REVIEW: Urban Iran

Urban Iran

peace for all

Urban Iran

Urban Iran

Urban Iran

Urban Iran

Before opening up and reading Urban Iran I thought I could guess what type of book I was going to get. It would be mostly outside shots with a couple artist bio’s talking about what they did and how they were avoiding the police in Iran. What the book ended up being was a collection of personal stories of how people are coping and in turn how that is influencing their art and culture around them. There were stories talking about particular industries like automobiles, publishing, music and stories about rebellion through facial hair, remembering childhood through books, and social commentary through art among other topics.

The book’s broken up into a couple broader themes from the other topics I mentioned above. There’s the Portraits of the Everyday and the Art of Publishing. In a lot of respects the essay titled Publishing in Iran by Charlotte Noruzi summed up the entire book quite succinctly. Below is an excerpt from the first paragraph.

“In a way, I’ve created a small window for myself through which I can “see” my country, a place that has been a mystery, kept secret and seperate in my mind. My collection of children’s books triggered my sense of curiosity, a desire to know what things are like in Iran now and the need to reconnect with where I am from. I wanted to lift the veil a little and see what’s underneath. I wonder what books were like. What was the publishing climate like now? What was it like to be an illustrator, publisher or artist now as opposed to pre-revolution times? How have things changed? Was their more expression, less? How had the ever-present living and working in Iran, among other places. Roots to my country that were severed so long ago seemed to come alive again with every person I talked to.”

In respect to music – both in terms of downloading and finding lyrics most people take that for granted. Yet imagine if you had to use a phone line to download tracks that would take days to finally complete. Another issue that bands and specifically to this book metal bands, that every band has had more cancellations than concerts. In Hair is for Head-Banging, Coco Ferguson and Sohrab Mohebbi talk about what it’s like to make music and the options out there for bands trying to do their art. In a different essay art was being used as a vehicle to suggest that graphic design is becoming complacent and mediocre b/c people are focusing too much attention on awards and clients outside of the boarders. (A common theme everywhere in the world it would seem). By taking the well known ideas about childhood monsters from their culture, they’ve turned that focus on to bringing attention to what others are doing in their creative field.

I couldn’t help but think while reading Urban Iran that as good as the internet is for finding things, almost all the imagery of the book is new to my eyes. There’s still a lot out there to discover and the stories behind those images contextualize things perfectly. If there was one thing missing with the book, it’s that there was no conclusion. It kind of just stopped, I would have been curious to read what was going to happen next. Will things get worse, better or stay the same?

BOOK DETAILS
Title: Urban Iran
Authors: Salar Abdoh and Charlotte Noruzi
Publisher: Mark Batty Publisher

Seeing and hearing a photographer’s self portraits of his family

I Am My Family: Photographic Memories and Fictions by Rafael Goldchain

I Am My Family: Photographic Memories and Fictions by Rafael Goldchain

It’s funny how timing works sometimes. Yesterday morning I picked up a couple envelopes from Princeton Architectural Press of books for review purposes. While it’s going to be a couple weeks before I can write a DesignNotes review on Artificial Light: A Narrative Inquiry into the Nature of Abstraction, Immediacy, and other Architectural Fictions by Keith Mitnick and I Am My Family: Photographic Memories and Fictions by Rafael Goldchain I thought I would mention a podcast w/ Rafael. I frequently listen to to the daily CBC podcast Q w/ Jian Ghomeshi and while walking to work I listened to Monday’s edition. Keep in mind that I see and hear a ton of things everyday so it’s actually hard for me to keep track of all that stuff. While listening to the conversation going on w/ the podcast, the books I mentioned above were the last thing I was thinking about. The last interview of the show was w/ a photographer that was doing something kind of interesting. He was photographing himself as different family members from his past. It was an interesting process that he was going through. As he kept talking I was like hmmm, this is starting to sound familiar – I just got a book w/ a guy that was doing something pretty similar. Of course it was the same photographer, but for a couple minutes I was wondering if there’s more than one person looking back at their family in the same way. The entire podcast is worth listening to, but if you’re just interested in hearing the interview w/ the photographer Rafael Goldchain click on this link http://phobos.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewPodcast?i=37451804&id=256943801 and fast forward to 34:29.

Crowdsourcing Salon With Wired Author Jeff Howe

Crowdsourcing Salon With Wired Author Jeff Howe

Crowdsourcing Salon With Wired Author Jeff Howe

After hearing the authour of Crowdsourcing Jeff Howe speak at Electric Artists last night it was easy to make comparisons with some other quasi anthro/sociology books that you might find in the business or marketing section of a bookstore this year. The first would be Here Comes Everybody by Clay Shirky and to a lesser extent Buying In by Rob Walker. For me personally the most basic of the comparisons is that I’ve now seen all three of them speak. Clay talked by himself at Daylife where I work, Rob was interviewed by Fast Company with PSFK and Jeff spoke at Electric Artists and was interviewed by Marc Schiller. In all three cases the Q & A afterwards was fairly flat. No one would dispute that Clay’s a passionate speaker but for the Rob and Jeff events it became interesting to see where the dialogue was going to be directed with the interviewer. By the time each of the books has been written, printed and delivered a lot of the themes aren’t exactly new. After hearing Rob talk I didn’t really feel that I had heard anything that new while last night I did end up leaving Jeff’s talk with feeling smarter then I walked in.

