• Cg_2
Graphic Design

The Blog Blackout

Guest posted by Chris Gray,

This week we invited people through Twitter to submit an article for our weekly discussion, thankfully Manchester based designer Chris Gray took the opportunity and here it is. If you would like to get involved in the future email will@itsnicethat.com.

I probably spend an unhealthy amount of time on blogs, to the point where I waste hours looking at the same thing on about 200 different pages. Which did get me thinking about what I did before there was countless websites all doing the same thing yet are all equally popular. From working in a big studio environment and seeing the studio grind to a halt when the net dies to working for myself trying to be disciplined enough to not click safari every time I get a spare minute. There seems to be a total reliance on being able to surf the web as part of being a designer. Surely it can’t be a good thing that most of us are all getting the same inspiration from the same places. No wonder everyones work is starting to look the same. Every week I get e-mails from students that are carbon copies of a recent post and I wish I could reach through my monitor and give them a right old slap. Not to mention that every second advert on TV seems to be cack handed rip-off from something good found on a blog. I’m sure I’m not the only one who hasn’t forgotten the Berocca advert. So that’s me done. I’ve managed to convince myself that it would do me no harm from being offline. Well. At least until tomorrow.

So, where now, how do we stay aware without falling into the pitfalls of styles and trends?

Chris Gray runs the art label Toy, designs under the name We Shall See and is represented by Studio AKA. His work has appeared in Vice, idN, Computer Arts and books published by Victionary and Gestalten. He is also a writer for the Design Assembly. www.thisistoy.com

Comments

12942304076277642 workwithmister on Tue Oct 27th 2009

I did this as my dissertation years ago and how software and user skills showed that product design work was looking identical. Certain software made your hair dryer and toothbrush designs look the same as a food mixer. Parallels can be drawn.

The similar thing is happening within online / print design which are 'blog' inspired. There is a serious lack of new stuff happening as blogs have replaced research and its easy for folk to be seriously influenced by seeing the same "post / image" as Chris says on 16 sites daily — the blame does lay at our door.

I see stuff posted daily by designers that I know for fact are based on certain blog articles / nice images / FFF / dropular etc post.

12942304083604007 laura_barnard on Tue Oct 27th 2009

I know exactly what you mean – I feel as if I get a lot of people's work confused, as so much of the painfully trendy stuff looks the same, and even some of the more recognisable stuff has that same feel to it.

Having said that, like so much of Stuff On The Internet, I think the internet works more as an accelerator, where it makes it easier to be influenced (and for us all to see and document the evidence of it) rather than by being the cause of it. I seem to remember feeling the same about a lot of designy books in the past too – just pages and pages of too cool for school sameyness. Surely this sort of thing has always been out there, it's just that we see it now because anyone can publish and/or link to it.

As far as influencing one's own work, I think it's easy for styles to just filter in unconsciously without being aware of it happening and you have to almost consciously fight against that (I'm not sure how well I do this, to be honest). I think another massively important point is to just use the internet as another tool – when was the last time you went to your local library or on a trip to look for inspiration rather than looked something up on the net? Do we even have time for this any more? I'm guilty of this kind of thing too, absolutely.

Perhaps (to be a bit more constructive and answer the "so, what now?" question), that's part of the solution, to consciously prevent yourself being lazy. Visit the blogs that find something different and look at things a bit differently, limit the number we visit, and then perhaps that quality over quantity approach makes it a bit more likely to remember what we've seen and be influenced by it in a more positive way, especially if it's coupled with a deliberate effort to push things in a new direction in our own work. As much as I get bored seeing the same stuff everywhere, I still visit the blogs, don't I? I think it's out of a feeling that I might miss out on something, when actually, that very probably doesn't matter. Particularly so if I miss it by seeing something out in the real world that no-one else is.

12942304089931962 markeebee on Tue Oct 27th 2009

Sad as it may seem, I don't think you *can* stay aware without the internet any more. In order to bring in the amount of information I scan over in my RSS reader on a typical day, I'd have to spend thousands of pounds a month on books/periodicals etc.

I think it's just a case of whittling the number of blogs you visit down to a reasonable minimum and, as Laura says above, consciously forcing yourself to come up with fresh ideas - after all, if you know everyone else's work looks the same, in theory it should be easier to come up with something that doesn't, right?

12942304096260307 JeffreyBowman on Tue Oct 27th 2009

i miss books, i used to love going to manchester or to london and seeking out Magma and alike, where i'd spend hours flicking through everything in there, now i happily pass by the book shop because 9 times out of 10 the content of them has appeared online on a blog somewhere at least twice before the books even out.

Because of the internet, now we can see anything we want, it covers every topic of design and every type of design, we dont have to make a choice just to leave with one book, which might fuel our exploration and craft for 3 months until next time we get a book. Now i can hit up a blog and find 10000 pieces of inspiration and never fully get into exactly what the movement or topic is. I think its all to easy to transfer the latest trend into your work through seeing these mass snippets of work on blog posts than it is to study and understand proper practice, a method that i relied on long before the blog culture.

12942304106919389 richardaroberts on Tue Oct 27th 2009

I'm glad to see this issue being raised, as it has been needed for quite some time now. I am as guilty as the next RSS feed reader for having an excessive number of bookmarked blog or gallery sites but there has been times when I click through and see the same student project, flickr link or new book over ten times or more and not forgetting how many other people are online viewing the same.

The solution is down to what works best for you and making individual efforts in the search for that inspiring flash. Typical creative exercises, walks around the corner a couple of times or reading a book are all very simple ways to clear the mind for a refreshed approach to how you interpret the brief. Just moving away from the bloomin' computer would help wonders for a start...

With that in mind we have this new information in front of us so fast with so little effort, which in turn can make many lazy, predictable and as mentioned above close to identical. We are living and working in environments that demand results in such a small time span that for the majority of folk that require the use of a electric box for our supposed 9 to 5/6's (we wish!) have and will for some time still rely on these 'inspiration' sites.

We should be using the sites we are constantly flicking through as quick resources and not as the escapism or our main route to the aim of the project.

1294230411436355 jezburrows on Tue Oct 27th 2009

I gave up on looking at blogs quite so frequently a long time ago. Obviously it's important to be informed about your discipline, but I found that seeing nothing but other people's design/illustration every day just made me neglect to keep developing my own.

(I'm aware of the irony here given that I post to this very blog on occasion.)

I definitely agree about blogs cultivating a certain style or set of characteristics that just seem to be engineered to be Internet-popular, too. I'm terrified of slipping into this without realising so I've been spending a lot of time lately at the reference library, just blindly pulling books off the shelves in sections that seem interesting. I can't recommend it enough! It tempts you out of your usual go-to reference points and forces you approach work in new ways.

12942304121981401 culturesinbetw on Wed Oct 28th 2009

Trying to refrain from looking at blogs is necessarily the correct answer. But limiting yourself to websites or certain points of reference or inspiration is the best approach. It's very ironic because as designers or as we're interested in design and what others are doing, we creating the problem itself by writing or presenting work as blogs or directories. I visit It's Nice That during the week and it helps me to push on with that I do personally. But it's all about taking everything in and throwing that out and retaining 5% of what you feel is relevant.

12942304128095117 iheartfinn on Wed Oct 28th 2009

go to libraries it's harder work hence you reap more benefits

12942304138226795 maristellag on Wed Oct 28th 2009

I jumped on the design/portfolio blog bandwagon kind of late (last summer), but it was incredible at the beginning. I was so inspired by everything I was seeing and so high on how much visual stimulation and input I was getting. At first it made me want to better myself; I actually learned a lot and I felt like my eye was getting better at knowing what looks good. But now I feel like every single designer out there, or mostly the recent college or MFA graduates, are doing exactly the same thing. Yes, it all looks good... but so what? Is there any substance behind all this style? I've started to feel a little disgusted by all of it now, but I've realized that good, timeless design has to have purpose, a good concept, backed up by a lot of research, and the inspiration shouldn't rely entirely on more graphic design or design , but on everything else out there in the "real" world. Go to a museum and view some real artwork hanging on a wall, or a sculpture. Go to a concert, see a performance, sketch, experiment, read, cut, tear, paste... you get the point. This is a really good article on what makes a graphic designer or creative good and where their inspiration comes from http://howdesign.coverleaf.com/howmagazine/200812/?pg=104

12942304145276773 filabreu on Fri Oct 30th 2009

I really don't think it's far more different than 20 years (or more) ago, before the Internet. Before we had books, magazines and posters, and many other media to be influential to young designers and to build trends. The difference is in the very core of the digital media. First it's open, so anyone can publish it's ideas. Second, it's fast, moving faster every day. Third, it's fluid, not static, so copying and reusing/remixing seems a lot easier, as there is no real material involved, it's all digital data.

