Gabriel Solomons

Design

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June 17th, 2014

Poster Workshop: Turkey, 5-6 may, 2014

I was recently invited to run a two day poster workshop at Anadolu University in Turkey to help celebrate 100 years of Turkish Cinema. The workshop was organised as part of the 16th International Eskishehir Film Festival which ran from the 2nd-9th May. This was a return visit for me following a presentation I gave in 2012 about Istanbul onscreen to coincide with the release of World Film Locations: Istanbul.

The workshop was a lot of fun. I had help from graphic design and film studies course leaders who gathered 20 students together (10 from each department) to work in pairs in producing their posters. Day one was dedicated to a lecture I gave on the International Typographic Style of poster design so prevalent in the 1950s and 1960s by luminaries like Josef Müller-Brockmann, Armin Hoffman and Jan Tschichold, as I wanted the students to produce their posters based on this ‘style’ of design. Next, students brainstormed ideas and sketched out initial designs before moving onto the computers for final artwork. I was really impressed by the level of playful experimentation and collaboration as many of these students hadn’t worked with others outside of their department. There was a real buzz to the session and some really good results  were produced.

On day two all the posters were screenprinted while I ran short portfolio sessions, looking through the work students had completed as part of their course and in preparation for their degree show.

Turkish design students are taught far more broadly than those on my course, being encouraged to fill their portfolio with a range of techniques and styles; Illustration, animation, branding, painting, packaging, ceramics and so on. A real strength for all the students was illustration as this showed a lot more expressive risk-taking and personality. Turkey – like Cyprus, Greece and other countries in this region – has fostered a tradition of this more ‘organic’, colourful and expressive form of design since the early 1940s so its no surprise to see it in the student’s portfolios. It was a shame to hear of the lack of opportunities available to them and the general lack of support for design as a whole in Turkey. Many of them will be applying to do work abroad but it’s costly and takes them away from family and friends. Let’s hope there is a bit of a culture change shortly as there is a wealth of talent across the country if the students I worked with are an indication of what’s happening elsewhere.

I hope to return to the University next year to build on the working relationships that have begun – especially with the students, as they had a great attitude and were simply a lovely bunch of people.

Categories: Design Education Film

February 25th, 2014

Project updates February 2014

Well as is usually the case with websites, time flies and the lack of updates to it adds to a sense of neglect.

Rather than a lack of activity to report, which could account for the dearth of posts since March of last year, 2013 was pretty packed with various projects, trips and speaking engagements balanced alongside my ongoing lecturing duties at UWE.

The first six volumes of the Fan Phenomena series hit shops worldwide last September and seem to have reached a responsive audience as all six titles went into a second printing just 2 months later. I’m hoping for the same positive reaction to the next set of titles which are due out April to June this year. Titles include The Big Lebowski, Hunger Games, Audrey Hepburn, Supernatural, Sherlock Holmes and Marilyn Monroe. It will be interesting to see whether ‘character’ fan studies of Hepburn and Monroe are received in the same way as tv series or movies as these have a unique fan following. I do believe though that movie stars – when they become icons – can engender a fan following equally as ardent as that for say Star Wars or Doctor Who, primarily because they convey a mythical or archetypal quality which is at the root of much fan devotion.

 

The World Film Locations series continues apace with 12 new volumes being published in the last year. A few of the more popular cities have finally made an appearance, including San Francisco and Barcelona but it’s been good to see such a positive response to some more ‘off kilter’ locations such as Sao Paulo, Prague and Liverpool – all great movie cities in their own right with great cinematic traditions, but not necessarily the first places that spring to mind for ‘cine-tourists’ to visit. I took on editing duties for the book on Rome which has been alot of fun, affording me the chance to watch loads of classic Italian Neo-realist films that I’d been meaning to catch up on but never seemed to have the time. The series is drawing to a close as we approach our milestone 40 published volumes, but I am hoping that we can find some way of extending it in some manner as there are still so many locations to explore, and which people seem keen to write about.

