Archive for December, 2011|Monthly archive page

Evolutionary Tree of Twentieth Century Architecture

In Uncategorized on December 16, 2011 at 11:58

Great map here of the architectural profession, by Charles Jencks, taken from the Architectural Review, July, 2000, p.77.

It is entitled: ‘The century is over, Evolutionary Tree of Twentieth Century Architecture’.



The ‘End of Geography’

In Uncategorized on December 9, 2011 at 11:47

Google has been hugely influential in academia, spearheading new methods of using and presenting data for research purposes. It is no coincidence that a trend for mapping history emerged around the time of Google Earth and Google Maps; convenient tools that enable us to present research in apparently innovative ways. Yesterday evening I went along to the fifth in a great seminar series held at the LSE on this very subject, ‘the Uses of Space in Early Modern History 1500-1850’. The seminar was led by Prof Jerry Brotton of Queen Mary university, who presented some extremely thought-provoking ideas about ‘the Cartographic Rhetoric of Early Modern Globalism’.

The underlying theme of the seminar was the problem of ‘what has happened the globe in globalism’, tracing the image of the globe from the 1500s to the birth of the ‘modern global image’ in Google Earth in 2005. Brotton argued that Google Earth has turned the globe into a logo. The ‘general perspective’ view of the globe in the Google Earth image suggests a neutrality, but at the same time, it becomes redundant in the ‘mapping’ Google offers. Although the image of the Globe brands the maps tool, the orientation is towards the parochial- it wants us to look at where we are, what is near us, and therefore threatens to dissolve the global. Crucially, our conception of time is absent.

The seminar made me think about the very thoughtless way in which I have been using Google in my mapping of the design profession. Based on interviews Brotton carried out with the geospatial experts at Google HQ, he showed how Google intended to make the planet itself a web browser, organising all search results geographically. There are clearly some worrying aspects of this technological innovation. All the data used is not open-source and Google has therefore imposed a monopolisation of geographical data. Additionally, the driving motivation for profit margins means that they are manipulating data and spatial orientation to put labels and advertisements on how we see the world around us.

This seminar was by no means a discouragement for historians to think spatially or continue to use maps a method of presenting research, but it did make me question the apparent neutrality of maps a canvas on which to project my image of the design profession.


Image of the Graphic Designer

In Uncategorized on December 9, 2011 at 10:39

Image of the Graphic Designer, Design Council

This video, entitled, ‘The Image of the Graphic designer’ is from the design council’s website and gives an interesting contemporary viewpoint on the definition of what a graphic designer does, how they work, as well as commenting on the major shifts that have changed the ‘image of the graphic designer’ since the 1950s.

The image of the graphic designer in this clip is, I think, a very familiar one. The open-plan office/studio reflects the informal, ‘creative’ and ‘dynamic’ environment we all imagine the designer to work in today. This is very different in comparison to the images of design offices I have found in my archive work. Additionally, the centrality of the Apple Mac in this video compounds the message of the main speaker Neville Brody, who argues that the availability of the PC in every household has been hugely influential on the dissemination of public knowledge and understanding of what graphic design is. This assertion is, I think debatable, but it made me think about the iconography of the Apple Mac as the graphic designer’s tool.

Among the Bohemians

In Uncategorized on December 5, 2011 at 23:01

Of all the stereotypes of the artist, the Bohemian has surely been the most seductive and enduring.

I must admit that as a non-artist, (perhaps because of that), I am endlessly enchanted by stories and tales of the Bloomsbury group. I was therefore really looking forward to a seminar held this evening at my university by Virginia Nicholson, who recently published a book on the subject entitled, ‘Among the Bohemians’. Nicholson is a granddaughter of Vanessa Bell and the book is therefore made up of both personal memory and archive research, a combination I always find very interesting.

The sub-title of her book, ‘Experiments in Living’ gives away the main focus. Rather than a history of the creative output or ideas of the Bohemian movement, she shines a spotlight on the daily habits and characteristics of the group’s main personalities, looking at their dress, food, incomes and expenditures as manifestations of their creativity. Nicholson explained her motive for this very convincingly at the seminar this evening, arguing that ‘being bohemian’ was as much about what was eaten or worn, as it was drawn, written or said.

I find this approach extremely interesting in light of my own research into the lifestyle of the designer after the 1930s. One of the most recurring features of my research has been their conscious rejection of these Bohemian values and lifestyle choices (grubbiness, unreliability, impulsiveness, eccentricity). Misha Black and Milner Gray were very blatant in their opposition to the ‘experiments in living’. They sought security, conventionalism and money. To do so, they moved the designer from the fringes of the studio, into an office, with a manager, and a professional society and a professional code. The suits they wore and gentleman’s parties they held represented a direct reversion to the traditional British ideals of professionalism.

Bohemianism appears to be an apparently endless source for writers, both popular and academic, to draw from. As Nicholson said this evening, the number of biographies on even obscure artists loosely associated with the Bloomsbury group is astonishing. However, the most interesting thing for me was the active role these artists were playing in creating caricatures of themselves by which they would be remembered. Through dress, parties, food and even poor personal hygiene, they actively invented a culture and stereotype by which they would be endlessly admired and emulated.  (and i dont mean by sienna miller in 2004)