Category: Design

The $2,850 crayon set


I’m hoping to get this as a gift over the holiday period, but I doubt that I will.

“KARLBOX” was designed by Karl Lagerfeld, and contains 350 Faber-Castell drawing and painting items in a beautiful black wooden cabinet, arranged in removable drawers by color. It was produced in a limited edition of 2,500.

Buy one at the MoMA store:

KARLBOX website:

This post is a companion to an earlier one about the $1,280 paintbrush:

Next post: January 8. I’m taking a rest from blogging. Thanks for following. Enjoy the holidays!

Eight by Eight: Issue 12


Time for another issue of Eight by Eight magazine, full of great content for the football (soccer) fan. Design and illustration of peerless quality is expected now, and here it comes. Below, some spreads from the issue. Subscribe here:

Below is a very big bar chart about the best supported teams in Europe that I put together for this issue. (A thank you to the super-talented Grace Lee for design improvements.)

Professor Grimwade, from the University of Eight by Eight, doing his teaching thing. Pay attention, no cheating!

Aerial visions


With their straight-down viewpoints that create almost two-dimensional scenes, Bernhard’s photographs reveal surprising insights about our effect on the planet. Above, Adria, an Italian beach resort. Below, fish farms in Greece.

Suburban houses in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany.

The “Mar de Plástico,” a massive greenhouse complex in southeastern Spain.

Rowers near Munich, Germany.

Industrial storage in North Rhine-Westphalia.

Miami, Florida.

A marble quarry in Carrara, Italy.

Tulip fields in the Netherlands.

See many more images on Bernhard’s website:



All photographs © Bernhard Lang.

Color wheels


Above,“Farbkreis” from “The Art of Color” (1961), by Johannes Itten, a Swiss painter and theorist who taught at the Bauhaus. This 12-hue circle is made up of three primary, three secondary and six tertiary colors.

“The Color Star” (1986) has eight disks with cut-outs that can be rotated over Itten’s star to compare colors.

Now we have so many excellent digital color aids, like Adobe Color:

But… I still remember art theory classes way back in art college. They were not that easy (we used to moan about them), but in retrospect, it was important knowledge. The basic concepts: primary, secondary, and tertiary colors (primary and secondary mixed). Hue, saturation, temperature, and so on. I know I sound like a dinosaur (and I do certainly fit that description), but I wish my students had a color theory class. These are valuable lessons to learn.

Color Wheel 101: Complimentary colors are opposite each other. Analagous colors are next to each other. White, which represents all color, is in the center.

Some historical examples:

From “The Natural System of Colors” by Moses Harris, 1776.

From “Theory of Colors” by Johann Wolfgang von Geothe,1810.

From “The Principles of Harmony and Contrast of Colors” by Michel Chevreul, 1839. A 72-part circle.

“Color Panel” by Wilhelm von Bezold from “The Theory of Colors in Arts and Crafts,” 1874.

There are many online color wheels like this one, in RGB:

And analog ones are available, like this:

A previous post about the color books used to choose CMYK colors in the pre-computer era:



Above, a promotional piece for Lexon, a creative printing company. (Graphic design by Bigwave Media. Image courtesy of Highcon.)

Peter starts working with rough prototypes as he develops these precise folding designs. “Don’t give up if you fail. I fail a lot of times.”
And it’s all about the reveal of the design: “I’m most interested in the movement. Make the movement the beautiful thing. I call it the magical moment.”

Below, six personal projects.

Flower & Crystal. The client was Highcon for the trade show Print China 2015.

A color version for the trade show DRUPA 2016 in Düsseldorf.

Also for Highcon.

For Volksbank Vorarlberg.

“For Iggesund Paperboard, I created a greeting card, which is also a foldable decoration. It can be used to create thousands of different snowflake images. In total, 44,716 different snowflakes. (If you are interested in the mathematics behind this project, you can download a PDF file with the exact calculations here:”

Peter’s website has many examples, and tutorials if you want to try making something yourself:

A video interview:

Visual Conceit


We’re very fortunate that our Knight Fellow for this academic year is Adonis Durado, who’s design and infographics work at the Times of Oman, and several other publications, is widely admired. He currently has a terrific exhibition in our gallery called “Visual Conceit.” Here’s some examples from the show, along with his comments. The selection here has an infographic bias that does not reflect the balance of the show, and of course that’s because it’s on this particular blog.

