2017, hey? And we thought that 2016 was tough… In a world without Prince and David Bowie it seems that the starting gun we fired has seen us accelerate towards a vast wasteland of geopolitical uncertainty. And Banksy reappeared too.
Ah Best of the Web, it’s a bit like Christmas pudding – you don’t think you fancy a wedge of it dripping with cream, but when it’s plonked in front of you, you always manage to find the strength to plunge that spoon into the bowl and devour it. “Why don’t we eat this everyday?!” You cry with clumps of dried fruit clinging to your chin – well it’s very fattening, and the best things in life happen in weekly installments. As such, this week’s Best of the Web, and the last of the year, is a (Christmas) cracker.
The Greenbrier is a grand resort nestled in the mountains of West Virginia in White Sulphur Springs. Situated in the middle of nowhere it has long been the “getaway spot” of diplomats, royalty and presidents with a casino under its driveway and shops catering to guests’ every need. However, beyond the hotel’s lavish wings is a giant metal door, covered in Draper wallpaper which hides a 112,544 square foot bunker.
Acclaimed director Dougal Wilson is behind some of the most loved and emotive British advertising campaigns, having directed several of John Lewis’ Christmas ads and We’re the Superhumans for Channel 4’s Paralympics coverage. His latest work is a series of shorter, but no less prevalent, films for the Channel 4 idents – or as he explains at Nicer Tuesdays “the bits between the shows on telly”. Inspired by the channel’s heritage – the “4” blocks icon by Martin Lambie-Nairn – these idents star a mischievous, giant block character that roams the British Isles.
2017 has been the year of many ups and downs but one definite music-based positive was record label Bella Union celebrating its 20 year anniversary. Marked by a string of collaborative shows earlier this year, as well as releasing albums by long-standing signings Father John Misty and a Beach House B-Sides and Rarities compilation, Bella Union also introduced debuts by Holly Macve, Lowly and Lost Horizons, a new collaboration between the labels founder and ex-Cocteau Twins member Simon Raymonde and drummer Richard Thomas — and that’s just a few!
“Let’s face it, 2017 has been a sustained bad news day for the world, so I’ll just say for me personally this year has been about maturing and appreciating what I’ve got,” says illustrator Kyle Platts. “I turned 30 this year and I feel really good about the fact that I was an illustrator throughout my 20s and spent the whole time doing whatever the fuck I wanted and having a sick time. This achievement has given me more confidence in my work and my decision making in my life. I’m optimistic that I can take my work to a new level in this next decade and with the skills I’ve acquired and the new skills I’m currently ascertaining.”
“Can you take our picture please?” It’s the 21 January 2017, I’m at the Women’s March in London trying to cram three teenagers and their placards into an iPhone screen. The placards are pretty impressive feats in themselves: accurate pen and paint portraits of Trump and a large hand-drawn, atomically correct diagram of female reproductive organs (incidentally it was at the Women’s March when I finally learned, aged 33, the difference between the vulva and the vagina after walking for a mile behind a wonderfully educational drawing with the slogan ‘My body, my choice, get ovary it’). I know in a couple of minutes of taking this photo it will be up on social media with the hashtag #notmypresident. Where our worth was once represented with the possessions we owned, which was then replaced with the experiences and holidays we took part in, 2017 saw our status most defined by our activism. What we care about and how much we care is the social currency of the moment.
Albert Tercero’s illustration work caught our eye for obvious reasons: his consistent style and restricted use of colour makes for a considered and satisfying portfolio of images. Born and raised in Barcelona, it was while studying at La Massana art and design centre, under the guidance of tutors like Pep Montserrat and Riki Blanco, that he was introduced to the idea that “illustration doesn’t have to just be decorative but also has the power to communicate many things.”
Like Wet Cement is a documentary photography project from Cologne-based Jann Höfer, and explores the impact the sect Colonia Dignidad – now called Villa Baviera – and its history has had on the people and landscape that remains.
Builder’s Club is known for its mind-bending 3D animations but this latest project goes one level up the eye-boggling scale. Hypnotic and satisfying to watch, the short film – made to promote a new speaker from Google’s Chinese rival Baidu – brings to life the product’s qualities with hyperreal sheen.
Over the past few months Kinshasa-based music collective KOKOKO! made up of artists, dancers and inventors have gained the attention of many unexpected fans. The reaction to their music, their performance and their energy is understandable in the first few seconds of finding them, because it isn’t like anything you would have heard or seen before.
Artist Kingsley Ifill is ripping up one of the art world’s most grating communicative tools: the overwritten, hopelessly reductive press release. “After much time, thought and debate, I decided on not having an official press release, hoping the exhibition would generate some kind of conversation down the line which could then in the future possibly be used as an accompanying text,” he tells It’s Nice That.
