To Look at Graphic Design

Critical publications dedicated to the analysis of Graphic Design are sadly few and far between today, particularly in France, but also in Europe as a whole.
Adopting an analytical and critical posture with regard to the forms and activities of Graphic Design, Sacha Léopold and François Havegeer intend to establish a printed publication that deals with these practices. The publication will work with eight authors in its first year (Lise Brosseau, Manon Bruet, Thierry Chancogne, Céline Chazalviel, Jérôme Dupeyrat, Catherine Guiral, Étienne Hervy and Sarah Vadé). This initially limited choice, linked to a desire to propose an experience with a group that has previously participated together in projects, will then allow for the inclusion of foreign authors in the second year of publication.

 

The goals of FAIRE are as follows:
— To produce a publication based on the rhythm of the school year (appearing from October to May), for undergraduate students as well as researchers and professionals, documenting contemporary and international practices along with the history and grammar of styles.
— To publish 15 bilingual (French/English 30000+30000 characters), A4, 20-page issues per year.
— To document each issue as a unique, tentacular subject addressed by a renowned author, by encountering the authors and Graphic Designers involved.
— To consider and print an iconography that is specific to these subjects.
— To focus on emblematic practices that go beyond questions set by current trends and the perishable nature of a magazine.
— To allow authors to submit their intentions concerning thematic openings without imposing a particular subject to be treated.
— To organize events, launches, and encounters with international figures from the field of Graphic Design in connection with each issue.
— To offer subscriptions on a twice-monthly basis.
— To allow people to find four assembled issues in bookshops every two months, distributed by Les Presses du réel and Idea Books.
Il s’agit de FAIRE. It’s about DOING

n°02 — A technical platform: www.colorlibrary.ch by Maximage. Author: Manon Bruet

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he Workflow research project, run by Tatiana Rhis, Guy Meldem, and Julien Tavelli and David Keshavjee (Maximage) at the Écal, is interested in current technologies of the printed object. It consists of a series of experiences that attempt to circumvent currently available production technologies, provoking coincidences and accidents with the goal of obtaining new outcomes.

          More than simply questioning the possible circumvention of tools, Workflow explores technicality, modes of functioning, and flaws. In this way, the programme pursues the field of experimentation opened up by the Swiss studio Maximage since 2008. In the context of their degree project at the Écal, Julien Tavelli and David Keshavjee already combined manual and digital techniques so as to develop their own production tools, and notably their own printing methods. From their experiments have emerged, among other things, the Programme typeface, and the Les impressions magiques publication, that appears today as a manifest object of their approach.

          One of the first results of the Workflow programme has been the creation of a series of colorimetric profiles that allows the conversion of digital images for printing with one, two, three, four, or five accompanying colors, whether they are basic (CMYK), pastels, fluorescent, or metallic.

          The work on these profiles has two aims. It serves to increase the awareness of students at the Écal with regard to the management and theory of color, but it also allows, for the first time, the automation of operations and settings that have until now been done on a case-by-case basis through the manual use of image-editing software and CAD.

          Advocating an “innovative” and “professional” solution for the treatment of color, the Écal and the Workflow programme launched the website colorlibrary.ch in 2016 and offered the profiles for sale. The platform appears as an online library that presents a large variety of profiles with different colorful combinations. The different profiles are displayed on screen, applied to images by Iranian photographer Shirana Shahbazi; they seem to replay the codes of Photoshop type images–from the butterfly to the eye, the still life to the waterfall.

          Beginning with an analysis of the structure of this platform, the aesthetic and terminological languages that it summons, and their limits, we will open a number of fields of investigation, more widely linked to the question of the tools and modes of production of images.

n°03 — A monograph: Recollected Work by Mevis & Van Deursen. Author: Étienne Hervy

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In 2006, the publisher Artimo entrusted Linda van Deursen and Armand Mevis with the editorial direction and the Graphic Design of their own monograph, Recollected Works. Joined by Paul Elliman in writing the texts, the two Graphic Designers responded with an approach similar to that which they adopt when they accompany other artists and photographers in the creation of books whose relevance has largely contributed to the studio’s reputation. Mevis and van Deursen propose to the reader to experience their work in operation, rather than simply contenting themselves with the reproduction of the work presented as artworks in themselves. Rather than the nostalgia for a more or less formalized organization of their previous projects, the two Graphic Designers look at their previous work as the material for an autonomous project from which this book will emerge.

