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

2275 articles
  1. Post-husler_rose-istnicethat-list

    London studio POST– has built an admirable reputation for clean, considered design work for clients across the world. Perusing their portfolio recently we came across this pleasing work for Husler & Rose, an online boutique that sells furniture, homeware and other bits and pieces. Too often we see identities for these kinds of shops that tick off cliched checklists ripped from Instagram mood boards but I feel the POST– team has navigated these pitfalls with skill and style. Inspired by “Herbert Bayer’s Bauhaus posters and the old jazz record sleeve designs of Duke Ellington,” the designers have developed a relevant look and feel that works across both print and digital collateral and breathes a little life into a couple of quite standard conventions.

  2. Alanfletcher-printedpages-itsnicethat-list

    As one of the founders of both Pentagram and D&AD, Alan Fletcher left an indelible mark on the design world. But as is often case with such a towering figure, the iconography can predominate and the real person recedes as we consider his life and work. What a treat then that for the new issue of Printed Pages we were given access to his sketchbooks, thanks to his wife and daughter Paola and Raffaela.

  3. Jr-newyorktimes-itsnicethat-list

    It’s always a joy when two creative forces we like collide and produce something that harnesses their collective talents. We’re huge fans of the team at The New York Times Magazine (so much so we interviewed design director Gail Bichler for the new issue of our Printed Pages magazine) and we love the work of JR, so the coming-together of the two was right up our street.

  4. Marcelgeorge-port-itsnicethat-list

    Maybe it’s because I am a notoriously un-stylish man, but the product spreads in magazines usually do absolutely nothing for me. Flicking through multiple pages of artfully arranged man-bags strikes me as purgatorial, but I understand these kinds of features often have a commercial rationale in the complicated financial climate of modern magazine-making. Credit though when a publication strives to do something more interesting with these spreads, like the Russian version of Port magazine (or Port Россия) which commissioned Marcel George to illustrate a recent feature on watches.

  5. Erikshirai-birthofsake-itsnicethat-list

    Aged 19 I got horribly drunk on saké (an evening that ended in me declaring my undying love for an ex girlfriend on a busy train – “I don’t care who’s listening!” etc) and so my relationship with the Japanese rice wine has been estranged ever since. However I may have to reconsider this stance having seen the trailer for Erik Shirai’s film The Birth of Saké.

  6. Matthnry-thetrip-itsnicethat-list

    In the autumn issue of our Printed Pages magazine I wrote an essay about Americana and its enduring influence on British creatives. One of the people I interviewed was photographer Matt Henry, whose work has often focussed on retro symbols of 1960s and 70s America and the power with which we imbue them. His latest work takes that addiction (forged on TV shows like The A-Team and The Dukes of Hazzard) and uses it to create something of an altogether more ambitious magnitude.

  7. Unnamed-1

    Greetings pod fans! A little later than usual this week but fear not, we’re here with your regular dose of top-notch* art and design chat. So kick back, open your ears and let 23 minutes of It’s Nice That flavoured discussion wash over you like a sparkly (yet intelligent) wave. This week we touch on the passing of the designer behind the Las Vegas sign, look at the GraphicDesign& survey and the newly-released Creative Review Annual. We also look at the new Smile Suggest web app and Elana Schlenker’s clever project highlighting the gender pay gap.. Finally it’s all about the Star Wars and Jurassic Park trailers…

  8. Spd-newyork-itsnicethat-list2

    Call me a massive magazine nerd if you must but I really enjoy the conversation about what makes a great cover. Is there a science to it as Tyler Brûlé maintains? Does it have to be meticulously planned or can it be the simple execution of gut instinct? Where is that fine line between bold and daring on the one hand, and obtuse and gimmicky on the other? Anyway yesterday two “best cover” shortlists were unveiled which gives us a glimpse into what two leading industry bodies think (The Society of Publication Designers and The Professional Publishers Association).

  9. Sarahmazzetti-mit-itsnicethat-list

    It’s always a joy to hear from Bologna-based illustrator Sarah Mazzettti who has been a firm favourite of ours since we first stumbled across her gig posters back in 2012. The Italian image-maker seems to have settled on a more confident style in recent months and big-name commissions from the likes of Vice, The New York Times and MIT Technology have duly followed. But that unpredictable playful sensibility we so loved has not been entirely banished, as evidenced by her huge yellow giant holding up a room for the TICTIG exhibition at Casa Testori in Milan.

  10. Offset-waysandmeans-itsnicethat-list

    Anyone who has ever been to a design conference will be familiar with the tote bag rummage, a just-arrived ritual that all too often ends in underwhelmed flyer reading. So it was with refreshing excitement that we happened upon Ways And Means in the bags at this year’s Offset festival in Dublin. The bespoke magazine – designed by Offset head honcho Bren Byrne – breathed new life into the design conference give-away with a variety of in-depth profiles of the speakers which provided genuinely interesting insight and context ahead of their talks.

  11. Atlasstudio-elephant22-itsnicethat-list

    In his beautifully-written editor’s letter for the new issue of Elephant magazine, Marc Valli laments the lack of soul in the New York art scene. The city remains, he contends, “ the richest art centre in the world,” but it no longer offers the same heady possibilities of the city’s creative apogee in the 1960s and 70s.

  12. Graphicdesign_-opinion-itsnicethat-list

    A couple of months ago there was a lot of interest in this survey in which clients described the four worst types of creative agencies as they saw it. Now we have a chance to hear from the practitioners themselves, by way of Graphicdesign&’s in-depth industry study. Lucienne Roberts and Rebecca Wright have partnered with social scientist Nikandre Kopcke to create a questionnaire which explores “practice, perceptions and prejudices alongside the usual questions about age, education, work and pay.”

  13. Stevewinter-lalion-itsnicethat-list

    Patience can be a virtue in photography, as Steve Winter knows. It took the American wildlife photographer 15 months to get the shot he craved; a mountain lion that lives in a Los Angeles park walking in front of the Hollywood sign. When he did finally manage it, he admits he was a little disappointed by the lighting, but that’s how perfectionists are and perfectionism can be tricky when working with subjects as unpredictable as big cats.

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. 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.

  19. 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.

  20. 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.

  21. 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.

  22. 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.”

  23. 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.

  24. 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.

  25. 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.

  26. 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.

  27. 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.”

  28. 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.

  29. 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.

  30. 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.

  31. 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.

  32. 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.

  33. 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.

  34. 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.

  35. 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.

  36. 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.

  37. 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.

  38. 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.”

  39. 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.

  40. 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.”