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Ideas


04.08.14: Alexandra Lange

Lucia Eames, 1930-2014
An appreciation of Lucia Eames (1930-2014).
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04.04.14: Samantha García

Inalienable Rights, Wolfsonian-Style
A review of  the inaugural "Power of Design" ideas festival in Miami.
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02.01.14: Alexandra Lange

Criticism = Love
Why you have to love design to be a critic.
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09.30.13: Elizabeth Guffey

Design For the Rest of Us: Where Are Design Museums’ Benches?
What a lack of benches in design musems means for the exhibits.
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09.24.13: Alexandra Lange

Learning New Tricks
Harvard doesn't have any design courses, but I've found new friends in "material culture." What it's like for a critic to go back to school.
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07.30.13: Rob Walker

Looking Better, All The Time
Alexandra Horowitz' book On Looking offers a framework, and specific tactics, for smarter seeing.
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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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06.04.13: Alexandra Lange

Praise the Partner(s)
Salute Denise Scott Brown because she deserves it, but let's not forget the other partners.
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05.28.13: Alexandra Lange

The Fork and the World: Design 101
If you had to explain design to the uninitiated, where would you start?
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05.08.13: Jessica Helfand

Our Shopping Lists, Our Selves
Jessica Helfand on lists: from the mundane to the historical, the shopping list to the Bill of Rights.
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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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04.01.13: Francesca Granata

“Women’s Work”: An Interview with Judith Thurman
Francsca Granata interviews Judith Thurman about fashion criticism and her own foray into it for The New Yorker.
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03.13.13: Kate Cullinane

The Original Paradox
The value of creating new designs, rather than being "original".
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02.12.13: Rob Walker

Let's Make A Mark
Ellen Susan proposes a new punctuation mark, the ElRey, for the digital-text era.
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12.10.12: Mark Lamster, Alexandra Lange

Lunch With The Critics: Third-Annual Year-End Awards
Idiosyncratic awards bestowed on architecture, design and media.
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12.07.12: John Thackara

German Government Think-Tank Supports Fringe Change Agents
Overview of the 400-page report World in Transition: A Social Contract for Sustainability from the German Advisory Council on Climate Change (WGBU), the heavyweight scientific body that advises the German Federal Government on ‘Earth System Megatrends’.
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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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10.08.12: Alexandra Lange

Having Fun at the Museum
Blocks, rocket ships, playgrounds and balls: the hidden meaning of playthings at the Museum of Modern Art.
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09.22.12: Alexandra Lange

Just Keep Typing
An excerpt from the new book Breakthrough! Proven Strategies to Overcome Creative Block and Spark Your Imagination that involves Post-It notes, legal pads and baking. 
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09.21.12: Fernando Aguiar

Ecologic Sonnet
'Ecologic Sonnet', a visual poem by Fernando Aguiar.
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08.26.12: Rick Poynor

The Never-ending Struggle against Clutter
Clutter and design are inseparable as concepts because clutter is the negation of design.
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08.24.12: Ashley Toliver

King
A poem by Ashley Toliver.
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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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08.09.12: Michael Bierut

The Typeface of Truth
What are the implications when Errol Morris declares the typeface most likely to induce credulity is Baskerville?
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06.15.12: Alexandra Lange

The Charismatic Megafauna of Design
Identifying the "charismatic megafauna" of design and the critical uses of their popularity.
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05.24.12: David Cabianca

Graphic Design is Dead, Long Live Graphic Design
A review of Graphic Design: Now in Production, opening May 26, 2012 in New York City.
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04.24.12: Rob Walker

Dancing About Ruins
Dancing about ruins: Can debris, detritus, junk, be useful creative material?
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04.13.12: Rick Poynor

The Closed Shop of Design Academia
Shouldn’t it be part of a design academic’s brief to communicate more widely with the design profession and public?
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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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11.03.11: Rick Poynor

This Post has Been Declared a Link-free Zone
Links can greatly enrich an online text, but are they also a counterproductive distraction from reading?
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10.16.11: Rick Poynor

