Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Rhythm in Design - the music behind the art

Rhythm is the synchronicity that happens in good design when all the elements come together harmoniously. Your eye moves around the piece from point-to-point only to end up at the beginning again. Rhythm takes you on a guided tour of what should be noticed in the art.

How do you establish rhythm in design? It is similar to music - there is a visual "beat" to how you look at something. The beat could be color, color, TYPE, or PICTURE, picture, picture, LINE. Think of the design elements like counting beats in music, 1,2,3 or 1,2,3,4. There are half notes (pieces that are equally strong in color and type, for example.) And there are long notes, four full beats of a full page photo or just type. The "full beat" design is calculated to have you hang on the entire image and let it impact you. A good example is the think different Apple ad campaign (one example is the Yoko Ono and John Lennon ad below.)


Design is music in visual form. Whenever I am struck by the balance of a work I feel the 'music' behind the design. The rhythm creates the bones of the work to help guide the viewer. The Man with the Golden Arm poster, circa 1955, by the great designer Saul Bass is a wonderful example of "visual music." The pieces of the design dance on the page causing a vibration that varies from bold and sharp, to a light "melody" created by the type floating above the solid black elements.

I would love to ask various designers to show their work and see if they can remember what type of music they may have been listening to during the process of creating it (if any.) I think it would be an interesting experiment to see how the music may have influenced the visual rhythm of their work.

The next time you look at a great book cover, billboard or movie poster see if you can "hear" the design.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Nothing up my sleeve...

I have been having fun in the studio for the last few days. The process of creating and exploring new ideas is positively magical. I entered full of angst and worry, and I emerged…well I emerged!

Below is a new design I did for a t-shirt. The message is my friend's but I think it is so appropriate for the times. I am about to put the finishing touches on my new line of products and what is driving me is my belief in myself. To everyone who has a dream –

copyright Taylor Barnes © 2010

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Covert Affairs of Helvetica...

She is smart, sexy, blond, a CIA agent and her code name is "Helvetica?” During an episode of the new TV show, Covert Affairs, the lead character was given the code name "Helvetica." I was taken aback by the use of this font for something so dramatic and well… covert. Helvetica is anything but covert, as a matter of fact it is everywhere in our daily lives. Thanks to the wonderful documentary, Helvetica, the font now seems to be in the fashionable lexicon of hip words as well.

If you have not had the opportunity to watch this documentary, you can download it through iTunes and make an evening of it! To the uninitiated, a movie about a typeface may not sound too exciting but once you watch the film you will understand how much Helvetica is a part of your everyday life. Due to its newfound celebrity, Helvetica is even sexy enough to be the code name for a gorgeous, CIA agent. 

 I showed Helvetica the movie to my graphic design students who proceeded to go out into the world and send me photos of Helvetica in their everyday lives. The examples were endless. Perhaps my favorite tribute was the student that chose to dress as Helvetica for Halloween - a plain white t-shirt with the word 'Helvetica' on the front - written in Helvetica, non-italic, regular.

The power of the visual media in action once again. By shining a light on the unique qualities of what was once a very industrial font, Helvetica has become a typography star. This font now trumps all others in the common person’s vocabulary (maybe with the exception of Arial - a Helvetica clone I might add.) What of the gorgeous Garamond and the conservative Copperplate fonts of the world? Will they ever get their day? My suspicion is only one font can carry a movie and Helvetica was the lucky one.

Friday, August 6, 2010

There is a revolution going on...

Inception, released July 16, 2010, from Warner Bros. and directed by Christopher Nolan

If a shift in cultural thinking can be judged by the current art of our times then the new movie, Inception, starring Leonardo diCaprio, is a good barometer for the current shift in modern consciousness. Just as the cold war, LSD and cable TV made an impact on our culture, currently we have a society of virtual and corporal reality.

It seems that the 'gamer' mentality has finally been interpreted into a mass media event after MANY false starts. What is interesting about Inception is the generational divide it has caused among viewers. This has been covered liberally in the media recently but it was apparent to me before I read a word of it in the press. People over forty would tell me they could barely stay awake during the film anyone under thirty would say it was the most brilliant work they have seen on a movie screen.

The difference in opinion seems to stem from the fact that kids are comfortable with multiple levels of visual reality and a constantly changing landscape due to their orientation to playing video games. People that have never had that experience can feel lost and unnerved by the constantly shifting point of view in Inception.

I think we have reached another crossroads in the development of art in our culture. It will be awhile before this is fully interpreted and assimilated but there is the possibility that art and science are going to overlap more than they have in the recent past.

The United States as a culture has not valued the contribution of the arts in recent years and while the economy has plummeted that has become more the rule than the exception. Perhaps art will find its way back into cultural importance through the back door of science and computer programming. For now I am content to watch Inception and speculate on where this is all headed.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

On Being Brain Dead...

It is self-indulgent, egotistical and boring to write about your inability to come up with an idea to write but that is exactly what I am doing. 'Brain Dead' is the feeling I have when I search my brain for signs of life and nothing is there.

My focus is off - I am thinking about crafting with pictures, not words. But it could be that this blog post has been particularly difficult to write because I am sitting in the midst of my classroom, full of students who are antsy and ready to move on to some summer leisure. They are throwing comments with spitfire speed, and random associating ideas to the point that my head spins.

Which brings me to the point of this post - if you can't train yourself to hold one thought, and let it ferment with all of the other random knowledge in your mind, you will end up like me - right now - Brain Dead.

Focus - in a society that lauds multi-tasking, instant gratification and lightening speed communication, focus is in short supply. If I could market it I would be a millionaire! We are not going to slow down so I have to wonder how we are going to preserve artistry and craftsmanship? Will it become the loss of our technological age?

Lately I have been fascinated by the retro sci-fi look of shows such as Firefly and Warehouse 13 and the whole Steampunk movement. I love the "H.G. Wells meets our present society" concept. It seems that we have a desire to embrace the beauty of what we have created in the past and blend it with our future.

I have faith that we will get through this crush of technology and fashion a livable model where we maintain our humanity and use the tools of technology for "good and not evil."

Hmmmm - it seems I wasn't so Brain Dead after all. I guess I will have to re-title this post.

The photo above was taken from an article in Time Magazine about the Steampunk movement.

An image with a distinct Steampunk influence on the show Warehouse 13 on the SciFi channel.

Firefly is a short-lived, but classic sci-fi show by Joss Whedon - you can find it on Netflix.