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

2076 articles
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    When it comes to product design; our tastes tend towards the more offbeat end of the spectrum and so Ernesto D. Morales’ Magnifying Spoon is right up our street. Allowing users to inspect their food before they dive in: " On approval, the same tool is used to scoop up a healthy mouthful," the inventor tells us. The spoon is part of Object Solutions, "a fictional company that develops inventions for solving everyday problems. Its laboratorians are fixated on halting inconvenience, discomfort and imperfection, by producing an ever-growing set of hyper-specialised tools.

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    I was surprised to learn that Amsterdam’s HOAX studio don’t seem to have been on the site before, and faced with their wide-ranging portfolio it was a challenge to focus in on a narrative that made sense. Founders Bram Buijs, Sven Gerhardt and Steven van der Kaaij joined forces based on their “shared love for typography, material and experimentation” and this passion for fresh creative thinking runs throughout their work.

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    A couple of weeks ago, Channel 4 aired a documentary (below) which saw photographer Giles Duley (himself a triple amputee) meet some of the disabled victims of the war in Syria. It was a difficult watch but an extremely important story to tell, and one that meant a lot to Giles. He got in touch to say that although The Guardian ran an in-depth piece on the same theme, he had some photographs which weren’t used that he was really keen to get out there.

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    Some writers create page-turners; masters of narrative and plot that compel you to keep on reading. In some ways Joan Didion is the opposite, although her writing is no less compelling. When reading her work, its brilliance stops me dead over and over again, such is her ability to analyse a person, a place or a concept and then articulate her thoughts.

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    Lawrence Zeegen has never been one to mince his words. The illustrator, writer and dean of design at London College of Communication has recently launched his new book Fifty Years Of Illustration which he co-wrote with Grafik editor Caroline Roberts. It’s an impressively ambitious undertaking with the duo condensing five decades into 1,000 images by 240 illustrators from 30 countries. Lawrence admits it’s a “pretty personal selection” but one that aims to “represent the movers and shakers across each decade according to the work I believe was instrumental in shaping the discipline.”

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    Swedish creative Henrik Franklin is a designer, illustrator and animator with two of the world’s leading design schools (Konstfack in Sweden and Rhode Island School of Design) sparkling on his CV. Invited to showcase his considerable talents in Anna Lidberg’s Gallery 1:10 – “the miniature gallery for contemporary art” – Henrik produced a table of tiny tomes and the attention-to-detail on each cover design is really impressive.

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    We haven’t featured Oslo-based studio Heydays on the site for a while but a quick check-in with their portfolio shows they’re still producing top-quality work for an eclectic range of clients. Nöra is a design house based between London and São Paulo which among other things supplied the seats for the World Cup stadia in Brazil. Heydays wanted a look and feel that felt “sophisticated with a stylish twist.” The pointillist type treatment pulls this off neatly and there’s some impressive animated elements you can see below as well. Keep up the great work team Heydays!

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    When photographer Maija Astikainen met writer Aischa Berg in Madrid back in 2010, the two bonded over their passion for community gardens. In fact so interested were the pair in this phenomenon that they decided to produce a book on the theme and four years later Horticultured Cities was published. This timescale reflects the assiduity with which both Maisha and Aiscah went about their research, and the publication features insights from London, Helsinki and Berlin as well as Madrid.

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    I spent the day yesterday at the Canvas Conference in Birmingham where I was blown away by a series of excellent talks, but in terms of pure wow factor organisers very much saved the best for last. UrtheCast (see what they did?) is a Vancouver-based tech start-up that installed cameras on the International Space Station, sending high res images of the earth back to its dedicated website. Founder and CEO Scott Larson gave a compelling presentation about how the team made it happen, how it works and how the imagery can be used. Through the website you can find out when the ISS will pass over your house and so can arrange something to be captured on its cameras, but what was more fascinating is the way that companies and governments might use the data; by monitoring the amount of vehicles in Chinese factories’ car parks for example, economists can make predictions about the country’s output.

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    When it comes to a trendy commission, a restaurant in east London that serves everything on the bone is right up there. Credit is due then to Burgess Studio, whose identity for the eatery doesn’t take itself too seriously. Built around a nice typographic wordmark and the simple idea of making the all-important bone into a smile, the look and feel rolls out seamlessly across everything from bags to cups, menus to the website. It’s simple, it’s striking and it steers well clear of some kind of terrible hipster overload, all of which is to be very much commended.

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    As part of our Back To School month we wanted to make sure that we took the temperature of design education around the world and not just to here in the UK. Next week we’ll be focussing on creative education in the USA but here we’re looking at the challenges facing design schools in Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands and Switzerland. We’ve opened comments too so you can agree, disagree or let us know about the lie of the land in your country…

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    It’s been a while since we last checked in with Stockholm-based Bedow studio but there’s a host of new work to enjoy over on their site as ever. I was particularly drawn to their ongoing collaboration with Essem Design, “a Swedish manufacturer of artisanal hallway interiors.” Bedow used a refreshingly straightforward way in to what might seem like rather a niche product, building an identity around the Swedish words for “hello” and “goodbye” – the utterances most commonly heard in a hallway.

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    As the man who gave form to the twisted genius of Hunter S. Thompson, British illustrator’s Ralph Steadman’s latest project seems like a perfect fit. Ralph has worked with Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan to illustrate some limited-edition Blu-Ray covers for a special boxset of the series due out early next year.

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    This week Rob Alderson reflects on an interesting blog by Chloe Markowicz which suggests that people are ashamed to call what they do advertising. As ever you can join the debate and add your comments using the discussion thread below.

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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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    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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    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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    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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    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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    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.

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    Kennedy magazine describes itself as “a biannual journal of curiosities” and the Athens-based publication’s second issue has recently been released. The look and feel has been overseen by Commission Studio, who are London-based designers and longtime friends of the site David McFarline and Christopher Moorby.

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    There are several cool job titles found in British history and Constable of the Tower of London is right up there. The Duke of Wellington took the office on route to becoming Prime Minister and made several major innovations including draining the moat, closing the Royal Menagerie and shutting down the taverns within its walls. All of which makes him sound like a prize spoilsport, but in fact after his tenure the Tower was both better-equipped for its military purposes and drawing more visitors than ever.

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    When it comes to graphic design, there can be many reasons why certain jobs feel particularly pressurised; it may be the tightness of the deadlines, the ambition of the stated objective or the nature of the client. This latter comes in many forms but heritage can weigh very heavily, and when well-respected Berlin-based studio Double Standards were commissioned to overhaul the look of feel of Bauwlet, an architectural magazine that’s been around for 105 years, they appreciated the challenges they faced.

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    It was 17 years ago (!) that the BBC released a star-studded cover of Lou Reed’s Perfect Day, and tonight they marked the relaunch of BBC Music in a similar way. Musicians from Pharrell Williams and Stevie Wonder to Lorde and Chrissie Hynde weigh in on this heavyweight effort that more than anything confirms the strength of the BBC’s pulling power. Sure some people will find it cheesy as hell and on balance it’s probably not as good as Perfect Day but when you can roll out guns as big as these it’s sometimes fun to put them all together and see what happens. Also the song’s writer Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys plays a piano with a tiger on it. Because, well, just because I think…

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    To stare into a Danny Fox painting is like waking up in a world written by Charles Bukowski on a particularly heavy bender. There’s sex and drinking and guns, plus boxers and strippers and cowboys; here a horse, there a tiger. It’s intense and unnerving and exciting, but although there’s something very contemporary about Danny’s paintings, his rise to prominence owes a great deal to the support of a more well-established artist (an age-old route for up-and-coming artistic stars).

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    To mark the beginning of our month of Back To School features, it seemed best to start by addressing the most obvious question – why go to art school? The hike in tuition fees has led to many questioning whether university is still the best path for young people and the rise of specialist vocational courses (such as those provided by Shillington College) have challenged the traditional art school model. Here we asked a selection of creatives why they feel that going to art school is still the right decision (we’ll be exploring the counter arguments later in the month). So over to them, but you can add your thoughts using the comment thread below…

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    The changing role of album artwork in a digitally-defined music culture has been much discussed; meanwhile the art of the gig poster seems to be in fairly rude health. But there’s another story to be told; a lesser-examined but tremendously significant area of visual music-related collateral – the flyer.

