Archive for the ‘Design’ Category

h1

Typographer’s bible

5 March, 2009

Many apologies for the rather erratic frequency in posting throughout this month and the last.  It comes as a result of two-timing (or four, rather) with other sites as a regular contributing writer. And alongside a likely impending move away from an increasingly weary London (all to be revealed soon), calibration of both overall work scheduling and correspondence has been far from finely tuned. So if the phrase ‘coming soon’ has cropped up here more often than usual about any given topic mentioned in passing, please bear with me until ‘soon’ eventually comes. I’ll also try to double-up whenever possible to compensate. In the meantime, here’s a little treat for fellow typophiles who can’t get enough of the eponymous online network and special features such as Gary Hustwit’s Helvetica. I had recommended a book for pre-order amongst other things in the Christmas gift round-up published back in December of last year. Surely enough, March is already here, and it’s time to celebrate the long-awaited first edition publication of The Typographic Desk Reference. To be honest, I’m more than a little excited about this, as I have a slightly if not bizarrely intense font fetish that has persisted since age five (though I suppose that would fit well with the job description).

It also helps if you have a thing for lovingly presented design reference and coffee-table art books. Published by Oak Knoll Books, it was written and designed by entrepreneur Theodore Rosendorf, who began his graphic design career with creating logos back in 1992. He is now the creative head of the Matador branding and communications company based in Decatur, Georgia. With clients as varied as Nintendo, CNN, the CDC and Coca-Cola, Rosendorf is obviously well-positioned to share his wisdom on the detailed world of kerning and foundaries. As such, the TDR has been broken down into the following sections for swift ease of use: ‘Terms (definitions of format, measurements, practice, standards, tools, and industry lingo), Glyphs (list of standard ISO and extended Latin characters, symbols, diacritics, marks, and various forms of typographic furniture), Anatomy & Form (letter stroke parts and the variations of impression and space used in Latin-based writing systems), and Classification & Specimens (historical line with examples of form from blackletter to contemporary sans serif types)’. These four will be preceded by a foreword written by designer and curator Ellen Lupton, who describes the book as ‘the ultimate tool for the type geek’.

Now I just wish I’d been closer to Atlanta’s (context) gallery to be able to attend the book release party on 20th March… The Typographic Desk Reference now available to order from Oak Knoll and Amazon, US$45.

Sarah Badr © MMIX

See also: Arabesque (pieces at random)

Ambient space (pieces at random)

h1

Science machine

26 February, 2009

Who would’ve thought the Adobe Illustrator workspace could be such a winning backdrop for Portishead? That aside,  the hours of painstaking work and attention to detail that went into this beautiful piece by Brooklyn-based designer and illustrator Chad Pugh is inspired. In fact, it is this piece in particular that has helped in part to pave the way towards Vimeo‘s spotless interface and login illustration that we get to enjoy today. Commissioning the redesign earlier this year, the Vimeo team fronted by Jakob Lodwick and Zach Klein sought the expertise of the man whose portfolio has provided front-end output for the likes of Janet Jackson and Bon Jovi at the Fearless Concepts studio, and the success has been tremendous both for the site in terms of user feedback as well as for Pugh’s own career success. And seeing as I’ve spoken out considerably against YouTube‘s seeming lack of attention to image and general operation strategy in recent times (inevitably more to come soon), it goes without saying that a site like Vimeo provides much relief to the black-and-white eyesore that can be added to Twitter’s ‘#gfail‘ rap sheet.

Pugh’s filming of his Science Machine rendering in timelapse over several months totals approximately forty hours of working in depth on the elements featured in his landscape, with a screenshot taken every five seconds. Trimming the eighteen-minute total down to seven, it was set to Portishead‘s ‘We Carry On’ track (Third, 2008) for full dramatic effect. A truly incredible thing to behold when you know how much drive it takes to complete an illustration like this for personal enjoyment. And it’s obvious that that enjoyment has translated into Pugh’s work with Vimeo. On the two projects, he has said that ‘before working in-house at Vimeo I provided their login page illustration, which is used throughout the site in many different forms. It was inspired from some other personal illustration work I had just started pursuing and can be found at my store for purchase. I then had the opportunity to work with the staff on-site. Most of my time was spent exploring ideas for the sites interface, new sections, product branding and other features. My life has changed a lot since I started this.’

Unsurprisingly, the largest two prints are already sold-out. However ‘Afloat’ is still available, and it’s well worth checking back later at the The Big Pugh store to see if more becomes available.

Sarah Badr © MMIX

See also: Speed painting (piece at random)

Content awareness (pieces at random)

Flash fantastic (pieces at random)

h1

Gallery — Hashtags

17 February, 2009

(c) Sarah Badr. All Rights Reserved.

