Author Archive: Rob Alderson

Ra

Editor-in-Chief Rob oversees editorial across all three It’s Nice That platforms; online, print and events. He has a background in newspaper journalism and a particular interest in art, advertising and photography. He is the main host of the Studio Audience podcast.

ra@itsnicethat.com@RobAlderson

2222 articles
  1. Reading-itsnicethat-main

    During an elongated period of singledom, I developed a fairly acute understanding of the kind of things that are not ok to say on dates. The admission that I don’t really like music is very near the top of that list. That’s actually not quite true; I don’t actively dislike music, it’s just a cultural form that I don’t really engage with in any way, like Flemish theatre or zorbing.

  2. Cooperhewitt-howposterswork-itsnicethat-list

    We feature a fair amount of poster deign here on It’s Nice That but in the pell-mell rush for aesthetic appreciation it’s rare to take time out to consider how this particular design discipline works. Luckily the Cooper Hewitt Museum in New York has forced our hand with its new show How Posters Work. Displaying 125 of the museum’s 4,000-strong collection, the aim of the exhibition is to illustrate how poster designers go about maximising the potential of the medium.

  3. Secret7-itsnicethat-list

    The annual Secret 7” show is always eagerly anticipated and this year’s exhibition – which opens today at Somerset House in London – looks like it lives up to our high expectations once again. The brainchild of Kevin King, the format’s success is tied to its simplicity with seven tracks from seven well-known musicians offered up to creatives from around the world. This year’s songs include Underworld’s Born Slippy, Peter Gabriel’s Sledgehammer, The Rolling Stones’ Dead Flowers and St Vincent’s Digital Witness and the artists and designers taking part range from big names to young talents. For the time being whose sleeve is whose is kept under wraps, but we’ve spotted a few styles that we can immediately identify. After the show all the sleeves will be sold off for the same price with proceeds going to music therapy charity Nordoff Robbins.

  4. Pentagram-cooperhewitt-itsnicethat-list

    Off the back of our post this week on Julien Lelièvre’s proposed museum and gallery identities, we got to thinking about some of the many excellent projects of this nature we’ve covered in the past. A trawl through the archives turned up a whole host of gallery and museum identities – from the very well-known to the enjoyably leftfield – and so we felt the time was ripe for a romp down memory lane. If there’s any you think we’ve missed (or you just want to tell us how WRONG we are) then you can use the comment thread below.

  5. Ridejournal-katemoross-itsnicethat-list

    At risk of sounding like the formulaic hipsters that we almost certainly are, the Venn diagram of indie magazines and cycling is one in which we’re pleased to revel in the overlap. The Ride Journal is a fabulous celebration of bikes and all who ride on them, and so we were interested to hear that a show featuring some of the best illustration to feature in the past nine issues is about to open in London.

  6. Julienlelievre-museepicasso-itsnicethat-list

    I always think designing an identity for an art gallery sounds like a dream commission but then you are targeting an audience that is more visually literate than say mayonnaise-buyers and that must bring an added pressure. It’s a challenge Julien Lelièvre clearly relishes and the French graphic designer has proposed bold, communicative identities for both the Musée Picasso Paris and Palais de Tokyo in recent years.

  7. Axelpelletanchethevenart-int-list

    Across the It’s Nice That studio there’s a heck of a lot of people looking at creative work all day, every day and so on occasions it comes to pass that two people will suggest the same person for the site. That’s exactly what happened this week with the marvellously-named Axel Pelletanche Thévenart, a French graphic design student currently interning with HelloMe in Berlin. Axel’s site is in French and the oddities of Google Translate mean that it’s pretty tricky to get your head round the intricacies of his projects, but from the visuals alone it’s clear that Axel has a really developed graphic sensibility and an ease with type and colour that belies his young age. We’re keen to see what he gets up to once his studies finish and his talents are fully unleashed on the world.

