Margaret Calvert & her colleague Jock Kinneir, designed many of the road signs used throughout Great Britain, as well as the Rail Alphabet typeface used on the British railway system and an early version of the signs used in airports. In the above video, James May annoys her.
In 1966 Henry Ford II, hired Paul Rand to rethink the Ford logo.
“After extensive research and considerable design exploration, a new style was worked out, and a handsome printed and bound presentation was prepared in a limited edition for the eventual review by Henry Ford II. After some deliberation, Mr. Ford finally decided that, when it came to the family name, what was good enough for his grandfather was good enough for him.”
- Allen Hurlburt, Communication Arts March/April 1999
A quick apology to my immediate family whom I’ve tortured over the past couple of years as I searched for the perfect office chair. Currently, I sit in a Herman Miller Mirra chair. The best in a long line of chairs to be sure and yet…
I have a new obsession and the object of that obsession is a rather handsome object. The Herman Miller Aluminum Group Executive Management Work Chair or Time Life Chair as it’s more commonly known. Designed by Charles and Ray Eames to grace the lobby of the Time-Life Building it was created as a way to provide the ultra comfort of the Eames Lounge Chair but in a much smaller form.
Aside from its very good looks, I would point out:
1. In 1972, chess grand master Bobby Fischer specifically requested the Eames executive chair while he competed in the World Chess Championship in Reykjavik. He said he could concentrate well in the chair. When his opponent Boris Spaasky saw it, he refused to play until he got one too.
2. Mr. Donald Draper sat in just such a chair. He gave his up. Bad things happened to him.
Locating the chair isn’t an issue as they’re still in production (though I’d prefer an original); however form and function don’t come cheap. For now I’ll have to make due with ogling the 1966 product brochure (download).
This vacuum tube hybrid stereo amplifier designed by Koichi Futatsumata for EK Japan is not only a stunning piece of design but sure to deliver rich warm tones. I have it on good authority it will go on sale around December of this year. Expect to pay in the region of JPY 70,000. That’s about $800 or just north of £500.
Yes, if I had need of a new amp I’d be all over it but the Braun SK5 is still taking care of business in my household. Not saying I wouldn’t accept a review unit however…
Aegir Hallmundur, of Ministry of Type recently shared an illustrative piece he created for Wired Magazine. The piece he created is the re-imagining of a US one hundred dollar bank note.
Some elements such as the Paypal, iTunes logo incorporations may be slightly impractical but I don’t believe this was an exercise in practicality and I appreciate every aspect of his design and the issues of pursuing the imperfect perfection he raised in his post are particularly intriguing.
I recall my first encounter with European currency. Aged 16 and traveling outside of the US with a friend, the Dutch Guilder made quite an impression.
I remember thinking how exotic, how colorful and how utterly absurd it was. It might as well have been play money with all those colors and watermarks. Everyone knew that REAL money was supposed to be green, sober and dull. After a day or so however the naiveté fell away. I was able to discern the denominations with only a glimpse of a note’s folded corner and the watermarking was so cleverly incorporated it dawned how difficult it would have been to forge. Form and function all wrapped up into one.
Of course like the Guilder, currencies and their designs do sometimes fade away.
The example below is a Bank of South Carolina Five Dollar note. You can see in this design hints of the US currency we know today.
When currencies evolve rather than die, I’m sure there must be a period of exploration that takes place - though I’d imagine this process is often quite limited and stifled. I’m intrigued then when more adventurous concepts crop up. Japanese designer Mac Funamizu evolved representational aspects of Infographics into coins with each demoniation’s shape representing their respective pie chart ratio. Imagine how quickly a tourist could understand the value of each.
Occasionally bright ideas do actually manage to make their way past bureaucratic jug heads as was the case in 2008 when a young designer by the name of Matthew Dent was the winner of a competition to decide the new look of the UK’s coinage.
While not as adventurous as the Infgraphical concept, Matthew’s design retained all of the history and form of the previous coins but brought a modern twist and elegance by featuring a section from the Royal Arms on the reverse of each coin. The one pound coin displaying the full coat while the others establish a collective whole when seen together.
Happily it seems this process of challenging our design preconceptions with regards to currency is something being actively pursued by some design educators. Jason Santa Maria, a Graphic Designer who is also a faculty member in the MFA Interaction Design Program at the School of Visual Arts, recently challenged his students to design their own local currency. The results were as diverse as the neighborhoods they represented.
It’s so easy to look past the design of the currency we use every day but like most things we take for granted, there is beauty there if we take a moment to stop, look and enquire.
Since Christmas the white 10" Dyson Air Multiplier has sat on my desk. I’ll grant you it’s a bit odd to get a fan for Christmas but hey, I was asked what I wanted and it was on my list.
It’s a beautiful piece of industrial design. Dyson’s claim that they’ve created a better fan is justified. The air output is steady and the adjustable force of the air is powerful. The tilt mechanism works well as does the oscillation.
It’s much louder than I thought it would be. Its design suggests it will run as a whisper but it sounds more like a mini Dyson vacuum being switched on (which it likely is in some way). I don’t mean to imply it’s loud to a distracting level just that it was not what I was expecting. The only other slight negative is the adjustable force of the air stream. As I mentioned, you can turn this up to a level that can easily be felt on the other side of a standard sized living room which is great, however its lowest setting is really a bit too strong for a desk fan considering its proximity to the user. That said, the effect can be somewhat diminished by tilting the angle of the fan. Also, it’s damn expensive
Not for everyone I’m sure but I have no regrets. I’m sure this fan will continue to evolve but even in its current incarnation it’s a winner.
Distrito Capital is a rather handsome hotel located in Mexico City. Of particular interest are the various Dieter Rams pieces peppered about the place. I spy a Braun RT 20 and a TS 45.
My interest in such works will be elaborated upon in an upcoming post.
The stunning example above is the work of Studio On Fire, letterpress printers extraordinaire. You can read more about the project here. It’s encouraging to know that such studios still exist and thrive and that there are designers out there producing this level of work. I had hoped to use them a while back for some letterpress business cards, but alas budgets weren’t what they needed to be. Some day though…some day…
Ogling Studio on Fire’s work got me thinking about those business cards again and I realized that I’ve been seeing some really inspiring designs of late which is somehow comforting as it seems the business cards of our more recent history have become generally dull and uninspiring. Quite unlike some of the cards that came before.
First made popular in the early 17th Century and used not only as a point of introduction but for advertising and maps as well.
More commonly known as Calling Cards, these date back as far as 15th century China, making their way to Europe by the 17th century. By the 19th century they started becoming a little more stark though they still might retain some reserved flourishes and the card cases were themselves often fairly ornate.
I don’t think we’re going to see the demise of the business card any time very soon which I’m glad of. There is something so fundamentally pleasing about holding a well designed card printed on quality stock. Smart touches such as UV spot varnishing or the tactile loveliness of letterpress register deeply with our core.