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‘From a Spoon to a Monastery,’ John Pawson on Design, Stuff, and Photography as Therapy

John Pawson designs more than buildings. “We’ve done bridges and boats and books and ballet sets,” notes the simplicity-loving Brit. And that’s just the things that start with “b”! Pawson is down in Miami Beach to fete his clean-lined contribution (read: stunning condos) to the latest EDITION hotel, the Ian Schrager-meets-Marriott venture that timed its opening to coincide with the Art Basel craze, and stopped in to chat with Nick Knight‘s Showstudio about his views on design, minimalism (a “handy pigeonhole” of a term), the virtues of unadorned space, the therapeutic benefits of photography, and Schrager. “He’s so passionate about getting things right,” says Pawson of the famed hotelier. “Interestingly, considering what he’s done in the past…he does like what I do…and he will fight to make it happen.”

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Sweet Tweets: Follow Jessica Helfand’s Adventures in Paris

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Une euphorie, s’il vous plaît. (Photo: Jessica Helfand)

It is a land of fluffy monster meringues and artfully displayed legumes, architectural flourishes and taxidermied rodents. Around each corner are enchanting surnames etched in limestone and splendid emporiums, many of them offering a single object—umbrellas, chains—in seemingly infinite variety. There are doted-on dogs and impressively impractical shoes and enough scuffed doll parts as to suggest an elaborate prank by the chortling ghost of Hans Bellmer. This is Paris as seen through the eyes of designer and writer Jessica Helfand, who is well into the 140-day adventure in the City of Lights that she is chronicling—evocatively, tersely, brilliantly—via Twitter (@ParisOneForty). “A picture a day for 140 days. A caption a day for 140 days. Every caption will be—wait for it—140 characters,” she promised at the outset. “There may be video too. And eventually a book!”

Simplify, Soften, Enrich: Hella Jongerius on Redesigning KLM’s Business Class Cabins

As if you needed another reason to plan a trip to the Netherlands, Utrecht- and Berlin-based Hella Jongerius recently completed an overhaul of KLM’s World Business cabins. Writer Nancy Lazarus recently got the scoop on the project.

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(Photo: Oliver Mark Photo)

“Humans dream of flying, of floating, and we have extra time on planes. So I wanted to have a place where passengers can dream, be at home, have a craft feel, and a human touch,” said Hella Jongerius earlier this week at New York’s Museum of Arts and Design (MAD). “For airlines it’s all about efficiency, but you also need tactility.” The Dutch designer, known for playfully integrating industrial design with craftsmanship, was interviewed by MAD drector Glenn Adamson on Monday evening in an on-stage conversation that focused on Jongerius’s redesign of KLM’s World Business Class cabins, a project she worked on for two years starting in 2011.

Working on high-end aviation design can be equally challenging and rewarding, according to Jongerius. “There’s lots of exhausting moments on planes when you can’t move around. But as a designer you can act and contribute to solving that situation,” she explained. “KLM was open to different approaches, and with business class we wanted to do extra things since it’s for luxury.” The interior redesign started with the curtains, carpets, and seat covers and expanded to include the seats. The new cabin rollout includes twenty-two 747s and fifteen 777 KLM planes.
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Ten Things You (Probably) Didn’t Know About Erik Spiekermann

EPSON DSC PictureThe avalanche of fan e-mail, likes, and tweets that greeted our recent dispatch from Erik Spiekermann‘s evening with the Type Directors Club at Parsons The New School for Design has inspired us to glean additional knowledge morsels for your reading pleasure. Enjoy these ten things you (probably) didn’t know about the man, the myth, the Spiekermann:

1. He got his start as a gofer for Wolff Olins.
In the mid-1970s, while working the nightshift at a typesetter’s, Wally Olins hired him to work for Wolff Olins in London. “They had 60 or 70 people at the time and lots of German clients [such as Audi and VW],” said Spiekermann. “Some of them couldn’t communicate with their German clients, because the German clients spoke German and the Brits spoke English—at the time not everybody spoke English, unlike today—so I became the gofer, I guess, between the German clients and Wolff Olins.”

