Category Design

What The Canadian Flag Could Have Been

Arcade has a great piece on the creation of the Canadian flag as we currently know it, spurred by an effort to distance themselves from Britain during a political crisis in the 50’s.

In the summer of 1964, with construction of the groundbreaking Montreal Expo underway, a new national symbol was seen as key to the modernization of Canada. The creation of a new flag was meant to be a truly public and participatory process in which citizens were invited to take part in the profound reshaping of their country’s national image.

I found it fascinating that their flag was designed so recently. In my mind flags have such a provenance and iconic nature that they seem like they’ve been around forever.

Below is my favorite rejected flag design. I love the simplified version of the maple leaves, the gaggle of geese, and the Japanese aesthetic it embodies. In fact, when you do a Google Image Search of the image you see primarily Japanese sumi ink paintings. Anyone know who created this version?

Canada Flag Design - Japanese

The Craftsmen of Ireland

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At the end of last year, I was delighted to hear that Jameson had invited me to Ireland to interact with some of their local craftsman, tour their incredible distillery, and—of course—enjoy some delicious Irish whiskey.

Never having been to Ireland before, I knew I was in for a treat. Telling friends and co-workers about my journey I was told stories about cozy, old pubs that buzz until late into the night, lusciosus green hills that seem to last forever, and encountering folks who were some of the nicest they’d ever met. This was one of the elements that still stands out so vividly to me: how kind the people are.

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The first craftsman we visited was a burly man named Garvan de Bruir, a leather crafter working in the quaint town of Killdare. We drove almost directly from the Dublin airport to his studio and was greeted with a spread of sandwiches, salads, and good beer, which was much needed after a 14+ hour flight. Garvan’s kindness matched his creativity as we snacked in an impressive studio he designed himself, not content only creating objects with leather.

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The De Bruir line of leather goods are fantastic, too. He makes a little bit of everything such as luggage, bags, wallets, keep-all trays, and, most surprising of all, bow ties. I believe hearing the words “leather bow tie” might induce a cringe amongst most but his design is flawless and, when you see Garvin himself wearing one, you suddenly see how well it works.

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We were given the opportunity to make leather aprons for ourselves using De Bruir designs. Watching Garvan and his apprentice work looked simple but in actuality is a lot like watching cooking shows on television: “I can do that, no big deal,” you say in your head. As I learned, leather crafting is not simple. Thankfully we had expert teachers who led us through process with ease as we chatted about other small leather good brands from around the world. It was two days of hard work that led to a beautiful product that should last me forever.

After this, we took off for the town of Waterford, Ireland’s oldest city and home to a number of glass blowers. Waterford might sound familiar and that’s because it was the home of Waterford Crystal. Well, that was until 2009 when they declared bankruptcy and laid off most of their artisans. Still! That didn’t stop companies like The Irish Handmade Glass Company from filling the void with their very in-demand skills.

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If you’ve never seen glass blowing in person, it’s hard to fully understand the beauty of the process. We were treated to Richard Rowe showing us how a master glass blower goes about his craft, tranforming globs of molten glass into precious pieces of art in minutes. It’s an intimdating craft that has an element of danger—or at least you think this from the view of a spectator, which is a part of it’s allure.

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The last leg of our trip was a tour through the Jameson Distillery in Cork, a facility that’s been around since 1795. The distillery is indicative of what I saw a lot of in Ireland: a rich history and heritage now being augmented with contemporary design and architecture. As you walk around you’re overwhelmed by the age of the place, that has been the brand home for hundreds of years.

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They’ve been plying their craft, slowly but surely moving toward the present and future of whiskey. The grounds are mostly lined with old building made of stone and wood, like a Dickensian setting of some sort. This setting continues in the past until the near end, where you’re guided to the new wing of the facility a state-of-the-art complex that resembles a Bond villains lair (but in actuality, distills golden, whiskey goodness).

