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03.22.14: Rick Poynor

The Filmic Page: Chris Marker's Commentaires
The French director Chris Marker’s book Commentaires is as innovative as book design as his documentaries are as films.
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03.06.14: Alexandra Lange

Not Afraid of Noise: Mexico City Stories
A photographic tour of Mexico City, house by house, wall by wall.
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02.14.14: Rick Poynor

From the Archive: Surface Wreckage
Why do photographs and images of torn street posters exert such a powerful hold on the imagination and emotions?
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02.11.14: Alexandra Lange

Premature Demolition
The Folk Art Museum, David Adjaye's market hall, and the first addition to the Morgan Library. If three makes a trend, then premature demolition qualifies.
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01.18.14: Rob Walker

Hale County Revisited
An in-depth look at Hale County, Alabama, an accidental social-design laboratory.
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12.08.13: John Foster

Japanese Municipality Logos
Accidental Mysteries for December 8, 2013 takes a look at the forward-thinking, abstract logos that symbolize Japanese city municipalities.
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12.06.13: Mark Lamster and Alexandra Lange

Lunch with the Critics: Fourth-Annual Year-End Awards
Our intrepid critics, Alexandra Lange and Mark Lamster, celebrate (and castigate) the best and worst architecture and design of 2013.
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11.18.13: Alexandra Lange

Art On Campus
A review of the renovated Blaffer Art Museum and James Turrell's latest skyspace, "Twilight Epiphany."
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11.10.13: John Foster

Extraordinary Spanish Art Environments
Accidental Mysteries for November 10, 2013 focuses on Extraordinary Spanish Art Environments.
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11.08.13: Alexandra Lange

L.A. Loves Deborah Sussman
A Kickstarter for an upcming exhibition on the wotk of Deborah Sussman in Los Angeles.
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10.30.13: Rick Poynor

Belgian Solutions: The True State of Things?
The foul-ups or “Belgian solutions” in a new book of street photographs are simply the way things are.
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10.21.13: Alexandra Lange

Where We Work
A Kickstarter for co-working space Makeshift Society points to the light, space and tools creative freelancers need to be productive.
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10.10.13: Rick Poynor

New York: City of Spectacular Doors
For six years, Allan Markman crisscrossed New York taking pictures of remarkable doors for a new book.
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08.29.13: Rick Poynor

The Hotel that Dreamed It Was a Museum
The Walpole Bay Hotel: Living Museum, junk-clogged bane of hotel inspectors, or Wunderkammer?
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08.20.13: Alexandra Lange

Rural Vacation/Urban Questions
Driving Vermont's rural routes I began to wonder: Why does this town get a brand-new energy-efficient supermarket, and that one a minimart-slash-video store-slash-bank?
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07.23.13: Alexandra Lange

Nevermind the Masterpiece
What's your "Masterpiece of Everyday New York"? A broken umbrella? A shirtwaist? Discarded gum?
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07.21.13: John Foster

A Street Photographer of 19th Century London
Accidental Mysteries for July 21, 2013 shines a light on a street photographer from 19th century London.
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07.10.13: Rick Poynor

The Incidental Pleasures of Street Art
Sprawling, evolving, accreting: a collection of recent street art photos from Portugal and Spain.
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07.08.13: Alexandra Lange

How To Unforget
The straightforward logic of "A Handbook of California Design" makes it the first step in unforgetting two generations of makers.
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07.08.13: Rob Walker

Staring Back at Security Cameras
Why the ubiquitous security deserves as much scrutiny as it gives.
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07.02.13: Rick Poynor

Inkahoots and Socially Concerned Design: Part 2
In the mid-1990s, Inkahoots became a graphic design studio with its sights set on social causes.
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06.26.13: Rick Poynor

Inkahoots and Socially Concerned Design: Part 1
The Australian design team Inkahoots is a model of community-based graphic design practice.
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06.21.13: Alexandra Lange

Every Little Thing
Cranbrook: A campus where the designers have thought of everything.
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06.13.13: Rob Walker

Street Life
In praise of street art that draws attention to more than just itself.
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06.02.13: Rick Poynor

The Irresistible Attraction of Self Storage
Self storage centers are places of private and public fascination and I always knew that one day I would succumb.
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05.25.13: Rob Walker

The Hyperdocumented Sunset Strip
Using Google Street View Hyperlapse to revisit Ruscha's Sunset Strip.
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05.06.13: Daniella Zalcman

New York + London: A Vision of Home
Daniella Zalcman created a series images that are part New York, part London, and collectively represent her vision of home
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04.24.13: Alexandra Lange

Beyond Gorgeous
Is prettiness a distraction? Yes, when it comes to taking Alexander Girard seriously.
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04.09.13: Alexandra Lange

What It Costs (to Buy a Bench, to Extend a Curb)
Participatory budgeting lets communities put their own urban priorities in order.
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04.08.13: Rick Poynor

The Practical Virtue of Works That Work
Works That Work magazine reclaims the word “creativity” from the stultifying embrace of branding culture and design thinking.
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04.03.13: Alexandra Lange

Portlandia + Timelessness
No better place to consider what looks timeless now than downtown Portland.
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04.01.13: Mark Lamster

How to Design an Iconic NY Fast Food Joint
Design secrets of New York fast food icons.
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03.18.13: Alexandra Lange

Instagramming Around Australia
Lessons from contemporary Australian architecture, plus what I saw on Instagram.
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02.22.13: Rick Poynor

The Experiential Thrill of Driving in Films
A new book, Drive, shows how the car scenes in movies help us understand the experience of modernity.
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02.17.13: Alexandra Lange

Patterns of Houston
How do you critique the urbanism of Houston? Look for patterns.
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01.26.13: Rick Poynor

Herbert Spencer and The Book of Numbers
The Book of Numbers by Herbert and Mafalda Spencer was aimed at children, but its intriguing visual approach is more “photobook” than “schoolbook.”
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01.08.13: Alexandra Lange

Kicked A Building Lately?
That question, the title of the 1976 collection of Ada Louise Huxtable’s work for the New York Times, embodies her approach to criticism.
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12.05.12: John Thackara

Venice: from Gated Lagoon to Bioregion
A review of the options that Venice faces in trying to shore up the city.
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11.30.12: Rick Poynor

Herbert Spencer and the Decisive Detail
In Herbert Spencer’s most memorable photographs, signs of official communication fray into visual poetry.
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11.18.12: Rick Poynor

Robert Brownjohn: Photos at Street Level
The Victoria and Albert Museum has put 18 of Robert Brownjohn’s photographs on display for the first time.
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11.13.12: Alexandra Lange

Knolling Your Polling Place
Knolling your polling place: for the next election, a little spatial organization would go a long way.
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10.23.12: John Thackara

From Autobahn to Bioregion
A review of the projects submitted to the Audi Urban Future Award.
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10.23.12: Rick Poynor

True Stories: A Film about People Like Us
Ambiguous but prescient, David Byrne’s film True Stories is a classic piece of postmodern pop anthropology.
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10.22.12: Mark Lamster

High (Line) Anxiety
Is the High Line above criticism?
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10.05.12: Rick Poynor

The Museum of Communicating Objects
Orhan Pamuk’s The Innocence of Objects is an illuminating guide to his Museum of Innocence in Istanbul.
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09.24.12: Rick Poynor

Demonstrations, Democracy and Design
After demonstrations in 2011, Barcelonas Plaça de Catalunya became a carnivalesque village of protest.
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08.22.12: John Thackara

Top Down Nature
An overview of Bordeaux 55,000: a project to explore ‘how best to transform 55,000 hectares (136,000 acres) into natural areas’.
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08.21.12: Rob Walker

The City In Your Dreams
A blog collecting stories for mapping the "collective unconscious" of NYC.
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07.28.12: Alexandra Lange

Hiking the Museum
Ennead Architects’ new Natural History Museum of Utah works to make natural history seem like the ongoing process of discovery that it is, layering geology and topography, paleontology and interactivity.
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06.29.12: Alexandra Lange

The Shape of Lunch
"Lunch Hour NYC," a new exhibition at the New York Public Library, defines the midday meal as an urban invention.
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06.16.12: Rob Walker

The Built Villain
A Dallas condo dispute considered as a monster movie, starring a built villain.
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05.18.12: Michael McGriff

When the Spirit Comes to Him as the Voice of Morning Light
A poem by Michael McGriff.
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05.17.12: Alexandra Lange

The Well-Tempered Environment
Water features, old trees, food trucks. Three elements of the architecture of outdoor civic life in North Texas.
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05.15.12: Rick Poynor

The Strange Afterlife of Common Objects
In lstanbul shops like The Works: “Objects of Desire,” the novelist Orhan Pamuk found the artifacts for his newly opened Museum of Innocence.
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05.11.12: Alexandra Lange

The Mother of Us All
Reyner Banham on Esther McCoy: "She speaks as she finds, with sympathy and honesty, and relevantly to the matter at hand." Could there be a better definition of the role of the critic?
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05.03.12: Julia Novitch

Public Space and Citizenship: An Interview with Elihu Rubin
Public spaces can be charged politically because they enable citizens to gather, to represent themselves and to transmit messages.
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05.01.12: John Thackara

Istanbul: City of Seeds
Rather than dream up exotic visions of “what could be”, an xskool looks for social and natural assets that already exist – and grows from there.
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04.26.12: Rick Poynor

Studio Culture: The Materialism of Matter
Studio, print shop, dance club and store: a photographic essay on Matter's design HQ in Denver.
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04.23.12: Alexandra Lange

Fixing South Street Seaport: Is New Architecture Enough?
Fighting over Ben Thompson's postmodernist landmark Pier 17 at South Street Seaport. Should it stay or should it go?
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04.17.12: Alexandra Lange

Carlo Scarpa, Quilter
Olivetti and Doges: How Carlo Scarpa updated the Venetian treasure chest.
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03.29.12: Rick Poynor

On Display: Museum of Broken Relationships
The Museum of Broken Relationships in Zagreb is a public space consecrated to a universal experience of sadness and loss.
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03.18.12: Center for an Urban Future

NYC Design Schools: Catalysts for Economic Growth?
Design schools may be the real engines of New York City’s innovation economy, according to a new report published by the Center for an Urban Future.
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03.09.12: Rick Poynor

Typographic Stories of the City Streets
Characters, a new book by Stephen Banham, investigates the stories behind Melbourne’s street signs.
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03.01.12: John Thackara

Zurich Eco Lab
A report on the Zurich's thriving urban eco culture.
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02.22.12: Alexandra Lange

Reassembling the American Dream
"Foreclosed" at the Museum of Modern Art asks what people really like about suburban living. And then, Can they do that with less?
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02.18.12: Rick Poynor

