Popular Culture

Michael Bierut + Jessica Helfand
Episode 44: In Dreams
Marcin Wichary visits the Technology Museum of Emporda, Vine, Grand Central Station vistas, deluxe composition notebooks, Errol Morris on Elsa Dorfman, bad ballot design, Grilli Type’s GT America, Transparent, Elaine Lustig Cohen.


John Foster
Welcome to the Asylum
A selection of images that came from the days when ‘asylum’ was a noun, not a verb.


Adam Harrison Levy
Coney Island of The Mind
It’s late August and your shirt sticks to your back. The only escape is….the beach.


Michael Bierut + Jessica Helfand
A Seat at the Table
The President needs a Cabinet-level Secretary of Design — or a design consigliere


Rick Poynor
The Art of Punk and the Punk Aesthetic
Punk has two graphic histories: Punk: An Aesthetic and The Art of Punk. What conclusions do they draw?


Debbie Millman
Alison Bechdel
Debbie talks to Alicon Bechdel about how identifying herself as a lesbian when she was young lead her into a career as a cartoonist.


Michael Bierut + Jessica Helfand
Prisons and Paradise
Solitary confinement, virtual reality, design thinking for prisoners, Drew Hodges’s Broadway, The Paradise, Prince’s unpronounceable glyph


Alice Twemlow
Dodging, Dazzling, and Divulging
Design Responses to Mass Surveillance


Michael Bierut + Jessica Helfand
Shapes and Japes
Corporate design humor from Mic Drop to bland.ly, photoviz, remembering Zaha Hadid


Rick Poynor
Stephen Bayley: Death Drive
Style, money, class, glamour, sex, and the car crash


Michael Bierut + Jessica Helfand
Crowd Control
Tay, Boaty McBoatface, New Zealand, emoji, and the madness of crowds


John Foster
Accidental Mysteries
This collection of underground music and culture events flyers come from the personal online collection of Chicago collector Marc Fischer.


John Foster
Rebel Yell
Rare Posters and Placards from the 1930s Socialist Arts Collective


Paul Gansky
Jurassic Hacking
Shoot-outs and talking telephones


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



John Foster
Quest for Fire
Vintage Swedish Matchboxes


John Foster
All About the Box
Mid-century toy robots



Sara Jamshidi
The Observers
Built Environment


Rick Poynor
Exposure: Butlin’s holiday camp by Edmund Nägele
A sixties vacation in glowing color


Rick Poynor
Exposure: Cat and I by Wanda Wulz
Modernity, femininity and the feline


John Foster
Flower Power
The Hibiscus Scrapbook


Rick Poynor
Exposure: Viktoria Modesta by Nadav Kander
Changing perceptions of impairment


Betsy Vardell
Holiday Movies in Print: The Apartment
The movie that made Fred MacMurray a cad



Betsy Vardell
Holiday Movies in Print: Santa Claus Conquers the Martians
Christmas in space-blazing color!


Michael Bierut, Jessica Helfand
The Observatory: Our Favorite Things
On this episode, Jessica Helfand talks about her Paris 140 series, and Michael Bierut describes his 100 Day Project + some of the cultural highlights of the year.



Rob Walker
Jony Ive: The Supercut
Finally! Someone made a supercut video of Jony Ive’s years of describing the awesomeness of Apple product design.


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


Jessica Helfand
To Thine Own Selfie Be True
Photographing oneself has become a singular pastime, an instantly rewarding yet indisputably time-sucking activity poised somewhere between narcotic and sport.


Steven Heller
Confessions of a Frustrated Newsprint Lover
I’ve held on devotedly to newsprint as long as humanly possible but I recently reached the point where my loyalty gave way to expedience.



Véronique Vienne
Image Making, Reclaimed
Etienne Hervy, art director of the International Graphic Design Festival in Chaumont, France, asked a painter, not a graphic designer, to create a pair of posters for this year’s event.


Justin Zhuang
Monocle Magazine: A Singular View of the City
A monocle is a single eyeglass kept in position by the muscles around the eye. The same can be said of monocle Magazine, a publication fixated on how cities should all be built in style and for conspicuous consumption.



Alexander Isley
The Light
How operating a searchlight influenced Alexander Isley's approach to design.


John Foster
Why Won’t My Doll Sell on eBay?
From Chatty Cathy to Pee-Wee Herman, to the movie Chucky, sentient dolls have occupied the imagination of children and adults in literature, photography, theatre, and film.



Observed
Glaser Goes Psychedelic
If you're watching the premier of Mad Men this Sunday, you may notice some familiar-ish graphics. That's because the key art for Season 7 was created by Milton Glaser, based on some of the work he became known for in the 1960's and 70's, now frequently described as 'psychedelia'.


Hala Abdul Malak
Hala A. Malak on Lomo
Hala A. Malak is a design critic, curator, branding consultant, and Middle East expert with her own particular view of the world.


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


Brigette Brown
Brigette Brown on Umbrellas
Brigette Brown is a 2013 graduate of SVA MFA Design Criticism program who has worked for the Museum of Latin American Art, written for Disegno and Surface, researched for Metropolis, and edited a publication for Domus.


Adam Harrison Levy
Data Loss
Adam Harrison Levy on losing everything he had stored on his phone for three years.


Anne Quito
Anne Quito on Quiet
Anne Quito will graduate in May 2014 from SVA’s MFA Design Criticism program. In 2009, she earned a master’s degree in Visual Culture from Georgetown University.


Anna Marie Smith
Anna Marie Smith on “Apples to Apples”
Anna Marie Smith is currently working on her MFA in Design Criticism from the School of Visual Arts, with particular interest in social media, video game design, and branding within the Young Adult demographic.



Observed
The Hilda Stories
In a new video series from Herman Miller, Hilda Longinotti, George Nelson’s longtime aide-de-camp, recounts some of the greatest anecdotes from her 21-year run at the legendary New York City design atelier.



Observed
Complaints Posters
Complaints! An Inalienable Right, is a poster exhibition curated by author, design critic, educator and Design Observer friend Steven Heller.


John Foster
Blues, Baptisms, and Prison Farms: The Lomax Snapshots of 1934-1950
Blues, Baptisms, and Prison Farms: The Lomax Snapshots of 1934-1950


John Foster
The Dreamland Motel
A reivew of the vanishing signage of our American landscape.


Owen Edwards
The Quickest Fix
A suggestion for an easy & quick design tweak that could help reduce concussions in the NFL.


Rob Walker
Personal Packaging
Fondly revisiting the look and feel of the mixtape.


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



Observed
Selling Shame
Southern California artist Cynthia Petrovic has collected vintage body-shaming advertisements geared toward women.


Rick Poynor
The Compulsively Visual World of Pinterest
I have always liked Pinterest’s exclusively visual focus and unlimited boards structure. A week ago I joined.


John Foster
Capturing Imagination
The ten most popular galleries from John Foster in 2013.


Michael Bierut
And May All Your Christmases Be Carefully Staged So As To Appear White
A backstage story from Balanchine’s The Nutcracker 


Rick Poynor
Martin Sharp: From Satire to Psychedelia
The late Martin Sharp was a visual innovator whose work erased artificial distinctions between applied image-making and fine art.



John Foster
Graphics of Authority
A look at the police cars that may or may not want to be seen.



Observed
New Items in the Design Observer Store
New products listed in the Design Observer store.



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



Alexandra Lange
L.A. Loves Deborah Sussman
A Kickstarter for an upcming exhibition on the wotk of Deborah Sussman in Los Angeles.



Observed
Happy Halloween!
To celebrate the creepy and the spooky, a short list of films for your Halloween viewing pleasure.



Observed
The Wire Poster Project
"The Wire Poster Project" consists of 60 typographic posters, each one representing one of the 60 different epigrams preceding every episodes of HBO’s critically acclaimed series, The Wire.


Rick Poynor
New York: City of Spectacular Doors
For six years, Allan Markman crisscrossed New York taking pictures of remarkable doors for a new book.


John Foster
John Foster on Colloquialisms
John Foster has been a longtime collector of self-taught art and vernacular photography, as well as an artist, designer, and art curator.


John Maeda
John Maeda on Loops
We’re in the same loop. Culture lags. Art and design have to pick up the slack.


Mark Lamster
High Net Space: The New International Style
High Net Space: The New International Style



Observed
The Subculture of Japanese Trucker Art
Tatsuki Masaru's new book Dekotora documents the Japanese subculture of pimping big rigs with neon lights and luxury interiors.


Rick Poynor
Soft Machine’s Dysfunctional Mechanism
An alternative cover for the French release of The Soft Machine’s first album alludes to the history of the machine in 20th-century art.


Observed
Iron Man 3 Titles
An interesting look at the design process for the Iron Man 3 title screens.



Observed
My 3-D Life
Meanwhile, what’s to stop me from printing some caviar, or an Oscar? A pony? Or a Porsche? Musings on what to print on your home 3-D printer.


John Foster
Birds of a Feather
This week's Accidental Mysteries focuses on groups of similar objects: Birds of a Feather.


Rick Poynor
From the Archive: Upgrade Yourself!
If appearances matter more than ever, as we are constantly told, the personal makeover has become our most fundamental design task.



Rob Walker
The Mighty Shirt Kings
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.



Observed
The Man in Black, On Your Envelope
On June 5, 2013, the US Post Office issues a new stamp designed by Greg Breeding featuring Johnny Cash.


