The Vignelli Canon

vignelli canonI just finished reading a copy of The Vignelli Canon for a review I have been asked to write for the journal of Technical Communication, and here are a few of my impressions:

>The book was a fascinating read and relatively short, making it also a quick read

>Despite its brevity it is a wealth of information

>It would be interesting for students in their first years of study (Freshman or Sophomores) to read it and then re-read it in their last year of study (as seniors or recent grads) just to get their take on the information and to see if time and practice affects their interpretation of it

>It offers Vignelli’s perspective on the use of grids and includes basic information for their use, which could be an effective method for students learning how to use the grid

>The text is a bit dogmatic in its approach to modernism, but those who are familiar with Massimo Vignelli will expect and appreciate this

>The book contains a wealth of rules and information that can be employed by students, but I would suggest taking them with the thought or idiom that it is best to first learn the rules, then you can learn when to break them

Please look for and read my full review in an upcoming volume of journal of Technical Communication, and I highly recommend that students pick up their own copy of The Vignelli Canon.

The New Typography

newtypographyI recently began reading Jan Tschichold’s manifesto on type, The New Typography. I have been teaching graphic design history for quite some time but have never before made the time to actually read this text. I took the time to do so now for some research I am currently conducting on historical influences to modern information graphic design, and now I regret having put off reading it for so long.

The surprising thing about the text is how relevant some of Tschichold’s arguments for setting and standardizing text really are, even today, as you must remember the text was originally published in 1928. Now I am not advocating for the standardization of type treatments, but I do feel that design students would benefit greatly from reading his arguments to better understand the development of the ideals for The New Typography movement but also to help them to make and understand the type choices that they make on a day-to-day basis.

There is a lot of interesting information in this text but I believe that the chapter that might interest students the most is the point when Tschichold begins outlining his theories on The New Typography in the chapter titled “The Principles of The New Typography. This chapter explains Tschichold’s position on The New Typography and why it works so much better than the “old typography”. He explains that the biggest reason for this need to restyle how type is handled is that clarity should now reign over beauty.

One of the important things to remember while reading this text, as riveting as it is, is that Jan Tschichold later recanted his demand for strict clarity in design and even encouraged designers to return to a more humanist approach. He even went so far as to state that the New Typography had an “impatient attitude conforms to the German bent for the absolute, and its military will to regulate and its claim to absolute power reflect those fearful components of the German character [that] set loose Hitler’s power and the Second World War.” This is a very powerful statement coming from someone that was so harassed by the Nazi regime that he was forced to flee the country, relocating his family to Switzerland.

I hope that with these new insights students will actually take the time to read Tschichold’s seminal work which, along with the other Avant Garde movements of the early twentieth century, inspired a new direction and a new way of looking at typography.


Meggs, P. & Purvis, A. (2011). Meggs’ History of Graphic Design (5th Ed.). New York, New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Tschichold, J. (2006). The New Typography. Berkeley & Los Angles, California: University of California Press.

Craft & Presentation Techniques

For my Design Foundations II students, the due date of our first project is rapidly approaching and I would like to share some tips, techniques and resources with you in order to help with your craft and presentation skills.

First, when I say the word craft I am referring to how well your project is put together and it’s overall polished appearance. The goal is for it look pristine and perfect, almost as if it was computer generated, even though we know that in the Design Foundations classes at UCO all projects are done by hand. So make sure that you remove any extra pencil marks and glue. Remember to give yourself enough time to complete the project so that if you mess up, say spill glue all over your work or smear the ink, you will have time to start over. That is a key element: Remember that if you mess up and it can’t be fixed to START OVER. Don’t turn in sloppy work, you will be deducted points for it. If you were to submit sloppy work to a client they would most definitely fire you, so start practicing this now!

Also, remember that you will be presenting your work so my best advice here is to practice your presentation before you give it. Try doing this in front of a mirror or give your presentation to friends or family. Also plan and even write down what you are going to say beforehand, don’t wing it, this never works out as well as you might think! Writing down your presentation can be as simple as creating an outline and giving yourself a few talking points or you might decided to script out the whole thing. Figure out which works best for you and then stick with it.

Here are some more resources you will need for crafting your final comp:
How to use an exacto(Courtesy of How to Architect)
Rubber Cement (Courtesy of Larry Hefner)
Flapping your work (Courtesy of Larry Hefner)

TEDTalks on Design

If you aren’t familiar with TEDTalks you need to be. These are short talks given in the areas of Technology, Entertainment and Design by the worlds leading experts. They were initially part of the TED conferences which were founded in 1984 by Richard Saul Wurman, but now many of these short talks can be viewed online either directly on their website or through other databases and resources. I have created a playlist of Design related TEDTalks available on the database our university subscribes to, Films on Demand. You will need to login to view these or you can visit the TEDTalks site and view any that strike your interest.

The motto of the TED Conferences is “Ideas worth Spreading”

Summer Reading


Mo' Meta BluesLet’s face it, I love to read, and the summer is a good time to get caught up on my reading. I read a lot this summer and a wide variety of topics interest me but probably one of the books that stuck with me the most was the one that I just finished up, Mo’ Meta Blues by Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson. I picked up the book for two reasons: 1) because I heard an interview with Questlove on either the Daily Show or the Colbert Report promoting the book and it intrigued me. Bob Dylan designed by Milton Glaser2) And more importantly, The obvious reference to the Milton Glaser, Bob Dylan Poster. But I kept reading it because it was a fascinating book, and here is what I found so deeply fascinating; Questlove is truly passionate about music to the point of obsession. This kind of passion and drive is thrilling to see no matter what they are passionate about and with that kind of drive you know that they are going to succeed no matter what they do. Take note design Students! It was wonderful to read about Questlove’s inspirations and the variety of musical resources that he draws from. This book is a really good read, very intelligently written and I would recommend it to anyone.

Other Books I read this Summer:
11/22/63 by Stephen King
Splittsville by Sean Condon
Salt Sugar Fat by Michael Moss
Fat Chance by Rober Lustig
Designing for Social Change by Andrew Shea
Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith
Agent 6 by Tom Rob Smith
Anthropology of an American Girl by Hilary Thayer Hamann
Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin (In Progress)
Logo Life by Ron van der Vlugt (In Progress)
I’m sure I missed a few…

Book Review: The Cheese Monkeys


The Cheese Monkeys is a novel by graphic designer Chip Kidd and it follows the main character “Happy” in his first year studying Art at an unnamed state university.

The first semester Happy finds himself in a traditional drawing class with quirky classmates and an even quirkier professor. There is a part involving a cat and a pitcher of water that you just can’t miss. This is also the semester that he meets Himiillsy, another student who opens up his eyes to the world of art and the criticism of art.

The second semester is probably my favorite however, and it is the semester he takes is first graphic design class from the infamous Professor Winter Sorbeck. The projects that the students are given are intense for example: one project requires students who are dropped in the middle of nowhere to return to school by creating a sign that gets someone to stop their car and pick them up. This course proves to be a difficult feat and some of the results are quite entertaining.

Overall this book is widely entertaining and is an interesting read. Most of the designers that I know who have read this book feel as if the characters of the art and/or design professor were eerily similar to one or more of their own college professors. I think that this book is a must read for design students, so if you do read it be sure to let me know what you think

My Favorite Blog



Does it surprise you that my favorite blog is design related? How about that it involves type? This one should really get you…it also from time to time includes some history.


This really is one of the best blogs that I have found on typography. The author of the blog is John Boardley and you can read more about him here. This blog is all about type: type design, type designers, typography, typographers, book reviews, type reviews and more. There are even some posts regarding the history of type (my favorites). When you read the blog post by the author, and guest writers, you can tell that these people are well educated and more important well rounded individuals with a lot of widespread interests and inspirations.

I particularly enjoyed reading the guest post today about the typeface Karloff which is a mix of beauty and ugliness.

Take a moment to check out this blog. I bet you’ll be hooked too.

Book Review: Gig Posters Volume 1


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Last night I read a copy of Gig Posters Volume 1: Rock Show Art of the 21st Century by Clay Hayes, who is the founder of . The book is filled with wonderful examples of poster designs from some of the the leading designers today. The format for the book has one large poster image for the designer on one side, which can be torn out on the perforated edge to be hung on your wall, and on the back side is the name of the designer, education, influences and preferred method or medium of poster design.

The book is a great reference for design students. The information is a quick read but very informative. The list of influences for the featured designers could be used as a reference list for students on other poster designers to research. Some of the designers named as influences have also had a big impact on the history of graphic design. The methods and mediums could also be a source of inspiration for students who are wondering how these amazing posters are created.

