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Posts Tagged ‘Michael Wolff’

No, Not THAT Michael Wolff

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Especially in light of yesterday’s end-of-the-year round up, we owe a huge, heartfelt apology to one Michael Wolff.

No, not the Michael Wolff who terrorized innocent bystanders with his attack on banality on that cold, dark, wintry night. (Although it’s not the first time he’s done such a thing…check out Wolff playing a similar role on a PBS panel.)

We want to issue an apology to the real Michael Wolff, the one who lends his last name to legendary British design firm Wolff Olins. Besides being responsible for a seizure-inducing logo or two, this Michael Wolff is reported to be an all-around lovely guy.

To differentiate between the two, henceforth we’ll call the non-designer Dr. Evil Michael Wolff. Which is what we were calling him anyway.

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New York Holiday Party Report

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Thanks for the invitations, New York design community (or in some cases, not having a list at the door). Here’s where we found ourselves drinking free toddies this week…

Rockwell Group
Address: Bowlmor Lanes
Crowd: Rockwell Group employees
Specialty Cocktail: Bullshot, served by “celebrity bartender” Laurie Rosenwald
Big Sightings: Maira Kalman, Tucker Viemeister wearing a Santa hat
Just Missed: Chee Pearlman
Highlight (pictured here): A video kaleidoscope created by James Tichenor and Joshua Walton that projected snowflakes cut by partygoers onto huge screens around the room. No word on how many Bullshots were served before bare butts were also projected around the room.

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Debbie Millman’s SVA Class
Address: Millman’s swank pad
Crowd: Students, former “Design Matters” guests
Specialty Cocktail: Champagne (for those of age), as double-fisted by Felix Sockwell
Big Sightings: Chip Kidd, James Victore, Tobias Frere-Jones
Just Missed: Joyce Rutter Kaye
Highlight: Millman giving signed copies of 100% Evil to her students, which were doodled on more by Christoph Niemann and Nicholas Blechman, both in attendance.

The Architect’s Newspaper
Address: The well-appointed loft of William Menking and Diana Darling
Crowd: Architects, writers, architect-writers
Specialty Cocktail: Real egg nog, with fresh grated nutmeg
Big Sightings: The lady design journalist power trio of Julie Lasky, Julie Iovine and Eve Kahn
Just Missed: Teddy Cruz
Highlight: The view.

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Good Design Party
Address: Good pop-up store
Crowd: Green design consultants, graphic designers, Mr. T fans
Specialty Cocktail: Organic wheat vodka with Izze sparkling clementine juice in biodegradable cups made from corn
Big Sightings: Emily Oberman, supercute young’un Jonathan Harris presenting the Whale Hunt
Just Missed: Bobby Martin giving his slam-dunk presentation again
Highlight: Mike Essl showing off his world’s largest Mr. T memorabilia collection, including a clip from VH1′s “Totally Obsessed” where he and his co-collector eat a 20-year-old box of Mr. T cereal.

Designism 2.0 Recap: Michael Wolff Devours Panel, Glaser Eloquently Defends Design, Dove Real Beauties Not Ugly Enough

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The one MILLION dollar question. Photo by Core77.

A Wolff In Designer Clothing
In a city of thousands and thousands of designers, Vanity Fair columnist Michael Wolff might want to look at hiring some protection for the next few weeks. In his role as the “media critic” at last night’s Designism 2.0 event, Wolff told fellow panelists (including Milton Glaser) that “no design” was a better solution than the “banal” work they produce. While his comments elicited anger from the crowd–and more than one Dr. Evil comparison–he injected some much-needed debate to an otherwise self-congratulatory night. As Brian Collins told us later, “That’s why I brought him here.”

Let’s back up a bit though. ihaveanidea liveblogged the evening, opening with crappy weather and an earlier panel we moderated starring Ellen Sitkin, Andrew Sloat, and Ji Lee (who were amazing, by the way, and we wish they could have taken the stage with Wolff at the end to show him some “banal”). Tony Hendra, wearing his WGA strike shirt, gave the annual manifesto with searing wit (a portion of which can be found on the Huffington Post). Then, with Steven Heller moderating, Elizabeth Resnick presented posters from the Graphic Imperative, Janet Kestin presented the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty, and Glaser presented his Darfur campaign and new work for Iraq refugees.

Then It Got Ugly
All the panelists joined Wolff onstage as he line-item lambasted design. The world is full of design, he argued, and everyone is trying so hard to be disruptive that everything disruptive is boring. What’s more, “everyone can do design,” he said. “So everyone should stop it.” While abrasive, it was effective, says Core77′s Robert Blinn says in his review: “Wolff asked the question that none of the designers in the audience truly cared to address: ‘Could anything truly new be said, or were we simply barraging a saturated audience with information they already had?’” Glaser, a gentleman to the end, began his first rebuttal, “I have to respectfully disagree with you.” The crowds roared. Glaser explained, that as he now tries to design campaigns to help causes, it’s less about what it looks like and more about how to get the word out. That’s still “design.”

But as the conversation shifted to the effectiveness of design for social change, the topic became Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty (ironically spearheaded by Designism ringmaster Collins at BIG) and Kestin took some serious grilling by audience members Laurie Rosenwald and Debbie Millman for not having “ugly” enough girls in the ads talking about poor body image perception. (Later we sat between Rosenwald and Kestin at dinner…awk-ward!) The whole issue about whether or not it was authentic, or just another ad, or even appropriately executed, was battled out on and off stage. Although not exactly the most provocative topic to dwell upon, it did give us the best quote of the night, courtesy Wolff: “Well, I know a lot of ugly people who think they’re really good-looking.”

Moving On
The moment of irony that killed us, however, was when Heller asked Wolff what design was powerful to him. Wolff said that the only great moment for design were the posters of the 60′s and 70′s. This was as Glaser, creator of many of them, and founder of another design device during that period, a magazine, that has not only brought about real social change, but also pays at least some of Wolff’s salary, sat right beside him, having just explained work that was every bit as simple, driven and arresting as those posters, but used technology, storytelling and global partnerships. Great, it’s easy to say that “something” different needed to be done, but say that design has never been able to evolve past print work done 40 years ago? That’s ludicrous. We think Wolff should be commissioned to write a review of the upcoming MoMA show, Design and the Elastic Mind, which shows how cutting-edge design is used to bring abstract ideas into the public embrace.

However poorly he presented his case (“He was sloppy,” someone near us said) we can’t say we really disagreed with anything Wolff said (except, of course the “banal” part). Something different does need to happen. Afterwards, in the ACT portion, three groups commanded the mic to pitch their causes–Sappi Ideas that Matter, Corbis’s ADC Award and free images for pro bono projects, and idealist.org–and a new social networking site, Designism Social, will be launched. But were these pitches–sponsors, really–enough to launch anyone into action over the sushi and Sapporos afterwards? We weren’t sure. We guess we have to wait until Designism 3.0

But we did like Wolff’s alternative for blindly leaping into a cause. “Stay home, read a book. Read a lot of books. Then, when the urge becomes irresistible, then do something.” Even Dr. Evil was right sometimes.

More photos and coverage at Core77, Graphic Design Forum, Daily Heller, uncivilsociety.org, and ihaveanidea.

Designism 2.0 Thursday Night at the ADC

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In an effort to blow our frequent flier miles through the roof, this third of UnBeige will be embarking on one last trip of 2007: To help moderate Designism 2.0 on Thursday, December 13 at the Art Directors Club in New York City. If you haven’t bought your tickets yet, we suggest doing that now, before it sells out.

This year’s Designism, the sequel to the very popular 2006 event, will play out in two panels, followed by a real-life call-to-action. While the latter panel of the evening needs no introduction–Milton Glaser, Steven Heller, Tony Hendra, Vanity Fair’s Michael Wolff, Elizabeth Resnick of the Graphic Imperative (on view at the ADC) and Ogilvy’s Janet Kestin–we encourage you to bag work and head over early for our 4:45pm panel. After an opening by Kay Sloan of the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, we’ll hear from three of the brightest young thangs in design we’ve come across this year.

Ellen Sitkin, a designer at IDEO and participant of this summer’s Project M, whose Buy a Meter has raised almost $30,000.

Andrew Sloat, who produced the awe-inspiring film many of you saw at AIGA’s NEXT conference, and works days at his firm Drainage Ditch.

Ji Lee, the man behind The Bubble Project (and sometimes behind an Elvis costume), who also works at genre-bending ad agency droga5.

We assure you that after seeing these three speakers, and experiencing the sheer passion that keeps them motivated, you’ll feel pretty darn good about the future of design. Oh yeah, and afterwards? Sapporos for everyone, on us. See you there.

A Very Good Week In NY This December

It’s getting to be that season again when all the naughties and nices you’ve accumulated during the last 12 months start to count towards your end-of-year rewards. And if you’ve found yourself a little heavy on the naughty, there is a chance to redeem yourself before it’s too late. Actually, two. If you’re in New York between December 13 and 15 you could attend two big-name events focused on socially-responsible design. After immersing yourself in so much do-gooding, maybe you’ll even get moved to the nice list.

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Designism 2.0, December 13: The second go-round of this now-annual event at the ADC features three sessions. First, SEE, a survey of young’uns making a difference: Ellen Sitkin, Andrew Sloat and Ji Lee, moderated by yours truly. Then, TALK, the panel of masters including Milton Glaser, Janet Kestin, Elizabeth Resnick, Tony Hendra, and Vanity Fair columnist Michael Wolff, moderated by Steven Heller. And finally, ACT, a real-life call to action by Idealist.org to start work on immediately. All details here (scroll down).

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Cause/Effect, December 15: This full-day student-oriented conference orchestrated by AIGA NY brings together a dozen voices explaining the effects of their design in action. Lisa Strausfeld, Phil Patton, Chris Hacker, Seymour Chwast are among the luminaries, and Steven Heller will moderate this one, too (the man is a machine). Registration is only open for students (AIGA members or not) at the moment, but will open to AIGA members on 11/26. All details here (including those nice illustrations by Brian Rea).