Graphic Design explores the worlds of design-driven magazines, newspapers, books, and posters; the expansion of branding programs for corporations, institutions, and subcultures; the entrepreneurial spirit of designer-produced goods; the renaissance in digital typeface design; the storytelling potential of film and television titling sequences; and the transformation of raw data into compelling information narratives.
“We are excited to bring this ambitious exhibition to Houston. Graphic Design highlights the many ways design impacts our everyday lives, from the magazines we’re compelled to buy in the checkout lanes to the objects we surround ourselves with at home and work. It’s an incredibly dynamic exhibition, and one that I think will inspire viewers to look at their surroundings a little more closely, maybe with a renewed appreciation for the details,” says CAMH Senior Curator Valerie Cassel Oliver.
Graphic design is the art and practice of visual communication. Designers use color, typography, images, symbols, and systems to make the surfaces around us come alive with meaning. Today the field is shifting and expanding in unprecedented ways as new technologies and social movements are changing the way people make and consume media. Public awareness of graphic design has grown enormously during the past two decades through the revolutions in desktop computing and networked communication, which have also fueled tremendous growth in the profession.
The poster is the most iconic form of graphic design, with its roots in the early advertising culture of the 19th century. Today, designers create posters to actively investigate the genre itself through self-initiated projects. Experimental approaches to the poster encourage user-generated messages and explore digital, mechanical, and handmade techniques. This section includes Albert Exergian’s poster series based on American television classics; Jürg Lehni and Alex Rich’s “Empty Words” project, a system for making die-cut posters; and Anthony Burrill’s typographic woodblock and silkscreen posters proclaiming messages such as “Oil & Water Do Not Mix,” printed with ink made from spilled Gulf of Mexico oil.
Publishers are rethinking the traditional magazine by exploiting print-on-demand, online distribution networks, the explosion of niche audiences, and new digital formats. This section was curated by Jeremy Leslie, creative director of the blog magCulture, which explores issues and trends in publication design.
Among the projects on view are Jop van Bennekom’s Fantastic Man and The Gentlewoman; Karen, an independent magazine-maker with a highly personal blog-like sensibility; Hannerie Visser’s Afro magazine from South Africa, which reimagines the form of the magazine itself; and Pedro Fernandes’ design of I, a Portuguese newspaper that incorporates the visual vocabulary of magazines.
The role of the designer in the publishing process during the past 20 years has dramatically shifted to be more inclusive in terms of authoring, editing, and self-publishing. This section features work by David Pearson, whose Pocket Penguin book titles reinvigorated the publisher’s classic backlist; the print-on demand experiments of James Goggin; Irma Boom’s innovative book designs; and McSweeney’s books and magazines, which employ typography, layout, and production to enhance the experience of reading.
Information designers serve as storytellers, journalists, and translators, seeking to organize data in understandable, engaging, and memorable ways. This section includes information displays created by the New York Times Graphics Department that tell the news stories of today and Catalogtree’s interactive iPad app about the “flash crash” of the American financial markets.
More than just a logo, a brand consists of a larger visual and verbal identity as well as the perceived values that both define and set apart an organization, community, or even an individual. Designers approach branding as a narrative-driven experience, evoking an emotional response and solidifying the relationship between the company and consumers. This section was curated by Armin Vit and Bryony Gomez-Palacio, operators of the blog Brand New, which tracks the ever-changing world of brand makeovers and corporate identity programs.
Highlights include Ji Lee’s World Trade Center Logo Preservation project, documenting the use of the twin towers to brand numerous New York City area businesses; a new project commission from design researchers Metahaven about the use of social media as a powerful form of communication and control; and experimental identities for cultural institutions, created by Stefan Sagmeister, Mevis & Van Deursen, and Maureen Mooren, among others.
Typography is the creation of letterforms and other characters that give visual form to the spoken and written word. The personal computer revolution of the 1980s introduced typography to the general public, and the availability of font design software in the 1990s fueled a renaissance in typeface design. Featured works on view in this section include Process Type’s Anchor, Peter Bilak’s History, and Lineto’s Akkurat, as well as posters and other artifacts created by Antoine + Manuel, Marian Bantjes, and Oded Ezer.
Today’s designers are increasingly entrepreneurial, designing merchandise and conceiving goods for sale themselves. This section includes designer-created and designer-curated products, including t-shirts, wrapping paper, housewares, wall coverings, and tools. Works on view include wallpapers produced by Knoll and Maharam, the artfully designed, bespoke axes by Peter Buchanan Smith from Best Made Co., and Meike Gerritzen’s Beware of Software vest.
Film and Television Titles
Film and television titles are mini narratives that give viewers insight into what is to come and what has already happened. This section will feature television and film titles curated by Ian Albinson, founder and editor-in-chief of the website artofthetitle.com, created by some of the leading motion graphic designers practicing today.
The Contemporary Arts Museum Houston is the fifth stop in a national tour of the exhibition, which debuted at the Walker Art Center in fall 2011 and was most recently presented by the Grand Rapids Art Museum and the Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University in Grand Rapids. The lead curators of Graphic Design-Now in Production are Andrew Blauvelt, Curator of Architecture and design at the Walker Art Center, and Ellen Lupton, Curator of Contemporary Design at Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum.
Graphic Design—Now in Production is organized by Walker Art Center and Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum. A comprehensive, illustrated catalogue produced by the Walker accompanies the exhibition.
• Walker Art Center, Minneapolisâ€¨. October 22, 2011–January 22, 2012
• Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, Governors Island, New York.â€¨ May 26–September 3, 2012
• Hammer Museum, Los Angeles.â€¨ September 30, 2012–January 6, 2013
• Grand Rapids Art Museum and Kendall College of Art Gallery, Grand Rapids, Michigan. February 1–April 21, 2013
• Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, Texasâ€¨. July 20–September 29, 2013
• Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art (SECCA), Winston-Salem, North Carolina. â€¨October 18, 2013–February 23, 2014
• Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), Providence. â€¨March 28–August 10, 2014