Visualising academic work

The postscript to my earlier post on Peter Fitzpatrick reminded me of something that has been going on for quite a while now. When I was working for the Finnish Institute in London, I had a full set of design tools available on my desktop by default. And so I familiarised myself with the basics of image manipulation, graphic design, desktop publishing and web design. I don’t think that I really thought I would have any use for those autodidactically acquired skills later on, and in all truth, whatever I may have since done, has never had any utilitarian value. It has simply given me pleasure. And I’ve been grateful to my ‘clients’ who have allowed me to indulge myself and have been kind enough not to complain too much.

One thing that I continue to do is design posters for academic events that do not comply with corporate house-styles. You’d be surprised how many colleagues prefer to communicate about their events with a poster that does not ‘benefit’ from the prestige of a ‘corporate brand’. My first clumsy attempts were simple white sheets with some decorative image, usually blurred, and just text indicating who, what, when and where. The poster I made for the talks by Denise Ferreira da Silva and Peter (link above) is a good example.

At Leicester, I made posters from a variety of templates. But usually they were dark images with white text. The poster for the Critical Legal Conference 2009 that I organised while I was there is a good example.

When I returned to Finland, I was asked (or, rather, I insisted that I be asked) to design something for a one-off seminar in which I was not personally otherwise involved. I don’t really know, but perhaps that is the reason why I’m still so pleased with the way in which the poster turned out. I’ve used the same 1920s modernist aesthetics for a few other posters, as well, but they’ve never been as successful. Maybe this was also due to the fact that I knew my ‘clients’ very well, and they communicated their own wishes to me in a very detailed way. For example the font used here (Romantha) was found after numerous trials and errors, and I’ve used the font quite a lot since. Note also the Sami reindeer taken from one shaman drum or another at the bottom right hand corner that I’ve since used to sign most of the posters I’ve designed for others (the lines curve into my initials).

Many will realise that the poster below advertising a two-day event was adopted from the cover designs with which Seuil serialises the French editions of Jacques Lacan’s seminars. The design is familiar enough to allow for the association, perhaps even without the text, but also different because it doesn’t look exactly like any of the individual covers in the series.

I keep returning to early modernism and spinoffs thereof. Strictly speaking the images below are not posters. Maybe exercises for posters at best. Earlier in the spring, a community college course on experimental photography that I was attending was cancelled due to the pandemic. We were offered the possibility of attending ‘virtually’ and completing the assignments as a form of distance learning. I serialised my own assignments into covers of a fictive modernist art magazine. In 1915, the New York photography pioneer Alfred Stieglitz founded the magazine 291, and 391 with Parisian Dadaist Francis Picabia at the helm followed two years later. 491 was up for grabs. These are the two last covers of my fictive magazine.

491_5 491_6