Archive

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    Next month the design world descends on the UK for the London Design Festival and we are thrilled to announce that this year It’s Nice That is partnering with Heineken® for an innovative pop-up lounge bar.

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    An old soul such as myself appreciates when modern-day designers and illustrators go out of their way to make something look like it fell out of a cardboard box that hasn’t been opened since 1972. When I first came across SEEN I was convinced it was a whole group of people, but it turns out it’s just one really talented guy called Rob Carmichael. He alone is responsible for creating some of the best album artwork around at the moment.

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    We’d hate to say we told you so, but in the case of London-based illustrator Daniel Clarke, we definitely did. In January 2012 we crowned him our Student of the Month, and two years on he’s still going strong – actually he’s going even stronger. We were always drawn to Dan’s work for its stunning use of texture in the creation of atmospheric scenes; the smudge of ink on paper denoting a bitterly grim London day, or variations in pattern serving as an allegory for tower blocks.

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    If you’re reading this then you too survived last weekend’s bank holiday carnage and you’re here, raring and ready for another go! Without further ado then, welcome to our weekly endowment of fun and tomfoolery, soundtracked by this. Enjoy!

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    Great mix this week from the lady with the hair, Ella Eyre. Ella went to the Brit School and has since gone on to be a very successful singer whose collaboration with the likes of Rudimental, Wiz Khalifa and Naughty Boy have caught the attention of, well, pretty much everyone. Most of the world is talking about her hair (mainly on Twitter) and why not? It’s certainly the best hair I’ve ever seen. This mix from her is a good old fashioned combination of her influences and faves and is a perfect way to kick-start the weekend. Want more? You can read a fun interview with Ella over on Noisey

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    The Twittersphere went cuckoo for the Emmys this week, but those stingy folks over the pond only hand out awards once a year; here at It’s Nice That we give a big thumbs up to five lucky Things every single ruddy week! Sitting around the table of Things in their tuxedos and posh frocks today we have a book collecting together the splendidly surreal works of Jim’ll Paint It, a poster from master print-maker Anthony Burrill and a new zine exploring the passions and peculiarities of crafty creatives. There’s also a pack of Artists Top Trumps and a book full of photos of a toy town Tokyo. Pop the champagne: let Things commence!

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    Here at It’s Nice That we spend an awful lot of time talking about, thinking about and writing about creatives but ultimately we don’t get too many chances to really see what goes on in their day-to-day working lives…until now. Our new collaboration with super-cool eyewear brand Ace & Tate – who believe in great design and ultimate customer choice – is taking us inside the studios, and inside the minds, of a host of some of our favourite creatives.

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    And so another week wings by in an instant but for all you pod fans that means another brand new episode of Studio Audience. This week listen to Liv, Amy, Rob and Maisie discuss some going-on from the art and design world, plus the usual weird and wonderful tangents you’ve come to expect. As ever you can listen using the SoundCloud embed below or you can subscribe via iTunes here.

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    It’s a sad fact of modern life that all this time spent staring at screens in order to communicate has the adverse effect of stopping us from actually communicating at all. Fortunately Miranda July has found a solution; an app which allows other people to deliver your messages face-to-face on your behalf. Sponsored by Miu Miu the app allows you to choose the deliverer of your message and to suggest the manner in which they should do so, for example, “confidently,” “longingly,” or with air quotes. Even better the actor, writer and artist also created a short film to illustrate just how effectively the app can work, and true to form it’s chic, hilarious and actually very touching. The whole process has a hint of that 1990s board game Dream Phone about it too, which is a vibe I’m always delighted to channel.

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    Where do dreams come true? “Disneyland!” squeal the indoctrinated masses. Sadly, the dream’s over for the exhibits of Yesterland, which is a photo archive of rides, restaurants and rodeos which are no more. Or, as Yesterland likes to style itself, “a theme park on the web.”

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    German design studio Hort prides itself on being an “unconventional working environment” and a “place where work and play can be said in the same sentence.” In this video by Analog Mensch Digital, Hort’s much-loved creator Eike Konig talks about their work and ethos whilst rolling paint and printing a poster. The camera wanders about the studio past leaning bikes and big white desks, scrolling up bookcases and dwelling on the Anthony Burrill posters gracing the walls. Eike is always worth listening to, whether he’s musing on the differences between international and German clients, traditional and digital work and the morals of design. He says: “Visual language is a strong language. We have responsibility in the use of this power.”

