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Austin Kleon — 10 lessons from designer Tibor Kalman: Perverse...
"1. Everything is an experiment.

You can get a great feel for what Tibor Kalman (1949–1999) was about just from the opening pages of Tibor Kalman: Perverse Optimist…

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2. Learn on the job.

Peter Hall points out that Tibor was always “learning on the job—or, as someone side of the journalistic vocation, conducting an education in public.”

One way he did that was to hire young designers more talented than him and learn from them:
That was the way I learned. I stood over their shoulders, and learned how graphic design is done. But I was always the boss. It has been a curious phenomenon in my life that I’ve continued pretty much throughout my career; I would try to get the job I couldn’t get, and not know how to do it, and then I would hire people who did know how to do it, and I would direct them. That to me is always the ideal way to work, because you learn very quickly and you have the means to do something, and yet you know nothing about the field, so you can do something original.

3. As soon as you learn how to do something, move on.

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I did two of a number of things. The first one, you fuck it up in an interesting way; the second one, you get it right; and then you’re out of there… I think as long as I don’t know how to do something, I can do it well; and as soon as I have learned how to do something, I will do it less well, because it will be more obvious. I think that goes for most people. I think most people spend too much time doing one thing.

4. Having a style is a kind of death.

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David Byrne, for whom Kalman designed many album covers, including Remain In Light:
Tibor and company don’t have a signature style, and that is a worthy ambition in life…. Having a recognizable style relegates you to the status of quotable icon. And while being an icon is flattering, I imagine, once it happens, you become irrelevent.

My own ambition is to write a song that sounds like I stole it—like “I” didn’t write it, but it has always been there. To get the “I” out of the song is the ultimate compositional coup, whether in music or design.

5. Visual literacy isn’t enough. Designers have to read everything.

Kalman said that “an enormous amount of graphic design is made by people who look at pictures but don’t know how to think about them.”
I started asking job candidates, “What have you read in the last year?” Because I suddenly began to realize that the difference between a good and a bad designer is how much did they know about everything else—biology, history. Because graphic design is just a means of communication, a language, and what you choose to communicate, and how and why on a particular project, that is all the interesting stuff.

6. You don’t necessarily have to be visually motivated to be a designer.

Rick Poynor on Kalman’s red-green colorblindness (I have it, too):
Most designers are designers because of an exceptional intensity in their response to visual form coupled with a degree of talent for manipulating it. Kalman is unusual among those who choose design as a profession in not being a visually motivated person in this sense. He is red-green color blind and, although this is not severe, it means that he treats color as an “idea” rather than as a sensation to which he responds according to intuition or taste. He will know intellectually that “sky blue” is called for to get an effect he wants to achieve without being able to specify for himself which shade of blue it should be.

7. Don’t steal the style, steal the thinking behind the style.

Kalman said it was okay to borrow ideas, but “transform” is the key word: you have to know the context of the ideas and not de-contextualize them, but re-contextualize them:
Reference means just that: You refer to something. It gives you an idea. You create something new.

Real modernism is filled with historical reference and allusion. And in some of the best design today, historical references are used very eloquently. But those examples were produced with an interest in re-contextualizing sources rather than de-contextualizing them.

There’s an important difference between making an allusion and doing a knock-off. Good historicism is… an investigation of the strategies, procedures, methods, routes, theories, tactics, schemes, and modes through which people have worked creatively…. We need to learn from and interrogate our past, not endlessly repeat its recipes.

8. Photographs are neither true nor false.
Early in the history of photography models were used to enact situations for a camera to record. Later, we learned how to retouch images, first by hand, later by rearranging the tiny dots that make up the images. Meanwhile, there has always been the cheapest and easiest way of making photographs lie—simply changing the caption to change the meaning of the image. Some people accept this but still argue the photograph remains in some way uniquely “honest.” They say that for it to exist, some kind of real-life situation also had to exist. They claim that the fact that a camera can be set up by remote control to record whatever passes in front of it somehow confers objectivity. They cling to the idea that the photograph is an inherently “real” or honest image and as such is always on a different plan from an obviously subjective form of visual communication, such as painting. However, I believe that photography is just like painting and that it can lie just as effectively. I do not accept that there is necessarily a “true” moment that the camera captures, because that moment can be manipulated as much as anything else.

9. Children give you new ways of looking at things.

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We chose to increase the complexity of our lives by having children. The greatest benefit of having those children has been to look at the world through their eyes and to understand their level of curiosity and to learn things the way they learn things.

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10. Marry well.

