“Wow, this might be hard to drive with such a huge, throbbing erection.”
– Sterling Archer, Jeu Monegasque
I sometimes think I missed my true calling in life – a designer. Maybe I should have studied the technical side of art, even if I think that mastering a discipline drives the fun out of it. What i mean is that art, aesthetics and design have a total fascination for me. I follow a lot of design blogs and websites on Facebook (one of my main reasons for still having an account is that Facebook can be turned into a sort of RSS feed) and I can’t get enough of design in every sense. I’ve been re-watching an old BBC4 series called The Genius of Design in preparation for the sequel, The Genius of Invention that will be starting soon. Anyway, good design really fires me up, so I thought I’d make a list of my favourite designs. I don’t really know why. Part of keeping a blog is filling it, I guess (shrugs).
It takes a special genius to design something that nobody ever notices. It’s one of those things I didn’t notice until I watched GoD. Then I started noticing pylons all over the place and thinking, “god, somebody had to actually sit down and pull that out of nowhere”. And they did – the Milliken Brothers designed the first British electricity pylon in 1928- somehow seamlessly pulling a design out of thin air that is at once light, materially cheap, flexible and strong. That’s real genius.
I don’t want to go on about this because I’ll start to sound like a trainspotter, but do me a favour – notice something like pylons and think, “somebody had to think of that”.
Sometimes I feel very stupid indeed.
Something else you don’t tend to notice – fonts. Everything has to be written down and every industry has standard fonts, which is a degree of togetherness I frankly find amazing. This particular font is more an example than anything, but it illustrates the Pylon thing pretty perfectly – universal, seen every day, but never noticed. the lead-in to this is pretty obvious – I’ve been studying for my theory test recently (passed, thanks for asking) and so I was staring blankly at the book, trying to remember what sign means there are Dreadful Spindly Killer Fish ahead, when it occurred to me that, dash it, somebody had to design this font so that people could read it, at speed, over long distances, in the dark, covered in snow, whatever. Which Jock Kinneir and Margaret Calvert did, like it was no big deal. They had to take the existing Llewellyn-Smith font, add a dash of Helvetica, a smidge of Gill Sans and more than a little Johnston Underground, and end up with a unique sans-serif font.
Is Jock Kinneir ever going to get a plaque? No, even though his designs, for Transport and Rail Alphabet, are some of the most-seen designs in history. Try to imagine having your greatest achievement seen by seventy million people every day and being unknown.
C’est la vie.
Let me start off by saying that I hate Apple and people who buy Macs are cowards and idiots – cowards because they’re too tragic to learn how a computer works, and idiots because they think a retina display and bright colours makes up for the fact it’s a Playskool computer. Do you know what Apple is? Apple is the dad who puts a child lock on the family PC so his son can’t look at porn. Apple says, straight up SAYS “this stuff is too technical for you, so here’s some widgets and buttons, ooh look, a spinny thing”. Apple thinks you’re a retard.
In fact, this gif expresses everything that’s true about Macs.
So what’s weird is that one of the great love affairs of my life is between me and my iPhone 4. I cannot get over how much I love it – and in no way, in no way is that love caused by the OS, which is the computer equivalent of a play-doh stamper.
It’s the design. No other smart-phone manufacturer, ever, ever, has put as much design genius into anything as much as Jonathan Ive put into the iPhone. and yeah, by the way Macboys, you have Jonathan Ive to thank for the fact that your Mac stuff looks like it came from space. Have you even heard of him? That’s how clueless you are.
I had to to take a break there while I smashed an iPad over a middle-aged woman’s head. Back to the phone. It’s made of glass! And aluminium! It does a million things (if you hack it)! When I look at it, I’m reminded vaguely of the first time I saw a naked lady. It’s like, everything fits, you know? V (for Vendetta) said that god was in the rain, but he’s not – he’s in sexy curves and bezels, and awesome motor cars (hence the Archer quote). And also boobs. Have some boobs, and marvel at the greatest designer ever – evolution.
Oh whatever go away
Converse All-Stars are maybe the least practical shoe after the stiletto heel. They’re porous, thin, light, have no insulation, and provide foot support. And I love them. I can’t wear anything else, ever again. They might be a stupid shoe, especially for the UK, (where on any given day they’ll be soaked with rain by lunchtime, covered in dust/crap/mud/cigarette ash/despair, start to smell like Cthulhu, and attract wasps) but I cannot get over how perfect they are. As a show. As a fashion thing. As whatever, pick a noun.
There’s a subtle kind of genius here, because design is supposed to accentuate use – form follows function and all that. Here that doesn’t happen, because Converse are absurdly comfortable, light, beautiful, and completely impractical as footware. It’s like somebody started with brightly-coloured canvas, white rubber and laces and thought, “what can I make out of these?”
Enough already. I love Converse because they’re antithetical – in a utilitarian world, shoes would be made out of leather, wood and steel, stretch with your foot and last your entire life, and everybody would wear the same style.
Or we can live in this world, wearing impractical and beautiful things. I love Century 21.
I think this article probably qualifies me as a hipster (weeps).