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After two years of renovations, the Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery has finally opened with its debut show WONDER. And it delivers. Each room within the two-story gallery was given over to an artist to explore the subject through installation—Jennifer Angus, Chakaia Booker, Gabriel Dawe, Tara Donovan, Patrick Dougherty, Janet Echelman, John Grade, Maya Lin, and Leo Villareal. While each artist based their installations off a single material—thread, tires, twigs, net, marbles, or bugs, to name a few—walking from one room to the next is quite a unique experience.

Always a sucker for color, my personal favorite was Gabriel Dawe’s installation with colored thread. Walking through the installation while gazing in different directions leaves you feeling like you’re surrounded by a surreal rainbow mist. I could not get enough of this one—it was truly memorizing and each and every room was not to be missed. Anyone lucky enough to be in the DC area now through May 8, 2016 should plan a detour to the Renwick. Read more about the gallery and exhibit here.

Cars of the Not-So-Distant Future


By now, most of us have seen the prototypes of the sleek and friendly self driving cars from Google (and if you haven’t, here are some nice video snapshots). There are also the models that are relatively indistinguishable from their manufacturers’ current lines—like the BMW and Audi models. Still exciting—but there are a slew of other self-driving cars being developed out there that have a completely different look, feel, and concept. First, the Chevrolet FNR concept is pretty much a real-life Batmobile. Then there’s the Mercedes-Benz luxury model called the F 015, whose interior looks more like a sci-fi living room than a car. And this is just the beginning. Over the next decade or so, we’ll be able to watch our perception of what a car is flipped on its head.

There are a range of semi-autonomous cars already on the market today, like the S-Class Mercedes with its Attention Assistance function or the new Ford models that will parallel park themselves. But when can we expect to see these cars of the future speeding past us? The optimists say as early as 2 to 5 years, but most predictions fall within the 10 to 15 year range.

Top 5 Holiday Gifts for the Designer in Your Life

If there is one thing that all designers have in common, it is this: we appreciate beautiful things. But it can be hard to pick out the perfect holiday gift for the astute and discerning tastes of your designer loved ones. Tired of settling on replenishing their year supply of band aids? (Although, we likely have used up all our band aids, no-thanks to those Xactos…) We’ve compiled a list of gifts that will make your holiday shopping a little easier—and it’s sure to get an official approval from each and every one of us. read on

Bank Notes of the Sea



Norges Bank (The Central Bank of Norway) has selected two design firms among the many hopefuls to complete the redesign of Norway’s new bank notes. Designing new currency is, arguably, one of the most daunting tasks that a design team could take on. However, unlike other countries that have failed time and again (cough), Norway’s new currency is as beautiful as it is practical. Norges Bank stipulated that the designs must be based on an element ubiquitous with Norway’s national identity—the sea—with each denomination given a specific sub-theme and color palette based on the current bills. The front of the bank notes will be based on designs by The Metric System (“The Living Spaces”), and the back based on designs by Snøhetta (“The Beauty of Boundaries”). As the designs will change somewhat before they are released (as the security elements are more meticulously worked in), it will be interesting to see how the two selected designs will merge together to form one currency system. The new bank notes are scheduled to go into circulation in 2017.

(See the designs of all 8 finalists here.)

Beauty and Brains—In One Package


Learning about the Swedish-based packaging and product design firm Tomorrow Machine’s set of sustainable food packaging truly feels like you are glimpsing into the refrigerator (machine?) of tomorrow. Sure, they’re beautiful, but don’t be fooled—the packages are just as smart and incredibly innovative. The firm’s mission is simple: to create a better world through sustainable products. The photograph above shows their beverage container (made entirely from agar-agar seaweed and water) built for drinks with a short shelf life (milk, smoothies, etc). As the contents within degrade and become less fresh, so does the packaging itself—letting you know exactly how fresh your drink is. They’ve also developed a container for oil or oil based food made entirely of carmelized sugar and wax, as well as a rice package made from just beeswax and soy ink. It’s no wonder their work won the 2013 Dieline Packaging Design Awards. Check out all 5 package designs as part of this set on their portfolio site or on The Dieline. read on

Food Pairings


Poking around the internet for inspiration, I recently came across the brilliant work of Minneapolis-based creative David Schwen. If you’re a designer/illustrator browsing his work, there’s guaranteed to be at least one I-wish-I’d-thought-of-that moment. One series in particular caught my eye: “Food Art Pairings.” It is so simple and yet so clever. Looking through his classic food-combos-turned-color-combos is a fun, delightful experience. Check out the whole series at www.dschwen.com/Food-Art-Pairings.

The Art of Clean Up


For those of us who have a tendency to be a bit anal-retentive, Ursus Wehrli’s art might really hit the spot. He finds objects that aren’t typically considered to be in disarray, and, for lack of a better term, tidies them up. The part experimental artist, part comedian first went down this road when he came across a modernist painting made up of different colored blocks. Wehrli decided to tidy up the painting by grouping the blue squares together, the green squares together, and so on. This eventually led to his first book, Tidying Up Art, which is just what it promises. (His TedTalk on the book is not only interesting and engaging, but also quite funny.) Wehrli’s second book, The Art of Clean Up: Life Made Neat and Tidy extends into many other arenas.

read on



Photographer Peter Bialobrzeski’s series, Neontiger, is soft and beautiful—set within a dream-like, surreal, light atmosphere—but after a longer look, something unsettling begins to sink in. Represented within this series are the Asian cities of Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Jakarta, Singapore, and Shenzhen. The photographs were shot at dusk and use long exposure to draw out the abundance of neon lights in the crowded cityscapes. The series seems to show a certain conflict between the old and the new—the new taking a startling dominance.

View the full collection at www.bialobrzeski.de.

Architecture of Density


After eight years of living and working in Hong Kong, photographer Michael Wolf began to explore the city through a different lens. He captures an element of Hong Kong that he describes as absent in the cities of his native Germany, the rest of Europe, and the United States: density. Wolf is able to make undoctored photographs of Hong Kong look like they are purely abstract art. By merely cropping out the ground and the sky, these giant buildings start to appear as if they have no beginning or end—speaking to the overpopulation and consequential living conditions of these Asian megacities. He tells The New Republic: “From far away they could really be a pattern, a tapestry, and then when you get closer you suddenly see there are people living there, it’s this duality which makes them interesting.” The result is powerful and thought-provoking. View the entire collection on his website.

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