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

2266 articles
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    It is now one week since the terrorist attack on French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in which 12 people were killed, including some of France’s best-known and best-loved cartoonists. We have already covered the immediate responses of the illustration community but in the past seven days so much has been said and written about satire, cartoons, free speech and the subversive magazine that it’s been tricky to try and make sense of it all.

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    Giulia Garbin is carving out a very particular niche for herself, as a creator of great-looking tributes to the graphic design days of old. Her graduation project from the Royal College of Art was a stunning book celebrating the last printers in London’s Fleet Street and her new offering is a visual homage to the typographers of Turin.

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    It’s not very often that illustration finds itself at the centre of world events, but that came to pass yesterday when three gunmen attacked the offices of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. The publication – which lampoons anyone and everyone – was seemingly targeted because of the way it has mocked Islam in the past and three of its cartoonists (Cabu, Wolinski and Tignous) were among the 12 people killed. The illustration community was quick to respond with powerful and poignant imagery uploaded to social media. Jean Jullien’s “Je Suis Charlie” picture depicting a pencil being jammed into the end of a rifle was among the most shared tributes on Twitter, while others like Hattie Stewart paid more personal respects. Later the cartoonists at the major newspapers added their offerings to try and make sense of the events that played out in Paris.

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    We’re huge adherents of Leif Podhajsky and in particular his design and art direction for the music industry. His work on the Kelis album Food was one of the stand-out album artwork projects of 2014 and so it’s great to see him picking up where he left off as we head into the new year.

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    In his terrific biography of London, Peter Ackroyd talks about the futility of trying to capture the essence of a complex, chaotic city in a map, however painstakingly-detailed its composition. Cities are more than a collection of streets and stations, and once we accept this then map-making becomes something much more interesting, as we are freed from traditional conventions of how and why maps are put together.

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    Scott Carthy only graduated from Kingston University’s Graphic Design course last summer, but the 22-year-old Irish creative looks like he has a very big 2015 in front of him if the first week is anything to go by. Uploaded just seven days ago, Scott’s new film Litefeet has racked up thousands of views and been featured on many of the leading creative blogs around. The film – which follows New York subway dancers against the backdrop of a city-wide crackdown on their activities – is the follow-up to 1050.6© Scott’s first look at the same issue which we featured back in May.

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    Encompassing animation, music videos, short films and adverts, moving image is not only one of the most eclectic end-of-year round-ups, it’s also the only category that doesn’t (for obvious reasons) get celebrated in the It’s Nice That Annual. But that’s slightly unfair as some of the biggest hitters on the site this year fall in this field, and it’s a fantastically wide-ranging top ten, ranging from CGI trickery and super-weird comedy to a thought-provoking short about gender roles.

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    Because we start putting together the It’s Nice That Annual during the summer, it feels like we’ve been rounding up the year for weeks now in one way or another. I once read that when the restaurant critic A A Gill writes a review he takes no notes at all, and instead lets his mind sift out what it feels is particularly noteworthy and memorable. I’ve taken a similar tack here, which hopefully gives my answers a sense of authenticity if nothing else…

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    Pretty much my favourite Tweet of the year came from OFFSCREEN founder Kai Brach who summed up what it’s like to work in publishing in just three words: “Magazines are hard.” That being so, it’s been another terrific year in which all manner of brilliant publications have dropped through our door. The big-hitters have continued to shine – in particular The Gentlewoman, The Paris Review, New York Magazine and The FT Weekend Magazine – while newcomers like Dirty Furniture, Violet Magazine and NOON have made brilliant bows. Elsewhere Riposte and Intern have both developed in exciting ways, building on the potential of their first issues and KENZINE continues to blaze a trail when it comes to branded offerings.

