Publishing

Anatomy of a Perfect Serial Crime (Novel)

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When it comes to looking for the latest crime novel by your favorite best-selling author, fans don’t want the mystery to begin in the bookstore, so publishers sprinkle graphic clues on the jacket cover to lead shoppers to the writers they want. The covers, shown here, are by designer Peter Mendelsund, associate art director at Knopf, for the Jo Nesbo series; design firm Richard, Brock, Miller and Mitchell (RBMM) for the Dick Francis horse-racing murder mysteries, and designer Michael Stirrings for the Sue Grafton alphabet murders. In such cases, the cover design “brands” the book as part of a series, and signals the likely appearance of recurring main characters — e.g., Nesbo’s detective Harry Hole and Grafton’s Kinsey Milhone. Familiarity sells.

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Posters

AIGA Celebrates 100th Anniversary

The American Institute of Graphic Arts, better known as AIGA, is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. That’s a remarkable milestone when you consider that graphic design didn’t really exist as a profession until the 20th century. Before that, printers and commercial artists handled such tasks. Interestingly, graphic design owes its rise in part to the First World War, which started in 1914 and set off a scramble for army recruitment and war bond posters. This accelerated the production of posters (and demand for graphic artists) as governments sought to rally citizens to support the war effort. The First World War also happened to coincide with the widespread adoption of offset lithographic printing, which enabled mass production of affordable pulp novels, magazines, packaging and other paper-based media.The graphic arts industry was suddenly born. Today there are more than two million graphic artists and designers in the U.S. alone.

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Design Education

Founding Fathers Stiff Flag Designer

As we celebrate Independence Day in the U.S., it seems fitting to give credit where credit is due to Francis Hopkinson, who substantial evidence shows designed the first American flag in 1777. Hopkinson, a New Jersey lawyer and signer of the Declaration of Independence, had a natural love of heraldry and art, and dabbled at graphic design (a profession that didn’t exist back then). During the American Revolution, Hopkinson was serving as chairman of the Navy Board’s Middle Department, when it got an urgent request to come up with an official banner of some sort that soldiers could carry into battle. At the time, the rebelling colonies were flying a flag that featured a variation of the British Union Jack in the canton surrounded on three sides with horizontal red and white stripes. (It looked like a knock-off of the British East India Company flag.)

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Illustration

The Iconic Images of John Van Hamersveld

A look at the art movements of the 20th century lists everything from Art Deco, Cubism and Dada to Surrealism, Op Art and Pop Art, but it often skips over the one movement that embodied the youth culture of the mid-century – the psychedelic images of the 1960s and 1970s. Perhaps no one influenced that period more than John Van Hamersveld, the southern California surfer-cum-designer whose “Endless Summer” movie poster became emblematic of the sun-drenched surfer culture. Van Hamersveld, who recalls being paid $150 for the poster, took a photograph of the film’s opening scene and converted it into sunset silhouettes by reducing each color to a single tone and giving each shape a single, hard edge. Van Hamersveld went on to design more than 300 record album covers for virtually every major rock star in the ‘60s. For aging baby boomers, Van Hamersveld illustrations are as much a symbol of the times as Beatles tunes, protest marches, acid-trips and love beads. Van Hamersveld’s iconic images are presented in his latest book, “John Van Hamersveld: 50 Years of Graphic Design,” released in June.

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Motion Graphics

The History of Typography in Stop-Motion Animation

There are many videos about various aspects of typography, and we’ve posted several of them here, but this is the only one I’ve seen to date that explains the evolution of type faces in such an engaging, clear and concise manner. The video was made by Ben Barrett-Forrest of Forrest Media, a graphic design and media production firm with offices in Whitehorse, Yukon, and Hamilton, Ontario in Canada. As charmingly simple as it comes across, making the five-minute video was an arduous task. It took Forrest 140 hours to hand-cut 291 paper letters and make 2,454 photographs for this stop-motion animation. It was worth it. Enjoy.

Packaging

Beer Label Feels the Heat

Wild Winter Ale is the fourth in a limited edition series of seasonal beers released by Danish brewery Mikkeller in 2012. The label, created by Swedish graphic design agency Bedow, features a simple silhouette of a leafy apple tree, printed with thermochromic ink. The ale is meant to be kept refrigerated or at least cold until serving. What makes this label intriquing is that the ink is heat sensitive. As the label gets warm from being held in the drinker’s hand, the tree begins to shed its leaves until only its bare limbs remain.

