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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

Triennale Design Museum

Posted by Alex

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I recently visited the Triennale Design Museum in Milan and saw some nifty little things. The exhibit was dedicated mostly to Italian industrial design from the 50′s/60′s. Some of my favorites are pictured above; a Ferrari P6, Olivetti Lettera 22, Brionvega TV and radio, and a Zanussi Refrigerator which looks like a time travel device. Unfortunately, I missed Design Week by a few days, but the museum was a decent substitute. It wasn’t very big at all—took only about 15 minutes to walk through—but it’s always nice to see a dedicated design exhibit.

Philipp Schaerer

Posted by Alex

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Architectural imagery by Philipp Schaerer. I love the negative space created by the buildings in his Bildbauten series. As he describes on his site, the images are based on the photographic language, and “reflect a built, exaggerated reality.” I’m not sure the techniques used in the creation of the images, but I love the results. You can try and decode his description on his site.

Jessica Helfand / Letter to Students

Posted by Alex

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Jessica Helfand wrote an open letter to design sudents everywhere this morning. It is an insightful piece, and I think everyone could benefit from giving this a read really, student or no student.

If you’re graduating in the middle of a recession, it’s likely that an arc of despair trumps the impending thrill of your newly-liberated station in life. Conversely, though, I can’t imagine a better time to get out of school. Nobody’s hiring, but why let that stop you? While the mechanics of, say, having a roof over your head suggest that a little modest income might be a good thing, the actual economics of making work no longer depend on an actual employer. The portfolio no longer means a big black suitcase schlepped around from studio to studio. Get your work online, put your videos on YouTube, and get busy.

I am about 1-2 years out from graduating myself and I already feel the jitters of the “what next…” syndrome. The world of design is changing so fast, every day, and it can be quite an intimidating place to look out upon from within the graduate school bubble. Sometimes I feel like being a student is like being a star college basketball player; floating along no problem in this league—making threes, hitting jumpers, dominating the *paint*—only to be in for a big surprise when you graduate to the Pros and get dunked on by guys double your height and ability that got recruited straight out of high school.

The cries of “nobody’s hiring!” that sound throughout the design world can be periodically distressing, but also inspiring in a backward kind of way. As Ms.Helfand alludes to above, the traditional model of graduate/interview/work for studio is not what is necessary anymore (and thankfully!). New opportunities exist, and as long as you have that hyper-awareness and ready ability to adapt, you can take advantage of them just like before. At least that’s the way it seems from inside the bubble.

It does seem like a scary time to graduate now (and probably will again in a couple years), but the optimist in me agrees with her letter and isn’t concerned. Everything is going crazy and I’ll just try to stay crazy right along with it. Read the full letter on Design Observer.

Indexhibit

Posted by Alex

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Indexhibit is the brainchild of Daniel Eatock and Jeffery Vaska. It was started in 2006 and has since become a very popular tool for artists looking to establish their online presence. Creating an online portfolio for yourself can be extremely difficult, and Indexhibit ameliorates that process by simplifying the format side of the equation. (Both of the creators webpages are good examples.) In their words:

[Indexhibit] is a web application used to build and maintain an archetypal, invisible website format that combines text, image, movie and sound…Content flows to the edge of the browser, images can be displayed as thumbnails that can be enlarged etc., this is a break from traditional fixed layout design associated with print, and a move towards an interactive experience where the user creates their own viewing experience. (link)

What is the general consensus on Indexibit sites? I’m curious to hear how people feel about the frame format from a user perspective. Is this type of layout standardization a good thing? Personally I like landing on sites created with the Indexhibit format because the work is given center stage; navigation is clear and there is nothing about the layout or format to distract from the portfolio. Obviously it’s not right for every designer, and you lose an opportunity to develop a badass format of your own, but it’s nice to have some level of clarity at work. I am tempted to implement it for my own online portfolio, if only for the simplicity, though I’m worried people might land and say “Ah, one of those sites,” and have it be distracting in a ‘played out’ kind of way. Maybe that concern is unfounded, but I’d like to hear what people think. Also, if anyone has experience installing and working with the platform I’d be interested to hear your feedback about the process.

Loworks Japan

Posted by Alex

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Loworks is a design company based in Japan. I’ve been on a wacky illustration kick recently, and it’s always fun to see what Loworks is up to. Their old site is one of my all time favorite website designs. It may not be the best design from an accessibility standpoint, but you can’t beat the creativity and absolute craziness at work. I wish it was still active, always made me happy. Computer Arts did a small feature on Loworks if you are interested.

