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Archives: November 2005

Thanks Plenty…

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Well, thanks for having me these last couple of days. It’s been a good time and hope I’ve provided at least one or two things of interest. Stop by Coudal if you’re ever looking for something to do, eh? Now back to Eva…

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Photoriffic

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Over at Coudal, we were one of the first to receive a copy from the first printing of JPG Magazine, a magazine for photographers and photography-enthusiasts of all kinds. And we haven’t stopped loving it since. There’s a simple theme laid out, an open submission process, and then it all just kind of comes together, with the terrific talents of husband and wife team Derek Powazek and Heather Powazek Champ (Heather was actually at the studio over the summer and took some photos of our chalkboard bathroom). And how the time flies. They’re already on to Issue 3. The theme this time: Fabulous. Here’s their description:

For this issue, we wanted to do something that focused on the joy of life. So we asked you to tell us what you saw in the word “fabulous.” And the response was clear. Like soylent green, it’s people.

From Erica Shires’ take on Dorothy on page 12, to Ben Hays’ summertime spin on page 37, to Edward Thompson’s chicken man on page 39, it’s the people in our lives that make the world fabulous.

But fabulous doesn’t just mean “good.” Fabulous is a state of mind. It’s about noticing the little things that take you out of the ordinary. Like Michael Cobra’s Laundromat on page 14 and Gautam Naranng’s bling on page 20.

And what could be more fabulous than inviting your friends over and turning them into rock stars? That’s what our featured photographer Robin Jean did. The resulting portraits make even the most ordinary people seem fabulous.

Make Yourself a Fixture

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If you’re a cooler than cool designer, artist, or whatever else you like call yourself, it’s worth testing your layout might by submitting an entry for inclusion in the ’06 Semi-Permanent book. I was a little late to the scene, being as I am first a writer and film-type person before I’m a designer, but I’m glad I caught on and have become a fan of the last two books in the series. It’s a very open collection and you couldn’t find more variety. The only thing I’d say makes the whole thing work is the quality. It’s all really pretty damn cool. And their events that support it are terrific. And their site is great. What else do you need?

TV on the…TV

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If you live in Chicago, work in design, advertising, or television, and have never been to the annual Optimus block party, you’re completely nuts. Once a Summer, this swanky, three story post-house opens their doors up, blocks off their street corner, buys up every case of beer in the entire city, and invites a thousand of their closest friends (half of which, I think, are people that just happened to wander by and decided to stop in). Sure, it can be a filled with a little ego, as advertising type things tend to be, but you’re probably not going to have a better time on a hot August afternoon. Not for free at least. This year, Mini Kiss played in their loading dock.

But beyond just drunken fun, the gang at Optimus are always doing something interesting. A lot of their people, like any firm, have a variety of creative side projects. But they’ve managed to corral everyone back, for awhile at least, for this year’s terrific OptiTV. The first series of spots came out in May. Now they’ve just released a new batch. Here’s the whole scoop from Screen Magazine:

For the second time this year, Optimus displays its collective creative chops in 23 wildly imaginative 30-second “commercials” that will air throughout December on popular cable shows. The only reference to Optimus-as-sponsor is the name on clever three-second tags produced by the graphics and audio departments.

Clearly I’m A Fun-Loving Lout

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I’ll be the first to admit that, if faced with the option of seeing pieces of design or artwork that is going to make me think in some way or going to see things that seem like they were just fun, silly things to do, I’ll take the later every time. Not that that is any big difference from anyone else. But faced with going to see someone’s cliched anti-Bush poster fair and the work of Netherland’s-based Helmut Smits is no contest.

I don’t know what art is supposed to be, nor design. I was a late-blooming English major for god’s sake. But I know what I like and I know that I love Helmut Smits. It’s that very rare conundrum you faced in any art classes you may have stumbled into in college (for you un-art majors), where you feel as though both you and the artist are getting away with something, because neither of you should be enjoying yourself that much. Take for example, Smits’ Paddling Pool Fountain or this year’s Territories. There’s meaning behind it, sure, but it’s first and foremost, fun. Or at least it is to me.

Please, Let Me Go On…

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There have been a couple of occassions when I’ve written about my fondness for the design team Barber Osgerby, but it’s my theory that they can’t be spoken of enough. They create the kind of things that you love to see, but can’t imagine ever owning. Or, rather, you’d like to own them, but they’d stick out like a sore thumb wherever you live. Because you will most likely never own a dwelling that contains the amount of coolness required to maintain a Barber Osgerby creation. Favorites are the Postsmouth Bench and the Loop Chaise Lounge.

