show

Adrian Shaughnessy
Identity Politics
Adrian Shaughnessy
On Bias, Tolerance — and Taste
Rob Walker
The Art of Redaction
Rick Poynor
The Mysteries of France:
A Gothic Guidebook
Adam Harrison Levy
Tracks of My Tears
07.15.14

As Rose-Lynn Fisher’s photographs make clear, your tears are yours alone and each one is different.

Rob Walker
An End of Things
John Foster
Whirlwinds, Snowdrops, and Big Bangs: Vintage Fireworks Labels
07.04.14

Happy 4th of July!

Jennifer Kabat
Exhibition as Inquiry: An Interview with Kieran Long
Inkahoots
Black, Red + Gold
07.01.14

A conversation about colonization and visual resistance in Australia.

Adam Harrison Levy
Geek Stories
Adam Harrison Levy
The Falling Man: An Interview with Henry Singer
05.23.14

The Falling Man is a 90-minute documentary that tells the story of a controversial image. Who took it? Why was it censored? And who was the man in the photograph?

The Editors
A Mother’s Work is Never Done
05.11.14

This year, for Mother's Day, Design Observer collected photos of women designers and their offspring in varying forms: we received entries in the form of then-and-now contemporary photos, of generational divides, of mothers as children (next to their children, as — no surprise —children) and even, because we're impatient and couldn't wait, one father and his lovely brood.

Francisco Laranjo
Critical Graphic Design: Critical of What?
John Foster
The Focused Obsession of Photographer Rob Amberg
Sandra Nuut
Sandra Nuut on Fashion
David Morris
The Public Library
Jessica Helfand
Fast Thinking
Angela Riechers
Angela Riechers on Banks
Brigette Brown
Brigette Brown on Umbrellas
John Foster
The Greenville, NC Daily Reflector: 1948 to 1967
03.30.14

One of the best ways to investigate the life and times of a region is to look at the local photo files from the daily newspaper.

Debbie Millman
Jonathan Harris
03.24.14

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

Observed
Employee ID Badges
03.17.14

A deeper look into WWII era employee ID badges.

John Foster
Blues, Baptisms, and Prison Farms: The Lomax Snapshots of 1934-1950
Alexandra Lange
Not Afraid of Noise: Mexico City Stories
03.06.14

A photographic tour of Mexico City, house by house, wall by wall.

John Foster
Shoe Designs Before 1900
03.02.14

Having never really taken the time to look at ancient shoes (I have only three pair of shoes myself — black, brown and a pair running shoes), I was very impressed with the creativity and design of shoes from centuries ago.

Alexandra Lange
Premature Demolition
02.11.14

The Folk Art Museum, David Adjaye's market hall, and the first addition to the Morgan Library. If three makes a trend, then premature demolition qualifies.

John Foster
The Private World of Martina Kubelk
02.09.14

A photo album containing 99 pages and over 380 photographs; self-portraits of a man in women’s clothes.

Alexandra Lange
Playing With Design: Fredun Shapur
John Foster
Native American Design
Rick Poynor
Martin Sharp: People, Politics and Pop
01.03.14

Martin Sharp rediscovered: drawings and collages from the book People, Politics and Pop: Australians in the Sixties.

Owen Edwards
For Better or Worse, This Design Endures
01.02.14

Owen Edwards on the enduring qualities of the AK-47.

Adam Harrison Levy
Designer’s Cookbook: Jake Tilson
Alexandra Lange
Year of the Women
12.30.13

A year-end wrap-up of my favorite stories. The common theme? Women and the making of design.

Observed
Fairy Tale Architecture
12.24.13

A roundup of our holiday Fairy Tale Architecture posts.

Adam Harrison Levy
Designer’s Cookbook: Louise Fili
12.17.13

Lousie Fili on her love of Italy, type and food.

John Foster
Japanese Municipality Logos
Debbie Millman
Debbie Millman on Sleep
Alexandra Lange, and Mark Lamster
Lunch with the Critics: Fourth-Annual Year-End Awards
John Bertram
John Bertram on Silence
12.05.13

On this episode of Insights Per Minute, John Bertram contemplates silence.

Cheryl Heller
Cheryl Heller on Words
12.03.13

On this episode of Insights Per Minute, Cheryl Heller discusses valuable words.

Adam Harrison Levy
Saul Leiter: Remembered
Alexandra Lange
Alexandra Lange on Performance
Rick Poynor
Collage Culture: Nostalgia and Critique
11.11.13

An interview with David Banash, author of Collage Culture: Readymades, Meaning, and the Age of Consumption.

Observed
Feeding Young Brains
11.05.13

AIGA Portland and The Right Brain Inititative have partnered on a new project to encourage kids to think creaively.

Alexandra Lange
Where We Work
Enrique Allen
Enrique Allen on Introductions
10.17.13

On this episode of Insights Per Minute, Enrique Allen, co-director of the Designer Fund, gives advice on introductions.

John Foster
Giraffe Houses of the Ozarks
John Foster
The Open Eye: The Home Collection of Ray Yoshida
Sara Ivry
Sara Ivry on Language
Stephen Eskilson
Heteronormative Design Discourse
09.25.13

The question of sexual identity, a central focus of a great deal of thought in recent decades, has received scant attention in the design world.

Alexandra Lange
Learning New Tricks
09.24.13

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.

John Foster
Barkcloth Art of the Omie
Marvin Heiferman
Marvin Heiferman on Photography
Wendy MacLeod
Wendy MacLeod on Fasting
Mark Lamster
High Net Space: The New International Style
Ricky Jay
Ricky Jay on Collecting
09.09.13

In this installment of Insights Per Minute Ricky Jay speaks on collecting.

Alice Twemlow
Alice Twemlow on Home
09.06.13

On this installment of Insights Per Minute Alice Twemlow speaks about home.

Ralph Caplan
Ralph Caplan on Titles
09.04.13

This episode of Insights Per Minute features Ralph Caplan on titles.

John Foster
Signs of Labor
Rick Poynor
Collage Now, Part 1: Sergei Sviatchenko
08.22.13

In a crowded field, Sergei Sviatchenko’s highly reductive photo-collages look like his own and no one else’s.

Rick Poynor
Collage Now, Part 2: Cut and Paste Culture
John Foster
Folk Funeraria of the South
Observed
Barbie, Revisited
07.24.13

Artist Nikcolay Lamm asked what Barie would look like as an average woman.

Observed
Guns and Design
06.27.13

Firearms are culturally significant objects and complex tools of meaning that can, perhaps, provide insight into the interconnection of people, objects, and society.

Rick Poynor
From the Archive: Upgrade Yourself!
Rob Walker
The Mighty Shirt Kings
06.11.13

Back in the 1980s, a group of artists calling themselves The Mighty Shirt Kings set up shop at the Jamaica Coliseum, in Queens, offering “custom air-brushed and original artwork,” which could be had on canvas, but also pants, jackets, and of course T-shirts. They are the subject of a new book: The Shirt Kings.

