In his introduction to Graphis 1960/1961 Leo Lionni highlights the difference in outlook between “Art with a capital A” and commercial art, quoting Mies van der Rohe statement about art: “I don’t want to be interesting - I want to be good.” For Lionni the fine artist must create work that is good, but the graphic designer must also create something interesting. The imagery of Graphis shows how designers achieve work that not only is technically accomplished, but grabs the attention of viewers.
The Main Library owns many editions of the Graphis Annuals. The latest edition, the Graphis Design Annual 2010 is located at the Art, Music and Recreation Center Reference Desk. The layout of this and all the annuals favors the artists’ work over editorial design flourishes. The contents page lists in small type the many sub-categories of design.
These annuals present the work that has won Graphis Gold and Platinum Awards in a variety of areas of graphic design. An opening section called “Commentary” gives several Q & A sections where design studios discuss their creative process. One of these interviews is with Office, a San Francisco-based studio. Here, the designers at Office speak about the genesis for the design of pirate products for the Pirate Store which benefits the nonprofit writing center, 826 Valencia. The pirate store offers such unusual items as “Peg Leg Oil,” “Scurvy Be Gone” and more. Here is the product description for “Blackbeard’s Beard Dye”:
Beards can get bleached by the sun. Beards can turn white from fear; in either case, Blackbeard’s Beard Dye imparts a midnight hue to your whiskers, leaving them shiny, conditioned and bristling with health. Next time you take it on the chin make sure it’s covered with a beard you can be proud of … a Blackbeard beard (p. 14).This year’s annual also presents the exhibit spaces created for the California Academy of Sciences by another San Francisco firm, Volume Inc.
The work presented in the Graphis Design Annual is arranged by categories like animation, branding, brochures, editorial logos, music CDs, stamps, t-shirts, and many other subcategories. Each award winner is given its own page or pages, with the name of the design agency, its URL, the client name and the category of design at the bottom of the page. “Platinum” award winners are also noted here.
The Credits and Comments section provides background information about the visual work that makes up the Annual. This includes the names of the team who created the work from design firm to art director, print producer, writer, etc. The comments may also describe the requirements of the client and the concept behind the design. The Winners Directory lists all of the firms alphabetically. There is also an index of members of the creative teams, the design firms, and their clients.
The Graphis Annuals are a touchstone to the trends of the year in design. The consistent high caliber of art, combined with wit and sensitivity is a great source of inspiration for designers.