Author Archive: Rob Alderson


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.

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    We’ve been big fans of Sam Pilling for a few years now – inspired and excited by his work for the likes of SBTRKT and Two Door Cinema Club – so he was a natural contender for our My Favourite Music Video feature. And what a pearler he’s picked; Patrick Daughters’ weird and wonderful video for Depeche Mode’s Wrong complete with a masked man driving a car backwards, hit and runs aplenty and even an almost imperceptible Spike Jonze cameo. Over to Sam to tell us why this dazzles and delights him so..

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    It’s a challenge creative agents are very familiar with; how do you best showcase an eclectic roster of talent in way that celebrates the particular abilities of each while maintaining some measure of coherence across the agency as a whole? Well London-based Visual Artists has given a masterclass in doing just that by way of their brilliant new site designed by Yes Studio. The use of imagery – both still and moving – creates a vibrant, dynamic and enjoyable user experience, the perfect platform to shout about the skills of VA’s portfolio of creative excellence. I really like the pithy communication as well; short sharp bursts of information rather than self-indulgent artists’s statements are the order of the day and keep the overall look and feel very visually-led. Top work all round.

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    If you picked up a copy of our winter 2013 issue of Printed Pages you will have come across a tremendous series of photos Jake Green shot at the about-to-be-refurbished Renoir cinema. They were actually part of a much larger project Jake is working on with Simon Poon Tip, a collaborative collection of 32 films telling 32 London stories (the number coincides with the capital’s boroughs). We are delighted to bring you the first five films all this week; starting with the elegiac piece filmed during the last days of the old Renoir.

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    Photographer Carl Kleiner is so consistently excellent that coming up with witty/pithy/unusual introductions every time we feature him on the site is pretty difficult (yeah I know, get the violins out, my life is soooooo hard etc etc etc). So let’s keep this nicely simple; Carl has styled and shot this beautiful series for Herman Miller’s new editorial platform WHY to showcase their new colour palette. His abstract creations do a brilliant job of putting the colours front and centre, celebrating the vibrancy of each and the eclecticism of the range without resorting to clumsy juxtaposition. Even by his own sky-high standards Carl’s on something of a hot streak recently and long may it continue!

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    It’s 20 years now since London’s Royal College of Art launched its annual anonymous postcard exhibition and this year’s show features an astonishing 2,900 offerings. Alongside the work of current students and faculty members plus recent graduates there are postcards from the likes of Milton Glaser, Grayson Perry, Jarvis Cocker, Paul Smith and Zaha Hadid.

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    Ever-intriguing Dutch duo Lernert & Sander are masters at taking what is fundamentally a simple idea and turning it into something both beguiling and beautiful. So it is with their latest work for the Kiki Niesten store in Maastricht, for whom they have deconstructed garments from the likes of Prada and Céline. And by “deconstructed” I don’t mean in some clever-clever theoretical or abstract way; they have literally turned these knitted items back in balls of wool, or “symbols of hope and aspiration” as they put it. It’s to mark the city’s TEFAF art fair, and we’d wager there’s few better projects on offer at this year’s event. Enjoy the photos and then watch the video; there’s something soothing about watching these high-end garments being returned to their natural state.

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    Last weekend was International Women’s Day, a worldwide celebration of extraordinary female talent and a call-to-action for equality. But it’s easy to be assuaged by such high profile initiatives and lose sight of how much more work there is to do, and stats like this stop you in your tracks; when Tori Hann went to the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design in 2013 she found that although 71% of the graphic design department were women, female designers accounted for just six percent of those designers studied as part of the curriculum.

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    This week Rob Alderson reflects on his trip to Design Indaba in Cape Town and the increasing importance of designers keeping it local. As ever you can add your thoughts using the thread below.

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    If – as the saying goes – simplicity is genius, then the gang over at WeTransfer are probably in line for some sort of grant. You’d think as the main partners for our summer symposium Here, they’d be pretty busy psyching themselves up for a day of creative insight and inspiration, but they’ve found time to create an app for their hugely popular file sharing service.

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    Richard Turley is one of the most respected designers around, lauded by the industry and the design press for his funny, daring and creative approach in helping revive the fortunes of Bloomberg Businessweek. But when It’s Nice That approached him about an article for Printed Pages looking at this part of his career he was reticent. “To be honest with you,” he told us, “I have a slight anxiety that everyone must be bored shitless about me whining on about those covers.”

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    The reality of metropolitan living is that you’re faced with an abundance of choice. That’s why all sorts of city guides spring up – where to find the best mojito, the best free toilets or the best pork pie (there’s a dispiriting insight into my priorities right there). However I’ve never come across a blog quite like this – a run-down of some of the best and worst places to cry in New York.

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    “When I was a junior junior at Pentagram in 1977, Alan Fletcher used to walk around his team, and without saying anything help himself to one of his assistant’s cigarettes, in front of them. No one said anything. After a while of this he came to my desk again. As his hand reached down to my cigarettes, I chirped up: ‘Either pay me money so I can buy more fags or f*** off and buy you own.’ A small smile crossed his mouth and ever since then we’ve got on very well together.”

