Fascinating interview with one of my favorite screenwriters, Rod Serling. Everything I know about society and human beings was highly influenced by the Twilight Zone. There are topics raised which are very much salient today, particularly when it comes to censorship and pre-censorship as they concern the public’s relation with the sponsors of television stations and/or programming.
No one could have predicted how these issues would be exacerbated by social media in the modern era, and that there is still a tug-of-war happening between content providers and the “letter writer” now that the traditional advertising model of sponsorship has been replaced by the subscription model. Many streaming services are taking more chances and are deliberately tackling controversial topics because they are afforded some greater freedom than the broadcast network of the 50s thru to the turn of the millennium. However, that freedom is not absolute as venture capital and stock investors can play a similar role now as corporate sponsors did then.
Sadly, the politicization and polarization of issues on who decides what people see is overshadowing the vastly more important intent of such stories to draw attention to and help us examine our current circumstances.
Trailer for the documentary on the life of a beloved actor who is remembered in a very specific way while forgetting about the entire career he had, plus the untold stories now coming to light. An appropriate title for a film being released at a perfect time.
In Part One of the journey toward the creation of Indievisual’s masthead, I delved into the research of the logos and mastheads of established entertainment companies and publications. These began the thought process of conceptualizing which direction would be appropriate for Indievisual. The next phase was to look into appropriate typefaces before creating a masthead emblematic of the magazine and its mission.
With Lagom fresh in my mind, I first sought similar script typefaces. As I looked through samples, however, I was never really satisfied with the results. I believe this might have been a result of the letters forming Indievisual were less condusive to producing equally elegant yet bold results compared with Lagom. Likewise, some appeared too much like Interview due to the resemblance in spelling. And some were just illegible. Such handwritten scripts certainly suggested a rebellious and provacative spirit, but I was not comfortable with the glaring “attitude” they also projected. Ultimately, it was important for me to also admit trying to find a typeface similar to Lagom was aping the publication’s unique identity and thus reducing the value of my own.
I then looked at sans-serif typefaces. There are a number of good examples of sans-serif mastheads among the research, particularly within the entertainment industry. The sample results were quite intriguing. I found my eye drawn to modern, geometric typefaces–the shape of the letters based on near perfect geometric shapes–for their uniform spacing and overall legibility. However, strict geometric typefaces also seemed cold and lacked a “human” element. They made for fantastic mastheads, but perhaps not for Indievisual. On the other hand humanistic sans-serif typefaces did have some of those variances in thick and thin lines which emulated handwritten text, but with the precision of a typeset form. Other typefaces mimicked a hand stamped or block print effect with imperfections in their shape or mock “print”. Other considerations were the width of the typeface. Given “Indievisual” is 11 letters long, some wide and display typefaces appeared too unwieldly and overbearing. Block sans-serifs were definitely not appropriate. However, tall typefaces or condensened type styles were not attention grabbing enough unless heavily bolded.
After examining two possibile letterforms, what became apparent was my gravitation toward more standard, less specialized typefaces, but with humanistic touches rather than being entirely uniform in line weight. This also highlighted the reason masthead design stays within definite parameters of typefaces and styles. There are many great typefaces available in the digital age for which many uses are possible, but when applied to an identity, adhering to lettering fundamentals usually works best. As a result, the search for serif typefaces was less hit-or-miss. From what I already learned, I avoided highly specialized typefaces or those which were formal, classical type and instead focused on humanistic typefaces as their stroke variations was obviously an important symbol of the hancrafted quality suggestive of independent filmmaking that is integral to Indievisual’s image.
Some of these have fanciful glyphs which definitely convey not only a human touch, but a bit of personal “flare.” It is clear humanistic serif typefaces were a happy medium between the handwritten qualities of script and the modern geometry of certain sans-serif typefaces seen previously. Moreover, typefaces with slab serifs–heavy strokes attached to the main strokes comprising letters (the top and bottom part of a capital “i” for example)–projected a strong presence while allowing the letterforms to project their individual characteristics. This is no surprise as slab serifs were originally developed to be attention grabbing elements for posters but were also suitable for small print thanks to the “rows” implied by these bolder serifs thus making them ideal for newspaper printing. While there were a few sans-serif typefaces I found appealing, the powerful presence slab-serif typefaces projected could not be ignored.
