What The Canadian Flag Could Have Been

Arcade has a great piece on the creation of the Canadian flag as we currently know it, spurred by an effort to distance themselves from Britain during a political crisis in the 50’s.

In the summer of 1964, with construction of the groundbreaking Montreal Expo underway, a new national symbol was seen as key to the modernization of Canada. The creation of a new flag was meant to be a truly public and participatory process in which citizens were invited to take part in the profound reshaping of their country’s national image.

I found it fascinating that their flag was designed so recently. In my mind flags have such a provenance and iconic nature that they seem like they’ve been around forever.

Below is my favorite rejected flag design. I love the simplified version of the maple leaves, the gaggle of geese, and the Japanese aesthetic it embodies. In fact, when you do a Google Image Search of the image you see primarily Japanese sumi ink paintings. Anyone know who created this version?

Canada Flag Design - Japanese

Bobby Solomon

January 30, 2015 / By

The Craftsmen of Ireland

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At the end of last year, I was delighted to hear that Jameson had invited me to Ireland to interact with some of their local craftsman, tour their incredible distillery, and—of course—enjoy some delicious Irish whiskey.

Never having been to Ireland before, I knew I was in for a treat. Telling friends and co-workers about my journey I was told stories about cozy, old pubs that buzz until late into the night, lusciosus green hills that seem to last forever, and encountering folks who were some of the nicest they’d ever met. This was one of the elements that still stands out so vividly to me: how kind the people are.

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The first craftsman we visited was a burly man named Garvan de Bruir, a leather crafter working in the quaint town of Killdare. We drove almost directly from the Dublin airport to his studio and was greeted with a spread of sandwiches, salads, and good beer, which was much needed after a 14+ hour flight. Garvan’s kindness matched his creativity as we snacked in an impressive studio he designed himself, not content only creating objects with leather.

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The De Bruir line of leather goods are fantastic, too. He makes a little bit of everything such as luggage, bags, wallets, keep-all trays, and, most surprising of all, bow ties. I believe hearing the words “leather bow tie” might induce a cringe amongst most but his design is flawless and, when you see Garvin himself wearing one, you suddenly see how well it works.

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We were given the opportunity to make leather aprons for ourselves using De Bruir designs. Watching Garvan and his apprentice work looked simple but in actuality is a lot like watching cooking shows on television: “I can do that, no big deal,” you say in your head. As I learned, leather crafting is not simple. Thankfully we had expert teachers who led us through process with ease as we chatted about other small leather good brands from around the world. It was two days of hard work that led to a beautiful product that should last me forever.

After this, we took off for the town of Waterford, Ireland’s oldest city and home to a number of glass blowers. Waterford might sound familiar and that’s because it was the home of Waterford Crystal. Well, that was until 2009 when they declared bankruptcy and laid off most of their artisans. Still! That didn’t stop companies like The Irish Handmade Glass Company from filling the void with their very in-demand skills.

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If you’ve never seen glass blowing in person, it’s hard to fully understand the beauty of the process. We were treated to Richard Rowe showing us how a master glass blower goes about his craft, tranforming globs of molten glass into precious pieces of art in minutes. It’s an intimdating craft that has an element of danger—or at least you think this from the view of a spectator, which is a part of it’s allure.

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The last leg of our trip was a tour through the Jameson Distillery in Cork, a facility that’s been around since 1795. The distillery is indicative of what I saw a lot of in Ireland: a rich history and heritage now being augmented with contemporary design and architecture. As you walk around you’re overwhelmed by the age of the place, that has been the brand home for hundreds of years.

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They’ve been plying their craft, slowly but surely moving toward the present and future of whiskey. The grounds are mostly lined with old building made of stone and wood, like a Dickensian setting of some sort. This setting continues in the past until the near end, where you’re guided to the new wing of the facility a state-of-the-art complex that resembles a Bond villains lair (but in actuality, distills golden, whiskey goodness).

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They even have (what I would call) a whiskey labratory officially titled the Irish Whiskey Academy. It offers a number of courses on the history of whiskey, how it’s produced, and—yes—extensive tastings. The tastings were particularly interesting because of the variety of flavors and nuance a whiskey can take on. Some had fruit notes, some where quite smokey; others were younger and thus quite potent, a specific taste for specific people. Getting to soak up the details of a whiskey like that is not something that happens very often—especially in such a storied place like the Jameson Distillery.

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In all, Ireland was a fantastic place to visit. The weather was warm, the people were warmer, and the whiskey never stops flowing. You can’t ask for much more than that.

Bobby Solomon

January 27, 2015 / By

Sonos Doesn’t Have A New Logo, It Has A Beautiful New Visual Identity

Bruce Mau Design's New Sonos Logo Isn't A Logo

It’s been nice to see Bruce Mau Design’s work for Sonos get the recognition it deserves, the team has done a beautiful job. Of particular note has been how the lines radiating outward from behind the logo resembles sound waves thanks to the moire pattern used – except it’s wrongly being called a new logo. By many. The Sonos logo hasn’t changed, only the visual identity has been refreshed. From Bruce Mau Design:

This new iteration of the Sonos visual identity advances the idea of the modern music experience – not singular or monolithic but a rich diversity of expressions. Performance imagery from Sonos Studio, new product photography and the introduction of three big graphic tools that can be mixed and remixed, deliver a creative and variable language while still providing the stability of a recognizable system.

As designers we should do our part in educating the folks who don’t understand on the difference between logo design and visual identity. At the very least it’s good for people who aren’t as fluent in design speak to understand what it is we do exactly (and why they’re paying so much for it). Hat tip to Bryan Byczek for pointing this out.

