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

2115 articles
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    It’s generally accepted that society gets the celebrities it deserves, that fame doesn’t just happen and we have to understand why certain people get put on a pedestal. Nowhere is this more interesting than in the case of Ron Jeremy, the world’s most recognisable porn star. Recently Ron went to Sydney to promote a new rum that bears his name, and filmmakers Ingvar Kenne and Cameron Gray were given full access to him for 48 hours, travelling in his stretched Hummer to various parties whose organisers had applied on Facebook to have him turn up.

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    The Dutch/Brazilian artist Rafaël Rozendaal is best known for his digital artworks that often take the form of webpages but as he told us at our 2013 creative symposium Here he is increasingly interested in exploring his fascination with light and colour in real-world scenarios. Most recently this has taken the form of his hyper-colourful abstract lenticular paintings, which are made up of layers of different frames and so appear to move when viewed from different angles.

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    There’s a whole heap of great design studios in Barcelona with which we’re very familiar but it’s always a joy to discover talent we haven’t come across before. Such is the case with P.A.R, a graphic design and art direction studio run by Iris Tarraga and Lucía Castro. The way they talk about their approach eschews any kind of bullshit, as they write on their website: “Our methodology is simple: We listen to our clients, we understand their needs and we solve them. Our style is clear and direct, we take care of the balance and harmony in our designs, we use typography and colour accurately, we believe in functional design.”

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    We were lucky enough to meet some of the team from Singapore studio Foreign Policy when they popped into It’s Nice That HQ during a recent research trip to London. The same friendly, curious and open-minded approach that led them to drop us a line has also seen them develop The Swap Show, “an exhibition exchange between design studios and creative agencies from cities around the world designed to showcase and celebrate creative work internationally.”

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    I came across Assa Ariyoshi’s work while perusing the latest issue of Mood Magazine where it brought alive a feature on the weird and wonderful world of Icelandic cuisine. I love the way how in this surreal dinner party scene the shark looks like he’s drunkenly ranting at the puffin. We’ve all been on both sides of this I’d wager.

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    As serious art and design journalists, we’re not distracted by mere baubles. But when said bauble takes the form of an online game (think Space Invaders meets graphic design portfolio) then who are we to resist. It’s one of many trinkets to be found on karlssonwilker’s terrific new website, which shows off their work in the best possible light and confirms their status as one of the most accomplished design studios working today.

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    It’s fair to say that at some point towards the end of last year we reached peak process video, subsumed by a wave of formulaic offerings that were neither interesting nor exciting. So when we came across this new film from Aesop, slightly pompously called The Guild of Artisans it didn’t quicken our pulses. But in actual fact beyond the title, this is a rare example of a process film that’s well worth a watch. The promo “pay respects to materials frequently employed in Aesop spaces” and although there’s one or two things we’ve seen before, the moody imagery is brilliantly shot and there’s a few moments which set the teeth on edge. Anyone planning a craft process film in the near future take note; this is how it should be done!

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    Based in Manheim, Germany, Deutsche & Japaner have a really great sense of what looks good. They have been on the site a couple of times for their stylish graphic design but this work for the Aesthetics Habitat project shows off a bit more of their own personality. The site is described as “a venture all about meeting objects with a personal interpretation, transforming its function and creating narratives” and in essence its curators invite creatives to respond to and reflect on their relationship with a favourite thing of beauty.

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    Afternoon pod fans! We’re back for another week (got to admire our dedication if NOTHING else) and this week we’re talking about Band Aid 30 off the back of this excellent Bryony Gordon evisceration of the whole shebang before moving on to chat about our new digital publishing feature and why online pioneers don’t get the same attention as the so-called golden age of print. As ever listen using the SoundCloud embed below or subscribe via iTunes here.

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    We were thrilled last week to announce the pre-order launch of the 2014 It’s Nice That Annual, our end-of-year book which rounds up 12 months of creative brilliance. This year it’s been designed by Brighton-based Studio Makgill and right from the off Hamish and his team were keen that we changed things up when it came to the book’s look and feel. We caught up with Hamish Makgill this week to talk about why it’s ok to be nice, the challenges of navigating so much eclectic visual material and that blue colour…

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    Jean Jullien is many things. Artist. Illustrator. French. Recent emigre to New York. It’s Nice That favourite. So hot right now. He’s also the final artist to have a show at Kemistry Gallery’s current east London home before it closes its doors early next year (although as has been reported it has some excitingly ambitious plans).

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    In 2006, journalist Marcus Fairs was looking for work after being sacked (his words!) from Icon magazine. Having had a positive experience using early blogging software, he decided to launch his own design and architecture website and on 17 November Dezeen was born. Eight years to the day we sat down with Marcus at _Dezeen_’s Stoke Newington headquarters (in a former doctors’ surgery) to discuss how and why Dezeen has grown to attract 1.75 million unique users a month, what he believes makes for good online journalism and developing a sustainable business model. We also touched on Kanye West, press release culture and why online publishers don’t get the credit they deserve. Listen using the SoundCloud embed below.

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    American artist James Rieck paints models, but not in the way you might expect. In his huge colourful canvases he takes figures from adverts and recreates them four or five feet wide, capturing their clothes, their postures but not their faces.

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    The It’s Nice That team recently discussed which discipline we cover on the site would we most like to be brilliant at (it’s the kind of thing we do to wile away the final, dragging hours of these dark winter afternoons). After the appropriate amount of consideration (charts, cost/benefit analysis and the like) I plumped for book cover design and that led me down a little book-design-reminiscence and that led me back to Linda Huang.

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    Last week the third issue of Danielle Pender’s Riposte magazine was launched and after she and designer Shaz Madani set such a high bar with the first two issues, we were interested to see how they’d followed up their previous success. The early indications are very good. Although we haven’t seen a copy in the flesh we have had a sneak peek at some of the content and once again the title’s smart curatorial approach is very much in evidence.

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    We’ve all been there – the slightest twinge and it’s straight onto Google to terrify yourself with what it all might mean in the worst case medical scenario. DDB Brussels have taken that premise as the basis for this spot for Flemish online health platform Gezondheid en Wetenschap, which aims to underline the importance of getting information from reputable sources. While the starting point may be a staple topic for observational stand up comedians, the DDB team have pushed it to the extremes and the execution makes the most of the raw material. A nice extra touch uses Google Adwords to warn people to seek proper professional help when the search for symptoms like “twitching eyelid.”

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    If last week on the site was dominated by terrific Norwegian graphic design, then this week it’s the turn of Finland, and more specifically Kokoro & Moi to step into the spotlight. Teemu Suviala and Antti Hinkula’s studio has been going for 13 years now, and it’s always exciting to get wind of new updates on their site.

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    No matter how long it is since you left school, Monday morning can still bring back that sense of academic-induced dread. The Exercise Book by South London design agency Calm & Collected may well inspire similar reminiscence but all being well it’ll be of the warmly nostalgic kind rather than the “haven’t-done-my-homework-forgotten-my-PE-kit” pit of the stomach variety. The publication accompanied the group’s recent show LEARN and features hand-drawn graphics inspired by education across black and white, colour and risoograph pages.

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    There’s a real appetite here on the internet for old black and white photos being presented in colour, but in the main they tend to focus on historic or social themes. It’s less common to see sports photography undergoing this treatment, which is why we were so struck by the work of Gooner Frog when we came across it on Facebook.

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    Whenever we come across graphic design that features non-Latin script we are always aware of the immediate appeal that comes from these letterforms that are so different to our own. In this case though it’s hard to get round that, because Eric Hu’s A Thousand Characters is a very definite and deliberate celebration of these beautiful alien forms. It is comprised of 1,000 unique illustrations of each letter in a classical Chinese poem that has 1,000 non-repeating characters. “These were drawn with my mouse using a dynamic drawing application I had programmed in Processing then manipulated further in Photoshop,” Eric explains.

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    This week Rob Alderson examines Paper Magazine’s attempts to “break the internet” with their nude Kim Kardashian photoshoot. He asks if it’s actually a good cover, and what (if anything) it tells us about the magazine industry. As ever you can add your thoughts below…

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    I can’t quite believe that it’s two years since we last featured Alex Roulette’s work on the site because he’s undoubtedly one of our favourite artists working today. The New York based painter creates scenes which “explore the blurred sense of time and place within memories” and he’s a master of the atmospheric. Looking at his paintings feels like beginning a dream when you’re pitched into a situation conjured up by your subconscious and yet instinctively know broadly where you are and what’s going on.

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    Listen up gang, I’ve been having a think and have come to the irrefutable conclusion that we should all move to Norway. First up we had Snøhetta’s stunning banknote designs and now we find that Neue studio have created new passport covers for Norway’s citizens which are clean, crisp and colourful. The white, red and turquoise covers lead into some beautifully-designed spreads which take their inspiration from the country’s lakes and mountains and the whole thing has personality without feeling gimmicky.

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    Almost exactly a year go we featured Sam Barlcay’s book which aimed to show readers what it’s like read if you’re dyslexic. This week we found out that Dutch designer Christian Boer was looking at the same condition in a different way, having produced a typeface which has been designed to circumnavigate some of the problems dyslexic people have when looking at letterforms. So by making the undersides of letters bolder, lengthening ascenders or descenders, increasing the size of openings and tipping some characters to stop them resembling each other, Christian has created a fascinating solution to a problem that affects up to one in 10 people here in the UK alone (according to the NHS).

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    One of the best things about working here at It’s Nice That is when one of our colleagues tips us off to a creative superstar we hadn’t previously heard of. It was yesterday that our art director Jamie McIntyre casually dropped the name 44flavours into conversation and when I got round to checking out their work today it’s fair to say my flabber was ghasted.

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    Kids are weird. Granted I say this as a 30-year-old man with no children, no nieces and nephews and no godchildren, but in the limited dealings I have had with babies and toddlers and whatever you call those ones that are older than toddlers, they are all pretty bizarre. Artist and longtime friend of the site Lenka Clayton has confirmed my suspicions with her project called 63 Objects Taken From My Son’s Mouth..

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    There were poignant scenes in Berlin yesterday when the city marked the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the wide-ranging ramifications it had for the city, the country and indeed the world. Unsurprisingly such an historic milestone inspired various creative projects, from the terrific 8,000 balloon installation which ran the length of the old wall to Airbnb’s animation about reunification and remembering.

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    The good people at ZEIT Magazin have an unerring eye for talent and so it’s always worthwhile flicking through to see who they’ve commissioned in any given issue. In the recent design special we came across this eye-catching work from Bruges-based illustrator Pieter Van Eenoge. It reminded us a little of Brecht Vandenbroucke, but Pieter has his own strong style – there’s a weirdness and an ability to suggest mayhem on both big and small scales which is really pleasing. Those giant pink bunny heads are almost certainly going to haunt my dreams for a few weeks though.

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    Winter may be here, but let’s think back to sunnier times with this identity for an artisanal ice-cream shop by Serbian studio Lorem Ipsum. Initially founded in 2011 by Nemanja Jehlicka, Bratislav Milenkovic and Nikola Zmajevic, the trio have now parted ways with just Nemanja taking the reigns. Their new website has a host of interesting stuff to explore across art direction, design, type design and illustration, but we were particularly drawn to this work for Moritz Eis. Through the stylish logo, new wordmark and the bespoke typeface Nemanja and his team created, they’ve produced a look and feel that proves they have killer design instincts.

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    This week on the podcast we kicked off with a few thoughts about purported plans for a Wes Anderson theme park before moving on to talk about the new Ok Go video which is taking over the internet and the latest episode of Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared.

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    The Coca Cola trucks, the red cups at Starbucks and now the John Lewis Christmas adverts; the commercialisation of Christmas is nothing new but these days the touchpoints seem more clearly defined. The latest John Lewis spot by adam&eveDDB was unveiled this morning and there’s no doubt it will massively split opinion. Some will castigate its formulaic saccharine sentimentality, while others will love its unapologetically heartwarming fluffiness. Also (SPOILER ALERT!!) some will see the Calvin &Hobbes style twist coming but I admit I really didn’t.

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    As the chilly nights of winter draw in, the sun-kissed samba fantasy that was this summer’s World Cup in Brazil seems lightyears ago. Creative projects inspired by the tournament were as prolific as the German team’s strikers, but it’s always nice to see something a little different, such as this lovely Brasil 2014 publication from the excellent Neil Bedford. Neil was at the tournament as part of a collaboration between Visa and our pals at The Green Soccer Journal but this booklet seems to include those pictures which weren’t used as part of that campaign. There’s wit and passion and pride and intensity throughout the images and an extraordinary shot of an Argentine supporter seemingly walking into the waves.

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    In 1963, the Royal College of Art held an exhibition celebrating 15 years of the school of graphic design. In the show’s catalogue, Professor Richard Guyatt remembered the days when the term was adopted by the college. “With a certain sense of relief, but not much conviction, the name ‘Graphic Design’ was chosen,” he wrote. “No one was quite sure what it meant, but it had a purposeful ring…”

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    A year ago Darren Wall’s new games publishers Read-Only Memory released its first book charting the history of Sensible Software, a company whose creations defined many of our childhoods and teenage years.

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    In a special Opinion piece, Rob Alderson explains why the closure of London’s Kemistry Gallery is a cause for concern, but why its ambitious future plans need to be encouraged. You can add your thoughts using the discussion thread below…

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    Over the course of our Back to School month we’ve been speaking to friends of ours about what they wish they’d known when they started art school. It seems fitting as we wind up this month of features we return to this practical advice, with insights from three more top creatives – Alma Haser, Cait Oppermann and Swiss Miss, aka Tina Roth Eisenberg. And again we’ve opened up the comment thread at the bottom for you to add your thoughts, of things you wish you had known when you embarked on your creative education…

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    Ambition is an often underrated component of creative undertakings, but that’s not a charge that can be levelled at Robert Bösch’s genuinely astonishing shoot for Mammut’s 2015 campaign. Working with hundreds of specialist climbers, Robert took this extraordinary series of images to mark the 150th anniversary of the first ascent of the Matterhorn ridge by Edward Whymper. These pictures have been doing the rounds for a few weeks now but if you haven’t come across them yet then let yourself be dazzled by their brilliance and the organisational feats that brought them into being.

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    At our photography themed NIcer Tuesdays, Laura Pannack talked about learning by getting out and doing, and a bit about her mum. Laura traced her longstanding interest in vulnerability back to her university days and explained how this developed into an interest in young British naturists. But the breakthrough on this work came when her mum told her “to stop photographing nakedness and start photographing people.” Laura talked about gaining the trust of the young naturist community, the things she learned about naturists’ Facebook and nude-only sports, and how the project’s challenges developed her creative skills.

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    A couple of weeks ago as part of our Back to School month of features, we heard from various creatives about how they saw art and design schools around Europe. The piece added some useful context about the strengths of creative education in Germany, Switzerland, The Netherlands and Ireland, as well as the challenges facing art schools in those countries.

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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.