Mobile Lifestyle Products Inspired by Ancient Japanese Living

During Edo period Japan, fires frequently broke out, forcing citizens to quickly relocate their entire lives. But it wasn’t just fires. Situated on an active fault line and surrounded by sea, citizens of Japan were always aware of the imminent dangers posed by earthquakes and tsunamis, a mindset that led to the development of mobility […]

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Coke x Adobe x You: create an image using Coke’s brand assets for Tokyo 2020



The Coke x Adobe x You project was announced at the Adobe MAX conference in Las Vegas on Wednesday.

Coke and Adobe are inviting creatives to download Coke’s famous assets – including the Coca-Cola ribbon and Spencerian script font – from the website cokexadobexyou.com and create a Tokyo 2020-inspired image using Adobe creative tools.

Artwork created using Coke’s branding and uploaded to Behance, Instagram and Twitter using the hashtag #cokexadobexyou will be showcased in a gallery on the website. Creatives will be credited and captions will include links to their social media profiles or Behance portfolios.

Coke and Adobe invited 15 creatives to produce images for the project’s launch – including illustrator and lettering artist Birgit Palma and art director Kouhei Nakama.

Coke has promised to donate money to the Special Olympics for every submission it receives up to the value of $30,000.

Adobe often sets challenges for its creative community in partnership with brands – “With this collaboration, we’re pleased to bring Adobe’s global creative community together for the opportunity to participate in a brief with an influential brand,” says Jamie Myrold, VP of Design at Adobe.

James Sommerville, VP of Global Design at The Coca-Cola Company, says the project is open to everyone “whether you’re an established pro or an aspiring artist.”

Coke and Adobe will be accepting submissions until December 31 – see cokexadobexyou.com to find out more.

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Editorial: Squaring The Circle

Heuerhero.jpg?ixlib=rails 1.1

There’s a lot of obsessing about watch size in Hodinkee articles and comments. It’s a subject nearly as apt to create controversy as the always provocative date window, and probably more so, I dare say, than the relative merits of the pin buckle versus the folding clasp. 

Let’s talk about an issue that bears heavily on watch size, which, to my knowledge, has not been fully exposed on the ‘Dink:  How do square watches wear versus their round counterparts? If 40 mm is a kind of populist line of demarcation for wearability in round watches, which make up the overwhelming majority of the products we cover, where ought we draw that line as it applies to the square ones? And oh, let’s agree to leave that other hotly debated topic – watch thickness – for another day.

THE TAG Heuer Monaco is a 39mm square watch.

Dimensions alone can be very deceptive. If you’ve ever donned a 39mm TAG Heuer Monaco, a popular example of a square wristwatch, then you know that it wears much larger than its 39mm size might have you expect; that’s because it takes up a whole 15.21 square centimeters of wrist real estate. Compare that to a 39mm round watch’s 11.94 square centimeters of  surface area, and you see just how much more heft the square watch packs. In order to find a square watch that delivers a similarly discreet wearing experience, in terms of total surface area, to a 39mm round timepiece—like, say the Cellini Moonphase—you’d want a square one whose sides measure somewhere between 34mm and 35mm. 

The Rolex Cellini Moonphase measures 39 mm in diameter.

A 39mm round watch, like the Cellini Moonphase, is just 79% as big as a 39mm square watch like the Monaco. If you measure both watches across at their narrowest point (39 mm), they are the same; but the Cellini is only 71% as wide as the Monaco when measured against the latter’s diagonal, which is a little more than 55mm.

In researching this article, I immediately thought of of Nomos Tetra line, and began looking into some of the sizes they might offer. The Nomos Tetra, I recalled, accounted for some eminently wearable square watches. While scanning the Nomos site, I alighted on the recently released Tetra Neomatik 39 and eagerly dove into the specs. To be honest, I was shocked at the thought this company would make a 39 mm square watch. It just seemed so big for them. However, this watch does not actually measure 39mm at all. Its sides, it turns out, are 33mm each, yielding a diagonal measure of 46mm. It appears the name, Tetra Neomatik 39, isn’t based so much on any actual measurement of length, but rather  how this watch wears. I asked Merlin Schwertner, the Vice President of Nomos USA, if this is true, and he confirmed that it is.

The NOMOS Tetra 39 Neomatik 39 Silvercut.

But back to our Monaco. Suppose you like the feel of the 39mm square case, and you want a round watch that will deliver the same kind of experience, which is to say you want a round watch with a similar footprint on your wrist. To find a round watch with a surface area in the 15.21mm range, you will have to do a bit of math. And of course, we must remember that this can only be an approximation, because squaring the circle is impossible.

