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Archives: September 2007

Dining With David Adjaye

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You may think the days of a design blogger are filled with poolside daiquiris, mani-pedis, and long leisurely naps. And you’re right. But it’s not every day we get to go to lunch with The Man Most Likely To Be Named the Next Starchitect, David Adjaye.

We were gathered by the lovely people at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver to discuss their new building designed by Adjaye (not to be confused, mind you, with the pointy Libeskind-ized Denver Art Museum). We met curator Cydney Payton who is way excited about the museum’s first show in the new space, “Star Power: Museum as Body Electric,” which could also accurately describe Adjaye’s glowing box of gray etched glass.

As we dipped into our velvety carrot soup on a sunkissed patio at Lucques, we finally met Christopher Hawthorne , who was very nice and quite reserved–not all the cantankerous pot-stirrer we envisioned. But we have to admit we were entertained when Frances Anderton took him to task for his recent piece slamming Lorcan O’Herlihy’s Habitat 825. Thank god for Hawthorne, actually; he’s the only reason we still read the LA Times.

We compared notes with LA Mag’s Greg Goldin about PARK(ing) Day and met two new art friends, Jeff Marinelli of Art and Living and George Melrod of Art Ltd. And far away at the other end of the table was Dana Harris, who writes the sharp blog The Knife for Variety, about dining and the entertainment industry, a delicious little slice of LA life.

When we asked Adjaye what else he was working on, he lit up. Researching a book about contemporary African architecture has taken him to 30 countries, nine of them this summer alone. 30 countries? How many more to go? “23,” says Adjaye with that huge, adorable grin. “There are 53 countries in Africa.”

When you have lunch with David Adjaye, you’re bound to learn something.

Heller Calls New Taxis Tacky

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While we must certainly all concede that it’s an improvement over the faded and inconsistent stencils, the new taxi logo by Smart Design doesn’t quite deliver, says man-about-town Steven Heller:

The “T”, which looks like a big black tack, blends together bulbous types in place of the familiar taxi fare sign (which, granted, is a bit more legible, but moved to the passenger door). Perhaps its better, but is it best?

Let’s zoom in for a closer look:

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Yikes! How many typefaces did they have to slaughter to make that thing? Sir, can you call me a T-Axi? Is it too late to start a Facebook petition?

More on your new yellow friends at Smart Design’s site.

Armani and Samsung…Um, Together at Last?

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We’re certainly no gadget site. There’s a billion of those out there, if you’re looking for them. So please don’t quote us here if we’re coming across a little oblivious, but doesn’t it seem like there’s a lot of this intermingling between computer-y companies and otherwise- non-computer-y-companies lately. Stuff like the last couple of years with LaCie working with Porsche‘s design arm? Not that we’re complaining, we think it’s cool and all, it was just the first thing we thought of when we read this release that Armani and Samsung have teamed together for a regular working relationship. We’d heard about that Prada phone, as you likely have too, but now there’s to be an Armani phone to compete with it. And then a TV coming out later. We don’t question if they’re look great or not, because they likely will, we’re just having trouble imaging people who are at home showing people their appliances saying, “Um, yeah, so that’s an Armani blender. It’s pretty awesome. I paid a fortune for it.” Not that people aren’t doing that already with all sorts of other brands, it’s just kinda weird to make that leap from fashion to pure, unadulterated geekery.

Virgin’s Flickr ‘Borrowing’ Spawns Big Time Creative Commons Review

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The wonderful Torrez blog pointed us over to a really fascinating discussion on photo copyright law going on hot and heavy right now. The quick rundown is that Virgin found a photo on Flickr that had an open, free-to-use-however Creative Commons license and used it in a series of billboards and bus ads, complete with a link printed on the bottom to the original Flickr page owned by a young woman. She found out about it and it’s become this big stink of back and forth legal battles (which will, of course, ultimately end in a settlement that wasn’t worth the time for anyone but the woman’s attorney). Here’s a CNN story for the whole quick synopsis (as well as enjoying listening to the anchor try and stumble through what Flickr is exactly). But for the real fun, go to the original image on Flickr itself and read the bazillion comments. Every once in a while, after you’ve cut through the babble, there’s some really interesting debates therein about copyright and usage with Creative Commons licenses.

UPDATE: It looks like the Flickr photo in question has been made private, taking all the comments along with it. Congrats to those who got to skim through them, apologies for those who didn’t.

