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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  21 Jan 2015  |  Comments (0)



Maybe you've already read our five-part series on the history of Braun design, which covered Electric Shavers, Timepieces, Audio Products, Kitchen Appliances and Haircare Products. And those of you lucky enough to be in Paris will soon get to see an exciting spin on some of these designs, albeit in 2D form; "Systems," the Das-Programm-curated exhibition of Braun design that first launched in London, is coming to Paris' Moda International gallery on January 29th. [Note: Moda's website had crashed at press time.]

While the exhibition will feature some of Braun's original commercial art, the eye-catching bulk of it are homage posters commissioned from modern-day graphic designers.


Cartlidge Levene


Derek Kim


Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  12 Jan 2015  |  Comments (0)


America wasn't always prosperous. Eighty years ago we had plenty of people who tied their pants with a rope and pointed at airplanes in the sky.


So during the Great Depression, the U.S. Government did something smart. The Works Progress Administration, or WPA, was formed to get millions of Americans back to work, building roads, bridges, parks and public buildings.


And in a move that's difficult to imagine now, in 1935 the WPA set up Federal Project Number One, which was specifically designed to support and employ creative folk of all stripes—artists, musicians, writers and actors. Focusing on the first group, over 5,000 artists were commissioned to create posters, murals and paintings. While you've undoubtedly seen the posters created later in the program, when America had entered World War II...


...the earlier and non-war-related stuff you may not have seen. Some were public service announcements warning citizens of the dangers of the time:





Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |   9 Jan 2015  |  Comments (0)


Since its launch in 2009, the Kepler Space Telescope has found a lot of "exoplanets," or planets that are orbiting a star, just as the Earth orbits the sun. The total number is said to be 1,000-plus. However, last year one exoplanet was discovered that has unusual properties—it is within the "habitable zone," i.e. the right distance from the right-sized star to potentially support water, and thus, life.

Following that discovery, more "habitable zone" exoplanets have popped up, bringing the total to eight. To commemorate these, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology picked the three most promising—the dual-star-havin' "Kepler 16b," the heavy-gravity "HD 40307g" and the red-sky-boasting "Kepler 186f," and commissioned a series of WPA-like posters for each. Supposedly created by the "Exoplanet Travel Bureau," the posters are reminiscent of the ones urging Americans to travel to the Grand Canyon in the '30s and '40s.


Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  22 Dec 2014  |  Comments (0)


Folks, this holiday season I am giving you the gift of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Because you're going to click on this link to Inspirograph, which is a browser-based spirograph emulator developed by engineer Nathan Friend. And you're not going to be able to stop playing with it.

You choose how many teeth you'd like on each gear; you select which gear you'd like to be fixed and which rotates; you choose the ink color and which hole to plug it into; and the darn thing is even sort of pressure-sensitive, meaning when you go over a curve twice it gets darker.


If your boss walks in on you, explain that you're working out some logo concepts for a new client.

Friend, by the way, is currently working on a mobile version.

Via The Awesomer

Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  12 Dec 2014  |  Comments (5)


I greatly enjoyed Barry Berkus' "How to Think Like an Architect" videos, and have been searching in vain for an industrial design counterpart. To have a creative designer walk you through, in plain English, a design as it unfurls is immensely edifying, but I can't find an ID guy who's done it.

I did, however, luckily stumble across Field Notes man and Curiosity Club veteran Aaron Draplin breaking down a graphic design project. Learning website tasked Draplin with designing a logo—something that can take months—and condensing it all into a sit-able video. Not only does Draplin render his process completely transparent, there's a bonus starting around 15:00, when he discusses what happened after he decided to go freelance.


Posted by core jr  |  12 Dec 2014  |  Comments (0)

RedHook_HUB_branding.JPGPhoto by Anke Stohlmann

By Laetitia Wolff, Design/Relief Program Director

How can graphic design positively transform communities and the practice of design? The New York chapter of AIGA launched Design/Relief, a participatory design initiative targeted at New York City neighborhoods still grappling with the effects of Superstorm Sandy, in the fall of 2013. To fund the project, AIGA/NY received an innovation grant from Artplace America, a consortium interested in advancing the practice of creative placemaking. Engaging in this emerging movement, AIGA/NY believed graphic designers could leverage their agile, creative process while testing their community organizing skills on the ground.

We handpicked three teams, composed of graphic designers, storytellers and community engagement experts, to catalyze three New York waterfront communities. The teams were tasked to help these communities imagine a more vibrant future for themselves—the three neighborhoods were still struggling to overcome the lingering effects of Superstorm Sandy, even a year after the disaster. While learning about the reality of multi-disciplinary collaboration, urban territories and public engagement processes, designers were given a framework to act locally and dispatched for a 9-12 months period to Red Hook in South Brooklyn, Rockaway at the Queens shoreline and the South Street Seaport enclave in Lower Manhattan.


Revisiting the Design/Relief Manifesto a year later, AIGA/NY is proud to have engaged designers in tackling tough civic challenges while generating new knowledge about design as a creative placemaking tool. As we conclude this endeavor with the recent launch of the Red Hook team project, the HUB, we wanted to take a moment to highlight a few insights before sharing a more detailed case study (coming soon, early 2015). Here they are:

  • Places are made by people. Yes, before anything else.

  • Graphic designers are particularly apt at connecting the dots, building bonds, visualizing futures, and enhancing communication between people and places.

  • Our placemaking projects focus particularly on public spaces in which community information and communication can be shared.

  • Improving a place successfully comes along with social justice, inclusion and opportunity-building—our creative placemakers tried to remain aware of the fine line between gentrification and displacement.

RedHook_HUB_library_board.jpgThe Red Hook HUB includes a board at the local library branch on Wolcott Street. Photo credit: David Al-Ibrahim

The Red Hook HUB is a 21st century bulletin board
Seen on Brooklyn streets and in the digital space

Over the past year, through their engagement with the communities of Red Hook, Brooklyn, Rockaway, Queens and the Seaport in Lower Manhattan, our Design/Relief teams often acted as catalysts for latent desires, lingering community needs and long-lasting aspirations. Red Hook residents had expressed a need for a coordinated communication system that would allow them to more effectively share trusted information. Although the need was in the air, no one had formulated the appropriate format, place and process.


Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  19 Nov 2014  |  Comments (1)


Earlier this year, Norway's Norges Bank held a design competition for the country's future currency. Entrants were asked to stick with the theme "The Sea," but other than that, were given free reign.

Eight designers and firms made it to the final round, and submissions from two different design firms were chosen for further development. As seen below, the "Norwegian Living Space" concept by The Metric System was chosen for the face of the 100 Kroner note, and the abstract, designey "Beauty of Boundaries" concept by Snøhetta Design chosen for the back:


As we've previously reported, it was interesting that Norges Bank decided to split the victory (overruling the jury in the process), choosing one more traditional design and one very modern design to share the same note. But even more fascinatingly, there was a designer in the competition who also had the idea to sharply contrast the fronts and backs (or obverse and reverse, in monetary parlance). Designer and illustrator Aslak Gurholt Rønsen, co-founder of design collective Yokoland, had this novel idea (loosely translated from Norwegian):


Posted by Ray  |  17 Oct 2014  |  Comments (0)

AerialBold-NOAA.jpgL: ABC Dataset Samples; R: Photo credit: NOAA, Vancouver Aquarium.

We've long been enamored with the Eames' Powers of Ten short film, which is as much an introduction to aerial photography as it is to the math behind astronomy and biology. Just as everyone now takes beautiful images (and the retina displays to view them on) for granted, there is also a sense in which we are collectively GPS-enabled: After all, digital cartography is perhaps the most practical application of constant connectivity, and we can thank one company for the ability to zoom out to god's-(or satellites'-)eye view with a pinch of the fingers.


