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History


04.13.14: John Foster

The Focused Obsession of Photographer Rob Amberg
Rob Amberg is an award winning a documentary photographer who lives with his wife live on a small farm in the same NC county he photographs. His subjects have been neighbors and acquaintances, friends of friends and strangers he has met.
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03.30.14: John Foster

The Greenville, NC Daily Reflector: 1948 to 1967
One of the best ways to investigate the life and times of a region is to look at the local photo files from the daily newspaper.
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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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01.12.14: John Foster

Native American Design
The National Museum of the American Indian has one of the most extensive collections of Native American art and artifacts in the United States. Though the museum represents many culture areas of the Western Hemisphere, I was most drawn to objects by the various tribes of the North American plains.
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01.02.14: Owen Edwards

For Better or Worse, This Design Endures
Owen Edwards on the enduring qualities of the AK-47.
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12.01.13: John Foster

Messenger Boys, Call Girls and a Photographer
Accidental Mysteries for December 1, 2013 focuses on the photography of Lewis Wickes Hine, whose photographs were instrumental in changing the child labor laws in the United States.
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11.13.13: Gordon Salchow

New Haven, November 22, 1963
A gallery of images taken by Gordon Salchow in New Haven on the day President John F. Kennedy, Jr. was assassinated.
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09.15.13: John Foster

Artful Mourning
Accidental Mysteries for September 15, 2013 focuses on the art of mourning in nineteenth and early twentieth century post-mortem and memorial photographs and memorabilia.
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08.31.13: Rob Walker

No. 1 Object
A brief appreciation of a perfectly absurd object: The Number One Hand
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08.18.13: John Foster

Folk Funeraria of the South
Accidental Mysteries for August 18th focuses on folk funeraria of the South.
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08.12.13: Rob Walker

An Accidental Time Capsule
Snapshots of late-September 2001 signage reveal a tentative American moment.
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07.14.13: John Foster

The Voynich Manuscript
Accidental Mysteries for July 14, 2013 focuses on the rare and undecipherable Voynich manuscript.
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06.09.13: John Foster

Alaska Yukon Gold Rush Era Photo Album
Accidental Mysteries for June 9, 2013 features a photo album from the Alaska Yukon gold rush era.
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02.17.13: John Foster

Accidental Mysteries, 02.17.13
Accidental Mysteries for February 17, 2013 focuses on the material culture of the Cold War.
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01.22.13: Adam Harrison Levy

Dylan Stone: 100 Years
Adam Harrison Levy reviews Dylan Stone's exhibition of 100 years of personal pocket diaries at Ruth Phaneuf Fine Art.
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01.03.13: Rick Poynor

On My Screen: Shooting the Past
Stephen Poliakoff’s Shooting the Past, set in a fictitious photo library, is a film that could haunt you for years.
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10.25.12: Jessica Helfand

Ezra Winter Project: Chapter Ten
In April, 1933, Ezra Winter delivers a fifteen-minute live radio talk on the subject of mural painting in relation to modern life, in which he tries desperately to convince himself that he has embraced the modern world.
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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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08.19.12: Rick Poynor

On My Shelf: André Breton's Nadja
The Livre de poche edition of André Breton’s Surrealist classic Nadja remains the best visual interpretation of the book.
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04.08.12: John Foster

Accidental Mysteries, 04.08.12
Accidental Mysteries, a weekly cabinet of visual curiosities curated by John Foster, highlights images of design, art, architecture and ephemera brought to light by the magic of the digital age. This week's focus is St. Louis Bus Passes from the 1940s.
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04.05.12: Alexandra Lange

Frank Lloyd Wright + Katniss Everdeen
On photographing architecture as sculpture and telling stories via architecture.
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03.13.12: Jessica Helfand

Audrey Real Helfand: Designer Manquée
Fifty years ago, my mother Audrey was a prolific visual maker: today, she’d be running her own studio.
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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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11.25.11: Rick Poynor

How to Cover an Impossible Book
Tadeusz Borowski’s book This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen poses a visual challenge for designers.
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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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09.11.11: Adam Harrison Levy

