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Artomatic’s back

We got this little flyer in the post this morning, announcing the return of Artomatic, which is a bit of blast from the recent design past.

For graphic designers in London, Artomatic used to be a bit of a mecca. Originally set up in 1983 as a screenprinting studio, it morphed gradually into a print consultancy, sitting between designers and printers to help make really tricky print jobs happen. Artomatic+ opened up on Great Sutton Street in 1999 (next door to Vince Frost’s studio), in the form of a shop, gallery, print library and offices, as a place where designers could go to thumb through shelves of print samples.

Artomatic worked on some seminal design projects, including Mark Farrow’s packaging for Spiritualized’s Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space, and Tom Hingston’s beautiful heat sensitive packaging for Massive Attack’s Singles Collection.

The Artomatic team went their separate ways in 2003. Daniel Mason’s since written a fair few books about print design and production, and Robert Gaddie set up his own print consultancy, Crayfish Creative. It’s Tim Milne though, one of the founders of Artomatic, who is resurrecting it now, after having spent some time in the USA, and setting up the Direct Mail project Matter.

The new website is fascinating as a brilliantly frank history of what went wrong the first time, as well a great showcase for the incredible work that Artomatic was involved with. Well worth a look – particularly for the range of ilikeprinting limited edition prints on offer from the original Artomatic days.

Art Car Boot Fair at The Dock

Gavinturk

Ah, so this is good – on Saturday the folks at the Art Car Boot Fair will be selling their wares at their 'Bootique' at The Dock, the 'emporium of creative talent' curated by Tom Dixon over at Portobello Dock.

"The Art Car Bootique will distill the Art Car Boot Fair’s winning combination of fine art art and high end frivolity into a ‘best of the boot fair’ event … all manner of artworks, artwares and services direct from artworld luminaries and emerging talents including Sir Peter Blake, Nick Reynolds, Ian Monroe, Pure Evil, Gavin Turk, Pretty Taxing, the House of Fairytales, Scrawl Collective and Stuart Semple. Fine art, street art, limited edition prints, cool sculptures, art for kids and live while-you-wait portrait painting plus lots of arty entertainments."

The bootique will be open on Saturday 26 from noon till 6pm (possibly from 10am – the site mentions both times). The Dock is open from 10am-6pm daily this week, until 8pm today, and until 4pm on Sunday.

Image top: Tyre Print, 2008, by Gavin Turk.

Design for life

Design for life

So, who caught the opening episode of BBC2's Design for Life just now?

The show is the design version of The Apprentice, with Philippe Starck hamming it up as a gallic  Sir Allan. 

Starck

In the first episode we were introduced to the group of 12 British wannabe product designers*, who applied to the the show in the hope of winning a six month placement at Starck's design group. They were whisked off to Paris, where their first challenge was to scour a supermarket in search of examples of good and bad product design.

Starck held up an army jeep as an example of really great design, "its the only vehicle which have the elegance of intelligence, because it's not driven by marketing, it's driven by function". Which is fair enough, but more than a tad ironic coming from the man whose most famous product is the almost entirely non-functional Juicy Salif lemon-squeezer (below). He went on to lament the fact that designers are churning out too many unnecessary products… a case of the designer pot calling the kettle charcoal-grey?

Juicy-salif

Still, it's always good to see design getting an airing during prime-time. And Starck is at least entertaining. But what did you make of the programme? Answers on an inflatable postcard, or chuck us a comment just below.

More info on the show here, and it runs for another five episodes, and you can catch it on iPlayer too.

*What's the right group noun for that? A CAD of designers? A sketch of designers?)

Wireframe Lamborghini

Lamborghini

How yummy is this?

A life-size wireframe model of a Lamborghini Countach. In flouro orange.

We caught sight of it on Saturday over at The Classic Car Club on Old St. It's the work of artist Benedict Radcliffe, and you can read more about it on this Jalopnik post.

Vrmmmmmm.

