Great books—books that change the way we see the world, books that spur us along our paths as people and cultures—are, in their way, patents. They are innovations made manifest. They are ideas that are claimed by an author on behalf of the rest of us. They are cultural products that concern themselves, when they are at their very best, with hammocks.
The artist and developer Sam Lavigne has taken these connections to a delightfully logical conclusion. Over at github, he posted a program that renders texts—literary, philosophical—as patent applications. “In short,” Lavigne explains, “it reframes texts as inventions or machines.”
So! Kafka’s The Hunger Artist becomes “An apparatus and device for staring into vacancy.” Heidegger’s The Question Concerning Technology becomes “A device and system for belonging to bringing-forth.” And—my personal favorite—The Communist Manifesto becomes “A method and device for comprehending theoretically the historical movement.”
Read more. [Image: Sam Lavigne]
Deborah Buck was the proprietor of Madison Avenue Buck House antique gallery and store for 10 years. Then the financial slump sent sales plummeting, and she had to closer her once-successful venture. But while she shuttered the business, she didn’t shutter its windows, spending six months using the retail frontage for an art project documented in the new The Windows of Buck House: Fabulous Fictional Females.
The book’s photos, taken by Jaka Vinšek, show how Buck kept her windows filled with a changing array of accouterments for 22 imaginary women. She wanted to create a pantheon of swashbuckling heroines seen from behind the curtain—a collection of commemorative portraits that evoke life, like dioramas at the Museum of Natural History. She’d been inspired by a visit to the home of Georgia O’Keeffe in the New Mexican dessert. “Everything was as she had left it, and it had such a strong voice,” Buck said. “It was a sense of connection with someone I truly admired: a woman who raised the bar on what was possible, someone who took risks with her life and her mind.”
So she came up with characters like Ink Lee, a Shanghai artist; Goldy Banks a Geneva investment banker; Berty Cardinal, a Brazilian ornithologist; and Eureka Miner, a Utah prospector. Often, the displays began with a “keystone piece” in the form of one item of furniture. “From there I created a personality collage,” she said. She began to ask questions about the woman she’d created: Who is she? Where is she? What’s she doing? What is her challenge?
Read more. [Image: Jaka Vinšek]
To the uninitiated, the art of typography may not sound like much of an art at all. Anyone can mess with fonts, right? The truth, though, is that even trained veteran graphic designers can be poor typographers—it is not easy to be good.
But Philippe Apeloig, a French poster designer and typographer, is good. One of the best, actually. Last Friday marked the final day of a six-month retrospective exhibition, “Typorama, Philippe Apeloig, Design graphique,” at the prestigious Musee Les Arts Decoratifs in Paris, feting Apeloig’s life work and achievements. The exhibit showed off his posters, typefaces, books, and corporate identities, celebrating his contributions to French design culture. Design connoisseurs in America, meanwhile, can check out an inclusive monograph, Typorama: The Graphic Work of Philippe Apeloig, from Thames + Hudson.
Read more. [Image: Prisca Martaguet]
How better design could fix your workday—and your life.
Read more. [Image: Rami Niemi]
“Do you ring a doorbell with a finger or a thumb?” That’s the kind of question Alice Rawsthorn, design critic for The International New York Times, asks when she thinks about design—all design—and the major role designers have in altering our lives.
Her answer, however, reveals a lot about how she thinks of design’s evolution. “The older you are, the likelier you will be to press it with a finger, probably your index finger,” she writes in her latest book of essays, Hello World: Where Design Meets Life. “If you are younger, you may well use a thumb, because it will have been exercised so thoroughly by typing text messages and gunning down digital assailants on game consoles that it is likely to be stronger and nimbler than any of your fingers.”
Rawsthorn cites this and other mundane behavior to show how technology has impacted design and how graphic, product, and interactive design are key in almost everything we experience today. It’s no wonder, then, that when Rawsthorn speaks, people who care about design’s influences listen.
London’s architectural icons, transported to the cliffs of Portugal.
[Image: Gus Petro]
Fred Kahl, an art director and designer at New York media firm Funny Garbage, is using a very new technology to create a very old thing. The new technology: MakerBot 3D printers. The old thing: The demolished Luna Park amusement park at Coney Island—resurrected detail by detail, ride by ride.
“Long ago, I came to the realization that I just wanted to make work for myself and not play the gallery game,” Kahl says about his dream to spend 30 years quietly creating a single diorama. “Since I first learned about Luna Park, I knew it would be my Étant donnés,” referring to Duchamp’s miniature Xanadu.
Kahl’s introduction to Coney Island in 1984 consumed his imagination, like it did for many artists who have painted, photographed, and performed there. “There was still a lot of traces of the old Coney Island left at that time, but it was in this magical state of decay,” he says. It was Ric Burns’s 1991 Coney Island documentary on PBS’s American Experience that sparked the idea of bringing Luna Park back to life: “I would recreate the park in matchsticks during my retirement,” Kahl thought.
Read more. [Image: Laure Leber]
When Laurence Tisch became CEO of CBS in 1986, he started cutting costs everywhere from the mailroom to the newsroom. Even the cafeteria wasn’t safe. That’s where the proverbial knife fell on a landmark typographic installation: the now-legendary “Gastrotypographicalassemblage”—the Great Wall of CBS—that had hung for more than 20 years.
At 35 feet wide by 8.5 feet tall, this three-dimensional mural designed by CBS design director Lou Dorfsman and the typographic maestros Herb Lubalin and Tom Carnase took over one entire cafeteria wall of Eero Saarinen’s Black Rock, the CBS Building on Sixth Avenue between 52nd and 53rd Streets. Dorfsman considered this massive frieze of custom-milled woodtype spelling out foods and food groups—from lamb chops to hasenpfeffer—his magnum opus, “his gift to the world.”
That says a lot.
Read more. [Image: AIGA]
This week, Facebook will have two big causes for celebration. On Monday, the company will release a new iPhone app. On Tuesday, it will turn 10.
A new iPhone app? New software would seem to pale against a decade of existence—ten years in which the company has gone from a dorm room conception to a $150 billion capitalization, in which a website that once required harvard.edu email addresses became the world’s second most-visited.
But the new app, named Paper, is more important than it may first appear. It signals a change, long-time coming, for how the company interacts with consumers, and marks a new sort of competition among social networks. It’s a change that could affect far more than the iPhone users who will download the app on Monday.
But to understand why, you have to understand the app.
Read more. [Image: Facebook]
Following the killing of 800,000 Tutsis in Rwanda in 1994, 2,257,573 refugees (40 percent of the population) took asylum in 36 countries. In 2012 when Tuareg rebels in Mali captured Timbuktu after an army coup, 297,552 refugees (2 percent of the population) settled in 28 asylum countries. These are just a fraction of the world’s refugee population being documented on a dynamic new website, The Refugee Project, an example of how graphic designers increasingly are turning their attention to framing data that stimulates action.
While data visualization will not end the refugee problem, the designers at Brooklyn-based graphics firm Hyperakt think they can make some difference by developing a tool that decision makers can use to advocate for humanitarian relief.
“Our own lack of knowledge about the millions of people around the world who have been forced to leave their homelands led us to want to tackle this story,” Deroy Peraza, Hyperakt’s creative director, said. “We thought it would be very helpful to visualize and compare all the refugee crises happening around the world—and not just for this year, but over time. We also wanted to have an understanding of the causes behind massive migrations.”
Read more. [Image: The Refugee Project]