to an extent, and a simplification as well. Within its own language, design is more of a searching and a testing - for meaning, for correctness, for substance.

Do you think a simple piece of design that has a limited amount of elements will last longer through time? Not necessarily. Good things are not guaranteed to last - nor are simple ones - because society determines what physically lasts (or, more often, does not) to a great extent, and society as a whole can be somewhat short-sighted. Many wonderful buildings are torn down, for example, to make way for terrible ones. Perhaps this is off-topic now that I re-read your question... If you are talking about something strictly technical then, yes - obviously - it’s more likely a simple object will last longer than a complicated one. Like a track bike versus a road bike there is less to break on the former. 06: Dieter Rams believes in functionality over form. What is your opinion on this? Does he really? I’m not sure I’ve read that quote from him... Anyway, I think the form/function division is arbitrary and contrived to a great degree. It sets these up as separate and therefore independent aspects, even if it does so in order to reconcile them later. This is one of those artificial debates that is convenient and wherein everyone can pick a convenient side from only two options, much like American politics. Reality is more complex and ambiguous and requires greater critical depth. Rams’ designs are excellent because form and function are the same thing and that one thing has been thought about with great concentration and intelligence. This is also true for AG Fronzoni’s furniture, for example. However, some people would claim that Fronzoni’s furniture is not functional at all because they do not feel it is comfortable, perhaps... so you have to ask yourself what was Fronzoni’s intent, and what is the meaning of his furniture? Why is it the way it is? What does “functional” even mean within the context of his furniture?


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What is you favourite piece of design and why? I don’t have a single favorite piece of design. I can name a few to be helpful, all of which are pretty fresh in my mind for one reason or another: Peter Zumthor’s thermal baths, the Ulmer Hocker (stool), and Emil Ruder’s personal letterhead, for example. Who or what are your current creative influences. The biggest influences for me personally are interesting thinkers, writers, artists, and architects. I am less interested in graphic design, but there is, of course, some excellent graphic design being done, especially in Germany and Switzerland. These are all positive influences; there are negative influences as well. The relative disorder of everyday life encourages me to seek ordered design solutions, in order to introduce that back into the world around me - even if just a drop. The cheapness and disposability of much design encourages me to resist transient or fashionable solutions that will date quickly or last for only a limited amount of time. Your entire life is an influence on your work, of both positive and negative factors; it’s this way with everyone.

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Bob Bruegmann Writer

320 W. Oakdale #503 Chicago Illinois bbrueg@sbcglobal.net

Could you tell me a little about your background and why you got interested in the history of architecture?

forest). On the other hand I think that culture determines a very big part of our cultural preferences.

I am interested in the history of the built environment because I think that most people take it for granted and for that reason aren’t good stewards of it.

I find that majority of new homes today are based on traditional designs. The practice and principles involved with the construction of them don’t challenge or push the boundaries of architecture. I personally am a modernist and hate that fact that every home is almost identical. Why as a society don’t we move forward?

What is your opinion on objectivity and subjectivity with-in architecture I am agnostic on this. I believe that there probably are some constants hardwired into the human brain (for example responses to heat and cold at the most basic level or, at a much more subjective level, a preference for places that are not fully exposed but not fully secluded either, for example the edge of a

This pre-supposes that “progress” is possible and that it is good. But if human beings don’t essentially change, why should architecture? And, if it shouldchange, whose preferences should be taken into account? The architects’ or the people who live in houses? If

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Muirmcneil

pm@muirmcneil.com www.paulmcneil.co.uk

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Could you tell me a little about your background and when you got interested in Graphic Design?

Every design solution begins with defining the problem and establishing boundaries. Could you tell me a little about your approach and thought process when tackling a new project?

Paul McNeil

I’ve been a graphic designer for decades. I worked for large corporate clients producing marketing communications until the early 2000s when I returned to study. How would your describe your creative practice? Since then I have balanced working commercially with teaching graphic design and typography and independent research. I am currently working with Hamish Muir on a range of typographic design projects. And i teach at the London College of Communication.

Usually the problem is predefined by conditions or requirements, though often poorly. The designer’s job is to question these and to contribute to solutions accordingly. Self-initiated design work is more difficult because the problem definition is more slippery. How would you describe the key design elements of simplicity within design? Everything should be as simple as it can be, but no simpler Tis a gift to be simple Continuous reduction ends in a void Those are all quotes. The most simple design is not designed at all. Stop designing if you don’t want to add to the complexity of the world.

Do you think a simple piece of design that has a limited amount of elements will last longer through time?

