A Central Paradigm in the Periphery: The Rise and Fall of a Graphic Design Business

Arthur L. Asseo Mary Anne Hopgood Santaella María de Mater O’Neill
5th International Conference on Typography and Visual Communication on the theme of “Against Lethe...”, June 6-8, 2013, Department of Design & Multimedia, University of Nicosia, Cyprus.

How did they do it?

Graf, Inc.: A New Paradigm 1982-2002
First graphic design studio to professionalize the graphic design industry of Puerto Rico.

1982-1998 Graf, Inc. Corporate Identity

Case Study Qué Pasa The Official Guide To Puerto Rico 1982-1998
A recurring publication design project for the Puerto Rico Tourism Company. • It is the spanish term for “what’s happening”, a friendly way of asking what is going on. • It triggered the formal founding of the firm. • It also marked the beginning of Graf’s demise. • It illustrates how Graf grew and changed.

Qué Pasa will be used to understand how Graf changed the local practice from fine art printmaking tradition
Qué Pasa (December, 1980) Puerto Rico Tourism Company Editor: Patricia O’Reilley Design: Irene Delano Example of the magazine before Graf. Qué Pasa (Winter, 1994) Graf, Inc. Puerto Rico Tourism Company Graf’s second revamp of the magazine.

to complex visual communication services in an adverse context.

What was the adversity?

Thriving Under Adversity (1982-1996)

No design industry Weak design culture Technological limitations (pre-digital era)

Our Question

What was the historical context?

What was the historical context?

Lack of design industry: Only Architectural firms were in business. No Diverse Practice: Design services were mostly offered by multinational Ad Agencies. Lack of Strong Government Policies: DIVEDCO (Division of Community Education), a strong cultural program that ran since the 1950s, had closed, leaving Concilio de Diseño (based on the model of the United Kingdom’s Design Council) as the only government program focused on design.

Politicized processes Cultural insitutions and products were targeted and restrained by right wing government.
Qué Pasa (January, 1981) Puerto Rico Tourism Company The intrusion of politics in the tourist guide is evident in the January 1981 edition of Qué Pasa, where the cover (top) shows a picture of the reelected governor at the time, Carlos Romero Barceló but the table of contents (right, marked with red) shows a footnote referencing the cover photo that reads: “Cover: Guayama plaza. PRTC Photo.” It appears that the PRTC decided to change the approved cover after it had gone to press. According to Hopgood this move had an influence on then editor Patricia O’Reilley’s retirement later that year.

Theory of the Context

Peripheral Design Practices
Gui Bonsieppe, “El diseño de la periferia. Debates y experiencias” (1985)

Periphery = developing countries

Design is a luxury Countries with no reliable infrastructure or manufacturing industry Cheap labor No design discourse No design education (except architecture)

Theory of the Context

Central Design Practices
Gui Bonsieppe, “El diseño de la periferia. Debates y experiencias” (1985)

Center = developed countries

Design is an integral part of production

Our Question

What models did Hopgood use to shape Graf?

What models did Hopgood use to shape Graf?

All Central Models:

Business model of West Indies Advertising (a local ad agency). Ethical Guidelines of the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) to begin/develop a design practice discourse. Pricing model of the Graphic Artists Guild. Creative models of successful design groups like Pentagram to establish creative processes.

New Question

How were these models adapted to the pheripheral design practice?

