Robert L. Peters

22 August 2019

See What I Mean?

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Toronto, Canada

On 21 October 2019, I’m slated to give a talk at the #FITCSpotlight ‘Design Ethics‘ event (making this my 9th appearance at an FITC event in the past 14 years). Here’s an abstract of my presentation

See What I Mean?

We live in uncertain times on a rapidly warming, fragile, and over-stressed planet. Tumultuous political, social, ecological, and economic instability — along with information overload, an overwhelming pace of change, threatened eco-systems, and staggering social imbalances — threaten our individual sense of purpose, place, and wellbeing. For the majority of our planet’s 7.7 billion human beings, the world remains a place of inequality, injustice, and suffering; even while the privileged of our “developed world” frolic in a buffet of excess, with gluttonous over-consumption as the daily modus operandi.

It’s been said that designers and artists can see and observe differently, more acutely than others — looking deep inside issues, perceiving hidden relationships and causal patterns, possessing an innate consciousness and natural tendency to question and identify needs in “the big picture.” As today’s world has been largely shaped by designers and intentional “form-givers” of the past few generations, are our creative professions even aware of the considerable responsibility that accompanies what we do, and of the complex forces our work exerts on aesthetic, technological, social, environmental, economic, and political fronts?

 


9 February 2019

RIP… Tomi Ungerer (1931-2019)

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Cork, Ireland

Tomi died peacefully in his sleep with a book beside him. He recently began working on a new collection of short stories and he has two major exhibitions opening in Paris this Spring. Tomi’s imagination never slept. Read more…

A polymath and a provocateur, Tomi Ungerer is perhaps best described by his motto: ‘Expect the Unexpected’.

His life and work defied easy categorization. Although best known as an author and illustrator of children’s books, Tomi Ungerer’s oeuvre encompassed diverse practices including illustration, advertising, writing, collage, sculpture and architectural design. From the beginning of his career in the 1950s to the present day, Ungerer’s work challenged social norms and conventions with breath-taking originality.

Born in Strasbourg in 1931, Ungerer worked in New York, Canada and Ireland as well as his place of birth. He has published over 140 books which have been translated into 28 different languages, ranging from his acclaimed children’s stories to autobiographical accounts to controversial volumes of social satire and adult themes.

Ungerer’s illustrative style is celebrated for its minimal dexterity, darkly comic wit and dazzling inventiveness. Renowned for his iconic advertising campaigns and his contentious political posters that railed against the Vietnam War and racial injustice in the 1960s, Ungerer’s frequently subversive work provides invaluable commentary on the divisive socio-political events of the second half of the twentieth century. Ungerer’s work continues to be politically-charged and he has been involved in numerous humanitarian campaigns for nuclear disarmament, Amnesty International, Reporters without Borders and more recently, European integration.

(from Tomi Ungerer’s official website) Learn more here

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“Posters for me are the most challenging and gratifying exercise. A poster has to act by impact, to catch the eye of a passerby within a few seconds. I would say the poster is more of an art form than most other kinds of advertising.

In the 1960’s I started to make political posters. Two subjects sparked my revulsion and my anger: racial segregation and the War on Vietnam. Later I did posters for other causes such as Amnesty International, liberty of the press, animal rights, ecology, nuclear disarmament and so on.” —Tomi

 


3 January 2019

“Quotable quotes”… (gone rogue).

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Seemingly everywhere.

I first used the line “Design creates culture. Culture shapes values. Values determine the future…” in a conference lecture in the mid-or-late 1990s.

That simple statement has since spread through the Interwebs like some sort of memetic rogue virus, repeated relentlessly by “famous quotes” sites, “wallpaper generators” and the like — a quick Google search brings up literally thousands of graphic “treatments” of this — on sites around the planet devoted to graphic design, yes; but also fashion, interior design, poster and decor sites, product design, architecture, engineering, strategic planning, marketing, medicine, linguistics, social work, advertising campaigns, etcetera, etc…

In fact, hardly a month goes by without someone, somewhere asking me for permission to use this now-famous statement for their own purposes — and of course I grant them full permission. While being widely quoted is certainly flattering, it does carry with it the caution to always “watch what you say.” (-:

For the record, I initially stated the “quotable quote” in question along with the advisory conclusion re: the power of design (and the ensuing responsibility of designers): “Design is therefore responsible for the world our children will live in.”

The top image is my own, from a book on design published in China. The images following are a tiny sample of the many “treatments” found online… (the Mao Clinic even offers it as “downloadable wallpaper” — click image below).

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2 January 2019

2019… and high time for unisex toilets.

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Worldwide

Come on, People! It’s high time for unisex public toilets (aka all-gender toilets, gender neutral toilets, gender free toilets or all-user toilets). These are all toilets which can be used by anybody, regardless of gender identity or presentation.

Public toilets and sanitation facilities need to cater for all people, including those who are part of the LGBTI community. This is an issue with respect to the human right to water and sanitation and also from the perspective of the Sustainable Development Goal 6 (of the United Nations), which aim for universal access to sanitation and gender equality. Simply put, unisex public toilets provide equal sanitation space for all genders.

Gender segregated public toilets are an outmoded vestige of the Victorian era (200 years ago) where women’s modesty and safety were considered at risk and under constant need of surveillance and discipline. Before that (prudish) time, public lavatories around the world offered room for both sexes.

During the past two centuries public toilets around the world have been frequently been segregated by race, class, religion, and gender — and have often been completely inaccessible to certain people with unique needs or disabilities. Making public facilities universally accessible, and to diverse populations, has long been an issue on our “shrinking planet” — it’s high time for change!

More on the topic here. Images from diverse online sources…
Please treat all others as equals, and please do wash your hands. 


24 November 2018

Some positive change, in Canada…

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Winnipeg, Canada

At a ceremony held on 19 November at The Canadian Museum for Human Rights here in Winnipeg, Canada’s new $10 banknote was launched into circulation. The face side of the note features civil rights activist Viola Desmond, first Canadian woman to be profiled on a regularly circulating banknote, with the The Canadian Museum for Human Rights on the other.

The first vertically oriented banknote in Canada, the design includes an artistic rendering of Halifax’s north end and waterfront, where Viola Desmond lived and owned a beauty salon; also depicted is an eagle feather, which the Bank of Canada says represents the ongoing journey toward recognizing rights and freedoms for Indigenous people.

On Nov. 8, 1946, Desmond took in a movie at the Roseland Theatre in New Glasgow while her car was getting fixed. When she refused to leave the whites-only section on the main level of the theatre, Desmond, 32, was dragged out by police and jailed. Black people were only allowed to sit in the balcony of the theatre. Her defiance shone a light on the civil rights movement and helped motivate the struggle against racial segregation in Canada.

Segregation was legally ended in Nova Scotia in 1954, in part because of the publicity generated by Desmond’s case. She is often described as Canada’s Rosa Parks, even though Desmond’s act of defiance happened nine years before Parks refused to give up her seat on an Alabama bus.

Read more in a CBC news report here. Read an in-depth primer article by The Globe and Mail here. Watch a Heritage Minute (video) about Ms. Desmond here.

Images above: The new vertical Canadian $10 bill that goes into circulation in the next month; Viola Desmond’s sister Wanda Robson with the new bill (at the launch ceremony in Winnipeg).

Image below: The old/outgoing $10 bill featuring Canada’s first prime minister and “founding father,” John A. Macdonald, along with a western osprey (Pandion haliaetus) — I’m happy to see the end of Macdonald in my wallet (he’s now widely seen as responsible for horrific genocide of Indigenous People in this country) — though I did quite like the large fish hawk.

