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Robert Brownjohn: Sex And Typography

Few things — at least intellectual, cultural, non-life threatening things - make me feel worst than not knowing who a certain designer is and what s/he has done. It really maddens me and makes me question my commitment to, and understanding of, design. Call me a nerd or pathetic, but I am serious. Having not received any sort of design history education at college, everything I know about design history I have taken upon myself to read about and research or by nodding along in conversations with designers knowing that I can google the name once I get home. As a young(ish) designer it is so simple (and dangerous) to ignore the past, that some of the best work done in our field may pass unseen. Names that we should all know and recognize are lost because they do not have a www. before and a .com after them… Brodovitch, Pineles, Danziger. These are all names I would not have recognized three or four years ago. Contemporary designers are no problem. Sagmeister, Carson, Frost, Scher, Valicenti. I am growing up as a designer parallel to their contributions to the field. Bass, Rand, Matter. How could I not?

Brownjohn. Nope. Not until today. Now, one I will never forget.

This coming Saturday, October 15, the Design Musuem in London will open an exhibition on the work of Robert Brownjohn. Robert Brownjohn: Sex and Typography, a 240-page “catalog”, by Emily King accompanies the exhibition.

Before David Carson, Stefan Sagmeister and Rick Valicenti, along with Saul Bass, Paul Rand, Ivan Chermayeff and Tom Geismar, and after L�szl� Moholy-Nagy, Robert Brownjohn was it. A blend of loose humor and wit with a rigorous understanding of space and typography, with a charisma and personality to match, made Brownjohn one of the most celebrated designers and art directors in the 50s in New York and in the 60s in London until his premature death at 45, due to drug abuse. Sex and Typography is the perfect embodiment of this designer.

The first third of the book, simply titled Life, is a vivid reconstruction of the designer’s life through the accounts of his family, friends, partners, employees and clients. Brownjohn’s story — divided as Chicago, New York and London — is told in short, alternating paragraphs from each contributor creating an engaging, chronological telling from different points of view, one leading into the next, all contributing to telling the full story, never once contradicting the reflection of Brownjohn as they all saw him through work and play. While some monographs’ introductions are dry, congratulatory and celebratory, this one, in its colloquial and relaxed cadence, is truthful, real and vulnerable. Because Brownjohn’s drug problems were such a big part of his persona, it is apparent throughout this chapter the constant emotional struggle from friends and family to cope with his addiction while lauding his talent. In her introduction Ms. King hints at the desire to separate this duality, “For Brownjohn life and work were one and the same,” she writes, “but for the purposes of this book we have made an attempt to untangle biography from design.” Shortly thereafter, she says “… it is important not to allow the extremities of Brownjohn’s story to overwhelm the brilliance of his output.” Other than the book’s two chapters being Life and Work, Ms. King’s wish seems hard, and unnecessary, to fulfill. A designer’s work can not be judged without taking into consideration the context within which it took place, i.e., his or her life.

One of Brownjohn’s more celebrated pieces, the cover for the Rolling Stones’ Let it Bleed?, shows a cake with frosting with band member figurines on top of a bicycle wheel on top of a waffle with straw and blueberries on top of a, um, clock on top of a film reel that rests on a cake platter that is then balanced on a record. The back cover shows all of these elements, plus a slice of pizza, all, well, f-ed up. Tony Palladino, a friend of his in London, says about the cover, “You know the Rolling Stones cover, Let it Bleed? With the cake? Put that altogether and destroy it. Fuck it up, you know, fuck it up. I think it shows the anger that he felt at that point in time.” A few pages later, a transcript of an article after his death reads, “He was a giant figure in the industry, and no-one who ever dealt with him on a business or social level — and you can’t really separate the two in our industry — can ever think of him without affection.” Brownjohn lived his life his way. And he designed his way. Design was his way. Briant Tattersfield, a member of the Graphic Workshop in London recalls Brownjohn coming, in a not-so-perfect state, to give a lecture to some students; after Alan Fletcher shook him out of it and delivered a stunning lecture, a student asked him “What is graphic design?” to which Brownjohn replied “I am.” Why would anyone want to divide Brownjohn’s work and life? Clearly, each informed the other and made each other more interesting.

The rest of the book, Work, is as fulfilling as the first part. A large number of projects are shown with short and comprehensive explanations that parade the players of each project and manage to cover the beginnings, middles and ends of most of the work shown. It really is hard to draw any convoluted explanations when the work is presented uninterrupted and with no distractions, the book does a great job in letting the work show the sensibility of the designer. From the playful spreads of Brownjohn’s, along with Chermayeff and Geismar’s, typographic explorations for their booklet Watching Words Move, to the maturity and cleverness in the covers for Pepsi-Cola World, to the grandaddy of all of Brownjohn’s projects: The opening titles for James Bond’s From Russia with Love (1963) and Goldfinger (1964).

In From Russia with Love, Brownjohn projects the titles on a belly dancer, a (regular?) dancer and a model as they do their thing on screen. Audiences loved it and Brownjohn was instantly in charge of the following production, Goldfinger, where trying to outdo himself, Brownjohn decided to project live action sequences on the body of a woman. The model, a curvaceous Margaret Nolan was painted gold, from head to toe and dressed in a gold bikini, while explosions and Sean Connery were projected on her. (It goes without saying, men across the world liked it).

When I first saw this book I guess I liked the cover as well. I mean, there is a naked woman, laying on the floor, the words sex and typography printed brown on a goldish paper. At first, not knowing that Brownjohn was the man behind Goldfinger I shrugged it as a gimmick and as some sort of allure to attract unsuspecting designers to buy the book. Again, these are those moments that I hate, where I miss the nuance of design history. The woman on the cover is Margaret Nolan, possibly — telling from her glow — painted in gold from head to toe — just like the book. Just like Brownjohn. Golden. And now I know.

Book Information Robert Brownjohn: Sex And Typography By Emily King Hardcover: 240 pages Publisher: Princeton Architectural Press ISBN: 1568985509
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ENTRY DETAILS
ARCHIVE ID 2441 FILED UNDER Book Reviews
PUBLISHED ON Oct.13.2005 BY Armin
WITH COMMENTS
Comments
marian bantjes’s comment is:

Thanks, Armin. On my wishlist. Like you I am self-taught in design history (among other things), and I am mortified by how much I don't know while at the same time feeling overwhelmed by learning about the past *and* keeping up with the present. How does Steve Heller do it?

Does anyone else besides me ever feel like giving up? Or maybe just concentrating on one small area: only learning about, uh, great designers of 1975, for instance. Or only about designers who were blind in one eye.... Rand, was he blind in one eye? No? Sorry then, not my area of expertise. Emma Who? Is she blind in one eye? Never heard of her; don't need to.

Ah the comfort in that! On the one hand you are revered for your vast knowledge as a specialist; on the other, absolved of knowing anything else beyond the basics.

Mark your territories, people.

On Oct.14.2005 at 12:06 AM
m. kingsley’s comment is:

Last month our beloved Graham Wood and I had one of those soul-baring, truth-telling, scotch-drinking (at least on my part) Boy's Night Out� where the subject of Robert Brownjohn came up. I suspect that we in the States don't know too much about BJ because of his drug use; while Graham commented that in the UK, many know about his work and his addiction.

And that's a shame, because Brownjohn was one of those talents that more designers should be aware of. A few years ago, Ivan Chermayeff was kind enough to dig through the Chermayeff & Geismar archives and give a slide presentation on Brownjohn's work to the NY chapter of the AIGA. After a passing comment about him leaving Brownjohn, Chermayeff & Geismar Associates and moving to London, I raised my hand and asked why. It was only after a direct question did I learn that he moved to score drugs with greater ease. Well, knock me over with a feather!

Perhaps this reflects a particularly Puritanical/American inability to deal with the messy bits of people's lives — compare the Brownjohn biographies on the AIGA website vs. the Design Museum's site (PDF file) — or perhaps he was a design star a couple decades too early. Whatever the cause of the oversight; Emily King and Princeton Arch. Press have my eternal gratitude for filling a large hole in the history of design. Not to worry Emily, I'm more concerned about the "brilliance of his output" over the "extremities of [his] story". It's just when you love someone's work, you want to know why they aren't around to do more of it.

