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My Favourite Movie Poster of all time (Seriously.)

I realise that this is quite a big statement to make, since there are probably millions of movie posters in the world and there’s no way I could have seen them all, but I’m in a big statement kind of mood. And seriously, this is just stunning. The first time I came across it, I think I stared at it for 10 minutes – which in internet time is about 18 hours – am I still love looking at it. The typography placement is very unusual so it really changes the way you look at the image.

There is a great interview with the designer Akiko Stehrenberger, where she discusses the poster in detail so I think I’ll let the poster do the talking, or if you’d prefer you can hear it straight from designer..

But here’s a few images the poster reminds me of..

Sharbat Gula’s piercing green eyes in Steve McCurry’s famous photograph for National Geographic.

The extreme contrasts of blacks and creams in William Turner’s ‘The Shipwreck’

And Lucien Freud’s portraits, especially the shadows on the person’s face.


Chris Brown is Insecure

Anyone that knows me, knows I despise Chris Brown. It really bothers me when people say that he hit Rihanna, when he really beat her to a pulp. In an interview with Mtv Rihanna described Chris Brown as “insecure” and “controlling”. You can definitely see those characteristics, and many others including narcissism and a desire for respect, in how he chose to represent himself through his album cover for ‘F.A.M.E.’. The deliberately ambiguous title supposedly stands for both Fans Are My Everything or Forgiving All My Enemies.

The cover is made to look like a hand painted mural, with Chris Brown’s face repeated over 30 times. The spray-paint-style logo looks so cheesy and the drips off the F.A.M.E. looks more like a Halloween font, than anything a street artist would do. The clown motif is a direct lift from Banksy. In fact, the whole cover has a Banksy rip-off about it.

The colours are definitely lifted from hip hop covers from the 1990s, such as  Ghostface Killah’s ‘Ironman’. This shows he is trying to affiliate himself with the hip hop world, and less with the pop world. Chris Brown is a manufactured pop star, with his only quality linking him to the hip hop world being his objectification and disrespect for woman. His first video for “Run It” shows his dancing around some school sports hall, not dissimilar to Justin Bieber. He is clearly insecure about this. Chris, you’ll never have the passion of Tribe Called Quest or intelligence of Jay Z. Please just quit now.

Why White Is Wrong

There is a small collection of books that I gathered from the library. They are vary in subject, but have one thing in common: they all have white covers. Actually, they have two things in common: they’re all white and they’re all wrecked. When will designers learn that a pure white book cover is a bad idea?

At an earlier point in its life,  ‘Designing Design’ by Kenya Hara looked wonderful, with its white cover and sexy embossed type.. But now look at it! Though I guess the stains do make the typography stand out more.

Granted, this is a library book so generally it get more use than books in someone’s home. But, in my not so humble opinion, books are meant to be used. I am careful with the books that I own and read but I still carry them in my bag where they risk being stained by make-up and read them without gloves where they risk being worn or dirtied by my finger tips. Unlikes this picture suggests, we don’t all live in gleaming MUJI showrooms and leave  our untouched books in the middle of the floor..

Designing Design does come with a dust jacket to prevent the book from staining. But why spend so much time and effort embossing the type is it is just to be hidden?

Poor Robert Mapplethorpe isn’t holding up that well either.. Even the title along the spine is beginning to wear off..

The winner in the white book cover category is certainly ‘Less and More: The Design Ethos of Dieter Rams by Klaus Kemp. The glossy plastic cover is not simply a dust jacket but the entire book cover. The glossiness prevents most stains. It is also an excellent book about an excellent industrial designer – one who inspired most of apple’s designs – so I highly recommend that you purchase a copy for your design book shelf! I can guarantee that it won’t get ruined.

In Conversation with George Lois

Hailing from the Bronx and nicknamed “the golden Greek”, George Lois was one of the pioneers of the “Creative Revolution”. He is best known for the striking Esquire covers during the 1960s and 70s,. He described himself as the young kid in the group” and spoke with fondness and casualness about the other famous figures from that period, including Paul Rand who he described as his hero. He reminisced about how when he was 24 Reyner Banham said, “Lois is a 4 letter word for talent”

Until I visited George Lois in his home in midtown New York, I had never been in an apartment with such an eclectic mix of objects. I was surrounded by art deco lacquered screens, an art nouveau desk, Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona chairs, cowboy boots, African masks, editorial photography and contemporary paintings done by Lois’s wife Rosemary. I wanted to discover from Lois what it takes to be a great designer and creative director but from the minute I walked in the room I got a good sense of what his answer would be. Lois is passionate about his belief that it is a designer’s duty not only to know about design but also to immerse themselves in art, literature, film and sports. He spoke about visiting design students in New York – “I’d say how many of you have been to the Metropolitan this year? Silence. How many of you have been to the Museum of Modern Art? Maybe one. What the fuck is wrong with you kids? You’re spending all this money and you don’t know how go to a museum. I’m talking to a class of dummies.”

