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Tune In Tomorrow…

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You know how we like to tease you on select Thursdays with the design-themed goodies we have planned for the following day? Well, today is no exception. Tune in tomorrow for all of the details about a special new…something! We offer a couple of hints: the above photo and the suggestion that if the news were a table, it would have flush surfaces, and straight block legs equal in thickness to the top of the table would form its four corners. Flummoxed? Don’t worry. We’re Gunna tell you tomorrow–you can BET on that.

Happy Alissa Walker Tribute Day!

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By now you’ve read yesterday’s late-breaking announcement and the fond, ’90′s R&B-themed farewell. But we couldn’t stop there. Although we didn’t have time to prepare (or convince Chip Kidd–or Peter Mendelsund–to design) a fitting festschrift for our dear departing editrix, we decided to do the next best thing and declare today, February 1st, official UnBeige Alissa Walker Tribute Day! (And unlike tomorrow, this holiday does not involve a famous rodent who dabbles in meteorology.)

So, why not gather your Star Wars memorabilia and design magazines around you and spend the rest of this Friday strolling down a designcentric memory lane as you peruse some of Alissa’s greatest hits of the past two years in our voluminous UnBeige archives (including, of course, her recent coverage of Compostmodern, AIGA NEXT, and last fall’s Dwell on Design confab) and join us in raising a glass–filled, of course, with several scoops of brilliantly-hued gelato (baby)–and toasting the wonderful Alissa. We’ll be back soon to give you the scoop from today’s Greener Gadgets conference and some design highlights from the first day of New York Fashion Week.

Hats Off to…

Be sure to tune in tomorrow when we’ll have all the exciting insider details about a lucrative (shall we say) new design project in New York City. OK, OK, we’ll give you a hint:

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That’s all you’ll get out of us for now. Until tomorrow, we’re keeping this one under our hat$.

So(Ho) This Is Christmas

ho ho ho.JPGWe could go on all day about all the lovely holiday cards we received this year (see also Steven Heller‘s 1981 tome, Artists’ Christmas Cards), but we know you need to get back to the present-opening and pie-eating, so we’ll just share with you a couple of our favorites.

First up is a delightfully festive take on the traditional New York City “Anthora” coffee cup from Soho-based accessories company MZ Wallace, founded in 2000 by Monica Zwirner and Lucy Wallace Eustice. We’ve long been been impressed not only by the company’s wares, which manage to be both beautiful and practical, but also their stunning graphic design. Who’s behind those suitable-for-framing postcards and catalogs, not to mention the understated website (which today features a flickering yule log)? We recently learned that MZ Wallace’s creative team is led by Seth Glickman and Meg Moorhouse. We promise to tell you more about them in 2008, but in the meantime, enjoy the card:
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Another holiday card highlight was this one from photographer Brett Beyer, who is a wizard with lighting effects (check out his website for samples of his “light sculpture”). With his holiday note, Beyer included this image that he captured of the Brooklyn Museum, adding, “I don’t have any holiday images but this one seems pretty festive.”
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Celebrities, Design and Magazine Ads Don’t Mix

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On this Thanksgiving day, we know you’re spending most of your time thinking about all that you’re thankful for. And we know that you truly do appreciate our regular, often booze-fueled rants, so we thought we’d give you a little one, on the quick, as our way of saying “Thanks for your thanks.” Anyway, so first up comes the news that Julia Roberts has teamed up with Armani to design an AIDS awareness bracelet to be sold for nearly $200 in the company’s stores.

The bohemian-style leather bracelets, which she showed the world during yesterday’s appearance on Oprah, come in red for women and brown for men. They go on sale…on World AIDS Day on Dec. 1, and proceeds benefit (PRODUCT) RED, the business initiative started by Bono and Bobby Shriver to fight AIDS in Africa.

A bracelet?! Really?! We have the most wonderful picture in our heads right now of a scene where Roberts says this: “I’ve got an idea here, and I’m just throwing it out here, so feel free to say no, but what if it wraps around your wrist? Like in a circle?” Also, when did we, as a nation, decide bracelets were so meaningful? The ribbons are bad enough, but at least they’ve got that Tie a Yellow Ribbon Around the Old Oak Tree connection. Mark this writer’s words: if you’re caught wearing one of these on the street, we’re going to give you a really mean look. Like, really super mean.

