Ideas

Michael Bierut
The Typeface of Truth
What are the implications when Errol Morris declares the typeface most likely to induce credulity is Baskerville?


Rick Poynor
The Never-ending Struggle against Clutter
Clutter and design are inseparable as concepts because clutter is the negation of design.



Jessica Helfand
A Good Pan Is Hard To Find
On baking a cheesecake and becoming a better designer: it’s one big balancing act of artistry and skill.



Michael Bierut
In Praise of Slow Design
Is there a such a thing as slow graphic design? A look at 80 years of barely perceptible design changes at The New Yorker.


Debbie Millman
Ayse Birsel
Debbie talks to Ayse Birsel about her expansive career as an industrial designer and how she uses art and design to reconstruct her personal and professional life around a core idea.


Jessica Helfand + Andrew Howard
New Horizons
Pluto is at the outer limits of the solar system. Porto is at the end of Europe.


Jessica Helfand + Willy Wong
Places and Faces
Art, nostalgia, and community


Adrian Shaughnessy
Typographic Tipping Point
Have we reached peak typeface?


Michael Bierut + Jessica Helfand
Knockout
Are boxing and photography hipster pleasures? Are they past their prime, or do they have a bright future?


Michael Bierut, Jessica Helfand
East Meets West
Or collaboration vs. “one person making one thing at one time”


Debbie Millman
Virginia Postrel
Debbie Millman talks to Virginia Postrel about the power of glamorous objects and glamorous people.


Michael Bierut + Jessica Helfand
Inside the Lines
Michael and Jessica discuss the The Grid, which uses artificial intelligence to design websites, the history of grids, and the unlikely success of coloring books for adults.


Debbie Millman
Steven Heller
On this episode of Design Matters, Debbie Millman talks to Steven Heller about his new book Graphic Style Lab.


Michael Bierut + Jessica Helfand
The Observatory: The Inevitable
On this episode, Michael and Jessica talk about death (not taxes): how designers have to think about preventing death and representing death, and whether death is “just another design challenge.” Also, the color blue.


Michael Bierut, Jessica Helfand
The Observatory: Land, Rand, Mad Men
Michael and Jessica talk about a panel they participated in at the Paul Rand exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York, plus the return of Mad Men and the fate of photography giants Kodak and Polaroid.


Michael Bierut + Jessica Helfand
The Observatory: Such Watch
On this episode of The Observatory, Michael and Jessica talk about Jonathan Ive, the rollout of the Apple Watch, and Michael Graves


Michael Bierut + Jessica Helfand
The Observatory: FYI We Are Graphic Designers
This week, Michael and Jessica talk about graphic designers on screen, highlights from What Design Sounds Like, and Michael’s trip to Design Indaba.


Jessica Helfand
License to Risk: The Square Revisited
Jessica Helfand shares her MFA thesis


Michael Bierut, Jessica Helfand
The Observatory: Words, Pictures, Sounds
A few things on our minds


Michael Bierut + Jessica Helfand
The Observatory: Dollars and Change
On this episode of The Observatory, Michael Bierut and Jessica Helfand discuss the midterm election and currency design.


The Editors
Announcing The Observatory
A new monthly podcast with Michael Bierut + Jessica Helfand


Rob Walker
Spawn of Gerrymander: A Series
A week-long project in which six top illustrators visualize some of the most contorted congressional districts in the country.


Adrian Shaughnessy
Twitter has its dark side, but it’s also a source of delight.
In defense of an imperfect medium.



Erik Spiekermann
Ideas Come First
The observations of a graphic designer as client



Observed
The Periodic Table
William Drenttel collected everything could get his hands on regarding the design and execution of the periodic table, and it's on view.


Betsy Vardell
Hopscotch Design Festival
What to expect from a new design festival in North Carolina.


Jennifer Kabat
Exhibition as Inquiry: An Interview with Kieran Long
Guns, shoes and cheap jeans: Kieran Long has added all of these to the Victoria & Albert Museum’s permanent collection.


Adam Harrison Levy
Letters in Reverse
Adam Harrison Levy on a son’s hopes for his father.


John Maeda, and Becky Bermont
Building a Design Culture in an ‘End-Up’ Technology World
Learnings from a discussion of the state of — and potential for — design at eBay Inc.


Debbie Millman
Maria Giudice
Maria Giudice talks with Debbie Milliman about the early days of design on the internet, and what it's like to work for Facebook.


Alexandra Lange
Lucia Eames, 1930-2014
An appreciation of Lucia Eames (1930-2014).


Samantha García
Inalienable Rights, Wolfsonian-Style
A review of  the inaugural "Power of Design" ideas festival in Miami.


Debbie Millman
Jonathan Harris
Jonathan Harris on his web and database art projects, his relationship to time and memory, and the sexuality of the internet.



Observed
Susan S. Szenasy with Debbie Millman at The Museum of Arts and Design
Thursday, March 20th Susan S. Szenasy will talk with Debbie Millman at The Museum of Arts and Design about her distinguished career as a design critic, journalist and educator.


Alexandra Lange
Criticism = Love
Why you have to love design to be a critic.


John Thackara
John Thackara on Avatar
John Thackara is a writer, speaker and design producer, and director of Doors of Perception. In addition to this blog, he is the author of twelve books including In The Bubble: Designing In A Complex World and Wouldn't It Be Great If….



Debbie Millman
Chip Kidd
Legendary book designer Chip Kidd on why his TED talk was the 19 most frightening minutes of his life.


David Womack
David Womack on Space
David Womack is the executive creative director of experience design in the mobile and social group at R/GA. He is also on the faculty of the MFA in interaction design program at School of Visual Arts in New York.



Andrew Shea
Shaping Design Education at LEAP Symposium
A review by Andrew Shea of the recent, September 19-24, 2013, LEAP symposium at Art Center College of Design.


Elizabeth Guffey
Design For the Rest of Us: Where Are Design Museums’ Benches?
What a lack of benches in design musems means for the exhibits.


