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  • feedwordpress 09:01:33 on 2017/01/08 Permalink
    Tags: Baskerville, design, , , James Callan, , ,   

    “Brief murmurs only just almost never all known”*… 

     

    Q1: What is, traditionally, the principal unit of measurement for measuring floorspace in Taiwan? Taipei 101’s floorspace of 379,296 square meters converts to about 114,737 of the unit in question.

    Q2: If you’re playing Magic: The Gathering, what slangy verb (synonymous with poke, zap, and Tim) might you use to signify dealing one hit point of damage to a target?

    Q3: Analogies: Rosalind is to Ganymede as Éowyn is to Dernhelm as Fa Mulan is to whom?

    Q4: What fictional wanderer, introduced in a 1933 book often read by Captain Kangaroo, lives with “his mother and his father and two sisters and three brothers and eleven aunts and seven uncles and forty-two cousins”?

    Q5: What networking utility, first written for 4.2a BSD UNIX in 1983, sends echo request packets and reports on echo replies?

    All is revealed in the 21st installment of James Callan‘s wonderful series of newsletters, “Five Questions, One Answer.”

    * Samuel Beckett, “Ping.”

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    As we sign up for the next pub quiz, we might spare a thought for John Baskerville, English printer and typefounder; he died on this date in 1775.  Among Baskerville’s publications in the British Museum’s collection are Aesop’s Fables (1761), the Bible (1763), and the works of Horace (1770).  And as for his fonts,  Baskerville’s creations (including the famous “Baskerville”) were so successful that his competitors resorted to claims that they damaged the eyes.

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  • feedwordpress 09:01:03 on 2016/12/14 Permalink
    Tags: Bauhaus, Cereal, cornflakes, design, Gropius, , Kellogg, , , Weimar   

    “Design is neither an intellectual nor a material affair, but simply an integral part of the stuff of life, necessary for everyone in a civilized society”*… 

     

    Architect Walter Gropius founded the Bauhaus in 1919 in Weimar by merging the state schools of fine and applied arts. In this pamphlet with a frontispiece by Lyonel Feininger, he called on artists to return to craft and to collaborate on architecture, and outlines the new school’s curriculum.

    The Harvard Art Museums hold one of the first and largest collections relating to the Bauhaus, the 20th century’s most influential school of art and design. Active during the years of Germany’s Weimar Republic (1919–33), the Bauhaus aimed to unite artists, architects, and craftsmen in the utopian project of designing a new world. The school promoted experimental, hands-on production; realigned hierarchies between high and low, artist and worker, teacher and student; sharpened the human senses toward both physical materials and media environments; embraced new technologies in conjunction with industry; and imagined and enacted cosmopolitan forms of communal living. The legacies of the Bauhaus are visible today, extending well beyond modernist forms and into the ways we live, teach, and learn.

    In its mere 14 years of existence, and across its three locations, three directors, and hundreds of students from around the world, the Bauhaus entertained diverse political and artistic positions, and served as hothouse for a variety of “isms,” from expressionism, Dadaism, and constructivism to various hybrids thereof…

    Tour the collection at “The Bauhaus.”

    * Walter Gropius

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    As we grapple with Gropius, we might spare a thought for another kind of utopian– physician and health-food pioneer John Harvey Kellogg, who died on this date in 1943, aged 91.  For 62 years before his death, Kellogg operated a sanitarium in Battle Creek, Michigan that was run along holistic lines:  a vegetarian, he advocated low calorie diets and developed peanut butter, granola, and toasted cereals; he warned that smoking caused lung cancer decades before this link was studied; and he was an early advocate of exercise.  For all that, he is surely best remembered, for having developed corn flakes (with his brother Will, who went on to sweeten and commercialize them).

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  • feedwordpress 09:01:39 on 2016/11/29 Permalink
    Tags: , cover, design, , , , match book, , Meiji Constitution,   

    “Three matches one by one in the night”*… 

     

    Japanese match book covers…  Many more at Agence Eureka.

    (via Tyler Hellard‘s always-enriching Pop Loser)

    * “Trois Allumettes,” Jacques Prevert

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    As we close the cover before striking, we might recall that it was on this date in 1890 that the Meiji Constitution went into effect in Japan, and the first Diet convened.  Modeled on both the Prussian and the British models, the Meiji Constitution provided for a form of mixed constitutional and absolute monarchy that lasted until 1947.   In practice, the Emperor was head of state, but the Prime Minister was the actual head of government.

