Date Archives August 2011

A Look Into Mikkel Sommer’s Sketchbook

Mikkel Sommer

Mikkel Sommer

Mikkel Sommer

Mikkel Sommer

I stumbled onto the work of Danish artist/illustrator/comic book artist Mikkel Sommer by way of Mike Mitchell’s Tumblr and had been meaning to share it for some time now. I was poking around his website and found his blog, which is a great look into his process and as well as how his pieces come to life.

Above are some of his sketches in varying forms, some complete and some incomplete, which he showcases on his blog. The top is a portrait of writer Fyodor Dostoyevsky from a series of portraits he did, which I thought was such a wonderful departure from the more sketch-like things he’s known for. The three images below that are random sketches and studies he did while in the process of creating comic books: the top one he literally threw into a section of “random images” but I found it to be so beautiful and, even though studies of the same guy, are slightly homoerotic; the second was a commissioned sketch which he felt the need to color (and, obviously, is a pop culture feast); and the third is a study of a man he was going to use for a comic.

I really love Sommer’s work and love the fact that he shares his sketches so openly, giving you an idea of how his pieces come to life. Be sure to catch updates on his projects on his blog and, if his work looks familiar to you, that is because he contributed to A Graphic Cosmogony last year.


Sights & Sounds: Animal Collective / ‘Strawberry Jam’ by Jen Mussari

Sights & Sounds: Animal Collective / 'Strawberry Jame' by Jen Mussari

Jen Mussari

Creating desktop wallpapers around an artists catalog of music might not interest everyone, but for me it’s partly like cultural anthropology. Every time a new wallpaper comes out I do my bit of research on the album, learning more about a collection of songs than I ever had before. For example, this week’s Animal Collective influenced wallpaper is based on Strawberry Jam, which in fact was inspired by the desert. The band recorded the album in Tucson, Arizona because they liked the idea of recording in the desert, something they had never done before.

I also thought it was interesting how the name of the album came about, a chance encounter with a travel sized pack of strawberry jam.

The name Strawberry Jam came from singer and drummer Panda Bear as he and the band were on a plane headed to Greece for a show. Upon receiving his complimentary tray of food, he opened up the packet of strawberry jam that had been provided for the bread. As he removed the cover of the packet, he was drawn to the look of the glistening jam, and he expressed his desire for the production of their new album to sound like the jam looked, “that is to say, something that’s really synthetic and sharp and futuristic looking,” but also “tangy and sweet, almost in a kind of aggressive way in terms of the way it tastes”.

Handling the job of interpreting the album is a lady named Jen Mussari, an illustrator with an amazing eye for color and composition. I remember when I first saw Jen’s wallpaper and I started laughing out loud because it’s such a random image, but that’s exactly why I think it’s so great. The colors are great as well, and I love the handmade feeling of the piece. As it turns out, the image is based on kind of a sad premise from the last track, which I’ve posted above for you to listen to.

“This is a narrative image based on the last song from Strawberry Jam, Derek. Up until this point the album wavers back and forth between carnal, physical ideas (like eating, cooking, etc.) and super-trippy transcendental ideas that Animal Collective is known for. Derek is a regretful memory about a family dog that passed away from neglect. The boys who own him witness a moment when Derek speaks English, and then passes away in the night.”

I owe a big thanks to Jen for making such a rad wallpaper and for all the support she’s given throughout the project. And again, a big thanks to the curator of this series Andy Mangold for picking such a talented group of individuals. Check back next Wednesday for our last wallpaper of the series, Merriweather Post Pavillion.


Milstein Hall by OMA

Exterior of the cantilevering Milstein Hall by OMA

Students pour into the New Milstein Hall

As school kicks back into swing, lucky architecture student’s at Cornell’s AAP are unpacking their T-squares, Paraline rules and shiny new computers in the shiny new Milstein Hall. So recent is the building’s completion that the OMA-designed, 40 million dollar studio expansion still has that new building smell courtesy of the volatile organic compounds slowly leaking out of the fresh finishes. An official celebration of the newness happening at the AAP isn’t scheduled until March 2012, but for now there are a plethora of construction photos on the AAP’s flickr site. While looking around for photos and videos of the project, I came across a series of videos about the projects construction by Jonathan Ochshorn, an architecture professor at Cornell. Below is a video of the professor talking about the construction of one of the projects most prominent features: the dome. There are five other videos by Ochshorn about the building’s construction here.


P.S. The text spelling out “Milstein Hall” in the top photo is actually spelled out in strips of marble that run above and below the floor-to-ceiling glazing.

