Wednesday, April 30, 2008


Modernity in Hamburg

This office building looks awesome! And it is very functional as well...

This is an office building in Hamburg, Germany designed by Jurgen Mayer H. This building sits near the Alster river and the organic curvy windows are suppose to reference back to its natural surrounding.

The curves from the outside continue inside the office. The inside is mostly white to make it look more fresh and modern away from the common static and dull business offices we are use to seeing.

Mike Yu's Website

This is my URL....

Diminishing Randism

J.Bo's website.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008


finally, my website is finished (with sources to the quotes included)

click the picture above to check out my interpretation of "design superheroes" and their epic battles from history!

Friday, April 25, 2008



Once you get to the selection page, select abstract expressionism because it is the only one linked at this moment. You can view all of the pages through that page.

A Square of Design History

My website is slightly in progress but progress is almost at a stop because of something called a portfolio. It's going to be more elaborate when it is done. Right now, it is only one html but I still need to link it to the other 64 htmls. Thank you and goodnight. 

Get sucked into the whirlpool

of designers and nations.

"Swiss modernism is fucking dead..."

...not for real...

Begin begin Helvetica

Finally finished with the website. I feel like I just gave birth to a 14 pound, 17 page bastard love child of Neville Brody.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


My website is finally finished and working. Go check it out...I mean, go dissect! (pun intended)


Men's Vogue and Design

Men's Vogue asked some designers to choose some "enduring" influences. The influences range from BIC pens to Ferraris to Helvetica. Check it out at

Monday, April 21, 2008

Are you a true Mac fan?

this is the site that I have linked to my website:

25 Signs


Sunday, April 20, 2008

Beard Typography

Beard Typography! Genius!

I found this on the core77 blog that I think Wayne Li told us about during his lecture. It took me a second to read the letters, but I thought it was pretty funny.

This is the original blog.


Bauhaus music

I came across this English gothic rock band named Bauhaus, and obviously they referenced their name off of the movement. They chose the name because of its "stylistic implications and associations." I listened to a short demo clip of their music, and I honestly didn't think it correlated much with the movement's principles. Modernism + goth + punk? Ehhh.
But I think the notion of imagining a style of music that goes with a design movement is really interesting. Just a thought!

Friday, April 18, 2008

De Stijl is still around!

This is the new La Madeleine email advertisement, with a very evident De Stijl influence! Even the mini parfaits are red, blue, yellow, and white.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Very strange, ...and disturbing.

I saw this article about a Yale senior art student's final show. She documented herself over a period of 9 months where she forced herself to have multiple miscarriages. It's not exactly design related, but it has to do with "art."

Link is here.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

I thought this was really cool and that y'all would like it.  Here is the Link:

Saul Bass site

Here's a cool Saul Bass website I found - very nice design, too. It really integrates motion and sound well; it might be be some kind of inspiration for our website project. The way the site links back to its other pages as you go through it is great. Check it out here.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

muller brockman posters

here's a great video that i found designed by gary butcher as an homage to josef muller brockman.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008


I found a website named after the elaborate set of Playtime, Tativille. Each of the floors link to a different Jacques Tati film. The website also includes some photographs of the set construction of Playtime.

Design Heroes

I found this article that asks, "But how can a serious designer not have a design hero?"

It's pretty relevant to us! We used to not really many designers, but look at how far we've come.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Tibor Kalman: (I Believe in the Lunatic!)

“Graphic design is a means, not an end. A language, not content.”
-Tibor Kalman, Perverse Optimist

Tibor Kalman is most renowned as a graphic designer, but is perhaps best defined by many as a champion for activism, both for sociopolitical issues and against corporate authority. His main philosophy of using good design for a good cause remains a consistent thread throughout his most notable endeavors. Most critics agree that the projects he worked on in his lifetime are innovative and radical. In particular, his design firm M&Co, his direction of Colors magazine, and his “Fuck Committees” essay are testaments to his portfolio of achievement. However, after evaluation of his work within its cultural context, one begins to question the legitimacy of his critical acclaim. Thomas Frank, a major critic and writer of cultural politics, argues in his essay “Half Empty” against Tibor Kalman’s supposed “radicalism” in design and society. Was Kalman truly a hero of his philosophies or did he simply stand behind a façade of idealistic visions?

The 1980s, a decade known for big hair, bright colors, and loud music, hardly seems capable of being the breeding ground of good design. However, in New York, this precise era and its rebellious attitude was a perfect setting for Kalman’s experiments. At this time in the United States, race relations were brought to attention. More African Americans were able to join the workforce due to affirmative action initiatives, the number of Asian American immigrants largely increased, and President Reagan signed House Resolution 442 to give reparations for surviving Japanese American internees. A contagious paranoia of AIDS led to a widespread belief of it as a “gay disease”. Social responsibility became prevalent with the U.S. mandated drinking age of 21 brought about by organizations such as M.A.D.D. (mothers against drunk driving). In terms of the economy, the baby boomers from the 50s became the new, young, and educated middle class. These yuppies held an enormous amount of buying power, and did not hesitate to spend it on luxury goods and services, contributing to a rise of large corporations. Technological advances led to not only a revolution in the style and aesthetics of a personal computer (Apple), but allowed for a revolution in information systems in the 1990s with the birth of the world wide web. This online factor characterizes the end of the twentieth century with the introduction of an entirely networked society. The Internet opened up an endless channel of opportunities and possibilities to the new millennium. Globalization was thus able to flourish, although it raised questions of national identity. Within the cultural and economic context of the 80s and 90s, we can find the rationale behind the conception of Kalman’s work.