Although the shortest month of the year, February still managed to be packed with inevitably bad news stories, creative goodness, one terrible (but hilarious) awards ceremony announcement mistake, and the return of some TV gold in its short 28 days.
It’s time for us to reflect on 2017 and this is the first of 12 monthly round ups where we dissect the events and stories that occurred across the creative industries this year. Here we will celebrate the projects, news stories and in-depth features we shared on It’s Nice That. Plus a few extra insights from the people that made them happen.
Earlier this week we introduced the It’s Nice That watch created in partnership with Timex. The final product considers the tone, values and historical context of the watch makers and ourselves, in a typographically-led design which sports a positive pledge for the wearer: Nice Time Guaranteed.
Written and created exclusively by women of colour, Gal-dem is a vital online platform, collective, and now printed magazine for underrepresented members of the industry. Speaking at Nicer Tuesdays, editor Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff and graphic designer Chani Wisdom described the purpose of the group and took us through its first issue.
For ESPN The Magazine’s recent NBA Preview issue, Hamburg-based design studio Two Points were enlisted to design a display typeface. With a simple brief to “have a reminiscence of a basketball”, the letters and numbers cleverly mirror the curves and contoured lines of the ball itself.
Fans of Jim Stoten, otherwise known under his pseudonym Jim the Illustrator, will be familiar with his keen interest in music. The illustrator’s Instagram alone shares snippets of band references, and those really in the know will remember Owen and the Eyeballs, a band made up of Jim and fellow creatives Andrew Rae, Nick White and Owen Gildersleeve. Earlier this year, Jim combined his two loves and talents, releasing a visual album On A Flying Frog via publishers (and now we guess record label too) Tan & Loose Press.
“I’ve always been fascinated by history and often think it filters down into starting points for a lot of the visual work I produce,” explains London-born graphic designer, Jacob Wise. Currently based in Munich where he is undertaking an internship at Bureau Borsche, Jacob’s unique typographic designs are often inspired by the things he reads or the documentaries he watches and, as a result, he’s developed an eclectic style that varies from design to design.
It was during their photography class at school that London-based duo Reece Owen and Dean Hoy first officially formed their creative partnership: R+D. Having previously competed with each other, they were encouraged by their teacher to cultivate that competitive nature which eventually led them to discover that, “two heads are better than one”. Dean explains how “she was an absolute angel, I think she was the first R+D muse.”
Today, the Cob Gallery in Camden, London, opens with its final solo show of 2017 and first of 2018. Joseph Sweeney’s Loose Change is his second at the gallery. Loose Change takes Joe’s fondness for the great British everyday and twists it into a selection of sculptures, print and light works, each crafted with a wry smile.
Multidisciplinary artist Beni Bischof’s latest book Bambi is the result of him watching the 1942 Disney classic, Bambi for four weeks straight and painting hundreds of works while sitting in front of the screen. “I didn’t want to illustrate the movie. I just wanted to paint while watching and hearing the movie. The words, colours and shapes make up the paintings and I took everything I thought of and expressed it somehow on the paper,” explains the Swiss artist.
The official magazine of the Bauhaus Centenary in 2019 has begun its biannual run, and rather than focusing entirely on the historical, it aims to “deal with modernity as an attitude instead of a style”. Bauhaus Now is designed by Berlin studio Stan Hema, which also designed the visual identity for the entire centenary. Its aesthetic aims to convey the magazine’s remit to analyse the ethos of the iconic German school and movement in a contemporary context.
Derek Brahney set up his studio in Brooklyn after working freelance for a few years as a way to officially separate his commercial work from his artistic practice. “I had gotten to the point where I could finally (barely) afford to rent a small studio space, which felt like somewhat of a milestone,” Derek explains. So when he acquired his new studio he decided to celebrate the fact and name it New Studio, of course.
“I’ve never taken my foot off the gas,” says Ewen Spencer, a photographer known for his nostalgic and candid shots of youth culture. “I make these pictures essentially for myself, and one of the reasons they succeed and aren’t obnoxious is, we’ve all been there. I certainly have.”
Blockchain is a decentralised and distributed digital ledger that is used to record transactions across many computers with a view to facilitate secure online proceedings. It’s a technology that’s in its infancy, meaning general understanding of blockchain is fairly ambiguous, despite its potential being so vast.
The team behind Brick magazine have long impressed us with a triple threat of head-pivoting design skills, attention-holding written features and a proven knack for securing hip hop talent: Wiz Khalifa made it onto the cover of issue one, and the magazine has become a who’s who of hip hop’s finest nascent and established stars ever since.