Benedikt Groß & Joey Lee take it even further with Aerial Bold, the "first map and typeface of the earth."

The project is literally about "reading" the earth for letterforms, or alphabet shapes, "written" into the topology of buildings, roads, rivers, trees, and lakes. To do this, we will traverse the entire planet's worth of satellite imagery and develop the tools and methods necessary to map these features hiding in plain sight.
The entire letterform database will be made available as a "usable" dataset for any of your art/design/science/textual projects and selected letterforms will be made into a truetype/opentype font format that can be imported to your favorite word processor.


Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  17 Sep 2014  |  Comments (2)


Tomorrow Scotland will hold a historic vote on whether to break away from the United Kingdom or not. Never mind the social, political, economic ramifications of secession—if the Scots bail out, there will be a bit of a graphic design problem to address.

That's because the Union Jack, the flag of the United Kingdom, is in fact a 19th-Century mashup of three different flags: The English's St. George's Cross blazon...


...Northern Ireland's Saint Patrick's Saltire (a "saltire" being a diagonal cross)...


...and Scotland's Saint Andrew's Cross, which is technically a saltire.


Put them all together, and you've got three great tastes that (perhaps used to) taste great together:



Posted by Ray  |  10 Sep 2014  |  Comments (0)


The new Apple Watch may offer navigation via a paired iPhone's GPS system, but (Maps bugs notwithstanding) wayfinding used to be a skill, especially here in New York City. While the grid of streets and avenues bears a semblance of intuitive legibility, the sinuously criss-crossing subway lines has long been rather less forgiving. The city-wide system itself originated with the merger of the privately operated IRT, BMT and IND in 1939, but each line continued to publish its own maps (sans the other two) and signage until the late 50's; the major turning point came a decade later, when the NYCTA commissioned a comprehensive overhaul of the signage and wayfinding system in 1967. Some four years in the making, Unimark International's codified design language is far more profound than the empirical typography and glyphs that characterize the subway system today; rather it captures the essence of visual communication qua user experience. Sure, any poseur can get ahold of a 1972 Subway map, but true aficionados will go for the real deal, available now on Kickstarter for the first (and last) time: the 1970 New York City Transit Authority Graphic Standards Manual, meticulously authored by the late designers Massimo Vignelli and Bob Noorda of Unimark.

Known simply as the Standards Manual, the original ring-bound text is something like the contemporary equivalent of the Rosetta Stone: a dictionary, encyclopedia case study and veritable holy text rolled (or rather Smyth-sewn) into one. As a canonical document of high modernism, it's right up there with the Gutenberg bible—a beautiful object in and of itself—and Pentagram's Jesse Reed and Hamish Smith are offering a faithful reproduction with the blessing of the Metropolitan Transit Authority itself.

In 2012—42 years after the Standards Manual was released—we discovered a rare copy in the basement of design firm Pentagram.
Now, under an exclusive agreement with the MTA, we are scanning and printing every page in a full-size hardcover book.
The MTA agreed on the reissue with one condition: it will only be available during this 30-day Kickstarter campaign.
After this campaign, the book will never be reissued again.

StandardsManual-2.jpgIs it just me, or does Standard Medium (later changed to Helvetica, of course) look kind of like a heavier version of Apple's new typeface?

Upon their initial discovery, Reed and Hamish simply published the Standards Manual digitally but have since seen fit to publish a scale reproduction of the 364-page omnibus for posterity's sake, a felicitous tribute to the recently deceased Vignelli and his unsung colleague Noorda (who passed in 2010). Narrated by Pentagram partner Michael Bierut, the reverential video is also on point; drool on your keyboard now because you won't want to ruin your copy of it:


Posted by Kat Bauman  |  29 Aug 2014  |  Comments (0)

The book publishing industry may be shifting tectonically and perhaps irrevocably as we speak, but, as with vinyl, the cover endures as a canonical canvas for graphic design. The follow-worthy Casual Optimist recently brought a series of Gunter Rambow's amazing book-centric posters to our attention. Designed for the S. Fischer Verlag publishing house in the 70's, these graphics exemplify the light touch required to pull off visual self-reference. These book posters tread between clean forms and surrealist art, walking the delicate line of sight gags without crossing into the crap zone.