As my friends can attest, I've been known to sneer (slightly… or is it jealously?) about the glut of design self-promotional pieces monographs; but in this case, I'll take some of that scotch money and pick up a copy.

====

And Marian, all good knowledge is, in the end, self-taught. With enough motivation and time spent in dusty bookshops, you too could be like Steve Heller.

P.S. to the folks at Princeton Arch. Press —

Next on my wish list: Abdul Mati Klarwein — whose life included Nazi Germany, Dali, Miles Davis and lots of naked girls. Plus, there are most likely a few people in New York with a juicy anecdote or two.

On Oct.14.2005 at 02:43 AM
Diane Witman’s comment is:

Sad to say but included in my education was a History and Survey of Graphic Design course with a ton of slides and tests on everyone and anyone that the professor thought was important that we know in the graphic design profession.

I hate to say this but I don't remember a single thing form my class, I deeply regret it now and know I should have put all of my attention in to that course while I was there. I am now learning ever-so-slowly the history of my chosen profession.

On Oct.14.2005 at 09:36 AM
Mr.Frankie L’s comment is:

Who is Margaret Nolan?

Btw, I too am self teaching myself in

the ways of design history..and I do agree

there is simply too damn much!

Sigh, but I keep trucking along...

On Oct.14.2005 at 09:49 AM
Armin’s comment is:

> Who is Margaret Nolan?

The sexy lady on the cover, who is the sexy lady on the film titles of Goldfinger. Not sure about her design skills.

On Oct.14.2005 at 09:52 AM
DesignMaven’s comment is:

Much of the FUN of Design History is knowing where the Bodies are BURIED.

Unfortunately, there are a Plethora of Designers Generation X and Y will never now about.

Phillip Meggs Book, A History of Graphic Design only scratches the Suffice. As well, as Walker Art Certer's Book on Design History.

There is much more to be told or revealed.

In my Formal writing to Friends and Colleagues. I continue to refer to Mr. Brownjohn's Place of Worship in the United States as Brownjohn Chermayeff & Geismar. And I always will.

In the same respect, I will never Publicly or Privately address Lippincott & Margulies by it's new name. No Disrespect to the Parent Company. Walter P. Margulies, the inventor of Marketing and Communication Principles for Identity Practice is to important to be forgotten and dismissed.

Robert Brownjohn learned the Craft of Film Title Design from one of the Foremost Practitioners in Film Title Design, Maurice Binder. Saul Bass' Equal in that Arena. And Maurice Binder was an accomplished Graphic Design. His work is in my Archives.

Maurice Binder created all those marvelous Titles for James Bond and other noted Movies.

Last and not least, Tony Pallidino is the creator of the ripped typeface of the Psycho Movie Poster which was adopted from the Symbol Tony Pallidino created for the book Psycho.

Saul Bass had nothing to do with the Concept and Development and Design of the ripped Psycho Typeface. I mention these because Bass is always credited with the creation of that symbol. He emphatically did not create it. The only face Bass created was for the Title Sequence in Psycho.

Aware on Brendan Dawes website they credit Tony Pallidino's Psycho Symbol to Saul Bass. They are wrong!!!!!!!!!!!

Back to Robert Brownjohn, inspite of his shortcomings

a Major Kick Ass Designer!!!!!!!!!!!

DM

P.S. For those that don't know and are only concerned with American Design Idiom. Brian Tattersfield was Partner with Marcello Minale (now deceased) and co-owner of the Legendary European Identity Consultancy Minale Tattersfield.

Word to the Wise, research all History and don't confine yourself only to the United States. Because you miss some Kick Ass Designers whom reside in other parts of the World.

On Oct.14.2005 at 10:18 AM
DesignMaven’s comment is:

Writing fast, I meant.

Generation X and Y will never know about.

A History of Graphic Design only scratches the Surfice.

DM

On Oct.14.2005 at 10:22 AM
m. kingsley’s comment is:

> Robert Brownjohn learned the Craft of Film Title Design from one of the Foremost Practitioners in Film Title Design, Maurice Binder.

Maven, Emily King suggests that Brownjohn's approach comes more from his teacher: Moholy-Nagy. Further poking around on the internet also indicates that the Binder as master/Brownjohn as assistant story is perhaps a bit overstated.

On Oct.14.2005 at 11:12 AM
feelicks sockwl jr’s comment is:

One of the great (greatest?) things about being reintroduced to graphic design in New York is coming to understand and reinterpret design history in ones own terms- via Strand Bookstore, Oaklanders (RIP?) and that underground magazine shop south of Times Square (forget name, starts with an M).

Without a sense of design history, you can't grasp it all.

My embarrassing Mmalox design history moment came when I purchased $800 dollars worth of Art Director's Club & Graphis Annuals from a guy in South Florida. Who was this guy? Hell if I knew. I found the ad in the back of a Critique Magazine. Suprisingly, I was the only one who called him wanting them. What a treasure trove! A year after I bought the books, another book came out about the man who had sold them to me... first art director of Columbia Records and inventor of the record cover... you know who this guy is right? Well If not I'm not going to tell you... I know you'll want to find out on your own.

Thx for the touching story, grasshopper. Youre channeling master Beirut today.

On Oct.14.2005 at 11:14 AM
Tselentis’s comment is:

Armin,

So glad to see this book reviewed, and like most of us, I agree that he was (and still is) a talent that deserves more recognition.

kingsley should just send his entire wishlist to PaPress, or better yet, propose a manuscript himself. And why the hell not?

On Oct.14.2005 at 12:01 PM
DesignMaven’s comment is:

Mark:

I don't believe much of what I read on the internet. Unless I'm writing it myself or it comes from another reliable source such as Steven D. Heller, Phillip Meggs or Designers with First Hand knowledge that I Trust. My point with the information on Brendan Dawes site in reference to Bass and the Psycho Symbol Tony Pallidino Developed and Designed.

There's a lot Meggs' omitted from A History of Graphic Design. Corporate Identity as a Practice wasn't even covered in A History of Graphic Design. Neither was its Leading Practitioners other than Bass and Rand.

So much of Corporate Identity goes beyond those two names.

Chicago Based Identity Consultant and World Renowned Designer Morton Goldsholl wasn't even mentioned. Neither is Legendary Los Angeles Packaging Guru Jerome Gould, who created the infamous Michelobe Bottle in the 70s. Other noted Packaging Innovations.

Neither was Unimark Intl as a Consultancy. Or Geog Olden the First African American Design Director at CBS and within Television History. Who was employed at CBS before Lou Dorfsman was hired. Many other noted Desigers that deserved recognition for their accomplishment. Such as, S. Neil Fujita. If memory serve me correctly I don't think Lippincott & Margulies or Landor is mentioned in Phillip Meggs A History of Graphic Design.

I can go on and on.

Yes, Moholy-Nagy experimented with Film. And he was a noted Film Maker. Moholy-Nagy died young.

The advancement of Film Making had transcended since the time Moholy-Nagy was making Movies. Which is why I say and others Brownjohn learned the Craft of Film Titles from Maurice Binder.

True, Robert Brownjohn was his student. And so was SAUL BASS a student of Moholy-Nagy and many other noted Designers.

If that story is True Brownjohn approached was influenced by Moholy-Nagy. Why no stories have been substantiated that Moholy-Nagy influenced the Greatest Film Title Designer of all time. Which is Saul Bass. Also his student.

And it is acknowledged that Saul Bass was influenced by John Hubley and Faith Hubley World Renowned Independent Animators and formerly Disney Animators earlier in their career.

My point of contention is that Robert Brownjohn when he left Chermayeff & Geismar,/b> went to Europe and worked as an Independent. At the same time, worked in the Design Atelier of Maurice Binder. Which Brownjohn was not a Partner or Equally as adept in Film Title Design. Who was creating Film Titles years before Brownjohn left the United States.

The commission for Brownjohn to Design the Two James Bond Film Titles he Designed came via Maurice Binder's Design Atelier. Binder, was either sick or had prior commitments. Which is why Brownjohn created the Titles.

Credit given where credit is due.

Not taking anything away from Moholy-Nagy one of my ALL TIME FAVS

DM

On Oct.14.2005 at 01:04 PM
DesignMaven’s comment is:

Correction: Follow Up.

After eating lunch. And I had some Vegetarian Brain Food.

