Autumn 2002

Editorial Eye 45

Though Eye 45 began its life as a ‘typography special', we thought it fairer – both to readers and to contributors – not to brand it in such a way. Graphic design is so inextricably bound up with type that every copy of Eye makes reference to the art and craft of typography in one way or another, from book reviews to the fact that each issue since our most recent redesign (Eye no. 41 vol. 11) uses a different ‘guest’ headline font.

All the headlines in this issue are set in Parisine Clair, part of the Parisine family designed by Jean-François Porchez for the Paris Métro. Type design is central to Porchez’s prolific international business, yet one senses a driven, creative individual, whose mark-making lies at the heart of the enterprise. For Porchez, type design is a craft, but the result can be art.

The entertaining, poignant work of Chris Ware, whose lettering is examined in this issue, has moved effortlessly from cult status to popular acclaim. The status of his comic books (such as Jimmy Corrigan) as examples of graphic authorship is enhanced by the mind-boggling degree of care that Ware lavishes upon every frame, and title.

We have to thank Phil Baines, a special contributing editor for this issue, for introducing us to Minos Zarifopoulos. Minos's piece, ‘Visual Cleaning in Athens’, is a lament for the rapidly disappearing public lettering in the city. And in ‘A cast of thousands’, Phil provides a short, essential ‘layman’s guide’ to current developments in digital type design, and the implications of OpenType for the design software we all use. The future is complex.

Elliott Earls, profiled by Rick Poynor in ‘A designer and a one-man band’, is an enigma. The cover of his current DVD features a list of 21 production job functions, all of which are credited to Earls alone. Rick suggests that Earls’s ultimate destiny may lie beyond graphics, within a wider market for performance art, or rock multimedia, but the designer’s mode of creation is remarkably similar to the painstaking methods of a solitary type designer, or a hand-lettering auteur like Ware.

And if you still hear anyone saying: ‘now is a quiet time for graphic design,’ it is worth referring them to ARCHIS magazine, whose complex, maddening redesign comes under Stuart Bailey’s scrutiny in ‘File under archis’. Mooren and Van der Velden have created a design universe as strange and detailed as Ware’s, and as noisy as one of Earls’s guitar breaks. Are we witnessing a trend for work that aims to be as complicated and time-consuming as possible? Perhaps it’s a response to the spectre of ‘non-design’.

J. Abbott Miller has just hit the road with the big brash Harley-Davidson exhibition he designed. In our Reputations interview, Miller speaks eloquently about the potential of design to foster meaning, interest and beauty. This, he says, is not ‘fundamentally at odds with the broadest possible marketplace.’ A Pentagram partner since 1999, Miller appears to have maintained the attitude and working methods of a small scale, culturally inclined practice while taking on increasingly ambitious commissions. The Harley show, for example, is thought to be the biggest touring exhibition of its kind.

There is little quietness or timidity about the words, images, type and opinions featured in this issue, from Why Not Associates’ Flock of Words (Picture) – literally set in stone – to Jesus Ali’s impassioned Agenda. Readers should take heart: there are still plenty of opportunities to talk loud and say something. JLW

Eye is the world’s most beautiful and collectable graphic design journal, published quarterly for professional designers, students and anyone interested in critical, informed writing about graphic design and visual culture. It is available from all good design bookshops and online at the Eye shop, where you can buy subscriptions and single issues.>