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The Albers App: Interaction of Color Gets Interactive

One of the most influential art books ever written gets a 21st century update thanks to Yale University Press, which has released an iPad app version of Josef Albers‘s Interaction of Color. First published fifty years ago, the classic tome is an essential guide to thinking creatively about color. The app includes the full text along with more than 125 of the original color studies, including the “flaps” and moving pieces that have made them so captivating to generations of students. After experimenting with color and finding solutions to Albers’s famous problems, you can play with the new color palette tool and watch interviews with leading designers and artists explaining how they use color in their work.

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Quote of Note | Joan Fontcuberta

“In my project Miracles et Cie (2002) I settle my scores with the supernatural. My images are an ironic homage to the touching facet of the history of photography, which has been used to fake the presence of ghosts and spirits: In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, many crooks used photography’s powers of persuasion to ‘demonstrate’ their paranormal powers. But this work’s critical objective consists of an outrageous reflection on how the current whirlpool of beliefs, cults, rituals, and superstitions has set us adrift. Here, by using conjuring effects, photography becomes the document of the illusion.”

-Catalan artist Joan Fontcuberta, interviewed in Cabinets of Wonder by Christine Davenne (Abrams, 2012)

Pictured: Joan Fontcuberta, “The Miracle of Dolphinsurfing” (2002)

Seven Questions for Oren Safdie

The strange and wonderful world of contemporary architecture takes center stage in False Solution, a new play that runs through Sunday at La MaMa in New York (buy tickets here). That the dialogue crackles with pitch-perfect architect-speak is no coincidence: this is the latest work by Oren Safdie. The Montreal-born, Los Angeles-based playwright is the son of architect Moshe Safdie and grew up in his father’s modular prefab marvel, Habitat ’67, before making his way to Columbia’s Graduate School of Architecture.

“Architecture is also still mostly a male-dominated profession,” says Safdie, “so the opportunity to write about sexual politics–one of my favorite topics–is plentiful.” False Solution takes place in the basement model-making studio of a firm led by Anton Seligman (played with brainy yet sizzling charisma by Sean Haberle), a starchitect who has landed a commission to design a Holocaust museum in Poland. He soon finds himself arguing the merits of volumes and voids with intern Linda Johnansson (Christy McIntosh), a striking know-it-all who flinches only when pressed into service at the drafting table: “It’s just at this stage of my career, I’m much more effective as a critical thinker than a generator of ideas,” says the first-year architecture student. Fortunately for theatergoers, Safdie has mastered both roles. He recently answered our questions about his career path, his new play, and why architects make for better characters on the boards than on the screen.

How did you go from studying architecture at Columbia to being a playwright (and screenwriter and director)?
In my last year at architecture school, Columbia University insisted you take a course outside your discipline. I took a playwriting course. A scene I wrote was selected in a contest juried by Romulus Linney, and received a staged reading. Once I saw my words on stage, I was hooked.

Your new play, False Solution, is about an architect’s struggle to design a Holocaust museum in Poland. How did the idea for the play develop?
I would say the kernel of the play was born when 10 years ago, I saw a figure skating event on television. One of the American skaters had donned a yarmulke and wore a sweater with a Star of David sewn on his chest. The theme he skated to: Schindler’s List. I was amazed that someone would actually try and give some kind of expression to the Holocaust. I was reminded by this several years later when I visited Libeskind‘s Jewish Museum in Berlin, where I felt the same sense of someone trying to convey the suffering through architectural expression, albeit more successfully. There were other Holocaust museums I visited, including my father‘s Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem that offered an opposite approach–almost creating a non-building. It was through these difference, that I created two very different type of characters. The other influence on this play comes from my mother, who lived in hiding in Poland during the war. Many of the stories are factual, and I was interested in how, per se, her experiences have impacted my own life.
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Seven Question for Rad and Hungry Founder Hen Chung


Hole reinforcers and pencils from Costa Rica, and Hen Chung in Istanbul.

