Posts Tagged ‘design’

As someone who frequents airports quite a few times every year, I wholly sympathise with this post by the always sharp-minded, witty, sarcastic and eloquent Fleet Street Fox

THE problem with flying is not making sure you have enough pants to last or working out how much of the local currency is a reasonable amount to pay for a beer; it’s the airports.

They are the only type of construction in the history of mankind designed to make your life less efficient and more difficult.

(And before anyone smart says torture chambers, they were models of efficiency and can keep you entertained for months if necessary.)

It used to be that you parked next to the plane, waved your ticket and climbed aboard. Now you park on an unending patch of tarmac four miles from the airport where you will never find your car again, get a bus to the terminal, spend an hour in a queue to check in, spend more hours in queues having your underwear rifled and your toothpaste sniffed for explosives while being repeatedly asked to undress, then get channelled through a series of over-priced retail opportunities before you’re thrown into the back of a jet with several hundred other people in various states of rage and most of whom are ready to kill.

Whoever in the world designs airports and various parts of them – in particular the seats which are too uncomfortable to sit on, and the vast, hangar-like ceilings which are exercises in ugliness and lazy architecture – needs a kick up the backside.

The purpose of all engineering and design is to make life nicer, simpler, and more efficient. Yet in the case of airports it causes low-grade misery so pernicious that, even if not manifested via the medium of multiple homicides in the Duty Free, still makes the world a less pleasant place by a factor of millions of people a year.

So, because I am stuck in this terminal for another four hours waiting for the plane which cost £200 more than it should after I missed the one before because I was having such a nice holiday, and for what it’s worth, here are my suggestions for nicer airports:

* Sofas. Yes, I know they would all become like the ones in Starbucks within a week, covered in stains and food that has fallen out of someone else’s mouth, but they’re nice and the metal creation I am sat on at the moment is not. It’s vile. It’s uncomfortable, it’s ugly, and it hurts to sit on it for more than five minutes. We spend hours in airports – some people have to sleep in them. I’m not asking for anti-macassars but I think we should be able to have cushions. We certainly should not have things designed entirely to stop someone having a snooze because it makes the place look untidy.

* No-one has yet found a way to hijack a plane with the use of tweezers. Let us keep them.

* Ditto nail clippers, toothpaste, foundation and bottles of water.

* We do not, generally speaking, have to be on your plane. It would be nice if everyone who works in airports realised this.

* Make some effort with the architecture. I’d happily spend days staring at the vaulted ceiling of St Pancras station, which is proof that just because you have a big open space doesn’t mean it has to look like a shed. Add some beauty to the world instead of corrugated steel and plastic.

* Proper heating. Airports are always cold, and there is no good reason for this.

* Public announcements should be made by a member of staff who can speak clearly and has a pleasant voice. Not some toothless stroke victim who can’t be trusted to empty the bins.

* There is no earthly reason why a cup of tea in an airport costs twice as much as one outside. Or the clothes, or the sunglasses, or the twatty keyrings.

* Gardens. Play areas for children that don’t just consist of a couple of small plastic chairs. A giant piano keyboard like the one in Big. Free massages. Put some paintings on the walls. Have showers for people travelling overnight and provide toothpaste and toothbrushes in the toilets – you’re making enough money out of the sunglasses to pay for it.

* Travel should be about new experiences so promote a sense of adventure by paying someone to dress up as Indiana Jones and run through the terminal screaming while pursued by a giant stone ball and some angry-looking natives. Failing that, hire a samba band.

* Lastly, if I wanted to blow up a plane I’d post the bomb or get a job as a baggage handler. Bend more of your energies to that end of things and do me the honour of presuming I’m probably not a killer.