Real-Time Response Planning

Analysis Framework
A four stage problem solving spiral model is used to explain, under Resiliency Theory, the stategies used by Graf to tackle adversity, thrive and later, succumb. RTRP uses 4 sets of behavior patterns consisting of 9 tools for design practitioners to make resilient strategies.
(O’Neill, 2011)

(RTRP)

P

Learn

observe

R

Method (Tools’ prominence)

act

T

Choose the Tools

strategy

R

Grasp the Adversity

analysis

RTRP MODEL PROCESS (diagram)

ADVERSE EVENT

rtrp

GRAF’S AXIOLOGICAL MODEL (1982-1992)

Graf, Inc. team in 1991. Sitting down, in the middle with her arms crossed is Mary Anne Hopgood Santaella, President and owner of Graf, Inc. The photo is part of a shooting done for a three part promotional mailing piece. The photo was taken in Graf’s new facilities, inaugurated in 1990. Photo: Mark Bacon.

rtrp
Anchored Intertextuality At Hand Publish

Effective Strategies

Work-ethic based on merit, not by public relations Horizontal organization Supportive of creative practitioners Visual acknowledgment of past artists and designers’ work Used what was available Participated in local and United States competitions. Open process with creative team.

rtrp
Anchored
designer’s self-worth

Effective Strategies

Work-ethic based on merit, not by public relations Horizontal organization Supportive of creative practitioners
Evidence: They chose their workload and itinerary. Very different from Ad agencies at the time. Promoted pro active decision making. Emphasized collaboration in all stages of production. The designers participated in the costing of projects based on their estimated time for executing each phase.

Commit to a specific community and when you find yourself in a compromising situation, remember and honor it. You should not confuse this tool’s meaning with blind nationalism or xenophobia.

rtrp
Intertextuality
designer’s role in society

Effective Strategies

Visual acknowledgment of past artists and designers’ work

Stay tuned to what happened, is happening and will happen in the field. Accept and recognize the past authors’ and creators’ legacies and integrate them respectfully in your work. In the best-case scenario, this tool may lead you to innovation.

Evidence: Graf’s adaptation of Irene Delano’s centerfold map of Puerto Rico drawn by photographer Jack Delano. Graf approached the map as an information design piece. The decision to pay respect to work of the Delanos in Qué Pasa, is a way to preserve design history.

The decision to pay respect to work of the Delano’s is a way to build for the future.

Map of Puerto Rico Qué Pasa (December, 1980) Irene and Jack Delano Puerto Rico Tourism Company

Paying respect to the work of predecessors proved that embracing new technologies and new languages does not have to erase the past. Recognizing the contribution of the past offer tools for the present.

Map of Puerto Rico Qué Pasa (top: September, 1990; bottom: Fall, 1994) Graf, Inc. Puerto Rico Tourism Company

Map of Old San Juan Qué Pasa (December, 1973) Irene and Jack Delano Puerto Rico Tourism Company

Top: (September, 1990) Qué Pasa was a two-color monthly publication. Bottom: (Fall, 1994) Qué Pasa had become a full color, digital, quarterly publication.

Map of Old San Juan Qué Pasa (top: September, 1990; bottom: Fall, 1994) Graf, Inc. Puerto Rico Tourism Company

rtrp
Intertextuality
designer’s role in society

Effective Strategies

Visual acknowledgment of past artists and designers’ work

Stay tuned to what happened, is happening and will happen in the field. Accept and recognize the past authors’ and creators’ legacies and integrate them respectfully in your work. In the best-case scenario, this tool may lead you to innovation.

Evidence: The unique 8x8in (20x20cm) format was kept to mantain a connection and to build goodwill.

On the left, Graf’s first design of the magazine, as a two-color, mothly publication. On the right, the 1994 revamp, as a quarterly full color, digital magazine.

Qué Pasa (left: September, 1990; right: Fall, 1994) Graf, Inc. Puerto Rico Tourism Company

Qué Pasa (Spring, 1993) Graf, Inc. Puerto Rico Tourism Company

Hopgood on the 8x8in format: “It could be easily folded and put in a bag. An eight and a half by eleven [letter size] would have been too big.”

Qué Pasa (Summer, 1995) Graf, Inc. Puerto Rico Tourism Company

rtrp
Intertextuality
designer’s role in society

Effective Strategies

Visual acknowledgment of past artists and designers’ work

Stay tuned to what happened, is happening and will happen in the field. Accept and recognize the past authors’ and creators’ legacies and integrate them respectfully in your work. In the best-case scenario, this tool may lead you to innovation.

