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Archives: May 2008

Steven Heller and Co. Come Up with New Campaign Mementos

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Steven Heller is back on the campaign trail again this morning with a new update of his on the NY Times‘ Campaign Stops blog. This time around, basing his post on a fond memory of an Adlai Stevenson pin, he asked a handful of designers to create new mementos for the Clinton, Obama, and McCain campaigns. With all things like this, some fall a little short, but there are some, like Nigel Holmes‘ “Obama: Open the Curtain” drapery accessory-turned-campaign-trinket are nothing short of brilliant:

This symbolizes pulling back the curtain on a new era of openness and truth. O, the perfect circle, equals completeness: one America. It is eco-friendly, does not have to be manufactured: just go to your local hardware store and you can get it in a variety of sizes and colors. One can hang it (or many of them) in the window to show support and use as a Christmas tree or holiday decoration to celebrate the coming of a new presidency.

Redesigned Laptops Raise $20K for Charity

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The results of PC Magazine‘s Computerlicious Design Experience charity auction are in, and the monkey won by a mile. The HP laptop given an extreme makeover by Paul Frank Industries (pictured above, at center) and featuring the face of company spokesmonkey Julius was the top-selling machine at $3,605.55. DDCLab‘s leatherbound laptop (above, at right) sold for $2,550, and Shepard Fairey‘s peace-themed design (above, at left), topped with a bandit graphic and a rather sinister mandala, attracted a high bid of $2,051.

The auction, part of PC Magazine‘s 25th anniversary celebration, raised a total of $20,832.55 for the National Cristina Foundation, which provides used computer equipment to needy organizations. Meanwhile, we are especially envious of the winner of the laptop tricked out by sculptor Paul Harper. What better way to command respect at that next important meeting than to casually pop open an HP Dragon laptop topped by a chunky red and yellow dragon reclining upon a sea of blue and purple gumballs?

Getting to Know the Real (Nice) James Victore

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To close out this writer’s day, we turn to a fun, quick piece, in the hopes of helping you still to adjust to being back in front of a computer. It’s an interview with James Victore over at he site Facing Sideways. Can anyone really ever get enough of the great mustachioed one? Judging from the billion posts we’ve had about him over the years, we know we’re guilt-less junkies. Anyway, it’s a great piece, with an interviewer nervous that Victore would live up to a perception of “being ‘the angry man of graphic design’,” only to find that he’s a swell, likable guy after all (we could have told you that). He also gets really into talking about his plates project, which is always great to hear about:

JV: The plates are just a funny thing that came about a bunch of years ago. As a young designer I was a bit of a barfly and I would always have paint markers or sharpies with me. I would draw on the plates, glasses, wine bottles etc, when I had finished with them. In my heart, I’m a customiser, I just change everything. I draw on my equipment, I’ve got type on myself. I would use them to start conversations, or give them away as gifts. A couple of years ago, a friend of mine who has a small gallery in Brooklyn asked me if I wanted to do a show of my work. He meant the posters but I really didn’t want to see them up anywhere, it’s not that interesting to me. I told him that I would think about it. Laura (James wife) and I took a vacation to Austin where she’s from and where we like to spend a lot of time. I went to a friends studio and on his wall was a tiny little plate with a funny little drawing on it. I saw it from across the room and my immediate reaction was ‘That’s fucking nice’. Then it dawned on me that I had actually done it for him when he had been in town previously.

If you’re looking for a bit more to feed to your Victore-fix, here’s our interview with the man, the myth, the legend from a couple of years ago.

