Publishing

Origin of Obsessions No. 2

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The newest edition of Kit Hinrichs’ and my “Obsessions” book series is on the arts and crafts made by Japanese Americans held in U.S. concentration camps during World War II. All That Remains is a sequel to my 2005 book titled The Art of Gaman: Arts and Crafts from the Japanese American Internment Camps, 1942–1946. While working on that book, I spent many hours reflecting on why people banished by their own country to barrack encampments fenced in by barbed wire and guarded by soldiers with rifles pointed at them would take up art with such a fervor that it became an obsession to them. They scrounged for scraps of paper, bits of lumber, empty bottles and cans, and cardboard packaging to use for their art projects and scoured the desert terrain for stones, driftwood and shrubs to carve into new forms. Art served a need far beyond the aesthetic. Although two-thirds of the 120,000 ethnic Japanese forced into camps were American citizens, the older immigrant generation especially, who were in their 50s and 60s, embraced the creation of art as a lifeline. Given less than 10 days notice to turn themselves in and told they could only bring what they could carry. the adults knew their businesses, homes and all their possessions would probably be gone when they were freed to return to the West Coast. In fact, that turned out to be true.

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Film

The Many Sad Fates of Mr. Toledano

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How do you design a film poster that suggests how humans come to inhabit a different body over time? This is the subject of a new documentary called “The Many Sad Fates of Mr. Toledano,” which premieres at the Tribeca Film Festival this week. The film was produced by filmmaker Joshua Seftel who has produced and directed several award-winning documentaries for television, radio and theater release. “The Many Sad Fates of Mr. Toledano” is about famed photographer Phillip Toledano’s effort to envision the ways his life would change over the next 40 years. The project is a continuation of an exploration of aging that Toledano presented in a photo journal on his father’s final years. Called “Days With My Father,” the journal visually tried to reconcile the active, handsome man his father once was with the decrepit old man plagued by severe memory loss. In this film Toledano “fast-forwarded” himself through theatrical makeup to picture how he would be at various stages of his life.

The discussion of an appropriate poster design for “The Many Sad Fates of Mr.Toledano” began between Seftel and Kit Hinrichs while they were on a long flight to Saudi Arabia. When Kit returned to the States, he developed several poster options, three of which are shown here. The top one was the final choice. The one at bottom left simply shows Toledano’s face. At bottom right, the collage of rectangular pieces shows abrupt facial changes, whereas the top image, with the thinly sliced horizontal strips, seem to vibrate Toledano’s facial features, suggesting a gradual, constant change.
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Pop Culture

A Game Made for Graphic Designers

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Years ago last century when I was communications manager at a forest products company, my boss used to call Kit Hinrichs “that gray designer” because he always managed to use 402 Gray in every job he designed for us. Then Kit outgrew his gray period and developed a fondness for 032 Red, which to him is the most wonderful red he’s ever seen. He didn’t use it on everything, but you knew he loved it. Now he is passionate about 123 Yellow. Never try to engage Kit in a discussion about using 035 Red instead of 032, or try to sneak it by him. He’ll know. The guy’s color perception is like a dog’s sense of hearing. Very keen and nuanced.

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Typography

2015 Typography Calendar

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For the past 13 years, Kit Hinrichs has been indulging his fascination with typography by creating the “365” calendar, featuring 12 different typefaces, one for each month of the year. What makes him happy (in my opinion) is viewing each letterform as its own little sculpture — whereas combining characters into words and sentences distract from seeing typography as its own art form. For the 2015 calendar, Kit asked his design staff to nominate fonts that intrigue them and assembled a mix of traditional, avant garde, serif, sans serif, display, and script faces. Then for the 13th straight year, he cajoled me into writing the text. The 365 Typography Calendar for 2015 is now available for sale via Amazon, major U.S. art museums, and from Studio Hinrichs. The calendar comes in two sizes: 23” x 33” (58.5cmx84cm) for $44 retail and 12”x18” (30.5cm x 45.75cm) for $26 retail. Design professionals, particularly, love this calendar and display it prominently to prove their “street creds.” Order now.

Posters

AIGA Get Out the Vote Posters

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The first Tuesday in November is election day in America, and tomorrow citizens are supposed to go to the polls to exercise their Constitutional right to vote. If turnout in past midterm elections is a guide, less than 40% of the voting age population will claim that privilege. Shame!