Magritte would be proud...

It should go without saying that Rambow created these works of art before the advent of Photoshop and its epiphenomenal 'bombardment,' though it's worth noting that the clever visual puns still hold up today. would M.C. Escher.


Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |   4 Jul 2014  |  Comments (0)


If a client wants six drawings, how do you get away with delivering just three? In this clever bit of illustrations done as advertisements for Jeep, the French outpost of ad agency Leo Burnett has produced what appear to be simple animal mugshots:


However, flip each one over and presto, new animal:





Posted by erika rae  |   3 Jul 2014  |  Comments (0)


Well at least we had a good run, thanks mostly to one Tim Meme Howard; now it's just a question of whether it's unpatriotic to watch the Germany-France and/or Brazil-Colombia matches go down tomorrow or politely abstain in observance of Independence Day. Either way, here's yet another trip through World Cup history (we previously took a look at ticket designs from 1930 to present day). Here's a roundup of noteworthy designs from 80 years of World Cup posters—read on to find out how fascism made its way into one design and when choosing the final poster became a matter of public opinion.


As Il Duce of the host country in 1934, Mussolini took the international spotlight as a way to promote fascism through tournament-themed propaganda. Can you spot the subtle fascist symoblism in the poster? Hint: fasces are represented by a bundle of sticks that comprise the handle of an axe. An abstracted variation appears on the player's jersey, next to the flag—it looks something like a gold tetris block—while a watermarked seal is hidden behind the "Italia, A. XII" text at bottom left.

The authoritative symbol is meant to represent the power and jurisdiction of the magistrate, but it actually turns up far beyond the borders of Italy and fascism: The fasces historically appear in heraldry, including various government seals and symbols of our very own federal government. You can find the fasces inside the White House's Oval Office, on either sides of the American flag behind the podium of the United States House of Representatives, on the Lincoln Memorial, on the base of the Statue of Freedom on the United State's capitol building—the list goes on.


The game ball is main attraction in the 1938 and 1950 posters, for tournaments in Paris and Brazil, respectively (the two intervening tournaments were canceled on account of the war). The 1938 poster features the last lace-sewn game ball—prior to Wilson's star turn opposite Tom Hanks in Castaway, "Allen" was named after the ball's French manufacturers—which was made up of 13 leather panels instead of the usual 12. Like the ball depicted in the poster design, the ball's namesake wasn't printed on the one that was actually kicked around. The actual Allen ball made an appearance at the beginning of matches for pre-game photo ops, but was switched out for an unadorned version for actual game play. According to one account, this was one of the first examples of brand creep in the World Cup—though they didn't achieve the exposure afforded by inclusion in the poster design.

In terms of ball design, lace sewn game balls were nixed in 1950 in favor of a design that allowed the ball to be more easily inflated using a pump. Until the pump was introduced, few people knew how to properly inflate the game balls—it was a delicate task and it was very easy to end up with a lopsided ball. The 1970 cup in Mexico saw the introduction of the iconic black-and-white Telstar; the New York Times has an excellent interactive feature on World Cup balls, if you're curious.


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 started out in the pre-CS days with the time-honored tradition of 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 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  |  30 Jun 2014  |  Comments (1)


As a slight upgrade from the time-honored coin flip, Magic 8-Balls are great for tossing your decision-making to the wind with a few shakes of the proverbial 'crystal' ball. After all, the gnomic globe is the modern-day incarnation of the Oracle at Delphi, who never failed the Ancient Greeks, right? But seeing as it's merely a quirky plaything, advice-seeking designers might prefer a more understated source of cryptic clichés. Thankfully, the folks at Charleston, SC-based agency Fuzzco have come up with an alternative, at least for the indecisive graphic designers among us: Meet your new favorite DnD-inspired doodad, the Pocket Art Director.


