Summer 2005

Editorial Eye 56

The editor summarises the contents of the latest issue of Eye

In his piece about graphic design in postwar East Germany, Grant Carruthers wonders whether this might have been a ‘Designer’s paradise’, free from the pressures of the capitalist West. However I suspect that most Eye readers would think that MEXICO 68, with its fabulously talented design team, and its voracious demand for graphic materials, seems much more like their idea of Utopia. In ‘This is 1968 . . . this is Mexico’, writers Daoud Sarhandi and Carolina Rivas bring fresh, original research to bear on a project that continues to inspire designers working on graphic identity programmes and indeed on ‘branding’ ventures of all kinds.

The interview with Pedro Ramírez Vázquez, the architect behind MEXICO 68, yields fascinating insights. It reveals the depth of thinking and preparation that lay behind the well known artwork and typography for the Olympic programme, and the crucial decision to involve Huichol Indian artists, who adapted their traditional tabla designs to create the graphic concept that represented MEXICO 68 around the world.

In addition to initiating the conversations with Ramírez Vázquez, Eduardo Terrazas and Alfonso Soto Sorio published in these pages, Sarhandi and Rivas also talked to designers Lance Wyman, Peter Murdoch, Michael Gross, Bob Pellegrini and editorial director Beatrice Trueblood, all young in 1968, and overjoyed to be working on a project that produced such a quantity of good work. Their graphic output ranged from tickets to booths, from uniform materials to the stadium itself, not to mention a huge number of cultural publications in parallel with the sporting ones, and poster after poster coming off the presses of Mexico City’s main printer. Paradise.

The theme of identity recurs throughout the issue, in Jason Grant’s archive piece ‘Symbols of assimilation’ and in Steve Rigley and Kurnal Rawat’s ‘Working lunch’, where we learn about Mumbai’s highly effective dabbawallas, plus Typocity’s proposal for transport signage based on their long-established system of tiffin box markings. Even the ruined signs of Las Vegas say something about that city, while the tags of São Paulo’s pichadores indicate an identity that is quite distinct from any other urban milieu. François Chastanet’s careful research, documentation and analysis of the Pichação phenomenon reminds me of the question asked by Michael Worthington in his review of Yes Yes Y’all (Eye no. 49 vol. 13): ‘Where does style come from?’ Worthington noted that, ‘Visual styles are fully formed and identifiable when they present themselves via mainstream culture, but prior to this they have often grown organically, behind the scenes, from a subculture.’ Chastanet explains the way the form of these tags is governed by the use of household tools such as paint rollers.

So Eye 56 delivers one of its most geographically wide-ranging tours of visual culture to date, taking in Japan (Eric Kindel’s examination of the Ishihara test), North and South America (Mexico, Las Vegas and Brazil), India, Australia and Europe (the Vitra catalogue in Critique and even London’s own ‘Back the bid’ Olympic campaign).

This issue also marks a change in location for Eye itself. Haymarket Business Publications, the UK’s largest independently owned publisher, has purchased the title from Quantum Business Media, the magazine’s owners for the past eight years. By the time this issue has been printed, we will have moved to bright new offices in Hammersmith in west London, where we will continue to work on forthcoming issues while preparing our first Eye conference. See you there. JLW