Monday, November 29, 2010

Design is Utopian

A Utopia is described as an ideal place or state. It is perfection that can never actually be achieved but is constantly strived for. Design is Utopian. Design makes up the aesthetics of culture in society and therefore is able to change it. Design strives for perfection and despite the fact that perfection is arbitrary and may never be actually be achieved design is a process that is repeated time and time again to improve itself and become closer and closer to the utopia state.

The rug above by Dutch partners Tejo Remy and Rene VeenHuizen is a great example of design and that is striving to improve society through its concept and aesthetic. The rug uses old disposed of blankets and strategically modifies and combines them to create an innovative piece of art. The form and use of the blankets are altered to reinforce the concept that just because an item has run out of its original use does not mean it is useless. The rug itself is part of the event “Reclaiming Design” hosted at HauteGREEN in New York. Here, designers contributed designs made of recycled and revived materials to reinforce the importance of sustainability. Many of the designs contributed were home decor objects such as coffee tables, magazine holders and draws that seemingly could have been made at home by the average person given enough time and thought. The pieces created by the designers still maintain a sense of higher creativity or “fine art” while at the same time remind the owners that they too can create something new from scrap that would otherwise end up in a landfill.

It seems that conspicuous consumption and consumerism mentalities are an index of an industrialized, progressive country however, designers are setting out to change the definition of a sophisticated society. Do be developed, does not mean that the individuals of society need to constantly be consuming. And recycling means more than just putting paper into the recycling bin. It may serve more purpose as the back of a note card, wrapping paper and then a coaster before finding its way to the recycling factory thus reducing the need to buy more disposable products.

Design Danger

Design should come with a warning: may sway user interests, views, purchasing habits, lifestyle or perception of the world. Humans as a general rule are visually oriented creatures thus empowering the beauty of good design and its capacity to create change. As many designers in the film Objectified expressed; it is important to operate with a social and economic and environmental conscious when designing objects especially those made for mass consumption. Culture and the constituents of culture are ever changing. Designers have a heavy impact on which direction this shift takes both aesthetically and conceptually and thus have a responsibility to society. However, not all designers are aware or, are conscious of but are not concerned with cognizant design. Propaganda posters are a prime example of designers who are aware of the power of visual stimulation and exploit it on behalf of the government or other special interest groups. Despite the seemingly harmless aim to rally support for a cause, which appears just; stereotypes and prejudices, are formed due to the target enemy of the propaganda posters. In the World War One American Propaganda poster above we see a monstrous Ape against a dark sky, city ruins, his mouth open and drooling and holding a threatening club while maintaining characteristics that link him to foreign German enemies. He is holding an obviously distressed lady liberty and stomping on the word “America”. The poster has only eight printed words yet is able to relay powerful messages. This single poster is not only encouraging enlistment but is facilitating war efforts through dehumanization and generalization and categorization of an entire country. Nowhere are the words "German" or "Germany" printed on the page but through small indicators such as the ape's helmet one can infer who the beast represents. Perhaps the designers of this poster were under the impression that they were simply carrying out their patriotic duty by creating an enlistment poster or perhaps they knew exactly what they were indoctrinating their viewers with. Regardless, design is dangerously misused and through a single image creates feelings of animosity towards an entire country.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Color transforms Design

Buff Monster, a mysterious L.A. artists who goes so far as to make public appearances in a disguise, is known for displaying his work in an urban setting on objects such as cans, posters and building walls. Recently, he has graduated from the streets and is now exploring large-scale inflatables, indoor wall spaces, toys, organized art shows and some corporate promotions.

Buff monster's work mainly consists of child like caricatures ranging from bowling balls, dripping ice cream cones and flowers to unicorns and whales. His lines are, for the most part, curvilinear and the faces angelic. However, it is not his bubbly cartoons that create his signature style but his color choice or lack there of. Buff monster's signature palate consists of pink, black, white and a limited gray scale. Buff Monster states “Pink is power” and it the pink that certainly empowers his work. He originally began with only one tone of pink, which he thought to be the ‘perfect pink’ but his work has evolved to incorporate four to five shades of pink and has slowly incorporated more values of the gray scale. Due to his limited Platte Buff Monster must strategically place his colors to make sure no tones are too similar so that his simple shapes get lost amongst one another. Each form is extremely important and thus must stand out amongst it’s surroundings. I find it intriguing that despite the relentless constraints of a single hue, minimal values and simple childlike figures made of basic geometric shapes Buff Monsters work has an opposing effect on the viewer. The work appears saturated, complex and the variation between the works is astounding. He abides by the constraints he sets for himself and creates a body of work that is divers and explores the crevasses of color and form that would otherwise be overlooked if allowed too much freedom.

