Month: September, 2010

Anti Design Festival

As a response to 25 years of cultural deep freeze in the UK, the Anti Design Festival will attempt to unlock creative fires and ideas, exploring spaces hitherto deemed out-of-bounds by a purely commercial criteria. Created initially as a direct response to the pretty commerciality of the London Design Festival, the festival will shift the focus from bums-on-seats to brain food, and from taste and style to experiment and risk. The festival will provide a rare space for unhindered exploration and creative opportunity, where ideas may fail as equally as succeed.

Photo from ANARCHY/apathy workshop with Research Studios

The first Anti Design Festival wrapped up in London this past Sunday, September 26th. The fest consisted of ten days and ten venues of various events/exhibitions/performances/workshops/etc. surrounding art + design. While a select group (spearheaded by Neville Brody) served as curators of the festival, their policy was “to invite like-minded people to control key areas and aspects of the festival. These ‘agents’ will contribute, commission and curate work and events during the festival.” Here’s their manifesto (which you can also download as a pdf on their site):

We are living in an age where millions of colours became 256. Difference is the enemy. Generic culture hypnotises us all into generic patterns, where control is visibly invisible. Danger is replaced by fear. New means upgrade. Risk is obsolete. Art made money stupid, and money made us fools. We welcome no_use, no_function and no_fear. Anarchy, crash and burn, the new awaits.

From Learning to Earning, and now to Yearning, we have forgotten why we are here. We have lost touch with what made us tick, the fire of creative possibility that once consumed us from within. Revolutionary thought is but a distant memory. I grew up as part of a generation that thought it could help improve society; that our sole function was to be conscious and to spread that consciousness through creative awareness, exploration, observation and questioning. This generation was replaced by the Thatcher/Reagan paradigm of Culture=Money. Thinkers became earners, Creatives became entertainers, and a whole dumbed-down generation now feels entitled to success and profit without having to work or think too much.

We are now left with a spiritual hollowness. The belief systems of consumption and commodity have been exposed as empty. Revolution is a distant echo lost in the white noise, and religion has been largely subsumed by globalisation. Virtual experiences have replaced human touch. Analogue culture is now the exotic. We have managed to create for our children, perhaps for the first time in history, a future which is less hopeful than the one we live in today.

Deep Freeze
The house of credit cards has now collapsed. For 25 years we have been in a state of Deep Freeze. We have somehow denied ourselves permission to remember what it was like before the Big Bang of banking deregulation. Schools became businesses and hospitals became profit centres. Art for art’s sake was sacrificed for entertainment and bums on seats. Ideas became cliches and anything different was viewed with suspicion and disdain.

We have traded Freedom for Peace. What we need is Liberation.

Free Me From Freedom
As the Lehman Brothers collapsed, so a new era is signalled and the baton is passed on again. Mankind has the opportunity now to reclaim the cultural high-ground and risk something new, a creative breach in the barrier of exclusion that can allow some real growth and evolution, like a bright light shining through the cracks of a crumbling wall.

The line of Dangerous Ideas had been interrupted and the path can be found again.


I like that there’s an effort to foster an alternative (to commercial work, to AIGA, etc.) design world and wish it was a bit more practical for me to attend and check out. Do you think this push for anti-materialist design thinking from this group is just the new form of elite or do you think they’re sincere?

Something to keep on the radar.


Stephen Doyle


Stephen Doyle, of Doyle Partners, was recently awarded the 2010 National Design Award for Communication Design from Cooper-Hewitt. As part of Debbie Millman’s “Design Matters” series, she interviewed the man of the hour and you can listen to/download it (just under 30 min) here on Design Observer.

For many—dare I say—superstar designers, I realize I know a lot of names, but not a lot of information. Maybe because I’ve lumped so many of them together? That now they’re just famous and uninteresting. Same reason the cool people shun the music on the radio, right? Well, shame on me. I enjoyed Doyle’s talk and finally took a closer look at his work… and yes! I like. He says during the interview that he was surprised to be chosen for the National Design Award as his work isn’t very “flamboyant.” Instead of falling back on the tried and true, each outcome is a product of generous thought and is created with only that specific job in mind. It’s not to win awards (though, it’s easy to say that when you’re already winning them), but to be considerate and articulate about each message. He also says he’s always concerned about failing; always worried about falling short of his potential. Perhaps neuroticism loves company, but it’s always so nice to hear about “successful” (whatever that means) people who still worry about not doing great work. And it’s the worrying which keeps both you and the work from becoming complacent.

Additionally, he talks about borrowing and transforming ideas, how to infiltrate spaces without leaving such a huge footprint, and why book covers are a young designer’s job.

Other interviews from this season of “Design Matters” will include: Eric Baker, Marian Bantjes, Kate Bingaman-Burt, Tina Roth Eisenberg, and James Victore; writers Dominique Browning, Ralph Caplan and Steven Heller; and writer Alexandra Lange with Jane Thompson, founder of Design Research.

Wine & design

Huffington Post just put up a small slideshow entitled Bottle Design: Ten Bottles So Beautiful They Make The Wine Taste Better. While, yes, this is certainly directed toward me—the one picking wine based off of the label (I’m more of a beer gal myself), I’ve got to say HP didn’t do such a hot job picking the most beautiful wine labels for this spotlight. There’s a couple gems in there, but most of them are just… fine. On the flip side, I’m always seeing amazing bottles + labels featured over at The Dieline, a great design resource for packaging. They have over 700 posts (!) tagged in their wine + spirits section, but here’s some of their more recent bottles that deserve another shoutout:

Schiszler Silver

El Incidente

Vinkara Fun & Playful

Field Recordings Wine: Jurassic Park Vineyard



Dr. Jebediah’s Drinkwell’s Meritage (Holographic beard!? Spectacular.)


20×200 was started in 2007 by Jen Bekman. It takes the pretension out of buying and selling art as each week they introduce a couple new pieces (paper + photo) on their site, making them available and accessible to the public. You can buy prints of the smallest size (usually 8″ x 10″) for just $20. They also sell larger versions—with larger pricetags—up to $2,000. I haven’t checked it out in a few months… and when I did, I found some to put on the wishlist (each photo has the respective artist statement below):

prettymaps (sfba), Aaron Straup Cope

I’d like to generate map tiles that give you that same dizzy feeling you get when you look down at a city at night, from an airplane. We’ve spent so long fussing over the relentless details in cartography that we’ve sort of forgotten what things (should) look like at a distance.

This August 2010 version of prettymaps is code-named “Isola” after the Finnish textile designer Maija Isola. At a time when the tools for making custom maps and bespoke cartographies are becoming easier* and more accessible it is nice to look back at her work and imagine the maps she might have made if she were alive today.

*Road, highway and path data collected by the OpenStreetMap (OSM) project.

Rift #26 (Heimaey Houses), Marion Belanger

Rift #26 was made in Iceland at an excavation site on the island of Heimaey where a fissure in the earth opened on January 23, 1973 and hot molten lava buried approximately 360 houses. Here, the North American Plate is moving westward, creating new crust as magma pushes up from the mantle. Geologically, this is a divergent boundary, characterized by splitting earth, steaming hot water, volcanic eruptions, and a young lava landscape almost devoid of trees. The land is unstable and raw.

Saugnac et Muret #1, 27/12/2005 11:27, Bert Teunissen

Do you think it is really for our own good that multinationals take over our food production like the insurance companies want us to believe?
Do you really think that this way our food will become healthier?
Do you think that franchising will make us all happier than we have ever been?
Do you really want your hamburger in New York to taste the same as in L.A. or in Tokyo?
Do you understand why a piece of antique furniture is so expensive?
Do you believe in IKEA or McDonalds for instance?

I do not.

Untitled (Sad Vader), Alex Brown

In my photography, I am interested in the spontaneous documentation of scenes from daily life. I am drawn to moments of beauty and humor in the mundane that often go unnoticed.

This photograph was taken in a McDonald’s restaurant in Upstate New York. The kid was sitting in the booth on his own wearing a Darth Vader helmet that made the same breathing sound as the character in Star Wars. For some reason, he reminded me of myself as a child. I always wanted a helmet like that when Star Wars first came out but my parents wouldn’t buy me one.

This photograph explores various themes that are central to my work and that are heavily influenced by the American TV, movies and pop culture I experienced growing up in the 80s.

Ringside, Jason Burch

This print comes from my series Constructed Environments, a group of playful ruminations on interactions with our surroundings. The series grew out of sketching ideas for large-scale landscapes that involved sometimes epic performative aspects. Large-scale constructions and male angst dominate the series. This particular piece stood out from the others in that it depicted a more intimate space and is far more confrontational. It is also very playful and absurd. I laugh still when I look at it. Especially funny is the source material for the foreground figures. They come from a 1918 book on practical self-defense. The illustrations in the book all feature gentlemen in suits demonstrating self-defense tactics. I particularly enjoy the contrast in this image of male rage and etiquette.