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    Anna Valdez is the kind of artist who makes me want to swathe myself and everything around me in layers of tropical prints and geometric patterns and embrace a new sartorial existence as a wannabe art teacher. Her mastery of textiles is so thorough that some of her pieces almost feel like studies, an effect which makes sense considering her academic interests. With a background in anthropology she paints domestic interiors as though they were portraits, with every detail contributing to the overall effect, whether it be house plants, intricately reproduced book covers, woolly jumpers or oriental rugs.

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    Australian artist Kit Webster is has long been fascinated with the emotional and psychological tricks he can play through the manipulation of sound and light. His new piece Hypercube is a concentric cubic sculpture with a 120-metre LED set-up that can be controlled using specially-created software. The pre-recorded cycles allow Kit to control the viewer’s experience, speeding the cube up to a frenzy and breaking the tension with meditative moments of calm.

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    A bright red book emblazoned with gold type exclaiming “MICHAEL JACKSON” is like the art publication version of click-bait. Michael Jackson and Other Men is a collection of drawings by artist Dawn Mellor, produced when she was a teenager and she was really, really into Michael Jackson. “However commonplace these kind of adolescent drawings might be, they are a precursor to Dawn’s concern with celebrity and fan culture; also functioning as subjective social documents,” say Studio Voltaire, who published the title. “There is something endearing, and somewhat pathetic, about the Jackson drawings – both as a reminder of a tragic cultural icon and the indication of the burgeoning sexuality and artistic ambition of the young artist.”

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    For some the summer is a time to wind down and get away from it all, but in the heart of east London an exciting new pop-up space from glacéau vitaminwater is a vibrant hub of creative inspiration.

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    There’s something wonderfully honest about Kieran Kesner’s portraits of Ukraine. His camera acknowledges there’s a civil war tearing the country apart – there are protests and soldiers and guns and casualties – but this isn’t the sum total of what is happening there. There are still priests saying prayers and farmers plucking potatoes from the fields and cyclists on their bikes; what we see on the news is only part of the story Kieran suggests.

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    It seems that Jacob Klein and Nathan Cowen are incapable of turning out a dud project. From their humble beginnings as a meticulously curated stream of stunning imagery to their present guise as multi-faceted design and art direction agency, the Haw-Lin boys just keep on coming up with the goods. This might not seem surprising to devotees of their original Haw-Lin blog, but it’s surprising how often arbiters of style lack substance. Not so for these boys; their fanatical eye for detail goes beyond simple aesthetic curation, extending into a portfolio of capsule collections for fashion brands, editorial shoots for the most erudite magazines and immaculate lookbooks that manage to add depth and pace to publications that can often be painfully bland.

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    Here’s one of those projects that turns out to be way more interesting than it originally sounds, and it comes courtesy of San Francisco studio T2D (Tomorrow Today). Metragramme takes 32 of your Instagram pictures and combines them into a single image created via pixel-comparisons across the set. The result is therefore a kind of average Instagram picture, and although on first glance many of them look similar; when you explore each a little further you tease out intriguing details, as well as drawing broader conclusions about form and colour palette. We’ve included a few examples below but this is probably one of those tools you;re going to want to try out for yourself – you can visit the site here.

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    I always think that creating the identity for a design conference is one of the most thankless commissions around – all those attendees ready, willing and able to offer informed and immediate feedback. So when we see it done well it only seems to right to give credit where it’s due, and Build did a fine job for this year’s TypeCon gathering.

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    Every time a new music video by Us (AKA Chris Barrett and Luke Taylor) is sent round the studio I find myself stubbornly insisting that they can’t possibly have topped their previous efforts, and every single time the London-based directing duo seem to prove me wrong. Their latest creation for British singer-songwriter and producer Labrinth is potentially the finest yet in fact, combining what is becoming their trademark one-shot effect with a brilliantly simple storyline. The video follows Labrinth through the ups and downs of making a record, from TV interviews and squabbling record label execs to shooting videos in flash cars and performing onstage, exposing a side that usually remains concealed. It’s a natural fit for Us’ pared-back aesthetic, where cameras, ladders and extras are all included in the shot. Have they upped the stakes again? We reckon so.

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    This week editorial assistant Amy Lewin ponders the cultural impact of the potential England/Scotland split. As ever, feel free to leave comments below.

