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

2008 - 2012 : Wrapping Up

Sunday, 10 June 2012

The textwrap blog went into temporary retirement in June 2012. The archived posts, dating back to Nov 2008, will remain here on the textwrap.net domain, but textwrap's notes and observations on graphic design will still be published, albeit in a different form, as part of my teaching and course coverage at welovedesignetc.info.

Art As Life

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

The Barbican Gallery in London is currently hosting 'Art As Life' - the biggest Bauhaus exhibition in the UK in over 40 years, and as part of our continuous professional development, the department has sanctioned a number of tutor visits to see it.

'Art As Life' is a visual narrative of the most influential art school of the last century, and features art, architecture, print design, textiles, film, interior & industrial design, and of course typography.

The exhibition documents the amazing experimentation that the school pioneered, and shows how the political landscape of Germany in the Weimar years influenced the movement and its teachings.

The work on display also explains how the eventual breakup of the Bauhaus (at the hands of the National Socialists), ensured that its founders dispersed to other parts of Europe and the USA to spread the teachings of the school and set the blueprint for modern architecture and visual communication.

As well as brilliant art by Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky and Theo Van Doesburg, there is the avante garde photography of Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, the textiles of Gunta Stulzl, the graphics of Joost Schmidt and the fantastic typography of Herbert Bayer.

This is more than just an exhibition - there is a public programme of workshops, talks, films and performances as well as the 'Art School Lab', a two-week summer school led by leading practitioners from all artistic backgrounds. The Barbican will also soon be announcing a date for typographer Erik Spiekermann to present a talk at the exhibition.

Well worth going to, but note that photography isn't allowed, and when I was there on Monday the shop had already sold out of Joost Schmidt's famous lithograph poster Plakat zur Bauhaus-Ausstellung (1923), which I was hoping to put up in the studio.

Top of the World

Saturday, 19 May 2012

A design by one of my Year 1 students will shortly be the highest outdoor visual campaign in the world. On 8th May, Tanzanian Wilfred Moshi set out as part of an expedition to climb Mount Everest.  Wilfred is currently at Camp 2, some 7000ft short of the summit. When he reaches the top (the first Tanzanian to achieve the feat), he'll be launching the Global Vision Project, an initiative by the Twende Pamoja Trust, and branded by HND1 Graphic Design student Jonathan Walton.

In the past, Twende's Mike Knox has commissioned other design projects from our HND students, and this year he supplied our Year 1 class with a brief to design the 'Hand in Hand' campaign for the Global Vision Project. Jonathan's work was chosen following class presentations to the client.

The current stage of this amazing project will be launched imminently by Wilfred from the top of Mount Everest, followed by further events from Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh (June), and from Mount Kilimanjaro in August.

More Info:
Twende Pamoja Trust
Mount Everest Hand in Hand on Facebook
Wilfred Moshi's blog


Friday, 2 March 2012

Three excellent posters from one of my former students, Maciej Plamowski, a Polish national who is now a successful freelance illustrator. The phobias are 'Hodophobia' (fear of road travel or travelling in general), 'Atomosphobia' (fear of nuclear war), and the rather wonderful 'Heliophobia' (fear of sunlight).

phobia fear of travel

phobia fear of nuclear war

phobias fear of the sun

American Modernism 1920-1960

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Design students here in the UK can write essays on Muller-Brockmann and Jan Tschichold but struggle to name any American modernists other than Paul Rand and Saul Bass.

So it's a joy to be reading R. Roger Remington's comprehensive 'American Modernism - Graphic Design 1920-1960', which is beautifully researched and designed, and introduces a new audience to the seminal work of Lester Beall, Herbert Bayer, and Herb Lubalin, as well as Milton Glaser and both Rand and Bass.

The text, supported by more than 100 colour reproductions and copious captions, traces the evolution of a distinctly American style - an improvised mix of constructivism, industrial typography and pioneering conceptual ideas.


The emergence of Modernism at the beginning of the twentieth century is succinctly presented, and dramatically introduced with a great quote by Claude Debussy - 'The age of the aeroplane demands its own music'. The influence of Bauhaus and Constructivism is then explored, and connected directly to the creative energy fuelled by the refuge which America provided for exiled European designers during the rise of Fascism.

Remington dutifully examines each decade in turn, charting the development of technique and style alongside the political and social contexts in which 'commercial art,' as it was then called, were produced.

