Saturday, December 4, 2010

Final Project -- Essay on Field Notes

The posts in this blog tagged "Field Notes" were written for my History of Graphic Design class during Fall quarter 2010 at Foothill College.  The course covered “the development of visual communication in art, graphic design, illustration and popular culture” from its start in cave painting and pictographs, through modern times.  Each post was written after reading the weekly assignment in Megg’s “A History of Graphic Design” and class lectures, then researching some of topics discussed.
I am always amazed at how new knowledge can transform the everyday; when something new is learned, it seems to pop up everywhere.  It’s as if you suddenly were able to see a new color; maybe it has always been around but you are seeing it all over for the first time.  The posts relay not only what I discovered but also my new way of looking at the various topics.  I think this is the most valuable thing I learned from the class.  To take what I had read and not leave it in the isolation of my studying, but to go out and look for it, see it in its new forms, find it in my life. 
And in being aware of these new topics, opportunities to expand on them seemed to present themselves.  When we were reading about the development of printing, I was travelling to Ashland, Oregon to see their Shakespeare Festival and was able to view Shakespeare’s First Folio and listen to a docent lecture on the printing of it.  During our reading about Ukiyo-e and its influence on the Impressionists, the nearby Palace of the Legion of Honor was hosting an exhibit on exactly those topics.  While the exhibits were excellent by themselves, there is a special pleasure in bringing your own knowledge of the subject to the viewing.  There are two extra credit posts that I wrote on my visits to these as a direct result of the class; they are tagged "Extra Credit" if you'd like to read them.
I learned a lot from the class, and I think the posts reflect that.  The class nearly killed me – the workload is pretty intense – but I guess that if it is easy and accessible, its impact is not nearly as strong. 
I hope you enjoy the posts as much as I did researching and writing them.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Field Notes -- Typography in Australian Graphic Design

Our reading this week discussed Typography in Graphic Design, and I read it while on my looonnnngg flight to Australia; I decided before I landed that my research this week would be in how the Australians were using Typography in their Graphic Design.

an excellent blog I highly recommend
It took about 5 seconds to find the first example; Vodaphone has a Sydney campaign that is plastered on the luggage carts trolleys they have in Customs (pictured right).

This is part of the "Go Global" campaign, and features three posters: this one pictured, one of the continent of Australia, and the final of Planet Earth.  Since these subsequently zoom farther out in view, the entire campaign echoes the global theme when viewed as a whole as well as individually.  The ads are a collaborative between Aussie advertising agency JWT, Yello Brands and Am I Collective.

Although it was originally created in 2007, Australia Post's ad campaign to get people to send more letters has proved so popular that they are still prevalent today; this one was one a bus stop just outside the airport*.  The campaign pictures various people interacting; one of the people is pictured normally, the other appears like they are made out of the letter background.   The tagline: “If you really want to touch someone, send them a letter”.  The campaign has won a number of awards and has been mentioned in numerous publications:
These posters remind me a lot of Stefan Sagmeister's work where he wrote on people such as Lou Reed, albeit a very toned down, Hallmark-type variation.  According to the blog, The Inspiration Room, the print advertisement was developed at M&C Saatchi, Melbourne, by creative director Steve Crawford, head of art Murray Bransgrove, art director Rebecca Hannah and copywriter Doogie Chapman, with photographer Christopher Tovo and retoucher Ed Croll.

The 17th Biennale of Sydney (right) was recently held last August and there are still a few of their posters up around town and brochures in the Sydney hotel lobbies.  I included it here not just because the graphic design of the poster is visually interesting, but because it is integrated with its website,  forming a great example of graphic design carrying through as a total corporate image.  Barnbrook's Australia division was the ad agency:

My last example came from a magazine ad for Himage, a company that produces mens' grooming products.  The Australian typographer and graphic designer is Andi Yanto.  I really loved how he used the type, giving the feeling of shaving in an unexpected twist.

picture by me!  Magazine is OZ G7
 *I got a terrible picture of it and was declared "barmy" (ie crazy) by the Aussie friends I am staying with!

