Friday, 29 April 2011

WD16 Furniture

OK, here's a short regurgitated post about my recent line of WD16 furniture models that you can all find on my portfolio. I really want to maintain this blog as a place to show off the new stuff I've made and I feel bad having left out the first proper furniture project of mine, having blogged so much about the design classics of the 20th century. So, without further ado, I present the WD16 range:

The range consists of three pieces - a chair, a table and a small bin from an earlier, discontinued series of model furniture (WD15). All the pieces are modeled in card at no specific scale.

WD15 Bin this small, triangular bin is from an eariler furniture series, WD15. The bin, which would be made out of bent metal sheet, changes the user's conception of a simple metal bin yet still keeps it as a solid, understandable and functional whole shape.

WD16 Table this two-by-one seater, splayed-leg table is intended to be aesthetically lightweight yet be functionally strong, having a very light impact on the ground and in a room, yet being able to take a large weight. The tapering, outwards-pointing legs give the WD15 table a bold, reliable yet not uniform aesthetic. Intended to be made out of a pine tabletop with bentwood legs or bent metal legs, the WD15 table would also being mostly unpainted with a white-painted tabletop.

WD16 Chair this is the centrepiece of the WD16 range, a chair made from one single piece of bent metal. Inspired by the bentwood chair 'Mosquito' by Michael Bihain, I discovered the simplicity and wholeness of a single-piece chair.

The Panton chair showed us that a chair can be made from one piece of plastic, but personally I prefer the feel of a fully metal one-piece chair is better. Your average chair is a mass of unnecessary interactions - between materials, part, fittings, glues - but all this can be removed and the only interaction needed and wanted can be focused on: that between the user and chair. I love the concept of a chair as a whole, something you could throw around or pick up and not fear for the glue joint to come unstuck or for screws to fall out. It's complete of itself and can be therefore considered as one simple, self-sufficient shape amidst a complicated world of overinteraction and overcomplicated design.

Whilst designing the chair, I felt I couldn't create such a space as exists under the seat without having some interaction - it will be cut from sheet metal after all, not cut out of a metal block. So I took the concept one step further and had the chair's fundamental structure interact with itself, hooking round the base of the backrest creating stability without a permanent joint and also create a handle to carry the chair by. To prevent attention being directed immediately at this one interaction, I designed the front three faces as solid shapes and the back two as frame shapes to show the front three as one consistent, bold shape flowing from the floor, through to the seat and to the backrest. This links otherwise distractingly unconnected shapes, diverting attention from the joint.

There, I just wanted to get those photos and descriptions up on the internet somewhere - I had to cut them down somewhat for my portfolio and the stuff about the Panton and Mosquito chairs is integral to the project.


Monday, 25 April 2011

Suddenly, Keanu

aka. Keanu Reeves and how I learned to love Futura
aka. The round-up post, April
aka. I've been... er... revising

Greetings, ladies and gentlefolk. It's been a busy coupla weeks in my life so I apologise for not keeping up the perfect four-posts-a-month thing this month. I have my exams next month so maybe it's acceptable, but it probably isn't because they're next month and I haven't been revising that much. I told myself I'd balance revision and creativity this easter holiday but that thankfully resulted in me being overly creative in defiance of revision. Hence, I've been working on a proper typeface, did a photoshoot in London, got depressed and  thought up the most disturbing sci-fi movie I know, and now I'm scriptwriting and feeling very good about it. Still, I have so much to catch up on here!

Now then, onto the meat of the post (expect no funny meat suitcase here, I've done that joke): Futura. Remember that font? No? Well, I guess not, we're not all typophiles. Futura is a typographic institution, that set the standard for geometric sans-serifs along with Avant-Garde Gothic back in the 1970s. You probably have it on your computer, it's thin and has sharp corners. It's great - maybe a little to pointy for my liking, lacking that control and standardisation that Helvetica has, but it's always good for the odd poster. I use it for the branding of my school's Film Club:

Here I combined Futura, the sharp and postmodern sans-serif, with Didot, another classic typeface that co-created its own typographic class, the Didone serif. It's high-contrast, Italian, and downright classy. Futura and Didot get on quite well actually, and though the poster could've been more restrained layour-wise, I enjoyed experimenting with two colours and two typefaces interacting. I never realised how wonderful Didot italicised lowercase looked. Mmmm.

Anywho, moving on. I was browsing Behance one day and came across this brilliant project for a fictional film festival, showing only Wes Anderson films. The design was consistent, witty, appropriate and well restrained. I always like to think the key to really good design is not finding the right features and gimmicks for your project, but actively restraining yourself from going so over the top. I know centuries of Italian and Spanish designers would protest, but functionalism didn't emerge in the 1920s for everyone to ignore it and get on with the same old shit we'd been doing beforehand. It's had an impact on us, specifically on me. A wise man once said 'moderation in all things, including moderation' and he couldn't have been more right. If I could find him, and he happens to still be alive, I'd give him a hi-five. If he's more in the mood, a hug, but I'm perfectly willing to just hi-five him. Moderation in all things, including congratulatory gestures.