Sara Ivry
Sara Ivry on Language
Sara Ivry is the host of Vox Tablet, the weekly podcast of Tablet Magazine, and a writer who has contributed to the New York Times, Bookforum, the Boston Globe, and other publications.


Alexandra Lange
Learning New Tricks
Harvard doesn't have any design courses, but I've found new friends in "material culture." What it's like for a critic to go back to school.


Steven Heller
Steven Heller on Recommendations
Steven Heller is the co-chair (with Lita Talarico) of the School of Visual Arts MFA Design / Designer as Author + Entrepreneur program and the SVA Masters Workshop in Rome. He is a prolific writer.


Chip Kidd
Chip Kidd on Ready
Chip Kidd is a Designer/Writer in New York City. His book cover designs for Alfred A. Knopf, where he has worked non-stop since 1986, have helped create a revolution in the art of American book packaging.


Natalie Foster
Natalie Foster on Sharing
Natalie Foster is the Executive Director and Co-Founder of Peers.


Adam Harrison Levy
Adam Harrison Levy on Questions
Adam Harrison Levy is a writer and film-maker. He teaches at the School of the Visual Arts. In 2012 he was a Poynter Fellow at Yale University.


Thomas Fisher
Thomas Fisher on Survival
Thomas Fisher is dean of the College of Design at the University of Minnesota.


Alice Twemlow
Alice Twemlow on Home
Alice Twemlow is the co-founder and chair of a two-year graduate program in Design Criticism at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. She is also a PhD candidate in the History of Design department at the Royal College of Art, London.


Nicholas Christakis
Nicholas Christakis on Networks
Nicholas A. Christakis, MD, PhD, MPH, is a social scientist and physician who conducts research on social factors that affect health, health care, and longevity.


Ralph Caplan
Ralph Caplan on Titles
Ralph Caplan is a writer and communications consultant and lectures on design. He is the former editor-in-chief of I.D. Magazine and the author of several books.



Observed
Making Big Things Out of Small Pieces
Researchers at MIT have developed a super strong material created out of interlocking small parts


Rob Walker
Looking Better, All The Time
Alexandra Horowitz' book On Looking offers a framework, and specific tactics, for smarter seeing.


Alexandra Lange
Nevermind the Masterpiece
What's your "Masterpiece of Everyday New York"? A broken umbrella? A shirtwaist? Discarded gum?


Wanda Orlikowski
Jazz-Inspired Leadership
Organizations most responsive to change are often the ones that replace the orchestral model with a new one — the jazz combo.



Observed
Transform 2013: Design Innovation in Healthcare
Mayo Clinic’s Center for Innovation Transform Symposium will take place September 8-10 2013, in Rochester, MN.


John Thackara
Trust Is Not An Algorithm
By some accounts the world’s information is doubling every two years. This impressive if unprovable fact has got many people wondering: what to do with it?


Alexandra Lange
Praise the Partner(s)
Salute Denise Scott Brown because she deserves it, but let's not forget the other partners.



Observed
AIGA (Re)design Awards
The AIGA (Re)design Awards is an international graphic design competition celebrating the most influential designs that advocate for strong communities, sustainable environments and thriving economies.



Observed
Be an AIGA Design Star
Command X — the AIGA live design reality show that happens on stage at the biennial design conference — is back for its fourth season.


Alexandra Lange
The Fork and the World: Design 101
If you had to explain design to the uninitiated, where would you start?


Jessica Helfand
Our Shopping Lists, Our Selves
Jessica Helfand on lists: from the mundane to the historical, the shopping list to the Bill of Rights.



Observed
counter/point: The 2013 D-Crit Conference
The 2013 D-Crit Conference will take place on Saturday, May 11, 2013.The lineup includes Paola Antonelli, Andrew Blauvelt, Fiona Raby, Mark Foster Gage, Toni Griffin, and Michael Sorkin.



Soren Kaplan
Harnessing the Power of Surprise
Breakthroughs share three common characteristics: they challenge fundamental assumptions about existing products, services, business models, or organizations; they transform existing ways of doing business by rewriting rules or revolutionizing current practices; and they apply resources in entirely new ways, whether people, knowledge, relationships, or technology.



Observed
Bringing Data and Storytelling Together
In a guest post on the Tribeca Film Institute blog, Ingrid Kopp, the U.S. Director of Shooting People, explores the reltionship between data ans storytelling.


Rick Poynor
The Practical Virtue of Works That Work
Works That Work magazine reclaims the word “creativity” from the stultifying embrace of branding culture and design thinking.


Francesca Granata
“Women’s Work”: An Interview with Judith Thurman
Francsca Granata interviews Judith Thurman about fashion criticism and her own foray into it for The New Yorker.



Debbie Millman
ON! at the Contemporary Art Center in Cincinnati
In this special Design Matters video episode, Debbie Millman gives you on a preview the new exhibit ON! at the Contemporary Art Center in Cincinnati.



Debbie Millman
Sara Blake
Debbie Millman talks to Sara Blake about collaborating with her sister, creating portraits of 100 girls and illustrating NBA players.





Kate Cullinane
The Original Paradox
The value of creating new designs, rather than being "original".



Debbie Millman
Steven Heller
Steven Heller discusses his new ebook, Design Cult, and reflects on what designers have in common with Harvey Weinstein.



Debbie Millman
Clement Mok
Clement Mok on the early days of Apple computer, the joys of working for Steve Jobs and starting his successful businesses.


Rob Walker
Let’s Make A Mark
Ellen Susan proposes a new punctuation mark, the ElRey, for the digital-text era.



Observed
National Poetry Month Poster
The 2013 National Poetry Month Poster, designed by Jessica Helfand.



Observed
Little Printer
Little Printer is a (little) printer that sits on your desk, subscribes to your friends feeds, picks up new puzzles then prints a beatiful little magazine just for you.



Debbie Millman
Jason Kottke
In this audio interview with Debbie Millman, Jason Kottke talks about blogging for over fourteen years and what it means to be "old" online.


Alexandra Lange, and Mark Lamster
Lunch With The Critics: Third-Annual Year-End Awards
Idiosyncratic awards bestowed on architecture, design and media.