    “Meiji Constitution Promulgation,” by Toyohara Chikanobu

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:58 on 2016/10/27 Permalink
    Tags: ACLU, ballot, design, elections, , Nero Wolfe, Rex Stout, , Vanguard Press,   

    “It’s not opinion polls that determine the outcome of elections, it’s votes in ballot boxes”*… 

     

    This Nov. 8, even if you manage to be registered in time and have the right identification, there is something else that could stop you from exercising your right to vote.

    The ballot. Specifically, the ballot’s design.

    Bad ballot design gained national attention almost 16 years ago when Americans became unwilling experts in butterflies and chads. The now-infamous Palm Beach County butterfly ballot, which interlaced candidate names along a central column of punch holes, was so confusing that many voters accidentally voted for Patrick Buchanan instead of Al Gore.

    We’ve made some progress since then, but we still likely lose hundreds of thousands of votes every election year due to poor ballot design and instructions. In 2008 and 2010 alone, almost half a million people did not have their votes counted due to mistakes filling out the ballot. Bad ballot design also contributes to long lines on election day. And the effects are not the same for all people: the disenfranchised are disproportionately poor, minority, elderly and disabled

    More– with some encouraging examples of remedies– at “Disenfranchised by Bad Design.”

    * Nicola Sturgeon

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    As we pull the lever, we might spare a thought for Rex Todhunter Stout; he died on this date in 1975. A writer of detective fiction, he created master sleuth Nero Wolfe and his assistant Archie Goodwin, who were featured in 33 novels and 39 novellas between 1934 and 1975– earning Stout the Mystery Writers of America’s Grand Master Award.

    But as importantly, Stout had a vital career as a public intellectual and activist: he was active in the early years of the American Civil Liberties Union and a founder of the Vanguard Press. He served as head of the Writers’ War Board during World War II, became a radio celebrity, and was active in promoting world federalism, and was the long-time president of the Authors Guild.

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:37 on 2016/10/08 Permalink
    Tags: design, Design Library, Hair, , Nessler, Nestle, Patterns, permanent wave, Peter Koepke, ,   

    “Good design doesn’t date. Bad design does.”*… 

     

    Where do patterns come from? While some might be computer-generated using the latest in image scanning and digital printing technologies, many more can be sourced to the Design Library—the world’s largest collection of patterns.

    Located about 75 minutes from Manhattan in the Hudson Valley village of Wappingers Falls, the Design Library holds more than 7 million different documentary fabrics, original paintings, wallpapers, embroideries, and yarn dyes inside a huge, 12,000-square foot converted fabric mill. Designers hailing from couture fashion brands, as well as those from national chains and big-box stores, all travel to the library to find historical material to use, adapt, and remix in service of their own creative vision.

    “The idea here is to get [the patterns] back out into the world and let the world see them recreated, even duplicated,” says Peter Koepke, the owner of the Design Library…

    Browse further at “Inside The World’s Largest Pattern Library.”

    * Paul Rand

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    As we agree with Charles Eames that “the details aren’t the details, they make the design,” we might recall that it was on this date in 1906 that Karl Ludwig Nessler (who changed his name for commercial purposes to “Nestle”), demonstrated the first “permanent wave” for hair in his beauty salon in Oxford Street, London, to an invited audience of hair stylists. The hair was soaked with an alkaline solution and rolled on metal rods which were then heated strongly.

    This initial method had the disadvantages of being expensive, very lengthy (about 5 hours) and required a cumbersome machine beneath which the client was obliged to wear a dozen brass curlers, each weighing 1-3/4 lb.

    But Nessler/Nestle continuously improved his process.  With the outbreak of WW I, he moved to the United States and opened salons in New York, Chicago, Detroit, Palm Beach and Philadelphia, ultimately employing 500.

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:39 on 2016/09/23 Permalink
    Tags: , British, design, Great New England Hurricane, Long Island Express, , Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, safety, storm, ,   

    “Making ornaments / Of accidents and possibilities”*… 

     

    This solemn group of posters teaching safety to British citizens comes from the archive of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents. The images are from the Wellcome Library’s website; I first saw them on the blog the Passion of Former Days.

    The RoSPA displayed a series of its 20th-century posters in a 2012 exhibition, after rediscovering a small archive of them in an outbuilding. In the exhibition notes,RoSPA curators noted that the society, which dates back to World War I, focused on road safety and pedestrian awareness in the 1920s and 1930s (much like analogous American safety organizations).

    From the redoubtable Rebecca Onion: “Stark, Spare, Beautiful Midcentury British Safety Posters.”

