Design Lecture Series: Lance Wyman in conversation with Adrian Shaughnessy

Lesson 2/2 - Questions and Discussion


Design Lecture Series: Lance Wyman in conversation with Adrian Shaughnessy


Lesson Info

Questions and Discussion

When we worked with lance on the book hey told us many many stories on dh but he's still telling us telling me stories that he didn't tell me then and one of them was that he'd actually worked in seattle in the in the nineteen sixties I did I came out I was it was right after the work I showed in zagreb yugoslav b and I just came back from zagreb to detroit and they said, can you go out to seattle tacoma tomorrow? Sure and it was had to bring wouldn't trays out to ah weyerhaeuser and so I came out and I stayed a couple of days and I went and I saw the expo sixty two I guess it was and it was really it was a great experience because ive said then the american pavilion and hey, don't he had developed that concept of the small screen uh multiplying and becoming a large screen with one image and I saw the drop of water become a wave crashing in on rocks uh was beautiful and that happened here the two everything was one hundred things I'd like to talk to you about this two or three things a...

nd then I think we're going to have some questions via twitter we're going appear on the screen, which is why I'm sitting here so that I can read them just about you were you were very generous about apple and bearing in mind this is being live streamed. But how do you feel about that? Because it feels it feels almost blatant and its approximation of what you did. Well, no, I don't know. I think when you look at the icahn history of apple, I think was iraq's that started the icons and I forget her name. But when they did the mac, they did a series of operational icons that I just love them because they had humor. There was simple. They were very pixelated. Um, so I mean, that had very little to do with when I was talking about, but as you know, we became more fine tuned this for his resolution and everything is concerned. Oh, apple really started going into more of a, uh, illustrative way of handling icons. And I always thought that was kind of not a good idea. In fact, when we were in chicago, we were out drinking with the guys from apple. And they agree that, you know, I guess jobs really did want to become kind of literally in a picture pictorial way. But I think now things are starting to go back into the er. You know, an icon is a very kind of special type of image when you got to read it at speed, if you're on the highway, you better look at it very small, especially know that it's become a lot more ah, part of our navigation systems in the virtual world. And the beautiful thing for me is that if you keep the language saying the icons in the virtual world, the icons out in the street, you're dealing with language, you know, when you're dealing with visual language and it can operate very, very effectively in both worlds so that that really keeps me excited. You said something very interesting when we talked about the metro work and you explain to me which really, really kind of resonated with me. You said that when you design the eye carbs for the various stations, you designed them in such a way that they could be rendered as language so people would people would remember the symbol of a duck or a pyramid, but they could also say they could also refer to the station as the ducks station or the pyramid station here. I think I did that intuitively when I did the first three lines. And of course, you had to keep a difference so that, you know, you could have a difference between the images, but the one thing I overlooked and I e I probably told you that after I learned that myself that I screwed up not doing certain things, and I got a call from one of the newspapers in mexico city, and they had done line twelve, and they sent me a whole thing they were doing on article on the new stations, which I didn't do, I didn't do any of the icons after the first three lines, but I looked at the icons and I thought, my gods, you know, they're starting to get into using ass stick images and things that are more cultural, and I know you think the people in mexico city could define these images, you know, so that's, where you have to be very careful with icons, they should be describable in any language, and I didn't I didn't catch that when if I would have done emmanuel, I didn't know that would have been part of it in light, not because I didn't really think of it then, but, you know, it's, a process of continually learning when you're dealing with iconography, because it's not just icons, you're talking about it's a strategy uh it's a contextual thing I mean, you get out in the street and especially in mexico city when these things work in the street I'm very happy because it is a very chaotic visual environment I love it, but you know, there are certain things you want to be able to spot like a metro station, things like that that kind of leads really on to something that I want to touch on a cz well, which is I mentioned again at the beginning I mentioned the fact that it seemed odd to us that there'd be no book on your work and that also lead to some kind of thinking around the fact that I feel that you haven't had the recognition I think it's coming now, but I don't I don't think when you were doing a lot of the work you've shown, you quite got the recognition that that you deserve and I'm talking about within graphic design um and my theory on this and it will be interesting to know what you think my theory on this is that you nearly all your work and we could even possibly say all your work but certainly most of it is done in the public realm on the public realm is not seen in the same