April
25

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Last Updated: April 25, 2012

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TOPIC / Graphic Design

Cuba stamps for May 1

Cuba stamps for May 1
vintage Cuba postage stamp for Labour Day, May 1st, 1964
The symbolic, illustrative, large numeral “1” caught my eye for this set of Cuban stamps commemorating Labor Day (c. 1964, designer unknown)
 

September
08

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Last Updated: September 09, 2011

Topic: Illustration

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TOPIC / Illustration

Tokidoki x Sephora live painting

Tokidoki x Sephora live painting
tokidoki painting in progress at fifth avenue / Flatiron Sephora in NYC
A perk of being in NYC is randomly spotting unfinished paintings while walking through the streets. In the evening of September 8th, 2011, Tokidoki creator, Simone Legno, was “live painting” at the Sephora store window.

I managed to snap a few photos of a crew preparing the unfinished Tokidoki character filled painting prior to the scheduled event for Fashion's Night Out in Manhattan. Had I realized what was going on, I would have waited awhile longer to see the artist himself getting back to work.

Tokidoki x Fashion's Night Out flyer details
Promo: “Watch Simone create a large mural inspired by his Holiday Beauty collection, 24 Karat.” 

After looking into the collaboration further, it appears that the majority of the 4-meter high canvas was illustrated by Legno ahead of time before traveling for its NYC debut. I was a little disappointed that it wasn’t a true mural on a wall and that I barely missed seeing Simone Legno’s appearance and painting up close.

Following @simonelegno’s twitter feed, the artist began painting in front of an audience around 6pm. He shared the below photo of his live painting in progress: 
Simone Legno live painting at SephoraTokidoki also shared a photograph of Simone Legno standing outside of Sephora on 5th Ave at 19th Street in New York City (via facebook).
Simone Legno standing outside Sephora Tokidoki painting
“...You'll probably recognize the line's trademark iconic heart-and-bones design, the result of founder Simone Legno's fusion of classic Japanese art, Asian cartoon icons, punk rock, tattoo culture and graffiti...The 34-year-old was a Japanophile graphic artist in Rome when his future SoCal business partners discovered his tokidoki website, used as a calling card to drum up design business, and convinced him to move to L.A. in order to turn his online images into a T-shirt line...”
LA Weekly
 Simone Legno’s kawaii-inspired collection of characters aren’t strangers to Sephora’s line of cosmetics and makeup accessories. The Tokidoki Royal Pride Collection released in August 2011 and the “Robbery” set of makeup bags was part of Sephora’s limited edition holiday collection in 2010.
 
 

August
21

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Last Updated: April 26, 2012

Topic: Typography

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TOPIC / Typography

the number 5

the number 5
Vintage postage stamps often display a great variety of styles for numerals, especially ones from Uruguay. The number five is in the spotlight in a few old designs I scanned from my collection.
uruguay cinco postage stamp 1877
republica oriental del uruguay prussian blue stamp 1884
uruguay 5 centesimos parcel post red stamp 1927
uruguay sea rail transporation stamp 1938

 

August
04

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Last Updated: August 05, 2011

Topic: Food

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TOPIC / Food

Manga inspired dinner plates

Manga inspired dinner plates
As a student in Kyoto, designer Mika Tsutai developed the concept of 'Manga Plates' for her graduate project.
manga comics plate fork
With black action lines on irregular shaped white plates, the moveable dishes based on the graphics in Japanese manga frames create impact and give the sense of movement. The careful plating and styling of the tableware highlights food from Japan while playfully adding a splash of color.
manga fist punch plate cookie
manga action lines sushi plates
manga plate design with green noodles by mika tsutai

(portfolio work by Mika Tsutai)
 

August
03

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Last Updated: April 26, 2012

Topic: Typography

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TOPIC / Typography

Off Book: Type, typography in daily life

Off Book: Type, typography in daily life



The second episode of Off Book, a web-only series from PBS Arts, focuses on typography in the context of design and culture. In the short documentary all about type, Jonathan Hoefler, Tobias Frere-Jones, Paula Scher, Eddie Opara, Julia Vakser, and Deroy Peraza briefly discuss how typography is integral to their work. Ranging from designing fonts to creating infographics, the video serves as a concise overview of the influence of typography in America today.

“Type is everywhere. Every print publication, website, movie, advertisement and public message involves the creation or selection of a fitting typeface. Online, a rich and artistic typographical culture exists, where typefaces are created and graphic design seeps in to every image...” —curator for PBS Art
 

June
03

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Last Updated: November 26, 2011

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TOPIC / Character Design

The Muppets intersect pop culture

The Muppets intersect pop culture
(Updated 11/26/2011)
Leading up to Disney’s “The Muppets” movie, there was a strong media campaign that was hard to miss. Just a few of the promotions included viral videos, a huge Facebook fan base, and numerous merchandise tie-ins.

Included is a new line of Star Wars Muppets Action Figures, which arrived at Disney theme park gift shops in Fall 2011 and are now seeming hard to come by. Toy prototypes of classic Muppet personalities dressed up as Star Wars characters were on display at Star Wars Weekends.

Steven Miller, the Merchandise Communications Manager for DisneyParks, shared a couple of early photos of the Star Wars + The Muppets mashup. He discovered the fun mock-up designs on the desk of Cody Hampton, the Associate Product Developer for Toys and Games.

Muppets as Star War action figures mashup
Star Wars Muppet Figurines packaging design
The Muppets aren’t strangers to the cast of Star Wars. Back in 1980, Mark Hamill, C-3PO, R2-D2, and Chewbacca appeared on The Muppet Show for a special “Star Wars” episode.


Disney had also teamed  up with Marvel to produce a large format comic, “Meet the Muppets.” The comic features art by Roger Langridge, and was in stores from July 2011.

Marvel Disney Giant Muppets comic book
From the comedic video parodies to trailer spoofs and television appearances (SNL comes to mind), it appears that Disney reintroduced Jim Henson’s cast of characters to a new audience while sparking new interest in the original viewership with a dose of nostalgia.

The Walt Disney Company acquired The Muppets franchise from The Jim Henson Company back in 2004. Although there were were earlier attempts to forge a relationship with Disney while Jim Henson was still living in the 1980s, they never quite saw eye-to-eye. Following the absence of Henson, there were various collaborations with Disney in the 1990s. Out of that relationship came “The Muppet Christmas Carol” and “Muppet Treasure Island” movies.

In recent years, especially through viral music videos, the Muppets stayed  relevant and continuously evolved with comedic interactions relating with popular culture. The music video of Queen + The Muppets "Bohemian Rhapsody," released in 2009, went viral garnering over 20 million views.

The well-produced spoof earned The Muppet Studio a Webby Award. Recognition came again with a Webby nomination the following year for “The Muppets Kitchen with Cat Cora” web series. To promote the upcoming Muppets movie, a Hangover II spoof trailer was released entitled “The Fuzzy Pack.” And I have to admit that I was surprised the first time I watched the teaser trailer for the romantic comedy "Green with Envy," starring Amy Adams and Jason Segel. 

muppets cast photo with smartphone
Jim Henson’s Muppets have a long and complex history, dating back to the late 1950s when a variation of Kermit appeared on the short puppet show, Sam and Friends. The Muppet Show (Pilot) aired in 1975. Below is a video of a sketch on “Visual Thinking.”
 
the Muppet Movie unused art by Richard Amsel
above: unused artwork for The Muppet Movie by Richard Amsel
The Muppet Movie poster versus Disney Muppets
“The Muppet Movie” c. 1979 (above poster art by Drew Struzan) came with a winning soundtrack, including the song “The Rainbow Connection.” Can Disney replicate the success of Henson’s original film? The new film, The Muppets, will be in theaters opened on November 23rd, 2011. It’s riding on the hope that the Muppet characters are timeless and the contemporary cast of actors will lure in viewership. Jason Segel and Amy Adams have the leading roles, and there will be many cameos including Chris Cooper, John Krasinski, Zach Galifianakis, Jack Black, Rashida Jones, Emily Blunt, and so many more (voices only?).

Jason Segel with Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy
Initially, I was skeptical of Disney’s mass revival of The Muppets’ legacy sans the genius of Jim Henson himself. But, through my research I've realized that many of the marketing tactics used by Disney to promote the brand and upcoming movie aren’t that dissimilar from promotion techniques used by Jim Henson, as seen earlier in his career and and in later years.

UPDATE 11/26: This reviewer found that it not only lived up to the hype, but it went above and beyond with its superbly executed story and score.

Jim Henson already laid out the road map: comedic spoofs featuring loveable characters, slapstick humor appealing to an older audience, using puppets to advertise products in commercials, and a vast assortment of timely celebrity cameos. The Muppets made their first appearance together on "The Today Show" in 1960 and continued to visit the late night shows throughout the decades. It now seems very fitting for The Muppets to join the NBC stage with Jimmy Fallon multiple times.
Jimmy Fallon with Muppets 12 days of Christmas

The movie is directed by James Bobin, a co-creator of HBO’s The Flight of the Conchords, and the screenplay is by Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller.
 

