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WEEKLY EMAIL: JANUARY 13, 2011


Out of the Studio: Graphic Design History and Visual Studies

FEATURED THIS WEEK : RICK POYNOR

Out of the Studio: Graphic Design History and Visual Studies

Twenty years ago there was considerable optimism about the possibility that graphic design history would become a fully-fledged academic discipline. Although there has been some progress toward this goal in the past two decades, these developments have taken place at a slower pace than might once have been expected. As a discipline — if this is even the right term to use — graphic design history is still in a state of becoming, and there are good reasons to ask whether, on its present course, it will ever achieve the maturity that some observers hoped for. Graphic design history’s best chance of development now lies in an expanded conception of the rapidly emerging discipline of visual studies. Only there might it be able to establish the interdisciplinary connections necessary for it to fulfill its early promise and to grow.
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PLACES : NICK SOWERS

Soundscapes: Burning Man

Earlier this week we featured journalist Nate Berg's account of how the art festival/desert party Burning Man has grown into a highly planned and intricately organized temporary city. We're delighted to follow it up with a selection of soundscapes that architect Nick Sowers recorded at the event, ranging from bicycle sounds to dust storms to "noise meditations" on the ever-present diesel generators that power the party.
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CHANGE OBSERVER : JULIE LASKY

Bushpunk and the Future of Africa

In the United States, a burgeoning DIY movement is a reaction to the easy, cheap flow of factory-made goods that have come to signify a world of waste and exploitation. The great majority of American tinkerers, weavers, hackers, beaders, potters and knitters are in it for recreation, not subsistence — vastly different impulses from those who practice DIY in sub-Saharan Africa.
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CHANGE OBSERVER : JOHN THACKARA

The Gram Junkies: In Transportation Design the Key Issue Is Not Speed, but Weight

Gram junkies are those fanatical hikers and climbers who fret about every gram of weight that might be carried — in everything from titanium cook pans to toothbrush covers. Excess weight is not just an objective performance issue for these guys; they take it personally. In the matter of mobility and modern transportation, we all need to become gram junkies.
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OBSERVERS ROOM : ALEXANDRA LANGE

Bring Back Braids

What Mattie Ross's braids say about her character, and the Coen brothers' True Grit says about women in power.
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OBSERVATORY : STEVEN HELLER

My Big Fat Fast Food Feast at Eataly

The Slow Food movement was founded in the Langhe district of Piedmont, Italy, in 1986 and has spread throughout the world as an alternative to you-know-what. In Torino, Italy, it is manifest in Eataly, a food emporium and eatery on Via Nizza just across the street from a massive Fiat factory turned cultural center and hotel.
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PLACES : NATE BERG

Burning Man and the Metropolis

"It's not exactly the ideal place to build a city. No water, little vegetation, limited animal life. August temperatures climb to over 100 degrees Fahrenheit and drop close to freezing at night. High winds kick up powder-fine dust into blinding storms.... But year after year in late summer, a small city rises in the Black Rock Desert in Nevada. It's the annual event — or festival, or party — known as Burning Man, an eight-day experiment in self-expression and self-reliance that is now one of the most notorious cultural events in North America." So starts Nate Berg's narrative on his experience at Burning Man — and on how a San Francisco beach party mushroomed over the past quarter-century into a week-long temporary city of 50,000.
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OBSERVERS ROOM : MARK LAMSTER

The Greatest Building in New York

What's the greatest building in the five boroughs? That was the question posed to a roundtable of architectural heavyweights by New York Magazine, and the discussion got off to a chippy start when moderator Justin Davidson asked the panel what makes a New York building good.
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OBSERVERS ROOM : ALEXANDRA LANGE

Is No the Answer?

There were good reasons plastic was invented, and good reasons to use it still. So why is no plastic the first response?
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OBSERVATORY : JOHN FOSTER

Accidental Mysteries, 01.09.11

Welcome to Accidental Mysteries, a weekly cabinet of curiosities set aside for your perusal and enlightenment.
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PLACES : NANCY LEVINSON

From the Editor

As we begin a new year at Places, I'm pleased to offer an update on our always evolving site, including information about homepage enhancements and new members of our editorial team.
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OBSERVATORY : THE EDITORS

Name That Design Person!

Four months from today, Americans will celebrate Mother’s Day. In advance of this holiday, we’ve invited a number of designers to share with us a long-lost kiddie pic: beginning today, and on the 8th of every month leading up to Mother's Day, we’re asking our readers to guess the identity of one featured baby.
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OBSERVERS ROOM : JULIE LASKY

Index Names Design Challenge Finalists

Students from 29 countries submitted 115 concepts aimed at assisting the second United Nations Millennium Development goal of primary education for all.
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OBSERVERS ROOM : RICK POYNOR

How to Chew Gum while Walking

This week, in a review in the Observer newspaper about the proposed design of the London HQ for the Swiss bank UBS, the British architecture critic Rowan Moore set out the demands of principled design with startling clarity. “Good architects,” he said, “should be able to walk and chew gum at the same time.”
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Audio: Design Matters Archive

AUDIO: DESIGN MATTERS ARCHIVE

Petrula Vrontikis

Petrula Vrontikis is a graphic designer and educator at Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles.
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CHANGE OBSERVER: PROJECT ARCHIVE

Project

Chulha Stove

Report on the Chulha stove designed by Philips to reduce indoor air pollution in developing countries.


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OBSERVATORY ARCHIVE

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PLACES ARCHIVE: WINTER 2000

Portfolio: Uneasy Spaces

New York City photographer Elizabeth Felicella focuses on what she calls "landscape of security."
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Change Observer

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