Design and Art

Visual art and design topics, reviews, articles and random posts on art and design related issues.

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.

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.

DixonBaxi Designs Eurosport Home of the Olympics

I talk a lot about cohesive brand voice or cohesive visual voice across all touch points of a campaign. Many times I think I’m getting through to a client, and I’m not, so I end up looking up examples to show them. I usually track down digital and print components, static images, and PDF’s, then try and get them to wrap their head around how it also applies to video, motion graphics, audio, and all the other little bits and pieces that go into a full blown OMNI channel campaign. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. Today I found a great example that I think will help in the future.

The video below from DixonBaxi shows the campaign they have created to support Eurosport’s coverage of the Olympics for the next eight years. This is a huge project with hundreds of touchpoints that people will engage with. All of them need to have a look and feel that resonates the same way. From the editing of video all the way down to the static graphical content in print items. As you watch the video you will begin to see a very specific cadence that takes place in the way the clips are cut together. There is the establishment of a color pallet that gets picked up and used through out the campaign as well. About 15 seconds in they begin to hint at the graphics and animation, and then they roll out each component of the entire system showing how and where it will be used. From bus stop signs to tablet interfaces and everything in between. If you want to get a more in depth look, or just browse through the system at your own pace, they have it broken down on a really well-designed web page for you.

8 Years and Counting

Since the start of July, I have been on vacation, had my power go out for almost 3 days due to a massive thunderstorm, and been absolutely slammed with work at my job. All of this leads to fewer posts, but it isn’t like I have been posting on a regular basis anyway. Over the last year, I’ve been lucky to get a couple posts a month done. But after 8 years of doing this and 2843 posts, I think slowing down a bit is just fine. Especially since this isn’t a full-time gig.

When this blog started out, it was primarily focused on the modern house my wife and I had purchased. It was originally going to last a year and then quietly fade away into internet oblivion, but you know how things go. One thing led to another and I started going on about design and other things and here we are today. One of the first posts I did focused on the Worx battery powered lawn mower I bout for the new house. The design and functionality of a standard lawn tool and using it. With that said, I think it is appropriate that for the 8th anniversary of this blog, I talk a little bit about a new tool I picked up from Worx, that I absolutely love. The 20 Volt Switchdriver.

When I first saw this I was pretty skeptical. After reading a handful of reviews I thought I’d give it a shot. I needed a new drill, and I was completely fascinated by the design of this product, and couldn’t understand why no one had thought of this sooner. I decided to pull the trigger and pick it up from Amazon. If I didn’t like it, I’d send it back and be on my way. Suffice to say that after 3 months, I’m hooked. The Switchdriver isn’t a heavy duty drill, but for light to medium work it’s killer, and the rotating chuck is so damn cool.

If you aren’t familiar with the Switchdriver, here is the way it works. The drill has two chucks on a rotating head so you can switch between drill mode, and screw driver mode on the fly, or between different bit sizes. This actually comes in handy for drilling a pilot hole and then switching to something like a spade bit.

This 20V cordless drill comes with two 20v Lithium Ion batteries and charger, automatic LED light, electronic torque control, and the main feature, the 2-speed rotating 1/4″ hex dual-chuck drill which allows you to quickly switch between two bits. It features a comfortable ergonomic handle which has a small shield to protect your hand from the bit that isn’t in use. It’s light weight which helps with fatigue, and it has variable 2-speed gearing which tackles all common drilling & driving functions. Like I said, it’s not nearly as powerful as my corded Milwaukee drill, but it is plenty powerful enough for most common jobs around the house.

My only knock is the hex bits that you have use with the quick connect chuck. There is nothing wrong with them, you just can’t use the drill with your current drill bits so it means you have to buy a second set.

Eto Saves Your Vino

I look at a lot of Kickstarter campaigns, and every once in a while I come across something that is not only useful but something I would actually use. Eto is one of those Kickstarter items. I’m in.

Eto is a beautifully designed wine decanter with an innovative preservation system that keeps wine preserved for at least 12 days, ensuring you never waste a drop of that precious nectar again. The decanter solves a simple problem, keeping air away for the wine which causes it to oxidize and begin to take on a vinegar taste. Approximately 13,208,600 gallons of wine go down the sink every year for this very reason, and Eto wants to stop that from happening.

The creator Tom Cotton, is a Welsh London-based product designer, with nearly 20 years experience in bringing products from concept to market. Backers were able to pre-orderEto (Welsh for “Again”) on Kickstarter for $75.00 on the Kickstarter site but it looks like the goal has been reached so  financial it will be available to buy for $100.00 around the end of the year.

The design of this is simple and elegant and the best part is it fulfills what good industrial design is supposed to do. It solves a problem, and it does it in a beautiful well thought out way.