Better Nation Building Through Design
New Iraqi flag, Rifat al-Jadirji, 2004
When a new CEO takes charge, often at the top of the agenda is a new logo. What better way to project the enterprise's newly redirected mission, not to mention the authority of the new regime?
Someone must have been thinking along those lines in Iraq, where the beleaguered interim Governing Council this week unveiled a new flag design. And a handsome design it is: a pure white field representing the freshly reborn nation, a blue crescent standing for Islam, twin blue bands for the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, and a yellow stripe for the Kurdish population.
Iraqis, however, don't seem to be buying it...
Catharsis, Salesmanship, and the Limits of Empire
Left, Nozone #9, Knickerbocker, 2004.
Right, Poster for Air America Radio, Number Seventeen, 2004
About a year ago, I got a note from Nicholas Blechman, the talented designer who runs the New York City firm Knickerbocker
, inviting me to contribute to the next issue of his magazine Nozone.
With the United States beginning its invasion of Iraq, Blechman had decided to create a special issue with the theme "Empire."
As I prepared my contribution, a reproduction of a proclamation by British troops on the occasion of their own invasion of Iraq 86 years ago (not "as conquerors or enemies," they took pains to point out in 1917, "but as liberators") I remember worrying that the ironies would no longer be relevant by the time the book was published.
Sadly, I needn't have worried. The occupation was still in full swing by the time Nozone #9
made its debut, with America and its nominal coalition under increasing attack with no light at the end of the tunnel. And "Empire" turned out to be great, filled with passionate expressions of alarm by artists and designers as various as Stefan Sagmeister, Luba Lukova, Christoph Niemann, Robbie Conal, Ward Sutton, Seymour Chwast and Edward Sorel...
I Hear You've Got Script Trouble: The Designer as Auteur
In her recent post
about designers' obsession with the everyday, Jessica Helfand mentioned the film All the President's Men
, and the drama that it loaded into mundane activities like the manipulation of an on-hold button, saying "William Goldman's screenplay masterfully lyricizes a plot where the stakes are huge." The movie is great, but one thing you don't know from its title sequence is that Goldman wouldn't claim full credit for its screenplay. In his book Adventures in the Screen Trade,
Goldman said it was "the most stomach-churning time I've ever had writing anything," with competing scripts offered up by, among others, Carl Bernstein and Nora Ephron. Although he would go on to win an Oscar for it, he was dismissed in favor of another writer before the filming began, and said, after seeing the movie in his local neighborhood theater, only that "it seemed very much to resemble what I'd done." Hardly a confident statement of ownership.
Screenwriting, like graphic design, is a collaborative art. That puts the people who write about it in a tough position...
Stanley Kubrick and the Future of Graphic Design
Stanley Kubrick, 2001: A Space Odyssey, 1968
Imagining what the future will look like is never easy. Does anything go out of date faster than someone's idea of what décor, fashion and hairstyles will look like ten, one hundred, or a thousand years from now? But there was one artist who got it perfectly right: Stanley Kubrick.
Inspired by Jessica Helfand's recent post
here on the peculiar graphics of the Apollo space program, and intrigued by an article on Kubrick's archives in the Guardian
, I went back and watched 2001: A Space Odyssey.
From the moment the prehistoric bone-as-weapon turns into the floating spacecraft (the best jump cut in the history of cinema), you know immediately you're in the hands of a master. And 35 years later (plus three years past due), it all looks better than ever.
As a graphic designer, I was interested to learn from the Guardian
article that Kubrick was obsessed with typography, with a special affection for Futura Extra Bold...