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Favorite Thing: Normal’s Bespoke Earphones

(James Ewing Photography)
(Photo: James Ewing)

Your personalized playlists deserve to be heard through tailor-made earphones. Treat yourself to a pair of Normals ($199, including shipping and tax), made using “nerdalicious software and 3D printing to sculpt each one-of-a-kind pair” by Normal. Ear measuring not required. The startup, based in a hybrid factory/retail store (pictured) “on the elf-ear-shaped island of Manhattan,” has created an app that makes getting fitted for your bespoke earbuds as easy as snapping a photo of each ear. “The result is a premium sound made for the strange pieces of cartilage on either side of your head,” notes founder Nikki Kaufman, a Princeton grad and veteran of Quirky. “And no one else’s.”

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Milton Glaser Versus Global Warming

glaser gwIf you, too, had the best of intentions but just couldn’t manage to sit through the PowerPoint deck-plus-Al-Gore-on-a-plane-B-roll that is An Inconvenient Truth, Milton Glaser has boiled down “global warming” and “climate change” into a new campaign that calls out these terms as the clumsy euphemisms they are. The bottom line: “It’s not warming, it’s dying.”

With his signature inform-and-delight tactics, Glaser pairs this grim yet clear-eyed slogan with a roiling green orb that suggests the planet Earth viewed from space—as its expanse of life-sustaining terrain recedes into blackness. On Friday the message debuted as a billboard at New York’s School of Visual Arts, where Glaser serves as a faculty member and acting chairman of the board (look for the billboard on the western exterior wall of SVA’s East 23rd Street building). Spread the word—and the orb—in button form: available in $5 sets of five here. SVA also plans to distribute free buttons on college campuses nationwide.

Quote of Note | David Carr

stack-of-magazines“For the last six months, my magazines, once a beloved and essential part of my media diet, have been piling up, patiently waiting for some mindshare, only to be replaced by yet another pile that will go unread. I used to think that people who could not keep up with The New Yorker were shallow individuals with suspect priorities. Now I think of them as just another desperate fellow traveler, bobbing in a sea of information none of us will see to the bottom of. We remain adrift.”

-David Carr of The New York Times in his most recent “Media Equation” column, “Riding the Juggernaut That Left Print Behind

Quote of Note | Alice Rawsthorn

ANTE VJONOVIC

“There are toxic words in every field and, when it comes to design, two of the most ominous are ‘sculptural’ and ‘artistic’. Not that there is necessarily anything wrong with design projects exhibiting either quality, but those that are described as doing so seldom do. Instead, they are very likely to be any or all of the following: bland, silly, blingy, pretentious, shoddy, derivative, ugly, ridiculous, or unjustifiably expensive. Check out the dodgier booths at a ‘design-art’ fair to see what I mean.”

-Alice Rawsthorn writing on the difference between art and design in the latest issue of Frieze

Kickstarter Debuts Journalism, Crafts Categories

pencil sculpture by makendoSure, Kickstarter is a swell place to raise funds for your performance art institute, innovative tape dispenser, architectural flashcards-cum-wall art, and animated film starring Paul Giamatti as a museum curator slowly losing touch with reality, but how do you go about tapping into other peoples’ pockets to realize your dream typeface inspired by the elusive giant squid or a Steven Heller fanzine or that edible (and delicious!) form of paper mâché you’ve been working on? Also Kickstarter. The crowdfunding plaform recently debuted 94 new subcategories, including typography, space exploration, and vegan food, and today unveils official homes for the fields of journalism and crafts.

“We really love the journalism projects we’ve seen already—ProPublica, CIR, Planet Money, The Texas Trib, and lots of lone innovators,” a Kickstarter rep tell us, “and we wanted to give them a proper home, and send the message that we want to see and support more of these.” As for crafts—everything from knitting and glasswork to woodworking and taxidermy—the new category is a way to shed light on smaller-scale projects. “There’s a lot to love about these crafts, from the rich traditions behind them to the imagination that comes out in each work,” notes Kickstarter’s Nitsuh Abebe. “From now on, you can see all of that artistry under one banner.”

Watch Paola Antonelli Discuss Design and Violence

Paola Antonelli‘s twenty-year career at the Museum of Modern Art has been a journey through many facets of design, “from cute chairs and fast cars to video games and now also the idea of violence,” she told the audience at the recent DLD (Digital-Life-Design) conference in New York. Watch her talk from that confab below to gain insight into the darker side of design as explored—and hacked, penetrated, manipulated, penetrated, and exploded—through Design and Violence, an online curatorial experiment that explores the manifestations of violence in contemporary society.

Derk Reilink Redesigns Tape Dispenser with ‘ClickTape’

ClickTape_usingit

ClickTape_Derk_ReilinkUnwilling to cede precious desktop real estate to a bulky, weighted tape dispenser nor to look upon the unsightly clear plastic one that accompanies a roll, we’ve long relegated tape to the drawer, where it spends its days in the company of foreign coins, our second-favorite scissors, and a thicket of novelty USB flash drives. Derk Reilink knew there had to be a better way.

The Dutch designer took on the challenge of building a better tape dispenser as part of his graduate studies in industrial design and engineering at the University of Twente in Enschede, Netherlands. “I started to experiment with basic shapes and found the shape of the tape itself to be the best shape for the dispenser,” Reilink tells us. “By taking out a section of the ring shape I could create a symmetric chain-linked design.” The result is ClickTape, a minimalist dispenser that is useful and portable—think of it as the practical, low-key sibling of the bottle for Bulgari’s Omnia fragrance.
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Stefan Sagmeister on Why Beauty Matters

When did beauty become a dirty—or at least obsolete—word for artists and designers? Stefan Sagmeister weighed on the issue in his stimulating—ok, beautiful—presentation at last week’s DLD (Digital-Life-Design) conference in New York City. Watch the video below for an aesthetic journey that goes from the industrial shed that is Memphis’s Cook Covention Center (“Elvis had truly left the building.”) to a consideration of the impact of Sagmeister’s fellow Austrian Adolf Loos to faux Mondrians (can you tell the real from the fake?) to a mesmerizing coda complete with jiggly gelatin typography.

Quote of Note | Neville Brody

neville_brody“In early 2002 I presented a lecture at the Design Indaba conference in South Africa, then newly free and celebrating liberation from eons-old social oppression and apartheid, extreme enforced inequality. The theme was ‘Can Design Feed People?’ The question wasn’t literal but was intended to pose the bigger question—what role can design and designers play today? Because we do not work in a vacuum. Design is not an innocent bystander. It is deeply integral to to the mechanisms of the social construct….We need to take more risks. As risks are no longer taken, minority interests become extinct and individual tastes are ignored. Just as governments limit the scope for intellectual and political debate, we don’t notice that the walls are moving inward and we no longer notice how shallow the cultural water. Vacuous top 10 lists fill our in-box and news feeds, cats, dinners, and prayers the rest. For mass communication, mediocrity is the goal, homogeny and vanilla the outcome.”

-Designer Neville Brody in an interview that appears in the March 24 “design issue” of Bloomberg Businessweek

Chinese Artists Will Transform Your Instagrams into Oil Paintings

pixelist
Watch your back, Richard Estes. A photo and, at right, the resulting Pixelist painting.

Make 2014 the year that your Instagram masterworks break free of their pixellated prisons and start a new life as…photorealist oil paintings! That’s the transformative promise of Pixelist. The startup offers handmade oil paintings of any image you can capture or create, with “commissions” starting at $150. How? A bunch of willing and able Chinese painters sourced by founder Will Freeman, an Emory grad now based in Hong Kong. He made time to answer a few questions about the burgeoning business.

pixelist exampleHow did you get the idea to start Pixelist?
Pixelist came from a love of all things custom and creative. We’ve spent years designing our own clothes, shoes, furniture, and art and hunting for the best craftspeople to bring them to life. So we were naturally attracted to the idea of harnessing the popularity of Instagram to revive commissioned painting.

That part really describes me and my years in China and Hong Kong. But my business partner, Conor Colwell, originally came up with the idea. Conor and I used to work together and would always bat around startup ideas on our lunch break. I took him to visit one of China’s “art villages” in Shenzhen and he was hugely impressed by the painting quality. Conor has always been into Instagram, so he thought it would be a great way to immortalize photos people already loved. I loved the idea because I was already deeply into getting things custom made.
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