Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Behind the Idea

I was surprised to find a new weekly section has been added to the Metro, "Behind the idea".
Supported by D&AD, every Tuesday an advert will be chosen by an expert and analyzed. The first feature is by Paul Brazier, AMV/D&AD president. He focus on a viral ad which involves sheep with LED's on being chased into shapes. (see article below or on emetro date 29.09.09)

I'm intrigued to see how the public view this new feature, so I will be paying close attention to how long people spend reading the page and wondering if they are generally interested or they may in fact just be another ad man commuting to work finding a common interest. Advertising critiques are no longer tucked away in marketing trade mags, blogs and advertising sites. I think it's great as advertising should be a worthy page filler, becoming an industry that people like to follow and have an opinion, just like cookery,fashion,arts. It does however mean we might, if glossy mags take hold, we could start to see big red circles round typo errors and bad art direction or having such headlines as "when good concepts go bad".

Either way, its great that the industry is getting national publicity. It may also mean my mum might know what my job involves now and what makes a great ad!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Aim, Fire, SHOOT

My first month came to a fantastic end when i got to direct my first photoshoot. Once the work has all been completed and available I will post it up. The shoot, yet pretty simple in its direction ie,no awkward angles,specific lighting techniques or models/animals to consider. But it was great to work with a really experienced photographer,Alun Crockford.

Meanwhile I found this "Ten things I have learned" by Milton Glaser. His words insightful and i particularly like number 10- tell the truth. Glaser talks about how its the designer's responsibility to the public to tell the truth. I think this really applies to nowadays when people want to know more about the product than ever before- where its made, organic,fair trade, eco, efficiency and so on. Consumers can see a porky even if its not staring them at the face. However with increased consumer and product relationship I think more than ever before its the product's truths that advertising can exploit to build strong brand appeal, history and product differentiation. The truth has become a powerful tool.

Overall it just shows that with the nature of this industry, everything is constantly changing and indeed everyone is always learning something be it big or small.

10 things I've learned- Milton Glaser:
This is a curious rule and it took me a long time to learn because in fact at the beginning of my practice I felt the opposite. Professionalism required that you didn’t particularly like the people that you worked for or at least maintained an arms length relationship to them, which meant that I never had lunch with a client or saw them socially. Then some years ago I realised that the opposite was true. I discovered that all the work I had done that was meaningful and significant came out of an affectionate relationship with a client. And I am not talking about professionalism; I am talking about affection. I am talking about a client and you sharing some common ground. That in fact your view of life is someway congruent with the client, otherwise it is a bitter and hopeless struggle.

One night I was sitting in my car outside Columbia University where my wife Shirley was studying Anthropology. While I was waiting I was listening to the radio and heard an interviewer ask ‘Now that you have reached 75 have you any advice for our audience about how to prepare for your old age?’ An irritated voice said ‘Why is everyone asking me about old age these days?’ I recognised the voice as John Cage. I am sure that many of you know who he was – the composer and philosopher who influenced people like Jasper Johns and Merce Cunningham as well as the music world in general. I knew him slightly and admired his contribution to our times. ‘You know, I do know how to prepare for old age’ he said. ‘Never have a job, because if you have a job someday someone will take it away from you and then you will be unprepared for your old age. For me, it has always been the same every since the age of 12. I wake up in the morning and I try to figure out how am I going to put bread on the table today? It is the same at 75, I wake up every morning and I think how am I going to put bread on the table today? I am exceedingly well prepared for my old age’ he said.

This is a subtext of number one. There was in the sixties a man named Fritz Perls who was a gestalt therapist. Gestalt therapy derives from art history, it proposes you must understand the ‘whole’ before you can understand the details. What you have to look at is the entire culture, the entire family and community and so on. Perls proposed that in all relationships people could be either toxic or nourishing towards one another. It is not necessarily true that the same person will be toxic or nourishing in every relationship, but the combination of any two people in a relationship produces toxic or nourishing consequences. And the important thing that I can tell you is that there is a test to determine whether someone is toxic or nourishing in your relationship with them. Here is the test: You have spent some time with this person, either you have a drink or go for dinner or you go to a ball game. It doesn’t matter very much but at the end of that time you observe whether you are more energised or less energised. Whether you are tired or whether you are exhilarated. If you are more tired then you have been poisoned. If you have more energy you have been nourished. The test is almost infallible and I suggest that you use it for the rest of your life.

