Saturday, September 12, 2009

Buckminster Fuller

Buckminster Fuller (B. July 12, 1895 – D. July 1, 1983)

"From now on there are going to be new individuals who do not just assume that a client knows what he wants, or a society know what it wants to do. These individuals are going to examine environmental controls, human needs, world resources and industry's capabilities before they design anything."

Buckminster "Bucky" Fuller was a man of BIG ideas and one of the first to identify the environment and global social harmony as concerns of design. The first 25 years of his professional career were marked by numerous commercial failures. But as Bucky pointedly pointed out "you succeed only when you stop failing," which in finally did in the early 1950s with his wildly successful geodesic dome design.

The geodesic dome is a spherical or semi-spherical structure made out of a lattice work of connected triangles. The structure distributes the weight evenly and extremely strong. In his 1954 patent Bucky wrote "a good index to the performance of any building frame is the structural weight required to shelter a square foot of floor from the weather. In a conventional wall and roof design the figure is often 2500 kg per square meter. I have discovered how to do the job at around 4 kg per square meter.."

One of Bucky's maxims was an inversion of the Bauhaus epigram "less is more" into "more for less." The Geodesic dome is the prime example of this idea because of its minimum structure for maximum volume.

Originally Bucky came up with the design as paper and cardboard models that illustrated as system of thought he developed.

He visualized all useful experiences and un-usefully experience as being divided. There was a clear sphere into which all of the mundane and useless thoughts were stored. Once this was filled up all of the useful thoughts had to exist on the surface of the sphere. He was interested in exploring the "insideness and the outsideness" of the useful and un-useful thoughts. Bucky thought that it took three experiences to fix their relationship. But to establish a sphere he needed to connect these triangles in 3D space. Thus the geodesic dome was born.

Bucky would go onto design many projects of massive scale but his geodesic dome was his only design to find widespread acceptance in the commercial world.


Design Science - One of the many terms Fuller invented, Design Science sought to bring together technology, science and art in such a way as to work toward "a world that works for 100% of humanity in the shortest amount of time without ecological offense or the disadvantage of anyone."

Dymaxion Car - A three wheeled car, steered by its rear wheel. The car could carry 11 passengers and got good gas mileage (30MPG). The car was reported to handle poorly at high speeds and was involved in a fatal accident. The car never made it into production.

Dymaxion House - An energy efficient and inexpensive home designed to be mass produced.

Dymaxion Map - is a projection of the world map onto the surface of polyhedron. This map has less distortion of relative size of areas. Also the map has no rightway up. it's isolemtric!

Tensegrity - utilizes tension as opposed to compression. Invention of lightweight tensegrity construction allowed for structures of limitless size.

Ephemeralization - doing more for less can lead to an implosion of functions, one into another, until only a gossamer thin but steely strong multifunctional envelope takes the place of the separate cultures of architecture, building and aesthetic (Manhattan dome).

Tetrahedronal City (Triton City)- a floating city designed for San Francisco bay. Earthquake proof. 2,500 meters tall, contained 5,000 apartments. Broke the components of a city into different floating units.

Geoscope - large scale map of the world positioned with the same axis as viewer and which visualized and inventoried all available planetary resources and their historical movements.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Natalie Jeremijenko


  • Natalie Jeremijenko (born 1966, Australia) is an Associate Professor at NYU in the Visual Art Dept., and has affiliated faculty appointments in Computer Science and Environmental Studies.

  • Natalie Jeremijenko is an artist and engineer whose background includes studies in biochemistry, physics, neuroscience and precision engineering.

  • Jeremijenko is the director of the xDesign Environmental Health Clinic at NYU, assistant professor in Art, and affiliated with the Computer Science Dept

OneTrees Project

Else/Where: Mapping New Cartographies of Networks and Territories

Janet Abrams & Peter Hall

p. 254-259 “Bark to Bytes” by Alice Twemlow

  • 2003 (plants were cultivated in 1999)planted 20 pairs of Paradox clones throughout the Bay area to return data about the “social and environmental conditions to which they are exposed”

  • together with Terraswarm, she created a map of of the site locations, especially designed to be used one-handed by bicyclists (boomerang shape)

  • trees were chosen b/c they don't bear fruit or nuts (a tripping hazard) or produce allergens

  • she prioritizes layperson knowledge over “expert” knowledge, as “the questions that are of interest to the experts may not necessarily overlap with the public imagination.”

  • this map: “Twenty aerial photographs are arranged in vertical strips showing the locations where the OneTrees pairs are planted, four per panel, along the top of the map. The lower half of the sheet is divided proportionally to represent the five OneTrees planting zones. Each area is depicted as a vegetation and heat 3D contour map, using data derived from a Landsat Thematic Mapper. Instead of using what Jeremijenko refers to as the 'rainbow saturated colors' to which satellite imaging defaults, she and Terraswarm chose more realistic shades of green for the vegetation and mapped the heat isotherms using a gray scale in which cooler temperatures are represented by dark lines, hotter ones by white. As one would expect, the biggest concentrations of cool contours correspond with the most densely vegetated zones, or proximity to the Bay.”

  • map includes other knowledge, including the median income of each area and endangered birds' habitats

  • Jeremijenko's mission is to redistribute intelligence: to redirect emphasis away from 'authorized' information, towards under-utilized sources that are at once more complex and more alive, with the aim of putting the people, the poetry and the mess back into mapping.”

From the OneTrees website

  • A-life trees: self replicating growth algorithms -- to grow a tree on your computer desktop. Unlike other popularized forms of a-life the rate of growth is controlled by realtime CO2 levels. The sensor and software enable monitoring of the CO2 -- the information that measures the global concern for climate change [me: to what end? What use is this information put to?]

  • Stump

: A printer queue virus that counts the number of pages consumed by the printer. When the equivalent of a tree in pulp has been consumed the program automatically prints out a slice of tree. Accumulating these pieces of paper ‘grows’ a stump of the forest that you and your printer have consumed, and a tangible representation of tree debt

Feral Robotic Dogs (from site:

Mission one: Exploiting the markets of scale of the toy industry, specifically in the realm of entertainment robotics; the hardware distribution power of national and multinational corporations (and the cultural imperialism); to provide a readymade, inexpensive and highly distributed hardware platform. The robotic dogs currently on the international market provide the most inexpensive source of compatible motors, actuation, and sensing mechanisms available [$15-$200 for the dog adaptation].

Mission Two: To use this distributed hardware platform to build a networked (knowledge) community interested in the transformation of robotic dogs from their intended entertainment use to activists instruments for exploring (and contesting) local material conditions. The web-based community openly shares low cost adaptation strategies and techniques for updating the rationale (i.e. hacking) of these and similar toys. This is a community that is built on a particular post-purchase activity with the toy rather than the act of consumption itself in contrast to a community of SONY AIBO owners, and it is designed to exploit the popular culture references of these toys to involve youth in the interpretation of environmental conditions and a critique of the corporate imagination.

Mission Three:

To create a local mediagenic event: the feral robotic dog pack release. The feral dogs have a simple communication system added in their adaptation, that allows the coordinate behavior of a pack. The dogs will cover different portions of a terrain (maintaining a radius) for effective space filling, but will converge if one dog gets a particularly strong signal. This functionality is intended to provide information that is displayed in a form that is legible to diverse participants i.e. the movement of the dogs. The dogs paths provide immediate imagery to sustain discussion and interpretation of an otherwise imperceptible environmental condition of interest (e.g. radioactivity; air quality issues and the re-opening of English powerstation; class-based environmental discrimination). Because the dog’s space-filling logic emulates a familiar behavior, i.e. they appear to be “sniffing something out”, participants can watch and try to make sense of this data without the technical or scientific training required to be comfortable interpreting a EPA document on the same material. Furthermore, I argue that by using the movement of the dogs as the display this renders the information at an appropriate level of accuracy (the data looks fuzzy). An emblematic feature of the adapted dogs is placement of the webcams in the non-barking end of the dogs, whereas traditional robotics and AIBO place the cameras in the ‘eyes’ of the agent. The rear end placement in the Ferals collects footage of the spectators and their actual interpretation of the dog’s behavior, privileging this as information rather than just the data collected and stored onboard for later interpretation. The feral dog pack event is designed as an opportunity to enable public discourse and open-ended interpretation of the evidence at hand, and an opportunity to coordinate diverse interpretations (for instance at the English Power Station release attendees invited include activists who have opposed the reopening, residents, politicians, and power company representatives). The display of the empirical evidence on the local pollutant is intended to enable and change typical lay-expert communication patterns, by raising the standards of evidence, or at least changing who produces this evidence.