Not yet, anyway.

thai design studio apostrophy’s latest installation project ‘crack da code’. the space was on display at the bangkok design festival 2010 and functioned as a game space, as well as a moving landmark during the event. ‘crack da code’ consisted of 22 vertical inflated tubes standing next to each other, creating a tree-like space. during the day, it created shade and at night, the area consisted of moving light patterns.

the pneumatic structural system of the custom-made 3-branch structures were each made of fabric, with a high pressure side channel blower, enabling them to stand upright. a zip under each blower prevented air from coming out of the tube and change its form.

read more about the project @ designboom


There is no doubt that the former communist regime was repressive, and that its tentacles of control embraced design. On the other hand, the following article seems to suggest that consumerism is design paradise, which is a fairly apologetic view of consumer society. That is not to say, that functionality should be void of beauty, and it therefore is good to see that even in repressive societies there is room for style in aesthetics. The latter also clearly shows that the idea of the former German Democratic Republic being a drab, gray wasteland (as suggested in this article) clearly was and still is an expression of Western propaganda (see also Collection of 60,000 photos found of life in the former East Germany, dating back to the 1950s).

The ABCs of Communist Consumer Culture

By Hans Michael Kloth
Spiegel Online International

Many in the West still think of communist East Germany as a consumer wasteland, devoid of attractive products. Two decades after the fall of the Berlin Wall, SPIEGEL ONLINE takes stock of GDR department store shelves and, through archival material, uncovers a lost world.

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in, SPIEGEL ONLINE’s award-winning history portal.

The discrete directive to journalists was clear: “Don’t do anything that might awaken people’s needs.” The edict from the German Democratic Republic‘s Socialist Unity Party was meant to help protect the people of the communist state from anything that could spark Western-style consumer desires.

PHOTO GALLERY: The ABCs of East German Products

Rüdiger Südhoff/Dokumentationszentrum Alltagskultur Rüdiger Südhoff/Dokumentationszentrum Alltagskultur

Click on a picture to launch the image gallery

Shopping sprees may be the norm in capitalist societies, since they boost demand in a supply-side economy. The economy of East Germany, however, became one of scarcity starting in the 1970s — the GDR’s citizens became increasingly sophisticated and began wanting more than the system could possibly supply. Necessities such as bicycles and washing machines were no longer enough — leading the ruling party, the SED, to try and curb consumption.

Still, it’s not as if East German store shelves were empty of products. The selection might not have been Macy’s or Marks and Spencers — and the products may have lacked the glossy packaging of their Western cousins — but they existed nonetheless. Indeed, East Germany had its own brands — they just happened to have a socialist spin. And until the Berlin Wall fell 20 years ago, East Germans lived a consumer world of their own.

Instead of Nivea, East Germans had Florena skin cream. You couldn’t get a Sony radio, but you could get a Stern. And instead of a Mont Blanc fountain pens one would normally find in the West, residents on the other side of the Berlin Wall always had a Heiko to write with.

Just like any Western brand, East German products also had an identity, a history and an image that consumers associated with it. Given that it was an economy of scarcity, East Germans often had little or no choice in the selection of products they purchased. And when they did, they often showed a clear preference for trendier or more expensive products, doling out a little more for a slightly hipper cut of suit, a trendy radio cassette recorder or a coffee table.

East Germany’s Design Police

As a communist country, though, “vogue” was an arbitrary term applied only to what the SED regime deemed acceptable. In one instance, for example, the state decreed a simple white vase as being “inartistic,” and ordered that it be augmented with a floral pattern. A state Office of Design, created in 1972, served as the guardian of “product design in socialism.” It’s head served as a member of the East German government on the level of a state secretary — essentially a senior ministry official.

In the early 1970s, the lively design culture that had emerged in the early years of East Germany fell under the ideological control of the state for good. It was a development which proved disastrous. “In no other place would design innovations that showed so much promise be curbed over ideological objections as in the socialist state economy,” says Günter Höhne, the author of several books on East German design.

Still, despite the number of indescribably bad products made in the GDR — most of which landed in the trash bin of history for good after 1989 — there was also no lack of goods made by people who had at least a vague idea of good style and form.

