Saturday, September 1, 2007

Your turn

I've posted some of the main "design" developments for sections 1-6 of our textbook. For your 150-word comment, you may pick any one of the seven posts below. Let's emphasize historic aspects along with observations about graphic design, which is our main pursuit here. I welcome additional comments as responses to other comments (conversations or discussions are always a plus!). If necessary, I may interject and make a suggestion here and there. Good luck!

20 comments:

Gretel said...

Some notes on the theme of Paleolithic art. This is perhaps one of the most fascinating subjects when talking about the history of art and image making because it takes us directly to the questions: what is art and how it first started. Traditional explanations have evolved from “art pour l’art” (or art for the sake of art) passing through totemism and sympathetic magic to structuralist interpretations about its meaning. Modern researches are giving every time more value to the roll of mind processes as shapers of these basic cultural manifestations. According to anthropologist David Lewis-Williams, the first depiction of images by our ancestors came as a result of altered states of consciousness related to shamanism and trance rituals. This direct relation between the creation of images and the biology of mind is sharing a new light in our understanding or art. Perhaps our modern concept of design as “functional art” and our ability to synthesize ideas into two dimensional spaces was already a part of our earliest stages of evolution and not just a product of the later development of our culture.

Luis Ernesto said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Luis Ernesto said...

The development of mass printing in Europe came about with the assimilation of Asian xylography and the emergence of removable typography. This newly developed means of printing allowed for economical manufacturing of both illustrations and writing. This printing phenomenon consequently led to greater accessibility of printed materials throughout the masses. The use of xylography in the European forum of design and printing, as demonstrated in the Ars Moriendi relief below, served as a means of communication between the aristocracy/the clergy and the lower peasant classes. These wood block relief illustrations were purposefully highly-visual and any form of excessive type was avoided due to the illiteracy of its target populations at that particular time in history. The Ars Moriendi, following the macabre style of the European middle ages, typically illustrates a deathbed sequence, as portrayed in the sample below, the ailing aristocratic figure is submitting his material/lavish possessions to the demons as he prepares to repent his soul to god. These illustrations depict the moral ambiguities of the middle-ages and served as a means of “holy propaganda” commissioned by the Vatican.

-Luis E. PiƱol

A.T. said...

Luis: Agree. Ars Moriendi is definitely a form of medieval propaganda.

Mariajose said...

The Lascauux Caves is one of the first evidences on how was the life of primitive people. During this time the life style of these people was wild. Their lives depend on hunting and the caves were their refuge. The drawings (pictographs) and carving (petroglyphs) on their cave walls are examples in how even from the beginning we felt the necessity to communicate our ideas in form of drawings or symbols and introduction of what we called today letters. Because of the lack of evidence of what these drawings were showing or communicating, different people have their own opinion. Some people think that these animal paintings were magic illustrations of their hunting rituals and others think that these were just simple representation of their everyday lives, which were based in hunting. According to our book the way to represent things was developing a tendency of simplicity, for example the sun was an ideogram that began to represent the abstract idea of "day and light".

zillionaire said...

The cave paintings at Lascaux show a less animal and simplistic lifestyle of man where for the first time we see the inner working's of an "early" brain. While the images are still related to a hunting and gathering lifestyle, we see a deeper scope as to how man internalizes the animals in his life. There is a natural and a spiritual side in these paintings. We can see the physical depictions of animals, but are left to wonder about the thought or emotion behind the images. Aesthetically, the cave paintings are beautiful in their use of rich earth tones and it is amazing that they have retained their colors over thousands of years. I feel that the real magic in these paintings came from the fire that would have burned during their creation. The flickering of the flames would have created an effect where the images looked as if they were moving.

amanda said...

It is easy to see that although the first forms of writing were pictorial in nature, early Mesopotamian civilizations moved to cuneiform while the Egyptians continued to use pictures as their basis for hieroglyphics. The Egyptian style of writing used visual symbols to represent words or syllables of words, and was truly a form of art as well as communication in that, “the ancient Egyptians had an extraordinary sense of design and were sensitive to the decorative and textural qualities of their hieroglyphs” (pg.12). Not only that, but even when more abstract forms of writing such as hieratic and demotic emerged, images were still used to illustrate the text and were eventually considered more important to the extent where the artist would draw the pictures first and then writing would be added to the manuscript. It is true that The Book of the Dead is considered to be one of the first illustrated manuscripts, but what is important to note is that the Egyptians were the first to combine words and pictures to communicate information, which is the entire basis of graphic design.

steph said...

Must be honest, I find the study of prehistoric visual communication rather dry, at least in comparison to the study of contemporary visual communication—more relevant to modern-day life. However, we must understand where we came from in order to figure where we’re going, so here goes…

The paintings on cave (limestone) walls at Lascaux, France (like the caves at Altamira, Spain and Chauvet, France) are characteristic of prehistoric art with the drawings done mostly in profile, very flat, using twisted perspective (i.e. a bison in twisted perspective is depicted in profile with all four legs and two horns showing). Hard lines indicate bones and soft, feathered lines indicate fur. Early Paleolithic (40,000 – 8,000 BCE) art portrays minimal action, but eventually progresses to show action scenes and the passage of time with adjacent depictions of the same animal at different points in time. These designs were likely carved with a primitive tool called a burin.

What’s interesting about the petroglyphs at Lascaux is evidence of the earliest indications of narrative… this particular drawing (I don’t know how to insert hyperlinks here, so go to: http://www.seshat.ch/home/menhir6d.JPG to view the image) has six elements: 1. a bison; 2. the bison’s wound (see the entrails coming out of its abdomen); 3. a man (warrior) with a bird mask (his erect penis indicates maleness); 4. bird spear-thrower (similarity between the man’s masked head and the spear’s head led archeologists to believe that the man is wearing a bird mask); 5. spear piercing the bison’s abdomen; and 6. rhinoceros (to the left of the man, possibly unrelated to the narrative). The scene indicates an altercation between the man and the bison (see the bison’s hair sticking up in anger). However, archeologists are unable to determine the intended function of the scene. Perhaps indicative of sympathetic magic, but other possibilities include record of war (ideogram) or sacred drawing honoring a specific leader or the gods.

Mitch said...

We can talk about Totemism and sympathetic magic, the Early brain of prehistoric people, and we can talk about the design elements of cave surface, tools, firelight and pigments. We need to, because we have to find ways to access art making that comes from human activity that we can barely, if at all, relate to. These design artists were very aware of the choices they were making in depiction and the viewers that they were making them for. I can't pretend to know the story of the artist or the viewer. I can imagine, though.

Was Lascaux a place for many to pass through or only a site for priests? Would young initiate hunters, scared out of their minds, be taken down into the earth to be shown their purpose, their future? Is there a sacred propaganda? How does that differ from the stations of the cross and the stained glass windows I stared at as a child?

I am reminded of something I read about music, specifically about drumming, and the effect it has on the body. This effect is not only a mental, cognitive impression left by a melody, like enjoying the lyrics to "Comfortably Numb" (Pink Floyd). Sometimes it has a biological effect. I read that after several hours of playing a rythym (say a nighttime ceremony in preparation for a hunt, or war) the wave patterns of the drum sounds are still present in the participant's flesh FOR DAYS. This has been shown by scientific measurement. At the molecular level, the meaning of the music is still being internalized, and not even by choice, but because the body can't help but feel it.

I imagine a young initiate warrior, cold and miserable, lying on a damp hillside in a prehistoric dawn. This is a good time for an individual to doubt his choices, lose the bravado of last night's storytelling and dance. But before he can think about leaving the impending attack behind he must get that damn song (or that damn image, I think) out of his head.

Like sound waves, light waves must leave resonances in our bodies. Images made with such purpose compete with casual images and nightmares and daily visual input for prominence, rememberance, in our brains. The strongest ones survive.

steph said...

Interesting perspective, Mitch. Way to relate. I enjoyed your comment.

Gretel said...

Mitch: if you like that topic I think you will enjoy this book:
The Mind in the Cave: Consciousness and the origins of Art by David Lewis-Williams.

amy Poliakoff said...