Saul Bass was a Student of Gyorgy Kepes.

A former Bauhaus Member. Not Moholy-Nagy.

Why didn't sombody else catch this and correct me???

Is there nobody out there Capable of Correcting Me????(LOL)

All other information I shared is accurate.

I think its safe to say Robert Brownjohn was influenced by both Moholy-Nagy and Maurice Binder.

DM

P.S. Mark you should've caught that.

If nothing else, I am HONEST. And not afraid of correcting myself.

On Oct.14.2005 at 02:11 PM
Michael B.’s comment is:

My favorite quote in the book is about the way Brownjohn presented his design for From Russia With Love, where he projected type on a bikini-clad woman.

Quoting Alan Fletcher: "[Brownjohn] said, 'I've just sold this fantastic idea,' And he did the whole presentation for me again: 'So, I put the slides on, and I walked into this room and I took my shirt off...'"

On Oct.14.2005 at 05:27 PM
Chris’s comment is:

It seems to me with the current state of affairs in our education systems, that colleges with a graphic design program would require students to have a history course dedicated solely to graphic design. Currently at the college I am attending I have stumbled across, and taking my first. I can say that I could have easily fulfilled my art history requirement without ever learning one bit of history that pertained to graphic design other than that which involves the invention of the printing press. When I go to class, it amazes me how infantile my knowledge of graphic design history is.

I (and possibly some of my classmates) feel like in some way have I have let my instructor down, due to my lack of knowledge in the field in which I have chosen to make my profession. I'm not quite sure of the reasoning that governs the curriculum of our current educational institutions, but one thing is for certain, there needs to be a change.

Maybe it is due to the fact that it is a rarity people other than designers enjoy graphic design. More often than not, good graphic design is wasted on a mass that will pick up a pamphlet or brochure only to be placed on a heap of papers on their desk, or to be thumbed through and discarded. Nevertheless maybe it is time for our educational institutions to take a look at a graphic design history course.

thanks for teaching me a thing or two about an important graphic designer. Now I know, and knowing is half the battle.

On Oct.14.2005 at 06:48 PM
Tselentis’s comment is:

... G. I. Joe

But seriously, design is young and as a result, little design history pedagogy exists at the University level. Exceptions might be Yale, VCU (Megg's old stomping ground), and perhaps RISD or NCSU. For those looking to make an impact in the field, my advice is know your design history and/or do a PhD in the subject. You might convince others that design history matters (this is turning into a post for another place).

On Oct.14.2005 at 06:57 PM
JT III’s comment is:

Chris & Tselentis,

Uarts, Philly has a lovely and often over looked Graphic Design department that has incorporated design history into its course requirements. Keep hope alive!

The study of design history extends beyond a single class, though. There's so many great designers out there and so little classroom time!

On Oct.15.2005 at 12:05 AM
Jonathan Baldwin’s comment is:

Well I teach design history - and mention no designers whatsoever!

History is not a 'great man' view of the world (and it usually is always men when it's done that way) but an understanding of the effects that design had, the circumstances that led to a design, its production, its consumption, the social uses that people made of it.

Imagining the history of design to simply be about knowing who did what when diminishes the importance of the subject. And it focuses attention on 'famous' designers at the expense of the 99.99% of designers who aren't famous, don't want to be famous and never will be famous, but who have far more impact on the everyday lives of ordinary people.

Revering a designer simply because someone 'in the know' says we should is wrong. It sets up a dsitinction between those who have the knowledge and those who don't - something you express yourself, Armin, when you say you are frustrated and ashamed at not knowing who certain people are.

A lot of teaching of design and design history revolves around the idea that there is a body of knowledge that you need to know to be 'in' and 'accepted'. Name dropping is something I identified a long time ago as one of the everyday social intercourses that designers and design educators have. It's fanwank of the worst kind.

At the end of the day it isn't important and the proof is in the fact that the 'canon' of great designers represents a tiny fraction of the total number of designers, and a disproportionate representation of women, non-Western designers, ethnic minorities and people who didn't go to the right colleges.

Perpetuating the canon is one of the worst things we can do because it stops us looking beyond a few coffee table books of the great and the good and instead analysing the immense social and political impact of design through the decades.

Design is far too important a force in history to focus on a few people who do it. We need to get design history out of the art history mentality and study its impact on society.

See a diagram I've developed (based on John Walker's original idea) to see what the 'design history field' should contain. Not a slide in sight.

Incidentally, if you're at the New Views conference on Graphic Design History at London College of Communication this month, I'll be talking about this very thing!

On Oct.16.2005 at 10:17 AM
jess’s comment is:

But seriously, design is young and as a result, little design history pedagogy exists at the University level.

The history of photography is even younger, but I think that's a pretty standard art history course at most art-focused schools. . .

On Oct.16.2005 at 01:28 PM
Henrik Tandberg’s comment is:

Mr. Johnatan Baldwin, although I completely agree with you that we shouldn't be too hung up on a few coffe table books about a few great designers, but instead focus on the utalitarian and social aspect of design. However, you can't simply leave out the fact that what often drives graphic design in new directions is the accomplishment of a few talented people.

The Hastings car insurance commercial on tv might have as much impact on my life as Robert Brownjohns tiltle sequences, but in the interest of trying to be as good a designer I can be I choose to believe in the fact that design can be be bettered. That some things are better than others. And in this case that Robert Brownjohn is worth remembering because his legacy can make me a better designer.

(Looking forward to seeing you at LCC btw)

On Oct.16.2005 at 03:13 PM
Jonathan Baldwin’s comment is:

Henrik, you make a good point but I disagree that design is driven by 'a few talented people'. The study of design history shows precisely the opposite and my warning is based on evidence - my own and from others - that the increasing focus on just a few people actually restricts innovation in design.

In terms of effects on your life, it would be wrong to dismiss the work of anonymous designers who help you make everyday decisions about what to buy, what to see, what to read, where to go, what to think...

It's particularly dangerous, as a profession, for us to ignore these profound impacts on our (and everyone's) lives in favour of focussing on aesthetic impacts.

The proof is in the pudding. I and many other design history teachers have shown that it is possible to understand design and its history without focussing on 'important' designers. Indeed, a deeper understanding results. An interesting experiment that anyone can do is to show the work of several designers to people and ask them to point out the 'important' ones - it rarely produces the results you'd expect.

Another investigation you can do is to look at changing opinions about who is important and how such judgements are made. The fact is they change, and are often made based on sociological reasons - 'good' designers happen to be well connected through a family tree of education, agents, clients, colleagues. There are few examples where this is not the case.

You cite one example to make your case, and no doubt everyone else can cite another. But as an historian would tell you, that does not prove the point and in many ways helps to prove the opposite.

Taste and canon are often formed externally. When I investigated this with my own students they found that their own ideas about who or what was 'important' or 'good' were received by teachers, parents or peer pressure and rarely, if ever, developed personally. On the few occasions when students did discover a designer they admired for themselves, it was as a result of a book or exhibition - so shaped by someone else's authoritative judgement. This in itself is profoundly important and certainly was for my students who began to question the whole idea of 'good' and 'bad' design.

Design history isn't (or shouldn't) be concerned with who designers think are good designers, but with how designers effect and are affected by society. Someone else said earlier something along the lines of 'so much good design is completely ignored by the public' - well why do designers have a different understanding of design than the public? And whose opinion is the most important?

Design isn't art and doesn't belong in a gallery or museum - it only works in context and should be analysed in that context.

A certain Neville Brody is interviewed in my new book and says something along the lines of 'if the audience don't understand my design, that's their problem not mine'. This shift in attitudes among designers, from caring about effect to caring about their place in posterity is an interesting and recent phenomenon that is (of course) being studied by design historians.

What's interesting is that when people like me suggest ignoring the canon in the study of design history, people protest that it will mean that 'designer X' will be ignored. But does it? And if it does, doesn't that say something about the relative importance of 'designer X'?

Design history is/should be more concerned with the Hastings insurance commercial you mention because the effect is has is social, economic, political and ethical. The effect the Brownjohn works have on designers, is largely aesthetic, particularly when viewed away from the context of their original creation. However, discuss those same works in their true cultural terms - the representation of women, the role of the Bond films as an expression of 'British' values, the Hollywood film business, the concept of kitsch and retro, and they become more important to historians.