“ We’re not here to help clients eradicate everything of visual interest from the face of the earth. We’re here to make them think about design that’s dangerous and unpredictable. We’re here to inject art into commerce. We’re here to be bad”

-Tibor Kalman and Karrie Jacobs, from Print magazine, Jan/Feb 1990

Even from his early years in college, Tibor Kalman chose to participate in events supporting issues he believed in. A frequently mentioned anecdote recalls his membership at NYU in the “Students for a Democratic Society, the radical organization that orchestrated campus shutdowns to protest the Vietnam war” (Heller). The compilation of essays and design work as presented in Kalman’s biographical book Tibor Kalman: Perverse Optimist suggests that he lived his life and worked his career following his mantra of using design as a means for a greater cause. He was against both the practice of design for design’s sake and the tendency of designers to conform to the authority of the corporate client. Kalman criticized the monstrous infiltration by corporations into every aspect of creative culture. In fact, many of his written works carry the anti-corporation theme. However, with every argument concerning the design world and corporate world, there will be the underlying contradiction of culture and commerce. In “Half Empty”, Thomas Frank presents the best argument against Tibor Kalman’s flawless resume. He disputes Kalman’s originality, substance, and adherence to his ideals, all questions worth considering. Tracing Kalman’s philosophy through a selection of his significant projects will best demonstrate the criticism.

In 1979, Kalman founded his New York based design firm M&Co with Carol Bokuniewicz and Liz Trovato. Named after Kalman’s wife Maira, M&Co started by doing standard design studio work such as print advertisements and CD covers. The humble beginnings of M&Co necessitated its willingness to take on whatever projects the studio could acquire. Yet, even with the creative limitations, the products were still clever, witty, and groundbreaking in its “undesign” method of design. The advertising campaign done in 1986 for Restaurant Florent, mainly designed by employee Alexander Isley but with Kalman’s input, greatly attributed to the company’s notoriety. For example, yellow page icons were used to represent each point of information. The truck is chosen to symbolize Florent’s location in the meatpacking district, a simple chair stands for the comfort of the restaurant, and a gun for the crime rate of New York City. There is a clear sense of humor in this piece, but none of the social advocacy that will become prevalent later. Only after years of client-based work was it possible for Kalman to have the financial backing to take the company in a direction more parallel to his design philosophy. In 1989, for the annual Christmas present to their clients, Kalman chose to insert a series of messages and $26 in a secondhand book. The messages reflected the presumed indignant thoughts of the client upon receiving an old book as a present; however, the true message of the gift was revealed at the end, where a message proposed the idea of donating the included $26 to a charity, complete with a stamped and addressed envelope. The majority of work done by M&Co cannot only be attributed to Kalman, but rather to his employees. He never claimed to draw well, nor did he have any formal training in design; he was known for his ideas. It might seem that M&Co is not an accurate account of Kalman’s design talent, but rather a documentation of the range of talented designers he employed. Anecdotes from interviews with his former employees reveal their boss to be an avid perfectionist that almost drove them mad. However, the legacy of his influence shows in designers such as Alexander Isley, Steven Doyle, and Stefan Sagmeister, all of whom produced great work at M&Co and left to eventually start their own successful firms. Kalman’s design principles still make a lasting impact in the world, if only through the work produced by those he influenced.

In 1993, Olivier Toscani, a photographer known for his shocking imagery for the United Colors of Benetton’s advertising campaigns, approached Kalman with an offer to work as editor in chief for Colors magazine. As an experimental side project for Benetton, Colors was promoted as “a magazine about the rest of the world”. Steven Heller makes the point best in his essay “The Man Behind the M” when he notes that “[Kalman] had zipped through his entire career to arrive at a point in his life where he could now hone in on how design could be used as a tool for communication and propagation of his ideas”. Upon accepting the job, Tibor Kalman was handed a blank canvas to execute his creative liberty. It was almost entirely devoid of any advertisements, and each issue concentrated on a single topic of cultural taboo. Among hefty issues such as race, religion, and AIDS, the issue for which Kalman is arguably best remembered is Colors issue 4 on racism. He sought to confront the audience of the existing racism in everyone. Using photography by Olivier Toscani, he formed provocative text-image relationships to communicate his ideas. In one section, various celebrity icons are retouched as a different race. Queen Elizabeth is black, and Pope John Paul II is Asian. Each of the 13 issues produced by Kalman was equally as visually compelling as the issue on Race. Regarding Kalman’s direction of Colors, Thomas Frank finds the magazines containing “powerful images and strong language skillfully combined in the service of fatuous corporate sentiment”, or simply a transparent extension of the Benetton advertising campaign on multiculturalism. The discussions brought up by Kalman in Colors are matters that have been debated before, and yet he provides no solution to the issues besides a Benetton-like “simplistic, ultra-virtuous multiculturalism” (Frank). This connection is undeniable, and one can argue that Kalman, is in fact, not “radical”, and was not the first to use design for a greater cause. George Lois and Howard Gossage, two advertising icons and influences of Kalman’s, particularly come to mind. George Lois’s Esquire magazine covers portrayed a jolting image with critical commentary on current events. Howard Gossage’s agency worked on campaigns against the damming of the Grand Canyon and the destruction of redwood forest sites. His belief of advertising's future of lending itself to public service causes closely parallels Kalman’s beliefs (Gossage). Hence, Colors magazines might not be a revolutionary manipulation of corporate sponsorship, but it could ironically perpetuate Benetton’s financial goals.

