In March 2013, the Bay Bridge in San Francisco lit up. Artist Leo Villareal designed a massive installation that transformed the bridge that stretches between Oakland and San Francisco into a canvas of shimmering lights. It was public art on a grand scale; like the Eiffel Tower in Paris, only bigger. Some numbers: 25,000 lights, 1.8 miles long, 500 feet high.
It twinkled for two years and then in March of 2015, the lights turned off. Now, just in time for the Super Bowl, the lights are coming back. Thanks to $4 million in funding, Illuminate the Arts commissioned Villareal to design a new light show, which we can only assume will surpass the original in terms of ambition. They turn on tomorrow evening (Jan. 30), and this time, word is, they’re sticking around for good.
TKTK The trash can. The pouring paint can. The happy Mac. Susan Kare made them all. In designing these and countless other symbols, she established the visual language that would form the basis of point-and-click computing. Here, Kare, icon of icons, talks about the creative decisions behind some of the best-loved symbols of the past four decades. TKTK
“Just because you have access to millions of colors doesn’t mean you have to use them all for every job.”
“Understand the contstraints of a project before you start, then you can be creative within those constraints.”
Barbie just got a redesign. The iconic doll now comes in four different sizes: petite, tall, curvy, and original. You know the original size—it’s the one that, if Barbie were a life-size human woman, would leave her with a 16-inch waist and an inability to walk on her own two feet. It’s also the size that’s outraged critiques for years, prompting Mattel to make a radical design move. That move was unveiled this morning, in a TIME magazine cover story. The TIME story covers the business and design choices that went into launching the new Barbie body styles, but it also sheds some light on the origins of Barbie’s unattainable figure:
Barbie has courted controversy since her birth. Her creator, Ruth Handler, based Barbie’s body on a German doll called Lilli, a prostitute gag gift handed out at bachelor parties. Her proportions were designed accordingly. When Handler introduced Barbie (named after her daughter Barbara) in 1959 at the New York Toy Fair, her male competitors laughed her out of the room: nobody, they insisted, would want to play with a doll with breasts. Still, Barbie’s sales took off, but by 1963 women were protesting the same body men had ridiculed. That year, a teen Barbie was sold with a diet book that recommended simply, “Don’t eat.” When a Barbie with pre-programmed phrases uttered, “Math class is tough,” a group called the Barbie Liberation Organization said the doll taught girls that it was more important to be pretty than smart.
The new sizing lexicon is deliberately neutral, but in plain English it means that in addition to the original doll you can now buy a short Barbie, a tall Barbie, or a Barbie with hips, thighs, and a hint of meat on her bones. It’s this last one—curvy Barbie—that is the real game changer, and the one that’s stirring up reactions. They are, of course, mixed:
So love this! ABOUT TIME! Can I lob in a request for #PowerLiftingBodyBarbie?! @barbie @mattel https://t.co/9LT3zFqwST — Sarah Robb O’Hagan (@SarahRobbOh) January 28, 2016
Look. Here’s why curvy @Barbie matters to me: I tell my daughters my body is normal, all bodies are normal, but their dolls don’t back me up
— Mena Vuvalini (@filamena) January 28, 2016
Curvy Barbie? She represents the first institutional voice to ever tell me my body type is pretty *now*, not in some golden past. — Tenderly Punk (@sweetpavement) January 28, 2016
Im happy and cautious in my sentiments of this change–what Barbie is doing is beautiful! Yes it was spurred by $ losses but they’re a Corp
— Tatiana King Jones (@TatianaKing) January 28, 2016
The new Barbie looks like me if I lost twenty pounds in my arms and nowhere else, basically — Rachel Feltman (@RachelFeltman) January 28, 2016
the fact that it’s just a new kind of Barbie & not like, Barbie’s Fat Friend is making me real happy, is all
— AC Sullivan (@GOODNESSaidan) January 28, 2016
Curvy #Barbie? That’s good. Now, where’s #DadBod Ken? — BigHeadSports (@BigHeadSports) January 28, 2016
The Guggenheim Museum in New York City is as much a tribute to architecture as it is to art. The building, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, is a wonder to wander through, with its soaring atrium and gleaming, spiraled ramps. It’s a museum best experienced in person, of course—but for those of who can’t make it in the flesh, good news: You can now visit through your computer.
Following museums like the Museum of Modern Art and the Tate in London, the Guggenheim is the latest addition to Google’s expanding Cultural Institute project, which has digitized more than 32,000 pieces of artwork from more than 150 museums around the world since 2011. Using Google’s Street View technology, digital visitors can now explore Wright’s building, ascending and descending its ramp with a digital pair of feet. More than 120 artworks have also been digitized and made available online.
The museum explains it was quite the challenge to capture the essence of the building, given its unique architecture. Apparently, it took a fleet of drone, tripod, and street view trolley cameras to get the shots that were then stitched together for a 360-degree view. We have to admit that, while it’s way cooler to see see the museum IRL, the circularity of the Guggenheim does lend itself quite nicely to the 360 experience.
The Danish have a word, hygge, that crudely translates to “cozy.” More accurately, it translates to, that profoundly content feeling you get when it’s frigid outside but you’re inside wearing flannel and drinking hot toddies in front of a fire.
Hygge, pronounced “hoo-gah,” is a bit of a polysemy. It’s derived from the Norwegian word for “well-being,” and you can feel hygge, be hygge, or do hygge. Denmark’s official tourism website has a page called “The art of Danish hygge,” which explains that hygge high season starts at Christmas, “when Danes pull out all the hygge stops,” but reassures you that you can still experience hygge in the summer. “Picnics in the park, barbeques with friends, outdoor concerts, street festivals and bike rides can all be very hygge.” According to the BBC, hygge is even a course subject at Morley College in London.
Hygge is also the best way to explain the principles of Scandinavian design. Think of it like an aesthetic adaptation to the harsh winters there; when it’s below freezing and dark for 16 hours a day, making your indoor environment warm and welcoming is imperative. As Fredrik Carlström, the founder of a Scandinavian design studio called Austere, put it to me (in a separate interview), “Scandinavian design isn’t austere. It’s what is outside that’s austere and it makes our homes really nice.” It’s why furniture and lighting from that part of the world is of such high caliber.
If you’re not yet hip to hygge, now might be a good time to embrace the Danish attitude towards the cold. Menacing news reports of the “crippling” and “deadly” blizzard that’s headed for the east coast will remind you to stock up on bottled water and batteries. (And you should, we’re not here to be flippant about potentially dangerous storms). But hygge, aptly described by this travel website as, “the art of creating intimacy,” might help you pull through, too.
Since opening its World Headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon, in 1990, Nike has consistently augmented its campus. The latest expansion was just announced, and it’s 3.2-million square feet of ziggurat-like buildings, parking areas, and mixed-use facilities.
That’s massive. By comparison, Apple’s new spaceship campus will be a reported 2.8-million square feet. To pull it off, the athletic wear company is working with three different studios—ZGF Architects, SRG Partnership, and Skylab Architecture—and one landscape architecture firm. Judging from the materials available, it’s early days for the expansion. Nike released two renderings. One is an aerial view of the arrayed offices that “takes inspiration from human movement, speed and the strength and energy of competition.” The other shows off a basketball court and a series of outdoor staircases that echo Renzo Piano’s famous design for the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris. CEO Mark Parker said the new designs are good for employees, which makes them good for the athletes who wear Nike’s stuff. “We relentlessly evolve how we inspire our own teams and design environments that foster chemistry and collaboration.” It’s slated to open in 2018.
As simple as a t-shirt is, the more it becomes a sartorially accepted wardrobe staple, the more we expect out of it. The folks over at Threadbase, a newly launched data project, know this and are here to help. The founders are on a mission to, “organize clothing data and make it searchable,” and for their inaugural database, they’ve analyzed men’s t-shirts, by washing, drying, measuring, and weighing an insane 800 of them.
Threadbase’s findings, rendered in chart form, tell you that a size small Uniqlo crew neck shirt is the same size as a medium Alternative Apparel crew neck shirt, chest width-wise. They inform you that Alternative Apparel, Banana Republic, and H&M sell some of the shortest t-shirts out there. It also explains that with tees, weight—a sensory detail that can often evoke a sense of luxury—does not correlate to price. And much, much more.
A t-shirt is a personal thing—a 2013 story in The New York Times Sunday Magazine said that 9 out of every 10 Americans clings to at least one old shirt for sentimental reasons. Maybe you like your tees boxy, or heavy, or especially resilient, when tumbling around a dryer set on high heat. Either way, this impressively granular batch of data might help.
Here is a recently erected church in Taiwan that’s shaped like a shoe. The structure is over fifty feet tall, and was designed by local government officials in Taiwan’s Southwest Coast National Scenic Area.
It is reportedly meant to attract female visitors, “especially female tourists visiting the area.”
Zaha Hadid Architects
It’s been six months since the Japanese government axed Zaha Hadid’s 2020 Olympic Stadium, and now, The Telegraph reports, the Japan Sport Council is refusing to pay her for it.
The withheld payment has to do with copyrights over Hadid’s design. The Japan Sports Council wants them, and Hadid is refusing the hand them over. If she did, it would give the JSC license to use any element of her design, without any additional payment. It’s a confounding request, especially in light of the JSC’s very recent (and very public) decision to name Kengo Kuma as the stadium’s new architect.
The stadium project has been mired in trouble from the start. In 2013, Japanese designers made noise by calling Hadid’s design too large, and even started a petition to halt construction. In 2014, Hadid and the JSC struggled to maintain a budget, and the cost of the stadium ballooned to a reported $2 billion. This summer, Tokyo killed it. In October,
Hadid requested payment. In reply,
the JSC sent documents,
with the new copyright stipulations, to Hadid’s office.
After the JSC chose Kuma and his design for the stadium, in December, Hadid’s firm issued a statement that mentions the “remarkable similarities of our original detailed stadium layout and our seating bowl configuration with those of the design announced today.” The timing of the different events—the JSC’s request to hand over copyrights in the fall, followed by Hadid’s accusations about copycatting in December—would suggest that Hadid and her team believe Tokyo to be using her design, under the guise of a new architect. Kuma, of course, has denied the accusation.
Unfortunately for Hadid’s case, lots of stadiums are bowl-shaped, and that’s a building typology that you can’t protect under copyright. We recently spent some time unpacking the ins and outs of copyrighting architecture in this article, but cases such as this often boil down to a “total look and feel test,” in which a judge looks at two designs and asks, “do these things look substantially similar?” It’s a flimsy rule, and if you look at Hadid’s design and Kuma’s, it doesn’t look so good for the former.
Alejandro Aravena, a Chilean architect known for his creative approaches to designing affordable housing, was just named the 2016 Laureate of the Pritzker Architecture Prize. The Pritzker is perhaps architecture’s most coveted and prestigious award. Recent winners have included Frei Otto, Shigeru Ban, and Toyo Ito. Less recent winners list industry celebrities like Zaha Hadid and Renzo Piano.
At a time when architecture headlines tend to paint the industry as catering to the elite (see coverage of Jean Nouvel’s luxury condo tower in New York City’s midtown, or the scandal over Zaha Hadid’s now-scrapped $2 billion stadium for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics), it’s notable that the Pritzker Prize jury would choose an architect who seems to work very deliberately for the people. In a statement, Tom Pritzker, president and chairman of the Hyatt Foundation, which sponsors the award, said: “Alejandro Aravena has pioneered a collaborative practice that produces powerful works of architecture and also addresses key challenges of the 21st century. His built work gives economic opportunity to the less privileged, mitigates the effects of natural disasters, reduces energy consumption, and provides welcoming public space. Innovative and inspiring, he shows how architecture at its best can improve people’s lives.”
We woke to some sad news today: David Bowie, the magnetic, shape-shifting rock-and-roller, has died of cancer, following 18 months of treatment. He was 69.
During times of communal grief, people often cling to a symbol to pay tribute to the departed. It looks as though this GIF, by illustrator Helen Green, might be that symbol today. Green, a young artist from the UK, actually created the animation a year ago, for Bowie’s 68th birthday. She called it “Time May Change Me” (you know, from Changes), and it comprises 29 colored pencil drawings of Bowie during various stages of his chameleon-like career. There’s Bowie as Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane, and Major Tom. And then there’s Bowie as Bowie, visually reinvented again and again. Amidst the outpouring of mourning across the Internet, design and arts organizations are sharing it on Twitter, Instagram, and the like to honor his memory.
Bowie was an artist—but he was also art, himself. There will be many visual tributes to the icon in the days to come, but Green’s homage, which celebrates Bowie’s capacity for reinvention and unabashed self-expression, strikes us as particularly fitting.
In 18th century Europe, big, billowing coifs were the hot ticket for men and women alike. These remarkable hairstyles, perhaps most famously found atop the royal head of Marie Antoinette, were typically made from human, horse, or goat hair, and their voluminous height was boosted by padding and various other tools. To solidify the style, a paste made from pig fat would be applied. Lovely.
Buying a wig, one can imagine, was quite an investment in the 18th century. And indeed, a wig’s material and accessories were an outright display of wealth and status. The more elaborate your hair, the more elaborate your wealth.
While hardly a practical accessory, the wigs were, objectively, works of art. And so, it makes sense that an art museum has decided to pay homage to them by creating a perfect time-suck of a website. The V&A of London just launched Design a Wig to celebrate the re-opening of its 1600—1815 galleries. The interactive website allows users to build a powdered wig wielding only a computer mouse. It’s as simple as grabbing the avatar’s shock of blonde hair and pulling it upward and outward to create a mushroom cloud. Powder your wig with digital flour of various hues. Add flowers, a sailboat, feathers! The wig is your oyster. Go crazy!
And lest you feel bad about wasting 30 minutes of your employer’s time hypnotized by your newfound love of wig-making, just remind yourself: This isn’t a silly game; it’s a history lesson.
For many of us, the word “atlas” evokes memories of tattered roadmaps stuffed into a glove compartment. And while atlases are technically just collections of maps (be they of roads, outer space, the world wide web, or the human body), the good ones also have a way of presenting a more holistic picture of the things they document. American Panorama, a cool new project from the University of Richmond’s Digital Scholarship Lab, is a great example.
