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Graphic Design


04.16.14: Francisco Laranjo

Critical Graphic Design: Critical of What?
A review of the current state of critical graphic design.
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04.08.14: Alexandra Lange

Lucia Eames, 1930-2014
An appreciation of Lucia Eames (1930-2014).
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04.04.14: Samantha García

Inalienable Rights, Wolfsonian-Style
A review of  the inaugural "Power of Design" ideas festival in Miami.
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04.02.14: Bryn Smith

De Vinne at the Grolier Club in New York
A review of the Grolier Club’s quiet, yet noteworthy exhibition, “The Dean of American Printers: Theodore Low De Vinne and The Art Preservative of All Arts”.
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04.01.14: Chris Pullman

How Can One (Re)make Swiss Typography?
Chris Pullman on the 1970's covers of Typografische Monatsblätter, a monthly journal serving the Swiss printing and typography industry.
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03.22.14: Rick Poynor

The Filmic Page: Chris Marker's Commentaires
The French director Chris Marker’s book Commentaires is as innovative as book design as his documentaries are as films.
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03.18.14: Adrian Shaughnessy

Open Source Politics/Open Source Design
A review of the identity for the radical new Danish political party, Alternativet.
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03.12.14: Rob Walker

Boris, Subverted
The Neighborhood Watch symbol Boris The Burglar is powerfully familiar; what does that mean when it's subverted?
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03.06.14: Alexandra Lange

Not Afraid of Noise: Mexico City Stories
A photographic tour of Mexico City, house by house, wall by wall.
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02.14.14: Rick Poynor

From the Archive: Surface Wreckage
Why do photographs and images of torn street posters exert such a powerful hold on the imagination and emotions?
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02.05.14: Rob Walker

Personal Packaging
Fondly revisiting the look and feel of the mixtape.
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02.02.14: John Foster

Nineteenth Century Menu Covers
A gallery of 19th Century Menu Covers curated by John Foster.
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02.01.14: Alexandra Lange

Criticism = Love
Why you have to love design to be a critic.
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01.16.14: Tarpley Hitt

Speaking Typography: Letter as Image as Sound
Just as a poet weaves the intent of his poem into its sound and craft, so did Lissitzky, as designer, hope to marry intent with the typography and the design of the book itself. But did he?
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01.08.14: Chris Pullman

Joseph Muller-Brockmann’s Typographic Re-boot
Chris Pullman on a jolt of Swiss Modernism from 1960.
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12.08.13: John Foster

Japanese Municipality Logos
Accidental Mysteries for December 8, 2013 takes a look at the forward-thinking, abstract logos that symbolize Japanese city municipalities.
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11.08.13: Alexandra Lange

L.A. Loves Deborah Sussman
A Kickstarter for an upcming exhibition on the wotk of Deborah Sussman in Los Angeles.
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11.05.13: Rob Walker

Seeing The Problem
How a graphic communication campaign could help us address a real electoral map crisis: Gerrymandering 2.0.
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11.03.13: John Foster

Horror Movie Posters
Accidental Mysteries for November 3, 2012 highlights vintage horror movie posters.
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10.24.13: Chris Pullman

Remembering Alvin Eisenman
Alvin Eisenman received the AIGA Medal in October, 1991. Chris Pullman, a student in Eisenman's class of 1966 — and a member of the faculty ever since — gave these remarks at the event.
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10.23.13: An Open Letter to AIGA

Status Quo or Transformation? A False Choice
An open letter to AIGA.
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10.14.13: Alexandra Lange

MoMA's Modern Women
The Museum of Modern Art's new installation, "Designing Modern Women," could have made a bolder statement about the transformative role of women in 20th century design and architecture.
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09.25.13: Stephen Eskilson

Heteronormative Design Discourse
The question of sexual identity, a central focus of a great deal of thought in recent decades, has received scant attention in the design world.
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09.16.13: Jude Stewart

The Tricky Science of Color Perception
Color is subject to a thousand kinds of distortion as it travels from an object, through light, through your eye to your brain. Yet the tricky, interwined science and art of color perception still goes under-appreciated.
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08.14.13: Edited by John Bertram and Yuri Leving

Lolita — The Story of a Cover Girl
Excerpt from Lolita — The Story of a Cover Girl.
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07.29.13: Rick Poynor

Soft Machine's Dysfunctional Mechanism
An alternative cover for the French release of The Soft Machine’s first album alludes to the history of the machine in 20th-century art.
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07.10.13: Martha Scotford

Ernst Reichl: Wide Awake Typographer
Ernst Reichl, one of the top book designers of the 20th century, was also a prolific writer who wrote more than 550 comments on his book designs.
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07.08.13: Alexandra Lange

How To Unforget
The straightforward logic of "A Handbook of California Design" makes it the first step in unforgetting two generations of makers.
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07.02.13: Rick Poynor

Inkahoots and Socially Concerned Design: Part 2
In the mid-1990s, Inkahoots became a graphic design studio with its sights set on social causes.
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07.01.13: Alexandra Lange

An ABC of the ABCs
Were you a child? Did you read books? Then the NYPL's "ABC of It" serves as a portal back in time.
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06.30.13: John Foster

An Archive of Czech Film Posters
Accidental Mysteries for June 30, 2013 showcases an archive of Czech film posters.
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06.26.13: Rick Poynor

Inkahoots and Socially Concerned Design: Part 1
The Australian design team Inkahoots is a model of community-based graphic design practice.
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06.12.13: Francisco Laranjo

The Whitney Identity: Responding to W(hat)?
A review of the new identity for the Whitney, designed by Experimental Jetset.
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06.10.13: Alexandra Lange

That Personal Touch
In the age of the digital signature, what does script mean?
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05.26.13: John Foster

Chinese Propaganda Posters
Accidental Mysteries for May 26, 2013 focuses on vintage Chinese propaganda posters.
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05.15.13: Rick Poynor

The Conceptual Posters of Boris Bucan
Boris Bućan’s little known early posters, produced in Zagreb, were reductive, sharply defined, cerebral and enigmatic.
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05.09.13: Rick Poynor

The Age of Wire and String Rebooted
Granta’s new edition of The Age of Wire and String by Ben Marcus is a landmark of experimental illustration.
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03.13.13: Kate Cullinane

The Original Paradox
The value of creating new designs, rather than being "original".
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03.10.13: Rick Poynor

Utopian Image: Politics and Posters
By celebrating political posters for their design do we collude with the established order they seek to challenge?
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03.05.13: Rick Poynor

On My Shelf: Fin de Copenhague
Asger Jorn and Guy Debord’s book Fin de Copenhague is a Situationist classic and a brilliant piece of design.
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02.26.13: Chris Calori

Six Feet Under: Mapping Tangled Transit Networks
A review of Underground Maps Unraveled: Explorations in Information Design by Maxwell J. Roberts.
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02.15.13: Rick Poynor

A Dictionary of Surrealism and the Graphic Image
An alphabetical guide to graphic designers influenced by Surrealism and to some key Surrealist concepts.
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02.13.13: Michael Bierut

Chromatophobia
Michael Bierut on his chromatophobia.
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01.20.13: John Foster

Accidental Mysteries, 01.20.13
Accidental Mysteries is an online curiosity shop of extraordinary things, mined from the depths of the online world and brought to you each week by John Foster, a writer, designer and longtime collector of self-taught art and vernacular photography. This week's focus is a historical cartography.
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01.15.13: Rick Poynor

Socialism and Modernity: A Hidden History
A new book documents the unfamiliar history of socialism and modernity in graphic design from former Yugoslavia.
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01.14.13: Michael Bierut

Graphic Design Criticism as a Spectator Sport
Michael Bierut on logo redesign outrages, what they mean, and why we should demand more.
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01.07.13: Alexandra Lange

George Nelson in Two Dimensions
Ignore the Coconuts and Marshmallows, admire George Nelson's modular graphics.
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12.19.12: Alexandra Lange

Bad Taste True Confessions: Erté
True confessions about my own bad taste. I loved Erté. Did you?
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11.30.12: Rick Poynor

