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Posts Tagged ‘John Bielenberg’

Bright Lights Is Tonight: Drenttel & Helfand, Hoefler & Frere-Jones to Receive AIGA Medals


A taste of the digital typefaces designed by Hoefler & Frere-Jones.

Shield your eyes from the glare of design talent this evening in New York, as AIGA hosts “Bright Lights.” The annual awards gala will begin with cocktails and conversation, and proceed to celebration and presentation of the coveted AIGA medal, the graphic design world’s highest honor. This year’s crop of James Earle Fraser-designed medallions goes to John Bielenberg, William Drenttel and Jessica Helfand, Jonathan Hoefler and Tobias Frere-Jones, Stefan Sagmeister, Lucille Tenazas, and Wolfgang Weingart. Not bound for Bright Lights? Play along at home by reading aloud, in your best announcer voice, AIGA’s citations (below) of the design luminaries.
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Official UnBeige AIGA NEXT Roundup

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Even though we still can’t get that Command X theme music out of our head (damn you all, Open, Agoraphone and The Plasticines!), we’ve finally had a few days to contemplate the AIGA NEXT conference in its entirety. Although we had a slight peek at the innerworkings while serving on the planning committee, in the end we were just sitting there in the audience watching, as surprised (and/or delighted) as you were. Here are the highs and lows:

Command-ing the lead: We admit, we had our doubts about a “Project Runway” for graphic design. But not only was Command X the highlight of the conference, it gave great insight into how design actually works–and how fast, funny and brilliant designers are. Winner Nichelle Narcisi‘s incredible finale also ended the conference on the perfect teary, triumphant note.

Talkin’ ’bout my generation: Maybe it was simply in line with the theme (“Next”), but we can’t applaud this conference enough for shifting attention to the youngsters. The brilliant Command X forged seven new young superstars and the 20 one-minute presentations that opened the first night were all by up-and-comers (and better than we ever remembered). It was great to see the older and wiser take a backseat to youth for once.

Someone get this guy an agent: Drew Carey should not have gotten Bob Barker‘s gig on “The Price is Right.” That job should have gone to a man who is long overdue for his big showbiz debut, Michael Bierut.

Everything in moderation: Golden-voiced Kurt Andersen was the best moderator we’ve ever seen at one of these things. Witty, efficient and blissfully deadpan, Andersen asked incredibly intelligent questions tempered with just enough cynicism to keep things real.

Three people we’re running away with: Janine Benyus, Marian Bantjes and Alex Steffen wowed us with solutions that proved great design is natural, personal and sustainable, and, in the end, always–always–beautiful.

You can’t win ‘em all: Of course, there were a few duds. Momus‘ mainstage presentation was probably brilliant but unfocused to the point of befuddlement. Wrapping a design conference with an awesome visual application that doesn’t work on Macs was a big mistake. And even though it made good diversity efforts, the lineup was incredibly New York-centric. One might even argue specifically SVA-centric.

Worst information graphics: Upon entering the Denver Art Museum for the closing party, guests were handed a map which hinted at treasure troves of food and drink stashed in various corners of the galleries. Never mind that the Denver Art Museum is a perplexing heap of angular ADD (Daniel Libeskind must design like he talks), the ambiguous map forced us to mount great expeditions in search of circulating lamb lollipops and the elusive chicken potstickers. Luckily, the martini bar was in plain view.

Best party: Duh.

Best overheard quote in design history: When another designer worried that a former employee may have been bipolar, Dana Arnett brought perspective to the situation: “Bipolar can work, though. They present one idea, then they present another totally different idea. It’s great for clients.”

Sure to see traffic spikes this week: Design Observer lead with the most overall impressions, mentioned in many affinity sessions, at least seven times on the mainstage, and in all the conference materials as a sponsor. Second place goes to Very Short List, which got two plugs on the mainstage (Andersen is a founder, ahem).

Okay, we get it, you’re Democrats: We stopped counting the anti-Bush attacks after we hit the number of years he’s been in office. We know that designers are traditionally left-leaning. But any Republicans in the audience would have been pretty darn uncomfortable, and we’re not sure that’s altogether appropriate.

On the other hand…: There was something to the fact that the same day Al Gore won the Nobel Prize, one of our own jetted up there to work closely with him on his Alliance for Climate Protection. Or maybe that because of AIGA, people across the country will be be voting on redesigned ballots next election. Or maybe it was just AIGA president Sean AdamsJFK-like good looks. Whatever it was, we swore we felt a huge shift happening in the world of design, and we can’t wait to see what happens next.

All UnBeige AIGA NEXT coverage.

Project M’s Buy a Meter Featured at AIGA NEXT

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John Bielenberg just made a presentation about Buy a Meter, that lovely little Alabama project that we just can’t stop talking about. Water meters will be purchased as gifts for all the mainstage speakers at the conference, and they’ve produced t-shirts reading 425 that will be sold for $425 (the cost to bring clean water to the 25% of Hale County residents that don’t have access to it). Even if you’re not here, you can buy one, too.

Somewhat coincidentally, Pam Dorr, HERO’s angel-like director and M’s person on the ground for Buy a Meter, was interviewed about the project on the excellent KCRW radio show “Good Food” today at 11am (scroll down to see more information and links). You can also podcast the show or listen to the archive by clicking on that link.

All AIGA NEXT coverage here.

Project M Wants You To Buy a Meter

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As you may remember awhile back, we submerged our brains in the humidified environs of Hale County, Alabama with the cool kids of Project M, John Bielenberg‘s graphic design for good program. Eight young designers shared the sweat with Rural Studio students, discovered paint-slathered buses, and constructed giant letterforms out of wood as they searched for a way to make a difference.

Towards the end of their month-long immersion, Project M students found a cause that they felt was most deserving of their attention. In Hale County, one of the poorest counties in Alabama (and we’d guess, the country), a quarter of the residents do not have clean water. We’ll say that again: 25% of an entire county in this country in 2007 does not have access to clean, safe drinking water. Project M produced a printed piece (in that very county, mind you) to help generate awareness and support to remedy this situation, and we’ve just gotten word that a version of the piece is now online at buyameter.org Please do check it out.

Project M Doing the Renga

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Along with renovating their accommodations, getting to know the neighborhood, and being forced to take jogs every morning with John Bielenberg (oh, wait a minute, that was just the advisors), Project M engages in little design challenges to keep their minds sharp and their hands busy.

One morning we participated in a Renga, which is a Japanese word for collaborative poetry, the kind where people build stanzas upon stanzas to create one big happy masterpiece. Here, in Rural Studioland, a Renga means actually building, of course, so we were equipped with 2x2s, drywall screws, a table saw and some drills. Teams of two were instructed to make it graphic and make it 3D, using “stanzas” of six 2x2s every turn. Away we went. More coverage at M’s blog.

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Project M at the Rural Studio Heats Up

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Two planes and 30 degrees Fahrenheit away from our LA environs, we are coming to you live from Greensboro, Alabama, located in the now world-famous Hale County, home of the Rural Studio, and also this summer’s ground zero for the design-for-good program Project M. John Bielenberg (that’s him up there in the orange) and eight young designers have been cooking up ideas for making a difference here since June 1, with a steady stream of advisors shipped in regularly to invigorate and inspire.

Swiss designer Thomas Sevcik blew in for a day, Adam Brodsley was here a few weeks back, and his Volume partner Eric Heiman is here now, with Brian Collins rumored to be peeking his head in next week (en route to China, perhaps?). Erik Cox and Christopher Simmons are also headed this way, and we were thrilled to have Washington University architecture dean Bruce Lindsey here for the weekend, who was former head of the Rural Studio.

First, some shots from our orientation, including the HERO Knowledge Cafe (a housing resource center for the county) above, which is serving as M’s base of operations.

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Making Our Way to Project M Today

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It’s just not leafy, humid or chicken-fried enough for us out here in LA, so we’re jetting to Greensboro, Alabama this weekend for some serious sweatin’ in the South with the fine young things of Project M. We mentioned how M master John Bielenberg was taking this show on the road this year, so we’ll be heading to the Rural Studio, where eight recent design grads plucked from city life are hoping to spread the word about a yet-to-be-determined message. Check their progress at the 2007 Project M blog, and we’ll be sure to check back in soon–but not until after we have ourselves a nice, big slab of gravy-smothered meat.

John Bielenberg’s Project M Returns to Its Roots

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For the last few years, we’ve always been impressed by the young designers who reply “Project M” when asked what they did on their summer vacations. The small groups of designers picked for Project M have created a book at a Maine farmhouse, traveled to a protected forest in Costa Rica, drove an ambulance full of design supplies to New Orleans and started a foundation for a depressed area of East Baltimore.

This year, says founder John Bielenberg, they’re heading back to where Project M began: The Rural Studio of Auburn University, where architecture students build sustainable structures for the economically-depressed residents right in their own backyard. It’s also the place that inspired Bielenberg to start the whole M thing:

It’s incredibly inspiring to see the impact that these college “kids” have had on the communities in Hale County. Many of these projects have been well documented in books, magazines, films and exhibitions like the Whitney Biennale. However, I saw and felt something happening that has not been reported.

Because of the publicity and exposure these projects have received, Greensboro, the largest town in the area, has started to become a mecca for people who are aligned with the creative and altruistic values that were intrinsic to Mockbee’s original vision.

I think the area has reached a tipping point and is tilting towards an unexpected re-birth as a place where “do-gooders” go to do good.

Sound good? Apply here.