Sky

I am in love with the photography by New Yorker Eric Cahan, who incorporates natural light mixed with his knowledge of color theory to create his Sky Series, a study of illumination and its effect on a moment with the sun. Eric utilizes handmade color filters that, when held at the right angle in front of the lens, create stunning backdrops upon which these ephemeral shadows that are rarely noticed on an everyday basis can be recognized. His study of specific color combinations and how their tonal temperatures change depending on day versus night means that he is able to invoke a pure, rich, interpretation of the sky at any focal point, making it look like both a fiery blaze or a muted ocean.

Immense gratitude is felt towards him for allowing us a glimpse at the intimate nature and the very technical process in which these photographs are born. By being careful so as to select the perfect instance to take each image, Eric is essentially making a pictographic journal of his travels. After all, they do say that a picture is worth a thousand words.

Spark

The phrase "Walk a mile in your neighbor's shoes" is one that is fully realized thanks to people like designer/photographer Mike Matas, whose video of a weeklong trip in Japan is a perfect metaphor for slipping into someone else's memory for awhile. In capturing the behind the scenes look at daily activity for Japanese natives, Mike brings the powerful force of total recall to our front steps, completely immersing us in the vibrancy of this country and extending a welcome hand to join him. When you get an invitation like this, you ask no questions. You just dive in. 

Watching the 4,000 photographs that constitute this film pass by in a blur, I feel as if I am partaking in a dream that I don't want to wake up from because doing so will just bring me back to my own sedentary life. Mike's ability to willingly and absolutely submerge himself into experiences like these takes a certain kind of acceptance and confidence that no matter what happens, you will come out on the other side okay. There is no time for later, there is only now.

So, in this same spirit, when you go to sleep tonight, what will you regret not doing today?

Underground

Scenes from city subways tend to be grimy, overcrowded, and full of tired, overworked people. Not anymore. Photographer Henry Hargreaves takes us to a whimsical side of public transportation in his Subway Series, a tastier and more colorful take on traveling that is sure to relieve many a commuter, aesthetically speaking at least. Henry reconstructs the underground railroad paths of New York, London, Paris, Moscow, and Washington D.C. out of ribbon, dyed spaghetti, pipe cleaners, yarn, and M&Ms respectively in this unique project.

In doing this, not only does Henry detangle the seemingly complicated nature of our subways to a more relatable, fun system, but he also tells us that we can literally make anything we desire with the help of a few common ingredients. Design isn't always a big to-do that requires the best supplies that money can buy, otherwise it would end up becoming very one-dimensional. Anyone can purchase the latest graphic software and the best equipment, but things you cannot obtain in a store are artistry, originality, and vision. Never disregard your simplicity for mediocity. Everyone gets their moment in the spotlight.

Ice

I was in Maine this past weekend for my birthday, and the start to our journey was not a pleasant one. It was pouring rain the morning we left for the 9 hour drive and it did not stop once throughout the entire trip; my boyfriend commented that it seemed as if we were literally chasing the storm. This was my first time visiting the state and I had envisioned beforehand what Maine would be like - idyllic and quiet, charming and peaceful. I was disappointed to see that at that moment, those four characteristics it most certainly was not.

But when I woke up the next morning, I immediately noticed a sense of calm coming from outside, and heard nothing but the little rustling noises of others in the inn getting ready for their day. Parting the window shades gave me the most glorious view of the harbor below and the mountains beyond, and a drive around the town took us to this bay in the photos you see above, where the lake was completely covered in ice and the sun reflected its beams to create a beautiful glimmer of light.

I stayed rooted to that spot for awhile, appreciating the stillness of the air around me. For someone who has spent her life surrounded by the fast paced sounds of the city, it was wonderful to bask in the moment of near isolation and breathtaking beauty. This small but significant experience only served to strengthen my conviction that nature is one of our world's greatest creative canvases, and it is this constant source of inspiration for which I give mindful thanks each and every day. 