Evidence: Graf also sustained and strengthened the editorial criteria that the previous editor had established for the publication (60% editorial content and 40% advertising).

Top: shows the Events section of the magazine with the design used by Graf from 1983-1991. Bottom: shows the revamp for the same section (then called What’s Happening), used from 1994-1997.

Current events spread Qué Pasa (top: September, 1990; bottom: Fall, 1994) Graf, Inc. Puerto Rico Tourism Company

Ad pages were kept apart from the editorial content in selected sections of the magazine.

Ad pages Qué Pasa (Winter 1994) Graf, Inc. Puerto Rico Tourism Company

Main article spread Qué Pasa (December, 1983) Graf, Inc. Puerto Rico Tourism Company

Main article spread Qué Pasa (Winter, 1992) Graf, Inc. Puerto Rico Tourism Company

Main article spread Qué Pasa (Winter, 1995) Graf, Inc. Puerto Rico Tourism Company

rtrp
At Hand
designer’s problem solving skills

Effective Strategies

Used what was available

If you find yourself in a stressful situation, constrain your design work to what is available. Don’t lament about what you don’t have; instead, welcome the new learning opportunities that this may bring you.

Evidence: Used photo-typesetting Redesigned the magazine section by section Did a total of three revamps while the production of the magazine kept on running, i.e. worked on two magazines simultaneously.

Top: design by Irene Delano. Bottom: first issue completely designed by Graf. Only small adjustments to Delano’s design had been made. Graf’s complete revamp debuted in December 1983.

Old San Juan spread Qué Pasa (top: July, 1982; bottom: December, 1982) Graf, Inc. Puerto Rico Tourism Company

Two design approaches for the twocolor Qué Pasa (1982-1991), one with many smaller photographs and the other with bigger more dramatic shots of important landmarks.

Out on the Island spread Qué Pasa (top: January, 1985; bottom: January 1986) Graf, Inc. Puerto Rico Tourism Company

Similar section to Out on the Island (previous slide) in the 1992 revamp. In the digital version of the magazine, Graf stepped away from the International Style aesthethic.

Following the sun spread Qué Pasa (Winter, 1992) Graf, Inc. Puerto Rico Tourism Company

Another version of Following the sun. This was part of the 1994 revamp that was used until the end. This is the last issue designed by Graf.

Following the sun spread Qué Pasa (Fall, 1997) Graf, Inc. Puerto Rico Tourism Company

First revamp by Graf of the Restaurants section. Debuted in 1983, Graf’s first revamp of the magazine.

Restaurants spread Qué Pasa (December, 1983) Graf, Inc. Puerto Rico Tourism Company

1985 revision of the Restaurantes section. Graf worked continuously to strengthen the Information Design aspect of the publication.

Restaurants spread Qué Pasa (September 1985) Graf, Inc. Puerto Rico Tourism Company

1992 revamp of the Restaurants section. Same format was used for other listings like Lodgings.

Restaurants spread Qué Pasa (Winter, 1992) Graf, Inc. Puerto Rico Tourism Company

rtrp
Publish
designer’s self-worth

Effective Strategies

Participated in local and United States competitions. Open process with creative team.

Show others what you are doing. Allow them to see your reflections on both, the process and the final product. Remember that problems are like fungus; they grow in the dark, which means you can also use this tool to get problems out of the closet, debilitate them and solve them. Remember that in order to publish you need to document your work, or on the contrary, it will be like it never happened.

1995 7th. Edition EXCEL Awards Corporate Identity Puerto Rico Tourism Company Public Relations Association Puerto Rico

1996 8th. Edition EXCEL Awards Corporate Identity Commission for the 2004 Olympiad Public Relations Association Puerto Rico

1997 AMERICAN COPORATE IDENTITY 13 Award of Excellence Commission for the 2004 Olympiad Trademark/Logo Design

1997 AMERICAN COPORATE IDENTITY 13 Award of Excellence Commission for the 2004 Olympiad Complete Identity Program

1997 AMERICAN COPORATE IDENTITY 13 Award of Excellence Commission for the 2004 Olympiad Letterhead Design

1997 AMERICAN COPORATE IDENTITY 13 Award of Excellence Puerto Rico Tourism Company Signage/Environmental Graphics

1997 AMERICAN COPORATE IDENTITY 13 Award of Excellence Puerto Rico Tourism Company Signage/Environmental Graphics

1997 American Paper Design And Printing Competition First Prize Puerto Rico Tourism Company Promotional Mailing Piece

1998 10th. Edition EXCEL Awards Corporate Identity Museum of Art of Puerto Rico Public Relations Association Puerto Rico

What was the result?

• Qué Pasa’s popularity grew and so did its production budget: from $423K (USD) in 1987-88 to $453K (USD) in 1989-90. Eventually PRTC assign up to $1 million to the production budget. • Growth of the corporation: from 3 to 10 employees; revenue: $75.5K (1982), $527.1K (1989) to $1.3 million (1993) • Peer Recognition: United States’ Print Magazine published an article dedicated to Puerto Rican graphic design, which included the work of Graf. • Corporate clients: Ponce Museum of Art, Banco Popular of Puerto Rico, Citibank Corporate Banking, Commission for the 2004 Olympiad, Museum of Art of Puerto Rico, among others. • Government projects: Tourism Company corporate ID and Promotional ID • National events project: Central American Games of 1993. • International projects: Banco Popular Dominicano and Costa Rican presidential candidate Margarita Penón; first female presidential candidate.

First female candidate of the Presidency of Costa Rica. Graf developed the graphics, promotional pieces, slogan and coordinated quality control with suppliers in Costa Rica.

1992 Margarita Penón Identity and slogan

1992 Margarita Penón Identity and slogan

1990 Banco Popular Dominicano Corporate Identity Manual

1990 Banco Popular Dominicano Corporate Identity Manual

1990 Banco Popular Dominicano Corporate Identity Manual

What was the adversity?

Succumbing Under Adversity (1997-2002)

Economical Recession Neoliberal Practices

New Question

Why Graf’s model could not adapt to a new context?

Why Graf’s model could not adapt to a new context?

The adapted center model thrived until context became erratic.

Although Graf’s model was adapted to the peripheral practice it was still center-based. Graf’s Axiological Model became to rigid and lost focus. Graf’s designers focused on adversity instead of opportunities.

What was the adversity?

Business Context

Cause

Effects

PrivatizationPublic policy

New administration handed Qué Pasa -a product developed with taxpayer’s moneyto a private corporation

What was the adversity?

Business Context

Cause Technology

Effects
Desktop publishing allowed proliferation of untrained professionals services and in-house setups. Corporate clients started to request speculative design proposals in order to choose the lowest bidder.

Unfair corporate practice

What was the adversity?

Business Context

Cause

Effects

Recession: upcoming Depression 9/11

Citibank closed down its Corporate Banking division and left the Island.
For Hopgood, this event was example of the unveiling of the economic crisis that would swipe Puerto Rico as well other countries, in the upcoming years.

“In countries like ours, there is nothing provisional; what is provisional is permanent.”

Architect Leslie Voltaire, from Haiti, speaking of the effects of the earthquake, 2010.

What are the lessons learned from Graf?

Recent economic collapse due to the global economic crisis has left many designers powerless and lacking instruments to operate. Designers - peripheral or not - when they are in an adverse national context can find their business and practice efforts derailed easily.

rtrp
No Fast Feet Play
designer’s self-worth

Graf’s Axiological Model Ineffective Strategies

Mutate and transform. If adversity makes its appearance, act immediately. A fast feet play attitude can substantially change any play, transforming a problem into a design opportunity.

