Both Trump 14K Gold-Plated and Trump 24K Gold-Plated were selected for inclusion in the 2017 Annual of the Type Directors Club, Typography 38. (It was designated a “Judge’s Choice” by juror Spencer Charles.) In addition to being exhibited in New York City, our posters and the other winning entries will tour cities in the United States, Canada, China, England, France, Germany, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Poland, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam.
Our book, Symbols, is reviewed by Sara Rosen in “Unlock the Mysteries of Life with Symbols: A Handbook for Seeing” via Crave Online.
We had the pleasure of celebrating the publication of our book Symbols: A Handbook for Seeing with a lecture and book signing at California College of the Arts where we teach. It was a treat to see so many current and former students! Our friend and colleague Bob Aufuldish provided introductions, and Mac Warrick from ARCH Art & Drafting Supply was there to sell copies of the book—which we slowly signed. (Thank you Bob and Mac!)
Watch the lecture:
Symbols: Angie Wang + Mark Fox at CCA (24:50)
The beauty of this book is showing that symbolic language is not concise and univocal, but fluid, and contradictory, and richly endowed with narratives both past and present. —Steven Heller
Our book comprises symbols that are emblematic of different cultures, epochs, and motivations: images and artifacts created to evangelize, control, sell, teach, protest, initiate, or entertain. The range of media encompasses both the sacred and profane: oil paintings and biscuit packaging, national monuments and commercial trademarks. The work of Juan Gris and Maya Lin is treated with the same reverence as a mass-produced ashtray.
Preview or purchase Symbols. Also available at all better independent bookstores, including Kinokuniya in San Francisco, McNally Jackson in New York City, Hennessy + Ingalls in Los Angeles, and Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago Store.
Prior to the election, we assumed that our Trump 24K Gold-Plated posters would be understood by now as a bullet the country collectively dodged. Unfortunately, we were wrong, and our work took on new meanings with Hillary Clinton’s loss on November 8.
We sent Trump 24K Gold-Plated to a number of curators around the world before the election, and are proud to announce that the poster has been acquired by the Museum für Gestaltung Zürich in Switzerland; the Poster Museum at Wilanów in Warsaw, Poland; and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, England.
Read our original statement about the design of the poster—written before the election—here.
Our unauthorized campaign poster for Donald Trump is featured in “Who’s Behind that Anti-Trump Art?” on Co.Design by John Brownlee!
Inspired by Jesse Reed and Michael Bierut’s design of an official H monogram for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, we created an unauthorized campaign poster for Donald J. Trump. Whereas Hillary’s H pulls one’s eye to the letterform itself, the narrative implicit in our design requires the viewer’s gaze to oscillate between foreground and background; between typographic form and counter-form.
The form comprises four gold, rotating letter Ts which are emblematic of qualities projected by Donald Trump and largely accepted by his supporters: strength, success, wealth, and revolutionary (i.e. impolitic) speech. The counter-form suggests a conflicting narrative, however: namely, that Donald Trump’s disruptive and divisive rhetoric is creating metaphoric negative spaces in the fabric of American society. These spaces—fracture lines, really—snake through the design’s square silhouette to reveal a swastika. And while the swastika is historically a symbol of dynamism and cyclical renewal associated with the sun, in this context it simply evokes hate speech and nationalist demagoguery.
Let’s be clear: for some Americans, the attractive aspects of Donald Trump’s public persona can obscure his repellent views. The tension in our design between positive and negative space—between luxe gold foil letters and the matte black swastika—is meant to mirror this dualism, and it is a tension that makes some uncomfortable. “How do I know it’s anti-Trump?” one wary hipster asked when we offered him our poster in the Chrome store on Valencia Street in San Francisco’s Mission District.
We hung some of our posters along several blocks of the Mission District that Saturday afternoon. Did anyone notice? In his 1966 book I manifesti, Italian designer Attilio Rossi records that “The poster is an optic scandal. You don’t want to look at it yet you see it.” We know that our scandalous Trump posters were indeed seen; only hours later, even the tape that held them in place was gone.
Our client Extole is a referral marketing company specializing in new customer acquisition for its clients. They recently moved their San Francisco office and asked us to propose a treatment for their lobby.
