Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Seminar - Critical positions on advertising

These are the seminar notes:

An introduction to semiotics

What is semiotics? 
The science of studying signs.  Something that gives meaning in society eg colours, noises, symbols

Studying of how things arrive at their meaning.  Since 50/60's also applied to culture.
Ferdinand de Saussure (Swiss linguist)

So in the same way we can unravel meaning in language by understanding the written and spoken material we can also unravel meaning in cultural practices if we take culture as operating like a language.

A code is a system of symbols or signs 
"Reading cultural codes' Fashion is a cultural codes.

We discussed sterotypes such as a business man in a suit which society thinks of as  smart. conforming, business like. Compared to a rebel, rock n roll subverting.  The images can be read like text.  

These are the seminar notes:


  • The meaning of signs shift
  • Meanings don't come from objects themeselves but from people
  • By analysing the connotational content of cultutral artefacts we can access ideological meaning which can help us understand how culture operates.

In class we carried out a task using a tabloid paper for that day.  In our groups we picked out an article for which we had to identify the signifiers which denote and connote. 
  • Pointers- Think about the ways photographs denote or connote - how they are cropped
  • Particular words
  • Naturalised myths - Photographs can be thought of as mythical can be denotive but often connovative
  • Text is loaded with menaing depensing on how you read the article

The main text we paicked out from the article were:

'Ireland is a friend in need'
Irish crisis
Head line Go to bail connotes negative connotation of 'Go to jail
Green imagery denotes Ireland
Tiger denotes Celtic symbol - How the tough invincible Irish was tamed into a kitten
the language used is designed to connote everyday bloke
The imagery adds connotations of arrest
the tiger to kitten imagery also connotes Ireland going down the drain

The ideology behind the article is mocking 

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Five examples of Modernist Graphic Design

From the early 20th century different Modernist groups of Graphic Designers were activists who sought to free art from the rich, ornamentation and to influence politics.  The Modernist's were forward looking and the Futurists lead the way for Modern communication.  The Dutch De Stijl group founded on 1917 favoured Universal harmony with no emotional overtones. They developed a utopian syyle where anything emotional was taboo.  All the design featured reactangles and the use of black, white,grey and primary colours.

Lazlo Moholy-Nagy and Theo van Doesburg Grundbegriffe der neuen Gestaltenden Kunst Cover of a Bauhaus Book 1925 Sourced . Wikimedia 

J Schmidt, 1923, Bauhaus Exhibition,http://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/mPQ-M32f96SkmmVg-sHKgg

Although from setting up the Bauhaus, Gropius belived the school should not impose a particular style, there are obvious influences from Constructivism and assymentrical typography.  The Bauhaus became the beacon for functional design from breaking down design to its essential elements.  All Bauhaus publications had order, symmetry,and a basic reactangular grid with the essential sans serif style typeface.  They truely fit the Modernist ideal of 'fitness for purpose'

Herbert Bayer Kandinsky's 60th birthday poster 1926. (http://theoryofsupply.com/Herbert%20Bayer/Kandinsky1926.jpg)
 The most recognisable change in Modernist Graphics was seen in typography.  Eventually this led to a complete revision of traditional commercial layout. One of t he most devout followers of the new rules was Jan Tschichold who believed the old typography rules viloated the fitness for purpose and deign.  He designed the fundamental principles of assymetry in Die Neue Typographie (the New typography). Poster advertising (below)


Lester Beall ,1937, Radio/Rural Electrification Administration, www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/RL.2001.1.3

Beall (American, 1903-1969)

During this period, the great depression, the electrification of America was a national priority. There are a series of posters promoting the benefits of electricity particularly directed at rural communities.  This poster is showing a lone farmhouse on the hill with the radio waves depicted by arrows bringing information into the home.  This poster is modernist for two reasons the first is the graphics and images are very simple and also the subject is a reflection of that period in history.