Focus Web Design on Quick and Easy, Says Jakob Nielsen’s Usability Report

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Well, now that we’ve gotten to know you, we feel like we’ve got to start making these posts short, sweet and immediately to the point. At least that’s the case if you go off Jakob Nielsen‘s latest web usability report. In it, he says that web users are getting “more ruthless and selfish,” meaning that they want to get onto a site, get what they need, and get right out. No dilly-dallying, hunting for information on a site, or waiting for those super-exciting, animated pages to load. He also reports that people are getting more savvy with the web as well, no longer getting duped by ads or marketing tricks at the same rates they had before. What does this mean for you? Start living by a mantra of simplicity and substance and you should be fine. For the rest of you: maybe a new animated gif on your Geocities page might work. Here’s a bit:

“The designs have become better but also users have become accustomed to that interactive environment,” Dr Nielsen told BBC News.

Now, when people go online they know what they want and how to do it, he said.

This makes them very resistant to highlighted promotions or other editorial choices that try to distract them. “Web users have always been ruthless and now are even more so,” said Dr Nielsen.

The Mysterious Disappearance of Zaha Hadid (and the Replacement Appearance of Norman Foster)

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One of those bits of news to read into and make up your own conspiracy theories or supposed conflicts. Story goes, as learned by the wonderful 1+1=3, is that Foster+Partners has been put in place to build a multi-billion office and housing project in Melbourne, Australia. Nothing too new or exciting there, sure, as Norman Foster and his pals are always landing these sorts of huge gigs. But the interesting part is learning that, up until recently, Zaha Hadid was running the project. Then, all of the sudden, she went away and no one is saying why. So now you get to make up your own story, as to why she’d walk away under mysterious circumstances. See the sorts of fun we provide for you around here? You’re welcome. Here’s a bit:

On the Sama project in Melbourne, Lord Foster, a winner of architecture’s most prestigious award, the Pritzker prize, will replace another Pritzker winner, Iraqi-born, London-based Zaha Hadid. Last year The Age revealed Ms Hadid was the project’s lead architect. It is not clear why she is no longer involved.

News of Sama Dubai‘s and Ms Hadid’s parting of ways had led to speculation that the Docklands project had collapsed. But State Government sources denied this yesterday and insisted the proposal was alive and well.

Endless Presidental Primary Has Been Advertising Cash Cow Says Martin Sorrell

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Although you’ll see that we were here yesterday, working in the blog mines simply for the benefit of you, we welcome you back from your long weekend, dear readers. To kick off the day, we start with maybe a slight-off-design-topic, but one we’ve been wondering about since around January: how much of an amazing gift has this extended, painful presidential primary process been for advertising, media buying, creatives in general, etc. Turns out, it’s been a veritable flood of gold pieces for anyone in that industry, with companies positioned in the right place at the right time grabbing all the cash they can possibly carry, at least according to Sir Martin Sorrell, head of the WPP Group. Here’s a bit:

Sorrell added to the general upbeat nature of the interview by saying that the global rise in commodity prices was having a knock-on effect, as clients were spending more on promotions and advertising:

“What we’ve seen I think on both sides of the Atlantic and around the world is an increase in activity… along with some of the other events that we all talk about, such as the Beijing Olympics, European football championships and political spending around the US elections, which have stimulated ad spending in 2008 and probably will continue to the end of the year.”

And it couldn’t come at a better time, what with the writer’s strike earlier in the year messing everything up, the billions of viewing options people now have, etc. So, in this current economic downturn, it’s nice to hear that at least one industry is making some money. Though we’d hate to be an ad accountant in 2009, explaining why their revenues aren’t anywhere similar from the year prior.

Cristina Ross Back on the Philip Johnson ‘Demolition!’ War Path

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Well here’s a good way to start getting even more nasty looks around the neighborhood. First: buy Philip Johnson‘s “other Glass House,” the one just down the street that he built for people to actually be able to live in, called The Alice Ball House. Then, start thinking about demolishing it because you’d like to build something new and the town won’t let you, nor have you had any luck selling it. Lastly, talk enough about it and make threats for months so that you eventually get a story printed about it in the New York Times. Such is the case with architect Cristina Ross, who owns the $3+ million dollar house and desperately wants out. We have sympathies for her, as we do with anyone in these days of housing woes, but she and her people sure continue to come very well in the article:

“It’s basically an option,” said Ms. Ross, who has the demolition permit to prove it. “Investment in property is only worth what you can get out of it.”