Regardless of how micro- or macro- your manager may be, we can all relate to those instances in which we'd prefer to avoid having to actually interact (shudder) with a flighty and/or imperious taskmaster. The Pocket Art Director offers much-needed guidance with the flick of a wrist—the 20-sided Platonic solid offers an uncannily close approximation of a bona fide AD (or client), a quasi-literal crapshoot for a few words of predictably banal feedback on your design direction.


Posted by erika rae  |  24 Jun 2014  |  Comments (0)


We all have our favorite memories of summer, but we're more inclined to forget the rather less pleasant thought of mosquito bites that might come with those adventures. I fondly recall summer a camp deep in the woods of Wisconsin, from which I would return home with arms full of craft projects... and legs that were completely destroyed from compulsively scratching bug bites. In fact, the winged blood-suckers may well be the most universally despised creatures on earth—some ecologists believe we do away with them with no ecological consequences—so anyone can appreciate this innovation from Sri Lanka's Mawbima newspaper and ad agency Leo Burnett. But for many across the world, appreciation is an understatement, since a mosquito bite can mean much more than a temporary inconvenience on an otherwise healthy body.


For the 2014 World Health Day, the publication printed the world's first mosquito-repelling newspaper, adding citronella scent to the newspaper's ink. It's a far more elegant way to deliver insect repellent than the chemical-laden sprays we're used to... and it keeps citizens informed about current events to boot.

MosquitoPaper-Branding.jpgThe alphabetic branding behind the mosquito-repelling project

The scented newspaper ink is indicated by an intriguing graphic identity—even for those of us outside of its impact zone—featuring mosquitoes being smashed behind each character of the local Sinhalese script. The newspaper shared the illustrated vernacular over National Dengue Week and on Facebook previous to the citronella newspaper run. Check out this video from Leo Burnett on the entire project:


Posted by erika rae  |  19 Jun 2014  |  Comments (1)

World-Cup-Tickets-Lead.jpgToday's World Cup ticket design (left) versus the design from 1930 (right)

You don't have to go very far to find evidence that the World Cup is making headlines at just about every media outlet out there, ourselves included. It's easy to find yourself caught up with footie fever, packed into a tiny bar with fifty other screaming fans pushing you away from the bar (and television). While 100 Chileans recently demonstrated otherwise, tickets are coveted enough to make for a keepsake or even a prized possession, should your team prevail. Here's a look at the ever-evolving ticket designs from 1930, when FIFA started distributing them, to present day.



The ticket from the inaugural World Cup games in Uruguay may look pretty basic, but used ones go for close to $1,700 on collector sites nowadays. The outbreak of World War II meant a 12-year hiatus, which returned to Brazil in 1950 with a new design feature: the stub.

World-Cup-Ticket-1954.jpg1954's World Cup ticket

The stub was overall shortlived, it seems. In 1954—the first year the Cup was televised, by the way—tickets came in different shapes/sizes depending on which round it was, incorporating the stub only in tickets for the final.


Posted by core jr  |  28 May 2014  |  Comments (0)

MassimoVignelli_JoshOwen.jpgPhoto by Elizabeth Lamark

News of Massimo Vignelli's passing yesterday morning marked a somber start to this week as the design community mourns the loss of one of a modernist maestro. It is impossible to understate his influence on contemporary graphic design, and his legacy will live on not only in his extensive body of work but also in documentaries such as Helvetica and Design Is One—and, of course, the Vignellis' career archive, which Massimo and his wife/partner Lella generously donated to the Rochester Institute of Technology.

Josh Owen, Professor and Chair of Industrial Design, RIT, shares a few fond memories of Massimo.

