The Design Observer Twenty

Eric Baker | Today Column

Today, 10.03.08

Several months ago I began sending images to my good friend in Los Angeles, Clive Piercy — odd and interesting things I had found online that day. Each morning, before starting work, I would spend 30 minutes looking for visuals that were beautiful, funny, absurd and yet inspiring. I am continually amazed at the millions of images we have at our fingertips: design history, architecture, photography, ephemera and information.

Gradually I added other friends and colleagues to an email list I called "Today," and over the following months it became a kind of obsession. Every day I was trying to find even more of this wonderful material, images that made me smile or that inspired me.

Most designers are pack rats and collectors; it is our nature to see rather than just look and these images become a part of our everyday lives.

Perhaps the most appealing part of the process is the randomness of the images: an obscure Czech modernist poster followed by a vintage Australian mug-shot, followed by a diagram of a Soviet space station. This very randomness creates a different way of seeing by removing the context of the images. At times, sometimes by accident or occasionally by design, a relationship in the images will emerge. Mostly, though, I love the vagaries of the images — their beauty, absurdity and naivete.

Here are Today’s images.

TODAY is a weekly jewel box of seemingly random, yet thoughtfully selected, images. At times tender, wicked, nostalgic, amusing, and dazzling, each edition is presented without narration, editing or explanation by its author, designer Eric Baker. "It all began as a goof. One day I sent a good friend about 50 random pictures of cheese. I don't know why, but to me cheese is funny, perhaps it is the word itself and its various connotations.  Eventually I began looking closer, or should I say broader at 'things'. Things lost on the fringes...ordinary, odd, beautiful things. Esoteric images, old diagrams, typography, cartography — visions of a once promising but now extinct future."

Editor's Note: All images link to their original source and are copyright their original owners.

Comments [61]

Great Post Eric.
You should add my name to the email list. :)
Jon Dascola

Eric, How can I thank you fore sharing your Today email with me?
I have a special folder where I’ve saved all of them. And although they are a great source of amusement nothing has worked as well in my person life as “The Official Apology Form”
Anne Twomey

I second Jon's request to be added to the list! I'd also like to know in what manner you search in the morning - is it a keyword, google image search , or is it just wherever you find yourself? Very inspiring, indeed.

Brian D. Taylor

Thank you for the visual jolt!
Please add me to your list.
pat Taylor

Doug Bartow

If you are adding to your list, please add me too. Brian had a good question, so what is your method for your finds? Or does it vary and change?

You all might want to visit
This is a little more raw sometimes. People post any thing they have found from grocery lists, notes on cars, ticket stubs, etc. with the thinking that one might get a little glimpse into that person's life. Sometimes they can be very visually interesting.
Alissa Jones

Oh, and my favorite image in this group is the shooting dancers. It is so shocking and strange at first till you see the Nutcracker in the background. Like you said, when pulled out of context, the images can have such different meanings.
Alissa Jones

It's stunning! Sure you should change these 'emails' into a blog, or something like this, 'cause I think everybody likes to be in your list! Me too!

can i please be added to the list as well?

I definitely agree with the previous post about turning this into a blog, but if you don't PLEASE add me to your email list!
Scott Sullivan

Leave it to you, Eric! Always something fresh, compelling and REAL!

great stuff,
I've made a folder of my own since I took your class,
If you are adding people to your special list, don't forget me!
it will definitely help me build up my inspiration library.
Thanks again,
Jean Paul Miro

They are great ! And i love futura
Furkan Tunalı

Great Finds!

Please add me to your list if possible.
Scott Arrowood

Please add me, please please please. This is wonderful.
Scott Smith

Good images, and good finds.
The internet is brilliant for the random, the odd and the bizarre. Entertaining in a split-second way. Read: entertaining.
But the lack of coherence is frustrating too. Thank god for books.