Herbert Spencer and the Decisive Detail
In Herbert Spencer’s most memorable photographs, signs of official communication fray into visual poetry.
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11.18.12: Rick Poynor

Robert Brownjohn: Photos at Street Level
The Victoria and Albert Museum has put 18 of Robert Brownjohn’s photographs on display for the first time.
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11.12.12: Leonard Koren

Making WET: The Magazine of Gourmet Bathing
An except from Making WET: The Magazine of Gourmet Bathing by Leonard Koren.
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11.06.12: Ed Ruscha

Sign Painters
Ed Ruscha's forward to Sign Painters, a new book from Princeton Architectural Press.
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10.31.12: Alexandra Lange

Dot Supreme
On the enduring power of the simplest shape, from corporations to children’s books.
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10.29.12: Michael Bierut

Style: An Inventory
Style: An Inventory by Michael Bierut
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10.14.12: Rick Poynor

The Art of Punk and the Punk Aesthetic
Punk has two new graphic histories: Punk: An Aesthetic and The Art of Punk. What conclusions do they draw?
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10.08.12: Alexandra Lange

Having Fun at the Museum
Blocks, rocket ships, playgrounds and balls: the hidden meaning of playthings at the Museum of Modern Art.
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09.24.12: Rick Poynor

Demonstrations, Democracy and Design
After demonstrations in 2011, Barcelonas Plaça de Catalunya became a carnivalesque village of protest.
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09.22.12: Alexandra Lange

Just Keep Typing
An excerpt from the new book Breakthrough! Proven Strategies to Overcome Creative Block and Spark Your Imagination that involves Post-It notes, legal pads and baking. 
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09.17.12: Rob Walker

Card Tricks
The digital doesn't annihilate the analog, and business card creativity proves it.
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09.15.12: Rick Poynor

Why the Activist Poster is Here to Stay
Digital communication has given posters produced to contest an outrage or support a cause a new lease of life.
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08.09.12: Rick Poynor

Sending Signals about Political Graphics
Issue two of Signal, a journal about the visual languages used around the world to support political protest.
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08.09.12: Michael Bierut

The Typeface of Truth
What are the implications when Errol Morris declares the typeface most likely to induce credulity is Baskerville?
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07.30.12: Rick Poynor

Pierre Faucheux and Le Livre de Poche
A masterclass in book cover design: Pierre Faucheux’s work for the French paperback publisher Livre de poche.
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07.11.12: Alexandra Lange

Obama's New Fonts
Obama bets on American nostalgia, shrinking Gotham and picking a script.
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07.06.12: Rick Poynor

Design a Cover for Eno's Music for Films
LA architect John Bertram has set a competition to design an alternative sleeve for Music for Films by Brian Eno.
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06.28.12: Rick Poynor

What Does Critical Writing Look Like?
A report on work by the first graduates from the Royal College of Art’s Critical Writing in Art & Design MA.
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06.18.12: Rick Poynor

Updating the Maps of Graphic Design History
Graphic Design: History in the Writing is a heartening sign that graphic design history is attracting a new generation.
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06.07.12: Rick Poynor

On My Shelf: A History of the Machine
Erik Nitsche’s New Illustrated Library of Science and Invention is a landmark of modern, low-cost, mass-market, educational book design.
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05.31.12: Rick Poynor

From the Archive: Graphic Metallica
Heavy metal’s extremity, as a set of aesthetic choices and as a way of life, exerts an enduring fascination.
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05.24.12: David Cabianca

Graphic Design is Dead, Long Live Graphic Design
A review of Graphic Design: Now in Production, opening May 26, 2012 in New York City.
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05.23.12: Rick Poynor

Jan van Toorn: The World in a Calendar
Jan van Toorn’s provocative 1972/73 calendar for the printer Mart.Spruijt has been reprinted by a Dutch design company.
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05.16.12: Amelia Lacy

Gene & Jackie Lacy
Gene and Jackie Lacy, Indianapolis-based graphic designers and illustrators practicing from the 1950s through the 1980s.
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04.30.12: Michael Bierut

The Poster that Launched a Movement (Or Not)
In the age of social media, does political graphic design matter?
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04.26.12: Rick Poynor

Studio Culture: The Materialism of Matter
Studio, print shop, dance club and store: a photographic essay on Matter's design HQ in Denver.
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04.06.12: Rick Poynor

The Enduring Influence of Richard Hollis
An exhibition of Richard Hollis’s work provides the first public opportunity to assess the entire shape of his output.
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03.09.12: Nancy Levinson

Design Indaba 2012
Design Indaba 2012 gathered creative people from graphic and product design, architecture and landscape, film and video, not to mention Danish gastronomy and Bollywood movies.
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03.04.12: John Foster

Accidental Mysteries, 03.04.12
Welcome to Accidental Mysteries, a weekly cabinet of visual curiosities set aside for your perusal and enlightenment. This week's focus is charts and diagrams.
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01.29.12: John Foster

Accidental Mysteries, 01.29.12
Welcome to Accidental Mysteries, a weekly cabinet of visual curiosities set aside for your perusal and enlightenment.
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01.27.12: Rick Poynor

In Response to An Anatomy of Uncriticism
Alexandra Lange’s article in Print about the sacred cows of graphic design sidesteps the issue it raises.
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01.11.12: Pat Kirkham

Reassessing the Saul Bass and Alfred Hitchcock Collaboration
The evidence, scholarship and debates: Saul Bass and the famous shower scene in “Psycho.”
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01.09.12: Rick Poynor

Read All That? You Must be Kidding Me
Ellen Lupton’s essay about reading and writing for Graphic Design: Now in Production misses some key points.
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01.01.12: Rick Poynor

On My Shelf: Jean-Luc Godard Anthologized
Lawrence Ratzkin’s cover design for an early anthology about Jean-Luc Godard is almost an anti-cover.
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12.25.11: John Foster

Accidental Mysteries, 12.25.11
Welcome to Accidental Mysteries, a weekly cabinet of visual curiosities set aside for your perusal and enlightenment.
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12.23.11: Rick Poynor

How We Learned to Live with Zombies
Zombie films, zombie walks, zombie shops, zombie TV series: our darkest fears are now mainstream.
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12.11.11: Rick Poynor

Another Design Voice Falls Silent
As design criticism takes off as a branch of academic study, design publications such as Grafik keep closing.
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11.25.11: Rick Poynor

How to Cover an Impossible Book
Tadeusz Borowski’s book This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen poses a visual challenge for designers.
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10.28.11: Rick Poynor

On My Shelf: Continuum's 33 1/3 Series
The 33 1/3 books about classic albums are a perfect example of how design can help focus an editorial idea.
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10.16.11: Rick Poynor

Did We Ever Stop Being Postmodern?
Like it or not, argues the V&A's exhibition about postmodernism and design, we are all postmodern now.
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09.09.11: Rick Poynor

A Swedish Perspective on Critical Practice
The Reader, a recent book from Stockholm about critical practice, has some smart insights while missing the bigger picture.
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09.06.11: Alexandra Lange

Stop That: Minimalist Posters
Make a minimalist poster, see your work travel the digital world.
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08.25.11: Rick Poynor

On My Shelf: The Metallization of a Dream
The best designed book about the artist Eduardo Paolozzi was compiled in 1963 by a student at the Royal College of Art.
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08.09.11: Rick Poynor

From the Archive: Raging Bull
A response to Michael Bierut’s essay about the relationship between bullshit and design, and the discussion that ensued.
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07.27.11: Rick Poynor

Andrzej Klimowski: Transmitting the Image
Andrzej Klimowski, author of a new book, On Illustration, has used the medium to create a compelling alternative reality.
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06.28.11: Alexandra Lange

Welcome to the Hall of Femmes
How should we celebrate women in design, past, present, future?
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06.03.11: Jessica Helfand

Meet Our Intern: Paul Rand!
Our surprise upon receiving the Facebook mailer shown here, addressed to Paul Rand.
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05.10.11: Rick Poynor

Books Every Graphic Designer Should Read
The Designers & Books website has published my list of 20 indispensable books about graphic design.
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05.02.11: Steven Heller

Paul Rand, Painter
Paul Rand had more in common with Paul Klee than a four letter first and last name. He too, painted.
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04.07.11: Rick Poynor

Starowieyski's Graphic Universe of Excess
In Franciszek Starowieyski’s posters, desire, sexuality, monstrosity, madness and death conjoin in some of the most outrageous images found in graphic design.
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04.03.11: William Drenttel

Design of Crime, Evil and Death
Buried in our Winterhouse library are numerous books with "design" in the title — things like Death by Design, Design for Dying and Design in Evil.

