Posts Tagged ‘design’
When Nikki Sylianteng got a $95 parking ticket last winter, she realized that she was dealing with much more than a fine: she was dealing with a design problem.
“It was my fault,” she admits. She says she had been “so happy to find a parking spot,” she didn’t read the sign carefully enough. But, Sylianteng also felt like she shouldn’t have had to read the sign so carefully.
She suspected there were many parking offenders like her out there, who wanted to obey the law but had trouble discerning what that law was. Cities could make it easier for them, and improve parking compliance, just by making the parking signs clearer. As far as she could see, she was surrounded by a pretty confusing system of signage.
So, she decided to fix it.
She didn’t do this by fighting the ticket, nor by running for city council. Instead, Sylianteng committed act of guerilla civic design, which shocked the gears of municipal bureaucracy into motion. Someday, when better signage comes to a curb near you, you’ll have to thank Nikki…
* Calvin Trillin
As we take the bus, we might send honorable birthday greetings to William McKinley; he was born on this date in 1843. The 25th President of the U.S., McKinley was the first president to ride in an automobile (a Stanley Steamer, a steam-engine-powered car built in the late 1890s by brothers Francis and Freelan Stanley). McKinley was also the last President to have served in the Civil War, and the third President (after Lincoln and Garfield) to be assassinated (though some believed Zachary Taylor, who died in office, to have been poisoned).
Although not anyone can be a designer, everyone who wants to can learn the elements of visual design: contrast, transparency, hierarchy, randomness, and so on. In fact, it doesn’t even take all that long. Just watch this 50-second video.
Animated by Toronto-based art director and motion designer Matt Greenwood, this video walks you through 24 of the most important visual design principles, ranging from rhythm to texture to color. It won’t teach you everything you need to know to be a designer, but it’s a good start…
* Charles Eames
As we seek elegance in all, we might recall that it was on this date in 1847 that Richard M. Hoe patented the rotary printing press. Hoe had invented the press a couple of years earlier and improved it before submission. His creation greatly increased the speed of printing, as it involved rolling a cylinder over stationary plates of inked type, using the cylinder to make an impression on paper– thus eliminating the need to make impressions from pressing type plates, which were heavy and difficult to maneuver. In 1871, Hoe added the ability to print to continuous rolls of paper, creating the “web press” that revolutionized newspaper and magazine printing. His first customer was Horace Greeley’s New York Tribune.
Saul Bass was one of America’s premiere graphic designers through the second half of the Twentieth Century. He created some of the best-remembered, most iconic logos in North America: e.g., the Bell Telephone logo (1969) and the successor AT&T globe (1983), Continental Airlines (1968), Dixie (1969), United Airlines (1974), and Warner Communications (1974).
But for your correspondent’s money, his major contribution was his extraordinary series of movie titles and posters, created for the likes of Alfred Hitchcock, Otto Preminger, Billy Wilder, Stanley Kubrick, and Martin Scorsese. Prior to Bass, movie title sequences had largely been a series of “credit cards,” functioning in effect as title pages. Bass developed the opening as a way to set the emotional stage for the film to follow. As screenwriter Nicholas Pileggi said of Bass and his second wife and collaborator Elaine, “you write a book of 300 to 400 pages and then you boil it down to a script of maybe 100 to 150 pages. Eventually you have the pleasure of seeing that the Basses have knocked you right out of the ballpark. They have boiled it down to four minutes flat.”
In the broadest sense, all modern opening title sequences that introduce the mood or theme of a film can be seen as descendent of Bass’s innovative work. In particular, though, one can detect the influence of Bass in the title sequences for some recent movies and television series (especially those set in the 1960s) that have purposely emulated the graphic style of his animated sequences from that era: e.g., Catch Me If You Can (2002), X-Men: First Class (2011), and the opening to the AMC series Mad Men.
* Saul Bass
As we mute our cell phones, we might recall that it was on this date in 1956 that Alfred Hitchcock’s muse, the Oscar-winning actress Grace Kelly, became Her Serene Highness Princess Grace of Monaco.