Very inspiring! Please add me to your list, too.
diane sperko

As the person who is in some way responsible for you receiving this beautiful story, I'd first of all like to take credit for being deemed a worthy enough friend to have been the catalyst for all this. It didn't start out this way. As any of you who know Eric will attest, he likes to first of all subject you to the more "abrasive" side if his character, just to see if you can take it. Over the years, we would run into each other at design conferences... he's a New Yorker and I'm a Brit in LA... and indulge in a series of verbal "jousts", most often alcohol-induced. Then a package would show up at my door containing, for example, an old six-inch wooden ruler, two rubber bands, a piece of beautiful Victorian letterpress ephemera, and a Betty Page postcard. I, in turn, would return the favor. With the arrival of e-mail our friendship blossomed. And again, if you know Eric, it will come as no surprise that the first images that he sent me were not the kind that I could forward to my mum in England to show her what nice friends I was making in the old U.S of A. If something very large could be inserted into something small and delicate, he found a picture of it and wanted me to share in the delight he felt. Ironically, some of those poor unfortunate girls have gone on to be among my closest friends, so thanks, mate, for that.
Once he was released from jail, Eric's e-mails took on a different tone. I would open my mail to find my inbox flooded with 75 images.... of cheese. I was completely unaware that a Windsor chair could exist in 46 slightly different varieties, but Eric felt the need to enlighten me and would send me visual proof of said fact. I thought these annoying interruptions in my very important day were merely the pathetic reaching-out cries of a demented old has-been, but I gradually realized that they were in fact subtle and highly conceptual messages intended for me alone to decipher. Cheese, Windsor, Nazi symbologies... oh, I get it. Though I'm still a little bemused as to why you sent me those 31 images of "excited" horses. Envy, perhaps? I know that Eric has always felt that he's never been playing, so to speak, with a "full" deck.
And so now, as an act of great generosity and kindness on Eric's part you, dear friends, are also in on the deal. But I personally think that this "Today" thing is the ultimate act of brown-nosing. Let's face it Eric, Chip Kidd is more likely to give ME a job than he is you... and I'm not sitting around waiting for THAT call. And I know for a fact that Michael Bierut throws away all your e-mails before he even looks at them, so you can say goodbye to working with him on the rebranding of United Airlines new economy line, "U". No, while we are all off leading lives of great importance and meaning, you will be scratching around the world-wide internet, deperately trying to find a picture that makes some kind of tenuous connection between that of a VWBeetle, Paul McCartney made entirely out of M&M's, (obscure) Jude Law, Judge Dread and a Ladislav Sutnar brochure cover. And I, for one, thank and love you for it.
Proud to be your friend,
Dolores Fettuccini, spinster, age 93

Thank you for posting this today. It reminded me of a similar tradition of my own that I once practiced, with a small circle of friends; a tradition I had long forgotten, until today. So thank you for the reminder. I think it's about time to start that practice again.

And, if you really are taking note of who would like to be added to your list, please consider adding me, as well.

Atherton Bartelby
Atherton Bartelby

most excellent. this give me so much joy. thank you for sharing.
Ansel Olson

thank you for reminding me how it felt to be 13, listening to records with my friends. please add me to your list.

ooh, add me too! of course, i could just look at these every day in some sort of strange could i go wrong with "now begin with care" and/or the burst-out-loud laughter brought on by "what the bible says about flying saucers"?! thank you, thank you, thank you.

I very much appreciate you sharing this with us. I too collect interesting pictures on the internet. As a child (saying that when I was a child I went on the internet... doesn't make me sound very old) I has a folder called "things that make me happy".

It started back in high school and there was a period when I was so unhappy and everything was a mess. I stumbled upon an old box art of an old video game I used to want so much and finally got it after spent 2 years saving money. Even after I played it to death and it is now sitting in a box somewhere, seeing the box art again made me happy. And so I started a folder "things that make me happy". And that folder now has over 1000 pictures (and survive several reformatting).

My point is, I never thought of sharing the content of that folder with anyone. Even my closest friends saw only a few of the pictures. Before I read this post, I'd sooner share the content in my design reference folder to a rival designer than the "things that make me happy" to a friend, for reason now unknown even to myself. But I think sometime these things are very personal specially since mine was created for almost 7 years now.

Anyway, I know a lot of people asked this in the thread, but if it isn't too much trouble can you add me to the mailing list? Thank you in advance.

Drooling to have these arrive in my email. Please add me, if possible.
John Schott

Thank you so much for sharing! In my little apartment, I have many bits of paper, images, and cutouts of found artifacts. There are times I have wondered if I am rational in keeping them for my own review and enjoyment. Please add me to your list.
Dawn Dewald

Great idea! I'd love to be a part of your list if possible! This would make a great facebook group that people could continually add to...
Rick Herrera

I too would love to be added to your mailing list. Thank you if it is possible. Ciaran McCabe
Ciaran McCabe

This is basically an email version of the absolutely crucial and long-standing

Same type of invite-only curation, too.

(which I would LOVE an invite to, by the way - anybody?)

net artists have conquered this territory and written about it passionately and with substance


Has anybody ever checked out If Charlie Parker Was A Gunslinger....

Similar idea, but not as good as what you're doing.
Craig Hubert

Thank you so much, this is beautiful, can I please get an invite to the list. I am an illustrator who collects, saves and am always looking ...always in need of another eye.
Thank you,
Christian Potter Drury
Christian Potter Drury

i'm an olde designe professional(e)...really love the site..if there's a list I want to be on it
mick mordell

Love it! A refreshing visual awakening before going to work. Please add me to your list. Thanks!!
Patrik Berg

Peter Sjöberg

"Editor's Note: All images link to their original source and are copyright their original owners."

So then you are reproducing them here with permission from the copyright owners? Or are you in fact just grabbing whatever you see and fobbing it off as so-called curation?

I guess some people's copyrights are more worth protecting that others.
Jamie Gladwin

fantastic assortment of images. If you are, in fact, adding people to your list, I'd love to be included. either way, thanks.
Pete Reiling

include me too, please!

Can I be the 22nd person to be added to your list?
James Corazzo

Jamie Gladwin: If I'm not mistaken, posting a small, 72 DPI image of someone else's work, without claiming authorship, without selling them, while at the same time creating a link back to the source (which, btw, will do great things for their web hits and Google page rank), would probably qualify as 'fair use.'

If not, we might as well abandon the web, which has exploded in the last few years due to all the cross-linking. After all, isn't linking what builds a 'web' in the first place, along with driving interest and viewers to the original source?
Jesse Nivens

Fair enough, Jesse (and well said). I try to be a levelheaded woman and what you say makes sense. I think it was the apparent self-contradiction in the way the Editor's Note was worded that struck me. Still not sure if this counts as curation or just surfing.
Jamie Gladwin

Eric: I'm thrilled to be a 'Today' recipient, and have cut down my coffee intake as a result. I mean, who needs caffeine when one can be greeted with your daily dose of imagery?!?

Thanks. Marc
Marc Blaustein


gee i never meant to upset anyone with my TODAY posting.
my only intent was to share interesting things i found on line and to link them back to their source. copyrights are VERY important and i respect all the folks that have shared imagery.

besides, right now we all have bigger fish to fry and a little levity and beauty at this time is, i think, important.

all the best,
eric baker
Eric Baker

Excellent visual exercise! It 'solid blew my top'!!

Please add me to your list. Thank you.
Daniel K

I call my folder "Inspiration" I would love to add your images. Please add my email to your list. As a designer, Illustrator and person of curiosity, I can't wait to see what you will find tomorrow. Thanks!
D Rubin

Eric, i would love to be on that list too... is it still possible?

thank you very much

jonas reker

Yes, and I would like to be added to this long email list as well – the images stimulate a 'turn of thought' in that thoughts starts out from an image base instead of a verbal foundation and the thoughts themselves thus have a different texture.
The thoughts are more symphonic rather than melodic and the various image- thoughts are linked, in that they exit together – appearing at the same time on the page. How they are linked is a mystery, but that they are linked is not. I can see that the more one thinks in such a way, the more the mind is inclined to build on that experience, making deeper and more interesting connections between images. I believe it will be interesting to experience such growth over time, a refinement of thought and type of inquiry.

I must admit that I have, over many years, followed and allowed such a
random way of thinking in my own life. It makes me believe that the images
actually find me, and not the other way around. And often words, work in much the same manner as well. The words just seem to come of their own accord. It all seems like poetry to me. This spirit of discovery, of finding interest in images, to start the day, seems like a road map for the day to come, and in a real way presages the events to come even before they have arrived.
So, I see this activity as dynamic, not something before your work day begins, but almost a summary of the day before it has even begun. It could be that these images related to the day just over but it also could be that in they also could give a glimpse ahead in time as well. How far ahead? Interesting question.The Today email unites me with something that feels familiar and so
I am a little less alone in my thinking than I was before I came upon your blog.
Thank you. I feel I am friend both in the nature of my thoughts and in my immediate recognition of the process.
Kathryn A. Poole

it is really sadly symptomatic of the low level of critical intelligence in our field that people are so enthusiastic about this "today" project.
or am i missing something?
this is just a set of images without any explicit conceptual relationship, which some guy preciously curates every morning...?
there are so many incredibly interesting image curation projects happening now on the web, it is mindboggling that this one would be given any attention.
jack henrie

Howdy. As the creator / finder of a couple of the images on the this Today post, and the next one, I just thought I'd say that linking out to the images is fine by me. I think most web-users know that a link works better than a written credit - it's far easier for other users to follow.

(You could always mail the creators of the images just to let them know you're using them - they'd probably be happy to know.)

Sharing is good.

All the best, Alistair.
Alistair Hall

Great images. Thanks for sharing. Can you add me to your mailing list?

Many thanks. Linda
Linda Koury

Addressing: three posts above me:

I am not so excited about the image posts. It is things like this that probably made me a bit complacent, added a few inches to my hips, and even uninteractive. Now i prefer to actually get out and walk the streets to find my own different images everday in the streets i continuously walk. Sometimes record. Sometimes not. Sometimes just let it be what it is. It gets to be more difficult to find something new everyday in the same routine, but i do, and then connect a stream of thought.

Yeterday I saw a police officer giving a speeding ticket to a mini van. I thought to take a picture and link it to a group of other photos, but it would have never revealed my thought –that being: do people with the "in god we trust" tags in our state get more speeding tickets, or people with the "state flag(torch)" license plates. Being rather hesitant, I even broke out of my shell and asked the officer what he thought. He looked puzzled and then contemplative, and answered he didn't know.
delighted observer

Yes, please add me to your email list!

Kenneth Smith

Good Stuff great ideia! from Portugal! add me to the email list please

Please add me! Its beautiful!

Fantastic...where do you find the time to do this?
Diana Graham

This is fantastic.
Sam Nasrawi

would love to be added to the list - if i need to submit in jive talk instead, please hook me up.

Hello. These images are GREAT! I love random visuals =-) Please add me to your list too. Thank you and have a beautifully creative day.

Hi, I have long admired and followed your weekly image postings on Design Observer and can hardly believe I might get daily access to this treasure trove!

Could you please add me to your list?

Thank you,
Katya Mezhibovskaya

this is great! please add me too!!!? thank you...

Thanks for the visual jolt.

-would love to be added to your list!
John Driscoll

Great stuff! Please add me to your email list.
Patty Cousins

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