History

Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Steven Heller
“Design is a profession that has grown out of its stereotypes.”


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Elysia Borowy-Reeder
“Information is everywhere now. We need educated, well-versed curators to make sense of it.”


Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Alexander Tochilovsky
"Reading the imprint of past choices can teach us a lot about how to be a designer today."


Steven Heller
Swastika v. Hammer and Sickle: An Odd Logo Competition
Why is one the symbol of hate while the other is virtually benign?



Lilly Smith
Chain Letters: Sean Adams
The point regarding design history is about documentation. If the work is not documented and disseminated, it disappears.


Steven Heller
Notgeld: Emergency Money in Inflationary Germany
A look at the exemplary artistic quality of emergency substitute paper money created in Germany after WWI.


Steven Heller
Benjamin Sherbow: The First Typographer?
Steven Heller brings us the story of Benjamin Sherbow, who revolutionized typography in the early 20th century.


Steven Heller
Should A Designer Be Judged By Ideology?
Should designers and illustrators be judged harshly for choosing to make art on the wrong side of history?


Justine Jablonska
A Peek Into Poster House
Ten posters from the Poster House collection, selected by Chief Curator Angelina Lippert.


Andre Barnet
The Age of Wreckers and Exterminators
For many people, the sudden appearance of Carson’s and Jacobs’s brilliant and prescient books was one of those moments that seem, in retrospect, to have changed the very order of things.


Steven Heller
Happiness of Chalk Talk
“Drawn lines are simple things in themselves, yet what power of expression in a few of them appropriately combined!”


Steven Heller
Cleaning Up Sanitation
The story of New York City’s Sanitation Department, the vanilla trucks, and the lower case Helvetica.


Lilly Smith
Artifact: 2000 Palm Beach County Ballot
This article is the first in a new and ongoing Design Observer series, Artifact, which takes one piece out of AIGA’s Design Archives and asks a design expert in the topic being observed to reflect on its current impact in the present. This week: Marcia Lausen looks at the 2000 Palm Beach County Ballot.


Jessica Barness
Dancin’ to a New Tune: The Subversive, Entrepreneurial Flexi Disc
The story of the flexi disc vinyl record is an intertwining of manufacturing, form, content, and publication.


Steven Heller
Vignelli’s Subway Map For Little Ones
Massimo Vignelli’s subway map, and the graphic design process, immortalized in new form: a children’s book.


Sean Adams
The Design of Comfort
What I found in the typography of Disneyland was an incredibly dense design solution beyond typography with intentional choices to create a specific experience.


Lincoln Cushing
The Women Behind the Black Panther Party Logo
A tribute to the women who shaped the Black Panther Party Logo.



Steven Heller
Image Captures: Change the Canon
“The challenge was to balance the known while capturing the unknown.” Steven Heller on finding new artifacts on which design can evolve.


Sean Adams
Blinded by The Light
I found the world of black light posters in late 1978, when I was in middle school. At the time, the fluorescent posters represented rebellion and a bad-ass attitude.


Jessica Helfand
Annals of Small Town Life: The Logo Stops Here
Working with Florence Knoll, 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, Léger and Le Corbusier.


Sean Adams
Smiley Smile
“The image we have would be impossible for Mickey Mouse to maintain. We’re just normal people.”


Steven Heller
Bury My Heart On St. Marks Place: A Sixties Memorial
The most influential period of my life happened between 1964 and 1969 (after the election and assassination of John F. Kennedy, and beginning with the Beatles and Dylan), with the revolutions in politics, civil rights, anti-war, feminism, drugs, art, music, and alternative youth culture.


Sean Adams
When the World Was Young
When I started in the profession, I was the youngest such and such for a long time. Somewhere along the line as the generation before me retired or moved on to greener pastures, I became the old guard. This happens to all of us, which is better than being hit by a bus.


Steven Heller
Memory of an Eclectic Modernist: Ivan Chermayeff
Remembering Ivan Chermayeff, who died this past Saturday, December 2. He was 85.


Steven Heller
Nuclear Fear
Remembering the late Robert Blakeley, designer of the fallout shelter symbol, and the nuclear fear of the 50’s.


Michael Bierut
I Love the 80s
Miami Vice: the quintessential postmodern design artifact, in all its glory and all its disgrace.


Steven Heller
Designing for the Masses
The ultimate case for anti-design: The Communist Manifesto


Sean Adams
Hope is The Thing with Feathers
A closer look at NBC’s peacock.


Lilly Smith
Assessing the Past; Looking Toward the Future
How the new AIGA Google Art Project “Across Borders: A Look at the Work of Latinx Designers” revealed insights about archived Latinx work of the past—and clues to its ascendance in the future of design.


Steven Heller
Victims of the Image: Ignobility for the Noble Savage
Native Americans have endured a long legacy of distorted images.


Sean Adams
The Meticulous Bruce Rogers
Classical structure and typography, paired with a modern aesthetic, typified Bruce Rogers work.


Sean Adams
Gateway Drug of Dessau
The typography and graphic design at the Bauhaus represent the most religious allegiance to Modernism. But, it is the photography at the Bauhaus that serves as a gateway drug.


Steven Heller
Reinventing The Holocaust Narrative
Steven Heller on Marina Willer’s new documentary, Red Trees.


Steven Heller
Earnest Elmo Calkins: Founder of Modern Advertising and a Designer You Probably Don’t Know
“It is arguable that without the puritanically raised Calkins, Modern art would never have washed up on American advertising’s shores, creative advertising teams might not have existed, and graphic design would be a different profession today.”


John Foster
An Archive of Czech Film Posters
Real life #TBT: a publicly accessible database with over 6,000 original, vintage posters from all periods of cinema.


Bill Shaffer
Modern Survivor
An enormous, glorious, digital clock: a quintessential expression of the design ethos of the 1960s.


Steven Heller
Victims of the Image: Yellow Peril
Visual hazing in popular art and design of Asians was long maintained for different purposes.


Steven Heller
Victims of the Image: Black Smears
The power of mainstream, routinely accepted, racial and ethnic stereotype images widely published in the United States during the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries did more to foster the stigma of being different than even more venal forms of supremacist rhetoric.


Sean Adams
Manifesto of Surrealism: 3 Tragedies
We pass through our days creating fictions to make sense of the world.


Steven Heller
Cosmos of Signs
The universe of signs and symbols devised throughout the ages of human history is head-spinningly immense and forever expanding.


Manuel Lima
Visualizing Spheres of Knowledge
The circularity exhibited in nature turned out to be much more than a source of wonder. It soon became a chief guiding principle of human culture, emulated and reinvented in art, religion, language, technology, architecture, philosophy, and science.


Sean Adams
Mary Blair: The Grand Canyon Concourse Mural
Mary Blair’s Grand Canyon Concourse mural in the Contemporary Resort at Walt Disney World is a super-graphic that transforms the architecture.


Louise Sandhaus
Her Story Meets His Story: Janet Bennett, Charles Kratka, and the LAX Murals
In any case, this story is complicated.


Sean Adams
Phyllis Tanner
“It is a cut-throat business. Be good at negotiating. It is not just about ART.”


