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:

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Art Nouveau's influence today

This week I got to play with a friend's large stash of glossy, high-end fashion magazine collection while I was helping her with a collage.  I was immediately struck by how much some of the Art Nouveau sensibilities have snuck back into our advertising lately (last couple of years), especially the work of graphic artist, Ramid Malinic.  After finding out his name when I was researching the Smirnoff ad (middle), I looked for more of his work.  A small sampling is shown below:

 The flourishes, definite nature themes and swirls are definitely taken from the Art Nouveau.  Ramid has replaced the typical female form with product, updated the colors and modernized the stylings but the influence is there.  I'm not the only one who has noticed this -- while looking at his work on the web, many of the sites I visited commented on this.

This style has also crept back into other advertisements, with the advent of computer graphics.  Flourishes and swags, birds and flowers, are now layered in the background of many ads.  Once I made this connection, I'm now looking at ads differently -- its like playing "where's waldo" when looking through magazines.  

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Field Notes: Getting close to history

Our readings this week on William Morris and the American Type Founders Company reminded me of a previous class field trip to the San Francisco Library last April where we actually got to see a copy of the Kelmscott Chaucer.  It is one thing to see this beautiful work in our textbook, and whole other thing to be standing a foot away from the actual thing.

My friend Evan looks over the Kelmscott
Chaucer during a visit to the
San Francisco Library's Rare Book Collection
The first thing that you notice is that the textbook just doesn't do justice to the size of the work!  It's a huge book, as the above picture testifies.  The illustrations are large and the ornamentation on the pages and in the frames of the illustration are just as lushly detailed as the rest of the book.  We are very lucky to have one in a local library, and just as lucky that (a) people through the years have valued this work, taken good care of it and donated it to our library and (b) that we have a Rare Book Collection where such works are held, especially with the budget cuts in recent years.  Some more pictures of the inside of the book:

Two page spread of the Chaucer

Detail from one illustration in the Chaucer

One of the other books that we were shown was a Specimen Book from The American Type Founders Company.  This book would be sent out to printers so they could see what fonts ATF had and order them.  Basically, this was an advertisement for type, albeit one that was a little larger than a big city phone book!

ATF and William Morris were rivals, and Morris would not license his fonts to the ATF Co.  But Morris' designs were extremely popular, and ATF wasn't going to let a little thing like licensing get in the way of a huge profit.  So ATF would just create "look-alike" fonts and embellishments for their clients to order. Being British, Morris had no claim on the American reproductions although he wrote them scathing letters and did contact his barristers.  Even back then, "knock offs" existed.

The ATF Co. Specimen book 
Detail of the inside of the ATF Specimen Book,
featuring Wm. Morris "look alike" fonts
and embellishments

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Field Notes: Guttenburg, Tyler Clementi and Liu Xiaobo

While I was reading this week's assignment, I noticed strong similarities between the information explosions that printing and the internet caused, and society's reactions and assimilations to them. 

Each time a new technology has emerged that has allowed people access to more information faster, there have been similar patterns of public education, public obsession, and governmental regulation and/or attempt to control the technology.  

Both with printing and the internet, it took several decades for the public to be introduced to the new technology, and find ways to use it in their everyday lives.  With printing, people had to learn how to read, purchase or borrow books, figure out that putting up a notice would get you customers, or that one could actually sell a sheet printed with the latest news or your views on religion.  Similarly, the internet was around for several decades before the "World-wide Web" became a sensation; the public had to have access to computers, especially at home, and a modem, and be introduced to surfing the net and how to find things.  Businesses found out they could sell online, use spam to sell things and have websites for product information and public relations.  Similar events took place for both the telegraph and telephone.

Once the public learns about a new medium, and its integration becomes not only acceptable in our daily lives, but useful and generating income, there is this explosion where everyone is trying to use it so that they too can generate income or disseminate information.  From 1424 when Cambridge University had only 122 manuscript books in its library to 1502 when French printer Henri Estienne died with almost that many titles that he had published alone, one can see the sheer volume of books that were published.  And from my own high school graduation in 1979 when a website wasn't even known to the general public to the millions that now exist, one can see the similarities between these two explosions of use.

With use, comes abuse and social issues.  When does one person's marketing become an annoyance to another person, or a society?  It certainly does promote someone's product or cause to have broadsides plastered over every square inch along a public boulevard, or to send multiple emails every day for several weeks to people whose email addresses they've acquired.  Yet, to be on the receiving end of those emails, or to walk along that public boulevard, people may not see them as useful or necessary. Governments and the legal system have created laws to try to define the line between useful and annoying, and then had to enforce those laws.  Other issues may be what secrets are allowed to be kept by a country's government for national security issues, who has access to pornography or adult materials, what is free speech and what is defamation, and other privacy issues.  Certainly, the recent public broadcast of Tyler Clementi's tryst has raised a host of legal and moral issues for our latest technologies, but these issues have been raised before for print media and for most societies in general.

