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Archives: January 2012

‘Cubes’ Takes a Behind-the-Scenes Tour of Audible

In this episode of “Cubes,” we take a behind-the-scenes tour of Audible.com. The Amazon-owned audiobook company is headquartered in the heart of Newark, NJ and its office has played host to Jeff Bezos and George R.R. Martin, among other literary luminaries, as well as a ton of top-flight voice actors who narrate Audible’s books in state-of-the-art studios.

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AIA’s Architecture Billings Index Doesn’t Budge, Stays Positive

Sometimes the old adage of no news being good news couldn’t be more true, particularly when it comes to the business of building. The American Institute of Architects have released their monthly Architecture Billings Index and it hasn’t made a budge, neither up or down by even a single decimal. One could easily consider this a good sign, considering its predilection over the past couple of years to swing wildly in both directions, and that last month it had ended in the positive. And so the Index remains, stationary at 52 (anything above 50 indicates an increase in billings and a general sense of how well the industry is fairing). However, per usual, here’s the AIA’s main man of math cautiously reminding us that that other old adage, “history repeats itself,” has also been known to be true from time to time as well:

“We saw nearly identical conditions in November and December of 2010 only to see momentum sputter and billings fall into negative territory as we moved through 2011, so it’s too early to be sure that we are in a full recovery mode,” said AIA Chief Economist, Kermit Baker, PhD, Hon. AIA. “Nevertheless, this is very good news for the design and construction industry and it’s entirely possible conditions will slowly continue to improve as the year progresses.”

Prada Preps Francesco Vezzoli’s Pop-Up Museum

Prada has teamed with two of its favorite collaborators to present an ephemeral museum experience in Paris. Puckish Italian artist Francesco Vezzoli and AMO, the architectural think tank-cum-consulting arm of Rem Koolhaas‘s OMA, are the minds behind “24 h Museum,” which opens Tuesday, January 24—and closes 1,440 minutes later. The project will transiently commandeer the Palais d’Iéna. Designed by Auguste Perret between 1936 and 1946, it currently houses the French Conseil Économique, Social, et Environnemental. What Vezzoli and AMO have in store for the historic property remains anyone’s guess, but they’ve picked a fetching Pepto-Bismol pink for the identity of their pop-up “architectural intervention,” which now has official Facebook and Twitter accounts. According to Vezzoli, who has worked with everyone from Gore Vidal to Lady Gaga on a string of genre-straddling meta-spectacles, the art in 24 h Museum “will dangerously resemble advertising tools.” Meanwhile, AMO is fresh from another Prada project. The OMA offshoot designed the palatial-mod sets for the house’s fall 2012 menswear show, held Sunday in Milan. Audience members surrounded a grand expanse of carpeting, a woolly collage of red, white, and black piles dotted with geometric flower shapes. Above them hung a half dozen massive chandeliers, illuminated by 300 neon tubes.

Tom Dixon Reveals His MOST Intriguing Plan for Milan Design Week

It’s shaping up to be another eventful year for Tom Dixon and his addictive forms. On Friday, the self-taught designer-maker will debut his collection of everyday home accessories and design objects at Maison & Objet in Paris. “Eclectic by Tom Dixon” includes gift-ready goodies made of materials such as copper, marble, cast iron, and wood. But that’s nothing compared to what he’s got in store for Milan Design Week. Come April, Dixon and friends will transform the National Museum of Science and Technology Milan into MOST, a new cultural hub that will showcase the creations and wares of a handpicked group of designers, curators, and companies.

“In a fit of spontaneous madness we decided that the world’s most important meeting place for global design obsessives needed a new epicenter, a space for quiet contemplation or chaotic energy—a platform for the exchange of big ideas,” said Dixon in a statement announcing the project, which kicks off on April 17. “We have created a place where we can demonstrate the new democratization and hyperactive innovation of technology in art, food, fashion, manufacturing, and communication.” His creative partners on the project are Design Miami veteran Ambra Medda and Milan native Martina Mondadori, who is working with TAR Magazine to assemble a slate of lectures and seminars that will take place in the museum’s gorgeous auditorium (pictured). MOST will provide each exhibitor with an individual space within the approximately 400,000-square-foot museum, and there will be an overall exhibition theme. Exhibits of various sizes, positioned inside and outside of the museum, are expected to create a carnival-like environment. Interested in exhibiting? Contact Alice Foster (Alice.Foster@tomdixon.net) for more information and an application.

In London, Poetry and Motion Graphics Join Forces, Head Underground

London continues to try and ramp up its coolness levels with the impending Olympics being held there this summer now just around the corner. For the latest effort, they’ve gone underground. Launched just yesterday in a number of Tube subway stations is a collaboration between poetry and motion graphics called “Word In Motion.” As part of the Smile for London campaign, the project blends the two, with writing from the likes of Ray Davies and Jarvis Cocker, and design by groups like Why Not Associates and Malcolm Garrett, the short pieces will play on 60 screens during rush hours. The project launched on the 16th and will only last for the next two weeks, so while Olympics visitors won’t be treated to them, they’ll perhaps provide a welcome bit of relief from the locals who have been overwhelmed by construction delays over these past couple of years. Here’s a sampling:

C&G Partners Celebrates MLK Day with Debut of King Center Digital Archive Site

The design whizzes over at C&G Partners have many talents, but among the most mind-blowing is their ability to transform grayish-yellowish mountains of historical documents and artifacts into visually stunning, user-friendly exhibits and displays. Feast your eyes (and your web browser) on their latest archival triumph: a website for The Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta. A C&G team led by partner Maya Kopytman (working in collaboration with Chicago-based web development firm Palantir) created a site that builds on the graphic identity established for a related traveling exhibition that the firm completed last year. At the core of the site, which launched yesterday, is a new digital archive for The King Center Imaging Project, a JPMorgan Chase & Co.-backed initiative to “bring the works and papers of Martin Luther King, Jr. to a digital generation.” Browse the archive to pore over King’s handwritten notecards and telegrams or zoom in on a Flip Schulke photo of MLK enjoying lunch with his family in 1964, under the watchful gaze of Ghandi, whose image hangs on a wall above them. Next up: more meticulously scanned and eminently searchable letters, speeches, drafts, notes, and photos. The King Center Imaging Project digital archive will eventually contain about a million documents.

