An Analysis: How Design Methodology Helps Shape Design Methods
Begin by finding articles, interviews, and the work of these three leading design practitioners: April Greiman, Neville Brody and David Carson.
In order for your findings to provide sufficient material for analysis, you need a body of research that will contain the following for EACH designer. If this is not possible for each designer, you will still need the asterisked (*) items:
• perception, visual organization, and aesthetics process
• history and criticism that is involved with the research
• methods, planning, and management of the project (*)
• design theory behind the research development (*)
• materials, tools, and technology that are used in developing a solution (*)
• blending of ideas and production techniques implemented (*)
• rich visualization of techniques (*)
The immediate relationship between each design practitioner is that their styles derive from the New Wave and Contemporary eras. New Wave arrived during the late 1970s as a blend of Modernism, Swiss International style and Punk. After researching the history, planning and process of each designer, additional similarities begin to appear:
1. Rejection of International Style
(breaking the grid, expressive use of typography, extravagant visual elements)
2. Highly Experimental Approach (subjective investments)
3. Deconstruction (again, the hell with rules)
4. Introspective Evaluation
5. Embracing Change (technology)
6. Maintaining hand-rendered techniques (personal approach)
Before further researching each designer, it was critical to consider the root of the New Wave typographic inspiration, beginning with Wolfgang Weingart. Weingart, initially trained in the International Style, began a series of classroom experimentations labeled “new-wave typography.” These experimentations challenged and revolutionized the language of graphic design, from Modern to Postmodern. With ample experience in production as a hot-metal typesetter and some typographic academic training, Weingart was asked by Armin Hofmann to teach at the Basel School of Design, Switzerland. His experimentations with students questioned and broke all rules of the International Style, defying objectivity, order, precision, and syntax of horizontal and vertical typographic constraints.
Using intuition and humor, he bent metal rules, printing curves, and used magnets to position objects directly on the press bed. Letterforms became concrete and abstract, breaking them down into elemental forms of lines and shapes. Recognizable letters were juxtaposed to have different meanings. For example, using a colon sideways as an umlaut, a rotated lowercase “m” as an uppercase “E”, a new ligature of “in” was created by placing a period over the stroke of “n”. Upon radically approaching new methods using typography, Weingart established the “official postmodern movement,” in the sense of self-consciously rejecting the International Style” (Eskilson).
Greiman realized the potential of the digital era before the explosion of the personal computer in 1984. By 1986, she pioneered the design industry through personal experimentation and liberal, subjective expressionism. Like Weingart (her mentor), Greiman opposed “the strict Swiss grids, but retained a discipline sense of proportion” (Heller, 50).
The cover of the 1979 WET magazine demonstrates this balance of eccentric expressionism and proportion, blending a photomontage of abstract imagery, vivid color and varied typographic style and tracking that convey futuristic symbolism of the New Wave era. By 1986, Greiman had eventually pioneered the graphic design industry because of digital technology. Upon deconstructing a thirty-two page magazine into a 2 by 6 foot poster, entitled “Does it Make Sense?” posted in the Design Quarterly, Greiman states, “The observer is the observed, and the observed is the observer.” Her contribution to the Design Quarterly sparked debate about whether the computer was indeed a viable tool or not for the graphic design industry.
“Does it Make Sense?” was Greiman’s response to the topic in which she replied, “It makes sense if you give it sense. I love this notion which exists in physics as well– that the observer is the observed, and the observed is the observer” (American Institute). Greiman’s contribution to the Design Quarterly sparked debate about whether the computer was indeed a viable tool for the graphic design industry. Her design methodology clearly demonstrates a balance of eccentric expressionism, rejection of conventional grids while maintaining proportion, blending photomontage, abstract imagery and vivid color– all very symbolic of the New Wave era.
Brody was much more overtly shaped by the rebellious energy and inclinations of the punk period in Great Britain, than April Greiman’s path to success during the New Wave era. He was inspired by Dada, the Constructivists and William Burroughs, and he was outspokenly humanist in his sympathies and openly political in a way that none of his contemporaries were (Poynor). Brody’s impact of his work in the British music industry quickly gained attention throughout Europe. By the early 80s, Neville Brody became one of the most sought after graphic artists in Europe (Eskilson, 358).
Brody, however, did follow a similar path like Greiman, in that both designers embraced technology which therefore contributed to the New Wave movement. What is amazing about Figure 3, is that it somewhat retains a timeless feel despite that it was created in 1983. No less, it was also entirely created by hand. From 1981 to 1986, Brody was the art director for The Face, a London-based lifestyle magazine (Eskilson, 359). During this period of his early career, Brody experimented with typographic styles in relation to photography. He would often mimic the kerning of type to match the spacing of photos in between one another. Brody’s typeface design, Arcadia, was originally intended for the Arena magazine title in 1986. Despite that its vertical emphasis renders it illegible as a body text size, it’s an example of experimental type that lead to the success of a new commercial market (Eskilson, 368).
While Brody maintained conventional design grids during his exploration of typography, his work was the very reason that sparked a new generation of graphic artists to reject the conventions of traditional typography and the International Style (Eskilson, 359).
David Carson, unlike Greiman (whom studied under Weingart in Switzerland) and Neville Brody (whom studied at the London College of Printing) was not formally trained as a graphic designer. However, following the contemporary lead of Neville Brody, Carson is by no means an amateur. Prior to the rise of the contemporary amateur, graphic designers that were formally trained during the Psychedelia era were often heavily criticized, such as Victor Moscoso.
Just as Moscoso’s art background (Copper Union and Yale University) was “not cool” during his era, both Carson and Moscoso’s work definitely are the best examples of their generation (Moscoso). However, there still lingers an assuming disregard for Carson’s work, likely because of the informally trained stigma. Like Moscoso, Carson is also the epitome of my original set of keywords. While each designer has explored a self-indulgent, experimental methodology, both have walked away with an equal amount of gratification from their impact on graphic design, especially with typographic design.
When asked, “You don’t have much formal design training. Do you believe that designers need to learn the rules in order to break them?” Carson replied, “What matters is that you have an intuitive design sense, listen to it and explore your uniqueness through your work. Create rules that work for you and the type of work you’re doing. I never learned all the things in school I wasn’t supposed to do, so I just did, and still do, what makes sense to me” (Computer Arts).
Carson’s methodology is stated within an interview with Hillman Curtis, described as “So as we get more computerized, it becomes more important than ever that the work actually become more subjective, more personal and that you let your personality come through in the work. So it becomes more important that you pull from who you are as a person, and put that into the work” (Curtis).
American Institute of Graphic Arts. “April Greiman, Biography.” 1998. Web. 13 Oct. 2011. http://www.aiga.org/medalist-aprilgreiman/
Computer Arts. David Carson. 12 Sept. 2008. Web. Accessed: 30 Jan. 2012. http://www.computerarts.co.uk/interviews/david-carson
Curtis, Hillman. “Artist Series– David Carson.” Web. Accessed: 31 Jan. 2012. http://hillmancurtis.com/artist-series/david-carson/
Eskilson, Stephen J. “Graphic Design: A New History.” Yale University Press. 2007.
Heller, Steven; Fili, Louise. “Stylepedia, A Guide to Graphic Design Mannerisms, Quirks, and Conceits.” Chronicle Books. 2006. Page 50.
Moscoso, Victor. “About Moscoso.” Web. http://www.victormoscoso.com/about.htm
Poynor, Rick. “Neville Brody Revisited.” Design Observer. 11 Feb. 2004. Accessed: 30, Jan. 2012. http://observatory.designobserver.com/entry.html?entry=1537