John Thackara
German Government Think-Tank Supports Fringe Change Agents
Overview of the 400-page report World in Transition: A Social Contract for Sustainability from the German Advisory Council on Climate Change (WGBU), the heavyweight scientific body that advises the German Federal Government on ‘Earth System Megatrends’.


John Thackara
Venice: from Gated Lagoon to Bioregion
A review of the options that Venice faces in trying to shore up the city.


Alexandra Lange
Having Fun at the Museum
Blocks, rocket ships, playgrounds and balls: the hidden meaning of playthings at the Museum of Modern Art.


Alexandra Lange
Just Keep Typing
An excerpt from the new book Breakthrough! Proven Strategies to Overcome Creative Block and Spark Your Imagination that involves Post-It notes, legal pads and baking. 


Fernando Aguiar
Ecologic Sonnet
'Ecologic Sonnet', a visual poem by Fernando Aguiar.



Observed
Amend
Minneapolis-based Thesis is a design collective whose efforts to raise awareness about health care reform has led them to creat the Amend wrist band.



Observed
London Design Festival 2012
Overview of the tenth London Design Festival.



Scott Boylston
Designing Design into Society
A report on the Design Ethos 2012 DO-ference.


Ashley Toliver
King
A poem by Ashley Toliver.


Rob Walker
The City In Your Dreams
A blog collecting stories for mapping the "collective unconscious" of NYC.


Alexandra Lange
The Charismatic Megafauna of Design
Identifying the "charismatic megafauna" of design and the critical uses of their popularity.


David Cabianca
Graphic Design is Dead, Long Live Graphic Design
A review of Graphic Design: Now in Production, opening May 26, 2012 in New York City.



Observed
The Hypothetical Development Organization
The Hypothetical Development Organization will be included in the 13th International Venice Architecture Biennale.



Andrew Shea
Flies in Urinals: The Value of Design Disruptions
How a disruption in routine (potentially by design) can alter the environment.


Rob Walker
Dancing About Ruins
Dancing about ruins: Can debris, detritus, junk, be useful creative material?



Observed
James Victore's Q&A Tuesday
James Victore is presenting a weekly YouTube series – Q+A Tuesday – in which he addresses a questions about working in a creative industry.


Rick Poynor
The Closed Shop of Design Academia
Shouldn’t it be part of a design academic’s brief to communicate more widely with the design profession and public?



Debbie Millman
Roman Mars
Radio producer Roman Mars discusses the connection between ’zines and radio, why he ditched science and the reason he named his show “99% Invisible”.



Debbie Millman
Jen Bekman
Jen Bekman discusses managing a BBS in the early days of the internet, her first email exchange and the importance of everyone owning art.


Rick Poynor
The Unspeakable Pleasure of Ruins
“Ruin porn,” a reductive tag that makes any photograph of ruins seem suspect, ignores the cultural history of the ruin.



Phil Patton
Audi Urban Future Summit 2011
Report on one of the latest conferences to take on the global theme of the city


Rick Poynor
This Post has Been Declared a Link-free Zone
Links can greatly enrich an online text, but are they also a counterproductive distraction from reading?



Mark Lamster
Majority Report
Review of Design with the Other 90%: Cities


Rick Poynor
Did We Ever Stop Being Postmodern?
Like it or not, argues the V&A's exhibition about postmodernism and design, we are all postmodern now.



Rob Walker
An Interview with Kevin Slavin
A conversation between Rob Walker and co-founder of the game development company Area/Code, Kevin Slavin.


Alexandra Lange
What Makes Architecture Useful?
At Experimenta Design 2011, the buildings of Lisbon make the best argument for the ongoing usefulness of good design.


Rick Poynor
Should We Look at Corrosive Images?
What do violent photographs of war do to us as viewers?



John Thackara
5% Health: The Risk of Catabolic Collapse and Peak Fat in Modern Health Systems
The writer, at Mayo Clinic's "Transform" conference, asks: Are high-end medical systems the best place to focus design's creative capacity?


Rick Poynor
A Swedish Perspective on Critical Practice
The Reader, a recent book from Stockholm about critical practice, has some smart insights while missing the bigger picture.


Rick Poynor
From the Archive: Raging Bull
A response to Michael Bierut’s essay about the relationship between bullshit and design, and the discussion that ensued.


Rick Poynor
From the Archive: Down with Innovation
Designers have too readily accepted the caricature of themselves as airheaded stylists. Visual form is a vital expression of culture.



John Thackara
Ten Ways to Redesign Design Competitions
How to improve design competitions aimed at social good.



Laura Weiss
Structured for Creativity
How to scale a nonprofit organization so it is optimized for impact.



John Thackara
How to Make Systems Thinking Sexy
John Thackara's 2011 Buckminster Fuller Challenge keynote address.



Jane Margolies
How to Start a Movement
Interview with movement entrepreneur Jeremy Heimans, founder of Purpose.com.



William Underhill
Transensing: Glassware for the Blind
Award-winning glassware for the visually impaired.


Rick Poynor
A Dream World Made by Machines
Adam Curtis’s All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace is a complex, demanding, audacious piece of television.



Julie Lasky
Everything Must Go
A new blog speaks to our current interest in shedding material goods.


Alexandra Lange
Science Gets Around to Architecture
Why are we still privileging scientific studies over visual thinking?



The Editors
Design for the Real World Redux
To mark the acquisition of Papanek’s archives by the University of Applied Arts Vienna, the school’s Victor J. Papanek Foundation, in partnership with the Austrian Cultural Forum New York and the Museum of Arts and Design, has announced a prize for a concept, prototype or product “that upholds Papanek’s vision of environmental and/or social responsibility.”



Julie Lasky
Search for the Obvious: Challenge #2
Once again, Acumen Fund is looking for creative solutions to social problems. This time the focus is on mothers.


Rick Poynor
Slicing Open the Surrealist Eyeball
Surrealism codified a poetic principle that has always existed as a possibility and still exists in life and art.


Rick Poynor
Solitude in Dark Trees
Was this structure the idle amusement of some loggers, or an art piece by someone at the academy nearby? Gingerly testing each rung, I climbed up into it.


