Cindy Gallop: Building the Brave New World of Sex Tech

When Cindy Gallop introduced her social sex start-up concept to a live audience in 2009, she really had no idea what she was getting herself into. She unwittingly tapped into a huge global category, but found it damn-near impossible to get any backing—financial, technical, or social. It was a conundrum of epic proportions.

However, that did not deter her. In fact, if you tell Gallop she can’t do something, it will only strengthen her resolve to prove otherwise. This is a woman who likes to “blow shit up.” Her words, not mine. Having worked in business communications for more than 20 years, mainly with Bartle Bogle Hegarty as the founder and former chair of the U.S. branch, she now runs her own consulting business, as well as her start-ups If We Ran The World and Make Love Not Porn. She knows a thing or two about getting shit done and if you don’t like what she’s doing, then move along. She has no time for you.

This is not a story about sex. This is about one woman’s relentless pursuit to build an entire business category in order for her company and others like it to succeed, despite countless obstacles that would have deterred most sane people. Read the interview here.

“I am doing what I tell other entrepreneurs to do, which is when you have a truly world changing startup, you have to change the world to fit it, not the other way around.”

Matteo Bologna: Pushing the Limits of Typography

As a young, horny man living in his mother’s house in Milan, Italy, Matteo Bologna taught himself how to design type while on the phone with an annoying girlfriend. While she talked and complained and cried for hours on end, he toyed with the seductive curves and shapes of letterforms on his computer, and eventually broke up with the girl. He found typography to be much sexier. Besides, her pasta would never be as good as his mama’s.

Young Matteo’s love of typography only intensified when he started receiving The Type Director’s Club (TCD) annuals filled with designs by Louise Fili, Paula Scher, Seymour Chwast, and Charles S. Anderson. He copied and cajoled their work, and knew the only chance he had to really break into design was to move to New York City, which he did in 1994. Shortly thereafter, he formed Mucca and he landed a big break, designing the brand for a new French brasserie, Balthazar, which quickly became famous for its delectable breads, pastries, and pommes frites. The design community also took notice of Matteo for his exquisite handling of the restaurant’s identity. The rest, as they say, is history.

Here we talk to Matteo about the power of type in design and the ways in which he pushes it. Read the interview here.

Jennifer Sterling Finally Gets the Last Word

Having lived and worked on both coasts, Jennifer Sterling knows a thing or two about cultural and political discourse in design. Her illustrative typographic renderings have produced praise and ignited loathsome critiques from her peers.

She experienced a profound backlash in the early 2000s for her design of the now infamous 2001 AIGA 365 Annual. No designer has ever taken such a public beating for their work as she did. And she never responded. Until now.

That catalog sent designers into a tizzy. Today, I doubt anyone would raise a brow. Sterling did what she did best: She created typographic and textural images to create meaningful discourse and showcase the work as it was meant to be seen. But, perhaps she was ahead of her time. People didn’t get it and the reaction was visceral and harsh. Today that book would be a precious keepsake, and anyone featured within would be honored.

It seemed as if Sterling—then in San Francisco—dropped out of the design world, only to re-emerge five years ago in New York. That’s not quite the case. She has continually worked, but she intentionally kept a low profile. She was never looking for the spotlight, but it found her in the ugliest of ways. Despite that, her love for design never wavered and she continued to work with clients like Adobe, Aveda, Gilbert Paper, Hillary Clinton, and more. Her work has been included in the permanent collections of The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, The Library of Congress, Bibliotheque Nationale de France, Museum Fur Kunst Und Gewerbe, Hamburg, and the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum.

Here, we talk to her about her passion for design and typography, and we let her have the final word on that book she designed more than 15 years ago. Read the interview here.

Josh Friedland, aka Ruth Bourdain, on the Absurdities in Food Culture

In 2010, a new voice hit the Twitterverse, and had everyone guessing who it was. @RuthBourdain was born—a sardonic mash up of food critic Ruth Reichl and CNN’s Parts Unknown bad boy, Anthony Bourdain.

More than 66,000 people followed @RuthBourdain, as she delivered her ridiculously tawdry, yet chirpy Haikus, such as this gem: “The birds are louder than fuck this morning. Breakfast of black beans, tortillas, and salsa causing fragrant, ozone-destroying flatulence.” Still, no one knew “her” true identity, until the creator himself, food writer Josh Friedland, came out to The New York Times in 2013, much to his relief.

Here we talk to Friedland, creator of The Food Section and author of Comfort Me with Offal (as Ruth Bourdain) and Eatymology, about food terms, critics, and what it was like living in a paradoxical universe.

