Hello, and welcome to this week’s Design Diary, a collection of five projects from across the world that have impressed us this week.
Earlier this week, Steven Heller sat down with Milton Glaser at Cooper Union in New York to talk about the recently reissued version of Glaser’s The Design of Dissent, co-authored with Mirko Ilic). Originally published more than a decade ago, the new edition compiles recent examples of design that express political and social resistance, and sums up our current state of affairs with the revised subtitle “Greed, Nationalism, Alternative Facts and the Resistance.” Glaser began the conversation with the story of one of his earliest memories of a protest at his apartment building in the Bronx turned violent by the police, which he used to explain his inclination—both in his design work and in life—to the left. “I learned that the only way to deal with men beating you over the head, was to resist.”
So how’s that mindset faring for Glaser today, in the era of Trump? Heller asked Glaser if he felt there was a difference in this period of political strife, in comparison to the other tumultuous periods of U.S. history that he has lived through: the McCarthy era, the Cold War, Vietnam, Civil Rights. “I think the most difficult thing to deal with now is that nothing seems real,” Glaser responded. “One thing that Trump has done, and society has done in general, is use the means of communication to basically make people’s response inert, and make them feel that there’s nothing they can do. That sense of paralysis or indifference is what has makes this time seem so much more unlinked to anything [else].”
A bit more uplifting was Glaser’s still-firm assertion that art and design play an important role in resisting the indifference he described. “If you think of [art] as a means of survival, and the idea of beauty as something to be obtained, then you can devote your life to it without any other reward… it’s essential to human survival. If you like Mozart and I like Mozart, we have something in common. If we have something in common, we’re less likely to kill one another.” Watch the full talk here.
Sneakers, a new book by designer Rodrigo Corral and journalists Alex French and Howie Kahn, is a super nerdy, very in-depth exploration of the cultural significance of the titular object—weaving together sneaker stories from the likes of Kobe Bryant and Serena Williams, along with shoe designer Tiffany Beers and Bruce Kilgore, the creator of the Air Force 1s. The book is basically a shrine to a well-worshiped design object, so of course the design is on par: Corral, the designer behind some of our favorite book covers, did the design and art direction for the book.
Each of the book’s chapters is dedicated to a person and his or her sneaker story, so each gets its own visual treatment by Corral, with custom art, photography, and illustrations. Corral and his team had to track down all of the sneakers the contributors talked about, often traveling to shoot the shoes in person.
On the idea behind the minimalist cover design, Corral told Men’s Journal, “Sneakers mean so many things to so many different people. I don’t want to explain Sneakers away visually, but it also can’t be too conceptual. It needs to grab your attention and then let you make it personal. You know which shoes are inside the white box, I don’t want to fill that space for you.”
Over at our sister site Design Observer, they marked Tuesday’s elections with a conversation with Lesley Stordahl, creative director at CBX, about working with the non-profit She Should Run. The organization was founded with the impressive goal of getting 250,000 women to run for elected office by 2030, and Stordahl talked about using design and strategy to help them accomplish it. How do you reach and speak directly to women who might be thinking about running for office, but need the support and resources to do so?
CBX took the existing logo and created an evolving icon system that can be used variously for their different endeavors. The most interesting parts of the interview were in Stordahl’s distilling down of the details:
“We’re living in this world of amazing new breakthrough political design and also—I hate to say ‘terrible’—staid design. Compare the Hillary [Clinton] identity with ‘Make America Great Again’ and there’s a clear line around political parties, innovation, and young and old.
“She Should Run is bipartisan and they were very clear about the need to appeal to both sides. How do we bring a modernity to the visual but still make it feel bipartisan? For us, it was softening the red a little bit—not going with a really harsh, traditional red—giving it almost a slight coral. It was using more of a cyan than a navy or an overly masculine dark blue. And to make sure that we’re showing women and there’s representation, because there’s so much reflection [from their audience] that ‘this is for me.’ We have to be inclusive to all ages, races, backgrounds. That’s something that we try to keep in mind as we develop with them.”
Gender inequity isn’t just a problem in politics, as we all know. Despite the increasing exposure of feminist artists and artworks in recent years, the artists represented by the top galleries across New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago are still roughly 70 percent male, according to artist Micol Hebron’s ongoing “Gallery Tally” project. In collaboration with Gucci, Artsy has set out to address the ever-prevalent issue with a beautifully shot film series, put out in three parts. Part One, “Past,” features Barbara Zucker, Lynn Hershman Leeson, Faith Ringgold, Joan Semmel, and Todd Levin discussing the barriers women faced in the 1970s, and the events and individuals that broke through them. In the upcoming segments on “Present” and “Future” we’ll hear from Marilyn Minter and Petra Collins, among others. See the full lineup here.
Italian-born, Berlin-based Riccardo Pirotto describes himself as a “concept/art designer,” but by any name we’re sure his work would smell as sweet. We’re impressed with one recent project in particular, a book he designed about Sirio Luginbühl, an experimental cinematographer in the Italian “underground” cinema scene of the 1970s and ’80s. “The book is designed as an auto-biographical diary with a series of small texts, short stories, images (old postcards, documents) and photographs collected by the author during his lifetime,” Pirotto explains. “The cover is a lenticular image made by two frames shot in one of his movie.”
A beautiful piece of work about a fascinating artist, who hung out with the likes of Pasolini, Emilio Vedova, Gregory Markopoulos.