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Archives: December 2008

John Maeda Names All-Time Greatest Design Object; You Probably Have One!

johnmaeda2.jpgOmnidisciplinary design legend and Rhode Island School of Design president John Maeda seems to be everywhere these days—and that’s a good thing. Our latest Maeda sighting? In Samsung’s “special advertising feature” tucked inside the year-end issue of Time magazine. Samsung devotes a page each to Q&A with Maeda and industrial designer Robert Brunner, and things really get interesting when Maeda is asked, in the name of “simple, effective design,” if there is an everyday object he admires. Indeed, there is.

To me, the all-time greatest design object is the grid that divides the utensils in your silverware drawer. It’s so humble I’m not even sure there is a name for it. But the minute you see it, you know exactly which job it is meant to do. Bravo!

And speaking of simple pleasures, we highly recommend signing up to follow Maeda’s Twitter feed, which bubbles with such thought-provoking musings as “If Rome wasn’t built in a day, then what can be built in a day?” Earlier this month, Maeda Twittered that he was “wondering whether the Web will ultimately look like one big, gigantic graphic novel.”

AIA’s Billing Index Continues to Fall Through November


Despite what Marvin Malecha might think about the architecture industry rebounding in as soon as six months, his American Institute of Architects surely isn’t helping perk anyone up, as they’ve just released their latest Architecture Billings Index for November and things have continued to fall even lower than they were last month, which was already a depressing record setter, resulting, of course, in likely more activity over at Archlayoff. Here’s a bit:

“With mounting job losses, declines in retail sales, and travel cut-backs, the need for new commercial facilities has dropped considerably recently,” said AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker, PhD, Hon. AIA. “What’s just as troubling is that the institutional sector — schools, hospitals, and public buildings — is also beginning to react to tighter credit conditions and a weakening economy.”

Also related, an interesting look back at the year that was, from the big highs to these current low lows, from the Globe and Mail‘s Lisa Rochon. A quick, recommended read not so much for the things that were built in ’08, but for what a remarkably volatile year this was in the business of building.

One Time ‘Sure Thing’ King Tut Exhibit Now Struggling to Make Money


Remember back in October when we said that the decision to bring back the touring King Tutankhamen exhibit would help pump millions back into the struggling museum industry? Well, even we’re wrong sometimes, because we’ve learned that the Dallas Museum of Art, where the traveling exhibit began, is having such trouble luring people in to come see the usual cash cow exhibit that now they’re just hoping to break even with the whole thing; a far cry from the endless bags of money most everyone thought it would bring in. Instead, with visitor numbers way way down and just a handful of months left to reach their very difficult million person mark goal, the only ones getting rich off the whole deal seems to be Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities which takes a flat fee from each museum and then shares any excess profits. Here’s a bit:

The Tut exhibit has drawn more than 270,000 visitors during its first three months, [director Bonnie Pitman] said, with 90,000 of those being schoolchildren, who, like other large groups, purchased discounted tickets.

With less than five months to go before the show closes May 17, the DMA would have to draw 730,000 to reach the 1 million mark. That would be an average of 146,000 a month, which exceeds its current average of around 90,000 a month.

Revolving Door: P.S.1 Founder Alanna Heiss to Retire Tomorrow


Additional retirement news coming from within the New York museum world, which seems to have had a whole slew of big names departing throughout the year. This time around, it’s Alanna Heiss, the founder and head of P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, who has announced that, after 37 years working with the famed space, she will be stepping down after tomorrow, the 31st, allowing someone else to take the reigns immediately come 2009. Though, like any driven person who could run something as massive and as important as P.S.1 for that long, retirement doesn’t mean she’s quitting everything and settling down for a nice quite couple of years. Quite the contrary:

Following her retirement from P.S.1, Heiss will launch Art International Radio (AIR), an organization that will be devoted to artistic, musical, performance, and experimental programs, in early 2009. Taking its lead from Heiss’s brainchild Art Radio, Art International Radio will bolster a tradition of bringing thought-provoking conversations with noteworthy artists, curators, and academics to a listening audience.

A search committee will be established in early 2009 to lead the search for the next director of P.S.1.

Looking back to our post from October of last year, we’re wondering if the MoMA‘s Kathy Halbreich is on that short list of potential replacements, as you might recall she was rumored to be undergoing some grooming for Heiss’ spot before she took her current position.

Relative of Louis XIV Heading to Court to Try and Remove Jeff Koons from Versailles


While the protester who “pulled out balloons with names that rhyme with Koons written on them and popped them one by one” may not have done much to get Jeff Koons and his exhibit out of Versailles (in fact, its run was extended, so extra double burn there, too), the group(s) wanting the famous artist’s work out of the hallowed halls and grounds just secured a powerful ally: Charles-Emmanuel de Bourbon-Parme, a descendant of Louis XIV, who has decided to go to court to try and get the exhibit removed:

Charles-Emmanuel de Bourbon-Parme is claiming that the exhibition is a “profanization” of the work of his royal forefather, the Sun King, and has called the show “an advertisement for a porn star,” referring to Koons’s former marriage to Italian porn star Ilona Staller, also known as “La Cicciolina.”