“Consumerism is a treatable disease”

-Tibor Kalman, Perverse Optimism

Building on this debate, Kalman’s 1998 manifesto “Fuck Committees” is his final zealous didactic on anti-corporation. He writes fervently on his disapproval for the corporate takeover of culture, stating that “the creative people are now working for the bottom line” only to satisfy “the lowest common denominator”. The majority of the essay vents on the self-destructing state of American culture into a corporate culture. Only in the final paragraphs does his “perverse optimism” appear, where he concedes that despite the grotesque progression of society, the subject of his tirade is “only 99 percent true”. Unlike the issues he presents in Colors, Kalman suggests a solution. To treat this consumer disease, he calls for designers to find “the cracks in the wall, [lunatic entrepreneurs] who understand that wealth is a means, not an end”. His resolution presents more cause for scrutiny than satisfaction. To use and follow the force that is the enemy is an oxymoron. This contradiction has also been debated in his use of Benetton sponsorship for his supposedly anti-corporate Colors project. Strangely, Kalman has also equated wealth and graphic design with the same definition. Moreover, to refer back to “Half Empty”, Kalman’s rant is based on “an oddly dated view of the world of business”. According to Frank, the battle of the corporation versus creatives was prevalent in the ‘60s, but not in the modern day. From my experience in college so far, today’s Big Idea driven marketing and advertising is not only a strategy employed by all the major companies, but also taught to lecture halls of students as the most sought after talent in the creatives. Thus, Kalman might have been entirely shortsighted or dated in his view of this corporate problem and his “radical” solution for redefining culture.

Tibor Kalman: radical activist or unsubstantiated actor? There is no denying his wide scope of creative products throughout his lifetime; at times it is intentionally ugly, and other times brilliantly witty. Studying his career proves not only to be an interesting investigation into the cultural context surrounding his work, but also reveals the layers of questions and contradictions in the age-old debate on the relationship between art and commerce. In fact, in our new millennium, Adbusters, a social activist movement both in print and online, is strongly fueled by Kalman’s voice, and receives much of the same criticism. For me, there remains no clear answer to the art and commerce debate or to the true identity of Kalman. However, from evaluating his philosophy, methodology, and execution, I would define Tibor Kalman best as a teacher. The consistent tie throughout his work and throughout his life is an unwavering dedication to communicating and sharing his basic principle of using design as a force for the betterment of society.

“Eventually you’ll forget all this but there will be plenty of new ideas to choose from. And I believe that they’ll be better.”

-Tibor Kalman, Perverse Optimist

Kalman had the personality and talent of being able to inspire others, whether through awe or anger. None of Kalman’s employees at M&Co who left ever went back to work there, but most became successful in their own design careers; most of them also cannot deny Kalman’s influence. Kalman’s Colors magazines might not have proposed solutions, but it provoked thought and reaction from a generally passive society. The role of a teacher is not to dictate a set of answers, but to ask a set of questions. “Fuck Committees”, while unresolved in historical accuracy, still exhibits Kalman’s strong voice and ideology that clearly influenced members of our modern society, as noted with Adbusters, or, a group devoted to using Tiborism to guide the future of web based design to support a greater cause.

For my menu redesign, in the spirit of Tibor Kalman, I chose Veggie Heaven, an Asian vegetarian restaurant that advocates human rights with regards to the Falun Gong practice in China. To lessen the frightening tone of the message, I addressed the injustices to the Falun Gong more subtly by making a take out menu/exercise guide that shows the five daily exercises of the Falun. Rather than taking direct influence from the bluntness of Kalman, I recontextualized his ideas to apply better to my project. Rather than being remembered as a revolutionary graphic designer, Tibor Kalman’s philosophy outlives him in the work of the people he has influenced.

Works Cited:

Frank, Thomas. "Half Empty." Artforum 1999:

Gautam, Meenakshi . "Advocacy Advertising." Howard Luck Gossage. 2 Apr 2008 .

Heller, Steven. "The Man Behind the M." Tibor Kalman: Perverse Optimist. Ed. Peter Hall, Michael Bierut. London: Booth-Clibborn Editions, 1998.

Tibor Kalman: Perverse Optimist. Ed. Peter Hall, Michael Bierut. London: Booth-Clibborn Editions, 1998.

Aleksandr Rodchenko

Aleksandr Rodchenko was a Russian Constructivist painter, graphic designer, and photographer. Rochenko was born on December 5, 1891 in St. Petersburg. His design work was versatile as he worked with various types of design from furniture and architecture to clothing design. Within his graphic work he designed posters, film captions, and book covers. His later work consists of experimentation with photography and capturing different radical angles, leaving the traditional static compositions behind. Rodchenko was trained in painting and started his career in painting as he graduated from Kazan Art School in 1911. Influenced by the futurists and is known to have been one of the founders of Constructivism, he left painting because of its decorative aspect and subjectivity. He was more interested in carrying on a universal language and believed that art should serve a cause. In these harsh terms he completely discarded painting, saying “Down with art if it is an escape route from a meaningless life! Not for art that reproduces the external world, prettifying it with a decorative mantle, but for a constructive art that reflects our way of life.” (The Future is our only Goal) This quote is embedded in my mind as I think of Rodchenko’s line of work and how he was against the painterly aesthetic but managed to undertake painting once again in his last years of his career. A medium that he left forgotten throughout his work describes both the start and end of his career.

