“Skinning existing formal styles can be a shortcut to instant relevance. Design annuals do their part by providing reproductions of only the surfaces of winning work, minus context, audience, or parameters. They foster an environment of superficiality. Without an understanding of the motivation behind the appearance of a piece, and why it is considered successful, it becomes much easier to peel back the surface skin and reapply it elsewhere.”
A few quotes on film by Peter Bogdanovich from Conversations at the American Film Institute with the Great Moviemakers:
“Part of my training was to think only in terms of what is needed. The time to make up your mind about what the scene is about, and how and where it should be played, is on the set during filming and not in the cutting room, otherwise you’re wasting time shooting things you’re not going to need. You can cut almost anything together in thirty different ways if you have enough footage, but that doesn’t mean it’s the right way to play the scene. The one thing that the old-timers spoke about most often was their pride in being able to make films quickly and economically.”
“I’m not consciously anti-academic, it’s just not in my nature. Only occasionally do I explain what a film ‘means.’ I don’t like to get philosophical about any films, even my own. I’m much more of an instinctual artist than people give me credit for, because they think I’m paying homage to various things with my films.”
“As Renoir once said in an interview with Jacques Rivette, ‘When we have achieved total realism, we will have achieved total decadence.’ My interpretation of that is that today, with special effects, you can do anything on film. But who cares? The magic is gone. The audience knows it’s all just one big expensive box of tricks. It used to be exciting when Douglas Fairbanks jumped up onto a table. The whole idea of suspension of disbelief has evaporated. Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd did all their own stunts, which is what makes them so brilliant. Someone once complained to Chaplin that his camera angles weren’t interesting. He said, ‘They don’t have to be. I’m interesting.’ Part of the greatness of movies is showing something happening in real time.”
“You must never give a damn if the whole thing falls apart. ‘It doesn’t matter – we’ll do something else’: that’s the only way to do pictures, because when you start caring they kill you. When you start saying, ‘If I don’t make this picture I’m going to die,’ they will make you pay.”
“It’s amazing, when you see movies again, how they change. I’ve seen pictures that I adored ten years ago and now think they are crap, and pictures I hated ten years ago and now think are masterpieces. Actually, what changes is you.”
“I’m subsidized pretty well as a teacher, so I can pick and choose my jobs on the basis of creative freedom, not money. To a large extent, that’s why my work bears a resemblance to fine art. I consider myself more of a ‘posterist’ in the European tradition than a graphic designer in the American mold.
When I was attending drawing classes as a kid, I couldn’t draw all that well. I could draw faces, but I couldn’t draw feet and hands. I did a whole series of drawings, a hundred or so, showing people with their hands behind their backs and their feet submerged in mud. It’s only been in the last eight to ten years that I’ve realized my inability to draw a hand like Michelangelo, or the way they taught me in studio classes, was what made me unique. So not only do I leave in those little quirks, now I amplify them. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not against teaching students to draw perfectly. I just think it’s bad to chastise them if they can’t.
It seems to me that a lot of designers take themselves much too seriously. They’ve lost their sense of humor. I’m going to take that one step further. They’ve lost their ability to find an original solution to a problem, humorous or not. They’re depending on a formula.
Of course, as a posterist, it’s easy to ignore the grid philosophy of design. With signage or corporate identity, that kind of systemic approach is very important. It makes life easier and gives the work continuity.”
— Lanny Sommese (via Communication Arts, May/June 1983)
A great (albeit small) collection of late 50s/early 60s proto-zines from the Art Department at the Immaculate Heart College has recently been uploaded to the Internet Archive. The Gloria issue (no. 50), clocking in at over 400 pages, is particularly spectacular, and opens with a note from the editor:
“The Irregular Bulletin is an informal public-relation sort of thing…never intended to be great and probably isn’t…continues to receive recognition from cultural sources, private and public…considered avant-garde…is actually rather Victorian…The Library of Congress asked for all back issues…….perhaps is partially successful in slowing down the ‘take-it-for-granted’ school…and, to the same degree, in speeding up growth in ability to contact the REAL-ness of things, on the level where they cannot be taken for granite…..perhaps suggests to a few people the need to re-evaluate their criteria for passing judgement on what is Proper…or…appropriate……perhaps reminds people (a few) that beauty has many more faces than custom is willing to accept …that knowledge of the nature of things in themselves is the only path to wisdom and fulfillment. …or…rather…all this is what its editor wishes it to become…in fact…she hopes it is ‘escape literature’…not escape from….but escape to the path along which the REAL may be daily encountered…so that life itself may be a little less daily…..”
It also addresses the topic of legibility and their approach to typography:
“If you find it difficult to read the Irregular Bulletin…be grateful….Skimming has become a bad habit…It may help you collect information but it prevents your enjoyment of the fruit between the lines that deserves to be savored…we mean in other collections of printed words These 464 pages (count them…don’t look at the last page) have nothing between the lines. They exist simply as an exercise in non-skimming to prepare you for the poets”
“I have always found that the object of true book culture is the normal book for everyman, for scholars and libraries. Of course I have a few selected costly editions among my books: however I take them out rarely and think ‘next Sunday, when the others have gone to church’ – and then I find something better to do.
I can be proud of the millions of Penguin books for the typography of which I was responsible. Next to them the few luxurious books I have made play no role. We need no grandiose books for reach people, rather well-made normal books.”
“I was obviously born to draw better than most people, just as the widow Berman and Paul Slazinger were obviously born to tell stories better than most people can. Other people are obviously born to sing and dance or explain the stars in the sky or do magic tricks or be great leaders or athletes, and so on.
I think that could go back to the time when people had to live in small groups of relatives – maybe fifty or a hundred people at the most. And evolution or God or whatever arranged things genetically to keep the little families going, to cheer them up, so that they could all have somebody to tell stories around the campfire at night, and somebody else to paint pictures on the walls of the caves, and somebody else who wasn’t afraid of anything and so on.
That’s what I think. And of course a scheme like that doesn’t make sense anymore, because simply moderate giftedness has been made worthless by the printing press and radio and television and satellites and all that. A moderately gifted person who would have been a community treasure a thousand years ago has to give up, has to go into some other line of work, since modern communications put him or her into daily competition with nothing but the world’s champions.”
A piece from a 1969 design panel discussion in Communication Arts on “branding” and similarities throughout design:
John Peter: Has Push Pin ever gotten involved in corporate identification? Seymour Chwast: Some, not very much. I designed a trademark for a small film company about a month ago. Two weeks later I opened Print Magazine and I saw that Lou Klein had designed a trademark, exactly the same mark. And it sort of scared me to see this thing. George Tscherny: Nobody has pronounced trademarks dead, but I think they really are… it’s a little bit like a mother of a friend of mine who used to say: ‘They don’t write any more good songs because all the good tunes have been used up.’ Seymour Chwast: Aren’t there still a few abstract symbols? Can’t you do a sun that no one’s ever done? Arnold Saks: I’ll bet you, you do what would be the most incredible sun in the world, and you’ll do a trademark search and sure enough the damn thing’s going to turn up.