28 February 2009

grad problems research : rhythm's role in graphic design

503A : project 1: Rhythm's Role in Graphic Design, brian prince

The purpose of the research in this paper is to develop a basis for proving how rhythm is the fifth element of graphic design, and furthermore, the most important element. Topics explored herein include: life’s rhythm and the responsibility of the designer to be in touch with everyday human behavior; and the parallels between designer and music composer, designer and poet, and their roles as authors.

To critique graphic design, the academy usually breaks the art down into four descriptive categories, what I’ll call the four elements of graphic design: scale, color, typography and image. All important in the design process, each element brings a necessary cornerstone to a solid design. But, what I’ve discovered as a Graphic Designer, is that those elements need an emotional tie to make them effective to the audience. That emotional tie is rhythm. The designer as author has to understand A) the process: be as involved as possible in the initial research of a design problem in order to add real value, and B) the emotion: has to understand its readership as if they were the reader and be able to control what they are viewing.

The designers role IS rhythms role, making the relationship between content and the reader a synergetic harmony.

To be in tune with the viewer (reader/audience), the author must understand their needs. Articulating their needs into an effective, strong result is the challenge. This is where rhythm comes in. The term, human-centered design sprouts out of this very idea. It starts in the research, which can be as complicated as understanding the mind sets of a people group you’ve never encountered to as simple as a familiar everyday experience. The end user’s experience is the goal in mind. If you’re not pushing the right buttons at the right time, you will be out of tune and left with ineffective communication. The designer must become the ethnographer in every design problem he faces. In an article titled, Impact: Inspiring Graphic Design through Human Behavior, (Ia. ch. 21) the authors and principles of a design firm, IDEO, break down their fundamental step of the design process: contextual observations – getting into the environment, hands-on, personal interviews; and analogous experiences – loosely related, but inspiring to the project topic.

Design thinking should be immersed in the rhythm of the subject.

IDEO finds human-centered research to be inspiring to design. While I agree with that, I also feel that it is the basis for good design. It is the designers job to observe, organize, and tell the story appropriately in order to create effective communication. In order to obtain rhythm, the designer must embrace all three. Directly or indirectly, communication is persuading the reader to believe in something. Assuming you are in your target market, or playing the right sport on the right field, this persuasion plays the same role whether you’re translating music, poetry, or visual communication, all equally important.

Now that I’ve discovered how important the relationship between the content and the reader is, the responsibility of the author is greater than ever. To illustrate that, I first explored the similarities between an electronic music composer and a designer. When I say electronic music composer, I mean as in music producer, not wedding or radio disc jockey. The most obvious similarity is that they are both arrangers as opposed to creators. Ultimately something new is created in the end because each arrangement is unique, but the content was not from scratch. Rather than just playing someone else’s record, a good composer/producer carefully selects, combines and manipulates different parts of records into new compositions that differ substantially from the source materials. (II. pg. 33) I can easily swap out the title Composer/Producer with Graphic Designer or Poet in that statement and it would work just the same.

Granted the many levels of music, production, genres and sub-genres, the relationship I’m analyzing is between the electronic music composer—one who samples other music but creates a new rhythm, the poet—one who takes a dictionary of words as reference to create a new structured rhythm, and the designer—one who uses elements relevant to the subject in need of communication. Electronic music rarely has vocals and poetry rarely has music behind it, while design is mainly viewed with the eyes. Despite all three authors depending on different senses to absorb their message, they are all grounded in rhythm.

Rhythm is an absolute when articulating the patterns of each author. Each can feed off each other and still work in harmony because they all contain the common denominator: rhythm. Each has a duty to be a descriptive rhythmic pace-setter. As lyrics add another dimension to music, images add depth to words, and so on. And as mentioned earlier, the audience is a crucial factor in the effectiveness. Professional writers demand a reader, electronic music composers demand a dancer, and graphic designers demand a viewer. There are so many parallels between the three authorships, even in their evolution of tools. Music can be made with an instrument or electronically, while poetry can be written or typed and graphic design, drawn or computer generated. To me, these author-playing comparisons are important when exploring rhythm because when you align anything with music and poetry, you automatically associate movement and flow. I feel those associations are lost when thinking of graphic design because of either A) the eyes can’t sing or, B) design is perceived as the stand still medium.

