The Shock of the New


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HfG Schwäbisch Gmund

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The Shock of the New

  1. 1. The Shock of the NewPublic lectureHfG Schwäbisch Gmund10.1.2011
  2. 2. Extended version 16.1.2011 [• T 1][• T 2]‘neue typographie ist die typographie des besseren lesens, der bessereninformation, des bestmöglichen angebots für auge und verstand.’typographie, otl aicher[• T 3] Goodmorning.[• T 4] I am very pleased to meet you.------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------[• 5] As you may spot, luckely, I am listed in ‘Dutch Graphic Design. A century ofinnovation’ [• 6] which was published in 2006.[• 7] An early example of my work, presented on page 378, is from 1991.[• 8] The same bookcover for ‘The Shock of the New’ by Robert Hughes is on the nextslide, [• 9] but surrounded by some of my designs out of the same period, [• 10] whichis exactly twenty years ago!Please excuse me for talking English. [• 11] To show my very best [• 12]I prepared most textslides in German [• 13] and enjoyed reading [• 14] theseoutstanding titles [• 15] to catch some remarkable quotes [• 16].So this lecture is really up-to-date because it is bi-lingual [• 17], cross cultural [• 18],and very global [• 19].By the way is n’t it interesting, in this perspective, that Nandhini Mehra [• 20], a youngIndian designer who graduated in May 2010 at Savannah College of Art & Design inAtlanta (US), is presenting a bilingual poster on DIN [• 21], a famous, anonymousGerman typeface, which was re-drawn as FF DIN [• 22] by Abert Jan Pool [• 23], a
  3. 3. Dutch typedesigner working in Hamburg, because Erik Spiekerman [• 24] – at that timestill at Meta Design in Berlin – told him to, while finalizing the 1994 ATypI conference inSan Fransisco?As an intermezzo,– to introduce myself, I selected three examples of my recent,mainly, editorial work.• First [• T 25]: Dutch opinion magazine Vrij Nederland (main issue: handling thetransformation from newspaper to magazine)• Second [• T 30]: First View, a visual report of the Willem de Kooning AcademyFashion Show 2009 (main task: the manual selection of over 1,000 photographs)• Third [• T 34]: Ben Joosten, a monography (main issue: the balance between much tomuch text and the actual work)Today on special request i am going to talk to you about ‘basics’ & typography.PREFACE [• T 38][• T 39]‘Die Aufgabe beschreiben, ist ein Teil der Lösung. Impliziert: die kreativen Entscheidenicht dem gefühl entsprechend treffen, sondern nach intellektuellen Kriterien. Je präziserund vollständiger diese sind, desto kreativer is die Arbeit.’Programme entwerfen, Karl GerstnerAlready for ages Typography is a simple craft driven by language and logic [• 40],and practised by deducting and combining [• 41].Please do not misunderstand me: some assignments – for instance a newspaper [• 42],which nowadays in fact is a ‘communication package’ [• 43], and probably will bepublicated in print, online [• 44] and via several mobile applications [• 45] – may bevery complex [• 46],– I am only aiming at the resources.