Did not downsize or made adjustments to employee’s benefits. Therefore compromised the whole team. Were unable to reinvent their practice and recognize business and innovation opportunities.
Evidence: Graf did not recognize new ways of working and how the role of the designer was changing. • Unable to give employees the flexibility to work co-location. • Unable to move from an expert designer to a facilitator designer, therefore, collaborating in a participatory way with vernacular designers and users.

rtrp
No Diversification

Ineffective Strategies

Graf unable to adapt its services to the fast
paced emerging Web market.

designer’s self-worth

Mix and match your allies, so you can develop an eclectic network. When moving among the diverse spheres of action you will expose yourself to new possibilities. Note that, in order to make this tool work, these spheres can’t belong to a specific social group.

It is a fact that the Internet, although it was still very new to many, presented a niche for designers. In 1989 Puerto Rico became part of the second group of countries to have access to the Internet (by NSFNET).

Lessons learned from Graf RTRP

Effective and ineffective strategies for contemporary designers working under adversities:
Freelance operations will limit the growth (both of businesses and design maturity) in contexts with weak design cultures. Corporate structure strengthens the design practice as well as the design culture. The importance to use models that address the dynamics of socio-economic instability, similar to the experience of a peripheral country. The importance of a deep understanding of local cultural knowledge in order to create cultural capital in a sustainable manner.

Anchored At Hand

Anchored Intertextuality Diversification

Lessons learned from Graf RTRP

Effective and ineffective strategies for contemporary designers working under adversities:
Focus on opportunities instead of adversity. Like a “two hand” operation: one deals with the current problems at hand, while the other continues with the main plan. The importance of collaboration and participatory creative processes that promote a pro active environment among design teams with the users, clients and vernacular designers. The importance of inserting one’s own practice in design history in order to build creatively. Being comfortable with public error and wandering in the creative process.

Fast Feet Play

Intertextuality Anchored Publish

Intertextuality

Publish

Where are we now?

Design industry in Puerto Rico: 2013

Where are we now?

Still a disorganized guild, dominated by freelance professionals. In general, the Puerto Rican audience is unaware of what design is or the role it can play in a society, i.e. Puerto Rico has no design culture. There is no entrepreneurship culture among the creative industries. The advertising agencies, which rule the industry, absorb the graphic design professionals. Others go into the freelance practice with no vision of something bigger. The work done by the Graf has fallen victim to the obliterating effects of the context; tabula rasa, very common in contexts like Puerto Rico that do not have a design discourse.

Not everything is gloom: Positive outcomes

Design industry in Puerto Rico: 2013

Not everything is gloom: Positive outcomes Peripheral Design Practices
Design is a luxury Countries with no reliable infrastructure or manufacturing industry Cheap labor No design discourse (emerging) No design education (except architecture)

Gui Bonsieppe (1985)

Various graphic design programs have opened up in local universities since Graf’s time. Hopgood helped design the initial curriculum of the first one established, in her alma mater: Escuela de Artes Plásticas de Puerto Rico (School of Fine Arts). Graf did establish a precedent for design businesses in Puerto Rico. It showed that it can be done. Why people are not doing it?...That is a whole other research.

Not everything is gloom: Positive outcomes Peripheral Design Practices
Design is a luxury (shifting) Countries with no reliable infrastructure or manufacturing industry Cheap labor No design discourse (emerging) No design education (except architecture)

Gui Bonsieppe (1985)

There are efforts, like this one by Rubberband,LLP, to document the local history of design as well as current work being done. Among others worth mentioning is Puerto Rico Historic Building Drawings Society. More recently, grass roots organizations that aim to make conscience that design is not a luxury have began to emerge, e.g.: Incubadora de Empresas e Industrias Creativas de Mayagüez and Puerto Rico Creative Economy Initiative.

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