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Maira Kalman’s Bohemian Bliss Above a Bakery - WSJ
"The illustrator and writer recalls her artist husband, Tibor, and their first Greenwich Village apartment"



"Artist Maira Kalman, 65, is the author and illustrator of 24 books, including “My Favorite Things” (Harper Design) and “Ah-Ha to Zig” (Rizzoli), both based on a December exhibit she is curating for New York’s Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. She spoke with Marc Myers.

The apartment I shared with my late husband, Tibor, between 1976 and 1982, wasn’t pretty but we were happy. We both came of age in that fifth-floor tenement walk-up at 29 Cornelia St. in New York’s Greenwich Village. I was just beginning to illustrate and Tibor was starting M & Co., his graphic-design firm. We didn’t need much.

The railroad apartment had three rooms, one after the next. What we lacked in space and fancy furnishings was more than made up for by fun and love. Back then the neighborhood was still home to three generations of Italian families and poor artists. Our rent was $125 a month, and everything was possible in our lives and careers.

Tibor and I met in 1968 while attending New York University. Throughout the early 1970s we would break up and get back together, so we lived in a series of places before settling down. When you entered our Cornelia Street apartment, you were standing in our living room. Then you passed into the kitchen—the center room with a rough concrete trough of a bathtub that had a wooden cover when it wasn’t in use. The third room was a small bedroom that faced the back of A. Zito & Sons bakery. In the morning, the smell of bread baking filled the room.

Tibor and I were both strangely content. Even climbing five flights with groceries or with the laundry was part of the experience. We just thought, here we are, we’re together and in love, and isn’t that great.

Our decorating style was no style at all. Our furnishings were hand-me-downs or things we had found on the street. One piece was a beautiful armchair that we had reupholstered. I still have it. I don’t know why someone chucked it out, but that’s New York.

In the kitchen, we had a ’50s dining table. My studio wasn’t set up yet, so I drew at the kitchen table. I’d draw everywhere, from the park to cafes.

One day, when Tibor was at work, I decided I hated our horrible brown wall-to-wall carpeting. I ripped it up halfway before I became exhausted. When Tibor came home I told him the carpet had to go. He ripped out the other half without a word of complaint. Then I painted the wood floor in the living room butter yellow—the walls were already white—and I instantly felt lighter. That’s what’s interesting about changing layers of your living space. How you feel changes, too.

Eventually Tibor and I wanted more space, so we built a loft bed in the bedroom. It had lots of heavy, raw wood and looked rather dreadful. It was a hippie time, so you have to forgive us. At one point we also upgraded the kitchen by ripping out the tub and putting in a shower.

We were always putting up and taking down art from the walls. One night we hung an onion ring on a nail high up on the kitchen wall. I don’t remember why. I was from Israel and Tibor was from Hungary, so we were always fascinated by vernacular. Fast food was part of the American scene—diners, coffee shops and hamburger stands. All of that Americana was joyful and optimistic and funny to us. That was the beginning of our onion-ring collection. The onion rings we installed never deteriorated, which was amazing. We had dozens of them, and some we framed and gave to friends.

When I think back to our apartment now, I think of it as empty—just shapes of rooms and light. What I do remember vividly is that the space was filled with friendship and love and a never-ending curiosity about everything.

Tibor and I married in 1981, and the following year we moved to a one-bedroom apartment on 12th Street when I became pregnant with our daughter, Lulu. We soon bought the place. A few years later, Tibor and I had a son named Alex, at which point we also bought the apartment next door. Tibor died in 1999, and I still live here.

I’m about to have my apartment repainted white, as always, but I fear it’s going to be a daunting task. There are too many whites to choose from."
mairakalman  tiborkalman  love  life  living  homes  2014  experience  cv  small  fun  making  white  onionrings  vernacular  nyc 
november 2016 by robertogreco
Popular versus Brilliant | Designers + Geeks
"Jim Bull is worried about the future of design and thinks you should be too. Co-founder and Chief Creative Officer of Moving Brands, Jim dissects an industry where design is judged by the number of its likes and shares, where the focus is on efficiency rather than brilliance, and where one or two companies set the design standard for the globe."

[Direct link to video: https://vimeo.com/155640569 ]

[Tagged “web rococo” because this is the opposite.]

[Not sure why there is no mention of Tibor Kalman and Oliviero Toscani in the Benetton discussion. And there seems to be some tunnel vision here. Sure, the big SV VC backed companies are all looking the same, but they're not the only ones making things on the web. You know, there are many other countries and languages to look to for something other than California Design. Uh, maybe that's more the issue: SV only sees itself and it's not diverse.]

