As a graduate of the Kansas City Art Institute (1966-1970) and the Basel School of Design April Greiman has been working as a designer for 46 years. Her contributions to the world of design have been priceless. She has inspired whole generations of graphic designers. Starting in 1976 Greiman started her multi disciplinary practice in Los Angeles called Made in Space.
The common theme that describes April Greiman is progressive.
In 1984 as the head of the design department at the California Institue of the Arts1 she successfully lobbied to change the name of the department to Visual Communication. Feeling that graphic design would be too limiting for future graphic designers.2
Greiman has been an educator since the early 1980’s. Education has played a huge role in her method. The art of teaching and learning is like tending a garden of knowledge. Staying connected with academia is a direct line to the up and coming designers and all their innovation and energy. I believe that has impacted Greiman and her work.
The common theme of her work is technology. She has made an effort to stay on the cutting edge integrating technology into her work with every opportunity.
Greiman was one of those who remembered. In her work, she continued to explore typographic meaning and began experimenting with ways to alter the two-dimensional space of the page and reimagine it as a more three- and four-dimensional continuum of time and space. In her first job after moving to Los Angeles, Greiman hired Jayme Odgers, who had previously worked as an assistant to Paul Rand, to shoot a series of photographs. This collaboration with Odgers would lead to two experiences that would greatly influence the direction that her life would take—he introduced her to the desert, a journey that would forever influence her way of thinking and being; and shortly after, they formed a creative partnership that was to last for four years and produce some highly visible work. Notable projects include a 1979 poster for California Institute of the Arts that Odgers art directed and photographed, the 1980 China Club Restaurant and Lounge advertisements, and a poster, designed in 1982, for the 1984 Olympics.3
Greiman saw Design Quarterly #133 as an opportunity not only to present her digital work but to ask a larger question of the work and the medium: Does it make sense? Reading Wittgenstein on the topic, she identified with his conclusion: “It makes sense if you give it sense.” She says, “I love this notion which exists in physics as well—that the observer is the observed, and the observed is the observer. The tools and technologies begin to dictate what and how you see something, or how the outcome is predictable. These ideas bring back the kid in me, that very pure curiosity.” Greiman’s piece challenged existing notions of what a magazine should be. Rather than the standard thirty-two-page sequence, she reformatted the piece as a poster that folded out to almost three by six feet. On the front is an image of Greiman’s digitized, naked body amid layers of interacting images and text. On the back, colorful atmospheric spatial video images are interspersed with thoughtful comments and painstaking notations on the digital process—a virtual landscape of text and image. Beyond considering whether digital technologies made sense, the Design Quarterly poster seemed to embody the disillusionment of a nation deeply wounded by the Vietnam war and shaped by the growth of feminism, spiritualism, Eastern religion, Jungian archetypes, and dream symbolism. “Does It Make Sense?” was also an astounding technical feat. The process of integrating digitized video images and bitmapped type was not unlike pulling teeth in the early days of Macintosh and MacDraw. The files were so large, and the equipment so slow that she would send the file to print when she left the studio in the evening and it would just be finished when she returned in the morning. One morning, after she had arrived and was assembling the tiled image, it was clear that something big was missing. For some reason, her body had not printed, though everything else was there. While the technical details of the mystery of the missing body remained unsolved, its later reappearance on the pages presented another problem—Greiman didn’t like the way her right breast looked. The reproduction process had flattened her and the light was strange. So, in what may well be the first MacDraw breast replacement; she cloned and flopped her left breast and placed it on the right side of her body.3
Greimans work at first leaning towards modernism was eventually coined New Age. This action alone tells the whole story of how she has been someone who pushes the limits and breaks the molds of tradition. When a designer creates a new category of design people take note.
Even to this day Greiman teaches her students that they must ebrace the changes that come in the landscape of graphic design.
“In the tradition of graphic design in the twentieth century, you had to be either a great typographer, a great designer/illustrator, or a great poster designer. Now we are confronted with motion graphics, the World Wide Web, and interactive applications. The world has changed and the field is changing to meet it.”3
Greimans methods of embracing the every changing landscape in the field of design has become the foundation of her method. She uses new technology even to the point of pointing out errors like pixelation and data loss. These errors become part of her work and therefore no longer errors but the intention of the designers and now are considered important movements in graphic design. This all happens because of Grieman’s methodology.
April Grieman has cultivated a community of progressive thinkers that do not think of design as two dementional representations. She took breaking the frame to the extreme and continues to push her designs into three and four dimension using time and space as her canvas. She is a pioneer that continues to explore the frontier of design.
1 Fiell, Charlotte; Peter Fiell (2003). Graphic design for the 21st century. Taschen. p. 244. ISBN 9783822816059. Graphic Design for the 21st Century: 100 of the World’s Best Graphic Designers