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

1980 articles
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    My colleague Liv Siddall memorably ranted about al fresco cinemas a few weeks back but the FILM4 Summer Screen at Somerset House is undoubtedly one of the best, combining excellent programme curation with genuinely stunning surroundings. It might even escape the Siddall wrath.

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    When set designer Nicola Yeoman emailed us to say her newly simplified website was live, I went to check the last time we’d featured her on the site. Astonishingly I found that aside from mentions in a feature by Dan Tobin Smith (with whom she collaborated on the Jay Z album The Blueprint 3) we had apparently never dedicated a post to her extraordinary talents in their own right. So consider this long overdue.

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    I’m not sure how well Only Fools And Horses translates as a cultural reference point to our international readers; there’s something quintessentially British about the sitcom featuring a get-rich-quick ducker and diver in his (pre-trendy) Peckham flat. But young London-based photographer Nadia Lee Cohen took Del Boy’s now-iconic home – with its charming hodge-podge of faux sophisticated stylings – and used it as the backdrop for this slightly unsettling shoot. Nadia’s work has a very pronounced slick, shiny and colour-saturated aesthetic that fits this slightly odd narrative perfectly – this mysterious femme fatale seems at one moment confidently at home in Del Boy’s surroundings, at others slightly bewildered. It’s weird, and I love it.

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    Few forces shape the modern world more than the internet and yet it’s an invisible presence that we just understand is there. But PhD student Luis Hernan has changed that by designing a system which scans for wireless networks and creates images where different signal strengths are represented by different coloured LED lights. The results, in essence, allow us to see the WiFi around us.

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    Ever since it was announced earlier this year that FOX was working on a Simpsons and Family Guy crossover hour-long special, fans of one or both shows have been interested to see how it would work. And yesterday they got their first glimpse when a five-minute excerpt was screened at Comic_Con which gives us a taste how these two cartoon competitors will be joined in creative matrimony. So it seems we can expect beer, bonding, brawls and bitchiness when the Griffins wind up in Springfield; consider our appetites well and truly whetted.

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    It’s been a couple of years since we last featured Melbourne-based studio A Friend of Mine so the launch of their brand new website was the perfect chance to celebrate their talents again. Suzy Tuxen and her team were commissioned by new art and design fair Supergraph to create a “strong, industrial and friendly” identity and needed a graphic solution that stood on its own two feet without overshadowing the creative work featured at the event.

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    Back in 2012, New York-based “computer programmer, composer and artist” (the order is his) Cory Arcangel started a Twitter feed called Working On My Novel. It Retweets people who use that phrase, and now Cory has published a book which brings together a selection of some of those Tweets (all with the permission of the authors it should be noted).

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    Battersea Power Station is one of my favourite buildings in London (you can add that to the list of things-you-don’t-care-about-which-I-tell-you-anyway-in-these-posts if you like). Anyway this summer it’s hosting the Everyman Cinema and east London’s Bread Collective was brought in to create the branding and hand-paint all the on-site signage. Bread has previous experience when it comes to large scale design work that packs a personality-filled punch and it’s great to see them unleash their talents on such a famous landmark. The bright and lively visuals juxtapose neatly with their industrial surroundings and there’s a consistency that ties the site together without feeling sterile.

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    I was lucky enough to visit Istanbul for its inaugural design biennale back in 2012 and although I was blown away by its creative scene, I didn’t come across too much graphic design. Rummaging through Studio Sarp Sozdinler’s website this week, I had the nagging feeling that I might have missed out.

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    It’s not a flawless guide, but you can often tell how significant the subject of an exhibition is based on who writes the foreword in the show’s catalogue. That Milton Glaser contributed an essay for Ivan Chermayeff: Cut and Paste at The De La Warr Pavilion is a good guide that if you’re interested in graphic design, he’s a name with which you should be familiar.

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    If you aren’t familiar with The Casual Optimist blog about publishing and book culture then it’s well worth checking out (I’ll wait). Anyway last week its author shared these amazing posters created by the leading German graphic designer Gunter Rambow for the S. Fischer Verlag publishing house back in the 1970s. What’s interesting is that some of them tiptoe right up to the edge of being gimmicky, but always stay the right side of the line thanks to Gunter’s unerring image-making brilliance. I really can’t get enough of these.

