Archive for May, 2011

Design | Of Quick Brown Foxes & Lazy Dogs…

Friday, May 20th, 2011

New fonts from FontShop

There’s something very personal about choosing a typeface for a design project or for one’s own use. The fonts you go for say so much about you: where you come from, where you are, who you are, who you might like to be. Just as your signature is your own identifiable graffiti, the type you pick gives clues to your family tree as a designer.

It used to be that there were far fewer to choose from, which, although the limitations of what was available could be cause for frustration, in some ways made the task somewhat easier. My, how times have changed since the onset of digital type design.

I look forward to receiving it but I’m not always that impressed with the selection of new fonts that Fontshop send out in their, more or less monthly, Newsletter. Call it self-indulgence if you like, but if  I see anything that looks promising, I’ll use the sampler and set my name in it and see what it looks like in all the different weights and styles available – if it doesn’t look good in any of these or at least amuse me in some way, I can be pretty sure I’ll never use the font. That’s not to say it isn’t well-drawn or well-balanced; it’s just not me. If I want to look more closely at a font family I’ll type in the old faithful ‘The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog’ sentence to see what all 26 characters look like and how well they set together. If I’m happy, I’ll take a look at the figures and the complete character set. It’s rare to find complete consistency throughout, which is something that appeals to me but I can understand may not be everyone else’s top priority.

Of those that arrived on my screen yesterday, Design System by Flat-it Type Foundry – all of the fonts of which have now been transferred to Dharmatype – in it’s madly extended form, Design System E 900 Regular OT, top, amused me but only Museo Sans Rounded, below, designed by Jos Buivenga jumped over my lazy dog.

So, who do you think you are, typographically-speaking?
What method do you use as a quick test when looking at fonts?

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Design | 21st Century Boys

Monday, May 16th, 2011

Barber Osgerby
Industrial design studio

I obviously haven’t been paying attention. Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby’s eponymously-named design company has been around for quite a while but I must admit to not having heard of it until I shot some portraits – as a predominantly garden and plant photographer, a departure for me – of architects, Adam and Irenie Cossey and their children to go with those I’d already done of the interiors – another new departure – of their beautiful home in London’s Islington. Two of the Cossey kids, love the Barber Osgerby-designed Home dining table almost as much as their parents, see below.

Irenie Cossey, who trained as an architect had been involved – via the specialist retail interior design practice Universal Design Studio on aspects of the new Mulberry flagship store in London’s Bond Street – with Barber Osgerby and had several items of their furniture, including the elegant, Corian-topped dining table for Isokon Plus. I came across the duo again quite recently when I discovered that their polypropylene Tip Ton chair for Vitra, above, was a big hit at this year’s Milan Furniture Fair.

I’m writing this and have done some retrospective research as much for my own education as that of any of The Blog’s followers so, if you already know all of this stuff, just skip the next paragraph….

Looking at the list of their achievements on their simple but well-designed website, I can’t believe Barber Osgerby escaped my attention for so long. They founded their partnership as long ago as 1996 after studying architecture at the Royal College of Art, London, of which I’m also an Alumni. Isokon Plus produced their Loop chair the following year and their Flight stool in 1998. Features on them and their work began appearing in 2002 in The Observer and Telegraph magazines and in the FT. They were awarded a major arts prize in 2004 that led to a commission to design new pieces for the De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill on Sea and more magazine appearances: Sunday Times Style, Arena, Blueprint. Maybe I missed those issues. Over the next few years, features on them appeared in a diverse number of UK and international magazines, including: GQ Style, I.D., The New York Times, Abitare, House & Garden, Vogue, but I somehow still didn’t get wind of them. These were followed by more coverage in the stylish Numéro and Wallpaper* magazines, Esquire and The World of Interiors. The list goes on…as does the list of clients they have produced collections for: Cappellini, Magis, Vitra, Venini, Swarovski, Flos and Established & Sons, among others; they have also collaborated with Sony. Examples of Barber Osgerby’s work form part of the permanent collections of the V&A Museum, London; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Design Museum, London; the Art Institute of Chicago and the Indianapolis Museum of Art. What’s weird is that many times, on my way to the RIBA bookshop in London to flick through the latest magazines, I’ve walked past and admired the bespoke, futuristic reception desk that they designed in 2008.