Sean Adams
Pan Am: History, Design, & Identity
Matthias Huhne tells the story of the world’s largest airline for much of the 20th century with images, printed artifacts, and the Pan Am identity.


The Editors
Women in Design History
March is Women’s History Month, and all month long Design Observer will be celebrating historical women and women making history in visual culture.


Eric Holzenberg
The Aesthetic Movement
The role of printing in the Aesthetic Movement.


Sean Adams
Jennifer Morla: El Museo Mexicano, 1995
As a designer, does the work we create subjugate and presume superiority over another culture, or does it attempt to authentically represent it?


Sean Adams
Marget Larsen
Marget Larsen’s design work bridged post-war American modernism and 1960s hedonist psychedelia.


Antonio Alcalá
Looking Harlem in the Eye
Designer Antonio Alcalá explains his strategy for creating the exhibition catalogue for the Harlem Heroes: Photographs by Carl Van Vechten exhibit at the Smithsonian’s American Art Museum


Heather Strelecki
The “Uniformly Good” Backstory of 50 Books | 50 Covers
In the early years of AIGA’s book competition, which began in 1923, the jurors focused on the construction of the book and the printed page.


Ken Gordon
Recognizing the Designer’s Ego
Designers, on the whole, are a humble lot; they have high standards and a great sense of professional pride, but they know the ethical and economic implications of bragging, and they avoid it. Ego is traditionally the prerogative of, say, artists.


Sean Adams
Will Burtin
Will Burtin was a graphic designer with no sense or boundaries in media.


The Editors
I’ve Been to the Mountaintop
Martin Luther King Jr.’s final speech.



Michael Bierut
Lella Vignelli
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.


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


Jessica Helfand
Ezra Winter Project: Chapter Three
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.


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


John Foster
Postcards from the Trenches
Hand-painted postcards from WWI sent home in 1915 and 1916 by a 23-year old German soldier named Otto Schubert.



Jessica Helfand
Audrey Real Helfand: Designer Manquée
Fifty years ago, my mother Audrey was a prolific visual maker: today, she’d be running her own studio.


Jessica Helfand
Logocentrism
For Paul Rand, a modern mark was a simple mark, and the secret to making things last lay in keeping them simple.



Jessica Helfand
The Pipeline
A Personal History as Told Through a Straight Line


Rick Poynor
Exposure: License Photo Studio by Walker Evans
The building as camera


Adam Harrison Levy
Hiroshima Lost and Found
The lack of visual evidence of the atom bomb’s effect has helped us to forget its devastating impact. To see is to remember.


Rick Poynor
Exposure: Rayograph with Gun by Man Ray
The poetry of the cameraless photo


Rick Poynor
Exposure: Assicurazioni Generali by Tošo Dabac
The textual unconscious of Zagreb


Rick Poynor
Exposure: Motion Efficiency Study by Frank Gilbreth
The ghost in the grid


Rick Poynor
Exposure: Ford Motor Plant by Charles Sheeler
The cathedral of industry


Rick Poynor
Exposure: Adamanese Man by Maurice Vidal Portman
Photography for anthropologists


Rick Poynor
Exposure: Woman Mourning by Don McCullin
What are images of suffering for?


Rick Poynor
Exposure: Cabaret de l'Enfer by Harry C. Ellis
The ghoulish cavern in the villa of Ormen


Rick Poynor
Exposure: Operating Room by Augustine H. Folsom
Early surgery as public theater


Steven Heller
The D Word: Pick a Card
Merchants’ Cards


Rick Poynor
Exposure: Marlene Dietrich Billboard by Brassaï
Superhuman mystique of a star


Bonnie Siegler
Naive in Norwalk
Dear Bonnie doles out some homework


Rick Poynor
Exposure: Crime Scene in Paris by Alphonse Bertillon
The killing of a bank messenger


Rick Poynor
Exposure: Children at Play in the City by Shirley Baker
The freedom of the street


Rick Poynor
Exposure: Woman Mailing a Letter by Clifton R. Adams
The spell of vintage color


Rick Poynor
Exposure: Invisible Man by Gordon Parks
The view from an electric cave


Rick Poynor
Exposure: Kuwait, 1991 by Sophie Ristelhueber
The scars of a desert war


Rick Poynor
Exposure: Newport Baths by Max Dupain
Sun, sea, and disconnection


Rick Poynor
Exposure: The Eiffel Tower by Germaine Krull
A Paris icon made abstract


Rick Poynor
Exposure: Salvation Army Barracks by Jack London
Down and out in early 20th-century London


Rick Poynor
Exposure: Flypaper and Flies by Jacques-André Boiffard
A cold eye on insect carnage


Rick Poynor
Exposure: Pages from Fabrik by Jak Tuggener
The dark undercurrents of industry



John Foster
Body of Knowledge
A historical overview of anatomical drawing


Rick Poynor
Exposure: Lens bookshop in Sutton by Lloyd Rich
The rediscovery of lost moments


Rick Poynor
Exposure: Butlin’s holiday camp by Edmund Nägele
A sixties vacation in glowing color


Rick Poynor
Exposure: Restaurant de la Réserve by Jean Gilletta
Wonder and yearning by the sea


Rick Poynor
Exposure: Mother and Child by Philip Jones Griffiths
The gendered power relations of war


Rick Poynor
Exposure: The Colossi of Memnon by Francis Bedford
Mysterious emanations from the desert


Rick Poynor
Exposure: The Simulator by Dora Maar
The chamber of Surrealist visions


Rick Poynor
Exposure: Striporama street scene by Vivian Maier
How good was the photographer nanny?


Rick Poynor
Illustrations by Bohumil Štěpán for Crazy Fairy Tales
Another look at Bohumil Štěpán’s whimsical absurdism


The Editors
Erik Spiekermann: Left with no alternative
In today’s extract from the new biography of Erik Spiekermann: Berlin to London



Jessica Helfand
Howard Paine: 1929–2014
Remembering Howard Paine, National Geographic art director and stamp designer extraordinaire


Rick Poynor
Posters by Hans Hillmann for Jean-Luc Godard’s Films
The work of a master of cinematic graphic design


John Foster
Rabanus Maurus: Poems of the Cross
Mathematical and geometric visual poems from a Benedictine abbot.



Steven Heller
A Memory of Mickey
Steven Heller remembers Mildred Friedman, who passed away late Wednesday.


Adam Harrison Levy
An Interview with Picasso
On a Saturday morning in 1945 a young American soldier named Jerome Seckler climbed three flights of stairs to Pablo Picasso’s studio with the goal of being enlightened.


Elizabeth Guffey
Deborah Sussman: Los Angeles Design Pioneer
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*
*But not every time we've referenced him. That would be a much longer list.


Franc Nunoo-Quarcoo
The Rand House: A House to Work and Live In
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”
On Paul Rand’s 96-page masterpiece, “Thoughts on Design.”


The Editors
Paul Rand : Observer Emeritus
Celebrating the centennial of a one of our most beloved American design icons.


Rick Poynor
The Mysteries of France:
A Gothic Guidebook

Guide de la France mystérieuse, illustrated by Roman Cieslewicz, is a surreal beast of a travel book.