Say what you will about Koons’ work, but you have to admit that any news stories about him are always fun.

Revolving Door: Top NBC/MSNBC Designer Sam Mandragona Leaves Company


And to finish out the day on one more note of leaving through the front door for that one last time, though on a more positive note, we received the following information thanks to a readers’ tip:

Sam Mandragona, Creative Director for NBC Artworks has left NBC Universal after more than 23 years of being with the company. He is the recipient of 5 Emmy Awards in graphic design and various Broadcast Designers Association awards. Mandragona was the Creative Director for the launch of MSNBC in 1996. He became Executive Creative Director for NBC DesignWorks in 2000. Most recently, he was responsible for the Decision 08 graphic design including the virtual sets that aired on the NBC Network and MSNBC.

For more info on Mandagona’s leaving NBC, we highly recommend reading NewscastStudio’s three part interview with him (the third should be put up sometime tomorrow). Also, if you’re looking for a big name new talent, you’ll notice in that link the mention that he’s “actively looking for a new position.” So here’s your chance to snag him.

Revolving Door: Tracking Architectural Firms’ Layoffs


Speaking of our friends at Agency Spy, if you read their wonderful site on a regular basis (and it should be illegal for you not to if you work in the ad business), you’re likely familiar with their popular, yet gloomy Twitter feed featuring breaking news about who is getting laid off at ad agencies across the country, in both the singular and the plural (and mostly the latter as you might have guessed). Thanks to a very kind UnBeige tipster, we were given word that another Twitter feed has popped up inspired by Agency Spy’s work that is tracking the layoffs in the architectural industry, aptly titled “Archlayoff.” And if you follow us on a regular basis and despite what the head of the American Institute of Architects has been saying lately, you’ll recognize that it too is also a very, very busy feed of late. But a warning: read it only if you’re interested in having your day ruined by sour news. Though we supposed you’re not getting much happy stuff anywhere else either, so maybe it’s better just to bite that bullet and face up to these here stark realities.

Pepsi Starts Drawing Attention to Its Costly New Logo

Yes, Pepsi spent multi-upon-multi-millions on the redesign of their iconic logo. But outside of we types who notice or care about such things, and beside this little promotional film they released back in October to help roll it out, you really haven’t heard that much of a peep out there in the real world. But now, perhaps in an effort to say “Hey, didn’t you notice the millions we spent on redesigning our logo?!” Pepsi has put it front and center in this new ad our friends over at our sister blog, Agency Spy, dug up:

One Laptop Per Child Goes to Colombia

Here at UnBeige, we love it when good design meets social good, and so the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project is of enduring interest, whether its news of Yves Behar scooping up awards for the laptop’s design or listening to Mary Lou Jepsen, OLPC’s founding chief technology officer and now head of Pixel Qi, hold forth on how to create green gadgets (“design for the bottom of the pyramid”). If you’re a little foggy on the project’s particulars—and even if you’re not—we recommend the below TED video. Filmed earlier this month, it features MIT Media Lab founder Nicholas Negroponte discussing the project as he voyages to Colombia and delivers laptops inside territory once controlled by guerrillas. How’s the project going? “In rough numbers, there are about a million laptops” in the hands of children around the world or en route to them, says Negroponte. “That’s smaller than I predicted—I predicted three [million] to ten million—but it is still a very large number.”

Previously on UnBeige:

  • Greener Gadgets: Mary Lou Jepsen on the XO Laptop
  • One Laptop Per Child Team Pushes Forward with New X02
  • Intel Drops Out Of OLPC Program
  • One Laptop Per Child Finally Giving Laptops to Children (and You)
  • New U.K. Stamps Will Celebrate Iconic British Designs

    UK scott stamp.jpgWhile the good people at the United States Postal Service are still doing a brisk business in Charles and Ray Eames commemorative stamps (designed by Derry Noyes and available for purchase here), the United Kingdom’s Royal Mail is preparing to issue a set of ten stamps that celebrate iconic British designs, including the Mini, Concorde, K2 telephone kiosk (designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott and pictured at right), miniskirt, and London Underground map. The stamps go on sale January 13, according to a BBC News report issued today. Each month of 2009 will bring more special stamp sets, including those dedicated to pioneers of the industrial revolution, Royal Naval uniforms, and “mythical creatures such as mermaids.” (Wait, are they implying that mermaids aren’t real!?) For those stateside, we suggest supplementing your stock of Eames stamps with the USPS’s slightly scary tribute to Bette Davis, part of its Legends of Hollywood series.

    Previously on UnBeige:

  • Eames Stamps Now on Sale (and What Each One References)