Thermochromic inks were first popularized in the 1970s, appearing in “mood rings” that changed colors supposedly indicating the wearer’s emotional state. Increasingly, designers are finding creative ways to use heat-sensitive inks in printing.

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Design Communications

SNS Reaal’s Summary Annual Report… the Movie

When Dutch financial company SNS Reaal produced an online only annual report, it had its designer Fabrique summarize the salient points in a simple 2 and a half minute film. No fancy computer graphics, no elaborate sets, no fuzzy corporate-speak, just three ordinary-looking people walking viewers through who they are, what they do and how they performed in 2010. The complete annual is presented just as simply, incorporating functions that let readers make a custom pdf of just the pages or paragraphs that they want to keep for reference. The first test of transparent reporting: make it understandable.

Global Trends

20’s & 30’s Graphic Design in Japan

Today design trends ricochet around the globe instantaneously, thanks to the Internet. But a look at these posters, advertisements and magazine covers produced in Japan in the 1920s and 1930s show the integration of art movements from European cultures, including Constructivism, Surrealism and Cubism. The graphic works — which appeared in “Modernism on Paper: Japanese Graphic Design of the 1920s-30s” by Naomichi Kawabata – represent a period when communication design was emerging in Japan. The posters and ads from this period are sometimes referred to as “city art,” because merchants wanted to appeal to urban consumers by departing from traditional pictorial naturalism and embracing message-driven avant-garde visuals that implied that they were keeping pace with styles from the West. The aesthetics and composition communicated this awareness of the larger world and established many of the principles of early graphic design in Japan.

Sustainability

Shedding Light on Light Bulbs

Since Thomas Edison invented the incandescent light bulb in 1879, designers have often used the familiar pear-shaped product as a graphic device to represent a “bright idea.” Think again, designers, because the European Union restricted the sale of incandescent light bulbs in favor of compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs in 2009. It also targeted the phase out of Halogen bulbs by 2016. Cuba and Venezuela actually started phasing out incandescent lights in 2005. Other nations have scheduled phase out plans – Australia, Ireland and Switzerland in 2009; Argentina, Italy, Russia and the UK by 2011, and Canada in 2012. A late adopter, the United States will begin phasing out incandescent lights in 2012.

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Design Education

Teaching Design to Inner City Kids

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Design, particularly graphic design, is not a profession that most inner city kids consider, partly because many don’t know that such a profession even exists. In fact, the whole notion that somebody had made design choices about the size, color, typography, etc. of a simple sign comes as a revelation to some kids. Jessica Weiss, a student in the nonprofit Inneract Project program, explained her surprise. “I just thought, oh, someone wrote this sign. Someone wrote that sign. No, it had to be designed.”

This is exactly the lesson that Inneract Project founder Maurice Woods hoped to pass on. Woods, a senior designer at Studio Hinrichs in San Francisco, started the program in 2004 when as a graduate student in a University of Washington’s Visual Communication Design class, he got the assignment to “Use Design to Try to Change the World.” Drawing from his own experience growing up in the violent teen-gang and drug-plagued town of Richmond near San Francisco, Woods wanted to help young adolescents expand their awareness of the career options open to them.

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Design Education

Happy Birthday, Milton!

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Whether the delivery is graphic or spoken, Milton Glaser can be relied on to pare away the superfluous and focus on what’s relevant in the most direct, thoughtful and inspiring way. Today he celebrates his 80th birthday and a 60+ year career that is still going strong. A new documentary “Milton Glaser: To Inform & Delight” directed by Wendy Keys, now playing in select U.S. locations, provides convincing evidence that he is worthy of being called the most influential graphic artist of our time. It’s a must-see. And here’s something that we consider a must-read – a talk that Glaser gave in 200l to the London AIGA titled “Ten Things I Have Learned.” Great food for thought.

10 Things I Have Learned

by Milton Glaser

1. You can only work for people you like.

This is a curious rule and it took me a long time to learn because in fact at the beginning of my practice I felt the opposite. Professionalism required that you didn’t particularly like the people that you worked for or at least maintained an arms length relationship to them, which meant that I never had lunch with a client or saw them socially. Then some years ago I realised that the opposite was true. I discovered that all the work I had done that was meaningful and significant came out of an affectionate relationship with a client. And I am not talking about professionalism; I am talking about affection. I am talking about a client and you sharing some common ground. That in fact your view of life is someway congruent with the client, otherwise it is a bitter and hopeless struggle.

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