Sadly the 'slide show, lecture, essay' approach to design history tends to focus on style, and on who designers think is important - the end result being either bored students or worse: bored students who think they should simply copy what they see.

Good design is effective design. My position is that if the Hastings ads get people to part with their money, they're well designed. Just because the person/people that did them are unknown, and the techniques they use aren't 'arty' or 'groundbreaking' is not a valid reason to dismiss them. History is happening now and it is produced by everyone. Setting out to make history - the emphasis and basis of assessment of so many design courses - is the wrong way to approach being a designer, in my opinion (for all that's worth, historically!)

Incidentally, I'm on at noon on 29th October at LCC - my 35th birthday as it happens, so bring me something nice ;-)

On Oct.17.2005 at 02:55 AM
Henrik Tandberg’s comment is:

You are making some sweeping statements here about all that designers care about is "aesthetic impact". Remember that the current design canon is pretty broad. And broadens with every issue of Eye and Baseline.

The phrase "effective design" should be looked at. What exactly is effective design? Something that get people to part from their money? Very well, but isn't this also a bit limiting? Where does Peter Saville's wonderful and effective record covers fit into this? They are probably considered good because he is a master at art directing and placing the right images in the right context at the right time. He is known for a reason, it's not "style", it's semiotics and talent.

And where are these "right colleges" where students are force fed design out of its content and asked to copy it anyway? it's not Yale? or LCC? good design is in my view good language, not nagging car commercials. Sure, it is as big part of the design scene as anything else, and maybe just as important to history, but does designers need to remember, or treasure them?

The hastings ad is neither "arty" or "groundbreaking", and you make no further explanation of why we shouldn't dismiss it, so why should we equal it with Brownjohns work? what's the social impact? Hastings wants my money? I know this. How many levels of meaning and implications can ads like this possibly have on my life?

On Oct.17.2005 at 06:05 PM
lorraine wild’s comment is:

In 1982, Katy Homans, a classmate of mine at Yale, wrote an incredibly sophisticated biography of Brownjohn for her master's thesis. For a variety of reasons, including resistance from Brownjohn's family, she was never able to secure the permissions to publish it. At CalArts, where design history has been part of the curriculum for over 25 years, Homans' essay has been part of the required reading for design history ever since graphic design students began to work seriously in motion. I have not seen the Design Museum's catalog yet, but I hope that it includes some acknowledgement of Homans' groundbreaking work. Lest anyone feel that Brownjohn is just too obscure, he was the recipient (posthumously) of an AIGA Gold Medal in 2002. The AIGA annual published for that year includes another interesting (and illustrated) essay by my CalArts colleague, Michael Worthington.

On Oct.17.2005 at 06:23 PM
Jonathan Baldwin’s comment is:

No, effeective doesn't (always) mean getting people to part with their money. It is based on the idea that design = communication.

Now the works we're talking about could all be said to be effective (and I happen to think they are) but I believe that far too often we, as designers, tend to confuse affect with effect and dismiss heteronomous design, preferring instead to laud autonomous design.

This is certainly reflected in the design canon which celebrates aesthetics over effectiveness. (Yes it's a generalisation but this is how it's largely interpreted by people based on my experience as a teacher and researcher). There's nothing wrong with design looking good of course, but it's only a tiny part of the equation.

And the problem is also worsened when, in the minds of the public and increasingly of designers too, design is seen as simply 'making things look good'. Yet the fact is the Word-produced sign at my university's cafe telling people milk is provided for customers only is far more effective than the 'designed' poster on the wall telling us about a gallery opening next week. I'm sure we would all (myself included) rate the gallery poster as better design and a history of posters at the University of Brighton would remember that one, and forget the other.

My point though is: is that right? Should the views of a small number of people be used to judge what's remembered and what's forgotten? In a hundred years will people look back and believe that we were all surrounded by beautifully designed posters or should they know that in actual fact we were surrounded by a real mix?

Wander through the V&A in London and you'd think that life in the past was full of exquisite beauty. In actual fact life was hard. And it still is. But history is too often written based on the best things we find, not on the truth. And despite what the poet said, beauty is not truth and truth is not beauty.

What I'm warning against is the increasing habit of people to unquestioningly celebrate someone's work simply because they are well known or because there has been a retrospective. Often, of course, such rediscoveries are deserved (as in this case - but that's just my opinion). Any assessment of the work of designers must place that work in its proper context and this means regarding 'lesser' work in the same way rather than dismissing it for its naivety, lack of sophistication or its lack of a famous name behind it.

The obsession we have in design with stars and heroes is not an accurate reflection of the realities of the way design works, either as a cultural artefact or as an industrial process. I'm all for celebrating the classics, as I am in literature and music, but not at the expense of understanding the way design works at the basic everyday level in people's lives, for good or ill.

Let's take the examples of the insurance ad and the album covers. The ad is seen by millions, the album cover may have helped sell hundreds of thousands of copies.

But the insurance ad helps people make a choice out of a crowded marketplace. Record sales often depend on the prioir knowledge of the buyer - covers aren't generally a major reason for choosing one.

The insurance ad will be forgotten in six months time, the record cover may end up in a book, be celebrated in a magazine article, even shown in a gallery. It will be forever remembered as 'good' design because the cultural gatekeepers have deemed it so.

All I'm saying is: is that a system we're happy with? Is design history really just a filtering process? Should a few people make these decisions? If so, who are those people?

I would say, to answer your question, that yes designers need to remember and value (not 'treasure') effective design because ultimately that's what we want to achieve: effective design. But effective does not mean ugly.

Your argument reminds me of the court of Catherine the Great where the vernacular language, Russian, was banned in favour of French, the language of poetry and beauty.

The end result was a massive distance between the aristocracy and the people they ruled. I worry that the same thing is happening in design.

The vernacular is a language, and it's the language used by the people we most often wish to communicate with. I don't think it's right to dismiss a designer who speaks the same language as his or her audience, but that's what design history all too often does.

On Oct.18.2005 at 03:40 AM
Michael Surtees’s comment is:

Jonathan comments “is that a system we're happy with? Is design history really just a filtering process?”

It's so nice to be able to read a different commentary from the designer status quo. What you're mentioning Jonathan is barely noted anywhere that I've been able to find. As for the filtering process on design history, I think people living outside of the US are more sensitive to the issue. The reality is that most publishers, editors, and writers that are widely read are American. You can't blame people for writing about what's in front of them, but the love affair with some of their Stars gets tiring.

On Oct.18.2005 at 08:49 AM
Henrik Tandberg’s comment is:

How can design history (or any history) be anything but a filtering process? As long as it is recorded by a few individuals (historians) and put into a system (text)? Sure, history is not a filtering process, but our recording of it is, and by extention our understanding of it. How do you change that? I am aware of the fact that "history" is a construct, and therefore I try not to trust history too much, and it's probably the reason why I don't want to be a historian. But you can't change the system, humans pick and choose, it's what we do.

We don't need to show future generations all these small bits of graphic design that everybody forgets because they are just extentions of small social interactions. We can instead just inform future generations of these social interactions. As we are informed about the everyday life of the victorian era through the "big" history that pulsated through the printed ephemera of the day.

The hastings ad isn't dismissed. It made it. But should we record it? Or should we record what it represents? And can we say that good/canonical graphic design might say a little more about things and might matter more in the bigger picture?

On Oct.18.2005 at 10:32 AM
DesignMaven’s comment is:

Johnathan Baldwin:,

Don't let Armin fool you. He's a Veritable Encyclopedia Britannica of Design History and Knowledge. It was an Honest Attempt to Appear Modest. Should I say, Appear Common among Mere Mortals.

I understand your concerns, I touch base on this in my Interview with Michael Surtees.

My infatuation with certain Designer(s) is because I never had to look outside of my Home for them. I grew up with them as a child.

I vehemently do not like being Forced Fed who I should like or appreciate. Regardless of the Vehicle of Representation.

My Pet Peeve with Design History is that if Historians had properly Connected the Dots. A Generation of Designers would not have been Duped into Believing David Carson was Original. Which is the Biggest Lie that has been told in the History of Visual Communication. Every thing Carson ever Designed

was already Formulated by the Swiss in particular

Carlo Vivaralli and Max Huber whom are the Forbearers of Carson's Style.