Design Event 08

De08_sheehan

We made our way up to Newcastle last weekend to check out the fantastic Design Event festival, and found some really tasty stuff.

Up first, at the Design Event Mart at BALTIC, was recent graduate Sarah Sheehan's stunningly lovely Lost for Words jewellery collection (above). Each piece featured text from a book, and the books themselves were then lasercut and used as packaging for the pieces. Sarah doesn't have a site up yet, but you can contact her via email.

De08_eelus

Over at Electrik Sheep, Eelus had created a fantastically dark show, and we particularly loved the triptych of Splasher, Swinger and Skipper (above). The show stays up until 1 November.

De08_lightenup

Meanwhile, the [re]design gang had moved their Lighten Up show from the relatively restrained surroundings of London's 100% Design to the incredible space inside the Tyne Bridge's North Tower, and the show looked fantastic there.

For more info, check out our full preview, take a look at Alistair's Design Event Flickr set, or heck, check out the official Design Event Flickr sets.

Oh, and a big thank you to Beckie and Karen at Design Event; and also to the mercurial Dan Civico for guiding us around the highlights of Newcastle's nightlife.

A design guide to Amsterdam

Amsterdam: Tulips, bikes, canals, dope, prostitutes in windows, lots more bikes. And heck, a wealth of simply fantastic design. 

We nipped over to the capital of the Netherlands this weekend to check out the city's design scene, and particularly to take a gander at Experimentadesign, the Lisbon based design festival that's taking place in Amsterdam for the first time this year. 

The festival kicked off on 18 September, and it runs through until 2 November – a fairly impressive six and a half weeks of design goodness. We checked out a few of the main shows: Droog's Urban Play, The Sunday Adventure Club, and Come to my place

Amsterdam_windowzoo 
Urban Play comes in two parts: the first part is an exhibition that showcases the work of a variety of artists and designers who are injecting a bit of fun back into the city. The selection of artists is great, and we particularly dug the work by Zurich's Windowzoo (above), and Montreal's Roadsworth (more on him in a later post). The show mainly uses short films to present each designer's work, which is good as far as it goes – it would have been brilliant to see more actual examples. But that's a minor grumble about a great show.

Amsterdam_sagmeister

The second part of the exhibition is a series of interventions alongside Amsterdam's IJ Riverfront by twelve designers, including Stefan Sagmeister. Unfortunately, his incredibly beautiful piece, Obesessions make my life worse and my work better, made of 300,000 eurocent coins, got cleaned away within hours of being created, by a rather overzealous local police force (and a distinct lack of clear communication).

Amsterdam_sac

Back in town, the Sunday Adventure Club (above) is a wonderfully playful lo-fi exhibition, showcasing "citizens who through their personal passions have initiated activities in public space", carving out spaces for play in the dense urban landscape. We particularly like the take-away instruction sheets for creating all kinds of fun stuff, from Seed Bombs to Match Rockets.

Meanwhile, Come to my place is a great show that has invited designers from eight cities around the world to create room-sets filled which "exemplify the way in which the global citizen defines their individuality by making a personal choice from the vast resources of the design industry and the shop around the corner". Good stuff.

Away from Experimentadesign, we checked out a bunch of exhibitions and design stores. 

Amsterdam_vankreij

Unfortunately Amsterdam's home for modern art, the Stedelijk Museum, is closed at the moment, having left its temporary digs at the Post CS Building in anticipation of setting up home in its newly renovated original building at the end of 2009. In the meantime they've got a series of temporary shows happening as part of their Stedelijk in the City project (check the site for details); as well as regular shows at the Stedelijk Museum Bureau Amsterdam (SMBA). We checked out the latest show by Marijn Van Kreij, who creates brilliant hand rendered textual pieces (above).

