Louise Fili

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Louise Fili specializes in logo, package, restaurant and book design. Her work is recognizable for its delicate typography and elegant reinventions of historically-influenced packaging. I first admired her work as a design student in the mid-nineties, when I would render, by hand, copies of her logos that I would see in design annuals. Her book collaborations with her husband, prolific design writer Steven Heller, were also early influences on my studies.

The New York website, Cravings, recently interviewed Louise about her love of all things Italian and on designing for restaurants. Click here to hear the interview.  View Louise Fili Ltd.'s portfolio here.

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Neo Japanesque Graphics

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Available at UPPERCASE $90

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Making Magazines

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Princeton Architectural Press has always been one of my favourite publishers and my personal library contains many marvelous selections from the past twelve years. They are also a publisher that I consistently stock at UPPERCASE. I was happy to receive some review copies from them last week (and even more thrilled to see an UPPERCASE link on their blog).

Making Magazines is the latest in the Fresh Dialogue Series / New Voices in Graphic Design. I have been involved in the design of Beyond magazine since 1996, so this is a topic of particular interest. Beyond is a not-for-profit magazine, and thus faces a very sporadic publishing schedule and uncertain existence. The magazines featured in Making Magazines are all non-mainstream publications also operating on non-traditional avenues of funding. The book features a transcript of a presentation by Tod Lippy, creator of the biannual visual extravaganza, Esopus; Lisa Farjam publishes a Middle-East culture mag called Bidoun; and David Haskell is the editor of Topic.

David Haskell said a few things that ring particularly true. "We operate on a timetable that is completely contingent on how fast we can get that next chunk of cash together. And that isn't fun. I actually think that if we came out more frequently, it would be much easier to sustain a conversation." This is a classic conundrum that Beyond faces, and our readers are often left for months (years!) waiting for the next issue to arrive. Although some conversation and interest can be maintained with a website or blog, it is the tangible appeal of ink on paper that magazine readers want.

Lippy, Farjam and Haskell all touch on the necessary physicality of the magazine. "An online publication just doesn't have that kind of tangible proof," says Farjam. "I think another reason is also that when you put so much energy into starting something, you want it to feel real," agrees Haskell. A good magazine has a physical relationship with its reader – it is held, carried and cared-for. Eventually, the magazine is left on a bedside table, forgotten for a time (its new life as a drink coaster) and later rediscovered for a pleasurable second read. One hopes that the magazine becomes a part of the reader's archive. Haskell continues on to say, "If you can make something that people want to keep on their shelves, then that distinguishes you from all the on- and off-line clutter."

Each of the Fresh Dialogue books are quick reads, since they are basically illustrated transcripts of  a podium discussion hosted by the American Institute of Graphic Arts. (These events are well-attended, with this seventh in the series realizing over 500 audience members.) One thing that this particular book is lacking is a feeling of personal connection to the speakers. Perhaps if the book included a portrait of each of the participants, or if the book design and typography offered a little more personality to its layout and presentation of magazine excerpts, I would feel more engaged in the discussion. Given that the book is released nearly a year after the event, it would benefit from additional content... perhaps more biographical detail about each of the participants, shots of their work spaces or inspiration, images of the design process or failed ideas... To simply present a transcript and reproduce magazine spreads seems like an under use of the book medium.

However, the speakers do offer interesting insight into a difficult field and I will certainly be passing this book on to Beyond's editor/publisher. I am sure she will find some kinship in their stories.

At the conclusion of their presentation, Haskell states, "The cool thing about magazines is that they are difficult to make, so not everybody can make them. You basically need enough money to buy a Volvo every few months. So there is that barrier to entry. But at the same time, it's not impossible to raise that kind of money and figure it out. In general, I don't think it's a bad thing that the world is full of magazines, because they express contemporary culture at a very particular level of sophistication. They're made by people who are not  masters of the universe yet, but who have enough drive to document the world around them and enough tenacity to see a project through."

Movie Review

lovehate.gifHelvetica was a very enjoyable documentary movie. Although the majority of the audience was likely connected to the design industry in some way, I think the sincerity of the film, along with its lively visuals, interesting music and eclectic cast of graphic design "heroes", would entertain and inform a broader audience. It was nice to sit in the theatre and share laughs with a like-minded crowd.

Although this was a movie about a typeface, it was also about personality: the character of this ubiquitous typeface, and the character of the interviewed designers and their work spaces. Some interview highlights and studio glimpses included Massimo Vignelli (spare and to the point), Erik Spiekermann (arrogant, opinionated, hilarious), Stefan Sagmeister (his office wall is mirrored! it figures – he can admire himself all day long), Michael Bierut (always amusing), David Carson (up to his old tricks), Paula Scher (playful), Jonathan Hoefler (smart, erudite) & Tobias Frere-Jones (eloquent).

I look forward to viewing the DVD when it is released later this fall. It's definitely Helvetica Love for me.

Helvetica tomorrow!

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See the film tomorrow evening at the Uptown.

Date: Tuesday, May 8, 2007
Doors open: 6:00 pm
Screening: 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm
Q & A with the Director: 8:30 pm to 9:00 pm
Reception: 9:00 pm (Marquee Room)
Location: The Uptown Theatre, 612 - 8th Avenue SW

To register, email your name to register.absouth@gdc.net

Illusive: Contemporary Illustration and its Context

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Illustration is everywhere; on clothing, in product and book design, fashion design, advertisements and even corporate identity.  Pictures have the power to express what words cannot; they are personalized, immediate and powerful visual statements.  As reflections of the times, illustrative styles range so greatly today that the only consistency comes from a general acceptance that 'anything goes'. Illusive, edited by Robert Klanten and Henrik Hellige is a collection of illustrations from around the world, and touches on stylistic approaches ranging from hand-cut paper images to polished vectored computer graphics, and everything in between. The book also features interviews with emerging illustrators, showcasing their technique, inspiration and business practices. Illusive is a thorough overview of some of the most beautiful and inspired illustration happening today.

Available at UPPERCASE $62

 

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Topical Ointment

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Thank you to everyone who attended last night's First Thursday or phoned/emailed their bids. Lisa Brawn's Topical Ointment silent auction was a great success, with nearly $600 raised for the Elephant Artist Relief fund.

The gallery looks particularly colour-coordinated with popping oranges and contrasting blues. Lisa's show will be up for the next two weeks. 

Two boxes of books have just arrived from Die Gestalen/Prestel. Looks like a rainy weekend ahead, so I'll be curling up with these new books. Remember that UPPERCASE is now open Sundays as well, so come by and spend some time with us.