My comments have nothing to do with Carson Capability as a Designer. Just that he was not or never was Totally Original!!!!!!!! As I said to my Friend and Mentor Gunnar Swanson. What knew Design Idiom Did Carson Bring to the Table. I got no answer. Very few people can say they Stumped Gunnar Swanson.

Agreed Women Designers are not getting the Attention they Deserved. In that respect you're Preaching to the Choir.

If it were not for available resources, I would've never learned of Milner Gray, FHK Henrion, Bob Noorda, Marcello Minale, Abram Games, Tony Zef, Tom Eckersly, Tomi Ungerer, Bernard Villemot, Phillipa Emery, John Lloyd and Jim Northover. Many other talented European Designers. There exist a place for both teaching Methodologies. One should not rule out one in favor of the other. Both have Merit.

DM

On Oct.18.2005 at 03:44 PM
Gunnar Swanson’s comment is:

As I said to my Friend and Mentor Gunnar Swanson. What new Design Idiom Did Carson Bring to the Table. I got no answer. Very few people can say they Stumped Gunnar Swanson.

Mave: Only because few people would bother trying.

I have to admit that I don’t remember the conversation but the phrase “totally original” is nonsense. Anything totally original would be incomprehensible.

David’s work was based on previous work to a greater degree than hagiographies seem to indicate. One can see the influence of Cranbrookian, CalArtian, and other work on Beach Culture and much of that can be traced to Christopher Vice’s time working on the magazine. (Chris is now chair of the graphic design program at Herron.) While his work was not unprecedented, it certainly represented a strong point of view and was groundbreaking in many ways.

I have been trying to straighten out my thoughts about originality. Although my efforts were disrupted by my recent move across country and my new job teaching at East Carolina University, I need to get back to a follow-up on my article in the July/August Step so I’d love to hear from people about cases of influence and copying. (Please email me.)

One issue that keeps coming up in charges of copying is what I call the hundred monkeys rule. There are plenty of graphic design solutions that would be discovered by any number of graphic designers if they were working on the same or a similar project.

The appearance of copying is perhaps more dramatic with less standard work. David Carson made much of his clever combination of numerals and spelled-out numbers—1ne, 2wo, etc. Was it interesting and original (in the sense that he didn’t copy it from other sources)? Yes. Did Brownjohn discover the same thing many years before? Yes, but I have no reason to think that David didn’t invent it on his own. Totally original? What would that mean?

On Oct.20.2005 at 10:59 AM
DesignMaven’s comment is:

Gunnar:

First and Foremost Kudos and Accolades on the new position at East Carolina. That explains you being AWOL or MIA.

The appearance of copying is perhaps more dramatic with less standard work. David Carson made much of his clever combination of numerals and spelled-out numbers—1ne, 2wo, etc. Was it interesting and original (in the sense that he didn’t copy it from other sources)? Yes.

Send me your email address if its not the same. Of course you know I save everything so I'll let you re-read your original email to me.

I trust that you don't remember the conversation since it took place over a year ago.

I would quote you, unlike other people, I have no BEEF with you And consider you a Genuine and valued Compadre.

Yes, Carson Liberated the American Magazine Page for a few years with Ray Guy and Surf Magazine, perhaps others. Much of it with unreadable text and Bad Typography, with caused EYE STRAIN. And Glorified by Designer(s) that were either Dazzled by his Lack of Brilliance or Baffled by by his Bullshit.

And elements that were incorporated into his Designs such as the Johnson Box Horizontal, Vertical, and Perpendicular Skewed Type Zoomed and juxtaposed with photography abstact elements and incorporating line shape value and texture were already Formalized fifty years before Carson's Birth. by Dadaism, DeStjil, Constructivism, Bauhaus, and most notably The Swiss.

Again, I ask what new Methodology or Vision did David Carson bring to the table and Arena of Visual Communication that were accepted as Universal Working Methodology by the Masses.

Granted, Totally Original is a bit of Stretch and should not be used for sake of Argument. Let's used the term Original in reference to Vision. Braking New Ground. In the work of those Designers(s) whose Personal Vision is more transcendient of their Contemporaries by which we can measure the flow of conceptual tides within the larger context of Ideation. The Designer(s) listed below are Original as well as Critical Thinkers

are reassurances of The Quality of Designer(s) that Possessed the Capability to Transcend, Influence and Mutate our Profession, Spiritually, Physically, and Intellectually. Albeit establishing Fundamental Laws and Canons of Visual Communication.

To name just a few. Whose work is Highly Intelligent and Cultivated.

Saul Bass introduced an invented a new Graphic Language and methodology of Film Titles and Cinema Marketing that continues to be in practice today. I'll go on Record saying there were no Traditional Graphic Designer(s) working in Hollywood Film and Title Design with the Longevity of Bass, before Saul Bass.

At the same time, was in the Forefront of Revolutionary Proprietary Strategy and Analysis of Corporate Identity Practice as a Management Tool. Thus influencing the way Corporate Identity was Practiced in America via Modern Semiotics and Semantics. The Language of Symbols and Signs.

Responsible for informing Designer(s) Design had no boundaries. Only the craft and production aspect changed. The Process of Ideation and Discovery were the same.

Paul Rand introduced an unseen sensibility to Wit and Humor in American Visual Communication via Advertising and Corporate Design. Incorporating European Design Ideology and Fusing it with his own. And making it uniquely his own. Paul Rand a forbearer of Corporate Identity in America Influenced the way Corporate Identity was Practiced in America by only accepting few clients and endearing himself to them. Thus, influencing the way Corporate Identity was Practiced in America via Modern Semiotics and Semantics. Without the need of Research and Analysis provided by outside Consultants.

Responsible for informing Designer(s) Design had no boundaries. Only the craft and production aspect changed. The Process of Ideation and Discovery were the same.

Herb Lubalin single handedly Liberated Type Designers and Typographers from their mundane occupation of traditional uses of type.

Lubalin introduced and Forced Type Designer(s) and Typographers to used Type Creatively. If I may paraphrase my Mentor and Friend Steven D. Heller. "Type was like Putty in Herb Lubalin's Hands".

Herb Lubalin, was a Goldsmith in the World Typography making use of the letter to be read, the letter to be looked at and the letter that became a object in itself.

Milton Glaser fused Art Nuevo with his own working methodology. Breaking the Bonds of Traditional Illustration Style. Unifying the Practice of Illustration and Graphic Design. At the same time Breaking the Bonds and Bridging the Gap of being Pigeon Holed as Illustrator or Graphic Designer. Consistently working interchangeably in both Disciplines. Along with his Partner Seymour Chwast.

I can go on and on Gunnar in reference to who made Revolutionary and noteworthy Contributions in Visual Communication. As I said to you a year or so ago within a private email. I'm not that Gullible in reference to David Carson Contribution to Design. I've researched the History of Visual Communication three times for over a Decade. Very few people Stand Out Head and Shoulders about the rest.

I'm afraid much of what David Carson has Garnered in Success as a Designer is a Stolen Legacy. at Best. Blinded by Ignorance or Brazen Disregard of what was already in Practice in Eurpean Design by Swiss Designers and other noted European Movements.

Perhaps, when you investigate and research your article on Copying or Plagiarism you should use Paul Rand's Article Idea's About Idea's on Graphic Design. Where Ideas come from. I can guarantee you, anybody that emphatically state "they did not know Graphic Design existed as a Profession is not Trust Worthy". To further exacerbate this topic of discussion on David Carson. Anybody that has the Cajones to say Publicly Adobe paid them an untold sum to create an Advertisement with their software and he (Carson) lied about the methodology that he actually used Quark. Reprehesible at BEST and Totally Untrustworthy.

I suspect, he was Totally Aware of Eurpean Design Idiom. Why should we believe any different ???

Because he said so. Seems to have a Reputation and History of being a Chronic Lier.

I enjoy telling this story on David Carson which was told by Legendary Designer James Cross. And I sent you a copy of the Article among others. I trust you still have it in your possession.

