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Stop, Think, Go, Do by Mirko Ilic, Steven Heller

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A manifesto should be a declaration of war against
complacency. At the very least it should trigger thinking.
EXPRESS
Spill your guts for all to see. That’s expression! In
recent years designers have promoted a trend of imposing
personal expression on others through design manifestos.
Not just post-it postcard-size statements about the
wonders of existence, but posters, billboards, and monu-
mental typographic installations with words of wisdom
and observation—some critical others farcical, some
hopeful others cynical. This may have started when in
the 1980s Barbara Kruger and Jenny Holzer introduced
type and image into their gallery and street art as
means of conveying heady messages. Words were their
ammunition. Sometimes they were aimed with pinpoint
intelligence at social ills, other times they randomly
sprayed the battlefield with personal expressions.
Design manifestos are produced at all conceptual levels
and in all physical sizes, from simplicity to complexity.
Designers who have made it their mission to save the world,
and even those who have less ambitious goals, routinely
engage the environment in typographic installations that
express their principles or state of mind. Often they are
enigmas designed to make the passersby think about what
it means to them. “You’re Not My Type” (page 163) written
large on an empty park gate, appears to be a message about
human relations—or is it more enigmatically abstract? Is it
about types of people or typographies? The interpretation
is in the mind of the viewer.
A manifesto is a double-edged sword. It can articulate
goals and desires in an honest and inspiring way. It can
also be perceived as so much babble—pretentious at
best—and best ignored. A true manifesto is an expression
of personal truth and will make those who do not agree
wince. And that’s the point. A manifesto should be a
declaration of war against complacency. At the very least
it should trigger thinking.
161
Some of these typographic expressions are little
more than fortune cookie exhortations. “Everyone Must
Take Time to Sit and Watch the Leaves Turn” (page 166)
has a greeting card cadence—and looks that way too.
“Everything’s Gonna Be Alright” (page 195) dug into
the soil of a field and photographed from above, has
the cookie sentiment but a more raw appearance.
Conversely, “Hurry Up” (page 173), composed of huge
bones hanging in a gallery space, or “Fail Harder”
(page 181), painted on a large canvas in white on gray,
have a more world-weary tone.
Universal expressions often begin as personal ones.
Stefan Sagmeister’s “Confidence Produces Fine Results”
(page 176), a typographic installation made of green and
yellow bananas that turn brown as they ripen, obliterating
the message, offers a low-impact, decidedly self-interpretive
message with resonance for many who receive it.
This manner of personal expression has also been
co-opted by advertisers to sell a product. The billboard
for Levi’s (page 180), composed of three rows each with
nine moving gears, with fragments of letterforms, which
when lined up says “We Are All Workers,” is a clever
way of presenting a mystery and providing a “reveal,” in
the form of an empirical statement. We Are All Workers
seems to imply that we are all in this (whatever this is)
together and Levi’s is the glue.
In terms of beauty, many of the expressions in this
section are rendered with pristine elegance. “Conscience”
(page 178) is written with dew drops on a leaf, “People” is
formed by costumed Korean dancers holding semicircular
fans, and “Good” and “Great” (page 179) are formed by
red and yellow apples held up high by a procession of
attractive girls dressed in white lace tops and golden
skirts. Yet the most striking for its aesthetic richness and
cultural significance is “Depends on Each Person” (page
178) designed as a wedding day henna tattoo on the
hand of a young woman.
Expression in this typographic format will rarely be
too lengthy. Too many words spoil the rhythm (and it
is pedantic, too). The most effective are epigrams that
read quickly yet linger in the consciousness. “You Don’t
Matter” (page 183), a sequence of expressive letterforms,
is among the most haunting. But “Grow” (page 194),
written in script made from moss, eloquently says it all.
stop, think, go, do
162
Wild at Heart
Studio: Anna Garforth
Art Director, Designer, Photographer, Illustrator,
Typographer: Anna Garforth
“I woke up one day,” says Garforth, “went
for a run in the forest and then made this
piece.
Explorers/Art Housed in Area Development
Client: Treaty of Utrecht
Studio: Autobahn
Designer: Autobahn
Photographer: Marieke Wijntjes
six : express
163

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