Category Design

This Old Website

I wouldn’t say I’m the type of person who watches a lot of TV though I feel like I am. When I get home from work my partner Kyle and I tend to put on one of a hand full of shows. We love Black-ish or Jessica Jones, some Adventure Time or Absolutely Fabulous. Afterwards we gravitate toward the type of show where someone talented needs to make something. Top Chef, Project Runway, The Mind of a Chef, A Chef’s Life… these are the kinds of shows we tend to get sucked into.

Enter our most recent fascination, the classic PBS television show This Old House. First airing back in 1979, it was one of, if not THE, original home improvement show, focusing on renovating older houses back to a pristine (albeit slightly updated) condition. Bob Vila used to host the show but lord knows what that guys up to these days.

Watching the show is interesting to me as a designer, particularly as a designer who works primarily digitally, because it raises a lot of conflicting feelings in myself. The work these guys do is precise, measured with lasers and chalk lines. At the same time it feels very loose. Mortar is effortlessly slashed across the top of a brick, roof shingles are nailed down in seemingly random places, a massive trench is dug with giant machine by a rather sloppy looking man named “Lenny.”

When I compare these renovations to my world of designing apps and websites and shareables and GIFs, my “craft” is more like applying wax to a Pysanky egg. But that’s not even it. It’s precise, it’s calculating, but I can Command + Z my way out of any mistakes. That and there’s nothing visceral about the work, nothing fulfilling about that custom Pinterest image, or sense of glee after you’ve applied that filter to the photo of the quiche you’re about to eat.

What I’m trying to get to is that it’s impressive to watch anyone who’s skills allow them to create something with a “permanence” in life, permanence meaning the thing made could at least last a few lifetimes. Your UI will be a fad, your UX will seem retro, and your IA will seem archaic. But that old house? It’s still going to be there.

Now to get back to that magazine I’m digitally designing…

Kodak resurrects the super 8 camera with help from Yves Behar

Kodak announced today they’d be releasing a new super 8 camera designed by Yves Behar. The camera has the ability to shoot in a digital format as well as traditional super 8 film cartridges which Kodak produces to this day. I feel like Behar has done it again, creating a stunning object that embodies the history of a super 8 camera while giving it a contemporary and perhaps timeless quality. Similarly there’s the K-01 which Marc Newson designed for Pentax which draws comments of admiration when used in public. They feel extremely similar to me, combining strong design with incredible functionality.

Not too be too much of a naysayer, I find it hard to believe that the product will revitalize the 8mm medium. They say the best camera you have is the one that’s always with you, and unfortunately I doubt this beautiful piece of design will be the one.

Kodak Super 8 camera, designed by Yves Behar

Kodak Super 8 camera, designed by Yves Behar

Kodak Super 8 camera, designed by Yves Behar

Kodak Super 8 camera, designed by Yves Behar

Kodak Super 8 camera, designed by Yves Behar

Frenchie to Go campaign by Content Design Lab

One of my favorite places to grab a quick bite while I was in Paris was Frenchie to Go, a quick service cafe located in the 2nd arrondissement. The place is a bit quirky with a unique menu (a fantastic breakfast sandwich) so it makes sense to have that unique sense apply to advertising as well. The folks at Content Design Lab created some offbeat graphics and flyers that highlight the unique voice and style of FTG.

Frenchie to Go awareness campaign by Content Design Lab

Frenchie to Go awareness campaign by Content Design Lab

Grand Cru Cold Brew by Stumptown

It feels like “artisanal coffee” has had it’s day in the sun but then another interesting innovation comes along and makes me feel like there’s still more there. This seems to be the case with Stumptown’s new Grand Cru Cold Brew, which is a batch of rare Gesha seeds from Honduras that have been cold brewed which brings out a “bright and clean, with notes of orange blossom, juice of papaya, and a sweet crème brûlée finish.”

Plus look at that bottle! It’s gorgeous! Does anyone know who created the graphics?

Paul Eshelman Ceramic Tea Set

The American Museum of Ceramic Art has some great pieces in their collection (which you can see here) but this tea set by Paul Eshelman really caught me eye. Created in 1985 the slip cast red stoneware has a minimal Memphis vibe which I’m loving. How great would it be to bust this out after a nice dinner party?

Paul Eshelman Tea Set

Pablo & Rusty’s coffee branding by Manual

I love a good coffee branding project and the folks at Manual have continued to impress with their work for Sydney based coffee roasters, Pablo & Rusty’s. What I always find impressive is the breadth of the work as Manual has put their stamp on nearly aspect of the business, not just some business cards or a cup design.

We began by taking inspiration from the core of their business—the humble coffee sacks and stencil typography often found printed on them—and reinterpreted this as modern, sophisticated custom-drawn logotype. In our research we discovered that many of their customers and staff referred to them as ‘P&R’ for short, so we recommended building on that brand recognition and created a monogram that would work at small sizes. This duality in naming and branding provided the backbone for all print, packaging, and retail design elements.

