Category Archives: Design

Iceland can’t be real

Have you ever seen “Heima”, the 2007 documentary about Icelandic band Sigur Rós’s homecoming concert tour?  They do their concerts in valleys and fields and abandoned factories and other such poetic hotspots. After watching this with my tall friend, I concluded that Iceland is fake.

I can take completely random screenshots from this documentary and they will all be breathtaking calendar shots (no shots of the ever-desctructive and airplane-hating  EJYALKFDKUGLLHJ). In fact, I think I will.

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And it’s not like this movie is the only thing I know of Iceland. I read architecture magazines. So there.



Science Channel made me cry last night

I’m rethinking things.

That’s not to say I’m doubting what I find beautiful right now, but I’m definitely re-discovering what I found beautiful as a child/lil’ teenager.

I just realized something.  Over the summer my definition of things beautiful has narrowed, not in a bad way, because it means that I’m becoming a lot more acquainted with a certain niche (contemporary media, art and culture…in relation to ancient and traditional media, art and culture I suppose).  But in the process I’ve neglected a very strong love for all things geekily scientific.

That was remedied last night, when I flipped to almost the end of “Wonders of the Solar System” with Brian Cox. He’s like, a rockstar-turned-physics professor and that’s kind of freaking rad. That one particular episode has to do with the earth’s atmosphere.  It compared it to Titan’s methane atmosphere which – well, first of all, Titan has a methane atmosphere. Awesome.

In any case, I was (internally) crying because of the beauty of the observable universe and stuff, cuz I’m sensitive like that. I rediscovered the aching thrill of learning about all things astrophysics. It brought me back to the days my aunt used to take me to Barnes & Noble and I would huddle in a corner with astronomy charts that I couldn’t afford to buy. WHATEVS, BROKE-ASS CHILDHOOD.

I used to want this soooohoho bad.

Lately my mind has been filled with words like “design”, “print”, “industry”, “contemporary”, and other dutifully and involuntarily pretentious words comme ça. I’m ready to integrate that with embedded-within-me concepts like “Saturnian ring girth” and “Continuum of angular momentum”.  Because I can.  And I will.

I continued to watch the Science Channel for the next three hours.

Also, can I say, educational programming is so dynamically sexy these days? I mean in terms of cinematography, visuals and big-budget musical score, not in terms of the perceived hotness of the host.  Well,

Kari Byron, Mythbusters

Adam Yamaguchi, Vanguard

Adam Yamaguchi, Vanguard

Marian van Zeller, Vanguard

Brian Cox, Wonders of the Solar System

Morgan Freeman, JUST CUZ

Why It’s So Freaking Hot in the Subway

If I were an investigative reporter, or if I had the mental energy right now to do some actual research, I’d look for some articles on air circulation in city undergroud rail systems.  However, I do not want to become an investigative reporter, nor do I have the energy to do some actual research on air circulation in city underground rail systems.  So I’ll just complain.


Actually, it’s not some much complaining as an observation, because I like to think of myself as someone who doesn’t complain (which makes me a hypocrite because I know full well I’m complaning).

The subway, year-round, but particularly the summer months, have the habit of being just nasty.  It’s warm (like, very warm), humid (like, very humid), and it’s probably just as clean as a keyboard (which is just as dirty as it is boring).

A few hotspots:

  • The 4-5-6 Canal Street Stop
  • The E-M 53rd & 5th Stop
  • That God-forsaken tunnel between the N-Q-R 42nd Street Times Square Stop and Port Authority

That last one is pokes itself it the butt sometimes (I think I just made that euphamism up; I’m going for a makes-fun-of-itself type figure of speech).  Once you start the journey through that tunnel and realize it’s particularly dank in there, you have two options: 1) turn around and get onto the street, or 2) continue on in the hopes that Good Lord will have mercy on you today and make the experience a shorter one.