We also stumbled across the Netherlands Media Art Institute, currently hosting a brilliant show Sonic Voices, Rocking Hard which features a variety of artists, film-makers and musicians working at the intersection of art, sound and music. We particularly liked the 3D version of Bjork's fantastic Wanderlust promo (long download but worth it) from Encyclopedia Pictura; and were blown away by Johan Renck's promo for The Knife's Pass This On (below). 

We also checked out a couple of photography shows. Over at the rather wonderful Foam (Fotografiemusuem Amsterdam) there were a selection of shows, including the incredible Hyena & Other Men series (below) from Pieter Hugo, which is running until 2 November. The images have been doing the rounds on the web, but seeing them full size is just incredible. They're stunningly beautiful.

Amsterdam_hugo

Just along the road from Foam you'll find Huis Marseille, Amsterdam's self-proclaimed first photography museum, currently showing Cy Twombly's dry prints (until 23 November).

Of course, it's not just about looking at lovely stuff, it's about taking it home too, and Amsterdam's packed full of delicious design stores.

Amsterdam_droog

We made our way first to the daddy of the bunch, the Droog store, which features a range of limited edition pieces (like the Crystal Virus from Pieke Bergmans, above), as well as a bunch of more affordable but equally imaginative products. 

But, we were far more impressed by the simply wonderful Frozen Fountain, which is just dripping with every manner of design loveliness, including the Zeppelin chandelier from Flos (below). It's our new favourite shop.

Amsterdam_ffountain 
We also loved the Nijhof & Lee bookstore (a bit like the UK's Magma, but with more old books); Wonderwood, which stocks, well, furniture made of wood; and the lovely De Weldaad, which is packed with antiques and "architectural artefacts". They even had a bottle-drying rack (below), just like the one what Duchamp made famous.

Amsterdam_weldaad

For the fashionistas, there's a wealth of second-hand clothing stores, or if you're looking for something a little more contemporary, check out Concrete and SPRMRKT, both achingly hip. 

You can check out all of Alistair's shots from the trip on his Amsterdam Flickr set, and we've put a Google Map with all of this stuff on, and more besides. We used the Time Out Shortlist Amsterdam and also the fabulous guide created by Danielle de Lange at The Style Files.
(And if all that's given you a spot of wanderlust, you can also check out our guides to Paris and Newcastle.)

Cold War Modern at the V&A

Coldwarmodern

As we mentioned in the previous postCold War Modern is the new show at the V&A.

And it's a corker.

The show looks at the decades after the Second World War, when the two super powers were locked in a constant battle of one-upmanship. Not content with just having bigger and better missiles, they tried to outdo each other in every area – leading to an explosion of fantastic art and design. As the blurb from the show points out "Modern life after 1945 seemed to promise both utopia and catastrophe".

The major strength of the exhibition is its sheer breadth. It pulls in Dieter Rams's beautiful designs for Braun (which still exert a powerful influence on the some modern day classics); paintings by Gerhard Richter, Robert Rauschenberg and Richard Hamilton; Archigram's Walking Cities; Otl Aicher's lecture posters; as well as bits from Eames, Corbusier, and Buckminster Fuller. Deeply brilliant.

The show runs until 11 January, but heck, why wait?

Pictures © V&A Images

Design Event ’08 Preview

De_event


Hot on the heels of the gargantuan (and slightly overwhelming) London Design Festival comes the far more intimate and friendly northern version, Design Event, which gets busy from 9 to 26 October 2008.

We nipped up there this summer to get a feel for the city, and had a grand old time – read all about it on our Design Guide to Newcastle.

The full line up for the festival has just been released. Helpfully, Newcastle is the perfect size for walking round, and you can wander from show to show in minutes – so we thought we'd create a walking tour for your pleasure and perambulation.

This year's event is arranged around the theme of Northern Design, looking right across Northern Europe to see what's cooking from BALTIC to the Baltic states.
First up, there's a trio of shows at King's House, just near the station, all running from 10-25 October.

De_hidden

Hidden in Plain View is a group show from designers across Northern Europe, who've looked at the tradition of steganography (the art and science of writing hidden messages) which is apparently traditionally popular on Scandinavian postcards, and they've created their own selection of postcards for viewers to decipher.