For Reasons Only Known to Those Who Can Afford It, Jean-Paul Gaultier Designs a Gold Bullion Bar

Over the years, we’ve occasionally poked fun at designers who create a product that’s perhaps just a bit out of the realm of nearly the whole out of humanity. We’re thinking things like Phillippe Starck‘s mega-eco-yacht or Yves Behar‘s $60,000 cell phones. However, both those examples seem to pale in comparison to the joint collaboration between designer Jean-Paul Gaultier and the Dallas-based Dillon Gage Metals: a one-ounce hunk of gold, stamped with a Gaultier design. Granted, yes, an ounce of gold is significantly less expensive than a yacht or a $60,000 cell phone (as of yesterday, an ounce was selling in the $1600-$1700 range), and people with means certainly have been known to spend plenty more on other logo-emblazoned jewelry, clothing and cars, but perhaps we’re most taken aback by this product wearing its idea on its sleeve. At least with clothes or cars or mega-yachts, there is some function there. Other than perhaps an investment, this purely exists for you to show someone that you not only have a big chunk of gold…you have a big chunk of designer gold. But do with this information as you please (including sending us one in thanks for telling you about it). Here’s a description:

One side of the gold bar is engraved with a heart – with Gaultier’s trademark sailor stripe – amid radiating rays, and above that is a banner displaying the name Jean-Paul Gaultier.

And here’s the really fun quote, from the president of the company:

“Never before has a fashion icon designed a gold ingot. The Gaultier bar is a one-of-a-kind, limited-quantity collector’s piece that not only is a great investment but it will also become a a piece of history. The price of gold has risen more than fivefold in the last 10 years, outperforming almost every other investment,” says Terry Hanlon, president of Dillon Gage Metals. “The Gaultier one-ounce bar is the perfect Valentines, birthday or graduation gift for someone special, he adds.

Connect with Social Media Marketing Boot Camp

Ready to get serious about that new year’s resolution to “harness the power of social media for fun and profit, but mostly profit”? Prepare to fall out for mediabistro.com’s Social Media Boot Camp, an online conference-cum-workshop that kicks off on February 16. Tomorrow, which also happens to be the 229th birthday of social media pioneer Daniel Webster, is the last day to take advantage of the early bird discount and save on an eight-week program that includes keynote speeches, live interviews, and practical how-to sessions led by social media gurus including Michael Brito (Edelman Digital), Morin Oluwole (Facebook), and Leslie Bradshaw (JESS3). Learn more and register here.

New York Nabs GQ Art Director Thomas Alberty

One of the main design minds behind the sharp-looking and widely lauded pages of GQ is headed for New York. Thomas Alberty has been named design director of the weekly, which lost Chris Dixon to Vanity Fair in September. The appointment is another boon for the art side of New York‘s masthead, following the recent appointment of Christopher Anderson as the inaugural photographer-in-residence.

“Tom is a hugely talented designer and maybe more importantly a very smart one, and I am thrilled he has accepted our invitation to become the next design director of New York,” said editor-in-chief Adam Moss in a statement issued Friday. “There is a long history of big design talents at this magazine’s helm, and I feel confident that tradition will continue.” Alberty has been with GQ since 2004, most recently as art director, and previously worked at New York, Travel + Leisure, and Men’s Journal. He begins in his new post on February 6 and will join art director Randy Minor, photography director Jody Quon, and the rest of the magazine’s visual team to create what Moss describes as “the next, exciting incarnation of New York.”

Fab.com Flip-Flops on Fashion, Acquires Indie Marketplace FashionStake

Last July, after the freshly launched design flash sale site Fab.com had landed its first round of venture funding (a cool $8 million, led by Menlo Ventures), founder Jason Goldberg touted the site’s diverse mix of merch, from chairs and stationery to bikes and biscotti. There was just one category he said that the company would steer clear of: fashion. “We don’t have any ambition in the fashion category,” Goldberg told Venturebeat, in what sounded like an attempt to differentiate his site from the flash-sale fray (read: Gilt Groupe). “That’s more about liquidation; our model is more about opening a new channel for suppliers.” Five months and $40 million in Series B funding later, Fab.com has flip-flopped on fashion and acquired FashionStake, which launched in the fall of 2010 as a kind of Kickstarter-style fundraising platform for independent fashion designers and evolved into an Etsy-like marketplace for their wares. “We’re going to do the exact same thing we’ve done with design products to fashion,” wrote Goldberg today in a blog post announcing the deal. “Make no mistake, we’re keenly aware that there are plenty of sites that sell high-end fashion for a discount. That’s not Fab. We’re doing fashion the Fab way; designed to make you smile.” Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but FashionStake founders Vivian Weng and Daniel Gulati will be joining Fab.com. According to Weng and Gulati, FashionStake will relaunch on Fab.com in mid-February.

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