I find it fascinating that during the middle ages (dark ages), from the 5th century fall of Western Rome to about the 15th century early Renaissance, how much an impact religion played on graphic design and script. In looking at art in history, the church had commisioned much of the art work in Europe and raided the Byzantine empire. The subjects of artwork were religious in nature and were depictions from the Bible. Many were devoted to the Madonna, often depicted with child. With the collapse of the Byzantine Empire, government and law ceased to exist. This left the church in control. As a result, illiteracy levels soared, and monasticism gave way to illuminated manuscripts. It is actually the affect of the church on manuscripts that spikes my interest in the history of graphic design. The creation of illuminated manuscripts were highly supervised while created in the scriptorium, or writing room of the monastery. It is also quite interesting how the monastic graphic artists and others employed by the Church gave way to the development of unical script which was used to replace the rustic and square capitals of pagan texts. Monasteries significantly impacted typeface design and illuminated manuscripts of the middle ages. This gave way to a whole new world of graphic design that has influenced the realm that we are so fascinated by today.

Zureyka said...

Many did not realize that Gutenburg modified a press that was originally used to press grapes for winemaking in order to create a printing press. It was a long and very precise process in developing the first printed piece of history. Gutenburg developed a method of creating individual characters instead of casting an entire page as one solid piece. By doing so, it made the process reusable for different purposes. The process of creating the letters individually was an extremely labor-intensive job; however, it was much faster to cast the individual letters rather than to copy an entire page by hand. His notorious first Bible, known as the “42-Line Bible”, cast over 15,000 lead characters just to make it. Gutenburg’s ultimate goal was to create a manuscript that could be mistaken as hand-written by a scribe. The Gutenburg Bible was a two-volume piece and had a total of 1,282 pages in both of these volumes. Most of the copies made were printed on rag paper as the material but other versions/copies of them were done on vellum instead.

The strenuous intensity involved in creating such a piece fascinating since it involved so much effort in each individual letter and Gutenburg made sure everything was precise when it came to the leading, kerning, the width and height of the letters, etc. When a person uses his/her computer to type just one word or sentence, he/she may not realize how privileged we are to be able to do so on our own. Many take it for granted and do not even realize how long and arduous it was to create just one single letter. Learning the process made me appreciate how far we’ve come.

amy Poliakoff said...

The illliterate members of society were first exposed to printed material in the form of cards. They were thus the earliest european manifestation of printing's democratizing abilities. The masses were introduced to symbol recognition - a basis for graphic design. In today's age, some five hundred years later, a deck of playing cards still consists of the same visual signs of the past. Although modern society has evolved from what it once was, and the symbols' meanings have altered significantly, symbol recognition still plays a very important role throughout global culture. The suits in a deck of cards originally represented the four classes of medieval society. Hearts signified the clergy; spades, the nobility; the leaflike club, the peasantry; and diamonds denoted the burghers. With the invention of block printing used to create these graphic images, symbols were utilized to educate the masses. However, the church took advantage of the new technology, and almost overnight, religious propoganda flooded the streets. The Ars Moriendi, for example, avised society on the proper preparation for the final hour. These elaborate images urge the dying to put aside the desire to provide for one's family and to will one's estate to the church. The creation of block printing had moved the Church from being the creator of illuminated manuscripts to being the one of the biggest pictoral manipulators of the century.

Barry said...

I find the previous posts regarding the Lascaux cave paintings interesting. The posts address the paintings’ pragmatic and spiritual purposes. I was especially intrigued by Mitch’s perceptive comments on sympathetic magic. Less was said about their design and the technical innovation that went into making them. It is easy to take those for granite from our contemporary point of view.

The creation of the Lascaux paintings required remarkable technical skills for 13,000 -15,000 BC. Light sources were needed to work in the caves. Lamps were likely made of concave rock that held burning plant or animal fats. Many of the paintings could have been created by standing on ledges but there is evidence that scaffolding was used to create others. Some of the pigments that were used in the paintings came from metal ores and oxides. These had to be identified, mined, and crushed to obtain the desired color. Others plant based pigments had to be processed to extract dyes that were mixed with other powder pigments. Pestles and mortars, in which colors were mixed, and stone engraving tools had to be created.