          Such a choice directly raises the question of the constitution and transmission of a culture inherent to Graphic Design, whether it isspecifically aimed at designers or else at a much wider audience. How to transmit the issues and points of quality of a discipline itself dedicated to transmission? One must above all recognize the capacity of this eminently visual field to confront appearances.

          Our study of this work will obviously reference a corpus of monographs and publications made by Graphic Designers (Christophe Jacquet, Joost Grootens, M/M (Paris), Karel Martens, Experimental Jetset, Wolgang Weingart, etc.) while at the same time looking more widely at the forms currently adopted for the transmission of Graphic Design (exhibitions, conferences, etc.). Beyond the issues discussed and the questions raised by Recollected Works, it is a matter of both pulling on the thread of the work of Mevis and van Deursen (does a continuity exist between the editorial design of Why Mister, Why? for Geert van Kesteren or the Library Of The Museum Museum of Contemporary African Art for Meschac Gaba, and the identity of the Stedelijk Museum?) and questioning the pertinence of a discourse specific to Graphic Design.

n°04 — A communication: invitation cards by the artist Stanley Brouwn. Author: Céline Chazalviel

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If we could attribute to Stanley Brouwn a desire to dissociate his artistic production from who he is and to reveal otherness through the mastery of his image and that of his work, we could also divine an intention to focus the public’s attention on his exhibitions. Behind the standards put in place for the communication related to his exhibitions—the use of lowercase and Helvetica exclusively, the refusal to reproduce images of his work, to produce (or allow production of) written commentary on the subject of the same work, to appear in the context of a vernissage or even to answer an interview—the artist builds his identity by way of ellipses. Since his participation in documenta 5 (1972), the stories linked to this attitude have come to draw the outlines of an artistic posture that goes beyond any one particular case. The invitation cards for his solo exhibitions provide a symptomatic example: set almost exclusively in Helvetica, the absence of uppercase, flying in the face of the graphic identity of the gallery or the host institution, they seem impossible to date, give or take twenty years.

          This mastery reveals that graphic and typographic choices represent one of the spaces of neutrality built by Brouwn, like other artists and theoreticians of his generation, and generations that came after. According to one of the positions of Sol Lewitt, “conceptual artists are more mystical than rationalist,” and the case of Brouwn gives weight to this idea. Whether it be by way of a mediation adopted by the artist himself and the relationship with the institution that it entails, that of the myth of the autonomy of the artwork, of the relationship with documentation, with commentary and the analysis of an artwork or even the conditions of reception, Brouwn escapes the category of the conceptual artist and incites us to measure the contemporary echoes of his radicality.

n°05 — An Instagram post: P/Pa/Para/Paradiso by jetset_experimental (July 1 2017). Author: Manon Bruet

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On July 1st, 2017, just as I was about to begin research into the use of social networks by Graphic Designers, the Dutch studio Experimental Jetset posted a slideshow containing 7 images on Instagram. Entitled “P/Pa/Para/Paradiso” it presented, as a whole and in its details, their new posters for the Paradiso center for music and culture in Amsterdam. Apart from the obvious formal relationship with the Blow Up poster that they created in 2007 for the London Design Museum, this slideshow gives very few keys to read what seemed to be a new aspect of the center’s communication, something that Experimental Jetset had been working on since 1996.
Currently having over 1,500 likes and tens of comments, this post is where my article begins. An opportunity to investigate and review this collaboration, that over 20 years has taken various forms (flyers, programs, posters), along with the singular and radical practice of Experimental Jetset. And also the opportunity to provide a more theoretical view of the way that Graphic Design is shown and seen on different platforms, that have now become an integral part of the teaching and the evolution of the discipline.

n°06 — A series of gestures: Invisible Touch, from Farocki to l’Architecture Aujourd’hui, some notes on the handling of things. Author: Catherine Guiral (with special thanks to J. Dupeyrat and L. Sfar)

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n°07 — A book: Parallel Encyclopedia, Batia Suter. Author: Jérôme Dupeyrat

 

 

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Since the end of the 1990s, Batia Suter has been collecting books—second hand for the most part—that she acquires for their iconography, in such a way as to build up an image database that sits on the shelves of her personal library. All of this has become the basic material for an artwork that consists of presenting the images according to a logic of visual editing, providing them with new modalities of appearance and thus new possibilities of interpretation.

