Author: Author

I'm a designer living and working in the Kansas City area. I'm into art, design, music, food, adult beverages, auto racing, architecture and more.

For the 50th Anniversary of Man on the Moon I Picked Up the NASA Graphics Standards Manual

On July 20th, 1969 I was seven and a half years old and I still remember being glued to the TV as the first live broadcast from the lunar surface was beamed back to Earth. The family was downstairs in our family room/office. Walter Cronkite was giving the play by play and then they cut to a grainy picture of Neal Armstrong as he stepped off the ladder and spoke his now famous line. ” That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”.

I have always been a bit of a space nut. I think being born at the beginning of the space race helped solidify that in me. I’ve been fascinated with everything from the space flight itself to the amazing illustrations produced for NASA.

With this year marking the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing, I decided to break down and pick up a copy of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Graphic Standards Manual. It’s been out for a few years and has been on my short list so I finally decided to pull the trigger and pick it up.

For a designer and self-professed space nerd, this is pure heaven. This is a few hundred pages of the design systems put in place by Richard Danne, Bruce Blackburn, and the staff at Danne & Blackburn in 1974.

This reissue is a modern spin on the original which was a series of bound documents designed to be distributed to internally and externally to coordinate the NASA brand for the world. The reissue book is all about faithfully reproducing what Danne & Blackburn while infusing history and additional details. Details like the anti-static foil sleeve that it arrives in.

The book is an authoritative reference compiled from scans of 35mm slides presented to NASA in 1974, normally shielded from those without clearance.

The manual covers everything from spaceship graphics to brochures, including specific details on how to type a letter using the NASA letterhead.

This is the ultimate “brand bible” for the formidable application of a graphic identity system in an otherworldly institution. The NASA Graphics Standard Manual is a meticulous facsimile of Danne & Blackburn’s 1974 re-branding of the agency. An authoritative reference compiled from scans of Danne’s own personal copy, the book also includes an introduction by Danne, alongside an extended essay on the culture of the agency by Christopher Bonanos.

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Modernica Case Study Ceramics

I have been a huge fan of Modernica products for more than 20 years. I remember getting the paper catalog in the mail and coveting the Case Study Day Beds and Fiberglass chairs. I never purchased any of the furniture, although I wish I had. What I have purchased though is the Case Study® Pearl Lamp, the perfect ellipse™, and most recently 4 of the Case Study Ceramics® series planters.

The Case Study Ceramics® series is inspired by the prolific period in architecture and home furnishing designs immediately following WW2. All Modernica’s Case Study Ceramics® are high fired, hand-made, using a jiggering tool for shaping, and are finished on a potters wheel.  I love this because they could have easily slip cast them to save time and money. By opting for this approach each one is unique.

I have to admit, that the whole reason for my purchase was because these went on sale. We need new planters like we need a hole in the head, but I love them and they were 40% off at the time.

I ended up buying the Medium Apex planters in both white and pebble. The two next to each other make for a nice contrast. The third and fourth are the Table Top Diamond in reactive blue. All four come with the Brazillian Walnut bases.

From a quality and design standpoint, these really are quite wonderful. The wooden base for each fits together with precision. There is no wiggle or wobble to the stand at all. The ceramic planters are heavy with a wonderful texture. The subtle color palette blends well with the surroundings, and the overall look of each is really quite timeless.

There is a quality about the glaze that really reminds me of Heath Ceramics. I think it is the hand made quality of the planter and the application of the glaze to the Table Top Diamond planters that really brings that forward.

For me, this truly is a timeless design. While the aesthetic is anchored in Mid-Century Modern it feels quite classic and able to withstand the test of time.

Now that spring is here, and the temperatures are starting to warm into the 70’s it looks like I’ll be doing some repotting and planting this weekend.

The Zodiac Aerospace GMT

It’s been quite a while since I posted anything to this blog. I think it has been about 17 months to be exact. Life sometimes gets in the way and in this case, it has prevented me from being able to post here for quite some time. That all changes today.

The Zodiac Aerospace GMT

Recently I had the fortunate chance to acquire a Zodiac Aerospace GMT in Burnt Orange and Sky Blue. I’m not going to write a review of the timepiece itself. Instead, I’m going to speak to the entire package. The watch, the packaging, the presentation, because it all adds up to the overall experience. In addition, I haven’t had enough time (yes I know) to spend with the watch at this point to get into things like performance.

I’m going to talk about this in sort of a reverse order, not focusing on the watch in the beginning. Instead, I’m going to start with the way the recipient engages with the product. I’m going to start with the packaging and move forward from there.

At first, you are presented with a black box embossed with the Zodiac logo on the top. This is nothing fancy, a simple cardboard box that is nicely styled that fits with the price point of the timepiece. The top of the box slides off to reveal the interior which holds a folded microfiber timezone map, a quick start guide in colors that match the watch and an image of a retro-styled world map at the top. The Zodiac logo and Aerospace GMT sit in the lower half. The phrase “The world traveler’s watch” is styled in a nice script that adds to the retro feel of it. There is a pullout tray beneath the watch box that contains instructions on how to set the time, change the date, adjust the 24 hour hand and adjust the bracelet.

The quality of the printed material is about what you would expect. This is not a Rolex or a Heuer. It’s good but it’s not luxe by any means.

Zodiac’s parent company is Fossil and you can definitely feel the Fossil influence in the packaging materials. Fossil’s retro aesthetic is all over this, and I have to say it works. I think the packaging and support materials look great. The retro feel plays well considering that this is a reissue of a Zodiac classic.

