Category Archives: Graphic Design

Steal like an Artist: A Review

10801751_551350698335094_3437536682752532696_nOne of the things we are told as creatives is to be original in our work.  Problem is, there is no longer anything left that is original.  This is seen in our movies (The Lion King is basically Hamlet), our music (different lyrics but same messages), and our art (everything after 1970 is Postmodernism, and in some ways reflect past art styles).

However, this is not necessarily a bad thing.  It actually allows us to experiment and learn from past works as we move forward. Steal like an Artist is full of creative practices and exercises to get your creativity flowing.  These exercises can benefit anyone, not just creative types. I’ve read books like this in the past that had no visuals, and it was both mentally and physically draining. Not so with this book!  It contains lots of pictures and is very visual.  In addition, the reading is light and not overwhelming.


Steal Like an Artist only took me a day to read (and I’m a slow reader). So if you have time, check it out — you may find inspiration hiding in the pages.

Be nice, be creative, and steal like an artist!

Remember the Olympics?

The 2012 London Olympics wrapped up last week.  While most casual sports fans have already recovered from their small case of Olympic fever, hardcore sports fanatics may still be nursing their Olympics hangover.  Don’t despair — as usual, the library has you covered.  These Olympics-related books and DVDs should help you feel better in no time.

Otl Aicher was an influential German designer, as this collection of his work shows.  The book includes a fascinating chapter on Aicher’s groundbreaking design work for the ill-fated 1972 Munich Olympics.  From posters to signage to color schemes, Aicher’s designs  complement each other and create an overall visual identity.  The pictograms he created to represent events would later become the basis of commonly-used symbols, such as male/female restrooms, “no swimming”, etc.

A single photograph can truly do wonders to capture the pure emotions of the Olympic Games.  Andy Steel’s collection of sports and action photography is excellent.  It includes a short bio and interview with each photographer as well as full-page color images.  While all of the shots in this book are stunning, check out the work of Ezra Shaw and Tom Jenkins to see great Olympic images from recent years.

Admittedly, some of us were watching the London Olympics in hopes of catching a glimpse of Britain’s biggest fashion celebrities in the stands.  For those fans, Anglomania is a great book.  It’s a collection of photos from the Metropolitan Museum of Art that takes a creative approach to showing how British fashion has changed over the past few centuries.  Modern fashion pieces are displayed in time period-themed rooms, marking the similarities and differences in culture and fashion.  It’s a must for any fan of British fashion.

At its core, the Olympics are a display of the marvelous feats the human body is capable of performing.  The National Geographic special Incredible Human Machine explores the science of how an athlete’s body is able to accomplish what they do, as well as the amazing things our bodies do for us regular folks on a daily basis.  As it turns out, the act of breathing is just as fascinating as running a triathalon, and way less tiring.

Major Literature

Summertime and reading a good book seem to go hand in hand.  If the only book you’ve picked up in the last few months is a textbook, it’s time to come to the library and pick up your own summer reading book.  The following great reads are as unique as the programs offered on our campus.

Chuck Palahniuk’s book Invisible Monsters will wake you up from the boredom of constant textbook reading.  This book, from the author of Fight Club, follows a fashion model who is horribly disfigured in a freak auto accident.  Her downward spiral and self-discovery as she travels across the country with a drag queen and his companion will keep your eyes glued to the page.  Along with all the unpredictable twists and turns, you’ll find a story that deals with the harsh realities of gender and beauty.

Swinging from one end of the heroine spectrum to the other, Charlotte Bronte’s classic novel Jane Eyre is the epitome of the Victorian novel.  While the soap opera-esque plot revolving around the downtrodden, self-proclaimed “plain” Jane and the brooding, mysterious Mr. Rochester is reason enough to read this book, we confess that the cover art is our favorite part.  It was designed by designer Coralie Bickford-Smith as part of Penguin’s Clothbound Classics series.  This is one situation where it’s perfectly okay to judge a book by its cover.

The idea of expressing love through food takes on special meaning in Laura Esquivel’s book Like Water for Chocolate.  The book tells the story of the De La Garza family and the enduring yet forbidden love between Tita and Pedro.  However, food is the driving force of this novel: the characters infuse their meals with love, sadness, or whatever emotion they are feeling while cooking, producing intense results for those who eat it.  It’s a magical tale of the power of food in everyday life.

If you were ever a moody teenage girl, and haven’t read Sylvia Plath’s semi-autobiographical novel The Bell Jar, you have some required reading to do.  Esther, a summer intern at a top fashion magazine in New York City, becomes deeply depressed and disillusioned with life, eventually attempting suicide.  After several tries, Esther finally meets a doctor who helps her fight the crippling depression that nearly cost her her life.  Plath’s coming-of-age novel puts a spotlight not only on clinical depression, but also on the problematic way creative women are treated in our society.

World Showcase: Japan

Japan’s vibrant, fascinating culture has had a definite effect on American design and culture.  Just take a look at a few of these items in the library to get a taste of Japanese style.

Fruits is a popular magazine with fashion students on campus, but did you know it is also a book?  The library has two collections of the best photos ever to grace the pages of this quirky Japanese street fashion magazine.  The wild combination of vintage trends with kids couture somehow ends up looking pretty cool.  While the look may seem pretty extreme, it has subtly influenced contemporary American style, most notably Gwen Stefani’s Harajuku Girls collection.

Famous chef Takashi Yagihashi has made Japanese noodles a hot commodity.  You may remember seeing Takashi on the late-night talk show circuit a while ago promoting his book,
Takashi’s Noodles, based on his successful NYC restaurant.  If you’re a lover of ramen noodles, or really noodles in general, you’ll fall in love with the simple, tasty recipes in this book.  It’s comfort food at its Japanese finest.

More and more, the trend in interior design has shifted towards a minimal, clean look.  It’s a style that has been perfected by the Japanese for centuries.  Japan Style is great for the interior designer looking for inspiration on simple yet functional style.  The captions and descriptions of the model houses included give the reader history on aspects of Japanese style as well as ideas as to how to make items more functional in a small space.

Neo Japanesque Graphics is a treat for graphic design students.  The designs included in the book put a modern spin on traditional Japanese design motifs. Additionally, it gives design examples using a variety of different commercial mediums, including packaging, letterhead, calendars, etc.  It’s a good example of the clash between old and new Japanese style.

Reference Check

One section of the library that often gets overlooked is the reference section. It really is the best-kept secret of the library. The reference books are so good, we keep them here so they’re always available. We simply couldn’t live without these books, and I bet once you starting looking around back there, you’ll feel the same way.
If you’re a fashion student, one of the coolest books you’ll ever use is The Denim Bible. It’s an encyclopedia of all things fashion denim, including brand names, trade techniques, and style trends. In addition, it includes entries for industry terms related to the manufacture of denim textiles and garments. If you’re working on a project related to sportswear and jeans, make this resource your first stop when beginning your research.

Artist’s & Graphic Designer’s Market is a valuable tool for artists looking for freelance jobs. The directory includes listings for galleries, magazine/book publishers, advertising agencies, even poster and greeting card companies! Entries provide contact information, a brief description of what the company is looking for, and how to submit your work for consideration. For the young creative professional, this book is a vital source of information when starting your career.

Interior design research often means wading through the myriad of design styles and variations. It can be frustrating trying to find a book that has both good background information and great pictures. If you’ve found yourself in this situation, take a look at The Abrams Guide to Period Styles for Interiors.  Not only does this guide do a good job at organizing styles and periods into easy-to-read units, it also provides beautiful full-color pictures for every style.

Encyclopaedia of Typefaces is just what the title implies — an encyclopedia of type.  This classic typography reference contains examples, descriptions, and the history behind hundreds of classic fonts. It also includes an index of important type designers. While this guide is a great guide for standard fonts, it does not include modern fonts that are products of the technology era. So while you’ll find Times New Roman in this book, you certainly won’t find Comic Sans in this book (thank goodness).

