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

2020 articles
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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…

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    We’ve been well aware of the talents London-based studio Inventory for some years and after a while, consistency inescapably slips into taking their skills for granted. “Lovely new stuff from Inventory again…” But since they’ve just given their website a bit of a tweak to better showcase their work, we decided it was the perfect time to catch up with director Robert Boon.

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    I’m somewhat ambivalent when it comes to themed magazines. At its worst a theme can feel stifling, but at its best it’s actually a portal which opens up a whole world of intriguing content. And so in these cases – though a magazine may profess to be about one thing – it’s really about lots of different things loosely attached (but not tethered) to this theme.

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    It’s fair to say my dancing “style” is very much of the embarrassed-dad-at-a-late-1990s-wedding school. You know the type; he knows the Macarena but he’s not sure how. Luckily though i-D and Diesel have ridden to my rescue with this brilliant new video taking us through the A-Z of dance. It’s fair to say that it’s modern dance, so twerking and East Coast Swing are in, but anyone waiting for the waltz will be disappointed. Nonetheless it’s a super-fun celebration of some of society’s rhythmic foibles.

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    Brighten The Corners have excellent pedigree when it comes to working with Anish Kapoor. Who can forget the dazzlingly good and deservedly-much-lauded annual report they collaborated on for a lighting company back in 2012? So when Anish needed a catalogue for his first major show in Germany, it’s no great surprise he turned to Frank Philippin and Billy Kiosoglou and the duo worked their magic once again.

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    Hey remember PES? Sure you do, he’s the guy who does mind-bending stuff with stop motion animation (like this and this), combining incredible technical skill with charm and wit. So when KesselsKramer wanted a film as part of their campaign launching the new citizenM hotel in New York’s Times Square, they knew who to call. OK so they might have emailed, but the point is PES was exactly the person who could take the campaign’s cliche-busting message to dizzy new heights.

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    Ken Garland has long been one of our creative heroes here at It’s Nice That – he’a man who combines talent and charm with effervescent energy. So imagine our excitement when we found out that Pudkin Books – the publishers he started with wife Wanda in 2008 – were finally available online. The overarching theme of the series is “A Close Look At…” and most of them showcase Ken’s own photography, with subjects ranging from pebbles to street graphics, Mexican windows to Berlin’s Buddy Bears. But others feature John Laing’s watercolours, Lana Durovic’s photographs and most intriguing of all, utterly charming illustrations produced by Ken’s daughter Ruth when she was just a teenager (A Close Look At Playing Out).

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    “There are three types of artist,” Thierry Noir tells me, “difficult, very difficult and impossible.” Which one is he? “I do not want to know.” The unassuming French artist is in London for the opening of his first ever solo show at the Howard Griffin Gallery in Shoreditch, and has been working flat out for two weeks to get everything finished. As well as 15 large canvases which are going on display (alongside rarely seen photographs and films), Thierry has been busy painting various walls around east London and likes the combination of gallery and al fresco work; street painting he says gives him “a different type of energy.” It’s fair to say that Thierry Noir has some experience in this.

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    Krishna Shenoi is a 20-year-old filmmaker, writer and illustrator based in India. He is also a bit of a scamp as evidenced by his latest project which is pinging around the blogosphere today with good reason. Krishna has created an alternate scene for multi award-winning space and special effects bonanza Gravity, one which if included would have made it a very different film. The core idea is simple and funny, but as we so often say it’s the care with which he’s executed it that raises it above so many fleeting online parodies. Good work sir!

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    The creative industry can be suspicious of the “business world” whose pin-stripe suits and baffling pie-charts often seem at odds with the values creatives hold dearest. But new publication The Challenger’s Almanac promises to break through the bullshit, via profiles of creatively-minded individuals who have achieved success with their own companies.

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    This week’s podcast is brought to you by fans of the less is more theory; there are only three of us dissecting some of the week’s art and design tidbits but we hope what we lack in quantity of guests we more than make up for in quality. So join us for 23 minutes of creative chit-chat; we promise you won’t regret it. I mean you might, but that’d probably be on you, yeah? You can listen using the SoundCloud embed below or why not subscribe via iTunes here. As ever you can also leave a comment using the discussion thread below.

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    I have spent many hours chasing speakers around conference venues truing to secure interviews. It’s always frustrating; it can be fruitless. So at this year’s amazing Design Indaba in Cape Town, we decided to do something a little different, and when we asked speakers if they had “ a spare five minutes” we literally meant it. Five Minutes With… does exactly what it says on the tin; take great creative minds, ask them a range of questions (some silly, some more serious) and bring it all to an end around the five minute mark.

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    Yesterday It’s Nice That was overrun with rodents as it became It’s Mice That for 24 hours to mark April Fools’ Day. The idea of doing a 1 April prank has been floated for the past few years but it never happened for various reasons; April 1 fell on an inconvenient day, or we couldn’t agree on an idea or approach that we all agreed had some legs (excuse the pun). It was really when our amazing developers With Associates expressed interest earlier this year that yesterday’s scheme started to take shape, and it became a joint project to showcase our creative thinking and their technical brilliance. Here’s how it happened…

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    EDITOR’S NOTE: This post was part of our It’s Mice That takeover on April Fools’ Day 2014. You can read our explanation post here or peruse the mice archive here.

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    There’s two creative achievements to be lauded here, one of which is joyfully opportunistic. Kendra Eash wrote a terrific poem called This Is A Generic Brand Video for McSweeney’s which lampoons the kind of corporate videos dreamed up by marketing committees with too much time on their hands. You know the ones, full of inspirational imagery saturated with heavy-handed metaphors and sprinkled with impressive-sounding but essentially meaningless claptrap.

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    The world of child actors can be a tricky one to navigate, from exploited teenyboppers to precocious drama school Jemimas. But photographer Helena Miscioscia’s latest series focusing on the youngsters who tread the boards at Shakespeare’s Globe theatre is a compelling and atmospheric triumph. Helena, who has an MA in Performance Studies, took inspiration from the portraits of the original Shakespearean actors and styled her modern-day subjects in the same way.

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    There are different levels of commitment to design geekery, and the new book from Unit Editions is a reward for those who really put in the hard yards. Manuals 1 is billed as “the first comprehensive study of corporate identity design manuals” and features 20 examples of the guidelines given to designers in the 1960s, 70s and 80s. From NASA to Lufthansa and the NYC Transit Authority to British Steel, the book provides a masterclass in how institutions built their visual languages – and by extension defined themselves – in what has been called “the golden era of identity design.”

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    The main poster for this year’s Designs of the Year show at London’s Design Museum features a stark white slogan on a sheer black background which reads: “Someday the other museums will be showing this stuff.” It sums up perfectly what this programme aims to do: champion and showcase the best contemporary design and put a marker down for that which will come to define the coming decades. And this year’s extravaganza succeeds in doing that in spectacular fashion.

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    This week Rob Alderson poses a few questions in a bid to get to the bottom of what makes an inspirational and unforgettable creative conference. As ever you can add your thoughts using the discussion thread below.

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    Held just a week before April Fools’ Day, last night’s Nicer Tuesdays supported by Park Communications was all about pranks and hoaxes. Four speakers with very different stories to tell took to the stage at our new venue the Protein Space to regale us with tales of tomfoolery.

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    It doesn’t happen that often, but occasionally we come across a creative talent who is tremendously familiar to us but who for some baffling reason we have never celebrated on the site. So it is with French illustrator and character designer Geneviève Gauckler, whose work has cropped up in group shows but who has never been feted in her own right – until now. Ciitng the title sequence of Flipper as one of her major inspirations, Geneviève creates characters that snap, crackle and pop with vibrancy and personality, leaping off the print or magazine cover to frolic in the farthest reaches of your imagination.

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    Sadly our flights back to London from Dublin’s OFFSET conference last weekend meant we missed the last few speakers on the Sunday schedule, but our colleague Karl Toomey was there and waxed lyrical about the work of Jeff Greenspan. Closer inspection revealed Karl’s excitement was justified, as Jeff boasts the kind of playfully creative mind of which we can’t get enough.

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    One of the best parts of this job is finding out that a brilliant creative featured on the site has picked up work as a direct result of that article. Sometimes we find that out by way of an email, or bumping into someone in the pub, but at OFFSET 2014 it was great to hear Sarah Mazzetti namecheck us from the main stage.