To find our round equivalent to a square watch like the 39mm Monaco, with its surface area of 15.21square centimeters, we can divide the surface area by pi and then take the square root of our result. This gives us a radius of 2.2cm, and a diameter of 4.4cm, yielding a 44mm round watch.  

Have a look at this recently released 44mm stainless steel Vingt-8 from Kari V., which Stephen wrote about at SIHH earlier this year. 

The 44mm Vingt-8 (left) vs. the 39 mm Vingt-8 (right).

Conveniently, it’s photographed right next to the 39mm version of the Vingt-8, giving an apples-to-apples sense of just how much bigger a 44mm round watch is than a 39mm one with the exact same shape.

Speaking of apples, what about the Apple Watch, which is neither round nor square, but rectangular. The Apple Watch Series 3 Edition in ceramic, pictured here on Ben’s wrist, measures 42.6 mm by 36.5 mm, yielding a surface area of 15.55, quite a bit larger than a round watch billed as 42 mm, yet smaller than a square watch with 42 mm sides.

The Apple Watch Series 3 Edition is a 42.6mm x 36.5mm timepiece, which means it takes up 15.55 square centimeters of  wrist space.

So it would seem that the universal measurement of watch size, the one that gives you the best sense of how it will wear on your wrist, ought not to be its diameter, or even the lengths of its sides, but its area. 

Here’s a chart of popular watches of various shapes and the relative wrist space each will take up.

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Bladerunner 2049: back in the world

Warning: spoilers are mentioned in the text and also revealed in some of the images shown below

Bladerunner 2049 is set three decades after the action in Ridley Scott’s original film takes place, but as the sequel progresses it becomes clear that – as dark as its forbear was – the world has experienced some even greater upheaval in the intervening years.

Part of what makes Denis Villeneuve’s incarnation of this world seem all the more believable is both the sheer scale of its realisation and also its ability to convince the audience on a micro level. There are the swooping aerial shots of cityscapes peppered with lights – a key aspect of the Bladerunner visual heritage – but we also notice things like the edges of paintwork on a door, the scuffs and scratches on a computer interface; machines routinely glitch and blur.

There’s a grubbiness to the visuals that roots the action as firmly as it can in its speculative time and place. A lot of this is down to Roger Deakins’ beautiful cinematography and the work of production designer Dennis Gassner which saw a wide range of sets and props physically created to realise Villeneuve’s vision. The VFX teams’ work then established this environment even further – and the whole thing blends together seamlessly.

Still from Bladerunner 2049 in association with Columbia Pictures, domestic distribution by Warner Bros. Pictures and international distribution by Sony Pictures Releasing International

And this approach of course ties in with one of the wider themes that both Bladerunner films address: the notion of what is to be human in a world where the existence of ‘replicants’ means that the very definition of humanity is no longer fixed.

Territory Studio came on board early in the film’s production and were responsible for creating screen graphic concepts and on-set assets – over 100 across 15 sets, in fact. “Most of the screens are shot on-set but a few concepts were delivered to VFX vendors Dneg and Cantina, to inform their VFX work in post,” says Creative Director Andrew Popplestone.

Here, we talk to Popplestone and Territory’s Creative Lead, Peter Eszenyi, about helping to make this brutal vision of the future into a cinematic reality.

Interface used in Deckard’s penthouse. Courtesy of Alcon Entertainment

CR: Bladerunner 2049 is effectively a sequel to a film celebrated for its aesthetic as much as its storyline. How much influence did the look of the original have on the visual direction of your work for this one? Did the ‘thirty years on’ act as a starting point, or was there more freedom than that?

Andrew Popplestone: There was much more freedom! [Director] Denis Villeneuve’s brief was clear that the ‘blackout’ event had wiped out much of the technology from the original film, so we were to approach this as a technological ‘reset’ and reinvent technology, staying away from what we think of as advanced technology in 2017.

Essentially, digital capability had been wiped out. Keywords were ‘abstract’, ‘organic’, ‘optical’, ‘physical’. Having said that, there are elements of familiarity – the ‘spinner’ (hovercar) still has quite physical, mechanical displays.





And the market screens reflect a rich mix of ‘kanji’ and other languages that highlight how multicultural the world is. [Here], we were responsible for the brand and logo generation of the tiled graphics on the vending machine and signage. Again, this riffs on the original multicultural society perhaps dominated by kanji, which we see in the original.



CR: What were some of the requirements that Denis Villeneuve wanted in the creation of the Bladerunner world of 2049? Did ideas as abstract as ‘identity’ and ‘reality’ – which make up big themes in the story – come into play here?

