Speak up when you say goodbye

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Armin Vit & Bryony Gomez-Palacio are closing their incredible blog/discussion forum Speak Up. Between Armin’s and Bryony’s farewells, and the long discussion threads that accompany them, I am not sure what else there is to say. It was the best place for facilitating and provoking graphic design discourse since Emigre magazine, and was in play years before Design Observer. [is it odd that all three of these examples are founded in whole or in part by 2 married designers? I think so!] In terms of a fully open discussion, it surpassed both. It was a landmark, and its time is passing. It will be missed.

The good news:
1) They’re keeping open Brand New, which has an always-lively discussion — it’s where I’ve directed people to see the range of opinion on the Tropicana rebrand takeback debate — and to read Paula Scher’s critical assertion that no matter what you think of Arnell’s design, the decision to take back a redesign sets a bad precedent. It also had the year’s best April Fools.

2)  They’ll keep the full archives open, with closed comments, as a set of documents for the future. In compiling the collected letters of DesignMaven 2002-2009, this will be crucial. Oh I joke now but I know that I will find my way back to these in the coming years.

3) My Marian Bantjes’ “bitchin” Speak Up shirt gets to go into a frame now. This was the first I’d heard of her, in Speak Up, and now look she’s my favorite. It looks like the picture at the top, but the ink is metallic silver.

4) Unlike some projects which fade away (looking at you, typographi-4 posts in the last year-.ca/.com/ca.org) or reach their end unaware that it’s the end (e.g. the final issues of Craft and Domino and pretty much most magazines) it is ending on its own terms: that is to say, characteristically with a set of mini-essays and discussions.

In this way, it makes me think of Dan Rolleri & Martin Venezky’s Speak Magazine (1996 – 2001), with which it almost shares a name. This magazine was without peer in its day — discursive content much like The Believer + with incredibly cutting edge design. I gave my smarter older brother a reader of selected photocopied articles from it back one unemployed Christmas. Like Emigre would in 2005, Speak knew its final issue would be the last. Issue 21 was a round-table retrospective of the staff, one imagines over a few beers, on the long road of the magazine. Though this accounts for nearly the entire issue, I still look back on it as the most important of all and not just for its closure. It’s available to read online: I’d recommend it to anyone who is working on, or considering starting, a magazine.

The last issue’s cover, which I submit as fitting for Speak Up as well, featured a book of matches in an ashtray — and down by the barcode:

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Armin + Bryony: display until forever. And thanks.

Some fall in love; I shatter

In case you haven’t already seen this on 100 other blogs (e.g. itsnicethat) it’s a collaboration between designer Craig Ward and photographer Jason Tozer. They both have some pretty amazing stuff in their portfolios, though this one really gets me. Here’s a writeup on the making of it.

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When I saw You Blow Me Away a few weeks back, I was reminded of another photographer whose frozen explosions are pretty phenomenal: Martin Klimas. I was first introduced to him via the always-fantastic Morning News galleries (which feature several works + an interview with a different visual artist, regularly updated: hundreds of ’em since 2001!)

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Inspired by looking at these artists’ work, I looked on flickr for high speed photography, to try to collect my thoughts, when I found this lovely lovely shot by Aden Tranter that to this designer’s eye is a few words of type away from being an amazing album cover, say for this single for the Handsome Family.

I had nothing to say on Christmas day when you threw all your clothes in the snow. When you burnt your hair, knocked over chairs, I just tried to stay out of your way.
But when you fell asleep, with blood on your teeth, I got in my car and drove away. Listen to me, Butterfly, there’s only so much wine you can drink in one life, and it will never be enough to save you from the bottom of your glass.

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What is it about these shots that impresses me so? Certainly content has something to do with it: Ward and Tozer’s shattering of that phrase of type, and Klimas’ shattering of kung fu figurines each add layers of delicious meaning… And though Tranter’s shot is of a simple bottle, his choice of reddened water and a dull green backdrop are critical, and if you were to crop the Jim Beam logo out leaving only liquid and glass, some the resonance with drunken abandon is lost.

But content aside, I think the root of the appeal can be found in the design-professor-favorite phrase “happy accidents.” Photography and design both involve impeccable, balanced, beautiful composition/layout — and it is usually achieved through careful planning, staging, grid and so forth. And yet sometimes you have a happy accident — whether it’s mistakenly dropping in the wrong cropping of an image or splashing ink or a light leak — which makes the composition work, usually by virtue of its unpredictable disorderliness.

What these high-speed photographers have done is carefully arranged happy accidents. They can’t be assured how the pane of glass, figurine or bottle will break… but they can capture, and then exercise their judicious cropping and editing on, the compositions that the physics of destruction create. The process must be tiresome, messy to clean up and aggravating at times, but when you can catch something as beautiful as these, it is totally worth it.

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(Klimas, again)

TypograFriday: Contemporary Type Abundance

There’s been a trend in the last few years dubbed maximalism. We’re particular fans of how it manifests calligraphically and typographically. Here’s some of the finest, and six words about each:

Ray Fenwick
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Words and pictures both very good.

Marian Bantjes
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We have one; it’s laser-cut awesomeness.

Jessica Hische
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This will be a tshirt soon.

Si Scott
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Pen in hand, makes his mark.

Niels “Shoe” Meulman
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calligraffiti inventor. Yep, how it sounds.

Seb Lester
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Silver on black plike. Pretty rad.

