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

1991 articles
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    I fear I’ve referenced this before, but one of my Desert Island Discs would almost certainly be Baz Lurhmann’s strange spoken-word track Everybody’s Free To Wear Sunscreen. I like it for many reasons, not least the opening phrase “Ladies and gentlemen of the class of ’99” which to a Midlands teenager felt exotic and American and important for ways I couldn’t really define.

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    The difficult second album is a widely recognised cultural phenomenon – bursting onto the scene is all well and good but staying there is not for the faint-hearted. The first look at the second issue of Intern magazine suggests there’s no such concerns here. Continuing its mission to “delve deeper into the intern culture in the creative industries while showcasing work from some of the precocious talent that make up this burgeoning workforce,” Alec Dudson and his team have once again found unusual, innovative and considered ways to address this most divisive topic.

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    This week Rob Alderson considers the aftermath of the disastrous Robin Thicke Twitter Q&A and wonders how it was ever signed off when what was going to happen seemed entirely predictable. As ever you can add your thoughts using the discussion thread below.

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    You may already be sick of hearing about Glastonbury (particularly if you didn’t manage to get a ticket and had to watch other people watching Dolly Parton in a field) but here’s something I never knew about the famous festival; it has its very own newspaper. In 2013 a seven-tonne vintage 1957 Heidelberg printing press was installed at Worthy Farm on which a 15,000 run Glastonbury newspaper was produced. It was back again this year but this lovely little film focuses on its debut appearance, the enduring appeal of printing in this way and a couple of theories about why the printing press proved such a hit with the Glasto-going public.

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    In recent years the 2012 Olympic Torch, the UK government website and the Plumen lightbulb have scooped the Design Museum’s prestigious Designs of the Year title; last night Zaha Hadid’s Azerbajani cultural centre joined the illustrious list.

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    Whenever we sit down and discuss magazines that we admire here in the studio, WIRED is a title that comes up again and again; revered and respected for its content, its design, its agenda-setting and its remarkable consistency. But change is in the air and the August issue which hits newsstands this week sees a major redesign led by WIRED UK creative director Andrew Diprose. We caught up with him to chat through some of the changes…

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    We’re used to seeing publications about food and publications that play with the book/magazine format, but Cookbook combines these two forms into something very special. The second issue of the annual Madrid-based title reached us recently, resplendent in its smart blue cover which Albert Folch – designer, surfer and subject of numero #2 – describes as “a colour that has accompanied me since I was a kid.”

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    If you happen to be in north-west Corsica come Saturday then you’re in for a treat with the 12th annual Calvi On The Rocks music festival. My limited French and the beautifully baffling shortcomings of Google’s translation tools (“DJs take you in hand, scholars selectors make you smarter tan”) means I can’t give you too much detailed information, but a glance down the line-up and the fact that the irrepressibly brilliant Leslie David has created these posters for the event should be enough to convince you that it’s something worth knowing about. Leslie’s big, bold colour daubs offset the retro black and white pictures of the town with typical skill and evoke the spirit and energy about to be unleashed on this pretty coastal idyll.

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    Last night’s Nicer Tuesdays supported by Park Communications was an exhilarating joy-ride into galaxies far, far away with four speakers talking us through their space-inspired projects.

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    This advertising world descended on Cannes last week for the annual sun-kissed celebration of some of the best work created during the past 12 months. With multiple winners across the 16 categories you’d be forgiven for struggling to keep up with who won what, but the excellent official winners’ website is the best place to get acquainted with the big picture. Here we’ve picked out a few examples of winners that caught our eye; some bits we’d championed on the site before and some we came across for the first time via the Lions.

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    The news cycle is a curious thing, or maybe just wearyingly predictable. The story that dominates TV bulletins and newspaper headlines for days disappears barely mentioned once media managers decide we must be bored of it. It’s often left to photographers to persevere where the TV crews once stood, and so it is with the situation in Ukraine, where a turbulent few months have racked the country physically and emotionally.

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    They say that two’s company but three’s a crowd; not so apparently when launching a much-anticipated album and the creative collateral around it. The Glass Animals album Zaba was released last week, with the visuals overseen by our pals over at Boat Studio (the same gang who do the city-hopping magazine of the same name).

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    Two nights ago was the first game of this World Cup at Brazil’s iconic Maracana took place between Bosnia on Argentina; on 13 July the eyes of the world will be on the stadium once again for the showpiece final. In terms of reach, anticipation and sporting significance, few events eclipse the World Cup Final and this sense of it being special feeds into Michael Donald’s football-themed project. He tracked down the 35 men still alive who have scored in this all-important game to film, photograph and interview them. Some like Pele and Sir Geoff Hurst are bona fide football legends, others include a bathroom salesman and an insurance broker.

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    As the novelist Tom McCarthy points out in his introduction to this engrossing and beautiful new book, in some ways smartphones have fundamentally changed our relationship with maps. But the outcry over inaccuracies, glitches and inventions in certain map programmes proves one of the longstanding fundamental truths about that relationship; “that maps don’t work, and never have.”

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    Given the respective creative credentials of its founders Marie Dessuant and Philip Bone, it’s no great surprise that the studio they jointly run over in Paris produces such top-quality work. Specialising in art direction, design, products and interiors, there’s a quiet yet muscular self-confidence about the duo’s work no matter what they turn their talents to. This work for Fabrica’s Objet Préféré exhibition is a case in point; a sumptuous high-end book with its clean, crisp layouts presented alongside a newspaper given out at the show which is noisier but no less carefully thought through.

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    It’s been more than a year since we last donned a sensible wide-brimmed hat and slathered on the Factor 50 to pay Ben Sanders a visit in sunny Los Angeles. The artist just displayed a host of new work at his enigmatically-named exhibition Graves of Craving, in his home city; works bursting with colour and texture, strange shapes, odd details and no end of character. While the paintings have a charming silliness to them Ben has a serious visual sensibility, and his talents have now also been turned to a new collective Those People.

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    Biomedical research centres aren’t renowned for creative enterprise – why should they be – but across the pond one New York organisation is bucking the trend with a stunning new digital artwork. The Weill Cornell Medical College commissioned London-based creative agencies Squint/Opera and Hirsch&Mann to produce the Discovery Wall for its new Manhattan premises and the results are super-impressive. The final piece comprises 2,800 LED screens set behind a bank of lenticular discs. For passers-by it can be viewed as a large-scale digital artwork but up close the screens display content that relates to the college’s pioneering scientific research.

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    And so we reach World Cup eve, with all eyes on tomorrow’s big kick-off. Whether you’re beside yourself with excitement or couldn’t care less, it’s pretty hard to ignore and the hysteria will only crank up over the course of the next four weeks. We’ll continue to flag up World Cup inspired projects as the tournament progresses, but we thought it would be a good idea to use The List feature to get us off to a flying start.

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    This is just tremendous on so many levels. Peerless visual storyteller Christoph Niemann headed to Brazil ahead of the World Cup to explore the so-called Cure of Maracana (the country’s main soccer stadium). It dates back to 1950 when a howler by Brailian goalkeeper Moacir Barbosa handed the tournament to Uruguay, much to the anguish of a nation and the ruin of Barbosa. In Christoph’s brilliant mind, the curse becomes his companion with whom he explores Rio, before heading up to Brasilia to admire the modernist architecture there. But the memory of Barbosa and his sad fate gatecrashes his sightseeing (quite literally) and he is forced to return to Rio on the hunt for Brazil’s football soul.

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    The World Cup inspired projects are coming thick and fast now but few have breached our offside trap more comprehensively than this. It’s a collaboration between designer Dave Sedgwick (Studio DBD) and the Bacelona’s Hey Studio, whose excellent Every Hey Instagram feed has embraced World Cup mania for the purposes of this new book.

