Food for thought‘[...] do not think that good design can make a poor product good, whether the product be a machine, a building, a promotional brochure or a business man. But [...] good design can materially help make a good product reach its full potential. In short, [...] good design is good business.’
Thomas J. Watson Jr., IBM CEO

The End of Bon Voyage by Jared Muralt

September 27, 2014, 12:37 PM

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Quite rare these days to see somebody putting a lot effort into drawing, and having something interesting to tell as well, even among top illustrators. Most either go for the trendy, ‘naive’ or ‘kid-drawing’ style, or for hyper-realist renderings of non-subjects.

Jared Muralt is one of the rare people that are not afraid to stand on the shoulders of others before him (in his case, European graphic novel masters) and take things further. His latest book, ‘The End of Bon Voyage’ is a treat for the eyes and mind, cover to cover. There are no words, the better for your imagination to fill in the details.

Below are more photos to wet your appetite (click for larger size). You can buy the book through his website: jaredillustrations.ch. You can see more of his beautiful illustrations on his Instagram (plenty of great WIP shots), his Facebook and his Behance (his sketchbooks are amazing, not to miss).

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Clouds sold me from the beginning. There’s something magical about looking into the distance, ‘travelling’ with my mind. I’d never get bored of this kind of scenery:

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Isidro Ferrer

September 15, 2013, 1:02 PM

This post was initially published on TypeToken.

Isidro Ferrer is a Spanish graphic designer and illustrator, member of AGI since 2000. He graduated in drama and scenography, and worked as a stage actor before turning towards graphic design and illustration. His ‘plays’ with ordinary objects, different meanings, photography and typography have led to an awe-inspiring body of work that reminds of greats like Pierre Mendell, Armin Hofmann, Anthon Beeke or Polish poster designers. He’s been involved in a wide range of projects, from posters and identities for cultural institutions, illustration for adults and children, comics, TV cartoons, packaging, publishing to monumental and wayfinding. He has published more than 30 books, been involved in many exhibitions and won a lot of prestigious awards.

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You can admire more of his projects on his website, IsidroFerrer.com. Some more info on his AGI profile, an interview from AGI Open Barcelona in 2011 and another interview by IndexBooks.

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Anthon Beeke – It’s A Miracle

August 9, 2013, 1:10 PM

This post was initially published on TypeToken.

Dutch design is well-known for its boldness, but even among Dutch designers, Anthon Beeke is certainly one of the most provocative. His work not only informs and surprises, but it often tests the limits of free expression. “It’s a miracle” is a new book from BIS Publishers, celebrating Anthon Beeke’s impressive body of work. Chapters are introduced by well known names, such as Steven Heller, Marian Bantjes, James Victore, Erik Kessels and others, each portraying different aspects of Beeke’s life in design, including Amsterdam, jazz, erotica, collecting, typography, photography, provocation and communication.

His works range from beautiful and elegant pieces like the “Body Type” alphabet (created in reply to Wim Crouwel’s computer alphabets), playful, like the poster for Dick Bruna’s fameous Miffy character (done as he says, to beat his friend Bruna in his quest for simplicity), to gut-wrenching, like the “Troilus en Cressida” theatre poster, in which he portrays a woman as a Trojan horse, emphasising the play’s story. Either way, his work will hardly leave you without a reaction.

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“I don’t know a single maker of images who thinks more freely and is more all-round than Anthon Beeke. As far as I am concerned, he is the freest spirit in Dutch design history.” — Erik Kessels

Book details:
Publisher: BIS Publishers
Language: English
ISBN-10: 9063693303
ISBN-13: 978-9063693305

You should also visit Anthon Beeke’s website.

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After Hours…, a designers’ personal projects exhibition

June 13, 2013, 2:00 AM

As a designer, you’re constantly looking around, searching, questioning, measuring, discovering. It’s not something you can actually turn off – and even if you could, you probably wouldn’t. It might be tiresome sometimes, but the joys far outweigh the tolls. This restlessness leads many designers to make work without a client, brief or fee. Some are collectors, some photographers, film makers, painters, sculptors, illustrators, musicians etc – the list is incredibly diverse. As are the reasons. Some do it for their own pleasure, some for educational purposes (personal improvement or teaching), others for promotional reasons or just because nobody else has done it before in a particular way.

