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No. 184: A Map of Queer Experience, Art and Design in the Gulf, Jumpy Design for a Historic Playhouse + More

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

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Queering the Map, by Lucas LaRochelle

The Atlantic site City Lab ran a story the other week on an interesting and altogether noble effort: Queering the Map, a participatory project that maps out places that are of special significance to users’ queer experience. Originally launched a year ago by designer Lucas LaRochelle, the project asks users to drop pins on personal city landmarks—first in Montreal, and now in cities worldwide—and contribute stories that tell of the site’s significance. Per LaRochelle’s website, “The intent… is to ‘queer’ as much space as possible, from park benches to parking garages, to mark moments of queerness wherever they occur.”

By the beginning of this month, the map had begun picking up steam thanks to a share from the Montreal DJ Frankie Teardrop, and the number of pins on the map tripled in one week and continued to rise the next. Before long, right-wing trolls caught wind of it and added pro-Trump pins all along the east coast of the United States. LaRochelle took it down, and put out a call for developer friends to help make the map safe and secure from trolls. The team assembled is hoping to have the map back online very soon.


Teatr Lalka website

Teatr Lalka in Warsaw recently redesigned its website, and for a prestigious theater that’s been around since the early 1940s, the design is awfully bright, playful, and full of personality, surprise, and delight. Note the details like the jaunty a’s in the royal blue word mark, which quite literally jump when you scroll over it with your mouse. Click on that and up pops a theatrical cast of characters that shimmy to the side in unison on the horizontal scroll; each come with their own movement and sound. Letters and characters continue to pop and bounce throughout the site, which includes everything from the current calendar of plays to a timeline of the theater’s venerable history. Brava.

“Louvre Me Tender” in Bidoun

Eye on Design designer Tala Safie recommended an article last week from the magazine Bidoun: “Louvre Me Tender: soft power plays” by Rahel Aima is a smart, incisive, thoroughly engaging piece on the Louvre Abu Dhabi, “the first overseas franchise of the Louvre museum,” which opened in November. Aima’s review of the new Louvre is embedded within the context of the UAE’s eagerness to become a cultural capital, and against a backdrop of global dynamics. It also gives a helpful overview art and design in the Gulf (peppered with the type of rich and off-kilter descriptions that serve to animate the whole piece):

“If the UAE was a petrol pump—roll with me here—Dubai would be the high-octane Ultra HurricaneX 2000 premium version, Sharjah would be diesel, and Abu Dhabi… I guess Abu Dhabi would just be regular? At risk of broad strokes, we might characterize Dubai’s art scene as being primarily commercial, defined by its glitzy art fair, its galleries, and its first-in-class duty-free offshore storage facilities. Sharjah, meanwhile, is known for its long-term commitment to arts infrastructure through the activities of the Sharjah Art Foundation, its biennial, and its sister museums. Sharjah presents as organic, authentic, unthreatening; its arts areas are even somewhat pedestrian-friendly. (People love the idea of walking outside.) You can become fond of Sharjah in a way that Dubai will never let you. Abu Dhabi’s strategy has been very much one of importing famous brands and hiring brand-name architects to design them.” Read the full thing here.

The Shenzhen International Poster Festival at MICA

In 2016, the city of Shenzhen, China, held held an international poster festival, a competition judged by MICA Graphic Design Chair Brockett Horne, along with Stephan Bundi, Melchior Imboden, and Kan Tai-keung. These folks whittled 2,100 entries from over 40 countries down to a lucky 500. And after a quick stint traveling to University of the Arts in Poznan, Poland, the exhibition has made it to MICA in Baltimore, where it’s right at home showcasing the work of a handful of the school’s international students who entered the competition.



W. A. Dwiggins: A Life in Design by Bruce Kennett

Late last year we ran an article about W.A. Dwiggins, a man whose daring use of ornament in book design inspired EoD writer Susan Merritt to travel to a New Hampshire barn-turned-studio space to pore over Dwiggins’ archives. The owner of that collection, Bruce Kennett, has now come out with a biography of the designer entitled W. A. Dwiggins: A Life in DesignPublished by the Letterform Archive in San Francisco, and designed and produced by the author himself, the biography is comprised of 88,000 words and 1,200 illustrations that tell the little-known story of a man who quite literally defined graphic design.

As Kennett described Dwiggins, “He was a witty and inspiring guy, and the quintessential maker. He designed more than a dozen typefaces for Linotype, made hundreds of books for Knopf and other publishers, and was an accomplished calligrapher, illustrator, and painter. He was one of the first to use the term ‘graphic design’ and wrote expertly on the subject. In an entirely different realm, he built two private marionette theaters at his home in Massachusetts and constructed more than 50 marionettes; he is still studied in puppetry circles for his marionette engineering and theatrical sets. He also designed and flew kites, built furniture, and wrote fiction and plays. Overlaying all of this was his deliciously keen sense of humor (which he put to use often when he advocated for change).” Buy the book here


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