The Falling Man: An Interview with Henry Singer
An interview with Henry Singer produceder and director The Falling Man, a 90 minute documentary.
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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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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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06.01.11: Rick Poynor

On My Shelf: Stefan Lorant's Lilliput
Stefan Lorant’s use of photos in pairs could be wry, funny, bizarre, whimsical, satirical and not always kind.
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02.07.11: Steven Heller

The Master Race’s Graphic Masterpiece
Steve Heller hunts down a Nazi graphics standards manual – it had been right under his nose all the whole time.
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01.27.11: Jessica Helfand

When Do We Call it Art?
Back in the pre-Banksy days of big cars and even bigger hair, there came a cultural moment noted for its prevalence of large-scaled words and symbols, a comparatively brazen visual trope that flirted with modernity by celebrating overscaled visuals in the interest of commerce.
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01.10.11: Rick Poynor

Out of the Studio: Graphic Design History and Visual Studies
Graphic design history’s best chance of development now lies in an expanded conception of the rapidly emerging discipline of visual studies.
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12.23.10: Mark Lamster

The Once & Future Whitney Museum
The Whitney: An Architectural Tour.
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12.15.10: Mark Lamster

British Incursion
Stirling, Foster, and a new association with the Architectural Review.
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07.10.10: Mark Lamster

Spain vs. Holland: The Eighty Years War in 90 Minutes
Spain and Holland will re-enact the Eighty Years War in tomorrow's World Cup final.
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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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01.15.10: Alexandra Lange

Trip Down Memory Lane
In my ongoing project to give my son as much of a 1970s childhood as possible, we recently ran across all of the 1968 animated film, Yellow Submarine.
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08.29.09: Mark Lamster

The Lion of Belgium
In the history of strange maps, this image of Belgium as a lion, printed in 1611 by cartographer Jodicus Hondius of Amsterdam, is surely a classic
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07.29.09: Jessica Helfand

Can Graphic Design Make You Cry?
How can you create anything visually compelling if you don't engage at some fundamentally human level — a place where memory and feeling are as valued as form and execution?
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07.06.09: Steven Heller

When Satire Was More Than Funny
In 1901, Samuel Schwarz founded a satiric visual weekly, titled L’Assiette au Beurre, expressly poised to attack the functionaries who made their fortunes off the sweat of the citizenry.
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06.12.09: Mark Lamster

Red Star
The New York-Amsterdam connection has been much in the news of late, and rightly so, as this is the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson's Dutch-sponsored voyage of American discovery.
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06.02.09: Mark Lamster

Bowery on the Beach?
Has Leigh Bowery, said to have died more than a decade ago, been hiding out on the Coney Island boardwalk sporting a mullet all along?
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05.16.09: Mark Lamster

On Muses
Lee Siegel has a wonderful piece in today's WSJ on the history and decline of the muse in art.
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04.15.09: Ken Worpole

Tidal Pools: Photographs by Jason Orton
Tidal pools were once common along the coast of Britain, particularly at seaside holiday resorts. Although many such pools have been destroyed or exist as ruins, others are being revived thanks to the energies of lido enthusiasts. This photo essay captures their beauty, even in decay.
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04.08.09: Mark Lamster

Thomas Jefferson: (Henpecked) Jewish President
That Thomas Jefferson had an African-American lover is by now common knowledge. Few, however, realize he had a Jewish grandmother, a fact too often neglected by chauvinistic historians.
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02.20.09: Mark Lamster

Defending Alice
The new Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center opens on Sunday — it looks great — and the reviews are starting to flow in. The response has been overwhelmingly positive and fairly dismissive of the original hall, by Pietro Belluschi and Eduardo Catalano.
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12.18.08: Rick Poynor

Barney Bubbles: Optics and Semantics
The intricately reflexive nature of his work made Barney Bubbles a true original in his time. No previous British designer had produced graphic communications this playful, personal, dense with allusion, or tricksy. Bubbles was a postmodernist before this new category of graphic design had been identified and defined, and he is as significant an innovator as his American contemporary April Greiman.
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10.15.08: William Drenttel

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Working with Amnesty International, Woody Pirtle designed a series of posters that spotlights 12 of the individual articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We celebrate these, today, the 60th anniversary of the UDHR.
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07.14.08: Jessica Helfand

Annals of Ephemera, Part III: Aging 2.0
Paper has a finite life span. It yellows and oxidizes and eventually disintegrates. But today, there are a host of specialty materials that protect and preserve paper so that, unlikely as it may seem, ephemeral materials may have found their very own fountain of youth.
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07.08.08: Andrew Flamm & Michelle Hauser

Folk Photos
The onset of the digital revolution has made the period for using film finite. Processed prints are becoming obsolete. With the immediate option of discarding an unintended image, a rich library of our unselfconscious selves will no longer be recorded. But it lives here, in these beautiful, poetic and tactile objects.
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06.05.08: Steven Heller

Branding Youth in the Totalitarian State
Youth may be wasted on the young, but under the totalitarian state they were not forgotten. For the state to prosper, youth was turned into a sub-brand that both followed and perpetuated the dominant ideology. Graphics played a huge role in making this happen in Germany, Italy and the Soviet Union.
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06.05.08: Andrew Blauvelt

Over the Rainbow
June marks the start of a month-long series of LGBT Pride celebrations in cities around the United States and the world, as well as the 30th anniversary of the rainbow flag — the de facto symbol of the LGBT community. While the visual and media focus of the celebrations have been the parades, the most enduring element is perhaps the rainbow.
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05.30.08: Jessica Helfand

Reflections on The Ephemeral World, Part One: Ink
An elegy to the makeready — those sheets of paper, re-fed into a press to get the ink balances up to speed, leaving a series of often random, palimpsest-like, multiple impressions on a single surface — in the digital age.
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05.03.08: Jessica Helfand

National Scrapbooking Day
"Scrapbooks (like these) remind us that creating an album from saved matter does not necessarily provide an accurate self-portrait..." An essay by Jessica Helfand from her new book on the occasion of National Scrapbooking Day.
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05.01.08: Steven Heller

The Sky Is Falling
Where once the sky is falling scenarios would not, as Dr. Flicker said, “happen for billions of years yet,” the doomsday clock is steadily ticking away. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could go back to the days when fiction was not fact.
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03.24.08: Steven Heller

The Magic of the Peace Symbol
There was probably no more galvanizing nor polarizing emblem during the 1960s than the peace symbol. And perhaps few symbols have had origins surrounded in as much mystery and controversy
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03.21.08: Jessica Helfand

Viewer Discretion Advised
One of the great ironies of contemporary culture is the degree to which pro-forma warnings read as largely invisible. “Viewer Discretion Advised” tells us we’ve been warned...
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03.04.08: Steven Heller

Swastika Humor?
Trivializing the swastika is not a crime, but it can be dangerous, particularly since it continues to be used as a weapon of hate. Perhaps this book would have best been titled, “We Have Ways of Making You Wince.”
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01.30.08: Jessica Helfand

Gone, Baby, Gone (Things, Part II)
From July 19, 1977 to February 28, 1981, the security staff at New York's Roosevelt Raceway kept a fastidious record of lost property. The result — 152 pages of wayward mittens, misplaced wallets and hundreds of personal items — is as much a record of the social history of a generation as anything I've come across in a long time.
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01.08.08: Michael Bierut

Will the Real Ernst Bettler Please Stand Up?
In the late 50s, Swiss designer Ernst Bettler created a series of seemingly harmless posters that brought down a drug company with a Nazi past. It's a great story, but it never happened. Why do we need to believe in Ernst Bettler?
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12.03.07: Jessica Helfand

Things, Part I
In an age characterized by elevated environmental awareness — reducing our carbon footprint, enhancing our sustainable output — we remain obsessed with our attachment to the material world.
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11.07.07: Jessica Helfand

Type Means Never Having To Say You're Sorry
Designers make choices about the appropriateness of type based on any number of criteria, and "liking it" is indeed one of them. But is that enough?
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10.22.07: Michael Bierut