2011

Each year that passes by does so in a fashion that makes me wonder where the time went every time I stop and let myself think. Thanks to Polish designers Peter Jaworowski and Michal Lisowski, creative director and graphic designer respectively at Ars Thanea, I have 2011 pretty much in the palm of my hand with this illustration created for Syzygy which graphically lists out, via puzzle form, the top twenty things that happened on the internet during that year.

It is the best kind of brain teaser and for those of you who want the answer right away, the site has a nifty "Show Answers" button which divides the page up into specific boxes. Hover over each to find a little blurb about the event, and have fun googling these blasts from the past.

Block

Lately, I have been seeing an increasing amount of branding design that specializes in a mix of illustration plus graphic expertise. Typeverything is a site that collects and curates many such examples of typography whose profilic, old-Italian yet contemporary style makes its owner stand out to the masses in every shape or form. Designers Jessica Hische and Dana Tanamachi (the latter whose work I have described here) are two artists who subscribe to this authentic and timeless look in their work.

Despite the rising popularity that this has in our industry today, I sometimes find myself yearning for something that feels a bit more substantial, hefty even - a design that I can grip by the horns, shake, and know that the pressure will render it undamaged. Vietnamese studio Egregius's new identity for local coffee shop M Teafé hits the spot right on the head and brings forth memories of the Bauhaus era with its industrial appeal and heavy block lettering. My favorite piece of the project is the menu, which has been printed on thick cardstock with the type clearly displayed in equivalent width and stroke for each letter of every word. 

Utilizing the stark color(less) backgrounds of black and white, the design is a unique identifier for a place that is stereotypically supposed to exude a folksy charisma, and its bridge-like logo of "M" is an appropriate call to action for connecting the gap between the two. Egregius has assigned the same importance to everything on the page, and the deliberate nature of these elements is not one that should be missed.

Secrets

Oleg Gordienko's stunning photographs of these train tracks in Kleven, Ukraine feature a passageway that seems to be an entry point to another plane of existence. Named the "Tunnel of Love" by locals, the road is completely surrounded by leafy trees that have molded to hug the area and envelope it in a layer of rich solitude. A walk along this expanse would impel the most basic level of any ability to appreciate nature. If I had to imagine what a modern day secret garden would look like in our time, this would most definitely be it. 

Books

If you ever wondered what happens when the lights go out at your neighborhood bookstore, this incredible video by Type at their local storefront in Toronto explains just that. It really makes me feel like a kid again, filled with delicious anticipation at what tales and worlds these volumes hold. 

This video is two-fold; it also serves as a gentle reminder to keep small businesses open with your patronage. Barnes & Nobles may be more convenient, but the quirks and charm that captivate your heart belong to the places that bring magic like this to life.

Frame

For the first post of 2012, I wanted to start us off head on with a novel concept for the art that is known as the music video. Growing up in my generation, this meant that you saw the starlette of the day prancing around in her knickers while unsuccessfully trying to evade a man so toxic yet alluring that she had no choice but to eventually succumb to him. Thankfully we've all moved past that somewhat, and due to artists such as OK GoLady Gaga, and Kanye West, the music video is now a method of either humoring our inner nerd, providing shock value, or spreading undercover societal messages - all of the above, actually. What started out as a way for record labels to impart visual language to a song in order to promote the artist's image and boost sales has turned into fully realized and conceived theatricals that can only be called a short film.   

With this precedent set ahead of us, graphic artists everywhere have taken the cue to create their own mini dramas in increasingly imaginative ways, and this is where today's post comes into play. Polish producing pair Katarzyna Kijek and Przemysław Adamski (also known as Kijek/Adamski) have finetuned their skills to combine illustration and animation together in their music video for We Cut Corner's "A Pirate Life". The video is a product of every frame being hand-drawn and spliced together to create each rippling effect of water and each movement of the lead singer, and is an endeavor that took two months and 1,850 marker drawings to complete.

Seeing this makes me excited for what other inventive recipes can be thought up in the world of moving art, and what else we can do to ensure that this kind of passion, research, and creativity is never lost.

