Skip to content

Jules Cheret and French Poster

The turn of the nineteenth century was a special time in French graphic design history.  Working amidst the short lived yet highly influential “Art Nouveau” movement, French poster designers flourished.

“Art Nouveau” was an art movement, lasting from around 1890 to 1910, where the artists of the time rejected the strict rules and standards imposed art academies.  These artists had become tired of the rigid rules regarding form, shape, and texture, and instead reached for visual and emotional expression in their work.  Instead of the studied, calculated painted figures seen from the academy, expressive French curves and inspiration drawn from the natural world were embraced.

French designers, such as Jules Cheret and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, were heavily influenced by the stylings of art nouveau, and incorporated it into their lithograph posters.  Soon, the beauty of the posters became valued by collectors and were highly sought after.  Cheret, keenly spotting a market for the posters, opened up an art exhibition featuring the works.

The French posters were a wonderful era for graphic design, and the influence of art nouveau is still felt to this day.

In Adobe We Trust

In 2016, Adobe made a whopping $5.85 billion compared to its $4.8 billion 2015 revenue. This figure represents what the company earned from its subscriptions that seamlessly connect Photoshop, InDesign and Illustrator through its Creative Cloud.

This quote is from a Forbes report from last year.  While that five billion dollar figure is staggering enough on its own, it also made me consider the deeper ramifications of the Adobe monopoly on graphic design.

Presumably, nearly every professional designer in the United States is an Adobe software user  (Okay, except for the one poor soul that uses GIMP).  But on the whole, Adobe is the clear frontrunner in software products for the digital arts.

Is this uncontested monopoly beneficial to designers? Probably not.  The emergence of a competitor in the field would most likely drop the steep prices for a Creative Cloud subscription, and might even enhance the power of the software.  As of now, this seems unlikely.  Adobe is miles ahead of any foreseeable competition, and for what it’s worth, puts out an incredible product.

So, at least for the time being, “I, for one, welcome our new Adobe overlords.”


Comics and Manga: Where Art and Design Cross (pt. 3)

For Part 1, click here:

For Part 2, click here:


To end this series, I want to show that the link between art and design created by comics goes beyond just the cover. Continuing with the example of One Piece, the best selling manga (Asian comic) of all time, there are many examples of design within the artwork of Eiichiro Ode.

Check out all these designs icons that play a heavy role within the story:

Each of these marks represents a different pirate “crew” within the story.  Thinking back to things I’ve been taught is school, is this not a hallmark example of a functional visual systems? Eiichiro Oda has employed the same techniques used within design firms to make all of the differing characters and factions in his stories seem uniformed. Combine this with the fact the title of “pirate” within the story of One Piece is symbolic of freedom, and all of a sudden you have a very strong brand identity. Besides the fact that One Piece is selling well and has managed to still be the most popular running comic series 20 years after its starting date in and of it self, there are things within the comic that start to be profitable on their on as well. These icons now hang on the wall of many fans, as a way of showing their support for that character or crew:

I know that I, personally, would love to create any brand that can resonate with an audience this strong; rather it be through comics or designing for an organization. Hopefully, you all can see that you don’t have to necessarily give up you fondness for art when you become a designer. If that artistic side of you wants to be free, just find a creative way to combine it with the design lessons you have been taught.

Comics and Manga: Where Art and Design Cross (pt. 2)

For Part 1, click here:


Every book needs a cover, even a comic. What normally separates comics from other books, however, are how visual they are, and their covers reflect this. They have to create a logo for their book that reflects not only the plot itself, but also the genre. All the while, it must appeal to whoever the author / artist / and now designer is aiming at.

As seen in the last post, these logos can be quite iconic. They kind of have to be considering the medium, because these comics could be coming out on a weekly basis so it has to be able to stand the test of time.  For example lets look at this One Piece logo further and how it has been used since 1997!

So this is the logo out of context:


Here’s how it appeared in the first volume, published in 1997


Here’s how it appeared in the Volume 30, published in 2003


Here’s how it appeared in the Volume 60, published in 2010


And here you see how it appeared in the Volume 88, the latest volume, published in 2018

As you might imagine, fans seeing the same logo for 20 plus years can start to get quite fond of it.  These aren’t just random artworks, but a stable brand identities that come to represent the values and themes of the books they represent.



Have you heard of the PANTONEVIEW COLOUR Planner?

It’s described by Pantone as a “lifestyle color trend forecast offers seasonal inspiration, key color directives, suggested color harmonies plus material and product application across men’s women’s, active, color cosmetics, interiors and industrial design.” Basically, it’s just a book full of moodboards and color palletes. And it costs $785.

Who decides what colors go  in it? This article from the New York Times can tell you more.

My question is, does it really matter? The pricing is prohibitive to the individual designer, meaning it’s pointed at firms and manufacturers. In that case, isn’t just a self fulfilling prophecy? If all the big designers buy this, it seems that it would dictate the trend, rather than merely predict it. In that case, are these color trends artificial? And would there really be any way to tell?