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The EPI’s Brown and a World of Poorly Designed Cities and Their Traffic Jams

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Things Magazine pointed us over to a good read at Celsias, “Designing Cities for People, Rather than Cars…” by writer Lester R. Brown, president of the Earth Policy Institute. In part, it talks about the transformation of Bogota, Columbia at the hands of its Mayor, Enrique Penalosa, who actively sought to foster design in growing city centers that were kept free of cars. And surprisingly, it’s worked. The second part of the essay talks about the build of other cities across the world and their dependence on congested motorways; what works (Amsterdam) and what doesn’t (Atlanta). Going back, here’s a bit about Bogota:

Penalosa realized that a city that is a pleasant environment for children and the elderly would work for everyone. In just a few years, he transformed the quality of urban life with his vision of a city designed for people. Under his leadership, the city banned the parking of cars on sidewalks, created or renovated 1,200 parks, introduced a highly successful bus-based rapid transit system, built hundreds of kilometers of bicycle paths and pedestrian streets, reduced rush hour traffic by 40 percent, planted 100,000 trees, and involved local citizens directly in the improvement of their neighborhoods. In doing this, he created a sense of civic pride among the city’s 8 million residents, making the streets of Bogota, in strife-torn Colombia, safer than those in Washington, D.C.

Madrid’s Subway A Mess, The People Blame Rafa Sanudo

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A good example of how one designer can create a whole bunch of commentary out of something as seemingly normal as a subway map, The Times reports on the bitterness the people of Madrid are feeling for Rafa Sanudo who was commissioned to redesign the map. Apparently, while it makes sense to visitors unfamiliar to the city, those who live there are infuriated that the whole system has been completely rearranged. Here’s some:

Stations that were on a straight line now appear divided by 90-degree turns. The geographical relationship between many well-known spots appears to have been reversed. Others complain that stations that appear to be linked on the map are in fact blocks apart — a complaint familiar to users of the London Underground.

Anden 1, a group of Madrid train enthusiasts, has attacked the new map as “confusing and illegible” and called for it to be withdrawn. “Even a schematic map should have some minimal relationship to the geography of the city,” it said.

Design for Everyone and Accessibility for All

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Because we’re in the market for a brownstone in Brooklyn (not because we want to move to New York to live or anything, we’ve just heard that it’s a popular thing to do), we ran across this story in Real Estate section of the NY Times yesterday, “Design for Everyone, Disabled or Not.” It’s about designing and building apartments and homes for people with disabilities, but not calling out the fact that they have been created as such. Here’s a little:

According to the Center for Universal Design at North Carolina State University, universal design is increasingly available, but few if any other large-scale buildings have used the concept throughout an entire building. The term “universal design” was coined in 1989 by the architect Ron Mace, who developed a set of seven principles, like “low physical effort” and “simple and intuitive use. Mr. Mace founded the center, in Raleigh, before he died in 1998 to further develop and integrate the principles into everyday life.

Just Two More Year End Reviews and Then That’s It…

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We’re just as sick of them as you are, and we promise these two will be the last “Best of the Year” things this writer posts from here on out (until this December when they all come out of the woodwork again). The first is Inhabitat‘s “Top 10 Green Design of 2006″, which goes over everything from advances in solar power to Ray Kappe‘s Living Home. Some nice quick synopses of things you might have missed throughout the year and some nice big photos to boot. The second is Advertising/Design Goodness’ “2006 Year in Review” highlighting everything from the best magazine ads, best art direction, direct mail, etc. Everything geared toward you spending money on junk you don’t need. So there you have it, and there we are, in 2007. Finally.

Alice’s Picks of ’06

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Our lady of fantastic re-emergence, Alice Rawsthorn, has compiled a great feature in her regular column at the International Herald Tribune, Design in 2006: A Year of Innovation and Utility. It’s just as it sounds, a year in review of the design world. But unlike a list based “This was cool, and so was this, and this…” she takes us through the whole year and tries to highlight what went down and what to look forward to in the future:

Whatever’s on your own checklist, there are lots of exciting design projects to look forward to in 2007. Take Apple’s long-rumored iPhone; and the Great Journeys series of Penguin paperbacks designed by David Pearson. Or Microsoft’s Multimouse, which will enable more children in poorly resourced schools to use the same computer, and Spore, the ambitious game devised by Will Wright as his follow-up to The Sims. And next summer the XO- 1 laptop will be shipped to schools throughout the developing world, albeit with a price tag closer to $150, than $100, for the first year or so.

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