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Posts Tagged ‘Steven Heller’

At This Holiday Time, Can’t We Put Our Political Differences Aside?

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Sometimes we sit back after a long night of surfing the design superhighway and wonder, are all designers really Democrats? Because it certainly feels like it sometimes. Or maybe it’s just that the loudest designers just happen to be Democrats. And then, we wonder, how do Republican designers feel about that?

Steven Heller takes on the issue in this season’s Eye with “The L Word,” a commentary on how liberal views are being constantly injected into design discourse. Heller discusses the political leanings of blogs (our personal favorite was this Design Observer piece), and a particular portion of the AIGA conference this year that made even us uncomfortable:

After one session where President Bush was lambasted at the Denver AIGA conference, I talked to a few attendees who readily complained that injecting partisan political rhetoric into what they believed was supposed to be a ‘neutral’ organisation challenged their faith in AIGA’s ability to represent them. Although they wanted to remain members of the sole national professional design organisation in the United States, they resented having to put up with what they construed as negative, at times offensive, ‘propaganda,’ as though their opinions were irrelevant. Asked whether they would consider starting counter-initiatives, they lamented that their views would never get taken seriously, so why bother.

Design For Good Week Ends With Good Design Party

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First there was Designism, then there was Cause/Effect, where as Steven Heller commented at the close of the conference, “These things usually come in clusters.” So it’s very fitting that social design season here in New York ends with a design party sponsored by Good, in their pop-up store. As we told you before, it’s on Tuesday night (tomorrow) at 7pm. After his presentation on Saturday, Scott Stowell passed along some more highlights:

· Andrew Sloat will screen some of his short typographic films based on the U.S. Constitution (you can catch a sneak peek at his new film here).

· Bobby Martin will share his inspiring work for the Abyssinian Baptist Church of Harlem

· The Holster will present Type Talks, an exercise in speaking and hearing the language of typography found around New York City

· Amy Wang will talk about her Ametrica! project, an awareness campaign to help convert the U.S. to the metric system

· Mike Essl will show some highlights of the world’s largest collection of Mr. T memorabilia

That last line again, for emphasis: world’s largest collection of Mr. T memorabilia. This from a man who was wearing a sweatshirt the other day that said PITY FOOL.

More Highlights and Reflections From Cause/Effect

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It must be some kind of record: 70% of the speakers at the one-day AIGA NY conference Cause/Effect brought us to the brink of tears. But until the end, we really weren’t sure why.

We even found ourselves pretty much speechless at one point. The presentation that went beyond words, meaning a blog post really couldn’t do it justice, was Alan Jacobson’s powerful work on a memorial in Rwanda as part of the Barefoot Artists program. Read up on the project on their site and don’t miss a chance to catch Jacobson present in person.

Although we missed Steven Heller‘s propaganda parade, Seymour Chwast‘s poster-rama and Mark Randall discussing the Urban Forest Project (catch coverage over at Core77), we have more detailed reports about Carin Goldberg, Bobby Martin, Frank Baseman, Phil Patton, Nicholas Blechman, Marc Alt, Scott Stowell, and Chris Hacker, who were truly all great.

All the young designers were stars. Seth Labenz and Roy Rub presented the fascinating results of their experiment “Uniting.” And the final panel of the day, a three-fer of social entrepreneurship had the always delightful Randy Hunt and his Amazing Project, and two extremely eloquent show-stoppers: Kristin Johnson‘s Practical Small Projects, bringing solar energy to Mali, and Lara McCormick‘s Stop and Start Over (another Sappi grant winner!), an addiction recovery site and community that’s designed to appeal more to the young audience looking for help.

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The only minor disappointment was the One Laptop Per Child presentation by Lisa Strausfeld. Cute as they may be, we got little, if any, insight into how the laptops really work, and we’re still not sure why the beautiful interface is appropriate for kids who have never used a computer, especially since a CBS News story showed kids easily using regular laptops. Also puzzling was that they did no testing of the interface with African kids. They had just gotten their shipment of laptops that day, so maybe they need to play around with them some more before presenting again.

