“If I can coin a maxim of my own, one thing I have learned in my life so far is that ‘A person’s fame has as much to say about us as it does about the person we admire.’” This is the kicker to Rick Poynor’s thoughtful, nuanced review of Stefan Sagmeister’s new monograph. Poynor carefully weaves his way through a minefield, celebrating the things he clearly likes about Sagmeister’s work without pulling punches or trying to wrap the entirety of the design profession around this highly particular book. In the process, I think Poynor delivers a pretty compelling “State of the Union” about where we’re at and how we got here. Well worth a read as a piece of risky, honest design criticism.
I love Jason Rosenberg’s beautiful sewn fabric and paper collages. If you’re near NYC in the next few days, I recommend stopping by the always wonderful store Kiosk for Rosenberg’s Plastic Bag Happening, a swap-meet in which the thing that holds the item you purchased from one store becomes the reason for your visit to another. I heartily approve.
As a devoted Gmail user, I really appreciated Khoi Vinh’s wonderful post that suggests a simple second look at Gmail’s spacing, leading, and alignment issues would make a world of difference. Update: Mike Bingaman has created a Greasemonkey script that does the trick in Firefox. Download it here.
Designer Paul Giambarba has launched an informative blog devoted to his beautiful, award-winning identity work for Polaroid. More on the project from Phil Patton at AIGA Voice.
James Gibbons has written a wonderful introduction for Bookforum on the writing of Georges Perec.
Designers talk about the “text-image relationship” a lot, and this relationship figures prominently into our lessons and our lore. Its subtleties were probed and plumbed by Swiss Modernists and American Postmodernists alike. Its power is the reason we remember Julian Koenig and Helmut Krone’s “Lemon” ad for Volkswagen more than a half century after it was created. Its logic is something you can observe Daniel Eatock working with in his “Word / Format” assignment and Tibor Kalman working around in his “1,000 Words” assignment. I think I first became aware of it in grade school or thereabouts, whenever I was given my first copy of Chris Van Allsburg’s The Mysteries of Harris Burdick, which is a book that still enraptures me today.
Nowhere else is the text-image relationship on such regularly enlightening display as it is when, once a week, I flip open my newest copy of the New Yorker to its fiction page. Well, that’s not entirely accurate—I don’t “flip” right there but rather try to ease up to it, forcing myself to savor the spot art and cartoons, digest pithy captions and newsy asides, until, at the tail end of the well, there is what amounts to a clearing in this word-dense, Caslon-set forest: the opening page of that week’s fiction piece.
For the last three or four years, packrat that I am, I have been saving these pages for no particular reason, but I’ve joined the 21st Century and am now a networked packrat, so 48 of my collected New Yorker Fiction Pages are on Flickr. I’ve added all of these to a Flickr Group so please post more of your own if you have old New Yorkers lying around. I would love to see them. Our group mascot is of course the great Eustace Tilley, his monocle trained on a butterfly in careful study—like a photo editor, loupe in hand, ready to choose the perfect image. (If you’d rather tag pages than join the group, I’ve used the tag “nyerfictionpages” and you are welcome to do the same.)
Looking over the set now, I have some definite favorites. The hulking tree that confronts A Boy in the Forest for example. Or the disembodied oven mitt hand reaching for the telelphone in Harvey’s Dream. Some pages are fragmentary, like the twin snapshots used in Breakup Stories or the sequence of office lights flickering on and off in the eerily monolithic buildings used for The Brief History of the Dead. Some images are rich with narrative, like the visitor at the door in The Surrogate. Others can be jarring non sequiturs, drawn perhaps from a moment in the story or its setting, like the pooling, sticky face of the popsicle in Measuring the Jump. Still others, like Cowboy, deliver on their promise, but not at all in the way you’d expect. Throughout, one feels the work of what must be a small army of researchers and photo editors digging through portfolios and photo banks to pick, pair, crop, commission, and collaborate with authors and editors to strike the right tone, make the right match, marry their chosen images to others’ chosen text to create—at least before I turn the page—a perfect relationship.
“At the recent Paris Photo expo, Tomoko Sawada was getting the most laughs. Sawada, a 29-year-old photographer based in Kobe, Japan, is a deft identity thief, whether dressed in one of 400 get-ups in a photo booth, starring as every schoolgirl (and teacher) in a series of class portraits or posing as a range of kimono-wrapped women for mock omiai pictures traditional pictures sent to potential suitors.” More here at NYT and here at Artkrush. See one of the incredible school photos here.
In fall 2006, Jim Crace’s book Useless America was advertised on Amazon.co.uk with a September 2007 release date. When Crace himself got an email from Amazon alerting him to this fact, he was shocked. He’d never written a book called Useless America, and, as far as he knew, no such book ever existed. Read more at Crace’s great editorial in The Guardian.
Wired Magazine has a great selection of “disparate measures,” or offbeat (and sometimes scary) scales of measurement. For example, the Torino Impact Hazard Scale measures the risk that an asteroid has of hitting Earth. (More on the Torino Scale here.)
“Smashing a [Starbucks] window is a lifestyle choice now, so you might as well go full circle: buy a fucking latté, sit down and have a think.” Artist Nick Relph in a 2003 interview with Frieze.
I had a ton of fun walking around Midtown yesterday to scope out some Modernist landmarks with Alissa. She’s got a few great pics from our walk up on her site Gelatobaby, and more on her ever-growing Flickr feed. Two highlights were the Church of St Patrick (designed by Vignelli Associates), and a Rockefeller Guest House (designed by Philip Johnson) that’s tucked away on 52nd Street. Alissa’s working on a travel guide focusing on design in NYC, and I’m definitely looking forward to it.
From Alice Twemlow’s great post on Design Observer about the GTF show at the Art Institute of Chicago: “Graphic design has been displayed in museums as art, as cultural or historic artifact and as consumable commodity, but rarely in a way that reflects its full complexity as a functioning entity embedded within systems of use. Here, using the display mechanism of the institutional bulletin board, GTF have presented their work as information.” As a long-time GTF fan, I can’t wait to check out this show when I’m in Chicago in a few weeks.
Launched by RISDites Melissa Small and Sarah Sandman, “The Gift Cycle is a cross country cycling project that carries works of art as gifts from local artists of one town to local artists of the next town along the route—a 3,000 mile journey uniting 12 plus communities.” Help them spread the love by donating, buying a tshirt, or joining their group on Facebook.
Truman Capote famously adapted In Cold Blood from this 335-word story on page 39 of the NYT. From my amateur archive of similar articles comes Poison Mystery Widens After a Suicide Note, which begins, “The mystery of who poisoned 16 churchgoers here with arsenic-tainted coffee seemed to be solved the other day when a congregant shot himself to death, leaving a note that the police said tied him to the poisonings.” See also: Inmates’ Elaborate Plans to Escape From Sing Sing Are Thwarted.