Director Sakaguchi Katsumi’s latest feature documentary Songs of Triumph may deal with Hansen’s Disease, more commonly known as leprosy, but it is not about the disease. That is to say, his movie is not a lecture on the disease itself. Like many of Sakaguchi’s works, the focus is entirely on the human subjects, on putting genuine faces to otherwise impersonalized issues. In the case of the Hansen’s Disease sufferers featured in Songs of Triumph, their stories of the persecution and discrimination inflicted upon them by an ignorant public as well as unsympathetic government serves as an important warning of how fear can drive inhumane actions. The timeliness of Sakaguchi’s movie can’t be stressed enough. Human behavior changes very little. The demonization of the disease and/or its source; fear of infection driving suspicion of or discrimination toward those who become afflicted with the disease; misinformation and/or ignorance forming the base for public policies are all currently ongoing. But the human spirit is also indomitable. The strength and will to live life with dignity despite the personal tragedies suffered by the subjects featured in the documentary serve as a powerful reminder that people can choose to become a beacon for the generations to follow rather then succumb to (justifiable) indignation. Ultimately, Songs of Triumph espouses the triumph of its subjects over the stigmas which had and continues to affect their lives as Hansen Disease victims by simply and unobtrusively allowing them to be human beings on camera.
The screening attended was followed by a talk session with SKIP CITY INTERNATIONAL D-Cinema FESTIVAL programming director Hasegawa Toshiyuki who discussed the appeal of Sakaguchi’s style of documentary filmmaking, confirming he himself wasn’t sure about a movie dealing with Hansen’s Disease, but was won over by the beautiful souls of those featured, particularly Yamauchi Kimie who is seen on the poster. The movie will continue to play at Image Forum in Shibuya until December 18th. Meanwhile Sakaguchi and producer Ochiai Atsuko continue to crowdfund for future screenings. The next venue will be at the Nagoya Cinematheque starting in January 2021.
As with all entertainment or media entities, its graphic identity creates immediate visual recognition with its audience while distinguishing it from competitors. Whether it’s the motion graphics preceding movies or merely the production company’s logo, the brand identity expresses the history, philosophies, and/or personality of the company and its work. Clearly communicating what Indievisual represents would involve an exploration in to exisiting identities, selecting the direction appropriate for Indieviesual, and most importantly going through the process of establishing what is Indievisual’s philosophy, attitude, and character in order to create the graphic which identifies it. Working with a limited (that is to say non-existent) budget there were a few challenges to overcome. Ironically, my graphic design background led me on a roundabout journey toward the final solution.
One of the most exciting projects for a graphic designer is creating a complete identity package for a client. Conceptualizing then realizing a identifying mark used across the client’s sphere of activities is one of the pinnacle challenges in graphic communication. How does a single mark or iconography sum up everything about a particular entity? Setting this as the starting point of the initial research, I began looking into existing logos. Because Indievisual is a magazine dealing with the Japanese independent film industry, examples were first drawn from entertainment companies.
These companies have come to be known by their single mark alone through which their productions also become synonymous. They are succint in their imagery and clear in their branding. There are icons which, even without the associated words, can still identify the company such as the CBS “eye”, NBC “peacock”, the Columbia Pictures “maiden” (for lack of a better word), New Line’s “film frame,” or the Paramount “mountain and stars.” Some, however, do have distinct typography as well. The Disney script or the “WB” of the Warner Bros. shield are unmistakable and non-replicable, while Universal’s letters are an element of their overall globe logo. Dreamwork’s young boy fishing on the moon is a strong symbol, but so is the logotype which is featured prominently in the motion logo attached to its productions. This combination of logomark and typography became the initial direction I sought to take for Indievisual’s identity as an iconographic representation seemed appropriate for Indievisual. There certainly was a strong image from which to begin: Japan’s red circle represented in its flag. Film reels are round as well. So exploration began into how to represent Japanese independent cinema in pictographic form.
I dived in further into independent film organizations and production companies.