Tuesday, December 21, 2010
I’m glad to see someone has finally managed to publish a survey of large scale architectural graphics, which in my humble opinion is a much neglected and marginalized form of visual culture. “Supergraphics – Transforming Space: Graphic Design for Walls, Buildings & Spaces” is a wonderfully engaging examination of the ‘cult’ of seductively large letterforms, arresting geometric abstraction and chromatically overloaded environmental design. Tracing a lineage from the radical painted architectural environments of the 1960’s to the present day ‘soft design’ of advanced digital light projections, the book examines a wide range of large scale architectural graphics which have been applied in order to radically transform and alter our experience of the urban environment. The concept of Supergraphics was originally political in nature, a way in which radical visionary architects could redefine the urban space by applying painted graphics to the interior and exterior surfaces of buildings thus ‘removing solidity, gravity, even history' from the built environment. The book covers a wide variety of ground, from deceptively simple exercises in visual ornamentation, complex spatial altering distortions to functional civic signage on a grand scale. Each ‘eye popping’ design has been documented with clarity and as one would expect by anything published by Unit Editions, the book has a clean, crisp understated layout and finish. A welcome addition to any design bookshelf. Unit Editions is fast becoming my favourite source of graphic wonder.
“Supergraphics – Transforming Space: Graphic Design for Walls, Buildings & Spaces” is published this month by Unit Editions.
More graphic and typographical wonder from Unit Editions. 'ThreeSix' is the third in a series of beautifully illustrated research papers devoted to graphic design and visual culture. This issue examines the development of a typeface called ‘ThreeSix’ by Hamish Muir and Paul McNeil. It’s a fascinating project which has yielded an elegant system of six simple and eminently readable geometric typefaces suitable for current digital screen technologies. Despite their adherence to a grid, the results are startlingly organic and beautiful. Based on subtly differing concentric forms, the letter forms are distinctive and easy to read at large point sizes as well as in smaller bodies of extended text. It’s easy to a draw parallel with this project and Wim Crouwell’s experimental 1967 New Alphabet typeface which is maybe why he was invited to write the forward. ‘ThreeSix’ has a versatility, humane weight and grace sadly lacking in most grid based fonts, designers out there please take note.
ThreeSix [U:D/R 03] is published by Unit Editions this month.
Sunday, December 19, 2010
I was overjoyed to see that Hyphen Press have recently published a third edition of Karel Martens’s graphic design masterpiece “Printed Matter / Drukwerk”. Karel Martens is without a doubt, one of the most significantly influential graphic designers working today and this book is a testament to his joyful pursuit in visual experimentation and his willingness to push the boundaries of the printed page. Copiously illustrated, the book documents a wide range of commissioned and non commissioned work by the Dutch designer and educator, ranging from his early designs for small left wing publications to his later non commercial and experimental colour saturated print work. This book is a visual treat, with page after page of inventive formal Swiss asceticism colliding with rough misprint and craft sensibility. What’s particularly striking about much of Martens's work is his unusual capacity to harness the economy of Modernism with a humanist spirit by carefully balancing a playful inventiveness with intellectual rigour and precision. This rare ability to satisfy the needs of the client while still retain a unique and personal voice invests an almost Cagian levity into his work, with error and chance being intellectually harnessed in the service of a truly democratic form of graphic communication. There is a clarity and vision at work here most designers would be envious of as form and function has rarely been so keenly nor adroitly combined. A welcome addition to any design library.
“Printed Matter / Drukwerk” is published this month by Hyphen Press.
Saturday, December 18, 2010
Trunk Records continues to unearth and delve into the shadowy world of lost cinematic soundtracks with the release of a rather curious and oddly elegant score to a 1965 exploitation flick entitled “Primitive London”. The film itself, is a wonderfully unique and peculiar piece of British exploitative post war cinema. Filmed on a shoestring budget, with the sole intention of getting the punters in, this bizarrely engaging film by maverick director Arnold L. Miller is a strange and heady mix of skin flick, mondo exploitation and social documentary. The film sensationally combines sordid titillation, everyday banality and the downright bizarre, think boobs, bums, bikers, suburban swingers, beatniks, cheeky East End villains, glamorous showgirls, chicken processing plants and the latest developments in hair replacement surgery and you get the idea. Despite its best attempts to appear scandalously sensationalistic, the film captures a strangely peculiar pre-permissive Britain which is neither salacious nor shocking. The film proclaimed to scratch the thin veneer of respectability to discover a hidden world of crime and suppressed sexual desire waiting to vent but in reality what is presented is an oddball montage of schlock and tease, a second-rate, tawdry tour of the commonplace. Despite this, it’s a wonderfully engaging yet oddly surreal film but ultimately at the end of the show you're left with the feeling that the strippers depicted are not the only people who have ripped something off. This makes the accompanying soundtrack by composer Basil Kirchin even more remarkable in that the score is neither sensational nor sordid but a masterpiece of curiously elegant arrangement and compositional refinement. It’s beautifully haunting score which both compliments and transcends its cinematic setting. The music is gracefully rhythmical and shifts across a wide variety of moods and tempos while still retaining a singular and unique voice. The soundtrack is an unusual mix of baroque minimalism, cool post bop jazz, spectral orchestration and electronic experimentation which defies simplistic categorisation, an oddball one indeed. Like the score, Basil Kirchin is a bit of an oddity. He apparently spent five months in a Ramakrishna Temple in India a decade before it became fashionable. In the early sixties he created experimental “soundtracks for unmade films” using collaged ambient sounds and if this all sounds a bit Eno before Eno, he could also confidently compose in a bizarre range of musical styles and idioms. How he happened to become involved in scoring music for the nefarious and seedy underbelly of British cinema remains a mystery, perhaps a true meeting of the sublime and the ridiculous. This soundtrack is yet another meticulous reclamation of a hidden musical past by label owner Jonny Trunk and if the world is a just place, his residence will have a Blue Plaque promptly installed to commemorate his significant contribution to a very peculiar kind of cultural and musical archaeology. A fascinating and strangely beautiful release.
“Primitive London” is released on Trunk Records this month.