Did We Ever Stop Being Postmodern?
Like it or not, argues the V&A's exhibition about postmodernism and design, we are all postmodern now.
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10.10.11: Rob Walker

An Interview with Kevin Slavin
A conversation between Rob Walker and co-founder of the game development company Area/Code, Kevin Slavin.
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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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09.29.11: Rick Poynor

Should We Look at Corrosive Images?
What do violent photographs of war do to us as viewers?
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09.09.11: Rick Poynor

A Swedish Perspective on Critical Practice
The Reader, a recent book from Stockholm about critical practice, has some smart insights while missing the bigger picture.
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08.09.11: Rick Poynor

From the Archive: Raging Bull
A response to Michael Bierut’s essay about the relationship between bullshit and design, and the discussion that ensued.
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08.02.11: Rick Poynor

From the Archive: Down with Innovation
Designers have too readily accepted the caricature of themselves as airheaded stylists. Visual form is a vital expression of culture.
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05.26.11: Rick Poynor

A Dream World Made by Machines
Adam Curtis’s All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace is a complex, demanding, audacious piece of television.
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05.04.11: Alexandra Lange

Science Gets Around to Architecture
Why are we still privileging scientific studies over visual thinking?
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03.30.11: Julie Lasky

Search for the Obvious: Challenge #2
Once again, Acumen Fund is looking for creative solutions to social problems. This time the focus is on mothers.
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03.18.11: Rick Poynor

Slicing Open the Surrealist Eyeball
Surrealism codified a poetic principle that has always existed as a possibility and still exists in life and art.
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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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02.11.11: Michiel Schwarz & Joost Elffers

Like the Word or Not, the Era of "Sustainism" Is Here
The idea of sustainism deserves more than a discussion about what we (dis)like about nomenclature.
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12.17.10: Rick Poynor

Everything has Become Science Fiction
Is science fiction's most crucial task to envision the future or to understand the present?
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12.03.10: Rick Poynor

On My Screen: Bill Morrison's Decasia
The avant-garde classic Decasia, assembled from decaying film stock, is a sublime vision of another reality.
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12.01.10: Rick Poynor

Where Is Art Now?
Leaving the art world to decide what art is doesn’t resolve the issue of quality.
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11.05.10: Rick Poynor

On My Shelf: Surrealism Permanent Revelation
This post is the first in an occasional series. The idea is to revisit a book from my bookshelf.
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07.19.10: Michael Erard

The Dream Job Project Part II
How do you conceive of the future work to shoot for, and how you'll do it? The results of these questions, part II.
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04.08.10: Michael Erard

The Dream Job Project
How do you conceive of the future work to shoot for, and how you'll do it? I invite you to weigh in.
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02.19.10: Jessica Helfand

Prisoners of Logic
For five or six years now, I have led a double life as a painter. Until recently, I viewed this other identity as a kind of dirty secret.
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09.28.09: Roger Martin

What is Design Thinking Anyway?
Most companies today rely on analytical thinking. Roger Martin applies these principles to business practices.
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09.10.09: Kerry William Purcell

The Art of Psychographics
Each and every graphic design signifies a memory. A familiar sign, map or poster can often trigger a set of associations in the viewer, a series of thoughts and feelings that have their own unique trajectory. 
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08.17.09: Rachel Berger

Significant Objects: #1 Mom Hooks
Significant Objects is a much-discussed experiment conducted by Joshua Glenn and Rob Walker. The third of five stories is by Rachel Berger...
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08.17.09: Teddy Blanks

Significant Objects: Porcelain Scooter
Significant Objects is a much-discussed experiment conducted by Joshua Glenn and Rob Walker. The fourth of five stories is by Teddy Blanks...
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08.17.09: Jessica Helfand

Significant Objects: Elvis Chocolate Tin
Significant Objects is a much-discussed experiment conducted by Joshua Glenn and Rob Walker. The fifth of five stories is by Jessica Helfand...
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08.17.09: Adam Harrison Levy

