Monday, December 19, 2011

Reading Pictures: Let Me Stand Next to your Fire

The most disturbing quality of the still images from the surveillance camera which shows a man dressed as an exterminator spray an elderly woman in an elevator with a flammable liquid before setting her on fire is absence of the crude, horrible clumsiness normally present when one sees real violence captured. If the quality of the images were better it would read like a choreographed hollywood scene. He looks like a performer confidently taking the stage in the first still and has the relaxed swagger of a rock musician in the last. The strap slung across his shoulder doesn't help. There is after all a certain violence implied by rock 'n roll, why else would a guitar be referred to as an axe and a great performance said to "slay".

There is in fact an element of performance in this man's actions. If he does not actually work as an exterminator he took the time to plan this premeditated act, create the disguised and stand around pretending to be an exterminator while he waited for the chance to kill this woman. I wonder if the vile irony was conscious on the part of this man?

Police: Arrest made in New York elevator burning death

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Tiffany Blue and Shoes with Red Soles (Paternalistic Pampering & Infringement Litigation)

I've spotted many recent instances of what looks like "Tiffany Blue" in fashion/luxury/refinement contexts. The most egregious of which is its use by Jessica Simpson branded products: handbags, shoes and very noticeably, the shoe boxes. This is surprising given how frequently you see mention of the fact that "Tiffany Blue" is a trademarked color, especially formulated by Pantone but unavailable in their library. I'm not aware of Tiffany ever suing anyone for infringing on this trademark but recently the company did weigh in on Christian Louboutin's lawsuit against YSL for copying the way they color the bottom of their shoe's soles red. (Tiffany's filed a legal brief in support of Louboutin's position.)

(Link: Tiffany & Co. Takes Christian Louboutin’s Side in Red Sole Lawsuit)

Whether or not these are instances of infringement is debatable. It was the sighting of a "robins egg blue" Jessica Simpson shoebox that first caught my attention and sensitivity to subsequent sightings of the color. Certainly, any designer working in fashion or luxury would be aware of the strong association of this hue and the Tiffany brand. Any "box" in that hue is treading firmly in Tiffany territory.

Part of what makes the color so distinctive is that it is a surprising, unlikely choice for a luxury brand. I wouldn't describe it as a romantic tone but there is a strong "nuptial" association that extends toward the romantic. (Tiffany's began as a stationary store).

If it isn't obviously about luxury, what does "Tiffany Blue" mean?

My theory is that the color says "pampering", the kind of delicate care connoted by baby blues and pinks without evoking nursery (at least in a direct, obvious way). In particular, it conveys a paternalistic pampering that says, "daddy's gonna take care of you".

Does blue really work for Tiffany?

Shoes and the color red have a fascinating history that go back way before Christian Louboutin. The following is an excerpt from a fascinating post on The Fashion Historian Blog: Red Heels:

A perfect example of this system of monitoring the aristocracy is red heels on shoes. Louis XIV declared that only those in the royal favor were allowed the privilege of having red heels on their shoes, allowing everyone to show off when they were in favor. Red heels was like sitting at the popular kids table in school, only the very coolest kids could wear them.

Suddenly, if you fell out of the royal favor, everyone would know. It's bad enough to be out of the royal favor, it's even worse when you have to advertise it to the world. It was the perfect method for controlling a once unruly upper class. Aristocrats behaved themselves and they didn't have to face the shame of not having red heels on their shoes.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Interview with Deyan Sudjic

An interview with Deyan Sudjic on The Sound of Young America

Deyan Sudjic is the director of the Design Museum in London and the author of "The Language of Things." We talk with him about the history, function and significance of design.

What I'm Reading 11.27.11

Books I've just finished reading:

Believing Is Seeing: Observations on the Mysteries of Photography
A series of essays on "photographic frauds" by documentary director Errol Morris. Great reads that unfold much like his films. As much storytelling as they are essays.

Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide
I only got a third of the way through this when it came out so I decided to go back and read it in its entirety. Still relevant and worth reading.

Spent most of today in a bookstore. These are some of the things I read, perused and picked up:

The Language of Things: Understanding the World of Desirable Objects
Read the chapter on "Luxury" this afternoon. Magnificently written book by Deyan Sudjic, director of the Design Museum in London.

Design School Confidential: Extraordinary Class Projects From the International Design Schools, Colleges, and Institutes
An excellent collection of class projects from design programs around the world. Filled with smart design exercises and great examples of work. A superb mixture of strategic and design thinking as well as aesthetics. Few design books pull it together as well as this one does.

The introduction discusses the Vernacular Messaging Sequence assignment that Katherine McCoy taught at Cranbrook in the 80's and 90's. Some of my all-time favorite graphic design work is by students in the program during that period. Cranbrook Design: The New Discourse is a retrospective of work from those years.

Graffiti World: Street Art from Five Continents
A big, gorgeous book filled with amazing and inspiring visual work.

Twenty-Two Tips on Typography
Nicely done book, good basic guidelines for students or non-designers.

Graphic Design Thinking (Design Briefs)
Not mind-blowing but a solid, useful book on design process.

Sunday School at the Sherman Foundation: Black Sunday Violence: "Give it a name and they will behave accordingly." – Jesus

Experts: Intense marketing, weak economy, obsession with deals fueling Black Friday violence

Black Friday violence: 2 shot in armed robberies, 15 others pepper-sprayed

Black Friday Violence Reported at Stores Across the Country as Sales Soar

Mob looted SoHo store on violent Black Friday

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Azelia Banks: 212

This girl is on fire

Reading PIctures: Time Magazine Covers (Dec 5, 2011)

Friday, November 25, 2011

Trends: On the Cost/Value of Human Life. (Self Checkout and Sign Holders)

There are two things that I noticed more and more over the past year, both having to do with everyday consumer retail experiences. One, is the presence of self scanning/checkout stations in stores. The other is people being paid to stand on the side of roads with signs attracting attention for retail establishments. These two things seem to be at odds with one another. When I consider them simultaneously the questions that emerge are: Is human labor so expensive to a retail operation that developing and implementing self checkout is cost effective or necessary to profitability? Or, is human labor so cheap that the cost of employing someone to do nothing more than hold a sign negligible?

I personally find it offensive that a store would implement technology that eradicates low wage jobs in my community and then asks me to do the work. I won't shop at such places.

Is there any form of labor with a lower skill requirement than holding a sign? Even the New York city equivalent, people foisting flyers on pedestrians requires some effort and the LA version has evolved into performance art. (See the Sherman Foundation post on Human Directionals.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

New research shows: Walking through doorways causes forgetting.

This reads like a piece from The Onion, but it's not. VIA Notre Dame News: Walking through doorways causes forgetting, new research shows:

We’ve all experienced it: The frustration of entering a room and forgetting what we were going to do. Or get. Or find.

New research from University of Notre Dame Psychology Professor Gabriel Radvansky suggests that passing through doorways is the cause of these memory lapses.

“Entering or exiting through a doorway serves as an ‘event boundary’ in the mind, which separates episodes of activity and files them away,” Radvansky explains.

“Recalling the decision or activity that was made in a different room is difficult because it has been compartmentalized.”

The study was published recently in the Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology.

Embodied Cognition is a subject that I've become more interested in over the last year. From Wikepedia: The overarching theme of embodied cognition throughout the literature is a reciprocal relationship between thoughts and actions. Embodied cognition reflects the idea that the motor system influences our cognition, just as the mind influences bodily actions. For example, in one experiment researchers directed participants to hold a pencil in their teeth to engage the facial muscles used when smiling. These participants were quicker to comprehend pleasant sentences than unpleasant sentences. Those holding a pencil in their lips to activate frowning muscles were significantly slower at comprehending pleasant sentences. This illustrates the influence of facial muscle movement on cognition.

