Typically great episode of “Design of Business, Business of Design.” Tsien is the co-founder of Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects, whose stellar project list includes The Barnes Foundation and the new Obama Presidential Center.
Thought-provoking framing of “what’s ahead for the future of business, technology and design.” From #2, “Silence is golden”:
We’re seeing a dramatic escalation in the rate at which people disconnect, unsubscribe and opt out to stem the barrage of content and messages that clutter daily life. As consumers, we’ve come to realize that it’s no longer simply a lifestyle choice, but a serious mental health issue. As we put up more barriers between ourselves and digital technologies, organizations must learn how to offer value to users who crave quiet in a noisy world.
Terrific interview with this Wolff Olins designer on “The Design of Business, The Business is Design.” Fun to hear some self-deprecating stories from his getting-started years.
Really enjoyed this conversation about this design and innovation consultancy.
Continuing my 16-year tradition, here are a few favorite (mainly cultural) things I experienced during 2016:
Grief Is the Thing with Feathers, Max Porter
How to Use Graphic Design to Sell Things, Explain Things, Make Things Look Better, Make People Laugh, Make People Cry, and (Every Once in a While) Change the World, Michael Bierut
Can’t We Talk about Something More Pleasant?, Roz Chast
My Struggle: Book 4, Karl Ove Knausgård
The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead
My Struggle: Book 3, Karl Ove Knausgård
Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl, Carrie Brownstein
The Days of Abandonment, Elena Ferrante
Known and Strange Things: Essays, Teju Cole
The Monocle Guide to Cosy Homes, Monocle
Nobody Grew but the Business: On the Life and Work of William Gaddis, Joseph Tabbi
Alter Egos: Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and the Twilight Struggle Over American Power, Mark Landler
Notorious RGB: The Life & Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik
Seven Interviews with Tadao Ando, Michael Auping
Max Beckmann at the Saint Louis Art Museum: The Paintings, Lynette Roth
Believer: My Forty Years in Politics, David Axelrod
The Whole Harmonium: The Life of Wallace Stevens, Paul Mariani
The Violet Hour: Great Writers at the End, Katie Roiphe
Eleven Museums, Eleven Directors: Conversations on Art & Leadership, Michael E. Shapiro
Manchester By the Sea
The Big Short
Love and Friendship
Straight Outta Compton
Better Call Saul, Season 1
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Seasons 1-2
The Americans, Seasons 1-3
The People vs. O.J. Simpson
The Night Manager
Broad City, Seasons 1-2
Veep, Season 5
The Good Wife, Seasons 5-7
One of the things I like most about being a Spotify subscriber and daily listener is being able to quickly tune into new artists — whether I read about them or they’re served up via the app’s “Discover” tab. New-to-me folks I enjoyed this year include Eskimeaux, Father John Misty/J. Tilman, Florist, J. Cole, Laura Gibson, Alina Ibragimova, My Bubba, Agnes Obel, Angel Olsen, Andy Shauf, and Sun Kil Moon. Among the artists I’ve long loved, I couldn’t get enough of Radiohead’s beautiful 2016 record, “A Moon-Shaped Pool.”
Last year I had a whole Podcast section. Many of my favorites this year are the same (Design Matters and Longform remain must-listens), so I’ll just note new ones I enjoyed: The Design of Business | The Business of Design; The Axe Files; The New Yorker Radio Hour; and the short-lived Mystery Show.
Select highlights from another fun, productive year at Forest Park Forever include our first-ever “Artists in Residence” program; the audio project Listenforestpark.org; our exclusive series of posters from friend and artist Michael Eastman; and a short-video project with Once Films that came in parts one, two, three, four and five. I also enjoyed sitting down for conversations about the Park and our conservancy with Don Marsh on “St. Louis on the Air” and Andrew Davis on “STL Community Cast.”
In terms of side projects, in September of this year, I was honored to be part of “The William H. Gass Symposium: International Writing” at Washington University in St. Louis. I joined Lorin Cuoco, who co-founded the International Writers Center with Gass in 1990 and was its associate director until 2001, in giving some opening remarks, then discussing Gass’s work with William H. Gass Fellow Matthias Göritz and Ignacio Infante, associate professor of Comparative Literature and Spanish at the university. I was also pleased to move “Abstractions Arrive,” which had been an iPad-only e-book pairing a Gass essay with photographs by Michael Eastman, to the open web via Medium.
We enjoyed spending some time with my brother’s family in Minneapolis — return trips to the Walker Arts Center and MIA (International Modernism was memorable), catching a show at the Dakota Jazz Club and enjoying a great meal and beers at Surly Brewing Co.
A special cultural and family highlight for me this year was taking in four shows at the Pulitzer Arts Foundation that my wife, Tamara, was a part of either as curator or co-curator: The Ordinary Must Not Be Dull: Claes Oldenburg’s Soft Sculptures; Exquisite Everyday: 18th–Century Decorative Arts Objects from the J. Paul Getty Museum; Ellipsis (Janet Cardiff’s “The Forty Part Motet” was unforgettable); and Medardo Rosso: Experiments in Light and Form (nice video overview).
