ephemera

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This area of overlapping interest and concern.

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I’d somehow never seen this famous diagram by Charles Eames (1969) until yesterday (thanks to Ann Pendleton-Jullian). It’s a beautiful way to talk about the design space.
“1) If this area represents the interest and concern of the design office.
2) and this the area of genuine interest to the client.
3) and this the concerns of society as a whole.
4) then it is in this area of overlapping interest and concern that the designer can work with conviction and enthusiasm.
NOTE: these areas are not static — they grow and develop as each one influences the others.
NOTE: putting more than one client in the model builds the relationship — in a positive and constructive way.”

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Naked.

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I love seeing good design work unpacked and reassembled into something new. The re-use can be as creative an act as the original thing, sometimes more so. Who knows in this case — the van I designed five years ago has been stripped bare of some, but not all of the graphics. It was parked just outside my office on 17 Street.

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U.S. Camera

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This is a flea market find from a year ago. It’s a “souvenir” book of WWII photos from the Secretary of the Navy, published by U.S. Camera (it’s not dated but I’m assuming 1945). The photographs — scenes of daily life, explosions, war routines — are compiled by Edward Steichen.
From the note on page 5: “To the Officers and Men of the Navy: You are leaving the Navy which you made victorious in the greatest war in history. These pictures will go with you as a reminder of a job well done — a job of which you can be proud as long as you live because it gave mankind another opportunity to live together in peace and decency…”
The typography, imagery, icons — all amazing But it’s the striking cover that I find most gorgeous and inspiring.

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A color combination chart for layered clothing.

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No. 1221613. A color combination chart for layered clothing, by Yoshiyuki Hagino, 1868.
I just got turned on to the digitized image collections of The New York Public Library. Wow. Six hundred thousand images in all kinds of specialized collections. Menus, charts, maps, photographs, illustrations, advertisements, cigarette cards, diagrams, costumes. I could spend hours in here (I just did).
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No. 468952. Menu cover for the National Wholesale Druggists Association Banquet, 1900.
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No. 1221643. An illustration of horses. Yoshiyuki Hagino, 1908.
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No. 96883. Prismes 17. E. A. Seguy, 1931.
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No. 473220. Menu, Portland, ME, 1908.

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An industrial map of the United States.

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This 51-year-old info-graphic beauty comes to us courtesy of John Zissovici. The map says “Showing the area of each state in exact ratio to the other states based on the value of manufactured products according to the Industrial Census of 1957.”

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Studio as muse

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I had a nice design surprise last week. I showed up at MAS for a meeting and saw that the Architectural League had opened a small show of Herzog & de Meuron’s design for the new Parrish Art Museum in Southampton. All beautifully presented on a single, giant platform. The tabletop was set with all kinds of models, and a single drawing was laminated to the wall. Great installation, but the real surprise was a stack of one-color pamphlets, presumably designed by 2×4 (they are credited on the table). This thing was so modest: flimsy paper, a sort of folded photocopy. One side presents a layout of the objects on the table, rendered in thin black lines. The other side, lots of words and numbers — in reverse. I didn’t understand why, but kept it anyway because it looked good. The next day I realized that if held up to the light, I can see the reversed words through the lightweight paper, back-lit onto the diagram — these are the titles and dates for each piece. Nice.
UPDATE: just got a note from the Architectural League that the entire exhibition, including the pamphlet, was designed by Herzog & de Meuron. 2×4 will be designing the graphics for the museum.

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I Want FDR Again

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I just remembered our typography project with American Leftees from four years ago: we reinterpreted some brilliant old campaign buttons, and they put them on t-shirts. Today, U.S. campaign graphics are complicated and corporate and very much about selling “the brand.” The Obama system works, but it’s painfully safe and fussy. In use, the graphics are certainly friendly and fresh, especially in relation to other candidates. (Gotham helps.) I’m revealing my high expectations here, but I’d love to see real “change” embodied in political brand communications — not just the usual slick product campaign.

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1969, again

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What a find. Picked up at the Strand. This is the New York City Planning Commission’s “1969 Plan for New York City,” published under Mayor Lindsay, all six volumes (one for each borough, plus one titled “Critical Issues”). These are oversized (17 in. sq.), and packed with incredible information graphics, photography and design. Famous Magnum photographers (Helen Levitt, Andre Kertesz, Robert Frank) were commissioned to produce images of the city. Beautiful satellite photographs and giant pull-out maps in fantastic colors. It’s a fascinating portrait of NYC in decline, on the eve of its crisis. More images after the jump.

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Made in Germany

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Speaking of calendars, this tin beauty was found at a flea market less than a block from our office, for $5. Stamped “Made in Germany” on the back, the beautifully yellowed inserts are crumbling, the typography awkward and elegant.