way as, say, poor ran's covers for an ibm on your report which has done for a tiny elite audience so and it relates to something you told me which struck also struck a cord which which is something george nelson said to you about going out into the street can you say something about that? Just your the fact that all your work is done for a mass audience yeah, well, you know, I have my work has been recognized from by organizations such as s e g d I mean, I was on the board for about six or seven years of a remember and I became a fellow very early on in the organization's happening my first started s so it hasn't been my work hasn't been noticed, but in new york that wasn't what was going down almost my whole career and we had the madman I know some of those guys and I worked with s o you had that it was a lot of brain power going into advertising aa lot of publication work, but as far as going out on the street and doing sign it's that's just happening in the last decade or two s o I never felt that I haven't been seen in that sense um george nelson was it was a really interesting guy to work with them and I learned a lot from him in one of the things that happened early two things happened when I was working there we had a bus subway, a taxi strike and it was a way to get anyplace except walk and I was living up on seventy second street on the east side and george was down on twenty second street and so I walked down so the first day of this lasted for over a week I walked down so the second day I thought a walk a different street so I walked a different way for seven days and it was like one of those strange things you discover your own city like every one of those walks was a very different experience. I mean, every one of those downtown streets is a completely different experience so that made me really I know I like the city better when it once I did that the other thing is george was asked by the west or the east when he was right in the middle on uh it was a street association to go out and record all of the buildings they wanted to do something that gave the street ah better image so he had me go out and forty were full of these buildings and by not really thinking about what I was doing a hockney composition, you know, taking all of these streets storefronts and put them all together and I put on one side and on the other side the other part of the street and that really touched my imagination as far as what do you do you know what do you do it improve this type of environment? I think those two z two experiences where really key is for it's just personal experiences I think the question because the piling up my my mayes is desperate to know something very quick way finding andi I see you is one of the pioneers of way finding but it's you could argue that it's only recently that way finding has come to be valued in the way that it is I mean new thinking around urbanism and stuff like that but you were uh you were one of the pioneers away finding and I think it's fundamental to what you do because again it's in the public space yeah and you know I think that the term I don't think he invented the term but he certainly made it popular and it was the canadian architect khazzani I think his name was on in the second addition of his book poll arthur uh collaborated with him and they vote the second addition or second year second version than the added things to it and s e g d asked me to do a book with you so I read the book and I thought what's missing here and what they missed was personalizing a city or using it as a vehicle to uh create what we call urban branding now not urban brandy urban urban image like I mentioned before I'm working uh starting a project in mexico and that's that's the key words and urban image and you know if you use materials like cast iron and things like that it hangs around uh and if it's designed well it becomes part of the urban image when you have examples of metro entrances in paris you have actually the telephone booth and uh london is a cast iron structure with a wooden door in the original one so I don't know is that kind of touch into it a little bit because I have been uh always combining branding and directional sign ege way finding you know images in one form or another whether they be maps identifying areas um that always seem to be very key because you can you can control the basic images the system is much easier to design and like I said before if you consider those basic image is your partner we put him to work you know it becomes easy if you design that with intent you know that way way got a question here from uh mick kelly a mick asks throughout your career this is hard work to read this throughout your career did you spend time studying the work of your peers and designers you looked up to? I don't think so I think I was aware of what was going on but I really tried to stay away from doing too much study because I always found the solution was in the problem itself and it was like that was a little dangerous to be somehow I mean, I wasn't ignorant about what was going on but I didn't use that as a real prime guy I used the projects themselves and I voice had good clients I mean I can't think of too many bad clients and they're usually very intelligent about the problem except they don't speak design language so you can kind of combine that intelligence with what you're doing the solution kind of comes out of that more than emulating or you know that's what being aware used to kind of wear me a little bit about I don't want to learn too much about what was happening there may be some things that maybe you got something to do with the fact that you trained as a industrial designer and so came too graphic slightly later was perhaps of you studied