The Unspeakable Pleasure of Ruins
“Ruin porn,” a reductive tag that makes any photograph of ruins seem suspect, ignores the cultural history of the ruin.
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02.14.12: John Thackara

Design In The Light of Dark Energy
A shortened version of a talk on why the world has to reduce energy consumption, the five per cent energy solution and some of the people around the world who are leading the way.
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01.17.12: Alexandra Lange

A Memorial to (Random Access) Memory
What does "RAMAC Park" mean to you?
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12.16.11: Rick Poynor

Saul Leiter and the Typographic Fragment
In Saul Leiter's color photographs, the fragment is infinitely more mysterious and suggestive than the whole.
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12.05.11: Mark Lamster and Alexandra Lange

Lunch With The Critics: Second-Annual Year-End Awards
From Twitter to Apollo, Barbie to Occupy Everywhere: The best and worst moments in design for 2011.
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11.17.11: Rick Poynor

The Infinite Warehouse of Images
The more photos we collectively produce, the more ruthless we need to be about bestowing our attention.
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11.16.11: Alexandra Lange

Who Are We Competing For?
At the "Zoning the City" conference, planners insisted cities were in competition? But why are we so focused on the people who want to leave, rather than those who want to stay?
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10.31.11: Alexandra Lange

Lessons from the High Line
How can the High Line become a new paradigm, and not a dead end?
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10.28.11: Alexandra Lange

Tell Me a Story, 'Urbanized'
A city is not a font or a toothbrush, so why, in Urbanized, does director Gary Hustwit treat them the same way?
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10.22.11: Rick Poynor

On Display: The Kirkland Museum
If I had to pick just one Denver museum to revisit, it would be the fabulous Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art.
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10.04.11: Alexandra Lange

What Makes Architecture Useful?
At Experimenta Design 2011, the buildings of Lisbon make the best argument for the ongoing usefulness of good design.
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08.17.11: Rick Poynor

Funerary Portraits: Snapshots in Stone
The portrait sculptures in the Cimetière du château in Nice resuscitate their subjects with a frequently startling vividness.
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08.15.11: Adrian Shaughnessy

The Politics of Desire and Looting
The part designers have played in the London riots.
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08.10.11: Alexandra Lange

Reading in Public
A new book club with an unusual topic: architecture and design.
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06.22.11: Rick Poynor

On the Threshold of Sebald's Room
Daniel Blaufuks is haunted by a picture of an office in W.G. Sebald’s Austerlitz. Where did it come from and what does it show?
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06.14.11: Rick Poynor

Lost Inside the Collector's Cabinet
The Collector’s Cabinet at the Frederic Marès Museum in Barcelona is a mind-bending, sense-bedazzling palace of artifactual wonders.
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06.11.11: Alexandra Lange

New Apple HQ, 1957
Wouldn't it be more radical for Apple to move back to town?
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06.01.11: Alexandra Lange

An Atlas of Possibility
The Institute for Urban Design's By the City/For the City project provokes crowd-sourced possibilities for New York's future.
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05.26.11: Joanne Chew

China: Brooms, Mops and Chairs
Considering everyday objects like mops and brooms within China's broader historical context reframes the relationship between Chinese people and their streets and is, for that matter, a testament to their communal living habits.
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05.23.11: Adam Harrison Levy

Hiroshima: The Lost Photographs
Close to a decade ago, in Watertown, Massachusetts, a man was walking his dog. Amidst the garbage he caught sight of a battered suitcase: inside he found photographs of a bombed out Hiroshima. A unique slideshow of 100 photographs.
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05.10.11: Julie Lasky

Chandigarh to Create Inventory of Corbu/Jeanneret Furniture
A committee convened by the government of Chandigarh, India, is assessing the value of site-specific furniture pieces designed by Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret a half-century ago.
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04.28.11: Rick Poynor

On My Screen: The Back of Beyond
John Heyer’s The Back of Beyond, made for Shell Australia in 1954, is one of the country’s finest films.
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04.27.11: John Thackara

From Eds & Meds to Farms and Watersheds
Eds & Meds behemoths that bestride Pittsburgh's skyline are not the only game in town. Even a small meadow contains a lot of plants.
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04.25.11: John Thackara

Rotterdam: Where Time is no Longer Money
Twelve-year-old children in Rotterdam have never known a time when their city was not being rebuilt around them.
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04.21.11: Rick Poynor

Wim Wenders' Strange and Quiet Places
The massive photographs in film director Wim Wenders’ new exhibition work best when they serve his painterly eye.
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04.19.11: Alexandra Lange

City Beautiful of Kazakhstan
Why is Norman Foster the go-to guy for new capitals?
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04.05.11: Alexandra Lange

Muddying the Waters
Explore New York's watery edges with the graduating class at D-Crit.
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03.18.11: Alexandra Lange

Bad Faith Towers
Atlantic Yards trades titanium dream for prefab reality.
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03.04.11: Rick Poynor

The Secret History of the Edgelands
These transitional zones, places of “possibility, mystery and beauty,” can be found anywhere that urban development meets open land.
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02.21.11: John Thackara

What Kind of Design Institutes for India?
An influential group of design thought-leaders has launched a campaign called VisionFirst that calls for a “rigorous co-creation process to bring clarity to the models of design education that India should seek.”
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02.18.11: Mark Lamster

An Empire State of Mind
Join in a running commentary on Andy Warhol's film "Empire," at MoMA.
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02.17.11: Mark Lamster

Cities from the Sky
A new exhibition of urban photographs by Sze Tsung Leong.
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02.15.11: Rick Poynor

