Visible Language Special Issue on the History of Visual Communication Design

Scholarship: Published Research Award Winner

Dori Griffin, Assistant Professor, University of Florida (Editor)

The history of graphic design as expressed in survey texts is well-known for being overpopulated by white Euro-American men. I believe that escaping this disciplinary echo chamber requires active, intentional effort from scholar-practitioners within the discipline. My own position as a design scholar and educator is one I’m determined to operationalize for inclusion. Therefore I was excited when Mike Zender, editor of Visible Language, invited me to guest-edit a special issue devoted to the history of visual communication design. As the longest-running peer reviewed journal of visual communication design research in the United States, Visible Language has played a significant role in both constructing and deconstructing a canonical notion of graphic design history, a subject I examined in the journal’s fiftieth anniversary issue (Griffin 2016). In cultivating submissions for the history issue, I was determined to facilitate as global and diverse a range as possible. It was vital for the issue to contribute to the ongoing work of building a more inclusive history of graphic design. Part of this work relies on an active critique of the power structures which have led to a canonical history based on exclusions around race/ethnicity, gender/sexuality, class, professional identity, and geography. And part of the work requires intentionally and explicitly inviting as-yet unheard voices to contribute to the disciplinary dialogue. Though the term “decolonization” is often used to describe such efforts, I’m cautious about its application. In the words of Tuck and Yang (2012), “Decolonization brings about the repatriation of Indigenous land and life; it is not a metaphor for other things we want to do to improve our societies and schools.” Instead, I’d describe my editorial goal as recuperative, opening up the dialogic spaces of design-historical discourse to include individuals, ideas, and practices too long excluded from that narrative.

It’s a truism that graphic design history is predicated on a shallow understanding of stylistically conceptualized movements and that the discipline lacks an evidence-based, critically-informed history (e.g. Blauvelt 1994-5; Woodham 1995; Triggs 2009, 2011). Yet as I worked on this editorial project, I became convinced that this conceptualization is invalid. As I noted in the introduction to the special issue, it is not the case that histories of visual communication design, beyond style or connoisseurship or visual data, do not exist. Rather, they inhabit spaces conceptualized as external to the core of our discipline. There are scholars and practitioners already at work conducting historical research which significantly expands familiar, survey-text style notions of graphic design history. Their work may be published in adjacent fields in the humanities and social sciences, rendering it less familiar to design educators. Or historical research might undergird a contemporary studio design practice rather than a scholarly publishing practice, and thus it escapes representation in the formal literature of design history. It is vital to make room for these voices within our field. As I shaped the history-themed issue of Visible Language, I actively cultivated participation from both kinds of researchers. Including their voices within graphic design’s established communities of dialogue greatly enriches the conversations which can take place in these spaces.

The four authors whose articles were selected for publication through the journal’s double-blind peer review process expand the narrative of graphic design history through specific case studies. Each illustrates the complexity of our discipline’s historical narratives. Collectively, the authors’ research speaks to the intersections between canonized Euro-American design conventions and the diverse ways design practice occurs and is understood in a wide range of local and global contexts. The authors’ contributions to the dialogic disciplinary narratives of graphic design history are the most important outcome of this project. In “The Implications of Media,” Islamic art historian Hala Auji undertakes a close contextual and material reading of the Nafir Suriya, a series of Arabic-language broadsides originally printed in Beirut in 1860 and re-issued in 1990. In “Ismar David’s Quest for Original Hebrew Typographic Signs,” practicing designer Shani Avni contextualizes David’s design process for the David Hebrew type family (1954), documenting David’s negotiation of the tension between tradition and innovation through a research-based design process. In “Mana Mātātuhi,” practicing designer Johnson Witehira documents Māori visual culture’s incorporation of Latin-alphabet lettering and typography into culturally specific ways of seeing, knowing, and expressing. In “Lower Case in the Flatlands,” design historian Trond Klevgaard explores the adaptation and application of Avant Garde Modernist strategies in locations traditionally defined as “peripheral.” The abstracts for all four articles are included in the “evidence of outcome” section.