The Wonderful Animal Illustrations of Ping Zhu

Tigers by Ping Zhu
Dutch by Ping Zhu
Chimpanzee by Ping Zhu

London-based illustrator Ping Zhu has a wonderful portfolio populated with beautiful pictures of people and animals which features an amazing use of color and texture. Originally from Los Angeles; Zhu has worked with an impressive list of clients including the likes of The New York Times, The LA Times and Playboy. I really love her illustrations of animals and her combination of flat colors and rich textures works really well.

Her site, Pingszoo is a playful take on her own name and it perfectly suits as the title for the world where her illustrations can live. At times her work reminds me of the great Charles Harper, particularly in her ability to capture the essence of an animal without the use of unnecessary visual elements. I particularly love the picture of the Chimpanzee (above) which was used as part of a New York Times op-ed illustration about the ethical treatment of chimpanzees for science and research. The texture and shape of this drawing is just amazing. Make sure to take a look at more of her work online here.


Show Your City Photo Competition – Presented by Lomography & The Fox Is Black

Show Your City Photo Competition - Presented by Lomography & The Fox Is Black

Sprocket Rocket Photo

Sprocket Rocket Photo

Sprocket Rocket Photo

Sprocket Rocket Camera

I know a lot of you love contests, but not everyone is a designer, so I think I’ve found a way to get more of you involved. For the past few months I’ve been chatting with the super nice folks over at Lomography here in Los Angeles, trying to figure out something exciting to do together.

After a bit of brainstorming we’ve decided to have a a simple competition: summarize the city or town you live in with one photograph.

The place you live in is important, some of you might love your town, others may feel trapped by it. You may choose to portray it in a beautiful light, you may show the darker side, or maybe there’s something hysterical that will make us all laugh, who knows? That’s totally up to you, but the more creative you are the better chance you have of winning.

Ah yes! Winning!
For this competition Lomo will be supplying the winner with one of their rad new Sprocket Rocket cameras, which allows you to take a photo using the entire roll of film, not just the middle parts. You can see some examples above of the photos as well as the camera itself, pretty sweet, right? If you want some more information about the camera you can click here.

You can also sign up to the Lomography newsletter by clicking here.


• Please send your images as JPGs no larger than 800px wide at 72 DPI/RGB mode, there’s no height restrictions (within reason).

• ALl photos must be shot on film, not digital photos, sorry!

• Label your files “firstname-lastname-nameofcity.jpg”

• One submission per person, make it count!

• Send all entries to with the subject “Show Your City Photo Competition“. Cut and paste what I wrote there, it’s super easy and it helps me keep track of your entry.

• All entries are due September 29, 2011 by Midnight, PST.

If there are any other questions feel free to leave them in the comments. Looking forward to seeing what you come up with and be sure to tell your friends/classmates/pets to participate. Good luck and have fun!

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The Clipperton Project

The Clipperton Project

The Clipperton Project

Île de la Passion. A beautiful name for an island in the heart of the worlds largest ocean. Initially discovered by the pirate John Clipperton, hundreds of years ago, its romantic French name betrays the lack of habitability. An one the many barely explored islands of the Pacific, it seems to swallow people faster than the Island from Lost. Initially used as a pirate running spot, the exaggerated atoll became a “hotbed” of guano mining and was even a colony for Mexico. Yet every attempt to make the island habitable has been met by disaster or bad luck. Lacking few native plants or animals, its local life consists of little more than coconut palms, poisonous crabs, and ship rats. I think it inspired “Lord of the Flies.” Just a guess.

So when I heard about The Clipperton Project I got excited. A team of seventeen scientists, journalists, and artists will leave Mexico in Spring 2012 to set sail to Clipperton to do some soul searching. Not in a sense that they are searching for their own souls, but to reflect on our planet in a place that has rejected humanity. Each artist or scientist will spend a week on the island doing what they do best and bring the results and creations to art institutions across the world. This is a field laboratory for both art and science in the form of adventure – a forgotten concept in a world of lab coats and laptops. Jules Verne would be damn proud. To support this project, click here or simply spread the word.


Granite City by Paul Mullen

Granite City by Paul Mullen

Granite City by Paul Mullen

Yesterday, Bobby posted architecture-inspired type from Chris Labrooy, and to follow up I thought I’d post a type-inspired building from a project called Granite City by Paul Mullen. The project turns a helvetica “A” into a kind of a-frame rendered to match the urban fabric of Aberdeen, Scotland. The broken windows, boarded doorways and scorched cars probably won’t win any points with the Aberdeen Tourism Council, but as someone who likes a-frames and this particular A, I’m happy to promote his work here.


