Friday, 16 December 2016

OUGD601 - Abstraction in Modernist Graphic Design

Kurt Schwitters, Theo Van Doesburg, 1923 - Kleine DADA Soiree

In 1923, Kurt Schwitters and Theo van Doesburg embarked on a tour of Holland— their so-called “Dada Campaign”—to introduce local artists to Dada through a series of evening lectures and performances. This poster for the Kleine Dada Soirée (Small Dada Evening) is a jumble of words that shift direction and overlap. The word “Dada,” is repeated in bold red letters in various orientations. Within the cloud of black lettering sit a few small images—a deer’s head, an arrow, pointing hands—cut from various sources and transferred onto the surface. Slogans in various languages proclaim: “Dada is against the future, Dada is dead, Dada is idiotic, Long live Dada!”
The poster’s discordant appearance reflects the tenor of many Dada evenings, which often commenced with mock lectures interrupted by barking audience members, absurd jokes and skits, and experimental poetry. This evening’s events included a prelude of “Dadawisdom” by Van Doesburg, “abstract poems declaimed as loudly as possible” by Schwitters, and ragtime music by composer Erik Satie.

Joost Schmidt, 1923 - Bauhaus exhibition poster

This poster, for the first Bauhaus exhibition in 1923, symbolises the highly experimental style adopted at the school through its use of confident, abstracted forms, bold primary colours and an array of highly geometric sans serif typefaces. All the visual elements have been reduced to their simplest of form, and flattened together on one two dimensional surface. This design was produced in the same year as the piece of Dadaist work, but they couldn't be more dissimilar in terms of their use of abstraction. They share similarities in the sense that they are both posters and both use a limited colour palette, but the messages are highly contrasting. This poster epitomises the modernist endeavour for neutrality and simplicity. The Bauhaus were determined to forge an aesthetic appropriate for the time, and this design certainly achieves this. Its visual elements are evidently inspired by the forms of machinery, and the colour treatment is responsive to this as well. 

Herbert Bayer, Laszlo Moholy Nagy, Marcel Breuer - 1930 

This poster abstracts the plain in a unique way, playing with the audiences's sense of depth and perception of form. Through the simple use of angular lines and flat colours, a composition is created which appears to escape the frame, expanding beyond the surface. Herbert Bayer's 'Universal' typeface has been modified here, aiding the overall theme of simplicity. This poster is evidently influenced by Russian Constructivism and Dutch De Stijl. 

Beethoven poster, 1955, Josef Muller Brockmann 

The Beethoven poster for the Tonhalle series is one of Müller-Brockmann's classics. The stark black and white and moving circle arcs hint at the drama of Beethoven's music. Here, abstraction of form is used as visual metaphor.  The circulating pattern creates a building sense of atmosphere, visually expressing the complex, multi layer quality of the music. Brockmann is actually negating the surface, as he is not actually committing to imagery. His use of abstract shape negates realistic visual representations of the subject matter. 

'The design of the music posters is a special case in that they were not sales oriented – their appeal was intended to be artistic. The stylistic difference between the posters with pictorial geometric forms and the purely typographic ones is that the latter contain no pictorial interpretation of the musical programme. Without exception they are free creations that took shape within the underlying grid system. For the most part the effect of these posters is lighter and more poetic.' - Interview with Brockmann - 

OUGD601 - Raff Rennie's Tweets

Raff Rennie is a New York based graphic designer who voices strong opinions regularly on Twitter. For me, he is the best type of design critic, one who actively practices the discipline and has strong views about its current state and what direction it is heading in.

A recent stream of Tweets tie in nicely to the theme of essay, and express similar views to mine. Some of the things he has said will be explored in the concluding section of my essay, particularly the theme of cheap forms of modernism re-surfacing in many areas of 'contemporary' graphic design.

OUGD601 - Forms of Abstraction in Contemporary Design

Cover of "In Dreams Begin Responsibilities and Other Stories" (Delmore Schwartz), cover by Erik Carter, and very nice too.:
Cover Design - Erik Carter - In this design, abstraction takes form through the use of scanning. This method is popular in contemporary graphic design culture, as it produces highly unique results. It has been equated with experimental typography. To an extent, the use of a scanner is experimental, but it's hardly radical. It doesn't challenge the structures of typography, it just distorts them, playing with notions of legibility in the process. This use of abstraction is fairly basic, but it does produce diverse and visually exciting results. This aesthetic would be conventionally be achieved through the use of a scanner or photocopier. In the current moment, this effect can be achieved through digital manipulation using the liquify tool in Photoshop. This approach to abstracting type through distortion is inextricably linked to postmodernism. Members of deconstructivist movement in America and the UK pioneered this aesthetic ithroughout the 80s and 90s. It has since been disseminated across the world and is popular in amateur and commercial sectors of the discipline alike. 

