Tuesday, September 30, 2008

the transcendent nodes of SP08

before i leave well enough alone and stop talking about the semi permanent 08 design conference, i want to mention four moments i found particularly profound - nodes that occurred during the two days of the event and seemed (to me) to transcend the normal talk about design.

it seemed to me that abstract notions, altruism, emotion, passion, love (...) were much more present at sp this year than other years. perhaps as a reaction against the superficial, mechanical, commercial aspects of design, the speakers were expressing 'deeper' desires, flirting around the edges of art, and aiming to express something with more meaning. here are four examples that struck me particularly...

joel gethin lewis talks about hiraeth. joel gethin lewis: an interactivity designer (for want of a better phrase) who combines artistic and technical smarts to create incredible and mind-blowing interactive spaces. to date most of his work has been with uva (see to believe).

as part of his talk, he spoke about returning home to wales, to his roots, exploring the countryside, seeing a rare red kite soaring through the air, and experiencing firsthand 'hiraeth'. hiraeth is a welsh word that means something like 'a sense of place' - connectedness to land and the place you come from. it seems that this experience propelled lewis into a more art-based working method. he is now working exclusively with open-source solutions and sharing his research with the world.

karsten schmidt quotes from judges 5:5. karsten schmidt: a designer (perhaps mad scientist genius) who designs by writing computer code and allowing his code to formulate visual output based on the parameters he programs.

his talk was very philosophical. we said that everything is moving if you look at it long enough - nothing is static. even mountains are moving if you look at them long enough. at which point he quoted judges 5:5, "the mountains melted from before the LORD". actually he quoted "the mountains flowed before the Lord" (maybe his own english translation from german). young's literal translation has it, "hills flowed from the face of Jehovah". his point being that the mountains are moving, you just need to be God to observe it (ie around long enough).

personally i found it very nice that he was using a biblical passage to illustrate his point. he later went on to give us the disclaimer that he actually doesn't believe in God. he said that the randomisation in his work is one reason. my personal take is that his work definitely doesn't imply a lack of God. the randomisation that is inherent in the work steams from source code that he himself programmed (the code itself is not 'chance'). showing, i think, that the 'randomisation' we see in nature could steam from a generating source code programmed by a master programmer.

kate bezar quotes 1 corinthians 13. kate bezar: was a business consultant who chucked it in to follow her passion and create an interview magazine about ordinary people achieving great creative things (called 'dumbo feather, pass it on').

as if one creative quoting from the bible wasn't shocking enough, kate bezar did the same by quoting from 1 corinthinans 13, commenting "i bet this is the first time you've heard the bible quoted at a design conference" or something like that. she quoted, "when i was a child, i talked like a child, i thought like a child, i reasoned like a child. when i became a man, i put childish ways behind me." it was a scripture that she recited en masse as a school girl during school assemblies.

kate's angle was that by starting 'dumbo feather', following this scripture is exactly what she was NOT doing. she equated the business world she was once in to "putting childish ways behind" her, and that starting 'dumbo feather' was rediscovering and embracing a childlike approach.

i can't resist critiquing this. i think it is totally brilliant that she ditched the commercial world for an enterprise like 'dumbo feather'. in fact this is totally compatible with christianity, which (in part) calls for people to favour deeper, more beautiful things over materialism. as it happens, kate has taken the scripture out of context, because the verses immediately proceeding her quotation basically state that there's no point doing anything unless you do it with love. which is an idea she's embraced by starting 'dumbo feather' - she is now using love as a driving force, where love was absent from the grind of her former business consultant life. st paul's meaning in 1 corinthians 13 is that the more advanced way to do things is through love. the bible in no way denigrates a childlike approach to life. jesus himself said, "unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven" (matthew 18). i think she took a step closer to the true meaning of 1 corinthians 13 when she started 'dumbo feather' rather than a step away.

danny yount's sea anemone. danny yount: a title sequence designer responsible for such things as the opening titles of 'six feet under' and the end titles of 'iron man'.

the finale of sp08 for me was when yount put a picture of a sea anemone up on the screen, and said something to the effect of (and i wish i could remember his exact words), "this sea anemone sits on my desk. when i need inspiration i look at it closely. look at it - it's perfectly designed. God has surrounded us with an amazing creation. so when you need inspiration, look around you."

