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

Books are tools to stimulate your senses and adjust your thinking

May 3, 2014, 4:58 PM

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When a show references Blade Runner, Philip K. Dick, George Orwell, William Gibson and then goes on to analyze the benefits of reading and paper books versus ebooks, you know you’ve picked a great one. Here’s the transcript:

“This city is like a parody of the sort of novels I used to read when I was younger.”

“Oh yeah, what kind, like a William Gibson book?”

“More like Philip K. Dick. Not as controlling as the societies George Orwell depicted in his work and not quite as wild as the ones in Gibson’s either.”

“Philip K. Dick, hm? Never read him. So if I wanted to check him out, which one should I read first?”

‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep’, it’s a classic.”

“There’s an old movie based on that, isn’t there?”

“The content’s quite different. You should compare them when you have time some day.”

“Then I’ll go ahead and download it right now.”

“No. Find the paperback. Ebooks lack character.”

“Got all the same words, don’t they?”

“Physical books are more than the words they contain. They are also tools to stimulate your senses and adjust your thinking.”

“How do you mean?”

“When I don’t feel well, I’ll stare at a page for ever before realising I haven’t absorbed a word. When that happens, I try to understand why. What’s gotten in my way? On the other hand there are books I can take in effortlessly, no matter how awful I’m feeling. Why do those books draw me in? I think it may be a sort of mental tuning. It’s the feeling of the paper against my fingers, that familiar smell of pulp and glue, a momentary stimulation to my brain when I turn each page. These sensations regulate and focus my brain, they make it work better.”

“Wow, that’s discouraging.”

“Hm?”

“Why is it every time I talk to you, I leave feeling like there’s something I’ve been missing out on my whole life up to now?”

“That’s just silly.”

“I sure hope so.”

How great is that? How many shows have you seen, lately or not, that pose questions and ideas like these, making you stop to think for a while?

The dialogue is taken from the anime series Psycho Pass (episode 15). It goes on between Shōgo Makishima, the main antagonist, and his right hand man, Choe Gu-Sung. I’ve used the dub version for the quote, although I usually prefer anime in Japanese with English subs, as very few English dubs are good enough. The subs however have a better version for the penultimate line: “You’re reading too much into it” – a bit more serious, and I liked the reading pun (intentional or not).

The story has many cyberpunk elements, reminding often of Philip K. Dick’sMinority Report‘ (again, worth comparing the book with the film), and also of Ghost in the Shell (the series mostly, both produced by Production I.G., best in the game), Monster (similar ‘contrast’ between two of the main characters) and sometimes hints of Cowboy Bebop (due to the noir feel and two main characters reminding of Spike and Jet).

Definitely worth watching, plenty of food for thought (besides the thrilling action), the above quote being just one example of many. Be warned though, it’s not for the weak of heart, it often gets very violent, even if not gratuitously.

The top image is a screengrab from the opening of that episode. Needless to say, being a Production I.G. show, it’s a treat for the eyes, and not only.

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If there’s any magic, it certainly happens at sketch stage – Craig Frazier

February 23, 2014, 4:16 PM

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Lately I’ve been less and less interested in ‘design’ and more interested in ‘visually expressed ideas that can be understood by non-designers’. I won’t call it illustration, as I think it’s about much more than that. Sadly, with the rise of computers and internet that led to the commodification of most creative arts, ‘illustration’ has lost a lot of its value (just like ‘design’).

Editorial illustration (of the fine type) is arguably the best example on how wits and graphics can be delightful for almost anyone, not just us self-centred ‘creatives’. Christoph Niemann is the first that comes to mind, and not only because of my obsession for his work lately – but more on this in another post.

Craig Frazier is another of the finest illustrators that have worked for NY Times, Time, Bloomberg Businessweek and many more. Two quotes from him stayed with me especially, from a short film in which he talks about the importance of sketching (video and link below):

“If there’s anything magic … it certainly happens at sketch stage. If it’s not there, it’s not gonna show up later on”

and

“There’s a level of perfection that I’m looking for in the idea, but there’s a level of imperfection that I’m willing to accept, and actually embrace, in the rendering of the drawing itself.”

There’s almost never just one way of doing things, so I wouldn’t say that all creatives should have good drawing skills, but I do believe that working (thinking) away from the computer makes a big difference. Whether you do it by drawing (well or not), writing, or any other way that’s disconnected enough from the medium that you’ll eventually finalise your work in, your work will be much better. I love drawing and I’m constantly trying to improve my skills, but that’s just my choice.

Mr Frazier’s beautiful and witty illustrations always start on paper, shaped out as great sketches. He is kind enough to show many of these, together with the finished illustrations, in his book ‘The Illustrated Voice’. The introduction is written by Ivan Chermayeff, which should say more than enough.

The Illustrated Voice – Craig Frazier

The Illustrated Voice – Craig Frazier

The Illustrated Voice – Craig Frazier

The Illustrated Voice – Craig Frazier

Needless to say, a great book to learn from. More can be seen on Mr Frazier’s website, but watch the film first:

Worker Series #1 Craig Frazier – Illustrator and Storyteller from Jeff Hurn on Vimeo.

RELATED LINKS

98pages, a website showing 98 of Mr Frazier’s beautiful sketches;
— an interview with Craig Frazier (he mentions Christoph Niemann too);
— video via @Issue Journal, The All-Important Sketching Stage.

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Michael Wolff on The Three Muscles of Creativity

April 2, 2011, 12:33 PM

Intel has come up again with a beautiful short film in their Visual Life series. This time is about the iconic designer Michael Wolff, co-founder of Wolff Olins, one of the best British designers ever and one of the fathers of brand identity design.

I have three muscles, without which I couldn’t do my work. The first is curiosity. (You can call it inquisitiveness, you can call it questioning.) The second muscle [is] the muscle of appreciation. It’s not questioning so much as it is noticing… how joyful things can be, how colorful things can be, what already exists as an inspiration. The muscle of curiosity and the muscle of appreciation enable the muscle of imagination.

Everybody knows that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. What few people realize it is only through the parts that the whole gets delivered. I see seeing as a muscular exercise, like I see curiosity. It’s a kind of being open, really: If you walk around with a head full of preoccupation, you’re not going to notice anything in your visual life.

A brand is really a way of remembering what something is like for future reference — something you value, something you feel attracted to. The job of a brand identity, how you package all of that — the purpose, the vision, what it does, what it brings — how you make that so that people can take it and receive it and value it and treasure it and choose it, that’s the whole process of branding. That’s what it is.”

— Michael Wolff

The film is beautifully shot, with a perfect pace & score, all adding even more value to Michael Wolff’s wise words. As one would imagine, his house is a designer’s playground, with Pantone mugs and other treats, like this beautiful tea kettle, that I wish I knew where to get:

Also, gotta love Wolff’s hilarious description of the classic Cooper Black typeface, affectionately calling it  “cow dong”. And last but not least, I love how he talks about cooking as related to creativity — “you never cook the same meal twice”. But enough with the spoilers, here it is:

Read more:
— “The Three Muscles of Creativity” by Maria Popova on the TBD Blog;
— “Michael Wolff on Creativity” by David Airey;
Thanks TheInspiration.com for the first tip.

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Ed Rondthaler on English spelling — Brilliant short

February 3, 2011, 10:02 AM

A wonderful short movie, showing the renowed Ed Rondthaler talking about how “logic” English spelling is. I love how humorously he presents the facts, reminds me a bit of Milton Glaser‘s quirky way of doing presentations.

Ed Rondthaler on English spelling from Bob Smartner on Vimeo.

/via Anton Mircea (Facecrook‘s father)

And while we’re at it, here are quite a few spelling poems, playing on the absurdity of the English language — The English Spelling Society: Spelling poems.

