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Jonas Damon Reveals Frog Design’s Vision for NYC Payphones

Ring! ring! It’s the future calling. With NYC’s current payphone contracts set to expire in 2014, the city is scouting for ways to modernize payphone infrastructure across the five boroughs and put all of that public space to the best possible use. Hence Mayor Michael Bloomberg‘s appearance (via video link) at a December meeting of the New York Tech Meetup, where he announced the “Reinvent Payphones Design Challenge,” a competition to rally urban designers, planners, technologists, and policy experts to create physical and virtual prototypes that imagine the future of NYC’s public pay telephones. Frog Design hopped to it, and while the list of semi-finalists who will present their concepts at next Tuesday’s Demo Day has yet to be announced, something tells us Frog will be among them. In a talk on Saturday at Parsons’ Aftertaste symposium, Frog creative director Jonas Damon offered a sneak peek at the firm’s vision for payphones of the future:

Look: Valentine E-Cards for Architecture Lovers

Architecture for Humanity understands that for design lovers, a good greeting card (among other things) is hard to find. And so the nonprofit is kicking off its annual “I Love Architecture” campaign with a selection of e-cards that allow senders to simultaneously declare their love for the recipient and one of eight iconic structures, from the Taj Mahal and the Eiffel Tower to Herzog & de Meuron‘s Beijing Bird’s Nest and the Castelvecchio Museum, renovated by Carlo Scarpa. The buildings were selected because they are emblematic of architecture’s unique “merging together of learned skills and individual practice,” according to Architecture for Humanity co-founder Cameron Sinclair. Got a special someone who you love even more than Louis Kahn‘s National Parliament of Bangladesh? Click here to select a card that you can share online or download and e-mail with a custom message.

Flash Mob Lights Up Grand Central

New York’s Grand Central Terminal is an ideal spot for a flash mob–remember when Moncler Grenoble’s stone-faced model-dancers took to the floor in Carlo Mollino-inspired skiwear? As part of the big 100th birthday bash, the insta-happening experts at Improv Everywhere recruited 135 LED-flashlight-wielding performers to light up Grand Central’s grand windows, mesmerizing passersby. The impressively choreographed affair, a project cooked up with MTA Arts for Transit, was something of a homecoming for Improv Everywhere, which in 2007 staged “Frozen Grand Central,” a flash freeze that has racked up 32 million views on YouTube. Watch both successful “missions” below.


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In Which We Await Larry Gagosian’s Waffles


“Big Waffles,” a 2010 painting by Mary Ellen Johnson

Lately Larry Gagosian has been the subject of even more media scrutiny than usual, fueled by assorted lawsuits (Ronald Perelman, Jan Cowles) and high-profile artist defections (Damien Hirst, Yayoi Kusama). New York magazine accompanied Eric Konigsberg‘s investigative profile with a photo-illustration (by hitandrun) that attempted to depict the uberdealer as Hirst’s famous diamond-studded skull, although it succeeded only in evoking Jambi the Genie. Well, meka leka hi meka hiney ho, haters, because Gagosian has something delicious up his well-tailored sleeve. Never underestimate a man who knows the power of waffles.

In March-ish (our best guess after peeking into the construction site earlier today), Gagosian will open a restaurant downstairs from his Upper East Side gallery. Designed by Annabelle Selldorf, the eatery will be managed by nearby Sant Ambroeus, so fingers crossed that they bring on Mucca to mastermind the menu design. There will be waffles–and wine, and chili, and fun!–as Gagosian revealed in an interview with Peter Brant that appeared in the December 2012/January 2013 issue of Interview:

It will be a neighborhood restaurant. Bill Acquavella already reserved a table. He was one of the first to say, “I want to have my own table.” So that’s good news. We’re going to try to have it be a destination for people who like wine and try to get wine companies to bring us special wines. We’re going to have international cuisine. We’re going to have waffles for breakfast because I love the waffles at the Beverly Hills Hotel. I put some things on the menu that you can’t get in every restaurant, things that I like. I love chili, so we’ll have a good chili. We’ll have a couple of Armenian dishes. But we’re going to have fun with it. I could have done a menu by consensus, but so many people were telling me what to do that I finally said, “Screw it. This is what I want.” I just want to be able to go down there and have a good time and be able to entertain my friends.

Quote of Note | David Tang on Cars

“On [car] colors, I have always heard that green is unlucky. The British racing green is also often confused with the modern metallic green that seems to be favored by accountants. A good friend of mine, who controls a multinational conglomerate, forbids any of his companies to carry out transactions with a country whose flag has got green in it. So no Zimbabwe, and half of the countries in Africa–nor Ireland nor Italy. It is, surprisingly, a rather smart rule. On cleanliness, I hate the images of the father washing the car, with his young son drying with one of those yellow suede cloths, in the drive of their semi-bijou residence. This is such a haunting image that I have never worried about the state of cleanliness of any car. When I got married, I left the church with my bride in a filthy Hummer full of mud that had been accumulated from three days of shooting.”