The Constructivist movement relating to Rodchenko’s work was about art used as a political and social voice that was “not just in providing an escape from the grim routine of daily life.” (The Future is our only Goal) The Constructivists were struggling against traditional and decorative art with an intention to create new utilitarian forms. Constructivists concentrated on analyzing work objectively and shifting the new importance of the outer aesthetic of a form to the functional aspect of a structure. There was an emphasis on the use of materials and how they could be manipulated to create form. Rodchenko and his wife, Varvara Stephanova, published a Manifesto on Productivism, in which they declared, “Down with art, long live technical science.” (The Future is our only Goal) Productivism went against the “social uselessness” of art and proclaimed that art should serve a purpose. Painting and sculpture was accepted as a study or draft, used as research during the process of the final product. Rodchenko and Stephanova collaborated throughout their career and both shared a common style. “Constructive life is the art of the future. Art that is useless to life has no place except in the museum of antiquities. It is time for art to become an organic constituent of life” (The future is our only Goal)

In the 1916 Magazin Exhibition in Moscow, Aleksandr Rodchenko exhibited alongside Vladimir Tatlin and Kazimir Malevich. Malevich’s Suprematism and Tatlin’s Constructivist work influenced Rodchenko’s later work. Suprematist works were composed of geometric shapes, most commonly circles and squares. Naturalistic forms were abstracted into geometric objects. Rochenko was then determined to create a more objective and less personal form of art that steered away from a free-hand aesthetic to the use of geometric elements. He followed Tatlin’s aesthetic qualities of engineering and construction as well as the rational use of materials.

In 1921, Rodchenko set his transition from painting with the triptych, Pure Colors: Red, Yellow, and Blue. The work was composed of three canvases each painted solidly with a different primary color. It was displayed in the 5X5=25 Exhibition in Moscow as the first monochromatic painting. This work was considered to be “pure” as it encompassed the primary colors as the basic forms and foundation of color. Rodchenko emphasized that painting is made up of line and color. His geometric compositions in painting demonstrated his value in rendering smooth planes with mathematically accurate detail. Rochenko began thinking of the artist as an inventor, an idea can describe his transition into design.

His wife Varvara Stepanova influenced his transition to the applied arts. They began to design posters for businesses and propaganda. Vladimir Mayakovsky wrote the slogans and texts for these designs. They both worked together in publicizing new political and artistic ideas in advertising while introducing the product. The Russian Revolution (1917) caused hope and presented an opportunity to transform the nation. “The utopian imagination- a means to envision new possibilities for human life-was particularly strong at the time of the Russian Revolution.” (The Struggle for Utopia) Rodchenko believed that the artist had the capability to create work that could inspire social change and educate the masses.

In 1924, after using photography of other artists for his work, Aleksandr Rodchenko decided to take up photography himself. Photography was a new medium separate from the conventions and pictorial compositions of painting. The camera was an industrially made machine and the process of developing film consisted of calculated operations such as exposure to different chemicals. Interested in photography as documentation, Rodchenko experimented with shooting his subject at odd angles. Rodchenko wrote, “One has to take several different shots of a subject, from different points of view and in different situations, as if one examined it in the round rather than looked through the same key-hole again and again.” (Aleksandr Rodchenko) He believed that traditional forms of photography distanced the viewer from their subjects. As Christopher Crouch points out “Rodchenko was arguing for an extension of the way in which photography defined reality.” (Modernism, Design, and Architecture) Rodchenko’s Girl with Leica depicts his interest in line. The shadow in this photograph creates a linear grid, which was common in his work. He integrated elements such as stairs, buildings, and overhead wires that created constructivist linear structures. This is not a straightforward picture; the camera manipulates the composition. The subject does not control the photograph, the camera does. There is a definite contrast between light and dark, which was also one of Rochenko’s approaches towards photography. “In order to educate man to a new longing, everyday familiar objects must be shown to him with totally unexpected perspectives and in unexpected situations. New objects should be depicted from different sides in order to provide a complete impression of the object.” (Aleksandr Rodchenko:Photography)

In question of what a Russian Constructivist would do if given the task to redesign a Restaurant Menu, Aleksandr Rodchenko would seize the opportunity to include a political message. My approach concentrates mainly on the formal qualities of his work and incorporated non-decorative elements. In redesigning the Pluckers restaurant menu, I decided on using some of Rodchenko’s distinguishable characteristics of his work. I decided to incorporate the uniformity produced by the placement of shapes and how those shapes determine the position of the text and image in the composition. The shapes work together to hold both text and image in place. I also adopted Rodchenko’s camera angle techniques, which established a new way of seeing things. I also wanted to keep the humorous and hip display of the original Pluckers menu. For the front cover text I decided on replicating the typeface from the cover for Soiree of the Book (1924) because I felt it encompassed his typography work. The cover did not include all of the letters I needed to spell Pluckers, however, I brought the characters into illustrator and used them to create the extra letters. I also edited the content of the menu and included the most popular items and what the restaurant is famous for, wings. For the cover, I chose to photograph the Plucker’s sign, located outside of one of the Plucker’s restaurants, at an angle so that word “wings” would appear along with the arrows pointing towards Pluckers. I used the sign to reveal what the restaurant serves as well as to describe the scenery inside. The restaurant is filled with television screens that are always showing sports and neon lights. I chose to depict this by emphasizing the neon lights in the sign and making the other parts black and white. For the entire menu, I decided to stay with a color palette consisting of red, yellow, and black. This color combination that was inspired by Rodchenko’s Pure Colors painting, which conveniently happened to be the same for the Pluckers logo. For the inside of the menu I chose to communicate three aspects of the restaurant, its popularity amongst UT students especially sports fans, its fun and wacky environment, and their well known wings.

