Author Archives: Jennifer Krichels

Join us in Venice, in person or virtually!

Venice-Toward-A-New-Avant-Garde

Superscript is headed to Venice, and we hope to see you there!

If you’ll be in the City of Bridges for the 14th International Architecture Exhibition — La Biennale di Venezia, make sure to add our three-part event series to your calendar on the second day of opening weekend, June 8.

Housed in the Arsenale, Towards a New Avant Garde reunites a new generation of Italian and international young practitioners, confronting their motivations and work with the legacy of the radical architecture movement of the ’60s and ’70s. The series is complemented by a live­-edited installation that publishes in real time the debated topics and issues. Everyone is encouraged to participate, whether on site or online, using the hashtag #stayradical.

Check out more of the conversation at the event’s dedicated website, stayradical.net

Internationalization
11 a.m., 8 June 2014

Focusing on the impact of Italian architecture beyond the country’s borders, the Internationalization discussion will start from the seminal 1972 exhibition “Italy: The New Domestic Landscape” and travel to today, speculating on the influence of the most recent generation of Italian architects beyond the country’s borders. Are Italian architectural ideas still influential in the world today? And for young practitioners—both those who work in Italy, and those who, out of a job in their home country, work in large studios abroad—is the idea of their nation still important?

Collective Action
1 p.m., 8 June 2014

As a new generation of Italian architects self-­organizes, seeking alternatives to the traditional architecture system, the Collective Action discussion will reflect upon how the avant­-gardes of 1968­ to 1976 were motivated by a similar impulse. How does working together today differ from the ways architects collaborated 40 years ago? Is this generation able to make their independent voices heard while they collaborate? How is collaborative practice today breaking out of the silo of architecture, embracing a transversal approach to multiple disciplines, including urbanism, new media, research and political action?

Economics
3 p.m., 8 June 2014

Using self-­initiated side projects as a testing ground, many young architects are looking beyond the current economic system and finding alternative approaches, much as the Italian radical architects of a previous generation did. Unlike the attempts of that generation, can an experimental practice become sustainable today, or is economic fragility an essential component of a radical experiment? Relying on state­-sponsored mobility programs and research funded by academia, can this new generation change the system from within? Do the financial models innovated by these young architects give us clues for the future of the profession?

Towards a New Avant­ Garde
Weekend Specials | Monditalia
14th International Architecture Exhibition — La Biennale di Venezia

An event by Superscript — Vera Sacchetti, Avinash Rajagopal, Molly Heintz with Catharine Rossi and Rossella Ferorelli

Installation design by DEVspace and Thibault Brevet
With the collaboration of Hyperwerk Institute — Kevin Renz, Gabriel Meisel, Gabriel Kiefer, Fabian Ritzi, Ivo Ludwig, David Safranek, Matthias Maurer

With the support of Wallonie­Bruxelles International (Belgium) and the Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia

Technical support by edding International GmbH

With thanks to Hyperwerk Institute, Amelie Klein, Matthias Maurer, Niku Alex Mucaj, Becky Quintal, Fabian Ritzi, Elian Stefa, Fabrizia Vecchione, Malte Ziegler

Follow us at @superscriptco

Venice Architecture Biennale: Sneak Peek

Thibault Brevet and Hyperwerk students dove into work on the Arsenale installation with a one-week workshop in Basel last month.

Thibault Brevet and Hyperwerk students dove into work on the Arsenale installation with a one-week workshop in Basel last month.

Superscript will be heading to Venice to begin final preparations for the Architecture Biennale soon, so we wanted to share a behind-the-scenes look at all of the work that’s been done so far. Take a look at our earlier post about our three-part event Towards a New Avant-Garde, happening during the Biennale’s opening weekend, June 7-8.

A collaborative project with a global dimension, this ambitious installation has been designed by interaction designer Thibault Brevet and architecture studio DEVspace in collaboration with students from the Hyperwerk Institute, part of the Academy of Art and Design of the University of Applied Sciences Northwestern Switzerland.

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Brevet and Hyperwerk students used the “Grand Central” open source vector printer as a starting point, redesigning it completely for the Venice event.

Throughout a one-week workshop in Basel in April 2014, Brevet and Hyperwerk students Kevin Renz, Gabriel Meisel, Gabriel Kiefer, Fabian Ritzi, Ivo Ludwig, David Safranek, and Matthias Maurer redesigned his award-winning open-source printer Grand-Central and all its components and mechanics specifically for the Biennale, creating an optimized, truly site-specific installation that will create a large impact in the space. Grouped together in modules of six, the printers will envelop the event area like a triptych, serving as the backdrop to each of the discussions as they print images, quotes, and references in real time.

Watch this space, as well as our Facebook wall and Twitter feed, for more updates as our amazing collaborators add their own layer of radical design to our discussions of the Italian avant-garde…

Brevet and Hyperwerk students used the “Grand Central” open source vector printer as a starting point, redesigning it completely for the Venice event.

CNC-cut components were manufactured in Berlin (photo by Fabian Ritzi, Hyperwerk student)

 

 

 

 

Just Your Type: SVA Explores the Language of Letters

SVA's special Typography of Language summer program runs June 30–July 24.

SVA’s special Typography As Language summer program runs June 30–July 24.

In June, the School of Visual Arts will launch Typography As Language: Design, History and Practice, a special summer program created to teach designers across a range of disciplines about the powerful language of typography. At Superscript, we are fascinated by the written word—not only by its meaning, but also what its physical form can convey (anyone who’s ever gotten a letter written in Comic Sans MS knows what we mean). So we caught up with program coordinator and Superscript friend Angela Riechers to learn more about the course (@SVATypeLab), which is still accepting applications to fill a few final spots:

Superscript: What are the goals of the class? 

Angela Riechers: Over the course of the summer, each student will have designed a typeface (either from scratch or by adapting a historical face) and planned a specific end use for it. For instance, someone interested in movie titles will figure out what his or her typeface needs to look like, and how it needs to perform, and then present it as an animated opening sequence for a real or imagined film. Someone else might want to develop a hand-lettered font for websites, or environmental signage.

The program will develop skills in digital type design and hand lettering, examine the history of type, and address the need for new kinds of typographies as elements of contemporary language and narrative. Each week will have a different (amazing) instructor who will bring a slightly new shift in focus and information. Research, sketching, hand lettering, letterpress, and digital font construction will all be part of the broader mix.

SS: Tell us about the idea of using typography in contemporary storytelling. What are the most valuable lessons you’ve learned in this field?

AR: The way a typeface looks communicates its own narrative independent of the words it is used to create and the meaning they impart. The letters are a set of coded ciphers that carry emotion and subtext, providing subtle hints to context and tone. In other words: we notice how the letters and words look, and draw inferences about the message they are conveying, long before we read and grasp the actual content. In the hands of a skilled typographer, someone who knows how to select and combine typefaces with wit and intelligence and understanding, a design becomes far more alluring and powerful. Good typography exponentially increases the ability to communicate content.

SS: What is the current state of typography? Are there certain themes that have come to light recently, and what are the major historical influences for typography today?

AR: The current state of type is extremely robust! Part of the reason this course is so well timed is that typography as a discipline/art /science is no longer contained in the specialized world of designers—it has entered the larger pop culture as a desirable and covetable attribute of taste and sophistication. People who are not designers now appreciate and notice typography, are conscious of typefaces, and want to have beautifully typeset things in their lives: their websites, blogs, business cards, wedding invitations. Imagine the movie Helvetica finding an appreciative general audience 15 years ago!

The main themes I’ve noticed are an amazing resurgence of handwritten lettering in commercial contexts, adaptations of beautiful historical fonts that modernize and streamline them for contemporary uses, and the availability of dimensional vector typefaces made up of layers that can be turned on and off and colored individually for extra inline or drop shadow effects. Redrawing fonts to deliver the same appearance on the web or screen device as they do in their print versions, with all the tweaks that entails, has become a really important part of typographic practice. From a historical point of view, I’d say a renewed appreciation of the vernacular (boxing posters, chalkboards, ghost signs) is very popular at the moment: suddenly we all crave letterforms that convey some sense of time passing and of history, of human hand and craft, not just alphabets made up solely of vector lines and points.

SS: You have to design and name a new typeface right now: what is it called, and why?

AR: I would name it Influence, because the best new typefaces I see lately draw upon such a wide pool of visual references, throw them in the blender and come up with something entirely new and fabulous that still has a firm grounding in history. I like that idea very much.

 

Announcing ADBC’s 2014 Theme and Call for Ideas: Power

Robert Moses photographed by Arnold Newman. New York, 1959

Robert Moses photographed by Arnold Newman. New York, 1959

“For once Moses came into possession of power, it began to perform its harsh alchemy on his character, altering its contours, eating away at some traits, allowing others to enlarge. The potential had always been there, like a darker shadow on the edge of the bright gold of his idealism. With each small increase in the amount of power he possessed, the dark element in his nature loomed larger.”
—Robert Caro, The Power Broker

This year, Superscript’s Architecture and Design Book Club (ADBC) will explore a theme that is all around us in New York: Power.

Slated to launch its 2014 program during the city’s annual NYCxDesign festival in early May, the pop-up book club will dive into the subject with Robert Caro’s The Power Broker, a Pulitzer Prize-winning look at the life of Robert Moses. Our first special guest, architecture critic and author Julie Iovine, will lead our discussion of the book, which sheds light on the man who shaped New York’s politics and its built environment—with work encompassing more than $27 billion in projects during his lifetime—without ever being elected to public office.

We’ve got a long list of titles ready for ADBC’s 2014 season (a sneak peek of our shortlist is below)—and we want to hear from you, too! Whether you’re more interested in power politics or power naps, send your suggestions for texts that address this theme to hello@superscript.co with the subject line “Power 2014.”

Under consideration for ADBC’s 2014 Power Calendar:

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Suskind
The Gun by C.J. Chivers
From Bauhaus to Our House by Tom Wolfe
Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shtyngart
Can Jokes Bring Down Governments? by Metahaven
Albert Speer: 1932-1942 by Leon Krier

Superscript Headed to 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale

Fundamentals

We are excited to announce Superscript’s participation in the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale! Directed by Rem Koolhaas with the theme of “Fundamentals,” this year’s Biennale also includes a roster of programming called “Weekend Specials.”  As part of this commissioned series, our three-part event Towards a New Avant-Garde will take place during the Biennale’s opening weekend, June 7-8.

Towards a New Avant-Garde will be under the umbrella of the “Monditalia” section of the Biennale housed in the Arsenale—an exhibition complemented by a series lectures, workshops, performances and discussions organized to consider a range of conditions in Italy, from architecture to politics to religion.

Using the state of Italian architectural practice as a jumping off point, our back-to-back moderated discussions will debate issues of collective action, internationalization, and economics in architecture now and in the future. Our goal is understand lessons we can still learn from the radical architectural impulses of the 1960s and consider how they are being applied by a new generation of architects in the context of today’s economic and political environment.

Working with Superscript to develop Towards a New Avant-Garde are London-based author and scholar Catharine Rossi and Milan-based researcher and writer Rossella Ferorelli. Specially invited guests and provocateurs (including young Italian architects who graduated from the country’s four major schools of architecture) as well as the audience will be invited to participate in these lively, content-generating events in the main Arsenale building. 

A live-edited installation and a website, created by architects DEVspace and interactive designer Thibault Brevet, will reflect the dynamics of the discourse and act as physical and virtual platforms to both document and amplify the conversations in conjunction with other media, such as Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. After the talks are over, the products of these discussions will become an experimental publication, which will be produced on site during the following week.

The 2014 Biennale runs from June 7 through November 23. See you there, or sign up on our mailing list to learn how to participate in our event virtually!

The Anatomy of our New Site

Designer Saundra Marcel's first sketches played with ideas of arithmetic.

Designer Saundra Marcel’s first sketches played with ideas of arithmetic.

Following the launch of our new web site last month, we’re excited to keep friends of Superscript up to date with news about our projects—and also a lot of great information and discussions about compelling things happening in the design world!

As an introduction to this platform, we’ve prepared a sort of “anatomy lesson” about our site with designer Saundra Marcel, creative director of the New York office of Real Art, and developer Craig Coffman, founder of Octoberland. Read on to learn about the process and find out what the site has in store for you:

Ready, set, go!
With Superscript’s original mission of “multiplying conversations about design” in mind, Saundra’s ideas for the new site showed a range of possibilities, including concepts that played with mathematical ideas of multiplication and an infinite loop that would offer users a different experience each time they visited.

Biggest surprise
“That Superscript loves color,” says Saundra. “Many clients are afraid of being too bold, but Superscript asked for it. It’s a core part of their identity. The company has a super fun side to them that complements their sometimes serious, very ‘thinky’ work product.”

Superscript-web-site-1

A color-coded guide to our work.

UX/UI
Because Superscript specializes in words—written and verbal—they are a big part of the site. People traditionally don’t love to read a lot on websites, so big headline styles, beefy color bars, and a vertical scroll (down, down, down), which feels like reading a news or blog article, are all ways to let you read as much as you want, but also make the site easily skim-able. Still even more content is waiting to be discovered in pop-ups, or “easter eggs,” as Saundra likes to say, if you want to dive deeper.

Design minds think alike
“Superscript was a perfect client because they understand design and thinking conceptually, but they are not a design firm,” says Saundra. So we’re not stepping on each other’s toes, but they liked and were open to lots of ideas.”

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A continuous scroll lets you see everything at a glance.

Head-scratchers
What we do is sometimes hard to explain in one sound bite. Rather than use a term like “communications,” which implies public relations-type work, we identified five core things that encompass our practice—these feature boldly at the top of the site. This new visual system of icons will be used on other Superscript materials, too.

As a firm that primarily works with the written word, we didn’t want to lean too heavily on images. The system of icons and simple, bold graphics—underlines, outlines, bars, chunky arrows—keep things visually interesting and playful without using many photos.

Going with the flow
Opting for a continuously scrolling format “is a clearly modern enhancement,” says Craig. “That, however, was not the main factor behind implementing it. I opted to include the feature because it mimics the flow of the site. Essentially the main page is all someone would really need. Yes, there are links from it to the limited other pages, but it is essentially a one-page design. It felt natural that the News blog would behave in a similar fashion.”

Craig integrated the new site’s header into WordPress to prevent the News section of the site from feeling like an afterthought—it is a natural part of the site, while still offering the power and flexibility afforded by a blogging platform.

Superscript on the go!

Superscript on the go!

Mobile by nature
The site was also created with Responsive Web Design (RWD). More than simply a trend, RWD is a forward-thinking technique to allow the content to display well regardless of the screen. The site will reflow on a many different mobile devices, taking advantage of the different screen sizes used by Superscript’s out-and-about audience.

We look forward to seeing you here again soon!