Rob Walker
Object Lessons
06.10.13

Object Lessons is a new project that concerns itself with “the hidden lives of ordinary things.”

Owen Edwards
The Best Management Memo … Ever!
06.05.13

Owen Edwards on the most effective eight words he's ever read.

John Foster
A Philatelist’s Dream
Alexandra Lange
The Fork and the World: Design 101
05.28.13

If you had to explain design to the uninitiated, where would you start?

John Foster
A Nod to Surrealism
05.19.13


For artists not working in digital media — those who cut, build, draw, paint, glue, bend, and make things in the more traditional manner, there is something of a “Surrealist” popularity at hand today.

Rob Walker
Finding The Story
Alexandra Lange
Anxiety, Culture and Commerce
05.14.13

Is the museum store a distraction or an enticement?

John Foster
The Imagination of Playgrounds
04.14.13

A look back at the playgrounds of our youth, as captured by artists and photographers — and ourselves.

Mark Lamster
How to Design an Iconic NY Fast Food Joint
04.01.13

Design secrets of New York fast food icons.

Observed
Flickr Collection of the Week: Curatimus Maximus
03.27.13

“Curatimus Maximus” is a beautifully curated group of imagery dedicated to color street photography.

Observed
Flickr Collection of the Week: Bladerunner Magazines
03.20.13

The world of Bladerunner showcases some of the most elaborate production design in film history, all the way down to its magazine covers.

Owen Edwards
My Month as a Mocker
Observed
SVA/BBC Design Film Festival
03.12.13

Overview of the second annual SVA/BBC Design Film Festival.

Observed
Flickr Collection of the Week: Signs of Pittsburgh
03.08.13

Bright cursive hope and rust-covered despair, sigils of titans and corner store shingles, the quick and the decaying done for, encomiums to vanished glory and the name of an immortal beer-and-a-shot bar.

Alexandra Lange
After the Museum: The Tumblr
03.07.13

To create metamuseum.tumblr.com, a multi-museum, multi-curator Tumblr @MADMuseum, I saw it as a kind of curatorial game: Show Me What You’ve Got.

John Foster
The Proper Art of Writing in 1655
Observed
Dual Perspective Videos
02.25.13

Two videos that show two stories happening simultaneously in different places to different people.

John Foster
Accidental Mysteries
02.17.13

Accidental Mysteries for February 17, 2013 focuses on the material culture of the Cold War.

Observed
A Campaign to Save The Post Office
02.14.13

Tucker Nichols is campaigning to save the Post Office.

Observed
Valentinishness
02.14.13

Unorthodox suggestions and unsolicited advice for V-Day.

John Foster
Accidental Mysteries
02.10.13

A closer look at the cryptic, compelling world of the mask.

Debbie Millman
Jen Bilik
02.08.13

Jen Bilik on being a certified entrepreneurial badass: she's the founder of the company Knock Knock.

John Thackara
Cycle Commerce: The Red Blood Cells of a Smart City
02.04.13

Dehli's many millions of bicycle and rickshaw vendors embody the entrepreneurship, sustainable mobility, social innovation and thriving local economies, that a sustainable city needs. How can that be traslated to European cities?

Alexandra Lange
Why Bernadette Fox Is Scary
John Foster
Accidental Mysteries
John Foster
Accidental Mysteries
01.27.13

The extraordinary magic of the ex-voto.

Michael Bierut
Graphic Design Criticism as a Spectator Sport
Debbie Millman
Jason Kottke
01.04.13

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

John Foster
Accidental Mysteries
12.23.12

Peter Vogel's mysterious aging techniques are highly guarded, and for good reason.: as works of art, his handmade signs are nothing short of spectacular. 

Rob Walker
Why We Buy, Why We Brand
12.18.12

Rob Walker recommends Debbie Millman's talk "Why We Buy, Why We Brand".

Alexandra Lange
Reintroducing the Tilletts
Observed
Tweeting Birds
11.30.12

@Hungry_birds are real birds from Latvia typing on the keyboard made from fat.
Alexandra Lange
3rd Annual Holiday Card Review
11.21.12

Holiday card designs for 2012 reveal the social media preoccupations of their buyers, whether it is Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram or old-fashioned (perhaps Downton Abbey-inspired?) stationery.

John Foster
Accidental Mysteries
11.04.12

In the early days of science, poisons were usually kept in colored glass bottles that were various hues of dark amber or cobalt blue, as an immediate warning to read the label. 

John Foster
Accidental Mysteries
John Foster
Accidental Mysteries
10.21.12

Once you use time, it is gone forever. Maybe that’s why we spend so much time looking at clocks.  

Debbie Millman
Chris Ware
10.19.12

In this audio interview with Debbie Millman, Chris Ware discusses his influences – including sending a Valentine to Charlie Brown – and explains why empathy figures so heavily into his work.

Rob Walker
Killing for Beautiful Objects
10.17.12

A report on the ivory trade reminds us of the uniquely human willingness to kill for beautiful objects.

Observed
Unbored
10.16.12

Unbored: The Essential Field Guide to Serious Fun from Joshua Glenn and Elizabeth Foy Larsen features 350 pages of projects, games, and information for kids aged 8-13, and their parents.

John Foster
Accidental Mysteries
10.14.12

Nocturnes : the dramatic allure of what happens in the night.

Alexandra Lange
Having Fun at the Museum
10.08.12

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

Jude Stewart
The World’s Smashing-est Kids’ TV Show
10.04.12

A review of Karambolage, a kids’ television show produced by ARTE, a French-German arts and culture channel.

Observed
Amend
09.20.12

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.

Alexandra Lange
Someone Else’s Shangri La
09.10.12

An exhibition of Doris Duke's Honolulu mansion, Shangri La, proves a “Spanish-Moorish-Persian-Indian complex” works as theater.

John Foster
Accidental Mysteries
John Foster
Accidental Mysteries
08.26.12

Accidental Mysteries is an online curiosity shop of extraordinary things, mined from the depths of the online world and brought to you each week by John Foster, a writer, designer and longtime collector of self-taught art and vernacular photography. This week's focus is taxonomies.

Alexandra Lange
Critics Critical Criticism
08.21.12

Meta-criticism all over the blogosphere (but why only about books?)

John Foster
Accidental Mysteries
John Foster
Accidental Mysteries
Alexandra Lange
The Critical Olympics
John Foster
Accidental Mysteries: 07.01.12
Alexandra Lange
The Shape of Lunch
John Foster
Accidental Mysteries: 06.24.12
Alexandra Lange
The Charismatic Megafauna of Design
Alexandra Lange
Dress Your Family in Formica and Faux Bois
Rob Walker
Dancing About Ruins
Alexandra Lange
‘Deco Japan’ + Designing Women
John Foster
Accidental Mysteries
Jessica Helfand
Audrey Real Helfand: Designer Manquée
03.13.12

Fifty years ago, my mother Audrey was a prolific visual maker: today, she’d be running her own studio.

Rick Poynor
Motif Magazine: The World Made Visible
03.02.12

Motif magazine, founded in 1958, anticipated a new way of seeing, documenting and appreciating the “visible world.”

Alexandra Lange
Want to Buy A Valentine?
02.04.12

You can buy a valentine handmade by someone else. You can send your beloved a vintage card using an app. But where's the romance in that?

Adam Harrison Levy
A History Of The World In 100 Objects
01.23.12

Adam Harrison Levy reviews the book A History Of The World In 100 Objects.

David Stairs
Demythologizing Design: Another View of "Design with the Other 90%: CITIES"
12.19.11

David Stairs reviews "Design with other 90%:Cities"

Rick Poynor
The Infinite Warehouse of Images
11.17.11

The more photos we collectively produce, the more ruthless we need to be about bestowing our attention.

Elle Luna
Report from a Japanese Maid Café
11.07.11

Globetrotting IDEO designer Elle Luna writes of her adventures among crazed anime addicts.

Rick Poynor
Did We Ever Stop Being Postmodern?
10.16.11

Like it or not, argues the V&A's exhibition about postmodernism and design, we are all postmodern now.

Rick Poynor
Should We Look at Corrosive Images?
Rick Poynor
Jan Svankmajer and the Graphic Uncanny
09.22.11

Uncanny: Surrealism and Graphic Design opens at the Kunstal in Rotterdam on September 24.

Rick Poynor
Richard Hamilton, the Great Decipherer
09.15.11

The artist Richard Hamilton, who died this week, was an acute observer of design and the contemporary world.

Alexandra Lange
Announcing LetsGetCritical.org
08.31.11

My new blog collects the best arts & culture criticism, essays and reviews.

An Xiao Mina
90 Years of Chinese Communism: A Multimedia Celebration
08.23.11

How the Chinese Communist Party designed its 90th anniversary commemorations

Rick Poynor
Funerary Portraits: Snapshots in Stone
08.17.11

The portrait sculptures in the Cimetière du château in Nice resuscitate their subjects with a frequently startling vividness.

Adrian Shaughnessy
The Politics of Desire and Looting
08.15.11

The part designers have played in the London riots.

Rick Poynor
From the Archive: Down with Innovation
Michael Erard
Notes on Getting the Daily Newspaper
07.21.11

Michael Erard tells of the experience of sharing the physical newspaper with his son.

Rick Poynor
The Dictionary as Art Concept
07.06.11

A new Magritte exhibition catalogue is not the first to take the form of a dictionary. How important is originality when it comes to book design?

Jessica Helfand
The Look of Freedom
07.04.11

It was the American novelist William Faulkner who once observed that we must be free not because we claim freedom, but because we practice it. So who am I to take issue with more contemporary interpretations of commemorative form?

Adam Harrison Levy
A Tattoo, A Toothbrush and A Pipe
06.18.11

Adam Harrison Levy writes three stories for Father's Day: about being a father, about father-hood and about his own father.

Elliott Earls
Make/Do
06.16.11

The vainglorious Mediocrity displayed by “artists” of every stripe.

Alexandra Lange
Let’s Go! World’s Fairs of the 1930s
Rick Poynor
Lost Inside the Collector’s Cabinet
Rick Poynor
Is That a Gun in Your Pocket?
Rick Poynor
A Dream World Made by Machines
Alexandra Lange
Vicarious Thrifting, via Twitter
John Thackara
A Smooth Journey
05.03.11

Two images have preoccupied me in recent days.

Jessica Helfand
The Royal Tweet
Rick Poynor
On My Screen: The Back of Beyond
04.28.11

John Heyer’s The Back of Beyond, made for Shell Australia in 1954, is one of the country’s finest films.

Alexandra Lange
The Only Thing There’s Just Too Little Of
04.26.11

What parenthood and artistic endeavor have in common: not enough time.

Rick Poynor
Starowieyski’s Graphic Universe of Excess
04.07.11

In Franciszek Starowieyski’s posters, desire, sexuality, monstrosity, madness and death conjoin in some of the most outrageous images found in graphic design.

Constantin Boym
True East
04.04.11

Meditations on the Middle Eastern incense burner.

Rick Poynor
Wim Crouwel: The Ghost in the Machine
Rick Poynor
An Unknown Master of Poster Design
03.25.11

Karel Teissig might just be the best poster designer you have never heard of.

John Thackara
Collapse of Civilization Tango
03.22.11

They say that the last days of Rome were culturally rich — and the same seems to be the case in our own times.

Rick Poynor
Slicing Open the Surrealist Eyeball
John Thackara
Work Faster, India!
John Thackara
Africa: Where Events Are King
02.20.11

John Thackara interviews Mugendi M’Rithaa.

Nancy Levinson
Architect Barbie
02.18.11

Architect Barbie: the world's most famous doll has a new career.

Alexandra Lange
Whatever Happened to the Dinner Party?
Debbie Millman
Rob Walker
02.04.11

In this audio interview with Debbie Millman, Rob Walker discusses how our digital records remain online even after we die, and his desire to brand the idea of being “happy for what you have”.

Jude Stewart
Grandma’s Matchbook Collection
02.02.11

My grandma collected matches. She scooped them up on business trips from the 1940s through the 80s, while buying ladies’ dresswear for a department store in Louisville, Kentucky.

Julie Lasky
Spider-Man: Turn Off the Hype
Jessica Helfand
Bring In Da Ponk!
01.19.11

There is a reason that most Americans don't think of roasted millet as a dietary staple, and it may have something to do with the fact that extracting it requires actually thrashing the wheat stalk from which it hails.

John Thackara
How the Banks Want to Make China Sick — and Broke
Steven Heller
My Big Fat Fast Food Feast at Eataly
01.12.11

A comparison of the vast differences of Italy's Eataly to New York's.

Rob Walker
Ghosts in the Machine
01.09.11

Everyday we are busy producing fresh masses of life-affirming digital stuff. What happens to this “stuff” when we die?

John Thackara
UnBox: Where Next for Design in India?
01.03.11

UnBox, a three day festival in Delhi, in February, brings together creative collectives from around India.

Alexandra Lange, and Mark Lamster
Lunch With The Critics: Year-End Awards
12.24.10

Mark Lamster and Alexandra Lange pick the best and worse moments in design for 2010.

Rick Poynor
Everything has Become Science Fiction
12.17.10

Is science fiction's most crucial task to envision the future or to understand the present?

Rob Walker
Rob Walker’s Collection of Bicentennial Quarters
12.09.10

Rob Walker shares his collection of bicentennial quarters.

Chappell Ellison
The Would-be Words of 2010
12.08.10

Ecotistical, doga, and auxer are just a few of the new words you should know in 2010.

John Thackara
Has Venice Cracked the Bottled Water Conundrum?
12.07.10

Italians are the leading consumers of bottled water in the world, the solution to the waste was to created a brand name for Venice’s tap water — Acqua Veritas.