American Panorama aims to be an internet-era update to Charles’ Paullin’s sweeping Atlas of the Historical Geography of the United States from 1932. It recounts America’s history through interactive cartography, letting users drag sliders and click on bubbles to take an even deeper dive into specific moments in history.
American Panorama comprises four maps created by design studio Stamen. And these maps have depth. Adding a layers of technology and interactivity to an otherwise daunting trove of data helps us make connections we might otherwise miss. For example, in a map that looks at the foreign-born population from 1850 to 2010, I was able to see that my ancestors’ arrival to Nebraska in the 1880s coincided with the influx of Swedish immigrants at the time. Dragging the scrubber along the dateline reveals how, a century later, the foreign-born population in the state was mostly Asian (the map explains that 1980 was the first time the country’s largest immigrant population was not European), and how, by 2010, European immigrants had been largely superseded by people from Latin America, Vietnam, China and Iraq.
Paullin’s atlas examined the country’s social, economic and political history through a hyper-focused lens. The maps at American Panorama are similarly incisive, with titles like “Forced Migration of Enslaved People from 1810-1860,” “Canals from 1820-1860,” and “Overland Trails.” That there are currently just four maps to choose from means that—unless you’re a history buff—there’s probably a slight barrier to entry. And, if we’re being honest, these aren’t perfect data visualizations. The interaction is still a little clunky, and I found myself wanting to be able to drill down even deeper into the data.
Despite all that, as American Panorama develops into a full-fledged digital atlas, it’s only going to become more powerful and compelling. Because as it turns out, the addition of even the simplest interactions can make it feel as though you’re looking at history with a very powerful magnifying glass in hand—and that’s a very cool thing.
The year’s best book covers, chosen by the art director of The New York Times Book Review. https://t.co/XBQuxaXOih pic.twitter.com/Ywfkckq6Iy
— New York Times Books (@nytimesbooks) December 13, 2015
Book covers have to do a lot of work. In his review of 2015’s best book covers, Matt Dorfman, art director of The New York Times Book Review, describes that kind of work. “The covers that lure me into the pages,” he writes, “often do so by posing questions that I don’t want to ignore.”
Rodrigo Corral and Zak Tebbal.
What’s cool about this, at least right now, is that book cover designers seem to have more devices than ever at their disposal to pose these questions. There are certain rules, for sure, as master designer Peter Mendelsund—who has a design in this round up—has told us before. But designers can still thank Amazon and other e-outlets for this newfound liberation: because book covers often appear next to titles and the author name, designers are less beholden to promoting any kind of information hierarchy. To wit, if you scan the Times’s 12 picks for dust jackets, you’ll see that art, in the form of lavish illustrations, sometimes trumps legibility. Consider the excellent GIF cover for César Aira’s The Musical Brain. Designed by Rodrigo Corral and Zak Tebbal, it’s a killer merging of two technologies—one ancient, and one new.
It’s that time of year, when designers, consultants, and thinkers in general start talking about themes to watch for in the coming year. Fjord is one such design firm. The company, which consulting firm Accenture bought in 2013, puts out an annual trends report to capture, in broad strokes, the topics designers should “expect to tackle in the coming year.”
You’ll probably recognize some trends. The rise of voice recognition technology, virtual reality as an emerging medium, and the uptick in health data are developments that we’ve all talked a lot about this year. But embedded in the report are some burgeoning applications of good design that we’ve talked about a bit less. They’re worth mulling over.
Take the “atomization of apps,” or the end of the standalone app. Omnipresent services are happening already—Fjord uses the example of Spotify, which exists as much on your laptop as it does in your Uber—but are likely to seep into other parts of our lives. From the paper: “Visa is researching the commerce-connected car that pays for groceries, takeaways and fuel—literally payments (and collection) on wheels.”
There’s the rise in employee experience, or “EX”, design. “It was the fastest growing category of work at Fjord in 2015 across many industries, from banking to telecom to pharma,” says the report. When it comes to workplace tools like T&E reports or timesheets, even some progressive companies are woefully behind. To lure better talent from younger generations, businesses might want to pay attention to this decidedly unsexy category.
There’s also a section called “For the people” that looks at how governments are finally embracing design for social good. Some of this has to do with introducing in-house design standards, but the report highlights ways agencies can work with citizens. Consider the Mobile Justice app, made in tandem with the Black Lives Matter movement: “The app has a simple feature allowing smartphone owners to send video footage directly to the American Civil Liberties Union—all with the simple shake of a phone. The ACLU then systematically reviews it for potential legal action.”
Read the full report here.
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The Bay Bridge Lights Are Coming Back For Good