With the Olympics in full swing, it’s a chance for the design community to re-heat some of the many arguments that have circulated about the brand design and identity of the 2012 Games. This recent easy-ride interview for Fast Company gives Wolff Olins a chance to say ‘told-you so’, and come out with some vivid brand double-speak in the process (the favourite of which has to be; “I don’t think dissonance means discord. It means an ability to be slightly off-center and still be cool – and actually means you’re cool because you’re slightly off center.”)
Elsewhere there have been overviews of the entire ‘branding package’, and there are still the myopic arguments being aired that this is not (and in fact nothing in the entire designed universe ever has been) as good as Munich ’72.
It seems that the most apparent issue is that in the contemporary games, speaking as someone who lives near to an olympic venue, there is so much branding of stuff – every ‘touch-point’ they would no doubt tell us, from the station signage, to the track numbers, to the incredible volume of advertising – that ‘design’ gets squeezed out at every turn, in favour of ‘roll-out’ (I don’t, to be clear, think these things are mutually exclusive, but they aren’t exactly the same either.) It also neglects that fact that this kind of thing (note this type of material is often missing from the fan-boy ’72 nostalgia-fests) could happen then (in 72), in a way that seems difficult to conceive of now, unless part of some kind of heavily strategised brand narrative. To wrap up, perhaps a word on the man who gave his name to that erstwhile branding establishment responsible for 2012, (a man who, in the words of Terry Eagleton, “one suspects would brand his own kneecaps if there was profit to be squeezed from it…”) – I think it would be a good time to revisit this analysis of OnBrand by Wally Olins.
New from Gestalten: Taken by Surprise: Cutting-Edge(1) Collaborations between Designers, Artists and Brands(2).
(2) negates (1) we wonder?
I was contacted recently by Alexander Negrelli, a researcher at the Jan van Eyck Academie, who is about to publish a book called Kommando Otl Aicher, looking at terrorism, politics, sport and design through the lens of visual identity. I’m really interested in what connections or parallels may be made between the corporate design for the Munich ’72 Olympics (which graphic designers can sometimes tend to fetishise to the point of cliché) and the broader issues of the political context of the time, and its impact on the games. I look forward to its publication, however due to funding issues within the Dutch arts, this has been delayed until later this summer. A trailer can be viewed below.
I’ve written a bit more about this, and connections to a forthcoming symposium on Munich ’72 here: M’72 Legacy « Visual Communication.
[Originally published on Central Station, circa 2010]
Web-sights: My four-year-old recently told me that I had ‘beautiful eyeballs’. I’m not sure exactly what he meant, but took it as a compliment, and also had a think about what my eyeballs do most of the time. And increasingly they look at computer screens (or phone screens, or television screens).
And what is on those screens is increasingly (even tv) networked information of one sort or another, being sifted, sorted and aggregated before my very eyeballs. This coincided with some stuff i’d come across about the future of attention (and the battle for it) and a colleague asking why websites are called ‘sites?’. What exactly is ‘site-like’ about them? I imagine the phrasing is a hangover from the early days of the world wide web when programmers were trying to reach a linguistic middle-ground, to try and help people with no knowledge or understanding of the web visualise its structure — ‘nodes’ become ‘sites’, connected by lines and so on. Probably now ‘web-windows’ (if you can set aside the microsoft connotations) would be a better phrase as frequently the site is more like a frame through which to view the same information connected in slightly different constellations, or filtered by slightly different parameters, or from slightly different angles. I’m certainly noticing in web-design that people are starting to talk about web-presence rather than the (singular) web-site, which seems a more realistic concept to embrace.
The idea of ‘network culture’, and networks within networks is fascinating to me. In the euphoria around many of web 2.0′s perceived triumphs its easy to overlook a parallel story of earlier engagement with networks, a rigourous critique of some of the californian liberal utopian ideology, and an ongoing critical stance, examining the tools at work. Clay Shirky suggests that “communication tools don’t get socially interesting until they get technologically boring”, which may have some validity in terms of mainstream or mass adoption and subsequent social implications, but that does not preclude some socially very interesting things also happening in technological infancy.
Looking forward, in a moment of syncronicity, sometime in 2047, the actual ‘views’ of this blog post will coincide with its title, i’ll have reached my eyeball-attention threshold, and i’ll be interested to see what analogies people are using to describe the web.
‘Whitney Biennial Breaks with Corporate Sponsors; Apologizes to Participating Artists‘, or does it? Excellent attention to detail in this parallel world, where the art establishment doesn’t willingly provide a veneer of cultural sensitivity to some crude capitalist carry on.
Instead of a New-Year rant (or ramble), how about some of my favourite resolutions? This pdf is from the briefing for a one-day student project we ran at the start of this term, and which possibly captures, (maybe even in ways unknown to me), the essence of my addiction to bad jokes in an educational context, and attraction to spurious nonsense.
Thanks to Lizzie for pointing out this lovely quote in The Secret History of Social Networking, Episode 3; “In a modern networked world, we are all brands and you want to be attentive to what brand you’re creating”.
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
“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.”
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.