22 JULY, 2013

Play Press: Design Firms Open for Business

We are pleased to be among the forty-four design firms interviewed for Steven Heller and Lita Talarico’s new book from Allworth Press. Although largely drawn from America—and, in particular, New York—the book is international in scope and includes designers from Australia, Canada, England, Germany, Israel, Italy, Japan, The Netherlands, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, and Switzerland.

The other San Francisco designer included in Design Firms Open for Business is our CCA colleague Jennifer Morla. (Jennifer is in the “Medium Firms” section; as a two-person entity we qualify as “Small.”)

Download the interview as a PDF.

10 JUNE, 2013

Play Press: Design: Portfolio

Two of our self-promotional pieces are included in this new book published by Rockport and authored by Craig Welsh. Design: Portfolio features our web announcement for the Design is Play site—foil stamped on playing cards by Frank La at Oscar Printing—and our 2010 New Year’s card—letterpress printed by Chip Forman, now at The Ligature.

Both of these projects can be seen at Design is Play Studio Systems.

20 MAY, 2013

Play Press: Graphis Design Annual 2013

Our March Pantry Packaging System received a Gold award in the new Graphis Design Annual—a full page is devoted to our oil and vinegar packaging for the San Francisco retailer. We are one of only 70 firms featured, and are proud to be in the company of our friends and colleagues Michael Vanderbyl, Kit Hinrichs, and Michael Schwab.

See our work to date for March Pantry under Design is Play Studio Systems.

25 MARCH, 2013

Play Press: New Modernist Type

Two of our pieces are featured in Steven Heller’s latest book published by Thames & Hudson. Co-authored with Gail Anderson, New Modernist Type is an international showcase of contemporary graphic design that reinterprets the typographic tenets of Modernism. Perhaps not surprisingly, our work is included in the Meta Modern section which is subtitled “Typography as Icon and Symbol.” Our screen printed poster Getting Upper (see the 14 March, 2011 plog entry) is included, as well as the landing page image of the word “play” from our site, which was photographed by Annie Chen.

4 FEBRUARY, 2013

Play Press: Typography 33

We are pleased to note that our March Pantry Packaging System is featured in the 33rd Annual of The Type Directors Club. Of the 1,600 competition entries from 33 countries, 223 were selected for publication by the jury. (The March Pantry Packaging System also appeared in the October 2012 online edition of Wallpaper* Magazine.)

See our work to date for March Pantry under Design is Play Studio Systems.

7 JANUARY, 2013

Play Press: Communication Arts 2013 Typography Annual

Savory design: kosher salt jars featuring the March Pantry identity are included in the recent Communication Arts 2013 Typography Annual. (We screen printed our design in metallic ink on glass apothecary jars.) Of the 1,934 competition entries, 154 were selected for publication by the jury.

See our work to date for March Pantry under Design is Play Studio Systems.

11 DECEMBER, 2012

Play Press: University of California monogram

When the general public became aware that a new UC monogram had been launched to represent the University of California and its ten campuses, San Francisco Chronicle staff writer Carolyn Jones contacted me for an opinion.

Both Angie and I earned degrees from the University of California: Angie has a degree in Japanese from UC Berkeley, and I have a degree in Fine Arts from UCLA. As alumni of the UC system, the new monogram represented us—as well as hundreds of thousands of other alumni, current students, and faculty.

While I understand that the University of California needs a new symbol separate from its historic “seal,” the proposed monogram was not the appropriate solution. Branding statements or strategy documents become moot when the resulting visual identity doesn’t accurately reflect the company or institution, or “speaks” in the wrong “voice.”

The pedagogic approach of the Graphic Design department at the California College of the Arts in San Francisco where we teach is predicated on the idea of critique. Work is judged, publicly. I encourage my students to ask the following questions so that they can determine for themselves the merits of their work. For example:
Who is the audience?
What is the intended message?
Is it the right message?
How successfully does the piece communicate the intended message?
What elements contribute to the piece’s successful communication?
What elements detract from it?
Are there unintended messages?

The San Francisco Chronicle article ran on the front page on Tuesday, December 11, 2012. My comments were offered from the perspective of an instructor who believes that informed, perceptive critique can only sharpen—and thus benefit—the practice of graphic design in our culture. My quotes from the article are below. [MF]

“Utterly forgettable”

Mark Fox, a graphic design professor at California College of the Arts who designed that school’s logo and has done work for UC in the past, panned the new effort.

“The visual language is generic, commercial and utterly forgettable,” he said. “It is a complete mismatch for the university's history and reputation. (It) has no visual or conceptual gravitas.”

A good logo should be distinct and memorable, create positive associations, reflect well on the company and work easily and inexpensively in all media, he said.

“The new UC logo,” Fox said, “fails in most of the above criteria.”

