Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Another Lecture Tonight

Hello! Quick post, today. Just wanted to remind y'all that Ellen Lupton will be speaking at the Walker Art Center tonight, and as with Experimental Jetset, the lecture will be webcast live on the Walker Channel. Tonight from 7 to 9.

You know who Ellen Lupton is, I promise. Amazing design writer. Thinking with Type? DIY: Design it yourself? Various articles in Print and Readymade? You don't want to miss this.

(But of course you don't actually have to worry about missing this, because the lecture will remain in the Walker archives for some time now. Just don't forget about it.)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Accidental Genius

This package design has been showing up in the blogs lately. Designed by artist Justin Gignac, "Garbage" is meant to prove that package design is highly influential, and that good packaging can make consumers want to buy just about anything. Even something that nobody would ever want to buy. I think he may have underestimated the value of "Garbage."

I see so much meaning in the product as a piece of art, more than the artist may have intended. I happen to think this piece is absolutely genius. Allow me to elaborate.

Let's face it, this is a great souvenir for New York. When buying a souvenir from somewhere, you look for something that captures the essence of a place. The best souvenirs come from the natural environment of a place. In the mountains, you might bottle the fresh mountain air. At the glaciers, you might collect a piece of glacier. If you visit a honey farm, you might take a piece of the honeycomb. It seems only natural, if you want to take home a real piece of New York City, to bring back "Garbage." Sure, you could get a Statue of Liberty lighter, or an I (heart) NY shirt, but do those really say much about the culture there? Go for the trash, I say.

I also see "Garbage" as a sort of time capsule from one of the most cultured cities in America. These random pieces of trash collected from the streets say a lot about what we were doing, how we were living in 2008/2009. So much of our world is changing constantly, so many favorite objects are slipping through our fingers, that it might be sort of nice to have a packaged piece of what's going on now. For instance, there is a rubber band in this box. Now, rubber bands have remained fairly similar for a long time now, but who's to say that won't change soon? You know that somebody's going to make a scientific breakthrough and invent an indestructable rubber band. And it's going to come in fancy colors, and it's going to feel completely different, and it's going to smell different. It probably won't even be made out of rubber any more. There is also a chip bag included. You know that packaging is going to be constantly changing. What if the redesign of that chip bag was as controversial as Tropicana or Pepsi? This "Garbage" becomes artifacts. Evidence of "...what life was like back then," for future generations.

Depending on how nosy you are, it also poses questions. I've been watching episodes of CSI lately, and it's got me thinking like everything's a crime scene. The package says, "HAND-PICKED from the fertile streets of NY, NY." You know what that means. Litter. At least, that's what it implies. I wonder how many of these packages this artist was able to make. How much litter is readily available? How quickly does the supply renew itself? You could totally get prints off of these. Bust every single litterer in the city of New York. Or you could just reflect on what this means about how much we really care about our actions.

Although I'm not about to drop $100 on garbage, I would really like to own one. I don't think I would want it as much if the packaging wasn't as nice. But I do see so much more concept in the contents than in the packaging itself. You could say I'm adding unnecessary meaning, that this is just another piece of artwork on par with "Fountain," by Marcel Duchamp. But as the viewer, I actually get a lot out of this piece. I think it's absolutely brilliant.

I don't think I'd ever open it.

P.S. I would like to remind you that, if you missed the live webcast of the lecture by Experimental Jetset that I posted about earlier, it is still in the archives at the Walker. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I highly recommend taking the time to watch it.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

You're Invited!

One of the things I am loving about Minnesota, as I have mentioned, is the multitude of events. The active lifestyle. This month, it's been lectures at the Walker. A series of design lectures, to be specific. We've already seen Process Type Foundry, local heroes responsible for the Facebook type among other things, and David Reinfurt.

This week's speaker is someone I just had to share with you. It's the one people don't want to miss - tickets have been sold out for weeks now. The speaker I am so excited to see this week is - (insert long, suspenseful pause) - Experimental Jetset! You may be familiar with their posters for the movie Helvetica, or their design for the blu-ray version (shown below, along with other inspiring examples of their work).

