Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Rich Door- Poor Door

As one lane takes you through canvases of beautiful art, another hits you with a whiff of warm Bengali spices, and you walk down to marvel at a massive chimney of an old brewery or you wander away losing yourself in alleyways of street boutiques and vintage markets. What more would you want? A charming little factory what makes bells, or a narrow gully home to the largest anarchist bookshop in the city. Or perhaps a mysterious night walk with Ripper tales.

Aldgate East, Brick Lane, Whitechapel.

Brick Lane

It is the London I want to be a part of, proud of. A meting pot of cultures, free thinking, free people.

That's until it became an 'investment opportunity'. 'One Commercial Street Tower'-  twenty one storey eyesore. There is no better way to describe that, but then again I hate tall glass characterless buildings. They seem to lack a soul.

But that is not my issue. Sky scrapers seem to be the answer to growing population in super cities. What's disturbing is what I read at the 'East End Howler', a local newspaper I picked up from the Freedom Bookstore. Apparently developers are 'sometimes forced' to provide housing that could be passed as affordable (still beyond reach for the average Londoner). The end result, the developer is faced with a situation where the desired residents will be living in the same building as the undesirables. (cringe)
The solution devised by Redrow (the builder) is to have two separate entrances.  The main entrance (rich door) has a vast lobby and security guards and an upscale reception, while the 'poor door' is around in a dingy side alley with nothing welcoming in the narrow access except mailboxes.

This has not gone unnoticed. There have been protests every week against this ridiculous hypocrisy. The protesters have talked to residents of both doors. One of them coming out of the rich door did not even know there was a poor door. (.really?) Some of the poor door residents have revealed more details of the discrimination. The lift frequently breaks down and they are not allowed to use the rich lift!

This is no longer about 'abolishing' the two doors. Maybe the builder will eventually be forced to do it, but what is really happening here? The bloody immigrants? This area has been the heart of the Bangladeshi Bengali community for decades, so what next... The Apartheid in East London?

Rich and poor entrances

Latest update(Nov 27): Round 1 goes to the Poor Doors. Richie Rich have agreed to 'talks' regarding the abolishment of the poor door. I walked around this building today, and there were quite a few cops lurking at the entrance, but no protesters.

Voices of the working class. Newspapers at the Freedom Bookshop

I admire the will and the dedication with which people are writing and publishing such journals for free distribution. What's the motivation? Maybe 10 people will read it. Maybe five will blog about it. Being aware and being alert. It is important for the information to be shared and passed on.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Posters of Protest- Talk to the hand!

On a recent visit to the V&A, I came across a very interesting section of posters. It was called 'Posters of Protest' - a collection of posters from the last 100 years. I am still trying to articulate how and why, they still have that powerful magnetic effect that draws you towards them, mildly hypnotic?

What was it about the design, that makes every poster still look fresh? The fonts? The colours? The cut- colour, the silhouettes? black-white- red?  Or the hand?
So strange, that posters and art from all over the world, had these many things in common. So what was the formula?

It is easier for people to stand for what they are against, than what they support. No. Stop. Resist. 
I read in an article, that the use of silhouettes was deeper than just cool 'graphic design'. It was a technique used to condense a group of people into one unified body.
Iconography: The fist. The arresting hand. To me, this was it. All summed up, the clenched fist shouted power, shouted resistance, shouted unity.

What happened to this kind of art? Why don't we see these anyone? Why am I not designing anything like this? No burning issues for protest today? Or is this the new mantra? 

let's keep calm and shut the fuck up.

Fists to Fingers

I was reading this book '100 ideas that changed graphic design'  by Steven Heller, and the pointing finger' idea is No 6.

'When a finger pointed directly at a word or a sentence it was a benign command to read whatever was pointed out.'

 The pointing finger acquired more gravitas when in 1914, at the outset of WW1, British designer Alfred Leete created the famous recruitment poster featuring a picture of the secretary of state of War, pointing directly of of the poster to the viewer above the words 'wants you'. this was the first of many wartime and post war recruitment posters.