Opening the box you are presented with the Zodiac Aerospace GMT a time, date, and GMT watch that nods heavily toward the vintage models from the 1960s. The case has been upsized to a more contemporary 40mm size. There are two versions of the watch, grey and black bezel, or in my case sky blue and burnt orange bezel. The watch is seated on a neutral grey synthetic pillow, surrounded by a grey synthetic buffer. The grey absolutely makes the orange and blue pop and the watch look absolutely stunning. According to Zodiac the blue and orange represent the sun and water.

The watch itself feels solid. It’s too early to tell about the quality of the stainless steel, but the watch has heft to it.
It feels like a quality timepiece. The orange and blue bezel have a high-gloss appearance. The markers are bright and easy to read and they have carried over from the printed material the cursive “Aerospace GMT” to the watch face.

The back of the watch shows the limited edition number, serial number, the iconic Zodiac logo, reference numbers, and the name. The logo is also presented on the deployment clasp on the bracelet.

The deployment clasp is something I am having to get used to. Unlike my other watches, it is a two-step process. You lift the front quarter of the clasp to open the mechanism and then pull the remaining portion up to fully release it. I have to say that this part of the watch seems delicate. I’m being careful every time I open it because I feel like I might bend or break it. I know the likelihood of this pretty small, but it still makes me nervous.

Zodiac is using the tried and true ETA 2893-2 movement in this watch. The ETA 2893 features time/date with added GMT functionality. It’s a 24 jewel movement that ticks away at 28,800vph and claims a 38-hour power reserve. While not a true GMT it is a “Caller” the GMT hand itself is quick-set, while the local hand stays static. I’m OK with this. I know true horologists are probably scratching their heads wondering why Zodiac didn’t develop a GMT movement of their own. I’m thinking it was to keep the cost below the $2000.00 threshold.

The watch feels great on my wrist and the color combo really stands out. Zodiac has really nailed the vintage aesthetic and produced a stylish watch that won’t break the bank. Parent company Fossil has definitely put the time and effort into reviving the Zodiac brand. It’s obvious from the quality of this watch that they have a desire to get things right and it shows.

If you are familiar with Zodiac watches then you obviously know about the Sea Wolf reissue that was released last year. Zodiac has taken the Sea Wolf case and used it for the Aerospace GMT. In effect, they have simply put in a new movement and replaced the count down bezel with a GMT one. In addition, they have added a new dial and four hands with the update. That’s it. None the less the Aerospace GMT is a stylish retro watch that is well worth the cost.

Each version of the Aerospace GMT is limited to 182 pieces.

The Unoffical History of America’s National Parks

The video below is the unofficial history of the National Parks of the United States. It’s a lo-fi lesson in history with a bit of humor thrown in for good measure. Made by — Ryan Maxey: MaxeyFishAndSea.com there is a ton of historical footage, bad titles, 8 bit music, and one very important point. How much the arts had to do with the development, and survival of our National Park System.

 

The Light in the Dark

It’s generally been a crappy week for a lot of people in the world. hurricane’s, monsoon’s, wild fires, nut job dictators launching missiles, political crap, economic collapse, and so much more. Unfortunately, that’s life, and while we can’t change it, we can at least accept the fact that things get better. It’s Wednesday afternoon and I just watched a really wonderful animation that was written by Hannah Maschoff, directed and animated by Eli Guillou, about loss, and moving forward. Shine a little light into your afternoon and enjoy the story and visuals.

Paper Machines

Anyone from Hallmark that might be reading this, raise your hand if you remember “T-Ink” from 2004 and the products Hallmark produced for less than a year with the technology? T-Ink had so much potential and it simply withered and died on the vine. The T-Ink project was one of the first things I worked on when I returned to Hallmark. It was such a cool product, and could have been huge if they could have figured out how to market it better. Fast forward to 2017 and check out Papier Machine from French Designers Marion Pinaffo and Raphaël Pluvinage.

Papier Machine is a set of 13 paper-made electronic toys. Each piece of paper can be cut and folded and assembled into the final toy. Another intriguing component of Papier Machine is that while there are instructions that come with the kit, the steps are not clear cut. According to Pinaffo and Pluvinage they still want users to interpret the instructions themselves, opening up the pathway to more possibilities, especially for kids.

 

Like T-Ink, the printed paper is equipped with reactive, conductive, and thermosensitive inks, which actually complete the electronic circuits and allow the toys to function. The toys are designed for kids of all ages and don’t require any special tools, skills or training. The designers want Papier MAchine to be all about fun, and exploration.  The 13 toys can create multiple projects that include Switches, a Gyroscope, Playing Track, Writing Track, Tilt Switch, Humidity Sensor, Wind Sensor, Mass Sensor, Power Reverser, Photoresistor, and Color Sensor. Pretty cool if you ask me.

Gestalten and Monocle Bring You Travel Guides, and Some Videos.

As we roll up to Labor day, people are getting ready for that last summer vacation, taking advantage of the long weekend. I’ve burned all my vacation days for the year so I’ll just be taking one extra day off. That doesn’t mean you can’t take a week or two and go somewhere fun though. And to help find all the cool stuff you’ll want to see and do in the exotic destination of your choice Gestalten has released a whole series of guide books from Monocle.

That isn’t what this is about though. This post is about the way Gestalten has truly learned to use video on the internet to promote its product line. If you pop over to their Vimeo page, there are at least seven videos like the one below. They have them cross posted via their social media channels and if you receive the Gestalten newsletter via email, you would have probably seen links pointing back to all of these which, point back to the Gestalten online store where you can buy the product.

The videos are always well crafted, with a high-quality production value, and because they live on the internet, the media buy is cheap and the reach is far.

Now I have to figure out how to get more vacation time because I want to go to Stockholm.