'Misker Festival Identity 2012' - Studio Fuzz - this identity work unashamedly uses abstraction in the form of 'scanned type'. The decision behind its use appears to be purely aesthetical, as it doesn't seem to any offer conceptual meaning. It would seem that the overall design treatment was chosen as it seemed trendy, thus aligning itself to a category on Trendlist. 

Darren Oorloff - This designer utilises abstraction as a devise across the work they produce. In the album cover design for Sluggers 'Anthem EP', Oorloff has severely distorted the typography, achieving a highly fragmented overall aesthetic. The deconstructivist movement in the 1980's has either consciously or subconsciously influenced the practice of this designer, as all of the characterises of deconstruction are plain to see in his work. In this instance, abstraction appears to have been used for purely aesthetic reasons. 

Creative Direction/Art Direction: Nedjelco-michel Karlovich  Design in collaboration with: Hort. These posters were created in collaboration with Hort in Berlin and Nike Global Football in EMEA.:

‘Turn chaos into control’ – Collaboration between Ned Karlovich and HORT Berlin– Here the distortion of the typography is used as visual metaphor. By presumably 'scanning in' the typography, the designers have produced an aesthetic which communicates the literal message of the words through semiotic play. In this context, abstraction has been used to imply further meaning rather than remove it. This form of abstraction is distinctly Postmodern, as it has intentions of ambiguity and subversion. 


'Lost in Konglish Zine' - Ran Park - 2016 - Konglish is the use of English words, or words derived from English words, in a Korean context. This simple premise was the concept behind Berlin-based designer Ran Park’s zine, Lost In Konglish. “The inspiration is a little bit whimsical,” explains the designer. “One day, I heard a gentleman explaining to a foreign tourist what a ‘banana’ was called in Korean. Phonetically it was the same, which made me think of the subtle alterations in the Korean language over the past decades.”The publication shows the words that are phonetically pronounced the same alongside the Korean and English letter forms. 

The layouts are chaotic, the words smeared across the pages. The use of abstraction here appears to be conceptual as well as aesthetically. The content of the publication is concerned with chaos and confusion, therefore it is appropriate that the aesthetic is distorted and visually chaotic. Here, abstraction is audaciously used: it hasn't necessarily been utilised to solve a problem, if anything is exacerbates it. Under Modernism, abstraction was employed to reduce form to its most minimal state, and in the process, remove any cultural, conceptual or political ambiguity. Here, abstraction is used deliberately to achieve a sense of ambiguity. 

Scanned aesthetic: A lot of these designs fall under the Trendlist category of 'scanned'. This effect can be achieved simply through scanning in something visual and manipulating whilst it is being scanned. The results are always unique and have become synonymous with visual experimentation and play. Scanning emerged from the Punk and Grunge movements, where a deconstructed, distressed aesthetic was favoured in order to represent feelings of anarchy and disruption to social order. Before the scanner became widely accessible tool, people would usually use cut and paste methods to achieve similar levels of abstraction. These approaches evidently had a profound impact on graphic design practice and culture, reflected in the work of these designers operating in the current moment. 

Minimalist abstraction: Abstraction was a key device of negation for the early protagonists of Modernism. Reducing a visual element to its simplest form allowed the designer to negate politics and social convention, through removing the need for conviction. Modernists favoured bold geometric shapes and sans serifs as they were pure abstractions of previously complex, ornate forms. Modernism was a radical rejection of the old approach. In order to communicate to the newly modern world, Modernist graphic design placed great faith in the aesthetic of the machine and new technology, translating its efficiency and functionalist qualities in simple visual elements. This approach to the notion of abstraction had a fundamental impact on the discipline, many modernist devices of abstraction are still active in graphic design culture today. 

garadinervi: Hans Gremmen, Alexander Kluge, Poster for OCA, Office for Contemporary Art Norway, 2014:

Hans Gremmen, Alexander Kluge, Poster for OCA, Office for Contemporary Art Norway, 2014 - In this poster, abstraction is happening blatantly, but its use is not as abrasive as the use of scanning or liquefying. In this particular design, a Modernist approach to abstraction is taking place. Use of circles, a form favoured throughout Modernist graphic design, abstracts the typography in a way that still allows the audience to understand the information. The legibility of the type is relatively high. Designs that employ scanning techniques often push legibility to their upper limits, causing the type to become virtually unreadable. 