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04.01.11: Rick Poynor

Wim Crouwel: The Ghost in the Machine
Far from suppressing his own creative personality in the way he advised, Wim Crouwel was expressing it to the full.
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03.25.11: Rick Poynor

An Unknown Master of Poster Design
Karel Teissig might just be the best poster designer you have never heard of.
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03.18.11: Rick Poynor

Slicing Open the Surrealist Eyeball
Surrealism codified a poetic principle that has always existed as a possibility and still exists in life and art.
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03.10.11: Andy Chen

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Cub
Is design strictly a set of rules?
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03.07.11: David Antin

Bomb Hanoi: The Andy Warhol Cover
Art critic David Antin remembers working with Andy Warhol on the "Bomb Hanoi" cover of some/thing in 1966…
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03.03.11: Steven Heller

Souvenirs as Nazi Propaganda
Part three in a three part series on the design practices of the Third Reich.
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02.22.11: Rick Poynor

On My Shelf: Richard Neville's Playpower
Martin Sharp’s cover design is a garden of queasily decadent delights where the joke is probably on the reader.
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02.21.11: Alexandra Lange

Neat Freaks
Organizing things neatly = what IBM, Ray Eames, Herbert Matter and Tumblr have in common.
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02.14.11: Jessica Helfand

Penny Dreadfuls
Nothing says "I Love You" like a mass-produced sentiment written by somebody else: Herewith, our very own collection of Penny Dreadfuls.
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02.10.11: Michael Bierut

Five Years of 100 Days
Five years of a 100 day workshop taught by Michael Bierut at the Yale School of Art.
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02.07.11: Steven Heller

The Master Race’s Graphic Masterpiece
Steve Heller hunts down a Nazi graphics standards manual – it had been right under his nose all the whole time.
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02.04.11: Rick Poynor

What Does J.G. Ballard Look Like?
J.G. Ballard was one of those rare writers whose vision inspired a new adjective. What is a “Ballardian” image and how have designers and image-makers interpreted it?
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02.02.11: Jude Stewart

Grandma's Matchbook Collection
My grandma collected matches. She scooped them up on business trips from the 1940s through the 80s, while buying ladies’ dresswear for a department store in Louisville, Kentucky.
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01.31.11: Michael Bierut

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mentor, Or, Why Modernist Designers Are Superior
Does a strict upbringing make you a better designer?
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01.25.11: Jessica Helfand

Certificate of Approval
Jessica Helfand writes about her favorite piece of design.
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01.14.11: Rick Poynor

In Praise of the East European Film Poster
Czech film posters of the 1960s are some of the most extraordinary graphic creations ever put on paper.
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01.10.11: Rick Poynor

Out of the Studio: Graphic Design History and Visual Studies
Graphic design history’s best chance of development now lies in an expanded conception of the rapidly emerging discipline of visual studies.
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12.27.10: William Drenttel

A Conversation with Daniel van der Velden of Metahaven
An expansive interview with Daniel van der Velden, co-author of Uncorporate Identity.
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12.22.10: William Drenttel

WikiLeaks: Design Proposals by Metahaven
The Dutch design research studio, Metahaven, took a bold, newsworthy step last weekend in Amsterdam by proposing new graphic identity options for WikiLeaks.
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12.20.10: William Drenttel

I (still) Love Amsterdam
Dutch design events in December 2010, including the Prince Claus Awards and graphic design conferences.
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12.20.10: Jessica Helfand

Sticks and Stones Can Break My Bones but Print Can Never Hurt Me: A Letter to Fiona on First Reading "The End of Print"
In 2000, Jessica Helfand wrote a letter to her daughter Fiona, giving her a primer on graphic design.
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12.10.10: Rick Poynor

The Impossibility of an Island
Atlas of Remote Islands might look like a celebration of distant paradises. Its beauty masks a darker purpose.
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12.07.10: Steven Heller and Elaine Lustig Cohen

Designer as Author
In 1954, Alvin Lustig gave a lecture titled “What Is a Designer?” at the Advertising Typographers Association of America. It was his first speech after he lost his eyesight.
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11.22.10: Edward Morris and Dmitri Siegel

Destroy This Book
The Green Patriot Posters project looked to the graphic design and artistic communities for ways to invigorate and mobilize people to remake our economy for a more sustainable future.
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11.09.10: Adrian Shaughnessy

Minotaurs in Suburban England
English designer Vaughan Oliver met Adrian Shaughnessy to show him preliminary work on a deluxe Pixies box set called Minotaur.
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10.28.10: Andy Chen

Not Queer, But Human
As a gay man and a designer, Andy Chen believes that part of the solution of homophobia lies in creating images that redefine the very way sexual orientation is understood and discussed.
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10.25.10: Marian Bantjes & Jessica Helfand

The Bantjes Covers
Marian Bantjes exposes the long process that led to the cover of her new monograph, I Wonder.
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10.11.10: William Drenttel and Jessica Helfand

An Introduction to Graphic Design
Graphic Design 101 by William Drenttel and Jessica Helfand.
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09.27.10: Debbie Millman

The Art of Poetry
Debbie Millman interview Poetry magazine editor Christian Wiman, plus a slideshow of 67 Poetry covers.
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09.18.10: Jan Conradi

Looking Back, Thinking Forward: A Narrative of the Vignellis
Vignelli Celebration: Jan Conradi on Lella and Massimo Vignelli and the opening of the new Vignelli Center for Design Studies at RIT.
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09.16.10: Jessica Helfand

The Kindness of Strangers
Vignelli Celebration: If charity begins at home, how can we proclaim new and progressive agendas of social change without examining ourselves, our students, our profession?
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09.15.10: Alice Twemlow

Massimo Vignelli’s Desk
Vignelli Celebration: Alice Twemlow snoops around Massimo Vignelli's desk.
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09.12.10: AIGA

Lella and Massimo Vignelli: The 1982 AIGA Medal
Vignelli Celebration: In 1982 Massimo and Lella received the AIGA Medal for their many contributions to the design world, here is an article which originally appeared in the 1983 issue of AIGA Graphic Design USA 4.
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09.12.10: The Editors

Lella and Massimo Vignelli: A Celebration
Vignelli Celebration: The opening and dedication of the Vignelli Center for Design Studies, set to open September 16, 2010 at Rochester Institute of Technology.
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08.25.10: Alexandra Lange

This is a Terrible Poster
I saw the poster for the Facebook movie, The Social Network, at the Bergen Street station yesterdayand all I could think was, This is a terrible poster.
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08.03.10: Adrian Shaughnessy

Publishing in the Age of the Internet
Design/Research, published by Unit Editions, are collectable "papers" which, focus on design and visual communication, from the past, by placing it in a future context.
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07.21.10: Christopher Mount

Wild at Heart: Tadanori Yokoo
Essay adapted from the catalog for "The Complete Posters of Tadanori Yokoo," an exhibition running through September 12, 2010, at the National Museum of Art in Osaka, Japan.
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07.04.10: Scott Henderson and Dick Sheaff

Independence Day
A collection of early 20th-century postcards manufactured for the Fourth of July.
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06.08.10: Alexandra Lange

Girl Power?
I saw this photo in the New York Times this morning and thought that Carly Fiorina’s campaign poster seemed kind of… girly.
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06.08.10: Mark Lamster

Walk the Walk, Take the Design
A few years ago I did an interview with ESPN magazine and was forced to subscribe to read the online version.
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02.23.10: Steven Heller

Becoming a Designer in the Age of Aquarius
On rereading S. Neil Fujita’s 1968 job manual, Aim for a Job in Graphic Design/Art.
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02.19.10: Jessica Helfand

Prisoners of Logic
For five or six years now, I have led a double life as a painter. Until recently, I viewed this other identity as a kind of dirty secret.
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01.26.10: Andy Chen

Left Me Speechless
Our work should not merely address the political injustices wrought by discriminatory laws: it should register the sense of loss inflicted on those who suffer them.
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01.12.10: Michael Bierut

Designing the Unthinkable
For more than fifty years, there have been arguments against nuclear proliferation. The Doomsday Clock translates all the arguments to a simple visual analogy.
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12.02.09: Martha Scotford

Ulysses: Fast Track to 1934 Best Seller
The first United States publishing of James Joyce's Ulysses.
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10.14.09: Steven Heller

Ramparts: Agent of Change
Ramparts magazine has been dead for almost two decades, but to look back at it, it stands out as one to remember.
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09.25.09: Michael Bierut

The Figure / Ground Relationship
Designing is the most important thing, but it’s not the only thing. All of the other things a designer designer does all day are important too, and you have to do them with intelligence, enthusiasm, dedication, and love. Together, those things create the background that makes the work meaningful, and, when you do them right, that makes the work good.
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08.29.09: Mark Lamster

The Lion of Belgium
In the history of strange maps, this image of Belgium as a lion, printed in 1611 by cartographer Jodicus Hondius of Amsterdam, is surely a classic
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08.11.09: Steven Heller

Covering the Good Books
When reading was more fundamental than tweeting, Time Life Books played a significant role in getting the general public to acquire books on almost every subject.
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07.29.09: Jessica Helfand

Can Graphic Design Make You Cry?
How can you create anything visually compelling if you don't engage at some fundamentally human level — a place where memory and feeling are as valued as form and execution?
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06.24.09: Ars Libri Ltd

Paul Schuitema Collection
This remarkable collection of graphic design is from the Dutch designer Paul Schuitema.
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06.04.09: Ars Libri Ltd

Walter Dexel Collection
This remarkable collection of graphic design is from the German Constructivist artist and typographer Walter Dexel.
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05.28.09: Ellen Lupton

A Conversation With David Barringer
David Barringer’s book, There’s Nothing Funny About Design is actually very funny. The conversation that follows was conducted via e-mail over a three-day period.
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05.12.09: Jason Grant

Cultured Graphic Hygiene
Regardless of how difficult, disobedient or messy their subject, museum posters are courteous and clean. Is there any reason why graphic design for museums shouldn’t be the measure of their exhibits?
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04.21.09: Michael Bierut

Invasion of the Neutered Sprites
There is an epidemic threatening our world: the pointy-limbed little people that appear in every other nonprofit logo. Death to the Neutered Sprites!
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03.27.09: Adrian Shaughnessy

Ten Graphic Design Paradoxes
I’ve just finished writing a book about graphic design. There are entries on kerning, the wisdom of using only lowercase letters, and the merits of Univers. But mostly it’s a book about the soft stuff — the stuff that we deal with every day and tend to take for granted.
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03.23.09: Steven Heller

Japanese Face Masks
You may recall seeing in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, scores of surgical face-mask-wearing passersby navigating their ways through the dense futuristic metropolis that is a cross between Tokyo and LA. So I was totally surprised to find on my first trip to Tokyo that not only is it the custom to wear such masks everywhere, it's big business too, with a nod to graphic design.
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03.16.09: Kenneth Fitzgerald

I Believe in Design
In each of the communities I’ve lived I’ve encountered one of these trucks. It’s always a white van, hand-inscribed by paint or permanent marker with a variety of Biblical verses and religious admonitions....
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02.17.09: Mark Lamster

Annals of Branding, Redux
The design elves over at Pepsico have been very busy of late, as noted here last week regarding the (awful) new logo for the corporate flagship and the (much hated) new packaging for Tropicana.
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02.06.09: Mark Lamster

The Real Thing
Tropicana has been getting a lot of flack over its redesigned juice cartons. Steve Heller called the rebranding "a mistake." Jason Kottke simply dubbed it "sucky." Let me respectfully disagree.
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01.21.09: Steven Heller

The Good Books
Why can’t American publishers produce a series of good — no great — books on graphic culture like Die Bibliophilen Taschenbücher? Published in 1979 by Harenberg Kommunikation, Dortmund, Germany, each small usually full color volume was based on a visual theme, including American absurdist postcards, German political posters, French cigarette advertisements, vending machine cards, Soviet Posters, and Liebig’s Fleisch Extract advertising cards
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12.18.08: Rick Poynor

Barney Bubbles: Optics and Semantics
The intricately reflexive nature of his work made Barney Bubbles a true original in his time. No previous British designer had produced graphic communications this playful, personal, dense with allusion, or tricksy. Bubbles was a postmodernist before this new category of graphic design had been identified and defined, and he is as significant an innovator as his American contemporary April Greiman.
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12.17.08: Jessica Helfand

Ten Things That Need to be Redesigned
Lottery tickets, the hearse, monopoly money, IRS forms, airport design, children's ski jackets, political lawn signs, TV remotes, blister packaging and the state of New Jersey are examined for their design flaws.
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12.03.08: Steven Heller

My Dada
Way back in 1965, as a fifteen years old, I was an early EVOtee. I had stumbled upon one of the first issues at a newsstand. The cover, which I remember vividly, had a photo collage of a serpent emerging from battle fatigues worn by America's commanding general in Vietnam, William Westmoreland. Haunting is not a strong enough word to describe the impact that this had on a teen just a year or two out of Valley Forge Military Academy, where, surprisingly, I had learned about the military impossibility of winning the war.
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11.14.08: Steven Heller

History of Aggressive Design Magazines
Graphic design evolved during the late nineteenth century from a sideline of the printing industry into an autonomous field with its own lore, icons and personalities. The missing link in this evolutionary process is trade magazines. These magazines did not just reflexively report the current trends instead some aggressively codified key methods and mannerisms that in turn defined a profession.
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11.07.08: Jessica Helfand

Graphic Design Spam
Have you received any graphic design spam in your mailbox lately?
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11.03.08: Andrew Blauvelt

Towards Relational Design
Is there any overarching philosophy or connective thread that joins so many of today’s most interesting and increasingly diverse designs from the fields of architecture, graphic, and product design? I believe we are in the a third major phase in modern design history, moving towards an era dominated by relationally-based design activities.
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10.23.08: Michael Bierut

The Four Lessons of Lou Dorfsman
For over 40 years, Lou Dorfsman designed everything at CBS from its advertising to the paper cups in its cafeteria. Getting great work done in giant institution is supposed to be hard. How did he make it look easy?
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10.12.08: Michael Bierut

26 Years, 85 Notebooks
Since 1982, I have never been without a marble-covered composition book. I am now in the middle of Notebook #85. Together, these notebooks create a history of my working life that spans three decades.

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09.23.08: The Editors

Winners of the Chicago Poster Biennial
Design Observer is pleased to be an official sponsor of the Chicago International Poster Biennial, and to publish a slide show of 31 of the winners of the 2008 competition.
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08.28.08: Adrian Shaughnessy

A Layperson's Guide to Graphic Design
Graphic design has been likened to a wine glass. When we drink wine we barely notice the glass it’s served in. It’s the same with graphic design: people absorb the messages that graphic designers use their skill, training and ingenuity to make, yet rarely stop to think how the message is constructed or how it affects the viewer.
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08.04.08: Steven Heller

Clipping Art, One Engraving At a Time
These books, universally known as clip art books, some edited by Dick Sutphen and many others published by Dover and Chelsea House, were owned by almost every American illustrator, designer, and art director who found solace in them when an idea was needed but their imaginations were not entirely up to the task. This is a personal remembrance and homage to them.
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06.05.08: Alice Twemlow

Graphic Design at the Museum
The work of Graphic Thought Facility, a London-based graphic design consultancy, is on exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago until August 17. It’s the first time the Art Institute has staged a show solely on contemporary design...
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06.02.08: Denise Gonzales Crisp, Rick Poynor

A Critical View of Graphic Design History
Now comes yet another historical survey, Graphic Design History: A Critical Guide by Johanna Drucker and Emily McVarish. Denise Gonzales Crisp and Rick Poynor have been marking pages, making notes and exchanging views...
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05.30.08: Jessica Helfand

Reflections on The Ephemeral World, Part One: Ink
An elegy to the makeready — those sheets of paper, re-fed into a press to get the ink balances up to speed, leaving a series of often random, palimpsest-like, multiple impressions on a single surface — in the digital age.
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05.24.08: KT Meaney

Greening the Grocery Store
It turns out that the "recycling symbol" at the bottom of my yogurt container had nothing to do with its recyclability. So why was it there? My curiosity led to findings around which I built a design class.
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05.22.08: Steven Heller

O.H.W. Hadank
Paul Rand held Hadank in the highest esteem because he practiced modernist formal principles even though he did not follow its dogma or style. And most important, as Rand said “Hadank was then and always an original. A profile of O.H.W. Hadank by Steven Heller...
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05.19.08: Dmitri Siegel

Credit Where Credit Is Due...Or Not
Dmitri Siegel explores the various practices of design attribution.
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05.06.08: The Editors

Chicago International Poster Biennial
Contemporary posters published within the last two years are eligible for the Chicago International Poster Biennial and may be submitted by any poster designer in the world with no entry fee. Physical entries must be received in Chicago no later than May 27, 2008.
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05.03.08: Jessica Helfand

National Scrapbooking Day
"Scrapbooks (like these) remind us that creating an album from saved matter does not necessarily provide an accurate self-portrait..." An essay by Jessica Helfand from her new book on the occasion of National Scrapbooking Day.
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02.21.08: Alice Twemlow

Some Questions about an Inquiry
“Critical design” is design that, through its form, can question and challenge industrial agendas; embody alternative social, cultural, technical or economic values; and act as a prop to stimulate debate and discussion amongst the public, designers and industry. As critical design gathers momentum, where is graphic design?
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02.11.08: Michael Bierut

The Smartest Logo in the Room
The birth, death, and debate around one of Paul Rand's last logos: the "crooked E" he created for Enron.
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02.07.08: Adrian Shaughnessy

Look and Feel / Nip and Tuck
If clients are happy to refer to the output of graphic designers as look and feel, where's the harm?
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02.01.08: The Editors

Fifteen Minutes of Fame
If graphic design's become so edgy as a profession that we're getting name-dropped in hit movies, maybe it's time to get serious about how we're really being portrayed.
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01.30.08: Jessica Helfand

Gone, Baby, Gone (Things, Part II)
From July 19, 1977 to February 28, 1981, the security staff at New York's Roosevelt Raceway kept a fastidious record of lost property. The result — 152 pages of wayward mittens, misplaced wallets and hundreds of personal items — is as much a record of the social history of a generation as anything I've come across in a long time.
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01.24.08: Steven Heller

Wilhelm Deffke: Modern Mark Maker
The modern corporate logo was born in Germany shortly after the turn of the twentieth century, the direct descendent of burgher crests, coats of arms, trade and factory marks. One of the most prolific of these mark makers is barely recognized in design histories today, except for the occasional footnote. His name is Wilhelm F. Deffke...
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01.16.08: Andrew Blauvelt

The Work of Task
The presence of Task asks, How do you make a magazine for the post-critical, post-movement moment of contemporary graphic design?
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01.08.08: Michael Bierut

Will the Real Ernst Bettler Please Stand Up?
In the late 50s, Swiss designer Ernst Bettler created a series of seemingly harmless posters that brought down a drug company with a Nazi past. It's a great story, but it never happened. Why do we need to believe in Ernst Bettler?
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01.03.08: Jessica Helfand

Remembering Paul Rand
This essay, a rememberance of Paul Rand, is taken from Michael Kroeger's book, Paul Rand: Conversations with Students, which will be published on January 3 by Princeton Architectural Press.
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12.16.07: Adrian Shaughnessy

Graphic Editorship
Fuel's realization that they possessed the transferable skills and instincts to publish thought-provoking books with editorial depth, has allowed them to create a publishing venture that offers a fresh take on visual culture.
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11.11.07: Michael Bierut

How To Be Ugly
Whether reactionary spasm or irrevocable paradigm shift, the new trend is making design that looks ugly. The trick is to surround it with enough attitude so it will be properly perceived not as the product of everyday incompetence, but rather as evidence of one's attunement with the zeitgeist.
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11.07.07: Jessica Helfand

Type Means Never Having To Say You're Sorry
Designers make choices about the appropriateness of type based on any number of criteria, and "liking it" is indeed one of them. But is that enough?
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10.29.07: William Drenttel

Stephen Doyle: A Few Words
Stephen Doyle is a graphic wordsmith.
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10.25.07: Adrian Shaughnessy

The Designer's Virus
Perhaps he was right and I was wrong? Perhaps it is dumb of me to believe that the only design worth bothering about is design born out of a mixture of personal enquiry and intelligent intuition? I realized I was suffering from the designer's disease: empathy.
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10.16.07: Jessica Helfand

Science and Design: The Next Wave
Scientists probe and manipulate and channel and divide; they split and fuse and spike and engineer; but most of all, they look. As a designer, to spend any time with scientists is to become at once profoundly aware of our similarities and devastated by that which divides us.
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09.21.07: Michael Bierut

May I Show You My Portfolio?
My art school portfolio has sat in a box, largely untouched, in the closets and basements of the three places I've lived in the last 27 years, sort of like a slowly decaying design time capsule. A few weeks ago, I opened it up for the first time in a long time.
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09.18.07: Dmitri Siegel

Designers and Dilettantes
Dmitri Siegel discusses graphic design authorship and the impending release of Elliott Earls' new film, The Sarany Motel.
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09.05.07: Michael Bierut

You're So Intelligent
Wanting to be taken seriously, designers yearn to be respected for their minds. Yet they take their real gifts — a miraculous fluency with beauty, an ability to manipulate form in a way that can touch people's hearts — for granted.
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08.16.07: Michael Bierut

Flat, Simple and Funny: The World of Charley Harper
A tribute to the late designer Charley Harper, "the only wildlife artist who has never been compared to Audubon and never will be."
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06.29.07: Alice Twemlow

When Did Posters Become Such Wallflowers?
What was odd about many of the posters Alice Twemlow judged in a recent competition was that they didn't promote an idea, event or product; their only purpose seemed to be entering numerous annual poster competitions.
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06.22.07: John Corbett

Sun Ra, Street Priest and Father of D.I.Y. Jazz
Before the 1950s, artist-owned record companies were unheard of, but Sun Ra pioneered the idea along with a couple of other musicians and composers. Sun Ra and Alton Abraham helped define the do-it-yourself ethic that came to be a central part of the American independent music industry, designing and in some cases manufacturing the covers themselves. In the process, they maintained a previously unimaginable degree of control over the look and content of their jazz releases.
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06.19.07: Steven Heller

Martin Weber in the Third Dimension
You may not have heard of Martin J. Weber, but he was a graphic artist, typographer, art director, and most important, inventor of various photographic techniques that gave two-dimensional surfaces the illusion of being reproduced in three dimensions.
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06.06.07: Adrian Shaughnessy

The 2012 Olympic Logo Ate My Hamster
Designers often bemoan the lack of coverage given to graphic design in mainstream media. Yet when design catches the attention of journalists and commentators it usually results in a vicious mugging rather than hearty praise.
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05.28.07: Jessica Helfand

My Dirty Little Secret
Gardening is its own infuriating design challenge. You fret and you rethink and you second-guess yourself constantly, and then for one delirious, thrilling moment something blooms and you feel utterly triumphant. And then it dies and you are back where you started.
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05.17.07: Jessica Helfand

Ad Reinhardt, Graphic Designer
Ad Reinhardt fretted about the meaning of life. He agonized about the purpose of painting. He questioned everyone, critiqued everything, and worked incessantly. In other words, he was a graphic designer.
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05.12.07: Michael Bierut