AP: Instead of a specific brief, Denis outlined what the film was about thematically and what his vision for the Blade Runner universe (30 years after the original) was about in terms of progression and context.




We talked about how technology fit into the film as a supporting narrative device and how he felt that technology should look and feel in the context of the larger themes – what makes us human, the role of memory and data in a world where a breakdown of digital technology means that much personal and civic information is lost, and how to reflect the world ‘order’ through technology.

Interface used in K’s spinner. Courtesy of Alcon Entertainment

For example, K’s spinner technology reflects his low status as a second class citizen – his spinner is old and worn, dilapidated and recycled, the technology glitch and ghosty, with screen burn and colour fade.

Contrast that to the Wallace Corp’s advanced wealth as reflected in the b/w minimalistic purity of its interfaces. In the end, the technology interfaces plays a role in conveying these cultural differences and distinctions that separate human and replicant, LAPD and Wallace Corp.




CR: What was the R&D process like for 2049? With Ghost in the Shell, I know you looked at lots of non-filmic influences and materials. Did the same apply here?

Peter Eszenyi : Yes, definitely. To really create distinctive new technology concepts, we researched and gathered information about how tech that is not reliant on digital can look and behave. This led to an extremely experimental approach – we were never reliant on CG so were free to experiment.

We avoided all sci-fi references in our creative development work. To that end we didn’t touch CG or even sketchbooks for the first R&D phase. Instead we explored and experimented with how to achieve the abstract / organic / optical / physical in our concepts.

Courtesy of Alcon Entertainment

For two weeks the studio felt like an art school – we looked at organic alternatives to interface tech – ways to generate bioluminescence using bacteria cultures, the microcapsule tech used in e-ink displays, etc.

And to achieve the physicality that Denis wanted we explored textures, layers and effects that blended organic and mechanical – we experimented using fluids, fruit, raw meat, optical lenses, projections, scanners, etc.

We also looked at the physical interaction with products [and] devices and approached them more as musical instruments than data systems.


CR: Which of the sequences or elements proved to be the most challenging?

PE: The baseline scan was challenging (shown above) because it was the new updated version of the ‘Voight-Kampff’ test. We designed the new system – a brainscan technology that looks at the brain through the optic nerve.

In our creative work we were interpreting neural connections without using any physiological references. Instead Denis wanted a high degree of abstraction and to achieve that, we used the flesh of a dried grapefruit in macrophotography. That was a bit nerve racking.

Memory lab interface. Courtesy of Alcon Entertainment

As part of that we also visualised the neural connection in process, and again, organic abstraction was key to that. These screens are seen in Joshi (Madam)’s office, when K is assessed after he comes back from the Memory Lab where he realises his memories are authentic.



Another challenge was the Morgue screens where we designed the system to scan the bone fragment (shown above) – this is a key reveal scene and our screens needed to tie into the performance and storybeat.

Again, we experimented with organic abstraction to achieve this and designed the interaction system to drive the story – the shunting of the lenses to increase magnification was a great narrative device that built tension and drama, like clues in a detective story. We were thrilled to see that made the final edit and worked so well in context.

Bladerunner 2049 is at cinemas now. See territorystudio.com.

Bladerunner 2049 VFX credits: Double Negative (VFX Supervisor: Paul Lambert); Framestore (VFX Supervisor: Richard Hoover); MPC (VFX Supervisor: Richard Clegg); Atomic Fiction (VFX Supervisor: Ryan Tudhope); BUF; Rodeo FX; UPP (VFX Supervisor: Viktor Muller); Territory Studio

Market vending machine graphics. Courtesy of Alcon Entertainment

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More minimalism from McDonald’s

Many of McDonald’s recent campaigns, particularly those for France, have had a stripped-back aesthetic. Now TBWA\Paris has revealed a new set of minimalistic posters, which follow the popular sparkly Open Late campaign, launched just last month.

The three posters in this campaign feature just the packaging of the brand’s three archetypal products – the Big Mac, the Nuggets and the French Fries. The brand takes minimalism to a new extreme with these posters which are devoid of any text, or even the actual product; just a few lonely crumbs.

Credits:  Client: McDonald’s, Agency: TBWA\Paris, ECDs: Benjamin Marchal & Faustin Claverie, Art Director: Margaux Chalard, Photographer: Florent Tanet, Photofinisher: Xavier Cariou @Artifices

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This Week at Sotheby’s | 23–29 October

EXHIBITIONS IN THE UNITED KINGDOM


All Sotheby’s exhibitions are free and open to the public. 

