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11 MARCH, 2013

Angie at Play

Angie Wang’s photographs (1:25)
Amsterdam, Paris, and St. Petersburg, 2004–2007.

Beauty is now underfoot wherever we take the trouble to look. —John Cage

Prior to a trip to Paris in 2004, Mark asked me to return with responses to the following prompts:
The best visual contrast;
The most beautiful piece of type;
The most lush color combination;
The most memorable bite (flavor);
A fifth sensation of note.

These images are the result of what has become an ongoing exercise in my paying attention. Whether with photographs, sketches, or journal entries, I’ve learned to document my travels in an active way because it heightens my awareness of what I see and experience.

Mark and I incorporated a version of this exercise into our 2007 summer study abroad class in Amsterdam. As we stated in our syllabus, “The act of seeing is made more acute by the act of recording.” [AW]

4 MARCH, 2013

Design School Wisdom

Our friend and colleague Brooke Johnson from Chronicle Books in San Francisco is working on a new title with Jennifer Tolo Pierce called Design School Wisdom, a compilation of quotes from teachers and students. Brooke asked us to submit some quotes for possible inclusion in the book which we share below.

(left) Jeff Wasserman outside his studio in Santa Monica, 2009. (right) Mark Fox photographed by Michael Schwab for one of Michael’s posters, 1986.

Being self-taught as a designer, I didn’t attend design school. I did, however, work at a few jobs during and after college that exposed me to some workplace wisdom.

One of my jobs in college—around 1982—was to work for Wasserman Silk Screen Co. in Santa Monica, California. Jeff Wasserman set up the original screen printing shop at Gemini G.E.L. in Los Angeles, and has printed for a number of well-known artists, including Andy Warhol, Ed Ruscha, Robert Rauschenberg, Claus Oldenberg, Frank Stella, and Billy Al Bengston, among others. His work is extremely precise, and he is a master at what he does. Nonetheless, one of the maxims Jeff often uttered to me was, “Don’t make a religious experience out of it.”

A few years later, in 1985, I worked for the designer and illustrator Michael Schwab in San Francisco who is especially well-regarded for his poster work. Michael has always been successful—or so it seemed to me!—and his oft-repeated advice usually followed negotiations with clients. He would say, “There’s always more time and more money.”

This is my twentieth year teaching courses in graphic design at California College of the Arts in San Francisco. I give my students no end of advice, I’m sure, but the one question I continually ask them that seems worth sharing is this: “Where does your eye go?” If you know where the eye goes when you look at work, and why, then you understand true hierarchy—regardless of the design intention. If you remain unaware of hierarchy, of what the eye sees and in what order, your work will remain indistinct and forgettable. [MF]

(left) Michael Manwaring photographed by Christopher Manwaring. (right) Angie at the RE:DESIGN / Creative Directors Conference in Palm Springs, 2011. The title of our presentation was “Get Back: Working Analog in a Digital World.”

If you have to ask the question, you already know the answer. —Michael Manwaring

Michael Manwaring was my Graphic Design 2 instructor at the California College of Arts and Crafts in San Francisco. Michael’s pedagogic model seemed to be based on questioning—he deliberately responded to our questions with more questions. While this resulted in a dialogue of evaluation, it didn’t necessary yield a definitive answer—at least not immediately.

Needless to say it was maddening at the time. Ultimately, though, I learned from Michael how to actively—and critically—distill my ideas and formulate my opinions.

Work hard—the rest will come in time. —Steve Reoutt

I entered the CCAC graphic design program in 1993 and had the good fortune of having Steve Reoutt as one of my first instructors. For Steve, the discipline of working steadily and making progress every day was more important than the “success” of our final work. Steve made us sketch in large pads of newsprint every day, whether we felt like it or not. At the end of every assignment he would take the time to meet with us individually to go through our newsprint pad.

Final crits were led by students: we would put our work up and the students would choose which pieces to critique. More often than not my work would be the last to be chosen for discussion—or sometimes, not at all—leaving Steve to monologue about my project. He always managed to tease out some positive aspect (like the thoughtfulness of my approach) despite the awkward final form.

