By now you’ve surely been handed one of those sleek, satin-finished mini-cards with full-bleed photos or graphics on one side and contact info on the other. And, surely, you’ve wondered where they come from and have yet to attempt to Google “narrow business cards” for fear of the 600,000 search results you would receive. Well, here’s the skinny on those slim biz cards: Moo. I’ve made a slew of these for NoRelevance.com and was pleased by the idiot-proof step-by-step process it took to produce 100 cards from a Flickr set. Oh, did I mention that? You can access your photos and sets from such popular sites as Flickr, Facebook, LiveJournal and more. All this for $19.99 plus shipping. Surely there’s a better deal on the web, no? Perhaps, but the ability to spread those 100 cards over several different photos was the hook for me. I upload ten different photos and get ten cards each. You can only have one version of the flip-side, but that’s hardly a down-side.
Ever been read the Riot Act? Now you can make that dream a reality with the help of LibriVox, a massive online archive of public domain literary works made available as free downloadable audio books. The site, which claims to be “open source” and completely volunteer-run, contains a plethora of audible classics such as the likes of Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, Jack London’s White Fang, and Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus. If you can deal with the occasional changing of reader voices (sometimes male, sometimes female) and varying audio quality (all pretty much good enough), there are numerous audio formats to choose from, feeds for podcasts, links to text versions of most books, and material available in nine different languages. Time to catch up on those classics!
Do you? I’m not sure you do, unless of course you start browsing the many family photos in this online memory project. DoYouKnowWhatItMeans.org hopes to avoid the type of catastrophic loss of visual history as which happened with the floodwaters of Katrina. Many photos seem to have survived a hurricane or flood or two, which would not be beyond the realm of possibilities for residents of New Orleans who seem to suffer a major “natural” disaster every generation or so. The snapshots instantly bring me back to my childhood. I have fond memories of “hurricane parties,” where several families on a street would convene to one house with the kids all running around the back yard and the dads setting up a giant cauldron atop a propane stove to boil crawfish, crabs and shrimp. Once the rains and heavy winds began the party would move indoors where the moms played Bourré under hurricane lamps, the men tweaked their transistor radios and the kids pulled out their Nash Roberts hurricane tracking maps waiting for the inevitable eye to come…
While I do own a lot of the 45s in this collection, NONE of my singles have their original picture sleeves. This is where my jealousy of Michael, Erwin & Alex begins. These guys are the proprietors of Demon Fuzz Records, what appears from their photos to be quite the vinyl record store located in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. I’ve never been there in person (unless it was unknowingly in 1991), but I have been on their website, which sports such wonderful record cover and picture sleeve galleries as “Mysterious Ladies” (Ritual), “Products” (Steinski), and “Singles Bar” (Nina Simmone) among others. Join me as I gaze in the greenest of envies at the seven-inch picture sleeves of Ray Barretto’s Soul Drummer or Willie Henderson’s Funky Chicken…
Pedal on over to Taliah Lempert’s unique collection of bicycle “portraits” and see if you can find your own…model that is. The bikes in her artwork belong people she knows and, she claims, represent an extension of their personalities. She has a loose painterly style that fits the portraiture concept and clearly has developed a mastery of capturing her subjects’ likeness. Oh, and check out her coloring book, while you’re there.
If you’re wondering what I do when I’m not collecting visual junk…see the package I designed for Bush Condoms. Created by the same folks that brought us the Bush Cards and the Slanted Bush Cards – Second Term decks, Bush Condoms aim to make this election season a lot of fun. Check ’em out!