I had been warned that George swears profusely. And he did. I had brought him balaclava, on account of his Greek heritage and to sweeten him up, but he didn’t need it. He was in no way intimidating. He swore with the enthusiasm of an excited teenager. Impressively, despite beginning his career early, now at 79 years old, Lois continues to work and not just in a consulting capacity. He still retains the same enthusiasm, flair and passion as a fresh-faced junior designer.

But he is disheartened by the current state of the design industry, particularly the magazine industry. He despises glossy celebrity covers with an over abundance of blurbs and headlines. He has even created his own name for the phenomenon – not sycophant but rather “the ‘sickofan’ cover, where they’re kissing idiot celebrity’s celebrities’ asses.”

In April 2008, his Esquire covers became a part of MoMA’s collection. In 2010, he was induced into the Media Industry News hall of fame. He finds all the praise and admiration simultaneously honorable and insulting. “I say: You’d honor me more if one of you would go back to your offices now and go to the most talented person in your design department, take off their handcuffs, let them do a cover for you.” He holds designers and editors to a high standard and does not accept excuses and believes the same powerful statements he made through his cover design can still be made today. “They genuflect at my covers and at me for them but they’re full of shit because they won’t learn anything from me. They said you did it and that’s it and that it’s not possible today. But that’s a lie.”

His fearlessness translated into much of the work he designed. He was also a political activist. He openly opposed the war in Vietnam and used his design skills and creative vision to produce some of the most memorable and controversial covers against the war, provoking much public debate.

Lois’s fearlessness made me lament. The creative revolution was also a creative rebellion. Lois’s belief in the transformative power of design and his insistence to never create generic design is an inspiration. But understandably, the risks associated with being a creative rebel makes it a difficult role to fill. The amount of fear in all creative industries, stemming from concerns about job security, inhibits designers from doing any daring work.

Just as I was leaving I noticed that Lois’s casual attire is from the Everlast brand, so fitting since their advertising slogan is “Nothing soft comes out of the Bronx.”

Personal Computer Devices and Personal Insults

I can’t pretend to be any kind of expert on the whole Apple vs. Adobe debacle. I know it has to do with Apple not supporting Flash on most of their mobile devices such as the iPod and iPad. But I was once told by quite a reliable source that a lot of it stemmed from some person vendetta between Apple CEO Steve Jobs and Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen. So when I saw this Adobe advertisement in the Financial Times yesterday it really caught my attention.

The full copy reads:
“We (heart) Apple
We love creativity
We love innovation
We love apps
We love the web
We love Flash
We love out 3 million developers
We love healthy competition
We love touch screens
We love our Open Screen Project partners
We love HTML5
We love authoring code only once
We love all devices
We love all platforms

What we don’t love is anybody taking away your freedom to chose what you create, how you create it and what you experience on the web.

Learn more at”

One approach to the marketing of large corporation’s that has increased in popularity in recent years is an attempt to appear less faceless by putting their CEOs in quite prominent public positions. This means we might often associate our new Microsoft Office package with Bill Gates, our new iPod with Steve Jobs and our new American Apparel t-shirt with Dov Charney (please excuse my painfully hipster examples!) Clearly when this advertisement says “What we don’t love is anybody taking away your freedom…” the “anybody” they are referring to is Steve Jobs. So it seems that with this new approach we also see personal vendettas and snide comments making their way into advertisements. Quite interesting, no?

(Oh and yes, that photo was taken using my macbook’s webcam. I do ‘heart’ Apple.)

Aoife’s Digital Aesthetic

Aoife  Ludlow curated one of the most exciting talks of the Inter-Changes symposium. Aoife’s diverse career, which she spoke of with passion and enthusiasm, has an emphasis on science and public engagement. Some of her work included textiles embedded into concrete and jewelry pieces that records when you wear them. She is currently working on clothes that purify the air.

