Archive for the ‘Design’ Category

Seeing “lo real maravilloso”

Bandidos and beatos roam from the Andean ridges to the barren sertões in South American literature’s lush, magical history.

The bug got me bit at postgrad and I sprawled from Gabriel Garcia Márquez et al to writing a dissertation on Brazilian cinema of the 1960s.

I’ve not stopped itching for “lo real maravilloso” in the visual arts since – and two new storytellers rode onto my horizon last week.


Cinco minutos tarde by Huanchaco (via We Make Money Not Art).

Peruvian artist Huanchaco explores the chaotic capital Lima through a slobbish anti-hero.

Superchaco takes on the city through an optic of commercial culture, pop and hyperreal comicbook stylings.


Si se puede by Huanchaco.

The results are broadly postmodern but also comment on the local culture of hero-ising in South America – from beatos (mystical leaders) to dictators – pulling the idea inside-out in a way that’s fresh and surprising.


“Turista” by Los Vocalino (via Yatzer).

Ariel and Sebas Vocalino brought back Peruvian masks from their travels for this new series, “Turista”. As they explain:

“In our trip to Peru, we found these masks and without knowing what they were for, we bought many of them. Afterwards, we investigated about them and found out that they were used for carnival, exactly to hide men’s identity, so that they don’t feel ashamed of what they do.”


“Turista” by Los Vocalino.

Yatzer’s interview with the Buenos Aires artists caught me off guard. They talk of the tourist as a lonely figure who connects with his surroundings through his look.

But these masks made me think of technicolour bandidos and the cangaçeiros of Brazilian folklore. Roamers (and tourists, I guess), robbing the rich to give to the poor. With a liberal splashing of guns and debauchery en route.

Funny, magical and never quite real. Hope this work gives you a tingle too.


Taschen’s new history of Latin American design.

– Straight outta Rio: preview of Diplo’s Favela on Blast.

Surrealist financial ads from Leo Burnett, São Paulo.

Now Leaving Marlboro Country

The Observer reports today on the tobacco industry’s latest toasting.

Strides are afoot to de-brand cigarettes. Now the UK’s largest tobacco company, Imperial Tobacco, is threatening legal action against the Government on the grounds that “…plain packaging for tobacco products is unnecessary, unreasonable and unjustified.”


Debranding cigarettes by We Made This.

Apparently the Government’s proposal includes the following outline for packaging:

“Except for the brand name (which would be required to be written in a standard typeface, colour and size), all other trademarks, logos, colour schemes and graphics would be prohibited. The package itself would be required to be plain coloured (such as white or plain cardboard) and to display only the product content information, consumer information and health warnings required under the law.”

Swift progress and bold activism from the Government, if you consider that graphic images were introduced to packaging as recently as 1 October 2008.


New gruesome anti-smoking campaign from Virgin Media.

I can believe the research findings behind this. There’s no doubt that brands have significant sway in the shadowy market for smokes.

But if we’ve got the strategy right, is white labelling the best solution?

I think back to stories from the early hip-hop scene. DJs would white label records so no rival could steal their killer party track.

It created more fascination. More mystique around that thing with no name.

“Design, brother, modern design is plenty important!” from Well Medicated.

Can you imagine how much cigarettes would stand out if they had no branding?

They would be a unique product at the news agents. They’d have even more intrigue than the blacked-out top shelf mags.

There would be only way to discern between cigarettes. By buying them, and trying them.

Designers have constantly found fresh approaches to the anti-smoking cause. Work for this year’s World No Tobacco Day only serves to reassert that point.

But there’s a big difference between an anti-smoking campaign and designing the package that holds the cigarettes.


Marlboro Man from World No Tobacco Day on Can Stop.

If you were designing the generic cigarette box, wouldn’t you work to make the design intentionally bland?

Wouldn’t you create an aesthetic that gave the product no stand-out at all?

There was a lively discussion on Dave Trott’s blog last month about the ethics of cigarette advertising.

He advised a placement team to do bad advertising on their tobacco company brief if they wanted to get off the job.

Perhaps that team could share their thoughts. Or perhaps some designers could create a cigarette packet to epitomise “boring”.

Because “boring” is the answer you’ll get from a spy if you ask them a question about their job. It’s pretty much the only answer that won’t solicit further enquiry.

White labels, in my opinion, will provoke it.

Micro Work for Micro Pay


Available Online for Free by Evan Roth (via Wooster Collective).

Evan Roth of Graffiti Research Lab has his first solo exhibition to coincide with a new self-published book.


AVAILABLE ONLINE FOR FREE: Selected works by Ethan Roth: 2003-2008 was made in Linux using open source software.

It costs $20 in print and is… available online for free. You can download it here.


This feels like a timely intervention.

Right now there’s debate over at the Freakonomics blog on the subject of micropayments.

Why do we expect things free online when we would happily (or at least without question) pay for the same thing in a physical, offline shop?

Is there any hope for Kachingle and other new online micropayment schemes? Seems latecoming and reactionary, although sites like GOOD are developing some interesting alternatives.

Can see why the recession has made peeps reconsider – particularly on the cost of information.

But the (free) words of Marshall W. Van Alstyne (M.I.T.) go KA-CHING for me:

“Putting micropayments on news is like putting tollbooths on an open ocean.”


Another way? Gross National Happiness.

Strange Maps = Wonderful World

I was back in the 60s with Mad Men last night.

Art director Salvatore Romano delivers a line of expert irony. He rhapsodises about the future of advertising.

“The copy will follow the art, and not the other way round.”

It wasn’t a distant world after all. And I’ve been fairly speechless today. So I set out on a visual voyage – and Strange Maps is my pick of the morning.


Old Europe by Justine Smith.


An Absolut Mexico by Teran/TBWA Mexico.


World Beat Music by James Plakovic.


The Surrealist Map of the World, published in Variétés magazine (1929).

The Aura of Type: Swissified

Objectified by Selectism on Vimeo.

Gary Hustwit’s second feature gets its world premiere next month.

Here’s the official blurb:

Objectified is a feature-length documentary about our relationship to manufactured objects and, by extension, the people who design them… It’s about personal expression, identity, consumerism, and sustainability.”


His debut, Helvetica, examined the proliferation of the world’s most loved (loathed?) typeface. Pundits showed a mixture of reverence and disdain.

That film could be the end of an aura.

I keep thinking about Walter Benjamin in this new age of mechanical reproduction. When repro is at the amateur’s fingertips, how can the aura of quality – or authenticity – transmit itself?


Credit to Anyone Can Swiss for hitting the question head on with their patented “Swissification” technology – an automated Helvetica poster generator.

Built in Dan Eatock‘s modish Indexhibit, Anyone Can Swiss throws Helvetica to the amateur with a guarantee of 100% satisfaction. Ha ha!

Here’s a video of their submissions from 4 February:

Left me with a hankering for more typefaces and sent me at a tangent.

Shouldn’t copywriters be trained in typography?

Typefaces are central to the “unique existence” of words. I don’t see why we’re forced to separate the content and the form.

It will only make the work more reproduceable.

Previous type chatter:

Break your eyes with Optica Normal.

DIY fonts in Fonstruct.

Making words shout louder.

16 Icy Men in Poladroid


What a day to lose your umbrella. What a fine day for a snowman safari.

I stuck a carrot into Poladroid for the first time. Throwback fun!

Click the thumbs to see each East London snowman.





Snowman related:

David Lynch’s Snowmen.

Interactive SNOWDRAW by Joshua Ott.

The Tilt-Shift Perspective

It’s not been that tough a day, has it?

Career Builder Superbowl Ad by olivermermet on YouTube.

Tiny things will always bug. But put in perspective, got just right, the world can seem miniature.

I stumbled onto tilt-shift photography yesterday and found some expert examples at Smashing Magazine.


The photo below is by Vincent Laforet. I can’t find a credit for the one above, but original source was here.


Uneven waters in the Tilt-shift Miniature Fakes Flickr Pool. Which goes to show this isn’t an easy technique to pull off.

Although, weirdly, it’s not dissimilar to techniques in macro photography. And these pictures offer a different perspective altogether. Information-heavy, eyeball-to-eyeball but equally unreal.


Has anyone tried their hand at either tilt-shift or macro photography?

And did you see David Bergman’s 1,474-megapixel photo of Obama’s inauguration?

Previous photography:

Long exposures in St. Petersburg

Composites create imaginary buildings

Fog and light in rural Georgia

Threadless Bestee Awards

Last day of polling in the 2008 Bestee Awards at Threadless.

It’s like the Oscars. Except real people vote. And the best nominees can win.


I really dig Bye Bye Apocalypse by Budi Satria Kwan (above). Although my favourite this year is Foam Monster in Emotional Reunion with Severed Limb by Aled Lewis (below).


Is there a Lifetime Achievement Award for t-shirt design? Who’d compete with Milton Glaser for that crown?


It’s Another Op Attack

A few weeks ago I wrote about Manolo Guerrero’s Optica Normal typeface.

If you wish you had a ‘refresh’ button for your eyes you could add this Dioptical font to your bank. (Found on Michael Surtees’ DesignNotes.)


House 42 applied an optical trick to the Escaptionist Fonstruct font.

And DesignNotes couples it with a seriously heavy bit of RGB animation. Flectchowns is not for the epileptic -so  please read the warning.


Intense stuff. It wouldn’t be fair to leave your eyeballs high and dry like that.

So for the cold bath after the heat, here’s the latest collab between Eltono and MOMO on the ‘Makers’ series. Much gentler, equally geometric and, once again, quite beautiful. Watch it here.


Midnight On A Moonless Night


I don’t know what’s got into me. Maybe it’s the Twin Peaks reload. Or last week’s mist and frostbite. But these photos give me tingles.


Will Govus is a prodigy. Going by the last interview I could find he’s still only 17.

Blessed with an incredible eye and the thick fog of rural north Georgia, he shoots with a Yashica 124 TLR – and shoots beautifully. (As you’ll see from his Flickr.)


He says: “I try to only shoot at night when its at least somewhat foggy. I think it adds a great deal to the atmosphere. So when the conditions are right I usually just walk around my town listening to my ipod until I find an image. I prefer to walk instead of drive around since I seem to notice more when I walk.”


A selection of interviews with Will Govus:

Fecal Face

Internet Jogging

Too Much Chocolate