Sunday, September 28, 2008

movie still 3

here i am skiving off from what i said i would post about next (again). here are some movie stills from the film 'control' about the life and death of ian curtis (lead singer of joy division). the film is directed by famous photographer anton corbijn, so you would expect some lovely black and white visuals... (click on 'em to see 'em bigger like)

Sunday, September 07, 2008

SP08 (part 2)

day two started with one of the speakers i was most looking forward to - derek henderson. he is one of new zealand's most respected photographers and seems equally at home photographing models in venice as he is photographing the deserted streets of backwater new zealand towns. i wasn't disappointed - he showed us a lot of his work and added anecdotes to each of the images. interesting stuff.

sea design were next. i actually can't remember too much about their presentation - probably due to the fact that i've taken so long to get this review posted, but also maybe because it didn't make a huge impact on me. when i was researching for this post, though, i visited their website: home page = wow. check it (refresh it to see different background images).

then dumbo feather after lunch. kate bezar is a new zealander based in australia - a st cuths girl turned management consultant turned magazine publisher. her magazine 'dumbo feather, pass it on' is an interview magazine that talks to ordinary people achieving great things. kate's story is a classic 'getting sick of corporate world so decides to follow her passion and using all the money she made in the corporate world to do something new and altruistic' story. her talk was based around that theme. i don't mean to sound sarky about it - it was a good talk.

debaser are an australian design agency that specialises in album cover design. they had some nice work and it was interesting to hear about their experiences and the processes of album art.

after afternoon tea was danny yount - i think i might have a new hero. he's a seemingly ordinary guy who ended up in the business of creating title sequences for movies. for me this is fascinating because it often involves typography in movement. danny yount designed the opening titles for a fairly successful tv program called 'six feet under'. his recent work includes the end titles for 'iron man' and 'the invasion'. he has also recently finished work on the new guy ritchie film. fantastic talk.

the superstar of the event and the supposed headline act was stefan sagmeister. he's fairly famous (to say the least) in design circles. he's the sort of guy that people will pay any amount of money to design whatever he likes. that puts him in a whole different universe from most of the people at the conference. he talked us through a project he's worked on called 'things i've learnt' or something like that. it's a famous project that most of us had probably already seen. he didn't seem too worried about the time constraints and was still going when i left half an hour after the finish time.

morning and evening - the second day.

it really was good having the event as two days this year. at the end of the first day i wondered how i was going to absorb another day's worth of info but i was ok after a nice sleep. you run into problems when you put designers in front of a large audience - a lot of them probably never dreamed that they would be hauled away from their macs and placed in front of a vast auditorium of people. but the proportion of speakers that were able to make that transition well was higher this year than the other two years i've been. i think the organisers of this event should be congratulated because they are clearly trying to bring the latest thinking about design to new zealand. that means that we are getting the benefit of a vast amount of cultural capital every time this event is held - and i think this was particularly true this year.

i'm not finished posting about SP - next i'm going to write about some interesting highlights. meanwhile here is some design work from the speakers (in order of appearance):

Thursday, September 04, 2008

sgt. james brown gets it on

yes, i know i'm supposed to be posting part 2 of my sp08 review - it's coming. meanwhile here i am getting distracted by yet another triviality.

i get a fair bit of spam through my inbox and take great delight in the sender names that these emails come from - some of them are just brilliant - here are a few i've collected in the past: mauricio lee, consuelo hobson, ernesto mcclellan, ruthie salazar, ringleader e. artifact, hartford v. vestibule, jesus jolly.

great stuff. so you can imagine my delight when this morning i received an email from one sgt. james brown.

normally i immediately delete these things without opening them but sgt. james brown! now that's what i'm talking about. turns out to be one of those 'nigerian' scams. but sgt. jb is determined to quell any fears that i might have about this being non-legit.

to quote sgt. brown: "It’s true that one has to 'be hesitant of such a transaction' but you must know that Life has no other discipline to impose, if we would but realize it, than to accept life unquestioningly. Everything we shut our eyes to, everything we run away from, everything we deny, denigrate or despise, serve to defeat us in the end. What seems nasty, painful, evil can become a source of beauty, joy and strength, if faced with an open mind. Every moment is a golden one for him who has the vision to recognize it as such."

quite a philosopher is sgt. jim. turns out though that this is blatant plagarism. this is in fact a quote from henry miller. how can one trust such a plagariser? and here i was about to assist sarg in his transaction - lucky i checked quoteworld.org first!

and now for the REAL james brown (got it here) (the irony of the fact this appears to be a picture of james brown leaving prison does not escape me):