The Eye
Slate’s design blog.

July 31 2015 9:22 AM

What’s That Thing Hanging From Lampposts and Power Lines?

 

What’s That Thing is Slate’s column that examines the details of the world that are hiding in plain sight. Send ideas for future columns, along with photos if possible, to whatisthat@markvr.com.

Like all scientists, biologist Craig M. Story is accustomed to wondering about the world around him. Baffled by the purpose of small dumbbell-shaped devices he spotted on lampposts in eastern Massachusetts, he Googled “lamp object,” “lamp thing,” and “lamp post object” in vain, before posting a photo and a cry for help on Facebook.

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July 30 2015 11:20 AM

The Confederate Flag Is Going Out of Business

James I. Bowie is a sociologist at Northern Arizona University whose Emblemetric blog examines patterns and trends in logo design using quantitative analysis of data from the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Here at the Eye, Bowie shares a recent Emblemetric post about the demise of the Confederate flag as a marketing tool.

July 29 2015 12:49 PM

The Strange and Eccentric History of Creating a “Micronation”

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 micronation known as Sealand—can be played below. Or keep reading to learn more.

July 28 2015 12:44 PM

A Dutch Designer Wants to Build the World’s First Smog-Eating Tower    

Dutch artist and designer Daan Roosegaarde often injects dreamy nature-inspired theater into the built world, like a glow-in-the-dark bike path, an LED-powered Northern Lights show, and an unexpected rainbow at the end of the train line at Amsterdam Central Station.

But during a visit to heavily polluted Beijing, the innovative designer decided to tackle the darker subject of air pollution. For the past three years he and his studio have been developing a smog-eating tower that would help clean up air in urban parks and public spaces. Currently raising funds on Kickstarter, Roosegaarde hopes to install the world’s first smog-eating tower in Rotterdam and eventually send it on a tour of smog-choked cities around the globe.

July 27 2015 11:00 AM

JFK Airport Is Building a Luxury Terminal—for Animals

The incredible shrinking quality of cattle-class air travel makes most of us lowly humans feel like packed sardines.

But things are looking up for animals traveling in and out of New York City.

July 24 2015 12:32 PM

How to Build a Sleek, Bold House in Crowded, Earthquake-Prone Japan

The Japanese House Reinvented, a new book by Philip Jodidio, is a study in architecture born of constraints.

Even though Japan is one of the most densely populated countries in the world, some 60 percent of Japanese dwellings are single-family homes. Tightly packed urban areas, limited building plots that restrict outdoor space, and the ever-present menace of earthquakes force the best contemporary Japanese architects to take risks and innovate. Jodidio notes in the book that many Pritzker Prize winners still build houses, including Tadao Ando, Kazuyo Sejima of SANAA, and Shigeru Ban.

July 23 2015 9:06 AM

The Moving, Playful Poetry of the World’s Textual Graffiti Artists

In my neighborhood, a broken-hearted graffiti artist with impeccable cursive handwriting is intent on spreading the message that “Love is Dead.” Vying for blank public wall space is the happy-go-lucky soul who conversely is “Drunk on Life” and wants us all to know it.

The streets are also wallpapered with art in clashing styles and colors. But it’s the life-sized textual messages that catch my eye, invite reflection or annoyance, and give tangible form to some deeply felt but unspoken sentiment. Like that larger-than-life fortune cookie message of wall graffiti I spotted on a frigid January while walking home from yet another disappointing evening during a period of upheaval and discombobulation: THIS IS THE WINTER OF YOUR DISCONTENT. It cheered me up enormously.

 

July 22 2015 12:42 PM

How a Simple Ribbon Took AIDS From Taboo to Trendy Cause

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 origin of the AIDS awareness ribbon—can be played below. Or keep reading to learn more.

July 21 2015 2:24 PM

Can Better Designed Signs Help Panhandlers?

 

Last summer, Ian Todd moved to Chicago to study design at the Chicago Portfolio School. It was his first time living in a major city, and he was struck by the abundance of people asking for help on hand-scrawled cardboard signs and how few passers-by interacted with them.

One day, while walking home from a class in which he was studying hand-lettering, Todd wondered if a better-designed sign might help get the panhandlers’ messages across more effectively or at least act as ice-breakers. “It seemed like a great way to use my skill set to try and help others,” Todd, 23, told me in an email.

July 20 2015 11:25 AM

A World-Famous Architect’s Tips for Building the Perfect Sandcastle

Renzo Piano is known for designing sometimes controversial buildings that nevertheless have stood the test of time. But the Pritzker Prize–winning architect behind Paris’ Centre Pompidou, London’s Shard, and the new Whitney Museum building in New York City recently offered design tips on that most ephemeral of architectural forms: the sandcastle.

The 77-year-old Italian architect told the Guardian that his career started while building his first sandcastle on the shores of Genoa. “Making things has always been a pleasure for me – happy hands, happy mind – and making sandcastles was my training in fantasy,” he said. “There is no age limit – you can enjoy making a sandcastle however old you are, although it helps to think like a child.”

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