When I was asked to write my personal review of 2011 the first two things that popped into my head weren’t really design related. On the one hand we had to surrender to the über-pace of world events that shook the people – environmental, political and financial catastrophes drove the news. On the other hand we indulged in banalities such as typing 111111 in our file names (what was great fun indeed).
If you look at what happened between these two extremes in the (graphic) design world, you will recognise the same momentum of rapid change; certainly first and foremost in the social and digital design sphere. Facebook has undergone its first fundamental layout change. Its social media twin Twitter has also developed its appearance further across all devices. It feels neater and tidier, so do YouTube and Google (particularly Gmail) after their updates.
I am pleased to see a tendency towards a clearer, stripped back look without neglecting (typo)graphic details on the site. These changes happened not only for aesthetical but also for functional reasons. It’s been more straight forward, quicker and convenient to browse these platforms since. In that regard I am curious to see whether and how the (new) BBC sites are getting shaped beyond their redesigned homepage.
Talking about change, the uprising of digital publishing also meant a Kindle for my mum, on top of that she eventually learnt what Ctrl C/V stands for. But it also meant that numerous established print publications such as ‘The Guardian‘ and the font bible ‘Fontbook‘, as well as new names and concepts like ‘The Daily‘ and Al Gore’s ‘Our Choice‘ found their way onto the tablet.
My personal favourite was the colourful, stick-to-the-grid Uniqlo ‘NYC Voices‘ page – probably one of the most inspiring, best story-telling moments on the web in 2011. Another site that didn’t fail to impress me was HTC’s ‘Sense Stories‘ which explained the innovative features of their phones. Charming little stories illustrate why to go for one of their phones. And boy, I fell for it!
The print and logo universe didn’t come to a standstill either. One could assume it was all about reversion and reduction. Starbucks, Waterstones, C&A and the German party SPD – just to name a few – returned to their ‘old’ brandmarks. Google Chrome and 7Up also embraced the idea of simplifying their logos. On that note I should probably mention the corner shop next door sold Orangina throughout the year for 49p, what makes another personal 2011 highlight.
Creative Review revealed the Top 20 logos which led to heated discussions whether or not the listed logos deserved their places. It’s certainly as controversial as the ‘100 best fonts‘, Marmite, or Lampard’s unallowed goal in the legendary 4-1. There are certainly a lot more logo candidates that could be placed in that table: Mexico 1968 Olympics, Channel 4, Erco, New Zealand at the Venice Biennale, Centre Pompidou or NY Public Library could easily challenge the CR winners.
2011 could also be labelled as the great movie poster famine. Very repetitive (is the ‘Trajan’ font still in use?), rarely innovative. ‘The Rum Diary‘, but especially the brilliant poster series ‘Rolling Roadshow‘ by Jason Munn caught my eye – quite like the superb ‘Black Swan’ (LaBoca) and ‘Star Wars’ poster series (Olly Moss) did it before.
I got to watch stunning and inspiring moments of moving image such as the graphics for the Tron Legacy movie, Quayola’s animations on paintings in Lille, Richard Swarbrick’s G. Bale animation and the Adidas ‘all in‘ spot which perfectly merges image and sound (by Justice).
I was sold on the beautiful BDDP water ink spot and learned that hugs keep us alive (Lim Heng Swee), that there’s plenty of space to draw monsters on post-its (John Kenn Mortensen) and how to draw a simple bird (Marion Deuchars). These illustrations prove enormous skills, personality, heart, brain and the eye for detail allover.
Even though I gave myself a long to do list of exhibitions, I only made it to a few. Big shame, but the following three were simply brilliant: ‘Wim Crouwel – A Graphic Odyssey’ (Design Museum) was obligatory. The exhibition was accompanied by various posters designed by different studios – this wonderfully screen printed poster was created by David Pidgeon. Crouwel’s and Total Design’s work is still one of the major influences for today’s graphic design. So is Saul Bass with his cut shaped posters and movie intros as shown in the Kemistry gallery.
The comprehensive Gerhard Richter exhibition at the Tate Modern was outstanding. I can barely remember any other designer or artist showing such a versatile and consistently good work throughout. And no surprise, the TYPO turned out to present another very inspiring date in the calendar. I got to enjoy speakers like Brook, Bierut, Hustwit, Weiner, Brody and Stevens. A great line-up of big typographers and type lovers.
Before I finish this ever-growing review off with a pinch of fonts, I want to remember Kurt and Steve. Through his death Steve Jobs has literally left the profane shell of physical life behind and has been promoted to something that presumably is much more him: a saint. Amen.
There’s been certainly less fuss around Kurt Weidemann’s death who passed away on 30th March. Even though he probably deserves the same adoration – as long as you are interested in German typographic history. Weidemann captured die ‘Zehn Thesen zur Typographie‘, something like the ten typographic commandments. He created the ‘Corporate A.S.E’ typeface, that Mercedes still uses, and redesigned the Porsche and Deutsche Bahn logo. I was lucky to attend one of his talks in Würzburg where I studied. A modest man who used to start working at 5am to work in peace and quiet as he said.
I actually thought I have closed the website chapter for today, but these two websites for type geeks make me open it again quickly. The ‘Kern Type‘ game proved that everyone can do kerning, whereas ‘Fonts In Use‘ is on its way to become an essential reference site. As promised, in no particular order, some of the typefaces that stood out for me last year: Erler Dingbats, Bella (Rick Banks), Bodoni Egyptian Pro, the ‘Trash Magazine‘ cover & headline font and Brezel Grotesk.
This review feels a bit like saying ‘thank you’ at the Oscars. I am sure I have missed other great (design) moments in here. Apologies if so. But let’s look forward to a year of new highlights ahead such as the launch of Tom Gauld’s Goliath book or the ‘British Design’ V&A exhibition, both in March, the Euro in Ukraine/Poland, the Olympics and typing 121212 of course. Happy New Year!