Monday, May 31, 2010

Found Typography

Minnesota State Fair side show banner typography, September 2009

Found typography on a Wisconsin farm corn crib, July 2009

As many designers will tell you, especially ones who love typography, one of the joys or maybe obsessions is to find and photograph found typography. This can happen anytime and anywhere. I collect typography examples, either terrible or fantastic. Because I take photographs all the time, most of the typography I find ends up being shot rather than taken home with me.

Both of the above photographs were taken at Bob's Java, one of the menu board and one of numbers painted on the ceiling, July 2009

A bridge sign in eastern Wisconsin, July 2009

A "Food" sign on top of an abandoned outdoor food stand in Wisconsin, May 2010

A worn sign in Northern Hibbing, Minnesota, May 2010

An old sewer cover in North Hibbing, Minnesota, May 2010

Many times, this typography is found on my travels to other areas or especially other countries. This lends itself to amazing opportunities because it usually means new styles and new languages of type.

The above three photographs were taken in Buenos Aires, Argentina, March 2008

Signage typography at the Minnesota State Fair, September 2009

The market sign in Seattle Washington, November 2008

So, why is that I and many other get joys out of finding and collecting typography? For me, it is seeing through another designer's or manufacturer's eyes. What was it about this style or this material that made this seem attractive or appropriate? Was it purely aesthetic or were there other choices? I find these questions fascinating. I can think about them but also appreciate the piece as a piece of art on its own.

It is also purely a collection of all the endless typography that is out there that sometimes goes unnoticed or has decayed. Many times, it deserves another look and some attention. It also makes you take a closer look at the details and objects in your immediate surrounding that you may miss. For me, it keeps my vision sharp and gives me new ideas for my own design and photography.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

10 Reasons I Love Minneapolis - #10 Midori's Floating World Cafe

I have decided in no particular order to list the top ten things I love about living in Minneapolis. This is going to include places to eat, shop, hang out and locations for fun activities in the city. Some are maybe less well known but are always worth the time and for people who love Minneapolis, they are a must.

The first one I am listing is the amazing Japanese restaurant on East Lake Street called Midori's Floating World Cafe. I happened upon this restaurant several years ago and it has since become Jason and my number one location for Japanese food. Since my husband is half Japanese and was raised eating a lot of his mother's cooking, I hold his opinion of his native food in high regard. The owner is a Japanese native who also happens to be the sushi chef. The food also consists mainly of vegetarian and seafood entrees and is amazing for having authentic choices. We have been impressed with the menu being real Japanese food and high-quality sushi fish.

There are many other Japanese restaurants in the area but this location is definitely for locals who appreciate the food more than the night-life atmosphere. It is small with great customer service and completely friendly people. You can sit at a table or by the sushi bar and watch your food being prepared. They also have a great selection of green and herbal teas.

I think many people are perhaps thrown off by the neighborhood if they are not from the area. But, if you embrace the culture of the city and the great mix of people, Midori's is right up your alley.

This photograph shows the outside of the restaurant which is right down the street from the Town Talk Diner.

Some of the yummy gyozas we ordered. Usually they are vegetable but this was a special beef gyoza with a spicy dipping sauce.

This is the vegetable tempura I ordered as an appetizer. It includes battered and fried kabocha squash, broccoli, carrots, onion and green peppers. I have found many places over batter the vegetables but Midori's are light and crispy.

Their sushi is also delicious. Being pregnant, there are some fish I have to avoid for right now, but there are still many choices I can order. I got a Dragon Roll (shrimp tempura, cucumber, unagi and unagi sauce) and a cucumber roll. Jason always gets their special white tuna, tamago (egg) and also ordered a salmon skin roll. The presentation, as always, was beautiful.

We always leave feeling on a high and like we have eaten healthy, quality food.

More to come on my picks for why Minneapolis is the best place to live.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Museum Exhibits

One of the benefits, I have found, from working at home fulltime is the ability to do more research and during down times in freelance work, to go out and check out things around the city. These have mainly turned out to be exhibits I never had the chance to go see when I worked in an office all day. When I studied graphic design, my original dream was to become an exhibit designer and I still am amazingly interested in the lighting, information, space and content that exhibits hold. I am most interested in how multiple pieces of information in an open space can be organized, convey content to a wide audience, create a narrative and the strategy involved in creating an emotion or overall theme.

Today, I decided to go to the Minnesota History Museum in Saint Paul. Being a huge history fan, and specifically revolutionary way and civil war history, I went to see the Benjamin Franklin exhibit that is showing through July.

It was a beautiful exhibit with lots of real artifacts and interactive components. But, the real jewel of the day for me was seeing a permanent exhibit in the museum called Minnesota's Greatest Generation. This exhibit focuses on the generation of Minnesotans who were born in the 1910s and 1920s, fought and worked during WWII and started the baby boom generation. I was amazed by the organization and flow of the content, the real artifacts with real stories told by the owners, the interest in the space with interactive and large and small elements and the amount of detail taken into each aspect.

I would highly recommend this exhibit to anyone. The flow is really interesting and even though there is a lot of content to read and take in, you will be drawn to artifacts or objects that are of most interest to you.

A few people have asked me and I decided to write a quick list of some of the favorite exhibits I have ever seen (besides the one I saw today and mentioned above). I do not have photographs of most of them, so check out the sites I have linked.

1. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museumin Washington D.C. designed by Ralph Applebaum Associates I saw this exhibit when I was in the 7th grade and it had a profound effect on me. I went through the space and left feeling incredibly uncomfortable, moved and sobered by the real artifacts (including shoes and human hair). The whole space and the way you are moved through makes you feel a sense of darkness and confinement, without actually physically touching you.

2. U-505 Submarine
at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. I love history, so this exhibit was amazing, but it also had so many interactive content and very well designed typographic information and photographs. You can also get inside of the U-Boat!

3. The Hall of Biodiversity at American Museum of Natural History in New York City. This was recently reopened a few years ago after heavy duty renovation. I did not see it until a trip with my husband in 2007. The sky-high walls of different biological information and then the room with the life-sized whale hanging from the ceiling are both amazing! I was most impressed with the darkness and coolness of the space overall, which gives an underwater sense to the exhibit.

4. The New Bedford Whaling Museum in New Bedford, Massachusetts. I saw this museum in 1999 when I was visiting the Rhode Island School of Design before I began attending as a student. This museum has a whaling ship inside its space and also does an amazing job through the typography and real artifacts of creating general interest in pretty specific groups of information. The museum also is very lucky to be in a typical New England town, right by the ocean, which help adds to the timeless feeling. That included the cobblestone streets and smell of sea water.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Negative and Positive Space in Relation to Composition

I began teaching another course at Brainco last week. This quarter, I am teaching the Principles of Design and Layout. Even more than my previous Type 1 class, I find this general subject matter very difficult to fit into a 12 week course.

I ended up dividing my weeks into categories of understanding design when creating my syllabus. This was a great way I found to keep the information organized while still trying to incorporate the elements in design that come into almost every situation. They include but are not limited to: grid systems, form and shape, color theory, inconography and concepting.

For my second class on Thursday, I decided to start out with some general understanding and experimenting with form and shape in relation to negative and positive space. How does this simple idea translate itself into interesting and narrative compositions? Understanding design and layout is about more than the complex elements (typographic content, photography, etc.), which can sometimes overshadow the overall color and flow of the composition.

One trick I was taught while I was a student at the Rhode Island School of Design was to squint at a composition in its beginning layout phase to see its color. The color was not literally its color, but more how the white space and content were interacting with each other. I was also trained to turn a composition on its side or upside down to see the piece from a different perspective? Was it really balanced?

One of the most influential assignments, even if simple, I ever had was to create abstract compositions out of a single letterform. These were created out of only black and white and it took hours of Xeroxing and tracing paper experimentation to create a piece that used the letterform, but without being able to recognize what letterform it was. Does the composition become more or less effective when you add another element?

This assignment really helped me to understand not only that the right composition of positive and negative shape is not always the most obvious or the one you think of first. It always helped me to visualize the different elements in a layout as shapes that would clutter or clear the space.

I decided to assign this to my class on Thursday and worked on recreating the assignment with some example compositions. I chose a Bodoni S letterform and played with white on black and black on white. It is always a great refresher to take design back to its basic form and understand the roots of all the elements we use every day. Below are a continuation of some of the compositions I created.

Maybe as a bonus at some point, I will photograph my original paintings from that past assignment. I still have all the gouache compositions!