Author Archive

Record Design: The Mamas & The Papas’ ‘Deliver’

December 29th, 2013

I received The Mama’s & The Papas third album ‘Deliver’ as a gift recently, and I was immediately struck by how great the cover design is.


The centerpiece is the cover photograph by Guy Webster. The swimming pool setting, which preceded the famous pool scenes in The Graduate by a few months, provides a great pop of color and carries with it all the best baggage of Los Angeles. The pop/folk, high/low tension between the fountain concept and the fact that it’s coming from an old hat is also somehow an effectively descriptive allegory for a harmony-driven hippie pop band like The Mamas and the Papas.

Also, the back side of the record features full horoscopes for each of the band members—a detail which is so 1967 that it hurts.



Design, Music

Illustration: Moebius’ Project Pendulum

June 2nd, 2013

I’ve always got a few book illustration side projects that I wish I had more time to work on (story of my life). So, when I see some inspiring images, I take note.

Here are some great illustrations by French artist Jean Giraud Moebius from the sci-fi book ‘Project Pendulum’. I found these on a great book arts blog called Tenth Letter of the Alphabet. Check it out for some other font, logo, and illustration gems.

Project Pendulum 08 Project Pendulum 04

Art, Drawing

Letting the Crowd Help Solve the Crime

April 17th, 2013

In the aftermath of the horrible Boston Marathon bombing, my mind was wandering — thinking of ways that I might be able to help. In fact, I think a lot of people feel this way after such intense public tragedies. Then, when the police began asking people to submit the photos and videos they may have taken of the area around the bombing that day, I had a thought:

Why isn’t there an app that can help the crowd submit their photos and recreate the events leading up to a crime?

All digital photos are time-stamped, and many — especially those taken with smartphones — are also stamped with the geo-location where they were taken. After a crime takes place, these photos could be quickly submitted from many people’s phones, fed into a central database, and be automatically sorted and re-presented to the investigators on a sort-of visual timeline. It would make both the contribution of and the analysis of these invaluable crime-scene documents much easier. People could easily see where holes existed in surveillance and flip through their photos for relevant images. Any public event could be recreated this way.

boston marathon bomb app


Recent news reports are indicating that some surveillance footage and possibly some crowd-contributed photos are already leading authorities towards certain suspects in this case. I can only imagine how much more quickly we might have responded if the whole process was simplified.

In fact, if any of you out there are ace Android or iOS developers and want to help me build this thing, please let me know.



Design, Digital, Ideas , ,

The Symbolic Progression of Marriage Equality

March 26th, 2013

While the Supreme Court debates today and tomorrow on two cases related to gay marriage, more and more people on Facebook and other social networks are adopting a pink and red symbol of equality to show their support for marriage equality and civil rights protection. These symbolic badges all display the ‘=’ symbol, but as more of them started showing up in my Facebook feed, I was drawn to the small differences between these simple statements of support.

Slight differences abound in this simple flag.

Many the images seemed to be copied and recopied from other postings as the notion of symbolic support went viral across social networks, resulting in exaggerated pixillation as the images got re-optimized by various compression algorithms. However, some of these symbols seemed to be custom-made, with alternate sizing, framing, and weight of the symbol. The reds used varied from #ca0000 to #cb0101 and #cb1c01 — pretty close — and the the pinks hovered around #e88d8c, #e88c8d, #e98d8e, #eb8d8d, and #e28d8a, though some of these color variations surely came from compression distortion.

Perhaps it’s largely an academic exercise, but it is interesting to study the ways images and symbols get distorted and altered as they are adopted and interpreted by the masses. It reminds me a bit of Sebastien Schmieg’s recursive image search projects, where he feeds an image into an image search engine and uses the result to start a new search. A narrative of unexpected relationships reveals itself as the images progress.

In any case, I hope the Supremes do the right thing this week and uphold the rights of all to have access to civil marriage benefits and responsibilities that literally have nothing to do with religious freedom or popular opinion. This is one progression whose arrival is long overdue.

Design, Digital, Ideas , ,

Leaving White Space: The Growth of Remix Culture

February 24th, 2013

One of my favorite ideas on interactivity comes from something of an unexpected source. In his 1995 diary turned book: A Year With Swollen Appendices, arty soundsmith Brian Eno suggests that the term ‘interactive’ is really just a hyped-up tech term for ‘unfinished’. Coming from 1995, the year that Microsoft Windows took over the computer world, Eno envisioned a future where music would be left unassembled, still in pieces, waiting for the listener to finish the song as they see fit. Since then, we’ve seen the technology emerge for anyone with an Internet connection to do just that. Becoming much more than an underground music trend, “Remix Culture” has caught on big time with some of our biggest companies; What started with drum loops being lifted from old LPs has expanded into a web best-practice.

For example, the biggest content websites in the world: Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter, each offer up remote access to their content through APIs — little snippets of code that allow websites to pull and push content to and from other sites — so that anyone can replicate key points of functionality from anywhere on the web. These APIs are the reason you can see your friends’ favorite articles on the New York Times site, update Twitter from your iPhone, or watch music videos on some kid’s Tumblr blog. In essence, what these sites have realized is that it isn’t necessarily best to keep tight control over how and where people view your content. In fact, people are sometimes much more engaged with content if they feel some sense of authorship over it. In the age of the Internet, people have come to expect their participation in media (and many other things) to come on their own terms.

I was reminded of this idea recently by two different encounters with culture I’ve had here in New York over the past year. The first was the subway advertisements that appeared to announce the arrival of the fifth season of Mad Men. The posters were little more than a stark white space with a familiar suited figure falling through it. They were striking ads on their own, but the coolest thing is what passers-by did with them. All over the city, these ads were treated as canvases, unfinished dots to be abstractly connected into a new pictures. As anyone in NYC can tell you, subway ads have long been defaced as interactive canvases, these ads just left a little more to the imagination. I’m not sure if this was a foreseen feature of these ads, but it was very fun nevertheless.

mad men subway ads


More recently, artist Rutherford Chang has taken over the Recess space in SoHo (at 41 Grand Street) with an installation titled ‘We Buy White Albums’. Chang has filled the gallery with a bank of record players and bins upon bins filled with his extensive collection of first-printings of The Beatles so-called ‘White Album’. Going through the collection, you’ll find that some of the most interesting specimens have been decorated and filled-in by their former owners, endowing the objects with much more power than their more pristine brethren. (These images were lifted from Dust & Grooves, which offers a great interview with the artist.)



Philosophically, the idea of decentralizing authorial control over meaning is nothing new. The academic grad-schoolers among you will recognize the notion that an audiences’ interpretation may, in fact, represent the true meaning in any work of art. Browse some of the post-structuralist musings of Jacques Derrida from way back in the 60′s and you will find that some creative philosophies actually give the audience more credence than the author. Maybe this is what the Beatles were acknowledging when they put this record out in 1968… or maybe they were just trying to clear their minds after their extended hang with the Maharishi.

In any case, whenever I make something — especially when I’m designing a platform that will be populated with user content — I try to leave room for this idea of the unfinished. I believe that some of the most engaging experiences (and business models) are those that leave room for a little serendipitous audience manipulation. Why try to build a world all by yourself, wall it in, and declare it finished, when your audience would be thrilled to offer up their own energy to help build alongside you.


Advertising, Design, Digital, Ideas

Inspiration: Art Deco Neckline

December 17th, 2012



I love me some pin-tucks.


Art, Design