The Editors
Like the Word or Not, the Era of "Sustainism" Is Here
The idea of sustainism deserves more than a discussion about what we (dis)like about nomenclature.



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



Maria Popova
Rise of the Micro-Medici
On the value of microfunding creative ideas that stem from a single mind.


Rick Poynor
Everything has Become Science Fiction
Is science fiction's most crucial task to envision the future or to understand the present?



Ernest Beck
Cards of Change
Unemployed workers retrofit their former business cards to send hopeful messages.


Rick Poynor
On My Screen: Bill Morrison’s Decasia
The avant-garde classic Decasia, assembled from decaying film stock, is a sublime vision of another reality.



Rick Poynor
Where Is Art Now?
Leaving the art world to decide what art is doesn’t resolve the issue of quality.


Rick Poynor
On My Shelf: Surrealism Permanent Revelation
This post is the first in an occasional series. The idea is to revisit a book from my bookshelf.



Debbie Millman
Bill Moggridge
In this podcast with Debbie Millman, Bill Moggridge discusses the future of the laptop, human-centered design and the future of the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum.



Meena Kadri
Tinkers, Hackers, Farmers, Crafters
Interview with Emeka Okafor, founder of Maker Faire Africa.



The Editors
Neville Brody Wants You
Call for submissions to the Anti Design Festival, September 18-26, London, England.



Vera Sacchetti
Virtue Rewarded: Design and Social Innovation Prizes
Descriptions of nine awards programs that regularly give out $100,000 for design and social innovation projects.



Michael Erard
The Dream Job Project Part II
How do you conceive of the future work to shoot for, and how you'll do it? The results of these questions, part II.


Elizabeth Evitts Dickinson
New Visions of Home
Report on new housing models for the elderly.



Julie Lasky
Protect Me from What I Want
Photo in memory of Tobias Wong.



Roger Martin
Design Thinking Comes to the U.S. Army
Design is almost overnight the centerpiece of military doctrine and the U.S. Army has gotten design thinking quite right. The struggle to get design thinking ensconced in Army doctrine, though, is no easy feat.



Jane Margolies
The Laugh Bug
Is Volkswagen's Fun Theory campaign anything more than a turbocharged marketing stunt?



Michael Erard
The Dream Job Project
How do you conceive of the future work to shoot for, and how you'll do it? I invite you to weigh in.



Julie Lasky
Sweating the Small Stuff
Review of TED 2010 conference, "What the World Needs Now," Long Beach, California, February 9–13.



Jessica Helfand
Prisoners of Logic
For five or six years now, I have led a double life as a painter. Until recently, I viewed this other identity as a kind of dirty secret.



Daniel Stephens, and Brooke Brewer
Aspen Design Summit: Film
This short film by GoodFocus Films captures participant perspectives at the Aspen Design Summit in November 2009.


Jane Margolies
Rising Currents
Report on "Rising Currents," an exhibition of New York City design solutions to the flooding predicted by climate change experts, which will be on view at the Museum of Modern Art, March 24–August 9, 2010.



Rick Landesberg
The Bleating Edge
Rick Landesberg's photo of an innovative design in Haiti for keeping goats in their place.



Jay Parkinson
The Road to Wellville
Recommendations for designing a healthcare system around our nation's health needs — chronic care management, prevention and acute care treatment — not history, doctors and their profitability.



Aspen Editors
Aspen Design Summit: Initial Report
Initial report on the 2009 Aspen Design Summit, sponsored by AIGA and Winterhouse Institute.



Andy Chen
The Value of Empathy
Andy Chen responds to the debate between David Stairs and Valerie Casey on the recent surge of social design activity.



William Drenttel
Aspen Design Summit: Program Description
AIGA and Winterhouse Institute are joining forces to stage the Aspen Design Summit in November 2009.



Valerie Casey, and David Stairs
The Kindness of Strangers
Debate between graphic designer David Stairs and Designers Accord founder Valerie Casey about designers' roles and limits as social activists.



Roger Martin
What is Design Thinking Anyway?
Most companies today rely on analytical thinking. Roger Martin applies these principles to business practices.



Kerry William Purcell
The Art of Psychographics
Each and every graphic design signifies a memory. A familiar sign, map or poster can often trigger a set of associations in the viewer, a series of thoughts and feelings that have their own unique trajectory. 



Teddy Blanks
Teddy Blanks on Figurines
Significant Objects is a much-discussed experiment conducted by Joshua Glenn and Rob Walker. This story by Teddy Blanks is recorded as an MP3...



Rachel Berger
Significant Objects: #1 Mom Hooks
Significant Objects is a much-discussed experiment conducted by Joshua Glenn and Rob Walker. The third of five stories is by Rachel Berger...



Teddy Blanks
Significant Objects: Porcelain Scooter
Significant Objects is a much-discussed experiment conducted by Joshua Glenn and Rob Walker. The fourth of five stories is by Teddy Blanks...



Jessica Helfand
Significant Objects: Elvis Chocolate Tin
Significant Objects is a much-discussed experiment conducted by Joshua Glenn and Rob Walker. The fifth of five stories is by Jessica Helfand...



Adam Harrison Levy
Significant Objects: Star of David Plate
Significant Objects is a much-discussed experiment conducted by Joshua Glenn and Rob Walker. The first of five stories is by Adam Harrison Levy...



Julie Lasky
When Worlds Collide
Report on TEDGlobal 2009, held July 21–24 in Oxford, England.



Mark Lamster
Blriot! The Centennial of a Historic Flight
A century ago today, Louis Blriot took off in an airplane of his own invention.



Jessica Helfand
Land in Crisis: The Antelope Valley Story
Can the County of Los Angeles claim adverse possession, and rescind residents' rights to their own water? One plaintiff is fighting for the rights of landowners who are currently not pumping from the aquifer, and has mounted a class action suit in order to do so. She also believes that design can help solve the problem. Can it? What is at stake is the degree to which designers can lend their ingenuity to find a way to cut through this mess. And, in so doing, to help restore water to its rightful recipients.