At first, I only new Tibor Kalman as Maira Kalman’s late husband. Isaac Mizrahi might argue that’s as it should be:
Tibor’s most brilliant contribution was to marry Maira. If he hadn’t, I would have. I don’t mean to sound corny and romantic, just that his relationship with her is a work of art. She has an incredible in-born ability to be a touchstone, and pick out what’s good in a room, whether it’s a screenplay, a piece of music, or a piece of furniture. I never think of them seperately, or, his sense of humor or her sense of humor, I think about them together, how much he owes to her and she owes to him.

Maira Kalman painted the closing pages of the book:

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It’s out-of-print and can be a little hard to get your hands on, but anyone interested in design should give Tibor Kalman: Perverse Optimist a read."
tiborkalman  mairakalman  design  graphicdesign  howwelearn  learning  lifelonglearning  reading  photography  complexity  parenting  children  howwework  style  aesthetics  thinking  howwethink  vidualliteracy  literacy  visuals  steallikeanartist  influences  canon  reality  truth  isaacmizrahi  marriage  partnerships  context  invention  creativity  classideas  favoritebooks  rickpoynor  davidbyrne  talkingheads  failure  careers  work  education  unschooling  deschooling  interdisciplinary  transdisciplinary 
july 2015 by robertogreco
The Filmic Page: Chris Marker's Commentaires: Observatory: Design Observer
"Commentaires presents the scripts of five films directed by Marker: Les statues meurent aussi (1953, co-directed with Alain Resnais), Dimanche à Pékin (1955), Lettre de Sibérie (1957), Description d’un combat (1960) and Cuba si (1961), as well as an unmade project, L’Amérique rêve (1959). In each case, Marker puts stills from the film into or alongside the text. It would be easy to take such plasticity for granted today, although this degree of integration of text and image in a film book, or any kind of small-format book for continuous reading rather than reference, is still unusual. At the time, it was a remarkable accentuation of the image in relation to the text. Marker uses wide fore-edge margins, and spaces between the paragraphs and other kinds of writing, such as song lyrics, to create open, dynamically organized layouts. The effect is to make all the elements appear to float in loosely placed, almost provisional arrangements. Turning the book’s pages, text and image strike the eye as being equally important.

“As you read [Commentaires] you knew exactly what was being talked about,” Richard Hollis notes in an interview with Eye. “It was a substitute for description: instead of talking about something, you show the objective visual evidence. That’s how I wanted to do Ways of Seeing, rather than have images by the side or text followed by a page of images.” In Commentaires, though, the image isn’t a substitute for the text (as it was sometimes in Berger’s book) but rather a selective approximation and evocation of the film experience, running in parallel with the words."



"In one of the film’s most audacious conceits, Marker shows the same sequence three times: a bus goes past, some men work on the road, another man walks by. With each viewing, the voiceover changes to describe the city of Yakutsk first as a worker’s paradise, then as hell on earth, and finally in more measured terms. The man walking by transforms from a “picturesque denizen of the Arctic reaches” into a “sinister looking Asiatic” before becoming merely a worker “afflicted with an eye disorder.” But even objectivity, notes Marker, can end up being a form of distortion; Yakutsk cannot be understood just by walking (and filming) the streets. After this piece of demystification, the reliability of any documentary, including his own, must forever be in doubt. When the sequence is translated into a layout in Commentaires, there is no need to repeat it to make the point. Marker compresses the narrative into a triptych of representative images displayed opposite the three competing modes of voiceover.

One final example taken from a sequence about the Siberian gold rush that turned the Aldan district into a lawless territory over which the Soviet government, a decade after the revolution, could maintain no control. Marker teases the viewer: “You expected to see Indians? There were Indians, cowboys, sorcerers, trappers, fights and romances.” The oval vignettes used on the page on either side of the descriptions are a direct re-creation of the devices employed ironically in the film to mythologize the figures in these old photographs. A bearded, modern-day worker living in the area is shown in the same manner before the moving image expands, like an iris-in, to fill the full frame.