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    These have been doing the rounds a bit this week but it’s not hard to see why – Israeli designer Lee Ben David’s Very Specific Cutlery range is a middle-class gourmand’s perfectionist dream. A graduate of the BEZALEL Academy of Art And Design, Lee believes “that the products that surround us should make us smile, laugh and think beyond,” and this project does just that.

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    The simplest ideas can often be the most powerful, and that’s certainly the case with Eight Inc.’s new work for Cancer Research UK. Tomorrowww is a browser plug-in that removes the word cancer from your online experience, a practical yet potent way of visualising a future when the battle against the disease has been won.

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    On the morning that David Cameron is giving a press conference on the UK’s future role in Afghanistan, Scott King’s latest book seems even more significant. Anish & Antony Take Afghanistan is a graphic novel that Scott sees as “a critique of the deployment of public art,” which satirises how far we’re prepared to enforce our cultural values on others. Through Scott’s writing and Will Henry’s illustrations, we follow as Anish (Kapoor) and Antony (Gormley) try and bring cultural regeneration to the war-torn country.

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    American designer Elana Schlenker popped into the studio this week and came bearing gifts in the form of the new issue of her much-lusted-after Gratuitous Type magazine. There’s a humility about this printed venture you don’t often come across, with the very first sentence of the colophon setting the tone: “Gratuitous Type is a pamphlet of typographic smut. It is published infrequently.”

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    It’s a truism now that graphic design students often end up doing something quite different, and Eoin Duffy is a good example of someone who pursued another kind of creative path. But few have enjoyed the same success as the Irish-born, Vancouver-based animator, whose latest work The Missing Scarf was feted by almost every film organisation worth its salt. It was even nominated for an Oscar, and now the full version has just been released online you can see for yourself what all the fuss was about.

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    We featured the work of Verena Michelitsch back in June but on that occasion we focussed on the artier side of her practice. The Austrian graphic designer and illustrator was a founding member of the En Garde studio in Graz before moving to New York to work with Sagmeister & Walsh, Pentagram and RoandCo. Now working as design director at Sid Lee NY, Verena has an eye for stylish graphic solutions often characterised by illustrative touches and impressive restraint.

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    The London-based French illustrator Malika Favre has had another big year, adding even more breadth to her already impressive portfolio of work. In the summer she was invited to Tenerife by a Spanish design collective called 28ymedio to take part in its Illustrated Journey project, which aims to “help fight the economic crisis in Spain by promoting the Canary Islands and bringing a new stream of tourism.”

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    There are plenty of ways we hear about new creative talent, and we came across Ronan Kelly after his mate Tweeted us saying we’d be mad not to feature him. Turns out said friend was bang on the money, and we explored his portfolio with an increasing sense of excitement.

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    You’d imagine that behind-the-scenes shots of space missions would be fizzing with tension and excitement, but Noah Rabinowitz’ images tell a very different story.

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    It’s not immediately easy to get a handle on Casper Heijkenskjöld’s portfolio, but right from the off you realise you’re in the presence of an impressive creative mind. The Copenhagen-based designer and art director worked for a time for Sagmeister in New York, and seems to have brought the Austrian’s taste for pushing boundaries to his own studio which he set up in 2011.

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    We’re suckers for a bit of nostalgia here at It’s Nice That and this blog by renowned designer Emilio Gil provides it in gratifyingly regular doses. But to suggest that Emilio’s archive is just a way of getting a fix of retro imagery is to do it a disservice as Graphic Pioneers; Spanish Graphic Design 1939 – 1975 does much more than that.

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    Back in 2013 designers Jessica Walsh and Timothy Goodman launched 40 Days of Dating, where they entered into a seven week relationship with each other to explore the world of romance from a creative perspective.

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    Entering Alma Haser’s portfolio is very much like going down the proverbial rabbit hole. The young London-based photographer was recently named in the D&AD New Photographers Ones To watch, the latest accolade in a career that’s going from strength to strength.