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Design Observer

WEEKLY EMAIL: SEPTEMBER 09, 2011


The Road to Exurbia

FEATURED THIS WEEK : JAMES BARILLA

The Road to Exurbia

"Each year, by his own calculation, my dad drives as many miles as the circumference of the earth. He gets up while the dawn mist is still clinging to the hemlocks, settles into the car with a travel mug of coffee and a book on tape, and makes his way from a hill town in Western Massachusetts to his job near Boston. He's been doing it for over 24 years, which means he's been rotating the earth longer than many satellites." For writer James Barilla, his father's daily commute — the deep environmental footprint of the rural professional — has come to symbolize the poignant dilemma of exurbia. As he says, a post-Sixties generation now finds the plain-living, back-to-the-land lifestyle "implicated in the problems it once challenged."
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PLACES : CHRISTIAN WIDMER

Non Zero Sum

In this moment of public and personal commemoration of 9/11, we present a portfolio by photographer Christian Widmer. Mixing "acute observations of our time with allusions to an historical context of decades and millennia," as Places photo editor Aaron Rothman says, Widmer's images capture a sense of the unfolding unease that's marked the past ten years.
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OBSERVATORY : JOHN BARR

Manhattan Morning

You know how it is in August in New York.
Summer over, the populace returns.
From old houses on the Cape
lawyers return to the temperament of neckties.
From chardonnays in island hideaways
traders return, their animus renewed.
From tranquil gossip on the Jersey shore
to idle gossip on the trains, we all return.
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OBSERVERS ROOM : RICK POYNOR

A Swedish Perspective on Critical Practice

There is an old saying that every new generation thinks it has invented sex. That is also how it sometimes seems with graphic designers and critical practice. The old-timers just didn’t get it — bless them! — but now, thanks to a mysterious sudden enlightenment, the new guard sees the situation of being a graphic designer more clearly, and more critically, than anyone ever managed to see it in the past.
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OBSERVERS ROOM : ROB WALKER

Stealth Iconography: The Waveform

What symbol says "music"? A note, a disc, headphones, a guitar are familiar answers. What about the increasingly familiar waveform?
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OBSERVERS ROOM : JOHN THACKARA

World Capital of Wellbeing

Along with “sustainability,” “wellbeing” is one of those words that is worthy, but hard to sell. Few would disagree that we need more wellbeing and less wasteful consumption — but the word lacks a visceral edge. It conjours up images of a well-run camp-site, or retirement community. Good to have, but not a destination to fight for.
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OBSERVERS ROOM : MARK LAMSTER

The Steampunk Para-Architecture of Second Avenue

I think of passages to the secret worlds of fiction as being camouflaged or at least out of the way. You get to Narnia through a wardrobe; In Lev Grossman's The Magicians, the porthole is in some South Brooklyn back alley. Things are a little bit different in actual New York, where sandhogs working on the Second Avenue subway line access their underground place of business via a five-story para-building recently erected along a full block of that avenue, stretching from 73rd to 72nd streets.

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OBSERVERS ROOM : ALEXANDRA LANGE

Stop That: Minimalist Posters

All these posters are good-looking: clean, modern, mostly clever. So what's my problem?
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CHANGE OBSERVER : JOHN THACKARA

Iceland: Eaten Alive, or Growing to Live?

"Who needs oil when you have rain?" The ad for Landsvirkjun, Iceland's national energy company, dominates this month's Icelandair magazine. The message is not disguised: Iceland is blessed with massive amounts of clean energy. The true picture on the ground, sad to say, is murkier.
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OBSERVATORY : JOHN FOSTER

Accidental Mysteries, 09.04.11

Accidental Mysteries, a weekly cabinet of visual curiosities curated by John Foster, highlights images of design, art, architecture and ephemera brought to light by the magic of the digital age.
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CHANGE OBSERVER : THE EDITORS

Yves Béhar Wins Second INDEX Award

In the world of philanthropic prizes for social design, lightning does strike twice. Yves Béhar, founder of the San Francisco design company Fuseproject, has won the prestigious INDEX award in the “Body” category for a program launched in Mexico to test and correct children’s vision.

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OBSERVERS ROOM : ROB WALKER

Monkey or Drone?

The drone, the monkey, and "you": Considering the new photographic (and creative) aesthetic shaped by easy and ubiquitous image-making devices.

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PLACES : ALAN THOMAS

The Blue Corvette

An amusement ride in Maine, a parking lot in Montana, a suburban shrine in Indiana. Teenage army recruits at the Shenandoah County Fair, and Civil War reenactors in southwest Virginia. Plus that blue Corvette, for sale on a lawn. As summer ends, we are pleased to present a portfolio of photographs by Alan Thomas, all made, he says, "between Memorial and Labor Day in an America of lengthening shadows."
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Audio: Design Matters Archive

AUDIO: DESIGN MATTERS ARCHIVE

Andrew Zolli

Andrew Zolli, founder of Z + Partners, a foresight think-tank, discusses the future of mass culture.
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CHANGE OBSERVER: PROJECT ARCHIVE

Project

COMMON

Report on Alex Bogusky and Rob Schuham's COMMON project marrying capitalism and social change.
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OBSERVATORY ARCHIVE

past post past post past post

PLACES ARCHIVE: WINTER 2009

Reclaiming the Ruin


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Change Observer

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