…The fact that such an architectural trophy has gone unbought for a year speaks less about any ambivalence for modernism, or even a softness in local property values, than about the domestic expectations of the superprivileged. “No one builds with less than five bedrooms now,” said Prudy Parris, Ms. Ross’s real estate agent. “People with no kids or one kid want five bedrooms.”

Luckily, the good people at the main Glass House, the ones everyone visits, are trying to save it. Which, sadly, the longer it stays on the market, the more Ross will probably up the ante in yelling “demolition!” We guess that’s one way to entice buyers.

Ingo Maurer Brings OLEDs into the Furniture Market

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Speaking of light, now that ICFF has ended, German designer Ingo Maurer is await the really big, big money as he’s just unveiled the first-ever OLED lamp. Running at a price, quoted by The Canadian Press news service as “if you have to ask, you can’t afford it,” the simple, tiny lamp uses those incredible OLED panels, which are sort of like LCDs, except they’re super thin, use hardly any power, and, oh yeah, they’re alive. It’ll be the next big thing in about five years in almost any kind of anything that uses light and if you haven’t seen the tiny, tiny $2500 television they’re selling at the Sony store yet, it’s worth a visit to check it out (even if just to wonder who in their right minds would buy such a thing). But back to absurdly-expensive, neat-looking lamps:

Called “Early Future,” the lamp uses 10 OLED panels from Osram Opto Semiconductors, a subsidiary of German industrial company Siemens AG. Each panel measures about 15 centimetres by five centimetres by about three millimetres thick. One side has a thin layer of organic compounds, which glow when current is applied.

“It’s so thin, so delicate, but you can do a lot of different things with it,” said Bernhard Dessecker, who works for Maurer. They’re particularly interested in transparent OLEDs that Osram has said it can make, which could mean lights can be built into windows and turn them into light sources when night falls.

Jake Dyson Keeps Innovation in the Family Bloodline

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Holidays be damned, we say around here. Because, somewhere in the world (see: not in the US), someone is working at an office, begging for new things to look at on a web devoid of movement. But let’s make it a casual day today, eh? Seems like that would be best. So first we turn to an interesting piece in the UK Times, taking a look at Jake Dyson‘s living quarters. While his vacuuming father keeps busy trying to build schools where schools maybe shouldn’t be built, Jake has been building a budding design/innovation empire of his own, largely with lighting. It’s an interesting piece with a healthy mix of Home & Garden house visit, a look at new technologies, and a nice, like-father-like-son component lingering out there in the background. Here’s a bit:

Then came a new workshop in North London and the advent of the Motorlight, another intricately engineered, long-term project that is fast becoming a design statement used by architects and interior designers in offices and homes. The light has a strangely calming effect. It seems to sigh as it gently rises and lowers and the beam opens and closes, but Dyson describes it as dynamic. “It’s like music: you can choose the type and level of light you have in the same way you would select music to suit your mood,” he says. “People have told me that they watch the changing light beams instead of turning on the television.”

Farewell, ICP Founder Cornell Capa

(Petr Tausk).jpgPhotographer Cornell Capa, founding director of the International Center for Photography and brother of fellow Magnum photographer Robert Capa, passed away yesterday at the age of 90. “The world has lost a great photographer and a great humanitarian,” said ICP director Willis E. Hartshorn in a press release. “The world of photography has lost its greatest friend and champion.”

Capa coined the term “concerned photographer,” and his work was largely concerned with issues of social justice and politics. The obituary that will appear in tomorrow’s New York Times quotes from the 1992 book Cornell Capa: Photographs. “I am not an artist, and I never intended to be one,” Capa wrote. “I hope I have made some good photographs, but what I really hope is that I have done some good photo stories with memorable images that make a point, and, perhaps, even make a difference.”

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