Jan Almquist
Perceiving Deeply
On Teaching to See, A film by Andrei Severny; produced by Edward Tufte.


Justin Zhuang
East and West: Graphic Design in Singapore Today
British advertising agencies brought modern graphic design into Singapore after WWII. Now there's a thriving community of independent studios.


John Bertram
These Events Did Not Occur in Black and White
The history of cover design for This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen.



John Foster
Whirlwinds, Snowdrops, and Big Bangs: Vintage Fireworks Labels
Happy 4th of July!


Jennifer Kabat
Exhibition as Inquiry: An Interview with Kieran Long
Guns, shoes and cheap jeans: Kieran Long has added all of these to the Victoria & Albert Museum’s permanent collection.


Laura Tarrish
Hunter | Gatherer: Text as Textile
Evidence of fabric embellished with needle and thread has been found as far back as the Cro-Magnon days (30,000 B.C.). The artists featured here, writing with stitchery, challenge our expectations of what is commonly considered a domestic art.


Jason Grant
Black, Red + Gold
A conversation about colonization and visual resistance in Australia.


Rick Poynor
Rediscovering the Lost Art of the Typewriter
Typewriters are making a comeback and, as a wide-ranging new survey book shows, so is typewriter art.


Rob Walker
Danger, Nostalgia, and Playgrounds
Brenda Biondo's photographs of mid-century playgrounds document the classic, the dangerous, and the nostalgic.


Adam Harrison Levy
The Falling Man: An Interview with Henry Singer
The Falling Man is a 90-minute documentary that tells the story of a controversial image. Who took it? Why was it censored? And who was the man in the photograph?


Debbie Millman
Steven Heller
Steven Heller talks about graphic design before it was called graphic design, and about whether design magazines have a future in print.



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


John Foster
The Focused Obsession of Photographer Rob Amberg
Rob Amberg is an award winning a documentary photographer who lives with his wife live on a small farm in the same NC county where he makes his photographs.


Alexandra Lange
Lucia Eames, 1930-2014
An appreciation of Lucia Eames (1930-2014).


Brigette Brown
Brigette Brown on Umbrellas
Brigette Brown is a 2013 graduate of SVA MFA Design Criticism program who has worked for the Museum of Latin American Art, written for Disegno and Surface, researched for Metropolis, and edited a publication for Domus.



Observed
Shape: A Film About Design
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
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”.


John Foster
The Greenville, NC Daily Reflector: 1948 to 1967
One of the best ways to investigate the life and times of a region is to look at the local photo files from the daily newspaper.


Observed
Inge Druckrey + Sister Corita Kent on Film
On Friday, April 4th, the Department of Graphic Design at Yale University will be showing Teaching to See and Learning by Heart, two short films on the work and teaching of Inge Druckrey and Sister Corita Kent.



Observed
The Hilda Stories
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
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
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
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
A deeper look into WWII era employee ID badges.


Alexandra Lange
Not Afraid of Noise: Mexico City Stories
A photographic tour of Mexico City, house by house, wall by wall.


Observed
History of Visual Communication
If photography hasn't always been a communication medium, what is it? A timeline of the evolution of images as a medium of dialogue.



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


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


John Foster
Nineteenth Century Menu Covers
A gallery of 19th Century Menu Covers curated by John Foster.


Alexandra Lange
Criticism = Love
Why you have to love design to be a critic.


Tarpley Hitt
Speaking Typography: Letter as Image as Sound
Just as a poet weaves the intent of his poem into its sound and craft, so did Lissitzky, as designer, hope to marry intent with the typography and the design of the book itself. But did he?



Observed
Selling Shame
Southern California artist Cynthia Petrovic has collected vintage body-shaming advertisements geared toward women.


Alexandra Lange
Playing With Design: Fredun Shapur
Add Fredun Shapur to the pantheon of modern designers making winning and sculptural objects for children.


John Foster
Native American Design
The National Museum of the American Indian has one of the most extensive collections of Native American art and artifacts in the United States.  


Owen Edwards
For Better or Worse, This Design Endures
Owen Edwards on the enduring qualities of the AK-47.


Alexandra Lange
Year of the Women
A year-end wrap-up of my favorite stories. The common theme? Women and the making of design.


John Foster
Messenger Boys, Call Girls and a Photographer
Accidental Mysteries for December 1, 2013 focuses on the photography of Lewis Wickes Hine, whose photographs were instrumental in changing the child labor laws in the United States.



Observed
Seven Score and 10 Years Ago
The Gettysburg Address in words and pictures.



Gordon Salchow
New Haven, November 22, 1963
A gallery of images taken by Gordon Salchow in New Haven on the day President John F. Kennedy, Jr. was assassinated.



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



Observed
The Psychedelic and Grotesque Proto-GIFs of the 19th Century
Richard Balzer has spent the past five years curating an online collection of his phenakistoscopes, praxinoscopes, and zoetropes — "optic toys".



Chris Pullman
Remembering Alvin Eisenman
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
The Museum of Modern Art's new installation, "Designing Modern Women," could have made a bolder statement about the transformative role of women in 20th century design and architecture.


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



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


Alexandra Lange
Mariana Griswold Van Rensselaer, Freelancer
One of the incidental pleasures of Judith Major’s new book on pioneering architecture critic Mariana Griswold Van Rensselaer is the glimpse it gives into the life of a cultural journalist at the turn of the past century.


Alexandra Lange
Learning New Tricks
Harvard doesn't have any design courses, but I've found new friends in "material culture." What it's like for a critic to go back to school.


John Foster
Artful Mourning
The art of mourning in Nineteenth and early Twentieth centuries: a look at post-mortem and memorial photographs and memorabilia.


Ricky Jay
Ricky Jay on Collecting
Ricky Jay is considered one of the world's great sleight of hand artists.


Rick Poynor
Bohumil Stepan’s Gallery of Erotic Humor
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.


Rob Walker
No. 1 Object
A brief appreciation of a perfectly absurd object: The Number One Hand


Alexandra Lange
A World of Paste and Paper
Today's obsession with digital renderings sparked two exhibitions that suggest a handmade, but far from quaint, corrective.



Observed
What Were We Thinking? The Top 10 Most Dangerous Ads
A list to the top ten most dangerous products advertised to the public as healthy.



Observed
From Dance Hall to Design Studio to Dance Hall
Jeremy M. Lange photographs the inaugural dance held in the restored barn that used to be his grandfather's design studio.


John Foster
Folk Funeraria of the South
Accidental Mysteries for August 18th focuses on folk funeraria of the South.


Rob Walker
An Accidental Time Capsule
Snapshots of late-September 2001 signage reveal a tentative American moment.


Rick Poynor
Soft Machine’s Dysfunctional Mechanism
An alternative cover for the French release of The Soft Machine’s first album alludes to the history of the machine in 20th-century art.


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



Observed
The Strange Paragraph Symbol
In his book, Shady Characters: The Secret Life of Punctuation, Symbols & Other Typographical Marks, software engineer and writer Keith Houston looks into punctuation, symbols and other typographical marks.


John Foster
The Voynich Manuscript
Accidental Mysteries for July 14, 2013 focuses on the rare and undecipherable Voynich manuscript.