How did you come up with the idea to do a mash-up of Ruth Reichl and Anthony Bourdain?

I had been reading Ruth Reichl’s tweets — her haiku-like poems about breakfast in upstate New York and other meals — and I felt they were just asking to be spoofed. At the same time, Anthony Bourdain was broadcasting a short-run radio show on satellite radio where he read them on-air as beat poetry. I took the next logical step and combined their two personas into one scary gastronomical beast. Read the rest of the interview here.

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Edel Rodriguez Doesn’t Melt in the Face of Adversity

The political discourse in this country has been at a fervent pitch for months, up until the shocking outcome November 8. Political cartoonists and illustrators have been having a field day, but none more so than Edel Rodriguez who has created two of the most talked about cover images in recent times. As a Cuban immigrant he has a great appreciation for the artistic freedom he is allowed in America, and he has a lot to say in his work.

Rodriquez immigrated to the U.S. in 1980, when he was just nine years old. He studied art and design at Pratt Institute, where he graduated with honors. He then received a Masters of Fine Arts degree in painting from Hunter College. His illustrations have graced the covers of books and magazines like TIME, The Atlantic, The New Yorker, and more. In addition to his commercial work, Rodriguez’s fine art paintings voice human concerns, mortality, and cultural displacement.

Here, we talk to him about the influence art has played in his life and life work, and how visual ideas play out in the media. Read the interview here.

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Illustrations: Edel Rodriguez

Virginia Postrel on What Constitutes Glamour

Glamour is in the eye of the beholder … or is it? Unfortunately, we get a lot of our cues from celebrities, which in this day and age, can include anyone from rap stars and actors, to YouTube and reality television stars. Even our First Lady, deservedly so, is a style icon.

Here, we talk to Virginia Postrel, author of The Power of Glamour, The Substance of Style, and The Future and Its Enemies about our obsession and longing for glamour and what it all means. As an author, columnist, and popular speaker, her work spans a broad range of topics, from social science to fashion, concentrating on the intersection of culture and commerce. She has been a columnist for The Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, The New York Times, and Forbes and its companion technology magazine Forbes ASAP. She is currently a regular columnist for Bloomberg.

Do you think the rules of glamour have changed over the years—i.e. what people perceive as glamorous compared to 20 or 30 years ago?

Definitely. What audiences find glamorous can change for two reasons: What people long for may change or different glamorous things may represent the same longings. One example I often use is the glamorous image of feminine indulgence. In the 1950s, nothing beat a fur coat. It represented an adoring man sharing his financial success: love and money in a publicly visible form. Nowadays, the common image of feminine indulgence is a hot-stone massage or maybe a bubble bath in a spa tub. Nobody needs to know you’re there—it’s not about keeping up with the Joneses—and you probably paid for it from your own income. It represents the desire to escape the demands of a busy life. (A lot of spa tubs and bathroom remodeling have been sold with this kind of glamour.) Read rest of interview here.

 

Moshik Nadav: Bringing Sexy Back to Type

Born and raised in Israel, Moshik Nadav has always had an affinity for letterforms and typography. He immersed himself in graphic design journals at a young age, admiring and studying the work of the masters. While still a student of graphic design, his type designs were gaining recognition by leading international design publications and major online typography and design blogs. By the time he graduated, he had already designed four typefaces.

Nadav established his design business, Moshik Nadav Typography, in 2009, serving a variety of international clients, and in 2013, he moved to New York City. His distinct style can be attributed to his love of fashion and his adoration of the female form. Just as a fashion designer must consider the drape of the fabric on a human figure, Nadav’s affinity for sleek lines and sexy curves are distinct characteristics of his typefaces, which include contrasting line strokes, and delicate, extended serifs that entwine and envelop each other. Every element in his unique letterforms is carefully considered as he bends and manipulates each shape and tendril, while respecting the rules of typography and readability. When an entire alphabet is finished, it’s like a new fashion line hitting the runway—each letter is unique on its own, but when seen as a family, it all works together and it’s undoubtedly Moshik Nadav.

Read the full interview with Nadav here, where he discusses his latest typeface, Lingerie.

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Brian Singer: Not Just Any Guy, But Some Guy

Brian Singer has been employed by some of the most progressive design thinking companies in modern times including Apple, Facebook, and Pinterest. Most designers would cut off their right arm to work for these companies, but Singer—although grateful for the experience—walked away from his most recent gig at Pinterest to pursue personal projects.