Jim Cross meeting David Carson for the first time in the 90s at the Aspen Conference. Jim Cross said on one side of the Conference sat Saul Bass, Ivan Chermayeff and Lou Dorfsman, all God's and on the other side sat David Carson, Margo Chase, and Jennifer Sterling. Jim Cross said, you could see the Generation Gap in age, work, and accomplishment. The younger generation probably did not know who they were. Long story short, David Carson got up and spoke and iterated, many of you from the old guard probably don't like my work or understand it. He went on to explain his work. After Carson spoke, Jim Cross went up to introduce himself and told Carson he was a Fan of his work. David Carson didn't know who he was. And had never heard of him. I said to myself, how disgusting and embarrassing for Carson. To not know and recognize Jim Cross. The only Designer in History to work for Legendary Designer, Saul Bass they parted company and remained friends because the employment situation for Jim Cross didn't work out. Jim is the only Designer in History to ever leave a Legendary Designer (Saul Bass) and reach the PINNACLE. Becoming a member of the Alliance Graphique Internationale, and receiving his AIGA Lifetime Achievement Award, And receiving the Art Directors Club Lifetime Achievement Award.

When I read that I had no Respect for David Carson. I wasn't a fan anyway.Reason, as an African American Male who took the time to learn Design History. Nobody will ever hear of me. Neither, will I ever become a member of the Alliance Graphique Internationale or Win a Lifetime Achievement Award from any of the Prestigious Design Organizations. Yet, I Love and Respect my Profession enough to learn it's History.

If my Friend Jim Cross wasn't offended, I certainly am. In my book, Ignorance of Design History and it's Practitioners is a Hanging Offense!!!!!!!!

DM

Let me know exactly what you need. I'll try to provide it.

I suspect if you forgot our conversation about Carson. You no doubt forgot my trinkets of Bass you were providing for my archives. It has been over a YEAR!!!!!!

With Friends like you, who needs... (LOL)

On Oct.20.2005 at 03:03 PM
BlueStreak’s comment is:

In my book,

Ignorance of Design History and it's Practitioners

is a Hanging Offense!!!!!!!!

Dear Maven, when is that scheduled to be published?

On Oct.20.2005 at 04:16 PM
DesignMaven’s comment is:

Follow Up:

Without Constructivism as its Predecesor. Catherine and Michael McCoy nor Cranbrook would've never given Birth to DeConstructivism.

BlueStreak:

I'm re-writing His-Story.

You've got a Signed Autograph Copy.

DM

On Oct.20.2005 at 05:08 PM
Rick Poynor’s comment is:

Lorraine Wild mentions Katy Homans' fine Yale master's thesis about Brownjohn.

In 1991, soon after we launched Eye magazine in London, Brownjohn's friend Alan Fletcher showed me a copy of Katy's thesis. He thought we might like to publish something. It was my introduction to Brownjohn and his work and I was blown away. I contacted Katy and asked her if she could produce a highly edited version of her text for the magazine, capturing the essentials. This she did and we published it in Eye no. 4 vol. 1 in 1991. Brownjohn's known surviving output is relatively small and in a 12-page feature we showed pretty much all of the key projects. Herbert Spencer, a friend of Brownjohn in London, lent us a number of the pieces. Brownjohn had been a contributor in the early 1960s to Spencer's magazine Typographica.

The work hadn't been published for many years and the Brownjohn revival began to build from there. One figure who helped to push it along was the late Tony Arefin, a New York art director, formerly based in London, who liked to enthuse about how he would one day produce a book about Brownjohn. In the course of the 1990s, Brownjohn became something of a cult figure among a new generation of designers.

Oddly, Brownjohn's daughter, Eliza, who is behind Sex and Typography, knew nothing about this until a few years ago. For many years she worked in the music business in the US and had no connections with the design world. It was her discovery of the high estimation in which Brownjohn was held by fellow designers that encouraged her to initiate the book. She told me, while she was still finalising a publisher, that she had recorded conversations with many of Brownjohn's colleagues and friends in Britain and the US. What is not entirely clear from the published book is whether the mosaic of interview extracts that form the basis of the "Life" section are based on transcripts of Eliza's conversations, or on new interviews undertaken by Emily King, or on a mixture of the two.

To answer Lorraine's question, the book makes no mention of Homans' thesis. In fact, there is no bibliography at all, a regrettable oversight in a monograph that hopes to be seen as a serious piece of graphic design history.

On Oct.21.2005 at 01:21 PM
art chantry’s comment is:

i first encountered the legend of robert brownjohn through a colleague (katy homans) who had written a college paper on him (a master's thesis, i believe). she had interviewewd 'bj's' widow and actually obtained temporary custody of his infamous 'slide show ' wherein he would show images of random design genius he encountered in his travels. i guess it was amazing, but what she held up was a paper bag of loose slides.of no real significance. they were of significance only if you has bj's dialog to go with them. she didn't even know what order the slides were supposed to be placed. the condition was just the sides was awful. but this is how bj stored them.

this was in the late 1980's. since then those slides were destroyed in a fire (in katy's studio). i've also had opportunity to ask people like ivan chermeyoff about bj, and received a sad head shake in response. i've attempted to gather all i could about him, the stories, the published pieces, the random items i tripped across. to hear of an actual book on the topic sounds like heaven. i hope it's as good as katy's thesis paper (which i also got a copy of).

my favorite stories about him was his selling techniques. the one about him demonstrating the titles to the first james bond movie is choice. he gathered the pricipals in a crappy little viewing room and sat them in chairs, then he took off his shirt and had the movie title projected on his naked hairy torso and began to dance his big belly around. then he said, "now imagine i'm a pretty girl in a bikini". and they clients bought it immediately. amazing.

he often sold his ideas over the phone, figuring if they weren't good enough to sell that way, they weren't good enough to work at all. there are stories about him calling up the ceo of pepsi in bed at three am (probably in a heroin stupor) and rattling off his idea in an excited mania. the ceo later said that if the idea wasn't so damned gtreat , he would have fired bj on the spot.

now, THAT's a SALESMAN!!! eat yer hearts out, fellas!

On Oct.23.2005 at 03:06 PM
art chantry’s comment is:

oh, and one last observation about brownjohn that i feel compelled to point out. he was an extremely powerful influence on my design thinking - has been all my life. but for most of my "professional" life, i had no idea he existed. he was THAT GOOD. he influenced the design thinking of a generation profoundely and remained relatively obscure. this was before design celebrity existed.

he was one of the best ever, actually. the first "rock star designer." a stunning, but short, career of great conceptualizing. almost unparalleled.

On Oct.23.2005 at 03:15 PM
Lorraine Wild’s comment is:

Along with missing attributions and missing bibliographes, fictionalization is another infecting agent in the world of design history. Why Art Chantry would propose that Brownjohn's slides were destroyed in Homans' studio fire without checking with her is a mystery. According to Homans, the slides had been returned to the family long before that event.

On Oct.24.2005 at 02:04 PM
Rick Poynor’s comment is:

A good selection of Brownjohn's slides, including originals of some of the images used in his article "Street Level" in Typographica, is featured in two wall-mounted light strips in the Design Museum exhibition.

On Oct.24.2005 at 03:45 PM
art chantry’s comment is:

lorraine -

ok, when katy had her fire, i went over afterwards and helped her clean out the ruins. most of her stuff was trashed by water damage. at one point i found a bunch of slides. she said, "oh, those were part of brownjohn's slide show." they were wrecked and we tossed them. i kept a couple of them. she was pretty freaked out by even having them and wanted to get them back to his 'widow'.

maybe she was wrong? the slides i scrounged out of the trash are pretty cool.

so fuck you, lorraine wild. YOU check with katy, ok?

On Oct.24.2005 at 08:46 PM
art chantry’s comment is:

lorraine -

sorry about my foul language, but your accusation that i was lying (aka-"fictionizing") was very petty and jumping to arrogant conclusions. i was there. that's what i remember happening. i'm a primary source on the story, not a secondary source. it's up to you, the "scholar", to do the research, not me. i'm just telling what happened. if you doubt, don't call me a liar, go call katy and check. if she remembers differently, so what? who cares? i sure don't.

- art

On Oct.24.2005 at 08:54 PM
lorraine wild’s comment is:

Not because I've ever made claims to being a scholar, but just because I like to have my facts more or less straight before I spew hot air on a blog, I did check with Katy Homans (who I assume qualifies as a primary source) before I wrote what I wrote earlier, and she confirmed that the material had been returned to the family before the fire.

