show

Jessica Helfand
Howard Paine: 1929–2014
09.22.14

Remembering Howard Paine, National Geographic art director and stamp designer extraordinaire

Rick Poynor
Posters by Hans Hillmann for Jean-Luc Godard’s Films
09.16.14

Rick Poynor looks at the work of a master of cinematic graphic design

Steven Heller
A Memory of Mickey
09.04.14

Steven Heller remembers Mildred Friedman, who passed away late Wednesday.

Elizabeth Guffey
Deborah Sussman: Los Angeles Design Pioneer
08.21.14

Remebering her rise and influence as a woman working in the male-dominated world of postwar design.

The Editors
Everything We’ve Written About Paul Rand*
Jessica Helfand
Logocentrism
Steven Heller
User-Friendly Paul Rand
08.13.14

Paul Rand did not coin the term “user-friendly.” He would have hated its trendy sound.

Franc Nunoo-Quarcoo
The Rand House: A House to Work and Live In
08.12.14

While not a large house, it felt just right, as if it had been made to measure for every interaction and every function.

Michael Bierut
Thoughts on “Thoughts on Design”
08.11.14

On Paul Rand’s 96-page masterpiece, “Thoughts on Design.”

The Editors
Paul Rand : Observer Emeritus
Jan Almquist
Perceiving Deeply
07.10.14

On Teaching to See, A film by Andrei Severny; produced by Edward Tufte.

Justin Zhuang
East and West: Graphic Design in Singapore Today
Jennifer Kabat
Exhibition as Inquiry: An Interview with Kieran Long
07.03.14

Guns, shoes and cheap jeans: Kieran Long has added all of these to the Victoria & Albert Museum’s permanent collection.

Rob Walker
Danger, Nostalgia, and Playgrounds
Debbie Millman
Steven Heller
Observed
Celebrate Design
04.23.14

In case you haven't heard, AIGA celebrates its Centennial this year.

Alexandra Lange
Lucia Eames, 1930-2014
04.08.14

An appreciation of Lucia Eames (1930-2014).

Brigette Brown
Brigette Brown on Umbrellas
04.04.14

On this episode of Insights Per Minute Brigette Brown wonders why, despite its wonderful history, we only consider the umbrella utilitarian.

Observed
Shape: A Film About Design
04.04.14

Shape is a short film that is part of MakeShapeChange , a project aimed at young people to get them thinking about how the world is made around them and where design fits in.

Bryn Smith
De Vinne at the Grolier Club in New York
04.02.14

A review of the Grolier Club’s quiet, yet noteworthy exhibition, “The Dean of American Printers: Theodore Low De Vinne and The Art Preservative of All Arts”.

Observed
Inge Druckrey + Sister Corita Kent on Film
Observed
The Hilda Stories
03.25.14

In a new video series from Herman Miller, Hilda Longinotti, George Nelson’s longtime aide-de-camp, recounts some of the greatest anecdotes from her 21-year run at the legendary New York City design atelier.

John Foster
The World of Tomorrow in 1939
03.23.14

Seventy-five years ago this April, the 1939 New York World’s Fair, “Building the World of Tomorrow”, opened to the public in Flushing Meadows, NY.

Observed
Designed by: Lella Vignelli
03.20.14

To celebrate 50 years of their partnership, Massimo Vignelli published a book of the work of his partner and wife, Lella.

Observed
Susan S. Szenasy with Debbie Millman at The Museum of Arts and Design
03.19.14

Thursday, March 20th Susan S. Szenasy will talk with Debbie Millman at The Museum of Arts and Design about her distinguished career as a design critic, journalist and educator.

Observed
Employee ID Badges
03.17.14

A deeper look into WWII era employee ID badges.

Alexandra Lange
Not Afraid of Noise: Mexico City Stories
03.06.14

A photographic tour of Mexico City, house by house, wall by wall.

Observed
History of Visual Communication
Observed
Design Issues Covers
02.24.14

MIT Press has posted a gallery of Design Issues covers from 1984-present on Pinterest.

Alexandra Lange
Premature Demolition
02.11.14

The Folk Art Museum, David Adjaye's market hall, and the first addition to the Morgan Library. If three makes a trend, then premature demolition qualifies.

Observed
Craft, Art + Design Oral History Project
02.04.14

The Bard Graduate Center Craft, Art & Design Oral History Project is admirably ambitious.

John Foster
Nineteenth Century Menu Covers
Alexandra Lange
Criticism = Love
Tarpley Hitt
Speaking Typography: Letter as Image as Sound
Alexandra Lange
Playing With Design: Fredun Shapur
01.14.14

Add Fredun Shapur to the pantheon of modern designers making winning and sculptural objects for children.

Owen Edwards
For Better or Worse, This Design Endures
01.02.14

Owen Edwards on the enduring qualities of the AK-47.

Alexandra Lange
Year of the Women
Alexandra Lange
L.A. Loves Deborah Sussman
11.08.13

A Kickstarter for an upcming exhibition on the wotk of Deborah Sussman in Los Angeles.

Chris Pullman
Remembering Alvin Eisenman
10.24.13

Alvin Eisenman received the AIGA Medal in October, 1991. Chris Pullman, a student in Eisenman's class of 1966 — and a member of the faculty ever since — gave these remarks at the event.

Alexandra Lange
MoMA’s Modern Women
Teddy Blanks, and Andrew Sloat
Design Observer: Ten Years
10.11.13

A short film from Teddy Blanks and Andrew Sloat celebrating the last ten years of Design Observer.

Observed
Design Is One
10.08.13

Opening Friday at the IFC center: Design is One — Lella and Massimo Vignelli.

Alexandra Lange
Mariana Griswold Van Rensselaer, Freelancer
Alexandra Lange
Learning New Tricks
Rick Poynor
Bohumil Stepan’s Gallery of Erotic Humor
09.07.13

Mapp Editions has released a digital version of Bohumil Stepan’s Galerie (1968), a surreal collection of collages and drawings about the relationship between the sexes.

Alexandra Lange
A World of Paste and Paper
08.30.13

Today's obsession with digital renderings sparked two exhibitions that suggest a handmade, but far from quaint, corrective.

