Friday 14th October 2016Observer on 'Public Functional Art', AKA 'Design'
Full disclosure: this writer is also classically trained as a designer, despite a dilettante's interest in a wide range of artistic disciplines. With that out of the way, let's dig into something: is design a dirty word in the art world?
It seems to conjure up notions of commercial art, product packages and other ephemera that don't rate as pop art due to the lack of pretension and choice of presentation. The prohibition against the inclusion of design as an art form is so strong that during a recent article published in the Observer about design, the word design was barely mentioned during the entire article - instead, every reference was instead substituted with 'public functional art' - until the very end, when .
It's possible that this particular author wished to make a distinction between the various types of design. After all, it's hard to reconcile the so-called 'public functional art' that forms the central theme of the article with cereal box design or the aesthetic lines of a new Italian supercar. But what rankles is that there is already a wide array of linguistic separations between these various subfields of design, an entire nomenclature dedicated to preventing just such clumsy improvisations.
The article was an appealing and engaging one, detailing the nature of various types of industrial and wayfinding designs found throughout New York City in everything from the design choices behind the pedestrian/hand traffic signals that replaced the 'Walk/Don't Walk' of the past century to the careful and iconic design of the handrails in the Wall Street subway station. So why the reluctance to discuss these aspects in a more definitive (and accurate) way?
Curiously enough, the word design seemed to be used prolifically at the end of the piece. It was almost as though the author hoped to engage the artistically-inclined reader who would simply ignore a design article, sneaking the appreciation of design into the narrative under the guise of 'functional public art'. This may be where my inherent bias trips me up, familiar as I am with the general discussion of design and its inherent role in our built environments.
But regardless of how one classifies it, it's impossible to escape the impacts of public design in New York (or any major city), and it's worth acknowledging the value of these projects in our environments.
Posted on October 14th 2016 on 06:20pm
Friday 15th July 2016The Best Free Stock Photo Sites
Ah, the stock photo. The very name probably conjures up hilariously bad images of business executives in meetings with clients or some other such nonsense, and rightly so. The classic stock photo is sort of a joke in most design circles by now, and even reached a point where actor Vince Vaughn and his co-stars for the movie Unfinished Business conducted a photo shoot sending up the traditional business settings you find in such photos.
So what are the alternatives? Fortunately as a result of the backlash against these junky stock photos, a number of sites have sprung up with the goal of redefining what 'stock photo' means. We've combed through the web for some of the best stock photo sites. The only thing that's better is that they're all free!
Morguefile is one of the older free stock photo sites, and it has a very eclectic collection that may not always have what you need but it's always worth a look. Despite the seemingly gruesome name, it's actually named after the files kept by oldschool photojournalists of all the images they didn't use previously. Visit it here at http://www.morguefile.com
and see for yourself!
FreeImages, formerly known as the StockxChange, is also an old site with a great collection of images. Just be careful that you don't accidentally choose one of the paid images, as they integrate them into their search results to gain affiliate commissions. See the options here at http://www.freeimages.com
Those are great choices if you're looking for something that is a bit more traditional, but if you want to take things to the next level there are a number of other free sites available.
One of our personal favourites is Death to the Stock Photo, partly because of the great name and partly because they have some amazing images that are all free to use. Visit it here at http://www.deathtothestockphoto.com
. If you sign up for their newsletter, they'll mail you regularly with new images, and they have a paid option as well if you don't have time to wait.
Another great option is Unsplash, which has a large collection of images and is actually entirely free. It's a bit harder to find exactly what you want, because all tagging is done by the photographers who upload their own images, but you can find some incredible gems in there as well. Check it out at http://www.unsplash.com/
Last but not least, there is the excellent PicJumbo. This site walks the fine line between high-concept stuff like Unsplash and the more traditional stock photo sites, but there are some amazing images available for free (and some available for purchase if needed). Check it out at http://www.picjumbo.com/
- just don't use an Adblocker!
Posted on July 15th 2016 on 08:19pm
Wednesday 09th March 2016Brick by Brick
Lego is one of the most enjoyable kid's toys of all time, but it's also an excellent tool for the modular visualization and construction. It's a great equalizer in its simplicity. To that end, the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago is running an interesting experiment: they provided ten of the world's leading architecture firms with the same set of plain white Lego bricks and asked them to "imagine the buildings to deal with challenges that face our future cities." The project is part of their Brick by Brick exhibit, designed to showcase architectural engineering and design to visitors of all ages.