Jessica Helfand
What's The Story?
And what becomes of all those dead tweets, anyway — all those long-expired, evaporated updates?



Adrian Shaughnessy
Ten Graphic Design Paradoxes
I’ve just finished writing a book about graphic design. There are entries on kerning, the wisdom of using only lowercase letters, and the merits of Univers. But mostly it’s a book about the soft stuff — the stuff that we deal with every day and tend to take for granted.



Murray Moss
Design Hates a Depression
"Design tends to thrive in hard times," says The New York Times's Michael Cannell. No, it doesn't. It tends to suffer.



Jessica Helfand
Ten Things That Need to be Redesigned
Lottery tickets, the hearse, monopoly money, IRS forms, airport design, children's ski jackets, political lawn signs, TV remotes, blister packaging and the state of New Jersey are examined for their design flaws.



Jessica Helfand
Graphic Design Spam
Have you received any graphic design spam in your mailbox lately?



Michael Bierut
26 Years, 85 Notebooks
Since 1982, I have never been without a marble-covered composition book. I am now in the middle of Notebook #85. Together, these notebooks create a history of my working life that spans three decades.



Jessica Helfand
Second in a Series: Completions
The series, when shown on a single surface, carries with it a kind of implicit satisfaction that a series disseminated over time does not.



Jessica Helfand
First In A Series: Cartophily
Mostly unified by their one-to-two format, cigarette cards revealed countless variation in topic and scope, style and personality, seriousness of purpose and goofball whimsy. If the ardent collector defines the amalgamation of disparate items by retaining a fundamental organizing principle, then what is it, exactly, that guides the maker? And enthralls the viewer?



Paula Scher
It’s How You Said It
Paula Scher: “The problem with the New Yorker’s controversial Obama cover is not that it’s dangerous and tasteless. The problem is that it isn’t dangerous or tasteless enough.”



William Davies King
Collections of Nothing




Jessica Helfand
Annals of Ephemera, Part III: Aging 2.0
Paper has a finite life span. It yellows and oxidizes and eventually disintegrates. But today, there are a host of specialty materials that protect and preserve paper so that, unlikely as it may seem, ephemeral materials may have found their very own fountain of youth.



Jessica Helfand
Reflections on the Ephemeral World, Part Two: Food
Ever since the 16th century Italian Mannerist painter Archimboldo made portraits from the detritus of his dinner, the relationship between the visual and the edible has been something of a puzzle. Welcome to the world of foodistry: design with food.



Jessica Helfand
Reflections on The Ephemeral World, Part One: Ink
An elegy to the makeready — those sheets of paper, re-fed into a press to get the ink balances up to speed, leaving a series of often random, palimpsest-like, multiple impressions on a single surface — in the digital age.



Jessica Helfand
Iron Man: The Screen Behind the Screen
Iron Man is the fulfillment of all the computer-integrated movies were ever meant to be, and by computer-integrated, I mean just that: beyond the technical wizardry of special effects, this is a film in which the computer is incorporated, like a cast member, into the development of the plot itself.



Jessica Helfand
Viewer Discretion Advised
One of the great ironies of contemporary culture is the degree to which pro-forma warnings read as largely invisible. “Viewer Discretion Advised” tells us we’ve been warned...



Matt Soar
Fail Again, Fail Better
So, what of productive failure with respect to graphic design and typography? The idea of failing again and again for a reason? Does it somehow help to define the limits of professional practice?



Jessica Helfand
Gone, Baby, Gone (Things, Part II)
From July 19, 1977 to February 28, 1981, the security staff at New York's Roosevelt Raceway kept a fastidious record of lost property. The result — 152 pages of wayward mittens, misplaced wallets and hundreds of personal items — is as much a record of the social history of a generation as anything I've come across in a long time.



Jessica Helfand
Things, Part I
In an age characterized by elevated environmental awareness — reducing our carbon footprint, enhancing our sustainable output — we remain obsessed with our attachment to the material world.



Steven Kroeter
Design Thinking, Muddled Thinking
What does it mean when Harvard Business School makes a list of top design schools? Two words: muddled thinking.



Jessica Helfand
Stan Brakhage: Caught on Tape
For Stan Brakhage, that concentration resulted in extraordinary explorations of many things, including the life cycle of a moth, caught on adhesive strips of tape, and subsequently captured on film where it regained — however briefly — the magnificent illusion of mobility. For designers, faced by budgets and clients and deadlines, the luxury of so much isolation seems a distant, if not an altogether perverse paradigm. But are these intentions really so mutually exclusive?



Jessica Helfand
Harry Potter and The Enchanted Letterforms
The most recent theatrical release of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix includes a paradigm shift that warrants particular recognition, for the simple reason that this may be the first film in which mere letterforms, once the purview of the production designer, break free and actually join the cast.



Tom Vanderbilt
On the Squareness of Milk Containers
Do you know, or have you ever wanted to know, why milk containers are square and soft drink containers are round? This and other questions of design are answered in Robert Frank's new book The Economic Naturalist: In Search of Explanations for Everyday Enigmas.



William Drenttel
Al Gore for President
Writing as a designer, as a writer, as a husband and father, but most of all, as a human being — I believe we should draft Al Gore to run for the Presidency of the United States.



Jessica Helfand
My Dirty Little Secret
Gardening is its own infuriating design challenge. You fret and you rethink and you second-guess yourself constantly, and then for one delirious, thrilling moment something blooms and you feel utterly triumphant. And then it dies and you are back where you started.



Jessica Helfand
The New Manifest Destiny
When does a picture solidify a news story, and when does it merely sensationalize it? Decisions about words and pictures are made by editors and publishers, designers and photographers — but they are consumed by a public fully capable of an entire range of emotional responses. After this week's events at Virginia Tech, words and pictures do a poor job of communicating outrage and pain. And no amount of compositional ingenuity can reverse what happened.



Jessica Helfand
Annals of Ephemera: Town & Country Cookbook
Book cover designers are visual choreographers who frame miniature narratives in order to tease prospective readers into wanting more. Which often means showing less. Or not.