Around the world in 80 writing utensils? That’s one way to describe Rad and Hungry, which aims to take lovers of interesting office supplies on a “world tour of limited-edition goods with lo-fi style, pushing design through travel and travel through design.” Founded by former graphic designer Hen Chung in collaboration with fellow globetrotters Sam Alston and Laura Dedon Oxford, the online shop assembles an ever-changing selection of country-themed kits stocked with imported pens, pencils, stationery, and other exotic desk goodies, all beautifully packaged. A Rad and Hungry subscription is the perfect gift for the design lover who has everything—except thumbtacks from Lisbon.

“We really try to make each kit speak to our travels in that country–the people we met, food we ate, design we saw,” Chung tells us. “As each layer is unwrapped, people share in our low-down travel. The whole experience transforms the lo-fi, often overlooked daily-diet goods into something sacred. Our ultimate goal is to connect far-flung groups of people who love style, design, and travel as much as we do.” She made time between scouting trips to answer our questions about creating the company, her favorite finds, and what’s currently on her desk.

What led you to create Rad and Hungry?
I was a graphic designer for ten years and it became time for me to move on. I knew I wanted to combine the things I love most—travel and design. One day I was sitting in my library room thinking about what my next move would be. I was staring at a section of shelves that store journals that I collected from my travels. They were all untouched–they were inexpensive journals I picked up in places such as corner shops and pharmacies. Didn’t matter that none of the pages contained any words or images, they were all so sacred to me because they reminded me of each country. And then it hit me—create a company that allows me to travel and share daily-diet design through office supplies.

You travel the globe hunting for new stuff to include in Rad and Hungry kits. What are some of your favorite finds of all time?
Probably my favorite item to date is the Soviet-era notebooks in the Latvia Kit. I love the yellowing pages, the faded mint covers, and the simple rubber-stamped logo. Close seconds are the copper-colored paper clips from our first Germany Kit and the flower-scented pencils from the Portugal Kit. I love the paper clips because they’re so opposite of what people expect of German goods—they’re delicate and not uniform in shape. And the pencils from Portugal are amazing. Their smell is unreal. Super fragrant but not in the cheap perfume sort of way. They’re made by an old pencil factory that’s still in business after all these years. I’m always stoked to discover a company with a lot of history ‘cause I’m a firm believer that old school is best!

You’re packing for a desert island and can only bring one writing utensil. What is it?
Hands down a goldenrod pencil. I figure I’ll be able to create a tool to sharpen it and find something to write on. But I don’t know what I’d do if I need a fire, hurting for wood and have to make the ultimate decision between fighting off the cold or having a trusty number 2 pencil.
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There’s an App for That: Petting Zoo


Acclaimed illustrator Christoph Niemann (Abstract City, I LEGO N.Y.) gets interactive with Petting Zoo, a new app (for iPhones, iPads and now Android devices) that puts a high-tech twist on hand-drawn animation. Users of all ages can swipe and tap their way through the interactive picture book of 21 unconventional animals, from breakdancing dogs to elastic-limbed rabbits. Says Niemann of each creature in his animated menagerie, “You can slowly approach it, touch it, and it will do something unpredictable, but most likely something fun and adorable.”

Got an app we should know about? Drop us a line at unbeige [at] mediabistro.com

In Which Letterpress Prints Help to Save Hamilton Wood Type Museum

Wisconsin’s Hamilton Wood Type and Printing Museum is the only museum dedicated to the preservation, study, production, and printing of wood type. Admission is free, thanks in part to the all-volunteer staff, and the collection includes 1.5 million pieces of wood type and more than 1,000 styles and sizes of patterns. In addition to a 145-foot wall of wood type–the world’s largest–the museum even has its own Matthew Carter-designed typeface, Carter Latin Wide. “I’m not a printer, least of all a letterpress printer,” the famed typographer has said of first foray into wood type. “But I tried to think like one and imagine a typeface that allowed me to print something in a way that I could not otherwise do.”

The museum recently moved into a new home in Two Rivers, and the race is on to reopening day, planned for this summer. According to director Jim Moran, Hamilton desperately needs funding–and an army of volunteers–to physically move millions of pieces of type, plates, presses, tools, and raw materials. Enter letterpress-loving Neenah Paper, which has launched a “Help Save Hamilton” campaign that will donate to the museum all money raised from a series of limited-edition prints. First up is “Form & Function” (above), designed by Two Paperdolls. “I scanned the back of some wood type to achieve an authentic texture,” says Jennifer James of the Philadelphia-based studio, “and adorned the letterforms with ornaments you might find in an ‘old school’ letterpress shop.”