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    “Can I email you back on Monday? I’m actually in the desert this weekend,” was the reply we got from Tom Gould when we got in touch to see what he was up to a couple of weeks back. It might sound like the filmmaker’s equivalent of the dog eating your homework, but in Tom’s case it’s a wholly credible excuse, and even more so now that we can see the fruits of his labour.

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    We’ve been on the edge of our seats waiting to announce the arrival of the Autumn issue Printed Pages, but it’s going to be at the printers for another whole week, and we couldn’t handle the anticipation any more.

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    A few weeks back we posted about a music video for a band called Plurabelle which was directed by Mattis Dovier. Curious as to how he had created the pixel effect, we ventured into his online portfolio which was like an Aladdin’s Cave of excellent, juicy GIFs. What is it about GIFS? Why the appeal? There is something inexplicably wonderful about seeing or hearing something on a loop, it seems naughty – something you shouldn’t waste your time doing, like throwing a ball against a wall or spitting over a bridge. I think we can all agree that the best GIFS out there show people (or dogs) hurting themselves or being clumsy in some way, which is why Mattis’ violent and very well-crafted selection went down so well with us. Our favourite? The running sumo or the motorbike spin, hands down.

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    It was only last month that Stefan Sagmeister called out the creative industries’ infatuation with the idea of storytelling as “bullshit.” But as a prevalent presence in many people’s work, we felt it was the perfect theme for last night’s Nicer Tuesdays in partnership with Park Communications.

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    Let’s get this straight – no one uses colour pencils like Yann Kebbi. His rushing waves of familiar greens and reds depict street scenes filled with fumes, scowls, ageing pedestrians and whooshing movement – always with a dry happiness and a side order of mystery. Recently Yann’s wry depictions of human life have been featured in The New York Times and other prestigious rags, but some of his most interesting work lies in the personal sketches he whacks up on his blog for people like me to dribble at. The seemingly slapdash paintings of his family and the Hockney-esque sketches of the French countryside are exquisite, and proof that Yann has got so many more styles to try out yet before he perfects his repertoire.

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    Kristina Tzekova is an excellent testament to the belief that there’s no limit to what you can do with a packet of coloured pencils and a sheet of white paper. The illustrator recreates scenes from music videos and cult films in comic strip form, from Kanye West’s Bound 2 to Jim Jarmusch’s Mystery Train, and the results are the perfect cross between lo-fi doodles in the margin of a maths exercise book and Eadweard Muybridge’s pioneering photographic studies of motion. Simple though they may seem, her drawings are incredibly intricate, taking into account the continuity between each image just as scrupulously as they do the the details which easily have been missed, from the cheeky glint in an eye to the quirk of a top lip. Here’s hoping somebody picks up on Kristina’s work and makes them into a book sharpish!

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    In the introduction to his exceptional new Erik Spiekermann monograph, Johannes Erler sums up “Spiekermann in two sentences” by way of this quotation: “I’m totally chaotic. I’m so untogether, my left leg doesn’t even know what my right leg is doing. I need order. I need systems. I don’t really do anything without a design grid.”

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    Sometimes the sad story of Arthur Russell’s life mixed with the whimsical howling and rousing sounds he creates is altogether too much to even bear – but we still torment ourselves, tuning in even when going through a break up or driving alone in the rain. When surreal, sad music is accompanied by something as funny as, say, The Muppets – something peculiar and unexpected can happen. In this edit by John Michael Boling we see a perfectly (and I mean perfectly) cut mash-up of Arthur Russell’s haunting That’s Us / Wild Combination and scenes from The Muppets Movie. The reason people think art is hard to make is because they don’t understand how such a simple idea or a wild combination can work so incredibly well. Thank you John Michael Boling for reminding us of this fact. Thank you.

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    I always had a hunch that Bruno Bayley was the kind of guy with a great bookshelf – you can just tell that he’s a hoarder of the weird, the kind of person who would rather stumble upon someone’s diary in a forest than, say, a suitcase full of cash. London-based Bruno is the European managing editor of Vice, which allows him to take his curiosity for the dark corners of the world and pump them out to those who want to know but perhaps can’t be bothered to look. His articles are some of the best on Vice at the moment, so go and check them out after you’ve read his deeply interesting, peculiar top five books. Excuse us while we go and subscribe to the Fortean Times

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    South African photographer Dillon Marsh has long been drawn to themes that touch on environmentalism and our relationship with the world around us, and in recent years these interests have become more pronounced.