Rick Poynor
Soft Machine’s Dysfunctional Mechanism
Alexandra Lange
Nevermind the Masterpiece
07.23.13

What's your "Masterpiece of Everyday New York"? A broken umbrella? A shirtwaist? Discarded gum?

Observed
Jan van Toorn
07.09.13

A video profile of Jan van Toorn, from the series "Dutch Profiles: Design, Fashion, Architecture".

Alexandra Lange
How To Unforget
07.08.13

The straightforward logic of “A Handbook of California Design” makes it the first step in unforgetting two generations of makers.

Alexandra Lange
An ABC of the ABCs
07.01.13

Were you a child? Did you read books? Then the NYPL's "ABC of It" serves as a portal back in time.

John Foster
An Archive of Czech Film Posters
Michael Bierut
50 Books/50 Covers 2012 Winners Announced
06.26.13

Continuing a tradition that dates back to 1922, we are pleased to announce the winners of the 2012 Fifty Books/Fifty Covers show.

Alexandra Lange
Every Little Thing
Alexandra Lange
Praise the Partner(s)
John Foster
A Philatelist’s Dream
Alexandra Lange
The Fork and the World: Design 101
John Foster
Chinese Propaganda Posters
05.26.13

Accidental Mysteries for May 26, 2013 focuses on vintage Chinese propaganda posters.

Alexandra Lange
Dream Weaver
Observed
Michigan Modern: Design that Shaped America
05.15.13

Michigan was an epicenter of modern design in postwar America, this summer the story will be told through a symposium at the Cranbrook Educational Community and an exhibition at the Cranbrook Art Museum.

Rick Poynor
The Conceptual Posters of Boris Bucan
Alexandra Lange
Anxiety, Culture and Commerce
Observed
Circus Poster Archive
05.14.13

Circusmuseum.nl, is "the ultimate image bank" of circus posters, photos and prints — with nearly eight thousand circus posters from 1880 to the present, from the Netherlands to America.

John Foster
Enjoying TypeToy
05.05.13

This week's Accidental Mysteries highlights the blog TypeToy — an online collection of mid-century design and typography created by Aaron Eiland.

Rick Poynor
On the Trail of The Eater of Darkness
Alexandra Lange
Beyond Gorgeous
04.24.13

Is prettiness a distraction? Yes, when it comes to taking Alexander Girard seriously.

John Foster
The Deep Roots of Modernism
04.21.13

Accidental Mysteries for April 21, 2013 focuses on the Deep Roots of Modernism.

Alexandra Lange
Portlandia + Timelessness
04.03.13

No better place to consider what looks timeless now than downtown Portland.

Rick Poynor
Utopian Image: Politics and Posters
Alexandra Lange
After the Museum: The Tumblr
03.07.13

To create metamuseum.tumblr.com, a multi-museum, multi-curator Tumblr @MADMuseum, I saw it as a kind of curatorial game: Show Me What You’ve Got.

Mark Lamster
Inventing the Modern Library
03.05.13

A new exhibition of Henri Labrouste, the French architect who invented the modern library.

Observed
London Transport Museum Poster Colletion
02.20.13

A wonderful way to spend an hour (or more). The poster collection from the London Transport Museum.

Rick Poynor
A Dictionary of Surrealism and the Graphic Image
Rick Poynor
Socialism and Modernity: A Hidden History
Alexandra Lange
Kicked A Building Lately?
01.08.13

That question, the title of the 1976 collection of Ada Louise Huxtable’s work for the New York Times, embodies her approach to criticism.

Alexandra Lange
George Nelson in Two Dimensions
Alexandra Lange
Bad Taste True Confessions: Erté
12.19.12

True confessions about my own bad taste. I loved Erté. Did you?

Observed
Happy Holidays from Robert Frost
12.17.12

A brief history of the collaboration between Robert Frost and Joseph Blumenthal as well as many top woodcut and engraving artists of the day.

Alexandra Lange
Reintroducing the Tilletts
12.03.12

If you are interested in textile design, mid-century style, or creative partnerships, I would urge you to go visit “The World of D.D. and Leslie Tillett” at the Museum of the City of New York.

Mark Lamster
The Other Ezra Stoller
Leonard Koren
Making WET: The Magazine of Gourmet Bathing
Alexandra Lange
“I Have Seen the Future”: Designer as Showman
Alexandra Lange
Dot Supreme
Louise Sandhaus
Merle Armitage: Daddy of a Sunbaked Modernism
Alexandra Lange
Shopping With Sandro, and Other Tumblr Delights
10.14.12

Digitizing the Miller House Collection, and other museum and corporate visual archives on Tumblr.

Alexandra Lange
Having Fun at the Museum
10.08.12

Blocks, rocket ships, playgrounds and balls: the hidden meaning of playthings at the Museum of Modern Art.

Alexandra Lange
Let’s Talk About Women in Architecture
09.27.12

A panel on Women in Design, and questions about whether such panels should exist.

Alexandra Lange
Art Matters to Architecture
08.28.12

In Indianapolis, a restored Milton Glaser mural allows us to see its Brutalist home as its architect intended: with color!

Rick Poynor
Sending Signals about Political Graphics
Rick Poynor
Pierre Faucheux and Le Livre de Poche
The Editors
50 Books/50 Covers Competition: Enter Today
07.15.12

Since 1924, the 50 Books/50 Covers book design competition has been a yearly mainstay of the AIGA. We are pleased to announce that this important design competition is now being hosted by Design Observer. Enter today.

Rick Poynor
Updating the Maps of Graphic Design History
06.18.12

Graphic Design: History in the Writing is a heartening sign that graphic design history is attracting a new generation.

Alexandra Lange
The Charismatic Megafauna of Design
Rick Poynor
On My Shelf: A History of the Machine
06.07.12

Erik Nitsche’s New Illustrated Library of Science and Invention is a landmark of modern, low-cost, mass-market, educational book design.

Michael Bierut
I Love the 80s
06.04.12

Miami Vice: the quintessential postmodern design artifact, in all its glory and all its disgrace.

Rick Poynor
Jan van Toorn: The World in a Calendar
05.23.12

Jan van Toorn’s provocative 1972/73 calendar for the printer Mart.Spruijt has been reprinted by a Dutch design company.