Significant Objects: Star of David Plate
Significant Objects is a much-discussed experiment conducted by Joshua Glenn and Rob Walker. The first of five stories is by Adam Harrison Levy...
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07.25.09: Mark Lamster

Blriot! The Centennial of a Historic Flight
A century ago today, Louis Blriot took off in an airplane of his own invention.
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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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04.09.09: Jessica Helfand

What's The Story?
And what becomes of all those dead tweets, anyway — all those long-expired, evaporated updates?
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03.27.09: Adrian Shaughnessy

Ten Graphic Design Paradoxes
I’ve just finished writing a book about graphic design. There are entries on kerning, the wisdom of using only lowercase letters, and the merits of Univers. But mostly it’s a book about the soft stuff — the stuff that we deal with every day and tend to take for granted.
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01.06.09: Murray Moss

Design Hates a Depression
"Design tends to thrive in hard times," says The New York Times's Michael Cannell. No, it doesn't. It tends to suffer.
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12.17.08: Jessica Helfand

Ten Things That Need to be Redesigned
Lottery tickets, the hearse, monopoly money, IRS forms, airport design, children's ski jackets, political lawn signs, TV remotes, blister packaging and the state of New Jersey are examined for their design flaws.
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11.07.08: Jessica Helfand

Graphic Design Spam
Have you received any graphic design spam in your mailbox lately?
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10.12.08: Michael Bierut

26 Years, 85 Notebooks
Since 1982, I have never been without a marble-covered composition book. I am now in the middle of Notebook #85. Together, these notebooks create a history of my working life that spans three decades.

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09.15.08: Jessica Helfand

Second in a Series: Completions
The series, when shown on a single surface, carries with it a kind of implicit satisfaction that a series disseminated over time does not.
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08.07.08: Jessica Helfand

First In A Series: Cartophily
Mostly unified by their one-to-two format, cigarette cards revealed countless variation in topic and scope, style and personality, seriousness of purpose and goofball whimsy. If the ardent collector defines the amalgamation of disparate items by retaining a fundamental organizing principle, then what is it, exactly, that guides the maker? And enthralls the viewer?
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07.17.08: Paula Scher

It's How You Said It
Paula Scher: "The problem with the New Yorker's controversial Obama cover is not that it's dangerous and tasteless. The problem is that it isn’t dangerous or tasteless enough."
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07.14.08: William Davies King

Collections of Nothing

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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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06.30.08: Jessica Helfand

Reflections on the Ephemeral World, Part Two: Food
Ever since the 16th century Italian Mannerist painter Archimboldo made portraits from the detritus of his dinner, the relationship between the visual and the edible has been something of a puzzle. Welcome to the world of foodistry: design with food.
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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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05.16.08: Jessica Helfand

Iron Man: The Screen Behind the Screen
Iron Man is the fulfillment of all the computer-integrated movies were ever meant to be, and by computer-integrated, I mean just that: beyond the technical wizardry of special effects, this is a film in which the computer is incorporated, like a cast member, into the development of the plot itself.
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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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03.19.08: Matt Soar

Fail Again, Fail Better
So, what of productive failure with respect to graphic design and typography? The idea of failing again and again for a reason? Does it somehow help to define the limits of professional practice?
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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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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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11.30.07: Steven Kroeter

Design Thinking, Muddled Thinking
What does it mean when Harvard Business School makes a list of top design schools? Two words: muddled thinking.
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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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07.17.07: Jessica Helfand

Harry Potter and The Enchanted Letterforms
The most recent theatrical release of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix includes a paradigm shift that warrants particular recognition, for the simple reason that this may be the first film in which mere letterforms, once the purview of the production designer, break free and actually join the cast.
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06.13.07: Tom Vanderbilt

On the Squareness of Milk Containers
Do you know, or have you ever wanted to know, why milk containers are square and soft drink containers are round? This and other questions of design are answered in Robert Frank's new book The Economic Naturalist: In Search of Explanations for Everyday Enigmas.
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05.31.07: William Drenttel