I was attracted to join the faculty at RIT in large part due to the emergent Vignelli Center for Design Studies. I knew it would be a great opportunity to learn from Massimo Vignelli's exemplary design process and to utilize the process-based teaching tools that he generously donated to RIT. What I did not expect to find was the warm embrace of a charismatic visionary who became a mentor as well as a friend. I recently met with Massimo in his home and talked with him about life and philosophy. He talked about his notion of "Design is One," the idea that design can cross all categories of human endeavor in an attempt to make sense of the complexities of life.

Massimo also told me how happy he was that we are delivering this message through our work at RIT. While this is no easy task, it is one that I take on with most sincere intention, together with my esteemed colleagues.

From an e-mail dated 5/16/2012 from Massimo:

I am so happy to see the dream of the archive's purpose finally coming to fruition... This is the most important issue of my life: to leave something that can inspire some other designer to do even better, to expand the language.

Ciao Massimo—grazie mille.

–Josh Owen, May 27, 2014.

Posted by erika rae  |  15 May 2014  |  Comments (0)

NuclearReactor-Lead2.jpg"Trillo," published in September 1978

Everyone loves a good cutaway illustration (and we've got no shortage on Core77 (just take a look at our entire series on cutaway masters). We've brought you the illustrative inner-workings of boats, Star Wars machinery, planes, tanks, cars and even castles—and now, nuclear reactors. Even the most simple of apparatuses become twisting diagrams of workflow when broken down and forced into 3D detail on a 2D plane. (Although, I don't think anyone would necessarily call a nuclear power plant a simple set-up to begin with.) Thanks to The University of New Mexico, we can view an extensive archive of nuclear reactor cutaways—all of which made an appearance as inserts in Nuclear Engineering International magazine at some point from the 1950s to the 1990s.

NuclearReactor-GrandGulf.jpg"Grand Gulf," published in September 1980

NuclearReactor-Guangdong.jpg"Guangdong Nuclear Power Plant," published in September 1987

With so much detail, it's no surprise that some of the more minuscule components became hard to comprehend over time. Luckily, Engineer Ron Knief noticed this and started on a quest to digitize all 105 diagrams published by the magazine.


Posted by core jr  |   3 Apr 2014  |  Comments (0)
Content sponsored by Adobe

Design inspiration comes from a variety of sources. As a teenager, Kostas Kaparos experimented with graffiti. At the time, he had no idea that it was just the first step on his journey to becoming a successful graphic artist.

Today, Kostas works as an art director, designer, and illustrator at mousegraphics, an Athens-based studio. With a focus on packaging design, Kostas, begins many projects by developing a story and exploring the audience's emotional connection to the brand. He then turns to illustration to shape the story. The fluidity and flexibility of the illustration process allows him to test and sample completely new ideas without boundaries, which can help to create an entirely new brand experience.

Creative briefs, whether direct or wide open, are the launching point for his ideas, which he expresses through sketches. In many ways, he approaches illustration in much the same way a sculptor approaches his work. After putting his rough ideas on paper, Kostas manipulates and refines each element, continually reworking ideas until his vision is realized. It's not uncommon for final designs to appear vastly different from the original, rough concepts.


Adobe Illustrator is a central part of Kostas' creative process, and he loves the endless experimentation he can undertake with the software. He may do an entire illustration just with the Pen tool and his Bamboo tablet, or combine a range of tools and techniques as he translates ideas from his imagination to the screen.


Posted by core jr  |  25 Mar 2014  |  Comments (0)


By John Clifford

While writing my book Graphic icons: Visionaries Who Shaped Modern Graphic Design, I was impressed by how many of the legendary designers I was profiling pushed themselves and branched out to other disciplines, such as industrial design and architecture. Such explorations can inspire creativity and bring fresh perspectives to each area of practice.

JohnClifford-GraphicIcons-Sutnar.jpgCatalog cover for Cuno Engineering Corporation, 1946; Build the Town building block set, c.1942

Ladislav Sutnar

Influenced by the functional Constructivist and De Stijl movements, Sutnar always worked at developing a visual language that communicated directly. Charts, graphs and images simplified information, helping busy people save time. The way, Sutnar steered readers through complex information sounds much like what we now call information design or information architecture, which has been further developed by Edward Tufte and Richard Saul Wurman, as well as by digital and web designers everywhere.

