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Archives: March 2008

Curiously Strong Artists Win Inaugural Altoids Award


In 2000, the curiously strong art collection of mint maker Altoids became the first corporate collection accepted to New York’s New Museum. Now, in another first, the two organizations have announced the winners of The Altoids Award for emerging artists: Ei Arakawa of New York City; Michael Patterson-Carver of Portland, Oregon; Lauren Kelley of Houston, Texas; and Michael Stickrod of New Haven, Connecticut. The four winners were chosen by an impressive jury composed of Paul McCarthy, Cindy Sherman, and Rirkrit Tiravanija from a pool of 46 artist-nominated candidates.

Awarded biennially by the New Museum, The Altoids Award will give each artist $25,000 as well as a place in a joint exhibition that opens at the New Museum on June 25. Lisa Phillips, the museum’s director, called the award “a life-changing opportunity, and that is exactly what we are here for — to champion emerging artists and to consistently offer our audiences the chance to experience new art and new ideas from a variety of perspectives.”

In Scion Speak, Everyone’s a Designer

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Today’s big automotive news is that Ford has agreed to sell Jaguar and Land Rover (the “luxury safari brands,” as we like to call them) to India’s Tata Motors for $2.3 billion ($600 million of which Ford will have to pay back into the Jaguar and Land Rover pension funds). But while Ford is cashing in on storied brands and BMW is messing around with glow-in-the-dark ads, Toyota is putting the identity of its Scion car in the hands of, well, anyone. Scion Speak, a new campaign by ad firm StrawberryFrog, encourages website visitors to create their own snazzy coat of arms, which can be adorned with everything from a butterfly and a cupcake to handcuffs and a spermatozoal trio. Using the handy drop-down menus, we selected a name for our crest (pictured above): “Chancellor Designer The Wack.”

For maximum street cred, StrawberryFrog called in designer Tristan Eaton (perhaps best known for his covetable Kid Robot toys), who got to know the cultish Scion owners through nationwide focus groups. “Probably one of the most prominent incidents was driving in L.A. in a Scion and seeing another Scion pass us, honk the horn, and wave at us,” says Eaton. “At that point, I realized OK, these guys are their own culture.”

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Pro Swimming Organizations: ‘Stop Designing Better Stuff!’


Okay, following talk of exploitation and Nazis in that last post, it’s time back to some fun nonsense before this writer calls it a day. We enjoyed this story over at the BBC, “Swimsuit Technology Under Review,” which, yes, sounds like the poorly-worded first draft title of an 80s teenage sex romp comedy, but is actually about the world of professional, competitive swimming starting to get concerned that swimsuits are being designed too expertly, giving an edge to particular swimmers. The chief culprit is Speedo‘s full-body LZR Racer, which apparently grants its wearers the swimming abilities of mermen. It’s an interesting story, both from the perspective of this big argument going on in a subculture you probably don’t know very much about, while also cutting through the fat and getting to the real thick of the debate: they want to stop athletes from incorporating wardrobe designs that make them perform better. If you turn back the clock a little, isn’t that sort of like saying, “Wait a minute, when those guys wear shoes when they’re playing football, is there an unfair advantage to those who prefer to play shoeless?”

Exploiting Speer Jr. (or Are We Just Overly Sensitive?)


We don’t want to cry foul here, because we’re big fans of what they do over at the Telegraph, but if you’re going to write a story about Albert Speer Jr., one the biggest architects around, landing a job to rebuild a stadium in Berlin, as well as how he doesn’t want to be referred to as “his father’s son,” then why would you have your story’s title be as ominous as “Nazi Architect Son’s Plan for Berlin”? Just seems like you’ve got a lot more going on in this story, from maybe talking about some of the details behind his design plans, to who built the original sports complex and why it needs revising, to Speer Jr. overcoming his own last name, beyond just a small, short quote? We understand space requirements in a newspaper and that you’re writing to sell copies, but still, as it is now, it feels like it’s just kind of trying a little too hard in exploiting the situation, leading a reader who doesn’t know of Speer Jr.’s legacy to possibly leave thinking, “Wow, that’s kinda spooky.” Then again, we’ve been following this stupid Obama-Clinton stuff night and day, so we’re probably just overly sensitive and reading way too much into things. We apologize in advance if that happens to be the case.

A Sneak Peek at Libeskind’s Contemporary Jewish Museum


Speaking of Daniel Libeskind, as we briefly mentioned in that last post, the good people over at Curbed SF have gotten a rare opportunity to check out his newest building, the Contemporary Jewish Museum, which you might remember us talking about a while back. Although it doesn’t open its doors to the public until June 8th of this year, Curbed was able to wander around a bit in the new building and boy did they love it. Here’s a bit:

Perhaps all of this Obamarama “hope” rhetoric has colored our general disposition as of late, but we must say that our preview of the Libeskind-designed Contemporary Jewish Museum left us with just that — a distinct feeling of hope…

…In traversing the new space — especially the main gallery on the second floor- – we felt like Libeskind took more than a few notes from his experience with the [Denver Art Museum]; the building was heavily criticized as being physically unconducive to hanging art work (not difficult to imagine given his propensity for angles of the anything-but-90-degree variety). Major problem, no? Here in San Francisco, however, we found a different story.

Did we mention they’ve got loads of photos too? That’s worth your price of admission right there!

Conde Nast Traveler Picks Their Top 7 Modern Architectural Wonders


Jumping on the “ranking stuff” bandwagon, likely following all the press that the AIA received when they published something similar, Conde Nast Traveler magazine has published the feature “The New Seven Wonders of the Architecture World.” Among the seven wonders are some of your usual picks, from nearly everyone’s recent favorite, the New Museum of Contemporary Art, and the flashy new Wembley Stadium in London, all spruced up and ready to go for the 2012 Olympics. There’s also a couple of interesting, off-the-beaten-path picks, from the Red Ribbon in China, “a steel bench that runs a third of a mile through a riverbank garden and ecological oasis” and Daniel Libeskind‘s much-debated work with the Royal Ontario Museum, home to bomb-planting, idiot art majors. But however interesting all of this is, we have to say that we’re a little disappointed in the magazine, as they clearly had their press people push this story out (we caught wind of it in both USA Today and The Canadian Press), but upon visiting their site, there’s nary a mention of it. So what’s the deal, magazine?

Getting to Know Maira Kalman


Reader Lori Pickert was kind enough to send us an interview she recently conducted with one of our favorites, designer and illustrator, Maira Kalman. If the name doesn’t immediately ring a bell, you’ll likely immediately recognize her work, from covers for the New Yorker to her illustrated columns in the New York Times, or maybe you even caught her when she was at TED, giving one of those talks everyone’s all excited about. If you have kids, you’ll likely recognize her from her twelve children’s books. We’ve always enjoyed her work because it often seems to cleverly mix the bright and colorful, almost to the extent of looking sugary sweet, with bits of dark humor or serious observations about the human condition (though with far less pretension than that last part sounds). While it’s a short interview, giving far more room to her work than to her words, there’s a batch of great material in there. Nice links to everything mentioned above too.

Farewell, Be A Design Group

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They asked the tough questions: What is good design? If you were stranded on a desert island, what five typefaces would you want with you? And our personal favorite, could you vote for a candidate whose advertisements were dominated by Comic Sans? And so, in a year already marred by tearful goodbyes, we’re sad to report that the sharp-witted fellows of the blog Be A Design Group (BADG) are closing up shop after four years of cultural criticism, controversy, stories, podcasts, and tutorials.

“Over the next couple weeks we are doing a grand finale and their
should be some interesting articles and discussions coming from our
current and past authors,” BADG co-founder Bennett Holzworth tells us. The BADG site will be kept up as archive and, on an encouraging note, Holzworth hints at his plan to work with co-founder Adrian Hanft to “develop it into something new and fresh in the future.” So, as BADG prepares to go out with a BAng, we congratulate the authors on years of words and images that made the web–and the world–a more thoughtfully designed place to be.

SVA D-Crit to Ponder Evil in E. Vill.

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In the perfect world, we’d meet up with Steven Heller every Thursday evening to discuss Swastikas, Modernist movie malice, and epistolary relationships with Philip Johnson. Alas, reality dictates that such festivities be limited to a particular Thursday, but luckily, it’s this coming one! On March 27, the School of Visual Arts‘ MFA Design Criticism department (better known by its rapper name, D-Crit) will hold a reading night from 7-9pm at KGB Bar in New York’s East Village.

KGB? E. Vill.? The event details hint at the night’s theme, as readers will look at design through the murky lens of evil. [The following line-up should be read using your best Vincent Price imitation]

Editor and writer Andrea Codrington examines Modernist design as a signifier of malice in Hollywood films; D-Crit co-founder and SVA MFA Design co-chair Steven Heller reflects on the Swastika and its potential for redemption as a symbol; and Metropolis columnist Philip Nobel reads an open letter he wrote shortly after the death of the architect Philip Johnson.

Shaking Up (Not Stirring) the Traditional Martini Glass

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Karim Rashid, Marcel Wanders, Eva Zeisel, Yves Behar, and [insert your name here]. That’s right, you! Joining this elite group is as easy as designing a martini glass–a Bombay Sapphire gin-inspired martini glass, that is. You have until April 7 to enter the company’s 2008 Designer Glass Competition (last year’s finalists are pictured above, with the iPod-esque winner in the middle). Judging entries based upon functionality, innovation, aesthetics, and Bombay Sapphireness will be designer Sami Hayek, Arlene Hirst (senior editor at Metropolitan Home), Brent McDaneld (VP of Marketing and Merchandising for Baccarat), and furniture designer Jason Miller.

Beyond the ability to fulfill the dream of taking a bath in cyan-hued gin, the winnner (let’s call him or her “you,” for the sake of argument) will receive an internship with Hayek. Then you and your realized glass will travel to the London Design Festival in September to compete in the seventh annual global finals, where the top three finishers receive a few thousand dollars worth of gift certificates. Darn, we were hoping for sapphires.