Friday, August 27, 2010

Paper & Ink

It's one thing to stare at a computer screen.

Picking colors. Scrolling through typefaces (but never mumping them). Pushing pixels.

But, after bringing to life in real paper and ink an otherwise virtual design, it never fails to impress me to hold it in my hands after only previously knowing it on a screen. Pasteboards, guides, and bezier curves are amazing in and of themselves, but to touch and feel my work—not to mention the smell—is what I am learning from experience to be the creative payoff. Screen, laser print, blueline, digital proof. But, nothing compares with the final product after paper has been carefully selected, inks and processes applied thoughtfully (since you can't really experience them until it's in hand).

It requires creative discipline to look just past the screen and to imagine the final product, but it is one part of being a designer that shouldn't get lost in the digital age. Recently I have had the opportunity to work on a business card that will be printed on a letterpress. In fact, we will create our own duplexed paper by bonding 100# cover white over 100# cover blue paper in order to absorb the deep debossed impression we hope to achieve on each side. The same card could be printed on a traditional offset press or even through an online service that would probably print it on a mid-grade paper using a digital press. But, no.

Same design, different method of producing. Different result. A different level of quality!

[Attached picture is a sample of letterpress. Note the deep impression—slightly debossed—that is characteristic of the process.]

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Required Reading

Welcome, class. My name is Derek.

This is a story. From Frank Chimero. Full text here.
“Some people just can’t handle honesty, I guess,” Paul shrugged.
He poured me a coffee from his thermos and invited me to take a seat in his office. I looked over my shoulder and got one last guilty glance at the student running out crying. I sat down. “What did you say to her?”
“The usual. About how she wasn’t working hard enough. About how when she shows up unprepared it’s a waste of my time, but worse, it steals time from everyone else in the class. How if she’s having issues loving this craft now when she’s doing it for herself, that it’s only going to get more and more difficult to learn to love once she’s got a job with clients.”
After a brief moment of silence, I said, “I think you said something else. You did the part where you say ‘Assuming you get a job,’ didn’t you?”
“Of course! It’s true! She needs to know she has to work harder. She needs to know the reality of the situation. You can’t sugar-coat everything: her work isn’t good enough to pass.”
Paul was surly, impatient, and lovable, an unadulterated truth-telling machine stuck in a system of nuance, back-patting and grade inflation. Paul could stand to be nicer to some, but if you listened to him, and worked hard, you were one of his kids and on the fast track. If something sucked, he told you, but he also told you how to make it sing. A student just had to suppress their ego long enough to hear that last bit. Most students focused on the wrong half of his sentences and presumed that his approval was some unreachable goal, and that Paul could breathe fire at will. They made the mistake that his approval was based on how few gaffes a student made, and not how significant that student’s effort was. The happiest I’d ever seen Paul was when one student showed up to class with a two-inch stack of sketches, and when he asked what it was, she just answered “The chopping block.” Paul’s wrinkled face cracked into a half-smile. He loved it when his students would recognize the potential in something and be able to tell the good from the bad.
Later on:
“Everything needs more love. You know how I always hound students about their craft? Craft is love manifest. It’s that love that makes you reject hundreds of bad ideas in the hope that you can come up with something worthy of your subject. It’s that attention to detail that makes you want every little piece to be perfect. It’s what makes you kern body copy and justify text by hand and buy surgeon’s tools for your comps and what makes you stay up until God knows when wondering if green is better than yellow, and then doing both anyway, damn it.”
“That’s why that girl ran out of here crying. Not enough love. But I have hope for her. I think she can do it. I really think she can. She’s smarter than all my other students. Up until now, she’s just been flat. That’s the first emotion I’ve been able to get out of her. And next week in class I’m going to tell her that it was good that she expressed herself, and that I’m sorry that I had to push that hard for it to come out. But, I think it will be good for her, because she’ll understand that if there’s something important to say, she’ll know what I mean when I tell her she’d better be funny as hell or insightful or honest or even angry. Or all of them at once. Cry, if you need to. Just be human. Vulnerable. As difficult as that sounds, it’s your only choice if you want to do anything worthwhile.”
"Craft is love manifest." Beautiful. Now design.

“the designer’s LEXICON”

About two years ago a designer friend of mine introduced me to the book:  the designer’s LEXICON: The Illustrated Dictionary of Design, Printing, and Computer Terms, by Alastair Campbell. I was immediately enthralled. 

I have a B.S. degree in Graphic Design, and a M.F.A. degree in Art with an emphasis in Graphic Design, so I have studied quite extensively on the topic, however, this book continues to make me aware of how little I actually know. The “Lexicon” is full of random, and funny, terms and word that were often used in the industry back-in-the-day. The book also give definitions of words that we often use in the industry, but may be unaware of the origin. Every time I open the book I learn something new, for instance, I was flipping through the pages and came across the typographic term “Mump”. Funny word—have any guesses as to what it means? I know I had never heard the word before. This got me to thinking, maybe the readers of this blog would enjoy learning some of the “old” terms. So, I have decided to post a “Word-of-the-week”. I will post at least one word, and it’s definition, from the “Lexicon” each week. This week we will start with the word “Mump”, and I challenge you to try to use it throughout the week.

Mump — A typesetting term, meaning to move or copy fonts from one establishment to another (usually unauthorized). The term originally referred  to moving hot metal matrices, and is still used today with reference to digitized fonts. Mump probably derives from the old     Dutch word mompen, meaning to cheat.
—the designer’s LEXICON: The Illustrated Dictionary of Design, Printing, and Computer Terms, by Alastair Campbell, Chronicle Books, San Francisco, © 2000, pg.175

 My advice to my students this week is: Don’t be a Mumper.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

About Design-Deliberation

Welcome to Design-Deliberation. Design-Deliberation is a blog created to provide John Brown University Graphic Design 2 students the opportunity to develop their critique vocabulary by practicing the art of criticism. Design-Deliberation will provide students with a source of inspiration, and an alternative venue for design education through the viewing, and review of design work being created and produced in our local, regional, and global community.

As the instructor for the class, and main author for this blog, I will be facilitating a discussion each week as we post and review professional design work, trends in design, design for social concerns, and many other topics. Each student in the class will make observations and give comments throughout the week. I have also asked several professional designers to participate in this blog and give their insights, opinions, and shared experiences, as well as show some of the work that they have just completed, or are inspired by.

I want this blog to focus on the positive, the well executed, and the inspirational. This blog will not be a ‘ROAST’ blog. And, I hope that all those who visit the blog leave inspired and more passionate about design.