January 10, 2010

Design Feast Highlights of 2009

Like all years, 2009 witnessed a tremendous pace and work of creativity. The picks below are my selected highlights of people, places and things proved most memorable for me. Some did not actually take place last year, but were discovered then. And I enjoyed revisiting them again and again:

To echo my first highlight of 2008, I commend everyone who is Remembering The Golden Rule, highlighted by Nancy Lyons of the Geek Girls Guide, and Getting Lusty With Their Work, highlighted by “instigator” Dyana Valentine, in these tough times.

Jason Fried Interviewed by Chicago Booth School of Business Professors and Students
37signals Co-Founder’s talk about “executing the basics flawlessly” and “learning to charge at the start” was free of the jargon that convolutes business conversations and writing. The lessons that Jason offers on making, writing and hiring reflect the timeless qualities of simplicity, brevity and curiosity. Best of all, they are expressed in a plain way that is refreshing. Jason’s clear-cut presentation reminded me of the clear-cut principles in the book Why Business People Speak Like Idiots: A Bullfighter’s Guide.

Sortfolio formerly Haystack
In the spirit of 2008’s highlight of CollabFinder, where designers can find web developers and vice versa, Haystack launched in October of 2009. It’s another good way to discover and locate a web design/development person or firm to help realize your web-based projects. Too bad that Haystack was renamed Sortfolio.

One overly abused statement is “Print is Dead.” Design blog and studio Swissmiss asked her readers for recommendations to do a small run of letterpress cards. The answers shout big admiration for the beautiful process and effect of printing. Communities like Briar Press help ensure that letterpress-era equipment and the art of fine printing remain preserved and open.

Crush It!
Like a lot of people, I picked up a copy of the book by Wine Library TV’s Gary Vaynerchuck. It’s a short read but packed with the must-have ingredient in making work and play the same thing: Passion.

The Difference Engine
Before the digital computer OS, there was mathematician, philosopher and mechanical engineer Charles Babbage’s Difference Engine, the first mechanical calculator. Its impressive function of 8,000 moving parts matches its appealing form. Then there is the timely connection with the world’s first woman programmer Ada Lovelace. Not simply based on a true story, it indeed is a true story, one of mechanical beauty, by design.

Trussart Steel Guitars
Speaking of mechanical beauty, musician and luthier James Trussart has pushed the guitar-envelope. His custom guitars are made of an unorthodox material in steel. Each takes two laborious weeks to make and only 300 are made. The result is a coveted object whose look and tone are richly tuned.

Teux Deux
Tina Roth Eisenberg’s launch of her take on the to-do list further demonstrates the sublime order of typographic elements applied to an interface toward getting things done. It also demonstrates the collaborative potential of people who are close by. The webapp was co-developed by Cameron Koczon who is Tina’s studio mate. Wondering if the semiotician and author Umberto Eco, whose latest book is about the The Infinity of Lists, uses Teux Deux.

Grain Edit’s and Lettercult’s Interviews
At blog Grain Edit, Dave Cuzner’s growing list of featured meetings and studio visits with illustrators, letterers and graphic designers offers a motivational perspective about visible language. And the letterform factor, in all its varietals, is well served with visits to type designers and their worlds by Brian Jaramillo and Ray Frenden of blog Lettercult.

Cody Hudson
I’m fascinated with the playful graphics of this Chicago-based artist whose studio is struggle, inc. Cody infuses urban wit and grit into a wide net of visual media, like skateboards, wallpaper and posters. Cody’s distinct sensibilities are also a part of refreshing the experience of an old Chicago neighborhood inn, which is equally bold and fun like his visual work.

Of course, this list isn’t complete. These wonderful works were memorable to me. What are your Design Highlights of 2009?

As you recall your highlights: Thanks for visiting and reading, and here’s to an excellent new year of designing!