Seems that time is traveling faster than I can keep up! Noticing the frequency of entries are beginning to lag – I’ll try to do better to keep up the pace.



I wanted to post this recent entry on the TED site (the ‘ideas worth spreading’ site where those that create talk) – it’s a talk by the grandson of the infamous Charles and Ray Eames, Demetrios Eames – those prolific masters of furniture and film – the couple that gave life to molded plywood furniture that was to become the icon of the 1950s.

Here Demetrios discusses the approach and thoughts his grandparents had towards design and mentions some thoughtful quotes: “design as a life skill not a professional skill”; “a designer is like a good host anticipating the needs of the guest”; “the extent to which you have a design style is the extent in which you have not solved the design problem”. I particularly like the prototypes and the hands on trail and error approach they had to their work.


Find more at their official site, at the Eames office

Chaumont Poster Festival, France

The International festival of the poster is held in Chaumont, France, now in its 20th year. It’s on a list of graphic events that would be great to visit – despite and excuse to visit France. The festval showcases 100-120 posters from over 40 countries that have been submitted to the theme-based competition and they also run poster design workshops.

This year the festival took place between May 16 and June 14, 2009. The prize money: First Prize : 7500 €; Second Prize : 4500 €;
Third Prize : 3000 €



Gustave Dutailly was an avid collector of posters and prints dating back to the early 1900s which included works from Toulouse-Lautrecm Chéret, Grasset, and many images from the birth of graphic design. A resident of the Chaumont, he bequeathed his collection to the town – and in the early 1980s the town staged a festival and put these works on display.

In 1990 the town inaugurated the first “Rencontres Internationales des Arts Graphiques”. the aim of this festival is to echo the artistic production on the field of visual communication on and international scale.

Finding out information on the event proves challenging without understanding French, but you can find out more at their official site: www.chaumont-graphisme.com.

See a very insightful and visually pleasing video on the event is at www.etapes.com/interview/chaumont-2009-tour-dhorizon, Just as well it has plenty of visuals as it’s in French ;-)

Milton Glaser

I wanted to make mention of one of the outstanding designers/Ilustrators of the last century, Milton Glaser – and with the release of a new documentary on his life and work I thought this would be a good time.

Milton Glaser was one of the most influential designers that came out of the 1950s, his style was defined by simplicity, orginality and directness of idea. He was responsible for some very iconic graphics, some of which are in the gallery below. Discover more insight into Milton Glaser at his website www.miltonglaser.com

The documentary on Milton Glaser is titled To inform and to delight and was released this month. Not sure if it will make it to cinemas here, but give it time and you’ll find it on Amazon, I’m sure!

I also wanted to point you to a talk Milton gave in 2001 where he discussed 10 things he has learned – it’s a very insightful read.


Ten Things I Have Learned

Part of AIGA Talk in London
November 22, 2001

1 You can only work for people that you like

This is a curious rule and it took me a long time to learn because in fact at the beginning of my practice I felt the opposite. Professionalism required that you didn’t particularly like the people that you worked for or at least maintained an arms length relationship to them, which meant that I never had lunch with a client or saw them socially. Then some years ago I realised that the opposite was true. I discovered that all the work I had done that was meaningful and significant came out of an affectionate relationship with a client. And I am not talking about professionalism; I am talking about affection. I am talking about a client and you sharing some common ground. That in fact your view of life is someway congruent with the client, otherwise it is a bitter and hopeless struggle.
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Failure by Design

paulrand_illoThis is an article by Paul Rand, discussing the failure of some CEOs to acknowledge the strength of visual design as an effective tool for their businesses and not to be seen simply as decoration. Read on …

Because design is so often equated with mere decoration, it is safe to assume that few people understand what design means or the role it plays in the corporate world. Graphic design pertains to the look of things — of everything that rolls of a printing press, from a daily newspaper to a box for corn flakes. It also pertains to the nature of things: not only how something should look but why, and often, what it should look like.

Why then do design programs in large corporations seem to be going out of style? Why is the average graphic design effort today merely average at best? Is the paucity of good designers and good CEOs possibly the reason for the paucity of good design? The Arco Oil Company began to lose interest in its design program when it chairman Robert Anderson departed. The highly acclaimed CBS design program began to erode when William Paley and Frank Stanton were no longer active.

One rarely hears of the program that put Westinghouse on the design map. And when Walter Paepcke, the CEO of the Container Corporation of America died, why did the flow of distinguished advertising by world-famous painters and designers cease? Is it mere coincidence that when Rawleigh Warner departed, Eliot Noyes’s elegant designs for Mobil stations were aesthetically downgraded?

