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First Look: Top Architects Share Selfies with Elle Decor

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From left, selfies from Lise Anne Couture and Hani Rashid; Bjarke Ingels and Thomas Christoffersen; and Sou Fojimoto.

elle_decor coverThe ides of August are nearly upon us and with them the September issues. Among the first to hit newsstands is Elle Decor, which is seizing its twenty-fifth anniversary moment not to look back in reverie (the magazine did that earlier this year in charming video form) but to focus on the future. The just-published anniversary issue, fronted by a creamy Upper East Side living room designed by Steven Gambrel, features a look at the next twenty-five years of design and catches up with a range of leading architects via their selfies and Instagram posts. Japan’s Sou Fojimoto poses before a mound of cardboard boxes and architectural models, Hani Rashid and Lise Anne Couture of Asymptote Architecture grin under a sculptural light fixture, while Bjarke Ingels and BIG partner Thomas Christoffersen appear to have snapped their selfie in the midst of a rainforest excursion.
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Design Nerd? There’s an App for That!

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When’s the last time you heard Alex Trebek call out categories such as SERIFS, TWENTIETH-CENTURY LOGOTYPES, or SAGMEISTER CLASS? We bet our cache of potent potables that it’s never. Enter Kevin Finn. The Australian, who we last encountered in his capacities as editor and publisher of Open Manifesto, has created DESIGNerd 100*, a design trivia app that tests your knowledge of typography, publishing, advertising, branding, contemporary design studios, packaging, motion graphics, and more. And in building out the first volumes, Finn went straight to the experts, tapping Stefan Sagmeister, Steven Heller, and Lita Talarico to contribute their personal questions (100 each).

“I’m a self-confessed design nerd, passionate about all forms of design,” says Finn. “I simply wanted to share design knowledge with other design enthusiasts, but in a fun and engaging way.” Among the well-designed twists of the app, available through the iTunes App Store (an Android version is in progress), are the bonus facts studded throughout the game. (Did you know that Jonathan Barnbrook’s Mason typeface, was originally called Manson—after the serial killer Charles Manson and in a nod to the extreme opposites the typeface was intended to express? Emigre Fonts dropped the “n” after complaints started to pour in.) “New volumes to add to the series are underway,” promises Finn, “as are plans to launch the trivia game as a standalone app that will house all volumes in the series.”

Quote of Note | Adam Lindemann on Instagram and the Art World

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“The number of people posting images on the silly app is off the charts. Instagram is custom-made for the art world: you get a quick flash of an image with virtually no text or explanation. There’s no need to read. It’s perfect for people with zero attention span, zero education, and zero interest in learning about anything—perfect, in other words, for the art collectors of today. You could go so far as to say that the successful art of this current generation must be Instgrammable to succeed. And if it doesn’t look good on Instagram, it ain’t working in this instant-gratification art world: goldfish have longer attention spans than ‘grammers.”

-Adam Lindemann in the New York Observer

Björk (and Her App) Bound for MoMA: Retrospective Planned for Spring 2015

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The Museum of Modern Art has expanded from video games to apps. Pioneering this new collecting category for MoMA is Björk’s Biophilia, the 2011 app-cum-album—with interactive graphics, animations, and musical scoring—designed in 2011 in collaboration with the likes of Mathias Augustyniak and Michael Amzalag of M/M Paris. We hear that the gentlemen of M/M will get the retrospective treatment at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris in 2016, but Björk will beat them to the multidisciplinary punch: the work of the Icelandic composer, musician, and artist will be the subject of a full-scale retrospective slated to open March 7, 2015 at MoMA, the museum announced this week.

Chief curator at large Klaus Biesenbach is drawing upon more than two decades of Björkian endeavors, including her seven full-length albums, to chronicle her career through sound, film, visuals, instruments, objects, costumes, and performance. As for the installation, which will not travel beyond MoMA, expect “a narrative, both biographical and imaginatively fictitious, cowritten by Björk and the acclaimed Icelandic writer Sjón Sigurdsson” as well as a “newly commissioned, immersive music and film experience” conceived and realized with director Andrew Huang and Autodesk.

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.”

Paul Giamatti as an Insane Museum Curator? Make It Happen!

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Picture it: A Fellini- and Buñuel-flavored tale of a museum curator grappling with dwindling visitor numbers, harsh economic realities, his crumbling sanity, and…a giant sloth! We were sold on the premise of graphic novelist Paul Hornschemeier‘s planned animated short film even before learning that the crazy curator, one Gordon Boonewell, will be voiced by Paul Giamatti. Saturday Night Live‘s dazzling Kate McKinnon has also signed on to the project, entitled Giant Sloth, which Hornschemeier is looking to fund through a freshly launched Kickstarter campaign.

“Uncompromised by the studio process, Giant Sloth combines the psychologically rich world of literary graphic novels with the all the possibilities of motion and sound that animation allows,” notes Hornschemeier. “It treats its characters not as clowns shuffling for an easy laugh, but as people. And as giant sloths. Giant sloths are people too.”
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Inspiring IBM Design Lives On in Tumblr Form

paul rand rebusIn the course of working on projects for IBM, art director Sue Murphy was forever discovering graphic design gold in the company’s deep archives. “Because of the nature of the Internet, not a lot of this is available easily online,” notes Murphy, an art director at Oglivy & Mather in New York. “Or God forbid–hi res!” She is changing that with Good Design Is Good Business, a Tumblr that takes its name from a 1973 speech by Thomas Watson, Jr., IBM’s second president. The online collection of posters, by the likes of Ogilvy, Paul Rand, and Carl De Torres, is sure to make you THINK.

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MZ Wallace Teams with Food52 to Build a Better Market Tote

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New York City-based MZ Wallace is our go-to source for smartly designed, beautifully made bags in materials ranging from seasonless leather and sturdy canvas to quilted nylon and metallic Kevlar—in weights and colors that change with the seasons (we’re partial to a full-bodied shade of gray they call “seagull” and keep the UnBeige fleet of iPads sheathed in MZW printed haircalf pouches, but this summer is all about the Pollock-style Metro Tote). Now the company has joined forces with online culinary commmity Food52 to design a better market tote: ideally used to whisk just-picked produce from farmstand to kitchen, we suspect it will work just as well hauling more conventional groceries. But what color should it be? They’ve narrowed the field of chromatic contenders to forest green and navy blue, and the winning hue will be decided by an online vote. Make your preference known by Monday at 11:59 p.m. and be entered to win a tote before it’s released this fall.

In Which André Leon Talley Fondles Tom Ford’s Waistcoat

Style.com and the rest of the Condé Nast crew elected not to repeat last year’s rather awkward livestreaming of the arrivals at the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute gala, but they did keep a camera trained on the indefatigable André Leon Talley on Monday evening as he held court at the top of the carpeted granite stairs shouting terse greetings (“Instagram! Patricia!”) and complimenting ensembles. The result is a series of very, very short videos such as this one, in which Talley and Tom Ford discuss the work of designer Charles James, the subject of this year’s spring Costume Institute exhibition; the textile of Ford’s own sumptous white waistcoat (spoiler alert: silk!); and the sartorial preferences of Ford’s toddler son.

Introducing Archigrams: Famous Buildings for Your Walls

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Having been refused subscriptions to the likes of Wildlife Treasury and Sweet Pickles during our formative years, we’re suckers for flash cards. Combine their didactic delights with posters and architecture and you’ve got Archigrams: minimal, informative prints of famous buildings ranging from Gerrit Rietveld‘s Schroeder House to the Gherkin (a.k.a. 30 St. Mary Axe by Norman Foster, no relation to Sweet Pickles). “The idea came to me years ago when I was an architecture student at UCLA, studying for my architecture history exams,” says Michie Cao, now a graduate student in interaction design at the School of Visual Arts in New York. She returned to the idea as part of a project for her SVA course in Entrepreneurial Design.

“As designers, we tend to be perfectionists and want to hide our ideas from the world until it’s one-hundred-percent developed and perfect. Unfortunately, that often prevents us from actually building it and getting the objective feedback we need to take the next step,” Cao explains. “The goal of this class was therefore to teach us how to use our networks, build a community base, and to learn how to test ideas out in the real world.” Her Archigrams Kickstarter campaign of last month raised $11,258, nearly four times the original goal, and production is now underway. Cao took time to tell us more about the concept, her sentimental favorite building, and how you can get in on the architectural fun.

michie caoHow would you characterize the initial response to your concept?
Mixed! My initial concept of Archigrams was essentially a set of visual flashcards for modern architecture, and the first people I showed this to were classmates, friends, and Reddit. Many people, especially designers and architecture people, told me they loved the prints. Others told me they were turned off by the idea of flashcards, because it invoked bad memories of high school. From there, I iterated and played with all the ways I could frame my concept—first, by completely eliminating the informational aspect of it and then, incrementally bringing it back. Finally, I arrived at the concept I have now, which is that they are beautiful prints, supplemented by tidbits of important information every architect knows. My Kickstarter campaign took a while to catch on in social media, but after getting featured on various blogs and websites and as [a Kickstarter] Project of the Day, it finally got the exposure it needed and took off.
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