The features we create on It’s Nice That give us time to delve deep and tell the stories that deserve a little more reading time. This year we documented the closing of one of London’s most famous clubs (which is now to be re-opened), asked Milton Glaser about ethics and got Wilfrid Wood to depict the summer games – these are the long-reads that have stayed with you this year.
Don't Hug Me I'm Scared - an exclusive interview with Duck, Red Guy and Yellow GuyOwen Pritchard —
This week, the final episode of Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared was released. The series of web shorts, created by Becky Sloan and Joe Pelling, has been viewed over 30 million times, spawned a countless fan theories, inspired a fashion line and generally amused and confused anyone who watched it. Throughout six episodes we have watched the protagonists, known only as Duck, Red Guy and Yellow Guy, learn about time, the internet, healthy eating, love and creativity. Ahead of the final episode we took an opportunity to interview the cast of the show and shoot them in a style worthy of their global superstar status. After wracking our brains for an angle, we found that the questions that needed answering had already been asked, but not answered, in the script of each episode. To sate your curiosity, and probably further confuse things, we asked these questions that have been posed previously by a computer, a lamb chop, a hallucination and the stars themselves.
Where do you live?
Yellow Guy: I live in my house!
Duck: I live in my house.
Red Guy: I just don’t know anymore.
What do you like to eat?
Yellow Guy: Spaghetti!
Red Guy: Well, I’m trying out an all plain foods diet. At the moment its causing a few disturbing side effects but I think just takes a while to get adjusted.
Duck: Pineapple fritters, waffles, miniature pancakes, a chicken picnic, bread lengths and whipped milk.
What is your favourite colour?
Yellow Guy: No!
Red Guy: Medium brown.
Duck: Once in a while.1
Creative angst: a guide to getting over creative block, imposter syndrome and fear of the blank pageKate Hollowood —
Creative angst, writer’s block, imposter syndrome: whatever you want to call it, the business of making original work can sometimes be a struggle. Whether it’s the intimidating glare of a blank page or a winning idea turned muddy, humps in the creative road can incite bouts of self-doubt if not handled correctly. No-one is immune from the artistic jitters, regardless of talent, status or the number of Yellow Pencils adorning their office shelves. So we decided to investigate how creative greats from theatre, film, music, advertising, editorial and design have learned to get out of being stuck.2
Your Ad Here: why Grindr, Pornhub and YouPorn are fashion’s new billboardsAlexander Hawkins —
The relationship between fashion and sex is by now almost an essentialism, but how did a gay hook-up app come to play host to an award-winning designer’s fashion show? How did a porn star come to be the face of one of Britain’s most indelible brands? How did porn sites come to present covetable advertising opportunities?3
Creatives, designers and drugs: what are they on, and why?Emily Gosling —
Long before acid advocate Timothy Leary advised people to “turn on, tune in and drop out” back in 1966, people have taken that doctrine and lysergically run with it. From the French exchange students browsing Bob Marley stash tins in Camden Market to Miley Cyrus harping on about ayahuasca, people are looking to buy into that heritage of intoxication and creativity. Coleridge was laying back and writing poems on opium, Basquait was emblazoning New York with murals and his veins with heroin, Hendrix was noodling away on LSD and Warhol buzzed about his Factory frantically coursing with amphetamines. As such, it’s perhaps the creative community that has most visibly combined intoxication with their job description. Either that, or they just talk about it more than accountants, or landscape gardeners – or do so in a more public forum.4
Monotype unveils its redesigned Transport for London typeface, Johnston100Emily Gosling —
It’s a rare person who actively enjoys using the London Underground: the clichés you read about standing uncomfortably with your head nestled into a tall man’s sweaty armpit exist for a reason. But in its early days, Transport for London’s marketing billed the trains as a joyful thing, capable of transporting you to idyllic destinations like Richmond, or Morden (maybe not Morden).5
How to design a museum: the making of London’s new Design MuseumRebecca Fulleylove —
The art of designing a museum is one filled with expectation and promise: a unique challenge for designers. It’s been a rare opportunity for the talents of Fernando Gutiérrez, Morag Myerscough, Cartlidge Levene, OK-RM and Hato to define the character and personality of this new incarnation of the Design Museum in South Kensington. The project has seen them create the identity, the wayfinding and signage system, its inaugural exhibition, the Beazley Designs of the Year show and its permanent display. As expected, with a new location comes a new aesthetic, so what should a museum of design look and feel like in 2016?6
Meditation and creativity: should we believe the hype?Emily Gosling —
Perhaps a sign you’ve truly made it in your field is the suffix “ian.” Anything dream-based? Freudian. Anything presenting a terrifying, dystopian take on the modern condition? Ballardian. Anything dream-like, terrifying and somehow beautiful and erotic? Lynchian. Lynch’s creative vision is barely paralleled in modern filmmaking, many would say, and just as many would surely love even a sliver of that creativity and imagination. So to what does he attest that vision? Transcendental Meditation.7
"I always try to have some logic to the job, to the work": we interview letterpress legend Alan KitchingBillie Muraben —
In Alan Kitching’s hands, “the typography workshop is a complex and subtle instrument: his brushes, paint and easel; his film set; his orchestra,” according to John Walters, who interviewed the designer about his life and letterpress for a beautiful new book.8
The only way is ethics: what are the moral obligations of a graphic designer?Tim Abrahams —
To a doctor, ethics are about keeping a patient alive. The modern Hippocratic oath that a doctor takes is the main example of this. A doctor must swear to "use treatments for the benefit of the ill in accordance with my ability and my judgement.” To a lawyer, the issue of ethics also relates primarily to treating clients well; although this is about ensuring that no conflicts of interest occur and that a lawyer keeps confidential any potentially damaging information they are told by a client. To a designer, at least a designer today, ethical issues are viewed as coming from the client. Rather than framing ethical questions in terms of how the designers themselves might behave professionally, designers frame these questions not around their own practice but around those of the client. What does the client do? Is this ethically acceptable or not? Indeed, is this politically acceptable or not?9
Milton Glaser: we talk drawing, ethics, Shakespeare and Trump with the graphic design legendNathalie Olah —
Milton Glaser is ready to talk ethics. It’s not the first time, either. Ours is one of a few recent interviews with the graphic designer and creator of the I ❤ NY logo, in which he addresses some of the moral demands of his trade – questions of whether graphic design ought to compromise its integrity for the sake of meeting a client’s demands. On the subject of advertisers and the designers who work for them, Glaser is clear. “Your obligation is to the client, and not necessarily the public. In some cases, you’re encouraging people to buy things that they don’t need, or encouraging them to move in a direction that does not serve them. Frequently in advertising – and PR and journalism as well – we have to persuade people to do things that we don’t really believe in and that they don’t really believe in. Should you participate in something that encourages people to do something that is not good for them? I consider that a core question for journalists and practitioners of graphic art, but it’s too frequently overlooked because it is too painful to answer.”10
Pop, subcultures and the future of graphic design: an interview with Experimental JetsetEmily Gosling —
Forming in 1997 and united by a love of post-punk music and aesthetics, Amsterdam-based graphic design studio Experimental Jetset went on to become one of the most important and influential practices of the past 20 years. Even those outside of the graphic design bubble will have seen their work: this is the gang behind that oft-plagiarised John & Paul & Ringo & George T-shirt, set out in Helvetica and reinventing the band top in doing so. The three founding members Marieke Stolk, Erwin Brinkers and Danny van den Dungen took the studio’s name from 1994’s Sonic Youth album Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star (more on that story here), and those alternative pop culture references still loom large. Nearly two decades since forming, Experimental Jetset’s installation works and graphics have now been housed in the likes of the Stedelijk Museum, Centre Pompidou, Dutch Post Group and New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art.11
An Exercise in Style: Interviewing graphic design star John MorganBillie Muraben —
As we ascend the stairs from his subterranean studio, our conversation turns to the subject of design writers. “Are there any? And if there are, why?” A point of contention is, if they do exist, “can [they] write about a subject other than design in an interesting way, and is there not someone else who could do it better?” This emphasis on quality is an important one, and something that defines the often indefinable work of John Morgan Studio.12
#savefabric: the graphic design legacy defining London nightlifeLucy Bourton —
“My attraction to Fabric grew from the smell of ink on uncoated paper,” says Roberto Rosolin, the in-house art director of a club that has pushed and defined London’s nightlife for the past 17 years.13
Heroes and Villains: Rio 2016 through the eyes of Wilfrid WoodOwen Pritchard —
The Rio Games saw over 11,000 athletes compete for 2102 medals in 306 events of 28 different sports. More than 40,000 hours of TV footage were created, more if you include digital, as the eyes of the world turned to Brazil. Throughout the event Wilfrid Wood, with some help from the It’s Nice That team, has been watching events and looking to tell the alternate story of the Games, one that celebrates achievement in all its forms.14
An afternoon inside the chipper, biscuit-strewn and brilliant world of 4CreativeEmily Gosling —Certain brands have the ability to entirely get under your skin. Many may try to elicit instant nostalgia, but very few succeed. Channel 4 does, and what’s extraordinary when I visit the offices of its in-house agency 4Creative is that every single person there is utterly captivated by the channel – not in a weird Stockholm Syndrome type way, but in the same silly way I still have a soft spot for Big Breakfast aliens Zig and Zag. “Slice us open and its in our blood,” as one member of the team puts it. In real life, that love for the job isn’t nearly as creepy as it reads.15
Talking parameters, good pasta and dream jobs with HORT founder Eike KönigMadeleine Morley —
