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Comments (278) Posted 02.26.05 | PERMALINK | PRINT

Michael Bierut

Designing Under the Influence



Untitled, Barbara Kruger, 1987

The other day I was interviewing a young designer, just nine months out of school. The best piece in her portfolio was a packaging program for an imaginary cd release: packaging, advertising, posters. All of it was Futura Bold Italic, knocked out in white in bright red bands, set on top of black and white halftones. Naturally, it looked great. Naturally, I asked, "So, why were you going for a Barbara Kruger kind of thing here?"

And she said: "Who's Barbara Kruger?"



Okay, let's begin. My first response: "Um, Barbara Kruger is an artist who is...um, pretty well known for doing work that...well, looks exactly like this."

"Really? I've never heard of her."

At first I was speechless. Then, I started working out the possibilities. One: My twenty-three year old interviewee had never actually seen any of Barbara Kruger's work and had simply, by coincidence, decided to use the same typeface, color palette and combinational strategy as the renowned artist. Two: One of her instructors, seeing the direction her work was taking, steered her, unknowingly or knowingly, in the direction of Kruger's work. Three: She was just plain lying. And, finally, four: Kruger's work, after have been so well established for so many years, has simply become part of the atmosphere, inhaled by legions of artists, typographers, and design students everywhere, and exhaled, occasionally, as a piece of work that looks something like something Barbara Kruger would do.

Let's be generous and take option four. My visitor isn't alone, of course. Kruger, who herself began as a graphic designer, has created a body of work that has served as a subtle or not-so-subtle touchpoint for many designers over the past two decades. Occasionally the reference is purposeful, as in my own partner Paula Scher's cover for From Suffragettes to She-Devils, which uses Kruger's trademark typeface for a book that surveys a century of graphics in support of women's rights, although in this case the Futura is turned sideways and printed in shocking pink. Similiarly, the late Dan Friedman's square logo for Art Against Aids deploys Futura (Extra Bold) and a red and white color scheme in a way that is both effective and evocative.

Farther afield, the brand identity for the Barbican Art Gallery uses the same typeface and, controversially, applies it (usually at an angle to render the italic strokes dead vertical) to every exhibition that appears there. Sometimes it seems appropriate: when the subject is the work of Daniel Libeskind, the onrushing italics seem to evoke his urgent, jagged forms. Other times, the connection is more remote, or downright nonexistant. But, of course, searching for any connection at all is purely a parlor game. The goal of the One Gallery, One Font philosophy is not to serve any particular exhibition, but to create a unified identity for the Barbican Art Gallery, which it certainly does. I wonder, however, what would happen if the Barbican ever mounted an exhibition on Barbara Kruger? Would the collision of typographic matter and anti-matter create some kind of giant vortex as the snake ate its own graphic tail?

We've debated imitation, influence, plagiarism, homage and coincidence before, and every time, the question eventually comes up: is it possible for someone to "own" a graphic style? Legally, the answer is (mostly) no. And as we sit squarely in a culture intoxicated by sampling and appropriation, can we expect no less from graphic design? I remember my disorientation several years ago, when I first saw the new American Apparel store down in Greenwich Village. A banner bearing the store's resolutely hip logo hung out front: the name rendered (American Airlines style) in cool Helvetica, paired with a stripey star symbol that effortlessly evoked the reverse hip of seventies American style. And no wonder: it was the very logo that Chermayeff and Geismar's Bruce Blackburn had designed for the American bicentennial back in 1976.

Today, Blackburn's logo is gone from the American Apparel identity. A lawsuit? Or, more likely, the great zeitgeist wheel has turned once again, rendering the 1976 logo too outre to bother plagiarizing? No matter. We've arrived at a moment where all that has preceded us provides an enormous motherlode of graphic reference points, endlessly tempting, endlessly confusing. Does Barbara Kruger own Futura Bold Italic in white and red? Does Bruce Blackburn own stripey five-pointed stars? How much design history does one have to know before he or she dares put pencil to paper? Picture a frantic land-grab, as one design pioneer after another lunges out into the diminishing frontier, staking out ever-shrinking plots of graphic territory, erecting Keep Out! signs at the borders: This is mine! This is mine!

I remember seeing an Esquire cover about ten years ago: the subject was radio personality Howard Stern. What a ripoff, I thought, seeing the all-too-familiar Futura Italic. To my surprise, it turned out to be a Barbara Kruger cover illustrating a Barbara Kruger article. Who would have thought: she's a Howard Stern fan. And the lesson? If anyone can rip you off, you may as well beat them to the punch.



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Comments (278)   |   JUMP TO MOST RECENT >>

OMG. I'm a beginning design student myself and all I can say is "you arrogant snob". WTF Do you know how many million artists and designers exist in the world today? The population explosion has attained such unprecedented levels that there really is no longer any room for pretentious snobbery. You must be over 40 is all I can say.
Jessica Simpleton
02.27.05 at 12:07

I'm a graphic design student as well, and I find it a little hard to believe that someone who has gone through design school recently does not know who Barbara Kruger is. A good bit of the courses I am required to take are art history, from western to modern art, to history of graphic design. Barbara Kruger has been at least mentioned in all courses.

I agree that there is the possibility that Kruger's look has been instilled too much in our culture, but come on. Any work that has those exact visual qualities, down to the weight of the typeface, does not just happen. Simply admit that it's stealing. It's an inside joke between you and the graphic design world...a la Paula Scher.

As far as Jessica's comment goes, I'm going to bite my tongue and not say what I really want to say. However, I have had the opportunity to see Mr. Bierut speak and am familiar with much of his work, and "arrogant snob" are not the words I, nor many other members of the design community, would use to describe him.
Jamie Lasitter
02.27.05 at 12:38

Michael says: "is it possible for someone to "own" a graphic style? Legally, the answer is (mostly) no. And as we sit squarely in a culture intoxicated by sampling and appropriation, can we expect no less from graphic design?"

I believe the answer is no.

Although, I think, this is nothing new. I suppose Rodchenko or someone way back did a sharp tilted grotesk on a red form at some point

or sans serif...

or this yellow variant (sorry, no pink)

This site shows some interesting Rodchenko work.

One thing all design students need much more of to be better designers is design history. At least one year of design history for the BFA level. 1.5 years if possible. Most students are lucky if they get any at all.

I would be curious to hear Michael and any other DO's comment on the design work and philosophy of Annelys de Vet

I suppose her motto is:
I am what I copy
I copy what I am


In the upper drop down menu --- on her home page choose "The right to copy" to see what she says.
J.Coates
02.27.05 at 12:47

(Jessica, Rose, or whatever your real name is, please try decaf. Life's too short.)

Like other typefaces that have been used to exhaustion, Futura Italic carries so much baggage, that it's hard not to associate it with Krueger. Filmmaker Wes Anderson has used Futura for credits, title sequences, and much much more in his films. However, Anderson's admitted that his love of Futura came about from Italian cinema. HHmmmm..., so where did Krueger's fascination for Futura originate? Where in the great design cannon did she find her sword in the stone?
Jason
02.27.05 at 12:49

The goal of the One Gallery, One Font philosophy is not to serve any particular exhibition, but to create a unified identity for the Barbican Art Gallery, which it certainly does. I wonder, however, what would happen if the Barbican ever mounted an exhibition on Barbara Kruger? Would the collision of typographic matter and anti-matter create some kind of giant vortex as the snake ate its own graphic tail? Michael, you seem to have been 'into' physics- and light years ahead...
How can this be arrogant? It's funny.
Shahla
02.27.05 at 01:01

Oh please. Spare me the hero worship of the queen of "what's black and white and red all over". Nauseating to unassuming up coming design students! As far as biting your tongue about what you want to say? I know what you want to say, and it's condescending isn't it. Hero worship google result She sounds like a feminist bitch.
Jessica Simpleton
02.27.05 at 02:08

I hate to go on about this, but the more I think about it, the more it pisses me off. That a student should not use that particular palette because a certain "well known" artist used it blows my mind, I mean how many f*cking palettes are there? Honestly, I've always been fond of the black, white, and red palette myself and I never heard of Kruger either (actually, the name does trigger a memory from one of my design books, one of at least a hundred names!). I'd bet money that that student simply liked the palette and never heard of Kruger.
Jessica Simpleton
02.27.05 at 02:46

Maybe your student went to Selfridges, London for the sales (and their marketing campaign) this year.

I can't remember all three slogans, but they were all along the same lines, there was a "I shop therefore I am". Looking into it on google it looks like they might actually have been done by Kruger. All the same, I think buying a pair of jeans costing the equivalent of a month's rent would have changed my life.
quis
02.27.05 at 06:07

I'd bet money that that student simply liked the palette and never heard of Kruger.

I think this is a distinct possibility and say as much in the original article.

I did not write this piece as an attack on the lack of knowledge or originality of young designers. I was quite sincere when I suggested, in the penultimate paragraph, that there are so many established graphic genres out there that it is nearly impossible for anyone to "own" one of them. Similarly, at this stage of design and art history, I wonder if knowing all the precedents might actually inhibit a designer's ability to get any work done.
Michael Bierut
02.27.05 at 07:13

To design something and to keep it to yourself as a secret and call it your own style would be one thing, however to display the work publicly is to add that work to public knowledge.

Is it really about ownership? In communicating don't we ultimately surrender the work, its meaning, and its ownership to be interpreted and possessed by others?
Nathan Richards
02.27.05 at 10:19

Jessica:
I know what you want to say, and it's condescending isn't it. Hero worship google result She sounds like a feminist bitch


How exactly has your argument (I'll use this term loosely) got anything at all to do with Feminism?

On a more relevant note, I think you are missing the point slightly by assuming that when a graphic designer (a graohic designer, not an 'artist') uses a certain colour palette, or any other stylistic signifier that makes reference to some preceding work, that their intention in choosing this style is tantamount. It doesn't matter one bit whether the student Michael is discussing intended to pastiche Barbera Kruger or not, the fact is that the rest of the world (at least those who know a little about 20th century art) sees a Barbera Kruger influence. Therefore, I would consider it to be important to know about and understand as much as you can about what has been done before you; it doesn't preculude you from doing anything similar, but you can then use a similar style knowing what its context and connotations are.
Tim C
02.27.05 at 10:28

Of course Kruger does not own the look we associate with her work. The components she works with are incredibly common, evoking other artifacts, like early Life magazine.

However, any designer that produces a Kruger lookalike should listen carefully when it is pointed out to them that it looks like Kruger. A combination of type and graphics that can be easily perceived as a quote of Kruger -- even if it is an accident -- will be read as Kruger by many people.

A designer needs to know what baggage their decisions carry, even if unintentially. Since Kruger's work is explicitly critical of consumer culture, it's not appropriate for any package design of a product that is implicitly uncritical of consumer culture. It can't end well for the client.

Up and coming design students will do well to listen and think rather than attack, and especially to read through to the end.

Young designers are faced with a cavalcade of style without context, unlike anything any previous generation experienced. What can we do to help them understand that it's worthwhile to investigate the context?
Kevin Steele
02.27.05 at 10:53

Hmmm, on posting it appears that Tim C and I were saying most of the same things. Next time I will preview.

P.S. It's time to adjust your blogger template to add more space in between comments so that it is easier to know who is writing. It's a five minute fix, probably as simple as adding a bit of margin to one style, or just dropping in a line break above the $BlogCommentBody$ tag (brute force solution). It will retroactively fix the entire site, improving the clarity of the typography on all secondary pages.
Kevin Steele
02.27.05 at 11:08

This seems like it might be more of an age issue than I first thought. It's like my grandma's generation being appalled when young people have no idea who Fred Astaire is.
Also, from the young designer end of it, I'm appalled that this website uses such a dark background when one of the first rules of web design is Never to use a dark background with white print. Especially when there will be a lot of reading. It's very hard on the viewer's eyes.
Jessica Simpleton
02.27.05 at 12:17

OMG. I'm a beginning design student myself and all I can say is "you arrogant snob". WTF Do you know how many million artists and designers exist in the world today? The population explosion has attained such unprecedented levels that there really is no longer any room for pretentious snobbery. You must be over 40 is all I can say.
Posted by: Jessica Simpleton at February 27, 2005 12:07 AM


Millions of artists, sure, but only a few who are prominently featured in virtually all art history courses and are a major influence on those coming after them.

And I'm not sure what his age has to do with it. As someone who's 30 you probably feel a similar reflexive contempt for me, but frankly, you've got alot of nerve accusing other people of being pretentious or arrogant, and then dismissing their opinions on the basis of their age. I guess my first reaction would be "you must be American", because this sort of inter-generational hatred seems particularly bad on this side of the pond. Europeans tend to judge one another more on the basis of what you know and what actually comes out of your mouth, not on the basis of whether you're young enough to appear in an Abercrombie & Fitch ad.

Theo
02.27.05 at 12:26

Jessica.... I don't think this is an age issue, I'm 22 (and only by a week). whit it is, in fact, is a knowledge issue, and beyond that, an atttitude issue. If you don't know who Barbara Kruger (or anyone else for that matter) is, are you not in the slightest way driven to find out? I would question your motives in becoming a Graphic Designer if you really haven't got the slightest interest in Graphic Design (Harsh, but it certainly seems that way).

In addition; who's 'rules' of web design are these?
there is a very strong case for light type on a dark background to be the 'default' (I am not advocating any sort of defaults or rules here)
for screen design, simply because a screen is illuminated, and not reflective, and black is the colour that it is in its blank state. - white on black is often easier to read in this situation.

However, categorically invoking the 'rules' of web design (without any reference as to where these 'rules' come from) is hopelessly ignorant and naive. Maybe if Art Chantry's reading this thread, he might like to say a few words on the subject of rules? ;-p (sorry)
Tim C
02.27.05 at 12:29

Jessica, as a design student myself, I think your attitude is a bit assuming. Part of the learning process is to realize what has been done before, why it was done that way, and either to follow similar ideals or create your own. Yes, sometimes we fall upon an idea that is lying in our subconcious. I personally didn't know who Barbara Kruger was, but then again thats why I read this site. Don't jump all over the people educating you...I agree partially with what you said, but it could have been said in a less condescending tone.

Before starting the graphic design program at my school, I was enthralled by the "plagarizing" of logos—and to some extent, I still find it culturally an interesting phenomenon. As a design student, however, I have been encouraged to learn design history and to attempt to never repeat it. That is a very difficult task, but a wonderful challenge nonetheless. One of my professors has been influential in making me realize that design history should be your knowledge base, but not your influence base.

And Michael, thanks for all the links in this article, I think this is the most I've seen in a DO article. And thanks for continually opening my eyes to new designers (although not new, but you know what I'm saying).
Derrick Schultz
02.27.05 at 12:31

I'm fresh out of design school myself, and what I learned there was: 1) How shockingly ignorant people are about history, and especially, in this case; the visual history (graphic design, art etc.), and 2) How little the school actually did to correct this.
I don't think it's surprising at all that people that should have known Krueger doesn't know - this only confirms my prejudice towards designers my age (twenty-ish). And to Jessica: I'm probably a 45'er trapped in the body of a 25'er. Sadly, there's no surgery to correct that. People like you are the reason I lost all my faith in a future in this "business".
To the poor girl who made this article possible: I keep mixing sentences and images... I forget whether I've read it in a book, saw it in a comic, heard it in a movie or maybe I came up with it all by myself (which I really doubt)...
The problem is: Everything's been said and done before, and probably in a much better way. You just have to find a way to get over that and make it your own. (Which you most probably did.)
Arrogant Snob
02.27.05 at 12:42

Since 'Jessica Simpleton' ( I have just found out
) is a widely used derogatory nickname for the famed teen pop muppet Jessica Simpson, does anyone else think that possibly we might be at the recieving end of a slightly sarcastic joke? just a thought.....
Tim C
02.27.05 at 12:49

I have no formal schooling in Design (had to Google 'Barbara Kruger' to know exactly who you guys were talking about!) and have used the Futura Italic on red combination with greyscale pictures several times. So clearly, as mentioned in the original post, it is possible that the designer just liked the combination.

Likely? I think not - I hire formally schooled designers and on reading this thread asked them if they'd heard of her. Sitting in New Delhi, India, they had, and knew the style.

More to the point though - you really can't let what people have done before you stop you from working with similar styles and combinations - what works, well, works.

We're ultimately in the communication business and what people are accustomed to absorbing visually stems from what they're surrounded by. To do your job and assist your client in communicating with those people, you tap into that reservoir of preconceptions and use their visual comfort zone to tell them whatever it is your customer wants to.

I love the occassional project where we have the leeway to experiment and push the envelope, but for the most part, as much as I hate to use the cliche, form does follow function. Even in design style.
andy
02.27.05 at 12:50

t's like my grandma's generation being appalled when young people have no idea who Fred Astaire is.

That's not necessarily a good analogy. You could get away with saying youth culture as a whole may not need to know Fred Astaire, but thats not the case here. If someone were majoring in film studies, or acting even, I would be somewhat appalled that he/she wasnt aware of Astaire, or at least his influence. I would say it is probably not important for people of today to know about Paul Rand or Saul Bass or Alexey Brodovitch, but to someone who is a professional in their field it would be quite the opposite.
Derrick Schultz
02.27.05 at 12:51

Having said that, It still makes for interesting discussion!

Derrick:

I have been encouraged to learn design history and to attempt to never repeat it


I have to say that I think you're very ambitious in aiming never to repeat design history! Surely the point of studying design history is to place our own work in context; we can then understand the styles, techniques and concepts that came before them and either intentionally appropriate them to our own ends, or recognise how our own work will be recieved in light of this history.
Tim C
02.27.05 at 12:54

Jessica, I'm equally appalled when young designers cite worthwile guidelines as hard and fast rules. It suggests to me that they have learned by rote, rather than by doing. Bear with me; this is not a personal attack.

You state the reason "that it's very hard on the viewer's eyes". A worthwhile concern! But I have to ask, has it been hard on your eyes? Of note, this template holds up very well when the user increases the type sizes for their own level of comfortable reading. There is sufficient contrast between foreground text and background. While it may not be ideal, this web site certainly passes the threshold of readability for many readers, including many typographers.

In print, there has been a school of thought that suggests serifs improve the readability of large texts. Meanwhile, many texts have been happily read in sans serif typefaces, and other texts are hard to read because the serif typeface chosen is just plain hard to read, or badly set. Increasing the leading, for example, may do more to improve the readability of a text than changing the typeface.

Right now, with displays typically being 75-100 dpi, we don't have enough pixels -- even with the best antialiasing -- to support many serif designs at text sizes. The serifs get muddy and add noise, rather than guide the eye. It is a good guideline to avoid serif faces at small sizes, but it's not a rule. And in the future, when we have higher resolution displays, serif faces that just don't work now will suddenly be all the rage for online texts. And we will hear people say, even while they look at beautiful, readable text, "Don't use serif faces for text; they don't work well onscreen."
Kevin Steele
02.27.05 at 01:02

From reading comments by people my age(-ish), I guess the design education I'm getting is the exception and not the rule.

Every time we get a new assignment, our professors give us a list of artists/designers that we can look to for inspiration. They even lend individual students their personal books in order to steer them in a direction, which may be right or wrong for the student.

We are encouraged to look at other's styles and adapt them if aids the communicative value. Sometimes looking at other work has helped us find our own voice.

I guess there is no point in reinventing the wheel when there is already one out tere that works.
Jamie Lasitter
02.27.05 at 01:06

Jamie, where are you studying? I wish my lecturers would work in a similar way...

I recently worked on a project which involved the appropriation of William Morris's ornamental patterns to promote the use of parks and public spaces. All my Head of Department had to say about it was that 'The flowers make it look a bit feminine'. I wonder if she knows who Barbera Kruger is.....
Tim C
02.27.05 at 01:12

Tim, I go to school here, but more specifically here.
Jamie Lasitter
02.27.05 at 01:28

michael -

do you REALLY think kruger INVENTED that look? don't you have any idea where she got that? do you really think that no one EVER did work that looked that BEFORE kruger??? are you kidding?!?!? lordy, sometimes i think that you ny design culture folks really think you folks invented the wheel. she was drawing off very long design traditions and ideas that LONG redate her work. i always looked at her work as total copycatting. the big difference is that she lived in ny and claimed to be an artist instead of a mere designer. otherwise her work leaves no impression of originality of even novelty. i swear, sometimes i think you new york design culture folks live in a bunker.

as for owning a design style, perhaps you should buy our buddy chuck anderson a cup of coffee sometime and kisten to his story about his battle with the gap/old navy and tell me if a person can own a "design style". the man is a living hero for all of us designer folks and nobody even knows about it.

man, if we could truly "own" a design style, i'd be filthy rich.
art chantry
02.27.05 at 01:43

I don't claim that Barbara Kruger "invented" that "look."

Even if I did, in the second-to-last paragraph of the piece I say - I thought fairly clearly - that I don't think it's possible for anyone to "own" a style of design.

Also, as a native Ohioan and a suburbanite father-of-three, I would be credited with no special allegience to "NY Design Culture." Since the issue has come up: I am over forty. I suppose, like anyone else, my views on any given subject are the product of the things I've experienced in my life so far.
Michael Bierut
02.27.05 at 02:04

right, sure, whatever. ohio is great. therefore you have no involvement in that ny design culture i refer to. ok. fine.

so, if you also think that kruger is such a special styist that her work should not be, what, imitated? of course, this assumes that she didn't imitate anyone or that the student didn't draw off other traditions - possibly even the same as kruger. ok. fine. good luck with that.

own graphic style? the corportaions think they can (i can sight numerous lawsuits exhibiting their position that they can). designers can't. we sell what we do and who we are. that's part of the equation. the clients think they buy it and us. that's part of the equation as well. as design becomes a more noticeable and desirable commodity, we lose more and more power and control over our work.

so, until the power (aka "monied") interests finally manage to control our output so totally that even we can't copy our style (it's already happened), we have to exist in a netherworld of conflicting controlling interests. our styles are now treated as product and we sell it. don't like it, but there it is.

this ain't art. it's language. writers can control the special arrangement of words, but not the style it's written in. our clients hire us to write and control what we write, but can't control the words. anybody with any savvy can look at what we write and learn to write in similar fashion. it's that kind of a problem. so, when we are imitated, then we have changed the dialog. if we are good, we change the language. everybody uses it.

kruger is a sort of stephen king. sorta unique, but drawing off untold numbers of predecessors and styles and ideas. she also launched a legion of stylistic imitators just like king. good? bad? unique? original? no application. powerful? influential? a creator of future dialog and language? possible. at the moment a much imitated stylist (like king). absolutely.

control? well, king controls his writing and output to a degree, but not the style. king has the advantage of producing product (stories). we as designers only produce ideas for hire. much less control.

i guess control of style has to do with how profoundly you influence the language of design.

art chantry
02.27.05 at 02:26

if you also think that kruger is such a special styist that her work should not be, what, imitated?


Who said that? The general consensus so far on this thread seems to be that it's ok to refer to and be influenced by other designers and artists and whatever else; no one's disputed that! however, is it better to recognise and understand the previous work you are drawing on, or doesn't it matter? Anyone seriously stating that you 'shouldn't produce any work thaat looks like anything else' is either stupid or stupidly ambitious! To quote Michael completely out of context:

my views on any given subject are the product of the things I've experienced in my life so far.


Doesn't this apply to our design work too?
Tim C
02.27.05 at 02:38

tim -

it was implied by michaels' story. his , what, shock? that this student was "imitating" someone he recognized and (to some degree) admired, and the further 'shock' of the student's supposed ignorance of that stylist is basically saying just that.

look. i am a very exaggerated sylist. i recognize that. my style(s) have been literally aped to the point of creating entire schools of design thought, fo better or worse. so, i know a little of what someone like kruger must have to deal with. i've given a lot of thought to style, it's origins. yes, my style is appropriated form legions of prior practitioners. i live in a postmodern era which is by definition a classic form of a decadent style. appropriation (recycled ideas) is the key to that style as it is in all decadent styles. i wrong others and i. in turn, i am wronged. it's the language of the moment.

so, it's a conundrum. it's what we deal with. if no one is coming up with new ideas and we continue to recycle old ideas, then how do we create anything original? through style - the easiest thing to imitate that there is.

a real conundrum. one i really enjoy.
art chantry
02.27.05 at 02:50

Can we all agree that Kruger just ripped off the Swiss designers and used Futrua instead of Helvetica.

Best,
John
02.27.05 at 02:50

john -

no way. she ripped of decades of scandal magazines, entire industries of american stock image makers, cheezy postcards, bumpersticker sloganeers and punk. the fact that she used futura is almost a joke.

art chantry
02.27.05 at 02:55

Art: Um...has something here touched a nerve with you, or what? You appear to be lashing out at something, and Michael just happens to be in the way of you getting at it. It's not pretty, and you're not making much overall sense, despite the occasional valid point.

do you REALLY think kruger INVENTED that look?

  1. At no point did Michael ever say that Kruger invented the style. Let's review: "[...] is an artist who is...um, pretty well known for doing work that[...]" Which she is.

  2. He did, however, suggest that it is strongly associated with her(this is where reasonable people infer "...currently"). Which it is.

  3. Nor did he say that Babs owns the look. In fact, he seems a bit tired of pointing out where in his piece he specifically suggested she probably couldn't should she want to. Which she (probably) can't.



so, if you also think that kruger is such a special styist that her work should not be, what, imitated?
He didn't say that. Or suggest it. I'm not sure how you even arrived at this conclusion. There's absolutely no comment regarding whether Kruger should be imitated.
Now, there is the "ripoff" comment near the end, but if you're going to cite that, keep in mind you'll effectively be equating the cover of Esquire with a student portfolio in terms of the standards used for review.

his , what, shock? that this student was "imitating" someone he recognized and (to some degree) admired, and the further 'shock' of the student's supposed ignorance of that stylist is basically saying just that.
Er...actually, he didn't say anything about imitation either, which is rather the point, isn't it? You have chosen to put the word "imitation" in his mouth. He simply stated that the work looked like Kruger's. Which, by description, it did. For having said "this ain't art. it's language," you're being surprisingly loose with your own. The single instance of "imitation" before your own invocation was in reference to prior discussion.

she ripped of decades of scandal magazines, entire industries of american stock image makers, cheezy postcards, bumpersticker sloganeers and punk.
Citation?
No, seriously. Lack of one would appear to suggest the same assumptions you're attributing to Michael.


