Above: y=mx+b magazine project. Custom tote bag designed and screenprinted by Yelena Avanesova.
Above: y=mx+b magazine project. Custom tote bag designed and screenprinted by Yelena Avanesova.
Above: Christopher Miller created “A Gentleman’s Guide to the 21st Century,” a buying guide divided into three booklets: work, play, and love. Inside, the guides mixed a kind of email informality with a nostalgia for the classicism of centuries past.
Create a product catalog for an object from the future. This should be an object that you will desire, but it may be anything from an overpriced luxury item to an essential tool for surviving 10 to 20 years from now. Use your imagination. The market for this product will be an important consideration. Your catalog should be largely image-driven and should use minimal text. It should pursuade, convince, and seduce us.
Above: Yelena Avanesova’s project focused on a book she decided to read for the class, Alan Weisman’s The World Without Us, which imagines our planet after the last human has died off. Yelena’s underlined passages combined with imagery from vintage National Geographic magazines in this unique presentation of a world and text remembered. More + 10 to 20 projects below.
Above: Isaac Weeber’s book centered around sorting predictions about the future into three categories: plausible, possible, and impossible. These were color-coded and these colors showed up on the outer margins of all the content he chose to reproduce depending on his personal opinion.
Above: Yu Chung Lim’s book was a catalog of existing experimental architecture projects that she felt pointed a way toward the future of building and urbanization.
Generate a book about the future. This future should not be hundreds of years away, however: I’m interested in what you think about the immediate future, within your own lifetime, no more than 10 to 20 years from now.
These are slides from the lecture I gave to my publication design students on the first day of class. The first half of the lecture was focused on craft. I basically looked at Case da Abitare, a beautifully redesigned Italian home magazine, and then showed my students how to take it apart. (There is a great interview with the magazine’s creative director Tyler Brûlé, art director Kuchar Swara, and photo director Stephen Ledger-Lomas logged here on our class blog.) I started with a heavily-gridded page, the Index, and reveal the magazine’s basic 12-column structure. I went on to show how lines and rules are applied to the gutters and outer margins of that 12-column grid. Then I showed how the type is sitting on a p3.5 baseline grid which governs the placement of all horizontal elements on the page. Basically, the height of any element on Case da Abitare’s pages is a multiple of p3.5. Then I showed students how to guess at type sizes based on baseline reoccurrance, and finally I showed how all of these templated elements play out across a variety of grid schemes.
The second part of the presentation is a set of “Notes on Magazines.” First, I asked students to consider magazines as a publication form by contrasting them to other types of publications. (For the sake of simplicity, I definited a “publication” as any object with multiple pages made available to the public.) This included newspapers, journals, brochures, books, and blogs. Then we looked at various “toggles” within the magazine form itself. These included timing (or frequency), scope, length, number of authors, quantity of advertising, makeup of audience, and different strategies for distribution. Finally, I sketched a “garden variety” three-act magazine. This is what most lay readers learn as the magazine form proper: front of book, feature well, and back of book, with all the content-driven and stylistic assumptions that come with those sections. —RG
The last two pages of the 1979 book Future Cities: Homes and Living into the 21st Century describe what will happen on earth over the next 120 years. Reproduced below are the authors’ predictions for the first ten of those 120 years, from 1980–1990. Source: Paleo-Future.com
I hope I’m remembering this right, but I think it was one of my favorite teachers, Paul Elliman, who once remarked that some classes start with a program and others start with a provocation. He was often fond of the latter approach, and in the case of teaching this class, so was I. The goal of the class was to introduce students to different kinds of publications, but I chose to focus on artists’ books, catalogs, and magazines. Simply designing these forms in a vacuum, however, wouldn’t do: what makes any publication great is its context and, more importantly, its content.
The future seemed like an ideal subject. First, everyone has an opinion about it. Second, it hasn’t happened yet, so it’s impossible to be wrong. Third, especially for a group of Juniors and Seniors about to begin their professional lives, it seems like something worth stopping at least for a little while to think about.
Students began the class by researching and then trying to convey some aspect of the next 10 to 20 years in the form of a loose artists’ book or zine. Parsons students have a rich background and interest in fashion and upcoming trends, so the subject of the future fit naturally into that way of looking at the world. Some students’ visions were aesthetic, some were practical, some philosophical, some even spiritual. All were lively and resulted in illuminating and spirted conversation.
This conversation continued as we passed content around and began reforming it into other publication types, first as a sales brochure and then as a full-length magazine. Throughout, we had discussions about not only the future, but about the nature of collaboration and about the many publications and periodicals that inspired us to think about what’s coming next. —RG
Above: As one of his magazine posts, Scott Kellum shared the Andrew Heiskell newsletter. Scott writes, “I receive this newsletter about four times a year. Unlike what you might expect, the content of this newsletter doesn’t come on paper but comes on a cassette for blind people. Accessibility is always something that interests me. […] When inserted into my government issue 4-track tape player a brief introduction about the library is red aloud. Later books and other recordings are listed around a specific topic. The beginning of this tape is focused on topics of personal finance. Then a overview of library events, and other events in the area is given. Then new and popular books are listed.”
Once a week, share a publication you like with the class. It could be something you see in a bookstore, something from your bookshelves at home, or something you’ve read about. Write a paragraph describing why you like this publication and post at least three images of it for the class to see. Remember, a publication is anything with multiple pages (books, catalogs, brochures, reports, magazines, etc.) These posts will count toward your final class grade. You will need 12 posts in all for full credit. When you send me your preferred email address, I will send you a login for the blog to use throughout the semester. I will also use the blog to post images related to our class critiques and brainstorming for our in-class projects. You should feel free to do the same.
Note on posting images: The storage on our free class blog is quite limited. If possible, please post all images from your own Flickr account (or something similar) using Flickr’s embed codes (instructions).
A note on CLASS FORMATS
A “class crit,” where the whole class is involved in the critique, is useful because the critique not only refines the work being discussed but also becomes a teaching tool for the students listening in. As a result, everyone benefits from the ideas being shared. But repeating this format each week can also grow tiresome and counterproductive.
Whenever possible, I have tried to use a variety of class formats to keep us all engaged and learning in the right ways at the right times. “Desk crits” are adapted from architecture classes: the instructor wanders from desk to desk and students share what they’ve been working on. on these days, please use your time wisely and bring things to work on during class. “Small group crits” are better for critiquing projects in the “first draft” stage and for students who find the full-class critique format overwhelming and are more comfortable with speaking in smaller groups. “Presentations” as students to prepare short slide talks on a given subject to share with their fellow students. Students are expected to be timely and prepared. Finally, “guest crits” will introduce some valuable new perspectives into our full class critiques. When guests visit class, your attendance and attention is essential and expected.
FINAL CLASS DELIVERABLES and GRADING
Please put all assignments in an envelope with your name on it for grading. This envelope should be well-organized and should include everything below (unless delivery by email is specified):
Each of the three major projects (+ 10 to 20 book, Object of desire catalog, Tomorrow today) will count for 30% of your final grade.
The grid assignment, blog posts, and class participation will count for 20%.
This adds up to a total of 110%. That’s what you should always plan to devote to your work, especially during the time you’re in school. But it also creates a cushion: if one of your projects falls a little bit short in terms of its design, you can always make up for it by being an active contributor to class on the blog and during critiques. Think of it as built-in extra credit.
This class was first given in fall 2008 at Parsons School of Design in New York, NY.
What could be a better idea than having the Muppets’ meep-meister Beaker meeping Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” and then posting it on YouTube? Maybe something, but I don’t know what that something could be. This video left me meep-less.
I’m interested in Borge Morgenson’s J39 Chair.
In 1927, a No. 7 armed rocking chair designed at a Shaker workshop in Mt. Lebanon, NY somehow arrived in Denmark, where it immediately captivated Kaare Klint, a leading figure in the modern movement there. It was the same kind of chair Brother Robert Wagan’s workshop had been producing since the 1870s, but the Danes had never seen anything like it, nor had they ever heard of the Shakers. Klint ordered a replica and shared it with his students. In 1947, one of those students, Borge Morgenson, designed his J39 chair, which drew heavily on the Shaker sources. The chair quickly became a familiar icon in Denmark and would soon be one of the first modern Scandinavian designs to be marketed in the U.S. by its producer, the Danish Cooperative FDB Mobler.
It might seem like this is a story about influence, and of course it is, but if you look at it that way it’s because you’re seeing things from the causal side, from the side that considers how an object comes to look how it looks and who made it that way.
If you look at this story in terms of effects, the question, I think, is much more interesting. Is the J39 chair a Shaker chair? Is it only possible for Shaker chairs to be made by the Shakers themselves? Put even more simply: what makes a Shaker chair a Shaker chair?
Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that only the Shakers can make a Shaker chair. This is a tricky argument to make: not even the Shakers considered themselves the “makers” of the things they made. There was only one maker, and it was God. The No. 7 armed rocking chair was a gift from God. It was no more a Shaker chair as it was anyone else’s.
Nonetheless, to support themselves and their communities, the Shakers were among the first in America to try mass production, and they were so successful at it that the Shaker name became synonymous with quality. Mail-order catalogs of Shaker goods were distributed up and down the east coast of the U.S.
So: who really created Shaker chairs if the Shaker’s didn’t? You might argue it was the people that bought the chairs from the Shakers’ catalogs. Shaker chairs became Shaker chairs not because of their designers, but because of their customers. Identification, after all, rests on recognition.
Anyway, one of those chairs ends up on a boat and the boat ends up in Denmark, where no one has heard of the Shakers. To Kaare Klint and his fellow Danish designers it’s just a chair but it’s not just a chair, it’s a very special chair. They copy it. Were the copy to be purchased by someone who recognized it as a Shaker chair, would that make the copy a Shaker chair? And: is it now a Danish chair also?
Two great shorts today featuring interviews with designer Peter Saville. The first, via the always great Bevel and Boss, features an interview with Saville by Arkitip magazine on the development of his designs for Factory records and the legendary Haçienda club. The second, from the always wonderful podcast Tate Shots via Tagbanger and perhaps even closer to my heart, is Saville on Richard Hamilton’s reworking of Dieter Rams’s Toaster for Braun. Quoting Saville: “It’s kind of like a blueprint to my own work.”