Each firm received three Lego Architecture Kits comprising 1200 white pieces, and assembled them into a variety of applied design solutions. It creates an interesting crossroads where art, design and engineering meet. Some of the firms involved included SOM of Chicago, Adjaye Associates of London, Kengo Kuma and Associates of Tokyo, but perhaps the most interesting (and artistic) entry was created by the UIC School of Architecture.
Rather than sticking with the assigned project, they ditched the white pieces of the architecture kids in favour of chunky coloured Duplo pieces which they assembled together into a giant disorganized pile titled Lego 601.
According to their statement, "solutions to future conditions only can be discovered through unconventional and disobedient methods. The key is to identify and challenge preconceptions to escape contemporary anxieties about the future."
Typically architects aren't so inclined towards such impractical artistic statements, but it highlights the creative nature of the work that is done in disciplines that aren't traditionally considered part of the art world.
The most practical of the designs was that put forwards by Adjaye Associates, who envisioned a modular structure that would help respond to growing population density around the world. "The design easily allows expansion up and out, empowering communities to be resilient in the face of natural disasters and population growth," the firm writes. "It features solar panels for heat and energy, and breezeways for free cooling."
So is it art? Perhaps not in the traditional sense, but it requires no less creativity - some might even argue it requires more. Nevertheless, the era of clearly delineated spheres of influence is well and truly over, and the artistic world would do better to approach the rest of the world in a more holistic, integrated fashion - brick by brick.
Posted on March 09th 2016 on 04:43am
Wednesday 13th May 2015New Stock Photo Resource Roundup
Using stock photos in your work can be a bit tricky. A well-chosen stock photo can complete a design or mockup perfectly, but choosing poorly can make your piece look like a bit of a joke. In an effort to maximise their earning potential, many photographers looking to make some extra cash will take endless streams of photos in the most forced and contrived settings in the hope that someone will come along one day and need a photo of an actor playing a stockbroker with a banana on his head, or something equally ludicrous. Even actor Vince Vaughn got in on the action as part of a marketing campaign for his latest movie, when they lampooned stock photo conventions using the actors from the movie.
But naturally, many artists and designers want more choice than the stock photos that are acceptable for use in Powerpoint presentations and annual reports. This has given rise to an entire new style of stock photography, and a number of websites have sprung up to cater to the need. Best of all, there are also a new crop of websites that offer these types of stock photos for free, no matter whether you're using them for a commercial project or just for fun.
Having just found a few of these sites for our own design projects, we decided to share them with you so that you can avoid the bad stock photo curse. One of the best is 'Death to the Stock Photo', which clearly pulls no punches when it comes to their perception of the classic style of stock photo. A simple sign up for their email list will get you a monthly pack of stock photos delivered right to your inbox. If you like their style, they offer a premium option as well. Picjumbo also offers non-traditional stock photos, but they don't make you wait for monthly packages. Their free photos are also carefully organized, making it easier to find something appropriate, although their collection is still getting started and is nowhere near as large as more established stock photo sites. Finally, Unsplash rounds out the options with completely free stock photos that are released under the Creative Commons Zero license, which means they can be used for any project, private or commercial, with no attribution required whatsoever.
Hopefully, you'll find something that will inspire and complete your latest project, or if you're a photographer, you might want to consider submitting your own work!
Posted on May 13th 2015 on 10:36pm
Wednesday 12th November 2014Art vs Design
Many designers have often railed against the perception that their work is not art. A quick tour of the prominent sites around the net will reveal a number of bitter back and forth rivalries, and probably an equal number of admittedly more silent spectators who don't seem troubled one way or the other. It really all comes down to what your individual perception of art really is, a topic that has plagued and entertained the art world since the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries, when modern art was finally coming into its own.
Is art simply something beautiful? Something well-executed? If so, then any number of designs could be considered art. But if your perception of art is based on the emotions an object generates in you, then the entire world could be considered art, if seen in the right way. Often, the argument is made that intent to provoke emotion or thought is the metric by which an object's 'art-ness' could be judged. But what happens when that intent is then overridden by a larger goal? Say you're looking at a film clip that generates powerful emotions in you. It's beautiful, incredibly well executed, and entertaining to no end - but at the very last few frames, it turns out the entire thing is an advertisement intended to make you associate those images and emotions with a particular brand. Does it then lose all of its artistic appeal? Is it design, simply by being designed?
Part of the problem with these kinds of issues is basic semantics - when we say 'design', what exactly do we mean? There are a number of possibilities. Even artists may have an ulterior motive when it comes to the creation of their artwork, as they hope to create pieces that will sell, and increase their fame and ensure they have food on the table. Is that really so different from a brand? Conceptually, maybe, but the end result is still the same - the desire for money to change hands.
