Helvetica/Objectified/Urbanized cinematographer Luke Geissbühler is really a science geek at heart. He and his 5-year-old son Max, along with a few friends, made a homemade spacecraft out of a Thai food takeout container, outfitted it with an HD video camera and an iPhone, and a few weeks ago used a weather balloon to launch it into the stratosphere. Their amazing video of the project has now gone viral with millions of views, and he’s getting hounded by the media. On a recent filming trip to Europe for Urbanized, all anyone wanted to talk about was Luke’s spacecraft!
P.S. – Nice use of Helvetica for the titles, Luke…
Earlier this week I drove from Arkansas to North Carolina to attend the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, and made a stopover in Nashville. I had the pleasure of visiting the legendary letterpress shop of Hatch Show Print, talking with director Jim Sherraden, and getting a tour of the joint. If you’re not familiar with the press, they’ve been printing for over 100 years, and are most well-known for the show posters they created for early bluegrass and country musicians and venues around Nashville.
The lovely Michaela shows me a drawer of their huge collection of wood type.
A Wille Nelson poster in progress.
I bought a nice Johnny Cash poster and then hit the road again. You should definitely visit Hatch Show if you’re ever in Nashville. Thanks again to Jim and the staff there for taking the time to show me around.
“Documenting Design” L to R: Eames Demetrios, Doug Pray, Michael Bierut, Gary Hustwit
I’ve just returned from two weeks in Africa, partly to attend the fantastic Design Indaba conference in Cape Town. I was on a panel called “Documenting Design” along with my friend Doug Pray(Scratch, Art & Copy) and Eames Demetrios, filmmaker and grandson of Charles and Ray Eames. The conversation, which was moderated by designer and Helvetica show-stealer Michael Bierut, was too short! It was one of those situations where after 30 minutes I thought we were really getting into an interesting discussion about the creatives processes of designers, and our processes as filmmakers. After the panel, Eames, Doug and I sat down for the Design Indaba video crew and continued the discussion for another 45 minutes, so hopefully they’ll post that video on their site soon.
One of the most surreal moments of the conference happened during a dinner train trip the organizers had planned for all the speakers on the Blue Train. Along with dinner and drinks, there were blackjack tables in one car of the train where guests could partake in some play money gaming. Being a man who loves his cards, I joined in, but suddenly found myself sharing a blackjack table with Martha Stewart. She may know paint chips, but she don’t know blackjack. When she hit a 14 against the dealers 6, I was like, “Martha, Martha, Martha…” shaking my head. Somehow she ended up winning though… go figure.
I also presented screenings of Helvetica and Objectified, the first time the films had been shown publicly in South Africa. Thanks to everyone who came out to the shows, and special thanks to the Design Indaba team for such a great experience.
I’ve got two new One Laptop Per Child XO laptops that I’d like to donate to a worthy school or organization. Who should I donate them to? These machines would probably be most useful to children of elementary school age. Give me some suggestions!
Panel discussion after the Rio de Janeiro screening.
I can now scratch another country of my “never been there” list: Brazil. And what a trip it’s been, thanks to some incredible hosts: Billy Bacon, Leo Eyer, and all the people at WeDo Design and their new venture Bold.
The event in Rio de Janeiro was held at the Museum of Modern Art (MAM), which is an awesome space… I could write hundreds of pages about the architecture here. The screening was so packed that they set up an overflow space outside, with people sitting in lounge chairs, sipping cerveja and watching the movie with its new (we barely finished them before show time!) Portuguese subtitles. Great panel discussion afterwards, with a slant towards sustainability, which is something I’ve noticed at a lot of the Q&A’s.
While in Rio I also had the honor of visiting the studio of legendary architect and designer Sergio Rodrigues. See my blog post for more on Sergio.
