Monthly Archives: March 2012

The Master Race’s Graphic Masterpiece

Designers and design historians told me over the years that they had heard about the existence of a Nazi graphics standards manual. No one could say they actually saw it, but they knew of someone who had. So it grew into something of a Big Foot or Loch Ness Monster tale, until one day I actually saw it too – and it had been right under my nose the whole time.I had envisioned a manual of the kind that Lester Beall did for International Paper or Paul Rand did for IBM, showing acceptable logo weights and sizes, corporate typefaces and colors. I was so familiar with these standards manuals, that it never even occurred to me they were postwar formats — and decidedly modern. Maybe the Nazis did theirs in a different way.

The Nazis brand may indeed be uniformly distinctive, but for all the significance they placed on graphic design, there was more variety and greater leeway than one might think. Nonetheless, once I determined who was responsible for maintaining the NSDAP brand, it was a bit easier to identify the identity manual.

First, there were different bureaucracies: The Party’s identity was overseen by one leader, while the state’s identity was handled by another — and within these were many sub-chambers too. Dr. Joseph Goebbels’ Ministry of Enlightenment and Propaganda (PROMI) did not oversee the signs and symbols of the Party. Although his Ministry had a graphic design atelier, it was primarily for creating the propaganda materials. Albert Speer, Hitler’s architect and the designer of Nazi spectacles, did not administer to the identity either. His office designed monumental ways of displaying the existing brand.

The policing of all things Swastika was the responsibility of Dr. Robert Ley, the head of the German Labor Front (Deutsche Arbeitsfront, DAF) and the Strength Through Joy (Kraft durch Freude, KdF). Known as much as anything for his heavy drinking, this former editor of the anti-Semitic newspaper, Westdeutsche Beobachter, was not a designer or art director, but garnered considerable power owing to his intense loyalty to Hitler. One of his most ambitious design initiatives was taking over the development of the Volkswagen (people’s car) from Porsche.

Perhaps a lesser, though significant, responsibility was developing a NSDAP handbook that detailed the organizing principles and mechanics of building the Nazi movement. It is this 550 page, red cloth-bound book titled Organizationsbuch der NSDAP, with the symbol of “Greater Germany” embossed in silver on the front, which turns out to be the elusive standards manual. The DAF was also responsible for typesetting guides and other graphic arts handbooks, but this is the graphic masterpiece of the Master Race.

It is not exactly clear how much Dr. Ley (who hanged himself after the war) was personally involved, although his introduction is in the volume. Perhaps he did not know the difference between typefaces, or even what graphic design was. But it was his office that determined the standards of stationery, enamel signs, flags and pennants, awards and badges, party uniforms and all things involving the swastika and ancillary symbols. So someone in Dr. Ley’s office knew what he was doing, though received no credit.

Published in 1936, The Organizationsbuch der NSDAP (with subsequent annual editions), detailed all aspects of party bureaucracy, typeset tightly in German Blackletter. What interested me, however, were the over 70 full-page, full-color plates (on heavy paper) that provide examples of virtually every Nazi flag, insignia, patterns for official Nazi Party office signs, special armbands for the Reichsparteitag (Reichs Party Day), and Honor Badges. The book “over-explains the obvious” and leaves no Nazi Party organization question, regardless of how minute, unanswered.

When I noted above that the book was under my nose, I meant this literally and figuratively. Many of the color plates, which visually establish the identity standards, have been reproduced in histories of World War II and the Nazis, without proper attribution. So, I’ve seen some of them before. Also, the Nazis issued a 255 page book, ABC des Nationalsozialismus (1933) by Dr. Curt Rosten, which in a more condensed fashion provided some early Nazi visual standards. It turns out I had this book in my collection all along without knowing its significance.

There was a standards manual after all. It just was not what I envisioned or expected. It turned out another record of graphic standards existed where I least expected it: theReichs Gesetzblatt (Law Journal). When a graphic element was changed by law or decree it was chronicled in this document. So the Loch Ness mystery was solved, somewhat.

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WHAT IS SYNAESTHESIA

“The Art of Being a Synaesthete” is a documentary about genuine synaesthesia and creativity, and the special relationship that links both. Focusing and understanding why synaesthetes tend to be more creative than non-synaesthetes might give us cues and ideas to understand also the human craving for creation, and how creative thinking and innovation occur and as a ultimate question, what is creativity about?.

The aesthetic implications of the cognitive experience of synaesthesia make it specially prone to be related to creativity and, thus, art. It has been suggested that there is a higher prevalence of artistic professions among synaesthetes, and it seems that synaesthesia as a condition has had a particularly intense relationship with artistic expression. Either coming from the artistic manifestations of the condition itself by synaesthetes (such as Vladimir Nabokov or Wassily Kandinsky), or through the use of creative association and mixing of sensorial experiences and metaphor by artists, synaesthesia seems to have something important to say about the way we develop and manifest our creativity.


If you are any type of artist (musician, dancer, writer, painter, whatever you understand by artist) and you have synesthesia

and keep reading …

ON WHAT SYNAESTHESIA IS

In a highly technical way…

Synesthesia is a largely unknown but rather common neurological condition presented as an abnormal coordination of several senses: synesthetes can experience typical sensory information from one sensory modality simultaneously through another modality. The stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway.

Synaesthesia is automatic and involuntary experience, thought to be prevalent in about 1 in 23 people across its range of variants. It has a strong familial influence, but is also sometimes reported by individuals under the influence of psychedelic drugs, after a stroke, during a temporal lobe epilepsy seizure, or as a result of blindness or deafness (adventitious synaesthesia).

Psychologists and neuroscientists study synaesthesia also for insights it provides into cognitive and perceptual processes that occur in synesthetes and non-synesthetes alike. Although there are some more common synaesthesia experiences, the expression of synaesthesia is very diverse, and difficult to constraint to the most common traditional physical sense.

ON WHAT WILL BE DONE

Scientists suspect that creativity might also be enhanced in synaesthetes. In fact, some studies reported far higher scores in creative thinking test for synesthetes as compared to non synaesthetes. And it seems pretty easy to find synaesthetes among artistic and creative professions.

The aesthetic implications of the cognitive experience of synaesthesia makes it specially prone to be related to creativity and, thus, art. It has been suggested that there is a higher prevalence of artistic professions among synaesthetes. Although that is not totally accepted, synaesthesia as a condition has had a particularly intense relationship with artistic expression. Either coming from the artistic manifestations of the condition itself by synaesthetes (such as Vladimir Nabokov or Wassily Kandinsky), or through the use of creative association and mixing of sensorial experiences and metaphor by artists, synaesthesia seems to have something to say about the way we develop and manifest our creativity.

If creativity is related to capacity to combine and associate ideas in a novel way, and synaesthesia is likely to based on an increased neurological connectivity between areas, it is reasonable to consider that there is a relationship between these two facts. Could it be that connectivity, when crosstalk between brain areas is enhanced, creativity emerges naturally as a consequence of that crosstalk? Or “furthermore”, could creativity be considered the behavioral phenotype of enhanced crosstalk between certain functions in the brain?

The idea that we are pursuing can be summarized like this: the mechanism that triggers synaesthesia might tell us something important about the way we people create.

Daniel Tammet has linguistic, numerical and visual synesthesia — meaning that his perception of words, numbers and colors are woven together into a new way of perceiving and understanding the world. The author of “Born on a Blue Day,” Tammet shares his art and his passion for languages in this glimpse into his beautiful mind.


VOTE – Have you been to a denim factory?

 

By: Leesa

Location – family holiday to Hong Kong 1987. Stonewash denim was in. We’d bought so much and it was so heavy we had to wear as much as we could to the airport for the trip home! I was stoked to find a denim bag to go with my bad mullet!

Vote for this snap shot


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