Here’s to the Crazy Ones

Happy Mac

• Happy Mac by Susan Kare

I was very saddened by the passing of Steve Jobs today. But I’m not here to mourn. It made me realize how my personal life is enriched and my professional life as a designer is made possible through his and Apple’s contributions, for which I’m greatful.

Even though this is from a commercial about Mac users, I think it’s most true about SJ himself: “Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

Posted October 6th 2011

What a Designer Should Be Concerned About

I want to make beautiful things, even if nobody cares.

• Saul Bass in an interview, 1986

You can watch an excerpt on YouTube where SB talks about making a commitment to quality.

Posted April 25th 2011

About That Vignelli Canon

[…] And that is why I love Design.

• Last sentence from “The Vignelli Canon”

“The Vignelli Canon” is a highly recommended collection of guidelines “set by ourselves for ourselves,” as Massimo Vignelli, one of design’s great village elders, puts it in the introduction.

Throughout his career, MV applied and perfected his views on what makes good design. He distilled his approach into principles which produce what he would consider good results.

Michael Bierut, who has worked at Vignelli Associates for 10 years before becoming a partner at Pentagram, wrote an article on how these strict guidelines and rules made him a better designer.

MV’s Canon is an elegant text which is a pleasure to read. So go ahead, download “The Vignelli Canon” (PDF), follow the footsteps of a great designer and discover how he gets to that fulfilling coda.

Posted April 12th 2011

I Caught You a Delicious Bass

Saul Bass’ signature

Saul Bass’s “signature”

What else is there to say, I love doing research.

Posted September 19th 2010

Do You Know Charles and Ray Eames?

If you don’t know who Charles and Ray Eames are, your ass probably does. Because you sat in one of their chairs.

• Rich Roat at Typo Berlin 2010

I can proudly say, mine has.

Posted June 12th 2010

The Difference Between an Artist and a Designer

an artist works for his or her fans. a designer works for his or her fans and critics.

• A thought

It’s hard to imagine that someone who is not a fan of Damien Hirst would buy his diamond skull for 50 million pounds.

Someone who is not a fan of a certain designer probably won’t inquire about a job. But a fan could turn into a critic and vice versa throughout every single project. There is no failsafe for that. It’s the natural designer/client dynamic.

So maybe it should say: “is getting paid by his or her fans (and critics).” But that would invite the term “commercial artist” to this argument. And we like to keep it simple around here.

Posted June 1st 2010

On Mondrian’s and van Doesburg’s Friendship

It’s refreshing to know that in the 1920s an argument over the use of diagonal lines was sufficient to break off a relationship.

• From an article by Simon Mawer

It’s a bit scary but also quite hilarious how deeply they were involved with their work back in the days.

Posted January 25th 2010

Amazing Things Will Happen

Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you’re kind, amazing things will happen.

• Conan O’Brien on his final episode of The Tonight Show

Posted January 24th 2010

KD-Lounge Depot

KD-Lounge Depot

• KD-Lounge logo designed by Bensch Lüdiger

Since 2006, there has been an ongoing lecture series KD-Lounge at the communication design department of the HTWG Konstanz. Design professionals are invited to share their work, knowledge and thoughts with the students. The lectures are organised by students and have gained an amicable following.

Now, we are compiling an archive with the talks, starting with this semester and hopefully adding previous ones sometime soon.

It’s my pleasure to introduce to you: the KD-Lounge Depot.

Posted December 22nd 2009

Criteria for Evaluating Projects


• A Humble Suggestion

There is this notion: A client can get a job done fast, cheap and well-made—but he can pick only two. What about designers? What are our options to pick from and what makes a project worthwhile? Please allow me to share some thoughts with the class.

In his book “How to be a graphic designer, without losing your soul” Adrian Shaughnessy establishes criteria for good work:

  1. Is the client happy?
  2. Is the job profitable?
  3. Is the project newsworthy?

I concur with his list, but there is one downside: It’s difficult to apply these criteria to a project which is still ongoing. Listening to your heart—or gut, whichever gets more of your attention—is important. However, it’s nice to have more solid indicators. so far, these have worked very well for me:

  1. Time
    How much time are you spending on the project?
    or to put it this way: How much time is left for anything else?
  2. Money
    Are you getting enough compensation for your work?
    It doesn’t have to be monetary. You can get more exposure or work with interesting people for a reduced salary. Still, there should be something in it for you.
  3. Interestingness
    Are you getting excited about the project or are you performing mundane tasks? (Technically, you have to rely on your heart/gut for this one.)

Of course, it’ll be great to be able to pick two out of three, as well. But at times, one prevailing factor can be enough to justify working late, earning less money or feeling under-challenged and nevertheless be satisfied.

