The DNA of this blog is composed of art, culture and design and it continues to be. Toronto is the hotbed of this trinity this week with the Interior Design Show and the Toronto Design Offsite Festival with various venues and points of focus. Designers, artists and their disciples will flock to Toronto’s cultural centre with installations and events all over Dundas West, Queen West, the Junction and other neighbourhoods.
Design and art aficionados will find their fix starting tonight with the launch party at Smash in the Junction starting at 8 p.m. Dear reader: if you are up for it, there’s a free (!) Letterpress Card-making Workshop at Graven Feather (906 Queen Street West) starting at 6 p.m.
The Junction will be the place to visit tonight with the above mentioned TODO Launch Party at Smash. My favourite art supplies shop, ARTiculations (2928 Dundas St West), will host an opening reception for the exhibit Accumulation by Christine Kim starting at 6 p.m. It’s all about investigating and experimenting with lines, light and shadow. Toronto’s beloved design shop Mjölk will host to Stockholm-based Italian industrial designer Luca Nichetto. If you’re a coffee fiend like I am, you might find a new toy that would enable your brewing vice with a new collection of accessories inspired by Italian coffee culture. The reception starts at 7 p.m.
Come Up To My Room at the Gladstone Hotel starts tomorrow, Thursday, January 23. Installations by A0 (ALSO Collective + Mason Studio) and EYES ON DESIGN are my top picks to see.
To finish the week off, Interior Design Show (IDS) will be open to the public this weekend at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. The two talks I will be attending are on Saturday, January 25. The first one with Sami Ruotsalainen of Marimekko and Andrew Sardone from the Globe and Mail at 12 p.m. The second is with Rafael de Cardenas from New York-based firm Architecture at Large in conversation with the Globe and Mail’s Style Editor Amy Verner at 4 p.m.
So, how’s your design week looking? Just grab some water, cash, your iPhone and you’re good to go.
For those who are on Pinterest, Urban Peanut: A Gallery has a board! Come and check it out here.
Ork Map of Toronto
Christopher Columbus_Map_New World_1490
By Mike Baldwin
Directions are either helpful or confusing, maps included. Visual cues are meant to minimize interference by by language and this is where design comes in. Conventions and cultural references are used to help in this experience but there are still shortcomings.
The visual that a map presents to its beholder is spatial; ingenious use of other elements like colours and texture gives the said beholder a space for personalizing the experience of wayfinding. One good example of this visual map is the ‘You Are Here’ map that can be found at any shopping centre. By using the beholder’s relative starting point, the hunt for the shoe sale is a little closer for someone shopping with daddy’s credit card which is a blessing (for the current teenager) and a curse (for the same teenager but ten years from and now also for the unknowing father).
Maps are documents of discovery. Without blazing trails, maps would not exist and without verifying accuracy, maps could very well be drawings mazes that can be filled with colour using wax crayons. Navigators commissioned by kings earned a living heading to the unknown seas brought back trophies as well as roughly plotted maps of their routes to get from one place to their destinations. Christopher Columbus had an estimated idea of how to get to the New World but confusion about where exactly his ship landed has born a huge influence on our present geographic references.
Recently, experimentation in cartography has come from graphic design. The maps are neither topographic, geographic or political; they have become typographic. Looking at the Ork maps of cities, including Toronto, the intention is to visually represent the different neighbourhoods and districts in urban centres through kerning and letting. They are useless if you are a tourist trying to navigate the streets but heck, they are beautiful.
Present-day collectible maps are great to serve as art and design pieces. Nothing else. They are visual references and approximations that could be slightly helpful. One can argue that this is a design failure; another can rebut by asking if we even need maps still. The analog/puritan in me would say ‘yes.’ The tech enthusiast in me asks, ‘don’t I have an app for that?’.
Visual communication is inescapable and we have accepted this situation. Ads are part of the visual clutter that encompasses urban living and brands are looking for a piece of the most important real estate there is: your brain.
Some of the brands that have made their imprints run the challenge of reinventing themselves to stay relevant, to widen their reach and to remind people how great their childhoods were because of this one particular brand.
Disney today release a new Joy Division inspired version of Mickey Mouse’s ears for the band’s Unknown Pleasures from 1979, designed by Ian Saville. With this logo, a new generation of Disney fans witness a reinvention of the popular mouse-ears silhouette meanwhile arousing the nostalgia of those who are, ahem, mature enough to know, recognize and appreciate record art. I will be ordering one because for the mouse ears.
A lot has happened since my last entry but the motivation for the blog remains the same. Little responsibilities have gotten in the way but here is Urban Peanut: A Gallery’s redux. It’s still far from becoming a brick and mortar gallery but here it is with a vengeance.
The theme of rebirth has fascinated humanity for a long time and various faiths and schools of thoughts have found new beginnings, for better or for worse, to be inspiring; this might offer a small clue about why popular brands rebrand.
The Gap, Starbucks, and American Apparel have in the last couple of months decided that a new take on their respective logos for different reasons.
For the Gap, the general consensus about their new logo was so utterly horrible that within days. I am quite certain that Monster.com received new business in the aftermath.
Starbucks’ reason to rid its logo of its written word is valid; to reach new, non-English speaking markets is a goal that any company would like to have on its five year plan, to the dismay of some loyalists who might feel alienated.
Just walking on Queen Street over the weekend, I noticed that American Apparel on Toronto’s esteemed street, also went through a little facelift. (I tried looking for a press release regarding the new look and was unsuccessful.) I was thinking of using ‘touchup’ but changing the typeface is closer to butchery and is not turning anyone on as much as their well-placed ads on the back of weekly magazines, right after the adult ads. Inspiration: ugly script is the new Helvetica.
The more image-saturated our daily lives become, the more we rely on visual cues to speed up the way we process information. Logos symbolize, in one image, what we want and expect. It is still a mystery to me why the Gap thought it would be a good idea to change their logo. A new beginning evokes hope and rebirth/rebranding is on the same plane. Ultimately, though, rebirth can sometimes just mean a second hack at life as a dung beetle.
It’s elementary semiotics: signs are universally acknowledged whereas symbols are more personal, societal. Feel free to use any adjective denoting subjectivity.
Graphic design is the practice of perpetually crafting symbols to represent a business, company, association or product. The eventuality that the symbol becomes a universal sign is circumstance, luck and above all, good design. It is the combination of all three that comprises the recipe for graphic design immortality and one example comes to mind: Milton Glaser.
Milton Glaser is the graphic designer behind the I Heart NY graphic that can be found at all the tourist shops in New York City. The simplicity of the graphic has made it a sign that has inspired many copycats to, well, copy and reinterpret Glaser’s work with the American Typewriter typeface, my personal favourite.
The red heart on Glaser’s graphic has been adapted to a maple leaf, in the case for Toronto, the Apple sign for the Apple Store in (irony!) New York City, a clover for Ireland and the list goes on. I think collecting all of the ‘tributes’ to Milton Glaser’s clean and simple work would make for a great book, if there is not one already in print. Taschen, I called this one.
It still boggles my mind how low of a priority graphic design is for organizations, yet we admire branding that has become an everyday presence among us. (Apple, anyone? or Nike’s swoosh?) Graphic designers are the unsung heroes of commerce and individuals working in business should realize that there is more to graphic design than font size and typefaces; creativity and vision are also very important.
Gustave Flaubert's "Madame Bovary," cover designed by Manolo Blahnik
Rebelling against the well-known adage can sometimes lead to trouble but for graphic designers, a book’s cover can hold significance.
The Penguin Classics edition of novels come to mind immediately when I think of a great book cover. The minimalist esthetic of the books is from the genius by the name of Jan Tschichold, a well-known typographer who had studied calligraphy and had a background in artisanat. His experience with papers of different qualities and weights gave him an edge over other typographers.
Tschichold was deeply influenced by the Weimar Bauhaus which steered him in the minimalist direction, after the first exhibition in 1923. A manifesto for Modernist design was written thereafter by the man, whose work was considered by Hitler a threat to the German people, after Tschichold’s arrest for ‘cultural Bolshevism.’ The printed word is powerful.
Working for Penguin Books has led to Tschichold’s immortality, at least in the shelves of bibliophiles and design-o-philes everywhere. There is even a WordPress template, the digital reincarnation of this very intriguing designer.
Penguin’s legacy in book cover design has led to collaborations with designers Ron Arad and Manolo Blahnik. Yes. You read correctly. Even classics like Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald and The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoyevsky have to remain current. As a literature enthusiast and design enthusiast, there is nothing better than having the best of the written word and design. Even better, a designer piece for less than $15. Manolo Blahnik has never been so accessible.