The key quality in design is intentionality. If that is evident to the viewer/user, it is pleasing, as in the work of Dieter Rams.

Complex things are usually built from simple elements. Is a pixel better than a screenful? Is a pigment better than a picasso? Is a word better than a sentence? Perhaps the desire for simplicity is a response to overload and complexity. Your reference to ‘small elements’ is a definition of a mechanistic and reductive worldview (no offence). The short answer, yes.

What is you favourite piece of design and why?

Dieter Rams believes in functionality over form. What is your opinion on this? It’s not that simple because they aren’t exclusive. How a thing looks is one of its functions: do you own a black or a white iPhone? Read Virginia Postrel, ‘the substance of style’. Part of what a thing must do is to look. often to resemble.

Changes all the time. Today it’s Norm’s Replica typeface and their book, the Things Who or what are your current creative influences. Changes all the time. Hamish Muir, Wim Crouwel, Pierre di Scullio


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Dominic Hofstede Hofstede Design

Hofstede Design 2/40 Green Street Prahran Victoria 3181 Australia admin@hofstede.com.au

Could you tell me a little about your background and why you got interested in Graphic Design?

certainly typographic craft pl ays a very significant role in our work.

The only really obvious talent I had growing up was an ability to draw. I drew my own comic strips and my first recollection of graphic design was probably redrawing the Star Wars logo having seen the movie as a ten year old. I grew up in the country, and knew nothing about graphic design until I had to make selections to enter university. All I had was a folio of drawings, and I was convinced I was going to pursue illustration until my lecturers told me in second year I was better suited to graphic design. How would you describe your studio’s creative practice? Not sure what this question means, but I’ll give it a go. Our methodology is based on reflecting teh needs of our clients and not ours. Creatively, we like to think we have no definitive style, but

Every design solution begins with defining the problem and establishing boundaries. Could you tell me a little about your approach and thought process when tackling a new project?

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designed by a graphic designer would be an exception to this (it’s not black and white). Do you think a simple piece of design that has a limited amount of aesthetic distractions will last longer through time and therefore be timeless?

We approach each project on its merits, but naturally we are informed by precedent and experience. We balance a rational, methodical approach with intuition and accident.

Not necessarily. It certainly has less chance of dating, as it has less elements that place it within a time period. But minimal or reductive design can date just as much as a more embellished piece.

What is your opinion on objectivity and subjectivity with-in design?

As designers we are taught that form follows function.Dieter Rams believes that functionality comes before form. What is your opinion on this?

No sure what you mean. I guess I have always believed that to some degree the defining difference between art and design is that generally design is about solving the problems of others (objectively), where artists look to express or solve their own problems (subjectively). A political poster

It depends on context. The audience will dictate whether form is more important than function, but in a general sense I certainly believe function should be a key element in good design.

What is you favourite piece of design that your studio has done and why? We designed a difficult-tocategorise promotional item we called the Type Tablet. I still enjoy looking at it even though it is a few years old as it embodies many of the elements I value in design. Who or what are your current creative influences. Hard to say. I am less interested in looking at graphic design for inspiration than I was. The people I work with and for are major influencers on my work.


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Wim Crouwel Graphic Designer

Major graphic design exhibitions remain a rarity and large shows devoted to a single designer’s body of work are even more unusual. This week saw the opening in London of Wim Crouwel: A Graphic Odyssey at the Design Museum and questions are already being asked by Dutch admirers of Crouwel, who turned out in force for the occasion, why the first major retrospective of this leading figure, now 82, had to happen in the UK rather than in the Netherlands. The show, guest curated by Tony Brook of Spin in collaboration with Design Museum curator Margaret Cubbage, is beautifully done. With commendable restraint, Brook has followed Crouwel’s frequently stated guideline and not attempted to interpose his own personality as a designer between the subject and the viewer. The space has been opened up by the show’s architects, 6a, turning the room into a huge viewing temple (pictures here). As a consequence of these smart curatorial decisions, Crouwel’s work comes through with magnificent clarity, giving visitors a chance to assess the nature of his achievement. There’s a good catalogue, too. Crouwel himself accepted long ago that his work is far more personal than he once claimed. I interviewed him this week at a live event at the Design Museum and we continued our conversation over dinner. Like anyone else, he still has his aesthetic preferences and still holds strong views postmodernism, he said in 2003, is “loathsome” but in recent decades he has been much more open to other possible ways of working. After years of talking to visual people about their work, I find it hard to see these personal philosophies as anything other than necessary fictions. These deeply held views tell us a lot about the motivations of the person espousing them. They are vital to the creative process and other creative people of similar outlook might find these precepts useful. But it’s the same as religions when they are viewed in absolute terms as the one true explanation of reality: they can’t all be right. There is room for many forms of practice and ways of thinking about practice and the cultural sphere is much the richer for it. Talking to Crouwel, who is excellent company, one senses his wry amusement at his earlier emphatic prescriptions. He knows

