Images from Japan – Watercolors by Kouhei Ashino

Kouhei Ashino

Kouhei Ashino

Kouhei Ashino

Like many, I’ve a fascination with Japanese culture and so I really love these watercolor illustrations by the Tokyo-based painter and illustrator Kouhei Ashino. Originally Ashino worked as a 3D-animator, but in 2008 he decided he wanted to become an illustrator and since then he’s self-published a handful of artist books and zines as well as picking up a number of awards, commissions and exhibitions.

I’m not particularly sure what the full context is for the work above but the images seem to be part of a Japanese television program called Trip to Japan. Unfortunately I can’t tell you much more then that but it’s great to see such detailed illustrations of Japanese life.

It’s also worth noting that watercolors are not the only thing Ashino makes, he also creates some rather wonderful drawings, paintings and collages which are fantastically nieve and far removed from the detailed images above. Check out more of his work on his flickr page here.

Philip Kennedy

August 24, 2012 / By

Frank Ocean’s ‘Channel Orange’ may be one of the best albums of the year, here’s why

Channel Orange by Frank Ocean

Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange is everywhere. Somehow hitting both the underground and the mainstream at the same time, this ghostwriter/OFWGKTA member/R&B icon hit the pulse of 2012 squarely on the nose. I asked a wide variety of associates and friends what makes this record so good. The most common answer? “Unrequited love.” So many of the tracks focus on this common human experience: loving someone/thing that does not love you back. By using such a universal theme, Frank Ocean has made R&B accessible from a wide variety of angles. His letter regarding his sexuality has garnered almost universal support, breaking down a decades old barrier in hip hop and R&B. The record is that good.

So here’s a listening party of Channel Orange, track by track.

Continue reading this post…

Alec Rojas

August 23, 2012 / By

Microsoft debuts new symbol and logotype, innovates on little

New Microsoft Logo - 2012

Earlier today Microsoft released a brand new logo, retiring their previous version after a 25 year stint in the limelight. The symbol and logotype is pretty much as simple as you can get. The symbol is four squares – red, green, blue and gold, ultimately making one larger square. It echoes the Windows logo from years gone by as the newer incarnation that Pentagram designed. The logotype is set in Segoe, Microsoft’s in-house typeface.

Overall the new branding isn’t bad, but it’s certainly not remarkable. The new symbol is certainly Microsoft-esque but it seems like there’s no life behind those windows. The logotype is fine, though I think it’s funny that Microsoft is trying to find deep meaning in some of the nuances of it. In an article from today’s Seattle Times, Jeff Hansen, Microsoft’s general manager of brand strategy, described it preciously.

The “f” and “t” in the name “Microsoft” are connected in the new logo, just as they were in the old. “It was one of the subtleties we thought we could bring forward,” Hansen said.

I get that you want to try and sell your brand, but c’mon now. And of course, with any good redesign comes the backlash from your supporters. Microsoft posted the new branding on their Facebook page and 1,600 comments later no one is quite happy with it.

I just find the whole thing so milquetoast. It;s interesting that they didn’t try to go without the logotype, joining the ranks of Apple, Nike, and Target. I think I would realize the four squares are Microsoft, though I’m not certain about the average consumer.

Though, shouldn’t Microsoft take a note from the Apple or Nike playbook and go for the “tastemakers”? When Jobs returned to Apple he put design first, putting care and quality into the aesthetics of everything that is Apple. That obviously paid off as Apple is currently the most valuable company in the world. Apple has now infiltrated the lives of everyone, becoming popular with design savvy and soccer moms alike. Wouldn’t it be smart for Microsoft to take a similar stance? I think the potential problem is that Microsoft is still a tech driven company, not a design driven company. I’m hopeful that the changes that have been made as of lately are a signal that they’re trying to make a radical shift, only time will tell. The Windows 8 UI is definitely innovative and new, they definitely aren’t taking a Samsung approach to design. But will it be enough?

Bobby Solomon

August 23, 2012 / By

The playground with uneven ground, designed by J.F. Strom

Puckelball Malmo by J.F. Strom

Puckelball Malmo by J.F. Strom

What’s great about this video is seeing the intense public use of an unusual kind of playground. In this case, it is the ground and a pair of whimsical goalposts that enable the imaginations of hoards of Swedes to run wild. The field is located in Malmo, and is the creation of artist J.F. Strom, who has “taken the most popular sport and through simple changes in the playing conditions, created a new kind of a game, or a new kind of football where one does not have to be the best to win, because the elements of serendipity and luck are constantly present in play.”

Alex Dent

August 23, 2012 / By

Manual attempts to rethink the United States road signage system

Manual attempts to rethink the United States road signage system

Manual attempts to rethink the United States road signage system

Manual attempts to rethink the United States road signage system

For a recent issue of Icon magazine, San Francisco based design firm Manual was asked to rethink the United States road signage system, a pretty hefty feat. Manual’s goal was to “modernize and add clarity to a signage system that millions of road users rely upon every day.” But I’m not sure if their design went down the right road (had to make a pun somewhere in this post).

Manual attempts to rethink the United States road signage system

What I like about the classic American road signage above is the simplicity. In the western U.S. road signage is fairly straight forward, giving you a few clear options of where you’re headed and where you can get off. This can get a bit more convoluted when you head out east, as I found out on my last trip to New York, attempting to drive to New Jesrsey. For the most part though I would say that the bold Army green with white type and shield/crest markers gets the job done. They design may not be in tip-top shape, but it’s still solid.

WIth Manual’s rethink I feel like there are two issues: Color and Hierarchy.

Information is placed consistently on all road signs to enable drivers to read multiple instructions quickly. Color is introduced into the upper strip of the overhead signs. Currently, interstate highways are depicted by a blue shield, US highways by white, and state highways by (mostly) black. For the sake of consistency and ease of recognition, we have retained these color associations.

Tackling color first, I’d say most of the signage has unfortunately been dulled down to a grey that’s mildy noticeable at best. If I was driving down the freeway I’m not sure I would notice these at all, especially if they were near an advertisement. Or what about a bright day? How do the signs read then? My other issues is the number of colors that were used. I count eight colors total in Manual’s rethink, compared to six in the original, which includes the bright construction orange. Is that many colors really necessary to clearly display road information? What if instead there were only three colors allowed? Attempting to put restraints on the project may have yielded some exciting results.

Manual attempts to rethink the United States road signage system

The other issue is the hierarchy of the information being presented. What I’m seeing is a lot of boxes inside of boxes, my eyes aren’t really sure what to concentrate on. And I think all the division between the information, be it boxes or divider lines, adds to the confusion a bit. What’s also interesting is that if you look at the original signage above you’ll see that some of the signs are of different sizes, which I actually realize is kind of awesome. You now read these as totally different pieces of information, while Manual has decided to display the information in equal sizes. Having an equal size for all signage definitely makes sense in practice, but comparing the two I feel like I can read the older versions more easily.

I applaude Manual for undertaking a rethink of this caliber, I’d love to see more projects like this being done. Perhaps I should have a little contest next week to get more good ideas like this out there? If you’d be interested in doing something like this hit me up on Twitter or on Facebook.

Bobby Solomon

August 23, 2012 / By

Fiji Airways brings personality back to air travel

Fiji Airways brings personality back to air travel

A couple of days ago Brand New posted this rebrand of Air Pacific back to Fiji Airways, the name it was originally founded with back in 1947. Gone is the cliché, late 80’s “airline” branding, replaced with an extremely human mark that was created be Fijian artist Makereta Matemosi.

I think it’s pretty interesting that a company like this had the guts to rebrand itself in such a natural manner, bringing the pride of Fijian culture to the forefront. When was the last time you saw an airline brand themselves with the color brown? I think overall it’s pretty spot-on, though the Airways word mark feels a little disjointed to me. Overall, you don’t often see brands making bold moves like this, so I think Fiji Airways definitely deserves some recognition. As Brand New also states, it’ll be interesting to see how the branding continues to develop, like what the planes end up looking like, or even the smaller details like how the food packaging turns out.

Bobby Solomon

August 23, 2012 / By

Brick veils and concrete frames

Poroscape designed by Studio Archiholic and built in Seoul, South Korea.

Poroscape designed by Studio Archiholic and built in Seoul, South Korea.

Poroscape designed by Studio Archiholic and built in Seoul, South Korea.

This is the so-called Poroscape designed by Studio Archiholic and built in Seoul, South Korea. The project is a pretty simple concrete and glass-framed retail space covered with a more varied and complex brick veil. This veil creates the different levels of opacity that the project’s name refers to; the porosity of light into the building during the day and out of the building at night. The black brick is a surprising choice, but I think it works well in contrast with the lighter concrete and the light actually filtering through the brick is even more apparent. Overall, the project is simple enough to enjoy but complex enough to appreciate. We’re so used to seeing brick buildings even though building technology has moved so far beyond the use of brick load-bearings walls. It’s nice to see brick being used in an expressive way.

Found through designboom

Alex Dent

August 22, 2012 / By

Paradoxes: An interview with conceptual artist Cody Trepte

Paradoxes And Cody Trepte

Paradoxes And Cody Trepte

Paradoxes And Cody Trepte

Artist Cody Trepte is dealing with some very heady subjects. His art is quite graphic and often deals with language and images as examples of the unknowable. He digests concepts like infinity and Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, presenting them through complex artistic and intellectual representations. It is incredibly fascinating work. We spoke with Cody on his perplexing subject matters, on his studio practice, and on Los Angeles’ closeness to history and to artists.

Check out the story and a tour of his studio and work by clicking here.

KYLE FITZPATRICK

August 22, 2012 / By

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