Slate’s design blog.

July 3 2014 9:00 AM

The World’s Most Clever and Unique Disposable Coffee Cups

Photographer Henry Hargreaves, whose fun and beautiful food-based country maps we featured recently, has spent the last year assembling a nicely curated collection of disposable coffee cups from cafés around the world. He brought them home and shot them at Café Moto in Brooklyn, so that the images would have a uniform look that focused on the individuality of the designs.

The original, clever, witty, or otherwise handsome designs of the cups demonstrate the possibilities of the quotidian paper coffee cup as a blank canvas.

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July 2 2014 9:00 AM

What Happens When People Around the World Photoshop the Same Woman’s Image

Esther Honig, a 24-year-old Kansas City, Missouri-based journalist, recently hired people in more than 25 countries to Photoshop an image of herself with naked shoulders, hair tied back, and no visible makeup. The images have gone viral this week, starting an interesting conversation about whether there is a universal standard for beauty in a globalized world.

Honig used Fiverr to hire freelancers with varying Photoshop skills, receiving 40 doctored images from 25 countries for her “Before and After” project. “With a cost ranging from five to thirty dollars, and the hope that each designer will pull from their personal and cultural constructs of beauty to enhance my unaltered image, all I request is that they ‘make me beautiful,’ ” Honig writes on her website. Although you can see the obvious cultural influences in some photos, she received widely differing interpretations from Photoshoppers within the same countries.

July 1 2014 9:07 AM

World’s First Mosquito-Repellent Newspaper Increased Newsstand Sales by 30 Percent

Sri Lankans tend to read their newspapers in the early morning and in the evening, times when dengue-carrying mosquitoes are most likely to strike. Sri Lankan newspaper Mawbina teamed up earlier this spring with Leo Burnett Sri Lanka for a public health campaign targeted at preventing dengue fever during National Dengue Week.

The paper made news when a special print run that used ink mixed with natural mosquito-repelling citronella oil sold out by 10 a.m. and increased newsstand sales by 30 percent.

June 30 2014 1:38 PM

Paul Smith Designed a World Cup Soccer Ball That’s Too Beautiful to Use

Guinness World Record–holding soccer freestyler John Farnworth does some elegant tricks with a leather limited edition soccer ball designed by Paul Smith in a stylish marketing video (below) filmed in Smith’s London flagship Westbourne House in Notting Hill. Wearing a creaseproof Paul Smith travel suit and brogues, Farnworth does a mesmerizing pas de deux with the ball, which Smith designed using chevron-printed panels and his signature stripes.

June 27 2014 9:00 AM

A Beautiful Animated Film Made From Cardboard, Aluminum Wire, and Used Computer Parts

Brazilian filmmaker Daniel Ferreira won the best animation short award this week at the Palm Springs International ShortFest for Los Rosales. The film has a steampunk aesthetic that the filmmaker created using cardboard and used computer parts. He taught himself how to make twisted aluminum wire sculptures by watching videos on the Internet.

The filmmaker began the project as a music video for musician and composer Jhon William Castaño Montoya, a fellow resident at Treviso, Italy–based creative research center Fabrica. But he reacted to the music on such an emotional level that he ended up using the soundtrack as a vehicle to tell a surprisingly poetic story of a solitary robot in a post-apocalyptic sweatshop who labors among wheels and cogs to produce a monthly rose—rendered from masking tape, paint, and wire. Each month he devours the flower of his labors as a means to survive, until the machinery of his life breaks down and he has to face his fears of the unknown.

June 26 2014 9:00 AM

You Won’t Find These Sleek World Cup Stamp Designs at the Post Office

With every global sporting event come endless opportunities for branding and design, and the FIFA World Cup has inspired a slew of uninspiring commemorative stamp designs issued by participating countries, plus unofficial tributes like the anything but cleverly designed soccer-themed stamps issued by North Korea, despite its failure to qualify for participation in the games.

Portuguese graphic design studio MAAN has created an unofficial set of stamps for a self-initiated project called World Cup Stamps, which rivals government-issued versions and outclasses the postal services of the planet.

June 25 2014 9:15 AM

A History of Skyjacking and the Evolution of Airport Security

Roman Mars’ podcast 99% Invisible covers design questions large and small, from his fascination with rebar to the history of slot machines to the great Los Angeles Red Car conspiracy. Here at the Eye, we cross-post new episodes and host excerpts from the 99% Invisible blog, which offers complementary visuals for each episode.

This week's edition—about skyjacking—can be played below. Or keep reading to learn more.

June 24 2014 9:00 AM

The Woeful Decline in American License Plate Design

The license plate, like other ubiquitous objects, was once a thing of beauty. Most histories of American architecture focus on particular skyscrapers or the prairie style. But for their first hundred years, American license plates were among the best if most-unheralded pieces of good design. Created for vehicle identification, early license plates were legible, no nonsense, and often exceedingly handsome.

From very early on the states used license plates for self-promotion—advertising that was sometimes clever, usually primitively jingoistic, and occasionally downright funny. Maine was the first state to employ a motto (Vacationland), but by the Depression almost every state was touting something.

1920s and 1930s license plate design was noteworthy, featuring handsome fonts, intriguing logos, and state totems. For three years Arizona even produced a solid copper plate.

During World War II license plates were not changed every year and steel plates were replaced by less valuable aluminum ones; some were made of soybeans pressed into a cardboard-like material that was neither substantial nor attractive (the 1943 Illinois plate is an example).

June 23 2014 10:25 AM

The Scientific Way to Cut a Cake

Advice on how to cut a cake—that ritualized moment of childhood birthdays and symbolic bride-and-groom bonding—usually centers on producing equal slices, to keep jealous kids from squawking and sugar addicts of all ages from calling foul.

But British author Alex Bellos, who blogs about math for the Guardian, has tackled a different cake-related problem: How to cut a cake you’re not planning to devour in a single sitting so that it doesn’t dry out between servings.

June 20 2014 9:38 AM

What Are Those Roadside Totems Along the New Jersey Turnpike?

What’s That Thing is Slate’s column examining mysterious or overlooked objects in our visual landscape. To submit suggestions and pics for future columns, drop us an email.

Numerous readers have written in to say they’ve wondered for decades about these totemic structures on the New Jersey Turnpike. While they have a certain vertical dignity suggestive of permanence, they often disappear overnight, only to reappear at different locations.

One reader asked if they might be an art installation. At first I thought they might be some East Coast version of California’s beautiful mission bell markers on that state’s Royal Road, aka El Camino Real. After all, the New Jersey Turnpike, though many claim to hate it, is one of America's most iconic roads. Bruce Springsteen dubbed it “the golden roadway of the East" and put it in a song or two. Simon & Garfunkel, too, fell under the N.J. Turnpike's mysterious spell. So did Chuck Berry.

But these structures have a weirder, not-of-this-time quality—as if either so futuristic or so ancient that their purpose eludes us. You know, part Moai, part Monolith. Several letter-writers have suggested they might have a supernatural or extraterrestrial purpose (not for the first time on a Jersey road). Are they talismans against disquieted spirits—rising, perhaps, from the paved graves of our ancestors? Markers for alien road trips or landing sites?