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

"Browse less & draw more"

October 3, 2009, 7:42 PM

This is probably the best piece of advice I could ever give to a fellow designer. And I’m very very sure Mr. Milton Glaser would agree, as you can read in this interview, with Chip Kidd.

I made an iPhone wallpaper out of it, to keep it in mind as much as possible—maybe, just maybe I’ll be able to actually take this advice myself. Feel free to use it. Let me know if you like it. Thanks :)

Browse less & draw more

Browse less & draw more

And yes, nothing beats Futura. Ever.
(small hint to IKEA :P)



Kit Hinrichs leaves Pentagram

, 3:30 PM


After Robert Brunner left Pentagram’s San Francisco office to start his own firm, Ammunition, this time is Kit Hinrichs‘ turn. You can read the press release here, on @Issue (where Kit Hinrichs is the Design Director). Kit’s profile on Pentagram Partners has already been taken down.

Pentagram in 1986

Pentagram in 1986

While Robert Brunner’s departure seemed to make a little more sense, as his studio seems to be focused more on industrial design than on communication and corporate design, Kit’s departure is not so clear. The press release doesn’t give any hints, and, as always in such cases, nobody involved will—we can only speculate what could possibly make you leave one of the most acclaimed (if not the most) companies in the world—and after 24 years, mind you. Has this been triggered by the recession? Is it a personal dispute? Is Mr. Colin Forbes‘ business model not working so well anymore? Or is it just the right time for a change for Mr. Hinrichs? We’ll never know for sure.

One thing I know, it makes me feel sad to learn about Mr. Kit’s departure—I don’t know why, maybe because Pentagram loses one of its own—but I also feel glad for him. I know very well how good it feels to try something new, especially after such a long time. It feels like being born again. Good luck to Mr. Hinrichs.

(second photo taken from Pentagram: The Compendium)



China admits no mistake—seriously

October 2, 2009, 6:46 PM

All is more than clear now: don’t ever fuck with China. They’re this serious:

An instructor aligns the formation of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Airborne Corps during a training session at the 60th National Day Parade Village on the outskirts of Beijing, September 15, 2009. (REUTERS/Joe Chan).

Don’t say you haven’t been warned!

(via Boston)



“It’s good to feel uncomfortable.”

October 1, 2009, 12:17 AM

Another thoughtful article from Dave Trott:

[…] we need to study ourselves.

To find out what side of the brain we are dominant in.

(Left brain being the rational side, right brain being the emotional.)

Then we need to spend as much time as we can exposing ourself to influences from the other side.

Because whatever side is dominant is our comfort zone.

We’ll naturally gravitate to that.

But anything we learn in our comfort zone won’t give us any new combinations.

Whereas whatever we learn on the other side of the brain gives us a completely new set of possible links to our existing side.

So we should force ourselves to experience whatever we’re not comfortable with.

If you’re a numeric person, force yourself to experience art and music.

If you’re a visual person, force yourself to read more books.

If you like fiction, make yourself to read non-fiction.

If you like rock music make yourself listen to Classic FM.


While we’re in our comfort zone we’re on auto pilot.

We’re relaxing and letting it wash over us.

But when we move out of our comfort zone our mind is forced to think.

Forced to try to find something good in what we don’t like.

Staying in our comfort zone just means staying with what we already know.

There’s no growth there.

No possibilities for new combinations.

Paul Arden used to say, “It’s good to feel uncomfortable.”

We shouldn’t be frightened to feel uncomfortable.

We don’t need to live in either of the two big comfortable, predictable circles.

Thanks again Sebi for the tip ;)



Sun people vs. Ice people — Happy to be of mixed blood

September 3, 2009, 1:55 PM

Dave Trott manages to put it so simple, yet so true:

Louis Farrakhan is an American black militant. He said something I found very interesting. He said the world was divided into two kinds of people. Sun people and Ice people. Now by that he meant black (for sun) and white (for ice).

I don’t agree with that part. But if we take the racism out of it, and just look at the way climate and racial memory affect personality traits I think it’s very interesting.

Just look within one race, take white Europeans. Now look where they’ve lived for generations and generations. Contrast the Nordic types (ice people) with the Mediterranean types (sun people). See how the climate affects their characters.

In southern Europe the climate is warm and welcoming. There is plentiful food just growing outdoors. You could sleep outdoors all year round if you wanted.

So there’s nothing to do except enjoy the finer things in life, the added value items. The things that, in themselves, aren’t necessary for survival, but make life nicer. Painting, sculpture, music, fashion, the decorative arts, good food, lovemaking, all the right brain sensory activities.

Now take the Northern Europeans. The climate doesn’t want you there. It’s cold and miserable. You need to be protected from the very environment you’re living in. If you don’t spend all summer preparing for the winter, you won’t get through it.

So there’s no time for the finer things in life. Everything has to be functional. Gathering food, shelter, and fuel for the long cold months ahead. Concentrating on protection from the hostile climate.

That’s why northern European cars work in conditions that would kill a southern European car. Ferrari and Lamborghini are beautiful, sensuous, delicate pieces of automotive art. Volkswagen, Mercedes, Volvo aren’t.

Those cars don’t look beautiful, they’re not exhilarating. Because when they’re covered in snow and you turn the key, they have to start. The Italian cars don’t.

German food fills a function, Italian food is delicious. German architecture is strong and powerful. Italian architecture is delicate and beautiful. Scandinavian design is clean and minimal. Italian design is playful and over-elaborate.

You can always find exceptions to any rule of course. But, by and large, northern Europeans are better at war,
Southern Europeans are better at art. Northern Europeans are better at function. Southern Europeans are better at form.

Sun people can enjoy life today, they know the future’s safe, the climate isn’t trying to kill them, let’s have fun.
Ice people have to concentrate on logic, and making sure all the bases are covered, because they know mistakes will be punished.

Ice people are left brain. Sun people are right brain. Which is why most art directors are more like sun-people.
And most copywriters are more like ice-people.

And why Northern Europeans are better at product. And Southern Europeans are better at brand.

I guess I’m lucky to be of mixed blood: hot, passional oltenian blood mixed with cold, rational german blood—the hungarian blood is on the hot side too, I guess, while the transylvanian one is on the cold side :) I wonder where we’d place chineese blood, as it seems everybody’s going to have traces of it in the future :))

(thanks Sebi for the link)



Not giving up, no matter how blue

September 2, 2009, 11:10 PM

The Sartorialist took this photo:


Here’s why he took it:

I don’t usually shoot homeless people. I don’t find it romantic or appealing like a lot of street photographers, and if you asked homeless people they are probably not to happy about their situation either. That’s why I was surprised to be so drawn to taking a picture of this gentleman.

I was being interviewed for an article in British Vogue; and while we walked down Bowery back in April I barely stopped walking when I took the shot. Fiona Golfar, the writer, asked why I took the photo. At that moment I couldn’t really explain – but I just had a feeling about the power and grace of how he was sitting there. It wasn’t until later that night when I was working on the image that I realized why I had noticed this man.

Usually people in this man’s position have given up hope. Maybe this gentleman has too, I don’t know, but he hasn’t given up his sense of self or his sense of expressing something about himself to the world. In my quick shot I had noticed his pale blue boots, what I hadn’t noticed at first were the matching blue socks, blue trimmed gloves, and blue framed glasses. This shot isn’t about fashion – but about someone who, while down on his luck, hasn’t lost his need to communicate and express himself through style.

Looking at him dressed like this makes me feel that in some way he hasn’t given in or given up.

Reminds me of Siddhartha. Or Narcissus. For all we know, he might be living his last life cycle. Who knows. But my guess is he’s free. Unlike most of us.



Cited by Times — IKEA+Verdana gets bigger

August 28, 2009, 1:36 PM

Things really get bigger and bigger: after reading my previous post on the matter, yesterday I was interviewed by Lisa Abend for the Time Magazine! Read The Font War: Ikea Fans Fume over Switch to Verdana. Mr. Marius Ursache from Grapefruit also got interviewed, being the author of the online petition. Here’s my paragraph:

“They went cheap, in other words,” counters Bucharest designer Iancu Barbarasa, who blogged about the font change on his website. If he sounds somewhat bitter, there’s a reason. With its attention to the curve of even a $9 lampshade, Ikea has become renowned for its understanding of good design. “Designers have always thought of Ikea as one of their own,” Barbarasa notes. “So now, in a way, the design community feels betrayed.”

I can’t express what joy it brings me to be cited next to London, Tokyo and Melbourne designers. Thank you, Lisa.

Here’s the whole interview:

1. How did you first learn about Ikea’s switch to Verdana?
I first heard of it from a fellow designer on Yahoo messenger, then read about it on twitter which linked to Typophile and Please Copy Me (used Google Translate).

2. What’s you’re opinion of the new font? And why do you think Ikea adopted it?
Verdana is a typeface specifically-designed for screen use. It is efficient in small sizes, but bland in display sizes, especially in print. Seeing the new catalogue, Verdana seems to be working a lot better than I expected, but that is because it has been carefully typeset (through extensive use of negative tracking and leading). In outdoor communication however, which is done locally, things are not so good, since most advertising agencies do not have good type-trained designers or art directors (I’m not talking about UK, Netherlands or the few countries with strong design-conscient population). All in all, IKEA’s brand recognition will be affected by this. How much remains to be seen—after all, most people can’t tell the difference between sans and serif typefaces. Maybe it will be all forgotten in a few months.

Most probably, IKEA chose Verdana because its wide world availability, having support for nearly all languages (they have to thank Microsoft for that). Otherwise they would have had to pay for the design of additional language support. They went cheap, in other words.

3. A lot of design-related people are unhappy with Ikea using Verdana. Do you have a sense of why the change would provoke such outrage?
IKEA has always been a very loved and respected brand, especially among designers, who thought of IKEA as one of their own, one that understands good design. Any change would’ve upset people. Since the change is not for the better, at least not in an obvious, unarguably way, the buzz is even bigger, giving instant birth to petitions and blogs-twitter-forums bashing. In a way, the design community feels as if betrayed.



Design Challenge — something for the soul

June 3, 2009, 12:13 AM

For quite a while now I’ve been dreaming, hoping, pondering, trying to come up with some sort of solution to force myself in working and doing more of the stuff that I like, that I chose to do for the rest of my life—design. ‘Unfortunately’, we’re not as lucky as Michelangelo, Durer or other masters, we have internet, instant messaging, tv and so on, so many things that distract us from what we truly like to do.

Eventually, a solution came up: to give myself a “non-comercial” theme to think and design, every two weeks or so. Worried as I was that I wouldn’t be serious enough to keep doing it on a regular basis, I managed to convince some of my friends to join in, hoping that if I wouldn’t design for my eyes only, at least for them I would :) (I still remember very fondly my college years when I’d work and wait unpatiently for the end of the semester when everybody would show their projects—competing with them was the true school).

So, this is it: Design Challenge.
A flickr account where every two weeks all the members post their work on the previously given theme. Working only for the sheer pleasure of challenging wits and talent.

Here’s a glimpse of how the set with the works looks:
Design Challenge

Since all the members are romanian, comments are not in english. But you’ll get the general idea, trust me. Enjoy :)



Building with light

September 28, 2008, 11:59 AM

Great article about the glittering, Vegas-rivaling, Tokyo pachinko halls on Ping Mag, made by Tokyo Odyssey (check their website for more projects).

Seeing these amazing lighting solutions proved me yet again that light is one of the most impressive means of building architectural volumes, but also one of the most underestimated. Strange how we, humans, as civilization depend so much on our visual perception and still are toying around like dumb kids with one of physics strongest energies. It also pains me every time I’m involved in interior design projects, on one degree or another, to see how of little importance the lighting is to the architects or the client (can’t blame the latter, though, especially in Romania).

One of the rare things that impressed me during college was the lighting lecture kept by a great designer (even if he was a former doctor and also a plastic arts graduate), Mr. Savel Cheptea, one of the founders of the Design College in Cluj. He taught us the importance of good lighting, the effects it has on our eyes and especially on our working/reading stamina—by extending, the huge importance lighting has on our mood (ever wonder why you’re grumpier on rainy days?—it’s the lack of strong, warm sun light and the omnipresence of cold, shadowless light, not the rain itself). I bought that week a 200 watt light bulb for our student room, it boosted our drawing efficiency by at least two times, being able to draw till 4 or 5 in the morning without our eyes feeling the fatigue. After two weeks we got used to it so well that we could sleep with the light on, as others were working.

Most of my 3D renderings were light studies, I could fine tune radiosity and light scattering for days, but got bored in modelling in just three hours tops. The biggest pain while working as an interior designer was that the company made just 3DSMax scanline rendering for the clients, with no real light simulation whatsoever. Sure real light took hours of rendering compared to the 20-30 minute basic renders, and of course clients were visually uneducated (and sadly, still are in Romania). But lighting is one of the most important parts in interior design. Build anything you like, using the most amazing materials, put a 50 watt bulb inside and you’ve got nothing. Use just plasterboards and LED lighting and you can suggest any mood you’d like, from burning hot to freezing cold. And even if the client is uneducated, presenting a light study rather than a washed out top view image will help you sell the project a lot easier. Engineers can easily make top views, an architect should sell concepts, moods, impressions (Monet anyone?).

Sadly, romanian architecture is in the dark. The majority of public-interest buildings are either washed out with cheap lighting (not cheap actually, cost-inefficient to be more precise) or totally “stealth”, like haunted houses on a creepy road.

Concluding, here are some examples of superb lighting. You can easily guess the succes they have as a retail marketing and branding tool.




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

, 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)