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All posts by Alex Cornell

Alex Cornell is a San Francisco-based Designer and Musician. He is a cofounder of Firespotter Labs, a Google Ventures funded startup. He has also worked for IDEO, Plancast, and many other Bay Area companies as a UI/UX and brand designer. Recently he passed over 2 million views on YouTube where he maintains a periodic online musical presence. Contact Alex: emailE=('alex@' + 'iso50.com') document.write( '' + emailE + '' ) Links for Alex Cornell: Alex's main site / portfolio Alex on Twitter Alex's Music

No Lifeguard On Duty

Posted by Alex

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I’m all about lonely and melancholic photography this week — though more importantly — I’m really into the effective implementation of a deceptively simple concept as seen above. Like Nobody is there, this series by J Bennett Fitts steers clear of any human subject; this time with a slightly more ominous tone. The focus of No Lifeguard on Duty is the abandoned swimming pools found throughout the country, usually alongside a similarly neglected hotel/motel from the 60′s. Just in time for summer! (At least in San Francisco…elsewhere in the country a more appropriate summer image might have the pool filled with water and people frolicking about. Here, summer means cold and foggy.)

Swimming pools are signs of spiritual optimism, economic prosperity and the hedonistic good life, so the image of a pool dried up and cracked or half full of dirty water becomes a symbol of disappointed hopes and dreams. A sign on the wall by a pool that was filled in with grassy sod says, ”No lifeguard on duty,” which is funny at first, and then starts to sound like an ominous judgment about modern American life. Ken Johnson

via Booooooom

Somebody Is There

Posted by Alex

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Somebody is there is a cool Flickr set by Yosigo. As the title so aptly puts it, each photo in the set has a picture of someone “there”, usually depicted from afar. The one on the end is from the related Nobody is there, where as you can see, no one is there. I enjoy photography based on simple concepts like this, especially when it involves the beach. Some of the photos are a little too post produced for me (heavy vignetting etc), but there are a number of pretty cool shots in both sets.

via Build

Sebastian Gram / Hello Monday

Posted by Alex

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Seriously impressed by the diverse portfolio of Danish designer Sebastian Gram (currently art director of Hello Monday). The first image (interactive design for fashion brand Revolution) made the FFFFound rounds a while back, but it wasn’t until recently that I explored his portfolio further and found the rest of his exceptional work. Each project, whether it’s a logo or full blown identity system, is considered down to the smallest detail. It’s also cool to see process shots along side the finished product; gives you a sense how much time and refinement went into it.

I was especially intrigued by the typeface for Vertica, developed by Gram and Creative United. My guess, based on progress images like the one above, is that it was designed as a custom face for Vertica and is not commercially available. Too bad, those are some sexy letterforms. Like much of Gram’s work, it manages to rock out with a rigid, corporate aesthetic, without being boring or common. I would love to see my name written in that font.

The Graphic Design Thesis

Posted by Alex

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As of this summer I am officially halfway through my graduate design program at the Academy of Art. Unlike a BFA degree, the MFA requires the completion of a thesis, and the second half of the graduate program is dedicated to the development of this. The most recent checkpoint I had to clear was Midpoint; basically a review of your work and skills to date, as well as a clearing ground for your upcoming project. It’s a pretty exciting meeting actually; you place all your work on the table, in front of a faculty committee, and they determine whether you are fit to continue. The main focus of the meeting is your thesis proposition. Before they allow you to embark on a 1-2 year thesis project, they want to make sure your idea is viable and worth pursuing.

I am past the Midpoint stage now and am in a class called Thesis Development this summer. It is a very different class than those that I’ve written about previously. Rather than creating a series of graphic design based projects, we are spending all of our time researching and strategizing how we are going to go about the next few years. I always picture that scene in Apollo 13 when they are trying to get back to Earth and only have one chance to fire their rocket boosters to enter the atmosphere at the correct angle. It is extremely important that they get their aim correct, else they bounce off the atmosphere and careen into space and die. I think of this class as that moment in the space flight; we are aiming where we want to go before firing our boosters over the next year and trying and pull off a successful project.

Above you see a piece created for the class. It is a piece of design, as everything we bring to school must be, but the main purpose of the document is to chart my progress over the next year. It divides the weeks up into sections and outlines what I should be doing when. I expect it to change many times over the course of the coming months (it’s already way off base), but it really helps having a checklist like this to keep tabs on my progress. I have never pursued a project of this magnitude before and the planning involved is unlike any design challenge I have been faced with previously. Most of the time I just open Illustrator and start drawing lines and scribbles until things look cool.

A graphic design thesis is a very interesting concept. The biggest thing I struggled with, as I decided on a topic, was whether my thesis would implement graphic design, and pursue an issue outside the field, or whether it would be about Graphic Design itself, and aim to make waves within the design community. Most projects do the former. We are lucky in this way — because design really can be used to solve just about any problem — but there is the concern that this strategy will be of no relevance to the actual field of study. I still don’t know quite what to make of this dilemma. I have tried to meld the two directions with my project (I’ll discuss details in later process posts), but I am unsure whether it will end up being that much more effective because of this, or if it will fail because I never decided which path to pursue. I guess it’s still too early in the process to know.

Max Huber Round Two: Idea Magazine

Posted by Alex

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Immediately after I posted a few Max Huber posters earlier this week, I walked into Kinokuniya and saw that the latest issue of Idea was devoted to the man himself. A fantastic coincidence and even more fuel for my Max Huber inspired creative fire. The issue is huge (about 200 pages) and is filled with some pretty incredible stuff. A lot of work I had never seen before; I put a few of my favorites above (the Table of Contents as well). The issue costs quite a bit for a magazine ($50 eek!) but Idea is certainly of much greater quality than most magazines. Well worth a perusal if you find yourself in a Japanese bookstore any time soon.

Max Huber

Posted by Alex

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I’ve got a few projects coming up so I’ve been browsing through some of my old design books for inspiration. These two posters by Max Huber kick-started my mind into creative gear. I really like the color palette at work in both; really unusual and effective. The second one is all about the type for me. Didot Bold in all caps always does a good job. I was recently in Switzerland and am really bummed I missed out on the Max Huber Museum. Next time I guess.

Leandro Castelao

Posted by Alex

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A few pieces by Argentinean illustrator Leandro Castelao. Terrific attention to detail and great color at work here. I feel like I’m looking at a retro instruction manual for some super bad ass birdhouse. Illustrations like this remind me of the work of Feric. Castelao’s are a little less intricate, but the playful/scientific aesthetic is reminiscent of some of the Fevolution renderings. Some impressive work from both artists.

Milton Glaser Contest Winners

Posted by Alex

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The Milton Glaser giveaway has come to a close! Here are the winners:

Grand Prize: David Bilodeau
Runner Up: Christian W

Congratulations guys! Your prizes are in the mail and should arrive within the next few days. As for everyone else, thanks for entering, it was great to see so many people excited about Glaser and the new film. We’ll be holding more contests and giveaways in the future, so if you didn’t win this time, keep an eye on the blog for more to come.