Handcrafted design


Select articles similar to the Art Chantry interview in the readings that are either about or make prominent reference to designers or design firms that do one or more of the following:

eschew the use of mainstream technology yet cultivate strong design solutions
use a hands-on approach to important design problems that emphasizes craft.
In your analysis of these articles, consider the following points:

What are the benefits and liabilities of avoiding mainstream technology, either largely or completely?
In the examples you found, were successes related to this approach, or in spite of it? How were aspects of craft importance to this balance?
How does this jibe with your own experience in avoiding mainstream technology? You may use examples from Project B or other experiences.
How ready should a designer be to resort to unconventional techniques when faced with a design problem? What is your recommendation based on the articles reviewed and your own experience?


Technology is a hot topic in the design world right now.  Design is something that has changed so rapidly over the last thirty years.  There are designers that remember working solely with pencil, paper, paint, and scissors.  There is also this new group of designers that are coming out of school very tech savvy and some might even say tech reliant.  Is there a gray area where the designer can work both in handmade and in digital?  I think the answer is yes.

What are the benefits and liabilities of avoiding mainstream technology, either largely or completely?

The benefits to any medium rely on how well the artist or designer uses it.  If I am a sculptor  I am not going to need to know the benefits of a new software program it does not matter to me.  Design is the exact same.  Although designers work both digitally and handmade they are often comfortable or prefer one or the other.  That is where the main benifit lies.  If you fee confident in your medium you will create a much better product because you understand what you are doing and how to use it.

The liabilities are similar.  If you are a designer that likes to work with pencil and paper then you will probably not be as successful if you are commissioned to create a digital design in a software program you have no idea how to run.

Now that we have the main benefit and liability out of the way we can discuss the other more detailed benefits and liabilities.  It has become common practice to use technology to create design in todays world.  In the last few decades there it has been all about automation, better food through science, fast food, outsourcing, and cookie cutter design.  This has led to an epidemic of cold humanless designs.

It is my belief that people have grown hungry for handmade design.  We want to see more of the designers in everything.  It is no longer about automation it is about custom work and one of a kind.

It is almost like graphic design is taking pages out of the “fine art book” and creating handmade graphic design that also could be fine art.  It is a great time to be a graphic designer with talent.  It is not a good time to be a designer who relies fully on the digital design environment.

In the examples you found, were successes related to this approach, or in spite of it? How were aspects of craft importance to this balance?

In recent years web Designers have found success in designing hand drawn elements into their websites.  This gives the sites a human touch.  Although this approach is not completely avoiding technology it certainly is bringing an analog feature into the technical world.

Another similar movement is the iPhone app Intagram.  Instagram is a photo sharing network that is known for its analog filters that can be put on the digital photography that is taken with an iPhone.

Overall people are using handmade elements to really make their designs stand out in a world full of computer generated graphics.

How does this jibe with your own experience in avoiding mainstream technology? You may use examples from Project B or other experiences.

A large part of my illustration portfolio is based on including hand drawn work into photography.  In the example below I have included an illustration in a photograph.  I find that this creates a unique image.  These kinds of images lend themselves well to narrative.

How ready should a designer be to resort to unconventional techniques when faced with a design problem? What is your recommendation based on the articles reviewed and your own experience?

If you are ready to resort to unconventional techniques when you face design problems you will certainly develop new techniques that will set you apart from the sea of designers in the world.  Being unique and being able to create things that no other designer has even thought of will set you into a whole new category.  Being unconventional is what helps drive the creative engine.  Happy accidents, new ideas, and new techniques are what moves the creative world forward.  Be prepared to explore them even when you are not faced with a design problem.  Simply explore for the sake of exploring.







Life on the Grid


In this design blog entry, you will search out and present material that pertains to grid structures and dynamic layout solutions, builds on the foundation presented in this unit, and exposes you and your classmates to material that will inform and inspire your class projects. Look for resources to review in your blog entry. These resources should accomplish either (or both, if possible) of the following goals:

  • Promote an appreciation of the classic design approach by using a classic underlying grid structure
  • Generate a creative platform to enable the use of unconventional techniques that complement your typographic composition.

Life on the Grid:

At first glance grid system design may seem simplistic.  It is in fact meant to be easily digested.  Josef Muller-Brockmann is classified as part of the Swiss international Style of graphic designers.  He was influenced by many different art and design movements including Bauhaus, Constructivism, and De Stijl. Brockmann was born in Switzerland in 1914 and began his career as an illustrator (CITATION NEEDED).  His design approach is minimalist and simplistic.  When browsing through his work I noticed that he only includes the most important information that pertains to either the design or the essential communication any fluff is cut out.  You can tell by his work that he enjoyed this minimalistic approach to his work.  He created many posters for the Zurich Town Hall as advertisements for its theater productions.

One of his most famous posters commonly referred to as Beethoven is below.

Brockmann published several books including The Graphic Artist and His Design Problems and Grid Systems in Graphic Design.   Both books are known to be some of the best resources on graphic design and grid design.

The grid system is a great tool for designers to use.  It is versatile and offers the designer a universal tool for layout design.  I am not sure that it is something that should be used in every design all the time.  Brockmann used the grid in almost all of his designs.  He was very dependent upon his grid system.  Although his work has inspired designers looking for that clean Brockmann style I think that by depending too much on one single tool you can stagnate your design.

Life off the Grid:

You must train to be a good outlaw.  I like to think of designers who break the grid are type outlaws.  It is interesting to me when someone creates something like the grid system they also create the opposite of their creation and in this case it is breaking the grid.  Brockmann has inspired a whole new wave of grid breakers.  Lee Morton of High5Design created this composition that embodies the grid breaking mentality.

After learning about grid structures and how to effectively use them most designers naturally start wanting to learn more about breaking the grid and how they can use typography in a new and interesting way.  Breaking the grid is one of the ways to communicate with other typography enthusiasts that you are comfortable with many different areas of typography and design.  It is one of the main pieces of evidence that a designer is intentionally breaking the rules and developing a personal style.

Personally I am continuing to work towards interesting ways to break the grid.  When it comes to typography I really enjoy the grid structure, it is visually appealing to have the information organized.  One of the main reasons I choose to break the grid is when I am using typography as more of a graphic design element or a visual element.  I feel like the most successful uses of grid breaking is when the type is used as a visual element instead of a piece of communication used to communicate something by being read.

I found a great article on breaking the grid over at .net Magazine called Five Killer Ways to Break the Grid

Making the choice to break the grid is something that needs to have meaning and be intentional.  Every detail of a design is meant to communicate something and breaking the grid is no different.  You need to be using it as a communication tool not just breaking the grid to break the grid.

One example I love is at TheStyleSpy.com the typography they have chosen for their logo is very expressive and fun.  It is designed to look like it was written quickly with a marker or  brush.  It breaks the grid to express that it is not able to be contained it is almost jumping off the page.  This is a very effective use of this particular tool.

As with most things you must understand both positions before you can start making intelligent decisions about what fits best with your current situation.  I am always on the lookout for successful use of the grid and I am also thrilled to see when designers successfully break the grid.  Either way it is fun to understand why the designers made their decisions.


Muller-Brockmann, J. “The Graphic Artist and His Design Problems” Ram Publications. 2003.

Morton, Lee. http://high5design.net/

Samara, Timothy. “Making and Breaking the Grid.” Rockport Publishers. 2005.

Smith, Matthew. Five Killer Ways to Break The Grid

Methods and Methodologies of April Greiman

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

2 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/April_Greiman

3 http://www.aiga.org/medalist-aprilgreiman/

Web Safe Fonts

Compared to typography itself the internet is still a baby or at most a toddler. I was just over at I Love Typography reading an article on the status of Web font.  The article is titled Web Fonts. Where are we?  Will web fonts ever be a reality?