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    One day news might reach us of a Unit Editions publication that doesn’t knock our socks off but to paraphrase Gladiator “not yet…not yet.” Type Plus is the latest title from Adrian Shaughnessy and Tony Brook’s imprint and it sets out “to investigate the practice of combining typography with images to increase effectiveness, potency and visual impact.”

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    Tomas Leach is a longtime friend of It’s Nice That, a terrifically-talented director and a man who’s brimming with interesting ideas. But it’s funny how much more you learn about someone when you hear them talk about the work that inspired them to do what they love. So it is with Tomas’ choice, Daniel Wolfe’s Blind Faith for Chase & Status. It’s a video that’s always worth revisiting, but particularly so after you’ve read why Tomas thinks it’s a “period masterpiece.”

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    There’s a day for for everything now; and last week we all celebrated World Emoji Day didn’t we? What do you mean you didn’t know? Seems pretty remiss of you if you don’t mind me saying. Anyway luckily the excellent folk over at Funny Or Die were much more on the ball than some people we won’t name and they marked the momentous occasion with a ridiculously silly blog of Rejected Emojis. With the help of Jesse Benjamin, Avery Monsen and Darryl Gudmundson, they compiled a Tumblr of offerings which ranged from the surreal to the sinister, the bizarre to the almost-could-be-true. That sad clown will haunt my dreams.

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    Three years ago Milan studio Leftloft were commissioned to help iconic Italian football club Inter Milan with a ticket sales push, but the relationship developed into something much more comprehensive. Here art director Francesco Cavalli tells us how they came to lead an extensive rebranding of the whole club, from a new crest and a bespoke serif typeface to an exhaustive style guide for use across print and digital.

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    The phrase “artistic intervention” has a chequered past, but we’re struggling to think of a more impressive example than Frank and Patrik Riklin’s BIGNIK. The ongoing project aims to build a huge picnic cloth by 2040, made up of 252,144 panels – one for every person in the Appenzell region of Switzerland.

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    This week the design Twitterati were all over the new Airbnb logo from DesignStudio. While many were impressed, there’s always a range of opinions (and usually the inevitable Tumblr lampoons) around redesigns these days; see Michael Bierut’s excellent essay Graphic Design Criticism AS Spectator Sport for more on this phenomenon. It got us thinking though about some of the best logos and identities we’ve seen so far this year; and so we present a selection of the most interesting examples from the first half of 2014. We’ve also opened comments so you can agree with us, slate our bad taste or suggest some we might have missed…

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    At its finest, art direction is about creating brilliant imagery that fulfils the brief it’s been set. Tip the balance too far one way and the results can be sterile or obvious, go too far the other way and you can get wackiness for the sake of wackiness.

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    The ongoing success of the Plant Journal has re-engaged readers with the botanical world through an art and design lens; now a new book plans to take this exploration even further.

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    In light of our recent changes and the launch of the new-look Design Observer, Rob Alderson reflects on design websites’ redesigns. As ever you can add your thoughts using the comment thread below, and we’re particularly keen to hear what you’re making of our new look!

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    Remember the Speedo-clad old dude strolling casually through beach-bronzed beautiful people in Wieden + Kennedy’s hugely popular Southern Comfort spot a few years back? Course you do (and it’s still worth a watch in case you were wondering). Anyway Young Gun is the latest spot in the campaign and we think it’s another winner. If you’ve ever stood incandescent with rage as a barman holds up the entire queue showing off their “moves,” then you’ll enjoy this.

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    Massimo Vignelli was one of the most important graphic designers of his generation and his death in May affected the creative community very strongly and very immediately. The tributes poured in (some of which we included in our piece here) but for some the response to his passing would take a little longer to formulate. So it was with Colorado-based studio Berger & Föhr, who began this set of tribute posters when they first learned of his illness.

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    It’s very exhilarating to see people taking something destructive and turning it into something creative; with that in mind please welcome the Computer Virus Catalog.

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    You and I dear reader look at a beret and see what? A GCSE textbook staple; an affectation, an effortless shorthand stereotype (often teamed up with a stripey Breton top and a string of onions)? But directorial team Tenis looked at a beret and realised it could be repurposed into a perfect record player. This charming short spot has been released to promote the new collaboration between peSeta and Marc Jacobs, although the espadrilles themselves don’t make an appearance until quite late in the day.

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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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    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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    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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    Damien Cuypers is an illustrator who doesn’t so much own a niche as rule imperiously over his domain. He’s a multi-faceted fellow, but it’s his work in the fashion world for which he’s best known, and with good reason. He recently completed a week-long residency at Hermès HQ in Paris where he produced a set of teaser illustrations for their social media ahead of the Men’s Summer show at the weekend. Damien also did what he calls “a few quick drawings backstage” – of course predictably they’re full of vim and energy and skill.

