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No. 172: A Tribute to Ivan Chermayeff, Designing Nonsense, a First Aid Kit for Sorrow + More

Hello, and welcome to this week’s Design Diary, a collection of five fab projects from across the world that have impressed us this week. 

For more creative gems along these lines (and so many others) follow along all day, every day on Instagram @AIGAeyeondesignFacebook, and Twitter @AIGAeyeondesign.

Guns issue of Clog

On the 15th issue, the architecture mag expands its focus.

The artists and designers who make up Playlab Inc.—an interdisciplinary design studio as well as half the crew behind New York City’s still-forthcoming floating public pool in the East River—has been publishing the architecture magazine Clog since 2011. The publication has always been beautifully designed and packed with thoughtful and interesting mini-articles on architecture, around a given theme. The new issue, Guns, still has the great graphics, but marks a departure in subject matter. Issue 15 expands outside of architecture to a hot and deeply politicized issue.

As Playlab puts it, “Its destructive and deadly purpose imbues the gun with a unique potency—both symbolic and real. Hence, it can be difficult, if not impossible, to consider the gun as just another tool or designed object. Over time, social, political, and economic forces—particularly in the United States—have created a context that often forces individuals into ‘pro-gun’ or ‘anti-gun’ factions, leaving little room to critically study the gun as an object or consider the complexity of various perspectives.” Clog takes a critical and varied focus to the subject—a great example of writing about the world at large through a design lens.

Church of Sweden’s First Aid Kit for Sorrow

A How To of public kindness.

For this year’s All Saints Day at the beginning of November, the Church of Sweden took it upon itself to help people help other people who are grieving. Always tricky terrain, but one undoubtedly worth traversing: the church polled 4,200 Swedes and found that 95% think that it is important to be there and support people who are grieving, but most everyone felt ill-equipped to do so. So the Church of Sweden created a First Aid Kit for Sorrow, distributed to over 2,000 companies, that featured 11 tips for what you can do for friends, family, and coworkers who are experiencing grief. This being Sweden, it’s of course well-designed—and illustrator Stina Löfgren rendered poetic illustrations to go with each tip.


Flumadiddle, Warriors Studio

“Be useless and be senseless!”

If I were to throw you a word like “flumadiddle,” what image immediately comes to mind? What about if I told you the phonetic pronunciation [fluhm-uh-did-l] and definition (utter nonsense)? Still nothing? Well then relax, because a group of designers and illustrators we love have already done the work for you.

The likes of Nadine KolodzieyElise MesnerSally Hackett, Alex Wallbaum & Aleia MurawskiCélestin KrierKarol Banach, and several others were given that very prompt by Warriors Studio in Glasgow, along with the helpful directives to create a piece of work in response to the word that is both useless and senseless. “As designers, everything we do is backed up with reasoning and rationale,” writes the studio. “Everything we make and design must have a practical purpose. With Flumadiddle we wanted to take a step back, shake our day-to-day thinking and try to unlearn some of our established conventions by doing the complete opposite.” All 17 nonsensical responses were showcased in an exhibition in Glasgow and a broadsheet style newspaper printed by Newspaper Club and designed by Warriors Studio. And now they’re being shown right here, above and below.

Minding the Digital exhibition, designed by Thonik

Reflect and speculate.

Design Society is a newly founded design museum in Shenzhen, China, which opened at the beginning of the month with the inaugural exhibition Minding the Digital. With exhibition design by Dutch architecture firm MVRDV and a visual identity from the consistently stellar studio Thonik, the exhibition looks at the impact of digitalization through the works of more than 50 international and Chinese design practices.

Per the exhibition theme, Thonik’s identity centers around a floating blob of RGB color patches. As they explain it, “The typography is turned into a computer-generated gatekeeper that keeps the colored blobs in place. This basic mechanism of ping-pong illustrates the transitory interaction between man and technology. The choice of color, the basic RGB, speaks of the spectrum of the digital era. The combination of three colors also echoes the three sections in the exhibition: encounter, interaction and participation.” It’s equally lovely in motion as it is in static poster form.

Chermayeff & Geismar video, Dress Code

And a fitting farewell to a design giant.

Last week, we lost a design legend in Ivan Chermayeff. As Steven Heller put it in a touching tribute on Design Observer, Chermayeff was “among New York’s design aristocracy—and the quintessence of Modern design itself.” Along with his friend and longtime business partner Tom Geismar, Chermayeff has left an indelible mark on the world, with logos for NBC, Mobile, National Geographic, Pan Am, PBS, Chase, not to mention that larger-than-life red number nine outside of 9 West 57th Street in Manhattan.

Yet the fact remains that this year marks the 60th anniversary of what’s now Chermayeff Geismar & Haviv (Sagi Haviv became a partner in 2006). On Tuesday, AIGA marked the anniversary at the Lincoln Center, and the publisher Standards Manual released a gorgeous monograph of the firm’s work over the course of 60 years.  A screening of the below video by Dress Code was a fitting celebration of the designers’ life and work:

A few choice words from Chermayeff: “We’ll come to work and worry about the problems of our clients as long as we can walk. It’s never the same, our clients are interesting. I can’t think of a better job.

“It’s better than being a lawyer. I have a lot of friends who are lawyers, and they’re always complaining.”

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