The exhibition takes place at the Jerwood Space, a very nice spacious gallery close to Tate Modern

‘After Hours…’ is an exhibition that explores designers’ personal projects, curated by Nick Eagleton (in his ‘after hours’, obviously) of The Partners and hosted by the JVA at Jerwood Space. It’s a wonderful mix of curiosities: prints, sculptures, clocks, chess boards, films, flags, 3D-printed objects, badges and remote control drawing machines. While some can be easily called ‘art’, others are the result of typical design approaches: solving a problem or communicating an idea to an audience. Either way, their authors share the same drive, to make their own work. Names range from very well-known, like Anthony Burrill, Alan Kitching, Michael Johnson (johnsonbanks), Phil Carter (Carter Wong) to a selection of young designers in which I was very lucky to be included.

A large Anthony Burrill wall-painted piece is the first thing visitors see and sets a good mindset for the rest of the exhibition. There’s also a reading table in the middle, with books and booklets from several participants, either personal projects on their own, or accompanying some of the pieces in the exhibition (click on images for larger size, or open them in new tabs for full size).

Anthony Burrill’s piece sets a good mindset for the exhibition

Below, on the reading table, Craig Oldham’s beautiful book ‘The Handwritten Letter Project‘, the exhibition’s leaflet (scribbled by a visitor) and my ‘Picturing Thoughts‘ booklet, showing twenty posters from the growing collection.

My Picturing Thoughts booklet (right) on the show’s reading table

Two more Burrill posters, the ‘Work Hard & Be Nice to People” one being a long-time favourite with designers all over.

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Among my favourites, six wonderful letterpress typographic maps of London by the master Alan Kitching, based on his experiences throughout the city.

Alan Kitching’s superb letterpress typographic maps of London

One can get lost in Mr Kitching’s details, but such a beautiful experience

‘Antigraffiti’, by Steven Royle of The Chase, is an interesting ‘anti-typeface’ made up of the shapes a paint roller leaves after covering up various wall messages.

Covering up graffiti becomes a language in itself

More projects in the second room, including Joe Phillips’s ‘Remote Drawing’ which proved to be very popular during the show’s launch event, and Craig Oldham‘s ‘The Flag Bearers’, a self-initiated project asking questions about self-initiated projects.

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Hat-trick’s Jim Sutherland is probably the most prolific, showing just a few of his many projects: ‘Garage’, a book plus posters about creatures and typefaces ‘found’ in his dad’s garage, ‘Type(chess)set’, a typographic chess set, a typographic deck of cards, a witty pencils set and various re-arrangements of chess boards, shown both as objects and booklets (you can get most of them from the Hat-trick website).

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The most prolific in the exhibition, Hat-trick’s Jim Sutherland

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The lovely ‘Garage’ booklets remind me of my grandpa’s tool shack. The spread bottom-right shows ‘Zorro and his collection of moustaches’.

Don’t miss Zorro and his moustaches

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Michael Johnson’s ‘Arkitypo‘ project is also based on typography, originating from johnson banks’s relationship with the Ravensbourne College of Design and Communication. The initial brief was to do something more interesting with 3D printers. They came up with stories for each of the 26 letters in the alphabet, 3D-illustrating them.

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For example, Bodoni was initially based on Baskerville, so the twisting shape starts with one and ends with the other. Nearby, a Fraktur ‘F’ morphs into Germany’s map, as the typeface was at some point banned for being ‘too German’.

Twisting from Bodoni to Baskerville, and from Fraktur to Germany

An eclectic mix of projects by younger designers take up the opposite wall (open the image in a new tab to view it in full size).

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Below, eight of my Picturing Thoughts posters, followed by guyandherbert‘s ‘Youth and Immortality’ and Myounghee Jo‘s ‘Trace the Memory’ shadows project.

Eight of my Picturing Thoughts posters

Still in the same room, two projects from Magpie Studio founders: Ben Christie’s lovely ‘For a Rainy Day’ coin box …

Ben Christie’s saving money for rainy days in a charming way

… and David Azurdia’s ‘ABC rule’, combining millimetres with markings for standard paper sizes.

A designer’s rule, with paper sizes markings, by David Azurdia

The third room holds one of the exhibition’s highlights and a personal favourite, Phil Carter’s (of Carter Wong) ‘Found Folk’ – wooden characters mostly made up of driftwood found along rivers or beaches. Some are as they came, some are painted while others are burnt for a more unified look. All fascinating.

Phil Carter’s charming ‘Found Folk’

My favourites, the thin fellow made of woodblock punctuation marks and the Brancusi-reminding one on his right :

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Next to them, two other interesting pieces …

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… Jamie Ellul’s (the third founder of Magpie Studio and now founder of Supple Studio) fine-looking ‘Time Is Money’ clock …

‘Time is Money’, as Jamie Ellul proves

… and Jack Renwick‘s (former Creative Director at The Partners) charming solution to moth holes: moth badges that cover the damage.