I picked up a copy of Philosophy in the Flesh : The Embodied Mind and Its Challenge to Western Thought by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson recently but I've yet to start the 600+ page tome. Next month.

Friday, November 18, 2011

On Color/Off Color: Why are our cars painted such boring colors?

The Dallas Morning News:
Why are our cars painted such boring colors?

Why are cars today painted such lame colors? If you look at the cars of the 1970s and ’80s, you find dazzlingly whimsical colors, bold hues that put a block’s worth of conservative modern rides to shame. Car colors today are often black, white, gray or silver. And even when they are a color — say, red or blue — those colors tend to be murky and muted rather than bold. What happened?

The answer has something to do with our tastes, and a lot more to do with paint technology. Cars of yesteryear (if we accept yesteryear to mean the 1960s through the early 1980s) were often painted in bright, popping colors — supersaturated pigments in hues that don’t appear on most modern vehicles. The appeal of these paint jobs has to do as much with the way the paint looks on the car as it does the color of the paint. Older paints sat flat on the surface of the car; there was no swirling iridescence to give an illusion of movement below the surface. The finish, though not quite matte, was a lot less glossy than the finish on modern cars.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Inspired by the flying monkeys from Wizard of Oz?

Regardless, it's fabulous.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Time / Synchronicity

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Reading Pictures: Raped and Left for Dead (or Fashion Print Ad)

I've posted several times about the oft-used, visual narrative of "raped and left for dead" that appears frequently in fashion photography. This evening while watching The Pledge (2001 film) a police officer, played by Jack Nicholson, holds up a photo from a crime scene that could easily be mistaken for print ad by Versace or Louis Vuitton. The ad below is the example I used the last time I posted on the subject.

Even in instances when the photo isn't as overtly art directed as the example above, the prostrate poses and splayed limbs do the narrative "dirty work".

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Barbie Breasts

This image of a pair of breasts was made with an assembly of naked Barbie dolls.

Close up:

By artist Chris Jordan

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

1 800 Call "Sam"

Attorney Sam Bernstein is so well known in Detroit he doesn't need to put his name or occupation on his billboards, just his face. 1 800 Call "Sam". That's hardcore market dominance.

Friday, August 05, 2011

On the Language of Form: Luxury & Degradation

Curious how often things that are inherently malevolent or undesirable are presented with names or veneers that make bold claims to the opposite. Below, 2 unsavory and dilapidated motel's: "Mona Lisa" and "Esquire" (the top hat is an especially nice touch).

The use of nature imagery in the packaging and marketing of unhealthy and processed foods is common practice: Visual Tropes: Pastoral Farmlands

"Luxury & Degradation" is the title of a series of sculptures by artist Jeff Koons.

On Color/Off Color: Cream Condolence

The color of this car is best described as "Cream Condolence", that taupe pallor often found on the upholstery and wallpaper of funeral parlors.

Signs of the Apocalypse

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Study Links Creativity and Arrogance

"At the age of six years I wanted to be a chef. At the age of seven I wanted to be Napoleon. My ambitions have continued to grow at the same rate ever since." — The first sentence of Salvador Dali's "Diary of a Genius".

The study, just published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, was conducted by a research team led by psychologist Paul Silvia of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

The Focused Arrogance of the Highly Creative (
New research links creativity with lower levels of honesty and humility.

Pride and Prodigy (WNYC radio interview with psychologist Paul Silvia)

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Reading Pictures: Italian Archetypes

Barberini Faun / Dolce & Gabbana

Reading Pictures: The Ambush

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Sebastian's Voodoo

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Trending Now: The End

This week's cover of Newsweek: Apocalypse Now.

From CNNMoney: Sales of luxe doomsday bunkers up 1,000%

Sunday, January 09, 2011

If Footman Tire, What Will Horses Do

A 70s anti-communist educational film. The beheading scene.

Via The DMC