running words around
design education and visual communication
authored by chris m hughes

Dare To Spend

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Despite the imminent funding crisis in Higher Education, some Universities still see the power of branding as the best way to recruit quality students. And you know that when Saachi & Saachi get involved that things are serious, and probably expensive.

The payoff is that the results will generally be worth it. The Brussels-based arm of Saachi have produced the 'Dare to Think' campaign for Belgium's University of Gent, and their latest visual manages to blend inventive typography with one of the biggest symbols of education - the library bookshelf.

Dare To Think
Source: Ads of the World.

Glasgow Film : Post-Portal Design

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

One of the top buzzwords of the original dot com era was 'portal' - an umbrella website providing hyperlinks to and aggregated content from a number of related organisations or sites.

In the intervening years, portals have become a basic fact of life on the web, and integrated content has become the key paradigm. But the central problem has always remained - how to combine and present so much content in one usable offering.

These days, stripped down integration is the way forward. This is because social networking is acting as the portal mechanisim. Designers are realising that websites can be more effective if they aggregate less, but more focussed, subject matter, and let social networking do the rest.

Here's a brilliant contemporary example from Glasgow agency Tictoc. They have designed the new Glasgow Film website, which promotes the city's cinemas, screenings and events, by merging three organisations - Glasgow Film Theatre, Glasgow Film Festival and the soon to be launched Cinema City - which promotes Glasgow's movie scene.

Glasgow Film

The site allows cinemaphiles to discuss, review and share ideas about films and events. It encourages users to share listings with friends, and watch trailers and read reviews before booking their tickets on the site. It also looks great with its minimal colour scheme, slanted rules and bold type.

Magazine Spreads

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Excite Cover

Working with photographers can be one of the most satisfying aspects of graphic design, and here are some great spreads from Gill McColl, one of our HND students, who has integrated some great visuals into her magazine spreads.

We called this project 'Excite', created a list of subjects area, and Gill drew 'Cinema' out of the hat. She then had to brief a student in the photography department on the location, style composition of the images required. These were then supplied unedited in RAW format.

These examples illustrate Gill's strengths - attention to detail, great typography (these pages are beautifully set in Gotham Bold), and an ability to organise grid layouts that capture the essence of the publication and the target audience.

excite spread 1

excite spread 2

excite spread 3

excite spread 4

Gill has just had her work placements for 2011 confirmed - a fortnight at both Touch and Eskimo* - two of Edinburgh's most innovative agencies.

Captain Beefheart RIP

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Sad news yesterday that the abstract artist Don Van Vliet, better-known as Captain Beefheart, died in California aged 69.

The Michael Werner Gallery in New York, which often hosted Van Vliet's art exhibitions, confirmed that Van Vlient had passed away from complications due to multiple sclerosis.

As Captain Beefheart, Van Vliet managed to warp blues, jazz, and rock into a unique and memorable sound, and produced a large body of important rock music during the 1960's and 1970's.

For many fans, myself included, the highlight of the Beefheart recordings was the seminal Trour Mask Replica (1969) - a unique double album of 28 experimental rock songs, produced by Frank Zappa, which has influenced just about everyone from Roxy Music and Led Zeppelin to Nick Cave, the Sex Pistols, Tom Waits, PJ Harvey and the White Stripes, even if much of it seems to be tuneless, abrasive and practically unlistenable on first hearing.

The recording sessions for this record are the stuff of rock legend - Beefheart forced the band to live communally for nearly a whole year, rehearsing his complex songs for up to 14 hours a day with no money or food (but obviously plenty of mind-altering substances).

Trout Mask Replica also featured brilliant gatefold sleeve coverart. I've dug out my copy from the vinyl shelf -

TMR Outside

TMR Insideside

Trout Mask Replica, Gatefold Sleeve, 2 X 12".
This edition (slightly battered) is the 1975 Reprise reissue.

