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Anatomy of Design by Mirko Ilic, Steven Heller

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3
2003 Printed in USA, poster
ad,d: Emek c: Public Campaign, USA
Fingerprints in America have become equivalent to bar codes, making people easier to monitor.
Usage of fingerprint
Usage of bar codes in design
Usage of bar codes in logos
Numbers becoming letters
No two fingerprints are alike, yet the fingerprint is a venerable recurring motif
in graphic design. The English began using them to identify criminals in 1858,
and they thereafter emerged in art. For in addition to its abstract quality, the
fingerprint is richly symbolic, suggesting a range of notions from individuality to
criminality. Moreover, the fingerprint can be easily transformed from a literal
object to a metaphoric one; by turning it one way it becomes a head, and
another it can be a cloud or landscape of furrowed fields. It is the perfect
device for achieving graphic puns, though sometimes it is simply an expressive
smudge or decorative appliqué—to paraphrase the Freudian chestnut, sometimes
a fingerprint is just a fingerprint. In any case, owing to its familiarly, it is
always eye-catching.
The Universal Pricing Code (UPC) or bar code, developed in 1952 by
Joseph Woodland, is similarly unique and ubiquitous. Like the fingerprint, it is
commonly employed as a conceptual graphic sign representing a broad range of
messages. During the late twentieth century, the computer-generated bar code
nudged out the fingerprint as a primary symbol of identity and individuality (or
the lack thereof), and in many instances it has been used as a metaphor for
such concepts as imprisonment, governance, and economy, to name a few. How
often have we seen it tattooed on the human body, eerily suggesting the
specter of official surveillance? In fact, this grotesque idea is not implausible,
bar codes are already used on all kinds of identification, so why not the body
itself? Often the bar code is used as a kind of cityscape symbolizing the
over-arching control of a benign faceless power over the quality of human life.
While the fingerprint is a random composition of contoured lines, which
gives it a somewhat chaotic look, the UPC’s repetitive vertical lines are
decidedly more mechanized and perhaps even more imposing. Today, laws state
that all retail and wholesale products must carry UPCs, and in their package or
cover designs designers frequently jazz up the bars, making them into stems of
flowers or barrels of guns (and even occasionally squiggling the straight line).
In this way the UPC is actually more versatile than it appears. But one thing is
certain: Even when given more human traits, it remains a trademark of social
regimentation. When combined with the fingerprint, as in “Printed in USA,” these
two forms fuse into a cautionary message.
In this poster, activist designer Emek critiques the fact that in this
highly technological world government and its security apparatus have an
increasingly tighter hold on the individual. While it does not point fingers at one
particular agency, the word-number combination in the bar code—“social
system”—is an overt jab at the consequence of building a database of the
citizenry’s individual characteristics. In fact, Emek drew on another common
design pun, substituting numbers for letters to evoke two concurrent concepts.
Emek notes this poster (produced in 2003) was donated to grassroots groups
throughout the United States during the 2004 election as a means to generate
public awareness of the issue of personal privacy.
Printed in USA
Art Director/Designer: Emek
ANATOMY OF DESIGN
1992 SASSOON logo
s:The Partners and the Association of
of Ideas
Logo for the 50th anniversary exhibition of the
Vidal Sassoon organization.
1966 Onkel-Onkel poster
d:Rambow + Lienemeyer
Poster for a play, Uncle-Uncle performed
in Stuttgart.
1984 Print magazine cover
ad:James Cross d:Michael Mescal
c:Print Magazine
1988 Japan poster
ad,d:Jutta Damm-Fie
1958 Bar code patent drawing
i:Joseph Woodland, Bernard Silver
“Bull’s eye” patent drawing for the
original UPC.
1996 Supply Chain identity
ad,d,s:CatoPurnell Partners
c:Progressive Enterprises
1986 Eye of the Swan bar code
1993 Rentsch bar code
s:Tharp Did It
Bar code on the back of Eye of the Swan wine
bottle (left) and hardware accessories for
Rentsch store (right).
1992 Clinomyn Smokers' Toothpaste identity
s:The Chase
1995 Museum Event
logo
d:Don Zinzell
c:Christine Belich,
Sony Style
2004 All-American
Theory logo
ad,d:Tony Leone
s:Leone Design
1994 AIGA Graphic Design USA 16 book cover
d:Leslie Smolan
s:Carbone Smolan Associates
200
2
ad,d:
s:Lip
c:Th
e
A se
issu
e
1972 Inflation book cover
d:Omnific/Derek Birdsall
c:Penguin Books
2000 90560 (Yosho) logo
cd,ad:Carlos Segura d:Tnop s:Segura Inc.
c:Yosho
1991 Mike The Mechanics logo
ad,d:Geoff Halpin s:Halan Grey Vermeir
c:Mike Rutherford/Hit and Run Music
2002 Seven2 logo
A youth clothing line by Ocean Pacific Apparel Corps.
1980 Chicago XIV record cover
d:John Berg, Tony Lane
c:Columbia Records
1954 The Passport drawing
a:Saul Steinberg
1940s Neighbourhood Fingerprint
Station poster
a:Unknown
1980 Forbes magazine cover
ad,d:Everett Halvorsen c:Forbes
1999 Grider & Co logo
ad,d:Bill Gardner
s:Gardner Design
c:Grider & Co.
1999 Apollo 11 30th
Anniversary logo

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