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American Artifact

In 2004, Merle Becker quit her corporate television job at MTV to pursue a growing fascination with rock posters. Soon, she was traveling across the country interviewing artists such as Stanley Mouse, Art Chantry, and Tara McPherson. “My initial intent was to find out why so many artists are drawn to doing rock posters,” says Becker. “I also wanted to tell a clear story of the history of the art form.” The result is American Artifact, a documentary that has been making the festival rounds and premieres in New York and San Francisco later this month. The film chronicles the rise of American rock poster art, from the “skeleton and roses” posters created for the Grateful Dead and the birth of silk-screening to grunge and the off-kilter whimsy associated with contemporary bands. “It is my hope that this film causes people to see ‘lowbrow’ art in a different way,” notes Becker, “as beautiful pieces of art that are also valid statements about the cultural changes that America has seen throughout the years.”

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Ampersand Fans, Unite!

San Francisco-based graphic designer Stephen Gose has a thing for the ampersand. “I think it is often the most attractive character of them all,” notes Gose on his blog, The Ampersand. Created in May 2008 as an attempt “to give this humble ligature the respect it deserves,” the site is a chronicle of ampersand sightings, whether on signage, book covers, tote bags, jewelry, cookies, pet cemetery gravestones, or a polo shirt worn by a waiter in the Galapagos Islands. Photos snapped by Gose and submitted by readers from around the world reveal backwards ampersands, graffitti ampersands, treble clefs masquerading as ampersands, and permanent ampersands—the freshly inked “&” tattoos of die-hard fans.

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DIY Moleskine

Whether you’re entering a competition, sketching for a library of the future, or just taking notes, Moleskine has made it easier than ever to customize its notebooks. The company has developed MSK, a range of free online content that offers printable templates for contacts, calendars, and original associations of images and text—all in sizes designed for pasting into Moleskine notebooks. It’s a handy way to create and insert ruled pages, ensure that you have blank pages on hand, or even transfer your blog from digital to analog format. Select the “Wizard” tab to print out any blog post in MSK format.

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There's Nothing Funny About Design

Our highly unscientific survey of designers’ summer reading revealed rave reviews for David Barringer’s There’s Nothing Funny About Design (Princeton Architectural Press). In his first collection of essays, the writer and self-taught graphic designer takes on topics ranging from Chip Kidd and blood-soaked DVD cover art to his father’s business card collection and why drug names overdose on the letter “X.” The take-home message: there’s a whole lot that’s funny about design, including Barringer’s update of the Kubler-Ross Model, “Nine Emotions of the Working Designer,” which comes in the section of the book devoted to the business of design. “I used it as a funny way to advise young designers today, but I let the form evolve into something stranger, part fiction, part philosophy, some of it contradictory, poetic, satirical,” he said. “You should laugh at some parts, shake your head at others, but at some point nod and think, ‘Yes. Exactly.’”

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There's Nothing Funny About Design

Our highly unscientific survey of designers’ summer reading revealed rave reviews for David Barringer’s There’s Nothing Funny About Design (Princeton Architectural Press). In his first collection of essays, the writer and self-taught graphic designer takes on topics ranging from Chip Kidd and blood-soaked DVD cover art to his father’s business card collection and why drug names overdose on the letter “X.” The take-home message: there’s a whole lot that’s funny about design, including Barringer’s update of the Kubler-Ross Model, “Nine Emotions of the Working Designer,” which comes in the section of the book devoted to the business of design. “I used it as a funny way to advise young designers today, but I let the form evolve into something stranger, part fiction, part philosophy, some of it contradictory, poetic, satirical,” he said. “You should laugh at some parts, shake your head at others, but at some point nod and think, ‘Yes. Exactly.’”

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Comic Sans Relief

We find Comic Sans terribly depressing, but is there change afoot in the status of this typographical albatross? Signs of backlash to the graphic design community's longstanding Comic Sans disdain are evident in Veer's Comic Sans Love T-shirt. Created "to convey the mixed emotions Comic Sans evokes," the shirt features a detailed drawing of the human heart -- "ventricles, valves, and veins" -- comprised of letters set in various sizes of Comic Sans on a "snug-fitting" American Apparel T-shirt. Veer's pumping irony will set you back $22, a small price to pay to tell the world that you heart Comic Sans -- even if you hate it.

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Cool Tool

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.

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Cool Tool

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.

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Mad Men Illustrated

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."

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Color Yourself Corbusier

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."

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