The entire article by Carolyn Jones can be found here. Three days after the article ran the University of California withdrew its support for the new symbol.

30 JULY, 2012

Play Press: Graphis New Talent 2012

We are always thrilled when our students’ work from CCA is honored by inclusion in an international competition. The recent Graphis New Talent annual features the work of four students from Mark’s “Graphic Design 1: Foundation” class: Amy Compeau, Kelly Kusumoto, Vincent Romero, and May Wong.

One of the winning projects is pictured above: May Wong’s poster for an exhibition of Richard Avedon’s work. According to May, the aesthetic of her poster is “inspired by Avedon’s minimalist black and white portraits. The lens from a Rolleiflex camera becomes a representation of his incisive eye for photography and how he captures his subject’s personality from a different perspective.” We must note that May shot her own photography for this poster, one of the parameters of the assignment.

CCA colleagues Bob Aufuldish and Alysha Naples also had student work selected for publication, and we congratulate them and their students for this honor.

See more examples of student poster design under Design is Play Classroom Posters.

5 MARCH, 2012

Play Press: Graphis Logo 8

Four mongrams and one icon system we created are included in the new logo design anthology curated by Graphis. Included are symbols for BlackDog, CCA’s Graphic Design BBQ, Four Barrel Coffee, and Group MB, as well as a system of icons we designed for Wired Magazine’s iPad app. The BlackDog monogram is a Platinum award winner, one of only ten.

The work of a number of our CCA colleagues is included in Graphis Logo Design 8 as well, including symbols designed by Jennifer Jerde and Scott Hesselink of Elixir Design, Christopher Simmons of Mine, and Michael Vanderbyl of Vanderbyl Design. This volume also features an interview with our friend—and Mark’s “boss” in 1985—Michael Schwab. Michael is one of the few designers we know of who still uses a Koh-I-Noor Rapidograph inking pen in the development of his final art.

See more examples of our trademark designs under Design is Play Studio Symbols.

9 JANUARY, 2012

Play Press: Communication Arts 2012 Typography Annual

We are pleased to note that our March Pantry Packaging System is featured in Communication Arts 2012 Typography Annual. Of the 1,723 competition entries, 150 were selected for publication by the jury.

Check back soon for the complete March Pantry project in our Studio Systems section.

5 DECEMBER, 2011

Play Press: 2011 Print Regional Design Annual

The Far West category in Print’s 31st Regional Design Annual was judged by Brigitta Bungard, Assistant Creative Director in the Museum of Modern Art’s Department of Advertising and Graphic Design. Fortunately for us, Brigitta responded to work that she believed demonstrated “a sense of craft,” and she chose three of our pieces to represent our region: an elephant icon we created for BO.LT, the CCA CraftForward symposium announcement, and our own announcement for the Design is Play website launch.

We were also quoted in the issue. In case you missed it:

Q: What visual stereotype would you eliminate from the Bay Area?

A: San Francisco, like any urban American center, is rife with folks who excel at using software to alter and recombine found images. Our culture would be richer without the ensuing visual mash-ups. They are ultimately cannibalistic. As instructors, we insist that our students create all of the imagery they work with in our classes. They shoot their own photographs, generate their own drawings, and hand-ink their symbols. We want our students to become designers who will elevate the visual culture.

We are pleased to note that a number of our CCA colleagues are also represented in the Far West category: Christopher Simmons of Mine, Michael Vanderbyl of Vanderbyl Design, and Cinthia Wen of Noon. Sputnik, CCA’s in-house undergraduate graphic design studio, is honored as well.

See the BO.LT icon under Design is Play Studio Symbols; the CCA CraftForward symposium announcement under Design is Play Studio Systems; and the Design is Play website announcement under Design is Play Studio Systems.

14 NOVEMBER, 2011

Play at RE:DESIGN / Creative Directors, 11.07.2011 (part 2)

“There is ecstasy in paying attention.” —Anne Lamott

Some of the interrelated themes we explored at the RE:DESIGN / Creative Directors conference earlier this month were notions of detail, craft, and tempo. In both our studio practice as well as in our classes at California College of the Arts, we strive to create and foster work that is the result of disciplined focus. Angie’s class, in particular, stresses attention to typographic detail.

In the act of reading, all of us are accustomed to seeing letters (and words) as discrete units of meaning; as a result, we are unaccustomed to paying attention to the nuanced details of individual letterforms. (And for good reason! Paying attention to these details impedes the process of reading.) Angie’s second assignment requires her students to create abstract compositions with the dissected forms and counterforms of letter anatomy. The nature of the assignment leads her students to focus on the very details of letterform design that are typically overlooked. These small, revelatory moments of seeing—fulfillments of Josef Albers’ teaching dictum “I want the eyes to open”—are essential to the development of any competent designer.

