Article Archive

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    In the design world, the brief plays many different roles – ubiquitous, all-important, loathed, misunderstood; it can be a starting point, a back-up and a battleground. And yet we don’t often hear that much about the brief and its place in the creative industry – enter design strategy firm Bassett & Partners. Posing the question “if every project starts with a brief, why aren’t there more projects that end up with exceptional results?” the San Francisco-based company have tried to rectify this imbalance with their interesting short film Briefly.

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    “Churn out” always sounds like a derisive expression when referring to exceptional creative work, but the prolific nature of some studios means it’s the only one I like to use use to conjure up the relentless mechanical precision with which these studios proceed – and I definitely don’t mean it derisively. And so to Praline, the products of whose churning we’re here to admire.

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    Producing graphic collateral for one of the world’s largest international contemporary art fairs is a brief that would have some graphic design studios quaking in their boots, but when London-based Studio Frith was approached by Frieze Art Fair they accepted with relish.

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    All too often these days we stumble across a jaw-dropping example of set design, only to discover the impressive final image is actually the result of some clever visual trickery and digital manipulation. That’s an impressive art unto itself, don’t get me wrong, but pure CGI can leave me feeling a little shortchanged.

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    At last month’s photography-themed Nicer Tuesdays we were thrilled to welcome Harry Hardie, photography lecturer at the University of Westminster and founder of Here Press, whose mission he explained is “to make concept albums in book form. We like to find projects that are really problematic and try to make sense of them.”

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    People try for decades to become “good” designers, but sometimes your mate’s Dad can pull something out of the bag that trumps your every effort. Frustrated at the time it takes to build and launch paper planes, this man used cutting-edge 3D-printing technology to create a machine that does the hard work for you. Just when you think the design of the plane-wielding machine doesn’t look too exciting, he turns it upside down to reveal the intricate workings inside. How fantastic to see someone put 3D-printing to a unique and very silly use, rather than making something we’ve all seen before.

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    “In February 2013, 18 weeks pregnant, I was diagnosed with bowel cancer.” That’s the opening statement on the website of graphic novelist Matilda Tristram, who channeled this painful chapter of her life into a bestselling comic entitled Probably Nothing. We interviewed Matilda a while back on the site and were so intrigued by her story, we had to know more. In this revealing, insightful Bookshelf, Matilda shows us the fantastic books that have inspired her to be one of the most important and engaging graphic novelists working today. Here she is…

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    Our month of Back To School features is on a bit of a roll now and we’ve found there’s a particular appetite for advice from creatives who have been there, done that and maybe even got the t-shirt! So following on from last week’s feature with Sagmeister, Carol Morley, Johnny Kelly and Jon Burgerman, here’s more pearls of wisdom from Maggie Li, Scott King, Craig Ward and Bart Hess…

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    Self-proclaimed “Charlie Bucket lookalike” Stuart Heritage is one of the It’s Nice That team’s favourite writers. Working primarily for The Guardian, Stu’s now famous live-blogs embrace television black-holes such as The X Factor, First Dates and Gogglebox and put a carefree, humorous spin on footage that could otherwise make you lose faith in mankind. His observational humour is what’s got him where he is today, so we knew he’d be the perfect candidate to speak tellingly bout his days as a wide-eyed, floppy-haired Fresher. To read more of Stu’s writing, you can find it over here.

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    For graphic design types, the opportunity to run wild with a printer’s various techniques is pretty much the dream brief, and Mexican agency Anagrama have well and truly lived that dream. They were one of seven agencies studios invited to create a notebook with Imprimerie du Marais, and they were given free rein to experiment with effects like hot foil stamping, microembossing, silk screening and sewn binding.

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    The Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern has an incredible presence when it’s void of installations, which is what’s so wonderful about the huge enclosed space. As much as I admire the vast emptiness though, it’s even more exciting when a piece of work is placed in the hall and interrupts the vacuum. Opening today, American sculptor Richard Tuttle is the latest commissioned artist to show his work in the space and his 24ft sculpture certainly makes an impact.

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    Guillermo Del Toro usually associates himself with the darker side of filmmaking, but the Mexican director and producer has just finished work on an altogether more upbeat and life-affirming movie. The Book Of Life follows the story of Manolo, a young man caught in the middle of a wager between two deities who must embark on an epic adventure in order to see the woman he loves again.

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    When David Mckendrick told us he was leaving Esquire and setting hop a new venture with Wallpaper* art director Lee Belcher, we were fascinated to see what the fruits of such a top-notch collaboration might look like. Last week we got our answer, when a copy of the new Christie’s magazine came dropping through our letterbox.

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    Most of merely dabble in the world of fashion and recycle what little knowledge we have by saying phrases like “yah that’s so hot right now.” But recycle no more as SHOWstudio will be your fashion education forevermore.

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    Having just re-read Sammy Harkham’s 2012 anthology of short stories Everything Together I was stupidly excited to find out he’s just got himself on Tumblr and uploaded a small but growing archive of work both old and new. Included in among old covers of Kramers Ergot, book jackets for Kafka anthologies, Bonnie Prince Billy album covers and bits and pieces of rejected work are original drawings from his ongoing graphic novel (and surely future masterpiece) Blood of the Virgin, which he’s also selling to fund further work on the project. I for one cannot wait to see this project massive volume finally realised. Keep at it Sammy!