Wim Crouwel started his own free-lance practice in amsterdam 1954. In 1963, with Benno Wissing, Friso Kramer and the Schwarz Brothers, he founded design studio Total Design. He designed and oversaw extensive work for the stedelijk museum in amsterdam 1964-85. In 1967 he published his experimental new alphabet. Crouwel was professor at the delft university 1972-85. He was director of the Boijmans Van Beuningen Museum, Rotterdam 1985-93. He received the British OBE, is a RDI knight of the Dutch Lion, officer of Orange Nassau. Got the Dutch Oeuvre award 2004.

the world wasn’t really like that, but it suited him to believe it was. While I admire his work in the context of its time, I don’t subscribe to the cult of Crouwel that thrives among British designers with neo-modernist tendencies (I have an essay about this in the latest Creative Review: summary here). I have also acknowledged elsewhere that in the celebrated debate between Crouwel and Jan van Toorn about objectivity and subjectivity in design, I would have to side with Van Toorn’s politicized view rather than Crouwel’s claimed neutrality, despite what I just said about the exhibition’s design. This is not because I think Crouwel’s arguments have no merit or sense, but because I can’t believe in the situation his commandments would bring about if designers were to follow them en masse with the absolutism he demanded in the 1960s and 1970s. It would be boring as hell. I thought of Crouwel a few days ago, before seeing the exhibition, while watching Michelangelo Antonioni’s Red Desert, released in 1964, the year after Crouwel and others founded Total Design in Amsterdam. The film, famous for its experiments with color, begins with a long opening sequence in an industrial landscape. On the one hand, it’s clear almost immediately that the female character (played by Monica Vitti) is alienated from this setting; at the same time, Antonioni finds great beauty in buildings like an oil refining plant, which were transforming the Italian landscape during this period of accelerated economic growth. Crouwel, a man fully adapted to this new technological world like Vitti’s husband in the film, the plant’s manager would have been at home there. “I’ve always been fascinated by techniques and construction processes,” Crouwel writes in Typographic Architectures (2007). “Sprawling, human-built landscapes where high-voltage power lines run to the horizon have actually inspired me. [. . .] Railroads with their skein of rails and overhead wires are, to my eyes, full of poetry. I’m dazzled by pictures of space travel. [. . .] My output from 1956 to 1976 was the direct expression of these sources of inspiration.”

What we can see now more clearly than ever, particularly in Crouwel’s posters in the exhibition, is that his practice was often at odds with the severity of his pronouncements. Far from suppressing his own creative personality in the way he advised, Crouwel was expressing it to the full. It just happens that this personality was inclined towards reduction and minimalism. Long-lasting client relationships can provide designers with the freedom and continuity to develop their thinking and methods, and Crouwel was fortunate to work with the museum director Edy de Wilde for three decades, first at the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven and then at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. According to De Wilde, who would have known better than anyone, Crouwel embraced the possibilities of the machine culture, while emphasizing that, “The machine cannot replace the precision of the human eye and human feeling.” (Kunst + Design: Wim Crouwel, 1991) De Wilde worked with the designer on hundreds of projects and concluded that pragmatic and emotional concerns were of equal importance for Crouwel. In a fine analysis of Total Design’s philosophy, which appears in The Regime of Visibility (2005), the Dutch art critic Camiel van Winkel comes to much the same conclusion, though he puts it less charitably. Crouwel, he writes, “concealed his aesthetic preferences by legitimising them with the argument of maximum legibility.” Crouwel himself accepted long ago that his work is far more personal than he once claimed. I interviewed him this week at a live event at the Design Museum and we continued our conversation over dinner. Like anyone else, he still has his aesthetic preferences and still holds strong views postmodernism, he said in 2003, is “loathsome” but in recent decades he has been much more open to other possible ways of working. After years of talking to visual people about their work, I find it hard to see these personal philosophies as anything other than necessary fictions. These deeply held views tell us a lot about the motivations of the person espousing them. They are vital to the creative process and other creative people of similar outlook might find these precepts useful. But it’s the same as religions when they are viewed in absolute terms as the one true explanation of

reality: they can’t all be right. There is room for many forms of practice and ways of thinking about practice and the cultural sphere is much the richer for it. Talking to Crouwel, who is excellent company, one senses his wry amusement at his earlier emphatic prescriptions. He knows the world wasn’t really like that, but it suited him to believe it was.