Alexandra Lange
The Mother of Us All
05.11.12

Reyner Banham on Esther McCoy: "She speaks as she finds, with sympathy and honesty, and relevantly to the matter at hand." Could there be a better definition of the role of the critic?

The Editors, and OBlog
Unusual Suspects: A New Series
05.09.12

Edited by Andrew Blauvelt and William Drenttel, Design Observer is beginning new design history series titled Unusual Suspects.

Observed
The Visual Language of Herbert Matter
05.02.12

Known as a quintessential designer's designer, Swiss born Herbert Matter is largely credited with expanding the use of photography as a design tool and bringing the semantics of fine art into the realm of applied arts.

Alexandra Lange
Carlo Scarpa, Quilter
04.17.12

Olivetti and Doges: How Carlo Scarpa updated the Venetian treasure chest.

Rick Poynor
The Enduring Influence of Richard Hollis
Alexandra Lange
Frank Lloyd Wright + Katniss Everdeen
Jessica Helfand
Ezra Winter Project: Chapter Three
03.31.12

In his first post-Academy professional pursuit, Ezra Winter is hired to design camouflage for the United States Shipping Board, using a reductive visual vocabulary of bold stripes and patches of solid color that is far closer to the language of Klee and Kandinsky than of the Renaissance masters he loves.

Alexandra Lange
‘Deco Japan’ + Designing Women
03.26.12

The Japan Society's new exhibition
"Deco Japan: Shaping Art and Culture, 1920-1945" displays the surprising globalism of this little-known period in Japanese design, when pent-up post-1923-earthquake desires for new goods and new traditions met up with a new openness to Western arts and the rise of industrialization
Rick Poynor
Motif Magazine: The World Made Visible
03.02.12

Motif magazine, founded in 1958, anticipated a new way of seeing, documenting and appreciating the “visible world.”

Alexandra Lange
Round Thermostats and Crystal Lanterns, Revisited
Alexandra Lange
A Memorial to (Random Access) Memory
01.17.12

What does "RAMAC Park" mean to you?

James Biber
Vestige(s) of Empire
01.05.12

Comparing the repurposing of two monuments to lost Empire: London's Commonwealth Institute and Berlin's Palast der Republik.

Rick Poynor
On My Shelf: Jean-Luc Godard Anthologized
01.01.12

Lawrence Ratzkin’s cover design for an early anthology about Jean-Luc Godard is almost an anti-cover.

Alexandra Lange
Girard the Magnificent
12.22.11

Is it enough to be gorgeous? If so, Todd Oldham and Keira Coffee's 15-pound Alexander Girard wins Book of the Year.

Alexandra Lange
Reinventing the Thermostat
12.14.11

What the designer of the new Nest thermostat didn't learn from Henry Dreyfuss.

Eugenia Bell
Eliot Noyes
12.12.11

Eliot Noyes' under-recognized reputation deserves appreciation.

Alexandra Lange
When Modernists Get Crafty
Alexandra Lange
Cooking with the Eameses
12.01.11

A new book chronicles one family's life with nine pieces of Eames.

Alexandra Lange
Decorating Brutalism: The Interiors of Kevin Roche
Owen Edwards
A Demanding Man: Steve Jobs
10.27.11

Steve Jobs was more like a great architect than a corporate CEO. Yet, there are those who ask, "Isn't the ultimate measure of a human being the way they treat other people?" In the case of Steve Jobs, this requires some reflection.

William Drenttel
National Design Award Trophy
10.20.11

In October 2011, Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum unveiled a new trophy for the National Design Awards. Originally designed as an asterisk in silicon carbide by Winterhouse in 2000, the new glass trophy is by Corning GlassLab.

Alexandra Lange
TWA: Still Kicking
10.19.11

Not a disappointment: a first thrilling visit to Eero Saarinen's legendary flight center.

Rick Poynor
Did We Ever Stop Being Postmodern?
10.16.11

Like it or not, argues the V&A's exhibition about postmodernism and design, we are all postmodern now.

Rick Poynor
Jan Svankmajer and the Graphic Uncanny
09.22.11

Uncanny: Surrealism and Graphic Design opens at the Kunstal in Rotterdam on September 24.

Alexandra Lange
Thinking in Tumblr
Alexandra Lange
Reading in Public
08.10.11

A new book club with an unusual topic: architecture and design.

Rick Poynor
Andrzej Klimowski: Transmitting the Image
07.27.11

Andrzej Klimowski, author of a new book, On Illustration, has used the medium to create a compelling alternative reality.

Alexandra Lange
Making Dieter Rams
Rick Poynor
The House That Design Journalism Built
Alexandra Lange
Welcome to the Hall of Femmes
Rick Poynor
Speculative Fiction, Speculative Design
06.28.11

The cover of England Swings SF is one of those prescient imaginative leaps that vaulted so far it disappeared from the historical record.

Alexandra Lange
Let’s Go! World’s Fairs of the 1930s
06.15.11

"Designing Tomorrow" at the National Building Museum showcases the optimisim, futurism and dreamy design ideas of the 1930s.

Julie Lasky
Chandigarh to Create Inventory of Corbu/Jeanneret Furniture
05.10.11

A committee convened by the government of Chandigarh, India, is assessing the value of site-specific furniture pieces designed by Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret a half-century ago.

Rick Poynor
Books Every Graphic Designer Should Read
Rick Poynor
Paul Stiff, the Reader’s Champion
05.07.11

For the late Paul Stiff, design educator, writer, editor and skeptic, typography must never neglect to serve the reader.

Steven Heller
Paul Rand, Painter
Alexandra Lange
In T: High Fiber
04.29.11

"Knoll Textiles, 1945-2010" opens new territory in midcentury design – upholstery – and shows us more than a few new female designers.

Ernest Beck
Hard Times for Hard Copy
04.25.11

Why AIGA almost scuttled its most venerable design competition: 50 Books/50 Cover.

Alexandra Lange
Making the Modern House Home
04.11.11

The Miller House, designed by Saarinen, Roche, Girard and Kiley, has been largely out of sight to the design world since its publication in House & Garden in 1959. Until now that is...

Rick Poynor
Starowieyski’s Graphic Universe of Excess
Phil Patton
On the Shoulders of Rebels
04.04.11

On the rocket-propelled grenade: one of the most successful designs on the planet.

