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Archives: February 2008

Ten Thousand Things Asks Designers to Stop Acing Like Divas


Finally, to end this writer’s day on a piece of op-ed, the site Ten Thousand Things has a fun post up called “Dear Colleagues,” which asks designers to lay off being so dang cocky. It’s a good, quick read and particularly something to hold on to and potentially pass along to co-conspirators when you’re complaining about those people you’ve run into at conferences or, heck, maybe even share an office with. But we do think that if the writer of the post were to spend any time in the big budget ad agency world, or in fashion, or, god forbid, around high profile artists, designers would start looking much, much better. Here’s a bit:

Seriously people, what’s wrong with you? I don’t know where exactly, but somewhere in between Saul Bass and Joshua Davis, a new breed of designers was born. A breed with tremendous talent (most of them anyway) but with one big flaw: they developed an arrogant attitude and started acting like Divas instead of acting like the professionals they were supposed to be.

Catching Back Up with Refocus Imaging’s Shifting Focus


On Monday, we talked about Canon‘s crazy Iris Registration Mode eyeball copyright scanner thing. And now we continue along the path of interesting new futuristic digital imaging stuffs with more news about Refocus Imaging, the company that is trying to do away with focusing a camera and instead letting a user decide where the focus range should rest later, when they’re editing the photograph on a computer. You’ve likely heard about this before if you spend any time on even the mildest of tech sites, as it’s been around for a bit, first having been developed by a team at Stanford (who have since branched out from the university to form this company). Refocus Imaging has a few samples up on their site that are a blast to toy around with and Cnet has the whole story on the company, talking to its founders about their nifty idea. Here’s a bit:

“One way to think of it is just a raw image, except to the nth degree,” Ng said, referring to the raw images that higher-end cameras can record directly from the image sensor, leaving processing choices to the photographer. “It contains a ton more information than a raw picture today. There are all kinds of creative controls you couldn’t even conceive of now.”

Another advantage is that the technology works better in low light, he said. And by transforming the light’s optical properties using a computer instead of relying just on the camera’s lenses, a computing system can correct aberrations to improve lens sharpness, as well as heighten lens contrast and lower its manufacturing costs.

Designing A Replacement for E-Mail?


Really interesting commentary over on Dan Rubin‘s SuperfluousBanter, “Email Doesn’t Scale,” which is about wanting to start thinking about designing a better form of online communication than e-mail. With some thoughts of his own and some links to other people who have been thinking about the same idea, it’s one of those sorts of things that sounds completely insane when you hear it at first (“Who would ever want to see television in color?!”), but then as he gets into it, it sorta does kinda make sense. Not that there’s any answer sitting right there waiting to be adopted a week from now, but it’s a fun thing to think about. And hey, if you happen to be some crackpot inventor, here’s your chance to come up with the next big idea and change the way the world communicates, without ever making a dime and no one remembering who you were, just like poor old Todd Email, the inventor of modern electronic mail. Here’s a bit:

Email isn’t broken for everyone (or at least, if it is they don’t realize it yet), but I find more people becoming frustrated with email every week. Add the whole SPAM problem into the mix (over the last 6 months, more and more of my valid incoming/outgoing messages are getting caught by SPAM filters than ever) and I just see email continuing its downward spiral.

I’m not sure of the solution — as long as my clients continue to send me emails and expect a response, I’m a bit nervous to tell them to shove it…

DC Memorial Commission Says No to Suse Lowenstein


While the UK has gotten over nudes in its tunnels, apparently America is still living up to its Puritan stereotype. Case in point: artist Suse Lowenstein‘s Dark Elegy sculpture, created in response to her son dying along with his Syracuse University classmates in the bombing of Flight 103 in 1988, has been rejected by the National Capital Memorial Advisory Commission for public display in Washington DC. The sculpture features 73 vaguely nude women, representing mothers, wives and sisters, grieving over the loss of their loved ones. And although the sculpture has had installations in a number of different cities, the Commission deemed it too risque and runs the risk of being damaged by immature hoodlums:

John G. Parsons, an associate regional director for the National Park Service, first raised concerns about the sculptures in a May 2007 letter to Lowenstein.