[via: https://twitter.com/soopa/status/700559147247357952 ]
jimbbull  californiadesign  siliconvalley  2016  branding  reverence  generic  popularity  brilliance  apple  uber  medium  california  graphicdesign  webdesign  movingbrands  productdesign  sameness  webrococo  benetton  olivierotoscani  tiborkalman  design  business  california-zation  homogenization  designeducation  art  differentiation  ui  ux  screens  magicleap  ar  augmentedreality  virtualreality  packaging  vr  webdev 
february 2016 by robertogreco
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…

[image]

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.

[image]
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.

[image]

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.

[image]
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.

[image]

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:

[image]
[image]

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
Eye Magazine | Feature | Reputations: Tibor Kalman
"MC: We spoke just weeks before your departure for Rome, in the summer of 1993, when the economy was soft, nerves were raw, diatribes about legibility and relevance were being hurled across design’s generational divide, and the prospect of a “changing of the guard” prevailed. You were deeply dissatisfied with design.

TK: I thought the argument about legibility was in fact about typefaces, and arguments about typefaces are boring and narrow in the light of what’s really going on in the world and the true purpose and potential of communication. That isn’t the real issue.

MC: What is the real issue?

TK: Whether we can do something with design that makes a difference in the world. Whether designers can use their skills to create change - cultural, political and economic. Economic change is the one designers have been good at because they can make sales go up, stocks go up, sell more spaghetti sauce.

MC: But what about the other changes?

TK: They are not where the money is and are not what design has usually been called upon to do. I grew up doing very commercial work - brochures, logos, packaging and record covers. My journey has been a move from using graphics to make money to using graphic design to create new aesthetic ideas - which is where most designers start - to becoming frustrated and moving on to industrial design, film, television and architecture. After 15 or 20 years I discovered that design is just language and the real issue is what you use that language to do. Now I’m at a point where I’m tired of talking about what kind of accents to use. I want to talk about the words that are being said.

MC: To whom? Is the audience as important as the message?

TK: What is said determines who listens and who understands. Graphic design is a language, but graphic designers are so busy worrying about the nuances - accents, punctuation and so on - that they spend little time thinking about what the words add up to. I’m interested in using our communication skills to change the way things are."

[via: http://o.izziezahorian.com/post/34689817844/tibor-kalman-on-what-is-said ]
tiborkalman  whatmatters  design  language  communication  gamechanging  change  meaning  cv  economics  purpose  graphdesign  1996  resistance 
september 2013 by robertogreco
SFMOMA | OPEN SPACE » A Meditation on Space (in Four Parts)
"…architecture school didn’t teach me…much about behavior, and how that behavior can activate and transform the spaces we design. Natalia Ilyin makes the following comment in her wonderful meditation on Modernism, Chasing the Perfect:

"As designers, we have been taught to love the object, love the completedness of the finished masterpiece. But because we have paid so much attention to the outsides of things, we have forgotten the insides.""

"We worked hard and did some decent studio work, but what really mattered is that we knew when to blow it all off. To fuck around and experience life, because life is where all the good ideas come from anyway."
We create devices that distract people from thinking, from working through the fear that accompanies real thinking, from coming out the other side. We help to make people believe they can’t live without movement, communication, distraction. We teach them the exact opposite of truth.
—Natalia Ilyin, Chasing the Perfect

Currently, digital technology is too often the tail that wags the design (and often art) dog, and I worry that it’s distracting us from, rather than connecting us to, what is meaningful. Ilyin is talking about design more generally, but her words are absolutely applicable to today’s digitally saturated context. Not everything needs to be mediated by technology or be “social” (in the contemporary sense of the word). Instead of the iPad, why can’t the new paradigm for a magazine be a live show that is specifically intended not to be documented (like the popular Pop Up Magazine events)? Instead of a Kindle, why can’t the new paradigm for reading a book be a live performance by actors on a stage (as in the play, Gatz!)? Instead of Facebook, why not create a restaurant to connect, engage, and educate a struggling rural community (as the Pie Lab project in Greensboro, Alabama did)?

"Instead of listening to a museum audio tour, why not discover art unencumbered by commentary? Instead of viewing art online, why not live with it in your own house? Or within the—gasp—four white walls of a gallery? Sounds downright radical, no? If it seems as if I am reneging on my earlier anti-white wall gallery stance, I am. New technology has dramatically changed the context of the white cube, and as designers we need to be aware of the increasingly distraction-filled environments people are coming from when they enter the art spaces we help articulate."
I have nothing to say and I am saying it and that is poetry. We need not fear these silences. We may love them.
—John Cage, Silence, 1961
digital  johncage  pielab  marinaabramoviç  tinosehgal  markhansen  benrubin  johnbaldessari  experience  communication  socialmedia  2012  sfmoma  participatory  paticipation  jochengerz  esthergerz  shimonattie  tiborkalman  rigo23  society  jasonbrenner  jaquestati  morphosis  johndewey  nataliailyin  galleries  museums  graphicdesign  design  art  glvo  life  architecture  ericheiman  ncm  participatoryart 
july 2012 by robertogreco
An Essay by Tibor Kalman » Changethethought™ ["FUCK COMMITTEES (I believe in lunatics)"]
"FUCK COMMITTEES
(I believe in lunatics)

It’s about the struggle between individuals with jagged passion in their work and today’s faceless corporate committees, which claim to understand the needs of the mass audience, and are removing the idiosyncrasies, polishing the jags, creating a thought-free, passion-free, cultural mush that will not be hated nor loved by anyone. By now, virtually all media, architecture, product and graphic design have been freed from ideas, individual passion, and have been relegated to a role of corporate servitude, carrying out corporate strategies and increasing stock prices. Creative people are now working for the bottom line.