John Thackara
Jellyfish Farm
12.01.10

Scientists warn that most natural seafood could disappear by 2048.

Rick Poynor
Where Is Art Now?
12.01.10

Leaving the art world to decide what art is doesn’t resolve the issue of quality.

Nancy Levinson
Art Talks
Jessica Helfand
Pretty Pictures, Bad Judgment
Alexandra Lange
My Marimekko Uniform
11.18.10

Wearing Marimekko is like being a walking work of art.

Adrian Shaughnessy
Minotaurs in Suburban England
11.09.10

English designer Vaughan Oliver met Adrian Shaughnessy to show him preliminary work on a deluxe Pixies box set called Minotaur.

Rick Poynor
Danzig Baldaev’s Prison House of Flesh
Rick Poynor
On My Shelf: Surrealism Permanent Revelation
Laura Tarrish
Laura Tarrish’s Collection of Miniature Chairs
11.04.10

Laura Tarrish shares her collection of miniature chairs.

KT Meaney
The Library: A Museum
11.01.10

The library at North Carolina State University is laden with gold. Books that seem "rare" or simply too special for public shelving have been, in my mind, erroneously stacked and "dewey decimaled".

Andy Chen
Not Queer, But Human
10.28.10

As a gay man and a designer, Andy Chen believes that part of the solution of homophobia lies in creating images that redefine the very way sexual orientation is understood and discussed.

Debbie Millman
Bill Moggridge
10.15.10

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.

James Lapides
Graphic Intervention
10.14.10

A slideshow containing images from Graphic Intervention: 25 Years of International AIDS Awareness Posters 1985–2010, now on view at Massachusetts College of Art and Design.

Michael Erard
It’s the 16th Ed. of the Chicago Manual of Style and I Feel Fine
10.04.10

Michael Erard reviews the 16th edition of The Chicago Manual of Style.

Adam Harrison Levy
The Wood Stacker
09.29.10

All his work, freed him from a dependency on oil. His heat is local.

Alexandra Lange
If These Walls Could Talk
09.13.10

On the ABC sitcom Modern Family, three different families are visually defined by their living rooms.

Rob Walker
Hearing Things
09.10.10

I have seen the future of rock and roll, and it’s merch. Of course, band-branded merchandise has been a major part of the music business, big and small, for years.

Jessica Helfand
Fat Chance
09.09.10

There's a long grounding for the appreciation of zaftig beauty in painting and sculpture — from the baroque beauties of Peter Paul Rubens to the geometrically rotund figures of Fernando Botero. So why is it so difficult to talk about people who are really fat?

Jessica Helfand
The Real Skinny on the Real Skinny
09.07.10

The is the first of two essays on the visual nature of body image.

Jessica Helfand
In the Palm of Your Hand: Dexterity Puzzles
08.23.10

A selection of rare dexterity puzzles from the personal collection of Jessica Helfand.

Meena Kadri
Two Rupees Worth
08.02.10

Now that the dust has settled on India's launch of their rupee symbol we are starting to see its application beyond the initial fanfare.


Jessica Helfand
Viva The Villain: A Review of Despicable Me
07.14.10

In an age in which last week’s Bernie Madoff is next week’s BP oil spill, villains are no longer the stuff of fiction. So when a really juicy fictional villain comes along — let alone two — it’s time to go to the movies.

Kenneth Krushel
Bukhara: A Traveler’s Notes
Alexandra Lange
Where Have All the Windchimes Gone?
06.25.10

What is a beach rental coming to when the dishes are without fish?

Jessica Helfand
The Next Great Graphic Designer
06.23.10

Tonight on Bravo's "Work of Art: The Next Great Artist" the winning Penguin book cover design will be unveiled, which begs a few questions. We hope our readers will weigh in with their opinions.

Jessica Helfand
Rome’s MAXXI: Force Field as Field Space
06.01.10

The MAXXI center in Rome opens with a glorious, international exhibition and showcases a building that is likely to be as controversial — and as celebrated — as its designer.

Ken Botnick, and Ira Raja
The Subtle Technology of Indian Artisanship
05.24.10

How India's craftsmen offer lessons in design thinking.


Helen Chang
Jugendstil: The Youth Style of Viennese Book Art
Alexandra Lange
The Maddening, Rewarding World of Design People
05.17.10

Most design people I know — don’t feel guilt over knowing what is priceless and what is junk. The film Please Give also thinks they know what it is worth.

Michelle Hauser
The Leisure of Looking: A Pedestrian View in a High-Speed Era
05.03.10


The current exhibition at the Houston Center for Photography comes from a huge private collection of vernacular group photographs.

Alexandra Lange
Carolina On... (No, I Just Can't Do It)
04.20.10

Everything cool that has happened in Durham and environs has happened since I left.

Azby Brown
Bent by the Sun
03.29.10

What a longtime American-born resident of Japan has learned about his adopted country's ancient practice of sustainability.

Alexandra Lange
The Future of Snacks
02.22.10

I spent the last week in the Bay Area, and I can’t help but think that all trends related to kids and food start there.

Christian Wiman
"Five Houses Down"
02.15.10

Five Houses Down, a poem by Christian Wiman.

Alexandra Lange
All Rubble Is Not Alike
02.02.10

I watched Manufactured Landscapes in the weeks before Christmas and it was just too depressing to post about in the run-up to gift day.

Andy Chen
Left Me Speechless
01.26.10

Our work should not merely address the political injustices wrought by discriminatory laws: it should register the sense of loss inflicted on those who suffer them.

Alexandra Lange
Love and Flatware
01.18.10

A scene from Sleepless In Seattle makes me wonder about the idea that shared taste = true love.

Rob Walker
Stuffed
12.17.09

The scariest reading of the A&E reality show Hoarders, is that these freakish piles of stuff it documents simply reflect what plenty of us consume as a matter of course.

Michael Erard
Notes on Being Born on Soil
12.14.09

At times you hear stories about patriots in exile who want their children to be born in the motherland and supplement by putting dirt from said place under a woman who is giving birth.

Jennifer Ehrenberg
Chicago Welcomes You
12.03.09

On designing a resettlement process for Burmese immigrants in Chicago.

Alexandra Lange
DWR = D/R?
12.02.09

Like D/R in the late 1970s, DWR is suffering from over-expansion, loss of specialness, and the lack of a leader with personal design vision.

Owen Edwards
Busted by Colombo, or, the Impediments of Style
12.01.09

The restrained high style of the ad men in Mad Men has revived a painful memory of one of my life-changing moments.

Aspen Editors
Aspen Design Summit Report: UNICEF Menstruation Challenge
Aspen Editors
Aspen Design Summit Report: UNICEF and Early Childhood Development
11.28.09

At the Aspen Design Summit November 11–14, 2009, sponsored by AIGA and Winterhouse Institute, the UNICEF Early Childhood Development Project proposed a new approach to emergency kits that would be more precisely tuned to young children’s intellectual and emotional needs, as well as outlined a basis for the next AIGA/INDEX: Aspen Design Challenge.

