Tag Archives: business

Signs vs. symbols

It’s elementary semiotics: signs are universally acknowledged whereas symbols are more personal, societal. Feel free to use any adjective denoting subjectivity.

Graphic design is the practice of perpetually crafting symbols to represent a business, company, association or product. The eventuality that the symbol becomes a universal sign is circumstance, luck and above all, good design. It is the combination of all three that comprises the recipe for graphic design immortality and one example comes to mind: Milton Glaser.

Milton Glaser is the graphic designer behind the I Heart NY graphic that can be found at all the tourist shops in New York City. The simplicity of the graphic has made it a sign that has inspired many copycats to, well, copy and reinterpret Glaser’s work with the American Typewriter typeface, my personal favourite.

The red heart on Glaser’s graphic has been adapted to a maple leaf, in the case for Toronto, the Apple sign for the Apple Store in (irony!) New York City, a clover for Ireland and the list goes on. I think collecting all of the ‘tributes’ to Milton Glaser’s clean and simple work would make for a great book, if there is not one already in print. Taschen, I called this one.

It still boggles my mind how low of a priority graphic design is for organizations, yet we admire branding that has become an everyday presence among us. (Apple, anyone? or Nike’s swoosh?) Graphic designers are the unsung heroes of commerce and individuals working in business should realize that there is more to graphic design than font size and typefaces; creativity and vision are also very important.

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Ansel Adams, I’m not.

There is a shortage of sublime photography.  It could be that humans are becoming more visually driven to the point that photographic images that were once magical are just the norm.  The mentioned norm includes bundles of digital data that depicting the debauchery of a Saturday night or an album of ‘candid’ photos of homeless people.  Awe is divorced from the Image.

What people do not know is that even today, serious landscape photography is done with large format cameras that would put the weight of a portable heater to shame.  Field cameras that people imagine to have been left for dead in favour of expensive digital camera gear.  The truth is, the resolution on a large format film is so much better than the best digital camera on the market.

Ansel Adams’ landscape photography was done on a field camera.  The detail and the poetry in each of his prints still outdo the best landscape photography of the digital age.  The most advanced digital camera that costs as much as my education and a half could not meet the a large format’s image quality.

A lot of contemporary photographers use a compromise between analog by capturing the wanted image on a 4×5 format film and then using a high resolution scanner that could be the equivalent of 100 megapixels.

The 35mm format film was conceived for photojournalism before the digital era.  It was a very convenient way of transporting film supply while on task without hassle.  With the speed that news has to travel in cyberspace, it is so hard to conceive that photojournalism once involved people carrying film cameras, processing the rolls of film, doing enlarged prints of each frame, photo editing, then again editing, and then printing.  Digital photography has increased the turnover for news.  Can you imagine tabloids pre-digital? All of it was and is still junk but think of the physical garbage that one generates for one photo of a celebrity committing adultery.  How many frames were wasted to get that one Fergie-toe-sucking photo to start that scandal in the 1990s? I digress; I think that tabloid culture would not be where it is, if it were not for digital.

Photography that moves and that entrances the visual mind is done frivolously.  It requires practice, careful study of the craft, patience and the proper equipment.

As for me, 35mm is still my preferred format.  This is out of convenience and the kind of photography that I do.  Street photography is capturing life in the city, no matter how big or small.  It is compelling to see good images depicting the lives of people when they are in transition from home to work or to school.  Perhaps to meet a lover or to secure a business deal.  Either way, I feel that film’s tangibility is the most attractive element to the craft.  I am currently experimenting with 120 film because of the bigger and higher resolution prints that it makes.  I guess, in photography, size matters.

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