Archived entries for Information Design

Yamaha Stadium Identity and wayfinding

Yamaha Stadium Identity and wayfinding proposal
1st prize awarded by Renaissance Academy, Japan
Competition project at university (2007)

(c) Mirja Valkeasuo

Working with Mirja Valkeasuo at Ravensbourne College of Design and Communication, we both visited Jublio Yamaha Stadium.





Mirja valkeasuo

Lance Wyman ‘You are Here’

You are here

Works by the legendary American graphic designer Lance Wyman

1 May – 9 June 2012

Lance Wyman is often described as the ‘Rock Star’ of graphic arts brought up in Kearny, New Jersey, the son of a commercial fisherman. Wyman was destined for a career in design for he acquired an appreciation for a “no-nonsense functional aesthetic of the sea and the factories”. Wyman describes this as “an important influence in my approach to design” as he spent time out on the Atlantic with his father.

Wyman’s approach to design is ‘complexity made simple’ this is clearly illustrated through his work for the Mexico City Olympic Games 1968, ‘Mexico 68’. His design ethos is creating graphic elements that are distilled to their purist form whilst skilfully maintaining personality and recognition.

Wyman has influenced designers, design students and every Olympic games graphic design programme worldwide ever since.

Working with Lance on the exhibition was an amazing honour. What struck me early on was the quantity and quality of his work. The difficulty for me as the curator was the selection process. I thought it important to record the process of the exhibition build.

How to get here

BBC CoverageNUCA, The GalleryLance Wyman

Lance Wyman next to Mexico68 logo type

Photograph of Lance Wyman at 'You are here' Exhibition (c) F Gaynor 2012


Exhibition Build, You are Here Exhibition Lance Wyman (c) F Gaynor 2012
Mexico Alphabet Wall

Mexico Alphabet Wall, Carl Bayliss (c) F Gaynor 2012

Close-up alphabet, Carl Bayliss (c) F Gaynor 2012

Framed pieces pile (c) F Gaynor 2012

Sports icons (c) F Gaynor 2012

Sarah Beare Gallery Technician (c) F Gaynor 2012

Vitrine (c) F Gaynor 2012

Frame Hanging, Lousia Milsome, Sarah Beare, Frame Hanging (c) F Gaynor 2012

Kyobo brand manual wall (c) F Gaynor 2012

picture hanging 2 (c) FGaynor 2012

vitrine_2 (c) FGaynor 2012

untitled (c) FGaynor 2012

untitled_2 (c) FGaynor 2012

untitled-3 (c) FGaynor 2012

Lance Wyman logo (c) FGaynor 2012


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Rick Poynor: Paul Stiff, the Reader’s Champion: Observers Room: Design Observer



Rick Poynor

Paul Stiff, the Reader’s Champion

This week I was reminded again of the British design educator Paul Stiff, who died in February, by the arrival of a collection of design essays that has just been published in Poland. It contains an article originally titled “Stop Sitting Around and Start Reading,” which Stiff wrote for Eye magazine in 1993. I can’t remember for certain whether he proposed this to me as editor, or whether I pressed him to write it. It was probably a bit of both, though, because I had made previous attempts to persuade him to contribute without getting anywhere, before finally cracking it.

I’ll come back to that essay in a moment, but one thing leads to another and the Polish book prompted me to go looking for an issue of Graphics World published in 1988 — the image above — that I was pretty sure I still had somewhere. The magazine contains a six-page article, said to be Stiff’s first, titled “Design for Reading.” It’s really three articles in one: a main text defending the vital importance of readability; a secondary text setting out principles derived from his own experiences of “object quality” as a reader; and a slide show of examples with opinionated captions. Here, Stiff describes the hapless designers of an architecture book as “fiddling and blipping away” at the design “just to maintain their own interest in the job.” Even this brief quotation gives a flavor of the article (and the teacher): absolutely set against any designer shenanigans that might interfere with the reading experience.

One can only imagine what Stiff must have thought of the typographic cover image by Phil Baines — then an up-and-coming experimental typographer and now a professor at Central Saint Martins. Baines takes Stiff’s first paragraph and scrambles (or should that be blips?) it to form a typographic conundrum that can be read, but only with some effort. It’s a strong cover that probably worked well to attract a younger generation of readers then becoming increasingly interested in the expressive, textural and connotative possibilities of type. It was also, in 1988, a sign of things to come, when designers would seize the typographic possibilities of digital technology and concoct new justifications for their experiments.

Five years later, “Stop Sitting Around and Start Reading” was a rigorously argued riposte to what Sharon Poggenpohl of Visible Language had called a “more responsive typography.” Lucid, argumentative and engagingly readable, Stiff insists that designers ground their ideas and theories about reading in evidence:

Sceptics might ask: of all the sources of knowledge about reading and communication (cognitive psychology, ethnology, ergonomics, discourse analysis, feminism . . .) why have typographers defaulted to those which neither offer nor require evidence. To ones which permit them to “theorise” reading as passive osmosis, to marginalise readers (mere receptacles) and at the same time to foreground the act of designing (explained as the “challenging” of empty vessels)? Whose interests do such theories serve?

I was pleased to publish what can now be seen as one of the key responses to the claims made by typographic theorists in those years. But dealing with Stiff wasn’t easy. He wanted endnotes so he could give his sources, which were critical to his argument. Even though we didn’t usually publish notes — Eye is a magazine, after all, not a journal — I agreed because I could see their necessity in this case, though I suggested we drop the page numbers. Stiff wasn’t happy with this, maintaining that it would ill serve readers; he was consistent to a fault. I thought that was overstating it. When the essay, slightly revised, was reprinted in Looking Closer 2 (1997) under a perhaps too emphatic new title, “Look at Me! Look at Me! (What Designers Want),” he put the numbers back in.

