Together, Danae Moore and Jesse Lee Stout (MFA students in the Graphic Design program) created the biggest “posters” to ever grace the walls of CalArts for the Christian Schwartz design lecture. Read more about it with an introduction from Danae and an interview with Jesse!
Christian Schwartz, a well-known type designer, visited CalArts to give a lecture in early March and I designed these two posters (more like billboards) with classmate Jesse Lee Stout announcing the lecture. Christian has designed a lot of quirky typefaces with strong personalities, which gave us a starting point for these spirited, detailed, and unconventional posters. His typefaces are used everywhere and we wanted to take over sections of the school to represent the prevalence and importance of Christian’s types. We worked with type specimen language and formatting to demonstrate his typefaces, facts about his work and life, quotes from his website, rumors from Wikipedia as well as rumors of our own creation, and information about the lecture. Jesse and I began by designing various pieces separately and then worked together to weave everything and continue developing each others’ ideas.
What was the original concept behind making a wall sized poster?
When I was looking into Schwartz’s body of work, I realized that I and hundreds of other people see his work everyday without even realizing that it. I don’t think most people even realize that type design is a profession or, ehem, art. His work is always right in front of us — all the time. When I learned how young he was, it amazed me that that such a young type designer could have such an large portfolio. He’s insanely prolific. This lead me to the idea of Schwartz as kind of like a typographic rock star. The idea kind of made me laugh and I thought we should play with that idea a little bit. Initially, we intended to plaster the entire institute with smaller fliers in the most obscure places like, the backs of bathroom-stall doors, inside the book return chute at the library, under cafeteria trays — everywhere. Then we thought about going super big, like a billboard. We’re down the road from Hollywood after all and if Marc Jacobs gets a billboard, then so should Christian Schwartz, right?
What issues did you run into when designing it, preferably because of the size?
Well, neither of us had dealt with a space that large, so it was a learning experience. Illustrator couldn’t handle a 20′ wide canvas, so we designed it at 50%, which was fine until the paper issue. Kelly Paper ran out of the Tabloid size of one of the blue papers, so we went with Letter size. That meant we were tiling with 2 different size pages. I’m an absolute wreck with math, but we figured it out just in time for numerous printer and PDF errors. Eventually, it all came through.
How long did it take to install it?
Each wall took 6 hours. The one in the hallway was a bit smaller and only had two people at a time installing it. The stairwell installation was a different beast. I think we totally under estimated the man power it would take to install that one. Luckily, a handful of kids in our department (Christina, Matt, Christopher, Pierre, and Jenee) came through and helped us out from midnight to 6 am. Without the help of you guys, we surely would’ve been tiling right up until the lecture.
The hallway piece was 20′ x 9′ and about 250 pages. The stairwell piece was 19′ x 16′ and was well over 300 pages.
What was the initial response to the piece?
Much better than I anticipated. I’m in a class with the (in)famous Mr. Keedy and was due to see him the morning following the installation. While we were taping the pages up, I kept hearing Mr. Keedy’s voice in my head snapping, “Could you make those kerning errors any bigger?!” When I saw him the next morning, he asked if I had seen the giant posters. I joked and said that I thought they were terrible and once he said that he thought they were pretty cool, I came clean. I also caught Caryn Aono and Ed Fella taking photos of it. All of our classmates were super supportive too, which was nice. The department is really like a big family and we just want each other to kick ass.
The one in the stairwell really transformed that space. It might be the most heavily trafficked space in the institute. It was nice to see a lot of non-designers taking the time to investigate the poster.
How much more of an effect did it have than a regular sized poster?
I think it had a much different effect than a normal poster. It seemed like a lot more people noticed it and spent more time with the wall posters in comparison to a typical poster. Also, our school is inundated with the most amazing silk screened posters every week, so it was really different than what’s normally around.
Were there more people at the lecture than normal?
I don’t think there were more people at the lecture than normal, but I wouldn’t equate attendance to the effectivity of a poster. The posters at CalArts don’t really serve the purpose of announcements. I see them more as a celebration of the event, the artist visiting, and as a visual artifact for archival purposes. A lot of the posters only get posted hours before an event and everyone has already received an email announcement for the event. The posters are more of an expression of the poster designer’s voice and ideas as informed by the work of the visiting speaker.
What did Schwartz think of it?
Christian seemed really surprised. I’m not sure he knew what to make of them. I even got him to do a little photo shoot in front of the hallway piece. Again, this was a sarcastic play on the type designer as rock star idea. We had a lot of fun with it.
What are you going to do with all of the paper once it is taken down?
Our initial idea was to take all the paper down and make it into a few books. Unfortunately, the large one in the stairwell disappeared a few days later. I think security must’ve taken it down. So, we’ll use the remaining pages, along with the test prints along with some photos to make a book.
Was it worth it?
I think it went really well and was great practice for doing something on a much larger scale. I don’t think I’ll do something like that at school again, but I’m anxious to create something new that blows that one away.