Fed Ex Logo (San Francisco)

San Francisco, CA. On the window of a printing service center, the three overlapping shapes of the Fed Ex Kinko's logo imply color primaries. But print primaries are magenta, cyan, and yellow, which would combine to make black in the center. And the logo uses light primaries—red, green and blue, which should combine to make white in the center, but it's a darker blue instead. This rearrangement of the original typographic FedEx logo colors is baffling.

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Teotihuacan Vitrines (San Francisco)

San Francisco, CA. The artifacts are incredible, but I couldn't help admiring the vitrines as well, in "Teotihuacan, City of Water, City of Fire" at the De Young Museum. The pedestals are stepped at the bottom giving them extra weight and presence, like the architecture the artifacts would feel at home in.

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Even where a base might not be neccessary, the pedestal adds something to the presentation.

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Freestanding vitrines have various stepped pedestals set inside a full sized plex box.

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So the plex seems to float, giving the artifacts breathing room.

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Home Street Home (San Francisco)

San Francisco, CA. Simple typographic street art, functioning like signage, can communicate quickly and directly. Here the typography is created with plastic x shapes tucked and zip tied into a chain link fence.

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The result is a sarcastic embroidered message on a homeless block in the mission. These chain link fences are put up as a deterrent to homeless encampments in some parts of the city. Homelessness is a pervasive problem that has stunned (and numbed) San Franciscans. According to the anonymous artist, "I don't pretend this is going to solve anything, but I wanted it to get people, like me, to do a double take—to build awareness and empathy.”

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When I took the photo, the sliding gate was open, so that "Home" is behind "Street"...

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...creating an interesting double layer.

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Woodhouse Fish Co. (San Francisco)

San Francisco, CA. Exhibition and narrative are ubiquitous, including where we eat, and drink. Random objects and images displayed in restaurants and bars may be campy, and overly designed interiors may be vaguely artificial. But sometimes the story of the place and it's clientele is an authentic narrative, organically evolved and expressed from the inside out. And sometimes artifacts are smartly integrated in the space, teaching us a thing or two about exhibition design. This is true of a little seafood restaurant in my neighborhood. 

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The space is small, oddly shaped and split, but the many columns and corners are well incorporated as vertical display space.

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There's a humble pleasure in ordinary spaces that are nicely arranged, whether it's someone's living room or a little restaurant. The negative spaces are not jarring. Flat and dimensional elements are integrated from floor to ceiling. Evidence of real TLC without too much or too little. Pulleys and ropes tie it all together.

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Dignified "Most Oysters Eaten" awards, and 2 small "found pearl" vitrines add relevance through diner's participation, like signed photos of celebrities.

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The window-framed monitor runs continous clips from black and white seafaring movies, such as the classic "Moby Dick".

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The movie clips give the illusion of an expanse "outside", extending the little space with a sense of motion and sound. Rolling waves and seagull's cries convey the mythical drama of the sea. 

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Objects include historically dated hooks, reels, traps, measuring gauges, scrimshaw. All are simply labeled, and respectful of the fishermen's craft. 

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Little treasures include a yellowed article on kitchen hypnotism to calm a lobster.

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Perhaps the narrative details in these environments are delightful because we encounter them in our "down time" in non-museum spaces, where it isn't expected and narratives are free to find meaning without official analysis. In our living rooms, we're not required to display personal objects, but we do out of our innate human need to find meaning and beauty in our story.

Floating Hotel Museum (Long Beach)

Long Beach, CA. I had 2 hours to wait at the docks, to pick up someone from a cruise ship. So it seemed appropriate to kill that time on another cruise ship. The Queen Mary is a museum, and a hotel with dining and shops. It's a venue for nightlife, team building scavenger hunts and multicultural weddings. It even has a Russian submarine on a leash. It's on the water of course, not on a sea of grass.

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Outdoor photo murals often have a surreal quality, especially when the image is mounted on the the real thing it represents. Here the image goes back in time, and distance, like a parent, or a baby in the belly of the ship.

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A photo of an excited traveler boarding the maiden voyage is so welcoming, I wish I could move it to the actual ticket entry, which is far away. These 2 great photos are splintered by a third one with bad corner cropping.

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The space between the boat and the land is a "behind the scenes" that can't be hidden, a work area full of umbilical chords and other bridges that turn a ship into a building.

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Actual views of the ship are hard to see. An elevator tower obscures the view at the entry, which is (sort of) part of the hotel reception, but around the corner.

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It's confusing to buy a ticket, called a "passport", because there are so many packages to decipher, called "voyages". Most of them involve special tours or shows, on various themes, including an evening paranormal tour. Because the idea of "boarding" the museum as an actual passenger is so enticing, why not do it in a realistic way?