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    Sometimes we ease you into a Monday morning but not this week dear readers because Giles Duley’s new series is an urgent, heart-stopping reminder that struggling with the commute is pretty small fry. He went with Save The Children to visit the Syrian refugees in Zaatari, Jordan, and the resulting portraits are extraordinarily powerful.

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    When South African studio King James and the Punk creative agency came together to work on the latter’s new corporate identity, they decided to go right back to basics. The King James team realised that recognition is really determined by features which are the result of genetics, so they set about creating an identity that worked on the same principles. Punk then wrote a programme that took existing typefaces and “bred them” creating a set of new fonts that combined characteristics of their parents.

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    I have a reputation here in the It’s Nice That studio for being somewhat conservative so excuse me if this is a little awkward. The Jullien brothers aka Jean and Nicolas have produced a new video for The Cowards’ new single Statues and I’m not going to lie to you, it’s pretty smutty. But you know what? These guys can make even the most filth-tastic act seem kind of charming, such is their animation prowess. So sit back and submit to the naughtiness and let’s never talk of this again.

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    Twice over the past two years Swiss artist Fabian Oefner has blown our minds; first with his amazing watercolour and ferrofluid photographs and then with his uber-pleasing images made by spinning rods of paint. But let’s make that three out of three, because his latest work Aurora has left our jaws similarly dropped.

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    There’s a natural compunction to measure creatives by the choices they make in the exact fields in which they work. Where do chefs eat? What do authors read? And now where do architects live, which is the subject of a show planned for this year’s Milan Salone.

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    There are few architectural styles that split the room (excuse the pun) quite as much as Brutalism. Fo some it’s a concrete nightmare of harsh and unsympathetic 1960s developments, for others though it’s a curiously beautiful, utopian throwback.

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    I’ve only just come across French creative agency Murmure and looking through its work can’t quite believe it’s taken so long. They have a bold visual vernacular which they apply with ambition and flair across everything from printed matter to bags, websites to walls. Nowhere is this better expressed than in Murmure’s work for the Nördik Impakt festival held in Caen (where Murmure is part based along with Paris).

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    Day three of the southern hemisphere’s biggest design event is under way and once again we’ll be bringing you the highlights as they happen here in Cape Town. Today’s line-up includes Stefan Sagmeister and David Goldblatt so it promises another mass of creative insights. Sing with me now!

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    Day two of Design Indaba sees another eclectic line-up of creative thinkers taking to the stage and we’ll be here throughout bringing you the best of the insight and inspiration. Let’s do this everyone, these liveblogs don’t write themselves…

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    GraphicDesign& founders Lucienne Roberts and Rebecca Wright are on a mission – to take the discipline out of its (sometimes self-imposed) cultural ghetto and prove how it relates to almost everything around us. Nearly two years ago they tackled literature, challenging 70 designers to reinvent the first page of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations. Now for their second book they have maths in their sights, working alongside Alex Bellos to set 55 leading creatives a mathematical design challenge; to respond to the famous golden ratio articulated by Euclid.

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    Hello from Cape Town! Design Indaba kicks off today and Editor-in-Chief Rob Alderson is there to capture the wit and wisdom, insights, inspiration and intelligence. There’s a stellar line-up coming over the next three days including Stefan Sagmeister, Thomas Heatherwick and David Goldblatt who’ll be taking the stage at the southern hemisphere’s biggest design event.

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    We’ve all been there, sitting on a plane awaiting take-off and the in-flight safety video comes on. For most of us the reaction is apathy and boredom, perhaps even tinged with annoyance – one of air travel’s grating rituals. So when Art&Graft won the commission to re-do Virgin Atlantic’s pre-flight offering, they embraced the truism that passengers tend to endure rather than enjoy these films.

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    Cats have something of a monopoly (a meow-opoly? No…) when it comes to the online realm and last year they muscled their way into print as well with the publication of the inaugural Cat People magazine. Everyone knows that dogs tend to follow cats so it’s no great surprise that not to be outdone by their feline counterparts, our canine chums now boast their own magazine as well.

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    Illustrator Damien Cuypers is by no means a one-trick pony, but he has carved out something of a niche for himself in real-time documentation of some of the world’s biggest fashion events. For this week’s London Fashion Week, Damien was commissioned by our fiends over at WeTransfer to come and work his magic over on these shores, and the results are – as we’ve come to expect – nothing short of sublime.

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    The next in our talks from January’s music-themed Nicer Tuesdays with Park Communications comes from Luke Taylor of directorial duo Us. Shorn of his partner Chris Barrett (with whom he usually appears at these kinds of events) Luke nonetheless provided us with brilliant step-by-step insights into the making-of two of Us’ most impressive offerings. From working with Wiley to chopping up vinyl, Luke’s talk was the perfect combination of humour and honesty, touching on both the great and the more challenging aspects of working in this area.