As Josef Albers demonstrates in Interaction of Color when certain colors are juxtaposed they take on different characteristics. For example, when the same tone of pink is next to a white object it seems to ‘pop’ and be more lively and saturated while the same tone of pink in relationship with a black surrounding appears more subdue. Just as colors on the color wheel create an emotional movement within viewers, such as melancholic for blues, greens and purple in the right corner of the equilateral color triangle, pink is typically associated with girlie, cute and happy. Buff Monster juxtaposes this pink color connotation with somewhat grotesque mosnters and oozing mounds of sludge.The color choice evokes questions such as “Why pink?”, “What is he trying to say?”, “Why did he chose to say it in this way?” “What feelings does it evoke; disgust or admiration?”, “Can this be considered fine art?”, “Can it be considered design?”

images derived from

Monday, November 15, 2010

Kinetic Typography by Eric Hutchinson

image source: google images

Eric Hutchinson slowly approaches a piano sitting in the middle of a white limbo. A sense of floor is create with black and white block letters that read Eric Hutchinson 'Ok, It’s Alright With Me' ”. In Hutchinson’s simple and unconventional music video he utilizes kinetic typography in order to bring a new sense of life to his music. The lyrics take on auditory and visual forms thus allowing the viewers to create a deeper connection with the art piece in which they are observing. Unlike many rappers and bubble-gum pop artists today Hutchinson does not rely on over saturating his video with sideshows that include half nude women and sparkly dresses that have no connection to the music concept behind the lyric. Instead, he exemplifies the progression of music videos through basic design elements.

The entire video is in black and white and the majority of the subject matter that fills the screen is restricted to Hutchinson, his piano and the block letter lyrics that dance across the picture plane. The type itself takes on many characteristics such as instability, consist movement and extension while popping in and out of existence. Although uniform in basic color scheme and overall style the individual words and letters are slightly different and incorporate several angles, speeds, sizes, bolds and shades to subtly keep the viewer interested. Many designers(such as those interviewed in the film 'Objectified') argue that it is more difficult to create a good design that is simple than a design that is overly embellished and complex. Eric Hutchinson’s video utilizes the basic elements of design in order to create a simply charming and successful music video that engages the viewer on a deeper level through kinetic typography.


"Ergonomics" are human centered designs. The Greek etymology of the word can be broken down into ‘ergon’, meaning work and ‘nomos’ meaning laws. Typically, this word is associated with workplace items such as chairs, desks and lamps, which are all designed to fulfill health and productivity goals. However, ergonomic design can be observed in other activities and aspects of life such as leisure and regular everyday activities. The infant changing table and certain dusting tools are products of ergonomics due to the fact that they are design to fit the human body, either the whole body or specifically the hand, and conduct their desired function in a safe and efficient manor.

The ARCO arena in Sacramento is an example of ergonomics from both an individual and public perspective. The area can accommodate 17,317 people for any one event given that every seat in the house is occupied. When analyzing the complex as a functioning public venue designed for the masses it is quite successful. The parking is available and distributed around the main building to avoid a traffic build up in any one area. There are several entrances with wide ramps to accommodate handicapped and allow for a steady even flow of patrons. There are outer hallways that lead to the inside of the concert/sports hall which then break up the seating into smaller, controlled sections that allow for people to travel from one end of the venue to the other without having to climb over seats and others attempting to enjoy the entertainment. The seating itself is divided into two levels, one jetting over the other, which utilizes vertical and horizontal space and limits the observers view from being obstructed. The ceilings in the majority of the building are fairly high so as not to create a claustrophobic environment and the sound system radiates to all areas of the venue. The visual and auditory attributes and general layout of the arena are successful and are designed to provide a space for large amounts of bodies that go to enjoy various forms of entertainment. However, the achievement of mass accommodation infringes on the ability of the product to serve the individual. The relationship between quality and quantity, individual and public and money and service to customers is an equilibrium that designers must constantly balance.

