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

2045 articles
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    There’s a huge red banner hanging across one wall of the V&A’s Disobedient Objects exhibition, which reads (in Russian): “You cannot imagine what we are capable of.” It’s a powerful line and sums up nicely the show as a whole, which examines “the role of objects in movements for social change.” The artefacts range from those that have played very direct roles in various movements – shields, posters, maps of protest camps and contraptions to help handcuff demonstrators together – to less obvious but quietly subversive tools like puppets or a game in which players must complete distasteful tasks in a bid to gather the materials to make a smartphone (swiftly withdrawn from the app store).

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    To anyone interested in graphic design it’s no great revelation that Swiss duo Ilg/Trüb produce great work. But even by the pair’s own high standards, this catalogue for artist Shezad Dawood’s first ever solo show at The Parasol Unit in London is a real winner. Shezad works “across film, painting and sculpture to juxtapose discrete systems of image, language, site and historical narrative” and so neither he, nor this exhibition are immediately easy to engage with. And yet the catalogue draws me in from the off with its intriguing cover, while the big, confident use of imagery – there are 90 full colour photographs – seems to open up Shezad’s practice in front of my very eyes. The book has a personality and a sense of playfulness that doesn’t always go hand-in-hand with the contemporary art world.

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    Imagine turning up to work in the morning, checking your schedule and realising that the vast majority of your time is going to be spent creating a zombie horse. That’s what the team at Montreal-based Rodeo FX did for Series Four of Game of Thrones, along with creating the slave city of Meereen, the Unsullied Army, a sequence with the White Walkers and most memorably the final (KIND OF SPOILER ALERT!) battle between Stannis’ army and the wildlings.

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    I have heard it said that the New York graphic design scene is more splintered and less cohesive than its London counterpart, but the Image of The Studio initiative we covered last year was a fascinating way of bringing together more than 75 NYC studios to compare and contrast the way they each work. It also became a great resource to discover designers we didn’t know that much about, and with each studio commissioned to create something original that reflected their philosophy and aesthetic, it provided a great way into the New York scene.

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    Australian artist Kit Webster is has long been fascinated with the emotional and psychological tricks he can play through the manipulation of sound and light. His new piece Hypercube is a concentric cubic sculpture with a 120-metre LED set-up that can be controlled using specially-created software. The pre-recorded cycles allow Kit to control the viewer’s experience, speeding the cube up to a frenzy and breaking the tension with meditative moments of calm.

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    Here’s one of those projects that turns out to be way more interesting than it originally sounds, and it comes courtesy of San Francisco studio T2D (Tomorrow Today). Metragramme takes 32 of your Instagram pictures and combines them into a single image created via pixel-comparisons across the set. The result is therefore a kind of average Instagram picture, and although on first glance many of them look similar; when you explore each a little further you tease out intriguing details, as well as drawing broader conclusions about form and colour palette. We’ve included a few examples below but this is probably one of those tools you;re going to want to try out for yourself – you can visit the site here.

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    I always think that creating the identity for a design conference is one of the most thankless commissions around – all those attendees ready, willing and able to offer informed and immediate feedback. So when we see it done well it only seems to right to give credit where it’s due, and Build did a fine job for this year’s TypeCon gathering.

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    It was only last month that Stefan Sagmeister called out the creative industries’ infatuation with the idea of storytelling as “bullshit.” But as a prevalent presence in many people’s work, we felt it was the perfect theme for last night’s Nicer Tuesdays in partnership with Park Communications.

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    In the introduction to his exceptional new Erik Spiekermann monograph, Johannes Erler sums up “Spiekermann in two sentences” by way of this quotation: “I’m totally chaotic. I’m so untogether, my left leg doesn’t even know what my right leg is doing. I need order. I need systems. I don’t really do anything without a design grid.”

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    South African photographer Dillon Marsh has long been drawn to themes that touch on environmentalism and our relationship with the world around us, and in recent years these interests have become more pronounced.

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    Of all the design disciplines, typography is almost certainly the least sexy. But Dan Rhatigan is one of the people who is able to talk about type in an engaging, and very human way. Earlier this year the Monotype type director worked with Grey London on Ryman Eco, described as “the world’s most beautiful sustainable font,” as it uses 33% less ink than the likes of Arial, Times New Roman, Georgia and Verdana.

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    Love it or loathe it, mobile phone photography is entrenched in our modern media culture. But it’s facile to lump this ever-growing phenomenon under a single umbrella, encompassing as it does everything from hipsters’ obsession with Instagramming their burgers to the vital role of smartphone-wielding citizen journalists in conflicts around the world. In recognition of the increasing importance of mobile phone photography and the numerous narratives intertwined with it, the British Journal of Photography has launched fltr, which bills itself as “the only magazine dedicated to mobile photographers.”

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    In the last couple of weeks the professional football season has returned in all its overhyped glory, but for thousands of amateurs around the UK it’s the start of the Sunday League season that really matters.

