My hypertalented friend Lawrence Azerrad, who is designing the Voyager Golden Record: 40th Anniversary Edition and has created packaging for Wilco, Esperanza Spalding, Silversun Pickups, and many other artists (images below), is leading a new effort to explore and cultivate the historical link between design and music. It a fantastic new initiative within the AIGA, the professional associate for design, that will begin with a rich Web site, workshops, and educational programs. Beautiful album artwork and package design isn't the past of the music-listening experience. Rather it's essential to its future. From AIGA:
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Azerrad says designers need to help engender transitional thinking: design can help the music industry, and the music industry can help designers. But for him, the crux of the matter seems to be in helping people engage with music in a way that can—without exaggeration—change lives. Something tactile may have been lost, but music today still moves us and frames the world and our cultural experiences. “The way we’re engaging with music now is very passive,” he says. “Streaming allows you to listen to any song any time, but we may be listening to it more as background music. The deeper, more life-marking changes happen in a more narrow spectrum. You still have hardcore fans, your Taylor Swift freaks or whatever, but music is now what you listen to while you’re driving or working out.
“Music has always been a key way to mark critical moments, like when you fall in love or lose a loved one.
On November 11, Sotheby's will auction off David Bowie's beautiful collection of Italian designer furniture and other objects, including his incredible 1966 "Radio-Phonograph, Model No. RR126" by Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni. The bulk of his collection going on the block though are 1980s pieces of Memphis furniture. Over at Collectors Weekly, Hunter Oatman-Stanford writes about Bowie's deep appreciation for Memphis:
The name “Memphis” was supposedly chosen after an early brainstorming session, during which Bob Dylan’s song “Stuck Inside of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again” played repeatedly on the record player. The designers appreciated the word’s disparate connotations, evoking both cheap American kitsch and the regal city of ancient Egypt.
United in their efforts to reject traditional notions of “good design,” the Memphis artists mocked the bland austerity of Modernism by mixing clashing colors, patterns, and materials on playful geometric forms that often masked an object’s intended use. Although their collaborations only lasted a few years—Sottsass left the Memphis group in 1985, and the rest parted ways in 1987—they caused an uproar in the design world. Memphis sensibilities continued trickling into mainstream design via knockoff brands that influenced interiors everywhere from movie sets to high-school cafeterias.
“It didn’t look serious. It looked like a prank,” Bowie wrote of Memphis in 2002. “It mixed Formica attitude with marble diffidence. Bright yellows against turquoise. Virus patterns on ceramics. It couldn’t care less about function.”
"Space Oddity: David Bowie's Secret Obsession With '80s Memphis Design" (Thanks, Ben Marks!)
Are you jonesing for a dose of optimism and possibility? In the mood to contemplate the cosmos? Want to experience a musical message for extraterrestrials the way it was meant to be played? The Voyager Golden Record: 40th Anniversary Edition, a project I launched with Timothy Daly and Lawrence Azerrad, is a lavish vinyl box set containing the contents of the phonograph record launched into space in 1977 and now 13 billion miles from Earth.
Our Kickstarter ends at 8pm PDT tonight (Thursday). Once we fulfill the rewards from this campaign, we'll never produce this deluxe 40th Anniversary Edition again.
We are so thankful enthusiasm and excitement about our project and the incredible Voyager interstellar mission. The curiosity and support is infectious. We're deeply grateful that a project that has been on our minds for so long has resonated with so many people around the world. Ad astra!
For more on the Voyager Golden Record: 40th Anniversary Edition, please visit our Kickstarter page here.
And here's an excerpt from an interview with me about the project, from The Vinyl Factory:
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Ultimately it was a utopian vision for Earth as much as an actual attempt to communicate with extra terrestrials… Wasn’t it?
Yeah I think the idea is that if there is a civilisation that is intelligent enough to actually intercept it, they’ll be able to follow the instructions on how to play it. And I think that’s true. In some ways though, it doesn’t even really matter if it’s ever played or not by an extra-terrestrial civilisation.