Sarah Boris Poster Design 2015 - This poster embodies a distinct modernist approach to abstraction. The visual elements, the sun and waves, have been radically reduced to their most minimal form - this pure abstraction is derived from the early modernist ventures in art, architecture and design. The simple use of geometric shapes and lines represent huge things in reality, but have been completely simplified to flat signs. 

Monday, 12 December 2016

OUGD601 - Metahaven: White Night Before a Manifesto

In the first section of my essay, I explore the notion of surface, outlining its transformation throughout the timeline of graphic design. A surface is the locus for the application of various sign systems and visual elements. Without the surface, graphic design would cease the exist.

Since the advent of the internet, the notion of surface has expanded beyond all recognition. Graphic design was conventionally found on physical surfaces such as paper, glass, metal or wood. The internet in the words of Metahaven is an 'anorexic, hyper-thin architecture' in which graphic design is readily applied.

In 2008, Metahaven produced their 'White Night Before a Manifesto' document, which focuses heavily on the theme of surface. I decided to give it a read in order to contextualise this theme and gather some useful quotes for my essay:

'We are designing surface. Surface multiplies, beyond any measure of necessity, beyond the laws of demand and supply, beyond reason. The multiplication of surface, formerly called information overload, is the new reality of design. Its unit of measurement is virtual.'

'Surface is not territory. Territory, which is actual and geographical (for that reason limited in supply), can be contested and may become the site of an actual conflict, a physical confrontation. This cannot happen on, or to, a surface. Surface is to territory what speculative capital is to gold. Surface may be multiplied without encountering the physical limitations imposed by someone else’s terrain, opinion, presence or personality. If surface is a kind of place, or site, the designer is its geographer.'

'Surface is folded out in order to produce value, while it is folded in to secure it. The production of surface is design’s equivalent to the production of space; surface in the generic sense means flat space to display. Surface is anorexic, hyper-thin architecture.'

'Surface, representing no particular meaning or message, is the precondition for virtual capital, projected revenue and speculative value. Advertising surface in public space initially is merely an add-on to the already existing historical structure of a city. Gradually, surface replaces the primacy of historical structure and its territoriality. The city becomes the profit base of a virtual spin: the multiplication of surface accounts for the exponential growth of value extracted from its public space. By our being in public, by simple existence, we already automatically affirm the exposure which grants the surface infrastructure its right to the city. The inhabitants of cities are, through this m mechanism, directly inscribed into the means of value production.'

Whole text available at:

OUGD601 - Time Management - 12/12/16

Time management is something I am pretty good at, however I have struggled somewhat with keeping organised and on top of things with COP3 so far. With exactly one month to go until the deadline, I have decided to devise a daily plan in order to make sure I make good progress before the end of the year. Admittedly, I am not at a point I would have liked to have been with the dissertation, I am quite behind. However I intend to have at least 6,000 words done before I go home for Christmas, which will be achievable provided I follow my time plan:

Goals – 10/12/16
Complete Signs and Surfaces section
Continue with introduction
Do some blogging if you have time

Goals – 11/12/16
Re-write synthesis paragraph
Blogging if you feel up to it

Goals – 12/12/16
Edit Communication section
Develop some practical work

Goals – 13/12/16 
Start Politics section

Goals – 14/12/16
Finish Politics section
Develop practical work

Goals – 15/12/16
Start Roles section
Continue with practical work

Goals – 16/12/16
Finish roles section
Continue with practical work

Blog about books used throughout the research and how they are relevant

Thursday, 8 December 2016

OUGD601 - Practical Work Crit 8/12/16

I found today's crit session pretty useful in helping me articulate the synthesis between my essay and practical research. I discussed the theme of my essay and outlined how I see the conclusion taking shape. I then summarised the synthesis between the overall theme of the essay and the practical work I have produced so far. 