2. He used to blow clients’ minds with color prints.
“[In the mid-70s] you would go into clients with color printouts…11 by 17…and it was like glass beads for Native Americans—they would think you were from Mars. They would pass them around,” he explained. “I had the same effect after German reunification in 1990, when we had a client in East Germany and we went there with color prints. By that time in the West everyone had them, but they thought we were from Mars: ‘Look at these guys from the West. They have color prints! Amazing! They have a machine does them. And it’s on ordinary paper and it only take a minute!’ It was like having gunpowder.”

3. Wolff Olins is also to thank for his first project.
“It was a German bank that was Wolff Olins couldn’t handle, so they said why don’t you take this over—the implementation. Because the Brits were never very good at getting sh*t done.”

4. He is wholly unimpressed by the U.S. Postal Service.
“The American Post Office is one of the crummiest design outfits ever,” said Spiekermann matter-of-factly. “It is embarrassingly bad. It embarrasses me at times. So does their service for that matter. UPS and FedEx—they wouldn’t exist if you had a decent post office.”
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Quote of Note | Thomas Mallon

weegee cover“I read old photographs for unexpected details, such as the faces in the crowd, the people witnessing what a historical novelist can only try to reconstruct. I keep photos around me while I write the way other authors keep music on in the background; they provide not only evidence but a kind of atmospheric stimulation. I don’t think I could have written Bandbox, a comic novel about the 1920s, without long exposure to that era’s madcap tabloid photography, and I can’t imagine Fellow Travelers, a novel I set during the McCarthy period, without the flash-lit, noirish Weegee photo that went onto the cover of both the hard-bound and paperback editions. For Watergate, the details of dress and facial expression in a photo of ‘the Rose Mary Stretch’—the president’s secretary attempting to re-enact how a gap in one of the Nixon tapes might have been created—told me more about Rose Mary Woods’s agonized embarrassment than any transcript of her testimony could.”

-Novelist and critic Thomas Mallon in The New York Times Book Review

Ralph Rucci Departs Namesake Fashion House

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Looks from the spring 2015 Ralph Rucci collection.

Last week’s sudden cancellation of a planned lecture and workshop by Ralph Rucci at the Cooper Hewitt suggested that all was not well in the house of the National Design Award winner. In fact, things could not be worse: Rucci has exited his namesake label. The shocking move, announced late yesterday by WWD, follows a period of positive momentum for the uncompromising and long underappreciated couturier, who has always lacked for a Pierre Bergé or Robert Duffy to take financial and operational matters off his own list of daily concerns.

A post-recession turnaround funded by investors Nancy and Howard Marks and executed by former CEO Jeffry Aronsson saw Rucci’s house, born in 1994 as Chado Ralph Rucci, launch Steven Meisel-lensed ad campaigns in fashion glossies including Vogue, whose editor-in-chief has long maintained something of a no-Rucci policy in her editorial pages, and a furniture line with Holly Hunt as expansion plans–there was talk of a retail rollout and a broadened customer base–were hatched. But Aronsson departed in October 2013 and was replaced in June by Joey Laurenti, who has continued to run his contemporary showroom, Goods and Services, while helming Rucci’s house. It was not a good match, as indicated by the company’s delusional plan to name a new creative director of Ralph Rucci by the end of the year.

Erik Spiekermann Explains It All

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hello I am erikLike most beings who can have their day ruined by a sign set in Comic Sans, we’ve long admired the typographic genius of Erik Spiekermann, but who knew he was also a master of similes? “Having a color copier in ’77 was like having your own nuclear reactor in the basement,” he told a rapt audience earlier this week at Parsons The New School for Design, where he appeared with designer Johannes Erler to promote Hello I am Erik (Gestalten). Edited, written, and designed by Erler in close cooperation with Spiekermann (who designed the book’s lone typeface, “and whose son, Dylan, provided the English translation), the biography-cum-pictorial history documents the self-described typomaniac’s projects, traces milestones in his life, and offers his perspectives on design alongside essays by the likes of Neville Brody and Stefan Sagmeister. Below are some of the most illuminating Spiekermann-isms of the evening, which was organized and sponsored by the Type Directors Club.