    * Vladimir Nabokov, Pale Fire

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    As we put safety first, we might recall that it was on this date in 1938 that the Great New England Hurricane (AKA, The Long Island Express) dissipated.  It had made landfall on Long Island on September 21. With impact felt from New Jersey all the way north to Canada, the storm was estimated to have killed 682 people, damaged or destroyed over 57,000 homes, and caused property losses estimated at $306 million ($4.7 billion in current value).

    Storm surge from the 1938 hurricane at the Battery, New York City

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:12 on 2016/09/12 Permalink
    Tags: , cave painting, Cooper Hewitt, design, , Lascaux, Marcel Ravidat, Smithsonian,   

    “Design can be art. Design can be aesthetics. Design is so simple, that’s why it is so complicated”*… 

     

    Late-19th-century earrings incorporating real hummingbird heads

    Home to drawings, textiles, jewelry, furniture, and thousands of other design objects, the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum is taking increased advantage of the internet’s digital real estate. The museum recently completed a massive digitization project that places almost its entire collection online; nearly 200,000 objects are now accessible and searchable, allowing online visitors to see just how rich its holdings are. Many of these works currently reside in the institution’s storage facility, so the project is a means of placing them in the public eye on a platform that also offers background information on each one…

    Whitehead & Hoag Company, “Cawston Ostrich Farm, South Pasadena, California” (c. 1900)

    More at “From Tiny Stairs to Taxidermy Earrings, 200,000 Objects from Cooper Hewitt Go Online“; dive into the collection here.

    * Paul Rand

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    As we shake out the duster, we might recall that it was on this date in 1940 that a teenager named Marcel Ravidat discovered the entrance to Lascaux Caves in southwest France.  Following a dog down the narrow entrance and into the cavern, Ravidat and three friends came upon (part of) the now-storied collection of wall markings– 15,000- to 17,000-year-old paintings, consisting mostly of animal representations– that are among the world’s finest examples of art from the Upper Paleolithic period.

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:00 on 2016/09/11 Permalink
    Tags: , Coast Guard, , , design, Federalist Party, Mint, , , Treasury,   

    “The best way to destroy the capitalist system is to debauch the currency”*… 

     

    In a world full of smartphone payments and cryptocurrency, 85% of all transactions are still done in cash. Australia actually sees cash demand rising at a steady 6% to 7% per year with no decline on the horizon.

    As printers and scanners become more sophisticated, the government has moved to ensure that its currency is safe. “What we noticed in recent years, with the availability of technology—particularly around reproduction technology like scanners and printers—counterfeiting in Australia had started to increase. We’re in the fortunate position where it’s still pretty low but it is rising,” says James Holloway, deputy head of note issue at Reserve Bank of Australia. “We thought we just don’t want it to keep rising in a sustained fashion, so the time had come around upgrading security”…

    How Australia means to frustrate counterfeiters: “The Painstaking, Secretive Process Of Designing New Money.”

    * Vladimir Lenin

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    As we bite our coins, we might recall that it was on this date in 1789 that President George Washington named Alexander Hamilton as the first U.S. Secretary of the Treasury.  A founding Father, Hamilton created the Federalist Party, the world’s first voter-based political party, the the United States Coast Guard, and the The New York Post newspaper.  As Treasury Secretary Hamilton stabilized the nation’s economy and paid back the mountainous debt resulting from the Revolutionary War.  He established the first national bank and created the U.S. Mint in (the precursor of) the form in which we know it today.

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:37 on 2016/07/14 Permalink
    Tags: André Berge, design, , , Loewy, personality, , , , streamlining,   

    “Personality is everything in art and poetry”*… 

     

    Marcel Proust

    From parlor game to psychological staple, the strange story of the Proust Questionnaire…

    In 1886, Antoinette Faure, the daughter of the future French President Félix Faure, asked her childhood friend Marcel Proust to fill out a questionnaire in a book titled “Confessions. An Album to Record Thoughts, Feelings, & c.” A fashionable parlor game originating among the Victorian literate classes, the “confession album,” as it was known, presented a formulaic set of queries on each page—“What is your distinguishing characteristic,” for instance, or “What virtue do you most esteem?” The album’s owner would pass the volume around among her friends, collecting their comments as a kind of souvenir, not unlike the notes that high-school students leave in one another’s yearbooks. Though Proust was only fourteen years old when he filled out Faure’s album, he responded to the questionnaire in precociously Proustian style. Beside the prompt “Your favorite virtue?,” he wrote, “All those that are not specific to any one sect; the universal ones.” To the rather pedestrian question “Where would you like to live?,” he answered, “In the realm of the ideal, or rather my ideal.” His “idea of misery,” true to form, was “to be separated from Maman.” And when asked, “For what fault have you most toleration?,” he replied, “For the private lives of geniuses.”

    The young Proust wrote his answers in French, though Faure’s album, a British import, was printed in English. In his early twenties, Proust would fill out a second questionnaire, in a French album titled “Les Confidences de Salon.” He was far from the only significant cultural figure to participate in this ritual. In 1865, Karl Marx confessed that he considered his chief characteristic “singleness of purpose,” and that his favorite occupation was “bookworming.” Five years later, Oscar Wilde wrote in an album called “Mental Photographs, an Album for Confessions of Tastes, Habits, and Convictions” that his distinguishing feature was “inordinate self-esteem.” Arthur Conan Doyle, Stéphane Mallarmé, and Paul Cézanne all filled out similar forms. But while these other confessions are curios of their era, remembered only by historians, Proust’s questionnaires have had a far-reaching influence that their young author could scarcely have foreseen, becoming, over time, the template for one of the most widely administered personality quizzes in history.

    This peculiar afterlife began in 1924, two years after Proust’s death, when Antoinette Faure’s son, the psychoanalyst André Berge, discovered his mother’s confession album in a pile of old volumes among her effects…

    More at “How the Proust Questionnaire went from literary curio to prestige personality quiz.”

    * Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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    As we answer authentically, we might spare a thought for Raymond Loewy; he died on this date in 1986.  A pioneering industrial designer, he shaped landscape of manufactured goods in the U.S., from the Coca-Cola bottle and vending machine, through the automobile (e.g., the Studebaker 1947 Starlight Coupe, the 1953 Starliner Coupe,  the 1961 Avanti, and the Greyhound Scenicruiser bus) and appliances (the 1947 line of Hallicrafter radio receivers that conveyed a crisp precision far ahead of their time; the 1929 Gestetner duplicating machine, the 1934 Sears Coldspot Refrigerator), to the heavy industrial (the Pennsylvania Railroad GG1 and S-1 locomotives); and he created logos for companies including Shell, Exxon, TWA, and the former BP. (A more complete list of his work, here.)  For all of this, he earned the epithets The Man Who Shaped America, The Father of Streamlining, and The Father of Industrial Design.

    Loewy standing on one of his designs, the Pennsylvania Railroad’s S1 steam locomotive

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:54 on 2016/05/21 Permalink
    Tags: Capri, Capri pants, design, , , polka dot, Sonja de Lennart,   

    “Fashion changes, but style endures”*… 

     

    Once upon a time, spotted prints went by a host of other names. Slate’s Jude Stewart provides an overview: in the 19th century, “Dotted-Swiss referred to raised dots on transparent tulle,” and in France, “quinconce described the diagonal arrangement of dots seen on the 5-side of dice.” Meanwhile, “[t]he large coin-sized dots on fabric, called Thalertupfen in German, got their name from Thaler, the currency of German-speaking Europe until the late 1800s.”

    But then came the polka, the dance so popular that mid-19th century Europe came up with the word “polkamania” to describe its own excitement. As the polka craze swept west across the continent, enthusiasts claimed the polka jacket, then the polka hat (neither of them spotted), and finally, the polka dot. There is only a tenuous connection between dot and dance, yet surely the two are linked—it’s possible that polka dots reflect the same regulated, short bursts of energy that inflect the polka itself. Regardless, we know that the American women’s magazine Godey’s Lady’s Book was the first to print the term, in an 1857 description of a “scarf of muslin, for light summer wear, surrounded by a scalloped edge, embroidered in rows of round polka dots”…

    More fashionable fun at “A Brief History of Polka Dots.”

    * Coco Chanel

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    As we avoid pairing with plaids, we might send elegant but perky birthday greetings to Sonja de Lennart; she was born on this date in 1920.  A fashion designer who began her career at the close of World War II, she created a wide-swinging skirt with a wide belt (which, as readers can see below, she modeled herself), a blouse, and hat–a collection that became known as the Capri Collection.  A couple of years later, in a move away from the wide and rather masculine trouser profile being worn by women of the day, she added a tighter, three-quarter length pant to the collection, the Capri pant.  Audrey Hepburn made the slacks famous, wearing them first in Roman Holiday, then Sabrina.  As a result, Edith Head embraced the entire Capri line’s look, and so they adorned Doris Day, Jane Russell, Katharine Hepburn, Gina Lollobrigida, Ava Gardner, Elizabeth Taylor, Jacqueline Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe, Kim Novak, Sophia Loren, Anita Ekberg, and Mary Tyler Moore… along with black turtleneck-wearing Existentialists in Paris.

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