Serving as guest editor for this special issue of Visible Language led to an invitation to join the editorial team as the associate editor for statements of practice at Design & Culture, the journal of the Design Studies Forum. The July 2019 issue is the journal’s first issue under the direction of its new editors in chief, who describe their “conscious formation of an editorial and advisory board of accomplished scholars who work beyond the silos of their disciplines and who hail from regions not always represented in design’s dominant canons and conversations.” They note that they “are also attentive to the politics of citations and are committed to broadening the scholarly dialog to include voices too frequently dismissed or engaged only at the margins” (Adams, Keshavarz and Traganou 2019, 154). Within this conceptual framework, the issue’s statement of practice is by Nadine Chahine, whose insightful essay discusses her work as a designer of Arabic typefaces and the complex role typography plays in a diverse range of Arabic cultural and political expressions. I’m honored to contribute to this ongoing work of diversification, in however small a way. It’s thrilling to collaborate with practitioners and scholars who prioritize a global, participatory, and inclusive notion of design history and praxis. Editorial work is not glamorous. But approaching it with a passion for cultivating diversity and inclusion holds the power to shape future histories of graphic design into narratives more representative of all peoples and practices within the domain of design. [989 words]

Bibliography

Adams, B., M. Keshavarz and J. Traganou. 2019. “Editorial.” Design and Culture 11:2, 153-6.

Blauvelt, A. 1994-5. “New Perspectives: Critical Histories of Graphic Design.” Visible Language volumes 28.3, 28.4, 29.1.

Griffin, D. 2015. “The Role of Visible Language in Building and Critiquing a Canon of Graphic Design History.” Visible Language 50:3, 6-27.

Triggs, T. 2009. “Designing Graphic Design History.” Journal of Design History 22 (4): 325–40. https://doi.org/10.1093/jdh/epp041.

———. 2011. “Graphic Design History: Past, Present, and Future.” Design Issues 27 (1): 3–6. https://doi.org/10.1162/DESI_a_00051.

Tuck, E., and K. Yang. 2012. “Decolonization Is Not a Metaphor.” Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society 1:1, 1-¬40.

Woodham, J. 1995. “Resisting Colonization: Design History Has Its Own Identity.” Design Issues 11 (1): 22–37. https://doi.org/10.2307/1511613.

Dori Griffin is an assistant professor of graphic design in the University of Florida’s School of Art + Art History. Her research centers around two interrelated areas of inquiry. Her historical research expands the narrative of graphic design as it has been practiced and consumed in the past, with particular focus on how popular visual artifacts and print media shape national and international dialogues about culture, politics, and identity. Her pedagogical research explores how to develop globalized curriculum and diverse, learner-centered practices for design history pedagogy, particularly in the context of studio education. She is a frequent contributor to the peer-reviewed scholarly dialogues of the discipline, with publications in Dialectic, Visible Language, Design & Culture, the Journal of Communication Design, and the Journal of Design History, among others. Currently, she serves as the associate editor for statements of practice at Design & Culture.

A Day of Writing

Come spend an uninterrupted day working on a writing project.

Quinnipiac University
School of Communications
Room CCE140

October 6th 2019
10:00am –4:00pm

Design Incubation is proud to be able to partner with Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut to offer a Day of Writing. Join long-time author Robin Landa and spend an uninterrupted day working on a writing project of your choice. This event will be held the day after the Design Incubation Colloquium at Quinnipiac University.

Participants will spend the day writing or conducting preliminary work on a writing project. The Day of Writing is open to design faculty and to those working in related fields.

Using the online registration system (see below), applicants should submit a 150-500 word synopsis of the project they intend to work on along with their title and institutional affiliation. The cost is $30 for the day. A total of 12 seats are available for this event.

Optional Event at 9:00am 

Start the day early and get your creative juices flowing with a short hike on Sleeping Giant Tower Trail. Host, writer and fellow hiker Courtney Marchese will lead the group to the stone tower and overlook (3 miles total). The hike starts directly across from the main QU entrance and is rated as “moderate” and appropriate for all skill levels.

Applications will be considered immediately upon submission and they can be submitted through September 30th, 2019. Official letters of acceptance can be provided to allow attendees to request funding from their institutions.

Parking

Parking is available in either the Admissions Visitor Lot or the School of Communications lot. Security will be notified and can help to direct attendees. Both of these lots are on Mount Carmel Ave. across from Sleeping Giant State Park.

Quinnipiac Day of Writing Application Form

Complete the form below and submit online. Payment will be required upon acceptance to secure the seat.
  • 200–500 word description of the writing project.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

The Design Incubation Residency at Haddon Avenue Writing Institute 2019

Rolling acceptances until Sept 30, 2019. Only 14 seats are available for this event.

October 25-27, 2019

Design Incubation is proud to be able to partner with the Haddon Avenue Writing Institute to offer a design-writing residency. This 3-day residency allows researchers and scholars time to work on existing writing projects or to start a new writing project. The residency is open to design faculty and to those working in related fields. It offers participants concentrated time to work on writing projects and the opportunity to take advantage of one-on-one consultations with event facilitator Maggie Taft. Using the online registration system (see below), applicants should submit a CV and a 200-500-word synopsis of the project they intend to work on. The cost is $180 for 3 days. A total of 14 seats are available for this event.

Applications will be considered immediately upon submission and they can be submitted through September 30th, 2019. Official letters of acceptance will be provided to allow attendees to request funding from their institutions.

October 25-27, 2019
Haddon Avenue Writing Institute
2009 W. Haddon Ave, Chicago Illinois

Please note: Housing is not included as part of this residency. Participants are encouraged to stay in Ukrainian Village or a nearby neighborhood though if you choose to stay at a hotel you may have to stay in downtown Chicago as options in the immediate area are limited to Airbnb’s.

The Haddon Avenue Design Writing Residency Schedule:

Friday, October 25th: 10-5

10-11:00: Individual Writing Session

11:00-12:00: Welcome; Goal setting

12:00-1:00: Individual writing session

1:00-2:00: Lunch (bring your own or in the neighborhood)

2:00-5:00: Individual writing session

Saturday, October 26th: 9-5

9-9:30: Goal setting

9:30-12:30: Individual writing session and optional one-on-one strategy sessions by appointment

12:30-1:30: Lunch (bring your own or in the neighborhood)

1:30-2:00: Techniques for overcoming writer’s block, the blinking cursor, and other writing obstacles

2:00-5:00: Individual writing session and optional one-on-one strategy sessions by appointment

Sunday, October 27th: 9-1pm

9-12:00: Individual writing session and optional one-on-one strategy sessions by appointment

12:00-12:30: Group wrap up

12:30-4:00: Open writing (Optional)

90 Years of The Society of Typographic Arts

Sharon Oiga
Associate Professor
University of Illinois at Chicago

Guy Villa Jr
Assistant Professor
Columbia College Chicago

In an event that took place in the 1920s, designers affiliated with the Chicago Chapter of AIGA held an unsanctioned, notoriously wild party on Lake Michigan. When the AIGA Board of Directors in New York learned of the incident, they disavowed the Chicago Chapter on the grounds of lack of control over members. The orphaned designers then gathered to form The Society of Typographic Arts (STA). The salacious start of this professional design organization foreshadowed events to come in their 90-year history, including a temporary switch to the name of American Center for Design as well as an infamous dumpster-diving incident to save archival work. These factual incidents, uncovered in the research of the book created for the 90th anniversary of the STA, will be detailed in the presentation. Viewers will expand their knowledge of design history, hear about STA’s periodically controversial timeline of events, see significant works of design, and learn how designers of this era and region characterized design in the American Midwest.

New York Times Article on Disability, by Elizabeth Guffey


https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/25/opinion/a-symbol-for-nobody-thats-really-for-everybody.html

We’re excited to read Elizabeth Guffey’s opinion article published in the New York Times yesterday.

 

disability

A Symbol for ‘Nobody’ That’s Really for Everybody

The blue and white wheelchair icon is more than a guide to parking spots and ramps. It allows millions to fully participate in society.

The Design Incubation Residency at Haddon Avenue Writing Institute

Rolling acceptances until Sept 30, 2018. Only 12 seats are available for this event.