  • projects seem almost abandoned; not updated as seemingly intended

  • many links don't work on the sites

  • OneTrees Values: seems to have a long-view (not just fashionable); however the site hasn't been updated since 2004 ; more Stakeholder inclusive than client exclusive (interested in the effects on the trees & thereby the effects on the nearby people)

  • Feral Robotic Dogs Values: Subversive (not obedient) as the dogs are hacked from their original purpose of just entertainment; More long-view than fashionable, but with the same questions as the OneTrees Project...where are the updates?

  • different disciplines represented, including engineering & biology with an obvious interest in the environment and recording our impact or rediscovering a past impact with present implications

DES 380 Core In Design I
Meghna Pathak


" His genius ventured into all realms of science and art to unriddle the phenomena of space and light. In painting, sculpture and architecture, in theater and industrial dsign, in photography and film, advertising and typography, he incessantly strove to interpret space in its relation to time, that is, motion in space." - Walter Gropius, Moholy-Nagy - experiment in totality, 1950


Born on July 20, 1895, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy grew up in
in the city of Bachsbarsad, Hungary and studied law in Hungary's capital of Budapest. A born poet, his experiences in the Russian battlefields of World War I, revealed to him the inadequacies of poetic expression. He began to explore and analyze the reality around him in a series of representational sketches. Moholy-Nagy had discovered his life’s calling (1914).

However, an extreme disgust with the prevalent Communist system of the time caused him to reject not only the social order, but also its symbolic connotations in art. He plunged into an exploration of the most fundamental visual forms – colors, shapes – and the interrelationships tying them together.

These explorations evolved naturally form investigations into the nature of form to color, transparency – from painting to collages; from severe simplification of form in two dimensional space to the creation of visual depth through color transparencies. He had found his ouvre. His life’s work would be dedicated to the exploration of light, space, depth and motion, and he would explore any medium of expression to unravel these mysteries.

“Constructivism is neither proletarian nor capitalistic. Constructivism is primordial, without class or ancestor. It expresses the pure form of nature – the direct color, the spatial rhythm, the equilibrium of form.

The new world of the masses needs constructivism because it needs fundamentals that are without deceit. Only the basic natural element, accessible to all senses, is revolutionary.

In Constructivism, form and substance are one. Not substance and tendency, which are always being identified. Substance is essential, but tendency is intentional. Pure substance (Constructivism) is not confined to picture frame and pedestal. It expands into industry and architecture, into objects and relationships. Constructivism is the socialism of vision.” – Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Excepts from an article in MA, May 1922.

He began dabbling in photography around the same time (1922) – exploring the same elements of form, light, and color gradation in addition to shadows and textures. Influence and inspired by the bold humor of the ‘Dadaists’ of the time, he turned to political collage and photomontage for a time. However, he lacked the peculiar obsession of the revolutionary artist and his dabbles remained such.

He discovered the photogram, and that veered his work back into his preoccupation with space and light. It became his goal to eliminate color/ sublimate it to a point where the visual impact rested on the most essential medium – direct light.

This preoccupation with the existence of objective visual values, independent of the artist’s inspiration led him to orchestrate a series of paintings – dictated to the foreman of a sign factor over phone, using a color chart and an order blank of graph paper to specify the location of form elements and their exact hue.


Invited to teach at the Staatliche Bauhaus in Weimar, Germany by Walter Gropius in 1923 and inspired by the pedagogical goals of the institute he joined the staff as master of the advanced foundation course and the Metal workshop. His was the appointment of youth and the infusion of the constructivist ideals in contrast to the convictions of german expressionism that the other well appreciated teachers of the institute were devoted to (Kandinsky, Klee, Feininger, Schlemmer).

“we might as well call the scope of his contribution Leonardian, so versatile and colorful it has been. He was successful at once as a thinker and as an inventor, as a writer and as a teacher…..constantly developing new ideas, he managed to keep himself in a state of unbiased curiosity form which a fresh point of view could originate. With a shrewd sense of observation he investigated everything that came his way” – Walter Gropius, Obituary Note in 4th edition of The New Vision

The Bauhaus published 14 volumes of the ‘Bauhaus Books’ in the composition and typography of which, Moholy-Nagy was intricately involved. While significant for their pictorial, theoretical and typographical form, the Bauhaus books were, and are to date the only – coordinated effort to relate the teaching of all visual disciplines to one integrating principle.