Early in my career I wanted to be professional, that was my complete aspiration in my early life because professionals seemed to know everything - not to mention they got paid for it. Later I discovered after working for a while that professionalism itself was a limitation. After all, what professionalism means in most cases is diminishing risks. So if you want to get your car fixed you go to a mechanic who knows how to deal with transmission problems in the same way each time. I suppose if you needed brain surgery you wouldn’t want the doctor to fool around and invent a new way of connecting your nerve endings. Please do it in the way that has worked in the past.
Unfortunately in our field, in the so-called creative – I hate that word because it is misused so often. I also hate the fact that it is used as a noun. Can you imagine calling someone a creative? Anyhow, when you are doing something in a recurring way to diminish risk or doing it in the same way as you have done it before, it is clear why professionalism is not enough. After all, what is required in our field, more than anything else, is the continuous transgression. Professionalism does not allow for that because transgression has to encompass the possibility of failure and if you are professional your instinct is not to fail, it is to repeat success. So professionalism as a lifetime aspiration is a limited goal.

Being a child of modernism I have heard this mantra all my life. Less is more. One morning upon awakening I realised that it was total nonsense, it is an absurd proposition and also fairly meaningless. But it sounds great because it contains within it a paradox that is resistant to understanding. But it simply does not obtain when you think about the visual of the history of the world. If you look at a Persian rug, you cannot say that less is more because you realise that every part of that rug, every change of colour, every shift in form is absolutely essential for its aesthetic success. You cannot prove to me that a solid blue rug is in any way superior. That also goes for the work of Gaudi, Persian miniatures, art nouveau and everything else. However, I have an alternative to the proposition that I believe is more appropriate. ‘Just enough is more.’

I think this idea first occurred to me when I was looking at a marvellous etching of a bull by Picasso. It was an illustration for a story by Balzac called The Hidden Masterpiece. I am sure that you all know it. It is a bull that is expressed in 12 different styles going from very naturalistic version of a bull to an absolutely reductive single line abstraction and everything else along the way. What is clear just from looking at this single print is that style is irrelevant. In every one of these cases, from extreme abstraction to acute naturalism they are extraordinary regardless of the style. It’s absurd to be loyal to a style. It does not deserve your loyalty. I must say that for old design professionals it is a problem because the field is driven by economic consideration more than anything else. Style change is usually linked to economic factors, as all of you know who have read Marx. Also fatigue occurs when people see too much of the same thing too often. So every ten years or so there is a stylistic shift and things are made to look different. Typefaces go in and out of style and the visual system shifts a little bit. If you are around for a long time as a designer, you have an essential problem of what to do. I mean, after all, you have developed a vocabulary, a form that is your own. It is one of the ways that you distinguish yourself from your peers, and establish your identity in the field. How you maintain your own belief system and preferences becomes a real balancing act. The question of whether you pursue change or whether you maintain your own distinct form becomes difficult. We have all seen the work of illustrious practitioners that suddenly look old-fashioned or, more precisely, belonging to another moment in time. And there are sad stories such as the one about Cassandre, arguably the greatest graphic designer of the twentieth century, who couldn’t make a living at the end of his life and committed suicide.
But the point is that anybody who is in this for the long haul has to decide how to respond to change in the zeitgeist. What is it that people now expect that they formerly didn’t want? And how to respond to that desire in a way that doesn’t change your sense of integrity and purpose.

The brain is the most responsive organ of the body. Actually it is the organ that is most susceptible to change and regeneration of all the organs in the body. I have a friend named Gerald Edelman who was a great scholar of brain studies and he says that the analogy of the brain to a computer is pathetic. The brain is actually more like an overgrown garden that is constantly growing and throwing off seeds, regenerating and so on. And he believes that the brain is susceptible, in a way that we are not fully conscious of, to almost every experience of our life and every encounter we have. I was fascinated by a story in a newspaper a few years ago about the search for perfect pitch. A group of scientists decided that they were going to find out why certain people have perfect pitch. You know certain people hear a note precisely and are able to replicate it at exactly the right pitch. Some people have relevant pitch; perfect pitch is rare even among musicians. The scientists discovered – I don’t know how - that among people with perfect pitch the brain was different. Certain lobes of the brain had undergone some change or deformation that was always present with those who had perfect pitch. This was interesting enough in itself. But then they discovered something even more fascinating. If you took a bunch of kids and taught them to play the violin at the age of 4 or 5 after a couple of years some of them developed perfect pitch, and in all of those cases their brain structure had changed. Well what could that mean for the rest of us? We tend to believe that the mind affects the body and the body affects the mind, although we do not generally believe that everything we do affects the brain. I am convinced that if someone was to yell at me from across the street my brain could be affected and my life might changed. That is why your mother always said, ‘Don’t hang out with those bad kids.’ Mama was right. Thought changes our life and our behaviour. I also believe that drawing works in the same way. I am a great advocate of drawing, not in order to become an illustrator, but because I believe drawing changes the brain in the same way as the search to create the right note changes the brain of a violinist. Drawing also makes you attentive. It makes you pay attention to what you are looking at, which is not so easy.

