Signs that Function

Trash can asking to be used.

Trash can asking to be used.

Warning sign, it's icy here.

Warning sign, it’s icy here.

No smoking, and put your butt somewhere sensible.

No smoking, and put your butt somewhere sensible.

Elevator, going down.

Elevator, going down.

A trash can begs you to use it—its mouth open wide—like a baby bird waiting to be fed. You can practically hear it whimpering. Objects that manage to illustrate their function will usually make me stop for a second look. I wonder whether the designer is using their medium to engage the audience. To whom do they imagine they are speaking? I try to picture that person.

I find the yellow it’s slippery here pilon to be more of a prophesy than a warning. First one exclamation mark, then another, then the slip—if you follow that vertical line, I think you could get quite dizzy, and fall.

The No Smoking sign with what looks to be tree branches growing from the man’s mouth is confusing. If you should not smoke, then why is there no X over the smoker? In fact, why not use an image of a man putting out his cigarette butt properly? The ashtray is just around the corner.

I actually quite like the Lift sign. First of all, I like the retro design of the female and male icons. Secondly, I really like the literal illustration of the elevator in motion. My only question is— going up, or going down? Because I think I want to go up!

The Bauhaus Archiv

Entrance to the Bauhaus Archiv.

Entrance to the Bauhaus Archiv.

The somewhat eerie Bauhaus Archiv in Berlin echoes with memories of its historic faculty and students. It houses a collection of the works and history of the school (1919–1933), and its design is based on founder, Walter Gropius’s original plans.

Bauhaus Archiv washroom sign.

Bauhaus Archiv washroom sign.

While the building did not exist during the actual Bauhaus years, small details, like the washroom signs, reflect the spirit of the era. The school, whose ideals included closing the gap between craftsman and artist, was not only a place of learning, but a complete lifestyle. On my visit there was a photo exhibit depicting the experimentation in the medium of photography, as well as a glimpse of the life they led.

  • Marianne Brandt‘s collage photos and commentary on the role of Bauhaus women.
  • Lucia Moholy was asked by Gropius to document the buildings.
  • My favourite, Lyonel Feininger experimented with photography with wonderful results.
  • Feininger’s son, T. Lux Feininger grew up at the Bauhaus, and took photos of daily life.
Poster Wall at the Bauhaus Archive.

Poster Wall at the Bauhaus Archive.

Eventually the Bauhaus was forced by the Nazis to close its doors, and the faculty and students dispersed throughout the world. With the completion of the archive in 1978 the collection has made its way to a central home.

The iPhone as Canvas

iPhone art.

iPhone photo manipulated with apps.

Almost as satisfying as finger painting, my latest art medium has been my iPhone. With a few choice apps, like Instagram or Snapseed you can turn your everyday photos into quite painterly moments, with an eager flock of critics ready to like—or not—your work.

Now anyone can be a self-appointed artist, #iphoneart is rather subjective. So I would like to introduce you to some true iArtists, whose work is outstanding considering their 3-1/2″ canvas.

Lynette Jackson was my first discovery in this emerging field. Her muted colour palette, geometric details, and seamless collage lie visually somewhere between Russian Constructivism (without the propaganda) and the Bauhaus.

Intrigued, I delved deeper into the iPhoneart tag on Instagram, and came upon:

  • kaphinga who creates virtual paintings from her shots of street performers in New Orleans.
  • nadyazhry whose influences I would guess may include David Carson, Neville Brody, Emigre Magazine and new wave album covers.
  • frozen_light—a “Composer of musics” and this you see in his work—airy, atmospheric, dreamy sci-fi scenes.

These are my top favourite artists. With mobile apps and the cloud developing at such a monumental speed, soon we can detach ourselves from our clunky desktops and create masterpieces with our fingertips. I am not kidding!

G is for Grownup

Giovane Cafe + Winebar, Vancouver

Graham tries his first cappuccino cup.

His small hands proudly clasping his cappuccino cup, Graham sips his drink and grins. I was at Giovane Cafe + Winebar with Graham and Susan, his mom, enjoying some brews. I had a latte, and Susan and Graham were sharing a hot chocolate. I had brought Graham a small cappuccino mug, the perfect size, so that he could drink from his own cup, and he really seemed to like this grownup ritual.

Giovane and Graham share the same initial g, and it was a very sweet moment with him and the cup that featured his letter. Lower case g is possibly the friendliest letter in the alphabet, especially the two-story version. Not everyone agrees. In her book I Wonder, Marian Bantjes writes that she finds this version a “baroque excess.” She prefers the single-story whose descender she calls “one of the greatest pleasures in life.” Well I think any version of g ranks up there in life’s pleasures.

The swirly capital version in The Alphabet by Alessandro Novelli is both divine, and ironic when you notice what his G illustrates. Illustrator Steve Mack seems to favour the one-story as well, as seen in his illustration “gum.”

The brand that is the alphabet has lived for centuries, and will continue on longer than Coca Cola. Along with the lower case g, its letters offer giggles, glee, and grandeur galore.