i'm with the brand

I like my gateaux like I like my Van Gogh: on display
April 2, 2010, 10:06 am
Filed under: Advertising & Branding | Tags: , , , , ,


Coolhunter brings us mouthwatering images of La Pâtisserie des Rêves, a Parisian bakery which displays their tantalizing wares in gallery form throughout the store. So it’s not really a bakery per se–it’s a pastry boutique, and the presentation suggests true artistry.

The best ideas are those that solve business, branding, and audience problems simultaneously, and this execution would definitely qualify: from a branding perspective, the unique presentation is a differentiator amongst the myriad bakeries dotting Paris; from a business perspective, it moves traffic more efficiently through the store and speeds transactions, relieving congestion at the counter where throngs of customers would normally mob the bakery case; and from an audience perspective, it allows patrons to unhurriedly peruse the merchandise in a playful atmosphere that elevates the various trifles from mundane commodities to little works of art, infusing pastry purchase with a sense of occasion.

It’s cool when businesses seize fresh ideas by conceiving of themselves as another type of business, a business in some other industry or category. For example, in some ways, Mini is a car company that behaves like a toy company; Virgin Air is an airline company that behaves like an entertainment company–obviously in part because the larger Virgin brand informs how they approach their airline business, but still.

This particular instance isn’t anything drastic or revolutionary, but it’s an example of how we can revitalize ourselves and learn from other disparate industries, businesses, and brands by retooling the way we think of our own, and by being open to the idea that our “best practices” may not really be the best practices.


Is Donkey Kong David next?: Kordian Lewandowski’s Nintendo Pieta
March 23, 2010, 4:20 pm
Filed under: Art & Design | Tags: , ,

Game Over is Polish artist Kordian Lewandowski’s irreverent, Nintendo-fied take on Michelangelo’s La Pieta. Princess Peach takes the place of Mary, and Mario that of Jesus in this pop culture appropriation and re-contextualization of a high-culture icon of the art canon. Here, (branded) digital interactivity is our Bible, our shared narrative, and our object of worship. The choice of material, polystyrene foam, also seems significant–it’s crass and fake and disposable like so many pop cultural artifacts, but ironically, it’s likely to endure for much longer than Michelangelo’s pious marble. 

Hit designboom for more angles and pictures of the sculpture in process. (There’s chainsaws; it’s exciting.) Also, there’s more digital-told-in-the-language-of-the-old (Botticelli does Skype) and vice-versa (the Creature from the Black Lagoon enters the mix) at Lewandowski’s site.

Sculptures that are people, people that are paintings
March 23, 2010, 10:51 am
Filed under: Art & Design | Tags: ,

Timmy (Alexa Meade)

Painter Alexa Meade masks human flesh in thick acrylic paint in a method that “pushes the boundaries of perception, compressing 3D space into a 2D plane, effectively blurring the lines between art and life, [skewing] the way that the core of the subject is perceived.” Meade’s paintings, in distorting space, texture, and the eye’s ability to distinguish real living forms, thus presents both a sensory and a cognitive challenge. 


Sara (Alexa Meade)

Meade’s work reminds me of sculptors Duane Hanson, Jamie Salmon, and Ron Mueck, who, for contrast, achieve similar ends in technical negative: these photorealistic artists skew perception and subvert the real-unreal boundary between subject and environment with their life-sized (and in the case of Salmon and Mueck, sometimes massive) hyperreal sculptures.

In undermining the visual cues we take for granted as an indicator of the real, both approaches force an unsettling reevaluation of the nature–or even the possibility–of reality.

tourists 2

The Tourists II (Duane Hanson)


Chris (Jamie Salmon)

in bed

In Bed (Ron Mueck)

A little Tender Lego Care for buildings in need of repair

lego patch

He’s done it all around the world–Amsterdam, Berlin, Quito, Tel Aviv, to name just a few cities–but artist Jan Vormann just brought his Lego patchwork installations stateside. Showing that Legos–and grassroots urban beautification–are for all ages, Vormann was joined by a volunteer team aged 3 to 40 that helped him renovate cracked and pitted buildings across New York City. The project was done as a part of the VOLTA art show, and took citizens’ initiative and immediate action to address buildings in need of repair–literally, unsightly “gaps in the urban landscape”–by applying playful patches of color that both highlight the problem and help fix it. (Incidentally, these Lego installations are conceptually similar to Pete Dungey’s British pothole gardens, which simultaneously draw attention to the problem of poorly-kept roads while providing a cheery quick-fix with the addition of flowerbeds to the roads’ many blemishes.)

Vormann’s installation goes along so well with Lego’s past “Build it,” “Rebuild it,” and “Build Together” campaigns it’s uncanny–you almost wish it were a branded installation, but ultimately it’s even better that it isn’t; it’s indicative of the cultural inroads Lego has made that it would be independently seized upon with such enthusiasm and for such on-brand purposes.

Milton Glaser becomes first graphic designer to receive the National Medal of Arts
March 7, 2010, 4:05 am
Filed under: Art & Design | Tags: , , ,
glaser obama

President Obama presents the National Medal of Arts to Milton Glaser

Milton Glaser recently became the first graphic designer ever to be honored with the National Medal of Arts, established by Congress in 1984 to recognize “contributions to the creation, growth, and support for the arts in the U.S.”–past recipients have included composer Aaron Copland, architect Frank Gehry, poet Maya Angelou, and choreographer Twyla Tharp. Glaser is one of twelve 2009 recipients of the prestigious award, placing him in the distinguished company of arts legends and fellow 2009 honorees including Bob Dylan, Clint Eastwood, John Williams, and the School of American Ballet.  

Glaser is perhaps best known as the man responsible for one of the most recognizable and oft-copied icons in our visual lexicon: I Heart NY, but his prolific career has seen multifarious endeavors ranging from murals, logos, and posters to packaging design, publishing, and book covers–most notably those done for longtime friend, author, and fellow national treasure (and National Medal of Arts recipient) Philip Roth.  

Notoriously quotable, Glaser has given us such simple, pithy insights as “The purpose of art is to inform and delight,” and “Less isn’t more; just enough is more,” sharing with us a worldview in which design is a fundamental means of communication and art is a cognition-altering tool for relating more fully to the world.  

Read more about Glaser’s thoughts on art, career, and life at idsgn.  

i heart ny  

secret of art


Munch, Magritte, and Mondrian, oh my!: “70 million” by Hold Your Horses
March 6, 2010, 12:48 am
Filed under: Music | Tags: , ,
70 million

They are in a Rembrandt, but are not The Rembrandts. Thank goodness.

Gericault, David, Velazquez, Klimt–the gang’s all here in Franco-American band Hold Your Horses’s new art-literate video for their sunny, catchy song, “70 million.” The band recreates 25 famous paintings in the video, and if you head over to Flavorwire, you can see side-by-side comparisons for most of the featured works.

The best way to get visibility? Give ’em something worth looking at.

Update: If you don’t mind reading it in Spanish, you can find a full list of the featured works, in the order they appear in the video, here.

Pretty papercraft welcomes Topshop to Australia
December 15, 2009, 8:44 pm
Filed under: Advertising & Branding | Tags: , , , , ,

High TeaPost Box

Crown Jewels

Australian paper artist Benja Harney recently created a set of window and in-store displays entitled “Best of British” for the Australian launch of the British clothier Topshop, to be sold at Incu, an Australian multi-brand retailer. A part of Incu’s Window Project, whose installations tout local as well as global talent, Harney’s works will be showcased in Incu’s Paddington store. 

Celebrating the novelty and character of all things iconically British (including a Georgian post box, high tea, the crown jewels, and Heinz baked beans), the installations set a playful and heritage-centric mood for the British brand; buying Topshop is buying a little piece of Britain. (It’s exactly that subtlety that I love–it’s not pushing Topshop, it’s generating fondness for the culture to which Topshop grants access.) Having an Australian express the quintessentially British parallels Topshop’s entry into the Australian market: they’re British fashions, yes, but they’ll be represented and interpreted out in the world by Australian consumers. It’s very apropos. 

I think it’s sort of interesting that they selected for this mid-market retailer an artist that is also doing distinctive work for luxury brands like Hermes, considering that your average discount retailer’s windows are typically for moving product more than for creating artistry, brand mood. Bust as you can see from other installations from Incu’s Window Project, their approach to retail spaces is anything but average. Elevate window displays to art, and a little hi-touch high-end shine rubs off on the merchandise too. The gallery treatment suits Incu’s curator-like function as a multi-brand and aesthetically-adventurous store, of bringing in collections of interest for the edification and inspiration of locals.