The aesthetic quality of a product is integral to its usefulness because products we use every day affect our person and our well being. But only well-executed objects can be beautiful – Dieter Rams

When Marcel Breur put the curves into Bauhaus furniture, whether he admitted it or not, he wasn’t sticking entirely to the accepted wisdom handed down via Adolph Loos, who got it and adapted it from its original source the American architect, Louis Sullivan, responsible for establishing the shape of the tall steel-framed skyscraper in Chicago, that ‘form follows function’. Breur was aware that beauty, albeit a 20th Century, stripped-down version of the notion was also an essential ingredient of design. What instantly appeals to me about Barber Osgerby’s work is that, just as great designers like Dieter Rams, Achille Castiglione and Vico Magistretti followed this same modernist ‘tradition’, each interpreting it to their very personal aesthetic, similarly the design duo are doing the same in our 21st Century. Their bold use of black and white juxtaposed against primary and secondary colours probably derives – perhaps subconsciously – from the Bauhaus via Richard Rodgers hi-tech architecture. On a more extreme level, in terms of colour, parallels can be drawn between its use in their product and the way that Donald Judd’s brightly coloured box sculptures set against his own bare sheet metal works and the severity of Carl Andre’s ‘no compromise’ minimalism made the genre approachable, opening the door for Jonathan Ive’s groundbreaking, minimalism minus the chill factor, approach at Apple.

Tip Ton, pictured above, durable, stackable, requires zero maintenance and can be used in any environment. The chair is light and made from low cost recyclable plastic; inexpensive to produce it should be available at an economical price. As well as the resting position of a normal chair, it tilts forward 9 degrees on the sledge-like ‘floor skid’ bases that connect the front legs to those at the rear. This type of position adjustment was previously only available on the more expensive office chairs with mechanical systems that allow the seat to move forward. The action is designed to straighten the pelvis and spine and improve the body’s blood flow. It looks pretty good, too.

Needless to say, I’ve only just discovered that Edward Barber & Jay Osgerby are designing the Olympic Torch for the London 2012 Games. What’s more, a monograph of the studio’s work will be published by Rizzoli and launched next month in New York at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair.

You can view my images of the Cossey house interiors at Arcaid Images

What do you think of Barber Osgerby’s design work?

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Garden | Vertically Challenging

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011


Michael Hellgren: vertical gardener

Blending its traditional naturalism with modernism produced the familiar humanistic product design and architecture we have grown to expect from Scandinavia. Michael Hellgren takes the concept to another level: literally. Vertical Garden Design, the company he set up after studying in Uppsala, Sweden and École d’architecture et de paysage de Bordeaux, France, is growing – if you’ll pardon the corny pun – and now has offices in Stockholm, Lisbon and Barcelona. This year has already seen completion – in collaboration with Dublin-based, Studio M architects – of the indoor wall of vegetation the company designed and installed at a cultural centre in Dubai. Earlier projects include the interior of a new concepts store for the clothing retailer, Replay, in Florence and an interior wall garden with waterfall, for Lisbon’s Natura Towers Hotel.

Vertical gardens as a concept are, of course, not new and Michael freely admits to being influenced by the ideas and techniques developed by the highly-acclaimed Frenchman, Patrick Blanc, who has designed and installed gardens from Tasmania (MONA, Hobart) to London (Athenaeum Hotel, Piccadilly). Now in his late fifties – and still sought after– Blanc is currently working with Herzog & de Meuron on the Miami Art Museum, due for completion in 2012, which includes a series of slender, vertical columns of dense vegetation.

