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Alissa Walker

What Would Craft Not Publish?


Ever-vigilant Rob Walker has published a piece killed by Craft after the magazine claimed it might be seen as “anti-religious.” Anti-religious crafts have always been fascinating to us, so we took a peek at Jean Railla‘s essay. “What Would Jesus Sell?” is named after the new Morgan Spurlock documentary, about the anti-consumerist Reverend Billy and his Church of Stop Shopping. The bizarre thing is, besides the title and one paragraph describing the film, there are no religious references whatsoever (and not even a list of Jesus-condoned purchases, unfortunately). What there is, however, is a questioning of the Buy Handmade Pledge, reported by Walker and elsewhere earlier this year. And what we think lodged the knitting needle in a Craft editor’s behind was this:

But I can’t help thinking: Isn’t shopping, no matter how wonderfully crafty and politically correct still, well, shopping? Can you escape the so-called sin of consumerism by buying handmade? Isn’t the whole point of modern crafting Do It Yourself–not Buy from Someone Who is Doing It Themselves? Not to be a total hypocrite; I shop Etsy and artisan crafters as well as buy the crap from China just like everyone else. It’s just that I see a new trend, which is moving away from crafting and towards consuming. What’s next? “Hip Craft” aisles at Wal-Mart?

According to Walker, late last week Craft changed its tune, saying the article was axed as a “matter of timing and space issues” (might we mention that Railla wrote this piece for her regular column, ahem). We’d say the real reason for the cut was that Railla’s piece was a little too anti-craft.

Sign Spinning: Good Advertising For Bad Architecture

Somewhere between breakdancing and the inflatable arms that flap over car dealerships are “sign spinners,” those people who artfully twirl cardboard arrows emblazoned with real estate deals far too close to the side of the road. We’d remembered seeing Jason Buim‘s documentary Attention Getting Style awhile back, and if this sweet little film doesn’t entice you into purchasing a $300,000 condo in Artesia, we don’t know what will.

According to another film, the folks at Aarrow Advertising were the original spinners (although they seem far too dorky to have pioneered this craft). This guy, on the other hand, has got some serious spinning style. But it turns out these spinners are now inspiring art. Roman Jaster, a CalArts grad, will be premiering his documentary about sign spinning, which began as a series of photos. Jaster’s video installation is part of Inlandia, a show about the Inland Empire that opens tomorrow night at the Wignall Museum in Rancho Cucamonga, home to plenty of those aforementioned condos, if you’re in the market.

Paula Scher Says Get Rid of ‘America’ and Ditch the “Star Spangled Banner,” But Keep the Flag


Seeing as we just now got through the first, year-old, 3,400-page issue of Monocle, we realized there’s no way we’ll be able to catch up with the articles we want to pass along to you by actually reading the magazine. So let’s skip ahead (which is actually behind) to something we really wanted to read back when we hauled the September issue onto our pushcart and wheeled it into our office, but couldn’t actually lift it onto our desk.

The feature in question is “Future States,” a rebranding of the US by Paula Scher. Unfortunately, the print piece is (still) only available to subscribers, but there’s a video component, Brand America, an interview with Scher conducted by Tyler Brûlé. In it, she advocates trashing several visual icons of the USA brand, including the “America” portion of our name. Which is funny, since she designed the book on America. She’s probably really regretting that now.

Target Gets Kicked In the Crotch By “Non-Traditional Media Outlets”


Four out of five people in our official UnBeige survey didn’t get worked up when shown Target’s now-famous spread eagle ad in Times Square. “It’s obvious to me she’s doing a snow angel,” one astute reader told us. Although AdRants noted some compositional synergy a few weeks ago, we didn’t think much of it at all since we’ve seen, oh, we don’t know, bare asses in Times Square before.

But when the blog ShapingYouth called the model’s placement on the bullseye “sexualized ad slop” and demanded an explanation from Target, the focus quickly turned from crotch-placement to the blogosphere. We’ll let the NY Times explain:

Early this month, the blog’s founder, Amy Jussel, called Target, complaining about a new advertising campaign that depicted a woman splayed across a big target pattern–the retailer’s emblem–with the bull’s-eye at her crotch.

“Targeting crotches with a bull’s-eye is not the message we should be putting out there,” she said in an e-mail interview.

Target offered an e-mail response:

“Unfortunately we are unable to respond to your inquiry because Target does not participate with nontraditional media outlets,” a public relations person wrote to ShapingYouth.

“This practice,” the public relations person added, “is in place to allow us to focus on publications that reach our core guest,” as Target refers to its shoppers.

The notion that Target doesn’t work with “non-traditional media outlets” is pure bullseye bullcrap, since we’re pretty sure if we posted something like “Target powers their Design for All website with the blood of 300 freshly-slaughtered adorable baby kittens a day,” they’d be all over us like Deborah Adler‘s ClearRx design.

Of course, we, being the naive non-traditional media outlet we are, just assumed that Target, being ahead-of-the-curve Target, was a pioneer of the new vajayjay trend that is currently sweeping the nation (haven’t you noticed our header?). But at least one person we surveyed even saw Target’s V-sign as empowering. “I don’t get how that could convey women as inferior. You could interpret that it’s the opposite,” says one liberated female. “That vaginas are the center of the universe.”

“California Video” Opens at the Getty on March 15


A few months back we were invited to a splendid lunch at that 10-year-old white castle in the sky where we learned of, among other things, the first major survey of video art produced in California. The lunch was at the Getty, of course, and the show is called “California Video,” which opens on March 15. The exhibition spans 1968 until the present, and includes 58 artists, duos, and collectives like John Baldessari, Chris Burden, Jim Campbell, Meg Cranston, Mike Kelley, Paul McCarthy, Jennifer Steinkamp and Bill Viola, to name a few. And then there’s this, which we got to see a clip of, and boy, oh boy was it weird:

A highlight of the exhibition will be the reconstruction of the original installation of The Eternal Frame (1975-76), by the Bay Area collectives T. R. Uthco and Ant Farm. The well-known video in this installation depicts the artists re-enacting the iconic Zapruder footage of the assassination of John F. Kennedy in Dallas, Texas, while also documenting the puzzled and emotional responses from tourists and passersby. When presented at the Long Beach Museum of Art in 1976, the video was exhibited on an antique television within an elaborately constructed 1960s living room filled with dozens of pieces of JFK memorabilia. For the first time since its original installation, a full reconstruction of this piece will be featured in the Getty’s exhibition.

As you envision that in your head you can watch a trailer of some of the other pieces (try to watch the William Wedgman clip without laughing, we dare you.) More about the show by Carol Kino at the NY Times. “California Video” closes June 8.

Ode to Moveable Type


When we said that the NYT Building installation Moveable Type was like poetry, we were dead serious, but that doesn’t even come close to how witty, how poignant, Gray Lady Mad Libs can be. Here’s the verse, culled from 156 years of New York Times articles, that revealed itself to us over the course of a few minutes when we met with Ben Rubin (please note forlorn man looking out over the falling leaves above for tone).

when teenagers have parties
On Dec. 6
on Dec. 2 in an unknown place
at 3:02am
Will I see it coming or will I fade away?

Her mother is a statistical analyst in the Melville office of National Grid, a British utilities company.
She graduated from the Juilliard School of Music.
8.6 points and just more than 5 rebounds

$55,000 for those who violate the embargo
We make little bands big bands.
They’ve made it to the big time.
We pay and the people agree. There are no problems.

They call it a ‘spinner for the upper body.’

Basically, watching this for an hour or two would make for a pretty awesome drinking game, something we’re sure the security force in the lobby of the New York Times Building would really appreciate.

Photo by Michel Denancé.

Ben Rubin and Mark Hansen’s Installation at the New York Times Building Moves Us


The idea to siphon the words and images from the New York Times’ 156-year archive onto 560 small screens at the paper’s new Renzo Piano headquarters seems like an innocent, obvious proposition—a printed paper, in a new age, “going digital.” But Ben Rubin and Mark Hansen‘s installation Moveable Type, which holds court in the lobby, has choreographed that content into an unimaginable art: It has made poetry out of the news. And it’s good.


To start, the algorithm crafted by Hansen (a statistician) is very picky about what it selects from the Times, and how those selections appear. Sentences that start with “I” are juxtaposed with those that start with “you.” There’s today’s news, then news organized into phrases starting only with numbers. There are heartbreaking lines from obituaries. Or simply the shapes of countries, a single line slowly tracing their borders.

Lean in and you’ll recognize the chattering of typewriters, gentle telephone tones, or another sound we imagined to be one of those old teletype machines cranking out wire stories, which gives it a very vintage newsroom vibe (matching the retro-optimism of the newsroom upstairs; you almost expect people to be smoking at their desks). Each sound is then paired impeccably with the proper words. Letters to the Editor, for example, appears with a sharp staccato typing that. sounds. like. someone. is. giving. you. a. piece. of. their. mind.


Rubin calls it an “organism” that “metabolizes the content,” and just in our few minutes stationed in the corridor with him not a single person walked by who didn’t engage with the piece; at least two people got their photos taken with it, and even hustling employees gave it a knowing smile (or maybe looked for their bylines to scroll up).

David Byrne recently wrote on his blog he had fun identifying the countries and this news of approval from a fellow designer of sound especially floored Rubin, whose work with audible seems to have made him into a human boom mic. As we switched on our camera his ears literally perked at the chirping tweet of our Canon PowerShot powering up. “Did your camera make that sound?” We played it for him again. “Hmm, I wonder why they chose a bird?” Rubin designed the sounds for some of HP’s products; it appears he’s always doing research.

As cool as our camera sounded, the shoddy photos we took on the scene were not as impressive, so we asked Rubin if he had any good ones, and what do you know, he did. Beautiful shots–a few more below–by Michel Denancé. Officially opened to the public December 17, you can see Moveable Type whenever the Times building is open, or by viewing this lovely making-of video on

Layer Tennis Finals: Be There!

layer tennis.jpg

It’s hard to believe, but the Layer Tennis season has come to an end, just as abruptly as it began. We look back upon the last few months now with a disturbing level of nostalgia. We worked behind the scenes, we cheered from the sidelines, we even sweated through a match doing play-by-play (easily the most stressful, frightening and ultimately rewarding afternoon of our lives).

To celebrate the Layer Tennis finals, two simultaneous matches will be going this afternoon:

Chris Glass vs Shaun Inman
with John Gruber doing play-by-play

Jason Koxvold vs James Hutchinson
with Rosecrans Baldwin in the booth

And maybe at the end the winners will have some kind of sudden death emboss-off or something. Catch all the action at 2pm CST (that’s 3pm EST and noon PST) right here on the Coudal Sports Network.

Hello? You’re, Uh, Talking Into a Hamburger?


We can always rely on Murketing‘s Rob Walker to alert us to the world’s most pressing news when it comes to design and marketing. In this case, the sudden proliferation of hamburger phones.

This trend will almost certainly see a spike in popularity, at least until February, when Oscar-nominated film Juno may or may not win best picture. The reason for this, of course is that the main character played by Ellen Page, a high school student, makes a certain plot-critical call on said phone (Also–SPOILER ALERT!!!–she is pregnant!!!).

Walker says that although he originally heard some phones were made as swag gifts for critics (cleverly packaged and all), you can buy one for yourself right now! Walker wonders about the licensing deal and if a certain WGA member would get paid for such a thing. But a commenter simply blames its popularity on the flighty taste of movie-going adolescents: “You never know what teens will pick up on, like the Vote for Pedro shirts from Napoleon Dynamite.” Funny, we always thought those shirts were just code for “Please, punch me in the face.”

Finally! Emigre Becomes a Blog! Kinda. Not Really. No, Not at All.


When Emigre went bye-bye, we cursed, we cried, we accepted that anything in print that good would never find its way online again. But what to our wondering eyes should appear? Emigre essays and interviews online, as their physical back issues sell out!

First up is Emigre #30, aptly named “Fallout” because of its theme: A response to a controversial Steven Heller essay named “Cult of the Ugly” that was published in a 1994 Eye. In addition to Cranbrook student David Shields–one of the designers of the publication that inspired Heller to write the “Ugly” essay–Michael Dooley interviews Mr. Keedy, Ed Fella and Heller to get the full story. So why read it now?:

For those of you who missed the typographic debates of the 90s, or for those nostalgic for those turbulent times in design, these interviews are not to be missed as they define a historical moment in graphic design.

There’s plenty more where that came from, too. We recommend oldie but goodie “Saving Advertising” that Jelly Helm wrote in 2000 (still very relevant today, although sadly, advertising is not). Also recently posted is an interview with born-again blogger Rick Poynor, who coincidentally announced his first retirement from the blogosphere when reviewing the final issue of Emigre. And there you go, the internet is suddenly cool again.