Extra Credit -- Japanesque at the Legion of Honor

Recently I took my mom to see one of the most beautiful art exhibits I've ever seen.  It's titled Japanesque: The Japanese Print in the Era of Impressionism, and its at the Palace of  the Legion of Honor in San Francisco until Jan. 9, 2011.
The whole exhibit is really in three parts, along with an accompanying smaller exhibit of Japanese print books from the museum's collections.   The first part of the main gallery looks at the Ukiyo-e themselves and examines the art form from its inception through the late 1800s.  Included in this part of the exhibit is all of the series by Katsushika Hokusai, which is most famous for its "The Great Wave off Kanagawa":
For me, it is always exciting to finally view a painting or print that you've seen a million times in books or copied or spoofed a million times in popular culture (in fact, there are several homages to it in the exhibit by other Ukiyo-e artists).  The original print did not disappoint; its colors are gorgeous and vibrant, and you are able to stand close enough to it to see all the details: the men in the boats coursing through the wave, Mt. Fuji in the background, the white spray coming off the waves.  Several of the other people viewing the exhibit were amazed to see that it contained more than a wave!
Throughout the exhibit, the color and vibrancy of the Ukiyo-e were easy to see.  There is a translucency to the way they layed the ink onto the rice paper; the rich color seems to shimmer.  The exhibit notation also did a great job of explaining various transitions or techniques in the art form, such as how Ukiyo-e artists would allow the woodgrain to show if there were large areas of color, to have another pattern so it was not a flat, vast expanse of flat color.

The Japanese influence is easy to see
in this print by Mary Cassatt

The second part of the exhibit shows how the impressionists were highly influenced by the Japanese woodcuts, and how they incorporated it into their art.  Again, the exhibit notations were excellent in explaining the influence found in each impressionist artwork, and often having a small picture of a specific woodcut they were referring to.  The small pictures also had text telling you which gallery they were displayed in so you could go back and look at them for reference.  The gallery was pretty much a who's who of Impressionists, such as Mary Cassatt, Edgar Degas, Edouard Manet, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Vincent van Gogh, and James Abbott McNeill Whistler.
Also included in the second part of the exhibit was all of Henri Riviere's "36 Views of the Eiffel Tower."  Directly influenced by Hokusai's Mt. Fuji series, Riviere's work was done while they were building the Eiffel Tower and contain many scenes where it is not complete or the workmen are in the process of building it. The entire series was done in tans and black and is gorgeous.  To be able to directly compare the two series is very rare, and we are lucky the exhibit included both.


The final part of the exhibit were supplemental mini-exhibits adjacent to the main exhibit or nearby.  To the right of the main exhibit entrance was a room that contained a seating area and flat-screen TV showing a movie about the exhibit; this area was also where the docents begin their lectures and tour.  Across the room from the seating area plates showing how the prints were made.  These show The Great Wave from beginning to end -- all fourteen plates -- so you can look at the original plate then how it prints up and the picture emerges.

In addition, there is a small room on the left before the cafeteria, which contains a selection of books.
Noted photographer Arthur Tress (b. 1940) began collecting Japanese books in the fall of 1965, and has continued to collect books and now has a comprehensive collection numbering several hundred volumes. He has selected a small group from his collection for this first of a two-part exhibition of illustrated books on the subject of Fuji, the iconic mountain that is the enduring symbol of Japan.

The whole exhibit is well presented and spacious, and the day we went, not very crowded.  It is well worth going to!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Field Notes: Heinz Edelmann, Graphic Artist

I was originally going to write about Peter Max, who I thought had done the Beatle's Yellow Submarine art.  However, when I looked it up, I found that I was wrong -- a graphic artist named Heinz Edelmann had done it, and that I wasn't the only one who had made the Max assumption.  Many articles referred to the "Max-influenced" work that Edelmann did on Yellow Submarine, and the similarities are very easy to see:

Peter Max's "Border Crossing 3"

Heinz Edelmann, still from 'Yellow Submarine'

Edelmann was born in 1934 in Czechoslovakia and upon graduating in the 1950s from the Academy of Fine Arts in Dusseldorf, he began work as a freelance designer, illustrator, animator and teacher.  He was known for combining Impressionist and Expressionist elements with humor and irony.  In the 1960s, he was experimenting with updated Art Nouveau styles when his work was spotted by Al Brodax, the producer of an animated Beatles cartoon series for children.  He was subsequently hired to produce the artwork for the Yellow Submarine film, which would become his hallmark.  

