Saturday, 26 March 2011

Task 5 - Graphic Design & Deconstruction - Thinking with type

Task 5 – Graphic Design and Deconstruction
Lupton, E (2008) 'Thinking With Type'
In approximately 500 words, summarise the above text highlighting the key points it makes about typography, and the role of typography in creation of meaning. Use these key points to write a brief critical analysis of one deconstructionist work of Graphic Design focusing on the aims of Deconstruction in Graphic Design.
Possible designers to look at could be Richard Eckersley, David Carson, Allen Hori, Ed Fella or David Frej.

The essay 'Deconstruction & Graphic Design', by Ellen Lupton, may also help.
A summary of Thinking with Type - Text
The definition of ‘text’ in typography is an ‘on-going sequence of words, distinct from headlines or captions.’ Lupton (2008, p 87) Text can be as flowing as a liquid or as solid as an object.  By breaking text up, offering shortcuts and alternate routes, design and typography provide readers ways of navigating the text. Ironically although typography is often defined as improving readability, design actually provides the reader with devices to avoid reading.
The literary notion of ‘the text’ being a complete, original work was facilitated by Typography.  Handwritten documents were laboriously crafted but subject to human error.  The invention of print allowed handwritten manuscripts to be corrected before they were printed.  The proof reader’s role was to ensure the printed text represented the original author’s work; however with each edition, translation, revision, and teaching the author’s original meaning changed.  
The continuous flow of spoken language does not need to offer breaks between words.  Written alphabetic writing needs spaces to make the words distinct, understandable units.  Typography made text an object with a fixed position.   
French philosopher Jacques Derrida wrote ‘that although the alphabet represents sounds it cannot function without silent marks and spaces’.     
Typography can be analysed using the two opposing models of writing which the French critic, Roland Barthes used to describe literature.  The first a closed, fixed ‘work and the second an open, unstable ‘text’.  A metaphor for ‘text’ is that of network.  A typographic book has a fixed sequence of numbered pages which lends itself to provide the reader routes through the text with for example an index, appendix, table of contents.  These typographic mechanisms provide both entrance and escape from the linearity of text and also the author's original meaning.
The digital era appears to provide even more potential for nonlinear communication.  Ironically examples of linearity abounds from ‘crawling’ text on news screens to LED ticker style signs; electronic books are highly sequential and can be cumbersome in their linearity.
 The database has non-linear form with information space which is accessed through menus and searches and then organised in countless sequences.
Typography has become more liquid, flexible and the use of space has become more refined.   
Lupton states (2008, p97) ‘Reading is a performance of the written word’   By considering Barthe’s model of text as an open web of references we can understand the significance of the reader creating meaning rather than the writer. ‘Typography becomes a mode of interpretation’. 
The traditional understanding of pictures being read and words being seen was redefined by Katherine McCoy.  Readers were challenged to produce their own meanings through her model of ‘typography as discourse’.
The ‘user’ was defined at the end of the 1990’s from human computer interaction (HCI) studies.  Lupton (2008, p97) summarises the importance of the user over the reader or writer perfectly.  
‘How texts are used becomes more important than what they mean’
Interactive systems, whilst offering the user self-direction and control, are also deviously gathering data about the user.   Users of websites are impatient and expect to be productive not because of the visual display but because of the culture of the Internet. Text is seen as inferior as a universal mode of communication to icons/pictures, a misconception triggered by the persistent use of icons in digital technology.  Text in fact supports users understanding as it can be searched, reformatted, restyled and translated. Users are actually shaping future information systems by choosing what to look at. They prize function over form.  The 21st century designer has to develop strategies to capture the dominant ‘user’s’ attention.
Deconstruction and Graphic Design

Deconstruction in graphic design is defined by Lupton & Miller in Design Writing Research 'Rather than look at deconstruction as a historical period or style, we see deconstruction as a critical process - an act of questioning' (2008, p10) Later in the essay they went on to say about Deconstruction ' Instead of viewing it as an 'ism' of the late 80's and early 90's,we see it as part of the ongoing development of design and typography as distinctive modes of representation'

The work of Graphic Designer David Carson exemplifies Deconstruction in Graphic Design. 

The image below is one of many Editorial designs for Ray Gun magazine covers.  (I discovered later that this was issue no. 58 from Aug. 1998, David Carson last edited at Ray Gun in October 1995 however his trademark style is still evident).  This cover was Art directed by Chris Ashworth.

There are several messages represented here and the design forces the reader to work to uncover the messages.  This is apparent immediately as there is no obvious headline and the designer has used spacing erratically and not to define words for example the name BRIANWILSON and even the magazine header RA Y G UN. By using different size fonts, capital letters and layering he makes reader search for meaning.  The true meaning or content is only deciphered when you read the smallest font on the page 'the5iftym ost
                                               influentialpeopleinpop culture'  This again has been made almost unreadable with inappropriate spacing, and by doubling the type.  There are also several words and names upside down and cut off again to play with the conventions of reading.He also includes several suggestive icons such as the cut off recycling symbol.  Maybe to suggest these people are interchangeable?  
The layering used has sliced the top of Andy Warhol's head off which is not an accident.  Lupton and Abbott discuss a magazine cover for NYQ in Design Writing Research, they describe the cover design as having  'explicitly manipulated a cultural artifact' (2008, p23).  
RayGun was an alternative Rock n roll magazine first published in November 1992. By 1998, the experimental typographic design was well established to the alternative audience it attracted and suited the cutting edge music the magazine explored.

The deconstuction attitude was not just reserved for the cover. The even, unified texture of the typographic grid has been completely ignored and he has used the shape of the text body to create spaces.

                                             'Is techno dead" ray gun
Is Techno Dead? 1994. Title absorbed into the layout, body copy generates major shapes across the spread, empathizing the heavy techno mix. Photo John Ritter' Quote and image from David Carson's Website: 
David Carson

David Carson who did not formally study graphic design cites his designs as 'intuitive'.  Of the designers recommended as examples for Deconstruction, he is one that did not attend the Cranbrook Academy of Art whose graduates had been influenced by Post-structuralism and Barthes theory. Which came first intuition or theory driven practice? 

A thought provoking post with various discussion about about David Carson:

A video of the engigmatic David Carson:

A succinct summary of Deconstruction?