October 28, 2011

Watch Out for Wooly Mammoths!

Stop, Think, Go, Do!!!

Author: Steven Heller

Mirko Ilic and I have just finished a book called STOP THINK GO DO! That delightful litany of words is the essence of what we, as graphic "communicators" attempt to do everyday. This book, building on contemporary trends in "word-as-image" based graphic design, is a survey of how receivers of our work are commanded by direct, indirect, emotional and official declarations. And, moreover, how our behavior is altered by these demonstrative designs.

We are conditioned to respond to the controlling missives we receive, and not inconsequentially, by the illustrative and typographic appearance of those missives. Take the everyday act of crossing the street: It is dictated by terse commands—Stop, Go, Cross, Don't Cross. Halt! Whatever the language, the orders are always comprehensible in print. If not the specific words (Berhenti, means stop in Malaysia), or the alphabet (Cyrillic or Chinese), then the colors (like red for stop, yellow for wait, green for go), symbols (flat outstretched hands for stop) and sign shapes are often unmistakable indicators.

Street signs are not the only graphic interventions that impact our behavioral consciousness and subconsciousness. Our lives are filled with typographic and pictorial decrees and warnings designed to either regiment, protect, or otherwise condition the everyday. Short and lengthily worded commands, proclamations, testimonies, and directions have been essential to our hard-wired behavior since signs and symbols were first scratched onto the Lascaux caves. "Watch Out for Wooly Mammoths!"

Designing commands is not, however, the exclusive province of graphic designers. In fact, when words are used to influence behavior, the niceties of typographic design are often sacrificed for the brutish immediacy of pure, untutored expression. Of course, typography is esssential in getting most messages across, and designers are responsible, at the very least, for designing the typefaces, if not also how they are used. It is unlikely that the word STOP would be typeset in a curlicue script—it just doesn't have the authority—but anyone, designer or not, can select a slab serif or bold gothic face to make the word (or statement) scream.

This is how we have organize the book. It is by common actions designed to trigger reactions:

Inform is, informatively, parallel to educate but not exactly the same. It involves tweaking the audience by bringing to light an issue, essence or concern that requires contemplation.

One of three posters made for the Poezin party event (aka Poetic clubbing). It is made as a combination of body-painting, hand written typography on bodies in different poses, with a certain requisite. Client: Poezin; Belgrade, Serbia; Art Director, Designer, Photographer: Dragana Nikolić; Photographer: Biljana Rakočević

Advocate is, perhaps, the most common of all since designers are often called upon to create messages that rouse an audience to support and therefore engage in an issue or event.

Using 12,000 Campbell's Soup cans, the designers spelled the word hunger. People were encouraged to remove a can from the display and donate it. The more people donated, the more the word and the problem of hunger, disappeared. The campaign has been running for three years and continues to grow in the number of displays being built. Client: Campbell's Soup Company; Agency: Leo Burnett Toronto; Creative Director: Judy John, Israel Diaz; Art Director: Anthony Chelvanathan; Copywriter: Steve Persico

Caution is, doubtless, the most classic graphic design behaviorial message genre. Keep Out, No Tresspassing, Wrong Way, Beware of Dog, and other cautionary missives are designed to insure health and well-being of one and all.

The poster attacks the absurdity of anyone (i.e. church or government) making decisions about a woman's body, other than herself. Client: Trudy Cole-Zielanski Design; Studio: TLC Design; Art Director /Designer: Trudy L. Cole

Play is what every design does whether knowingly or not. What is the moving around of word and image but a puzzle or game? This is the essence of the following sections; through play we learn, entertain, express, inform, and transform.

To promote the 2009 edition of Guimarães Jazz, one of Portugal's major jazz events, a strategy was conceived to emphasize the spontaneity of this specific genre. All pieces of information are put in motion by the musician's flying fingers and the instrument's swinging strings. Reinforcing the curvy shapes through the absence of color. Client: Centro Cultural Vila Flor; Studio: Atelier Martino&Jaña; Designer: João Martino, Alejandra Jaña, Oscar Maia, Álvaro Martino, Filipe Cerqueira; Art Director/Creative Director: João Martino, Alejandra Jaña

Educate is, in fact, a combination of all the categories here, except specifically it is the rubric under which more detailed knowledge messages are shared.

The posters are meant to remind the viewer of agression against Croatia. The title KRV-ATSKA! is derived from the Croatian word for CROATIA: HRVATSKA, the initial three letters forming another word – KRV (blood, in Croatian). Studio: STUDIO INTERNATIONAL; Art Director / Designer: Boris Ljubicic

Entertain is, decidedly, the genre of behaviorial design that everyone enjoys the most. No one is threatened by entertainment, which has various outcomes, but one fundamental goal—to bring enjoyment.

For a "Job Portal" it is important to earn the user's confidence. Yet one way to do that is through graphics that speaks to self-confidence. And it doesn't hurt to add a bit of irony too. Executive Creative Director: James Daniels; Art Director: Romy Lunz; Copywriter: Sarah Keevy; Typographer: Romy Lunz/James Daniels

Express is, curiously, the largest growth area for more designers who are using graphically designed words and slogans as a means of expressing personal beliefs, philosophies, and manifestos with the goal of influencing others.

Stephen Doyle uses three dimensions to ask a dimensional question. Whatever the answer, there is an inevitable doom in the offing as the wood framework of his words ignite in flame. Designer: Stephen Doyle; Client: Wired Magazine

Transform is an overlapping category whereby projects are borne of play but are transformations of what they originally appear to be. These pieces are sly and wicked, using visual puns and graphic manipulation to come in under the preception radar.

There is a distinct DIY punk quality to this pixelated exhibition poster that may not illustrate what's on exhibition, but demands the sense to go straight to the bullseye in the middle. Client: Atashzad Art Gallery; Studio: Amirbeik Studio; Art Director/Designer: Amirhossein Ghoochibeik

Now, READ THIS BOOK! Stop, Think, Go, Do will be available in April 2012.

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