Date Archives July 2011

Washed Out Covers Chris Isaak’s ‘Wicked Game’

Washed Out Covers Chris Isaak's 'Wicked Game'

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This was so fun that I had to post it. Washed Out, aka Ernest Greene, recently hit up one of Sirius’ XMU Sessions and decided to drop this cover of Chris Isaak’s Wicked Game, and well, it’s pretty great. It’s not even that different, he just does a nice, modern version that’s rather pleasant to listen to. My favorite part though is the stupid, fake mural I made of Washed Out and Chris Isaak. I couldn’t have found two more perfect photos.

Found through Last Gas Station

Bobby

Alphabet by Jack Hughes

Alphabet by Jack Hughes

Alphabet by Jack Hughes

Alphabet by Jack Hughes

Alphabet by Jack Hughes

Click images to enlarge

Sadly, the compressed images above don’t do justice to the alphabet Jack Hughes created. Jack is a South London illustrator and designer who created this inventive alphabet that deserves a second look. I don’t know how functional this would be as say, a font, but as individual art pieces they’re gorgeous. The way he augments each letter with an interesting illustration or photo is perfect, and the color palette he’s used seals the deal for me. You should click here to see the GIF he put together of all the images, and then click through to see the set. Don’t you think Jack needs to make prints of these?

Bobby

Site Redesign: Giving TreeHugger A Breath of Fresh Air

Site Redesign: Giving TreeHugger A Breath of Fresh Air

Before

Site Redesign: Giving TreeHugger A Breath of Fresh Air

After

Click images to enlarge

I thought I’d try my hand again at doing another unsolicited redesign of a site that I enjoy, but has fallen by the wayside over the years. Back when I first started Internet-ing in the late 90’s one of my favorite sites to visit was TreeHugger. At the time there was really nothing like it, exploring alternatives and helping to usher in a green mentality. Over the years though it’s started to fade, becoming a monster of banner features and skyscraper ads. Everything is currently screaming look at me and the features themselves seem to be of little to no importance. That’s why this is the perfect candidate for a redesign. To be clear, this wasn’t sanctioned, paid for, or endorsed by TreeHugger or the Discovery Channel, this is simply me having fun.

The Logo & Mark
The first thing I did was try a light handed redesign of the logo and mark. I don’t think either has changed in years, still maintaining the flavor of early 2000’s. The vibe of the site has always been a mix of environmentalism with a tech twist, but the pixelated tree and hard angled (but not) font wasn’t really working anymore. Neither is the ‘A Discovery Company’ lockup that’s way too tight, see how the A and D caress the first E in Treehugger? My idea was to simplify the Treehugger logo and refresh the mark… literally.

The mark is a simple combination of two things: The computer symbol for refresh and a leaf. I thought about using a recycling logo, but it felt contrived and bit too on the mark. I also feel like the idea of refreshing is more positive than recycling. A leaf is the most basic way to identify nature, and plays together well with the word treehugger. Together they embody the spirit of what the site has always been, nature meets tech.

For the logo I kept things simple, using the free font Miso by Omkrets Architects. The font is similar to the old one, but is a little bit softer and less trying to be tech related. The ‘A Discovery Company’ byline has been severely minimized and reduced down using Jason Kottke’s font Silkscreen. Together I think they form a nice combination and could also work easily on business cards, letterheads, etc.

The Website
When I started playing around with the design, the first thing I thought about was color. Okay, I get it, TreeHugger, it has to be green, right? All I see when I look at the current site is this deathly, moldy shade of green in the background that’s totally unappealing. So I decided to opt for a light blue instead, which I called a much needed breath of fresh air. When comparing the two side-by-side the results are… breath taking (sorry, I couldn’t help myself).

Another huge hurdle I faced was trying to figure out what was important on the site. Currently there’s zero hierarchy on the page, everything is competing to be seen and it’s a huge mess, the web equivalent of a hoarder. I decided to break the site down into three main parts: a featured section, a main column, and a side column. The featured area is just what it sounds like, a simple carousel displaying popular or important stories. I see that TreeHugger is quite dependent on ads, I counted 7 ad units on one page, so I decided to determine the height of the featured unit by the height of a search box and a med rec.

