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Jonathan Ive, Betty Woodman Among RISD Honorary Degree Recipients

RISD 09.jpgAs if proximity to Rhode Island School of Design president John Maeda wasn’t reason enough to visit Providence, RISD has announced who will receive honorary degrees at its 2009 commencement on Saturday, May 30. This year’s crop of “exceptional individuals who have made groundbreaking contributions to the world of art and design” are entrepreneur/Flickr co-founder Caterina Fake, Apple designer Jonathan Ive, former RISD president Roger Mandle, writer and creativity expert Sir Ken Robinson, and sculptor Betty Woodman. Held outdoors, RISD’s always festive commencement ceremony is open to the public, which means that anyone is welcome to soak up Robinson’s commencement address and admire the graduates’ unique twist on traditional caps, gowns, pomp, and circumstance. It’s also customary for the honorary degree recipients to give a speech, and who knows, Ive just might shower the crowd in free iPod nanos. (Hey, with Maeda presiding, anything can happen.)

UnBeige/D-Crit Party Goes for Baroque

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Planning to attend the UnBeige/D-Crit party this Wednesday evening? Listen up! To best accommodate the overwhelming response to our party announcement of last week, the mediabistro event wizards have just arranged to move the bash several blocks north from Highbar to Amalia, the 8,000-square-foot restaurant and lounge located at 204 West 55th Street. And really, what better venue than one with “old world baroque elements” (Chinoiserie! Black Murano glass chandeliers! Backlit mosaic tile! Just close your eyes and pretend that Marcel Wanders is involved) to appreciate the clean-lined ingenuity of American design?

From 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on the ides of April, UnBeige and D-Crit (the new MFA program in Design Criticism at the School of Visual Arts) will celebrate the publication of American Design by Russell Flinchum, design historian extraordinaire. Part of the Museum of Modern Art Design series, the book traces the development of American design from the work of early American machinists through mid-century “design for modern living” to the branded, consumer-oriented design of the present day. Care to join us? RSVP here. We promise book signing, drink specials, and complimentary hors d’oeuvres shaped like Bertoia chairs (or at least they will appear to be after a few drink specials!).

End Your Tax Day with UnBeige!

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The ides of April isn’t just for income taxes anymore. We cordially invite you to ditch that mound of receipts labelled “Misc,” file an extension, and join us at Highbar in Manhattan for a celebration of American design, by which we mean both design that is American and a new book on the subject. UnBeige and D-Crit (the new MFA program in Design Criticism at the School of Visual Arts) are hosting a party next Wednesday evening to celebrate the publication of American Design by Russell Flinchum, design historian extraordinaire. The book, part of the Museum of Modern Art Design series, traces the development of American design from the work of early American machinists through mid-century “design for modern living” to the branded, consumer-oriented design of the present day. Care to join us? RSVP here. We promise book signing, drink specials, and complimentary hors d’oeuvres shaped like Bertoia chairs (or at least they will appear as such after a few drink specials!).

Spend Oscar Night with David Rockwell and Gourmet Popcorn

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(Photos, left to right: The Carlton on Madison Avenue, Michael Weschler)

On the wrong coast (or lacking the requisite Academy Award nomination) to make it inside the Stephen Shadley-designed Architectural Digest green room? Why not spend Oscar night with David Rockwell, who designed the sets for Sunday’s gala awards show? Or at least in a hotel suite he designed. The Rockwell-designed Carlton on Madison Avenue is offering UnBeige readers a special Oscar night rate of $199, which includes “gourmet popcorn” from the hotel’s in-house haute barnyard restaurant, Country. And you’ll be in good company: we hear that Cindy Allen, the delightful editor-in-chief of Interior Design magazine, is hosting a private Academy Awards viewing party in Country’s Rockwell-designed “Champagne Lounge,” where guests such as set designer Stefan Beckman, interior designer Vicente Wolf, and fashion designer-cum-architecture buffs Angel Sanchez and Yeohlee Tang will be eating up Rockwell’s sets on screen while snacking on the aforementioned popcorn, taleggio grilled cheese diamonds, and coconut truffle lollipops. To reserve a room for Oscar night at the specially designed rate, contact the Carlton at 800-601-8500.