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    It’s been nearly a year now since Breaking Bad ended although its die-hard fans remain evangelical in explaining to literally anybody how they really should have seen it by now. Maybe this will distract them for a while, as Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul have reunited for this super six-minute promo to mark Audi’s sponsorship of Monday’s Emmy Awards. We find the duo running a slightly creepy pawn shop where they encounter Veep star Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who is trying to pawn her Emmy statuette after drunkenly buying an island because she was jealous of Celine Dion. There are lots of nicely sly nods to the pair’s previous incarnation, the merits of supporting actors and comedy vs drama, and there are (so I am told) a few neat Breaking Bad in-jokes too. The high-production values help of course but it’s the script that sets this apart.

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    I am a big believer that every magazine should be able to sum up what it does in a few words. New title The-Art-Form does just that with the pithy statement that it’s “a limited edition publication about art and artists.” Issue one features six artists – Ian Davenport, Peter Liversidge, Rana Begum, Dan Baldwin, Michael Reisch and Paul Insect – and each has been asked 13 questions ranging from why they make art to their favourite place. The answers vary not only in tone and subject matter (as you’d expect) but also in form, so while Ian has provided handwritten answers, Michael, Dan and Rana have created paintings, drawings and sketches in response to the questionnaire.

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    It’s been a couple of years since we headed over to Sweden to celebrate the work of Stockholm studio Research and Development but in that time art directors Daniel Olsson and Jonas Topooco have kept the great work coming. They’re a versatile pair who pride themselves on working closely with their clients to produce design work that plays to their strengths without losing sight of the brief in a blaze of self-indulgence. Anyone who can make a publication for the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency look this interesting is always going to get in our good books.

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    Every friendship has its issues. A mate I used to live with once cooked baked beans in a wok; a culinary move so baffling that I can feel the irritation welling up every time I see him (it’s now seven years after the incident). Maybe we should have gone to therapy, because it seems to be working for Daryl and Joe, the stars of this terrific unscripted web series. In each short clip the pair discuss something about the other person they believe affects their relationship; from drinking to punctuality and a racist dog to an inability to pronounce a sister’s name properly. It’s the kind of thing the web does so well; giving life to content that couldn’t really live anywhere else. It might, might, even help me get over wok-gate.

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    Desert Island Discs is a British institution. First broadcast in 1942, the premise is super simple – if marooned on a desert island which songs would you take with you (as well as a book and a luxury item). Of course the show is about much, much more than music and thanks to the incredible guests the show attracts (being invited on DID is a real cultural badge of honour) and the skills of the interviewers, each show becomes a fascinating insight into some of the most interesting minds around. You can (and really should) spend some time exploring the incredible archive but here we’ve picked out a few shows featuring castaways from the art and design world that we recommend.

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    Nourished Journal is a new bi-annual lifestyle magazine from MADE Publishers, the same stable who bring us MADE Quarterly and The Process Journal. Beyond that it’s quite hard to pinpoint what it’s about, and that’s kind of the point, as it aims to reflect “a holistic view of life.”

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    When it comes to strong typographic tradition, Switzerland boasts a heritage few other countries can match. Undeterred by the pressure of the past and inspired by modern, multicultural Geneva, designer Fermin Guerrero created a typeface named after his home city.

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    I came across Michael Alberry’s work in the most recent issue of The British Journal of Photography and was immediately drawn in to his excellent project A Time To Dance. It explores Penetcostal worship in the UK, and Michael is particularly interested in how media and technology shape the services, which are live streamed on the internet while attendees snap away on their smartphones.

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    I don’t know what the Italian for “Jack of all trades” is – maybe “Giacomo of all trades” if that’s not clumsily xenophobic – but Genoa based studio Artiva Design seem to fit the bill. The “About” section of their website lists more than 30 areas in which they offer their services, from user interface to book design, copywriting to video editing.

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    It’s 100 years since Britain entered the First World War and to mark the centenary, the Tower of London is being surrounded by nearly 900,00 ceramic poppies. Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red is the brainchild of artist Paul Cummins and stage designer Tom Piper and will grow between now and November when there will be 888,246 flowers in the dry moat, one for every British or British Colony soldier killed during the fighting.

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    After seven years as Creative Director of British Esquire, David Mckendrick is off to set up a new venture with Wallpaper* art director Lee Belcher. As his final issue hits the newsstands, David reflected on his time at one of the UK’s leading magazines and picked out a selection of his favourite covers…

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    Dutch illustrator Stefan Glerum is one of the most accomplished image-makers working today. His latest show at London’s Kemistry Gallery is a whirlwind of references; from Art Deco to Bauhaus, Italian Futurism to Russian Constructivism; criss-crossing time and space with enviable style. Called simply Five Years of Work By Stefan Glerum, the exhibition features work with which even casual observers may be familiar, but that doesn’t in any way lessen its impact. In fact it’s exhilarating to go back to, say, the Bayern State Opera posters he made with Mirko Borsche and consider them anew in the wider context of his portfolio. Quite simply see this show if at all possible.

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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.