Try

With 2011 coming to a close, it is almost customary at this point to be reflective, look back on the past 12 months, and remember what happened. We extol our accomplishments, feel satisfaction at all we have achieved, and pat ourselves on the back for having survived through another year in our lives. But there is also a side of us that thinks about the things we did not do, the promises we did not keep, and the people we decided to let go. In the spirit of Christmas and the pending celebration of a new year, I thought it would be appropriate to write a post about this confusing state of affairs that some of us find ourselves in, and what it means to come out on top after a perceived failure. 

Joel Bukiewicz is the owner and operator of Cut Brooklyn, a knife shop that specializes in tools for chefs and restaurants in New York City and beyond. Joel's knives come bearing evidence of the time and effort it took to masterfully craft each one to perfection, and it is this human interaction from start to finish that gives his products a definitive edge over standard ones made in a trolley line by other machines. The video above details his process as one that is almost borderline obsessive, as he spends thousands of hours in order to grasp the exact measurements and details needed to render every piece as faultless. 

Joel's talents may lie in the cutlery industry now but when he was first starting out in the working world, his dream was to become a writer. He graduated with a MFA in fiction writing but was not successful in selling his first manuscript. Becoming increasingly desperate, Joel took a much needed break and immersed himself in a hobby of crafting knives. Over time, his interest and faculty grew to the point where he now has his own business, a true mark of success in the creative world. Regardless of whether or not this is where he thought he would be in the future, he still made it.

It is interesting that I discuss Joel's journey because I feel in many ways that we have taken opposite approaches in life. As a writer who surrounds herself with the optical works of designers and developers, I sometimes struggle with the fact that I myself am not the actual maker of anything. Instead, my talent lies in the ability to discover, research, and understand the moment of conception for projects that people undertake, and I then take these stories and give them a voice with my words. A long time ago, I could have figured out from the start that building something, whether it be with a pen, marker, or mouse, was what I wanted to do. Because I took the path of least resistance, I am here now as someone who yearns to do what it is these people do, but cannot.

But all is not lost. In starting this blog, I have come to the realization that this is my way of staying close and being a part of something I love in a different, albeit equally symbolic, manner. I may not be able to make graphite sculptures out of a pencil tiptame fire to create art, or code entire worlds, but what I can do is lend a willing ear and listen to the reasons why. From this, I have discovered my true purpose and reason for being. From this, I have found what I was really meant to do.  

PS: This will be last post for 2011. Stay tuned in 2012 as we explore even more amazing works that exist out there. Thank you for reading. Thank you for being here with me. See you soon.  

Commitment

There's something to be said for the level of dedication and commitment that we place on things. Parents devote their entire lives to their children, artists spend months finishing a painting so that it represents their exact vision, developers give up everything to build an app they can be proud of. It takes a very strong person to feel a sense of purpose and finish what they've started, because it is so easy to sit down and come up with ten ideas off the bat on how to create something, but actually applying yourself to reach the end goal is something that rarely happens at the same rate. To most people, why do something today when you could just as simply do it tomorrow?

Miguel Endara set out to prove us all wrong. His project, titled Hero, is one graphic designer's journey of drawing a portrait of his father by only utilizing stippling, a pledge that took him one ink pen, one full year from start to finish, and 3.2 million dots. At a rate of about 4.25 dots a second, Miguel spent 210 hours on these elements alone, concentrating all his efforts on ensuring that each dot was at the proper degree of solidity so that the overall effect was striking all on its own. Despite feeling undoubtedly tired at times due to the monotonous action that stippling entails, Miguel never gave up and completed the project regardless.

I think this is a beautiful, original tribute to the man who raised him to be the person he is today, a great method of acknowledgement to the importance and meaning his father has to him. As a creative person, Miguel's employment of his skills in this manner shows incredible love and respect.

Reflection

Of all the skylines that exist, New York City has to have one of the most iconic and illustrious ones in the world. Known as "The City That Never Sleeps", "Center of the Universe", and depicted quite deliriously in Cee Lo Green's "Bright Lights Bigger City" music video, this place would be nothing without those who labored over the past hundred years to construct the metropolis that it is today. Whenever I go here, I find myself looking up at these buildings and evaluating them based on how they appear to me as I walk past, looming with dark windows, various architectural stylings, and silent facades that seem equally as unwelcoming as they are magnetic. Then in typical New York fashion, the moment usually passes by and I hurriedly journey forth towards my final destination, my previous thoughts being as one-dimensional as they come.