Of the many hundreds of photos I took of our son, Leo, this year, the one up top is a favorite, as is the one below. Background: Tamara was in the midst of a work trip to Italy, and when Leo saw this beam of light on the floor, he sat down and asked, while tracing the line with his finger, if it was Mama’s plane in the sky.
I loved this book: a visually rich and smartly narrated collection of case studies exploring all parts of creative communications (logos, naming, typography, photography, illustration, messaging, client presentations…).
Bierut is an intelligent thinker and a terrific, crisp writer (beyond his obvious world-class design chops). Yet he knows the readerly pleasure in having an accomplished instructor (recall the book’s title) chronicle his own missteps en route to delivering a gem.
Here’s a passage I underlined and circled, a lead-in to a section on logotypes and symbols:
Everyone tends to get overly excited about logos. If you’re a company, communicating with honesty, taste and intelligence is hard work, requiring constant attention day after day. Designing a logo, on the other hand, is an exercise with a beginning and an end. Clients know what to budget for it, and designers know what to charge for it. So designers and clients often substitute the easy fix of the logo for the subtler challenge of being smart.
When we look at a well-known logo, what we perceive isn’t just a word or an image or an abstract form, but a world of associations that have accrued over time. As a result, people forget that a brand-new logo seldom means a thing. It is an empty vessel awaiting the meaning that will be poured into it by history and experience. The best thing a designer can do is make that vessel the right shape for what it’s going to hold.
Some beauties in this annual competition, which is put on by Design Observer, AIGA, and Designers & Books.
“Clever matches between bathing suits and books."
Death in Spring — a beautiful cover, designed by Milan Bozic, and an unforgettably weird, savage, and poetic novel from the Catalan writer Mercè Rodoreda. Published in English for the first time by the commendable Open Letter Books. (How great, I learned only today, that it received this NPR nod on its “You Must Read This” series.)
A gem by Marco Kaye at McSweeney’s:
In my portfolio, you will see that unproduced package redesign for Squirtburst, inspired by kinetic typography popular in the West Coast concert posters of the 1960’s. In this designer’s opinion, it creates a visual appeal unprecedented in the beverage aisle. The client called it “uninspired” and said it would make kids “vomit if they stared at it for too long.” Next time you’re at the grocery store, please, pick up any Squirtburst drink and compare our taste levels.
A behind-the-scenes post about how The New York Times Magazine chooses its covers (which are exceptional).
Beautiful work, great writing.
The firm I work for encourages Hooky Days every October. I spent mine at the Frank Lloyd House-designed Kraus House in Kirkwood. Great time.
A few days ago, I posted “Google & the Non-Human Touch,” about In the Plex, which I’d just finished. In it, I quoted a Googler who a few years back was charged with preventing the company’s products from having too much of an editorial look, one that would suggest the products were designed by actual humans. The rule: No animations, nothing too … designy. “Google products are machine-driven,” she told her staff, implying that the design should say as much. (Voicelessly.)
It’s interesting to consider that previous strategy in light of Google+, the giant’s new go at a social network. One look at the site and it’s clear this has been art directed with an attention not bestowed on, well, any of their other products. Wired’s exclusive look at the project’s creation and launch chronicles a bit of that shift in strategy. It turns out Google’s finding some redeeming qualities in humans after all. From Wired:
[Larry] Page, however, seems to recognize that this project [code name: Emerald Sea] in some ways requires a different approach from the Google norm. One variation that users will notice comes in interface design — conspicuously, in Circles. With colorful animations, drag-and-drop magic and whimsical interface touches, Circles looks more like a classic Apple program than the typically bland Google app. That’s no surprise since the key interface designer was legendary software artist Andy Herzfeld.
The former Macintosh wizard now works at Google — though he loves the company, he had previously felt constrained because its design standards didn’t allow for individual creativity. But with Emerald Sea, he had a go-ahead to flex his creative muscles. “It wasn’t a given that anyone would like what I was doing, but they did,” he says.
Traditionally, Larry Page has been a blood foe of “swooshy” designs and animations geared to delight users. He feels that it such frills slow things down. But Page has signed off on the pleasing-pixel innovations in Circles, including a delightful animation when you delete a circle: It drops to the bottom of the screen, bounces and sinks to oblivion. That animation adds a few hundred milliseconds to the task; in the speed-obsessed Google world that’s like dropping “War and Peace” on a reading list. “I’ve heard in the past that Larry Page he didn’t like animations but that didn’t stop me from putting in a lot of animations in, and Larry told me he loves it.” says Hertzfeld. “Maybe Apple’s resurgence had a little bit to do with it.” In any case, Google has recently tapped Hertzfeld as the design leader of the Emerald Sea team.