Everyone always talks about confidence in believing what you do. I remember once going to a class in yoga where the teacher said that, spirituality speaking, if you believed that you had achieved enlightenment you have merely arrived at your limitation. I think that is also true in a practical sense. Deeply held beliefs of any kind prevent you from being open to experience, which is why I find all firmly held ideological positions questionable. It makes me nervous when someone believes too deeply or too much. I think that being sceptical and questioning all deeply held beliefs is essential. Of course we must know the difference between scepticism and cynicism because cynicism is as much a restriction of one’s openness to the world as passionate belief is. They are sort of twins. And then in a very real way, solving any problem is more important than being right. There is a significant sense of self-righteousness in both the art and design world. Perhaps it begins at school. Art school often begins with the Ayn Rand model of the single personality resisting the ideas of the surrounding culture. The theory of the avant garde is that as an individual you can transform the world, which is true up to a point. One of the signs of a damaged ego is absolute certainty.
Schools encourage the idea of not compromising and defending your work at all costs. Well, the issue at work is usually all about the nature of compromise. You just have to know what to compromise. Blind pursuit of your own ends which excludes the possibility that others may be right does not allow for the fact that in design we are always dealing with a triad – the client, the audience and you.
Ideally, making everyone win through acts of accommodation is desirable. But self-righteousness is often the enemy. Self-righteousness and narcissism generally come out of some sort of childhood trauma, which we do not have to go into. It is a consistently difficult thing in human affairs. Some years ago I read a most remarkable thing about love, that also applies to the nature of co-existing with others. It was a quotation from Iris Murdoch in her obituary. It read ‘ Love is the extremely difficult realisation that something other than oneself is real.’ Isn’t that fantastic! The best insight on the subject of love that one can imagine.

Last year someone gave me a charming book by Roger Rosenblatt called ‘Ageing Gracefully’ I got it on my birthday. I did not appreciate the title at the time but it contains a series of rules for ageing gracefully. The first rule is the best. Rule number one is that ‘it doesn’t matter.’ ‘It doesn’t matter that what you think. Follow this rule and it will add decades to your life. It does not matter if you are late or early, if you are here or there, if you said it or didn’t say it, if you are clever or if you were stupid. If you were having a bad hair day or a no hair day or if your boss looks at you cockeyed or your boyfriend or girlfriend looks at you cockeyed, if you are cockeyed. If you don’t get that promotion or prize or house or if you do – it doesn’t matter.’ Wisdom at last. Then I heard a marvellous joke that seemed related to rule number 10. A butcher was opening his market one morning and as he did a rabbit popped his head through the door. The butcher was surprised when the rabbit inquired ‘Got any cabbage?’ The butcher said ‘This is a meat market – we sell meat, not vegetables.’ The rabbit hopped off. The next day the butcher is opening the shop and sure enough the rabbit pops his head round and says ‘You got any cabbage?’ The butcher now irritated says ‘Listen you little rodent I told you yesterday we sell meat, we do not sell vegetables and the next time you come here I am going to grab you by the throat and nail those floppy ears to the floor.’ The rabbit disappeared hastily and nothing happened for a week. Then one morning the rabbit popped his head around the corner and said ‘Got any nails?’ The butcher said ‘No.’ The rabbit said ‘Ok. Got any cabbage?’

The rabbit joke is relevant because it occurred to me that looking for a cabbage in a butcher’s shop might be like looking for ethics in the design field. It may not be the most obvious place to find either. It’s interesting to observe that in the new AIGA’s code of ethics there is a significant amount of useful information about appropriate behaviour towards clients and other designers, but not a word about a designer’s relationship to the public. We expect a butcher to sell us eatable meat and that he doesn’t misrepresent his wares. I remember reading that during the Stalin years in Russia that everything labelled veal was actually chicken. I can’t imagine what everything labelled chicken was. We can accept certain kinds of misrepresentation, such as fudging about the amount of fat in his hamburger but once a butcher knowingly sells us spoiled meat we go elsewhere. As a designer, do we have less responsibility to our public than a butcher? Everyone interested in licensing our field might note that the reason licensing has been invented is to protect the public not designers or clients. ‘Do no harm’ is an admonition to doctors concerning their relationship to their patients, not to their fellow practitioners or the drug companies. If we were licensed, telling the truth might become more central to what we do.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

I spy with my little triangle eye

Maybe a current mini trend sweeping the design industries. Those 3 sided polygon wonders are making a big appearance.

Here's some i've noticed:
Melbournes new identity by Landor:

Kate Moross' logo:

Fashion Label Lacoste:

Barbican Art Gallery:

And for Advertising, Stella Artois:

Monday, September 21, 2009

When I grow up I want to be...

... self taught, title sequence extraordinaire... DAH DAH DAH... Danny Yount.

My gosh he has some skills. Beautifully directed titles to such films as Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, The Reaping and tv shows such as Six Feet Under. I find the whole idea of being a title designer exciting, a mini film to set the mood about a film. Danny got media attention with his interactive portfolio all the way back in 1992, way ahead of his time.

Turn the volume up!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Week 2

Blumin ell, what a rollercoaster of a week.
So the first week nerves are dissapearing and actual REAL jobs and the deadlines they bring with them are emerging. Some deadlines like to come alone whilst other like to clump together.Proceed stress.

So the next thing i've learnt that education doesn't teach... being able to juggle multiple jobs. At uni it's just one brief at a time, progression from scamp stage non exsistent and progression from yourself non exsistent. So its been a tough step this week, learning just how the process from an idea being scribbled down on the side of a napkin to the same idea being produced and all the quality control it has to go through before it can be given the seal of approval and released to the masses.

Secondanly, your part of a team. You and your copywriter. Yet your roles are very seperate and being the art director you have alot of responsibility seeing a job go through. I didn't quiet realise how much I would be solely responsible for and how much longer a job will be lingering around whilst a copywriter once words are done and approved can get on with the next job. Its kind of like if an idea was a kid, the copywriter will leave the kid at nursery whilst the art director takes the kid to nursery and then works at the nursery. But at the end of the day you both go and collect the kid and take it home.

However my week was topped off on a high note when I got to visit the opening night of Ryan Mcginley's new exhbition Moonmilk in Alison Jacques gallery. McGinley has done work for vaious adverting photography for Levis, Wrangler, NY times.

Moonmilk is about "crystalline deposits found on the walls of caves, once believed to be formed from the light of celestial bodies passing through the rock to the darkened worlds below." Here's some of Moonmilk... imagine each image about 6ft high and they take your breath away.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Week 1

It's been a short week, mainly due to the bank holiday but also because time has flown. I was dreading the working hours, simply as before this job I was acting a lot like a cat, moving only for food/washing and sleeping in sunny areas of my lounge. But, this maybe just a first week novelty, but drawing scamps and generally daydreaming/chatting mixed with the odd meeting and the 3.30 complimentary snack break the hours just disappear. This is despite me still seeing both sunrise and sunset on my 2 and half hour return journey to the capital. Yes, a house in the city is my priority at the moment.

So Monday I turned up all eager and still confused that I was quite literally walking into my first job. I was shown my computer and desk and was quickly hurried into a meeting to get briefed. I sat there, not quite knowing how these things run, but it went as follows,(in Chuckle Borthers style sketch to-me-to-you) account man-cd-us-cd-accountman-us-senior-us...US...oooh US, and at the end of 30 minutes we had our first complete job, starting from scratch with job number and a job bag! OH yeah!

I also got to art direct my first piece of work to a designer to mac up. Again a little odd as im used to just directing myself but was great watching an expert do their own thing and make ideas come to life as you visioned.

So here i am, first week down, absolutly shattered and still holding onto my Saturday job to make ends meet, with one day to rest, I will start all over again on Monday.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Job Title

Well, it's been a while since my last post but a lot has changed.

Firstly, I have a job! A proper salaried, sick pay, holiday pay, rent pay job.

Yes. Im as stunned as you. It all happened very suddenly but from today I'm getting paid to be a junior art director. It's a very odd feeling and I think I'm very fortunate to be offered a job so quickly, especially in the current crumbling economy we live in.

So, where do I go from here? Well I sure have a hell of a lot to learn and it's time to move to London.