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Graphic Design: Now In Production

Limited-run products and an exhibition on graphic design at Minneapolis' Walker Art Center

by James Thorne in Design on 21 October 2011

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This Saturday (22 October 2011) Walker Art Center in Minneapolis launches a new exhibition on graphic design that will run through 22 January 2012. "Graphic Design: Now in Production" is a retrospective on the evolution of the medium since 2000, and ambitiously explores the publishing gamut with pieces from magazines, newspapers, books, and posters. The collection follows technical changes in graphic design, which the museum describes as "the renaissance in digital typeface design; the storytelling potential of titling sequences for film and television; and the transformation of raw data into compelling information narratives."

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Under the direction of Olga Viso, the current exhibition is a belated update to the Walker's 1989 "Graphic Design in America: A Visual Language History." Curated by Andrew Blauvelt and Ellen Lupton with guest curators Armin Vit, Bryony Gomez-Palacio, Jeremy Leslie, and Ian Albinson, the show is massive in scope (and size, measuring 10,000 square feet) and provides critical insight into the graphic design of recent years. In addition to following trends in design the exhibition also dissects the culture surrounding it. According to the museum blog, "Graphic Design: Now In Production" chronicles postmillennial all-access design tools and self-publishing systems, the open-source nature of creative production, and the entrepreneurial spirit of the designer turned producer."

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Building off of the influence of social media and information exchange much of the exhibit is interactive, encouraging participation from visitors and artists alike. One striking example is an interactive wall that can be used in combination with mobile devices to access downloadable information. Called "Posterwall for the 21st Century," the traveling installation displays information and images from the web that is timely (refreshed every five minutes) and regional (in this case, related to the Twin Cities and surrounding areas). While print media is certainly a part of the exhibit, the show reflects the profound role that digital art has played in the design of recent years. A great example of the interaction of classic design and graphic art of the last decade is the hand-painted Eames chair by Mike Perry.

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The exhibition is divided into eight sections, one of which is a pop-up store featuring for sale exclusive items from the show that are not available in the regular museum shop. All items from the pop-up gallery are available in a special section of the Walker's online shop. One such exclusive is the John&Paul&Ringo&George shirt by Experimental Jetset. The shirts, which were originally designed for the Japanese brand 2K/Gingham, have been unavailable in the US for some time. Among the other items are products from Best Made Co., Field Notes, and Alphabeasties by Werner Design Werks, a series of stuffed animals decorated in typeface. As an added bonus, all items bought from the store will be wrapped in Daniel Eatock Price Label Gift Wrap, custom-made for the exhibition.

Can't make it to Minneapolis? "Graphic Design: Now In Production" will be coming to Governor's Island in NYC next summer with a national tour to follow. You can also check out some of the designs by purchasing the exhibition catalogue, which features 1,400 illustrations and essays by the curators. For more images of the exhibition, check out the gallery.

Photos by Leslie Parker

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