Illustration: The Contemporary, Diagrammatic City

Maps are some of the most graphically beautiful tools that we have.  An old hand-colored, copperplate engraved map from one of Cpt. Cook’s exploratory expeditions is a perfect blend of art and science, romanticism and reality.  Both graphically and technologically, cartography has advanced, though.  Think of Harry Beck’s London Underground map and Google Earth.  In the process of mapping the context for a Copenhagen railway station revamp, I wanted precedents that were more schematic than the latter, but less ubiquitous than the former.  What I found was refreshing in a time where satellite imagery and narrated navigation is the bow of the field that made its greatest advances on wooden ships.

Instead of reading like  instruction manuals, some contemporary maps I found read like stories you look forward to spending hours in an armchair with.  While technological advancement in cartography and those maps that do provide a world’s-worth of quantitative information are invaluable (and beautiful, too), it is nice to know that a map can still provide just the set of info most people need through well-done graphic communication. A neon colored, computer rendered map in a tube under a city can still present the beauty and exploratory romanticism of an 18th century expedition map. And it will tell you where to get off to get to that bagel store in the Upper West Side.


Cover Illustration & Design: Worth Anything You Want

It always catches my interest when good design makes it’s mark in areas that might not typically be associated with it.  When someone mentions investment strategies and economic outlooks, exciting design doesn’t often flash effortlessly into mind.  Worth Magazine’s Design Director Dean Sebring and Illustrator Brian Stauffer disregard those preconceptions with one of the most attractive magazines being published.  Brian’s illustrations communicate a concept with a balance of crispness and texture, with geometry and color leaving tool marks.  The interior is likewise elegant and cohesive.

Another example is the Alex Miles Younger cover design work for ‘Anything You Want’ (by Derek Sivers). It is a book about starting multi-million dollar companies and entrepreneurship, but the cover throws aside any imagery of green paper for a yellow sun and genuine happiness at the beach.  Or maybe he’s trapped? Though far from Ben Franklin above the shoulders, this boy’s head could be more metaphorically complex than at first glance. It goes further; there is no title, no author, no blurb about the book anywhere on the front cover (though there is that publisher’s domino icon). It all seems like smart design (and hence business) to me.

When business and design take risks together, there can certainly be rewards.

Animated reading from ‘Anything You Want’:

Illustration: Black & Gold: Dan Matutina

Black & Gold is a series of illustrations from Dan Matutina, from out of the Philippines.  The monochromatic exploration is a nominal combination of shapes and texture.  There’s a simplicity to the compositions that I think is nicely offset by the dust and grunge surface; Pansit Western, might be the appropriate term.  The earth-abutting-sky vistas are also a cinematic play with fore and background, which is always fun to me as a viewer.

Check out Dan Matutina’s other work and his youth-led social enterprise design agency here:

Graphics and Art and Typography: Sonnenzimmer Studio

Born from the active Chicago design and screen-printing scene and created by Nick Butcher and Nadine Nakanishi, Sonnenzimmer developed in 2006 as an in-house screen-printing and art studio with a unique aesthetic. A microscope slide backlit by an aurora borealis can swath a poster, or black and white squares and sketching sitting solidly above minimal typography may confer the concept. At times confining chaos in strokes and blobs, at others celebrating white space and typography, Nick and Nadine create compelling prints. A gig poster from this duo stands out refreshingly.

The connections are planned, the boundaries thought out, but, beyond that, they are organic; like a city springing up from nature, or a city being ceded to nature. Maybe neither. That’s the success of their work; it creates an immediate impact and impression, but keeps your eye while your brain engages and explores it past that initial interaction.

Their prints interact (with the medium, collaborators, message, and viewer) like few others have, too. A particular favorite of mine, promoting the Eyeworks Festival of Experimental Animation and done in collaboration with another artist, manipulates color, content, and offsetting across the print run, creating an animation. Nick and Nadine have a clear talent and love for the craft, and it shows in the wide range of work they’ve done.  In the dynamic back-and-forth between abstractions and text, color and composition, Sonnenzimmer stands at the forefront of contemporary printmaking.

Oh, and their site is nice, too: