What are we calling this trend in layout design?

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James Michaels's picture
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Joined: 6 Mar 2010 - 12:54am
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> the celebration of incompetence

But there is a difference between someone who produces unconventional designs due to ignorance (an amateur), and someone who understands design principles and deliberately choses to bend the rules.

Hrant H Papazian's picture
Joined: 3 May 2000 - 11:00am
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Agreed. I guess the question becomes: when you make a font that acts incompetent, are you doing it because you value that, or because you want to make a font that lets a graphic designer convey incompetence? For example, I enjoyed watching Beavis and Butthead not because they were a couple of really stupid dudes but because the show made fun of idiocy.

This sort of question might seem too preoccupied with Intent. But personally that's how I like it. :-)

hhp

Neil Caldwell's picture
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Joined: 8 Jan 2010 - 12:11am
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It just describes the breaking of established rules and norms.

OK fine, but that only justifies it as design ... not as anti-design ...therefore quite competent and fully functional as a means to an end.

n.

John D Petty's picture
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Joined: 4 Mar 2012 - 9:17am
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I've enjoyed reading this thread.

I tend to agree with aluminum's observation that there are signs of David Carson / RayGun / BlahBlahBlah in there, also, perhaps, some of Neville Brody's later, more conventional/restrained work.

When I first started work as an apprentice comp. in the 1960s I worked for a small company that had been in business since the 1920s. One day I unearthed a box of old electros from the 1920s/30s that were created from either hand-drawn lettering or from repro proof paste-ups. Many of them were two-colour sets, wrapped with a proof. Type reversed out of a colour band or stripe or colour on colour was popular. There is something about the use of colour in these examples that reminds me of those electrotypes. The influence, I believe, came from a very watered down Art Deco; typefaces used were either Gill Sans variants or were geometric sans faces, both of which were popular amongst jobbing printers at that time.

One of the things that always frustrated my desires with my early, naive designs was the limitations of hot metal typesetting; anything beyond the horizontal and vertical was problematic. We had angle-quads which would, with considerable work, allow 45 degree angles—like the example in the CAB09.Spread 01.jpg example, but I was only very rarely allowed to use them as it took much longer to set and time was money. That example looks very like it could have been set in hot metal type and I wonder if the designer is mimicking this—either consciously or otherwise.

A couple of the page layout examples remind me of the layouts produced by Octavo in the 80s.

Conclusion? I'm not sure but maybe there are a number of influences at work here. Perhaps it is, like the widespread use of typewriter faces in the early days of desk-top-publishing, some kind of back-to-basics—simplicity is never poverty; it is great virtue movement, if in fact it is a movement at all.

Hrant H Papazian's picture
Joined: 3 May 2000 - 11:00am
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That's an interesting line of thought. There's been a lot of letterpress fetishism in design schools in the past few years, and it's possible that's leading some people to try to reproduce that naive look in digital.

hhp

Albert-Jan Pool's picture
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Joined: 30 Aug 2006 - 2:14am
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I have heard people calling this trend ‘post design’. The term suggests that contemporary applied art (which I will refer to as design here) should look like as if not being designed at all. As if designers now can leave all things that are thought of as ‘rules’ can be ‘left behind’. As if designers may now become something like artists. A strange attitude in a time where practically everyone that has access to a computer can ‘design’ something. Yes, I think that everyone can be an artist, but design is right between craftsmanship and art. Surely, we can debate wether artistic talent can be ‘taught’ at an art school at all, but in the case of craftsmanship, the idea that it may fall from the sky is nonsense. And, seeing this from a practical point of view, why would clients pay for something that is as illegible and user-unfriendly as anything else one can pick from the street? In Europe, partly due to the shift to the bachelor-master in design education, art theoreticians that are new to the applied arts have begun promoting the idea that by introducing art-theory into design education, and making it a major part in master sudy programs, applied art is now being upgraded into ‘art’ (or at least something very very close to it …). Which, imho, is humbug. When designers are going to behave as artists, they will soon be ending up as artists. Which is fine with me as long as they do not call their work ‘design’. I’m fine with design theory, but I think that the applied arts need their own focus in this field. There is still a lot to be researched when it comes to legibility, readability, usability, sustainability, etc. Also the history of writing, lettering, calligraphy, book design, graphic design is a field where research which even recognizes us designers as people that may eventually come up with suggestions on where research is needed and how our knowledge could be scientifically evaluated is rare.

Albert-Jan Pool's picture
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Joined: 30 Aug 2006 - 2:14am
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A quick glance at this one here http://www.flickr.com/photos/hardwig/6147806914/ may illustrate the need for graphic designers (in this case: type designers) getting involved in research that currently counteracts our profession, rather than hiding ourselves in arty-farty ivory towers.

Hrant H Papazian's picture
Joined: 3 May 2000 - 11:00am
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I think you're right that Design has been moving towards Art lately. To me that's a natural (but undesirable) result of the West's emphasis on individuality, where people think expressing one's self is a valid career choice, and designers are basically failed artists - people who would rather be painting things in their pajamas but they realize they have to pay for that nice car and cellphone plan somehow so they end up getting into design. The result isn't pretty (even though the results are pretty :-).