Having said that, if you can’t check off any of those, I suggest panic.

Posted December 19th 2009

Otl Aicher: Designer/Model

 Otl Aicher’s E5 Group: Fritz Querngässer, Otl Aicher, Tomás Gonda, Nick Roericht

• From Thomás Gonda: A Life in Design by Philip B. Meggs

Now isn’t this the greatest designer portrait of all time? Except for Wim Crouwel’s 22nd century space suit, of course.

Posted November 26th 2009

Dark Side of Pink Floyd

Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat

• Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat, record sleeve detail

If you are reminded of the iconic record sleeve for Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon by Hipgnosis, like I am, you’re about 30 years off target. This one was designed by Alex Steinweiss in the 1940’s while he was working for Columbia Records. One could consider it a precursor or an early inspiration.

Thanks to Holger Jost for digging this up.

Posted November 19th 2009

The Joys of Being an Amateur

Once you stop making errors, you became a professional whose results are stable but rarely surprising. We prefer remaining the amateurs.

• Peter and Johanna Biľak in an interview

Posted October 17th 2009

Making Type Dance

Detail of a poster

• Detail from a poster for a choreography workshop by Peter Biľak

I haven’t seen anything in quite a while that was so elegantly relying only on type to convey the message.

Posted October 11th 2009

Most Treasured Piece of Equipment

Q: What is the most treasured and well used piece of equipment in your studio? A: My head.

• Alan Fletcher’s reply to a question from design students,
taken from An Audience with Alan (2005), spread from Studio Culture

Posted October 10th 2009

On Treating Designers Well

Giving praise and showing gratitude [to a designer] can result in mountains being moved and dragons being slain.

• Adrian Shaughnessy in Studio Culture

Posted September 29th 2009

The Difference Between Solaris and 2001

2001’s HAL

• HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey

I’m a huge fan of both movies and their directors. They’re both visually and intellectually astounding, so I mention or reference them frequently.

Yet, there is a difference between the two I noticed recently: When talking about Solaris, I usually quote the dialogue rather than its cinematography. When talking about 2001, I “quote” the visuals — like the monolith, the bone to space ship jump cut and the waltzing space station (you probably get the picture, literally) — more often than its dialogue.

I wouldn’t say that 2001 has nothing to offer beyond its visuals, on the contrary. And I don’t think of Solaris as visually dull, quite the opposite. But for me, 2001 will always be a visual masterpiece first while I’ll always think of Solaris as a philosophical indulgence foremost. And I’m starting to wonder how these movies received their particular “branding.”

Posted September 23rd 2009

On Understanding Science Fiction

We don’t want other worlds. We want mirrors.

• Gibarian in Solyaris/Solaris, still from the latter

One of my most favorite lines from any movie involving space ships.

Posted September 14th 2009

Stefan Kanchev, Applied Graphic Artist

Stefan Kanchev Logos

• Some of my favorite SK (1915–2001) logos

I just recently discovered the Bulgarian graphic designer — or “applied graphic artist”, as it was called back then — SK and his work.

I have a particular fascination for his logos, which remind me a lot of Anton Stankowski’s marks (PDF). The sheer amount is amazing in itself. Looking closer, you probably won’t find a single logo that isn’t constructed with great precision or unrelated to its subject, form and content in perfect unison.

This site for SK is a great resource that will hopefully grow over time. I’d love to see more projects like this, which preserve the work of great designers.

Go visit the Stefan Kanchev archive.

Posted August 31st 2009

A Serious Trailer

Trailer: A Serious Man

• Still from the trailer

Apple recently debuted the trailer for the next film by the Coen Brothers, A Serious Man. And it’s definitely one of those rare gems. The rhythm and pacing are brilliant while it builds up to deliver the punchline. I’m so looking forward to the movie, which hopefully is just as good as this glimpse.

Go ahead, watch the trailer for A Serious Man.

We’re gonna be fine.

Posted August 8th 2009

“Guten Abend. Wir sind die Pet Shop Boys.”

Pet Shop Boys Live 2009

• Pet Shop Boys live in Germany

After 15 years of brief acquaintance, I decided it was time to meet in person.

Their show was one of the best gigs I’ve seen so far. They picked up the Gerhard Richter inspired cube elements from Farrow’s artwork for their latest album and leapt with it into the third dimension. Great entertainment.

But there’s another aspect of that evening that amazed me. What I really loved about the PSB is to which extent they don’t take themselves seriously at all while being very self-conscious about it. To me, this felt more authentic than most musicians who try to act all serious. Achieving this might be the crux of pop music.