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Nick Asbury‘s ‘Pentone’ is another highlight, being ‘an artificial system for dividing language into different tones of voice’.

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Like many of Nick’s projects, it’s a beautiful combination of wit, humour and well-crafted writing.

Get it while it’s hot! — sorry, couldn’t help it

Next are Alex Swatridge’s (designer at Hat-trick) food-themed screenprints and the comic-book illustrations of Robert Ball (also of The Partners).

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Worth a good look too are the show’s details panels, bearing Nick Asbury’s rhyming ‘description’ for the show (he says it’s not a poem) and each contributor’s photo and bio, some almost as interesting as the exhibits themselves (open the image in a new tab for full size).

A fascinating collection of portraits and bios (open in new tab for full size)

Here are some photos from the show’s opening (May 25). It went really well, many showing up in spite of the rain. Nick Eagleton talked about how the show came to be and the challenges behind it.

Nick Eagleton during the exhibition’s launch

Below, Craig Oldham and Michael Johnson ‘endorsing’ my Picturing Thoughts posters :)

TWO TALKS

Two other events have accompanied the exhibition, the first one (June 3) being Adrian Shaughnessy‘s talk titled ‘Autonomous practice in graphic design: good or bad?’. Pros and cons were debated, the conclusion being that it’s good, and ‘definitions are meaningless’, so we shouldn’t worry too much about whether it’s art, design or whatever, doing it is what’s important.

The second talk, titled ‘After Five Minutes…’ (June 10) was in Pecha Kucha format (each speaker gets five minutes only). Six of the ‘After Hours…’ participants talked about their personal projects. Phil Carter was first, sharing the process behind his ‘Found Folk’ project and other related pieces. I was especially impressed by his practice of picking up sticks, writing on them and then throwing them back in the water for somebody else to find and enjoy. Such a selfless, giving-back act, something that designers, artists (and people in general) should think about – and do – more often. The others were interesting as well, you can read a good review of the talk on the johnson banks blog, from where I’ve borrowed these two images below with Mr Carter’s sticks.

Phil Carter’s writings on sticks found in the water …

… which he throws back for somebody else to discover and enjoy

[later update] You can view the whole talk on Jerwood’s Vimeo:

BOOK

A small book showing all the work from the exhibition was launched at the Pecha Kucha event (you can still get one if you visit, details below).

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My Picturing Thoughts posters in the exhibition’s book

CONCLUSION

Nick Eagleton summed it up very well by saying that there’re two kinds of people: wishers and doers – many have said to him that they wish they’d done this or that, referring to various pieces from the show, while those involved in it have just done it. So it’s all about which kind you want to be, a wisher or a doer?

Wisher or doer – which type are you?

THANKS & VISITING DETAILS

Many thanks to Nick Eagleton and Jerwood Visual Artists for making this happen, and a hat tip to all the people involved, it’s been such a pleasure. Also thanks to all that have visited and spread the word. The exhibition is still on till June 23, so if you happen to be in London, don’t miss it (visiting details here).

LINKS

— The show’s details on the Jerwood Visual Arts page, in case you missed it above;
— Review of the show on the johnson banks Thought for the Week blog;
— Review of the ‘After Five Minutes…’ talk on Thought for the Week;
— Review of the show on Creative Review blog by Nick Asbury;
— Review of the launch on Design Week;
— Review of the show on This is Tomorrow art magazine;
— Details about the show and ‘Pentone‘ on Nick Asbury’s website.

You can find out more about the participants and their websites on the black board with the bios, just open the image in full size.

On a similar subject, look up the ‘No Brief: Graphic Designers’ Personal Projects‘ book.

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Feelings (Jausmai)

April 9, 2011, 1:11 PM

Eye Magazine posted an interesting article on their blog, Back in the USSR, about film posters from Lithuania’s Soviet years. I just couldn’t help taking note of this wonderful Japanese-print-inspired poster for a film called ‘Jausmai’ (Feelings):

Feelings (Jausmai), dir. Algirdas Dausa and Almantas Grikevičius, 1968. Designed by Vytautas Valius.

Be sure to check the Eye Blog for more.

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Beautiful watercolours by Nigel Gilbert

April 3, 2011, 3:27 PM

Watercolouring is probably the hardest painting or drawing technique to master, as it allows few mistakes. It is, however, one of my favourites, as no other technique can rival its wonderful portrayal of light and transparency. Too bad my skills in using watercolours are more than rusty these days. Well, no use in feeling sorry, we all make our own choices, after all. Here is one creative fellow that has stayed on the beautiful path of watercolouring. Nigel Gilbert is a seasoned British architectural painter — an award winning one, actually, but he’s at least equally good in painting less architectural landscapes and even comics. Definitely check out his website and his blog.

