Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The To Resolve Project

New Year's is the perfect time for reflection - we're ending one chapter and starting a new one. It can be similar to the last, or drastically different. But in order to make changes, you need resolve.

Thus Chris Streger, a designer based out of New York, started the To Resolve Project, calling for iPhone wallpapers that highlight our resolutions. Not only do they look great, iPod wallpapers make the perfect little reminders. My contribution (shown above) is about doing without the excess in our lives. Be sure to check out the rest and maybe contribute your own before 2011!

Happy New Year!!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Winter Solstice Lunar Eclipse

I sincerely hope that all of you were able to witness this last night. It was the most beautiful thing I've ever seen! At one point, in a split second, the moon went from a pearly lavender to bright red, straight into almost neon-purple, before darkening into a smokey purple. If I had seen a red moon like that 400 years ago, I definitely would have panicked. I'd probably sprinkle a ring of salt around myself and wait with a wooden stake.

The plains of West Texas were perfect for viewing. I even caught a bit of the meteor shower! I was able to get some pretty good images, see below. For a full time-lapse video, this video by William Castleman is by far the best I've seen.

images captured by yours truly from Ransom Canyon, TX, 2010

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

New England, circa 1800

As much as I enjoy West Texas, it was so good to be in New England over Thanksgiving. Boston was fantastic. Quality beer, clam chowda, printing presses, witches, scandals and political riots - enough said.

One of my favorite excursions on our trip was Old Sturbridge Village in Massachussetts, a very authentic look into New England life in the early 1800's. We got there late in the day and had to do the whole town in 25 minutes, so I apologize for the lack of description here. It was one big whirr of history and inspiration, and some of my favorite photos came out of it.


^Glass Bottles - meant for wine or liquor?

^Punched Tin Lanterns

^Ye Olde Printing Office

One of my favorite things (which I failed to get a picture of) was something we found inside of a chapel/dance hall. There was a tiny wooden throne in the corner of the room, raised above anyone else. The label? "Fiddler's Throne." I wish there had really been one there!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Et tu, HOWdesign.com?

Print, HOW, AIGA, I thought you were behind us? The last few years in the design industry have been disheartening, to say the least - particularly for print designers. Print designers have suffered the worst of the downsizing - many without hope of finding a job in their beloved trade again. The last thing we needed was for the industry awards and competitions to be jumping on this band wagon.

The gorgeous award annuals of only a few years ago meant a lot to me. When I graduated college, Print Magazine was still producing those beautiful annuals that were about five regular magazines thick. It was one of those annuals that helped me decide what to pursue in my career. The work was absolutely brilliant, inspiring, concept-driven and beautifully executed. It came from design firms all over the country and ran the gamut of styles. It gave me something tangible to strive for.

The AIGA Annual, 365, was even more exciting. It was a book as thick as the bible, beautifully designed by one of our own and filled with some of the best work of our time. And the best thing about this book? It never has to go away. It can be added to your bookshelf, your physical library of creative sources, to be referenced later if needed. The possibility of permanence was a beautiful thing.

Both of these annuals have ceased to inspire. The Print Annual has shrunk to the size of 2 regular magazines, with designs that frankly inspire much less. The AIGA doesn't have this problem - they've stopped producing a physical copy of their annual altogether. What used to be a tangible reason to renew membership, even if I didn't have the time for meetings and networking, is no longer available.

Where have all of the design awards gone? Where everything else has gone - online. So if you submit an entry and win, your piece goes to a temporary spot on the world wide web, which is so large that someone has to be handed a direct link in order to ever see it. You'll likely get one good day of hits, then disappear along with the rest. And then, only your mother will remember where to find it. Or hey, maybe swissmiss will discover you and you can ride the blogosphere for a while. Yeah, you can dream.

This is exactly what the most recent HOW Poster Design Awards offer. Is this kind of recognition really worth the $40 entry fee?

And for award admirers, we will browse through the winners once and bookmark the pieces we love. (allowing less than a second to impress us.) But again, these will inevitably get lost and forgotten. I would rather pay the subscription necessary and have something physical that I can browse through for months or more. This also gives me more time to notice pieces that maybe I didn't at first.

I can agree that printed pieces can be somewhat unnecessary. Yes, we accumulate far too much trash in our lifetime. Not just trash, books that we will never look through. But the examples I bring up now, these were cherished. These are missed dearly. And I can't help but feel betrayed that the giant organizations of our own industry are aiding in moving print to web for good.

Pardon my rant. This is just one print designer's view, and if I don't say anything, these organizations may never consider this possible reason that submissions and membership are declining. Maybe you agree?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Tiffin: An Untapped Market?

A recent trip to World Market tipped me off to one of the most ingenious inventions ever - the tiffin tin. I am hooked. They are so pretty!! And smart! They originated in India, used by wives to pack a fresh lunch for their husbands. They might include things like rice, dal, curry, and/or vegetables, things that are best kept separate. Thus, the stacking containers. Brilliant.

Well, as difficult as it is to resist shiny objects, I'm not sure about buying this one. The problem with the tiffin tin is that it's metal - not microwavable. If I were to use this to bring food to work, a microwave would really be only heating option (as much as I would rather not submit my food to radiation).

Yes, there are plastic options out there - more on the tiered bento side. In fact, I'm kind of digging this babushka one that's shown below. But most of what's available is specifically kid-geared. Thus, the "untapped market." The well-designed, adult-geared, microwaveable tiffin/tiered bento box. I'm thinking there should be a "Threadless" for the tiffin/tiered bento box. Yeah? I feel like this is probably an amazing idea. Not just because it's almost 3 in the morning, because it is.

[found at sugarcharms.com]

Even if this Bento Threadless I dream of never pans out, I would just LOVE to see some of my favorite illustrators tackle the tiffin/tiered bento. Aesthetic Apparatus? Eight Hour Day? Diana Sudyka? Jason Munn? Dirk Fowler? Anyone care to take this on?

No? I may just have to put that on my list of things to do.

Monday, August 2, 2010

GOOD Doodle: A Day Without Technology

So I recently decided to try my hand in a doodle contest on the GOOD website. They had a very interesting prompt that I couldn't pass up, and I'm always looking for a good creative outlet. Well, I didn't get first place, but I am second on the slide show! I'm guessing that means runner up? Yeah, that's what we're going to go with. (see the winners here)

The prompt was, "A Day Without Technology." There are so many ways you could go with this - so many useful items are getting lost in the hubbub, there's too much nostalgia. I decided to stick with one idea, keep it simple.

I love going to antique/thrift stores, and one of the most interesting things to look through is Encyclopdia sets. What we "knew" about things back then, the illustrations/images. The nostalgia of needing to look something up for a school project, going into the garage and standing on my tip-toes to find the Sn-Sz book. The way that we find information has changed so drastically.

I also think of the Friends episode where Joey buys one encyclopedia from a traveling salesman, and learns all about things starting with...W? Friends wasn't that long ago.

Did anyone else repeatedly vow to read through the entire encyclopedia set, but only ever get through the first few entries of "A"?

Anyway, this is my day without technology. No more "Googling it." A day of questions without having the answers at your fingertips. A day of laboring to find what you need. Of really learning something (maybe).

This prompt really got me thinking. I might continue with a series of illustrations. We'll see what happens.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

More Scandinavia, Yes Please!!

In true American fashion, I am a pure mutt. If I took a genetics test, the results would probably say, "One at a time, please!"* My ancestry has a crazy mix - English, French, Native American, Irish, German, and Swedish. (- and Texan, if you ask my sister. Who just graduated. And thinks Texas is a country.) As you can imagine, I have a difficult time getting in touch with my background. It comes little by little, one bit at a time.

Living in Minneapolis really put me closer to my Scandinavian roots. Though I was inspired by being amongst a more Scandinavian population and design community, a lot of it came from my family in MN, who are Swedish through and through. I've come to really enjoy my Swedish heritage - so much so that I find myself craving more!

I love the way that the contemporary Scandinavian aesthetic oscillates between kitsch and minimalism, and can incorporate both almost effortlessly. Even in the most modern spaces, there always seems to be a sense of tradition and/or folklore. These amazing images from "True Scandinavian," an upcoming book by the fabulous Swedish photographer Pia Ulin, illustrate this balance perfectly. My holy grail.

I would also like to recommend flipping through the other gorgeous books found on Pia's site: "A Room of One's Own," "Countryhouses," and "Knit Improvisations." Thank you to via manelli for pointing me in her direction.

*adapted from a "yo momma" joke, circa 1992

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Blackout Poetry of Austin Kleon

^ "Same Swords", by Austin Kleon

I love graphic design, but when I need inspiration, sometimes it is best taken from elsewhere. As you saw, my last post featured plants and gardening. And this one, blackout poetry from Austin, Texas.

What is blackout poetry, you ask? It is a type of poetry based on found words and subtraction. This particular artist, Austin Kleon, takes a marker to a page of the New York Times and blacks out all except for a few words. The words come to make sense as phrases, some incredibly deep and some not so much, but still interesting. And thus: blackout poetry.

I stumbled across this phenomena via Texas Monthly (the creative directors of which I was lucky enough to meet this past week - very inspiring). Just before SXSW, their website featured a review of his new book, "Newspaper Blackout", and I fell in love immediately.