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


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



Michael Bierut
50 Books/50 Covers 2012 Winners Announced
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
Cranbrook: A campus where the designers have thought of everything.


John Foster
Alaska Yukon Gold Rush Era Photo Album
Accidental Mysteries for June 9, 2013 features a photo album from the Alaska Yukon gold rush era.


Alexandra Lange
Praise the Partner(s)
Salute Denise Scott Brown because she deserves it, but let's not forget the other partners.


John Foster
A Philatelist’s Dream
Preliminary sketches, production notes and overlays that tell the backstory of more than a century of Dutch postage stamps.


Alexandra Lange
The Fork and the World: Design 101
If you had to explain design to the uninitiated, where would you start?


John Foster
Chinese Propaganda Posters
Accidental Mysteries for May 26, 2013 focuses on vintage Chinese propaganda posters.


Alexandra Lange
Dream Weaver
On a retrospective of the work of midcentury sculptor Ruth Asawa at Christie's, her first solo show in New York in 50 years.



Observed
Michigan Modern: Design that Shaped America
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
Boris Bućan’s little known early posters, produced in Zagreb, were reductive, sharply defined, cerebral and enigmatic.


Alexandra Lange
Anxiety, Culture and Commerce
Is the museum store a distraction or an enticement?



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



Observed
Book Trade Labels
Book trade labels are advertising artifacts from booksellers, binders, printers, publishers, importers, and distributors of books.


Rick Poynor
On the Trail of The Eater of Darkness
The Eater of Darkness is a collision of science fiction, murder mystery, Surrealism and experimental typography.



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


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



Observed
Flickr Collection of the Week: Damaged Goods
“Damaged Goods” is a collection of photographs in which the scratches, stains and patina are critical components in the gestalt of the image.


Alexandra Lange
Portlandia + Timelessness
No better place to consider what looks timeless now than downtown Portland.


Rick Poynor
Utopian Image: Politics and Posters
By celebrating political posters for their design do we collude with the established order they seek to challenge?


Alexandra Lange
After the Museum: The Tumblr
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
A new exhibition of Henri Labrouste, the French architect who invented the modern library.



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


John Foster
Accidental Mysteries
Accidental Mysteries for February 17, 2013 focuses on the material culture of the Cold War.


Rick Poynor
A Dictionary of Surrealism and the Graphic Image
An alphabetical guide to graphic designers influenced by Surrealism and to some key Surrealist concepts.


Adam Harrison Levy
Dylan Stone: 100 Years
Adam Harrison Levy reviews Dylan Stone's exhibition of 100 years of personal pocket diaries at Ruth Phaneuf Fine Art.


Rick Poynor
Socialism and Modernity: A Hidden History
A new book documents the unfamiliar history of socialism and modernity in graphic design from former Yugoslavia.


Alexandra Lange
Kicked A Building Lately?
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
Ignore the Coconuts and Marshmallows, admire George Nelson's modular graphics.


Rick Poynor
On My Screen: Shooting the Past
Stephen Poliakoff’s Shooting the Past, set in a fictitious photo library, is a film that could haunt you for years.


Alexandra Lange
Bad Taste True Confessions: Erté
True confessions about my own bad taste. I loved Erté. Did you?


Alexandra Lange
Reintroducing the Tilletts
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
No achitect is unfamiliar with Ezra Stoller, the pioneering photographer whose clinical eye defined modernism and shaped our vision of the built world for much of the twentieth century.


Leonard Koren
Making WET: The Magazine of Gourmet Bathing
An except from Making WET: The Magazine of Gourmet Bathing by Leonard Koren.


Alexandra Lange
“I Have Seen the Future”: Designer as Showman
The exhibition ldquo;I Have Seen the Future: Norman Bel Geddes Designs America,” hits all the high spots of industrial design within a single man’s oeuvre.


Alexandra Lange
Dot Supreme
On the enduring power of the simplest shape, from corporations to children’s books.


Jessica Helfand
Ezra Winter Project: Chapter Ten
In April, 1933, Ezra Winter delivers a fifteen-minute live radio talk on the subject of mural painting in relation to modern life, in which he tries desperately to convince himself that he has embraced the modern world.


Rick Poynor
True Stories: A Film about People Like Us
Ambiguous but prescient, David Byrne’s film True Stories is a classic piece of postmodern pop anthropology.


Louise Sandhaus
Merle Armitage: Daddy of a Sunbaked Modernism
Louise Sandhaus's profile of book designer Merle Armitage.


Alexandra Lange
Shopping With Sandro, and Other Tumblr Delights
Digitizing the Miller House Collection, and other museum and corporate visual archives on Tumblr.


Alexandra Lange
Having Fun at the Museum
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
A panel on Women in Design, and questions about whether such panels should exist.



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


Rick Poynor
On My Shelf: André Breton’s Nadja
The Livre de poche edition of André Breton’s Surrealist classic Nadja remains the best visual interpretation of the book.


Rick Poynor
Sending Signals about Political Graphics
Issue two of Signal, a journal about the visual languages used around the world to support political protest.


Rick Poynor
Pierre Faucheux and Le Livre de Poche
A masterclass in book cover design: Pierre Faucheux’s work for the French paperback publisher Livre de poche.



The Editors
50 Books/50 Covers Competition: Enter Today
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
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
Identifying the "charismatic megafauna" of design and the critical uses of their popularity.


Rick Poynor
On My Shelf: A History of the Machine
Erik Nitsche’s New Illustrated Library of Science and Invention is a landmark of modern, low-cost, mass-market, educational book design.


Rick Poynor
Jan van Toorn: The World in a Calendar
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
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
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
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
Olivetti and Doges: How Carlo Scarpa updated the Venetian treasure chest.


John Foster
Accidental Mysteries
Accidental Mysteries, a weekly cabinet of visual curiosities curated by John Foster, highlights images of design, art, architecture and ephemera brought to light by the magic of the digital age. This week's focus is St. Louis Bus Passes from the 1940s.


Rick Poynor
The Enduring Influence of Richard Hollis
An exhibition of Richard Hollis’s work provides the first public opportunity to assess the entire shape of his output.


Alexandra Lange
Frank Lloyd Wright + Katniss Everdeen
On photographing architecture as sculpture and telling stories via architecture.


Alexandra Lange
‘Deco Japan’ + Designing Women
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
Motif magazine, founded in 1958, anticipated a new way of seeing, documenting and appreciating the “visible world.”


Rick Poynor
The Unspeakable Pleasure of Ruins
“Ruin porn,” a reductive tag that makes any photograph of ruins seem suspect, ignores the cultural history of the ruin.


Alexandra Lange
Round Thermostats and Crystal Lanterns, Revisited
Old designs, new tricks: updates on lawsuits filed against the new Nest thermometer, and on behalf of midcentury masterpiece Manufacturers Hanover.


Alexandra Lange
A Memorial to (Random Access) Memory
What does "RAMAC Park" mean to you?



James Biber
Vestige(s) of Empire
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
Lawrence Ratzkin’s cover design for an early anthology about Jean-Luc Godard is almost an anti-cover.


Alexandra Lange
Girard the Magnificent
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
What the designer of the new Nest thermostat didn't learn from Henry Dreyfuss.



