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

1973 articles
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    Like many famous combinations – fish and chips, gin and tonic – type and design are inextricably linked but rarely do we explore that relationship in any depth. A new exhibition in New York does just that though, bringing together a host of rare works and unique artefacts to examine the centuries-old way in which these two entities have developed in partnership.

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    For centuries we have been fascinated by the architecture of power; indeed many of the world’s most visited tourist sites are structures from where religious, political and social power was once exercised. But what about the places which provide the backdrops to the decision-makers of today? Swiss photographer Luca Zanier’s ongoing project Corridors of Power takes us inside the very rooms where the contemporary power-brokers play, many of which seem straight out of central casting.

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    It’s always a joy to hear from filmmaker, photographer and long-time friend of the site Thomas Brown, especially when he comes bearing glad tidings of a new project. This time he’s created the video for Alex Banks’ new single All You Could Do, alongside set designers Lightning and Kinglyface, and their visual treatment fits the urgent, slightly unnerving music perfectly. There’s lots of imagery that sears itself onto the brain and Thomas has the confidence to disorientate the viewer from start to finish. Typically he wears his talents lightly; so while on the one hand he describes the work as “an embodiment and exploration of energy and light,” in the same breath he admits it’s “bonkers…It involves a Burroughs-esque dream machine, truly trippy visuals and Brighton going apeshit.” He’s not wrong.

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    The amount of games out there is fairly mind-boggling and there are new ones flooding the market all the time. In the face of this kind of overload what’s needed are curators; people who know what they’re talking about, who can be trusted and who have great taste. Step forward then Cowboy Picks, a new archive of “inspiring game design” put together by the fine folks behind interaction design agency Hover Studio and animation production company Animade.

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    Step aside all ye pretenders of yore; it’s time to show you my new favourite website. English Heritage – the body charged with protecting, maintaining and promoting the UK’s historic buildings – has launched a new Tumblr on which they treat us to images from their incredible photographic archives. With more than seven million to choose from, the Tumblr takes a thematic approach to curation, showcasing several examples of the same thing each day (today is gravestones, yesterday was railway signal boxes).

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    As May begins and we start to edge towards some semblance of summer, galleries across London start to wheel out a host of exciting and engaging exhibitions. Today sees the opening of one such show, with artist Von’s new work on display at KK Outlet. To truly appreciate the skill that goes into Von’s painstaking pencil drawings you really need to get up close and personal with them and Elsewhere shows off his skills at their finest.

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    We’ve got 24 minutes of tasty art and design tidbits for your delectation in this week’s podcast. Among the things we learn is that Maisie Skidmore used to be in a band called CM7, a tiny burrito proves too much for Liv Siddall and James Cartwright knows the word “aestheticised.” As ever you can listen using the link below or subscribe via iTunes here Remember you can join in too using the discussion thread below.

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    You know that advert where everything that guy touches turns to Skittles? Well Graphic Thought Facility are like that, only that everything they touch turns to design gold rather than delicious fruity confectionery. They have just art directed the inaugural issue of Modern Design Review which is billed as “a considered and curated insight into modern product and furniture design.”

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    There is precious little information about Vitaliy Kliushkin on his website. We know he’s an artist and a designer and that he’s based in Kiev in Ukraine. The only other fact in his “About” section is that he was “Born in the future.” But never mind the misdirection really because we’re more than happy to let Vitaliy’s work speak for itself. His graphic experiments are interesting but it’s his photos that got under my skin; weird narrative suggestions and captured happenstance that confuse, beguile and challenge the viewer in equal measure. And if that plait coming out of the woman’s mouth doesn’t haunt your dreams then you’re made of stronger stuff than me.

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    I’m an unashamed geek when it comes to journalism (my favourite Twitter feed is easily the Guardian Style Guide for goodness sake) so this new publication from The Times is right up my street. Byline is a quarterly magazine for the newspaper’s subscribers which provides “an exclusive insight into the news-gathering process.”

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    Last night we dressed up to the nines for our fashion-themed Nicer Tuesdays supported by Park Communications. Our four speakers boasted a significant sartorial pedigree and gave us four very different perspectives on the fashion world.

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    It’s more than possible to lose whole afternoons in the weird and wonderful world of stock photography. Whether I am preparing a presentation or researching a magazine article, once you delve in it’s hard to break free; just one more abstract concept into Google Images to see what comes back.

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    Us Brits are known for our sense of humour, but some things you just don’t mess with and our much-loved fried breakfast is one of them. So when photographer David Sykes and model maker Jessica Dance decided to pay homage to the artery-clogging national institution, they knew they had to get it right. Luckily for them (and us), they nailed it, thanks to the duo’s superb attention-to-detail.