Solitude in Dark Trees
Was this structure the idle amusement of some loggers, or an art piece by someone at the academy nearby? Gingerly testing each rung, I climbed up into it.
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02.14.11: Mark Lamster

MoCA Loco
A weekend visit to MoCA, and barren downtown LA.
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02.01.11: Alexandra Lange

The Moms Aren't Wrong
Why planning cities for children would make them better for us all.
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01.27.11: Rick Poynor

On My Shelf: Nairn's London
Inside the architecture critic Ian Nairn’s classic, idiosyncratic guide to London’s buildings and spaces.
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01.24.11: John Thackara

Spaced Out in a Flat World
Tom Friedman's book The World Is Flat 3.0: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century (2005) is filled with anecdotes about change in different parts of the world that threaten our fat-cat lifestyles in the North.
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01.23.11: Rick Poynor

Discovered by Chance in a Paris Arcade
What better way to pass a couple of spare hours in Paris than to visit the covered arcades that were, for the Surrealists, some of the best places to encounter the marvellous?
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01.20.11: Meena Kadri

Meena Kadri's Collection of Indian Street Graphics
It started quite innocently — as most obsessions do. A snap of a painted truck here and spot of rural advertising there, on annual trips to the ancestral homeland.
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01.12.11: Steven Heller

My Big Fat Fast Food Feast at Eataly
A comparison of the vast differences of Italy's Eataly to New York's.
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01.05.11: John Thackara

Afghan Culture Museum
A project to create a virtual museum of Afghan culture has been launched in Paris by an independent producer, Pascale Bastide.
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12.10.10: Rick Poynor

The Impossibility of an Island
Atlas of Remote Islands might look like a celebration of distant paradises. Its beauty masks a darker purpose.
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11.29.10: John Thackara

In the Air of Madrid
Our world is awash in eco information, but starved of meaning.
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09.14.10: Michael Bierut

Mr. Vignelli's Map
Vignelli Celebration: Massimo Vignelli's 1972 New York City subway map is a beautiful example of information design that was ultimately rejected by its users.
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06.28.10: Kenneth Krushel

Bukhara: A Traveler’s Notes
Bukhara is one of the most ancient cities of the legendary Silk Road. Presented here is a slideshow of design and architecture from one traveler's visit.
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06.21.10: Steven Heller

Fascist Seduction
A visit to Mussolini’s Esposizione Universale Roma makes evident that one can be fervently anti-fascist and still admire — indeed savor — aesthetics for their own merits. 
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04.19.10: Adrian Shaughnessy

Safety and Comfort: A Walk with Paul Davis
Davis has asked me to write the introduction to his latest book. I told him I didn't want to write about the usual stuff. He agreed and suggested we go for a walk instead.
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02.19.10: Mark Lamster

What Am I Doing Here? Tall Buildings and High Anxiety in Las Vegas
I spent three days in a new entertainment complex, CityCenter, in Las Vegas. What follows is a diary of my experience in that time.
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01.11.10: Sarah Williams Goldhagen

Moshe Safdie
Review of architect Moshe Safdie's Mamilla Alrov Center in Jerusalem.
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01.08.10: Rachel Berger

A Makeover for the BART Map
Unlike the notorious 1972 Massimo Vignelli redesign of the New York City subway map, the new BART map didn't make much of a splash in graphic design circles.
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12.14.09: Michael Erard

Notes on Being Born on Soil
At times you hear stories about patriots in exile who want their children to be born in the motherland and supplement by putting dirt from said place under a woman who is giving birth.
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11.18.09: James Wegener

Metabolic Dark City
In 1993, the City of Darkness, or the Walled City of Kowloon was demolished. To the 35,000 people living in this dense urban slum, the change was the end of a lawless existence.
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11.03.09: Steven Heller

Why Does John Baeder Paint Diners?
John Baeder's goal for the past three decades has been to record on canvas and paper just about every diner and roadside eatery.
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10.14.09: Alexandra Lange

Small Wonder: 41 Cooper Square
I never thought I would say this about a work by Thom Mayne of Morphosis, but I think 41 Cooper Square is too small.
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10.01.09: Steven Heller

People in Glass Apartments
People in glass apartments shouldn’t throw stones or other projectiles. Nor should they engage in private acts directly in front of their floor to ceiling windows.
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07.09.09: Lena Dunham

On the Street in Tokyo
The major internal conflict I experienced on my recent trip to Japan was whether to explore the old-world: Zendos, philosopher's paths, Kabuki, tatami mats, visits to ancient spaces — or the new one: anime, arcades and bars that serve liquor while also selling puppies.
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06.30.09: Mark Lamster

No More Neon on the Novy Arbat
In legislation somewhat reminiscent of Mike Bloomberg's restaurant smoking ban, Vladimir Putin isshutting down all casinos in Russia, effective tonight.
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06.25.09: Mark Lamster

MAS Macho
Behold the Museum aan de stroom (MAS), Antwerp's new municipal history museum. The building, designed by the Dutch architects Neutelings Riedijk, is due to open late next year.
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06.24.09: Mark Lamster

The Most Beautiful Crapper in the World
In 1772, the Antwerp alderman Adrien van den Bogaert purchased a historic property in the center of the city and then hired architect Engelbert Baets to renovate the place.
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06.23.09: Mark Lamster

Kosher in Antwerp
This is the first in what will be a series of posts generated over my recent trip to Belgium. Call it an appetizer, served with pleasure.
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06.23.09: Mark Lamster