Eugenia Bell
Eliot Noyes
Eliot Noyes' under-recognized reputation deserves appreciation.


Alexandra Lange
When Modernists Get Crafty
The Museum of Arts and Design's Crafting Modernism makes a good case for bringing back macrame.


Alexandra Lange
Cooking with the Eameses
A new book chronicles one family's life with nine pieces of Eames.


Rick Poynor
How to Cover an Impossible Book
Tadeusz Borowski’s book This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen poses a visual challenge for designers.


Alexandra Lange
Decorating Brutalism: The Interiors of Kevin Roche
How do you decorate a brutalist building? For architect Kevin Roche, the answer was brown, mirrors, and trees.


Rick Poynor
The Infinite Warehouse of Images
The more photos we collectively produce, the more ruthless we need to be about bestowing our attention.



Owen Edwards
A Demanding Man: Steve Jobs
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
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
Not a disappointment: a first thrilling visit to Eero Saarinen's legendary flight center.


Rick Poynor
Did We Ever Stop Being Postmodern?
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
Uncanny: Surrealism and Graphic Design opens at the Kunstal in Rotterdam on September 24.


Alexandra Lange
Thinking in Tumblr
Don't write a book, make a Tumblr.



An Xiao Mina
90 Years of Chinese Communism: A Multimedia Celebration
How the Chinese Communist Party designed its 90th anniversary commemorations


Rick Poynor
Funerary Portraits: Snapshots in Stone
The portrait sculptures in the Cimetière du château in Nice resuscitate their subjects with a frequently startling vividness.


Alexandra Lange
Reading in Public
A new book club with an unusual topic: architecture and design.


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


Alexandra Lange
Making Dieter Rams
Why is Braun still the best?


Rick Poynor
The House That Design Journalism Built
Printed design magazines continue to fail and close. Where does that leave design writing and criticism?


Alexandra Lange
Welcome to the Hall of Femmes
How should we celebrate women in design, past, present, future?


Rick Poynor
Speculative Fiction, Speculative Design
The cover of England Swings SF is one of those prescient imaginative leaps that vaulted so far it disappeared from the historical record.



William Underhill
Comradettes
New women's fashion collection celebrating history of labor


Alexandra Lange
Let’s Go! World’s Fairs of the 1930s
"Designing Tomorrow" at the National Building Museum showcases the optimisim, futurism and dreamy design ideas of the 1930s.


Rick Poynor
Lost Inside the Collector’s Cabinet
The Collector’s Cabinet at the Frederic Marès Museum in Barcelona is a mind-bending, sense-bedazzling palace of artifactual wonders.


Rick Poynor
On My Shelf: Stefan Lorant’s Lilliput
Stefan Lorant’s use of photos in pairs could be wry, funny, bizarre, whimsical, satirical and not always kind.



Julie Lasky
Chandigarh to Create Inventory of Corbu/Jeanneret Furniture
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
The Designers & Books website has published my list of 20 indispensable books about graphic design.


Rick Poynor
Paul Stiff, the Reader’s Champion
For the late Paul Stiff, design educator, writer, editor and skeptic, typography must never neglect to serve the reader.


Steven Heller
Paul Rand, Painter
Paul Rand had more in common with Paul Klee than a four letter first and last name. He too, painted.


Alexandra Lange
In T: High Fiber
"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
Why AIGA almost scuttled its most venerable design competition: 50 Books/50 Cover.



Phil Patton
Sustainable Gold
Phil Patton on the conference “Gold: Substance, Symbol and Significance."



Alexandra Lange
Making the Modern House Home
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
In Franciszek Starowieyski’s posters, desire, sexuality, monstrosity, madness and death conjoin in some of the most outrageous images found in graphic design.



Phil Patton
On the Shoulders of Rebels
On the rocket-propelled grenade: one of the most successful designs on the planet.


Rick Poynor
Wim Crouwel: The Ghost in the Machine
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
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
Karel Teissig might just be the best poster designer you have never heard of.


Alexandra Lange
Something Old, Something Green
The Ball jar: could this be our classless package?


Steven Heller
Hitler’s Poster Handbook
Hitler’s Poster Handbook: a follow-up to “The Master Race’s Graphic Masterpiece.”


Steven Heller
The Master Race’s Graphic Masterpiece
Steve Heller hunts down a Nazi graphics standards manual – it had been right under his nose all the whole time.



Jessica Helfand
When Do We Call it Art?
Back in the pre-Banksy days of big cars and even bigger hair, there came a cultural moment noted for its prevalence of large-scaled words and symbols, a comparatively brazen visual trope that flirted with modernity by celebrating overscaled visuals in the interest of commerce.


Alexandra Lange
Objects Fall From the Sky
What's more important: crediting a designer or the designer credited?


Chappell Ellison
Ultraflo: Plumbing of the Future
Once upon a time, Ultraflo was the plumbing of the future.



Mark Lamster
Gerd Arntz: Design Icon
Gerd Arntz: A design icon who designed icons.



Alexandra Lange
How Do You Solve a Problem Like the Eameses?
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
Czech film posters of the 1960s are some of the most extraordinary graphic creations ever put on paper.



Rick Poynor
Out of the Studio: Graphic Design History and Visual Studies
Graphic design history’s best chance of development now lies in an expanded conception of the rapidly emerging discipline of visual studies.


Mark Lamster
The Once & Future Whitney Museum
The Whitney: An Architectural Tour.


Mark Lamster
British Incursion
Stirling, Foster, and a new association with the Architectural Review.



Debbie Millman
Alexandra Lange + Jane Thompson
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
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
AMAC Plastic Boxes are back at the Container Store: a rainbow classic sold at Design Research, part of the MoMA design collection, and starting at $0.39.


Alexandra Lange
Networks Before the Internet
A new exhibit at the Noguchi Museum shows how small and intertwined were the worlds of mid-century art, design and architecture.




Rick Poynor
Design Writing from Down Under
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...
Design Research reviewed in the New York Times.



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



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



Jessica Helfand
The Kindness of Strangers
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
A look inside little-known design publication Dot Zero, the house organ of pioneering design consultancy Unimark, featuring a slide show and an interview with its designer, Massimo Vignelli.



Steven Heller
Vignelli’s Herald (or Heralding Vignelli)
Vignelli Celebration: Steven Heller remembers the Herald.


Michael Bierut
Mr. Vignelli’s Map
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.



Debbie Millman
Interview with Massimo Vignelli
Vignelli Celebration: Debbie Millman interviews Massimo Vignelli.



AIGA
Lella and Massimo Vignelli: The 1982 AIGA Medal
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
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
Anthropologie, the latest tenant of the Design Research Headquarters, simply doesn't get it.



Jessica Helfand
In the Palm of Your Hand: Dexterity Puzzles
A selection of rare dexterity puzzles from the personal collection of Jessica Helfand.









Alexandra Lange
When Shopping Was Sociable
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
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
Meditation on the doubt creeping into today's design practice.



Mark Lamster
Spain vs. Holland: The Eighty Years War in 90 Minutes
Spain and Holland will re-enact the Eighty Years War in tomorrow's World Cup final.