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David Barringer Freelance Writer

dlbarringer@gmail.com www.davidbarringer.com

Could you tell me a little about your background and why you got interested in Graphic Design and Art?

also invited to teach undergraduate students at Winthrop University in South Carolina. So today I write about design and teach design students at two schools.

I’m a writer. In my twenties, I wrote for magazines, went to law school, continued to write for magazines, passed the bar but didn’t practice much law, and wound up, through an editor’s connection, with a parttime job at a design vendor serving Detroit auto companies. I learned about photography, art direction, and graphic design in order to do my job, the duties of which expanded beyond traveling and writing and interviewing to include doing nearly everything to produce a quarterly inhouse magazine for a client. I was hired to write articles for that magazine, but in a few years, I was traveling to auto plants, interviewing people, taking photos, writing all the articles, art-directing the layouts, and then designing the whole issue. I learned about design on my own during that time, because I was having fun and wanted to get better at it, but I was being paid to learn. It was a small firm, and I learned on the job. I wrote a long autobiographical essay in the summer of 2004. It was the first time I ever wrote about graphic design or design culture. I spent that essay excavating all the thoughts I had buried in my head: thoughts about art and design, love and work, desire and personality. I examined all my assumptions, opinions, and funny notions, and I wanted to find out what I really thought and what I believed and how I was going to approach working and living from then on. It was an essay of severe yet playful self-examination, a long argument with myself about the creative life. In 2005, Emigre magazine published that essay as Emigre 68: American Mutt Barks in the Yard. The publication of that book inspired me to take advantage of all the good things that followed from it. I flew to New York to meet designers and editors who had read the book, and I wrote for their magazines (I.D. Magazine, AIGA’s Voice, Eye Magazine). From late 2005 and early 2006 on, I wrote essays, articles, and book reviews about graphic design. I collected my essays into a book that was published in 2009, There’s Nothing Funny About Design. As a result of that book, I was invited by Ellen Lupton to teach MFA students at Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) in Baltimore, Maryland. I was

What is your opinion on objectivity and subjectivity with-in design? I’m not sure what you mean by the terms objectivity and subjectivity. You might be talking about how designers balance self-expression with client needs, but both designers and clients are subjective. Neither is objective. The audience is not objective. Subjective usually refers to a single perspective, that of a designer, a client, a member of the intended audience, etc. Objective might refer to multiple perspectives, or a perspective removed from the perspectives of interested parties, a higher or neutral perspective. Or maybe by objectivity, you refer to the effort on the part of the perceiver (perhaps a critic) to judge without bias or prejudice. Do you think a simple piece of design that has a limited amount of aesthetic distractions will last longer through time and therefore be timeless? No. You embed a bias into your question by framing it this way, by referring to “aesthetic distractions.” Why should we consider aesthetics (the way things look) to be distractions? We can be distracted in good ways and bad ways, but can aesthetics be distracting in good ways and bad ways? What does that even mean? What does all this have to do with lasting “longer through time” or being “timeless”? Why the heck should graphic design try to be timeless? If graphic design is about visual communication, why wouldn’t you want to communicate to people alive today rather than alive a hundred years from now? You’re entering the realm of art, music and literature when you talk about timelessness. So maybe timeless design is design that no longer functions. It has lost its meaning or its capacity to distract or its ability to communicate within a cultural moment and persists as an empty form, pretty and useless, like art. Graphic design communicates today, within the generation in which it is created. Graphic design is supposed to distract us from what we are in the middle of doing. A stop sign

