Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘illustration’

22 JULY, 2011

Milton Glaser: To Inform & Delight

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What Bob Dylan has to do with civic pride and Ancient Rome’s views on the purpose of art.

Milton Glaser is one of the greatest graphic designers alive today, and a longtime favorite around here. From his iconic I ♥ NY logo to his prolific newspaper and magazine designs, logos, brand identities, posters and other celebrated visual ephemera, Glaser is as revered for his exceptional visual output as he is for his thoughtful reflections on the role of design at large. His work, equal parts playful and poignant, explores the intersection of form and light to inform and delight, these being the purpose of art as defined by Ancient Roman poet Horace.

That’s the inspiration behind the title of the fantastic 2008 documentary Milton Glaser: To Inform & Delight, a remarkable debut by first-time filmmaker Wendy Keys. The film, now out on DVD, iTunes and Amazon Instant Video (free for Amazon Prime members, bless), offers an unprecedented glimpse of the ordinary moments of Glaser’s personal life, his creative process and the cross-pollination between the two, revealing the genuine humility, warmth and extraordinary intelligence of a modern-day Renaissance man.

I have made nothing on I [heart] New York, ever. There’ve been no cash rewards as a consequence of doing it. On the other hand, it really makes me feel very, very proud to have taken part in that shift in the city’s consciousness from being indifferent to itself to realizing, ‘We love this place.’” ~ Milton Glaser

As the creator of I ♥ NY and the moving sequel that followed 9/11, he may be the best-known graphic designer in the world. But they don’t begin to even hint at the impact and significance of Milton Glaser’s work. He’s taken the gifts he had to start with and developed them along a dazzling variety of lines that have influenced every serious designer I can think of, and that have materially affected the way we get information, the way we buy things and, in fact, the things that we buy.” ~ Ralph Caplan, Design Writer

With reflections from some of today’s most acclaimed design critics and direct footage of Glaser himself talking about everything from humorous anecdotes pf the 1960s to the problem-solving capacity of the brain to the profound impact music has had on his life and process, To Inform & Delight is an essential piece of creative history and will inform and will delight. (Amazon also has the beautiful poster for the film, based on Glaser’s iconic 1967 Bob Dylan poster, at 90% off.)

I [internalized] this idea that it didn’t matter whether I was called an artist or a designer or an illustrator or whatever else it was. The core value was always the act of making things, and the transformation of an idea that you hold in your mind that becomes real or material. That, to me, still is the glory of any creative activity.” ~ Milton Glaser

Thanks, Ruth Ann

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21 JULY, 2011

How Alex Steinweiss Invented the Album Cover

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A brief history of music for the eyes, or how to go from brown paper to design revolution in 7 pounds.

Alex Steinweiss, father of the album cover, lived to be ninety-four, but his legacy will endure for centuries to come. The record sleeves and album artwork we know and love, and have come to take for granted, owe their existence to the iconic designer, who in 1940 created the first illustrated 78 rpm album package as a young art director at Columbia Records. The company took a chance on his idea — to replace the standard plain brown wrapper with an eye-catching poster-like illustration — and increased its record sales eightfold in mere months. His covers, blending bold typography with elegant, graphically ambitious artwork, forever changed not only the way albums were sold, but also the way audiences related to recorded music. He made, as critics now frequently say, “music for the eyes.”

I love music so much and I had such ambition that I was willing to go way beyond what the hell they paid me for. I wanted people to look at the artwork and hear the music.” ~ Alex Steinweiss

Steinweiss’ extraordinary work and legacy live on in Alex Steinweiss: The Inventor of the Modern Album Cover — a lavish Taschen volume by triple Grammy Award-winning art director Kevin Reagan and prolific design writer Steven Heller (yes, him again), cataloguing three decades’ worth of Steinweiss’s magnificent classical, jazz and popular records, as well as logos, labels, advertising ephemera and even his very own typeface, contextualized with essays that illuminate their historical importance, visual innovation and cultural legacy.

And because it’s Taschen, the 420-page tome weighs in at 7 pounds and is also available as a lust-worthy ultra-limited-edition of 1,500 copies, each signed by the artist and including a serigraph print, for $700. (Cue in donation prompt…)

Promotional card sent to Steinweiss' clients, ca. 1952.

Image courtesy of Taschen

Equal parts visual poetry, music and design history, and blueprint for creative entrepreneurship, Alex Steinweiss: The Inventor of the Modern Album Cover is an absolute treat from cover to glorious cover. For more on Steinweiss, you can explore the remarkable range of his work in Columbia Records’ Birka Jazz Archive.

Hat tip to studiomate Rob Weychert; images courtesy of Taschen

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14 JULY, 2011

The Lists, To-dos and Illustrated Inventories of Great Artists

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What a 21-point scale of self-confidence has to do with Adolf Konrad’s carry-on and Picasso’s favorite artists.

We’ve previously taken a voyeuristic look inside the notebooks and sketchbooks of great creators and, today, we turn to an even more private facet of the creative self: the list. Lists: To-dos, Illustrated Inventories, Collected Thoughts, and Other Artists’ Enumerations from the Collections of the Smithsonian Museum offers a surprisingly intriguing glimpse of some of the 20th century’s most remarkable creators — including Pablo Picasso, Joseph Cornell, Willem de Kooning, Mark Rothko, Andrew Wyeth and Janice Lowry, among dozens of others — revealing their personal habits, priorities and decision-making schemata through the lens of the seemingly mundane and, in the process, demystifying artmaking and the creative life.

From a list Finnish-born architect Eero Saarinen made of his second wife’s positive attributes, to designer Harry Bertoia’s 1932 self-rating chart for a school assignment, rating 21 of his characteristics on a spectrum from Very Poor to Excellent, to Picasso’s recommendations of artists he liked for Walt Kuhn’s 1913 Armory Show, these wonderful and fascinating seventy-or-so artifacts reveal as much about their creators as they do about the values, fixations and points of interest of their respective eras.

Eero Saarinen's list of Aline Bernstein's good qualities, ca. 1954. Aline and Eero Saarinen papers, 1857-1972.

Image courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution's Archives of American Art; copyright F+W Media Inc. 2011.

Harry Bertoia's 'My-self Rating Chart' school assignment. Harry Bertoia papers, 1917-1979.

Image courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution's Archives of American Art; copyright F+W Media Inc. 2011.

Pablo Picasso's recommendations for the Armory Show for Walt Kuhn, 1912. Walt Kuhn, Kuhn family papers, and Armory Show Records, 1859-1978.

Image courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution's Archives of American Art; copyright F+W Media Inc. 2011.

Janice Lowry's Journal #98, 2002-2003.

Image courtesy of the Archive of American Art.

Franz Kline's receipt from John Heller's Liquor Store, Dec. 31, 1960. Elisabeth Zogbaum papers regarding Franz Kline, 1928-1965.

Image courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution's Archives of American Art; copyright F+W Media Inc. 2011.

Adolf Konrad's graphic packing list, Dec. 16, 1973. Adolf Ferdinand Konrad papers, 1962-2002.

Image courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution's Archives of American Art; copyright F+W Media Inc. 2011.

Lists comes from Princeton Architectural Press, purveyors of the visually compelling and culturally intriguing. Original images from the book are currently on display at the Morgan Library & Museum in New York until October 2, 2011.

via GMSV; images via Imprint

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