Sunday, May 9, 2010

Organic Banisters

I came across these images while browsing on I think the design of these banisters is very appealing, especially in a time when everyone is going green and wants everything to be as organic and natural as possible.
I also feel that it is a nice break from the designs of conventional banisters, which are usually very linear and act almost as eyesores.
Another aspect I like about this design is the fact that it must be customized for each individual home it will be a part of. Not everyone who will be interested in the design will have staircases with the same dimensions as the one depicted above. It is because of this fact that this design will not look exactly the same in any two houses; something which I think people are very interested in these days.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Dove: Evolution

With this concise film, Dove demonstrates how distorted our society's idea of beauty really is.
I chose to post this clip because I believe it proves how much design actually goes into the advertisements we all encounter on a daily basis. Not only are the layouts, texts, and color schemes of these ads completely controlled by designers, but the physical attributes of the models featured within them are as well.
With today's digital editing technology, designers have the capability of designing the human beings which present their products to the public.
Therefore, it is the actions of the designers which are responsible for our society's skewed perceptions of what beauty is and what it should look like.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Clever Billboard

I first saw an image of this McDonald's billboard during one of my high school art classes, and I have not since forgotten it. The design of this ad is, in my opinion, brilliant. The 'Triple-Thick Milkshake' has become a part of the environment within which the consumers thrive. Before this, I have never seen the three-dimensional post holding up the billboard, something which is usually any eyesore, incorporated into the design of the two-dimensional advertisement space. In fact, the advertisement's design is so informative that it does not require text as a main element.
Not only is it visually clever, but it gets the point of the product across to the viewers. Only a milkshake which is extremely thick would be able to stand squarely on the cup's straw without spilling.
I also believe that surreal imagery such as this is extremely eye-catching and appealing to its audiences because it depicts situations which may not be possible in the real world. It forces them to think about what that image means and what it is trying to communicate.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

6. Typography

Quentin Tarantino's 2009 action/adventure/dark comedy film Inglourious Basterds was honestly one of the best movies I have ever seen. Before released into theaters, I was not only drawn to the teaser trailers, but to the movie posters. They all have identical visual elements: Each has a simple, close-up photograph, a black/white/red color scheme, and a unique typography spelling out the name of the picture.

I feel that the bold, straight forward, block-like characters help give meaning to the images by going along with their raw, rugged aesthetic. This typography choice is effective because that's exactly how one might describe the movie itself which is jam packed with gunshots, explosions, violent Nazi slaughterings, and the extreme hunger for revenge. The ads obviously had a strong effect on me since I went to see the movie the weekend it was released.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Monday, March 29, 2010

New Samsung Omnia II Feature:
Swype Texting

I can't help but be intrigued by the design of the new texting feature on the Samsung Omnia II touchscreen phone. While it now claims to be the easiest way to text and that you can send messages at world record-breaking speeds, I find myself wondering how big of a learning curve comes with this feature, now known as Swype texting. Just by watching the commercial for this product, which is included below, I can tell that I would have a very hard time learning how to use it. I would have to ask myself, "Is it worth my time to get used to constantly texting like this, or should I just get a phone that I can begin using efficiently from the get go?"

Then again, I have to consider the fact that there was most likely a large team of designers somewhere who thought this new design would be a good idea. I have to think that there was extensive testing and re-testing involved in their process alongside a great abundance of research and surveying. Researchers hired by such a prominent company as Samsung would, hopefully, not release a product that only they could figure out how to use. Does anyone else have thoughts on this matter?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Research Project:
Barbara Kruger

It is a fine line which divides the world of design and the world of fine art. The work of American conceptual artist, writer, art director, and designer, Barbara Kruger, seamlessly crosses that line as it is embodied by the best of both these worlds. Kruger has been described as a “crossover artist” whose practice is “splintered” (Goldstein 25). In other words, she has experimented with many different variations of both artistic and personal expression. The extraordinary life and work of this designer/artist should not go unexamined; especially not by anyone working regularly in either discipline.

Barbara Kruger was born on January 26, 1945 in Newark, New Jersey and is still living today. There is not an abundance of information regarding her life before she went to college. Technically, “’we’ know almost nothing about Barbara Kruger. The bits of biography that emerge in scattered fashion from her interviews are carefully circumscribed,” which is logical since “she has pretty much refused to be overly ‘expressive’ about herself-as-artist” (Indiana 9).

However, it is known for certain that she developed a deep interest in graphic design early on in her life; before her career even began (The Art History Archive). She currently lives and works in both New York City and Los Angeles. She was once quoted saying that "if most American cities are about the consumption of culture, Los Angeles and New York are about the production of culture - not only national culture but global culture" (Kruger). Clearly she feels that she needs to be existing and creating art in places where all other readily consumable items are constantly being produced. In doing so, her art becomes a part of the culture being consumed worldwide.

Kruger began her higher education in 1964 when she spent a year at Syracuse University. The following year, she completed a semester at Parson’s School of Design in New York. In the short time she was there, she studied under renowned photographer Diane Arbus as well as highly respected graphic designer Marvin Israel. It was their teachings through which Kruger was exposed to other photographers as well as the culture of fashion magazines (Ro Gallery).

After her first year at Parson’s in 1966, Kruger decided to leave school and enter the creative work force. She initially obtained a design job at Condé Nast Publications. A short time later, she took a job as an entry-level designer at Mademoiselle Magazine and, within a year, was promoted to chief designer and picture editor. She was only twenty-two years old at the time. Later on, she worked as an art director, picture editor, and graphic designer in the art departments at House and Garden, Aperture, and a few other publications. Kruger also supported herself by dabbling in creating book jacket designs and freelance picture editing. This expansive background in graphic design greatly lends itself to the artwork she is renowned for today which will be discussed later on (Art:21).

Not only has Kruger been a dedicated art student, graphic designer, and artist throughout her entire career, but she has also managed to pass her knowledge and experiences on to students who hope to one day follow in her footsteps. She began a career as a professor in 1976 when she moved to Berkeley to teach at the University of California (Ro Gallery). Since then, she has also taught at the California Institute of Art and at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (Art:21).

If there is one label for Barbara Kruger which can encompass all of the areas in which she has excelled, it would be, above all, ‘artist.’ All of her accomplishments which have been discussed thus far have each been related in some manner to art or art-making.

In 1980, Kruger had one of her first solo exhibitions in Long Island City, New York. Since then, she has had nearly forty solo shows and has also participated in a variety of group shows and public projects; all of which have taken place in various locations across the country and around the world (Mary Boone Gallery).

Although Kruger had, at one point, taken up photography and even published an artist’s book, she eventually stopped taking photographs of her own to use in her art (The Art History Archive). Instead, she starts to utilize appropriated imagery from printed forms of media overlaid with text which she, herself, composes and incorporates. In majority of the compositions, no more than three colors are employed. The most common tri-color scheme Kruger applies throughout her body of work is that of black, white and red. In addition, she commonly uses pronouns in the text portion of her images such as ‘you’, ‘I’, ‘we’, ‘they’, etc. These are all standard components present in the style of work for which Barbara Kruger has come to be most well-known. It was during the early 1980s that she perfected this signature style of art-making (The Art History Archive).

Prominently among the various influences which inspire Kruger’s work are films, television, and stereotypical situations of everyday life. Most of the iconography was selected particularly from the 1940s and 1950s (Indiana 11). The imagery she chooses to use is usually very animated and exaggerated, much like how the actions would be in a movie or on a television program. The phrases she attaches to these images are simple, to the point, and can be easily related somehow to the life of whoever may be reading them. Her work is essentially about the “war at home, in each of us” (Indiana 9). It is about “all the sociocultural dissonances that make the world so tweaked” (Indiana 9). Kruger’s work seems to “issue from an angrily saturnine clarity about how things go wrong between people” (Indiana 9). Therefore, most of the phrases may even be easily woven throughout regular day to day conversation, if not definitely through someone’s thoughts. The way she delivers these phrases in her artwork is both “subtle and blunt at the same time” (Indiana 9).

While many of Kruger’s works are visually very similar, the main themes which run throughout her entire body of work can be easily distinguished from one another.

The first of her major themes is cultural representation. This notion is represented in her 2004 piece (untitled) which reads “Pro-life for the unborn, pro-death for the born” over a black and white media image of President George W. Bush. This image of our country’s former leader represents what the majority of the American culture is supporting: abortion being illegal and the presence of our troops in a country at war. This is a concise way of insinuating that the perhaps unwanted unborn have a better chance of living than those who are already living.

Another of Kruger’s main themes is identity. This idea is clearly expressed in Kruger’s untitled image from 1987 which reads “I shop therefore I am.” Whoever is speaking this phrase recognizes the fact that they are not themselves if they do not shop, or could even go as far to say they would not exist if they could not shop. This person’s identity depends upon their ability to go shopping.

A quite prominent theme in Kruger’s work is that of sexuality. This concept is apparent in Kruger’s 1990 untitled piece reading “Love is something you fall into.” The moistness of the woman’s skin, her open mouth, her red lips, and her upside-down orientation definitely leads the viewer to make sexual conclusions about this image. In addition, the phrasing Kruger has chosen insinuates that love is accidental, something you stumble upon and that you cannot control who you fall in love with; be it with someone of the opposite sex or not.

Something else which Kruger tends to do throughout her work is to challenge stereotypes and clichés. Through the process of “bringing the world into her work,” she can successfully “confront [these] stereotypes and clichés” (Goldstein 36). For example, the well-known stereotype that the typical man does not care to be touched by other men is challenged in Kruger’s 1983 work which states “You construct intricate rituals which allow you to touch the skin of other men.Here, she is revealing what could possibly be included in the hidden agenda of all men; that perhaps they really do not mind coming into close contact with one another.

An additional recurring theme in Kruger’s body of work is feminism. In her untitled work from 1987 which reads “We don’t need another hero,” she seems to indicate through the imagery that women do not need anyone (especially a man) to save them; they are more than capable of taking care of and protecting themselves. This image insinuates that women are tired of men assuming they are just a bunch of damsels indistress who always need to be rescued.

Something else which Kruger has emphasized is the idea of classicism. In one of her most famous images from 1981, “Your gaze hits the side of my face,” it is clear that she is concerned with preserving classical antiquity since the imagery she has chosen for this piece depicts a seemingly ancient sculpture. Her utilization of this photo sends the message that it does still have significance, even in modern times.

Consumerism, a theme present in many of her works, is also something on which Kruger tends to focus. An example of this notion can be found in the 1984 piece which reads “Buy me, I’ll change your life.” It could be said that Kruger is projecting this phrase onto any consumable item, giving it a personality. This may explain how some people come to consume in such massive amounts; if people either connect with an item somehow or are convinced that it will simply improve their state of living, they are more likely to purchase it.

One last idea which is commonly seen in Kruger’s body of work is individual autonomy and desire. This theme is present in the 1988 untitled work stating “You can’t drag your money into the grave with you.In this individual’s case, his desire would be to take all his wealth with him to the grave, keeping it all for himself even after his death. In a way, this concept implies great selfishness. If he cannot use his money, he does not want anybody else to be able to either.

What makes the messages in each of these examples so powerful is that Kruger “targets the ego” of things with “precision and lack of digressiveness”; she cuts right to the core of the issue(Indiana 10). Once she has the viewer’s attention in this way, their participation in the interpretation of the ideas hidden between the picture and the text is demanded (Heller 114).

(click to enlarge)

In the real world, Barbara Kruger’s work takes many forms:

Sometimes it appears in galleries; traditionally framed, hanging on the wall, or even as an installation. Whether constrained by a frame or constrained by the walls, Kruger’s message “animates the space” and causes it to come to life (Deutsche 79).

Sometimes it appears in public spaces; on electronic signboards, or on billboards. She gains success in this area by “entering social spaces, undoing them,” and by “revealing the presence of power in apparently neutral spaces” (Deutsche 77).

Sometimes it appears as propaganda; on posters, T-shirts, or other merchandise. It is the surprise of where her work will appear that allows the stock imagery and consistent Futura type to remain exciting (Heller 115).

Kruger’s unique technique of using “mass media to critique mass media” allows her to “prove that the public can indeed be conditioned by design to expect the unexpected in public media—the truth” (Heller 116). This method works because people tend to pay attention to mass media, no matter what message it is attempting to send to them. Kruger has mastered this means of communication since each of her works has proven to be successful and effective. Once people are paying attention, her work has the ability to “awaken us to the life we are living” (Phillips 8).


"Barbara Kruger." Art:21. PBS. 2001-2007. Date Accessed: 2/16/10.

“Barbara Kruger; Feminist Art.” The Art History Archive. The Lilith Gallery Network. Kruger.html. Date Accessed: 3/2/10

“Barbara Kruger.” Mary Boone Gallery. 2002-2006. Date Accessed: 3/2/10

“Barbara Kruger.” Tate Collection. Tate Institution. Date Accessed: 2/16/10.

“Barbara Kruger; American (1945 - ).” Ro Gallery. 2009. Date Accessed: 3/2/10

Deutsche, Rosalyn, Ann Goldstein, Steven Heller, Gary Indiana. Barbara Kruger, Thinking ofYou. Museum of Contemporary Art ; Cambridge, Mass. : MIT Press. Los Angeles, CA. 1999.

Linker, Kate, Barbara Kruger. Love for Sale: The Words and Pictures of Barbara Kruger. H.N.Abrams. New York. 1990.

Kruger, Barbara, Lisa Phillips. Money Talks. Skarstedt Fine Art: available through D.A.P./Distributed Art Publishers. New York. 2005.