One of my favorite posters from the book was created by designer Jason Goad for Chris Isaak and is an homage to Pablo Picasso’s Old Guitarist, part of the artist’s blue period.

I highly recommend Gig Posters as I think that it is a wonderful source of inspiration, particularly for students who hope to be involved with the the music industry some day. I hope to take a look at volume 2 very soon!

Ap for Meggs’ History of Graphic Design



There is a pretty cool ap that is available called Inkling. Inkling takes textbooks and puts them into a very interactive digital format that is perfect for the iPad (though it also works for iPhone and web viewing). They have already produced an interactive version of Meggs’ History of Graphic Design, which is the textbook for all three of the History of Graphic Design courses here at UCO. The best part is that it is available in its entirety or, in case your low on cash, you can buy it one chapter at a time.

I recommend checking it out. Reading about history of graphic design has never been so much fun!

Resources for Research

There are quite a few students who are in the middle of completing their research for History of Graphic Design Papers. It is important to consider what resources to use when conducting research. Resources can be in more traditional printed formats such as books and journals but there are also a wide variety of internet resources available now. Internet resources can include online journals or magazines, educational websites, online encyclopedias (we will discuss Wikipedia in a moment); what is important to consider when looking at any resource is its validity, usefulness and accuracy.

Validity is generally of higher concern for internet resources than for published and printed material (but don’t assume that it is valid just because its printed!), this is because essentially anyone can publish information on the internet. More traditional printed resources meanwhile typically go through a rigorous editing process where they are reviewed on multiple levels and are assessed by fact checkers. But again invalid resources are printed and do slip by the watchful eyes of publishing companies, examples include A Million Little Pieces by James Frey and Imagine by Jonah Lehrer.

Wikipedia is a resource that students, and myself, often turn to when they hear about something new, or want to quickly inform themselves about a topic. It is a wonderful tool for instances such as this but should not be looked at as a valid resource at this time. This is because in its essence Wikipedia is still a wiki and anyone who has access to the internet can upload information to this site. Wikipedia is making valid efforts to fact check all of its data, but this is a very large task due the the boundless information that is available on the site.

Don’t forget about other non-traditional resources such as personal blogs and documentaries. Again you have to look at these resources for their validity. A personal blog could be considered a resource in research the individual who posts it. Documentaries can also be valuable in terms of research as long the the creator is reputable.

When researching a specific topic don’t forget to look and general information resources such as the Meggs’ History of Graphic Design book. Remember that not all topics will have a book dedicated entirely to them and you might have to do some more digging to find information about the subject, but this doesn’t mean the topic isn’t of interest or that you should chose something else to research!

Inspiration from Popular Culture



In this blog one of the topics that I will be sharing with you is inspiration. Inspiration for design is everywhere all you have to do is look. For example, popular culture is a source that many people use for inspiration. Popular culture is everywhere in the world around us. It is in the things that we encounter everyday and is permeated by mass media.

Popular culture is anything that society prefers as a whole. So in today’s terms we can look to graphic novels, movies, reality television, music and computer games all as references to popular culture. These things are the icons of our times that could and should be used as inspiration.

I am always telling my students that they need to broaden their world and their perspectives and I often encourage them to read in order to do this. I told one particular class that they should read anything they could get their hands on and that interested them but that it was important just to read. One student was trying to get my goat a little bit when he asked “what about graphic novels” my answer was YES! Of course! What a great source of inspiration! (those might not have been my exact words but the tone was the same)

So pay attention to the world around you!




Welcome to my blog.

I will use this space to post information about classes and projects as well as to share other information and inspirations. You can read my bio, located in the column on the right, to learn a little bit about my teaching background and research.

I want to tell you a little bit about my shelf which you should see at the top of the page. There are a number of books on my shelf which represents both my love for reading and some of my reading interests, such as design history. You will also see number of very different items including a button, model chair, coffee mug and a framed picture. The button shows my love for music and specifically The Beatles and the model chair shows how far reaching my love for design is. Not only do I love graphic design and its history but I also love other aspects of design including interior design, and industrial design; I love chairs and this one by Verner Panton is known as the heart cone chair, and is considered an icon in the history of chair design. The mug is a bit of a pun as it plays off of types of coffee and weights of the iconic typeface Helvetica. And finally the framed image is an illustration from one of my favorite illustrators. Edward Gorey was known for his quirky and somewhat dark illustrations such as this series which makes fun of traditional Tarot cards.