More stuff: here’s a terrific interview with the two and another one from their feature story in icon magazine.

The Great Air Boom!

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Designboom is one of those places that you can go away from for a few days and come back to a wealth of information and good reads. Largely, I’m only free for a few minutes to browse around, and I’ll wind up gravitating toward their competition section. The winners of their most recent post, Electrolux Group’s Imagine the Home in 2020 has just been announced this very day and it’s a smorgasboard of interesting industrial design. This year’s first prize was the AirWash, by Wendy Chua and Gabriel Tan. Here’s their description:

Air Wash is a waterless washing machine which uses negative ions, anti-bacterial deodorants and highly pressurized air to clean clothes. The air jet washing technology is inspired by the beating action of clothes against river rocks in days gone by. Negative ions aids this air jet action by clumping dust, inactivating bacteria and neutralising odours. Wearing the clothes after air wash, one is drenched with negative ions, which has proven health benefits such as improved blood circulation and anti-depressant properties. Air Wash provides a new means to clean clothes in a gentler but effective way, eliminating water wastage and detergent use while preserving the quality and color of clothes. It is especially relevant for jeans, jackets, wool and non-washable textiles. Marrying technology and an emotive user experience through an intuitive buttonless interface, it aims to humanise the washing machine into a symbol of holistic living. Its form is inspired by the fluidity of a waterfall – nature’s negative ion generator, and we hope to bring this essence of natural cleansing and purification into the home of 2020.

More info: a short article about the winners and Electrolux’s site.

One Plus One Equals Soto

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Like all things on the web, I ran across artist Jeff Soto through, first, Lounge 72, then in seeing that he had some stuff at the 1988 Galery in Los Angeles. Finally led me to his terrific site, which led me to smacking my forhead, saying, “Oh yeah, that guy! I know that guy! I really like that guy!” (I don’t usually use the same words in such rapid succession unless I’m stunned or writing something where I need to illustrate said stunned-ness).

Moving on, Soto’s work is fantastic. Cash this upcoming paycheck and see about buying one of this guy’s pieces. You’ve seen his work in Entertainment Weekly, The Village Voice, Wired, loads of editorial and ads, and everywhere in between. Now he’s got a book out, and a pack of miscellaneous Soto-things (which also includes the book). It’s entitled Potato Stamp Dreams and here’s what it has in it:

Potato Stamp Dreams featuring the graffitti, photography, drawing and art installation of Jeff Soto is now available. In addition to over 200 full color paintings, this premier volume features 148 pages, metallic ink and features a double sided dust jacket that reveals a black cloth, hard cover. In addition, your online purchase will include a limited edition 48 page mini zine free with purchase. Designed and published by Mark Murphy/Murphy Design features text by John Purlia, Dave Kinsey and Jana DesForges.

Round Done Right

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Forget what I said yesterday about web interfaces. Sure, I wasn’t saying those two quick examples were the end-all-be-all, just that I like them. Well, round, a design firm in Melbourne, takes the cake for one of the nicest, cleanest sites I’ve seen this year (though not nearly as fun as that ad agency, Ogilvy and Myer was it?, with that user controlled pencil?). All the white space is so terrific. And the playful way their portfolio pieces stick out just-so-much over on the right side of the screen. I don’t mean to sound like a giddy child, but this site is damn nice.

Beyond that though, even if round had used Word to make their site, their portfolio speaks for itself. Everything they do is a lot like the site. Clean, simple, really funny, and spectacularly clever at times. So yeah, I suppose it only makes sense that their site should be this nice. My introduction to this paragraph means nothing. Chalk it up to filler so I could just gush some more. Just go spend some time on round’s site and leave me be.

The Two Best

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This was probably one of the topics of discussion around the design firm watercoolers yesterday (the watercoolers, of course, are most likely much cooler than need be, and far more expensive than necessary): The Flickr photoset showing the changes between the 1963 version and the 1991 version of Richard Scarry’s “Best Word Book Ever.” Granted, this is probably more of a discussion that allies itself with sociology more than design, as there really hasn’t been much changed in Scarry’s original art. But with all design, the copy always affects the visual, and this is perhaps the best observation of that, given how simple the statements are. Think of the effect in the illustration above, where the child is, in 1961, ordered to come to breakfast, versus in 1991 where the child comes of his own volition. The drawing does not change, but clearly it does in your head. I’m not stating anything revolutionary here, it’s just interesting to see a firm example of that interchange between the two. Plus, I’ve got to stick up for my writers here and there, eh?

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