But overall, the day was expertly assembled and orchestrated by chairs Mike Essl (who doubled as an on-stage tech guy) and Emma Presler (wearing a tres snazzy scarf). We noticed a similar thread running through both Cause/Effect and Designism 2.0 (without the “banal-retentive,” of course): The most striking projects were really not about design in the traditional sense, echoing Milton Glaser‘s sentiments at Designism about the dissemination being more important than the device. In fact, we thought, these people didn’t really act like designers at all. More like MacArthur “Genius Grant” recipients, Nobel Prize winners, UN ambassadors. And that realization was simply overwhelming.

Designism 2.0 Recap: Michael Wolff Devours Panel, Glaser Eloquently Defends Design, Dove Real Beauties Not Ugly Enough

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The one MILLION dollar question. Photo by Core77.

A Wolff In Designer Clothing
In a city of thousands and thousands of designers, Vanity Fair columnist Michael Wolff might want to look at hiring some protection for the next few weeks. In his role as the “media critic” at last night’s Designism 2.0 event, Wolff told fellow panelists (including Milton Glaser) that “no design” was a better solution than the “banal” work they produce. While his comments elicited anger from the crowd–and more than one Dr. Evil comparison–he injected some much-needed debate to an otherwise self-congratulatory night. As Brian Collins told us later, “That’s why I brought him here.”

Let’s back up a bit though. ihaveanidea liveblogged the evening, opening with crappy weather and an earlier panel we moderated starring Ellen Sitkin, Andrew Sloat, and Ji Lee (who were amazing, by the way, and we wish they could have taken the stage with Wolff at the end to show him some “banal”). Tony Hendra, wearing his WGA strike shirt, gave the annual manifesto with searing wit (a portion of which can be found on the Huffington Post). Then, with Steven Heller moderating, Elizabeth Resnick presented posters from the Graphic Imperative, Janet Kestin presented the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty, and Glaser presented his Darfur campaign and new work for Iraq refugees.

Then It Got Ugly
All the panelists joined Wolff onstage as he line-item lambasted design. The world is full of design, he argued, and everyone is trying so hard to be disruptive that everything disruptive is boring. What’s more, “everyone can do design,” he said. “So everyone should stop it.” While abrasive, it was effective, says Core77′s Robert Blinn says in his review: “Wolff asked the question that none of the designers in the audience truly cared to address: ‘Could anything truly new be said, or were we simply barraging a saturated audience with information they already had?’” Glaser, a gentleman to the end, began his first rebuttal, “I have to respectfully disagree with you.” The crowds roared. Glaser explained, that as he now tries to design campaigns to help causes, it’s less about what it looks like and more about how to get the word out. That’s still “design.”

But as the conversation shifted to the effectiveness of design for social change, the topic became Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty (ironically spearheaded by Designism ringmaster Collins at BIG) and Kestin took some serious grilling by audience members Laurie Rosenwald and Debbie Millman for not having “ugly” enough girls in the ads talking about poor body image perception. (Later we sat between Rosenwald and Kestin at dinner…awk-ward!) The whole issue about whether or not it was authentic, or just another ad, or even appropriately executed, was battled out on and off stage. Although not exactly the most provocative topic to dwell upon, it did give us the best quote of the night, courtesy Wolff: “Well, I know a lot of ugly people who think they’re really good-looking.”

Moving On
The moment of irony that killed us, however, was when Heller asked Wolff what design was powerful to him. Wolff said that the only great moment for design were the posters of the 60′s and 70′s. This was as Glaser, creator of many of them, and founder of another design device during that period, a magazine, that has not only brought about real social change, but also pays at least some of Wolff’s salary, sat right beside him, having just explained work that was every bit as simple, driven and arresting as those posters, but used technology, storytelling and global partnerships. Great, it’s easy to say that “something” different needed to be done, but say that design has never been able to evolve past print work done 40 years ago? That’s ludicrous. We think Wolff should be commissioned to write a review of the upcoming MoMA show, Design and the Elastic Mind, which shows how cutting-edge design is used to bring abstract ideas into the public embrace.

