Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Module 10: Early Computer Art

                            "My computer program is like a piano.
                  I could continue to use it creatively all my life."
John Whitney, Sr. 1

I thought I would explore early Computer Art also known as Computer graphics and later as digital graphics. One fact that shouldn't have been surprising is that many early art were made not by "artists" but by scientists and engineers with access to computers. Another fun fact was that the early computers were the Bombsight Computers from World War II. Sometimes these images were called "machine drawings ." Another was to see certain art movements be a factor of influence.

Picture by drawing machine 1, Desmond Paul Henry, c.1960s  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Computer_art

"In the early 1960s digital computers became available to artists for the first time (although they cost from $100.00 to several millions, required air conditioning, and therefore
located in separate computer rooms, uninhabitable 'studios'; programs and data had to be prepared with the keypunch, punch cards then fed into the computer; systems were not interactive and could produce only still images). The output medium was usually a pen plotter, microfilm plotter (hybrid bwn vector CRT and a raster image device), line printer or an alphanumeric printout, which was then manually transferred into a visual medium." http://translab.burundi.sk/code/vzx/index.htm#16

Two main centers of computer art activities: were the Murray Hill lab, Bell Laboratories in New Jersey which is now AT&T and Technische Universitat in Stuttgart, Germany.

Ben Laposky 1950, First graphic images generated by an electronic (analog) machine.
He called his oscillographic artworks 'oscillons' and 'electronic abstractions.' Ben combined his training as an mathematician and artist to create.

William Fetter, 1960

Fetter coined the term computer graphics to describe one of his own creations:
the first ever computer-generated images of the human figure.
Fetter, an employee of Boeing, was trying to find a way to design an airplane cockpit.
The human model is completed in 1964.

John Whitney "Catalog" 1961

John Whitney, a pioneer computer animator, made this demo reel of work created with his analog computer/film camera magic machine he built from a WWII anti-aircraft gun sight. If you would like to read more about his stunning career, go to http://www.awn.com/mag/issue2.5/2.5pages/2.5moritzwhitney.html.

John Whitney Sr's analogue computer was a twelve-foot-high device capable of producing complex, yet beautiful graphic designs. In his career he partnered with Saul Bass combine musical composition and abstract graphic animation.
Computer composition with lines 1964 - Michael Noll

Noll created this in the New Jersey Bell Labs. You can see the adoption of Constructivist and Abstract forms into two-dimensional Computer Art in this sample. Other movements and art forms that used were mathematical art; Abstract Animation, the Bauhaus; and Kinetic Art and Art & Technology according to Nick Lambert. http://thesis.lambertsblog.co.uk/?page_id=121

The first computer art exhibitions in the world were held in 1965, in the cities of New York and Stuttgart. They were not called art but pictures. The names of the exhibitions were Computer-Generated Pictures, April 1965, at the Howard Wise Gallery in New York, and Generative Computergrafik, February 1965, at the Technische Hochschule in Stuttgart, Germany.

Charles Csuri, "SineCurve Man" Plotter Drawing 1967
He was an artist, a computer graphics pioneer, and a Professor Ohio State University. His work was important to computer animation. Early plotterdrawings from the 1960s are among the first steps in Digital Art. To see more, click below.

Csuri: Random War, 1968
This was important forerunner of our video games and programs for reconstructing of historical events. This type of programming is used for reconstructing the movements of people on 9/11 inside the twin towers to see how better to plan escape routes in skyscrapers.
"A drawing was made of a single toy soldier and this became a data set. The computer program used a random number generator. The random numbers determined the distribution and position of 400 soldiers on a battlefield. A transformation involving rotations was used to determine the angle of each soldier. One side was called the 'Red' and the other one the 'Black' and the names of real people were given to the program. Another program assigned military rands and army serial numbers also at random. The random number generator decided the following information. (1) Dead (2) Wounded (3) Missing (4) Survivors (5) One Hero for Each Side (6) Medals for Valor (7) Good Conduct (8) Efficiency Medals"  http://translab.burundi.sk/code/vzx/index.htm
To see more of his work and learn more about him:

Digi-Grotesk S -first digital typeface, 1968


Despite its derivative appearance—it looks like a condensed knock-off of Neuzeit Book from Stempel— It was created by the staff of Dr. Ing. Rudolf Hell, the company that pioneered cathode ray phototypesetters.

Zajec: RAM 2/6 1969

The RAM compositions are examples of Zajec's first work done on an IBM 1620 computer.
Linear elements are distributed on a rectangular lattice in different spatial and rhythmic
combinations according to varying probabilities of occurrence.

Night Scene by Lillian F. Schwartz

Computer-generated etched aluminum plate. Copyright © 1975/2004 Lillian F. Schwartz courtesy of the Lillian Feldman Schwartz Collection, Ohio State University Library and Foundation. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission. http://www.atariarchives.org/artist/sec31.php
She was an artist, filmmaker, art historian, researcher and theorist and "Night Scene" was the first in the medium of computer art to be acquired by The Museum of Modern Art (New York). She is the one who wrote the book The Computer Artist's Handbook  where she presents the problem construct: Who is really portrayed in Leonardo Da Vinci's "Mona Lisa"?

© 1992 All Rights Reserved
Computer Creations Corp.

There is more in the history so I hope you were able to get a tiny glimpse of the work the pioneers accomplished to pave the way for what we have now. Here is a YouTube by Frieder Nake another pioneer.

40 years of Computer Art

MUSIC-first synthesis
Max V. Mathews, father of computer music
AT Bell Labs in 1957, Mathews demonstrated synthesis of music on a digital computer with his Music I program.
"Computer performance of music was born in 1957 when an IBM 704 in NYC played a 17 second composition on the Music I program which I wrote. The timbres and notes were not inspiring, but the technical breakthrough is still reverberating. Music I led me to Music II through V. A host of others wrote Music 10, Music 360, Music 15, Csound, Cmix, and SuperCollider. Many exciting pieces are now performed digitally.

"The IBM 704 and its siblings were strictly studio machines--they were far too slow to synthesize music in real-time. Chowning's FM algorithms and the advent of fast, inexpensive, digital chips made real-time possible, and equally important, made it affordable.: Max V Mathews. 

To explore computer art futher check out this websites:

The Slovakia-based Translab has a good online archive of early computer art from names that aren’t widely known but were important for their early work with computers. These works date from the third quarter of the 20th C. and reveal a parallel history of electronic experimentation that doesn’t have much relation to commonly known art history. http://hyperallergic.com/5105/early-computer-art/

http://thesis.lambertsblog.co.uk/  A Critical Examination of ‘Computer Art’, by Nick Lambert

http://dam.org/home  Digital Art Museum

1. http://siggraph.org/artdesign/profile/whitney/early.html

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Module 10: Bruce Mau, Designer of the Future

"...design is more than an end
   in and of itself: it is "not 
     separated or segregated
   from life but instead is
       integrated with other
   messy flows. It engages 
      directly with the world."1


Bruce is an example of the designer for the future. His website is fun with the changing subtitle that changes words but mean the same thing. Very creative, upbeat, and simple. He is forward and global thinking but learns and shares lessons from the past. His designs are examples of New Simplicity.
He shares his 43 point Incomplete Manifesto on-line. at http://www.brucemaudesign.com/#112942/ .  He includes such advice as: 

             Begin anywhere.
                                Organization = Liberty

                                 Ask stupid questions.


             Break it, stretch it, bend it, crush it, crack it, fold it.

                                                Don’t borrow money.



http://ludosabato.com/mau/  Explore the rest here and learn.
Click on this picture for on the above website for an interactive version of his incomplete manifesto. FUN!  I agree with most of them but not all but he is the succussful bussinessman and designer. As you can tell he ranges from the lofty to the practical.

The Secret of Success:
A collection of quotes by designers. go to

Inspired by the conviction that the future demands a new breed of designer, Mau founded the Institute without Boundaries which is a postgraduate program. This in turn started Massive Change, an ambitious travelling exhibition, publication, and educational program series on the power and possibility of design.

It’s not about the world of design, but the design of the world is the philosophy behind this group.

Mau continues to pursue life’s big question, 
 “Now that we can do anything,
                   what will we do?” 2

1. http://www.brucemaudesign.com/#133066/Life-Style
2. http://www.brucemaudesign.com/#112938/

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Module 9: Concrete Poetry

Concrete - VisualPoetry                 
         rapid communlcation

"Invented" in the 1950's by Eugen Gomringer and at almost the same time, by the Noigandres Group in Brazil although with significant design focuses.  Gomringer of Austria was more into the form while the Brazilians were into the social and political statements. As quoted by Johanna Drucker:

              "...In Concrete poetry, visual performance is the work."


Guillaume Apollinaire's book "Calligrammes" is another important influence.

This style has been around for a long time. Here is an early example before the phrase was coined in our modern day:

Simias Rhodius, "Wings of Eros in Theocritus / Eidullia Theokritou Triakonta" ca. 325 B.C.
See other examples at http://www.ubu.com/historical/early/index.html which includes the famouse "Easter wings" by George Herbert, "Easter Wings / The Temple" Cambridge, 1633 .

Max Bill and Öyving Fahlström originated the term in the early 1950s.

Eugen Gomringer

You can feel at a glance the total silence surrounding the blank "silence." It is overwhelming.
Author: Eugen Gomringer, "Silencio" ("Silence"), 1954.
Source: Concrete Poetry: An International Anthology 1967, by Stephen Bann. London Magazine 1967


Author: Eugen Gomringer, "Wind", 1953.
Source: Concrete Poetry: An International Anthology 1967, by Stephen Bann. London Magazine 1967


Augusto de Campos-Leader of the Noigandres Group

Eye for Eye

Poetamenos (1953) translated

With it's pulsation like a heart, it vividly portrays the message. You may have to look at it for a while.
hearthead (1980)
http://www.ubu.com/historical/decampos_a/index.html Some more of his work is available here.
Other examples:

Concrete Poetry in Focus
I adore this one in watercolor. A great merging of art and words to create an
interplay of design.

Man Blowing A Bubble by Mitch Ansara
Tells the whole story with minimal detail.

For Fun:

Jennifer Kathleen Phillips: visual poetry
visual concrete poetry


The mouse's tale in Lewis Carroll's description of a mouse's tale in
Alice In Wonderland.

Many interesting types of visual poems on this site.

Subliminal advertising is coeval with concrete poetry...

Concrete Poetry has been around for a very long time and in different forms. Today they are being used with all the different technologies to create even more powerful visualizations.  Text and the visual become "one form" and this was part of the postmodern quest of the expression of ideas and concepts.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Module 8: Mike Salisbury

The Legendary Mike Salisbury practices what he does well:


Look below and you will see many familiar icons!

“. . . A symbol can be a powerful influence because it can be controlled and can have extremely strong associations.”        –   David A. Baker, Professor University of California (as quote on Michael's website)    


His concept of branding and what makes a great one is found on his website.

Success Secrets from Mike Salisbury:
Great Advice for the Would be Graphic Designer & his history.

Magazine Covers, just a couple:

Bob Dylan Cover   


My Favorite!!

The Famous boxing gloves explosion from Rocky IV!


A higher quality video is on Michael's website

Some of his commercial work:

A sampling of his photography:

John Lennon, Tribute

Robert Kennedy - Ambassador Hotel, LA (The place that Robert was assassinated.)


Alfred Hitchcock

I love this photo of Hitchcock. It catches the gleam in his eye.

It was fun to walk down memory lane and to realize that many of those memories were created in part by a fantastic graphic designer, Mike Salisbury. That is the whole point of branding and the association in a person's mind. Does it help anchor the product, movie, or experience? Does it bring back that first memory? He truely is the master.

Module 8: International Typographic Style & Herb Lubalin

Great Visual and presentation of the history of this style. Check it out.  Akzidenz Grotesque / De Stijl & Bauhaus / Josef Müller Brockman / Graphis & Max Bill / Ruder & Hoffman / Univers / Helvetica / Neue Grafik
This timeline demonstrates key events and people that helped develop the style.

My family owned several small printing shops in the 1960's to 1990's and I remember the typesetters setting the type one of which was my mother. I remember the cutting and pasting literally with a X-Acto knife to put in a new word or section.I didn't realize how new those machines were at the time until I read about Herb Lubalin. I have featured him here and some samples of his work.

"Coming to terms with Herb Lubalin's work takes you quickly to the heart of a very big subject: the theory of meaning and how meaning is communicated—how an idea is moved, full and resonant, from one mind to another. Not many have been able to do that better than Lubalin.
Typography is the key. It is where you start with Lubalin and what you eventually come back to...
But it is Lubalin and his typographics—words, letters, pieces of letters, additions to letters, connections and combinations, and virtuoso manipulation of letters—to which all must return. The "typographic impresario of our time," Dorfsman called him, a man who "profoundly influenced and changed our vision and perception of letter forms, words and language."
Lubalin at his best delivers the shock of meaning through his typography-based design."
Written by David R. Brown
Copyright 1981 by The American Institute of Graphic Arts.
Full Article at:

Herb Lubalin, the man who made metal type the thing of the past.


Archives at Cooper Union



"In the 1950′s letterpress took a back seat as photo typography and lithography were developed."