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    Sagmeister & Walsh are not known for doing things the easy way, and their latest work for New York’s Jewish Museum is no exception. With a collection comprising 30,000 objects and a challenging mission to engage a broad inter-generational audience, the museum needed a new look and feel across print, physical and digital collateral that would reflect and enhance its modern role.

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    It’s almost exactly a year since we last revelled in the brilliance of Swiss artist Zimoun who explores sound and movement through his ambitious installations. Seeing as his prodigious work-rate matches his creative talents, it was no great surprise to see that he’s populated his portfolio with a host of terrific new projects in just 11 months. Personally my pick of the bunch are the churning waves of plastic packaging chips for the Lugano art museum and the amazing sea of crinkled brown paper for the Orbital Garden in Bern, but everywhere you look there are intriguing studies in the physical forces which usually go unnoticed.

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    We’re unapologetic Wes Anderson fans here at It’s Nice That. We’re also very partial to an insight into the astonishing world of visual effects, particularly where big blockbusters are concerned – previously we’ve scraped our jaws off the floor after behind-the-scenes- glimpses at The Wolf of Wall Street and The Great Gatsby. So we knew from the off that this reel from Look FX showing their work on The Grand Budapest Hotel was going to be similar, but it’s still tremendously enjoyable.

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    We’re not sure why there is such an obsession with seeing everyday objects made alien and otherworldly in super close-up photography. It’s a recurring fascination for creatives too, and over the years we’ve come across various projects centred on weird and wonderful microscopic explorations.

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    We already praised Made Thought’s considered G . F Smith rebrand to the skies earlier this week but hot on the heels of the announcement we discovered this terrific book too. Throughout the overhaul of its look and feel, the paper company has been obsessed with promoting its story, justifiably proud of George Frederick Smith’s founding principles and the way they endure in a contemporary commercial climate.

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    After a week-long hiatus while we moved studio, Studio Audience is back and wasting no time delivering some effervescent art and design chat to your lugholes. There was a slight delay getting the episode together as we wanted to get the news and views from graphics arts festival Pick Me Up but we think that’s for the best and we hope you agree. As ever you can listen using the SoundCloud embed below or you can subscribe via iTunes here

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    There are various figures whose names I recognise – who have seeped into the contemporary cultural consciousness for some reason or other – but who I know nothing about. Think Zsa Zsa Gabor, Imelda Marcos and Evel Knievel. The latter it turns out (thanks Wikipedia) was an American “daredevil, entertainer, and international icon” who shot to fame in the 1970s and 1980s.

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    As mainstream publishers go, few enjoy a design standing as respected as Penguin, and that is largely down to David Pearson. His brilliance will be given due prominence at a show at London’s Kemistry Gallery next month with his bold and communicative book jacket design for Penguin taking centre stage, alongside work for Éditions Zulma and a few other clients.

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    And so as Secret 7” draws to a close for another year, it’s always interesting to keep an eye on the big reveal. The sleeves went on sale anonymously on Record Store Day at the weekend, but after that the organisers open up about who did what. So peruse some of those sleeves designed by creatives we know and love below, from Paul Smith and Jeremy Deller to former It’s Nice That Graduates Sarah Maycock and Pat Bradbury.

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    We can all pretend that we don’t care that much about design awards but the truth is that it’s always interesting to see who wins what; particularly when it comes to the Design Museum’s prestigious Designs of the Year. This morning the seven category winners were announced and they are as below; the overall winner will be announced on 30 June and the show continues until 25 August.

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    Art director Sue Murphy wears her geekery proudly on her sleeve. “I’m a nerd about a lot of things,” she announces on her Good Design Is Good Business blog, “one area in particular is design.” While working on the IBM account for Ogilvy, she was bowled over by how much beautiful graphic work the company had produced over the past 100 years but realised that not much of it was readily available online.

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    In an age defined by digital, us print proponents are fond of harking on about the beauty, tactility and ultimately irreplaceable wonders of paper. But for a hugely-respected paper company like G . F Smith that argument is one they have to try and win on a very real, daily basis.

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    It’s laudable that designers are working on worthy projects that will have a practical impact on building a better future, but we’re big believers that creatives should be engaged in making tomorrow a bit more fun too. Luckily for us, there are institutions like the Ecole cantonale d’art de Lausanne (ECAL).

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    It’s always a pleasure when the new Port magazine drops through our letterbox and the latest issue was no exception. But even by its own sky-high standards, one piece in particular jumped out as something very impressive. The Chateau de Bosc in the south of France was the aristocratic seat of the Toulouse-Lautrec family, and was home to Henri, the painter and printmaker who captured the wild world of 19th Century Paris with such flair.