For the talk last night, some of the main business’s that Jeff referenced were Threadless, iStock photo and Dell. I’ve never bought a Dell nor follow anything that they do so I wasn’t really able to relate to that part of the discussion. I have used iStock photo and as a creative I’ve always hated the idea that people send in free illustration work that a shirt company is making money off of. I’ve always seen it as spec work but these days you rarely hear anyone complain about that – so maybe I’m in the minority that has an issue. In any case, the “crowd” is looking for a task to do and those companies all found a way to bring people into the fold.

Keep in mind that crowd is not some mindless mob – in the case of Doritos and their contest to give airtime for a Superbowl commercial, a majority of the entries came from other professionals. In essence a hybrid of pro-am people that were taking their work in a different direction. You may have also heard of Crowdsourcing b/c of the book contest to design the cover. You can check out the finalists from the UK at www.coversourcing.co.uk/top. What was interesting to hear is that the American version did not publish a cover from outsiders but the publisher decided what was going to work while in the UK an entry was selected. Which was right? Hard to say until the number of books that were sold can be figured out. One thing that became clear is that it’s hard to replicate a successful crowd interaction w/ a business if the conditions aren’t there. Walmart tried to fake it for a while and was called out on it. It seemed like for things to work companies weren’t following a scripted plan and had the confidence to let things open up in unique manner and have a dialogue.

Field-Testing the Field-Tested Book Live in New York

Field-Tested Books Live in NYC

To be honest, the Delancey probably wasn’t the best location for Coudal’s Field-Tested Books live reading in New York. The rooftop was packed which in turn made it kind of loud for the eager audience. There was little room for improve – those that were heard kept it simple and loud so everyone could hear. The other issue was the giant column that blocked a lot of the view. To contradict myself, I’ll mention in a moment why that might not have been so bad after all. Having never been invited to be a part of a book reading I wasn’t sure what to expect. Sure I prepped, I practiced reading my piece in front of Tamara and Madison, visualized success and drank beer to calm my nerves. But until you actually get to the venue it’s hard to predict where things are going to head. With the loudness and not being able to see the readers for the first half it kind of calmed me. Some people are going to be able to hear better than others, and chances of seeing a lot of people read every word was slightly minimized. So far so good in my mind.

At intermission I managed to get to the front where I ran into my friend Debbie and was introduced to Jeffrey. I also noticed that the other side of the column that was blocking my view actually held more people than I thought and yes people would be able to see every word that I spoke. I think my mind was preoccupied talking w/ Debbie which helped in me not thinking about what I was about to do. The second half started without any problems that I could see, though I was in a great spot to hear and see everything. Five people in, it was my turn. After deciding to not have a flashlight shown under my face and only one shout of “speak louder”, things went pretty good for me. I tried not to rush what seemed like an eternity and tried to enjoy the moment.

Some of my personal highlights were finally meeting Steve Delahoyde who’s been a great supporter of what I’ve tried to do w/ my blog here, meeting up w/ Debbie Millman again, hearing Randy Cohen talk in person as opposed to just hearing him on the NYT Ethicist podcast, shaking Jon Parker‘s hand just before he was to talk (after realizing that I was Michael from Canada), hearing a lot of great stories, and most of all just getting the chance to blab and in front of a lot of smart people. I really appreciated all the effort that was put into the entire production of the book to the website to the talk – an incredible amount of time. I hope more business’s like Coudal follow their lead in the future.

Below is the final, final roster of speakers in order…

Ben Greenman
Liz Danzico
Steven Heller
Ron Hogan
Matt Linderman
Randy Cohen
Randy J. Hunt
Debbie Millman
John Gruber

(intermission)

Jon Parker
Andy Ross
Jason Santa Maria
Maud Newton
Michael Surtees
Scott Korb
Pitchaya Sudbanthad
Jeffrey Zeldman

Reading and Drinking in NYC

reading and drinking

With the book launch of Field Tested Books 2008, Coudal Partners is having two readings – one in Chicago and the other in NYC. The event is free and anyone is invited to attend. You can get more information at Coudal Partners website at www.coudal.com/ftb/events.php. If you happen to be in NYC on the night of Monday, July 28 at 7pm, the reading will be on the rooftop of The Delancey. I just happen to have the unofficial roster (travel plans and schedules may change who’s there) of those who will be reading – it’s quite the list to say the least.

Randy Cohen the NY Times’ The Ethicist
Steven Heller the NY Times’ design columnist
Jon Parker from Veer
Randy J. Hunt designer
Scott Korb author of The Faith Between Us
Mike Sacks Vanity Fair editor
Pitchaya Sudbanthad writer for The Morning News
Matt Linderman designer from 37signals
Debbie Millman designer and owner of Sterling Brands
Michael Bierut partner/designer from Pentagram
Andy Ross comedian/Onion writer
Ben Greenman New Yorker editor
John Gruber of Daring Fireball
Jeffrey Zeldman author and designer
Jason Santa Maria designer
Michael Surtees designer
John Tolva iChating his appearance, by laptop, from Ghana
Rosecrans Baldwin editor of The Morning News, iChatting his appearance from Paris

*********
Update – here’s the latest playlist of readers…

Ben Greenman
Liz Danzico
Steven Heller
Ron Hogan
Matt Linderman
Randy Cohen
Randy J. Hunt
Debbie Millman
John Gruber

(intermission)

