Archive for the ‘Design’ Tag

The Price of Being Useful


Red Blue Chair, c.1923

Gerrit Rietveld

Price: c.£600


Composition II in Red, Blue and Yellow, c.1930

Piet Mondrian

Price: c.£2,500,000

“There is nothing any less powerful in the intensity of feeling of the Red Blue Chair than in that of a canvas by Rietveld’s contemporary and Piet Mondrian… [Yet] the Red Blue Chair remains to a certain degree stigmatized by the fact of being useful – no matter how slightly.”

Deyan Sudjic, The Language of Things (2009)

When will this stigma lift?

I wonder if the Serpentine’s ‘Design Real’ exhibition might be shifting things, w/r/t design as art.

On the flip, what does The Affordable Art Fair say about art as design?

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.

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.

Felt Tip Rotoscope

Well sort of. I think.

It’s been kicking around for a while, and I still can’t say I know how Nois made this video for Diplo:

Nois are a collective of Brazilian directors with a showreel that’s diverse and impressive. Thanks Bren for a sharp point.

And Audrey Q showed me Donald Hertzfeldt‘s Rejected Cartoons recently, on the felt tip.

I’ve seen a lot of brands lifting the lid on hand-drawn logos this last year or two. Scribbled design is in.

Obviously we all love felt tips – and for baile funk or a deranged cartoonist, they’re the obvious weapon – but why’s this happening on a corporate level now?

Imitation of a new (old) style? Simple fun? Or are we looking at a form of design “transparency”? Surely not… humanity? Let’s hope it doesn’t go the way of helvetica.

The Geometric Genius

Andy Gilmore, based in Rochester, NY, has a stunning portfolio. Simple.

You can see more of his work at Space Collective; here’s his Flickr photostream.

And if you’ve been paid yet – I sure know I haven’t – you might head over to Etsy and buy the man’s prints.

Well worth putting aside a few dimes. He’s a geometric genius.

More geometric design:

– Manolo Guerrero’s Optica Normal type

– Olympic op art: Mexico 68

From/To/Of Russia

Alexander Kosolapov, now based in New York, was born in Moscow.

His assaults on icons and commodity fetishism straddle these two axes with great intelligence and provocation.

(More on Alexander Kosolapov at Designboom.)

The twin dolls in this photographic series by German artist Monica Menez are heading to a picture postcard Russia.

(Via the beautiful blog We Make Money Not Art.)

From 1992 to 1994, Alexey Titarenko shot City of Shadows in St. Petersburg. His long black and white exposures dislodge time and the results are truly moving (via).

So – from Russia, to Russia, of Russia. A country that inspires, agitates and haunts, casting its spectral shadow over the 20th century.

I’d love to visit. And I hope these artists set you off on a journey of your own.

Hey! Leave Those Brands Alone

Danish artist Nadia Plesner devised this design to raise money for Darfur.

Louis Vuitton aren’t happy about her fundraising activities (full story here), citing an infringement of “Intellectual Property Rights”.

“Intellectual Property”?

Wow. How contrary. Brands want us to love, cherish, kiss and hug them. Online, they want us to play with them, tickle them, retouch them (I’m thinking sneakers and labels – Beck’s Fusions last year comes to mind).

They want us to remix. Because they know we like to remix. But only if it’s on their terms and, preferably, their microsite.

This attitude’s so retro it’s almost charming. But not quite. And far less charming for its PR stupidity. They could have easily supported the campaign and added buckets to their brand greenwash. Not to mention dirtied dollars to the Darfur appeal.

I’m with Brazilian designer Mario Amaya (see below). Let’s get remixing brands, whether they like it or not. If they want to be in our lives, they need to be taught how the real world shakes today.

Related: Boosh vs. Honey Monster, Round 1.

Essential: The Pirate’s Dilemma – We Invented the Remix.

Previous: Segway Watch – the Future Goes Social.

It’s Big City Waxing

No one cares that Superman’s dead. Did you spot him in Chris Ware‘s illustration?

Foot on the ground in big city, there are millions of things you don’t notice. Most are banal. Some incidental. A few, tragic.

But you keep on keeping on. As long as it’s not your tragedy. Tough luck for Icarus (he’s kissing the fishes, bottom right).

No doubt cursing himself on a design oversight. Wax for wings? To the sun?

That’s not the style of a Renaissance man. Gotta see outside the grid to plough on in the big city.

Your Seat is for Sale

Caffeinated coffee is a stimulant. But look around you the next time you’re in a chain cafe. Listen to the elevator jazz. You’d think they were peddling morphine.

Homestead is a cafe that won’t slip an anaesthetic into your hot cup of joe. Thankfully, it reclaimed its place in Farringdon a few weeks ago. Although it won’t be around for long – and they might sell the chair from under you before you drain your mug.

All the lovingly-curated curios are for sale. Doesn’t that make you stop and think?

The big chain cafes, much like global chains of hotels, strive to give you the feeling that wherever you go you’re in the same place. However fresh and different the world outside, the interior will be familiar. As far as possible, identical.

For the international businessman, jet-lagged with malaise and dizzy with PowerPoints, that’s probably perfect. For everyone else, it’s got all the kick of a glass of Evian.

Homestead will stay on St John’s Street for the next two months. Come and stimulate yourself.