Now I read somewhere this past week that the London Underground was designed so tightly that there was no room to install air conditioning when the technology became available in the second half of the 20th century, which means that commuters have to endure scorching internal temperatures day in and out.  Upon reading such truthfact, I felt ashamed for being so whiny about my own Subway, which at least has beautiful AC within the cars themselves. Then I remembered going to London last year for a family visit, during one of London’s “heat waves”. UMM, NO. During that heat wave temperatures “soared” to like, 75 degrees Fahrenheit. I feel no sympathy.

Most people (all people) have no choice but to just get on with it.  And these people are my heroes. And since I am one of those people, I am my own hero. #selfesteem

All this gets me thinking. AND SO. From the depths of the broiling New York Subway, a list of personal heroes:

  • MTA Information booth workers
  • Homeless People
  • Crazy people with homes but choose to prophesy in the Subway anyway
  • Musical performers for tips
  • People who miss their train and have to wait 20 min for the next one
  • People who can’t fit in a crowded train and have to wait for the next one
  • Classy ladies who insist on wearing cardigans
  • Suits
  • People who run the platform magazine stands
  • Workers who remove and replace the posters on the wall
  • That one guy with the old broom who picks up pieces of paper
  • That Chinese lady who sells baby turtles
  • Metrocard machine repairpersons
  • Christian Fundamentalists preaching against the walls

Here’s to you.

Communicating with the Future

Last night I was sitting in Bryant Park reading some books I picked up at the library for the weekend. It was around 7:30, and at one point I looked up and realized how freaking beautiful everything was.  Sometimes I knock on modern and contemporary office architecture for being kind of boringly all glass siding and predictability (except for the Bank of America tower by Cook+Fox, ever since I made the connection between its Discovery Channel special and the hunk of construction I used to walk by as a teenager. In any case, it’s completed now and very, very beautiful.

Anyway, the view from my chair was almost exactly the same as the view of the above picture I stole from the innernet. Looking around and taking in the way reflections off this tower and its surrounded glass-faced rectangular towers played with each other, it all felt kind of movie-like to me. Within a greater diameter of the few adjacent blocks were buildings from other eras of the past century, some made out of combinations of concrete, some concrete white and others stark grey and some almost brown.  Of course, then you have the Schwarzman Building directly behind, and then there’s…gaaah this park can’t not be beautiful.

So the sun hadn’t set yet and I’m looking at these buildings and this park and the people (workers/tourists/lovers/crazy people) around me. See, whenever I see something, be it a work of contemporary engineering like the future PATH station at the World Trade Center, or the iPad, that reminds me of how it’s like, the future, I tend to imagine people from the past marveling at our technological and aesthetic advancements. Then I realize they can’t do that because they’re either still alive and not as impressed or already dead.

Along with that slight dip in my sense of hope came a resolution to speak with my future self.  There are many interpretations of the idea of “Communication”, and all of them are culturally subjective. Uggh, there’s this one word I’m looking for, but I can’t remember it. It’s like…”the specific act of declaring something intangible but culturally significant into existence through verbal action”. Like when you say “I promise”, the very act of saying “I promise” wills the promise into existence.

Whatever the fancy word for that idea is, it’s what I did in Bryant Park last night.  It probably sounds completely nerdy, but I “declared communication” with my 50-year-old self at this time of the year 30 years from now.  I made a mental note that at that moment, I was in direct dialogue with myself, but 30 years apart. Now all I have to do is acknowledge that communication when I’m 50 and trans-time communication will have been established!

I dunno, I guess I was feeling a little “romantic”. The buildings moved me. Here they are, in an almost permanent dialogue with each other, each from different eras. But in essence, they’re part of the same “space”.  Maybe that’s what I was going for. We’ll just have to wait and see if I turn 50 and remember I ever sent myself such a message.

100 Habits of Successful Publication Designers: the first 25

Checked this book out of the library yesterday, and cracked it open this morning on ‘da bus.  I was originally looking for “the Poetics of Space” by Gaston Bachelard but I couldn’t find it because I don’t know my Dewey but that’s another story.

