DESIGN’S BODY OF WORK: Two authorities on design Steven Heller and Mirko Ilic are rounding up submissions for their new book about the multitude of ways designers, illustrators, photographers and art directors have involved the human body in graphic, advertising and typographic design. In search of printed media “for virtually any commercial or editorial purpose,” the pair have a Rizzoli USA deal to publish for winter/spring 2017-18.
The working title is “Design Exposed” and the book builds upon Heller’s and Ilic’s two other works — “Anatomy of Design” and “Icons of Graphic Design.” Their next one will also include a traveling exhibition, which was also the case when the two men teamed up for “Presenting Shakespeare: 1,100 Posters From Around the World.” That was published last fall by Princeton Architectural Press.
Heller, The New York Times’ former art director, cochairs the School of Visual Arts’ MFA Design Program, and Ilic, a Bosnia-born designer and illustrator whose work can be found in MoMA’s permanent collection, has his own New York agency. Heller said he “tends to get involved with the writing and the analysis” and “when Mirko does his research, he’s just a dogged obsessionist. He just tries any source that will reveal this material.”
With about a month to go before their Sept. 16 deadline, submissions include one from Ogilvy & Mather’s Beijing office for a 2006 Reebok PlayDry poster campaign of nearly naked male model. Another contribution is from designers António Queirós, Jorge Almeida and Ciro Romualdi whose 17-foot image for Portugal’s 2012 Design and Decoration Objects Fair was meant to “stop the traffic.” The designers said “it was not easy to convince the mayor’s office” to use their image of a chair and a bare bottom. But “after 20 days of discussing,” the traffic department green-lighted the artwork to be shown at the exhibition building, which had been redesigned by Pritzker-winning architect Eduardo Souto de Moura.
Regarding “Design Exposed,” Heller said, “The fashion industry is going to play a large role. Fashion is a lot about sensuality. What we don’t know yet is how much of it is sensuality and how much of it is sexuality.” Heller added that the difference between the two can be tied to how something is presented in ways that are meant to be prurient versus aesthetically pleasing and alluring. All of that stuff has things to do with the way that society broke down some of its taboos and built up other taboos — to the extent that now there are very few taboos, if you look at HBO.
“Sensuality has a certain premeditated inherent kind of desire,” Heller said. “There was once a mag called Eros that was published by Ralph Ginzburg who actually went to prison for publishing it. If you were to look at it now, you would think this thing is so much tamer than anything that’s being published on mass newsstands. It’s so beautiful, so alluring. That’s why he called it Eros, and not Sexos or not Bang. I worked for Screw and Screw was the exact opposite of Eros. It wasn’t about sensuality, which allows for suggestion or a little bit of art to come through. Sexuality is more of an overt use, it’s not necessarily bad, of what we seem to find prurient in many ways.”
Regardless of the sensuality-sexuality debate, there is a still the value of shock, Heller said. “People still are shocked by certain things. You have to go a long way to make something that’s shocking, but there is always a need in the communications business whether it’s at Women’s Wear Daily, at The National Enquirer or The New York Times, where I was for 33 years, to have something that’s going to appeal to the eye, and now to the clicks. Shock is one of those things.”