Al Gore for President
Writing as a designer, as a writer, as a husband and father, but most of all, as a human being — I believe we should draft Al Gore to run for the Presidency of the United States.
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05.28.07: Jessica Helfand

My Dirty Little Secret
Gardening is its own infuriating design challenge. You fret and you rethink and you second-guess yourself constantly, and then for one delirious, thrilling moment something blooms and you feel utterly triumphant. And then it dies and you are back where you started.
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04.22.07: Jessica Helfand

The New Manifest Destiny
When does a picture solidify a news story, and when does it merely sensationalize it? Decisions about words and pictures are made by editors and publishers, designers and photographers — but they are consumed by a public fully capable of an entire range of emotional responses. After this week's events at Virginia Tech, words and pictures do a poor job of communicating outrage and pain. And no amount of compositional ingenuity can reverse what happened.
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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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03.14.07: Jessica Helfand

Art Director Ken
Art Director Ken is is a charmed, if mildly cautionary tale, for it brings to mind the potentially superficial nature in which we judge a person, an identity — indeed, an entire profession.
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02.12.07: Jessica Helfand

I'm Not Ready to Make Nice

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02.05.07: Adrian Shaughnessy

"I Sold My Soul And I Love It"
The current issue of Creative Review is "guest edited" by hip British advertising agency Mother. The theme, suggested by Mother, is I Sold My Soul And I Love It — a vastly contradictory statement, but one that invites debate over what it means to work in visual communication."
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01.13.07: Michael Erard

Word Made Flesh
The forgotten discipline of sentence diagramming forces the structure of language to wear the clothes of images. A sentence diagram is less a map than a portrait, and in this vaudeville language is painted, corsetted and trussed.
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12.11.06: Michael Bierut

The Graphic Glass Ceiling
A week ago, I was the moderator of a panel discussion at the 92nd Street Y with Milton Glaser, Chip Kidd and Dave Eggers. Afterwards, someone asked, "Why do you — all three of you — suppose there are so few female graphic designers — or at least so few female 'superstar' graphic designers?" There was a moment of uncomfortable silence. What would your answer be?
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11.27.06: Jessica Helfand

How Hollywood Nailed The Half-Pipe
Pixar and Animal Logic have mastered a particularly persuasive (and as it turns out, rather literal) form of spin that makes Road Runner look like dryer lint.
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11.17.06: Jessica Helfand

Into the Pink
Co-opting a color and making it your own.
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11.14.06: Adrian Shaughnessy

Listomania
The English design group Spin has produced a publication called 50 Reading Lists, which allows the reader the double pleasure of admiring the handsome presentation of 50 lists, as well as the chance to study the reading habits of 50 graphic designers.
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11.08.06: Jessica Helfand

What Makes A Good Poster?
From Nineteenth Century broadsides to Paula Scher's posters for The Public Theatre, the history of the poster is the history of modern civilization. So why are academics so hell-bent on poster board and bad typography? Why don't they ask us for help?
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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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09.21.06: Jessica Helfand

Death 'N' Stuff
Smoking Kills: The label days it all. Or does it? Once the allegedly chilling skull and crossbones is marketed as a decorative pattern on a silk bowtie, its credibility as an mark of peril seems, well, somewhat questionable, begging the question: have we become so bored by life that we've inadvertently become inured to death?
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09.16.06: Kenneth Krushel

The Face Of Oblivion
Faces on supermarket packaging conform to a research-based "psychographic" that hasn't essentially changed in more than two decades. What is it about our self-image that identifies, at least on a consumer basis, with such fictional, even farcical lifestyles?
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09.09.06: Michael Bierut

This is My Process
Designers often describe our work processes in terms that are dated and ill-suited for the activities that we actually undertake. Is there a model for the way that artists work that would be intelligible in a business context?
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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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07.28.06: Jessica Helfand

