Posts Tagged ‘Graphic Design’

Intraview 4: Sam Byford, Oliver Richenstein

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SB: In our increasingly digital world, how do you see the disciplines of graphic design and product / industrial design merging?

SB: The quick wins have more or less come together now. Interfaces communicate better thanks to the knowledge transfer from graphic design – typography, the grid etc. But I still think there is much further to go before the broader theoretical progress made throughout graphic design’s history really comes to meet digital product design in a meaningful way.

Graphic design made enormous leaps in our understanding of visual communication and perception, style, utility, political and social impacts etc. Many of these ideas are extremely relevant to digital product design but to really parse them out and apply them to see what that relevance is, is a slow undertaking that few are well placed to do. For instance, how might we see the ideas embedded in the printed designs of the arts and crafts movement of the 19th century applied to today’s production cycle? Beyond the aesthetics of this period which is easily applied to a digital surface to ‘theme’ an object, can the central thesis (of a return to hand production, and the inherent human value in the pleasure and beauty of workmanship) be applied to today’s context? Surely there is scope for exploration of this in the world of the Operating System.

Graphic design was uniquely advantaged to make these ideological statements and shifts as it was possible and in many cases necessary to understand the end-to-end process and see the aesthetic connectivity between phases of production. Today’s trend is towards specialised individuals, owning a single part of the design and development process, making these analogies hard to apply and new discoveries hard to explore. Who can approach today’s design process from a critical perspective?

The lifecycle of discovery is shortening, the movement has become the trend, leaving deep ideas unexplored and minimal gains made with each iteration of design’s best practice. The fields will merge, if they haven’t already, but I think we could be missing out on many of the best ideas in the process.

Question co-opted from Sam Byford interview with Oliver Reichenstein on The Verge 2012.


Intraview 3: Idea Magazine, Bruno Monguzzi

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What is important for you in graphic design?

SB: If I’m designing, the most important thing to me is process. Scrutinising the problem, sifting data, taking cues and flexing this and that until it reaches a threshold that can be critiqued or released. Talking and writing are like movable light sources that can cast different light and shadow on the work as you go and it is interesting to play with that. Bring someone in early or late, be open or closed, play something down or hype it up—these decisions all have different effects. Going beyond graphic design into product/venture design I’ve become used to producing not-finished things, working faster and balancing reason with intuition, insight and impulse.

If I’m the audience, the most important thing is vividness. I don’t mean colourful – though it could be. It can be a muddy xerox mess as much as a fluorescent hazard sign. Perhaps I’m drawn to things that have a visual momentum and you can see that in a delicately constructed swiss book or a club poster, where the message is felt powerfully even if it’s not easy to consume. That’s a vague answer, but I have vague taste.

Question taken from interview with Bruno Monguzzi in Idea magazine [IDEA No.351]

Balance 1 (Cynic)

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The universe, I imagine, is a large pail of liquid, balancing on a tall bamboo rod in a light wind. Just enough disturbance is created to produce ripples on the surface, but never enough to topple the pail, despite the tragic fragility.

Here on earth we exist as a molecule somewhere around the middle (a bit to the left) of the pale. We think we sense the surface tension but will never actually perceive it. We humans have evolved a mental quirk called self consciousness as an animal defence mechanism and are doomed to look within, as if the ‘Answer’ lies somewhere even less significant than our place in the pail.

We float abstractly and pointlessly as the momentum generated within the universe pulls us this way and that. Again, we presume that this is our creation and believe that our community can harness some power and influence ebb and flow of the universe as a whole towards our favour.

Our greatest and most pitiful tool to manage the natural balance of the universe is a pursuit known as Design.

It’s worthwhile to marvel at the Universe – its happily absent purpose. Design is a process of playing the hand we’re dealt with incrementally greater sophistication, in the hope of tipping the balance in our favour as we hurtle towards nothingness.


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Typography for scanning.

When I read online, I use my cursor to highlight a line of text every now and then as I’m reading through longer form content. I don’t know what this is, but it feels like a form of tactility. I feel like I’m grabbing the words… securing myself somehow to the text. I find it hard to concentrate on reading, because there’s usually so much distraction on web pages.

Language for the internet

Parametric typography + responsive web design = bingo!

Value of an image

Images are actually pretty crap online. They take time to load, they scale poorly, getting different image formats to work together in a page is hard, you can’t search their content, content administrators have difficulty with them, they probably often communicate ZERO to visually impaired users. But then again, reading on screen sucks too. This communication revolution is actually pretty shitty.

Network design

Information Architecture is not like Architecture. Post-Modern Information Architecture… could that be a thing?