The thing is that we are stil misusing all this power. In a few places (like this one) the digital media has proven to be a tool for creativity. It's also a tool for the cliché? Yes, as printed media also was before, in a more paced speed, but in essence was the same.

And has this influentiality become limited only to design? Look at music, photography, cinema, science even linguistics. We are all comunicating because we all have been copying the same language from one another.

I think it's too naive and too egocentric to think that we are "creators". Everything that we know is because someone has taught it to us. We are evolving togheter. It's not one person who has made design as it is today and it won't be one person that will change it. Embracing a good idea and using it is as far as important than creating it.

Who doesn't like Helvetica, throw the first rock.

Posted by Chris Gray

Most Recent: Graphic Design View Archive

  1. 5173

    As the creative world digests last night’s big D&AD winners (those that scooped Black and White Pencils), there was a host of interesting work recognised in the 44 Yellow Pencils given out at the London awards bash. In total, the D&AD juries considered 847 projects this year and so less than one in five made the prestigious Yellow Pencil cut. Here’s our rundown of those winners that caught our eye for one reason or another – you can see the full list of winners over on the D&AD site here.

  2. Thomaswilliams-bolo-itsnicethat-list

    Australian designer Thomas Williams’ work has appeared on the site several times over the years, in the shape of his editorial work for MADE, Nourished Journal and The Process Journal. He has recently decamped to Los Angeles and set up his own studio, Thomas Williams & Co., which comes complete with a newly updated site on which you can peruse his publication work alongside all manner of considered and communicative identity projects.

  3. Chwast_nose_08-1020x1600its-nice-that-list

    I don’t use the word “iconic” lightly, but in the case of designer Seymour Chwast, it fits. Co-founder of Push Pin studios, Seymour shaped what graphic design and being a graphic designer meant in the 20th Century, creating images that not only looked incredible, but distilled a message that could be anything from a light-hearted comment on design itself to an anti-smoking poster. His much-imitated graphic and illustration style still holds up brilliantly today, as proved by a fantastic new online resource, the Seymour Chwast archive.

  4. List-naonori_yago_laforet_itsnicethat_1

    I’m all for a bargain but when I hear about people queuing up at 4:30am for the big Next sale every year I can’t help but sigh. Surely sleeping is more preferable to numb lips chapping in the wind as you stand next to other haggard shoppers? Even bigger than Next’s sale is Japanese department store Laforet HARAJUKU’s annual “Grand Bazar,” which has taken sale shopping to a new level.

  5. Ah_ha_ciclovia_de_aveiro_it's_nice_that_list

    “Studio AH-HA started as an experiment. We never took ourselves too seriously, and we think that is why things have been working out,” say Carolina Cantante and Catarina Carreiras. For the last three years the Portuguese designers have been making lovely things out of their studio just a stone’s throw from the Lisbon City Museum and the university where they studied and met. Between them, Carolina and Catarina cut their teeth working with some of their heroes; Catarina at Fabrica with designer Sam Baron, who they still collaborate with, and Carolina at the renowned OMA led by “starchitect” Rem Koolhaas in Rotterdam.

  6. List-vasundhara-pachisia-its-nice-that

    Brookyln-born graphic designer Vasundhara Pachisia is still studying, but has managed to clock up a CV including work with MoMA Design Studio and Ralph Applebaum Associates. Not bad at all. She’s currently studying at Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan, where she’s making some great work combining vivid colour palettes with some gorgeous experimental typography. This is perfectly exemplified in the piece Until Perfect Comes , a typeface the designer says is “an ode to Victor Vasarely.” We’re sure the “grandfather of op-art” wouldn’t be disappointed.

