Dutch Designers With Long Names Visit NYC

You know when something is so easy for you to do, you never end up doing it? Such as exploring more of where you came from, or meeting up with someone who lives around the corner? Last week I finally got the chance to see Amsterdam based Rob van den Nieuwenhuizen (aka Drawswords) and Barbara Hennequin give a lecture at the Pratt Grad Studio.

Rob and Barbara’s work is killer. Together they work at Almanac, a studio they founded in Amsterdam with a gallery downstairs and ping-pong table to boot. It kinda goes without saying that people in the Netherlands have the potential to be a pretty good designers. You’re born into a place where everything is considered and you have stunning posters decorating your daily bike ride to the office. What I love about their work and what makes it stand out to me is the sense of play, hacking and risk-taking. 

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Take the book below for instance. 

Book designed and published in the aftermath of a one year AIR program. Artists Tom Tlalim (II/NL) Lieven De Boeck (BE), Frank Havermans (NL), Shinji Otani (JP) and Sachi Miyachi (JP) brought about new perspectives on the Amsterdam Zuidas area; an enormous urban project. The outcome was displayed in an exhibit; further considerations are highlighted in a publication.

Torn front (2) and back (1) covers, futhermore the first 64 pages are rainbow printed (grey-green-grey), 16 pages were printed using red and opaque ink and the book also contains 8 torn pages wrapped around different sections.All tearing was done by hand and each book is unique.

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Barbara and Rob invited their friends around one night to drink beer and finish the design of the book. Which involved ripping the cover. How much does that say about clients in the Netherlands, that they’re so comfortable with designers they’re cool with the concept of destroying what they just paid for?

And don’t get me started on print techniques. Always the one to ask the inappropriate question, I asked them did anything ever go wrong. Rob said that when they were redesigning ITEMS Magazine they had to sign a contract with their printer as the combination of inks they requested had an unpredictable outcome. The color came out nowhere near what they expected, not that you or I would know.

image My favourite piece was a calendar they designed which communicated the seasons through inks. I very much had to restrain myself from stealing it. As it was for 2013 my only sadness is that if I had, nearly three months have already passed that I hadn’t gotten to love. I hope those two continue to play in their work, no doubt we’ll see it in the next Gestalten book ;)

Let me tell you a story about OFFSET 2013

Or rather, lucky attendees had a choice of forty-two of them this past weekend at the creative conference OFFSET in Dublin. A lot of conferences nowadays set out a theme or a topic to the event. At some stage (ba-dum-dum..pun) or another, we can all run out of things to say and talk about.

OFFSET – like Build (coincidentally also in Ireland) or Brooklyn Beta (coincidentally also beginning with B) has stood strong and up to it’s merit the last couple of years. Perhaps like those other conferences, what distinguishes OFFSET amongst the artboard is there are no green rooms or VIP areas. We’re all drinking the same water here, and it’s a nice bottle of Ballygowan at that.

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Ciaran O’Gara of Zero-G finished up the conference with a talk on the theme of story telling, which actually felt pretty darn appropriate to the weekend. Now I know I always seem to come to some sort of conclusion or enlightenment or discovery after things, but out of a lot of the speakers and highlights, I found the theme of storytelling and humour filled each of their talks. At a democratic conference, you’re not pitching to the crowd (ahem, we’ll name no names, I feel how hard it can be up there) but more so telling people what wouldn’t make you fall asleep in your chair or get depressed over. 

Natasha Jen (seriously, lady crush, to nearly setting up a shrine level) spoke about her work, not in an “then I did this, then I did that” manner, she filled us in on having an English speaking design mind rather than Chinese (when I was in Holland I could only speak to designers in Dutch because that’s what I worked in – don’t ask me about the weather). She revealed that joining Pentagram is like joining any new place.

It may be the official designer seal of being awesome, however it still takes a while to settle and find your feet.

Her chat in the second room with Scott Burnett of Studio AAD (post coming soon on that studio, fyi) was a highlight for me.

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For the past four years I have lived in a different city–actually, make that country– which has been incredible and reminded me of how little ‘stuff’ I need in my life. On the flip-side, it has left me with a feeling of flightly-ness. I’m in the habit of having to learn a lot-a lot, liking to do a million things and constantly going at 200%. This has been a contrast to how I grew up, a nerdy girl in a very small town (no I’m not from Dublin) who did her own thing because I literally had nothing else to do.

Their discussion on going with your gut and intuition (d’uh, sounds basic when you write it like that) was definitely something I took back with me to New York (because I bought a bed here so I’m definitely not leaving any time soon).

Look at this, an Irish person hi-jacking a post about a conference with her own story…. I could write a lot more about the Stone Twins causing belly aches before lunch and not from hunger but laughter, on Vaughan Oliver’s f**k-filled tangents, JR melting every heart in the room on Saturday night, Adrian Shaughnessy’s charming discussion on Herb Lubalin (more on this next week), how incredible it was meeting and talking to creative folk I have huge respect for and of course the 100 Archive (another post coming too). 

But, that’d be another story and I’m very jet-lagged. So, goodnight!

categories: design dublin travel

What is the meaning of a Tumble?

Oh-ho-ho-ooooh. Everybody was kung-fu tweeting, those statuses were fast as lightning. In fact it was a little bit frightning. It was Social Media Week in New York a while back. This is where for one week you can tell exactly who to avoid in the city because they introduce themselves as “ninjas”, “gurus” or “disrupters”.  

At Ogilvy, David Karp, founder and CEO of Tumblr, came in for a chat one morning. He did not introduce himself as any sort of social magical hero, in fact, quite the opposite. I’ve been working on Tumblr stuff here (probably why I haven’t been logging into my own accounts as much, tumbleweeds rolling through all twenty plus Tumblrs), which meant it was pretty awesome to hear from the man himself how it all started.

I hear a lot of people talking these days about the key to cracking Tumblr gold. What can they do to maximise their hits, likes, reblogs, shares. From my experience in a large company working for large companies Tumblr is incredible.

Never one to underestimate the fun of a microsite, creating a blog can be an awesome way to take a lift up the corporate ladder, rather than getting caught on every rung for approvals.

A blog has it’s limitations, which you have to explain isn’t a con because it’s a platform you are working with.

Someone asked David what the key to a successful Tumblr was, no messing around here. As the guys who get to see all of this first hand, he said that it was unique content. In the end of the day Tumblr was created for creators. You can hop on to this of course – however smart, unique, funny content will win over boring repetitive shit (not his words! FYI, before I get in trouble). 

I’m interested to see where advertising will go on Tumblr. If you haven’t noticed it – which I didn’t really before hopping on this side of the fence – they’re dipping their toes with Radar and Spotlight. More than an individual can afford ($25k+). As someone who refreshes the dashboard a bazillion times a day I don’t see much advertising TBH, I’ve seen an animated pec GIF for the Bachelor and recently Old Spice’s new doggy, but besides that it’s curated content from Tumblr’s pals.

And this is fantastic. I get a feeling of dread when I type YouTube.com into the browser bar now. It saddens me that these pre-rolls are keeping the “I hate advertising” message on top of people’s minds. 

I heard Cindy Gallop (found of BBH) speak the other week and she said that if you asked someone on the street what they thought of advertising they would answer immediately that they hate it. But, if you asked someone what their favourite ad was they’d think fondly about that ‘84 Apple commercial, inspirational Nike or those quirky Oreo social messages.

What’s nice about social is that it comes from all of us. We tweet because we want to say something, we make a Tumblr because we want to share something. And publishing something for the delight of publishing is exactly what I’m going to do now.

categories: new york tech advertising

Keeping It Off

Being a girl is hard. We think about how shit we look ALL THE TIME. Even when you’re feelin’ fly, getting ready and blasting Missy Elliot, one bad glance in the mirror can throw you off. Myself and my friend were recently discussing how much we hate ourselves. If you’re a guy, you may think I’m exaggerating here. If you’re a girl, well, you know what I mean. 

How is it that hate is used to often to describe how we’re feeling? It’s not dislike, nor not fond of. Hate. We’re so quick to say haters gonna hate, and it’s damn lazy to hate others, but the worst victim of it is ourselves. As a girl, my hatred towards my thighs, my stomach, my butt – has no logic. I’ve thought about it plenty in my head, when I went through puberty I definitely had extra pounds on me. Considering my height, I was more barrel in shape than female at that stage. 