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    I fear I’ve referenced this before, but one of my Desert Island Discs would almost certainly be Baz Lurhmann’s strange spoken-word track Everybody’s Free To Wear Sunscreen. I like it for many reasons, not least the opening phrase “Ladies and gentlemen of the class of ’99” which to a Midlands teenager felt exotic and American and important for ways I couldn’t really define.

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    The difficult second album is a widely recognised cultural phenomenon – bursting onto the scene is all well and good but staying there is not for the faint-hearted. The first look at the second issue of Intern magazine suggests there’s no such concerns here. Continuing its mission to “delve deeper into the intern culture in the creative industries while showcasing work from some of the precocious talent that make up this burgeoning workforce,” Alec Dudson and his team have once again found unusual, innovative and considered ways to address this most divisive topic.

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    This week Rob Alderson considers the aftermath of the disastrous Robin Thicke Twitter Q&A and wonders how it was ever signed off when what was going to happen seemed entirely predictable. As ever you can add your thoughts using the discussion thread below.

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    You may already be sick of hearing about Glastonbury (particularly if you didn’t manage to get a ticket and had to watch other people watching Dolly Parton in a field) but here’s something I never knew about the famous festival; it has its very own newspaper. In 2013 a seven-tonne vintage 1957 Heidelberg printing press was installed at Worthy Farm on which a 15,000 run Glastonbury newspaper was produced. It was back again this year but this lovely little film focuses on its debut appearance, the enduring appeal of printing in this way and a couple of theories about why the printing press proved such a hit with the Glasto-going public.

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    In recent years the 2012 Olympic Torch, the UK government website and the Plumen lightbulb have scooped the Design Museum’s prestigious Designs of the Year title; last night Zaha Hadid’s Azerbajani cultural centre joined the illustrious list.

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    Whenever we sit down and discuss magazines that we admire here in the studio, WIRED is a title that comes up again and again; revered and respected for its content, its design, its agenda-setting and its remarkable consistency. But change is in the air and the August issue which hits newsstands this week sees a major redesign led by WIRED UK creative director Andrew Diprose. We caught up with him to chat through some of the changes…

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    We’re used to seeing publications about food and publications that play with the book/magazine format, but Cookbook combines these two forms into something very special. The second issue of the annual Madrid-based title reached us recently, resplendent in its smart blue cover which Albert Folch – designer, surfer and subject of numero #2 – describes as “a colour that has accompanied me since I was a kid.”

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    If you happen to be in north-west Corsica come Saturday then you’re in for a treat with the 12th annual Calvi On The Rocks music festival. My limited French and the beautifully baffling shortcomings of Google’s translation tools (“DJs take you in hand, scholars selectors make you smarter tan”) means I can’t give you too much detailed information, but a glance down the line-up and the fact that the irrepressibly brilliant Leslie David has created these posters for the event should be enough to convince you that it’s something worth knowing about. Leslie’s big, bold colour daubs offset the retro black and white pictures of the town with typical skill and evoke the spirit and energy about to be unleashed on this pretty coastal idyll.

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    Last night’s Nicer Tuesdays supported by Park Communications was an exhilarating joy-ride into galaxies far, far away with four speakers talking us through their space-inspired projects.

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    This advertising world descended on Cannes last week for the annual sun-kissed celebration of some of the best work created during the past 12 months. With multiple winners across the 16 categories you’d be forgiven for struggling to keep up with who won what, but the excellent official winners’ website is the best place to get acquainted with the big picture. Here we’ve picked out a few examples of winners that caught our eye; some bits we’d championed on the site before and some we came across for the first time via the Lions.

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    The news cycle is a curious thing, or maybe just wearyingly predictable. The story that dominates TV bulletins and newspaper headlines for days disappears barely mentioned once media managers decide we must be bored of it. It’s often left to photographers to persevere where the TV crews once stood, and so it is with the situation in Ukraine, where a turbulent few months have racked the country physically and emotionally.

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    They say that two’s company but three’s a crowd; not so apparently when launching a much-anticipated album and the creative collateral around it. The Glass Animals album Zaba was released last week, with the visuals overseen by our pals over at Boat Studio (the same gang who do the city-hopping magazine of the same name).