Design Incubation is proud to be able to partner with the Haddon Avenue Writing Institute to offer a design-writing residency. This 2-3 day residency allows researchers and scholars time to work on existing writing projects or to start a new writing project. The residency is open to design faculty and to those working in related fields. It offers participants concentrated time to work on writing projects and the opportunity to take advantage of one-on-one consultations with event facilitators Maggie Taft and Aaris Sherin. Using the online registration system (see below), applicants should submit a CV and a 200-500-word synopsis of the project they intend to work on. The cost is $100 for 2 days and $150 for 3 days. Participants may choose to attend either 2 or 3 days. A total of 12 seats are available for this event.

Applications will be considered immediately upon submission and they can be submitted through September 30th, 2018. Official letters of acceptance will be provided to allow attendees to request funding from their institutions.

Location:

Haddon Avenue Writing Institute
2009 W. Haddon Ave, Chicago Illinois

Please note: Housing is not included as part of this residency. Participants are encouraged to stay in Ukrainian Village or a nearby neighborhood though if you choose to stay at a hotel you may have to stay in downtown Chicago as options in the immediate area are limited to Airbnb’s.

REsidents:

Meaghan Barry
Assistant Professor of Graphic Design
Oakland University

Anne Berry
Assistant Professor of Graphic Design
Cleveland State University

Lilian Crum
Assistant Professor of Graphic Design
Lawrence Technological University

Sherry Freyermuth
Assistant Professor
Lamar University

Kimberly Hopkins
Assistant Professor
Towson University

Jessica Jacobs
Assistant Professor
Business & Entrepreneurship
Columbia College Chicago

Pouya Jahanshahi
Assistant Professor of Graphic Design
Oklahoma State University

Sarah Rutherford
Assistant Professor of Graphic Design
Cleveland State University

Ruth Schmidt
Visiting Industry Professor
Institute of Design (IIT)

Dimitry Tetin
Assistant Professor
State University of New York, New Paltz

Jennifer Vokoun
Associate Professor of Graphic Design
Director of the Food Design Institute
Walsh University

Penina Acayo Laker
Assistant Professor, Communication Design
Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts
Washington University in St. Louis

 

Dates:

October 26-28, 2018

The Haddon Avenue Design Writing Residency Schedule:

Friday, October 26th: 10-5

Facilitators: Maggie Taft and Aaris Sherin

10-12:30: Individual writing session

12:30-1:30: Lunch

1:30-5:00: Individual writing session

 

Saturday, October 27th: 9-5, 6-8 (optional reception)

Facilitator: Maggie Taft

9-9:30: Welcome; Goal setting

9:30-12:30: Individual writing session

12:30-1:30: Lunch (bring your own or in the neighborhood)

1:30-2:00: Techniques for overcoming writer’s block, the blinking cursor, and other writing obstacles

2:00-5:00: Individual writing session

5:00-6:00: Break

6:00-8:00: Reception (optional)

 

Sunday, October 28th: 9-4:30

Facilitators: Maggie Taft and Aaris Sherin

9-12: Individual writing session and optional one-on-one strategy sessions by appointment

12-1: Lunch (bring your own or in the neighborhood)

1-3:30: Individual writing session and optional one-on-one strategy sessions by appointment

3:30-4:30: Group wrap up

DePaul Colloquium After Party

Attendees and presenters of the Design Incubation Colloquium 5.1: DePaul University, and the Design Incubation Writing Residents will come together at the Haddon Avenue Writing Institute for a reception and tour of the facilities from 6-8pm. Drinks and refreshments will be provided.

October 27th, 2018
6-8pm
Haddon Avenue Writing Institute
2009 W. Haddon Ave, Chicago Illinois

Contact information:

Questions can be sent to Aaris Sherin, Director of Fellowships at Design Incubation

Designing Disability: A New Book by Elizabeth Guffey

Design Incubation is excited to announce Elizabeth Guffey’s latest book published by Bloomsbury Publishing, titled Designing Disability: Symbols, Space, and Society. This book describes the development of disability as an idea. Disability, accessibility, its institutionalization, acceptance, and integration is considered within the context of design history.

In collaboration with Design Incubation and AIGA/NY Elizabeth Guffey will host the upcoming panel discussion and workshop, Designing for and Teaching Accessibility, on Saturday, April 14, 2018. There are still a few seats available so register today!

