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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    This top image by New York-based illustrator Karan Singh caught my eye on purely aesthetic grounds; it was only when I delved a little deeper that I discovered the interesting story behind the work. Karan was one of several artists commissioned by Ogilvy New York to work on the IBM US Open Sessions, whereby LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy created a series of tracks based on data gathered at the tennis tournament.

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    Earlier this week we mined our collective knowledge to see what advice we could offer those starting out at art school this autumn. Then we realised why stop there – what about all the amazing creatives we know and love around the world; what advice would they give those embarking on this exciting, and sometimes scary new chapter? So over the next few weeks we’re going to hear from a whole host of them, starting today with Jon Burgerman, Stefan Sagmeister, Carol Morley and Johnny Kelly…

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    Few figures have impacted on the UK design scene quite like Neville Brody, and this week he announced the launch of Brody Associates, “a boutique studio network” that will specialise in digital, identity design and typography.

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    Kennedy magazine describes itself as “a biannual journal of curiosities” and the Athens-based publication’s second issue has recently been released. The look and feel has been overseen by Commission Studio, who are London-based designers and longtime friends of the site David McFarline and Christopher Moorby.

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    There are several cool job titles found in British history and Constable of the Tower of London is right up there. The Duke of Wellington took the office on route to becoming Prime Minister and made several major innovations including draining the moat, closing the Royal Menagerie and shutting down the taverns within its walls. All of which makes him sound like a prize spoilsport, but in fact after his tenure the Tower was both better-equipped for its military purposes and drawing more visitors than ever.

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    When it comes to graphic design, there can be many reasons why certain jobs feel particularly pressurised; it may be the tightness of the deadlines, the ambition of the stated objective or the nature of the client. This latter comes in many forms but heritage can weigh very heavily, and when well-respected Berlin-based studio Double Standards were commissioned to overhaul the look of feel of Bauwlet, an architectural magazine that’s been around for 105 years, they appreciated the challenges they faced.

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    It was 17 years ago (!) that the BBC released a star-studded cover of Lou Reed’s Perfect Day, and tonight they marked the relaunch of BBC Music in a similar way. Musicians from Pharrell Williams and Stevie Wonder to Lorde and Chrissie Hynde weigh in on this heavyweight effort that more than anything confirms the strength of the BBC’s pulling power. Sure some people will find it cheesy as hell and on balance it’s probably not as good as Perfect Day but when you can roll out guns as big as these it’s sometimes fun to put them all together and see what happens. Also the song’s writer Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys plays a piano with a tiger on it. Because, well, just because I think…

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    To stare into a Danny Fox painting is like waking up in a world written by Charles Bukowski on a particularly heavy bender. There’s sex and drinking and guns, plus boxers and strippers and cowboys; here a horse, there a tiger. It’s intense and unnerving and exciting, but although there’s something very contemporary about Danny’s paintings, his rise to prominence owes a great deal to the support of a more well-established artist (an age-old route for up-and-coming artistic stars).

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    To mark the beginning of our month of Back To School features, it seemed best to start by addressing the most obvious question – why go to art school? The hike in tuition fees has led to many questioning whether university is still the best path for young people and the rise of specialist vocational courses (such as those provided by Shillington College) have challenged the traditional art school model. Here we asked a selection of creatives why they feel that going to art school is still the right decision (we’ll be exploring the counter arguments later in the month). So over to them, but you can add your thoughts using the comment thread below…

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    The changing role of album artwork in a digitally-defined music culture has been much discussed; meanwhile the art of the gig poster seems to be in fairly rude health. But there’s another story to be told; a lesser-examined but tremendously significant area of visual music-related collateral – the flyer.

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    These have been doing the rounds a bit this week but it’s not hard to see why – Israeli designer Lee Ben David’s Very Specific Cutlery range is a middle-class gourmand’s perfectionist dream. A graduate of the BEZALEL Academy of Art And Design, Lee believes “that the products that surround us should make us smile, laugh and think beyond,” and this project does just that.

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    The simplest ideas can often be the most powerful, and that’s certainly the case with Eight Inc.’s new work for Cancer Research UK. Tomorrowww is a browser plug-in that removes the word cancer from your online experience, a practical yet potent way of visualising a future when the battle against the disease has been won.

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    On the morning that David Cameron is giving a press conference on the UK’s future role in Afghanistan, Scott King’s latest book seems even more significant. Anish & Antony Take Afghanistan is a graphic novel that Scott sees as “a critique of the deployment of public art,” which satirises how far we’re prepared to enforce our cultural values on others. Through Scott’s writing and Will Henry’s illustrations, we follow as Anish (Kapoor) and Antony (Gormley) try and bring cultural regeneration to the war-torn country.

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    American designer Elana Schlenker popped into the studio this week and came bearing gifts in the form of the new issue of her much-lusted-after Gratuitous Type magazine. There’s a humility about this printed venture you don’t often come across, with the very first sentence of the colophon setting the tone: “Gratuitous Type is a pamphlet of typographic smut. It is published infrequently.”

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    It’s a truism now that graphic design students often end up doing something quite different, and Eoin Duffy is a good example of someone who pursued another kind of creative path. But few have enjoyed the same success as the Irish-born, Vancouver-based animator, whose latest work The Missing Scarf was feted by almost every film organisation worth its salt. It was even nominated for an Oscar, and now the full version has just been released online you can see for yourself what all the fuss was about.

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    We featured the work of Verena Michelitsch back in June but on that occasion we focussed on the artier side of her practice. The Austrian graphic designer and illustrator was a founding member of the En Garde studio in Graz before moving to New York to work with Sagmeister & Walsh, Pentagram and RoandCo. Now working as design director at Sid Lee NY, Verena has an eye for stylish graphic solutions often characterised by illustrative touches and impressive restraint.

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    The London-based French illustrator Malika Favre has had another big year, adding even more breadth to her already impressive portfolio of work. In the summer she was invited to Tenerife by a Spanish design collective called 28ymedio to take part in its Illustrated Journey project, which aims to “help fight the economic crisis in Spain by promoting the Canary Islands and bringing a new stream of tourism.”

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    There are plenty of ways we hear about new creative talent, and we came across Ronan Kelly after his mate Tweeted us saying we’d be mad not to feature him. Turns out said friend was bang on the money, and we explored his portfolio with an increasing sense of excitement.

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    You’d imagine that behind-the-scenes shots of space missions would be fizzing with tension and excitement, but Noah Rabinowitz’ images tell a very different story.

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    It’s not immediately easy to get a handle on Casper Heijkenskjöld’s portfolio, but right from the off you realise you’re in the presence of an impressive creative mind. The Copenhagen-based designer and art director worked for a time for Sagmeister in New York, and seems to have brought the Austrian’s taste for pushing boundaries to his own studio which he set up in 2011.

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    We’re suckers for a bit of nostalgia here at It’s Nice That and this blog by renowned designer Emilio Gil provides it in gratifyingly regular doses. But to suggest that Emilio’s archive is just a way of getting a fix of retro imagery is to do it a disservice as Graphic Pioneers; Spanish Graphic Design 1939 – 1975 does much more than that.

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    Back in 2013 designers Jessica Walsh and Timothy Goodman launched 40 Days of Dating, where they entered into a seven week relationship with each other to explore the world of romance from a creative perspective.

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    Entering Alma Haser’s portfolio is very much like going down the proverbial rabbit hole. The young London-based photographer was recently named in the D&AD New Photographers Ones To watch, the latest accolade in a career that’s going from strength to strength.

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    Many of you will have seen Emma Watson’s spine-tinglingly good speech at the United Nations this week, calling on men to stand up and be counted in the fight for gender equality (and for the feminist movement to work with men rather than against them).

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    When I first joined It’s Nice That more than three years ago I had never heard of Elephant magazine, but it was one of those titles talked about in hushed and revered tones. As such it’s always a publication I’ve approached with high expectations, so it was interesting to hear that for the next issue, number 20, Astrid Stavro and Pablo Martin of Atlas Studio have overseen a fairly comprehensive redesign.

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    This week Rob Alderson reflects on the launch of the new Design Museum website and the strange suggestion that the redesign should have been given to a British agency rather than Dutch studio Fabrique. As ever you can add your thoughts using the comment thread below…

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    A lot of us will have been there; you’re trying to mow the lawn and you can’t get the ruddy dog to leave you alone. It’s annoying sure, but if I had dedicated my life to God then I might see it as an (al)mightily unfair frustration.