 The Beggarstaff Brothers, 1897, Hamlet,http://beggarstaffs.com/catalogue/
Their style was has a stripped down simplicity with abstracted imagery and simple sans serf type.  The reason they used this style was 'practicality' The messages are immediate and visible from a distance or from passing vehicles.


Adolf Mouron Cassandre,1935, Normandie, www.absoluteastronomy.com/topics/Adolphe_Mouron_Cassandre

Geometry was fundamental to French Graphic Designer Cassandre, both in forming the letters and constrcting images.  He is a Modernist designer in terms of his definition of thec poster ' A means of communication between sellers and the public...the artist despatches messages.....all he has to do is communicate clearly, powerfully and precisely.' Hollis (1994. P84). This poster is a good example of form follows function as the simple images clearly communicate and could be seen by people in moving vehicles.  His images represented the glamorous and sophisticated lifestyle of 1930's.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Lecture 2 - Graphic Design: A Medium for the Masses

  • The origins of Graphic Design
Graphic Design in relation to Fine Art
Graphic Design in relation to Advertising
Graphic Design as a tool of Capitalism
Graphic Design as a Political tool
Graphic Design and Postmodernism
Graphic Design and Social Conscience

         Visual communication has been practised as early as 15000bc. Examples include Bison and horses Cave paintings discovered in Lascaux in France.

Giotto di Bondone, Betrayal, c. 1305, Fresco, Arena Chapel, Padua, Italy
An artist paid to represent secenes from the Bible, similar to a Graphic Novel

John Everett Millais, Bubbles, 1886, Pears Soap advertisement

Introduction of the term ‘Graphic Design’:
1922, William Addison Dwiggins (successful designer):
‘In the matter of layout forget art at the start and use horse-sense.  The printing-designer’s whole duty is to make a clear presentation of the message - to get the important statements forward and the minor parts placed so that they will not be overlooked.  This calls for an exercise of common sense and a faculty for analysis rather than for art’.

Quotes about Graphic design
Herbert Spencer: ‘Mechanized art’
Max Bill and Josef Muller-Brockman: ‘Visual Communication’
Richard Hollis: ‘Graphic Design is the business of making or
choosing marks and arranging them on a surface to convey
an idea’
Paul Rand: ‘… graphic design, in the end, deals with the
spectator, and because it is the goal of the designer to be
persuasive or at least informative, it follows that the
designer’s problems are twofold: to anticipate the spectator’s
reactions and to meet his own aesthetic needs’.

‘Although graphic design as we know it originated in the
late nineteenth century as a tool of advertising, any
association today with marketing, advertising, or capitalism
deeply undermines the graphic designer’s self-image. 
Graphic design history is an integral part of advertising
history, yet in most accounts of graphic design’s origins
advertising is virtually denied, or hidden behind more
benign words such as “publicity” and “promotion”.  This
omission not only limits the discourse, but also
misrepresents the facts.  It is time for graphic design
historians, and designers generally, to remove the elitist
prejudices that have perpetuated a biased history’.

Steven Heller, Eye, No. 17, 1995, reprinted in Bierut, M., Drenttel, W., Heller, S. and Holland, D.K (eds.), (1997), Looking Closer 2, New York, Allworth Press, pages 112 - 119

Is it Graphic Design?

Aristide Bruant, 1893, poster
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec,  
La Goulue, 1890s, poster
‘Whatever the information transmitted, it must, ethically and culturally, reflect its responsibility to society’. Josef Muller-Brockman Aristide Bruant, 1893, poster

Early stages of the lines blurring between posters, fine art and advertising.
Alphonse Mucha, Job, c. 1898, poster for cigarette papers

Graphic composition

Koloman Moser, 13th Secession
Exhibition, 1902, poster

Charles Rennie Mackintosh,
Scottish Musical Review, 1896, poster

Form and Function becomes more evident. especially in Europe as opposed to Britain.

Peter Behrens, AEG, 1910

New use of Graphic design in GB however still vey conservative and fairly traditional.