Michael: In the piece, you stop at the finding out the girl was unaware of Kruger, which was enough at the time, I suppose. But given the outcome of all this, I'm curious. Did you continue the discussion with her and find out how she ended up at the style of those pieces? This is obviously outside the scope of a job(?) interview, but hey, I can ask.
Su
02.27.05 at 04:21

Ok, firstly what a great topic Michael!

I've just finished degree in visual communication design and am currently undertaking the honours program. Originality has been my design passion. I want to push and break existing boundaries.

I think it is impossible to acknowledge every idea or visual style carried out by previous designers, famous or not. The number of designers (and styles) that are deserving of study far outnumber the time we have, especially when you're a young and transforming designer. So reflecting upon this I think there are few points to make.

I believe that we are all ultimately influenced by the previous designers and the work they surrounded us with but I think that is not always the case. I cannot tell you the number of times I presented an apparently fresh and exciting idea to my lecturer only to discover that either a similar idea or visual style has been executed by another designer that I have not heard of. I have always felt frustrated by this fact.

For that reason, I don't think it is not possible to "own" a style.
Geoff Riding
02.27.05 at 04:50

Su, at that point in the interview, after recovering from my mild surprise, I simply said (and pleasantly, I might add), "Oh, you should check her work out," and spelled Kruger's name, which my interviewee carefully wrote down. (Her portfolio was pretty nice, actually.)

It's worth pointing out that there was a lot I didn't know myself when I was 23 and fresh off Interstate 80. There's a lot I don't know now.
Michael Bierut
02.27.05 at 04:54

I think many of you are completely missing Michaels point to this article.
As a MFA student, I am completely appalled with the current state of most graphic design programs. (Jessica thanks for the example) They seem to be popping up everywhere with little consideration of the programs contents. It is becoming more and more common for professors to disburse projects without requiring any kind of research. Many students are allowed to jump on the computer and open the Adobe program of their choice. Then they crap out these projects lacking concept, while using graphics that bare no significant value.

I don't think Barbara Kruger owns her particular style, but I bet she knows where it is borrowed from!

Michael, thank you for being a "forty something" designer, that takes the time to educate us -with your writings.
sp
02.27.05 at 05:05

A few points I would like to address:

1) There is a distinct "stopping" effect on this webpage due, I believe, to the strong contrast of white on dark brown which causes the eye to have to jump over the (dark) hurdles between every word. I find this very jarring and enlarging the words doesn't help either. I ran a search on dark backgrounds on web pages and not surprisingly, I couldn't find one *.edu or designer website that advocates it.

2) I stand by my Fred Astaire analogy. Acting/singing/dancing is a similar art form to ours in that it's transient (I mean let's face it, most brochures and posters get thrown away in the end) and influenced to a much greater extent by the current trends, as opposed to those of the past. I'm sure there are some examples to the contrary, but for the most part the industry seems to cast up and coming actors by their talent and ability, not whether they are familiar with actors from back in the day.

3) I looked up Barbara Kruger in my text book and she was briefly mentioned as a side note of the 80's. I found a lot more information on the web including the fact that she is old enough to be my grandmother. For God's sake, this woman's heyday was almost 25 years ago! My design books are chock full of designers going all the way back to the 1800's, but I can't believe any potential boss would expect me to remember every last one. There are so many.
Jessica Simpleton
02.27.05 at 05:46

For the record, and in hope that we can move along here, I agree with Jessica's points 2 and 3 above. Actors are cast based on their talent and ability, and so are designers. And most bosses do not expect their entry-level employees to know every artist from the dawn of history.

When I'm hiring, I don't look for encyclopedic knowledge, but intellectual curiosity and openess to new ideas. Conversely, I would not hire someone who reacted with suspicion, hostility and defensiveness to areas of knowledge with which he or she was not already acquainted. Just my taste, I guess.

I have no opinion one way or another on the legibility of dark backgrounds on websites. Apologies in advance to anyone who finds this hard to read.
Michael Bierut
02.27.05 at 06:06

Jessica, so are you saying that because she did her most famous work in the 1980s, her work has no merit, and therefore, unworthy to learn about? As far as the art world goes, her work is pretty recent.

You seem to be very judgemental of anyone that is older than you. You can only hope to still be a designer at age 40+. These people are still around because they know what they are doing.

You are probably one of those students who uses novelty fonts in your designs because they look "cool." You probably don't know that you can do really impressive stuff using Bodoni, Baskerville, Gill, Futura, Sabon or Helvetica...all of which are typefaces that have been around way longer than you have.

I love the fact that your only source of "solid" information about Barbara Kruger is Google. I challenge you to go to the design section of a library or a Barnes & Noble and just look at what other people have done. And absorb it. If you really want to amount to anything in this field, you will take on this challenge...and love every minute of it.
Jamie Lasitter
02.27.05 at 06:18

3) I looked up Barbara Kruger in my text book and she was briefly mentioned as a side note of the 80's. I found a lot more information on the web including the fact that she is old enough to be my grandmother. For God's sake, this woman's heyday was almost 25 years ago! My design books are chock full of designers going all the way back to the 1800's, but I can't believe any potential boss would expect me to remember every last one. There are so many.

(cue sarcasm)
25 years ago?? the horror! Thats soooo long ago! That's like, HISTORY, or something!
(end sarcasm)

Jessica, just out of curiosity, can you provide some examples of designers/designs you admire or think are interesting/original? I suspect you're a troll, which means you wont provide such specific info, but just out of curiosity...
theo
02.27.05 at 06:37

su -

ummmm.... no. actually this is the way i think and write and even talk. sorry if you don't like it. i've tried to change myself, so that other people don't react like you reacted, but nothing i do seems to work. so, i guess i have to go on annoying folks. keep in mind that i'm actually NOT pissed off. try to imagine that when i write what i write, that i'm doing it with a smile, ok? or. perhaps when you see my byline, you skip along to the next one.

sorry.
art chantry
02.27.05 at 06:58

These last few comments are degenerating into a mob attack on a young designer. Let's just be happy that she will never forget who Barbara Kruger is, ever, and move on to a more interesting point Michael brought up earlier.

"Similarly, at this stage of design and art history, I wonder if knowing all the precedents might actually inhibit a designer's ability to get any work done."

As a current MFA student who has had a wonderful design history teacher and who is currently studying design theory, precedence plays a huge role is my making. It has become a routine part of my process to research and study those who have worked with similar ideas. At the same time this dilemma between generating new form and ideas while at the same time understanding and designing within the context of design and art history has become a frequent point of discussion in our classes. We are always encouraged to be daring and speak loudly within our work, however, in reality we are either stuck rehashing old form or are too paralyzed by knowledge to take risks. At what point do we give ourselves the permission to trust ourselves to borrow only what is necessary in the process of create something new?
Ching
02.27.05 at 07:28

Ching wrote
We are always encouraged to be daring and speak loudly within our work, however, in reality we are either stuck rehashing old form or are too paralyzed by knowledge to take risks. At what point do we give ourselves the permission to trust ourselves to borrow only what is necessary in the process of create something new?

Borrow liberally, but borrow knowledgably. I have no problem whatsoever with appropriation per se, but its this defensiveness that one often finds in the appropriater that bothers me. How many young designers these days are plundering the design artifacts of the 80's, for instance? That's fine, of course, often quite skillful and sometimes even brilliant. Bu dont act like your work is some paragon of originality and pure inspiration while you're doing it. Jessica talk about what is "trendy", but so much of what is trendy in design is in fact strongly based in the past, even, dare I say, a whole 25 years ago, in fact these days 20-25 years ago is just what the doctor ordered.

And yeah, we are kind of piling on her, but frankly, she came into this thread on the attack, most particularly against those who in her opinion should be soylent green by now.
theo
02.27.05 at 07:41

Anyone think this is a sad example of where design may be heading? So many have worked very hard to create a dynamic history and make it it such an important part of or criculm. Now we are seeing all that hard work buried under meaningless work.
Is it important to mix intelligence and design? Michael you seem to be able to mix the two very well.
sp
02.27.05 at 07:43

If there was such an obvious "Kruger thing" going on with this CD packaging, I wonder why it wasn't mentioned during critique in school? Recognizing cultural connotations, historical and contemporary reference, appropriation, etc. are important factors that guide our formal decisions as graphic designers. We don't just make aesthetic choices, hopefully we're making graphic decisions based on knowledge and with intention. To me, that's the power of our profession. Just because someone else did it, or did it a lot, doesn't mean they own it. It also doesn't mean that someone else can't do it. It just means that being aware of the precedence can only help drive the intention of the design. Of course there's a lot that everyone doesn't know, no matter what age, but what's the point of getting angry and defensive about it? Wouldn't it be better to be open to learning something new (like it sounds like the interviewee was).
Jin
02.27.05 at 07:44

she was drawing off very long design traditions and ideas that LONG redate her work. i always looked at her work as total copycatting.

Her work is copycatting, but that's the reason why it works so well. The false urgency implied in its bold nature instantly reminded me of British tabloids. Visually, the gap between her work and that of The Sun is not that wide.

What makes Barbara Kruger's work so powerful is that it draws its style from such sources, and turns them on their head. Picture the "I shop therefore I am" statement without such a tabloid-influenced style. Would it have the same impact? I sincerely doubt it. The borrowed style is what drives the point home.

As for trying to be original, I think it's a goal not worth fighting for. Someday, I hope designers care more about problem-solving, communication, clarification and the power of design to improve life more than they care about "being original." Where's the value in originality?

Also, I think that people should re-read what Michael actually wrote. It seems like many people missed the point. Especially if they came away thinking Michael is an arrogant snob.
Ryan Nee
02.27.05 at 07:59

An art or a design which accomplished a high quality or presenting a new direction is worth to be archived as a good example for the next generation.

So, what is a right way of archiving arts and designs? Should we save them in DVD as data? or, should we put them in the Internet server to make easy to access? Is this kind of questions are what we have to think about? I don't think so. It is true that there are huge amount of art and design produced. However, it is not necessary to keep all of them. Actually, we shouldn't do. It is nothing but a making confusions. I'm not talking about the personal archive, but the public archive for the historical record. Like I wrote in the beginning, the reason why we need to make archive is not to make an art encyclopedia, but, to look back what art made a high value in given situation. There are so many of shoddy goods in this world. On the other hand, there are just a few of 'best quality master pieces'. And if someone -not one person- can figure out select which is good one in terms of both showing new direction and achieving aesthetic value, making archive of them is not a big problem.

I think what we have to worry is not how to save them, but how to distinguish a stone from a diamond.
Jiwon Lee
02.27.05 at 08:20

theo~
ok, here's my list. The list of designers that I stand in awe of:
John Heartfield, Milton Glaser, April Greiman, Aubrey Beardsley, Alphonse Mucha, Arthur Rackham, and Dugald Stermer. I went through my design textbook these are the ones who impressed me out of at least a hundred.
Jessica Simpleton
02.27.05 at 08:21

Jessica Simpleton wrote:

[Graphic Design is] influenced to a much greater extent by the current trends, as opposed to those of the past.


Ryan Nee wrote:

Someday, I hope designers care more about problem-solving, communication, clarification and the power of design to improve life more than they care about "being original." Where's the value in originality?



To be honest, I'm going to have to take issue with Jessica's use of the word 'trendy' - surely being 'trendy' or fashionable is not what Graphic Design is all about? I always thought (despite fierce opposition) that the whole point of our work is to communicate effectively a given message, which shouldn't preclude taking reference from previous work, rather than to make things look 'cool' and 'modern' (in the colloquial rather than historical sense). However (As Ryan seems to imply, and with which I entirely agree), all this discussion of 'Originality' In design seems to me to be the same sentiment, masquerading as the opposite. Is originality tantamount to our work, in a way that supersedes effectiveness? work that is lauded as 'original' often seems to me to be a rehash of graphic styles, which , while being new, are done to death within certain circles, and applied with no real thought or consideration. To constantly strive after originality completely misses the point of our work. People respond to established systems of visual communication, and these can be used to our advantage. The most truly original work is that which takes established styles and systems and uses them in new and interesting ways, IMHO, rather than using lots of Lubalin Graph and fey line drawings, as that's what all the trendy clothes shops and lifestyle magazines are doing. (Excuse my cynicism, but I am only trying to prove a point). By refusing to engage with even the most recent design history (If you think Krueger's old, why bother with Eric Gill, or even Saul Bass) you are cutting yourself off from one of the richest sources of inspiration (and education) available to you. Quite frankly, it seems f******* stupid to me (possibly flamebait, for which i apologise again.).


Tim C
02.27.05 at 08:26

Someday, I hope designers care more about problem-solving, communication, clarification and the power of design to improve life more than they care about "being original." Where's the value in originality?

Not only should the focus be on problem solving, but on why a particular style was chosen to solve the problem at hand. In the case of the interviewee, how was the Kruger-esque style used to communicate the message she was trying to deliver in the packaging? And how does referencing other designers in our own work help us communicate a message that isn't just about design history. The majority of people who will see our work are not designers, and won't get such a reference, and although discussions on websites like this make it feel like the whole world may know who Barbara Kruger is, most of our audiences won't.

The discussion may then not be about borrowing from a particular designer, but using a style that they have used so well to communicate a similar message.

Art, last time I heard you speak I remember you mentioning something about not having a computer. Nice to see you aboard!
Gary Fogelson
02.27.05 at 08:26

Jessica Simpleton wrote:

<


ok, here's my list. The list of designers that I stand in awe of:
John Heartfield, Milton Glaser, April Greiman, Aubrey Beardsley, Alphonse Mucha, Arthur Rackham, and Dugald Stermer.


That's quite an eclectic list, and I have to say I am in awe of the diversity of it. I'd be interested to know how you came to the conclusion that these were the historical figures worth bothering with, while discarding others out of hand.... care to elaborate?

I went through my design textbook these are the ones who impressed me out of at least a hundred.


textbook? I personally don't like the word, as it implys something you have to read, rather than something you read for enjoyment, but the fact that you use it in the singular is more worrying to me. do you not read?
Tim C
02.27.05 at 08:33

textbook? I personally don't like the word, as it implys something you have to read, rather than something you read for enjoyment, but the fact that you use it in the singular is more worrying to me. do you not read?

That has got to be the funniest thing I've heard/read all day.
Jamie Lasitter
02.27.05 at 08:46

Sorry. being tired and sarcastic.
Tim C
02.27.05 at 08:52

And how does referencing other designers in our own work help us communicate a message that isn't just about design history?

I definitely agree, but I think it's important to make sure that we think about historical context before we design things, whether people will notice it or not.

For example, a freshman student at my school did a poster where he was talking about freeing himself from his possessions, and bottom of the poster said "freedom" written in Comic Sans. Now, I don't think the issue is that he used a bad typeface, but that he used a typeface shipped exclusively by Microsoft, the largest corporation on Earth. I'm certain he didn't intend on the irony, which is what really frustrated me.

While we don't need to participate in "design masturbation," designing for the sake of designers, we certainly need to think about the context and hidden meanings interwoven into the ways in which we communicate.

I think Barbara Kruger did exactly that. And while some may think she's a no-talent hack, at least she's got us all talking.
Ryan Nee
02.27.05 at 08:56

Why we easily decide there is nothing new to do? Does the word 'new' mean just new brilliant idea in advertisement? I could see, as a graphic design student, all of the time the design students practice with same subject, come up with quite different result. even though some people took same style(simply visual style-same color, same typeface... etc.) to say something, the result can be quite different. I can easily say that sometimes my works are looks like they have same way of graphic expressions with something have been done by someone else. But, it comes out really different, because the thing I want to say is different, even though the typeface and I choose the same color were same. All of the situation surrounding the design matter cannot be exactly same. Designing is not a typing game with which some people can make same score. If we just say there is nothing I can do to create new thing, it would be the start of coping the other's work. On the other hand, when we look at the thing we are designing carefully, and drag out what we want to say, the design result will be creative, even it comes up with same graphic elements. Because every thing in this society is unique.

-sorry about the other comment by me, it's on the wrong section. Please erase it.-
Jiwon Lee
02.27.05 at 09:06

well this seems fun!! it started with the mild surprise of one michael beirut about somebody not knowing barbara kruger and off we go in a dog fight!! wish paula scher would have joined in and could tell us a thing or two about her "influences".

of course all designers are visually influenced by art or the streets ro whatever other visual you would like. i just don't see how it is that important to compare somebodies work at all times (some lawyers perhaps) and if one does, then i also want to hear about somebody's modegliani palette if you like.
what i think art chantry means by the new york bunker mentality (and no michael you can not deny your are not part of the NY scene) is, that there are taste makers in and for the big apple (that goes for literature and and all the arts ) that are very new york specific. that crowd is the end all for most professionals there. i find this sad as there is so much great stuff out there in the world, fortunately for new york there is always young blood coming from all over the planet to keep it somewhat fresh, otherwise this apple would be a very rotten one.

as most i have gone off the original argument a bit, i just find it interesting how an "innocent" thought by one of the better known designers in the U.S. can get some blood boiling. michael is, at least to me, known as rather insightful and maybe he is just one naughty snob and wanted to get a rise out of some of us

i would just hope that you all throw out your design books and magazines and start with a fresh palette!
good going art!

martin ogolter
02.27.05 at 09:06

okay, let's give 'jessica' a little more credit here. someone has created (dare i say designed) a blog persona that combines a common caricature of jessica simpson with a stereotypically ill-informed, belligerent, young, (american, thank you theo for that insightful observation) graphic designer who is extremely skeptical of an old-timer's critical assessment of another young designer's piece created in a style strongly reminiscent of barbara kruger's work (which, as has been shown above, references other styles). in other words, a pastiche persona used to critique a critique of someone who imitated and imitator. brilliant. jessica, don't even tell me you're real. it would break my heart. no, instead tell me you are barbara kruger engaged in some new copycatting project. no, on second thought, don't tell me. keep fueling/fooling the thread.
jeremy
02.27.05 at 09:07

I think the issue with comic sans is not that it is owned by Microsoft, or that it is bland but that it communicates childishness before it speaks of freedom.

Paying the appropriate attention to chosing a typeface, and co opting a style that someone else has become well known for are a bit different. Ideally, those styles will have been crafted with similar communicative intention as a successful typeface, giving your design a particular voice and tone, but using a style to communicate rather then seek one out for a particular piece is just lazyness, and it is design masturbation.

Barbara Kruger was able to find her voice, and subsequently (through art) find the messages that best suited the voice she was speaking in. There are many designers that subscribe to that today. They find style first, and the appropriate content comes to them. Style in that case, isn't always visual, it can be characteristics of a process.
Gary Fogelson
02.27.05 at 09:17

Just in response to this comment from Kevin,

I have to ask, has it been hard on your eyes? Of note, this template holds up very well when the user increases the type sizes for their own level of comfortable reading.

I wanted to say that yes, the typography on this site is terribly hard on my eyes and you can't increase the font size without entirely disabling the style sheets in IE options. I can tolerate light on dark type. But this site has tiny writing and the fonts do not appear to be set to relative sizing as they are certainly not resizeable in IE6.

I am someone who normally finds myself decreasing the set font size of a large amount of webpages... and I actually had to *decrease my screen resolution* in order to continue to read this interesting site!

So, relative font sizing would be very helpful.
Jo
02.27.05 at 10:34

OMG. What is WronG with you people! If you want to go down in history as noteworthy "artizans", then you should have stuck to fine art. Exccuussse me for having eclectic taste by the way. I spent the better part of this afternoon searching through my "textbook" and yes, it's the only one I have so far since I am, after all, a beginning student, for the artists that impress me the most and purely on a gut level, instinctive level. And yes, I admit the persona is somewhat fucked up but it's also me in many ways. I just like to tell it like it is.
Jessica Simpleton
02.27.05 at 11:29

Art: I think you misunderstood me. You've made several claims and accusations with no backing whatsoever or, if it's the case, aknowledgement that they are pure opinion, quietly skirt direct challenges to your arguments, and then immediately launch into further polemic. Your tone is actually of little issue. I'm not particularly known for diplomacy, either. My point was that your comments are simply not amounting to much more than you screaming. If you're fine with that, great, but don't couch it behind trying to make a point. Be as annoying as you like, but at least make a passing attempt at backing it up.


Jessica--
I still think you're a troll, but there's a rather glaring error in one of your comments that needs addressing. On a related note, if you actually are a beginning design studen, as you claim, you might want to calibrate your monitor before turning in your next assignment:

There is a distinct "stopping" effect on this webpage due, I believe, to the strong contrast of white on dark brown

Are you even aware that the the background color for this site is #333?
If you're going to argue color theory, then I'd suggest you make sure you're actually looking at the right colors.
(Personally, I do think it's a bit dark, but that's another discussion, and I don't feel like contributing to the tangent.)
Su
02.27.05 at 11:56

su -

actually i was trying to be nice. i think maybe you should not read my posts. i don't really think you know the implications of what you're saying here. you don't agree with me, that's fine, but what you're saying is going over the line into insult, i think.

so, i shall still be nice and say, "gee, im sorry you don't like what i think. why don't you turn the station?"

xxoo.

-art
art chantry
02.28.05 at 12:01

su -

one lat thing - i firmly stand by every comment and observation i've made here. if you disagree wirth me,, why don't you explain? or perhaps you should call me privately and i take all the time we need for me to back up everything i personally think with the 35 years of design experience and observation at my disposal? i actually do know what i'm talking about. you just disagree. that's ok.

so, i'm game for a private chat. but nomore in this thread.

- art
art chantry
02.28.05 at 12:10

Michael,
Not to underscore your 40-something-ness, but perhaps your interviewee was actually referencing the identity of a well-known skate clothing shop: Supreme. Their logo was designed by shop owner James Jebbia, who's background is in retail — ex-manager of Parachute in Soho, co-owner of the NY Stussy boutique — not graphic design.

Perhaps this would add an interesting spin on the whole appropriation / professionalism / design history / vernacular stew that is this thread.
m. kingsley
02.28.05 at 12:30

art-
Out of pure curiosity, how do you feel when others try to recreate your "style"? Is it frustrating to see other designers bastardize your hard work? Or do you find it to be a complement and sit back and smile?

Here
is a good example of a bad attempt!
sp
02.28.05 at 12:48

Michael, thanks for the post. Interesting as it was, the ensuing comments add up to what is one of the more disappointing and unproductive discussions I've read in quite some time. Congratulations on any landed punches folks, but let's reel it back in.
Zak
02.28.05 at 01:54

geez... this is like mud wrestling... jello shots... backgammon... O_o

i am a design student and a big fan of history. knowing the past helps me understand the present, and being well-informed would be a criteria for a good designer, no? history informs not just what had been accomplished but why form was generated. it gives us solid ground in which we can make choices to apply design to our present time. i.e. can we communicate the same way; use complementary graphic languages to convey a similar idea that a designer did 20 years ago? is the solution still relevant?

i think ultimately the point is not to know who barbara kruger is (or simply how her work looked), but to know how and why they were effective in communicating the idea. and how this virtuous quality affects how we see a similar graphic language today. can we still use futura bold italic to convey a similar message? and if so, how can we make it look interesting and not just something that has been re-hashed?

i have to agree with many, though, that too much history and knowledge does paralyze our abilities to create. its a dilemma.
leslie
02.28.05 at 03:49

Jessica - I'm not criticising you for having eclectic taste, I'm just curious about what you admire in these influences. Sorry if my post seemed confrontational.

however, I think Jeremy might have a point above.... are you just an amusing alter ego created to rile us?
3/2 Odds says you're actually Art Chantry!
Tim C
02.28.05 at 06:12

As the Designers Republic (and others) once said "Talent borrows. Genius steals."

Kruger's style is emminently usable, so if you're going to rip it off, do it wholesale. Don't change the font, colors, spacing anything.

My advice to Jessica: Steal. Appropriate. Plunder. Loot. Copy. Paste. Ctrl-C. Ctrl-V . Sample. Edit. Recontextualise. But don't try and deny it. Stick out your brassneck and go for it. Did I steal it? Yes. You could send your tutors into a headfuck tailspin they may never pull out of - just look at the carnage you've inflicted with just a couple of posts. You've already created a sensation, got people wandering if this isn't some kind of alt-reality art prank.

Work on your rhetoric, hone your hubris, learn the history of Dada, Situationism (and pop artists like Lichtenstein and, hey, even Barbara Kruger), and go for it. Maybe along the way you'll create something better than the 'original'.

You might want to try getting a few more books to copy from though.
marty
02.28.05 at 06:34

I'm currently living and working in Italy, and one of my flatmates graduated from a (pretty well-known) british design school. In his 3 years, he had virtually no theoretical courses, it was all very brief-oriented, with the occasional movie shown by one of the tutors, and the even rarer seminar from an invited speaker, that according to him could be anyone thay could get that week. I was really surprised at that, as in my 5-year communication design course at the Lisbon Faculty of Fine Arts the actual "design" course was probably a fifth of our "inputs", as we had to share it with subjects such as anthropology, sociology, visual form, anatomy, geometry, aesthetics, plus 5 years of art history and one of design history.
Needless to say we needed more that one "textbook" - Jessica, maybe you could share with us which magical textbook this is - during these 5 years, and were expected to look beyond, and learn from, what is "trendy" and under 40 years old.
Basically what I learned - and try to practise - is to look back into the past, in whatever category, and realise how that can inspire me, or allow me to understand my surroundings. That comes naturally with some humbleness. Not only for the "population explosion of artists and designers" that everyday crowd our already overpopulated planet with more images and words (and yes, typefaces) who may inadvertently - or not - copy (or pay hommage, reference or any other term) others, but mostly because all of us look, listen, read and eventually create inside a (if you want to call it visual) culture. And Jessica, even though you're beginning, it's never too early to open your eyes, and not just to trust your gut.
Frederico Duarte
02.28.05 at 09:18

Jessica Simpleton wrote:

ok, here's my list. The list of designers that I stand in awe of: John Heartfield, Milton Glaser, April Greiman, Aubrey Beardsley, Alphonse Mucha, Arthur Rackham, and Dugald Stermer.


