The exhibition is good. Tony from Spin has done a great job of laying out a graphic design exhibition, something the Design Museum has historically been bad at. There's lots of work on show which is good.
Crouwel is a very good designer but a lot of the work, in fact all of the work, left me very cold. It felt like design for designers. If I took my mum and dad to the exhibition I don't they would enjoy it. Whereas they would have loved the Alan Fletcher exhibition. I even think they would have liked the Peter Saville one.
But Crouwel's work is to cold. Too inaccessible. It needs more warmth, it needs a way in. But there is no way in. I realise Crouwel's work is modernist and part of that is an inaccessibility and a coldness (like it or not, that's how it presents). But this for me raises a bigger question about graphic design.
Is there any point to it if it's inaccessible?
If my mum and dad can't enjoy it, is it irrelevant?
For me the exhibition exacerbates this problem. There are a group of designers (often sneeringly called Gridniks) who love this kind of graphic design and who have put Crouwel and others on a pedestal. Part of me thinks this is like a collective sulk because clients today won't buy this sort of modernistic work, so the answer is to celebrate this stuff from our past. I may be wrong about that, but I find that a bit immature.
And downstairs in the shop they've got different designers to make posters celebrating Crouwel, in the style of Crouwel. Why do that? His work is better than any of the new posters (and I assume rights issues meant they couldn't sell prints of the originals). This self indulgent exercise just highlights the design for designers issue for me.
This post will be widely criticised and widely misunderstood. So let me try and make a few things abundantly clear.
I think Wim Crouwel is a very good designer.
The exhibition is very well put together by Tony from Spin, and he deserves credit for that.
You should go to the exhibition.
The Design Museum should have more exhibitions of graphic designers.
But it raised questions and I wondered what you lot thought about that.
This flew around the internet the other day. There have been many things like this before but this one was a little better, a little prettier, a little quirkier. God knows what it's got to do with Intel, but anyway. You can make one here.
It's prompted me to write this post because last week this arrived in the post. You can make one of these here.
Essentially they are both the same idea. Both enabled via Facebook. Both take information from your profile and make a thing that's a bit creepy, a bit surprising and a bit engaging.
In many ways they fall down in the same areas. They are both slaves to the data they've been given. They make certain assumptions, that your best friends are the ones who comment the most, that your favourite pictures are the one with the most likes, that the person you have been tagged in photos with is a cherished friends. It's pretty close but a simple bit of human curation could weed out most of the problems these algorithms produce.
But there are no humans here, this is auto generated memory curation. It's a bit odd because of that. I went to college with Paul Stafford, nice bloke, reads this blog (Hi Paul) but I've probably seen him three times in the last 15 years. He uploaded a load of old university pictures and tagged a bunch of us, which makes him the person I'm tagged in the most photos with. Feels a little odd to have a whole page dedicated to this.
In the book version there are charts based on things they can easily chart. What we can visualise gets visualised. What day you do the most posting for example. Hardly insightful, hardly a memory.
But! The point of this post is to tell you the difference between these two things.
When I saw the book (produced by Deutsche Post) I thought I'd get one because I'm obviously interested in taking digital content into a printable form. It's very easy to make, just one click from Facebook, it's 19 Euros, it arrived in two weeks. I asusmed it would be mildy interesting, that I'd show it in the office and then it would probably get recycled.
I was wrong. I'm actually really fond of it. I want to keep it.
The Intel thing, I can't even remember where it lives. I'm never going to do that again.
But the book, the book is good. Even though the "memories" are arbitrary, it still contains the value only a physical artifact can give you. Make that only a physical artifact can give you - at the moment. Immediately it's very collectable. It already feels like manifestation of a moment in time that will have greater significance in, say, ten years time.
It has all the pitfalls you'd except. Random data, ropey typography, but's it's close enough to feel special. And it's worth remembering that to most people a thing, a personalised physical thing, will feel indistinguishable from magic.
I've been terribly behind and I've failed to notice that the brilliant Williams Murray Hamm have started blogging.
This makes perfect sense, they've always been outspoken and it's great to have their views online. Richard Williams in particular is a natural blogger, read his praise of the Brompton as a good example.
But the post I'd particularly like to draw your attention to is this one, "I hate most packaging" says Richard. He particluarly hates packaging that "destroys the experience of the product" and he lists a few examples;
Tetra packs – they’ve put a spout on them and they’re still hopeless
Paint – you need a screwdriver to open it (then the screwdriver gets covered in paint), I never have anything to stir the contents with and paint cans are not recyclable.
Pilfer proof packaging – impossible for thieves, enraging for consumers
Ready meals – the lid never comes off in one piece.
Liquid soap – I can never get the plunger to click in place.
Toothpaste pumps – mucky and contain more plastic than toothpaste. An anachronism in a world worried about resources.