Date Archives August 2012

‘Funny Heartbeat’ – A new track by Kisses

Kisses  'Funny Heartbeat' Artwork by David Kitz

Funny Heartbeat is the newest track from LA-based indie-pop duo Kisses. The band describe the song as being a look at what’s to come on their second LP, describing it as a combination of “freestyle grooves and sophisticated funk”.

The new track is certainly that and it makes for a great listen, proving that the band haven’t lost any of the magic which made their debut so great. With production from Tim Larcombe and Saint Etienne’s Pete Wiggs, the track is a wonderful slice of sun-kissed dream pop and a great way to kick off your working week!

Hard graft expands from bag making to an incredible new line of boots

Hard Graft expands from bag making to an incredible new line of boots

Hard Graft expands from bag making to an incredible new line of boots

Since 2008 hard graft has been making fine leather and felt goods, ranging from bags to iPad cases. They’ve continually upped their game every year, rethinking their concepts and pushing the boundaries of their design thinking. Last week though, they may have outdone themselves.

Quite a while back we set out to find the right Italian workshop that shares our ethos in crafting limited shoes by hand. Cobbling them together with pride, bit by bit. It’s fair to say our search was quite a bumpy ride – bigger factories turned us down instantly and small artisan workshops that were up for the challenge where extremely hard to find. But, hands down we have found the perfect match and here’s the first results of our ideas.

Hard graft expands from bag making to an incredible new line of boots

It seems to me that hard graft is making a natural transition from bag making to shoe cobbling. They have such a strong design language which beautifully translates to the world of footwear. My personal favorite of the bunch, there are three models which come in two colors, are the Men’s Hight Boot in all grey. It’s amazing how much the boot looks like one of their bags, with the leather body and the touch of felt on the back of the ankle. It’s a manly, sexy boot that looks timeless.

This is a huge jump for hard graft. I’m really looking forward to seeing what comes next.

RIP Neil Armstrong

RIP Neil Armstrong

Neil Armstrong, the first human to walk on the moon, died over the weekend at the age of 82.

At 02:39 UTC on Monday July 21, 1969, Armstrong opened the hatch, and at 02:51 UTC began his descent to the lunar surface. The Remote Control Unit controls on his chest kept him from seeing his feet. Climbing down the nine-rung ladder, Armstrong pulled a D-ring to deploy the Modular Equipment Stowage Assembly (MESA) folded against Eagle’s side and activate the TV camera, and at 02:56:15 UTC he set his left foot on the surface.

A Steel Wave In An Automotive Lagoon

Porsche Pavilion designed by Henn Architekten

Porsche Pavilion designed by Henn Architekten

Porsche Pavilion designed by Henn Architekten

Porsche Pavilion designed by Henn Architekten

These are images of the Porsche Pavilion designed by Henn Architeckten. The swooping steel pavilion is the latest addition to the Autostadt, a park next to the Wolfsburg Volkswagen factory with a museum dedicated to the history of VW along with pavilions dedicated to each of the major brands under the VW auto group. The design of the Porsche Pavilion is dominated by a swooping mass of matte-finished steel that hovers above the water of a lagoon.

You can see in the photos above how the light reflects off of the water’s surface and casts light onto the underside of the steel canopy. Luckily, there’s plenty of surface area for these reflections because the steel cantilever is over 80 feet long (that’s 25 meters for folks outside the states.) The pavilion is an impressive engineering feat constructed with the alluring curves and panache you might expect from Porsche.

Images from Japan – Watercolors by Kouhei Ashino

Kouhei Ashino

Kouhei Ashino

Kouhei Ashino

Like many, I’ve a fascination with Japanese culture and so I really love these watercolor illustrations by the Tokyo-based painter and illustrator Kouhei Ashino. Originally Ashino worked as a 3D-animator, but in 2008 he decided he wanted to become an illustrator and since then he’s self-published a handful of artist books and zines as well as picking up a number of awards, commissions and exhibitions.

I’m not particularly sure what the full context is for the work above but the images seem to be part of a Japanese television program called Trip to Japan. Unfortunately I can’t tell you much more then that but it’s great to see such detailed illustrations of Japanese life.

It’s also worth noting that watercolors are not the only thing Ashino makes, he also creates some rather wonderful drawings, paintings and collages which are fantastically nieve and far removed from the detailed images above. Check out more of his work on his flickr page here.

Frank Ocean’s ‘Channel Orange’ may be one of the best albums of the year, here’s why

Channel Orange by Frank Ocean

Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange is everywhere. Somehow hitting both the underground and the mainstream at the same time, this ghostwriter/OFWGKTA member/R&B icon hit the pulse of 2012 squarely on the nose. I asked a wide variety of associates and friends what makes this record so good. The most common answer? “Unrequited love.” So many of the tracks focus on this common human experience: loving someone/thing that does not love you back. By using such a universal theme, Frank Ocean has made R&B accessible from a wide variety of angles. His letter regarding his sexuality has garnered almost universal support, breaking down a decades old barrier in hip hop and R&B. The record is that good.

So here’s a listening party of Channel Orange, track by track.

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Microsoft debuts new symbol and logotype, innovates on little

New Microsoft Logo - 2012

Earlier today Microsoft released a brand new logo, retiring their previous version after a 25 year stint in the limelight. The symbol and logotype is pretty much as simple as you can get. The symbol is four squares – red, green, blue and gold, ultimately making one larger square. It echoes the Windows logo from years gone by as the newer incarnation that Pentagram designed. The logotype is set in Segoe, Microsoft’s in-house typeface.

