This Sunday's New York Times has Christopher Benfey filing a deft review of Steven Heller's Iron Fists: Branding the 20th-Century Totalitarian State from Phaidon Press. Heller's most recent explores the discipline of "branding" among Hitler's Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy under Mussolini, Lenin's and Stalin's Soviet Union and China under Mao. Benfey's point about Imperial Japan being omitted is irrefutably valid but 223 pages, as Heller would likely agree, hardly provides for an exhaustive study. Besides, word has it that Volume 2 is focused entirely on Bush/Cheney and their cute little magnetic yellow ribbons (promised as Tony Orlando and Dawn patriotic commemoratives, but intended as politically-fueled You're Either With Us or Again' Us! propaganda. Made in China, of course.). Okay, I might be kidding a bit about that second installment.
This week's Flickr set isn't about collecting eye candy as much as it is about finding inspiration. We're book-nutz over here at Bespoke and while we don't spend nearly enough time writing about reading, we do spend a fair amount of that time thinking about it, talking about it, and most often, bitching about the fact that there's never enough time to read everything on our respective lists. Collectively, we do count our lucky stars for the independent booksellers — from the colossal Powell's to the tiny Armchair Books, Annie Bloom's or Bearly Read Books — that seem to thrive in our little city. And the library system is quite good, as well. You could say it's part of our humble identity, but this isn't about us.
KentLyons, the young graphic design concern in London, has posted this set to display the various applications of Get London Reading, a program encouraging the city's residents "to make more time for books in their busy days." An admirable call to action given this period in history which seems to better promote Web surfing or channel changing over page-turning. This year's campaign, sponsored by Booktrust (having already run its short course; 24 March to 16 April, 2008), featured some deliciously erudite guerilla tactics. In addition to the artfully-crafted stencil project, Get London Reading also offers The Rough Guide to London by the Book, a companion directory as illustrated through the writers (and their writing) with maps to contextualize four hundred historical volumes, set in, or about, The Big Smoke.
And with that, I have only one simple question: why are we not employing these forms of literary awareness in every single one of our American cities? The horror, the horror.
Peep this fantabulous set of Ian Fleming's James Bond titles from San Francisco illustrator Michael Gillette. The hardcover collection, available exclusively in the UK from Penguin, marks the centenary of the birth of Mr. Fleming. Each of the fourteen covers features a deliciously dangerous beauty. In matters related, Sebastian Faulks has penned the newest Bond title, Devil May Care, released 28 May.
Via Ms. Kate Andrews' excellent design:related.
And of course, the man himself.
Today is the Oregon writer Evelyn Sibley Lampman's 101st birthday. She was a remarkable woman: the only child of a country lawyer, Lampman graduated in 1929 from Oregon Agricultural College (now Oregon State University) and moved to Portland, where she became a respected and award-winning copywriter for KEX radio. In 1934, she married into what passed in those days for a celebrated literary family: her husband, Herbert Sheldon Lampman, was Fish & Wildlife editor for the Oregonian; his father, the theatrically-named Ben Hur Lampman, ran the Oregonian's editorial page and was our state's first Poet Laureate1. But writing, to that family, was man's work: After marriage, she left her job and was forbidden to drive; her new husband thought operating an automobile unseemly for a woman.
Widowed at 35, with six- and three-year-old daughters to support, she had her late husband's suits cut down for her (the two were the same height) and returned to writing for radio. She may have been the first woman to wear trousers to work in Portland.2 In 1947, Doubleday published her debut novel, Crazy Creek, a story about pioneer life in Oregon for older children; two years later, when Doubleday accepted her second book, Treasure Mountain, she quit her day job. For the next thirty years, she survived as a single mother (she never remarried) by writing forty meticulously-researched3 historical and science fiction novels for young adults, which were in turn published by Doubleday, Harcourt Brace and eventually Atheneum, where she was placed under the prestigious Margaret K. McElderry imprint. She was fascinated by the history of the Northwest and particularly its native peoples; most of her best work concerned native Americans, to whom she was, at the time, unfashionably sympathetic: Once Upon A Little Big Horn tells the story of Custer's Last Stand from Sitting Bull's point of view; Cayuse Courage offers an ambiguous take on the Whitman Massacre (remember, these books were written for children in the middle of the 20th century).
…but for the past month or so, Penguin Books has hosted weekly collaborations between writers, designers and programmers, the produce of which are stories meant to be consumed digitally—Charles Cumming's The 21 Steps uses a novel hack of the Google Maps engine to trace its protagonist's progress around London, Edinburgh, and ultimately Rio de Janiero, for example. This week's offering is Hard Times: story by Matt Mason, form by Nicholas Felton. While I'm gonna pull up short of total boosterism here—the pieces seem to hint at what the form could accomplish, rather than serving as examplars—there's some good stuff here. I'm a fan of Felton's, in any case, so take a look. Via Boing Boing.
So, the old joke among graphic designers goes something like this:
Q: How many designers does it take to change a light bulb?
A: Why does it need to be a light bulb?
You get the idea. There's always another way to look at a problem and we, as designers, tend to look at the problem, or the very question of the problem, as a complex series of issues needing to be addressed — in fact, are perhaps best addressed — by development of a new logo, an entirely new visual language supported by extensive (yet deceptively simple-to-use!) 'Brand and Identity Guidelines' documentation. And assuming that the budget is there, all is to be case-bound in a hand-wrapped bespoke enclosure, blind-embossed with clear foil. Cha-ching.
Recently, I read Rock On: An Office Power Ballad, penned by frequent McSweeney's contributor Dan Kennedy. Earlier in the week, I had heard Kennedy pimping the new effort with Terry Gross. Within seconds, I was audibly chortling in the car, by myself, as I attempted to steer my way to a client meeting I wasn't particularly eager to attend. Beyond his tales of the ironies of pop/country queen Jewel hawking personal razors for perhaps the year's biggest ad spend, Kennedy provided another take on the light bulb riddle:
Q: How many of the likes of us (in this case, record execs, but anyone charged with 'branding') does it take to change a light bulb?
A: First of all, before we change anything, is the light bulb really burned out? Maybe we just need to breathe some life into it; repackage it, maybe the light bulb could do a duet with somebody (Sheryl Crow? Tim McGraw?) in hopes of getting some crossover appeal, maybe it could be in a beer commercial, maybe we could get it out on the road with a brighter light bulb. The other thing to think about is that this summer, Honda is rolling out a 100 Million dollar campaign for a new car aimed at thirty-somethings who consider themselves adventurous/spontaneous but can't really afford something like a luxury S.U.V. and it might be a perfect campaign to tie this light bulb into, at least it would be the perfect demographic, in terms of age.
Also, and this is just an idea: what if we found out what video games are being released in the third quarter...
“The design of a book is the pattern of a reality controlled and shaped by the mind of the writer," writes John Steinbeck in the opening lines of The Log from the Sea of Cortez. The Nobel Prize-winner’s account of the 1940 expedition aboard the seventy-six foot charter Western Flyer—with reliable drinking chum and noted biologist, Ed Ricketts—was conceived to collect marine invertebrates up the Gulf of California coastline. What it became was an internal study of man’s whole self and irrefutably, an exploration of process. "How does one organize an expedition: what equipment is taken, what sources read; what are the little dangers and the large ones? The design is simple, as simple as the design of a well-written book. Your expedition will be enclosed in the physical framework of start, direction, ports of call, and return."
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