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The soul never thinks without an image -Aristotle


does it make sense?, 177" x 25.5"


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'does it make sense?'   design quarterly #133

walker art center

minneapolis, minnesota

editor: mildred friedman

exhibited at:

sf moma, 'from typeface to interface', 2016

lacma, 'physical: sex and the body in the 1980s', 2016

moma, 'designing modern women 1890–1990', 2014

pompidou center, 'elles at centre pompidou', 2009

published in:

"women in design in a contemporary view," 1988, rizzoli intl publications, inc, Liz McQuiston

"april greiman," 1994, bat magazine, media intl data s.a., martine robin

George Rice and Sons, Coordination, separations, stripping and printing on slipcase

Ivy Hill, Printing of the poster

Area Trade, Binding

Macintosh / LaserWriter, Typesetting

Los Angeles-based designer April Greiman was commissioned to create issue 133 of the long-running journal Design Quarterly published by the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. Greiman, already known for her experimental use of media such as photographic collage and still video imagery, had been early adopter of the Macintosh computer, first released in 1984. For this tour-de-force edition, the usual 32 pages of the magazine were treated as a two-foot-by-six-foot, double-sided fold-out. It was printed in color on a large format offset press and was folded down to the same trim size as the publication and housed in a paper slipcase. Using MacDraw software, Greiman was able to incorporate images captured from a video camera and generate typography, all composed within the same program. The software also allowed for tiling multiple pages to create large printouts, necessary to capture and print a pixelated, life-size, double self-portrait.



Text from the Walker Art Center website.

The signature line, “made in space by April Greiman,” tells us a number of things about this unique artist/designer. She possesses an original wit; she means to expand the traditional two dimensional surface of graphic design into the multiple layers of the third dimension; and, she accomplishes this by applying a creative mix of old and new  technologies to graphic problems.


In this issue of Design Quarterly, Greiman has used the computer to create a large-format montage that defies the magazine norm. The usual thirty-two pages of DQ are reorganized into a single-page poster filled with ideograms and thoughts about the creation of man–a large-format topic! Visual poetics, impossible to achieve without the magical transformations of the thinking machines (in this case Apple’s Macintosh programs MacDraw, MacPaint and MacVision on one side and video and Macintosh texture-imagery on the reverse), are the result.


April Greiman’s work with electronic media comes out of her earlier explorations into deep space through photography. Now, stretched out moving forms create a proscenium for photographs of objects that behave like orbiting planets around a core of ideas. These experiments combine electronic impulses with photographic and typographic tradition that hark back to the refinement and clarity of her Basle days.


Less talented hands have delivered a flood of computer graphics that break no design barriers. For the most part such efforts have yielded rather rigid, repetitive, formulaic results — little content and less probing of the medium’s potential. The difference in Greiman’s work is her ability to take the same equipment into areas of her own invention. She not only stretches the imagery, but she expands the ideas, developing a fresh, rich pluralism, a mixture of words and images that challenge previous conceptions of the limits of graphic vision.


April Greiman currently works out of a large, light-filled studio near central Los Angeles. She studied at the Kansas City Art Institute and the Allgemeine Kunstgewerbeschule in Basle, under the tutelage of Armin Hofmann and Wolfgang Weingart. After several years of teaching, she was named Program Director of Visual Communications at the California Institute of the Arts in 1982, where she served through 1984. For a new client, she has recently created a series of colorful ten-second video spots—the promising start of a daring new adventure in space.


Mildred Friedman

friedman, intro
zen story

The Zen monk starts on his daily walk through the forest. A young student follows behind, hoping to discover some secrets of his master along the way. Deep in the forest the master comes across a giant boulder fallen across the path, making it impossible to continue forward on the journey. The monk meditates for a few short moments, and then goes into the forest and gets a large tree branch, which he then uses as a lever to gently roll the rock out of his path. The master continues on but the young student, terribly excited to have witness this, grabs the stick and runs back to the monastery to impress the other with the discovery: when you encounter an obstacle find a stick.


The moral of the story is that it isn’t about the stick, it’s about how to continue the journey.


by april greiman

And so I’m walking through the English Garden with Andreas—and I mention the idea (duality) of order and chaos. So, he tips me off to the latest philosophical twist—chaos is simply a man/mind-made invention that frankly doesn't exist! I think about this and I say… yea, come to think about it, in seeing a computer model of fractal geometry, things that appear without structure, such as clouds and mountains, are in fact orderly processes. While on the surface, things seem irregular and chaotic, when you break down the parts, in reality they are more and more modular and ordered. The more finitely we perceive them, the more their inherent order becomes apparent.


…this story reminds me of my particular journey with this piece. In the beginning the obstacle was simply to master the Macintosh technology and software used to generate text and image. The image was ultimately composed in MacDraw, a program which permits large scale (up to 4 x 8 foot) collaging of digitized and drawn images electronically cut and pasted from MacPaint. The collage is spit out of the LaserWriter as separate 8 1/2 x 11inch sheets which are then assembled together.


This issue of DQ began over one year ago when Robert Jensen, Graphic Designer for the Walker, invited me to do an issue on my work. I can’t remember being so flattered, and simultaneously, so scared by an invitation. Without knowing what format it would take I knew it would involve something of all the technology I had been throwing myself at over the past three years. Soon after, Robert left the Walker and I began my discussions with Mickey Friedman, an inspired, sympathetic client. I never enjoyed anything so much, or laughed so hard while developing a project.


About the time I had the though to use MacDraw software on the Mac to layer and compose all the bills I had been collecting, I contacted Marv Zweier (from the printer, George Rice and Soda). I wanted to know the possibilities for printing an oversized image. He told me that he could find a plant to print the piece (Ivy Hill) but that the maximum size that I could design for was 3 x 6 feet. It was then that I decided to create an actual-size image of myself as the underlying idea. (Many, huge tears well up when I think of how you bail me out all the time; I absolutely could not have done that work without you.)


The genius of MacDraw is that you can input an image/idea /object and then literally stretch it on screen from a few inches to a few feet in a matter of seconds. You can compose the entire 4 x 8 foot image right in front of you - altering, adding, layering, trying different compositions-changing meaning and form with a click of the mouse. It’s a miracle! You can move things around freely on the surface working at large scale or diving into actual size any time you see fit - in and out, small to large, dense to sparse, complicated to simple. Text was added in MacDraw and manipulated in the same manner.


For six months I gathered materials, for three months I sketched (MacPaint) and digitized images (MacVision). For another three months I composed, layered, and stretched (MacDraw), and finally produced this piece on my LaserWriter. In the middle of that process it seemed we were perfectly matched - my ideas and the ease and speed of the software. It enabled an extraordinary fluidity in a complex creative process. It made possible placing and altering new imagery or text in the space until it became unable to handle all the layering of information I came to want. Ultimately, the speed with which this new technology encouraged me to work threw it into overload. System Errors kept popping up, making it impossible to print out the final image. One night I left the printer on to print overnight, since it takes a fair amount of time for it to process this much information. In the morning when I returned to the studio I saw that the printout had left out the entire bottom half of my body. When I looked at the screen to see what was going on, I noticed that my entire body was no longer there! Everything else layered on top of my former self was as plain as day. So, somewhere, near the planet Pluto, we believe, a 5 foot 4 1/2 inch digitized image of April Greiman is orbiting.


My absolute genius assistant, Ron Romero, finally tricked the software into printing out, helping me to create the original digitized images, and providing me with constant support in the studio, including back-rubs when I contorted myself into silly-putty.


Then we thought about a staple to bind it to to the cover. I was afraid that it would tear no matter how gently it would be pulled. The appearance of the piece would be ruined. I thought it would be good if it didn’t bind in at all. We’re thinking about putting it in the Walker’s envelope-but what about when it needs to be on a shelf? And what about the necessary printed spine? So my last thought is a slipcase with a printed spine. First it was to be glued, but the budget didn’t allow that… then I resolved it with a slotted tab and a diagonal cut. This was all fine – the new size of the piece was slightly under 9 x 12 inches, with a slipcase of 9 x 12 inches. Then we talked to Mickey… who said that the envelopes were 9 x 12 inches! So that was that!


Back to the drawing board. We looked finally at the 2 x 6 foot piece and how it folded. The 11 inch dimension that folded twice left an awkward 2 inch strip and the 8 1/2 inch dimension folded eight times left and equally odd strip of 4 inches. So, I naturally let the piece grow to 33 x 76 1/2 inches. We checked with the paper company to see if their custom sheet size could accommodate this - it was a go, and so the piece evolved and grew. What that meant in terms of MacDraw is that I continued to layer and layer more information. The thought of making it any smaller had practically left my mind completely. Then the bindery said they wouldn’t fold this for less than 75 cents apiece if it went wider than 22 inches since it would be hand-folded! Typical obstacle. The printer then jumped in and offered (for slightly more money, of course) to put a scoring plate on the press so that the hand-folding could simply accordion and then have two hand-folds. Our problems seemed over, once again. Then the printer mentioned that they had planned to print two-up and so 33 inches was an impossibility without doubling the press time and coat. These technical production problems were being handled by the production master of my life, Karlee Greene. At no time did she ever stop pushing to help me get it exactly the way I saw it. She would ask any supplier anything, anytime. This woman is an absolute whiz at most everything that has to do with the creative process.


So, with some juggling on the Mac and moving text to the back side of the poster, we were finally able to get it down to 25 1/2 x 76 1/2 inches. Meanwhile, System Errors were occurring-stretched images were printing with white scan lines due to incompatible software between the Mac and the LaserWriter-entire days are devoted to trying to figure out how to print the monster. We also learned the hard lesson about making backup copies… a cardinal lesson in all of this. Or really the lesson of NOT making backup copies of disks, is more like it!


Finally, I would like to thank Eric Martin - the real inspiration for all of this. Without his encouragement, instruction, patience and love this would not have become a reality.


We’re riding in a small plane together! I am the pilot/ we are both wearing headsets/ Eric’s headset is plugged into my left ear. Thank you Eric.


p.s. Harry Marks introduced me to the Mac, believe it or not, in Macy’s in Carmel! He has been my early tech-guruwawapal. And so I remain, indebted forever. And to Kurt Sickert, who’s photograph of me appears on the back of the slipcase and who opened a door for me that has taught me to look at it from the other side. To Andreas Kammerling’s love from the background. To Paul Hinckley – always -there -with -the -big -important -stuff. Thanks to JG, Edith, Muriel, Kath and Rhonda for all their selfless support throughout the process.

We were in a high-rise. It was a sunny after-noon. We were meeting. All of a sudden it got Incredibly silent. Inside. Then the building started to sway. First gently-we didn’t know what was happening. Then it really began to sway from side to side so that the materials In the room began to slam around. All of gravity was pulling the building to the ground. The pressure was unbearable. The entire building swayed and then lunged towards the ground. As we were about to crash, I slipped out a window and onto the ground. I was the survivor. The others were gone with the building. I began my journey to find another dwelling.


So, I was lying in bed. I felt like I was in a small boat. The waves started to well up. A slight feeling of nausea came over me. The swells got bigger. I was rocking up and down, side to side. I couldn’t stop the wave. It got rougher and rougher. I slammed from side to side. I used every bit of consciousness to remain in balance/not to fall off. With my right palm on the solar plexus I was able to ride it out until it quieted down several hours later.

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