The main column, which features all of the articles, is simplified and made larger to give it the respect it deserves. Currently on the site the articles seem like passing thoughts, squeezed between two columns of ads and click-me-nows. They’re also inundated with every sharing tool possible as well as recommendations for other stories. It was all too much. There are a few more things like tags or an Outbrain style of related articles that I could have added, but let’s not ruin the magic.

The sidebar was the last hurdle to jump, and I thought he best way to handle it was to do what Cool Hunting has done. Basically, they have a few ads in the sidebar, as well as some of their own pertinent information that could entice a reader. The genius part is that they allow for about five posts to go by, lazy load more posts, and then lazy load the sidebar again. This allows them to get a ton of ad impressions, even though a user hasn’t click a single story. I tried to get the folks at Myspace to do this, but it never clicked (yet again, I can’t help myself).

Conclusion
Overall, I think the site is a thousand times better and more easy to digest. It’s amazing how much crap can pile up on an established website over time. I’m not really sure if TreeHugger has a design staff, but hopefully my redesign gets someone in the right place thinking about changing things up. It’s also worth mentioning that they could benefit from an improved footer as well, but that’s a can of worms I didn’t want to open.

I’m looking forward to hearing your feedback and what you think about my little experiment. All critical feedback is accepted, but please keep it polite. If you don’t have anything nice to say, keep it to yourself.

Bobby

Street Art and Buildings: Sequin Surfaces by Theresa Himmer

Street Art and Buildings: Sequin Surfaces by Theresa Himmer

Street Art and Buildings: Sequin Surfaces by Theresa Himmer

The relationship between street art and buildings isn’t always happy, sometimes resembling an unhappily-arranged marriage, with only a brief courtship occurring in the  middle of the night. But this week, I thought we could look at some happier unions between street art and buildings. The first examples are in Reykjavik, Iceland by artist Theresa Himmer, who has used a kind of sequins for buildings to makes images of glaciers and lava.  Instead of covering each entire facade with these tiny, shiny discs (like this Maison Martin Margiela store in downtown LA) much of the original wall’s surface is visible. These glittery additions are bright spots in the grey urban fabric and probably a god-send during the winter months when the capitol city gets just a few hours of daylight. So maybe a street artist working under the cover of dark would have more hours to work in Reykjavik, but the scale and technical construction that went into these hints at a longer and more symbiotic planning phase.

Alex

‘Here be Monsters’ by Tieranniesaur

TIERANNIESAUR!

Last Friday night I headed to see the Tom Tom Club play an amazing gig in Dublin which featured support from the rather excellent Tieranniesaur; a band who I thought I’d share with you today. Later this week these guys will release their debut album and around these parts they’re starting to get some proper attention – and rightly so! The Dublin-based six-piece play bubblegum pop and giddy disco-fueled melodies and their sound is contagiously fun; creating something which is bound to be a hit with fans of the likes of the Tom Tom Club (as was proven last Friday). The leading track from their self-titled debut is the wickedly funky Here Be Monsters which I’ve embedded above. The full album should be out later this week on bandcamp and make sure to also check out the wonderfully crazy video for the track here.

Philip

‘White Shadow Waltz’ by Okkervil River

I Am Very Far by Okkervil River

Okkervil River

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Their sixth album so far and three since their last, Okkervil River is back at it again with their newest album I Am Very Far, and the magic is still there. The album came out back in May, and I honestly had forgotten about it, as I seem to keep doing with their albums. But per usual, I end up rediscovering their albums and falling in love all over again. I Am Very Far is better than the Stand Ins, I think, more noisy and more out there. It’s a fun record that defies some of the high polish that the other records really had.

To give an example, I’ve decided to share my favorite track off the album, called White Shadow Waltz. It’s a really odd song, as the music sounds like it’s recorded all over the place. The vocals and parts of the drums sound slightly shitty, purposefully though, while the guitar and strings sound clean and impeccable. It’s a beautiful juxtaposition that really grabs your attention, as does the growing tempo of the song, which has a feeling of anxiousness. Now that I think about it, it kind of sounds like something Arcade Fire would do, and I mean that with as the greatest of compliments. It’s rich and complex and utterly listenable.