Beefheart Obituary - The Guardian 18/12/2010
Beefheart Obituary, Rolling Stone 18/12/2010
A life in Photos - Rolling Stone

One Hour Typography

Friday, 17 December 2010

One of my HND 2 students, Rachel Patrick, has won the London Design Festival's one hour typography competition. The LDF asked designers to select a quote from a list of 80 quotes on design, and create a typographical poster in one hour.

After a huge response in entries, the LDF's William Shaw and Richard Wolfströme, designer and Board member of the International Society of Typographic Designers, chose five winners.

Rachel's entry took American designer Joe Sparano's quote 'Good design is obvious, great design is transparent', and came up with this -

RJP Type Poster

You can see the other winning entries and the judges' comments at www.londondesignfestival.com, and you can check out Rachel's portfolio at her website www.bypatch.co.uk

Showing Racism the Red Card, with Type

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Yet another typography post, but definitely merited. A very cool type-based piece for the SQA's annual 'Show Racism the Red Card' competition, which one of our students won last year.

This time around we re-wrote the brief to include video as well as a print-based solution, and this submission really stood out.

Sarah Tucker's typographical work was inspired by Stefan Sagmeister, and with some help from her friends, she produced this remarkable video and its accompanying poster work -

SRRC Posters

Funding Linotype The Film

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Kickstarter is an innovative funding platform for creative projects all over the world. Every month, thousands of people pledge a donation to projects in music, film, art, technology, design, publishing and other creative fields. The project creators keep full ownership and control over their work, and Kickstarter draws a 5% profit from the funding, if the project reaches the required total.

A great example is the current funding campaign for a feature-length film about the Linotype typecasting machine. The Linotype, invented by Ottmar Mergenthaler in 1886, completely transformed print communication, but eventually became obsolete, and today, very few of these amazing machines are still in existence.

The film is about a machine of the past, its skilled operators, and its impact on communication. A worthy cause for which to pledge a small amount. The deadline for pledges is December 17th.

Linotype the Film Trailer:

Linotype the Movie

I Leica This

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Here's an enjoyable promotional video for the amazing new Leica D-Lux 5.

Photographers are raving about this fully-manual compact digital camera which features a 1/1.63in 10-million-pixel CCD sensor, and a 24-90mm f/2-3.3 lens. It also boasts HD video recording, multi-aspect shooting, and dozens of other pieces of spec heaven.

But equally importantly, it has Leica's amazing retro looks.

The D-Lux 5 will probably get more photos taken of it than it will actually take itself, and seems destined to become a design classic.

Most cameras seem built around the lens, but with a Leica it's as if everything emerges organically from their iconic red logo, as this promo demonstrates. Just a pity the 'inspiration demands..' strapline is so clumsy.

Manhattan Clearview

Friday, 3 December 2010

The first time I visited New York, I spent a fair portion of my time just photographing the street signs - surely the most iconic of their kind in the world.

As well as the famous names and their various literary, musical and cinema references, like MacDougal, Broadway, the Bowery and so on, the signs are great pieces of urban design - rectangles in green or black, often set at right angles to each other, echoing the city's grid layout - and the lettering is a bold, white, uppercase sans serif typeface.

They are definitive, clear and timeless, just like this set at a famous corner in Greenwich Village -

McDougal Bleecker

So it's sad to read that the Federal Highways Commission recently announced that all 250,000 of the city's street signs are to be replaced, at a cost of some $27million. The project won't be finished until 2018 and will see the uppercase lettering replaced by mixed upper and lowercase set in Clearview - a new sans serif font designed specifically for the task.

The bureaucrats argue that the switch will improve legibility. This will mean better safety for drivers, who identify the words more quickly in lowercase, and easier orientation for pedestrians, who'll be able to see the wording from farther away.

By their reckoning, it's a miracle anyone has managed to find their way around New York before, given that the uppercase signage has been in use since the early twentieth century. And if you have ever driven in Manhattan, you'll have spent enough time stuck in traffic to read any sign, even if it was set back-to-front in comic sans (assuming your first language is english).

Here's a comparison example -

Uppercase v lowercase

Judge for yourself, but Clearview definitely spoils the balance and gravitas of the original signs in all sorts of obvious ways.

This is a situation where a design classic is being tampered with for a valid reason, but in the wrong way. Visual communication is about problem solving, and in this case the solution would be to tweak the existing font into a more legible format by widening the kerning (the space between the letters). Or perhaps the Feds should just spend the $27m on improving traffic flow and tightening up the drivers test.

NYC to spend $27m - NY Post
Feds Change Signs - Transportation Nation
NY Signage Change - the Telegraph

Inspirational Problem Solver

Edinburgh is under two feet of snow and college is closed all week - not ideal for me and a bit of a disaster for our students who were building up to their end-of-year review. So I have been looking for some inspiration to take into next week when classes will hopefully get back on schedule.

This five minute interview with Paula Scher does just fine. Scher, a partner at the Pentagram Agency in New York, is to the design world what Patti Smith is to rock music - a groundbreaking maverick who's been there and done it all, and who tells it like it is without losing sight of what is it should be.

Scher is most famous for her hand-written typography and unusual cartography, but during the 1970's she designed hundreds of record covers for CBS, most of which, she claims here, taught her 'what bad is, and how it got that way'.

Reverting To Type

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

An interesting exhibition, showcasing the magic of letterpress, kicks off next week in London. 'Reverting to Type' is an exhibition of contemporary letterpress practitioners, showcasing how a disappearing craft is being reinvented for contemporary design.

The exhibition, being held at the Standpoint Gallery, is riding a wave of resurgent interest in letterpress.

Photoshop an Illustrator reproduce the effect with ease, but digital design has really woken up to letterpress in web design, where CSS3 now allows the text-shadow property to be employed in the new generation of web browsers. Just search on 'letterpress effect css3' in google, and the results will list dozens of showcases, galleries, tutorials, code snippets and samples.

To get a feel for the effect, if you are viewing this page on a Mac and in a CSS3-ready browser, you'll see the it here, in 36pt Courier -

Reverting To Type.

As traditional practitioners will tell you, there is something arcane about letterpress - the process itself, the tactile paper, the beauty of the results, and of course, handling real pieces of type. The poster for the event is a nice example -

Reverting To Type Letterpress Poster

This would be a great event for design students to get along to, second only to visiting a working letterpress studio. Creative Review has an excellent short film of Designer Kelvyn Smith in his letterpress workshop, preparing for the Reverting To Type exhibition.

Reverting To Type is at the Standpoint Gallery from 10th–24th Dec 2010 and 4th–22nd Jan 2011.

Less Independent Is More

At the end of October, the Independent launched a new national newspaper - a spin-off title of the Independent - entitled 'i', costing a mere 20p, and designed to appeal to readers who might have swapped newspapers for the web.

i is a slimmed-down, faster-paced version of the main paper and is a fascinating example of how designers approach the problem of reducing content.

The basic premise - show readers how you are going to show them the content, and then show them it - is borrowed from magazines, textbooks and of course websites.

In the case of i, the inside first pages - the content section, neatly categorises everything into colour-coded haiku-like chunks, focussing on key headlines in each section. Once you move to a section, that headline is prominent and supported by the other articles in the section.

The sections are all laid out in a comfortably-proportioned grid, breaking out of the normal columned paradigm. Text-wrapped images and short bursts of information add to the magazine effect, and the copy is stripped down too, but carefully toned to retain the broadsheet stance.

And the team behind it have plenty more media-savvy ideas in the tank to establish the concept. As well as a nice strapline in 'i gets to the point', they have a twitterfeed, a facebook page, and of course the 20p selling price.

Todays publication is a good example - a special issue to mark World Aids Day, and is edited by Elton John. Here's the cover -

i Cover 1st December 2011

The i is also launching an iPad App today.

i Paper Front Covers