The images above show Jeff Lin at work and a finished composition by Constance Smith, two students in Angie’s Fall, 2011 class. See more examples of abstract typographic compositions under Design is Play Classroom Letters.

24 OCTOBER, 2011

Play Press: Typography Sketchbooks

We are pleased to be among the designers whose work is featured in Steven Heller’s latest book published by Princeton Architectural Press. Co-authored with Lita Talarico, Typography Sketchbooks reproduces the private sketchbook pages and working drawings of more than ninety of the world’s leading designers and typographers, including our CCA colleagues Bob Aufuldish of Aufuldish & Warinner, and Rod Cavazos of PsyOps.

Erratum department: Angie’s typographic explorations of the Design is Play identity are included in Typography Sketchbooks as well, but she is unfortunately not credited. The iterations of play generated by slicing up xeroxed copies of 15th century blackletters are hers….

26 SEPTEMBER, 2011

Play at RE:DESIGN / Creative Directors, 11.07.2011

We have been invited to speak at the RE:DESIGN / Creative Directors Conference in Palm Springs this November. The conference will open with a keynote conversation with Paula Scher; other presenters include a number of our friends and colleagues from California College of the Arts in San Francisco. The topic of our conversation will be “Get Back: Working Analog in a Digital World.” Don’t forget to bring pens and paper!


Play Press: Communication Arts 2011 Design Annual

Following a win in Communication Art’s Typography Annual earlier this year, our Anson Mills Packaging System is currently featured in CA’s 52nd Design Annual. Of the 4,291 competition entries, 174 were selected for publication by the jury. (That’s 4% of the entries for those of you who don’t want to do the math!)

We are currently working on Anson Mills’ site redesign. Look for the launch sometime in 2012.

14 MARCH, 2011

Play at the Pasadena Museum of California Art

Curator Amos Klausner charged twenty-six designers with re-imagining one letter from the alphabet, using the illegibility and deconstructive nature of graffiti as their starting point. (We chose the letter A.) The ensuing exhibition, Getting Upper, will open at the Pasadena Museum of California Art on May 15, 2011.

Our lowercase letter a is derived from Albrecht Dürer’s schema for blackletter construction published in 1538. Dürer’s line drawing breaks down the letter into component parts to reveal its design. We subvert this intent by reversing the diagram, flipping the negative spaces to positive ones. The resulting segments are then printed in a palette of modulated colors that further fragment (and deconstruct) the constructed letter. Our poster layout utilizes Jan Tschichold’s non-arbitrary page proportioning system to suggest a book page with the image area as the text block.

Each of the twenty-six letters will be published as a screen printed poster by Bloom Screen Printing Co. and made available for sale at the museum and online.

See more examples of our poster designs under Design is Play Studio Posters.

3 JANUARY, 2011

Play Press: Communication Arts 2011 Typography Annual

We are pleased to announce that our studio website—yes, the one you are currently viewing!—as well as our 2010 New Year Card and Anson Mills Packaging System are featured in Communication Arts 2011 Typography Annual. Of the 2,135 competition entries, 179 were selected for publication by the jury.

27 DECEMBER, 2010

Play Press: 50 Books/50 Covers of 2010

Our design for the art book Dirty Baby is included in the AIGA exhibition “50 Books / 50 Covers of 2010.” The national competition features the best-designed books of the year, and we are happy to be among the winners. Dirty Baby showcases the paintings of American artist Ed Ruscha.

See several spreads from the project under Design is Play Studio Systems Dirty Baby.

08 FEBRUARY, 2010

Play Press: TDC Typography 30

Our hand-lettered identity for One Catering is featured in the 30th Annual of The Type Directors Club. Drawing from the flavors of eight distinct restaurants, One Catering is the E pluribus unum of Charlotte, North Carolina. Different numeral ones are grafted together to form an identity that is both singular—one—and diverse.

18 JANUARY, 2010

Play Press: Typography Essentials; No Rules! Logos

Our studio identity appears in the books Typography Essentials: 100 Design Principles for Working with Type (Ina Saltz, Rockport Publishers), and in No Rules! Logos: Radical Design Solutions That Break the Rules (John Stones, Rockport Publishers).

See more examples of our identity at Design is Play Studio Systems.

11 JANUARY, 2010

Play Press: TDC Typography 29; PAGE Magazine

Our studio identity and stationery system are selected for inclusion in the 29th Annual of The Type Directors Club, as well as in PAGE magazine (Germany).

See more examples of our identity at Design is Play Studio Systems.

04 JANUARY, 2010

Play Press: 2008 Print Regional Design Annual

Our monogram for a San Francisco real estate agent specializing in modernist architecture is featured in the 2008 Print Regional Design Annual.

See the Group MB monogram under Design is Play Studio Symbols.














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