#61eef7
by Sarah Badr, 2009
variable base-16 study

(c) Sarah Badr. All Rights Reserved.

#3f4bff
by Sarah Badr, 2009
variable base-16 study

Sarah Badr © MMIX

h1

Crush on you

14 February, 2009

Just in time for St. Valentine‘s day of reckoning and the launch of Virb 2.0: From the wonderful people who brought us Fifty People, One Question comes yet another inspired idea that aims to bring us together through the spirit of love and generosity. Only this time, the Crush + Lovely creative studio based between New York and San Francisco have narrowed the number down to two lucky winners in their offer of  a round-trip, all-expense-paid ‘nerd-core’ getaway very aptly dubbed ‘Crush on You‘. The designated destination? New York or San Francisco, for some webernet schmoozing and dining over a fourteen course ‘tasting’ menu (mezzes anyone?) with two of the six eligible bachelors and bachelorettes on show: Julia Allison ([non]society), Brad Smith (Virb), Dan Rubin (Sidebar Creative), Emily Doubilet (Sustainable Party), Kenneth Chu and Jina Bolton (both Crush + Lovely). Now basically what would have to happen in order to win this chance to, as they say, ‘meet them face to face to flirt, frolic, and make out to your heart’s content with mutual consent’ is to follow Crush + Lovely on Twitter (@crushlovely) in order to help them reach their 14,000 target.

The refreshingly not-so-small and rather people-friendly print for eligibility in this special rendezvous extravaganza is coordination of travel dates whenever most convenient for all those who will be involved (offer void where prohibited), whilst guaranteeing good fun, i.e. ‘not in any way creepy, sketchy, or oh-my-god-I-can’t-believe-he/she-just-touched-me-there-y’. This is also ‘including but not limited to […] hay making, rick rolling, play faking, code doling, tongue lashing, hash tagging, the over under, the heart asunder, shotgun weddings, or the taking of toast and tea’. As I’ve already entered, fellow Twitterers next-door will already know who I’ve chosen (see reason for choice in tweet followed by #crushonyou) — though admittedly when the odds are 14,000+ to one, the chances of actually getting to meet one of these young and fetching web wizards is slim. It’s still a lovely idea, nonetheless — not to mention that congratulations are due for the launch of Crush + Lovely’s beautiful new site. And so it is on that note that I shall leave you with Édith Piaf‘s classic ‘À quoi ça sert l’amour ?’ featuring Theo Serapo.  Have a happy (preferably not sappy) Valentine’s!

Film by Louis Clichy and Cube Creative based in Paris.

Sarah Badr © MMIX

See also: To wake up… (pieces at random)

Parlement of foules (pieces at random)

Winter wrap-up v.1 (pieces at random)

h1

RIP tDR

1 February, 2009

1986 – 2009

Traipsing between those fine lines of celebration and remorse, it’s difficult to know just how to begin when writing an obituary. Sentiments of grief are best kept at a minimum should you not wish to upset anyone, whilst vacuous praise may have a rather opposite effect. But how does one go about writing the necessary retrospective when the deceased is not a person at all but an enterprise, a conceptual entity shaping the era in which it was up and running? Short of having lived on another planet for the past six months, news of the global recession having taken its toll on major business leaders and small players alike is nothing new. However, one closing its doors in particular has brought on the sort of sentiment felt when a good friend moves away. In fact, this very piece has been sitting in my draft box for the past three years, left to ferment as a blank page at large reserved for the studio that inspired my career choice and passion for a field that — let’s face it — hasn’t always been as experimental as it is today. Admittedly I was so enamoured, so enthralled by what I saw to be (and indeed was) at the very pinnacle of graphic design enterprise at the time that I’ve been too wrapped up in navigating my way through the realm which it has created for itself and for the many clients whose successes were partly hinged on the humourous, constructivist visual impact it provided them across boundaries.

But never did I expect to be writing on such a sad occasion of finality. And it is thus after twenty-three long and successful years, The Designers Republic has bid its farewell. In founding the studio in Sheffield all those years ago in order to provide graphic support for the flourishing ‘SoYo‘ music scene and the band Person to Person, creative director Ian Anderson managed to create a dynamic home-grown alternative to the overrated London design scene. The byline to be ‘Made in the Designers Republic, North of Nowhere’ soon became a desired branding of its own, though ironically tDR’s roots were based on a vision less ‘branded’ and rather more frank about big-city commercial culture and the insatiable consumer demand that went along with it. But it is precisely this paradox that has dominated throughout its lines of work in recent years whilst setting itself apart from the rest, catering to big-name clients such as Nokia, Nike, Saatchi & Saatchi, Orange, and commerce’s favourite target of criticism: Coca Cola. Today, the quintessential tDR style noted to have been inspired by Moscow’s VKhUTEMAS school of the 1920s is perhaps one of the most recognizable of UK studios abound: bright colours, abstract shapes, in-your-face images and modern disjointed typeface in English, Japanese and binary code that screams out whether it be in print, screen, a national flag or a European Space Agency logo.

All of these elements played into the tongue-in-cheek aesthetic that shaped much of its famed output. But to be honest, it’s wasn’t the corporate shelf of Anderson & Co.’s portfolio that first caught my attention. Referring back to its initial connections to the Sheffield music scene, I actually discovered tDR through the work it had done for electronic labels such as Warp Records and the now defunct Em:t Recordings — and for groups such as Moloko and the similarly defunct Funkstörung (see video below). Who can forget Richard D. James leering in a bikini on the cover for the Windowlicker EP, or the vintage sci-fi number for Mat Jarvis’ Gas 0095? The Nine Inch Nails lithograph concert poster series fatigued and true to the band’s industrial heritage proved a further irresistible pairing between the studio and music, as well as the more recent steel-clad limited edition of Quaristice following a long line of covers for Autechre with the hypnotic accents of tDR’s ‘Customized Terror’. I had drawn a comparison some time ago between Anderson and both Warhol and Hirst, and it was vis-à-vis the inextricable links to music that their tremendous impacts paralleled on the cusp of visual representation viewed by an audience of listeners who enjoyed such imagery built on the sounds that lured them into collecting merchandised memorabilia via concert venues and niche online retailers.

And this impact has certainly not gone without ample recognition: In 2001, Q magazine chose the 1987 cover of Age of Chance‘s Don’t Get Mad… Get Even! as one of the ‘100 Best Record Covers of All Time’. Meanwhile, a sold-out 1994 Emigre issue revolving around the Republic was auctioned off for more than $750. Even more recently, tDR was featured amongst the roster of twenty-four artists in the Maxalot projections at the Hague for the TodaysArt Festival in 2006,  with a statement of simply ‘Wait Here. Help Is On The Way.’ spanning across the City Hall building in a fashion that went beyond correct kerning demonstration: it was another example of the ethos that brought about the wordplay visuals of ‘Thinking and Doing’, ‘Design or Die’ and ‘Work Buy Consume Die’ en route to the ‘This is the Emperor’s New Clothes’ theory. Incidentally, TodaysArt also brought the work of tDR alongside that of Universal Everything, another Sheffield-based studio whose director Matt Pyke served at tDR as a senior designer for eight years. Which brings me back to the point of the studio being in Sheffield: the playful anti-capitalist ethos so evident in Anderson’s work stems from his world-view (and love of good music) that led him there in the first place. ‘Sheffield doesn’t have places like Hoxton Square,’ he told the Creative Review in August 2001. ‘And I think, Good, that’s why we’re here. I’d rather slit my throat than have to work with people like that.’

‘The majority of clients haven’t the faintest idea what they’re getting into when they work with us, and a lot of them just haven’t got the balls to see it through. It’s really disappointing to realise that so many people involved in commissioning creativity haven’t got the faintest idea what creativity is.’ Amen. Finally somebody said it, and I couldn’t agree more. The fact that Anderson doesn’t ‘really give a shit about what anybody else does, or about being in anyone else’s band’ is why the legacy of The Designers Republic is worth more attention than much of the rest out there (though it does seem they buckled under commercial pressure throughout the last three years). But their ingenuity and individuality has always counted so positively in terms of a socio-anthropological relevance throughout a broad spectrum of visual communication. Now, not having had a chance to purchase any of the limited edition prints from the tDR online ‘disinformation’ merchandise flagship lovingly tagged as ‘The Peoples Bureau For Consumer Information‘ (the neon night-scene Tokyo print and catchy T-shirts were amongst some of my favourites), I’m glad to know that Anderson has indicated that eventually tDR ‘will rise again’. In the meantime, a copy of the LovebytesVolatile Media DVD, several albums, and various videos will serve just as well amongst the prized memorabilia to reminisce in anticipation for the second coming of the Republic.

Sarah Badr © MMIX

‘Grammy Winners’ directed and produced by The Designers Republic
Funkstörung, Appetite for Disctruction (!K7 Records, 2000)

See also: V&A Forever (pieces at random)

Ambient space (pieces at random)

h1

Flash fantastic

29 January, 2009

The lovely folks over at Boing Boing have often referred to Flash sites as stupid, monolithic blobs that render deep-linking (linking directly to a site’s internal pages) as virtually impossible. As a writer who feels it absolutely necessary to provide the most precise location of all cited sources, I couldn’t agree more. But as a designer, I find that one can achieve so much more when building with Adobe Flash than when depending on squarish CSS or just using (X)HTML. Bearing in mind that deep-linking is already in threat of being branded as a copyright violation in some parts of the world thanks to the ageing legion of out-of-touch judges, there is no doubt that the recent increase in the use of Flash will go on unabated until a more dynamic tool hits the mainstream media. And that’s not such a bad thing when considering the stunning combinations of graphics, video, animation, sound, and interactive navigation that are unparalleled when truly balanced in both aesthetic presentation and streamlined function. Designers who adhere to the principle of creating impressive designs that also serve as both usable and intriguing interfaces are the ones who should be looked towards for genuine inspiration in how one ought to make a site look. As opposed to Flash sites that are (excuse the pun) just flashy, that is.

Quite frankly, I would rather refer a reader or my client’s customers to a ‘monolithic blob’ if I knew they would be able to easily locate what they were looking for and all else that may be equally of interest along the way. Besides, there are several methods of creating linkable pages within Flash (primarily through the naming of frame anchors), and recently built examples live up to this current industry standard. Ultimately, simplicity and creativity are key when striving towards interactive motion graphics on-site. After an interning stint at the web design division of an ISP several years ago, I had seen some pretty awful styling methods that are surprisingly still quite common today (government-affiliated websites are all too frequently exemplars of shame in that regard). But rather than list those now (maybe later, though), it’s much better to celebrate the ones that have succeeded in visual mastery and cyberspace ergonomics. And listed below are ten of my recent favourites found whilst browsing, with brief descriptions for quick reference. There are many more out there, so I may soon update this list for inclusion in a regular album-style line-up with screenshots similar to the recent series of reviews here. Feel free to send in any interesting finds of your own if you’d like them included — especially if they’re your own original creations.

01 » Trevor Jackson :: site of the London-based all-round creative
02 » playMUJI :: instructional product promo micro-site for MUJI
03 » CREAKTIF! :: multimedia graphic design studio based in Paris
04 » AgencyNet :: marketing solutions agency in Fort Lauderdale
05 » Paregos :: graphics and advertising agency based in Stockholm
06 » SectionSeven Inc. :: design and development office in Seattle
07 » The United Network :: WPP global advertising micro-network
08 » hellokarl :: site of French designer and artist Charles Kalpakian
09 » AKQA :: global advertising, media and design agency network
10 » BIG :: site of the Danish architectural firm Bjarke Ingels Group

Sarah Badr © MMIX

See also: Content awareness (pieces at random)

h1

Great unveiling

28 January, 2009

Like The Medium‘s Virginia Heffernan, I too am a self-confessed TED addict. Sparked by my first viewing of director Jehane Noujaim‘s presentation after she received the TED prize in 2006, I’ve since been keeping close tabs on the various speakers specialized in a wide variety of disciplines encapsulated by the ‘technology, entertainment, design’ cachet that the conference series has set out for itself from the time of its inception. Held annually since 1990 after it was founded by graphic designer and architect Richard Saul Wurman six years prior, the lectures limited within an inspiringly rigorous eighteen-minute time-frame offer over 300 insights of expertise freely available online today. Focused on a marked contribution to contemporary issues related to the sciences and humanities, the TED talks culminate with the awarding of the TED Prize each year, giving three individuals $100,000 alongside their being granted one wish ‘to change the world’ (Noujaim‘s wish had been to organize Pangea Day, with an aim to foster cross-cultural understanding through film).

Ordinarily held in Monterey, the TED 2009 Conference will be held in Long Beach, California this year. And commencing in five days, the programme is set to bring together an unrivalled set of speakers throughout its four-day duration, including Bill Gates, marketing guru Seth Godin, futurist Juan Enriquez, musician Herbie Hancock, and many more. A few of them have already been featured in previous years, though there’s no doubt that the calibre of discussion created will be as unprecedented as ever. I’m particularly excited about the upcoming lecture by maestro Dr. José Antonio Abreu, one of this year’s recipients of the TED Prize, and the founder of El Sistema in Venezuela. For some comprehensive insight into his revolutionary system of music education and its reformative socio-economic impact over the past thirty-four years, I strongly recommend you get your hands on BBC’s Imagine episode featuring music director Gustavo Dudamel and airing this past November.

As usual, the talks will soon be available on the TED site, YouTube and Miro. And another to look out for on the TED calendar will be the TED Global Conference, which will be held in Oxford this year. So luckily for fellow TED addicts who might be stranded in the UK this summer, registration is still open for those who would enjoy a less virtual viewing venue.

Sarah Badr © MMIX

See also: Seth Godin’s Blog

Pangea day (pieces at random)