Design Observer

About
Books
Job Board
Newsletters
Archive
Contact



Observatory

About
Resources
Submissions
Contact


Featured Writers

Michael Bierut
William Drenttel
John Foster
Jessica Helfand
Alexandra Lange
Mark Lamster
Paul Polak
Rick Poynor
John Thackara
Rob Walker


Departments

Advertisement
Audio
Books
Collections
Dear Bonnie
Dialogues
Essays
Events
Foster Column
From Our Archive
Gallery
Interviews
Miscellaneous
New Ideas
Opinions
Partner News
Photos
Poetry
Primary Sources
Projects
Report
Reviews
Slideshows
The Academy
Today Column
Unusual Suspects


Topics

Accidental Mysteries
Advertising
Architecture
Art
Books
Branding
Business + Industry
Cities + Places
Community
Craft
Culture
Dear Bonnie
Design History
Design Practice
Development
Disaster Relief
Ecology
Economy
Education
Energy
Environment
Fashion
Film + Video
Food
Geography
Global + Local
Graphic Design
Health + Safety
History
Housing
Hunter | Gatherer
Ideas
Illustration
India
Industry
Information Design
Infrastructure
Interaction Design
Internet
Journalism
Landscape
Literature
Magazines
Media
Motion Design
Museums
Music
Nature
Obituaries
Other
Peace
Philanthropy
Photography
Planning
Poetry
Politics + Policy
Popular Culture
Poverty
Preservation
Product Design
Public + Private
Public Art
Publishing
Religion
Reputations
Science
Shelter
Social Enterprise
Sports
Sustainability
Technology
Theory + Criticism
Transportation
TV + Radio
Typography
Urbanism
Water


Rick Poynor
Recent Essays | Biography | About | Books | Other Essays | Public Speaking | Uncanny | Other Exhibitions | Contact

The Body as Factory: Anatomy of an Image

What interested me about this visual interpretation of DNA from the cover of New Scientist, which I have kept for years, is its treatment of the body as both machine and factory. This kind of imagery has surfaced again recently with the publication of two monographs about Fritz Kahn, a doctor who used visual metaphors to elucidate the body’s hidden processes. Who created the illustration and what were their inspirations and aims?

READ MORE | COMMENTS (3)

Rediscovering the Lost Art of the Typewriter

Typewriters are making a comeback and so is typewriter art. This month sees the publication of Typewriter Art: A Modern Anthology by Barrie Tullett, the first ambitious survey of the subject in decades. A typewriter artist in his own right, Tullett shows how artists experimented with the machine to generate a new kind of type-image specific to its capabilities. “Graphic designers should all own at least one typewriter,” he advises.

READ MORE | COMMENTS (1)

The Conceptual Advertising of J.G. Ballard

From 1967 to 1970, the British author J.G. Ballard published a series of disturbing conceptual advertisements in several publications at his own expense. While the ads are well known to his admirers and scholars, there has been little attempt to place them in a broader context in relation to design and advertising. Ballard’s project anticipated the emergence of culture jamming, subvertising, design fiction and speculative design.

READ MORE | COMMENTS (3)

The Filmic Page: Chris Marker’s Commentaires

The French director Chris Marker’s Commentaires, published in 1961 by Éditions du Seuil in Paris, is as innovative as book design as his documentaries are as films. This is the book that, 10 years later, inspired Richard Hollis’s landmark design for Ways of Seeing. Yet despite the high regard in which Marker is held as a pioneer of the essay film, Commentaires has received barely any attention in writing about editorial design.

READ MORE | COMMENTS

From the Archive: Surface Wreckage

These photographs of torn street posters can be seen as “abstract designs” found in the wreckage of real surfaces, but even at their most abstract they are still readable as traces of the people who made them and viewed them, an unseen but persistent presence. That they offer documentary evidence of things no longer working or wanted, of demolition and undoing, of entropy at large in the world, only adds to their poignancy.

READ MORE | COMMENTS

Why Tatlin Can Never Go Home Again

I wanted to pin Raoul Hausmann’s famous photomontage Tatlin at Home and Pinterest has a plethora of possibilities. The entire site is built on the idea that sharing pins without too much mulling it over is what pinners will routinely choose to do. But Tatlin at Home is a historical artifact, not a throwaway image, so which pin was the most accurate as a representation? There began a quest to find an artwork seemingly hiding in plain sight.

READ MORE | COMMENTS (1)

The Compulsively Visual World of Pinterest

A week ago on a sudden whim I joined Pinterest. I have always liked the site’s exclusively visual focus and the unlimited “boards” structure that allows pinners to group images by theme. That seems to me a great advantage over Tumblr’s month-based archival structure as a way of collecting, organizing, sharing and retrieving images. It occurred to me that Pinterest could make a visual index for my Design Observer posts.

READ MORE | COMMENTS (1)

Martin Sharp: People, Politics and Pop

While preparing a recent post about the late Martin Sharp, it occurred to me that I had never seen the book People, Politics and Pop: Australians in the Sixties, published in 1968 with 13 of his illustrations. Thanks to the online convenience of the ever more telescopic “long tail” I now have a copy of this enjoyable period piece. Sharp’s drawings and collages, which he worked on en route from Sydney to London, live up to expectations.

READ MORE | COMMENTS

The Writings of William Drenttel

The 12 essays selected here, a reminder of what is salted away in the Design Observer archive, represent only a fraction of Bill Drenttel’s writing for the site. They cover his literary and intellectual interests, his education, his working life, his civic commitment, his bibliophilia, his curiosity, his sense of outrage, and his deeply held political convictions. A lot of the man Bill was can be found, remembered and enjoyed in his posts.

READ MORE | COMMENTS (6)
Rick Poynor is a writer, critic, lecturer and curator, specialising in design, media, photography and visual culture. He founded Eye, co-founded Design Observer, and contributes columns to Eye and Print. His latest book is Uncanny: Surrealism and Graphic Design.


Recent Book


Uncanny Surrealism and Graphic Design
Uncanny: Surrealism and Graphic Design
Rick Poynor
Moravian Gallery, 2010
More books by Rick Poynor >>


Design Observer Archive


2014
May
April
March
February
January

2013
December
November
October
September
August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January

2012
December
November
October
September
August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January

2011
December
November
October
September
August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January

2010
December
November

2008
December
June
February

2007
April

2005
November
September
August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January

2004
November
October
July
June
April
March
February
January

2003
December
November





DESIGN OBSERVER JOBS






RICK POYNOR: RECOMMENDATIONS


Eduardo Paolozzi: Collaging Culture
Simon Martin

The Flame Alphabet
Ben Marcus

Vivian Maier: Street Photographer
John Maloof

Why Art Photography?
Lucy Soutter

Les Revenants
Mogwai

Antiviral
Brandon Cronenberg

The Ballad of Narayama (1958)
Keisuke Kinoshita

The Ballad of Narayama (1983)
Shohei Imamura

McCullin
Jacqui Morris & David Morris

You, the Living
Roy Andersson