Posts tagged ‘legend’

RIP Martin Crowe


Martin Crowe was not only our greatest batsman, but a gentleman and all-round decent bloke. I remember him as a honourable, nice guy, and soulmate to Lorraine, and it was a privilege to spend time with them both back in 2013. Back then, we had thought the worst was behind him; I am deeply sorry to learn that that was not the case. RIP Martin, your legend will live on.

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Posted in culture, leadership, New Zealand, Wellington | 1 Comment »

A tribute to Massimo Vignelli


The below ran in Lucire today, though it is equally suited to the readers of this blog.


Massimo Vignelli, who passed away on May 27, was a hero of mine. When receiving the news shortly before it hit the media in a big way, from our mutual friend Stanley Moss, this title’s travel editor and CEO of the Medinge Group, I posted immediately on Facebook: ‘It is a sad duty to note the passing of Massimo Vignelli, one of my heroes in graphic design. When I was starting out in the business, Massimo was one of the greats: a proponent of modernism and simple, sharp typography. His influence is apparent in a lot of the work done by our brand consultancy and in our magazines, even in my 2013 mayoral campaign graphics. A lot of his work from half a century ago has stood the test of time. There was only one degree of separation between us, and I regret that we never connected during his lifetime. The passing of a legend.’
   This Facebook status only scratches the surface of my admiration for Vignelli. There have been more comprehensive obits already (Fast Company Design rightly called him ‘one of the greatest 20th century designers’), detailing his work notably for the New York subway map, and—curiously to me—glossing over the effect he had on corporate design, especially in the US.
   Vignelli, and his wife Lella, a designer in her own right and a qualified architect, set up the Vignelli Office of Design and Architecture in Milano in 1960, which had clients including Pirelli and Olivetti. In 1965, they moved to New York and Vignelli co-founded Unimark International (with Ralph Eckerstrom, James Fogelman, Wally Gutches, Larry Klein, and Bob Noorda), where he was design director. It was the world’s largest design and marketing firm till its closure in 1977.
   The 1960s were a great time for Vignelli and his corporate identities. He worked on American Airlines, Ford, Knoll, and J. C. Penney, and the work was strictly modernist, often employing Helvetica as the typeface family. Vignelli was known to have stuck with six families for most his work—Bodoni was another, a type family based around geometry that, on the surface, tied in to his modernist, logical approach. However, there were underlying reasons, including his belief that Helvetica had an ideal ratio between upper- and lowercase letters, with short ascenders and descenders, lending itself to what he considered classic proportions. The 1989 WTC Our Bodoni, created under Vignelli’s direction by Tom Carnase and commissioned by Bert di Pamphilis, adheres to the same proportions.
   Although my own typeface design background means that I could not adhere to six, there is something to be said for employing a logical approach to design. American corporate design went through a “cleaning up” in the 1960s, with a brighter, bolder sensibility. Detractors might accuse it of being stark, the Helveticization of American design making things too standard. Yet through the 1970s the influence remained, and to my young eyes that decade, this was how professional design should look, contrary to the low-budget work plaguing newspapers and books that I saw as I arrived in the occident.
   When the Vignellis left Unimark to set up Vignelli Associates in 1971 (and later Vignelli Designs in 1978), their stamp remained. The MTA launched Vignelli’s subway map the following year, and like the London Underground map by Harry Beck in 1931, it ignored what was above ground in favour of a logical diagram with the stops. Beck was a technical draftsman and the approach must have found favour with Vignelli, just as it did with those creating maps for the Paris MĂ©tropolitain and the Berlin U-bahn.
   New Yorkers didn’t take to the Vignelli map as well as Londoners and Parisians, and it was replaced in 1979 with one that was more geographically accurate to what was above ground.
   In 1973, Vignelli worked on the identity for Bloomingdale’s, and his work endures: the Big Brown Bag is his work, and it continues to be used by the chain today. Cinzano, Lancia and others continue with Vignelli’s designs.
   Ironically, despite a rejection of fashion in favour of timelessness, some of the work is identified with the 1960s and 1970s, notably thanks to the original cut of Helvetica, which has only recently been revived (a more modern cut is commonplace), and which is slightly less popular today. Others, benefiting from more modern layout programs and photography, look current to 2010s eyes, such as Vignelli Associates’ work for the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.
   The approach taken by Lucire in its print editions has a sense of modernism that has a direct Vignelli influence, including the use of related typeface families since we went to retail print editions in 2004. Our logotype itself, dating from 1997, has the sort of simplicity that I believe Vignelli would have approved of.
   Vignelli was, fortunately, fĂȘted during his lifetime. He received the Compasso d’Oro from ADI twice (1964 and 1998), the AIGA Gold Medal (1983), the Presidential Design Award (1985), the Honorary Royal Designer for Industry Award from the Royal Society of Arts (1996), the National Lifetime Achievement Award from the Cooper–Hewitt National Museum of Design (2003), among many. He holds honorary doctorates from seven institutions, including the Rochester Institute of Technology (2002). Rochester has a Vignelli Center for Design Studies, whose website adheres to his design principles and where educational programmes espouse his modernist approach. It also houses the Vignellis’ professional archive.
   He is survived by his wife, Lella, who continues to work as CEO of Vignelli Associates and president of Vignelli Designs; their son, Luca, their daughter, Valentina Vignelli Zimmer, and three grandchildren.