Sotheby’s London
34-35 New Bond Street
London W1S 2RT UK

Sotheby’s Edinburgh
Thistle House
21-23 Thistle Street
Edinburgh, Scotland

 

Howard Hodgkin, Portrait of the Artist
Exhibition: 20–23 October | London
Auction: 24 October | 10:00 AM BST | London

The discreet exterior of Howard Hodgkin’s London home gave you no indication of the richness within; opening the door was like stepping into one of his most vibrant paintings. Objects from India to Italy, which suggest a modern day grand tour, were displayed side by side, heightened by the sensational jewel-like tones of the walls.
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20th Century Art / Middle East
Exhibition: 20–24 October | London
Auction: 23 October | 3:00 PM BST | London

This October, Sotheby’s is honoured to host what will be among our most seminal auctions for 20th century Art/Middle East, featuring some of the rarest and most sought-after artists of the modern era.
Learn More 

Modern & Contemporary South Asian Art
Exhibition: 20–24 October | London
Auction: 25 October | 3:30 PM BST | London

The Modern and Contemporary South Asian Art auction on 25 October, comprises inspirational artworks from the 20th and 21st centuries by some of the most important and avant-garde artists from India and the subcontinent. This upcoming sale will cater to the continued demand for good-quality artworks with stellar provenances and features an exciting and diverse selection of paintings, drawings and sculpture.
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Arts of the Islamic World
Exhibition: 20–24 October | London
Auction: 25 October | 10:30 AM BST | London

The Arts of the Islamic World sale on 25 October covers the vast historical and geographical breadth of art produced under Islamic patronage, celebrating the diverse artistic traditions which flourished in Spain, North Africa, the Middle East, Persia and India from the 8th to the 19th century.
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Fine Autograph Letters and Manuscripts from a Distinguished Private Collection. Part 1: Music
Exhibition: 22–25 October | London
Auction: 26 October | 10:30 AM BST | London
Sotheby’s is honoured to offer for sale fine and important music manuscripts and letters from a distinguished private collection, amassed in the first half of the 20th century, and unknown and inaccessible since then.
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Scottish Art
Exhibition: 27–29 October | Edinburgh
Auction: 21 November | 2:30 PM GMT | London
Sotheby’s is delighted to present another collection of leading Scottish art from the late 19th and 20th centuries, including a group of works by Contemporary Scottish artists. Headlining the sale is a wonderful selection of paintings by the Post-War Scottish artists Joan Eardley, John Bellany and Sir Robin Philipsson.
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Old Master Copies Online: Imitation & Influence
Exhibition: 27–30 October | London
Auction: 17–30 October | Online
The Old Master Copies online-only auction will include copies after some of the most famous images in Western art history. With estimates ranging between £500 and £20,000 this is the perfect opportunity for new buyers to snap up a copy of a loved Old Master, and for established buyers to expand their collections.
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Collections
Exhibition: 28–30 October | London
Auction: 31 October–1 November | 10:00 AM GMT | London
The forthcoming Collections sale, taking place over two days, is brimming with English and European private collections. With so many collecting disciplines represented, there is something for everyone. Estimates range from £100-150 up to £40,000-60,000.
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From Earth to Fire
Exhibition: 28–31 October | London
Auction: 1 November | 2:00 PM GMT | London
The fourth edition of ‘From Earth to Fire,’ the sale that offers fine European Ceramics, Silver and Objects of Vertu for the modern kunstkammer. With estimates ranging from £1,000-70,000 this curated sale offers something for the aspiring collector as well as the seasoned connoisseur. Highlights of the sale include private collections of fans, European Silver, Sèvres porcelain and ivories.
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The Library of a European Gentleman
Exhibition: 29 October–1 November
Auction: 2 November | 10:00 AM GMT | London
The Library of a European Gentleman contains a fine range of books on hunting and natural history, as well as atlases and incunabula. The emphasis is on German books, including some fine calligraphic works and many illustrated books from the sixteenth century. There is also a fine and comprehensive series of prints and drawings by Johann Elias Ridinger.
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EXHIBITIONS IN AMERICA

All Sotheby’s exhibitions are free and open to the public. 

