Article Archive

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    When I was finishing up my final project at university I’d wake up, have a slice of burnt toast, then hobble across slippery cobblestones to a windowless library. When Barnaby Kent woke up on the days that he was working on his graduate project he awoke lying on a bed of luscious leaves in the jungle, and he’d have fresh passionfruit for breakfast before taking a walk in the mountains. It’s no wonder that his work is so magical.

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    It’s no secret that Studio Swine are forever pushing boundaries in the world of product design, taking uncommon materials and putting them to universal use. But their latest project is extremely unusual, even by their own standards. For Hair Highway the pair ventured into the heart of mainland China to the epicentre of the global human hair trade. There they acquired enough human hair to use it as the basis for a number of luxury bespoke objects – the carefully-maintained strands preserved in deep amber resin, creating stunning patterns and textures. To top it all off they’ve made this lovely film to document their journey, the people behind this strange trade and the finished products themselves.

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    Mike is one half of artistic power duo Larry Sultan and Mike Mandel, a pair who from the 1970s through to the 1990s used the camera to create curious, innovative documentary-style series that doubled up as intriguing works of art. Many of their projects are some of the most selfless, fascinating research-based works ever made. The other day in the office we all found ourselves immersed in Mike’s Flickr page, upon which he has placed his specific series of photographs.

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    Akasha Rabut’s compositions are incredibly cheerful, especially in this series, where she captures the fun and magic of dance related after school activities. Edna Karr, named after the high school in New Orleans where the photographs were taken, contains a lot of fun and frolicking, and you can almost hear the rhythmic music radiating from the joyous snaps.

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    Self-initiated projects are the best, aren’t they? I think of them as an excuse to peel the dollar signs off your eyeballs and replace them with love-hearts for a while, and more often than not it’s a transaction that pays off a hundredfold in the long run.

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    Thank God that in the barren scrap heap of graphic design littered with apps, bogus coffee shop logos and poorly thought-out iPad swipe features there is someone making work infused with joy, love and humour. Tadashi Ueda’s designs have such a child-like innocence and excitable fascination with exploration – he utilises colours and shapes laid out in unpredictable grids to take the viewer’s hand and lead them on a journey into his eyeballs to witness the way in which he sees the world.

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    Deceptive though it might sound, I think the task of taking something boring sounding and making it engaging is one of the most fascinating elements of design – the craftsmanship involved in showing something to its full potential through a limited set of visuals is not to be sniffed at. Interface design is a prime example of where this skill comes to light, and designer and art director Roger Dario does it brilliantly.

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    Louise Benson from POST Magazine has curated a selection of books from her bookshelf for us! Since we first wrote about POST in 2011, the digital magazine dedicated to showcasing cutting-edge creativity has spectacularly grown, and has become a very intriguing and forward-thinking online platform. The site explores the blurring boundaries between art, fashion, science and technology, and in the past they have published iPad editions of their magazines. For an afternoon, Associate Editor Louise pulled herself out of the digital realm and spent some time with her physical bookshelf. On to Louise for her list of all time favourites.

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    Everyone loves that very beginning sequence in Grease, when a bedraggled, hairy figure rolls out of bed and squirts a tube of brown gunk on his comb, which he then uses to sculpt his ragged curls into the iconic John Travolta pompadour. This much-loved little animation is by the English artist John D. Wilson, described by one blogger as having “animated the 1970s like R. Crumb illustrated the 1960s.”

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    There’s nothing quite like when someone takes something you associate with your innocent childhood and uses it to slap you across the face with a controversial, dark statement. That’s what Greenpeace tend to do to get their point across, and boy does it work. Their most recent plea is directed at LEGO, urging them to discontinue the production of kits for children that are emblazoned with the Shell logo. I’ve seen a lot of LEGO parodies in my time here at It’s Nice That, but none have made me feel dark to my very core like this one did – nothing says wake up and address this horrible issue more than smiling children’s toys drowning in a sea of black oil. Bravo Greenpeace.

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    Frustration can be a powerful creative force. So it was for Australian graphic designer Andrew Shillington who increasingly struggled to find designers with the rights skills for his Sydney-based studio Shillington Graphics.

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    Next up in our space-themed Nicer Tuesdays talks is super/collider’s Chris Hatherhill, who told us that while we are familiar with a handful of iconic space photographs, there are thousands more that most of us have never seen. Super/collider’s Apollo 77 project (named partly in honour of the abandoned south London video store in which it was first exhibited!) brings this vast archive to a wider audience: “images that caught our eye in terms of their artistry, deliberate or not.” They vary from the sublime to the surreal and Chris is particularly drawn to the abstract, colour-streaked images created when astronauts fire off a few shots to end the rolls of Hasselblad film.

