Hello, and welcome to this week’s Design Diary, a collection of five projects from across the world that have impressed us this week.
Unit Editions is back with another excellent design compendium, this time focusing their efforts squarely on London’s National Theatre, and its long history of producing gorgeous, stylized, and experimental theater posters. Turns out the landmark theater’s given them plenty to choose from: in over half a century, five creative directors have lead the production of over 1,700 posters.
“Other major arts organizations also utilize posters, of course, but it would be hard to find in-house relationships with designers as long, continuous and stable as those seen at the NT,” author Rick Poynor writes in National Theatre Posters: A Design History. The best part of flipping through the book is seeing how the styles change from play to play, designer to designer, and decade to decade—though all seem firmly ahead of their time.
D&AD has just announced Steve Vranakis as its new president. Vranakis is the executive creative director of Google Creative Lab, where he’ll stay for his tenure (D&AD elects an acting president from its board of trustees every year). He’ll head up the organization’s annual efforts to award the year’s best design and promote promising, up-and-coming designers. And he’ll do it alongside another tech-giant envoy: Harriet Devoy, creative director at Apple Europe, has been appointed deputy president.
Its not often you see a political magazine quite this sharp and stylish—much less one made by a political party. Schampus is the mouthpiece for the Young Greens of Hessen, in Germany, which is the youth branch of the country’s green political party. The magazine lets members know about activities for the local party branches and gives an overview of the group’s political work. And now it now does all that with lovely photography, bold design, and modern typography, thanks to the work of Frankfurt design agency Bureau Mitte.
Schampus looks more like the magazines you’d find on the front rack of a design-savvy bookstore or trendy boutique than a piece of political propaganda, it reads more like them, too. “The editorial team at Schampus covers issues they care about, some of them political, some of them personal,” say the designers at Bureau Mitte. “The editorial design is based on a typographical concept, which is broken up by a variety of design elements: large-scale typefaces, colored areas, images and handwritten phrases.” Who says politics are never pretty?
Last month, the Village Voice ran its last print edition of the paper after 62 years running. In memoriam, the Voice’s longtime chief art critic and production manager R.C. Baker penned an essay about his time spent, from 1999 to 2016, as the paper’s “press-check guy.” After getting tapped for the job as an entry-level employee in the layout department, Baker traveled every week to oversee the paper’s printing—first to a facility in Baltimore, then Philadelphia, Long Island, upstate New York, and Staten Island. He opens his essay by clearing up a common misconception: “You never yell, ‘Stop the presses!’ The gargantuan machines sound like someone jackhammering on anvils—no one can hear you scream.”
For any designers familiar with the tedious slog that is the press-check, Baker’s piece is an entertaining read. After picking up the negatives for a 4 a.m. Amtrak, print days consisted of around six hours of printing on offset web presses—that is, unless there was a problem. “Once, when we were about 15,000 copies in, I noticed that an actress’ face looked jaundiced. I checked the proof and realized that the magenta and yellow plates had been inadvertently switched on the press,” he writes. “This is when I discovered that yelling ‘Stop the Presses!’ did no good amid the cacophony…” The final issue’s print copies have no doubt long been snagged, but you can read the full thing on the Voice’s website.
Earlier this week we ran a longform piece about the aspects of Muriel Cooper’s legacy that are largely invisible, so it’s a pleasure now to be able to celebrate her in a very visual way with a stellar set of animations from Pentagram’s Michael Bierut. The work honors the 50th anniversary of Cooper’s appointment as design director at MIT Press, which MIT is recognizing this month with a new monograph and closed-door symposium. The seven motion graphics, which Bierut designed for MIT along with associate partner Aron Fay and designer Daisy Lee, with a music score by Jacob Rosati, directly reference some of her best loved works for MIT.
The above video beautifully animates Cooper’s cover design for the 1969 book The Bauhaus, one of her most iconic works for the press. About the book’s design, Cooper has said, “All of my books explored implicit motion. The Bauhaus was designed both statically and filmically with a mental model of slow motion animation of the page elements.”
Below, Cooper’s famed MIT Press colophon—which still graces the spine of all the press’s books—bounces to music like rogue piano keys before landing into familiar formation.
Another animation elegantly compiles a few more of her cover designs, and still another nods to her work at the MIT Media Lab, where Cooper ran the experimental design lab Visible Language Workshop from 1973 to 1994.
An animation announcing the 50th anniversary is done in the style of one of the most famous design to come out of “Messages and Means,” the VLW’s influential first course. It was in that course where Cooper taught exercises like a rotation technique that added dynamism to print graphics by rotating paper in a printer. Later, in a groundbreaking 1994 TED 5 talk called “Information Landscapes” given shortly before her untimely death, she debuted a radically new interface that gave viewers the sensation of moving through text. That much of Cooper’s visionary work laid the path for graphic design in the digital realm makes these motion graphics all the more a joy to watch. See them all here.