This catalogue was designed for you. It is a collection of valuable conversations I had with one of the most important people in my life, my mother. The collection aims to portray the importance of communication. Today, communication is ever present and its means have developed impressively. Yet, although we have so many mediums among which we can choose, imagery, emails, phone, text messages, chats, social networks, we often seem to be more distant than ever. Globalisation has contributed to more and more people moving around the globe for travel, work or other circumstances. Still, it has to be important to maintain our roots and stay close to our family and home.
The entries in the catalogue are arranged by the medium of communication used during the conversation, moving from the most impersonal -email- to the most valuable -in person. At the end you will find an essay, which has been triggered by the preceeding conversations and their contributions to thoughts and debates.
I hope you find it as engaging and stimulating as it was for me designing it.
Typography and Communication
by John-Patrick Hartnett p. 6
First Things First
by Adriana Eysler p. 10
Memory & Line
by Harriet Edwards p. 14
Pose! That’s not me!
by Mark Ingham p. 18
After a Fashion: Kays Catalogue, Modernism and Fashion Persuasion
by Dene October p. 22
Bleached Dreams – Troubling Spaces
by Greta Hauer p. 26
Holding Text: (Un)creative writing in the Digital Age
by Andrea Mason p. 32
Language as Material: Materilaity and Text
by Andrea Mason p. 38
by Andrew Slatter p. 42
Left Brain, Right Brain, Right Shame!
by Harriet Edwards p. 46
Essay p. 50
Bibliography p. 57
Typography and Communication
I hope you are well and your days go smoothly. I have been quite busy lately and my schedule is likely to become even fuller as the end of term slowly approaches. It still seems far away but as always the last weeks before the break will fly and I will end up being stressed about getting everything done for hand in. I am sitting on the tube on my journey home from college, so I thought it might be good to use time effectively and write you an email as I might not have the time for a longer conversation on the phone. As every Thursday we had another lecture today, ‘Typography and communication’ by John-Patrick Hartnett. The topic was strongly connected to our practice, I would even say the topic is fundamental to our practice and provided us with indispensable information. Prior to the lecture we had to read the first chapter of Robert Bringhurst’s ‘The Elements of Typographic Style’, ‘The Grand Design’. The book is considered a must for everyone in the graphic arts. Indeed it was enlightening, I plan to read the rest of it soon. The text is very instructive also for those not acquainted to graphic design and typography. I have attached it to the email so you can read it, it might give you an insight into my work. What amazed me most was Brighurst’s ability to subtly delineate the art of typography, an art so acute and graceful itself.
While interrogating ourselves on typography and the role of typographers, we again faced a problem with definitions. We had encountered it during our first lecture ‘The Author’ by Andrew Slatter – here we questioned the role of authors opposed to the role of graphic designers and the quote by Jonathan Safran Foer “definitions have never done anything but constrain” seemed fitting to all of us. In the case of typography both Encyclopaedias and dictionaries always connect typography to printed matter. This might have been right in the past but with the evolution of technologies and the shift from print based text to screen such definitions are no longer accurate. The lecturer hence pointed out, this would of course be the problem with definitions, which are not as flexible as the activities they define.
Innumerable are the phrases by Robert Bringhurst I could quote to illustrate the importance of this elegant craft, but I don’t want to spoil the text as I hope you are going to read it yourself. Probably, the only brief quote I have to report which in my opinion sows a thread through Hartnett’s lecture is “typography exists to honour content”. In fact we were shown many striking examples, from the 1930s to the end of the 20th century, that demonstrate this message. Below you can see some of the ones I liked most.
Let me know what you think about Bringhurst’s text. I hope we manage to speak soon and I cannot wait to see you again. I send you kisses.
Three images on top: Posters by Jan Tschichold
Below: right: Rosemarie Tissi, Serenaden 93
left: Rosemarie Tissi, Serenaden 94
First Things First
I am sorry we have not been in touch lately, but when Dario comes to visit me days fly and I loose the sense of time – while you read this you are probably chuckling and thinking “that’s because you are in looove!” , you might be right indeed. Apart from spending my days with him and going to Noel Ghallegher’s gig (Which was sooo cool and exciting by the way) I also had a very gripping lecture last week: “First things first” by Adriana Eysler. It followed the evolution of design through time questioning its purpose and the social responsibility of the designer. Design developed between the 19th and 20th century as a result of the industrialization and rise of mass culture. Towards the 1880s in Britain a group of artists (William Morris, John Ruskin and Augustus Pugin) formed the Arts and Craft movement as a response to what they observed as a general decline in style of the objects that were produced at that time. To them design and production methods reflected society, thus moral and cultural values. Henceforth they produced objects in a more decorative style, ought to resemble those of the past characterised by uniqueness and simpler ways of life.
Jumping forth a few decades to the year 1919, another movement sought to find a response to industrialization and the emerging modern culture: the Bauhaus. You probably already know a lot about it, but I am going to briefly illustrate the ideas of this “new school”. Characterised by a complete different style than the Arts and Craft movement, the avant-garde artists of the Bauhaus embraced functionalism, geometric formalism and machine aesthetics. By creating a modern type of human being and environment also artists from the Bauhaus aimed to change society, just as Morris and his fellow companions. Though different in styles and values they pursued, all design and artistic movements of the early 20th century had one common assumption: they had the power to change society. With the arrival of World War I the effectiveness of graphic design became clear to many; it was a medium that could be used to shape public opinion, persuade and manipulate people’s mind. It was used to promote the war and for recruitment. At this point we were shown different posters, which illustrated how familiar graphic styles were consciously used to give the idea of the war being a continuity of everyday life. Moving on to the thirties we looked at how the rising totalitarian regimes in Italy and Germany used illustrations and text to both form a distinctive style for political propaganda. Opposing to the illustrated style of Nazi posters, which often recalled classical styles of ancient Greece, we looked at striking examples of photomontage used by John Heartfield in his counter-propaganda work. This example gives me goose-bums :
After the Nazi party came into power they obviously condemned every form of artistic expression, so they closed the Bauhaus too. Many artists flew to America to continue living as free people. In post-war society most of design practice got absorbed by corporate profession and limited itself to the design of logos and corporate identity. At this point the mystery about where the title of the lecture came from was disclosed: in 1964 Ken Garland rote the First Things First Manifesto which was signed by other 20 artists. Adriana explained “It acknowledged the complicity and exploitation of graphic designers in and by the machine of advertising and the empty drive of consumer culture”. The Manifesto aimed to make designers aware of the fact that design was heading towards a wrong direction and was suffering from a loss of values. The purpose of design should be to elevate society, addressing educational issues and inform the public about what could be improved.
In postmodernism (1980s/90s) design practice got involved in campaigns that were raising awareness in controversial topics such as AIDS, homophobia, consumer culture, sweatshop labour and corporate power. We moved on looking at Culture Jamming. This phrase was new to me, although I knew about activists who oppose consumerism and media culture, I was not aware that they were called Culture Jammers.
They use tactics of disruption or subversion of media culture, including corporate advertising. In 1999 Adbusters renewed the First Things First manifesto, calling it First Things First 2000, which was signed by 30 designers and visual communicators. It was more aggressive than the original one and adapted its concerns to the current situation.
I found this lecture very intriguing; I particularly liked its chronological flow along which we could observe the development of design as a practice of visual communication which can be used in so many different areas. I hope this has been of interest to you as well. I miss you a lot, holpe to speak to you soon.
Memory and Line
“Hallo Mami! How are you?”
“I’m good, just a bit tired right now… what about you? How was your day?”
“It was long but alright. Went to uni this morning, we had CTS”
“Oh, right. So what did you do in class?”
“We had our second lecture. Remember I told you we would have a series of lectures this term?”
“Mmh.. yes, I kind of remember”
“Well, every Thursday we first have a lecture from 10 AM until 11.30, then we have a short break and then we have a seminar with Andrew during which we discuss the lecture we had and do some writing and reading exercises.”
“Oh yes, now I remember better. And is the lecture not held by Andrew?”
“No. Andrew just gave us the first lecture last week but now we’ll have a different lecturer every week and every lecture will cover different topics.”
“That sounds really interesting, very diverse. So on what did you have the lecture this morning?”
“It was Harriet who gave us the lecture. We already knew her from last terms’ CTS afternoon sessions. It was about memory and line.”
“Memory and line?”
“Yes. Did you ever think about how many lines there are in our lives?”
“Ehm, no not really. Haven’t thought much about lines. I don’t get what lines you are talking about. Like lines we see in the environment?”
“Yes, also those lines. But not only, there are many more lines. We had to work in groups and do some quick brainstorming, we came up with: horizontal lines, vertical lines, tube line, start line, finish line, a ruled notebook, zig zag lines, curvy lines, lines of an electrocardiogram, bodylines, lines in architecture, geometric lines and many more. But then we can distinguish between visible and invisible lines, concrete and abstract lines. Harriet told us of a British anthropologist Tim Inghold who wrote a book entitled “Lines”. What do walking, weaving, observing, storytelling, singing, drawing and writing have in common? They all proceed along lines.”
“Wow that is quite illuminating, I had never thought about invisible lines for example in observing, but it is definitely true, our eyes follow lines as well!”
“I noticed the word ‘line’ evokes stiffness, rigor and sharpness in me, although lines can be also curvy or winding. It probably is connected with the way you are. Harriet drew light upon how our mind also follows lines, how we think and how we proceed in life. Some people think linear and others think lateral. When we were asked how our brain works I did not really know what to answer; I think it very much depends on the situation: for example in regards to my studies and work I think I follow linear thinking, I always need to proceed chronologically and in order whereas in other situations in life I think laterally. What about you?”
“It is difficult to say… lateral thinking is solving problems by an indirect and creative approach through viewing the problem in a new and unusual light. I would say in some cases it suits me. You said the lecture was entitled ‘memory and line’ but how does this discussion about lines link to memory?”
“It was a bit difficult for me to understand as well. What I deducted is lines actually create memory. Tim Inghold distinguishes between additive lines, which are if a layer is being added to a surface, for example drawing with a piece of charcoal on paper, and reductive lines which instead cause a mark by removing a part, like etching or scratching. Since prehistory humankind got involved with mark making, the famous cave paintings in Lascaux, France are a well-known example for humans attempt to tell their stories through images. Lines form them and they built memory for the generations who followed and are part of history for us today. The same goes for hieroglyphs. Both animals and humankind create lines in the landscape by their passage. Before it was only by the frequent movement along the same routes that paths emerged, today we built streets of concrete but both leave a mark, hence we create memory through lines. Another fascinating example Harriet mentioned was bodylines. By leaving a scar a wound may create memory. Wrinkles symbolise the passing of time, again time can be measured in memories.”
“I say I would personally prefer to have less memories visible on my skin hahaha!”
After a Fashion: Kays Catalogue, Modernism and Fashion Persuasion
“I thought about you this morning, I saw such a pretty jacket in the shop we both like… you know the one in Via del Governo Vecchio?”
“You mean Atelier 36 – Arsenico e Vecchi Merletti?”
“Yes exactly! The jacket was really glamorous, I am sure you would like it. It’s like a blazer – same style as the one you tried on when we went before Christmas, remember? I was nearly buying it but then I was not sure, so I took a picture of it, I’ll send it to you and if you like it you will have a present for when you come back!”
“Oh that is so sweet of you, thanks mum! I am just a bit unsure about which size – you know they do not always fit the same way. It’s funny, we recently had a lecture on fashion catalogues and I discussed with Giulia how different it is to shop online or in store. Both have their pros and cons obviously, but sometimes I still feel a bit reluctant.”
“I know what you mean, I personally can not shop online or through a catalogue. I am old-fashioned and too complicated: I want to see things, try them on, feel them and see how they fit. But apparently some people seem to manage perfectly and have practically abandoned in store shopping.”
“Yes, and not only with regards to clothes, furniture or other objects but also food, so basically everything!”
“I know, I think online food shopping is even worse. But whatever, it’s the new trend and lifestyles are constantly changing. When I was a child we also had catalogues. I remember mum and Grandma Martha flicking through the pages and choosing what to buy. I think Kaufmann was its name, a big German department store. Then around the 70’s and 80’s, it became kind of uncool, they were considered provincial. Whereas in the last 10 to 20 years I would say they have been reintroduced and are ubiquitous.”
“Yes, you are absolutely right. In fact this aspect, the ‘come back’ of the catalogue, was also part of our lecture. We particularly looked at Kays catalogues, a British mail-order company which originated at the end of the 19th century and became increasingly popular from the 1910s onwards. Kays count as an early example of fashion persuasion through a graphic medium and as we saw while analysing their images, applying modernist principles for balance of text and image and including psychological techniques used in advertising, were a key for success.”
“Sounds compelling and engaging. I guess it was intriguing to you, since you have an eye for advertising and visual representation.”
“Indeed, it was interesting to observe through the images how fashion advertisement changed over time. Before it used to be very much about the product itself, hence an honest and realistic illustration of the object was priority. New illustration techniques and a more profound knowledge of psychology and consumer behaviour led to innovations in the catalogue: the illustrations and photographs were sometimes cropped in a particular way, models posed more consciously or were set in a scene with a background. The catalogue was hence not just telling the consumer about the garment but it attempted to convey a lifestyle and to illustrate the experience the consumer would have by buying that particular object. Models wearing the clothing were now also portrayed in groups, which automatically raised the impression of a shared trend of a community which the potential buyer could eventually enter too.”
“That is so true, now that you make me think about it. It is sometimes fascinating to see how little detail start to change and innovation slowly creeps in and then in 50 years it leads to such big evolutions. If you take catalogues and adverts of the thirties and compare them with some of todays, you nearly get a heart attack because of how much they have changed and how much the society they reflect has changed, with them. Sometimes you might interrogate yourself where it all comes from. But then if you start to analyse the evolution it is absolutely clear. What you just explained are the first steps of an immense ladder, which we don’t know if, and where it will end. Those small improvements and changes brought us to what we see today. Now when we shop we still buy an object but with it we buy a lifestyle, it is a statement about ourselves. It has become as much about the body as the product. This has initiated stereotypes of how we should look like. As a consequence our self-image obsesses us all, trying desperately to achieve the images we are constantly confronted with. See, you should really think about these things when you are unhappy about your body, when in fact, you really should not.”
“Oh no, we are not having that discussion again, please! I know it is probably because since I was a child, society has always instilled the concept skinny and fit are right, flappy and fat are wrong, but I can’t help it. If I don’t like how I look, I don’t feel good and I get nervous. If the trend were different, I probably would think differently too. But I don’t know, it is clinically proven that overweight is unhealthy. And skinny and fit means wellbeing.”
“Of course it does. I am not saying you have to be fat and flappy, I don’t like it either and you know how much I care about having a healthy body. Still, you do not have to be obsessed just because fashion promotes certain kind of images.”
Bleached Dreams – Troubling Spaces
“Well of course you are tired, you always go to bed too late!”
“Mmh no, this year I am being far more responsible in getting the right hours of sleep. Now I only go to bed late if it is absolutely necessary for uni. Like on Wednesday ,I had been working on my studio projects all day, and while I was finally going to bed I realized I forgot to read a text they gave us to read previous to the CTS lecture we would have on Thursday. So I printed it out and said ‘ok I’ll just quickly flick through it to have a rough idea’ … The text was quite hard for me to understand and I was also tired, so I had to read it several times but it absolutely blew my mind”
“What text was it?”
“Non-Places by Marc Augé, who is a French anthropologist.”
“And what was it about?”
“The text anticipated some of the aspects we then discussed in the lecture on the following day. The lecture was entitled: ‘Bleached dreams – troubling spaces’. Augé coined the phrase ‘Non-places’ to refer to spaces such as motorways, supermarket and airports where we loose our identity. They are all places of transit, where people just pass by and leave. The fact we have been there is just recorded by our identity documents, credit cards or number plate. We just interact with the space as a consumer, so in some way we are all the same within that space. Another very interesting aspect Augé proposes is the invasion of these spaces by text. Whether we are driving on a motorway, shopping in a supermarket or transiting in an airport terminal, we constantly encounter text. It may be in form of road signs, adverts, price labels, information, prohibitions or prescriptions, what they all have in common is the proponent: it is never an individual but always an entity or institution. Moreover Augé sets forth the text messages ‘are addressed simultaneously and indiscriminately to each and any of us: they fabricate the ‘average man’ defined as the user of the road, retail or banking system.”
“Wow sounds like a very engaging topic..”
“Yes, it really makes you think about our environment and the world we live in. It is also quite scary though if you follow his reasoning. Augé then examines all of these places more in depth and when he talks about motorway travel he points out how it avoids all the principal places to which it takes us like cities and cultural sights because obviously they are all constructed on purpose away from them but we constantly get information about the places we pass by while travelling. Service stations add to this by often selling a range of local goods, guidebooks and maps. So although we do not stop in many places we pass by, a kind of ‘abstract place’ is created and it may even become familiar to us after we have passed it several times. This made me think about when we go to Austria by car to visit grandma. We have done the same long journey so many times and there are so many places where we never stopped; still there are some place where, when I see the exit sign, I think ‘Oh I know that place’ but in fact I don’t because we never actually visited it.”
“Yes, that definitely happens to me as well. It is a strange thing, now that I think about it… So did you just analyse the text during the lecture or did you do something else?”
“No, the reading was the basis on which the lecture built upon but we were introduced to many other topics and examples. Greta, who held the lecture, distinguished between three type of spaces: simulated spaces, non-places and unreal spaces. Simulated spaces build up a reality that does not exist, for example NASA uses simulated spaces to train their astronauts before space missions.
She also brought an example about a project called ‘Project Syria’, which was constructed using real war footage and allowed the audience to experience the dramatic situation in Syria. Video games are obviously another prominent example of a simulated space. Disneyisation or Disneyfication was another key phrase in this context. Alan Bryman popularized the term in his book “The Disneyfication of society”. It relies on the concept of consumerism and increases the appeal of goods and services. Disneyland distorts the idea of reality and promotes spectacular experiences. Not only theme park fall into such settings, also Las Vegas can be seen as an example of a hyperreal place. People do not go there to see the real, like the desert surrounding it; the attraction is instead the counterfeit. Shopping malls have the same foundation of disneyfication. They are the emblems of consumerism.
Did you know they use oxygen in the ventilation of malls so you do not get sleepy? Did it ever occur to you that you loose sense of time in malls and when you come out it is dark and you haven’t realise it is already night? That is because they use such bright light inside of them so it looks like it is always daytime!”
“Well you know how much I hate shopping malls so if I have to go there I try to spend as little time as possible. There are people who even go there to relax and hang out and spend a whole day there. I don’t get it I find them so depressing!”
“I know, me too.”
“Seems like you discussed a lot of social and philosophical issues in this lecture. You said Greta also talked about unreal places as one of the three categories. Dreams immediately come to my mind but also staged places like you have in movies. I am sure she mentioned The Truman Show, which I remember you also watched while you were still at school, right?”
“Yes, we saw it during English classes. Yes of course that was an example she could not miss out on! But she also mentioned another movie I definitely want to watch. It is a German film, by the way I did not tell you Greta is German. The film is called ‘Die Wand’ and I think the German actress from ‘Das Leben der Anderen’ plays the main character.”
“Martina Gedek you mean?”
“Yes exactly. The movie is about her being trapped in the Austrian mountains with just her dog, a cat and a cow because there is an invisible wall she can not pass. To avoid loosing her mind she starts writing a diary…”
“I know the film, it is based on a famous novel by Marlen Haushofer, which I read and absolutely loved. I never managed to watch it though so we should watch it together when you come back for Easter break.”
“Yes! Let’s do that!”