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    Their website is a combination of fluorescent colours, textures, media and effects so hectic that you can’t help but surrender yourself to it, but it’d be foolish to assume The Royal Studio’s design work is as chaotic as it appears. Behind the madness is a method which elevates their vibrant, contemporary design beyond the realms of trendy and into something actually very interesting, whether it’s an Honest Manifesto which claims that “everyone loves titles and captions” but they “don’t give a fuck about content” (repeated to fill) or a very well-executed poster advertising the studio’s 15-day tour around cities including Zagreb, Ljubljana, Dijon and Porto. The fact remains that Portugal-based Royal Studio are taking conventional graphic design and turning it on its head to see what happens, and we’re really enjoying admiring the results.

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    Of all the design disciplines, typography is almost certainly the least sexy. But Dan Rhatigan is one of the people who is able to talk about type in an engaging, and very human way. Earlier this year the Monotype type director worked with Grey London on Ryman Eco, described as “the world’s most beautiful sustainable font,” as it uses 33% less ink than the likes of Arial, Times New Roman, Georgia and Verdana.

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    Let’s get this straight, Anna Victoria Best’s work is maybe some of the most exciting photography I’ve ever seen. That may sound like a total exaggeration but it’s true – it is not often that someone’s work is so consistently brilliant throughout an entire portfolio, or that a few simple portraits can hold such a huge amount of power. If I wasn’t taken with the photos of Ashley Williams (which I was, a lot) then the fashion editorial shoot for Varon was like the photographic equivalent of pudding. You can almost hear those shoes squeaking on the lino as they do the Twist.

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    Adam Ferriss is one of those technologically-minded creatives who is able to put his ever-growing knowledge of code and processing to use building aesthetically wondrous digital art for the rest of us to enjoy. His images make me feel like I’ve just taken some psychedelics and stepped into one of those crazy houses you get in funfairs, where there are giant optical illusions on every wall and the floor keeps moving under your feet, except these are made using algorithms and coding frameworks and, for the moment at least, they don’t exist beyond the screen.

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    Love it or loathe it, mobile phone photography is entrenched in our modern media culture. But it’s facile to lump this ever-growing phenomenon under a single umbrella, encompassing as it does everything from hipsters’ obsession with Instagramming their burgers to the vital role of smartphone-wielding citizen journalists in conflicts around the world. In recognition of the increasing importance of mobile phone photography and the numerous narratives intertwined with it, the British Journal of Photography has launched fltr, which bills itself as “the only magazine dedicated to mobile photographers.”

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    In London, the August bank holiday weekend is all about Notting Hill Carnival. Whether you’re staunchly refusing to go to it in favour of sitting at home in a grump, the first person to stick gold ostrich feathers to your best pants or already knocking back the “mix-them-in-your-mouth rum cocktails!” and having a bash on your steel pans in preparation (in which case you’re two full days early, chill out yeah?) we’re ready to get you started with our weekly instalment of tomfoolery. Crack right on!

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    Colourful costumes, coconut curries and calypso aside, at the heart of Carnival is the celebration of a community. New book Carnival: A Photographic and Testimonial History of the Notting Hill Carnival, published by Rice n Peas Publishing, champions the magic, the musicians and the makers of the Notting Hill Carnival. In it, authors Ishmahil Blagrove Jr and Margaret Busby look back at the origins of the festival in the 1950s and 60s, before crime and crowd control began to hog the headlines.

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    The death of legendary designer Deborah Sussman earlier this week has been keenly felt by the creative community at large. For someone who’d reached the very respectable age of 83, she was still ever-present in the public consciousness both for her continued influence over the visual landscape of Los Angeles and her seemingly boundless energy. She’d recently been the subject of a Kickstarter-funded retrospective at Woodbury University’s WUHO Gallery – proof if any were needed that she still had the ability to excite an audience – and as a result has been the subject of numerous magazine editorials over the past nine months.

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    Where else in the whole wide web would you find a tubby hippo in the company of a superhero and a life-size illustration of an intestine? We here at It’s Nice That do our very best to bring you creative wotsits in all shapes and sizes, so for this week’s Things we invite you to venture into the big bad city with a large mammal in need of a dentist, fly into the blue yonder with a Buzz Lightyear lookalike and flick through Pete Gamlen’s latest zine. If that doesn’t sound entertaining enough, then have a browse of Marijke Timmerman’s brilliant book which illustrates our frankly rather odd relationship with food, and peruse the pages of The Velvet Cell’s photobooks.