Looking at April Greiman’s work it is easy to spot her as a contemporary designer. Greiman was instrumental in bringing in the style “New Wave” to the States. This style was a rebellious approach to compositions and type forms. Disregarding the practiced disciplines “New Wave” experimented with spacing, type weight, and angular type changing the way we viewed not only the words we read but how we read them and viewed the space they sit in. Throughout her work Greiman has pushed the boundaries of how we view type and composition, but the Swiss influences are often evident. Armin Hofmann, a tutor of Greiman was also one of the leading figures to develop the “Swiss Style” in the 1950’s. This was a style of typography that focused on cleanliness, legibility and objectivity. This was a great influence on Greiman, this method of viewing type and it’s space was the starting point Greiman used to move further, stretching the boundaries of view points to the point that it would become “New Wave” as we know it today. In the mid 80’s Greiman was able to take these ideals further with the introduction of the Macintosh (Mac) computer to design world. She was one of the first to embrace the new design tool leading the way for many more designers and acting as an icon for female designers across the globe.
The anger of the 70’s ebbed into the consumerist 80’s and brought with it a return to economic growth. The “War on Drugs” had accelerated and the general attitude of society was changing. People had more of an inward attitude based on materialistic goods and self-image. These persuasions were helped by the advertising industry utilizing TV and movie stats of the time to advertise “must have” products in a way not seen since the 20’s, selling happiness at a price. I don’t see Greiman’s work as a reflection on this aspect of her surrounding culture at that time, but rather focuses more on the concepts behind the individual piece while reflecting the excitement surrounding the new digital media available to the design industry. It wasn’t until the 80’s that we really started to see women becoming more accepted and present within the work place. Concepts such as addressing women as Ms instead of Miss or Mrs were brought forward in the search for gender equality and as a stand against conventional views attached to the status of their title. This attitude towards gender (also referred to as post-modern feminism) is a strong example of post-modern ideals pushing through, as women were once again making a stand against the traditions of society in order to gain equality and their own individual identity. Greiman could be considered an icon in this respect especially to the women of this time; boldly tackling the challenges of the existing industry while embracing the new often quicker and more openly than most around her, producing prolifically and building up her own studio from the ground she never let society or situation oppress her and has followed her ideas and intuition throughout her working life, becoming a pioneer in her field.
(Post Mac) Looking at the poster “does it make sense?” 1986 you can see it as another example of “Radical Eclecticism” from April Greiman. The mixes in style in this piece stretch from Neolithic style illustrations to contemporary photography, digital manipulation and crossing fields’ incorporates scientific diagrams within the composition. I like this piece, as it’s a collection of elements relating to man, from the beginning of our time to present. Segments and ideas are pulled apart and pieced back together in an abstract way (a process and technique Greiman often used in a lot of her work), and then we’re asked, “does it make sense?”. Although she had used pixilation in her design long before the Mac came along the new technology definitely helped make this process easier to produce. It is in works such as this one that you can appreciate the economical value of the Macintosh as a design tool. There was fewer amounts of paper and waste at the end of experimentation processes as the design world were working towards manipulating light instead of matter. “Globally, Culturally and economically we are all moving from working with matter to working with light. With the Macintosh we’re manipulating light” (Farrelly : 1998 p8). This comment paints Greiman as an “Economical Post-modernist” of her decade, focusing on not only how or what she is producing but also how it would affect the world and the people around her. This is not the attitude of society that jumps to mind when I think of the 80’s, it stands as an example of Greiman’s open mindedness and spirituality, something that is evident in her life as well as work. It was shortly after producing this piece that in 1987 Greiman rightly won the National Endowment for the Arts grant for computer graphic studies and within the same year was also awarded a Hallmark Fellowship.
April Greiman, Design Quarterly N.o.133, Poster, 1986
“No More Rules. Graphic Design And Post-moderism”
2003/Yale University Press
1995/Tien Wah Press
“April Greiman. Floating Ideas Through Time And Space”
1998/Thames and Hudson Ltd. London