The Holy Grail of No Style
While re-reading Tibor Kalman: Perverse Optimist, I ran across this passage from David Byrne (entitled The Holy Grail of No Style) which resonated with me:
Tibor and company don’t have a signature style, and that is a worthy ambition in life. In baseball metaphor land, if the pitcher keeps changing styles, the batter doesn’t know what’s coming at him, so he has to be ever-alert. (And I don’t even like baseball.) Once you’ve been pegged with a signature look, style, layout or typeface, you may as well get someone else to do your work. An established signature style is read as something that’s already in quotations. That cool “Blue Note Records” look, that “50s-60s Conde Nast” look, that “pyschedelic record cover” look. Having a recognizable style relegates you to the status of quotable icon. And while being an icon is flattering, I imagine, once it happens, you become irrelevant.
While pasting up issue 0.5, design consistency was a topic that came up again and again. Should the entire issue have one easily recognizable style? This would be the easiest and most efficient way to do it— to plop all the content into uniform buckets. But, we felt, it would be much more interesting to derive each article’s design & layout from its content, or at least let there be some dialogue between content & design. Maybe let it grow somewhat organically, and then find the threads that tie the whole thing together. So this is the method that was used— inconsistent, quirky, inefficient, kinda messy. Oh— and time-consuming. Hence, the birth of one of our taglines: LAB: inconsistent by design.
But, above all, the design was molded to the content, instead of vice-versa. In retrospect, it would have been far easier to build some boxes and dump everything into ‘em. Meanwhile, we hope LAB‘s little context-specific idiosyncrasies will make things a little more interesting. Because there’s something to be said about noticing the little discrepancies and learning to enjoy them, as David Byrne testifies:
Having a non-style is more slippery, amusing, and surprising than sticking to one nice recognizable look. It’s a way of staying half-awake, or noticing things, enjoying things and learning to love things— especially the vernacular and banal things that have been relegated to the garbage heap of design.