Period Styles

Listen to a recording of Period Styles, a roundtable held by Triple Canopy on what it means in graphic design for a period to have a style and for a style to have a proper period. Participants, including Eric Hu, Lisa Naftolin, and Susan Sellers, examine how aesthetic movements, technological shifts, social networks, and popular sentiments come together in the creation of dominant styles in certain places and at certain times. Moderated by Triple Canopy senior editor William S. Smith.

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With Eric Hu, Lisa Naftolin & Susan Sellers with William S. Smith 7:00pm 155 Freeman Street, Brooklyn, NY $5, free for members

In graphic design, what does it mean for a period to have a style? What does it mean for a style to have a proper period? With Period Styles, Triple Canopy examines how aesthetic movements, technological shifts, social networks, and popular sentiments come together in the creation of dominant styles in certain places and at certain times. For instance, consider the mid-century International Typographic Style associated with the Basel School of Design and Armin Hoffmann; the multifarious, if eventually iconic, work and structure of Pentagram, established in 1972; avant-garde Dutch practices such as Studio Dumbar, whose creations from the 1980s and 90s later filtered into American graduate programs. How have the hallmark changes of the past several decades—the rise of the MFA, the ubiquity of design software, the patterns of producing and consuming that characterize the digital environment—changed the ways in which styles are distinguished, deployed, and consolidated?

Participants will identify today's preeminent styles, discuss their precedents and genesis, and parse their influence and effects. They will also ask if the period style may now be a thing of the past: In light of widespread access to design tools and the incredible speed at which visual identities are formulated and discarded, is graphic design now too profuse and diverse for the period style to be a useful concept? Or, given that period styles tend to reflect centers of capital, esteemed designers, and wealthy clients, how might the period styles of the future be formed or deformed by nascent cultural and geographic orientations?

This conversation will be moderated by Triple Canopy senior editor William S. Smith.

  • Eric Hu is a designer based in New York City and a partner at Nothing in Common, a design and technology studio in Brooklyn. He received his BFA from Art Center College of Design in 2011 and his MFA from the Yale School of Art in 2013. Previously Eric was the design director at digital agency OKFocus, leading branding and user interface projects for clients such as Nike, the Wolfsonian Museum, Soylent, Phillips, Tumblr, and Atlantic Records. Eric was honored as an Art Director’s Club Young Gun in 2010 and became the recipient of the Bradbury Thompson Memorial Prize in 2013.
  • Lisa Naftolin is a New York-based Creative Director who has worked on commercial and cultural projects for brands, magazines, museums, and individuals for the past 25 years. Having begun her career designing books and exhibition materials for contemporary art and experimental film, Naftolin has also worked as an art director at publications including the New York Times Magazine and Architecture. She was previously Creative Director of Art + Commerce and Executive Director of Creative Brand Development at NARS Cosmetics. The recipient of numerous professional awards, Naftolin has sat on the board of the AIGA NY and on juries for the American Institute of Graphic Arts, the Hyères Festival and the I.D. Awards, among others. She has been a visiting critic in Design at Yale, a visiting artist at Cooper Union, and a mentor in the Photography program at SVA.
  • Susan Sellers received a BFA in graphic design from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1989. She went on to earn an MA in American Studies from Yale University, where her work explored mid-nineteenth-century labor practices in craft industries of printing and typesetting and the emergence of professionalized design practices. She has taught and lectured widely, and her articles have appeared in a number of journals including Eye, Design Issues, and Visible Language. She has held positions in several studios including Total Design and UNA in Amsterdam. Ms. Sellers is a founding partner at the design studio 2×4 in New York City and holds the position of Head of Design at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She was appointed to the Yale faculty in 1997 and is currently senior critic in graphic design.
  • William S. Smith is the editor of Art in America. He is a founding editor of Triple Canopy and, since 2017, an editor emeritus.