He continued to work in graphic arts up until April 2008, about a year before his death in 2009.  Some other examples of his work:

Book Cover for the German edition
of "Lord of the Rings"
Movie Poster

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Field Notes: The Penguin Logo and its various incarnations

Penguin Books is celebrating 75 years in 2010, and to celebrate I thought I'd post their logo evolution this week as part of our field notes.  They are from the back of the book "Penguin by Design: A Cover Story 1935-2005" by Phil Baines.  I was amazed at how many changes one logo went through -- sometimes several in one year!  The whole notion of a stable symbol that people recognized over many years was definitely not used at this corporation until the 1950s.

1935 Original
This is their first logo, designed in 1935 by a junior staff member
named Edward Young.  He sketched penguins at the London Zoo
for the logo design.

!937 logo
1938 logo

In 1937 the logo changed and became a little more
squat with an elongated bill.  1938 saw the penguin
get a little funky walk but go back to his original

L to R: 1946, 1946, 1947, 1947, 1947
The Penguin underwent quit a few changes during the tenure of Jan Tschihold, Head of Design at Penguin from 1946-1949.  We met him in our reading with the New Typography, and read abouthis influence on graphic design, starting on page 318.  The penguin pretty much stayed the same with slight changes and the addition of a book.  However, in 1948, Tschihold was either on vacation or had a three martini lunch because the logo became the funkiest in the whole series.  Ok, I'm speculating on the three martinis, but really, look at it:


By 1950, Jan Tschihold was no longer at Penguin and the logo got a new, curly look.  This logo lasted for a while, including through Penguin's 25th Anniversary in 1960.
It's the one I remember from paperback books I checked out of the library.

The logo changed again in 1987, with minor changes in 2003 to the bird we would all recognize today.  For their 75th Anniversary, Penguin Books spruced up their logo
by adding an oval orange field to surround the bird.

Bird changed to this style in 1987,
Orange field added in 2010 

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Field Notes: Some WPA Murals in San Francisco

One of my earliest art memories is seeing the WPA murals at the San Francisco Zoo, and just loving them (I still do).  I thought I'd do some research into some of the San Francisco murals that the New Deal/WPA era gave us:


Section of "City Life" Mural in Coit Tower, from Wikipedia
When this SF monument was finished, it was widely considered a waste of public money.  The WPA murals were commissioned to give a bigger sense of purpose to the building by celebrating California life and industry.  Twenty-six artists, mainly faculty and students of the California School of Fine Arts, worked on the project under the direction of Ralph Stackpole and Bernard Zakheim.  While many of the murals did boost morale (the WPA's objective), many of the artists literally did not paint a rosy picture of reality.  For instance, in "City Life" by Victor Arnautoff (left), there is a robbery going on in the right front, and a car accident in the center back.  In addition, a couple of the newspapers in the stand had leftist (Communist) leanings.  There was a public outcry. with the San Francisco Chronicle branding them "red propaganda" and demanding them to be whitewashed over.  Delaying the opening of the Tower and Murals for several months and making a few small changes allowed the outcry to die down and no mural was painted over.  These murals are in pristine condition, and are considered one of the art treasures of San Francisco.