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The cheapest ticket visitors (like lower class passengers) are sent directly down a long ramp to the engine room at the stern. The walkway is melancholy, strewn with residual event decorations and furniture.  

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Double signage is like fighting fire with fire. 

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The Queen Mary is a historic Art Deco jewel. 

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But the logotype is traditional serif. Next to it is some deco wayfinding (MB Picturehouse or Nova Deco?)

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This painful deco treatment is probably older, no longer in use.

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Other aspects of the wayfinding are based on the simpler cruiseline font

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The overwhelming array of options reappear at the real museum entry.

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Beautiful deco wall.

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The original typography on the ship's controls, hand-shaped and spaced to fit the wedge. 

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Heavy wooden frames on the engine labels.

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This dark alcove walkway for viewing the actual propeller under water was really moody. It had whatever quality it is (hope, fear) that compels people to throw coins.

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The museum has the dense claustrophobic quality of a ship, and the personal stories have the fleeting, temporal quality of a passenger.

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At the upper level, the ship becomes a common ground for tours, hotel, shopping, dining, conference, photo studio, with other exhibits somewhere in the mix.

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Photos and anecdotes of non celebrity passengers help make it accessible.

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A Lego ship model and lego building stations

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A Lego mosaic

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So the photo mural texture is probably Lego inspired.

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Starbucks on the promenade deck just doesn't seem right.

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Lifeboats will not be needed.

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The ship's natural landscape is the sea, but as a visitor on a docked ship, we can't experience that. I wanted some of the windows to reveal a (photo) view of the vast expanse of the sea, the horizon.

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The ship is bordered by a mini circus arena with a few amusement rides.

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Next to this is the "Queen Mary's Dark Harbor, Fear Lives Here" exhibition. It could be under construction. It's hard to say because the aesthetic is wreckage. Like a home made spookhouse, but with an aspect of hollywood stage set design. 

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It's an interesting juxtaposition between this outdoor exhibition and the carnival. There's a messy boundary between museum exhibition and attraction. What are the roots, of true story and fantasy, in the fair and the circus?

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The Museum of Art Installation (Los Angeles)

Los Angeles, CA. The Broad Museum. Exhibition installation is a surreal performance in it's own right. Here, four photos of two (real) museum preparators in the process of installing three (Duane Hansen) figures, at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. Sharon Lockhart describes it as a "synchronicity: the physicality and tools of labor, the interest of two artists in the beauty of the ordinary people, and the potential for artifice to expose a hidden layer of truth". The formally posed "set up" of the installation makes this even more amusing.

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Collage as a Graphic Art Practice

I created (postcard size) collages to process my experiences on the road. I arrived home with 173 of them in my back pack. A few examples here. If graphic design is the arrangement of word and image to communicate a pre-determined message, then (for me) collage is a graphic art in the service of mystery, an unconscious arrangement of found word and image to discover complex meanings. A visual poem of experience. I've decided to continue this personal practice... (after I catch my breath!) 

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PLywood (London)

London, England. The Victoria & Albert Museum is a wonderful institution, with it's welcoming Chihooly hanging overhead and dramatic yellow lighting around the doors and reception island.

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Signage has a way of taking over museum entries. With the good intent to communicate offerings to visitors, it tends to reproduce itself as a redundant effort. The more visual noise it creates, the more it escalates to compete with itself. This is painful to graphic designers, who understand the challenge and notice evidence of the struggle. The elegant reception island is getting covered with exhibition posters that already exist on monitors and free standing signs as well. What is the little green box...?

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The original pool sign has given birth to a second, taller paper sign to reinforce and clarify the wading rules. Real behaviors were not predictable when the stone was carved, and the second sign is probably an ongoing prototype to get the best possible solution. Some believe that a paper sign is more effective, with it's "temporary" urgency. This awkward pairing is a common dilemma. Will they ever be re-united as a single final sign?

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"Plywood, Material of the Modern World" is the current temporary exhibition, in a thoroughly red space.

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Bent plywood entry walls seem to be fiberglass coated (?) surfboard style.

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The exhibition design is layered, like plywood, with tiered pedestal bases, and engraved, standwiched area signs.

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Explanations of the plywood process ring the big outer red walls, surrounding the objects in the center.

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There's a jumbled rhythm between the 3D objects and 2D images on multiple plains.

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A groove in the plywood to angle labels and insert small pedestal labels. Easy to position at the last minute, or reposition as needed during install.

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A building alcove at the end of the space reveals plywood construction and doubles as a projection surface for videos on both sides, viewed from the corridor that circles around it.

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The space is rich with thoughtfully placed objects, from floor level up, into the airspace.

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The exhibition extends out to the courtyard with ice skating shelters

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The comfort of an iconic museum cafe cannot be underestimated, as the icing on the visit cake. The epic V&A cafe is a special place to reflect and recharge.