graphic design from the outset you might have absorbed more from that's probably true but I was very aware of poor rand's work for example uh I mentioned I had by meeting one of his students I got involved with graphic design I always like the work of salve ass I mean, I love this movie titles and things like that so but that wasn't something that was I just like that you know, I always think of not not is someone home when I look at a piece of work because there's a there's a human quality of communication that is often and mostly missing missing I would say and these designers had that magic I mean something was happening it was a concept it was whatever you want to call it and that was very important to me so you know I always tried it you know if you go knock, knock I hope I'm home okay, this is the second time john j lease come around so john asks with the advent of technology how has that affected or changed your design process throughout the years and I know this is something that interests you because you you work solo now don't you? Mainly on ge one of the reasons you work solo is because of the way you use the computer no, I look I love the computer but I must say um you know, I mean, I talked for forty years at parsons and I watched the computer community I watched this all get a little stupid I said something in creatively view that I can't say it better I said when the compass came in there was probably a lot of stupid circles so I mean it's the same thing with the computer you know it's it's use the old cliche it's a tool it is a tool but it's a magic too because I had I mean the largest office that bill and I had was thirteen we had thirteen people I did the olympic program I had five including myself, you know? And in my military I think the most of any one person can control is a squad it's like eleven eleven people so there's there's numbers involved but with the computer I've always been hands on and two things one I don't need people to develop things I can develop things and you know, in illustrator very easily and the other thing is let's see if you got the other thing it was something else that's what happens when you get old? Um oh, no, the other thing is this I really question myself whether I mean, I put obviously I had to put all of the early work that I've done into into victor image, right? And there was a lot of little tricks of making things look straight when they're not really straight but you know, it's, like anyone it's into typography knows that you do a lot of visual adjustment to make things look the way you want, you know, it's not just geometry, and so I know all of those tricks annual individual visual adjustments and was able to do it on the computer previously, but I wonder if I would have done that initially if I didn't do those images by hand first I really wonder I'll never know because you know I do a lot of work directly on the computer now uh and I don't think in the same terms in a way and I don't know but I love the computer and uh like I say it's just something that was it still invention a quote by pouring and gives you all the answers but it doesn't know what the questions are something like that I hadn't really thought of this before but actually the work you do on the competion is remarkably like working used to do by hand and you ended on the the soccer which I noticed you called football which is dangerous and american but you that that to me was very I could see the similarities between the work you did but with the compass is in mexico for forty years old well, I think one of the things that I've always strove for is, uh well communication of course I mean whereas designers were mandated to communicate when artists where you khun not worry about, you know, having the communicate a specific thing I mean, we have to communicate uh but I loved geometry and I also have always tried not just communicate with it but to get, um, feeling into it to get emotion into it, to get that it's like writing poetry and you get to the point where you can't change anything uh and if you do change something you notice it usually screws up the whole thing a good example is that I showed you the, uh symbol to birds for the initials who you can take that eye of the mom or dad the big bird and just turn it a little bit and the bird gets angry I mean it's amazing it's really amazing how these things locking visually and you know, I just love it especially working in a very visual culture like mexico I could tell when they got it you know I mean it's a very back and forth type of experience and they can tell when I don't got it you know they can see when something's not working so that's always been a very interesting phenomenon like body language in a way. Okay, we'll rad joel wants to know what is your biggest design mistake biggest designed the steak uh let's see, that was up in toronto and uh it was for the toronto underground and I developed a little chipmunk that and I did a matter it was I just was one of my favorite things. You see the map of toronto then you see little chipmunk kid come up all the entrances to the underground was toronto underground see that's what that's what you know it was the name of toronto underground city so I named this little chipmunk tuck and I think this presentation everyone started laughing and what the hell they're laughing it tuck is depository it's like a preparation h up in the you know? So that wasn't a very good one you're earning up to any other ones was that last year career with only one way we were doing a uh forget the company now but it was a logo for a corporation and an accountant came in to do her taxes we had all this stuff on the wall he says wow, he says what what's that toilet seat for you know and we looked