My crit group thought that my ideas so far are inventive, playful and highly conceptual, synthesising nicely with my dissertation theme. They gave me a few areas to consider and refine which I found helpful:

- Consider the inside of the box and what it would include - would be cool to produce a fold out leaflet containing the information about the medication, examples of things that it cures and perhaps the 'side effects' - basically taking inspiration from the slips you find inside paracetamol packaging for example - really like this idea and was considering doing it anyway, the crit affirmed it

- Consider whether or not the packaging needs braille, as these products will be aimed at people who are affected by visual culture. I included the braille for comic effect, but after receiving the feedback, I think I will get rid of it

- They agreed that the packaging should give an indication to the condition it claims to cure - in other words the aesthetic should reflect an aesthetic. They also said that there needs to be a level of consistency to the designs so they integrate as a range of medications. I thought these points were very valid. 

- It was suggested that I look for visual characteristics that run throughout the trend categories on trend list and apply these elements to my packaging design - this way, there will be parody and visual play underpinned by some sort of consistent design treatment

- They suggested I experiment with designing the medication itself - for example, making pills out of clay and decorating them accordingly. The shape and size of the pill will relate to the condition it cures. I think this concept is great, and even if I don't have time to physically make the medication I could always mock it up digitally. 

Thursday, 1 December 2016

OUGD601 - Practical Work - Conceptualisation

Today I came up with a really strong concept for my COP practical project, which I am really excited about and look forward to developing.

In the conclusion of my essay, I will be commenting on the current condition of graphic design and the state that I believe it to be in based on my research.

Personally, I find the current state of graphic design to be quite stagnant and self referential. Trends appear to be dominated by pastiche and insular preferences and are celebrated within graphic design circles, rather than wider audiences who are perhaps not as engaged with contemporary visual culture.

I feel like this condition will only be left behind once something radically new comes along. Cultural and technological shifts have been the driving forces behind changes in the field in the past, spurring on the emergence of trends such as modernism and postmodernism. Today, technology advances on a daily basis, and graphic design seems to have become jaded by this, adopting an almost sceptical stance towards its own devices and tools used to develop its practice.

So, I have come up with a concept to 'cure' people 'suffering' from the contemporary condition with fictional medications. The practical element will require me to conceptualise various ailment and the suitable medications for the issues. I will design the packaging and 'branding' for the fictional medicines and potentially some promotional material.

Monday, 28 November 2016

OUGD601 - Research - BB-Bureau

Produced a typeface directly inspired by the abstract minimalism of Bauhaus experimental typography. The series of posters produced represent sections of the manifesto for the Bauhaus envisioned by founder Walter Gropius

'Experimental spiky type' - 2014 - represents a desire to abstract and reduce letter forms down to their most minimal state, for  me this typeface embodies the ideals and principles of the Bauhaus in a uniquely contemporary way. This typeface also explores notions of legibility and functionality, representing postmodernist concerns. To me, the designers interests and mentality oscillate between modernist and postmodernist, sitting an intersection between the the two schools. 

Bauhaus Quotes

Bauhaus manifesto

The typeface was then translated into a set of wallpaper designs, which have a distinctly deconstructionist aesthetic to them. They are visually chaotic yet highly intriguing. The designs manipulate image and type to create a surface which is difficult to interpret. There is little point to the wallpaper but this is exactly the point. It is purely experimental and embodies postmodernist attitudes and principles.   

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

OUGD601 - 4th Tutorial Notes

In today's tutorial, the structure of my essay was assessed again, in order to fine tune it and make it easier to undertake. We agreed that the suggested structure of having three to four large chapters would not be conducive to my research and lines of inquiry, and it would make sense to break down the chapters into smaller bits, anabling a more logical flow and critical analysis to take place. 

Two faces -Terms to describe the present - difficulties in articulating what the contemporary life actually is? Examples - embody these questionsApparent visual devices - ironic, truth to materials?Both interpretations of the work are convincing , then is contemporary GD a dialctic between the two?

ABSTRACTION - negation  (ornamentation/representation - removes cultural specificity) PM (anti-universality/subject/order/universal communcation) contemporary
COMMUNICATION - legibilty, sequence, universal typeface - who was for it for?
POLITICS - DADA (the state, War, society, proletariat/bourgeious, 
INSTITUTION - Avant-garde, Metahaven (public) how is contemporary graphic design supported? Where can experimental work exist?
AUTHOR - hand of designer, Rand, 
TECHNOLOGY - machine (celebrate, access), PM (accessibility, critical of...), 
ORIGINALITY - Jameson ('voice'), parody
FUNCTION - Metahaven (public), Baudrillard (simulacra)
SPECULATIONSpeculative - Modernism - Utopia, Avant-garde - producing an imagined future within the presentPostmodernism - look to past - why?
Questions that are still active and unresolved?Impact on technology on communicationRole of graphic design speculative - shared sense of purposeSurface -Client