For the past few Presidential elections, the AIGA has hosted a Get Out The Vote poster campaign as a public call to action. Since the AIGA doesn’t create posters for midterm elections, we thought we’d revive some posters designed for the 2012 election. (The one above was done by Kit.)

Claim your future, vote.

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Posters

AIGA Celebrates 100th Anniversary

The American Institute of Graphic Arts, better known as AIGA, is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. That’s a remarkable milestone when you consider that graphic design didn’t really exist as a profession until the 20th century. Before that, printers and commercial artists handled such tasks. Interestingly, graphic design owes its rise in part to the First World War, which started in 1914 and set off a scramble for army recruitment and war bond posters. This accelerated the production of posters (and demand for graphic artists) as governments sought to rally citizens to support the war effort. The First World War also happened to coincide with the widespread adoption of offset lithographic printing, which enabled mass production of affordable pulp novels, magazines, packaging and other paper-based media.The graphic arts industry was suddenly born. Today there are more than two million graphic artists and designers in the U.S. alone.

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Professional Profiles

Profile: Delphine, @Issue Editor

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From time to time, @Issue will run brief profiles of people you may know in design communications, asking them what attracted them to the profession and how they view their work and process. We thought we’d start with Delphine, @Issue’s editor, and then Kit, @Issue’s design director, before broadening our scope to others in the business.

Name: Delphine Hirasuna
Profession: Writer/ Editor of @issue
Home Base: San Francisco, CA

When did you know that you wanted to pursue the profession you did?
I think I was around 6. I was tiny for my age and lousy at playground sports; I hated recess, but I loved to read. Nancy Drew, The Bobbsey Twins, Eddie’s Red Wagon, etc. But the stories felt formulaic and I decided I could write better. My bedroom had a vanity with a frilly yellow chiffon skirt around it, and I’d crawl inside and write my stories in that private space. Even then, I was a realist. Afterall, I was 6 years old, and lived on a little farm in the middle of nowhere, and didn’t know how to contact a publisher, much less have an adult one take my writing seriously. But I didn’t give up. In grammar school and high school, I was the editor of the school paper, and by college, I was determined to be a journalist.
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Illustration

The All-Important Sketching Stage

Without a strong concept, illustration is just glorified doodling. The same can be said of design as well. Those entering these professions need to exhibit more than technical skill; they need to engage their minds and imaginations to get at the crux of the story they want to tell.

I was reminded of this while watching Craig Frazier’s video. A prolifically talented illustrator who still sketches thumbnails with pen and ink and cuts his final image out of rubylith film, Craig explains. “If there is anything magical about making illustration, it happens at the sketch stage. That’s when the idea comes out of the pen. The DNA of the illustration exists right in the sketch. If it is not there, it is not going to show up later on.”

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Illustration

The Backstory Behind “Obsessions”

At age 68 when Kit left his partnership at Pentagram after 23 years to set up his own independent studio, we discussed how it would give him the luxury of doing what he wanted to do simply because he wanted to do it. Since I’m not that far behind him in years, I understood the importance of the question, “if not now, when?” Speaking for myself, when I fantasized about becoming a writer in high school, I didn’t have corporate brochures and power point presentations in mind (not that I’m complaining). Our quasi-serious venture, Hirasuna + Hinrichs Special Projects – or as Kit calls it “Hinrichs + Hirasuna Special Projects” – was intended to set aside a small portion of our time and energy to focus on the topics we found of compelling personal interest, whether it was profitable or not. We promised to take turns choosing the topic, since the things that interest me don’t necessarily interest him, and vice versa. Our first project is “Obsessions,” a series of small perfect-bound books on things that fascinate us, even though others may find that inexplicably odd. Kit’s collection of alphabet postcards, an offshoot of his passion for typography, launches the series. We also agreed that the production value must live up to our high standards – i.e., nothing cheesy. This is why it was printed beautifully by Blanchette Press on Sappi McCoy Silk.

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Announcements

AGI Designers Wax Eloquent About Type

The words “typeface” and “character” are fitting terms to describe fonts. When listening to good designers talk about them, you would think they were gossiping about people. They talk about their emotional qualities, complain about what they perceive as their flaws, get blushingly specific about their physical beauty. For them, some typefaces are casual flings, good for a quickie when the mood strikes and the lighting is right; with others, they are in love and ready to commit for life. For many designers, a studying letterforms is more engaging than reading what the collected letters have to say.