They were the traces of a design culture that was held in high regard in the GDR until 1952 — the year in which the SED chased Dutch Bauhaus artist Mart Stam away from his post as head of the Berlin-Weissensee College of Art.

By and large, though, eastern products — big and gray as many were — were cursed by the label “Made in the GDR.” As foundlings today, they at best serve as decorations in student apartments in Berlin, where a trend of nostalgia for East Germany remains hip. Otherwise, they could be used as artefacts to promote the 1970s retro aesthetic.

Since the fall of the Wall in 1989, a handful of people have worked hard to collect and preserve artifacts representing East German products and everyday life in the communist country. One is Berlin-based cultural journalist Höhne; the other is the Daily Life Documentation Center of the GDR in the eastern German city of Eisenhüttenstadt, whose organizers have already managed to assemble 50,000 objects.

Such efforts were long dismissed as job-creation measures in eastern Germany, a depressed region that has suffered from mass joblessness since the fall of the Iron Curtain two decades ago. But the private initiatives actually create the basis for a fresh, sharpened view of a world of products that has since been lost and can never be recreated. Now, it is a lot easier to see the little bit of color that made the ubiquitous gray of East Germany a little less gray.

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Who can we bank on, who can we trust, as the crisis sharpens?

By Schechter, Danny
Danny Schechter’s ZSpace Page
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Washington seems tethered at the hip to Wall Street and does it’s bidding.

Can it possibly be true that the Congress can’t walk and chew gum at the same time? This question is prompted by the announcement that financial reform is being pushed back as health care becomes the priority.

This makes me nervous for two reasons. First, it portends a long drawn out legislative battle on health care reform with more time for industry lobbyists and the Congress-persons and Senate persons on their payrolls to compromise away or wreck the change we so deeply need.

Second, it confirms that the lobbyists for financial institutions-the people responsible for the collapse of our economy have been scheming and wrangling to gut the reforms that could stop anther economic breakdown. Reviving this industry without restructuring and re-regulating it just guarantees another disaster down the line.

Bear in mind that that disaster is already underway despite what you may be reading about “green shoots” and signs that a turnaround is coming because unemployment didn’t go down as much as expected-only 500,000 plus a month.

In fact, many observers see a deeper crash still coming with a depression quietly deepening, even if most us cling to our perennial optimism and trust in the change-maker we can believe in.  The Telegraph’s Ambrose Evan-Pritchard, who unfortunately has been more prescient than wrong, whines:

Those of us who still question whether the world has purged its toxins are reduced to the same tiny band of moaning Druids from early 2007, when we shook our heads in disbelief as the carry trade swept Iceland to fresh madness and bankers laughed off sub-prime rot at Bear Stearns. We learned then to thicken our skins with walnut juice, lie down in dark rooms, and dissent from Goldman Sachs.

You may recall Dennis Kucinich asking his colleagues aloud if he was in the Congress of the United States or the “board room of Goldman Sachs” as if the former is a wholly owned subsidiary of the latter. Or perhaps, there was  a merger between the two in the sense that Wall Street may be down but by more means out. It is “clawing back” its influence with a new lobbying surge which is allowing Goldman and the big banks to pay back their TARP Money and get out from under the spectre of new regulations, compensation limits and the like.

The Empire inside the Empire is striking back.

Meanwhile we still live with a fog of misinformation, disinformation and no information. Basic information about monies from the Federal Reserve to Banks and financial institution has not been disclosed. Bear in mind the Banks control the Fed-and free marketers ran the economy, not the government.

Writes Bob Chapman of International Forecaster:

Not one banking or Wall Street executive owned up to what really happened to cause the crisis. They are totally lacking in honesty, integrity and decency. As it now stands we’ll never know the true inside story of what really went on. We have seen no civil or criminal charges against any of these crooks. Not even investigations. Whatever happened to RICO. Over the past 25 years our financial industry has descended into darkness and corruption and the people who caused it are getting away scott free.