As someone who believed that design should influence every part of daily life, Sutnar designed pretty much everything: furniture, fabrics, glassware and dishes, even toys. His colorful and geometric building block set, "Build the Town," was never actually produced, in spite of Sutnar's efforts to design packaging and promotional materials for it.

JohnClifford-GraphicIcons-Lustig.jpgIndustrial Design magazine cover, 1954; 3 Tragedies book cover, paperback version, 1955; Staff magazine cover, 1944.

Alvin Lustig

Magazines, interiors, book jackets, packaging, fabrics, hotels, mall signage, the opening credits of the cartoon Mr. Magoo—even a helicopter—Alvin Lustig designed all of them. He always felt the title "graphic designer" was too limiting, and it's clear why: He designed everything. And he did it all before dying at the young age of 40.

Lustig started designing interiors while working for Look magazine in the 1940s. Work like this inspired him to design the total package for his clients, from corporate identity to office environments. Though he is best known for his book covers, his experience among many disciplines gave him more freedom and opportunities.


Posted by Ray  |   7 Mar 2014  |  Comments (2)


As these things go, Day One of the 2014 Design Indaba Conference was a bit behind schedule from the get-go. Experimental Jetset acknowledged as much in their regimented presentation that morning: after introducing themselves by way of banter, Marieke Stolk, Erwin Brinkers and Danny van den Dungen explained that they'd be spending the rest of their 40-minutes time slot by sharing their influences from A to Z, spending one minute on each topic. Taking the notion of a timed talk to its logical extreme, the Dutch trio went so far as to include 60-second countdown timers on each slide—a nod, perhaps, to their cerebral approach to graphic design.

EJ-ProvoCrouwel.jpgL: Stolk's parents were founding members of the Provo anarchist movement (’65–’67); R: Invitation for Wim Crouwel: Architectures Typographiques

Of course, it didn't play out that way: Stolk clocked in "Anarchy" in exactly 60 seconds, but from "The Beatles" on, it was clear that the concept was a tad overambitious. (On the other hand, when it seemed that one of them would finish earlier than the 60 seconds on a couple of the letters, he or she would knowingly stretch the explanation.) Still, anyone familiar with their work could have guessed what "H" would be: they've been typecast (in a manner of speaking) as strict Helveticists since their memorable turn in Gary Hustwit's 2007 documentary on the ubiquitous typeface. Adherents to this day, van den Dungen duly noted that "We signed our own death sentence... in Helvetica."


Dean Poole, on the other hand, gushed about letterforms as archetypes; the self-effacing New Zealander's presentation which followed lunch on the third and final day of the conference, was rife on wordplay and visual puns, his understated punchlines deadpanned to a tee. Indeed, language and its mode of mechanical representation figure heavily into his work (where Sagmeister turns things into typography, Poole does the opposite) as the founder of Auckland-based studio Alt Group. Hence his rather more rapid 'characterization' of the letters of the alphabet—set in Futura, if I remember correctly—as ideograms, which, when juxtaposed with the Amsterdammers' ABCs, results in a series of non sequiturs:

EJDP-Alphabets.jpgI didn't catch Dean's versions of "P" and "U" and I haven't been able to get in touch with him; leave a comment if you happen to know what they are...


Posted by Ray  |   5 Feb 2014  |  Comments (3)


Seeing as web trends are even more capricious than the weather patterns we've been experiencing here in NYC, the backlash to Squarespace Logo has tapered off by now, but seeing as it launched just two weeks ago, the democratic logo design tool is still worth considering as symptom of how we define design today.