On Hello I am Erik:
I had nothing to do with this book except I employed somebody to go through what little archives I have—because I had this big fire in ’77 and then a couple of floods, and my ex-partners threw away all my archives, so there was very little there. Poor Inga had to spend a year finding stuff, which was impossible.

On the typeface he created for the book:
I kept out of the design [of the book] because I was the subject, not the doer. The one requirement I had was that I’ve always wanted to do this particular typeface that is based on the weight of Akzidenz-Grotesk. There’s a specific weight that only existed in very large wooden or resin letters, and I’ve always liked it…and this was the opportunity to do it. So I said to Johannes, OK, I’m going to design this typeface—one weight only—and you will only use one weight in this whole book.

On the fluorescent cover:
We both happen to like dayglo. I’m not much of a color person. I’m very black and white. But I’ve always liked orange dayglo.
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Quote of Note | Marc Newson on Carlo Mollino

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“I discovered the work of Carlo Mollino at the beginning of my career, about twenty-five years ago. The piece that really got me excited was the ‘Bisiluro’ (pictured), which was essentially a racing car that looked like a four-wheeled motorcycle, like two motorcycles bolted together. It was a fantastically brilliant thing: two pontoons joined by a metallic membrane. He raced them. They were his obsession, though he designed them not merely to look cool, but also to be functional and aerodynamic. What subsequently attracted me to his work, more than the furniture, was his general multitasking ability. Aviation, architecture, automotives, photography, furniture—he created all of those things, and he practiced across several disciplines at a time when not many other people were doing that. He eluded any job description.”

-Multitasking designer Marc Newson in the fifth (fall/winter 2014) issue of CR Fashion Book

Happy Birthday, David Zwirner! You’re (Still) the Art World’s Second Most Influential Person

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A birthday comes but once a year, as does the ArtReview Power 100. The two tend to coincide for ubergallerist David Zwirner, who has two reasons to celebrate today: his fiftieth birthday [insert Kusama-dotted sheet cake here] and clinching the number-two spot on this year’s Power 100, which appears in ArtReview’s November issue (on newsstands today). Zwirner is outranked only by Tate director Nicholas Serota, who has held onto the top slot since the London-based magazine’s list debuted in 2002. The mind boggles at the power to be concentrated when Zwirner artist Marlene Dumas’s retrospective opens at Tate Modern in February.

Rounding out the Power 100’s top ten is Zwirner’s former partner in erstwhile Zwirner & Wirth, Ivan Wirth (#3), MoMA director Glenn Lowry (#4), and Marina Abramović (#5), who the magazine describes as a “performance artist turned celebrity inspirer and admirer.” At #6, Serpentine Gallery directors Hans Ulrich Obrist and Julia Peyton-Jones come down a peg from 2013, while Jeff Koons’s stellar year zooms him up to #7, just ahead of Larry Gagosian (#8), Marian Goodman (#9), and Cindy Sherman (#10).

Friday Photo: Poe Goes Pop

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“There are few cases in which mere popularity should be considered a proper test of merit,” Edgar Allen Poe once said (he granted a pass to the case of song-writing), and there’s no telling what the author and critic would have made of his own infamy as celebrated in “Evermore: The Persistence of Poe.” On view through November 22 at the Grolier Club in New York, the exhibition brings together a stunning array of Poe-related artifacts, all drawn from the personal collection of Grolier member and Poe pro Susan Jaffe Tane. Along with letters, manuscripts, portraits, and a fragment of Poe’s coffin are contemporary objects and ephemera that demonstrate his enduring influence, from comic books and playing cards to a Poe action figure and a skateboard that features a raven feasting on the Baltimorean’s exposed brain.

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