  8. Wieden_kennedy-nike-itsnicethat-list

    The US Masters is arguably the most anticipated event in the golfing world, and as Thursday’s tee-off draws ever nearer all eyes are on British hopeful Rory McIlroy. But as ever there’s also a lot of attention on Tiger Woods, whose scintillating talent can’t be ignored despite his much-publicised personal problems. With a lot made of the showdown between the two, it’s interesting to think that for years Rory idolised Tiger and this journey from fanboy to rival is played out with typical aplomb in Wieden + Kennedy’s new Nike spot.

  9. List

    The Typographic Circle (like The Magic Circle but with less rabbits-in-hats and more font chat) was founded nearly 40 years ago and is still going strong in its mission to “bring together anyone with an interest in type and typography.”

  10. Us-list-int

    Chris Barrett and Luke Taylor met on the graphic design course at Kingston University and went onto to form Us, a directorial studio based in London. The award-winning duo have created commercial work for Airbnb, Honda, Nike and The Sunday Times but today we’re particularly interested in their music videos, as they’ve created inventive and engaging work for the likes of Labrinth, Dels, Benga, Foals and Wiley. We sat down with them this week to pick their brains about the art of making great music videos and found the boys in fine form, happy to share what they’ve learned about this creative craft.

  11. Rickygervais-netflix-int-list

    Ricky Gervais is a figure who splits opinion and for every acolyte who hails him as the saviour of contemporary comedy, there’s plenty more who just can’t stand that laugh. I happen to be in the former camp and I am also a fan of postmodern advertising, so these new spots for Optus push pretty much all of my buttons. Commissioned to promote the Australian telecoms company bringing Netflix Down Under, Gervais is on typically obtuse form, whingeing about the expectations put on him, shamelessly plugging his own successes and revelling in his own unprofessionalism. Your views on Gervais will dictate your reaction to these, but if like me you enjoy his posturing then there’s plenty here to enjoy.

  12. Karolisstrautniekas-adobe-int-list

    For a small country with a small creative scene, we’ve covered Lithuanian artists and designers more times than you might expect. There’s clearly something in the water over there and one of our absolute favourite finds in Vilnius-based illustrator Karolis Strautniekas. It’s been more than a year since we last sung his praises so it seems right and proper to check back in with him.

  13. Nbstudio-almeida-int-list

    It’s often the case with design work that the final outcome is quite different in scope to the original brief. So it was for NB Studio, which was originally asked by the Almeida Theatre in London for a brand review and refresh. After what the studio calls “an intensive period of immersion and briefing sessions,” the NB team came back with a more wide-ranging proposal – “It was clear then that this was to be a bold re-brand rather than mere cosmetic enhancement,” they say.

  14. Jeroensmeets-thejaunt-int-list

    On the spine of The Jaunt book there’s a Latin phrase printed in white capital letters – “qua patent orbis,” which translates as “as far as the world extends.” It’s a fitting motto for this interesting project, which began life as a blog back in 2013. The idea is simple enough, curator Jeroen Smeets sends an artist (Mike Perry, Jordy van den Nieuwendijk, David Shillinglaw) off to an interesting city (Istanbul, Riga, Porto, Los Angeles) in the hope that the trip will “take the artist outside of their comfort zone and let them experience completely new surroundings.”

  15. Quimmarin-posters-int-list

    Barcelona-based designer and art director Quim Marin has a strong visual sensibility and a prolific work-rate if scrolling through his site is anything to go by. There’s a load of impressive poster and other print design on there, with particularly effective use of some trendy tropes which can often feel stale in less talented hands. “In such a visually polluted environment I try to come up with fresh and memorable designs with a clear aim at essential beauty and equilibrium that, at the same time, will ensure communicative effectiveness,“ Quim says by way of a mission statement, and it’s hard to sum up his work better than that.