Aleksandr Rodchenko received much criticism for his early painting and radical photography technique, and was pronounced a formalist. With much criticism he was excluded and exiled, and spent the rest of his life in his studio drawing and painting. Rodchenko wrote, “I’m absolutely unneeded, whether I work or not, whether I live or not. I’m already as good as dead, and I’m the only who cares that I’m alive. I’m an invisible man.” (Aleksandr Rochenko) He removed Constructivist paintings, posters, and photographs and replaced them with his circus paintings and works of both his wife and daughter. His painting, Romance: clown with dog, is in no means representative of Rochenko’s emotional state. It is composed of color and stroke, opposite of his earlier renderings of defined lines and solid use of color. The figure is not as geometric and is a direct representation of a circus performer. The subject has not been deconstructed to its pure form but it is a direct depiction. This painting is representative of Rodchenko’s personality, incredibly contradictory to Constructivist ideology. Rodchenko’s paintings were non-realistic renderings, but real subjects that have been transformed by his fantasy and imagination. They are non-objective compositions that never left his studio because of their controversial content.

There is a disconnect between Aleksandr Rodchenko's painting and design work. His photographs are accounts of his more expressive work because of his experimentation with working with angles and attempting to define his subject. His photography serves as a bridge that connects and defines his work. His Constructivist work adheres to his want for change while conforming to the norm at the time. His exile caused him to get back into painting to create non-practical compositions. This was Aleksandr Rochenko’s chance to work for only himself in his studio with no confines and restrictions of the Stalinist nation.

Lemoine, Serge. Alexander Rodchenko: Photography. 1st ed. Paris: Centre National De La Photographie, 1987. 1-70.

Noever, Peter, ed. The Future is Our Only Goal. Munich: Prestel-Verlag, 1991. 1-260.

Elliott, David, Lord Gowrie, and Alexander Lavrentiev. Alexander Rodchenko 1914-1920. London: Sotheby's LTD., 1991. 1-250.

Quilici, Vieri, ed. Rodchenko: the Complete Work. Cambridge: MIT P, 1987. 1-303.

Margolin, Victor. The Struggle for Utopia: University of Chicago Press. 1997. 1-253.

Shigeo Fukuda's Poster Design

"What is a Japanese poster? A spectacle, a pleasure, a shudder, a shock? Like every miracle, it does not serve up instant comprehension, nor does it respond to conventional interpretation. It impresses through its elegance, its abstract components, its indirect message. Its intense impact or subtle gentleness must be felt before it can be understood."
— Catherine Bürer, art historian specializing in Japanese posters

It is doubtful that a Japanese poster designer like Shigeo Fukuda would seek to understand another designer in terms of a 'movement' or 'period.' Such periods seem to exist primarily in the minds and words of western historians. The Japanese method of study places its focus on the individual over the 'movements' western criticism seeks (in retrospect) to define (Bürer 7). But distinctions such as these are eroding rapidly as the homogenizing effects of globalization are felt more acutely, so perhaps it is best to look at Fukuda's poster design in both the western tradition of a ‘style’ or ‘movement’ and in the Japanese 'rhizomatic' interpretation, merging and layering individuals from the past with the still living Fukuda. We shall begin to understand his signature and how it relates to his relationships with western designers, as well as how production methods and technology have influenced his process, content, and stylistic tendencies.

To understand how these works came into being requires both an understanding of the unique slice of time of Fukuda's formative years and the periods in which the work was done, from the metal type-based Swiss formalism of the 60's and 70's to the introduction of the computer as a graphic design tool, to the post-modern appropriation of historical work for contemporary concepts. As we shall see, Fukuda's inventive, yet subtle, use of optical illusion and unconventional illustrative devices have remained essentially unchanged during the course of his 50-year career as a freelance designer, a fact that only strengthens each work both individually and when viewed collectively.

He was born in 1932 and made origami as a boy. Several highly influential Japanese poster designers were born within a few years of Fukuda, including Ikko Tanaka (b. 1930), Kazumasa Nagai (b. 1929), and Tadanori Yokoo (b. 1936). The connection between their western-influenced work, WWII and the reconstruction post-war period occurring during their formative years is unquestionable. Fukuda graduated in 1956, when the Swiss school of design began its rapid domination of print design (and a few years before Helvetica's birth). Two years after graduation, Fukuda began working independently for clients he had acquired.

Of course, all writing on Fukuda would be purely conjecture without looking at his work. I have selected three posters from three decades that I believe support my analysis of his

Shigeo Fukuda Exhibition
Keio Department Store
In the first poster, female and male legs protrude from white and black mass and then dissolve imperceptibly in a simple repeating pattern. It is the impossibility of the image that provokes the emotional response Fukuda is looking for, that miracle Bürer speaks of. Economy of line and resulting clear delineation of form – hallmarks of the Swiss poster – are present, but text, the final communicator, the function to which all other elements must conform, is simply presented along the bottom, unassuming and not clamoring for attention. So while Fukuda has no qualms about adopting the pragmatic style conventions of Swiss design, he seems uncomfortable, in this instance at least, with the Swiss marriage of image and function, artistry and marketing.

Graphic Design Today
A faceless figure transcends the picture plane, stares at a blank sheet of curled paper, and steps on the repeating type in the background, subversively establishing the supremacy of image and emotion and the human over practical content and function. The viewer is compelled to project themselves onto the faceless figure, to contemplate themselves and what the figure is presumably contemplating, and only then, after this respite, does the poster reveal its communicative, advertising function.

Perhaps the concept behind this contemplation of print can be best understood in a historical context – the early 90s – when the advent of desktop publishing and the promise of even more powerful digital tools would have no doubt weighed heavily on the mind of a designer who made his career in an analog world.

World Graphic Design Conference Nagoya
In Masterworks, Fukuda pays tribute to the Ukiyo-e engraver Yoshifuji, whose 1861 engraving, "Faces of Five People Made to Look Like Ten," inspired the 'composition mechanism' that creates movement and interest in this poster.

"I wanted to recreate the interesting and mysterious structure of this picture of exotically dressed children to the full extent," Fukuda writes (in awkward translation). This is a telling statement. He is essentially admitting to stealing a concept from a dead artisan and adopting it to his own end – a 'post-modern' working method but one that is forgivable, for Fukuda is humbly giving homage to the roots of his craft.

