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

2211 articles
  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.”

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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.”

  15. 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.

  16. 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.”

  17. 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.

  18. 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.

  19. 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).

  20. 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…

  21. 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.

  22. 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.”

  23. 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.

  24. 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.

  25. 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…

  26. 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…

  27. 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.

  28. 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.

  29. 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.

  30. Michaelbierut-nyt-signage

    Michael Bierut is a designer, Pentagram partner, writer, lecturer and self-confessed nerd. Taking the stage at the Design Indaba festival in Cape Town yesterday, he announced his new book, pithily titled How to: Use graphic design to sell things, explain things, make things look better, and (every once in a while) change the world. Published by Thames & Hudson it won’t come out until later in the year, but we felt it was a good excuse to look at some of Michael’s most interesting work from across the years.

  31. Wk-nikelebron-int-list

    The third and final day of Design Indaba in Cape Town promised a great deal with its eclectic line-up, and it certainly didn’t disappoint. From advertising royalty to reinventing public filmmaking, Saturday Night Live to Dick In A Box it was a heady mix of the inspiring, the entertaining and the enlightening. Catch up on all our coverage here.

  32. Skipyoutube-int-list

    There is a world of weird and wonderful videos out there on YouTube but like most people I barely scratch the surface day-to-day. So a new project from Bertie Muller and Matthew Britton is helping address that with the aid only of a “skip” button.

  33. Dominicwilcox-indaba-list

    Another super-busy day in Cape Town saw a thrilling range of creative practitioners take to the Design Indaba stage where they treated us to an amazing array of creative insights. You can check out our Day 1 highlights here – featuring ovulation, orchids and Burning Man – or read on to see our best moments from today.

  34. Kathrynfleming-orchid-list

    Design Indaba is one of the most eclectic creative conferences around and the first day in Cape Town did not disappoint. It’s hard to distill so much design wisdom into a round-up but here’s a few of the highlights as we saw them from the first day in South Africa.

  35. Mariohugo-recentlyrejected-int-list

    There was an interesting discussion on our podcast recently about why anyone would really want to watch the creative process taking place. Off the back of our visit to see what was essentially P J Harvey in a box, we’ve spent a lot of time chatting about how the creative process is slow and messy and frustrating, littered with wrong turns and dead-ends.

  36. Crane-oscars-int-list

    There’s always a frenzy of opinions around the Oscars, as Michael Hogan Tweeted this morning: “It’s all happening over on the #oscars hashtag, if you’re interested in people who can’t type properly quacking on about film awards.” But amid all the polarised bickering and the dress-sense-rating bitchiness, it’s nice to remember the sheer amount of skill and craft that went into all the nominated films. Crane.tv has produced an interesting series which focuses on the lesser-appreciated talents who make the movie industry what it is, the most impressive of which focuses on the Whiplash sound mixer Thomas Curley. He got the nod from the Academy this year and it’s super interesting to hear him talk about the challenges of working on a film which is all about drumming, and so sound is critically important to the overall artistic effect.

  37. Farmleague-geoffmcfetridge-int-list

    We’re always interested in what Los Angeles-based artist and illustrator Geoff McFetridge has been up to. A video of him talking about making a bike sounded especially promising, but a video of him talking about making a “totally absurd” ocean-going bike? Swoon.

  38. Fontanel-dutch-design-talents-int-list

    Here at It’s Nice That we love discovering young creative talent – and feel a responsibility to identify and promote new artists and designers – but the challenge can sometimes feel daunting. So anything that can help point us in the right direction is hugely appreciated, such as this new book from Dutch creative site Fontanel. It has run a feature called The Fontanel Finals for the past five years, a scheme which showcases graduation shows and identifies the most interesting practitioners it finds each summer.

  39. Gentlewoman-bjork-list

    Whenever a new issue of The Gentlewoman is announced two questions spring to mind: what colour is it, and who’s the cover star? For the upcoming Issue 11 those all-important answers are cream, and Bjork, and it looks absolutely tantalising. Björk’s been shot by longtime Gentlewoman collaborator Alasdair McLellan and is pictured looking windswept and enigmatic (two of her strongest vibes). It’s hard to move without bumping into Björk at the moment – with a trailer just having been released for her upcoming show at MoMA in New York – but that won’t stop us counting the days until we can delve into this interview.

  40. Nytmagazine-redesign-list

    While magazine redesigns often receive a great deal of attention, few are likely to be more scrutinised than the new-look New York Times Magazine which debuts on Sunday. The Times is the leading newspaper in the US and its magazine is read by nearly four million people every week. When listed, the changes design director Gail Bichler and her new art director Matt Willey have implemented sound exhaustive – redrawn fonts, a redrawn logo, a new approach to lay-outs, a new-look version of the online magazine. Add to this a raft of new features and editorial changes (such as a new weekly poem, a column that rotates between four critics and a dispatch from the frontline of internet culture) and you’d be forgiven for thinking that the new magazine will be unrecognisable.