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Posters

Public Works Posters

Rob Forbes, founder of Design Within Reach, has founded another company – Public Bikes. To introduce consumers to his new venture, Forbes recruited 27 world-renowned designers and illustrators to create art posters around the concept of “public.” All of these posters are being gathered into a book called “Public Works,” sold as individual posters, and shown in exhibitions slated for San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York City.

Forbes, an avid biker, urban dweller and environmentalist, explains the impetus for his Public Works project was to bring greater attention to the critical issues of public space, access and livability of cities. “In recent decades, our cities have been evolving from manufacturing and industrial centers into cultural hubs,” Forbes says. “The 20th century movement that encouraged people to leave cities for the suburbs has now been reversed. For the first time in our history the majority of the world’s population lives in cities, and this trend appears irreversible….People choose cities for what they offer: connections with people, ideas, stimulation, opportunity, creativity, and diversity. Our public spaces should facilitate these connections, not stifle them.… We believe that more of our urban streets and sidewalks should be reclaimed for walking and bicycling, and that our public spaces should be developed for better human interaction and conversation.”

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Announcements

Kit’s Fourth of July Flag Primer…Redux

In the U.S., July 4th is a national holiday commemorating the day in 1776 when the tiny 13 American colonies declared their independence from Great Britain, instigating a revolutionary war that lasted eight long years. From a graphic standpoint, the American flag is unique because change is built into it. Each time a state joined the Union, it got its own star on the flag. The 50th and most recent star was added in 1959 when Hawaii won statehood. The flag’s appearance has remained constant since then. This video, produced by Kit Hinrichs, presents a chronology of when states entered the Union, how that changed the look of the flag, and which Presidents served under each version of the flag. Yes, we did run this video last Fourth of July, but we thought the John Philip Sousa’s tune “Stars and Stripes Forever” would be an invigorating way to celebrate the holiday. By the way, Sousa who was born in Washington D.C. is a classic American “melting pot” story. His father was born in Spain of Portuguese parents and his mother was born in Bavaria. Happy Fourth, enjoy the hot dogs and watermelon but don’t light fireworks if you live in a fire zone.

Printing Techniques

Sappi Standard 5 Begs to Be Touched

When you are given an assignment to demonstrate the awesome special effects possible on paper, you need subject matter worthy of such dazzling printing feats. Superheroes. Pirates. Bigfoot. Weird larger-than-life creatures. Spies. It didn’t take long to figure out where to find all of them in one place – at 826 National, a nonprofit network of tutoring, writing and publishing centers for kids, ages 6 to 18. The 826 centers are “disguised” as retail stores, selling gear for “real” working pirates, superheroes, time travelers, bigfoot researchers, robots and so on.

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Typography

Vernacular Typography Featured in
2012 Typography Calendar

Some typefaces aren’t meant for everyday use. They often aren’t readable as running text or even for headlines. Most will never be licensed for public use nor are they commercially available. But they set the mood, add their own graphic interest, and tell their own slice of the story. That is the case with several of the typefaces featured in the 365 Typographic Calendar for 2012.

Take Girder, for example. Asked to create the identity for the 75th anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge next year, Kit submitted an alphabet as part of his presentation. The alphabet took its inspiration from the riveted girders that formed the unpinning of the bridge. The immediate association with San Francisco’s most famous landmark offered a visual linking device in the visitors’ gift shop, and made a distinctive image for all kinds of tourist souvenirs, from key chains to coffee mugs.

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Typography

Typography Comes of Age

“Enough with the typography already!” My complaint to Kit is that every other story he wants to post in @Issue has to do with type. So, I’m writing this somewhat under duress.

“Humor me,” Kit says.

But the truth is that perhaps more than any time in history, the average person on the street is acutely aware of the differences in typefaces. Thanks to the computer, we can pick the digital font that suits our mood and voice. As a culture, we have become type snobs, sneering at Comic Sans, forming snap opinions about people who make Arial their default font, arguing over whether Helvetica is deserving of its popularity, and ridiculing some faces as “so last century.”

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