Another significant development that arose from his position as the head of the metal workshop was the development of a line of lighting fixtures which, still today, constitute the basic design of most modern lamps. Bauhaus, where the process of development was valued higher than the finished product – was slowly destroyed by the growth of technological cells within it. This process of pedagogical divergence was climaxed by Walter Gropius’s resignation of his position. Moholy-Nagy followed suit.

While Moholy-Nagy went on explore other mediums of design as tools to continue his personal exploration of space, time, light, shadows and form, his years at Bauhaus had infused in him a passion for instruction. He went on to escape from the third reich in Germany, to Holland, Britain and finally emigrated to the United States (1937) at the behest of the Association of Arts and Industries, Chicago (and Walter Gropius) to start again a new institute of instruction, following the principles of the Bauhaus, called ‘The New Bauhaus’. The school closed down a year after opening, as the financial backers withdrew support (influenced mostly by the stock market crash of 1938).

With supreme confidence in the scope of the pedagogy that the school had prescribed to, Moholy-Nagy sought to restart the school – this time as the Institute of Design. While the curriculum differed in some degree from the original, it was in its totality the same. Moholy-Nagy worked hard over the succeeding years to keep the school afloat, meeting investors, prospective students and advertising the merits of the program constantly – eventually to the detriment of his own health.


The most enduring aspect of Laszlo Moholy-Nagy’s legacy is his pedagogy as prescribed in the ideals of the Institute of Design’s curriculum. While essentially similar to the curriculum at Bauhaus – in its emphasis on exploration of avenues and media, process over finished product, he added to its artistic component more technological arts such as photography, film, kinetic and light sculpture, music and poetry. To Walter Gropius’s two elements of art and technology – he added science. This thus served to provide his students a more diverse and exhaustive exploration.

While students at Bauhaus explored different media in the foundation year, and then went on to further explore media of interest in the later years, this ‘open’ system of learning ensured them the capacity to think beyond their areas of ‘experience’, offering solutions that were relevant and referential to other avenues of development. This focus on ‘process’ and ‘exploration’ over a finished product ensures discoveries and developments beyond the original conservative scope of a design solution.

It is very easy to see parallels between the Bauhausian method of thinking and systems thinking, where the intention is not restricted to set parameters/values of a perceived solution, but the ability to perceive and anticipate further avenues affected from the solution, and arising from the solution.

“To be a designer means not only to sensitively manipulate techniques and analyse production processes, but also to accept the concomitant social obligations…. Thus quality of design is dependent not alone on function, science and technological process but also on social consciousness.” – Moholy-Nagy as quoted in Moholy-Nagy’s design pedagogy in Chicago, by Alain Findelli

In Moholy-Nagy’s incessant investigation of the relationships of ‘space making’ elements, in his constant exploration of different media to achieve his purposes, one sees the drive to achieve not a simple solution, but different alternative solutions to the same communication. A pedagogue who emphasized the importance process to his students, by holding up his life’s work as example.


Moholy-Nagy, Experiment in totality by sibyl moholy-nagy, Harper and Brothers, 1950

Laszlo Moholy Nagy, Biographical Writings by Louis Kaplan, Duke University press, 1995

Laszlo Moholy Nagy, Color in Transparency, Steidl Bauhaus-Archiv, 2006

Technical Detours by Oliver A.I. Botar, Kromar Printing Ltd, 2006


(notes from a presentation by Courtney Inge)


In 1952 Cooper graduated from Massechusets College of Art and Design with a degree in Graphic Design, as well as art education.
Although a print designer by trade, she is best known for her work with computers, most notably at the MIT Visual Language Workshop, which she co-founded in 1972. Previous to the VLW's founding, Muriel worked as MIT press's first art director. Her work there includes the press's logo(first image), and the books Learning from Las Vegas as well as File Under Architecture(second image).

While at the VLW Muriel Cooper conducted visual inquires into the use of computer and the viewer's interaction with it. Cooper believed in the power of the computer as a medium with immediate feedback which allowed the viewer to get the most out of their interaction with the information. Furthermore, she felt typography was the most perfect way to explore the computer's abilities, due to the fact that all its users would be about to recognize the forms, and feel comfortable, while navigating through this new world.