Rick Poynor
Wim Crouwel: The Ghost in the Machine
04.01.11

Far from suppressing his own creative personality in the way he advised, Wim Crouwel was expressing it to the full.

Julie Lasky
Chandigarh on the Block
03.28.11

Furnishings designed for Corbusier's urban masterpiece are being sold at auction. How outraged should we be?

Rick Poynor
An Unknown Master of Poster Design
03.25.11

Karel Teissig might just be the best poster designer you have never heard of.

Alexandra Lange
Something Old, Something Green
Steven Heller
Hitler’s Poster Handbook
Alexandra Lange
Objects Fall From the Sky
01.27.11

What's more important: crediting a designer or the designer credited?

Chappell Ellison
Ultraflo: Plumbing of the Future
Mark Lamster
Gerd Arntz: Design Icon
01.20.11

Gerd Arntz: A design icon who designed icons.

Alexandra Lange
How Do You Solve a Problem Like the Eameses?
01.17.11

Alexandra Lange reviews the book The Story of Eames Furniture, by Marilyn Neuhart with John Neuhart (Gestalten, 2010).

Rick Poynor
In Praise of the East European Film Poster
Debbie Millman
Alexandra Lange + Jane Thompson
12.10.10

Alexandra Lange and Jane Thompson discuss the power of imagination, Marimekko, Sir Lady Jane and Benjamin Thompson.

Steven Heller, and Elaine Lustig Cohen
Designer as Author
12.07.10

In 1954, Alvin Lustig gave a lecture titled “What Is a Designer?” at the Advertising Typographers Association of America. It was his first speech after he lost his eyesight.

Alexandra Lange
Little Boxes
Alexandra Lange
Networks Before the Internet
Michael Bierut
Art Directors Club: 2010 Hall of Fame
Rick Poynor
Design Writing from Down Under
11.05.10

A new issue of The National Grid arrives in the mail. You’ve never seen it? You are missing a treat.

Alexandra Lange
This is A Thrill...
09.29.10

Design Research reviewed in the New York Times.

Alexandra Lange
Yummy!
09.28.10

I thoroughly enjoyed the exhibition
Appetite, curated by Alexander Tochilovsky at the Herb Lubalin Center at Cooper Union, not least because it was bite-sized.
Alexandra Lange
The Still-Expanding Airport
09.21.10

In 1958, after some failed attempts by the Saarinen office to make a stop-motion film of their model for Dulles Airport, Eero Saarinen called upon his old friend Charles Eames to help him out.

Joshua Glenn
The "X" Factor
09.20.10

A slideshow features fifteen of Joshua Glenn's favorite Cold War-era "X" paperbacks.

Steven Heller
Heller on Heller
09.17.10

Vignelli Celebration: Steven Heller talks about the redemptive qualities of having the same name as Vignelli's Hellerware.

Jessica Helfand
The Kindness of Strangers
09.16.10

Vignelli Celebration: If charity begins at home, how can we proclaim new and progressive agendas of social change without examining ourselves, our students, our profession?

Michael Bierut
Dot Zero
Steven Heller
Vignelli’s Herald (or Heralding Vignelli)
09.15.10

Vignelli Celebration: Steven Heller remembers the Herald.

Michael Bierut
Mr. Vignelli’s Map
09.14.10

Vignelli Celebration: Massimo Vignelli's 1972 New York City subway map is a beautiful example of information design that was ultimately rejected by its users.

Michael Bierut
Lella Vignelli
09.13.10

In my ten years at Vignelli Associates, I came to understand the relationship between the two brilliant designers who ran the office. Massimo would tend to play the role of idea generator. Lella served as the critic, editing the ideas and shaping the best ones to fit the solution.

Debbie Millman
Interview with Massimo Vignelli
09.13.10

Vignelli Celebration: Debbie Millman interviews Massimo Vignelli.

AIGA
Lella and Massimo Vignelli: The 1982 AIGA Medal
09.12.10

Vignelli Celebration: In 1982 Massimo and Lella received the AIGA Medal for their many contributions to the design world, here is an article which originally appeared in the 1983 issue of AIGA Graphic Design USA 4.

The Editors
Lella and Massimo Vignelli: A Celebration
09.12.10

Vignelli Celebration: The opening and dedication of the Vignelli Center for Design Studies, set to open September 16, 2010 at Rochester Institute of Technology.

Alexandra Lange
Make It Bigger
09.10.10

Anthropologie, the latest tenant of the Design Research Headquarters, simply doesn't get it.

Jessica Helfand
In the Palm of Your Hand: Dexterity Puzzles
08.23.10

A selection of rare dexterity puzzles from the personal collection of Jessica Helfand.

Alexandra Lange
When Shopping Was Sociable
08.15.10

Design Research and Apple, a comparison of the two stores that have brought design to the masses.

Alexandra Lange
NYT Opinionator: Easier Living Through Design
07.24.10

The easier living the Wrights described — both in the book and their lines of domestic products — was revolutionary.

Constantin Boym
Teaching in a Time of Uncertainty
07.12.10

Meditation on the doubt creeping into today's design practice.

Alexandra Lange
Make Me A Mini Monograph
06.14.10

The thing I found most depressing was the sense I got that one could only write a book about designers that were already famous.

Alexandra Lange
Pomo Time Machine
06.10.10

I’m writing more about
Warren Platner, my favorite terribly wonderful or wonderfully terrible architect.
Azby Brown
Bent by the Sun
03.29.10

What a longtime American-born resident of Japan has learned about his adopted country's ancient practice of sustainability.

Alexandra Lange
Suburban Design
01.25.10

Lester Beall, was always my favorite of the cadre of mid-century corporate identity designers for the color, energy and sheer American-ness of his design.

Alexandra Lange
Hands-On: The Gropius Touch
01.20.10

I couldn’t believe no one else had noticed that Ati Gropius Johansen was coming to the MoMA, and it seemed like a piece of history.

Michael Bierut
Designing the Unthinkable
01.12.10

For more than fifty years, there have been arguments against nuclear proliferation. The Doomsday Clock translates all the arguments to a simple visual analogy.

Alexandra Lange
On DO: Skating on the Edge of Taste
01.07.10

The American Restaurant in Kansas City, designed by Warren Platner, is subject of a long essay on that architect and interior designer’s career.
Mark Lamster
Ralph Rapson: Forgotten Hero of Design Merch
01.06.10

If you're familiar with Cambridge, or just Harvard Square, you probably know Ben Thompson's wonderful Design Research building, now celebrating its 40th anniversary.

Steven Heller
Harsh Words from T.M. Cleland
12.14.09

Design criticism may be comparatively new, but critical designers are not.

Alexandra Lange
DWR = D/R?
12.02.09

Like D/R in the late 1970s, DWR is suffering from over-expansion, loss of specialness, and the lack of a leader with personal design vision.

Alexandra Lange
This Is Just To Say
11.25.09

From the Florence Knoll Bassett papers: congratulations on their marriage from Ray and Charles.

Alexandra Lange
Love & Architecture
11.12.09

My somewhat racy, somewhat serious take on one of the first architecture power couples, Aline and Eero Saarinen

Alexandra Lange
Back to School
11.04.09

If you stand in a certain spot in the second room of the MoMA’s new exhibition Bauhaus 1919-1933: Workshops for Modernity you can see Marcel Breuer becoming modern.

Alexandra Lange
Bauhaus + Betsy
11.02.09

New York Magazine covers two of my favorite topics: the Bauhaus and Betsy-Tacy books.

Alexandra Lange
D/R Love
10.28.09

There is much online excitement about the D/R exhibition, opening tomorrow.

Jessica Helfand
All Things Matter
Alexandra Lange
Love & Architecture
10.22.09

When Aline met Eero in January 1953, she was the associate art editor and critic for the New York Times. A little over a year later she would become Aline B. Saarinen.

Mark Lamster
Peter Paul Rubens: Graphic Designer
10.19.09

In his day, Rubens was also revered as a diplomat, an architect, a classical scholar, and even a graphic designer.

Steven Heller
Ramparts: Agent of Change
10.14.09

Ramparts magazine has been dead for almost two decades, but to look back at it, it stands out as one to remember.

Alexandra Lange
D/R Rising
09.28.09

Jane Thompson, Ben Thompson’s widow and former partner, has organized an installation with a number of former D/R employees.

Alexandra Lange
Lost Research
09.26.09

My nostalgia for box numbers and call slips was provoked by the news in yesterday’s Times that years of files from industrial designer Gilbert Rohde’s office were found in an unpaid storage unit,

Alexandra Lange
Nothing Runs Like A...
09.21.09

A note about Deere & Company’s foray into the consumer market.

John Emerson
Pressed into Service
09.03.09

Interview with Lincoln Cushing, co-author of Agitate! Educate! Organize!: American Labor Posters.

Ars Libri Ltd
Hungarian Rhapsody
07.29.09

This collection is the record of the immensely productive life of György Kepes.

Steven Heller
A Good Trademark: A Historical Perspective
07.29.09

Textile Brand Names Dictionary, included were more than 4,000 names of fibers, yarns, fabrics, and garments registered with the United States Patent Office between 1934 and 1947.
Angela Riechers
Hot Ticket
05.28.09

To see a play or movie, or ride the Twentieth Century Limited, you needed a ticket, and the development of ticket-dispensing machines paralleled the growth of popular culture.

Steven Heller
How Much Is That Artifact in the Window?
05.12.09

Many of us have bought design objects for pleasure and / or scholarship. We’ve paid varying amounts — high and low. But what or who determines the value of a design artifact?

Lorraine Wild
Will Burtin: Design and Science
04.15.09

Will Burtin’s story is presented in Design and Science: The Life and Work of Will Burtin. Like all of the emigré “pioneers,” Burtin brought an amazing amount of talent and energy (along with plain old ambition) to his modernist approach.

Mark Lamster
Thomas Jefferson: (Henpecked) Jewish President
04.08.09

That Thomas Jefferson had an African-American lover is by now common knowledge. Few, however, realize he had a Jewish grandmother, a fact too often neglected by chauvinistic historians.

Gabrielle Esperdy
Less Is More Again — A Manifesto
03.03.09

We have amazing electronic tools at our disposal; culture has modernized at staggering, computer processed speeds. But the tools are abused and cultural change is stupefying. Things are over-designed because new tools must be exploited; here, design says “look what I can do!”

Alexandra Lange
Standard Operating Procedure
03.02.09

From the earliest days of the High Line hoopla, the park’s future was literally entwined with that of Andre Balazs’s first ground-up hotel, the Standard New York. The reason the Standard is so good is that it is a 21st Century mash-up of one of Marcel Breuer’s most destructive ideas and one of Morris Lapidus’s best tweaks of the U.N. model of modernism.

Virginia Smith
Two Dutch Logos
01.05.09

There are so many graphic designers in The Hague that it was a surprise when the city commissioned its logo from Anton Corbijn, a music video and film director.

Andrew Blauvelt
Towards Relational Design
11.03.08

Is there any overarching philosophy or connective thread that joins so many of today’s most interesting and increasingly diverse designs from the fields of architecture, graphic, and product design? I believe we are in the a third major phase in modern design history, moving towards an era dominated by relationally-based design activities.

Jessica Helfand
The Posters of Padua
10.02.08

In the sixteenth century the University of Padua initiated a custom that has prevailed to the present day — a custom which boasts, as it turns out, a very prominent design component.

Steven Heller
Charles Peignot: Man Behind the Faces
10.01.08

This is but one example of Charles Peignot’s influence on type and typography, which made his professional life so important to the history of design...

Thomas de Monchaux
Remembering Yves St. Laurent
09.02.08

So what can we learn from the presence of fashion within design, and of design within fashion? For example, and more precisely, what can we learn from the work of Yves St. Laurent, the iconic French fashion designer who passed away this Summer?

Alice Twemlow
A Look Back at Aspen, 1970
08.28.08

The 1970 International Design Conference at Aspen provided the setting for a collision between two very different conceptions of design. The IDCA board members who organized the conference and a number of art and environmental action groups, many of which where from Berkeley, California and had made the 1,000-odd mile journey to Colorado in chartered buses.

Glen Cummings
Athos Bulcão, The Artist of Brasilia
08.11.08

Athos Bulcão was a public artist, interior designer, muralist, furniture and graphic designer who collaborated with Oscar Niemeyer and others to define Brasilia — one of the 20th century’s most radical and controversially received urban experiments. Bulcão died on July 31 at the age of 90, and left behind an astonishing body of work.

Jessica Helfand
First In A Series: Cartophily
08.07.08

Mostly unified by their one-to-two format, cigarette cards revealed countless variation in topic and scope, style and personality, seriousness of purpose and goofball whimsy. If the ardent collector defines the amalgamation of disparate items by retaining a fundamental organizing principle, then what is it, exactly, that guides the maker? And enthralls the viewer?

Steven Heller
Vanity Fair Type: 1930 Style
07.02.08


Ettore Sottsass
When I Was a Very Small Boy
06.16.08

Ettore Sottsass: "Everything we did was entirely absorbed in the act of doing it, in wanting to do it, and everything we did stayed ultimately inside a single extraordinary sphere of life. The design was life itself, it was the day from dawn till dusk, it was the waiting during the night..."

Rick Poynor, and Adrian Shaughnessy
We Found It at the Movies: Part I
06.16.08

Rick Poynor: Looking back, it’s surprising how long we’d known each other before it emerged that we shared an obsession for film. 
Adrian Shaughnessy: Your obsession with film came as a surprise. Before lending you the Herzog box set I had you tagged as a visual arts man, not a cineaste.

Rick Poynor, and Adrian Shaughnessy
We Found It at the Movies: Part II
06.16.08

The second installment of Rick Poynor and Adrian Shaughnessy’s conversation about film. Can genre movies express a personal vision? Are films blurring into other media? And what’s the state of film culture today?

Steven Heller
Branding Youth in the Totalitarian State
06.05.08

Youth may be wasted on the young, but under the totalitarian state they were not forgotten. For the state to prosper, youth was turned into a sub-brand that both followed and perpetuated the dominant ideology. Graphics played a huge role in making this happen in Germany, Italy and the Soviet Union.

Denise Gonzales Crisp, and Rick Poynor
A Critical View of Graphic Design History
06.02.08

Now comes yet another historical survey, Graphic Design History: A Critical Guide by Johanna Drucker and Emily McVarish. Denise Gonzales Crisp and Rick Poynor have been marking pages, making notes and exchanging views...

Steven Heller
O.H.W. Hadank
05.22.08

Paul Rand held Hadank in the highest esteem because he practiced modernist formal principles even though he did not follow its dogma or style. And most important, as Rand said “Hadank was then and always an original. A profile of O.H.W. Hadank by Steven Heller...

Michael Bierut
Fitting
05.13.08

Charles Brannock only invented one thing in his life: that metal thing in shoe stores that the salesman uses to measure your feet. Is it the most perfect invention of the 20th century?

Jessica Helfand
National Scrapbooking Day
05.03.08

"Scrapbooks (like these) remind us that creating an album from saved matter does not necessarily provide an accurate self-portrait..." An essay by Jessica Helfand from her new book on the occasion of National Scrapbooking Day.

Adam Harrison Levy
The Passion of George Lois
04.22.08

How adman George Lois chronicled the sixties with his cover designs for Esquire magazine, with a peek behind the scenes at the legendary famous Muhammad-Ali-as-St. Sebastian photoshoot.

Steven Heller
Underground Mainstream
04.10.08

Today, designers for mainstream advertising companies, weaned on alternative approaches, have folded the underground into the mainstream and called it cool.

Jessica Helfand
Animal Magnetism
02.14.08

Magazines are the sole industry in which you cannot help but judge a book by its cover.

Steven Heller
Wilhelm Deffke: Modern Mark Maker
01.24.08

The modern corporate logo was born in Germany shortly after the turn of the twentieth century, the direct descendent of burgher crests, coats of arms, trade and factory marks. One of the most prolific of these mark makers is barely recognized in design histories today, except for the occasional footnote. His name is Wilhelm F. Deffke...

Jessica Helfand
Remembering Paul Rand
01.03.08

This essay, a rememberance of Paul Rand, is taken from Michael Kroeger's book, Paul Rand: Conversations with Students, which will be published on January 3 by Princeton Architectural Press.

Michael Bierut
How To Be Ugly
11.11.07

Whether reactionary spasm or irrevocable paradigm shift, the new trend is making design that looks ugly. The trick is to surround it with enough attitude so it will be properly perceived not as the product of everyday incompetence, but rather as evidence of one's attunement with the zeitgeist.

Jessica Helfand
Science and Design: The Next Wave
10.16.07

Scientists probe and manipulate and channel and divide; they split and fuse and spike and engineer; but most of all, they look. As a designer, to spend any time with scientists is to become at once profoundly aware of our similarities and devastated by that which divides us.

Dmitri Siegel
Designers and Dilettantes
09.18.07

Dmitri Siegel discusses graphic design authorship and the impending release of Elliott Earls' new film, The Sarany Motel.

Michael Bierut
Flat, Simple and Funny: The World of Charley Harper
08.16.07

A tribute to the late designer Charley Harper, "the only wildlife artist who has never been compared to Audubon and never will be."

Adrian Shaughnessy
Tony Wilson: The Postmodern Mythmaker
08.14.07

Tony Wilson, founder of Factory records, died August 10. Wilson had many claims to fame: he was a successful television presenter; a music industry impresario of flawed and maverick genius; and he was one of the shrewdest patrons of graphic design there has ever been.

Adrian Shaughnessy
Barnbrook Bible: A Graphic Autobiography
07.30.07

Jonathan Barnbrook's new book, Barnbrook Bible, ranks amongst the most ambitious personal projects undertaken by any graphic designer...

Michael Bierut
Donal McLaughlin’s Little Button
07.25.07

In 1945, architect-turned-graphic-designer Donal McLaughlin designed a lapel pin for a conference in 1945 that became one of the most widely seen symbols in the world: the emblem for the United Nations. Tomorrow is his 100th birthday.

Steven Heller
Leon Friend: One Teacher, Many Apostles
07.21.07

Leon Friend (born in Warsaw in 1902) was a career art teacher at the Abraham Lincoln High School in Brooklyn, New York, with a special passion for what he called graphic design. This is his story and his influence.

William Drenttel
One Man's Literary Compass
07.03.07

It was in 1966 when I returned to San Francisco to re-establish The Greenwood Press. The first thing I did was to build these bookshelves with my young architect friends. These photographs by Dennis Letbetter, forty years later, have captured so beautifully the soul and spirit of Greenwood's library.

Steven Heller
Silas H. Rhodes, Founder of SVA
07.02.07

Silas H. Rhodes, chairman of the School of Visual Arts in New York City, died last Thursday at 91. He was a progressive educator who established a uniquely collaborative learning environment that delicately balanced creative independence with academic rigor.

John Corbett
Sun Ra, Street Priest and Father of D.I.Y. Jazz
06.22.07

Before the 1950s, artist-owned record companies were unheard of, but Sun Ra pioneered the idea along with a couple of other musicians and composers. Sun Ra and Alton Abraham helped define the do-it-yourself ethic that came to be a central part of the American independent music industry, designing and in some cases manufacturing the covers themselves. In the process, they maintained a previously unimaginable degree of control over the look and content of their jazz releases.

Steven Heller
The Nazi Triangle
04.15.07

Somewhere in the bowels of the Third Reich's bureaucracy a designer who belonged to the graphics "culture chamber," the representative, official body that sanctioned Nazi designers, produced the basic templates for these camp materials and then turned them over to skilled inmates to produce.

Dmitri Siegel
The New New Typography
03.29.07

French design duo Vier5 make new typography. The author raises questions about modernism and typography.

Steven Heller
The Other Monocle
02.26.07

Let's look back to another, virtually forgotten but decidedly important, magazine with the very same name — one that published under the motto, "In the land of the blind the one eyed man is king." Monocle.

Jessica Helfand
The Illusion of Certainty
02.19.07

Artist Allan McCollum aspires to an unprecedented scale with this "Shapes" project: his goal is to make enough shapes, assuming a population of approximately 9.1 billion by the year 2050, so that everyone on the planet can have one. Shapes aside, what's truly fascinating is the idea of the system: what is it about them that we hate to love and love to hate?

Debbie Millman
Elliott Earls
02.09.07

On this episode, Debbie interviews designer and performance artist Elliott Earls, designer-in residence at Cranbrook Academy of Art.

Lorraine Wild
Sister Corita: The Juiciest Tomato
01.09.07

In Daniel Berrigan's words, Sister Corita is a "witch of invention." And there is no doubt that at least in those tumultuous years of the 1960s, her powers of invention seemed supernatural, if not divine... Corita's work stands for its sheer graphic invention, the riot of letterforms and color, and the immediacy of its connection to her time and place.

Jessica Helfand
The Not-So-Golden Age of Zero Tolerance
12.15.06

When I was a student, the assignments and their expected outcomes were intentionally conceived as chore-like, specific and frankly, narrow. This was the age of zero tolerance: deviation from a designated format was neither an approved approach nor an acceptable method. Today, the opposite is more likely to be true: a student who does not expand his or her approach to a project is strongly encouraged to do so.

Jessica Helfand
Into the Pink
11.17.06

Co-opting a color and making it your own.

Jessica Helfand
What Makes A Good Poster?
11.08.06

From Nineteenth Century broadsides to Paula Scher's posters for The Public Theatre, the history of the poster is the history of modern civilization. So why are academics so hell-bent on poster board and bad typography? Why don't they ask us for help?

William Drenttel
Silk Road Typography
10.26.06

"This is the Silk Road at its worst: a kind of PC 1990s where each and every interest has to be fairly represented — a letter for every voice. The result is Babel, seven discordant voices singing in the wind." Commentary on new European Union 50th anniversary logo, and a look back at the 100th anniversary logo for the New York Public Library.

William Drenttel
Winterhouse Awards for Design Writing
09.29.06

In partnership with AIGA, we launched the Winterhouse Writing Awards for Design and Criticism, an initiative to increase the appreciation of design — by recognizing new voices in design criticism and commentary. Here are the 2006 recipients.

Jessica Helfand
Annals of Small Town Life: The Logo Stops Here
09.04.06

Working with Florence Knol, Lucille McGinnis convinced her husband, Patrick B. McGinnis, that the New Haven Railroad needed a new logo. Enter Herbert Matter, Swiss-born designer, photographer and Yale professor whose own education was framed by apprenticeships with Cassandre, Leger and Le Corbusier.

Jessica Helfand
The Ovalization of The American Mind
08.20.06

Ovals — emancipated from circular restriction, freed of rectangular rigidity — are a perfect metaphor for the way we live now. They're out of shape and flabby, non-committal and generic — like sensible shoes, practical and monotonous and dull.

William Drenttel
Move It Down . . . A Little to the Right
07.14.06

That some years ago, some poor sign installer went to put the first letter of the name of the museum up on the wall, and someone screamed, "No, you idiot! Lower! Much Lower! Get it down close to the edge. And a quarter-inch to the right." That the building is the Guggenheim Museum, and that the architect was Frank Lloyd Wright, makes this photographic detail especially interesting.

Lorraine Wild
Wassup, Beatrice
07.05.06

I've heard endless definitions and descriptions of graphic design: I can recite them all, and on any given day I can identify with one essentialism over another: e.g., "Today, I'm a conceptualizer." I can even be swayed by the argument that, in fact, we work in a moment when graphic design is devolving as a practice identifiable by any common standards. It makes me think of a woman who I have always found completely annoying in her assuredness — Beatrice Warde.

William Drenttel
The Red Hand : A Graphic History
06.12.06

I keep thinking about the red hand. Where did this graphic metaphor come from? The many uses of the red-hand — it's metaphorically rich and graphic history — remind me that symbols do have meaning. Whatever I think of Congresswoman Nancy Johnson here in northwestern Connecticut, I don't think she got caught red-handed, whether in a cookie jar or pie or pool of blood. This is a bad use of an historical symbol, and trashy politics as well.

Willis Regier
In Remembrance of Richard Eckersley
04.24.06

Richard Eckersley died on April 16, having given the best years of his life to establishing the importance of high-quality book design for university presses. Here, a remembrance by Willis Regier, director of the University of Illinois Press.

Debbie Millman
Art Chantry
03.31.06

Art Chantry works and lives in Seattle where his ideas and personal style branded the look of popular culture, not only in the northwest and its bohemian underground, but also in the pop and alternative culture of the last few decades.  