“I believe graphic design can change the world,” opens Lucienne Roberts from GraphicDesign&, speaking with Rebecca Wright at Nicer Tuesdays. The two – Lucienne a designer and Rebecca an educator – who run the publishing house, recently co-curated and designed the Wellcome Collection’s Can Graphic Design Save Your Life? show. Let loose on the institution’s vast archive, the pair discovered hundreds of items that spotlight design’s influence on human health over centuries.From vintage cigarette packaging to wartime condom wrappers, and more contemporary examples of pioneering creative schemes to combat health issues, the material Lucienne and Rebecca flit through in this talk is fascinating and enlightening. “We wanted to invite people in, and be provocative. It’s bold, it lays its cards on the table. Designers aren’t just involved in the subtlety of messages, they’re playful and part of the relationship with the viewer, that can sometimes be surprising.”
A new magazine launched by British-Indian journalist Debika Ray reflects on the diversity and cultural phenomena of South Asia, and the spread of its influence worldwide. Focusing on India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bhutan, as well as its vast global diaspora, Clove covers everything from art, film, photography, design and music to political, architectural and culinary movements.
Oslo-based design student Simen Royseland has published a zine called Enchiridion, inspired by the ancient Greek philosophy Stoicism – a philosophy of personal ethics informed by a system of logic and views on the natural world. “I was trying to get a sense of my own interpretation of its ideas, and then came upon the concept of Enchiridion – a small book containing condensed information on a subject – and it kinda became obvious I had to make my own,” says Simen on his inspiration for the project.
Jordy van den Nieuwendijk is like an old pal who comes to visit us from time to time. Over the course of his career we have written about his joy-filled paintings countless times, always charmed by his distinct wit and smile-inducing colour palette. So, of course when Jordy let us know of a new show Time Out — Knock Out at Ninasagt in Düsseldorf, we were bowled over by his work yet again.
Catalogue Library is back with the eighth issue of its “up-to-date representation of varied design and art practices from around the world,” – Library Paper. “Giving readers an insight into the artist’s process,” previous issues focused on “romance” and “the new” and this time Catalogue Library settled on the theme of “trips”. Although this could be interpreted at “trippy”, it also denotes a literary trip somewhere, or a literal journey through the publication.
Belly dancers are one of the most popular of Turkish cultural exports, but somewhere in recent history, zennes — male belly dancers — have been forgotten. “They have been part of Turkey’s culture for a long time. I always watched them on TV, especially on New Year’s Eve,” photographer Olgaç Bozalp explains. Now, zenne dancers are few and far between. “I am guessing it’s not appropriate in the public eye anymore,” Olgaç reasons. “I think people in Turkey are interested their performances as it’s an old tradition, but I’m not sure if every family would support their son to be a male belly dancer.”
Alex Grigg’s animated short film Born in a Void is utterly enveloping – not least because of the hypnotic use of perspective, shape and colour the animator used to create an interstellar landscape. This, partnered with the jazz-infused soundtrack, create a unique world for Alex’s abstract characters.
There are multiple reasons why people may visit It’s Nice That. Maybe to catch up on the creative industries, to research into new illustrators, photographers or graphic designers, or maybe just to procrastinate while they’re at work. Whatever the reason, we hope our readers enjoy themselves and are guaranteed a nice, positive time. So when we were asked to design a watch in collaboration with Timex, encapsulating this feeling in a time-based way was our main concern.
What do you get when you combine the genie of a lamp living with a bunch of floating eggs? A brilliantly weird animation by Andrew Onorato called Geenie Reenie, that’s what. “The short is about Genie Reenie checking his emails and helping out his friend Dozen, who is a bunch of eggs,” explains Andrew. “They all live together in a house with their friends, some of whom don’t feature in this short.”
Lecture in Progress inspires and informs the next generation of talent with advice, insight and first-hand accounts that demystify the day-to-day workings of the creative industry. Parts of the Process is a series of articles exploring how creative projects unfold – from briefing stage through to the techniques that bring ideas to life.
Courage is one of the foremost characteristics any graduate needs when they leave school or university. This is often true of the creative industry more than many other trades as students are expected to get out there, show off their work and network despite never really doing it before. This expectation of courage is the focus of a new calendar by students in Eike König’s class at HfG Offenbach and includes some familiar illustration faces, but also a host of very, very exciting new talent.
More than a manufacturer of city-friendly cars, smart sees itself as a concept born to shake up the status quo. The outlet for the brand’s message smart magazine, which describes itself as “a place for stories about visionaries and creative urbaneers, about projects and initiatives that help to improve life in the city.”
