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.

2000 articles
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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.

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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…