Primary Research

distracts us from driving through the intersection. A sign on a storefront distracts us from getting to work early by luring us into a coffeeshop. A book cover in a window display distracts us from walking past the bookstore. All graphic design is ornament upon what already exists. So all graphic design embodies the aesthetics of distraction in the urgent now, and none of it lasts forever. As designers we are taught that form follows function. Dieter Rams believes that functionality comes before form. What is your opinion on this? I have no idea. These are slogans for instructing students. You use a slogan like “form follows function” in order to reprove a student who has failed to consider the purpose of his designed object, who has failed to consider how the designed object will exist in context and be experienced by other people. Every object can be improved, every student can work harder, and everyone can find something to do in society. A slogan is a tool, and it’s useful only in limited contexts. Use a screwdriver to turn a screw, not hammer a nail. Everything can be misused and misapplied, especially slogans. Who or what are your current creative influences. I read books. I read novels and nonfiction books and essay collections and poetry. I look at pictures in magazines and online. I pay attention to the people around me, and I take notes on what they say and do. I look for trends, for patterns and recurrences. Then I write and talk to myself and mess around and see what happens, and I react to what I’ve done. I go do something different. I cook. I work in the yard. I come back to work. I start again. I keep going. Finally, what is your favourite design product (could be anything from a watch to a bike etc), pantone colour, typeface and grid type? I don’t like favorites, because choosing a favorite puts an end to searching. I like searching. In each instance we have removed elements by routing away the geometric shapes of the products – the effect is as if the product has


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Design Observer

been deconstructed and re-scaled beyond the intended proportions. A seven metre-wide mural on the back wall (painted Рas opposed to vinyl or digital runout) of the Audio 300 stereo system reinforces the rational approach to product layout. Finally technical illustrations that combine line artwork with photographic elements (allowing for subtle undulating forms, concave and convex buttons and changes in lighting) have been used in the subsequent exhibition marketing and a VITSΠside-project Рa seven colour A0 poster, featuring the famous ten principles.ake us through the results that you came up with?

been deconstructed and re-scaled beyond the intended proportions. A seven metre-wide mural on the back wall (painted Рas opposed to vinyl or digital runout) of the Audio 300 stereo system reinforces the rational approach to product layout. Finally technical illustrations that combine line artwork with photographic elements (allowing for subtle undulating forms, concave and convex buttons and changes in lighting) have been used in the subsequent exhibition marketing and a VITSΠside-project Рa seven colour A0 poster, featuring the famous ten principles.ake us through the results that you came up with?

The exhibition features 244 objects across five sections spanning six decades. Our implementation uses several graphic processes – each appropriate to specific content. The entrance – an internal façade using the 606 compression system, spans the entire 15m width of the upper gallery.

The exhibition features 244 objects across five sections spanning six decades. Our implementation uses several graphic processes – each appropriate to specific content. The entrance – an internal façade using the 606 compression system, spans the entire 15m width of the upper gallery.

Key graphic elements are integrated using the visual language from selected products of Braun and VITSŒ in order to set the tone. The five sections – Dieter Rams solo projects, Braun team projects under Dieter’s leadership, VITSŒ, Typology and Legacy are delineated by panel/ partitions that use product elements such as grilles, button layouts and interfaces relevant to each story.

Key graphic elements are integrated using the visual language from selected products of Braun and VITSŒ in order to set the tone. The five sections – Dieter Rams solo projects, Braun team projects under Dieter’s leadership, VITSŒ, Typology and Legacy are delineated by panel/ partitions that use product elements such as grilles, button layouts and interfaces relevant to each story.

In each instance we have removed elements by routing away the geometric shapes of the products Рthe effect is as if the product has been deconstructed and re-scaled beyond the intended proportions. A seven metre-wide mural on the back wall (painted Рas opposed to vinyl or digital runout) of the Audio 300 stereo system reinforces the rational approach to product layout. Finally technical illustrations that combine line artwork with photographic elements (allowing for subtle undulating forms, concave and convex buttons and changes in lighting) have been used in the subsequent exhibition marketing and a VITSΠside-project Рa seven colour A0 poster, featuring the famous ten principles.

In each instance we have removed elements by routing away the geometric shapes of the products Рthe effect is as if the product has been deconstructed and re-scaled beyond the intended proportions. A seven metre-wide mural on the back wall (painted Рas opposed to vinyl or digital runout) of the Audio 300 stereo system reinforces the rational approach to product layout. Finally technical illustrations that combine line artwork with photographic elements (allowing for subtle undulating forms, concave and convex buttons and changes in lighting) have been used in the subsequent exhibition marketing and a VITSΠside-project Рa seven colour A0 poster, featuring the famous ten principles.

In each instance we have removed elements by routing away the geometric shapes of the products – the effect is as if the product has

In each instance we have removed elements by routing away the geometric shapes of the products – the effect is as if the product has been deconstructed and re-scaled beyond the intended proportions. A seven metre-wide mural on the back

Design Context


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Acknoligments

Johann Aussage Atelier Bernd Kuchenbeiser Michael Dyer Bob Bruegmann Paul McNeil Dominic Hofstede David Barringer

Design Context


Design Context Development 04  

Design Context Development

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