Shifting Design Positions as it Evolves

Michael Surtees

After reading Kevin McCullagh’s Core 77 article Design is changing in myriad ways. Are you? I started making a number of connections to other posts that I’ve come across lately. Kevin writes “game changers map out future opportunities by exploring the interplay between their current know-how and potential new applications for it in a changing world” and he goes on to explain how this is done. That statement was preceded by explaining in detail about how design has always been in flux though today the evolution is creating multidimensional issues that didn’t have to be considered at any other point in history. For those designers that see their work as a matter of communication and not as an offline vs. online thing, this article speaks to their transitional ability already. If you grew up on print and remember the days of Linotype Kevin’s article is worth purusing.

But it would be arrogant to think that designers are the only people going through a crazy transition today. How about photographers? Two posts from Alec Soth’s blog are worth checking out. They both have to do w/ him questioning the quality or lack there of of photographs on flickr. Is there more originality going on w/ product shots on eBay? The first post is titled Where are the great pictures on Flickr? and the second is Shore, King & Street Fashion

Dave Gray illustration

And the last of the connected posts is from Dave Gray illustrating the Generalist and specialist approaches. I typically swing towards the idea that the generalist approach is the way to go, but then I wonder if anyone can truly attain a level of greatness if you’re good in a lot of areas as opposed to being the best in one?


Mark A. Jackson, Photographer Treeplanting

We, the unwilling, led by the unknowing, are doing the impossible for the ungrateful. We have done so much, for so long, with so little, we are now qualified to do anything with nothing.

+ Mother Teresa

Living on an island for even a short period of time can do strange things to the memory. While I’ve never tree planted in Canada, looking and reading the photo essay from Mark A. Jackson brought me back to an idea that I almost forgot about. See it for yourself at

Helvetica in Vancouver and What is Design, really?

Helvetica Vancouver Poster

Over the weekend as I was hanging out in Bryant Park working away on my computer, I had pretty good conversation with Mark Busse over IM. He’s the Chapter president of the GDC BC Mainland Chapter and he was mentioning the success of the Helvetica film screening in Vancouver. Apparently they sold out two nights and caused a lot of chaos on the streets before it opened. They’ve placed some flickr pics HERE. Mark was also cool enough to send me a couple extremely large posters from the event.

And yesterday I received a really, really nice email from David Ngo who created the above YouTube video on the question of what is design? The video is long at eight minutes but well meaning for my short attention span. It looks like it’s the first in a series. I’ll be looking forward to the next installment when it comes out.

From my apartment this morning

this morning

I felt like I was in the middle of a thunder storm this morning which in fact was the truth. For a couple hours it poured rain but by the time I went outside around seven to take out Maddie it was just insanely humid. Now it’s sunny and the office is pretty quiet due to all the flooding problems w/ the transit system. Its been a strange morning and it’s only 10.30 am…

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.

Watching the sun interact with design

6 to 9

Usually I save my self narcissistic sensibilities to myself, though lately I’ve been talking a bit too much about my new apartment view of Manhattan – just ask the friends that sit around me at work. But with that said I thought it would be cool to mention how the sun interacts with the skyline of both the Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building during certain hours from my window. It’s subtle but if you know what to look for it’s really something to take notice. The fact that the sun hovers over the Chrysler Building just around 6 am and then around 9 am with the Empire State Building is pure design beauty. Of course you have to realize that the earth shifts just a little each day, so by this time next month (or the month after that) the co-ordinates the sun might not be exactly as they were on this day with the photos. While I can’t say for any certainty, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that sun and these buildings play together so well. Next time you notice a great building, take a look at the surroundings. There might be more to it then just haphazard placement.

Street Mining and Link Coincidences

Street Mining

Street Mining

Street Mining

Ever since mentioning Street Mining a couple weeks ago here on my blog, I’ve been eagerly awaiting the curated walk to hear and see things that I otherwise would never have known about in NYC. Last week I moved from Chelsea to what I would consider midtown so I now have to rely on the subway to go south as opposed to before when I would walk everywhere if I was headed in that direction. Giving myself thirty minutes to get to soho on a train I thought would be more than enough time. It was not due to a stalled train and eventually I did have get off the train to meet up with the group of Street Miners and Pam who was leading it. Once I got close I called/txt messaged Noah who instructed me on their known where abouts. It was funny and kind of interesting to follow location instructions as they moved around in real time.

Once I got into the walk, I found that everyone was genuinely open to talking as we walked past things. I’m always curious to know how people find out about events, which blogs they read and what they do. From what I gathered yesterday Swissmiss has an eclectic following of people. The weather was near perfect (just a little hot and all sun) and I found a couple amazing places to visit if I’m in a funk to get stimulated. If you’re at all interested I would visit the Street Mining site and sign up to be on the mailing list at I’ve also posted all my images on flickr and facebook.

On an upcoming post I was going to throw out a couple links that caught my attention over the week, but I found some parallels between the walk and those links. The first came from New York Times: With Tools on Web, Amateurs Reshape Mapmaking. It talks about how people are using technology and browsers like Google Maps to create their own stories. I think the first photo above is the perfect example of this in real life. Of course a second example would be my google map of places that I’ve discovered in NYC. I suspect in a couple days the route that Street Mining took will be up, though of course questions of how public it should be have been asked. Should someone that never went on the tour get to see things that others experienced first hand? Personally I think the more information you put out there, the better. I’ve found out about a lot of places to eat just through flickr. I didn’t get to experience it first hand but appreciated the fact that someone took the time to let me know about it.

I was going to mention Creative Review: Global Cities at Tate Modern b/c of the visualization of dense urban areas. I couldn’t help but feel the squeeze of people as I walked to find the Street Mining group. I would be interested in a physical three dimensional map of all the locations people have come from as they walk from East/West in soho. Relying on the subway on Saturday was a mistake – Junk Charts: Noisy subways link talks is essentially a report card of the system – and how badly the diagram is designed. The last link that I was going to mention, PingMag: Cocoa Abstractions In Mind had nothing in common with anything that I did yesterday – but who doesn’t like chocolate?

UPDATE: the map of SoHo has been posted on Google Maps, and one of the first places that was visited while I was still on the train was a chocolate shop – so even my last link now seems appropriate…

UPDATE 2: Children of Darkness from the NYT.

Diving deep with images: FFFFOUND! and their image bookmarking site


I’ve been meaning to talk about FFFFOUND! for a couple days now but time has been going by to quickly. It’s a really great eclectic site of images. People post images that they’ve found on the web. What’s nice about the site is that you can typically go to the original site that hosted the image. Another feature is that the site can find other images based on what you like. I’ve been quite inspired each time I’ve visited the site, maybe you’ll be too at



It seems like when you’re living in a place where there’s constantly things to learn and see, a day like Manhattanhenge in NYC is something to be aware of. If you have a camera and great location you should obviously take advantage of the situation. The streets and avenues in NYC are laid out pretty understandably. The NESW lines are almost exact (aside from a 30 degree slant), so for a couple days a year when the sun sinks you can get some pretty amazing views of the sun. Above is one of the pictures Manhattanhenge that I took, my other flickr pics from today are at

Of course before today I had no idea that there was such a thing as Manhattanhenge. Michael Bierut posted a couple links about it on Design Observer: wiki –, Neil DeGrasse Tyson (the person that called it) –, and the explanation – Natural History.

If you missed seeing Manhattanhenge last night with a camera, you might be able to get another chance tonight as the Gothamist mentions that there are others that believe today is the actual Manhattanhenge…

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…


Sexy and scandalous party pics, maybe?


Just when you thought you couldn’t become any cooler, you now have the chance to “become part of the hippest photo-blogging community in the known universe” or at least that’s the hope behind They’re pushing the benefits of email and automatic email updates, the fact that you can use the photos on your blog (copyrights???), and the fact that you can leave comments. I’m not totally buying in to it yet, but as Jeff Squires mentions on PSFK, the site is “allowing anyone and everyone to share their sexy and scandalous party pics from cities around the world”. In that kind of context, how can not be a good thing?