Graphic designer Diego Guevara is the first person who has been able to make me do a double take when it comes to appraising edifices at face value. His personal project of combining architecture, photography, and design to manipulate and create mirror images of the same singular structures is truly a measure of his ability to see both sides of the story and fix his eyes beyond the obvious and temporary into the unseen and eternal. Certain points of his photos seem like a Penrose puzzle in which we view a neverending series of lines and sharp angles, not knowing when they may end. And in this situation, maybe we don't want them to. Maybe we'd rather they keep going so that when we next feast our eyes on a building, it is not the first thing we notice that registers in our minds, but the second and third observations that stay.

Details

Once in a while, you come across a studio whose keen perception and diligence to application spawns work that can only be described as visceral. Minneapolis-based (and aptly named) Studio On Fire is one such place where ideas go in and stunning, tactile work comes out. It is amazing what kind of information our senses of sight and touch can provide to us, and founder Ben Levitz keeps that in mind while interlacing ink and paper through his Heidelberg letterpresses. What started out as a hobby for Ben has ended up becoming a medium without which his graphic design skills would not be complete. 

I am particularly enamored by the attention to detail that is paid by this incredibly talented team of creatives. From the crisp, clear notes of the ink to the exact imprint of each letter and shape, nothing is too insignificant or small for the studio to examine. This reaction then gives us the power to notice the slightest dot, spot the thinnest line, and fully appreciate the level of effort and passion it takes to produce art like this. The final product is thus stamped into our memories because of its visual richness and the emotional connection it evokes in all of us, rendering it indisputably successful in every way. 

Philographics

Philosophy for most people is an intense, deeply personal, convoluted, and oftentimes serpentine experience that others can scarely hope to understand if they do not share the same beliefs. The study of life and its meaning is one that has been debated for as long as mankind could think, and as someone who has never had a problem walking away from decisions made only once, I thought that I would never fully comprehend what it takes to review, revise, and reconsider the same theory over and over again. That is, until I saw this.

This series of philographical posters by London-based graphic designer Genis Carreras explains the fundamentals of what every seemingly complex ideological system stands for through a variety of basic forms and shapes. Even though there are numerous ways to verbally describe each one, there exists the main core tenet from which the axiom was first born. It is that one spark of knowledge that Genis has chosen to design so that we may at least be creatively indoctrinated in our quest to figure out our own version of the truth. I could not have asked for a clearer way to be introduced to the arbitrary, the unexpected, the rational, the irrational nature in which society chooses to make its home.

Receipt

I recently stumbled across London studio BERG and was impressed by their forward-thinking strategy regarding all things digital. For those of you who haven't heard of them, the team behind BERG were the innovators who, along with Bonnier, thought of an integrated mobile solution for newspapers and magazines before the iPad was ever created. This kind of adaptive, contemporary, yet entirely possible prototype gives way to more feasible like-minded design down the road, and provides designers the inspiration and strength needed to constantly be thinking outside the box for creative input into future technological advancement.

This time, BERG has dipped a foot into the print pool by contributing designs for a remastered receipt concept for Icon Magazine's monthly "Rethink issue". Typically, receipts are simple slips of paper that provide strictly transactional information and are not usually compelling enough to keep glancing at. BERG challenges this by creating a brand new user experience between the receipt and the customer, allowing them to select useful data such as pricing and quality, and intermingling these with other social scoops like relevant events and trends to be displayed in a format that is easily readable on the fly.

This in essence establishes the first potential paper app of its kind. What could be next? To all the designers and developers out there, the phrase, "The world is your oyster" has never rang more true. 

Rubber

One theme that I regularly discuss on Sketch is the theory of transformation and our society's journey to conciliate the past with the present. I am right there with you when I say that I, too, participate in the almost ritualistic practice of trying to stay ahead of the game by exhausting my senses with novel concepts. Fads that were popular once upon a time are thoughtlessly discarded in a heap along this highway of ideas. Keep in mind that it's not just the intangible that undergo this trauma but also the corporeal, and this is where my post today begins.

