Consisting of numerous works since 2000, the show documents the recent upswing of graphic design and its recognition in the past thirteen years as an increasingly versatile tool, and less as a specialized profession. More designers are becoming authors, publishers, instigators and entrepreneurs. People from other fields are expanding upon design techniques and processes to create and publish more visual media than ever before.
Now, it’s sad but true…the first thing that comes to mind is marketing and advertisement. I didn’t think about this till later, but I’ll bet that’s why your first encounter is with this interactive row of before-and-after brand logos with comments from top graphic design companies with clear plastic tubes underneath. You grab a handful of yellow tokens from the box to the side, and drop one into the tube under the logo you’d prefer; the old one or the new one. I love it because everyone is constantly being pleased or displeased with logo alteration. I don’t know about you, but I’ve long been peeved by the whole minimalist lowercase font trend. Logos are losing their distinct characteristics, and becoming less and less iconic. Brands in this installation included chains like TCBY and Starbucks, but also Library of congress, New York Public Library, and various TV stations like Comedy Central and Nickelodeon…which now just looks just like any other logo. No more orange 90s paint splatters…just orange lower-case bubble letters.
Disney will be next. Just you wait and see.
So as I’m semi-struggling with all of this, I hear the faint monotone robotic voice every few minutes repeating words like ‘tentative’, ‘insight’, and ‘anger’. I soon figure out that it is coming from an installation a ways behind me. I find an old TV streaming a soap opera channel with very faint volume, just loud enough so that you could hear it. Behind this was an overhead projection of all the words being said on the show with highlighted selections. It reminded me of those conversation magnets you put on your fridge. The projection would react to the emotion in the voices on the show and the louder robotic voice would announce it every so often.
In the Information Design section of the gallery, you’ll find Hans Rosling’s Trendanalyzer software, “Gapminder”, which was founded in Stockholm in 2005. He uses an animated bubble chart to show changes over time in the wealth and health of nations and it’s called the Joy of Stats. While it wasn’t necessarily joyful, it was a good example of how graphic design can stoke one’s attention span to valuable information that some might ignore or even avoid. It’s a lot different from reading a newspaper where you’re taking in one line of info at a time, or even a stationary graph that doesn’t consistently change for the sake of multiple comparisons and alternate scenarios.
Aaron Koblin and Chris Milk’s collaboration, The Wilderness Downtown is an online film for the band Arcade Fire. You might have seen this already, but you type in the address of your childhood home, and Google Maps will integrate the aerial and street views into the narrative of Arcade Fire’s song “We Used to Wait,” creating a personalized version of the song. One of the security guards was all about that thing, and said there was an old woman who put in the address of the apartment in NYC where she lived with her grandmother as a little girl, and just wept when it came up. She had never had the chance to go back, nor had she any pictures to document the fond memories she said she had of the place.
Titled as Cognitive Media, Sir Ken Robinson’s Changing Education Paradigms is a TED talk, except in animated form called “Video Scribing”, which is a growing form of education in and of itself. You’ve probably seen things like this, you know, with a sped-up hand doodling on a white board. I find the hand unnecessary and distracting, but at least this one doesn’t have an annoyingly smug narrator like some of the others I’ve seen. He sounds like the kind of British narrator you’d hear on National Geographic. It’s definitely worth watching. I give it a thumbs up.
There’s a large section of the show dedicated to posters as the most iconic form of graphic design. It covers the experimental directions that designers have taken while continuing to use traditional printing and mixed media techniques, from screen-printing to cut out letters, and experimental ink jet to markers. To the left is a selection of Albert Exergian’s iconic TV print series which are kind of awesome (you can click on it to make it bigger). A tip of my hat to the curators of this particular show…because holy smokes is there a lot of stuff. Yes, it was the kind of show where you can’t stand in front of one thing for too long because you are thinking about the 6 or 7 other things you want to see next. I definitely recommend going!
Open until February 23, 2014
Graphic Design: Now in Production was Co-organized by the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, and the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, New York; Curated by Andrew Blauvelt, Curator of Architecture and Design, Walker Art Center and Ellen Lupton, Curator of Contemporary Design, Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum.