merely fresh kill

by Art Chantry ( )

every decade has it’s little graphic design cliches. these are ubiquitous gimmicks and snappy ideas that seem to catch on like a fad and then get exhausted, yet persist long after it was ever clever. things like happy faces and dayglo colors (60′s). chrome and neon (70′s). torn paper and xerox (70′s AND 80′s!) geometric shapes and primary colors (80′s). anything that looks like david carson’s work or art chantry’s work (90′s). all those hoary old worn-out ideas that people still use as if they were fresh and new and “hip”. all the truly hip and fresh and cool people never was really into that stuff in the first place, but the pop consciousness picked it up and ran with it – fooling itself into thinking they were leading the pack, when actually it was merely fresh kill.


this book cover i post here is a great example of another one of those immediately exhausted faddie cliches that will be one of the hallmarks of the “oughts” (the 00′s). i don’t know who started this trick, or why it caught on or why it is still so admired and copy-catted. but, it really stinks. it’s that florid swirling ‘climbing vine’ texture crap you see everywhere. it’s on packaging and tshirts and murals and animated commercials and graphic design annuals and tattoos. man, it’s as common as mud and twice as tired. i mean to say, when was the last time you saw one of those viney textures and thought, “man, that is so cool and fresh and hip!!!”. did you ever? was this some sort of computer program that allowed “designers” to push a button and have a flower vine grow across their work? was it that stupid? does anybody out there know who started this look? if they do, i want to know. SOMEBODY has to PAY for this cliche and they have to pay dearly!

well, i fooled you (HA HA). this book isn’t actually part of that awful ‘cliche of the oughts’. when this book cover was designed, there were no design programs or even computers, yet. this book was originally written and released in 1964. this cover and re-design was added when it was re-issued in 1971. it’s one of those crumby ‘textbooks’ sold to finishing schools that taught young ladies how to be old ladies. remember finishing schools? today we call them brainwashing cults. we now pay de-programmeers who liberate (kidnap) young ladies from these cults and de-brainwash them in proceedings called “interventions.”

so, this graphic design cliche fad of the viney flower texture isn’t even new – not by a long shot. to top it off, this one example is how you was all drawn by hand with a pen! even the typography was hand structured and pasted up in the design (cool stacking stacking on the spine, eh?) the colors are dayglo pink and pure white. to top it all off, it’s a raw black clothe fabric on this (hardback) cover, too. so, this was printed on in some half-silkscreen/half hot stamping process onto directly the raw coarse fabric. it’s quite a printing tour de force. best of all, it was whipped up and executed and then ignored into the mists of time, never to be seen again. 1971?

so, even today’s hip and cool is old and tired. we just don’t come up with new stuff any more. every time i see something sold and displayed as “wild and fresh”, i automatically search my mind data files and spot the oldest origin point that i am aware of. seems like it’s always 50-100 years back, too.

so, you might ask, what are today’s graphic ‘bad fads’? what is the tired cliche of the ’10′s? shepard fairey, you reading this? should be very worried.


AC:i thought i was the kind of abusing clip art!!! or maybe it was chuck anderson…. or francis picabia…. or max ernst…. or….i have a copy (a gift). i haven’t read it yet. i really disagree with everything simon reynolds has written (all that totally off-the-mark (now gospel) music criticism/history. the guy drives me up a wall when i read his stuff. so, i may never get around to reading “retromania”. even the title makes my skin crawl…i really admire and like shep and his work. i think he’s really important. but, he NEEDS to be worried. he’s in trouble….sorta like this book cover. the primal story here is about the reactionary movement against the first industrial manufactured style. it’s about the art nouveau movement against victoriana. and then some….it’s about our constant need to reconnect with the natural world. at least that crappy swirl viney style is. it’s a rebellion against digital in it’s shallowest view/cycle….it’s about a scared animal seeking comfort and security….well that just shows an ignorance of the history of tattoo flash. most of it WAS inspired by a motor home – full of hookers running a meth lab on leave from the navy listening to rock and roll, doooood! it’s all about tribalism….

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