Rincon Center

The murals here were painted between 1941 and 1948 by Russian immigrant, Anton Refregier.  He was strongly influenced by Diego Rivera, and also had leftist leanings.  For example, the mural shown below:
If you look closely, you'll see the sign once extended much lower. It advocated for "Eight Hour day" - even in the 1940's this was too "Controversial" and Refrigier had to edit it out. The "Torchlight Procession" mural was originally titled "Union Wins 8 Hour Day." However, the suggestion of a union triumph was too controversial for Refregier's overseers in Washington. He retitled it "Importation of Coolie Labor," but the local Chamber of Commerce and the employers' association protested. As "Torchlight Procession," all references to Chinese laborers and union victories were eliminated.
                       --- from “Historic Murals of Rincon Center” by Rob Spoor
Beach Chalet

Lucien Labaudt painted a series of murals in 1936  at the Beach Chalet, and they were restored in 1988.  They show scenes of California life and industry.  I chose the mural below because (a) it shows the completion of the first tower of the Golden Gate Bridge in the background, but not the whole bridge as that was in the process of being built when the mural was done, and (b) the artist painted himself into this scene.  He's in the lower left with his back to us and his face in profile; his wife is in the green bathing cap and swimsuit.
Presidio Chapel

Victor Arnautoff, who painted the City Life mural in Coit Tower, was commissioned to paint murals in the Presidio's Chapel, which are still available for viewing by the public.  Below is a section of these murals showing the historic figures of Maria de La Concepcion Marcela Arguello, and her bretrothed (at 15!), Russian Chamberlain Nikolai Rezanov.  Behind them is her father, Presidio Commandante Don Jose Arguello. 

S.F. Zoo Mothers' Building

Originally called the Mothers' House and built in 1925, this building pre-dates the zoo.  It was originally a refuge for moms and kids from the hot sun while at Ocean Beach or Fleishhacker Pool which was next door.  The Murals were painted by two women, Dorothy Pucinelli and Dorothy Forbes with mosaics by the Bruton sisters: Margaret, Esther and Helen.  Sadly, the artwork that I so fondly remember is in desperate need of repair and the Building itself was closed in 2002 due to extensive water damage and age.

Diego Rivera

While Diego Rivera did not do any WPA projects in San Francisco, he was a huge influence on the artists who were employed under the program.  There are three of his murals in San Francisco, and all may be viewed by the public:

"Allegory of California", painted in 1931, is in The City Club;
"The Making of a Fresco Showing the Building of A City", begun right after Allegory and shown below, is at the San Franicsco Art Institute; and
"Pan American Unity" (1940) is housed in the Diego Rivera Theatre at San Francisco City College.
A great link:

UC Berkeley has a website called "California's Living New Deal Project" which has information about all the New Deal works in the state.  It also includes an active map that you can click on and explore.  It's very cool and informative.  Visit

Sources and Further Reading:

"Coit Tower Murals"'s article on Coit Tower Murals:

Rincon Center Community Blog (shows all the murals):

Art (and History) on Trial: Historic Murals of Rincon Center

Beach Chalet:

Presidio Chapel:

SF Zoo:

Diego Rivera Murals in SF:  (tour website)

Wikipedia links:
Coit Tower:
Rincon Center:

Monday, November 1, 2010

Field Notes: It goes both ways; Asian Posters in the 1920s

Ukiyo-e by Kitagawa Utamaro
While doing our reading, I noticed that the book only deals with Graphic Art and Design influences in Europe and America during this period, while only noting the influence that Japanism had on it.  This week I kept wondering if and how Japan was influenced by what was going on in Europe and America, and I did some research on Asian posters of this period.

When our book left off, we were admiring Ukiyo-e, or Japanese woodblocks by masters such as Kitagawa Utamaro (left), with a restrained color pallette, simple composition and much less detail than most Victorian graphics.  This influenced the Art Nouveau and Arts & Crafts movements greatly in Europe and America. 

However, I found the influence was two ways, as one can see from looking at various posters during the time frame we've read about this week.  For example, this 1926 poster for the National Industrial Expo in Himeji has a distinct Western, Art Deco flavor while still retaining a distinct Japanese style.

By the 1930s, the Plakatsitl movement had a direct influence on Japanese posters with its spare style.  The poster for a Horse Exposition (1933) and one for an Exposition in Yokohama (1935) both show the graphical influence.  The above poster and the two below, plus many more, are on the website

I also found it interesting that Japan had a leftist movement in the 1930s, and those posters showed a heavy Western influence.  So in addition to new political ideas, they also got new graphic ideas.  From the webiste which has many more: