Jack Allen pointed me towards this beautiful visual essay by designer and artist Paul Soulellis. In it he narrates and argues for a counterpractice of design that I can very much sympathise with. It’s an inspirational read for the new year, and will surely help to guide how I approach my projects in 2014.
Updates are slow on the zine, but things are happening nonetheless. Meanwhile follow lokimon on tumblr, updated far more frequently with plenty of inspirational imagery.
Tumblr mosaic created here.
I’ve mentioned the International Typographical Union in a few of my recent blog posts, both the historical union itself and the design group aligned to, and inspired by it. Above is a short slide show showcasing projects by the latter group, and below is a concise contextual history of the former that I’ve written for the next issue of FMTM.
The International Typographical Union was the first national labour union in the United States, founded on May 5, 1852 (the name was changed from National to International in 1869 after it began organizing members in Canada). The I.T.U. was composed of typesetters, printers, apprentices and journeymen, and was considered one the most democratic and progressive unions; condemning Sunday work, actively supporting organizing efforts by other craft unions, and being among the first to institute membership by women, with Augusta Lewis Troup becoming the first woman (in 1870) to hold a national office. In 1906, the I.T.U. secured the eight-hour work day through the use of tactical strikes in major cities, paving the way for a standard that would be implemented across other industries. After World War I, when employers sought to lengthen the work day to 12 hours , the I.T.U. fought back with massive strikes across the country, engaging in a three-year long battle that cost employers dearly, successfully defending the union’s significant gains.
On December 31, 1986, the I.T.U. dissolved, largely due to the automation, mechanization and digitalization of the trade. The remnants of the union membership merged with the Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.
I recently stumbled across this fascinating article from the Walker Art blog describing designer Sang Mun’s degree project at RISD: ZXX. ZXX is a type design project that attempts to “articulate our unfreedom” through the design of a typeface that cannot be decoded by OCR technologies. In light of the recent revelations about the NSA Prism program , this project is particularly relevant.
What’s interesting to me is how this project seems to bring together inherent aesthetic cues of the “ugly” trend (I really need to come up with a better term for my understanding of this) that I’ve been discussing here (the distortion/layering of type elements and placement, the concept of default/open-source design, issues of illegibility/accessibility, through to the presentation of the project) with a critical social commentary of the surveillance state and privacy concerns. It makes me wonder whether this “state of anxiety” may be at the root of the aesthetic currents running through graphic design practice.
What’s also really encouraging is that ZXX might be a representation of a re-engagement with design language, and typography/type design specifically, as a form of critical engagement and aesthetic experimentation, much like Neville Brody’s FUSE project from the 90s. Hopefully it’s not just closing a loop, but a “sign” (pun intended) of things to come. I’ll certainly be taking some of these cues into, and using the typeface within, the next issue of Four Minutes to Midnight.
See more of the project, and download the typeface, here.
My arm and the back of John’s head at last year’s May 22 manif
I’m surprised I haven’t posted about my friend and collaborator Thien V‘s work on here before now. Thien is a talented young photographer who has established himself as one of the preeminent documentarians of the unprecedented social uprisings in Montreal over the last few years.
I’ve worked with him as a fellow collective member of both Artivistic and Howl, and I wanted to give him a quick, but deeply-felt shoutout as I’ve been thinking a lot about photography, memory and the student strike lately. Working towards the next issue of Four Minutes to Midnight, I realise I want to use it as a way of documenting and translating my own experience of the last few years. Thien has been along for most every step of the ride, at shows, protests, meetings, and meals, so who better to collaborate with on this. Now I just need to scour through the thousands of images he has shot!
What I particularly like about Thien’s photos is not necessarily the strength of individual images, nor the politically-charged subject matter, but how the numerous small moments he captures add up to an authentic and intimate representation of experience, not so much a narrative, but a very specific “vibe”. It’s this vibe I want to work with, and explore ways to treat the images graphically (through design and printing) to bring it out even further.
Visit Thien’s website Quelques Notes.
Following a certain line of thinking from my Ugliness article, I recently discovered the work of Michèle Champagne, designer and editor of the critical design magazine That New Design Smell. Michele is doing some really interesting work (out of Toronto!) that seems to share a lot of my current interests, though her expression of them is quite different (she’s far funnier/more optimistic than I am).
Check out her work here.
PS. On a slightly related note, here’s a refreshing article by Michael Bierut on the sad state of design criticism (and a heated comments thread, though a lot of the comments are logocentric and missing the fine point at the end of Bierut’s article calling for a reengagement with critical design writing) .
In yesterday’s lengthy post I touched on notions of trend cycles in graphic design. And then I discovered Trend List, an amazing and overwhelming catalogue documenting current stylistic tendencies in graphic design.
At the root of what I’m thinking about, and what I assume most graphic designers think about, is how cultural/political currents become embedded into the formal structures of design, and vice versa. Maybe staring at this site for a few hours will help…
I honestly didn’t think it would come to this, especially with all the social/bookmarking networks I’m already on, but I’ve finally started using Pinterest, and I’m actually finding it pretty useful and fun! Not so much as a way of discovering, but more as a way of keeping track of various and often ephemeral inspirations.
This year’s Expozine weekend was another smashing success, with an especially impressive roster of exhibitors, including many new artists and publishers, and a great vibe all around. It seemed slightly less crowded and chaotic than usual, which was nice, allowing people to engage more with the exhibitors. For this year’s edition, in addition to my normal organising duties, I also helped to redesign the website (code by Hello Everyone, full implementation still in progress…), and got to see my new logo silkscreened onto tote bags and t-shirts!
It was so nice to get to see all our self-publishing friends again (like seeing fam for the holidays without the emotional turmoil), and table alongside Billy Mavreas and Larissa from the Concordia Co-op Bookstore. An entertaining (to say the least) set of neighbours!
Though we didn’t have a new issue of Four Minutes to Midnight out for the fair, we had plenty of fun stuff available (pictured above). The Wu-Tang prints were incredibly popular, as was our new set of poems. We completely sold out of Riot and Capitalism Kills Love prints, which makes me feel that all is all right in the world (despite the current news headlines). We didn’t sell a ton of back issues (the Expozine Issue and Happy Hour), but I was really happy to share their stories with those that were interested. John’s Hard Mouse Best Mouse, an EP of quickly written and recorded song sketches, was also a really nice treat.