          Parallel Encyclopedia is, at the time of writing, the artist’s most significant work. Ongoing since 2004, it has taken the form of a number of installations and two imposing publications from Roma Publications published in 2007 and 2016. Each version of the project is characterized by the association of hundreds of heteroclite images (historical, artistic, scientific, and technical), grouped according to typological and formal links. From one system to another, the conditions of presentation of these images taken from books are renewed: the sequencing and seriality of bound pages; constellations or, on the contrary, linear sequences of images reproduced and exhibited on wall panels; constellations or linear sequences of book pages opened and placed on flat mounts. Though the exhibited images are the same, these various exhibition possibilities determine differential readings.

          Beyond the fascination that such a project can generate, this text will attempt to seize all of its complexity. To do this, Batia Suter’s work will be re-situated within the context of a history of iconographic practices that run through different fields of activities and knowledge. We will also focus on the trajectory of the images gathered in Parallel Encyclopedia and the effects of the process of remediation to which they are subjected. Ultimately, it will be a question of drawing a figure of the artist as an “editor” and of studying both the function of Graphic Design in the artist’s work and the place that we can attribute to the artist in the field of Graphic Design, a field to which Batia Suter doesn’t directly belong, but one that runs through her productions, and to which she was confronted in a concrete fashion in the context of her collaboration with the Graphic Designer Roger Willems in the design of the two volumes of the encyclopedia that, in fact, is today a reference for many artists, as much as it is for a large number of Graphic Designers.

n°08 — A residency: Coline Sunier and Charles Mazé at Villa Medici. Author: Thierry Chancogne

 

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          Typo-topographic records

While still a student in the Ésad Valence, Coline Sunier, along with Grégory Ambos, created a striking front cover for the booklet associated with the Zak Kyes programme, Forms of Inquiry, using a series of jewels sampled from the more or less heraldic graphic patrimony of highly local emblems.

          When she founded her studio with Charles Mazé, the duo continued the work of collection, which is at the same time one of the etymologies of reading, and one of the characteristics of the conceptual aesthetic of the list that emerged in the 1970s—first, in the re-casting of the Ésad Valence’s identity in 2012-2013; then in the work created during a residency at the Villa Médicis, Come vanno le cose?, dedicated to records of 1,512 graffiti found on the walls of Rome illustrating the portrait of a mysterious survivor, perhaps imagined, of the Red Brigades; and more recently in the identity developed for the Centre d’art contemporain in Brittany.

          The collection of signs of power and the traces of resistance profoundly inscribed in the always political matter of the spaces is often accompanied by an attempt at typographic translation bringing to mind the work of typification in the personal writings of Fernand Baudin, created for the catalogue of the eponymous prize in 2012.

 

 

n°09 — A typeface: Mitim by Radim Pesko. Author: Thierry Chancogne

 

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Mitim. Three letters interpolated into a palindrome and an ambigram, /Mit/ in Dutch, as in German, means “with.” Three peaks, an effect of symmetry and circulation. The triadic structure of the sign. Of what takes place. Of what binds. Signifier, Signified, Reference.

          Mitim. A typeface designed by Radim Pesko for Dot Dot Dot. Again, three characters and a distribution. Three points that follow and invite pursuit, even if the period of this essential review ceased, ten years and twenty issues later.

          Mitim. A spun figure of a triangle that calls on asterism, a constellation of stars that is the figure of the constitution of meaning, at the same time being the typographical sign of changing paragraphs, or tailpiece. A prolific sign of rupture and continuation that marks the condition of every text and any periodical publication. A sign that proposes, in its form of a horizontal line of stars, an equivalent of the ellipsis, or “dot dot dot” as it is more commonly known.

          Mitim. A triangular figure that refers to typographic signs of logic and mathematical relationships: consequence ·˙·, cause ˙·˙. In certain Masonic expressions, a figure that is one of abbreviation, of predictability, and of redundancy like that which is hidden in the sign: the sign of the secret to be deployed, the secret to be pursued.

          Mitim. A typeface design that extends to become a self-reflexive artistic and typographic project. An alphabet that evolves and adapts to the cycle of appearances of a publication in the form of a suite.

n°10 — A line : Robert Brownjohn. Author: Étienne Hervy, Natasha Leluc

 

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The figure of Robert Brownjohn oscillates between New York and London, swaying between the 1950s and the 1960s, juggling, within the profusion of his production, with typographic games and photographic essays, identities on headed notepapers and advertising installations, packaging in the form of a rejected project and the opening credits that went on to become an archetype for every other spy movie. Constantly stumbling between life and ideas, the trajectory of this student prodigy of Moholy-Nagy who later became the design prodigy of swinging London is a line that never ceases to end. Whether he burned too bright or simply burned too much, this unruly genius forced the gaze of history to turn away, preferring to look elsewhere so as not to frighten the other well behaved children. Little matter the story, once it is signed Love B.J. This 10th issue of the magazine Faire contains original watercolors by Natacha Leluc.

n°11 — A printed exhibition: vol.19 by Klaus Scherübel, Title of the Show by Julia Born and THEREHERETHENTHERE by Simon Starling. Author: Jérôme Dupeyrat

 

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It is a question of observing and analyzing, through this text, how the practice of certain artists and Graphic Designers is built in a relationship and reciprocity with a practice of publishing and the exhibition, specifically according to two modalities:

          The exhibition imagined as an editorial process, according to a shift towards the space of the exhibition of logics of writing and shaping having their origins in the space of the book.

          The exhibition catalogue considered as a space and as a mode of amplification of artistic and curatorial work, beyond the strict documentary and critical issues usually vested in this type of publication.

          The text will be developed beginning with concrete cases, and will focus more particularly on Julia Born by looking at Jérôme Saint-Loubert Bié, Klaus Scherübel, Yann Sérandour and Simon Starling, all while inscribing the analysis of their work into an extended history, from the phenomenon of the “gallery book” in the 16th century to the work of Marcel Broodthaers.

n°12 — A review: Poster of a Girl, Revue Emmanuelle. Author: Catherine Guiral

In the first half of the 17th century, French doctor Théophraste Renaudot launched a periodical, La Gazette. In it appeared the first “advertisements.” The initial meaning given to this term was that of rendering something public, and Renaudot, a man of multiple pursuits, endeavored then to apply his adage: “For just as ignorance dares desire, since it is impossible to desire what one does not know, even the knowledge of things makes us envious.”

         These syllogistic and paradoxical relationships between the stimulation of desire, masked ignorance, and longing lead to the exploration of the tensions that exist between audience, advertising, and eroticism. Leaning on the appearance of so-called “porno” magazines, and in particular the magazine Emmanuelle (launched by éditions Opta—Office de Publicité Technique et Artistique—in 1974), Poster of a Girl undresses “heroic masculinity,” to use the expression of philosopher Beatriz Preciado, all while exploring what could be a “magazine of pleasure” (the subtitle of Emmanuelle) in the stark light of contemporary techniques of dressing.*

          To open up Emmanuelle is, then, to open up a set of vanishing lines, from a print revolution to a cultural revolution, unveiling forms that are skilled, mercantile, or critical, the very forms in which Eros drapes himself.


* — October 13th, 2015, Le Monde published an article about Playboy abandoning full nudity on the cover of its magazine, called “Playboy rhabille ses playmates” (“Playboy dresses its playmates”). The notion of being dressed is certainly quite close to that of being covered. It does however lead to thinking around the idea of parergon, of adornment, and also of armor as habillemens, from the ancient French word for clothing, etymologically the engine, the weapon, the war machine. What new techniques of diversion and feinting does “rhabillement” (“dressing”) name?

n°13 — A series of posters: CDDB Théâtre de Lorient by M/M Paris. Author: Étienne Hervy

The poster, more particularly the event poster, is a building block in the identity of French Graphic Design, in the way it organizes itself, presents itself, and states itself. However, despite being developed over 15 years by one of the major Graphic Design studios with a reputation that has been established on an international scale, the work of M/M (Paris) for the CDDB (Centre Dramatique de Bretagne) Théâtre of Lorient has largely not been examined in relation to this tradition.

          The posters made by M/M (Paris) for the CDDB are remarkable on more than one level: the timescale of the work, for one, along with the consistency of its principles (black and white text related to a photograph reproduced in four colors), and the power of the relationship that exists between Graphic Designers and their client, CDDB director Eric Vigner. If that is not enough, one can also highlight the critical dimension of these posters, as much in relation to theatre as Graphic Design, while also emphasizing their singularity and their innovative character, in direct rupture with the habits of the French cultural poster.

          We could continue to argue over the necessity of dealing one-by-one with the points raised by this work, but we prefer to look at it as the unpublished journal of M/M (Paris) that speaks about them, their work, and the world. “But it is not like surfers who advocate ‘surf’ culture. We are not advocating a Graphic Design culture” (M/M (Paris)). Commissioned by, and an integral part of, the CDDB project, these posters are intimately linked to the career of M/M (Paris), and they contain numerous fragments from it: voyages and busy places, steps along their route, traces of other projects, such as catalogues by Yohji Yamamoto, or a collaboration with Björk who, photographed during the making of the cover for her Vespertine album, became, with photographer Inez van Lamsweerde, the protagonist of Duras’ Savannah Bay. It will therefore be necessary to follow the trail laid by these clues, and to propose a reading of it.

n°14 — A curatorial work: Graphic Design in the White Cube by Peter Bil’ak. Author: Lise Brosseau

In 2006, on the occasion of the 22nd Biennial of Brno, Peter Bil’ak proposed to 20 Graphic Designers and collectives to design posters for the exhibition that they were going to participate in: Graphic Design in the White Cube. These posters could then function on two levels: as the content for an exhibition (the newly created collection would be presented, accompanied by the sketches that led to the creation of the different posters) and in the streets of the city where the posters would be hung in order to promote and provide information about the event.

With this invitation, the designer/curator wished to respond to the idea that the exhibition space isolates Graphic Design creations from the real world, from context (commercial, cultural, historic) and from the function that is necessary for reading and understanding them. He thus chose to make the conditions of the exhibition space (in this case the Moravian Gallery) the context for the creations, and to exhibit the work of Graphic Designers rather than objects.

This strategy, which doesn’t hide its self-referential nature, was accompanied by an essay, written by Bil’ak himself; a text that continues to be regularly cited when the question of approaching the exhibition of Graphic Design as a subject arises. Our study will engage the analysis of this latter in order to question the characteristically theoretical approach of this project. It will attempt to place the reflexive, discursive approach and the editorial part of this curatorial proposition within the recent history of Graphic Design. It will also try to show how the positions taken will lead to a form of redefinition of Graphic Design.

n°15 — The work done everyday: the Mucem. Authors: Manon Bruet and Thomas Petitjean.

Though many Graphic designers write about their projects or their practice, it seems that this is often a priori, in the context of a statement of intent associated with a call for offers for example, or a posteriori, to provide commentary for their production. First we think and do, then we formulate in order to show others, we explain, we justify. This is finally one of things at stake in our profession. In fact, most of the time emphasis is placed on a context, a discourse or a result. Ultimately, we rarely speak of “during”, of the moment of “doing”, probably because it consists more of discussions – sometimes even negotiations – and mail exchanges, than of design itself. This is what interests us here.

This issue, with its different voices, has been created in two stages. First, we will look at our “studio” work within Spassky Fischer for the communication and identity of the Mucem of Marseille (Musée des civilizations de l’Europe et de la Méditerranée). Rather than explaining the approach or choices of the Graphic Designers, it is our intention to take a look, intentionally devoid of hindsight, at a project that we work on every day. To speak about its ambition, its evolution and development due to the contact with the different participants from the museum, of our place as designers in the face of a cultural institution such as this.

During the second stage, we will question other designers on their experiences in similar contexts: Mirko Borsche, Studio Dumbar, Okrm and Strobo among others. An opportunity to provide a wider view of the day to day activity of the discipline.