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Typeface
Why choose a particular typeface for a particular situation? Here are thirteen reasons.
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03.29.07: Dmitri Siegel

The New New Typography
French design duo Vier5 make new typography. The author raises questions about modernism and typography.
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03.26.07: Jessica Helfand

Annals of Ephemera: Town & Country Cookbook
Book cover designers are visual choreographers who frame miniature narratives in order to tease prospective readers into wanting more. Which often means showing less. Or not.
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03.19.07: Michael Bierut

Good at Art
Growing up in the sixties, I couldn't throw or catch a baseball with authority, punch someone in the face, or shoplift. But I had something I could call my very own. I was good at art.
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03.08.07: Dan Nadel

This is Not My Design Life Now
In the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum's current triennial exhibition, Design Life Now, the selections in graphics and pop culture are conservative and long out-of-date. To Dan Nadel, 2006 looks a lot like 2000.
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02.19.07: Jessica Helfand

The Illusion of Certainty
Artist Allan McCollum aspires to an unprecedented scale with this "Shapes" project: his goal is to make enough shapes, assuming a population of approximately 9.1 billion by the year 2050, so that everyone on the planet can have one. Shapes aside, what's truly fascinating is the idea of the system: what is it about them that we hate to love and love to hate?
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02.08.07: William Drenttel

The Good Citizen's Alphabet
Bertrand Russell had the wisdom to realize that certain words require proper definition to be used correctly in political and social discourse. This alphabet book is offered here as a slide show for our readers.
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01.30.07: Michael Bierut

All That Jazz: Posters by Niklaus Troxler
Niklaus Troxler's jazz posters can be viewed as a single, self-initiated project that has developed over five decades, a body of work with few precedents. Spanning an astonishing range of styles, the posters are united by a single thing: the passion of a single man who serves at once as designer and client.
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01.09.07: Lorraine Wild

Sister Corita: The Juiciest Tomato
In Daniel Berrigan's words, Sister Corita is a "witch of invention." And there is no doubt that at least in those tumultuous years of the 1960s, her powers of invention seemed supernatural, if not divine... Corita's work stands for its sheer graphic invention, the riot of letterforms and color, and the immediacy of its connection to her time and place.
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12.15.06: Jessica Helfand

The Not-So-Golden Age of Zero Tolerance
When I was a student, the assignments and their expected outcomes were intentionally conceived as chore-like, specific and frankly, narrow. This was the age of zero tolerance: deviation from a designated format was neither an approved approach nor an acceptable method. Today, the opposite is more likely to be true: a student who does not expand his or her approach to a project is strongly encouraged to do so.
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11.14.06: Adrian Shaughnessy

Listomania
The English design group Spin has produced a publication called 50 Reading Lists, which allows the reader the double pleasure of admiring the handsome presentation of 50 lists, as well as the chance to study the reading habits of 50 graphic designers.
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11.08.06: Jessica Helfand

What Makes A Good Poster?
From Nineteenth Century broadsides to Paula Scher's posters for The Public Theatre, the history of the poster is the history of modern civilization. So why are academics so hell-bent on poster board and bad typography? Why don't they ask us for help?
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10.15.06: Adrian Shaughnessy

Graphic Design vs. Illustration
Graphic design's ability to deliver explicit messages makes it a major (if little recognised) force in the modern world: it is embedded in the commercial infrastructure. Illustration, on the other hand, with its woolly ambiguity and its allusive ability to convey feeling and emotion, makes it too dangerous to be allowed to enter the corporate bloodstream. Our visual lives are the poorer for this.
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10.01.06: Dmitri Siegel

More Rules
The artwork for Beck's new album The Information immediately brings to mind the work of Sol LeWitt and the question of where the creative act is situated: in making the work or making the rules.
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09.27.06: Michael Bierut

Alan Fletcher: Living by Design
Remembering the late British designer Alan Fletcher, who once said, "I treat clients as raw material to do what I want to do, though I would never tell them that." For him, design was not a profession or a craft, but a life.
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09.04.06: Jessica Helfand

Annals of Small Town Life: The Logo Stops Here
Working with Florence Knol, Lucille McGinnis convinced her husband, Patrick B. McGinnis, that the New Haven Railroad needed a new logo. Enter Herbert Matter, Swiss-born designer, photographer and Yale professor whose own education was framed by apprenticeships with Cassandre, Leger and Le Corbusier.
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08.08.06: Michael Bierut

The Road to Hell, Part Two: That Elusive Silver Bullet
An online offer to teach anyone to do graphic designer raises the ultimate question: can we conclusively prove the value of design to the general public? We can't? Now what?
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07.23.06: Dmitri Siegel

Please CARE
CARE is a four-step process for learning design. Building a strong process is the best way to prepare students for the complex, collaborative work of the designer.
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07.20.06: Jessica Helfand

The Global Curse of Comic Sans
In this coastal region slung just below the Pyrenees, one might expect to see evidence of the enduring cultural tensions between Spain and Catalonia — different kinds of signs or symbols, for instance â€" but on the surface at least, no such rift is exposed. Instead, Catalonia clings to a visual language that celebrates the goofy: this is a country awash in Comic Sans.
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07.05.06: Lorraine Wild

Wassup, Beatrice
I've heard endless definitions and descriptions of graphic design: I can recite them all, and on any given day I can identify with one essentialism over another: e.g., "Today, I'm a conceptualizer." I can even be swayed by the argument that, in fact, we work in a moment when graphic design is devolving as a practice identifiable by any common standards. It makes me think of a woman who I have always found completely annoying in her assuredness — Beatrice Warde.
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06.22.06: Michael Bierut

The Mysterious Power of Context
Some of the most effective graphic design is neutral and open ended, and acquires its effectiveness only through use and association. Is it possible to anticipate the power of context in design?
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06.04.06: Michael Bierut

The Road to Hell: Now Paved with Innovation?
A new magazine from Business Week on design and innovation was created through an unpaid competition. If this is innovation, to hell with it.
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05.11.06: Michael Bierut

I Am a Plagiarist
Plagiarism is a hot topic in the world of publishing, What does it mean in the world of design? Michael Bierut pleads guilty.
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04.21.06: Jessica Helfand

The Art of Thinking Through Making

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04.11.06: Jessica Helfand

The Propensity for Density
It's like design's been on a diet and finally gets to eat that giant cheesecake: shifting notches on the belt buckle, we're so happy for the sugar high that we don't realize we're slipping. And slipping we are.
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03.30.06: Michael Bierut

Variations on a Theme: New York's High Priorities
A half-page weekly feature in New York magazine has become a showcase for some of the world's best graphic designers.
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03.18.06: Michael Bierut

Warning: May Contain Non-Design Content
Design is that it is almost always about something else. The more things you're interested in, the better your work will be.
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03.12.06: Adrian Shaughnessy

Google and the Tyranny of Good Design
The Google logo — that scrap of oddball typography — is perhaps the most famous piece of graphic design in the world today. In its own small way, it's a little beacon of insurrection, in a world where graphic designers have become the agents of conformity.
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02.05.06: Jessica Helfand

Separated at Birth: Method? Or Madness?
Karim Rashid's method© cleaner is strikingly similar to that of a discount depot: coincidental congruousness?
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01.15.06: Michael Bierut

In Praise of Slow Design
Is there a such a thing as slow graphic design? A look at 80 years of barely perceptible design changes at The New Yorker.
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01.08.06: Jessica Helfand

Civilian Typography: The Power and The Fury
Without a cell phone, or in a flood, or barred from public transportation, the thing that separates human beings from the animal kingdom is our ability to communicate verbally. If we can't do that, we do it graphically. When all else fails, the pen isn't just mightier than the sword: it is the sword.
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12.29.05: Michael Bierut

The Unbearable Lightness of Fred Marcellino
Remembering Fred Marcellino, the designer and illustrator who dominated the look of quality fiction dustjackets in the 1980s.
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12.01.05: Jessica Helfand

Cease and Design
Where graphic design education is concerned, more doing and less asking is necessary.
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11.27.05: Lorraine Wild

Think Regional, Act Annual
Flying from New York to Los Angeles last week, I spent the long hours at 35,000 feet doing something I had not done in years: I read the Print Magazine's "2005 Regional Design Annual" cover to cover. Here are some of the things I learned:
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10.27.05: Jessica Helfand

The Shock Of The Old: Rethinking Nostalgia
Placing Nostalgia: where in the design landscape does it fit? And should it be included in the first place?
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10.24.05: Michael Bierut

The Great Non-Amber-Colored Hope
A student design for a prescription pill bottle takes a metoric rise to mass production and becomes an instant icon in the world of graphic design.
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10.06.05: Jessica Helfand

On Citizenship and Humanity: An Appeal for Design Reform
Ruminations on the Citizen Designer: A human first, a designer second, but most importantly, one who responds to collective cultural needs.
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09.30.05: Adrian Shaughnessy

"Can you make the type bigger?"