Perhaps we could approach the problem from an entirely different perspective, and say that art is anything that is produced for the sheer pleasure of the person who creates it, no matter what it is. Art is an expression of internal emotion, a way of explaining the way we see the world to others - and no matter what form it takes, it will add a little bit more beauty to the world.
Posted on November 12th 2014 on 07:37pm
Wednesday 19th February 2014Keeping Your Gallereo Page Looking Current
One of the most common mistakes made by artists who are new to the digital world make is also probably one of the most understandable ones. Not being zoomed in to the world of the web and the extremely rapid stylistic evolutions of digital design means that many artists are suddenly left with websites that look outdated and even antiquated to the public. The general web-going public may not be able to put their finger exactly on what seems 'off' about these sites, but the average art buyer is a little more savvy when it comes to current trends in design, and at the very least, they are deliberately conscious of what what they like and what they don't. This begs the question - when is it time to update your Gallereo page design?
Somewhat frustratingly, there isn't an easy answer to this question. Some people in the web design world offer a general rule of thumb that maintains updating your website every two years will allow you to stay on top of current trends, but considering the amount of time and effort that many people put into their sites, this isn't really practical. This is doubly true when (like most artists) you're not working with a professional web designer, and have to do the work yourself.
That being said, it's important to pay attention to the latest design trends to ensure that the contemporary feel of your website is maintained. Unless you're going for a specifically retro look, it's best to pay close attention to the design styles of some of the most popular websites to determine where they're going. For example, Apple's website design style used to correspond with their launch of the OSX operating system, featuring clean, rounded-glass styled buttons that leapt off the page in 3D.
In today's world, however, buttons like that tend to look a little over-designed and flashy, and the latest trend leans towards what is known as 'flat' design, with slight to minimal gradients on buttons and a greater emphasis on usability and clarity instead of needless flashiness. There is an added bonus to this recent emphasis, of course - clarity and well-planned sites are much, much better at turning visitors into buyers.
Like the fashion world, design styles often seem cyclical, which can bring trends back around into vogue that were popular years ago and died out for a while. Even still, it's a long cycle, and while it may seem like forever, the web has only been around in earnest for a little over a decade - it's better to stay current with your Gallereo design in order to maximize your sales and attract the most visitors.
Posted on February 19th 2014 on 01:41am
Thursday 09th January 2014Tips for Designing Your Gallereo Page
We've discussed a number of different ways you can structure your Gallereo page in order to boost your sales, from taking advantage of search engine optimisation to writing complete descriptions all the way to using social media to build a name for yourself and ideas for maintaining and building readership using your built-in Gallereo blog. There is an element to your Gallereo page that can make an even larger difference to your success - the visual style, of course! We've held back from commenting on this because it's fairly personal in terms of your own unique artistic vision, but there are still some basic design pointers that we can offer that will be especially beneficial to those of you who are new to the whole web design world.
First of all, it's important to keep in mind that the pre-made templates that Gallereo offers are excellent. If the idea of designing your own website or modifying the templates yourself is overwhelming, don't be afraid to make use of the pre-made options. They're going to do a great job of helping you sell your work, and they all look great. That being said, if you have the time and the skills - or at least the willingness to learn - nothing can do a better job of representing you than a customised site.
When you're customising templates or coding from scratch, though, there are some things you should keep in mind. Namely, unless you're making your entire site an art project in and of itself, you want to keep the design elements to a minimum. To give your artwork maximum impact and so gain maximum sales numbers, you want the artwork itself to take centre stage, not the website. This is why so many artist websites use neutral colours for backgrounds - white, grey, or black - because they really help the colours and elements of the artwork imagery 'pop' from the page.
With that in mind, though, it's a good idea to include a little bit of colour around your site, but make sure to use it sparingly. Choose one or two colours that work well together, and use them as accents around the site - for example, on your 'Buy' or 'Purchase' buttons and any other 'call to actions' you use on your site. A 'call to action' is basically what it says on the tin: a button or link that asks the user to perform an action, such as 'get more information' or 'purchase now', which makes highlighting them with colour very useful.
Plan your site carefully, because it can be one of the largest factors that impact your success at selling your artwork online. Remember - it can be a work in progress. If you finish your site and find that you're getting lots of visitors but not a lot of sales, try changing your site around to see if it will help boost sales.
Posted on January 09th 2014 on 10:56pm