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19 November 2018

Pay us to kill you…

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Thanks to David Peters (and his friend David Asari)… “Dan Covert is the designer of the anti-smoking poster. He did this when he was a student at California College of the Arts for his Graphic Design 1 course taught by Mark Fox. Impressive work for a GD1 student.”


17 November 2018

Joni Mitchell at 75… Happy Birthday!

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Los Angeles, California

“On an early November day in 1966, a tall, thin, Nordic-Celtic vision in a minidress and clunky heels, hunched over the microphone at the Second Fret coffeehouse in Philadelphia, and against her then-husband’s wishes, she sang the songs she was beginning to write in great creative gusts. It was the moment that Joni Mitchell — a wounded, determined runaway from a complicated childhood in the Canadian prairies and soon enough from an unhappy marriage — became a star.”

The news media (around the world) have been abuzz in the past weeks with praise for and tributes to the one and only Joni Mitchell, who turned 75 last week. The inimitable artist has been mostly “lying low” lately, recovering from a brain aneurysm suffered in 2015, though she has made a few public appearances. In early November, a two-night gala benefit for LA’s flagship performing arts destination, the Music Center, “was crafted by loving hands to make a space for Mitchell to inhabit, likely in silence, and hear her voice come alive through her friends and acolytes.” Read more here, herehere, or here. 

Our design team at Circle was delighted to have the opportunity (in 2007) to design a stamp commemorating the song-writing and musical legacy of Joni Mitchell — one in a set of four stamps also celebrating Canadian musical artists Gordon Lightfoot (who turned 80 today!), Anne Murray, and Paul Anka. For Joni’s stamp, we were able to obtain usage rights for a beautiful photo by New York photographer Gregory Heisler/Cpi.

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14 November 2018

NO!

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In heartening news, this just in…

Friend Gary Taxali shares: “I just got a phonecall and I am very excited to announce my artwork, “NO” won a Gold Medal at the Society of Illustrators in NYC! Thank you to the judges for this very special honour. Especially for recognizing this image because it speaks to the amount of hate that’s growing in the world.”


1 August 2018

Tolerance…

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Poster by Harry Pearce, Pentagram UK… more here.


21 June 2018

Natural Reflections (the book-launch was today)

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Winnipeg, Canada 

The launch of our book, Natural Reflections, took place this evening at McNally Robinson’s Booksellers in Winnipeg. I read select texts from the book’s five chapters, Mike displayed a dozen enlarged photographic prints (and provided back-story re: their creation), and we both answered questions from the standing-room-only audience who had gathered for the occasion. Fun!

Earlier in the day, I did a radio interview with Marjorie Dowhos, host of CBC Manitoba’s ‘Radio Noon,’ and Mike did an interview in French earlier CBC’s ‘Radio Canada’

An inspiring and highly original book of photography takes the reader on an unforgettable walk through the vast and wide beauty of “Natural Canada.” Natural Reflections captures natural beauty from the exceptional viewpoint and unique perspective of Mike Grandmaison’s lens.

A singular gallery of images is curated, amplified and informed by the observations of Robert L. Peters. Filled with insightful musings, truisms and parallel quotations from some of the world’s greatest thinkers, this book is bound to inspire and truly engage both halves of the brain. Divided into five contemplative chapters – On Inspiration, On Seeing, On Intimacy, On Order, On Change – this lavishly produced volume comprises a rich and seamless interweaving of image and word.

This is a book not to be missed by anyone interested in the natural world (and its preservation), the art of outdoor photography, the creative process or this vast land called Canada. The photographer and author, long-time friends and avid nature-lovers, share the humble view that, like a Mother, the Earth both bore us and sustains us, asking little in return but love and respect. This book is their reciprocal tribute and holistic offering.

The book is available at McNally’s and other book-sellers worldwide ( ISBN-10: 1771602546 / ISBN-13: 978-1771602549 ) as well as from online vendors such as Amazon and Chapters, etc…

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