The final likely reason that Commentaires has been neglected as a piece of advanced editorial design is that its layout was not the work of an established graphic designer. We are back to the familiar limitation that graphic design history tends to concern itself with the output of people formally identified as professional designers. As it happens, Marker was an outstanding example of the kind of communicator many designers now aspire to be, a versatile, multi-talented figure able to cross disciplinary boundaries — in his case writing, photography, filmmaking and design — and combine these endeavors in a unified personal life project. It’s hardly surprising that critics who analyse his work primarily as a filmmaker haven’t taken a close interest in Commentaires, the multi-volume Petite Planète series (1954-64), or Coréennes (1959), his book of photographs of Korean women, as designed objects. The two volumes of Commentaires are highly imaginative, inventive and challenging interpretations of the book form and, quite apart from their importance as documents in film history, they rightly also belong within an expanded historical understanding of editorial design."
rickpoynor  chrismarker  books  via:litherland  documentary  film  bookdesign  graphicdesign  objectivity  2014  commentaires  johnberger  waysofseeing 
march 2014 by robertogreco
Sternberg Press - Alex Coles [The Transdisciplinary Studio]
"We have entered a post-post-studio age, and find ourselves with a new studio model: the transdisciplinary. Artists and designers are now defined not by their discipline but by the fluidity with which their practices move between the fields of architecture, art, and design. This volume delves into four pioneering transdisciplinary studios—Jorge Pardo Sculpture, Konstantin Grcic Industrial Design, Studio Olafur Eliasson, and Åbäke—by observing and interviewing the practitioners and their assistants. A further series of interviews with curators, critics, anthropologists, designers, and artists serves to contextualize the transdisciplinary model now at the fore of creative practice."

[See also: http://www.amazon.com/Alex-Coles-the-Transdisciplinary-Studio/dp/1934105961 ]
dextersinister  andreazittel  rickpoynor  alessandromendini  marialind  ronaldjones  carolinejones  ryangander  martinogamper  jamesclifford  guibonsiepe  vitoacconci  architecture  anthropology  generalists  fluidity  interdisciplinarity  interdisciplinary  post-post-studio  2012  jorgepardo  Åbäke  konstantingrcic  olafureliasson  alexcoles  design  art  studios  transdisciplinary 
november 2012 by robertogreco
Rick Poynor: The Unspeakable Pleasure of Ruins: Observers Room: Design Observer
"there are many reasons to be fascinated by ruins. For me, this attraction is first of all about being in the place. (Photos of ruins function in the same way that all kinds of photos function: they fire the imagination and provoke a desire to see for yourself.) The idea that best explains my love of ruins is the quest for re-enchantment. The abandoned ruin is a special zone charged with an intensity and a potential for revelation that most ordinary, complete and comfortable places lack. The more corporate daily experience becomes, the more some sites of ruination can offer an interlude of release into a refuge that is not accessible to crowds (it may well be unsafe), not overseen by officialdom, and not commercialized. Some regard these fractured spaces as being loaded with radical and even utopian potential."
optimism  utopia  refuge  ofrordness  romainemeffre  yvesmarchand  unknownfieldsdivision  geoffdyer  rosemacaulay  walterbenjamin  georgsimmel  gustavedoré  christopherwoodward  ruinporn  urbanprairie  detroit  2012  rickpoynor  urbanism  cities  architecture  photography  ruins 
march 2012 by robertogreco
Winterhouse: Culture Is Not Always Popular
"In a recent interview…Peter Saville was quoted as saying, "graphics is the communications platform for culture." The syntax here is very revealing: Whoever thought we’d be hearing the designer of New Order talking about "graphics" let alone "communications platforms?" So, what is he REALLY saying? That design is a lens onto culture? Or that our culture is only evident and visible through design? Whatever the answer, we’re struck by the presumption in this statement that design = culture."

"Last week, Jessica and I launched Design Observer, a collaborative blog with Michael Bierut and Rick Poynor, as a forum for a broader kind of critical writing on design issues — broader because its collaborative; because it’s international; and because we rarely agree on anything."

"So to revisit the Peter Saville position: design is not only a communications "platform" for culture, but is now vetted by an AIGA-approved 12-step program for problem-solving, innovating, & generating value."
education  learning  design  culture  art  2003  williamdrenttel  thinking  jessicahelfand  graphicdesign  designasculture  designobserver  rickpoynor  michaelbierut  petersaville  literacy  designeducation  teaching  curriculum 
august 2011 by robertogreco
Where Is Art Now? Leaving the art world to decide what art is doesn’t resolve the issue of quality...: Observatory: Design Observer
"we need to put more emphasis again on the visual in art, & it’s clear that many young artists with visual talent have decided to ignore the art world’s weary, self-serving conceptualist strictures & just go ahead and make the art they feel like making. They want to create optical art experiences of their own. By paying too much attention to the extremes of high or low we run the risk of undervaluing what’s happening in the densely populated middle — graphic novels, graphic design, illustration, low-cost film-making — where the expressive possibilities of the visual are still embraced with conviction. This, rather than art scene-mediated art, is the real center of visual culture in our time. Are we overlooking great work only because we have been instructed for so long to assume that anything presented outside the art world’s walls must be inferior?"
art  designobserver  rickpoynor  glvo  visual  conceptualart  graphicnovels  design  illustration  filmmaking  culture 
december 2010 by robertogreco

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