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    The hugely talented, crisply bearded Owen Gildersleeve popped into the studio last week to deliver a copy of his new book and my word it’s a real belter. Paper Cut: An Exploration into the Contemporary World of Papercraft Art and Illustration does exactly what it says on the cover by way of showcase 25 case studies into individuals and studios working in this medium. From Rob Ryan and Chrissie Macdonald to Andersen M Studio and Le Creative Sweatshop, the subjects come from different countries and use different creative approaches to make the most of paper’s tactile qualities.

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    Prolific Twitter gagsmith Pundamentalism Tweeted this morning: “I hope there will be some tweets about the World Cup – seems crazy that nobody is talking about it yet.” Of course he was actually being a bit of a tinker because it seems like that’s all anybody’s talking about as we near the big kick-off in Brazil. Over the coming days we too will undoubtedly start to showcase some of the many creative projects inspired by the tournament, but we’re going to start a little closer to home.

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    Last week I saw the photographer Jess Bonham give an excellent talk about her work, during which she showed this project for Kenzo which I had never come across before. Collaborating with long-term partner in creative crime Anna Lomax, she created this series of GIFs to mark the launch of the brand’s Resort 2014 edition in association with New Era. Playful and visually arresting, it’s rare to see the GIF used so neatly in a commercial context and is proof positive of why you should trust creatives of Jess’ and Anna’s calibre to deliver the goods.

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    In my humble but heartfelt opinion everyone even remotely connected to the creative industries should watch this amazing promo for next month’s Creative Fuel conference in Sydney. The strapline for the conference is “Cut the bullshit and focus on creativity” but we get there the hard way via this funny but at times excruciatingly close to the bone spoof. It follows a group of creative industry types and their plans for The World’s First Crowd Sourced 3D Printed QR Code, Live Streamed Via GoPro To A Mobile Or Tablet Device, Drone Delivery Ticket System Project, which we are constantly ensured will be a “gamechanger.”

    It’s so packed with quotable lines that I don’t really want to spoil it, but a special mention must go to: “It’s very hard to find an idea so sometimes we just…don’t.” Clients don’t escape censure either (“I don’t understand it but I love it!”) and the little details are to die for; pay attention to the captions and look out for the fridge full of awards.

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    The biggest news of the story of the past couple of years has probably been Edward Snowden’s crusade against the US authorities’ snooping tactics. It’s been spearheaded by The Guardian so it’s quite an honour for a creative to be asked by that very newspaper to create visuals for its own magazine’s coverage.

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    If you don’t give a toffee about typography, then the fixation on any font probably seems a touch tedious. But this fantastic new film from Steven Qua for The Times newspapers is an engaging and accessible exploration of this famous typeface, which takes in both its history and its current incarnations at the newspaper for whom it was designed. There’s insights from the likes of Andy Altmann, Marina Willer, Neville Brody and Monotype’s Dan Rhatigan so there’s more than enough here for both the initiated and the as-yet-to-be-converted to enjoy.

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    When it comes to mainstream media, few organisations have embraced digital innovation with quite the same appetite as The Guardian. This week sees the launch of their new and improved app which creative director Alex Breuer and his team have been working on for some months, hoping to create a newly coherent and content-friendly mobile and tablet experience. We spoke to Alex about the design thinking that went into it…

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    Labra is a Helsinki-based “creative laboratory” which is quietly building a super-impressive portfolio of branding, identity and illustration work. Of course there’s a particularly strong graphic design heritage in Finland, but while Labra’s work recognises that heritage, it doesn’t feel slavishly bound by it. This identity for the Mervi electronic music festival sums up the studio’s talents neatly; stylish, playful and interesting with a consistent communicative quality. Little wonder then that clients from art galleries to restaurants are queuing up for a slice of Labra’s considerable graphic talents.

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    The sad death of Massimo Vignelli this week was greeted with the kind of tributes as befitting one of the design world’s most important figures. From posters to publications, brand identities to buildings and products to public signage, Massimo brought European modernism firmly into the mainstream.