  4. 4. [• 47] This contemporary solution by CAFA students presented on the Beijing campusduring Icograda 2009 in a beautifull building [• 48] designed by the renowned Japanesearchitect Arata Isozaki [• 49] did remind me of another important, distinctive,characteristic of Typography: it is user orientated.[• 50] The overal design will be tested, in a very straightforward way, by the user,probably a reader, in the end. Always . . .. . . [• 51] In this case the legibility was ok, but the usability was not sufficient.I got lost.[• 52] I am not a product designer but I suppose some resemblance with an actualdesign philosophy like ‘User Centered Design’ does exist, since UCD [• 53] focuses onthe needs and abilities of the user, in order to create applications, which are easy touse, and are of added value.[• 54] My approach to typography has always been systematic and might be calledprogrammatic.[• T 55]‘Programme entwerfen: Warum ist es so schwierig, was gemeint ist, kurz und bündig zudefinieren? Der Untertitel: statt Lösungen für Aufgaben Programnme für Lösungen istzwar präzis, aber kaum plastischer als der Titel.’Programme entwerfen, Karl GerstnerLike others I distinguish a comprehensive, media independent, set of related variableslike for instance: type, pointsize, linelenght and transport.[• T 56]‘Gute Typographie ist wesentlich ein Ergebnis wohlüberlegter Anordung. Einerungeschickten Anordnung helfen selbst die allerschönsten Schriften nichts, aber selbstmit mittelmäßig guten Schriften kann maneine gefällige Anordnung treffen.’Erfreuliche Drucksachen durch gute Typographie, Jan Tschichold
  5. 5. Although the same basic set is used over and over, the solution to a problem is uniquewhen the selection and use of variables differ, and the assignment of values depend onspecific context and content.[• T 57]‘Das Technische, Praktische und Ästhetische sind nicht Teilgebiete der Typographie,sondern Seiten an ihr, es sind Teilaufgaben, die mit jeder Einzelaufgabe immer wiedergestellt werden.’Die Kunst der Typographie, Paul RennerSociety is rapidly transforming, and technique is always innovating.The industry is completely digitilized during the last thirty years of the past century.Please look at the next two sequences.[• T 58] Printing [• 59-74] . . .[• 75] Recently the Espresso Book Machine is available at the American Book Center inAmsterdam and will deliver anybody a book within minutes if an accurate .pdf isprovided.[• T 76] Composing . . .[• 77] By the way it is a persistent misconception to suggest Gutenberg ‘invented’printing: the Chinese did. [• 78] He introduced typecasting and the use of movabletype.[• 79] Gutenberg – originally a goldsmith – changed profession to become a punchcutterand printer. [• 80-98][• 99] Of course, we all know ‘the reader’ is rather conventional . . .[• 100] But how come the fundamentals of Typography did hardly change?[• 101] Is n’t the issue more related to the biological: to the ‘universal’ human eye andthe brain?[• 102] More specific is it because we are reading from left to right, from top to bottom,already for quite some time?
  6. 6. [• 103] Maybe with the introduction of the e-book, the smartphone and the i-pad, ourreading habits will change as some predict.[• 104] But how and why exactly?[• 105] Only because of the introduction of a non-linear time-ax and a much morelayered environment?[• T 106]‘schrift ist der visuelle niederschlag von sprache.was heißt das?’die welt als entwurf, otl aicherWill we stop reading in one direction?Or will the replacement of language by image, in visual communication – which ishappening at this very moment – not prove to be much more influential concerning thescope of typography?[• 107] The Egyptian hieroglyphic system, which increased from approximatly sevenhundred to around five thousand signs, is not only made up of pictographs, but also ofphonograms and determinatives.[• 108] Most important, hieroglyphs are written from right to left, or from left to right,or from top to bottom. The reader must consider the direction in which the asymmetricalhieroglyphs are turned in order to determine the proper reading order.[• 109] Jean-François Champillion was the first to understand the originality of thescript, and explained how to decipher the hieroglyphic in Précis du SystèmeHiëroglyphique which was publicated in 1824.[• 110] ‘It is a complex system, writing figurative, symbolic, and phonetic all at once, inthe same text, the same phrase, I would almost say in the same word.’, he writes in aletter to his editor two years before.
  7. 7. BASICS [• T 111][• 112]‘Elementare Typographische Gestaltung ist die Schaffung der logischen und optischenBeziehung der durch die aufgabe gegebene Buchstaben, Wörter, Satzteile.’Elementare Typographie, Iwan TschicholdSome years ago I had to re-think a Typography programme concerning the first twoyears of a four year curriculum.[• 113]‘Das einzelne Wort und die Satzseite [...] sind die Elementaraufgaben, an denen wir diealgemeinsten Formgesetze kennenlernen wollen [...]’Die Kunst der Typographie, Paul RennerI must have been in pretty good shape and rather concentrated, because I ‘treasured’ anobvious structure quite soon.[• T 114] (‘Das Programm’)First [• T 115] 1. Letter [• T 116]Second [• T 117] 2. Word [• T 118]Third [• T 119] 3. Sentence [• T 120]Fourth [• T 121] 4. Paragraph [• T 122]Fifth [• T 123] 5. Page [• T 124]Sixth [• T 125] 6. Book [• T 126]Now I could easily scedule [• T 127] Typehistory [• 128, 129, 130, 131],– [• T 132]Classification [• 133, 134, 135, 136] and,– [• T 137] Nomenclature [• 138, 139, 140],and of course also the most important typographic basics – first introduced by EmielRuder [• 141] – like [• T 142] Contrast [• 143, 144],– [• T 145] Direction [• 146, 147]