Sotheby’s New York
1334 York Avenue
New York, New York

Sotheby’s Los Angeles 
2029 Century Park East
Suite 2950
Los Angeles, California

Sotheby’s San Francisco
One Sansome Street
Suite 750
San Francisco, California

Old Masters Online: Venice
Exhibition: 16–23 October | New York
Auction: 13–30 October | Online 

This October, Sotheby’s will present its first online auction of Old Master Paintings, featuring views of Venice and paintings by Venetian artists through the centuries. The timed auction will be accompanied by an exhibition at Sotheby’s New York from 16-30 October.
Learn More

Collections: European Decorative Arts
Exhibition: 13–26 October | New York
Auction: 27 October | 10:00 AM PM EDT | New York

Sotheby’s is delighted to present Collections: European Decorative Arts, an auction featuring a wide variety of European furniture and decorative objects. The exhibition, stylized by New York-based photographer and designer Judy Kim, will open on 13 October in our New York galleries and will continue until our auction on Friday 27 October. 
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Important Prints & Multiples Including Property from the Collection of Catherine Woodard and Nelson Blitz, Jr.
Exhibition: 20–23 October | New York
Auction: 23–24 October | New York 

On October 23rd and 24th, the Sotheby’s New York department of Prints & Multiples will offer for sale a large selection of important works spanning the 20th century.
Learn More 
 

The Magnificent Botanical Library of D. F. Allen
Exhibition: 21–25 October | New York
Auction: 26 October | 10:00 AM EDT | New York 

The result of four decades of meticulous collecting by a devoted gardener and bibliophile, the Magnificent Botanical Library of D. F. Allen showcases three centuries of the finest illustrated botanical books. Many of the world’s most celebrated flower painters are represented by superb copies of their greatest publications, including Jacquin’s Plantarum rariorum horti Caesarei Schönbrunnensis, Redouté’s Les Roses, Thornton’s Temple of Flora and Trew’s Plantae Selectae
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EXHIBITIONS IN EUROPE

All Sotheby’s exhibitions are free and open to the public. 

Sotheby’s Paris 
76, rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré
Paris, France

Sotheby’s Zurich
Talstrasse 83
CH-8021 Zurich, Switzerland

 

Livres et Manuscrits
Exhibition: 26–30 October | Paris
Auction: 30 October | 2:30 PM CET | Paris
From incunabula to avant-garde artist books, this sale includes 15th and 16th-century French and Italian books (Boccaccio, Ameto, 1479; Bruto, Contra Judeos, 1489; Platea, the first book about money lending, in 1472, and the Suidas encyclopedia of 1499, among others.
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Design
Exhibition: 26–30 October | Paris
Auction: 31 October | 2:30 PM CET | Paris
The Design autumnal sale will illustrate the diversity and the wealth of the creations of the 20th century: from the Art Nouveau  ̶  with an impressive dining room table by Louis Majorelle, to the 50’s with many major works of Jean Royère such as the set of living room furniture Ours Polar.
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EXHIBITIONS IN HONG KONG

All Sotheby’s exhibitions are free and open to the public. 

Sotheby’s Hong Kong
5/F One Pacific Place
88 Queensway, Hong Kong

Eternal Water: Wucius Wong
Selling Exhibition: 18–30 October | 10:00 AM–6:00 PM HKT | Hong Kong

Sotheby’s is proud to present Eternal Water, a selling exhibition by the acclaimed Hong Kong based painter Wucius Wong. Encompassing six decades of work, the exhibition depicts water in its varying forms, all with lyrical, philosophical undertones and a style which encapsulates landscape and geometric motifs.
Learn More

 

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A Personal Portrait of Howard Hodgkin

EXHIBITIONS IN THE UNITED KINGDOM All Sotheby’s exhibitions are free and open to the public.  Sotheby’s London 34-35 New Bond Street London W1S 2RT UK Sotheby’s Edinburgh Thistle House 21-23 Thistle Street Edinburgh, Scotl… http://ift.tt/2xUgXpe

What’s the story? The CR Oct/Nov 2017 cover

Writing about the act of storytelling is one thing, but for this issue we wanted to feature some actual stories, too. Could they share a thematic thread, we wondered – one that might inspire a range of different responses? A picture could be a starting point; a single image as the seed of several unique stories.

Earlier this year, we wrote about the Dark Stock Photography Twitter feed: a brilliant collection of the strangest images mined from photolibrary collections. The beauty of that feed is in the way that each image prompts the viewer to imagine a story around it – what on Earth could have happened here? So for our cover this month, we decided to see what kind of stories we could inspire from a single image.

We wanted to approach our readers for suggestions but this presented some practical issues: how could we ensure that the images suggested would be usable – that they had the copyright clearance, model releases and everything else you need in order to use a picture on a magazine cover? We decided the easiest thing would be to partner with a photolibrary and we’d like to thank Stocksy for working with us on this – and for allowing us to go with whichever image we wanted!

After calling for submissions via the CR site we had 160 suggestions of pictures. Here are a few of our favourites:







Thanks to everyone who took part. For us, the image suggested by Stuart McFerrers of a sign outside a vintage shop was full of questions and narrative potential. Alicia Bock’s picture made us wonder who was dead? And why was their stuff being sold? Were these clothes for dead people, even?