Helvetica Leterpress Poster, limited edition of 100

Helvetica Blu-ray Packaging, record album size

Invitation to 'Architectures Typographiques' exhibition at Galerie Anatome

Graphic Identity for Reunion des Musees Nationaux

No, I did not post this just to gloat. If you live elsewhere, or for some reason missed out on tickets, you are not out of luck, my friend. The Walker is holding live webcasts for each lecture, which will also be stored in the archives for later viewing. Feel free to listen in this Tuesday at 7! (This week and next week, when the amazing Ellen Lupton will be speaking.)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Happiness and Cold Places

I've been reading this book, The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner, on and off for about a year now. This is one hundred percent my fault as a flaky reader, the book itself is extremely interesting.

Eric, a foreign correspondent for NPR who was all too sick of catastrophes and bad news, took it upon himself to research happiness. The science of it, the theories, where it thrives, what makes it survive, and how different cultures perceive it. He does so by traveling to the source - ten different countries that are either at the top of most "Happiest Countries" lists or are often associated with the subject.

The portion of the book that I read today was about Iceland, and throughout I found a few similarities to Minnesota. Both are freaking cold and get little to no sun in the winter, but the people are generally happy. They have embraced their cycle of seasons and have come to enjoy it.

The author points out that research has found happiness to correspond with colder climates. This is one of the conundrums he spends a lot of the book contemplating. An interesting theory that he mentions in the Iceland chapter is the "Get-Along-or-Die Theory," which is exactly what it sounds like. In warm weather, nothing requires a group effort. Resources come easy. But in colder weather, it is much more necessary to cooperate to ensure survival.

This idea is rooted in times when it was necessary to work together ensure a good harvest and food supply for winter, but remains a habit of Minnesotans. People are very likely to help out if they see that anyone is in need. I'm always hearing stories of these little good deeds, or even experiencing them. After an (almost) experience a few weeks ago, I can see how this "help others" mindset is closely related to survival. On my way home during a horrific blizzard I saw a school bus stranded on the side of the freeway. I was completely ready to pull over and pile in as many kids as could fit into my car, to get them safely out of the cold. Luckily there wasn't anyone in the bus, but it could have quickly become a matter of survival for them.

Another interesting thing about Iceland that contributes to the happiness there is the widespread creativity. The author calls what is going on in Iceland a Golden Age, and loosely compares it to the Renaissance and other great eras. Evidently everyone's a writer, everyone goes through multiple occupations, everyone is an artist of sorts, and they are working together to form their culture. There is no envy involved, they seem to be in a sort of creative harmony.

I've seen similar levels of creativity in Minnesota. It seems like anyone I meet on a given day or night is creative in some form. I'm not sure what the cause is - it could be the temperatures, the seasons, the landscape, or maybe it's this inspirational energy that comes from living among each other. I am amazed at what I have seen of local artists, musicians, and writers, and it just keeps coming. It really does make me happy. :)

P.S. You should probably know that there is an actual World Database of Happiness that is dedicated to the research of happiness. No joke.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Vintage Israeli

The vintage European design style has always been so wildly popular that it completely overshadows vintage design from any other part of the world. But if we look further, there are some true gems from other areas as well. I was really inspired by a few articles on grain edit showcasing vintage Israeli design. Check it out.

Jean David, Israeli travel posters, 1950's

Eliezer Weishoff, posters (not sure for what), 1960's

Eliezer Weishoff, Israeli environmental stamps, 1975

Sunday, March 1, 2009


So lately I've been loving collections of shorts. Short films, short stories, etc. I usually find something I like, and if one in the bunch ends up being a waste of time, it was only a waste of minutes as opposed to hours or days. Shorts can be just the right dose of a good thing. One of my favorite places to find short stories is The Moth, a podcast available for free on iTunes.

The Moth began over ten years ago as a story-telling event between friends at someone's apartment. Evidently, word spread and The Moth became quite popular, but the premise is the same. People get up on stage and tell true stories from their life, without notes.

The storytellers range from famous to diamond-in-the-rough types, and the stories vary just as much, but are always interesting. One person told of when he was working on the Clinton administration and disaster struck. Another was an adventurous older woman willing to try just about anything to cure her back. You really don't know what you're going to hear, but it's always a nice dose of reality. Not like reality TV, the good kind. The reality of someone's life, of something that has happened to them that is worth telling. Mine would involve a Hummer.

Basically, you should check it out. It is so great to hear these people open up. I will leave y'all with a sweet quote from a story about a very awkward little girl who spent most of her time growing up in her mother's beauty shop in Dallas, TX:

"Well I like teasin'. Your mama's teasin' my hair right now. In fact, if it weren't for teasin', my hair would be flat as a pancake!"
- from "Green Bean Queen," by Faye Lane