Archive for May, 2007

Chris Jordan

Chris Jordan

More from the GEL conference:

Chris Jordan quit his job as a corporate lawyer to take high resolution pictures of huge piles of garbage. In his words, we have access to the good information about our consumption (through commercials, noticeable quality of life improvements, etc.) but we can’t see the cumulative, negative effects of this consumption. Chris’ goal is to make people aware of this waste … though one of my friends commented that the pictures were so beautiful, one might conclude that the trash is a good thing after all!

He also creates very large-scale composites that illustrate various statistics about the environment and the world. Raw data is emotionally meaningless; these pictures make statistics “visible”. I like these pictures less, but a worthwhile message and neat idea nonetheless

Her record player

Her record player

Another example of retrostalgia from Frog Design’s Samantha Holmes in this wonderful essay about her “love affair with the record player”.

At first, I was fascinated by the odd tension this might pose: the possibility of experiencing a pang of nostalgia for a past that never belonged to me – the establishment of a new period of time, outside the bounds of either a relived past or a fully embraced present.

Also check out the great picture by Bashed

Yellow curb

Yellow curb

This was taken on Polk Street, just a few blocks from my apartment. I got very lucky, as that car left just after I’d taken the shot (and it wouldn’t be the same without it). Original shot.

Digital Album Art

Digital Album Art

Album art is perhaps the greatest casualty of the digital music revolution. Nowadays, a CD bought is quickly ripped and stuffed in a closet, or perhaps hung on the wall (as an aside, I really want some of those).

And yet, as Adrian Shaughnessy remarks in his excellent piece about the future of album art:

There is an undeniable sense of completeness when music comes with handsome packaging and engaging graphical material.

Luckily, there are also promising signs that alternatives will emerge in the digital world. Apple’s CoverFlow technology, which they acquired from a shareware developer, brings back some warmth to your iTunes library, and the iPhone has it too (scroll to the bottom). The labels are apparently interested as well, though I’m worried that they’re going to come up with something horribly kludgy. There’s something nice about the constraint of an album cover.

However, I’m most excited by physical representations of digital album art. David from Ironic Sans suggests a Digital Jewelbox, basically an LCD screen that displays the artwork from the currently playing song and acts as a remote control.

My all time favorite is Michael Kennedy’s i-Deck prototype. I love the retro-gramophone look, and the way the album art is displayed on the “cd”. The i-Deck has a physical charm that is impossible to match with pure software, and I would pay a lot to have one of these in my living room.

Objects of Desire

Objects of Desire

The MIT Technology Review asked a bunch of designers to talk about objects that influenced them, objects of desire. Maybe it’s retrostalgia (new word: nostalgia for something I wasn’t alive for), but polaroid and the walkman really struck a chord in me. Maybe it’s the leather and the clever opening mechanism, maybe it’s the bold colors and simple shape, but there’s just something intensely satisfying about them.

Not In My Living Room

Not In My Living Room

No, I certainly wouldn’t want this in my living room, but for a hotel in Venice it’s quite alright. Original shot (barely touched).

Wimbledon meets Roland Garros

Tennis champions Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer recently played an exhibition match on a half-grass, half-clay court. Nadal won, but barely. What a fun idea!

A matter of context

A matter of context

A few months ago, the Washington Post organized a little experiment in the subway: they had violin prodigy Joshua Bell play incognito for 45 minutes. Along with a detailed account of the event, the article offers some great analysis of why we like art and the importance of context.

This article provoked a real storm of posts on the blogosphere, so I expect many of you will already have read it. However, I wanted to highlight a few posts that I found particularly interesting:

  • An actual subway musician explains that, while Bell is a great musician, he’s not very good at being a subway musician.
    when you play on the street you can’t approach it as if you are playing on a stage. Busking is an art form of its own.

  • Frog Design makes the broader point from a design perspective that Context is King:

    No matter how good your idea is and no matter how well you execute on it, if you get the context wrong you will miss your audience entirely.

  • and Diego Rodriguez offers some refreshing thoughts on the virtues of thinking like a child.
  • This sense of “beginner’s mind” or “mind of the child” is a pillar of design thinking. It’s the ability to see things afresh. To see deeply and to sense the truth and the beauty.

  • The author Gene Weingarten also published some responses to emails he received — don’t bother reading them all, but definitely check out the first few.

A little meta-comment here: some of you may have noticed these longer “link summary” posts. It’s a new format I’m experimenting with: rather than try to post everything as soon as possible (which I’ve clearly given up on), I’ll occasionally accumulate a few articles on a given topic and tie them together in one post. This not only fits my posting habits better, but hopefully makes for more interesting content than just links. Let me know what you think!

Pull Pull (Pull)

Pull Pull (Pull)

Doors at 347 fifth avenue in NYC. From the Letters Of New York tour at the GEL conference. Original shot.