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    We’re great believers in the going the whole hog here at It’s Nice That. Incremental change is all well and good, but sometimes it’s great to embrace a brave new world which is what our friends over at YCN have done. Originally launched in 2001 as the Young Creative Network, YCN has evolved into something quite different in the subsequent 13 years, although based on the same principles around supporting creative endeavour. To mark a change to YCN standing for “You Can Now,” they have worked with the peerless Matt Willey on a new logotype and graphic language based around the Founders Grotesk typeface.

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    Last weekend we were honoured to be invited to speak at Dublin’s OFFSET festival; a three-day feast of creative insight and inspiration. More than 2,000 people flocked to the Irish capital for talks, panel discussions and live interviews and it was amazing to be part of a line-up that included the likes of Jessica Walsh, Marian Bantjes, Marina Willer, Richard Turley, Mike Perry, Richard Mosse and Jon Burgerman.

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    Things allegedly so good they named it twice include couscous, the ylang ylang plant and most famously New York, and perhaps understandably it’s the latter that has inspired a gorgeous new series by photographer Veronika Marquez. Having scoured the city for picture postcard spots – think the Brooklyn Bridge, the High Line and Central Park – Veronika then creates tableaux using multiple images of herself striking different poses.

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    Beyoncé commands a level of awe and respect unlike almost any other prominent cultural figure, but in Hattie Stewart’s world nobody gets a free pass. And so for her first UK solo show opening next week at Brighton’s No Walls Gallery, the iconic blue Gentlewoman cover featuring the superstar comes in for Hattie’s trademark doodle-bombing (although it appears slightly more respectful than the treatment meted out to some other cover stars by her pen).

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    The final of this week’s five films in the 32LDN series building up a portrait of London through the stories of the people and places which make it what it is comes Alright Superstar. It features Chloe Kelly, a 15-year-old football prodigy who plays for Arsenal and England and is arguably the most straightforward concept of the five films. But what makes it soar is the skill of filmmakers Jake Green and Simon Poon Tip; from the hazy, cinematic shots of empty playing fields (which evoke memories of late summer holiday afternoons) to the powerful but not heavy-handed juxtapositions. There is also a really nice segment towards the end which shows Chloe as the nervous, giggly and sometimes awkward teenager she is, rather than the superstar role she is having to assume.

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    If you’re a loyal podcast listener then you know what to expect from this whole shindig by now, and as ever we love having you on board. But if you’ve never dipped your toe in the aural waters of our art and design discussion then now is definitely the time to rectify that. Don’t be shy, it’s real warm in here with us…

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    I read a good Tweet from MagCulture recently bemoaning how often you hear/read the “They say print is dead but…” way of introducing interesting and exciting print projects. The same could be said of the commonplace discussion of record sleeve artwork in the context of the post-iPod vinyl revival. So let’s skirt round that well-trodden cultural turf and content ourselves with celebrating a German studio which seems to have utterly mastered the art.

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    It’s fair to say that we’re drawn to the weirder end of the architecture spectrum (giraffes sticking out of buildings and the like) so when I came across this installation in the grounds of the Portuguese presidential museum, my boat was well and truly floated. Super serious architecture, maybe not, but these red arches look for all the world like Microsoft Paint squiggles over photographs and that for me can only be a plus.

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    We can all get pretty wrapped up in process, but even the most mindbendingly unusual approach can be considered a failure if the final piece doesn’t stand on its own two feet creatively speaking. Young directorial duo Santiago Carrasquilla and Joe Hollier – who work together as Santiago and Joe – have shown they understand this with their new video for Gabriel Garzón-Montano’s single Everything is Everything. The process is certainly noteworthy as the pair filmed hours of live action footage and uploaded it onto an iPad, which they then scanned as the films played out.

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    It’s amazing how one creative decision can elevate an interesting project into something really special, but that’s the power of the right idea executed in exactly the right way. This zine for Converse by our sister agency INT Works is a perfect example of this, with the sneaker brand looking for the right way to celebrate the launch of the new All Star Chuck ’70. Having commissioned superb illustrations from the likes of HORT, Leslie David, Santtu Mustonen, Katie Scott and Jordy van den Nieuwendijk, they designed a publication which told the story of the product in quite a straightforward way, until readers tore through the French-folded booklet to unleash the eye-catching imagery.

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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.