Saturday, January 30, 2010


“Improve the State of the World: Rethink, Redesign, Rebuild” is the theme of this year’s World Economic Forum, currently taking place in Davos, Switzerland.

I think that anyone who has ever worked at a publication might understand why the thought of 2,000 business leaders and politicians getting the directive to “redesign” has me feeling a bit queasy.

Anyway, I figure it’s as good an excuse as any for showing some vintage Swiss design.

L. Gensetter, c. 1970

Charles Kuhn, 1941

Clockwise, starting upper left: Martin Peikert; Anonymous, c. 1960; Kurtz, c. 1940; Herbert Leupin, 1956; Herbert Leupin 1958; Otto Morach, 1929

These travel brochures for Davos are from the 1930s. They are mostly from David Levine’s wonderful site, filled with travel ephemera. I can so relate to how he describes the origin of his collecting habit; “I took the red pill, fell down the rabbit hole, and got stuck in Wonderland, and started collecting travel ephemera….”

The brochure with the angled, red block type on the blue and gray background from 1933 (right, of the trio below), is from the terrific site of Felix Wiedler.

Nowhere have I seen any mention of the script writing of “Davos” which recurs fairly consistently throughout almost like a logo.

Click on the links to see info and scans of each brochure in its entirety.

Left to right: c. 1936 (details), c. 1937 (details), c. 1933 (details)
c. 1933 uncredited design is very Herbert Matter.

details for the two pages above, here

Loved this little infographic inside the above brochure, comparing amount of sunshine in Davos to London and Berlin.

Friday, January 29, 2010

What I Didn't Blog This Month

I sometimes find myself not blogging something visually interesting, cool, or even infographics-related, because absolutely every other visual blog has covered it.

Whereas print is a scarcity model of the finite page and limited shelf space (for which everyone competes), the Web is an abundance model. It’s a newsstand that is infinite, and you never run out of ink or paper. In fact, the only way anything gets noticed is by getting attention in lots of places—which in turn generates even more attention, in even more places. So repeated coverage is, in a sense, how the Web/blogosphere works.

My prehistoric brain, however, which was encoded during the “print era”, still turns away--either by habit or reflex--from blogging what everyone else has covered. After all, who needs me to show them what they have surely seen somewhere else.

But I know how we all “miss class” certain days. So for anyone who may have slept through the month of January, here are a few items I didn’t post.

Charting the Beatles
Michael Deal's exhaustive tracking of Beatles songwriting and recording. Very beautiful.

The 2009 Feltron Annual Report
An exhaustive tracking of the events in the life of Nicholas Feltron, by Nicholas Feltron, during 2009. Also very beautiful.
Reports from previous years

iPad ... and The Jokes
See more at Jezebel.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

State of the Union?

I guess we'll find out tonight.

A New Map of America
Dissected for the Instruction of Youth in Geography, 1814

Dissected outline map, United States of America, 1880

Clemens' Silent Teacher
Dissected Map of the United States
and of Each State in Counties, 1893

Sources: BibliOdyssey, David Rumsey Collection

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

BookBook Case

I will now, in true blogger style, use "love" and "covet" in the present progressive tense to express approval and desire for a newly introduced product.

Here goes:

I am so loving BookBook by Twelve South. It looks like a distressed vintage book, but it’s really a MacBook case—hardback with a padded interior.

I am definitely coveting one (red, of course).

Highly recommended Valentine’s Day gift for that special Mac-lover in your life.

Monday, January 25, 2010

My Funny Girl Journey

I don’t know about you, but for me, the best part of a trip is often the unexpected detour, the crazy coincidence, the unscheduled side trip. The same can be said of design research.

Back in December, I came across the the theater and movie page of a mid 1960s newspaper, and I was struck by how recognizable and iconic the "Funny Girl" logo was. But who designed the upside down roller skater in the dress made of type? That’s where my journey began.

Googling didn’t get me very far—too many pages with the terms “funny girl” and “logo design” that had absolutely nothing to do with the play or the movie. The poster was designed by the extremely prolific Bill Gold studio, but that didn’t give me my answer.

I scrolled through other movie posters of the mid-late 60s looking for a related illustration/type treatment. There were the hippie movies with shaped psychedelic type, but those felt like a different sensibility.

The poster for "How to Stuff a Wild Bikini" was somewhat closer in feel.

I thought that I was making progress when I discovered that the titles were designed by Art Clokey, the creator of Gumby, who died January 8, at the age of 88. He was also credited for the titles for "Dr. Goldfoot an the Bikini Machine." I watched the clay animation sequences and found that they clearly had nothing to do with the type or poster design.

The “Bikini Machine” sequel, "Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs," did away with animated titles and just used the look of gold clay for the typography.

None of this stopped me, however, from taking a detour into early Art Clokey. In 1953, he was studying at the University of Southern California and working on commercials for Budweiser and Coca Cola. Clokey talks about his early work with clay and the making of "Gumbasia" in an interview:
The Budweiser commercials were live action, featuring basketball, airplanes, baseball people, and so on," Art told us. "But they had a close-up of a Swiss cheese sandwich and they wanted to show the cheese disappearing with bites. The beer is good with Swiss cheese. It was actually a piece of clay that we made and we formed it to look just like a piece of Swiss cheese, to fold and so on. And we began animating bites out of it. That 's the first time we ever used it professionally - clay. Then I had a two week break between commercials. So, in my father's garage, we put a 4 x 8 piece of plywood on two saw horses and put clay on there, painted it, formed it into abstract shapes, pyramids, etc., and shot them using the kinesthetic style film principles that I was learning from [Slavko] Vorkapich

The film is 3:11 minutes and you can watch it here.

Clokey also made the very trippy "Mandala." His entire family participated in its production. Its goal was to communicate "the idea of evolving our consciousness from primordial forms to human form, and then beyond the human to the spiritual and eternal. The theme was the evolution of consciousness: we begin in the mud and we just go out and up."

The film runs 6:28 minutes and can be seen here.

I got back to Funny Girl just last week. it still bugged me that I could not find the designer, so I gave it another shot, this time googling Funny Girl upside down roller skates logo.

Up came a post on the Health News Digest site, “Misdiagnosed Amyloidosis - Passing of Renowned Artist Highlights Dangers,” about the the death of illustrator Talivaldis Stubis on December 23, 2009. And finally, "Perhaps the artist’s most memorable image was for the Broadway musical, “Funny Girl,” an upside-down girl on roller skates whose body spells out the title, but he worked on literally hundreds of other now-iconic posters for stage and screen." In addition to posters Stubis illustrated nearly two dozen children’s books.

I still think it odd that I had to wait for an obituary on a medical news website for my answer. It also seems that I was misdirected in my research. I was looking for clues in the type, when I should l have been looking for clues in the legs!

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