BTW I'm starting to think that "undesign" is the best term here.

hhp

Victor Curran's picture
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Joined: 31 Dec 2008 - 3:34pm
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As I commented a week or two ago, "All design . . . has the purpose of adapting a client's (or author's) message to a medium and an audience . . . Poor design promotes the designer's message--or lack of one--at the expense of the client and the audience."

In the past couple of centuries, Western industrial societies have come to think of art as where the artist's own message trumps all other considerations, and design as where the designer's imagination and skill serve as a vehicle for someone else's message.

The border between art and design is permeable, as it should be, to allow good ideas to flow back and forth. But if we remove the border entirely, we risk encouraging designers to neglect our professional responsibility to authors, publishers, clients, readers, and viewers.

James Michaels's picture
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Joined: 6 Mar 2010 - 12:54am
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Art and design have entirely different goals, but I agree that the border can be permeable.

One reason for some overlap is that that art and design share many tools and techniques. Also many designers started off as artists, but at some point (like in college) realized that design was a better fit for them.

> [artists] who would rather be painting things in their pajamas
> but they realize they have to pay for that nice car ...

I think folks in that category generally go into commercial illustration. It can pay well and it's closer to their sensibilities.

Nick Shinn's picture
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Joined: 8 Jul 2003 - 11:00am
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Speaking of art:
When I was in art school c.1970, conceptual art was the big thing.
It’s now mainstream in gallery art.
Conceptualism makes the distinction between artists and makers, with making derogated.
Now conceptualism has spread further, to commercial design.
(I suppose you could say it was already there, as art direction is essentially conceptual—however, the end result has traditionally been documents with highly aesthetic qualities.)

An example I came across yesterday—Canada’s new photography stamps.
Whereas a stamp celebrating photography would have in the past (e.g. 2008 Karsh series, below) shown photos as aesthetic objects with nice compositions, now the idea holds sway.

Yousuf Karsh was recently feted in Canadian stamps (above, 2008) so now a new series of photo stamps cleverly manages to include him—in a conceptual artwork by Arnaud Maggs. The photos in Maggs’ work are so small however—even after being “cropped” down to a dozen from 48—that all one notices (at real 100% size) are that they are black and white head and shoulders shots of a man in a hat. Could be anybody. The stamp as a whole has the plain squared-off serial lineup of many of Maggs’ gallery works—lab specimen/minimal/default/non/un- design.

The lack of design in the new series of photo stamps may be attributed to the fact that the selection of photos was created by a design manager working with curators. So all the images are hopelessly the wrong scale for stamps, unless one is a collector with a magnifying glass. But there’s a lot of supporting BS, which is a hallmark of conceptualism:
http://www.canadapost.ca/cpo/mc/personal/collecting/stamps/2013/2013_mar...

James Michaels's picture
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I heard once that a photographer surprised Churchill by grabbing his cigar out of his mouth, and the portrait captured his anger. I wonder if that's the portrait that's on the stamp.

John Hudson's picture
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Yes, that's the famous Karsh cigar-less Churchill portrait.
http://iconicphotos.wordpress.com/2009/07/31/winston-churchill-by-yousef...

Hrant H Papazian's picture
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Neil Caldwell's picture
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Nick, that stuff looks lame/conservative/dusty, the typography is no where near contemporary/digital modernistic. Could that composition come from the 1960's?

n.

Nick Shinn's picture
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Joined: 8 Jul 2003 - 11:00am
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Which one?

Neil Caldwell's picture
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All of them.

There no interaction of the letter/word shapes with the imagery. No dynamics. It's too dutiful in a conservative way. Put this here and that there. That's why I think it's feels stale.

imho.

n.

Karl Stange's picture
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Joined: 17 Sep 2009 - 10:07am
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Is Dapifer undesign?

Altogether too much thought and skill have gone into it, something more like OSP...

http://ospublish.constantvzw.org/foundry/

Nick Shinn's picture
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Neil, Canadian stamps were better designed in the 60s.
They have been crap for years now, for a number of reasons.
Although I did like the Audrey Hepburn—one of the few instances where the artwork reproduced was actually appropriate for thumbnail-size reproduction.

Neil Caldwell's picture
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Hey Nick, a quick check on Canada Post's website shows that you can do your own stamp ...is it time for a Shinn stamp?

Ya I dig that Hepburn image too, 'cept I'd throw some typography on top because it is such a strong image ...lol.

n.

Nathaniel Winter-Hébert's picture
Joined: 20 Apr 2012 - 12:17pm
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Trendlist was referenced in the thread early on, but the site was down, so reposting the link for anyone interested.

http://www.trendlist.org/trends/exposed-content

Gestalten has a few decent books providing an overview of the direction editorial and graphic design is taking. The cheekily named, "Regular Graphic Design Today" is a nicely curated cross-section of what modern design looks like; a somewhat dada-ist, reductionist, type-centric approach to page composition with a healthy sense of humour. Another one in the series that I recommend is "Turning Pages: Editorial Design for Print Media", which makes a case that we're in a golden age of print design because in order to succeed, mediocrity is no longer a business model that works.

http://www.amazon.com/Regular-Graphic-Design-R-Klanten/dp/3899552539

http://www.amazon.com/Turning-Pages-Editorial-Design-Print/dp/3899553144...