Both PSB entered the stage with two dancers, all of them hiding their heads within a cube and played/sang the whole first song holding the microphone to its front side. There is no other band I can think of that could pull off something like they did without feeling ridiculous.

After the show was over, a single song was played as tribute to the recently passed away King of Pop: You Are Not Alone. Pure pop magic.

Posted June 26th 2009

Art Catalogues from the Past

Stedelijk Museum Catalogue / Akari Catalogue

Stedelijk by Wim Crouwel, 1971 | Akari by Josef Müller-Brockmann, 1975

Recently, these art catalogues found their way into my collection and made me very happy. It’s not just because they’re made by two of my favorite designers. There is so much thought and craft, you can feel it. In the case of the Stedelijk cover, literally—the letter-pressed black type is gorgeous.

I found the JMB at the design museum bookshop in Zürich and the WC at Counter-Print, which is a wonderful source for out of print gems.

Posted June 21st 2009

How to Explain Art Movements With Matches

In 1958, Richard Paul Lohse, a painter and designer in mid-career, emptied a box of matches onto a table and exclaimed, ‘Abstract Expressionism!’ – meaning Jackson Pollock – then rearranged the matches in a perfect rectangular pattern to the approving shout of ‘Mondrian!’

• Excerpt from Swiss Graphic Design by Richard Hollis

Posted May 16th 2009

Irma Boom Lecture

Irma Boom

Irma Boom, book designer / rockstar

Just a week after the Swiss Style Forever? panel discussion, IB gave a lecture at the Museum of Design Zürich on the 13th of May.

It was an insightful presentation of her work and the stories behind the making of her books. Sometimes even stories about single pages.

IB uses a camera and a projector to display the pages she flips through while she talks about them. I can’t think of a better or more intimate way to show book projects to a large audience. Currently, she is working on her own monograph. She might find a great way to show books in books, as well.

Posted May 13th 2009

Swiss Style Forever?

Lars Müller, Agnès Laube (host), Richard Hollis and Manuel Krebs

On the evening of May 5th in the Museum of Design Zürich, LM, RH and MK argued about the Swiss Style in graphic design. There was no answer concerning its future, of course. But there were many notions about its origins and history.

The panel offered lots of insights into this huge complex. If you want to delve further into this topic, there is a comprehensive book by RH about Swiss Graphic Design.

Jakob Bill, Max Bill’s son, and Johanna Lohse James, Richard Paul Lohse’s daughter, were among the audience. This evening had a particular smell of graphic design history attached to it, which was hard to deny.

Posted May 9th 2009

Music for the 8bit Generation

Mega Man 3

• From Mega Man 3 on the NES

Nerd Music is a growing collection of, well, music for nerds and nostalgists. Some of my personal favorites so far: NES-style Drum’n’Base and 8bit Nine Inch Nails.

Posted May 3rd 2009

Boing Boom Tschak

Kraftwerk Live

Kraftwerk live in Wolfsburg

I’ve already seen Kraftwerk live three years ago at a festival. Their setlist didn’t change much, but they played the songs differently this time. Not like a Jazz combo that does an improvisation. It was more about fine-tuning the samples and experimenting with parameters. The songs were perfectly recognizable and still it was fun to discover all the tiny variations.

For the second half of the show, the security passed out 3D glasses and the visuals advanced into the third dimension. It was an amazing experience.

Kraftwerk managed to surprise and impress me again — even though I thought I knew exactly what to expect.

More photos on my Flickr.

Posted April 29th 2009

For the Love of Vinyl

Barry 7’s Connectors

Barry 7’s Connectors, designed by Non-Format

Lately, I developed an interest in vinyl records. I’m not sure about a possibly higher audio quality, but the artwork just shines. Apart from the obvious visual obsessions, I actually love the inconvenience you have to go through before you can listen to a song. It makes the whole music experience much more deliberate than iTunes.

Which reminds me of my childhood, when I used to consume music sans computer. Those were the glory days of the Compact Disc, for those who remember.

Posted April 19th 2009

Like a Rolling Stone

Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan at Messehalle Erfurt, April 2nd 2009

I had the great opportunity to experience BD in concert two days ago. It was an amazing gig and I was deeply moved long after I left.

Posted April 4th 2009

What’s it going to be then, eh?

Clockwork Orange

• By David Pelham for the Penguin edition of “A Clockwork Orange”

It’s a new beginning and a fresh start for this blog. Being a designer, there is going to be a certain focus on that métier.

The content is all about design, the design is all about the content. The branding is almost anonymous. Where’s the logo? Would you even miss it?

This site is supposed to be an ongoing experiment, a discovery trip. I have no idea what’s going to happen next — so I invite you to stick around and find that out as we go. And I’m curious. Aren’t you?

Posted April 2nd 2009