Jon Parker
Andy Ross
Jason Santa Maria
Maud Newton
Michael Surtees
Michael Bierut
Scott Korb
Mike Sacks
Pitchaya Sudbanthad
Jeffrey Zeldman

Coudal Partners’ Field Tested Books: A Cook’s Tour by Anthony Bourdain, Field-Tested by Moi

Coudal Partners' Field Tested Books: A Cook’s Tour by Anthony Bourdain, Field-Tested by Moi

Some cool news to report (for me at least), Coudal Partners’ latest Field Tested Books just came out and I’m included. I remenised about Anthony Bourdain’s A Cook’s Tour. Since reading that book many years ago I’ve been a fan of his attitude and passions. You can read about what I had to say at http://tinyurl.com/5dwgms. Thanks for the invite Steve…

Weatherpattern’s review of Buying In by Rob Walker

Buying In by Rob Walker

Last Friday at Likemind’s NYC I got a copy of Buying In by Rob Walker. While the book looks like a good read it’s going to be a while before I can get to reading it myself. At the moment I’ve got a handful on the go and a couple review copies already in the mix. In case you don’t have the time just yet but are curious to know a bit about the book – I would suggest checking out my friend Ray’s review www.weatherpattern.com/2008/05/book-review-buying-in-by-rob-walker/ who happened to get the book at Likeminds too.

Tables of Contents, the photos

Everything That Rises: A Book of Convergences by Lawrence Weschler

While I don’t think the tables of contents in most books has become a lost design-form, I do wonder if it is taken for granted by the reader. Recently a flickr group www.flickr.com/groups/contents/pool/ started as an add on to the Design Observer book The Next Page: Thirty Tables of Contents. Join the group and start uploading tables of contents worth sharing. Above is one of my first five that I sent – over time you can see my collection at www.flickr.com/photos/michaelsurtees/sets/72157604965679531/

(Book Review) PEEL: The Art of the Sticker by Dave and Holly Combs

Book Review: PEEL: The Art of the Sticker by Dave & Holly Combs

Book Review: PEEL: The Art of the Sticker by Dave & Holly Combs

Book Review: PEEL The Art of the Sticker by Dave and Holly Combs

Book Review: PEEL The Art of the Sticker by Dave and Holly Combs

Book Review: PEEL: The Art of the Sticker by Dave & Holly Combs

Book Review: PEEL: The Art of the Sticker by Dave & Holly Combs

Book Review: PEEL: The Art of the Sticker by Dave & Holly Combs

PEEL: The Art of the Sticker by Dave & Holly Combs

Mark Batty Publisher: www.markbattypublisher.com/servlet/book_view?number=57
Amazon: www.amazon.com/Peel-Art-Sticker-Dave-Combs/dp/0979554608
PEEL: www.peelmagazine.com

If you’re a visual person it’s hard not to keep your eyes open as you take in the environment around you. This is especially true if you’ve spent anytime in New York walking around. There’s so much to take in; people watching, looking skyward to the tops of buildings, and of course checking out the street art on poles, signs and walls. I’ve always appreciated that form of communication that straddles the legal boundaries of art in public space. So now more than ever I enjoy keeping an eye open for street art and stickers. I walk daily to work in SoHo and the fact that I have an iPhone that allows me to take pictures fast and the ability to upload them to flickr and to my tumblr account even faster keeps my eyes open. The pace and speed of myself taking those shots is matched by the sheer number of new things that grow on the poles and walls I see on a daily basis. Aside from appreciating that work, I really don’t have any background knowledge to the people behind what they do. On one level there’s a level of anonymousness to it though it’s fairly easy to pick out tendencies after a while. There’s also a lot of online information but you have to know where to look. When I noticed that PEEL: The Art of the Sticker by Dave & Holly Combs was being created I contacted the publisher for a copy to review. I was hoping that someone like me coming in w/ fresh eyes that wanted to learn more could get a lot from the book.

The book comes from the same people that publish the magazine PEEL. They’ve taken content from the magazine and clustered it into seven different areas. Those areas were 1. Social/Ploitical, 2. Characters, 3. PEEL (taking on the logo of PEEL), 4. Stencil, Spray & Drawings, 5. Contests, 6. Blackbook and 7. Toys. Each of those sections is backed up with interviews with artists and shows examples of their stickers (and toys). At times I felt like they were constrained with either showing too many examples or not enough visuals on a page. It’s a challenge when showing stuff that’s meant to be outside in the real world and then becomes replicated on a page. I think they were at their best when they didn’t let the computer hold them back and they let the content break the space like the interview they did with Me Love. It was a simple replication of a handwritten note that was the interview. As for the interviews themselves, after a while the questions started to feel similar which felt repetitive.

A book like PEEL is quite important because it becomes a document over time to temporal work. When you see street art and stickers you never know if they will still be there the next day. One thing that I wished each of the stickers had contained information-wise was the date and location that the image was taken. Some of the stickers felt out of context to me in that I didn’t know where the sticker was from nor the time frame in an easy way to see. Was this sticker five years old or maybe it was placed a couple months ago? It would have been cool to see a map at the back of the book with dots of all the cities that the stickers from the book came from. On the flip side i found it quite helpful that most of the artist’s interviewed had url’s to their site.