Fair enough. Having seen Milton Glaser speak more than once, and having read much by him as well, I can tell you that he, at least, has an amazing depth and breadth of design history stored in his brain, and would expect, if not knowledge, then at least curiosity and openness from a young designer.

And in the end, that's my biggest issue with you. If I were hiring a young designer, and I interviewed the young woman Michael spoke to, and also interviewed you, I would hire her over you despite you both not knowing who Kreuger is, because she at least is curious and wants to learn more, whereas you seem to have already, before you even started your schooling, to have closed your mind to knowledge that doesnt fit within your narrow world-view. I could ultimately care less if a designer knows the names and styles of X, Y and Z, as long as they're capable of acknowledging what they do or dont know, and are always eager to learn more.
theo
02.28.05 at 09:41

Frederico....
Did your flatmate go to Ravensbourne?

sounds familiar.......
Tim C
02.28.05 at 10:29

sp -

well, that's a tough answer. in seattle, where i lived and worked for 46 years, i trained my own competition. i taught classes, i helped folks, i hired folks, i got them work. several years into it, i was competing in my own style with dozens of others working in the same point of view. i had to compete with my friends and students, former employees, assistants, etc. before too many years had gone by, i couldn't make a living in seattle anymore. i had to move to a different city in a different region of the country. i sort of became a victim of my own success. my ideas became a regional and even cultural style. so, when my "style" became the norm practiced by so many others, i was out of a job. kaput.

but, as tough as my experience has been, i have to admit i'm extremely proud of my success with graphic language. i see my style everywhere. many many people built careers and lives working with ideas i popularized (i can't say i invented them). i've done very well with that and in a way created a sort of immortality - my style and ideas will live beyond me, now. so, it's incredibly gratifying.

so, when i see examples like what you picked (i couldn't download it), i have very widely mixed emotions. but, i sleep well. i feel like i did good.

does that answer your question?

art chantry
02.28.05 at 11:16

"is it possible for someone to "own" a graphic style
no
if you can do it better or subvert it's meaning it's yours

and why would anyone want to own a style?
mike
02.28.05 at 11:47

Would it be too rude at this point to suggest that while "style" is implicit in what we do, it's ulimately the narrative/conceptual manner in which it is used that makes it resonate, makes one care? For instance, many people have ripped off the look of Art's work, but very few infuse their rip-offs with the humor, anger and pathos he does. I would go so far to say the same about Kruger. It's the combination of her graphic style with what she is saying that has made it stick. (I admittedly was floored—as a barely twenty-something from a town on the Ohio/PA border studying abroad—by her 1990 Venice Biennale exhibit.)

As Art pointed out before (and I think this was one of Tibor Kalman's main points), design is a language. What we do with it—whether promoting a b(r)and, furthering a cause important to us, or making every day life easier to navigate—dictates our use of, and response, to style.

But, as Michael Bierut once said, "The biggest challenge that faces a designer isn't the quest for novelty, but coming to grips with the fact that much of we do has little content." One might ponder which came first: the lack-of-content egg, or the lazy chicken designer?

As someone square in the mid thirties, I admire Miss Simpleton's youthful verve in challenging the so-called rules of the establishment, but I'm as much embarrassed by her anti-history/anti-intellectual way of going about it. Certainly the knowledge of too much historical precedent might inhibit a designer's process—as we are constantly being pushed to create something altogether new—and that may make a design student want to throw their hands up in exasperation. But one can simply look at Art's discussion style and work to learn how to go about both in an angry and original, yet intelligent and thought-provoking manner.
Eric Heiman
02.28.05 at 12:22

i feel like telling a few short stories concerning my experiences in this field. part of the difficulties of surviving doing the "style" i devloped was that in seattle when i started out, there was absolutely no one doing anything remotely like my work. i had to go about subbornly and doggedly developing a market for my style. part of that process is helping others in that style. seattle was an is a very competive market and i was forever shut out of the big money clients by the senior competition in the market. i had to work for very low pay for non-profits and small cultural businesses (theaters, tiny record labels, etc.) working in that arena was very tough. i witnessed business practices that would shock even the most jaded among you. as an example, i actually (no joke) experienced four seperate bouts with death threats from competitors over the years. imagine that for a minute. death threats.

so, a couple of rather recent stories about my style and it's adoption by the popular mainstream graphic world -

i was at an opening for a show of my posters in a major city. i was sitting at a table with a bunch of friends and new acquaintences and having fun, drinking beers and talking. a young hip kid standing around the edges finally worked up the nerve to approach me and shake my hand. he said he was a huge fan of my work all his life and now he worked at a movie studio doing posters and stuff. he further said that he "was the one who did the pulp fiction movie poster". i was very impressed and told him how much i admired that piece. he then said that it was his "art chantry" piece and that he tried to rip my style for it. everybody at the table started to laugh. i was dumbfounded. ii didn't know what to say. i would have given my eye teeth to work on that project. think i told him i'd send him a bill.

recently, i was working for an entertainment media company. they hired me to do covers for their releases. they did wonderful work and i thought it would be a great place to do the sort of thing i loved to do (my "style"). over time i began to notice that i was being hired to do "retro" pieces - pieces aping older period styles (one thing i become good at is learning older styles. i understand them. it's part of the learning process for my work).

in the meantime, there was another design group doing covers that were completely done in my 'style'. in fact the reason i noticed was that they were literally lifting pieces out of my book and re-doing them or applying them to the covers they were executing. it was as if thewy were using my book as their swipe file. it was sorta shocking, but not that uncommon for me. it happens all the time.

i never brought the issue up to the client, because you really can't without looking like a fool. but i did question why they kept giving me "retro" projects and not giving projects like they gave that other studio that was copying my work. their reply was that they already had somebody doing that other look (my "style") and didn't need anyone else to do it. but they needed somebody who could do period styles. so, basically they told me they already had somebody doing "art chantry" and didn't need me to do it.

so, when you talk about my "discussion style", it's a way of thinking and talking born of decades of having to prove myself and losing to point of not being able to survive. it's been tough and i feel the need to apologize to those offended by my writings. but the truth is, that i don't even notice how it reads. it's part of me now.

krugers' look and the problems of copycatting is something i'm intimately and painfully aware of. it's a mark of her success, but can also a burden.

art chantry
02.28.05 at 12:52

I love this place. Really. Beirut and Chantry in the same thread? Arguing about Kruger? This is like a dream world! Here are my two cents:

Simpleton: being educated is not a prerequisite for creating art (fine or commercial), but it can add to your ability to create good art. Dismissing influences because of the ages of their creators or your lack of conscious retention of their work does not serve you well. I agree that you should not avoid certain colors or fonts just because someone else use them in exactly the same way... but it doesn't mean you make pretty things -- just that can recognize and reproduce them. People will pay for it, but they will primarily respect and admire those who can create new, beautiful ideas. Sure, slather white Future bold italic across a red block; but don't expect to have people referring to you in a graphic design blog thread anytime soon.
Isaac B2
02.28.05 at 12:59

P.S, I think there's just a little too much space between the D and the E of your banner (and even the V and E), folks; maybe it needs a little more kerning? Am I alone out here?
Isaac B2
02.28.05 at 01:01

Art
Thank you for you thoughtful response!
As a student this is an issue we fight everyday. Some students are more comfortable with this then others. I can see appropriating certain aspect of a "well-know" designer, such as yourself, but only if there is some kind of conceptual connection.
sp
02.28.05 at 01:13

I don't look at Barbara Kruger's work and immediately think "Barbara Kruger", I think of all the other work that pre-dates hers and—presumably—influenced her. British tabloids meet Jenny Holzer.

Likewise Art Chantry (and I was guilty of ripping you off, Mr. Chantry, long before I ever knew who you were. Thank you for the influence).

As with William Dentrell's "Bird In Hand" topic, I can't help but think that these converstions about influence/plagiarism/education would be better served with a more compelling example. For instance, Saul Bass and Keith Haring were much more original in their personal styles, and they get ripped off regularly too.
Andrew Montgomery
02.28.05 at 01:27

sp -

one thing that isn't being mentioned here is the learning process. one thing we have to do to learn is to gather information from those who went before us. the easiest and one of the most successful ways to do that is to copy. for instance, when you see folks in the louvre sitting at an easel in front of the mona lisa painting a copy, you wonder why are they doing something so lame, especially when the masterpiece is sitting right in front of their eyes. the truth is they are trying to re-create it to learn the master's technique, their ideas, just HOW it was done. as time goes on, these "languages" (or perhaps dialects or slangs or styles) become part of your working vocabulary and then comes out in your own creations as part of larger whole - aka, your own style. it's a process we all have to do to get anywhere.

so, many folks pass through my "style". but it becomes enmeshed in their own take on the language. i do the same constantly as i reseacrh and study older, often obscure or forgotten styles. at first i ape, then i incorportae and then that way of thinking and writing becomes part of my vocabulary and works it's way into my thinking. soon, it's buried in there.

many people stop with the aping process. others plow through so fast they don't notice it. but when we see student portfolios, we must never forget what they experiencing in their learning this language. all writers go through their hemnigway phase. some actually stay there. others move on.

make sense?

as an aside, one reason i get so testy with the word "vernacular" is that it implies that those old styles i study somehow emerged authorless like they grew there. the truth is that there is a huge wonderful sophisticated history to that sort of work that goes virtually unrecognized by mainstream design culture. the tenency is to lump it into the pile called "vernacular" and borrow from it at will, never relaizing that they are dismissing the work of generations of (now obscure) masters. this is the result of lousy design hsitory. we need to know about the people who did that work and why it was done and what they thought and who they were talking to. just because we don't know where it come from doesn't mean it is a natural resource. we allneed to acknowledge our forebearers.
art chantry
02.28.05 at 01:27

Once you get out of school and enter the real world you all will realize you dont know anything. For you to come on here and bash extremely experienced designers is funny. You have no room to even say negative things about what is talked about on her.
Anthony Nollen
02.28.05 at 01:28

Well, thank God I read this! Jessica, I owe you a debt of gratitude.

I'm a 40-year-old feminist just starting school for graphic design. God, I almost wasted tens of thousands of dollars per year! Not to mention I probably don't have that many years left! I will retract my tuition forthwith and find a profession more suited to the quiet dignity of my sunset years.

I'm enjoying the Beirut-Chantry Smackdown more than I should probably admit. It's like an education all by itself. :-)
kt
02.28.05 at 03:31

kt-it's ok to be a feminist as long as you aren't a bitch too.

Regarding the name of my textbook. What, are you crazy? I couldn't bear to watch my "magic textbook go through the shredder in such a manner. And as for the reasons I chose the designers I did on my list ~ I won't bore with you all the details so I'll just mention one or two, in fact the top two in my opinion:
1)Alphonse Mucha - wrapped the compositional elements like a tight coil, yet the pieces somehow retain an airy free and open feeling
2)Dugald Stermer for the way he integrated words and images

As far as researching designers, I couldn't agree more. Before I decided to get some formal training I self-taught and obsessively compulsively studied every fine artist I could find a book on at the local library. (this was before I became interested in graphic design). When I finally got to see Starry Night live and in person, I stood their and cried like an idiot. The old masters probably impress me to much. If I ever see a painting by my all time favorite, Joseph Mallord William Turner in person I'll probably faint.

But this is exactly the point I'm trying to make. Every artist should be free to study the artist who uniquely inspires him or her, not someone else, not someone else's idea of who you should know, with the possible implication of it costing you a job. That someone might sit there and suspect you were lying because you weren't familiar with a certain artist is unbelievable to me when there are so many hundreds of designers past and present.
Jessica Simpleton
02.28.05 at 03:59

Coincidence can definitely happen. Is it not possible for two people to produce the same graphic style via different influences or inspirations derived from non-graphical mediums?

If for nothing else, it's important for us to keep current with design history, for innovation's sake.
Theodore Rosendorf
02.28.05 at 05:58

Noted: "I shop therefore I am" (perhaps Kruger's best-known piece/aphorism) is itself an appropriation/homage/paraphrase, as if to make it all the more clear that originality is somehing of a myth.
Sam
02.28.05 at 05:58

great thread, and i appreciate art chantry's openness and candor. i grew up in the seattle area (SOUTH END!!) so i feel that his work forms a big part of the visual landscape i grew up with. even though i havent lived in seattle for 7 years or so, i still manage to have some civic pride in being there, and it has a lot to do with that sort of 'underground' 'alternative' culture that was brewing there in the eighties and that blew up in the nineties. i dont like to wax nostalgic about the 'old seattle', because in many ways i feel it is a much better place to live now, but its true that a lot of what that whole underground culture came out of is gone now, and the cheap rents that allow a graphic designer like art chantry to work and maintain a studio have pretty much disappeared.

i was at a tour of the moma in nyc the other day of the design department, who has a collection of about 7000 posters. the tour guide declared the poster dead, and so has another teacher here at yale. probably what replaced is the flyer, or the 11x17, or the wheat paste throw up. but im sure seattle was probably one of the last outposts of the poster, and may still be that way til this day. an itneresting exhibit i went to in seattle the summer before last showed the development of the seattle poster over 25 years, and you really see the progression of a 'style' in that show, and art chantry as both a championeer of that style, and a great influence in its progression.

anyways, the point is, i agree that the best way to learn how to do something is to copy it. of course, you dont stay there, it becomes part of your language, you inflect it with your own peresonality. its like learning new vocabulary, at one point it seems very imitative and the use seems pretentious and shaky, then at one point 'big words' become part of your vocabulary, and you take on new 'big words' with more facility.

one designer who did this in a very obvious way was peter saville and his early record covers for factory. he basically used herbert spencer's book 'pioneers of modern typogrpahy' as a source book for his album covers. also, reservoir dogs, quentin tarantino's first film, was a blatant rip off of ringo lam's 'city on fire'. but those two examples still made what they copied something else, and progressed as designers and filmmakers.


manuel
02.28.05 at 07:08

This is what Saul Bass explained during an interview with Philip B.Meggs:

Most ppl think imitations turn original thinkings into cliche as a result of plagiarism. But cliché become cliches because they do what they do extremely well. Then someone comes along and does something similar. And, of course, it works well again and again and again. And voilà! A cliché! Clichés deserve study. There's something there working very well. If you understand what it is, then it may be possible to take the cliché and turn or refresh it in some way, express it in new terms.

Hence, the same typeface, color palette and combinational strategy aren't really an issue here. We're not seeing a 100% duplication of Barbara Kruger, aren't we, Mr. Bierut?

Even if it's true that the young designer pretends to not know Barbara, we musn't judge him by his originality, but his intentions and his learning process /successive phase he's gone thru - what he had learnt and pick up. As he is a "young" designer.

A cliché, there's nothing original here. But because we can't help BUT agreeing with it as its so true as everything is borrowed from the past.
Yvette Kuan
03.01.05 at 04:43

as long as this page might be, i cannot resist commenting. this entire conversation is exactly why i have stopped considering myself soley a "graphic" designer. as much as i respect the work of mr beirut, can't we find some new ground to cover? instead of being continually self conscious about where our "style" is coming from?

we obviously learnt nothing from the mid 90's. graphic design _is_ based on the (perhaps) new arrangement of elements that are parts of a system for mass reproduction. get over it.

25 years is our collective memory in graphic design? that's really depressing. i'm sure that aldus manutius wasn't tied to the proverbial stake for the appropriation of handwriting when crafting (not designing) carolingian minuscules. if you want to get original, the computer gives you every opportunity to create new and purely original forms, if you've got the time, you've got no excuse.

otherwise, to hell with the ethics! you're very welcome to dip into the design annual and rip something off. maybe you might even hit on something that mr beirut designed . . how cool would that be?!

fortunately there have been some people commenting here that graphic design is not only the manufacture of form, or style, but it is also the appropriate visual voice based on intuition and rationalisation of a concept. modular reproduction of parts aside! mediate the message. it's the content stupid.

if jessica whatshername and mr beiruts interviewee felt that bold italic futura reveresed out of red, overlaying a greyscale image was the appropriate aesthetic conveyance for their message and had a rational reason for why they had designed it in such a way, then leave them be.

parting shot: did anyone mention paul renner?!
tristam sparks
03.01.05 at 07:08

IF YOU KEEP SHOUTING, you are not making communication any better. You are only removing the talking and whispering from this system. I find this discussion a bit noisy. I would like to contribute a little silence.
Guzzi Mon Bruno
03.01.05 at 07:33

Maybe I don't quite understand, but isn't our job as graphic designers to make sure our clients look DIFFERENT than anything/anyone else? Furthermore, isn't it our job to research and learn the past so we don't repeat it? Whether the designer is 'great' or 'mediocre' or 'horrible' is of no consequence. If it's been done before, it shouldn't be done again, unless you're a hack and have no real design talent and ethic. In which case I hear Kinko's is hiring. Ms. Simpleton, you're ranting and raving makes you look like a novice on the defense. It makes you look like you're guilty of the same crime as the young lady described above. It sounds as if you only respect the people who our society has deemed worthy and no one else. So what if they're not widely published. You can find brilliance in the people that don't seek public recognition. Because you didn't find a designer in your local library or book store doesn't mean they weren't worthy or good enough. Is unpublished work okay to rip off? If they aren't chosen by the public as a "great," does that make their work susceptible to plagiarism? I think you need to think about this the next time you decide to support someone who clearly has taken someone else's solution and tried to pawn it off as her own. If a potential employer mentioned to me that my work strongly resembled another designer's, I would rip the piece up right in front of them. I would then go back to the drawing board and find the right solution to the problem. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe I'm different. Either way, plagiarism is plagiarism, intentional or not. If you can't develop an original creative design, then you don't belong in the profession. And for the record, I'm 24. So you can't attack my age.
Joseph
03.01.05 at 09:51

I have to post one more thing because Jessica Simpleton's posts are pissing me off. How dare you degrade the more experienced. I think your statements have been beyond pretentious and beyond bold. They are rash and ignorant. If you sat back and actually listened to someone other than yourself, you may learn more than anything some silly book will teach you. If most of the people on this site are over 40 then you are severely out of your element. What makes you think you're the 'great' one. Afterall, I "haven't seen you in any books". Do us a favor and keep your spoonfed, psuedo-convictions to yourself. You, miss, sound like the 'arrogant snob.'
Joseph
03.01.05 at 09:56

Late in coming, but I've read through it all. Jessica & Co, a point I'm not sure anyone has said yet explicitly and briefly: It's not important to know all the artists and designers who have ever come before — as you correctly point out, it's not possible. It is, however, important to know those who have made lasting, indelible effects. They're not that hard to find, though it may require more than one textbook. It's completely reasonable to expect a creative professional to be well-aware of the most influencial figures in their chosen field, particularly those as recently past as 25-50 years (meaning their likely still alive and even practicing). A young painter's education would be considered deficient if they don't know who Andy Warhol is. A young filmmaker needs to know the films of Kubrick; anyone taking rock and roll seriously should have heard of the Rolling Stones. Part of doing design is knowing what not to do, and the *knowing* part is only informed by study and experience. Sorry, it's true, and it means that the work of design is more than just arranging one pretty thing next to another. Ignorance is bliss, though, no?
Tom Dolan
03.01.05 at 10:02

Isn't deciding that "everything has already been done before so why create anything new" a bit demoralizing. To me it also shows a lack of a imagination. What if industrial designers thought that way? What if Apple computer's engineers and CEO thought that way? If they did we wouldn't have the fabulous ipod or Macintosh computer. Of course, Apple's team had their influences but they have improved upon them.
Leslie
03.01.05 at 10:42

Oh my lord I can't believe I read all this, but the answer is simple. If people see your design and immediately say... "Oh hey, that must be a Barbara Kruger piece," and Kruger has nothing to do with your project then you screwed up. As a designer it is your responsibility to communicate visually in the best way possible for your project. Part of that responsibility is making sure that you haven't referenced some other prominent visual in the collective memory of your audience, because doing that without reason will take attention away from your message. So yes, the young interviewee really should have known what she was evoking.
Nat
03.01.05 at 12:03

I think the issue at hand is really the necessity for designers to understand and be aware of the associations our visuals are connected to.

Sure B Krueger didn't invent that style, but she is damn well the most recognized for it, and to say differently is just being contrarian for the hell of it.

And Art you of all people should understand an artist being associated with a particular style and the importance for other designers to be aware of what they are doing when they employ such devices.
agrayspace
03.01.05 at 12:11

Interesting thread. Many points that've been discussed are as notable for their reaction to Beirut's article, and the troublesome if not merely provocative "Jessica Simpleton" (maybe it's just me, but I 'm always a little bothered by these chat line aliases, it always leads me to think the writer is hiding something) as for the substance of the article itself. However--assuming the young woman with the Krugeresque work in her student portfolio actually had no idea who Barbara Kruger is should be an indictment of her school and her teachers.

It's irrelevant that she made something that looked like Kruger's work either advertantly or not--the sad thing is no one discussed this with her until her encounter with Beirut. In the abstract, it's an viable intellectual exercise in the student-context, but can we (collectively) as students, teachers, or professionals really excuse her instructors for not informing her? Give her context for her eventual meeting with someone who would know? "Oh, I didn't know who Barbara Kruger was until my teacher noted the simularity to me when I submitted my project." No shame in that. It could've made for something more than an awkward moment between the student and Mr. Beirut. Many of my friends who have gone on to teach are horrified by the positions and practices of their fellow teachers--especially in contrast to how they were taught themselves in art or design school.

On the other hand, if the student was lying (about "appropriating" Kruger), this brings up a far more troublesome set of issues, some of which have been touched upon in some degree already in this thread. And again, it's not about originality or whether a style should or shouldn't be appropriated. It's that the person would appropriate and then choose to lie about it. "I never took steroids and I resent the implication that I did" (until grand jury testimony is leaked and the lie is made public). If a student lies about her acquisition of an idea, any acquisition of an idea, and begins to feel that this is a practice that one can "get away with," then where does that lead ultimately? Certainly the implications go beyond the argument over style or influence or appropriation. If there is a concern here, I'd say that speaks to it more directly.

Think industrial espionage (at the extreme), or the undermining of a colleague or coworker. This is the substance of ethics and ethical practice--not whether she knows or should know who Kruger is.

Jesse Marinoff Reyes
Jesse Marinoff Reyes
03.01.05 at 12:48

grayspace -

yes, you are right. however, i acknowledge (constantly) my sources. kruger is not only working with old forms, but she, in all honesty, owes a huge amount to the designer who did confidential magazine (and whisper abd true detective, etc. etc.) that innovator and practitioner is not only a person who is recognized in other arenas (unfortunately i forget his name), he was a much wider circulated and much more famous image maker than kruger could ever hope to be. he and his work became part of the popular design language and kruger copied it thinking it was authorless or grew on a tree. now, being able to enter the popular lexicon with your work is genius. THAT's tough to pull off.

so, it all gets relative. but, it galls me when folks take credit for genius when they only copy. i oughta know (from both sides). ha ha.
art chantry
03.01.05 at 12:54

Jessica wrote: "... Every artist should be free to study the artist who uniquely inspires him or her, not someone else, not someone else's idea of who you should know, with the possible implication of it costing you a job. That someone might sit there and suspect you were lying because you weren't familiar with a certain artist is unbelievable to me when there are so many hundreds of designers past and present."

That approach might be fine for fine artists, but I think its different for graphic designers. We're different from fine artists in that we don't just design for ourselves. In addition to our own satisfaction, we design for our clients and for the audience. It's important to anticipate how our work will be received.

For example, in color theory we learn what color can mean, psychologically and culturally. We do white wedding invites here in the West, but for Chinese weddings that's a no no as white is associated with death. That's important to know.

In the same way, we have to know what certain graphic styles will connote to our intended audience. In the case of the interviewed student, the audience for her pieces will for the most part be art directors or even design principles. It would have helped her greatly to know what Kruger's work means to them.

BTW, Kruger is not just one of the thousands of designers in the last quarter century. Her work is significant, not just for the style, but for the discourse she generated in the context of her time and culture. It'll take more than a day's flipping through a text book to understand the context.

No, Kruger doesn't own the style, and it isn't a crime to utilize similar elements. Just be aware of how it will be perceived. Appropriate with full intent and thought. As has been mention, Kruger herself appropriated, but she took a style that had been considered low-brow and made it dynamic and intelligent. If you're going to use it, make it work for you and your context.


Nipith Ongwiseth
03.01.05 at 12:58

Jessica wrote: "... Every artist should be free to study the artist who uniquely inspires him or her, not someone else, not someone else's idea of who you should know, with the possible implication of it costing you a job. That someone might sit there and suspect you were lying because you weren't familiar with a certain artist is unbelievable to me when there are so many hundreds of designers past and present."

That approach might be fine for fine artists, but I think its different for graphic designers. We're different from fine artists in that we don't just design for ourselves. In addition to our own satisfaction, we design for our clients and for the audience. It's important to anticipate how our work will be received.

For example, in color theory we learn what color can mean, psychologically and culturally. We do white wedding invites here in the West, but for Chinese weddings that's a no no as white is associated with death. That's important to know.

