Sunday 13th Sep 2009
At first glance, The Shenzhen International Energy Mansion looks worth posting about only for the name alone, it sounds like some Metropolis-style sci-fi update of a concierge-equipped apartment block of the early 20th century. It looks, however, like any other office tower found anywhere in the world. Its rather standard shape is in fact deliberate and it does have some interesting features, explained in a way by these remarkable infographics on this Arch Daily article. I say in a way because they’re clearly made to be as much decorative as informational - with that huge pixellated type and simple iconography they bring to mind 8-bit game interfaces and thanks to the West/East labelling, recent revivals of the style like that in DEFCON. Anyway, have a closer look, and you can see how the building is designed to at least try and reduce energy use.
Whenever I’m playing around with guilloches, I often think it’d be nice to make an alphabet - to actually generate letterforms with them. It’d mean loads of eye-wateringly complex formulæ, but I think it’d be worth it. Well, Tania Alvarez has created some beautiful letters called Fabric Type that convey some much of the appeal and intricacy of guilloche patterns and reminded me instantly of that idea. If ever I needed reminding that the products of inspiration are infinitely variable, then it’s this; these are beautiful and I love them, but I’m happy to see that they’re different from what I was thinking of doing. This list of things that I want to get done isn’t getting any shorter. Found via the ever-inspirational Fubiz.
Saturday 15th Aug 2009
This is a great little instruction book on drawing animals - Les Animaux Tels Qu’ils Sont, full of beautiful little illustrations and diagrams - you can see it on this Flickr set, posted by Agence Eureka. The illustrations are all great, but I find that for most of them I prefer the intermediate stages in the instructions, they’re constructed from spare, sinuous lines and create a beautiful abstraction of the animal - capturing something of the spirit of it rather than an explicit diagram of what it looks like. The ‘final’ drawings seem a bit too obvious, perhaps. So once I’d drawn copies of my favourites, I noticed that they reminded me of hieroglyphs, hence my choice of title - judge for yourself below.
As an aside, I was interested by the authors listed on the book, R & L Lambry. The ‘R’ would be Robert Lambry and, well, there’s nothing definitive on who the ‘L’ is, but I suspect it might be Leon Lambry. That’s the only ‘L Lambry’ that I could find involved with illustration from around the right time. Anyone know for sure?
Sunday 26th Jul 2009
This has been hanging around in my browser tabs for a little while - it’s right up my street too, The Top 10 Comic Book Cities on the Architect’s Journal. A few people have linked to it (I have no idea where I first found it), so you may have already seen it, or even have the books listed. I’ve got a couple, and I think I’ve tracked down a copy of The Long Tomorrow, with Moebius’ fantastic visualisations. I’m quite fond of the idea of megacities, maps (especially of the built environments) and really crowded, dense architecture. It’s not type related, but I imagine such things tend to appeal to the typographically-inclined, if only for the recognition of the similarly detail-obsessed personalities that created them. Anyway, I got the picture below from a regular read of mine, Sci-Fi-O-Rama, which feeatures sci-fi related art and book covers:
Friday 17th Jul 2009
One for the ‘what a nice idea’ pile, this. Cardon Webb goes round upgrading notices pinned up in the streets - you know the ones, ‘Lost Cat’ and the like. There’s one I saw the other day near me that was pleading for the return of a lost plush bunny. I hope they found it; the tone of desperation told a whole story in itself, a wailing inconsolable child, pushchair left unfolded in the hall, coat fallen to the floor, scattered attempts to make-it-all-better: a melted bowl of ice cream, other toys, the Teletubbies DVD and so on, and still the sobbing.
Anyway, back to the nice things. I found this on idsgn, who had created a nice header graphic out of the ‘before’ and ‘after’ images of one of them, and I found that such an appealing presentation I’ve recreated it myself. Still, the original works are the stars of the show, so have a look round on Cardon Copy at the others. I initially thought that the idea was to simply improve the original notices but found a few of them rather hard to read, reading the Cardon Mission reveals all:
Cardon copy takes the vernacular of self-distributed fliers and tear-offs we have all seen in our neighborhoods. It involves hijacking these unconsidered fliers and redesigning them, overpowering their message with a new visual language. I then replace the original with the redesign in its authentic environment.Cardon Copy
So there you go, the key phrase is ‘overpowering their message’. Explains some of them. The others, like the one below, are far more appealing. You’d keep an eye out for that cat:
The Cooper Union Typography blog linked to some illustrations of New York storefronts by Bryan Christie. They’re lovely things, and remind me of this blog of London shopfronts, which I’ve written about before, sort of. Christie’s studio portfolio has a great collection of 3D illustrations and infographics, including this marvellous one of skyscrapers, which I love… You can order prints too. Tempting. Go and take a look.
I am indebted to Adrian Giddings for finding the originals of these images. I saw them on Design Crush, and from there to ffffound and from there… a blank. Blogger really needs some kind of reverse lookup for their dreadful impenetrable image URLs, and ffffound needs to better record the URL of the page containing the image. Still, I now know where these posters are from. They’re clever, simple, and have a graphic elegance reminiscent of Otl Aicher’s work for the 1972 Munich Olympics, with typography that is pure London. If Wolf Olins had gone down this route I’m sure there would have been far less controversy about the branding for London 2012.
Of course, these are proposals designed to work with the Transport for London branding, not for the Olympics, and I think work perfectly in that context. For the Olympics itself, for all their cleverness and simplicity, they’d be a bit too classic Olympics, a little too safe. Perhaps.
