Slate’s design blog.

Dec. 18 2014 12:12 PM

What Do These New York Road Signs’ Odd Markings Mean?

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 e-mail.

One of the science fiction franchises I loved best as a child was V. Duplicitous alien lizards? Check. Cool, city-shadowing mother ships and laser-armed shuttlecraft? Check. Marvelously terrible special effects—such as the depiction of Diana swallowing a hamster—that I didn’t know enough to mock? Check. The 2009 V remake only revived my fascination with all things related to our new friends from Sirius. So when I saw the above signs on rural highways in upstate New York, the first thing I thought of was the Visitors’ logo—the at once futuristic and mysteriously spooky symbol that appeared on uniforms, posters and the noses of shuttles.

I wondered if the symbols on these road signs denote pre-designated evacuation points for Visitors sent to live among us. Since they vaguely resemble the lines that mark the entrances to airport runways, maybe they serve as warning about the kind of terrain lies immediately beyond the edge of the road?

Transportation guru Sam Schwartz (aka Gridlock Sam) told me that these signs are “completely foreign” to him and his team of traffic engineers. A colleague of Schwartz’s added that the signs don’t appear in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices—meaning, they’re not standard signs.

Video Advertisement

Dec. 17 2014 1:16 PM

The Many Meanings of the Hashtag (It Represents Lumber Yards on Swedish Maps)

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 the hashtag—can be played below. Or keep reading to learn more.

Dec. 16 2014 10:52 AM

This CMYK Puzzle Is Gorgeous and Mind-Boggling

A subtly gradated rainbow of CMYK shades broken into pieces, the 1000 Colours Puzzle is a gorgeous, mind-blowing puzzle.

Dec. 15 2014 12:07 PM

How to Decorate Your Hipster Beard for Christmas

The ugly Christmas sweater has met its match in the tacky holiday season fashion trend department: the decked-out hipster beard, dubiously strung with miniature lights and baubles.

Dec. 12 2014 1:48 PM

It’s National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day. Every Holiday Tradition Has Now Been Commercialized.

An ugly Christmas sweater used to be a typical gift from a well-meaning relative. You wore the sweater to avoiding hurting anyone’s feelings or as an ironic holiday statement eccentric enough to stand out in a crowd.

Now the ugly Christmas sweater has become a kitschy holiday uniform, a popular theme for holiday parties, pop culture fodder for TV and movie character costumes, and talk show gimmicks like Jimmy Kimmel’s 12 Days of Christmas Sweaters. They now even have a made-up holiday invented to sell goofy seasonal knitwear to the masses.

Dec. 11 2014 1:08 PM

Create Your Own Wallpaper or Redesign a Shopping Cart at the Revamped Cooper Hewitt

The country’s sole museum devoted to design—the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum in New York City—reopens Friday after a three-year renovation. The revamped museum offers 60 percent more exhibition space for its vast collection of historic and contemporary design. The remodeling and restoration work on the Carnegie Mansion, the former residence of Andrew Carnegie and current home of the museum, involved 13 design firms.

Dec. 10 2014 11:28 AM

This Firehouse Light Bulb Has Been Shining Since 1910

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 a firehouse light bulb that’s been burning since 1910—can be played below. Or keep reading to learn more.

Dec. 9 2014 1:30 PM

These Redesigns of a French Christmas Dessert Will Make You Salivate

The French don't do Christmas cookies, but the French Christmas dessert known as a yule log (or bûche de Noël) has been around since the 19th century. By now it is both a staple on French tables and a nostalgic classic made in its most traditional version of rolled sponge cake iced with chocolate to resemble a log, dusted with powdered sugar “snow,” and scattered with meringue mushrooms to add to its rustic woodsy charm.

Dec. 8 2014 2:43 PM

Everyone Hates Marsala, Pantone’s Color of the Year

Every year since 1990, the Pantone Color Institute has nominated a Color of the Year, forecasting which specific hue designers and consumers will all supposedly be using, wearing, and buying for the following 12 months. Last week, Pantone announced that the 2015 Color of the Year is Marsala.

Dec. 5 2014 1:35 PM

This Home-Swapping Site Offers Access to Artists’ and Designers’ Gorgeous Homes—With One Catch

Barcelona-based Behomm bills itself as “the first home exchange community only for designers and visual artists.” The invitation-only site was launched by graphic designers Agustí Juste and Eva Calduch, longtime home exchangers who were tired of wading through the dregs of cluttered home swap sites and decided to create a space “to connect like-minded people with a similar love of tasteful things and interest in a more enriching travel experience.”

READ MORE STORIES