Twlya Tharp, John Maeda, Psy Among Tribeca Disruptive Innovation Award Honorees

From STEM to STEAM to…Psy? Worlds will collide on April 26, when NYU’s Stern School of Business plays host to a ceremony and luncheon for the Tribeca Disruptive Innovation Awards. Presented annually by the Tribeca Film Festival in association with the Disruptor Foundation and Mr. Disruptive Innovation himself, Clay Christensen, the awards showcase applications of and advancements in disruptive innovation theory–how simpler, cheaper technologies, products, and services can decimate industry leaders–that have spread beyond the original technological and industrial sweetspots.

Joining past honorees such as Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, the Guggenheim’s YouTube Play, and Kickstarter are 2013 disrupters including RISD President John Maeda‘s STEM to STEAM initiative, which adds art and design into the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) quartet; fashion designer and wellness advocate Norma Kamali; K-Pop sensation Psy; and Twyla Tharp, who will receive the lifetime achievement award. Here’s hoping that those four hit and off and get to work on an even more disruptive collaborative project. The full list of honorees is below. Each will take home Disruptor Award statuettes known as “Maslow’s Silver Hammer,” in honor of psychologist Abe “Hierarchy of Needs” Maslow, who once said, “When your only tool is a hammer, every problem starts looking like a nail.”
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Chris Anderson on ‘Liberating’ Force of 3D Printing

This week’s episode of NPR’s On the Media tackles the past, present, and future of ownership, from fan fiction and fair use to the strange tale of who owns “The Happy Birthday Song.” Wired editor-turned-robotics entrepreneur Chris Anderson joined host Bob Garfield to discuss 3D printing, the technology so trendy that it was touted in the most recent State of the Union address. Anderson, author of Makers: The New Industrial Revolution, compared the current state of 3D printing to that of desktop publishing in 1985. “There was software that would allow you to do things that used to require a typographers’ union. Kind of extraordinary, because it adds the word ‘desktop’ in front of a word that was previously industrial,” he said. “It didn’t change the world by itself, but what it did do was it kind of liberated the concept of publishing from industry and put it in the hands of regular people.” So what does a 3D-printed future look like? According to Anderson, “When professional tools get in the hands of amateurs, they change the world.”

Sugata Mitra Reveals TED Prize Wish: ‘A School in the Cloud’

After bestowing the 2012 TED prize on an idea (“The City 2.0“), the TEDsters have returned to the original mission: awarding it to “an exceptional individual who receives $1,000,000 and the TED community’s resources and expertise to spark global change.” Joining past winners ranging from Bill Clinton and Bono to oceanographer Sylvia Earle and street artist JR is Sugata Mitra, an educational researcher who took to the stage last week in Long Beach at the 2013 TED Conference to reveal his TED Prize wish: to build a school in the cloud, where children can explore and learn from one another. Watch and learn:

‘Paper-Punk-a-Thon’ Unfolds at TEDActive


(Photo courtesy Grace Hawthorne)

It’s TED time, and among the attractions at TEDActive, the parallel event taking place this week in Palm Springs, is “Paper-Punk-a-thon” (pictured), a 25-foot-long installation by Paper Punk founder Grace Hawthorne. We asked the ReadyMade veteran–an entrepreneur, artist, author, and educator who heads up the Creative Gym course at Stanford’s d.school–to tell us more about the interactive project as it unfolds.

What is a “Paper-Punk-a-Thon”?
An all-you-can-fold buffet of Paper Punk shapes. Attendees feast on a limitless assortment of shapes, patterns, and colors, and fold to their heart’s content.

What did you create for the installation?
I made three large anchor panels out of hollow paper blocks to kick things off. Attendees are populating the other nine smaller provided panels with paper block creation that expresses an assigned word.

How have TEDActive attendees responded to your installation?
Enthusiastically! They get to make something with their hands and share it with each other by putting it up on this progressive/collaborative wall. Some of their creations have blown me away.
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