Whoa… you damn well can’t do that anymore!
This is what graphic design looks like
Dyslexie, A Different Kind of Beauty
Well, if it isn't the old typeface bait-and-switch
Seeking a full-time position in hurricane logo design
Today I am a Red Sox fan (did I just say that?!)

Category Archives: culture

Mark Landis | Father Philanthropy

Via: The Avant/Garde Diaries:

Standing next to 57-year-old Mississippi native Mark Landis in the watercolors aisle of a local art store, the words “master art forger” are the least likely to come to mind. Bald, stooped, and slight of voice, Landis looks more the part of a paint-by-the-numbers hobbyist. And yet for the better part of thirty years, this unassuming figure managed to dupe nearly fifty art institutions in over twenty states into accepting forged art works. Many still don’t know they’ve been tricked. Referring to himself strictly as a philanthropist, Landis never profited from this particular compulsion since he always “donated” the works in honor of his deceased parents or a distant relative. His ruse was also abetted by the unassuming appearance of the man himself – which he habitually refined by dressing as a Jesuit priest. By the mid-2000s, Landis had set up a veritable assembly-line production of forgeries that he created from the comfort of his dim bedroom. In a process that was, no pun intended, deceivingly simple, Landis picked a painting from a museum catalog, made a color copy at an office supply store, affixed it to a small piece of wood, and then drew over it with a mixture of color pencils, paint, and even magic marker. While large institutions usually sniff out such forgeries in seconds, Landis donated to small, regional museums that usually accept such at face value. His works are often copies of little known, nineteenth-century American impressionists, and why on Earth would someone make fakes of such a thing? He is clearly not your average high-stakes forger, which is exactly the kind of cover he thrived upon. The life and journey of Mark Landis is one of the weirder tales that The Avant/Garde Diaries has profiled, and yet it is also one of the most intriguing. A Rain Man-esque character, Landis might not have the most calibrated moral barometer, but through a singularly bizarre creative will and a notable penchant for theatrics, he will likely be remembered more than the iconic painters he made a career of forging.

Directed by Terri Timely / Produced by Brady Welch & Sophie Harris / Edited by Amanda Larson / Photography Direction by Donavan Sell / Sound Design by Rich Bologna / Music by Keith Kenniff / Production Coordination by Ayesha Janmohamed / Transcription by Simone Tolmie / Audio clip provided by Local 12 WKRC-TV / With special thanks to John Gapper

Update – the filmmakers have now posted this “deleted scene” (below)

And finally, some additional info in this (2-year-old) New York Times article.

Does it appear to you like the world is simply bursting with “experts”? Me neither.

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This piece from Wired magazine had caught my attention a short while back. It is about this genre of writing that essentially claims that everything you have understood or believed to be true about a topic, has in fact, been wrong. And these “experts” often promise to reveal the secrets to this hidden “truth” — which you can know only by, well, reading more of their stuff. Very often it attempts to tap into the latest scientific findings or social research which is (supposedly) shedding dramatically new light on the topic in question.

Here’s the beginning of the piece to give you a taste:

Clive Thompson on the Hidden Truth of Counterintuition

Wander into the pop science section of any bookstore and you’ll be told—over and over again—a disturbing fact: Everything you know is wrong. About everything. Seriously, everything!

You’re familiar, no doubt, with this genre of book. It has metastasized in recent years, with a seemingly unending series of tomes claiming to upend everything we believe about talent (Talent Is Overrated), decisionmaking (The Upside of Irrationality), motivation (Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us), personality (The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement), and dozens of other subjects.

And not only are you completely wrong about something that seems totally obvious, but the real truth is some theosophical “secret” long “hidden” from you. It’ll take a renegade outsider—like, say, a “rogue economist”—to pierce these veils of ignorance.

The sheer durability of this trope is kind of bewildering. Can it really be true that there’s some gnarled mystery behind every facet of life?

Or is it possible that Everything You Know About Everything You Know Being Wrong is wrong?

[click through for full piece]

It goes on to mention what journalist David Schenk years ago called data smog—with data smog being described as “living with an ever expanding surplus of research and factoids, which can paradoxically making you increasingly unmoored from what you actually believe”.

The particular reason why this resonated with me was that I had originally come across it while I was writing some longer original essays to appear on this blog. And as I was reviewing some of my notes on various aspects of design, there was a common theme throughout of my concern for how much we listen to (or—to say the least—are continuously confronted by) “experts”, “gurus”, etc.…

Of course, I’ll need adequate time and space to express myself appropriately (so please stay tuned). But for now, I’ll allow the brilliant George Carlin to take us all to school on this issue ….

Steve Powers: Distilling Daily Stories Into Art

Steve Powers: Distilling Daily Stories Into Art from Piers Fawkes on Vimeo.

….and here is the legendary graffiti artist painting one of his daily series of drawings on small metal panels: Daily Metaltations

DAYS by Steve Powers from Georgia on Vimeo.

The story behind New York’s Subway signage

Via: The New York Times Magazine (12/7/2012)

Who Made That Subway Signage?

In 1966, Bob Noorda, a Dutch-born designer, spent three weeks navigating New York’s subway system, pretending to be a commuter and trying to follow the signs from one train to another. What Noorda found was chaos: the walls bristled with arrows and impossible-to-follow instructions. The New York Transit Authority was hoping that Noorda and his firm, Unimark International, could fix the problem.

It was an era when graphic designers hoped to reinvent the world, and Marshall McLuhan declared, “We become what we behold.” The team at Unimark wore lab coats, and at one point they drafted a manifesto declaring their allegiance to sans-serif type. When Noorda and his partner Massimo Vignelli took on the subway signs, they didn’t just update them — they invented what they thought of as a new grammar for New York City. They used minimal text, arrows only when necessary and color-coded discs to indicate different train lines. The discs were Noorda’s masterstroke….

Continue to full article

And recently the Sierra Club has created a subway-style map of national parks (below) with the legend “so incredibly not to scale”, further confirmation that this design will live on forever.

Gratuitous design? Count me in!

While designers love to throw out words like substance, purpose, reduction and sustainability, please remember that all goes down the toilet when a piece of exciting design is laid in front of us (not to mention all that talk is largely bullshit to begin with — but I’ll save that for another post).

Through an extraordinary attention to detail and stunning design, Theory 11 has managed to turn a deck of playing cards into a fetish item for design fans. A stroll around their website displays a quite a range of beautiful packaging: the Collector’s Edition Laser-Etched Wood Box Set, a metallic “Industial Edition, and much more.

A few samples here…

Ahhh… here we go. The thunderous cinematic score. And, of course (of course?), the pyramids and hieroglyphics, because—why not?  Add a somewhat bored-looking magician flipping cards around in what appears to be, perhaps, the fitting area of an upscale bridal salon? Anyway, this accompanying video is… um… I really don’t know what the hell it is…

And actually, now that I think about it, I’ll just stick with these, thank you.

The story behind “Keep Calm and Carry On”

From Barter Books

A short history of the ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ poster. After being forgotten for more than half a century, a rare original of the now famous WWII poster was rediscovered in a box of old books bought at auction in one of the largest and most popular secondhand bookshops in Britain – Barter Books.

When the bookshop owners had the poster framed and put up in the shop, customer interest was so great that in 2001 the couple started producing facsimile copies for sale – copies which were soon copied and recopied to make of the Keep Calm poster one of the first truly iconic images of the 21st century.

Keep Calm and Carry On from Studiocanoe on Vimeo.

“Dumb Ways to Die” is awesome

OK, I just watched this for the 3rd time today. Love the song, love the animation. If you think it’s impossible to combine ‘horrifying’ and ‘adorable’, then just click on the video below. I almost can’t believe that this is simply a public service ad for Melbourne Metro Trains safety. There is a quality to this that makes it feel almost effortless – and I mean that in the best sense. You can easily see where someone would want to soften the lyrics and visuals – just to not offend, just to “be safe”.

Being not safe is exactly what makes this great. There’s more info below the video, or click right over to the Herald Sun for the full article.

And yes, it has it’s own website, and animated gifs!

Via: Herald Sun (Australia)

Featuring a variety of cute characters killing themselves in increasingly idiotic ways the video is designed to demonstrate the danger and stupidity of messing around on platforms, tracks and level crossings.

“This campaign is designed to draw young people to the safety message rather than frighten them away.”

“We set out to find an innovative way to reach young people who see themselves as indestructible. We felt images of body bags were more likely to have an impact on their parents, so we wanted to engage with young people in a way we think they might appeal to them a bit more.”

“Some people might have an issue with us making light of what is a serious topic, but if we can save one life or avoid serious injury, then that’s how we’ll measure the success of this campaign.”

“The campaign evolved out of discussion with platform staff and drivers who witness people risking their safety around train stations and at level crossings,” said Leah Waymark, General Manager Corporate Relations, Metro Trains.

“The ‘dumb’ theme had its gestation in those initial responses. It was just an overwhelming theme of their feedback.”

Exciting… beautiful… now please go fix it!

Link to site: Century of the Child: Growing by Design, 1900–2000

I saw this exhibit a few months back – and it was well worth seeing. It was one of those lucky trips to the museum where, while there, you discover a number of unexpected exhibits that are really very good. I only just now stumbled over this part of the MOMA site where they decided to dedicate some vertuoso design to: Century of the Child: Growing by Design, 1900–2000.

Actually, the design is beautiful, and would translate handsomely to a catalog or any print format. The actual “vertuoso” part that I was referring to is in the overly slick programming. A classic case pursuing every opportunity to make as many elements as possible flip, bounce, float, or scale at the mere hover of a mouse. I was soon moving the mouse very tentatively while cursing beneath my breath “I never clicked that damn thing – why is it jumping in front!

Naturally, I always want to be cautious and not rush to criticize a project that is clearly ambitious – because I can see the attempt here to make something fresh and new – but frankly this ends up mired in all of the worst excesses of an old-style Flash website. This was unfortunately art directed in a way that was completely sympathetic to the programming.

In an (apparent) attempt to showcase all that the web can be, we just end up with another case study in what happens when you try to shove a “web experience” down your visitors throat.