Back to the Futurism: Otis College Celebrates Movement’s 100th Anniversary

marinetti.jpgOne hundred years ago next Friday, F. T. Marinetti and his speed-loving Italian chums stood “on the world’s summit” to “launch once again [their] insolent challenge to the stars!” That is, they published “The Futurist Manifesto” on the front page of Le Figaro, kicking off the avant-garde movement to the bedfuddlement of the “gangrene of professors, archaeologists, tour guides, and antiquaries” that they so despised. The Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles isn’t about to let this milestone anniversary pass without the quirky celebration it deserves.

On Friday, February 20, Otis will host “Futurism + 100,” an evening of music, poetry readings, short films, and art. Attendees, who are advised to wear Futurist attire (i.e., red, black, or white), can sip Futurist cocktails (“Polibibita” Negronis) while listening to readings of parolibere poems and newly translated Marinetti writings. A Futurist DJ set will feature the remixed music and voices of the movement’s principal figures, while a screening of the short film Amor Pedestre promises a love story told by focusing solely on the characters’ feet. Once you’re good and punchy, catch the premiere of “1080 Punch-ups,” an interactive video installation by Alessandro Marianantoni and Gianluca Rizzo, projected on the “punch-card” facade of the Otis campus main building (constructed in 1962 for IBM’s West Coast headquarters).

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Which Media/Design Holiday Parties Can’t Be Stopped?

party cookies.jpgJack Frost is already nipping at our nose (at least in New York City), but in these dark economic times, who can splurge on chestnuts, much less an open fire on which to roast them? As news of cancelled holiday parties continues to trickle in, the mothership wants to know who will be singing yuletide carols and/or dressing up like eskimos this season, and so the hunt is on for The Media Parties That Will Go On, Come Hell or High Water.

If your company is still planning a holiday party, tell here. Fill in the short form, and don’t be stingy on the details. (Will there be open bar? Homemade cookies? Top shelf alcohol or just beer, wine, and pretzels?) The assumption will be that your holiday party is closed to non-company attendees, so when asked for info that does not apply (i.e., “How to RSVP”) just write “N/A” in those fields. Then, in a week or so, the elves will compile the entire list and present it for all to view in the new events newsletter, The Press List.

Spread some cheer and submit your holiday party

Design Observer Celebrates Five Years of Keen Design Observations

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Photos: UnBeige

It was a dark and stormy Wednesday night in Manhattan, but those who made it to the doors of Element, a 19th-century bank turned 21st-century nightclub, needed only to utter the not-so-secret password (“Design Observer“) to be welcomed into the whirl of designers, drinks, music, and residual election glee that was the eminent design blog’s fifth anniversary party. Editors Michael Bierut, William Drenttel, and Jessica Helfand were on hand, with Helfand signing copies of her exquisite new book, Scrapbooks: An American History (Yale University Press), which made us want to go straight home and collage. Meanwhile, Bierut looked poised for service in a novel cabinet post (Interior gets its own Department, why not design?) in a dapper orange tie, an Obama-themed “Mission Accomplished” badge, and a non-partisan USA lapel pin of his own design. We told him about all the positive feedback we had heard about the Men’s Vogue-commissioned pin’s slightly subversive flair, and he confessed to having had a bit of designer’s remorse (read: endearing modesty). “I sent them three designs and then was about to go back and say, ‘Forget the third one,’” he told us. “And of course, that’s the one they picked.”

Speaking of selection processes, Drenttel helped us to understand how the Zon Hearing Aid could possibly have bested Design Observer in the competition for this year’s People’s Design Award, which is decided not by an esteemed jury of design stars but by online voting. Blame it on Facebook. After several failed attempts to send a last-minute e-mail about DO’s front-runner status for the award, Drenttel gave up, only to have the e-mail arrive in the inboxes of all approximately 1,500 members of DO’s Facebook group—in quadruplicate and on the day after voting had closed. When hundreds of members abandoned the DO group in frustration and/or complained about the (accidental) e-mail barrage, Drenttel went about sending notes of apology to each person who contacted him. The result? “Facebook suspended my account,” he said. “They thought I was spamming. I couldn’t access my account for three days.” There’s always next year.

