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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    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.

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    Three times last year we showcased the exceptional talents of graphic design and branding agency Anagrama. Whether the client is an event planner, a tea shop or a dry cleaning firm, the Mexican studio has an unerring knack for visual treatments that combine style and personality. They’ve begun 2014 in much the same vein with this work for high-end pastry and confectionery shop Xoclad, which challenged Anagrama to “communicate the area’s strong Mayan culture in a classy way that could never be called clichéd or tacky.”

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    You may have seen the mindbogglingly great work of Barcelona-based Penique productions before; it’s the nature of the blogosphere that things come round weeks, months or even years after they first pique the design world’s interest. But that does not mean work as good as this doesn’t deserve some love from us, because quite simply this is splendid.

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    The design world can be a splintered place sometimes but it tends to come together around the time the Design Museum announces its Designs of the Year nominations (admittedly either to praise the lucky few or bitch about the selection!). This year’s shortlists across architecture, digital, fashion, furniture, graphics, product and transport once again recognise some of the most interesting and exciting projects to have emerged over the past 12 months, and as ever competition will be fierce.

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    In recent weeks my inbox has been bombarded with missives about The LEGO Movie which opens in cinemas this Friday (NB: not everyone will find this a romantic Valentine’s Day plan). Although I’m interested in the film I’ll admit to being slightly put off by the sheer weight of PR, but the promoters’ latest stunt is an absolute slam-dunk. During last night’s episode of Dancing On Ice (a show where celebrities you kind of assumed were dead compete to impress a panel of comically unimpressable judges) ITV ran a whole advert break during which current spots for companies like Premier Inn, BT and The British Heart Foundation were recreated entirely in LEGO.

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    Last October we sang the praises of London/Zagreb-based studio Bunch, and by jove they’ve proved their graphic design talents yet again. They were commissioned to produce a brand identity for Cervoski, a Croatian print production studio which articulates its core skills as “nebulous finishing, microscopic editions, absurd materials and crazy deadlines.”

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    The first week of our exploration into the whys and wherefores of creative-client relationships with Represent Recruitment has proved what we suspected all along; everyone has a different way of doing things!

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    This week our usually faultless pod guest selection technique threw us a bit of a curveball which ended up with no fewer than five voices vying for attention. If anything this added a certain frisson of competitiveness to proceedings; like a comedy panel show without the vindictiveness. Anyway we covered a lot of ground, laughed quite a lot and (hopefully) made a few reasonable points. You can listen via the SoundCloud embed below or subscribe via iTunes right here. You can also – should the fancy take you – add a comment using the thread at the bottom of this article.

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    Like magicians and Mafiosi, models exist in my mind on an otherworldly plane. Not supernatural per se, it’s just they seem to appear fully styled on the catwalk or in the photoshoots and I struggle to imagine them doing mundane things like brushing their teeth or catching their sleeves on door handles. Enter fantastic American photographer Hadley Hudson.