Moving quickly on, you may notice a familiar face in that Behance project. A familiar typeface. Futura, but bold. Extra bold. The version I have is called 'Futura Standard Bold' but I can't always trust what I download off FontYükle. It's a bold weight of Futura, and it's gorgeous. It's overused, especially as you see in the Wes Anderson project - all-caps, small size, on a big photo. Perhaps coloured text on a black-and-white photo. Horizontal lines and bold, statement graphics, everything centred. Psychedelic hipster colours, patterned triangles, fashion shots. All this with Futura bold.

But what's so good about it? What about emboldening Futura takes it from a sharp sans-serif to an incredibly hip typeface? Well, I can't know for sure - because I don't know who used it for that sort of thing first - but those pointy acute-angle corners get lost in the bulk of Futura bold, yet it still keeps its formal shapes. It's a geometric sans-serif, so that means perpendiculars, almost-circular Os, and classical dimensions. Use all those in a font whose line weights are increased to the point of creating an almost chibi typeface with a masculine edge to it - and what perfect edges they are - and you have a font that is spot-on for the sort of indie culture that attracts youths to music festivals and Topman stores these days.

So I downloaded the bold weight off FontYükle (dankeschön!) and set to use it for something. Then I realised it was perfect for a small project of mine I've had in mind for a few weeks. Because, if there's one actor who constantly annoys me, it's Keanu Reeves. Appropriate he may be for The Matrix but in anything else, especially rom-coms, I can't bear him. So why not make a Keanu Reeves kit? This tastefully pink card pocket includes a little model of Keanu's torso on which you can put different Keanu heads. You can pick from a wide range of Keanu expressions - happy, sad, grumpy, joyous, pondering existential dilemmas, plus the token trollface!

Voila: tasteful pink, Futura bold and Keanu Reeves. Yay, hoorah and hell no! The kit comes in a little pocket (left) and includes the Keanu figure, a sheet about 'Keanu merch' and eight faces - seven identical Keanu faces and a trollface. I wish I could physically show this to you all, it makes no sense on the internet and you can't properly get the joke (the fact that all the faces are the same). Still, it has graphic design merit. Futura bold was surprisingly easy to master, it just needed some centering, horizontal lines and balanced layout and it looks positively hipster!

Close-up of this little 'Keanu merch!' sheet included in the kit
Why I love printing double-sided
That's all I've got for you folks. Some Keanu, some typographic discussion, and an apology for not blogging more. I'd like to say expect more from me in the next few weeks, but considering I said that about the easter holidays and here I am only posting on the last day of them, you can no longer trust me.

So, see you... erm... whenever possible. JOHNSPACE is not dead! Long live JOHNSPACE!

ps. I'm also busy playing Portal 2, which - and I don't often say this, especially about a game - is incredible. The scale, the ambition, the graphics, the story, the world it creates... Valve have not only outdone themselves but, in one move, bettered the entire games industry. Play it, for it'll set the standard for many years of games to come.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Wossup #2

I return to these blogging depths with a new Wossup. I have a bunch of post ideas and Easter holiday coming up so we'll just have to not predict anything and hope some of them see the light of day. Until then:

READING 'Franz Kafka: Short Stories' or some book like that. As I've said before, it has all his short stories, both novellas like The Metamorphosis and little snippets of prose like A Dream. It's a great read, though I try not to peruse it so often because reading Kafka in the afternoon means I'm bound to feel like shit all evening. And I always have this niggling feeling of uselessness and pointlessness in the human race. Reading Kafka makes me realise the Human Condition too much. Too much? This is our situation, I shouldn't scoff at something which makes me more aware of it! Pfft, life goes on. Too much, it does - too much for us to say 'oi stop' for a second and realise we're missing the bigger picture and that we'll never be around to see it all. Might as well be ignorant and not even know we're missing it. It's worse when you're aware. Jeez.