  8. 8. and [• T 148] Rhytm [• 149, 150] ([• 151] I am sorry this is not typography . . . but isit not a beautifull painting?).Also within this frame we would study [• T 152] Proportions [• 153, 154, 155, 156,157], the inner [• T 158] Relations [• T159]‘[...], jede Schrift findet ihre beste Lesbarkeit und ihre günstigste Wirkung beibestimmten Zeilenbreiten, Zeilenabständen und Wortzwischenräumen.’Die Kunst der Typographie, Paul Rennerand all about [• T 160] White (called space in typography) [• 161, 162, 163], et cetera.[• 164] I even could pay [• 165] some attention to [• 166] visual poetry [• 167], totribute Jan Vermeulen [• 168], my own typography teacher [• 169], who might startone of his lessons by reciting, poets like, Gerrit Achterberg [• 170] or J.C. Bloem [•171], presumably to indicate the strong relation between language and typography . . .[• T 172]SpringThrough desolate spring skies the sun broke clear.A flight of birds dropped in a sudden sheer.The thinly sown snow melted on the earth.Heart, you are free: you had no grounds for fear.J.C. Bloem[• 173] In the end the only real problem to tackle seemed to be rather formal: how tofit the course in four semesters while the division is in six?[• 174] Sometime later I discovered – by coïncidence – that Paul Renner [• 175] usedmore or less the same subdivision in ‘Die Kunst der Typographie’ (Erstes Kapitel: DasEinzelwort // Zweites Kapitel: Die Satzseite // Drittes Kapitel: Das Buch) before hewanders from his subject to head for other directions.[• 176] The ‘link’ with Jan Tschichold – Iwan at that time – is quite obvious, since
  9. 9. Tschichold wrote, in Leipzig, some twenty years before [• 177]: ‘6. Elementaretypografische Gestaltung ist die Schaffung der logischen und optischen Beziehung derdurch die Aufgabe gegebenen Buchstaben, Wörter, Satzteile.’[• 178] Once more, in this context, demonstrating the elegance of the scheme [• 179]I would like to emphasize the break between the third and fourth item, [• 180] toclassify the first part as ‘basic’ [• 181], and the second as ‘advanced’ [• 182, 183].[• 184, 185, 186][• 187] So no, I would not change the format [• 188] if someone would ask me to re-think the programme once again, [• 189] [• 190] although actualizing assignments,[• 191] and keeping all information up to date, [• 192] is always required in education.[• 193] In The Tipping Point – an excellent study, and wonderful guide, which should beread by every design-student – Malcolm Gladwell is introducing three kind of people whomatter in a social epidemic.[• 194] Connectors: ‘people with a special gift for bringing the world together’, and ‘whoknow everyone’. [• 195] Mavens – the word comes from the Yiddish, and it means onewho accumulates knowledge – ‘information brokers, sharing and trading what theyknow’. Mavens are data banks. They provide the message.’[• 196] ‘Connectors are social glue: they spread it. [• 197] But there is also a selectgroup of people – Salesman – with the skills to persuade us when we are unconvinced ofwhat we are hearing [. . .].’[• 198] Although it is not the task of a teacher to start, nor spread an epidemic, I amquite sure something of a Connector or/and a Maven is in us all. Or to put it inGladwells words: ‘To be a Maven is to be a teacher.’But apart from actualizing . . . [• 199] after visiting the Shanghai International FashionCulture Festival in 2010 and listening to a stunning lecture titled: What guides thedesigner’ hand? Inside the ultimate design studio: the brain by Art Historian John Onians[• 200], I am prudently concluding every design programme might need some tuningre-introducing the manual experiment. [• 201] Recent neuroscientific insights seem to
  10. 10. confirm not only the eye and the hand need training, also the designers brain needsmanual feed to keep in optimum condition. [• 202] The key concept to grasp is that ofneural plasticity.I quote: [• 203] ‘Another is that the laying down of those memories is associated withstructural changes in the brain. [• 204] We have always known that previous experienceis important for artistic success, but we never knew exactly why. [• 205] Now we knowthat it is because each experience we have actually changes our brain’s structure,leaving us with better resources for dealing with that particular experience if we have itagain.’And: [• 206] ‘Each trained artist or designer acquires over time a brain whose structurehelps him or her to perform the particular tasks he or she is engaged in.[• 207] The process by which this happens is one that is only recently has beenunderstood. [. . .] [• 208] By concentrating on a particular activity we redesign the areaof the brain that we use for it. [. . .] [• 209] Of course those neurally based motorskills will then influence his own work, [• 210] and they will do so without him beingconscious of it.[• 211] This is one of the most important insights yielded by neuroscience. [• 212] In afield like art or design you can have lots of bright ideas, [• 213] but if you don’t havethe required motor skills with pencil or mouse your work will not be a success.’[• 214, 215, 216] During the past years, I provided a manual exercise, each time at thestart of a fresh course. [• 217, 218, 219] Not only to introduce type quitestraightforward to all students, [• 220, 221, 222] and encourage them to develop somebasic skills. [• 223, 224, 225] But also to enable me to start memorizing all those newnames after finishing the project.[• 226, 227, 228] The first class in the sequence is of 1981. [• 229, 230] The lastpictures, which are actually selfportraits, are of 2006.