The white figures are defined in detail and form by red and function as a visual metaphor for the stated mission of the World Graphic Design Conference (in essence): to define quality of information through clarity, creativity, and joy/humor and convey this message to the international design community. The international part is obvious enough – connected bodies form a circular whole – but the visual play goes one step further, embodying that desire for quality information: the figures are clearly represented and the visual meme is clear, the original concept is creative, and the joy/humor is inherent in the connected bodies (although it is more explicit for kanji readers – the faces are the symbol for 'laugh').

I would hold that these three posters are enough evidence to suggest that while they may be stylistically similar, there is a clear difference between Fukuda's work and that of his western contemporaries, like Müller-Brockmann. If Bürer's assumptions about the function of the poster in Japanese culture are correct, then perhaps the difference is best understood in terms of classically defined eastern vs western culture. Japanese culture in particular is wary of the finality and rigidity of absolute truth implied by rigorous logic, along with its resultant dogmatic laws and rules, and will happily show its failings (see Kurosawa's Rashomon).

Japanese poster design can trace its roots back to the tradition of woodblock printmaking, a noble art that lived on after WWII when fast, cheap, high quality commercial printing became available. This stands in sharp contrast to the West’s (American in particular) almost myopic commercial application of the art form. Not that the posters of, say, Toulouse-Lautrec or Jules Chéret were without any appreciation of artistry – on the contrary, they rival Japan's best – but the motivation behind western design is fundamentally different.

"Japanese designers do not share the European's aggressive, unconditional will to create effective, sale-oriented posters. Instead, they take time with ideas, allow them to grow, before converting them into visual representations with monk-like discipline and devotion."
— Josef Müller-Brockmann, The Poster in Japan

To the Japanese, poster design is, first and foremost, a form of cultural communication, a commercial activity second. The poster must create an emotional response in the viewer - a poetic image – to give them respite from the burdens of this world, but also to remind them of the balance inherent in it – a Buddhist concept, to be sure.

Catherine Bürer wrote, "In Japan ‘anything goes’ as long as it astonishes or seduces." The emotional impression is paramount to logic and reason — the absolute is unattainable, and possibly evil. It is this ever-shifting, ethereal quality of the emotion, drawing us into the simple illusion and meditative trance of the picture plane, that makes Fukuda’s work so consistently intriguing and fresh after so many years.

Poster Exhibition by Ten World Artists. Idea, 1982.
Fukuda, Shigeo. Masterworks. Firefly Books, Buffalo, NY, 2005.
Kirei - Posters from Japan. Thames and Hudson, London, 1993.

Tibor Kalman

Tibor Kalman was born on July 6, 1949 in Budapest, Hungary and died on May 2, 1999 from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He “use[d] contrary-ism in every part of my life. In design…always trying to turn things upside down and see if they look any better.” (Kalman). Whether it was recreating a lunch box given to the homeless on Christmas Day and distributing it as a seasonal gift for his M&Co clients, or creating a magazine about “30 different countries, published in five bilingual editions, and distributed global,” Tibor Kalman is known for using design as a means of mass communication to expand the general public’s knowledge on social issues. (Colors) Although his philosophy was to “shock people out of their complacency,” questions of whether Kalman’s methods were appropriate in their presentational approach in regard to audiences, and the originality of his designs are ever present when discussing his work. (Colors)

In 1956 a riot against communism, “Bloody Revolt,” broke out at the Polish Embassy in favor of a socialist Hungary. This episode initiated the invasion of Hungary by the Soviet Union. Kalman, age eight at the time, fled with his family to the United States and settled in Poughkeepsie, New York. Kalman attended NYU and studied journalism for a year. He found his passion for design when he became supervisor of Barnes & Nobel’s in-house design department. Kalman opened the M&Co design firm along with two partners: Liz Trovato and Carol Bokuniewicz, in 1979. In 1990, Oliviero Toscani approached Tibor Kalman about producing a multicultural and multilingual magazine for Benetton, a clothing brand. Kalman agreed, so long as he would have control over “creating, editing and designing.” (Kalman, Colors) The first issue was released in 1991, and the publication would be known as Colors, “a magazine about the rest of the world.”

Most of Tibor Kalman’s work was produced during the 1980s and 1990s. Aside from fluorescent clothing and big hair dos, the 1980s was categorized by a rise of conglomerate corporations, an increase in tolerance of racial minorities amongst White Americans, and the concept of diversity in the advertising emerged. According to the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA), “In the mid-1980s two names changed graphic design: Macintosh and Tibor… Tibor may not be as influential on the daily practice of graphic design as the Mac, but his sway over how designers think — indeed, how they define their roles in culture and society — is indisputable. For a decade he was the design profession’s moral compass and its most fervent provocateur.” The 1990s experienced an increase in individualistic expression through fashion and tattoos, more tolerance towards gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender members of society, and MTV’s launch of the reality show: the “Real World.” Kalman was well aware of the changing tide of attitudes and America in the 80s and 90s, and played off them brilliantly, constantly defining and redefining standards.