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08.29.05: Michael Bierut

You May Already Be a Winner
Are graphic design competitions worthwhile?
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08.04.05: Adrian Shaughnessy

Self-Initiated House Music
It is perhaps stretching definitions to say that Julian House has become a musician, but with the help of sampling technology and an array of digital audio tools, he makes striking and compelling audio assemblages, which have strong stylistic parallels with his collage-based graphic design.
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07.31.05: Jessica Helfand

Why Bugs Don't Belong on TV
On today's TV screens, the station-identification logo sits tethered to the surface, like an annoying rash that won't quite disappear. You think you've kicked it when — WHAMMMO — there it is again, blemishing the patina of an otherwise perfectly good viewing experience.
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07.14.05: Michael Bierut

Rick Valicenti: This Time It's Personal
In his newly-published monograph Emotion as Promotion: A Book of Thirst, Rick Valicenti provides a glimpse into a designer's life that is at once accessibly seductive and brazenly idiosyncratic.
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07.08.05: Jessica Helfand

New Models for Design Efficiency: Introducing Otto
eniac Link http://www.newyorker.com/ http://www.library.upenn.edu/exhibits/rbm/mauchly/jwm8.html http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/B0001NBMAS/ref=pd_sxp_f/002-9888674-0621611?v=glance&s=dvd
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07.04.05: Lorraine Wild

Exhibitions by Renzo Piano and 2x4
Both architect Renzo Piano and graphic designers 2x4 are at the top of their respective games as designers, but the way they approach their own exhibitions (at LACMA and SFMOMA, respectively) places them at opposite poles of a style of communication, and maybe even belief.
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06.28.05: Michael Bierut

The Obvious, Shunned by So Many, Is Successfully Avoided Once Again
Does anyone devote as much energy to avoiding simple, sensible solutions as the modern graphic designer? Publications of designers' own work demonstrate what effort they go through to needlessly complicate what might be simple solutions.
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06.08.05: Adrian Shaughnessy

Decoding Coldplay's X&Y
At a time when invisible data streams of binary information fed straight to our desktops are doing away with the need for album covers, it's odd to find a record sleeve as the subject of media comment and speculation. Odder still that the album cover in question — Coldplay's X&Y — should contain binary data as its central motif. Prophetic or what? The X&Y cover is agreeably eye-catching. You wouldn't call it a classic, but it has an unexpected severity that lifts it above the anodyne and cosmeticised design currently favoured by multi-platinum selling artists. It has dark echoes of Peter Saville's ephocal Factory covers.
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06.06.05: Michael Bierut

The Man Who Saved Jackson Pollock
Herbert Matter, the designer who stored away a cache of recently-discovered Jackson Pollock paintings, deserves a similar rediscovery.
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05.20.05: Rick Poynor

But Darling of Course it's Normal: The Post-Punk Record Sleeve
There have been collections of post-punk music and now, finally, there is British music critic Simon Reynolds' 500-page history of the genre from 1978 to 1984. It's a brilliant book. He argues that post-punk music's explosion of creativity equals the golden age of popular music in the mid-1960s, but that it has never received its full due. I think he's right.
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05.05.05: Rick Poynor

Getting Louder: Chinese Design on the March
The “Get it Lounder” design exhibition in Shenzhen, billed as the first of its kind in China, reflected the lifestyle aspirations of its participants. Will Chinese design be able to confront social reality in more overtly critical ways?
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04.28.05: Jessica Helfand

Greer Allen: In Memoriam
Designer, critic, pundit and historian, Greer Allen was Senior Critic in Graphic Design at Yale School of Art. He designed publications for The Houghton Library at Harvard, the Beinecke Library at Yale, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, and a number of other distinguished cultural institutions around the country. Greer Allen died last week after a short illness. He was 83.
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04.28.05: Momus

Fresh Fruit in Foreign Places
A little survey of the visuals being produced for some of Europe's independent labels just now.
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04.22.05: Michael Bierut

Me and My Pyramid
The redesign of the United States Department of Agriculture's Food Pyramid is neither satisfying nor nourishing from an information design point of view.
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03.21.05: Rick Poynor

Dot Dot Dot Dot Dot Dot Dot Dot Dot
Dot Dot Dot is the most stimulating and original visual culture magazine produced by designers since Emigre's heyday in the late 1980s to the mid-1990s.
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03.03.05: Rob Walker

For Kicks
A look at one facet of the sneaker phenomenon — that is, the way that fashion and brand loyalty can come together in what might be considered the folk art of a consumer culture.
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02.26.05: Michael Bierut

Designing Under the Influence
The similarity of a young designer's work to that of the artist Barbara Kruger provides the starting point for a discussion of the role of influence in design, and whether it is possible for someone to "own" a specific style.
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02.21.05: Jessica Helfand

Our Bodies, Our Fonts
Body markings — piercings, tattoos and so forth — have recently evolved into a kind of marginalized form of graphic expression, yet one that sheds an unusual light on some of the more mainstream ways in which design often reveals itself.
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02.14.05: Tom Vanderbilt

Rise and Fall of Rock and Roll Graphic Design
Has heavy metal graphic design run its course? Is the band logo as a species dead? And is there much of a future for the graphic representation of popular music itself?
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02.08.05: Michael Bierut

Authenticity: A User's Guide
Graphic designers take pleasure in simulation. This makes defining authenticity a tricky thing.
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12.29.04: William Drenttel

In Remembrance of Susan Sontag
In Remembrance of Susan Sontag: a designer's twenty-five years of interaction with the legandary writer.
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12.26.04: Momus

Berlin Wheatpasting
"What is desirable in our field," said Milton Glaser in 2002, "is continuous transgression." Berlin wheatpasters know that. They're out there at night, come snow, come rain, risking fines or imprisonment to publicize semi-legal parties with amateur, exciting, semi-legal graphics.
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12.01.04: Michael Bierut

The Whole Damn Bus is Cheering
The familiar yellow ribbons stuck to cars urging us to "support our troops" have lots of competition and are horribly designed.
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11.29.04: Jessica Helfand

Donald Trump, Art Director: Not The Real Thing
Not until now has Pepsi opened itself up to a public makeover on national television, a redesign in the hands of a smattering of aspiring capitalists, a group whose combined knowledge of design principles might be characterized as, dare I say it — negligible.
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11.21.04: Michael Bierut

Logogate in Connecticut, or, The Rodneydangerfieldization of Graphic Design: Part II
A new logo for the Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism by Cummings & Good provokes a public controversy on the value of design.
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11.18.04: Michael Bierut

The World in Two Footnotes
Writing in Eye Magazine, Nick Bell observes that designers too often act as "agents of neutrality" or "aesthetes of style" and suggests that they focus more on their work's content.
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10.09.04: William Drenttel

Does Aspen Have A Future?