A Good Pan Is Hard To Find
On baking a cheesecake and becoming a better designer: it's one big balancing act of artistry and skill.
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07.07.06: Jessica Helfand

The Right Stuff
Prada is yet another in a long line of stories in which posessions loom large, at once shining beacons of material success and wagging fingers of moral turpitude. When will we have enough stuff?
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06.29.06: Jessica Helfand

Crafting All The Way To The Bank
Craft is a tricky word. When we feel ourselves pulled in by the unforgiving vortex of digitized everything, we plead for craft, throwing it out like a life preserver — a desperate appeal to the forgotten soul. In those moments, it becomes a metaphor for a kind of imperiled humanity. But what about craft, we ask?
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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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05.25.06: Justin Good

What is Beauty? Or, On the Aesthetics of Wind Farms
What is beauty and how does it relate to ecology? A look at contrasting aesthetic intuitions about wind farms reveals a paradigm shift in how we understand beauty.
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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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05.11.06: Michael Bierut

I Am a Plagiarist
Plagiarism is a hot topic in the world of publishing, What does it mean in the world of design? Michael Bierut pleads guilty.
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04.21.06: Jessica Helfand

The Art of Thinking Through Making

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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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03.18.06: Michael Bierut

Warning: May Contain Non-Design Content
Design is that it is almost always about something else. The more things you're interested in, the better your work will be.
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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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03.12.06: Adrian Shaughnessy

Google and the Tyranny of Good Design
The Google logo — that scrap of oddball typography — is perhaps the most famous piece of graphic design in the world today. In its own small way, it's a little beacon of insurrection, in a world where graphic designers have become the agents of conformity.
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03.09.06: Dmitri Siegel

Broadcast vs. Broadband
Viral video is on the rise, spreading from broadband to broadcast and back again. What are the opportunities for designers in this new genre?
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03.02.06: Jessica Helfand

Give Me Privacy or Give Me an ID Card
The proposed National ID Card further blurs the line between the privacy and full disclosure of personal data in the public domain. It's the Card's design that appears the final string that may either secure our rights as individuals or rip them apart.
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02.26.06: Michael Bierut

The Persistence of the Exotic Menial
25 years ago, writer Ralph Caplan said that designers are exotic menials: exotic because of the presumed mystery inherent in what we do, and menial because whatever we do is required only for relatively low-level objectives. Has anything changed since then?
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02.05.06: Jessica Helfand

Separated at Birth: Method? Or Madness?
Karim Rashid's method© cleaner is strikingly similar to that of a discount depot: coincidental congruousness?
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01.29.06: Jessica Helfand

The D Word
HGTV's sunny splendor of twenty-seven minute remodels and inexhaustible inspiration: fodder for the DIY devotee.
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01.19.06: Adrian Shaughnessy

Robert Brownjohn and The Big Idea

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01.15.06: Michael Bierut

In Praise of Slow Design
Is there a such a thing as slow graphic design? A look at 80 years of barely perceptible design changes at The New Yorker.
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12.16.05: Jessica Helfand

Face Value
Facial transplants mapping our future: how much is the world of design responsible?
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12.11.05: Dmitri Siegel

Bartleby™
In his classic story of Wall Street, Bartleby the Scrivener, Herman Melville recounts the tale of a humble copyist employed by the story's narrator. Could Bartleby's perfectly crafted refrain be the appropriate response to a world where every choice and configuration has been designed?
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12.01.05: Jessica Helfand

Cease and Design
Where graphic design education is concerned, more doing and less asking is necessary.
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11.20.05: Michael Bierut

Innovation is the New Black
Innovation is the latest buzzword to overtake the design profession. What does it mean?
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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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10.06.05: Jessica Helfand

On Citizenship and Humanity: An Appeal for Design Reform
Ruminations on the Citizen Designer: A human first, a designer second, but most importantly, one who responds to collective cultural needs.
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09.25.05: Rick Poynor