May
21

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Last Updated: May 23, 2011

Topic: Illustration

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TOPIC / Illustration

Charley Harper’s Kirtland Firebird Warbler

Charley Harper’s Kirtland Firebird Warbler
Newly added to my collection of flea market finds is the April 1978 issue of Ford Times featuring a painting by Charles Harper on the front cover. There’s also a couple of interior illustrations of the Jack Pine Firebird by Harper to accompany the magazine’s feature article, “Will the the Kirtland’s Warbler Return?.”
Charley Harper illustration of Bird of Fire (Jack Pine Warbler) for Ford Times interior spread
“His were not the usual photos or photorealistic paintings. They showed angular creatures produced using mechanical drawing instruments – compasses, protractors, rulers. Charley's work was quite unlike any wildlife art I had ever seen—style he described as minimal realism: never counting the feathers, just counting the wings. Nothing could be further from the realism of most of the American wildlife art in the last quarter of the past century. Charley joked that he was the only wildlife artist not to be compared with Audubon by the marketing people…” —Nicholas Hammond, former editor of Birds magazine
bird illustration by Charles Harper that looks like an ornament for Ford Times
 

April
02

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Last Updated: April 04, 2011

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TOPIC / Graphic Design

Japanese Safety Match labels

Japanese Safety Match labels
sakura cherry blossoms vintage Japanese matchbox cover
From my collection, I've pulled out some very old, vintage matchbox labels from Japan because of a common characteristic. All of the designs incorporate English text reading either "Safety Match" or "Safety Matches." Based on seeing similar labels featured in an old issue of Graphis magazine, my guess would be to date these matchbox labels somewhere between 1882 through 1912.
vintage typewriter Japan matchbox cover The informative, yet opinionated piece written by Hideyuki Oka implies that the designs from this period were heavily influenced by Western culture and often carried animal motifs to be favorable as an export. Even if these designs aren't indicative of high-end Japanese graphic design, I gravitate to them for their aesthetic appeal.

Pictured in this post are just a few scans out of my collection of vintage Japanese matchbox covers.
vintage swan matchbox cover made in Japan japanese safety matches with lamp made in Japan
safety matches with dragon from Tai Hing & Co
“...The traditional Japanese feeling for design, with which the world has been familiarized through the media of calligraphic art, ikebana and katachi, is however a very different thing from the spirit of these matchbox labels, which reflects instead a marriage of Eastern and Western sensibilities. Yet both of these forms of expression are in their way typically Japanese...” —Hideyuki Oka, author of How to Wrap Five Eggs, excerpt from Graphis (No 144, Volume 25)
japanese safety match label
puppy in basket old matchbox label made by N.K.M.S.K.Kobe
red Japan sun matchbox label
safety match trademark manufactured in Japan
lion safety match with world matchbox label
safety match with anchor Japan matchbox label
 

March
28

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Last Updated: March 28, 2011

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TOPIC / Book Cover Design

Penguin Threads Deluxe Classics book covers

Penguin Threads Deluxe Classics book covers
Penguin USA is continuing to keep the book covers for classic backlist reissues visually interesting. The latest sneak peak that caught my attention are three designs from the forthcoming Penguin Threads Deluxe Classics series. Following the success of Penguin Ink, Creative Director Paul Buckley collaborated with illustrator Jillian Tamaki to breathe new life into Burnett's The Secret Garden, Austen's Emma, and Sewell's Black Beauty as part of the new series of embroidered covers.
Penguin Threads cover design for The Secret Garden
Penguin Threads book cover design with French flaps by Jillian Tamaki
Black Beauty Penguin Threads cover design
Penguin Threads Black Beauty book cover design French flaps by Jillian Tamaki
Emma Penguin Threads book cover design by Jillian Tamaki
Jane Austen's Emma, Penguin Threads series by Jillian Tamaki
It may take a second glance to notice that the cover art was hand-stitched with colored threads by Jillian Tamaki. The beautiful design wraps onto the back and French flaps. I'm really looking forward to seeing these books in person (due out in October 2011).
 

March
21

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Last Updated: March 22, 2011

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TOPIC / Product Design

cans of matches designed by Saul Bass

cans of matches designed by Saul Bass
After already having a decent stash of Saul Bass designed matchbook covers, I found vintage Ohio Blue Tip Safety-Cans filled with matches that possibly coincide with the same series. Unfortunately, the cheap ebay purchase was disappointing, the condition of the three individual cans and the paper wrapper enclosing them was a disaster. I saved them to make a quick post only to feel persuaded to throw them in the garbage. If I could get past the grime, the cans are pretty cool with an area to strike the matches at the bottom.
Saul Bass matches tins Ohio Blue Tip Safety-Can
I'll keep my eyes open and hope to be able to replace the set with one that doesn't look like it spent the last four decades in a garage. If anyone knows any further information about these vintage cans please share.
matchbook tins with patterns by Saul Bass
Ohio Blue Tip matches designed by Saul Bass
The bright side is that I did find a steal recently—an unopened box of Ohio Blue Tip matchbooks "without advertising." I'll save the fun of opening the box filled with matchbooks designed by Saul Bass for another day.

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