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

2139 articles
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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.

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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 up 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.