Somehow, I doubt that Squarespace encountered such unanimous antipathy when it debuted as a user-friendly website-building tool, ten years ago; after all, the dog-eat-dog CMS game has come a long way in the past decade, and I've only heard good things about their flagship product. But graphic design, including but not limited to branding/identity/visual communication/etc., is another story. Co.Design rounded up the pithy rejoinders—a few more have trickled in on the de rigueur data exhaust Tumblr—and garnered a slew of comments, as did the Wired post, so I'll concede that someone else has probably already made this point.

Having only dabbled in front-end development and graphic design in my day, I won't pretend to be an expert in either domain. But as a knowledge worker who spends most of my day tending to an at-times fickle CMS, regularly troubleshooting various glitches as they inevitably arise, I know all too well that an intuitive backend is a bridge between the 'dirty work' of coding/scripting and public-facing content.*

Contrary to its name, 'web design' is not design in the same way that graphic design is—a subtle distinction, perhaps, but a critical one. Web design is largely dictated by best practices, at least when it comes to creating a functional, navigable container for content. Which is not to say that web design is not creative, but rather that the hard constraints of HTML/CSS/etc. (not to mention browser/OS compatibility) are precisely why CMS's and templates make sense: Just tweak the font size and column width, add a social media widget, and you're good to go. "Just another Wordpress site," as the saying goes.

Logos, on the other hand, are meant to express an identity—the very heart and soul of a company—in a painstakingly-kerned font and/or ideographic vector illustration. Graphic design is a creative endeavor; as such, it is more than a matter of simply dragging and dropping elements or picking your favorite color. Think about it: Websites hew to a half-dozen standard layouts, where details such as fonts and colors evoke a general look and feel but rarely, if ever, denote a specific brand—which is why you look to the top left corner or center of the page for a logo.


Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  31 Jan 2014  |  Comments (3)


We spotted creative director Tyler Thompson kicking off a boarding pass conceptual redesign frenzy back in 2010, and it was fun to see different designers' takes on what that little scrap of paper should look like.

The latest designer to throw his hat into this (suffe)ring is Peter Smart, who famously tried to solve 50 Problems in 50 Days using design. That project necessitated a lot of travel, meaning Smart dealt with a lot of boarding passes, and eventually stretched his design muscles during a long layover.

Smart had at least one brilliant, simple insight: A boarding pass contains multiple bite-sized chunks of information, and you don't need them all at once. But you do need them in a particular order—figuring out which gate you need to head to is an earlier priority than locating your seat on the plane. And by turning the boarding pass sideways, Smart instantly reduces the visual clutter to a series of easy-to-read lines, like the way a movie script reduces the width of dialogue blocks to make it easier on the eyes.


You can read Smart's full analysis of existing boarding passes and explanation of his redesign here. (Unsurprisingly, the web page is presented in an extraordinarily clear, well-designed manner.)

Posted by Ray  |   2 Dec 2013  |  Comments (0)


Like most everyone who was born after, say, the mid-70's, we're big fans of Super Mario—see figs. 1, 2, 3—so we're definitely digging Robert Bacon's "Super Mario New York City Subway" Map. As Andy Cush of Animal New York puts it, the poster is "perfect for the transit-obsessed gamer on your list."



Posted by Ray  |   5 Sep 2013  |  Comments (13)


...and the backlash begins: Yahoo unveiled their new logo this morning, following their 30 Days of Change marketing campaign, an interesting publicity stunt that came across as a mass-market (i.e. less rigorous) version of, say, the Brand New IDEO Make-a-Thon.

I'll defer to Armin Vit of Brand New for a full analysis of the new logomark— was unavailable for comment—but I must say I find it uninspired and uninspiring. Line-weight and non-obliqueness notwithstanding, something about that "Y" and the subtly flared lines evokes watered-down YSL, and the tweaked humanist typography feels a bit design-by-committee to me (it was, in fact, designed in-house by Marissa Mayer & co.). Current brand usage guidelines include the punctuation mark, but sadly it's not quite the same without the so-called "9-degrees of whimsy"—at least not until browsers support the CSS 'rotation' property—and in any case, we'll stick with regular-ol' unexclamatory "Yahoo" in common parlance.