After reading PEEL I feel that I have a better understanding to what I’m seeing with stickers, but I think the idea of the book could have been pushed much further. Aside from interviews which I mentioned that started to feel the same, I would have loved to have heard more stories on their experiences. Like how an artist decided on the location to place a sticker, how often they went back to see if the stickers had changed, more about their process, dealing with printers, how they evolved their styles over time, did websites and online forums influence them – just general stuff like that. As ambitious of a book as it is, I also wondered if they had missed some of the more well known people out there.

Finally a “design film” worth watching


Kate Bingaman-Burt and Mike Perry from Ethan Bodnar on Vimeo.

I’ve been skeptical of designers on short videos until now. Sure it’s easy to blindly follow names that are recognizable but it’s time to look past the people that publications suggest we should know about. Sorry but I’m tired of that hype. I’m on a promotional kick to those that have something relevant to add. While I was not a fan of the book Handjob and the combined talk at Jen Bekman’s Gallery with Kate Bingaman-Burt and Mike Perry, the above video dares me to reconsider a lot of those first reactions. The film captures an honest self recollection of experiences from both people that anyone that watches can gain something from. After watching the film and considering the talk I saw that day in person it makes more sense now – at least to me. At the time I thought they both were people were bit reserved. But if they had done the film ahead of the talk they may have been spent talk wise.

Before I had the chance to invite designer’s to speak I tried to read up as much as I could about others that had gone through the experience before me. One of the things that I remember reading is that you shouldn’t pepper a speaker with too many questions before their talk. What happens is that they become so focussed on answering your questions that they then loose a bit of their edge when they get on stage. I think the above film may have caused them to be more reserved when it was time for them to talk live. At least for me when I saw the film tonight it made me recognize that sometimes a venue for knowledge is more then just first reactions. Ethan Bodnar who filmed and edited the whole production himself has an incredible knack for doing the right thing at the right time. After watching his film be sure to check out his post at www.blog.ethanbodnar.com/2008/04/09/kate-bingaman-burt-and-mike-perry where I first saw it.

Open Book on the Sidebar

Open Book

Steady eddie from It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be by Paul Arden

I appreciate books. Back in the design school days I had the opportunity to take a book arts class where I got to use real lead type that was then used to create a book that I bound w/ my own hands. That in part along w/ just appreciating typography helped set a foundation for taking an interest in the craft of books. That means the whole package; how does it read, what paper was chosen, what does it feel like, did the designer care about the content. The closest I got to actually designing a book was creating a annual reports which isn’t exactly the same thing. Now publishers send me books to review, sometimes I solicit them, other times they’re just sent to me. Getting books via my blog is one of a couple fringe benefits of publishing DesignNotes.

When I walk to work I divide my route by either taken Wooster or Greene street. They both have interesting things going on. On the days that I choose Greene street I’ll pass the Taschen bookstore. If I had a bookstore I would display just one book like they do. Most days they flip the page so chances are you’ll see something different each day. The likelyhood of me opening a bookstore in the near future is probably quite remote so I’m going to do the next best thing. I’m going to have a window display on my main sidebar of books I own. The focus will be on books that are sent to me but not entirely. I think the first page would be fitting to be from It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be by Paul Arden. There’s no real criteria except for the fact that I found a particular spread to be interesting. Like everything else on this blog it’s an experiment that will be adjusted as time goes on.

Paul Arden and It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be

paul arden

Whenever I talk about books w/ other designers or creatives, I always ask if they’ve read It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be by Paul Arden. It’s not a long nor complicated book but by far one of the most influential books that I’ve ever read. Part psychological, part creative and part practical, it’s a book that dares you to dream while at the same time giving you tools of observation that will last a lifetime whether you’re in advertising, online digital or a photographer for that matter. If you haven’t ever heard of this book before you should pick it up on your way home tonight. I mention this book now after following a link to Creative Review’s Blog about Paul Arden’s passing via Design Observer. The design world would be a better place if only there were more design books similar to the attitude of giving back as opposed to look at me monographs.

Clay Shirky on Stephen Colbert

Review Copy

I’m only halfway through my review copy of Here Comes Everybody by Clay Shirky (but hope to make a big dent in to it today) though I have a pretty good idea of how I’ll be starting the review. If I had time to write a book on the social aspects of the web this would be it, it wouldn’t be as good as this of course, but I would attempt something along the lines. I’m really getting ahead of myself so once I’ve completed the book I’ll have a real review. What I did want to mention was the above video that I found via BuzzMachine about the author being on Stephen Colbert. It was new media vs old media in a sense w/ bright lights. The first time I heard Clay speak was at our Daylife office, once during a lunch hour and then a second time for an evening event. It was interesting to compare those events with the video clip if for no other reason then watching Clay try to have a fast paced conversation w/ a jester like Stephen.

Taking a quick look at Mental Models: Aligning Design Strategy with Human Behavior

MM001: Front Cover

Constellation

MM070: Chapter 10--Audience Segment Histogram

I was passed on pretty good link from Robbie de Villiers about a new book titled Mental Models: Aligning Design Strategy with Human Behavior by Indi Young. The book itself looks quite fascinating for anyone that’s in the design field w/ a bent to the digital side but also for the publishers use of flickr. They’ve taken over ninety pages and placed them on flickr to give an idea of what you’ll get. Take a look of the flickr set at www.flickr.com/photos/rosenfeldmedia/sets/72157603511616271 From the standpoint of promotion it allows a number of ways to promote the book digitally, creates permalinks to content which I think is kind of a small but big deal and gives enough of a taste that allows the person to decide whether it’s a book to get.

Since we’re talking books Robbie mentioned Right Hand Left Hand by Chris McManus to me a while back. You should check that one out also at www.righthandlefthand.com

Quotes & Paper Joy

quote

I was thinking that I could get a couple things across with this post that combines the idea of quotes and an interesting NYT article Start Writing the Eulogies for Print Encyclopedias that has implications for more then just print encyclopedias. Until joining Daylife I really didn’t pay a lot of attention to quotes as an element that could be separated from an article or news story. However as an entry point for reading the entire story it makes quite a bit of sense. It’s a sound byte that pulls you in quickly. While there will always be technical limitations to what can be pulled in through programs, I found it kind of fun to just create the above image without worrying about any of that. I could make the quote as a graphic – meaning I could use any typeface, make it big, different and illustrative as I felt. Of course it was time consuming so it also wouldn’t be practical to do something like that everyday. In any case it gives me future ideas that can be implemented on a larger scale within constraints.

The other part of this post actually has to do with the meaning of the quote. I think as people scale back on the magazines and papers that they buy, publishers will have to make a wow statement every time they put something out. The costs both financially and environmentally will dictate in the upcoming years that if you’re taking the time to create something, it better be worth it. The article doesn’t go into any of that but talks more to how digitally means are making those reference sources on paper obsolete. But as the article gets to, there’s something to be said for having a field guide available in a backpack as opposed to trying to do an electronic search out in the forest.

Last Night at Princeton Architectural Press

Inside Princeton Architectural Press

Atlas of Novel Tectonics by Jesse Reiser and Nanako Umemoto

Over the last year Princeton Architectural Press has been pretty good to me. Every so often Russell Fernandez would send me a couple books that they published for review purposes. I’m embarrassed to say that some of those books are still in my half read pile. I really wish that there was an extra six hours in a day which would help me get some of those books finished. Last night Princeton Architectural Press opened their office up for a year end mixer. I didn’t actual meet Russell to thank him but I did have a pretty interesting conversation with another person that works inside PAP. Staring at the back wall (a wall that any designer would salivate at) that had most of their titles, Becca Wendy Fuller would pull down a couple books that she felt really strongly about that had something pretty cool to talk about. For someone that had a background in architecture she also had a really good sense about some of the other fields in design too.

Atlas of Novel Tectonics by Jesse Reiser and Nanako Umemoto

There was two books that really stood out that she showed me that I wasn’t aware of. The first was the Atlas of Novel Tectonics by Jesse Reiser and Nanako Umemoto. Becca Wendy Fuller mentioned some of the great graphic deign features that made this book part of the PAP family. It had a really fascinating tactile quality when I was flipping through it. It wasn’t light nor heavy but seemed just right. On the content side the second last chapter really interested me. All about common errors to avoid, the chapter breaks down the Abuse of Accident, the Abuse of Data, the Abuse of History, the Abuse of the Diagram, the Abuse of Logic, and the Typologist’s Error. Pretty interesting stuff for most designers today to think about. Becca Wendy Fuller also asked me about LTL. I had no idea who or what LTL was. There wasn’t a copy of the book at the back so we ended up going to the front of the office/studio where she pulled down the book Lewis. Tsurumaki. Lewis’s Opportunistic Architecture. As a collection of work it from the Architect’s it read surprisingly well. Let’s be honest, most architects don’t really know how to make something readable – perhaps livable but way too many of them don’t get typography. This book though actually proved me wrong. With a lot of images and understandable stories behind the work it’s a book that someone would want to spend part of their day with.

Lewis. Tsurumaki. Lewis's Opportunistic Architecture

It was refreshing to see a design machine in action where they really believe in what they do. Those walls with all their books really mirror what interests them. That’s helpful when a lot of the world is in a mode of just pushing stuff out as opposed to considering if something should really go out there to be read.

Kenya Hara in NYC

Kenya Hara Talk

Designing Design by Kenya Hara

It would be hard for me not to mention at the outset that it wasn’t entirely easy to listen to Kenya Hara’s talk with the AIGA NY Small Talk series. It had nothing to do with his carefully considered words, but just the delivery. Of course english is not Kenya’s first language which should negate some of my issues. If the talk had been entirely spoken through an interpreter questions of how much bias in word selection would have been asked. Did they repeat every single phrase the way he meant it to be? So…

Water Pachinko

Kenya’s talk focussed primarily on two parts of his new book Designing Design (book review to come), those being the chapters on Haptic and Senseware. He is also tied quite closely to Muji and spoke about that too – but more from the questions after the talk had finished. I had already completed reading the chapter on Haptic and seen most of the commissioned pieces – so I didn’t have the same excited reaction that others in the audience had. What I was extremely in awe of was the quick video clips of Tadpole Coaster, Gel Remote Control, Floating Compass that he showed. My favourite was the Water Pachinko piece. Watching the tiny droplets of water in motion was beautiful. The water came to life, it almost seemed like it’s own little urban city in motion. I could have watched it for hours. The photos and descriptions in the book are nice, but to see them living was quite another. I hope that those short videos find themselves on the net so others can see them.