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    We first came across young filmmaker James Aiken almost a year ago when his Icelandic surfing film captured our imagination. His unerring eye for cinematic scenery and ability to create and manipulate atmosphere in even a few short minutes was genuinely exciting, and we’ve been lucky enough to work with James on a couple of occasions in the past 12 months.

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    This week Rob Alderson looks at a design awards scheme with a difference and wonders if there’s too much of a divide between certain sections of the creative industries. As ever you can add your thoughts using the discussion thread below…

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    In the second of our videos filmed at January’s music-themed Nicer Tuesdays supported by Park Communications, Micachu shares some inspirations about how and why she went about creating ten videos for her album Never. She spoke about how the series was inspired by the weird and wonderful goings-on in the house she was living in at the time and explained why lo-fi improvisation was very much the order of the day.

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    It was only recently we were singing the praises of Tate’s video content in the form of Horrors’ frontman Faris Badwan’s tour of the Paul Klee exhibition. Clearly though this was no fluke, Tate appear to be an institution which has taken to the world of online film like a Monet to water(lillies). Their Unlock Art series (with Le Méridien hotels) is a case in point; short introductions to the ideas and movements which have shaped the art world. The themes range from the nude in art to performance, Pop Art to purchasing and they are each fronted by a famous face (like comedian Sally Phillips or Peter Capaldi, aka Dr Who).

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    It was a little over a year ago that we first posted the work of Berlin design studio Stahl-R, an agency with some serious graphic pedigree in the form of its founders and partners Susanne Stahl and Tobias Röttger. Checking back in with them now it appears they have gone from strength to strength in the intervening 12 months, as evidenced by this work for Folkdays, an organisation that curates and sells rare products.

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    So here’s the issue; kids find learning boring but love violent computer games, right? Well maybe here’s the solution – Sesame Street Fighter. A terrific find by our pals over at Wired, this is a beat-em-up fight-fest with a difference; you inflict damage on your opponent by typing out words that drop from the sky. The more difficult the word, the more powerful the impact (and the touch typing tests range from animals to Russian cities). It’s a really fun idea, executed with aplomb but maybe there’s a serious point to be made about rethinking traditional educational tools? Maybe not though – wave goodbye to your productivity this afternoon!

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    With the Winter Olympics in full flow over in Sochi, lots of us are clambering onto bandwagons, espousing our love of sports we hadn’t even heard of until a couple of weeks ago. But for some people the thrill of hurtling down something covered in snow or ice is nothing new, and photographer Olly Burn is one such convert. On a recent trip to Leysin in Switzerland he shot these beautiful images which capture both the majesty of the surroundings and the speed, skill and intensity of mountain sports. Get me to a chairlift, stat!

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    There was a furore in London recently about some children climbing on a Donald Judd sculpture at Tate Modern (it “horrified” art lovers according to this not-at-all melodramatic journalist). Brilliant Austrian collective Numen/For Use have no truck with such quibbles though their artworks are designed to be clambered on, sat in and generally explored in the most fun ways imaginable.

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    It’s the unwritten rule of all films about animals that there MUST be a heartwarming scene where the friendly bear/whale/okapi comes back to the family after having been set free into the wild. That’s kind of how we feel when we see our Graduates of yesteryear, and this week we were treated to a visit by the brilliant Pat Bradbury. We never need an excuse to immerse ourselves in Pat’s slightly bonkers work, and from celebrity-based personal work to a poster for a Papa New Guinean late-night dancehall bar, Pat’s portfolio continues to delight us on every level. Run free Pat, we’ll always have the memories…

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    It’s not uncommon for design agencies to upload a host of new work at around the same time, giving us several occasions to remind ourselves of their creative brilliance. So it is that only weeks after drooling over Build’s identity refresh for Generation Press we’re here to celebrate their limited-edition book to accompany the Barber Osgerby In the Making exhibition at the Design Museum (for which Build also did the design).

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    Cuba – and Havana in particular – is one of those places that immediately conjures up certain visual connotations; brightly coloured walls, slightly battered classic American cars, cigar-toting dandies. But there’s another site of the Caribbean island – the mundane manifestations of its decades as a committed Communist state.

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    “My first question was how can we curve light,” Matt Clark of United Visual Artists says standing in the studio’s new installation at London’s Barbican. Momentum – which opens today – consists of “12 pendulums that activate light and sound as they swing” but that doesn’t come close to explaining the brilliant experience it provides.

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    There are many ways you can go about telling the world how great a table is. You can use technical specifications, photogenic models or testimonials from design world heavyweights. But this is the best way to do it as far as we’re concerned; get illustrator and animation director Celyn to produce a lovely 2D film showing how the Barber and Osgerby designed Vitra Map Table can play an integral role in the creative world. Individualy many of the aspects seem simple – including the storyline of a young woman developing her own studio and the visual elements themselves – but taken as a whole it all comes together to create seething both charming and communicative. Lovely stuff.