Posts Tagged ‘Typography’

Intraview 2: Mike McGonigal, The Clean

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What are your personal future plans?

Its a timely question! I’m moving to Canada next year. We’ll start in Montreal and see what happens. I’ve grown a bit weary of Sydney and living in another city has always been something I wanted to do. Same for Eloise. So in the medium term I have no idea what I’ll be doing, but I was thinking just this morning that I’ve been accumulating a fairly ambitious to-do list over the last few years. Ever since I landed in a high intensity work environment there’s been so much left by the wayside.

I want to make a comic. I’m not a big comic book reader, but I like works that I can consume more like surreal, abstract illustrations that just have a vague dimension to time that unfolds. I feel like drawing I have done in the past would lend itself well to the format and I suppose I’ve dabbled but the idea completing something more ambitious and publishing it really excites me.

I want to create a typeface. Its the same deal, I’m not a type obsessive, I don’t follow studios… but the process appeals to me almost as a meditative undertaking. In school I actually made two display alphabets, one was a really sharp all-caps geometric kind of sci-fi thing and the other was lowercase and more parametric-looking. I only put the first through Fontographer. I think If I did it now I would still make something more display, but I also have an image of myself retired in a quiet room for two years crafting a beautiful sans serif that feels open and natural, but also firm and immovable. I love Univers.

I want to have a gallery exhibition of my paintings. Its not so much about presenting the work to the public, and more about considering what I do as a personal, again almost meditative activity, in a more critical context. Also I need a deadline to focus.

I want to put together a collection of songs. I want to write regularly around the topic of art and design but in a personal way that feels right to me. I want to work in a business or on a product that thousands or millions of people use. I want to do some kind of organised learning. Maybe teach.

I do feel like a bit of a jackass as someone who isn’t an illustrator or type designer or an artist etc. just saying I want to do it all when there are people dedicating their whole lives and careers to it. Who am I to just decide I want to have a crack?

Question co-opted from Mike McGonigal interview with Hamish Kilgour, Robert Scott and David Kilgour in Yeti Magazine Issue six

 

Reading, Writing… Repeating Ourselves.

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I have been returning to the discussion on Elliot Jay Stocks’ recent post, an interview with the eminent “Typographic Designer” Erik Spiekermann. I would recommend watching the interview and reading through some of the responses despite the chest beating of a few dudes.

Working these days primarily on the design of websites, I have been thinking about the new medium and the echoes of the past that are sounding from it’s progression. As Spiekermann points out, the interactive screen is just a new medium which graphic designers must now work with.

For websites, pixels are the raw material and HTML is our toolkit, through which an endless number of technologies exist. The design act is still very much a task of the composition of sensory material to accurately communicate a message. Our closest collaborator is still the writer and we are still simply a bridge to publication and communication.

We can see as digital design evolves many of the same controversies that faced designers working with the development of printing & typography, industrial design, architecture, advertising and so on. Themes have resurfaced such as artistic expression and ornamentation vs. utility and minimalism, as well as questions of the roles of business, fine art, technology and other philosophical, social and political influences. We can see the attempts to imitate styles from the past with more advanced technologies that have their own visual predispositions (Apple’s fondness for skeuomorphism). The same thing happened with printing and typography in the transition from calligraphy to movable type in the 15th C. and again in the mid 19th C. and was the source of heated debate which involved people from inside and outside of the design world.

Designers have long experimented and argued extensively around these themes, but how much can we say we have learnt from this?

Do we need to take the long way round all over again to become masters of the new medium?

Would it be possible to skip a few steps and make a few educated guesses? Or do we need to go through the motions once more in order to come to a collective understanding about what the web actually IS.

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.

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.

Content

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.