Steven Heller
Fascist Seduction
A visit to Mussolini’s Esposizione Universale Roma makes evident that one can be fervently anti-fascist and still admire — indeed savor — aesthetics for their own merits.



Alexandra Lange
Make Me A Mini Monograph
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
I’m writing more about
Warren Platner, my favorite terribly wonderful or wonderfully terrible architect.









Azby Brown
Bent by the Sun
What a longtime American-born resident of Japan has learned about his adopted country's ancient practice of sustainability.












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



Alexandra Lange
DWR = D/R?
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
From the Florence Knoll Bassett papers: congratulations on their marriage from Ray and Charles.



Alexandra Lange
Love & Architecture
My somewhat racy, somewhat serious take on one of the first architecture power couples, Aline and Eero Saarinen



Alexandra Lange
Back to School
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
New York Magazine covers two of my favorite topics: the Bauhaus and Betsy-Tacy books.



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


Jessica Helfand
All Things Matter
His name was Herbert Matter, a man even the ornery Paul Rand described as possibly the least pompous person on the planet. When I was a junior in college, he taught me how to make a Photogram. He was 74 years old.


Alexandra Lange
Love & Architecture
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
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
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
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
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...
A note about Deere & Company’s foray into the consumer market.



John Emerson
Pressed into Service
Interview with Lincoln Cushing, co-author of Agitate! Educate! Organize!: American Labor Posters.



Mark Lamster
The Lion of Belgium
In the history of strange maps, this image of Belgium as a lion, printed in 1611 by cartographer Jodicus Hondius of Amsterdam, is surely a classic



Ars Libri Ltd
Hungarian Rhapsody
This collection is the record of the immensely productive life of György Kepes.



Steven Heller
A Good Trademark: A Historical Perspective
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.


Jessica Helfand
Can Graphic Design Make You Cry?
How can you create anything visually compelling if you don't engage at some fundamentally human level — a place where memory and feeling are as valued as form and execution?



Steven Heller
When Satire Was More Than Funny
In 1901, Samuel Schwarz founded a satiric visual weekly, titled L’Assiette au Beurre, expressly poised to attack the functionaries who made their fortunes off the sweat of the citizenry.



Mark Lamster
Red Star
The New York-Amsterdam connection has been much in the news of late, and rightly so, as this is the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson's Dutch-sponsored voyage of American discovery.



Mark Lamster
Bowery on the Beach?
Has Leigh Bowery, said to have died more than a decade ago, been hiding out on the Coney Island boardwalk sporting a mullet all along?



Angela Riechers
Hot Ticket
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.




Mark Lamster
On Muses
Lee Siegel has a wonderful piece in today's WSJ on the history and decline of the muse in art.



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



Ken Worpole
Tidal Pools: Photographs by Jason Orton
Tidal pools were once common along the coast of Britain, particularly at seaside holiday resorts. Although many such pools have been destroyed or exist as ruins, others are being revived thanks to the energies of lido enthusiasts. This photo essay captures their beauty, even in decay.



Mark Lamster
Thomas Jefferson: (Henpecked) Jewish President
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
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
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.



Mark Lamster
Defending Alice
The new Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center opens on Sunday — it looks great — and the reviews are starting to flow in. The response has been overwhelmingly positive and fairly dismissive of the original hall, by Pietro Belluschi and Eduardo Catalano.



Virginia Smith
Two Dutch Logos
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.



Rick Poynor
Barney Bubbles: Optics and Semantics
The intricately reflexive nature of his work made Barney Bubbles a true original in his time. No previous British designer had produced graphic communications this playful, personal, dense with allusion, or tricksy. Bubbles was a postmodernist before this new category of graphic design had been identified and defined, and he is as significant an innovator as his American contemporary April Greiman.



Andrew Blauvelt
Towards Relational Design
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.



William Drenttel
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Working with Amnesty International, Woody Pirtle designed a series of posters that spotlights 12 of the individual articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We celebrate these, today, the 60th anniversary of the UDHR.



Jessica Helfand
The Posters of Padua
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
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
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
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
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
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?



Jessica Helfand
Annals of Ephemera, Part III: Aging 2.0
Paper has a finite life span. It yellows and oxidizes and eventually disintegrates. But today, there are a host of specialty materials that protect and preserve paper so that, unlikely as it may seem, ephemeral materials may have found their very own fountain of youth.



Andrew Flamm & Michelle Hauser
Folk Photos
The onset of the digital revolution has made the period for using film finite. Processed prints are becoming obsolete. With the immediate option of discarding an unintended image, a rich library of our unselfconscious selves will no longer be recorded. But it lives here, in these beautiful, poetic and tactile objects.



Steven Heller
Vanity Fair Type: 1930 Style




Ettore Sottsass
When I Was a Very Small Boy
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
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
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
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.



Andrew Blauvelt
Over the Rainbow
June marks the start of a month-long series of LGBT Pride celebrations in cities around the United States and the world, as well as the 30th anniversary of the rainbow flag — the de facto symbol of the LGBT community. While the visual and media focus of the celebrations have been the parades, the most enduring element is perhaps the rainbow.



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



Jessica Helfand
Reflections on The Ephemeral World, Part One: Ink
An elegy to the makeready — those sheets of paper, re-fed into a press to get the ink balances up to speed, leaving a series of often random, palimpsest-like, multiple impressions on a single surface — in the digital age.



Steven Heller
O.H.W. Hadank
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
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
"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.



Steven Heller
The Sky Is Falling
Where once the sky is falling scenarios would not, as Dr. Flicker said, “happen for billions of years yet,” the doomsday clock is steadily ticking away. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could go back to the days when fiction was not fact.



Adam Harrison Levy
The Passion of George Lois
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
Today, designers for mainstream advertising companies, weaned on alternative approaches, have folded the underground into the mainstream and called it cool.



Steven Heller
The Magic of the Peace Symbol
There was probably no more galvanizing nor polarizing emblem during the 1960s than the peace symbol. And perhaps few symbols have had origins surrounded in as much mystery and controversy



Jessica Helfand
Viewer Discretion Advised
One of the great ironies of contemporary culture is the degree to which pro-forma warnings read as largely invisible. “Viewer Discretion Advised” tells us we’ve been warned...



Steven Heller
Swastika Humor?
Trivializing the swastika is not a crime, but it can be dangerous, particularly since it continues to be used as a weapon of hate. Perhaps this book would have best been titled, “We Have Ways of Making You Wince.”



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



Jessica Helfand
Gone, Baby, Gone (Things, Part II)
From July 19, 1977 to February 28, 1981, the security staff at New York's Roosevelt Raceway kept a fastidious record of lost property. The result — 152 pages of wayward mittens, misplaced wallets and hundreds of personal items — is as much a record of the social history of a generation as anything I've come across in a long time.



Steven Heller
Wilhelm Deffke: Modern Mark Maker
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...



Michael Bierut
Will the Real Ernst Bettler Please Stand Up?
In the late 50s, Swiss designer Ernst Bettler created a series of seemingly harmless posters that brought down a drug company with a Nazi past. It's a great story, but it never happened. Why do we need to believe in Ernst Bettler?



Jessica Helfand
Remembering Paul Rand
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.