Lab Partners’ Scottish Shortbread & Other Wonderful Treats

M&S Biscuit Tin by Lab Partners

Nobrow wrapping paper by Lab Partners

Lab Partners for Uppercase Magazine

It’s been a while since I checked out what the guys at Lab Partners have been working on and so the other day I gave their blog a little visit. The San Francisco based husband and wife team certainly have been busy and they’ve created a whole host of wonderful new thing in the last few months. Most recently they completed a commission for the folks at the British retailer Marks & Spencer and designed the fantastic biscuit tin that you can see at the top of this post. I know I’ll be heading down to my local M&S in the hopes of picking one up pretty soon.

They also have been busy working with the independent publishers Nobrow to create some rather excellent wrapping paper. Although the thought of ripping open such a pretty design does give me a little shiver I totally reckon you should think about getting some here. Finally the bottom illustration comes from the cover of issue 8 of the beautiful Canadian magazine Uppercase. You can see the full cover and much more over to the Lab Partners and make sure to keep up-to-date on everything else that Sarah and Ryan have been working on by following their blog.


The Pitchfork Redesign: 3 Things I’d Change

The Pitchfork Redesign: 5 Things I'd Change (Before)

The Pitchfork Redesign: 5 Things I'd Change (After)

Yesterday morning, Kyle informed me that Pitchfork, the music site that everyone has an opinion on, had launched a brand new redesign and that I should check it out. As a lot fo you know I’m a sucker for a well executed redesign, so I was curious to see how it turned out. Overall I’d say that the site seems to have some good ideas, but it feels like a step backwards. The one thing they’ve improved is their global navigation, which was old, crowded and in need of a spring cleaning. Other then that the design seems claustrophobic and monochromatic, lacking any style or vibrancy of the past design. Here are three things I’d do to put some life back in the site.

Open Things Up
The new design features not only a grey background behind the content, but a super dark grey background behind all of the content. It really makes the content look squished, rather than large and beautiful. You end up with a bunch of boxes that look too compact and your eyes don’t have a natural place to land. I’d suggest doing two things: Increasing the size of the page width to 980px to allow for more room in the gutters, and getting rid of all that grey. As you can see in my tweaked version, the results are instantly noticeable, the page looks like a breath of fresh air.

Bring Back Color
The other big thing I noticed in their new redesign is the glaring absence of red, Pitchfork’s trademark color. Like Target, Pitchfork is known for it’s punches of red all across the site, which never bothered me, personally. Now the red has been relegated to hover states only and random section titles. I’d suggest bringing the red back and using it in the logo, as well as headlines and other key points of interest.

Fonts Give Style
When I look at Pitchfork now, all I see is a Helvetica wasteland, and that’s not a dig at Helvetica. Pre-redesign the site was all in Lucida Grand, which maybe isn’t my first choice, but it certainly gave it some character. Helvetica is fine for stuff like body copy but there needs to be some sort of hierarchy between sections, and substituting a font for the titles and navigation gives it a little spark. I subbed in some Franklin Gothic, a clean and timeless font that looks good in upper and lowercase.

I also made some other changes as well that weren’t as evident but still make an impact. I adjusted the navigation to make room for the search bar. By doing that I was able to move the sharing tools to the other side of the page, giving much more balance to the header. I also increased the size of the header fonts a bit too make them more legible, and I made the body text a dark grey rather than black to improve legibility there as well.

The one last thing that needs some love is their new logo. In a general sense I really like the new logo. I’m not sure what font it is, but it’s unique and has an interesting character to it. I hate the way they’ve mutilated it though, with awkward cuts in the P and F, and the way they’ve attempted to force the points pitchfork into the K. It looks cheesy at best and really adds no value to the logo. In my version I cleaned it up and I think it looks much nicer.

As you can see, I didn’t do a whole lot, but the small details of stuff like this is extremely important, and I think they may have been overlooked. The only good way to end this post is: The devil is in the details.


‘The Murderer of Your Heritage’, An Immense Concrete Installation by Adrián Villar Rojas

'The Murderer of Your Heritage', An Immense Concrete Installation by Adrián Villar Rojas

'The Murderer of Your Heritage', An Immense Concrete Installation by Adrián Villar Rojas

'The Murderer of Your Heritage', An Immense Concrete Installation by Adrián Villar Rojas

Created for this years 54th Venice Biennale, Argentinian artist Adrián Villar Rojas has created a monolithic exhibit in the Artigliere in the Arsenale. Adrián, along with a team of builders, created the installation on site using clay over a framework of cement, burlap and wood. The effect created is stunning, like you’re walking amongst ancient ruins of some long lost civilization… that perhaps also had some anime. The sheer scale of the work is also amazing, the ceilings have to be at least 25 feet, it’s no wonder that it took two months to complete everything.

Thankfully, the amazing folks over at Vernissage TV have done a video tour of the space so you can see for yourself what you’re missing. To see some more information and photos about the exhibit, visit Yatzer.