The work of Eike König’s studio HORT is well-known to most in the graphic design world. But today we’re talking about his personal projects, which have thus far only been accessible on his Instagram feed, where his poster designs nestle alongside HORT Nike projects and a black cat called Loki snoozing on mid-century furniture. It’s a spectacular collection of contemporary eye-candy, but it’s tricky to untangle the images and give them meaning.16
From Hackney to LA: the prolific Jean Jullien heads to HollywoodEmily Gosling —
“Maybe it’s parenthood or a weird midlife crisis that’s come a bit too early, but I do feel a desire to change the way that I work with social media,” says Jean Jullien. “It’s been insanely generous to me, but I’m trying to find a way of being less active on it but still being able to communicate as much as I want. I’m not sure I’ve found the solution to that.”17
Design de vivre: Paris as told by graphic designersAlexander Hawkins —
“To know Paris is to know a great deal,” Henry Miller once said. With its wide boulevards and romantic architecture, Paris has long been a centre of art, fashion and gastronomy, but beyond its famed museums, its boutiques and its fabled cafe culture is an overlooked and thriving independent graphic design scene. The French design championed on It’s Nice That is consistently strong, progressive and sits slightly at odds with the city’s conservative reputation, so we decided to dig a little deeper and take a look at Paris through the eyes of some of its designers.18
Inside The Happy Reader, the perfect foil to "binge-reading" online contentBillie Muraben —
The Happy Reader has attracted a vast and loyal following since it first flew through letterboxes and landed on newsstands in the winter of 2014. Each issue of the quarterly has two halves: an in-depth interview and an in-depth look at one piece of classic literature. The first issue featured actor Dan Stevens and Wilkie Collins’ The Woman in White and the magazine has since seen cover stars including Kim Gordon, Grimes and Alan Cumming.19
Roald Dahl's Gobblefunk interpreted by five designersLucy Bourton —
Over the course of his life, Roald Dahl created a range of captivating novels that have not only resonated, but stayed with his audience. A career spanning 48 books of literature and poetry along with 12 film adaptations have contributed to Roald’s legacy which has greatly influenced the creative industries, from the illustrations of Quentin Blake to directorial interpretations by Tim Burton, Steven Spielberg and Danny DeVito.20
Gender politics, feminism and Kanye West – the world according to Vanessa BeecroftNathalie Olah —
I write this at the end of a strange week in which 38 year-old Kanye West has been ridiculing his ex-girlfriend in a well-publicised Twitter rant. It is strange because, only a few weeks before, I had been talking to the musician’s long-time creative collaborator Vanessa Beecroft, whose experiences had transformed my perception of the star and led me to believe that by association his attitudes towards women had grown more progressive. In the course of our conversation I would come to learn that it is a blessing and a curse to receive the attentions of the star-maker nonpareil. Not that Beecroft said as much. But on the one hand, while their collaborations have allowed Beecroft to reach new audiences, they also stand to jeopardise her relationship with the art world.21
Erik Kessels: “There are no wrong turns anymore… which is where the interesting things happen”Owen Pritchard —
Erik Kessels thinks failure is a good thing. So much so, that he has written a new book on the subject, Failed It that askes the question why we are afraid of failure and how it can act as a creative force. “The idea is not about failing, but moving towards a failure,” he says, somewhat confusingly. “Imagine you are on the highway and everyone is travelling in the same direction and you turn on to a road which is probably wrong and then end up somewhere totally lost. You might find something or meet someone along the way and that switches the way you think.” Erik’s metaphor is useful, and one that he readily expands on. “When you use sat nav in a car, it is perfect and takes you to where you want to be. This means we don’t look or discover any more,” he says. “We don’t take side streets. There are no wrong turns anymore, which is where the interesting things happen.”22
The Italian ideas factory: Fabrica through the eyes of its alumniRebecca Fulleylove —
Since its inception 22 years ago, Fabrica has proved it’s the type of place that can take ordinary ideas and turn them into something unique and valuable. Summed up as a “communication research centre,” the phrase only taps at the surface of what the institution actually does.23
“We’re celebrating ability beyond disability”: Channel 4 releases its ad for the Rio Paralympic Games 2016Rebecca Fulleylove —
In 2012, Channel 4’s Paralympic Games campaign, Meet the Superhumans raised awareness and understanding of disability in sport and helped London 2012 Paralympics become the first Paralympic Games to sell out. The broadcaster took Paralympic sport to another level and it was through its striking 90-second TV ad that they achieved this.24
Jordy van den Nieuwendijk: my Hockney collectionJordy van den Nieuwendijk —
Over fifteen years ago my dad and I would meet in the same supermarket every Saturday. He was there to buy groceries and I was working in the dairy department, meaning for years I ate ice cream for lunch. One thing was a given, every week my dad came home with a Donald Duck magazine, which my brother and I collected. Towards the end of my twenties and during my studies at the Royal Academy of Art in the Netherlands, I started collecting books for grown-ups.25
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