  16. Andreaslaszlokonrath-neilpatrickharris-int-list

    Photographer Andreas Laszlo Konrath hasn’t been on the site for far too long but there’s two good reasons to rectify that now. Firstly he’s just shot Josh Brolin for the new-look, newly biannual Port magazine and secondly because this year marks a decade since he upped sticks and moved to New York. Andreas has a diverse practice that flits between self-initiated projects and commissioned portraits and he’s equally confident working in either milieu. We’ve decided to focus on his celebrity shots here and his Port covers (both Josh Brolin and Sam Rockwell) are good places to start. There’s something unflinchingly intimate about the eye contact Andreas often captures (see also Ewan McGregor, Kendrick Lamar and a half-naked Neil Patrick Harris) but he’s no one-trick pony, and from Bryan Cranston peering into the middle distance to the top of David Byrne’s head, he has a real talent for making us feel connected to these stars in a very visceral way.

  17. Yonibloch-bobdylan-int-list

    Yoni Bloch talks quickly. The musician, interactive music video pioneer and former American Idol (Israeli version) judge has just been speaking to 2,000 people at the Design Indaba conference in Cape Town for nearly an hour, but still the words come pouring out, one thought tripping over the next in the headlong scramble to get into the world. It’s electrifying, and slightly overwhelming.

  18. Nike-logo

    There’s a moment in this film where Michael Bierut comes over all Hayley Joel Osment in The Sixth Sense as he declares: “ I can see things in typefaces that normal people can’t.” It’s part of his discussion about how “design can be a lonely thing” and that as you immerse yourself in that world “you’re actually making yourself less normal than regular people.” Filmed at Design Indaba in South Africa last month, this interesting short film moves onto to look at logos and why designers are so interested in them. Using famous examples like the Nike swoosh and the Target, um, target, Michael explains his theory that we’re drawn to them because they’re primitive and yet we invest them with so much meaning. “A lot of what we see when we’re looking at the logo isn’t really happening in the logo; it happens in our own mind,” he explains.

  19. Tim-brown-int-list

    As a one-time news journalist (albeit at a very low level) I have a real affinity for reportage illustrators. George Butler is one of the best around and this new film by Tim Brown which follows him on a three-week trip to Afghanistan provides a great insight into his finely-honed talents. On his first trip to the war-torn country George was embedded with British troops, but he hungered to draw the locals whose lives had been so irrevocably changed over recent years. “I was always aware that over the walls there were millions of people getting on with their lives,” he says.

  20. Emilyoberman-snl-int-hero

    One of the undoubted highlights of this year’s Design Indaba conference in Cape Town was hearing Pentagram partner Emily Oberman detail her long-running work on Saturday Night Live. Emily has worked with the programme for 20 years, creating three separate versions of its identity, various title sequences and even spoof adverts to run in the breaks (like this). Now Emily has teamed up with writer Alison Castle to produce Saturday Night Live: The Book, a 500-page paean to the show which coincides with its 40th anniversary this autumn.

  21. Liamsaintpierre-dominicwilcox-int-list

    We have often spoken about the difficulties of films profiling creative figures and the disappointment when they fall back on familiar and formulaic tropes. This film from Liam Saint Pierre though shows how it should be done. It helps of course that his subject – the artist and designer Dominic Wilcox – is so interesting and directs his razor-sharp creative mind into all manner of silly inventions. “Let’s do the ridiculous and by doing the ridiculous something else might come of it,” says Dominic at one point in a line that could be his mantra.

  22. 4creative-grandnational-int-list

    When a promo advert for one of the world’s most famous horse races drops into my inbox I have certain preconceptions about what’s it’s going to look like – mainly close-ups of thundering hooves and gurning punters. It’s fair to say this Grand National spot from Channel 4’s 4Creative agency and Nexus directors Alan Smith and Adam Foulkes confounded all of my expectations.

  23. Jacksmith-npg-int-list

    For the first time ever a show at the National Portrait Gallery in London contains no human faces. Jack Smith: Abstract Portraits which opened late last week is the first exhibition in the gallery’s 159-year history that includes no figurative portraits as Smith’s work is made up of abstract shapes and colours. Of course there’s nothing new about the idea of a portrait being something other than a traditional head and shoulders painting, but it is noteworthy that one of London’s leading galleries should take such a decisive step.