This includes war propaganda, economic regeneration, the rise of popular magazines, and the cultural revolution of the 1950s - the Beat Generation, television, and corporate advertising. Crucially, much of the creative output of the time in particular is clearly seen as developing in tandem with, rather than following, the International Style in Europe.

At its zenith during the advertising age in the late 50s, American Modernism is seen as tapping into the 'improvisational zeitgeist that characterised both the progressive jazz of the time, and the writings of the Beat Generation'. Nicely put. Remington presents a convincing case that it's during this period that the term 'graphic design' finally starts to mean something in the commercial world.

Posters for the Rural Electrification Administration, 1939-1941, Lester Beall. pp64-65.

Westvaco spread, Bradbury Thomson, Herbert Bayer, Ben Stahl, 1944. pp110-111.

'Man with The Golden Arm' sequence, Saul Bass (1955) and 'First Generation' by Lou Danziger, (1965) pp124-125.

Dylan poster, Milton Glaser (1967), and Merrell Co. advert by Herb Lubalin (early 1960's) pp168-169.

The final chapter examines the aftermath of this burgeoning creativity - pop art, the rejection of modernist rules and the emergence of postmodernism as exemplified by Paula Scher, April Greiman and David Carson.

My only bone of contention is the omission of two American designers who contributed much to the post-war visual culture otherwise so exhaustively covered in this book - Blue Note designer Reid Miles, and the film poster pioneer Bill Gold.

The sleeve notes state that American Modernism is destined to become a classic text in the study of design and visual culture. It already is.

DESIGNerd 100+

Monday, 30 January 2012

Question: Why are so many designers bored?
Answer: Because sitting in front of a screen all day is boring.
Solution? Take a break and play DESIGNerd 100+.

A recent arrival in our library is volume three of Kevin Finn's ingenious DESIGNerd 100+ trivia game, with questions, like the one above, posed by Stefan Sagmeister.

Finn developed the concept as an immersive and fun way to support and promote design education. As part of the project, he drafted in some of the world’s most influential designers to set the 100+ trivia questions, including Sagmeister, Steven Heller, Lita Talarico and Finn himself.


Each volume is packaged in a sleek 145mm tall black tin box, and contains 100 beautifully-designed question cards, with each card allocated a category and a score of 1, 2 or 3 points, based on the level of difficulty. Categories include Design Faux Pas, Design Culture, Branding, Advertising, Publishing, Music Graphics and Design History.

Games last as long as you want, or until the cards run out. In the case of our HND students, games seems to be lasting all week.

You can check purchase DESIGNerd 100+ at their website.

Modernism for Slackers

Friday, 20 January 2012

I recently came across swissted.com - a gallery of posters displaying punk, grunge, slacker and lo-fi rock concerts over the past thirty years, worked in the Swiss Style of Muller-Brockmann, Karl Gerstner and Armin Hofmann.

The designer, Mike Joyce, of Stereotype, has replicated dozens of classic grid, diagonal and pattern layouts, using authentic colour palettes and the ubiquitous typeface of the international style - lowercase bold Aksidenz Grotesk.

The results inspiring to look at, and totally convincing, showing the versatility of a style which is the complete antithesis of the subject matter.

Many of the acts in this collection were synonymous with important graphic designers like Malcolm Garrett, Vaughan Oliver and Raymond Pettibon, and had album artwork that defined a creative era where lo-fi photography, handwritten fonts, cut & paste, messed-up legibility and a general DIY anti-commercial approach to graphics and video was rampant. And if you know how some of these bands sound, the layouts Joyce has chosen do occasionally create a connection between geometry, typography and the music.

This collection is ongoing, and there are still plenty of acts to be given the swissted treatment - how about Pere Ubu, the Feelies, Moving Targets, the Meat Puppets, and Screaming Trees?

Vectorama - Sol LeWitt @ Edinburgh MoMA

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Sol LeWitt's Wall Drawing #1136, (2004) is currently on show at Edinburgh's Museum of Modern Art, and is well worth a look. Spread over three walls, it was constructed by members of the gallery team, according to the late artist's instructions (LeWitt died in 2007).

Sol DeWitt 1366

The painting features a swirl of vector strokes cutting their way through a vertical background of coloured stripes, and evokes a 60's vibe, reminding me somewhat of the artwork in the Beatles' film Yellow Submarine. Like all of LeWitt's work, it seems very simple but it has a hypnotic quality about it, and up close there is an immense sense of optimism and freedom, as if lines and colour are really all that matters.

