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)

January 5, 2009

Beaird, The Principles of Beautiful Web Design

Beaird, Jason. The Principles of Beautiful Web Design. Canada: SitePoint Pty. Ltd., 2007.

Based on the organizational principles that good web design forefronts the relationships between elements, is timeless, and depends on small, finishing details, Beaird’s guide explains how web designers can effectively use layout, color, texture, typography, and imagery to create sophisticated, professional sites. His extended example is the design of a website for Florida Country Tile, and at the end of each chapter, he illustrates how he might apply the princples he discussed in the chapter (i.e. color, typography.) The book is loaded with full-color examples of web sites and Beaird includes footnotes for helpful design links, for both inspiration and to get necessary elements like stock photos, fonts, or code to make rounded corners. His examples also rely heavily on Photoshop techniques. This book, though not overly theoretical (it provides a general overview of design theories, like the golden proportion and the rule of thirds), is a good how-to manual, with helpful terms, definitions, and advice.

Quotable Quotes

“Good design is about the relationship betweem the elements involved, and creating balance between them” (viii).

“Fads come and go, but good design is timeless” (viii).

Notable Notes

There are two major steps in designing: 1. Discovery, which includes meeting clients, doing research, and asking questions. 2. Implementation – creating a design (first on paper, usually) based on the research.

A good design communicates. The content is accessible, not overrun by design elements; the site has intuitive navigation; the pages obviously belong to the same site because they have a similar style, layout, and theme (6).

Golden ration 1.62 – is what the rule of thirds is based on. Create a grid by using the rule of thirds.

Chapter 1: Layout – balance, symmetry, unity, proximity, repetition, emphasis, continuance, focal point, isolation, contrast, proporation, digital morgue file, fixed and liquid widths

Chapter 2: Color – value, tint, shade, pure, saturation, additive (RGB), subtractive (CMYB), RYB, achromatic, monochromatic, analogous, complementary, split-complementary, triadic, tetradic

Chapter 3: Texture – pixels, points, lines, rounded corners, thickness, artistic, light and shadow, perspective, proportion, repetition, pattern, Web 2.0 style

Chapter 4: Typography – (a lot of this terminology I know already) kerning, tracking, justification (problem with rivers of whitespace, serif, old-style, transitional, modern, slab, dingbats, em unit, serif headlines and sans-serif content

Chapter 5: Imagery – revelant, interesting, appealing, stock photos, royalty-free photos, presentation, borders, hotlinking

Helfand, Six (+2) Essays on Design and New Media

Helfand, Jessica. Six (+2) Essays on Design and New Media. New York: William Drenttel, 1997.

Helfand’s essays, which all first appeared in Print and Eye Magazines, ask how our ideas are being shaped by new digital media and vice versa, how new digital media is shaping our ideas. She writes as a designer, calling in each of her essays (some more overtly than others) for her fellow designers, whose formal training probably did not address programming code or hypertext or moving visuals, to take up the challenges presented by the internet and digital new media and find appropriate, responsible design solutions instead of leaving the digital landscape open to chaotic, untrained interpretation. Her argument (which she admits is a bit elitist) takes her from an analysis of electronic typography to the relationship between information and form and from questions of access to a discussion of the physical, hardware and software constraints of digital design. Her first essay, “Design and the Play Instinct,” claims that responsible and thoughtful play is an essential component of the design process, and the computer has made play easier and more efficient because of the possibilities of erasing and reverting to previously-saved, “uncorrupted” drafts. She warns against designers relying on old design paradigms, such as those developed for the printed page, calling for designers to find ways to accurately present the overload of information and non-linear narratives found on the internet in ways that allow for clear communication without making complex concepts and relationships overly simplistic. The technology might limit the design, but the concepts a designer can communicate are not limited. The text is a little dated to the new media debates of the mid-1990s (lots of discussion of CD-ROMs.)

Quotable Quotes

Interaction design: “It demands, instead, more comprehensive thinking that involves cognitive, spatial, and ergonomic considerations” (59) Interface designers can’t just rely on traditional design training; they have to branch out and collaboarte with software engineers, psychologists, and other experts who can help them with the unique design challenges of new media.

Designers need new ways of “visualizing stories in multiple layers, for designing with mulitple points of entry” (60).

The problem with websites that “dutifully mimic the form and structure of a paper publication, which is its own restrictive model” (49). Instead, we need “more ambitious thinking, more inventive models, and, undoubtably, more inspired design than presently exists” (49).

“The internet is a dialectic hybrid: a utopian archetype at once pragmatic and mythical, borderless and structured, it is a potentially infinite space with no geographical, political, or otherwise material boundaries” (47).

“Texture is complexity made physically manifest” (22).

“As information overload tips the scales, the demand for editorial and design direction will become more and more critical” (45).

“Thoughtless computer-aided (or driven) design maximizes shortcuts. It delights in gimmickry and exploits for effect. Here, in the land of the gratuitous filter, it is a celebration of bells and whistles, uninspired form and negligble content…This is the play instinct gone awry – devoid of imagination, brain-free, giving way to the loathsome gravitational pull of mediocrity” (10).

Notable Notes

Essay Titles:
1: “Design and the Play Instinct” – play is essential to the design process. Computer and technology facilitate it (and allow it to happen.)
2: “Electronic Typography” – typography is now asked to represent spoken, time-sensitive word, can disapper and appear in the 4th dimension, need for visual literacy to develop, emails are constrained but serve all purposes.
3. “The Pleasure of the Text(ure)” – digital new media is often pushed into linear forms when that doesn’t make particular sense because it gets rid of the texture. CD-ROMs discussion.
4. “The Culture of Reciprocity” – access to new media is limited around the world, how educational institutions are teaching and using new media, new media is formed by and for those who participate in it.
5. “A New Webbed Utopia” – the internet is controlled by its constraints: html code, upload times, ambiguous target audience
6. “The Lost Legacy of Film” – new media designers should look to film designers to help unlock the power and potential of narrative and drama. New media has more choice and participation; the audience become the authors.
+1. “I Design, Therefore I Am” – avatars as identity, one that can be manipulated and edited constantly.
+2. “The Myth of Real Time” – our world has equated real with efficient, and the potential of leisure time as productive time is ignored. Also, digital media seems by its very nature ephemeral, not as a comglomerate of building layers over history.

blue underlined hyperlink developed by U of Illinois for their Mosaic project – now ubiquitous in website design (49)

information highway should be reconceived as an information landscape – by MIT research team

Create a free website or blog at