If I’m not mistaken, some of the examples that he showed for Sensware were not in the book. I didn’t remember seeing the Honda prototype cars that challenged the notion of an exterior in the book. The question was posed that if the combustible engine no longer exists past 2020, how will that effect the nature of the cars outside. The examples of different textures on the cars were quite interesting – just as the process of eliminating some of the hard surfaces due to technological improvements in crash detection. I think Honda’s a little over optimistic in challenging some conventions but for the sake of discussion it was interesting. What I found inspiring overall in the display of the examples for both Haptic and Senseware was how well the objects felt together when showed in duplication. Whether it was the Water Compass or the Tadpole Coaster, as a series the visual sense was quite complete.

One idea that was not mentioned but I think is worth throwing out there is the designer art category, and where does it fit into the discussion of design as a commercial application. If you argue that design does not come from a vacuum and that you need open ways to explore design as the book Designing Design seems like a good example of, then there’s no issue. But if you’re a designer working in the commercial sector that is more curious about how that design thinking was transferred to a successful brand like Muji – those answers were lacking from the talk. Of course there’s a chapter all on Muji that I haven’t gotten to yet, but if you don’t have the book you’ll just have to go to the store and experience it for yourself to get your answer.

Are covers important now?

Book Covers

I don’t think it’s a huge leap to suggest that digital distribution is changing the respect for covers of books. Amazon has just come out with their own piece of hardware that allows people to read things digitally. After looking at the horrible product shots for the Kindle and saw the cover image it shows for the book, it got me to think about the relevance of book covers. It’s not a new question, but if I compare how Amazon shows the cover art vs. the way it looks on their digital display vs. the image that Audible has – does the cover really help sell the book or even make it more “real”. The alternative is no image like those text ad’s that Google displays (which from a selling point has been a success), or is there something else? Why not more fluid covers for the digital realm. Sites that care about accessibility can be resized depending on the browser or computer. Facebook can tell if I’m coming from an iPhone or Firefox. Maybe digital covers could do the same thing – in a sense it becomes it’s own thumbnail website. It’s just an idea. If things continue on the path it’s on, covers will become oblivious.

For a bit more commentary on covers and Kindle, check out the Book Design Review, Three Minds @ Organic and PSFK.

Meet Japanese designer (& Muji art director) Kenya Hara at Rizzoli

Designing Design

In case you missed out on buying tickets for the upcoming AIGA NY Small Talk with Kenya Hara, you still can meet him. I received a nice email from Maggie Hohle, the PR Liaison of Designing Design about a book signing at Rizzoli the following night. I didn’t know much about Maggie before hand, but her list of design titles that she has written about design is quite impressive in her own right that is mentioned on her web site. On her site she also talks about the coincidental occurrences of a number of publications that are talking about Kenya at the moment. You can view her web site at www.maggietext.com

Meet Japanese designer (& Muji art director) Kenya Hara at Rizzoli
Rizzoli: 31 W. 57th
Friday, November 30th
5 to 7:30 pm.

Evolving from an Internet Radio Program on Design to Authour and Member of the Library of Congress; Debbie Millman and her new book How To Think Like A Great Graphic Designer

How to Think Like a Great Graphic Designer by Debbie Millman

How to Think Like a Great Graphic Designer by Debbie Millman

How to Think Like a Great Graphic Designer by Debbie Millman Reception

When I first read on a blog that Debbie Millman was going to be publishing a book with interviews from other designers, I wasn’t as skeptical as Steff Geissbuhler writes in his email to Debbie after she inquired for an interview, but I did wonder about the need. After opening the book last night I learned that it’s best not to jump to conclusions too quickly.

I’m pretty sure that I’ve listened to every single one of Debbie’s seventy five episodes of Design Matters radio program, many of them more then once. In Canada I would often block out meeting time from 1pm to 2pm on Fridays so I could listen to it as I worked. I even managed to get on the International Design Stories episode that was recorded in Edmonton (10/05/05 podcast). At the time (and still) there wasn’t anything like it where a designer could learn a lot from a fairly intelligent conversation between people in the design profession in an audio format. But on the flip side, none of those conversations turned into words that landed on a page. Often her program seemed to run too short, an hour would tend to go by quickly. I think Debbie’s new book How To Think Like A Great Graphic Designer sets out to continue that conversation in a way that wasn’t limited by time.

I picked up her great book How To Think Like A Great Graphic Designer last night at her full and nearly exceeding fire capacity book reception. I can only imagine what a rush and feeling of accomplishment it was for her. I also wonder how she dealt with the line up of people that just had to say hi and pass on words of encouragement. I know I was pretty tired just standing in line, so I can only guess how she felt when things ended that evening. From my observations she held up continued enthusiasm for more than three hours while treating every person she talked to as the only person in the room – not an easy feat. I’ve placed a number of photos from the event on flickr.

I’ve only had the chance to read the first couple pages of the book so far. Skimming throughout the book, the conversation reads intuitively. The conversation translates well onto the page which isn’t always easy. I think if you can A. Learn something new, B. See something in a new way, and C. Take the information and influence you to become better, a book succeeds in what it set out to do. I’m pretty sure this one does all that and more.

How to Think Like a Great Graphic Designer by Debbie Millman

Since this is a book about design, it would only be fitting to mention how it reads visually. Designed by Rodrigo Corral, the cover has a slight sparkle to it that is very hard to capture with a photograph – so you’ll have to take my word for how nice it is. At first I thought the text line length was six to eight characters too short on the inside, essentially one more word per line could have been added. It’s a super picky thing that really isn’t worth mentioning, but I thought I’d throw it out there. But I’ll contradict myself by suggesting that the beauty of the read comes with the line length as is. When you take it with you on the subway as you’ll notice with the photo above, it is extremely pleasant to read in tight conditions. One more interesting fact about the length of the interviews is the reading time, it takes exactly the right amount of time from my subway stop on 34th street to York Street on the F line.

I understand that her second book is geared more towards design students showing the process of many designers. If I had one wish, it would be that her third book is just about Debbie and her work. Essentially as a business person in the design field. I would love to know how she became such a great finisher.

Two more books that I’m looking at, but will be read/review soon enough

All We Need

All We Need

All We Need

All We Need

All We Need

I received book two (of four) that I requested from Springer Publishing today; All We Need, again as with the other books I’m getting I’ll have a real book review soon enough though don’t expect me able to crit the different essays that aren’t in English. I also have to cut open half the pages, but that’s another story. But once again I’m compelled to just take a couple pictures and post them here. While I don’t think words on paper is going anywhere soon, a designers relevance to print has to change. If you don’t want to become irrelevant you have to do something that makes people at least feel obliged to hold on to it, and yes even read it. The craft of this book as Designing Design from Springer that was sent to me are crafted extremely well as they look.

Hand Job: A Catalog of Type

Hand Job: A Catalog of Type

Hand Job: A Catalog of Type

Princeton Architectural Press also sends me books that I enjoy, though I haven’t had the chance to review Hand Job the way I should. I will come back to it soon, but probably from a different angle. I see this kind of type as illustration – is that a bad thing though? And are people confusing this kind of illustration with design today? Hmmm, questions that I’ll be asking as I look through this book.

Reading and Listening to Print is Dead

Print is Dead

In my last post mentioning Newsweek’s website, and more to the point about how there’s so much info in their site that I wished that I could hear everything by someone reading the info while I’m working on my laptop. An author has already done that in a smaller version about his new book Print is Dead, Jeff Gomez also runs the blog of the same name Print is Dead. At the website http://printisdeadbook.com/ Jeff in his own words has given away about a third of the book to be read online and on top of that he’s read the intro that you can listen too. In upcoming days he’ll have more audio of the book.

I really like the cycle that he’s created. He’s got a blog, publishes a book, sets up a website for the book, mentions the book on his blog, has audio of the book on the book site and blog, and naturally all the sites link to each other. The only thing he might be missing is a hosting his images on flickr.

So the real question is will I buy the book? Probably, though thankfully it’s not out just yet b/c I have a lot of books (both print and audio) on the go at the moment. Between now and when it’s published I might forget about the book, so hopefully every once in a while I’ll go back to the Print is Dead blog and be reminded of the book that I blogged about.

Everything is Miscellaneous by David Weinberger

On a side note, I’m halfway through a book Swissmiss recommended to me over coffee last week called Everything is Miscellaneous by David Weinberger. I can not tell you how much I’m enjoying the disorder to the classification system that the web is doing today. If you’re reading it, or looking for a book to read – this might be it. But my question is this – would you be interested in discussing it? I’ve never done the book club thing before, but this one might be a good one to start with. If there’s any takers let me know.

Holding on Designing Design

Designing Design by Kenya Hara

Designing Design by Kenya Hara

Designing Design by Kenya Hara

Designing Design by Kenya Hara

Designing Design by Kenya Hara

On occasion I’ll get books sent to me by publishers for review. Designing Design by Kenya Hara was one book that I chose from the catalogue of Springer to take a look at. My actual review on the content will come soon enough, but I thought I’d give a quick glimpse with a couple photos that I took of the extremely well crafted book. The first thing that I noticed was its tactility. The weight, the paper and the overall whiteness really gave me the sense that this book was of high quality. Why I wanted to read this book was in part b/c of the new MUJI store that is opening in NYC in November, and in part b/c I just don’t know that much about Japanese design. From what I hear, Kenya will also be speaking in tours in the not so distant future, though I don’t have anymore information than that. Kenya is speaking November 29th in NYC. Stay tuned for the actual book review from me…

Review Copy: Taking Things Seriously

Taking Things Seriously

Taking Things Seriously

Taking Things Seriously

A book like Taking Things Seriously could have gone badly pretty quickly. Invite a bunch of people you know to submit a story about an object that inspires you. Ask enough people and soon enough you have a book. If you’re into name dropping it gets to a point where you don’t follow the stories as much as seeing who was and wasn’t invited. The thing with this book is that it really doesn’t feel like that. The objects and stories come off geniuenly, not as a contrived “look at how clever I am” etc. story example.

The write ups are longer then a sound byte but less then a huge commitment of time to read. The intro explaining how submissions were accepted helped frame the context for deciding what got in and what unfortunately did not. Some pieces of inspiration are quite funny while others are moving for more somber reasons. If anything, it will make you look around your own surroundings and make you ask yourself what inspires you?

The perfect book to read in the bathroom if you’re a designer

the metapolis dictionary of advanced architecture

With definitions for words like negotiate: Today, the architectural project is not designed, but negotiated... and Net, the: The net is where fragments are seized, and where the rest is assiduous. The net also encompasses the roads, the paths that are crossed, the vegetation that surrounds them, the earth that buries them. in the book the metapolis dictionary of advanced architecture, it’s hard to argue that this is the perfect book to read in the bathroom if you’re a designer. That’s why I had to pick it up tonight at the Strand while walking home.

