Penguin Books recently challenged United Kingdom college students to "design a fresh and bold new look" for Donna Tartt's 1992 hit novel The Secret History. Their mission: to create a striking, imaginative cover design that would bring the cult classic to a new generation of readers. A panel of publishers, designers, and one design enthusiast (novelist Hari Kunzru) selected a winner in Peter Adlington, whose abstract cover design recalls the work of Saul Bass. Alas, Adlington's design won't be produced, but he does get £1,000 (around $1,600) and a six-week internship at Penguin's London design studio. Judge the top contenders and shortlisted designs for yourself at the Penguin Design Award Web site.
Do you find your cell phone's immutable display typeface blocky and depressing? Try FlipFont, a new application that offers downloadable, mobile phone-optimized fonts to replace the default factory-installed lettering that kills your design mojo a bit more with every SMS message. Developed by Monotype Imaging (home to the Monotype, Linotype, and ITC type foundries), FlipFont offers a growing menu of scalable fonts, from Dennis Pasternak's ITC Stylus (based on freehand architectural lettering) to the robust Musclehead -- or, kick it old-school with Dom Casual or Zapf Chancery. For those inclined to typographical restlessness, the application also includes a utility that allows users to 'flip' to use a different font, or access additional fonts that can be previewed, licensed, and downloaded. To check if the service is available on your phone, point your phone’s browser to http://www.flipfont.mobi, and we’ll catch you on the flipside.
Since its last redesign more than a decade ago, the government-issued “Choking Victim” poster has adorned the walls of New York City restaurants with scenes of a faceless blue duo safely performing the Heimlich maneuver in a Constructivist swirl of step-by-step instructions offering guidance on “how to dislodge food from a choking person.” Brooklyn artist Alex Holden has taken it upon himself to freshen up the ubiquitous poster, softening the didactic graphics and primary colors with a comic strip-style take in a soothing blue and white palette. His reimagined “Choking Victim” poster contains all the same life-saving information, but sets the choking scene at a beachside resort, where members of an upscale crowd (one collapsed, one standing and wearing a fedora) thwart death among the palm trees and festive party lanterns. Holden’s poster has already been adopted by several more aesthetically astute restaurateurs, who presumably find his version of the standard sign easier to swallow
Make room on your summer reading list for more Seymour—Chwast, that is. The famed illustrator, designer, and co-founder of Push Pin Studios is the subject of a new book that collects some of his greatest pop culture hits commissioned for publications and advertisements, alongside examples of personal work, paintings, and sculpture. With chapters ranging from “Used Cars” and “Mexican Wrestlers,” to “Unreadable Diagrams & Charts” and “Monkeys All Over,” Seymour: The Obsessive Images of Seymour Chwast (Chronicle) is sure to become an inspirational touchstone of any design library. “No one can argue with [Chwast's] influence on illustration or his breakthroughs in design,” notes Steven Heller, who penned the book’s introduction. “His palette and design forms were new wave when most new wavers were still fingerpainting.”
Want to spend a day at the beach with Ed Ruscha, Raymond Pettibon, Karen Kilimnik, or Julian Schnabel? (We do!) Now you can, thanks to a new series of beach towels from the Art Production Fund’s Works on Whatever (WOW), a collection of artist-designed everyday items. In a towel that reproduces his signature broad strokes of color over a vintage map of Martinique, Schnabel’s love of maps translates well to terry cloth, while Kilimnik gets into the swim of things with a beneath-the-sea tableau of starfish, shells, and seahorses. Pettibon’s towel references one of his favorite themes—surfing—and adds a meta twist: a line of text hovering over a surfer astride a giant wave that reads, “Later he could be seen in the beach parking lot, behind his van, a towel wrapped around his middle, changing out of his wet summer suit.”
Our favorite newcomer on the online art gallery scene: Wall Blank. Operating out of “an awesome old brewery on the river” in Rockford, Illinois, the pared-down site features a new limited-edition work of art every weekday. Wall Blank's curatorial team has already revealed a sharp eye for street photography, typographical experiments, and old-school illustration as well as a commitment to giving back: On “No Profit Fridays,” 100 percent of the proceeds from the print released that Friday go to a nonprofit cause. The secret to scoring a $14 print by the next Cindy Sherman? Acting fast: works featured on Wall Blank are all limited editions, available a mere seven days, or until they sell out.
Polaroid’s decision last year to discontinue its instant photography products has led to more than widespread film hoarding. We’ve also noticed a swell of nostalgia for the distinctive look of the company’s photos, tucked inside their ever-present white frames and immune to the magic of Photoshop. Even the digital realm that sped the death of instant photography is getting in on the nostalgic act, furnishing a range of standalone tools that allow users to “Polaroidize” any photo. Our favorite: Poladroid, an easy-to-use application that allows users to create high-resolution, pseudo Polaroids from digital photos. The program comes complete with Polaroid sound effects and quirks: Sessions are limited to 10 images (just like a Polaroid film cassette), and the resulting images contain “random and realistic Polaroid-like color variation.” Picture imperfect.
Loads of "experts" send us trend reports, and most of them go right in the trash along with all the press releases from people who think they've reinvented branding. But Razorfish's Digital Outlook Report won over our cynical hearts with its depth and shrewd analysis. Read up on everything from the future of TV and mobile marketing to a phenomenon the company dubs Social Influence Marketing. You'll find contributions from movers and shakers at Google, Comcast, Microsoft and more. Just be prepared to put on your reading glasses: This text-heavy experience is worth the effort.
The World Press Photo winners' gallery showcases the best photojournalism of 2008, but it also presses pause at the exact moments when history was made. You'll find Barack Obama sneaking in chin-ups on the campaign trail, Usain Bolt breaking a world record at the Olympics and Chinese citizens making due in post-earthquake rubble. With a mix of single shots and photo stories, this stunning time capsule doubles as a master class in visual storytelling, with techniques that might apply just as well to a brochure or website.
Most magazines are filled with images so slick you might have trouble holding onto the pages. But I Heart Magazine takes the opposite approach, featuring street photography that's authentic, surprising and even downright peculiar. In the debut issue, there are 88 candid black-and-white images culled from 25,000 submissions. People rein supreme in these pages, whether they're in the middle of a backflip or holding impromptu band practice on the sidewalk. The experience crossbreeds the voyeuristic pleasure of Found magazine with the talent of the legendary Weegee.