What’s new and interesting about Hellgren’s Vertical Garden Design, as opposed to Vertical Garden Patrick Blanc – the company names are easily confused – is that while in much of his later work, Blanc has gone for arranging plants in patterns, uneven stripes in different textures and colours, making his wall schemes appear artificial/designed, Hellgren leans far more toward the natural, allowing the plants to make their own statement. But, it’s more than that. Perhaps there’s a cultural difference at play here; one somehow knows instinctively that nouvelle cuisine could not have been invented in Sweden, however the Swedes have no Jean-Paul Gaultier. While Hellgren’s company is by comparison with Blanc’s still relatively small, likewise it’s projects, just comparing the two firms websites, gives a clear insight into their different approaches: Blanc’s – designed by SMOL, built by Seegne – playful and almost comically kitsch, the pictures crude; Hellgren’s simple, minimal, fresh – designed by New York City and Paris-based, Area 17 – with beautiful, high quality images (See inspirational images and projects above and below). These images are what first drew me to investigate Vertical Garden Design further and to discover that Michael Hellgren is also the talented plant and landscape photographer, responsible for taking them.


What do you think of the Vertical Garden Design website?
And, Michael Hellgren’s Photography?

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Dada’s Cubist Garden

Monday, May 2nd, 2011

Hyères 2011. 26th International Festival of Fashion & Photography
Festival ends today. Exhibitions continue to 29th May,
(NB Villa Noailles closed from Tuesday 3rd to Thursday May 5th included)
Villa Noailles, Hyères, Var, France.


Erwin Blumenfeld, Powder box,
study for an advertisement, circa 1944
© The Estate of Erwin Blumenfeld

Daniel Sannwald, 032c, 2010

The journey had taken almost two hours. I had driven there on a whim from Nice, where I was staying, but the Villa Noailles was closed to visitors that day. Despite all my best efforts, I was unable to blag my way in. I would have liked to have seen the shows. It was totally my fault and, let’s be honest, unprofessional of me not to have contacted the Villa’s press people beforehand. I should at least have checked the opening times. I had gone there, however – it was outside the area of my itenerary – not specifically to see the exhibitions. Having arrived I had wanted to look around the early modernist house, built by architect Robert Mallet-Stevens for art patrons Arthur Anne Marie Charles, Vicomte de Noailles and his wife, Marie-Laure Bischoffsheim, between 1923 and 1925. But the real reason behind my visit was to see the triangular cubist garden designed by Turkish-born Gabriel Guevrekian, its Turkish designer who had worked with Joseph Hoffman in Vienna and was later to work with Le Corbusier

A selection of images by pioneer of creative photography between the wars, Erwin Blumenfeld’s work forms part of the this year’s festival exhibitions at the villa. Born in Berlin, Blumenfeld was a participator in the Dadaist movement and was to become an ardent denouncer of the Nazis. After having begun working for French Vogue in 1940, he was imprisoned in several concentration camps before escaping to the US in 1941, where his collaboration with Harper’s Bazaar – where Alexei Brodovitch was art director – which had started in 1939, continued until 1944. He subsequently worked for US Vogue and was, at the time, reputed to be the most highly-paid photographer in the world. Fashion Photography: Erwin Blumenfeld was published in January 2011 by Phaidon.

A more contemporary contributer, also born in Germany – in 1979 – and producing experimental fashion and beauty photography, Daniel Sannwald’s work is sometimes hauntingly surrealistic and at other times, vividly expressionistic. Sannwald works with numerous numerous magazines, amongst them: Dazed & Confused, i-D, L’Officiel Paris,Vogue Hommes Japan, and V magazine. He has photographed projects for Louis Vuitton, Nike, Loewe, Adidas, Replay, and Shiseido. His book, Pluto and Charon was published in February 2011 by LuDIoN Editions.

… I had struggled to get the car to climb the steep hill to the villa, perched high above medieval Hyères, and was pleased that my journey had not been wasted. Neither the garden – though a little scruffy – nor the exterior of the villa – rather unsympathetically extended – disappoint. My pictures, below, appeared in Germany’s prestigious architecture and living magazine Architektur & Wohnen; some of these also formed part of a major feature, illustrated exclusively with my photographs of the gardens of the Cote d’Azure, which appeared in the UK edition of Condé Nast Traveller.

Have you visited the Villa Noailles?
What did you think of it?

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