Though these have a rather unorthodox layout, your eye is slowly led around the page in a way that ends up making sense, witnessing something that you never would have found on your own. I have a hard time putting into words what I love about his thoughts: they are comfortable yet unnerving, vintage and country, often with great wit and a sense of playfulness. Sometimes, in the beginning of reading one, I will underestimate it, and at the end he hits with something brilliant. The book review on Texas Monthly sums the work up perfectly: "hidden bits of Zen lite that occasionally bump up against brilliance."

^ "The Co-Founder of the Artist"

^ "The Parent Unhappy"

^ "Texas is Actually Real"

^ "What Happens to the Married" (posted on his three-year anniversary)

^ "Overheard on the Titanic"

I've only posted a few here, a nibble of food for thought. For more newspaper blackout poems by Austin Kleon, visit his website.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Planting + Alternative Health Benefits

^ ranunculus

I have to say, one of the quickest ways to make a new apartment feel like home is to add plants. The first thing I did when I moved into my little back house was to buy a few seeds and plant them. There's nothing more rewarding than watching the little sprouts pop up. AND many plants have a lot of benefits that you might not expect. Take what's growing at my place:

Dandelion - These things are growing rampant in my backyard. You can call them weeds all you want, I say let them thrive! This plant is entirely edible - flower, root, and leaves - and with honey, makes a delicious tea. Dandelion is said to aid in weight loss, detoxification, digestion, cholesterol reduction, health maintenance for people with Type-1 & Type-2 diabetes, and makes an excellent face wash. It also transfers magnificent amounts of minerals and vitamins: A, C, D, E, & B complex, calcium, potassium, magnesium, iron, zinc, etc. when infused in hot water. Need I say more?

Ranunculus (shown top) - To be honest, as beautiful as these babies are, they're poisonous. Should you decide to go all "Goodbye Earl" on your no-good cheating husband, they might come in handy. Otherwise, do not consume or handle excessively.

Parsley - Parsley contains more vitamin C than any other culinary vegetable, and is also rich in Vitamin A, iron, potassium, magnesium, and potassium. It is said to cleanse the blood, benefit vision, treat deafness and ear infections, facilitate removal of kidney and gallstones, and benefit the sexual system. You can chew parsley to prevent bad breath, rub it on a bruise, or even make a juice of it.

Basil - Like parsley, basil is rich in magnesium, iron, calcium, potassium. It can help with nausea or motion-sickness, arthritis, influenza, bronchitis, and nose and throat infections. Basil works as a natural anti-inflammatory, much like aspirin or ibuprofen, and also has antibacterial and antioxidant qualities, providing a nice boost to the immune system.

Oregano - Oregano has a lot of similar health benefits as basil - it has strong anti-bacterial properties and it's a powerful source of antioxidant vitamins. One tablespoon of oregano = the antioxidants found in one medium-sized apple! It can help fight colds, influenza, mild fevers, indigestion, stomach upsets, blood cholesterol, and painful menstruation. It is also said to help prevent cancer and slow aging, and is considered to be an aphrodisiac.

Tomato - Though tomatoes were initially considered toxic, and not consumed in the U.S. until the early 1800s, they have proven to be one of the most beneficial vegetables available. The tomato is another powerful antioxidant. It contains a compound called Lycopene which helps your body fight against the formation of cancerous cells in the lungs, prostate, breast, and colon/stomach. Tomatoes also contain large amounts of vitamin C and potassium, protect against heart disease and high cholesterol, and taste great to boot.

Lavender - Lavender was the first herb whose benefits I started researching, and it has become an obsession of mine. Lavender is great for the skin, and can be used topically to help heal acne or eczema, soothe and heal insect bites, and prevent infection and blisters in severe sunburns. Its powerful scent has a very calming effect, and has been know to help ease stress, headaches, insomnia, and depression. It is also helpful in warding off insects and scorpions, and makes an excellent bath.

^ lavender (yes, it's there - look closely)

^ tomatoes, parsley, basil, oregano

** Though these herbs are all highly beneficial, they could have adverse side effects with medications or other herbs. I would suggest further research before the extensive use of an herb for medicinal purposes. I should also mention that I don't condone the use of poison.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Ironic Much??

So I have news. You should know that I am very excited about this, but it definitely comes at an odd time. As you may have read in my last post, I have been getting more into the community here in Houston, and loving what I see. But guess what, world. I'm moving again. That's right, I've been hired. (You may do a little dance.)

Where am I moving, you ask? Well, to give you a hint, here's my life so far: Houston>>Lubbock>>Minneapolis>>Brooklyn>>Houston. Seeing as I am back in Houston, can you guess where I'm going next?

