stefan sagmeister: the happy show.

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Ask any good parent what their ultimate hope is for their child and the answer is usually the same: they want them to be happy. As adults, it’s the beginning of a new year, everyone is back at work and our resolutions – everything that seemed so possible mere weeks ago – are already being tested. While we strive to improve ourselves, in little and large ways, I think that if we distilled all of our resolutions into one succinct, combined, communal wish it would be “I want to be happier.” Don’t all personal roads we yearn to travel really lead to a place where we simply like ourselves more? And that’s why my visit last weekend to Stefan Sagmeister’s The Happy Show at Design Exchange came at exactly the right time.

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Sagmeister’s hand-written style lends itself perfectly to the energy of the entire exhibit. It’s more like a note passed in class than a formal letter. We’re not sitting down to study the official manual of happiness; we’re wandering, loosely, through the thoughts of someone that admittedly isn’t any more sure of the answers than we are. But he’s trying – and that’s what matters. From the hands protruding out of the wall offering Sagmeister’s favourite ginger candies (I took one) to the first 14 minutes of his eventual feature length documentary “The Happy Film” (I watched it twice), all of it gleaming in a beckoning coat of sunshine yellow, there was a feeling of wandering, like Alice, into an over-sized handwritten journal with past lessons come to life in a serene, contemplative Wonderland. 

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The show is a balance between information and experience. The walls in the first section are covered in stats and figures revealing truths and examining how we, as a society, define the idea of happy and how we all strive to get there. The other aspect is interactive, offering mini-challenges that, in the case of the “Happiness Instructional Card Dispenser” where a card shot out of the wall telling me to text a joke to a number I’d never heard of, don’t really seem to have any goal greater than the fact that you allowed yourself to follow your curiosity and just do it. The “Gumball Personal Happiness Survey”, while delightfully retro, is more than just an easy attempt at interaction. The world’s psychologists do much of their research in the exact same way: they ask. Sagmeister writes “This seemed laughable to me until I learned that when freshly interviewed people were put into an MRI scanner, the data matched neatly. When their family & friends were also questioned, ditto, it all conformed.” (For the record, I took mine from #8.)

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And if we could find happiness, what would it look like exactly? As part of crowd-sourcing visual ideas of hand-drawn happy by collecting them at the exhibit and asking for them to be submitted to The Happy Show’s TumblrI just started drawing and didn’t think about it too much. Apparently happiness for me is being on a boat with a husband (sounds about right). That little nugget next to the sail is either a small child or a large dog – haven’t figured that part out yet. Clearly I’m much better at writing about art than drawing it, but my jellyfish (lower right) is pretty bad ass.

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At the risk of sounding delusional, I felt like a bit of a kindred spirit with Sagmeister. Creative types probably have some of the same psychological hurdles and the things that obviously resonated enough for him to become part of the show struck me plainly. His explanation behind “Trying To Look Good Limits My Life”, while ironically also an exercise in really good-looking typography, felt like it could have been written by myself had I had the right moment of lucidity to get it out:

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But my favourite moment of the entire show was “Actually Doing the Things I Set Out to Do Increased My Overall Level of Satisfaction.” In the middle of the room sat a white bicycle on a metal riser, with instructions to ride it. My first thought was that it would be too embarrassing to hop onto a bicycle for an unknown reason in a room full of strangers. Then I asked a Docent if I was really allowed to ride the bicycle (so Canadian of me…) Then, brilliantly, across from the bicycle, I saw that Sagmeister had written: “Every single time I think ‘I should do this’ or ‘I should do that’ and then don’t follow through and actually do it, the uncompleted action creates a little nagging but otherwise empty space in my mind. I’ll also miss out on the satisfying feelings that comes with the completion of a project.”

He caught me! After that, there was no way I could live without getting on the damn bicycle. So I rode, and as I did the unlit matrix of neon tubing, in four simple phrases, taught what for me was the most significant insight of the day:

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If you don’t feel uncomfortable sometimes, you’re not doing anything worth doing. Lesson learned. It happened so simply and the sensation of realizing it so implicitly was a bit like getting up too quickly and seeing stars. I had one of those moments that you stop after and say to yourself “try to remember this.” It was fulfilling and invigorating and as I walked out of the exhibit onto the street I felt something palpable and tangible and easily defined. I was happy.

The Happy Show runs until March 3, 2013 at Design Exchange.

quasi-objects: lorenzo oggiano.

I’ve always loved the intersection of the digital and the organic, and how the hyper-depiction of seemingly natural subjects can be rendered so realistic that they border on seeming fake. Working in both video and 3D-generated visuals, Lorenzo Oggiano works inside a high-def macro world where his images play with polarity. Beginning his study in 2003 and still on-going, his “Quasi-Objects” series is obviously beautiful, but glistening grotesque; informed by the laws and evolutions of nature but not actually formed by them. Up-close, I can see flower stamens that resemble insect eggs and, with a blink of the eye, smooth skin that becomes scales and water drops mirror light like multi-faceted eyes. There’s a line where attraction and disgust run almost parallel, and he’s walking along it a spine-tingling way.

From Oggiano’s site: “Quasi-Objects” is an art project consisting of 3d generated videos and prints, a practice of “organic re-design” – started in 2003 and still in progress – that aims to stimulate thought and dialogue on the progressive relativisation of natural forms of life as a result of techno-biological evolution. “Quasi-Objects” regards data actualization, the production of biologically non-functional organisms and ecosystems as transient output of an operative practice: aesthetics of process.

Life is a real and autonomous process independent from any specific material manifestation.”

Via But Does It Float

nacho ormaechea / le carnet noir.

I’m a major fan of collage. Ever since I first discovered and fell in love with the work of Canadian artist Paul Butler years ago, I’ve been particularly fascinated by the way artists appropriate and juxtapose existing images (and our assumptions of their meanings) into brand new works. Lately I’ve noticed floods of new digital collage styles on Tumblr. As with anything, some are a bit more well done than others. All are art, but particular ones excel, and I’ve been especially excited by the work of Matt Wisniewski, Beth Hoeckel, and Dessi Terzieva.

Now I’m happy to add the gorgeous digital collages of Nacho Ormaechea’s Le Carnet Noir to the list.

A Spanish-born freelance Art Director and Graphic Designer working in Paris, Ormaechea’s work remove the urban dwellers from his obviously European backdrops and replaces them with colourful, incongruous images ranging from the organic – fruit and flowers – to the urban mundane – industrial hallways and electric signs. While his visual collisions might not have as much of a literal play on meaning or political subtext as others I’ve seen, they’re incredibly eye-catching in a straight forward, high def, casually bombastic way. And I can’t get enough of them. If you can’t either, then they’re all up for grabs over at Big Cartel.

shapeflow.

Shapeflow is an open-membership French art collective that seeks to engage and inspire designers, artists, and illustrators to share and contribute their work to the collective. The work on the site is divided into “issues”, each with a theme that then puts out an open-call on the site for anyone to submit their work for inclusion.

The current theme, “Springtime” (which I find pleasingly optimistic since most of Northern Europe is locked down in a record-breaking cold snap right now) has brought forth some bright, geometric, and inventive work, including some illustration and some interesting web-sourced data visualization.

Via Yay! Everyday!

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isaac tobin.

Isaac Tobin is senior designer at the University of Chicago Press. That’s his title. What he really does is create book covers so succinct, so pleasing, so enticingly balanced and sparsely enigmatic, that you won’t know whether to read it or hang it on your wall.

Personally, I’d go with the latter.

Via The Post Family

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ignacio pilotto: rubitone.

The only thing that gives colour geeks a bigger hard on that Pantone is applying Pantone to another equally geeky product. If that product happens to be the retro-kitsch game-playing goodness of a Rubick’s Cube, then you’ve pretty much got a designer’s wet dream. From industrial designer Ignacio Pilotto.

Via Swiss Miss

christian flindt: parts of a rainbow.

Danish furniture designer and chair expert Christian Flindt created a totally slick series of chairs called “Rainbow”. Named obviously for their colours, but also for the way each chair slots sideways into the next. I’m not sure how comfortable they’d be, but I can’t get over the seriously hot photography on Flindt’s website.

Via NOTCOT

greg lynn: recycled toy furniture.

While trolling the blogs today I found these re-used toy tables on Dezeen. Designed by California-based architect Greg Lynn, his series of recycled toy furniture won Golden Lion for the Best Installation Project in the International Exhibition at the Vienna Architecture Biennale.

While it’s pretty clear these aren’t recycled toys, I still think this works beautifully as a piece, almost more as an installation. And the idea is still true – you could use recycled toys in this fashion. I guess the line is a little grey, but I don’t care. They look hot. They’re big and shiny and plastic and colourful and have been melted together in a little toy-pyre and made into table. I likes.

nnss.

I found this hot-ass print on one of my fave sites (and everyone else’s), Swiss Miss. Swiss Miss knows her shit. Anyway, upon some further digging I found this was just one part of a completely amazing brand and identity suite created by Buenos Aires-based design shop NNSS for  digital development company Naturaleza Digital.

Organic and prismatic, the inspirational hook came from the idea of “a mere drop of water separates a beam of light into a million colours”. Give it up for Sir Isaac Newton. Anyway – the print idea above is just the beginning. It takes a lot to make CDs and folders look this crazy good, and they’ve completely killed it.

In addition to that, here’s some other identity and print work NNSS has turned out. Amazing stuff all.

design has no name: beck 8 bit variations.

If you want to see possibly the most bad ass throwback design ever, look no futher. This. Is. The. Shit.

A concept design by Argentinian designer Design Has No Name (aka DHNN), the box slides open to reveal a an old skool 8-bit Nintendo cartridge (hells yes!) which flips opens to reveal a disc with some Beck remixes. Righteous.

It’s colourful, it’s pixellated, it’s Beck, the font choice is perfect, it’s got a freakin’ Nintendo cartridge, and the whole thing wrapped up together is slick as fuck. It’s heaven. If every CD had a package this smoking, iTunes would go bust. Well… maybesortakinda.

Via the kick ass Kitsune Noir

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