 

Work is being completed on a book about street fashion in Havana for Intellect’s ‘Street Style’ series and I was so grateful for the opportunity to spend a week out in Cuba with my very good photographer friend Martin Tompkins, documenting the fascinating (and highly fashionable) people of Havana. The book will show just how diverse and ecclectic the fashion tastes of modern Cubans are at a time of real change for a nation that has made the most of very little over the last 50 odd years. I can honestly say that Cubans are some of the most generous, intelligent, honorable and diligent people I’ve ever met – with a grass-roots determination for facing each day with a smile and an industrious spirit that really was beautiful to be a part of. I finally got to meet Connor Gory, the main author of the book and a key collaborator for crafting an informed and engaging narrative to accompany Martin’s photographs. A US transplant to Havana, she has her fingers in more pies than I could count – running the first English bookshop in Havana, creator of the city app havana-good-time and generally buzzing around the city like one-woman creative queen-bee. her energy and enthusiasm will no doubt help to bring the book to life in a way no-one else could.

 

Categories: Design Film Photography Uncategorized

September 12th, 2012

Refashioning consumption

Designers love ‘things’. Mostly beautiful things that are carefully considered and fulfill their purpose effectively. We live in an age where the gadget and gizmo have replaced the doohicky and doodad. Prone to the allure of all that is shiny, fiddly, stylish and trendy – the ordinary and everyday is often overlooked as some designers become too enamored with their own ability to re-fashion and consumers are too gullible to notice when the wool is being pulled firmly over their eyes (I mean seriously, are we really so lazy as to need this?).

I was reminded of this the other day when my 5 year old used a clothes peg to seal up a cereal packet that had been mysteriously separated from its box (the box was later found having been transformed into a multi-storey car park). Children have an innate ability to put everyday objects to multiple uses – the relationship between form and function being revisited each time a new object is picked up and used. Spending any length of time with a group of kids demonstrates just how inventive young minds are, often more open to interpreting new ways of putting an object to use beyond its initial and intended purpose.

I’ll never forget the time I saw a group of Palestinian kids playing with a cardboard box that had been converted into a wheel-less go cart that kept them occupied for ages or the Somalian children that refashioned coke cans into animals to sell for food – the added dimension of poverty creating an impetus for creativity. There are books and websites aplenty about the D.I.Y kids craze – which seems a clever way of cashing in on something that comes naturally to most – but designers can learn a lot about resourcefulness and ingenuity by simply observing young’uns at play.

The prevailing economic model of today is to sell us more things, more often – frequently trying to sell us the same stuff with arguably unnecessary minor additions or modifications. The term ‘planned obsolescence’ is accurate inasmuch as tech companies realise that desirability for new things can be more powerful than functionality, hence many gadgets are built with a limited ‘shelf’ life – either becoming unfashionable or simply failing to work properly after a certain period of time.

A designers role is not simply to make new ‘stuff’ but to make us think again, often about things that are around us and which have a world of possibility waiting to be revealed. Ken Garland in his original 1964 First Things First manifesto (and echoed later in the revised 2000 version) argued about the need for values in design and I would suggest interpreting that phrase literally: the value ‘in’ (a) design. Advertising and marketing can suggest the precise value of a given object but as mentioned above, this value can be extended and reinterpreted in the hands of a creative mind. Some recent projects, such as Rob Walker and Joshua Glenn’s ‘Significant Objects’ experiment have taken this idea even further by demonstrating that the effect of narrative on any given object’s subjective value can be measured objectively.

Sure I understand the need for jobs and the whole economic argument to support productivity, but ingenuity and creativity need to be aligned equally as much with cultural, environmental and political changes in a world that faces growing resource shortages, increased consumption and overpopulation.

This is a big topic and mine are small words, but I do feel that a more concerted awareness of – and reconnection with – childhood creativity continues to provide inspiration for everyone, not just designers.

Categories: Design Education

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