  7. Antonio_ladrillo_lines_it's_nice_that_list

    Back with a colourful series of minimal, origami-like creations, Antonio Ladrillo’s Colors, Lines and Dots continues the same optimism and sense of play that has made the Barcelona-based illustrator is an It’s Nice That favourite. You may remember our enthusiasm for his exhibition of 40 small paintings on repurposed wood, Crash or his book Being a ghost is cool! The three new softcover books are designed with the same cuts, folds and palette but use different patterns, taking on multiple 2D and 3D combinations like folding cards. Part papercraft, part publication, like all of Antonio’s sunny portfolio, Colors, Lines and Dots is simple yet striking.

  8. Shannonlea-philliplarkin-itsnicethat-list

    In our recent interview with Spin’s Tony Brook he spoke about the shift in his design approach towards a fixation on conceptual work – “I wanted reasons, I wanted intelligent thought.” Tony of course is one of the best in the business with a great deal of experience; it’s less common to see this same concept-driven lust in young designers, particularly those still learning their craft at university.

  9. Alain-vonck_ruins_it's_nice_that_list

    Whether it’s glitchy internet art, streamlined design and art direction or bespoke typefaces, Alain Vonck has been building a strong portfolio since graduating from Paris’ ESAG Penninghen in 2012. Concentrating on visual identity as well as editorial and web design that communicates a passion for pattern, Alain confidently moves between a variety of commercial and self-directed projects. Whether a book and net archive inspired by early web designs and 90s digital culture, ilIustrations for the daily French newspaper founded by Jean-Paul Sartre and Serge July, Libération, or super minimal art direction for a digital magazine, the Parisian designer has proven his approach is both contemporary and versatile.

    The pixelated, retro-tech visual language of many of his self-initiated projects has taken cues from GIF revival and the unrefined aesthetic of the internet’s early days, carving him a niche as something of a digital archeologist. Further illustrating his creative range, one of Alain’s most recent commissions marked a departure into new stylistic territory with a bright book of over 250 block-coloured illustrations vaguely reminiscent of Matisse cut-outs for Franco-Lebanese publishing house Tamyras.

  10. Alex-horne-do-it-poster-its-nice-that-list

    As the likes of Haw-Lin and Tom Darracott have proved in recent years, club posters are no longer the all-caps, bright yellow, shouty things on lampposts they used to be. Well sometimes they are, and there’s something quite charming in that (UK GARAGE SENSATION in Surbiton, anyone?), but there’s certainly a finessed approach to many of the posters now, as Alex Horne proves. The designer, who also founded label Fine Grains Records, hails from Aberdeen but now lives in London, working with clients including The Financial Times, The Vinyl Factory and Vice. Today though we’re looking at some great music posters, namely those for AV collective Do It! and Oslo-based club night promoter The Drop, which Alex runs alongside Norwegian record label boss and musician Andre Ishak. Throughout the work there’s a leaning towards Bauhaus-esque typography and clean, graphic shapes, with crisp layouts proving once again that the marriage of graphic design and electronic music is one made in heaven. Or in this case, in Aberdeen, London and Oslo.

  11. Arthurfoliard-mood-itsnicethat-list

    Arthur Foliard has some impressive design experience on his CV – Pentagram, Landor and Moving Brands – and he’s been honoured by both ADC and the Cannes Lions. Not bad for a 25-year-old, but this London-based Frenchman has a portfolio of work that makes sense of these accolades.

  12. Mirko-borsche-itsnicethat-list-2

    Is there no end to Bureau Mirko Borsche’s brilliance? Having already produced season after season’s worth of printed collateral for long-term client the Bayerische Staatsoper, Mirko’s eponymous studio has just released its newest collection of work for the theatre. Spanning a series of events entitled Die Unmögliche Enzyklopädie, plus posters for the house orchestra Bayerisches Staatsorcheter and premiere posters too, the newest selection might even be the most diverse to date. 

  13. Studiodumbar-vbms-itsnicethat-list

    It’s all very well championing identity work for a cool club night or a hipster restaurant, but it’s more interesting to come across really impressive design for, how shall we say, less glamorous clients. And they don’t come much less glamorous than VolkerWessels Boskalis Marine Solutions, or VBMS, which specialises in “subsea power cable installation” (mmm, sexy). So it’s great to see the ever-excellent Studio Dumbar create a new look for the new company which was formed by the coming together of two existing entities.