Making the Machine Human: Embracing Printing Technologies in Crafting a Present-Day Moveable Typeface

Peter P. Bella, Jr
Assistant Professor

Indiana University–Purdue University Fort Wayne

How human can the machine become in relation to the craft of moveable type and modern printing technologies? The letterpress has been an instrumental aspect of typography for centuries. The mechanical process of raised letterforms transferring ink to paper has a humanistic quality that exemplifies our senses and emotions. Movable type has seen centuries of adaptations—lead, wood, polymer and more; along with the creation tools and technologies—such as pantographs, plate makers, and computer. Has moveable type met its end, has letterpress found its zenith? Has technology surpassed this mechanical time machine and the cold nature of cast metal?

3D printing has varying qualities and expectations dependent on numerous variables. These virtues of 3D printing offer the design of typography, moveable type, and printing techniques an amplitude of potential expressions and experiential opportunities. Examples of 3D printing’s use in the realm of typography are found in 3D sculptures expressive of the letters architecture, and letterforms designed in three-dimensional space, never intended for physical traditional letterpress printing methods. This research is concerned with something entirely different finding a middle ground between perfection and form defining its own voice and concept through the qualities that are characteristically built into the machine.

This research suggest letterpress printing and moveable type has untapped life yet to be revealed presenting the challenging demands of typography and the mechanical properties of 3D printing methods applied to the creation of moveable type, its design, printing, and communicative qualities by personifying 3D printing technologies to create a moveable typeface with humanistic qualities and design voice. This moveable type exploration embraces the 3D printer as a machine to create a typeface never intended to meet the standards of perfection, but to embody the inherent artistic and humanistic aesthetics of the machine by pushing technology to its limits and discovering how human a 3D printed movable typeface can become.

Design Incubation Fellowship Redux: Fellows Get Published

Meaghan Barry, Assistant Professor at Oakland University and Aaron Ganci, Assistant Professor at Indiana University’s Herron School of Art and Design, two of our 2016 Design Incubation Fellows have recently published in the journal Design and Culture.

Barry’s Statement of Practice interview with designer, performance artist, and Cranbrook Designer-in-Residence Elliot Earls explores the many facets of Earl’s practice and the evolution of his thinking about design, education and performance over the last several decades.

Ganci reviewed John McCarthy and Peter Wright’s text, Taking [A]part: The Politics and Aesthetics of Participation in Experience-Centered Design.

Barry and Ganci continued their writing projects with the support of Design Incubation’s Fellowship Director, Aaris Sherin, to craft these articles.

For more information on how Design Incubation supports design writing and publishing see the Fellowship page on the Design Incubation website. Applications for the 2018 program will be accepted June 1, 2017 – September 1, 2017.

Framing Metaphors in Visual Identity Design

Jason E. Murdock
Undergraduate Instructor
School of Visual Communication Design
Kent State University

The metaphors used by designers to describe the logos they create reveal something about the technology they have at their disposal, as well as how they think these graphic devices should be applied.

Brand, mark, signature, and signet are all metaphors that frame logos as instruments for making impressions onto surfaces as a way to denote ownership and authorship, and these metaphors dominated visual identity design during the first half of the twentieth century. During the second half of the century, as design thinking shifted away from authorship and ownership toward service, experience, and participation, new metaphors emerged to describe new functions for logos. Container, icon, kit of parts, and module are all metaphors that frame logos as components of a larger systems—ascribing to them a variety of possible applications—and these metaphors are becoming increasingly prevalent in twenty-first century visual identity design.

This shift in framing metaphors coincides with the shift from Swiss and International Style Modernism to American Modernism and Postmodernism, or, as Dubberly (2008) has put it, from a mechanical-object ethos to an organic-systems ethos. This presentation offers a framework for understanding the logos created during this transitional period in graphic design history by identifying and defining three framing metaphors—logo as signature, logo as motif, and logo as building block—and providing visual evidence by way of case studies. Unlike other classification systems—such as Mollerup’s “Taxonomic tree of trademarks” (2013)—that take a morphological (i.e. a form-based) approach to categorization, the framework presented here takes a more pragmatic approach by categorizing logos based on how they are described and used.