Designed to unite or designed to divide, to bring together or break. I absolutely love the power of design.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

My baby is finally taking shape

After completing the summer course on typography, I was itching to create a font. Something from scratch. Something beautiful. And to be honest, I hadn't done anything entirely original in a while and wanted to get my hands dirty! 
And so I embarked on this rather tedious journey of designing the font. After spending weeks wondering where to begin, how to design, and hours of googling, I found a tutorial on youtube on how to create a font using Adobe illustrator. This is exactly what I was looking for.

For any designer who wants to create a font, and doesn't quite understand the technical complexities and mathematics involved, just follow the instructions. It is absolutely critical that you start right, with the correct file size and format so that you don't struggle at the end. Even a tiny error can impact the entire exercise and you might end up re-doing all 52 characters!

Having said that I am nowhere close to end myself, but so far this tutorial has proven very very useful.

I was keen to base my font on something that inspires me, interesting design wise, and also connected me to my roots. I thought about Indian art, Indian architecture and Indian textiles. And there it was... IKAT. It is rich, it is distinctive, it is traditional, and yet so geometric and contemporary. I just knew this was it.

Here's a sample of my work in progress. Far from complete, I still have the entire lower case and numerals to go. And of course all the fine tuning and adjustments. I can clearly see already that the 'O' looks too big! So fingers crossed, I should get this done by the end of the year at least.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Diving deep into type.. (or just scratching the surface)

I love Type Wolf. I think I have learnt more on typography and fonts in the last one month than I have in many years. I am starting to analyse and justify my various font choices rather than picking something that just 'looks good' or 'feels right'. The texture, the colour. The context.

Why doesn't a Garamond work in large sizes? Does Meta work better than Helvetica?  Why is Lexicon the most expensive font? Why is Futura the most popular and most unpopular? Did we know it was Wes Anderson's and Stanley Kubricks' favourite font?  Why the global outcry when Ikea switched from Futura to Verdana?  Why does this fascinate me?

Most of the fonts popular amongst designers are not free, and some really pricey, but there are quite a few brilliant free options to explore as well.

But it's very important to have an understanding on why a certain font works for a particular project, vs another for something else. The history and evolution of the font, the influences. Subtle semiotics, but  it effects the overall project look and experience. We spoke about this in detail in my course on Typography at Central Saint Martins. We had an interesting assignment where we were given a set of projects and we had to choose fonts for each of them, and the reasoning behind choosing that font. Probably the hardest assignment, but the most fun.

On a separate note, I'm loving this brush pen from Atlantis, and the seemingly endless summer Saturdays. 

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Haunting walks

I had never been to a cemetery.  On a recent visit to Scotland, we were walking down the Royal mile, and I was somehow drawn towards the Cannongate Kirkyard. On a hillock, overlooking the city, it felt like a spot of untouched beauty, that endured the passing of time and the world that grew around, and stood it's ground, imposing. 
I can't help getting all choked up , walking through the gravestones, through people who were loved, some taken away before their time, their stories set in stone, to be read centuries later, by a stranger from the other side of the planet. 
It's the overwhelming feeling of feeling connected and yet disconnected. Intruding... yet not feeling like an intruder.

Down the road is another gem, the Greyfriars Kirkyard. I was most touched by the story of Greyfriars Bobby. Greyfriars Bobby belonged to an Edinburgh city police night watchman. When the watchman died, he was buried in Greyfriars cemetery. Bobby refused to leave his master's grave and spent the rest of his life sitting over it. He never left the spot for nearly fourteen years, till his death. He was then buried close to his master.

A statue and fountain have been erected to commemorate him, 'the most loyal dog in Scotland'

The beauty of the West Cemetery of Highgate, is unsurpassed. It was for me, like walking through Tolkien's Old forest. It probably is one of those hidden treasures in London. Forgotten paths, dead ends, moss covered graves, the stone angels that remind me of the weeping angels from Doctor Who. It's haunting contrast of the burning orange autumn leaves against the cool green moist moss, makes it a magical setting for tales of a distant past. I thought of Neil Gaiman's story of a little boy whose home was a graveyard such as this, in the care of ghosts.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Discovering Letterpress

So what have I been up to off late?
Super interesting 'computer- free' (can you believe that) course on Typography. Totally digging the assignments which involve a lot of cut-pasting, photography... and never thought I would get to work on one- A letterpress!

