Posts Tagged ‘graphic design’

Edward Tufte’s Presenting Data and Information Seminar


Sunday, March 21, 2010

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I went to the March 18 Edward Tufte seminar on “Presenting Data and Information” in New York. He tours around doing these one-day courses occasionally.  This latest tour continues into Pittsburgh (April 9) and Arlington, VA (April 12,13, and 14.)

Edward Tufte wrote and self-published four ridiculously beautiful books on information design: The Visual Display of Quantitative Information (the first and probably most famous one), Visual Explanations, Envisioning Information, and Beautiful Evidence. He’s also a sculptor and does a million other things. He was recently appointed by Obama to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act’s Recovery Independent Advisory Panel and he spoke at the seminar about working on the design for the forthcoming website where you can see how the Recovery Act is using its funds.

What does this have to do with cartooning? Well, his books are primarily about presenting visual evidence as truthfully and clearly as possible. He told me that his two latest books, Envisioning Information and Beautiful Evidence, are the most relevant to cartoonists. Besides that, if you’re just into incredible books or self-publishing they’re definitely worth looking into.  He writes in the introduction to Beautiful Evidence:

My books are self-exemplifying: the objects themselves embody the ideas written about. This has come about, in part, because my work is blessedly free of clients, patronage, or employers.

At the seminar they give you a box with all four of his books and a pamphlet about his sculpture works. I don’t know who the majority of the people there were, but I suspect they were mostly business people who have to give a lot of presentations. There was a lot of talk (and jokes) about PowerPoint, which Tufte hates and said should be used only as a projector. But I got a lot out of it.

Here were some of the repeating themes:


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Bridges Aflame


Thursday, February 25, 2010

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I’m only about halfway through Todd Hignite’s upcoming The Art of Jaime Hernandez, but while it’s possible if unlikely that the whole thing falls apart near the end, and while I have a few mostly minor qualms (some fair, some not) about its approach, even at this point it is clear that this is a rich and beautiful book, and an essential volume for the advanced Hernandezologist. I’m not going to review the book right now, but just point out a few thoughts it inspired.

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Notebook jottings


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

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Glenn Head's Hotwire Comics

Below are some jottings from my notebook. They are not substantial enough to be essays but might spark some thought or debate.

Praise for the competition. Lots of spitballs have been thrown at The Comics Journal‘s new web format, some of them hurled by mutinous writers from the Journal itself. I care more about content than format, so I don’t agree with the general line of criticism. For me the biggest problem with TCJ these days is that there is an overabundance of good stuff. It’s hard to keep up with the magazine since it offers so much to read every day. Put it this way: the magazine features long essays by Donald Phelps, Gary Groth, and R. Fiore. These aren’t just three of the best comics critics around, they are among the best essayists around period. Phelps is a critic of the stature of Manny Farber or Pauline Kael. (In fact, the Library of America’s great volume American Movie Critics has essays by Farber, Kael, and Phelps). Fiore and Groth are a notch below that Olympian level but there essays are as good as anything found in The New Yorker, The New Republic, The Believer or n+1. Aside from these key writers, the magazine offers regular essays from a strong cohort of intelligent, informed critics — Clough, Worcester, Ishii, Kreiner, Suat Tong, Crippen, Garrity, etc. (Anyone who isn’t on the list shouldn’t be offended, I’m writing off the top of my head.)

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Ware is Everywhere


Saturday, November 7, 2009

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In a recent Inkstuds interview, Seth said that that three most influential contemporary cartoonists are Crumb, Spiegelman, and Chris Ware. For Seth, what sets these three apart is not so much the quality of their work, as the fact that they’ve changed the syntax of comics, greatly expanding the range and depth of stories that can be told in the medium. I agree with Seth, with the proviso that Gary Panter and Lynda Barry also belong on this list.

Will Staehle cover of Michael Chabon’s Manhood for Amateurs

The type of influence Seth was talking about is fairly subtle: in the case of Ware it means making other cartoonists aware that comics can have minutely delicate shades of emotional meaning hitherto unexplored in the medium. But Ware’s influence on some artists is also more blatant in the sense that he’s clearly informed their style and design sense. Recent examples of Ware-inflected design include the cover for the new Michael Chabon essay collection, an art catalogue designed by Ellen Gould, and a illustration by Mark Matcho from the August 24, 2009 issue of Time Magazine.

Ellen Gould’s design for Imaginative Feats art catalogue

Certainly Ware has raised the bar in terms of design, just as he has done for comics, but it is odd to see Ware pastiches popping up all over the place. I’m divided on how I feel about this phenomenon. On the one hand, most of the Ware-influenced art is quite good: if you’re going to steal a style you might as well do it from the best. On the other hand, in Ware’s work his style isn’t just for show but is integral to the total artistic package. To take use his style for other purposes almost seems like your missing the point of what it is that he’s doing.

Mark Matcho illustration for Time

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