James Wegener
Metabolic Dark City
11.18.09

In 1993, the City of Darkness, or the Walled City of Kowloon was demolished. To the 35,000 people living in this dense urban slum, the change was the end of a lawless existence.

Steven Heller
Why Does John Baeder Paint Diners?
11.03.09

John Baeder's goal for the past three decades has been to record on canvas and paper just about every diner and roadside eatery.

Lindsay Stark
Renewal
10.29.09

Aid worker Lindsay Stark's portrait of the ritual purification of a child soldier in Sierra Leone.

Timothy Jack Ward
Gardens and Their Designers
10.15.09

When I loaded up my Budget truck and moved from New York to our nation’s capital, the last thing on, and the first thing off, was my plants.

Owen Edwards
Not the Same Old Same Old
10.05.09

It’s hard not to agree that cars, though better designed and engineered than ever, are often pressed into plebian duty.

Steven Heller
People in Glass Apartments
10.01.09

People in glass apartments shouldn’t throw stones or other projectiles. Nor should they engage in private acts directly in front of their floor to ceiling windows.

Mark Lamster
We Regret to Inform You That Love Will Not Save the Day
09.24.09

The big story on East 7th Street these days is the opening of Thom Mayne's new student center for Cooper Union, on Third Avenue.

Karen Stein
The Plain Beauty of Well-Made Things
09.23.09

Judd worked as an art critic in his early years in New York as he established himself as an artist. From 1959 until the mid-1960s, his art criticism was his primary, if not only, source of income

Dmitri Siegel
Lost In the Supermarket
09.10.09

Dmitri Siegel gets lost in the Supermarket and encounters incredibly grippy toothbushes, spouts, nozzles, Thorstein Veblen and Adolf Loos.

Kerry William Purcell
The Art of Psychographics
09.10.09

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. 

Inkahoots
Australians All Let Us Text
09.09.09

"New Anthems" art project by Inkahoots for Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts in Brisbane, Australia.

Teddy Blanks
Teddy Blanks on Figurines
08.18.09

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

Chappell Ellison
Compulsion: Where Object Meets Anxiety
08.18.09

At the age of 30, my brother turned to our mother and said, “I never thought I’d make is this far.” In his early 20s, he was officially diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

Rachel Berger
Significant Objects: #1 Mom Hooks
08.17.09

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
08.17.09

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
08.17.09

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
08.17.09

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

Alexandra Lange
Handmade
07.12.09

I found Floyd Bennett Field, the decomissioned 1930s airfield on the border of Brooklyn and Jamaica Bay, to be a very strange place.

Lena Dunham
On the Street in Tokyo
07.09.09

The major internal conflict I experienced on my recent trip to Japan was whether to explore the old-world: Zendos, philosopher's paths, Kabuki, tatami mats, visits to ancient spaces — or the new one: anime, arcades and bars that serve liquor while also selling puppies.

Adam Harrison Levy
Cars R Us
07.01.09

Andrew Bush’s photographs, featured in his new book Drive, remind us just how intimate we have become with our cars.

Mark Lamster
European Holiday
06.16.09

I'm off to the Continent, which is a good excuse to dip into the family photo archive for a few reminders of a time when European travel was a bit more of a novelty.

Steven Heller
Mad Music
06.08.09

In 1962, I spent hours listening to Mad magazine’s first LP (Big Top Records), Mad “Twists” Rock ‘N’ Roll. Owning the record made me feel like I was part of a club, which latter evolved into the sardonic, ironic sixties youth culture. It brings me back to a time before art, design, and humor had to be sophisticated to be good.

Angela Riechers
Hot Ticket
05.28.09

To see a play or movie, or ride the Twentieth Century Limited, you needed a ticket, and the development of ticket-dispensing machines paralleled the growth of popular culture.

Margaret Wertheim
Susan Boyle and The Beauty of Crochet
04.19.09

I want to reflect here on Susan Boyle's massive appeal from a very personal point of view, for I have spent much of the last three years managing a project that harnesses the creative energies of hundreds of middle-aged female "nobodies": Crochet Reef Project

Jessica Helfand
Land in Crisis: The Antelope Valley Story
04.14.09

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?
04.09.09

And what becomes of all those dead tweets, anyway — all those long-expired, evaporated updates?

Steven Heller
Japanese Face Masks
03.23.09

You may recall seeing in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, scores of surgical face-mask-wearing passersby navigating their ways through the dense futuristic metropolis that is a cross between Tokyo and LA. So I was totally surprised to find on my first trip to Tokyo that not only is it the custom to wear such masks everywhere, it's big business too, with a nod to graphic design.

Jessica Helfand
My Facebook, My Self
03.11.09

But as projections of ourselves, one's Facebook identity, made visible through one's photo albums, inhabits a public trajectory that goes way beyond who and what we are.


Mark Lamster
The Best of NY: Yours Truly
03.05.09

What I've always known is now established fact, as certified by the weekly record of this great city.

Mark Lamster
Roid Rage
02.08.09

The baseball world is up-in-arms over the revelations that Alex Rodriguez tested positive for steroid use a few years ago. My suggestion: move along, folks.

Mark Lamster
Complaint Dept. (Redux)
01.23.09

Most complaints in sixty seconds, a new world record. You've read the transcript. Now watch the video.

Mark Lamster
A Letter to the President
01.21.09

A letter to Barack Obama the day after his inauguration.

Lorraine Wild
A Babylon of Signs
01.19.09

For a generation, since Venturi and Scott Brown’s Learning From Las Vegas, most Angelinos neither did not notice the steady proliferation of signs along their Southern California landscapes and strips, nor perhaps cared. With the turn of the century, that changed. For the last eight years Los Angeles has been engaged in a war with the outdoor advertising industry. 

Mark Lamster
Mooses
01.13.09

Billy Crystal is one of those guests talk show producers adore, and if you were watching Letterman last night you know why.

Mark Lamster
Complaint Dept.
01.09.09

The complaint has always been my great metier, the form in which I am a non-pareil master. Last night I became an honest-to-goodness world record holder in my favored idiom.

Kerry Saretsky
Movable Feast
01.05.09

We all must eat; we all must drink. Together, these form the two most basic requisites of our existence. The restaurant is the watering-hole, the center point, the necessity. And yet restaurants do not just serve dinner; if you read between the lines on the menu, you’ll find they offer dinner, and a show.

Mark Lamster
Practice Does Not Make Perfect
12.25.08

The J-E-T-S spent $75 million this year on a state-of-the-art new training facility designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, but they may still miss the playoffs.

Mark Lamster
A Horrible Machine
12.25.08

Check out my essay on the classic scout song "Dunderbeck" in the latest issue (no. 6) of the always gnaw-worthy Meatpaper.

