We are thrilled that Design Matters will be returning for it's spring season on Monday, March 10.The episodes will air each Monday afternoon at 3pm.
This season's exciting line-up includes legendary designer Irma Boom; Dana Arnett, founder of the firm VSA; Jonathan Harris, internet pioneer; Debra Bishop, Design Director at More Magazine; Joe Marianek, Design Director at Apple; Maria Guidice, designer and author; Scott Lerman, brand consultant, educator and author; Rachel Sussman, author; Brian Singer, Design Director at Facebook; Dani Shapiro, author; Nancye Green and Michael Donovan, co-founders of the brand consultancy Donovan & Green; and Steven Heller for he and Debbie's annual show.
In October 2011, Design Matters was the recipient of a National Design Award from the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum. Debbie Millman notes, “Design Matters began in February of 2005 with an idea and a telephone line. I thought it would be a great way to ask my heroes everything I wanted to know about their lives and their thoughts and their careers without seeming stalker-y. In the process, I gleaned the most magnificent view of some of the greatest design thinkers and practitioners of our time. I realized the opportunity to share the brilliance of my guests with an audience I never expected was the gift of a lifetime."
In our inaugural year last summer, we welcomed students from all over the world: in addition to students from the United States and Portugal, participants came from as far away as Mexico, India, Thailand, Turkey, Scotland and Saudi Arabia. This unique setting — combined with such an international student body — is just one of the features that makes the Porto Design Summer School so unique.
What else might you find in Porto? There are the majestic tile walls in the 1916 São Bento train station, an architectural wonder that gives way to the city's long, windy streets full of small shops and amazing cafes. (Did we mention the food is just ridiculously affordable here?) There is the Douro river, fronted by pedestrian paths and Port manufacturers (many with tasting rooms), a bridge designed by Gustave Eiffel, and further out, there is the ocean itself.
When The New York Times quoted Robin Kelsey, a professor of photography at Harvard, as saying we are "turning photography into a communication medium," we asked ourselves, "If photography hasn't always been a communication medium, what is it?" The answer is as much as people like to talk about how the latest gadget single-handedly revolutionizes the way we communicate, images have always been a means of sharing information. As you can see from this timeline, each new technological advance is merely one point in the long evolution of images as a medium of communication.
We hope you've picked up a copy of the book Sign Painters, and if you're lucky you've gotten a chance to see the documentary of the same name. In January, Collector's Weekly talked to Faythe Levine, one of the authors and film producers, about the trend of reviving hand-painted signage, how to learn the craft, the effect of vinyl signs on the industry and her favorite hand-painted sign.
My favorite painted sign in Milwaukee got sandblasted about five years ago. Oh my gosh, it was so beautiful. It was on a five-storey Cream City brick building, this type of light-colored brick from a nearby quarry. And the sign was a beautiful, giant, bizarre-o ’70s rainbow, like this faded bubbly rainbow. I don’t even know what it was advertising. I think the building was just a storage space. Luckily I got a picture of it before they sanded it away for no reason.
If you're new to the idea of hand-painted signs we suggest you read the forward to Sign Painters, see a slideshow of some of the beautiful signage from the book, or watch a 7 minute version of the feature-length documentary on Nowness.
MIT Press has posted a gallery of Design Issues covers from 1984-present on Pinterest. Designers include Tad Takano, Massimo Vignelli, Lucille Tenazas, Ken Hiebert, Katherine McCoy and Michael Bierut, whose cover from the Autumn 1997 issue is below.
Over on Wired, Liz Stinson profiles Monstrum, a Danish design studio that specializes in fantastic wooden playgrounds.
Monstrum was created in 2003 after founder Ole Nielsen realized that his child’s school needed a new playground. He began searching for possible replacements and found the designs were lousy and expensive. Instead, he decided to make his own — a tall Rapunzel-esque tower with an adjoining spaceship. The playground was strange (a rocket ship and a princess tower?) in the way children appreciate and left plenty of room for imagination. It was an instant hit.
Panopticon, Intersect, Nine and Interact are based on the application of regulatory conditions to generate geometric typefaces which function as the building blocks of page and screen architectures. The attributes of each type system, such as contours, set width, spacing and weight, are modulated consistently in calibrated steps, allowing the user precise control of typographic arrangements, spaces or sequences.
