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Archives: August 2009

Spend the Final Days of Summer Watching Vintage TV Commercials

sugarcane99.jpgWatch out, YouTube, because wacky wedding videos have nothing on vintage commercials. From Duke University comes AdViews, a growing online archive of television commercials that date from the 1950s to the 1980s. Alongside ads for familiar products such as Crest, Pampers, and an array of breakfast cereals (Honey-Comb’s big! Yeah, yeah, yeah!) are those for brands that have been lost to the ages, including Studebaker, Fluffo, and the sinister-sounding Sugarcane 99, the Splenda of its day. The newly digitized archive contains commercials created or collected by the ad agency Benton & Bowles and its successor, D’Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, and can be viewed and downloaded free of charge via iTunes.

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MLK Jr. Memorial Delayed Again, Arne Duncan Steps into the Fray to Get Things Moving Again

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It’s been almost a full year since we last checked in on the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. At last we left it, things were finally moving forward, and it looked like it might finally find a home in Washington DC’s National Mall following a few years of miscellaneous time-eating delays and battles. Now that we’ve returned, we learn that the memorial has hit yet another wall, this one being perhaps the most bizarre yet. The National Park Service and the memorial’s organizing foundation has delayed the start of construction for nearly a full year due to bickering about how to best “secure the site against possible domestic terrorism threats.” The park officials want big barriers blocking access to the memorial, but the memorial’s organizers want the site uncluttered and conform to “King’s legacy of openness and inclusiveness.” It’s been a little while since we’ve been to DC, but aren’t a lot of the monuments and memorials already fairly terrorist-accessible? And what terrorist is going to target a granite structure? What’s the benefit of that? We’re sure there’s some sound reasoning behind it (somewhere), we just don’t quite get it. Fortunately, former Chicagoan and current Education Secretary, Arne Duncan, has gotten behind the memorial and is trying to put some pressure on the park service to get going already and approve construction:

Duncan said Tuesday it’s time to get to work and offered to make some calls to fellow members of the Obama administration, drawing applause from students and others who gathered at the memorial site to mark the 46th anniversary of the March on Washington. King gave his “I Have a Dream Speech” there on Aug. 28, 1963.

Recapping the Anger Over IKEA’s Switch from Futura to Verdana

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Moving out of China now, but expanding on the briefly-mentioned IKEA, we turn to the big story passing around these webs of ours this weekend. You’ve likely seen some mention of this somewhere, but the AP offers a nice recap of the uproar over the furniture chain’s decision to move from Futura to Verdana for its latest catalog, the first type change the company has made in nearly half a decade. The big issue is that a) Verdana was created for computer monitors, not the printed page and b) (at least in our view) Verdana was created by Microsoft, who companies will always catch flak for when working with anything even remotely connected to them (except the Xbox, of course). It’s all gotten a little ridiculous, with petitions asking IKEA to return to Futura, sites like Typophile writing “For me it’s a sad day” (though an interesting discussion follows in the comments for sure). In short, it’s a little like the absurdity from earlier this year over Tropicana‘s rebranding. We agree that their catalogs don’t look as good as before, but when was the last time high-minded designers were defending IKEA? Isn’t IKEA the death of all good design? Shouldn’t everyone who passed around that “IKEA isn’t sustainable” article from a few weeks back be happy that they’re making bad decisions and it’s going to result in type and design folks refusing to shop there in protest?

Did Rem Koolhaas Design the CCTV Tower to ‘Humiliate the Chinese’?

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Late last week, you’ll recall that we, followed by everyone else on the planet, talked about David Pierson‘s IKEA-in-China piece. Now we start out morning returning to the country with this bit of interesting found by way of Archinect. Story goes is that a book/magazine called Content was recently published in Beijing whose central thesis is that Rem KoolhaasCCTV Tower was created as “a sexual symbol” in order to “humiliate the Chinese.” We’ve all been familiar with the nickname the country gave Koolhaas’ massive structure, “the underpants,” but hadn’t know, until now, that there was any sort of serious hatred toward the building (outside of nearby residents being upset after receiving notice that they were going to be removed for its building and expansion). But apparently so, as a recent survey found that nearly 50 percent of those polled “belive there were pornographic incentives in the design of the CCTV building and ‘felt very angry.’” Admittedly, there’s a batch of cultural interference standing between us and the Chinese, so we don’t fully understand why people think Koolhaas wanted to humiliate the country or how he managed to do it via the government-run television network (also, the aforementioned book, Content, which spilled the beans on the starchitect’s nefarious intentions, doesn’t really seem to do much other than slap nude photographs on top of the building, which isn’t all that convincing), but it certainly feels something like a resistance to modernism and foreign involvement approached in some abstract form. So we’ll just leave it as an interesting piece of interesting, all the while enjoying quotes like this that we also don’t understand but really like as a soundbite:

Xiao Mo, a well-known architect believes that the new CCTV building has become a landmark in Beijing and must endure the test of time.

“If Koolhaas wants to humiliate China, he is humiliating himself.”

Alex Holden’s Reimagined ‘Choking Victim’ Poster Goes Down Easy

choking closeup.jpgSince its last redesign more than a decade ago, the government-issued “Choking Victim” poster has adorned the walls of New York City restaurants with scenes of a faceless duo safely performing the Heimlich maneuver in a Constructivist swirl of step-by-step instructions on “how to dislodge food from a choking person.” Brooklyn artist Alex Holden took it upon himself to freshen up the ubiquitous poster, softening the didactic graphics and primary colors with a comic strip-style take in a soothing blue and white palette. His reimagined “Choking Victim” poster contains all the same life-saving information but sets the choking scene at a beachside resort, where members of the upscale crowd (one collapsed, one standing and wearing a fedora) escape death among the palm trees and festive party lanterns. Holden’s poster has already been adopted by a few more aesthetically astute restaurateurs, who find his version much easier to swallow. Here’s a look at the full poster:

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Friday Photo: How Swede It Is

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(Photos: NK Stockholm)

Have you noticed the band of young, design-savvy Swedish fashion labels that have overcome less than inviting names (Acne, we’re looking at you) to take the contemporary market by storm? One of our favorites is Stockholm-based Fifth Avenue Shoe Repair (FASR), which neither repairs shoes nor is located on Fifth Avenue. Founded by Astrid Olsson and Lee Cotter upon “a dedication to traditional tailoring, patternmaking, and the old ways of the trade” and “a love of quality and details,” FASR consistently delights with well-edited Club Monaco-meets-Rick Owens collections that keep our eyes trained on the krona-to-dollar exchange rate.

Now they’ve branched out into couture, kind of. FASR was one of eight Swedish fashion labels invited to create a one-of-a-kind piece for NK, the Swedish department store that was once home to an elaborate couture salon. The diverse looks (pictured below) took to the runway Wednesday in a show at Stockholm’s Royal Opera, and the FASH dress (above) stood out in red matte satin, layered tulle, and detachable spirals of red and pink jersey. The inspiration? Naum Gabo and Alice in Wonderland: organic, twisted transparency crossed with fairytale fantasy. Or, in the words of the FASR designers, “A little bit of geisha, a little bit surreal, a little sweet, and at the same time freaky.”

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A Tour of Chicago’s Olympic Plans Before All is Decided Come October

How time flies. It seems like just yesterday we were engaged in the middle of Who Will Be the US’ Olympic Bid City: Los Angeles vs. Chicago, an all-out war that almost destroyed the very fabric of UnBeige. But more than two years have passed now since this writer’s fair city won the battle and we’re just over a month away from hearing out if we’ll land the games. For those of you not living here, so you can get back up to speed in a hurry, here’s a semi-recently released video the 2016 Chicago organization has put out, showing you either a) how the city will be beautifully transformed or b) will be raping all that is good and pure about it, depending on your opinion of the Olympics potentially coming here:

Museum News Round-Up

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A quick round-up of interesting museum news. First, the news outlets are continuing their research into top museum officials’ salaries, this time finding Bloomberg focusing on Ellen Futter, the present of the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Despite major cutbacks in endowments, resulting layoffs, and raised ticket prices, Futter reportedly brought in over a million dollars in combined salary, bonuses, and perks. Though they do mention that she also took on a five percent pay cut this year, but we don’t see that really appeasing any readers who will get worked up about how much she’s being paid (is that the point of all these recent pieces?). Second, with museums across the country suffering, the NY Times reports that massive financial institutions like Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase have been putting together their own pre-packaged exhibitions to give to hurting museums, useable for a small fee and with the understanding that the lending company will have its branding everywhere. This has museum people, of course, a little on edge, but surprisingly generally positive about the whole thing, just so long as they have some involvement in getting to finalize how the exhibits function. And last, moving outside, the Metropolitan Museum of Art‘s war on food vendors has kicked up a notch. Just weeks after the high-profile removal of a long-time hot dog cart owner, the Met (via the city) has taken aim on each of the vendors surrounding the building, giving them $1000 tickets for not being in the right areas (too close to the curb or too far from the curb) and the museum saying they’re pushing due to complaints from visitors that “they are finding it increasingly difficult to enter the building and almost impossible to exit at the end of the day.” It also keeps more people eating at the museum’s cafes, but we’re sure the two things aren’t related.

In Beijing, IKEA Is a ‘Theme Park’

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It’s a Friday at the tail end of summer and everyone we know is on vacation, including probably you (why are you reading blogs?!), so we turn to something fun. David Pierson from the LA Times has filed this report from Beijing on the IKEA (or “Yi Jia”) store located there. While the store has been incredibly popular since its opening a decade ago, which is no surprise given how all of their big boxes always seemed swamped, this location has become something of a destination that only happens to offer shopping. People sleep in the beds, kids jump on couches, and families come to spend the whole day (which, if you’re anything like us, that last one sounds like the worst form of torture ever devised). The store’s management doesn’t seem concerned at all, hoping that the people who treat the shop as a theme park will return to buy, as China’s per-household income continues to rise. It’s a great, very odd story, and perfect for a lazy morning such as this. We’re just full of regret that we hadn’t read the piece earlier, when we were in Beijing back in May. We did go to a Wal-Mart over there, but that was as dull as any of them over here. Next time.

The Lighthouse Lays Off Half Its Staff, Now Controlled by Adminstrators

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Following our story from Tuesday about Scotland’s national design and architecture center, The Lighthouse, currently in the same dire financial straights it was in last year before it was bailed out, it looks like it’s the beginning of the end, or at least a very serious bloodletting with the hopes that maybe somehow it can survive trimmed way, way back. Following a board meeting earlier this week, the organization has resorted to desperate measures, announing that it has laid off half its staff and will now be controlled by PricewaterhouseCoopers, to see if things are in any way salvageable. Here’s a bit about the layoffs from the new powers that be:

“Our key priority has been to be open and honest with the staff, and we met with them to announce the loss of 24 jobs with immediate effect.

“Clearly it is disappointing to have to make redundancies and our team will be doing all we can to help these employees at this difficult time.

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