The men’s club vibe of their building on Sansome Street downtown is apparent in the marble and chandelier—which we decided to play against. We worked with Los Angeles illustrator Greg Clarke to create a series of Greco-Roman busts that are equal parts classical, modern (note the iPhone), and ridiculous (animal heads). Greg’s approach harmonizes with the formality of the architectural space while simultaneously creating a humorous (and therefore human) contrast.
Environmental photography by John Sutton.
A short piece Mark wrote—“Ray Bradbury, Jaron Lanier, and ‘The Digital Flattening of Expression’”—was recently published on the site Designers & Books. It explores thematic connections between Fahrenheit 451 and You Are Not a Gadget, in particular ideas about originality and authorship.
Mark also updated his book list on the site, adding new recommendations such as Tools of the Imagination: Drawing Tools and Technologies from the Eighteenth Century to the Present by Susan C. Piedmont-Palladino. Each book recommendations is accompanied by a brief “review” of sorts.
We recently redesigned the identity and online presence for Extole, a San Francisco referral marketing company specializing in new customer acquisition for its clients. We sought to humanize the “virtual” and data-driven aspects of Extole’s business by working with Los Angeles illustrator Greg Clarke to create idiosyncratic depictions of potential new customers as dogs and cats—with the occasional mouse and chimp thrown into the mix.
Business cards feature pairs of animals “sharing:” talking, listening to the same music, or exchanging information; screen printed mugs with a cat and poodle in conversation are given out to clients as a pair. Greg’s illustrations combined with the black and Day-Glo pink color palette work to create a memorable identity for Extole.
Photography by Mark Serr; Environmental photography by John Sutton.
When the general public became aware that a new UC monogram had been launched to represent the University of California and its ten campuses, San Francisco Chronicle staff writer Carolyn Jones contacted me for an opinion.
Both Angie and I earned degrees from the University of California: Angie has a degree in Japanese from UC Berkeley, and I have a degree in Fine Arts from UCLA. As alumni of the UC system, the new monogram represented us—as well as hundreds of thousands of other alumni, current students, and faculty.
While I understand that the University of California needs a new symbol separate from its historic “seal,” the proposed monogram was not the appropriate solution. Branding statements or strategy documents become moot when the resulting visual identity doesn’t accurately reflect the company or institution, or “speaks” in the wrong “voice.”
The pedagogic approach of the Graphic Design department at the California College of the Arts in San Francisco where we teach is predicated on the idea of critique. Work is judged, publicly. I encourage my students to ask the following questions so that they can determine for themselves the merits of their work. For example:
Who is the audience?
What is the intended message?
Is it the right message?
How successfully does the piece communicate the intended message?
What elements contribute to the piece’s successful communication?
What elements detract from it?
Are there unintended messages?
The San Francisco Chronicle article ran on the front page on Tuesday, December 11, 2012. My comments were offered from the perspective of an instructor who believes that informed, perceptive critique can only sharpen—and thus benefit—the practice of graphic design in our culture. My quotes from the article are below. [MF]
Mark Fox, a graphic design professor at California College of the Arts who designed that school’s logo and has done work for UC in the past, panned the new effort.
“The visual language is generic, commercial and utterly forgettable,” he said. “It is a complete mismatch for the university’s history and reputation. (It) has no visual or conceptual gravitas.”
A good logo should be distinct and memorable, create positive associations, reflect well on the company and work easily and inexpensively in all media, he said.
“The new UC logo,” Fox said, “fails in most of the above criteria.”
The entire article by Carolyn Jones can be found here. Three days after the article ran the University of California withdrew its support for the new symbol.
We have been invited to speak at the RE:DESIGN / Creative Directors Conference in Palm Springs this November. The conference will open with a keynote conversation with Paula Scher; other presenters include a number of our friends and colleagues from California College of the Arts in San Francisco. The topic of our conversation will be “Get Back: Working Analog in a Digital World.” Don’t forget to bring pens and paper!
We recently completed a section on our site featuring applications of the Craft Forward identity. To create variation within the system, we utilized a range of reproduction methods. We combined foil stamping, letterpress printing, offset lithography on a web press, laser printing, and screen printing with a mix of substrates, including chipboard, newsprint, DayGlo paper, and cotton organza. Photographer Mark Serr documented the work for us.
See the complete Craft Forward project under Design is Play Studio Systems.
