Brooklyn-based graphic design studio Other Means has been pushing out a range of compelling and smart work for clients in the arts, architecture, fashion, and media sectors since 2012. They are deliberate with their time and work, dedicating much of their practice to teaching, lecturing, and writing. Their interest in the relationship between language, design, and pop culture traverses nicely between client projects and design education and vice versa.
Collectively, they have nearly a decade of experience teaching and lecturing at schools such as Pratt, RISD, Yale, Parsons, CCS Bard, and École Cantonal D’Arte de Lausanne, among others. In 2013, they initiated the New York session of Typography Summer School, an annual, weeklong intensive graphic design workshop and in 2014, alongside Roland Früh and Corina Neuenschwander, they set up Easy Lessoning, a series of casual talks by designers, artists, and curators in New York and Zurich.
Recent clients include CCS Bard, Goethe-Institut New York, Harvard University Graduate School of Design, James Fuentes Gallery, and Pioneer Works. Since 2013, they have developed an ongoing relationship with the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia, creating an evolving visual identity that like much of their work and thinking, responds to what came before: either to build continuity or signal a bigger change.
This year began with our involvement in an exhibition of work by Forensic Architecture, an agency formed by Eyal Weizman in 2010 to use the tools of architecture and investigation to uncover and collect evidence of war crimes and human and environmental rights abuses. Forensic Architecture: Towards an Investigative Aesthetics, curated by Rosario Güiraldes, was on view at MACBA in Barcelona from April to October, and is currently at MUAC in Mexico City through January. Forensic Architecture’s practice shows us that artists, architects, and designers can hold power accountable, and demonstrates the role that curators and art institutions can play in providing a venue for important conversations about current social, economic, and political conditions.
Theater of the World
Art and China after 1989: Theater of the World is an exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum that was supposed to include several works featuring animals in torturous circumstances. Most offensive to us was video documentation of a work featuring two dogs forced to run towards each other on treadmills, becoming physically and mentally exhausted. After a flood of protests, petitions, and press, the Guggenheim removed the works from the show, and shied away from engaging in a public debate about the role animals play in art. We’re in agreement with the College Art Association’s guidelines on the issue: “no work of art should, in the course of its creation, cause physical or psychological pain, suffering, or distress to an animal.”
Laurel Schwulst, “The Wildness Knows the Score”
Laurel Schwulst wrote an essay about the difference between domesticated pets and wild animals, and regulating her Arena channel Wild Animals vs. Manmade Materials (which she spoke about last year in a lecture at our studio). In the collection, the cute and funny collide with the reality non-human animals face in our anthropocentric world.
We thought a lot about Mr. Peanut this year. While doing research for an essay we wrote for the Walker about mascots and branding we came across Vincent Trasov, an artist who assumed the identity of Mr. Peanut in 1970, and four years later campaigned for mayor of Vancouver on a P.E.A.N.U.T. platform: Performance, Elegance, Art, Nonsense, Uniqueness, and Talent. Though he lost, Mr. Peanut got closer to political appointment than a brand mascot would come for another 42 years. A book of Trasov’s drawings of the anthropomorphic nut was published this year by New Documents. In an essay written for the book, the art critic Nancy Tousley explains that when Mr. Peanut was designed in 1916 his top hat, monocle, white gloves, spats, and cane were “meant to lend an aura of class and good taste to the common peanut,” not only signifying “that nuts could be high-class snacks, but also that immigrants and ordinary people could ascend the economic and social ladders.” This kind of elegance is absurd in today’s world. Mr. Peanut, Tousley concludes, “floats through the world: a sign of otherness becoming whoever and whatever we want him to be. He remains, as he was at the beginning, an empty shell.”
Donald Trump waddled into the presidency on a wave of fear and nationalism, powered by a population of enraged, alienated, and hate-filled Americans. He has the perfect face (and body) for such a grotesque movement, and Vic Berger is the chronicler our our time.
U.S. Fails to Qualify for 2018 World Cup
After a series of disappointing performances, the US men’s national team failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup for the first time in 20 years. With America’s domestic policies trending toward isolationism, this is another example of the United States failing to show progress on the global stage. To be more exact, it’s another example of the failings of American men. The women’s national team has finished in the top four in every World Cup since 1991 including seven championships, and yet they are still struggling for equal pay.
Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania
We’ve worked with the Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania since 2013. Their exhibitions and programs regularly reflect on urgent themes, and this year was one of their strongest. 2017 started out with Endless Shout, a multi-artist performance project exploring collectivity and improvisation, and is ending with two of our favorite exhibitions. Speech/Acts, curated by Meg Onli, looks at how experimental poetry and the constructs of language shape black American experiences. Nathalie Du Pasquier: Big Objects Not Always Silent, curated by Alex Klein and Luca Lo Pinto, is a retrospective of the influential artist, designer, and founding member of the Italian design collective Memphis. If you’re in Philly pay them a visit (it’s free). If you’re not, we recommend making the trip.
Don’t Even Think About Dating My Daughter…
Mike Devine made the best bumper sticker this year.
The Interference Archive is home to an enormous collection of posters, flyers, publications, stickers, buttons, and other objects created by international social movements. Organized by type of object, and then by theme, the archive offers a tactile way into the history of struggle and resistance. The archive recently moved into a new space a few blocks away from our studio. It’s open to the public Thursday through Sunday.
Marshall Berman was a Marxist, urbanist, and cultural critic who saw modernity as a condition experienced by people throughout history, and across boundaries of nations, class, gender, and race. “To be modern,” according to Berman, “is to find ourselves in an environment that promises us adventure, power, joy, growth, transformation of ourselves and the world—and, at the same time, that threatens to destroy everything we have, everything we know, everything we are.” His work fused together a wide range of sources from Marx, Goethe, and Baudelaire, to hip hop, graffiti, and Bruce Springsteen. Berman died in 2013, but his archives were made available to the public this year, and a new collection of his essays, Modernism in the Streets, was recently published by Verso. We’re living through a particularly turbulent period of what Berman refers to as the maelstrom of modern life. His writings show that good things can emerge after everything breaks down.