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Crayola Partners with ‘Doodle 4 Google’ Contest, Katy Perry to Judge

Last spring, an out-of-this-world drawing by seven-year-old Matteo Lopez triumphed over 107,000 other entries to win Google’s annual contest to redesign its homepage logo. Now Crayola and the New York Public Library are in on the Doodle 4 Google fun as partners in the contest, which this year challenges K-12 students nationwide to doodle around the theme “If I could travel in time, I’d visit…” (Google headquarters would probably be too on the nose). Pop songstress Katy Perry and author/illustrator Mo Willems (Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!) are among the guest judges, who will evaluate top entries from all 50 states on criteria including artistic merit, creativity, and representation of the theme. So what’s in store for the winner, besides a one-day spotlight on the Google homepage and a swarm of media attention? Google will give the champion doodler a $30,000 college scholarship, a $50,000 technology grant for his or her school, and a trip to New York, among other goodies. And Crayola’s upping the ante with its promise to put the winning artwork on a limited-edition 64-box of crayons. Pass the Burnt Sienna! Get all the details and start feeding your children (or any children, for that matter) “ideas”, because entries are due by March 23.

Australian Hotel Launches Promotion Inviting Guests to Steal Their Banksy

Well here’s a new one. The Australian hotel chain, Art Series Hotels, which features respected art throughout its hallways and in its rooms, has launched a promotion called Steal Banksy. In it, they’re encouraging people to swipe the Banksy they have in their collection, entitled “No Ball Games” and estimated to be worth somewhere between $15,000 to $20,000, hidden somewhere in one of their three hotels. “Find the art and try and steal it,” they write. “If you don’t get caught it’s yours to keep. If you do get caught then back up on the wall it goes.” The promotional aspect of it, beyond the publicity of course, is that the fun-to-read terms and conditions (pdf) state that you’re required to book a night’s stay should you discover the hidden piece and want to keep it. However, we’re curious as to why, if you’re going to be plan a heist in the first place, why bother following a company’s rules and regulations, something we’re fairly sure very few legitimate art thieves do themselves? And, clever marketing or not, we’d really like to know what the museum world thinks about the glorifying of art theft. Whatever the case or potential controversy, should you want to try your hand at it, the Banksy has been hung and you now have until January 15th to find it.

UnBeige Gift Guide: C Is for Can Can Pendant Light

Marcel Wanders loves a flash of brocade. The prolific Dutch designer has made a cheeky signature out of mixing ornate patterns with clean-lined shapes, bold colors, and modern materials for projects ranging from theatrical interiors and iconic chairs to MAC cosmetics and harlequin-patterned “jester” socks for British department store Marks and Spencer. Our gift guide pick is the Can Can pendant light ($232 at YLighting), which Wanders describes as “a dancing, seductive lamp that only shows her hidden secrets from a more private position.” Designed for FLOS, the linear suspension light conceals a delicate floral decoration that filters the light as it is diffused. During ICFF, FLOS’s New York showroom celebrated Can Can with the help of a tattoo artist, who was on hand to emblazon Wanders-drawn decorative flourishes on willing flesh, and now the company has teamed up with YLighting and Wanders to host the Pattern Play Design Contest. Design lovers are invited to apply the intricate inner pattern of the Can Can pendant light in “unexpected places.” And with this group of judges—Wanders, FLOS CEO Piero Gandini, and Sean Calahan, CEO of YLighting—the more creative and unusual the better. Entries are due by January 15, and full contest details are here.