On a personal level the ergonomics of the ARCO arena fail to deliver. The seats themselves are un-cushion, hard plastic with no armrests or real dividers between each seat. They are uncomfortable and do not form to the various body types, weights and sizes that might be occupying them. The space between the rows was almost non-existent and the patron that occupied the seat in front of them could feel the breath of the person sitting in the row behind. The floors are slippery, steep and the rails provided to aid in the dangerous declination are sticky and unstable from over use. In addition, the grounds and smattering of foliage is well kept but are aesthetically unimpressive as is the majesty of the building.

It would seem that a complex that is constructed to hold cultural gatherings, facilitate the exchange of information and represent the host city in which it resides in should be a reflection of the people and institutions that constructed it. The HP Pavilion in San Jose does not have much landscaping but the structure can be seen for miles. The face of the building glows as the interior lights blast through the glass front. The ARCO, however, is unidentifiable until one is standing in the parking lot. The face is mainly comprised of concrete and the signage takes no creative liberties.

The ARCO arena’s productivity and ease of use for large amounts of people is triumphant. The outer layout is obviously contrived to ensure mobility of large amounts of people and a steady procession of patrons that is convenient, organized and free of chaos that can so easily be slipped into when hosting such large amounts of people. But the comfort and safety for the individual especially when analyzing the interior of the ARCO is a failed design.

It appears that uniformity and profit won out to quality and loyalty to the individual. The ARCO is a testament that when designers are creating for the public they need to keep in mind that ‘the public’ or ‘masses’ are made up of individuals whose needs should be the priority. As Eames points out, designers must work within the constraints of the design, the patrons of the design and the hiring institution. And good design can work within the constraints of all three while still serving its purpose in an innovative manor, however when one component over rides another and compromises it as in the case of the ARCO the design is in danger of failure. I do not think that the ARCO is a completely unsuccessful design. However, I do believe that the creative processes could have be extended further and adjustments can be made in order to accommodate more of the individual needs.

Safety: X

Comfort: X

East of use: X

Performance (productivity): Check

Aesthetics: X

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Word and Image: Brand Baby

Rolling Stone, MTV, Coca Cola, Mercedes, Levi’s, McDonalds, Hershey’s, Nike, Barbie and the list goes on. Our culture is so overly saturated with brands some are more recognizable to children than political and religious figures. Children are a primary target for advertisers, through vibrant colors, the use of older role models, product placement and constant saturation of commercials though television kids are unable to distinguish between what is an advertisement and what is not. As shown above we are feeding our children culture made up of consumerism from the time they are born. The image above is making a strong statement using word and image about how our capitalistic society operates and the ethical issues that are arising as our society becomes more brand oriented.

Through the use of logos and symbols that are associated with commonly known companies the designer of this image is able to convey their disapproval of the direction of modern culture. To deconstruct the image using the philosophy of Rene Magritte this image is made up of pixels on my computer screen that create a photo of a mother and child covered in a compilation of pictures and words that symbolize companies that make up American culture. This image has reached me through a modern form of technology which speaks about the concept of the image. As media and culture develop so do the means by which people use them. Advertizing has become even more prominent through the advancement of technology. Resources such as the internet, cell phones, television and e-mail are all all outlets which have taken shape over the past hundred years and allow brands to more aggressively market themselves.

"Baby Brands" addresses the interaction between image and text through the lack of caption and the logos themselves . The image is so powerful it does not rely on any more clarification. In Understanding Comics Scott McCloud describes the relationship between language and image. He claims that the more realistic an image is the further it moves away from language and abstraction. On the other hand, the textual words that occupy the baby's body have become images. No longer do people need to read the words in which the logos consist of, the viewer does not need to speak the same language to understand what a the word is representing. Logos capitalize on creating a uniform color scheme and typography in order to hopefully create an icon that is recognizable to a large variety of possible customers.

Designers have an ethical duty to society to ensure that what they are designing contributes to the bettering of their community, after all , design is Utopian and strives for perfection. However, when designing logos or advertisements designers can too easily pass the buck and relinquish accountability for what they are creating due to their employment by larger companies. But individuals must be held accountable for their actions. They are apart of the social system and contribute to the formulation of it. Designers yield a molding power over culture and society and therefore must be continue to create with a higher consciousness of the repercussions of their designs.

image source:

Word and Image: Google

"Google". The Etymology of this funky word is derived from "googol", a term for the number one fallowed by 100 zeros and was selected by the founders of "Google", Larry Page and Sergey Brin, to be the name of their Palo Alto based company. 'Google', over the past 14 years, has grown into a household name functioning as both noun and a verb in describing one of this century's most successful companies in the silicon valley. The word google is now a search engine and the act of looking up a topic or stalking a person through the use of any one of the Google websites. The 'Google' home page has developed not only in function and form but the company itself has done an outstanding job of branding itself especially when creating their iconic logo. The font and color scheme of 'Google', which has been amended and improved over the lifetime of the company, is so recognizable it referred to in apparel, other forms of media and can be altered without loosing the essence of the design.