Lamsterdam
Master of Shadows will be published in Europe this November, and I'm hoping my distinguished Dutch publisher will undertake a guerilla art project to promote it in Holland.
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06.19.09: Michael Bierut

When Design Gets in the Way
When it comes to fulfilling simple human desires, can design get in the way? A call for more incrementalism in design.
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06.11.09: Mark Lamster

Moscow's Jewish Museum
Earlier this week, plans were released for the new Jewish museum in Moscow.
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05.07.09: John Cantwell

Trump, The Logo
The logo above the Trump Tower's main entrance, huge and gleaming in 34-inch brass block letters, bluntly announces Donald Trump’s presence on the street. It’s crude, perhaps, but undeniably effective. In a neighborhood filled with names like Bergdorf, Cartier, and Tiffany, none is more prominent than Trump’s.
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05.07.09: Mark Lamster

Tbilisi's Hotel Iveria: A Defense
There's a piece on Oobject today that lists what that site claims are the fifteen worst “housing projects from hell.”
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04.14.09: Jessica Helfand

Land in Crisis: The Antelope Valley Story
Can the County of Los Angeles claim adverse possession, and rescind residents' rights to their own water? One plaintiff is fighting for the rights of landowners who are currently not pumping from the aquifer, and has mounted a class action suit in order to do so. She also believes that design can help solve the problem. Can it? What is at stake is the degree to which designers can lend their ingenuity to find a way to cut through this mess. And, in so doing, to help restore water to its rightful recipients.
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04.07.09: Mark Lamster

Look Both Ways: On the Streets of Philadelphia
Last week I found myself with a couple of hours to kill in Philadelphia and decided to spend them at the art museum.
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03.16.09: Mimi Lipson

A Place For Ribs
The Broad Street Diner may be the worst diner in Philadelphia. When I first moved here, I was excited about having a 24-hour diner on my block. I imagined Saturday morning pancakes, late night snacks on my way home from louche outings. Boy, did I ever have a lot to learn.
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03.02.09: Alexandra Lange

Standard Operating Procedure
From the earliest days of the High Line hoopla, the park’s future was literally entwined with that of Andre Balazs’s first ground-up hotel, the Standard New York. The reason the Standard is so good is that it is a 21st Century mash-up of one of Marcel Breuer’s most destructive ideas and one of Morris Lapidus’s best tweaks of the U.N. model of modernism.
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02.05.09: Mark Lamster

Pastrami on Rye
A new project: documenting some favorite New York dining establishments.
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02.01.09: Lawrence Barth

A Response to "A Babylon of Signs"
John Kaliski & Lorraine Wild’s thoughtful post posits the reasons why such a group should think about restricting some types of advertising signage in Los Angeles. And, if one buys the predicate, they makes a good case. The predicate troubles me, however. Let’s pause before continuing down the road of making design decisions by committee
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01.21.09: Alexandra Lange

Rebooting the Festival Marketplace
The plans for New York's South Street Seaport aren't terrible. But the question to ask, now that the project is one hold, is: does New York need a fake fair?
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01.19.09: Lorraine Wild

A Babylon of Signs
For a generation, since Venturi and Scott Brown’s Learning From Las Vegas, most Angelinos neither did not notice the steady proliferation of signs along their Southern California landscapes and strips, nor perhaps cared. With the turn of the century, that changed. For the last eight years Los Angeles has been engaged in a war with the outdoor advertising industry. 

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01.05.09: Kerry Saretsky

Movable Feast
We all must eat; we all must drink. Together, these form the two most basic requisites of our existence. The restaurant is the watering-hole, the center point, the necessity. And yet restaurants do not just serve dinner; if you read between the lines on the menu, you’ll find they offer dinner, and a show.
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10.22.08: Tom Vanderbilt

Fanfare for the Common Commuter
I’ve become a regular morning commuter on the city’s splendid Metro — the first in the world to employ only rubber tires on its cars. It didn’t take long for me to notice, as the trains departed, a curious trilogy of tones that echoed, along with the hum of the engine, through the concrete-chambered station. The notes, I realized with a start, were the beginning of Aaron Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man.
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08.11.08: Glen Cummings

Athos Bulcão, The Artist of Brasilia
Athos Bulcão was a public artist, interior designer, muralist, furniture and graphic designer who collaborated with Oscar Niemeyer and others to define Brasilia — one of the 20th century’s most radical and controversially received urban experiments. Bulcão died on July 31 at the age of 90, and left behind an astonishing body of work.
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07.31.08: Michael Bierut

There is No Why
The year's best design movie is not about a typeface. It's Man on Wire, the new documentary about Philippe Petit's 1974 high wire walk between the two towers of the World Trade Center.
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06.16.08: Andrew Blauvelt

City and Suburb: Worlds Away?
The mutual dependency of city and suburb is both physical and psychological. City dwellers and suburbanites need each other to reinforce their own sense of place and identity despite ample evidence that what we once thought were different places and lifestyles are increasingly intertwined and much less distinct.
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03.31.08: Michael Bierut

The (Faux) Old Ball Game
Since 1992, every ballpark in America has been designed on the nostalgic model of Baltimore's Camden Yards, including the new parks for the Yankees and the Mets. Why is it impossible to build a baseball stadium that looks like it belongs in the 21st century?
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02.17.08: Rick Poynor

