Monday, October 19, 2009

Outside Inspiration

Those creators who inspire revolution through dramatic improvement on or compelling deviation from the creations of their contemporaries are often regarded as originals. This seems to imply that they alone are the point of origin from which their ideas emanate, as if they are the creative equivalent of the Big Bang. However, unlike the Big Bang which has no fathomable history preceding it, every creator has a personal history chalk full of millions of stimuli and experiences which predates each and every one of their creations. Therefore, it is impossible for any person to create something which is devoid of outside inspiration. In his essay “The Etymology of Design: Pre Socratic Perspective” Kostas Terzidis breaks down notions of originality and innovation with respect to design when he claims
“design as a mental process of creation can be seen as bounded by the limits of preservation: any newly conceived thought, process, or form is nothing but a reordering of previous ones.”
If this is true then it is only the order and combination of ideas which can be called innovative. Likewise, it is not innovative ideas but rather innovative combinations or expressions of ideas which can make a creator revolutionary. This makes even more sense if one considers that these exalted revolutionary creations would not soar to such heights of popularity if they were not made up of ideas that resonated with great numbers of people.
Typographic Exploration In Hangul: Work by Hyunju Lee and Phil Choo

If a boundary line does exist between art and design it is certainly an ambiguous one. Typically, typography is a term one would expect to find on the design side of this dichotomy. However, if you squint your eyes while examining “Typographic Exploration in Hangul” you may not see it that way. The exhibit, which showcases the works of Hyunju Lee and Phil Choo at the UC Davis Walker Design Gallery October 4 – December 6, 2009, uses the native script of Korea to evoke emotion and communicate messages with both explicit and implicit meaning. While typography is commonly used to evoke emotion and is intrinsically tied to its primary function of communication, it is the implicit, higher order messages which make this edge toward the artistic. Both “Sad” and “Stand Up” are particularly effective at conveying visceral feeling through visual elements. Unfortunately, while all of the works are skillful in composition and technical execution, the neon rainbow color palate, lack of variation in typography and simple themes result in an exploration which is fairly mundane and ineffectual.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

"I and Love and You"

The Avett Brothers newest album entitled "I and Love and You" just hit shelves earlier this month with packaging as stark as the change listeners will hear in the band's music contained therein. A blurred vision of an old woman with posture twisted in on herself, whether by pain or pleasure is unclear, appears alone against a black background. Inside, vaguely grotesque renderings of the three band members seem to stare with faces twisted by severity, each one alone in a sea of black. The collection of songs, created with superstar producer Rick Rubin guiding the recording sessions, is comprised of predominately subtle, if not sparse, piano driven arrangements. This is a significant departure from the fairly extensive catalog of independently produced, rather raucous blue grass/new grass/ punk grass albums which have garnered an impressive number of fans over the course of the last few years. The heavy look of the album helps give weight to the "mission statement" displayed prominently on the inside cover in which one of the brothers attests to the omnipresent nature of love and the many ways it influences life. It, like the music, is arrestingly sincere and beautifully articulated with an overriding tone of optimism. The Avett Brothers don't sugar coat there message though. The bleak and the tortured are equally represented. In this way the album artwork serves as vivid counterpoint to the music in expressing the broad scope of the meaning of "I and Love and You".
Robert Welch Stanton Satin Silverware Set

Although packaging can often be deceiving, in the case of the Stanton Satin five piece silverware set by designer Robert Welch the packaging almost says it all. The box is long, glossy black rectangle. Printed lengthwise in the center, the designers name stands alone in brilliant white, hand written lettering. It is as if to say "this was designed by Robert Welch and that is all anybody needs to know." It seems an expression of pride or accomplishment or a promise of quality. Although the design contains only two words, the aesthetic embodies other words which are then associated with the product. Words like classy, elegant, and understated. As it turns out, all of the hype inspired by this simple packaging is an accurate representation of the product it contains. The silverware is designed with a superb combination of classic lines and subtle modern personality. This personality characterized by tastefully exaggerated width and curvature. It looks like someone took a set of high end silverware and put them in a furnace long enough for them to start to melt slightly. The spoons are the most unique element of the five piece set, extending from narrow "necks" into round "heads" that look just like balloons. Most of the edges on all of the pieces have been rounded smooth. This combines with the satin texture to create a very soft, sensuous feeling for hands and mouths alike.

Before Gatorade water was the only sports beverage. After Gatorade was introduced, the so called "Thirst Quencher" proceed to dominate if not define the market for many years before any rivals could even hope to challenge them. These days the market is saturated. It seems like every year there is a stadium full of companies peddling new drinks purported to enhance athletic performance. But amidst contenders for the throne, the old veteran still reigns supreme. However, as a likely attempt to stay current and hold their market share, Gatorade has refreshed its image. Now sporting a much more transparent label like many of those we have seen in the vitamin water camp, Gatorade may be vying for an elevated level of perceived purity. Indeed, the lightning bolt is the sole element of color other than the bright color of the liquid itself. Also similar to vitamin water like opponents is the diminutive denotation of flavor. Those observant enough to locate the flavor of a bottle of Gatorade are often rewarded with nothing more than an arbitrary name such as "Riptide Rush". This vague description tends to make it a little too obvious that the flavor of any Gatorade is almost indiscernible without visual cues. More curious is there move to minimize the presence of the company name and focus on a huge letter "G" along with the trademark lightning bolt as the dominant element on opposing sides of the packaging. This may be an effort to seem like a new exciting choice to younger consumers while still holding on to a symbol of their past reputation. Of course, there is the possibility that this new look will end up like the aging rock star who finally cuts his hair to modernize his image, causing him to look considerably older in comparison to the similarly styled younger generation while alienating his loyal fans at the same time.

OXO Travel Mug

As a fiscally conscious coffee aficionado (I suspect that may be Italian for "addict") I endeavor to brew my own breakfast beverage in the morning. When this is not possible and I am forced to procure my percolated potion at a commercial establishment, as an environmentally conscious consumer, I try to avoid using disposable containers. In either situation, a trusty travel mug is just what the doctor ordered. I used to have an older model OXO travel mug that I loved like she was my only child but sadly we lost track of each other in a shopping mall one day and I never saw her again. Recently, I adopted what appears to be a newer version of the mug I lost. Its 16 ounce stature is the same; imparting an ample dose of caffeine without hopping you up so much that you enthusiastically volunteer to take on extra work at the office . It has the same sleek handle free contours; allowing it to slide unencumbered in to almost any cup holder. The highly effective spill proof black plastic lid with push button closure butted up against an ergonomic, concave rubberized comfort grip give me vivid flashbacks of my missing loved one. However, this is where the similarities end. Below the grip, where the ring on my finger used to sound a resounding "ping" on a surface of brushed stainless steel, my ring emits only a flat "plunk" on the shiny plastic now in its place. It was enough to fool me in to ordering it from the online catalog but that plastic is a glaring disappointment in person. If it were only an external and therefore superficial shortcoming then perhaps I could overlook it. But alas, the heart of the OXO travel mug is plastic too. With mounting evidence indicating that plastics transfer harmful chemicals to food products especially when heat is involved, this is a design flaw I simply can not abide. After all, this is a mug. Its intended purpose is to hold extremely hot liquids until they are ready to be ingested. I don't want my caffeine laced with noxious petroleum byproducts thank you very much. I am putting the OXO travel mug back on the shelf and holding out for steel blue reason.