What happens to those items that are left behind, and are they abandoned because they no longer hold any value? Korean artist Yong Ho Ji thinks differently, and his pursuit is to give them new life by way of creating labyrinthine beings out of old, salvaged tires. Because each sculpture's power resides in the interlacing components of its flesh, it is crucial that Yong Ho holds a solid anatomical awareness to ensure that it looks as convincing and natural as possible. To make this happen using a tire of all things is, suffice to say, quite the ambitious task.

Many different types of tires go into every one, such as the thinner, more pliable bicycle tire for the delicate muscles in the face, and a thicker, more callous tractor tire for the body. Every piece is painstakingly built so that the end result resembles a primodial creature whose shape is as macabre as it is captivating, and I sense that they are designed to represent each animal's true self in nature. After viewing these, can you honestly say that there is no reason why we shouldn't reuse, reduce, and recycle? 

Motion

Back in June, I saw a tweet from David Cairns that beseeched project managers everywhere to "please stop referring to what I do as 'magic'. It’s WORK." I quickly replied to him, "But it's magical work", and then wondered if my reaction was more naive than anything. However, after viewing Robert Hodgin's compilation of the programmed creations he has built over the last four years, I can truly say that my faith in the abilities of developers to make genesis with lines of code has been galvanized.

Seeing Robert's work is almost like stepping onto another plane of existence where anything is possible. But before I get ahead of myself, I will say that he does a very smart thing by interspersing bits of his coding language throughout the reel. By seeing glimpses of the Cinder and Processing techniques that are his methodology, we are brought back down to earth with the realization that the grids of light and flying particles aren't summoned from thin air, but are actual representations of the commands he has written. It is with Robert's commitment, skill, and imagination that these texts transcend into images, and these images into fantasy.

I completely understand that when you possess the power to make interactions like this happen, the magnitude of the work accomplished may fall flat after awhile. But for those of us who sit on the sidelines, this is nothing short of amazing.

Irony

The photographs you see above are beautiful enough to capture any person's immediate attention, as they are reminiscent of a certain magnificence that one does not regularly run into. You could get lost in the textures and bright shades of color that fill your screen, and when I first came across these pictures, I was captivated by the effervescence and etherealness that was shown in front of me. Little did I know that these photos are actually evidence of a more sinister event, that of which endangers the planet we live on.

American photographer and environmental activist J. Henry Fair utilizes his prowess behind the lens to bring us his series titled Industrial Scars, which explores the havoc wreaked upon us by oil spills, chemical waste, and other nightmares that pollute our lands and waters. He reconciles his interest in nature, machines, and industrial decay to snap these images that are both alluring and frightening at the same time, hoping that they clue the viewers into how catastrophic these incidents really are.

The photos describe accidents that occurred when man's mechanical power clashed with Mother Nature. The photographer's purpose was for us to be moved by this candid access into the earth's state of affairs to the point where we are spurred into action. Thus, the concept of art used as an impetus for change is introduced, and with it comes the full force of this particular artist's yearn for a more sustainable world. 

WAAITT

Nothing puts a smile on my face more than designers who have banded together to create an unified force to be reckoned with. Danish design studio WAAITT is one such example of the artistic power that is born from the pure desire to produce good, quality work and share that passion with others. Architected by three friends and former classmates, Jess Jensen, Dennis Müller, and Anders Rimhoff, WAAITT is a moniker for "We are all in this together", which is also the studio's motto that defines its founders' belief in collaborative design and the distribution of aesthetic knowledge.

As a project manager, I have been blessed to be included in creative conversations that shape the future of brands, products, and campaigns, and I have to say that in my day-to-day role, this is one of the most rewarding aspects of being a part of this industry. There is something incredibly powerful about being in a room with people whose innate abilities enable them to come up with ideas that constantly push the boundaries of current design, as WAAITT's talented team suggests. This feeling is electrifying, and for this experience, I will always be thankful.