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Anatomy of Design by Mirko Ilic, Steven Heller

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31
ANATOMY OF DESIGN
Most human emotions are given their vivid outward form through facial
expressions. While eyes convey a lot, nothing is more demonstrative—or more
deceiving—than the mouth. This most malleable of orifices can shift instantly from
sorrow to joy with just an upcurled lip and evoke sarcasm or sincerity in the flick
of an instant. Even when mute, the mouth increases emotional volume. Graphic
designers use it to speak volumes; as a printed visual, it is the mimetic that sings.
That “The Abuse You Yell at Your Kids Stays in the Family for Generations,”
an upsetting cautionary advertisement against verbal abuse created for the
Children and Younger Persons Service, employs a mouth as its primary image is
something of a no-brainer. What better way to convey the immediate sense of
uncontrollable parental rage than by showing a tightly cropped, frighteningly
angry scream? Seeing is hearing, and hearing is believing. Who can ignore it?
Although not original to this advertisement, the raging mouth is one
timeworn concept that rarely loses impact. Even after seeing it a hundred times
the power is lasting, and if reproduced in multiples (on a long scaffold or poster
hoarding) its forcefulness exponentially increases. When the screaming mouth is
combined with another frequently used graphic conceit, the repeated miniaturization
of the same image layered on top of another, even without the disquieting
headline a viewer cannot help but viscerally experience the implied violence. This
gesture is made even more indelible because the mouths fade into the abyss.
A venerable art historical method that in the 1930s became a
frequent Surrealist conceit, the diminishing horizon line often has been
employed since to suggest eerie dimensionality on otherwise flat planes. The
cover of
Show magazine is a good example of how this optical illusion
transforms a simple landscape into a mysterious environ. In the 1960s, Pop
Art superimposed repetitive patterns to underscore the concept of mass
production, with which Pop artists were consumed. Likewise, in political and
advertising posters decreased repetition is iconic reverberation that increases
both the visibility and memorability of the polemic message. In the abuse
advertisement, the multiple mouths both increase the metaphorical intensity
of the scream and symbolize its deep psychological root, which is born of
emotions that dwell deep inside.
One last graphic trope that seals the power of this advertisement is
the ad hoc lettering stuck under the photograph. This untutored type is
reminiscent of a felt letterboard sign, the kind found in luncheonettes,
churches, and other everyday settings. It is stylistically vernacular but
viscerally pure. If this headline were set in a clean and elegant typeface,
could the message be interpreted the same way? Doubtful! In attacking the
problem of abuse, the charged words must be conveyed in a manner as raw
as the subject itself. The emotional type treatment for a petrifyingly emotional
idea is the only way to convince the viewer that abusive might makes wrong.
The Abuse You Yell at Your Kids Stays in
the Family for Generations
Designer: Saatchi & Saatchi, New Zealand
1995 The Abuse You Yell at Your Kids Stays in the Family for Generations, poster
ad: John Fisher s: Saatchi & Saatchi, New Zealand
This poster for the Children and Younger Persons Service uses a mouth-within-mouth
imagery to suggest the generation-to-generation legacy of child abuse.
Images shrinking inward
Open mouth
“Hardware store” typography
1995 Rozsdatemeto
Rust Cemetery offse
t
d:Peter Pocs
c:Imre Csiszar, Thali
a
Budapest
1992 Notorious book cover
d:Tibor Kalman with Emily Oberman
s:M&Co. Design
c:Herb Ritts/Little Brown
1989 Let Me Have Happy Dreams?
theater poster
d:Andrey Kolosov & Valeria
Kovrigina
1982 Pink Floyd The Wall movie
poster
ad:Chris Burke, Clinton Cavers
d:Peter Curzon, Storm Thorgerson
c:MGM Films
Directed by Alan Parker.
1981 Furious Pig Album cover
d,p:Furious Pig
1995 Cinema Brasileiro O Resgate
(Brazilian Films—The Rescue) poster
d:Felipe Taborda
A festival of Brazilian films.
1987 November menu board ad
advertisement
d:Tibor Kalman s:MN&co
c:Restaurant Florent
See Chapter #21
1921 Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah!,
12 Satires
book cover
d:Raoul Hausmann
1969 King Crimson: In The Court of The
Crimson King album cover
d:Bary Godber c:Atlantic Recording Corp.
1975 International Scientific
Symposium: Fascism and
Neofascism silkscreen poster
d:Boris Bucan c:University of
Zagreb, College of Political Sciences
1970 There's a Future for You in
a Health Career poster
ad:Patricia Sussmann
d:Milton Glaser
c:American Hospital Association
1968 Spread Eagles movie poster
Produced by Kirt Films.
1968 Day of the Heroic Guerilla
offset lithograph
a:Elena Serrano
1962 Show magazine cover
ad:Henry Wolf p:Mel Sokolsky
1958 Three Flags oil painting
a:Jasper Johns
See Chapter #4

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