Over the years, the Armory Show has shifted its expectations of the year’s commissioned artist from creating a few fresh works to showcase in the catalogue and as benefit editions to “helping to create the visual identity of the fair.” (Fortunately, wildly talented graphic designer Reed Seifer has been there to do the heavy lifting.) And so the selection of performance-inclined Liz Magic Laser as this year’s Armory Show poster artist was cause for eyebrow raising, even before the press release that promised she would “activate the fair’s heritage as a site of innovation and discovery,” a phrase that evoked a portrait of the artist as a young gumshoe, raising an oversized magnifying glass to her eye. Laser went the inside baseball route (hey, it worked for Argo) and hit a home run. Embracing the sleek corporate efficiency of the megafair, she embarked on an market research odyssey, staging a series of focus groups composed of collectors, curators, art pros, and journalists, to help her strategize what she would create for the fair, from limited-edition works to tote bags. Watch and enjoy:
branding + identity
Harry Winston says “I do” to Swatch? It may sound like the ultimate high-low, late-night-monologue-fodder matchup, but only until you realize that the watchmaker’s eponymous plastic timepieces–credited with saving a Swiss watch industry decimated by the “Quartz crisis” of the 1970s and early 1980s–represent just one in a stable of brands that includes Breguet, Omega, and Rado as well as a movements and components business that makes customers of its main competitors. On Monday the Swatch Group announced that it had acquired the Harry Winston brand and its jewelry and watches business for $750 million.
In addition to up to $250 million in assumed debt, the deal gives Swatch 525 new employees, Harry Winston’s Geneva-based production company, and a brand burnished by red-carpet cameos and Fabien Baron‘s stunning ad campaigns lensed by Patrick Demarchelier. “We are proud and happy to welcome Harry Winston to the Swatch Group family,” said chairwoman Nayla Hayek in a statement issued yesterday. “Diamonds are still a girl’s best friend.” True as that may be, the brand’s former owners are hanging on to the sparkly stone supply. The mining activities of Harry Winston will now operate as Toronto-based Dominion Diamond Corporation and continue supplying polished diamonds to Swatch.
In a sea of ever more opulent emporiums designed by the usual luxemaster suspects (think Peter Marino, Bill Sofield, Michael Gabellini), Alexander McQueen stores swim against the high-gloss current. Bold, vaguely apocalyptic, and often shot through with a distinctively ghostly take on baroque exuberance, the shops are the work of Pentagram’s William Russell. In the below video, the London-based architect reflects on a decade of work with McQueen–both the PPR-owned house and the man himself, known as Lee to friends. “He wanted a collaborative relationship, rather than someone imposing a look or a feel onto him,” says Russell of developing the initial store concept with the designer. “He was a true genius–you don’t meet many in your life, and he was an extraordinary man.”
‘Tis the season for pop-up emporiums and “best of” lists. Wired combines the two with a concept store stocked with the magazine’s picks for the most innovative products and technologies of the year. To get its annual NYC retail showcase to look as good as the covetable merchandise–think GPS Navigation Shoes, a stool made of recycled bicycle inner tubes, and a Makerbot desktop 3D printer–Wired tapped Mother New York to mastermind the shopping experience. The creative agency delivered a sleek space filled with custom furniture and fixtures as well as wall-sized interactive elements. The store design is unified by graphics inspired by the magazine’s “What’s Inside” features and the work of product-dissecting photographer Todd McClellan, Mother creative director Piers North tells us. Pay a virtual visit to the store, which is open Tuesday through Sunday ’til December 24, by scrolling through the below photos. This being a Wired production, the stuff–who doesn’t need a pair of caped Superman socks?–is also available to purchase online.
“Tell me about yourself, and you might mention where you’re from, the music you prefer, perhaps a favorite writer or filmmaker or artist, possibly even the sports teams you root for. But I doubt you’ll mention brands or products. That would seem shallow, right? There’s just something illegitimate about openly admitting that brands and products can function as cultural material, relevant to identity and expression. It’s as if we would prefer this weren’t true.