In the same way, we have to know what certain graphic styles will connote to our intended audience. In the case of the interviewed student, the audience for her pieces will for the most part be art directors or even design principles. It would have helped her greatly to know what Kruger's work means to them.

BTW, Kruger is not just one of the thousands of designers in the last quarter century. Her work is significant, not just for the style, but for the discourse she generated in the context of her time and culture. It'll take more than a day's flipping through a text book to understand the context.

No, Kruger doesn't own the style, and it isn't a crime to utilize similar elements. Just be aware of how it will be perceived. Appropriate with full intent and thought. As has been mention, Kruger herself appropriated, but she took a style that had been considered low-brow and made it dynamic and intelligent. If you're going to use it, make it work for you and your context.



Nipith Ongwiseth
03.01.05 at 12:58

low brow?

man, i feel like i've been talking at a brick wall.

low brow? like, "i shop, therefore i am?" how mush more condescending can you get? and that's considered high brow? when do you bring up the word "vernacular" again?

this whole idea of low brow (meaning inferior) and high brow (meaning supierior) is so blind that i find it shocking.

hey, one man's floor is another man's ceiling. i think kruger is pretty "low brow". i also think the guy who invented the happy face is one of the high cultural conceptualists of the last half of the 20th century.

art chantry
03.01.05 at 01:06

I'm lucky I'm only in my 1st semester because after reading this thread I think I've come to the conclusion that I can't go through with this. I've always thought of graphic art as fine art's whoring sister and have trouble respecting the field in general mainly because of what big corporations have done to it. And now I come to find out I'm going to have to know every design style, pallette, and font of every graphic artist since the 1400's so I can be sure Not To Copy Them. All I can say is fuck it.
Jessica Simpleton
03.01.05 at 01:15

oh, jessica. don't say that.

this is a wonderful field, full of perplexing and interesting problems that can be dealt with in as many ways as there are people to tackle them. everything you've written is perfectly ok. you attracted a lot of criticism beacuse you touched nerves. that's a good thing (as that pther nerve toucher martha would say). when you learn, you ask questions. questioning orthodoxy is part of learning, even though it's considered heresy. i think that's cool.

however, graphic design is NOT fine art's whoring sister. in fact, if anything, it's the other way around. this is functional art, art driven with purpose rather than by muse. the earlest form of "art" were actually what today would be considered graphic design forms. even those cave paintings were functional magic, not muse-driven. when their function was over, they even painted new images over the top of the old used-up ones. hell, even the written word is graphic design, if you want to get down to it. muse-driven "fine art" didn't evolve until much later in our history - until there was a market for it. let's be honest about it.

confusing graphic design with fine art in our educational systems is a HUGE problem. it's like brain surgery and dentistry... they look the same, is done in sterile environments wearing white, uses the same tools and the same procedures, but they are as different as apples and oranges. i sure don't want a brain surgeon who makes his money "whoring" dentistry. and vivce versa, as well.

so, don't quit design. just start to see it more clearly. beyond that, the sky is the limit. you can do dang near anyhting. a good hustle can make you as big a "name" as me or even michael bierut!!
art chantry
03.01.05 at 01:32

Nipith -

Your points on content (and culture) are well made, just be careful when you say that something that was "considered low brow" is appropriated and is then made "dynamic and intelligent" as if that creates some sort of rationale for appropriation, or that because a source is "low brow" somehow makes it fair game (see Art Chantry's comments above regarding "vernacular" design). As far as appropriation is concerned, it's a lot like pornography--you may not be able to define it per se, but you'll know it to be "creative interpretation" when you see it, or just plagiarism, or just plain bad copying.

Oftentimes I find "low brow" to be more sincere, more original, and more stimulating than a lot of highfalutin' formal design. Hell, give me a hand painted street sign in Manila, or a punk poster by a skateboard kid, or a lurid detective magazine from 1950, or a neighborhood circus poster over most any corporate report or million-dollar ad campaign for Nike, and most of what's done where I work any day.

Jesse Marinoff Reyes
Jesse Marinoff Reyes
03.01.05 at 01:32

All I can say is fuck it.

I think that just about sums it all up.

The End.
Gary Fogelson
03.01.05 at 01:36

Interesting discussion. As an editor, I didn't think I'd have anything new to add until now ... Folks. It's Bierut, not Beirut.
Steven k.
03.01.05 at 01:37

With the way I type I'm just glad I got the right letters in the alphabet PERIOD in Bierut's name...! Groan.
Jesse Marinoff Reyes
03.01.05 at 01:47

yeah, jesse. that was pretty low brow of you!
art chantry
03.01.05 at 02:13

Hey Art, I'm just a low-brow kind of guy.
Jesse Marinoff Reyes
03.01.05 at 02:21

I'm lucky I'm only in my 1st semester because after reading this thread I think I've come to the conclusion that I can't go through with this. I've always thought of graphic art as fine art's whoring sister and have trouble respecting the field in general mainly because of what big corporations have done to it. And now I come to find out I'm going to have to know every design style, pallette, and font of every graphic artist since the 1400's so I can be sure Not To Copy Them. All I can say is fuck it. Posted by Jessica Simpleton at March 1, 2005 01:15 PM
---------------------------------------

If that's what you took from this discussion, then you werent listening, not even to the people who reached out to you. And frankly, it makes me wonder why you were attracted to GD in the first place.
theo
03.01.05 at 02:26

theo -

THAT's the sprirt! beat them down! scare them off before they can become viable competition! it's worked for me for YEARS!!!
art chantry
03.01.05 at 02:38

so, don't quit design. just start to see it more clearly. beyond that, the sky is the limit.

Art, thanks for that. I second the motion
Michael Bierut
03.01.05 at 02:56

If it's been done before, it shouldn't be done again, unless you're a hack and have no real design talent and ethic.

Fifty comments later, I pose the question again: what is the value of originality?

If I were to design something that solved problems and made lives better without being original, would I be considered an untalented, unethical hack? What about book design? Do you want to pick up a new novel and be blown away by the originality of the design? No, you want to read the damn novel. Come on.
Ryan Nee
03.01.05 at 03:25

I'm not much of a designer but do have a kind of amateur's interest in the field. While I think there's something to art c's admonition to challenge orthodoxy, I think there's something unsettling about Jessica S's seeming out-of-hand rejection of anything older than she is, and of any kind of learning and influence. We live in a time characterized by an ideology of "individual creativity", where the idea that one should care about the work that came before one because one is, knowingly or not, inevitably influenced by it, is anathema. "Why should I be bothered to learn about my discipline's history" is Jessica's main question, with the subtext that she, alone among designers, will bring forth the truly original from her own personal creative self. Of course, she's not alone among designers who *think* this, but if she pulled it off, she'd certainly be the first -- and would probably find it hard to get work. Leaving aside the direct influence of other designers, there's the whole culture around us which, as J. rightly points out, the designer's work fits into -- and that culture has been shaped, among other things, by earlier designers!

I don't think there is any shame in not knowing who Kruger, or any other designer, is (or was) -- but there is shame, I think, in rejecting the idea of learning who they were, of thinking of an education in design (which I sadly lack any formal education in, I admit) as an imposition and an unfair limitation to one's creativity and aspirations.

Tangentially, I too find the light text/dark background thing hard to deal with -- but I use Opera, so I just "click" the "author/user" button and strip the author's stylesheet, leaving me black text on a white background. So much for design, eh?
Dustin
03.01.05 at 03:40

Well put, Dustin. Wish I'd said it as well myself.
Theo
03.01.05 at 04:04

dustin and theo -

i think that the standards you set would eliminate me as well. so i disagree with you rather strongly.
art chantry
03.01.05 at 04:40

My informal survey of 7 undergraduate design students, all between 19 and 24, 3 graduate students (1 advertising, 1 design, 1 book arts) and 6 working graphic designers shows that only 1 student - the MFA/book-arts fellow - did now know the name Barbara Kruger. Everyone else was quite well-aware of who she is and what she is known for. the two youngest undergraduate design students said, and I will paraphrase them because I didn't tape record my conversations, that they believed anyone who could not identify the seminal designers and fine artists of the 20th century had no business even applying for design school, much less being accepted. My goodness, perhaps I stumbled into a den of conservative design puritans at California State University Sacramento and UC Davis!
J. Lurie-Terrell
03.01.05 at 04:49

j. -

i betcha i could easily make a list of ten (20? 50? 100?) designers that have done work so famous and so commonly seen that every single student in your class (and your instructors as well) would go, "oh, that. that's cool. who did that?" and would not know. i'll bet i could come with a list of ten ubiquitous logos right now and you wouldn't be able to tell me who did them.

but i could. so could a lot of folks i know. and not a one of them ever went to school for graphic design and furthermore make a great living actually doing graphic design.

my point is that kruger is a relative celebrity. as a designer, she's really not even on the map outside of maybe new york (because her "i shop..." was placed on a shopping bag at one point).

design shool teaches students through a bad case of tunnel vision (coming straight out of a "fine art" culture). the real graphic design language is a pop culture language that is thought of as "low brow" and "vernacular" in design programs and is ignored almost entirely. yet these graphic designers making up the outside of design culture is responsible for 99% of all of the graphic design you see and are so familiar with.

why is that?
art chantry
03.01.05 at 05:30

Fifty comments later, I pose the question again: what is the value of originality? If I were to design something that solved problems and made lives better without being original, would I be considered an untalented, unethical hack? What about book design? Do you want to pick up a new novel and be blown away by the originality of the design? No, you want to read the damn novel. Come on.
Posted by: Ryan Nee at March 1, 2005 03:25 PM

Fifty comments later, and I'm wondering if you read the fifty comments. A lot of what you are asking about is there. Also, the analogy you cite is a strained one. Just as there are many "styles" of design, there is also design that is--by design--meant purely as function (book pages, magazine and newspaper column inches, et.al.). In a discussion about style and appropriation (or not knowing who Barbara Kruger is, depending on who's side you're on), I don't get what you seem to be straining for by citing as an example a "function." There is a time and place for singularity (Art Chantry's posters, Stephan Sagmeister's cd packages), and for relative anonymity (dvd menus, book novel page layouts--though don't be mistaken, there is "style" there too, it's just not overt).

But to address your first point (I will however IGNORE your hyperbole--designing graphics doesn't really measure so much on the richter scale of "making lives better" unlike say, industrial design, where designing a better wheelchair would actually improve someone's life in a meaningful way), we should all strive for "originality" (whatever that is) so therefore that in itself has value.

Even in the act of appropriation there is "originality." To take an extreme example (of collagists), one wouldn't call the work of John Heartfield, or Romare Bearden, or Fred Otnes, or Stephen Kroninger, or Art Chantry for that matter, as anything but original--yet their work is rooted in appropriation. A contradiction perhaps, but one has to use one's knowledge, experience, and yes, common sense to make a distinction, whether something is the work of an original, or is merely a sort of copy. Certainly, Stephan Sagmeister doesn't own the copyright on hand-scrawled lettering--even if it's scratched onto his own body--but rendering a solution that would be so close in look, feel, and application to Stephan Sagmeister as to invite comparison really begs the question whether the solution is derivative in a negative sense--that the designer copied Sagmeister's signature style. I mean, Ed Fella works in hand-scrawled type, and his work looks nothing like Sagmeister's. On the other hand, you could go abouts designing something in the manner of Sagmeister, but this usually means you should be up front about that, especially if you win a design award for it (and this happens all the time).

This is not to ignore that a designer could, using Sagmeister's own influences and sources, design a piece that would look similar to Sagmeister's own work; but one would have to be a bit dense or out of touch to not recognize that when you've done it.

I appropriate all the time. Periodisms; style choices that are influenced by the masters; hell, even using pieces from objects and materials that someone else crafted at one time or another as a background or texture in a piece I would then call my own. That doesn't mean that I choose to ignore where and what my sources were, nor pretend that I'd just invented the wheel. It's a subtle distinction, but a distinction nonetheless.

If you are a bright guy, you will know when you've been influenced by someone, or merely copied a style outright--usually out of context--as a quick fix, or to look more clever than you actually are. Sometimes, when you're beginning your career, you'll wonder where the line is drawn--and it's usually when you've been called on it that you know. The trick is not to make that mistake again.

Jesse Marinoff Reyes
Jesse Marinoff Reyes
03.01.05 at 05:44

well...

the truth is that many of those folks you list are so derivative that i can show you where the copped their ideas (myself certainly, sagmeister absolutely, ed fella er... well, ed may be an original.) but my point is that if you REALLY go back and do some serious study of graphic design (and most definitely NOT the graphic design they teach in school), you'll quickly realize that there is nothing new under the sun. it's all been done over and over and over. there are VERY few original thinkers (or stylists or whatever you want to call it). i can list them on one hand, it seems. the rest of us just absorb the culture language around us and reflect it back in an interesting way. we can't help it. it's what we do.

jesse, you may be the only other person posting here - or ever posted here on d.o. (othe r than me) who can tell us who did the starbucks logo. why is that? (by the way, don't blurt it out. let them mull it over.)
art chantry
03.01.05 at 05:51

art c. writes:

"i'll bet i could come with a list of ten ubiquitous logos right now and you wouldn't be able to tell me who did them.

but i could."

Earlier you said that I was setting a standard (as if I could!) that you disagreed with, but I don't think I am, and I doubt we disagree much. I think you misread me as advocating for the importance of a formal design education -- frankly, although I'm a professor (not of design, of course, or anything very close) and naturally believe that formal education is a good thing generally speaking, I am not so much concerned with *how* and *where* one learns to be a designer. What I'm concerned with is how one relates, as a designer, to the culture around them. Do they relate to it out of a degree of ignorance and unconcern about where the materials and tools of their work come from -- which is the attitude I see coming off of Ms. Simpleton's posts -- or out of conscious engagement with their culture, and by extension its history? You say -- boast, really (not that there's anything wrong with that, if you got the chops) -- that you could name dozens of designers and their work, even where the average design student might be stumped. And what good is that? What benefits do you get from having consciously paid attention to their work, their styles, even their names? How does that contrast with JS's assertion that "if I have to be bothered to learn about all the work of these dead and old people, I quit"?
Dustin
03.01.05 at 06:00

Oh, I agree that my list was a "loaded one" especially by listing collagists, whose work is based on appropriation and whose individual "styles" are influenced by progenitors--Stephen Kroninger will sit down and cite chapter and verse where he got his style from, much as you can--but at the same time I think it's important to qualify, for the sake of this discussion, some sort of distinction between what is or what isn't "originality" which is subtly different from being an original. And yer right, I think Ed Fella is an original. Can't really qualify him otherwise.

Did the guy who did the high-priced Tanqueray ad campaign a few years ago "work on his own, perhaps from the same sources and influences as Stephen Kroninger" or did he merely knock-off Stephen Kroninger because the ad agency refused to pay Stephen Kroninger's rates? I think we both know the answer to that question. That's perhaps what this entire thread really boils down to, assuminmg everyone else is familiar with Kroninger's work, and the Tanqueray campaign he "influenced."

To answer your question, you and I know who did the Starbucks logo because we choose to know. What's worse is we also know where they got the idea from.

Jesse Marinoff Reyes
03.01.05 at 06:09

By the way, in my posting above, my example of the Tanqueray ad campaign should be lost on no one. We can all talk until we're blue in the face over what we think is originality or influence but one thing remains--and Jessica whatshisname made this point earlier, though it was lost in his/her rant at the time--the client. All the originality in the world pales in comparison to the corporate machine that many of us have to work for, where the most remote originality is beaten down into the bland and mediocre. And I'm not talking "avant garde." Call it originality, sincerity, integrity, whatever.

Some of you design studio types can talk about "client education" yadda, yadda. We know all that. If you design for a big company, they tend to tell you what they want, and in an ecomomy like this one, they get what they want. One tends to think that this discussion has the quaint air of anachronism in more than a few contexts.

Sorry. 30 people lost their jobs at my company this week.
Jesse Marinoff Reyes
03.01.05 at 06:42

pretty funny stuff, if you ask me. i am seriously wondering what on earth has enraged this young girl "jessica" to the point that an educational discussion has made her decide on changing occupations. the point of this whole blurb is LEARNING. if you don't know who Barbara Bruger is...find out. she is still producing work. She is not dead. granted, it has become more of a fine art than a graphic art, but wasn't that really her angle from the beginning? i find it hard to believe that Michael's young designer didn't just blatantly rip Barbara Kruger off and lie about it. even if she didn't know who she was she had seen that style before.

this might stir the pot a bit, but if one doesn't own a particular style (and I agree they can't) what about the importance placed on David Carson in the 90's? he took type and made it his own. you can argue he was more into fine art than graphic design as well, but his work communicated his message. this debate could carry over into music or literature or any number of genres.

i don't know...i am tired and maybe a bit over worked....i just know that as a student i tired to absorb everything i possibly could about a subject before i voiced my opinion. i still try to do that. it is the only way to truly debate an issue...and not look like an ass.

and the deal about white type on a dark background....c'mon. that seemed like a lash out at your mom when she told you you couldn't watch TV after 9 pm.
tom
03.01.05 at 07:47

Also, the analogy you cite is a strained one.

You have me there, Jesse. Book design and poster design have far different levels of functionality and subjectivity, and I agree. My example was poor, but my intentions were good. I love Design Observer because I can't get away with misleading analogies.

As for the ability of design to improve the lives of people, I must disagree with you. It could be because of my 21-year-old idealism, but I really believe that design can and should make the world a better place to live. I sincerely hope that I am never jaded enough to think otherwise.

Although not as "functional" as book design, poster and album designs have improved lives by representing and connecting cultures. Sure, they're just posters, but they mean something to people -- not just designers. I just counted 31 posters on my wall in my room. Most of them mean a great deal to me. Each is a symbol for an event or a time in my life, and they have value. Isn't that functionalism? Isn't that improving lives? Yeah, it's not making my life measurably easier or better, but it still means something, right?

As for originality, am I wrong to think that originality shouldn't be a primary goal of a design? Instead, it seems like originality should be the (possibly accidental) product of a good design process.
Ryan Nee
03.01.05 at 07:59

Just out of curiosity, has anyone ever asked Barbara Kruger's opinion on her work? and what it stands for? Or even her opinon on this thread?

She's a art professor now at UC San Diego Link and as an active design educator, it'd be fascinating to know what she thought of this line of posts. I saw her speak when she first arrived at the university, an informal showing of her old pieces to grad and faculty, as well as discussions... hearing her speak about how she got sucked into the advertising world was actually pretty refreshing, and she seems to have a decent perspective on the effect of her work in the design field.

me
03.01.05 at 10:10

being an old designer/art director, i imagine she'd find this whole thread amusing. she'd understand what we're talking about here. she's heard it all before, i'm sure.

art chantry
03.01.05 at 11:31

oh, by the way, doug fast did the starbucks logo. he did a lot of work for terry heckler & associates . they had a great deal of success changing the direction of beer advertising with their rainier beer campaign back in the 1970's. for instance, they were doing the budweiser frogs 20 years before budweiser - and that's just for starters. a reel of their beer commercials would blow your sox off. they did it all first.

later they tried to capitalize on their success with that campaign by conceptualizing businesses, doing startups and then selling them to rich guys. they devloped and started k2 ski's (who launched the corporate snoboard biz). red hook brewery (later purchased by budweiser) and, of course, starbucks (later sold to that shultz guy). doug did the identities for most of that stuff. he also worked on a number of amazing ad campaigns and poster campaigns for those clients (and others).

so, these guys changed the way you view advertising and did work that you are intimately familiar with, yet you never heard of them. why? because they lived in seattle as opposed to nyc, and they never entered design shows. they just changed american marketing culture.
art chantry
03.01.05 at 11:39

Theo ~ That isn't the only thing I took away from this discussion and I do appreciate the people who reached out such as Art Chantry's and Michael Beirut's encouraging words several comments earlier. Sorry to say these guys aren't in my textbook .
It's true I'll never forget who Barbara Kruger is even though I want to. This article, href=http://www.coagula.com/kruger.html, pretty much sums it up for me and explains why she's not really relevant, and a mere footnote in my study materials.
Maybe I won't trade in my textbook just yet, but the more I study graphic art both formally and otherwise, the more I think this field has to many restrictions, although with so many rules to break, it could be fun .....(albeit not very profitable). Who knows, I'm really confused now.
Jessica Simpleton
03.02.05 at 12:03

Art: Did they make a lot of money doing it? Does -anyone- make a lot of money as a Graphic Designer?

Personally I'm happy doing what I love and making a decent living off it, but I wonder sometimes how far the commercialization of design can go.
andy
03.02.05 at 02:57

In a sense I think you get to 'own' a graphic style if you use it for every message you deliver for a very prolonged period. This is what Kruger does so well. The focus is on the message, and the association of that message automatically with Kruger.

Sounds familiar?

Yep, it's branding.

There are actually very few artists that focus on only one 'graphic' visual style from the very start and stick with it for a very long time. You would think they would be bored senseless of it after the first 5 years or so, but I think they know the power it has over a sustained period if they can stick with it.

Warhol actually had quite a few styles to his name compared to kruger, but he just about managed to slip in there with that defining later style after passing the 20yr or so mark using it.



david
03.02.05 at 06:45

andi -

yes, they made a huge amount of money doing that. frankly, it was one of the smartest ploys for profiting on marketing and design i've ever witnessed. design an entire business and sell it. cool, huh?

eventually the branding of the starbucks biz was appropriated (handy word) by other. lesser marketing/design firms who simply "appropriated" other illustrators' and designers' styles to the point where they couldn't work in their style anymore . they pretty much took what they wanted and destroyed dozens of folks along the way. i won't go into the details because it's dangerous, but their practices are very tough and voracious. the whole starbucks style is a history of that stuff.

when designers appropriate, it's called theft and we blackball them. when corporations do appropriation, it's called branding and we all make them filthy rich.

and so it goes...

art chantry
03.02.05 at 10:13

one last comment, then i'm going to quit this site for a while (lower the applause, please). my partner is getting mad at me for wasting so much time here.

the impact of heckler & associates is an interesting case. when they did the rainier beer campaign, the figured out how to use satire and stoner humor to sell beer to the hip young audience (aka - kids), without aiming directly at them. they turned a 12% market share product into a 65% dominant product in a little over 2 years. rainier put other breweres out of business in the market.

with k2, they helped promote and build the dominant downhill ski company. as their market aged, they looked around and saw skateboard punks and saw the fledgling burton snoboard biz and saw renewal in their sales. snoboards had been around since the snodad (a sno surfboard) in the 60's. but k2 decided to create a culture and started snoboard magazaine and began sponsoring major boarders and began competitions creating stars. THEN they began to design product to sell to the culture they created. they virtually created the snoboard culture as we know it today. it was a marketing ploy that they exploited mercilessly. first create a market by creating a culture.

heckler & assoc. desided to do the same thing on their own. red hook became the first major microbrew. in fact, the word microbrew was coined to describe red hook's market creation. sure, private brewers have been around since antiquity, but red hook created the microbrew culture and then exploited it as a marketing plan. the same thing was done with the coffee shop and starbucks.

my point is that there is no vernacular or lowbrow. there is only human planning. kruger exploited by creating a fine art market for tabloid humor and launched a thousand ships. but, the originators are often obscured by our ignorance of the process we all exploit.

how do you thing "grunge" happened? we all sat around up in seattle and made it up. no joke.

bye.

art chantry
03.02.05 at 11:01

dustin and theo - i think that the standards you set would eliminate me as well. so i disagree with you rather strongly.
Posted by art chantry at March 1, 2005 04:40 PM
---------------------------

I respectfully disagree, Art. I dont think it eliminates you at all. But I think I take a pretty broad definition of design "education", in which I would include those who are self-educated. I'm not talking just about an undergrad/grad education in design. My impression of you (and forgive me for telling you who you are, i know thats obnoxious ;) ) is that you are always learning, always open to learning and exploring and discovering and studying other designers past and present, and always (as evidenced on this site) willing to debate what design *Is*, why we do what we do, etc. That, to me, is as much part of the "educated" ethos as is a by-the-book college education.

Full disclosure: I attended Waldorf schools from k-12, and in school studied Film and New Media, not strictly speaking a Design education. So I can hardly point the finger at those who arrived at their design careers through non-kosher routes. I am in many ways self-taught, and I am always aware of how much I dont know, and how much I have to learn.
theo
03.02.05 at 11:29

Ryan -

I admire your enthusiasm regarding graphic design's transformative potential--though I think it's more your youthful "idealism" than anything graphic design has actually done to improve anything. Perhaps if the U.S. were a more enlightened culture like Holland or perhaps Japan, you'd have a shot with your thesis. But just because I disagree doesn't mean you should change your stance.

Graphic design certainly still gives me a charge, but I'm much more impressed with the standards of the past than anything in this corporate-dominated present has to offer (in general terms). That's not to say that some kickass rock poster (already an anachronism) by some young designer silkscreened this week in Montreal won't catch my attention, but aside from a limited geographic venue or a posting on a web site I happen to be at, that poster will have limited effect on the world at large. Though, the style of that poster may be coopted by MTV/Viacom for some on-air graphics program for spring break and any integrity the work had will be devalued by the appropriation. Cynical? You betcha. But of course, because "style" is not owned by any of us, it makes the corporate grab as valid as any of us exercising our impulses and influences. But that's not to say it isn't tacky.

As for originality, am I wrong to think that originality shouldn't be a primary goal of a design? Instead, it seems like originality should be the (possibly accidental) product of a good design process

Well, you're correct to a degree there. "Originality" (whatever that really is) can be, ideally, the product of a good design process--mostly because designers working alone or in tandem bring their own individual gifts to the process. And as Art Chantry correctly pointed out above, "that if you REALLY go back and do some serious study of graphic design (and most definitely NOT the graphic design they teach in school), you'll quickly realize that there is nothing new under the sun. it's all been done over and over and over. there are VERY few original thinkers (or stylists or whatever you want to call it). i can list them on one hand, it seems. the rest of us just absorb the culture language around us and reflect it back in an interesting way. we can't help it. it's what we do." My caveat to that statement is that I see a difference between filtering culture/design influences and actually targeting another person's work and replicating it as "a quick fix, or to seem more clever than you really are."

The Stephen Kroninger/Tanqueray ad campaign I cited above is an example of this (for those who know what I'm talking about); and Art Chantry's own career is littered with examples where he was targeted specifically to be appropriated for someone's client project--instead of hiring Art Chantry to be Art Chantry (this is a difference between being influenced by Art Chantry or working in Art Chantry's idiom--I'm talking about picking a particular work from Chantry's ouevre and COPYING it for another project with only slight modifications).

In the pure abstraction of our discussion here, is this sort of appropriation wrong? It may not be, after all, the original design was done and is "out in the public arena." If someone mimics it, wouldn't they feel they were merely paying homage to their idol, or working in a similar style? Well, not that we can claim to be mindreaders, but to me, intent seems like it should play a role here. Art mentioned somewhere above of how a media/entertainment company had hired another design firm to do what Art Chantry is known for, and hired Art to do "period-influenced" pieces because that was also one of his skill sets. On the one hand, a response could be "well, then everyone's happy." Well, truthfully, it's still not quite right. Chantry is still out on the work that he's known for, limited to the occasional "period-influenced" project. That design firm could still do work for the media/entertainment company, but in their own manner--not replicating Art Chantry's portfolio for the client, in my view a tawdry and disgusting ethical morass.

So, I'd say you should at least try to be "original." There's enough cultural language that we're already filtering as it is without resorting to a kind of bush-league plagiarism.

Jesse Marinoff Reyes

Jesse Marinoff Reyes
03.02.05 at 11:47

I'm going to be a jackass here and say maybe designers *do* own their syle, in a way. This inspired by JMR's comments above, about a client hiring some upstart to "be Art Chantry" instead of hiring Chantry himself. In theory, this happens enough, and eventually Chantry can't get *paid* for being Chantry, and is reduced to living in a shoebox on a Seatlle street corner, doing Kruger-esque paste-ups for tourists. If a designer's style is strong and in demand, I think we feel s/he should be able to make a living from it, yes? And if some other designer undermines their ability to do that, not because the upstart is better or more in demand, but because they have aped the master's style and sold it cheap, we feel that's wrong, somehow -- ethically wrong. They've *stolen* something, no? ANd if they've stolen something, the designer must *own* that something, maybe not in a legal sense, but in a moral sense.

Of course, there is ultimately a line between "stealing" and "influence" -- but I think that line is a moral one, rather than strictly a formal one. Chantry, it seems to me, came by his style honestly; the upstart didn't. The young woman who started this whole discussion seems to have came by her Kruger-esque piece (it doesn't sound like it's her "style", necessarily, just something she hit on in this one case) honestly, but is pretty close to that line between appropriation and stealing, maybe over it from some of the comments above.
Dustin
03.02.05 at 12:16

I'm going to be a jackass here and say maybe designers *do* own their syle, in a way... Of course, there is ultimately a line between "stealing" and "influence" -- but I think that line is a moral one

Though for the purposes of this discussion I can't fully endorse Dustin's comment on "ownership," I think he's right on the mark when he raises the issue of morality--or ethics (that's what I'm talkin' about!).

My question to the younger designers and student designers here, to what degree were you or are you taught about business ethics in school? Do you feel you are getting enough of it (in which case, would you raise the issue with your department director, or if you've alraedy graduated, contact your school and suggest they raise the subject more often in the course curiculum)?

It seems to me that it'd do us all in the industry a lot of good if there were a little design cop in everyone's heads brandishing the ethical compass at the appropriate time as we work.

Also, the example of Art Chantry's experience that I cite above--if I'm extrapolating the information correctly, the design firm who did the lifting of Art's work (my characterization) were hardly "upstarts" (which implies a degree of innocence/cluelessness). If memory serves, this firm's members are old enough to know better thereby, in my view, being culpable for their actions.

Jesse Marinoff Reyes
Jesse Marinoff Reyes
03.02.05 at 01:07

I've been out of RISD for a little over a year and that's all it took for me to abandon design. I watched as designers and art directors (from leading agencies) scan stacks of magazines and books for "ideas" then put them on a "mood board" to summarise their theft. Unbelievable. Product design may be even more derivative than graphic design. A simple formula of irony and pinched style has emerged as the latest trend in canibalistic design. All those people saying design is blurring the lines of art are dead wrong. It's just diluting and even disolving meaning. It's literalness is so easily consumed that there is no choice but for the work to be ephemeral and meaningless. But worse, it pulls the original down with it to its boring level. Design needs to shift back to a utilitarian approach and leave expression to those who aren't shilling some dubious product. Rauschenberg said it best "Do not disturb".
osbourne
03.02.05 at 01:43

Maybe she is a fan of the White Stripes, so she used the RED/WHITE/BLACK color palette and she HAS seen Krugers work, but did not know of Kruger herself...Kind like me.

What the world needs less of is imatation, and more inovation. It takes REAL talent to create something new.

You can't blame her or 99.9% of the others that do the same thing, we are force fed clones of clones. Pop music, movies, and television is all based on a formula. Because the formula sells to the masses.

True talent is a very rare thing. If she was truely talented, you would not have thought or Kruger.
John
03.02.05 at 02:00

Thankfully, a healthy sense of self-respect seems to be required to be reliably creative, so thieves and rip-off artists rarely survive past a brief flowering, while the true creative thinker evolves. If you don't have the self-respect to at least try to get beyond pure imitation then you'd be better off just forging currency or stock certificates — it will undoubtedly be more lucrative and likely more fun.
Tom Dolan
03.02.05 at 02:03

Who cares! Get over it. If Barbara Kruger has a problem with it let her say. I'm tired of this third party bitching and moaning. Too much design out there looks like other design. Not everyone can come up with a Barbara Kruger design on their own. It's a working process that builds up to it.
And can you honestly say that Barbara Kruger didn't rip the idea off of someone else? Can you?
Look at this common blog style - should we not then say it was ripped off or stolen?
Matt Midgette
03.02.05 at 03:19

Boy! I logged off for a few hours and the conversation has progress so far! I'm hesitant to go back to this, but I'm compelled to clarify myself, so ignore this if you feel like I'm beating a dead horse.

Jesse Marinoff Reyes said " ... just be careful when you say that something that was "considered low brow" is appropriated and is then made "dynamic and intelligent" as if that creates some sort of rationale for appropriation, or that because a source is "low brow" somehow makes it fair game (see Art Chantry's comments above regarding "vernacular" design) ...

When I say, "considered low brow" I wasn't making a judgement but rather an observation. Ask most people on either side of the pond what they think of tabloids and they'll tell you they don't think very highly of them. Very few people if any will defend them as real journalism. In that sense, most of society "consider" them "low brow" and thus the graphical language also has the same connotation. When Kruger put the graphic style into a context of social commentary, she changed the connotation.

And I didn't imply in anyway that because it's "low brow", it's fair game. I agree with the general consensus that everything is fair game, as long as you add to it your own voice and use or change it's meanings to support your concepts. I was simply using Kruger as an example of that.
Nipith Ongwiseth
03.02.05 at 03:32

Tom -

Sadly, "self-respect" has little to do with the issues we are discussing, neither does it limit these kinds of practices to any short time-period. How many knock-offs constitutes a "brief flowering" (especially if it's you that is having his pocket picked, in a sense). These are not isolated cases either, just limited examples that are presented for the sake of discussion. Matter-of-factly, I found Osbourne's anecdote above, particularly disturbing.

I ask again, what presence does business ethics have in art and design school training? Is it emphasized at all?
Jesse Marinoff Reyes
03.02.05 at 03:37

'Tis a fine line between the trained artist who knowingly incorporates other artists' influences with a *nudge-nudge/wink-wink* homage to their origin, and the untrained hack who blatantly produces pale copies.

Only the elite see, nay, care about where the line falls.

[minutia]
FYI - Anderson mainly attributed his love of Futura to Kubrik's "The Shining."
[/minutia]

"I copy things every day" - apple-c.
apple-c
03.02.05 at 03:48

Matt -

If you bother to read the (rather lengthy) content of this thread, you will discover that Art Chantry and others have already articulated where Kruger got her template from. You will also note that the complexity of the issue is obviously something that we do care about (and it does go beyond whether the girl knew who B Kruger was or deliberately appropriated her work, or not). Just because you do not, or choose to throw your hands up in the air because it's too hard to contemplate, hardly justifies your petulant response, does it?

Or would you rather not care about the substance of this issue until it is YOU who has any sort of issue with intellectual copyright whatsoever?

Or let me put it this way: You design a poster for your friend's band for free. I take that poster off the street, and replicate it nearly exactly for a project for MTV. MTV/Viacom pays me $15,000 for a broadcast graphics campaign and print media for ads that will run in Rolling Stone and Entertainment Weekly based essentially on what you did. I then win a bunch of design awards. You don't live under a rock, you've seen the campaign and picked up the AIGA annual and Print and CA. How do you feel then?
Jesse Marinoff Reyes
03.02.05 at 03:53

Nipeth -

Thanks for the clarification. I know what you meant to say now, it just didn't come across that well to me initially, or to Art Chantry who also responded to your comment in the following thread.
Jesse Marinoff Reyes
03.02.05 at 04:08

Since when did graphic design become a fount of originality. It ain't art, its commercial art. It doesn't lead it follows. That it is now a source for artists (go back to pop art) is not news. What's news is that we care so much about being newsy. Its hard enough being good, its major difficult being original. What's more, where is the design on this thread. Everyone talks a good game, but isn't the proof in the showing?
Rube
rubin
03.02.05 at 05:24

Wow, I still haven't read this whole thread but love Art Chantry, and find it a hilarious cliche that some design student with a textbook in front of her is questioning him. That was more interesting than any debate over the merits of precedent and style jacking.

Barbara Kruger and all artists with a particular style use it to market their work. If she is only recognized for her aesthetic style than her work would lack any breadth. The style is not what qualifies her work as art and not what made it innovative. But after serial use through her whole career, it is hers to own. She is the author.

An originator may have worked an entire life to achieve a legacy, whether aesthetic or intellectual doesn't matter. But any one of us punks can learn everything that master knew in a matter of hours in a good retrospective and maybe even improve upon it. But should we?

It's not black and white. That's why this has been going on all day. It takes discernment. Unless it's going to save lives or help cure a disease, I would say no.

And what if the originator is still working? Some newbie can give a client a "Chantry look" for a fraction of the price. At the expense of Art.

Jacking someone's work also poses the risk that you just fucking suck and could devalue the original by saturating the market with no substance until it's kitsch or just stale.

The culture jackers aren't going to stop. There's nothing stopping them. But you can shame them if you're good. And that's jsut plain fun.

But after all this vomit, I wonder where the client even fits in? Seems designers have forgotten they work for a client and are just masturbating.
Osbourne
03.02.05 at 05:48

Jackers, style-biters, lamers, call 'em what you will, you're right they're always going to be there. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, no? My favorite example of this is Antiques Roadshow, where the drama of every episode is whether an item is an original or an imitation, and the accompanying anecdotes about "when this style become popular it spawned a host of imitators," etc. It's not a question of which item is better, just which is of more value, more noteworthy for the connoisseur, and more of a contributor to the history of the craft. Twas ever thus.
Tom Dolan
03.02.05 at 06:27

PS: Originality, innovation, and trying to do good work need not necessarily be contradictory to serving the client.
Tom Dolan
03.02.05 at 06:30

It's amusing that when the discussion tries to address the seriousness of appropriation or addressing what, per se is "style" and who owns it, somebody--I'm sadly characterizing them as a youngster--chimes in with a "who cares" and "so what" kind of comment.

Its hard enough being good, its major difficult being original (Rubin)

Yes, yes it is "major" difficult being original. So, that means you don't strive for it? I remember a line about professional baseball--if it wasn't hard, it wouldn't be worth doing.

However,

Jacking someone's work also poses the risk that you just fucking suck and could devalue the original by saturating the market with no substance until it's kitsch or just stale. The culture jackers aren't going to stop. There's nothing stopping them. But you can shame them if you're good. And that's just plain fun. But after all this vomit, I wonder where the client even fits in? Seems designers have forgotten they work for a client and are just masturbating (Osbourne)

Osbourne -

You've summed-up the danger of the substance of this discussion. No, there is nothing stopping "culture jackers"as you put it. Any artist with a signature style can be imitated. Example, this has been happening in illustration for decades: Ever notice the animated tv ads for Red Bull? That jittery drawing style of funny cartoon figures with big noses is an evocation of the work of an advertising illustrator of some note named R. O. Blechman. Blechman worked mostly in b/w for advertising clients beginning in the 60s and 70s. However, his style was relatively easy to emulate. By the 1980s, you could find literally dozens of imitators in the "Creative Black Book" (illustration talent directory, mostly aimed at advertising clients throughout the country). There was nothing Blechman could do about it, especially if an ad agency in Peoria or Seattle wanted the Blechman style, but didn't want to pay for it; and/or would rather have a local illustrator "do the same thing" and have greater access to the artist for changes and revisions. So there is a precedent here, and it's not an altogether pretty one. This was considered in general terms an "acceptable practice," and nearly every successful illustrator from the 70's -on could count on being imitated.

(The Red Bull ads are an extension of this, though a lesser one as the style is a bit removed from Blechman's, but veteran observers can spot the simularity.)

The client is the last entity to know what's "original" and what's a knockoff, or at worst, they're encouraging the knockoff, per my example from commercial illustration above. Once again, we become keepers of our own henhouse. We can either encourage this sort of thing by doing nothing, or discourage it by placing a premium on high standards of ethical behaviour.

That's not to say that designers should "never" emulate a design look, or homage a design hero. As already stated--what we do is filter culture, including ourselves. I just think we need to be more careful how we go about doing it.
Jesse Marinoff Reyes
03.02.05 at 06:52

By the way, I'm going to go "jack" Paul Rand and Saul Bass now. I'm just going to try and make it not look like them.
Jesse Marinoff Reyes
03.02.05 at 07:02

Besides having one textbook on general art, I would recommend the following books, granted they are high level in scope and lack depth nonetheless a good introduction to graphic design history.

If you're low in funds consider, Graphic Design: A History by Alain Weill and Graphic Design: A Concise History by Richard Hollis


If you have additional funds I would add, A History of Graphic Design by Philip B. Meggs,
and Steven Heller has wrote extensively on the subject of Graphic design, for example I reading French Modern: Art Deco Graphic Design.
BTW, Art is mentioned in Alain Weill's book

"40+ designers unite!"
Dino
03.02.05 at 07:09

Mr. Bierut has some texts on the subject as well. : )
Tom Dolan
03.02.05 at 07:41

speaking of books, this one on Barbara Kruger may be useful:

LOVE FOR SALE
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0810926512/qid=1109813784/sr=2-2/ref=pd_bbs_b_2_2/102-2812751-8887323
Rubin
03.02.05 at 08:40

What's disappointing about this designer who interviewed with Mr. Beirut is not that she wasn't aware of Barbara Kruger's graphic style, but the core intent of her work: a social critique using the language of advertising as a a kind of graphic weapon.

I also find it particularly ironic to hear graphic designers like Mr. Beirut complaining about (young designers) basically picking up an artist's (or artistic) style for design work. This is a really commonplace thing in the design realm.

So I'm wondering, is Mr. Beirut annoyed because this designer didn't know who's style she appropriated or that she doesn't really understand the true context of Kruger's work?

Or both?


Mark Eastman
03.02.05 at 10:23

I also find it particularly ironic to hear graphic designers like Mr. Beirut complaining about (young designers) basically picking up an artist's (or artistic) style for design work. This is a really commonplace thing in the design realm

If you read the article carefully, Bierut was more concerned over the young designer's ignorance of the simularity of her project to the work of Kruger (something her instructor should've informed her of), not whether she chose to mimic a known stylist which is common for art school purposes. The whole point of this is it raises the issue of "appropriation" or the "ownership of style" as a discussion point (and secondarily, what the hell kind of teachers this young woman has who didn't see fit to point out her work was inadvertantly--or not--in the idiom of B Kruger). She should have known or been told at some point in the process.

Geez, I've been out of school for a zillion years and even I remember my teachers either assigning us the task of evoking something or someone--or cracking wise when we'd do it on our own and maybe not be quite so public about our sources ("Whatsamatta? You think you invented it?).
Jesse Marinoff Reyes
03.03.05 at 02:23

I must say...as a graduate student dealing with visual rhetoric, this is an incredibly interesting discussion...if only for the different emphasis that designers seem to place on intertextuality (what has been called "stealing" and "ripping off" in these comments) compared with people interested in the theorizing of visual rhetoric/communication. Why such an investment in originality? Do we really believe in this? I take Mr. Bierut's point as being one of an honoring/studying of the intertextual references between visual works--not that as visual communicators we must strive toward originality, or avoid "copying" others. I'm particularly interested in Art Chantry's take on the situation. The investment that Mr. Chantry has in a particular stylistics (or rhetoric, to put it in terms that I can deal with more clearly) is a very material one; there are monetary consequences for his placement in a design canon. But at some point doesn't a stylistics necessarily become appropriated by the culture-at-large?

Some of the pride in doing creative work must, necessarily, come from the way in which you - as an artist - become devalued; the currency your work can demand will always be working its way toward 0. Net.artist Talan Memmott writes about the way that working with new media (in his case hyper[active]media, and in the case of designers, innovative stylistics) is a task that deals in obsolesence -- in other words, once it's out there, the currency can only slide toward zero.

I think maybe the design community could stand to take a lesson from composition (and new media's interaction therein) theorists like Johndan Johnson-Eilola, who claim that we need to de-emphasize production and begin to treat connection as an important rhetorical skill. In other words, perhaps being able to effectively synthesize a stylistics that derives from the works of others is as valuable a trait as "creativity" or "originality."

Or at least, such are my thoughts as I procrastinate from grading...
robb
03.03.05 at 02:42

So I'm wondering, is Mr. Beirut annoyed because this designer didn't know who's style she appropriated or that she doesn't really understand the true context of Kruger's work?

If you reread the original entry, I think you'll see that I was surprised rather than annoyed. After considering Kruger's direct and indirect influence on a variety of designers, I conclude that it's impossible today for anyone to claim exclusive use of specific combinations of graphic elements.

Offline, a friend who has met Barbara Kruger related a revealing story to me. A non-profit wanted her to do an ad campaign for them, in her characteristic style. She didn't have time, but said if they wanted to do ads that looked like her work, they should go ahead. My friend expressed his surprise, but Kruger said as long as it was for a good cause, she didn't care: after all she didn't own red and Futura Italic.
Michael Bierut
03.03.05 at 06:34

Jesse - That's a good point but it really doesn't matter how I feel. I put it out there. People have always taken what they see and hear and use it, evolve it or plain rip it off. Why are we surprised by this? Because we are paid commercial artists and we feel there should be a standard? There never is and never was. It seems through reading countless discussions that everyone expects everyone to be completely original and if they use an idea or form that the artist should be cited in the work.
Matt Midgette
03.03.05 at 11:00

Matt - No, it's not an argument for "complete originality."

We are not surprised when a style or a look is appropriated, regardless of the circumstances--it happens all the time. And all of us have done it, I certainly have (last night in fact). However, I disagree that there isn't a "standard." If you strive for originality, within the context of appropriation, then the appropriation becomes the expression of YOUR personal creativity, reflecting our common cultural language and your particular interpretation of it (Chantry's analogy to language and its uses is apt here).

So, by extension, just as language is common and we all use it, the everyday usage of catch phrases and slang, one still recognizes the ethical problem of formal plagiarism--as when a historian quotes from a source in a paper or book, and fails to attribute the quotation (this very example has brought down the careers of a handful of well-known historians in just the last few years, Stephen Ambrose and Dolores Kearns-Goodwin in particular). It's recognized, both in commonplace and legal terms as wrong. Doesn't that play a role here in terms of comparison?

So, my point is NOT that appropriation on its face is wrong, it's that if we appropriate without regard to the source and the circumstances surrounding it, we run the danger of allowing an "anything goes" environment. Read my previous posts, the examples I cite as ethically or morally reprehensible business practices.

It seems to me that from what you're telling me, and what others have said on this thread ("who cares" and "so what"), that that's exactly the kind of environment we're dealing with here. I guess it doesn't really matter until it's happened to you.
Jesse Marinoff Reyes
03.03.05 at 11:37

There is no such thing as "complete originality." It's all been done before, over and over again. As soon as you take that off the table you can discern why this thread has endured for the last few days. It's the "grey area" between "complete originality" or just plain (generally speaking) "originality" on the one side, and plagiarism on the other.
Jesse Marinoff Reyes
03.03.05 at 11:46

Thanks Michael Bierut and all participants in this discussion for a nice half-hour of reading.

Some points which i can not restrain myself from adding my opinion to:

1. Originality

It has been said here (and elsewhere!) that either, sadly, there is no more originality in graphic design these days, or conversely, that people, sadly, think that originality in graphic design is too highly valued; where »graphic design« always sounded strongly to me like »the visual aesthetics« — and that seems a big part of the problem with graphic design:
Visual manifestions that are completely loose from and unrelated to the content they convey, but hey, they are original, so it's great!

I believe that the truth is in the middle, between the two positions i thought to have observed:

Incredibly stunning never-seen-before graphic effects, when used without a concept that justifies them, will, in the end, always remain just that: effects.
Of course, the avid designer will always try to at least »remix« visual references — and this is where we also come to speak about Jessica (
see below.) — in a new and unique way, but of course, this designer just has to know the history of visual communications in order to effectively use these references in the way that she or he wants.

But even a tried-and-true visual approach can be incredibly original — it just depends on the message that it is employed for, on the context in which visual elements are used. Let me explain you what i mean in this example, which is also the second part of this post:

2. The Comic Sans Poster

Ryan said
For example, a freshman student at my school did a poster where he was talking about freeing himself from his possessions, and bottom of the poster said "freedom" written in Comic Sans. Now, I don't think the issue is that he used a bad typeface, but that he used a typeface shipped exclusively by Microsoft, the largest corporation on Earth. I'm certain he didn't intend on the irony, which is what really frustrated me.


Ryan,

Before I read the beginning of the paragraph quoted above, i just thought: »Wow, what a brilliant, so utterly utterly cynical and subversive idea,« but then I read on and was quite perplexed that you did not like it at all.
I morely loosely interpreted what you called his possessions also to encompass his beliefs, his convictions, the thinks that he learned in and before the university he attends etc. I am absolutely certain that sooner or later on his carreer path someone told him to
ban Comic Sans from his graphic design once and forever. My little daydream continues that he just so happened to like Comic Sans very much and/or was dissatisfied with the arguments that he received (if any) from the person that made this suggestion (even if the argumentation included Microsoft being the largest corporation on Earth, which, to be ultra picky, is not entirely true.), and that therefore when he was assigned this »freedom« poster, his concept was to free himself from design dogmata he obeyed but not believed, and used the most banal word he could imagine as a headline, in a totally no-no typeface, and probably centered. So in my little daydream, the context of the assignment and his personal context let this freshman use all your (and others') arguments against a bad visual presentation to make a very ugly poster a piece of conceptual design that is pretty nifty for a freshman.
But maybe all this happened just in his head, and noone told him about Comic Sans, and he was in fact, as you said, not intending this irony.



3. (to) Jessica

Firstly, let me congratulate you (and there's no hidden irony anywhere) for sparking off such a discussion; your attitude and your posts sent many of the brightest minds in graphic design, and many not-so-bright minds in graphic design, inclusing my humble self, to the drawing board to work out where the nagging feeling came from that they could only insufficiently explain you where exactly you went wrong.

Then, let me continue the point i started
above about originality and why it is important to use visual references knowingly.

It strarted with
Of course, the avid designer will always try to at least »remix« visual references in a new and unique way, but of course, this designer just has to know the history of visual communications in order to effectively use these references in the way that she or he wants, and now continues with:

,to trigger the associations that she or he wants... as it was said before: unknowingly evoking these associations, in a wrong way maybe, might be hazardous.
As a totally crass example, just imagine the swastika as a logo that you didn't ever hear about, and the connotations of which are totally terra incognita to you. More so, imagine that you wouldn't even consider the possiblity that the swastika has any such connotations.
Continue to imagine that you would then, because it is such a clean, simple yet strong visual mark, employ it for the logo sign of a rock band.
And that is why you have to learn the history of visual communication, a.k.a. graphic design: So that you don't use preceding material without being clear about it. It is totally okay, and you've been encouraged to in previous posts, steal the hell out of the history of graphic design, because it (the history of graphic design) is a good teacher, and because whatever we do, we're always standing on the shoulders of giants.

Jessica said
I'm lucky I'm only in my 1st semester because after reading this thread I think I've come to the conclusion that I can't go through with this. I've always thought of graphic art as fine art's whoring sister and have trouble respecting the field in general mainly because of what big corporations have done to it. And now I come to find out I'm going to have to know every design style, pallette, and font of every graphic artist since the 1400's so I can be sure Not To Copy Them. All I can say is fuck it.



Don't let this discussion discourage you, at least not for the reasons you mentioned. I think people were flaming you a bit not because you are a youngster, freshman, American or whatever, but mainly for the fact that you were, frankly, quite rude to a number of people in a number of ways.