Launching February 1, Designers and Books is a new website “devoted to publishing lists of books that esteemed members of the design community identify as personally important, meaningful, and formative—books that have shaped their values, their worldview, and their ideas about design.” The site is launching with 678 books recommended by 50 designers; Mark is honored to be among them. His book list includes titles about typography, symbols, comics, and social critique. (Illustration by Ben Shahn from Ounce, Dice, Trice.)
Craft Forward is a forthcoming symposium at California College of the Arts that will explore the boundaries between craft, art, design, architecture, and writing. We were engaged to create the identity for the symposium and to design its promotional materials.
Our solution juxtaposes two square glyphs: a circa 1909 typographer’s ornament (symbolizing craft), and a QR code (symbolizing forward). The QR (or Quick Response) code can be scanned with a smart phone which then directs the user to the Craft Forward website. In this context the QR code functions as a modern ornament, but one with embedded content.
See the Craft Forward identity applied to a foil stamped postcard under Design is Play Studio Systems. (More applications to come….)
Marcel Duchamp wrote, “as a painter it was much better to be influenced by a writer than by another painter,” the idea being that one should look outside of one’s creative profession for inspiration to avoid direct emulation. It is in this spirit that I enjoy considering the practice of graphic design through the lenses of other creative practices, in particular the craft of writing.
We are fans of Roald Dahl in the Fox & Wang abode, and have read a number of his books to our (collective) three children. Not long ago we read Dahl’s 1977 memoir “Lucky Break—How I Became a Writer” for the first time. On the second page he offers seven tips to would-be fiction writers that, perhaps not surprisingly, are relevant to would-be graphic designers.
Number one on that list: You should have a lively imagination.
One immediately thinks: Isn’t this obvious, for fiction writers as well as graphic designers? (Perhaps Dahl thought so, because this is the only piece of advice he doesn’t elaborate on.) After a moment, though, I have to ask: What does it mean to “have a lively imagination,” anyway?
Marcel Proust observed that “The essence of the writer’s task is the perception of connections among unlike things.” Whether writing or designing, I believe it is through seeing, through forming surprising or illuminating linkages, that one puts a lively imagination to work. It is being, in a word, playful.
A later book-length piece of advice, Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life (1994) contains a number of insightful suggestions for graphic designers thinly veiled as advice to writers. In the chapters “Shitty First Drafts” and “Perfectionism,” Lamott explores the messy process of writing and the creative dangers of not allowing that process to be messy. She warns that “Perfectionism will ruin your writing, blocking inventiveness and playfulness.” And: “Tidiness makes me think of held breath, of suspended animation, while writing [read: design] needs to breathe and move.”
It is interesting to weigh Lamott’s point of view against Roald Dahl’s, especially because his fourth tip—You must be a perfectionist—appears antithetical to hers. In truth, though, I think this particular issue is more about timing, about when to seek perfection in one’s craft rather than whether to seek it at all. Lamott allows for more detours along the way, I suspect, but both she and Dahl are intent on arriving at the same destination sooner or later. [MF]
“For this net neutrality mark I made for CREDO Action, I was attempting to take a geeky tech policy issue and make it playful. The essential idea behind net neutrality is one of keeping the internet open and free from corporate control. (For more on the topic I suggest you visit Save The Internet). How better to convey freedom than to give the internet some wings? Lightning bolts add a little zap to the composition and complete the labor union retro feel. CREDO took the playfulness a little farther and made temporary tattoos as a giveaway at the progressive blogger conference Netroots Nation.”
Steve Lyons is Design Director of CREDO Mobile. We invited him to share a moment of play with us.
In October we were invited to present our work to Carbon Five, an agile software development company. Our presentation was notably analog, and involved a number of small scraps of paper. (Yes, we still use paper at Play!) Our design of an identity for the startup BO.LT provided a vehicle for us to discuss our process of form development and refinement.
Our preferred method of creating imagery is to draw by hand—without the “aid” of computer software. We find this allows us great freedom and, surprisingly, speed. Repeatedly drawing the same forms also forces us to look at those forms closely—to become conscious of their physical qualities in relation to each other. After creating a rough sketch we like, we make a tight inking of it using a Rapidograph technical pen. (You can see one of our BO.LT icon inkings above.)
As Angie notes, “the computer shouldn’t dictate our manner of thinking and working, nor should it displace our ability to pick up a pen and make marks on paper.” Although we use the computer to generate final art in a digital format, we relish the opportunity to work by hand in the earlier stages of our projects.