Staying at King's House, the folks from If you could have put together a showcase of the latest raw design talent spilling out of Sunderland, Teeside and Northumbria Universities, exhibiting alongside some ex-students who've gone on to make it big. They're all confronting the question: If you could do anything in the North, what would it be?

And before you head on from there, you can check out Magnetic North, a show by Marcus Diamond from Neasden Control Centre.

De_eelus

Just up the short walk away you'll find the fantastic Electrik Sheep shop and gallery, which will be showing a stack of new work from Eelus (above). If you're up in that part of town already, the show opens on Thursday 2 October at 6pm.
De_stinapersson
Sticking with the illustration vibe, across toward the centre of town is the Tradition show from the Lobster Foundation, featuring work from ten of the bestest designers and illustrators kicking around in Scandinavia, including the ever wonderful Stina Persson (above).

Heading south from there, the Designed & Made Gallery is putting on show called MadeNorth, looking at cultural similarities and differences between Scandinavia and north-eastern England.

De_lightenup

Keep going south to catch the fantastic Lighten Up show from the folks at [re]design, fresh from its success at the 100% Design. There are some delicious bits in the collection, and they're exhibiting in the Tyne Bridge Tower, so it should be fantastic. And keep an eye out for more sustainable lighting cleverness from the folks at We Make, with their Beryl and Friends collection of lights popping up round town.

Ldf_speakerbuddies

Nip along the river past the Gateshead Millennium Bridge to Baltic, where you'll find the Design Event Mart, selling a vast selection of work from the brightest and the best of the local talent, including Alex Underwood's brilliant Speaker Buddies, fresh from their trip down to the London Design Festival (and yep, we've shown you them before, but come on, they're great!)

De_shrigley

And while you're there, check out the latest shows from David Shrigley and Steve McQueen, and catch the wonderful Yoshitomo Nara show before it closes on the 26th.

There are a bunch of other Design Event shows on, in Sunderland and County Durham, as well as a selection of great talks. If you want to keep up to date, just sign up for the Design Event E-bulletin.

London Design Festival ’08 review

Ldf_babysitter 

Jeepers it's busy in London lately. Seems you can't hardly turn a corner without tripping over some kind of cultural event that's as eager as a puppy to show you something brilliant and exciting. And leading the pack is the London Design Festival, now in its 6th year, and going from strength to strength. 

We knew we were only going to make it to a fraction of the 128 (or so) exhibitions, so decided to stick to the big guns: 100% Design (and its siblings, 100% Materials and 100% Futures) at Earls Court; Tent London over at the Truman Brewery, and Designersblock, which was getting all fancy-pants this year in Covent Garden.

We scooted over to 100% Design first, which felt much groovier than normal – we reckon it might well have stolen some of the fun stuff away from the other shows. 

We totally loved the Squirrel Wall Lamps from Alex Randall at Jericho Hands. Alex explained that she'd teamed up with an ace taxidermist to create the lamps from actual dead squirrels, and pointed out that they had excellent environmental credentials as they're effectively recycled vermin. Which is nice. 

Ldf_squirrel 
We also got excited by Alex Underwood's Speaker Buddies, exhibited as part of a Northumbria University group show. They stand 50cm tall and are moulded from recycled expanded polystyrene. Deeply wonderful.
 
Ldf_speakerbuddies 
Over at Danish Craft's Mindcraft stand, we loved – no, actually, we adored – Louise Hindsgavl's Everyday Scenarios, a series of joyously warped porcelain figurines. Demented and delicious.
 
Ldf_everyday 
Meanwhile, over at the Craft Council's Ten: Wood stand, Carl Clerkin's Door Mouse Door Wedges caught our eye for their elegant simplicity and wit. 