Government constriction of information and free speech is another issue that new media challenges.  From Martin Luther's excommunication and condemnation as an outlaw, to Liu Xiaobo's winning of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize, the tradition of trying to silence those who challenge the current political, religious or moral regime has been going on since time began.  Each technology, with its ability to get information out to the public, is a threat to the status quo because more people can learn about and discuss what is going on, and then try to change it.  Martin Luther's 95 Theses was widely distributed and demonstrated the power of the printing press to get ideas out and also out quickly.  China's attempt to control of the internet has been widely criticized and publicized (outside of China), and one that will continue to be an issue for many years to come.

Friday, October 8, 2010


Right now the topics in my Typography class overlap with History of Graphic Arts.  It almost feels like cheating -- learning about something in one class that you can apply in another -- but hey, I'll take it!!

In both classes, we are learning about the development of writing and typography.  I really like all the links that are included in my Typography class and thought I'd list them here for others and for future reference:

Paper, Leather, Clay & Stone: The Written Word Materialized

A Brief History of Typefaces

Short Video: Typography is What Language Looks Like

Aspect of the Victorian Book

In addition, I thought I'd add Kevin Steele's wonderful pop-up book on typography here.  It was part of the gallery show for the Moveable Book Society's conference that I went to last month.  Most of the people at the conference were graphic artists of some kind and we all agree that Kevin should have this book mass-produced -- its that good -- but right now it is a handmade one-of-a-kind.  The YouTube video shows the book in action and is very well produced and clear:

The write-up for this book and the rest of the show can be found at:

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Field Notes: Cave Paintings

from the website:
from the website:

This week's assignment involved the evolution of writing, from pre-historic times through illuminated manuscripts.  This entry will focus on the cave paintings or pictographs that I found in my wanderings.  For a more detailed description of pictographs, please see my previous blog entry.

I thought the pictographs, especially the ones from Lascaux and Chauvet Caves in Southern France, were beautiful.  

I loved the repeated cats drawn over one another (top, Chauvet Caves).  Even though the different sizes and overlapping indicates that they were done at different times and were not meant to be artistic, the forms are organic and create an interesting and intriguing pattern.  They look like cats to me, but some experts think they may be bears. 

The bright hues and striking contrasting blacks of the Lascaux Caves' paintings (bottom) were incredible.   I think I am used to seeing pictographs that were painted in areas where they interacted with the weather and faded; 
I can easily imagine that all pictographs were more colorful than we see now.

I can also see why Victoria Finlay chose to start her book, Color: A Natural History of the Palette, here in these caves.  I read this book this summer and it was very interesting to see the caves she described, as well as remember the process of how the pigment was made and applied.  The color is so rich that it is easy to see why the peoples who painted these were drawn to them: the different shades of earth that created the reds and golds, the black charcoal.  Even if it wasn't to make the drawings pretty, I think that these people must have noticed the eye-popping contrast.

One of my favorite cave drawings was this yellow horse in Lascaux:

from the website:
because it reminded me very, very much of one of my favorite artists, Franz Marc, who died during World War I (below).  I liked how two artists, thousands of years apart, could be so similar.

from the website:
Lastly, I really liked "avocational archaeologist" Donald Austin's website,  One of the things he showed was "enhanced" cave paintings where using digital image processing, they bring out much of the design that has faded.  It made it much easier to see some of these fragile images and understand them better.

Unenhanced Pictograph from Painted Rock, CA 
Enhanced version of above pictograph

Module Essay: Explaining the Differences

I spent a lot of time researching my essay for Quiz #2, not because the topic was so hard or required it, but because I got lost in all the information and wonderful pictures!  I'm very happy with the way the essay turned out, so I am posting it here too, as a personal reference.   Also, I can add pictures and links to many of the sites that I got lost in!!!

A petroglyph is an image somehow cut into the rock.  It can be carved, chipped or somehow embedded into the stone in any other way that pre-historic people could.
Petroglyph from
A pictograph is an image that is painted onto the rock.  Different types of earth, charcoal, ground stones or plant matter were mixed with a medium, usually animal fat, to adhere the pigment to the stone.
Pictograph from
Ideograms are pictures or symbols that convey an idea or concept.  For example, how would you draw heat or warmth? They really aren’t visible, physical objects that you can depict, although you physically feel them.  You might draw a fire or the sun, but you really aren’t talking about those objects specifically -- you are communicating something that comes from them.
Native American ideogram for Bear Dead
Native American ideogram for Bear Alive
from the website
Found on all continents, petroglyphs, pictographs and ideograms are a form of pre-writing.  All do not represent words or sounds of a language.  We don’t believe they were made for artistic reasons, but for:
a) utilitarian purposes such as an animal painted to use in a hunting lesson;
b)  religious or magical rites such as pre-hunting rituals to gain power over animals; or
c) other cultural reasons lost to the sands of time.
A logogram is a picture or symbol that represents an actual word in a language – not just the idea of it.  This implies that there is cultural agreement that the symbol means this sound or series of sounds, which in turn means something.  So the ideogram you drew for heat could evolve into a logogram if your clan agreed that it meant the word heat – not just the idea of heat.  Logograms are examples of word-writing, and many writing systems used logograms, including Chinese, Egyptian hieroglyphics and cuneiform. 
from the website:
However, all languages include at least some symbols that represent a particular sound or group of sounds in a language.  These are called phonograms, and do not necessarily represent words.  For example, names in Egyptian hieroglyphics were written using phonograms, basically showing how they sounded, and then encircled to group them together.  Every letter of the English alphabet is a phonogram.

from the website

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Field Notes: Meggs' History of Graphic Design

I loved looking at all the pictures in this book!  It starts out with early languages and then page after page marches thru time with Art: illuminated books, early line drawings, German typography, Harper's Bazaar, Art Deco, Japanese woodcuts, war posters, 1960s rock posters -- all tumbling out in a fabulous timeline. 