Déjà Vu All Over Again

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10.16.07: Jessica Helfand

Science and Design: The Next Wave
Scientists probe and manipulate and channel and divide; they split and fuse and spike and engineer; but most of all, they look. As a designer, to spend any time with scientists is to become at once profoundly aware of our similarities and devastated by that which divides us.
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10.01.07: Jessica Helfand

Stan Brakhage: Caught on Tape
For Stan Brakhage, that concentration resulted in extraordinary explorations of many things, including the life cycle of a moth, caught on adhesive strips of tape, and subsequently captured on film where it regained — however briefly — the magnificent illusion of mobility. For designers, faced by budgets and clients and deadlines, the luxury of so much isolation seems a distant, if not an altogether perverse paradigm. But are these intentions really so mutually exclusive?
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08.26.07: Alice Twemlow

Design Criticism's Winding Road
To what extent does design criticism inspire a reaction; to whom is criticism addressed and what happens as a result of it being read? This article discusses the way in which an excerpt from a review of a 1955 Buick unexpectedly inspired a painting by one of the world's best-known Pop artists, Richard Hamilton.
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08.23.07: Jessica Helfand

Another Myth Brilliantly Debunked
The Folding Paper Box Association of America would influence more than just packaging regulations: a half century before the Poynter Institute would claim authorship for its revolutionary Eye-Trac research, the FPBAA was already tracking viewers' visual responses to packaging...
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06.19.07: Steven Heller

Martin Weber in the Third Dimension
You may not have heard of Martin J. Weber, but he was a graphic artist, typographer, art director, and most important, inventor of various photographic techniques that gave two-dimensional surfaces the illusion of being reproduced in three dimensions.
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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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05.17.07: Jessica Helfand

Ad Reinhardt, Graphic Designer
Ad Reinhardt fretted about the meaning of life. He agonized about the purpose of painting. He questioned everyone, critiqued everything, and worked incessantly. In other words, he was a graphic designer.
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04.15.07: Steven Heller

The Nazi Triangle
Somewhere in the bowels of the Third Reich's bureaucracy a designer who belonged to the graphics "culture chamber," the representative, official body that sanctioned Nazi designers, produced the basic templates for these camp materials and then turned them over to skilled inmates to produce.
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03.26.07: Jessica Helfand

Annals of Ephemera: Town & Country Cookbook
Book cover designers are visual choreographers who frame miniature narratives in order to tease prospective readers into wanting more. Which often means showing less. Or not.
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03.22.07: William Drenttel

International Polar Year
In what may turn out to be the biggest international scientific project to date, an army of thousands of scientists will spend the next two years studying the Arctic and Antarctic as part of the International Polar Year, which officially begins this week.
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02.08.07: William Drenttel

The Good Citizen's Alphabet
Bertrand Russell had the wisdom to realize that certain words require proper definition to be used correctly in political and social discourse. This alphabet book is offered here as a slide show for our readers.
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09.27.06: Michael Bierut

Alan Fletcher: Living by Design
Remembering the late British designer Alan Fletcher, who once said, "I treat clients as raw material to do what I want to do, though I would never tell them that." For him, design was not a profession or a craft, but a life.
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09.24.06: Michael Bierut

The Golden Age of American Commercialism
The encroachment of commercialism into everyday life seems like a peculiarly modern phenomenon. Yet around one hundred years ago, America began a romance with salesmanship that today seems almost delirious. A 1922 business directory shows how great crass commercialism used to look.
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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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07.25.06: Rick Perlstein

What is Conservative Culture?
Ask a conservative activist to explain what anchors and unites their fractious movement, and he will point to ideas. They will not mention the extraordinary role the development of a self-contained and self-conscious conservative culture played in transforming the politics of the United States.
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04.04.06: Jessica Helfand

A Sequence in Time
01:02:03 04/05/06 This number sequence in time will not occur again until 2106.
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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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10.27.05: Jessica Helfand

The Shock Of The Old: Rethinking Nostalgia
Placing Nostalgia: where in the design landscape does it fit? And should it be included in the first place?
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06.24.05: William Drenttel