-Graphic design a filter:
Designer is given information, and must decide what the appropriate articulation of this idea is. Every material has inherent limitations, it is the job of the designer to use these limitations to their audience's benefit.
-The Computer as a tool:
Designers must see the computer as something that can benefit their design, as long as they keep in mind that it is an entity that takes in information and spits it out. Thus, the input, output, and the manipulations that occur within the computer, must all be accounted for.
-If the main interaction point of information is on the computer, the designer must keep in mind the world outside the computer. Digital forms should seek to reference tangible objects, but be self aware of their existence on the screen.

Lastly, Muriel Cooper also saw the democratization, brought about by desktop publishing as a benefit. The result of which would be a new interdisciplinary approach to communication. Thus, designers would be freed up to become consultants and design publications would inform readers about computer issues, and computer publications would keep its readers abreast with design news. The revolutionary aspect of Muriel Cooper’s views lay in the time period of most of these revolations: the 1980’s. Well ahead of the proliferation of Adobe or even widely held personal computers.



Although she never wrote a piece of functioning computer code in her life- Muriel Cooper helped shape the aesthetic vernacular we are used to today. Because the Mac was the perfered creative system, even of that type, her work dealt with designing a visually comfortable space for a designer to access all of their tools, which responded to their needs and tastes.

Those who follow:


carries on work at MIT Visible Language Lab. Gives lectures and writes publications on Muriel’s life and work. Is also a working designer in Manhattan.


former student, working designer, wrote programs which sensed the angle of the viewer which allowed the type and image to respond accordingly.


admirer, who has interviewed Muriel Cooper twice, and both had a profound interest in the viewer as the creator.

Reinfurt's lecture at the Walker Art Center, where he delves into the concept of feedback (with metaphor on sailing which I mentioned).


Another lecture by David Reinfurt, this time at MIT.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Mapping a designer: Henry Dreyfuss

Amrita Adhikary
DES380 Core in Design
Mapping a designer: Henry Dreyfuss

Henry Dreyfuss was born to immigrant parents in Brooklyn, New York in 1904. He studied at the Ethical Culture School in New York before becoming apprenticed to the industrial designer and legendary Broadway stage designer Norman Bel Geddes in 1923. While working in Geddes’ office, Dreyfuss mainly concentrated on theatrical work and designed costumes, sets, and lighting for the Strand Theater, New York, and for the R.K.O (Radio-Keith-Orpheum) chain of theaters. In retrospect, he viewed his experience in theater as training for his future chosen profession in industrial design. He compared his job in theater, of creating a set that expressed the mood and the action of the show, to industrial design, as both involved carrying his ideas through by dealing with people diplomatically. In design, the producer and director were like the president of a client firm, while the carpenters, electricians, and musicians could have been the firm’s engineers. He also had to meet a definite schedule, and the final determining factor of success was audience approval (applause after the show!) or the customer’s reaction at the sales counter.
“Form follows function” had been the Industrial designers golden rule and Henry Dreyfuss believed in it. Ergonomics and safety took precedence over styling and as a result, many of his products such as the Round thermostat, are the sort that we take for granted.
He opened his own design office, Henry Dreyfuss Associates in 1929, for theatrical and industrial design activities. The theater was to pay the bills while he concentrated on developing his industrial design work. This practice holds true even today where a lot of fledgling design firms fall back on simple jobs to sustain themselves while pursuing their calling.