Savile Lumley, Daddy, what did YOU do in the Great War?, c. 1915, poster

British stiff upper lip V US
Alfred Leete, Britons [Kitchener]
wants you!, 1914, poster

James Montgomery Flagg,
I want you for U.S. army, 1917, poster

Whereas Germany is far more Graphic

Julius Gipkens, Trophies of the Air War, 1917, poster

Around 1923 when Kandinsky was producing Modern Art, Graphic Design started to become more abstract.

Wassily Kandinsky (1886 - 1944), Composition VIII, 1923


El Lissitzky, Beat the Whites with the Red Wedge, c.1919, poster

An example of Traditional Graphic Design in Britain which is figuritive and geographical:
F.H. Stingemore (UK), London Underground Map, 1931 - 2

However Harry Beck in 1933 was starting to be topological rather than geographical.  Thsi was representational oof a Graphic piece if design.
Henry C. (Harry) Beck (UK), London Underground Map, 1933

After Harry Beck, London Underground Map

Simon Patterson managed to make Fine Art out of a piece of Graphic Design. Football, comedians, actors, 'stars' in a constellation

Simon Patterson (1967 - ), The Great Bear, 1992, lithograph on paper

         In 1922, The Bauhaus Modernist logo was represenative of the new rules and starts setting the European precedent in graphic Design.

Oskar Schlemmer (German), Bauhaus logo, 1922

Laszlo Moholy-Nagy (Russian), Painting Photography Film, 1925, book cover

Bucking the trend of horizontals and verticals:

Herbert Bayer (German), Kandinsky 60th Birthday exhibition, 1926, poster

Piet Zwart (Dutch), Het boek van PTT, 1938 (Dutch telephone service book)

Swiss Cutting edge Graphic Design 

Herbert Matter (Swiss), Swiss Tourist Board, c. 1932 - 34, posters

A.M. Cassandre (French), L’Intransigeant, 1925, newspaper poster

Abstract graphic design ie railwtay line represents whole railway/train

A.M. Cassandre (French), Etoile du Nord, 1927, poster

Versus 1937 in Britain where still conservative , fine art based and traditional


Tom Purvis (UK), LNER, 1937, poster

       In Germay the Bauhaus was closed in 1933 by the Nazis as the Modernist concepts did not fit in with his traditional values.This started a period of an odd juxtaposition in posters 'Traditional figuritive' v Degenerate Art' (Nazis term used for modern art).

Ludwig Hohlwein (German), Reichs Sports Day for
the Association of German Girls , 1934, poster

         Ironic poster which is both Graphic and modernist which was chosen by Hitler to advertise the 'What is bad about Modern Art exhibition'

Ludwig Vierthaler (German), Degenerate
Art, 1936, exhibition poster

1942 Figuritive, conservative Graphic Design promoting good health

Hans Schleger (German, working in UK), Eat Greens for Health, 1942, poster

1936 Spain An underground movement using Graphic design really effectively 
opposing Budget cuts

Josep Renau (Spanish), Industry of War, 1936

Propaganda- Russia celebrating freedom

Josep Renau (Spanish), Stalingrad: The New Star of Freedom, 1942

No text needed

Pere Catala i Pic (Spanish), Let’s Squash Fascism, 1936

Constructivism - Political posters set the benchmark

V. Deni & N. Dolgorukov (Russian), Our Army and Our Country are strengthened with the Spirit of Stalin!, 1939

G. Klucis (Russian), In the Storm of the
Third Year of the Five Year Plan, 1930

G. Klucis (Russian), Long Live the USSR –
Fatherland of Workers of the World, 1931

Postwar celebrating victory against facist and promoting economic boom.
Graphic designers in Britain such as Abram Games were starting to become influential.