at it and of course we'll anyone had to say that thing that we got out without a look like a toy lissie we'd be in big trouble with the corporation it was it was a pharmaceutical too so that was the end of that we had to start over on what? Ok, we'll let you off that owning up to anymore okay? So older brother he wants to know I presume it too he what system do you think could use a thoughtfully designed icon overhaul or read that again? What system do you think could use a thoughtfully designed icon overhaul that's good question. Well, yeah, I mean, I'm kind of icon freak so I think any transportation system in the world that really seriously got into, uh developing a way of understanding without words without names uh stations um you know, I would suggest that they look seriously at that because nothing is it health when people visit the city but it also helps people that lived there it kind of reasons the whole understanding of important areas in the city because well a little of the station icons are based on something that is important or his future important or historically important are currently happening or somebody that was named the station in the station named after accepting etcetera so you start getting a patchwork of a lot of things that make the city more interesting you know? So I would recommend I mean now it's so I've done other systems I did with a new office down in albuquerque born with dean we did the railroad that goes from south of albuquerque of the santa fe and did icons for all of those stations and it was a lot of fun and you know, we worked with a lot of those stations stop in native reservations and so forth so it was interesting the whole different mix of people that had to buy into the system and we supposed to do I presume this is so I think it is yeah he's local okay. So father josh misty wants to know how do you identify your own work along the spectrum of design art and communication idea identify your own work along the spectrum of design, art and communication well, as I mentioned before, I don't consider myself an artist I mean, I am a designer and when I do something I am mandated to communicate usually and in that respect uh when it's called art when it gets into a museum and it's like moment something who do respect design on a level of art free but I don't see myself as an artist really I mean, if I was an artist I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing okay, here we go moment moment wants to know being a graphic designer on dh a football spell in the brazilian way I think that on a football fan what team has okay, this is good question being a graphic designer on a football fan what team has your favorite kid? My favorite what kit jack for oh, gosh that's a hard one um I have to say a boys like barcelona I love that deep red neck deep blue um but that question does come from a brazilian I was down in some pollo right after the world cup. We had a big dinner and I you know, guys are pretty happy go lucky guy said how many goals in germany score before you start making jokes and they all looked at each other put up to I mean, they would they lost that game by five so anyway, that doesn't answer the question that came up what one of the one of the things that we look at in the book through somebody that you introduced us to a new english guy who actually lives in and the butler who's probably watching this um andy trump has tracked down a lot of your work that still in use today on bus drivers who draw the subway metro stop onto their onto their buses on but it seems to me that you made a really impression because you can still to this day on I think there's a one of the football team's uses that the tryline type face and I think I mean, that must be it must mean they classifying it is very gratifying and I heard myself saying not that long ago how would you define your work? And I said the soul of my work is mexican and I really believe that I mean, I got into such a wide range of expression by just trying to do what the early cultures did I mean, they they expressed, you know, natural forms they expressed their mythology, they express geometry, you know? I mean, frankly, right now I think nammari by mexico also and he did a lot of things that were very directly translated into his work from mexican images and yeah, I mean that's what you can't I don't know, I think that's one of the most rewarding things that I've ever had happened in my work is that you know the metro system has stuck uh it's being used it's been expanded on it works and the olympic image has lived on and they do use it for a lot of different things one thing I'd like to do if we could do this is to take those two basic images a typography and the iconography from the mitral and the three line typography from the olympics and combined them visually as to typefaces as a method of developing on overview for the urban imagery in mexico city and way made some studies on it and it looks like it might work so I'll be very happy designer we could do that ok so we've got no no signal I mentioned that this is a great we've seen if you have seen evidence of it tonight I mentioned that he's a great anecdote list and I wonder if I can ask you to tell my favorite lance woman and she's in the book about your time as the producer of the class of your class show for your when when you were at school and you had an end of you know well this is a good story e I mean this is one of those experiences will you kind of like yourself doing it? It was like a strange experience I grew up in uh kind of ah scottish factory town corny and it was pretty white population and there were about two or three black families in town aside mentioned was president of the senior class and we had a a class