Steven Heller
My Dada
12.03.08

Way back in 1965, as a fifteen years old, I was an early EVOtee. I had stumbled upon one of the first issues at a newsstand. The cover, which I remember vividly, had a photo collage of a serpent emerging from battle fatigues worn by America's commanding general in Vietnam, William Westmoreland. Haunting is not a strong enough word to describe the impact that this had on a teen just a year or two out of Valley Forge Military Academy, where, surprisingly, I had learned about the military impossibility of winning the war.

Andrew Blauvelt
Towards Relational Design
11.03.08

Is there any overarching philosophy or connective thread that joins so many of today’s most interesting and increasingly diverse designs from the fields of architecture, graphic, and product design? I believe we are in the a third major phase in modern design history, moving towards an era dominated by relationally-based design activities.

Dmitri Siegel
Design by Numbers
10.15.08

Dmitri Siegel discusses Stephen Baker's new book The Numerati and how data-mining and personalized content may impact design.

Jessica Helfand
The Posters of Padua
10.02.08

In the sixteenth century the University of Padua initiated a custom that has prevailed to the present day — a custom which boasts, as it turns out, a very prominent design component.

Adam Harrison Levy
The Inventor of the Cowboy Shirt
09.30.08

A few years ago, I found myself lost inside a shopping mall with Jack A. Weil, better known as Jack A, the man who, in 1946, invented the snap-buttoned cowboy shirt.

Jessica Helfand
Second in a Series: Completions
09.15.08

The series, when shown on a single surface, carries with it a kind of implicit satisfaction that a series disseminated over time does not.

Michael Bierut
David Foster Wallace, Branding Theorist, 1962-2008
09.14.08


William Drenttel
Whose Flag?
09.04.08

Nearly a decade into a new century, I believe it is unacceptable for a design organization, foundation, board of directors, magazine or other enterprise, to mount an initiative with an all male panel of judges. Such behavior is no longer acceptable and should not be tolerated by a community of designers (or any other community).

Thomas de Monchaux
Remembering Yves St. Laurent
09.02.08

So what can we learn from the presence of fashion within design, and of design within fashion? For example, and more precisely, what can we learn from the work of Yves St. Laurent, the iconic French fashion designer who passed away this Summer?

Steven Heller
Canned Laughter
08.18.08

The verbal and visual puns of porta-a-potties are copious throughout this indispensable industry. Manufacturers and suppliers go to great lengths to make the portable toilet experience clean and sanitary, as well as warm and cute. Portable toiletry is only second after hair salons (i.e. Mane Street, Clip Joint, Hair Today, etc.) for warm and cute, albeit excruciating, pun names. And yet this is a dirty job, so why shouldn’t those who attend to our bodily hygiene have the opportunity to practice a little wit and double entendre?

Jessica Helfand
First In A Series: Cartophily
08.07.08

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?

William Davies King
Collections of Nothing
07.14.08


Jessica Helfand
Annals of Ephemera, Part III: Aging 2.0
07.14.08

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.

Andrew Flamm & Michelle Hauser
Folk Photos
07.08.08

The onset of the digital revolution has made the period for using film finite. Processed prints are becoming obsolete. With the immediate option of discarding an unintended image, a rich library of our unselfconscious selves will no longer be recorded. But it lives here, in these beautiful, poetic and tactile objects.

Randy Nakamura
Steampunk'd, Or Humbug by Design
07.07.08

In this time of cultural recycling, Humbug is a word perhaps best used to describe Steampunk, a subculture supposedly born out of a mash-up of DIY (do-it-yourself), Victoriana, punk, science fiction, Japanese anime and the urge to re-skin one’s computer as 19th century bric-a-brac. If the number of recent articles in the mainstream press is any reliable barometer, Steampunk is the next big thing.

Jessica Helfand
Reflections on the Ephemeral World, Part Two: Food
06.30.08

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.

John Thackara
We Are All Emerging Economies Now
06.05.08

I recently received an invitation to discuss design and development with a wonderful group of design peers in a beautiful location. But I have decided to decline the invitation. Why?


Andrew Blauvelt
Over the Rainbow
06.05.08

June marks the start of a month-long series of LGBT Pride celebrations in cities around the United States and the world, as well as the 30th anniversary of the rainbow flag — the de facto symbol of the LGBT community. While the visual and media focus of the celebrations have been the parades, the most enduring element is perhaps the rainbow.

Jessica Helfand
Reflections on The Ephemeral World, Part One: Ink
05.30.08

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
05.16.08

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.

Adam Harrison Levy
The Passion of George Lois
04.22.08

How adman George Lois chronicled the sixties with his cover designs for Esquire magazine, with a peek behind the scenes at the legendary famous Muhammad-Ali-as-St. Sebastian photoshoot.

Steven Heller
The Magic of the Peace Symbol
03.24.08

There was probably no more galvanizing nor polarizing emblem during the 1960s than the peace symbol. And perhaps few symbols have had origins surrounded in as much mystery and controversy

Jessica Helfand
Viewer Discretion Advised
03.21.08

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...

John Thackara
From MySpace to Fake Space
03.15.08

Traveling without moving has become an economic and environmental imperative. Matter is more expensive than energy; energy than information; it is cheaper to move information, than people or things. So what is to stop us moving less and and telecommunicating more?

The Editors
Marc Rabinowitz: Prostitution Facts
03.12.08

In spite of the tawdry glamour of "high-priced call girls," let's remember that this supposedly victimless crime takes a vast human toll that goes far beyond the embarrassment of powerful men. Marc Rabinowitz’s project invites us to imagine prostitution’s stark statistics...

Rick Poynor
Lost America: The Flamingo Motor Hotel
02.17.08

I found this old photo in a box at the back of my attic. It shows a motel in Flagstaff, Arizona where I stayed for a couple of nights in May 1978. I was 20, it was my first visit to the US, and for three weeks I had been touring around on Greyhound buses.

Jessica Helfand
Gone, Baby, Gone (Things, Part II)
01.30.08

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.

Rob Walker
Imitation of Life
01.13.08

Spend enough time looking at design and new-product Web sites and it’s easy to spot recurring themes. One of the most interesting is things that look like other things.

Cheryl Towler Weese
Is Apple Soft on Crime?
01.11.08

Here's the real question: could a climbing crime rate and the rise of the iPod be related? Has the iPod's design increased its likelihood of theft, and if so, what role could Apple's designers play in developing solutions?

Michael Bierut
The Most Hated Holiday Song in the World
12.22.07

Ten years ago, Vitaly Komar and Alex Melamid attempted to create the most irritating song in the world. It's now available online, and it's perfect for the holidays!

Dmitri Siegel
Designers and Dilettantes
09.18.07

Dmitri Siegel discusses graphic design authorship and the impending release of Elliott Earls' new film, The Sarany Motel.

Jessica Helfand
Cock-a-Doodle-Don't
07.10.07

Where food is concerned, the relationship between what things look like and how we respond exists at its most primal level: what is a gut reaction, after all, if not something that attacks your gut?