  24. Gilesduley-legacyofwar-int-list

    A few months ago I had a beer with Giles Duley and conversation turned to what he was up to work-wise. He was relaxed, breezy even, when he told me he was hoping to launch a multi-faceted, multi-platform exploration of the ongoing effects of conflicts after they’ve supposedly ended. It sounded insanely ambitious; it also made whatever my professional plans were at the time seem pathetically puny. But on Friday, Giles’ project Legacy of War became a reality as it reached its £20,000 Kickstarter goal.

  25. Kinfolk_14.cover

    The latest issue of Gym Class magazine has an eye-catching cover; with bold block capitals on a black background spelling out: “Nobody cares about your oh-so-cool, Kickstarted, tactile, minimalist unoriginal magazine.” It’s intended as a “call to action,” Gym Class editor Steven Gregor told MagCulture, “make magazines, and make them exceptional.”

  26. Kindlecoverdisasters-int-list

    This has been doing the rounds on social media for a few days now but we couldn’t not take the chance to celebrate magnificent blog Kindle Cover Disasters. It does what it says in the URL, collating some of the most eye-poppingly bizarre e-book covers its anonymous author can find and/or is sent by a network of contributors equally enthusiastic about unearthing some (reportedly) true graphic one-offs. Adorning books about sex, fantasy (the other kind) and who-the-heck knows what else, it’s a joyous celebration of the democratisation of design in the modern era. If rules are there to be broken, then these visuals take that as an extreme provocation.

  27. Michaelthorsby-damnson-int-list

    Design projects focussed on hip-hop are like London buses in the old saying; you wait ages for one and then two turn up at once. Last week we celebrated Brick magazine and hot on its heels today we’re delving into Damn Son Where Did You Find That? which is described as “the first book ever to focus on the cover art of the modern US hip-hop mixtape.”

  28. Willhall-ponyfightpinterest-int-list

    We’ve all been there: it’s mid afternoon, you had too much lunch, the coffee’s worn off and the inspiration levels are in the doldrums. But that moodboard won’t build itself, right? So you head over to Pinterest and hope the good people there might have done some of the work for you.

  29. Wiedenkennedy-honda-list

    Nice simple idea here from Wieden + Kennedy to introduce Honda’s new range of cars under the wider umbrella of the brand’s boundary-pushing approach. Keep Up begins as a spot that challenges the viewer to, well, keep up with text that runs across the screen – against a backdrop of a vast expanse of desert – culminating in the line “Get to better faster.” But rather than leave it at that, the idea is taken onto its logical next step, with viewers directed to a second spot where the text goes even quicker, and then to a third where the words positively shoot across the screen. What’s interesting is how your mind adapts and you are able to follow the sense of it even at breakneck speed, which is a neat way of encapsulating the brand message in a very human, individual way.

  30. Sagmeisterwalsh-fugue-int-10-list-new

    It’s always good to get word from Sagmeister & Walsh in New York but it took some concentration to get our heads round their latest project. The studio has produced a new identity for Fugue, a platform which “automates the creation, operations, and regeneration of cloud infrastructure” (us neither).

  31. Alicerawsthorn-instagram-int-2

    An awful lot has been said and written about the new ways we consume design in the digital era. But although the rights and wrongs of design blogs have been well-covered, other platforms have received less attention as critical mediums and it’s always interesting to see new ways of engaging with visual content. Alice Rawsthorn is one of the best-respected design writers around, thanks both to her books and her articles for Frieze and The International New York Times.

    On January 1 she began posting design-related imagery to her new Instagram account and this has evolved in recent weeks into themed explorations of topics ranging from film titles to feminism. Posted with articulate explanatory captions, she seems to have hit upon an enlightening and accessible way to talk about design. We caught up with her to find out a little more…

  32. Andyrementer-sanmarinostamps-int-list

    Here’s some things you probably didn’t know about the tiny Republic of San Marino. It has no railway. Its 33,00 citizens enjoy one of the highest life expectancies in the world. It is famous for its stamps, which are widely collected by philatelists, or stamp collectors. This last revelation is the one that concerns us here, because we found out yesterday that illustrator, artist and long-time friend of the site Andy Rementer has just designed a set of stamps for The Philatelic and Numismatic Bureau of San Marino, themed around fantastical interpretations of 3D printing.