James Nachtwey’s speech to TED

“One of the things that I had to learn as a journalist was what to do with my anger” James Nachtwey mentions in his speech to TED. The compelling talk from a photographer is worth watching. Not only are the images thought provoking on aesthetic and social levels, but it also makes the viewer want to act in response.


It’s always a good idea to combine photographs of jets with cool watches

bell & ross catalogue

Every once in a while I’ll come across a Bell & Ross watch ad and just be taken back by the design of the watch. Ok, I don’t like all of their watches, but more to the point I think the BR 01 series is something that I’d like to see on my wrist. On their website you can request a catalogue and since I do like holding things in my hands once in a while I ordered one. About a week later I got a nice thick bubble wrapped envelope with a couple catalogues. Overall the design wasn’t that special, but the action photography was. From the credit in the back of one of the books, the photographer was Philippe Lacombe. Above is one of the spreads from the BR 01-Instrument books.

Say cheese


Aside from thinking about design, I always have a camera with me. It helps me see. Aside from that it’s just interesting to create an image I wouldn’t have considered before. The above image was taken for the new space that Renegade (where I work) is going to be displayed. Along with me, J. has been shooting a lot of the others which should be interesting to see how turns out.

But the real question is how do the subjects feel about their experience being photographed? Model Jason English provides insight into what it’s like to work with a photographer at his blog.

A blog using flash?

magnum blog

I finally found a blog that really, really uses flash in a respectable way. It just works. It’s the Magnum Blog. Designed both from the inside and outside by Orange Logic Europe, it does something we should all study when it comes to a successful design. If only those photographers that are writing for the blog could put their cameras down so they could talk more about what they’re doing…

Flickr Comment Spam

flickr comment spam

Yesterday I got hit with comment spam inside one of my flickr images. I checked the flickr’s forum and it seems to be a new issue creeping up. Apparently from flickr’s advice in the post I’ve been hit with Comment Spam it’s mentioned to click the Report Abuse link at bottom, explain the problem to staff… it will be over in no time… don’t delete their comments until their account is deleted… I’m about to do that with the issue I got hit with this image: I don’t expect it to be much of an issue after I report it…

UPDATE: Within an hour of reporting the issue to flickr it was resolved!

What was 11 Spring Street

11 Spring Street (Wooster On Spring)

The simple question would be was it worth it? You have the option to do anything you want on a Saturday in New York and you decide to stand in on something for a couple hours – only to be rewarded with the chance experience something that will only be here once. But the bigger question is what do you do with that time? Standing in line seemed like such a painful obstacle, but really where would you rather be? You can’t live through a lens yet it’s hard not to want to capture every moment. That’s how I saw it

Sunday is the official closing, so like they say go early to 11 Spring Street, and if you want to see some of my quick shots, visit my set at

Interviews, we got interviews

I grabbed an assortment of photography and design interviews from jen bekman’s site for your reading pleasure on a slightly cold Friday morning.

An interview with HS Patrick Smith

The Science of Stereotyping: An Interview with Elizabeth and Stuart Ewen

An interview with HS Chad Muthard

An interview with HS Juliana Beasley

A Conversation with Todd Deutsch

The SPY that Came in from the Cold: Interview with Kurt Andersen

Razmi Images Part 2

contact sheet

I don’t think this post is going to make a lot of sense if you can’t log in to WSJ and view the A Chilling Photograph’s Hidden History article. But hopefully you’ll continue reading none the less. Aside from the content of the article, the thing that got me thinking was how the images were actually displayed both in print and online with WSJ. Anyone that has printed a contact sheet will appreciate how the paper displayed the Razmi images on newsprint. It doesn’t try to be fancy – just a simple header and footer displayed. When I went online to see more images, or in actuality the same images but on screen I was a scared at first. In the image below if you contrast the left image of digital enhancement to the scan of the original image there’s quite a difference . That’s kind of weird considering it’s the same image.

But before I go all negative on digital, the shocking moment came when I started clicking the digital images really quickly. I felt I was the photographer taking the images. The movement gaps felt quite real. Looking back at the printed version of the paper after, I don’t think a layout could ever had moved me as much as seeing the photos through the eyes of the photographer.

