Category Archives: Design

Happy Birthday to “Invisible Man” Author Ralph Ellison

“I am an invisible man. No, I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allen Poe; nor am I one of those Hollywood-movie ectoplasms.”

American writer, essayist, and musician Ralph Ellison was born March 1, 1914.

One of my favorite books of all time is Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man: a complex, sprawling, and uncompromising rumination on race, class, and identity in Mid-Century America:

Invisible Man, First Edition, 1952.

” I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids–and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me.”

It is a book that reveals deeper levels and new revelations with each reading:

“Like the bodiless heads you see sometimes in circus sideshows, it is as though I have been surrounded by mirrors of hard, distorting glass.”

Invisible Man, 2012 cover designed by Cardon Webb.

Considered to be a seminal novel of the 20th century, it is a nightmarish journey of psychological angst and societal madness as told through the narrative of a nameless protagonist.

CODA: If you haven’t read the novel (or if you haven’t cracked it open since high school or college), I would highly recommend the experience:

“When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves, or figments of their imagination–indeed, everything and anything except me.”

 

Emily McDowell’s New Book Expands Upon Her Honest Design About Serious Illness

The book “There Is Not a Good Card For This” expands upon Emily McDowell’s line of cards to address serious illness.

Two years ago, I wrote a feature for TLS about Emily McDowell’s straightforward and often humorous line of empathy cards borne out of her own battle at age 24 with Stage 3 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

This small, personal project has evolved into a larger, collaborative book, There is No Good Card for This (the title, inspired by the name of one of Emily’s cards) with Kelsey Crowe, Ph.D. to help individuals chart a meaningful course of action “when life is scary, awful, and unfair to people you love”.

 

Divided into three parts, the book’s practical,  conversational prose perfectly mirrors Emily’s spare and insightful illustration style—she is masterful at distilling complex subjects and concepts into warm and meaningful forms.

Congratulations Emily and Kelsey on the new book. And thank you for transforming illness, struggle, and pain into meaning, purpose, and beauty that benefits us all.

Todd.

CODA: Listen to Emily discuss the new book on NPR’s Morning Edition.

A Decade on One Design? Lost Art Describes Working with the Avalanches

Design is hard.

Working on a singular project for a decade is commitment:

“it is more important for us to be creating beautiful, progressive, rewarding work with our partners than it is to take on every new client we can.” —Lost Art

The design firm Lost Art collaborated with the music outfit The Avalanches more than ten years as their second album Wildflower was in development.

As reviewed in this blog in September, Wildflower is an exceptional album—a sonic collision of genres transcending time and space and one of my favorite releases of 2016.

CODA: Check out “The Was”, a video piece created by the art collective Soda_Jerk and the Avalanches:

 

 

 

Google Cardboard Provides A Taste of Virtual Reality for $15 USD

Google Cardboard transforms your smartphone into a Virtual Reality (VR) viewer in seconds!
Google Cardboard transforms your smartphone into a Virtual Reality (VR) viewer in seconds!

During a summer playdate with my best friend and our kids, he exposed me to Google Cardboard via a player received in the post from the New York Times VR (a recently launched content provider for Cardboard).  After slipping on a pair of headphones and staring deeply into headpiece (which conspicuously resembles the old, static View Master), I was blown away by the seemingly effortless experience of swimming underwater with dolphins, climbing the spire of the new World Trade Center, and exploring the history of Cuban Dance.

Despite the fact that Cardboard is 360-degree video and isn’t true virtual reality it is an astounding, immersive experience for only $15 and the content being created for the player (many of them free) is equally impressive!

But, don’t take my word for it, explore it yourself:

“Bring virtual reality to life with Google Cardboard. Using your smartphone and VR apps, this quality viewer puts the world of VR right in your hands, affordably.”

Make a Mixtape (for Someone Who Doesn’t Know You)

Steal-Like-Artist-Journal

Austin Kleon’s brilliant book “Steal Like an Artist” has a companion journal with invaluable exercises to get one’s creative juices flowing with a bias towards action.

As a music aficionado, I was immediately interested in the exercise: “Make a Mixtape (For Someone Who Doesn’t Know You)”. I wrote down my list and created two playlists (“Make a Mixtape Vols. 1 and 2”) in my iTunes to listen to while I work throughout the day. Hopefully you will create a mixtape of your own and share it with a friend.