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    Santa’s an old rogue isn’t he? What with his rosy cheeks and his big fat belly and his enslavement of innocent reindeers for commercial reasons. Still, he’s an enduring icon of Christmas whether we like it or not and as such he’s fair game when it comes to creative interpretations of the festive season. So the good people over at Joint London took old Saint Nick (the Coca-Cola version) and decided to doll him up in all manner of high fashion looks, from Alexander Wang and KENZO to Marni and Raf Simons. It’s a fun project, executed well and the site itself is lovely to scroll through. I also like that Rick Owens Santa looks like a good-time Brian Blessed…

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    Lernert & Sander’s brilliance lies in their ability to see a brief from a point of view that manages to be both really obvious and completely novel at the same time. So when the Dutch artists and directors were commissioned by 3.1 Phillip Lim to promote their new shoe range, they went back to basics and realised that footwear, in essence, is all about feet. They then tracked down and interviewed four of the world’s leading foot models, pedicured professionals who have stood in for the likes of Brad Pitt, Sarah Jessica Parker and Madonna in the past.

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    Not to put too fine a point on it, but this time of year we get a fair bit of festive tat sent into the studio, which makes anything Christmas-related that is actually good stand out all the more. One of the things we actually always look forward to seeing is the Christmas card from London agency isobel, which we first feted on the site two years ago. In the past their offerings have included an homage to The Sound of Music (2007), a team of Glee-style cheerleaders (2010) and most memorably of all a tribute to the paintings of the Dutch Masters (2011), but this year they’ve plumped for something a little more monastic.

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    I am a bit cynical about the concept of guest editors (for obvious, selfish reasons I suppose – “no not anyone can do this!”) but WIRED getting Christopher Nolan to helm their December issue is something of a coup. Subtitled Beyond. A Story in Five Dimensions, the special issue focussed on line, planes, space, time, and the multiverse. Longtime friend of the site Mario Hugo was brought in to create an array of visualisations for the cover, contents page and throughout the rest of the magazine and he worked with Hugo & Marie colleague Sam Hodges (once of this parish) on the intriguing final images.

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    Remember Kim Keever? Back in the summer of 2013, the New York based artist wowed us with his amazing landscapes created in 200-gallon tanks of water and what’s more, he let us in on his process with some fascinating set-up shots. Now, like many a painter before him, Kim has moved from landscapes to more abstract creations albeit within the context of his sculptural practice.

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    Some people may be already winding down for Christmas but not so Rob Gonzalez and Jonathan Quainton, aka Sawdust. They’ve just updated their site with so much new work that we were genuinely spoiled for choice when it came to selecting what to focus on. Great typographic illustrations for_Men’s Health_,_ Wired and The New Republic didn’t make the cut on this occasion; instead we decided to showcase two very different, but equally excellent, print projects.

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    As accolades go, being the man behind “the shortest film ever nominated for an Oscar” is pretty special. That’s exactly what PES (aka Adam Pesapane) can boast though after Fresh Guacamole’s nod for best animated short despite running to just 100 seconds. After a super successful Kickstarter campaign PES is back with his new short Submarine Sandwich in which various bits of vintage sports equipment are sliced and diced and laid into the eponymous deli staple. PES said the new film has been “a labour of love” that began with a single image: “A boxing glove in a deli slicer… knuckles to the blade. This idea stuck with me and I knew I had to bring it to life.”

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    Whenever we’ve featured Nick Ballon on the site in the past, we’ve tended to focus on his self-initiated projects such as his terrific study of a Bolivian airline or his work in the weird world of wrestling. However Nick is also a super-talented editorial photographer and his portraits for the likes of the The Sunday Times and The Guardian’s weekend supplements are well worth exploring.

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    In the beginning, before Fantastic Man and The Gentlewoman, there was BUTT magazine. The brainchild of Gert Jonkers and Jop van Bennekom, whose aforementioned titles are among the world’s most admired printed publications, BUTT was a lo-fi phenomenon. It described itself in a now famous tagline as an “INTERNATIONAL FAGGOT MAGAZINE FOR INTERESTING HOMOSEXUALS AND THE MEN WHO LOVE THEM.” For writer Paul Flynn, it was a magazine about “gay sex, art and fashion you believe in.”

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    Editorial illustration comes in all shapes and sizes and JooHee Yoon’s work is undoubtedly on the stranger end of the spectrum. That’s definitely a good thing though as her personality-packed imagery is incredibly versatile and she’s been commissioned by titles like The New Yorker, Le Monde and The New York Times as well as the likes of Lucky Peach, Jamie Magazine and Nautilus Magazine. Equally at home either printmaking or drawing, JooHee often likes to combine the two in her pieces which give them a vivid sense of vibrancy both when viewed in situ and as standalone pictures.

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    With a client list that includes The New York Times, The Atlantic and Le Monde, Sébastien Thibault seems to be the guy that heavyweight news organisations call when they want someone to distill complex and serious stories into communicative visuals. The Quebec-based illustrator has a tremendous ability to take difficult, controversial and confusing ideas and turn them into something immediate, appropriate and often very perceptive. So whether it’s the end of liberal zionism, the debate over alternative medicine or suicide rates in the military, Sebastien is incredibly adept at creating a pitch-perfect visual treatment in his recognisable style.

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    Edmund Clark is one of the most interesting artists working today, exploring what is arguably the defining issue of the past 13 years. He’s interested in the wars waged by the USA and UK in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the fall-out from this foreign policy and how it impacts on us here at home. His new book The Mountains of Majeed continues this theme, as it’s a reflection on “the end of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan through photography, found imagery and Taliban poetry.”

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    It’s always a treat to get updates from Bureau Mirko Borsche, all the more so when there’s a Home Alone reference involved as well. Mirko and his team have just redesigned Super Paper a free newspaper that prints 15,000 copies for the good people of Munich. The phrase “free newspaper” conjures up certain connotations not always aligned with good design values, but this is Mirko at his mercurial best; weird, confrontational and not afraid to rip up the rule book. And of course, any excuse to get Kevin McAllister on the homepage is not to be sniffed at.

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    I first met Gabriella Marcella at one of those occasionally-awkward drinks mingling sessions which happen after talks and other events. We spoke about her Glasgow risograph print and design studio and did our best to pilfer canapés from any and every passing waitress. But it was only when my colleague Liv came across her work at the Graphic Design Festival Scotland that I took the time to check out her work again and was bowled over not only by her smart new site but also by her bright and vibrant print and poster design.

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    “Eventually everything connects – people, ideas, objects..the quality of the connections is the key to quality per se.” Charles Eames’ quotation opens this impressive book designed by Annahita Kamali and Florian Böhm for Vitra, an (almost) entirely visual celebration of the legendary designer though an intriguing selection of images. It’s a curious publication but one that really works, with each image connecting to the next in sometimes extremely subtle ways. As Eckhart Nickel writes in the book’s introductory essay: “We are transported by little, precious elements in every image that correspond to a detail in the next one, creating a kind of hide-and-seek for the traces that design leaves in our life and the ones life leaves in design.”

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    This week Rob Alderson welcomes the excellent Dazed 100 list of defining creative pioneers but wonders why readers are being asked to help rank the entries. As ever you can join the debate using the comment thread below….

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    We like a creative solution that is a little obtuse here at It’s Nice That and so this identity work from Dublin-based designer Dolce Merda truly tickled our fancy. Not Saying Boo organise secret gigs and late night parties across the Irish capital, but the designer decided to eschew the visual treatments often associated with exclusive, hidden or little-known cultural events when it came to creating the gig posters.

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    As people who produce our own magazine, the hunt for great regular features is a constant one. So when we come across a belter in someone else’s publication, our admiration is spiked with a little envy. That’s how I felt when I saw the new Christie’s magazine (edited by Jeremy Langmead and designed by B.A.M. London) and came across the beautifully simple Collectors & Collections series.

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    The secluded French port of Le Havre is a very particular place. Closed off by barriers, it is staffed solely by men, and jobs there are strictly only passed on from father to son. All of which made it the perfect backdrop for artist JR’s contribution to the Women Are Heroes project, which saw him collaborate with the dockers to create a huge image of a woman’s eyes on a 363-metre long container ship.

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    A late contender for my favourite editor’s letter opening line of the year comes courtesy of the new issue of Human Being Journal, the magazine produced by US-based clothing and lifestyle store Need Supply Co.

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    It’s a cliche now to say that food magazines have become a cliche. New ones are served up seemingly every week and various titles have food specials from time to time, the formula of which has become very familiar. Respect then is due to The Süddeutsche Zeitung Magazine which eschewed the well-trodden territory of glossy photographs artfully designed to look unstaged for its latest food issue. Instead the SZ team turned to Israeli artist Rutu Modan, who illustrated the entire thing from the cover through the 100 ages that follow. It’a bold approach for a weekly supplement but they’ve pulled it off in style and Rutu’s images pull the whole issue together into a great-looking cohesive whole.