It was a great way to spend a rainy afternoon in Portland; I had gone to Powell's City of Books (ok definitely the world's largest bookstore; i let myself get lost both in it and in just the art section!).  A hot cup of tea, a comfy chair, the rain hitting the window: I didn't really want to form any opinion, I just wanted to look and admire, to let each page show me what it had. Some of these I have seen and it was like spotting someone you've met before, others were new.  I laughed when I got to graphics from when I was younger -- it makes me feel old that something I remember seeing when it was new is in a history book.  Yeah, we were cool.

I especially loved the Typography.  I was a typesetter and to me, letters are the personality of the block of text.  You can communicate so much with the right typeface.  So many of the pictures were about type: how it evolved, was defined then defied and re-defined.  Many of the faces from the late 70s and early 80s I typeset.  I remember the art directors and graphic artists I worked for and how they used them.  Some being "too modern" -- they look dated now -- and some for the clients that wanted to look hip.

I'm really looking forward to this class.

PS I'm also looking forward to getting my scanner to work and some pictures in here.  I'll do battle later this week and edit this.

Shakespeare's First Folio

In 2001, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen purchased Shakespeare's First Folio at auction for over $6 million dollars.   He has graciously loaned it to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland for viewings, three days a week, with all proceeds going to benefit the Festival.  For $5, I was able to view the Folio with a docent who happened to be a scholar on Jacobean Printing Techniques.

Besides seeing such a historic book, the history of its printing was absolutely fascinating, and I wanted to cover the highlights here:

1) The English language was not considered a formal language during the time of Shakespeare; it was spoken by the commoner.  Educated people typically spoke or wrote Latin, Greek, one of the Romantic languages (French, Italian or Spanish) or German; English was for every-day use.  This meant that spellings were not set, nor would they be until about 300 years later.   It is also what gives us the variety and richness (and sometimes confusion) of English.  The three men and two boys who typeset the Folio used their personal preferences when it came to spelling words -- this is how scholars can tell who typeset what pages of the Folio.

2) The printers would set and print a sheet of the Folio, then hang it to dry.  The next day, they would proof the dry sheet, making any changes and continuing its run.  Sometimes they would proof and correct half of the sheet, then go back and proof the rest and finish making corrections - all the while printing more sheets.  However, they would not throw out the previous un-proofed or erroneous sheets.  Those would be included in the run.   The end result was that no two First Folios are the same, and there are differences in all of them.  Paul Allen's is considered one of the cleanest and most perfect First Folios we have.

3) We aren't really sure how many First Folios were printed.  The estimate is as low as 600 and as high as 1200, but the standard guess is about 750.  This also would depend on what you count as a First Folio.  They were sold three ways:  (1) Bound by the publisher - the most expensive option and the one least taken; (2) as a complete block of pages and then the purchaser hired his own binder and specified how the book was to look; and (3) piecemeal -- you could buy, say, pages 1-10 this week then come back next week for pgs. 10-20 and so on until you had the whole set.  This was very common for the times it was printed in.  This First Folio was purchased under (2) and then bound privately.  So most of the First Folios look as differently on the outside as they are varied on the inside.

4) We aren't sure how many exist today.  The guess is about 250.  They have been trying to get an accurate inventory since the 1970s (back then the estimate was closer to 200), but there are private libraries and things in attics that we don't know about and occasionally find.  Also, it depends on what you count as a First Folio.  Many libraries have pieces of the Folio, not the whole thing.  The Folger Library has 79 copies in various states.  Given the way it was sold, the length of time and its rarity to begin with, its amazing we have any left.

5) Besides having different spellings, the words have different ligatures.  Sometimes they used what we would consider an f for the letter s; sometimes they used combined letters, other times not.  The f for an s was very common in Jacobean times; it differed from the true f because the crossbar of a true f went all the way through while if it was an s it was only half-way.  This has led to many scholarly arguements, such as the one about Prospero's wife.

In The Tempest, Ferdinand says "So rare a wondred Father, and a wife" -- or does he?  Wife has been wise in many translation and the debate rages on with scholars claiming that the lead type broke down during printing and the crossbar eroded, or that it was a piece of lint that only looked like a crossbar...

Ultimately, what directors and actors have decided from all the varied First Folios with their errors, different spellings, and mystical crossbars is that Shakespeare is open for a lot of interpretation, and that there is not just one way that is correct.

It was great to spend some time viewing this book and hearing how it was printed and how different it was than today.

PS: Pictures were not allowed and the one I have posted was from a Sotheby's Auction earlier this year.