Lost America: The Flamingo Motor Hotel
I found this old photo in a box at the back of my attic. It shows a motel in Flagstaff, Arizona where I stayed for a couple of nights in May 1978. I was 20, it was my first visit to the US, and for three weeks I had been touring around on Greyhound buses.
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01.27.08: Dmitri Siegel

Learning from North Philadelphia
Dmitri Siegel visits Venturi, Scott Brown and Izenour's post-modern classic Guild House in Philadelphia and rereads Learning from Las Vegas.
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09.28.07: William Drenttel

Burma (Myanmar), 1989
This slideshow of photographs from 1989 is offered in solidarity with the people of Burma — as they again confront one of the most brutal regimes in the world.
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08.30.07: Steven Heller

The Designer As Gumshoe
The aim in this essay is not to raise mass consciousness about gum pollution. Over the past year, I've been something of a gumshoe, investigating and documenting patterns of gum goop, and talking to perpetrators and victims alike. Now I'm ready to share my findings.
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07.10.07: Jessica Helfand

Cock-a-Doodle-Don't
Where food is concerned, the relationship between what things look like and how we respond exists at its most primal level: what is a gut reaction, after all, if not something that attacks your gut?
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06.06.07: Adrian Shaughnessy

The 2012 Olympic Logo Ate My Hamster
Designers often bemoan the lack of coverage given to graphic design in mainstream media. Yet when design catches the attention of journalists and commentators it usually results in a vicious mugging rather than hearty praise.
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05.20.07: Eric Nevin

Love Letters to Sub-Antarctic Islands
Assigned a page of an atlas for a graduate class in graphic design at the Yale School of Art, Eric Nevin created a log of love letters to the islands of the sub-Antarctic. The writing charmed us and the history adds something to our understanding of this desolate part of the world.
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04.09.07: William Drenttel

Koolhaas and His Omnipotent Masters
Koolhaas recounts the story: he chose between working on NYC's Ground Zero and the Beijing CCTV project based on a fortune cookie he was given at a Chinese restaurant — in it, the goofy prognostication "Stunningly Omnipresent Masters Make Minced Meat of Memory." Instead of responding to fortune cookies, Rem Koolhaas could have changed the world.
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04.03.07: Rick Poynor

Dancing to the Sound in Your Head
We might not appreciate advertising conducted like a saturation bombing campaign in public spaces. Yet now, to complicate things, the personal stereo is being used as a way of reasserting spontaneity, exuberance and passion in over-controlled public places.
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03.16.07: Kurt Andersen

Heyday
Courtesy of the Kurt Andersen, Design Observer is pleased to present two excerpts from this new novel, Heyday,both involving the dazzling Polly Lucking, a strong-minded, free thinking actress (and discreet part-time prostitute). Portrayed is the tumultuous world of 1848 — and the beginnings of modern retailing, branding, trademarks and American commerce.
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03.01.07: David Stairs

That (Other) 1970's: The Last King of Scotland
The Last King of Scotland, Kevin McDonald's film about Idi Amin's notorious presidency, opened in Uganda to great fanfare. The VIP screening took place at Kampala's Cineplex, with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and Forest Whitaker in attendance. The premiere was not targeted to the average Ugandan...
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01.09.07: Lorraine Wild

Sister Corita: The Juiciest Tomato
In Daniel Berrigan's words, Sister Corita is a "witch of invention." And there is no doubt that at least in those tumultuous years of the 1960s, her powers of invention seemed supernatural, if not divine... Corita's work stands for its sheer graphic invention, the riot of letterforms and color, and the immediacy of its connection to her time and place.
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12.29.06: Alissa Walker

War Is Over! If You Want It
When the star of the documentary The U.S. vs. John Lennon is asked by a reporter what he thinks Nixon should do to end the Vietnam War, Lennon stares incredulously into the camera. "He should declare peace." As if this was the most obvious solution in the world.
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12.23.06: William Drenttel

Voting & Religion in America: A Slideshow
The reality, contrary to my perception, is that millions vote in religious settings all across the country, casting this important act of citizenry in distinctly non-secular environments.
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11.20.06: Michael Bierut

New House
In 1967, just after my tenth birthday, we moved from a cramped 1940s bungalow in an older Cleveland suburb to up-and-coming Parma, Ohio. I had been walking the earth for a full decade, but that fall I felt I was finally assuming my birthright as an American: a brand new house.
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10.22.06: Jessica Helfand

My Cup Holder Runneth Over
When we're not hiding behind our nail-technician-primed hands, drinking our barrista-blended beverages, IMing, text-messaging, and push-button withdrawing more money from the ATM to pay for all of these things, who are we?
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10.19.06: David Stairs

Charles Eames Among the Bullrushes
What interests me is the tendency for even uneducated Ugandans to observe and learn from their surrounding world, a fundamental hallmark of design thinking.
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09.13.06: Tom Vanderbilt

Small Worlds
One of the first things I like to do upon visiting a new city is to visit the scale-model version of itself. From Havana to Copenhagen, I've hunted down these miniature metropolises in dusty historical museums and under-visited exhibition halls. Surely one reason for their ineluctable allure is that simple Olympian sense of being able to consume as large as entity as Beijing or New York in a single eyeful.
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09.04.06: Jessica Helfand

Annals of Small Town Life: The Logo Stops Here
Working with Florence Knol, Lucille McGinnis convinced her husband, Patrick B. McGinnis, that the New Haven Railroad needed a new logo. Enter Herbert Matter, Swiss-born designer, photographer and Yale professor whose own education was framed by apprenticeships with Cassandre, Leger and Le Corbusier.
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08.29.06: William Drenttel

What Ever Happened to Half.com, Oregon?
But back in 1999, in its Netflix-like heyday, Half.com was hot. And it did something quite remarkable. As a publicity stunt, it bought a town and renamed it. Someplace in Oregon. I wondered what ever happened to Half.com, Oregon — the first dot com city in the world?
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08.03.06: Adrian Shaughnessy

Living Without The Internet
The "community" that I find on the internet is the communality of shared enthusiasms for marginalised subjects.
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07.14.06: William Drenttel

Move It Down . . . A Little to the Right
That some years ago, some poor sign installer went to put the first letter of the name of the museum up on the wall, and someone screamed, "No, you idiot! Lower! Much Lower! Get it down close to the edge. And a quarter-inch to the right." That the building is the Guggenheim Museum, and that the architect was Frank Lloyd Wright, makes this photographic detail especially interesting.
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06.01.06: Jessica Helfand

"Oui, Oui, Oui" All The Way Home
On a sweltering day last August, my daughter and I embarked with a friend on a 6-day tour of Paris: Kid Paris, the Paris of candy stores and carousels and more than a few weird new ice cream flavors.
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05.14.06: Alissa Walker

Why Scientology is Good for Hollywood
If you live where I do, in the actual city of Hollywood, just a few blocks away from where the Oscars are held, you see the Church of Scientology as somewhat of a savior. Within a two-mile corridor along Hollywood Boulevard, the Church owns eight historic buildings, four of which are on the National Register of Historic Places. In a neighborhood where architectural triumphs evaporate with little remorse, Scientology is the most ardent preservationist force in town.
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04.30.06: Jessica Helfand

Disaster Relief 101: No Door Hanger Left Behind
Door hangers seem the perfect metaphor for FEMA's failure: they're one-dimensional, unnecessarily complicated, and basically useless.
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04.18.06: William Drenttel

Weather Report: 53 Degrees F. Heavy Snowfall Predicted
The weather is fucked up. "Science is a way of making sense of the world. Design is a way of making the world make sense."
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04.03.06: William Drenttel

Meet Me in St. Louis: The Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts
The Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts makes the radical assumption that the experience of art is about contemplation. Take your time. You are alone here. The light will change if you stay long enough.
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03.28.06: Kenneth Krushel

Santa Fe Diarist
But there seem to be equally vigorous efforts to commercialize this distant past in Santa Fe, embracing a design esthetic that advertises itself as the "essence" of what had been thought to be lost. Then, in re-introducing this historical narrative, an efficient assembly line manufactures it into a commercially lucrative design creed.
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03.16.06: Lawrence Weschler

Languorous Bodyscapes
"The long, languid spread of her body makes the first and most lasting impression." And more on these sorts of landscape-bodyscape slippages by this seasoned The New Yorker writer, and recent author of Everything That Rises : A Book of Convergences.
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02.16.06: Jessica Helfand

What We Talk About When We Talk About Design History
At the end of the day, being a design historian means being observant and fearless, stubborn and driven, principled, passionate and anything but lazy. It means going where you have to go to get what you need.
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01.08.06: Jessica Helfand

Civilian Typography: The Power and The Fury
Without a cell phone, or in a flood, or barred from public transportation, the thing that separates human beings from the animal kingdom is our ability to communicate verbally. If we can't do that, we do it graphically. When all else fails, the pen isn't just mightier than the sword: it is the sword.
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01.05.06: Julie Lasky

Edward Hopper, Village Person
My friend opened the door to a minimally furnished skylit room. It had a pot-bellied stove, a painter's easel, and photos framed on the wall of a grim man with long legs. The room was the studio of Edward Hopper. (Slide show by Duane Michals.)
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11.27.05: Lorraine Wild

Think Regional, Act Annual
Flying from New York to Los Angeles last week, I spent the long hours at 35,000 feet doing something I had not done in years: I read the Print Magazine's "2005 Regional Design Annual" cover to cover. Here are some of the things I learned:
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10.13.05: Michael Bierut

Looking for Celebration, Florida
An assessment of Celebration, Florida, a town built by the Walt Disney Company on "New Urbanist" planning principles in its tenth anniversary year.
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09.11.05: Michael Bierut

Four Years After
After four years of ambiguity and contention and the World Trade Center site, Ellsworth Kelly's 2003 proposal seems wiser than ever.
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08.05.05: William Drenttel

Small Town Meetings
Zoning regulations are how a town designs its future. They determine what kind of development is encouraged, and what kind is discouraged. In Meetings, Paul Shambroom visited 150 local government meetings in 32 states. The photographs are remarkable in presenting the physical details by which towns gather to determine how they live.
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07.27.05: Rick Poynor

Vladimir's House and Garden of Earthly Delights
Spending two weeks in Vladimir Beck's house on the island of Vrnik in Croatia made me question, yet again, rigid distinctions between artist and designer. Here, it's impossible to separate the two. Beck has designed every feature with a high degree of thought for what might make a domicile located in such a setting pleasurable and practical to live in.
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05.05.05: Rick Poynor

Getting Louder: Chinese Design on the March
The “Get it Lounder” design exhibition in Shenzhen, billed as the first of its kind in China, reflected the lifestyle aspirations of its participants. Will Chinese design be able to confront social reality in more overtly critical ways?
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04.08.05: Lorraine Wild