If you’ve ever been crate-digging and stumbled upon an LP or 7-inch with Jim Flora’s cover art, you most likely bought it regardless of the music the record contained. At least, that’s been my experience. These covers are truly works of art and often outshine the music therein. Long the stuff of record geeks’ collections, Flora’s art has managed to slowly infiltrate the public’s consciousness largely by the efforts of one man. Irwin Chusid, a long-time WFMU DJ and Jim Flora archivist coined the term “Outsider Music” and was responsible for bringing to light such important, but previously overlooked artists as Esquivel, The Langley Schools Music Project and Raymond Scott just to name a few. The Curiously Sinister Art of Jim Flora is the second book on the artist by Chusid, who is by now considered the authority on the subject and even co-maintains the official Jim Flora blog. As the title suggests, Flora’s normally playful graphic style is taken for a more sinister ride in the works featured in this book, which also includes several unpublished sketches and paintings. The Curiously Sinister Art of Jim Flora is an absolute must-have for both music and art lovers, fine or otherwise. And if you are going to be in the Seattle area now through October 24th, be sure to catch the exhibition of the same name currently on view at the Fantagraphics Book Store to see many of these works first hand.
I’ve now received as gifts both the paperback and hardcover versions of 45 RPM: A Visual History of the Seven-Inch Record, an interesting and amusing survey of 45 RPM record sleeves from the 1950s through the 1990s. And while my preference is (obviously) for label art, I can’t help but to pull these books out from time to time and flip through the actual-size reproductions of such visually interesting covers as the Plastic Ono Band’s “Give Peace a Chance” donning a photo of one of Yoko Ono’s installations or a Jackie Gleason “Lonesome Echo” single with a custom Salvador Dali painting on the cover or the Rat Fink-inspired Man… or Astro-Man? seven-inch. Quite possibly the main selling point for me is the index in the back of the book that lists all of the meta data on each record including, whenever possible, designer and illustrator. Turns out I have a couple of Burt Goldblatts in my collection.
Once again, digging through my library I find a book I meant to write about a while ago but got passed over: Reinventing the Wheel, by designer, critic and Paul Rand biographer Jessica Helfand, is a wonderful reference of pre-HTML, interactive information design. Whether they were meant to assist in determining the crop yields of hybrid corn or to help identify the branch and rank of a person in military attire, the information wheels (or volvelles as they’re formally known) featured in Helfand’s book so often demonstrate the perfect balance of form and function that so many of us strive to achieve in even our simplest of design projects. Circular designs in general (see: 45 RPM record labels) present unique design and typographic challenges. But Reinventing the Wheel’s examples weren’t merely round canvases that needed to be adorned with type and color, they were born out of the necessity to solve sometimes complex data-mining tasks with a simple twist of a disc. If you’ve ever taken apart an info wheel and seen the absolute anarchy hidden beneath the upper, slotted disc, you probably already appreciate the technical skill and grace required to simply make it work. This invaluable book is as much a collection of what’s been done as what is possible.
I once again bow in humble submission, this time to two Flickr groups, Signpaintr and Faded Signage, the latter sporting over 7,000 photos of hand-painted/hand-made signs taken by over a thousand members from all over the world. There are active discussion boards within each group as well as RSS feeds to keep up with all the latest additions.
No, not that Michael Jackson. He was known as “The Beer Hunter” and his knowledge on the subject of our fermented beverage of choice was so sublime that no one would seem to challenge it. Mr. Jackson’s influence in elevating beer out of its game-day, six-pack abyss and into a level of sophistication once reserved for wines is incalculable. He was a founding voice and staunch lobbyist for the craft beer movement in in Europe and indirectly helped spawn the microbrewery industry in the United States. He was also quite the connoisseur of distilled spirits authoring definitive books on whiskey and single-malts among other subjects. His books probably had the most influence on expanding my love for great beers of the world and led, ultimately, to my fascination with a style of beer that has a unique history and lore: bock.
Join “black crack” addicts worldwide on August 12th as we celebrate Vinyl Record Day commemorating the anniversary of the invention of the phonograph by Thomas Edison. Go crate-digging at yard sales, flea markets and thrift shops, support your local vinyl record store, shop for new and used vinyl online at such great stores as Dusty Groove and Gemm, or finally get a replacement stylus for that used turntable you bought off Craig’s List.
Think you’ve seen it all in NYC? Think again. The folks at Forgotten NY have made a habit of uncovering the less-covered parts of the city for the past eight years. Especially interesting are the lost cemeteries like Mount Zion a Jewish cemetery established in the 1890s in Queens, with its plethora of tombstones containing inlaid enameled photographs of the deceased. Good stuff.