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    Romping through some fellow creative blogs recently I was stopped in my tracks over on But does it float? by the mindbending geometric paintings of Johnny Abrahams. Information about the New York-based artist is sparse on his own website but a little bit of digging uncovered an artist statement in which Johnny talks about making the viewer the subject of his work.

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    Any kind of graphic design related to the Olympics can be fraught with challenges – just ask the folk over at Wolff Olins about the London 2012 furore – but maybe the pressure is slightly less intense when it comes to the Games’ winter iteration.

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    As publicity stunts go, here’s one that totally floats our boat. Stationery company Moo.com have launched a new range, and to promote it they have created business cards and letterheads for a host of famous names; from Charles Darwin and William Shakespeare to James Bond creator Ian Fleming and US founding father Benjamin Franklin.

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    Both tattoos and secret codes may be considered cool in isolation; bring them together and it’s fair to say our heads have been well and truly turned. The latest book from Damon Murray and Stephen Sorrell – aka design studio and publishing imprint FUEL – builds on the huge success of their previous books focusing on Russian tattoos.

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    It was just over a year ago that we stumbled across the goldmine that is Jim’ll Paint It, like a drunk peasant staggering into a turnip field. Since then we have watched with delight as his fame spread like wildfire (lots of rural similes in this post aren’t there?) and social media championed his brilliance again and again.

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    I was lucky enough to be at Dublin’s OFFSET festival this year to hear photographer Richard Mosse talk about his extraordinary work in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Infra is a series shot on film first developed by the US military to spot camouflaged figures in the landscape. But Richard found the effect it had on capturing both the people and places of the conflict – which has seen more than five million people die since 1998 – was striking.

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    Historians have long appreciated the cultural necessity of gathering oral testimonies about the past from those who experienced it while we still have the chance. Brooklyn-based artist Rachel Sussman has spent 10 years applying this same principle to the natural world, and the fruits of her extraordinary labours have now been published in a stunning new book. The Oldest Living Things In The World is exactly what it sounds like; a photographic documentation of 30 of our planet’s most enduring natural phenomena; featuring lichens and shrubs, fungi, coral and Apsen trees all of which have been around for more than 2,000 years (and in the case of the Apsen trees, a mind boggling 80,000 years).

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    It’s no huge revelation that The Gentlewoman has an eye for stylish and interesting visuals, but even by the magazine’s own sky-high standards this shoot from Maurice Scheltens and Liesbeth Abbenes – styled by Sam Logan – is pretty ruddy special. The idea is simple enough – to celebrate the humble pocket and the beautiful detailing which separate the best garments from the rest, but in these super-talented hands it becomes something more than the sum of its parts, thanks to the use of shadow and confidently single-minded focus, which stimulate almost lurid fixation.

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    Us Brits are meant to be huge fans of queuing but in actual fact we’re even bigger fans of speeding up these processes. Already we’ve seen contactless payments remove the time-consuming pin-entry procedure but now a Swedish student has gone one better with a system that SCANS YOUR VEINS.

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    There’s great anecdote in Rick Poynor’s introduction to Think In Colour, a celebration of Belgian graphic designer Hugo Puttaert and his Visionandfactory studio. In 2010 Hugo was commissioned to produce a poster for a contemporary art exhibition in Aalst but the clients eventually decided they didn’t like it and rejected it. No matter; Hugo paid for it to be printed himself and then had it flyposted across the city on the eve of the show. “Those who believe in the medium’s potential,” Rick notes shrewdly, “have no alternative but to keep pushing.”

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    There’s not many people we write about on here who I can intro by announcing that I’ve seen their genitals, but wonderfully-named Australian Wade Jeffree is one such creative. The Australian designer is now based in New York city where he works at Sagmeister & Walsh (for whom he stripped down as part one of the studio’s legendary naked promo images). But let’s leave little Wade out of this and focus instead on his other talents.

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    One of my top three afternoons here at It’s Nice That was spent interviewing Nadav Kander. At the end of a long day he was nevertheless the most engaged, generous and interesting interviewee imaginable (the piece was published in the summer issue of Printed Pages). So whenever he produces something new I am helplessly predisposed to like it, which is essentially fine because Nadav is a creative talent from the very top drawer.

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    From fashion to graphic design, addictive apps to a new food website, this week’s podcast ranges over creative territory like that admirable group of misfits in those really long films about a ring. There are peaks, valleys and some scrubland (metaphorically speaking) but we still hope you come along with us for the journey. As ever listen using the SoundCloud embed below or subscribe via iTunes here. And again as ever we welcome comments, criticism, and indecent proposals using the comment thread below…