Jessica Helfand
Things, Part I
In an age characterized by elevated environmental awareness — reducing our carbon footprint, enhancing our sustainable output — we remain obsessed with our attachment to the material world.



Michael Bierut
How To Be Ugly
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
Type Means Never Having To Say You're Sorry
Designers make choices about the appropriateness of type based on any number of criteria, and "liking it" is indeed one of them. But is that enough?



Michael Bierut
Déjà Vu All Over Again




Jessica Helfand
Science and Design: The Next Wave
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.



Jessica Helfand
Stan Brakhage: Caught on Tape
For Stan Brakhage, that concentration resulted in extraordinary explorations of many things, including the life cycle of a moth, caught on adhesive strips of tape, and subsequently captured on film where it regained — however briefly — the magnificent illusion of mobility. For designers, faced by budgets and clients and deadlines, the luxury of so much isolation seems a distant, if not an altogether perverse paradigm. But are these intentions really so mutually exclusive?



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



Alice Twemlow
Design Criticism's Winding Road
To what extent does design criticism inspire a reaction; to whom is criticism addressed and what happens as a result of it being read? This article discusses the way in which an excerpt from a review of a 1955 Buick unexpectedly inspired a painting by one of the world's best-known Pop artists, Richard Hamilton.



Jessica Helfand
Another Myth Brilliantly Debunked
The Folding Paper Box Association of America would influence more than just packaging regulations: a half century before the Poynter Institute would claim authorship for its revolutionary Eye-Trac research, the FPBAA was already tracking viewers' visual responses to packaging...



Michael Bierut
Flat, Simple and Funny: The World of Charley Harper
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Martin Weber in the Third Dimension
You may not have heard of Martin J. Weber, but he was a graphic artist, typographer, art director, and most important, inventor of various photographic techniques that gave two-dimensional surfaces the illusion of being reproduced in three dimensions.



Eric Nevin
Love Letters to Sub-Antarctic Islands
Assigned a page of an atlas for a graduate class in graphic design at the Yale School of Art, Eric Nevin created a log of love letters to the islands of the sub-Antarctic. The writing charmed us and the history adds something to our understanding of this desolate part of the world.



Jessica Helfand
Ad Reinhardt, Graphic Designer
Ad Reinhardt fretted about the meaning of life. He agonized about the purpose of painting. He questioned everyone, critiqued everything, and worked incessantly. In other words, he was a graphic designer.



Steven Heller
The Nazi Triangle
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
French design duo Vier5 make new typography. The author raises questions about modernism and typography.



Jessica Helfand
Annals of Ephemera: Town & Country Cookbook
Book cover designers are visual choreographers who frame miniature narratives in order to tease prospective readers into wanting more. Which often means showing less. Or not.



William Drenttel
International Polar Year
In what may turn out to be the biggest international scientific project to date, an army of thousands of scientists will spend the next two years studying the Arctic and Antarctic as part of the International Polar Year, which officially begins this week.



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



William Drenttel
The Good Citizen's Alphabet
Bertrand Russell had the wisdom to realize that certain words require proper definition to be used correctly in political and social discourse. This alphabet book is offered here as a slide show for our readers.



Lorraine Wild
Sister Corita: The Juiciest Tomato
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
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
Co-opting a color and making it your own.



Jessica Helfand
What Makes A Good Poster?
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
"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
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.



Michael Bierut
Alan Fletcher: Living by Design
Remembering the late British designer Alan Fletcher, who once said, "I treat clients as raw material to do what I want to do, though I would never tell them that." For him, design was not a profession or a craft, but a life.



Michael Bierut
The Golden Age of American Commercialism
The encroachment of commercialism into everyday life seems like a peculiarly modern phenomenon. Yet around one hundred years ago, America began a romance with salesmanship that today seems almost delirious. A 1922 business directory shows how great crass commercialism used to look.



William Drenttel
What Ever Happened to Half.com, Oregon?
But back in 1999, in its Netflix-like heyday, Half.com was hot. And it did something quite remarkable. As a publicity stunt, it bought a town and renamed it. Someplace in Oregon. I wondered what ever happened to Half.com, Oregon — the first dot com city in the world?



Jessica Helfand
The Ovalization of The American Mind
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.



Rick Perlstein
What is Conservative Culture?
Ask a conservative activist to explain what anchors and unites their fractious movement, and he will point to ideas. They will not mention the extraordinary role the development of a self-contained and self-conscious conservative culture played in transforming the politics of the United States.



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



Jessica Helfand
A Sequence in Time
01:02:03 04/05/06 This number sequence in time will not occur again until 2106.



Debbie Millman
Art Chantry
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.  



Kenneth Krushel
Santa Fe Diarist
But there seem to be equally vigorous efforts to commercialize this distant past in Santa Fe, embracing a design esthetic that advertises itself as the "essence" of what had been thought to be lost. Then, in re-introducing this historical narrative, an efficient assembly line manufactures it into a commercially lucrative design creed.



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




Lorraine Wild
Good Font, Shame About The Reporting




Lorraine Wild
Think Regional, Act Annual
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
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?



Jessica Helfand
The Shock Of The Old: Rethinking Nostalgia
Placing Nostalgia: where in the design landscape does it fit? And should it be included in the first place?



Rick Poynor
Where Are the Design Critics?
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.



William Drenttel
Catastrophic Imaginings: The Design of Disaster
In the end, artificial disasters are designed to elicit and test the responses of participants. In their recording, both allow for a post-mortem evaluation. How did I do? How would I respond? Would I sit patiently in my car a mile up the road? Would I watch from my window, safe in my home?



Adrian Shaughnessy
Decoding Coldplay's X&Y
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.



Michael Bierut
The Man Who Saved Jackson Pollock
Herbert Matter, the designer who stored away a cache of recently-discovered Jackson Pollock paintings, deserves a similar rediscovery.



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



Jessica Helfand
Extremely Young and Incredibly Everywhere: The Public Art of Jonathan Safran Foer
Jonathan Safran Foer's emergent body of work includes film and video, public art installations, theatrical collaboration, expressive typography, and a fairly prolific jumpstart as a writer. Cumulatively, all of his projects — which range from collecting empty pages of famous writers, to constructing parabolas in a public park, to collecting anonymous self-portraits — seem to look for ways to formally address time and space and the human condition.



Michael Bierut
Homage to the Squares
The Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum's exhibition Design is not Art provides a useful contrast to an simultaneous exhibition of the work of Josef and Anni Albers, and demonstrates differences between art and design.



Jessica Helfand
Scrapbooking: The New Paste-Up
"Craft-born embellishments," note one supplier of scrapbooking products, "are penetrating an unexpected market: graphic design."



William Drenttel
Moving the Axum Obelisk
In the mid-1990s, I saw an exhibition at the New York Public Library of the greatest illustrated books of the 19th century. One book stood out for me: a massive tome by Henry H. Gorringe, titled Egyptian Obelisks and dated 1882. It’s in my design collection because of a dubious memory that it’s the first book to document a from-start-to-finish design process. Of course, the process it documents is how one moves an obelisk.



Michael Bierut
Designing Under the Influence
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
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
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
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.



