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Posted by Ray  |  18 Jul 2014  |  Comments (0)


Our initial report may have echoed Airbnb's hyperbolic enthusiasm about their new identity, and despite criticism that has metastasized in relevant corners of the web—an equal and opposite reaction, if you will—here is a more nuanced take on Airbnb's new logo, Bélo.

Let's start with an experiment: Grab a piece of paper and try drawing the damn thing freehand. In fact, give it a couple tries. And no cheating—don't try and make it look more butt-like or yonic than it needs to be. Maybe it doesn't look as good as the now-infamous image of the marque drawn on fogged-up window ('fingered,' as one GIF crudely suggested), but it wouldn't be mistaken for genitalia. No one in their right mind would draw a body part like that. (This is why the Tumblr consists not of peoples' drawings of the logo itself but embellished versions of it.) It's arguably just as easy to draw a cock-and-balls, but that's not what it is.

For my part, I didn't see the intended allusions (a person or the location marker) at first; nor did I see any kind genitalia—just a fairly unremarkable logo. The point being that it's a highly abstracted symbol, to the degree that the (perhaps regrettable) choice of 'vibrant salmon' inextricably influences one's first impression as much as its mildly suggestive shape. As a graphic representation, it certainly invites free association, but as a glyph, Bélo is one degree removed from the letter "A," itself a grapheme, which is doubly abstracted: A signifier of linguistic import.

But it's not just a matter of semantics. Armin Vit (who, as always, provides unparalleled analysis), notes that "it's a deceivingly simple icon that is easy to reproduce, recognize, and propagate." In this regard, it succeeds where few marques do. Just look at the logos within your field of vision or the icons for the apps on your phone. Could you draw any of them, freehand, with a single stroke? Only the likes of Nike, adidas (ok, three lines) and maybe a few others come close. Now, in fairness, 'drawability' is not a criteria for logos these days... but maybe it should be (this is why teenagers of my generation inscribed so many desktops with Stussy and Wu-Tang iconography: ease of approximation). After all, this is true of the most enduring symbols of our time, from Basquiat's iconic three-pointed crown to the @ sign (notably 'acquired' by MoMA) to the anarchy symbol... to a Christian Cross.



Posted by Ray  |  18 Jul 2014  |  Comments (0)


Like many designspotters, we first took note of Jólan Van der Wiel at the Transnatural exhibition in Milan in 2012, one of two exhibitions that included his "Gravity Stools" (we saw him in Ventura Lambrate as well). He's been busy since then, transposing his magnetic modus operandi to couture—with fellow Amsterdammer/futurist Iris van Herpen, of course— and now, with a project called "Architecture Meets Magnetism," into ceramics.

By developing a formula for clay slip with iron fillings, the Gerrit Rietveld Academy grad (and now teacher) arrived at a material that he calls 'dragonstone.' Wired's Liz Stinson likens them to Tim Burton machinations, but I'm seeing some Giger-worthy gnarliness in the extruded stalagmite carapaces. The designer, for his part, was inpsired by Gaudí: In Dezeen, van der Wiel expresses admiration for the Spanish architect's use of "gravity to calculate the final shape of [La Sagrada Familia]." "I thought, 'What if he had to power the turn off the gravitational field for a while?' Then he could have made the building straight up."

The project is part of ongoing research into the applications of magnetic forces, which Van der Wiel conducted at the European Ceramic Workcentre in Den Bosch.
After discovering that clay could be shaped by magnetism, he is now exploring appcations for the technique in architecture.
"The idea of creating buildings with magnetic field has always fascinated me," said Van der Wiel. "I'm drawn to the idea that the force would make the final design of the building—architects would only have to think about the rough shape and a natural force would do the rest."
"This would create a totally different architectural field," he added. "These are the very first models showing how future buildings and objects could look when they are shaped by natural forces."




Posted by Ray  |   8 Jul 2014  |  Comments (5)


Well, you could always take a cue from our favorite IKEA hack of all time and use them to fuel a fire... but not only does burning pallets lack the elegance of the ad hoc bow drill (in the above hack), there are any number of reasons not to scrap them for firewood.*

We've seen from at least a few pallet-based design projects, including upcycled chairs and a full-fledged office, not to mention our own pop-up exhibition design. Among the pallet facts that we picked up along the way—some 700 million pallets are manufactured each year; North American standard pallets measure in at 48” × 40”—we were interested to learn that the EPAL-spec'd EUR-pallet comes in at different dimensions and standards.

It so happens that the 1200×800mm2 Europallet, as it is colloquially known, is suitably sized to span the (active) tram tracks that criss-cross certain cities around the world. Whereas several stateside and Italian streetcar systems run on 'broad gauge' tracks—wider than the 1435mm standard gauge that also turns up in the U.S., Canada, Australia, Great Britain, Germany, etc.—the taxonomy also includes narrow gauge tracks, including a one-meter width in cities such as Antwerp, Basel, Belgrade, Bern, Frankfurt, Geneva, Ghent, Helsinki, Zürich to name a few. (Different widths are named after different locales, including Russian, Irish, Iberian and Indian, all of which are broad gauge; see the full list here.)

And while trams are certainly a practical mode of transportation, the tracks can be a hazard to certain smaller-wheeled vehicles such as bicycles or skateboards. Which brings us to Tomas Moravec's pallet hack:

While the Slovakian artist has created many performative works of sculpture, installation and video art since he made the Duchamp-meets-Alÿs piece in 2008, the video went up just a few months ago. The brief description notes that Bratislavan trams run on felicitously narrow 1000mm-wide tracks: "A new transport vehicle brings change into the spatial perspective of a passenger in motion and generally changes the life of the city, through which the pallet can run, guided by a map of the city lines." (We have to assume that it would technically work in any of the cities listed above as well.)



Posted by Ray  |   3 Jul 2014  |  Comments (0)

Spiekermann-1.jpgImages via Gestalten

Erik Spiekermann is a living legend when it comes to typography—in Gary Hustwit's Helvetica, he memorably acknowledged that typefaces were "his friends"—who is among the last generation of graphic designers who got their start by typesetting by hand. On the occasion of the forthcoming publication of a new book, Hello, I Am Erik, Gestalten is pleased to present Spiekermann's kind of ode to the letterpress in a new short film.

There are two differences between what we do here and what we've done on screen; I'll start with the physical. Everything you touch and put in the machine, afterwards you have to clean it up and put it back again, put it on the shelf or the rack... You have to touch everything—you have to think about it, you have to plan a little more, and whatever you do is fairly permanent.
...your material influences you... that's the philosophical divergence. You can't just have any idea—you basically have a rough idea and then you start working, and then the material shapes your idea.
...I look at my drawer and I know what I have... whereas on my computer, I have Photoshop; I can do images that didn't exist before...


Posted by Ray  |   2 Jul 2014  |  Comments (0)


This short, wordless documentary about 'putter'—short for scissor putter-togetherer—Cliff Denton has been making rounds today and it's easy to see why. Filmmaker Shaun Bloodworth does a nice job of capturing Denton's attention to detail with this visually poetic treatment of the dying art—founded over a century ago in 1902, Ernest Wright & Sons has been producing handcrafted shears for five generations and is among the last scissors-makers of its kind.