In any case I picked up this book at random and am pretty glad I did so far.  My present within-the-decade life goal, aside from being taken on a tour of North Korea and singing drunken karaoke with the tour guide [two nights before they realize I stole one of Kim Il-sung’s personally designed tea kettles and sentence me to 47 years hard labor only to realize I’m kinda bff with Adam Yamaguchi who would help bail me out], is to make a name for myself in the print publication industry. A big nice name in a bold, provocative sans serif. Probably super-imposed on a weird silhouette of my face, framed by some artsy haircut intended to downplay but acknowledge my big (read: wise) forehead.

I’ve only read the first 25 “habits” so far, but if you’re in or want to be in publication design, specifically for magazines, please take a look. So far it’s given me…wait, a few bullet points would look cool here:

  • The tips are given by a couple dozenish seasoned designers in the industry: Laurence Ng, Ina Salts, Arthur Hochstein, Kalle Lasn. The advice is humble and realistic.
  • The example magazines mentioned are popular ones mixed with more exclusive.  It’s a good mix and an excellent source of inspiration for someone just looking for a good combination of content/design (Ex. NYTimes Magazine and IdN are in the same section)
  • One tends to read down advice lists and see a lot of self-contradiction, especially for things like relationships and that fluff. If one wasn’t paying attention, one would dismiss the first 25 points as doing that sometimes. But it isn’t. When #7 says “It’s not about you” while #9 says “Be brave, bold, and passionate”, they begin to mold the dimensions of the balancing pole every good designer uses between voice and the backstage identity. I really like that about both the industry and the people who make it and keep it moving forward.

So yeah, even if you’re a journalist(-to-be)/editor(-to-be)/freelance writer(-never-too-early-to-be), check it out. It’s all one industry and subsets should be learning from each other.

The MUJI aesthetic: What prompts us to use fancy words like “aesthetic”

Earlier last week I made a visit to the MoMA Design Store on 53rd, whose rear third is dedicated to MUJI products.  MUJI’s a Japanese domestic design company whose only stores in USA are here in New York. A visit to their website is kinda sorta necessary. It’s very purrdy.

I like MUJI for many reasons.  And I’m currently attempting to put these reasons into words. Actually, maybe there’s just one reason but that one reason has an enormous number of facets that make me, who doesn’t have a firm grasp on the nature of my consciousness, think there are many reasons. In any case, I like MUJI.

I hesitate to call them a high-end IKEA, firstly because IKEA’s 40 years older and one must respect one’s elders, secondly because the global scale of the two is incomparable.  Also, IKEA is all/mostly furniture, and MUJI, like, isn’t, so duh. Also, why am I caps locking MUJI. I don’t have to.

Muji’s known for it’s “no-brand” aesthetic, meaning it doesn’t market and brand its products.  Which is why it’s so successful. There’s a sense of exclusivity and anonymity that offers an “origin-less” product of successfully simplified design. At least that’s why I like it.  That and the website’s pretty. I hate saying things like “It’s very Japanese”, but here it applies.  Japanese apparel/domestic design companies have the habit of creating these sexful online stores where their products take a back seat to the website itself, and I love that about them.

Case in point: The Uniqlock.


Apparel brand UNIQLO's online clock features girls doing random dance moves in 10-second loops. Go on it sometime; time goes by really fast around you.

The less you promote yourself, the more you allow the average person to construct a mental promotion for him or herself self in his or her head.  For Muji this consists of cotton and recycled material and the color white and probably yoga. And once he or she discovers the total awesomeness of just thing from the store, the rest falls into place. This is all common sense but I’m just putting it down for the sake of clarifying it in my head.

Anyway, back to the MoMA Muji. I bought two notebooks and a checklist. 🙂

Apparently there are no pictures of the checklist online. Use your imagination, it’s sexy (your imagination and the checklist).