Want a writing utensil that can help you beat the heat? Look no further than the Museum of Modern Art, which is doing a brisk summer business in fan pens. Emblazoned with the MoMA logo, each cherry red retractable ballpoint pen is tipped with a battery-operated fan. The museum's store describes the fan as "finger-safe" and includes an AAA battery with each pen. At the push of a button, whatever you're writing or drawing becomes instantly cooler.
This Sunday marks the return of Mad Men, AMC's provocative drama of 1960s Madison Avenue, and with it fresh fodder for Dyna Moe. The New York-based illustrator and designer is the creator of Mad Men Illustrated, a delightful series of drawings, desktop wallpapers, and iPhone backgrounds inspired by scenes from the show and her own cache of period advertisements. "I'm emulating illustrators Aurelius Battaglia, Alice and Martin Provensen, Art Seiden, and J. P. Miller, who did illustration and commercial art during the era the show is set," notes Dyna Moe, whose foray into Mad Men illustration came when actor Rich Sommer (who plays Harry Crane) asked her to whip up a Christmas card to the show's cast and crew. "The show is famous for its meticulousness, and I try to reflect that in the simple cartoony way that I draw."
Visionary architect Le Corbusier preferred drawing to talking: "Drawing is faster," he said. "And leaves less room for lies." Now, paint purists everywhere can adhere to his prescribed color palettes, selected to complement or contrast with white or natural materials. kt.COLOR, the Swiss specialty paint manufacturer that brought you Yves Klein blue in a can, also produces handmade paints in 63 colors licensed from Fondation le Corbusier. Choose from two palettes: LC 32 is a collection of 43 pastels from the monochrome Salubra wallpaper collection of 1930, and LC 43 is a powerful pack of 20 colors introduced in the 1950s to play off materials such as lime plaster, raw concrete, and wood. If the prospect of Veronese Green and Bright Orange is too overwhelming, fear not -- Kt.COLOR also offers a collection of 17 "Variations on White."
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.