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"United Snakes" — Massive Attack with UVA

November 11, 2009, 4:56 PM

Wonderful and especially thought-provoking experience brought yet again by Massive Attack and United Visual Artists:

United Snakes from United Visual Artists on Vimeo.

Can’t wait for the new Massive Attack album. Hopefully, they won’t postpone it again.

(via itsnicethat)

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Type treat for the five senses

September 11, 2009, 11:36 AM

Superb typography for Typophile Film Fest 5:
Handcrafted with love by Brigham Young University (BYU) design students and faculty, for Typophile Film Fest 5. A visual typographic feast about the five senses, and how they contribute to and enhance our creativity. Everything in the film is real—no computer generated (CG) effects!

Typophile Film Festival 5 Opening Titles from Brent Barson on Vimeo.

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Snow everywhere

December 26, 2008, 6:20 PM

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NW view of Straja Peak, Valea Jiului, Romania.

Few things can compare with the pleasure of freeriding through the snow powder, down the slopes of the mountain, through woods and alpine plains alike. I only hope that I’ll still be able to ski — meaning, we’ll still have enough snow — in Romania ten or twenty years from now.

Happy holidays everyone, snowy or sunny, just as you like it :)

You can view a larger image, along with others on my flickr. Two videos with my brother and I freeriding are also online on youtube, here and here :)

Later edit:
Well, it seems ‘freeriding’ is a snowboarding term, so the better thing to use would be backcountry skiing :)

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Game theory—you're thinking that I'm thinking what you're thinking

September 28, 2008, 10:32 AM

—or yet another possible title: how would Hari Seldon review The Good, The Bad And The Ugly finale.

Intriguing? Well, if you’ve never thought of applying game theorywiki—to movies, here’s a treat:

I think that the final scene in this Clint Eastwood movie is the most outstanding example of game theory. Three men in a triangle — each with a gun, a rock at the center of the three. It is up to each man to evaluate his situation. All are excellent shots. Who do they shoot?

Clint has supposedly put a message on a rock that holds the key to everything, but do the other two trust Clint to have actually written the correct answer? As the other two evaluate the situation, they realize they can’t trust Clint to have written the answer on the rock — therefore they can’t shoot Clint who likely still has the answer. That means the other two can only shoot each other, but only one will likely hit before the other.

What they don’t know is that Clint has given one an unloaded gun… Clint can ignore this one. The one Clint has to worry about with the loaded gun will try to kill the one with the unloaded gun. Neither will fire at Clint. Clint will fire at the one with the loaded gun. As the camera passes from one face to the other the audience is meant to figure out what each would do.

The guy with the loaded gun shoots at the guy with the unloaded gun — Clint shoots the guy with the loaded gun. Game over. As with the hangings in the movie, he has dangled Duco out as bait while Clint takes the money.

The game is decided before it starts.

Clint sets up a situation where each evaluates their possible moves, but in reality, Clint has already won the game. Its a brilliant example of people making the best decisions based on the information available to them…and somebody manipulating the information available to them.

Phil Mellinger, 2002

Sounds like Asimov‘s Hari Seldon has just used his psychohistory to find out if somebody’s gonna be a lucky punk :) Too bad scripts this good are so rare.

(via typographer)

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Nice tribute to Muller-Brockmann

May 7, 2008, 4:30 PM

Liam Walsh took the time to reproduce Brockmann’s Zurich Tonhalle Poster in scripting and tune it to Beethoven’s ouverture op.61 (go to Liam’s website to enjoy the piece).

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(via September Industry)

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Cool Hand Luke – 'nuff said

March 1, 2008, 1:41 PM

I loved the movie when I first saw it. It was a pleasure seeing its poster few days ago. Superb unicase-stenciled typo and great design (hope I’ll have time to use the typo and Paul’s laid back silhouette for a tshirt soon :D)

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