Design is never neutral. It alters behavior and has life-and-death implications. For Paola Antonelli, senior curator at the MoMA’s department of architecture and design, this fact has been a fixation. She has initiated an impressive share of breakthrough exhibits and events focusing on the way visuals affect the world. Her latest is Design and Violence, an online forum devoted to exploring the darker side of the creative mind, using essays and discussion boards. Given MoMA’s mandate to acquire and exhibit objects of beauty with cultural significance, it’s a somewhat radical move.
Read more. [Photo courtesy of the designers]
When The Hunger Games was released in 2012, as design critics we found its Francophile fashion, its Frank Gehry-inspired architecture, and its streamlined technology difficult to ignore—or admire. If this was the future, why did the Capitol look like the 1980s? Do we overlook evil if it’s not dressed up like Fascism? Where did Katniss get that perfectly faded housedress? Naturally, when Catching Fire came out last month, we had to go back for more.
Warning: spoilers from both books and both films ahead.
Read more. [Image: Lionsgate/Murray Close]
Anyone obsessed with film title design will recognize the name Pablo Ferro. The artist disrupted conventions starting with Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove, where Ferro famously dwarfed all the leading cast and production names by making the “and”s, “with”s, and “the”s extra prominent.
His titling, crudely handwritten in both elongated and condensed letters, stood apart from the rest of the field. Ferro (b. 1935) went on to design titles for influential works including The Thomas Crown Affair; The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming; Harold and Maude; and Bound For Glory. He also reprised his Strangelove letters for Men in Black and Stop Making Sense. Using his inventive, fast-cut editing technique, the former comics artist and animator also created countless TV commercials, movie trailers, directed his own shorts and a feature length film, Me, Myself and I, with George Segal and Jo Beth Williams.
Now in Pablo, a documentary by Richard Goldgewicht available on DVD/on demand and coming to theaters soon, he gets his own time on screen.
Read more. [Image: Shoreline Entertainment]
Chattanooga, Tennessee has the distinction of being the first city in the United States to have its very own typeface: “Chatype.” Designed by Chattanoogans Jeremy Dooley and Robbie de Villiers with support from fellow designers D.J. Trischler and Jonathan Mansfield, the Kickstarter-funded typeface was released on Oct. 31. “Every city needs a brand, to highlight its own distinctive offerings,” Dooley says. “Typefaces are ideal for such a large and diverse organization such as a city.”
Dooley, who runs Insigne Design and sells his various fonts online through MyFonts, told me that the initial idea was to approach the city government for funding. But after some meetings his group decided that attaining public money would be difficult, run counter to the spirit of the project, and would require a lot of time to get people on board.
“With Kickstarter, we bypassed the politics and bureaucracy and instead formed a grassroots effort through crowdfunding,” he says. “It was only after our success and after multiple city organizations enthusiastically embraced the face that the city decided to name Chatype as its official typeface.”
Read more. [Image: Robbie de Villiers]
— We Need to Design Parking Garages With a Car-less Future in Mind (via theatlanticcities)
The life of the world’s first domed stadium began with a bang—an ineffably Texan bang. On a warm January morning in 1962, seven men, sporting cowboy hats and eschewing shovels, broke ground on what would become the Houston Astrodome, home of the Houston Astros and the Houston Oilers, by firing Colt .45 revolvers into the dirt.
When the Dome was inaugurated three years later, it held the world’s largest room and, in the spirit of Texas truisms, was twice the size of any enclosure ever built before it. By its first birthday in 1966, the Astrodome was the country’s third-most-popular manmade tourist attraction, behind only the Golden Gate Bridge and Mount Rushmore. For years after its birth and with great hubris, the Dome was heralded as “The Eighth Wonder of the World.”
This week, Houstonians cast their ballots on a referendum to determine the stadium’s future. Had the measure for a $217 million taxpayer-funded renovation passed, the world’s first domed stadium would have been refashioned into something of a convention center, hawked somewhat deliriously as “The New Dome Experience.” While the proposal did not garner any organized opposition, the measure narrowly failed. The Astrodome now appears likely to buckle under the weight of the calls to demolish it. As debate about the issue grew over the past few months, the discourse was not just limited to whether the Astrodome should stand, but also what the building has stood for as a national icon.
Read more. [Image: AP/Pat Sullivan]
If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, ugly must be there too. The design world is obsessed with celebrating beauty and expunging ugly, but these standards are fluid. This is why design critic Stephen Bayley, creator of the London’s Design Museum and former creative director for Terence Conran, curated a 1991 Victoria and Albert Museum exhibition and book titled Taste, which took on the tough task of figuring out why people like what they like. His most recent book, Ugly: The Aesthetics of Everything picks up where Taste left off.
In a recent email, he described Ugly as an answer to “design bores telling me such-and-such is ‘good design’ when what they really meant was ‘this is my taste.’” Since Bayley believes much of the design world’s rhetoric is based on “unstable and untested arguments about beauty,” he decided to “rehabilitate neglected, but useful notions” of taste and ugliness and develop his own pronouncements.
Read more. [Image: The Overlook Press]
With countless walls to choose from, it’s little surprise that artists like Diego Rivera, Jose Clemente Orozco, Thomas Hart Benton, Maxfield Parish, Keith Haring, and Sol LeWitt—and now, working on a different scale, Banksy—have made New York City their canvas. But many of the massive artworks that adorn office buildings, schools, hospitals, bars, and restaurants often go unseen to the many eyes that pass by them every day. Unless shown exactly where to look, a New Yorker can miss the masterworks in front of him or her.
I, for example, never realized that Orozco painted a suite of politically sensitive historical tableau on labor, science, politics and culture at The New School on 12th Street, so close to where I live. But then I saw the paintings in the new book Murals of New York City: The Best of New York’s Public Paintings From Bemelmans to Parrish by Glenn Palmer-Smith with photographs by Joshua McHugh. The tome offers a collection of fascinating, striking images—and should make city-dwellers look on their surroundings anew .
One of the first and most dominant power couples of the design world is Lella and Massimo Vignelli, the influential creators of graphics, products, furniture, interiors, and jewelry for more than six decades. Lella and Massimo each have distinct creative voices and mediums, yet together both represent the same name and brand: Vignelli. Today in their 80s, the two’s CV includes a long list of iconic clients—Ford, Bloomingdale’s, the New York City subway. Now comes a career-capping documentary by Kathy Brew and Roberto Guerra, Design Is One, which opened in New York’s IFC Center on October 11 and will run from October 31 to November 8 in Boston at the Museum of Fine Arts.
Read more. [Image: John Madere]
We asked leading figures in technology, science, medicine, and design for nominations. Here’s what they said.