Different ways to describe contemporary Graphic Design:
PostpostmodernismDigimodernismMetamodernismHauntologyDesign-culture-graphicsCritical graphic designSpeculative graphic design

Monday, 21 November 2016

OUGD601 - Chapter 1 Draft Feedback

  • Avoid writing in a linear or chronological fashion - the account of modernism so far is just a linear history - it lacks an argument, very descriptive
  • You need to refer to your sources all the time - where do the accounts you are giving come from, there are hardly any references?
  • You need to triangulate around conflicting accounts of modernism Political (Constructivism) / Neutral (DADA? others? Bauhaus?)
  • Role of abstraction - negation (Swiss/I Style vs. DADA or photomontage/others?)
  • Design as prescription (to fix the present) as opposed to proposition (depict a new future with the present) 
  • Role of designer (neutral - Brockmann - why should they be neutral? what are the benefits?; contrast with DADA?)
  • Modernist space is homogeneous
  • Modernism has a belief in progress (DADA? did they believe this? Are they not closer to postmodern in their use of critique?)
Think that you need to think of a different way to order the chapters to avoid this. Have a think about this and see me tomorrow so we can go over it.

Would it be possible contrast the features you are describing within modernism with how they were challenged within postmodernism? Or do you want to outline these structures within Modernism and outline their contemporary relevance or not? 

How will you end the chapter - Do you want to list those structures that are still relevant today and so haven’t been addressed throughly through postmodernism. That way you can start building your dialectic - and build a developing argument in the next chapter about how postmodernism attempted to address these questions but didn’t completely (hence still being relevant today).

At the minute it isn’t a critical essay - there are parts towards the end, but these would be better interspersed earlier to contrast with what you have written. You need use all the stuff we have discussed as this information is there to address your essay question:

  • Can you contrast the availability of public support structures for experimental work today within modernism/Constructivism (Metahaven).
  • Modernist design as ‘prescription’ (from the All Possible Futures catalogue)
  • Changing idea of ‘abstraction’ -within modernism it is an act of negation, today this is not the case (Erik Carter talk)
  • Which of these modernist ideas have come back within the post-postmodern?
  • Form of design: Proposition or prescription?

If the first chapter provides within the conclusion the structures found within Modernism which are still relevant in your proposed dialectic today, does chapter 2 do the same for postmodernism?
If so, you should argue from different interpretations of Modernism and Postmodernism (compared to today) and not just outline a linear history.

       Write paragraphs that focus on specific points - that way you can argue around the issue

Thursday, 17 November 2016

OUGD601 - Dissertation Research - Fabian Fohrer

Order & Disorder:

The work of Fabian Fohrer is intriguing, as it appears to sit at the intersection of modernism and postmodernism in the sense that it burrows and intertwines characteristics from the two schools of thought. His typographic decisions appear to be informed by modernism, but his treatment of the type, the general layouts and compositions and overall aesthetic seem to embody postmodernist attitudes.

He appear to acknowledge the rules, but proceeds to disregard them anyway. Usually, a visual 'mistake' is taken to be a bad thing and it actively left out of the design. Deconstructivist design actively includes these 'mistakes', switching the overall focus of the design. The imperative here is to feel, rather than to simply serve a specific function. 





OUGD601 - Dissertation Research - Koln Studio Madrid

I have emailed this studio with the hopes of interviewing them. I decided to get in contact with them as their work is current, and I suppose rather contemporary. It's evident that both modernist and post-structuralist principles have influence the aesthetic of their portfolio. Their work appears to straddle the line between the two schools of thought, essentially a contemporary condition.

Hopefully I get a reply, it would be illuminating to see what they make of modernism and postmodernism and also find out about their influences and general approach to design, especially as they are based in Spain.




OUGD601 - Dissertation Research - Ben DuVall

I have been aware of Ben DuVall for some time now, but it wasn't until I began to undertake research for COP3 that I realised the significance of his work. His work explores issues of contemporary design practice and its surrounding visual culture. To me, his work is critical in the sense it probes us to think about contemporary design culture in a way that is not too overwhelmingly difficult to understand.

I decided to purchase a copy of his book 'New Modernisms', as it looks as if it will provide me with some excellent current commentary/insight on issues that I am exploring in my dissertation. I am currently waiting for it to be delivered but I am very much looking forward to delving into it. 

