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Monthly ArchiveJanuary 2015

events Saturday January 31 2015 02:39 pm

Thoughts from our talk at George Mason University

Lead Graffiti was invited to speak about our work as part of the George Mason UniversityVisual Voices Lecture Series” in a talk we entitled “A coloured letter at the bottom of a ditch.” The title was taken from a quote by the British type designer & sculptor, Eric Gill.

We started our day in Don Starr’s 2nd-year graphic design class, which happened to be working with calligraphy. They watched the film “Typeface” for the first half of class then the instructor asked us to talk with them. The students didn’t know us at all, probably only grasping most of what they knew about letterpress from the film

Talking to the students reminded me of the start of each year when I would walk into a class of new students. I had learned a year of new stuff and those students had forgotten a year of stuff (all of the stuff I had taught the previous year’s class). Today we were showing some of our work printed via letterpress and trying to make some connection to the students that might stick. We were trying to bring up anything that had calligraphy in it, like how letterpress and calligraphy are connected. I told them about us stumbling into working with letterpress because we wanted to take our Visual Communications students to London to help them get the feeling that “type had weight.” Like how a word in a poem that makes a very important point usually is a more weighty (significant) word than one in a newspaper article. I’m not at all sure we made the point, but it seemed like a good one so I said, “you’ll likely never do anything with digital type in the next two years that is more deliberate than what you will do working with calligraphy.

For any of the calligraphy students from the George Mason class who are reading this, here are 4 links to important online pages relating to calligraphy.

  • Saint John’s Bible - links to a Google search of largish images from the Bible. Jill and I saw an exhibition at the Walters Gallery in Baltimore on the book when it was about 50% done and it was really a fabulous exhibition. The bible is a recent manuscript Bible with wonderful illustrations. Click on a couple images.
  • APHA books of hours meeting - American Printing History Association meeting held at the Library of Congress to look over 2 dozen Books of Hours.
  • Grandmasters award - calligraphy by a friend, Satwinder Sehmi, from London.

I mentioned Stefan Sagmeister to make a point, but no one knew him. Yet, anyway, they will before they are done.

A bit later I took a shot at wanting to compare something about Shepard Fairey, a street artist, with a project some friends from “Grand Army” did in our studio one weekend a couple of years ago. No one knew him either. In my favorite photo of me, I’m wearing one of his “Obey Propaganda” t-shirts. So…

Thought #1: Seniors cannot know everything by the time they are sophomores.

A young lady sitting close by seemed to be starting to drift away, sitting quietly with her eyes closed. I kept talking for a moment and looked back at her and her eyes were still closed. I made a note to myself to not look back at her as it was going to make me want to stop the conversation all together.

I thought I would end with one of our favorite pieces which we love to show design students. It demonstrates the power of design to alter the thinking of your client. Our piece is a book with an essay written by British Author Nick Hornby and it is coupled with the lyrics of Bruce Springsteen’s “Thunder Road.”

It turns out Ann, the one with her eyes closed, wasn’t sleeping at all, but just choosing darkness over classroom light. Ann blurted out, “Nick Hornby. I know who that is!” She was familiar with Nick who had written the lyrics for an album with American singer-songwriter Ben Folds back in 2010.

It is worth mentioning that much of my teaching was based on trying to do a lot of things in a lot of ways, figuring that I had a better chance to connect with more of the students in a hopefully, significant way.

Ann was then my favorite student at George Mason University. So…

Thought #2: If you throw enough stuff at a group of students, something almost always will stick.

During our talk that evening I introduced Ann as my favorite student at George Mason University to the 250 students in attendance. It was hard not to think that the other 249 students were asking, “What the hell does that mean?” It was nice that she walked up front and talked to us some afterwards. I would have hated remembering her back in that dark corner.

For anybody from the Visual Voices talk reading this far and headed into design, I apologize for that typographic fiasco during the presentation. I really love the typeface I was trying to use. I often use it in its italic form which is quite calligraphic. The typeface is called Rialto (by DF Type) not the crappy typeface of the same name by Linotype or Letraset. My version doesn’t have italic capitals, but the lowercase has some wonderful expression.

Below is the italic lowercase which might give you some nice ideas for calligraphy. Sweet. We often use it as our house face for our personal work.

Now Ann needs to email me so I can send her something to celebrate the connection.

Studio projects Sunday January 18 2015 07:03 am

Portrait with Vandercook Universal III

We’ve been needing an in-shop portrait for a while. Applying to a magazine for inclusion in an article forced our hand.

Studio projects Saturday January 10 2015 10:05 pm

Art Directors Club “Grandmasters” article

I’m not sure I ever saw the Art Directors Club of New York annual which announced the inaugural awarding of the title of Grandmasters to design instructors. At this point I had retired and had quit adding the books to my collection. I was Googling something and the article suddenly appeared. I looked up the book on and there were copies easily available, so I bought two of them—one was for DCAD, who received a good number of the design books from my library, and the other was for Lead Graffiti’s library. I thought I would share the wonderful page designed for ADC88 back in 2009.

You can click on the image to see it double size.

Nine of my absolute favorite projects ever along with my favorite portrait were shown on the double-page spread. Truly a great honor.

From upper left clockwise:

1 Rethinking 2009 — This was the first notion we had of doing our Boxcards using recycled boxes as the stock.
2 Histories of Newark: 1758-2008 — A 300-page hardback which we designed. We took hundreds of photos for the book, most notably the “citizens band” that runs through every page and includes more than 3,700 townspeople.
3 All preservation is merely theoretical if you can’t keep the roof from leaking. poster for the American Printing History Association’s national conference at Columbia University. A copy was given to every attendee. The type is from our orphan wood type collection.
4 Can you have too much good typography — The poster celebrated a visit and talk by Justin Howes from London about his digitizing Caslon from original printings. The image is a single piece of 18″ x 24″ wood type that we made for the poster.
5 Think Small. Again. — Poster for a Visual Communications year-end exhibition reflecting back on the 25th anniversary of Volkswagen’s “Think small” ad. It was included in an exhibition of Volkswagen advertising at The One Club in New York.
6 Don’t let another art director beat you to the punch — This poster was the tipping point for my own feeling that I could complete on an equal level with other people and schools which I had envied from afar. Mounted in the Art Directors Club of New York exhibition on the same panel as one of Stephen Frykholm’s Herman Miller barbeque chicken picnic poster.
7 Yes 2005 — Poster printed via letterpress for a Visual Communications year-end exhibition. There are 11 pieces cut with a laser from a 1/4″ sheet of Plexiglas.
8 On October 5 we fished all day but didn’t catch the big one — Poster directed toward Saul Bass who called us about the piece.
9 The whole world is talking — The 3 versions of an 8-foot poster silkscreened in 2′ segments of voice bubbles for a Visual Communications year-end exhibition. Printed on a roll of paper 0.7 of a mile long. The stacked posters were handcut (total length was 2.8 miles). There were 36,000 rubberstamp impressions. Yes, it was a job, but a killer piece that won us a bunch of design awards.

Everyone of those is a nice moment in my life and reminds me how good a run I had with a bunch of amazing students, friends, and design professionals.