A common assignment for culinary students is to write a report about a fruit or vegetable.  Since there aren’t many books out there about the mighty kiwi, you may want to take a look at Vegetables, Herbs & Fruit: An Illustrated Encyclopedia. This encyclopedia of produce has almost every fruit, vegetable and herb imaginable, including exotic items not usually found in the grocery store. Entries include the cultural history of the item as well as nutrition and common uses. Make your chef proud and use this book for your next report.


Poster Art and Design

From music to movies to politics, poster design is critical to getting a message across to a wide number of people.  Poster art has its own particular style, and is diverse as any other design medium.  The Art Institute of Michigan Library has a nice collection of books on poster art.  You should come in and look at them!

In recent years, the rock poster has experienced a sort of artistic renaissance.  Two books that give testament to this fact are Art of Modern Rock: The Poster Explosion and Gig Posters: Rock Show Art of the 21st Century.  These books have beautiful full-color illustrations of rock posters for famous actbands of the late 20th – early 21st century.  If you’re interested in pursuing design for the music industry, or just a fan of cool show posters, you’ll definitely want to stop in and take a look at these titles.

Are movies more your thing?  The library has a nice collection of movie poster books covering the earliest days of movies up to the end of the 20th century.  For posters from the early days of cinema, take a look at Now Playing: Hand-Painted Poster Art from the 1910s through the 1950s or Starstruck: Vintage Movie Posters From Classic Hollywood.  If you are curious about movie posters from a specific decade, check out Tony Nourmand and Graham Marsh’s series.  Their book on horror posters is also great for fans of that genre.  If you are interested in movie poster art from world cinema, pick up Art of the Modern Movie Poster: International Postwar Style and Design.

As long as government and politics has existed, political posters have existed.  The library has a great selection of political and propaganda posters from around the world, including China, Cuba, Latin America, and the USSR.  We also have political poster books from American history, including Design for Obama and Agitate! Educate! Organize!: American Labor Posters.  Finally, if you’re interested in social protest posters, you may like the designs collected in The Design of Dissent.

What books are on your ideal bookshelf?

Ideal Bookshelf is a project by artist Jane Mount. The artist paints people’s ideal bookshelves as a new type of portrait: “a way to illustrate who the subject is on the inside instead of out”. It’s a beautiful idea, and her “portraits” are amazing.

What books would be on your ideal bookshelf? At a library, it is so difficult to pick just a few. We have so many meaningful books about art, design, photography, business, culinary arts… each one is special. For inspiration to choose your own ideal bookshelf, above is Jane Mount’s Ideal Bookshelf 275: Design. Many of the titles depicted are available here at the library:

(un)Fashion – Tibor Kalman

Interaction of Color – Josef Albers

The Campana Brothers: Complete Works (So Far)

Phaidon Design Classics

Things I Have Learned in My Life So Far – Stefan Sagmeister

Home is Where the Heart is – Ilse Crawford

Josef Muller-Brockmann –  Kerry William Purcell

Eames design : the work of the Office of Charles and Ray Eames – John Neuhart, Marilyn Neuhart, Ray Eames

Alexander Girard designs for Herman Miller – Leslie Pina

Helvetica : homage to a typeface – Lars Muller

Graphic Design Pioneer Passes Away

Steinweiss album cover (Image from New York Times Article)

Alex Steinweiss, one of the first designers of record album art, has passed away. Click here to read the full story at the New York Times web site.

Movie titles

The article, “If There Was an Oscar for Film Title,” from the New York Times, will surely appeal to any graphic designer or typography junkie, especially with the Academy Awards ceremony only a few days away. In it, the author suggests films from the past year that, in her opinion, should be nominated for “Best Film Title,” if such a category existed. Do you agree with the author’s choices? What is your favorite opening title sequence from a film?

If you want more information about film title sequences, stop by the library and check out Uncredited: Graphic Design & Opening Titles in Movies. This book discusses the art and significance of dozens of opening titles from films over the last century. It also comes with a DVD so you can view many of the titles discussed in the book. You may also want to check out Bass on Titles, a DVD in which Saul Bass (arguably the greatest opening title designer ever) talks about his work on some of Hollywood’s greatest productions.