I think Will Sheff is a genius, he actually produced this album himself for a change, and I think it’s exactly what his music needed. If you’re not familiar with the band, the album, or this song, it’s worth your time to educate yourself.

Bobby

Space Suit of the Week

the Orange suit worn by astronauts at launch and entry

This week’s suit may not look as exciting as some of the more absurd proposals from the mid-century, or as compelling as some of the creative imagery conjured up by various art folks, but this orange space suit is a workhorse and has been worn by shuttle astronauts since STS-26.

Slate has a great interactive graphic about all the gizmos and parts of this suit, and among the annotations atop the STS-135 crew I learned that a NASCAR flag beat me into space. The suits are bright orange so that the astronauts are easy to find in the event of a water landing. Much of the equipment incorporated into the suit is designed to help the astronaut survive should he or she need to eject from the shuttle during its ascent. A knife, some flares, an emergency radio, paratrooper boots- everything except a survival guide written by Bear Grylls.

Alex

Grandpeople

Grandpeople

Grandpeople

Grandpeople

Grandpeople

I’ve had my eye on Norwegian design gurus Grandpeople for a little while now, I figured they’re overdue for a feature. When I look at their work I see something fresh and new, there’s this spontaneity and life and color to their work that I don’t see in a lot of other design studios. The only other studio I can think of off the top of my head that has a similar vibe is Hvass&Hannibal. Going through their portfolio I get this sense of joy and a distinct love of craftsmanship, like everything they do is really hands on and well prepared. Even the photos of the products they make are perfectly shot, only lending to the idea that they’re serious about their work in every instance.

The images above are from an album they worked on for The New Wine called Waves, and I’m terribly obsessed with this. To create what you see they wrapped a giant wooden box in layers of PVC, slowly peeling them off to create a wave pattern rippling around the box. So simple in materials but so well executed.

Bobby

40mm Underworld – The Intimate Lives of Snails

40mm Underworld - The Intimate Lives of Snails

40mm Underworld - The Intimate Lives of Snails

40mm Underworld - The Intimate Lives of Snails

If you love science and nature, you’re going to love this video. If you think snails and slugs are gross, you should keep on scrolling by, because this will freak you out severely. If there such a thing as slug porn, this would be it. James Miller documented a bunch of slugs with his crazy video set-up, and the results are amazing. Imagine David Fincher directing a National Geographic documentary and that’s pretty much what this is. The amount of details he was able to capture is fantastic. When you’re so close to these little critters you’re able to see all the tiny details, it’s so beautiful. Be sure to watch this full screen, especially if you have a giant monitor, it’s the best.

For those of you how are into filmmaking, here’s the set-up he used:

Low slung upside down mount of the Sony NEX FS100 lens approx 40mm from ground (centre). Lens used 50mm Sigma macro. Total lighting overkill from a Blonde, Red and a tiny Rosco LitePad 3×6.

Bobby

‘Who’s Afraid of Mr. Greedy?’

Who's Afraid of Mr Greedy?

Who's Afraid of Mr Greedy?

It’s really amazing how many talented young people are coming from Gobelins, the French animation school. This animated short called ‘Who’s Afraid of Mr Greedy?’ tells the tale of a daring man trying to get what’s his back from the evil Mr. Greedy. It’s so extremely well done, especially the character design, each one being a well thought out being. I also loved the color palette, which at first consists of pale, deathly blues, but then you see these orange-y reds popping in, becoming more menacing. A huge congrats to the whole team:

Directed by Simon Boucachard, Jean Baptiste Cumont, Sylvain Fabre, Guillaume Fesquet, Adeline Grange, Maxime Mary and Julien Rossire.

If you liked the video above I’d suggest watching the video below. It gives you a behind-the-scenes at character sketches, character development, animation tests and all that good stuff.

Bobby