The underlying discomfort is something I’ve noted over many years spent writing about brands and products. One reader comment clarifies the dilemma. In a column about products and companies that exist only in the fictional worlds of books and movies, I categorized such things as ‘imaginary brands.’ Harrumph to that, this reader replied: All brands are imaginary.
I saw his point, but he’d missed mine. The ambiguity in the relationship between our selves and the brand-soaked world we navigate is exactly what’s worth taking seriously, not waving away. When such consideration is filtered through an open and unpredictable mind, anything seems possible. Willfully imaginary brands and products can be considered as a medium, expressive of joy, fear, humor, unease, ambivalence–very real stuff, in other words.”
-Rob Walker on “As Real As It Gets,” the medium-is-the-marketplace exhibition of fictional products, imaginary brands, hypothetical advertising, and speculative objects that he organized. The ersatz emporium is open through December 22 at apexart in NYC.
“Lost Time” by Glithero for Perrier-Jouet at Design Miami 2012. (Photo: Petr Krejci)
Chairs, glorious chairs, are everywhere at Design Miami, but no one sits for long. Collectors, dealers, journalists, and the odd celebrity (who knew Will Ferrell was a design buff?) stream through the fair at different speeds and with varying agendas: see Maarten de Ceulaer’s latest “mutations,” close the sale on the Nakashima bench, locate a friend and a chocolate dulce de leche pie ($7 at the catering stand), nab a seat for Stefano Tonchi’s on-stage chat with Diane von Furstenberg, load up on free magazines. A welcome pause from this year’s frenzy was offered by Glithero, the design duo of Tim Simpson and Sarah van Gameren.
The London-based studio was commissioned by Perrier-Jouët to create an installation that honored the champagne house’s Art Nouveau heritage (that famous flowered bottle was the result of a 1902 collaboration with artist Emile Gallé). “We sought to work with a designer that has the Art Nouveau dimension in his or her DNA,” Axelle de Buffevent, brand style director for Martell Mumm-Perrier-Jouët, told us in Miami. “With Glithero, you immediately see that their work is very inspired by nature, by the processes of nature.”
Long fascinated by processes ranging from artisanal craftsmanship to industrial production methods, Simpson and van Gameren responded to Perrier-Jouët’s commission by creating “Lost Time” (pictured), a darkened chamber strung with skeins of shot beads that dripped from the ceiling like glamorous ghosts of stalactites—or champagne flutes. The swooping volumes, inspired in part by Gaudí’s Sagrada Família, were reflected in a shallow pool of water, an infusion of moisture that heightened the cave-like atmosphere (and winked at the humidity that awaited on the other side of the air-conditioned tent).
This week a team of sharp-eyed astrophysicists announced their discovery of a new planet: a young, cold, and roguish type that refuses to orbit any star. They’ve named the sunless planet…CFBDSIR2149. While this is an improvement over “Uranus,” it doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. An astronomy- and space-focused startup is seeking to end this squandering of planet-naming opportunities with its first commercial project. Uwingu–”sky” in Swahili–is challenging the people of Earth to create a “baby book of planet names” for the 160 billion or more planets astronomers now estimate inhabit our galaxy, the Milky Way (cut to image of delicious candy bars).
“You can nominate planet names for your favorite town, state, or country, your favorite sports team, music artist, or hero, your favorite author or book, your school, your company, for your loved ones and friends, or even for yourself,” suggests Uwingu founder and CEO Alan Stern, an aerospace consultant and researcher who formerly directed all science program and missions at NASA. Each nomination costs 99 cents, with proceeds going to create a private sector fund for space projects. Names can be up to 50 characters (latin letters only), from any language or culture, and “can be anything the average grandmother would be proud to hear her grandchild say.” A contest will determine the 1,000 most popular planet names in the database, which will be communicated to planet-hunting astronomers for consideration. Voting is now open (votes also cost 99 cents each). Among the early leaders are “Pale Blue Dot,” “Heinlein,” and “Ron Paul.”