Her website is currently being updated. But I recommend going back to it at a later date or taking a look many of her other side projects such as her digital print for textiles for

Ludlow worked with Helen Storey on the ‘Wonderland’ exhibition. This included garments constructed of a water soluble polymer which gradually dissolve over time (disposable fashion, eh?). The photographs speak for themselves. Stunning.

Aoife’s first invited guest was Vanessa Cutler, an expert in waterjet glass technology from Swansea Metropolitan University. She spoke passionately about her engagement with the waterjet machine and her process. One of the most memorable pieces she showed us was tiny handwriting she had managed to cut perfectly in glass. (If only I had a picture to show you all!)

Her second guest was Scottish artist and designer Geoffrey Mann. He spoke about technology and its stigma within the craft world. Mann is clearly an avid user of new processes and technologies but as a lecturer he is also concerned about students being “seduced by technology”.

Now, anyone that knows me knows I’m a sucker for the Edinburgh accent but once you take a look at his work below you will see that that is not why I was so impressed with him. A lot of his work is concerned with animal movement such as these two pieces; the first ‘Attracted to Light’ narrates the behavior of a moth under the stimulus of a light and the second is ‘Dog Fight’ … hmm.. I’m presuming you’ll be able to guess that one! Oh, by the way, he does not appreciate it when people refer to ‘Attracted to Light’ as a lamp or a light fixture (“It’s not a light!”)

If you look at ‘Dog Fight’ you may notice that it is the same process used to make those tacky souvenirs for tourists. But, my goodness, doesn’t Mr. Mann make it look incredible?? His piece is also on a much much larger scale. Though I think he’s managed to give me a new found appreciation for these souvenir objects.

All you tea lovers will like this one… Geoffrey Mann spoke about his idea of objects as these innocent bystanders in our lives and wondered what would happen if the sound waves of our speech patterns effected them. So clever!

Inter-changes Keynote Presentation: reflections and shadows

It’s been over a week now since the Inter-Changes: Craft+Context symposium finished in NCAD but it left me with so much food for thought that I’m still thinking about what I learnt. Although I studied design history and visual culture as part of my graphic design degree, I often overlooked the important role craft plays in the design industry. I’m told this is not uncommon. But I found the symposium so full of rich, insightful discourse that I won’t be making that error again anytime soon.

The conference was opened by a keynote speech by Glenn Adamson. Luckily his excellent reputation had enough pulling power to move people away from the tea, coffee and good weather. He was introduced by Declan McGonagle. He spoke of the damaging misconception many people have that the visual is a natural and not a considered process and that it is not connected to intellect. With this in mind, he mentioned the importance of putting a critical framework and context around craft and welcomed Glenn to speak.

The topic of Glenn’s talk was about the culture of the handmade copy.  But of course, he managed to do what all great keynote presenations do and speak beyond his chosen subject and discuss ideas that would inform almost all presentions that followed him. Over the course of the two days I kept reflecting back to the points that Glenn had made in relation to other speaker’s work and presentations.

I will not attempt to transcribe or reiterate Adamson’s own words. It was his presentation after all. But I would just like to mention some points he made that really stuck in my mind…

He argued that the ‘replica’ could be seen in the realm of pure craft. He used the analogy that if there was a competition as the symposium to see who the most skilled crafts person was, the fairest and most accurate way would be to get each individual to make the same object from the same material. (Unfortunately this competition never took place!) He spoke of the educational importance of replicas and used the copies of Greek sculptures in the V&A as an example.

In art, sometimes the reality of production is seen as some kind of embarrassment. Adamson spoke about the importance place for  what he called ‘Re-skilling’; a form of artistic management similar to a curator that uses and selection as a artistic process.

As an example of this ‘re-skilling’ process, he reminded us of the beautiful instillation ‘Trophy’ by ClareTwomey comprising of 4000 birds made from Wedgwood blue clay that were placed around the Cast Courts of the V&A. Twomey commissioned these at a time when Wedgewood ceramics were in financial trouble. These could be taken away by the audience, which can in one sense be seen to talk of the disappearance of craft but also shows the importance of craft in relation to gift giving.

He used a quote by Tanya Harrod “The world is full. So why are we still making things?” to challenge the designers and crafts people in the room to have purpose to their work. And as a graphic designer working in an industry which is build upon the idea of the multiple; 1,000s of flyers, 100s of business cards, 100s of posters, this really made me think… And it cast a bit of a dark shadow.