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    When it comes to bringing babies into the world, the mother’s role is pretty well-defined. But new dads can find themselves playing any number of roles, from nervously pacing the corridor to helping out at the bedside. Photographer Dave Young has captured this uncertainty perfectly with a new series commissioned by The Book of Everyone to mark Fathers’ Day next month. Shot at the Chelsea & Westminster hospital during April, Dave has done a brilliant job capturing the anticipation and the elation, the nerves, the anxiety and even the exact moment when these men realise their worlds have just been turned upside down.

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    In the midst of some research last week I came to Mat Maitland’s site and spent a blissful few minutes reminding myself of his brilliance. Mat – one of the talents on the consistently excellent Big Active roster – pulls off one of the most difficult image-making tricks around, and what’s more he makes it look easy. There’s an awful lot of surrealist collage and far too often it feels like it’s trying too hard, but Mat knows exactly what works and what doesn’t and just as importantly he knows when to stop. So it’s no surprise that big-name clients are beating a path to his door, so Mat is the man behind the new posthumous Michael Jackson release and a recent Prince single among other gems.

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    Our latest Nicer Tuesdays with Park Communications went football crazy (football mad) with four speakers whose creative endeavours had engaged with the beautiful game in some way or another.

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    Anyone who has been to the excellent David Pearson show at London’s Kemistry Gallery will know that there’s an awful lot of creative mileage to be had from limiting book cover design to type-based solutions. I’ve become quite obsessed in hunting out other examples of this craft and although this work from Astrid Stavro is a couple of years old now, it deserves a fresh airing in this context.

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    In 1936 a Penguin executive passing a bookstand in Kings Cross station overheard a woman asking for “one of those Pelican books” and so, worried rivals might start imprints named after birds, he moved to snap up the name for his employers. With its distinctive blue covers, Pelican made a name for itself publishing “concise, accessible and intelligent” books which aimed to “capture the current state of knowledge in their field.”

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    Last week the Irish photographer Richard Mosse won the Deutsche Börse Prize for his amazing pink pictures of the civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Created with special heat-sensitive film, Richard used the shock of the unexpected palette to engage us with a conflict that can feel very far-removed.

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    To be totally honest I never knew the Swiss city of Lausanne had a film and music festival, let alone an underground film and music festival but it does, and last year the organisers were savvy enough to call on the design talents of Demian Conrad.

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    Four years ago designer and photographer Anna Brooks was one of our Graduates class of 2010, wowing us in particular with her twist on the familiar class portrait. It seems apt that just as we launch this year’s graduate scheme we find out there’s a new string to her bow. In this music video for Isabel Broox’ single Sleep we follow a couple through the course of a day – so far so standard.

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    When you search for “Ian Stevenson” Google suggests that you might be looking for a Canadian psychiatrist who specialised in reincarnation. I wasn’t – I was after the British artist of the same name – but I can’t help wonder what the former might have made of the latter’s work.

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    I’m a sucker for a really well-executed spoof, so take a bow New York based artist/copywriter and filmmaker Dan Shapiro. Inspired by “the stereotypical conventions of the faux-introspective, vague creative profiles floating around the internet” Dan decided to lampoon them by creating his own. From the floaty music to the cliched, sun-kissed shots,the subjects’s supremely irritating self-deprecating chuckle to the inane pronouncements (“It’s about being present and aware”) Dan has got it spot on.

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    This autumn a fascinating exhibition will celebrate the work of the Royal College of Art’s remarkable graphics alumni. As part of the preparation for this exhibition, organisers have set up a Tumblr called GraphicsRCA on which they are posting some superb examples of work that has a connection with the school. The most interesting bits include degree show posters from the days of yore; particularly given that we are moving into graduate season now. There’s also posters for lectures, workshops and film society meetings as well as work from selected alumni. Well worth a browse as we countdown to what will be a magnificent exhibition in October.