  11. 11. BEYOND [• T 231][• T 232]‘Die Lese-Erfahrungen gelten für die Handsatz-Technik von vor 400 Jahren wie für dieTechnik von übermorgen. Selbst wenn Bücher nicht mehr auf Papier gedruckt werdensollten, bleibt vieles gültig.’LeseTypo, Hans Peter WillbergRemains the last part of this talk, which is about The State Of The ArtIn The Digital Age . . .. . . I have already described the change of the profession due to a number oftechnologic innovations. Probably design and technology are linked due to mass-production. [• 233] Is design not driven by technology?[• 234] . . . And I have tried to research the state of mind of The ContemporaryReader. Ok, the times they are a-changing [• 235], but are we?[• 236] Meantime, over time, we all changed pencils, [• 237] and bought quiteexpensive digital ones.Which reminds me: back in the seventees, [• 238] I was one of the first graphicdesigners in Holland [• 239] working on a huge mainframe [• 240] studying Fortran and[• 241] Computer Sound Synthesis.Then in the eighties, starting as a feelancer, I – of course – could not afford a Mac.[• 242] Much to expensive, and over budget. [• 243] So, those first years, we mainlyused Atari . . . [• 244][• 245] . . . Besides the (German)machine was quite good, [• 246] especially becausethe ST was ‘open’ & easy to program.As an example I’d like to present these early digital sketches, [• 247] made withDegas, the popular, Atari based, much cheaper rival of Mac Draw [• 248-251].The assignment is a very special stamp, [• 252, 253] which is distributed in thebeginning of december by Royal Dutch Post.
  12. 12. So I guess my remark that programming, writing code – for instance simple pen-up-pen-down Turtle Graphics [• 254] – should be part of every up-to-date curriculum tooffer students another perspective and influence design-methodology, is not surprising.Like Harold Abelson is stating in the Preface of Turtle Geometry:[• 255] ‘It is our hope that these powerfull but simple tools for creating and exploringrichly interactive environments will dissolve the barriers to the production of knowledgeas the printing press dissolved barriers to its transmission.’[• 256] ‘This hope is more than our wish for students to experience the joy of discoveryand the give and take between investigator and investigation that typifies scientificresearch. Like Piaget, Dewey, and Montessori, we are convinced that personalinvolvement and agency are essential to truly effective education.’[• 257] In this first year exercise, [• 258] students did experience some of the maindifficulties, [• 259] when digitalizing type manually, on a primitive grid.[• 260] They all had to study the characteristics of a typeface closely, [• 261] whilechoosing between zero or one, which in fact may be converted in ink, or no ink . . .[• 262] Another example: third year. [• 263] What about existing Dot Matrix Alphabets?[• 264] And how to create your own? [• 265] This exercise is about black and white,scale, legibillity and consistency most and for all.[• 266] Nowadays students of course should learn everything about stylesheets, [• 267]Adobe InDesign and XML.[• 268] They should study the applications of Woodwing, a Dutch based rather succesfullfirm specialized in Cross Media & Publishing.[• 269] But I am afraid, by then, they have entered the professional domain ofadvanced Typography.[• 270] We have passed the bounderies of the basic anyhow.Time to stop.------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------[• T 271] Thank you.[• T 272] Any questions?