Graphic Design: The Movie
Above Left: Paul Rand, No Way Out, 1950;
Right, production still from The Manchurian Candidate, 2004.
Some time ago, I pondered about the future of graphic design as a reality show, but recently I've become convinced that its real future lies in its actual integrated presence onscreen: design as part prop, part protagonist. Sure, designers have long been called upon to contribute to a film by creating posters or crafting evocative title sequences: Michael's recent post
on the magical work of Pablo Ferro reminds us that titles (even — and especially — the low-tech kind) continue to be a ripe area for design exploration.
But what happens when design becomes a kind of dramatic catalyst itself — a plot point, even a character?
In An Actor Prepares,
Constantin Stanislavski described a technique for summoning the creative power of the subconscious, a method for harnassing the memory. (His theory of the unbroken line
— a passionate defense of coherence, is one of several theatrical notions that apply rather compellingly to design.) If there's any truth to the notion that design is destined for better and more pivotal roles, then how, incidentally, does the designer
In Steven Spielberg's recent movie, The Terminal
, Stanley Tucci plays the kind of irritating bureaucrat viewers love to hate: his xerox machine face-off with Tom Hanks' Viktor Navorsky spawns a barrage of handprints that subsequently become a sort of crude logo for the power of the underdog...
Design Gone Mad
Readers of Martha Stewart Living
generally fall into two categories: those who take the time to tie each canapé with a single chive, and those who don't. The first category boasts a wide range of personality types, from the house-proud wannabes who delight in stiching fine calligraphic ornaments onto their freshly-pressed linens, to the earnest artisans who make grape arbors from hand-crafted coat hangers, to those annoyingly happy people who effortlessly produce lakeside feasts for 75 or so of their closest friends.
My reaction to these sorts of people typically vascillates between envy and exasperation. Flipping through the monthly magazine, I gaze wearily at the jauntily positioned citronella candles, the robust platters of sizzling seafood, the tow-headed children giddily ingesting fresh-from-the-oven fruit cobblers, the overflowing buckets of just-picked dahlias adding just a soupçon
of country air.
Let me just add that I live in the country, where the air is pretty much soupçon-free, save for the sheetrock dust that penetrates every centimeter of breathing space...
Ask Not What Your Typeface Can Do For You: Ask What You Can Do For Your Typeface
Photo: James Estrin / The New York Times
An article in today's New York Times
celebrates the suitably-named Gotham for its presence, etched into a 20-ton slab of Adirondack granite, in the Freedom Tower cornerstone. The choice of a typeface inscribed in stone offers the closest brush with immortality that any of us might dream of: it is a tribute to Jonathan Hoefler and Tobias Frere-Jones
that their millenial font (initially designed for GQ) was thus selected.
But before we chalk one up for the idea that good design has been publicly recognized, let us acknowledge that over the river in New Jersey. Manhattan-based architect Frederic Schwarz's memorial "Empty Sky" will use Times New Roman
as the font of choice for its inscriptions.
Should we care? Or more importantly: should we worry?
Readers eager to understand the difference between Times Roman and Times New Roman would be well-advised to read Charles Bigelow's
detailed essay, which clarifies the differences between the font(s) as well as their respective postwar licensing agreements...
Take Two Logos and Call Me in the Morning
Growing up in the 1970s, there were many things that baffled my emerging aesthetic sensibilities, not least of which were t-shirts worn over pointy-collared blouses; long greasy hair parted in the center; and drugs. This last topic was an issue of considerable bewilderment to me, since my sister and I were the only people I ever knew for whom recreational drug use was essentially a non-issue. After all, our father worked for a pharmaceutical company: how could doing drugs be cool if they were what Dad
did for a living? In our house, "better living through chemistry" translated to only the most minor of interventions the occasional antacid, for instance and even then, determining a suitable dosage required an initial consultation with my Mother, my Father, and The Merck Manual.
I swore to myself that when I grew up, I would find a way to shield myself from the unforgiving scrutiny of my peers, the cool ones who understood and participated in the drug culture from which I felt so alienated...