  33. Thomasheatherwick-studio-nanyanguniversity-int-list

    Whenever I get invited to give a talk at a university I have a pang of jealousy about people spending their days doing creative things (and their evenings drinking in subsidised bars). But it’s fair to say that architecturally speaking, higher education tends to be pretty functional, unless you go to the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore that is. They have just opened their new Learning Hub building designed by Thomas Heatherwick, which comprises 12 tapered towers and an interlocking network of social spaces. The architect says he was motivated by exactly the kind of underwhelming university structures I mentioned above – “unappealing spaces with endless corridors, no natural daylight and only hints of other people’s presence.”

  34. Spin-uca-int-list

    You may remember the outcry when the University of California changed its logo – 54,000 people signed a petition demanding it be withdrawn and the university eventually complied. It’s now seen as the definitive model of a redesign perfect storm, which must impact on any designer approaching a similar project.

  35. Aishazeijpveld-whatremains-int-list

    Aisha Zeijpveld likes to toy with the viewer. She once overheard two girls discussing her work at a show, with one of them solemnly declaring that her photographs are “definitely Photoshopped.” In fact for the most part they’re not, but Aisha is an image-maker who enjoys confusing us as to what we think we’re seeing. Take her What Remains series from a couple of years ago that was inspired by Egon Schiele’s sketches and created alongside set designers Sara Ivanyi and Judith Veenendaal.

  36. Mattwilley-independent-int-list

    At this weekend’s Offset festival in Dublin, one of the highlights came from much-revered editorial designer Matt Willey. Now art director of The New York Times, Matt has a faultless portfolio of brilliantly considered work on a raft of top publications (and of course was one of the founders of PORT magazine). It was particularly interesting to hear him discuss his redesign of The Independent, which was the first newspaper project he ever worked on. As he doesn’t give too many talks, here’s some of the things we learned about that particular undertaking…

  37. Opinion-int-list

    After visiting the Design Indaba conference in South Africa, Rob Alderson asks if the leading designers working today favour humility and modesty over the cloying over-confidence of their predecessors. As ever you can add your thoughts using the comment thread below…

  38. Studio-audience-lemon_list

    Welcome one and all to the It’s Nice That podcast, our weekly hit of aural art and design chatter. This week we decide on the collective term for art directors, get stumped by Michael Bierut’s opening question and have an odd date-type section that weirds everyone out. This week we’re chatting about the new-look Wired website, and we discus IKEA’s new wireless charging furniture. We touch on the new Google HQ by Bjarke Ingels and Thomas Heatherwick, Leonardo di Caprio playing 24 roles in an upcoming film, Dunne and Raby leaving the Royal College of Art and the end of fashion.

  39. Freytaganderson-fraher-int-list

    Often the most interesting branding work hinges on a simple twist, and such is the case in this work by Freytag Anderson for Fraher architects. The Scottish studio’s concept revolves around the neat idea of the “F” in the logo doubling up as an architectural floorpan.

    “The intersecting compartments or rooms create a simple graphic device for containing text, images and texture,” the designers say. “A vibrant red accent colour supports the minimal yet functional aesthetic.” Rolled out across stationery, a soon-to-be-launched website and internal presentation documents, it’s a really impressive idea executed to perfection.

  40. Neilbedfordgsj-classicfootballshirts-int-list

    All football fans have a fetishistic relationship with the shirts that runs deeper than simple affirmations of tribal loyalty. We obsess over the exact shades of colours, the detailing on the cuffs, and the stitching on the crest – and most of us can vividly remember how certain shirts smelled (is this getting weird?). Anyway a new project from the chaps over at The Green Soccer Journal celebrates this relationship between fan and jersey in a new series of photos shot by their long-term collaborator Neil Bedford. Occasionally we glimpse a club name or badge but this is more universal than that and the close-ups in particular speak to the intensity of our addictions.