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They even have (what I would call) a whiskey labratory officially titled the Irish Whiskey Academy. It offers a number of courses on the history of whiskey, how it’s produced, and—yes—extensive tastings. The tastings were particularly interesting because of the variety of flavors and nuance a whiskey can take on. Some had fruit notes, some where quite smokey; others were younger and thus quite potent, a specific taste for specific people. Getting to soak up the details of a whiskey like that is not something that happens very often—especially in such a storied place like the Jameson Distillery.

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In all, Ireland was a fantastic place to visit. The weather was warm, the people were warmer, and the whiskey never stops flowing. You can’t ask for much more than that.

Sonos Doesn’t Have A New Logo, It Has A Beautiful New Visual Identity

Bruce Mau Design's New Sonos Logo Isn't A Logo

It’s been nice to see Bruce Mau Design’s work for Sonos get the recognition it deserves, the team has done a beautiful job. Of particular note has been how the lines radiating outward from behind the logo resembles sound waves thanks to the moire pattern used – except it’s wrongly being called a new logo. By many. The Sonos logo hasn’t changed, only the visual identity has been refreshed. From Bruce Mau Design:

This new iteration of the Sonos visual identity advances the idea of the modern music experience – not singular or monolithic but a rich diversity of expressions. Performance imagery from Sonos Studio, new product photography and the introduction of three big graphic tools that can be mixed and remixed, deliver a creative and variable language while still providing the stability of a recognizable system.

As designers we should do our part in educating the folks who don’t understand on the difference between logo design and visual identity. At the very least it’s good for people who aren’t as fluent in design speak to understand what it is we do exactly (and why they’re paying so much for it). Hat tip to Bryan Byczek for pointing this out.

Bold, Folksy Branding for Mibici, A Used Bike Non-Profit

Really like the boldness of this brand identity for Mibici, a small non-profit that brings used bikes from the U.S. and distributes them in rural communities in Costa Rica. It was created by Pupila Sestudio along with with Matti Vandersee who did a great job of making a non-profit that may have gotten list visually stand out from the pack. The hand-drawn bike illustrations are especially charming.

Bold, Folksy Branding for Mibici, A Used Bike Non-Profit

Bold, Folksy Branding for Mibici, A Used Bike Non-Profit

The Top Title Sequences Of 2014

Art Of The Title Top 10 Title Sequences Of 2014

Good title sequences are much rarer than they should be, an aesthetic often only considered by those making the opening credits of a Bond movie or the show True Detective. Title sequences are about setting a tone and style for a show and do so by doing either very little or a lot. The episodes and show may chance but the title sequence is the one item that ties everything up, alluding to what an audience knows and will find out if they stay tuned.

Art Of The Title knows this best and, to celebrate, they selected their top ten favorite title sequences of last year. The selections span from video games to movies to television shows and even promotional sequences. While just ten sounds paltry, their picks span a variety of styles and forms. For example the brilliant opening sequence for the decent game Alien: Isolation not only falls into an homage category, echoing the original Alien, but set the tone for a decidedly creepy (yet glacially slow) game. It’s place at number ten points out how stellar a year it was.

It’s a good little list, considering many of the titles were part of wonderfully considered and executed design efforts in entertainment (which is a rarity). There is even the wacky inclusion of “Too Many Cooks” which is just as absurd as the video but—hey—it truly is at its heart a title sequence.

Read the full list and see all the sequences in question by clicking here.

The WarkaWater Tower: Drawing Water From The Air

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When I was working on a now cancelled socially conscious news show, I was responsible for producing a few segments that were high tech shows-and-tell that showed how technology can benefit the developing world. This meant that I was constantly trolling design websites to find objects like Yves Behar’s Kernel Diagnostic and Olafur Eliasson’s Little Sun, doing my best to get my hands on them to share. This was often a difficult, frustrating task but the results were always remarkable.