Now we had the image, we needed stories inspired by it. We asked our Twitter followers to help: over 70 of them submitted a story by replying to our initial tweet and the best are featured in the October/November issue.

Then one of the founders of an intriguing online publication called Visual Verse got in touch. Kristen Harrison explained that what we were trying to do with our next cover was exactly what she and her partner Preti Taneja asked of their pool of writers each month: write a short story or poem based on a single image, in one hour. Harrison suggested we collaborate and see what the Visual Verse community could come up with.

We’ve printed their writers’ responses in the issue along with our Twitter tales. We hope you enjoy the stories we’ve assembled – and when you’ve read them, be sure to visit visualverse.org.

CR’s October November Storytelling issue features, among others, Tom Gauld, Coralie Bickford-Smith, Brian Reed and the S-Town podcast, the production design of the Handmaid’s Tale, Oliver Jeffers, Resh Sidhu and VCCP’s Voices campaign for Nationwide








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Solomon Grey on writing music for TV drama

Musicians Solomon Grey (Tom Kingston and Joe Wilson) created their first TV soundtrack in 2015. Their music for a small-screen adaptation of JK Rowling’s novel The Casual Vacancy was an eerie mix of strings and synths and operatic vocals – an unexpected sound for a Sunday night BBC drama set in rural England.

The musicians (who met when Wilson was at school and Kingston at university) landed the job after capturing the sounds of the Wild Atlantic Way for a Tourism Ireland campaign. The pair spent two weeks travelling along the coast, recording wind, wildlife, crashing waves and meetings with local poets and musicians. They have since released a self-titled debut album and created the music for BBC One’s new drama The Last Post: a six-part series about a group of Royal Military Police stationed in Yemen in the mid 1960s.

The series has received mixed reviews but the cinematic score aims to capture the atmosphere of a crumbling British colony in the Middle East.

Kingston and Wilson created the soundtrack before the series before it was filmed using a script and photographs of Yemen.

“When you look at [the landscape in Yemen] it’s kind of got this otherworldliness to it. There’s sharp-edged volcanic rock everywhere and for us that was a fun thing to try and represent with the music,” explains Wilson.

“You have this base which is a community working within a bubble … and outside of that is this completely different world that looks quite alien,” he continues. “We wanted to reflect that sense of juxtaposition … so we mixed what you might think of as more classical compositions with ones that are maybe more ambient or atmospheric.”

The music combines ambient sounds with strings, synths, pianos and Middle Eastern instruments including the qanun and the oud. Some of Wilson and Kingston’s tracks are inspired by particular moments in the script but the pair were keen to avoid dictating where or how a piece of music should be used.

“The trick is not to give that information – because then you have the added bonus of things being put in places that you’d never have thought of or used in a different way,” explains Wilson.

“We try and write songs that work on their own without the picture … then we give the editor and director a library or a playlist of music and offer them up the stems of those tracks as well  so they can pick and choose and meld them together,” he adds. “It’s a really collaborative process. It’s almost like you’re giving them the ingredients or the component parts of things to create a musical collage.”

This often results in music being used in ways that a trained musician would not have considered. “Some of the best musical moments in film are when someone lays a track over a sequence and you think ‘that should never have worked – but it does’,” says Kingston.

In episode two, a guitar piece from one track was coupled with sounds from another and used at various points in the episode as characters prepared for a mission. The music wasn’t created with those scenes in mind but it helped build tension throughout the episode.

“We can’t take much credit for that because it was the editor who took that [piece of music] and put it under all those moments,” adds Kingston. “It’s like [the directors and editors] are searching through a shelf in a library –  they’ve been given all this music and they’re looking through it in a different way, with a particular scene or character in mind … so they’re seeing things we might not have seen when we wrote it.”

The project is Solomon Grey’s second collaboration with Jonny Campbell (who directed The Casual Vacancy and three episodes of The Last Post). Campbell commissioned the pair to work on The Casual Vacancy after coming across their work for Tourism Ireland (you can hear music from the campaign here).

“The director was a big fan of what we did [with Tourism Ireland] … we’d never done anything like that before but I think it did end up reflecting the Irish coastline,” explains Kingston. “Because of the importance of place and Englishness and identity in The Casual Vacancy and the questions the book and the TV show raised about how that fits or works in modern Britain … I [he] thought we could apply the same kind of approach.”

Wilson and Kingston visited the West Country to record the sounds of rivers, forests and church bells near where the show was filmed. They also used ambient recordings in their music for The Last Post – the show’s theme features the gentle hum of a generator in the army base where it was filmed.

These sounds are subtle and often go unnoticed but can be integral to creating an atmospheric score: “As subtle as it might be … it gives everything an atmosphere or flavour,” adds Kingston. Recordings are not always used but they are always useful and can help provide some much-needed inspiration for Kingston and Wilson.

Michael Gambon and Julie McKenzie in The Casual Vacancy © Bronte Film and Television Ltd 2014. Photographer: Steffan Hill

Solomon Grey’s music for The Casual Vacancy included a mix of classical and electronic compositions to reflect the mix of young and old cast members. It’s an evocative soundtrack and one that also informed the look of the show: “The set designers and art directors listened to all of the sketches we’d done for the score while they were dressing the set and choosing colour palettes,” says Kingston. “That’s maybe the most rewarding thing for me to know – that the music didn’t just get added on at the end, but actually had an influence on the colouring of the set.”

Wilson and Kingston approach their own music in a similar way to TV soundtracks: “We’re always using imagery when writing our own music,” says Wilson. “We’ll make a kind of collage of images and ideas and films and things that inspire us and have that in the background when we’re writing as a band and we were sort of working in that way before we even did soundtracks.”

Abigail Lawrie in The Casual Vacancy

“We’ve done it even more with the new album we’ve just finished,” adds Kingston. “Starting with a story and images in our head is just a massive inspiration to us creatively.” This doesn’t mean that music must stick to a certain narrative or set of visuals – but it’s the process of piecing together these ideas and images that inspires the pair when writing music.

Working to strict deadlines for TV has helped the pair produce their own music quite quickly (they made a second album while working on the music for The Last Post). Handing over music for directors and editors to experiment with has also helped them learn not to worry so much about whether something sounds perfect.

“We learned a lot from working with another producer who made us realise that art is just what you do in a specific time. If you [made] it at a different time it would be different – it might be better or it might be worse – but you’ve just got to embrace what you do at a specific time rather than saying ‘maybe I can make it better tomorrow’,” says Kingston. “That’s helped us a lot with our production ethic – just learning to embrace things with what they are and work with it rather than trying to be a complete perfectionist.”

The pair are now taking a break before going on tour and plan to release their second album next year. “We’ve worked so intensively from August last year until around a month ago – so now we’re just enjoying having a bit of [time] to catch up on things,” says Wilson.

Still from The Last Post

The Last Post airs on BBC One on Sunday night. See solomongrey.net for more info on the band’s music.

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Wim Wenders on Polaroids

Opening today at the Photographers’ Gallery in London is an exhibition of Polaroid images taken by the film director Wim Wenders over almost two decades, from the late 60s to the early 80s.

There are over 200 images included in the show, and they offer insights into Wenders’ daily life and work at the time, as well as into the nature of Polaroid photography itself, and how it has influenced imagemaking in our modern, digital age.

Wim Wenders
Top: Valley of the Gods, Utah, 1977. Courtesy Deutsches Filminstitut Frankfurt a.M.; Above: Self-portrait, 1975. Courtesy Wim Wenders Foundation. All images: © Wim Wenders

The photos are displayed in loose groupings, occasionally around Wenders’ films. Two of his movies have featured Polaroids as a dominant prop: in The American Friend, Dennis Hopper snaps himself repeatedly using a Polaroid camera in one scene, while in the road movie Alice in the City, the central character is shown taking numerous Polaroid photographs. Both films make appearances here, the making of them documented by Wenders himself in Polaroid, with a young Dennis Hopper shown looking enigmatic and glorious, the perfect movie star.

But knowledge of Wenders’ films isn’t really required to enjoy this exhibition, for the photos themselves provide the interest and the joy. “I was learning the craft of filmmaking in those years, and Polaroids were the perfect complimentary tool: as a visual notebook, a quick way of ‘framing’ the world, a verification of my interest in people, places, objects, or simply as a way to remember things,” Wenders explains in a text accompanying the show.

Wim Wenders
Dennis Hopper, 1976.
Courtesy Deutsches Filminstitut Frankfurt a.M.

His eye for capturing the perfect shot is very much in evidence in the photos, which despite the throwaway nature of Polaroids, often appear to contain far-reaching tales within a single frame. A VW Beetle parked enigmatically at the side of a lake, a car door left open on a dusty road: we are left to fill in the pieces of these potential stories ourselves, drawn close by the size of the images to examine every tiny aspect in detail.

Other of Wenders’ images seem to foretell the preoccupations of the Instagram generation. There are repetitive images of the everyday: of food, of waterfalls and of the wings of planes. Television sets, with images juddering, are a recurring attraction, and Wenders does a great line in capturing city skylines and the now-retro lettering of the time, all made more romantic by the distinctive tones and atmosphere evoked by Polaroid film.

Wim Wenders
Sydney. Courtesy Wim Wenders Foundation

“It’s a very different sensation in the digital age,” says Wenders of using a Polaroid camera. “Holding a small screen in your hand or looking at an instant image on a screen is not the same. Nothing compared to the Polaroid experience. It was a little magic act each time – nothing more, nothing less.”

Of course, the process of exposing a Polaroid image is part of that experience, and Wenders makes this sound almost as magical as the photos themselves. “After I took them, I would stick the pictures under my armpit to keep them warm while they were developing and keep an eye on my watch. Holding them there for too long would produce dark pictures; too short a time would make them look pale, lacking contrast. I remember doing lots of things, like smoking, writing and driving or talking on the phone with both arms closely held to my body. Then, depending on the type of film, you’d peel off the cover. There was always a certain surprise involved and a heartbeat of suspense.”

Wim Wenders
New York Parade, 1972.
Courtesy Wim Wenders Foundation

As with many things analogue, Polaroid continues to be a draw to many, despite the technology now being long outmoded (Polaroid Originals has even recently relaunched a version of the original cameras, such is their appeal).

Wenders himself stopped using the cameras long ago, stating that it is over 30 years since he has taken an image with one. In the exhibition text he questions why he has returned to these images now, and why an exhibition might be of interest. In the end, it’s the lived experience offered within the shots that makes them intriguing, plus the unique quality that Polaroid offers, bathing the scenes in the misty tones of nostalgia that now form our default way of imagining the past.

“It is obvious to me now, as a filmmaker and storyteller that the only things worth talking about are those in experience and based on one’s very own knowledge of the world,” Wenders writes. “And if by exploring what these small objects represent, and if they can shed light on what we do today, well then it’s a good thing to share them.”

Wim Wenders
By an unknown photographer, 1971. Courtesy Wim Wenders Foundation

‘Instant Stories. Wim Wenders’ Polaroids’ is on show at the Photographers’ Gallery in London until February 11, 2018. The show is created in collaboration with the Wim Wenders Foundation and C|O Berlin; tpg.org.uk

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Pentagram celebrates the work of Muriel Cooper

In the long list of ‘designers who are not as celebrated as they should be’ Muriel Cooper sits right at the top. In her four decades at the MIT Press, Cooper (who died in 1994) produced an extraordinary body of work. In 1962 she created one of the most influential (and arguably most copied) marks ever designed – the MIT Press colophon in which seven bars represent the lowercase letters ‘mitp’ as books on a shelf.

Mechanical artwork for the MIT Press colophon, 1962–1963

Her work across print and, as one of its early pioneers, the screen and digital media, displays an extraordinary verve and energy. In short, Cooper’s work looked like the future.

Not only that but in her positions as design director at MIT Press, co-founder of the Visible Language Workshop at MIT, and later co-founder of the MIT Media Lab, she, as Pentagram explain, “explored new forms, methods and techniques for graphic design within the emerging context of the computer display, and taught a new generation of designers who have helped shape our digital world”.

Samuel Bing, Artistic America, Tiffany Glass, and Art Nouveau (Cambridge, Mass. MIT Press, 1970), design by MIT Press Design Department with Katherine McCoy
Webber, Michael J., Impact of Uncertainty on Location, Cambridge, The M.I.T. Press, 1972

For a special event on October 19 celebrating the 50th anniversary of Cooper joining the MIT Press, Pentagram New York created a series of animations, each referencing a different aspect of her work and key designs from her work.

The invitation-only symposium at MIT included a panel discussion led by Michael Bierut, with Ellen Lupton, author Aron Vinegar and Ben Fry. It coincided with the publication of Muriel Cooper, a new monograph by David Reinfurt and Robert Wiesenberger, with a foreword by former Pentagram partner Lisa Strausfeld, who studied with Cooper.

Designed by Murial Cooper, Date Unknown
MIT Media Lab fifth anniversary booklet, 1990
MIT Media Lab rendered as Soft Type, 1990
Information Landscapes (still from introduction animation), Muriel Cooper, David Small, Suguru Ishizaki, and Lisa Strausfeld, 1994
Exhibition poster and mechanical artwork for *Asterisk, designed by Otto Piene, printed at the Visible Language Workshop, 1974

Hopefully this project, and the publication of The MIT Press monograph, will help to introduce a new audience to Cooper’s work.

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