This lasted for a year or two. For over the past ten years I’ve been around the same size (although I’m the highest now, considering I still eat the same amount of chocolate as I did when I was 16 yet I’m sedimentary for like twenty hours straight). But for a reason that sees no logic at all, I feel like how I was at puberty, PUBERTY, defines who I am. What. the. shit? How skewed is our world that I see what is a natural occurrence for all little girls as a curse that can sneak up on and cling to my hips? One blip over the edge of what you feel is the norm can stay on your radar for quite a long time.

It was only until last night when I got a proper flash of the true insanity of this. That girls can think that they’re spending years keeping off puberty and being terrified of losing control. When really I don’t have any control over any of it. I may get pissed looking at my face because mostly I think I look like a leopard with these freckles, I may wear skirts and dresses most often because I find it tricky to get jeans to fit my big butt.

It’s alright, there may be some things I can manage to keep off, but most of these things I’ll keep on.

categories: culture personal

Literary & Heart-Shaped Shit-Shows

I’m not going to try and write a decent introduction of where I’m going with this post, but trust me, it goes somewhere. Hint: it’s about books.
  • Bluestockings
  • 172 Allen Street
  • New York

When I was younger – probably before the Internet came to Cobh – I used to be obsessed with reading. I’d read fairly quickly, a book every day or two. I used to head into our library, who now show love to all my old donated books. When I lived in different countries one of the first things I used to do was join the local library. I couldn’t believe how in Toronto you could order a book online and they’d deliver it to your branch.

I went digital a couple of years ago because with moving so often I felt terrible about leaving the books behind. Irrational guilt, I know. I find it hard to discover books worth reading online, some of my friends are fans of Goodreads but it’s been a miss for me. Because of this, I like to go into stores and judge the books by their cover.

Nowadays, this drives me nuts. I had a stop-over in Heathrow airport on the way to New York and had the luxury of taking time to pick out a decent book.

I stood there, gazing at shelves upon shelves of vampire erotica and romance novels. What a literary shit-show!

I’m not against reading Twilight (I’ve read them. All of them), however the lack of selection outside of these pop genres was shocking. [I did end up buying The 100 Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared, which I’d highly recommend.]

When I was living in Amsterdam, a guy I was seeing lent me a book, The Art of Fielding. I really enjoyed it, one of those books you get sucked in to and devour as quick as you can. I’d rather stay home and read it instead of seeing him… probably a sign why it never worked out. When I gave it back after I’d finished it he told me to pass it on to another person, which I did. And I’m definitely going to do this in the future with books I buy. 

I tell you these tangental stories because today I happened to wander inside Bluestockings, a bookstore in the Lower East Side. It’s a feminist bookstore, which to be honest I don’t know anything about. So I’m going to pretty much ignore that, and I’m sure it’s the place to go to if you want to find out more on that. Besides the corner of feminist books, there were tons of fiction, political theory and all of the usual genres. I checked out the fiction section thoroughly and I loved how it felt like every book had been carefully selected, rather than “Oh he wrote that, we must have him” or “There’s vampires, sex, bondage; all in one book – stock up!” 

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Throughout the store they have charming little handmade signs defining the sections.

imageThere’s also lots of art available for sale, plus coffee.

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Dudes, there were books on moustaches. Woah, I just reliased there’s a Euro/American difference in spelling for that word?

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I ended up leaving with that book there, the one I’m holding in my sleeping bagged arm. If Davy hadn’t written this title I definitely would have. If there’s any New Yorkers who’d like to read it after me, let me know. Now, reading time.

categories: new york culture

I have a habit of listening to songs repeatedly when I like them a lot. Basically I get addicted to stuff easily; work, Nutella, the internet. The positive of this is these songs are strongly attached to memories, such as cities I’ve lived in, people I know.


I’m currently living in an apartment in mid-town Manhattan until I move into a new place next weekend. A typical nondescript tall block, besides the waterfall at the entrance. Of around ten apartments on my floor, after a month I’ve seen only one other person. Due to this fact I decided to let loose while waiting for the elevator and get my dance on. Now I’m a fan of a spontaneous dance as much as the next person, generally in public places I stick to a head bop, shoulder shake, foot tap or little shuffle. However this day I decided to embrace my inner Shakira (whom I have a slight obsession with). Of course this would be the day when someone else leaves their apartment and waits for the elevator at the same time.


I was pretty mortified at the time. But, after thinking about it, dancing is on the milder side things you could be caught doing.

(Source: Spotify)

SoHoHoHo

My plan was to write one post per place/event/activity I ended up doing in New York. One day after deciding that, I’m failing already. So, today I’m going to recap a mish-mash of what I got up to.

I like how in New York a Sunday can start off with no particular plan and naturally lead you to a nicely full day. I began by learning in Victoria’s Secret that I’ve been wearing the wrong bra size for ten years. I stepped into the three storey 34th Street monster of a store and immediately my boobs felt overwhelmed. So much choice and sequins, my instinct was to flee. Besides their…new…take on the spelling of my name, I now see why every female in the US is enamoured with the place. 

Correctly fitted out I headed down to the Etsy Holiday Shop

"Imagine a magical place where you can shop directly from the collections of guest curators, meet the artists and collectors of the marketplace in person, learn to make something with your own two hands, and enlist the help of a whole squad of Etsy experts for your gift list. It’s Etsy in real life!"

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Their website description is spot on, despite it being December 2nd I hadn’t felt any Christmas spirit yet. After a potent wiff of pine needles and seeing Grace Bonney of Design Sponge (in real life!) demonstrating how to make wreaths, I felt like skipping by the time I left. I received free Tattly (in real life!), a lovely newspaper and several shots of holiday cheer. The next stop after there was to see Swiss Miss and the Tattly pop-up store in the Land of Nod. As you can see in the photo below, despite the LoN being a store for kid’s stuff, the lounge section was filled with dudes putting on Tattly. Only temporary tattoos could get a bunch of 20-something males into a kid’s furnishings and clothing store. Maybe that’s the deal, offer free things at the entrance all year round?


After a good six hours of exploring it was time to head over to the Shake Shack’s mother ship in Madison Square Park. I was excited to try this place out after reading so much about it online and seeing Big Spaceship’s website design. As a vegetarian (well, really a pescatarian, but sometimes it’s easy to just say veggie), burger joints aren’t as exciting for me as carnivores.

Under the twinkly lights and surprisingly pleasant New York evening weather – that allowed for scarves and thick coats to be cast aside – I can say that their Schroom Burger was one of the best I have ever had in my life. And overall, not a Sunday that will go down in history for being strikingly memorable, nevertheless, it was memorable in it’s insignificance all the same.   

categories: new york food shopping

Just A Small Town Girl

Introducing a new tag to the blog - New York. I’ve moved again. I swear, this time I’m going to let the dust settle. I might even hang picture frames. Get a magazine subscription. All that homely stuff.

After an incredibly memorable year in Amsterdam – where I made some of the best friends of my life (whom I’m persuading to move here too) – I’ve now become a New Yorker. The city in itself is indescribable and I completely under-estimated what a huge decision it was to come here. Under-estimated in a sensationally good way.

My new day job is art director at Ogilvy & Mather. I’ve come on board for IBM – two weeks in it feels like a wonderful fit. I’m bursting at the seams at the end of each day, dying to talk what I’ve learned. Innovation! Cloud computing! Smart cities! All steps moving towards me being less of an ignorant shit.

Until I get my cardboard box weather proofed, or find an apartment with my hilarious partner in crime Chelsea, Ogilvy have put me up in an apartment in midtown Manhattan. Gobsmacked would be the appropriate adjective to describe how I felt when I arrived in after a long day of traveling. The doorman throughly checked my ID to make sure I was the right person, I was certainly out of place next to these swanky people. So far I’ve learned the trick to living alone is not to buy anything that requires unscrewing and get by with the plates you can reach on the lower shelf.

Just around the corner from my apartment is the charismatic Maison Kitsuné store. I keep getting a thrill when I see these places. “Oh that’s the shop from the internet! Oooh they’re the ones who make the pretty coffee.” And so on.

Photos from the New York Times 

  • Maison Kitsuné
  • 1170 Broadway
  • New York
  • NY 10001

I had a nice chat with one of the staff and cuddled some of their Want Les Essentials de la View bags. Santa, if you’re listening, I’ll take any of their handbags in black. If you’re in London, pop over to Midori House to get some Maison Kitsuné goods at the Monocle Christmas Market. If you’re elsewhere around the world, open up that Spotify and listen to Kisuné Maison Compilation 12.

categories: shopping new york

Conor & David (& Sue)

Conor & David is a studio located in and full of Dublin charm, characterised by attention to detail, sharp wit and great taste… and wait until you hear about their work. Oh, you. The guys were very kind to offer a desk and were as generous as George Clooney with their Nespresso machine recently. 

Let’s bask in the glow of the conoranddavid.com screenshot for a second. Conor & David came about because Conor is Conor Nolan and David is David Wall. If you attended OFFSET 2012 last April you might remember them from the main stage, especially when they announced the launch of Typegroup. Who said design is just all sitting around talking about Pantone colours, we go to conferences where type foundries are revealed live on stage! In the absence of a facility like Spaces in Dublin (although the Digital Hub assure me it’s on the way in their HQ very soon), I was lucky to finally meet these guys and even luckier get to see their lovely studio.

Down the road from Trinity College and a five minute walk from Grafton Street, inside 68 Dame Street sat the namesakes as well as type-man Bobby Tannam and recent grad Simon Sweeney. Surrounded by dudes, which was fine, except there weren’t any mirrors in the bathrooms? Where do you do your make-up? Since graduating myself, I haven’t actually spent much time in Dublin and it’s rather a novelty to be able to see first-hand what you hear abroad. Their work can be seen throughout the city and their focus to create useful and beautiful design is obvious. This October, Dubliners saw more print and web work for Open House,

"Open House Dublin is Ireland’s biggest Architecture Festival… A unique, clear, fun solution enabled attendees to get the most from the event; and assisted in bolstering the profile of both Open House and our client the Irish Architecture Foundation."

I went to the Institute of Art, Design & Technology in Dún Laoghaire and the Savannah College of Art & Design, a decision perhaps with a different outcome if I’d seen their prospectus for the National College of Art & Design:

Who am I kidding? Peace to NCAD but I love my IADT and SCAD background, yo. Besides design work, C & D are involved with the 100 Design Archive (David is responsible for the site, hence the reason for offering my deskless-self a hand) as well as speaking in various colleges throughout Ireland and judging the ICAD Awards.

If you’re looking to add some Irish design in your life, bookmark/pin/whatever their site and follower Conor and David on Twitter.  

Two bonus favourites of their Kilkenny Light Wall and the stunning identity for the Lives of Spaces, with motion work by Paul Guinan.

categories: design dublin

Food, glorious design!

We care what it looks like - kerned! Underdone! Crude! Ahem, sorry for the Oliver Twist. Founded by Julian Roberts in 2001, Irving & Co. create absolute feasts for the eyes. Their design is so tasty I feel like licking the label and buying a jar of olives, and God do I hate olives.

What stood out for me about Irving & Co. was the personal approach they take. A personal relationship with foodies who have personal relationships with food has lead to some very personal design. I found this quote from Julian on The Food Bugle so relevant for clients that want to succeed. Solidifying your ethos and vision is paramount in clarifying for yourself what you believe in and what you represent, as well as for the customer.

"It’s vital that independent food producers articulate their ethos and create a visual identity that identifies them from others. The most successful food and drink brands are created by people who love what they do and work all hours in the pursuit of making the best product they can. These people invariably have a strong personality and set of beliefs which can be extracted and honed into a true and memorable visual identity."

I thought I’d feature some of their work for Carluccio’s in particular, as I’ve already saved the entire site. Little did I know, but Julian began working with Priscilla Carluccio after leaving 20/20 and sending hand-written postcards to five clients he admired. Priscillia gave him a call and since then they have worked side by side developing the brand gradually and intelligently (no rules, no guidelines, mamma mia!). For the past ten years they’ve discovered what “ingredients” works best for Carluccios; generally Italian fonts (Bodoni with a bitta Futura), spicy colours (che bello!), stunning illustrations (Adrian Johnson, Jeff Fisher) and Alastair Hendy behind the lens to create photographs that feel like the style of contemporary Italy.

Look at all that variation, yummy or what? 

categories: design food branding