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    Like the large majority of my generation I spend a disproportionate amount of my daily life on the internet, but probing the way that digital spheres function within our actual lives is a task which requires a very specific – and hard to come by – kind of creative brain. Cue the arrival of Alice Stewart, a digital and interactive illustrator from Kingston University whose handle on internet-driven concepts is second to none.

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    Do you remember Peter Judson’s bold geometric constructions from earlier on this year? He had us bowled over with his vibrant, brick-like compositions, and as his website proves he has plenty more strings to his bow. Focusing principally on Memphis-influenced design and architectural illustration, he takes familiar shapes and transforms them into something so simple that it goes full circle and becomes incredibly complex again.

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    London-based artist Aleksandra Mir has been busy over the past month investigating the process of drawing in a collaborative experiment that invites participants to contribute to a giant collage of the London skyline, rendered entirely with Sharpies. The process of creating the work was part of the exhibition itself, with Aleksandra and her team engaged in drawing everything by hand during the first days of the show. But for those that missed it there’s also a beautiful time-lapse film of the process, providing context and insight to this giant piece of collaborative draughtsmanship.

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    We love Jim Pluk’s work, not many illustrators openly share doodles they’ve drawn of them and their girlfriend having sex on a sofa with F.r.i.e.n.d.s on in the background. It’s an odd collection of drawings, his work travels from lo-fi paintings to crude squiggles and back to sharp, witty comics or collaged posters at an admirable speed. This is the kind of art that, personally, I’m really into – funny, odd creations made by someone who’s not afraid to try out every medium possible (even drawing on Photoshop) to get their work out into the world.

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    Arguably the most distressing thing about growing up is that sudden realisation you reach one day that all the trappings of your childhood have disappeared – all the people you knew have aged, the places you went have disappeared and it’s impossible to ever go back. Bleak! But although this is a feeling we all feel at some point, very few get the chance to walk into their past and document it again.

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    Since we last featured Joe Cruz almost a year go to the day, we’ve commissioned him to work on editorial pieces for Printed Pages and had him into the office to check out his stunning portfolio in person. Suffice to say, in the flesh, Joe’s beautiful oil pastel creations do not disappoint – the unusual mix of deep, rich photocopier toner illuminated with oily strips of neon colour is a surefire winner online and in print. But it’s not just the colours that keep Joe’s work fresh and exciting; his constant experimentation with theme and composition means he’s just as likely to be enticing you into his portfolio with a sultry fashion illustration as he is making you leap from your skin with the needled jowls of an incensed doberman.

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    I’m glad we caught Dan Wilton while he was on dry land with some time to spare, most of the time he’s cavorting around the world getting drunk in hotel rooms with really cool bands or pursuing his ongoing photography project looking at his beloved American football. We love Dan’s work, and Dan himself, and knowing how much he loves pop culture we asked him tot ell us about his favourite ever music video. Here he is…

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    It is a universal truth that Andrew Telling plus extraordinary cyclists equals fantastic films. The London-based filmmaker is a regular fixture at Rapha HQ, heading out on the road at the drop of a hat to produce stunning films that showcase both the brand’s expertly-made wares in action and the thrill of cycling itself. In honour of this year’s Tour de France, Rapha sent a team of cyclists out across Yorkshire to take in the sights and sounds of the race’s latest leg. Unlike this weekend’s Tour activities however, the pace on this ride is a leisurely one, drinking in the English countryside and stopping for the occasional pint of ale and piece of cake. Nevertheless the film-making is as beautiful as we’ve come to expect from Andrew, creating simple, satisfying narratives around what is essentially a leisurely weekend jaunt.

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    I’m loathe to use the term “coffee table book” for a publication which seems to demand to be read anywhere and everywhere, rather than sitting untouched next to a selection of coasters. Still, the new tome by photographer Kenny Braun necessitates it; Surf Texas is a book so good that you’ll be desperate to keep it where it can be seen by anyone who might be passing idly through your living room.

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    I sometimes struggle when writing about graphic design as sometimes bad graphic design is masked by fluoro colours and wiggly lines, and it’s difficult for me to differentiate from design with skill and design that just looks like it may be skilful. In the case of Beglu Karahan I have been reassured by the rest of the team that this is candy-coloured design with substance! Hoorah! What I love about Beglu is how he has created fun, cheerful designs for Berlin’s Downtown Festival and other music events – his summery style just seems to be perfect for the job. That work he did for a studio called Sundaze is literally the graphic design equivalent of a Solero, and it’s totally lush.