night, which was a you know, everyone did their thing most it was terrible. It was records and pantomimes and things like that and two black girls who wanted to do in african dance and they had skirts, straw skirts and an african music and we had a dress rehearsal the saturday morning before the show is to go on and the principal of the school came over to me and said that's not going on it's not going on tonight, I right away, I get really here in the back of my neck open so I would open I told the girls I said, look, the principal said he doesn't want you guys to go and I said, what? You are going to go on and I'm going to go down and talk to him. So I went down to the principal's office and I said, mr mann ki I still remember his name. I said, you know, if those girls don't go on, I'm going to have you come up and explain to their family way they're not on you looked at me and I you know that those feelings when like, shit, I'm not gonna graduate now and nothing more we said so I turned around they walked out the girls went on they did their skin which was terrible like all of them but you know I did that I thought well you did that and it was it was really a scary damn experience really when you really realize what you were doing so that's it I told you what I think is really significant about it this was the nineteen fifties and perhaps it would be a bit more understandable if it had been a decade later but it wasn't it was in the nineteen fifties and it struck me as a real kind of indicator of of lance's character okay, so we're back with fear to the feed on cam csc wants to know do use emojis and if so do you have a favorite I do only because my granddaughter does I actually they're a little small for me to really get into but I do I love the idea of them I love to have a chance that kind of relax and mo geez I mean can they were fighting the ones that I wanted to find so in that sense I think there's room to do a lot more in the movie world but yeah, we're fine but cam wanted to know if you have a favorite what what what is your granddaughter used most frequently? Jeez I don't know if she's a lot of different once she's probably she's probably watching so not so much the smiling faces she's kind of into other things like weird animals and fiction things like that ok, so you get arrested now because this one I think is for me if I can yeah so what was the first book he published under unit additions on why? Well it was it was a book called studio culture on we published we printed I think ten thousand copies and which we've never done again we never printed anything like that number again but it's sold out very quickly and it was the reason we did it wass we kept meeting people who were starting studios often straight from grad school they would graduate and have to start a studio which seemed to us to be every new thing because that was something you used to do after ten years, maybe twenty years even s o we put together a book called studio culture it's sold out now it's gone but it was interviews with twenty eight different studios studios ranging from single person operations we interviewed some lots of interesting people marry in branches who actually works in a on an island on an island off the canadian coast on her own how does that work andi interview people who have larger studios but it was it was a kind of way of establishing anethe us for the publishing imprint tryingto always produce books that I had had it wasn't there was no book on how to start a studio how do you go about it? So it was kind of part of the philosophy of always trying to do books and lance is another example of it where the subject has bean neglected or omitted so it very simply it was just a desire to put something out there that that didn't exist. Okay, so I hope that he's gone there but anyway, I hope that answers answers these questions. Okay, so we maybe got time for got time for a few more couple more okay, s o this is chase jarvis that's a good name chase jarvis on on dh chase wants to know what's one piece of advice he would give aspiring designers that they don't often hear so one piece of advice for desires is good, huh? Don't have attitude, I think that's my favorite piece of advice, you know, going on and that's a big I mean, even your own uh, fear can be an attitude going into something and you become your own worst enemy. I think attitude is all of our own worst enemies in a lot of sense, so, you know, just kind of show up and be there it's what you can really do and it's helped me ok, so maybe like this the last one okay, so this is jake, jake, vasily, and jake wants to know. Do you believe that simplicity is always more effective than the complex simplicity versus complexity? Well, I'll leave you with a quote from einstein it's, one of my favorite quotes, he said everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler. It's. The not simpler part, that's a bitch. Well, maybe that's. A good, simple point, tio to wrap it up, but, uh, I told you he was good, and I'm not just like to thank the civilization guys for organizing this, because it's a joy.

Class Description

Lance Wyman is a master of transforming public spaces through branding and is most noted for his iconic work on the 1968 Mexico Summer Olympics identity, 

During this special broadcast of the Civilization Design Lecture Series, Lance discusses his life’s work with Adrian Shaughnessy, a graphic designer, writer, co-director of publishing venture Unit Editions, and editor of the recently released Lance Wyman: TheMonograph

Lance’s work resonates today, as much as it did when he first began in the 1960s. Join us for this installment of the Civilization Design Lecture Series to learn more about Lance Wyman – his work and his legacy.