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Magic Potion

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Pantone Meets iPhone

While the iPhone isn’t yet available in a rainbow of colors, there’s an app for that! From color authority Pantone comes myPANTONE, now available for the iPhone or the iPod Touch, which allows users to capture, create, and share Pantone color palettes. On-the-go designers can snap an iPhone photo of whatever inspires them, use the app to instantly match the colors, and share their Pantone palettes in forms ranging from e-mailed color swatches to Facebook updates. Amaze your friends with your ability to identify 14-0848 Mimosa (Pantone’s 2009 “color of the year”) at fifty paces.

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3-D Histogram Maker

After a recent project had us overdosing on pie charts and line graphs, we found ourselves in a visual representation rut. Three-dimensional color histograms to the rescue! We owe it all to 3DHistogram.com, an open source web application that allows users to produce and model three-dimensional color histograms based on a supplied image. A project of Minneapolis-based Third Ave Design and its wind-powered servers, the application analyzes the distribution of colors in an uploaded image and renders the results in mesmerizing constellations of correspondingly hued 3D cubes. Betcha can’t make just one.

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Abandoned Polaroids

As of Wednesday, September 30, the last batches of Polaroid film passed the expiration date printed on their packages, but the products of this now defunct form of photography live on—online. Among the forums helping instant memories endure is Abandoned Polaroids, a Flickr pool that contains nearly 500 photos. Many of them are the work of Baltimore-based photographer Brian Hjärna, who has a keen eye for the dark beauty of old chairs and even older industrial machinery. Heavy on parched landscapes, roadside signage, and ramshackle interiors, this growing group of images is a hauntingly inspirational coffee table book waiting to happen.

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Symbols on Tape

Symbols, logos, and a whole lot of multi-colored masking tape are the preferred media of Swiss artist Nic Hess. Among his latest projects is a sprawling four-part installation on the walls of the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles. On view through November 5, “Automatic Crash Response” is a warped game of Chutes and Ladders that mixes expertly applied masking tape, whimsical drawings, and out-of-context corporate identities (is that the Geico mascot or just a sassy lizard?) from the lobby to the exit that leads to the parking garage. It’s up to the viewer to figure out how the stylized eagle head of the United States Postal Service relates to a giant hog in a shopping cart, a water-skier, and the logos of recently failed banks, stacked like dominoes near the main staircase. When it comes time to take down his installations, Hess likes to keep the used tape, squashing it into densely packed, colorful balls. “I like the idea that they are really heavy and round,” he explained at a recent lecture at the museum. “Because for me, that’s like the implosion of the drawing and of of this industrial material.”

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Candy Wrapper Museum

Mr. Big-Shag. Chomp. Betcha’ Life. Rambo Black Flak Bubble Gum. Nice Mice. The distinctive packaging of these candies and hundreds more might be lost to the ages if it weren’t for the Candy Wrapper Museum (CWM), a project of supreme sweet tooth Darlene Lacey. “I began collecting wrappers in 1977 with an eye toward the unusual, ironic, and aesthetic, although I also collected ‘classic’ but more mundane wrappers for posterity's sake,” she writes on the CWM website, which features highlights of her collection accompanied by witty captions. And while the wrappers endure, the candy itself doesn’t hold up so well. “One thing I learned the hard way is that no matter how chemically inert or unresembling food a candy product might be, it will eventually become molecularly unstable and turn into a hideous, sticky goo.”

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The Sketchbook Project

The Sketchbook Project is back. For its fourth incarnation, the Atlanta-based Art House Co-op is building a publicly accessible library of sketchbooks. Participants are asked to donate their finished sketchbooks to the project, which will be exhibited in galleries around the country beginning in December. Anyone can participate. Just sign up to receive a bar-coded Moleskine, fill it with art, mail it back, and you’re guaranteed a place in the collection. Each participant will be randomly assigned one of about 30 themes for his or her sketchbook. The ultimate goal of the project is to create a permanent collection that will be browsable by theme, media, or location. The organizers anticipate opening the permanent sketchbook library location next year. Ready to sketch your way to immortality? Sign up by October 1 to participate.

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Typeface Lift

Georgia and Verdana are getting a face lift. Commissioned by Microsoft in the mid-1990s as ideal for on-screen display, the typeface families were designed by Matthew Carter and hinted for screen legibility by Tom Rickner of Ascender Corporation. Now Carter, Ascender, and Font Bureau are working with Microsoft on a project to expand and enhance Georgia and Verdana for new applications, both on the screen and on the page. Look for new weights and widths as well as extended character sets. “The new additions to the font families are a natural and timely progression,” notes Carter. “They offer a wider range of typographic versatility… while remaining consistent with the originals.” The first of the new fonts is expected to be released early next year.

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Mark Your Territory

A new online database promises to help designers avoid cases of mistaken identity: The Identity Archives Project (IdAP) aims to be "the most complete online keyword-searchable database of logos and brand identity designs from around the world." Developed by San Francisco graphic designer Gabe Ruane, IdAP is a free resource that relies upon the contributions of designers and branding gurus. Active or antiquated logos, logotypes, icons, brand identities, brand marks, and corporate identities are all fair game, providing that they were approved by the client, have been used publicly, and are submitted by their creators. The key, however, is in the keywords, on which the value -- and searchability -- of the database will depend. Ruane advises those submitting designs to consider subjective and conceptual aspects, including the emotions a logo conveys, whether it's masculine or feminine, and what it represents. "Don't hold back!" He notes on the site. "The more info you can associate with the logo design, the better!"

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Art & Copy

Hate advertising? Make better ads. Filmmaker Doug Pray shows how it's done in the documentary Art & Copy. Now playing in select cities, the film spotlights influential advertising creatives such as George Lois, Mary Wells, Dan Wieden, and Lee Clow, and legendary campaigns, from "I Love NY" to "Got Milk?" But Art & Copy is no history lesson. "In my interviews, I stuck to emotions, creative motivation, and big-idea philosophies of the ad creatives rather than 'how-to' stories, industry-insider talk, or the politics of their clients' products, which is a different film altogether," notes Pray, who secured sponsorship from The One Club to realize the project. "By interviewing these icons, they became real for me, and I saw advertising as an art form with enormous potential -- when done well."

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Paper Cuts

Print may be dying, but paper endures, whether cut, torn, shredded, scribbled on, or sculpted into elaborate art installations. David Revere McFadden examines the medium's creative possibilities and artistic achievements in a new book, Slash: Paper Under the Knife, out next month from 5 Continents Editions. The lushly illustrated tome highlights the work of paper-loving artists such as Olafur Eliasson, who in 2006 reproduced a cross-section of his house (at a scale of 85:1) on 900 sheets of laser-cut paper in a sort of anti-pop-up book, and Kara Walker, whose painstaking paper cut-outs explore themes of race, gender, and the shadier side of American history. Don't bother looking for Slash in hardcover; naturally, it's available only in paperback.

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