In approaching this project, and more specifically this exercise I realised something. Okay I realised a couple of things; one that I’m not massively aware of what is new or now in visual/contemporary culture, two that I needed to figure out how to find out what is new or now. Cue frantic online searching of various illustration, contemporary visual culture magazines. I came across one magazine, Wrap, that I liked the look of which professed to be interested in contemporary illustration. I also began looking into the websites and magazines listed in my course guidance.
I visited The Design Observer Group website, and came across a three part series, entitled Designing in the NOW, by Rachel Berger. I should also mention that the series was originally a lecture presented to Pinterest in 2015. In, Designing in the NOW Part 1, Berger expands on her view that graphic design today is suffering from ‘bipolar disorder’ swinging between ‘simplicity and complexity’. In part 1 she suggests this radical simplicity has lead to a ‘sea of sameness’ in design, and that the consequence of this is a ‘ravenous’ desire ‘for ink, paint, ornament, humanity, beauty and evidence of the hand’. For most of , Designing in the NOW Part 2, Berger explores the complex or decorative side of design NOW. She focuses on the trend towards hand made processes, letter press printing, screen printing and the lettering artist Jessica Hische. She goes on to say that this side of graphic design also suffers from a ‘sea of sameness’, citing the hundreds or thousands of examples of young designers who are producing hand lettered works. Sadly reading this description I’d probably say I fall into that camp. I have preferred the hand made, the look of printing or ink and enjoy hand lettering. I had not considered that I might just be one of many others jumping onto a metaphorical band wagon… Interestingly enough in, Designing in the NOW Part 3, Berger suggests that Game design is the place to find ‘inspiring visual communication today’. I think it’s interesting to hear someone citing the games industry as a good example of visual design, I think it’s part of a bigger cultural shift towards accepting games or game design as a core component of visual/contemporary culture.
I also came across another article, this time from the CreativeReview blog, entitled, Domino’s new pizza boxes: another stripped-back redesign. This article however is much more recent, 18th April 2016, I say this because it seems to support Berger’s view that there is a dual trend towards simplicity and complexity in graphic design (arguably visual culture) today. It shows some interesting examples of more everyday products or cheaper goods, adopting simpler, stripped back designs and luxury goods adopting more intricate complex designs.
Anyway all of this reading provides a nice context for the exercise.
Exercise 1: The next big thing
I had to; chose an example of contemporary visual communication. This could be a specific piece of graphic design, an illustration or an advert. I decided to chose an example from Wrap magazine which I mentioned earlier in the post.
Example: Peter Judson
In the photo opposite one of Petter Judson’s more complex works is visible, its part of a series called, Town Planning. I’ve included it as an example of an Artist whose work falls into both categories of what might be considered NOW, his work can be complex but also simplistic in form/style.
The piece opposite, Rooftop, was commissioned by Wrap magazine, and is essential a sheet of wrapping paper which was included inside the magazine. Personally I really like the idea of including an element within a magazine which is made to be removed/used by the person who has brought the magazine. That aside I picked this as my example of contemporary visual illustration.
I’ll try and consider it within the framework of the questions posed in my workbook.
- What characterises it as ‘new’? How does it fit within contemporary trends?
It’s hard to pin point what characterises it as ‘new’ but I’ll give my initial thoughts. I think the use of colours, particularly the pastel pinks and greens, against the bolder yellow, red and blue are quite a Now or new trend in design. I also think the sparseness of the use of block colours and bold black lines is a more recent trend (although I can think of artists/historical movements that have had this emphasis too). Contemporary trend wise there seem to be a large number of Artists, working with that mix of pastel clashing with bold colours, geometric forms, the black line as a bold outline. I can think of one example now, of a current or contemporary illustrator, Thomas Hedger whose work has similar shapes, forms, colours. Further examples of his work can be found, in an article by the DigitalArts online.
I also wonder if the medium can be considered as a factor in it’s newness? It’s certainly printed digitally, so is a product of newer technologies in that sense.
2. Are there any direct lines of influence from other contemporary artefacts – or historical ones?
I’m not sure about contemporary artefacts, but in the interview with Peter Judson (in wrap magazine), the Memphis Group is mentioned as an influence on his work. In all honesty I hadn’t heard of this group before, but found a page on the Design Museum site dedicated to it. It seems to have been a movement which emerged from Italy in the 1980’s, which threw off ideas of ‘good design’ or ‘good taste’ in favour of freedom to use bold colours, shapes, pattern. Looking at some example of their work I can see the link to Judson’s work.
3. What factors may lead to your example becoming ‘last year’s thing’? What aspect of the design will age first? What do you think will replace it?
Again I find this a tough question to try and answer! Isn’t this kind of this purely subjective?? Part of me wonders if we’re not heading into a age of complexity, where even simple geometric forms, are paired against each other for a clashing complex look. If that’s the case then this kind of image would appear dated simply for being pared back. I think probably the colours of the design will age first , colours seem to be a big trend in visual design. I might be wildly inaccurate in saying this but I think colour trends are often dictated by the fashion world, catwalk trends. When a new season comes around and with it different colours then the colours could seem dated. In the age of instagram, I think trends can come from any where, anyone, so it’s harder to predict what will replace something as a trend. Or maybe the opposite is true, sites like Pinterest, are becoming platforms for promoting and directing trends in design, with their trend boards and personalised recommendations etc.
I’ll finish this exercise with a few photos of other Artists/Illustrators work from Issue 11 ‘Balance’ of Wrap magazine…