Slate’s design blog.

July 30 2014 11:49 AM

China’s “Duplitecture” Cities Mimic the World’s Greatest Architectural Hits

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 producer Avery Trufelman spoke with Bianca Bosker, author of Original Copies: Architectural Mimicry in Contemporary China—can be played below. Or keep reading to learn more.

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July 29 2014 3:09 PM

Separate Entrances for Lower-Income Residents Are Neither New nor Acceptable

The mayors of New York City and London are currently caught up in a social and design controversy that has touched nerves on both sides of the Atlantic: the practice of building separate entrances for poorer residents of new inner-city housing units.

In Manhattan, the New York Times reports on the Extell Development project on the Upper West Side at 40 Riverside Blvd., which won permission to build separate entrances that will keep its lower-income apartments neatly segregated from its market-rate condominiums thanks to a Bloomberg-era zoning law.

July 28 2014 9:01 AM

How Asian Companies Took Over the U.S. Furniture Market—Before One Virginia Man Fought Back

In her excellent new book Factory Man: How One Furniture Maker Battled Offshoring, Stayed Local—and Helped Save an American Town, award-winning journalist Beth Macy tells the story of John Bassett III, a third-generation factory owner and descendant of Virginia’s Bassett Furniture family, which once ran the world’s largest wood furniture manufacturing company before cheap Chinese imports put an end to all that. A rare success story, Bassett took on the Chinese by filing the world’s largest anti-dumping petition—and winning in 2005. Bassett is now the chairman of Vaughan-Bassett Furniture Co., which employs some 700 people and has sales of more than $90 million. Here at the Eye, Macy shares an adapted excerpt from the book that explains how the Chinese began to decimate the U.S. furniture-making industry beginning in the 1980s—and how Americans helped them do it.

July 25 2014 11:39 AM

Why R.E.M.’s Out of Time Is the Most Politically Significant Album in U.S. History

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 most politically significant album in U.S. history—can be played below. Or keep reading to learn more.

July 25 2014 9:13 AM

Spreading Political Messages Using Coins and Bank Notes

Disobedient Objects, edited by Catherine Flood and Gavin Grindon (V&A, 2014), is being published Saturday in connection with the opening of London's Victoria and Albert Museum show about how design is used to affect social change. Here at the Eye, the authors share a brief adapted excerpt about the history of defacing currency as an act of political defiance.

There is a long history of defacing coins and bank notes in order to slip a political message into circulation. Sometimes this is done as a direct and immediate gesture of graffiti, such as when in a miniature act of defiance Libyans scribbled out the face of Muammar Qaddafi on bank notes after he fell from power in 2011. In other cases there is a more involved design process. A currency is a highly controlled symbol of a state, and tampering with it is a small but powerful act of subversion.

July 24 2014 11:22 AM

How Political Activism Breeds Design Ingenuity Around the World

The term design object is usually reserved for high-concept, luxurious, and otherwise shiny things that seem built to be coveted. But Disobedient Objects, a new exhibition at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, attempts to challenge standard definitions of art and design by shining a rare spotlight on the often amateur-made, cobbled-together but purposeful objects designed by grassroots political activists around the world. The exhibit aims to show how political activism has driven design ingenuity and collective creativity to spur social change since the late 1970s.

July 22 2014 11:15 AM

A Beautifully Illustrated History of Nearly Two Centuries of Bicycle Design and Technology

In the recently published Bicycle Design: An Illustrated History, authors Tony Hadland and Hans-Erhard Lessing offer a comprehensive and authoritative survey of nearly 200 years of cycling technology and design. Here at the Eye, they highlight 10 pivotal moments in the design history of the bicycle.

When one of us tried to put a quintessential bicycle history on Wikipedia in 2010, an anonymous Wikipedian immediately overwrote the text, commenting that "No single time or person can be identified with the invention of the bicycle." Today, Wikipedia has a specific entry on bicycle history, indicating the growing interest in this long neglected area of the history of technology. But it has a limited scope and also contains debunked myths, such as the claim that the Scotsman Kirkpatrick Macmillan built the first crank-driven bicycle, or that Leonardo da Vinci invented the bicycle.

July 21 2014 9:02 AM

Jewelry Boxes, Combs, and Mirror Frames Made From Human Hair    

Azusa Murakami and Alexander Groves of London-based Studio Swine researched their latest design project by traveling to the heart of the billion-dollar global human hair market in the Shandong province of China, the world’s largest exporters of human hair.

The result of that research is Hair Highway, a "contemporary take on the ancient Silk Road," in which they explore the possibilities of using the renewable resource that is human hair to create a series of objects that at first glance betray nothing of their source material.

July 18 2014 9:03 AM

How People With Extreme Sensitivities to Everyday Chemicals and Electricity Design Their Homes and Routines

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 designing communities for those with extreme sensitivities to low-level chemicals—can be played below. Or keep reading to learn more.

July 17 2014 9:03 AM

Production Designer Stéphane Rozenbaum on Building Sets for Michel Gondry’s New Film    

Writer-director Michel Gondry’s films are defined by their always inventive, often childlike and surreal production design values. His latest film Mood Indigo is no exception. Starring popular French film duo Romain Duris as Colin and Audrey Tautou as Chloé, the movie is a spirited but tragic love story based on the classic 1947 French novel L′Écume des Jours by Boris Vian, who died in 1959. It opens Friday in New York and Los Angeles.

Production designer Stéphane Rozenbaum won a 2014 César Award (the French equivalent of an Oscar) for his work on Mood Indigo. He previously worked with Gondry on The Science of Sleep (2005) and spoke to me by phone from the set of Gondry’s next film about designing the show-stealing sets for Gondry's latest. Rozenbaum also shared several personal photos that he took on the set during film production.

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