Ben's portfolio website is significant to me. At the top left hand corner of the page, there is a drop down menu with several options. You have Era/State, Political/Economic, Motivation/Medium, Index/Info. His work is movable, and you can 'sort' it into the various categories provided on the drop down menu. I find this feature highly intelligent and also irreverent, qualities I associate with critical design practice. 

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

OUGD601 - 3rd Tutorial Notes

Ben suggested I get in contact with more practitioners/designers/critical thinkers to broaden my scope and expand my knowledge on existing contemporary issues.

I have already heard back from three designers and I am going to ask them to pass on their questions to their colleagues, friends and other contemporaries in order to gain as many insights as possible in a short timescale.

People I plan on contacting over the coming days to begin some dialogue:

- Zak Kyes
- Gregory Ambos
- Metahaven
- Sara De Bondt
- Abake
- Experimental Jetset
- Katherine McCoy
- Jonathan Barnbrook
- Ellen Lupton
- Linda Hutcheon
- Eric Hu

I have also decided to delve through the archives of Emigre magazine in order to find other people that I could contact in regards to my research topic. Many essays and articles from this magazine were critical of design being produced at the time (late 80s and throughout the 90s). It would be interesting to gain their insight in a contemporary context.

OUGD601 - Updated Essay Plan

Chapter 1 – Assessing the Structures of Modernism in Graphic Design

  • Introduce the Arrival of Modernism & Postmodernism in Visual Communication
  • Evaluate key areas:
  • Devices & Visual language – the grid, white space, flat planes, minimal abstraction, geometric forms, universal typefaces, universal signs and formats
  • Role of the designer – the hand of the designer should not been seen and the voice not heard in the work – to communicate information clearly, for the form to follow function and the message to be delivered as effortlessly as possible
  • Social function – to offer a universal solution to society through functional design
  • Authorship – this was a foreign concept to modernist graphic designers
  • Context of the work – early part of the 20th century, visions of abandoning ornamentation and decoration which were popular throughout the 19th century, new emerging technologies and industrialised communities became the motivation behind the aesthetic and ideologies
  • Influence of technology – development of photography had a massive impact
  • The success and the downfall – became hugely popular in Europe very quickly, spread to USA – downfall came after the 50’s and 60’s when the world became obsessed with consumer and popular culture, something the modernists fought against – this gave way to postmodern critique of imposing modernist structures
  • View it as a critical devise as opposed to a stylistic movement
  •  Explore why it became so popular on an international scale
  • The presence of a universal language seemed appropriate at the time
  • Compare and contrast two different manifestations of modernism:
  • DADA – an authentically avant-garde manifestation (a reaction to the absurdity of WW1)
  • German & Swiss International Style (inspired by the machine, industrialisation and a utopian view for the future)
  • Conclude: Is modernism a critical movement or a purely stylistic, aesthetic one?

Chapter 2 – Examine Postmodernism in Relation to Graphic Design
  • Introduce the arrival of Postmodernism: Key figures to compare and contrast – Derrida’s theory of Deconstruction with Foucault, Jameson’s theories on postmodernism with Baudrillard views on simulacra and simulation, Poyner & Lupton – critique their interpretations of the term and main ideas
  •  Key practitioners & institutions to discuss: Kathrine McCoy, Cranbrook, Emigre, David Carson, Neville Brody, Jonathan Barnbrook
  • Devices & Visual language – pastiche, parody, irony, duplication, abstraction, subversion, burrowing from the past, implosion of meaning, deconstructing values and ideals
  • Social function – to expose the flaws in structuralist thought, there are no absolute truths,
  • Role of the designer – to aggravate a reaction in the audience/consumer of the work, to communicate emotion in the visual elements rather than pure functionality
  •  Social function – to reflect the world as it really is: chaotic, re-introduce ornamentation and decoration, to make the voice of the designer heard, self expression and playfulness 
  • Authorship – the voice of the designer is at the forefront of the work, experimental work becomes popular, critical and speculative practice has its roots here
  • Context of the work – the world is becoming increasingly interconnected, the mixing of codes becomes inevitable
  • Influence of technology – the desktop computer spreads across the world, facilitating easy access to design tools to groups of people who perhaps didn’t have an existing background in design
  • The success and the downfall – Swiss punks such as Wolfgang Weingart began experimenting in ‘postmodern’ ways as far back as the 60’s, but never envisioned the experimentation becoming a stylistic movement as it later became. The visual language and general style of authentically anarchist designers such as Jamie Reid and David Carson became styles adopted by large groups of makers internationally – this was perhaps the downfall, as the rebellion became com-modified – when a subculture becomes the mainstream, it becomes more or less redundant
  • Conclude: Did postmodernism actually ever have an effect on GD? Or Is post-structuralist the more appropriate, effective term to use to describe this epoch?
  • Conclude whether modernity was ever actually left behind? Did it ever really die out, or has everything since the arrival of ‘postmodernism’ been an extension of modernist ideology, a constant reassessment of it? To think about the future is to be modern and a lot of graphic design nowadays seems to think about the present and burrow from the past, which is essentially postmodern.
Chapter 3 – Analyse the Current State of Design Culture (Primary Research Discussion)
  • Discuss the evolution of the ‘digital era’ (1984 to present) – evaluating its inappropriateness and inaccuracy as an all-encompassing term
  • Discuss the prominence of critical modes of work in contemporary GD culture, originating in the 90's and gathering in pace currently
  • Here, a discussion of key pieces of design work will take place, analysing their devices and background
  • Analyse the term ‘contemporary’, and whether or not it is relevant to our current condition or even appropriate to label work as being contemporary?