As for the actual 2012 logo/brand, it’s has been out for quite a while now, but I’m still not entirely sure yet what I think of it - I don’t like it, but it may be exactly right for the event. We won’t really know until after the Olympics, and then, no doubt, we’ll have plenty of learned analyses about it to tell us what to think. I wonder how agnostic I’ll be able to be.
Monday 18th May 2009
I saw this linked from ISO50 this morning: The Dollar Redesign Project is a competition (Campaign? Bit of fun?) to promote the idea of fully redesigning the US banknotes, possibly on a regular basis, like many banknotes the world over:
The American Dollar has not truly been redesigned since about the 1930s. The Dollar ReDe$ign Project is your opportunity to theoretically ‘change’ that. Yes, technically there are many limitations and complications when it comes to bank note design, but if the Swiss can do it on a regular basis, why can’t we North Americans too?The Dollar Redesign Project
There are only a few designs on there at the moment, some a bit jokey, but of the serious ideas I quite like the ones in the first set below. I can’t see any notes that deviate too far from the originals being successful, as there are so many cultural and linguistic associations with the ol’ greenback; it may seem tediously conservative, but notes that aren’t predominantly green just won’t feel like dollars. I hope the designs go further than the ‘stick a guilloche on it and call it a banknote’ idea - guilloches are beautiful things - I wrote about them before, here - but it takes more than a few of those to make a successful banknote.
Relative sizes of UK notes
One usability feature common to many banknote systems, and I’m surprised the designs so far haven’t addressed it, is to have different denominations in different sizes. UK banknotes do this (see right) and it’s reasonably easy to feel whether you’ve a £5 or a $20 note in your pocket because of it. £50 notes, while far from the tablecloth-sized notes of old, seem positively enormous compared to a fiver. I wonder how many mistakes are made every year from having all the notes the same size?
Of course, no article about banknote design would be complete without a mention of Ootje Oxenaar’s designs for the banknotes of the Netherlands below, now sadly replaced by the rather dull Euro notes. At the risk of seemingly terribly shallow for a moment, to my mind the design of the Euro is a pretty good reason for the UK to keep the pound. Banknotes are like little works of art, and to squander the opportunity to produce a remarkable and beautiful design for them is a sad thing. I shall be watching what comes out of the Dollar Redesign Project with interest. I may even have a go myself.
Saturday 18th Apr 2009
Ffffound is a dangerous site. I try not to visit unless I’ve got a couple of hours to spare as before I know it it’s dark outside and I’ve got a couple of hundred tabs open all with amazing things in. On my last bout of browsing the site I found a couple of links to So Much Pileup, specifically these two posts, Philately Fridays: Israel 1967 and Israel 1976. I’ve traced both, but I’m just going to post the one set for now as I’m not entirely satisfied with how the 1976 ones came out. Some things just need gold ink.
The set of stamps was called “Joyous Festivals 5728”, released in that year (1967) and commemorate five festivals with illustrations of decorated Torah scrolls. Each of the stamps originally had a tab showing an illustration of an open scroll and a biblical sentence, which unfortunately I don’t have decent pictures of. There’s a tiny bit of information here, courtesy of Israel Philatelic Federation’s stamp catalogue (another strangely hard to use website). I’ve included my tracing here. The patterns are beautiful:
From left to right:
This may be a bit of an old link, but it’s new for me, I think. The St. John’s Bible is a project by Donald Jackson (and team) and Minnesota’s Saint John’s Benedictine Abbey & University to produce a hand-written and illuminated bible to, as they put it, celebrate the new millennium. It’s both a massive project and a massive book - over 1000 pages with spreads 80cm wide by 60cm high, produced over 10 years at a cost of four million dollars (though its value may be denominated in other ways). The origin of the work is interesting in that it comes from the classic desire to complete a magnum opus:
For many years Donald Jackson, Senior Illuminator to Her Majesty’s Crown Office, had dreamed of creating a modern, illuminated Bible to celebrate the new millennium. Finally, in November 1995, he presented the idea to Saint John’s Benedictine Abbey & University in Minnesota.¶ Work started in 2000 and is scheduled for completion in 2007, at a total cost of over £2 million. It is taking place in a scriptorium in Monmouth, Wales, under the artistic direction of Donald Jackson and his team of scribes and illuminators.The Victoria and Albert Museum
Jackson has brought together an incredible range of styles for the bible, from rich, lush, gold-encrusted illuminations reminiscent of Eastern Orthodoxy to crisp and spare compositions more like the modern style of the Church of England (to my mind at least):
The Saint John’s Bible will represent mankind’s achievements over the past 500 years. It will be a contemporary blending of religious imagery from various Eastern and Western traditions, as befits our modern understanding of the global village.St John’s Bible website FAQs
The disparate styles are unified by the common thread of that beautiful lettering and calligraphy, and by the script for the main text designed specifically for this project by Jackson himself. I’d love to hear more about that project! You can just about make out the script on the larger watermarked images. Just.
Which last point leads me nicely onto my one little whinge, not about the project, but about the website for it: I just wish there were a couple of closeup photos of the bible on the site. I can see why they’d be wary of possibly having their hard work ripped off, but it’s not like you need full-page scans to see the quality of the calligraphy and detail; a few square centimetres would do. After all, the prints aren’t all that cheap, and getting a bit of a closer look would be reassuring. Of course, if you’re seriously loaded, you can buy a copy of the Heritage Edition, for $145,000. If there are any left, that is.
Link via Greg Storey at Airbag.
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