Article Archive

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    Some people may be already winding down for Christmas but not so Rob Gonzalez and Jonathan Quainton, aka Sawdust. They’ve just updated their site with so much new work that we were genuinely spoiled for choice when it came to selecting what to focus on. Great typographic illustrations for_Men’s Health_,_ Wired and The New Republic didn’t make the cut on this occasion; instead we decided to showcase two very different, but equally excellent, print projects.

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    There’s always something a little strange about parades. For us, they ignite a confused sort of excitement and delight in the voyeurism of looking on at others united for a cause, never entirely certain what’s going on, never totally engaged with the pageantry and accoutrements and singularity of the gathered crowd’s purpose. This sense is captured perfectly in Holly Falconer’s stunning photographic series Parade, in which she documents a little-known celebration called the Neston Ladies Day parade. The annual march sees women and girls take to the streets of the Cheshire town on the first Thursday of June, in a procession featuring a banner bearing the phrase: “Bear Ye One Another’s Burdens.”

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    It’s all well and good writing about slick, big-client, big-agency graphic design. But once in a while it’s bloody lovely to cast our eyes over a graphic design project that takes itself not-so-seriously. One photographed using Polaroid, and sent to us as if broadcast directly from amidst a 90s Kevin Smith film. The projection questions is the visual identity for Baohaus – a restaurant that takes its name as a smart little play on, er, bauhaus and Bao – the form of Taiwanese food the restaurant specialises in.

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    Never ones to rest on our laurels, in this week’s Studio Audience podcast we talk gay publishing in the form of BUTT magazine’s new book FOREVER BUTT, Somerset House’s upcoming exhibition of beards and jetset hedonism via the new issue of Mirage magazine.

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    As accolades go, being the man behind “the shortest film ever nominated for an Oscar” is pretty special. That’s exactly what PES (aka Adam Pesapane) can boast though after Fresh Guacamole’s nod for best animated short despite running to just 100 seconds. After a super successful Kickstarter campaign PES is back with his new short Submarine Sandwich in which various bits of vintage sports equipment are sliced and diced and laid into the eponymous deli staple. PES said the new film has been “a labour of love” that began with a single image: “A boxing glove in a deli slicer… knuckles to the blade. This idea stuck with me and I knew I had to bring it to life.”

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    The It’s Nice That Annual is our way of celebrating some our favourite articles from the site over the past 12 months in printed form. You know this, right? Well this year for the first time we’ve also launched a dedicated It’s Nice that Annual website to give people a sense of what they can expect from our big, bright blue book of creative brilliance.

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    Over two and a half years have passed since Robert Fresson graduated from the Royal College of Art with his Masters in visual communication. Two and a half years of moving out of London, buying himself a barge in Bath, taking up teaching on the illustration BA at Plymouth and of course busting his nuts creating a plethora of new work – or “illustrating his socks off” as he’d most likely put it. I’ve always been envious of Rob’s work (we did art foundation together so it’s a lasting envy) for its masterful approach to traditional techniques, colour processes and wonderful use of line, which goes from strength to strength as the years go by. He also has the work ethic of a single-minded shire horse, capable of subjecting himself to unfathomable hours of dedicated labour on a project that particularly excites him. And that’s why he’s so bloody good!

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    Despite the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Russia in 1993, current president Vladimir Putin’s apparent determination to pass laws which oppress gay rights and stigmatise the LGBT community seem to exert a pressure on gay people there that feels a long way away from the comparatively liberal UK. Which is partly why, in the run up to the Sochi Olympics, photographer Isabella Moore undertook a project in which she traveled across Russia photographing those who felt these effect of these laws most intensely. The photographs are intimate and touching; taken in the subjects’ homes and capturing moments of tender affection, they hammer home the frightening reality of movements of oppression, and the important role of photographic journalism in making people aware of it.

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    David Shrigley’s got a whopper of a new book out entitled Weak Messages Create Bad Situations. I couldn’t agree more. Sometimes, at this time of year, when you look back at those annual round-ups and “photographs that sum up 2014” it can be easy to feel like the world is just so full of disaster and crap. It seems that the people running this planet have been giving us weak, nay wrong messages this whole time! How mean. And what have they created? A bad situation. We love David’s new book, which totally sums up the feeling of helplessly skidding downhill on a bicycle with no brakes towards a cliff. Here he is on the book, dreams, and the world in general.

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    It can’t be easy working on a brief set by a client that’s both an art event organised by a non-profit and a big banking firm. How best to balance a slick, serious look with one that shows creative awareness? For The Partners’ branding for the new Bank of China-sponsored Hong Kong Art Gallery Week event, the consultancy cleverly chose to look to a sense of place to inspire its look, which is informed by the area’s hilly topography. The event bring together more than 50 local galleries and museums, who spend ten days opening their spaces up for all, aiming to promote the work of local artists and contemporary Chinese Hong Kong art to the world.

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    When Andrew Diprose has a new issue of The Ride in his hands he talks quickly and excitedly, about the contributors, collaborators and stories he’s uncovered; about his continuing evolution of the journal’s design and about the big plans he’s got once the first ten issues are in the bag. His enthusiasm for this magnificent side-project is infectious. But that’s understandable when you get into the meat of the thing, because all his contributors share that same enthusiasm.

