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New Book Explores Essence of Japanese Design

wa book

The Japanese concept of “wa” is one of harmony, gentleness, and peace: qualities embodied in the country’s distinctive design aesthetic. In a book of the same name, new from Phaidon, authors Rossella Menegazzo and Stefania Piotti explore the way in which Japanese design harnesses materials ranging from bamboo to polymer-coated membranes in an elegant balance of tradition and cutting-edge experimentation. Printed on craft paper and bound in the traditional Japanese style, the book opens with an essay by Muji art director Kenya Hara, who muses on how “extreme plainness-emptiness-can invite a variety of interpretations.”

Now Read This: Favelization

favelization

Is the exotic Brazil that we see referenced and traded upon in contemporary film, fashion, and design real or imaginary? Or perhaps a little of both? These are among the questions addressed by author Adriana Kertzer in Favelization, a new ebook that is part of the DesignFile series launched last year by the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum. Kertzer, a curatorial assistant at the Museum of Arts & Design, sets out to understand the ways in which specific producers of contemporary Brazilian culture capitalized on misappropriations of the favela (informal squatter settlements that grow along the hillsides and lowlands of many Brazilian cities) in order to brand luxury items as “Brazilian.”

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Now Read This: Conversations on the Hudson

conversationsNew York’s Hudson Valley is studded with artists and craftspeople, and Nick Hand met a bunch of them–by hopping on a bicycle. Conversations on the Hudson (Princeton Architectural Press) chronicles the British graphic designer’s 500-mile, two-wheeled journey between Brooklyn and the Adirondacks. The new book is a charming mix of photographs and interviews with the likes of glassware designer Deborah Ehrlich, ceramicist Michele O’Hana, and stone carver Ted Ludwiczak. “On a bicycle you take everything in,” writes Hand in the book’s introduction. “You can stop anywhere, you don’t miss a thing, and it’s easy to strike up a conversation.”

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Getty Follows ‘Open Content’ Program with Virtual Library

getty library

The J. Paul Getty Trust is serious about sharing. The institution, which encompasses the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Getty Research Institute, the Getty Conservation Institute, and the Getty Foundation, is following its “Open Content” program that set free some 5,000 high-resolution digital images for use, modification, and publishing with a virtual library. Translation: 45 years of art books for free. Among the 250 (and counting) of the Getty’s backlist titles now available to read online or download as PDFs are the 2004 catalogue of the first-ever exhibition of Cézanne’s watercolor still lifes (“a moving examination of this most subtle and luminous of mediums and genres,” according to Getty President and CEO James Cuno), the definitive English translation of Otto Wagner’s Modern Architecture, and books on globe-spanning conservation projects. We suggest igniting your winter reading list with Kevin Salatino‘s Incendiary Art: The Representation of Fireworks in Early Modern Europe.

Now Read This: History of Design

history of design coverReady to take a deep dive into the history of decorative arts and design? Treat yourself to History of Design, new from Yale University Press. The doorstop of a volume spans six centuries of design (1400-2000) across Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe, the Indian subcontinent, and the Islamic world. In addition to the usual suspects–interiors, furniture, textiles, product design–the book tackles graphics, exhibitions, landscape design, even theater and film design. It’s an essential addition to any design library.

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Building Seagram Named Design Book of the Year by Designers & Books

building seagramSo many books, so little time. Designers & Books is there to help you keep up with the latest releases and burrow into the backlists for those life-changing titles that you may have missed. The site has looked back on 2013 and selected its first ever Design Book of the Year: Phyllis Lambert‘s Building Seagram (Yale University Press), a comprehensive personal and scholarly history of New York’s Seagram Building. The $1,500 honorarium will be split equally among the book’s author, editor, and designer.

Honorable mentions were awarded to The Houses of Louis Kahn (Yale University Press) and the splendid Ed Ruscha tribute volume Various Small Books (MIT Press).

DIY Drama: Ten Illustrated Stories ‘About People with Really Awful Lives’

Start with what writer Matthew Swanson describes as ten “stories about people with really awful lives,” add the delightful, Quentin Blake-ish illustrations of Robbi Behr (Swanson’s wife), chop it all up into flippable panels, and you’ve got the recombinant narrative of Ten Thousand Stories: An Ever-Changing Tale of Tragic Happenings, published recently by Chronicle Books. We asked writer Mariam Aldhahi to take a closer look at this book of fractured fairy tales.

ten thousand stories coverFlip through the first few pages of Ten Thousand Stories: An Ever-Changing Tale of Tragic Happenings and you’ll be abruptly introduced to a pretty twisted duo.

The book’s introduction, originally nothing more than the usual run-through of what you’re reading and why, is covered in red-ink redactions and rewrites courtesy of the illustrator half of this husband/wife team. We are greeted with a “Hello Sucker!!” and quickly advised that we’ve just wasted $20 on ten-thousand “god-awful” stories only saved by an accompanying ten-thousand “breathtaking” illustrations. Suddenly, you’re confused, a little uncomfortable, and yet completely taken.

The concept is simple enough—each page is divided into four turnable mini-pages that mix and match to create ten-thousand different story combinations, each topped off with its own eccentric illustration. We are handed the reigns and encouraged to “choose our own disaster” by letting the flaps fall where they may.
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Logo Legacy: Book Charts Legacy of London’s Bullseye

There’s nothing like an imminent Olympics to get the world talking about logos (did you know that Sochi’s rather chilling mark is the first to lack drawn elements?). Anne Quito looks across the pond at a classic.

bullseyeThe city of London teems with icons—from Big Ben, to the red double-decker bus, even to polarizing 2012 Olympics logo, or lately, the much parodied “Keep Calm and Carry On” posters. There is no shortage of visual symbols for the city. But perhaps the most ubiquitous among them is their transport logo, or the roundel, as it’s officially called. Introduced in 1908, the original circle-and-bar design has remained mostly unchanged, surviving the tides of brand makeovers for over a century.

logoforlondonA Logo for London (Laurence King, 2013) explores the evolution of the symbol vis-à-vis the socio-political climate of the city it represents, written as a kind of biography for this enduring brand mark. Packed with a treasury of archival images and drawings, this well-researched volume by the design historian David Lawrence casts the roundel as trademark that evolves to become a cultural marker and a civic symbol.
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Now Read This: Lettering Large

lettering_largeWeary and wary of design clients’ constant calls to “make it bigger”? Immerse yourself in Lettering Large (Monacelli Press), in which Steven Heller and Mirko Ilic explore the outsized world of monumental typography. From a consideration of “extroverted type” and “typo-hypnotic messages” to letters that live large outdoors and those that balloon into objecthood, the book offers a giant dose of inspiration and a visually exhilarating reminder of why size matters.

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Quote of Note | Marcel Dzama

“I’ve always remembered Where the Wild Things Are so clearly, which isn’t the case with most other children’s books. Wild Things was a favorite from the start. I remember looking at the images a lot and really studying [Maurice Sendak's] crosshatching at a young age—and even attempting to draw like him on my own. This was probably kindergarten, and so he was an early influence. All of the fantastic creatures—and especially the monsters…have such character and personality, and it’s so great that they’re not evil monsters but more co-conspirators. Maybe Maurice got me started on monsters and beasts, which pop in my work a lot, too.”

-Artist Marcel Dzama, in an interview with Spike Jonze that appears in Marcel Dzama: Sower of Discord, the sublime new monograph from Abrams

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