Tax-deductible donations in Bill's memory can be sent to the Winterhouse Institute, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization dedicated to promoting design throughout the world as a tool and methodology for social impact and innovation.
The Bard Graduate Center has recently launched their Craft, Art and Design Oral History Project website. The online archive includes transcripts, photos, audio and video clips of contemporary craftspeople, artists and designers — from aritects and industrial designers to textile designers and potters.
The project responds to the growing interest in craft and design history, in which oral histories have been a key resource for a growing body of scholarship. The goals of the project are twofold. One is to document, preserve and make available the voices of contemporary makers for the purpose of research. By including creators in multiple fields, the archive provides the opportunity to consider the distinctions, continuities, and fluidity among their practices and their work. The project's second aim is to share strategies for developing primary sources on contemporary craft, art and design via the practice of oral history.
The Danish Film Institute has posted their collection of Cuban Film Posters from the past 50 years or more on Flickr. Among them are some fine examples of the unique poster art of Niko, Dimas and Bachs.
Ten days ago there was an exclusive, two-hour show in a condemned NYC apartment building. 43 street artists secretly painted three floors of the soon-to-be-demolished building. And if you were lucky enough to recognize the building from it's mural, you were there. Gizmodo has a review.
The show, called Surplus Candy, was the brainchild of street artist Hanksy. I spoke with Hanksy's manager about how the show came to be. After a friend suggested throwing a party in an abandoned building, Hanksy saw the space and thought it would be a great opportunity to host a brief, and completely illegal, art show.
This was a week of beginnings and endings on Design Observer.
We launched our new series "The Academy", a new series of essays written by undergraduate college students on topics that seek to address more rigorous academic aspects of design scholarship. Our first essay came from Tarpley Hewitt who wrote about El Lissitzky in "Speaking Typography: Letter as Image as Sound".
Bonnie Siegler answered her first question of the year from Bullied in Brighton. Dear Bonnie responded: "Sadly, you are working in what is called a hostile work environment and you have two choices. The bad news is both may lead to the end of your job."
Our final episode of this season Design Matters with Debbie Millman, Debbie talked to Amanda Michel & Amy Webb, co-founders of Spark Camp about how they've redesigned the traditional conference, and about their methods for having a lasting effect on participants.
Alexandra Lange intodcued us to another designer to add to that pantheon of designers making winning, sculptural objects for children: Fredun Shapur.
John Thackara enlightened us to two radically opposed models of development being born in Ethiopia at the same time. One is small, local, socially fair, and ecologically respectful. The other takes the globalisation of fashion to a new and more destructive level.
Next week Adam Harrison Levy's Desginer/Artist Cookbook series returns, Places is working on a long, rich essay on the phenomenon of the TED Talk, and its effects on contemporary thinking and education, Rob Walker revisits Hale County, we'll start the week offf with John Foster's newest gallery of embroidered photographs, and more.
We often wonder what future generations will think of our current society and one can only hope we won't be judged by the advertising of the day. Or at least that if we are, it won't seem as remarkably offensive as the ads collected by Southern California artist Cynthia Petrovic. Collector's Weekly interviewed the artist about her collecion of vintage body-shaming advertisements geared toward women, Do I Offend?
One vintage ad warns women, “Don’t let them call you SKINNY!” while another promises that smoking cigarettes will keep one slender. If the task of morphing their bodies into the current desirable shape isn’t enough of a burden, women are also reminded that they stink.
In these vintage ads, a woman may be emitting a foul odor from any body part — her armpits, her mouth, her hair, her hands, her lady parts — but she never knows it until her husband is walking out the door, suitcase in hand. And what about her skin? According to such ads, she might drive that man away with her so-called coarse pores, old mouth, tan lines, zits, wrinkles, middle-age skin, hairy legs or lip, visible veins, or horror of all horrors, dishpan hands.
Daniel Gordon is an artist and author living and working in Brooklyn. His collage work is the subject of three books Still Lifes, Portraits, and Parts (Mörel, 2013), Flowers and Shadows (Onestar Press, 2011) and Flying Pictures (powerHouse Books, 2009) and a profile this week on Wired.
Daniel Gordon’s photos put viewers on the slope of an uncanny valley, a glitch between the real and the fabricated. In place of authentic objects, Gordon uses printed photos of the items folded to mimic their real-world appearance, creating a mockery of the original object in beautifully constructed collages.
“I like photographs that aren’t just one thing,” says Gordon, “that are complicated, with blurred lines between themes such as the grotesque and the beautiful, humor and terror, wholeness and fragmentation, or innocence and corruption.”
In the series Still Lifes, Portraits and Parts, the elements of the foreground and background are carefully constructed from printed images. The lighting is meticulously arranged to relate with the printed textures. This adds realism that is immediately betrayed by a deliberately misaligned facet, or an inverted choice of color scheme. Backgrounds often are flattened in a dizzying array of colors and materials, cast upon by objects’ eerie neon shadows. It’s a balancing act between truth and invention that informs the entire series.
We started off our week back from the holidays with a look back at the ten galleries in 2013 from John Foster that most captured your imagination.
On this week's episode of Design Matters with Debbie Millman, Debbie talked to legendary designer Bob Gill about coming up in the profession in the 1950s, working with the Beatles and the problem with many designers today.
Places rang in the New Year with a story by David Heymann about the incongruency of client desires and the “hope many architects secretly harbor, that architecture is a conduit to the real.”
Chris Pullman gave us an homage to a poster that represents an irreducible, can't-get-more-basic-than-this example of Swiss Modernism.
In light of the New York Times site redesign, we invite you to peer back in our archive and read Michael Bierut's comments on the publication's 2003 redesign.
No. It is a word that every creative professional has confronted. It is a word that can easily seem like death to a dream. And yet it is also a word that can point in the right direction. It is a word that motivates us to do something differently, try someone else, get better, innovate, keep going. To inspire you to make 2014 a year of perseverance,we present this excerpt from Gideon Amichay's book No, No, No, No, No, Yes. Insights From A Creative Journey.
We blogged about a 3D book cover Helen Yentus, the art director of Riverhead Books, designed for Chang-rae Lee’s new novel, On Such a Full Sea.
Next week Debbie Millman will interview Amy Webb & Amanda Michel, co-founders of Spark Camp; John Foster brings us a gallery of native american art; Alexandra Lange is writing about another postwar designer of fascinating objects for children; our advice column Dear Bonnie returns; we unveil a new series: "The Academy" highlighting writings from undergraduate college students on topics that seek to address more rigorous academic aspects of design scholarship; and John Thackara continues his series on the fashion industry with an essay on shoes.
A second, limited edition of the novel comes in a sleek white slipcase made on the MakerBot Replicator 2 Desktop 3D Printer that evokes the futuristic setting of the novel. In the video, Yentus shares her early pencil sketches and describes how they evolved into the 3D printed slipcase, which she designed in collaboration with the MakerBot Studio.
The moon as seen from Apollo 15 as it returns to Earth, shortly after Fallen Angel was placed there.
Slate has a fascinating article about artist Paul van Hoeydonck and his three-and-a-half inch scultpure, Fallen Astronaut that was (and still is) exhibited on the moon.
At 12:18 a.m. Greenwich Mean Time on Aug. 2, 1971, Commander David Scott of Apollo 15 placed a 3 1/2-inch-tall aluminum sculpture onto the dusty surface of a small crater near his parked lunar rover. At that moment the moon transformed from an airless ball of rock into the largest exhibition space in the known universe. Scott regarded the moment as tribute to the heroic astronauts and cosmonauts who had given their lives in the space race. Van Hoeydonck was thrilled that his art was pointing the way to a human destiny beyond Earth and expected that he would soon be “bigger than Picasso.”
In reality, van Hoeydonck’s lunar sculpture, called Fallen Astronaut, inspired not celebration but scandal. Within three years, Waddell’s gallery had gone bankrupt. Scott was hounded by a congressional investigation and left NASA on shaky terms. Van Hoeydonck, accused of profiteering from the public space program, retreated to a modest career in his native Belgium. Now both in their 80s, Scott and van Hoeydonck still see themselves unfairly maligned in blogs and Wikipedia pages — to the extent that Fallen Astronaut is remembered at all.
Fairy tales have transfixed readers for thousands of years, and for many reasons; one of the most compelling is the promise of a magical home. How many architects, young and old, have been inspired by a hero or heroine who must imagine new realms and new spaces — new ways of being in this strange world?
In this series on Places, participating firms have produced works exploring the intimate relationship between the domestic structures of fairy tales and the imaginative realm of architecture.
Houses in fairy tales are never just houses; they always contain secrets and dreams. This project presents a new path of inquiry, a new line of flight into architecture as a fantastic, literary realm of becoming. We welcome you to these fairy-tale places.
Baba Yaga is one of the most impressive figures in Russian folklore. An old woman with witch-like powers, she flies in a huge mortar, using the the pestle as a rudder, or sometimes on a broomstick. Sometimes she kidnaps children — or, lost in the woods or great field, they come upon her hut and never return home. One can hardly think of Baba Yaga without envisioning her spectacular hut. In folklore, it is often adorned with bones and little skulls. Standing on chicken legs, it spins when she is angry.
I smell the blood of an Englishman.
Be he ‘live, or be he dead,
I’ll grind his bones to make my bread.
Rapunzel’s tower has come to symbolize both an enchanted, magical home and a dreadful prison from which to escape. Inside, one’s heart is full of desire and longing; and one must always also get out. The complicated emotional valence of this space is part of its longstanding appeal.
“Snowflake,” an iconic Russian fairy tale. Its cold end is sublime. One of my favorite renditions is in Andrew Lang’s Pink Fairy Book, and begins with a childless couple. They love children. They are lonely. They watch the neighborhood children play in the street during a snowstorm and decide to go out and play too. Why not? They are not in an amused mood but perhaps this will help, they think. They decide to build a snow child. “No use making a woman,” the wife (Marie) inscrutably says.
Spring arrives and Snowflake gets sad. Marie is quite worried. Worry blizzards this story from beginning to end. “What is the matter, dear child?” asks her mother. “Why are you so sad? Are you ill? Or have they treated you unkindly?” Snowflake tells her mother that she is well. Yet the child is sadder with each passing day — as the birds sing louder and louder and the flowers burst in the fields.
Many readers cannot bear the unrelenting sadness of this short fairy tale by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen. It has a spare and harrowing plot. A young girl is sent out by her impoverished parents to sell matches on the last evening of the year. She is barefoot, for she has lost her slippers; one has simply gone missing, and the other is stolen by a boy who says he will use it as a cradle for his own future children.
A Monkey King born from a stone can transform into 72 other things: bug, bird, beast of prey, tree and so forth. As such, he is his own Trojan Horse — he can sneak into anything, anywhere, right into the belly of an enemy and destroy him from the inside out. He travels 180,000 miles as a cloud in one crazy loop! He’s a bird, he’s a plane — even Superman can’t do all the things the Monkey King can do.
This dense, nine-page story concerns a library that houses all of the books ever written and yet to be written. The Library is arranged non-hierarchically; all of the volumes — from the most rudimentary to the most inscrutable — are equally important in this infinite space. Its rooms are hexagons. Its staircases are broken. The Library’s many visitors — elated, dogmatic and anguished types are all represented — strangle one another in the corridors. They fall down air shafts and perish. They weep, or go mad. Desperate characters hide in the bathrooms, “rattling metal disks inside dice cups,” hoping to mind-read the call number for a missing canonical text. Others, overcome with “hygienic, ascetic rage,” stand before entire walls of books, denouncing the volumes, raising their fists.
This children’s tale introduces the sun and his good friend, water. The sun visits the water often, but the water never visits the sun. The sun — who seems sad — asks him why; and the water says, “Well, if you want me to visit you, you’ll have to build me a very big house.” So the sun goes home to his wife, the moon, and tells her of the request. Apparently she approves, for the sun builds a very big house, and just as promised, the water visits, bringing along his friends, the water animals and fish and water people and so forth. Now water is knee-deep in the house, and he grows concerned, but the sun and moon assure him the house is still safe. Soon water fills the giant house to the brim, and the sun and moon climb up to the roof. Eventually the water covers pretty much everything up to the sky, where the sun and moon live today.
Beginning in 1924, the 50 Books competition was a yearly mainstay of the AIGA. As dust jackets became more common, 50 Covers were added to the competition. This survey of the best in book design represents perhaps the longest-standing legacy in American graphic design. In 2011, Design Observer, in partnership with AIGA and Designers & Books, began hosting the competition and we are pleased to usher in another year of amazing book and cover design.