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).

Why Clepsydra still makes my heart a-flutter, six years later


Apparently, really good things happen when artists Konstantinos Vita and Dimitris Papaioannou get together and decide to make love with the minds of billions of people around the world.

Six years ago I had just graduated the eighth grade, and it was the summer of the 2004 Athens Olympics. I had been obsessed with the idea of the opening and closing ceremonies ever since Salt lake City in 2002, and I was literally counting down the days until the Athens opening (in the back of my math notebook).

Unless you were going into cardiac arrest – or, like, had work that night – I wouldn’t understand why you wouldn’t have seen it (awkward verb navigation there). The deep aqueous color schemes, the role of rhythm as a sort of  physical, atmospheric setting, the balance between exclusively Greek symbolism and extensively global contemporary aesthetic – ahh, someone get me a dvd copy. I remember not wanting to blink for fear of missing something amazing.

Greek Boat Boy

The opening drums, so good

Olive leaf torch like seriously <@333

Every moment was “ap images”-able. And while Jacques Rogge’s repeated attempts at making a Katara-style hope speech without his signature awkward pauses every four seconds that herald subsequently awkward applause make me warm inside all the time, the reason I’m writing about it six years and three Olympics later is because of the Clepsydra, directed and music-ed by Dimitris Papaioannou and Konstantinos Vita, respectively.

Δημήτρης Παπαϊωάννου, professional dreamer

Κωνσταντίνος Βήτα, professional musical BAMF

Like, if you haven’t seen this portion of the ceremony but are really into Greek history, you kind of really need to.

“Clepsydra” means timeline (at least that’s what Bob Costas said in the opening ceremony commentary), and that’s basically what the piece was about.  It was a living timeline of the history of the Hellenic peoples and their lil’ ol’ plaything da ‘Lympics.

A train of moving platforms carries living figures embodying Papaioannou’s vision of the Greek timeline.  Colors are striking but subdued, slow-moving people create breathing pictures reminiscent of the art and sculpture speaking the language of all the building blocks of modern “Western civilization”.

The rhythmic echoes of K.bhta’s composed piece didn’t just serve as background music to a visual spectacle, it was an integral part of it.  Music evolves with the Clepsydra, alluding to a state of human existence more than Greek -more than human, even.

The piece was both self-referential and universal.  While the subject matter (Oh gosh, 10th art class vocabulary) remained very Greek, the mood Papaioannou and K.bhta chose to set was molded beyond a sense of spectacle and deeply embedded in some sort of psychological hunger for a sensation of other-worldliness to be found in any sector of human history.


Here, just, just watch it: