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.
The Art Gallery of Toronto is bringing Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera to Canada for the first time in an exhibit called ‘Frida & Diego: Passion, Politics and Painting.’ This event has been on my iCalendar since it was announced so ‘anticipation’ would be the word that first comes to mind.
I will be at the Members’ Preview so please watch this space.
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?’.
As a Torontonian, one thinks of his hometown romantically. A younger city, Toronto hosts architectural gems that the world marvels at; Mies Van Der Rohe’s Toronto Dominion Building in the International Style is a romantic encapsulation of Toronto’s history as a continuously growing global city in one structure.
The International Style aggravated critics because of its seeming lack in architectural lineage with its buildings now dotting urban centres throughout the world. Herr Van Der Rohe’s contribution mirrors Toronto’s story of growth and development.
As Toronto grew exponentially in population and in area, the International Style became, well, international. The city still continues its development towards the suburbs. Did people come to make the city the way it is? Or was the city already here for the people enrich further? One thing is for sure: Toronto, like the Toronto Dominion Building, is in the International Style.
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.
In time for the G20 summit in Toronto, Canada, I thought that I would explore walls and fence manufacturing. I found no names in connection with the fence that now surrounds the central part of the city, where world leaders and their contingencies will congregate, starting today. Think of all the publicity that the manufacturers would garner, being the official fence material supplier for an important event.
It is all about the material in construction and building. Great raw materials result in great finished products. Are the fences usable for housing applications? Then, I thought of how much fencing would be put into place for the summit. And then I thought of what would happen afterwards, when the fences are no longer needed.
The Berlin Wall continues to be a symbol of segregation and isolation. Its destruction in 1989 opened a new era of freedom and mobility for those living on both sides of the wall dividing East and West Berlin. Photos and alleged pieces of the wall plague souvenir shops in the German capital but, hey, I do not think that such a scheme would work out for the Toronto’s weekend eyesore.
May I suggest keychains and can openers, iPhone cases and bookmarks, along with souvenir rings to the entrepreneurs?
I am not so sure about the plans for the morning-after the G20 but sustainability has to be considered. Are the fences recycled? I have not found the answer to the question. Isn’t environmental policy one of the items on the agenda? Carbon-offsetting is also a viable option.