That volume is still the best place to find his essay. I would like to supply a link, but the text isn’t available online and the Eye site doesn’t list it in the contents for issue no. 11 vol. 3, where it appears. I hope that can be rectified soon, and someone should put “Design for Reading” online, too. It would also be good to see a collection of Stiff’s writings, including his work from Information Design Journal, where he was co-editor (1986-1990) and then editor (1990-2000), and Typography Papers, an occasional publication that he founded in 1996.

Stiff is an important figure. He was a man of principle with demanding standards and he had a deep influence on both colleagues and the students he taught in the world-renowned department of Typography & Graphic Communication at the University of Reading. But he was not well known outside academic circles, even within British design. Given the quality of his very occasional interventions, it always seemed a shame that he didn’t engage more widely with the design scene, in the way that his colleague and close friend Robin Kinross has done — see obituaries of Stiff by Kinross here and here. Stiff’s second ever contribution to Eye (according to its website index), a short piece about British road signs, appeared in a special issue about information design in winter 2010. His recent major project, a superb, book-sized eighth issue of Typography Papers, titled Modern Typography in Britain: Graphic Design, Politics, and Society, the fruit of a research initiative at Reading, shows him working, as historian, writer and editor, at the height of his powers.

via Rick Poynor: Paul Stiff, the Reader’s Champion: Observers Room: Design Observer.

Designing the Unthinkable

Martyl, cover of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists featuring the first Doomsday Clock, 1947.

Michael Bierut

Designing the Unthinkable

In 1943, nuclear physicist Alexander Langsdorf Jr. was summoned to Chicago to work on a secret project, a nationwide effort called the Manhattan Project, becoming one of the thousands of scientists who would be consumed, day and night for two years, by the race to create an atomic bomb. They were a success: their scientific work made possible the bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, ending World War II. But, like many of his fellow scientists, with that success came profound ambivalence. What were the social and political implications of this powerful new weapon? How would its use be controlled? And what did it mean that the human race had invented the means to render itself extinct?

To gain a wider audience for their ideas, Langsdorf joined other concerned colleagues in publishing of a new magazine, The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

Langsdorf’s wife Martyl was not a scientist. She was a successful landscape painter, known in the gallery world by her first name. Her fame was even greater within her husband’s circle. As she once said, “I was the only artist these scientists ever knew.” So it was inevitable that when the Bulletin‘s founder, Hyman Goldsmith, needed a cover design for the magazine, he turned to Martyl. It was a low budget job, two colors, a lot of type. There wasn’t much extra room, but Martyl wanted to include an image that would somehow suggest the urgency of their cause. She did a number of sketches and finally hit on something she thought would work. And it did work. In fact, it might be considered the most powerful piece of information design of the 20th century. It became known as the Doomsday Clock.

For more than fifty years, arguments against nuclear proliferation have been contentious and complicated. The Doomsday Clock translates all the arguments to a simple — a brutally simple — visual analogy. The Clock suggests imminent apocalypse by marrying the looming approach of midnight and the tense countdown of a ticking time bomb. Appropriately for an organization led by scientists, the Clock sidesteps the overwrought drama of the mushroom cloud in favor of the cool mechanics of an instrument of measurement. The Clock was Martyl’s idea, but she admitted she had help from a friend, Egbert Jacobson, design director of Container Corporation of America. Jacobsen suggested that the clock appear in the same design but a different color background on every issue.

There was one last crucial suggestion. Martyl had set the minute hand at seven to midnight on that first cover “simply because it looked good.” Two years later, the Soviet Union tested their own nuclear device and the arms race was officially launched. “We do not advise Americans that doomsday is near and that they can expect atomic bombs to start landing on their heads a month or a year from now,” wrote the Bulletin‘s editors. “But we think they have reason to be deeply alarmed and to be prepared for grave decisions.” To emphasize the seriousness of the moment, the Clock was moved forward to three minutes to midnight. The static graphic emblem was thus transformed into a sort of political performance art, and the clock has been moved 18 times since, each time signifying an intensification or moderation of nuclear tensions.

With each change, Martyl’s Clock became more deeply entrenched in the public imagination. The Doomsday Clock has been referenced in songs by Iron Maiden, The Who, and Bright Eyes. As a theme it dominates Alan Moore’s graphic novel Watchmen and Senator Tom Harkin’s treatise Five Minutes to Midnight. Over the years, the non-specific simplicity of the symbol was able to accommodate the new threats of climate change and bioterrorism. Finally, in 2007 (with — full disclosure — some advice from Armin Vit and me) the Bulletin’s publishers adopted the clock as their organization’s official identity.

The power of the Doomsday Clock was demonstrated again today. Citing “a more hopeful state of world affairs,” the Bulletin’s Science and Security Board moved the Clock’s hand back by one minute as the world watched live online. “For the first time since atomic bombs were dropped in 1945, leaders of nuclear weapons states are cooperating to vastly reduce their arsenals and secure all nuclear bomb-making material,” said the Board. “And for the first time ever, industrialized and developing countries alike are pledging to limit climate-changing gas emissions that could render our planet nearly uninhabitable.” There is cause for cautious relief, but the threat remains, and Martyl’s Doomsday Clock continues to tick. It is now six minutes to midnight.

Periodic Table of Typefaces