OUGD601 - Dissertation Research - Albert Exergain

There are clear manifestations of modernist principles within these poster designs. Minimalist geometric abstraction, limited use of flat colours, large areas of space between type and illustration elements (breathing space) and use of highly legible sans serifs. The designer has evidently been influenced or inspired by the International Style and American Modernism prevalent in the 1950's and 60s. Muller-Brockmann, Saul Bass and Paul Rand's aesthetics are reminiscent here, demonstrating the longevity and lasting influence of Modernism. 

The designer has made the conscious decision to apply techniques and approach from a movement born in the early 20th century and apply them to contemporary contexts. It's plain to see that Modenrism is still relevant and appropriate to current day audiences, in the eyes of Albert Exergain. 

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Monday, 14 November 2016

OUGD601 - Dissertation Research - Swiss Poster Generator

I came across a very interesting website today whilst research for my dissertation, which generates 'Swiss Style' posters in a matter of seconds. The application is made by Ben DuVall and his brother, both American based designers/critics. 

The site explores the nexus of art and technology, modernism and post-modernism in the era of desktop publishing. The Swiss poster can be considered the height of precision in graphic design. In many ways, the computer has eliminated the need for human precision by reducing information down to bytes and pixels.

The aim of the site is to generate simple posters which burrow from the International Swiss Style, a movement intrinsically linked with Modernism. Mid-20th century Swiss posters are revered for their clean and modern composition and typography, qualities which seem to be less prevalent in contemporary design culture. The template for the app was based on posters by Swiss designer Josef Müller-Brockmann, such as the one below:

Swiss Poster Generator by Ben and Clark Du Vall

I generated a number of designs through the app and compiled them into GIFs to demonstrate the lack of thought/effort required in making a design which efficiently communicates a message. 

What I find entertaining about this website is how it has taken a movement which took years to manifest and establish itself within the global design community, and reduced it to its absolute bare components, subsequently turning it into an accessible tool for anyone to use. Modernist graphic design has many different principles, however, this website restricts it to just two: use of Helvetica (timeless sans serif font) and an area with minimalist geometric shapes filled with flat colours. 

This website is a critical piece of work, as it is asking a number of questions concerning the importance of modernism and its relevance to contemporary graphic design practice. Really intriguing stuff.

Thursday, 10 November 2016

OUGD601 - Primary Research - Contacting Vanja Golubovic

Today I sent out my first email to a 'contemporary designer' in the hopes that they will respond to some questions that I have devised for them. I contacted Vanja Golubovic. 

The email was as follows:


My name is Cameron Wolfe. I’m currently in my final year studying Graphic Design at Leeds College of Art, UK.
I came across your work whilst researching for my thesis project and thought it would be valuable to get in contact. Your poster designs for Tresor caught my eye in particular whilst visiting Berlin earlier this year. 

My research project is focused on the current condition of graphic design culture, and since you are a contemporary designer, I thought it would interesting to get your insight on this topic

I am investigating the discourse of design’s short history, examining the impact that various social, political and technological shifts have had on our practice worldwide throughout the decades.

It would mean a lot if I could get your opinions on these current issues and I’d also be intrigued to find out about 
your personal design process.

If you have a spare moment, please let me know and I will send over the questions.

look forward to hearing from you soon!