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    It’s generally accepted that society gets the celebrities it deserves, that fame doesn’t just happen and we have to understand why certain people get put on a pedestal. Nowhere is this more interesting than in the case of Ron Jeremy, the world’s most recognisable porn star. Recently Ron went to Sydney to promote a new rum that bears his name, and filmmakers Ingvar Kenne and Cameron Gray were given full access to him for 48 hours, travelling in his stretched Hummer to various parties whose organisers had applied on Facebook to have him turn up.

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    The Dutch/Brazilian artist Rafaël Rozendaal is best known for his digital artworks that often take the form of webpages but as he told us at our 2013 creative symposium Here he is increasingly interested in exploring his fascination with light and colour in real-world scenarios. Most recently this has taken the form of his hyper-colourful abstract lenticular paintings, which are made up of layers of different frames and so appear to move when viewed from different angles.

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    There’s a whole heap of great design studios in Barcelona with which we’re very familiar but it’s always a joy to discover talent we haven’t come across before. Such is the case with P.A.R, a graphic design and art direction studio run by Iris Tarraga and Lucía Castro. The way they talk about their approach eschews any kind of bullshit, as they write on their website: “Our methodology is simple: We listen to our clients, we understand their needs and we solve them. Our style is clear and direct, we take care of the balance and harmony in our designs, we use typography and colour accurately, we believe in functional design.”

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    We were lucky enough to meet some of the team from Singapore studio Foreign Policy when they popped into It’s Nice That HQ during a recent research trip to London. The same friendly, curious and open-minded approach that led them to drop us a line has also seen them develop The Swap Show, “an exhibition exchange between design studios and creative agencies from cities around the world designed to showcase and celebrate creative work internationally.”

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    I came across Assa Ariyoshi’s work while perusing the latest issue of Mood Magazine where it brought alive a feature on the weird and wonderful world of Icelandic cuisine. I love the way how in this surreal dinner party scene the shark looks like he’s drunkenly ranting at the puffin. We’ve all been on both sides of this I’d wager.

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    As serious art and design journalists, we’re not distracted by mere baubles. But when said bauble takes the form of an online game (think Space Invaders meets graphic design portfolio) then who are we to resist. It’s one of many trinkets to be found on karlssonwilker’s terrific new website, which shows off their work in the best possible light and confirms their status as one of the most accomplished design studios working today.

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    It’s fair to say that at some point towards the end of last year we reached peak process video, subsumed by a wave of formulaic offerings that were neither interesting nor exciting. So when we came across this new film from Aesop, slightly pompously called The Guild of Artisans it didn’t quicken our pulses. But in actual fact beyond the title, this is a rare example of a process film that’s well worth a watch. The promo “pay respects to materials frequently employed in Aesop spaces” and although there’s one or two things we’ve seen before, the moody imagery is brilliantly shot and there’s a few moments which set the teeth on edge. Anyone planning a craft process film in the near future take note; this is how it should be done!

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    Based in Manheim, Germany, Deutsche & Japaner have a really great sense of what looks good. They have been on the site a couple of times for their stylish graphic design but this work for the Aesthetics Habitat project shows off a bit more of their own personality. The site is described as “a venture all about meeting objects with a personal interpretation, transforming its function and creating narratives” and in essence its curators invite creatives to respond to and reflect on their relationship with a favourite thing of beauty.

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    Afternoon pod fans! We’re back for another week (got to admire our dedication if NOTHING else) and this week we’re talking about Band Aid 30 off the back of this excellent Bryony Gordon evisceration of the whole shebang before moving on to chat about our new digital publishing feature and why online pioneers don’t get the same attention as the so-called golden age of print. As ever listen using the SoundCloud embed below or subscribe via iTunes here.

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    We were thrilled last week to announce the pre-order launch of the 2014 It’s Nice That Annual, our end-of-year book which rounds up 12 months of creative brilliance. This year it’s been designed by Brighton-based Studio Makgill and right from the off Hamish and his team were keen that we changed things up when it came to the book’s look and feel. We caught up with Hamish Makgill this week to talk about why it’s ok to be nice, the challenges of navigating so much eclectic visual material and that blue colour…