However poorly he presented his case (“He was sloppy,” someone near us said) we can’t say we really disagreed with anything Wolff said (except, of course the “banal” part). Something different does need to happen. Afterwards, in the ACT portion, three groups commanded the mic to pitch their causes–Sappi Ideas that Matter, Corbis’s ADC Award and free images for pro bono projects, and idealist.org–and a new social networking site, Designism Social, will be launched. But were these pitches–sponsors, really–enough to launch anyone into action over the sushi and Sapporos afterwards? We weren’t sure. We guess we have to wait until Designism 3.0

But we did like Wolff’s alternative for blindly leaping into a cause. “Stay home, read a book. Read a lot of books. Then, when the urge becomes irresistible, then do something.” Even Dr. Evil was right sometimes.

More photos and coverage at Core77, Graphic Design Forum, Daily Heller, uncivilsociety.org, and ihaveanidea.

Designism 2.0 Thursday Night at the ADC

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In an effort to blow our frequent flier miles through the roof, this third of UnBeige will be embarking on one last trip of 2007: To help moderate Designism 2.0 on Thursday, December 13 at the Art Directors Club in New York City. If you haven’t bought your tickets yet, we suggest doing that now, before it sells out.

This year’s Designism, the sequel to the very popular 2006 event, will play out in two panels, followed by a real-life call-to-action. While the latter panel of the evening needs no introduction–Milton Glaser, Steven Heller, Tony Hendra, Vanity Fair’s Michael Wolff, Elizabeth Resnick of the Graphic Imperative (on view at the ADC) and Ogilvy’s Janet Kestin–we encourage you to bag work and head over early for our 4:45pm panel. After an opening by Kay Sloan of the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, we’ll hear from three of the brightest young thangs in design we’ve come across this year.

Ellen Sitkin, a designer at IDEO and participant of this summer’s Project M, whose Buy a Meter has raised almost $30,000.

Andrew Sloat, who produced the awe-inspiring film many of you saw at AIGA’s NEXT conference, and works days at his firm Drainage Ditch.

Ji Lee, the man behind The Bubble Project (and sometimes behind an Elvis costume), who also works at genre-bending ad agency droga5.

We assure you that after seeing these three speakers, and experiencing the sheer passion that keeps them motivated, you’ll feel pretty darn good about the future of design. Oh yeah, and afterwards? Sapporos for everyone, on us. See you there.

High Monkeys, Low Expectations at Stefan Sagmeister’s Wolfsonian Installation

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“Everyone Always Thinks They Are Right” declared the giant inflatable monkeys on the roof of the Wolfsonian, seven stories above Miami Beach (and fresh from Scotland as part of a world tour). Inside, approximately 2250 martini glasses filled with a surprisingly good orange gin concoction were arranged into the words “Low Expectations,” with custom swizzle sticks printed with “Are a Good Strategy.” And a loop of film showed the rest of the illustrated maxims from Stefan Sagmeister‘s book Things I Have Learned In My Life So Far.

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The only question we had for Sags was this: After going through the process of bringing so many things he had learned in his life to life, had he learned anything new? “I’ve learned that I still learn things, but at a much slower rate,” he laughed. He also said he gave his students the choice to skip their last assignment and make their own list of things they had learned.

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Of course our darling Yves Behar was there, and chatting with Eames Demetrios to boot. Jeffrey Deitch breezed through briefly but with purpose–another exhibition of Sagmeister’s work will open at Deitch Projects in NY in March. New Yorkers represented: Steven Heller (he curated the installation, but assures us he was not the mixologist), Lita Talarico, Deborah Buck of NY gallery Buck House and Janet Froelich, creative director of the New York Times Mag. Design journos represented, too: We chatted up Fast Company’s Linda Tischler, Janet Eastman of the LA Times and AIGA Voice managing editor Sue Apfelbaum. And Debbie Millman and Marian Bantjes (that’s her with Sagmeister) jetted in early before appearing in a “Design Matters” about the 2008 Publikum calendar at the Wolfsonian on Saturday.

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By the time we left, the ‘e’ and ‘x’ of ‘expectations’ had been gulped, but refills were quickly secured by martini shaker-wielding assistants nearby, and the crowd continued to swell. As guests exited, they were confronted with a parting message: “Material Luxuries Are Best Enjoyed in Small Doses,” as printed on a custom-made Kate Spade tote bag, so they could take a few words of Sagmeister’s wisdom home with them.

