Design Indaba – Friday – Abbot Miller

Abbot Miller was the third speaker on Friday. Somehow he did not inspire any drawings, maybe because his talk was quite fascinating and I was looking at the screen, and not at him.

He had a way of explaining the thinking behind a project, for finding metaphors which explained how the process unfolds. For example – a typography project in which he explores the dimensional nature of typography. Each design had the aspects of an architectural project, having a plan, a section and an elevation.

Another project he described was developing the graphic ID for the Maryland Institute College of Art. The ID was based on the qualities of two of its most important buildings. One old – the Beaux Arts Main building, one modern – the Brown Center.

The lettering for the logo was derived on the structure and shape of the Beaux-Arts building. The strokes between the letters echo the structure of the Brown Center The texturing is a reference to the etched glass of the Brown Center.

Another example of the thinking behind design decisions is a book designed for Vitra on the Eames. The book design had strong horizontals created by the use of the old furniture “plans” on each page. To break this horizontal flow, they inserted vertical yellow text boxes on some pages. These he referred to as “speed bumps”.

Or a web site for 1100 company on which the navigation structure is based on a huge table the company have in their foyer. A table as a spacial metaphor for a website.

Another interesting project was for the anniversary of Freud’s birth – an exhibition celebrating the role of the analysts couch.

The apartment that the Freuds had lived in is a museum. Above it is another apartment that, apparently, the Freuds had always wanted to live in. This was recently vacated and still in its original state. Taking a cue from Freud’s “archeological approach” to analysis, the designers created a raised, underlit, white floor to protect the apartment while still allowing viewers to explore the exhibition.

The curl on the ceiling is a navigation device, suggesting a route to the visitor.

There were many other projects on view – a Harley Davidson museum, a project that explores the possibilities of documenting dance digitally.

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