Comics and Manga: Where Art and Design Cross (pt. 1)

Every book needs a cover, even a comic. What normally separates comics from other books, however, are how visual they are, and their covers reflect this. They have to create a logo for their book that reflects not only the plot itself, but also the genre. All the while, it must appeal to whoever the author / artist / and now designer is aiming at. Here are some of my favorite examples of comic / manga logos which do a great job of developing a recognizable mark that help to establish a strong brand identity:


1. One Piece

This is personally my favorite logo of all comics. Without even having any plot synopsis, I’m going to assume that a general looker would be able to figure out that it is a story about pirates. Additionally, the red man that takes the place of the “I” represents the main character of the story.


2. Fullmetal Alchemist

Although it isn’t as clear as one piece, I like this one because it does a great job of conveying the mood of story. Like one piece, it manages to tie in the main character by being the same colors as the clothes as the main protagonist.


3. Naruto

I think this one does a cool just of making an interesting wordmark, which also so happens to be in the colors of the main characters clothing (noticing a trend?). The pink mark in the background isn’t just superfluous either, but actually represents a design that is present on a certain food item, which the main character eats many times throughout the story.


4. Tokyo Ghoul

This look may seem messy, and personally I think it could have been done a bit better, but what it does do well is represent the setting of the story. Tokyo Ghoul takes place in, well, Tokyo.  The city is well none for its neon culture and provides the perfect backdrop for both the story and the logo. Also, notice the difference in typeface compared to the bolder letters in the previous examples.  Who would you think this is being targeted to?


5. My Hero Academia

One of the newer shows, My Hero Academia has a fun and inviting logo. Notice the stroke on the letters and how bold it is? This not only represents the drawing style of the main artist but also the target audience.

Cooke-ing Up A Company!

Disclaimer: I didn’t misspell the title. I’m making a pun that you’ll understand if you keep reading (and hopefully that’s an incentive). Anyway, if you’re in the mood for detailed and trendy prints, look no further. Lionheart Prints is the place for you! You can check out their awesome website here:

Someone in my Graphic Design History class did their final presentation on this print shop, and stumbled upon in while roaming New Jersey. Lionheart Prints was the brainchild of Liz Maute Cooke, who makes a living out of running the shop and giving workshops on the basics of brush pen lettering, digitizing artwork, and making your own stationary. It’s inspiring to see how she jumped into a graphic design career at only 6 years old, by stealing markers from her mother’s desk drawer (and I think a lot of us can relate to her beginning).

Liz Cooke takes workshops with master letterers all over the world to improve her craft. She found a passion, and instead of sitting on it she worked hard to create a shop and continually grow through teaching and being taught by others. We should take note of Liz and many others who are always building upon their talents!

So that’s my piece. What do you guys think about her work?

Sally Mann: A Thousand Crossings

Last weekend I was back in D.C. at the National Gallery of Art. Since March there has been a huge exhibition up Sally Mann: A Thousand Crossings. Sally Mann is a photographer—my most favorite artist—who works with large format cameras and traditional techniques. She allows chance and imperfection into her work, embracing something that traditionally has been avoided and considered a lack of technique. I highly recommend that everyone sees this exhibition. Her work is extremely inspirational to me and addresses home life, family, race, and the American south. Her work is refreshing and gets you to think about many different topics. Even if you do not consider yourself to be an artist or involved in the art world, sometimes it is important to get out of your normal day to day routine and views. Visiting the museums and seeing the work of artists who are currently practicing their craft is always refreshing and can allow you to think differently.

Dutch Uncle – Noma Bar

Throughout my time studying for my BFA in graphic design at George Mason, I have tried to familiarize myself with the different styles and techniques of well-known graphic designers. One of those designers being the Israeli-born designer Noma Bar. I first observed his work at Reagan National Airport; it was the series of posters he created for the IBM’s “Smarter Planet” campaign. I couldn’t get over how he used negative space to visualize IBM’s hope for a better tomorrow.

Since then I have followed his career closely, and have even attempted to emulate his successful use of negative space. One instance was when I was asked to design a series of book covers for my AVT 311 – Design Methods class. I found the process of using negative space very difficult; it made me appreciate his talent even more. Please check out his work. I am sure you will be as amazed as I am.





What’s the Point in Hating Helvetica?

The first blog post I wrote for this website was a listicle thing called “5 Typefaces Designers Hate“. What was interesting to me, was that most of the comments thought that Helvetica, a typeface I did not include, deserved to be on the list. I disagree.

The thing people tend to hate about Helvetica is that it’s ‘overused’, or that it’s, for lack of a better word, boring. Erik Spiekermann said about it: “It’s air, you know. It’s just there. There’s no choice. You have to breathe, so you have to use Helvetica.” Sure, it may be everywhere, but why is that a bad thing? The way I see it, the more ubiquitous and boring Helvetica is, the better.

Helvetica is a modernist typeface. The purpose of the modernist movement, especially when it came to graphic design, was to create something objective and universal. So to me, all the things that people dislike about Helvetica, are actually just Helvetica fulfilling its purpose. I would even go so far as to say that it is perhaps the most successful form of modernism, ever. So I ask you: what is the point in hating Helvetica?