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Archives: April 2010

Revolving Door: Design Miami/Basel’s Founder Ambra Medda Resigns


Following the news last week that they had gotten into a partnership with W Hotels, Design Miami/Basel had another statement to put out, this one decidedly more melancholy. Ambra Medda, the renowned art fair’s co-founder and director, has announced that she will be stepping down as of June 1st. Having started the fair at the height of the last art boom, Medda has grown the annual two city endeavors into some of the most important shows to both be at and be seen at, particularly those in the upper echelon of the art world (despite falling attendance and dealer numbers during the great money purges of 2008 and 2009). Artnet reports that the hunt for a new director will begin immediately and that Medda’s current plan is to make New York her new workplace.

Good Grief! Rights to Peanuts Characters Are Changing Hands

CharlieB.jpgMere minutes after purchasing a whimsical Mother’s Day card featuring Woodstock (Snoopy’s avian sidekick, not the music festival), we learned that licensing rights to the Peanuts characters are being sold to Iconix Brand Group. The New York-based licensing company has reached a deal with United Features Syndicate and the E.W. Scripps Company to acquire the Peanuts brand and related assets in partnership with the family of the late Charles M. Schulz. The purchase price will be approximately $175 million, of which Iconix will pay 80% and the Schulz family 20%. Charlie Brown, Lucy, and the rest of the Peanuts gang are already involved in a whopping 1,200 licensing agreements (with everyone from MetLife and Hallmark to H&M and Old Navy) in more than 40 countries and ring up retail sales exceeding $2 billion annually. “Peanuts is considered one of the most influential comic strips of all time and with its 60th anniversary this year the characters continue to be as popular as ever,” said Iconix chairman and CEO Neil Cole in a statement announcing the deal. “Owning the Peanuts business moves Iconix well beyond fashion into a true global brand management entity.” The company, which owns and markets such brands as Joe Boxer, Candie’s, and Bongo, reported 2009 revenue of $232.1 million. Earlier this year, Iconix announced a joint venture with Madonna (Schroeder is a huge fan).

In New Ad Campaign, Benjamin Moore Makes Designers the Stars

b_m campaign.jpg

If this distinctively staggered group of attractive individuals appears a bit more colorful (and color-coordinated) than the typical Annie Leibovitz-snapped celebrity scrum, it’s because the subjects aren’t famous actors or directors, and this only looks like a Vanity Fair cover try. It’s actually an ad from Benjamin Moore’s new campaign, which touts the venerable paint company’s high standing in the design community. “According to a recent survey, nearly 80% of the design community recommends Benjamin Moore over any other paint,” notes the ad, referencing a finding from a company survey of “3,000 design and painting professionals.” The statistic hovers below Mark Seliger‘s photograph of Moore fans including interior designers Celerie Kemble, Jamie Drake, and Amy Lau and architect Vladimir Topouzanov (a nod to the Canadian market). All are participants in the company’s “Experts Exchange,” a Facebook initiative aimed at uniting design pros and consumers. Developed by Cramer-Krasselt/New York, the $15 million campaign is betting big on new media. “We’re creating a Facebook on steroids program,” said Benjamin Moore marketing manager Nick Harris in a press release. If all goes according to plan, the campaign “will stir consumer fans to meet up with paint and style experts and aficionados for an online cocktail party of conversation about decorating with paint and color.”

