After watching, write 400+ words on your site describing a specific place you see one of these historical ideas appearing today. This could be a contemporary artist, in advertising, posters, book covers, coffee shops, or anywhere else you find of note. Analyze the use of line, balance, shape and space. Discuss what elements (historical and otherwise) are being used, why you think that might be, and the ways the historical material may be informing (or disregarded by) the current. Please provide some image examples and think about how it makes you feel. Does knowing this history change your view in any way? Could/should the historical markers be more palpable?
It would be disingenuous of me to respond to this prompt without considering the fact that I’m surrounded by some of the most highly regarded graphic designers working today. I had the opportunity to interview and work with Jennifer Morla, whose designs are known for their bold use of color, type, and historical references.
Her advertisement, “Resize” for Levi’s features a young African American woman with a large Afro hair style, employing a dynamic black and white image on the right of the page, and hand-drawn words of inspiration, affirmation, and personal messages of hope and identity. The page has balance, although it’s not symmetrical. The Afro appears to flutter and float off to the left, giving the image an airy side. The letters are written lightly over the Afro, and together, it suggests boldness, and that this woman does not shy away from who she is, and that includes a Levi’s wearer. Thus continuing the brand’s age-old association with strident independence.
Morla’s work on the “El Museo Mexicano” poster from 1995 is a collage in the truest sense, reminiscent of the early work we looked at from Dada, but uses elements of Mexican culture and history, the art contained within the museum, and the representation of traditional Mexican graphic design. The dot image that dominates the poster is nearly indiscernible, but for people who know, or for those who spend time looking, the image of Frida Kahlo appears. The image is at the top of the poster, and has a lightness to its weight, suggesting a heavenly body keeping a watchful eye over Mexico and Mexican culture. The lettering is mixed, but bold, which is a direct reference to the graphic designers of early Mexican design, who often worked with collage letters to make their works. Other elements reference Mexican religious belief, its tropical climate, and other symbols. Indeed, collage was important to Mexican design throughout the 20thcentury, and this poster honors that heritage while boldly representing the future of the museum.
In her poster for “Public Bikes” is bold and beautiful, and combines old and new with the fonts, the flower image, and the bike icon at the bottom. The sans serif “PU LIC” are very well balanced with the with deco-inspired “B.” Because it is not clear what the poster is advertising, it has to be attractive in ambiguity, to invite viewers to stop and think, and want to learn more.
Morla combines past and present in ways that tell stories. She works in a historic context to use the past to inform the present. She is rooted in the past in a way that makes it ok because of her ability to push graphic design forward.