Magazine editors have lost their editorial independence, and work for committees of publishers (who work for committees of advertisers). TV scripts are vetted by producers, advertisers, lawyers, research specialists, layers and layers of paid executives who determine whether the scripts are dumb enough to amuse what they call the ‘lowest common denominator’. Film studios out films in front of focus groups to determine whether an ending will please target audiences. All cars look the same. Architectural decisions are made by accountants. Ads are stupid. Theater is dead.

Corporations have become the sole arbiters of cultural ideas and taste in America. Our culture is corporate culture.

Culture used to be the opposite of commerce, not a fast track to ‘content’- derived riches. Not so long ago captains of industry (no angels in the way they acquired wealth) thought that part of their responsibility was to use their millions to support culture. Carnegie built libraries, Rockefeller built art museums, Ford created his global foundation. What do we now get from our billionaires? Gates? Or Eisner? Or Redstone? Sales pitches. Junk mail. Meanwhile, creative people have their work reduced to ‘content’ or ‘intellectual property’. Magazines and films become ‘delivery systems’ for product messages.

But to be fair, the above is only 99 percent true.

I offer a modest solution: Find the cracks in the wall. There are a very few lunatic entrepreneurs who will understand that culture and design are not about fatter wallets, but about creating a future. They will understand that wealth is means, not an end. Under other circumstances they may have turned out to be like you, creative lunatics. Believe me, they’re there and when you find them, treat them well and use their money to change the world."

Tibor Kalman
New York
June 1998
tiborkalman  culture  creativity  money  corporatism  wealth  idiosyncracy  lunatics  passion  unschooling  deschooling  art  design  architecture  1998  iconoclasm  cv  radicals  yearoff  gamechanging  lcproject  alternative  resistance 
july 2011 by robertogreco
Does a strict upbringing make you a better designer?: Observatory: Design Observer
Coment from pboy: "Oh, barf! Even the Tiger Mom has expressed some ambiguity about the outcomes of her parenting philosophy, but to use the current craze over her as the excuse for yet another reification of the moldy-oldie of graphic design 'Modernism' is just pathetic. Beirut was lucky to have experienced the Kalman corrective to Vignelli's moribund fake discipline. ... romanticize the intolerant and didactic daddies all you want, it's the generation that finally walked away from what had devolved into a rigid and phony stance that let the 'discipline' grow. And that includes Beirut, even if he's too traumatized by his own experience with tough love to be able to recognize it, or to be able admit more clearly, and without the unnecessary flattery to Vignelli, that he learned to think for himself, and move on."
design  typography  modernism  michaelbierut  via:migurski  parenting  amychua  rigidity  graphicdesign  massimovignelli  authoritarianism  creativity  criticalthinking  toughlove  teaching  education  learning  identity  unschooling  deschooling  discipline  tiborkalman  rules  constraints 
february 2011 by robertogreco
Locating over your head - Bobulate
"Alexander Isley on going to work for Tibor Kalman:

"It’s really important to be in over your head, to put yourself in a position where you’re in over your head — whether you’re a designer or just a human being. To be challenged. Because you know what? After a couple of weeks of being completely terrified, you’re on top of it, and you can do it. (8:00)""
alexanderisley  tiborkalman  cv  tcsnmy  learning  design  growth  work  howwework  howwelearn  lizdanzico 
december 2010 by robertogreco
Core77 - Asking the beautiful question: design and engineering
"As anyone who has ever tinkered with an old BMW engine or looked out on to the wing of a jet can attest, pure response to engineering requirements can sometimes deliver just as much pleasure as a more intentionally aesthetic design process."
design  engineering  architecture  princeramus  tiborkalman  peterrice  karriejacobs  hyper-rationality  creativity  process  howwework 
november 2007 by robertogreco
TED | Talks | Maira Kalman: The illustrated woman (video)
"talks about her life and work -- from her New Yorker covers to her children's books to her two latest books for grownups. And yes, in person, she is as wonderful, as wise, and as deliciously off-kilter as her work."
mairakalman  illustration  ted  creativity  life  tiborkalman  storytelling  glvo  children  kids  books  writing 
october 2007 by robertogreco

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