Film Festival Project Completion

Posted by Alex

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It’s done! The semester came to a close last week and my hypothetical Wes Anderson Film Festival went off without a hitch. On the final day, the project consisted of a presentation box, DVD set, poster (30″ x 44″), fold out schedule, identity system, catalog book (63 pages), website, soundtrack packaging, tickets, billboards and outdoor signage, iPod/iPhone skins, a trailer, and a few other assorted doodads. It was crazy to see it all in one place. I was very happy with the way it all turned out and am relieved to have made it through successfully. This semester was a particularly intense one (as we were also presenting our thesis proposals), and it’s exciting to have made it halfway through the graduate program. Next up will be thesis development over the summer.

This semester’s project really helped us develop our conceptual and technical skills, as we were challenged to create a integrated brand system across a variety of mediums. Everyone had to work with a number of vendors (easily my least favorite part) and be able to coordinate a massive design effort on a strict schedule. My process was not without its speed bumps; color calibration issues at the printer, boxes delayed by weather for weeks, and unfortunate stylistic meanderings early on, all contributed to periodic frustration along the way. Thankfully, once I knew how I wanted everything to look, the implementation of the brand became systematic. The last couple weeks were just a matter of hammering things out.

Above I’ve included some of the pieces that I have not written about previously. First is the presentation box which housed all of the other materials for the festival. It was constructed by Wood Box Supply and is branded with an irreverent slogan. I liked this, but still wish I would have thought of something a little funnier. Next is the DVD set which came in a similar wooden box. These were created out of paper folds and a plastic DVD tray. You’ll also see the catalog, which was one of my favorite things to design, as it allowed for the most copy to be written. As usual, no one will probably ever read most of what is contained within, but it was still fun to put together. Next you’ll see the identity system for sending things to and fro, and which classified my rank as ‘marginally important person.” The rest of the project, in its entirety, can be seen here.

The last image is one of the final versions of the poster (there were many color variations). This was one of the first things I designed for the project. After I completed the rest of the system, I really didn’t feel like the poster fit as well with the other elements. The photograph, especially the dominant color palette, didn’t mesh very well with the warmer tones at work elsewhere. I was aware of this as I worked through the rest of the system, but had unfortunately already printed the poster very early on. It can be a real nightmare printing at the end of the semester (due to the student rush at the vendor), and I always try to finish early and get the printing out of the way if possible. In this case, I would have liked to switch out the photo for something more consistent with the rest of the project. I really had a hard time seeing my picture of a Tokyo skyline (tilt shifted as it may be) conjuring Wes Anderson.

Given that the photograph didn’t really feel like the festival, I tried to at least bring it a little more on brand with the language used. The original title of the poster was “I love you too but I’m going to mace you in the face”, a line from The Darjeeling Limited, but this was determined to be “too violent” and I changed it to a Fall Out Boy lyric that possessed the same dry wit. This title fit with the rest of the identity marks and I was happy with the tone it set. The last issue was finding an appropriate text lock up to fit in the sky section. Eventually I settled on one that didn’t fill out the whole space. In the empty area below I wrote “Here is an awkward space where we weren’t sure what to place. For now it just looks like this, we don’t care if you don’t like it.” That made me laugh and I figured it was as “Wes Anderson” a solution as I could muster. It was that or leave it blank, but on a 30″ x 44″ poster, there needed to be something there. I like the poster as a stand alone piece, but as part of the system, I feel like it is the weakest link.

So that’s it, all done! As I’ve mentioned, the project is for a hypothetical Wes Anderson Film Festival and there is no actual event. I got more than a few confused emails after the trailer was posted. So just to be clear, this doesn’t actually exist. If Mr. Anderson is reading this, and would like to actually hold the festival, that would be fantastic for all involved.

Designunit

Posted by Alex

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Assorted works by Designunit. One of my teachers at school likes to use the expression “swipeable” when describing cool/inspiring work. Our goal in class is to create something badass enough for people to want to “swipe” and use for inspiration. The above work by Designunit meets that criteria for me (and for people on Dropular just about every other day…). It’s been a mainstay in my inspiration folder for some time now.

My favorite medium of design is the magazine and I consistently look to them for inspiration when starting a new editorial project. They have a interesting approach to layout—grid based but still somewhat loose—and I find it to be very polished and refined. It manages to maintain a classic quality while still seeming hip and progressive. Designunit is based in Copenhagen and you can see the rest of their work on their site.

Jonathan Calugi / Happy Lovers Town

Posted by Alex

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A few illustrations by Jonathan Calugi. I first came across his portfolio when he was featured on Behance, and have been following him ever since. The majority of his work is illustration based, but he also has created a few custom typefaces consistent with his whimsy aesthetic. His style reminds me a bit of Sanna Annukka (especially her Keane project), but with a little more playfulness thrown in. I love how random and awesomely weird it is. See the rest of his portfolio here.

Side note: I am currently blogging this on a WiFi equipped airplane, which i have to say, is pretty awesome. It’s actually a faster connection than my one at home (sigh). I usually hate flying, but Virgin America continues to make it easier and easier.