And here we go again; a whole lotta' back-slapping with a side of pure reverence. Seems that Formvermittlung Visuelle Kommunikation has figured out how to construct a proper Flash interface, Seven25 keeps it real, and Henrik Fisker cashes the check. Metropolis asks the age-old question, "what is good design?" and we step back a few years for Ellen Lupton's essay on "new design" in Israel. Hamish Hamilton's Five Dials pleases, Bustbright delivers, and Neoformix plots. We even linked to work by Leon Paternoster, who a few months back, took the time to call us out at minimalsites. No hard feelings, of course. A review is a review. Xavier at Swiss Legacy reminds about The (life) After Neurath project, and as always, we drop a witticism or two, a look at a bit of our work, and comment on the goings-on in the studio.
Whether speculation about the existence of God, a comparative review of Nazi Germany, or a mere exercise in irony, Frost's celebrated sonnet, aptly titled "Design", explores a relationship with scale, the symbolism of color, and the balance of form. Quite honestly, I hadn't thought about it since high school. And I figured it was time to return to his construction, some twenty-plus years later. So what do you think?
I found a dimpled spider, fat and white,
On a white heal-all, holding up a moth
Like a white piece of rigid satin cloth—
Assorted characters of death and blight
Mixed ready to begin the morning right,
Like the ingredients of a witches' broth—
A snow-drop spider, a flower like a froth,
And dead wings carried like a paper kite.
What had that flower to do with being white,
The wayside blue and innocent heal-all?
What brought the kindred spider to that height,
Then steered the white moth thither in the night?
What but design of darkness to appall?—
If design govern in a thing so small.
This is the twelfth and final essay in a collection written by Byron Ferris for the "Design Sense" feature of the Sunday Northwest Magazine insert of The Oregonian during 1984 and 1985. We should point out at the Byron's reference to Will Vinton is timely; Mr. Vinton, who remains a Portland icon, created the studio that later became LAIKA, now owned by Nike's Phil Knight. LAIKA recently produced the excellent animated feature film, "Coraline". And knowing Mr. Ferris' declared admiration for Max Bill, we'll venture to guess that his "Swiss-made, dial-face" watch just might be one of these. The Editors.
The sense of surprise and delight that kids display as they learn about how the world works seems to escape as they grow and become more blasé. On occasion, however, the gift of wonder can return to big kids, as it did recently from the technical magic of a special-effects movie, a movie that pictured fantasy with such sharp-focus reality that it seemed to be an actual adventure.
The film was "Return to Oz," a Walt Disney production that includes Claymation sequences created by Portland's Will Vinton Productions. The Portland folks sculptured figures in clay, moving them slightly for each of the pictures on a movie film strip. Projected on the theater screen, the figures come to life in smooth movement: a talking moose head, a pumpkin-headed scarecrow and a copper clockwork robot, clockwork because the Oz stories were written in the early 1900s, long before the age of electronics.
When I was very young, the event of the week was a visit to the neighborhood theater, the "RIO," which was a place of dreams, providing once-a-week magic to think about until the next Saturday's shot of dancing pictures on the silver screen. Part of the drama was imagining how great it would be to move to a house built against the wall of the RIO so that I could cut a hole through the wall of my room and watch a movie every night right at home. Of course, I knew that would never happen. But now, when I turn on the television for the evening's shows, I think of my early dreams and wonder at the fantastic changes technology has brought right at home.
Sometimes though, the changes can go too far. When the spring in my venerable wristwatch recently needed replacement, I bought a digital watch as a temporary timepiece. It is a marvelous instrument with large lithium-crystal numbers, a quartz-controlled electronic chip and smaller numbers that pulse the seconds away as though the watch were alive and had a beating heart. Staring in fascination at the seconds changing pulse-to-pulse, I've been wrenched by the realization that my new digital display graphically shows life's moments slipping away into the past. My clock-face watch never frightened me that way its dial always reassured me that more seconds, minutes and hours were coming in the day.