Maybe you had a completely image about what graphic design was all about; maybe you thought it would be more arty, more glamorous, more »free« from any prerequisites or requirements except for a fire within. You should go and ask some professional graphic designers (maybe your teachers) what it is like to be one, why they like to design. You should then, when you have a clearer image of what a graphic designer is, ask yourself if you would really like to be a graphic designer. And you should look at yourself, if you have this fire i mentioned (it sounds like a special super-power that only a few people have and only these people will become good graphic designers, but it's more the thrill of loving what you do and never getting enough of it. Everyone can have it :-) ): this curiosity, this urge to create something, this naivety to allow yourself to be impressed with things. To let things touch you. Don't be stubborn and reject advice from »older« (sorry, Michael et al) designers — or from anyone for that matter — from the beginning, and don't reject the history of the field you wanted enter. Just soak it all in, filter it, free yourself of what doesn't suit you, transform what you like to make it your own. Be curious.

It's a huge world out there. Go exploring!
Kai Bernau
03.03.05 at 12:02

ok, i can't resist. this subject is one i've studied for decades.

so, here's another take on this theme that poor michael opened up (like a can of worms): a great deal of this "rippin off" (or appropriation or whatever it is in this mess we all live in) is client driven.

a few stories (i got a million of 'em) - a local "creative director" for a large marketing firm pulls down a very healthy six figures here where i live. she did a transit/poster/ad campaign a few years back that was her very bad attempt at copying the instensly idiosyncratic style of chris ware. i ran into her and she asked me what i thought of her campaign. i said "it looks like chris ware." she replied, "yeah! isn't that great?" (!!!)

another designer (mentioned briefly much earlier in this long thread - very famous designer - told me a story of a project he was working. the client (david byrne, no less. flattering) kept holding up my "kustom kulture" poster and saying i want it to look like this." the designer (to his credit) remarked, "so, why hire me? go hire art". but that did not deter the client.

when chuck anderson began his long lawsuit (7 yeras? 9 years?) against the gap/old navy over copyright and trademark abuse, their initial response was to deny. at one point they held up some copies of a project i did for urban outfitters and said, "actually we're ripping this guy off. and so are you, chuck." this is particularly amusing, because chuck and i are dear friends and we've been trading and sharing ideas for over 20 years. but, once again, there it is.

clients want what's proven and what's safe. fear drives their every move. they aren't afraid of us little designer fools (whom they control with a checkbook). they're afraid of losing money and power.

we, as desingers, cater to their fears and give them safe. so, in a huge way, we cater to ripping off ourselves. like is said before, when designers appropriate, it's theft. when corporations appropriate, it's called "branding".

ouch.

any comments?
art chantry
03.03.05 at 12:10

Jesse -

No, it's not an argument for "complete originality."
Yes, it is. I think a lot of people in this room believe it is. These discussions become so wordy and opinionated that it becomes muddled. But I believe it very much so has deal with complete originality. Why then does it have to be constantly clarified?

And what you described are not general standards but personal standards for artisitic integrity. If there are general standards where are they written down? Link it so we may all know. It would certainly clear up a lot of confusion here.

Also what you said to Jessica was excellent. Perhaps I came off as an ass (which I commonly do when I post). I apologize. I read these posts all the time about the shock and horror of appropriated or ripped-off design. I see it all the time as a designer (i also output a lot of film of other designers) and perhaps have become too acclimated to it.
Matt Midgette
03.03.05 at 02:05

As a totally crass example, just imagine the swastika as a logo that you didn't ever hear about, and the connotations of which are totally terra incognita to you. More so, imagine that you wouldn't even consider the possiblity that the swastika has any such connotations.


In India, for literally thousands of years, long before the Nazis, the swastika symbol has been a religious one. It continues to be one - if you visit any Hindu temple, it's likely you'll see them carved, inscribed and painted all over the place. The swastika and the om, are the two most prominent Hindu motifs there are.

So, given the above, and given the fact that the majority of India lives in villages and much of that population has absolutely no idea that the Nazis ever existed, or what they did, your example Kai, isn't all that outlandish.

...and there you have even more background info you may need to know if you're ever doing work in India!

andy
03.03.05 at 02:43

I believe the one thing that bothers me most is how this young designer was treated. It is very tough to remember and know names of artist, designers, architects, authors and on and on. Most of all when you're a young designer. It's tough to filter out who are the important ones and what he or she did. Most of all, it is very tough to hear a name, even if it is one you once knew, and conjure up the work of that person in an interview with a very established designer. Just think about how any of us felt on our first interviews, and the interviewer was probably some nobody for a first nothing job. This girl was interviewing with Michael Bierut, that would be very intimidating being out of school for 9 months or 9 years. If it was me in her position, I would feel very upset if I was made to feel badly for not knowing a particular artist on the spot. She learned in that interview who Kruger is, so does it matter when and in what form it was? It always bothers me when someone asks me if i know such-and-such and I say, "no" only to receive the reaction of disgust and disbelief. If I don't know it, teach me, no matter if I'm 22 or 65. I will continue to not know such-and-such if I'm treated like an ignorant, unsophisticated fool. It is never too late to learn something new. Whether aware of it or not, if there is a feeling that a design is a copy, that means that the designer is at least observant of his or her surroundings.
Jennifer
03.03.05 at 03:03

jennifer -

ugh! your comments remind me of what roger black said to me about 25 years ago when i stood in front of him with my portfolio. he flipped through it and looked at it and then he turned to me and said how cool it was to see a portfolio "built entirely around a style that was popular in california for two weeks ten years ago."

i have no idea what he meant, but i don't think it was meant to be encouraging. i shrank like a dead flower.

art chantry
03.03.05 at 03:08

So, given the above, and given the fact that the majority of India lives in villages and much of that population has absolutely no idea that the Nazis ever existed, or what they did, your example Kai, isn't all that outlandish.

There's all sorts of swastika imagery in Eastern marketing -- I remember seeing some Japanses robot toys emblazoned with swastikas somewhere recently. But the point is, it pays to know these things -- before launching one's American campaign for Zen Cola(tm), complete with Free Swastika armbands to show how cool and refreshing you are because you drink Zen Cola(tm)! The "I [heart][swastika]" t-shirts pr'y aren't gonna go over too well in NYC or Palm Beach, either. Finally, the hip ironic "You don't have to be Jewish... to drink Zen Cola" posters probably might need to be rethunked.
Dustin
03.03.05 at 03:11

Appropriation only become pastiche when we relinquish or personal commitment or as I argue personal ownership. "And she said: 'Who's Barbara Kruger?'" The great disservice that Michael Bierut's interviewee masochistically committed was not admitting to a lack of historical knowledge, but the questioning of her OWN voice. Appropriation, or inspiration, can be a powerful tool for communicating a very personal voice. Art Chantry said it well, "that there is no vernacular or lowbrow. There is only human planning."
Jacob Alan White
03.03.05 at 03:18

Wow, what an amazing conversation. A whirlwind set off by the naive gibbering of a young design student (whose moniker I recognized as a fake from the get-go, but who cares.)

The issues about ripping off ideas and knowing your cultural and artistic references aside, the real problem here is PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY. Not just in art direction and design but in society in general. The percentage of untalented hacks working in design is probably pretty consistent with most other professions, and so is the copycatting of ideas - a universal problem, not one soon to go away.

Don't be naive and think that you hold no responsibility for the work you produce. If you unintentionally lift from someone else, have the good sense to learn from your mistakes and strive to maintain some originality in what you do, and you're usually going to be okay.

And anyone who's done high profile work in this profession has a case file full of the times they've been ripped off: mine hurt, but you have to move on at some point and take it to heart not to further the ripping off of ideas. (Large music channel and small metal record label: F.U.)

Salud!
John
03.03.05 at 03:22

I believe the one thing that bothers me most is how this young designer was treated. It is very tough to remember and know names of artist, designers, architects, authors and on and on. Most of all when you're a young designer...It always bothers me when someone asks me if i know such-and-such and I say, "no" only to receive the reaction of disgust and disbelief.

Jennifer, I can assure you that I was absolutely polite to this young designer, as I am to everyone I interview. As I said somewhere a mile up this thread, after she said "I've never heard of her," I said, "Oh, her work is a lot like this; you should check it out" in a perfectly pleasant way. And she seemed, to her credit, genuinely interested in investigating the resemblance. I was not disgusted, and any momentary disbelief I felt was well concealed.

One of the reasons this thread has proven so popular is that people seem eager to project personal experiences onto the original anecdote. Be my guest. I know there are mean interviewers out there, but I assure you I am not one of them. Like Art and many others out there, I remember all too well how hurtful even a casually intended comment can be to someone just starting out.
Michael Bierut
03.03.05 at 03:48

Art, if you're still around, as a longtime admirer of your work, I'd like to ask you for some clarification/comments:

earlier you stated "i reseacrh and study older, often obscure or forgotten styles. at first i ape, then i incorportae and then that way of thinking and writing becomes part of my vocabulary and works it's way into my thinking. soon, it's buried in there."

That's the way I have always looked at what I do, whether it's trying to reproduce a typographic layout of fred woodward's, or seeing a good idea by one of my teammates and using it in my project/s as well. But your later anecdotes seem to point to the fact that your career has been harmed in some way by the fact that others have appropriated your 'style', in what seems to me to be the same way you appropriate older styles. Is the difference that the styles you ape/appropriate are older/more obscure? or are you totally fine with others aping/being inspired by your work, just pointing out that it makes your job harder?

I've always worked from a standpoint that whatever I do, no matter how close or far from its' inspiration, it's still something I actually had to do the work on. Musicians talk all the time about trying to sound like so-and-so, but since it comes through them, it sounds different. I've always felt the same way. Am I wrong? The times that I have a genuine, out-of-nowhere, whole cloth original idea are few and far between.

I hope it doesn't sound like I'm putting words in your mouth, I've really struggled with the tone of this post. once it's out there, I have no idea what it might sound like. Mostly I'm interested in your thoughts on these issues, thanks
JDT
03.03.05 at 04:20

Kai~
It only took you half an hour to read this thread? Damn! It takes me half an hour to scroll down and see if anyone said any more shit about me. Thanks for the nice words btw.
Jessica Simpleton
03.03.05 at 05:00

jdt -

well, if you read earlier you'll also see how i use the word conundrum to describe the state of design and culture in general . you'll see me talking about postmoderism and appropriation as hallmark decdent syles. this all refers to anthropological guides to the course of culture and civilizations and their rise and fall. there are patterns to all of this stuff and we are part of that pattern.

so, yes, as if stated earlier, i am a classic post-modernist thinker. and yes, part of that whole thing is that i appropriate and i am appropriated. however, i am honest about it and recognize it. i cite my sources and try self-conciously not to apprpriate the styles and ideas of living working designers and study and absorb historical styles to create my personal vocabulary of design. i never attempt to take away the livelihoods or clients of other deisgners and instead go far out of my way to find work for others and have even created styles and careers for others out of whole clothe. i see competition as an illness rather than a virtue and do my darnedest to not compete with my peers. there is enough work and experience out there to help us all to succeed instead of destroy us through individually through selfishness and greed.

anyway, if it looks like i'm complaining, it's actually just the pertinent examples i've personally experienced. beyond that, wheteher or not to judge, is eventually up to the reader. i know my standards and i know what i will or not do (anymore. i may have been guilty of these things in my ignorant youth). i try to learn rather than exploit.

i'm NOT saying i'm "mr. integrity", because i'd be the last to survive such a label. but, i do think there are practices in the field that are extremely widespread that seem to be built around competition that are ruthless in the extreme. i've also witnessed many people senselessly and decidedly destroying people's lives and careers out there for no reason except that they can. i decided i don't want to be part of that anymore. i also find these ways of thinking interesting and even fascinating. being interested in the way people think is the basis for any life in design.

so, i still love this stuff and want to talk about it and my experiences. if there are contradictions in what i say, it's because i contradict and question myself to get at a larger truth.

hope that made sense.
art chantry
03.03.05 at 05:37

Heh. I had to Google "Art Chantry" to figure out who he is. No kidding.
Andrew
03.03.05 at 06:05

andrew -

no surprise. i've never been embraced by academia. my views are considered outside the norm (possibly even low brow or vernacular) and are avoided in classrooms. i never expect anybody under the influence of the official design culture to know much about me.

my work is elsewhere.

art chantry
03.03.05 at 06:24

And what you described are not general standards but personal standards for artisitic integrity. If there are general standards where are they written down? Link it so we may all know. It would certainly clear up a lot of confusion here

Matt-

Well, ya got me there! No, none of it is written down. There is no good conduct medal, no tablets from Moses listing the ten commandments of graphic design behaviour. At least, none that I know of. Aside from what infringes upon the laws of the land, the stuff of intellectual property lawsuits, and plagiarism that can be proved in court, and plain old common sense.

As I'd stated before, we are the keepers of our own henhouse, so yes, I guess it is a plea for personal responsibility.

The scenarios that I've listed in my posts, and better still, Art Chantry's anecdotes above--pay attention to them, they are an education in themselves on this topic--are the substance of this plea. Art's post above, describing his own role in this profession, sums it up to a "T."

But I'm puzzled: are you wondering if there are rules to follow because you want a more concrete legal standard, or because if there isn't such a "written standard," it would then give you a "liscense to ill" and everything that implies?

But if you seek to have a higher standard for yourself and by extension, your profession, it does boil down to establishing some sort of "personal standard for artistic integrity" that you believe in and adhere to. Again, I reference Art Chantry, who said it so well above:

i'm NOT saying i'm "mr. integrity", because i'd be the last to survive such a label. but, i do think there are practices in the field that are extremely widespread that seem to be built around competition that are ruthless in the extreme. i've also witnessed many people senselessly and decidedly destroying people's lives and careers out there for no reason except that they can. i decided i don't want to be part of that anymore. i also find these ways of thinking interesting and even fascinating. being interested in the way people think is the basis for any life in design
Jesse Marinoff Reyes
03.03.05 at 07:01

Jesse -
The xplosion of desktop publishing brought on an xplosion of every man for himself. Now there is this confusing mix of designers. I know my own standards and integrity. But others don't know for themselves. I deal with the whole mix in a daily wave of film output. Some are naieve, some know better. But it seems that we somehow dump on the naieve. I think they really want to know better. And sometimes these discussions just add to the confusion. I wish it were as simple as handing them something like an iPod manual and saying, See. This is how it works."
I really appreciate our dialogue and Art as well. It's helping me clarify some things for myself.
Matt Midgette
03.03.05 at 11:09

I hear you loud and clear, Art. I don't personally have a conviction (so far) that makes a distinction between living and dead designers for inspiration, but I understand the very important reasons you give for it. That issue aside, I think we would agree on all of your other points. I, personally, could never imagine my "career" getting to a point where I was competing with yourself or CSA for projects, but if I was, I would definitely have to bow out from professional respect to those working designers who created the styles.
JDT
03.04.05 at 01:07

Art --



Congratulations on your fine interview in CA March/April 2005 issue, pg. 32.



To all, CA (Communication Arts) magazine is another good source of information for both new and seasoned designers.
Dino
03.04.05 at 07:37

i am a classic post-modernist thinker

Art -- I understand and respect what you're saying here, but if you take it out of the context of this discussion, it's really a wonderful oxymoron. Mind if I use that sometime? (With full credits to the author, of course!)
Daniel Green
03.04.05 at 08:29

no surprise. i've never been embraced by academia. my views are considered outside the norm (possibly even low brow or vernacular) and are avoided in classrooms. i never expect anybody under the influence of the official design culture to know much about me.my work is elsewhere.
Posted by art chantry at March 3, 2005 06:24 PM
-----------------------------

No offense, Art, but you're not THAT underground. you've been in CA (not exactly a manifesto for bleeding edge design), interviewed by AIGA, and are now something of a design superstar. Not that I want to tarnish your indie cred, but I can assure you that your work is being presented and discussed in design classroom all across America and the world these days... ;)

theo
theo
03.04.05 at 09:34

jdt -

i think i need to clarify a little. csa is not something i compete with. i would be the very last person to even consider competing with my friend. and i feel the need to clarify that i think it's laughable that chuck would "rip me off". if anything, it's the other way around. i think chuck and i have influenced each other's thinking, but we have different takes on the same inspiration. we are both working in the same intellectual territory, but in uniquely individual ways. when the gap folks said chuck was ripping me off, they were inadvertantly pointing to our shared inspiration (that of american industrial advertising of the mid century.) it points out how ignorant the client was/is and their rather vile exploitive way of looking at the language of design.

dino -

haven't seen that. it's hard to find ca out here in the puckerbrush of st. louis.

theo -

i've always thought of myself as having one foot in the in underground and one foot in the mainstream. i straddle the 'insider/outsider' line in design culture. as a result i think of myself as a conduit of ideas spreading in both directions. i often take ideas from one and present it in the other. resultingly, i get to shove various iconic (but mutually foreign) talents and individuals together for some amazing results. sometimes it's a lot more fun to get two talents get together for the first time and just stand back and watch. sometimes it's like watching a flower open. it can be extremely satisfying. over the years i sometimes felt like a highway between two worlds - a wormhole or something.

years ago, back in the late 80's, i was invited to participate in a aiga planning committee for one of those conventions. i felt like i was a representative of the opposition, so i came loaded for bear. i brought two very heavy, very full canvas bags of books and magazines and samples of work to show as potential speakers. i suggested roth and survival research laboratories and the church of the sub-genius among many others i forget. it was a collection of the avant-guarde of the moment along with some underground masters of the past.

the reaction of that group (every one a huge design star name) sorta thought i was crazy. they had heard of almost none of these people and some even curled their lips and hissed when they saw the stuff. needless to say, not a single one of my suggestions was even considered. but it was a real hoot to watch ivan chermayeff and a couple of others feverishly jotting down the addressess and names of the sub-genius foundation and srl. at least they THOUGHT they were pretty interesting and wanted to contact them to find out more.

man, could you imagine robert williams or ed roth or craphound doing a talk at an aiga conference? or a performance by survial research laboratories or a sub-genius slackfest? it would have broken the dezine world into pieces. oh, well....

art chantry
03.04.05 at 11:07

oh, by the way, the featured speakers at the conference (seems to me) were vignelli and glaser (ny good ol' boys again.)
art chantry
03.04.05 at 11:11

man, could you imagine robert williams or ed roth or craphound doing a talk at an aiga conference?

For the record, Ed Roth spoke at the AIGA Conference in Las Vegas in 1999.
Michael Bierut
03.04.05 at 11:48

but, can you imagine him emerging from obscurity to blow the sox off the conservative design world of the late 80's? he was a great art director/designer that changed the language of a generation and then faded away. ya know, at that point his re-discovery and re-emergence hadn't happened.

i also suggested people like the laibach collective and phase too and negativeland and a host of other very interesting folks dealing with all of the issues we deal with even in this very thread. all of those folks have since entered the mainstream awareness to one degree or another at this point, but back then to give them a forum like an aiga conference to say thier piece, it could have changed american design history.

but that's all in the past, now.

i also suggested putting heinz edelmann, john alcorn, milton glaser and peter max at a round table on a stage and letting the audience ask questions. i would have paid good money to watch that. hee, hee.

art chantry
03.04.05 at 12:29

Art - yer so darn evil! (snicker).
Jesse Marinoff Reyes
03.04.05 at 12:41

When you say Ed Roth, do you mean Big Daddy Roth? He also presented at the Stanford Design Conference in 1990.

Speaking of him - I recall that his work with autos drew heavily on (and in turn influenced) the car culture of his era.

It reminded me of a comment that Robert Irwin made in Lawrence Weschler's book "Seeing Is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees". Irwin spoke (in very respectful terms) of the California car culture as producing a type of folk art. It was art applied to a utilitarian object as a personal customization and expression (something like that, at least).

Some of the underlying design influences that are being discussed here (the uncredited design done outside of the mainstream) have similarities to a folk art. (Like Irwin, I don't use that term in a negative manner.)

They are often (though not always) anonymously created, they are produced outside of the mainstream profession, and they are part of a collective expression from a body of people that are influenced by each other.

Like any other aspect of culture, these have influences on people outside of their immediate circle of practitioners. Those who draw on these (or any other influences) are wise to understand the context of their origins. If you're going to draw on a language as part of your own means of expression, it's good to understand what you're really saying. It's both practical and ethical.
Daniel Green
03.04.05 at 02:14

Kai said:
I am absolutely certain that sooner or later on his carreer path someone told him to ban Comic Sans from his graphic design once and forever. ..... a piece of conceptual design that is pretty nifty for a freshman.

Kai - For fear of getting off topic, I'll keep this short: I'll sell you my first born child if you are right about the student using the typeface in an ironic, deep, or otherwise thoughtful manner. Nice analysis though -- I needed a good laugh.
Ryan Nee
03.04.05 at 08:13

Keep on laughing...
The Comic Sans Rip Offer!
03.06.05 at 09:52

About apropriation:>

Old and young designers have to get more humble on this. Intelectual property is fur sure the most outstanding concept that capitalism has created. It exists only as a name, an idea. We can somehow mesure rice and change one kilogram of it for another one of potatoes. We can´t mesure the amount of thinking nor where it is or where it started.

For me there's only one solution for the cultural maker's need for recognition. Citation. Giving credits. Not paying them. CCommons call it Atribution. All other forms of retrieving are easily pervertable. There are milion's of cases (as someone said here before) that prove that the actual law does not avoid changing the inherent purpose or function of something. As stupid as it may sound: materialism is the designer only way to eat! Kids, they get shocked with our ignorance, wait until they see what we copy! Work 4 free(dom), while you can!
João Marrucho
03.06.05 at 11:20

you know, I realize one point was never made to Jessica: she seemed to be saying that because the graphic design world was so obsessed with originality and issues of copying, stealing, knowing who did what when etc, that maybe this world wasnt for her, and maybe she would go towards the arts instead. To which I say: You'll find the same thing there, and possibly worse even. If anything, originality is even more desperately prized and fiercely fought over in the fine arts world, and if a curator says "were you referencing Gerhard Richter in this piece?" and you say "who?", chances are you'll get an even more hostile response, and none of the generosity that Beirut showed to that young designer.
theo
03.07.05 at 09:10

theo -

i don't know about you, but my experience (and that of a lot of my friends) in the "fine art" culture is a thousand times more cutthroat and amoral and dishonest than the "commercial art" world. at least we sell ideas and not products (like paintings or sculptures). we at least address the position of who has some sort of rights to an idea. in the "fine art" culture it's vile in that regard - winner take all.
art chantry
03.07.05 at 10:46

Theo~
I was just thinking about this issue this morning. What if at some point I won't be able to make a painting of a scene in my living room because the person who designed the lamp or the potted plant could sue me for "copying" their work.
Jessica Simpleton
03.07.05 at 02:06

jessica -

well, sadly, that day has already come. back in the 90's, a grand-nephew (or something) of john wayne was driving down the street in santa fe and spotted one of andy warhol's famous john wayne images in a gallery window (it used an old stock photo of cowboy john all done up in classic warhol pretties). he was outraged that anybody would rip off his famous relative, even if it did happen before the nephew was born and after both the realtive and the artist were dead.

and that's the story of how the ESTATE of john wayne sued the ESTATE of andy warhol over intellectual property infringement. i don't who won. i don't care. they should all just be stuck in court for all enternity if there is any justice.
art chantry
03.07.05 at 02:45

I'm writing this as much to get this thread to the magic 200 mark as to offer this P.S. to Mr. Chantry's last post.

The painter Audrey Flack, known for her collage-like oil paintings, once included a famous Margaret Bourke White concentration camp photo in a painting. It was one of many objects that were positioned as though in a cabinet of curios. The painting received much attention, especially after Time Life sued her for infringement.

Well, it was a famous photo that was painted shade for shade, but it was also a still life that intended to critically contrast popular culture artifacts. I don't remember the title of the painting, but it was an attempt to show how with the glut of images we are desensitized sometimes, and unable to discern the horrible from the benign.

I wonder if some day a landscape painter could be sued for painting a tree that was on John Wayne's estate?
Rubin
03.07.05 at 03:46

i got a million stories...

in the northwest about 10 or 15 years ago , there was an illustrator who was hired to draw a picture of a all-bran muffin. the image of the muffin was to go on a label that would be applied to muffins that were to be sold in restaraunts and small breakfast joints, etc. the illustrator drew a muffin in a pointilist style, collected the paycheck, the muffin image was placed on the label and that was that. a simple job, hundreds of them done in the life of an illustrator, right?

so, a few years go by and the muffin business gets sold to another concern who claims the muffin image as his intellectual property and sues the illustrator for drawing an image of another food product (i forget what it was, let's say a cookie) that was being used on another product. it was drawn in the same style, and the new muffin man claims that he owned the intellectual rights to any image of food that that illustrator drew because it was in the same territory as the muffin. further, he claimed he own the rights to any image drawn by that illustrator in a pointilist style. the suit (because lawyers tend to practice overkill) further claimed that the new muffin man owned the rights to any image drawn by the illustrator period.

well, as the lawsuit progressed, the illustrator found that he could not make a living, because he drew everything in a pointilist style and he could no longer practice illustration for a livilihood. his mounting legal expenses and the freeze placed on his occupation by the lawsuit was taking it's toll. he lost house over the suit and then LOST THE LAWSUIT! the judge found for the businessman (and the illustrator had bad legal representation, i assume).

eventually the illustrator was able to start illustrating again, but it took two more suits , the loss of his car and his marraige and the intervention of the legal assistance of the graphic artists guild before he could do illustration again.

i assume it was in a non-pointilist style.

this sort of thing happens all the time right under our noses and the design culture organizations and the publications, seem to not recognize it. if it weren't for the (generally snubbed) graphic artists guild, most of these cases would get no notice at all.

maybe someday i'll tell you folks the sad tales of don martin or patrick nagel. it happens to famous folks, too.
art chantry
03.07.05 at 04:41

very interesting, thanks for sharing the stories
Jessica Simpleton
03.07.05 at 05:10

Very interesting and extremely scary.

After all these comments I still feel that the issue here isn't intellectual property, although that is something all of us who "create" should be concerned with.

