Revolution Lullabye

January 16, 2009

Lupton and Phillips, Graphic Design

Lupton, Ellen and Jennifer Cole Phillips. Graphic Design: The New Basics. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2008.

This book was written out of response to the recent postmodern trend in graphic design, which emphasizes non-transferrable, customized, and context-specific design. Instead, the authors focus on the basic fundamental elements of graphic design, modeling the Bauhaus school of design, which “analyzed form in terms of basic geometric elements” (8). The goal of this type of focus is to understand graphic design on an intermediate, meso level: to understand design structurally, developing common language and vocabulary for which to talk about design across media. Even though the chapters focus on “the formal elements and phenomena of design” out of context, the authors acknowledge that in practice, “those components mix and overlap” (11). The elements and phenomena that are discussed include traditional ones that were studied at Bauhaus, like point, line, and plane, scale, texture, and figure/ground and more recent elements that are increasingly considered when designing with digital tools, like layers and transparency. Each chapter includes several student design projects from undergraduate and graduate students at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA.)

Quotable Quotes

“Today, the impure, the contaminated, and the hybrid hold as much allure as forms that are sleek and perfected. Visual thinkers often seek to spin out intricate results from simple rules or concepts rather than reduce an image or idea to its simplest parts” (8)

All design happens at some level “from the interaction of points, lines, and planes” (13)

“Balance is a fundamental human condition” (29) We need it physically, mentally, politically

“Balance and rhythm work together to create works of design that pulse with life, achieving both stability and surprise” (29)

“Frames create the conditions for understanding an image or object…They are part of the fundamental architecture of graphic design” (101)

“Design is the conscious effort to impose a meaningful order” (115) Victor Papanek quote

Notable Notes

How does form work? – central question of text

Chapters: Point, Line, Plane; Rhythm and Balance; Scale; Texture; Color; Figure/Ground; Framing; Hierarchy; Layers; Transparency; Modularity; Grid; Pattern; Diagram; Time and Motion; Rules and Randomness

Bauhaus is a German institute of design

Line is an infinite series of points; a plane is a moving line

Bezier curve is a line with an anchor and control points

scale is both objective and subjective. Things that lack scale have no cues that connect it to physical reality; a lack of scale contrast results in dull design.

Horizontal and vertical scaling

Figure/Ground tension – Vanderbilt University mark

Framing – margins and bleeds

designs of tables of contents (116-117)

hierarchy exercises with lines of text, like a concert program (118)

modularity is working within constraints

patterns arise out of three basic forms: dots (isolated forms), stripes(linear forms), and grids (interaction of the two)


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