Work Methodology
Henry Dreyfuss had a rigorous working methodology. He understood that the designer played a dual role. He was a member of the client’s family as well as an outsider intervening but retaining his authority and individuality. The industrial designer’s most valuable contributions to his client’s products was his ability to visualize. He could sit at a table listening to ideas thrown off by engineers, production executives etc. and incorporate them into a sketch that crystallized their ideas, good or bad. The designer’s outside point of view or perspective was the key contribution. Dreyfuss was a Generalist in the most positive sense of the word.
Following the Depression years, all manufactured products came out looking similar. Companies were under-cutting each other until manufacturers came to the realization that the answer to the problem was to “make their product work better, more convenient to the consumer and better looking”. Industrial designers were called in to do just that against the general view of their role as decorators of the finished product. The simplicity of the Round thermostat was a brilliant solution to a problem. Most thermostats until then were rectangular, posing an irritating challenge of aligning it in an installation. Correcting crooked installations were time consuming and the Round eliminated that inconvenient alignment component altogether.
It was interesting to note that he viewed the service of transporting people and the marketing of a product with the same eye. The difference, he felt, was just an increase in scale.
Dreyfuss’ methodology was strongly process driven, iterative, and subversive, in a search to tackle the real problem. He categorized them as Analysis, Sketching, Modeling, Presentation & Critique. His basic characteristic of work was “simplicity”, resisting the temptation of superficially decorating objects. He focused on making meaningful aesthetic choices and made complicated things seem simple.
He was very realistic about the system within which he worked. “It was pointless to produce a product so expensive that no one can afford or so under-priced that it did not permit a reasonable profit to the manufacturers.”
The diagram above shows his desire to stay in control of the design process.
He would routinely decline work where he did not have ultimate control of the design process. If he could not consult with engineers, he was not interested in the project. This was the reason, he rejected the job offer from Macy & Co. upon his return from Europe in 1928, because he was to merely provide suggestions to manufacturers without having a say in new designs. What I found intriguing was his ability to involve all kinds of professionals in the design process. He would often pull in people who had no experience in an area that he was designing for, to bring in fresh ideas and new inspirations. In his eye’s the designer was a catalytic agent and should be able to “switch gears quickly”.
Henry Dreyfuss: “We bear in mind that the object being worked on is going to be ridden in, sat upon, looked at, talked into, activated, operated or in some other way used by people. When the point of contact between the product and the people becomes a point of friction, then the Industrial Designer has failed. On the other hand, if people are made safer, more efficient, more comfortable – or just plain happier – by contact with the product, then the designer has succeeded.”
Dreyfuss was influenced by the Art Deco movement, a style that was seen as elegant, glamorous, functional and modern. He belonged to the Streamline design era although he was not a stylist like his contemporary Raymond Loewy, who he regarded with some prejudice, on his use of streamlining. Simplicity was his strength. Dreyfuss’ locomotive design, Mercury, for 20th Century Limited was a classic example of Streamlining as the form that follows the rules of aerodynamics.

Five Point Formula
His mantra was – safety and convenience of use, ease of maintenance, cost , appeal, and appearance.
This prioritization made his design exceptional as these were five points centered on human and not abstract values.
Henry Dreyfuss introduced Human Engineering in the form of Joe and Josephine, his common denominators for all dimensions. His interest in anthropometry could be traced back to his admiration for Leonardo da Vinci and his Vitruvian man. Leonardo da Vinci made the drawing in 1487 and it depicts the correlations of ideal human proportions using geometry described by Vitruvius. He made it as a study of proportions of the human body. Everything designed today is used by people and they come in many sizes and have varying physical attributes. Joe and Josephine were a part of his design staff representing the numerous consumers for whom they were designing. The designer’s job was to make Joe and Josephine compatible with their environment and this new process was called Human Engineering. The design group also created a miniature encyclopedia of human factor data for industrial designers.

Henry Dreyfuss’s design process is still the current practice although the dynamics of the industry has changed. In the global market where manufacturing is usually outsourced, it is critical for the designer to have a good control of the design through the development process. Iterations between the client and the manufacturers allows for the accurate translation of the intended design.
To Henry Dreyfuss, Leonardo da Vinci was the first Industrial designer. He had the imagination to put his drawings of his flying machine on paper in 1517. They became a reality 500 years later. Leonardo was as modern and imaginative as someone in today’s times. By his example, to look ahead, we need to look back and discover how many of the ancient dreams have realized, to hope how successful and accurate the innovators of today would be 500 years hence.
Henry Dreyfuss’s ethnography and anthropometric data as a research tool laid the basis for designing for people. Now, new technology has taken this tool many steps forward and uses 3D scanning to compute exact body proportions ( Sizing China: 3 –D scanning and recording of head shapes in Asia for helmets, eyewear etc. for the Asian market). This new digital database is going to be the first of its kind to enable designers to enter markets that were beyond their reach because of insufficient data. China and India comprises one third of the world consumer base. With globalization and the opening of foreign economies, following the fall of communism, the whole world has come closer and products have a wider reach. The new global culture creates a global trend and designers and manufacturers need to pay heed to the differences in physical attributes, when designing for a trans cultural audience.

Yet, data without imagination is but data, and industrial designers play a critical role in its translation.