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    Gothenburg’s Goat are probably one of the most interesting bands out there at the moment. Their infectious fusion of world music, psych and heavy rock has captured the imagination of a now massive fan base, and their live performances are notoriously theatrical; the whole band costumed and gyrating like some kind of ancient Dionysian cult. Their music videos are pretty nuts too.

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    This top image by New York-based illustrator Karan Singh caught my eye on purely aesthetic grounds; it was only when I delved a little deeper that I discovered the interesting story behind the work. Karan was one of several artists commissioned by Ogilvy New York to work on the IBM US Open Sessions, whereby LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy created a series of tracks based on data gathered at the tennis tournament.

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    When you’re set a challenge by Google’s UXA design team, there’s the expectation for something pretty darn special to be created. Fortunately for Manual, they nailed their brief and created a smart, clean, eye-catching interpretation of Google’s visual language.

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    I came across the work of Matthias Geisler over on Booooooom the other day and was reminded that we hadn’t posted something like this in a while. Matthias’ work is a swirling blend of spirits and creatures that are created with meticulous use of pencil crayons and water-colours. Is it me or are watercolours real in at the moment? All the cool kids seem to be using them.

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    It’s tricky to put Ilona Gaynor into a specific art and design category. In a way she is a situation designer who invents plots and circumstances to explore complicated themes and ideas that are displayed like immaculately-designed premeditated detective stories.

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    The Daily Nice is one of those online phenomenons that’s been sizzling away in the big internet frying pan since 2004, and this month sees it celebrate its tenth birthday. If you’re not familiar with site (where have you been??), the idea is simple: every day its creator Jason Evans uploads one photograph of something that made him happy. There’s no archive, no social media feeds – just that picture taken by Jason on the site for 24 hours.

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    Anyone who’s worked for Ryan McGinley is probably covered in a lil’ pinch of magic dust when it comes to photography. Eric Chakeen proves this point – his personal and commissioned shots are a wild mix of humour and professionalism that is hard to come by. Working in New York, Eric’s skill lies in his ability to roam the streets and take portraits of people with true personality. From a guy munching on a cigar on a scooter to a dog in a post-vet neck cone, anything he turns his lens on turns to gold. You could argue that it doesn’t take much to get a good shot of Alexa Chung, but would many people choose to photograph her in such a stripped-back way? I think not. How great to see someone doing something that so many people are experimenting with right now, but adding that extra bit of style and wit. Cool guy.

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    It’s a widely-acknowledged fact that Tony Brook and his Spin team can do no wrong – they just design cracking stuff. So imagine our surprise when… no, just kidding, their latest project’s a belter too. Commissioned by Sim Smith, a London-based gallery representing emerging British talent, Tony and his team went about producing a slick, simple, monochrome identity that’s as unfussy as the artists the gallery represents. The logo, website and print collateral are all pleasantly understated, meaning the Sim Smith name won’t ever get in the way of the most important thing – the artists’ work.

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    A kind of magic happens when Seth Armstrong puts brush to canvas. Having only been familiar with his work for the Mr Porter Journal, I became instantly bewitched by his paintings when clicking through his website.

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    For years I ventured no further than the hallowed halls of the lower floors of the V&A. And then, one day, like Lucy and Edmund tiptoeing upstairs to discover Narnia, I crept into the Theatre and Performance Galleries and found another magical wardrobe.

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    Welcome aboard the weekend! This week at It’s Nice That HQ we’ve been talking about the gripping new podcast from the guys over at This American Life, Serial, pondering getting on trains that don’t actually have drivers, wallowing in the sweet, sweet cheesy goodness that is the new BBC cover of God Only Knows and replaying the fantastic animation about online dating below. What have you been doing?

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    Earlier this week we covered Chelsea Louise Berlin’s fantastic book Rave Art which celebrates the flyers and invites that defined the acid house era in the 1980s and 90s. The article was a huge hit, bringing back some fond (and maybe quite hazy) memories for many readers, so with that in mind it was a no-brainer when it came to choosing this week’s Friday Mixtape.

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    Some design cultures outside the UK are very familiar to us, others less so, and it’s always fascinating to get a glimpse into how others are interpreting the visual world, which is why I was immediately drawn to the Prague-based Anymade Studio.

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    The final of the Design’s Museum’s four Designers in Residence for 2014 is Patrick Stevenson-Keating. From its base in south-east London, Patrick’s collaborative design group Studio PSK works “on the changing landscapes within technology, design, science and society.” His work for the Designers in Residence exhibition rethinks our relationship with money, and in particular how we might address the fundamental disconnection from financial transactions we suffer in the digital era.

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    Earlier this week we mined our collective knowledge to see what advice we could offer those starting out at art school this autumn. Then we realised why stop there – what about all the amazing creatives we know and love around the world; what advice would they give those embarking on this exciting, and sometimes scary new chapter? So over the next few weeks we’re going to hear from a whole host of them, starting today with Jon Burgerman, Stefan Sagmeister, Carol Morley and Johnny Kelly…

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    The House of Peroni is back and as bold as ever, this time celebrating the dizzying cultural diversity of Rome, the birth place of Peroni Nastro Azzurro. Combining the worlds of food, drink, design and film, contemporary Rome has been brought to London for one month only via a transformed townhouse; a four-storey exploration of how Rome’s rich heritage is being interpreted by a new wave of creative talent in Italy.

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    Few figures have impacted on the UK design scene quite like Neville Brody, and this week he announced the launch of Brody Associates, “a boutique studio network” that will specialise in digital, identity design and typography.