Rick Poynor
The Irresistible Attraction of Self Storage
Self storage centers are places of private and public fascination and I always knew that one day I would succumb.


Alexandra Lange
Anxiety, Culture and Commerce
Is the museum store a distraction or an enticement?


Kit Hinrichs + Delphine Hirasuna
The Alphabet Card
Excerpt from The Alphabet Card, a new book by Kit Hinrichs and Delphine Hirasuna.



Observed
Circus Poster Archive
Circusmuseum.nl, is "the ultimate image bank" of circus posters, photos and prints — with nearly eight thousand circus posters from 1880 to the present, from the Netherlands to America.


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
Awful Library Books
Awful Library Books is a collection of amusing and/or questionable library holdings found in real libraries and curated by librarians Mary Kelly and Holly Hibner.


John Foster
Drawn to Currency
The Accidental Mystery of Tim Prusmack's hand drawn currency.



Observed
We The Designers
We the Designers” is a national exhibition of self-authored graphic design on view through April 5 at the AIGA National Design Center in NYC.



Observed
London Transport Museum Poster Colletion
A wonderful way to spend an hour (or more). The poster collection from the London Transport Museum.



Observed
Valentinishness
Unorthodox suggestions and unsolicited advice for V-Day.



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


John Foster
Accidental Mysteries
Comic selections from the 
Lewis Wayne Gallery in Dallas, Texas — one of the nation’s largest galleries of comic book art. 


Alexandra Lange
Bad Taste True Confessions: Erté
True confessions about my own bad taste. I loved Erté. Did you?



Betsy Vardell
Betsy on Etsy: Gifts for Kids
Gifts for children found on Etsy.com



Observed
Neon: Bright Lights, Big City
Collector's Weekly interviewed architect Kirsten Hively, the created of the free iPhone app Project Neon.



Betsy Vardell
Betsy on Etsy: Guide to Personalizable Gifts
Personalized gifts found on Etsy.com.



Betsy Vardell
Betsy on Etsy: Ornaments and Decorations Gift Guide
Ornaments and decorations found on Etsy.


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


John Foster
Accidental Mysteries
Hands of all kinds — in bronze, as shadow puppets and on gravestones.



Betsy Vardell
Betsy on Etsy: Science/Technology Gift Guide
Science and technology related gifts found on Etsy.com


John Foster
Accidental Mysteries
Motorcycle club cuts (or vests) and their assorted, colorful club colors (or patches) represent a unique form of American folk art embodying the freedom and nonconformity of bikers.


Alexandra Lange
3rd Annual Holiday Card Review
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
Lunchboxes from the American past, via the National Museum of American History.



Observed
How Does Your Salary Compare?
Coroflot's 12th annual Design Salary Guide.


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


Rob Walker
Focusing On ‘Optics’
Optics: The indispensible buzzword for those who analyze pseudo-events.


Alexandra Lange
The Shape of Lunch
"Lunch Hour NYC," a new exhibition at the New York Public Library, defines the midday meal as an urban invention.


John Foster
Accidental Mysteries: 06.24.12
Accidental Mysteries, a weekly cabinet of visual curiosities curated by John Foster, highlights images of design, art, architecture and ephemera brought to light by the magic of the digital age. This week's focus is Zippos from VietNam.


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


Michael Bierut
I Love the 80s
Miami Vice: the quintessential postmodern design artifact, in all its glory and all its disgrace.


John Foster
Bumbos, Swirlys and a Chinese Birdcage: A Snapshot of Marbles
Accidental Mysteries, a weekly cabinet of visual curiosities curated by John Foster, highlights images of design, art, architecture and ephemera brought to light by the magic of the digital age. This week's focus is marbles.


Rick Poynor
From the Archive: Graphic Metallica
Heavy metal’s extremity, as a set of aesthetic choices and as a way of life, exerts an enduring fascination.


John Foster
Accidental Mysteries
Accidental Mysteries, a weekly cabinet of visual curiosities curated by John Foster, highlights images of design, art, architecture and ephemera brought to light by the magic of the digital age. This week's focus is paper folding art.



Observed
The Architecture of Television
Brandi Roberts is an interior designer by training and TV afficionado by choice who draws fictional floorplans of classic television shows.



Observed
Make a Mixel this Weekend
This weekend the folks at Mixel, an amazing collaborative collage app for the iPad, want to spread the word about how easy (and fun) it is.


John Foster
Accidental Mysteries
Accidental Mysteries, a weekly cabinet of visual curiosities curated by John Foster, highlights images of design, art, architecture and ephemera brought to light by the magic of the digital age. This week's focus is Superheroes.