Adonis is talking about his work on Wednesday in our auditorium (poster shown above). This is a terrific opportunity for our students to learn from a world-class designer.


Mega-debt “My conceit here is to use the bars in the chart as body text columns, giving the page an organic or architectonic quality. It’s possible to read the article and the graphic at the same time. This is arguably the biggest bar chart ever published in a newspaper.”

Boxing matchup “This preview presents, at actual scale, the height difference between the two boxers, which is shown as a white strip that runs across the spread. Height difference matters because a taller boxer has longer limbs, giving him a reach advantage.”

Olympic records “An infographic about the record-breaking history of the Olympic long jump and high jump. To add fun and interactivity, I invited readers to cut up the page and transform it into a measuring tape, then see for themselves if they can jump like a pro.” (Click on the image to see a detail.)

World Cup insights “A series of infographics that were published in the back of our World Cup supplement. In this section, called “Parting Shot,” we tried visualizing content that is considered non-serious or off-beat.”

The Oscars “A series of infographics published daily leading up to the Academy Awards ceremony. I employed a variety of conceits for each category page. For example, in “The Best Picture,” I asked myself: Would it be possible to make the graph’s color legend the most dominant element of a page? The legend is a discreet element in all graphics, but not in this case.”

Soccer discipline “Another World Cup graphic. I began the design by considering if it’s possible to visualize a dataset that can occupy the entire issue of the magazine. These are all the red card and yellow cards issued during the tournament.”

The first spread (rotated).


Danish banking “This page started with the conceit of “type attack,” where the headline serves as the dominant element of a page (or the text becomes art in itself). I ended up deconstructing the body text as well, and came up with a treatment that mimics the concept of intertextuality. Notice that the lead paragraph contains keywords that link to pieces of related information.”

Gallery space “My solution to a challenge that I set myself: Is it possible to design a page where the white space is an illustration in itself, and is an element that will help visualize a story?”

India by train “Perhaps here I was just too tired of the regular Q&A format. This playful treatment defies convention, and I even let the headline and the intro merge into each other.”

The poster for the gallery show.


Fernando Baptista in Ohio


Last week, Fernando Baptista visited Ohio University. He gave a presentation to a packed auditorium, and the following day he began a two-day workshop for twenty students from the School of Art + Design and the School of Visual Communication. The group used the same methods that Fernando uses to make his superb illustrations for National Geographic magazine. Undergraduates and graduates worked together in a studio that is used for art and design classes. Countries (apart from the U.S.) that were represented: China, India, Iran, the Philippines and Spain.
Photograph above by Kisha Ravi (a VisCom photojournalism student).

Day One The reference material. Students chose one of four subjects: mammoth, sperm whale, dodo or triceratops.

The equipment. Notice the figure from an animation about Trajan’s Column, who happens to be on the table. See the video here:

Fernando explains his process. Like all great professionals, he’s keen to share the lessons he’s learned during his career.

The first stage was to rough out ideas for an infographic. One student’s plans for a sperm whale graphic.

A wire armature was made to closely match the skeleton of the animal. In this case, a triceratops.

Aluminum foil was used to fill out the form (here, a dodo) before layers of Super Sculpey, a polymer modeling clay, were applied.

Adonis Durado, who was making a video of the workshop, modeling an impromptu portrait of Fernando.

At the end of the first day, the creatures were really starting to take shape. I don’t often see a table of dodos on the campus.

Day Two Refining the models. Adding the fine detail needed some serious concentration.

Small parts, like teeth and horns, were placed into a toaster oven to make them firmer, and easier to apply to the sculpture. The complete model would be hardened later this way.

Fernando showing how to use natural light to bring form and effect to a sculpture.

Photograph by Kisha Ravi.

A painted background, and some crumpled paper that will later become a rocky area in Photoshop.

Fernando tells us how a stop-motion animation of a whale can be created with simple paper shapes.

Students watch the master using his painting technique. There wasn’t enough time to paint the models, but color will be applied, either manually or in Photoshop, after the workshop. Several students told me that they intend to carry on with the projects, and develop them for their portfolios.

Photograph by Kisha Ravi.

Starting to build a computer version of an infographic.