In Brief: Selling Andy Warhol, Feting Design Observer

A couple of quick news morsels before you settle in to watch the election returns:

uncle sam warhol.jpg⇒ Art dealer Richard Polsky has inked a deal for a sequel to I Bought Andy Warhol, the 2003 chronicle of his quest to acquire a Warhol canvas. The art world veteran’s new book, coming soon from Other Press, will be entitled I Sold Andy Warhol (Too Soon). According to Publishers Marketplace, it will focus on the shift in power from dealers and galleries to auction houses [cut to shot of Damien Hirst in a bathtub filled with champagne, skulls, and diamonds] and on Polsky’s own experiences selling his prize Warhol painting.

⇒ Whether or not your candidate pulls out a minimum of 270 electoral votes tonight, we can all celebrate the fifth anniversary of Design Observer. Michael Bierut, William Drenttel, Jessica Helfand, and the rest of the DO crew are throwing a party tomorrow at New York City club Element. The fun kicks off with cocktails and book signing at 7pm, followed by music curated by Kevin Smith (aka DJ Chroma), design/disco diva Debbie Millman, and Helevetica director Gary Hustwit. Because you haven’t lived until you’ve spent the night in a 19th-century bank building with Michael Bierut and a 36,000-watt sound system.

Cooper-Hewitt Celebrates National Design Award Winners with Eco-Friendly Gala

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Photos: UnBeige

In the cloying words of Dave Matthews (one of the only stars not in attendance at last night’s National Design Awards Gala at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum), “So much to say, so much to say, so much to say.” Let’s start at the beginning (and on the meta level—our favorite!), with the event design, once again sustainably masterminded by designer and event planner David Stark. Inside the tent pitched over the museum’s Arthur Ross Terrace and Garden, Stark got creative with items from Party Rentals, Inc., adorning the space with a rainbow of chair cushions (4,000 of them); glasses (3,000); spoons, forks, and knives (4,000); and plates (6,000). Think Ellsworth Kelly goes to Party City. The theme continued at the afterparty, for which Stark collaborated with teen participants in Cooper-Hewitt’s Design Directions program to whip up more repurposed rainbow decor, including a wall of 200 framed napkin monochromes and chandeliers crafted from 1,000 colored glasses (both are pictured above, at right). All the pieces were returned to Party Rentals today, good as new.

Stay tuned for more on the 2008 NDA Gala as we sort through our photos, napkin-scribbled notes, and commemorative cookies.

Dyson Awards: A Rake’s Progress

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Design types gathered last night in Gotham for the presentation of the James Dyson Awards. There wasn’t a bagless vacuum in sight, but Dyson’s own fondness for efficiently picking things up came through in the U.S. finalist, the “Rake n’ Take.” Designed by Southern Illinois University Carbondale senior Ryan Jansen (pictured above), the newfangled rake not only gathers leaves but also picks them up with the help of a flexible rake head. In addition to Dyson Award finalist honors, Jansen’s design won the nationwide Eye for Why Student Competition sponsored by Dyson and the Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA).

“I’ve raked lots of leaves and there’s always the problem of how do you get the leaves up and into a bag,” said Dyson (pictured below), in the clipped British accent that we can’t help but associate with top-notch cyclonic suction. “Ryan has solved that problem beautifully and in a way that no one has thought of before.”

dyson rake.JPGJansen and his professor, Walter Hargrove, were on hand to answer questions about the rake’s clever cam lock mechanism and the slide sleeve surrounding its elongated handle, while design historian (and SVA D-Crit faculty member) Russell Flinchum, New York Times reporter Phil Patton, and new IDSA executive director Frank Tyneski inspected the prototypes. We also chatted with the multitalented Tucker Viemeister (one of the Eye for Why judges) and former UnBeige editor Eva Hagberg, who both agreed that raking leaves was an often frustrating but potentially pleasurable task to which everyone could relate. Skeptics were directed to a pile of faux leaves that had been brought in for the occasion. It was enough to make many Manhattanites recall fondly the concept of a backyard.