During one of his reviews of my sketch pad he looked at me and said, “You’re a good problem solver and you work hard. I know form-making doesn’t come easily for you, but no one has it all. Work hard, and the rest will come in time.”

His faith—and the rigor of his approach—had a profound impact on me as a student. It encouraged me to be patient and it allowed me to grow as a designer at my own pace. I have been teaching Typography 1 in the graphic design program at CCA for seven years now and, like Steve, I collect and review my students’ process sketches at the end of every assignment. [AW]

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.

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.

1 JANUARY, 2011

Man Ee Wong: As It Is Written: Project 304,805

For my Fall, 2010 Graphic Design 1 class at CCA, student Man Ee Wong designed this museum exhibit poster based on a show at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco. As It Is Written: Project 304,805 is an exhibition featuring a specially trained scribe who writes the entire text of the Torah over the course of one year. The completed Torah is in the form of a scroll, and is comprised of 62 connected sheets on which are written 10,416 lines of text and 304,805 individual letters.

To design her poster Man Ee photographed a Torah at Congregation B’nai Emunah in San Francisco. (Thank you, Rabbi Melamut!) Man Ee is especially interested in the scroll’s physical seams, what might be thought of as the document’s “connective tissue.” As a result, her photograph is cropped to highlight a seam which bisects the poster on the right. Using a negative of the photographic image adds drama and challenges our preconceptions about how a Torah should be presented. In brief, she makes the Torah “new.”

Concurrent with her efforts in my class, Man Ee worked with Angie in Typography 1 and it is clear to me that the finished poster is a synthesis of Man Ee’s learning experiences in both classes. Man Ee recreates Theo Van Doesburg’s experimental alphabet of 1919 for the exhibition text and sets it in a justified block to echo the Torah’s justified columns of text. Van Doesburg’s letterforms provide a contrasting voice to the Hebrew: geometric versus organic; modern versus ancient; minimal versus complex. The placement of the colorful text block, bridging one of the Torah’s seams, suggests both reinforcement—a strengthening of tradition—as well as continuity. The Torah will live as long as it is read, and written. [MF]

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

12 JULY, 2010

CCA Steve Reoutt Memorial Scholarship

We had the pleasure of knowing and working with Steve Reoutt as his colleagues in the Graphic Design program at California College of the Arts for many years. (Steve was Angie's first Graphic Design instructor at CCA in 1993.) Steve taught at the college for 41 years and retired in 2008, shortly before his death.

We have been working to permanently endow a scholarship in Steve Reoutt’s name and are thrilled to report that we have met our initial $25,000 goal. We are also proud to note that community support for this scholarship is broad: over 80 faculty members, alumni, family, and friends have contributed so far. As a result, the Steve Reoutt Scholarship will provide financial support to talented graphic design students in perpetuity.

Our commitment is ongoing, however, as the more funds we raise, the greater the number of students we can assist. If you knew Steve or attended the Graphic Design program at CCA, please consider joining us in this effort. (Photo by David Asari.)

Contribute to the CCA Steve Reoutt Scholarship.

14 JUNE, 2010

Fox at Landor, 06.03.2010

Courtney Reeser, Managing Director of Landor Associates in San Francisco, invited Mark to exhibit and speak about his work “at Landor.” The exhibit encompassed work from Design is Play and BlackDog, and included logos, identity systems, posters, book covers, prints from Mark’s Erotikon series and, for the first time, seven of Mark's personal sketchbooks. Mark had the honor of being introduced by his friend and colleague Michael Schwab. (Photos by Michael Friel.)

Watch excerpts of Mark Fox’s conversation with Courtney Reeser:

Fox at Landor 1 (2:09)
On Michael Schwab, clubbing baby seals, and perfection as the default.

Fox at Landor 2 (1:49)
On the “filter” of the computer and the homogenization of design.

Fox at Landor 3 (3:37)
On teaching Graphic Design 1 and hand-inking.

ANGIE WANG + MARK FOX / STUDIO@DESIGNISPLAY.COM / 415.505.6242 / © 2013 DESIGN IS PLAY

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