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Javier Mariscal’s Drawing Life and Paper City

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Though Mariscal has often tackled the design of logos, his graphic design work is sometimes dismissed as calligraphy rather than being regarded as serious graphic design. Nonetheless, typography is fundamental to his work. ‘Letters are like the bricks of architects. They can communicate a lot of expression,’ he says. In many ways, his work is the equivalent in design to Italo Calvino’s short novel Invisible Cities, carving a space for the imagination and the dream where everything is possible.

The title of his exhibition at the Design Museum expresses the importance of hand drawing in Mariscal’s approach, and more than most designers, the direct relationship between his attitude to life and his graphic style. Although Mariscal is often asked to design for children – for example, his Me Too collection for Magis – he believes there should be no division between design for different generations. ‘The world would change if large companies learned how to play like children,’ he says.

Mariscal is also ready to make fun of those who take themselves too seriously: the installation includes a temple built from plastic furniture, symbolising the temple of design. For Blueprint’s Paper City exhibition at the Royal Academy, we asked Mariscal to apply his thinking to the metropolis of the future. The result (pictured below) is a view of a city from above, where transport systems appear like slides, and people whizz between towers in high-level transparent tubes. Paper City: Urban Utopias includes 44 images of imaginary cities by designers, architects and artists from around the world, and it is revealing that Mariscal is one of just a few who have drawn people as part of their vision.

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* Paper City: Urban Utopias is at the Royal Academy from 31 July to 27 October: http://www.royalacademy.org.uk; Mariscal – Drawing Life is at the Design Museum 1 July-1 November: http://www.designmuseum.org

* Estudio Mariscal, Diseño gráfico, industrial, videos, web y multimedia.

Steven Guarnaccia ‘The Three Little Pigs’

Published by Corraini –one of my favorite publishers of all times.

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Once upon a time there were three little pigs who lived in a big house in the forest…
The tale of The three little pigs is set by Steven Guarnaccia among houses by great architects of the XXth century. Frank Gehry, Le Corbusier and Frank Lloyd Wright are in fact the main protagonists of this contemporary tale with other renowned architects in their houses of scraps, of glass and of stone and mortar.
In their famous buildings they live among objects designed by some of the most internationally representative architects and designers. But one day the wolf pays a visit to them…

As for Goldilocks and the three bears, Steven Guarnaccia re-designs a classical among tales for children from an architect and designer’s point of view, by realizing mixed-media illustrations with precise strokes and clear and harmonious colours. Also, in endpapers one can find a useful list of the renowned design objects which appear in the story, in order to find and recognize them by glancing through the book.
… and they lived happily ever after.

50 Years of IKEA

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At a first glance, you might wonder how the product of a established company with a final consumer porpuse can delved into art or well, where is the divisor line between marketing event and an art exhibition. What the museum, directed by Mårten Castenfors, and exhibition curator Staffan Bengtsson wish to relate is a story about IKEA – the phenomenon, its innovations and designers – a story about the birth of the Folkhemmet. A generous presentation of the company that has furnished Sweden after the Second World War. The exhibition also works out as a recreation of memories of various stages within the average Swedish life. ()

Rubik Cube inventor devises new puzzle to drive us all to distraction

His cube was one of the most popular and infuriating toys of all time. Now Professor Ernö Rubik is hoping that the sphere will bring sleepless nights to the world’s obsessive puzzlers.

The creator of Rubik’s Cube is back with his first new puzzle for almost 20 years and early indications are that it is going to be every bit as irritating as the original.

Rubik’s 360, which goes on sale next week, features six small balls inside three interlocking spheres. The task is to lock each ball into colour-coded capsules on the outermost sphere. Professor Rubik said of his cube that it was “easy to understand the task, but hard to work out the solution”. It is just as aggravating to crack the 360.

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Design Is Too Important to Be Left to the Thinkers

Recently, at a conference reception (think wine and cubes of cheese), a well-known and influential member of the academic community said to me: “Design strategy is far too important to be left to designers.” What a pile of crap, I think. I am pissed, but in a moment of cowardice, I sip my wine, chew my pepper jack, and slink off to lighter conversation. If only I were able to channel Clint Eastwood at will.

But since then I’ve been considering this notion of “design thinking” by non-designers and its aura of self-importance. You know, it’s an area where really smart people spend lots of time pondering strategy, process, core principles, world trends, etc. in order to define the next big thing and change the course of human history. Entire schools have sprung up devoted to the idea.

I’ll come right out and admit that I am a right brain, shoot from the hip kinda guy. I believe in an “educated gut” sort of approach. i.e. survey the situation, find inspiration, make it, see what happens, get better at it. True, this approach lacks the patina of “science.” But over the course of more years and projects than I wish to admit, I can honestly say that I have been right about more things than I have been wrong.

What I think is wrong about the idea of “design thinking” is the implicit assumption that thinking is somehow removed from the act of design itself.

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(For @trianta)

Toothbrushes, TiVo, and Twitter: Designing Great Relationships

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In olden days, way back before the Industrial Revolution, stuff was created in an intimate setting. There was someone who needed something and there was someone who made it for them. In every case, there existed a relationship between maker and customer.

Today the practice of design is spreading virulently, infecting the business management world among other things. And of course it should. Our modern era of mass production requires enormous organizations to replicate the relationship of a designer artisan with her customer. If that organization doesn’t know how to listen to or inspire the customer, the relationship will die.

Tivo LogoUnderstanding the actions, anatomies and aspirations of humans is foundational for creating better products, better relationships.

Case in point is the Oral-B CrossAction toothbrush. It’s a manual toothbrush that was born out of intense observation of how people hold a brush and resulted in a game changer: a brush that people love because of its comfort and effectiveness, used to perform a job that is about taking care of oneself. Home run.

TiVo came into being with a similar focus on the customer. The product was a revolution when it arrived because it resisted the Silicon Valley urge to be a technology product. It focused instead on television viewing as an experience and delivered my TV on my schedule. More importantly, because the relationship that TiVo designed for customers is about fetching entertainment easily, they are quickly becoming a platform for delivering internet-based content on my terms.

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