I realise I had lost the joy in small things..for example choosing a font for a project, was the biggest bore and a chore! But now I'm looking forward with experimenting and being more aware of a font I decide to use. The hands-on craft DIY approach is how teaching art should have always been.

Meeting and learning from teachers who are experts in the field, who know what they are doing. I missed this in India. I would really love to do a longer course here at Central Saint Martins. (if only it didn't cost the earth!)

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Bike to Work

Bought a cycle... something I was looking forward to and dreading at the same time.

It's been over 25 years since I have ridden a bike... in and around gullies near my home in Bangalore. When I grew older I got too scared to ride around in India. The traffic, the total lack of lane disciple, the utter chaos in streets, and lastly... the soot in the air.

So the past couple of weeks, I have been riding all over London like a total noob. Crossing roads only if I don't see cars up to a mile away. Causing long traffic pile ups behind. Inviting stares, glares rather.

In India I would have been yelled and cussed at. I used to drive a car back in Mumbai. I hated people who held up traffic, couldn't decide on a lane, and blocked both lanes. Idiots who drive in slo-mo. All my frustrations released through loud incessant honking.

Today, I have become the same idiot I used to hate. I am probably annoying everyone on the road, and I do feel for them, they don't even honk!  People here just too polite. I appreciate that now.
I seem to be the slowest even among fellow cyclists. But hopefully as I gain confidence and stamina, I would get faster, and ride beeter as well.

I bought a Trek, under the biketowork scheme. It takes me a good 30-35 minutes one way from Islington to Aldgate. Fairly good exercise, (the only exercise I get). I'm really enjoying the experience, I like to ride in a leisurely pace, look around at all the houses and the parks. Quiet and leafy neighbourhoods, with only the birds chirping.

Seems like I get excited by little things, but these are what I missed back home.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Look down at these paintings

Are these paintings? At first glance.

But so unbelievable are these landscapes shot from up above.

Stumbled upon this beautiful collection of photographs on this very interesting website: Daily Overview

The people behind this project write: 

"From our line of sight on the earth's surface, it’s impossible to fully appreciate the beauty and intricacy of the things we’ve constructed, the sheer complexity of the systems we’ve developed, or the devastating impact that we’ve had on our planet. We believe that beholding these forces as they shape our Earth is necessary to make progress in understanding who we are as a species, and what is needed to sustain a safe and healthy planet.

As a result, the Overviews (what we call these images) focus on the the places and moments where human activity—for better or for worse—has shaped the landscape. Each Overview starts with a thought experiment. We consider the places where man has left his mark on the planet and then conduct the necessary research to identify locations (and the corresponding geo-coordinates) to convey that idea. 

The mesmerizing flatness seen from this vantage point, the surprising comfort of systematic organization on a massive scale, or the vibrant colors that we capture will hopefully turn your head. However, once we have that attention, we hope you will go beyond the aesthetics, contemplate just exactly what it is that you're seeing, and consider what that means for our planet."

Their website, for more breathtaking images.

Here are some of my favourites.

Agricultural Development
Loxahatchee, Florida, USA
26.678379, -80.433557

Salina Santa Maria salt evaporation ponds
Cadiz, Spain
The Salina Santa Maria salt evaporation ponds are located in Cádiz, Spain. Water from the Bay of Cádiz is fed into the pools and is drawn out through evaporation, leaving the salt to be harvested.

Gordons Well, California, USA
The Brock Reservoir, located near Gordons Well, California, is used to supply water to nearby farmers via the All-American Canal. 2013 and 2014 have been two of the driest years on record in California, with more than 80% of land experiencing severe to exceptional drought. 


Barcelona, Spain

Elsdorf / Niederzier, Germany
Tagebau Hambach is an open-pit mine in Niederzier and Elsdorf, Germany used to extract lignite. Lignite, often referred to as brown coal, is a soft combustible sedimentary rock that is formed from naturally compressed peat and is used almost exclusively as a fuel for steam-electric power generation.