Yulia Brodskaya
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OMG that’s quilling? That’s insane yo.

Keep Calm and . . . full circle

Y’all know about this poster, right?

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The classic sfgirlbybay edition as seen in the final issue of
Domino magazine, RIP.

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Maira Kalman’s version from
The Principles of Uncertainty. She’s wrong about the WWII thing, sort of (more on that later).

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Threadless typetee
‘s clever reversal (note inverted crown); the 1937 original poster hung in an old bomb shelter, apparently.

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Optimistic crafty homage by Matt Jones, available on 20×200; snarky, but true parody by Osborne Villas from flickr.

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Printable 2009 calendars by etsy seller littlebrownpen, available in a version for Women and one for Men.

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Rubber stamps
from Rubber Soul; lip balm from etsy seller leastlikely2breed (these should totally say keep calm and carry balm instead…)

But OK, what about these? Yikes!

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These are very very real though I think they are not intended to be quite so creepy as they come across. via BoingBoing via David Byrne!

I trace and analyze this phenomenon as best I can after the jump.

Continue reading Keep Calm and . . . full circle

b’ART

Part of my commute every day is on Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART). I’m lucky in that I’m commuting from south of downtown San Francisco to Millbrae: against the tide; I never have a problem getting a bench to myself. Sometime around January, something caught my eye on the platform. It was a great big bird.

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Wow. There are a lot of things that these say to me. After the jump.

These are the works of Berkeley artist  Mick Wiggins. If you’d like to read his statement or other outsisde context before my observations, feel free. I only came upon this context after writing this.

Continue reading b’ART

Front page news

My view of the paper in its vending bin Thursday morning.

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My thoughts went sort of as follows:
1) Things are really tough for The Chronicle that they are selling above-the-fold front page space for ad space. (after the initial shock, and taking the photo, it appears to be a folded-over piece that is printed with half the masthead)

2) Or am I looking at it the wrong way, this isn’t about the demise of print media but about more innovative advertising strategies? I can’t remember the last time I’ve paid attention to an advertisement in a newspaper (I just read Seth Godin make a good point about this, that they’re invisible), and this one turned my head from 5 yards mostly by virtue of its nontraditional placement.

3) The ad covers the news as if to say, this is the cover story of the day. The grafitti tag covers the whole thing with the (possibly unintentional) message of No, I am the story.

4) Ooh, Paul Smith store!

once you go blackbird fly…

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It takes pictures on standard 35mm film, and seemingly can do all the graininess, double exposures, vignetting and oddball colors we’ve come to love in film (I’m convinced Holga and Lomo benefitted from the rise of digital photography while those cameras that tried to rise above film’s vicissitudes were destroyed by it)

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Oh did I mention it can be set to shoot square and to expose the film out to the sprocket holes?

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It’s called the blackbird, fly. It’s available here for those of us in the US. There’s a great flickr pool from which the above shots were taken (credits plastic nico, artpunk, and miho+miho+) And… it’s really cute and it comes in orange.

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Someone get Samantha one of these, stat.

via sub-studio

Etsy Schmetsy: Keep your pants on.

The other day at work I was asked whether I had a special place at home where I kept all my cool belt buckles. The answer is no, but I should. Belt buckles are a great place for a guy or girl to accessorize, and etsy is a great place to connect to a belt buckle maker that has your sensibilities.

Narrowing my search only to belt buckles made from recycled/reclaimed/upcycled materials, I’ve found ten buckle/shop picks for y’all.

solidomaxinedear

http://www.etsy.com/view_listing.php?listing_id=20988286mukee

buckleupceltsmith

fledglingstudioadornnatural2

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Comments and credits after the jump.

Continue reading Etsy Schmetsy: Keep your pants on.

Christiana Couceiro

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While we’re on the subject of modernist collage in the current day, let me give big props to Ms. Christiana Couceiro. I’m not sure where I first saw a link to her stuff at Seven Days, but it looks like art director/design curator superstar Steven Heller caught on too. She made the cover for the last issue of the New York Times Book Review (3.19.09) story on Barthleme and I sincerely doubt it’s the last we’ll be seeing her. Her colors and compositions are remarkable, and she’s both high-modern and refreshingly contemporary at once.

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Some more pics and thoughts after the jump. Bunches more at her site.

Continue reading Christiana Couceiro

Inky City

I love living in the city, but on the other hand I’m glad I don’t live in THE the City. That is to say: I have a love/hate relationship with the gritty, eroding city cityscape. Part of the love part of that is, I love drawings and prints of urban spaces, especially when they’re done sloppily in ink (clean crisp geometry of buildings has a place in my heart too but it doesn’t remind me of the reality of city life). Giant creatures optional.

Some of my favorite chroniclers of offkilter urbanity follow: if you have any suggestions of folks I should check out, note em in the comments.

pietari posti [I am amazed we don’t have one of her prints yet; I can only surmise it’s because we can’t decide which]
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kozyndan [they do really great very wide format urban panoramas, usually involving hundreds of bunnies, giant color amoebas, or some sort of strange mutants]
kozyndan

josh cochran [his work, like pposti or james jean or not too many others I can think of, is perfection to me]
cochran

paul pope [Does cities very well. Also, people doing weird sigils whilst sitting on the surface of mars.]
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brian wood [loves urban blight more than most anyone]
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Now back to your regularly scheduled loveliness.