On Oct.24.2005 at 09:19 PM
Rick Poynor’s comment is:

Just to be clear, Katy Homans is thanked in a list of names at the end of Emily King's introduction to the book. But it doesn't say what Homans' contribution was and the thesis isn't mentioned.

The thesis title is "Robert Brownjohn: Conceptual Design". It was completed at Yale in 1982.

On Oct.25.2005 at 05:06 AM
Katy Homans’s comment is:

The slides that were damaged in the fire in my studio were from my own slide show about Brownjohn. They included dupes from the "bag of slides" that had been returned - along with other materials that Donna Brownjohn (Brownjohn's widow) had loaned me for my thesis, that had been originally intended to be archived at Yale. The Yale archive never happened; Eliza contacted me and I returned virtually everything I had collected (long before the fire). I was deeply disappointed not to have been chosen to do the book, but I look forward to seeing it.

On Oct.25.2005 at 06:24 AM
art chantry’s comment is:

this - in a nutshell - is a great example of the big problem we are facing with "design criticism". it parades as 'design history', but it's not. an historian researches and examines the facts and opinions available, then draws conclusions based on the understanding and interperetation of that material. crisiticism, however, makes the conclusion FIRST, then collects facts and opinions to so support that conclusion.

over and over again, i see 'design historians' taking the 'design critic' approach to building our shared design history. too often (lorraine wild, rick poyner, phil meggs, ellen lupton and even (bless him) steve heller) take the easy route and draw the conclusion first , then search out the material to support it. that is BAD HISTORY. it's history with blinders, and it's the sort of history that emerges on opinion-based places like the net. we nedd a much broader understanding of historial practice, or we'll always be a second-rate artform.

lorraine - NOBODY checks facts first before posting an OPINION or STORY on the net. to think it is otherwise is foolish and inexperienced. this is not a factual forum, it's a fool's paradise. that's why i'm here. you (and rick and steve, etc. etc.) should NOT be, if you are considering this a place to gather anything but the loosest materials to draw from.

as for your opinions, they are simply that - opinions. when you support it with facts, you are only a critic, nothing more. a real historian seldom indulges in opinions. they reseacrh and then learn, not the other way around. so, then, why didn't you contact ME and get my whole story before calling me a liar? why only katy?

On Oct.25.2005 at 12:00 PM
lorraine wild’s comment is:

Oh Art, you're so right. Silly me for thinking a fact had any place on Speak Up.

In the words of Stephen Colbert: "I don't trust books..they're all fact and no heart."

On Oct.25.2005 at 01:23 PM
art chantry’s comment is:

lorraine wild -

sarcasm really doesn't suit you. go back to suave self-righteous elitism, it's more your style, apparently.

facts? they're mercurical. for example, it was announced today that the iraqi 'constitution' passed with 78%of thhe vote. sounds like a great fact and one that many people will use to defend what's going on over there. however, if you look past the "big fact" and look at what that big fact is made of, you'll see that the sunni population soundly rejected it. but, they didn't have enough numbers to defeat the 3/4 percentage to vote it down. sounds like more seeds for civil war that a victory. you see, "big facts" can easily become the 'big lie'. critics use "facts, but not analysis and interperetation. 'the big lie' - isn't that what hitler was about? didn't he say that first? od was he just being a bad historian?

so, lorraine wild, you were not doing your job when you called me a liar. you were simply going with what you already concluded and then looked for 'facts' to support your conclusion. nevermind that the real smaller 'facts' put you to a more complex task of analysis, and analysis that would have made you realize you didn't know what exactly you were talking about when you called me a liar.

so, go back and do you job a little better. get off your high horse and and leave your ivory tower and get it right next time.

On Oct.25.2005 at 04:31 PM
Armin’s comment is:

Um, play nice. Please.

On Oct.25.2005 at 04:38 PM
art chantry’s comment is:

armin -

ok. but, then, nobody called you a liar in front of your peers. when lorraine wild calls somebody a liar, that MEANS something.

i'll be nice. i won't even point out that she is guilty of the exact sort of "fictionalizing" and fabrication that she arrogantly accused me of. simply put, she did not have all the "facts".

no, i won't point that out, armin. i'll be "nice."

- art

On Oct.25.2005 at 07:02 PM
lorraine wild’s comment is:

Chantry more or less accused Katy Homans of destroying (if only inadvertently) a part of Brownjohn's archive. I felt that this was a serious allegation, serious enough to ask if it was true. So I went to the source, and Homans not only made it clear that she had returned all original materials, but expressed dismay that because of Chantry's story, the Brownjohn family might become (justifiably) angry at her for not returning materials they had entrusted to her. Instead of being glad that a piece of design history was not destroyed, Chantry is annoyed that his story is not as dramatic as he had wished. He can continue to be as nasty as he obviously enjoys being, but I still fail to see what part of this story I fabricated.

On Oct.25.2005 at 07:49 PM
Bernard Pez’s comment is:

I have long enjoyed this site and the remarkable opinions of people like Art Chantry who I consider to be one of the most insightful design critics working the web. I feel his opinions are important precisely because they are consistently and rigorously unsupported - as he brilliantly explains in his recent posts regarding his dumpster diving at Katy Homans' studio, i.e. "...criticism, however, makes the conclusion FIRST, then collects facts and opinions to so support that conclusion...".

When I mentor the associates in my design practice I repeatedly encourage them to "go to the web" and see the story but don't get bogged down by searching for the facts behind the story as you will only wear out your "google." Unfortunately this thread has for the first time introduced me to the name Robert Brownjohn. For years our office has imitated his work and we didn't even care what his name was! And we have won lots of design prizes in Europe! The work we produce is always cited on the continent for having a "good feeling." I guess that tells you something about the value of "history". Now I know there is a "history", and that someone named Homans wrote it, but really, isn't a screenshot worth a thousand words? As Art says "...facts? they're mercurical...".

For years I, like Art Chantry, have been annoyed with the Lorraine Wilds, Rick Poyners, and all the Design Observers of the world. Sure they design and teach and speak and research and win awards and publish, etc., etc. etc, but do they teach real design, do they just do it? I find that people like Rick and Lorraine know alot but consistently get bogged down by the facts. I agree with Art, "...NOBODY checks facts first before posting an OPINION or STORY on the net. to think it is otherwise is foolish and inexperienced..."!!!!!!! As I always opine, the truly experienced always use forgetting as a way of separating themselves from the history hobbyists. Thanks again Art for exposing the truth that fiction is is more powerful than fact.

On Oct.26.2005 at 01:07 AM
marian bantjes’s comment is:

What on earth ... ???

Bernard, I can't tell if your comment is highly sarcastic or merely insane.

On Oct.26.2005 at 01:39 AM
Armin’s comment is:

> NOBODY checks facts first before posting an OPINION or STORY on the net.

> Thanks again Art for exposing the truth that fiction is is more powerful than fact.

> people like Rick and Lorraine know alot but consistently get bogged down by the facts. I agree with Art, "...NOBODY checks facts first before posting an OPINION or STORY on the net. to think it is otherwise is foolish and inexperienced..."!!!!!!!

If it were April Fools day I would be laughing but unfortunately I'm more than baffled by this assumption. "Nobody checks facts before posting on the net"?? I'm sorry, but that is the most ridiculous generalization I have heard in a long time. Even porn sites have their facts checked. And "Fiction is more powerful than fact"? It really better be a joke.

Call it a "fool's paradise" but we do encourage people to have their facts straight before contributing. And if they don't, we enocurage them to accept corrections from ones who have checked facts. This is a general thing, nothing specific to this discussion or to whose slides got burnt where and who called who.

On Oct.26.2005 at 08:50 AM
art chantry’s comment is:

lorraine wild -

no, i'm annoyed because you called me a liar, when (if you read katy's comments) i am surely not a liar. it seems there are two sets of facts, both equally true (within the limitations of the thread format).the mere fact that you jumped the gun on doing your own research (then accuse me of not doing research) is further reason for me to be annoyed with you and your behavior.

my story was simply a recollection of an experience that concerned brownjohn. that's all. the last thing on my mind is "accusing" katy (my good friend) of destroying a "valuable design history document" (which is a debatable thing to say as well). but, you decided to blindly jump into the thread and begin accusing me of all sorts of vile behavior. my displayed annoyance is a process that in my cirlces is referred to as "calling bullshit". in fact that is exactly the thing you tried to do to me and failed. but you call it something else, i'm sure.

so, before you get into your fall-back position (a highly eleveated - but perhaps unwarranted position - in "design culture") , perhaps you ought to take a good cold look at what you did and then think anout it some before you start trashing people like me. i may not be sanctified like you - you a 'made' man in design - but to assume i'm lying ignorant trouble maker is a foolish thing to do.

on top of that, i stand solidly behind my commentary earlier of the big problem with design history. in conclussion, the problem with design histroy is that it's being written by people like you, non-historians. that's a VERY big problem. sorry, gal. it's my OPINION, just like yours.

On Oct.26.2005 at 10:31 AM
art chantry’s comment is:

marian -

i think bernard pez's tirade was something we refer to as "sarcasm". not to worry.

armin -

if you honestly think that things on the net are fact-based? then i got a bridge i want to sell you. i mean, really , armin. do you really believe that? "garbage in - garbage out".

and i was NOT fictionalizing. it's the power of lorraine wild's position that gives that remark weight, not what i wrote. i wrote what happened. so, it turns out there were two sets of slides. nobody filled me in on that. does that make me a liar?

i stand CORRECTED on my story. the slide show was apparenly not COMPLETELY destroyed. thank you, katy, for making that CORRECTION.

unless she's lying, of course. how are WE to kow? eh, lorraine?

On Oct.26.2005 at 10:38 AM
Bernard Pez’s comment is:

I think Marian missed the point if she has to ponder if I am being sarcastic. And Armin doesn't get it. "It's the slides stupid." Armin, speaking of porn stars, if they all paid attention to their fact checkers we wouldn't have the pleasure of their company! Art, you are shaking my confidence. What difference does it make that you had no idea at all what was in that garbage bag? Garbage in, garbage out?. The problem with design history is the history part of it, it really bogs the sory down. Isn't the story that you believed you had a dumpster treasure more inspiring than the fact that it was just a bunch of dirty duplicates. Who cares what Katy thinks it was? Why let Lorraine get you down when she exposes so-called truths. You know and I know that what's important is what you thought it was!!!!! Art you are almost always right and that is why I am a loyal fan of Speak Out.

On Oct.26.2005 at 11:07 AM
Armin’s comment is:

Yup, sometimes I just don't get it.

On Oct.26.2005 at 11:10 AM
art chantry’s comment is:

bernie-boy,

yeah, sometimes i don't get you, either. here i thought your were funny for a minute. turns out you're just mean.

- art

On Oct.26.2005 at 11:16 AM
Bernard Pez’s comment is:

Takes one to know one.

On Oct.26.2005 at 11:28 AM
ps’s comment is:

looking forward to checking out the book and learning more about robert brownjohn. too bad only that a nice review and some well deserved recognition turned into a pissing contest between others.

On Oct.26.2005 at 12:06 PM
marian bantjes’s comment is:

Ok, so not sarcasm (therefor ...).

If I sift through Bernard's tirade, and then read his slightly more succinct explanation it comes down to:

The problem with design history is the history part of it, it really bogs the s[t]ory down.

Well, there is a reason why history and fiction are two different things, unless you were raised on Disney. But the flaw in your argument is that the truth is usually stranger than fiction, so there are plenty of good stories in bonafide, fact-checked history ... and interestingly it would appear that the story of Robert Brownjohn is one of them.

The only interesting part of this little ... uh, debate ... is where memory fits into history. It's actually pretty uncommon for any two people to have the same memory of a shared event. When researching historians must, I presume, necessarily choose one story over another as "truth" (only to have another historian come along and choose a different story for an alternate "truth").

Perhaps all history should be written like Robert Graves' The Greek Myths, with all varying and alternate versions ... but then, that would get in the way of a good story.

I assume that History is a little like science, where a control of one is only useful in the absence of any other evidence. So a good historian would find as many possible versions of the same event, in order to sift out the discrepancies and arrive at the most likely "truthful" version.

It is only a poor writer, not a poor historian, who then might let all this get in the way of a good story.

In terms of posting on the web, if presenting "facts" one should definitely fact check; if presenting opinions, one can rave as much as one wants; if presenting memory, well that's always one's own truth.

All of this, just my opinion, of course.

On Oct.26.2005 at 12:06 PM
art chantry’s comment is:

marian -

another point is that for nearly 20 years, i thought that the ORIGINAL slides were destroyed in that fire (which by the way was started by another business in her buuilding and had absolutely NOTHING to do with katy's "destroying " them personally). at the time, it was of such trivial importance that it never came up again to be corrected. the fact that now (FINALLY) the bad design historians have re-discovered robert brownjohn's importance, it somehow makes a trivial memory important (sorta).

my point is that we never know what's going to be important as history. so, what gets saved is a mosh. that's where professional historians come it. they use time-honored techniques - an honest craft or art - to collect, analyze and interperet that mosh of info (and don't go shooting off their mouths calling sources "liars"). if there is one thing that is 'a true "fact", it's that hiostory is a science of argument. where that argument leads is dictated by the process, not the opinion.

On Oct.26.2005 at 12:16 PM
art chantry’s comment is:

ps - i need to point out that i am NOT an historian. i am a designer. but, sometimes, it think i know more about how history is done that most "professional" design historians. it's sorta scary.

On Oct.26.2005 at 12:20 PM
Bernard Pez’s comment is:

Art Chantry, I guess I am dissapointed with you. I thought you were a fearless critic. I may not be able to read this site much longer as it is rapidly falling in my estimation as you back pedal. I have gone back and reread the thread. You stated,"this - in a nutshell - is a great example of the big problem we are facing with "design criticism". it parades as 'design history', but it's not. an historian researches and examines the facts and opinions available, then draws conclusions based on the understanding and interperetation of that material." Lorraine Wild, based upon her posts here, checked the facts before she "spewed". I have always thought of her as a parading design historian, much as you stated, but it turns out, based upon your own definition, she is more of a historian of design since she went through several layers of facts and then formed her opinion. On the other hand, you bravely and generously sifted through the ashes of Katy's fire and took a stand. As a "critic", you offered your honest memories and opinions and I respected that, just that and no more. Why isn't that enough? It is for me!!!!! Again who cares about collecting all the facts, asking around and getting different opinions in advance of making design critiques, after all its just design criticism. It's not history. Who ever said that being right mattered when you write? It's just opinion and some elitist's facts against your and my opinions and criticisms. Right?

On Oct.26.2005 at 01:47 PM
art chantry’s comment is:

bernie-boy -

let's see.... allow me to surmise your posirion, if i may...

you don't like me. is that correct?

On Oct.26.2005 at 02:03 PM
bernard Pez’s comment is:

I respect for Mr. Chantry or anybody else who is willing to expose their inner and unfiltered thoughts in an harmless environment such as this. This is how good design if not good history (or perhaps criticism on occasion?) is made. I will continue to monitor this site and even Art's missives into the digital domain though I will no longer be responding to this thread.

Thank you Speak Out for this wonderful site where people like me and Art get to express our opinions.

On Oct.26.2005 at 02:39 PM
bernard Pez’s comment is:

Ahem, I meant to say:

I have respect for Mr. Chantry or anybody else who is willing to expose their inner and unfiltered thoughts. This is how good design if not good history (or perhaps criticism?) is made. I will continue to monitor this site on occasion though I will no longer be responding to this thread which seems to have exhausted itself.

On Oct.26.2005 at 02:44 PM
marian bantjes’s comment is:

Ah.

On Oct.26.2005 at 04:58 PM
Mark Notermann’s comment is:

Good Gawd. and we call ourselves ”communicators?”

It’s all right above this entry in glorious black and white pixels. That IS the story—recorded exactly as it should be.

Now Jonathan Baldwin, give this thread to your history class and ask them to write a one line account of those slides. Wouldn’t that teach some history?

Thank you all

On Oct.27.2005 at 04:12 AM
Sandra-xu’s comment is:


On Oct.03.2007 at 11:56 PM
sweet-vz’s comment is:

Sorry, but what is mariburjeka?

Jane.

On Mar.21.2008 at 12:30 PM
sweet-vz’s comment is:

Sorry, but what is mariburjeka?

Jane.

On Mar.21.2008 at 12:30 PM
hananim_ys’s comment is:


On May.11.2008 at 06:53 AM