LeWitt was a leading exponent of the Conceptual and Minimalist movements in America, and his work is reminiscent of both Mondrian and Kandinsky. He specialised in vector-like geometric canvases, generally painted directed onto public surfaces, so that at museums, the work only exists for the duration of a given exhibition.

Luckily the artist painted many permanent murals, especially in the States, and there is a semi-permanent exhibition of his work at the Massachussets Museum of Contemporary Art, which runs until 2033.

The exhibition in Edinburgh runs till November 2012.

Not Lost in Translation

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Here's something that has been all over the internet this week, and needs no explanatory intro, description, commentary or opinion. The Japanese retailer has apparently recalled the visuals, but given the economic struggle in our high streets here in the UK, the agency responsible for it is needed.

fuckin sale

Spine-Tingling Stop Motion

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Some really genius stop-motion work at the Type Bookstore, featuring, amongst an array of other dazzling effects, a series of animated swatches built out of bookspines.

Design Education and What Lies Ahead

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Amongst the sobering economic, political and social facts and projections being reported as we enter 2012, design education has its own depressing statistic: one third of art and design graduates are still without permanent work a full three years after graduating.

With huge tuition fee rises, a struggling private sector, and a radical restructuring of clients' promotional strategies, the opportunities for young creatives seems bleak.

This year will also see a 25% drop in the number of applications to creative arts and design university courses. Applications through UCAS are down about 10% across the board, and this is partially due to the rise in fees, but (most pertinently in creative courses) its also a reflection of educational cutbacks, resulting in capped course numbers, and a toning down of the marketing of these courses to prospective enrollments.

An interesting read that deals with these issues is the inaugural report from the Design Commission, which explores the relationship between the UK's national design capacity, the current approaches to delivering design courses at school, FE and HE, and the realities of the economic climate.

The emphasis is on keeping our design education curriculum fit for purpose, and there are four central recommendations:

1.Government needs a national design strategy that it takes ownership of, in a well-informed and proactive way.

2. Whilst government should oppose any move to remove design from the national curriculum, we also need to think again about how design operates in schools.

3. Further Education routes into the sector need to be expanded and improved.

4. Higher Education needs protecting and funding.

Many of the ideas and possible solutions to fulfilling these recommendations centre on delivering a more vocational curriculum, and increasing work placements and employer engagement.

Above all, its about convincing government and stakeholders that design education provides us with graduates who are able to work in a variety of creative roles in all sectors, who understand the nature of problem-solving and creative thinking, who are of value to employers, and who are capable of substantial contributions to society.

Restarting Britain - Design Education and Growth
Design Council website

Getting Wrapped Up in CSS3 Exclusions

Sunday, 1 January 2012

With the introduction of multi-columns*, CSS3 took the first positive steps towards a complete emulation of print layout on the web. This has been further enhanced by the rather amazing css3 exclusion and region properties which are currently in draft form specification.

Exclusions allow inline content to be wrapped around or within other div's and classes using CSS properties - in other words, real text-wrapping. This can also be extended to shapes, giving us some of the effects we normally associate with text envelopes and shape wrapping.

The Regions properties allow designers to create true threaded text in the same manner as can be achieved in InDesign. This will be especially useful in responsive design where layouts need to rte-oriented (for example in an iPad).

In the meantime, its the Exclusion property which is more easily applicable on any kind of website.

CSS Exclusions - Wrap-Flow
For these exclusion, or text-wrapping effects, the property is the rather beautifully named 'wrap-flow', and the various values it can be assigned run the gamut from simple to complex text-wrapping, equal to anything InDesign can muster.

Let's say you have a quote and you want to wrap the rest of an article around it. You create an absolutely positioned div that is set relative to the article, and drop the quote into it. A wrap-flow value is then assigned to the positioned div, and the result will be a text-wrapping effect you normally associate with print.

The wrap-flow values are: auto, left, right, maximum, both, and clear.

The wrap-flow default value is 'auto', the result of which is that no text-wrapping is applied between elements in a columned layout. The others are as self-explanatory, And here is an example of how wrap-flow looks in practice, with a div called #extract wrapped up inside an article and with a value of both -

The best description (and examples) I've been able to find about the new exclusion properties comes from a great article on Adobe's Devnet.

At this stage, I wouldn't recommend implementing these techniques on client projects - the browser support is till an issue, but if you really need textwrapping to work there is also a cool jquery solution - JQSlickWrap - which allows for complex textwrap around shapes and text blocks.

*For examples and resources on multi-column CSS3, see my post from March 2010.