Just as an electronic music producer can change up a beat, or a poet can break up a line to control pace, the designer can enhance the meaning of of a message by attaching emotion to their design. If rhythm was absent, we’d have loud monotone high pitches on the dance floor, unruly, page-full novel-lengthed poetry, and design consisting of only the four basic elements.
Max Bill once said in reference to one of his Bauhaus colleagues, Josef Albers, “Each picture has a unique ‘sound’, and this ‘sound’ is its ‘meaning’, each ‘tone’ finds it atonement.’”

to download the pdf click ://here.

Ia. Bennett, Audrey. “Impact: Inspiring Graphic Design Through Human Behaviors.” Design Studies: Theory and Research in Graphic Design, A Reader. Ed. Givechi, Groulx, Woollard.
New York, NY: Princeton Architectural Press, 2006. 306-310.

Ib. Bennett, Audrey. “Shaping Belief: The Role of Audience in Visual Communication.” Design Studies: Theory and Research in Graphic Design, A Reader. Ed. Tylor, Ann C.
New York, NY: Princeton Architectural Press, 2006. 36-50.

II. Butler, Mark J. Unlocking the Groove: Rhythm, Meter, and Musical Design in Electronic Dance Music. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2006.

III. Herford, Marta. Max Bill: No Beginning, No End.
Zurich: Scheidegger & Spiess, 2008.

27 February 2009

special studies research : structuring rhythm

483A : project 1 : Structuring Rhythm, brian prince

Rhythm is everywhere.

It’s hard to put it in a box. From brushing our teeth to writing a love note, human life requires rhythm. Rhythm is a looping pattern. It’s a repetitive movement or procedure with uniformed recurrence of a beat, accent, or the like. But not always.

In search for rhythm’s origin, the list tops with music and poetry — music, for it’s pattern of regular or irregular pulses consisting of strong and weak melodies and har monies; and poetry, for it’s rhyming patterns and line breaks. Rhythm and Blues can almost be classified as both put together. But what does Rhythm and Blues look like? Often overlooked is visual rhythm, a rhythm that is not sound and a foot-tapping instigator, but a rhythm that enters through your eyes. As the idea of Rhythm is so big, this paper will break down a few elements in which I believe make up the structure of rhythm, or rhythm’s behind-the-scenes blueprint. I chose to explore visual patterns, deconstruction, the grid, and syntax in the context of graphic design’s general flow.

While studying wallpaper, my mind was opened to the endless variations in which pattern can be viewed. It was at this beginning point that I realized how big of a concept pattern is. At first impression, my thoughts were that patterns are only decorative characteristics, space-fillers, serving to only please an asthetic and not a design function, when really, they are much more complicated than that. Wallpaper originated from a practical, utilitarian function in tapestries which where used to keep the drafts out of upper classmen’s palaces. The intricate and dramatic designs were symbols of royalty. It’s no wonder that floral embellishments have made their way back into design. Ornate flourishing is in itself creating rhythm and “the structural analysis of pattern is central to modern design theory.” (I. pg. 185) Just as in ancient patterns on wall coverings that flow from a central motif, today the practice of pattern-making shares the same artistic values spawning from a central core. Pattern starts with the very simplest of marks. It progressively gets more and more complicated as you manipulate and duplicate the mark. Whether it’s a dot or an single ornate flower, it’s a combination inter-weaved together which forms a texture greater than itself. With the simplist of tweaks, the texture can be read completely different. To me, that’s the power of rhythm.

Contrary to creating a pattern, deconstruction takes complexities and simplifies them to their purest form. This too is a valid contribution to the structure of rhythm. The act of deconstruction is defining the individual parts of the original. Going backward or deeper into ones research will result in the undiluted beginnings. It’s like reading a definition to a word you don’t know, but then finding words in that definition that you don’t know, so you find yourself looking up a deeper meaning. This also plays on the idea that with the slightest of tweaks, something completely new can be created. In graphic design this is important because when I deal with the source, I’m able to communicate more efficiently. Breaking down an idea or the logic of a given problem allows the designer to anaylize the literal applications and origins as opposed to studying a translation. In order to study visual rhythm in the sense of graphic design, it’s important to understand deconstruction. It allows me to re-examine what I read or what I’ve heard and listen to the details “rather than the traditional scholarly labor of excavation.” (II. pg. 3) The way language is strung together using text is essentially impure. Examing text on its own makes a clear argument for itself and truly allows for an open sight of the big picture. A famous poet and painter from the Beat generation, Brion Gysin, explained that no one owns words. Anyone from anywhere can put together any words and they become their own. He also devised the cut-up method of poetry which is taking existing writings, cutting them as to rearranging them, thus creating your own. Text is concealed by language and we have to abuse it in order to find the original. This applies to graphic design in a huge way considering we are merely designers arranging already-created elements onto a page. Deconstruction also teaches me to liberate the true meaning of a problem. If I were to borrow an element or a typographic style, I better know where it’s coming from. I can’t just say I like it because I think it’s cool. The greatest thing about graphic design is that we always create something new in the end because the arrangement will more than likely be unique.

The third element covering the structure of rhythm is the foundation for all graphic design elements, the grid. The grid is the very casing in which scale, color, type and image are held. These are the fundamental elements in design but I’ve always felt that it’s more than that. The purpose of my research of the grid in regards to rhythm is to illustrate how rhythm affects the four concrete fundamental elements with an emotion. The placement of content in the structure of a grid creates a harmony with the reader and the content. Not only does this apply to a single layout on a single page, but can relate to something as minimal as the strokes in a logo to something as broad as a large text book. The grid may seem like a universal uniform that is very rigid and unforgiving, but the reality is it allows for the most fluid, freeing kind of work. It’s all about how you use it. If you were to translate a newspaper spread like the Stocks section into music, you might get a very rapid and busy monotone, but a magazine article might sing to you in scale and white space. This is rhythm in a still space. This is the freedom the grid allows the designer. Appropriately, Andy Warhol says, “Space is all one space and thought is all one thought, but my mind divides its spaces into spaces and thoughts into thoughts into thoughts. Like a large condominium.” When you can accomplish balance and flow in a rhymic way, you capture your audience. I believe the reader needs highs and lows to get excited and to take a break from the content. Just like life, communication needs rhythm. When you open a book the story doesn’t normally begin until about the tenth page. There is a syntactic build up that gets you there. By definition, syntax is a system or orderly arrangement. A pattern or language, more or less, is the confinement of design, but how you deconstruct and arrange it is the rhythm.

In order to liberate rhythm in graphic design, I believe it needs to be taught as one of the major elements in graphic design. From complicating to simplifying, from restricting to liberating, graphic design has the vitality of life and their common denominator is rhythm.

As the elements discussed in this paper function in our daily lives, so does rhythm. In my attempt to divide rhythm into these categories it’s really just a scratch on the surface. I felt that defining the structure would set up a good argument in defining rhythm in the graphic design world. What I really discovered is that it’s merely impossible to structure rhythm when rhythm structures everything.

to download the pdf click ://here.

I. Lupton, Ellen & Phillips, Jennifer Cole. Graphic Design the New Basics.
New York, NY: Princeton Architectural Press, 2008.

II. Wigley, Mark. The Architecture of Deconstruction: Derrida’s Haunt.
Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1993.

III. Tufte, Virginia. Artful Sentences: Syntax as Style.
Cheshire, CT: Graphics Press LLC, 2006.

IV. Weiss, Jason. Back in No Time: The Brion Gysin Reader.
Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2001.

23 February 2009

inspirational discoveries.

i came across some cool stuff on the Web today and wanted to share:


g-speak overview 1828121108 from john underkoffler on Vimeo.

a house designed to challenge growing old

the NY Times article.
watch the video.