Dreyfuss, Henry. Designing for People. New York: Allworth, 2003.
Fiell, Charlotte, and Peter Fiell. Design of the 20th Century. Los Angeles: Taschen, 2001.
Flinchum, Russell. Henry Dreyfuss, industrial designer the man in the brown suit. New York: Cooper- Hewitt, National Design Museum, Smithsonian Institution and Rizzoli, 1997.
Hall, Peter. "Sizing China." Metropolis Magazine Mar. 2008.
Plowman, Tim. "Ethnography and Critical Design Practice.

John Heartfield. Taking one for the working man since 1917.

Political Background

Born in 1891 to mother who was a political activist and father who was socialist writer.

Joined communist party of Germany (KPD) in 1918 along with George Grosz and brother, Wieland Herzfelde, after Anglicizing their names in response to the poor reception of English presence in Germany (ST)

Started Publishing company Malik Verlag in 1917 where much of work appears on book covers and magazines.

Beginnings of Photo Montage

Saw dadaism as only substantial movement in Germany in the last hundred years, but “swayed in midair, and could not assume responsibilities of both classes at once” (GHH)

Heartfield and Grosz began by piecing together postcards to form anti-war messages sent to the front (resembled carte vistas (travel album) of the time which is how they passed censorship). (DK)

Important to remember that “these primative p-montages did not mythically spring from artistic inspiration and settle down into an ascribable authorship for the edification of the future; they arose tactically in a context of dissent.” (DK)

Critique of Bourgeois Art

Two approaches to art expressed as difference b/w formalism and tendency art

-tendency art is committed, political… art constantly in service of class struggle.

-formalist seeks to avoid tendency… illusory goal is to remain aloof, free from demands of everyday life, looking to the eternal and mysterious. (PG)

“Tendency is the rule, not the exception” (GHH)

“what could a worker do with art?” (GHH)

“art belongs in museums to be gaped at by the petit bourgeoisie while on vacation. In the palaces of the bloodsuckers to hide their wall safes!” (GHH

Rationale behind Photo Montage/ Duty of Tendency Artist

Traditional Graphics were too slow to keep pace with the rapidity of events and the readiness of the bourgeois press. Photos had to be used to keep up with the proletarian struggle! (PG)

It is the duty of the revolutionary artist to propagandize in two ways:

1) to purge the world view of supernatural powers, of superstition, of god and angels

2) to show to man his actual relationship to his environment (GHH)

believed that:

“The twilight of art began with photography, when art forfeited its right to report the world”

and that

“the bourgeois pen wrote art out of existence.” Only montage can compete.

“Art is about increasing the effectiveness of Communist Propaganda” (GHH)

(interesting, the liberal use of the word propaganda when read next to the way we situate the word today)

Here we understand a directive to read photographic fragments as indexical, bearing a one-to-one relationship with/ reality. (LM)

P-montages rely heavily on juxtaposition and mimicry (where what is being mimicked participates) (DK)

The illusionism of the work both depends on and refutes the so-called ‘truth’ of photo-journalism and direct a rereading of commercial mass media (LM)

Some photos in publications where his work appears were so naturally idiosyncratic and incriminating that they must be protected by the statement that they remain unedited.

Similarly happens within his own work:

Goering (above) is untouched, actual photo, as mentioned in print

Nazi’s critiqued the montages, saying they were ‘corrupt, degenerate, broken apart.’ (associating them with ‘jewishness’) and contrasting them with Nazi’s corporativist aesthetic and politic, ‘unification of the people.” (PG)

On Viewing work in a current context

1) Number of attacks on socialists is relatively insignificant when compared to total number of montages. However, proportion means little for an artist who made works for the history of the moment. (DK)

2) Figures in political Caricatures are often unidentified. (too much historical subtext for comtemporary digestion)

3) Canonization is problematic when it threatens to upstage the historical context of politics and mass media involvement (LM)

(By virtue of this third sentiment alone, I contend that Heartfield’s work is/was extremely effective.)

Finally, discuss concern with re-appropriation of images far outside of historical context due to a misunderstanding of the properties of the photomontage form.

Works Cited

Gorrell, Paul. “Preface to ‘Art is in Danger!” Jack Hirschman, ed. Art on the Line. Willimantic, CT: Curbstone Press. 2001. Pp 98-127,

Grosz, George, John Heartfield, and Wielande Herzfeld. “Art is in Danger!” (1925) Jack Hirschman, ed. Art on the Line. Willimantic, CT: Curbstone Press. 2001. Pp 98-127.

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