Autumn 2007

Editorial Eye 65

Talking about design is not the same as writing about design, and blogging is somewhere in between. It looks like writing, with characters and spaces and punctuation (and sometimes in the correct order), but it lacks the credibility that comes with publishing an article; the responsibility and the (sometimes unwelcome) constraints that go with the territory.

True, as internet media products become increasingly dominant in the West, then Web publishing is finding ways to re-invent the values of print publishing, without the physical and environmental cost. But despite the many well researched and scrupulously written online articles that are a pleasure to read online, they continue to be outnumbered by the swampy mass of gossip, hearsay, slander and inarticulate, half-formed thoughts that dominate the blogosphere.

This, however, is no reason to give up on blogs. I’m indebted to the medium for some great insights and connections – even friendships (and I don’t mean social media ‘friends’). A few of the many striking images in this issue came to light via blogs, particularly in the case of the article about Processing (‘Grow your own’, pp.38-45), where an supportive, online community, based around this remarkable open-source program, is helping to explore and expand its use in a way that rarely happens with more commercial software products.

And blogs, websites and ‘Wiki’ sources are now taking their place alongside all the traditional tools of books, libraries and original research and ‘fieldwork’ that writers have always used. Revealing the truth is what’s important: the evidence that makes it possible for writers to find original insights into their subject, whatever it is.

So for examples of great writing about visual culture, look no further than David Crowley’s article about wall newspapers (‘Fleet Street of walls’, pp.54-58), which effortlessly links historical research on the principle to the recent phenomenon of Qui-Vive! – while glancing at the perils of pro-democracy activity in China. Or Rick Poynor’s essay about design and Surrealism (‘Documents of the marvellous, pp.30-37), the follow-up to ‘Dark tools of desire’ in Eye 63. Not to mention Robin Kinross’s piece (Picture, pp.6-7) about the partially restored lettering on the nearly refurbished Royal Festival Hall in London – who said that serious writing had to be lengthy?

Despite the lack of an overt theme to this issue, I can’t help express my pleasure at having so much type and lettering in these pages, not to mention the ongoing support of the foundries who advertise in our pages. Abbott Miller’s essay (‘Through thick and thin’, pp.16-23) is based on just part of an entertaining lecture he gives about ‘Fashion graphics / graphic fashion’, ending on the provocative idea that type might be gendered.

Having labelled the Didone forms of Vogue and Harper’s as essentially ‘femme’ and Chanel’s Modernist sans as ‘butch’, Miller suggests that Cassandre’s Yves Saint Laurent logo might be ‘queer’. After all, for an industry based on rapid, seasonal change, these letterforms are remarkably constant, spanning generations; Miller may have hit on a curious truth here. Where that leaves Eine’s big, hand-painted capitals (see Noted, p.65, and the inside covers), and the Festival Hall’s sloping Egyptians, is another issue altogether. But I’m sure there’s a blog about it, somewhere. JLW