Jessica Helfand
Art Director Ken
Art Director Ken is is a charmed, if mildly cautionary tale, for it brings to mind the potentially superficial nature in which we judge a person, an identity — indeed, an entire profession.



Jessica Helfand
I'm Not Ready to Make Nice




Adrian Shaughnessy
"I Sold My Soul And I Love It"
The current issue of Creative Review is "guest edited" by hip British advertising agency Mother. The theme, suggested by Mother, is I Sold My Soul And I Love It — a vastly contradictory statement, but one that invites debate over what it means to work in visual communication."



Michael Erard
Word Made Flesh
The forgotten discipline of sentence diagramming forces the structure of language to wear the clothes of images. A sentence diagram is less a map than a portrait, and in this vaudeville language is painted, corsetted and trussed.



Michael Bierut
The Graphic Glass Ceiling
A week ago, I was the moderator of a panel discussion at the 92nd Street Y with Milton Glaser, Chip Kidd and Dave Eggers. Afterwards, someone asked, "Why do you — all three of you — suppose there are so few female graphic designers — or at least so few female 'superstar' graphic designers?" There was a moment of uncomfortable silence. What would your answer be?



Jessica Helfand
How Hollywood Nailed The Half-Pipe
Pixar
and Animal Logic have mastered a particularly persuasive (and as it turns out, rather literal) form of spin that makes Road Runner look like dryer lint.



Jessica Helfand
Into the Pink
Co-opting a color and making it your own.



Adrian Shaughnessy
Listomania
The English design group Spin has produced a publication called 50 Reading Lists, which allows the reader the double pleasure of admiring the handsome presentation of 50 lists, as well as the chance to study the reading habits of 50 graphic designers.



Jessica Helfand
What Makes A Good Poster?
From Nineteenth Century broadsides to Paula Scher's posters for The Public Theatre, the history of the poster is the history of modern civilization. So why are academics so hell-bent on poster board and bad typography? Why don't they ask us for help?



Jessica Helfand
My Cup Holder Runneth Over
When we're not hiding behind our nail-technician-primed hands, drinking our barrista-blended beverages, IMing, text-messaging, and push-button withdrawing more money from the ATM to pay for all of these things, who are we?



Jessica Helfand
Death 'N' Stuff
Smoking Kills: The label days it all. Or does it? Once the allegedly chilling skull and crossbones is marketed as a decorative pattern
on a silk bowtie, its credibility as an mark of peril seems, well, somewhat questionable, begging the question: have we become so bored by life that we've inadvertently become inured to death?



Kenneth Krushel
The Face Of Oblivion
Faces on supermarket packaging conform to a research-based "psychographic" that hasn't essentially changed in more than two decades. What is it about our self-image that identifies, at least on a consumer basis, with such fictional, even farcical lifestyles?



Michael Bierut
This is My Process
Designers often describe our work processes in terms that are dated and ill-suited for the activities that we actually undertake. Is there a model for the way that artists work that would be intelligible in a business context?



Adrian Shaughnessy
Living Without The Internet
The "community" that I find on the internet is the communality of shared enthusiasms for marginalised subjects.



Jessica Helfand
The Right Stuff
Prada is yet another in a long line of stories in which posessions loom large, at once shining beacons of material success and wagging fingers of moral turpitude. When will we have enough stuff?



Jessica Helfand
Crafting All The Way To The Bank
Craft is a tricky word. When we feel ourselves pulled in by the unforgiving vortex of digitized everything, we plead for craft, throwing it out like a life preserver — a desperate appeal to the forgotten soul. In those moments, it becomes a metaphor for a kind of imperiled humanity. But what about craft, we ask?



Jessica Helfand
"Oui, Oui, Oui" All The Way Home
On a sweltering day last August, my daughter and I embarked with a friend on a 6-day tour of Paris: Kid Paris, the Paris of candy stores and carousels and more than a few weird new ice cream flavors.



Justin Good
What is Beauty? Or, On the Aesthetics of Wind Farms
What is beauty and how does it relate to ecology? A look at contrasting aesthetic intuitions about wind farms reveals a paradigm shift in how we understand beauty.



Jessica Helfand
Annals of Academia: The New Exoticism







Michael Bierut
I Am a Plagiarist
Plagiarism is a hot topic in the world of publishing, What does it mean in the world of design? Michael Bierut pleads guilty.



Jessica Helfand
The Art of Thinking Through Making




Jessica Helfand
A Sequence in Time
01:02:03 04/05/06 This number sequence in time will not occur again until 2106.



Kenneth Krushel
Santa Fe Diarist
But there seem to be equally vigorous efforts to commercialize this distant past in Santa Fe, embracing a design esthetic that advertises itself as the "essence" of what had been thought to be lost. Then, in re-introducing this historical narrative, an efficient assembly line manufactures it into a commercially lucrative design creed.



Michael Bierut
Warning: May Contain Non-Design Content
Design is that it is almost always about something else. The more things you're interested in, the better your work will be.



Lawrence Weschler
Languorous Bodyscapes
"The long, languid spread of her body makes the first and most lasting impression." And more on these sorts of landscape-bodyscape slippages by this seasoned The New Yorker writer, and recent author of Everything That Rises : A Book of Convergences.



Adrian Shaughnessy
Google and the Tyranny of Good Design
The Google logo — that scrap of oddball typography — is perhaps the most famous piece of graphic design in the world today. In its own small way, it's a little beacon of insurrection, in a world where graphic designers have become the agents of conformity.



Dmitri Siegel
Broadcast vs. Broadband
Viral video is on the rise, spreading from broadband to broadcast and back again. What are the opportunities for designers in this new genre?



Jessica Helfand
Give Me Privacy or Give Me an ID Card
The proposed National ID Card further blurs the line between the privacy and full disclosure of personal data in the public domain. It's the Card's design that appears the final string that may either secure our rights as individuals or rip them apart.



Michael Bierut
The Persistence of the Exotic Menial
25 years ago, writer Ralph Caplan said that designers are exotic menials: exotic because of the presumed mystery inherent in what we do, and menial because whatever we do is required only for relatively low-level objectives. Has anything changed since then?