Where Are the Design Critics?
There is no reason why design criticism shouldn’t take an oppositional view of design's instrumental uses and its social role, but few design writers seem motivated to produce this kind of criticism.
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09.01.05: Jessica Helfand

Eye of the Storm
A re-entrance into the world: Following Hurricane Katrina, how should design continue?
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08.23.05: William Drenttel

Reading the News & Charting Death
The potential for terrorism is not a chart I can make in my head. The numbers are there, but the design alludes me.
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08.20.05: Rick Poynor

Sublime Little Tubes of Destruction
In a culture otherwise swamped with unregulated branding, the graphic counter-attack on the cigarette packet, on its visual integrity as a design and its brand equity, normally regarded as commercially sacrosanct, is a remarkable sight to behold. In Europe, in the US and around the world, outsized health warnings in ugly typography now disfigure and subvert the best efforts of the brands' designers to embody the fast-fading allure of the cigarette.
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08.12.05: Jessica Helfand

A Mosaic of Vision and Memory
Language, in the service of the visual, is a conceptual catalyst: and in Umberto Eco's latest book, The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana, words meet pictures in a captivating and indeed, an astonishing way.
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07.31.05: Jessica Helfand

Why Bugs Don't Belong on TV
On today's TV screens, the station-identification logo sits tethered to the surface, like an annoying rash that won't quite disappear. You think you've kicked it when — WHAMMMO — there it is again, blemishing the patina of an otherwise perfectly good viewing experience.
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07.08.05: Jessica Helfand

New Models for Design Efficiency: Introducing Otto
eniac Link http://www.newyorker.com/ http://www.library.upenn.edu/exhibits/rbm/mauchly/jwm8.html http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/B0001NBMAS/ref=pd_sxp_f/002-9888674-0621611?v=glance&s=dvd
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05.15.05: Momus

REDESIGNDESIGN
REDESIGNDEUTSCHLAND formed in 2001 and have an office on the Torstrasse in central Berlin. Their work is perhaps best seen as a Swiftian satire on design itself, a playful Postmodern prod in the direction of Modernism's tendency (especially in German-speaking countries) to reduce everything to a kind of Year Zero of irrational rationality.
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03.13.05: Rick Poynor

Why Architects Give Me the Willies
No matter how central graphic communication might be to our lives, architecture always dominates press coverage because it is very expensive, expresses the conditions of power, and is just plain big.
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03.08.05: Momus

Mediation for the Masses
Rather than coming at the expense of the poor, mediation might be the next step for them too. If all goes well, we might be looking at a world in which everyone is a foolish tourist, a happy shopper, a postmodern self-mediator.
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02.18.05: Jessica Helfand

My Friend Flickr
Flickr is a digital photo sharing website and web services suite that was developed by Ludicorp, a Vancouver, Canada company founded in 2002. It's a utopian oddity — a culture enabled by a technology that in turn enables a culture — and it's a brilliant example of socially networked software because it's free, its easy, and it makes sense.
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02.12.05: Rick Poynor

The Ikea Riot: Unsatisfied Excess?
When Ikea threw open the doors of a new store in London, the result was mayhem as customers stampeded. Evidence of social breakdown, or a sign that the utopian argument for low-cost modernist design has been won?
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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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12.23.04: Jessica Helfand

Code (PMS) Blue
Hospital rooms are architectural oddities: they're all function with no form. To the extent that, in matters of critical care, timing is everything, why should it matter? Then again, why shouldn't it?
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11.18.04: Michael Bierut

The World in Two Footnotes
Writing in Eye Magazine, Nick Bell observes that designers too often act as "agents of neutrality" or "aesthetes of style" and suggests that they focus more on their work's content.
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09.24.04: Jessica Helfand

Gentlemen Prefer Blogs
Watching Annie Duke beat out a half-dozen male competitors in the World Poker Tournament this week, I experienced an odd case of déjà vu. It wasn't because of some Proustian memory of my own poker prowess — far from it, infact. Rather, what I felt was an odd sort of parallel universe with something I've been ruminating about for some time: namely, my presence here on Design Observer as the sole female contributor, and the scarcity of women who regularly participate in discussions here on this site.
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09.09.04: Jessica Helfand