“(B)ecause some of the poses of the various figures create an opportunity for irreverent behavior by visitors, there is serious concern about activities that would be disrespectful of your purpose,” Parsons added.

Lowenstein’s husband was so upset by the suggestion that he asked to approach commission members during their deliberations.

“Do you really feel objections like that are valid, and not a fantasy of someone’s mind?” he said. “Because my first instinct was to keep Mr. Parsons away from them.”

We love this response more than anything and we hope some sense comes floating by the Commission’s office sometime soon. Oh, and as an aside, although this was an AP story, we picked the above link to the Houston Chronicle just because either copy or web editor clearly didn’t read the story, as the title in the browser reads “9/11 terror victim memorial soundly rejected.” First, it had nothing to do with the September 11th attacks and second, “soundly”? As in “very valid”? Or did they mean “severe”? In both counts, step it up, huh Chronicle?

Chip Kidd’s The Learners Reviewed Glowingly in Newsweek

the learners.jpgWe still can’t stop talking about his dead-on impression of Margaret Hamilton (it left us melting, mel-ting!), and now Chip Kidd has gone and gotten a full-page review in the March 3 issue of Newsweek. (What a world, what a world!)

Reviewer Amid Capeci goes for the zeitgeist angle, calling Kidd’s The LearnersMad Men: The Novel,” but we’re pretty sure he means that as a compliment:

Kidd captures the predigital art department just right. Most designers still keep around some Xactoblades, non-repro blue pencils, and white masking tape, just for old time’s sake. (Or maybe that’s just NEWSWEEK designers.) Still, it’s not surprising that Kidd, 43, has re-created this world with the kind of care you’d see on a million-dollar ad campaign.


You can see a lot of Kidd in Happy. While pitching the Buckle Shoes account, he tinkers with the idea of a campaign that doesn’t show the product at all. The client just laughs at him. Kidd’s best, and most twisted, moments come when he examines the industry’s evolving forms of content–the introduction of metaphor, wit and irony–as consumers become aware they’re being sold. Kidd seamlessly weaves real-world detail into his fiction–brushed-aluminum office furniture, Jackie O. ensembles–while offering primers in typography and design tools.

Quel coincidence/full disclosure: we’re wearing a Jackie O. ensemble and sitting at a brushed aluminum desk right this minute! Meanwhile, a big thank you to eagle-eyed Debbie Millman (who on Friday chats with Stefan Bucher on Design Matters) for pointing out this review to us. Says Millman, “I think you know what you’ve crossed over into ‘real’ fame when you have a full page in Newsweek.”

You Oughta Be in Pictures; Or At Least Be Able to Expertly Manipulate Them

photoshop.bmpWe confess to having actually purchased the book Learn Tennis in a Weekend. Although rather well designed, the instructional tome was of little help in catalyzing our ascent up our grade school team’s doubles roster. But some things–like Adobe Photoshop–can be learned in a weekend, at least with the right teacher. This weekend in New York City, is hosting a course that promises to get Mac-based designers proficient in Photoshop in two short days. Instructor Mara Sachs will guide you through everything from color correction and retouching to masking and exporting your work for use in other applications. Similar courses in Illustrator and InDesign are slated for later this spring. So maybe you can learn tennis in a weekend after all–layer tennis, that is.

Albert Maysles on Paper

(Albert Maysles).jpgLegendary filmmaker Albert Maysles, fresh off his stint playing Santa Claus in Kate Spade‘s holiday ads, has an exhibition of photographs and “cinemagraphs” at New York’s Steven Kasher Gallery. The show, which runs through March 15th, is accompanied by A Maysles Scrapbook, a lushly produced monograph from Steidl that draws upon a recently discovered cache of original film negatives, hours of outtake film, numerous still photographs, production notes, and personal and business letters.

The exhibition includes vintage black-and-white prints from the 1950s as well as large-scale, limited-edition cinemagraphs reproduced from the original footage of Grey Gardens, Gimme Shelter, Salesman, and other films that Maysles made with his late brother, David. We think that the jaunty example above, featuring “Little” Edie Beale clad in one of her “revolutionary costumes” and dancing to the Virginia Military Institute March, is just the thing to get you through a tough Wednesday. Maysles recorded the image 33 years ago this Sunday.

As for the latest Maysles brothers film, be sure to check out The Gates, the documentary they made with Antonio Ferrera and Matthew Prinzing chronicling Christo and Jean-Claude‘s public art project, which took more than two decades to realize. The film is now playing on HBO.

Gap Gets on Warhol Marketing Bandwagon

Gap founders Donald and Doris Fisher own a slew of works by Andy Warhol, including a “Triple Elvis” and a series of Mick Jagger portraits, but you needn’t wait until the Fishers’ planned San Francisco art museum opens to get a hefty dose of Warhol. Just stop by a Gap store, where the windows currently look like this:


(Gap Inc.).jpgGap store windows nationwide (at least as far as we can tell) are featuring Warhol’s 1963-64 self portrait and a polyptych of silk-screened images of Judith Green (also from 1963-64) alongside the brand’s spring collection, which itself has a somewhat Warholian flair. The company’s website even features a photo of an adrogynous model with a cropped platinum ‘do (next season, just add large round glasses for an instant David Hockney vibe!).

Of course, Barneys filled its own store windows with Warholiana back in 2006 as part of the successful “Happy Warholidays” campaign, and Bulgari recently plastered billboards with Warhol’s quote comparing the jeweler to a contemporary art museum. The Barneys deal seems to have kicked off a licensing binge at the Andy Warhol Foundation. Now, in addition to the Warhol-branded Levi’s jeans we mentioned yesterday, one can buy everything from tote bags and watches to salad plates and a Burton snowboard emblazoned with reproductions of Warhol works. The newest Warhol-themed product launch comes from Bond No. 9, which next month will introduce Andy Warhol Union Square, the second in the company’s series of Warhol-themed fragrances. And the artist would surely endorse this move from the visual to the olfactory stage. As he once said, “Another way to take up more space is with perfume.”

Edward Leida’s Graphic Metaphors

(edward leida).jpgWhen the amazing Edward Leida isn’t masterminding the design of W magazine as Fairchild‘s Group Design Director and being nominated for oodles of awards, he makes time to dream up fun graphics of his own, notes W‘s Editors Blog. We’ve highlighted this particular one, in a transparent attempt to woo the creative genius to be our next Seven Questions subject. [bats eyelashes coquettishly] Did we mention how much we adore the pushpin-inspired typography that titles the Mert and Marcus photos in W‘s March issue? And don’t even get us started on that Mario Sorrenti portfolio…

The British Museum Joins the Army to Hunt for Iraqi Artifacts


Huh. Rare is the day you make any connection between The British Museum and the armed forces. But such is the case in Iraq, as the mammoth museum and the British army have decided to team up to inspect “cultural locations” throughout the country, seeing what still might be salvageable after years of conflict. Although this does seem like a great gesture by the museum in hoping to help keep at least some of the country’s history in tact, following widespread looting of countless natural treasures, reading between the lines in the piece makes it seem a little underhanded and largely for the museum’s benefit, with that “let’s make sure their artifacts are safe” line thrown in for good press, particularly after this section:

At the British Museum the initiative is being driven by Dr John Curtis, keeper of the Middle East collections and an expert on Iraq and Iran. He said the plan was at an early stage and they had not yet talked to the Iraqi authorities, who would be key to it happening at all.

You’d think that might be, like, priority number one, wouldn’t you? Otherwise, it’s a little like sending a letter a few months down the line saying, “By the way, we’re going to be bringing our troops in and taking your priceless vases. Just wanted to give you a heads up!” We’re likely 100% wrong on all of this and just being horrible horrible cynics, per usual, but if that was the way it all played out, it would kinda make the US-issued “cultural heritage playing cards” look downright holy in comparison.