Razmi Images

Razmi Images

The Wall Street Journal today published a story about a photographer and the people around an image that they all felt strongly should be shown. After reading the article I wonder if people would be so compelled to follow their guts today. You can see it online for free at HERE. If you have the time and live near a newspaper stand, it might be worth heading to before Monday.

Marc Joseph Talk

Marc Joseph Talk

Two things that interest me are books and photography. I didn’t know anything about Marc Joseph before tonight’s talk, but when I learned that a photographer was going to be talking about a book my eyes widened. The underlying feeling that I got from Marc was that he plans things quite methodically. There was a consistent pace in the story he was telling, he would refer to points earlier in the talk and build from that, and none of the images had captions yet he could all but once talk in detail about the location and point to a story with the photos. He also admitted that the images used for his latest book New and Used were going to be developed in large scale (3X their original size) and that he wanted to make the images of books and music stores seem prominent.

Before talking in depth about the book, he showed the images by themselves. What I don’t think many people realized is that the images on the projection screen were probably near the scale that they will be developed to be seen on the walls. When Marc went through the book in pdf form, it was interesting to see that there were no captions nor text to correspond with the images. The essays and poems that went inside the book seemed to divide the photos in a very systematical way. Marc mentioned near the end of the talk that he was ruthless in the editing choice of the images, and worked very hard not to seem repetitive with the images. In the case of staying away from the images being to predictable, he succeeded.

In a lot of ways I think this talk was more of a benefit for me in the AIGA’s NY Small Talk series than the first b/c it was a fairly honest talk about an artist working within the constructs of design. I’m also pondering some ideas with books and photos for my own sake, and to hear what his motivation and process were, it helped create a frame of reference for me in the near future.

Loser Singletons

“Having spent decades deriding singletons as losers with all the social skills of a rock, advertisers now want to make friends with those of us with just the one toothbrush in our bathroom. And it’s not just because, with no family to support, single people are wont to fill their empty lives with pointless new purchases. Being on your own is now, apparently, an aspiration.”

Read the whole blogpost Only The Lonely at


tree, originally uploaded by calculated nonsense.

Finally, something in flickr to blog about again. tree by alex taves. more at

Aside from that, I point you to Michelle Arcila at

Friday three for free

Going Up, originally uploaded by Delay Tactics.

Accessibility for blind people:
Direct Quote: Write meaningful links. Making links understandable out of context helps users who might not have read the whole sentence, or are scanning the page for links. So instead of an ambiguous “To see my birthday photos, click here”, try “Have a look at my birthday photos”. You can also add a “title” attribute to the link to provide more information when the user hovers over (or focuses on) it.
via Noah’s brain

alec soth – blog:
Direct Quote: I don’t come close to shooting every day. For better or worse, I don’t carry a camera with me everywhere I go. I liken my process to that of filmmaking. First I conceive of the idea. Then I do pre-production and fundraising. Then shooting. Then editing. Then distribution (books and galleries). As with most filmmakers, the shooting takes just a fraction of my time.
via personism

Antonelli at Stanford Review:
Direct quote: She made a provocative statement “design needs good narrators” – even though there were some questions about it, it seemed like a comment that was open to a variety of interpretations.

Jeffrey Aaronson deux

Jeffrey Aaronson

Below are some of my notes from visiting “Maybe it’s You” by Jeffrey Aaronson a second time.

  • iPod shuffle may be hard for older people to understand if they’ve never used a digital player before
  • the word drama would come occasionally in the personals – as in looking for a drama “free” relationship…
  • some personals were long, others one sentence
  • if you were to read the personals online, the listings would probably suit the person behind the writing visually though you would have probably imagined someone else; confusing I know
  • two or three really stood out, the ones that really had a relaxed sense of humour that were more like a journal entry tended to be the most interesting to hear
  • nothing too sad
  • more could have been done with collateral stuff: I would have liked to have seen a screen capture of the original craigslist post and names of the people beside the photo
  • only was able to listen to 60% of the pictures, I’ll probably visit one more time

Hearst Tower by Foster and Partners in NYC

Hearst Tower by Foster and Partners in NYC

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