Under The Microscope

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08.17.04: Michael Bierut

What is Design For? A Discussion
Rick Poynor and Michael Bierut discuss the purpose and promise of graphic design, in a conversation moderated by Creative Review editor Patrick Burgoyne.
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08.05.04: Jessica Helfand

An Instrument of Sufficiently Lucid Cogitation
The legendary French photojournalist Henri Cartier-Bresson, who died on Tuesday at his home in the South of France, always carried a sketchbook with him. Today's obituary in The New York Times alleges that he described drawing as meditative, while photography was intuitive: though certainly both activities might have been informed by a relentless need to observe and in a sense, preserve the world around him.
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07.21.04: Jessica Helfand

Graphic Design: The Movie
Some time ago, I pondered about the future of graphic design as a reality show, but recently I've become convinced that its real future lies in its actual integrated presence onscreen: design as part prop, part protagonist.
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07.16.04: Jessica Helfand

Design Gone Mad

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07.03.04: Rick Poynor

Where are the Design Intellectuals?
Prospect magazine has published a list of the 100 top British public intellectuals. A handful of visual art and architecture people make the cut, but no from design is included, reflecting its absence from public debate.
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06.11.04: Jessica Helfand

Designer by Day, Catwoman by Night

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05.01.04: Jessica Helfand

Time Waits for No Fan

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04.23.04: Rick Poynor

Critics and Their Purpose
Pulling a 1960s art magazine from the shelf, I opened it at random to find a long list of thoughts about art criticism assembled in 1966 by students at the Royal College of Art in London. Many of these ideas apply to design.
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04.17.04: Rick Poynor

Theory with a Small "t"
A critical writing determined by the need to shape practice will be limited in the cultural insights it can offer. This is the last thing that design writing needs when ways to engage a wider public could be opening up.
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04.15.04: Jessica Helfand

Graphic Flanerie
Graphic Design's real power comes from its ability to reach us through any of a number of means, both real and virtual, now and later. This ability to transcend the everyday and resonate in the heart, the soul, the mind and the memory—this is graphic design's reality, its legacy, and it is, decidedly, a reality that is more than a sum of its parts.
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04.09.04: Rick Poynor

How to Say What You Mean
There is a crucial difference between subtle and complex ideas and needlessly convoluted forms of expression. The challenge now for design writing is to move outwards into a world in which design is everywhere.
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04.01.04: Jessica Helfand

The Lying Game

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03.16.04: Jessica Helfand

Blanket Statements

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03.06.04: Michael Bierut

1989: Roots of Revolution
"Dangerous Ideas," the 1989 conference of the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) chaired by Tibor Kalman and Milton Glaser, introduced many themes -- social responsibility, political engagement, professional ethics -- that still resonate today.
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02.24.04: Jessica Helfand

The Crisis of Intent

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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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01.02.04: Jessica Helfand

Mind the Light, Light the Mind
As I began to describe Quaker Meeting for Worship — where one sits in silence for some period of time, in a large room with any number of other congregants, and where one stands to speak, on virtually any topic, when moved to do so — I realized that this presented a compelling metaphor for blogging.
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12.07.03: William Drenttel

Shallow Water Dictionary
A couple of years ago I stumbled across a little out-of-print tract called the Shallow Water Dictionary: A Grounding in Estuary English by John R. Stilgoe, a professor of landscape architecture at Harvard.
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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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11.12.03: Jessica Helfand

Implausible Fictions
At what point does the designer's interpretation threaten to skew, or misrepresent or somehow implausibly amplify information in a manner that might be considered irresponsible?
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09.10.03: Jessica Helfand

The Art of Elegant Abstraction
Bill Morrison's surprising 66-minute film is now playing on the Sundance Channel. For listings, see: http://www.sundancechannel.com/film_finder/index.php?startingLetter=d
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