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No. 166: Cruz Novillo’s Ubiquitous Logos, Designing for Ai Weiwei, a Visual Ode to a Poem + More

Hello, and welcome to this week’s Design Diary, a collection of five projects from across the world that have impressed us this week. 

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I Am Not Existing Until Your Presence, by Qieer Wang

An interactive GIF on canvas

Qieer Wang is a Brooklyn-based animator, tattoo artist, and one of our favorite illustrators working today. She sat on our mental health panel at the Eye on Design conference—speaking on a topic central to many of her works—and has since then sent us over a new project, recently on view at the Biggercode Gallery in New York. Beautifully titled I Am Not Existing Until Your Presence, Qieer describes the piece as an “interactive GIF on canvas,” inspired by a poem written by her mom.

The five piece installation uses an arduino, sensors, a heating system, and heat-sensitive paints to portray the power of light to illuminate existence. As seen in the teaser video above, the application of heat animates the words and characters in the piece, which fade in and out of view courtesy of the reactions of the heat-sensitive paints. Per the gallery bio, Qieer’s “distorted spiritual creatures capture waves of irrational emotion through their tangled outlines and exotic postures.” This latest work is a lovely visual treatment of her mom’s words, with a touch of the supernatural, and her inventive, expressive illustration style on full display.

A new book on Cruz Novillo

50 years of logos from the beloved Spanish designer

Cruz Novillo is well known as one of Spain’s most prolific designers: throughout the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s he designed identities for many of the country’s public services, including the post office, rail service, national police force and even the Peseta notes. Novillo came into prominence as a graphic designer in the ‘60s, after a brief career in law, a stint working in the field of industrial design, and alongside a lifelong practice of art, illustration, and sculpture. Novillo’s incredible level of creative output over the course of his 50 year career has made it possible for online bookshop and publisher Counter-Print to publisher an entire tome solely on his logos.

The aptly named Cruz Novillo: Logos compiles the designer’s marks and symbols, many of which—the fist and the rose for the Spanish Socialist party, the shield for Spain’s national police force—are still in use today. According to Counter-Print, “The influence of his use of geometric shapes, simple, strong line-work and a playful, illustrative aesthetic can be seen in the work of many contemporary designers and has helped in keeping his legacy alive.” Novillo’s work is now so ubiquitous, it is “part of the fabric of visual culture” throughout Spain.

Ethics for Design

An interactive documentary on the moral dilemmas facing designers

Ethics for Design, according to its nicely designed website, is a project bringing together “12 designers and researchers from eight European cities [to] discuss the impact, sometimes harmful, of design on our societies and the paths to follow for designers to work for the good of all and not just a few.” Clicking on a link that asks “What is the role of the designer?” takes you to a page offering a couple of different options for receiving the answer. One is to read a text about the project, and the creators’ effort to define an “ethical code for design”—one that acknowledges the moral dilemma between economic strength and user wellbeing that designers face when creating a product. The other is to watch a 50-minute interactive documentary on the subject, and this is the path we recommend that you take.

The documentary features interviews with some of our favorites working at the intersection of design, academia, and activism—type designer and editor Peter Bil’ak, for example, as well as designer and teacher James Auger and IF founder Sarah Gold. It’s also—if you so choose—an interactive experience (Vimeo is also an option, but if you’ve got the bandwidth, choose the former). Unlike a straight video-viewing experience, various boxes of information—text, video, images—playing out in different ways and can be manipulated by the viewer. As the creators point out, viewers can “choose the size and therefore the importance you give to each medium.” It’s much more enjoyable to watch than it is to try to explain.


Motion graphics by Raquete

A quest for visual wonder...

On a much different note, Lisbon-based designers Raquete just launched a new website and visual identity, and sent along this dizzying, mesmerizing, totally over-the-top promotional video. “Seduced by a visionary mesh of sports, gaming, East Asian and religious imagery, we went on a self-discovery sabbatical,” the studio explains. Video plot points include, but are not limited to, handshaking, hand wrestling, block breaking, solitaire wins, and magic carpet rides. And while it may not get you any closer to understanding the company ethos or scope of work, it’s certainly a good introduction to the playful visuals and love of color displayed in its recent projects.


Visual identity for Ai Weiwei exhibition, by For Office Use Only

Good Fences Make Good Neighbors

Residents and visitors to New York City may notice a series of recently installed, site-specific pieces by artist Ai Weiwei, appearing as giant cages, chainlink-adorned bus stops, and mesh-covered structures in the city’s public squares. These are part of the city-wide exhibition put on by The Public Art Fund entitled Good Fences Make Good Neighbors, a name that nods to the folksy proverb taken from the Robert Frost poem Mending Wall. In the artist’s hands, the phrase is subverted to show how “populist notions often stir up fear and prejudice,” and the pieces throughout the city, as well as a collection of immigrant stories, seek to explore the social and political impulse to divide people across borders.

For those outside New York City, Weiwei’s new film Human Flow explores the same ideas—but if you are in the city, design studio For Office Work Only has created a nice interactive map to help you find your way around the 300 locations. It’s part of its clean, clever, and eye-popping visual identity for the exhibition, featuring a bold mustard yellow and a stark, close-up image of chain linking. 


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