A series of recent, influential design books and articles have convinced the web's designers to go for grey-on-white type, despite the fact that many people can't read low-contrast type (and it's even worse on mobile devices, which are often read in very bright sun, on screens that have been dimmed to save battery) Read the rest
I like the idea of having a blog but basically feel as if I have very little to say about things, at least things that are original or interesting. I gravitated to Tumblr with some idea of just posting pictures, but still felt I needed to be posting something I'd actually made myself... [Y]ears ago I used to draw really crappy basic MS Paint pics for a favourite pop group's fan site, and they always seemed to raise a smile. The idea of doing something else with MS Paint, a kind of celebration of my not being deterred by lack of artistic talent, never really went away....
I don't really think about giving up. The idea of actually completing something I start out to do (for once in my life) is very appealing,And it's fun, it's not a chore.
Anarchic Adjustment was a pioneering streetwear brand and artist collective that emerged from the London punk-skate-BMX-Xerox art scene in the mid-1980s and spread like a virus when founder Nick Philip moved to San Francisco and immersed himself in the early cyberculture. Immediately, Anarchic Adjustment became the clothier-of-choice for the likes of DJ Mixmaster Morris, Joi Ito (now director of MIT Media Lab), Timothy Leary, and countless rave kids and guerrilla art punks. Those were the daze.
Now though, Philip, who in the last decade became best known for his Imaginary Foundation line, has announced an Anarchic Adjustment revival in the form of a sculpture show opening October 20 at Los Angeles's Seventh Letter Gallery. The highly-anticipated exhibition of new work is titled "The Future is not what is used to be."
"It's an uncompromising satire of mass distraction, narcissism and the hidden machine lurking in plain sight," Philip says.
He says that the sculpture above, titled "Little Brother" and inspired by Cory Doctorow's novel, is an observation of "the feedback loop of surveillance, transparency, and a culture entirely preoccupied with its selfie." Below, two of my other favorite works from the show -- "Shackled Connectivity" and "I did it for the lulz."
Calligraphers continue to explore the possibilities of portable tablets for enhancing their craft, and few are doing more than Ian Barnard. Here's his latest tutorial, turning handwritten script into a neon-like gradient.
Bonus video: just look at this hand-lettered banana:
When it comes to the uncanny valley of video game characters, the eyes have it. Even as digital characters become increasingly (hyper)realistic, the eyes lag behind. At FastCo Design, Mark Wilson looks at the technological and perceptual challenges of designing eyes with personality:
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The initial problem with rendering eyes is simply that of light and structure. While the eye looks simple to, um, the naked eye, when you actually examine its structures, you realize it’s actually a mostly clear object. All of these clear layers manipulate light differently, and in reaction to one another, through a spherical structure (but notably, not a perfect sphere!). On top is the cornea. It’s not just a transparent lens. It’s a transparent lens that bulges out from the eyeball. It might reflect light like a mirror, or refract light, warping it like a water droplet on a windshield. Indeed, every structure you see within someone’s eye—like the colorful iris—has been distorted by their cornea.
"The transitions of each of these things, from one to the next, needs to be handled properly," says (Brian Karis, senior graphics programmer at Epic Games). "How light interacts with all those things has to be handled."
The white of the eye is particularly tricky. Known as the sclera, it’s actually the layer that wraps around most of your eye like an orange skin. Light "scatters" from the sclera through the clear gel that comprises most your eye—which is the same phenomenon that gives a glass of milk its particular glow.
Typeroom looks back at ITC Benguiat, the font that so embodied its time that it's now canonical for late 1970s to early 1980s. Turns out its designer and namesake Ed Benguiat was motivated by a potential big payoff:
Inspired by Times New Roman and Bodoni, “he wanted to create a design that was pretty and readable in order to garner as much commission and licensing fees as possible. Back then, it was much harder to access different fonts so there was a larger incentive to have a typeface take off”.