ISEA2011 WORKSHOP: Publications: A Designers’ Update

Publications: A Designers’ Update (ISType Workshop Series)

Workshop Leader: Petr van Blokland

Developments in the production of all kinds of publications increase in speed and impact. Yet most traditional publication designers (books, newspapers, magazines, corporate identities) and their customers are not aware of these recent dramatic changes. Even designers for new media, such as blogs, websites, apps and e-books tend to see their work as local and separate. With a modest guessed increase in speed of 2.5 times, the next 10 years are comparable with the change, 25 years ago, from photo-typesetting to desktop publishing. These changes will continue, offering less time for users, customers, designers and producers to adapt their knowledge, experience and behavior. This will very likely result in a “shake-out” of designers- where the difference between the have and have-nots in knowledge becomes obvious. Designers that are not fully aware of these changes will find it hard to make their work needed in the future. Where by definition it is impossible to predict discontinued developments, it is feasible to envision technology driven developments by extrapolating what has happened in the past years.

The workshop will address these issues from the perspective of the future of design (what will students be doing 40 years from now?) and the increasing wide range of platforms and devices (“tablet computers require new thinking and new methods of design and production”). Design the design process. The designer as integrator, instead of artist defining the color of the buttons. Some projects and cases are presented as optional directions.

Based on inheriting object definitions in programming languages like Python and JavaScript it is possible to add abstraction layers to any publishing project. This way a clear separation can be made between the generic functions, reusable in other projects, and the small part of functions that are specific for one particular project. In general designers and programmers hardly take the effort to make this separation, resulting in local solutions that only work for one project. In the past years the Python library Xierpa ( has been developed as a publishing platform (often compared to a box of technical Lego) that allows rapid and flexible development of web-applications for publishing in print, online and apps. A standard XML descriptor file defines style, layout and behavior on a generic level, independent of platform and output device. The cases described in the workshop all fit the following set of requirements:

– (Publishing) project must be compliant to all relevant standards;
– Achieve as much separation as possible between content, design and technique;
– The design should know/recognize user behavior and respond appropriate;
– All unique information should only exist once.

Publishing solutions that fit all of these points cannot be file based. Only online tools that automate design on a high abstraction level will survive. And this does require designers to adapt to new thinking about their processes and tools. And this inevitably must lead to changes in design education.
Bio of the Presenter
Petr van Blokland was born in Gouda, The Netherlands, in 1956; he graduated Cum Laude from the graphic arts program at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in the Hague. He has been a freelance designer since 1980. He specializes in systematic design – typically building directories, forms systems, corporate identity programs, etc. He has taught graphic design, typography, and type design for many years at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in The Hague and at the Academy of Fine Arts, Arnhem. His first typeface is Proforma, a large series commissioned by Purup, Danish manufacturer of forms preparation systems, now released for general use by Font Bureau. His work brought him ATypI’s coveted Charles Peignot Prize in 1988. His statements on typeface design are well-known: On Quality “The same bottom line that applies to typography also applies to typefaces: when no one notices, the aim has been accomplished.” On Experience, “To be accomplished in all aspects of the design process is the fundamental demand on the designer. Experience and talent counts, not the availability of equipment.” On Digitization, “By carrying out the digitization as an integral part of the design process, maximum control is exercised over the eventual reproducing of the typeface, thereby avoiding any errors of interpretation.” On New Typefaces “Why design a new typeface? After all, there are so many. There is a misconception that typefaces are not designed. They are simply here. Yet new typefaces are designed and this need is increasingly present in view of the current technological advances.”


Posted by:  Ebru Surek