It’s a world which reaches far, far beyond cars. smart magazine has positioned itself as an expert on experimental urban architecture with a suite of articles on vertical gardening, a concept which frees up space in busy cities and has hugely positive environmental affects at the same time. Win/win! We’ve rounded up three articles from smart magazine, which will tell you everything you need to know about vertical gardening and why it has the power to keep our cities clean.
Dani Pujalte’s series Cultural Containers documents a host of newly created cultural spaces which have jeopardised autonomous culture on budgetary grounds. The included photos portray a considered and mediated approach which convey Dani’s opinions on the ostentation politics which have meant many of these buildings have not been completed.
When looking through the projects of Russian-born, American-raised photographer Irina Rozovsky the immediate theme is the global ground she has covered with her camera. From Yugoslavia to a three year ongoing project in the US, then to Cuba and Israel before heading back to her birth place Russia, Irina’s lens doesn’t have many boundaries in terms of its content.
Berlin-based designer Elias Hanzer adapts his style depending on the project and works best when “everyone involved is excited about the task and is open to new things”. With a series of publications, typefaces and a poster series added to his portfolio since the last time we checked in with the designer, it’s clear Elias has been pushing his approach and experimenting with his methods.
Social media pedestals the here and now, networks lure us in with a never-ending scroll of breaking news. YouTube is a battleground for saw-it-first comments, but dig past trending videos and you’ll find a community who trade memories of a hazy, half-remembered past. In the comments section of ‘90s rave anthems linger a group of ex-ravers who have passed up nights spent in sweating in fields for suburban lives in satellite towns. The pills have long worn off, but the comedown lingers in the bittersweet memories which come alive when they close their eyes.
Photographer Robert Rutoed has spent the last 10 years on “an expedition through the grotesque realm of must-haves and mega-trends.” For the past decade the Austrian photographer has visited trade shows and exhibitions across the world and documented what he saw. He has now published the series Fair(y) Tales, which is a whistlestop and frequently bizarre romp that takes a peek into the commercialised worlds of undertaking, sex, cattle and more. It’s Nice That caught up with Robert to find out more.
London-based illustrator David Biskup’s work has that quality that many strive for but not all achieve: it is instantly recognisable. Through a combination of simple shapes, consistent lines and block colours he creates Where’s Wally-esque busy scenes that are full of humour and intrigue. We featured some of David’s work nearly three years ago and since then he has been getting commission after commission whilst expanding his personal practice.
This week’s Best of the Web is coming to you from a very chilly place indeed, but it’s ok – we’ve got jumpers, thick socks and warm crumpets on the go, so we’re at optimum hygge level or whatever the 2017 equivalent for cosiness is. For this week’s addition, we’ve got a response to Trump for using Comic Sans in a statement (smh), a look at 100 years of public health marketing and a video interview with Jay Z from The New York Times.
“With a brief about creativity and criminality, a graphical direction referencing spray paint and street-art was initially exactly what we didn’t want do to,” explains Antwerp-based design studio Mirror Mirror, “but we kept returning to it, thinking to ourselves: ‘It’s a cliche not to use a cliche’.” This year, the multi-disciplinary studio was tasked with creating the visual identity for Integrated 2017 and its answer was a series of faux-in-situ visuals and a “post-real” poster campaign.
Wanderer follows the thoughts of a man and his struggles to stay grounded in a moment. Animated by Chicago-based Alex Moy, we’re invited into the protagonist’s world and we begin to “pick up on the very small ticks of the room around him”, leading to a “visual rhythm that hypnotises the viewer”. Throughout the animated short reality becomes blurred and the idea we’re travelling through someone’s conscious is reinforced.
This week’s Friday Mixtape is curated by Jake Chapman. Known mainly as one half of revered and purposefully shocking YBA sibling duo Jake and Dinos Chapman, today the artist lets us in on his musical tastes and introduces us to his band, Funhole.
Islena Neira’s newest animation Insomnia was made with a lack of sleep at front of mind. As a second year student of animation at EMCA in Angouleme, France, Islena was tasked with making two minutes of animation in just five days. Having conceptualised the idea of a moon and committed to improvising piano music for the first time, Islena learned that the competition theme was “L’Affaire Gregory".
When we saw that Hezin O had produced a beautifully illustrated calendar for 2018, we had to get in touch and find out more. The calendar is compiled of 12 separate tearaway cards which can be hung so as to function like a calendar or used as single prints. Each card features a central illustration, the dates of the month framing it and the number/first letter of the month in the top left and bottom right corners.
Hi Studio, founded by designers Megi Zumstein and Claudio Baradun are excellent, excellent book makers. It is not just us who are devoted fans of their publication designs, winning several awards in the ten-year-long practice such as the prestigious Most Beautiful Swiss Books, 100-best-posters Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Prize of the Slovak Design Centre, to name a just a few.