John Foster
Accidental Mysteries
Accidental Mysteries, a weekly cabinet of visual curiosities curated by John Foster, highlights images of design, art, architecture and ephemera brought to light by the magic of the digital age. This week's focus is St. Louis Bus Passes from the 1940s.



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”.


Alexandra Lange
Frank Lloyd Wright + Katniss Everdeen
On photographing architecture as sculpture and telling stories via architecture.


Rick Poynor
On Display: Museum of Broken Relationships
The Museum of Broken Relationships in Zagreb is a public space consecrated to a universal experience of sadness and loss.



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.


John Foster
Accidental Mysteries
Welcome to Accidental Mysteries, a weekly cabinet of visual curiosities set aside for your perusal and enlightenment. This week's focus is firearms.


Rick Poynor
How We Learned to Live with Zombies
Zombie films, zombie walks, zombie shops, zombie TV series: our darkest fears are now mainstream.


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.


Alexandra Lange
Stop That: Minimalist Posters
Make a minimalist poster, see your work travel the digital world.


Rick Poynor
Chris Foss and the Technological Sublime
Is cult science fiction artist Chris Foss’s work just highly effective illustration, or can it be seen as a visionary form of art?


Nancy Levinson
A Dream House for Architect Barbie
Just in time for the midsummer heat, Architect Barbie's got a competition-winning new dream house in Malibu.


Alexandra Lange
The Uses of Cranks
Maybe comedy isn't Larry David's calling.


Rick Poynor
Lost Inside the Collector’s Cabinet
The Collector’s Cabinet at the Frederic Marès Museum in Barcelona is a mind-bending, sense-bedazzling palace of artifactual wonders.


Rick Poynor
Stewart Mackinnon: Ruptured and Remade
Why, at the height of his early success, did a brilliant British illustrator decide to walk away and what happened next?


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


Alexandra Lange
What Should Food Look Like?
Food packaging and what it says about class.


Rick Poynor
Surrealism in the Pre-School Years
A poet described postcards as a “Lilliputian hallucination of the world”: he must have seen the surreal babies.


Alexandra Lange
Sans Serif Seasons Greetings
The market in "modern" holiday cards grows every year, but the choices--Helvetica, brown and baby blue, color blocks--still seem dated.


Jessica Helfand
Pretty Pictures, Bad Judgment
If a picture's worth a thousand words, a publically broadcast picture is amplified, multiplied and cast out into a world where it can go anywhere.



John Foster
Accidental Mysteries
Accidental Mysteries, a weekly cabinet of curiosities curated by John Foster, highlights images of design, art, architecture and ephemera brought to light by the magic of the digital age.



Johanna Blakley
The Costs of Ownership: Why Copyright Protection Will Hurt the Fashion Industry
New copyright protection for fashion designs is only going to hurt an already struggling industry.



Michael Bierut
Jerry Della Femina, Mad Men, and the Cult of Advertising Personality
A review of Jerry Della Femina’s From Those Wonderful Folks Who Gave You Pearl Harbor, published in a new edition on the occasion of the debut of the fourth season of the AMC series Mad Men.



Gerry Shamray
Harvey and Me
A remembrance of comic artist and graphic novelist Harvey Pekar by an illustrator who worked with him throughout his career, fellow Clevelander Gerry Shamray.



Mike Sinclair
Midway at the Oasis
Photo of Neshoba County Fair, Philadelphia, Mississippi.



Mark Dery
Dawn of the Dead Mall
Mark Dery surveys the landscape of failing malls and speculates about the future means and venues of mass consumption.



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



Mark Lamster
Theirs Go to Twaalf
Meet Lamster (no relation), Belgium's ascendant metal goliath.



Rob Walker
Timeless Object
What makes a useless-seeming watch potentially more valuable — in identity terms — than, say, regular jewelry?



Debbie Millman
Shepard Fairey
Designer and illustrator Shepard Fairey is the author of Supply and Demand: The Art of Shepard Fairey and Shepard Fairey: Post No Bills.



Debbie Millman
Jeffrey Keyton
An interview with Jeffrey Keyton, Senior Vice Ppresident, On-Air Design and Off-Air Creative, MTV.



Rick Poynor
Dancing to the Sound in Your Head
We might not appreciate advertising conducted like a saturation bombing campaign in public spaces. Yet now, to complicate things, the personal stereo is being used as a way of reasserting spontaneity, exuberance and passion in over-controlled public places.



Rob Walker
Unconsumption
Getting new stuff can feel really good. Most everybody knows that. Most everybody also knows — that utility can fade, pleasure can be fleeting and the whole thought-that-counts thing is especially ephemeral.



Debbie Millman
Malcolm Gladwell + Joyce Gladwell
An interview with Malcolm Gladwell, author of The New York Times bestseller Outliers and Joyce Gladwell, author of Brown Face.



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 09