Jessica Helfand
Separated at Birth: Method? Or Madness?
Karim Rashid's method© cleaner is strikingly similar to that of a discount depot: coincidental congruousness?



Jessica Helfand
The D Word
HGTV's sunny splendor of twenty-seven minute remodels and inexhaustible inspiration: fodder for the DIY devotee.



Adrian Shaughnessy
Robert Brownjohn and The Big Idea




Jessica Helfand
Face Value
Facial transplants mapping our future: how much is the world of design responsible?



Dmitri Siegel
Bartleby™
In his classic story of Wall Street,
Bartleby the Scrivener, Herman Melville recounts the tale of a humble copyist employed by the story's narrator. Could Bartleby's perfectly crafted refrain be the appropriate response to a world where every choice and configuration has been designed?



Jessica Helfand
Cease and Design
Where graphic design education is concerned, more doing and less asking is necessary.



Michael Bierut
Innovation is the New Black
Innovation is the latest buzzword to overtake the design profession. What does it mean?



Jessica Helfand
The Shock Of The Old: Rethinking Nostalgia
Placing Nostalgia: where in the design landscape does it fit? And should it be included in the first place?



Jessica Helfand
On Citizenship and Humanity: An Appeal for Design Reform
Ruminations on the Citizen Designer: A human first, a designer second, but most importantly, one who responds to collective cultural needs.



Rick Poynor
Where Are the Design Critics?
There is no reason why design criticism shouldn’t take an oppositional view of design's instrumental uses and its social role, but few design writers seem motivated to produce this kind of criticism.



Jessica Helfand
Eye of the Storm
A re-entrance into the world: Following Hurricane Katrina, how should design continue?



William Drenttel
Reading the News & Charting Death
The potential for terrorism is not a chart I can make in my head. The numbers are there, but the design alludes me.



Rick Poynor
Sublime Little Tubes of Destruction
In a culture otherwise swamped with unregulated branding, the graphic counter-attack on the cigarette packet, on its visual integrity as a design and its brand equity, normally regarded as commercially sacrosanct, is a remarkable sight to behold. In Europe, in the US and around the world, outsized health warnings in ugly typography now disfigure and subvert the best efforts of the brands' designers to embody the fast-fading allure of the cigarette.






Jessica Helfand
Why Bugs Don't Belong on TV
On today's TV screens, the station-identification logo sits tethered to the surface, like an annoying rash that won't quite disappear. You think you've kicked it when — WHAMMMO — there it is again, blemishing the patina of an otherwise perfectly good viewing experience.



Jessica Helfand
New Models for Design Efficiency: Introducing Otto




Momus
REDESIGNDESIGN
REDESIGNDEUTSCHLAND formed in 2001 and have an office on the Torstrasse in central Berlin. Their work is perhaps best seen as a Swiftian satire on design itself, a playful Postmodern prod in the direction of Modernism's tendency (especially in German-speaking countries) to reduce everything to a kind of Year Zero of irrational rationality.



Rick Poynor
Why Architects Give Me the Willies
No matter how central graphic communication might be to our lives, architecture always dominates press coverage because it is very expensive, expresses the conditions of power, and is just plain big.



Momus
Mediation for the Masses
Rather than coming at the expense of the poor, mediation might be the next step for them too. If all goes well, we might be looking at a world in which everyone is a foolish tourist, a happy shopper, a postmodern self-mediator.



Jessica Helfand
My Friend Flickr
Flickr is a digital photo sharing website and web services suite that was developed by Ludicorp, a Vancouver, Canada company founded in 2002. It's a utopian oddity — a culture enabled by a technology that in turn enables a culture — and it's a brilliant example of socially networked software because it's free, its easy, and it makes sense.



Rick Poynor
The Ikea Riot: Unsatisfied Excess?
When Ikea threw open the doors of a new store in London, the result was mayhem as customers stampeded. Evidence of social breakdown, or a sign that the utopian argument for low-cost modernist design has been won?



William Drenttel
In Remembrance of Susan Sontag
In Remembrance of Susan Sontag: a designer's twenty-five years of interaction with the legandary writer.



Jessica Helfand
Code (PMS) Blue
Hospital rooms are architectural oddities: they're all function with no form. To the extent that, in matters of critical care, timing is everything, why should it matter? Then again, why shouldn't it?



Michael Bierut
The World in Two Footnotes
Writing in Eye Magazine, Nick Bell observes that designers too often act as "agents of neutrality" or "aesthetes of style" and suggests that they focus more on their work's content.



Jessica Helfand
Gentlemen Prefer Blogs
Watching Annie Duke beat out a half-dozen male competitors in the
World Poker Tournament this week, I experienced an odd case of déjà vu. It wasn't because of some Proustian memory of my own poker prowess — far from it, infact. Rather, what I felt was an odd sort of parallel universe with something I've been ruminating about for some time: namely, my presence here on Design Observer as the sole female contributor, and the scarcity of women who regularly participate in discussions here on this site.



Jessica Helfand
Under The Microscope




Michael Bierut
What is Design For? A Discussion
Rick Poynor and Michael Bierut discuss the purpose and promise of graphic design, in a conversation moderated by Creative Review editor Patrick Burgoyne.



Jessica Helfand
An Instrument of Sufficiently Lucid Cogitation
The legendary French photojournalist Henri Cartier-Bresson, who died on Tuesday at his home in the South of France, always carried a sketchbook with him. Today's obituary in The New York Times alleges that he described drawing as meditative, while photography was intuitive: though certainly both activities might have been informed by a relentless need to observe and in a sense, preserve the world around him.



Jessica Helfand
Graphic Design: The Movie
Some time ago, I pondered about the future of graphic design as a reality show, but recently I've become convinced that its real future lies in its actual integrated presence onscreen: design as part prop, part protagonist.



Jessica Helfand
Design Gone Mad




Rick Poynor
Where are the Design Intellectuals?
Prospect magazine has published a list of the 100 top British public intellectuals. A handful of visual art and architecture people make the cut, but no from design is included, reflecting its absence from public debate.



Jessica Helfand
Designer by Day, Catwoman by Night




Jessica Helfand
Time Waits for No Fan




Rick Poynor
Critics and Their Purpose
Pulling a 1960s art magazine from the shelf, I opened it at random to find a long list of thoughts about art criticism assembled in 1966 by students at the Royal College of Art in London. Many of these ideas apply to design.



Rick Poynor
Theory with a Small "t"
A critical writing determined by the need to shape practice will be limited in the cultural insights it can offer. This is the last thing that design writing needs when ways to engage a wider public could be opening up.



Jessica Helfand
Graphic Flanerie
Graphic Design's real power comes from its ability to reach us through any of a number of means, both real and virtual, now and later. This ability to transcend the everyday and resonate in the heart, the soul, the mind and the memory—this is graphic design's reality, its legacy, and it is, decidedly, a reality that is more than a sum of its parts.



Rick Poynor
How to Say What You Mean
There is a crucial difference between subtle and complex ideas and needlessly convoluted forms of expression. The challenge now for design writing is to move outwards into a world in which design is everywhere.



Jessica Helfand
The Lying Game




Jessica Helfand
Blanket Statements




Jessica Helfand
The DNA of AND: Ampersand as Myth and Metaphor




Michael Bierut
1989: Roots of Revolution
"Dangerous Ideas," the 1989 conference of the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) chaired by Tibor Kalman and Milton Glaser, introduced many themes -- social responsibility, political engagement, professional ethics -- that still resonate today.



Jessica Helfand
Regarding the Photography of Others




William Drenttel
Defamiliarization: A Personal History




Jessica Helfand
The Crisis of Intent




Michael Bierut
(Over)explaining Design
From the murals at Rockefeller Center to the proposals for the World Trade Center site, designers demonstrate an eagerness to explain, and perhaps overexplain, their ideas. Can the explanations get in the way of the work? Should the work speak for itself?



Jessica Helfand
Mind the Light, Light the Mind
As I began to describe Quaker Meeting for Worship — where one sits in silence for some period of time, in a large room with any number of other congregants, and where one stands to speak, on virtually any topic, when moved to do so — I realized that this presented a compelling metaphor for blogging.



William Drenttel
Shallow Water Dictionary
A couple of years ago I stumbled across a little out-of-print tract called the Shallow Water Dictionary: A Grounding in Estuary English by John R. Stilgoe, a professor of landscape architecture at Harvard.



Jessica Helfand
On Visual Empathy
In a world besieged by unpredictable atrocities, don't we all feel a little emotionally raw? Two recent articles in suggest that visual empathy may more critical to a productive imagination than we thought.



Jessica Helfand
Implausible Fictions
At what point does the designer's interpretation threaten to skew, or misrepresent or somehow implausibly amplify information in a manner that might be considered irresponsible?



Jessica Helfand
The Art of Elegant Abstraction
Bill Morrison's surprising 66-minute film is now playing on the Sundance Channel. For listings, see: http://www.sundancechannel.com/film_finder/index.php?startingLetter=d



Observed | December 09

Is there any accounting for taste? [JH]

The design team behind all things Harry Potter have a shop where their work is all on glorious display—much of it for sale! More here. [JH]

Need to explain the design process to someone who would prefer it in the form of a cartoon? Here you go. [MB]


Observed | December 08

Good design can also help the formerly homeless heal, and the socially isolated build community.” (Can it, really?) [JH]

Experience design! Service design! And now we have—wait for it—aggressive design! Samsung plans to remedy this with the Galaxy 8: no bevels, no home button, all screen. (Not aggressive at all.) [JH]

Christmas, and the incessant promotion that surrounds it, is still too weeks away—but there’s an antidote! Behold: The 2016 Haters Guide to Williams Sonoma. [JH]

How DNA technology can find out if your favorite bargain t-shirt was made with slave labor. [MB]

Pantone 15-0343—aka “greenery”—is named the 2017 color of the year. [JH]

“We’re ripe for a new cultural movement. Culture movements and art and punk rock thrive under bad presidents.” MIT Media Lab’s Joi Ito on how Donald Trump is like the Sex Pistols. [MB]


Observed | December 07

A video by the American Museum of Natural History superbly demonstrates population expansion over multiple millennia. [JH]

A wonderful profile on design goddess Louise Fili—because we can’t get enough of her exquisite work, not ever! [JH]

A historic ruling by the Supreme Court on the Apple Samsung case explains what happened, and why. [JH]

“A sheet of parchment is the end product of a bloody, protracted, and very physical process that begins with the death of a calf, lamb, or kid, and proceeds thereafter through a series of grimly anatomical steps until parchment emerges at the other end. Like laws and sausages, if you love parchment it is perhaps best not to see it being made.” [MB]


Observed | December 06

Can design change the world? [JH]

Researchers at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory introduce software that lets anyone design (and test) their own drone. [JH]

How a 40-year-old movie predicted today’s media dystopia. [MB]

Students and staff at RISD work with NASA to design for a new audience: life on Mars. [JH]

Best Christmas commercial of the season. Thanks, Poland! [JH]


Observed | December 05

In India, the Design Yatra is a pan-India initiative that aims to touch people’s lives through design. [JH]

How humans became consumers: a history. [MB]

From Carissa Carter at the Stanford d-school: let’s stop talking about THE design process. [MB]

Design and healthcare: a story from the UK. [JH]

How design thinking turned the Rotterdam Eye Hospital into a bright and comforting place. [MB]

The largest 3D printed object in the world debuts at Design Miami. [MB]


Observed | December 02

Design is the best weapon we have against fake news. [MB]

Frank Gehry’s design for Washington DC’s Eisenhower Memorial, long resisted by the former president’s grandchildren, inches towards approval. [MB]

“I myself am a color man; I love colors. When I see colors, my heart and emotions are taken.” Swiss design takes Shanghai! [JH]


Observed | December 01

Intentionally ugly design! Discuss amongst yourselves. [JH]

Forget the cyborg. Meet the eyeborg! [JH]

Windows new design language, set for release in 2017, is being described as a cross between holographic and augmented reality. [JH]



Jobs | December 10