Midway, Neshoba County Fair, Philadelphia, Mississippi, Mike Sinclair

The Neshoba County Fair is different from the county fairs we have in the Midwest. It has most of the things you usually find: livestock judging, a beauty pageant, horse racing and a midway. The unusual thing is that it has over 600 one- and two-story cabins, called fairhouses, arranged into streets and neighborhoods on the fairgrounds. People own these cabins and live in them for the seven days of the fair. They are highly prized, handed down from one generation to the next. For the visitor, it gives the place a strange feeling: you are not sure if you’re in a public or private space. When I was there I remember feeling like I’d come upon some extravagant neighborhood block party and it was obvious—at least to me—I was from another block.

The question of being on the inside or outside of a group is something I think most photographers think about. Do we photograph the familiar or the exotic, are we reporters or memoirists? If I went back there this July, twenty years later, what pictures would I take?

Nethermead, Joseph O. Holmes

In addition to specific projects, I pursue a variety of urban landscape studies around New York City. And yet after several years of this, I realize I’m barely scratching the surface. Just when I think I’ve got a handle on capturing these famously gritty streets, I turn a corner and realize just how infinitely deep and rich this town really is.

My snow storm images of Brooklyn’s Prospect Park are cases in point. At first glance, they might be mistaken for wilderness landscapes. Then, lamps lining a path come into focus, and faint hints of distant benches. Tiny details emerge and wilderness trekkers become a dog walker or a couple on a park hike. New York City proves to be as hard to pin down as ever. Even when I’m the middle of other projects, exploring other ideas and subjects, the promise of discoveries like these send me back out into the city to try to nudge it into revealing itself again.

The Englert Theatre


The mission of the Englert Theatre is to own, maintain and operate the Englert Theatre as a community arts center and performance space, enhancing the vitality of Iowa City’s historic down town by preserving its last historic theater.

The Englert Theatre will provide diverse programming, educational opportunities and exposure to the performing and visual arts. Our focus is on highlighting the talents of local performers, artists and ensembles as well as hosting regional, national and international touring performances.

I just finished some work with these kind folks at the theatre and wanted to share some snippets. First, they needed to send out their upcoming Fall schedule and were looking for a new, updated feel from previous years—something that played up the great diversity of upcoming events. We also did some quick poster work for their new movie series. (PS Iowans—it’s free! Check ’em out the next few months.)






Now that’s a love story.

This remarkable couple personifies the eloquence, grace, and poetry that can be found in the voices of every day people if we take the time to listen.

From StoryCorps comes this beautiful story from Danny and Annie Perasa. I’m not sold on the animation style… I feel as though it cheeses it up a bit when the recording itself is so sincere. But who cares, it’s all lovely anyway.

If you don’t know StoryCorps, I’ll let their website do the introducing:

StoryCorps is an independent nonprofit whose mission is to provide Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share, and preserve the stories of our lives. Since 2003, StoryCorps has collected and archived more than 30,000 interviews from more than 60,000 participants. Each conversation is recorded on a free CD to share, and is preserved at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. StoryCorps is one of the largest oral history projects of its kind, and millions listen to our weekly broadcasts on NPR’s Morning Edition and on our Listen pages.

The heart of StoryCorps is the conversation between two people who are important to each other: a son asking his mother about her childhood, an immigrant telling his friend about coming to America, or a couple reminiscing on their 50th wedding anniversary. By helping people to connect, and to talk about the questions that matter, the StoryCorps experience is powerful and sometimes even life-changing.

Kelly Blair

I just came across Kelly Blair’s portfolio after I saw Heath’s book, Experimental Geography, lying around the apartment. And while it was the first time I checked out her work, I found after a simple google search that she’s been around a few blogs in the past couple years for being, well, amazing. In case she’s not on your radar either, here’s a few of my favorite book covers from her:









Welcome to the world

My friend just had a baby a couple weeks ago… a cute, tiny baby boy! It’s the first of my childhood friends to have a baby. Guess I’m growing up? Or at least my friends are.

I made a lil card to send their way.





Brian Banton

I was checking out the Master of Design website of Toronto’s York University yesterday and found myself excited about a handful of pieces in their gallery—which mostly belonged to Brian Banton. His website says:

Brian is a Toronto based graphic designer currently completing his Master’s degree at York University. Following the completion of his Bachelor’s degree at the Ontario College of Art and Design, Brian worked at some of Toronto’s top design studios including Underline Studio and Cundari SFP.

His work has received recognition from Applied Arts magazine and Coupe magazine and will be published in the upcoming books Typography Today and’s Book of the Year.

and here’s some of that work I was talking about: