Tag: design

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Your Name Here

One quick definition of graphic design: putting images and text together. Of course, not every graphic includes words, but most do – and it's one of the most challenging, and therefore creative aspects of the discipline. The basic problem is that images and letters obey completely different rules – of legibility, rendering, even the way they sit on the page (lettering always seems flat, images tend to create an illusory sense of depth). This fact was exploited by Picasso in his collages. A great example is the one below, where the artist playfully cut off the title of a newspaper …

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Signs of the Times

This guest post has been contributed by RCA/V&A History of Design graduate Charlotte Austin. How would you describe your location in a world without house numbers? What if those looking for you couldn’t follow written aids, due to poor street lighting or their own illiteracy? Before the introduction of the numbering system in the eighteenth century, addresses were given like this: To be let, Newbury House, in St. James’s Park, next door but one to Lady Oxford’s, having two balls at the gate, and iron rails before the door. From strikingly-painted houses, doors, door-posts and balconies, to candles and coloured …

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Getting Plastered

This guest post has been contributed by Jenny Saunt. As a second-year student on the RCA/V&A History of Design MA course, I’m currently in the thick of dissertation research. My subject of study is stucco of the seventeenth and eighteenth century. If you are not yet acquainted with the glories of ‘stucco’ or ‘decorative plasterwork’, here is a fine eighteenth century example from the Royal Fort in Bristol. Designs for stucco schemes from the seventeenth and eighteenth century do survive, but the exact role of these drawings is sometimes unclear. A 1763 William Chambers ceiling design (below) in the V&A …

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Earning their Stripes

Stripes: the simplest design in the world, right? All you need to do is draw straight lines, over and over, and fill in the spaces between. In the below 18th century technical drawing for a Lyon silk, for example, the designer had to work hard to render the flowers and landscape vignettes. The stripes came easy by comparison – in fact, they almost seem like they were generated automatically by the crossing of warp and weft threads in the fabric. But like any other basic design procedure, it's possible to raise stripes to a fine art. One way is through …

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Heart on his Sleeve: Vaughan Oliver

I recently paid a visit to the graphic designer Vaughan Oliver, best known for his work over the years for the record label 4AD. As the producer of the Pixies, the Cocteau Twins, Red House Painters, and Modern English, 4AD helped to define the sound of British post-punk music; but Oliver defined the look. Founder Ivo Watts-Russell gave him free rein on developing the graphic identity of the label, and he responded with a body of work that is remarkable for its visual density and consistency, featuring quintessentially postmodern tactics like erratic typography, cut-and-paste visuals, and appropriated imagery. Oliver now …

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Tower of Power

As I've mentioned in some previous posts, I am currently working on an exhibition for the V&A entitled Postmodernism: Style and Subversion 1970 to 1990. We've been making many acquisitions for the museum in the process of preparing the show, and none is more exciting than this one: It looks OK online, but you really have to see it in person. At about 7 feet tall, rendered by hand in felt-tip marker and pencil, it's grand in every sense. It is the original presentation drawing for the iconic postmodern skyscraper that Philip Johnson and his colleagues designed for AT&T in …

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A Look at 2012

A couple of months ago, I had the pleasure of visiting the construction site for the new Olympic Stadium, in the company of our students on the V&A/RCA Course in Design History. Project architect Philip Johnson (no relation to the great American modernist) and his colleagues from the firm Populous, who designed the structure, gave us a wonderful and revealing tour. Here's a few of the things we learned about planning for a building that will arrest the attention of the world two years from now. Stage Set Architecture. If you've noticed anything about the preparatory renderings for the stadium …

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Lumps of Geometry

As I may have mentioned before, I've been working recently on a big exhibition about Postmodernism here at the V&A. One of the most exciting aspects of the project has been making acquisitions: finding objects for the collection that will stay long after the show has ended.

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Trail of Tears

I'm just back from a trip to Madrid, a first for me on many fronts: first time in the city, first time I've seen a country celebrating a World Cup victory (the game happened while I was there), first time to the Prado to see what is probably my favorite painting, Velazsquez's Las Meninas. It was also my first time to visit the Reina Sofia, Madrid's impressive museum for modern art, and hence to see their prize possession – Picasso's Guernica. This is a big month for Picasso in the UK, with a major show at Gagosian here in London …

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A String Theory

How do you create a drawing in space? What you need is a linear element that can be held in tension, left to droop, crossed and tangled – just like a pencil line (which can be ruled, freely drawn, and overlapped). String is the thing.

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