WATCHING Several good films. Notably Shattered Glass, a brilliant small project film about the downfall of a lying journalist and general madman Steven Glass, made in the 00s and set in the 90s. The main performance by Hayden Christensen (Star Wars, Jumper) was brilliant, such a great attention-whore character who - on reading Glass' Wikipedia page - is surprisingly true-to-life. Plus, it has one of my fave actors, Peter Saarsgard, in it as the editor of New Republic magazine. Dammit, I love everything Saarsgard does, and this film - small budget and small subject matter though it may be - shows his talents to the full. He's so understated, great performances all round.
I also had the  - pleasure? Experience? Eventful evening? - of watching I Heart Huckabees, a film that aims high but doesn't take itself seriously enough to really make an impact. The plot is based around an environmentalist who goes to an existential detective agency to see whether his chance meetings with a tall Nigerian man mean anything in the bigger picture (yes, Kafka is referred to in this film), but ends up going on a journey about the connectedness (or non-connectedness) of life along with Mark Wahlberg and Dustin Hoffman. It has some seriously deep elements, lots of explanations about life and what things mean, but these wonderful insights are interspersed with comedy bits and indie sequences, making you wonder whether the writers actually know what existential dilemmas they're writing about or whether they're just making a comedy indie film. True themes or not, the comedic elements and off-the-wall directing nullifies the 'meaningful' bits like the blanket and the rubber ball, producing viewers at the end of the film feeling deeply unsatisfied and confused over whether they'd just learnt a lot of meaningful stuff or whether the film was just having a laugh with them. It's a real shame, I was hoping for something like Synecdoche, New York but more accessible and indie and with Mark Wahlberg. And Jude Law. Sadly it didn't meet expectations, little though they were.

LISTENING TO 'Vices and Virtues' by Panic! At the Disco. Like all great bands, I didn't like them at first - dismissing them as a 'meh version of You, Me and Everyone We Know', and accrediting all those boring 'trendy' songs I hear at parties to them - I'm warming to them. There's something quite enjoyable about the album, there's a lot of great tunage to listen to there. Maybe the songs lack the punch and pure American rockness of YMAEWK, but this latest album of theirs is concise and worth a listen.

ADMIRING Some of the best indie photography I've seen in a long while (woah, two indie things in one Wossup post? Hipster John is proud), from Tamara Lichtenstein. Not only is she a great photographer and follows the style of many of my Flickr faves, but she does a lot of professional shoots, including a lot for Converse's 2011 range. Regardless of whether I like Converse or not, she's a great photographer and her Flickr 'stream definitely deserves a gander from anyone interested in photography. Professional stuff and uniquely personal pieces, portraits, observations. Great photos all round. I wish I could embed her photos in this post but she's disabled downloading of them, grr.

DRAWING up ideas for a conlang a friend and I am making. It's a big, big project, and will take some time, but I'm very interested in it and hopefully it will go somewhere. Eff Why Eye, a conlang is a constructed language, a new language that people create that doesn't evolve naturally like English or French. There are hundreds that people have created, but the best take time and dedication. It's not just saying 'house' is 'zoowap', it's deeper than that. Firstly, you must create the phonetics of the language, choosing from the myriad of consonants and vowels that human languages contain, picking some from English and some unusual ones from European languages that we can pronounce or hope to pronounce. The sounds have great names, like uvular fricative and bilabial plosive.
Then there's the issue of vocabulary and grammar. Which sounds occur most often? Which consonant-vowel pairs? How are words formed? How many tenses are there? How many cases? What's 'the' and 'a'? Shall we even include words for 'the' and 'a'? There are loads more questions. Then, my favourite part of making this conlang, the writing system must be created. Sure, some conlangs can be written using Latin or Cyrillic script, but we wanted to go for something adventurous and so I spend some time each evening doodling scripts and letterforms for our conlang. The genius about started afresh is that you can include phonetic parts in the letters themselves - for example, differentiate between voiced and voiceless consonants by a common diacritic that can be recognised by the reader. Then we have the actual forms of the script, the adaptions that can be made for handwriting or formal and modern typefaces. Ooh, it's just a fancier and more creative type of typography, with a chunk of phonetics at the start. Excitiddling.

WEARING nothing new, annoyingly. Hoping to go to Topman for some new yet boringly highstreet someone-else-is-probably-wearing-it clothes tomorrow but we'll see what we get out the other side of that.

PROMOTING my portfolio! Yay! It's finally finished, not totally done but it's ready for some of you select viewers to have a looksie at it and appreciate it or give me feedback. The About page needs to be rewritten, but apart from that it's quite complete and there's a lot of stuff on there I haven't shown on this blog, including my WD16 furniture set:

An experiment with forms in metal sheet, modelled in card and featuring a triangular bin from WD15. Also in my portfolio are my portraits from three posts earlier, JIS. medicine packaging, the sidemark (remember that?), Snowfall and my architecture MOCs. Go check it out.

PHOTOGRAPHING a bunch of irregular portrait stuff for my art GCSE. It's hard to keep track of but a few days ago I took a substantial photoshoot of my ever-so-willing friend in an empty car park at night. I also brought a bright LED lamp to illuminate him like those indie photos of crazy parties, and even if the non-lit photos come out all underexposed, the lot ones will hopefully come out well. I also whacked my head on the camera when some policemen walked by. Awkward moment. Other than that, expect those photos very soon! Or at least as soon as Bogusprint - oops, sorry, Bonusprint get them back to me.

Laters, guys. I've got some badass Minecrafting to do on this free evening.