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The Design Observer Group
Design Observer

WEEKLY EMAIL: FEBRUARY 25, 2013


The Experiential Thrill of Driving in Films

FEATURED THIS WEEK : RICK POYNOR

The Experiential Thrill of Driving in Films

I’m not a driver but from the moment I saw its title, a new book, Drive, had me buckled into the front seat ready to hit the freeway. Treating films of all kinds as evidence, architecture professor Iain Borden’s study shows how the car scenes in movies help us understand the experience of modernity: “Cinema, more than any other representational form, provides the most direct sense of what it actually feels like to drive.”
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OBSERVATORY : JOHN FOSTER

Accidental Mysteries, 02.24.13

These bodies of ours — these flesh and blood carriers of the soul that give outward identity to who we are, have been the subject of curiosity since man has been able to conjure basic rational thought. It is certain prehistoric man had peered into and inside the torn or bludgeoned remains of a dead enemy, or the unfortunate hunter found eviscerated by an animal predator. What were they to make of it? Did they wonder where the life force was, or where it had gone? Was Prehistoric man horrified by the sight of a human corpse, or did they treat it with curiosity and care?
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OBSERVER MEDIA : DEBBIE MILLMAN

Roberto de Vicq de Cumptich

In this audio interview with Debbie Millman, Roberto de Vicq de Cumptich discusses growing up in Brazil and the lack of serif fonts in much of Brazilian design, the role of art vs the role of design, and adding wit into designs. "Life is hard, let's make it better."
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NEWS FROM DESIGN OBSERVER GROUP SPONSORS

What are you doing this summer? How about studying design history, theory and practice in Italy — the birthplace of Western typographic tradition. You can at the Masters Workshop in Rome May 26-June 9, 2013.
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MFA Design Program >>
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PLACES : KEN MCCOWN

Creatures of Helsinki

During a recent summer in Helsinki, Ken McCown found himself fascinated by the myriad "creatures" — decorative carvings, usually of stone or wood — that adorn the walls and cornices and rooflines of buildings in the Finnish capital. "The creatures became a way to intuit the past mythologies of place," he writes. And ultimately they made him wonder "whether this kind of expressive decoration might help reinforce a connection between the urban and natural."
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OBSERVATORY : MARK LAMSTER

Orange City

Because I've been on holiday in Florida, and because I've been reading John McPhee's book on the subject, and because my wife has just written an urgent story on their potential demise, I've been thinking a lot about oranges, and also eating them and drinking their sweet juice.
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PLACES : DANIEL BROOK

Head of the Dragon: The Rise of New Shanghai

In just two decades Shanghai has been transformed from "mothballed relic" of Maoism to one of the world's largest and most dynamic cities, complete with the fastest train on earth and more high-rise buildings than Manhattan. Daniel Brook recounts the city's fast-forward and often ruthless reinvention — and describes what has become an enduring dilemma in Reform-era China. For all its new energy, he writes, "the new Shanghai has yet to live up to the city’s historic promise — to sort out what it means to be Chinese and modern."
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OBSERVATORY : ALEXANDRA LANGE

Patterns of Houston

Who is the best architecture critic of suburbia? Of no zoning? Do we have to patch together a new kind of criticism out of typologies of parking lots, Mike Davis on surveillance, a close reading of neighborhood covenants? Yes and no. First you have to look for the patterns.
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OBSERVATORY : JOHN FOSTER

Accidental Mysteries, 02.17.13

“Wende” is a German word that means “turning point,” in reference to the collapse of communist East Germany in 1989 and the creation of a reunified German state a year later. The Wende Museum in Los Angeles has accumulated more than 60,000 objects from Communist-era Eastern Europe, including furniture and décor, paintings, sculptures, posters, flags and banners, signs, political propaganda, clothing, tapestries, textiles, books, scrapbooks, films, electronics, remnants of Checkpoint Charlie and the longest stretch of the original Berlin Wall outside of Germany.
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OBSERVER MEDIA : DEBBIE MILLMAN

Sophie Blackall

In this audio interview with Debbie Millman, Sophie Blackall discusses learning to draw, painting vs. illustration, writing children's book and her famous series: missed connections where she illustrates her favorite postings from Craigslist.
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OBSERVATORY : RICK POYNOR

A Dictionary of Surrealism and the Graphic Image

Surrealism’s influence on graphic design has never been properly acknowledged. Surreal design breaks free from the limits imposed by bureaucracy and taste to follow the impulses of a wayward, dreamlike logic and arrive at its own kind of equilibrium and form. This alphabetical guide considers some significant designers alongside key Surrealist concepts such as chance encounter, desire, the marvelous, and the uncanny.
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OBSERVATORY : JAMES ARTHUR

Poem from Behind a Gorilla Mask

If you read about a strange behavior, you'll expect an explanation. If you read a poem from behind a gorilla mask, you'll expect the poet to unmask himself. Instead the poem ends with a setting, the park, implying that his reason for misanthropy wasn't a baroque psychological motive but a perverseness in the public space itself. You're left with a wonderful conundrum: was it his sense of isolation and anger that made him feel as though he might as well have been wearing a gorilla mask, or was he sitting in the park with his mask on, composing his poem?
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OBSERVATORY : MICHAEL BIERUT

Chromatophobia

I still remember the moment when I began to realize that I had a case of chromatophobia, fear of color. From my earliest days as a designer I loved black and white. Such authority, such decisiveness. To this day, any collection of my favorite personal projects — posters, book covers, identities — marks me as a follower of Henry Ford, who famously told buyers of his Model T that they could have whatever color they wanted as long as it was black.
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PLACES : MITCHELL SCHWARZER

The Emergence of Container Urbanism

The repurposed shipping container has become a fixture of urban architecture — part of a movement, as Mitchell Schwarzer argues, toward an "urban design as flexible, responsive and electric as the currents that feed it." Schwarzer examines the rise of container urbanism from the mid 20th century to now, from Archigram and the Metabolists in the '60s to the pop-up markets and modular housing of today; and he sees in this latest phase a "landmark change" for architecture. "By facilitating an almost instant building complex," he writes, "the containers put architectural production more in sync with the speed and transitoriness of contemporary life, forcing it to respond to a city’s many complex, adaptive systems."
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OBSERVATORY : ROB WALKER

Let's Make A Mark

The problem: Digital writing has watered down the meaning of the traditional exclamation mark. The solution: Ellen Susan proposes a new punctuation mark to connote polite enthusiasm, without resorting to the suggestion of childish excitability. It's a symbol somewhere between the period and the exclamation mark. She calls it the ElRey.
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Audio: Design Matters Archive

AUDIO: DESIGN MATTERS ARCHIVE

Not David Carson

A special interview about David Carson, featuring guest vocalist Simon Lince.
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CHANGE OBSERVER: PROJECT ARCHIVE

Project

Give a Minute

Report on Local Projects' Give a Minute initiative to improve urban life.
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OBSERVATORY ARCHIVE

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PLACES ARCHIVE: WINTER 2005

Superneighborhood 27: A Brief History of Change

From hot tubs to bodegas: a Houston subdivision built for the '60s singles lifestyle has found new energy as a multi-ethnic neighborhood.
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Guaranteed to Last: L.L. BeanGuaranteed to Last: L.L. Bean's Century of Outfitting America
Jim Gorman

A Wilderness of Error: The Trials of Jeffrey MacDonaldA Wilderness of Error: The Trials of Jeffrey MacDonald
Errol Morris

Collage Culture: Examining the 21st CenturyCollage Culture: Examining the 21st Century's Identity Crisis
Aaron Rose and Mandy Kahn

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