Iggy Pop, Rock and Roll, and More Miami Madness

We thought it apt that there were two planes with banners flying up and down the beach here in Miami yesterday afternoon. One said ART IN MOTION. And the other said 2NITE PARIS HILTON AT MANSION. From what we can tell after one night at Art Basel, that sums it up. It’s kinda hard to enjoy the art when the clubbing clothes, scenesters scrambling for plus ones, and people saying things like “Well, if you had a Lexus, you’d understand” keep getting in the way.

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Case in point: We were excited to peruse P.S.1‘s skate park-cum-shipping yard with graphics by Ryan McGinness, but let’s just say it’s not so fun to be trapped in a shipping container with a dozen Paris wannabes sipping champagne and tottering on stilettos, no matter how great the art.

100 yards and a world away, Iggy Pop played a set on the beach with the Stooges, where he even let the crowd climb up to sing “No Fun” with him. The only problem with getting a few dozen art world kids to take off their shirts and mosh in front of an audience is getting them off the stage, as the footage will attest. Our video doesn’t capture the best part of the concert, when Iggy thanked the crowds for joining him onstage: “It gets so lonely up here at these…art shows.”

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We thought for sure we’d see Iggy over at Lynn Goldsmith‘s party in the Shore Club’s well-named Red Room, especially since he wrote the forward for her new photo book Rock and Roll. Alas, he was represented only by the DJ spinning “Lust for Life,” and in spirit by Steven Heller and Lita Talarico who entertained us with their own raucous rock’n'roll tales. By the way, don’t believe a word that Heller says—he swears he never goes to parties, and we saw him at two.

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Hopped a Flight to Miami Beach…

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33.33% of us arrived here in Miami this morning at the crack of dawn, just as Art Basel, Design Miami and a Whole Bunch of Other Stuff kicks into high gear. And who do we see, just moments after stepping onto the boardwalk? Notorious crack of dawn riser, Steven Heller, ambling along the Atlantic. He’s not a beach guy, he told us, so if you’re planning on doing some Heller-watching, look for the guy in the sand wearing all black.

And that reminds us. Where should we go? What should we do? Who should we stalk? Please send your suggestions our way, and soon, at unbeige AT mediabistro.com. Otherwise we’ll just drink ourselves silly at the pool…

The Only Holiday Gift Guide With the Heller Stamp of Approval

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If you’ve decided to commit yourself fully to the evils of consumerism this holiday season by “buying gifts” instead of “recycling kitchen waste” into clever trinkets or “regifting all the other crap” you had in your closet from last year, then we’d like to guide you towards the least dark of the dark side with the Steven Heller-approved list of books, handsomely collected at the NY Times Book Review.

Who else could gather a clever collection of several gift books around a war theme? Who can carefully stack up Stephen J. Eskilson’s Graphic Design: A New History against the other bajilion design history volumes? Who even knew there was a book named Vietnam Zippos? Heller, that’s who.

A Very Good Week In NY This December

It’s getting to be that season again when all the naughties and nices you’ve accumulated during the last 12 months start to count towards your end-of-year rewards. And if you’ve found yourself a little heavy on the naughty, there is a chance to redeem yourself before it’s too late. Actually, two. If you’re in New York between December 13 and 15 you could attend two big-name events focused on socially-responsible design. After immersing yourself in so much do-gooding, maybe you’ll even get moved to the nice list.

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Designism 2.0, December 13: The second go-round of this now-annual event at the ADC features three sessions. First, SEE, a survey of young’uns making a difference: Ellen Sitkin, Andrew Sloat and Ji Lee, moderated by yours truly. Then, TALK, the panel of masters including Milton Glaser, Janet Kestin, Elizabeth Resnick, Tony Hendra, and Vanity Fair columnist Michael Wolff, moderated by Steven Heller. And finally, ACT, a real-life call to action by Idealist.org to start work on immediately. All details here (scroll down).

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Cause/Effect, December 15: This full-day student-oriented conference orchestrated by AIGA NY brings together a dozen voices explaining the effects of their design in action. Lisa Strausfeld, Phil Patton, Chris Hacker, Seymour Chwast are among the luminaries, and Steven Heller will moderate this one, too (the man is a machine). Registration is only open for students (AIGA members or not) at the moment, but will open to AIGA members on 11/26. All details here (including those nice illustrations by Brian Rea).

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