The way in which someone really comes to own a visual style isn't by being the one to create it, it's by being the one to be most associated with it (of course). This is something the creator has little control over. Whether or not Barbara Kruger owns the style most associated with her doesn't really matter, because it IS associated with her. If you create something that looks exactly like what she is known for, even if accidentally, the association is going to subvert your message. If the goal of design is to communicate, and Barbara Kruger has nothing to do with your concept, then you have made a huge mistake.
Nat
03.07.05 at 05:27

I think it takes a special kind of arrogance to think you can own a typeface, a colour, or an aesthetic combination of the two. I've always tried to let go of any preconceptions about how the design is supposed to look and let the problem dictate the graphic solution.

I've never heard of Barbara Kruger (I'm a 37 year old designer). Growing up under the influence of designers such as Herb Lubalin and Bob Gill, I must admit I find it hard to relate to much of the style-over-content graphics that seems fashionable today.

Has anyone realised that in most cases, we don't design for other designers? 'Joe public' won't recognise Helvetica from Futura so the only people who this point would matter to is designers suffering from status anxiety. I find it hard to believe, nobody used Futura in a red box pre Paula Kruger!
Ren
03.07.05 at 06:37

"I find it hard to believe, nobody used Futura in a red box pre Paula Kruger!"

Again, doesn't matter if anyone used it before. Right now the style in question is strongly associated with Kruger. Even though you haven't heard of her till now, there are plenty of people who have (and not just designers). More then enough people, in my opinion, where you don't want to design something that creates a visual association with her work for no good reason.

And btw the style we are talking about is more then just white type on a red box. I mean come on, if that was all it was we wouldn't be having this discussion.
Nat
03.07.05 at 06:54

Art --



OMG, in my 20+ years in this industry, your story of the illustrator is unbelievable. I can't understand what the judge was thinking. Who was the judge, Judge Ito?



Holy cheese and rice, what a sad ending for an innocent illustrator whose only crime was to make a decent living and doing what he enjoys most.



I want names; I want justice; heads should roll!

Dino
03.07.05 at 09:34

Nat~
And now we come to the crux of the matter. And ooooohhhh I hope I'm not too far afield of the proper "topic family" when I say that it all boils down to white collar graphic art vs. blue. Big league educations vs. utilitarian. Common sense tells you that not only is the public unaware of who Barbara Kruger is, but most of your clients aren't either. This is all a bunch of ivory tower bs.
Jessica Simpleton
03.07.05 at 11:57

Jessica, I agree entirely with your point that Joe Public has no clue who Barbara Kruger is (hell, even I didn't) and as such it doesn't make an iota of a difference to the effectiveness of your work if you use a style associated with her or not.

I do think though, that 200+ posts down the line, you owe a word of apology for unneccesary rudeness to someone who was making a fairly valid point that has been quoted and misquoted in and out of context for the duration of this thread.
Sperotia
03.08.05 at 03:02

easy there, Jessica. Is this the point where we're all supposed to start chanting "fight!fight!fight!"...?
theo
03.08.05 at 07:37

Copy me! And make a huge success in your studio with you friends, you can tell them you did this or if you don't want to do that, because you have nothing to gain with it and everyone would know you are not capable of designing such thing, tell them I did this.
Or copy Ken! And get into trouble!
Mine: is not an Anti-semitist poster! It´s a radical Anti-Iconoclast flyer for a carnival party in my school.
(I hope the links will work...)
Marrucho
03.08.05 at 09:04

Simpleton Jessica wrote:
And now we come to the crux of the matter. And ooooohhhh I hope I'm not too far afield of the proper "topic family" when I say that it all boils down to white collar graphic art vs. blue. Big league educations vs. utilitarian. Common sense tells you that not only is the public unaware of who Barbara Kruger is, but most of your clients aren't either. This is all a bunch of ivory tower bs.
--------------------------------
This isnt a bunch of ivory tower bs. Say what you want about the people in this thread, (and I know Art has some opinions of his own ;] ) but they are by and large working designers doing their 60 hours a week in the trenches, and know wherefrom they speak. You can call them snobs, or NYC elitists, or whatever, but one thing they arent is disconnected academics speaking from the aery post of some tenured position. They've got blood (well, the pantone equivalent anyways) on their hands. You, meanwhile, are happy to speak about what someone should or should not be expected to know after completing a design education, despite the fact that you havent even started yours. Give it a rest already.
theo
03.08.05 at 09:14

i like jessica. she's got spunk.

i define spunk as the opposite of elitist superiority. howver, there is a problem with anti-elitism becomming a form of elitism. be a skeptic in all things. ther is no gospel.
art chantry
03.08.05 at 10:04

" You, meanwhile, are happy to speak about what someone should or should not be expected to know after completing a design education, despite the fact that you havent even started yours. Give it a rest already."

It is a widely acknowleged fact that some of the world's best designers don't have the benefit of a good design "education" (jn the loosest sense of the word).

Great design has more to do with solving problems that what typeface you use to do it - you can have a great idea with bad typography but style does not a good idea make!

On a positive note: because of this thread I fully intend to look up the work of Barbara Kruger!

That said, in my next assignment, if the problem dictates the use of Futura, red boxes and black and white pictures I'm sure I would still do it.
Ren
03.08.05 at 10:42

It is a widely acknowleged fact that some of the world's best designers don't have the benefit of a good design "education" (jn the loosest sense of the word).
Posted by Ren at March 8, 2005 10:42 AM
---------------------
I agree completely, Ren. I, for one, do not have a traditional design education. And if you'll note, the main point of my email was that many of the comments on this thread are coming from working designers, people in the trenches getting their hands dirty, not academics. I assume they speak not just on the basis of what they learned from school, but also from what they've learned in their day-to-day jobs. And for Jessica, my point was that she, quite simply, doesnt speak from a position of knowledge, not because she lacks an education, but because she is barely out of high school and hasnt even begun any career as a designer, whether it be self-taught or college-educated.
theo
03.08.05 at 10:52

theo -

well, i sorta disagree with you position on jessica's 'position of ignorance' or whatever. tibor kalman seems to have come from a similar place when he started in this profession, and look at the damage he did. i think most of the really great influential designers in america ofover the last 50+ y3ears have been not only "uneducated" in design, they had no real interest in design history or it's practice. they were simply people who, fo one reason or another, became masters of this language form and then said what they wanted to say with it.

wanna list? just go check out the histories of your big influences. you might be surprised.
art chantry
03.08.05 at 11:30


Chantry says: "i think most of the really great influential designers in america ofover the last 50+ y3ears have been not only "uneducated" in design, they had no real interest in design history or it's practice."

WRONG.
Chermayeff - yale
Rand - Pratt
Bass - art students league
Bayer - Bauhaus
Weingart - Basel
Greiman - Basel
Chwast/Glaser - Cooper Union
Scher - Tyler
Fella - Cranbrook
DeBrettville - Yale
Dare I say the list goes on and on.
Which is not to say there aren't those who came totally naked into the world. But the generalisation does not further the discussion.
Maybe its time for a new thread on the benefits of ignorance in design practice.
rubin
03.08.05 at 11:46

rubin -

that's a pretty weird list. i'm not talking about them famous "design culture" dudes. i'm talking about REAL designers, the guys who actually design stuff you use everyday and see everyday. they folks who design the REAL stuff out ther, not the junk you see in "design culture" textbooks. there is a HUGE difference, ya know. i imagine my version of that list would have mostly names you've never encountered, but have been heroes of mine since before i ever learned who half the names on your list are. so, i guess i'm talking about another dimension of time and space when i say these things.

so, i still think the greats are not folks who were trained as "designers" in "traditional" schools. i think the greats (at least the people i recognize as truly original thinkers and powerful developers of design even as they know it in schools) came from other disciplines entirely.

but this whole debate is for another thread...
art chantry
03.08.05 at 12:05


"WRONG"
The generalisation works both ways and it DOES further the discussion as the point is, if you are not familiar with a practioner's self appointed claims on a certain style, how can you have plagiarised their work and, if your work is based on solving problems, style is of little consequence anyway. You can see a great idea in the pencil sketch before any styling (typography, colour etc) has been executed.

Ren
03.08.05 at 12:16


"WRONG"
The generalisation works both ways and it DOES further the discussion as the point is, if you are not familiar with a practioner's appointed claims on a certain style, how can you have plagiarised their work and, if your work is based on solving problems, style is of little consequence anyway. You can see a great idea in the pencil sketch before any styling (typography, colour etc) has been executed.

Ren
03.08.05 at 12:17

Oh, I forgot Victor Moscoso - Yale.
Mr. Chantry, I know there are lots of craftsmen and artists who did not go to art school, and they may be great, but until you publish a book of their greatness we won't know about it, or why they never went to school, or why they don't care about design history, etc. Therefore, they are kind of, forgive me, irrelevant. I don't mean you have to be famous to be relevant, but you have to make a visible contribution that can be appreciated. Anyway, I bow to your generalization about these greats. But from what I've read about the past, there were lots of trade schools where sign painters, package makers, letterers, collagists, layout artists, etc. learned their trade and followed something other than pure intuition. But you're right that's for another threat on another website (Mr. Chantry you should start one).
Rubin
03.08.05 at 12:25

"but you have to make a visible contribution that can be appreciated. "

This is exactly the kind of "codswallop" resposible for the decline of our industry. Everyone knows that the downside of design recognition is that it can lead to a scenario of "the tail wagging the dog". That is designing to win contests or to be published in design books rather than designing to get the best results for your client.

Ren
03.08.05 at 12:40

I've been trying to reconcile art's positions here. On the one hand, he has a clear sympathy for Simpleton's "follow your inner star" mentality -- no training to "get in the way", just pure, unadulterated *design* vomited out onto the drafting table.

For instance, he says "i think most of the really great influential designers in america ofover the last 50+ years have been not only 'uneducated' in design, they had no real interest in design history or it's practice."

And yet, this is the same person who, elsewhere on the web, waxed nostalgic about the bygone days of yore when designers *knew* their disciplinary history:

"There used to be a time when designers were trained in the history of design and art concepts, composition, all these issues you have deal with on a daily basis with design, and now you're not. Now you just buy a fuckin' piece of software and now you're a designer." (Rotodesign interview, http://www.rotodesign.com/art/art.html)

As I said before, I don't think there's a necessary link between *formal* education and skill (and not only in design, I should add) but there's a difference between lack of formal study and ignorance. I think of Chantry's own work, clearly grounded in a pretty deep history of design. Now, you can say, this kind of learning isn't about learning names and dates, and I'd agree (though Chantry's been throwing around a lot of "names and dates" as well -- in fact, he's been backing up his "anti-education" argument with a surprisingly erudite knowledge of design history). But clearly the designer's mind is shaped by an education process, formal or otherwise, and at the root of that process is a curiosity about design, about how certain effects have been achieved, about what's worked and what hasn't. I suppose it's not theoretically impossible for someone to just be born with "the eye" for such things, but I doubt very much it happens that often.

A couple of people have said "who cares who Kruger is, or any other dead or old designer? My clients don't know who they are!" but I think that's wrongheaded. Your clients are paying you to know things so they don't have to! If you don't bring to the table any knowledge that your clients don't already know, what do they need you for? That doesn't mean you never get to "quote" from Kruger because "she's already done that" -- it means that you do so in full kowledge of the range of associations you're likely to produce. Consider the case if the "source" in question weren't a well-known artist but a well-known company's ad campaign? Do you want your client thinking about bathroom cleaning products when considering that new mp3 player or a low-carb dinner? If not, why does your design look like a Lysol bottle? Or, to return to Kruger, why does your work remind me of the dangers of consumerism, of a woman's ownership of her body, of the '80s? Oh, "the problem dictate[d] the use of Futura, red boxes and black and white pictures"? I see...
Dustin
03.08.05 at 02:04

dustin -

since you love to take my comments apart and then pit tiny bits against each other, i also very carefully pointed out that i am quite capable of contradicting myself. this essentially renders your critique and you technique powerless. pretty clever, huh?

anyway, when i complimented jessica, i was complimenting her spirit, not your imaginative idea that she pukes her ideas out onto paper without any sophistication or merit. this language existed for centuries before we had any formal design training (complete with it's collection of carefully-selected-from-within-the-system saints). it's how this stuff is done - create the market and supply it. we did it to ourselves and created a wonderful design world that now feeds off itself and has almost no contact with the world outside itself. unforunately, the real world of design language continues whether or not this design culture system gets stuck in circle jerk or not. so, time will tell, then. just the fact that people like me are here on the net challenging the orthodoxy so effectively among some of these readers means the system is broken and the power elite has lost some control. hee hee.

rubin -

i'm afreaid i can't agree with much of what you wrote. obviously, i can't credit and acknowledge the documentation of a closed system by that same closed system if i don't think that system has any merit, can i? it reminds me of an old protest button i wore back in the 60's, "why do we kill people who kill people to show people that killing people is wrong?" it's that sort of conundrum you are respresenting.

conundrum - dang. i love that word.
art chantry
03.08.05 at 02:42

Art Wrote:
since you love to take my comments apart and then pit tiny bits against each other, i also very carefully pointed out that i am quite capable of contradicting myself. this essentially renders your critique and you technique powerless. pretty clever, huh?

Yebbut, thats a pretty big tamale of a contradiction there, Art. So which is it? Is it important to know your design history or not? What did you mean when you made that rotodesign comment? And arent you in many ways deeply indebted to the past and old styles that you so directly reference in your own work, which necessitates a pretty deep and wide knowledge of designers of the past? Sure, the designers you reference may not be the ones listed in "Great Designers from A-Z", but its still the past...

And finally, how do you feel about now being one of those mainstream designers that future Art Chantry's will role their eyes over and say "oh, Chantry, he's so mainstream. I'm talking about the real designers, the ones you never heard of..." ;)
theo
03.08.05 at 03:40

theo -

it's not an either/or. i don't live in a black and white world. it's all gray. it's a mosh.

i celebrate and deeply respect the work of designers of the past. it's just that i don't have the same list of celebrated designers that you might. some of the folks that rubin has on his little tiny puny small list i would consider complete frauds and utterly worthless to design thought - especiually when it comes to the design thought i value.

i also have extremely high regard for and deeply value amateurism. all great ideas come from amateurism and not from academia. if it comes out of the official trained world, it was either stolen or hit upon by accident. i swear this true.

so, can you see how grey this gets?

as for being "mainstream" - you obviously have no idea what or who i am in this design cosmos. i get represented in meainstream design media simply beacuse i refused to be ignored. however, my real work lies far outside mainstream design attention. it's to the point that most people who think they know whati do really havent a clue. for instance: how many of my posters are you familair with? if you have my book, there may 100 you know. if you don't have my book, there may be 10 that you know. i've done over 3000 posters (all of them, of course, brilliant).

now, posters represent a small part of my work. overall, i think maybe about 10% of my total output is postering. the bulk of my work is publication, magazines, illustration, lettering, logos, books, brochures, etc. etc. etc. etc.

so, what do you know of my work? very little. i'll bet you copy stuff i did and have no idea you are copying stuff i did. THAT's my REAL work. entering the graphic language.

so, when you say i'm the mainstream, and i read it, i laugh. when i get coverage in books and magazines and annuals, i enjoy the brief attention, but it's not serious at all. it all fades, then it's forgotten. but, i'll bet you still use ideas that i put out there and have no idea that i put those ideas out there. THAT's what counts.

get my point, yet?
art chantry
03.08.05 at 04:10

"Nat~
And now we come to the crux of the matter. And ooooohhhh I hope I'm not too far afield of the proper "topic family" when I say that it all boils down to white collar graphic art vs. blue. Big league educations vs. utilitarian. Common sense tells you that not only is the public unaware of who Barbara Kruger is, but most of your clients aren't either. This is all a bunch of ivory tower bs."

hahahahaha

Holy cow that's funny. I completely fail to see how what I said has anything to do with white collar graphic art vs. blue. If anything I am the biggest proponent of blue over white. Maybe because we are talking about "art" you think it must be an elitist thing. Honey, art itself is not elitist, art collectors are.

What you don't get about what I am saying, is that the artist doesn't really matter.

Overly obvious example: As we all know the swastika was a symbol used long before the Nazi's come into power in Germany. By association though, fascism now "owns" the symbol. Sure I can include a swastika in my design work and argue till I am blue in the face that "no one can 'own' a symbol that was around for ages before they were," but that won't change the fact that every time someone views my design with the swastika they will think of the Nazis.

Yes, I realize that Barbara Kruger couldn't even dream of her work being as well known as the swastika. But in her own right she is pretty well known. How many people? No one can really know for sure. However with museum exhibitions all over the world and write-ups in major metropolitan newspapers and magazines, I would say that the number is substantial. If you don't think the number of people is enough to warrant avoiding making your work look exactly like hers (which is what we are talking about here, not merely resembling) that's fine. But now that you know who she is I highly doubt that you, as a designer, could employ her style thinking about how it effects your message and concept. Which is exactly my point.

"i define spunk as the opposite of elitist superiority. howver, there is a problem with anti-elitism becomming a form of elitism. be a skeptic in all things. ther is no gospel."

Exactly. Superimposing elitist ideas over what I am saying simply because there is an "artist" in the content is precisely the sort of blue-collar elitism I think Art was talking about.
Nat
03.08.05 at 04:19

so, when you say i'm the mainstream, and i read it, i laugh. when i get coverage in books and magazines and annuals, i enjoy the brief attention, but it's not serious at all. it all fades, then it's forgotten. but, i'll bet you still use ideas that i put out there and have no idea that i put those ideas out there. THAT's what counts.

get my point, yet?
-----------------------------

Yes. You're in denial. :P
theo
03.08.05 at 04:23

theo -

ok, if i'm so mainstream, howcum i ain't rich?

how do you define mainstream?

art chantry
03.08.05 at 04:31

Yes, but who is "Jessica Simpleton" really? And when is he/she going to come clean and reveal her/his identity.

Oh fine, be an anonymous provacateur!
Jesse Marinoff Reyes
03.08.05 at 04:32

Nat~

"Whether or not Barbara Kruger owns the style most associated with her doesn't really matter, because it IS associated with her. "

It was the above line which made me think of the white collar/blue collar thing. Her "look" is associated with her and in the text books of upper level universities because the White Collars SAID so. The blue collar artists (including the legions of no-formal-training whatsoever-artists here) sadly, are unaware of her existence.

Jesse~
"And when is he/she going to come clean and reveal her/his identity."

ummmm......like, never?
Jessica Simpleton
03.08.05 at 04:52

Here's another slant on what Art Chantry discusses above regarding the mainstream, recognition from, acknowledgement from, etc.

About five years ago I compiled a book titled, Next: The New Generation in Graphic Design (North Light, 2000), title, mine; subtitle, the publisher's. This book (now sadly out of print) collected the work of about 40 designers--working in posters, music and cd graphics, book publishing, and a general category referred to in the book as "studio design." All of the designers were relatively unheralded (i.e. not "brand-name" designers, no one you would consider famous), and ranged from the established to the near-obscure, and all born after 1960 is so.

The book took a stylistic attitude that was a little edgey, a little DIY (though, this is a generalization as many of the book publishing designers were certainly "sophisticated" in their work--but I wanted that range). So ultimately, it was survey/compilation book, but not the same old "rilly, rilly cutting-edge graphics!" books that you see that tend to be about as edgey as a Hallmark card. The subtitle, though not necessarily accurate, was certainly provacative and discussion-worthy.

Despite the efforts of my publisher's publicity department, and my own efforts in contacting the graphic design press, not a single design magazine or entity reviewed the book, or even mentioned it in passing in one of those "upcoming" columns. Other survey books get the "being published in April" treatment, if not worthy of a full review. My book got bupkis. Nothing, nada, zippo, zilch. My prejudice notwithstanding, it was a worthy book. It was interesting. It didn't have the same 10 designers you see over and over. Even if you disagreed with its premise, it was a nice collection of folks.

It just underscores the point that Art made--what little recognition that one gets from the mainstream is fleeting and ephemeral. Because mostly, anything claiming any identity outside of the mainstream is ignored. I guess, unless you compile a phone book-sized tome of rock posters, but even then.

So, to lend a contradiction to "Jessica's" impression that things found in books are "white collar" and are somehow annointed, I can tell you it just ain't so.

Jesse Marinoff Reyes
03.08.05 at 05:19

So everyone who visits a museum or reads the culture section of the newspaper is a white collar elitist?

"Her 'look' is associated with her and in the text books of upper level universities because the White Collars SAID so."

I feel like I am repeating myself but again, what does it matter if anyone SAYS it is her style. Saying someone owns something means little.

Ok look at it this way. The majority of the people do not recognize the style at all, but of those that do, almost all will surely connect the style to Barbara Kruger. The is not an unknown artist, so there actually are many many people who know of her work. Sure you can choose to ignore these people since they are a minority, but this issue is rather like browser compatibility. I can certainly design a website that only looks right in Internet Explorer and rest assured that the majority of my audience will see it as I intend it to look. I, however, would go the extra step and make sure that people using Firefox, Netscape, Safari and maybe Opera can also see it. Even though they are in the minority, I think it is bad practice to ignore the minority if I am in the business of communication. Museum attendees buy coca-cola too you know!
Nat
03.08.05 at 05:23

speaking of barbara kruger, many years ago (more than i care to admit) i worked in the mademoiselle art department. i recall looking at back issues once to see if i could identify any developing style in the issues where BK was listed on the masthead. as i recall there was nothing of interest. i also questioned (the long suffering) roger schoening once about her. roger was the art director when she was there (either as associate AD or art editor), he was quite annoyed at the mention of her name. "you would think she was the art director of the magazine, the way she talks about it" was his response. excuse me for interrupting the debate of influences.
010101
03.08.05 at 06:23

theo -

i've been thinking about your "mainstream" observation about me. i think because i'm in a sidebar article in ca magazine this month, you assume i'm a famous mainstream successful designer or something. it reminds me of a story (yawn....)...

back in about 1988, ca did a flown blown profile/feature on my work. it was about 10 pages of beautiful reproductions of my (now by comparison, primitive) work. i was overjoyed. i thought i had it made in the shade. i immediately figgered i'd be driving a mercedes within a year.

i went to interviews (at that time in my life i was showing my book in seattle about 3-4 times a week. that was down from a year before when i was doing as many as five A DAY). only carrying the magazine. all i was going to show them was the bigshot story in the glamorous mag. it was going to impress the heck out of them. right?

i walked into my first interview of that day with the magazine tucked under my arm. it was a large ad agency. i showed the magazine to the art director. he looked at it and said, "what, you design a magazine?" i opened it up and showed him my article. he said, "huh. what is this thing. communication arts? cool thing..." he litereally didn't know what it was (even though it was founded by seattle folks). he spent zero time looking at my article and instead leafed through the magazine examining the advertising placements.

as weeks went by i found that so few people in my own field even knew what ca was, that i finally stopped taking it to interviews and i went back to dragging my portfolio.

the moral here is that we've sold ourselves first on what graphic design is. outside of our little world, the glamorous institutions and famous dudes and theories and schools of thought and styles mean very little. every job you approach may be totally ignorant of the field entirely. we start from scratch each time.

another strange thing happened when i got that article. here i thought my ship had come in. i thought i was going to be flooded with work. just the opposite happened. i didn't work for almost 8 months. slowly i began to get work again. i think the exposure scared people away for a number of reasons - not the least of which was that my "fame" had suddenly made me unaffordable or otherwise unapproachable in their minds.

since then, every time i get any major media or design industry exposure, i find that my workload dies. the book that came out on me created a good solid two years of no work. i'm still trying to recover from all that "manistream fame".

several other big famous designers warned me that i should not do the book and that it will just create a "swipe file" (as one person called it) for others to copy. other people said that once i was published, that's all anybody cared and then you were forgotten. i was told it would ruin my career and i'd never work again. the worst was people who warned me that people would think i was dead. i thought it was silly. i'd experienced the strange "dead zone" that happens after publicity and i thought i was safe and could tough it out. turns out that book almost killed me.

so, this whole idea of "mainstream" and 'glamor" and "fame" is all pretty false and unreal. it's a phoney deal to think that you can 'climb the design corporate ladder" and "work your way to the top' and all that. it really seems to be a myth. something we've sold ourselve to believe in and to keep those starting out under control. the truth is that hard sales and intense hustle is what makes the difference. i guess you can call this stuff a confidence game. we sell confidence in us to do the magic. a 'con' game. the most financially successful designers i've known have not been the best designers - they were the best salesmen.

in the end we work for our friends. i hope you have rich friends. i don't.
art chantry
03.08.05 at 07:24

For the record, I'm not *trying* to be confrontational here. Although I love a Whitmanesque "Do I contradict myself? Very well, I contradict myself" as much as the next fellow, I had actually thought there might be some nuance to Art's argument that I was missing. But I certainly wasn't just trying to "catch him out".

My fundamental disagreement here is not with the iconoclasm of an Art Chantry. Iconoclasm is good -- just look what it did for the Muhammad and Calvin, or the Sex Pistols, for that matter -- icon breaking as career move has a distinguished history! But surely there's a difference between iconoclasm and the blind, flailing in the dark that might, just might, if she's lucky, cast an idol at Simpleton's feet. Which is to say, my sense of Chantry's work is that he's taken his aim fairly carefully, looking a the merits and demerits of the work around him and selecting a path largely based on rejection of the design norms of his day. My impression of Simpleton is, rather, that she wants to skip the hard steps, the weighing and consideration of the design norms of *her* day (which would include Chantry's work, however outside the mainstream, if there is such a thing, he imagines himself) on the way to making informed decisions. Now, maybe I'm misreading her -- I suppose the proof will be in the pudding, a few years down the pike, when the world decides whether the Simpleton style is worth the asking price.

