Date Archives May 2012

‘Henrietta’ – A new track by Yeasayer

It has been more then two years since Yeasayer released their last album Odd Blood, so it’s exciting to hear they have finally returned with a new track called Henrietta. The song appeared online last week after the band sent CD’s containing it to fans on their mailing list.

It’s a really nice track filled with familiar Yeasayer vocals, an electro groove and a slight reggae vibe. The chorus takes a little while to get to but it’s a wonderful moment when vocalist Chris Keating begins to repeat the words “Oh, Henrietta – We can live forever”. This is in reference to Henrietta Lacks, a woman who, after her death, had her cells extracted and cultured to create the “immortal cell line.” This was a huge breakthrough in medical science and it ultimately led to the polio vaccine as well as many other medical breakthroughs.

Found via We All Want Someone

Happy birthday Dieter Rams: Good design is reality!

Dieter Rams

Yesterday, May 20, was Dieter Rams 80th birthday. The design legend, who’s work helped birth the renaissance of Apple, is an inspiration to so many of us. His simple but functional design methodology helped sway the idea of how design should look and work. Back in 1976, Rams gave a truly inspired speech in New York titled Design by Vitsœ, in which he spoke about being a responsible designer. It’s pretty fantastic that he gave this speech over 30 years ago, and that he had such foresight into the ideas of design and what our future held. If you have a few minutes I highly suggest reading through this and thinking of how it applies to your own work.

Good design means to me: as little design as possible

The ideas behind my work as a designer have to match with a company’s objectives. This principle applies to my work not only at Braun but also at Vitsœ. I have been working for these two companies for about 20 years and – I like to point out – only for these two companies.

I am convinced that design – at least in the terms I understand it – cannot be performed by someone outside the company. I am absolutely convinced that this is true if products are designed as part of a larger system, like we do at Vitsœ.

In 1957 I began to develop a storage system that formed the basis of the company Vitsœ, which was founded in 1959. Thus the ideology behind my design is engrained within the company.

Ladies and gentlemen, design is a popular subject today. No wonder because, in the face of increasing competition, design is often the only product differentiation that is truly discernible to the buyer.

I am convinced that a well-thought-out design is decisive to the quality of a product. A poorly-designed product is not only uglier than a well-designed one but it is of less value and use. Worst of all it might be intrusive.

The development and changes that we have initiated with our work at Vitsœ are, I believe, positive for the development of good design as a whole.

The introduction of good design is needed for a company to be successful. However, our definition of success may be different to yours. Striving for good design is of social importance as it means, amongst other things, absolutely avoiding waste.

What is good design? Product design is the total configuration of a product: its form, colour, material and construction. The product must serve its intended purpose efficiently.

A designer who wants to achieve good design must not regard himself as an artist who, according to taste and aesthetics, is merely dressing-up products with a last- minute garment.

The designer must be the gestaltingenieur or creative engineer. They synthesise the completed product from the various elements that make up its design. Their work is largely rational, meaning that aesthetic decisions are justified by an understanding of the product’s purpose.

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Making it easier to read on the web (without the help of an app)

Zeldman's Web Design Manifesto 2012

On Friday, Jeffrey Zeldman posted this inspiring article speaking to his recently redesigned personal site, which sports a hefty 24px body font. He speaks about the ever changing landscape of web design, and as it’s his personal site, he wanted it to be extremely legible.

This redesign is a response to ebooks, to web type, to mobile, and to wonderful applications like Instapaper and Readability that address the problem of most websites’ pointlessly cluttered interfaces and content-hostile text layouts by actually removing the designer from the equation. (That’s not all these apps do, but it’s one benefit of using them, and it indicates how pathetic much of our web design is when our visitors increasingly turn to third party applications simply to read our sites’ content. It also suggests that those who don’t design for readers might soon not be designing for anyone.)

The piece resonated with me because it was similar to my thoughts when I redesigned The Fox Is Black back in April. The majority of guests that read The Fox Is Black have at least a 1280 x 800 monitor, so having larger images and a larger font makes sense. It’s giving you the reader an easier way to ingest content. This isn’t a revolutionary way of thinking, but I’m not sure it’s as considered as it should be these days, when even the New York Times devotes almost 75% of their to ads. We can only hope that there’s a coming shift in how people read on the web.

Simon Walker’s branding makes cider look all the more delicious

Simon Walker's branding makes cider look all the more delicious

Over the last couple months I’ve been enamored with the work of Simon Walker. He’s an Austin, Texas based designer/typographer who does some of the most consistently great branding work I’ve ever seen. He’s been working on a project with Austin Eastciders for a while now to brand their newly released Gold Top Cider. I found it interesting because I would see different designs pop up on Flickr, slowly progressing to the final packaging which you can see up there on the left.

Simon had created some designs with stickers and labels, but I have to say that this version, with the simple white silkscreening, is my personal favorite. I think the goldness of the cider is so strong and intense, it only serves to make his beautiful design work look even better. You can see a couple of the earlier versions below.

Now they only need an online shop so I can order myself a case! You should also check out all of Simon’s work on Dribbble so you can understand just how good he is.

Simon Walker's branding makes cider look all the more delicious

The Diamond 14K Gold Ring from byAMT

The Diamond 14K Gold Ring from byAMT

This one’s for the ladies who want something a bit different. byAMT is the studio name of Alissia Melka-Teichroew, a New York based designer who’s got quite a knack for turning product design on it’s head. One of my favorites of her pieces is the Diamond 14K Gold Ring.

