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

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.