That's right, folks: Lubbock. West Texas. Beautiful open plains dotted with wind turbines and tumbleweeds galore. One point perspective in real life. Dust storms and Slaton pies. First Friday Art Trails, Fifth Friday Art Trails. All this, four hours away from any major city. And what marks the halfway point between Houston and Lubbock on Hwy 36? Deep Shit Cattle Co.

Is it as amazing as it sounds? Yes. Lubbock has so much character, it's fantastic. I didn't truly fall in love with it until 3 years into college, but now I know what I'm looking for and where to find it. And I will be so glad to be near my professors again, all of whom I look up to immensely. These people shaped me into who I am today as a person and as a designer, and I am looking forward to sharing a building with them again.

I bet you're curious about my new job. Well, here it is: I am the new graphic designer for the Texas Tech School of Art! Haven't heard of it? You're missing out big time. The School of Art at Tech may not be on the top of your list of art and design schools, but I am here to tell you that I have seen amazing things come out of that place. Fossil knows. I'm just saying, keep your eyes peeled, because there is a lot of talent coming from the art students at Texas Tech. It's not all about Bobby Knight and Mike Leach.

As I said earlier, I am very excited about this opportunity. As the only designer, I will have a lot of responsibility and hopefully some creative freedom. I will get to work amongst artists and art teachers, a very creative environment. And how often do you get the chance to truly give back to your school like this? I'm hoping to do something pretty amazing with my work there.

I may end up moving again in a few years, but for now, it's off to Lubbock! Geez, I feel like there should be a video game where you try to locate me. Wish me luck! And stay tuned for some interesting adventures in West Texas.

I feel that I should end my post with a small word of caution. This coming move will be my fourth in two years. As my friend Trey has said, this makes me the "most movingest person" ever. To be honest, I didn't intend for this kind of constant relocation. When the recession hit, it hit hard. And when great opportunities have popped up elsewhere, I feel that I should grab them. But it's difficult leaving friends and family, and finding a place in your new community. I am happy to accept a job in Lubbock because I've lived there. I know the area, I have friends there, and I will be able to adjust easily. While I have discovered some true gems in the process of relocating and wouldn't take back anything in the end, I should point out that moving so much is indeed stressful, and I don't necessarily recommend it.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Houston - Who Knew?

Some of you won't believe me when I say this, so brace yourselves: Houston, Texas, may very well be where it's at. Believe me, I was blown away by this, too. But it's true, there's really something really good going on here. Some say it may be the next Austin, or even better.

Truthfully, I like Houston as it is now, a progressively budding culture generally unknown by the masses (or at least the majority of the US). Nonetheless, I thought I would attempt to shed a little light on the city. Houston gets a bad rap, generally known for its heat, humidity, republicans and oil. But there's more. I've only barely scratched the surface of the city, but here are just a few of my favorite discoveries so far:

The Rothko Chapel
Though the website is in dire need of a redesign, the space itself is breathtaking and intensely spiritual. The depth and movement in the paintings, combined with the simple minimalism of the architecture and brilliant natural lighting, create the perfect space to be alone with your thoughts.

Domy Bookstore
I stepped foot in Domy for the first time today, and added pretty much every book I saw to my mental wishlist. I should really never shop here without a friend who is strong enough to hold me back. They specialize in contemporary design and art books, graphic novels, periodicals, video, etc. They are very progressive, and I was especially excited to see quite a few editioned books among the machine-bound.

Anvil Bar & Refuge
Another site redesign waiting to happen, the concoctions here are top notch. The menu features prohibition-era cocktails, all made from scratch with homemade infusions and fresh fruits and herbs, and served artfully in vintage glasses. The space itself is an old Firestone tire shop, embellished with reclaimed materials and salvaged artifacts. This is one bar where the drinks are definitely worth the slightly higher prices.

AIGA Houston
Yes, Houston is mainly oil and gas. But who says that calls for bad design? I am happy to report that there is a very healthy and active design community here, and plenty of AIGA events to look forward to. Just last week, Armin Vit drove in from Austin to speak about his new book, Graphic Design Referenced (which you should definitely own). I am also finding more and more design firms with inspiring work, including Savage Design, Axiom, ph Design Shop, BrandExtract, Herring Design, Rigsby-Hull, and Origin Design. More on these another time.

And yes, there's an app for that:

SwebApps Button Demo: AIGA Houston from Magaly Chocano on Vimeo.

As the job search is still under way, I'm not sure whether I will be staying in Houston for long, but I definitely like what I see. After spending 13 years in Sugar Land, not loving the suburban way of life, it's great to finally be discovering H-town in all of its glory. I must say, I am impressed. I can't believe what has been right under my nose all along! Who knew?