Overall the new branding isn’t bad, but it’s certainly not remarkable. The new symbol is certainly Microsoft-esque but it seems like there’s no life behind those windows. The logotype is fine, though I think it’s funny that Microsoft is trying to find deep meaning in some of the nuances of it. In an article from today’s Seattle Times, Jeff Hansen, Microsoft’s general manager of brand strategy, described it preciously.

The “f” and “t” in the name “Microsoft” are connected in the new logo, just as they were in the old. “It was one of the subtleties we thought we could bring forward,” Hansen said.

I get that you want to try and sell your brand, but c’mon now. And of course, with any good redesign comes the backlash from your supporters. Microsoft posted the new branding on their Facebook page and 1,600 comments later no one is quite happy with it.

I just find the whole thing so milquetoast. It;s interesting that they didn’t try to go without the logotype, joining the ranks of Apple, Nike, and Target. I think I would realize the four squares are Microsoft, though I’m not certain about the average consumer.

Though, shouldn’t Microsoft take a note from the Apple or Nike playbook and go for the “tastemakers”? When Jobs returned to Apple he put design first, putting care and quality into the aesthetics of everything that is Apple. That obviously paid off as Apple is currently the most valuable company in the world. Apple has now infiltrated the lives of everyone, becoming popular with design savvy and soccer moms alike. Wouldn’t it be smart for Microsoft to take a similar stance? I think the potential problem is that Microsoft is still a tech driven company, not a design driven company. I’m hopeful that the changes that have been made as of lately are a signal that they’re trying to make a radical shift, only time will tell. The Windows 8 UI is definitely innovative and new, they definitely aren’t taking a Samsung approach to design. But will it be enough?

The playground with uneven ground, designed by J.F. Strom

Puckelball Malmo by J.F. Strom

Puckelball Malmo by J.F. Strom

What’s great about this video is seeing the intense public use of an unusual kind of playground. In this case, it is the ground and a pair of whimsical goalposts that enable the imaginations of hoards of Swedes to run wild. The field is located in Malmo, and is the creation of artist J.F. Strom, who has “taken the most popular sport and through simple changes in the playing conditions, created a new kind of a game, or a new kind of football where one does not have to be the best to win, because the elements of serendipity and luck are constantly present in play.”

Manual attempts to rethink the United States road signage system

Manual attempts to rethink the United States road signage system

Manual attempts to rethink the United States road signage system

Manual attempts to rethink the United States road signage system

For a recent issue of Icon magazine, San Francisco based design firm Manual was asked to rethink the United States road signage system, a pretty hefty feat. Manual’s goal was to “modernize and add clarity to a signage system that millions of road users rely upon every day.” But I’m not sure if their design went down the right road (had to make a pun somewhere in this post).

Manual attempts to rethink the United States road signage system

What I like about the classic American road signage above is the simplicity. In the western U.S. road signage is fairly straight forward, giving you a few clear options of where you’re headed and where you can get off. This can get a bit more convoluted when you head out east, as I found out on my last trip to New York, attempting to drive to New Jesrsey. For the most part though I would say that the bold Army green with white type and shield/crest markers gets the job done. They design may not be in tip-top shape, but it’s still solid.

WIth Manual’s rethink I feel like there are two issues: Color and Hierarchy.

Information is placed consistently on all road signs to enable drivers to read multiple instructions quickly. Color is introduced into the upper strip of the overhead signs. Currently, interstate highways are depicted by a blue shield, US highways by white, and state highways by (mostly) black. For the sake of consistency and ease of recognition, we have retained these color associations.

Tackling color first, I’d say most of the signage has unfortunately been dulled down to a grey that’s mildy noticeable at best. If I was driving down the freeway I’m not sure I would notice these at all, especially if they were near an advertisement. Or what about a bright day? How do the signs read then? My other issues is the number of colors that were used. I count eight colors total in Manual’s rethink, compared to six in the original, which includes the bright construction orange. Is that many colors really necessary to clearly display road information? What if instead there were only three colors allowed? Attempting to put restraints on the project may have yielded some exciting results.

Manual attempts to rethink the United States road signage system

The other issue is the hierarchy of the information being presented. What I’m seeing is a lot of boxes inside of boxes, my eyes aren’t really sure what to concentrate on. And I think all the division between the information, be it boxes or divider lines, adds to the confusion a bit. What’s also interesting is that if you look at the original signage above you’ll see that some of the signs are of different sizes, which I actually realize is kind of awesome. You now read these as totally different pieces of information, while Manual has decided to display the information in equal sizes. Having an equal size for all signage definitely makes sense in practice, but comparing the two I feel like I can read the older versions more easily.

I applaude Manual for undertaking a rethink of this caliber, I’d love to see more projects like this being done. Perhaps I should have a little contest next week to get more good ideas like this out there? If you’d be interested in doing something like this hit me up on Twitter or on Facebook.

Fiji Airways brings personality back to air travel

Fiji Airways brings personality back to air travel

A couple of days ago Brand New posted this rebrand of Air Pacific back to Fiji Airways, the name it was originally founded with back in 1947. Gone is the cliché, late 80’s “airline” branding, replaced with an extremely human mark that was created be Fijian artist Makereta Matemosi.

I think it’s pretty interesting that a company like this had the guts to rebrand itself in such a natural manner, bringing the pride of Fijian culture to the forefront. When was the last time you saw an airline brand themselves with the color brown? I think overall it’s pretty spot-on, though the Airways word mark feels a little disjointed to me. Overall, you don’t often see brands making bold moves like this, so I think Fiji Airways definitely deserves some recognition. As Brand New also states, it’ll be interesting to see how the branding continues to develop, like what the planes end up looking like, or even the smaller details like how the food packaging turns out.