I do disagree, though, with the idea that "this language existed for centuries before we had any formal design training". Today's design industry seems to me to have a direct connection to the artists' and craftsmen's guilds and workshops going back to the Renaissance and beyond. What was Michelangelo but a designer, commissioned by clients to produce interior designs, public statuary, PR campaigns for Church and State? The modern idea of the artist, the sovereign individual whose work is meant first and foremost as an expression of their inner "vision", is a new one, and a deviation from the guild-and-workshop approach that design hasn't really taken on. Yes, there are a few "mavericks", and perhaps Chantry is one of them -- but even so, I think there is still a sense of connection with an industry -- even a "discipline" -- that I see as rather old-fashioned.

Anyway, my bottom line is just simply this: there's a history there that doesn't go away simply because someone hasn't learned it. As I've said ad nauseum, the academy isn't the only -- or maybe even the best -- place to learn that history; as far as I can see (and many of the comments above seem to bear this out), much design training these days amounts to little more than vocational school, dedicated to churning out workers to staff corporate design factories. The creation of workers as interchangable parts of a production machine *depends on* the lack of history, of that deep knowledge that I mentioned seeing in Chantry's work (hence why he ain't rich, I spose).
Dustin
03.08.05 at 07:31

So much discussion. It's great and enraging and invigorating. 'Simpleton', you should at least be brave enough to use your own name if you're going to call names and tromp around as though you've got all the answers. Bierut was nothing but understanding and polite to that interviewee.

The originality issue is one that I've grappled with. I find that striving for 'originality' often cripples me rather than liberates me. The constraints and problems of a specific project, along with my own personality and process are what I use to be 'original'. I don't think pure originality is a valuble end, per se, though it can be wonderful to see. I prefer to strive for originality as a means of preventing myself from falling back on style as a stopgap when substance isn't there...and maybe a deadline weighs heavy on my mind. It's a plus, not my goal. Originality is a limited thing, because so many things we do don't require or benefit from it.

And besides, sometimes it's so glorious just to splash around in our history and remind ourselves what's great about what's come before us. It's human. Now that I think about it, some of this thread reminds me of the Tibor Kalman's discussions of "jive modernism" and historical appropriation in Perverse Optimist.*

Design is often tasked to service industries and individuals who are interested only in style and hipness, not originality or even functionality. It's almost fruitless to say that design is or needs one thing or another, since design is such suffusive and mercurial thing.

*'Simpleton', check out Tibor Kalman, Perverse Optimist. I think you'll like it. Kalman was a troublemaker, but he attacks historical appropriation and explains why it can be important to understand what you're mining. Or maybe that's too "white collar" for you. Or too feminist(?). Or maybe you're just cranky because of the "population explosion"...
chris r
03.08.05 at 09:55

Jesse ~
Is your book a textbook? I found it on Amazon.com and it looks like the kind of book I always turn to for the real lowdown as opposed to what I'm "supposed" to learn. I couldn't help but laugh when I scrolled down to the reviews of your book and the only bad one was from some New Yorker.

Nat ~
If she wasn't in the college curriculums and textbooks, would it be her style? Would it really?

Chris R. ~
I won't even put my real name in the phone book for reasons that most women would understand and no, I don't think I have all the answers. That's why I come to this forum. If I hadn't come here I never would have heard of Barbara Kruger or Art Chantry. I researched them both and I seriously doubt I would ever turn to Kruger for inspiration. So monotonous. But Art Chantry's work has alot of creative twists and turns in it that I really admire. And no, I am not him!
Jessica Simpleton
03.08.05 at 11:43

Omg you are completely incorrigible .

First: How does one get in college art history textbooks without first having a known body of work?

Second: Apparently I am not making myself clear. It doesn't matter if Kruger is good. It doesn't matter if she is deserving of the recognition she gets. It doesn't matter if the only reason she is somewhat famous is because some pretentious NYC living art-collecting asshat says she is. The simple fact remains that her work (more specifically her period of work involving white futura type on red boxes with black and white half-tone images behind) has been displayed, published and archived, and is well known by many many people. It does not matter WHY it is so, it simply IS SO. It doesn't matter if she really owns the style or not because the association is there. Until she dies, and all of the people who know her work die, and all of the books she is in are destroyed, this will continue to be so.
Nat
03.09.05 at 01:27

ok, if i'm so mainstream, howcum i ain't rich?

Cuz the design game is kinda like the comics game. Even if you're successful, its still not a game you should get into to make a million bucks.

how do you define mainstream?

"mainstream" is a bad word, I probably shouldnt have used it. But inasmuch as the Design world has an "elite", you are a part of it. You're one of the big names, the ones that get covered in magazines, written about online, discussed at seminars, featured in books. You may not choose to be part of that elite, but there it is.

since then, every time i get any major media or design industry exposure, i find that my workload dies. the book that came out on me created a good solid two years of no work. i'm still trying to recover from all that "manistream fame".

That you had anything to recover from, kind of proves my point. Just because it didnt lead to fame and fortune doesnt change the fact that you enjoyed what passes for major success in this world we inhabit. I suspect it may partially have to do with how you chose to deal with it, which I respect btw. Clearly You're not the type to carve a persona for yourself and establish an Art Chantry "industry" a la Karim Rashid.

several other big famous designers warned me that i should not do the book and that it will just create a "swipe file" (as one person called it) for others to copy. other people said that once i was published, that's all anybody cared and then you were forgotten. i was told it would ruin my career and i'd never work again. the worst was people who warned me that people would think i was dead. i thought it was silly. i'd experienced the strange "dead zone" that happens after publicity and i thought i was safe and could tough it out. turns out that book almost killed me.

You got published, congratulations. Thats an honor that graces very few of us, and assures you will remain a presence in design libraries around the world long after you're dead and buried. We should all be so lucky.

so, this whole idea of "mainstream" and 'glamor" and "fame" is all pretty false and unreal. it's a phoney deal to think that you can 'climb the design corporate ladder" and "work your way to the top' and all that. it really seems to be a myth.

Absolutely. I didnt get into this game for glamour or fame. I consider designers more artisans than artists or stars, the carpenters who build the houses that others make famous.
theo
03.09.05 at 09:40

theo -

i give up. you haven't a clue, have you?

walk a mile in my shoes sometime, and then you explain to me about how i'm part of a design elite. explain to me how i'm a member of the mainstream deaign profession. explain to me how being published makes me part of an elite group of design snobs. boy, you have absolutley NO idea.

case in point - i shouldn't say this here, but i've got nothing to lose anymore out there. the year AFTER the book was published my net income hit zero. think about that for a minute. the second year, my net earnings were in the $2000 range. you starting to get the picture? i've seldom been out of the poverty levels most of my life. that does not denote success as generally defined by being part of a ruling elite. without pushing my ideas out there, i'd be invisible.

the point of my design work is not to enter this "design elite". i'm included because they can't ignore me anymore. i'm here for other reasons. if i didn't force my way into the debate to express my views (like this site) and gather attention for my ideas, i fear entire populations of designers andf their histories might go into obscurity. this language i study and cherish and have devorted my entire life to celbrating and unearthing would vanish if not for people like me. no joke, no exaggeration.

i'm not being noble here, either. i know i get mileage out of this. i wouldn't have a
"design" career at all if i didn't do this stuff. i'd be entirely ignored.

and that's the truth.
art chantry
03.09.05 at 10:43

theo -

earlier in this long long thread i pointed out that i straddle a fence bewteen worlds. those worlds can be loosely defined as 'insider' and 'outsider'. people on the 'ouside' always condemn me and berate me distrust me for being on the 'inside'. people on the 'inside' condemn and berate me and distrust me for being on the 'outside'. i was never trusted by hippies, punks, "grungers" or any group. i was always considered one of the guys on the "other" side. you are doing the same.

further truth is i'm not on their side at all. but, i'm not on your side either.
art chantry
03.09.05 at 10:59

Jessica -

Thanks for looking. No, not a textbook. Just a survey volume (any design book that collects the work of any number of designers under the auspices of a theme, or time period, is defined as a "survey"). The design press tends to ignore survey volumes for the most part, compared to say, monographs (the work of a single designer), especially monographs on historical figures (Steven Heller's terrific history on the career of Paul Rand) or contemporary art stars (Pentagram's Paula Scher's "Make It Bigger").

Then there are books like mine (not many I might add) or Art Chantry's monograph, which seem to exist at cross-purposes to the aspirations of the design mainstream. As noted, my volume got zero attention, and Art's received some attention. As he stated above, he gets attention because he's made enough noise over the years that he can no longer be ignored. But "not being ignored" is not the same thing as acceptance, or celebration.

I had hoped that because my book seemed to be making a statement about a certain design style or approach, with the requisite examples, that perhaps it was worthy of some comment or criticism (I'd have been pleased if it had been panned), but instead it was ignored. Hell, the Republican party makes a better show of "inclusion" than our enlightened industry.

I'm amused that you noted the lone crit at Amazon, suspected by myself and others as being someone I knew who had a beef with me--suggested by the writer's use of an assumed name (he used the name of an individual known to those of us who've done graphics in the alt rock world, but he was not that person). You may be using "Jessica Simpleton" to protect your privacy in an online chat room, but there are those who have used that tactic only to cause trouble and raise suspicions over their motives.
Jesse Marinoff Reyes
03.09.05 at 11:48

Art wrote -
i give up. you haven't a clue, have you? walk a mile in my shoes sometime, and then you explain to me about how i'm part of a design elite. explain to me how i'm a member of the mainstream deaign profession. explain to me how being published makes me part of an elite group of design snobs. boy, you have absolutley NO idea.

Fair enough. But do me a favor then and stop telling everyone else that they are members of — or mouthpieces for — the design elite. You have no hesitation whatsoever in slapping the elitist label on anyone else, but bristle when it is applied to you. I'm merely pointing out that in the grand scheme of things, you have enjoyed what could be considered design stardom.

earlier in this long long thread i pointed out that i straddle a fence bewteen worlds. those worlds can be loosely defined as 'insider' and 'outsider'. people on the 'ouside' always condemn me and berate me distrust me for being on the 'inside'. people on the 'inside' condemn and berate me and distrust me for being on the 'outside'. i was never trusted by hippies, punks, "grungers" or any group. i was always considered one of the guys on the "other" side. you are doing the same. further truth is i'm not on their side at all. but, i'm not on your side either.

"your side"? This is what I'm talking about. You dont want to be placed into one of the inside/outside buckets, but dont hesitate for a moment to put me in one, and most of the other people in this thread too. You claim to be neither insider nor outsider, but when dealing with us, you most definitely claim the mantle of outsider, and slap the scarlet letter of "insider" on us.
tho
03.09.05 at 12:55

theo -


hmmmm.....

no.

somebody's gotta do it. you behave and approach me as an insider to something or other. otherwise you wouldn't take that position. so, i apparently stand in opposition to whatever inside group you aspire to join.

so, like i said - no.

there's a much bigger world out there. if i can't point it out to you, perhaps somebody else someday can.

one man's floor is another man's ceiling.
art chantry
03.09.05 at 01:07

Art, I wont deny it, I'd be pickled tink to enjoy the kind of success you have. So maybe there's a degree of jealousy ;)

I read something online that described you as internationally famous but considered a curmudgeon in Seattle. Maybe being in Seattle, you dont know the reach your work actually has? (btw thats a compliment...sort of...well I coulda rephrased the curmudgeon part...)
theo
03.09.05 at 01:18

theo -

i've lived in st. louis for over 5 years now. obviously, this design world i'm such an"insider" of hasn't really kept track of that. generally speaking, whatever is considered "that art chantry style" when i get hired is a style i abandoned 5 to 10 years prior. right now, whatever you see of my work out there is at least 5 years old it seems. there seems to be a lag-time.

"curmudgean" is a word that's endearing but vaguely insulting. it's a word applied to me to help marginalize my ideas. i get lots of words like that applied to me. otherwise i'm considered a threat, it guess. usually i just get called an asshole.

"all new thinking is first viewed as threat".
- frogdesign.
art chantry
03.09.05 at 01:37

Art, you might not be mainstream, but for a time there was a lot of hype surrounding your name.

At a recent self-promotion discussion I participated in it was said that it is good to be well known, but once you get to the point of being included in the hype surrounding a popular trend, things tend to go sour. This would accurately describe the lulls you speak of right after getting recognition. I'll bet David Carson probably experienced something similar. Shepard Fairey is probably on his way to experiencing it.

Barbara Kruger herself probably suffered in some way from the hype surrounding her iconic style that we are speaking of now. Like Carson's early work, and Fairey's Obey campaign, it is all she is really remembered for. Once the world associates you so strongly with a specific style how can one move forward? Do you choose to own a style or, through the associations made by your audience, are you forced to own it?
Nat
03.09.05 at 02:29

Art, its fascinating how you took over this thread. I'm quite serious that you should have a blog of your own. Put it up and people will come. You will be the fount of wisdom dispensing favors to all who request same. I can even see a section called "YOU KNOW NOTHING ABOUT MY WORK," the title of which I steal from Annie Hall, where the dude in the movie line is jabbering about McLuhan and all along he's behind the sign listening.
Rubin
03.09.05 at 02:35

I dunno, maybe there's an algorithm somewhere out that says if Google pulls your name up more than X number of items, you can officially be considered well know, Y times = famous, etc.

(I jest, Art ;) )
theo
03.09.05 at 02:56

nat -

i've given a lot of thought to the reasons why i experience that "lull" when i get publicity. it's happened to me a dozen times over the years. i've been "discovered"by nyc at least 4 times, and each time it happens i get a lull. every time i get any major published stuff (an article, a book), or i get exposure in a big place (like my ps1 show in nyc) it happens.

i've considered all of the theories that my friends have put to me, and i think they were all correct to a small degree. for instance, you'd be surprised how many times i get the surprised reaction, "i thought you were dead!" it would be funny, if it weren't so un-funny.

but i think the real reason for it has to do with the territory and the style of my work. i think when people see my stuff, they tend to think, "hey, that looks like fun", or "now, THAT's why i got into this stuff", or (my favorite), "i don't need no designer, i'm gonna do me some of that stuff!" basically, my look is a fun look that everybody responds to in some fashion or other. it's also a classic appearing "d.i.y." looking style (do it yourself). it inspires other to have a try.

so, people look at my work not as a black book to hire me, but as a source of inspiration to do it themselves. my work practically DARES them to try their hand at it.

my style speaks rather directly to popular culture. it uses the language that everybody out the understands fluently, but nobody realizes they understand it. in effect, my own work is designed to put me out of business. (that way i will always have something to bitterly complain about, right? heh heh.)

anyway, those lulls speak of success in my efforts. at least i hope that's what it is.
art chantry
03.09.05 at 03:56

after re-reading this last post, i realize that we've come back to the very beginning of this thread - but from a slightly different viewpoint.
art chantry
03.10.05 at 02:02

Does that mean we win something?
Nat
03.10.05 at 03:02

my sympathy
art chantry
03.10.05 at 03:04

Jessica. I wondered after reading your first entry, if your incendiary rage coupled with your name, was frankly; fake. In all seriousness, I apologize. It's clear. Your name is Simpleton and it's purely coincidence that you use "OMG" and "WTF". You are a walking, talking, breathing lesson in Rhetoric. If you are insulted by this comment, wait a few months. If your education is worth anything Rhetoric will come up at least a little.

Unsolicited advice from a designer, somewhere between "40" and "just starting" here, but use your anger to fight far duller foes in the world, they massively out number the millions of artists and designers you refer to that would otherwise embrace you by simply being labeled as such; but I applaud your Moxy.

If you are unsure what Moxy means ask your grandmother. Or go find a light page with dark text and look it up.
Tolle Lege
03.10.05 at 03:41

Art,
if you've experienced lulls every time you hit a "successful" patch in your career, and many other "Big" designers warned you that this would happen, doesnt this sort of indicate that this is part and parcel of success in the design world?
theo
03.10.05 at 03:42

theo -

is that a real question? are you serious?
art chantry
03.10.05 at 03:57

Sure. I'm just trying to gauge what defines "success" in the world we all work in.
theo
03.10.05 at 04:20

theo -

i doubt that financial collapse would be considered "success" by any industry, much less the design industry. your question seemed crazy to me when you asked it.

to be fair, no one warned me that a "lull" would happen. that was my term from this discussion. what i was warned about was basically, "don't do the book, it'll ruin your career." that sort of thing.

i think my experience and the experience of those who warned me was something that happens to only certain sorts of designers - designers who tap directly into the cultural language. it's a phenomena that goes back to michael's original question of copying without knowing you are copying. it only seems to happan to designers who are designers directly involved with culture outside of "design culture". (if it's hapopened to you out there, chip and share your experiences. maybe we can define what's going on here.)

i think most "designer wisdom" will tell you that publicity is the best thing that you can get. but then, most designers seek publicity as a form of promotion and gathering work. my experience seems to be the opposite. my answer as to why is only a guess. i don't know.
art chantry
03.10.05 at 04:37

In this business if you create a look that is so popular everyone mimics it to the point that you, as the originator, are no longer required to continue the progression of it, I would say that it some form of success. The question is, is it better to be the originator or the appropriator? Those who appropriate, from what is being said here, seem to have a more consistent flow of income.
Nat
03.10.05 at 04:40

nat -

that may be true. scary, but true.

i know that many of those folks i mentioned earlier in this thread that i trained and then competed with me in my own style have done EXTREMELY well. now, there are a lot of reasons why that could be true, both ethical and unethical, but it seems to be true. i had to leave seattle because i couldn't afford to survive there anymore, even though i defined the regional style for years.

maybe you are right. i don't know.
art chantry
03.10.05 at 04:45

Tolle ~

Depending on which definition of Rhetoric you're referring to, thanks? Or not. You're right, the rage was misplaced. I misinterpreted a quote from the original article, saw red, didn't finish reading the article, and spouted off. What followed that has been a punishment in itself.

I have a fully composed apology to Mr. Bierut in my head, but I think my 1st comment (and several others) are too unforgiveable to attempt it. So there you have it. Every day I check this thread to see if it has mercifully come to an end, but NooOOoooooo......
Jessica Simpleton
03.11.05 at 12:30

i've been asked to leave this thread.

so, bye, folks.
art chantry
03.11.05 at 09:35

I must confess I have sympathy for Jessica when she says, "Every day I check this thread to see if it has mercifully come to an end..." It's been interesting but it's taken on a life of its own.

For the record: I sent Art a note, offline, noting that this conversation was taking some attention away from others here at the site, and asking him (politely, I thought) whether, after 49 comments, he could give it a rest. (I also thought Art's partner, referred to in his March 2 post above, might appreciate it.)

He then posted a public comment saying the thread was being shut down, which was not true, so I deleted it, again with an offline note to Art. He then posted the comment above.

As it says below, "Comments should show a courteous regard for the presence of other voices in the discussion." You can interpret this a number of ways, I suppose. I don't take much of a role in "moderating" these discussions, and perhaps I should. But my hope is that they stay on topic, and that a wide range of people get to participate.
Michael Bierut
03.11.05 at 09:49

Michael,

I open the page this morning and I am shocked.

How is asking Art Chantry to stand down somehow allowing others to participate in this discussion? His presence didn't seem to stop anyone, if anything it furthered this discussion in meaningful ways, and, I might add, seemed to entertain and engage many of the other participants--Osbourne, "Jessica Simpleton," Theo (myself included).

I can see you asking someone to leave if they were being abusive, but I don't see that here--and I have read EVERY single post in this entire thread. It's been thought provoking and even fun. If you've read any of my comments here you'll note I take personal responsibility and professional ethics very seriously, the grist for the mill of your Barbara Kruger/style appropriation/historical knowledge/younameit discussion in the first place.

Did you email Jessica Simpleton and ask her to leave? From what I can tell from a number of the scoldings posted, she seemed to raise the ire of many (though, in her defense, providing a valuable point of view, even if seeming either naiive or merely provacative).

Maybe you should just shut down the thread. Proprietary censorship is just, well, censorship.

"Comments should show a courteous regard for the presence of other voices in the discussion." You can interpret this a number of ways, I suppose

Apparently, if this is how this can be interpreted (and enforced), then there really is not much point is there?

Jesse Marinoff Reyes
Jesse Marinoff Reyes
03.11.05 at 11:09

who invented futura? who whas the firs man strated paint red on black? I think that barbara stoled two ideas and mixed together... :)


by
have a nice day...
red on black
03.11.05 at 11:21

I am shocked too. I've been so stunned that I've wasted the last hour trying to figure out how to put my disbelief in words. I can't do it. It's just too much.

In brief let me say that Michael Bierut you've completely changed my perception of what Design Observer is and diminished its value.
BlueStreak
03.11.05 at 11:45

If you wanted the thread to end you should have asked it publicly, on the list. Frankly I've been as much a reason the threads kept going as Art, and I can acknowledge I've veered into the obnoxious and provocative from time to time. I dont think Micheal meant ill, he just went about it in completely the wrong way.

That being said, this will be my last post to this thread, for the sake of other deserving threads on DesignObserver.
theo
03.11.05 at 11:59

I think the more interesting aspect of this topic is the use of "anti-establishment" fine art for the purpose of consumerism. I hate to hear the Band's "the weight"
being use to hock cell phones. But to the target audience maybe they never even heard of the Band, let alone that song. It just all goes to show it's better to die young because the world just gets creepier.
: )
De Signer
03.11.05 at 12:50

Boy this is awkward.

Well Art, I suppose another measure of success could be being asked to stop participating in a discussion because the originator thinks that your fame is the only thing keeping it going. Nevermind that I actually thought we had finally gotten to the actual root of the issue.

Even though I am sure it wasn't your intent, you have made me feel quite foolish Michael.
Nat
03.11.05 at 12:55

Just to be clear, no one has been "censored" on this thread or anywhere else on Design Observer.

This is far and away the longest discussion to date on the site, running to more than 60,000 words - the length of a book. Everyone has had their say, including Art Chantry, who has made around 50 comments, also a record. In the opinion of the site's editors, this discussion has pretty much run its course.

We thank everyone for participating with such energy and enthusiasm and we would welcome your input in other discussions.
Rick Poynor
03.12.05 at 07:07

Hmmm ... a book? ;)
Tom Dolan
03.12.05 at 10:11

On that note, it's time to shut this thread — which, you may recall, started out with me being called an "arrogant snob" — down at last.

The question "What are weblogs for?" or, specifically, "What is Design Observer for?" is one that Rick, Bill, Jessica and I discuss among ourselves with some regularity. Should it be a laissez-faire forum? Should it be a more mediated editorial experience? If so, who's in charge?

These are complicated questions, and they lead to complicated situations. On some future thread I hope we'll go right to the heart of the matter and have an all-out debate. Until then, I join Rick in thanking everyone — especially Art Chantry, whom I continue to respect and admire — and look forward to your participation here at Design Observer.
Michael Bierut
03.12.05 at 10:21

in response to the article, not necessarily to the comment thread:
there is nothing new under the sun.
Julia
05.10.10 at 07:15

I wonder, does some arrogance switch get switched on one's 40th birthday? Who flicks the switch?

Another great argument for the adoption of narrative elements and hair styles from Logan's Run as we model our future cultures and civilization.
George Arnold
06.21.10 at 10:28

Dear Simpleton (perfect!)

Calm down. With your – 90 mph – attitude you are not likely to last the year never mind a career in graphic design. I must nevertheless thank you for making me laugh out loud (or is that lol) on this wet and windy (I'm in the UK of course it is) Friday afternoon.

With your continual use of OMG and WTF you must be about twelve years old, I'm 45 so you probably can't understand a word I am saying, but hopefully someone here closer to your age might be able to translate ...

READ MORE!!!

ac4design.blogspot.com
Alex Cameron
08.27.10 at 09:13

Jessica's last name is Simpleton? Clever of someone to put a shill in the audience to illicit comments... for over 5 years. This is a fantastic article, and deserves all the comments it receives. BTW, i did the same thing regarding that Esquire article. I was indignant to think Esquire would publish a Barbara Kruger copy, then discovered it was hers. She is so brilliant isn't she?
marney morris
09.29.10 at 03:08

I love how cross we all are. Well done, we still care.
Emma
05.12.11 at 05:26

I think the entire discussion from the blog entry to everyone else going on and on about owning styles and not owning styles is such a cliche about SHALLOW, SUPERFICIAL DESIGNERS that mainly concern themselves with the "look" of things.
xpez2000
06.17.11 at 12:59

xpez2000 says:

"I think the entire discussion from the blog entry to everyone else going on and on about owning styles and not owning styles is such a cliche about SHALLOW, SUPERFICIAL DESIGNERS that mainly concern themselves with the "look" of things."
Please read the following book:

-----

Could I point you towards a major piece of writing: Art and Illusion - E.H.Gombrich. Read this wonderful book whilst considering that it could be/is a theoretical framework for examining graphic design style and you would most likely retract your statement.

Without wanting to be overtly disrespectful, there are far too many commenters here - and elsewhere - who put forward strong opinions based on little or no knowledge of the subject under debate.

Style in graphic design is important because Styles - cliched or otherwise - are languages that we all relate to. We use them to as devices in the communication chains.
demic
06.18.11 at 02:02

oldie but goodie! that's a seriously good read.
Mike Mai
06.21.11 at 02:20



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Michael Bierut studied graphic design at the University of Cincinnati, and has been a partner in the New York office of Pentagram since 1990. Michael is a Senior Critic in Graphic Design at the Yale School of Art.
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DESIGN OBSERVER JOBS









BOOKS BY Michael Bierut

Seventy-nine Short Essays on Design
Princeton Architectural Press, 2007

Forty Posters for the Yale School of Architecture
Winterhouse Editions, 2007

Looking Closer 5
Allworth Press, 2006

Looking Closer 4
Allworth Press, 2002

Looking Closer 3
Allworth Press, 1999

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