Month: May, 2010

Shannon Rankin

Some lovely map work from Shannon Rankin, artist living in Maine.

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Germinate (5000 Seeds); 2009; map, pins, adhesive, 12′ x 12′

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Number 1 & Number 2; 2009; map, paper, paint, adhesive; 10″ x 10″; Number 1-2 of 9 pieces from the map series Transplant.

White Wire stationery

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Cards letterpressed by Stacey Stern at Steracle Press in Chicago. Letterhead & envelopes printed locally at Goodfellow Printing.

Speaking of Portland…

As I went through the bajillion posts on my google reader, I saw (in a few places) Kate Bingaman-Burt’s Obsessive Consumption book is now for sale.

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Book By Its Cover (the blog of Julia Rothman from ALSO) did an interview with Kate last month, and you can read more in her own words here, but the short of it is… back in grad school Kate lived off of her credit cards—why not, just add another dinner on the card as long as you’re taking out thousands of dollars for school, right?—and upon graduating, had about 20 grand in debt.

In 2002, she began photo-documenting all of her purchases and created the Obsessive Consumption website. A couple years later, she started drawing her credit card statements with the promise of continuing this until her debt was paid off. Eventually she added on by drawing one thing she bought a day and building a monthly zine with these. Enter Princeton Architectural Press (who she had a relationship with from the illustration work she did for Handmade Nation), and ta-da the book was made. This past February, she was officially debt free. Though, I wonder how many other credit card statements this book will end up on… at least it’s only 20 bucks.

(Oh, and Kate currently teaches design at Portland State.)

Open Engagement 2010

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We just returned from visiting Portland for the Open Engagement conference, which was organized by Jen Delos Reyes and the rest of the folks at PSU’s Art and Social Practice program—and sponsored well enough so that thankfully meant it was free for everyone. Heath and his collaborator Katie Hargrave were chatting about their latest reader (22 Readings on Research, Activism, the Academy and Conduct) as part of the panel Some Forms of Availability.

While the best part of the five days there was getting to meet and drink and talk with a lot of new people, (and of course seeing H + K speak!) some presenter highlights for me included:

Matthew Sadler on Publication Studio

Publication Studio is a laboratory for publication in its fullest sense — not just the production of books, but the production of a public. This public, which is more than a market, is created through deliberate acts: the circulation of texts; discussions and gatherings in physical space; and the maintenance of a digital commons. Together these construct a space of conversation, a public space, which beckons a public into being.

Amy Franceschini…

Amy Franceschini is a pollinator who creates formats for exchange and production that question and challenge the social, cultural and environmental systems that surround her. An overarching theme in her work is a perceived conflict between humans and nature. Her projects reveal the ways that local politics are affected by globalization. In 1995, Amy founded Futurefarmers, an international collective of artists. In 2004, Amy co-founded Free Soil, an international collective of artists, activists, researchers, and gardeners who work together to propose alternatives to the social, political and environmental organization of space.

The National Bitter Melon Council

The National Bitter Melon Council (NBMC) is an organization run by an artist collective that is devoted to the cultivation of a vibrant, diverse community through the promotion and distribution of Bitter Melon. Supporting the use of Bitter Melon for its myriad health benefits and culinary possibilities, the NBMC celebrates this underappreciated vegetable through the production of creative and stimulating food-focused projects that highlight the foreignness of Bitter Melon, instigating situations that, through bitterness, create an alternative basis for community. Bitter Melon is a truly unique and bitter ingredient that is not yet well known in the United States. Advocating the appreciation of this vegetable across cultures and cuisines, the NBMC believes that these Bitter Melon focused- events can bring whole communities together through a single shared experience — that of bitterness.

Nils Norman…

The concept of Utopia is a tool that I use to critique existing structures and situations. I have referred to and incorporated it into many of my past projects over the years and it has become an integral part of my methodology. … I have found that reading Utopia gives you a better understanding of various contemporary political problems, possible solutions and the possibility of possibilities. I think Utopia was and is about clearing a critical space in order to discuss and potentialise possibilities.

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I’d like to attend, please

Some invitations, old and new, that I’ve stashed away because they make me happy:

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Source unknown… please let me know if you can clue me in and I’ll be sure to post!

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Invitations designed by Aya Ikegaya & printed by Studio on Fire

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Paper & Type

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Sideshow Press

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Rifle Paper Co.

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L’Office Optimiste

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3191 Miles Apart

Can design touch someone’s heart?

That’s the name of the course taught by Stefan Sagmeister in the MFA Designer as Author program at the School of Visual Arts. Some of my favorite projects are here:


Lydia Reynolds, Poster Boi

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Karin Soukup + Cristina Vasquez, Mrs Connection

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Lesley Weiner, Maddy Memory

In searching around for these projects, I also came across this article in Communication Arts where Carolyn McCarron Sienicki speaks with Sagmeister about this course—at SVA, Cooper Union and the Universität der Küenste in Berlin.

This isn’t a do-good class. I want my students to pick their own projects, their own audience and be in control of their own content. I want them to become aware of what they are putting out in the world and how it affects people. I want them to think through their intention.

While he says there’s nothing wrong with designing to sell—as he obviously lives out daily—the unfortunate fact is that so many designers are doing only that.

So much of what designers do is technically very good, but it leaves people cold and has little meaning in their lives. The question came out of a frustration of drowning in professionally designed things that nobody gives a **** about, neither the maker nor the receiver. The main reason for all this stuff is that most designers don’t believe in anything. When your conscience is so flexible, how can you do strong design?

Kenya Hara

If putting as many words as come into your head in some place that’s convenient and easy to access is your goal, you can house them on the web or on something like CD. But here I’ve chosen the medium called a book. That’s because I want to hand it to people as an object with a resistant weight. Kenya Hara

I’m glad to report that my book intake is perhaps at an all-time high over here. The first one I devoured when I got to Iowa City, having no plans other than to drink coffee during the day and beer at night, was Designing Design by Kenya Hara. So very good, so very tactile and resonant. It was one of those books that I had abandoned when I got busy and I am so glad I picked it back up. Despite it being months later now, I’ve recently been having a couple conversations about design’s relationship to the heart and body and felt it fitting to finally revisit some notes on Hara’s book.

Besides it being gorgeous,

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it is truly a lovely introduction to Hara’s design philosophy. His writing style is conversational and accessible (and not just for designers) despite him making the simplest things complex. And while it’s not an incredible surprise, albeit poetic, to see him intro the book by stating “verbalizing design is another act of design”—we’ve long heard talks about design as a way of life, design as a way of thinking—so many of his ideas are refreshing. Here’s a full listing of his chapters:

– Re-Design – Daily Products of The 20th Century
– Haptic – Awakening the Senses
– Senseware – Medium That Intrigues Man
– White
– Muji – Nothing, Yet Everything
– Viewing The World From The Tip of Asia
– Exformation – A New Information Format
– What is Design?

So as to not live in a theoretical vacuum, Hara guides us through these thoughts while referencing and detailing his own curated exhibitions, personal work and past students’ work.

He speaks of needing to reacquaint ourselves with our full range of senses, the significance of a philosophical emptiness, and exposing what we think we know as being truly unknown—therefore “thrilling us afresh with its reality” and furthering our understanding. Thrilling us afresh with its reality? Hello, beautiful.

And you can’t have a realistic discussion on design these days without addressing technology’s role. While he doesn’t resist it, he does voice that it should evolve much more slowly and steadily. Hara writes about Western technology and design inspiring Japan—sort of in the friend as the bad influence kind of way—as he shares a yearning to revisit the thoughtfulness and soul that Japan(ese design) once had.

We can’t always claim that everything that’s convenient is no good, but certainly the human tendency to slack off has intensified remarkably, due to marketing backed by technology.

Some are of the opinion that we gain far more than we lose. It’s true that newly invented technology and media have immense possibilities for cultivating our wisdom and our senses. Anything that matures changes shape. Human beings and cultures both mature and metamorphose. But our desire is to metamorphose into better beings.

This section on senses is perhaps my favorite. He isn’t interested in talking about the designing of a “thing,” but rather how to spark the mind in such a way to conjure up a memory and create a new experience.

While dealing with shape, color, material and texture is one of the more important aspects of design, there is one more: it’s not the question of how to create, but how to make someone sense something. … I used to believe that design was information architecture, and also that this architecture was built in the brain of an information recipient. Recently I’ve come to think that, although the materials of that architecture’s construction are indeed the information brought from the outside by the sensory organs, at the same time some very important building blocks are also the recollected experiences, the memories, awakened by these external stimuli. People imagine the world and interpret it when outside stimuli awaken the mountain of their internally stored memories.

I can’t avoid the blogs and chatter about e-readers these days, and I keep thinking of Kenya Hara. From the one size fits all typography discussions to twitter capabilities and of course the ease of carrying libraries around with you, I don’t really care too much, and won’t be a convert any time soon. So while Designing Design is a bit of a white brick at 472 pages and hardcover, I still carried it to and fro the cafe wrapped up in a bag within a bag so as not to get it dirty. And I must say, it was worth it.