FEATURED THIS WEEK : MICHAEL BIERUT
On Sunday, September 16, 1984, everything changed. There had been stylish productions before, but none exhibited the obsession with surface gloss that characterised the cop show that debuted that evening: Miami Vice. It was common knowledge that the show's production designers had been issued a blanket edict: "No earth tones," and every aesthetic decision had to conform — or else. As much as any design artifact, the show defined an era.
OBSERVATORY : RICK POYNOR
Erik Nitsche’s A History of the Machine
is one of the most beautifully measured and visually lucid books I own. It belongs to a highly collectable series of 24 volumes titled The New Illustrated Library of Science and Invention, launched in 1962 in Geneva by his company, Erik Nitsche International. The books are landmarks of modern, low-cost, mass-market, educational publication design that have rarely been surpassed.
PLACES : LANCE HOSEY
Will new technology — cleaner energy, advanced materials, etc. — help us to live more lightly on the planet? Or merely enable us to pursue unsustainable lifestyles ever more efficiently? Lance Hosey argues that we've been focusing too much on the promise of technology and not enough on the reshaping of our aesthetic desires. "We have yet to face the underlying social and cultural circumstances that caused the environmental crisis," he writes. "How do we align what we crave with what we have?"
OBSERVATORY : JOHN THACKARA
What's wrong with a plain white t-shirt? Well, for starters it took 700 gallons of fresh water to make. And the process that whitened it is toxic. And the fibers it's made from account for a quarter of all the insecticides in the world.
OBSERVATORY : MARK LAMSTER
The ArcelorMittal Orbit — the name just rolls off the tongue, doesn't it? — may just be my favorite new building, though not because it's a particularly rational work of architecture, or even good. It's fairly ridiculous and easily parodied. An eyesore? "That's what they said about the Eiffel Tower," claim its defenders, on cue. There is something slighly charming in its deranged, roller-coaster ugliness, but let's not kid ourselves.
PLACES : DAVID HEYMANN
What is the "radical aesthetic potential" of sustainable design? "For architects, this might not seem the central focus of sustainability," writes David Heymann, "but it is indirectly, and perhaps should be explicitly." Drawing on examples from Leonardo to Duchamp to Peter Zumthor, Heymann explores the still unmet challenge of developing a new aesthetic ideal inspired by the evolving technologies of sustainability.
OBSERVATORY : JOHN FOSTER
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. This week's focus is marbles.
OBSERVATORY : ROB WALKER
The digital delights we access from computer and smartphone and tablet screens certainly look and feel like obliterators of all things physical. They free us from the smudgy daily paper and bulky boxes of albums and the sprawly local mall. But there's plenty of materiality behind this thing we call "the cloud."
D-Crit: Design as subject matter. Criticism as literary genre.Learn at SVA >>
Designers and leaders talk innovation in healthcare.Join us >>
AUDIO: DESIGN MATTERS ARCHIVE
Founder of McSweeny's and author of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
, You Shall Know Our Velocity!
and What Is The What
More Design Matters Archive >>
CHANGE OBSERVER: PROJECT ARCHIVE
Report on Peepoobag, a new self-sanitizing, single-use, biodegradable container for human waste.
PLACES ARCHIVE: WINTER 2006
In the Seattle Public Library, Rem Koolhaas and OMA work to transform architecture into media interface.