Don’t be surprised if Design Observer rockets to the top of the Cooper-Hewitt’s People’s Design Award tomorrow. They’re handing out free drink tickets for their party tonight to everyone who promises to vote for them. William Drenttel swears to us that it’s just so those pesky espadrilles don’t win, but unfortunately it will take more than one drink to convince us of that.
Please have him contact us to ensure that our demands will be met before something unspeakable happens to it.
In the meantime, may we entertain you with two anagrams of his name?
Italic bum here and A bitchier mule.
See that illustration over there, that got the biggest laughs tonight? We’re the toothpaste and Christoph Niemann is the brush.
“Every morning I get dressed, I tell my kids I’m going to work and I go to my studio and I draw fried chicken.” But although his work is loaded with brush strokes and pencil sketches, Niemann approaches his work like a graphic designer, starting with the ideas first. It’s as if he gets the assignment as an illustrator and then he goes and talks to himself as the art director. And basically, he’s just having too much fun entertaining himself to do anything else.
After showing two exceptionally hilarious New Yorker covers, he reveals he has no problem pillaging famous pieces of work or artistic styles. He definitely would do conceptual work, he just don’t have the balls to do things people don’t laugh at. Illustration (“cheap jokes” as he says) gives him the kind of reaction that design just doesn’t get. It even goes against his upbringing, as he says people say to him: “Oh, you’re German, you’re funny, that’s unusual.”
He even treats us to a reading of his Police Cloud book he wrote for his children (we’ve heard rave reviews from four-year-olds). He’s writing a new book that uses personified Chinese lettering to teach the letterforms to kids. And his final slide was an amazing mosaic he’s creating for his kids’ bathroom that’s a customized NYC subway map created with 4-inch tiles (the subway is their very favorite thing). What we wouldn’t give to be adopted by the Niemann family.
In a gorgeous, eloquent speech that read like the commencement address at our dream university of design, Marian Bantjes addressed the elusive and ever-terrifying topic of “unexpected nextness.” Opening with an adorable shot of her as a child hunched over her art, she led us through the meandering path she took to the fame that surprised even her.
You’ll remember that after being a designer and typesetter for years, she tried doing only the work she loved. She gave herself one year and made no money. So she borrowed money and gave her herself six more months. Then, her design career took off: “I felt like I went 0 to 60 in three seconds and I still don’t know what car I’m driving.”
This was our favorite: “If you would have told me four years ago…that I would have been speaking main fucking stage of the national AIGA conference I would have said no way.” She said she constantly felt like that Talking Heads song: “This is not my beautiful house, this is not my beautiful wife. How did I get here?”
But she still worries, she reveals, in an extremely personal, raw moment that we’ve all experienced when our insecurities stare us blankly in the face. She worries that the boom in ornamentation will bastardize her work. She worries that people will grow bored with her trippy curves. In the Q&A she says she feels like she will need to take a big creative leap and huge risk very, very soon. Whatever it is, we know for certain it will be something beautiful.
During tonight’s presentation the crowd was rolling. Here’s our favorites, by Matthew Muñez:
And Nichelle Narcisi‘s. Yes, that’s a cowgirl riding a sausage on a stick:
In the end, with Michael Vanderbyl standing in for judge Brian Collins, who was called away on official business (emergency clambake?), Elaine Chernov and Ryan Smoker are booted. Big group hug.
Next assignment: Get people aged 18-24 to vote.
This morning we ducked into a three-fer session moderated by Steven Heller called Works in Progress. It goes without saying that we can never get enough of Stefan Bucher‘s Daily Monsters, an obsessive, compulsive, and as Heller says, possibly psychotic addiction. But today Bucher revealed that he actually started with the monsters during a difficult time in his life: “I found comfort in ink.” The book is coming this spring, here’s proof. He’s also working on all the products for the next 826 retail store: LA’s Echo Park Time Travel Mart
The second presentation is difficult to reproduce here but we’ll try. Warren Lehrer in essence “performed” his book-in-progress named Rise and Fall of Bleu Mobley: A Life in Books, an illuminated novel about the 101 books created by his alter ego, Bleu Mobley. Lehrer actually designed book covers and wrote excerpts for all 101 books, which he’s compiled into this crazy narrative that chronicles Mobley’s early fiction, a string of self-help books, and finally, his habit of blurring fiction with nonfiction, which results in him being jailed. Someone needs to publish this book, but most importantly, you should run if you ever get a chance to see Lehrer present this project.
Seeing as he’s a former DJ, it was fitting that Jacob Trollback, opened with some music to set the mood. Then he presented the absolutely stunning work for an animated wall inside the rippling waves of Frank Gehry‘s InterActiveCorp building. Each InterActiveCorp entity was rendered in a gorgeous little narrative: time-lapse blooming flowers for a dating site, beautiful digital clocks, an iconic 3D newsfeed, and the most incredible computer generated animation for a travel site, where the simple rolling footage of telephone poles, overpasses, train cables and a single plane sailing through the blue sky tells you everything you need to know about the thrill of going places.
We’ve got deep admiration for the mind behind Kidrobot, Paul Budnitz, who had a lot to say about creativity today. Like how we’re born as kids who have total abandon and freedom, that slowly deteriorates, dropping down below what he calls the “miserable fine art line.” So true.
He also had a lot to say about toys. The newest KR product is Peecol, his modern take on Playmobil features dictators and ravers, and has launched with Nuke, an American Gladiator-looking guy. Forget limited edition, you can’t even buy Nuke. KR only gives them away. But they’ve taken on a life of their own; the few proud owners have taken photos of Nuke around the world and started a blog. Check out the heinously-spelled whereisnuke.com to see the photos of Nuke. KR is rewarding their faithful consumers by slipping secret messages to those who become friends with Nuke on MySpace by sending them to secret locations to get their own. This was pretty awesome.
So. For all you who’ve been drooling during this entire post, get out your portfolio: Kidrobot is hiring a web designer and illustrator. Send your work to designjob AT kidrobot.com
But you might not want to because in his final statement during the Q&A, Budnitz reveals the truth about what it’s like to work there. A young female intern was commissioned to work on a children’s clothing line, maybe too hard. “We pushed her,” says Budnitz. “I made her cry.”
That made us want to cry, too.
We’ve been turned on to biologist Janine Benyus since we saw her TED talk from a few years back. Her non-profit the Biomimicry Institute looks to nature for design solutions, not just in form, but in technology. Her talk consists of all types of sci-fi topics: mollusks that chow down on CO2, migrating birds that don’t bump into each other, bacteria-cleaning seaweed, leaves that act like detergent and whales working as wind turbines. Except those things are all real, and they’re concepts that her scientists have been honing as sustainable solutions to our problems. One application that might be coming soon to a desk near you is using butterfly iridescence to illuminate our computer monitors.
Here’s something that will rattle your brain today: Five naturally-occurring polymers make up the exoskeletons of all the insects on the planet, compared to the 300 fake ones that make up all our plastic bottles.
If this sounds like something you might be interested in exploring (and you should) Benyus holds seminars for designers and architects to learn how to bring biomimetic principles into your work.
So our several hours of silence yesterday were due to our role moderating the student conference at AIGA’s NEXT conference. Thank you so much to Gail Anderson and her tips on how to keep your portfolio roach-free; Allyson Lack, Jennifer Sukis and Pamela Zuccker of Principle for an inspiring talk on working from three different cities; a memorable shot of both Adam Brodsley and Eric Heiman with shoulder-length hair; Garth Walker and his Plumber’s Butt; and Adrian Shaughnessy‘s soul-ful closing.
To deliver the wit and wisdom of the rest of the dozens of designers milling about, we got some of their musings on film. Behold our gift to design students everywhere.
No surprise at all, but Michael Bierut is extremely funny when takes the stage as the Heidi Klum or Tim Gunn of graphic design (you take your pick) in his hosting duties for the design reality show “Command X” which will unfold throughout the AIGA conference. Judges are Brian Collins, Noreen Morioka, Emily Oberman, Bonnie Siegler and seven young designers will be eliminated one-by-one.
The assignment gave them a week to design a new logo for the Denver Broncos. Surprise guest judge is the art director for the Broncos, Annie Hellerstein. Both Morioka and Collins hit on participant Matthew Muñez after his rather eloquent defense of his work, and there are multiple snot cloud discussions based on the nose spray trajectory of huffing horses.
Scott Gundersen and Mike Burton go buh-bye. But where’s the catchy cut line?
Next challenge: Jimmy Dean Pancakes & Sausage packaging redesign. Collins declares it delicious.