Zygmunt Bauman on Managerialism and Design

There’s a film excerpt here of Zygmunt Bauman discussing the rise of managerialism and it’s associated effects on design, systems, and humanity. He goes on to discuss how this has since changed, and his ideas about ‘Liquid Modernity’.

It’s from An Interview with Zygmunt Bauman, part of the forthcoming documentary ‘The Trouble with Being Human These Days’, directed by Bartek Dziadosz and produced by Grzegorz Lepiarz

Artists Space: “Identity” Symposium

“Is a constructed and mediative notion of institutional “identity” inherently part of a relationship between a contemporary art space, and its audience? Are the principles of branding and marketing at odds with the notion of a “critical” art space? How does the formation and maintenance of an “identity” relate to institutional policies, and political and economic positioning? This symposium opens with the premise that progressive theories around branding and marketing have come to occupy an equivalent arena to cultural production, in which the reading of complex codes and reflexive modes of address are paramount.”

via Artists Space | “Identity” Symposium.

They Do Things Differently

Do Graphic Designers just pick typefaces? Sometimes ‘rationale’ can become a cumbersome and overwrought part of the design process (whatever that might be) and other times it provides the perfect funnel for ideas and decision making. This post outlines some of the thinking behind the typography for ‘they do things differently there’ — an exhibition by MaCats, ECA. It originally appeared on Central Station at the same time as we were designing the print and website for this exhibition, in May 2010.

The design uses three typefaces: Folio, Bookman and Geometric Slabserif, all of which offer interesting ‘parallel’ histories, non-linear maleable history being a distinguishing feature of this exhibition. Any aesthetes or gridniks out there may wish to look away at this point.

Folio: Designed in 1957 by Bauer and Baum, Folio was one of the first popular swiss sans serifs in the late or international modernist style, but has since become overshadowed by the ubiquitous Helvetica, (also developed in 1957).

Geometric Slabserif 703: a precursor to the more popular Memphis typeface by the same designer: Rudolph Wolf… so like an early draft of a more popular later version. Memphis too has been overshadowed by more popular slabserifs: lubalin and rockwell, and to an extent serifa

Bookman BT Headline: The original version of Bookman was designed by Alexander Phemister, born Edinburgh 1829 – “Bookman … has become a lastingly popular ‘workhorse’ design for plain, easy-to-read text, and to some extent for display as well. It is derived from an oldstyle antique face designed by A. C. Phemister around 1860 for the Scottish foundry of Miller & Richard, by thickening the strokes of an oldstyle series. From there on, his design was copied and refined over and over again, starting with the Bruce Type Foundry (Antique No. 310), MacKellar (Oldstyle Antique), Keystone (Oldstyle Antique), Hansen (Stratford Old Style). His design of Bookman was refined at Kinsley/ATF in 1934-1936 by Chauncey H. Griffith. … Numerous implementations of Bookman exist, such as the free URW Bookman L family, and the free extension of the latter family in the TeX-Gyre project, called Bonum (2007).”

The reason for using this typeface is slightly different to the others — it hasn’t been forgotten, overshadowed or overlooked, but it does have an interesting ‘parallel’ history with many different versions and iterations of the same face continually being cut (going viral, to make a web 2.0 parallel)… and an Edinburgh connection.

Brand Rooms

Brand-washing of the most mesmeric order, for Deutsche Bank, reported via CreativeApplications.Net.

The BrandRoom is a fairly well established concept where a kind of mini-exhibition is set up that creates an experience which embodies and communicates the brands ‘values’ and history, but this is perhaps the most sophisticated and technologically advanced that I’ve come across, with all the Orwellian implications that entails.

The designers and bank say; “The Kinetic Logo takes a purely associative and aesthetic approach to translate the brand values of passion and precision into space. The logo becomes a kinetic sculpture with its central, diagonal part sliced up into 48 triangles. The triangles move in a complex choreography of flowing 3D structures that appear to hover in the air.”

Hyper Links

“Great cultural changes occurred in the West when it was possible to fix time as something that happens between two points”

McLuhan, Understanding Media 

Details »

Politics of Aesthetics

“If you don’t address the politics behind the aesthetics, there will be no real change. Like in “critical design.” So basically, there’s are still people today, who do the stuff Droog designed back in the 1990s. They do it even better than Droog did it. But Droog did it when it was also politically relevant. Of course the politics of those aesthetics have been re-defined in the meantime. So you can’t do the same thing now, and imply the same thing. We perceive it differently now. We’ve all ingested that material and, in the meantime, we’ve seen other things. They don’t produce the same effects they once did.

Now I’m interested in the sort of politics that point to the hidden ideology of critical design itself. If you talk about the ideology of critical design in the late 90s, you could talk about Dunne & Raby, Design Noir and the hidden narratives of consumer objects. What are the secret narratives of electronics?

Its interesting that those were the politics of that time, defined by the information age, a global capitalist society, a post-Wall world, the idea of a risk society and hyper-individualization. But again, critical design from the 90s no longer produces the same effect. We’ve seen other things. And we’ve seen a total breakdown of the free market and social democratic ideology, yet without another model taking over. We fully experience the ‘lack’ or shortage of a new model that Ulrich Beck talked about in his “Risk Society” thesis, written over two decades ago.”

via That New Design Smell.

Black/White

‘Both/and’ (rather than ‘either/or’) surface in mainstream design discussion (via gsa blog > eye blog > walker art center). But its interesting how people often contextualise their use of ‘state of flux’ to describe a discipline or area of activity, inferring that this state of flux may one day resolve itself, and that it is somehow a battle of ideologies, to be concluded. The flux is in reality almost not worth mentioning, as it is an ever constant, and the uncertainty, pluralism and duality it brings are positive, rather than negative.

Good Questions


“The period since the 1960s in particular has seen significant shifts in the perceived role of contemporary art in society, as well as the impact organizations displaying art have on economic and political infrastructures and vice versa. “Identity” attempts to animate the typically fraught relationship between cultural and corporate spheres, as contemporary art institutions become increasingly preoccupied with their own image. How do changes in the graphic identities of art institutions over the last five decades reflect the shifting landscape of institutional policy and strategy? How does the conception of ‘identity’ – through an organization’s use of graphic design, its marketing and branding – function to mediate between audience, artwork, and institution?”

via Artists Space. Coming to Tramway, Glasgow, Fall (or Autumn), 2012

Every Movement Needs a Logo?

Every Movement Needs a Logo says the New York Times.

“Of 6 established design practices, only @projectprojects understands that Occupy Wall Street does *not* need a symbol.” tweet Metahaven.

OASE Journal for Architecture

OASE Journal for Architecture has a new website and better still, editions 1-81 are available as PDF’s to download to your non-brand-specific portable tablet device. OASE is/has been designed by Dutch designer and educator Karel Martens, and is an exemplary example of design for an organisation which is consistently of the highest quality but which doesn’t need to conform to a rigid template or formula, and is coherent without needing to adhere to the dogma of consistency.

via OASE Journal for Architecture « Visual Communication.

Identity 9-1-1

The first of this week’s graphic identities to mark the ten year anniversary of 9/11, this from the Times newspaper. The headline above it is also quite telling. For an insightful analysis of the WTC site and events, from an architectural point of view, this article from Domus makes an interesting read. (Includes mention of a proposal by GSA New Build architect Stephen Holl).

Flat Land

Always a fan of drawing out connections where there are non, we were wondering why everything seems so ‘flat’ at the Design Museum at the moment. What we’re talking about here is about how the exhibitions are presented, rather than the subject of the exhibitions themselves — From the already-quite-flat work of Wim Crouwel*, to the not-at-all flat work of Dieter Rams, subject to a methodical and clinical flattening by Biblioteque, (and the promotional material for the current Kenneth Grange exhibition), we were wondering why this flatness, of a particular 1960′s/70′s variety, seems to be so popular with our leading Design Museum? This minor observation prompts the following wild and ill-informed conjecture:

Is the visual style of late-modernist/swiss-modernist design an easier sell to members of the general public than any other period in design history? Is the proliferation of digital technologies, (and the accompanying explosion of infinite possibilities), creating an inverse movement that is attracted to screenprinting, limited colour palettes, and the denial of the third dimension? Is there something in the air, from political and civil unrest, to financial insecurity, to the brave new web 2.0 of hackgate and wikileaks, that means we find a nostalgic and simplified view of design (and the world) reassuring and comforting?

*The caviat here is that to see Crouwels work in the flesh, it is not ‘flat’, and just to reiterate that this post is talking mainly about the way this work is marketed, partially about how it is curated and reflected upon, and digital emulations of a particular period in the history of Graphic Design.