US designer Brad Bartlett used an algorithm to give each copy of design school the ArtCenter’s prospectus a different cover, playing on the modernist graphics of alumnus Alvin Lustig.
The Viewbook is a publication that the ArtCenter College of Design puts out every two years for the benefit of prospective students.
It profiles the work of students and recent graduates and covers programmes of study at the Californian design school.
Bartlett, who is the ArtCenter’s director of transmedia, wanted to use new technologies to create the cover design for the 2019-2020 edition.
He therefore turned to coding, working with one of the school’s recent graphic-design graduates Alex Seth to devise a system that would produce tens of thousands of different covers.
Their algorithm pulls from a database of geometric-patterned modules, assembling and overlaying them into various configurations that make the letter A.
For the patterns of these modules, Bartlett took inspiration from yet another ArtCenter alumnus, modernist graphic-designer Alvin Lustig, who used to be an instructor there in the 1930s and ’40s.
His work, as summarised by Bartlett, is based on the principle of “using timeless geometric shapes to create complex patterns”.
The ArtCenter Viewbook is shortlisted in the graphic design category of the Dezeen Awards 2019, alongside a boldly patterned packaging design for contact lens subscription service Dimple, and the visual identity for a conference.
In total, Bartlett’s system produced 40,500 Viewbook cover designs, and each of those copies is individually numbered.
“In recent years, graphic design has shifted away from the crafting of singular artifacts to the creation of dynamic systems,” said Bartlett.
“In that spirit, we wanted to use new tools and methods to create a system that would generate an infinite number of custom design-solutions.”
he theme of individuality also fits with the approach of the ArtCenter, which encourages students to use the curriculum as a framework but find their own unique pathway.
Outside of his work at the school, Bartlett runs his own Los Angeles-based practice, which works frequently with art institutions and book designs.
In co-creating his work with an algorithm, he joins the designers at Nutella, who in 2017 made seven million different jars.