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The Design Observer Group
Design Observer

WEEKLY EMAIL: FEBRUARY 21, 2014


From the Archive: Surface Wreckage

FEATURED THIS WEEK : RICK POYNOR

From the Archive: Surface Wreckage

These photographs of torn street posters can be seen as “abstract designs” found in the wreckage of real surfaces, but even at their most abstract they are still readable as traces of the people who made them and viewed them, an unseen but persistent presence. That they offer documentary evidence of things no longer working or wanted, of demolition and undoing, of entropy at large in the world, only adds to their poignancy.
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OBSERVATORY : ROB WALKER

A Security Camera Worth Looking At

Does it matter what a security camera looks like? After all, this object's function is to see, not be seen, right? But maybe there's more to it than that. Here's the most considered example I've encountered of addressing how these objects should look, and why it matters.


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PLACES : SASHA BEZZUBOV & AARON ROTHMAN

Landscape Forensics

Landscape photographers are always grappling with the problem of representation. “How do we visualize climate change,” writes Places photo editor Aaron Rothman, “or politically disputed claims on land and resources?” In this gallery, he takes a retrospective look at four series by photographer Sasha Bezzubov that document material traces of invisible phenomena underlying contemporary landscapes.
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NEWS FROM OUR SPONSORS

Free webinar Feb. 27th : the yin and yang of powerful brand stories
This free webinar is full of tools to help you create a cohesive brand identity using words and images together. You'll learn how to get your small business noticed by treating your visual and verbal identities as one and understanding that the whole of your brand tone is greater than the sum of its parts.
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OBSERVATORY : JOHN FOSTER

Face Time

The human face. It has been proven that humans are hardwired to recognize the human face, even to the point of finding it in the world around us with manmade and natural objects. The renowned designer and photographer François Robert and his brother Jean are well-known for their photographic discovery of "faces" they find in inanimate objects. This week, I look at the endless fascination we have with the human face and the myriad ways it can be transformed.
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CHANGE OBSERVER : JOHN THACKARA

Caloryville: The Two-Wheeled City

In China, ‘battery-bikes’ are outselling cars by four-to-one. Pedelec sales are soaring in Europe, too. Is this the start of system-wide phase-shift in transportation?
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OBSERVATORY : OWEN EDWARDS

The Quickest Fix

Despite the fact that I’ve been a fan of football since I played in high school, this Superbowl carried — for me and others — a new and gnawing guilt. The recent revelations of brain damage caused by helmet-to-helmet collisions, and the multi-million dollar settlement between the National Football League and suffering retired players, have begun to make even a long-time fan think of college and professional games as Future Dementia Bowls.
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OBSERVATORY : BONNIE SIEGLER

Dear Bonnie: Trapped In Toledo and Desperately Seeking Designers

This week Dear Bonnie — our truth-telling advice column from Bonnie Siegler — advises Trapped In Toledo on how to win over his client's communications officer and Desperately Seeking Designers on finding talented, deserving young hires.
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OBSERVATORY : ALEXANDRA LANGE

Premature Demolition

One can’t help but hear, in the reasons for replacement, an echo of the reasons these young buildings were built in the first place. David Adjaye's market hall was supposed to replace a dilapidated structure and bring new life to the Yorkshire town. So, then, will the cinema slated to replace it. Bart Voorsanger’s garden court was to add public space and improve internal circulation within the library’s collection of buildings; Renzo Piano was hired to do the same. Is it the building that failed, or the writers of the program?
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PLACES : PEDRO LEVI BISMARCK

Architecture and the Aestheticization of Politics

Within a few years, rapidly growing Istanbul will overtake London and Moscow as Europe’s largest metropolis. Not coincidentally, Turkey is undergoing a profound shift toward privatization, as seen in the government's plan to redevelop Taksim Gezi Park into a shopping mall with a nostalgic Ottoman facade. Architect Pedro Levi Bismarck examines the plan as a reflection of a larger democratic crisis, following Siegfried Kracauer’s observation: “Wherever the hieroglyphics of any spatial image are deciphered, there the basis of social reality presents itself.”
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OBSERVATORY : JOHN FOSTER

The Private World of Martina Kubelk

A photo album containing 99 pages and over 380 photographs of a man in women’s clothes grant insight into the private world of Martina Kubelk, the pseudonym of a man unknown and deceased. These images give us ruffled dresses, latex underwear, a portrait of the parents on the wall, a cat poster, leather couches, 1970s wallpaper, and the focus on “Martina”, who photographs herself over a period of seven years in various outfits with a self-timer.
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OBSERVATORY : BONNIE SIEGLER

Dear Bonnie: Tips for Toyland

This week Dear Bonnie — our truth-telling advice column from Bonnie Siegler — takes a lok at the pitfalls of casual letter writing. "When writing to a complete stranger, especially when you're asking them for something, it's imperative that you take the time to make yourself as clear as possible."
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OBSERVATORY : ROB WALKER

Personal Packaging

Thinking about old mixtapes made me realize I didn't so much want to hear various cassettes I'd been given long ago as much I wanted to see them again. Here's why I thoroughly enjoyed revisiting the era when there was an outbreak of informal, untrained, one-to-one packaging.
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OBSERVATORY : RICK POYNOR

Why Tatlin Can Never Go Home Again

I wanted to pin Raoul Hausmann’s famous photomontage Tatlin at Home and Pinterest has a plethora of possibilities. The entire site is built on the idea that sharing pins without too much mulling it over is what pinners will routinely choose to do. But Tatlin at Home is a historical artifact, not a throwaway image, so which pin was the most accurate as a representation? There began a quest to find an artwork seemingly hiding in plain sight.
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PLACES : MARC WILSON & PATRICK SYKES

The Last Stand

The ruins of World War II defenses along the coast of Northern Europe — “bunkers swallowed by the sea, pillboxes barely clinging to land, buildings ripped from their foundations and wrecked on the rocks” — are documented in The Last Stand, by landscape photographer Marc Wilson. As Patrick Sykes writes, “Wilson’s images invite the viewer to revisit the scene and plot the traces between the built and unbuilt elements, quietly posing the question of what took place there.”
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OBSERVATORY : JOHN FOSTER

Nineteenth Century Menu Covers

It was exciting to discover another great digitized collection available for public use. The New York Public Library Digital Gallery provides free and open access to over 800,000 images digitized from the NYPL's vast collections, including illuminated manuscripts, historical maps, vintage posters, rare prints, photographs and more. This week for Design Observer readers, I selected the most obscure category I could find: 19th Century Menu Covers.
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OBSERVATORY : ALEXANDRA LANGE

Criticism = Love

To be able to say, simply and directly, what is wrong (or not-yet-right) in design is not a child’s task. I don’t think it is possible to educate about design without talking about the world of wrong, ugly, misguided and oversize. Accentuating the positive will only reorganize so much territory. Today’s Lois Lane cannot avoid the aisles of the grocery store, the app store, or Toys R Us. This Internet of Things: can it be without glitch? Skimming the cream off the top will always generate more clicks, but there’s more constructive work to be done below, where so many design blogs fear to dive.
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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

Roudha Center

Report on Roudha Center, a proposal for a one-stop hub for Qatari women to learn the nuts and bolts of launching a business
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OBSERVATORY ARCHIVE

past post past post past post

PLACES ARCHIVE: WINTER 2001

The High Line

High Line photographs from Joel Sternfeld.
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