When I explained my unease to a friend who is an electronics engineer, he said of the clock face, "Oh, yes, an analog display." I realized that he was so steeped in his computer craft that the numerical readout of a digital watch was normal and right to him and that, in his mind, the clock-face way of reading time had become merely an analog, or alternate method, to the proper way of showing the information.
I pointed out that a short glance at my clock-face watch gave me more information about the time in relation to the whole day than does the reading of a digital watch, which shows only the moment. My friend just shrugged.
A marvel of mass production and new technology, however, my new digital watch, with all its electronic wizardry, cost only $6.33; my Swiss-made, dial-face watch cost more than $300. Both do the same excellent job of telling the precise time, but the clockface watch is "user-friendly."
Sometimes the magical new products of technology can be superfluous. Recently a friend brought her plug-in air-freshener with her to our beach house for use in the guest bedroom. The little air-scrubber pulls air through itself and collects dust particles on an electronic anode grid. But the air at the coast, coming off the Pacific, is so clean that the little electronic miracle whirred away at an impossibly useless task.
I almost felt sorry for it as it worked away valiantly at its assigned fantasy in this new fantastic world.
We tweeted about Katie Varrati's and Derrick Schultz' (collectively known as Bustbright) Science and Tech Ads Flickr set a few weeks ago, but that tiny mention hardly did the collection justice. After all, this assembly of 300-plus images from the 50s and 60s is just so very current. As young English designers are all aflutter about applying the tight grid, flat color, and sans- and block serifs (as are we), the Americans are totally gay for the mid-century Swiss (guilty as charged). But much like the skinny Motown soul club suits that inspired Brit rock and even punk fashion culture, many of the finest communications design reference points begin and end on the factory floors of the good ole' U S of A. Paul Rand for Westinghouse; Willi K. Baum for aerospace concern, Martin; illustrator Steve Chass, as directed by ad agency Carpenter, Matthews & Stewart for ITT. Take your time and enjoy every frame. And sure, we realize it is essential to note that these guys didn't write the entire book, either. They just left a lending library for designers — of every nation — to pick, lift, crib, and repurpose for years to come.
It don't stop. It don't quit. Six tweets a day on issues related to brand, design, and sustainability. At some point during the week, we had the pleasure of stumbling upon the most excellent Alan, The Gallant, Japan's Love Architecture, and an original 1950 Saab 92. Adrian Shaughnessy's book reminds designers that our souls are valuable (even we prefer black), and Nothing, the Dutch firm with the humble handle, rethinks the conventions of the office (and does it with cardboard). Again, you indulged us by letting us rant. And we thank you.
Last evening, we had the opportunity to gather with a select group to discuss concepts for a proposed design museum in our small city. One of the many challenges with such a project remains the preconception of what a museum is and its associated costs, in terms of both capital and perception. That being said, Portland is nothing if not eager to challenge the assumptions established by that very label (Museum, with a rather oversized uppercase "M") and to consider alternative means in which to approach a project of this type. The group was facilitated by organizers Zara Logue, Dieter Reuther, and Karen Korellis Reuther, as well as representatives from Nike, Ziba Design, Second Story Interactive Studios, Portland Spaces magazine, Maxwell PR, and others. LUNARR Co-founder Hideshi Hamaguchi presented a useful model concept to address biases, constraints, and tradeoffs. Fill a room full of designers and every word will be duly scrutinized (read; "destination" and "objects") but an initial working vision resulted in "a destination where people find enjoyment, inspiration, and meaning in exploring authentic objects of design." A very good beginning, we believe.
On Tuesday, February 17th, AIGA Portland hosted a panel discussion for their quarterly Career Tools series at Elephants Delicatessen in Portland, Oregon. The event addressed AIGA’s nationwide efforts to assist its members during this difficult economic period. The capacity turnout (nearly eighty in total) signaled that the topic was clearly an issue on the minds of many.
Moderating the panel was Julie Beeler, Principal of Second Story Interactive Studios.
