Sunday, March 31, 2013

discussion notes, Weds 27 March

our brief exercise, for Monday (1 April) —

Compare a chapter (or long treatment) in Cramsie, with a comparable discussion in any of the other design history surveys available to us. Discuss the parallels and differences, and what if anything is missing in either or both of the treatments.

We talked about collections.

  1. Leanne Shapton
    Important Artifacts and Personal Property from the Collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris, Including Books, Street Fashion, and Jewelry (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2009), and her
    Swimming Studies (Blue Rider Press, 2012) also,
  2. Ilene Beckerman, her Love, Loss, and What I Wore (Algonquin Books, 1995)
  3. Bicycle Portraits (three books) and the associated website.

And tentatively agreed on the idea of cataloging a collection. The collection might be design oriented. But certainly some/all of the items in a collection, would be describable in design terms.

Walter Benjamin came up in this connection.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

discussion notes, Weds 20 March

Wednesday last, we discussed design and "intention." What do we mean by "intention"? Is intention in play at every stage of our process? What about accident? Detours?

That conversation was much informed by Steve Baker's brief essay on intention.

We also looked at, and evaluated, designs selected by the Design Museum (in London) for their quality. See Guardian article here, and the gallery of 15 designs here. With the exception of brutally graphic cigarette packaging from Australia, none of the designs were "graphic."

We also gave some thought to Jonathan Gibbs's "design Blog" essay on the design of Ruth Ozeki's novel A Tale for the Time Being, "published by Canongate in four simultaneous editions: hardback (price £20), paperback (£7.99), ebook (£7.99) and audio (£7.95 on iTunes).". Gibbs refers to design co-director Gerard Saint's explanation that "the exposed stitching at once references Japanese binding techniques, and emulates the fragility at the heart of the novel. The thing even comes wrapped in plastic, with a red sticker warning the reader ‘This special edition is fragile.’ Everything about it makes you want to treat it with the same care that Ruth, in the novel, treats Nao’s diary."

Gibbs writes: " While this is a perfectly apt response to the book, it does make me wonder about the future... All dilemmas that we may face more and more, as books come in bundles like this. The worst of all possible worlds, it occurs to me: the physical book becomes untouchable objet d’art, a sumptuous avatar of the text, an Alton Towers bumper sticker for the intelligentsia..."

For Monday, read Cramsie Chapter 15, "Commercial Modernism."

Saturday, March 23, 2013

sleep, uses of.

Sleep plays an important role in the brain’s ability to consolidate learning when two new potentially competing tasks are learned in the same day...

William Harms, UChicagoNews, 20 March 2013

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Design Exhibit

I still need to scan in a few pictures from Cramsie to make this final but this is what I've come up with so far, thinking of turning it into a book. maybe.
These squares are 4x4 with a 1 inch square in the center.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


For Wednesday,
  1. refresh/replenish memory of Rick Poynor, "Art's Little Brother" (2005)
    in Alex Coles, ed., Design and Art (2007)
  2. Cramsie, chapter 20,
    Printing with Pixels : Digital Expressionism & Postscript: The Digital Future, c.1984 —,
  3. Read Brad Troemel, "The Accidental Audience," posted at The New Inquiry on March 14, 2013
    on what we do with art (and other) images, on tumblr and elsewhere


  4. give some thought to concluding/packaging your prospectus to design exhibit, one that argues an idea.

Friday, March 15, 2013


Errata from Alexander Stewart on Vimeo.

Errata (16mm, 2005) is an experimental film in which I used a photocopier to generate frames of animation. Each frame of the film is a photocopy of the previous frame. Both black & white and color photocopies were used to make this film, approximately 4,600 copies total.



post break


  1. Walter Benjamin —
    "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction," and
    "Unpacking my Library."
    reading notes/comments on both at the archived Design Stories blog for 2010, here.
  2. three essays in Alex Coles, ed., Design and Art (2007) —
    Alex Coles, "Introduction // Beyond Designart,"
    George Nelson, "Good Design: What is it for?" (1957),
    Norman Potter, "Is a Designer an Artist?" (1969), and
    Rick Poynor, "Art's Little Brother" (2005).
  3. the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) entries for
    "experiment" (noun and verb), and
    "experimental" (adverb and adjective).

The Benjamin readings pertain to the aura of the work of art — its loss in (his) modern times, and curiously, it's rediscovery (in "Unpacking my Library"), in the collection. The collection — the series, the multiple, even different iterations of the same. Where meaning/significance is shunted along, from one item to another, the encounter of each object with each other, and all with the beholder, all participantd in the unfolding narrative (or conversation?).
(But I digress.)

The essays in Design and Art pertain in part to "process" — the designer's process. This connects with Donald Schon's thinking about design as conversation.

Finally, the dictionary entries on "experiment" may help us think about the idea of "testing" in design.

We'll start on Monday with the Benjamin. Please take notes (or annotate your copies) as you read.


Tumblrites among you may be interested in two recent essays in/at/on The New Inquiry

  1. Brad Troemel, "The Accidental Audience" (14 March 2013) —
    on recycling art on tumblr (here), and
  2. Rob Hornung, "Escape from Love Jail" (7 March 2013) —
    on social media — and sociality — in general. Very good links worth following up, particularly one to a paper (on "escape") by Mariann Hardey and David Beer.

And please think about experiment/experience, experimental/experiential, and how these might pertain to design process/practice.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Bauhaus, Artist Animal, Curation.

Bauhaus, Cramsie Ch 13

Overall what I enjoyed and took away from this chapter was an understanding of the history of the Bauhaus in more detail than I knew before. In art history classes I've learned a bit here and there about pieces that have come out of the institution but never quite all the phases the school went through over the course of its being. The following are excerpts from the text that stood out...

"The idea of providing a general introductory course to teach the fundamental aspects of art was not new, but it was through the Bauhaus that such a course became the standard feature of art education in Europe and the United States during the second half of the twentieth century ... He saw the main purpose of the 'Basic Course', as being to free the students from any prior learning so that heir own individual nature could emerge." 191

"They took up what, at that time and in that place, were highly unusual practices, such as fasting, acupuncture or frequent gargling and garlic eating." 191

"Gropius's socialist belief in community and the role of art in binding communities together required his students to engage with the world around them, not retreat from it." 191

"The primary aim for this new kind of design was for it to be functional, or, as he put it, to find the 'right form for the stated function'..." 192

"A new emphasis on commercial art and advertising, rather than fine-art printing, brought the workshop a new status, which was reflected in its new name: 'The Printing and Advertising Workshop'." 194

"Moholy-Nagy called this arrangement an example of 'typophoto', a form of design he considered to be 'the most visually exact rendering of communication' ... In typophoto, however, they should be seen, heard and listened to." 194

"It was born out of the twin recognition that the cold, hard purity of mechanical reproduction could have a special form of beauty of its own, and more than that, that by breaking free of the human prejudice and artfulness that plagued the painter's hand, these new methods of image making could come closer to revealing the world as it really was." 195

"Today, most adult handwriting is so unpracticed it looks primitive, almost childlike." 196

"Why is there for one sound, for example 'a', two signs 'A' and 'a'? One sound, one sign. Why two alphabets for one word, why double the number of signs when half would achieve the same?" 198

"...exclude from their symbols any 'details which do not improve the [symbols'] narrative character'." 200

"Over time he [Jan Tschichold] was t hone his mastery of this kind of dynamic, balanced asymmetry to such an extent that even the most free-form and minimal arrangements were suffused with a sense of harmonious equilibrium." 203

Artist Animal, Steve Baker

Baker made good points in his statements, however it's hard to completely agree or disagree with them. They seem to be provocative where as they are taking a firm stance on one end or the other of an opinion which is helpful to form your own opinions but it's a bit confusing to put into context against what we're taught in school and from past history. However, I do understand the points being made and their supporting details, I appreciate the way they turn my thoughts in another direction to consider what is at hand. These quotes from 'On Artists and Intentions' 90-91 and 'On Relevant Questions' 180-181 show what I mean:

"It is neither theoretically necessary nor desirable to make psychologistic assumptions concerning the intentions of the photographer; it is the pre-constituted field of discourse which is the substantial 'author' here: photograph and photographer alike are its products and, in the act of seeing, so is the viewer." 91

"...complex of texts, rhetorics, codes, woven into the fabric of the popular preconscious." 91

"intention is a word I should use as little as possible." 91

"...the word intention refers 'to pictures rather more than to painters'." 91

"There are no good answers if the question is not the relevant one." 181

"Art consists in the shaping of just such 'precious tools for thinking'." 181


What I plan to do over Spring Break for the curation project is to write a detailed but moderately brief description of what the space I've deigned is and is meant to teach you. I want to make a book with this description as well as the images I've chosen and show an example of how it would look in the room. My overall idea for this is to create a sort of catalogue for the exhibit.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

tImeline of artistic styles

I was thinking of continuing this project with a timeline of other styles of art that were around during the art nouveau era. I was going to focus on three other styles of Post-impressionism, neo- impressionism and the arts and crafts movement. I was looking at these posters, paintings, glasswork, ect. as hanging on the wall side by side with matching dates. Saying these 4 works were done in the same year or time frame. It felt a little odd to me to put these works together because of how they are displayed in a history book when you think a style has 1 time frame and another one is right after or right before the style and no coexisting with it.

Removed from the Poster

Wall 1 and 2

Wall 3 and 4 

Wall 5 and 6 

Wall 7 and 8

Sunday, March 3, 2013

WW1 WW2 Curation

As a continuation to my previous exhibition layout. This exhibit displays large propaganda posters from World War 1 and 2. In the first exhibition I displayed 3 recruiter posters and removed the characters from the posters to stand alone. This brought up the psychologic play that each poster was providing for the viewer. This continuation holds that same concept, each poster displaying a psychologic, almost guilt trip to get young men of the time to join their country in fighting in World War 1and 2. The propaganda posters used in this exhibition are as followed:

  • "Dad's on the line busy fighting.", World War 1
  • "Send more men.", World War 1
  • "You're proud of your pals in the Army of course! But what will your pals think of you?" , World War 1
  • "Come on, Boys!", World War 1
  • "Careless Talk", World War 2
  • "The first three!", World War 1
  • You've got what it takes, World War 2
  • "A happy new year to our gallant soldiers!", World War 1
Above is the exhibit (on the left) straight on. Although the walls themselves would not be transparent in the actual exhibit, it shows how each poster has its own viewing area that is not interfered with any other poster. As you continue the path (shown on the right) that is set up by the walls the viewer will experience the same intimate viewing as before. The individuality and size allows the viewer to enter the piece and therefore will allow the psychological triggers intended by each piece to form.

Liv Varney Study of how Ornamental Design (Exhibit piece, not finished.)

 While looking through the past couple of chapters I noticed how there was a distinct transition from decorative text, line and composition to how it is progressively perfected to be immaculate, cleaner and more visually pleasing. I started by using William Morris's "The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer" as an example. I chose this as a starting point because it is a prime example of how important and well conducted ornamental design was in the 1800's. If you look closely to the book jacket and outer cover there are symmetrical lines that reach each corner. The inner page of the document is also full of all sorts of thick and thin lines that were once known as a language to people. Morris successfully created a beautiful folio while using the Chaucer type face as well.
The "Grammar of Ornament" document is very symmetrical. Owen Jones created this while being able to mimmick some of the patterns design elements that the Egyptians and Elizabethans used. His use of the ancient patterns allows this piece to radiate with a very historic feel. It is very interesting to see that in all twenty four of the panels there are different patterns in each but they all relate very successfully. He also used a very ancient perhaps gothic color scheme, especially in the bottom 9 panels, (the dark red and black).

In the "Penny Black Postage Stamp" the stamp seems to be very symmetrical. While not including the woman's left profile, you can notice that there is an ornamental border that flows around all of the corners of the stamp. The way that the text "Postage" and  "One Penny" are formatted it allows easy readability so that people can buy and use the stamps. Although the woman's profile is not entirely symmetrical compared to the way the the border and the text are formatted. It has a very strong relationship with the text that rests above it and below it. Also, the two crest-like ornaments in the top corners complement the woman's profile as well. The stamp has a very ancient gothic and ornamental feel to it. It is so beautiful and is filled with several different textures.