The NY Times Check In On the MLK/Yixin Debate

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You might recall a couple of weeks back when we were reporting on the uproar surrounding the selection of Lei Yixin to create the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in DC. Now the NY Times has put together a full feature on the story, adding fuel to the fire when it was learned that the sculptor has also made statues of Mao Zedong in his native China. It’s a great well-rounded look, from all sides of an argument that we, just working off pure guessing here, figure won’t end positively for Yixin, just as it hasn’t for a lot of the planning since King’s passing. Here’s some:

Public discussions have tried to fit this flare-up into a larger history. For the first time, said Cheryl Finley, an assistant professor of art history who teaches African-American art at Cornell University, “you are carving out a space for black history and a black man in the national context. That’s why there is this focus on who the artist should be.”

Paul Williams, who specializes in museum studies, said: “Memorials are explicitly about symbolism. A sculpture of one particular person is a very literal, realist version coming back to life, and the idea of who is making the person come back to life is very important.”

McDonald’s Now Serving McDesign

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We give McDonald’s a lot of grief here on UnBeige. Other than their brilliant branding and discontinued coffee stirrers, we haven’t had much to rave about design-wise. Maybe that will change, we thought, when seeing Alice Rawsthorn‘s scoop on the new design formula found at a few London locations (above).

Or not. Tossing a few candy-colored Arne Jacobsen chairs under some Ikea-looking lights is hardly a step forward. (Note the existing tile pattern and weird abstract artwork you’ll find in every McDonald’s, neither of which they felt the need to replace.) Rawsthorn thinks it’s kind of a modernist, design-for-all effort, especially using Jacobsen’s chairs, which were made for public places. Not so, says one industrial designer who’s pissed that the Jacobsen Egg chairs got McMuffined:

Take Jasper Morrison, who describes it as “visual pollution” and “corporate marketing at its ugliest.

Maybe because they didn’t buy his chairs?

Rawsthorn says if the new design is embraced, it will roll out throughout Europe. But according to an article last month, it’s already working. Oh, those Europeans. Such suckers for Le Big Mac.

Roland Young’s Cheeky Teaching Methods

We can’t imagine the entire Art Center staff drops trou on such a regular basis, but at least one graphic design student had their camera ready when professor Roland Young presented this moment of ass-piration during a passionate, expletive-filled lecture.

And no, this is likely not the clandestine work of student Owen Gee, who two years ago actually managed to sneak his camera into Young’s class for 14 weeks and documented choice clips on the site Roland is God.

To be fair, the latest CMYK is filled with work from recent Art Center graduates who credit Young for their success. So even though he openly calls their work “Orange County crap,” Young’s students are guaranteed some great exposure.

Todd Oldham Joins Old Navy

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If you’re anything like us, you’re sitting with your coffee this morning wondering, what in the world will any of those designers do after their star-making turns on Top Design? Well, if you’re Todd Oldham you join Old Navy as creative director to boost sagging sales. You’ll remember that Oldham did some fairly well-received work for La-Z-Boy and Target, so we suppose Old Navy comes next in the mass-market continuum, but…really?

Although this does open up the door for one awesome possibility: Charley Harper t-shirts.

Smoke ‘Em If You Got ‘Em

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Over at the HOW Blog, editor Megan Patrick has her hands full after posting a Camel contest that allows readers to choose the package design of its new “best tasting EVER” cigarette. According to the comments, some readers can’t seem to understand that blogging about a topic does not equal a hearty endorsement of it:

I know advertisers like cigarette manufacturers pay the bills for some publications, but not HOW. Can you get rid of this feature–I think it promotes smoking, which is SOOOOOO last decade. Don’t associate the HOW name with smoking, please?

Commenter JM is a little more upfront with his ethical concerns:

Yeah this is garbage that you guys even posted this. I guess designers don’t have morals these days as long as good money is involved?!?!

Cmon…Give us some more credit then this.

I officially resign from being a reader of HOW.

Wouldn’t it have been so much more awesome if he said he quit?

Free Maira!

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When the TimesSelect wall came tumbling, crumbling down last week, reminiscent of a certain day in Europe back in ’89, it didn’t occur to us to pilfer our share of the riches horded by the moneyed elite and denied to the nonsubscribing huddled masses for so very long.

For one, we now have a full-access backstage pass to Maira Kalman‘s illustrated blog The Principles of Uncertainty. Peruse her whimsical musings but don’t get too comfortable with them online–they will magically become a real live book in the very near future.

Update: Our dear friends at PBS (that’s Peter Buchanan-Smith) wrote in to remind us they were the designers of that beautiful book, as well as Kalman’s Elements of Style.

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