Abram Games, catalogue for ‘Exhibition of Science’, Festival of Britain, 1951

1946 new commercial nature of advertising lead by US graphic Designers such as Paul Rand

Paul Rand, advert for Jacqueline Cochran, 1946
Classic British Ad - using negative space,minimalism used to make people sit up and recognise.Brand association VW not just about words eg Sainsbury's tried to use an italised logo on their own brand coke howeve cocacola appealed to ban it.

Helmut Krone for Doyle Dane Berbach,  Think Small, advert for Volkswagen, 1959

Graphic designer Saul Bass poster style gave Hitchcock films a 'brand'

The Man with the Golden Arm, 1955

Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo, 1958

Saul Bass, title graphics for Anatomy of a Murder, 1959

Paul Rand was at the fore of commercialism and the growth of branding

Paul Rand, logo for American Broadcasting Company, 1962

Paul Rand, poster for IBM, 1970

         Ken Garland is a British Designer who wrote the 'First things first manifesto'.  He presented an argument that there was more to life than being part of a capitalist society . Life should be more meaningful
‘We have been bombarded with publications
devoted to this belief, applauding the work of those
who have flogged their skill and imagination to sell
such things as: cat food, stomach powders,
detergent, hair restorer, striped toothpaste,
aftershave lotion, beforeshave lotion, slimming
diets, fattening diets, deodorants, fizzy water,
cigarettes, roll-ons, pull-ons and slip-ons …
Ken Garland, First Things First Manifesto, 1964
‘There are other things more worth using our skill
and experience on.  There are signs for streets
and buildings, books and periodicals, catalogues,
instructional manuals, industrial photography,
educational aids, films, television features,
scientific and industrial publications, and all the
other media through which we promote our trade,
our education, our culture and our greater
awareness of the world’
Ken Garland, First Things First Manifesto, 1964
F.H.K. Henrion, Stop Nuclear Suicide poster, 1960
Designed 'CND' logo symbol now come to represent peace

Seymour Chwast/Push Pin Studio, End Bad Breath poster, 1968
About War veterans and B52 bombers

Art Workers Coalition, Q. And Babies?  A. And Babies, 1970

This was an order to soldiers in Vietnam War (IS text necessary?)

Hipgnosis, 10CC, Deceptive Bends sleeve design, 1977
Prog rock over-eleborate album cover representative of this period in Music

followed by backlash from Punk movement
'DIY art work'

Jamie Reid, Sex Pistols, Never Mind the Bollocks … sleeve design, 1977

Peter Saville, FAC 001, The Factory Club Night poster
First poster as student of Graphic Design for Factory records apparently delivered after the gig which appealed to Tony Wilson so he used it anyway..

Peter Saville, New Order, Blue Monday, sleeve design, 1983

Nortorious 12 inch single which is an example of packaging becoming as important as product. Elaborate folded design. An example of Graphic Design Vering away from capitalism.  Factory Records lost as lot of money as highest selling 12 inch single ever and they were losing 30p a copy...

Neville Brody, The Face magazine covers, 1980s
Key figure in British Post Modern graphic design who revolutionised typesetting.
David Carson, Ray Gun, double page spread

Simliar to Brody but in US Carson with the rise of the grunge movement re- wrote the rules, jumps around.  Has it become Graphic design for its own sake, an object of beauty or non-functional.

David Carson, Don’t mistake legibility for communication

Examples of post modern design
Public Image Limited, album, sleeve design, 1986

Trying to undermine graphic design in terms of branding, aware of the trappings of consumerism however is it aesthetic in its own right?

Public Image Limited, compact disc, cd packaging, 1986

Peter Blake, Band Aid, Do they Know its Christmas?, 1984

Chumbawamba, Pictures of Starving Children Sell Records, 1986

Mocking charity records

Designers Republic, Pop Will Eat Itself, Ich bin ein auslander, sleeve design, 1994

Julian House (for Intro), Primal Scream, Xtrmntr, sleeve design, 2000

Reflects the cut and paste techniques used in the interwar years , is it trying to align the music to this?