Katerina Kamprani set out to “re-design useful objects making them uncomfortable but usable and maintain the semiotics of the original item”– that is to say, to demonstrate design gone wrong…
See more of her whimsical riffs on utility at “The Uncomfortable.”
* Charles Eames
As we struggle to reinsert the “you in “utility,” we might recall that it was on this date in 1914 that George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion opened in London. An essayist, novelist, and short story writer, Shaw is best remembered as a playwright– and Pygmalion, as his most-loved play. Having detested a musical adaptation of is play Arms and the Man (called The Chocolate Soldier), Shaw subsequently forbade musicalization of his work, including a proposed Franz Lehár operetta based on Pygmalion. But after his death, several of his plays formed the basis of musicals—most famously the musical My Fair Lady. It is officially adapted from the screenplay of the film version of Pygmalion rather than the original stage play (keeping the film’s ending); still, librettist Alan Jay Lerner kept generous chunks of Shaw’s dialogue, and the characters’ names, unchanged.
Shaw is the only person to have been awarded both a Nobel Prize in Literature (1925) and an Oscar (1938, for his work on the film Pygmalion). Shaw wanted to refuse his Nobel Prize outright out of disdain for public honors, but accepted it at his wife’s behest: she considered it a tribute to their native Ireland. He did reject the monetary award, requesting it be used instead to finance translation of fellow playwright August Strindberg’s works from Swedish to English.
* Carl Sagan
As we ponder Pluto’s planethood, we might recall that it was on this date in 1965 that the Soviet space program stunned the world, as it had with the first satellite (Sputnik) and the first man in space (Yuri Gagarin), when cosmonaut Alexey Leonov performed the first spacewalk (and the first EVA) from the Voskhod 2 spacecraft; Leonov was outside his spacecraft for 12 minutes.
See other prandial pennants at Marvelous. [Grateful TotH to reader @krasney]
Foreigners cannot enjoy our food, I suppose, any more than we can enjoy theirs. It is not strange; for tastes are made, not born. I might glorify my bill of fare until I was tired; but after all, the Scotchman would shake his head and say, ‘Where’s your haggis?’ and the Fijan would sigh and say, ‘Where’s your missionary?’
-Mark Twain, Roughing It
* Clementine Paddleford (quoted in Charles Wysocki’s Americana Cookbook)
As we ask for extra mayonnaise, we might recall that it was on this date in 1960 that Elvis Presley was honorably discharged after two years in the U.S. Army; he left with the rank of sergeant. Presley, whose career had been carefully stoked with banked material during his service, went right back to work: within a month he recorded and released a single, “Stuck on You,” that went straight to Number One, the ballads “It’s Now or Never” and “Are You Lonesome Tonight?”, and the rest of Elvis Is Back!, which went straight to Number Two on the album chart. And he hit the sound stage as well, making G.I. Blues in time to release it that summer– and watch it climb to Number Two on Variety‘s box office chart.
“The real questions are: Does it solve a problem? Is it serviceable? How is it going to look in ten years?”*…
Ziba, a Portland-based design firm, asked each staff member to submit his/her “top five” list of designs that have changed the way we think about the world over the organization’s 29-year history– back to 1983. They clustered the submissions around thematic statements that characterize the innovations, e.g. “The mundane shall be celebrated,” or “Connectivity is like oxygen.” Then, they captured the results in an infographic (a detail of which is above).
Explore a larger version here, and note that there are a number of things that didn’t make the cut: Napster? the GIF? Yelp?… but then, that’s the fun– and the useful provocation– of lists like this, encouraging us to make our own nominations.
A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools.
– Douglas Adams
* Charles Eames
As we noodle on the new new thing, we might celebrate the emergence of a design, an innovation, a technology that took on a life of its own and changed… well, everything: this date in 1455 is the traditionally-given date of the publication of the Gutenberg Bible, the first Western book printed from movable type.
(Lest we think that there’s actually anything new under the sun, we might recall that The Jikji– the world’s oldest known extant movable metal type printed book– was published in Korea in 1377; and that Bi Sheng created the first known moveable type– out of wood– in China in 1040.)