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    If you’re ever looking for a great reason why good graphic design is important, Pentagram partner Michael Bierut sums it up in this Kickstarter video. “New York City is a chaotic place and in the 1960s nowhere was more chaotic than the subway system,” he says. There was a “profusion of inconsistent signs” but “a lot of people were convinced that was the way it had to be; New York’s a complicated place, figure it out…”

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    Matthew Frost’s Fashion Film featuring Lizzy Caplan remains one of the finest spoofs I have ever posted on the site, and it’s interesting that it was that parody that led Kirsten Dunst to this short. Commissioned by Vs. Magazine for their latest cover shoot with the Spiderman star, it’s an excruciating look at celebrity culture through the prism of a very individual encounter.

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    It’s been eight years since the London Design Museum last redesigned its website, but last week one of the design-world’s most enduring riddles – why does one of the world’s leading design bodies have such an anachronistic web presence? – was resolved. Dutch consultancy Fabrique worked with q42 developers to create a new site with pared-back navigation, new type treatments and a much-needed elevation of big, beautiful imagery to the level it deserves.

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    The term athlete is actually a vague catch-all word that encompasses a great variety of body types, depending on the specialist’s chosen discipline. This new project from photographer Paul Calver and art director Gem Fletcher celebrates what the pair call “the perfectly imperfect form of an athlete’s body” by focusing on a boxer, a martial artist, a runner, a bodybuilder and a sumo wrestler.

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    The mass Scandinavian cultural crush which saw us all become obsessed with the food, TV shows and chunky knitwear of our northern cousins seems to have abated somewhat but that won’t stop Lundgren + Lindqvist.

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    Anna Burns is a set designer with a taste for the ambitious. Who could forget her work with Thomas Brown where they created B-Movie inspired installations out of flammable umbrellas? For her latest work Anna has collaborated with Michael Bodiam on a series inspired by nuclear catastrophe and our contradictory attitudes towards it – apocalyptic fear on the one hand and weird fascination on the other.

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    NACHTDIGITAL was once described as Germany’s “best kept festival secret” but now with a cult following that snaps up its entire ticket allocation in minutes, maybe organisers can be a little more creative with the visuals they commission.

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    Like police officers getting younger, feeling estranged from Radio 1 is a sure sign that you’re getting on a bit. But even I – from the rarefied perch of my early 30s – can appreciate the brilliance of this promo for the station’s Even More Music Month. They had the good sense to commission animation duo Nicos Livesey and Tom Bunker, who created 30 seconds of trippy music-themed madness complete with gurning lollipops, bopping pineapples and an infernal rock-band playing on a spooling tongue. It’s fun, it looks great and it gets its message across in a half-minute energy burst, even if disappearing into Fearne Cotton’s mouth is slightly terrifying.

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    Voters in Scotland are today deciding whether to swap 300 years of union with England, Wales and Northern Ireland for the nationalist dream of an independent country. The referendum is being held exactly 700 years after the Battle of Bannockburn, where Robert The Bruce defeated the English army of Edward II and every year a re-enactment is held to bring this major historical landmark back to life.

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    There’s something about the painstaking perfectionism of type design that doesn’t scream fun and frolics, but Commercial Type’s new webfont showcase is ready to prove me wrong. The New York and London based type studio run by Christian Schwartz and Paul Barnes is widely-regarded as one of the best around, but the pair have struggled sometimes to communicate the personality of their fonts. Enter the Commercial Type Showcase which they built with Wael Morcos to show off the lighter side of 16 of their creations by way of 16 microsites, ranging from poetry and poster generators to a train schedule board and even a digital therapist.

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    We’ve already sung the praises of the V&A’s flagship London Design Festival project – Barber Osgerby’s extraordinary reflective installation in the Raphael Cartoons Gallery – but there are some other gems on offer at the spiritual home of the festival.

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    Paul Gale is a comedy filmmaker whose various online offerings have racked up millions of YouTube hits, but his most recent parody is rocketing him onto a whole new level. Why Starbucks Spells Your Name Wrong takes the simple premise of the misspelling of customers’ names on their coffee cups – and the moaning Tweets and Instagrams of “hilariously” egregious examples – and offers a very simple explanation. The staff, it appears, “are f***ing with you.”

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    I have no idea who Mr G.G.Hines is. And yet I am standing surrounded by junk staring at his black leather passport holder. I am transfixed by it; lost in reveries about who he was, where he travelled to and what his handwriting – neat, confident but not fussy – says about him. I am also wondering how his passport came to be here, and the answer to that begins with Dan Tobin Smith.