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10.08.04: Jessica Helfand

The Rodneydangerfieldization of Graphic Design: Part I
We need to listen to people besides designers. We need to get in those boardrooms, those war rooms, those bastions of decision-making where no designer has ever been before. We need new legacies, better policies, richer histories for the next generation of graphic designers.
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09.20.04: Michael Bierut

Graphic Designers, Flush Left?
Are graphic designers as a class predisposed to favor left-wing politics?
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09.09.04: Jessica Helfand

Under The Microscope

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08.17.04: Michael Bierut

What is Design For? A Discussion
Rick Poynor and Michael Bierut discuss the purpose and promise of graphic design, in a conversation moderated by Creative Review editor Patrick Burgoyne.
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08.10.04: Jessica Helfand

Ladislav Sutnar: Mechanical Beauty

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07.21.04: Jessica Helfand

Graphic Design: The Movie
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.
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07.12.04: Michael Bierut

Ed Ruscha: When Art Rises to the Level of Graphic Design
A retrospective of the drawings of Ed Ruscha raises the question: is he an artist or a graphic designer?
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07.08.04: Jessica Helfand

Ask Not What Your Typeface Can Do For You: Ask What You Can Do For Your Typeface
"Manhattan-based architect Frederic Schwarz's memorial 'Empty Sky' WILL USE Times New Roman..."
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06.16.04: Michael Bierut

The Idealistic Corporation
American corporations in the mid-twentieth century, such as IBM, Container Corporation, and General Dynamics, worked with designers like Charles and Ray Eames, Herbert Bayer and Erik Nitsche in the conviction that design was not only a tool for business, but an potent instrument for making the world a better place.
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06.11.04: Jessica Helfand

Designer by Day, Catwoman by Night

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06.06.04: Rick Poynor

Modernising MoMA: Design on Display
MoMA is broadening its approach to graphic design. Recovering this material history will assist us in understanding our broader cultural history and help to educate a more aware generation of visual communicators.
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05.29.04: Michael Bierut

McSweeney's No. 13 and the Revenge of the Nerds
McSweeney's No. 13, published by Dave Eggers and guest edited by Chris Ware, is a masterwork of publication design and an invaluable survey of today's best comic artists and graphic novelists.
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05.09.04: Michael Bierut

My Democracy Was Irretrievably Undermined by Reactionary Idiots and All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt
Will a designer t-shirt contest have any effect on the US presidential elections?
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04.28.04: Michael Bierut

Better Nation Building Through Design
A new flag design for Iraq may inadvertantly symbolize much of what is misguided in the US's occupation of that country.
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04.22.04: Michael Bierut

Catharsis, Salesmanship, and the Limits of Empire
Nozone #9: Empire and a new promotional campaign for the radio station Air America demonstrate alternate ways that graphic design can engage political issues and their audiences.
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04.17.04: Michael Bierut

I Hear You've Got Script Trouble: The Designer as Auteur
Screenwriter William Goldman has written about how difficult it is to ascribe authorship for a film. The same may be true for graphic design, which, like filmmaking, is essentially a collaborative activity.
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04.15.04: Jessica Helfand

Graphic Flanerie
Graphic Design's real power comes from its ability to reach us through any of a number of means, both real and virtual, now and later. This ability to transcend the everyday and resonate in the heart, the soul, the mind and the memory—this is graphic design's reality, its legacy, and it is, decidedly, a reality that is more than a sum of its parts.
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04.10.04: William Drenttel

El Lissitzky for Pesach

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04.01.04: Jessica Helfand

The Lying Game

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03.21.04: Rick Poynor

Jan van Toorn: Arguing with Visual Means
Jan van Toorn’s designs embody an idea about citizenship. They address viewers as critical, thinking individuals who can be expected to take an informed and skeptical interest in the circumstances of their world.
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03.19.04: Michael Bierut

The Book (Cover) That Changed My Life
The deceptively simple 1960s paperback cover of J.D. Salinger's "The Catcher in the Rye" is redolent of a very specific time and place to readers who discovered the book then.
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03.13.04: Michael Bierut

George Kennan and the Cold War Between Form and Content
Diplomat George Kennan's "Long Telegram" of 1946 is a memorable synthesis of form and content, and a demonstration of how powerful form can be.
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03.06.04: Michael Bierut

1989: Roots of Revolution
"Dangerous Ideas," the 1989 conference of the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) chaired by Tibor Kalman and Milton Glaser, introduced many themes -- social responsibility, political engagement, professional ethics -- that still resonate today.
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02.26.04: William Drenttel

Typography and Diplomacy

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02.24.04: Jessica Helfand

The Crisis of Intent

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02.18.04: Michael Bierut

The Final Decline and Total Collapse of the American Magazine Cover
Comparing the magazine covers of today to those created for Esquire magazine in the 1960s by George Lois leads to only one conclusion: today's magazine ideal magazine cover is enticing, not arresting, aiming not for shock, but for seduction. And it stinks.
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02.05.04: William Drenttel

Call for Entries: Periodic Table of the Elements
Jessica Helfand and I are building a collection of Periodic Tables and hope to publish a book on their scientific, visual and cultural history.
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01.13.04: Jessica Helfand

The Span of Casual Vision

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01.05.04: William Drenttel

Adolf Wölfli Invents Design Brut?
Mr. Gomez has taken your basic 19th-century-madman-artist and turned him into a model 20th century graphic designer.
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01.05.04: Michael Bierut

The Forgotten Design Legacy of the National Lampoon
The rerelease of the National Lampoon's ersatz and hilarious "1964 C. Estes Kefauver Memorial High School Yearbook" is a reminder that the magazine's art directors, Michael Gross and David Kaestle, anticipated our profession's obsession with vernacular graphic languages by almost fifteen years.
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12.21.03: Rick Poynor

Notes on Experimental Jetset
Experimental Jetset’s argument that design should have a certain autonomy and an inner logic separate from tastes and trends makes sense, but as a rationale for defaulting to Helvetica, is it convincing?
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12.17.03: Michael Bierut

Errol Morris Blows Up Spreadsheet, Thousands Killed
Errol Morris's documentary "The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert McNamara" demonstrates his mastery of information design as a poetic narrative device.
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12.11.03: Rick Poynor

Adbusters in Anarchy
Adbusters’ once orderly pages are in a state of heaving agitation. The magazine seems to be seduced by the coolness of design as a gesture, even though this is part of the surface-fixated postmodernism it deplores.
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12.05.03: Jessica Helfand

Sign Language: Endangered Species or Utopian Uprising?
At turns provocative and peculiar, photographs of a new building in Birmingham, England, hint at a utopian uprising: No angles. No signs. In other words: no branding?
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12.02.03: Rick Poynor

Remember Picelj
The English-speaking world knows little about the design history of Communist Europe. Few will have heard of the distinguished Slovenian Ivan Picelj. His prints ask us to remember; they are full of yearning.
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11.16.03: Rick Poynor

Unnecessary Revival
As a first-time enthusiast for American Typewriter, I was happy to see it pass into history. Resurrecting the typeface now that the typewriter has given way to digital technology is just nostalgia ― soft at the core.
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11.12.03: Jessica Helfand

Implausible Fictions
At what point does the designer's interpretation threaten to skew, or misrepresent or somehow implausibly amplify information in a manner that might be considered irresponsible?
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11.10.03: Michael Bierut

Graphic Design and the New Certainties
Graphic designers claim to want total freedom, but even in this intuitive, arbitrary, "creative" profession, many of us secretly crave limitations, standards, certainties. And certainties are a hard thing to come by these days.
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11.09.03: Rick Poynor

Those Inward-looking Europeans
Three American design teachers visit London and the Netherlands. European designers, they say, are not paying attention to design history. Maybe the visitors are missing local factors and broader global issues.
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11.06.03: William Drenttel

Edward Tufte: The Dispassionate Statistician II
More on Edward Tufte and his critique of PowerPoint.
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10.30.03: Jessica Helfand

Fatal Grandeur
Maybe design isn't going to kill you if it falls on your head. But if YOU fall, design is not exactly going to save you, either.
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09.14.03: William Drenttel

Twin (Cities) Type in Flux
A new typeface commissioned for the City of Minneapolis moves when the wind blows. Is this what Gutenberg imagined when he invented movable type?
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09.06.03: Jessica Helfand

The Real Declaration

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09.02.03: William Drenttel

Paul Rand: Bibliography as Biography
This is bibliography as biography, and a posthumous testament to the considerable scope — and ongoing life — of one designer's mind. A Selected Bibliography of Books from the Collection of Paul Rand
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