Robert L. Peters

29 June 2008

Unbelievable… but true.


Harare, Zimbabwe

“In an an attempt to cow and intimidate people into voting, Zimbabwe’s state security agents have launched “Operation Red Finger” to identify if people have voted by checking if they had indelible ink-stains on their finger. Those who have not voted could be beaten and forced to do so…” (from colleague Chaz Maviyane-Davies—keep the faith, friend, truth always prevails).

27 June 2008

The Golden Age of travel posters…



Los Angeles, California

“Speed, style and grace—these epitomize the Golden Age of travel in its simplest form. The 1920’s and 1930’s ushered in an unprecedented era of travel to exotic and romantic destinations. And nowhere was this more clearly expressed than in the travel posters of that time. The Los Angeles Public Library’s collection of travel posters perfectly captures this era, and with this exhibition, the Library shares its bounty with the public for the first time.”

“Among the highlights are two posters issued for the 1936 Munich Olympics; steamship posters for the NYK Lines, the Orient Lines, and the Grace Lines; and outstanding airline posters for Air France and Pan American. Most of the posters share an Art Deco sensibility; however, there are two wonderful examples of Futurist design. All the posters capture the essence of this era in a way that no other medium can…”

View the collection of travel posters here. Along the same vein, check out my earlier post re: Luggage Labels here.

26 June 2008



Source unknown… a clever urban reminder that whatever we let down the drain here will likely resurface in a river, lake, or ocean… somewhere else.



And two somewhat more overt covers, from Denver and Minneapolis…

25 June 2008

Fear no art.


From the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago: Jana Sterbak’s Sisyphus Sport, 1997, Leather straps on granite (backpack), 132 lbs. (60 kg).

Decoding Design (book review in CA Magazine)


Decoding Design: Understanding and Using Symbols in Visual Communication

“Our culture has lost touch with the archetypal principles that underlie simple numbers and shapes,” writes author Maggie Macnab “…principles that lie deep within the unconscious and have a psychological and spiritual impact on us.” A longtime designer and teacher immersed in symbolism and visual literacy, she delivers the leitmotif with fervent zeal: “As designers, it is our responsibility to create conscious and lucid communications. We can’t afford to contribute to information junk….”

This engaging design theory book fulfills its stated purpose, to: “connect us back into the language of nature, to revive our understanding of source, and to create communications that flow unobstructed by an intelligence that has lost its way in the world.” A quote attributed to Galileo Galilei sums the author’s intentions in “demystifying and decoding” visual language—“You cannot understand the universe without learning first to understand the language in which it is written…” without which “we wander in a dark labyrinth.”

Having made the case for more cogent design at the outset, the book delves deep into symbolism, pattern awareness, and “the recursive nature of nature.” (I love that line). Ten subsequent chapters (each introduced with a compelling illustrated plate by Joel Nakamura) illuminate the subject by “bringing shape to meaning,” and vice versa by means of case studies, “deconstructions” of well-known logos, and depictions galore—all-the-while demonstrating how visual communication can “tap into the dynamic energy of the collective psyche.”

The sources Maggie cites are wide and varied (Jungian psychology, Aztec shamans, Unitarian Universalism, Sufi Enneagrams, sacred sexuality…) and visuals draw from a vast treasure house of the familiar as well as the unexpected, arcane, and esoteric (DNA helices, Buddhist mudras, Arachnid webs…). Through it all, she weaves together a persuasive narrative to support her rubric that what sets humans apart from other mammals is our ability “to understand how basic patterns connect, allowing us to alter our experience…” and thereby to symbolize.

Decoding Design will appeal to anyone interested in the “why” behind effective graphic design and communicative form-giving. Well researched, well designed, well referenced, and with hundreds of visual entry-points for the reader, it successfully achieves its claim—a must-buy for design students and visual communication practitioners—even the best-read in our field are sure to learn and benefit from it.

—Robert L. Peters, FGDC
224 pages, softcover, $35
Author: Maggie Macnab
Published by HOW Books

+ + + + +

The book review I wrote appears in the July 2008 ‘Illustration Annual’ issue of Communication Arts (#361). Decoding Design’s innovative cover lets you “dial in” a selection to “reveal the relationship between numbers, concepts, & symbols.” 

23 June 2008

Do the right thing. Do the thing right.




Chicago, Illinois

Following my FITC talk today various people asked if they could receive a transcript (e.g. of the numerous quotations in the presentation). If you’d like me to e-mail you a PDF file, please let me know via the ‘contact’ form here.


22 June 2008

More Chicago…





Chicago, Illinois

Another great day walking around in the windy city… the architecture is remarkable, and we took in the over-the-top Jeff Koons exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art.

21 June 2008

Summer solstice, in Chicago…







Chicago, Illinois

Ev and I are spending the weekend in Chicago, in advance of my speaking at FITC’s Design & Technology Event here. Today’s highlights: a lengthy visit to the Art Institute (even though much of the main gallery is under construction, and a sizable portion of the permanent collection is on tour); an incredible solstice evening at Olive Park beach on Lakeshore Drive (Lake Michigan).

Art: Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate (110 tons of polished stainless steel); Jaume Plensa’s Crown Fountain; Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte by Georges-Pierre Seurat; Nighthawks by Edward Hopper; where did Van Gogh go?

19 June 2008

Here, on this day in 1816…


Winnipeg, Canada

This painting by Charles William Jefferys (1869-1951) depicts the The Battle of Seven Oaks (known to the Métis as la Victoire de la Grenouillière, or the Victory of Frog Plain) that took place here in the Red River Colony (modern-day Winnipeg) on June 19, 1816 during the long dispute between the Hudson’s Bay Company and the North West Company, rival fur-trading companies in western Canada. The fight was triggered by a food shortage (an edict prohibiting the export of food called the Pemmican Proclamation had been issued by the Hudson’s Bay Company—this was not recognized by the local Métis, who also did not acknowledge HBC’s authority of the Red River Settlement). The Pemmican Proclamation was a blow to both the Métis and North West Company, who accused the HBC of unfairly monopolizing the fur trade with this action.

The battle erupted when a band of Métis, led by Cuthbert Grant, seized a supply of Hudson’s Bay Company pemmican (that was originally stolen from the Métis) and were travelling to a meeting with traders of the North West Company to whom they intended to sell it. They were met south of Fort Douglas along the Red River at a location called Seven Oaks by a group of HBC men and settlers—a heated argument eroded into a gunfight. Though well-supplied with hubris, the HBC men did not stand a chance against the Métis, who were skilled sharpshooters and outnumbered them by nearly three to one. The Métis killed 22 (of 24) on the HBC side, including the local Governor, while they themselves suffered only one casualty. The Métis were later exonerated by a Royal Commissioner appointed to investigate the incident. Grant went on to became an important figure in the Hudson’s Bay Company after its eventual merger with the North West Company.

(It seems clear that this incident was triggered the attempt at unfair monopolization — when “enterprising” goes too far)…

18 June 2008

Inspired viewpoints…


(from somewhere in Macedonia—photographer unknown)

The opposite of a truth is often an even greater truth. I love the way that “turning something over” can reveal so much more… in keeping with that great quip by Josef Beuys: “When you cut your finger, bandage the knife.”

Next Page »

© 2002-