Ldf_doormouse 
We also loved the latest show from the folks at [re]design, Lighten Up, which collected together some stunning lights and lamps, all with a focus on sustainability. We particularly loved Anna McConnell's gorgeous Non Standard Lamp. Anna takes existing lampstands and breathes new life into them by adding ball bearing hinges, rewiring them, and adding a weighted base for extra stability. Smart.
 
Ldf_nonstandard

Having walked eight (or nine?) miles up and down the aisles of Earl's Court, we jumped on a tube and made our way to Tent London. There was a fair amount to see there, but the one thing that really stood out for us was Andrew Ross's Bone Watch. It's still in a very experimental stage, but we think it's lush.
 
Ldf_boneproject 
Next up was Designersblock, once again in a fantastic location, No1 The Piazza at Covent Garden – lots of exposed brick and temporary scaffolding. And it was there that we found our pick of this year's show, the sublime Neo Monuments series (top and below) by Mikael Alacoque. Exhibited as part of Kith Kin's Pah-ah show, Mikael describes them as "a playfully sinister bastardization of familiar objects", which we reckon is spot on. We had to be physically restrained from stealing one for the studio. Utterly brilliant, and incredibly iconic. 

Ldf_babysitter_b 
Our final find at the show was Nosigner's Rebirth lamp, made out of real egg shells, and exhibited as part of the Seoul Young Designers Pavilion

Ldf_nosigner 
All in all, a pretty fine collection of work. (There are a few more pics from our wanderings over on Alistair's LDF 08 Flickr set.)

We'll just sign off by making one request – can the powers that be see if they can schedule Open House London and the LDF on different dates next year? There's only so much design goodness you can squeeze into a weekend…

Designs of the Year

Kiosk

The new Brit Insurance Designs of the Year show started last week at the Design Museum, taking over from where the old Designer of the Year show left off in 2006. We went along on Saturday to take a look, and we’ll tell you all about that in just a moment.

But first, a gentle rant.

The show is, as you can hardly have failed to notice, sponsored by Brit Insurance. They’ve stuck their name right in front of it. The awards that go with the show are sponsored by them too. They’re called the Brit Insurance Design Awards. And frankly, that’s just rubbish. Instead of being mutually beneficial, it’s mutually detrimental. It makes the Design Museum look cheap, happy to bend over, grab its ankles and get its elegantly shaped butt branded by its corporate master; and it makes Brit Insurance look greedy and egomaniacal. Instead of making the event and awards the most important thing, they’ve made their sponsorship the important thing. And that doesn’t make us like them much.

This is a grim trend that’s been happening wherever sponsorship occurs (Carling Academy anyone?). Don’t get us wrong, it’s a very good thing that corporate sponsorship exists. It makes stuff happen, in bigger and better ways than would otherwise be possible. But, please, let’s restore some sense of modesty, elegance and sophistication to the way it’s done. Wouldn’t the Designs of the Year show, as supported by Brit Insurance, sound far better? Patronage, not prostitution*.

Rant over.

The show itself is a great mix of work arranged by discipline: Architecture, Fashion, Furniture, Graphics, Interactive, Product and Transport. You might question some of the entries, but it’s a really valuable opportunity to see what’s being going on across the design spectrum in the past year. It’s also great to be able to play with some of the entries, including the Nintendo Wii, Toshio Iwai and Yu Nishibori’s TENORI-ON digital musical instrument, and Ross Phillips’ Replenishing Body Kiosk (pictured above, being used by some kids in a much looser way than intended).

In the graphics section, we were particularly pleased to see the Butt Book nominated – it’s a compendium of Butt Magazine (that link is not at all safe if you’re at work), designed by Jop van Bennekom, and we’ve noticed it being the ‘inspiration’ for rather a lot of work recently.

Winners in each section, and one overall winner, will be announced in March.

* The fact that Peter Saville’s “THIS IS NOT A BROTHEL THERE ARE NO PROSTITUTES AT THIS ADDRESS” sticker is one of the graphics entries feels deeply ironic.