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Publishing

Screen Shot 2013-06-09 at 10.50.44It seems that some people are still getting their knickers in a twist about Yahoo’s relaunch of their photo sharing site Flickr. Lots of people were complaining about it before the relaunch, and lots are complaining about it afterwards.

For the record, I (mostly) like it. I thought it had started to look dated, and when the iPhone app was redesigned in December 2012, my immediate response was that I hoped there would be a redesign of the main website along similar lines. And my wish came true.

Sure, the constant scrolling is playing havoc with my first generation iPad, crashing Safari as it does. But then so does Facebook and iTunes, as websites become so content laden that older processors can’t cope. But this is the way the web is going, and there is nothing I can do about it.

Visually, the new Flickr gives me a better view of all of my photos without having to enlarge them—previously the ‘large’ view was restricted to 5 images on my home page, which then switched to thumbnails for all subsequent pages. This always annoyed me. But now it gives an over view of someone’s visual interests from the outset. The photograph sizes are just enough to see what I want from the images I only want to ponder momentarily, and I can enlarge those that grab my attention and interest. Previously, past the first page, I had to enlarge pretty much every image to decide if I wanted to investigate them or not. This has got to be an improvement.

I accept that it may not suit the ‘professional’ photographer as well as it once did, but there are alternatives they can use. And they tend to have quite an elitist view about photography anyway and sneer at anything that has a mass appeal—you’ve only got to look at the bitching online about Instagram to see this, (which I’ve discussed previously on here).

So, well done Yahoo. When my Pro account becomes null and void and I have to pay for no adverts, I will do. You are a commercial enterprise offering a service after all—I want to use that service and I don’t want adverts—no complaint there from me.

To view my Flickr pages, go here.

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I read about Signal: A Journal of International Political Graphics & Culture, when Rick Poynor reviewed issue 02 for Design Observer recently, and his is a much better critique of this journal than I could give here, so I’ll keep this brief. Published in the United States, issue 01 came out in 2010, and went totally under my radar. Now, in 2012, the second edition has been released, I snapped up both as soon as I could. If you are at all interested in political/agitational graphic design, then they come highly recommended. However, I couldn’t promote one over the other as both are as packed with diverse and inspirational content as each other.

The latest issue features articles about Portuguese street murals; a painter from Mozambique called Malangatana Valente Nguenha, ; spreads of front covers of British Anarchist newspaper Freedom, from 1908 to 1917; and Gestetner Art, among other things.

Issue 01 features the adventures of Red Rat, a comic strip by Van de Weert that evolved from the Dutch punk and squatting scene in the early 1980s; Mexican protest graphics that surrounded the Mexico 68 Olympics; the Taller Tupac Amaru printmaking collective; and graffiti artist Impeach, whose work travels the United States subverting ‘wild style’ graffiti on subway trains into Wild West style graffiti on freight trains.

What I like most about this journal, edited by Alec Icky Dunn and Josh MacPhee, is the exploration of different cultures, examining work and contexts that don’t necessarily crop up in books about political graphic design. That, and the mix of historical and contemporary work. Both these things keep this small book alive and relevant, and stops it being filed under history with out any relevance to the modern day. There are some obvious ‘go to’ books for those interested in political visual communication: Liz McQuiston’s two volume set titled Graphic Agitation, Milton Glaser’s The Design of Dissent, and the recently published and excellent Beauty Is In The Street by Johan Kugelberg & Philippe Vermes. However, because Signal is published as a journal, it gives the wide range of contexts and material discussed a connection to the here and now, a relevant voice that suggests a continuation rather than a static recording.

Now that I’ve found Signal, I just hope the gap between issue 02 and 03 isn’t as great.

I don’t know whether people still produce fanzines or not, but Kek-W is so tired of writing online that he has decided to produce one. Or rather, as he calls it, an analogue blog.

Titled Kid Shirt, this is basically a physically constructed fanzine involving actual cut and paste, which has then been scanned as a PDF for anyone to download. He sets out his rationale in the first pages:

Just like fanzines of old, this analogue blog contains lots of musicians you’ve probably never heard of. However, worthy of note is the strange hybrid between digital accoutrements and physical form, and the over laps in different media that Kek-W has deliberately exploited. For example, posts become pastes, and ‘previous’ and ‘next’ buttons simply indicate what direction you need to go in: they aren’t buttons at all. Further to this, comment fields remain empty because the PDF you download is a static, non-interactive document.

It is interesting to note the “proper writing” comment in the introduction, (see below), as I wonder whether the lack of audience right to reply to the text, frees up the writer. It could also be considered in direct contrast to the Guardian’s current Open Journalism campaign, which is something I could applaud if I hadn’t read many of the idiotic comments left on the Guardian website by knee-jerk reactionaries.

Aesthetically, Kid Shirt completely shreds any signs of slickness, despite the whole having a lo-fi sophistication. This, in my opinion, is all part of the publication’s charm. On his digital blog, also titled Kid Shirt, Kek-W states: “Download it, print it off, staple it together, read it like a fanzine…   Or…if you’re a MediaKid, use a PDF-reader, dump it onto your tablet, whatever,” before going on to vehemently disclaim any responsibility for it not working on different platforms because his call for testers was ignored. The punk attitude he displays is more than a visual style, evidently.

In fact, it is with this in mind that I was reminded of an article in Eye 82, whereby Rick Poyner wrote about British artist Laura Oldfield Ford’s Savage Messiah fanzine. He stated that the, “visual style is a kind of reclaimed punk that recalls the anarchic graphics of Crass,” (while completely forgetting to name check Gee Vaucher, the artist behind Crass’ visual output, in the process). Well, while there are similarities between Savage Messiah and Kid Shirt in terms of the crude nature of the layout and artwork, this is much more intriguing to me, as the narrative of online publishing has been used which takes this beyond mere pastiche, as could be claimed of Ford’s work. While much less political in terms of content than Savage Messiah, Kek-W is more oppositional as these virtual signifiers are détournements, that add a critique of contemporary publishing, something that affects all who dabble in online social networking. Ford’s anachronistic visual style potentially distracts from her important messages, where as Kek-W’s is at its heart.

Download Kid Shirt here.
Thanks to Uncarved.org for the heads up.

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