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Paula Scher’s incredible murals at Queens Metropolitan Campus in Forest Hills, Queens, 2010.
Paula Scher MAPS
New York / Paris / London: Three Mini Journals
Developed in collaboration with legendary international design firm Pentagram (designed by Luke Hayman and his team), these three pocket-sized journals are decorated with partner Paula Scher’s obsessively detailed, highly personal city maps. Tuck these lightweight journals in your bag for your next journey, or simply use them to jot notes on the go. More info here.
For this installment of Five Things, we asked Christopher Bonanos, author of Instant: The Story of Polaroid, to share with us what’s on his mind lately.
1. The Panorama of New York City
The Panorama is a scale model of New York’s five boroughs—with every single building represented individually, complete with painted windows—at the Queens Museum of Art. It was built for the 1964–65 World’s Fair, and, all at once, it’s a legitimate urban-planning tool, a giant and loopy piece of mid-century kitsch, and a completely compelling art installation. My colleague Jerry Saltz once called it the greatest artwork ever made about the insane city where he and I live, and I completely agree with him. I try to get there every year or so, to commune with this crazy thing, and I’m overdue for another visit. Most touching detail: because it was last updated in the 1990s, the Twin Towers remain in place. The curators have draped them, to mark the loss.
2. Little Wonder: The Reader’s Digest and How It Grew,
by John Bainbridge
Bainbridge was a first-class New Yorker writer of long reported stories, and he’s half-forgotten today. He shouldn’t be: his book-length profile of Texas, “The Super-Americans,” is a remarkable piece of immersion journalism, and this little book from 1946 is even better: a snappy, occasionally snide, incredibly funny profile of DeWitt Wallace and the utterly square, utterly American magazine he had built into a multinational empire. I’d be happy to ever write anything as good as this little book.
3. Edward Burtynsky
I am a sucker for industrial photographs of all kinds—Charles Sheeler, the Bechers, Lewis Hine—and I can’t get enough of Burtynsky’s. He takes landscapes that have been (depending on your viewpoint) either destroyed or completely reimagined by technological change, and renders them in ways that are both abstractly beautiful and concretely terrifying. If I had to choose, I’d say his photographs of mining from a few years ago are my favorites, especially those rivers that run tangerine or bottle green, and seem to come from not our own activity but some deep, deep underworld.
4. How It’s Made
From a formal standpoint, this Canadian series (carried in the U.S. by the Science Channel) is the worst show on television. It’s stocked with bad punny narration, atrocious canned music, and a weird indirect scriptwriting style that constantly refers to a mysterious, unexplained “they.” Yet this little series of mini-documentaries—which simply amounts to three factory tours per episode, showing us how “they” make cellos, or fiberglass kayaks, or haggis—is weirdly watchable, maybe because seeing familiar stuff come out of assembly lines in neat little rows, flowing into crates and trucks, is just ridiculously soothing. When I can’t sleep, the worst show on television is also the best.
5. Make It Bigger
A shout-out here to a fellow Princeton Architectural Press author, Paula Scher, with whom I did an onstage Q&A the other day. To prepare, I logged some serious time with her not-quite-a-memoir-not-quite-a-design-textbook, which PAPress published in 2006. I loved it, not just for its insights into the way people respond to type design but also for its canny view of the business of design: Scher’s war stories of dumb bosses, tiresome clients, and navigating pecking orders are useful in many fields besides hers.
Designer Paula Scher (Pentagram) has been the graphic steward of The Public Theater since 1994, creating images that speak to contemporary audiences with emotional impact and appeal. Scher will discuss her creative process and lead visitors through an installation chronicling some of her most striking work.
The Public Theater
Sunday, October 21, 2:30pm
New York City
Tickets to this event are free but not available online.
Please call 212-967-7555 to reserve.
Her most recent book Paula Scher MAPS was published in 2011.
There are many levels of satisfaction that come from working at Princeton Architectural Press. In addition to working with an insanely talented group of people, there is the simple thrill and sense of pride that accompanies each new book that arrives from the printer. In spite of dummies, color lasers, PDFs, and paper and binding material samples, we really don’t know how a title is actually going to come out, so there’s always some nervous anticipation and, almost every time, elation that the finished book exceeds our highest expectations. It’s the thrill any maker, whether architect, chef, furniture maker, or craftsperson experiences when a project is finally complete. As much as we create these beautiful objects because we love them and believe in what they say, there’s another adrenaline rush that comes when the book finds its audience: gets reviewed, blogged or “tweeted” about, and, in the best of all possible worlds, flies off the shelf. There’s a kind of vindication here: we’re not simply making these handsome, interesting books for ourselves, there is, indeed, an audience for what we do, and sometimes a surprisingly large and enthusiastic one.
Louise Fili in conversation with Paula Scher
Type Directors Club, 09/13/12
Longtime friends and graphic design legends Louise Fili and Paula Scher finally got a chance to share the stage last night at the Type Directors Club in New York City. They talked and joked about overlapping histories, enigmatic art directors, and the satisfaction of taking on work you believe in. L’arte del Gelato was on hand, sweetening the evening for the large crowd (the event was sold out).
Louise Fili is principal of Louise Fili Ltd, specializing in food packaging and restaurant identities. Her lavish and elegant typography, often hand drawn, helps advertise and market such brands as Sarabeth’s, Bella Cucina, Jean-Georges, L’arte del Gelato, Good Housekeeping, and many others. Fili’s new monograph Elegantissima is now available. Paula Scher is a principal at Pentagram. Paula Scher MAPS, a collection of her large geographical paintings, is also available.
It’s a full of practical (“Sit down, shut up, go off-line.” — J.C. Herz, p.91), unexpected (“Check into an expensive hotel.” — Claire Dederer, p.33), and freeing (“Toss the file in the trash.” — Michael Cina, p.103) words of wisdom, at the heart of which is the reassuring notion that everyone (Christoph Niemann, Debbie Millman, Khoi Vinh, Mario Hugo, Jamie Lidell) gets creative block.
As it turns out, designing a book of advice from our own design heroes and colleagues (Paula Scher, Experimental Jetset, Project Projects, Nicholas Felton, Astrid Stavro) was itself a recipe for creative block — a task both exhilarating and horrifying enough to stop us cold in our tracks. Luckily, the problem was also the answer, and we turned to some of Breakthrough’s simplest advice to save us (“Casual drawing in public usually shakes something loose.” — The Heads of State, p.146).
Available September 2012.