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Archives: April 2012

John Derian Brings His Analog Charms to E-Cards

Virtual decoupage? It’s an oxymoron come true thanks to John Derian. The New York-based purveyor of whimsical plates and paperweights, who has proven his range (and boundless appeal) in previous collaborations with the likes of Astier de Villatte and Target, has taken to the web with a collection of ephemeral yet fine stationery for Paperless Post. “My artistic vision of textures and colors has been translated into this collection of digital stationery in an amazing way,” said Derian in a statement announcing the collaboration. “I’m excited that people who enjoy my work will now be able to experience it so beautifully online.” His signature eclectic imagery—jaunty letters, sea creatures, ferns, a possibly enchanted frog—appears on 65 digital notecards, save-the-date cards, and invitations that Paperless Post users can customize and send (for a small fee). Derian joins a growing stable of guest designers that includes Thornwillow, Boatman Geller, and calligraphy god Bernard Maisner.

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Mark Your Calendar: Gravity Free, Parsons Festival, D-Crit Conference

  • “Outlaws and Icons” is the theme of this year’s Gravity Free design conference, which kicks off tomorrow at Chicago’s Spertus Institute. The multidisciplinary affair brings together disparate design stars, from Chip Kidd and Brian Collins to Rafael de Cárdenas and Margie Ruddick. Jonathan Alger of C&G Partners will be on hand to moderate, probe, and query. And the big finish? A Wednesday afternoon keynote address by George Lois. Register here.

  • Back in New York City, the month of May brings flowers and the Parsons Festival, 20 spring days worth of exhibitions, symposia, panel discussions, critiques, and special projects that celebrate the next generation of artists and designers. There are graduate shows a-plenty, beginning with tomorrow’s fashion benefit honoring designer Donna Karan and entrepreneur Sheila C. Johnson.

  • On Wednesday, all eyes will be on the D-Critters at the School of Visual Arts as the MFA Design Criticism program presents “Eventually Everything,” its third annual conference. Change Observer co-editor Julie Lasky will moderate a day of presentations from the likes of media historian Stuart Ewen, Pentagram’s Michael Bierut, and the whipsmart student speakers. MFA candidate Anna Kealey’s talk sound particularly tasty. “I’ll be presenting my thesis topic ‘Unpacking the Pastoral Food Package,’” she tells us, “which discusses the role designers have played in perpetuating myths about how food is produced in the United States.” Yum! And save room for talks from her classmates, who’ll tackle topics including the implications of Anthropologie and the AK-47.

  • Bright Lights, Big Designers, and Monumental Hats: On the Scene at the AIGA Awards

    The annual AIGA Awards are a little like the Oscars, but with better kerning, bolder eyeglasses, and much less Botox. At this year’s gala celebration, co-chaired by Pentagram’s DJ Stout and Su Mathews of Lippincott, guests were encouraged to wear hats shaped like buildings (make your own with this handy template). We dispatched graphic designer Prescott Perez-Fox to lash a cardboard Eiffel Tower to his head and scope out the scene.

    From left, AIGA medalists Ralph Caplan, Robert Vogele, and Elaine Lustig Cohen with AIGA executive director Richard Grefé; reveling designers strike a pose in the urbane photo booth. (Photos: Angela Jimenez for AIGA; Denise Ginley and Steven Robinson)

    Much like the return of migrating birds and an elevated pollen count, spring brings with it the design industry’s very own prom, the annual AIGA Awards. Last week’s event, entitled Bright Lights Big City and held in Manhattan at the Altman Building, didn’t make use of the pastel ubiquity of April, but instead opted for a deco-inspired architectural theme, where the entire event was set in black-and-white, referencing the Beaux Arts Ball of 1931 in which architects dressed in costumes of buildings they had designed. This year’s guests were invited to design and create hats in the shape of their favorite buildings, bringing some unexpected wit and levity set against the relative severity of black cocktail attire.

