Do Books Need Soundtracks and Special Effects?
When e-readers first emerged, making it unnecessary to print words on felled trees, the devices sought to soothe those who had grown accustomed to the communion between man and book largely by mimicking the familiar experience of turning pages filled with blocks of text. The only things missing were the tactile and olfactory qualities of paper.
Now, many readers believe that reading a book on a screen doesn’t fundamentally change the act of reading. But a couple of recent innovations seem determined to redesign this quiet, unitasking activity into a multisensory experience.
The recently launched Booktrack is a service that allows authors to add a synchronized soundtrack to e-books and other digital content. The idea is to turn reading into an “immersive, movie-like experience.” On the compnay's website, the founders claim that “Booktrack will change the way people read, write, and publish their stories.”
Somebody Finally Redesigned the Boarding Pass
Smartphone apps have streamlined the check-in process for some travelers, and the paper boarding pass is surely headed toward obsolescence. But most people around the world are still required to carry around ugly, unwieldy boarding passes printed with a blur of numbers. Recall that ritual moment when an airline agent circles the gate number and/or boarding time to help focus a weary traveler’s eye on the most pertinent information, a sign that these documents are too cluttered.
But while idle stretches in anonymous airports may have found some fleetingly considering the boarding passes’ flaws, British designer Peter Smart recently tried to figure out how to make them look and work better. His story was recently featured on NPR; the project was part of his effort to solve 50 problems in 50 days using design.
Marcel Wanders Designs an App to Count the Seconds Between Milestones
The romantic notion of counting the hours until a major (or minor) life event is now as easy as an iPhone app courtesy of celebrated Dutch designer Marcel Wanders, known for his product and interior design and role as co-founder and artistic director of Moooi.
Wanders’ work isn’t about technology, and the designer told Disegno Daily that he tried to create an app (with technical help from Amsterdam-based Present Plus) that would appeal to emotions rather than hard data. "When I look at my life what is really important to me is my personal development, so I set goals for myself and try to achieve them," he told Disegno Daily. "I try to measure if I’m successful and I think it's important to celebrate your successes. If I’ve stopped smoking, I want to know whether I’ve stopped for half a year or for four months. I want to know that because then I’ll know how great it feels."
The Woman Behind the Tattoos in Belgium’s Sexy Oscar-Nominated Film
Tattoos play a central role in the award-winning Belgian film The Broken Circle Breakdown, one of five finalists for this year’s Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. Directed by Felix van Groeningen, this tragic love story—about a couple whose passionate relationship unravels when their daughter becomes ill—is currently touring the U.S. and will be available on iTunes & video on demand on Feb. 4.
The film, an adaptation of a stage play, centers on tattoo artist Elise (Veerle Baetens) and Didier (Johan Heldenbergh), an America-loving banjo player in a Belgian bluegrass band. For the film version, the director turned tattoos into a powerful leitmotif. He relied on Brussels-based tattoo artist Emilie Guillaume to design the butterflies, birds, hearts, skeletons, and inked-over names of former lovers that adorn Elise’s lithe body––and to help develop the character.
The film, an adaptation of a stage play, centers on tattoo artist Elise (Veerle Baetens) and Didier (Johan Heldenbergh), an America-loving banjo player in a Belgian bluegrass band. For the film version, the director turned tattoos into a powerful leitmotif. He relied on Brussels-based tattoo artist Emilie Guillaume to design the butterflies, birds, hearts, skeletons and inked-over names of former lovers that adorn Elise’s lithe body––and helped to develop the character.
A Hands-On Design and Building Camp for Girls
Emily Pilloton first discovered the rewards of teaching kids to design and build while setting up Studio H, an innovative high school shop class in Bertie County, N.C., with Matthew Miller that was featured in If You Build It, a recent documentary that is now playing at the IFC Center in New York and soon to tour the country.
The designer-teacher-activist is now running Studio H out of the REALM Charter Middle School in Berkeley, Calif., where she has founded Camp H, an innovative afterschool and summer design and build camp for 9- to 12-year-old girls.