Enough writing, here’s the list:

SIDE A

  • Charles Brown—Black Night
  • Nina Simone—Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood
  • Jimi Hendrix—1983 (A Merman I Should Turn to Be)
  • Sun Ra—Calling Planet Earth
  • Madvillian—Shadows of Tomorrow
  • A Tribe Called Quest—Excursions
  • Wes Montgomery (with the Wynton Kelly Trio)—Impressions
  • Bad Brains—Sailin’ On
  • Alton Ellis—Reason in the Sky
  • King Sunny Adé—Sunny Ti De Ariya
  • Rhythm and Sound Featuring Cornell Campbell—King of My Empire

SIDE B

  • Hiatus Kiayote—Breathing Underwater
  • Los Destellos—Onsta La Yerbita
  • The Black Keys—Weight of Love
  • Gary Clark Jr.—When My Train Pulls In
  • Paul Weller—Whirlpool’s End
  • Three Dog Night—Easy to Be Hard
  • Leon Thomas—Echoes
  • Terry Callier—Love Theme from Spartucus (4 Hero No Skins Mix)
  • Arthur Verocai—Sylvia
  • Nostalgia 77—Quiet Dawn (Examples of Twelve Remix)
  • Miles Davis—Flamenco Sketches

Marvel’s Black Panther Gets a High-Octane Update from Author Ta-Nehisi Coates

MacArthur Genius Grant Awardee and National Book Award Winning Author (Between the World and Me), Essayist, and Social Critic Ta-Nehisi Coates reinvigorates the Wakandan warrior Black Panther for a new generation of readers.

Ta-Nehisi Coates and Brian Stelfreeze's update of Black Panther for the modern era.
Ta-Nehisi Coates and Brian Stelfreeze’s update of Black Panther for the modern era.

Infused with a social and political urgency uncommonly present in comics, the most advanced society on Earth (Wakanda) is in the midst of revolution and unrest and the warrior/prince T’Challa must deftly balance the duties of superhero and monarch. Brian Stelfreeze’s artwork is cinematic in its scope and movement.

Black Panther will have a major role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) as Director Ryan Coogler (Creed, Fruitvale Station) helms the upcoming film starring Chadwick Boseman (42, Captain America Civil War).

If this comic series is any indication, Black Panther will be the prototypical hero for the new millennium.

Black Panther Marvel Online Update #1
Watch the video recap of Black Panther issue #1 paired with the music of Run the Jewels.

The response to this series (now in its third issue) has been overwhelming and Coates is providing a video update of each issue paired with exciting new music from artists such as Run the Jewels, Mobb Deep, and Prodigy.

 

Observing Bill Cunningham’s New York City

Bill Cunningham chronicled New York Fashion and urban street style for more than 40 years.
Bill Cunningham chronicled New York Fashion and urban street style for more than 40 years.

Legendary New York fashion photographer Bill Cunningham died last week, he was 87.

His more than forty years of photographing New York fashion and street style is a singularly astounding body of work and a fascinating catalog of cultural anthropology.

BCunninghamStreet BCunninghamStreet_3

My first encounter with Bill Cunningham’s work was attending the premiere of the documentary “Bill Cunningham’s New York”  at the AFI Silverdocs Festival in 2010.

Bill Cunningham's New York (2010) is a moving and fascinating documentary of the aforementioned street fashion photographer.
Bill Cunningham’s New York (2010) is a moving and fascinating documentary of the aforementioned street fashion photographer.

Although I remember frequently seeing his photographs in the
New York Times, I never knew anything about the dedicated artist behind the camera.

BCunningham_OntheStreet_Video

Leaving the theatre I was awestruck by the passion, focus and dedication Mr. Cunningham had for his craft. In this age of social media there are many, many street fashion photographers; but Bill Cunningham was a true original.

 

Life Lessons from Nobel Physicist Dr. Yoichiro Nambu

I love reading newspaper obituaries.

Not only does it remind one of how brief life is, it can be a powerful motivational tool for learning life lessons. Here’s one from Nobel Prize winning Physicist, Dr. Yoichiro Nambu:

“‘When he won the Nobel Prize, Dr. Nambu was asked what advice he would offer students interested in science.

Yoichiro Nambu

‘Think independently and think all the time,’ he said.
‘I like to tackle a problem first by myself, and then look up somebody’s answer, if there is one.’”

For a man of science, Dr. Nambu sure sounds a lot like an artist.

Complex’s Mindbending FKA Twigs Online Cover Story

Avant Garde photography and clever online animation turns feature article into a user experience art piece.
Avant Garde photography and clever online animation turns feature article into a user experience art piece.

Kudos to the staff of Complex Magazine for its approach to the feature article on Pop and R&B Art Futurist FKA Twigs.

Part artist profile, part interactive art exhibit, and part user experience multimedia experiment; it boldly shows a glimpse into the possible future of entertainment content delivery.