Maybe one day…

Building what you design

I’ve been reading ‘Models & Constructs’ by Norman Potter, and something that’s obvious is his intimate understanding of the real and practical construction of objects and spaces. Having the skills to build what you design increases the likelihood of it’s proper functionality and strengthens any theoretical explorations one might be toying with. To think of a website as an object is actually very helpful.

A modernist designer of websites

The internet itself is a modern context (is the internet a place? …yeah I guess that’s been established now.) but obviously that doesn’t mean that designing for a digital screen makes the practice inherently modern. In fact I wouldn’t know how you would classify web design today. The most applauded products still mostly seem like the bastard child of newspaper design, visual merchandising and scrapbooking. An honest modernist approach is needed to get us to the ‘new dawn’ of digital and interactive design.

A Modernist Programmer

Search Within the Problem

Simple Sites

I want to design simple sites. Web design seems to have developed in such a way that excess is anticipated. In a digital environment more polluted by noise and static than any other media stream we expect to be presented with an unreasonable amount of shit in and around whatever content we’re actually after. Web design didn’t progress slowly like early book design where there were real limitations and thoughtful consideration that helped define typographic and compositional standards… Web design launched straight into a hysteric free for all and we can’t slow down to consider what basic principles of the discipline might be. It’s not easy when clients are desperate for WOW factor.

The Best Design Magazine.

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It’s a good feeling when an impulse purchase, in this case necessitated by a need for painkillers and a strict $5 limit for Eftpos transactions at a train station newsagency, leads to valuable discovery.

I hastily scanned the magazines on display and opted for Bloomberg Businessweek. It was a brute aesthetic decision… Simple bold masthead, neutral colour scheme, full bleed image and a big headline about Google. I joined my travelling partner and boarded the train.

I am not a businessman. I’m a graphic designer and I didn’t think I’d be the target audience, however reading through, I found it to be the best DESIGN magazine I have read this year in both its content and its Layout.


There were so many IDEAS! The grid looked deceptively complex and extremely elastic. Margins were either non-existent or crammed with supportive facts and anecdotes, illustrations, and graphical supplements to the text. Typography was simple and unadorned. Articles navigated elegantly from start to finish. There was no Jan, Emil or Eric looming over its shoulder. I was surprised by the general brashness of the aesthetic. It felt FREE and dedicated to the editorial focus of its content. No design magazine that I’ve seen/read recently has this balance of purpose and freedom.


Graphic design is inherently linked to business. It is a commercial undertaking and anyone working within the industry needs to be at peace with this. The articles in Bloomberg Businessweek were plainly written, with minimal business/economic jargon and despite being America-centric, of fairly international content. Well-edited articles on topics of innovation, products, economics, management, markets, politics, media – all of which design is or should be entwined. To be a good designer it is more important to have an awareness of business than of graphic design. Obviously we must know our tools, both our programs and technical restrictions, and the typographic and compositional rules of the art form. These are great, but mean little without a strong understanding of the message’s environment and the message’s recipient.

Today’s design literature should make us better designers and a smarter industry collectively, though most design magazines, books, blogs etc fail to go further than patting ourselves on the back. It is important that achievements of our industry are noted but this does not make us better at our job.

The Aboriginal voice in Australian design

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An area of huge significance and potential for exploration in Australian design is our understanding of indigenous Australian culture. A huge difficulty that has faced Aboriginal people is in communication. There is a disconnection in the language between white and black Australia both spoken (heard) and unspoken (seen). This is the result of a violent and guilty past which is tolerated by most white people with embarrassed forgetfulness and by Aboriginal people with anger and sorrow.

Designers have long asserted the influence of their craft on a social and political level. It can be demonstrated – from Jazz, to Nazism – where a visual aesthetic has offered more than a colour scheme throughout the course of history and where the tone of communication has galvanised a message. In this new era, we as experts of visual communication in Australia should be asking what can designers offer to the betterment of this country? And, where have we gone wrong in the past?

Anglo designers and artists working in Australia have, in the past, drawn from Aboriginal motifs in proclamation of our independence and individuality from Britain. On stamps, air hostess uniforms and most blatantly the Sydney Olympic logo. It plays well for our global identity. However, the presentation of Aboriginal culture in this way is perhaps just as damaging, given the ongoing national struggle to fully accept and respect the original owners of our country. The plagiarism and simplification of indigenous motifs and symbols in this way is disrespectful.

Designers today should in all cases aim to present the true sense of what being Australian means, in the everyday visual media that they effectively craft. This should have alive within it an understanding of Aboriginal culture and language. Australian design, fashion, hospitality, entertainment and indeed big business should all be open to the recognition of this cultural asset as part of the make up of their/our visual identity. There will be a time of uncertainty, mistakes will be made to the offence of both sides but this is necessary to strengthen the debate and our understanding and connection to Australia as a country.

As to how this can be achieved in a day to day sense, I need to think a bit longer… but I would say, as usual, education is key.