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Lovers in the Collection (London)

London, England. Photography is forbidden at some of the exhibitions I've seen, so I haven't posted them. I confess (apologize) that I took this forbidden photo of Marc Quinn's sculptures in the Soane House Museum. As figurative couple(s), fragments cast from life, they seem like the young guests at a elderly party, mixing uncomfortably with the crowd of classically modeled figures. A subtle tension. In dramatic contrast, a side room displayed their plastic moulds, bright pink and rubbery like birth cocoons.

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Construction Wrap 2

Construction wraps are exciting, even magical. A few more examples (since Cambodia)... A plain fitted wrap with Christo-like beauty.

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Photo wraps with an image of the concealed building are almost better than the building alone.

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A wrap with a different photo leans toward surreal.

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A graphic design wrap is the bright promise of modern,

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or a future experience.

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In Romania I lived behind this

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with this view out

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Construction sites are theatrical, setting the stage for the next act

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The allure of "back stage" activity.

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An intermission veiled by a curtain.

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Dramatic, temporary architectural framing.

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Construction oblivious of appearance.

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A passageway between past and future

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Designing Freedom (London)

London, England. Design Museum. "California, Designing Freedom" looks at how politically rebellious attitudes (1960's—present) have shaped design.

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"By turns empowering, addictive and troubling, California design is shaping the nature of the 21st century" This exhibition definately stirs it up.

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The pastel colored exhibition design is organized by what you want; See what you want, Go where you want, Do what you want, Join who you want, Say what you want, Make what you want. The design didn't interest me, but the content made me feel homesick, in more than one way.

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It's always revealing to see your own culture from afar. Here it was unsettling to see old and recent technologies side by side, with the same hopes and fears still attached to them.

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From free speech movement punch cards to the Mobile Justice App, it all takes on new meaning in the current political climate. What seemed like a fresh struggle not so long ago is now seen as history, but history threatens to repeat itself. 

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In 1955, at Immaculate Heart College, a silkscreen studio for protest posters was led by Sister Corita Kent. Her work used advertising slogans, philosophy, street and store signage, poetry, scripture, newspapers, magazines, song lyrics, and political speeches. 

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The California garage as temple: Walt Disney's, Packard's, Job's, Wojcicki's

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Google maps presented in layers of plexi panels

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Historical graphic design included early issues of Wired and Emigre, digital fontwork,

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and Susan Kare's sketches for Apple icons.

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The graphic design of acid

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More currently this advertisement by obeygiant.com and Amplifier Foundation, 2017

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UCLA Mobile Justice App, 2015

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Good Inc, animations and infographics intended to spur activism, 2016

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USC Institute for Creative Technologies, VR to assess and treat veteran's PTSD

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For sale in the shop

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Designer Maker User (London)

London, England. This is the permanent (free) exhibition at the Design Museum, in it's new location, under a hyberbolic paraboloid roof. The exhibition designer, Morag Myerscough, opens it with a colorful title wall that rotates the three words to tie the concepts together. 

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The three themes are perfect in their simplicity, and never boring. Political, economic and environmental issues weave between them. Triangular patterns are a visual theme.

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The space is filled, rich with design examples

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Black supports and yellow enamel labels define the modular design throughout. Labels can wrap counter edges, or fold under for angled wall or pedestal placement.

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This counter cuts through a wall between two sections of the show.

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On the other side, "Choice & Taste" is seeded with subjective terms which fuel visitor discussion. Some of the walls are panelled with acoustic cork.

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The exhibition interpretation embraces the "inherent plurality of design" with open-ended questions and multiple points of view.

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A central circular display area breaks out of the black for red.

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Graphic eye candy. A delicious wall of Olivetti posters.

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Nice reflections on the bright enamel area walls.

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This museum seems to confirm that design museums/exhibitions have truly become mainstream destinations. The general public's awareness and design sophistication is impressive and truly admirable. 

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The maker area includes an activity counter with projects such as design a logo for your family, or a system for sorting waste at home.

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Typographic Decor

I've always been uneasy with free floating "concept" words used as environmental super graphics. The ones that beckon us to PLAY (at the playground), or DISCOVER (at the museum) or CONTEMPLATE (on campus)... Typically they suggest either an obvious activity or a deep personal experience, things people can find for themselves (or not) without being told to do so. It seems to cheapen communication as well as the experience. If the goal is to inspire, why not use real poetry?
Decorative treatments like this hotel carpeting, are a continued appropriation of the same idea. Funnier, less insidious, but still not poetry (?) 

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And decorative treatments like these bus seats, more purely visual and abstract. More sophisticated, less literal, but still not poetry (?)

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