Jessica Helfand
What We Talk About When We Talk About Design History
02.16.06

At the end of the day, being a design historian means being observant and fearless, stubborn and driven, principled, passionate and anything but lazy. It means going where you have to go to get what you need.

Michael Bierut
Design by Committee
02.12.06

"Design by committee" is usually thought to be a bad thing, but it has produced one great piece of architecture, the United Nations Headquarters Building.

Adrian Shaughnessy
Robert Brownjohn and The Big Idea
01.19.06


Lorraine Wild
Good Font, Shame About The Reporting
01.02.06


Lorraine Wild
Think Regional, Act Annual
11.27.05

Flying from New York to Los Angeles last week, I spent the long hours at 35,000 feet doing something I had not done in years: I read the Print Magazine's "2005 Regional Design Annual" cover to cover. Here are some of the things I learned:

Michael Bierut
The Final Days of AT&T
10.29.05

The acquisition of AT&T by SBC will result in, among other things, the retirement of one of Saul Bass's most well-known logos. Does anyone care?

Rick Poynor
Where Are the Design Critics?
09.25.05

There is no reason why design criticism shouldn’t take an oppositional view of design's instrumental uses and its social role, but few design writers seem motivated to produce this kind of criticism.

Adrian Shaughnessy
Decoding Coldplay's X&Y
06.08.05

At a time when invisible data streams of binary information fed straight to our desktops are doing away with the need for album covers, it's odd to find a record sleeve as the subject of media comment and speculation. Odder still that the album cover in question — Coldplay's X&Y — should contain binary data as its central motif. Prophetic or what? The X&Y cover is agreeably eye-catching. You wouldn't call it a classic, but it has an unexpected severity that lifts it above the anodyne and cosmeticised design currently favoured by multi-platinum selling artists. It has dark echoes of Peter Saville's ephocal Factory covers.

Rick Poynor
Mevis and Van Deursen: Rueful Recollections, Recycled Design
06.03.05

In their self-edited monograph, Dutch graphic designers Mevis and Van Deursen turn their backs on their professed commitment to ideas and treat the book mainly as an opportunity for undemanding aesthetic play.

Lorraine Wild
A Design Annual Captures 1968
05.07.05

The title on the cover of the booklet is "Business as Usual" subtitled "Fourteenth Annual Type Directors Show—Typography Wherever It Exists"... On every spread of the book there are lovely pieces of typography, things most any of us would have been proud to have created, and then an image as brutal as a slap on the face. It was 1968.

Jessica Helfand
Greer Allen: In Memoriam
04.28.05

Designer, critic, pundit and historian, Greer Allen was Senior Critic in Graphic Design at Yale School of Art. He designed publications for The Houghton Library at Harvard, the Beinecke Library at Yale, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, and a number of other distinguished cultural institutions around the country. Greer Allen died last week after a short illness. He was 83.

Michael Bierut
Designing Under the Influence
02.26.05

The similarity of a young designer's work to that of the artist Barbara Kruger provides the starting point for a discussion of the role of influence in design, and whether it is possible for someone to "own" a specific style.

Jessica Helfand
Our Bodies, Our Fonts
02.21.05

Body markings — piercings, tattoos and so forth — have recently evolved into a kind of marginalized form of graphic expression, yet one that sheds an unusual light on some of the more mainstream ways in which design often reveals itself.

Jessica Helfand
The New Paper Chase: Cyberspace on The Auction Block
02.16.05

On February 23,
Christies in New York will auction more than 1,000 items dating as far back as the early 17th century, all of it tracing the history of cyberspace.
Dmitri Siegel
Mysterious Disappearance of Carol Hersee
01.03.05

The story of Carol Hersee's portrait as Test Card F: since it first appeared in 1967 on BBC2, Carol's face has been on-air for over 70,000 hours.

Tom Vanderbilt
Pleasures and Pathos of Industrial Ruins
12.09.04

An account of a visit to the abandoned site of Bethlehem Steel, Pennsylvania.

Jessica Helfand
The Designibles
11.15.04

What's incredible about The Incredibles is the art of design capture. Because when it comes to nailing design, the "Is" have it.

Rick Poynor
Who's In and Who's Out of the Dictionary
11.11.04

A Dictionary of Modern Design gives exemplary treatment to industrial designers, furniture designers, and the organisations that served them. Once again, though, graphic design emerges as the also-ran of design.

Rick Poynor
Fear and Loathing at the Design Museum
10.29.04

James Dyson has accused the Design Museum in London of ruining its reputation with frivolous exhibitions. For many bemused onlookers, his complaints were out of touch with evolving public perceptions of design.

William Drenttel
On Making Things
10.25.04


William Drenttel
Does Aspen Have A Future?
10.09.04


William Drenttel
Penmanship: The Voice of A Future Designer
07.27.04


Rick Poynor
Modernising MoMA: Design on Display
06.06.04

MoMA is broadening its approach to graphic design. Recovering this material history will assist us in understanding our broader cultural history and help to educate a more aware generation of visual communicators.

William Drenttel
Learning from Las Vegas: The Book That (Still) Takes My Breath Away
05.05.04


William Drenttel
El Lissitzky for Pesach
04.10.04


Rick Poynor
Jan van Toorn: Arguing with Visual Means
03.21.04

Jan van Toorn’s designs embody an idea about citizenship. They address viewers as critical, thinking individuals who can be expected to take an informed and skeptical interest in the circumstances of their world.

William Drenttel
Defamiliarization: A Personal History
03.03.04


William Drenttel
Adolf Wölfli Invents Design Brut?
01.05.04

Mr. Gomez has taken your basic 19th-century-madman-artist and turned him into a model 20th century graphic designer.

William Drenttel
Shallow Water Dictionary
12.07.03

A couple of years ago I stumbled across a little out-of-print tract called the Shallow Water Dictionary: A Grounding in Estuary English by John R. Stilgoe, a professor of landscape architecture at Harvard.

William Drenttel
Paul Rand: Bibliography as Biography
09.02.03

This is bibliography as biography, and a posthumous testament to the considerable scope — and ongoing life — of one designer's mind. A Selected Bibliography of Books from the Collection of Paul Rand


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