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Posted in branding, business, design, marketing, typography, USA | No Comments »

Monica Z now out on DVD and Blu-ray


Monica Z, the bio-pic about the late Swedish jazz singer starring Edda Magnason, is now out on Blu-ray and DVD, as of earlier this week.
   I learned about the movie not through my Swedish contacts—they were messaging me only when the film was in the cinemas—but when Edda appeared at AllsĂ„ng pĂ„ Skansen in 2013 singing ‘Gröna smĂ„ Ă€pplen’ with a Monica Zetterlund hairstyle and 1960s dress. It didn’t take long to do a bit of surfing after discovering this:

   Purists (like me) will say she’s not quite as good as Monica but of the covers, this is still really good. I listened to the soundtrack ad nauseam on Myspace (really) but if I return to Scandinavia in 2014, I might pick up the DVD in person.
   Just to make this post more complete, and for all lovers of Swedish jazz, here’s my favourite Monica number, as performed by Edda. I had only seen this on the full AllsĂ„ng telecast prior. (You need to have a break in the midst of a political campaign.)

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Posted in culture, interests, Sweden, TV | No Comments »

Joseph Churchward, QSM: a tribute


Joe Churchward, on my last visit to his home in Hataitai in 2012.

Joe’s wall at his home in Hataitai.

Two of Joe’s business cards, given to me at my last visit.

I started the day with the sad news that Joseph Churchward, QSM, has passed away.
   Joe was a great typeface designer, but, more importantly, a pioneer. He wasn’t the first type designer in New Zealand, but he was certainly the most prolific, and, in the modern era, a trail-blazer.
   It’s all the more impressive when you realize that Joe did his type design without the aid of computers—he remained sceptical of technology right to the end—using his hand, with pencil to create the outline, then inking them, and whiting out any areas where the ink had gone too far. He left the digitalization of his work to others, including the companies that sought out his designs, most notably Berthold of Germany, through which he had had numerous releases.
   Joe’s work was marketable right to the end. New typefoundries approached Joe to license his designs, authors still sought him out to write books about him, and even Te Papa held an exhibition of his work a few years ago as it realized Wellington had a living legend right under our noses. Massey University inducted him into its Hall of Fame, although when he was honoured, he was already too ill to attend.
   My own contact with Joe didn’t begin well. I had made the decision in the 1980s to go into typeface design professionally, and, of course, Churchward International Typefaces was the best known name. And it was right here in Wellington. Making my way up to Wang House on Willis Street, I was confronted with a notice: that the company had been wound up the week before. Later, I discovered that Joe had packed up for Samoa, where he was from.
   Joe was very proud of his forebears, and the English origin of his name—but he was equally proud of his Samoan and Chinese ancestry. Despite being born in Samoa, he embraced Wellington wholeheartedly, living in Kilbirnie in his youth—I seem to recall him telling me of a residence in Tacy Street—and hanging out with ‘the Māori boys’. He enrolled at what was then Wellington Technical College and some of his early hand-lettering work was created there. However, an incident there also meant that Joe could not get back into hand-lettering in his final years: a fight at the college saw a glass door smash on to his hand, a serious injury that had the principal order him to go to hospital, where surgery was performed.
   Joe was arguably the pioneer in typeface design in New Zealand as far as photo-lettering was concerned, and was, to my knowledge, the designer who had the greatest number of designs turned in to typefaces for phototypesetting. I still have, somewhere among my files, a photograph from the late 1960s taken at Churchward International Typefaces, which featured Mark Geard and Paul Clarke, two well respected names in the industry. But Joe’s scepticism toward the computer age saw the company suffer, and I would not meet Joe till 2000 after he returned from Samoa.
   That first meeting was a lengthy one but, strangely, we never discussed our methods. We only discussed our finished designs, and Joe actually asked me to collaborate with him a few years later. Nothing came of that, as I was gearing up to do Lucire in print at that point, and it was an opportunity missed. My own interest in typeface design was probably less strong come the mid-2000s—Joe was easily the more passionate—but we stayed in touch, usually by telephone.
   On hearing of how ill he was, I visited him last year, and it was only then that we discovered that we actually adopted the same approach to design. The scale we drew at, the pencil-and-ink-and-whitening method—perhaps those were borne out of the limits we had. We had both started before desktop typeface design became the norm, and we both settled on the same method of drawing our creations. And we both did this in isolation, not knowing of peers—we just knew we had a love of drawing type forms by hand.
   Joe lamented that he could no longer draw because that College injury meant that he could not hold a pen properly. While in very good spirits, I could sense that Joe was pained by this. He had had a lifetime of creating, but now he was forced to sit back, watch a bit of telly, and reminisce. But the visit was a fantastic one, and the sparkle came back every now and then: Joe remained genuinely excited about type design, even to the last days. My colleague and I were gifted posters and business cards from the heyday of Churchward International Typefaces, items which we will cherish even more deeply knowing it was one of Joe’s last gestures to his peers.
   I might go on about how I began designing type digitally, but that’s not that pioneering. At least by then I had copies of U&lc and the knowledge of others who were designing type offshore. Joe began his career postwar, at a time when international communications were not as good and there was less inspiration around. Instead, he found that within himself, found the way forward himself, and just went for it. Joe was the embodiment of the Kiwi can-do attitude, and a focused Samoan work ethic. The typeface design industry is weaker today with this loss.

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Posted in business, culture, design, New Zealand, typography | No Comments »