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    Of Rachel Treliving’s work, our Graduates judge designer Shaz Madani said simply: “She is great.” Rachel’s work truly astonished us in the process of finding our 15 It’s Nice That Graduates. How wonderful to find someone who is so passionate about typography that every single project she has created is a gesture of love towards a subject that, judging from the 600 or so Graduates entries we had this year, is becoming less and less important to learn in a graphic design degree. The depth Rachel travels to in the research for her projects in unparalleled, and the beauty of the work she creates is equally as strong. This girl is gonna go far.

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    If you’re working on your summer bod right now then you can either look away or take some inspiration from the guys in this music video. Some people are into the whole muscle thing, but I can tell you now that for me this is way more terrifying than it is a turn-on, I mean look at them! The shoulders of these muscle-men are the width of a small truck and their waists are teeny tiny, giving them a strange Donkey Kong look about them. Odd, but intriguing.

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    Football is all about moments; a coming-together of time and space and talent and luck which is almost impossible to replicate or convey away from the drama of the stadium. Designer Rick Hincks has taken this challenge and run with it to its logical conclusion, creating these super minimalist posters celebrating the best goals of the current World Cup in Brazil. Abstracted to this degree they become almost absurd; dry diagrams onto which we the viewers project our own experiences of the goals on which they’re based. A glance through Rick’s online shop proves he has pedigree when it comes to working with the beautiful game in this way, and with just a week of the World Cup left we hope the tournament provides a few more poster-worthy moments.

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    According to the new Stella Artois campaign, “There are no rules,” and “Continuity is clearly overrated.” These mysterious instructions actually come from the great Wim Wenders, who stars in the new Stella promotional short titled Wim Wenders’ Rules of Cinema Perfection.

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    Graphic design agencies have different specialities, and Finnish agency Werklig is no different. The Helsinki-based studio are the absolute masters when it comes to taking briefs that appear to leave little room for manoeuvre and creating something eye-catching and engaging. Put another way, they make boring stuff look brilliant. Take this work for the 2014 European Registrars Conference. You know the European Registrars Conference! It’s pretty much the continent’s most “important forum for information, discussion and networking among museum professionals.”

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    HELLO FRIENDS! Welcome to the weekend, the two days a week you get to reflect on your busy, expensive, boring life, and then numbing it with booze and barbecues. Hey that sounded pretty pessimistic, I’m sorry. What I really meant was “OH SHIT IT’S THE WEEKEND!” It’s time to swim in a lido, call your best friend, watch Take Me Out in bed, play Candy Crush in a hammock, introduce your dog to your friend’s dog. You name it, it’s yours.

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    Paul Smith has just designed these three bright posters in order to celebrate the arrival of the Tour de France in the UK. We love the mustard yellow colour of the print, and the way that the shape of the outlined cycling route bleeds into the bold, striking lettering.

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    The interplay between design and the cultures they both respond to and help shape is not always easy to decipher. An interesting exhibition currently on show in London examines 20th Century Soviet Russia through the objects which defined it on a very human level – the toys and appliances, vehicles and sports equipment. There are products that became iconic such as the Chaika vacuum cleaner and others that may never have been feted before.

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    The description of this video reads: “A dancing egg wreaks havoc when people can’t take their eyes off him.” I mean as far as concepts go, that’s pretty strong. Basically a guy in an egg costume (note to self: purchase an egg costume) goes around distracting people as they get on with their day. It was created by directorial duo A Very Successful Business quite literally for a laugh. “We created it just for the fun of making it, and to add a bit of surreal silliness back into the world,” co-founder Dulcie told us. Sure, this isn’t a video that’s going to go down in the top ten music videos of all time lists, but it made every single person in the It’s Nice That office laugh, and surely that counts for something. Well done, egg-lads!

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    Happy Friday from us and the guys from very cool and very great record label, Bella Union. The label, formed in the 1990s by Cocteau Twins represent some of the bands and artists that we listen to in the It’s Nice That studio all day, such as John Grant, Van Dyke Parks, Father John Misty and The Walkmen (youuuu’ve got a neerrrveee to be assssking my favouuuur!) And so it is with deep pleasure that we welcome the team at Bella Union with their truly wonderful Friday mixtape created especially for us. Kevin Ayers, Elvis Presley, Heart AND Harry Nilsson spell sunny Friday afternoon in our books, so turn it up.