On to Sao Paulo, which the New York Times described as “the ugliest, most dangerous city you’ll ever love.” While I think SP’s gotten much safer recently, it’s definitely an acquired taste. The traffic alone could drive you mad; our trip to the Instituto Tomie Ohtake, where the screening was being held, normally takes 10 minutes by car. But in Friday SP rush hour, it took an hour and a half! We were giddy with exhaust fumes by the time we made it there, but it ended up being another packed screening and great panel discussion afterwards.
Might as well jump (Jump!) at the Instituto Tomie Ohtake.
Overall I was really impressed by the design scene in both cities, and how the appreciation of design can be a universal language that bridges cultures. And you know what else is a bridge between cultures? Food! Suffice to say I’ve gained like 10 pounds since being here… the food is so good, and the restaurants stay open insanely late. I’ve had such an amazing time here in Brazil, I can’t squeeze it all into this post. Will write more soon!
While in Rio de Janeiro, I had the honor of visiting the studio of legendary Brazilian architect and designer Sergio Rodrigues. Sergio is probably most well-known outside Brazil for his chair designs, including his Mole (Poltrona, 1957) and Kilin chairs. [Lots of photos on his site, it's flash so I can't link to individual pages. And the "album" section only works in the Portuguese version.]
With Sergio and his wife.
Sergio examines the Objectified poster made by Bold for the events here.
I couldn’t leave Rio without snagging one of Sergio’s beautiful 1954 Mocho stools, below. Thanks to Sergio for having me over, and to the Bold guys for facilitating. Obrigado!
I visited Nike’s design labs here in Oregon yesterday. Coolest moment: getting digitized!
It’s just like Tron! Or that TV kid in Willy Wonka.
A Nike designer manipulates the 3D me.
Apparently I don’t need my left hand in digital land.
After I defeated the evil Master Control Program, I re-materialized and screened Objectified for Nike’s design staff. Thanks to Kim Lawrence, Cindy Kazanjian, Todd Van Horne, the folks in the Kitchen, the Pantry, and the Hive, and everyone at Nike for hosting me!
Designer Franco Clivio shows me his new book, “Hidden Forms”
Greetings from Zurich, where it was 80 degrees and sunny yesterday, and it actually hailed today! Despite the wild weather fluctuations, we had a wonderful screening last night at the Museum für Gestaltung, which is part of the Zürcher Hochschule der Künste. Great crowd, lots of students, and an after-drinks hosted by Helvetica film star and design publisher Lars Müller. Special thanks to Lars and Simone Wildhaber at the museum for all their help setting up the event.
This afternoon I visited the studio of designer Franco Clivio, who just released a book called Hidden Forms through Lars Müller’s publishing company. Franco’s an Ulm School alumnus and veteran product designer for Siemens and others. He also designed the Pico pens for Lamy. The book reveals the hidden qualities of simple, utilitarian objects, via Franco’s massive collection of anonymously-designed stuff. Highly recommended.
Franco also introduced me to his studio neighbor, Nik Schwabe. I’m not sure how to describe Nik… Franco just called him “crazy”. Suffice to say that he’s an 83-year-old Swiss artist working in visual phenomena: light effects, mirrors, visual projections, puzzles. While I was there, he performed on a Chladni Plate, a 17th Century sound device/scientific instrument that demonstrates how sound vibrations affect materials.
Here’s a short video clip of Nik bowing the Chladni Plate. Notice the sand grains on the plate rearranging into patterns from the different sound frequencies. I shot this on my little Leica still camera, so apologies for the picture/sound quality. At the end of the clip, Nik hits a frequency so high that I had to back away in pain… my ears are still ringing. An amazing afternoon!
So I just did the math, and so far on this tour I’ve done 37 events in 20 cities… so only 30 more cities to go! (Can’t believe I’m not even halfway through with this…) Onwards to London and a few nights at the Barbican Centre.
Gary Hustwit on making films about design: “I’ve found that most designers are incredibly skillful at explaining what they do to a non-designer, probably because they spend so much time justifying their work to clueless clients.” Read the full piece at Frieze.