William Drenttel
In Remembrance of Susan Sontag
In Remembrance of Susan Sontag: a designer's twenty-five years of interaction with the legandary writer.



Tom Vanderbilt
Pleasures and Pathos of Industrial Ruins
An account of a visit to the abandoned site of Bethlehem Steel, Pennsylvania.



Jessica Helfand
The Designibles
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
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
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




William Drenttel
Does Aspen Have A Future?




Michael Bierut
The Graphic Design Olympics
The event graphics and pictograms created for the Olympics by designers such as Otl Aicher, Lance Wyman and Deborah Sussman are part of a historic tradition that continues to this day.



Jessica Helfand
Ladislav Sutnar: Mechanical Beauty




William Drenttel
Penmanship: The Voice of A Future Designer




Jessica Helfand
Take Two Logos and Call Me in the Morning




Michael Bierut
The Idealistic Corporation
American corporations in the mid-twentieth century, such as IBM, Container Corporation, and General Dynamics, worked with designers like Charles and Ray Eames, Herbert Bayer and Erik Nitsche in the conviction that design was not only a tool for business, but an potent instrument for making the world a better place.



Rick Poynor
Modernising MoMA: Design on Display
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




William Drenttel
El Lissitzky for Pesach




Jessica Helfand
Annals of Typographic Oddity No. 2: Spaceship Gothic




Rick Poynor
Jan van Toorn: Arguing with Visual Means
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.



Michael Bierut
George Kennan and the Cold War Between Form and Content
Diplomat George Kennan's "Long Telegram" of 1946 is a memorable synthesis of form and content, and a demonstration of how powerful form can be.



William Drenttel
Defamiliarization: A Personal History




Michael Bierut
Rob Roy Kelly’s Old, Weird America
The late educator and designer Rob Roy Kelly has had a lasting influence on the profession of graphic design, particularly through his landmark book "American Wood Type."



Jessica Helfand
The Span of Casual Vision




William Drenttel
Adolf Wölfli Invents Design Brut?
Mr. Gomez has taken your basic 19th-century-madman-artist and turned him into a model 20th century graphic designer.



Michael Bierut
The Forgotten Design Legacy of the National Lampoon
The rerelease of the National Lampoon's ersatz and hilarious "1964 C. Estes Kefauver Memorial High School Yearbook" is a reminder that the magazine's art directors, Michael Gross and David Kaestle, anticipated our profession's obsession with vernacular graphic languages by almost fifteen years.



William Drenttel
Shallow Water Dictionary
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.



Rick Poynor
Remember Picelj
The English-speaking world knows little about the design history of Communist Europe. Few will have heard of the distinguished Slovenian Ivan Picelj. His prints ask us to remember; they are full of yearning.



Jessica Helfand
On Visual Empathy
In a world besieged by unpredictable atrocities, don't we all feel a little emotionally raw? Two recent articles in suggest that visual empathy may more critical to a productive imagination than we thought.



Rick Poynor
It's a Man's World
Adam Parfrey’s book shows hundreds of men’s magazine covers from the 1950s painted by artists who specialized in depictions of tough guys abusing terrified women. Have we outgrown this kind of thing? Heck no.



Jessica Helfand
The Real Declaration




William Drenttel
Paul Rand: Bibliography as Biography
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



Observed | November 15

Juan Ángel Cotta’s work, especially a collection of hardback books he illustrated in 1960, is one of the missing links between South American publishing and the European modernist traditions. —Steven Heller. [BV]

Need some inspiration? 25 reasons to keep on making stuff “in this time of rampant assholery.” [BV]


Observed | November 13

Are we confusing readability with literary value? The case for difficult books. [BV]

Big Mike Takes Lunch” by filmmaker Nicolas Heller, is a documentary that captures a day in the life of Michael Saviello, manager for 40 years of the iconic East Village barber shop, Astor Place Hairstylists, who paints on his lunch break. [BV]


Observed | November 12

Artificial Intelligence is mapping the Pacific ocean’s secret soundscape in hopes of building the most comprehensive dataset of its kind – an enormous “sound postcard of the ocean.” [BV]

Metal band accused of quitting a tour because their logo was too small on the flyer responds with a tiny logo t-shirt. (via James I. Bowie) [BV]


Observed | November 09

Brilliant Maps is “making sense of the world, one map at a time” and includes maps of “Countries Which Have At Some Point Claimed To Be Rome’s Successor” and “A Map of Superheroes in NYC & The Areas They Protect”. [BV]

Bob Neill’s Book of Typewriter Art” from 1982 contains instructions for creating a likeness of Queen Elizabeth, Elvis Presley, numerous cats, and a mystery picture all in ascii. (via Blake Eskin) [BV]


Observed | November 08

Should I delete my social media? Five artists + writers weigh in. [BV]

Fabulous 1970s stock photo model shots: these were the archetypal 1970s faces and fashions. [BV]

What do our oldest books say about us? On the ineffable magic of four little manuscripts of Old English poetry. [BV]


Observed | November 07

The epic rise and fall of the name Heather. [BV]

Sixty-four extreme human emotions visualized, long before the emoji. [BV]


Observed | November 05

Almost published a number of times over the last 30 years, Julius Scott’s manuscript about slaves and sailors in the Caribbean has been an underground sensation and is finally being published. [BV]

While rumors of humans wiping out 60% of animal species been widely mischaracterized, the actual news is still grim. [BV]


Observed | October 31

“I see each commission as a challenge: write a piece of music which lasts between fifteen and twenty minutes, for an orchestra comprising the following 65 instruments, and we’d like it by this date.” Nico Muhly on designing music. [BV]

Boo! The spooky evolution of text message-based horror stories. [BV]


Observed | October 30

In case you need a distraction: A database of paper airplanes with easy to follow folding instructions. [BV]

The singular, cultlike status of the Kit Kat bar in Japan. [BV]


Observed | October 29

The use of skulls as design elements in American logos quintupled as the US went to war in Iraq and Afghanistan. (via James I. Bowie) [BV]


Observed | October 26

The question of whether time moves in a loop or a line has occupied human minds for millennia. Has physics found the answer? [BV]

Apple’s radical approach to news curation: have humans make selections rather than machines. [BV]


Observed | October 25

“What you do is you contribute these little background moments to people’s lives, and if you can do it in a way that brings a little beauty or pleasure along the way, it’s a home run.” Michael Bierut on his career as a designer. [BV]

The New York Times was one of the last American daily newspapers to add color to its news pages. Here’s why. (via Steven Heller) [BV]

Why are we still arguing for the business value of design? [BV]


Observed | October 24

Social media is not literature, and tweeting is not writing. Imagining Herzog as status updates. (via Arts and Letters Daily) [BV]

So. Is “hipster design” really a thing? [BV]


Observed | October 23

“Even after the word disruption lost its meaning from overuse, it still suffused our understanding of why the ground beneath our feet felt so shaky.” An alternative history of Silicon Valley disruption. [BV]

US political campaigns seem to be moving away from the traditional red, white, and blue color palette. (via James I. Bowie) [BV]


Observed | October 22

Brutally Honest is a new book out from Emily Ruth Cohen with advice, insights, and best practice business strategies. [BV]



Jobs | November 18