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It seems somewhat ironic that a journal called Signal should pass me by, again. I wrote about the first two issues here in 2012. I can’t remember what, but something pricked my memory of the journal a couple of weeks ago and I went searching for the publication again only to find that issue three was released nearly a year ago with the forth due out this coming May. I quickly ordered Signal:03 and it doesn’t disappoint.

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Once again, what I’m genuinely impressed about with this publication is its breadth. The level of research done by the contributors is impressive and there is a sense of importance given to documenting/archiving social design stories that otherwise would be lost in the midst of time. For example, the image above is from a comical anarchist publication from Brussels in the 1930s. Titled: Game of Massacre: 12 Figures Looking for a Ball, the article explains this Aunt Sally type parlour game, created by Fred Deltor, (aka Frederico Antonio Carasso, 1899–1969), that enables you to cut-out various puppet figures, such as The Military, Property, Fascism, Religion etc, in order that you can throw balls at them. Included in the game was a mock cut-out theatre to set the figures in, and a ball, along with descriptions of the puppets. The above were described thus: (3) “Philanthropy has a chest in the form of a bank vault full of cash and tosses a single coin toward a cadaverous figure (lacking an arm and a leg) in from of a hospital”; and (4) “Social democracy is a two-faced figure who wields the attributes of both royalty and communism”. In uncovering the original publication, Stephen Goddard says: “Stylistically Carasso’s figures betray a knowledge of many of the important international impulses associated with progressive art organisations, periodicals, and movements of the 1920s, such as DeStijl, Het Oversight, Constructivism, and…Agit-prop.”

Signal reprints the preface to the game with a translation which states: “This is the game of massacre. Come! … Here it is, the opulent collection of royal, imperial, and devine puppets, that control you as they wish, you poor crowd, and who, by tragic reversal of roles, pull, from one to the other, the strings of your poor destiny.” Who says that anarchists don’t have a sense of humour?

Like the previous two editions of Signal, issue three mixes historical and contemporary struggles and their associated graphics. So alongside an article on student led strikes in Québec in September 2012, you find the story of the incredible Barbara Dane, co-founder of Paredon Records. Between 1969 and 1985 Dane tried to document revolutionary music being made around the world and in an interview with Alec Dunn and Eric Yanke, she describes how she’d go from country to country recording different musicians and singers and return to the States to release them. In the space of 16 years, Paredon Records, with very little budget, released recordings from Vietnam, Salvador, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Northern Ireland, Ecuador, Italy, Britain, Angola, Chile, Greece, Thailand and a host of other countries. Of the sleeves, she says: “If you look at the records, they’re 12″ x 12″ on the front and then fold around about 5 inches on the back. It was done this way so they could print four at once, four-up on a single sheet of paper…At this printer, what dictated what you could do was economics… And so you figure out things like one color has read, the other blue, so then third cover can have purple. You figure out how to work with two colors, matte paper, that size.”

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1978, design Ronald Clyne

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1975, design by Ronald Clyne

Asking Dane about working with the designer Ronald Clyne, she says: ” If you caught him at the right time of day, before he drank too much wine, he was very very clever about what he did. You can see that he could take any kind of photo, work with it, and make it meaningful and not destroy the meaning of it. And always, his forte was selection of type and layout and all that. I’d bring him basic tools, the basic elements, photos and also drawings from artists I’d met.”

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1975, design by Ronald Clyne

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1974, cover art by Jane Norling

If Barbara Dane wasn’t inspirational enough, Signal:03 publishes an article by Ropbert Burghardt and Gal Kirn on the former Yugoslavia monuments to anti-fascism and revolution. These impressive and often modernist brutal memorials, built between 1945 and 1990, litter what is now split into seven different nations. The authors state: “These monuments are not only modernist, but contain as unique typology: monumental, symbolic (fists, stars, hands, wings, flowers, rocks), bold (and often structurally daring), otherworldly and fantastic. … Instead of formally addressing suffering, these memorial sites incite universal gestures of reconciliation, resistance, and progress…for those that encounter them, they remain highly imaginative objects: they could be ambassadors from far-away stars, witnesses of an unrealised future, historical spectres that haunt the present.”

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Some have been landscaped and provide opportunities for family days out with cafes and play areas. Some are more formal monuments that you can enter, such as the one above in Kozara, while others you happen upon in the middle of nowhere. Started as a way of remembering the second world war, they were initially built spontaneously by local artisans. And if the guidebook to them printed in Signal is anything to go by, there is a vast amount of these monuments dotted around the region, with a map stating over 200 locations, (although many have been destroyed or decayed).

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Once again I am truly impressed by Signal. Its historical importance stretches across many areas including art, design, architecture, music, politics, protest and social history. And although this could be seen as a research journal, it is easily accessible for those who are just generally interested in the topics it covers, students, scholars and armchair revolutionaries alike. I’m already looking forward to the forth edition due in May.

Signal:03 is available to buy from PM Press for $14.95

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Third year Graphic Design and Graphic Illustration degree students at University Campus Suffolk, (UCS), are holding an online illustration auction in April. Work has been donated from international illustrators such as Alysha Dawn, Miles Cole, Büro Ufho, Anke Weckmann, and Jamie Mitchell with more coming in on a daily basis. You can view the lots received to date on their website blink.com.

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The auction will be hosted on their website, with bids being accepted from 30 March, concluding on 6 April. All money raised will go towards their end of year degree show, due to be held in early June at UCS’s Waterfront Building in Ipswich, (more details to follow).

The students are still open for donations if anyone has any work they would like to submit, and you can follow their progress via their Twitter feed and Facebook page, links below.

Auction website
@BlinkAuction2015
Blink on Facebook

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2014 saw London’s 10 year old Kemistry Gallery announce that it could no longer stay at its existing location in Shoreditch due to rising rents. After a successful Kickstarter campaign, Kemistry have just released details of a new pop-up exhibition to celebrate their first 10 years. 100 Years of Graphic Design will feature work from every designer and illustrator that they hosted an exhibition for in their 10 year existence, a list of design luminaries that stretches back 100 years.

The Kickstarter campaign raised £16000, and was further supported by an Arts Council grant of £15000. This money is being used to put on this celebration as well as host future pop-up exhibitions, publications and activities to support the UK’s graphic design community, and secure Kemistry Gallery’s long-term future. Excitingly, they state on their website that not only do they want to find a permanent space, but wish to transform it into a ‘National Centre for Graphic Design’.

The show will run from 7–15 March at Protein Studios, 31 New Inn Yard, London EC2A 3EY.

Find out more details from the Kemistry Gallery website here.

TheSmallLetter

Several months ago I tidied up my online activities and in the process decided I wanted to delete some Tumblr blogs I maintained. Unfortunately I was unable to delete individual blogs, so had to cull everything and as a result said goodbye to a pre-digital typographic and print research archive I had been building up. Since then I have been looking for a suitable location to resurrect this archive, but unfortunately haven’t been able to source anything that did the job I wanted and, more importantly, was free.

As a result, I’m pleased to say that The Small Letter is now back, and back on Tumblr. It’s early stages yet, but in the coming weeks I will be re-populating its pages with scans of old type and print related books from my personal (and physical) archive alongside notes and observations. You can check out The Small Letter in its rudimentary stages here.

As with its previous incarnation, the blog starts with the publication that gave it a name: The Small Letter by Desmond and Liberated Jeffery, published in 1956 by praxis documents.

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Vector illustration and chunky lower case type make for the new look reductive graphics adorning McDonald’s take away packaging. Created by Leo Burnett design agancy in Chicago, (I’m currently unsure if this packaging has made it to the UK yet), it appears to be another opportunity missed.

I think it’s fair to say that McDonald’s has an image problem. Well, it has many image problems actually, but I’m specifically talking about the one that glares at us all from roadside gutters and courtryside hedgerows. Any repeat visitors to Dubdog will know that I’m talking litter, a particular bugbear of mine. The world over, McDonald’s is the top brand, or one of the top brands, found on fast food litter, (see this report from Australia, and this from the USA, and this by the UK’s Keep Britian Tidy). I first noticed it some 14 years ago and it prompted my McJunk project. McJunk was an exploration into the relationship between graphic design and disposable culture through a photographic study of McDonald’s litter, (download the introduction to the McJunk photobook as a PDF from here, or visit the McJunk website).

Discovering this new McDonald’s packaging today prompted me to hunt around the Internet for current research into littering and I found some key reports by Keep Britain Tidy, ( * links at bottom of post). In these I came across two specific points of interest that relate to my own graphic design related research:

  • Firstly: through focus group discussions it is claimed that people would be less likely to buy a brand that they saw being littered. While this could be one of a whole host of reasons why McDonald’s had a bad year in 2014, I’m somewhat sceptical—what someone states in a focus group in the company of others is not necessarily the reality of what they actually do. But even if this were true, and it makes business sense to take seriously such market research, you would have thought McDonald’s would take note and try to do more to convince people not to litter;
  • Secondly: many of those surveyed by Keep Britain Tidy stated that they thought the Tidyman logo made little difference to people’s littering habits. This I can well believe. Usually sidelined within any graphic design hierarchy—often on the bottom of any packet—as iconic as I think Tidyman is, the Keep Britain Tidy report suggests that as a nation we have become used to it if indeed we notice it at all.

And herein lies my major problem with this McDonald’s redesign. When the graphics applied to something do not affect whether someone is going to buy a product or not—McDonald’s takeaways are not bought off a shelf; you don’t see the packaging until a BigMac has been ordered, ‘cooked’ and handed over—graphics are technically not needed for marketing purposes. They are usually only there to encourage brand recognition or as decoration. Therefore, if you rethought the side of a take away bag, there is a perfect opportunity for McDonald’s to challenge their litter problem by educating consumers through graphic design. But alas McDonald’s chose not to take this opportunity.

As mentioned in one of the Keep Britian Tidy reports that I read, it is a depressing thought that litter problems will only get worse over the coming years with further public sector cuts. Such cuts mean local councils have to decide what services to shelve, and I suspect many authorities will rightly decide important issues such as social care trump litter patrols. And unfortunately public sector cuts are likely to continue. For regardless of who wins the UK general election this year, both Labour and Conservative have declared their intentions to continue with these cuts. Even if we have another coalition government come May, which is the most likely scenario, one of these two parties is likely to hold the balance of power.

A couple of years ago I put McJunk on a hiatus. With this new packaging launch and after reading several Keep Britian Tidy reports, it looks like it might be time to resurrect the project.

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McJunk, as found, on Shingle Street beach, Suffolk. Pre-2015 redesign.

Keep Britain Tidy 2013 Litter Report 

Keep Britain Tidy 2013: When it comes to litter, which side of the fence are you on report findings

PearShaped

When Occupy Design UK put out a call last week for Crisis Graphics in protest against climate change I immediately knew what I was going to submit—a reworked version of my 2002 piece Pear Shaped.

Originally created for a People Tree design competition, for which it won an award, I was never really happy with the typography. Occupy Design’s call gave me the opportunity to rework it, channelling a typographic treatment I liked in a piece of work by Ivan Chermayeff that I first saw at his Cut and Paste retrospective last year, (see Holiday exhibitioning pt 1). I’m not usually one for returning to my past creations but Pear Shaped suited the cause and recycling an old idea seemed appropriate. It is, however, an inditement of the lack of progress on climate change that an image created 13 years ago is still relevant today.

Occupy Design UK’s aim is to create an ‘Agit-Prop Army’ of images for the Time to Act on Climate Change protest in London on 7 March 2015. Time to Act’s intention is to put pressure on political parties to consider the environment in the run-up to the general election in the UK in May, with a further aim to build towards the COP21 UN Climate Summit being held in Paris in December.

Occupy Design UK’s call for Crisis Graphics.

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Occupy Design UK is calling for posters and memes to support a day of action on climate change on 7 March.

They say on their website: “The demonstration on March 7th aims to put pressure on political parties before the general election, and raise the profile of climate change. It is also intended to energise and strengthen the climate movement – not an end-point but a stepping stone, it will be followed by local action immediately before the general election, the Climate Coalition lobby of Parliament in June and planning throughout 2015 towards the crucial Paris.”

On the call for images, they say: “We want your Posters and Memes for the Movement to use as an Agit-Prop Army of images to bolster the campaign on the streets and on the Net throughout the year.”

For more details, check out Occupy Design UK’s website here.

As 2015 approaches and I look back over the past year I can honestly say that one of my proudest achievements of 2014 was being awarded Shittest Tutor Of The Year by graduating UCS Graphic Design and Illustration students, (albeit via Mr Bingo’s Hate Mail project book ).

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Happy New Year to all Dubdog readers. Here’s to 2015.

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,900 times in 2014. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

No lengthy introduction to my annual music round-up this year due to illness at the time of posting. My highlight releases and re-releases of the year, (those that I’ve returned to the most over the course of the last 12 months), have been, well, highlighted.

Most important band of the year? It can be none other than Sleaford Mods. Why? Well, for many reasons—because they are aesthetically the antithesis of Cameron, Clegg, Miliband and Farage; because they have zero pretensions; because they are not a ‘protest’ band; because not even 6music can play them despite desperately wanting to jump on the bandwagon; because they were the only band worth seeing live in 2014, (which is lucky as they were pretty much the only band I did see besides reggae superstars Jimmy Cliff and Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry); but mostly because of so many great lyrics, such as: “I can’t believe the rich still exist, let alone run the fucking country”; “The smell of piss is so strong is smells like decent bacon”; “Cameron’s hairdresser got an MBE, I said to my wife ‘you’d better shoot me'”, and, well, if you’ve heard them you’ll know. If you haven’t, scour YouTube.

Lastly before we get to the list, RIP SpaceApe. You’ll be sadly missed.

Kasai Allstars – Beware The Fetish
Laetitia Sadier – Something Shines
Swans – To Be Kind
Run The Jewels – Run The Jewels 2
Dels – Petals Have Fallen
Mogwai – Music Industry 3, Fitness Industry 1. EP
Sleaford Mods – Tiswas EP
Robert Wyatt – Different Every Time
Fugazi – First Demo, End Hits, Instrument
Bo Ningen – III
Tony Allen – Film of Life
Hacker Farm – Poundland
Dead Rat Orchestra – Pearl Fishers / Boat Notchers
Kate Tempest – Everybody Down
Pauline Murray and The Invisible Girls – Pauline Murray and The Invisible Girls
Various – The Wire Tapper 36
The Pop Group – We Are Time / Cabinet of Curiosities
Kode9 & The Spaceape – Killing Season EP
Phillip Henry & Hannah Martin – Mynd
Jon Langford & Skull Orchard – Here Be Monsters
Mary Gauthier – Live at Blue Rock
Manic Street Preachers – Futurology
Rapeman – Two Nuns And A Pack Mule
Hacker Farm/Libbe Matz Gang – Crass In Africa
Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy – Singer’s Grave A Sea Of Tongues
Thom Yorke – Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes
Apex Twin – Syro
Big Black – Rich Man’s Eight Track Tape
Shellac – Dude Incredible, At Action Park
Liz Green – Haul Away!
Killing Joke – In Dub
Augustus Pablo – Born To Dub You
The Bug – Angels & Devils
Viv Albertine – The Vermillion Boarder
Fun Boy Three – Fun Boy Three
Mogwai – Come On Die Young / appendix
King Creosote – From Scotland With Love
Morrissey – World Peace Is None Of Your Business
Various – Studio One Dancehall, Sir Coxsone In The Dance: The Foundation Sound
Various – Frontline presents Dub 1975–1980
Various – Frontline presents Roots1975–1979
Edvard Graham Lewis – All Above
Eno . Hyde – Someday World, High Life
Cabaret Voltaire – #7885: Electropunk to Technopop 1978–1985
Death Grips – Niggas On The Moon
Various – Hyperdub 10.1
Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry – Back At The Controls
Plaid – Reachy Prints
Little Dragon – Nabuma Rubberband
Tune-Yards – Nikki Nack
Sleaford Mods – Divide and Exit
Cate Le Bon – Mug Museum
Parquet Courts – Light Up Gold + Tally All The Things That You Broke
The Bad Plus – The Rites Of Spring
Steve Ignorant with Paranoid Vision – When?
Fat White Family – Champagne Holocaust
Various – Wire Tapper 34
Sons of Kemet – Burn
Polar Bear – In Each And Every One
Liars – Mess
Iggy Pop – Zombie Birdhouse (thanks Ken)
Metronomy – Love Letters
Deadbeat & Paul St Hilaire – The Infinity Dub Sessions
Sleaford Mods – Chubbed up. The Singles Collection.
St Vincent – St Vincent
Various – Inner City Beat: Detective Themes, Spy Music and Imaginary Thrillers
Neneh Cherry – Blank Project
Beck – Morning Phase
Various – Evolution Of Dub Vol 8: The Search For New Life
Various – Studio One Rocksteady
The Upsetters – The Good, The Bad And The Upsetters
Young Fathers – Dead
The Move – Anthology 1966–1972
The Ex – How Thick You Think/That’s Not A Virus
Various – Songlines Top Of The World #98 +
Actress – Ghettoville
Thee Silver Mt Zion Memorial Orchestra – Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light On Everything
Warpaint – Warpaint
Mogwai – Rave Tapes
Run The Jewels – Run The Jewels
Fire! – (Without Noticing)
The Spook of the Thirteenth Lock – The Brutal Here And Now
Primitive Calculators – The World Is Fucked

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