-Sir David Tang, who first visited Monte Carlo in “a completely clapped out [Citroën] Deux-CV,” in his most recent “Agony Uncle” column for the Financial Times

GE Engineers Soup Up Santa’s Sleigh, Reindeer Rejoice

Amidst the fruitless efforts of a nine-member entity known only as “R. Deer LLC” to swap out Santa‘s rickety old sleigh with a Tesla Model S, engineers at GE have taken it upon themselves to reimagine the jolly old elf’s ride. The souped-up sleigh draws upon a range of technologies to offer a greener, faster, and more efficient Christmas Eve journey. Among the new features are a thin cooling solution that can improve jet engine aerodynamics, air traffic management technology to help Santa and the reindeer steer clear of planes, 3-D-printed sleigh blades for greater lift and maneuverability, and a rugged new battery that can function under extreme conditions.

The sleigh frame, sprayed with water- and ice-repellant coatings, has been upgraded with GE’s high-temperature ceramic composites–enabling flight into outer space and back. Santa is on board with the extraterrestrial upgrade. “I am looking forward to flying into outer space,” he said in a statement issued by GE. “This will really save time by helping me get to destinations in different parts of the world much faster.” And the reindeer couldn’t be more pleased with the redesign, which features an electric traction motor that can take over when Dasher, Dancer, and the gang need a breather. Noted Rudolph, “Covering the entire globe can be pretty exhausting, and having the opportunity to rest along the way will help us remain in peak condition.”
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Laurence King’s Twelve Desks of Christmas

You can keep your five golden rings and arboreally ensconced partridge. We’ll take eleven exotic writing utensils, ten action figures a-leaping, and a Sesame Street screen saver. All of these wonders and more await you in Laurence King‘s “Twelve Desks of Christmas.” The London-based publisher behind covetable and creative titles such as Angus Hyland and Steven Bateman‘s Symbol and 100 Ideas that Changed Graphic Design by Steven Heller and Veronique Vienne engaged in a little office voyeurism this holiday season, posting photos of 12 mystery desks and inviting the world to guess whose was whose. Here are a few (recently de-identified) highlights, from our desk to yours:


See those books? He wrote all of them! This is the desk of Steve Heller.
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Name a Planet! Spacey Startup Uwingu Creating ‘Baby Book of Planet Names’

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.”

Graphic Homage: John Cage Meets Offset Printing in Project by Nicholas Blechman and Friends

In 1948, John Cage paid a visit to the anechoic chamber at Harvard University, an echo-free room that had recently been built for the purpose of physics research. Surrounded by foot-thick concrete walls that bristled with sound-absorbing wedges, he had an epiphany: “I heard that silence was not the absence of sound but was the unintended operation of my nervous system and the circulation of my blood,” wrote Cage. He credited that experience, along with the white paintings of his Black Mountain College chum Robert Rauschenberg, with leading him to compose 4’33”. The composition, divided into three sections, consists of four minutes and thirty-three seconds in which the performer plays nothing. On the occasion of Cage’s 100th birthday, his most famous work gets a graphic design twist from Nicholas Blechman (art director of The New York Times Book Review), Irene Bacchi, and Leonardo Sonnoli. The trio created “Heidelberg Speedmaster” (below), an offset print interpretation of 4’33” and named for the industrial printing machine at work in the video, recorded last Friday at La Pieve Poligrafica in Rimini, Italy. Each of the composition’s three parts are also interpreted in posters designed by Blechman, Bacchi, and Sonnoli (two of the posters are pictured above). And now, your moment(s) of Zen:

Quote of Note | Murray Moss

“Italian architect Gio Ponti‘s ‘Parete Organizzata’ illuminated wall organizer would ordinarily be categorized as Design, primarily due to the fact it has an obvious function, whereas, curiously, Kasimir Malevich‘s design for a ceiling, in spite of the fact that it too has a function, is normally categorized as Art. Flat Art is normally hung on the wall; Design rarely is. Yet in our installation of these two works at Phillips, the Ponti is mounted on the wall, and the Malevich is placed on an easel, in space. As a result, are they both ‘re-departmentalized’? Do we allow the wall to become a determining factor in establishing what is Art and what is not?”

-Murray Moss, in the incredibly beautiful catalogue for “Moss, the Auction: Dialogues Between Art and Design,” on view through October 15 at Phillips de Pury & Company in New York

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