hel·low (ˈhelō/) exclamation. A salutation embodying the vibrant energy found in the color yellow.

19 February 2014

Herbert Bayer's Burning Banknotes

Any good design favors simplicity. Modern design follows the systematic use of only a few options for each visual attribute. There is no reason to use multiple font-families when one will do. There is no reason to use a plethora of colors when a small palette of 3 or 4 will suffice. There is no reason to vary between more than a pair of font-sizes or line widths. Strip away everything that is not essential and you will find the base of good design. There are many individuals responsible for birthing these design principles, either through art or necessity, but one of the most interesting and often underrepresented fathers of modern design is Herbert Bayer.

According to an article on Wikipedia, in an effort to replace the imperialistic government of Germany in 1919, the Weimar Republic was formed as a semi-presidential representative democracy. To afford the costs of World War I, Germany decided to fund the war through borrowing--not allowing an ounce of its currency to be converted to gold. As a result, the government began to buy foreign currency and significantly decreased the value of its Mark. From 1921 to 1924, Germany suffered a three-year period of hyperinflation. During this time, emergency banknotes were issued by Die Landesregierung Thüringen and designed by Bayer.


These banknotes embraced a simple and bold style now found in contemporary graphic design. Departing from the traditional bank note standard of serif fonts, swirls, and national symbols, Bayer's design featured grids, geometry, and sans-serif. This deviation from the norm was one of the first uses of modern design in the realm of politics and economics.

Despite their beauty, the insertion of Bayer's emergency currency into the economy did little to assuage inflation. Paper money was so worthless that it was burned as fuel. Herbert Bayer's banknotes provided heat for many.


Following the design of this currency, Bayer later created the "Universal" typeface which resonates with the widely-used sans-serif font today. The introduction of this typeface featured no uppercase letters, as Bayer believed people did not speak in upper- and lowercase. The simple beauty of his design allowed for greater innovations in effective communication.


Unlike many great artists and designers, Bayer spent the remainder of his career in advertising. The modernism he developed in Europe well served his  innovative marketing in corporate America. The bold simplicity and geometrically balanced style was widely accepted. The principles of good design gave his work a universal appeal. As a result, much of his style permeates design today.

12 February 2014

47 Rockets, 2 Kites, and a Chair

In the days before Sputnik, Wan-Hu, a Chinese official, strapped 47 rockets and two kites to a chair in an attempt to launch himself into space. When the smoke cleared, Wan-Hu was gone. There was no sign of his chair. No sign of his kites. No sign of the rockets other than some spilled gunpowder and burn marks on the ground. Wan-Hu left the Earth, and he was never seen again. Whether he left the Earth together or in pieces, one cannot say, but the man disappeared that night.
The hopeful and imaginative mind, untarnished by science, would believe Wan-Hu’s rocketry carried him into space. The combined force of 47 rockets accelerated him out the atmosphere and into the ether beside the moon. Perhaps the force had been so strong that he was thrust into the sky at the speed of light. Sent careening out of our solar system to explore the rest of the galaxy. Zooming by moons and planets and stars, his chair a galactic throne and he the celestial ruler. As he moved at the speed of light, delving into our photograph of space that once was, Wan-Hu left the Earth to age in his wake. Centuries passed as he traveled, untouched by time, seeing all the things our telescopes have yet to detect. Watching stars burst, planets form. Dark matter become colorful. Asteroids collaborate to form moons. Civilizations grow and crumble and rise again. Representing Earth as he comes into contact with other life. Becoming allies, forming friendships. Experiencing everything that our childhood minds dreamed and things our adult minds refused to believe. A being of the fourth dimension, Wan-Hu and his 47 rockets escaped our rock. While we look up to the stars and curse at our stagnant state, perhaps we may see him, floating on his kites beside Vanguard 1 and our cluster of satellites. We in our rocking chairs, he in his rocket chair.
But we cannot believe it. Sure, Wan-Hu left the Earth. He disappeared, not because he escaped into space, but because he was scattered into ten million pieces. Our crutch of science tells us he did not escape our galaxy. Our years of advanced arithmetic disprove the fantastic simplicity of 47 rockets, 2 kites, and a chair as means of exploring space. Our investment in the invention of science refuses to believe that Wan-Hu was successful. The second brains in our pockets can prove it. We believe it. We do not wonder about Wan-Hu because our smart phones tell us the truth. Science seeks to understand wonder, but the act of pursuing it can turn Wan-Hu to dust.
Imagination can put Wan-Hu into space.

06 February 2014

Reclaiming Urban Vandalism

It all begins with a bucket of chalk. A small child, bright-eyed and eager to express itself, defaces the concrete of its parents' driveway or the neighborhood sidewalk. Vandalism.

Sure, these cute, pretty little drawings seem harmless. Pink flowers and rainbows and unicorns and suns with smiley faces. The typical symbols of peace and innocence. They are the bearers of greater things. Praised by their parents and elders for artistic expression. Seen to be aspiring creators in coming years. Temporary now, this chalk may one day become paint and forever deface public property. And suddenly, those proud parents and elders are no longer praising.

Praise should be given onto them. To sidewalk drawings, graffiti is the Monet to coloring books. True graffiti is spray paint on public property. It paints a city and gives it character. Of course, alternatives to this have been developed that leave no lasting mark, such as beautiful tri-dimensional chalk art on city streets.


Perhaps the beauty in this medium is the fact that it's temporary. Rain could wash away all the hours of work in a matter of moments. If this is where the beauty lies, then artists must maintain a special quality. The creators of these are exceptional people. However, the creation of most art revolves around the longevity of the artist born through their piece. Graffiti can give incentive to creators to create. If given a purpose, perhaps graffiti could be turned into something more than vandalism.

Is there a way to encourage artists to create urban art via graffiti? Should we hire graffiti artists? Sides of buildings could be forms of graffiti advertisement like the college campus rock. The unstated word is not to paint over another group's painting for a day. This form of system would give cities a new direction.


Advertisements could become a variety of respected art, something that is no longer devalued by commercialism. By hiring graffiti artists as opposed to advertising industries, freelance creators could make a living out of their passion. The consequences of putting to use the great talent of graffiti artists could result in a large societal shift that favors the pursuit of artistic interests. Parents would be able to continue encouraging their children in their urban vandalism. Graffiti, as a respected form of art, could reclaim the word "vandalism."