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At this rate I think I might call this blog Design in History – not a bad idea as history holds, what appears to be, an endless source of inspiration for innovative ideas and visuals that stand the test of time.

Olivetti played a large part in creating innovative and contemporary marketing visuals in their time.

Established in 1908 by Camillo Olivetti with the first typewriter manufactured in 1910 – as you might imagine – the typewriter would have been almost as innovative as the computer in those days, freeing up the labor-intensive hand written manuscripts. Adriano Ollivetti, Camillo’s son, was appointed general manager in 1933 and set about employing architects and designers to develop a modernist aethetic for the company, which was popular at the time – which permeated throughout the organisation, from thier factory buidlings through to product design and to their advertising and graphics.

As early as the 1930s, the Development & Advertising Office, headed initially (1931) by Renato Zveteremich and later (1937) by Leonardo Sinisgalli, became a cultural centre which attracted, applied and spread new ideas in corporate graphics and communication. Its role and philosophy were further strengthened between the 1960s and 1980s under the leadership of Renzo Zorzi.

Over the years, an impressive number of painters, graphics artists, scholars and architects have been involved in the development of graphics art and advertising communication to match the Olivetti style and the characteristics of its products. After the creation of a series of posters on the first Olivetti machines created by M. Dudovich, the company’s advertising and institutional graphics made ample use of the talents of Giovanni Pintori, who worked with Olivetti between 1938 and 1968, and, a few years later, Egidio Bonfante. Their work complemented that of the product designers and architects who were planning Olivetti’s buildings and also designing graphics, exhibition stands or gift objects. – Source

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Urban typographic play

Stefan Sagmeister Urban Play

Stefan Sagmeister Urban Play

The renowned contemporary visual designer/artist Stephan Segmeister created this public art installation in an Amsterdam square – a typographic expression of a statement “Obsessions make my life worse and my work better” made up of 250,000 Euro coins covering 300 square meters, painstakingly put in place by a team of dedicated workers over a period of 8 days.

Find out what happened to the this public art once it was completed – 250,000 coins in a public space! not quite what was expected, find out here

Video of the works on day 5

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Nazi but good

OK – I’m being brave, I am going to talk about the dreaded Nazis and i feel a bit nervous about it – but I think that feeling sums up what I want to discuss about the Nazi movement – the impact of their graphic propaganda and the emotional affect it had on the German people and the world – and how, even now, the sight of the swastika makes people feel uneasy.

There has been no graphic visual more confronting in modern history than the presence of the swastika (traditionally a symbol of good luck). It is a pure form – just one step up from a simple cross.

It is suggested that Hitler decided that the Nazi Party needed its own insignia and flag in the 1920s. The Swastika symbol had been used by the Aryan nomads of India in the second millennium. In Nazi theory, the Aryans were German ancestors, Hitler considered the swastika had been eternally anti-semitic. The choice of red as a dominant colour is also well considered as it represents power, life, vitality …

The Nazis exploited the power of visual design, they were the masters of the brand identity and creating a sense of unity through the confidence and power that was encapsulated within their striking and simple visuals – primarily the large symbol on a bright red background. It created a powerful sense of authority and was immediately recognisable. No where to be seen was the German flag – they appeared to present themselves as a power above even their own country.

Man Ray

It would appear that this blog is turning into a design history leason, not that there’s anything wrong with that – just that there are so many engaging, effective and inspiring examples from the birth of modern design and communication.

Man Ray, an avant-garde photography and painter, explored the modern technology of film back in the 20s and created some surprisingly contemporary works. As modern designers explore the power of computers and modern software, Man Ray explored the visual capabilities of film. This clip of one of his films from 1923 demonstrating his eye for composition, shape and texture – compiling apparently unrelated visuals into one artistic expression.

Old technology, timeless design

We see technology progressing at such speed that we see a generation of children unaware of what existed before digital – magnetic tapes, vinyl records, film, cut n paste, floppy disks – I recall not long ago using Syquest disks to send artwork.

Gone with this analogue generation are the fabulous graphics that adorned the packaging of these products – design that would find a contemporary place in today’s design world. Here are a few examples of camera film packaging from the not too far gone past. See more at photo, film & sound ephemera

Designing simplified complexity

As designers we are confronted by many visual challenges, and I would say, by far, designing complex information as diagrams hits the top of the scale. I’m not talking about bar or pies here, I’m refer to street maps, complex relationship diagrams, scientific theories. It requires the utmost attention to detail and the ability to communicate the concepts clearly, and above all, be engaging and integrate with what ever publication it is being applied to.

Below are some examples of extraordinary diagrams that attempt to communicate complex information – I say ‘attempt’ as I can’t actually make sense of them! Though if you can’t understand them then they can simply be hung up as art.

These examples are from Visual Complexity