The Scourge of "Tuscan"
Where whole new neighborhoods are still being constructed (i.e., Orange or Riverside counties in California) "Tuscan" is the style du jour. And now the mighty "Tuscan" encroaches at the global scale: new housing in places like Orange County, China, a recently constructed suburb near Beijing, and similar suburban developments adjacent to Bangalore echo the southern Californian template of total bogusness.
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04.05.05: Rick Poynor

Wisconsin Death Trip: A Psychic History
Michael Lesy’s book Wisconsin Death Trip documented awful events in Black River Falls, Wisconsin, using a town photographer’s pictures. Years later, it remains a spellbinding piece of literary and photographic alchemy.
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03.10.05: William Drenttel

Moving the Axum Obelisk
In the mid-1990s, I saw an exhibition at the New York Public Library of the greatest illustrated books of the 19th century. One book stood out for me: a massive tome by Henry H. Gorringe, titled Egyptian Obelisks and dated 1882. It's in my design collection because of a dubious memory that it's the first book to document a from-start-to-finish design process. Of course, the process it documents is how one moves an obelisk.
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02.23.05: William Drenttel

Stop The Plant: The Failure of Rendering
There is no single rendering ominous enough to create public fear; no image so compelling as to create political momentum; and no symbol so memorable as to unite the opposition. Whether through artistic renderings or compelling information design, no one has made a visual case against these plants that is wholly effective. This is, I believe, a fundamental failure of design.
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02.19.05: Kenneth Krushel

The Gates
Much has been written about Christo and Jeanne-Claude's "Gates" project in Central Park in New York City. In the past few days, though, we have received two further reports on this project which we want to share with our readers: an essay by Ken Krushel and a photographic portfolio by Adam Bartos.
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02.13.05: Julie Lasky

Christo's Agent Orange
Christo and Jeanne-Claude's Central Park gates lack that magnetic, landscape-transforming power. Could this be owing not just to the way the gates drive viewers to seek greater heights of sensation, but also to the off-putting emergency color, the subtle grid of the rip-stop nylon reminiscent of quick escapes from troubled aircraft?
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02.03.05: Michael Bierut

The Comfort of Style
The design process at the World Trade Center site has attracted enormous interest on one hand, and marginalized the role of designers on the other, as described in Philip Nobel's book Sixteen Acres: Architecture and the Outrageous Struggle for the Future of Ground Zero.
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12.26.04: Momus

Berlin Wheatpasting
"What is desirable in our field," said Milton Glaser in 2002, "is continuous transgression." Berlin wheatpasters know that. They're out there at night, come snow, come rain, risking fines or imprisonment to publicize semi-legal parties with amateur, exciting, semi-legal graphics.
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12.09.04: Tom Vanderbilt

Pleasures and Pathos of Industrial Ruins
An account of a visit to the abandoned site of Bethlehem Steel, Pennsylvania.
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11.01.04: Michael Bierut

Colorama
Grand Central Terminal's enormous Colorama displays by Kodak documented a suburban fantasy world for millions of commuters.
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10.09.04: William Drenttel

Does Aspen Have A Future?

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07.08.04: Jessica Helfand

Ask Not What Your Typeface Can Do For You: Ask What You Can Do For Your Typeface
"Manhattan-based architect Frederic Schwarz's memorial 'Empty Sky' WILL USE Times New Roman..."
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02.28.04: Michael Bierut

Information Design and the Placebo Effect
It turns out that New York City is filled with buttons for pedestrians to activitate "Walk" signals at busy intersections that have never worked. Does pressing these useless buttons provide us with a sense that at least we're doing something?
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01.18.04: Michael Bierut

(Over)explaining Design
From the murals at Rockefeller Center to the proposals for the World Trade Center site, designers demonstrate an eagerness to explain, and perhaps overexplain, their ideas. Can the explanations get in the way of the work? Should the work speak for itself?
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01.15.04: William Drenttel

Rationalizing Absence
James Turrell's influence on World Trade Tower memorial design.
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01.11.04: Rick Poynor

Stephen Gill: Behind the Billboard
Designers are battlers against entropy: a vital task, but taking the long view, often a doomed, quixotic mission. Stephen Gill’s photographs, showing the disorderly zones behind billboards, offer a reality check.
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12.05.03: Jessica Helfand

Sign Language: Endangered Species or Utopian Uprising?
At turns provocative and peculiar, photographs of a new building in Birmingham, England, hint at a utopian uprising: No angles. No signs. In other words: no branding?
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12.02.03: Rick Poynor

Remember Picelj
The English-speaking world knows little about the design history of Communist Europe. Few will have heard of the distinguished Slovenian Ivan Picelj. His prints ask us to remember; they are full of yearning.
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11.22.03: Jessica Helfand

On Visual Empathy
In a world besieged by unpredictable atrocities, don't we all feel a little emotionally raw? Two recent articles in suggest that visual empathy may more critical to a productive imagination than we thought.
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11.09.03: Rick Poynor

Those Inward-looking Europeans
Three American design teachers visit London and the Netherlands. European designers, they say, are not paying attention to design history. Maybe the visitors are missing local factors and broader global issues.
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10.30.03: Jessica Helfand

Fatal Grandeur
Maybe design isn't going to kill you if it falls on your head. But if YOU fall, design is not exactly going to save you, either.
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09.14.03: William Drenttel

Twin (Cities) Type in Flux
A new typeface commissioned for the City of Minneapolis moves when the wind blows. Is this what Gutenberg imagined when he invented movable type?
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