Sunday, November 4, 2007

Next, Please! A review of the 2007 AIGA Next conference, Part III

[This is the last part of a three part post about the Next AIGA conference. Written by our kick-ass guest blogger Brian E. Smith who is the Associate Art Director of the Visual Arts Press and friend of pica and pixel]

     The next morning, Maira Kalman presented her new book The Principles of Uncertainty, which stems from her blog posts on the NY Times site. Maira’s work always deals with self-reflection and being confused about the way things go in our lives and how we choose to deal with them. She is a bit erratic when she presents, but it is actually more a genuine quirky cuteness. She talked about her thought process behind her art and what it means to her. I ran into her at the airport in JFK and she said that after her presentation, a stranger came up to her looking for some camaraderie and said, “Hey, I take Lithium too!” Apparently he was serious.

     Khoi Vin, the design director from the gave a lecture predicting the future of web design and the usability of the web in the future. This has to do with the increasing demand for the customization of design on the web from the user’s standpoint. The control designers are used to on the web is quickly eroding and soon web designers will have to figure out how they will use their audience as collaborators, not just end users. This came as a relief to me. As a print designer, I get queasy every time I hear someone making the prediction of the web eating up print. To me, this pretty much confirms the extreme difference between the two mediums and how they really serve two very different purposes.

     Scott Stowell & Casey Caplowe’s breakout session Design for People/Who Give a Damn discussed their collaboration on Good magazine. I am a huge fan of Good, even the rational part of my brain feels like it may struggle with longevity. However, this magazine offers a very fresh publishing voice and I hope it finds its niche and sticks around for a long time. Scott discussed his typography choices for the magazine and described one strange sans-serif typeface that is used minimally as “a little crunchy in the otherwise smooth typographic texture.” For the rest of my life, I’ll never eat granola and yogurt and not think of Scott Stowell.

     The last community session offered some staggering presenters. First up was Alex Steffen, the author of WorldChanging. Alex gave a frightening speech about how the end of the world that has been scaring everyone into becoming white-knuckled recycling junkies installing entire forests on our roofs. However, he focuses on that as individuals, we can actually do very little. He says it is really all about the systems we have in place and that to bring about a massive change these systems need to be re-thought. I say bravo to his way of thinking and good luck in trying to change and enact changes inside the bureaucratic puzzles responsible for our future demise. We are gonna need it.

     As a grand finale, they brought out a speaker from Microsoft, which caused a few friendly boos and jeers. However in the end most Mac junkies were in awe at the revolutionary software Microsoft has been working on for the past few years. Their software tools Photosynth and Seadragon (actually a stupid name) totally reinvent the levels of information that can exist on a computer screen/website. By using super high-resolution images, Seadragon allows the user to zoom into, and beyond legible copy to reveal more copy that was previous illegible. Photosynth literally creates three-dimensional objects by feeding off of two-dimensional imagery of the object by finding it on the web (i.e. Flickr, etc).
     This is the first national AIGA conference I have attended. I go to local events in NYC regularly, but this was a much different beast. The theme “Next” was an ambitious one that I feel is more appropriately answered at an individual level rather than a design-wide one. One obvious thing that I see is that design is at an interesting point. Following the introduction of the computer to design in the late 1980s and now the Internet, we seem to be at this interregnum. The “next” thing in design will come when we have sorted out all this old and new technology. While we sort out these technologies, for now I feel that designers will have to answer this question for themselves. For some, it will be a drastic and scary as Marian Bantjes’ journey where she created something unique that she can call her own. Others will merely be moving from one design position to another. Whatever we choose to define “next” for ourselves, what is important is that we constantly ask ourselves this question and look for the opportunities to live our creative lives to the fullest.

1 comment:

Stephen Coles said...

Was the "crunchy" font that Scott Stowell mentioned Humanist 970, (AKA Adsans)? I get what he's saying, but I find it unbearably crunchy. More like pebbles than granola. And I'm not talking Fruity Pebbles either.

Love the rest of Stowell's work on GOOD.