Here are some of my favourites:

By the way, if you’re in London till mid-August, do yourself a favour and check out the Watercolour exhibition at Tate Britain.

/via The Creative Finder

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Graffiti is dead, long live graffiti

March 28, 2011, 4:50 PM

Street art, graffiti in particular, is more or less an ephemeral form of art, threatened all the time by weather, unhappy landlords, neighbourhood-cleaning raids or, most of the time, other street artists in search of a space to express themselves. There may still be around graffitis from the ancient times, but few are so lucky.

Shoreditch is by definition the cool centre of London, the place to be if you’re involved in any creative business. Almost every street has its own ‘work of art’, if not more. My favourite was this one, a rather unusual, monochromatic graffiti, as it was more a painting than a “wall sketch” (click for the full-size version):

The first time I saw it, I thought the wall was just dirty, as I could only see a small part from the right-hand side. The guys standing with their backs at the road seemed so natural, waiting for something, maybe just killing time. And of course, the smartest touch, the bike tied to the street light added even more depth to the confusion (each time I walked past the wall, at least one bike would be there, almost part of the painting). Details were beautiful, each character having quite a lot of stuff going on, plus there were one or two small bits to discover, like the plane right under the windows, usually hidden by the tree. And last but not least, the background was beautiful as well, an abstract, random-stripes-nonsense at first sight, an interesting city sky-line on closer inspection.

Here’s a closer-taken photo of the left side, taken last fall — the others are taken later on, during the winter (click for the full-size version):

Sadly, or naturally, as all things have an end sooner or later, the painting was replaced a few weeks ago by this less unconventional graffiti (click for the full-size version):

It’s most likely a continuation of the work on the other side of the building, on Curtain Road (which also went through its share of changes):

Unfortunately, I don’t know the [nick]names of any of the creators, so if you know something, drop me a line and I’ll happily add the credits. My favourite wall painting might not be there anymore, but if you’re walking on Great Eastern Road towards Old Street, make a left on Curtain Road to see what’s on.

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Bass Notes: The film posters of Saul Bass — Kemistry Gallery

February 27, 2011, 11:37 AM


Kemistry Galley has come up again with a great exhibition. Titled Bass Notes: The film posters of Saul Bass, it shows several works of the great Saul Bass — posters, storyboards and stills — which toured the world’s film festivals until his death, in 1996. Jim Northover writes how Lloyd Northover ‘inherited’ the exhibits:

A year or so after Saul’s death in 1996, I got a call from a headhunter in the States saying that she had a brief to find someone to take over the Saul Bass studio in Los Angeles. Herb Yager, Saul’s partner, no longer wanted to run it himself, but was keen for the business to continue. Since we had been looking to set up an office in the US, this seemed like a real opportunity. After Herb was reassured that he had found suitable inheritors, the business was acquired. We celebrated the event at a dinner at the Beverly Hills Hotel with Herb, Elaine Bass (Saul’s widow) and some of the team.

A few months later we found we had inherited something else. A travelling exhibition of Saul’s film posters had been doing the rounds of film festivals all over the world. One day it arrived back in London. We had to store it and look after it. We soon realised it was too big and expensive a task to keep it properly, so we handed it on to the British Film Institute, requesting that it should not be lost from public view, and hopefully shown from time to time.

The posters on show, thanks to the BFI, are the very same ones that formed part of the travelling exhibit. They were produced by the Saul Bass studio in the 1990s to celebrate Saul’s work. Many air miles later these historic originals are now on show here.

There are 19 posters on show including: Anatomy of a Murder (1955), The Man with a Golden Arm (1955), Saint Joan, Bonjour Tristesse (1958), Vertigo (1958), Exodus (1960), Spartacus (1960), The Magnificent Seven (1960), and a selection of storyboards (the ones from Psycho being a real treat) and title sequences. The exhibition is on till March 17, open Mon–Sat 10.00–18.00, so if you’re in London, don’t miss it.

More photos after the jump (click on the images for larger size).
» Continue reading

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Breathtaking dancing: “Sacred Monsters”, Akram Khan & Sylvie Guillem

February 4, 2011, 12:22 AM

It is a rare and beautiful thing to hold your breath while watching a human body in motion, dancing, telling a story. “Sacred Monsters” is an internationally-acclaimed contemporary dance production, presented by a mesmerizing dancing duo, Akram Khan and Sylvie Guillem.

Just leave everything and watch this:

and here is another one, a bit longer:

I just hope they’ll show it again someday in London — or somewhere close in Europe. There is a 2009-recorded version on Amazon, but I’m sure it can only give you a glimpse of the real thing.

Further reading & links:
— More about the show on Akram’s company website;
— An interview in The Independent — Akram Khan: ‘You have to become a warrior’;
— Learn about kathak, a form of Indian classical dances: Khatak Wikipedia entry.
— Listen to the show’s soundtrack on the Sacred Monsters MySpace.

Thanks bro’ for sharing this beauty.

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Beauty — how ‘human’ or ‘normal’ should it be?

December 12, 2010, 10:13 PM

Few of the ‘normal’ people don’t feel their soul cringe when they see a disabled person. Whether out of pity, guilt, fear, anger towards fate or just because of the strange gut feeling, you can’t feel comfortable unless you take some time to get used to it. It’s actually quite a natural, biological reaction. We are ‘set’ to search for the genetically-best representative of the opposite sex, more or less. Anyone that looks different gives us a sense of discomfort, usually requiring quite some will power to overcome it. Unlike animals, who let their disabled to die or be eaten, humans do benefit from the “mind over body” thing — or at least try to.

Biological ‘settings’ are not the only ones to blame. Most human societies have outcasted handicapped people for most of our history (in spite of the recent 20th and 21st century ‘enlightenment’, everyday life is still far from easy and ‘normal’ for a disabled person). Also, thousands of years of art are more than enough proof of our cultural & social notions of beauty. Ancient greeks, the Renaissance (to name just a few) tried to portray the perfect human, homo universalis. Even if art from the last two centuries has taken more abstract forms, we still strive for the “greek standard”, more or less. Just take a look through most magazines: 100-m-athletes-like and 90-60-90 models everywhere — no wonder anorexia and bulimia are some of the most common problems these days. Even regular people feel disabled when comparing themselves to ‘society’s standards’.

So it’s no wonder that art (or sports) performed by disabled people seems so strange, almost out of this world, sometimes.

Meet David Toole, a professional dancer — don’t be fooled by the absence of his legs (of which he says the only good thing is that they come in pairs):

David Toole, CandoCo dancer.

And that’s just a hint, watch this promo for “The Cost of Living” film, made by the DV8 Physical Theatre (definitely wait for the second part):

No matter how awkward it first seems, you can’t deny the artistic value. It might look different, you might even find it hard to watch, but by the end, it surely does make you think that beauty might lie outside the comfort zone as well.

And how about Aimee Mullins? Yes, her TED talks are inspiring, to say the least. But you can’t help wondering, would she had come so far if she wasn’t such a hot babe beautiful woman? Of course her looks didn’t help her olympic career or learn walking at the age of two in spite of her handicap, but I doubt Alexander McQueen used her as a model because of her performances. Nevertheless, her story is fascinating and makes you think that it might not be long before the existence of Motoko-Kusanagi-like cyborgs (the Ghost in the Shell series is one of the few franchises that really explore the idea of a technologically-enhanced human society, with its social and psychological implications).

Aimee Mullins (athlete, actress and fashion model)

Come to think of it, would Venus de Milo be just as beautiful if she hadn’t lost her arms? Would she look more ordinary?

Venus / Aphrodite of Milos, (created somewhere between 130, 100 BC).

So what is beauty? How normal or human should it be?
Would we be able to acknowledge ‘alien’ beauty?

Let’s not forget that even for fellow humans, a Zulu for example, beauty might mean something completely different, almost like from another planet for the rest of us. Impressionists had to hold their ground for a some years before they were taken seriously; Pollock‘s paintings might look just like mindless splashes of paint; Christo‘s environmental works of art might seem just like the wrappings of a big child that somehow managed to get the funding for his play. Or even Warhol‘s works — are they actually beautiful? Or just strange enough to be considered art?

There is no final answer. No undeniable truth. Saying the old “beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder” is just politically-correct bullshit — trying to be nice to everybody. Beauty exists, just as ugliness. They just come in so many different shapes that it’s sometimes impossible to tell them apart.

And why should we need answers anyway?
It’s the questions that got us humans so far, haven’t they? We just have to keep our eyes (and minds, of course) wide open — you never know where beauty might come from, least its form.

Credits: David Toole photo taken from his website, Aimee photo taken by Howard Schatz, Venus image taken from The Independent.

Further reading:
— “Racing on carbon fibre legs: How abled should we be“, by Aimee Mullins

Michel Petrucciani, pianist and composer

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