Graphic design isn't just about a poster with pretty colors. In today's world of visual media, it affects way we choose our clothes and what food we eat.
The Hammer brings out everything from modern gadgets (lots of Mac products) to old-school methods (markers!) in its new exhibit “Graphic Design: Now in Production,” which presents graphic design and it's influence on various genres: posters, magazines, books, information design, branding, typography, storefronts and film and television titles.
The exhibit is organized by the Walker Art Center and the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum and features work dating back to 2000 that helps define exactly what graphic design means.
When first walking into the exhibit, you are overwhelmed by an array of neon colors and lights against white walls. On a screen are opening title sequences from television shows and films, such as The Number 23, Six Feed Under, Iron Man, Casino Royale and Dexter, which shows blood leaking into the opening credits.
In the next gallery, you see a wall of various large typefaces. The evolution of typeface design has evolved from the standard Cambria and Times New Roman to newer fonts like Adelle, a popular font used for text in newspapers and magazines. Its robust look is intended to make it easier to see each word, even at various print sizes.
The stop after that is branding. Armin Vit & Bryony Gomez-Palacio present a hands-on display that allow patrons to vote for the older or newer versions of logos from different companies. When I visited the exhibit, this display caught the attention of many attendees and even started some debates about whether the new or old GLAAD logo was better. A museumgoer dressed in black jeans and a chambray said, “I just don't get the new logo. It looks like it is for Radio Shack.” The man next to her said, “The old logo works because it's like we all come together to form one.”
The exhibit also gives patrons other opportunities to participate hands-on. Jürg Lehni's Empty Words Poster System is a paper cutter that was set up to punch out holes in poster paper that spell out words that attendees type, so they can take the posters home with them.
Various iMacs and iPads are set up to show the Santa Monica-based marketing company Radical Media's approach of graphic design through interactive music videos. Arcade Fire teamed up with the company (and Google Chrome) for its music video for “The Wilderness Downtown,” which allows the viewer to type in his or her home address and, while the song plays, the home and other places from the hometown is shown. The video also lets you write a message to your childhood self to display after the video.
Despite the large number of computers and televisions in the show, print is still present — it hasn't died yet. Artist Albert Exergian's “Iconic TV Series” display tests your pop culture knowledge with framed posters of famous images ranging from a cup of coffee from the show Friends to a thin black strand of hair in the shape of an M to represent Homer's hair from The Simpsons. The series demonstrates that we're able to recognize even obscure images from pop culture. Many can associate a picture of a dime bag with Showtime's Weeds just as a speakerphone on a desk is synonymous with Charlie's Angels.
Designer Anthony Burill uses graphic design to get across his philosophies on life. He uses letterpress to advertise his advice such as “Think of Your Own Ideas” and “Oil & Water Do Not Mix.” The words on the “Oil & Water Do Not Mix” poster are printed in oil from the BP oil spill that affected the Gulf Coast in 2010.
The show also explores information design, another branch on the graphic design tree, showing items such as charts displayed in Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth. Kai Krause's map of Africa places other regions of the world within a scaled outline of the continent, to show that Africa is bigger than most people assume.
Another example is David McCandless' Mountains out of Molehills graph, which examines media scares, showing the number of deaths associated with an event, the number of articles written about it and the predicted number of deaths that would occur. For example, it was predicted that in Britain's swine flu epidemic, over 60,000 people would die, when it fact only 702 deaths were reported.
“Graphic Design: Now in Production” conveys that graphic design is more than just cool images, but rather a multi-purpose arena withs lots of genres, all of which evolve as society does.
The exhibit runs through January 6.