Reflections on Things That Go Bump in the Night
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, send a description or a pic to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Driving along a stretch of American asphalt in the dark of winter, you may notice that the road doesn’t seem to get quite as dark as it used to. One reason? Those little reflective bumps along the pavement. Some of these reflectors come in unsurprising colors—red, yellow, white. What about the blue ones, though? And the green ones? Are they purely an aesthetic choice, or is there a reason behind the color variations?
The Intriguing Beauty of Unfinished Objects
The design process is more transparent than ever now that every designer has a website and the potential to release online videos of their work. But most design exhibitions focus on finished products, sometimes accompanied by sketches or plans. They tend to gloss over the abstract beauty inherent in an object that's still in the making.
So it was intriguing that when London’s Design Museum asked internationally recognized designers Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby, responsible for such high profile objects as a new £2 coin for the Royal Mint and the 2012 Olympic torch, to curate a show, they chose some 20 familiar pieces of design not in their completed stage, but in surprising incarnations caught somewhere midway between conception and birth. The exhibit includes examples of their own work and the work of others, but reflects their attachment to the production process and its influence on their creative methods.
The World’s First 3-D Printed Book Cover
There is a lot of talk in design and publishing circles these days about the objectification of the book in a time when words no longer need be contained in discrete physical packages and screen-based reading is becoming the norm. Authors, designers, and publishers hope that a heightened attention to form will encourage people to buy, hold, display, and keep books on the shelves in a world where making books from dead trees is a dying art.
So it was unsurprising but still kind of cool when Riverhead Books released the world’s first 3-D printed book cover earlier this month. The limited-edition printed book sleeve for On Such a Full Sea by award-winning Korean-American novelist Chang-Rae Lee was designed by Riverhead art director Helen Yentus and produced by Brooklyn-based MakerBot. The design is a 3-D take on Futura typeface, a piece of sculptural typography formed from a corn-based bioplastic printed on a MakerBot Replicator 2 Desktop 3-D Printer. One of 200 original signed, numbered copies—initially priced at $150—is currently on sale at Amazon for $795. (Amazon is also selling the hardback original for $16.77 and the Kindle version for $12.29.)
The Day a Plane Crashed Into the Empire State Building
By far the best design podcast around—and one of the best podcasts, period—is Roman Mars’ 99% Invisible. On it he 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 his new episodes so you can check them out, and host excerpts from the 99% Invisible blog, which offers complementary visuals for each episode.
Starting next month, 99% Invisible is going weekly. This week, they invited producers Joe Richman and Samara Freemark from Radio Diaries to share a story. Since 1996, Radio Diaries has been producing documentaries for NPR's All Things Considered, often turning the recording gear over to the people they're documenting to allow them to tell their own stories.
This episode—about July 28, 1945, the day an Army bomber pilot on a routine ferry mission found himself lost in the fog over Manhattan and crashed into the Empire State Building—can be played below. Or keep reading to learn more.
A Faux Marble House Built From Corrugated Paper
Marble is having (another) design moment, both as a building material and in trompe-l’oeil form, with printed images of the imposing age-old stone being used to add witty gravitas to lightweight textiles in fashion and home design (including accessories from poufs to throw pillows). And now here comes an even grander-scale homage to marble in the form of a playfully designed little shack in Gothenburg, Sweden, whose facade is covered in glossy black-and-white marbled corrugated paper not even an inch thick.
Based on the proportions of a Swedish friggebod, a tiny shed that requires no planning permission to build, the Chameleon Cabin was designed by architect Mattias Lind at White arkitekter for printing company Göteborgstryckeriet (in collaboration with brand agency Happy F + B).
Lind told me by phone that the printing company asked him to come up with a project that would showcase the possibilities of the printing process. “The fundamental idea was to see what a printing company can do,” Lind said. “Can we build a house with our machines and our materials?”