Hello Miss K

Years ago (2004 to be exact) I thought Hello Kitty deserved a little re-branding. Her ageless youth was not to be tampered with, but rather her name.

Many of her longtime admirers had grown up and along with the famed cartoon. Didn’t she deserve a more age-appropriate moniker than Hello Kitty?

Hello Miss K is sublime and playful all at once. It’s more than a name, but a reference too; now that the old gal is familiar in pop culture.

Also, its current.

Starting and signing off e-mails, IMs, Twitters and more, with an initial is the norm. In the future, conversation and communication may be entirely reduced to single letters, which stand in for words and larger thoughts.

At this point, it’s not about Hello Kitty conforming. It’s about her keeping up. Remaining relevant is subject to a face-lift, now and then.

IMAGE | ANS | Hello Miss K | 2004 | Illustrator and a lot of patience NB | A really thorough article on “texting as communication” can be found at WhoKnew.org, under Is text messaging evolving language?

Andrew Kuo NoAge Santos

“Google Graphs.” Does it exist? No. Should it? Yes. Why? I hope you’re sitting for this one. (Really. Sit down; get settled. This post is a long one.)

Anyone who knows me, or has been in my company for somewhere between a dinner party and an e-mail-to-phone-calling-scheduling-for-coffee length of time will no doubt have to endure one of my diatribes about the organization of information.

Organizing information is not only the hear and now, but it is the future. (Please refer to “Data Analysis,” section 3.5, page 180, of the reprotext found below your seat.)

If the twentieth century was about the proliferation and access of information, than the twenty-first century, must be about the organization and analysis of that information. Simply, if the inventive quality of information is saturated in a modern era, than the analysis of the information is not; especially when there is so much to research and cross-research in a multitude of ways.

I first learned about DocuBurst from an article in The Toronto Star about two years ago. An interactive and graphic index, DocuBurst is the brainchild of Christopher Collins who, along with, Sheelagh Carpendale, and Gerald Penn, developed the project as part of his PhD research at the University of Toronto. In Collins’s terms, DocuBurst (document + sunburst), is a tool to help “visualize document content using language structure.” (Refer to “Semiotics and its Discontents” in the Notes section; located at the back of the reprotext.)

DocuBurst’s function is two-fold. One, it provides the frequency in which a searched item appears (like a regular index). Two, it visually displays an overview of the magnitude of the searchable item within context of the document content. It does this by highlighting desired item searches, including words that occur before and after the searched item, and by a radiating pinwheel graphic, which bridges “is a” relationships to the searched item, rather than, “see also” relationships, (think related, not relative) to determine detailed and relevant information with each subsequent layer of burst. The interactive aspect of DocuBurst allows the search to occur at any point in the document (the index of the index of the index) while colour coding quickly shows words connected to the searched item.

If DocuBurst’s explanation sounds involved, you should see it’s pinwheel information graphics. Specific searches tend to lead into stunted sun rays, “bursts” away from the central search, thus commenting more on the DocuBurst itself, rather than searched item. (See, Spiro Novak’s essay “Rays Away: How Smart Devices Steer from Searches to Solstices,” Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1999, in the Bibliography of the reprotext.)

In order for the graphic organization of information to be effective, it must provide a general overview, not a detailed one. Specifics potentially can take away from the overall picture. The purpose of the project, defeated, entirely. Read more

Willi Kunz Montage

PART 2 Educating a client has always been the job of the graphic designer (so, for all you designers out there, you could probably add “communication teacher” to the list of titles already proposed.) Education justifies the cost of service while it sells the client on professional opinion. My understanding of the rebranding of designers is that a name change can better describe the evolution (more on this later) of the designer and may, hopefully, be commonly understood among designers and clients alike. As much as I would love for a new change in title to get around numerous explanations of why all the white space on the page shouldn’t be filled, and really, why the type should be set smaller is really just a joke. A designer can never do away with informing his client on how the design process works regardless of the name change. Nor will it guarantee a client’s willingness to accept what a designer’s job entails, and to hold that job into great esteem. Yes, in part, this is because the tech age has brought much accessibility, pirated software, and lots of so-called experts in the field. (Designers, I’m begging you, quit your whining! Every field in arts and culture has been impacted with all the new directors, illustrators, industrial designers, writers, authors, playwrights, poets, musicians and so on who can get their hands on Adobe Creative Suite, Pro Tools, and a whole other host of “icreate” software.) But the real reason, is actually much older than that; a problem that in all its stages and players has never experienced a resolution, even to this day. It’s what Saldanha briefly touches upon in his quandary in Evolution. It is the way in which the arts and artists are perceived by the general public, as a whole.

Saldanha begins his missive in Evolution with how designers arrived at design in the first place. “ ‘Design’ once replaced the term ‘art’. The term ‘design’ communicated that the work we did was more than artistic. Now it is time to replace ‘graphic’.” And therein lies the problem. The terminology designers are identified with now actually is just another way of reducing the very foundation that design, and all of the arts, arguably, is fundamentally based on. (Tsk, tsk, tsk. Certainly I thought designers were better at solving problems than with layering one on top of the other.) Guess what designers? Instead of using “design” to inflate importance and title an emerging role in the creative realm, you oversimplified what is at the very heart of good design, namely, art, and with it, reduced your worth along with your good name, minus the hourly wage and portfolio of handsome print advertising. (Good on you!) And really does a couple of bucks and a lot of magazine tear sheets garner bragging rights? Read more

Doesburg Counter Composition VI 1925 Tate Gallery London

Designers worried about industry nomenclature? How about Babbitt?

Last year, an article in Design Edge (DE) really upset me. The article made a case (I’m over-simplifying here) that graphic designers are not artists. I wrote a big rant about my point of contention (oh yes they are, and why is their a need to distinguish that point anyway?) and thought to get it published, but I was too wordy for Design Edge, (understandably; my piece was about four times the word length of DE’s original article) and didn’t know where else to put my view into print.

So, for you lucky readers who have discovered my blog, I’m posting my response to what I thought was an absurd issue to be hung up on. I’m publishing the article in parts, as it is long, so as not to overwhelm the reader. (How I feel with online articles from The New Yorker.) I’d love to know your thoughts, after your review.

PART 1 Design Edge has proven to be a strong, forward-thinking publication containing interesting and vital industry news. However, the May/June 2007 issue, to me, had resorted to some backward beliefs I thought designers, and the design community at large, had abandoned. I was wrong. Editor Ann Meredith Brown’s letter, about designers and an identity crisis, and the following article by Winnie Czulinski, “Rebranding Designers,” is what changed my point of view. The article? Designers worried about what to call themselves (and thus how they will be received in society.) The debate, it seems, has attracted many new players in the design community, repeating longstanding arguments, and resulting in needless confusion and compromise. I hope in my response, to how rebranding will only degrade and isolate designers and the design industry, that I can also demonstrate, why this argument is an issue to begin with–and how by treating the problem–offer a solution that could satisfy, designers, and society as a whole. Read more

Uncertain Knowledge

Graphic novels have now become so the norm for pop culture, that publishers and authors alike are attempting to fit themselves into different niches within the genre.

Of wider popularity as of late, has been the “graphic memoir.” Marisa Acocella Marchetto’s Cancer Vixen, and Marjane Satrapi’s, Persepolis are not the pioneers of this trend, but they are definitely some of the examples out there which have brought this kind of graphic novel into the spotlight.

Another newly-coined niche, which I find a little unclear as to what kinds of graphic stories it includes or excludes is, “typographic comic.” I’d like to discuss one not so obvious, and one obvious (and maybe the culprit of the new term) graphic novels that might better help clarify the terminology as well as offer a different perspective on two entirely different books dealing with private thoughts and perspectives, rendered in an almost similar (parallel might be the better word) fashion. Read more