Have a suggestion for the UnBeige Gift Guide? E-mail us at

Previously on the UnBeige Gift Guide:
A is for Adjaye’s African Metropolitan Architecture
B is for Brinca Dada Bennett House

Create ‘Something out of Something’ for the Etgar Keret Design Contest

Jakub Szczesny of Polish architecture collective Centrala recently designed what will be the narrowest house in Warsaw (rendering at right). The slim steel frame will be squeezed between two existing buildings, and the dwelling-cum-art installation will feature remote-control stairs, yacht-style water and sewage systems, as well as the challenge of navigating a space that, at its narrowest, spans a mere 28 inches. The inspiration for this miniature marvel? Israeli writer and filmmaker Etgar Keret, an expert at crafting compact narratives that pack an outsized punch. In anticipation of his new story collection (out in April), FSG Originals and BOMB Magazine, have launched a contest that invites readers, artists, and designers to draw inspiration from the written work of Keret to create visual art of their own. The “Something out of Something” contest, which takes its name from a passage in the title story of the forthcoming book, is open for entries through March 1, 2012. The winning piece—as determined by Keret along with judges from FSG and Bomb—will be featured in a Keret story or film. Full details, as well as submissions, can be viewed on the contest’s Tumblr.

Finns Challenge Designers Not to Design Chairs

Peter Bristol’s “Cut Chair” (Photo: Peter Bristol)

With Helsinki poised to begin its reign as 2012 World Design Capital, a couple of crafty Finns have issued a challenge to designers worldwide: go a year without designing a chair. Carpenter/artist Eero Yli-Vakkuri and blacksmith/designer Jesse Sipola of Ore.e Refineries are spearheading the No Chair Design Challenge, with goals ranging from freeing up time for non-chair-design-related activities to altering the world’s view of sitting. “We believe that the world already has enough chairs. Designing new ones only takes time away from renovating the ones we already have,” say Sipola and Yli-Vakkuri. “Consider this the ultimate challenge for you to rethink how sustainable design should be manifested.” Show your support by committing not to design a chair in 2012 through their online petition. Beginning in January, the duo will solicit text message-based updates from participants about what they’ve accomplished when not designing chairs, and five designers will be rewarded with “DnS – Design and Craft Diplomas.” Take a seat—or better yet, stand—as you watch this video tutorial on how not to design chairs.

Chicago’s Field Museum Wins ‘America’s Best Restroom’ Contest

The Stirling Prize? The Pritzker? Who needs ‘em when there’s been a winner selected for a far more important contest. Following up on a story we’d posted over the summer when the shortlist was announced, and something we’re sure you’d been on the edge of your seat about ever since, the America’s Best Restroom contest has chosen Chicago’s own Field Museum as the greatest in the country. Granted, the whole thing is just a marketing effort for Cintas, a provider of restroom equipment, and it’s perhaps not the greatest accomplishment to be known for, but still, we here in Chicago will take what we can get. Here’s a bit about what brought the Field Museum the gold:

With two large family-friendly restrooms on the ground floor, the Field Museum features sufficient stalls and sinks, as well as eco-friendly hand-dryers. The women’s restroom has a special nursing room with a shut door, sink, and small sofa for new mothers. The women’s restroom also has a large Tot Area with smaller toilets for our littlest guests. The restrooms are also right across a Nanny Caddy filled with diapers, band-aids, wipes, etc.

Obama for America in Hot Water Over Spec Design Contest

Those against spec work have been fighting an unlikely target of late: President Obama. In case you missed any of the anger, the story goes is that Obama for America organization recently launched a poster design competition called “Art Works,” which would help promote the President’s jobs bill. The irony, of course, is that the winners of said contest won’t be paid, i.e. like a real “job” would traditionally provide. Instead, the three winners picked by the campaign will receive a print of their poster signed by Obama. This caught the ire of vocal designers like Mike Monteiro, recently made all the more famous for his “F%& You, Pay Me” video, and the AntiSpec organization who writes that “using creatives for free work isn’t supporting your ‘create jobs’ campaign.” In the Huffington Post‘s conversation with cartoonist Matt Bors, he calls the contest “the opposite of jobs” and says not only does it take advantage of the designers who choose to enter, but per the usual complaint about spec work, hurts the entire industry as a whole. “You don’t have contests with your plumber,” he tells the site. The story just yesterday was picked up by Rolling Stone who dug into the legality of the contest, wondering if it might violate campaign contribution rules. In speaking to a lawyer familiar with election law, they find that it all seems on the up-and-up, that technically the winning entries will be viewed as donations to the cause, so long as they aren’t designed by corporations, unions, et al. The contest closes on November 4th, but following such a negative response, we’ll have to wait and see if it actually reaches the finish line in the end.

They’re No Longer Coming to Get You, Barbara: Zombie Safe House Competition Opens Up Public Voting

‘Tis the season for contemplating the dead walking among us and some designers and architects have likely been doing much more thinking about it than you have. The 2011 Zombie Safe House Competition has just kicked into its public voting stage. With roughly 200 entries from more than 12 countries, the project received many more entries, and, as you might expect, far more gruesome, than this year’s Barbie Dream House design contest (though, in thinking of it now, something made for both purposes totally would have been our entry for either competition). As part of the ZombCon kicking off in Seattle on Oct. 21st, the competition features a distinguished panel of judges, from best-selling author Max Brooks to the real-life architecture firms of Eskew+Dumez+Ripple and emmerymcclure architecture. Not surprising at all, many of the entries are remarkably detailed and well-thought. And failing in those criteria, they’re at least horribly bloody or wonderfully funny. We also dig the simple complexity of the RFP-esque “Program Issues to Address”:

1. How many people can you fit in your safe house?

2. How are you handling power, potable water, and waste?

3. How are you handling access to your safe house?

4. How many days do you plan to stay in your safe house, and how much food and water are you providing?

5. How will you escape in the event of a zombie intrusion?

6. How will you keep zombies out of your safe house?

As for the budget you’re allotted: “No budget restriction is applied. Your safe house is human civilization’s last hope!”

Cut&Paste Kicks Off Digital Design Tournament

Love Layer Tennis? Get off the sidelines and seize an opportunity to show off your design skills—live on stage. Our friends at Cut&Paste are once again on the hunt for graphical savants ready to battle it out in their fourth global digital design tournament, which makes a strong case for design as spectator sport. Building on the success of its 2010 world tour, the design booster organization will host competitions in 2D, 3D, and motion design in a dozen cities (from New York to Seoul) to scout and spotlight talent for the big show: the Global Championship in March 2012. Select tournaments will feature Show&Tell presentations that promise “an insightful how-to with some of the brightest minds in the design community.” Have nerves of steel and a golden portfolio? Cut&Paste is now accepting applications to compete. The deadline for U.S. entries is Friday, September 30, while nascent design stars in Europe, Asia, and Latin America have a bit longer to apply. And if the idea of a live-action digital design smackdown has you scratching your head, check out the below video.

‘Loved to Death’, National Mall Design Competition Launches

Hot off the heels of the insanely fast redesign competition for the President’s Park South and the opening of the forever controversial Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, the move to spruce up Washington DC’s most visited areas continue at a healthy clip. Just before the weekend, the Trust for the National Mall launched the National Mall Design Competition. Writing that the Mall “has been loved to death” and is struggling to keep up appearances since its last major preservation effort nearly 40 years ago, the competition has put a call out for redesign plans for three sites in particular: Union Square, the Washington Monument grounds at Sylvan Theater and Constitution Gardens. Unlike the aforementioned President’s Park South competition, which seemed as though it was started and finished in around an hour and a half, the Mall project will be taking its time (pdf), blocked out in a series of stages, with potentially eight teams picked between now and December, renderings out in April of next year, and winners named in May of 2012. The budget for the restoration is currently estimated at $700 million, with half coming from donations and the other from matching federal funds. Former First Lady Laura Bush, now no stranger to landscape-centric capital campaigns after overseeing her husband’s presidential library in Texas, has signed on as the Honorary Chair to help raise the money. Here’s a list of the problems that propelled the Trust into action:

  • The National Mall has been loved to death.
  • With more than 25 million annual visitors and 3,000 annual permitted events, the National Mall is the most visited park in the NPS system.
  • Pierre L’Enfant, who designed the National Mall in 1791, could not have anticipated this magnitude of use. The National Mall is not equipped to withstand this level of use or engage so many visitors.
  • The National Mall now requires more than $400 million for critical deferred maintenance and an estimated $300 million for restoration and improvement projects.
  • The last time the National Mall received adequate resources was for the Bicentennial celebration in 1976. These decades of neglect have left the National Mall in need of repair.