The workshop was a huge success. In no small part because Fernando put enormous effort into working with each student to help them move forward. It was tiring for me just to watch him assisting all those students for hour after hour. Thank you, Fernando!

Photograph by Kisha Ravi.

My overall impression: This is one of the best creative experiences we’ve ever offered our students. Fernando is a craftsman with a passion for information and explanation. And one of the nicest people in our entire field.

The School of Visual Communication:
The School of Art + Design:

VisCom on Instagram:
Kisha Ravi on Instagram:



There are countless signs in the U.S. National Highway System, and the typeface that is used on them is the subject of a long-running argument about the attributes of two informational fonts.

Typeface upgrade In the 1990s, Clearview (or ClearviewHwy) was designed to replace the existing road sign typeface, the Standard Highway Alphabet (or Highway Gothic). That font dates from the 1940s. Initial testing showed Clearview to be 2 to 8 percent more legible. A later test showed an improvement of as much as 12 percent. Unfortunately, further testing suggested that it might not be as effective at night as the original signs, despite the fact that a goal of the new design was to reduce excessive glow on reflective signs.

Upper and lower The existing road sign typefaces were used in a system where originally almost every word was capitalized. Clearview was designed to address the use of uppercase and lowercase characters with larger counter spaces and increased x-height. The space inside letters like “e,” “a” and “d” is much larger. The overall effect is intended to be increased legibility. Below, Highway Gothic and Clearview alphabets compared.

On and off In 2004, Clearview was provisionally approved by the Federal Highway Administration for use on positive signs (light characters on a dark background). But it was never approved for black on a light background, although some agencies used it this way. By 2014, there was a government-level move to stop using it, and by 2016 it was deauthorized. However, a bill was introduced in April this year asking Congress to approve Clearview for positive contrast signs.

In 2011, Clearview became the first digital font to be made part of the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. It has had some non-highway use, such as AT&T corporate applications and advertising, and signs at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.

Mixed signage Some states use Clearview and some states don’t. Ohio, where I live, had switched a lot of signs to Clearview, and now it’s started switching back to Highway Gothic (a process that will take decades). Many states have some signs in each font, due to the replacement of signs during different stages of the Clearview approval/non-approval process.

Money Clearview, unlike Highway Gothic, is not free. It’s licensed to state agencies. Is this a factor in it’s difficult path to acceptance? It’s been suggested that it might be the case.

Clearview was designed by Meeker & Associates and Terminal Design:




Space master Felice Varini creates geometric images, in public spaces, that defy our visual logic. His team uses a projector and stencils to painstakingly put each distorted component in the correct place. When viewed from a precise position, it all locks together for a spectacular effect. This example was installed on the Grand Palais in Paris.

The same squares
A and B are identical. It’s all a matter of contrast.

Old favorite We all know this kind of image. Two faces or a white vase?

Strangely transfixing.

Not motion
 This is a static image. Where’s the Dramamine?

Dinner table
Everything appears to be sinking into the dining table with this completely flat placemat.

Illustrations that bend reality 
Below, by Robert Gonsalves.

An example of the very popular work of M.C. Escher.

Chalk artists know how to manipulate perspective. By Edgar Mueller.

Maze and labyrinth


Classic hedge maze The Longleat Maze in Wiltshire (England) has viewing bridges that give people an overview before they return to the pathways between tall hedges. Photograph by Niki Odolphie.

Definitions A maze has multiple entrances and exits, choices of direction, and dead-ends. A labyrinth has only one way in and one way out.

Garden labyrinth Below, the Edinburgh Labyrinth (Scotland) in George Square Gardens. Photograph by Di Williams.

World’s largest The Guinness Book of Records lists The Maze of Butterfly Lovers in Ningbo, China, as the largest permanent hedge maze, with a total path length of 8.38 km (5.2 miles). It opened in April this year. Designed by Adrian Fisher, it contains the shapes of two butterflies. Adrian has designed hundreds of mazes and puzzles (in various formats) all over the world. Image from Google Maps.

Labyrinth project
As a celebration of the 150th anniversary of the London Underground in 2013, Mark Wallinger created a unique enamel labyrinth for every one of the 270 stations. They’re a connection to the system’s history of classic graphic design, and reflect the idea of entering the labyrinth of walkways and tunnels that make up a journey.

Photograph by Jack Gordon.

All of them are photographed here: