Graphic design entrepreneurs at Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (2011-12)

Major new exhibition recognizes designers’ expanding roles as producers, publishers, and entrepreneurs.

Graphic design: Now in production

Walker Art Center, Minneapolis
22 October 2011 - 22 January 2012

Press release text by Walker Art Center

Graphic design has broadened its reach dramatically over the past decade, expanding from a specialized profession to a widely deployed tool. Today, graphic design is the largest of the design professions in the U.S., with more than a quarter-million practitioners. The field is shifting and expanding in unexpected ways as social media and other technologies have changed the way people consume information. As design tools have become more widely accessible, designers’ roles have expanded: more designers are becoming producers— authors, publishers, instigators, and entrepreneurs.

One of the most ambitious graphic design exhibitions in the U.S. in more than a decade, Graphic Design: Now in Production opens at the Walker Art Center on October 22, 2011 and runs through January 22, 2012. The exhibition is co-­organized by the Walker and the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum in New York, where it will run in summer 2012 on Governors Island.

Occupying some 10,000 square feet of gallery space, the extensive exhibition explores some of most vibrant sectors and genres of graphic design, including posters, books, magazines, identity and branding, information graphics, typography and typefaces, and film and television title graphics.


The poster is the most iconic of graphic design formats and persists today despite the advent of mass media advertising and anti-posting ordinances. Today, some of the most vital poster designs eschew conventional client messages in favor of more idiosyncratic approaches. Experimental approaches to the poster encourage user-generated messages and explore digital, mechanical, and handmade technologies and techniques. This section includes an interactive digital poster wall display by Dutch design collective Lust; the work of Albert Exergian, whose self‐initiated iconic posters draw from American television; Jurg Lehni who creates new tools from hardware and software such as Viktor, a robotic chalk-­drawing machine; and Anthony Burrill, whose typographic woodblock and silkscreen posters proclaim messages such as Oil and Water Do Not Mix, which used spilled Gulf of Mexico oil as silkscreen ink.

The publishing industry has changed dramatically with the rise of digital formats such as websites, blogs, mobile apps, and tabloid computing. Today’s open digital culture has challenged traditional definitions of authorship, production, and distribution, blurring the lines between design, writing, editing, and publishing. This section looks at the fate and future of design-­driven publications, including magazines, journals, books, newspapers, and newly minted formats for e-­book readers and the iPad.

London-­based publications consultant and founder of, Jeremy Leslie curates a selection of today’s most inventive magazines that reinvent publishing genres, rethink the very idea of what a magazine can be both materially and technologically, and those in which design itself becomes the content. Work in this section includes Jop van Bennekom’s Fantastic Man and The Gentlewoman, reinventions of the fashion publishing genre; Hannerie Visser’s Afro magazine from South Africa that reimagines the form of the magazine itself; and Pedro Fernandes’ design of “I”, a Portugese newspaper that incorporates the visual vocabulary of magazines.

The last two decades have seen the growth of design‐conscious book publishers who have either catered subject matter to designers or chosen design‐driven formats for their books. Designers’ roles within the book production process have expanded to include authoring, editorial, and self-­publishing as access to the means of producing and distributing books has expanded. This section features work by David Pearson, whose Pocket Penguin book titles reinvigorated the publisher’s classic backlist; the print-­on‐demand experiments of James Goggin; and the book designs of Irma Boom, whose explorations of the form, structure, and materiality of the book have transformed the genre.

Information Space
New software provides tools to visualize the increasingly prevalent amount of data available to people worldwide. Information design helps shape our understanding of data by organizing it visually in easily understandable, engaging, and memorable ways. Information design touches all aspects of our lives, from roadway maps and instruction manuals to the navigation and interaction design for computers and software. This section includes work by Boston-based studio Sosolimited, whose real-­time installation analyzes language used on broadcast television to create dynamic information displays; and projects from the realm of visual journalism, which uses data gathered from research to help tell the news stories of today with work by the New York Times Graphics Department, Catalogtree’s interactive iPad app about the “flash crash” of the American financial markets, and David McCandless’s Mountain and Molehills, a statistical representation of media “scare” stories of the past decade— from Y2K to SARS.

Branding and Identity
The twentieth century witnessed the rise of comprehensive design programs that sought to unify, personify, and identify the public face of organizations. The post-World War II “golden age” of logo design has given way to the democratization of identity programs and the rise of branding— a more comprehensive representation of the relationship between companies and consumers. This section includes Armin Vit and Bryony Gomez-­Palacio’s Brand New, featuring “before” and “after” versions of logos for organizations and companies, drawn from their popular web project of the same name; Ji Lee’s logo preservation project documenting the use of the twin towers of the World Trade Center in numerous New York City area businesses; and a new project commission from design researchers Metahaven about the use of the Internet and social media in recent political events. Also on view are experimental identities for cultural institutions, created by such influential designers as Stefan Sagmeister, Graphic Thought Facility, Mevis & Van Deursen, and Maureen Mooren.

Typography and Typefaces
Typography is the creation of letterforms and other characters that give visual form to the written word. Today’s renaissance in the design of typefaces is fueled by the relative ease of use and ubiquity of font design software and renewed attention to importance and impact of a centuries-old craft. No longer an obscure specialty, typography today involves the creation of custom lettering for products and publications, the design of multilingual typefaces for a global public, and the revival of historic typefaces for contemporary use. This section includes Process Type’s Anchor, Peter Bil’ak’s History, and Lineto’s LL Brown, as well as posters and other artifacts created by M/M (Paris), Antoine + Manuel, Marian Bantjes, Oded Ezer, Farhad Fozouni, and other designers working worldwide.

Today’s designers are increasingly entrepreneurial, designing merchandise and conceiving goods for sale themselves. This section presents a retail shop within the context of the gallery, featuring designer-created and designer-curated products, as well as repackaged products like t-­‐shirts, tote bags, posters, books, and magazines. Works include James Victore’s Dirty Dishes series of message-emblazoned ceramic plates and the artfully-­designed, bespoke axes by Peter Buchanan Smith from Best Made Co.

Screening Room
A special screening room within the exhibition space will focus on the field of motion graphics, which span the gamut— from promotional videos and broadcast graphics to television bumpers and interstitials in addition to longer form film and television title treatments. Today, title graphics are mini narratives that give viewers insight into what is to come and what has happened. This space will feature television and film titles curated by Ian Albinson and Alex Ulloa of the website,, created by some of the leading motion graphic designers practicing today.