‘Google’ has made it a habit to accept ‘Doodle’ submissions, which it posts on its homepage to commemorated historic events, holidays, anniversaries, important figures in society and notable achievements. Kids, through world wide and local competitions create some of the ‘Doodles’ while others are derived from commissioned designers that allude to specific events that ‘Google’ finds significant. The ‘Doodle’ is ever changing and successfully conveys to the user both that they have reached the ‘Google’ homepage and the significance of that particular day. The content of the text remains consistent but the concept alters as the form of the picture evolves from day to day. The text itself is the ‘blank canvas’ in which the designer is able illustrated the idea, person, holiday event, etc. in which they are attempting to commemorate or allude to. Text is a great example of how we have been exploring the relationship between form and content to create concept. The form of the text the color, shape, size, style etc. and the actual letters that are strung together which create the concept. The successful interaction between these two elements creates a more successful conversation between the image concept and the viewer.

Shown on April 24, 2010, this 'doodle' commemorates the 20th anniversary of the Hubble telescope.

Shown on May 16th, to mark the anniversary of the first laser.
Google embraces inner childhood comic reader with the decorations of classic comic book characters in attribution to comic-con.
I have linked the first result that comes up on in the google search engine when the 'Doodle' topic is searched. Typically when the "Doodle" is clicked on it will lead you to a website where you can find more information on the event, person or achievement pictorially described. You can also click here for a website that shows more of the historical and scientific based "Doodles" posted in the past.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Glamorizing Bad Parenting

I thought the 'Joe Camel' ads were banded because of the appeal of a mature product to underage children? Why is this advertisement any different? Despite the white text in which “No Smoking” is advocated there is an obvious disconnect between the textual message and the pictorial one. The text is attempting to be a public service announcement while the image is counteracting it and portrays a beautiful, young and chic girl with a cigarette in her mouth. “Actions speak louder than words”, “A picture is worth a thousand words” need I go on? These two pictures are glamorizing bad parenting, smoking and skimpy, unrealistic wardrobe choices for pregnant young women. Pregnant women shop at maternity store for a reason and should not be pressured to remain as skinny as the model here. The girl featured in this image is extremely young to have a baby and maintains her slender figure and chic style while pregnant (when a woman SHOULD be putting on weight!) and neglecting her child. The attempted intention of the images was originally to promote healthy living and responsible parenting and life decisions. Instead of a proactive approach where the behavior sought is shown, the magazine this spread was featured in decided to show what they were fighting against. Unfortunately, there was obviously a miscommunication between designers and the creative process took a turn for the worst. In an attempt to create an aesthetically pleasing image the original concept behind the project became lost and unidentifiable thus enforcing behavior they set out to prevent.

images source :

VW: Vivacious and Withstanding

Since 1937 Volkswagon has been serving the common, working class citizen, a German based car company the name literally means "people's car". When first established, German cars were primarily luxury cars and the average person could not afford much for than a motorcycle. Today, the company has gone global and now provides cars including the Jetta, Passat and the Beetle.

The Beetle has a special place in American car lovers’ hearts. It is affordable, efficient and is still able to make a personality statement about the driver. It has inspired childhood games such as “slug bug” and is now decorated as cows, flowery meadows and literal translations of the name-bugs! Cars are a status symbol but in the case of the VW Bug they go beyond status exhibiting the individuality, economic and environmental state of the owner. Similarly to overly priced cars, a beetle easily attracts the attention of passers by. It is not because of it’s $200,000 price tag that makes the beetle so lovable but the nostalgia or sense of entertainment that it invokes through its historic face that seems to be smiling at you. The original model of the VW bug is now an icon used to create laid back hippie stickers, 60s references, kids movies, classic and reliable images. It has withstood the test of time in outlasting other car models and companies during economic down swings and times of intense competition in the car market. Volkswagon designers went beyond designing a car that is merely within the price range of the working class. They provide a vehicle that withstands the test of time while becoming a classic symbol in american society and creating an outlet for automobile expression.

image source: google image