Thursday, April 19, 2007

What is this thing called now?

Something's up: everything's hot off some presse, lovingly designed with art-deco-throw-back flair. The band names are from dreams of owl machines and everyone's drawing again. Perhaps the common thread is digital zeitgeist backlash: the power for hyperrealism has ceased to thrill the artistic and productive among us, and they've looked to the other end of the spectrum for inspiration.

Though Chris Ware's untouchable in this regard, I'm seeing a lot from the McSweeny's franchise as well. The covers of Wholphin, The Believer and their periodical anthologies are straight graphic nostalgia. They publish so much that I assume any new book I see with that look is theirs. (The cover of Dead Beat was designed by Milan Bozic, a contemporary designer who has nothing at all to do with McSweeny's. Astonishing.) What is this graphic trait called? McSweeny's-y is losing its appeal.

Labeled or labeless, I like what the trend implies:

With computers these days, we can do whatever we want whenever we want and for cheap. Remember when design was slow and expensive and our accomplishments felt momentous and important? Let's make it look like that again. That felt really good. Also there was more stuff everywhere, and stuff's not so bad. Clean design's had its fun—bring on the clutter!

Graphically, we can make anything look like anything we want, so, instead, we daydream about the aesthetic of yesteryear and create it with today's cool tools.

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