We value diamonds because they’re even more rare, shinier, and durable (and often fraught with human rights concerns). No wonder they are so expensive. Do we really need one to prove our love? byAMT rings are precious for their creativity, ingenuity, style, and wit–not their glittery bits.The metal rings include a “too-thin-to-be an engagement ring” (2mm), “perfect diamond ring size” (4mm), a square 9mm size. The thinnest rings hint at the fragility of marriage and commitment. The largest is a sly commentary on our culture’s competitive nature when it comes to conspicuous consumption: “my diamond is bigger than yours.” The Diamond Rings invite us to step back, get some perspective, and even laugh at ourselves.

Vanessa Hernandez creates golden type (video)

Vanessa Hernandez creates golden type

Vanessa Hernandez creates golden type

Hunter & Fox, a multimedia production company here in L.A., recently paid a visit to Vanessa Hernandez, who goes by the name The Vaguely. They captured Vanessa creating one of her Gilded posters, a series of freehand typography pieces which she embellishes with gold leaf on vinyl. Vanessa has some crazy skills, creating this poster with what looks like grace and ease. It’s always so fantastic to see the process of talented people, and I don’t think I’ve seen anything quite like this before. You can see the rest of Vanessa’s work by clicking here.

A house named after golden acid: Acido Dorado

Acido Dorado a golden house in the desert by Robert Stone designs

Acido Dorado a golden house in the desert by Robert Stone designs

Acido Dorado a golden house in the desert by Robert Stone designs

It isn’t exactly gold and it isn’t exactly a house: it’s a rental property just outside of Joshua Tree covered with gold paint. But don’t let the description fool you, the effect created by a space enveloped in monochromatic gold is more substantial than the veneer of paint that enables this effect. This project is called Acido Dorado (spanish for Golden Acid) and was designed by Robert Stone. The house has a nearby sibling that is monochromatic black; both are available to rent and both have been extensively featured in magazines. The house is more real than a mirage of El Dorado, but like a mirage, the house has a few optic tricks going on thanks to a reflective ceiling and planes of overlapping, gilded grids. I imagine that the Acido part of the name comes from these optic tricks.

Ori Pendant Lamps by Lukas Dahlén

Ori Pendant Lamps by Lukas Dahlén

Ori Pendant Lamps by Lukas Dahlén

The ‘Ori Pendant Lamp’ is designed by Swedish designer Lukas Dahlén. Made from metal, Dahlén’s design is influenced strongly by origami. According to him the sheet metal used has many of the same characteristics as paper and before designing the light Dahlén spent a lot of his time working with paper and exploring and experimenting with the Japanese technique until finally creating his own unique folded pattern. In fact, the word ‘ori’ is Japanese for ‘fold’.

The combination of metal and origami is wonderful and I particularly like the use of the bright golden brass on the inside of the lampshade. This use of color is designed to reflect light downwards, and it adds a certain golden quality of the emitted light. Make sure to check out more of Lukas Dahlén’s work on his site.

THE Golden Record

Voyager's Golden Record

Voyager's Golden Record

I’m sure we are all own at least a couple gold records. Generally awarded when a musician has sold half a million records, these are symbols of success for the record industry. Basically every commercially successful artist (even Tom Waits) seems to get one.

The real Gold Records, however, are on Voyager 1 and 2. A 12 inch, gold plated copper disc is carried on each of these unmanned space craft, hurtling out of our solar system. These records have a different purpose: to introduce Earth and Humanity to an unknown civilization. As NASA states:

Dr. Sagan and his associates assembled 115 images and a variety of natural sounds, such as those made by surf, wind and thunder, birds, whales, and other animals. To this they added musical selections from different cultures and eras, and spoken greetings from Earth-people in fifty-five languages, and printed messages from President Carter and U.N. Secretary General Waldheim. Each record is encased in a protective aluminum jacket, together with a cartridge and a needle. Instructions, in symbolic language, explain the origin of the spacecraft and indicate how the record is to be played. The 115 images are encoded in analog form. The remainder of the record is in audio, designed to be played at 16-2/3 revolutions per minute. It contains the spoken greetings, beginning with Akkadian, which was spoken in Sumer about six thousand years ago, and ending with Wu, a modern Chinese dialect. Following the section on the sounds of Earth, there is an eclectic 90-minute selection of music, including both Eastern and Western classics and a variety of ethnic music.

As I (and Sun Ra before me) like to say: Space is the Place.

Steven Holl talks about his gold (AIA medal)

Steven Holl Institute of Contemporary Art Richmond Virginia

Steven Holl Institute of Contemporary Art Richmond Virginia

Here is a video of Steven Holl in discussion with Preston Scott Cohen. Holl received the 2012 AIA Gold Medal, which is awarded in “recognition of a significant body of work of lasting influence on the theory and practice of architecture.” In this video Holl talks about solar flares, some of his past work, and projects that are nearing completion. After his short overview of some of his work, he sits down for what he jokingly calls an interrogation with Preston Scott Cohen, the Chair of the Harvard Graduate School of Design. The photos above are from a recently unveiled project, the Institute of Contemporary Art in Richmond Virginia.