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

2041 articles
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    Sagmeister & Walsh are not known for doing things the easy way, and their latest work for New York’s Jewish Museum is no exception. With a collection comprising 30,000 objects and a challenging mission to engage a broad inter-generational audience, the museum needed a new look and feel across print, physical and digital collateral that would reflect and enhance its modern role.

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    It’s almost exactly a year since we last revelled in the brilliance of Swiss artist Zimoun who explores sound and movement through his ambitious installations. Seeing as his prodigious work-rate matches his creative talents, it was no great surprise to see that he’s populated his portfolio with a host of terrific new projects in just 11 months. Personally my pick of the bunch are the churning waves of plastic packaging chips for the Lugano art museum and the amazing sea of crinkled brown paper for the Orbital Garden in Bern, but everywhere you look there are intriguing studies in the physical forces which usually go unnoticed.

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    We’re unapologetic Wes Anderson fans here at It’s Nice That. We’re also very partial to an insight into the astonishing world of visual effects, particularly where big blockbusters are concerned – previously we’ve scraped our jaws off the floor after behind-the-scenes- glimpses at The Wolf of Wall Street and The Great Gatsby. So we knew from the off that this reel from Look FX showing their work on The Grand Budapest Hotel was going to be similar, but it’s still tremendously enjoyable.

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    We’re not sure why there is such an obsession with seeing everyday objects made alien and otherworldly in super close-up photography. It’s a recurring fascination for creatives too, and over the years we’ve come across various projects centred on weird and wonderful microscopic explorations.

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    We already praised Made Thought’s considered G . F Smith rebrand to the skies earlier this week but hot on the heels of the announcement we discovered this terrific book too. Throughout the overhaul of its look and feel, the paper company has been obsessed with promoting its story, justifiably proud of George Frederick Smith’s founding principles and the way they endure in a contemporary commercial climate.

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    After a week-long hiatus while we moved studio, Studio Audience is back and wasting no time delivering some effervescent art and design chat to your lugholes. There was a slight delay getting the episode together as we wanted to get the news and views from graphics arts festival Pick Me Up but we think that’s for the best and we hope you agree. As ever you can listen using the SoundCloud embed below or you can subscribe via iTunes here

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    There are various figures whose names I recognise – who have seeped into the contemporary cultural consciousness for some reason or other – but who I know nothing about. Think Zsa Zsa Gabor, Imelda Marcos and Evel Knievel. The latter it turns out (thanks Wikipedia) was an American “daredevil, entertainer, and international icon” who shot to fame in the 1970s and 1980s.

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    As mainstream publishers go, few enjoy a design standing as respected as Penguin, and that is largely down to David Pearson. His brilliance will be given due prominence at a show at London’s Kemistry Gallery next month with his bold and communicative book jacket design for Penguin taking centre stage, alongside work for Éditions Zulma and a few other clients.

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    And so as Secret 7” draws to a close for another year, it’s always interesting to keep an eye on the big reveal. The sleeves went on sale anonymously on Record Store Day at the weekend, but after that the organisers open up about who did what. So peruse some of those sleeves designed by creatives we know and love below, from Paul Smith and Jeremy Deller to former It’s Nice That Graduates Sarah Maycock and Pat Bradbury.

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    We can all pretend that we don’t care that much about design awards but the truth is that it’s always interesting to see who wins what; particularly when it comes to the Design Museum’s prestigious Designs of the Year. This morning the seven category winners were announced and they are as below; the overall winner will be announced on 30 June and the show continues until 25 August.

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    Art director Sue Murphy wears her geekery proudly on her sleeve. “I’m a nerd about a lot of things,” she announces on her Good Design Is Good Business blog, “one area in particular is design.” While working on the IBM account for Ogilvy, she was bowled over by how much beautiful graphic work the company had produced over the past 100 years but realised that not much of it was readily available online.

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    In an age defined by digital, us print proponents are fond of harking on about the beauty, tactility and ultimately irreplaceable wonders of paper. But for a hugely-respected paper company like G . F Smith that argument is one they have to try and win on a very real, daily basis.

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    It’s laudable that designers are working on worthy projects that will have a practical impact on building a better future, but we’re big believers that creatives should be engaged in making tomorrow a bit more fun too. Luckily for us, there are institutions like the Ecole cantonale d’art de Lausanne (ECAL).

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    It’s always a pleasure when the new Port magazine drops through our letterbox and the latest issue was no exception. But even by its own sky-high standards, one piece in particular jumped out as something very impressive. The Chateau de Bosc in the south of France was the aristocratic seat of the Toulouse-Lautrec family, and was home to Henri, the painter and printmaker who captured the wild world of 19th Century Paris with such flair.

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    Romping through some fellow creative blogs recently I was stopped in my tracks over on But does it float? by the mindbending geometric paintings of Johnny Abrahams. Information about the New York-based artist is sparse on his own website but a little bit of digging uncovered an artist statement in which Johnny talks about making the viewer the subject of his work.

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    Any kind of graphic design related to the Olympics can be fraught with challenges – just ask the folk over at Wolff Olins about the London 2012 furore – but maybe the pressure is slightly less intense when it comes to the Games’ winter iteration.

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    As publicity stunts go, here’s one that totally floats our boat. Stationery company Moo.com have launched a new range, and to promote it they have created business cards and letterheads for a host of famous names; from Charles Darwin and William Shakespeare to James Bond creator Ian Fleming and US founding father Benjamin Franklin.

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    Both tattoos and secret codes may be considered cool in isolation; bring them together and it’s fair to say our heads have been well and truly turned. The latest book from Damon Murray and Stephen Sorrell – aka design studio and publishing imprint FUEL – builds on the huge success of their previous books focusing on Russian tattoos.

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    It was just over a year ago that we stumbled across the goldmine that is Jim’ll Paint It, like a drunk peasant staggering into a turnip field. Since then we have watched with delight as his fame spread like wildfire (lots of rural similes in this post aren’t there?) and social media championed his brilliance again and again.

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    I was lucky enough to be at Dublin’s OFFSET festival this year to hear photographer Richard Mosse talk about his extraordinary work in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Infra is a series shot on film first developed by the US military to spot camouflaged figures in the landscape. But Richard found the effect it had on capturing both the people and places of the conflict – which has seen more than five million people die since 1998 – was striking.

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    Historians have long appreciated the cultural necessity of gathering oral testimonies about the past from those who experienced it while we still have the chance. Brooklyn-based artist Rachel Sussman has spent 10 years applying this same principle to the natural world, and the fruits of her extraordinary labours have now been published in a stunning new book. The Oldest Living Things In The World is exactly what it sounds like; a photographic documentation of 30 of our planet’s most enduring natural phenomena; featuring lichens and shrubs, fungi, coral and Apsen trees all of which have been around for more than 2,000 years (and in the case of the Apsen trees, a mind boggling 80,000 years).

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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.