I want to share some notes on the 2012 Summer Design Fellowship poster and some thoughts on design communication. But before I do here’s just a brief introduction for those who are new to the program. Years ago the firm established a ten-week paid Design Fellowship for an exceptional architecture student to work with us over the summer. The application is open to all students who are, at date of submission, enrolled in an accredited professional degree program in the field of architecture.
At some point, to keep things fresh we decided it might be interesting for someone new to design the poster each year. This year, Non-Format was selected because of the collaborative nature of their design process with one partner working in Oslo, Norway and one in Minneapolis, Minnesota… and the name [Non-Format] says it all.
It pains me to see many of my colleagues rely increasingly on graphic software programs such as Prezi as they search for more meaningful design communication. Tufte seminars aside, they clearly shift emphasis away from the communicator and even the design. Some (yours truly included) believe the design is the communication, so there is no need for whiz-bang, flashy presentation techniques.
In many ways, that same “self-evident” quality is sought in the Fellowship candidates’ portfolios. In my design brief to Non-Format I tried to emphasize that. Ideally, the candidate is highly collaborative, quickly and intuitively showcasing and grasping ideas, patterns, research and detail.”
Non-Format certainly took the last part of the statement (grasping ideas, patterns, research and detail) to heart. The poster is, in some ways a giant typographic puzzle that takes time, interest and effort to decode. It honestly took me a few moments to wrap my head around it, but after a while it made perfect sense. Designers are naturally problem solvers, but also, as my fellow MassArt alum Brian Collins once memorably shared, “problem seekers”.
Encoding design with puzzles can be a powerful tool. It quite literally rewards the viewer. One the most celebrated examples is Milton Glaser’s I (heart) NY logo which is a very simple rebus. Given the abstract nature of the poster, another reference in my e-mails back and forth with Non-Format was to “not mistake legibility for communication,” a statement in graphic form associated with American graphic designer David Carson.
Ming Yan, our 2010 Fellow and now a full-time employee, said the poster reminded him of a bit of a city grid – New York, perhaps – in its seemingly formal organization of varying functional structures and motifs. What do you see?
You can learn more about the Fellowship on the careers page of our website.
- Dan Vlahos
Dan Vlahos leads branding at Shepley Bulfinch, where he is an Associate and Senior Creative.