Mark Farrow (Farrow Design), Spiritualized, Ladies and Gentlemen we are floating in space, CD packaging, 1997

Graphic design becomes the product instead of the CD - Represents a packet of pills.  Once opened the product as limited value yet can listen to cd.  Eah 'pill' is cd size.  Cost £70 to buy.  How useful is this?

Mark Farrow (Farrow Design), Spiritualized, Ladies and Gentlemen we are floating in space, limited edition CD packaging 1997

Time Magazine, cover, September 14th 2001


Key thinker ' looking closer theory'
‘Evidence of designer concern is found in the form of well-meaning but woefully
masturbatory poster exhibitions and portfolios organized on general humanistic
themes such as peace, human rights and the environment’
Steven Heller, 1991

Jonathan Barnbrook, Bastard typeface, 1990

Jonathan Barnbrook, Olympukes
Was this self congratulatory or raising awareness?
Naomi Klein - A well regarded theorist although quite subjective
‘Quite understandably, the people behind these
campaigns have come to think of themselves as
cultural philosophers, spiritual guides, artists, even
political leaders.  For instance, Benetton, rather
than using its ads to extol the virtues of its clothing,
opted instead to communicate what Oliviero
Toscani believed to be fundamental truths about
the injustice of capital punishment.  According to
the company’s communication policy, “Benetton
believes that it is important for companies to take a
stance in the real world instead of using their
advertising budget to perpetuate the myth that they
can make consumers happy through the mere
purchase of their product”’.
Naomi Klein, Truth in Advertising, 2000 (in Looking Closer 4, page 64)

Benetton  -'Are they trying to make us think or raise awareness or simply trying

to make you believe it is 'good' to wear Benetton?'

How long does this type of imagery stay shocking?

Oliviero Toscani, Benetton adverts 1992
‘It seems like a noble goal, yet Benetton’s political branding
campaigns implicitly promise customers a happiness of
another sort – not just beauty, status or style, the traditional
claims fashion companies make, but virtue and engagement.
And that’s where the problems arise, because this claim is
simply not true.  Benetton’s clothing has nothing to do with
AIDS or war or the lives of prisoners on death row, and by
using these issues in sweater advertisements, Benetton is
inserting a layer of distance and mediation – represented by
the Benetton name itself – between consumers and these
important issues’.
Naomi Klein, Truth in Advertising, 2000 (in Looking Closer 4, page 64)

‘While the publicity generated by such
campaigns [Benetton] is immense – and
their globalized distribution protects them
from the effects of a ban in any one country
– it is also surely shocking that the shock
effect wears off so quickly.  Perhaps the
overall driving motive of such campaigns is
in fact nothing new – but simply an astute
loyalty to one of the oldest adages in the
business: there is no such thing as bad
Cook, G. (1992), The Discourse of Advertising, London, Routledge, page 229

Kruger is a fine artist. However when she allows Selfridges to use her art work is
she selling out or is she mocking the customer?

Barbara Kruger, I shop therefore I am, 1987
Barbara Kruger/Selfridges,
I shop therefore I am, 2006
‘For the last decade, as a profession,
graphic designers have been either
shamefully remiss or inexcusably ineffective
about plying their craft for social or political
Steven Heller, 1991

‘Once we’ve acknowledged that designers
have certain inherent limitations as message
bearers, the question which must be asked
is: “Can graphic designers actually do
something to change the world?”’
Steven Heller, 1991

‘The answer is “yes”, if one disregards the
fact that there are very limited outlets for this
kind of work, and accepts the fact that being
socially responsible means taking the
initiative oneself, dealing rationally with
issues, and having a commitment to a
specific cause’
Steven Heller, 1991

Judy Blame, Keep Britain Tidy t shirt, 1992

‘We are a global network of culture jammers and creatives working to change

 the way information flows, the way corporations wield power, and the way

 meaning is produced in  our society.’   http://www.adbusters.org/ 

Are  Adbusters raising awareness or is it self congratulatory?