Slate’s design blog.

April 4 2014 10:52 AM

Striking Designs From the World’s Typewriter Artists

The typewriter may have become obsolete for committing thoughts to paper, but the object itself remains a powerful instrument for designers, artists, illustrators, poets, and writers, who have been using the pre-digital machinery to make art for more than a century.

Typewriter Art: A Modern Anthology by Barrie Tullett, a graphic designer and senior lecturer in graphic design at the Lincoln School of Art and Design in the United Kingdom, will be published later this month by Laurence King.

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April 3 2014 10:32 AM

A Short History of the Modern Bar Code

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—in which 99% Invisible producer Katie Mingle spoke with UPC inventor George Laurer, MIT mechanical engineering professor Sanjay Sarma, and Jerry Whiting of Barcode Nerds and Azalea Software about bar codes—can be played below. Or keep reading to learn more.

April 2 2014 9:00 AM

One Designer’s Lonely Crusade to Make Packaging Disappear

When Aaron Mickelson decided to tackle the problem of packaging waste for his Pratt Institute master's design thesis The Disappearing Package last year, he wanted to go further than minimizing package size. So he gave five leading household products clever and radical eco-friendly makeovers that eliminated packaging altogether.

In a prototype redesign for Tide PODS, he stitched together a sheet of laundry pods, with brand info printed on the back of the sheet in soap-soluble ink, so that the packaging would disappear with the last pod, sparing the landfill a useless plastic storage tub or bag.

He created an accordion-like perforated stack of Twinings tea bags, wax-lined for freshness, with no need for stapled labels or strings or paper storage boxes.

Brand information for a roll of Glad trash bags was printed with traditional oil-based inks on the last trash bag in the roll, which instead of being kept in a box, served as the packaging itself.

And he designed a prototype for a Nivea soap box made from septic-safe, water-soluble paper that simply dissolved in the shower, leaving nothing but soap behind.

The ideas generated plenty of enthusiastic buzz when he first shared his thesis with the world in 2013. So when it popped up again on Designmilk a few weeks ago I couldn’t help but wonder if Mickelson’s great ideas had gained any real-world traction since last year.

April 1 2014 10:23 AM

Everyday Objects Redesigned to Make You Uncomfortable

A staircase that narrowly ascends to near oblivion, a watering can whose spout faces backward, a cement umbrella, open-toed rainboots, a fur-covered plate, a spiky wine glass, and a bowl with a perfectly round hole in the bottom. These are just some of the imaginary redesigns of formerly useful everyday objects in Athens-based architect Katerina Kamprani’s Uncomfortable series.

On her website, Kamprani says she “used to dream of becoming a director while studying architecture. Then, she dreamt of becoming an animator while studying industrial design. Now she is working as an architect and 3d modeler based in Athens, makes websites for friends and colleagues, and gives 3dsmax lessons…and dreams of becoming a designer.”

These designs are more like nightmares. In a world full of so much bad design caused by thoughtlessness or earnest failures, what is the point?

March 31 2014 5:43 PM

NASA Wants You to Vote on the Next Spacesuit Design

So maybe your dream of becoming an astronaut will never come true. But until April 15, NASA is giving the internauts of the world a chance to vote on a new spacesuit design for its Z-2 Suit, a follow-up to the previous Z-1 suit from 2012.

Unlike the Z-1, which had a soft upper torso, the Z-2 has a hard composite upper torso for durability and the shoulder and hip designs have been modified to optimize mobility.   

The suit will not be sent into space. It will be used for ground-based vacuum chamber tests that mimic the lack of atmosphere found in outer space in order to help teach astronauts how to space walk.

“The cover layer of a non-flight suit, which is used for ground-based testing, serves as abrasion/snag protection, a cover for technical details, and to a lesser extent, aesthetics,” says the NASA website. “With the Z-2, we're looking forward to employing cover layer design elements never used in a spacesuit before.”

Here’s a quick look at the three final prototypes as they'd appear in light and in darkness; the winning design should be built by November.

March 28 2014 9:00 AM

The Trippiest Wes Anderson Supercut You’ll Ever See

First Korean filmmaker Kogonada dissected director Wes Anderson’s use of symmetry in the short film Centered, drawing dotted white lines down the middle of a supercut of film clip frames to prove his point.

Next came filmmaker Megan Devaney’s video tribute to Kogonada’s video, Mirrored, in which she used mirrors to amplify the symmetry to greater effect.

March 27 2014 10:30 AM

The History of the Late-Night TV Lawyer Commercial

Roman Mars’ terrific design 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 the history of lawyer ads—can be played below. Or keep reading to learn more.

March 26 2014 9:00 AM

An Illustrated Ode to NBA Player James Harden’s Beard

Croatian designer and illustrator Filip Peraić has used the bearded profile of NBA's Houston Rockets player James Harden as the inspiration for a series of illustrations. Using the constraint of a single silhouette, Peraić said the point of James Harden Illustrated was to “sharpen creativity” by experimenting with various mediums and styles.

“I referenced some images, which helped me get to know his face better, but now I’m able to do it from my head,” the designer and Harden fan told me in an email.

The 11 illustrations Peraić has completed so far were made using sketching and painting software app Sketchbook Pro, Photoshop, and/or Illustrator, but he said he plans future Harden beard silhouettes that are hand-drawn or rendered using various objects.

March 25 2014 1:28 PM

How 6,000 Used CDs Were Turned Into Beautiful Art

In this clever community design project, 128 volunteers attached 6,000 used CDs to a giant custom knitted fishing net stretched between pillars at the entrance of the Sea Garden public park in Varna, Bulgaria, on the Black Sea. The project, dubbed Mirror Culture, was visited by some 50,000 people last summer, as part of the city’s bid for European Capital of Culture in 2019.

Hoisted into the air and secured with cables, the CD banner created a glinting rainbow effect as the wind blew and light hit, changing its effect from glaring to glowing as day turned to night.

March 24 2014 12:32 PM

Unraveling the Mystery of Vivian Maier, One of America’s Great Street Photographers

When John Maloof bought an unmarked box of some 40,000 negatives at a Chicago auction house in 2007 for $380, he had no idea he had stumbled upon a body of undiscovered work by Vivian Maier, a French-American nanny born in 1926 who has posthumously become recognized as one of the 20th century’s greatest American street photographers.

“At first I didn’t know that this was great street photography,” Maloof told me in a phone interview. The photographs he subsequently posted online and which have now been exhibited around the world and collected in a handful of books are “a tiny, tiny fraction of her work,” he said. “Every photographer has an overwhelming amount of horrible work, so you have to go through a lot of negatives. Even if you pick up one and it’s great there will be a ton that are not gonna be great.”

Nevertheless, Maloof said that as he unearthed more of Maier’s best work he was inspired both to start shooting himself and to find out more about photography. In 2008 and 2009, he spent another $70,000 or so purchasing what he estimates is 90 percent of Maier’s body of work from others who had purchased boxes from the auction house, and he is now the custodian of some 100,000 negatives.

Ever since that first fateful day at the auction house, Maloof has been slowly trying to unravel the mystery of Maier, a woman who spent nearly half a century taking photos that she never shared with the world.