InBox 004 — Living in Pictures

Published:  March 28, 2013
Heath Killen
InBox 004 — Living in Pictures

InBox is a regular feature that is dedicated to sharing some of the great stuff that we get sent from all over the world. It features short reviews of books, magazines, records, movies, products, and other design ephemera.

If you have something you’d like us to take a look at, please don’t hesitate to post it or email it if it’s something digital.

This week we’re taking a look at the recently launched international design magazine Works That Work, a book that looks back at the student projects of some of the world’s top designers, a re-mastered monograph for legendary Australian architect Robin Boyd, the latest issue of influential Dutch architecture magazine Volume, a new book on the taxonomy of images, and the recent Warp Films picture Berbarian Sound Studio which is has just come out on DVD, BluRay and digital.

Magazine: Works That Work

Works That Work comes to us from editor Peter Bil’ak, who readers may know as the director of type foundry Typotheque (the magazine is set entirely in bespoke typeface Lava). I’ve been looking forward to this issue for some time and it doesn’t disappoint. It’s mature, accessible, and filled with fascinating subjects – from translations to beauty to non-verbal communication.

It’s been billed as something of a National Geographic design magazine that explores “human creativity in all its expressions” and there are some terrific examples of this ambition, such as a photo essay on “bastard chairs” taken by Michael Wolf. Wolf documents the vernacular DIY design culture found in Chinese megacities, and in this feature he captures a series of ad-hoc chairs created from wood, pavers, and broken parts of existing office and home furniture.

There are some excellent, subtle design touches such as the use of different stocks, a textured cover, different methods to presenting content (while still feeling like a cohesive publication), and innovative little features such as shortened URLs that accompany each article and lead to versions you can read and share online.

The magazine is reminiscent of Colors in its ambition and editorial approach (albeit at a smaller scale and with a more design-centred focus) but it certainly has its own voice, which promises evolve over time. A great beginning to an exciting journey.

Book: I Used To Be A Design Student

New from Lawrence King, this is sure to quickly become a favourite for students, recent graduates, and senior designers feeling a little nostalgic.

It’s actually a great book too, which in very basic terms invites a range of designers from all over the world to reflect on the progression of their work from design school to today. Each designer is given the opportunity to select a piece of student work and a recent project, and provide an analsis of both, looking at the good, the bad, and the lessons learned at both ends of their career. The inights offered here are often quite revealing, and it’s great to see such an investigation into an aspect of a designers career that is rarely looked at.

The book also contains a range of other personal data, similarly comparing the “then” and “now”, including the designer’s prefered mode of transport, how much exercise they fit into their routine, and when they wake up at the morning. It’s odd how interesting the most mundane aspects of someone’s life can be when it’s presented in the right context.

All this information and meta-data is neatly broken up into bite-sized morsels thanks to a tight six column grid, and plenty of breathing space is provided with generous, full-bleed images. It’s also great to see a truly international line-up of designers featured, rather than just the usual suspects.

Book: Robin Boyd – Living in Australia

First published in 1970 by Pergamon Press, this new edition comes to us from Thames & Hudson in partnership with the Robin Boyd Foundation. The book’s design has been “reviewed” by emerystudio, and the first thing you notice about it is the gorgeous black cloth binding, with titles embossed in an ochre pigment foil. It’s also wrapped in a black and white photograph of Boyd’s own home, as seen in the image above.

This is an elegant book, stately, and almost entirely monochromatic save for a small handful of colour images as well as a few orange pages. Divided into the sections Space, Stucture, Surface and Spirit, the book examines Boyd’s work as a socio-architectural practitioner and thinker, and one of the most influential voices in Australian architecture. The images perfectly capture the light, space, and material qualities of his residential designs. It’s largely a photographic book, and text is fairly minimal, however all images come with detailed captions and some examples of Boyd’s own writing on issues such as privacy and progress. A wonderful introduction to Boyd’s work and his revolutionary thinking on the relationships between architecture and life in Australia.

Magazine: Volume #34

This edition of Volume (a projected by Archis + AMO + C-Lab +INTI) is subtitled City in a Box, and it looks at a very contemporary phenomenon of private companies essentially designing and developing entire cities from scratch.

Case studies such as Strand East (aka the IKEA city) in the UK, New Songdo in South Korea, Lavasa in India and PlanIT Valley in Portugal are all examined in depth. The issue isn’t simply about the places, it’s about the new structures, tools, and industries that are emerging in order to facilitiate such ambitious projects.

It also looks broadly at the way that these new approaches to creating cities are changing the rules of planning, how cities are used, and right down to the way that they look. Dan Hill provides a particularly great and illuminating essay on how smart cities depend on smart people, and designer Michelle Champagne looks at how these “corporate cities” are marketed to the world. The design and feel (by Irma Boom and Sonja Haller) make Volume particularly wonderful to hold and browse as always, but this issue in particular is a must-read.

Book: The Picture in Design

Written by Stuart Medley (a senior lecturer at Edith Cowan University) and published by Common Ground, this is a fantastic and very accesible academic text on the psychology of pictures in graphic design, and how designers can better understand pictures as a communication method in the age of the internet, and post-Swiss, post-’90s design landscape.

In our highly visual culture, a deeper understanding of the meaning and value of imagery is vitally important. It’s surprising that Medley’s research is really a world first, and while certain ideas explored in the book while be familiar to some, Medley’s theoretical framework and conclusions are of value to designers at all levels.

The Picture in Design seeks to develop a useful taxonomy for images, along the lines of those developed for typography – namely around the ideas of purpose and intent for effective uses. Comprehensive and educational, the book is a must for any designer interested in gaining deeper insights into the work, and it provides a fantastic resource for designers who defend their pictorial decisions to clients or teachers who wish to explain image choice to their students.

It’s wonderful to see the book’s strong Australian focus too, featuring lots of work from the likes of Steve Alexander (Rinzen) alongside samples from NORM and Big Active.

Film: Berberian Sound Studio

Set in 1976, Toby Jones plays a documentary sound engineer who finds himself employed by a notorious low-budget Italian horror studio. Uneasy in his new environment and surrounded by a world he finds alien, he throws himself into his work, failing to notice how life is slowly beginning to imitate art.

This is a delightfully weird film, which is alternatively funny, chilling and beautiful – capturing all the atmosphere and stylistic traits of the giallo genre, a cinematic world in which the film both inhabits and references.

Of particular interest for this production is the fact that designer Julian House was brought on as a creative director, providing not only poster designs and a show stopping film-within-a-film credit sequence, but also artistic and design direction for the movie – working closely with director Peter Strickland. The themes and tone of Berberian Sound Studio are a natural fit for House, and it’s exciting to see a graphic designer dabble (possibly transition) into the world of feature films. Coupled with the addition of a fantastic Broadcast soundtrack, this is probably close as we’re likely going to get to a Ghost Box film for some time – but who knows? For now though this is thrilling and inventive stuff.

InBox 001 — Avant Garde Messages
InBox 002 — Colours and Flavours
InBox 003 — How To Make Flowers

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