Friday, 1 July 2011

Home Invasion of the graphic form

To find that the homes of many contemporary graphic designers
are adorned with posters designed by giants like Saul Bass and
A M Cassandre, is no great surprise. What might raise an eyebrow however, is the growing popularity of such work among a wider public.

With their vibrant form, evocative content and their craft skills apparent in the work, it is little wonder that these posters are finding a critical art audience.

American designer Bass is well known for his work on film: Advise and Consent; Vertigo; Bunny Lake is Missing and The Man With the Golden Arm. Bass developed a hand crafted, cut-out style that employed few colours – usually red and black – but to great effect.

French graphic designer A M Cassandre’s work in Travel: Air Orient (France); Italian Tourist Board, and American cruise company United States Lines – had more of a clean-lined, future oriented aesthetic.

If, like me, you were raised on an aesthetic diet of religious iconography and aspirational, yet undoubtedly mediocre mass produced art by the likes of JH Lynch or Vladimir Tretchikoff – ‘Tina’ or ‘Balinese Girl' respectively – the question of what adorns the walls of ones home takes on a significance akin to curating at the Tate.

For anyone with similar memories, the re-appropriation and re-presentation of this type of interior decoration as kitsch popular culture only prolongs the visual nightmare.

The graphic poster is a very different animal. A sales and mass-marketing aid of the 20th century has been reassessed for a new audience and an altogether different purpose. The graphic poster has become the object of desire where it once was a mediator.

The growing cultural capital of the graphic poster over the last 20 years is well illustrated on the imaginary walls of TV sitcoms. From the home studio walls of whore-master Charlie Harper in ‘Two and a half Men’ the office-space of Dr Wilson in ‘House’, the poster plays a silent but important bit-part in documenting its growing popularity among a wider public.

Innovative then, inspiring now, the graphic poster is an aesthetic form that chimes with our media-centric, pop art times and one for the discerning graphic art connoisseur. But the implication for graphic design is that the poster has changed, utterly, and will never again be the communications powerhouse it once was.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Solidarity with Japan

Students of the Design Communication and Digital Media school at Cavendish College in London have rallied behind a fellow student from Japan. To help raise money, they have designed posters to highlight how students, in the first instance, can contribute to the relief effort, following the recent devastation caused by the earthquake and tsunami off the coast of Northern Japan.

view the posters and donate

Sunday, 27 February 2011

R U Ready 4 PP?

Of course product placement is nothing new on television, but from the end of February 2011, product placement in the UK will be legitimised and regulated by Ofcom with the arrival of their ‘PP’ logo. For a minimum of 3 seconds at the beginning of a programme, after adverts and again at the end, broadcasters will be required to show the PP logo on screen.

Ofcom’s new rules were conceived to allow broadcasters to access new revenue streams, while at the same time protecting viewers. It is this tension that gets to the heart of the matter. That as viewers we are seen as helpless victims of unscrupulous programme-makers in need of protection is bad enough. But for Ofcom to offer a logo to save our souls is pretty pathetic.

Nevertheless Ofcom could be making TV history here in the UK. It is just possible that this is the first time a logotype is held responsible for our visual, financial and moral well-being?

If the world wide web has taught us anything, it is that ‘invasive’ or unsolicited advertising tends to have more of a negative impact on a brand than than a determining one on the consumer.

This issue is moral posturing on the part of Ofcom and the government and tells us little about the effects of design and advertising.