Steve Sandstrom from Sandstrom Partners
Sean O’Brien from Wieden+Kennedy
Ryan Buchanan from eROI
Mary Kysar from Makelike
Steve Potestio from 52 Ltd.
Scott Niesen, branding and marketing specialist
For firms, freelancers and students in attendance from the disciplines of graphic design, retail design, interior and environmental design, advertising and industrial design, it made for a lively discussion from some of our city’s leading authorities. And contrary to the model of displaying the output of our work, the event centered on process, or more importantly how we—as people—process our work during the stormy economic climate. And perhaps how we—as a city—position ourselves for sunnier weather.
Rather than providing an overview summary based on personal opinion and the feedback from others at the event, we have attempted to capture the morning’s comments in the panelist’s own words. The event was not recorded, so these are the notes from our own capture. To the best of our abilities, we have attempted to patch our own transcription without altering the tone or content of any of the responses. Some answers were abridged.
Thanks to Elephants Delicatessen, AIGA Portland, and to the event sponsors, for a fantastic discussion. And special thanks to Steve Potestio and Heather Dougherty for chairing the programming role at AIGA Portland. Most directly, we should thank Lindsey Hammond of HUB Collective and her volunteer team for pulling off another informative and entertaining morning of meaningful dialogue.
Julie Beeler (Moderator): The New York Times recently ran an article entitled “Design Loves a Depression” which caught the attention of many. Whether that is, in fact, true or not, how has the recent economic condition affected your studio or your process?
Ryan Buchanan: For eROI, it’s been mostly small changes and further formalizing our process. More time upfront means less time is necessary on the back end. We’ve worked to improve our definition of scope. Clients understand that agencies also need to make a living, if they’re going to serve them. We’re building more and more sites using content management systems which gives the client flexibility. Their content is editable and overall, more manageable.
Mary Kysar: I’d agree. We’re checking in with the client more often in order to not waste creative dollars.
Scott Niesen: Like all of us, clients are looking for ways to save money. The approach, in general, is saving them, and us, more money.
Sean O’Brien: These days, Flash, for example, is looked at as a short-term solution. It used to be “the thing”. Longer term solutions are more important. Better definition of client and project goals and how to build together toward that end. We’re seeing a trend in at W+K to plan further ahead, to be more agile by rapid prototyping during development; by building, testing, breaking, and refining. We’re seeing this as a real trend in the industry and among our clients.
Steve Potestio: Yes, and we’re also seeing that the idea of “agility” relates back to how businesses should be doing things. So that they are not wasting budget by creating start and stop situations.
Beeler: Are you seeing upsides (to this environment) in terms of what you’re learning and the investments in deeper planning?
O’Brien: Absolutely. it is creating an environment for more creative thinking. And it is requiring us to be more responsible with our clients’ budgets.
Potestio: We see it as an opportunity to provide more value. We’re asking, “are there more, or other, services or solutions that we can provide?”
Buchanan: When we’re talking to current or new clients, we’re always talking about new opportunities given the economic climate. At eROI, our clients are telling us that they have been happy with e-mail, but (they’re saying) “if you (eROI) can show me what’s more effective, then I’ll listen.” This is a time to experiment with the client’s marketing model. It’s interesting that fewer advertisers mean more opportunities to craft a stronger message.
Kysar: In many ways, it better narrows the world of possibility. It gets us to talking about what is necessary.
Beeler: We’re all seeing lower budgets these days. Given this situation, can you provide more detail in terms of how your firms are managing to create quality design?
Steve Sandstrom: I don’t believe that the work we do at Sandstrom Partners has changed much in terms of philosophy. The process has changed. Planning, which is a new offering for us, allows us to speak “MBA” with clients in a world of case studies, which, by the way, I believe is the worst philosophy for business. Planning, as a distinct service, helps everyone get smarter going in. We can speak with business folks. As far as new clients, the situation requres accepting more clients than we would have previously accepted. With seventeen mouths to feed, it means we’re doing more and perhaps it’s more difficult to maintain our (previous) ideals quite as strictly.
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