    However, the focus of the evening isn’t fashion, it is to honor the newest recipients of the prestigious AIGA medal. This year’s honorees were not simply accomplished design professionals in their own right, but together represent four of the essential archetypes of design. Ralph Caplan represents The Observer, following his career as a design author and having gained the unique ability to find perspective and turn that into something informative and enticing. Elaine Lustig Cohen comes to us as The Artist, creating groundbreaking work in typography and illustration, and raising the status of the designer and of design as a whole. Armin Hoffmann is The Mentor, demonstrated by the generations of design students he taught directly, and the enduring popularity of the Swiss style so closely linked to him. Finally, Robert Vogele embodies The Entrepreneur, demonstrating that classic American story of a regular Joe who created a scrappy upstart that became a thriving business and influential design practice. To the younger designers in the audience, it was inspirational—our challenge is how to embrace these qualities in our careers and become the next archetypes of design.
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    Do Not Be Cynical When the London Olympics Torch Wins the Design Museum’s Design of the Year Award

    Because we’re good and gracious people, we’re not going to cry foul on the Design Museum‘s Design of the Year prize, which just this week awarded its 2012 edition to the studio Barber Osgerby for their work on the London Olympics torch. If we weren’t so wonderful, we’d bring up how convenient it is that the London-based museum is giving the prize to an object related to the event London has spent nearly a decade preparing for, and how that might seem a bit biased (here’s where we might also mention that the London 2012 Velodrome won the architecture category). We then might also bring up that the torch, while very attractive, has such a very limited purpose, and an even shorter shelf life, that maybe something with a bit more longevity and wide-spread usefulness deserves the win. No, instead we are genuinely happy for all the winners (really, honestly, all snark aside), and leave you with a quote by London 2012 Organizing Committee co-chair, Sebastian Coe, about the torch’s big night:

    The Torch is one of the most recognizable symbols of the Olympic Games and we are thrilled that our design has won this prestigious title. I am delighted we have such a brilliantly designed, engineered and crafted Torch that will help to celebrate the amazing personal achievements of each of our 8,000 Torchbearers and give them their moment to shine. It is also fantastic news that the stunning architecture of the London 2012 Velodrome has won an award and welcome recognition of the landmark new buildings the Games are bringing to London.

    Quote of Note | Judith Thurman

    “There may be only one designer more absolute in her confidence than [Miuccia] Prada: her fellow-honoree at the Costume Institute. [Elsa] Schiaparelli did more than any of her peers to promote fashion’s status as an art, and she would no doubt have found it natural to mingle at the Met with Phidias and Vermeer. Prada’s statements about art suggest that she must find her own enshrinement somewhat ironic. Her fortune has financed an adventurous private collection, an exhibition space outside Milan, and a foundation that supports cultural experiments. In 2010, she was invited to present the Turner Prize at Tate Britain, partially in recognition of her prominence as a patron. (She wore a pair of plastic banana earrings with a stark black coat.) She has also worked with the Dutch architect and urbanist Rem Koolhaas on the design of her major retail spaces, which she calls ‘epicenters,’ in New York and Los Angeles. Yet Prada insists that her vocation and her avocation are unrelated. She has refused to collaborate on limited editions of Prada merchandise with any of the art stars in her collection. (‘Anything that doesn’t sell,’ she once said dryly, ‘is a limited edition.’) In her somewhat heretical view of a profession that often hankers after transcendence, fashion design may be a creative enterprise, concerned, as art is, with culture and identity, but it isn’t what artists do.”

    -Judith Thurman in “Radical Chic,” her New Yorker preview of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s imminent spring Costume Institute exhibition, “Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations

    Above: Elsa Schiaparelli in a 1932 portrait by George Hoyningen-Huené and Miuccia Prada photographed by Guido Harari in 1999. (Photos: Hoyningen-Huené/Vogue/Condé Nast Archive and Guido Harari/Contrasto/Redux)

    Cash-Strapped Cooper Union to Add Tuition-Based Grad Programs; Students Stage Walkout

    Among the perks of attending the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art are the myriad opportunities to fondle the walls of the academic building designed by Thom Mayne, courses such as Architectonics Lab with Professor Lebbeus Woods, and, oh yes, it’s free. But not for long. Sans tuition since 1859, when it was established by bearded industrialist and gelatin magnate Peter Cooper, Cooper Union is now turning to fee-based graduate programs to shore up its shaky finances. “Our preliminary financial analysis shows starkly that new, reliable, and scalable streams of revenue are imperative—over and beyond what an ambitious fundraising strategy may be relied upon to yield, and sooner than a set of options with long term promise can deliver,” wrote Cooper Union president Jamshed Bharucha in a statement issued yesterday. “Weighing all the alternatives, I am convinced that some fee-based programs are necessary for Cooper Union’s solvency, and that this framework gives us the most optimistic way forward.”

    Undergrads are safe for now: all will continue to receive full-tuition scholarships, a commitment that Bharucha promised would extend at least through the class entering in the fall of 2013. However, the addition of any tuition-based programs at Cooper Union is not sitting well with some students, and a walkout is set to begin later today. “Charging tuition at the Cooper Union will require altering the original mission statement of the school which states that the Cooper Union ‘…awards full scholarships to all enrolled students,’” wrote Rachel Appel, a Cooper Union art student and an organizer of Friends of Cooper Union, in an e-mail sent this morning. Bharuca’s announcement came just days before a “community summit” at which the Friends of Cooper Union plans to present various non-tuition based solutions to the school’s fiscal crisis. That meeting will proceed tomorrow at 5:30 p.m. in the Great Hall at Cooper Union.

    What Do We Want? Megaphones! Wright Offers Spirited Collection

    Three cheers for 22 vintage megaphones, which go on the block tomorrow at Wright in Chicago.

    You don’t hear much about megaphone collecting. A cruel irony at a time when the world needs a bit of the old-fashioned boosterism that comes from holding a large cone to one’s mouth and yelling “Go Team!” Those that grimace at the sight of foam fingers (vulgar, shoddily made, soundless) won’t want to miss the rare opportunity to acquire an instant collection of megaphones that goes on the block tomorrow at Chicago’s Wright auction house as part of its Living Contemporary sale. Estimated to sell for between $3,000 and $5,000, the lot of 22 vintage bullhorns includes several handsome models designed to cheer on various mid-century squads of Spiders, Indians, and Macon Whoopies (“Georgia’s Finest”). The names of their original owners—Diane, Susan, Joan, Nancy, Lucy—are preserved in an interesting range of typefaces, while a wee brown one reads “Die Schnitzel Bunk Jug Band.” Set for speaking-trumpets? Cheer yourself with a few of the other offerings from tomorrow’s sale: Paco Rabanne space curtains, a delightful dozen of Dorothy Draper chairs, or a set of “Inflammatory Essays” by Jenny Holzer, who we suspect enjoys a good megaphone.

    Hasselblad USA to Merge with Bron Imaging Group

    dollar camera.jpgA photography-themed merger is afoot: Hasselblad USA, the U.S. distributor of Hasselblad professional camera systems, has agreed to join forces (among other things) with Bron Imaging Group, which distributes professional photographic gear. The combined company will be known as Hasselblad Bron, a name that conjures an exotic, camera-wielding James Bond villain. The merger agreement follows a two-year courtship marketing relationship, through which the two New Jersey-based companies worked closely to develop their brands in the professional photography market. Michael Hejtmanek, current president of Bron Imaging Group, will lead the new company as president and chief operating officer of Hasselblad Bron, which will relocate to a single facility this summer.

    Wake Up! Doug Aitken’s ‘Sleepwalkers’ Returns in the Ultimate Box Set

    Call a somnambulance. The multimedia goodness of the Sleepwalkers box.

    Doug Aitken is up to his old tricks: enveloping museums in high-definition video projections that illuminate their facades and mesmerize passersby, which in the case of his latest project may include President Obama. The Los Angeles-based artist has transformed the National Mall’s Gordon Bunshaft-designed concrete donut (also known as the Hirshhorn) into a 360-degree convex-screen cinema aglow nightly through May 13 with his “SONG 1.” Meanwhile, the Seattle Art Museum recently commissioned Aitken to wrap a corner—the northwest, bien sûr—of its downtown HQ in a jumbo LED display that will debut early next year. The months between these Washingtonian works provide ample time to savor the Sleepwalkers box, an ultra-covetable multimedia remix of the public artwork that took New York by nocturnal storm in 2007.

    Part deluxe commemorative edition, part DIY-spirited artist’s book, the Sleepwalkers box is a bold collaboration between Aitken, the Princeton Architectural Press, and DFA Records. The perforated cardboard cover reveals and conceals a fold-out poster of scenes from the five urban narratives (starring the likes of Donald Sutherland, Tilda Swinton, and Chan Marshall, better known as Cat Power) that were projected onto the exterior of the Museum of Modern Art. Set that aside to discover a turntable-ready vinyl “picture disc,” which the strong-willed will manage to avoid framing as an art object. A book of “fragments, markings, and images” from the making of Sleepwalkers includes breathtaking full-bleed images as well as an interview in which Aitken discusses the installation with Jacques Herzog. “Your work needs an ideal architectural conservation to unfold its quality,” advises the architect.
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    This Week on the Job Board: Delia’s, Antebellum, Gojee

    This week, Delia’s is hiring a new art director, while Antebellum is on the hunt for a senior web designer. Gojee is looking for a cartoonist/illustrator and designer, and The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology is seeking a print and digital designer. Get all the details below, and find more just-posted gigs on

    For more job listings, go to the Mediabistro job board, and to post a job, visit our employer page. For real-time openings and employment news, follow @MBJobPost.

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