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WEEKLY EMAIL: JANUARY 27, 2011


Down in the Trenches with Kenneth FitzGerald

FEATURED THIS WEEK : ADRIAN SHAUGHNESSY

Down in the Trenches with Kenneth FitzGerald

It’s an odd experience to review a book in which you find yourself to be the recipient of a hearty kicking by the author. It’s even odder to find that you are full of admiration for the writer’s calm-eyed analysis of the design world. But I don’t deserve the kicking: more of this later.
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PLACES : ALEJANDRO CARTAGENA

Fragmented Cities

In the past two decades Monterrey, Mexico, has grown very quickly, its growth fueled, as Places photography editor Aaron Rothman notes, "by the usual real-estate suspects: cheap land, the efficiencies of production home building, the easy availability of mortgages for low and mid-income families, the romance of home ownership, not to mention political corruption." For several years Monterrey-based photographer Alejandro Cartagena has been documenting the disappearing natural landscapes of the once small city of his childhood. Here we present a selection of recent work, curated by Aaron Rothman.
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OBSERVATORY : CULTURE MAGAZINE: THE WORD ON CHEESE

A Collection of Cheese Labels

Our photo essay originates in England, circa 1957. It was there and then that a colorful package of cheese inspired one person (unknown) to start a collection of dairy labels, neatly organized in a scrapbook. His or her now-vintage collection — found orphaned on eBay — is a virtual journal of cheese branding in the mid-20th century.
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OBSERVERS ROOM : JESSICA HELFAND

When Do We Call it Art?

Back in the pre-Banksy days of big cars and even bigger hair, there came a cultural moment noted for its prevalence of large-scaled words and symbols, a comparatively brazen visual trope that flirted with modernity by celebrating overscaled visuals in the interest of commerce. 

Back then we used to call it supergraphics. But when do we call it art?
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OBSERVERS ROOM : ALEXANDRA LANGE

Objects Fall From the Sky

The question of credit is as old as the profession of industrial design.
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OBSERVERS ROOM : JOHN THACKARA

I am Compost

Something special is happening in the France. A 73 year old Algerian-born farmer, philosopher and environmentalist is beginning to impact not just on the electoral process, but the culture of this resolutely human-centered, nature-dominating country.
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CHANGE OBSERVER : ERNEST BECK

Mensch at Work

While it might be true that “pro bono projects remain the lesser-loved stepchildren of architectural practice,” this book suggests that a growing number of architects are starting to think otherwise.
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OBSERVERS ROOM : JESSICA HELFAND

Certificate of Approval

My father acquired this print (and several more like it) in a collection he bought from the estate of a friend in France: a certificate of approval for a pharmaceutical product, combining official stamps, labels, and signatures.
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PLACES : KAREN PIPER

Dreams, Dust and Birds: The Trashing of Owens Lake

Beginning in 1913, the waters of Owen Lake, in the eastern Sierra Nevada, were diverted to supply the growing and thirsty metropolis of Los Angeles. Eventually the enormous lake dried up and became, as Karen Piper describes it, "a howling wasteland of toxic dust." Here Piper, who grew up near the lake, narrates the often misbegotten efforts of city and state to comply with federal laws and clean up Owens lakebed. But as she argues, years of ineffectual effort suggest "that the engineering ingenuity that had once made it possible to move the waters was unavailable decades later for the equally large-scale job of remediating the damage that had been done."
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OBSERVERS ROOM : JOHN THACKARA

Spaced Out in a Flat World

Tom Friedman's book The World Is Flat 3.0: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century (2005) is filled with anecdotes about change in different parts of the world that threaten our fat-cat lifestyles in the North.
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CHANGE OBSERVER : MARIA POPOVA

The Age of Coworking: Collaborative Consumption for the Creative Community

Communal workplaces offer a unique environment for what I like to call "creative restlessness": that distinct itch to contribute to the world typical of those who have chosen to make a living from their life's calling.
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OBSERVERS ROOM : RICK POYNOR

Discovered by Chance in a Paris Arcade

I was in Paris this week to talk about Surrealism and graphic design. What better way to pass a couple of spare hours before leaving than to pay a return visit to the covered arcades — forerunners of the shopping mall — that were, for the Surrealists, some of the best places in the city to encounter the marvellous?
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OBSERVERS ROOM : CHAPPELL ELLISON

Ultraflo: Plumbing of the Future

It's not always easy to predict what consumers will buy into. But in some cases, the questionable future of technology appears in the form of a salesman at your door.
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OBSERVATORY : JOHN FOSTER

Accidental Mysteries, 01.23.11

Welcome to Accidental Mysteries, a weekly cabinet of curiosities set aside for your perusal and enlightenment.
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OBSERVER MEDIA : MICHAEL BIERUT

Michael Bierut on Clients

In January 2010, Michael Bierut gave a talk at CreativeMorning on the subject of clients.
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Audio: Design Matters Archive

AUDIO: DESIGN MATTERS ARCHIVE

Peter Buchanan-Smith

Peter Buchanan-Smith, founder of Buchanan-Smith LLC and the author of Speck and The Wilco Book.
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CHANGE OBSERVER: PROJECT ARCHIVE

Project

Cards of Change

Unemployed workers retrofit their former business cards to send hopeful messages.
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OBSERVATORY ARCHIVE

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PLACES ARCHIVE: WINTER 1989

Western Civic Art: Works in Progress

In 1989 Phoenix, Arizona, commissioned one of the first public art master plans. The city now has one of the strongest public art programs in the country.
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