Bobby Solomon

January 26, 2015 / By

Bold, Folksy Branding for Mibici, A Used Bike Non-Profit

Really like the boldness of this brand identity for Mibici, a small non-profit that brings used bikes from the U.S. and distributes them in rural communities in Costa Rica. It was created by Pupila Sestudio along with with Matti Vandersee who did a great job of making a non-profit that may have gotten list visually stand out from the pack. The hand-drawn bike illustrations are especially charming.

Bold, Folksy Branding for Mibici, A Used Bike Non-Profit

Bold, Folksy Branding for Mibici, A Used Bike Non-Profit

Bobby Solomon

January 26, 2015 / By

The Top Title Sequences Of 2014

Art Of The Title Top 10 Title Sequences Of 2014

Good title sequences are much rarer than they should be, an aesthetic often only considered by those making the opening credits of a Bond movie or the show True Detective. Title sequences are about setting a tone and style for a show and do so by doing either very little or a lot. The episodes and show may chance but the title sequence is the one item that ties everything up, alluding to what an audience knows and will find out if they stay tuned.

Art Of The Title knows this best and, to celebrate, they selected their top ten favorite title sequences of last year. The selections span from video games to movies to television shows and even promotional sequences. While just ten sounds paltry, their picks span a variety of styles and forms. For example the brilliant opening sequence for the decent game Alien: Isolation not only falls into an homage category, echoing the original Alien, but set the tone for a decidedly creepy (yet glacially slow) game. It’s place at number ten points out how stellar a year it was.

It’s a good little list, considering many of the titles were part of wonderfully considered and executed design efforts in entertainment (which is a rarity). There is even the wacky inclusion of “Too Many Cooks” which is just as absurd as the video but—hey—it truly is at its heart a title sequence.

Read the full list and see all the sequences in question by clicking here.

KYLE FITZPATRICK

January 15, 2015 / By

The WarkaWater Tower: Drawing Water From The Air

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When I was working on a now cancelled socially conscious news show, I was responsible for producing a few segments that were high tech shows-and-tell that showed how technology can benefit the developing world. This meant that I was constantly trolling design websites to find objects like Yves Behar’s Kernel Diagnostic and Olafur Eliasson’s Little Sun, doing my best to get my hands on them to share. This was often a difficult, frustrating task but the results were always remarkable.

This has left a special place in my heart for design projects with good intentions, ones that seek to offer solutions through creativity. While reading Wired recently, something caught my attention that certainly fit into this world and, thankfully, I don’t have to worry about flying a prototype out to Los Angeles: Architecture and Vision has created a “water tower” out of bamboo that extracts water from the air, harvesting the resource for those in dry environments. It’s a novel idea executed in an exceptional way.

The WarkaWater Tower: Drawing Water From The Air

The WarkaWater Tower: Drawing Water From The Air

The tower—which they call WarkaWater, after the Ethiopian Warka tree—is composed of bamboo poles wrapped in a thin mesh net that catches water from rain, fog, dew, etc. It all funnels into a water tank and, apparently, it can collect almost thirty gallons of water a day. It requires no electricity, requires less than a grand to build, and is even designed to keep birds away.

The project is literally huge and has gone through many design incarnations, their most recent being the most viable, useful effort. Yet, like many designs for social good, the funding for clever projects like this is quite minimal and the creators have turned to Kickstarter for funding. They’re raising money through mid-February and, if successful, they should be able to start more serious testing of the tower this year—and they hope to employ the towers in Ethiopia in the next three years.

KYLE FITZPATRICK

January 14, 2015 / By

Tao Liu Photographs The Awkward, In-Between Moments In Life

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At a certain time of day, usually in the afternoon, both of my dogs get up from a nap and stretch in unison. They do not plan to do this together but they do on several occasions. It’s a remarkable little sight that always reminds me of two little people bowing: it makes me feel like a king. Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to photograph this despite my best efforts. They are either not standing next to each other or it’s too dark. More often than not, the scene is too fast and my timing too imperfect: it is a moment I will just have to explain to people.

This is why photographer Tao Liu is particularly special: his work the result of pressing the capture button at the right time. Be it out of waiting or being really good at knowing when to take a photo, his photography is exciting in that it points out how ridiculous the most mundane shit in life can be. His photos are funny and relatable and, as you can see on his Flickr, quite abundant.

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According to Peta Pixel, Liu is fairly popular street photographer in China—where he lives—and is a self-taught artist. His photography and style are born from his (assumed) former job as a water meter reader. He would take photos of little things that caught his eye on breaks and when walking to or from work. Obviously what he saw has hit something very relatable as he has become incredibly popular at pointing out life’s little idiosyncrasies.

If you recall almost a year ago, we shared similar work by photographer John Goldsmith. Both artists point out how ridiculous life can be and that, if you stop to take the time or simply look at something another way, you can have a good laugh at it. And, again: photography like this relies on expert timing. If I had an ounce of Liu’s capturing capability, I’m pretty sure I would have a pretty sweet double downward dog bowing photo Instagrammed by now.

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KYLE FITZPATRICK

January 13, 2015 / By

Sufjan Stevens Releases New Album ‘Carrie & Lowell’ on March 31

Sufjan Stevens Releases New Album 'Carrie & Lowell' on March 15

Incredibly it’s been five years since the last album from Sufjan Stevens came out, the challenging, sprawling Age of Adz. That album to me is his pinnacle, a masterpiece that he may not be able to trump. This statement will be tested soon enough as his new album Carrie & Lowell is being released on March 31.

The preview below sounds like a return to his older work, with sort of an Illinois or Seven Swans sound to it. It’s quite lovely though I hope he still plays with the experimental side of music making as well, like the fantastic “Impossible Soul” from Adz. Clocking in at over 25 minutes and it’s an incredible song hat hits about every high and low you can imagine.

Bobby Solomon

January 13, 2015 / By

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