Graphic Design: Now in Production opened at Kendall and the GRAM on Thursday night. I went to both portions of the exhibit, and it’s pretty fantastic. If you have even a mild interest in Graphic Design, it’s worth a visit. It was curated in collaboration with the Walker Art Center and the Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt Design Museum, both of which are places that I dream of visiting*.
In Kendall’s Federal Building, the exhibit is focused on film titles, posters, books, and magazines. The first thing I notice in the exhibit was the wall of screen-printed posters, test prints that Aesthetic Apparatus made in the process of making their posters. In the next room, the focus is on interactive pieces, like the Poster Wall for the 21st Century, which gathers data from various internet sources and creates posters based on a formula. If you tweet with #posterwall your tweet will be a part of that. I definitely didn’t understand how that piece worked without reading the information on the wall, but it’s an interesting concept. In the middle hall, there are some posters that go on the minimalist-movie-poster theme, but some of them are TV shows. I don’t really see the need for this piece to be in the exhibit. Maybe minimalist movie posters were new and cool ten years ago, but they’ve become pretty common. It seems like every graphic designer does the minimalist move poster at some point, and now they’re old news. In the next room, the focus is on graphic design for the screen. There are several iPads, showing different apps and how they deliver information. I’m not a graphic designer, but I know that this is a big deal, that there are major differences in how one designs for a screen and how one designs for print. It seems like this is a really worthwhile topic to explore. In the next room, there are opening credit sequences showing from various films. I didn’t see a lot of people spend time in this room, but I enjoyed watching the credits, and many of them were from movies I recognized, like Juno. In the next space, they have fantastic examples of books, things where the designer doesn’t just make an image for the cover, but functions as the author as well. They’re challenging the notion of what a book can and should be, which is important, given that books are becoming less necessary for things that are strictly text. This area blends into the space where the focus is textile design – many fabrics by Maharam are hanging on the walls, and the vague category – designerly objects. There was an Eames shell chair that involved a design on the back and bottom, and there were the ever-adorable Field Notes notebooks. I wish that this portion of the exhibit was explained a little bit better, it was hard to decipher what the curators were going for with it.
At the GRAM, the exhibit was focused on identities, typography, and information design. The space where the GRAM portion of the exhibit is housed is far more open than the space at Kendall, which influences the way visitors travel around the exhibit. In the first portion of the exhibit, there’s an interactive voting piece that uses plastic chips to give visitors a say in logo redesigns. I was astonished at the speed with which people went through this portion of the exhibit, it seemed like most people had an instinctive response, whereas I wanted to look at it and discuss it for a longer time. One of my favourite pieces was by Blu Dot, a metal interpretation of the New York Times logo, done in a style that reminds me of their Real Good Chair. In the next room, there were several video pieces, which people seemed to brush past, instead of taking the time to watch them. I’m not sure what made this happen, but I think it’s worthwhile to note how people travel through a space. The video piece that I liked was an animation done to go along with a talk about education. Along with being an interesting animation, the ideas are intriguing and well worth a listen.
The final thing that made me jump up and down, repeatedly, in public, was the Feltron Annual Reports. I heard about them on 99% Invisible,** and the idea has been captivating ever since. Nicholas Felton
keeps all sorts of records about his life, and at the end of the year, he makes a fantastic, detailed infographic. It’s the greatest. Here, listen to 99% Invisible, it’ll make so much more sense.
Moral of the story: Go to Graphic Design: Now in Production, and be amazed by wonderful things. You will not regret it.
*Walker? You and me. This summer. It’s going to happen. I really hope so.
**I’m going to say it again: If you’re not listening to 99% Invisible, I don’t understand what you’re doing with your life. Ira Glass says that it’s great, I say that it’s great, so what are you waiting for? It’s like…a really wonderful blog, but you can listen to it while you’re doing other things with your eyes, like driving. Go. Listen. Love.