Our text points out the remarkably accuracy of some of the rendering made during this era. It also discusses the development of simplified and stylized images. The images in Lascaux are incredibly elegant. Their simplification/stylization allows them to communicate across cultures and time.

As images continued to be simplified over time an extraordinary transition eventually occurred. The symbols evolved until they were completely abstract and they became the basis for the sounds of spoken language and letters of written language. The Lascaux images are at the same time a snap shot of the development of art and thought that was occurring concurrently at different places around the world.

mitch blessing said...

Thanks for the book suggestion Gretel.

I assume we are supposed to write again for this Monday?

I couldn't find a further discussion of the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili attributed to Aldus Manutius, beyond the caption here in the Blog and the brief mention made on pg. 91 of our text, but it reminds me of comic books and illustrated classics I had as a child.
Obviously this story was not intended for a typical Medieval Christian audience. Meggs notes its limited venetian audience and assumably high original price. It seems more like a special interest art book, an exploration of classical story, architecture, and eroticism in a time and place (the Aldine press in Venice) where that kind of audacious literature could be gotten away with.

I love, by the way, the classification of these texts as Incunabula, Latin for "swaddling clothes", as a reference by later historians to the pre-1500s infancy stages of bookmaking using cast metal printing matrices.
I first read Moby Dick, Treasure island, and Tom Sawyer in a similar format as the Hypnertomachia, each page being half image, half script. Obviously the illustrations were not as lavish as Manutius's, but the effect was the same, I think: an easily read entertaining story with pictures and captions all the way through, mass produced for a secular audience.
It is recognizably like graphic novels and, for that matter, magazines, newspapers, and blogs of today. This supports the statement that it is considered the first "modern book".

Lastly, I found the publishing history (the original is 1499) of the Poliphilus story interesting.. the modern typeface was named for the story character.

"The first complete English version was published by Thames & Hudson in 1999, five hundred years after the original. Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, the Strife of Love in a Dream was translated by musicologist Joscelyn Godwin and typeset in Monotype Corporation's typeface "Poliphilus", a re-creation of Griffo's original. A smaller format paperback edition was published in February 2005." (Wikipedia)

From hand cut metal punch letters on fine, hand bound paper to a 2005 paperback.. a good story lives on.

A.T. said...

Nice point Mitch. Saving the expanse of time and context I don't see why not.

shelby said...

It is past 7, however considering we were notified the cutoff was at 7, at 6 pm...im going to continue posting anyway.

its interesting that mitch mentions the latin for Incunabula as "swaddling clothes"...Just the other day in my english lit class we were discussing the poetry of William Blake. In Blake's poem, "The Chimney Sweeper," he describes the devastating conditions that the poor deal with in England. Specifically, he focuses on the children who are treated like miniature adults. He says that children were swaddled so they couldn't move, to repress them from learning and experiencing the world. Blake thinks children are the muses and the angels of society and they should be cherished, not swaddled. Despite the fact that this strays a bit from what we have been discussing, i think it is relevant in that William Blake is not only a poet, but an artistic visionary. His illustrations for some of his poetry slightly remind me of illuminated manuscripts, although still lacking the elegance and ornate details...taken literally...they do brighten (illuminate) the manuscript (poetry).

John said...

responding to previous post about the presses and kerning. What i found interesting was the character count in some of the examples, like 5-13, 5-16, 6-4 and 6-5, which hovered near the alphabet and half mark or 39 a line. According to former professors and industry type, this is held as the gold standard for legibility and ease of reading: that the column widths be as long as 39 characters, regardless of font size.
And despite the passage of time, Germany as a country, still makes some of the better printing press, specifically companies like Koenig & Bauer, and MAN Roland.
In response to Mitch's comment about drumming: Has everyone seen the commercials for Head-On? the one where they constantly repeat the name of the product? Nice to see how far we've come from drumming indoctrinations. If light waves have the same physiological impact as sound waves, it nicely explains the branding era we’re going through. I say “Just” you say do it, and think swoosh. I say “i” you say, pod and think white.

A.T. said...

Thanks for keeping the thread going. A student didn't write the web's address properly and I extended the period. Like the guard in one of Kafka's tales I'm closing the gate right now.