Can’t afford an over-priced masterpiece? Then get a virtual drawing by a potential art star in exchange for one of your own at Sketch Swap, where it’s “Draw 1 to get 1.” As the site’s description reads: “you draw something on the screen, and when you’re finished, you hit “Submit drawing”… to receive a random drawing from someone else.” All submitted drawings require approval before being added to the pool of available drawings to be swapped, so get those dirty thoughts out of your head.
If, like me, you have lots of rare, out-of-print vinyl records that just don’t exist digitally, the Numark TTUSB Turntable with USB may just cure your ills. This is a true plug-and-play solution for importing 33 1/3 & 45 RPM vinyl records into your computer via a standard USB 2.0 interface. The bundled Audacity software allows you to save songs as MP3s (or virtually any other digital music file format) and has a filter that allows you to easily remove scratches and pops from older records without compromising sound quality. You can use the turntable to play records through your computer speakers via USB or connect it to a home stereo system using the included RCA cable. I recently set one of these up for a friend and was amazed at how utterly convenient it was to both install and use. And while it’s not as heavy duty as my Technics 1200s, the belt-drive Numark TTUSB Turntable still produces a respectable sound considering what an amazing value it is. At under $125 bucks, I give it two thumbs up!
From the AIGA Archives: Election maps, The New York Times is a nice recap of The New York Times’ information design take on the 2000 elections, which yielded a much divided view of the country, but not necessarily the red states vs. blue states image most of us expected. The map-based charts showed dark blue urban centers surrounded by expanses of pink and red rural areas, which dotted the geographic majority of the country.
This is the tagline for a wonderful site created by Marty Weil entitled simply “Ephemera.” As someone who was bitten by the collecting bug at an early age (first stamps & baseball cards, then eventually everything) I truly enjoyed digging around this well researched and illustrated blog. Each entry is presented with enough background info to give the visually interesting a proper context. Though, “paper” only hints at the content featured, which ranges from booklets & publications to advertising pieces to photos & postcards and more. Oh, and did I mention the vintage dairy patch collection?
This tome of Ed Ruscha’s word drawings should satisfy both lovers of contemporary art and designers alike. They Called Her Styrene collects almost 600 ‘word’ artworks created by Ruscha since the early 1960s onward, which he executed in a variety of mediums including pastel, graphite, acrylic, gunpowder and even vegetable and fruit juices. While some pieces are as deadpan as the image on the book’s cover, others are stunning renderings of three-dimensional ribbon-like words. Shaped like a good sized brick, you’re sure to have enough room for this must-own monograph on your coffee table.
It took me long enough to write about this most “handy” tool. The Type Selector, created by Michael Wörgötter, is the Pantone swatchbook equivalent to typography. The 226 specimens, which are grouped as Serif, Slab Serif, Sans Serif, Script, Black Letter and Display, fan out allowing you to compare multiple faces at once. It’s quite solid, in fact, and will stand up on its own allowing you to keep your selections sticking up for easy reference. I’d call this the most useful design tool of 2006. Good on ya, Michael!
Though it may not have been his intention, Dr. Alesha Sivartha’s masterpiece of mysticism and typography, The Book of Life: The Spiritual and Physical Constitution of Man, is truly a work of art. While difficult to follow at first, the often densely worded drawings and diagrams created in the late 1800s do eventually begin to make sense—if only on a per-page basis. Nevertheless, rarely have form and function been so perfectly melded, ala Edward Tufte—though way before his time. Sivartha, a.k.a. Arthur Merton, MD, was allegedly the illegitimate son of the Rajah Ram Mohun Roy, a prominent Indian scholar and reformer. While little is known about his life or why he chose to dedicate it to mapping out the physical and spiritual nature of our higher brain functions, his apparent relation to the Raja may have been the impetus. An online version of the book maintained by the author’s great-great-grandson, complete with his own interpretations, is located here.