All the best,


*Awaiting a response*

Saturday, 5 November 2016

OUGD601 - Revised Planning for Dissertation

I decided it would be beneifical to bullet point the areas in which my dissertation will  in order to get more organised. This is basically an up-to-date, consolodated/sicint essay plan:

Points to Cover

Chapter 1- Theories and Contexts
  • The arrival of modernism in graphic design – cover structuralism
  • Its key figures and notable examples of work
  • The supposed departure of modernism and the birth of postmodernism – cover post-structuralism, a critique of modernism or an extension of its ideas?
  • Key protagonists and notable examples of work
  • Introduce the idea that these movements can be considered as binary
  • Explore the deconstructivist movement which appeared from postmodernism
  • Outline the fact that there is an apparent lack of a defining term for the current moment? Comment on why this may be the case

Chapter 2 – The Role of Graphic Design
  • Explore the role of the designer – if work and movements are to be deconstructed, then surely the same treatment must be applied to the role of the practitioner?
  • Explore the concept of simulacra and the combining of styles and its influence on contemporary aesthetics and contribution to a lack of definitive term?

Chapter 3 – Looking at the Now
  • Discuss key examples of contemporary work

Thursday, 3 November 2016

OUGD601 - Contextualising My Recent Practice

In a recent collaborative brief, I decided to use a technique known as liquidation to distort a piece of artwork to use in a series of poster designs. This is fundamentally a tool for abstraction, a theme which is intrinsically linked with postmodernist aesthetics and deconstructionism within graphic design practice.

The reason I am highlighting this work is because I feel it is reflective of certain external influences on my current design practice. If I think about it truly, I can't really think of a proper justification behind the choice to 'liquify' the artwork. There was no real logical reason behind it other than to make it look quirky and mysterious. 

What interests me here is the motivation behind the design treatment, what are the conscious and subconscious influences at play here?

Distorting the artwork does make it instantly more visually appealing as it demands participation from the audience; they are forced to do more guesswork than usual as they are confronted with an abstracted representation of a text. This could be the motivation behind using the liquify tool.

However, I believe it to be more profound than that. I believe I decided to use the liquify tool because I have the freedom to. Protagonists of postmodern graphic design, in particular deconstructivist design, allowed me to have the freedom to abstract beyond recognition. In addition, the accessibility to personal desktop software, facilitated by the rapid development in technology has provided me with this freedom. Without these factors, perhaps I wouldn't have taken the approach I did. 


Wednesday, 2 November 2016

OUGD601 - Dissertation Research - Deconstructing Binaries

My theme in which my dissertation explores is one of contemporary issues. I am basically assessing the legitimacy of modernism and postmodernism as key components within contemporary graphic design culture. I am examining them in order to attempt an understanding of the condition we are experiencing in the current moment. 

I came across the fascinating work of graphic designer Vanja Golubovic whilst visiting Berlin in March 2016. It immediately caught my eye and has obviously stuck with me until now, as I suddenly remembered how relevant her poster designs for Tresor (an infamously edgy nightclub in Berlin) are to my current lines of enquiry. 

Personal analysis of overall design treatment:These designs are important: they are a blatant display of the attitudes of a contemporary designer who has adopted a definitively mixed approach to the traditional conventions. To me, certain modernist design principles, passed down from the Bauhaus and International style are evident within the work. The most obvious device present here is of course: the grid. Grids are inextricably linked with modernist graphic design. Protagonists of the modernist movement with Europe, such as Josef Muller-Brockmann, favoured the grid as it brought essential structure and functionality to their work. Modernists indicate that the grid is a tool for thought, and should be used to systematise, to clarify and to reduce content to its essentials. This reverence for the grid gave way to the ideology of 'form following function', a theme which is still adopted by many practising designers today.

What I find intriguing in these posters is the visual emphasis that is placed on the grid. Golubovic has deliberately made the logical structure of the grid visible to the audience, putting a thick stroke weight on it, setting it in a contrasting colour to the background. The simultaneously brings order and chaos, in the sense that the grid is actually dissecting other elements within the composition. 

At the top of all the posters, you will observe deliberate strike-through's, classic components of deconstructivist design. What is interesting here, is that are being employed to serve a function. The act of erasure, or striking out, can add new, unintended meanings to the images and information that lie below

Talk about crossing out of the dates - linking to deconstruction - Poyner?

Characteristics that could be viewed as being modernist? Certain typefaces used, however, there are several typefaces being used here which is a nod to postmodern influence. Collage has been used, again a subtle nod to deconstruction and eclectic aesthetics associated with postmodern graphic design culture.