The M&Co design firm produced commercial work ranging from advertisements, to CD covers. The firm’s client list included New Wave Music Group, Talking Heads, Chiat Day, MTV, Restaurant Flourent, Limited Corporation, and many other important entertainment and pop culture influences. As M&Co became more established, their work became more selective; the firm began as a “compliant consultancy devoted to assuaging client desires,” to having more control of the work they took upon and what was produced. (Perverse Optimist)

M&Co participated in giving its clients seasonal self-promotional gifts. These presents ranged from a ruler with a printed image of a naval flag according to the recipients last initial, to a box filled with paperweights resembling crumpled, yellow-lined paper. According to Micahel Bierut in his essay “The Joy of Getting,” “in the 1980s, everyone in the New York design community knew about M&Co’s Christmas gifts...Never did they once resemble the tragically pointless, self-indulgent things that most design studios send out for the holidays under the delusion they’ll get business that way.” For instance, Kalman’s 1990s “Bon Appetit” gift included giving away identical lunch boxes resembling the meal given to the homeless on Christmas Day by the Coalition for the Homeless in New York City. The guerilla strategy included distributing cardboard boxes filled with a sandwich, a can of apple juice, a piece of cake, a packet of mustard, and a $20 bill. The items were wrapped in a sheet of newspaper taken from the “Real Estate” section of the New York Times. Thus, as an M&Co client opened the box, he or she was greeted by a message: “Pretend for a minute that you just stood in line for two hours in the freezing cold and at the head of the line they gave you this. Bon appetit. Happy Holidays from M&Co.” The person receiving the gift was also presented with facts about the number of homeless people in the United States⎯something close to 70,000. The thought provoking aspect of the gift came down to how the client should reallocate the twenty dollar bill: taking a value/moral led approach to provide further food to those less fortunate or a greedy approach, spending the money on unnecessary items and services. This specific project emphasizes Kalman’s abilities as designer but also challenges them. Are Kalman’s strengths at designing, or rather redesigning? Kalman reinvents and re-contextualizes; his method of “designing” is based on the experience of receiving a lunchbox ⎯being placed in the shoes of the homeless⎯ and giving the receiver a choice of lending a helping hand. There is no use of forceful action in Kalman’s method, but his technique questions moral values.

Although it is unknown if Barbra Kruger directly influenced Tibor Kalman, her work too speaks with juxtaposed images and text. While the combination of text and image can be viewed as a language of its own, Kruger chose her words carefully for the use in her works. Kruger was fascinated by the written word and its place and influence on culture, specifically its constructive use in myths, history, and jokes.

Barbra Kruger’s work above, were created in 1981 and are untitled. There is a direct formal connection between the pieces: the juxtaposition of black and white imagery with text written in a modern typeface. The contemporary typeface, Futura, seems to modernize the photographs while simultaneously making the typography appear old-fashioned, reminiscent of 1950s science-fiction typeface.

Barbra Kruger’s potential influence on Tibor Kalman is apparent in the various Colors Magazine issues. The combination of typography and Kalman’s provocative use of confrontational imagery is what made the publication “ a magazine about the rest of the world.” For example, on the very first issue of Colors Magazine, to represent the “birth” of the publication, Kalman included an image of a doctor holding newborn baby with its umbilical cord still attached; he emphasized the baby crying by placing text in a radial pattern around the infant. Moreover, in the famous 1993 spring issue “RACE,” “about how race affects our lives and how racism can take many forms,” Kalman includes two nudes on the cover, where just enough text is used to cover up their genitals. The text reads: “Race, attitude, lies, truth, power, first dates, and sex.” While the subtitles function as censors on the cover, the photographs inside the magazine, however, are fully exposed and uncensored. Kalman is stripping people down to strictly race, and gender; according to Kalman, the images are a “way of showing the problem quickly and bluntly.” In fact, Kalman said that, “the idea that seems obvious to [him] is that everyone would become so intermarried that the whole notion of race would evolve to the point where there would be no races.” In the article titled “So, what’s the difference?,” Kalman juxtaposes images of various colored ears. He furthers this comparison by questioning the difference, “Brown skin? Black skin? White skin? ...Or Asian skin?” In the article, “What if…?,” Kalman included digitally altered images where he changed the race of celebrities and other well known public figures⎯ for example, he made Queen Elizabeth black. In both of these examples, Kalman brings the notion of confusing color with race to imply how society subconsciously classifies people by the color of their skin. Is there really confusion between color and race? Or is it ignorance and the need to classify people?

Tibor Kalman’s work is not solely based on enlightening the public on current social issues. Kalman’s double sided-umbrella presents a different, somewhat playful side of Kalman. His design mimics a typical umbrella in form and color, but what differentiates it is an image of a cloudy sky located in its interior. The umbrella is often directly used as a symbol of Kalman’s perverse optimism; if it is raining, your perception is changed when a glimpse up reveals a cloudy, blue sky. Kalman, with this umbrella, further illustrates his undying optimism and sense of humor.

Using Tibor Kalman’s methodology, I chose to redesign McDonald’s value meal menu. I found a connection between a fast food restaurant and Kalman’s philosophy on vernacularism: serving food to the ordinary people. The difference lays in McDonald’s, as any other fast food chain, serving Americans unhealthy food. As a result, obesity—especially child obesity—has been a recent problem in America. Taking Kalman’s technique of educating society on current social issues, I redesigned a menu that revealed possible health risks that may be attained from the consumption of too much fast food. I also took unappetizing images of the value meals. Using another of Kalman’s methods, I secretly revealed the meals’ individual calorie, fat, and cholesterol content. Images of the value meal fries and drink combos were altered to read: large, extra-large, or an extra, extra large. The subtitle, “Choose your size,” causes the customer to question how large he or she will become after consuming an unhealthy meal. I also renamed all of the food. Instead of ordering a “Big Mac” a consumer would order a “Big H-Attack;” if a consumer wanted a “Quarter Pounder” he or she would order a “Quadruple Bi-pass.” The names all were either certain types of heart conditions, diseases, or procedures and were arranged in a circular pattern to highlight the images of the food. The value meals correlated to the new name of fast food restaurant, “Hearty Hut.” The dominant image in the menu composition is french-fries protruding form a bloody heart. If possible becoming obese was not enough to enlighten the consumer; I thought maybe the possibility of early death would.

“Of the two names that changed design in the ’80s and ’90s — Mac and Tibor — one changed the way we work, the other the way we think. The former is a tool, the latter was our conscience.” (AIGA) Kalman’ s work acts as historical documentation of society and culture during the two decades of the 1980s and 1990s. He used his work as a method of inspiring change in the minds of Americans, and helped redefine the way people think.

Works Cited:
Hall, Peter. Bierut, Michael. Perverse Optimis.Tibor Kalman.1998.

Kalman, Maria. Peltason, Ruth. COLORS “Tibor Kalman: Issues 1-13.” Harry N. Abrams, Inc. 2002

Kalman, Tibor. Medalists. "Tibor Kalman:Provocateur. The American Institute of Graphic Arts.1999.

Modernism + Hip Hop

Of all the modernist designers, few have had as big an impact on poster design as Josef Mueller-Brockmann. His concert series posters for the Tonhalle orchestra hall in Zurich beginning in the mid 1950's best exemplify this. Their simple yet effective layouts and design are incredibly clear and dynamic. The primary method employed in designing these posters was a reductive one. All formal elementals were reduced down to their simplest terms. This idea of reduction, however, was not at all a new idea. Modernist movements such as De Stijl and Bauhaus had already begun instituting these principles in their work starting in the early half of the 20th century. This can be seen in any of Mondrian's Composition pieces or in Kandinsky's paintings where complex imagery is reduced to abstract forms based in geometry. Rather, it was Mueller-Brockmann's method of instituting these principles in an area with no prior exposure to them that made his posters unique. Almost fifty years later, a rising hip hop producer would use the same methodology and create one of the most respected albums of all time, suggesting that when applied, these principles very well have the potential to make a product better.

Many of the Tonhalle posters embody Mueller-Brockmann's principles in a most engaging and dynamic fashion. Mueller-Brockmann himself was a musician and connoisseur of classical music, and he had been interested in finding a way to portray music in a two dimensional sense for quite some time: an intriguing but very complex idea. With his 1955 poster for a performance of the Coriolan Overture from Beethoven's Fifth, he succeeded immensely in carrying out the aforementioned concept by employing elements to fulfill it in their simplest terms. For example, complex math was involved in determining the stroke (the fibonacci sequence, for example, determined the increasing stroke of the arc lines), location, and deletion of areas in the multiple circles that emanate from a central point (that point is coincidentally where the text is located), thus dynamically calling attention to that central point. However, the viewer would probably never suspect the complexity of all these incorporated aspects due to the formal simplicity in their portrayal. All he might see is several arc lines of varying thickness and some text to promote an event. At the same time though, the viewer would also probably be subconsciously attracted to the poster due to a simplistic dynamism that exists in this specific poster as well as many others. Now, it could be argued that it is in fact the simple portrayal of complex mathematical elements that create this simplistic dynamism, but the same simplistic dynamism exists in works forty years prior to this by artists such as Frantisek Kupka and Robert Delaunay where there are no mathmatical conceptual elements at play. In addition, there are many counter examples to this false notion among other of Mueller-Brockmann's concert posters. For example, his 1957 poster for Armin Schibler has the same simplistic dynamism in its non-objective elements, which are circular patterns whose location and size were determined by concepts derived from his own impressions of a musical scale. Also, the circles in his 1958 poster for a quartet's performance of Stravinsky were employed to the mimic the sequence of the movements with the most resonance.

Now, fast forward to 1993 when New York's Wu-Tang Clan released the groundbreaking hip hop album Enter the Wu-tang Clan: 36 Chambers of Death. The production on the album, done entirely by the RZA, is characterized by the same overarching principle as Mueller-Brockmanns's work: a massive reduction in terms. Most include a minimal piano track, a drum track, a bass track, perhaps a sample track, and vocals, a radical departure from previous popular hip hop song formats which generally showcased more formally fuller sounding beats (De La Soul's Me, Myself, and I). When the album dropped, critics raved about it. No one had heard anything that was so minimal and so dynamic in the hip hop world. The record's immediate impact on hip hop is probably greater than any other single album, as seen in Nas' 1994 Album, Illmatic, which is considered by many to be the best hip hop album ever crafted. Upon its release, it caused a great uproar when Fader Magazine rated the album five out of five mics, a rating that had never been given before, let alone to a debut album. It has been and will continued to be argued that he is the best MC alive right now. That being said, Wu-tang's impact on the album is seen in the production characteristics. Just as in 36 Chambers, the beats in each of the songs are very minimalist and stripped down. For example, the second track, New York State of Mind, is almost a Wu-tang track exactly, except instead of the main keys track being piano, its synth.

While some may argue that the relationship between Mueller Brockmann's posters and Wu-tang is vague at best, I think that it should at least be considered. Some say that RZA had no idea what he was doing in regards to including modernist principles in his work, but whether or not he knowingly or unknowingly applied these principles to hip hop production is irrelevant. The fact that 36 Chambers continues to be classified as one of the most groundbreaking records of all time, and that it features modernist principles is no coincidence. The radical recontextualization of modernism on the album is what made it unique for its genre. Beyond Illmatic, Wu-Tang's influence can be seen throughout hip hop, but more specifically on albums like Slum Villege's Fantastic Vol. 1 from 1996, Gang Starr's Moment of Truth from 1998, or People Under The Stair's album O.S.T. from 2002. Given this idea of a "mash-up" of early 20th century modernist principles in contemporary culture, it is interesting to consider what else these principles could radicalize.