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Archives: December 2007

UnBeige Looks Back: The Year In No Spec


Compared to the firestorm of 2006, the no spec work battle was waged quietly in the trenches this year. Everyone seemed to be in agreement: Don’t do spec, don’t get your kids hooked on spec, don’t spec yourself before you wreck yourself.

And then there was the notorious no spec bait and switch, an ad placed in response to a less-than-desirable search for a designer on Craigslist. No one ever fessed up to writing it, but the positive anonymous vibes flew for awhile, until another opinionated individual came up with his own reasons for why the response was dead wrong. And we’re right back where we started from. Again.

UPDATE: Correction to the above, Catherine Morley writes to remind us that Dave D’Esposito wrote the Craigslist diatribe.

UnBeige is counting down our biggest stories of 2007, all day, right here.

UnBeige Looks Back: The Year In Review

Aw, man, we hate reminiscing. You won’t catch us singing anything with the words Auld, Lang or Syne in it tonight. You couldn’t drag us kicking and screaming down memory lane. Don’t even get us started on the “I Love the _____” genre on VH1. But we do like to pause on this particular day, on this end of everything and beginning of everything else, for a little recap of what got our fingers fired up over the past 12 months.

Call them our greatest hits of 2007, if you will, and like Ryan Seacrest and his shiny new balls at midnight, we’ll be counting them down all day right here.

Nouvel to In-Spire Manhattan with Midtown Tower

nouvel.jpgThe Museum of Modern Art is getting a new–or should we say Nouvel–neighbor. The architectural firm of Jean Nouvel (who we hope will one day tread the boards in an all-starchitect cast of The King and I) was recently declared the winner of the Tour de Verre competition, sponsored by real estate firm Hines and Goldman Sachs. Nouvel’s preliminary design (see rendering at left) calls for a 75-story tower betwixt 53rd and 54th Streets that will house a 7-star, 100-room hotel, 120 residences, and a 50,000-square-foot expansion of MoMA’s gallery space. Tapering into a spire, the building will have a glass and steel facade with a diagrid structure, making it look like the taller, pointy-hatted, artsy cousin of Norman Foster‘s Hearst Tower a few blocks north.

Nouvel had this to say about the building’s design in a recent interview with Edwin Heathcote of the Financial Times:

We stuck very closely to the abstract forms of the diagrams but that created a very complex and irregular form. Because of that strange shape we had to put all the structure around the perimeter. The result is a kind of net of random shapes and the idea was to live in the structure, to be conscious of it.

Nouvel goes on to compare the building, which “changes shape as it ascends,” to “three fingers pointing into the sky.” And just as Frank Gehry did with his glacier-like headquarters for Barry Diller‘s InterActiveCorp, Nouvel has thought a lot about the building’s night-time lighting, promising that “it will make it look like it has blood running through the veins of the structure.”

Kim Hastreiter Predicts Gator-Laden Gotham in 2108

Gator.jpgPaper magazine co-founder and co-editor Kim Hastreiter is always way ahead of everyone else, but can she and her crimson-rimmed spectacles see 100 years into the future? Only our grandchildren will know for sure, but Hastreiter’s predictions are certainly among the most entertaining of the “ten knowledgeable New Yorkers” commissioned by The New York Times to imagine the city of New York a century from now. While overcaffeinated financial guru Jim Cramer predicts that NYC will in 2108 be owned by Chinese and Arab investors, and anthropologist Robin Hagle forecasts that “people will visit Fresh Kills landfill the way tourists go to the cemeteries in France,” Hastreiter foresees a smaller, steamier, more reptile-friendly Manhattan:

The island of Manhattan in 2108 is half the size of what it was a hundred years ago; Seventh Avenue and Third Avenue are waterfront. Richard Meier‘s glass towers are under water and filled with schools of phosphorescent fish; tourists come by submarine taxi to see them.

The tropical temperatures have brought a huge alligator problem to Central Park, although New Yorkers have recently taken to taming alligators from birth and keeping them as pets. The city’s first “alligator run” has just opened in Washington Square Park, which is now lush with palm trees.

As for the downtown types, she predicts that they’ll have all moved “to what used to be called New Jersey,” specifically newly bohemian Bayonne. Meanwhile, “An archaeological dig in the former subway system in New York uncovers hieroglyphics signed K. Haring, spawning an urban myth that New York was built by aliens and crawling babies.”

It’s the Most Wonderful Op-Ed Art of the Year


Christoph Niemann‘s jars-o-fun? Andrea Deszö‘s flower power (above)? Paula Scher‘s blog dissection (which we loved back in April)? Yep, they’re all there, in the NY Times’ Notable Op-Ed Art slideshow.

In Which We Blog About Lynn Yaeger’s Imaginary Blogging About the Met’s Blog-Driven Show

lynn yaeger.jpgYesterday, we told you about “blog.mode: addressing fashion,” the new blog-focused exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which marks the institution’s first foray into the blogosphere (and they must be serious if they set the entire exhibition title in lowercase–how bloggy!). But not everyone is embracing the project with the alacrity of such exhibition blog commenters as Ron Mwangaguhunga, editor of our sister blog FishbowlNY, who calls the show “quite lovely.” Fashionista-About-Town Lynn Yaeger remains skeptical about this whole populist blogging-at-the-exhibition concept.

blog.mode.jpgIn her column in this week’s Village Voice, Yaeger explains that “after standing behind visitors at the Costume Institute over the years and being the unwitting recipient of their comments–frequently on the order of ‘My mother threw out something just like that!’ or ‘That would make me look fat!’–I am ashamed to say that when it comes to fashion commentary, some opinions are more valid than others.” She has a point, as evidenced by the many comments posted to the exhibition blog that mirror those Yaeger has spent years overhearing (e.g., in response to a pair of Manolo Blahnik boots spotted with Damien Hirst-style dots, many of the comments resemble this one: “LOVE them. These are super fab! I would wear them with all of my minis!”).

But when pressed to come up with some imaginary blog posts of our own, Yaeger is game:

…I might add that I remember the Comme des Garcons plaid dress at the entrance of the exhibit–the museum wall text says it “plays with the promise of the tartan as draped cloth”–when it was on super markdown at Century 21 last spring. And then I might admit that if there’s one person on earth, now that Isabel Blow has passed on, who would don the cork Chinese-village Philip Treacy hat on exhibit–it makes the wearer look like a cross between a diorama and a tacky lamp–that person is me.

#1 on Our Year-End List of Most Interesting Year-End Lists: Album Visualization


Now here’s how to put together a year end list: our friend Michael Surtees“My Top 20 Albums of 2007 Visualized.” Instead of going the usual route of listing and then giving reasons why (which he does do, down the page), he also offers up a really cool diagram, charting the albums’ correlation with podcasts and radio shows and splitting the date down the center, from where they were heard during the year. It’s pretty cool, and we’re sure, based on the comments he’s received, that were he to put together some simple web-based program where users could assemble their own “album visualizations,” he’d be the king of the internet for as long as those things tend to last (anywhere from ten minutes to two full days — just before another baby panda sneezes and someone catches it on video, robbing him of his crown).

LogoLounge Looks at the Year in Branding and Identities


As you might have seen floating around a bit (we found it on Airbag), Bill Gardner over at LogoLounge has put together a trends report on logos for 2007. It’s a fantastic read, with loads and loads of details. And it’s really impressive, the connections they’ve made within their database of a bazillion logos, ranking them in categories like “Descending Dots” and the eyeball trickery of the “OpticaLine.” Spend some time with it today and you’re apt to learn a lot of what’s going on. Here’s a bit from the start, about what the internet is doing to the field:

It is also becoming disturbingly clear that logo design has become a public sport. As the public controls their own media more and more-Tivo-ing this, blogging that, YouTube-ing and Googling everything else — people are no longer satisfied to simply consume what is placed before them: They have opinions they want to share. So when a large corporation reveals its new identity, there are hundreds of internet sites flinging their opinions back at it. Even when the village board of Remote votes on a new logo for its two police cars, citizens take to the streets waving pitchforks and copies of their own designs. Committeecide seems to be rampant.

David Airey Harnasses the Power of the Internet, Regains Hacked Site


If there’s one thing you can say about the internet, it’s that when one of its own gets screwed over, people will come out in droves to help fight back. Following up on a story we reported on the other day about David Airey losing his blog to hackers, just a couple of days later, he’s now back in business, after having had nearly every site on the planet come to his rescue, as well as the big news outlets, like the mighty New York Times. It’s here where he has the whole rundown, with plenty of thanks being passed out to everything who came to his aid in a time of technological need. Here’s a bit about the perpetrator:

Many of you have been digging around the net, searching for clues and pointers as to who / where this thief is. You’ve been using the cracker’s email address I supplied, posing as potential buyers of my domain name to extract more and more personal information.

It would appear that the thief has been selling stolen domain names for some time, and advertising his loot on various web forums. The current consensus sets the physical location as Iran, which ties in with the Persian language used for certain email addresses. There has been so much information flooding in that it’s fair to say I’m not the only one who has been attacked by this miscreant.

Banking on Call-Outs and Pull-Quotes

callout.jpgAs the end of the year draws near, we’ve been busy cleaning out our “Hmm, Interesting!” folder (would you believe that it’s a real folder, tangible and everything?) and stumbled upon a gem from a recent “On Language” column in The New York Times Magazine that took a typographical turn. This column, William Safire‘s lexical whims take him from the word “shout-out” to “call-out,” which he describes as an attention-grabbing “typographical trick that has been sweeping the print media and is now a staple of Web-site home pages.” As you, dear reader, are surely aware, these design elements extract a hot phrase, quote, or observation, enlarge it, and toss it into the text blocks of a usually lengthy article (we nominate Vanity Fair for continued excellence in pull-quote/call-out usage). After making sure we’re all on the same, well-designed page, he proceeds to chattily Safirize (neologism, ours) the topic into oblivion:

What is this come-on device called in the trade? At The Times Magazine, Bill Ferguson tells me it is called a pull quote. At other newspapers, it is a call-out, but not at The Washington Post: Courtney Crowley, the sports copy chief, says, “Nobody in our department knows what the term ‘call-out‘ means, from the bright-faced young designers to the grizzled veteran editors.” I presume they use call-out in its general sense of “challenge to a duel.”

Some of us grizzlies prefer the word bank, but that is a synonym for the subhead–lines in smaller type below a headline, adding information to, or diminishing the catchiness of, the head–which is sometimes called a deck, often spelled dek. Although some editors insist that a pull quote must be an actual quotation from a person in the article while a call-out quotes lines from the writer, Time magazine makes no such distinction; the copy chief, Ellin Martens, says her publication uses call-out and pull quote interchangeably to refer “to snippets from the story that are boxed and set in large type.”

Well, glad to have cleared that up.