Catastrophic Imaginings: The Design of Disaster
In the end, artificial disasters are designed to elicit and test the responses of participants. In their recording, both allow for a post-mortem evaluation. How did I do? How would I respond? Would I sit patiently in my car a mile up the road? Would I watch from my window, safe in my home?
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06.06.05: Michael Bierut

The Man Who Saved Jackson Pollock
Herbert Matter, the designer who stored away a cache of recently-discovered Jackson Pollock paintings, deserves a similar rediscovery.
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05.07.05: Lorraine Wild

A Design Annual Captures 1968
The title on the cover of the booklet is "Business as Usual" subtitled "Fourteenth Annual Type Directors Show—Typography Wherever It Exists"... On every spread of the book there are lovely pieces of typography, things most any of us would have been proud to have created, and then an image as brutal as a slap on the face. It was 1968.
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04.21.05: Jessica Helfand

Extremely Young and Incredibly Everywhere: The Public Art of Jonathan Safran Foer
Jonathan Safran Foer's emergent body of work includes film and video, public art installations, theatrical collaboration, expressive typography, and a fairly prolific jumpstart as a writer. Cumulatively, all of his projects — which range from collecting empty pages of famous writers, to constructing parabolas in a public park, to collecting anonymous self-portraits — seem to look for ways to formally address time and space and the human condition.
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04.03.05: Michael Bierut

Homage to the Squares
The Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum's exhibition Design is not Art provides a useful contrast to an simultaneous exhibition of the work of Josef and Anni Albers, and demonstrates differences between art and design.
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03.17.05: Jessica Helfand

Scrapbooking: The New Paste-Up
"Craft-born embellishments," note one supplier of scrapbooking products, "are penetrating an unexpected market: graphic design."
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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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01.03.05: Dmitri Siegel

Mysterious Disappearance of Carol Hersee
The story of Carol Hersee's portrait as Test Card F: since it first appeared in 1967 on BBC2, Carol's face has been on-air for over 70,000 hours.
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12.29.04: William Drenttel

In Remembrance of Susan Sontag
In Remembrance of Susan Sontag: a designer's twenty-five years of interaction with the legandary writer.
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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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08.23.04: Michael Bierut

The Graphic Design Olympics
The event graphics and pictograms created for the Olympics by designers such as Otl Aicher, Lance Wyman and Deborah Sussman are part of a historic tradition that continues to this day.
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08.10.04: Jessica Helfand

Ladislav Sutnar: Mechanical Beauty

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06.16.04: Michael Bierut

The Idealistic Corporation
American corporations in the mid-twentieth century, such as IBM, Container Corporation, and General Dynamics, worked with designers like Charles and Ray Eames, Herbert Bayer and Erik Nitsche in the conviction that design was not only a tool for business, but an potent instrument for making the world a better place.
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04.10.04: William Drenttel

El Lissitzky for Pesach

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03.13.04: Michael Bierut

George Kennan and the Cold War Between Form and Content
Diplomat George Kennan's "Long Telegram" of 1946 is a memorable synthesis of form and content, and a demonstration of how powerful form can be.
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02.02.04: Michael Bierut

Rob Roy Kelly's Old, Weird America
The late educator and designer Rob Roy Kelly has had a lasting influence on the profession of graphic design, particularly through his landmark book "American Wood Type."
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01.13.04: Jessica Helfand

The Span of Casual Vision

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01.05.04: Michael Bierut

The Forgotten Design Legacy of the National Lampoon
The rerelease of the National Lampoon's ersatz and hilarious "1964 C. Estes Kefauver Memorial High School Yearbook" is a reminder that the magazine's art directors, Michael Gross and David Kaestle, anticipated our profession's obsession with vernacular graphic languages by almost fifteen years.
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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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11.02.03: Rick Poynor

It's a Man's World
Adam Parfrey’s book shows hundreds of men’s magazine covers from the 1950s painted by artists who specialized in depictions of tough guys abusing terrified women. Have we outgrown this kind of thing? Heck no.
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09.06.03: Jessica Helfand

The Real Declaration

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