Wow, what an indictment! Example: do we really know the purpose or the TARP program that gave money to banks that apparently didn’t need it, but didn’t say no. (The other side of giving loans to borrowers who couldn’t afford them?)

The Ritholtz blog suggests:

It was $700 billion dollar pile of money in search of a justification for its existence.

Most people still look at TARP the wrong way. When trying to discern what the true basis of it was, we eliminated what made no sense whatsoever, and what was left were a few strange ideas. When you eliminate the impossible, what’s left, no matter how improbable, becomes the best explanation.

What was that explanation? In Bailout Nation, we discuss the possibility that The TARP was all a giant ruse, a Hank Paulson engineered scam to cover up the simple fact that CitiGroup (C) was teetering on the brink of implosion. A loan just to Citi alone would have been problematic, went this line of brilliant reasoning, so instead, we gave money to all the big banks.

Oh, that explains it.

Shamus Cooke writes on Global Research: “History will likely show that these bailouts involved the largest transfer of wealth ever – from the working class to that small group of billionaires who own the corporations. This fact is recognized by most people now and is such common knowledge that even the mainstream media feels comfortable discussing it. . . matter-of-factly.

These corporations have also exerted tremendous influence in other realms of politics, working towards destroying Obama’s campaign promises of health care, job creation, civil liberties, the Employee Free Choice Act, peace, etc.

In each case, the promised reform was gutted of its essence, and “compromise” versions of the bills are now being discussed: instead of universal health care, we will likely be universally mandated to purchase health insurance; instead of “job creation” we are told that the stimulus has “saved jobs” (contrary to the evidence); while troops are “drawing down” from Iraq, the war in Afghanistan/Pakistan is being escalated; instead of allowing workers to organize unions easier, a compromise version [of the] ” Employee Free Choice Act, minus card check – seems more politically “pragmatic,” etc.”

At the heart of the crisis is the plight of homeowners who we know were defrauded in large numbers, victims like the Madoff investors. Yet the former are getting reimbursed to some degree, the latter are not. Bills to help them have been killed with Matt Renner on Truthout reporting:

A new analysis from a government watchdog group shows senators who killed off a consumer-friendly change in law aimed at addressing the foreclosure crisis received more money in campaign contributions from the industries their vote aided. Senators who voted against the consumer-friendly amendment received $3.98 million from the financial industry during the 2008 election cycle, while proponents of the bill received $2.65 million.

Could this be more corruption? Of course , but they call it politics as usual. And,  that’s not the worst of it, is that foreclosures are still rising and now affecting non-subprime lenders with little relief in sight.

Back to the banks: I have been reading complex web posts showing how the stress tests of banks were rigged and more may be needed. I have been reading about how the unemployment figures under-count folks out of work with the real numbers probably doubled, with minorities possibly tripled. I have been reading essays arguing that the notion that the government is “saving jobs” is not quantifiable with no statistical back up.

I have been following the campaign to get the Federal Reserve Bank to disclose its showering of money on financial institutions – something it refuses to do.

Who can we trust and bank on? The President wants to give us confidence but seems to be playing a confidence game. The Banks are dissembling when they are not lying. The most trenchant critics – may they be wrong – believe a total collapse is in the offing,

And the rest of us, mostly puzzled and paralyzed, unable to comprehend the severity of the situation, the billions, no make that trillions, gone. How do we make sense of the game playing in State Governments like those in California and New York a caricature of responsibility. The jobs are going and the Banksters are still going for it, sucking up what they can in a race to the bottom.

Who can we trust? Who Can We Bank on? You tell me.

Mediachannel’s News Dissector Danny Schechter is making a film based on his book PLUNDER: Investigating Our Economic Calamity ( Comments to

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Vintage signage

Posted: June 14, 2009 in creativity


I haven’t seen them for yonks: enamel signs. In Germany I’m sure all road signs were made that way, but what’ really stood out were small advertising signs, and that would have been even more the case in the heartland of capitalism, the United States of America. I’m absolutely no fan of the brainwashing lies used by the advertising industry, but in hindsight the message delivery of those ad signs looks quite benign and romantic compared to the brutally subtle manipulation unleashed on us today via the electronic media. SmashingMagazine, from which these 2 examples were taken, has collected 60 of these vintage signage pieces and also gives a brief background on them:

In the U.S., most outdoor signs made between 1890 and and 1950 were constructed of a base of heavy rolled iron, which was die cut into the desired shape, then coated with layers of colored powdered glass and fired in a kiln. This process made them durable and weather-resistant. Signs made this way were known as porcelain enamel signs or simply enamel signs.

Porcelain enamel signs originated in Germany and were imported into the U.S. They quickly became a staple of outdoor advertising across the country. Around 1900, designers experimented with bold colors and graphics on the signs and they were used to advertise everything from cigarettes and beer to farm equipment and tires. Early designs were stenciled, but American designers switched to silkscreens and started using a steel base instead of iron. Later, when porcelain enamel became too costly, tin bases were used instead of steel.

Now it is difficult to find antique porcelain enamel signs in excellent condition. Collectors pay hundreds and even thousands of dollars for each addition to their collections. Many of the signs were vandalized, discarded due to etching or crazing in the finish or melted down for the metal during World War II. After the war, the signs were too expensive to manufacture, so we are left with only the dazzling pieces that remain from the era.

Signs were later made of tin and other materials and painted with enamel paint. More of these types of signs remain, but they are often rusted, scratched and distressed. After WWII, “enamel” signs were simply enamel paint on a metal, usually tin, base.

There is a huge market for vintage signs and collectors must be wary of distressed reproductions. Often vintage signs are stamped with the date they were manufactured, while other times research and knowledge about antique signs may be required to discern a real antique from a knockoff.


Check out SmashingMagazine for 58 more vintage signs.

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The recently opened 5-star luxury hotel in the heart of Nice on the French Riviera demonstrates that the upper classes never runs out of cash, even in the most dismal economic times. The Boscolo Exedra continues to live the spirit of the original Belle Époque building – as the refurbished contemporary version of the creativity, ingenuity and originality of that lavish historic period.

The building has kept its sumptuous, classical, pure Belle Époque façade and opulent interior decor, inspired by 18th century Rococo, which apparently has been painstakingly restored. The original building was designed in 1913 by the renowned architect Charles Dumas, right at the end of the Belle Époque – which could make you wonder what the refurbishment says about our time. Located in the heart of the city and set in green surroundings, on the quiet main boulevard, the hotel was originally with intention built far from the more popular lively areas, to cater for a wealthy middle-class clientele that preferred tranquil exclusivity to the crowds of the seafront promenade.

The common areas and rooms have apparently now been refurbished to become symbols of a refined contemporary approach that harmoniously blends with the original Louis XVI style. What I particularly like about it is the spacious feel that the whole place seems to breathe, and the organic shapes – for example of the marble-columned grand hall, which is said to be roofed in with multicolored glass. According to, the hall leads to a vast and exquisitely decorated dining room. On the other side is the immediately visible sculptural bar with its gentle, flowing lines of white Corian. The floor to ceiling wall paneling and the breakfast room’s floor are made of Burma teak, most certainly having contributed to rainforest destruction; an abundance of vegetation and modern vases provides a contemporary and luxurious ambiance.

Some of the rooms feature a common modular system with expandable living space. Refined finishing touches, such as marble and blond wood flooring as well as the ivory and cream hues of the walls set off the elegant white and gold furnishings of pure and rigorous shape, softened by refined details, at times recalling the decorative motifs of the past. The conference center too maintains the use of harmonious forms, adding a Venetian-style floor with red glass inserts that physically asserts itself in the rooms; however, its style is more dynamic, in keeping with the kind of work done inside. The hotel’s other large space is the roof terrace, which holds the sundeck, a restaurant with a view, and a swimming pool, whose subtle hidden light effects create suffused bands of light.

To me the hotel reflects the tension between beauty and class, between our ability and artistry to dream up and design allurement, elegance, refinement and style on the one hand and on the other have it become an expression of the inequality, social & environmental injustice and exploitative relationships in our society. And it is the latter that create the vast income and wealth gaps between the rich and poor and sustain the careless disregard for the natural environment that form the base for the creation of the material excesses and their aesthetics of class inspired beauty. The evocative, rich and distinct style of the Boscolo Exedra Hotel thus is an announcement and assertion of our society’s power structure; it mirrors the perpetual clash of beauty and ugliness found on so many levels in our daily lives.


Tattooed table: Yakuza

Posted: May 31, 2009 in creativity


yakuza pattern

A different take on tattoos: Yakuza is a digitally tattooed wooden table. In its design, the table is treated as a living body, receiving its character from a unique tattoo printed on its surface. The wood texture acts as skin, becoming a platform for expressing cultural and personal identity – which should be made easier given that the digital printing technology supposedly doesn’t make it very difficult to apply tattoos and therefore would allow to treat each table in a unique and very individual way. And I guess the fact that the table is made from veneered MDF will help too.

Distributor: Generate Design; price available on request.

What goes around comes around

Posted: May 17, 2009 in creativity


That is so true with every war!

Big Ant International have won a Gold Pencil for Design (Public Service Poster) at the One Show Design Awards held this week. Four posters were designed to wrap around poles, campaigning for an end to the war in Iraq, pointing to the Global Coalition for Peace web site. Grenades, rifles, missiles and tank guns come round the pole to catch up with the aggressor in each poster. What goes around comes around. The campaign won a Silver Pencil at the One Show and has also been shortlisted at the Clio 2009 (May 12-14) and D&AD Awards (June 11).

[Reposted from The Inspiration Room, which also published the other trhree posters]

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eco-friendly-makeup-brush-set-hemp-caseI’m not at all a fan of makeup, and would be very suspicious of its long-term effects on my skin even if I would have an interest. But if someone feels she (or sometimes he) has to use it, I guess it’s good to focus on natural AND eco-friendly products. has a post not so much on make-up but on using accessories that could help you greening up your daily regimen. While the sensitive consumer has become aware of choices from organic to cruelty-free to minimal packaging, some people forget the little extras that tend to go along with makeup use. And some of those items to give some eco-consideration to include brushes, cotton pads and swabs, and specialty applicators.

Go to to read more about some of your eco-smart makeup accessory choices from Eco Tools for your beauty routine…

I know nothing about haute-couture but I do like the worlds of the darkish surreal with its oddly dreamlike sequences parading the bizarre and the fantastic. Just looking at Inhabitat’s borrowed (from the NYT) images of those weird and unreal yet startling looking models in Alexander McQueen‘s “trashy production” for Paris Fashion Week, I immediately wanted to know more. So here is the wonderfully bewildering, as presented by Yuka Yoneda’s .Inhabitat fashion post.


Wake up and smell the rubbish, people!

That’s what king of couture, Alexander McQueen’s tantalizingly “trashy” production for Paris Fashion Week seemed to roar, leaving the audience with eyes wide and mouths aflutter. The show — which featured models that resembled creepy crossbreeds between a blow-up doll, Pinhead from Hellraiser, and Blythe (incidentally the postergirl for McQueen’s line with Target, but more on that later) sauntering among black heaps of junky old props from the designer’s past shows — sent uneasy waves through the crowd. Are the dead-on silhouettes of Dior’s New Look and Givenchy’s little black dress meant to poke fun at us? Why are the models wearing umbrellas and aluminum cans on their heads? What does it all mean?!!!