Browsing articles in "Culture"
Mar 6, 2011
Zelda Harrison

Lightspeed and the Human Hand, No. 3

Jonathan Arena explores art, craft and design in Japan: Entry # 3

Richard Sennett, author of the lauded book The Craftsman, teaches that “machine systems break down when they don’t work in an explicit manner, whereas people make discoveries”.  It seems slightly ironic then, that the most ubiquitous tool for design today is the computer, singularly capable of providing direct experience through sight. There is a loss of the sensitivity that came from detailed handwork that was required by graphic designers twenty years ago, before computers.

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Feb 7, 2011
Zelda Harrison

Lightspeed and the Human Hand, No. 2

Jonathan Arena explores art, craft and design in Japan: Entry # 2

The United States experiences Japan, in large part, through its design culture — from ancient ceramic traditions and minimalist architecture, to today’s high-tech gaming, fashion, and technologically driven lifestyle. Design is a traditional and necessary function of everyday life – fully ingrained into Japanese lifestyle. This is what makes design in Japan so dynamic, and allows creativity to permeate the society in a way that is unique to the Archipelago.
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Jan 30, 2011
Zelda Harrison

Lightspeed and the Human Hand

Jonathan Arena explores art, craft and design in Japan: Entry # 1

Recently, I was given the opportunity to visit and work in Japan for a month. While I
was there, I began compiling photographs and writing to help satiate my interest in the
relationship between art, craft and design. These journal entries reflect that intent.
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Jan 10, 2011
Zelda Harrison

Lessons Learned from Michael Bierut @ Pentagram

XCD caught up with Pentagram partner Michael Bierut in South Africa and picked his brain about Design. Here is a lively discussion about his experiences with New York City’s Library project.

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Oct 17, 2010
Zelda Harrison

Continuing Education 2010

Last year Maryam Hosseinnia shared her thoughts about inspiration and design during a 2-week workshop in Basel. This year, her adventures in recharging and expanding horizons take her to Den Haag in the Netherlands.

Click here to download Maryam’s report

Maryam Hosseinnia is the Program Lead and the full-time faculty at The American University of Kuwait. She has been working in Kuwait for four years.

May 2, 2010
Zelda Harrison

Sebastian Guerrini: The Social and Political Life of Images

Our contributor from Argentina formulates a theoretical framework on how identities are shaped by images.

Identities are built in a process of identification which is related to the social life of images. For this reason, it is important first to analyse what an image is.

There are many definitions of what an image is. As Mitchell pointed out, Plato relates the definition of image to that of an idea, whose root idein means to see (Mitchell, 2006: 348). Likewise, the image has also been defined as imitation in itself relating its name to the Greek term imitari, to imitate (Barthes, 1991: 21). Later, Maimonides defines the image as likeness such as in the “man’s creation in the image and likeness of God” (Mitchell, 1986: 31), as a series of predicates, listing similarities and differences, as an essential reality of a thing.

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Dec 11, 2008

Finding Your Rwanda Part II

What about the human condition needs improvement?

Claiming a personal and a collective uniqueness can be achieved in the participative action of designing our environment.In its essence, this declaration of uniqueness through the design and transformation of place, speaks to the power of branding and is illustrated in the Rugerero Genocide Survivors Village in Rwanda (see my previous blog post, Finding Your Rwanda, designing and debating our role in social responsibility). The cooperative design and building of a genocide memorial and the painting of murals on the mud brick homes of the village changed the spiritual and physical essence of this wounded place.

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Aug 24, 2008

Decoding Design

Early on in my design education, I was taken with the work of Herb Lubalin. To this day, the design he proposed for a masthead for the publication, Mother & Child, still resonates. It’s clever, simple and elegant.*

After reading Maggie Macnab’s book, Decoding Design: Understanding and Using Symbols in Visual Communication, I have a more profound understanding of why this design works so well. Besides the universality of it (who doesn’t see the baby within a mother’s womb), it is the concept of wholeness, represented by the circle that makes it appealing. Wholeness is both everything and nothing; right and wrong; light and dark – it is life; so it is with mother and child.

With the advent of technology, we communicators live in a competitive arena, we struggle for our messages to be heard above the din of the marketplace. It is our role as designers to fight the instinct to follow the crowd and instead, create unique, meaningful work that communicates effectively and, in more and more cases, cross-culturally. As Ms. Macnab states in her introduction “it is crucial to be aware of the quality to quantity ratio…there are far more compelling ways to create a message besides saturation”.

Her answer to our complex and challenging world is to step back and recognize the simple patterns that have been part of humankind since the beginning of time. She delves into anthropology, mathematics, physics and spirituality to weave together a very informative and engaging thesis on the importance of symbolism in creating impactful design.

She has organized this intricate material into 11 easy-to-read chapters, the first one examines our relationship to patterns in nature and architecture; each subsequent chapter looks at a number, from one to ten, and interprets that number’s symbolic meaning. In addition, she provides a wealth of examples and case studies to support her theories, some more obvious than others.

Although as designers we generally work on instinct and intuition, this book would be worthy of a place on your bookshelf. You may not use it as a starting point when tackling a new design project, however, the wealth of information contained in its pages may just provide you with the language and validation you need to communicate and support your ideas.

About the book’s author Maggie Macnab is a designer, writer and educator. Her design work has been recognized in Communication Arts, Step by Step, Print and Graphis and her articles have been published by Communication Arts and the AIGA. She is past president of the Communication Artists of New Mexico, teaches at the University of New Mexico and speaks at national conferences, universities and school.

For more information on Maggie Macnab and her book, please visit

*Herb Lubalin's proposed design

*Herb Lubalin's proposed design

Review by Deborah Plunkett

Aug 19, 2008

Finding Your Rwanda

Designing and debating our role in social responsibility.

I accepted AIGA XCD’s offer to open a blog on social engagement with the idea of provoking discussion on how we Designers can reach into into our “Tool Box” and make a difference in our world today. Many designers–Shiego Fukuda, Grapus, Herb Lubalin and Tibor Kalman, to name but a few–have committed their talent to sensitizing their audience to the problems that plague humanity, provoking thought and inspiring action.

My path has been somewhat different, perhaps a reflection of the evolution of social activism as we’ve come to know it and what I believe is an example of our increasing ability to design our own roles in social engagement.

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