(Courtesy Reed Seifer)
We’ve been fans of graphic designer and artist Reed Seifer since 2010, when he pulled off a multi-sensory triumph at the Armory Show, simultaneously giving some much-needed visual punch to the art fair’s staid branding and infusing cavernous Pier 94 with an aromatherapeutical concotion designed to make fairgoers forget their recessionary woes. Since then, Brooklyn-based Seifer has brought his razor-sharp and wonderfully understated visual sense to other art fairs, book projects (this one is sure to take your breath away), and identities for galleries such as Zach Feuer, CRG, and James Graham & Sons. Read on to learn about Seifer’s favorite font, his recent project for the freshly expanded Sean Kelly Gallery, and his formative meeting with–gasp!–Paul Rand.
1. You work with a lot of clients in the art world, including The Armory Show, Creative Time, and top galleries. How did you come to specialize in working with these very aesthetically minded–some might say hypervisual–clients?
As a designer, artist, and minimalist, I feel I have a rare sensibility and understanding of how design and art may compliment one another. In the art world, where many businesses have similar visual identities and graphic practices, having a brand which harnesses well-composed, thoughtful typography makes a potent statement to a hypervisual audience. I love working with words and letterforms in that capacity. I am a font fetishist. So the way I came to specialize in working with hypervisual clients is by doing what I love and promoting myself well.
2. Tell us about the new hand-drawn wordmark you’ve created for Sean Kelly Gallery:
What did you seek to capture in this custom logo?
When I first met with Sean Kelly, he mentioned Duchamp as being of his favorite artists, so I wished to express the unconventional but as it spoke in the context of typography.
3. Turning to non-custom type, what’s your favorite typeface and why?
Comic Sans hands down, because as Nina Garcia says, “It is the sweatpants of fonts.”
At the Mall of America, bigger is better. In addition to 520 stores and 50 restaurants, the 4.2-million-square-foot complex is home to a towering LEGO robot, a giant green sea turtle (among the 10,000 creatures at the Sea Life Aquarium), and a roller coaster known as the SpongeBob SquarePants Rock Bottom Plunge. The holiday season inevitably brings a new crop of outsized attractions and this year, design is in the mix as HGTV readies its Holiday House, a life-size gingerbread manse that will debut in the mall’s rotunda (hang a right at the 44-foot-tall Christmas tree) on the day after Thanksgiving. No word as to whether actual gingerbread is involved, but the house will host a steady stream of demonstrations, meet and greets, and other events with the likes of Genevieve Gorder, Vern Yip, Carter Oosterhouse, and Sara Peterson, editor-in-chief of HGTV Magazine. Even Scrooges with no interest in the house’s thrice-daily “spectacular holiday light show” can stop by on the way home to have purchases gift-wrapped by HGTV elves.
“This symbol [perfume] is becoming very important for us. I’m working now on projects that are for 2018. The Eau Légère is coming out now. Then there’s men, there’s the bathroom [products]. It’s never-ending. I only like a scent that remains, something that is around forever. I hate that in the world of perfume there is permanently something new coming out–another new bottle or another bright packaging. And I hate when I go to the airport duty-free–now that I’m in that category, I always go through the duty-free–I hate the walls, when all of the packaging is different. I can’t stand it. There are very few people who have a strong vision and strong lineup. All of that takes a lot of thought and consideration. But it’s fascinating, the collaboration…to meet noses and to work with those people. Every time, I always tell our partner Coty Prestige that I have to meet eight to ten noses. It’s interesting always. That’s a fascinating universe.
You know, lots of men like our scent for them. I’m kind of bummed because now Barneys sells the scent of Serge Lutens, the parfums. Before you could only sell the eau de toilette. I distributed it for years in my store, but the parfum you could only buy at the Palais Royal; I liked the idea that you couldn’t get it. That it was very hard. And it eliminated that everybody smells the same.”