I’ve been thinking about Emmett Williams a lot lately, even more since coming back from Amsterdam with a copy of his poem Sweethearts in hand. I’ve been thinking about the kind of verse that crops up in Sweethearts, where the word and its letters in their order become an engine to generate this whole world, and it saddens me that Williams was the only one exploring this particular...
Little shout-out today, designer Teddy Blanks let me repurpose this post on L&UL recently to be the background of his band’s website The Gaskets. More great Gaskets backgrounds here. (I’m a Gaskets fan, btw.)
“In 2002, [Desert Space Foundation Director Josh] Abbey created a design competition to find a permanent warning sign for the proposed nuclear waste site [in Yucca Mountain, Nevada]. The purpose of the competition, he says, is to find a universal warning sign which conveys that the deposit is highly dangerous. One caveat: the symbols have to work even if language or communication breaks down...
Via SpeakUp comes this great set of letters on designers’ letterheads collected by British designer Craig Oldham.
One of my clients working in education recently used a term I’d never heard of before, cognitive load: “Consider the difference between having to study a subject in one’s native language versus trying to study a subject in a foreign language. The cognitive load is much higher in the second instance because the brain must work to translate the language while simultaneously trying...
Leslie Kwok pointed me to these colorful assemblages by the artist Sarah Charlesworth.
Now here’s a wonderful assignment. Take the classic Atari game “Breakout.” Translate the code into the computer language Processing. Now, with a classroom full of non-programmers, modify the game and see what happens. The results, I think you’ll agree, are mesmerizing (thanks, Kevin).
Witness the Cartesian beauty that is Massimo Vignelli’s New York City Transit Authority Graphics Standards Manual from 1970 thanks to Flickr (via Subtraction).
For me, Mary Heilmann’s paintings combine Op, Pop, and autobiography in just the right intoxicating mix. Check out her show All Tomorrow’s Parties from 2003 at Secession in Vienna, or see some work closer up at Hauser & Wirth in London.
I don’t remember who pointed me to the wonderfully weird mechanical sculptures of Arthur Ganson, but, whoever you are, thank you.
NYT has an interesting article about the way that ideas from Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges have presaged certain contemporary notions about the Web and interactivity. The article’s a little fluffy, but it led me to reread an old favorite Borges story, “The Library of Babel,” which I used to use with my Typography I students for a chapbook assignment many moons ago. Somehow...
“On the morning of July 8, 1980, Raymond Carver wrote an impassioned letter to Gordon Lish, his friend and editor at Alfred A. Knopf, begging his forgiveness but insisting that Lish ‘stop production’ of Carver’s forthcoming collection of stories, ‘What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.’ Carver had been up all night reviewing Lish’s severe editorial cuts—two...
From one of my new favorite blogs, Smashing Telly, comes Derek Jarman’s wonderfully weird feature film on Wittgenstein’s life from 1993.
One of the nicest things I saw while at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam was an exhibition on the influence of Japanese prints on Van Gogh’s work, in particular those of Kamisaka Sekka from the early 1900s. Sekka’s seminal book of prints is called the Momoyogusa, translated alternately as “Flowers of a Hundred Worlds” or the more beautifully ambiguous “A World of...
Thoughts on Authorship in Design
I was recently asked by Lauren Mackler, a former student of mine at RISD, to be part of a project she’s working on that will collect thoughts on the question of authorship in design from a range of people working in the field. While it’s an abstract and difficult subject to approach, I noticed that my writing has only dealt with this issue in a glancing way, and this seemed like a...
“What he wanted to do was to find ways to give everyday objects some sort of meaning. He wanted to show that they are not just banal clutter, but are shaped by creative intelligence and an understanding both of how they are used, and how they are made.” Deyan Sudjic’s moving tribute to recently departed Memphis founder Ettore Sottsass. He will be missed (via Design Observer).
While I’m on the subject, a few more recent cameraphone photos of note. Here’s a van on Prince Street with a logo made from Baby Teeth. Next, a subway ad for Disney’s Broadway adaptation of The Lion King that uses both Neuland and Lithos in a stereotypographic way. And finally, one of my favorite sights, anytime, anywhere: stacked sheetrock, whose sawtooth transitions between...
Where do ConEd’s manhole covers come from? It says right on them: “Made in India.” One NYT photojournalist went to the factory to find out more. My thoughts on manholes and ConEd here. And a few weeks ago I snapped this photo with my cameraphone of a great homemade ConEd logo while a powerline was being repaired on Avenue B.
“With five times as many locations worldwide as McDonald’s, Starbucks, Burger King and Wal-Mart combined, Western Union is the lone behemoth among hundreds of money transfer companies. Little noticed by the public and seldom studied by scholars, these businesses form the infrastructure of global migration, a force remaking economics, politics and cultures across the world. Last year migrants...
“[He] might better be described as a language-based sculptor. He folds together the skills of a Russian Constructivist graphic designer, a Socratic philosopher, a Dada-Fluxus joker, a Concrete poet and a Madison Avenue ad executive with an astute sense of both semiotics and public display. And his penchant for starkly plain typefaces and for stacking phrases up walls like Judd boxes,...
The NYT’s “Week in Review” section has a nice list of 2007’s buzzwords (or keywords if you’re Raymond Williams fan). Among them is “walkshed,” a favorite of mine. The NYT’s definition reads: “The area that can be conveniently reached on foot from a given geographic point. Compare with foodshed, the area sufficient to provide food for a given...
Paula Scher recounts a rapid-fire history of Pentagram for Hillman Curtis’s nice short on the legendary design firm. For those interested in Pentagram’s formation, I also recommend reading Colin Forbes’s article “Transition,” which is happily offered as a free download on AIGA.org.
On its own this page of nautical flags would be pretty cool, but clicking on any of the letters reveals a really superb poster for your desk, your room, or just about anywhere. Here’s the letter L, for example. With a little effort maybe you’ll be as cool as the Shout Out Louds.
Some nice online pamphlets for friends in a simple and direct format. Try starting with the skeletal abandoned buildings depicted with Becheresque simplicity in GM (via Manystuff).
It’s not everyday we get a new bit of typographic slang; I thought Robert Bringhurst pretty much covered them all. But, like the addition of a new atomic element, every so often there is a new discovery, an unnamed frontier in need of naming. Ladies and gentlemen, a “pylon” is the spot on a stencilled letterform where the ground penetrates the figure. See one for yourself.