Tom Vanderbilt
On the Squareness of Milk Containers
06.13.07

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.

Michael Bierut
Everything I Know About Design I Learned from The Sopranos
06.11.07

Last night, after eight years, 86 episodes, and untold quantities of gobbagool, The Sopranos finished its run on HBO. And this is what we've learned, from a design point of view.

William Drenttel
Al Gore for President
05.31.07

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
05.28.07

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
Ad Reinhardt, Graphic Designer
05.17.07

Ad Reinhardt fretted about the meaning of life. He agonized about the purpose of painting. He questioned everyone, critiqued everything, and worked incessantly. In other words, he was a graphic designer.

Jessica Helfand
The New Manifest Destiny
04.22.07

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.

Jesse Nivens
In Search of Stock(y) Photography
04.19.07

That's right: in the alternate universe of stock photography, attactive people outnumber fat people 84 to one. As a culture, have we taken the idea of "overweight" and completely blocked it out?

Jessica Helfand
Annals of Ephemera: Town & Country Cookbook
03.26.07

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
03.14.07

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.

David Stairs
That (Other) 1970's: The Last King of Scotland
03.01.07

The Last King of Scotland, Kevin McDonald's film about Idi Amin's notorious presidency, opened in Uganda to great fanfare. The VIP screening took place at Kampala's Cineplex, with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and Forest Whitaker in attendance. The premiere was not targeted to the average Ugandan...

Jessica Helfand
The Illusion of Certainty
02.19.07

Artist Allan McCollum aspires to an unprecedented scale with this "Shapes" project: his goal is to make enough shapes, assuming a population of approximately 9.1 billion by the year 2050, so that everyone on the planet can have one. Shapes aside, what's truly fascinating is the idea of the system: what is it about them that we hate to love and love to hate?

Jessica Helfand
I'm Not Ready to Make Nice
02.12.07


Adrian Shaughnessy
"I Sold My Soul And I Love It"
02.05.07

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."

Jessica Helfand
The Karaoke Effect
01.19.07

The lure of American Idol, in these early weeks, lies in precisely this shaky space: that illusory bubble populated by thousands of fame-seekers who fervently believe in their own righteous, if highly fictional talent. It's cultural fallout. Just as the karaoke singer imagines him or herself live and in concert before the screaming fans, so, too, does the illusion persist once the microphone is turned off.

Michael Bierut
The It Factor
01.16.07

In their 1983 book Quintessence: The Quality of Having It, Owen Edwards and Betty Cornfeld created an elegant and influential treatise in what makes something the real thing, a lesson that Steve Jobs has obviously absorbed.

John Thackara
Global Place — Or is it a Hat?
01.05.07

We must view the world with a new slant and take advantage of a huge design opportunity to create sustainable structures for the future.

Alissa Walker
War Is Over! If You Want It
12.29.06

When the star of the documentary The U.S. vs. John Lennon is asked by a reporter what he thinks Nixon should do to end the Vietnam War, Lennon stares incredulously into the camera. "He should declare peace." As if this was the most obvious solution in the world.

Jessica Helfand
How Hollywood Nailed The Half-Pipe
11.27.06

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.
Michael Bierut
New House
11.20.06

In 1967, just after my tenth birthday, we moved from a cramped 1940s bungalow in an older Cleveland suburb to up-and-coming Parma, Ohio. I had been walking the earth for a full decade, but that fall I felt I was finally assuming my birthright as an American: a brand new house.

Jessica Helfand
Into the Pink
11.17.06

Co-opting a color and making it your own.

Michael Erard
The G Word
10.29.06

Google has launched an effort to keep people from using their name as an all-purpose verb. Don't want to be evil? Then don't act as if you can win if you constrain the creative productivity of language.

Jessica Helfand
My Cup Holder Runneth Over
10.22.06

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?

Michael Bierut
The Golden Age of American Commercialism
09.24.06

The encroachment of commercialism into everyday life seems like a peculiarly modern phenomenon. Yet around one hundred years ago, America began a romance with salesmanship that today seems almost delirious. A 1922 business directory shows how great crass commercialism used to look.

Jessica Helfand
Death 'N' Stuff
09.21.06

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?
William Drenttel
What Ever Happened to Half.com, Oregon?
08.29.06

But back in 1999, in its Netflix-like heyday, Half.com was hot. And it did something quite remarkable. As a publicity stunt, it bought a town and renamed it. Someplace in Oregon. I wondered what ever happened to Half.com, Oregon — the first dot com city in the world?

Jessica Helfand
The Ovalization of The American Mind
08.20.06

Ovals — emancipated from circular restriction, freed of rectangular rigidity — are a perfect metaphor for the way we live now. They're out of shape and flabby, non-committal and generic — like sensible shoes, practical and monotonous and dull.

Dmitri Siegel
World 6.0: Same as the Old World?
08.17.06

Edward Castronova's recent book Synthetic Worlds: The Business and Culture of Online Games sheds some light on the increasingly tangled relationship between MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Games) and the game of life.

Jessica Helfand
A Good Pan Is Hard To Find
07.28.06

On baking a cheesecake and becoming a better designer: it's one big balancing act of artistry and skill.

Jessica Helfand
The Global Curse of Comic Sans
07.20.06

In this coastal region slung just below the Pyrenees, one might expect to see evidence of the enduring cultural tensions between Spain and Catalonia — different kinds of signs or symbols, for instance â€" but on the surface at least, no such rift is exposed. Instead, Catalonia clings to a visual language that celebrates the goofy: this is a country awash in Comic Sans.

Jessica Helfand
The Right Stuff
07.07.06

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?

Lawrence Weschler
Koppel to Cooper: Cool, Cooler, Cold
06.08.06

Hey, maybe that's the ticket for McSweeney's: Put some bigtime sexy celebrity on the cover, somebody huge and charismatic and irresistible, somebody like, you know...Ted Koppel! What then to make of this month's cover of Vanity Fair? The fact that the editors there, in offering Anderson Cooper up as the studmuffin du mois, may be an occasion for some serious concern.

Jessica Helfand
"Oui, Oui, Oui" All The Way Home
06.01.06

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.

Jessica Helfand
Annals of Academia: The New Exoticism
05.22.06


Julie Lasky
The Photography of Mark Robbins
05.18.06

Mark Robbins'
Households is a collection of portraits in which the sitters are sometimes sitting rooms (or kitchens or bedrooms), and the people are polished, draped, and arrayed like furniture. Composed to resemble architectural plans or elevations — or in some cases the triptychs of medieval altarpieces — the images represent home dwellers and their environments. Flesh, bone, brick, stone, contoured torsos, and varnished chairs assume equal status. The message is simple: You may not be what you eat, but you most certainly are where you live.
Jessica Helfand
Disaster Relief 101: No Door Hanger Left Behind
04.30.06

Door hangers seem the perfect metaphor for FEMA's failure: they're one-dimensional, unnecessarily complicated, and basically useless.

Jessica Helfand
The Art of Thinking Through Making
04.21.06


Jessica Helfand
The Propensity for Density
04.11.06

It's like design's been on a diet and finally gets to eat that giant cheesecake: shifting notches on the belt buckle, we're so happy for the sugar high that we don't realize we're slipping. And slipping we are.

Jessica Helfand
A Sequence in Time
04.04.06

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

Lawrence Weschler
Languorous Bodyscapes
03.16.06

"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.

Dmitri Siegel
Broadcast vs. Broadband
03.09.06

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
03.02.06

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.

Jessica Helfand
What We Talk About When We Talk About Design History
02.16.06

At the end of the day, being a design historian means being observant and fearless, stubborn and driven, principled, passionate and anything but lazy. It means going where you have to go to get what you need.

Jessica Helfand
Freedom of Speech or Filching of Style? The New Law of Eminent Lo-Mein
02.02.06

DIY design invading typography terrain: culture-jamming in the domains of freedom of speech, pharmaceutics, and pop-culture.

Jessica Helfand
The D Word
01.29.06

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
01.19.06


Jessica Helfand
Civilian Typography: The Power and The Fury
01.08.06

Without a cell phone, or in a flood, or barred from public transportation, the thing that separates human beings from the animal kingdom is our ability to communicate verbally. If we can't do that, we do it graphically. When all else fails, the pen isn't just mightier than the sword: it is the sword.

Mark Lamster
Seeing Red
01.01.06

Red Bogart blamed technology and changing attitudes for the reason he sold Camp Tomahawk, but Mark Lamster knew there was something more to the story.

Adrian Shaughnessy
Charles Dickens and The BBC
12.19.05

Who would have guessed that a
BBC costume drama would provide us with Exhibit-A in the defense's case — that a mass audience can be engaged without pandering to base instincts?
Jessica Helfand
Face Value
12.16.05

Facial transplants mapping our future: how much is the world of design responsible?

Dmitri Siegel
Bartleby™
12.11.05

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
The Shock Of The Old: Rethinking Nostalgia
10.27.05

Placing Nostalgia: where in the design landscape does it fit? And should it be included in the first place?

Alexandra Lange
Married with Tchotchkes
10.09.05

For many design-obsessed couples registering at Moss requires more strategy than playing the stock market.

Jessica Helfand
On Citizenship and Humanity: An Appeal for Design Reform
10.06.05

Ruminations on the Citizen Designer: A human first, a designer second, but most importantly, one who responds to collective cultural needs.

Jessica Helfand
Eye of the Storm
09.01.05

A re-entrance into the world: Following Hurricane Katrina, how should design continue?

Rick Poynor
Sublime Little Tubes of Destruction
08.20.05

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
07.31.05

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
07.08.05


Debbie Millman
Andrew Geller, Alastair Gordon + Jake Gorst
06.24.05

Andrew Geller, Alastair Gordon and Jake Gorst talk about Gorst's new documentary Leisurama.

Rick Poynor
In Memoriam: My Manual Typewriter
06.16.05

The fully evolved typewriter is a 20th-century industrial archetype. It feels inevitable, almost elemental, like one of those object types, such as a chair or a fork, that simply had to exist in this universe of forms.

Jessica Helfand
The Cut: When Life Imitates Art (I Mean Design)
06.10.05

CBS Television debuted its new series,
The Cut, (modeled after other reality shows such as NBC's The Apprentice)about "16 aspiring designers."
Rick Poynor
But Darling of Course it’s Normal: The Post-Punk Record Sleeve
05.20.05

There have been collections of post-punk music and now, finally, there is British music critic Simon Reynolds' 500-page history of the genre from 1978 to 1984. It's a brilliant book. He argues that post-punk music's explosion of creativity equals the golden age of popular music in the mid-1960s, but that it has never received its full due. I think he's right.

Rick Poynor
Eduardo Paolozzi, 20th Century Image-Maker
04.24.05

If a visual artist created more concentrated, exhilarating images of science, technology and the media realm during the mid-20th century than British artist Eduardo Paolozzi, then I would like to see them. Paolozzi, who died on 22 April aged 81, was first of all a sculptor, but the screenprints he produced in the 1960s rank as masterpieces of the medium.

Jessica Helfand
Extremely Young and Incredibly Everywhere: The Public Art of Jonathan Safran Foer
04.21.05

Jonathan Safran Foer's emergent body of work includes film and video, public art installations, theatrical collaboration, expressive typography, and a fairly prolific jumpstart as a writer. Cumulatively, all of his projects — which range from collecting empty pages of famous writers, to constructing parabolas in a public park, to collecting anonymous self-portraits — seem to look for ways to formally address time and space and the human condition.

Rick Poynor
Dot Dot Dot Dot Dot Dot Dot Dot Dot
03.21.05

Dot Dot Dot is the most stimulating and original visual culture magazine produced by designers since Emigre's heyday in the late 1980s to the mid-1990s.

Debbie Millman
Grant McCracken, Part 2
03.18.05

Grant McCracken PhD, author and a research affiliate at MIT.

Jessica Helfand
Scrapbooking: The New Paste-Up
03.17.05

"Craft-born embellishments," note one supplier of scrapbooking products, "are penetrating an unexpected market: graphic design."

Debbie Millman
Grant McCracken, Part 1
03.11.05

Grant McCracken PhD, is an author and a research affiliate at MIT.

Lawrence Weschler
The Aural As An Architectonic Challenge
03.03.05

What are the people over at Transom.org up to? As it happens, this month is a very good time to pay them a visit: for the next several weeks, Walter Murch — the phenomenally smart and inspired film and sound editor — will be continuing to hold court there.

Jessica Helfand
Our Bodies, Our Fonts
02.21.05

Body markings — piercings, tattoos and so forth — have recently evolved into a kind of marginalized form of graphic expression, yet one that sheds an unusual light on some of the more mainstream ways in which design often reveals itself.

Jessica Helfand
My Friend Flickr
02.18.05

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.
Jessica Helfand
The New Paper Chase: Cyberspace on The Auction Block
02.16.05

On February 23,
Christies in New York will auction more than 1,000 items dating as far back as the early 17th century, all of it tracing the history of cyberspace.
Tom Vanderbilt
Rise and Fall of Rock and Roll Graphic Design
02.14.05

Has heavy metal graphic design run its course? Is the band logo as a species dead? And is there much of a future for the graphic representation of popular music itself?

Rick Poynor
The Ikea Riot: Unsatisfied Excess?
02.12.05

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?

Rick Poynor
Modernising MoMA: Design on Display
06.06.04

MoMA is broadening its approach to graphic design. Recovering this material history will assist us in understanding our broader cultural history and help to educate a more aware generation of visual communicators.

Rick Poynor
It's a Man's World
11.02.03

Adam Parfrey’s book shows hundreds of men’s magazine covers from the 1950s painted by artists who specialized in depictions of tough guys abusing terrified women. Have we outgrown this kind of thing? Heck no.


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