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Eva Hagberg Is Running the Place Now

As of today, we’re happy to announce that design writer Eva Hagberg, who’s been guest-editing UnBeige for the last few weeks, is not so much a guest as a permanent resident and primary editor of UnBeige. (You can send her tips at or

Eva’s bio:

Eva Hagberg is a New York-based freelancer who writes about architecture, design, and culture. She was born in Eugene, Oregon and spent her childhood in southern Germany and central Canada, finishing high school in Cambridge, England. She has written for Wallpaper*, CITY, and, and contributes regularly to the Architect’s Newspaper, Metropolis, and the New York Times. She holds a degree in architecture and is completely unable to draw.

Editor: Eva Hagberg

Design writer Eva Hagberg is editing UnBeige. (Send her tips at Eva’s bio:

Eva Hagberg is a New York-based freelancer who writes about architecture, design, and culture. She was born in Eugene, Oregon and spent her childhood in southern Germany and central Canada, finishing high school in Cambridge, England. She has written for Wallpaper*, CITY, and, and contributes regularly to the Architect’s Newspaper, Metropolis, and the New York Times. She holds a degree in architecture and is completely unable to draw.

HOW Conference: Is Design Blogging Good for You?

Daily Candy: Is blogging good for you?

Given my abject lack of experience with design and design blogs, I went to the design blogging panel (Daily Candy: Is Blogging Good for You, Or Is It Just Causing Cavities?) hoping to absorb some knowledge from people who know more about this stuff than I do. The panelists included Steven Heller (design writer and author of something like 95 books) Pentagram associate and Speak Up founder Armin Vit, Patric King (who designed most of the more recently launched Gawker media sites), Chicago Tribune media critic Steve Rhodes and Winterhouse partner and Design Observer co-founder William Drenttel.

Discussed in the talk: the inevitable “what’s a blog?” debate, that controversial Barbara Kruger thread from Design Observer a few weeks back, to value of comments, and long form writing on the web.

My rough notes and thoughts on the discussion:

Steven Heller: “This is a very serious group, I cant tell, so we’re going to talk blog talk…What constitutes a blog? What is the common trait that is bloggish? What do design blogs do for the design field?…” Heller quote my ex-boss, Nick Denton, as saying that blogs are designed to tear things down, not to build them up. “[Blogging's] popularity is unnerving because it’s a radical reformation of how criticism is made. What is a blog?”

Steve Rhodes: “I doubt you’ll be able to come up with a singular definition. It has to have a personal element from the creator and some sort of creativity.” Rhodes says he reads mostly political blogs and isn’t sure if they’re really blogs. “Is kausfiles a blog? Is Talking Points Memo a blog or not?” He’s not sure. [Ed.—I have trouble thinking of them as anything but blogs.]

Heller: Is Design Observer a blog?

Bill Drenttel: “I think what makes something a blog goes back to the software. The software basically allowed people to self-publish online. Secondly, it allowed for people to comment. It was basically the commenting function that created a sense of community. When we talk about the blogs we all run, they’re on a different level, but that doesn’t explain why there are 11 million blogs out there.”

Patric King: Patric says it’s the reverse chronological order, software. “Some of the earliest blogs I started reading—like robot wisdom—were just a list of links.” And when people started putting comments into their blogs, he adds, they were compared to bulletin boards.

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HOW Conference: Stefan Sagmeister “All the Stuff That Keeps Me Awake at Night”

stfsag.jpg[This talk took place yesterday. It's been my favorite so far.]

If the HOW Conference has a requisite bad boy in the speaker lineup, it’s Stefan Sagmeister. But he’s too baby-faced and self-effacing in person to really live up to the scars the work behind that infamous AIGA poster failed to leave.

“I’m going to talk about print production,” he warns the audience at the beginning of his talk. And only print production, he says. “Mostly because Print magazine asked me to do it.” He then proceeds to talk about mostly print production and some stuff that’s tangentially related.

My notes (which I tried to clean up with the aid of Sagmeister’s book, Made You Look, but should not be considered a direct transcript):

On M & Co., which he referred to as his favorite design company in the ’80s : “I think M&Co.’s success had less to do with the quality of their design than the unbelievable salesmanship of their founder.” He says that Kalman’s ability to sell a specific idea to a client kept M&Co. from having to dilute, modify, etc., that idea to placate the client.

SS displays a business card Sagmeister Inc developed in 1994 for the studio. The card has a slipcase that reveals the contact info for the studio when the card is removed. “The first thousand pieces were glued by myself,” says Sagmeister. “The third few thousand were done by the intern. The rest were done by the printer.” (Efficient use of interns is apparently a key tenant in the Stefan Sagmeister doctrine and will be reiterated several times over the course of the talk.)

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HOW Conference report: Intro

When I said I’d be live-blogging the HOW conference, I naively assumed there some sort of wi-fi in the conference hotel, Apple being a sponsor and all. As it turns out, I’ve been spoiled by too many blogging conferences where not having wi-fi would kill the conference for everyone involved. Designers, it seems, are not quite so desperate for their Internet. They have lives and things to do that don’t necessarily involve sitting in front of a computer.

At any rate, I have detailed reports from a few of the sessions I found most interesting and notes on everything else that’s happening. And if anything exciting and controversial happens (Armin Vit and Stefan Sagmeister get in a fight!) you’ll know…well, as soon as I can get back to my hotel and access hi-speed Internet.

What were they thinking?

marcreport.jpgPaul Frankenstein pointed me to this poster for the Baltimore-D.C. MARC commuter train.

Now, I’m all for stark, totalitarian images that evoke repressive communist regimes and Orwellian levels of government surveillance, but really.

Actually, I’m curious about who signed off on that design.

That said, we almost did the same thing with the UnBeige logo banner. (I suggested that we use the red, black and yellow color scheme to give it a revolutionary feel, and at one point, the design included an upraised fist. Then Kenny wisely suggested that it looked a little, uh, fascist.)

Picture Pages and Peter Arkle

morgan.jpgUntil this weekend, I lived next door (or next building) to my former colleague Amy Goldwasser and illustrator Peter Arkle. Peter publishes a witty illustrated newspaper called the Peter Arkle News about goings on in the neighborhood and life with Amy and their two cats.

In this weekend’s Times magazine (“The Money Issue”), Peter did comic strip of sorts about the Morgan Stanley debacle (short version: a group of ex-Morgan Stanley execs want to oust the current CEO, Phil Purcell) titled, “Morgan v. Stanley v. Morgan Stanley.” The whole affair is complex and exceedingly boring, so doing it graphically is sort of brilliant because it counters the density of the material–and as any five-year-old will tell you, the story’s always better with pictures. Take a look for yourself.

Hello, my name is…

hello1.gifIt should come as no surprise that it takes three people to replace Jen Bekman. Without further ado, here they are:

· Me. (Elizabeth Spiers.) I’m the editor-in-chief of I’ll be guest editing UnBeige for the next few weeks and will be liveblogging the HOW Design Conference this weekend. Prior to mediabistro, I was a writer and editor at New York magazine, where I was once asked to remove hyphens from a column because someone in the art department deemed them aesthetically offensive. (I worried that this might be a slippery slope and that one day someone would decide that they didn’t like the look of the letter “p” and I’d be stuck working with only 25 letters of the alphabet, but my protests went nowhere.) I did, however, work with some great people, including Luke Hayman, Jody Quon and Chris Dixon, who are profiled here. Prior to New York I was the founding editor of Gawker’s logo was designed by Jason Kottke, or Jason Kottke LLC, as he is now presumably known.

· Kenny Rufino, my colleague and the creative director of mediabistro. Kenny’s bio (from Kenny): Kenny became’s Creative Director after it was discovered he
was secretly doodling away at our cocktail parties instead of checking people in at the door. He relishes the fact that he didn’t go to art school (though may regret it one day) and spends his spare time obsessing over Apple, playing video games and taking random photographs around town. He’d write more, but he hates writing bios.

· My deputy editor, Jill Singer, will also be contributing occasionally. (I recently discovered that something like 89.6% of the mediabistro staff secretly wanted to blog for UnBeige. Who knew?) Jill’s bio: Jill Singer is the deputy editor of Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, and Via, a San Francisco-based travel magazine.