London Festival of Architecture Releases Highlight Info

The London Festival of Architecture, arguably the biggest annual celebration of architecture in the world and who we were just talking about the other day, following the kick off of their hunt for a new skyline, have just released their first batch of info about the fest. Although it still seems like a work in progress as events and volunteers are still coming in, and what’s listed now are highlights, it’s already looking like it’s going to be a particularly good year, given all the new Olympic buildings (or at least the construction or plans) and it being the 10th anniversary of the Eye ferris wheel, the Millennium Bridge and even the much-maligned Millennium Dome. Here’s a grab of the nifty little, back-of-the-kids-menu-esque illustration they’ve put together showing off what’s where (click to be magically transported to the clickable version on their site):


Oscar Niemeyer Back in the Hospital


While it was sad to learn that Oscar Niemeyer wasn’t going to be able to make it to Brasilia’s 50th anniversary, it was probably better that he did decide not to make the trip. The 102 year-old starchitect has once again been hospitalized, currently battling a urinary tract infection. Although “doctors do not feel this is a serious illness” and he’s reported to be stable and otherwise healthy, this stay comes just six months after Niemeyer had been forced to spend nearly a month in the hospital following two surgeries, one unplanned. As such, he’ll be staying on as a patient for a few days, just to make sure he pulls through without any complications.

Yves Behar Partners with Mexican Government for Glasses Project


Fresh off rolling out new green packaging for Puma and hiring David Adjaye to make him some underwear, our close personal friend Yves Behar and his fuseproject pals have continued on their hot streak with the announcement of their partnership with the Mexican government. Called “See Better to Learn Better” or Colleccion Escolar 2010, Behar has returned to designing for children (after One Laptop Per Child) with pairs of super sturdy eyeglasses, which will be made available for free to children 6-18 years old in Mexico. Here’s a description of the customizable options, to make the glasses more appealing to the kids (and make those with good vision hate their genes):

…we designed two part frames that are fully customizable with top and bottom colors that can be mixed and matched to fit all children’s personal choices. The innovative interchangeable nose pads let children with more petite noses wear the glasses comfortably. Through the use of the two part construction, 7 colors, 5 shapes and 3 sizes, these glasses can be swapped and adjusted in the field in order to update prescriptions.

In Brief: News from RISD, D-Crit, and W


  • We’re usually skeptical of anything that ends in “-omics,” but we’ll make an exception for RISD. The school has partnered with the American Craft Council to host “Artonomics: New Tools for Artists and Designers,” a free-form symposium exploring opportunities emerging from new modes of communication, presentation, marketing, and distribution. The programming kicks off on Thursday evening with a keynote event featuring RISD president (and MBA holder) John Maeda and crafty entrepreneur Maria Thomas. On Friday, a “New Tools” panel moderated by Julie Lasky of Change Observer will bring together Lisa Baynes (The Guild and Artful Home), Scott Belsky (Behance), and Murray Moss (Moss).
  • Other reasons to make your way to Providence in the near future include the RISD Museum’s dynamite Pat Steir exhibition, on view through July 3. Organized by RISD curator Jan Howard and independent curator Susan Harris, the exhibition examines 40 years of Steir’s work, focusing on her exploration of the vocabulary of drawing. Come for the John Cage-inspired word/image works, stay for the re-creation of her large wall drawing “Self-Portrait: An Installation” (first created for the New Museum in 1987), which she produced on site with the assistance of 12 RISD students.
  • If you’d rather spend your Friday learning about everything from Jean-Luc Godard‘s graphic design choices to the modern architecture of Elroy Webber, don’t miss “Crossing the Line: The 2010 D-Crit Conference,” which will be moderated by Kurt Andersen. Conceived and organized by the graduating students of the MFA Design Criticism Department at the School of Visual Arts, the event will feature keynote presentations by design thinkers John Thackara and Peter Hall. But the real stars of the day will be the students, who will offer peeks into their diverse thesis projects. RSVP by e-mailing

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  • Quote of Note | Li Edelkoort

    LI_edelkoort.jpg“It’s an American misconception that everything should be big and in numbers. I went to Crate & Barrel and wanted some stuff for my new apartment, and everything was too big. Every bowl was like a salad bowl, every mug like a vase, every wineglass like a pitcher. It’s unappealing. Also, if America wants to solve its economic and electricity problems, you should just stop serving ice in everything. Your drink gets watered down. It’s not really good for your brain. It’s just a habit. Americans should go in rehab for all these habits. That would do it.”

    -Trend forecaster Li Edelkoort on her advice for America

    Marc Kristal’s Well-Crafted Take on the Human Touch in Architecture and Interiors

    Foiled again! Thomas Heatherwick’s design for the Aberystwyth Arts Centre at the University of Wales—eight timber-frame sheds clad in crinkled steel.

    recrafted.jpgIn a time of tight budgets, teeming store shelves, and easily knocked off (or Photoshopped) perfection, craft is cool. Fendi followed up its Craft Punk project with DIY baguettes, while Gucci has dispatched its artisans to wow waffling customers with in-store demos. Droog recently commissioned design luminaries including Stefan Sagmeister and Studio Makkink & Bey to creatively reinterpret surplus goods from bankrupt companies, and today the Museum of Arts and Design debuts its second exhibition dedicated to remixing the ordinary, this time with entirely natural materials (and artists such as Jennifer Angus and Nick Cave). Next month, crafty SANAA duo Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa will collect their Pritzker medallions and $100,000 check. Writer Marc Kristal explores the invigorated interest in making and the made in Re:Crafted, a lush volume just published by Monacelli.

    “Everyone shares a sense of what traditional craft represents, both in terms of objects—a George Nakashima coffee table is a great example—and architecturally, as in the work of Greene and Greene in America or William Morris in England,” Kristal told us. “What interests me about it, and serves as the subject of the book, is that there are many ways to skin the craft cat, as it were, that we don’t associate with tradition.” Kristal’s approach to the fickle feline led him to select 25 diverse projects that have been completed in the past ten years and will keep design fans glued to Re:Crafted. Don’t bother trying to skim.

    “I tried to pick projects that approached the idea of craft from multiple standpoints,” explained Kristal. “The first one (above), for example, by Thomas Heatherwick, is a collection of artists’ studios in Wales that are clad in crinkled, wafer-thin steel that Heatherwick detailed by running it through a crinkling machine—called ‘the mangle’—that he invented for the purpose,” he said. “At the other end of the spectrum is a multi-million-dollar opera house in Oslo, by the firm Snohetta, that derives its quality of craft from the two teams of artists that were engaged to deal with the stone and metal surface.” For every feat of intricate African woodworking (Kirk Lazarus and Stephen Falcke‘s Molori Safari Lodge) and Giotto-flavored ceiling (Rick Jordan‘s Renaissance recreation in a New York apartment) there is a mobile canopy of thermoplastic-composite rods (Moorhead & Moorhead’s mobile chaplet in Fargo, North Dakota) and a “hot-rodded” shack covered in overscaled glass panes (the work—and home—of Tom Kundig in Seattle).

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    Get to Know Wright’s Fallingwater with an Architecturally Savvy Dachshund


    Because we love dogs and architecture, in particular dachshunds and buildings by Frank Lloyd Wright, we have found our new favorite book. Cara Armstrong, the curator of education at arguably Wright finest masterpiece has published Moxie, The Dachshund of Fallingwater, which tells the story of the dog who lived there with the Kaufmann family who had commissioned the now famous building. Outside of just being cute, the book also tries to turn kids on to architecture, which make us wish we had nieces or nephews or that Stephanie wasn’t barred from coming within 100 feet of a school, because it’s just the sort of thing we’d like to buy a youngster. Here’s where to order if you’re interested, and for further reading, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review has a brief interview with Armstrong about the book. Here’s a bit:

    “I wanted to make Fallingwater more accessible to kids and architecture more accessible to kids,” says Armstrong, 41. “Moxie embodies the four design themes of Fallingwater — the cantilever, the cascade, the circle (or semicircle), and the horizontal. I think kids of any age will enjoy this book, even grown-up kids.”

    To help launch the book, the organization has also put together this “Explore Fallingwater with Moxie” activity page, which we may or may not have played with for a while.