Spine Language

Photos by Mickey Smith

I came across a fascinating series of photographs from the artist Mickey Smith via the blog userslib. She has photographed bound periodicals and professional journals from public libraries. Plain covers and spines of these type of books are typically void of any expression yet when singled out by her, the colour and type become quite expressive. Will these forms of bound periodicals be around five or ten years from now? As with information being digitized and space becoming a premium, it would be hard to imagine these bound periodicals lasting as is. You can read more about her project VOLUME at www.mickeysmithart.com/volume.htm

Creative Bureaucracy

Then We Came To The End

A friend asked me if I was enjoying the book Then We Came To The End and I responded that enjoy is an interesting word for it… I wouldn’t classify the book as not funny, maybe just not a ha ha funny but a ya I’ve gone through that not so pleasant period and I know why that’s funny type of humour. For Graphic Designers there’s the Cheese Monkey’s for re-living the art school days while Then We Came To The End is for those working bureaucratic creative world. As with everything else, the book has a decent website that allows you to go through the office and check out the characters myspace pages (which is nothing new), though there could have been more visuals and less reliance on being clever on myspace. I wouldn’t rate the book as highly as amazon has, but for four hours of listening through audible it wasn’t wasted time.

A couple flickr sets from a couple bloggers

flickr today/yesterday

I came across a nice pair of flickr sets from a couple popular blogs yesterday. Swissmiss walked by a two windows of stickynotes with the words “TO DO” in Dumbo. Over the day(s) it has turned into quite the interactive piece where people have writen their to-do’s. Take a look for yourself at TO-DO art installation in Dumbo.

The second set comes from cityofsound. He’s taken a couple pics from the Otl Aicher exhibition, Vitsoe, London. Otl is a pure design genius, I luv the complex yet easy to understand systems he has created. Looking at those photo reminded me that I should really pick the Otl Aicher book soon.

3 things I haven’t read yet – though two are online for you to look at

3 things I haven't read yet

In the last day I’ve collected a couple new pieces of material to read – all hard copies, I thought it was interesting that two of them are available online.

New York Magazine: Don’t Call David Adjaye a Starchitect
Lauren from Renegade passed me on this link before I even had the chance to open the mag…

Below the Fold: http://belowthefold.org/v1n4.html#
I get this mailed to me on a regular basis…

The Architecture of Parking: www.thamesandhudson.us/new/fall07/534237.htm
I don’t think this book has come out yet, but if you’re one of those people that luv’s to photograph parking lots – this book will be for you…

Taking Pictures of the Creative Time wall and meeting William Wegman: what was Day 2 of Design Week

Creative Time Wall

Creative Time Wall

The second day of my design week started off by wondering if it was going to pour rain or not. Taking the risk that it wasn’t going to be raining that much I headed down with Maddie towards 10th Ave. (between 18th & 17th Street) to take a closer look at the Creative Time wall and to take some close up pictures. As I was walking sideways with my camera trying to make a long stitched shot of the wall, I heard the familiar question that a lot weimaraner owners get – “can I pet your dog”? He seemed polite enough and usually I can tell by the tone if they’re an owner of a dog or not. If they have a dog they’re usually more relaxed b/c they know what it’s like to have someone come up to their dog, where as someone that doesn’t have a dog is much more quick to throw their hands out and ask almost as an after thought. So I gathered he must have some experience with dogs. As we started talking he found out that we’re both from Canada, Maddie’s age and a couple other small chat things. As the conversation went back and fourth I found out that he had three dogs which also happend to be weimaraners. Until that point I didn’t realize who he was, but it is extremely unusual for anyone in NYC to have three weims. He then told me their ages (three, five and eight), and then as an introduction said I’m William Wegman.

While I wasn’t stunned it was pretty cool to be talking with probably the most famous weim owner out there. The one thing I wanted to ask, but didn’t for the sake of being tacky was 1. can I take a picture of you with Maddie or 2. can you take a picture with Maddie and myself? Of course I didn’t b/c I didn’t want to be insulting and just appreciated the fact that he got off his bike to say hello to another wiem owner. So what I did do afterwards when I went home was that I took a picture of Maddie in my best Wegman’isque influenced shot. At least now, the next time I see him I’ll recognize what he looks like.

and btw, once I have a couple minutes to spare I’ll stitch the whole wall with the close up shots that I took…

Maddie

Creative Time, the book and the street

creative time

Most mornings when I walk to work I go an extra block to 10th Street to see at what activity is going on near the Hudson River and to take a glimpse of the IAC Building. Today I was pleasently surprised to come across the poster promo for the book Creative Time. If I’m not too late at work tonight I take some more pics close up.

This is not the book review (yet) for Mingering Mike

Mingering Mike

Mingering Mike

Mingering Mike

Mingering Mike

Mingering Mike

Honestly I don’t think I’m going to have the time to read Mingering Mike before the last week of April, but I wanted to mention it here before Friday. I received it in the mail this week from Princeton Architectural Press. I’ll spare you the background about what he’s about. What I do want to say that of the books I’ll be packing with me when I hit the Dominican Republic soon, this will be one of the few. The subject matter is unique in the detail and imagination that it’s the perfect book to escape with sans laptop. Once I get back I’ll have more of a proper review – I promise… Thanks for sending me the book Russell.

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