This has left a special place in my heart for design projects with good intentions, ones that seek to offer solutions through creativity. While reading Wired recently, something caught my attention that certainly fit into this world and, thankfully, I don’t have to worry about flying a prototype out to Los Angeles: Architecture and Vision has created a “water tower” out of bamboo that extracts water from the air, harvesting the resource for those in dry environments. It’s a novel idea executed in an exceptional way.

The WarkaWater Tower: Drawing Water From The Air

The WarkaWater Tower: Drawing Water From The Air

The tower—which they call WarkaWater, after the Ethiopian Warka tree—is composed of bamboo poles wrapped in a thin mesh net that catches water from rain, fog, dew, etc. It all funnels into a water tank and, apparently, it can collect almost thirty gallons of water a day. It requires no electricity, requires less than a grand to build, and is even designed to keep birds away.

The project is literally huge and has gone through many design incarnations, their most recent being the most viable, useful effort. Yet, like many designs for social good, the funding for clever projects like this is quite minimal and the creators have turned to Kickstarter for funding. They’re raising money through mid-February and, if successful, they should be able to start more serious testing of the tower this year—and they hope to employ the towers in Ethiopia in the next three years.

Brye Kobayashi Gives iTunes The Redesign It Desperately Needs

Brye Kobayashi Gives iTunes The Redesign It Desperately Needs

Brye Kobayashi Gives iTunes The Redesign It Desperately Needs

I was complaining on Twitter yesterday about the sad state of iTunes, lamenting the fact that it’s current state is confusing and makes me feel like I’m inept. TFIB reader Keorattana Luangrath in response sent a link to a well-done redesign by Brye Kobayashi, a Honolulu based designer. His efforts focus on more intuitive navigation, an expansive, editorial iTunes Store, and a simplified library view.

I think what he nails is the proper hierarchy of information. A left navigation bar is a web standard but as you can see it’s so much more intuitive to browse. You click the nav on the left which adjusts the nav at the top in the right pane. Simple. I also enjoy that he’s applied the iOS styling overall, feels fresh and new.

You can see more of Brye’s process and additional imagery by clicking here.

My Favorite “Ceramicists”: Cody Hoyt, Ben Medansky, & Eric Roinestad

An interest of mine that has been rekindled over the past year is the area of ceramics. There’s something about the tactility and the unknown nature of the craft that makes it seem like such an incredible challenge. That’s why I’ve chosen to share a few of my favorite ceramicists, to highlight some of the great work that’s happening in this world.

Cody Hoyt - Ceramics

Cody Hoyt
I knew Cody Hoyt in a previous life. Back in 2009 he was an LA based illustrator and he made this beautifully chaotic wallpaper that I was obsessed with. There was such complexity and depth to the piece and I was madly in love with it.

Nowadays he’s a Brooklyn based sculptor who makes the most amazing ceramic vessels, embedded with swirling, abstract patterns that clearly reference his previous sensibilities but perhaps in a more refined form.

Cody Hoyt - Ceramics

Cody Hoyt - Ceramics

Ben Medansky
Ben Medansky is an incredibly talented guy who has an extremely unique view of the world. This sensibility rings throughout all of his work, usually as some sort of abstract, off the wall piece that you can’t help but smile about. As you’ll see below he’s incorporated a lot of Yves Klein-esque blues, golds, and silvers, that pair so very well with the more neutral colored glazes. Drinking your coffee in the morning could only be more fun with Ben’s mugs.

Ben Medansky - Ceramics

Ben Medansky - Ceramics

Eric Roinestad
Back in July I interviewed Los Angeles ceramics artist and designer Eric Roinestad because I had recently became obsessed with his work. What makes Eric’s work stand out for me is his use of Southern California plant life but also objects like the “shot up tin cans” which hint at the unnatural aspects of desert life. You can visit his site to see the full range of amazing vessels he’s currently working on.

Eric Roinestad - Ceramics

Eric Roinestad - Ceramics