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With their own hands:
Vernacular public design

Things go wrong, things are missing, things break, things outdate -- and the designer already left. But there is a bustling underground of 126 million unknown designers: Somebody will have to fix it, and they just go ahead -- trying to make the plans work in reality, as far as they understand them. A bit patchy to be sure, but closer to the task which they know from everyday experience.

Behind the generally acknowledged achievements of culture, high-tech and style, there exists a wealth of largely overlooked low-fi, handmade culture. Its form may have to do with the traditional ease of handwriting kanji; and the do-it-yourself spirit seems a popular natural trait. But the ubiquitous, unquestioning hands-on simplicity of doing something for the public is rarely seen elsewhere.

"Look for the details," said my seat neighbor on my first flight: the best advice that started it all. Rather than fabricating a paradigm onto this research -- simply collect, group, find an order; then compare to find out what's in-between. Are there patterns? How do things connect?

This is not "bad design" -- just the best work of non-professionals, with simple intentions. Which looks better; which does the job in the end? This presentation is asking us not to judge, but to open our minds: develop curiosity for the unknown people who try to be like us and who, in their position, dare more. How do they make things work? I'd like to watch them.

While their pragmatism breeds unavoidable vernacular charm, this overview is not meant as yet another rehash of popular art, although it may easily be seen as such in the current trends. The most undeniable fact is that it's all from humans, for humans. I'd like to meet them.



Joachim Muller-Lance graduated with honors from the Basel School of Design in Switzerland and studied Fine Arts at Cooper Union in New York. He has been a Senior designer at Access Press/ The Understanding Business, New York/ San Francisco, and in 1992 designed cultural exhibitions and publications related to the Olympics in Barcelona. In 1993, he received the Gold Prize in the Morisawa Typeface Competition for his Lance typeface family. After 3 years as Lead information designer for Barclays Global Investors in San Francisco, Joachim is now principal of Kame Design, for graphic design, typefaces, cartooning and animation.

article in the vp7 newsletter, announcing a presentation of 200 photographs introducing the subject of "amateur information design in public".


kame in japan --
how did it turn out?

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kame in november

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