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    There’s something deliciously tactile about Anne Jordan’s book cover designs. Much of her work unites a very materials-driven approach with clever typography, resulting in work that makes a two-dimensional image feel extraordinarily physical. The designer is based in Rochester, New York, and is also one-half of the duo behind the Walking blog, a rather sweet project in which she and her husband take half an hour a day to make something creative and post it online. However, we wanted to focus on her designs for books; and especially hone in on the way she takes an often oblique title and creates a design that plays off it, frequenly in smart, unexcited ways. Her look for The Woman Who Read Too Much, for instance, plays with cliched images of femininity like hair and curves to render the title less legible; and the look for Kevin McLauhlin’s Poetic Force uses feint lettering and thin-to-breaking-point paper as a backdrop. The choices seem obvious as we write them down but her work is anything but, creating covers that delight and make you think in equal measure.

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    Alexander Coggin’s photographs remind me of those scenes in sci-fi films when you see everything from the perspective of an extra-terrestrial who’s just landed on Earth for the first time. A master of the white balance, he somehow manages to cast a coolly detached, slightly surreal light over the everyday domestic scenes that pervade his portfolio, making everything from a green marble sink to a tray of readymade hors d’oeuvres seem completely new and slightly out of touch. He’s just updated his website with loads of new work which proves my point adeptly. See more from him here.

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    There’s something resolute about Laura Breiling’s illustration; it has a kind of strength of character about it that fully explains her growing client list. Whether her subject is a burly naked man gazing into a bathroom mirror with an uncapped lipstick lying next to him or a fabulous older lady lying fully clothed in bed sipping on a cocktail and gazing unflinchingly at the viewer, Laura’s confidence and consistence in her heavy jewel colours and printed textures command a kind of awe. Or at least they do for me. The Germany-based illustrator creates a huge volume of work, experimenting in different styles and subjects to form a style of working unlike any I’ve seen before, and it’s right up my street.

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    This week, Features Editor Liv Siddall wonders whether the world of illustration, and the events that champion them, have perhaps become a bit stale. And maybe we should take steps to champion as many new and exciting artists as possible, as opposed to falling back on the same names time and time again.

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    At last month’s food-themed Nicer Tuesdays our first speaker was Caroline Till from multi-disciplinary design studio FranklinTill, which curated the Sensory Suppers at London Design Festival 2011. The idea was born, Caroline said, from a reaction she was hearing among designers, journalists and visitors to LDF that they wanted “no more chairs.” She explained: “There’s a rise for intangible experiences – we wanted to redesign how you interact with food.”

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    Jay Cover is one third of the Nous Vous gang; one of three cogs in their art and design machine; the back left wheel on the creative tricycle; the front leg of their three-legged illustration stool. Speaking of stools (seamless!) he’s just finished work on Flat, an illustrated book that pays homage to iconic pieces of furniture design by the likes of Johanna Dehio, Martino Gamper, Gonçalo Campos and Studio Gorm. Fret not though, it’s much more exciting than that sounds! There are bears, sloths and toucans horsing around among the exquisitely-crafted tables and chairs and a cast of characters interacting with them in the most unusual ways – the staring contest between a parrot and a man in a green jumper is perhaps my favourite. All told it’s a lovely bit of printed matter, Risographed and published by Hato Press and now available to buy in their shop. Very tasty indeed!

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    Many a trite fridge magnet, when not busy reminding us how a minute on the lips is a lifetime on the hips, has extolled some wisdom about failure being a good thing, or a reason to try again, or a learning curve or some-such. But that might just be because it’s true. Failure is, indeed, a precursor to learning – something designers are perhaps even more aware of than most. Vince Frost, the former Pentagram designer who founded Frost*Collective, where he holds the post of executive creative director and CEO, is well aware of this, devoting a chapter to failure in the book he launched a few months back, Design Your Life.

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    There’s a lot of joy at It’s Nice That HQ when our favourite illustrators hit the big time. When Aisha Franz had her latest graphic novel Earthling published by Drawn and Quarterly, it was once again time for celebration. Earthling is the story of an all-female family (two sisters and a mother) who each retreat into imaginary fantasy worlds in order to escape the mundanity and struggle of ordinary life. That makes it sound quite heavy going – but it’s not. It’s full of dark humour, sex and hilarious snippets of perilous teenage life that you’ll be glad are far, far behind you. Also, we’re so used to Aisha’s work being so brightly coloured that this book – drawn entirely in scribbled pencil – is a very interesting new venture for her, one that I personally am a big fan of. Anyone you know who’s into the witty, sarcastic humour of Daniel Clowes’ Ghost World definitely needs to get their hands on this.

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    Whenever we’ve featured Nick Ballon on the site in the past, we’ve tended to focus on his self-initiated projects such as his terrific study of a Bolivian airline or his work in the weird world of wrestling. However Nick is also a super-talented editorial photographer and his portraits for the likes of the The Sunday Times and The Guardian’s weekend supplements are well worth exploring.

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    Don’t get us wrong, we’re not here to knock big Scandinavian furniture empires, but there’s something about the homegenisation of our homes that’s getting a bit silly now. That’s why we’re always keen to hear about ventures which are tackling this domestic sameness, and Feathr.com is going in all guns blazing.

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    We came across Cozy Tomato’s illustrations when studying the Mr Porter Journal for our Behind the Screens feature. Cozy Tomato (whose real name is Koji Tomoto) gets commissioned by the guys over there all the time, to add a retro, fun element to their articles on fashion and lifestyle. Cozy’s work is reminiscent of 1950s children’s books and quilts, lots of pointy nosed people with gravity-defying ponytails having a wild, leisure-filled time in the great outdoors. What’s marvellous about Cozy is how his illustrations are so well-researched that they actually could have been lifted from back in the day, and are so packed full of unadulterated, candy-coloured joy that they can spice up even the most intellectually treacle-like article. Perhaps that’s why he gets so many commissions from Monocle.

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    Judging by the photographs she was commissioned to take for Bloomberg Businessweek, Stephanie Gonot and American radio show host Jesse Thorn were a seriously good match. She was commissioned by the publishing giants to photograph Bullseye founder Jesse, and where many would have fallen into that chic, perfectly polished and occasionally dull trap that portrait photographers so often have to skirt around, she succeeded in steering well clear and opted to capture him larking about instead; gesticulating wildly in his office, sitting in a giant banana (?) and photographing the view from his desk.

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    When graphic designers discuss working for arts clients, more often than not they tell us about how important it is that an identity or series of exhibition graphics can sit back, being confident enough to let the artwork speak for itself. The real skill lies in doing this while also managing to devise a look that’s instantly recognisable. It’s even better if said look is, in its own way, as beautiful as the artworks it’ll be used to help promote.

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    This project by artist Erica Allen is an oldie but such a goodie. Way back in 2008 California-born, Brooklyn-based Erica decided to merge a collection of faces from found barbershop posters with discarded shots of studio backdrops, creating a series of oddly alluring fictional portraits. Removed from their original context, the freshly-trimmed gents pictured come across as utterly anonymous and strangely distant, connected to one another only by a crisp shape-up and a gaze fixed somewhere in the distance. And if that rainbow backdrop didn’t inspire the album artwork for Drake’s Nothing Was the Same then I don’t know what did.

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    Grant Cornett is an effing (no swearing here, thank you) good photographer. Really EFFING good. The Brooklyn-based image-maker has been plying his trade in New York for just over a decade, creating work that’s incredibly broad. Within his vast portfolio lives immaculate food photography, still-life fashion shoots, a plethora of punchy magazine covers and some stellar portraiture. It’s too much to hope to encapsulate in a single post so for the meantime feast your eyes on these portraits of faces – some famous, some not so – all given the Grant Cornett treatment and exquisitely immortalised.

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    Talk about ramping it up – it was only a couple of months back that we were marvelling at the amount of work Cynthia Kittler had taken on since graduating, and now she’s back again with shedloads more.

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    How many times have photographers and writers ventured into the studios of artists to document well-used tools and paint-spattered chairs? About a billion, or maybe more. FINALLY us muggins over here, writing words all day and wearing our fingertips down on white keys (not of the piano variety) are getting a moment of the limelight via Matteo Pericoli’s beautiful new book, Windows on the World.

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    As co-founder of London-based studio 8vo, co-editor of Octavo, International Journal of Typography for all of its eight year-long life and now one half of typographic powerhouse MuirMcNeil, you’d imagine that Hamish Muir has built up a fairly comprehensive collection of design and typography-based publications over the 30 odd years he’s been working. Fortunately for you, we’ve done the legwork and gotten cold hard proof of it in the form of photographs of his top five, and it’s even better than we imagined.

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    Lyon-based studio Catalogue make the sort of no-nonsense, pared back graphic design that shows that being experimental and forward-thinking needn’t be at the cost of being super slick. Working across projects including identity design, web design and signage, they frequently take on commissions for equally experimental clients – one of which caught our eye in the form of this identity for Saint-Étienne-based musique concrète Festival des Musiques Innovatrices.

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    Recently we’ve all been fawning over a Glaswegian studio called Risotto for their super-fun risograph posters, prints and flyers. To be honest, I never thought we’d find an equivalent over the Atlantic in Montreal. Last week, one of our go-to French guys over in Paris, Raphael Garnier, got in touch to tell us about Charmant & Courtois, a French-Canadian design studio with a penchant for printing and some very good parties to go to.

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    In April this year Josh McKenna was still a student, working his way through third year illustration down in Falmouth. Since then graduation’s taken place, he’s traded the peaceful coastal town for the incessant throb of London and he’s found himself producing a fair bit of lovely commercial work. When last we met Josh’s work was all poolsides and exotic colour palettes, but his subject matter reflects his move to the metropolis – huge red buses, commuter cyclists and smart phones now dominate, but there’s still that characteristic sense of fun in there too, as a personal project on bums reflects. It seems like Josh has moved up in the world, and his image-making shows that off beautifully.