Designed on the Hill is a new series reflecting on good design, as observed by Greg Janky and Treasure Hinds of Anvil Studios, a product design firm based on Capitol Hill.
You might be thinking, “How is graffiti considered design?”
Wikipedia defines design as “the creation of a plan or convention for the construction of an object, system or measurable human interaction.” While graffiti as art is self expression, territorial, and often political, it is also planned, created, and interactive. Someone had the idea, and executed the idea while taking into consideration the elements of design: line, shape, form, space, texture, value, color, and proportions. Many even executed the major principles of design: repetition, variety, rhythm, balance, emphasis, and economy.
In fact, graffiti has its own language and system of classification, just like the world design. There are tags (small and large), which are an artists’ identifier or signature. These can be more intricate ‘throw-ups,’ a bigger and more complicated tag. This in turn can be a ‘blockbuster,’ and on to ‘wildstyle,’ bigger and more elaborate throw-ups. Classic graffiti is often a stencil, paper cut-outs that are then sprayed through. I’m sure many of you have given props to a ‘heaven,’ a tag that’s up high and hard to access. Posters are printed and glued to a surface, much like a sticker. These all combine to make a ‘piece’—that is, a masterpiece. The largest pieces tend to be commissioned—legally done and paid for—and when they’re not you might notice a ‘cover up,’ an attempt to clean up or mask the job.
If you’re interested in learning more about graffiti, there are lots of great resources out there. We enjoyed kicking back and watching some movies, including “Bomb It,” “Exit Through the Gift Shop,” “Piece by Piece,” “Style Wars,” and “Infamy.”
Capitol Hill is full of texture, and we like texture. Texture in paintings adds mystery, in music it adds depth, on sculptures it adds another dimension to the form, and in life it helps keep things interesting. Graffiti is urban texture and certainly amplifies our already textural neighborhood.
We are often asked, “how do you get and keep inspired given all that you have to do in order to run your design firm?” We always say that though we spend most of our time in the studio, having our studio in the most vibrant part of town helps keep the creative juices flowing. A quick walk around the neighborhood is an assault on your senses (good and/or bad). Walking outside helps clear the mind and give focus, a potential Zen moment if you allow for it. Walking around Capitol Hill is a great way to clear your mental roadblocks and get focused again.
And Capitol Hill is full of public art of all kinds. We are looking forward to exploring them with you in our next few posts. With that in mind, we encourage you to get out this spring to clear your mind and pause to notice the textural art that surrounds us and defines us as a neighborhood. We’ll leave it up to you to decide if it’s good or bad.