The Problem

If you upload a pretty new font to the web in the raw uncompressed format.  Anyone can come along and download that font for free.  Essentially they would be stealing it, because they never paid the designer for it.

Fonts are created by individuals or small groups of people that cannot afford to give their work away for free.

The Second Problem

Web designers want more fonts to use in their designs.  So they are pushing for technology to solve the security problem above.

There is a new solution that is gaining some momentum.  The solution is .webfont an idea created by Tal Leming and Erik van Blokland.  Here is the proposal for .webfont.

The .webfont movement is being supported by several foundries in the type community.

The Advantages

In this case all I can see are advantages.

  • Typography designers get to sell more fonts to web designers
  • Web Designers get to make prettier websites using a bigger array of fonts.
  • People get a better looking web that corresponds closer to a designers vision.
  • Everyone wins

Final Thoughts

.webfont solves all the security issues that surround typography and the web.  It does this with some magical programming that only two typography + programming geniuses like Tal Leming and Erik van Blokland could provide.  These two certainly deserve to be rich and famous after this huge contribution to the creative community.

.webfont seems to be the silver bullet that the graphic design community and the typography community needed to bring a better variety of fonts into the hands of web designers.

Unit 1 Part 2

There were several great responses to the posters I chose.


“For the first poster you stated, “since there are already so many other challenges in reading it I feel like the font was a good choice.”

This is a great observation, I totally agree that with the choices they made with the rest of the poster the font was a saving grace… The bold, heavy approach helped the eye grab more of each letter….I think contrast was an issue with legibility, for me.”


“All of the facts are legible, but sometimes a little crushed.”


“I don’t understand why “World Water Day” is so secondary in the poster.”

Most of the responses were had some positive comments and some critical comments.  I agreed with many of them.  Some people even talked about aspects I had not notices.  Andrea and I both agree that the simple font choice was good based on all the other challenges the reader faces in reading this poster.

Melissa talked about the legibility of the text.  I agree with her that is does seem like certain sections are a little too small or “crushed”.

The designer could have used a little bigger point size to help the reader out a little.

Joy mentioned that “World Water Day” looked like a secondary or after thought.  I did not notice at first but after she showed me now it sticks out like a sore thumb.  I cannot look at the poster without wondering what the designer was thinking using three different fonts on the same poster.

It was great to get all the feedback and comments on my choices.  It is interesting that we all can look at the same poster and notice different details.  I found that led to a better understanding of the overall poster design for me.

Unicef Poster

It is amazing to me as an American that there are people who do not have access to clean drinking water.  In countries all over the world people drink ground water (lakes, rivers and ponds) every day.  This makes people sick and they die.  This poster presents some of the statistical data in a unique way.

I like the treatment of the text here. I like how it follows the form of the person carrying water in a vessel on their head.  I believe the goal of the poster is to get people to think about the problem and it is hard to do that with just boring statistical data.  By presenting the information in this way they are drawing people in with presentation and getting them interested in reading the information.  It is very clever.

The information is not easy to read because of how they have formatted the text but that was obviously not the goal.  They wanted to use the information in a way that would humanize the problem.  They could have done this in different ways like using a handwriting style typography but instead they presented the information in the form of the person.  I feel like since they went with this design the font they chose was great.  It is a simple sans serif font that is easy to read.  Since there are already so many other challenges in reading it I feel like the font was a good choice.  It is good idea If you are going to go this route keep the font clean and simple.

Clean water charity



Buy Local

I found this poster that has a simple message Buy Local.  I thought the type was very interesting.  The first thing I noticed was the way the eye on the b in buy and on the a in Local is off centered.  Both eyes are pushing into the stroke of each letter form.  The way they treated the type, design, and overall color of the poster is simple and perfect.  The message is buy local and the simple design supports it.  Choosing a sans serif font to represent this message was perfect because they have simpler letter forms.

buy local poster