design for designers

for those at the venezky poster crit the other day, tony raised an interesting question/challenge about how much work for other designers should reference the "client" designer. i've been thinking about that question a bit since, so i wanted to open up a discussion about it. all i've got is my own experience doing this, so forgive the self-reference that follows.

i've never done a visiting artist poster, so when i approached the project, i decided that i wanted to put myself into the mindset of venezky, but specifically NOT to imitate his work directly. i read the preface to his book (see the extended entry for a quote), looking for the way in which he worked rather than the form of the results. this would seem to be tony's recommendation for approaching a project of this type. yet, i cannot deny there are venezky-like things about my piece.

did they emerge because of my existing familiarity and appreciation for the work? the fact that i tried out his way of doing and thinking? the fact that as an influential designer, he is just a part of my work? all of the above? where am i in that? i certainly look at my poster and see =me= in it, as much or more so than m.v.; the same for tyler's and tracy's, knowing their work. but do others?

i think it's also tough to think about this without context. i took what i'll guess is a common approach for a visiting artist poster, with not a lot of time, but with frivolity, freedom, and tribute. not unlike how a musician approaches a cover song. certainly the two forms share an insularity, design about a designer for consumption by designers.

is this the "wrong" approach? what's the "right" one?

m.v. on m.v.: "it's not just the completed artifact, but the making itself that holds me still. my favorite processes are gradual and meticulous. they force me to build up work slowly, observing the whole as i place a single letter, then a line, then another. i coach my students against the pressures of efficiency...there is a relief in creating with a strategy but without a goal, knowing the next step but not the destination."

posted by Jay Harlow on October 11, 2005 | comments: 7 | post a comment

I've been thinking about this as well, and I think its good to consider the possibilities outside of one's first reaction to an assignment or prompt. So its about seeing the other paths from the village to the next, not necessarily getting there the quickest...but perhaps getting there with a deeper sense of comfort in the path chosen. I don't think one can ultimately say one approach is RIGHT or WRONG, but one might be better than another approach. And look what we have now...The Meredith Davis poster is a damn fine opportunity to experiment with the question Tony raised because, like many people I've talked to, I frankly have no idea what Meredith's work looks like, how she thinks, where she's been, or really who she is. Which basically means its gonna be really fun making that one.

Posted by Travis Stearns on October 12, 2005 02:33 AM

I think the poster contests avail us the opportunity to do something that we would never do otherwise. I'm talking about both process and form here. They can be quick and dirty, or laborious and meticulous. It's an opportunity to try something new-for-you, to make something that doesn't look like it's your work. To 'try on' another designer's approach or style, or to reject both yours and theirs and do something much looser.

I didn't get the idea that Tony was saying that Jay, Tracy or Tyler took the wrong angle, rather that there are many other ways to approach this kind of project, and we are only hanging out in the (safe) shallow end at this point. (I'm not pointing fingers but am guilty myself here, since I submitted posters for some of the previous contests).

I love Travis' idea of experimenting with our thoughts on this topic by making a poster for Meredith's lecture, and I think it's going to be particularly interesting to see what people come up with since the lecture is probably not about her visual work, which leaves less opportunity for visual appropriation.


Posted by BerkoWho? on October 12, 2005 10:27 AM

ok so I posted this with NOMAD sitting under a concrete arch and apparently it did not go thru-

cut to the chase: sorry about the roccoco comment in the poster discussion. A poster project off the cuff is a low impact aerobics version of the tryout of form and concept ideas. The stuff looked great. Mistrust that. Mimicry or getting into a mindset of a designer is good. But even then, one has to worry about the facility of the computer: you can recreate an Ed Fella idea pretty quickly. And in all fairness it took Ed until late middle age to figure things out through a series of career/life experiences.

What I wrote was this: I think it's important to be critical of form, while loving it. The difference here is that there are so many ideas we have tossed your way in this program. These were not part of the mix in 1987. Alot has changed. Don't be complacent- we give you this stuff, the plate du jour of issues the best we can, and you invent your own ideas on your own (which are pretty good having taught you and heard your responses and challenges in seminar). Trust them. Try them out. When Ed fella was chopping up letterforms, Reagon was in office, the Soviet Union was still what it was, the Internet -what?-?? was if I can recall not an issue.

times change and contexts shift. respond to them. you have the freedom of time in grad school, w/o the pressure to make a buck.

(this better get posted this time w/o bouncing off concrete and the chancellor's forehead to get to a server)

Posted by Scott on October 12, 2005 06:23 PM

just a real quick comment. i think we all have a difficulty looking at design problems/endeavors with "beginner's eyes"… ¿ especially us grad students ? … i think it's a good idea to question our stylistic conceits. i would like to regard the comments made during the poster crit in the more general context of our education. the primary question being: do we feel we are contributing to graphic design? are we being inventive? these should be major concerns for all of us who have devoted our lives to learning through making. having said this, i would like to acknowledge the effort and the outcomes of the three who managed to crank a poster out over the weekend.

Posted by jon hyland on October 12, 2005 09:30 PM

I thought the other day was the start to a great(er) discussion, and so I'm glad Jay took the initiative to start this post. I'm taking the comments into a larger realm though; how they can/will/may affect my studio work vs. the poster, because quite frankly, I gave myself a 2 hour break to shoot something off and so I consider it a sketch at best.

For what it's worth, though… I wasn't trying to mimic Martin Venezky, but reinterpret his language and extract some of the elements that resonated with me. I love his cat posters, and made reference to them (though apparantly it didn't read as explicitly as I thought). The type was definitely alluding to the dada-esque type collages Martin uses, but I used it as a visual history of the typefaces I was toying with, as well as a running record of where they were at any point in time while I was constructing my layout. The typeface also had several alternates, and so I kept those alternatives that I didn't choose in the poster as well as the ones I did. I was sort of surprised that the poster was deemed as such a heavy quote, because I think my style is far more subtle than to compare it to Venezky's, even though I adore his work.

I will maintain that there isn't anything wrong with making reference to someone/thing… the subject of the poster is a lecture by a designer; the audience is the COD community, and so it seems relevant to reference parts of an (esoteric) language that other designers will pick up on. But I will also acknowledge that in this contest, yes—we 3 erred on the side of safety. In the next snippet, I will take the comments to heart and try a different approach.

Posted by Tracy on October 13, 2005 01:32 PM

hey again;

My comments may be a result of many things other than the comps on the wall. I guess what I am saying is that I have faith in you guys, and I have been a bit out of the loop until now that your thesis committees are being formed. The posters are f i n e.

I like them and can see experimentation, and I do not want to be a wet blanket on that.

but. I hope you all are trying out other options when it comes to your studio work, and your thesis. I know it's hard to go out on tangents and then have to worry about progress in critique, orals, final thesis, job apps. retirement, (joking here, eh?).

Hey though. That kind of crap never, ever ends. It will never end. There is still a need to take risks with no guarantee- and I am saying this from a pragmatic perspective, not a romantic one.

Posted by Scott on October 13, 2005 07:10 PM

the ups and downs of being a designer

Posted by mia on November 28, 2005 01:29 PM