A reproduction: what El Lissitzkzy wants. Author: James Langdon
I am rarely convinced when I see graphic design that was originally printed in two inks reproduced in four- colour process. Before the advent of commercial colour offset printing, the elementary colours of printing — from Gutenberg to Tschichold — were black and red. In the early twentieth century, black and red were used by graphic designers not to attempt to recreate the spectrum of colours that appear to the human eye, but as graphic forces in themselves. To make a distinction. To create dynamism. To embody ideology on the page. In particular, the combination of black and red on white paper has become synonymous with Suprematism and revolutionary Russian graphic design.
A contemporary imaging workflow can enable extraordinary reproductions of these historical aesthetics. A high- resolution digital photograph of an original black and red printed book from the 1920s can be processed using a colour profile to calibrate its appearance across design, colour correction in computer software, proofing, and printing. This workflow can ultimately achieve a beautiful and precise image of that graphic artefact as it looks today, down to small details of its patination, its discoloration by exposure to sunlight, and the many more other subtleties that define it as an archival object.
But such a reproduction exhibits a strange technical anachronism. What about the constraints that originally shaped the design of that bookk — the implicit connection between the two colours of its graphics and the architecture of the one- or two-colour printing press on which it was printed? Are they not important? Can they even be reproduced?
I compare printed reproductions of the proud black and red cover of the book ‘Die Kunstismen' (1925), designed by Russian artist and designer El Lissitzky. Published between 1967 and 2017, these images treat the material characteristics of the original book's colour in different ways, appealing to contradictory notions of fidelity.
#17 — An acronym: ACAB. Authors: Ariane Bosshard, Jérôme Dupeyrat, Olivier Huz and Julie Martin
The acronym ACAB, often seen in urban space in the form of graffiti or stickers, first appeared in the U.K. in the 1970s, linked to punk culture, and later found a certain popularity during the social movements of the 1980s. Meaning “All Cops Are Bastards”, over the last 20 years it has become widespread in public spaces internationally, in the wake of a number of political movements, from alter-globalization groups to the French gilets jaunes, or Yellow Jackets, along with black blocks and TAZs, even spawning different variations, such as “All Capitalists Are Bastards”, “All Colors Are Beautiful” and “All Cats Are Beautiful”.
Observing how ACAB (or its numerical version, 1312) is written, allows one to traverse multiple political landscapes, as well as a number of visual cultures (anarchist, punk, hip-hop, LOL) to which this acronym has spread. It is through this scriptural, graphic and visual movement that it has become both a sign of recognition and a polysemic statement.
#18 — A studio visit: the studio of Ines Cox. Authors: Manon Bruet and Julia Andréone
Three women walk into a bar. The first lives in a large apartment in Anvers, Belgium. The second is an independent Graphic Designer who founded her own studio. The third is an avatar—you might even know her—with a certain interest in creative processes, their interfaces, and their vocabularies. Together, they eat some pistachio nuts, order vodka, and are not at all sure about getting up the next day to teach at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts. But together, more than anything else, they form the troubling multiple personality of Ines Cox, a Belgian Graphic Designer who met Julia Andréone and Manon Bruet in her studio in June 2019. An opportunity to develop a narrative driven by three voices and to trace the outline of a path, a practice, and a figure.
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