Inspiration from Jen Agg, owner of The Black Hoof, and thoughts on a future in food

In the next 10 years I plan on opening a restaurant somewhere in the world. I’ve had this thought in my head for a while but I know that right now isn’t the right time. I love being a creative director at Disney–I have an amazing team, a supportive boss, a crazy amount of exciting projects in the pipeline–and it would be dumb to walk away from such a transformative time. In the meantime though I’m planning what that next thing will be, my mid-life crisis/masterpiece.

I’m writing all of this because I’m feeling particularly inspired by a recent interview with Jen Agg, the owner of The Black Hoof, speaking with the Eater Upsell. I first came across Jen and the Black Hoof when she wrote one of my favorite essays, titled, Vodka Is Stupid, which is expensive, flavorless and not worth drinking.

Now what I love about Jen is her thoughts on being a restauranteur, especially being a person who’s not a chef, and the real challenges associated.

Yeah, it’s really interesting. I think it’s very hard to manage people. I was just talking to someone last night about this and what I do. And I mean, I can open restaurants and make restaurants with one arm tied behind my back. I find it very easy, which is why I was saying earlier that if I sort of am identified at my death as a restaurateur, I will have woefully fucked up my 40s. It’s not what I want to do forever. I mean, it’s fun, I enjoy it, I love it, and I know that it’s challenging, and I know that it’s hard for a lot of people. I’m not trying to be glib about it, but I get it. I’m good at it, and I want to do other things. But managing people is the most challenging thing in the world.

It’s so difficult, and if you’re already kind of in that zone of being a chef and being a cook and so focused on that, to add being a restaurateur on top of that…Maybe Danny Meyer has done some work to change this, but I think a lot of the time the art of the restaurateur, the craft of the restaurateur, it’s very ignored. If my restaurant, The Black Hoof, had opened with brighter lights and quiet music, which was certainly still the trend in Toronto at that time — The Hoof really did change that — it would be a completely different story. And a lot of people would argue that, and a lot of “friends of cooks” would say, “Well no, if the food is good, the food is good.” And that can be true in a certain kind of restaurant, but it’s not true in a casual fine-dining restaurant. The atmosphere is hugely important, it gets very downplayed and underplayed, the role of that.

Those two paragraphs did a lot to alleviate the fears I have of opening a restaurant but not being a chef. I do know how to manage people, I have a 20 person staff, and I think I have pretty good taste and a sense of curation, another aspect that Jen touches on. She also mentions how important hiring is, finding the right staff that truly gets it.

And I don’t hire them because they don’t make sense, they’re not a fit, they don’t — they’re not it-getters. I don’t know exactly how to put my finger on it, but I’m, like, really, really careful. And as a result, almost no one quits. We’re hiring someone at The Hoof, so if you know anyone good, that would be great! We’ll move you to Toronto. It’s been three years since I had to hire someone, and I’m dreading it. ’Cause I hate having to go through that process with someone.

Having a positive, like-minded culture is so critical to success, be it a design team or the staff of a restaurant. Without that glue nothing can possibly work, or it’ll work for a while but eventually things fall apart.

If you’ve made it this far you may have noticed a serious food slant to the site. This post is an insight into that shift because it’s where my head is at, and honestly, has been at for a while. I was reluctant to shift away from design and toward food but I can honestly say that the two are inextricably entwined together for me. I have no interest in posting recipes or restaurant reviews, that’s far too mundane. There’s a fascinating intersection between the world of design and food and drinks that I feel needs to be explored more fully, one that hasn’t quite been approached in the way my brain thinks. A big thanks to Jen for giving my a sign that this is the path I need to be exploring.

Why drink alcohol when you can breath it instead?

Two of the most unique thinkers in food these days are the unlikely duo of Sam Bompas and Harry Parr, who together form Bompas & Parr (yes, it’s very original). They rose to fame by forming jelly into fantastic shapes like national monuments, full-blown cityscapes, crafting glow-in-the-dark drinks and a installing a green river on the roof of Selfridges.

These days their experiments are getting even more fascinating like their newest project Alcoholic Architecture.

Bompas & Parr’s Alcoholic Architecture is live in Borough Market, featuring a walk-in cloud of breathable cocktail. The installation is an alcoholic weather system for your tongue where meteorology and mixology collide against a canvas of monastic mayhem, referencing the gothic splendour of neighbouring Southwark Cathedral.

This concept is phenomenal and turns the standard convention of drinking on it’s head. The project will run until early 2016 so get there while you can.

Handmade picnic whisky set by Peter Ivy

As a part of Wallpaper* magazine’s annual handmade issue, glassblower Peter Ivy has created the ultimate whisky vessel: a “one-glass whisky set” which contains a stoppered bottle and a glass stacked on top of it, held together with a copper frame and adorned with a bamboo handle. I love these because their forms are so simple and timeless. Plus, how crazy would you look carrying a giant carafe of whisky to a one person picnic? You’d be a regular Ernest Hemingway.

On a side note, I believe the copper colored weight shaped object in the glass is actually an “ice cube” to cool the whisky. Anyone know if that’s true and who makes them?