Form Over Function

Image Curation
By Rosie Schrag

The Architecture of Patterns book cover

David Carson
Experimental
2010
Print

David Carson’s most famous quote: “Don’t mistake legibility for communication.” Carson pushes the plus sign to take the place of the letter ’t’ in this piece, but he also uses it to create a pattern in the design, blurring the text and background pattern together. He communicates with more than the words, but uses form to get his idea across, while sacrificing some legibility.


Verlicht Holland met Hollandsche Kabels, NKF Delft

Piet Zwart
Constructivism/De Stijl
1926
Letterpress

Piet stretches the letterforms to the point that they almost look connected by the way they interlock. It takes some effort to make out the words on this poster. The composition is more heavily focused on in this piece, and personally I find it beautiful. I am drawn in by the composition, and it challenges me to look closer to understand what is being communicated.


Platters

James Victore
Postmodern
2013
Illustration on ceramics

Victore is well-known for his shocking and controversial work. Each of these plates has a political/social commentary or a deeply personal statement from the artist, according to the description on Victore’s Behance. It’s pretty strange to deliver such messages on plates, which makes it more about the overall piece rather than just the message being conveyed.


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Typographie

Robert Büchler
Swiss International
1960
Phototypesetting

This poster is a bit of an outlier from the rest since it still clings very tightly to the Swiss International style with it’s strict grid and clean lines. I felt it was appropriate to include because while function is still important, Büchler begins to push the boundaries of form, creating a pattern and shape with the letters.


Typographic Process, Nr 2. From Simple to Complex

Wolfgang Weingart
New Wave
1973
Lithograph

Weingart created a series of these posters for Kunstgewerbeschule Basle (a Swiss art & design school) in 1974. Although still closely associated with International Swiss Design, Weingart broke away from the rigid grids and strict rules the Swiss were initially known for. He was the instigator of the New Wave movement, which began to experiment with form over function, distorting type and embracing chaotic composition.


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Unlikely Symphonies — John Cage

John Provencher
2013
Postmodern/Contemporary
Digital/Print

This designer created branding for a John Cage exhibit. I feel he was successful in channeling the spirit of Cage’s haphazard/confusing music. Provencher left a majority of the letters out of the event title, really challenging the viewer to question the overall meaning of the piece rather than being directly given the information/message. It is really quite fitting, because Cage’s music often left people confused. I feel his famous 4'33 of silence comes through in this piece of design because of those missing letters. View the whole project here.


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Après la Marne, Joffre visita le front en auto
(After the Marne, Joffre Visited the Front by Car)

FT Marinetti
Futurism
1915
Lithograph

“The book must be the Futurist expression of our futurist ideas…even more: My revolution is directed against what is known as the typographic harmony of the page, which is contrary to the flux and movement of style.”

– Marinetti, 1913.

Futurists didn’t care much for anything that had been done in the past; they wanted to express themselves in a way focused on movement, speed, and rebellion. It is clear he cared about the aesthetic more than the function of this piece.


Words-in-Freedom

Carlo Carrà
Futurism
1914
Lithograph

Carrà is another artist/designer from the Futurist movement. He, too, wanted to express the movement and speed of the meaning of the words rather than accurately portray the words themselves. Spelling the words correctly and displaying them uniformly was of no concern to him, he was more focused on what the aesthetic was saying to the viewer.


Material Series #1: Liquid

Francisco Canton
Postmodern/Contemporary
2012
Digital

Canton made a series of three posters, each focused in a certain material. He uses a photograph so dramatically zoomed in that it is hard to recognize the material itself. He also highlights an edge of the photograph on each poster, like this one, and it is up to the viewer to decide if he intentionally wanted to emphasize that edge or if was just an aesthetic choice, adding to the composition. View the series here.


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Unknown

Armin Hofmann
Avant Garde Swiss
1965
Lithograph

Hofmann’s work is difficult to categorize, because while his roots remain in Swiss design, he breaks the rules and dares to do some very abstract things. In this piece, he has repeatedly distorted the letter ‘H’ almost beyond legibility. He is exploring and experimenting the letter as a form, stripping it of it’s meaning and pushing viewers to see as a new form, not just a letter.


l o c TYPE & Fontbook
Nora Kaszanyi
2015
Contemporary
Print

Kaszanyi created an experimental typeface based off Bauhaus wherein she used simple geometric shapes to create letterforms. These forms she has created are challenging to our current ideas of what letters should look like. She has broken up the forms unconventionally and reconstructed them in a way we are unfamiliar with. View the whole project here.


Unconventional Business Cards

Huan Nguyen
2015
Postmodern
Print

At a glance, these business cards look like nothing more than a grid of dots. This could either make someone immediately lose interest, or it could make them curious and force them to actually interact with the piece. Nguyen took a risk in making his business card more about the form and less about feeding the information directly to the viewer, but as a designer, his concept is sure to woo many people. View the whole project here.