13 February 2009

hip hop poetics symposium.

my brother-in-law and i visited Fullerton College yesterday to listen to an interesting panel discussion regarding hip hop and poetry called, "What Counts as Writing: Rap, Spoken Word, and the Politics of Poetics." there were 3 panel members: Dr. Mel Donaldson, professor at Cal State LA; Eric Morago, performance poet; and an english professor from the college.

the topic questions revolving around the panel were: What is the difference between rap, spoken word and performance poetry? Is there a place for any/all of the above in the creative writing/composition/literature classroom?

i found it informative just because of my interest in poetry and now with my new direction of rhythm's role in design. i also enjoyed how they brought it into the realm of academia, because i feel that is very important as one day i will be teaching. most importantly, i find so many parallels with creative writing and graphic design and this is just another resource for me to prove that. the process and definition of poetry and spoken word, the performance of poetry, hip hop and cinema, lie in the very same pool of design and the author's responsibility.

a point that caught my attention is the question of who are we expressing this art to and why do the powers-that-be pick and choose what happens in the academy. why is charles bukowski talked about in school, but not today's hip hop degradation of women? something to think about.

the one line that i'm taking from this 2 hour panel discussion will be huge as i think further toward my thesis goal. stated by Billy Collins: This art of expression should "not only be accessible, but hospitable."

i find that totally relative to the design pollution we see in our society.

to spice up this post, here's eric morago, slam poet:

10 February 2009

Antoine Bardou-Jacquet: video for Alex Gopher.

this pretty much goes with everything i'm doing RIGHT NOW. the power of words/type, allowing the reader to interpret the design for themselves rather than have it told. the artist here is truly giving the viewer the freedom to form their own images with the type descriptions yet the storyline is still the same. it's freakin brilliant. not to mention my recent studies on electronic dance music and rhythm that is able to be translated in another medium.

video created by Antoine Bardou-Jacquet for the french dj Alex Gopher. a world made only with typographics. cult video for fonts lovers and graphic designers.

08 February 2009

503A: grad problems 2009: study plan.

i'm taking a slightly different approach with my grad problems study plan. since my professor is very proficient with the Web, i plan to do a couple Web based projects and i hope to learn the basics of CSS while i'm seeking advisement from him.

overall direction: to understand rhythm's role in design. this requires me to seek out rhythm in its most native or obvious vehicle: music. and dance i suppose. (Rhythm – which is not only heard but can be seen in the uniform movements of the dancing crowd.) i plan to do some experimentation with sound and silence in respects to the author-reader relationship. specifically analyzing certain rhythms and their emotional outcomes.

projects to be completed: 1) research paper, 2) Web-based sound/silent experiments, 3) poster project, and 4) final Web exhibit.

so, with these two classes, i have my work cut out. last week i built a great bibliography to feed my two papers. i'm excited to start putting together the pieces in my rhythm research.

05 February 2009

483A: special studies 2009: study plan.

plans changed a bit this semester. i will only be taking two classes, leaving ART 478 Studio Expanded for spring 2010. the class is super cool and will be very beneficial, but i just don't have what it takes to fulfill three demanding courses right now. besides, it will be perfect to take it along side my 500B, which is my artist intent course and will come in perfect timing to prepare for my show.

moving on... spring 2009 will consist of a special studies with Abeyta and grad problems with Wang. each course required me to devise a study plan. this blog is an introduction to what will happen (tentatively) in 483A:

overall direction: embrace design fundamentals such as the grid, deconstruction, patterns (wallpaper, etc...), patterns (flow, syntax, etc...), the time line, the study of soundwaves in the visual and the relationship between their effects and emotion.

projects to be completed: 1) research paper, 2) 45 Album artwork, 3) book, 4) logo, posters, and 5) final exhibit.

i'm exhausted just writing that down. all elements above will follow my research in context as well as content. i'm on my way to defining rhythm's role in graphic design. i'll be back soon to post the study plan for my 503A with Wang.