Singer, aka someguy, has become widely lauded for his pet projects which have netted national publicity, not only in the design community, but among mainstream media outlets such as The New York Times, the Today Show, CBS News, Huffington Post, and more. From inviting strangers to collaborate and share their sentiments in a blank journal and pass it on for the 1000 Journals Project, to exposing people who are driving and texting by placing their photos on billboards, to his #pileoftrump campaign, Singer has created controversy and discussion about what is and isn’t tolerable—or with the case of texting and driving—what is safe. (bio photo: Skyler Vander Molen.)

His main goal with most of his projects is to connect with strangers and to have strangers connecting with each other. Here, we ask him about his experiences, his personal projects, and what’s next.

You’ve worked for some high profile, design-driven companies. What’s the biggest takeaway from those experiences?

Every company (design driven or not) has real, challenging, business problems to solve. And no matter the company, I think it’s safe to say that design isn’t easy. Probably the biggest takeaway is that while design skill is important, it’s not the only thing needed to succeed and have an impact. You need strategic thinking skills, empathy, holistic problem-solving, leadership, great communication, the ability to hire and motivate talent, and of course, you can’t be an asshole. You know, all the things they don’t teach in design school. Read the rest of the interview here.

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Chris Baker Likes to Fuck With People

Chris Baker is a social media Shaman. He solves complex issues, like replacing photos of your friends’ babies on Facebook with cats through his app Unbaby.me, or offering you ridiculous things to buy while under the influence with the Drrrunk Shopping app. He even co-authored The Elements of F*cking Style (a parody of the very dry Strunk & White grammar usage guide for writers), as a helpful guide for all of our “dull” friends who don’t know the difference between their, there, and they’re.

Let’s face it, we’ve all wanted to hide some of our friends’ babies from our feeds, and scream at others over their atrocious grammatical offenses, but we don’t. That’s the beauty of Baker and his collaborators. They don’t just think it, they do it and in a big, hilarious way. He is behind some of the funniest apps, games, and websites in recent years such as GOP Arcade, M. Knight School, and Operation Troll the NSA. Baker has also managed to create insightful dialogues with projects like Seeing Eye People, which dispatched volunteers throughout New York City to guide people too distracted with their phones to look up while walking, and reframing the question around whether or not it’s a choice to be gay.

Baker left the agency life a couple of years ago to become a freelance writer and creative director, and to pursue the projects he’s most passionate about—the kind that cause controversy and make people literally laugh out loud (We don’t use LOL here).Why did you drop out of high school, and how pissed were your parents?

I grew up in an insane school system in south Florida, surrounded, then, mostly by people who would years later come to inhabit the Azazelian-like Florida Man creature we’ve all come to know. Getting out of there was a great move. My parents were not amused.

You’ve worked for a lot of big branding agencies including BBDO, CP+B, and RG/A. How were you able to land those gigs without a high school diploma?

All that matters is your portfolio. Unless you’re working in the finance department, no one cares what your story is. Read the rest of the interview here.

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Marc English is Always Going Off the Beaten Path

Whether he’s teaching, designing, or hitting the road on his motorcycle, Marc English never takes the prescribed route. No, he likes to distance himself from the tried and true, sticking to his gut instincts and following his muse.

English has become widely known in design circles as an eccentric with an appetite for adventure. He’s crisscrossed the U.S. on his Triumph Bonneville, meeting new people, sketching, speaking, and always searching for the best piece of pie. Here he talks about his journeys, people he’s met, things he’s seen, and his role in design.

What exactly are you up to these days?

For the last couple of years, I’ve been beating this expression into the ground, when folks ask what I’m up to: “As little as possible, and I don’t even start that till noon.” The truth is, I’m doing what I’ve been doing for the last thirty years: living life as best I can, with design and education paying the rent. Just more than a year ago, I was speaking at a conference in Palm Springs, and the name of my talk was “The Career I Never Wanted,” as I have never wanted to work for myself. Always wanted to work for someone older, smarter, more talented, that would take me under their wing. Life doesn’t always work the way you’d like, so I’ve had to suffer the consequences of my choices.

At the Boston HOW Conference of 1994, the late Gordon McKenzie, then creative director at Hallmark, spoke movingly about life in design, acknowledging the safest one can be is in an underground bunker with no windows or doors. I liken that to any number of dead-end design gigs — I’ll let the reader fill in the blanks as they see fit. On the other hand, Gordon said the most free one can be is in free-fall from an airplane without a parachute. I’d say that to a degree, I’ve been in the latter category, and after having my own gig for 23+ years, am lucky enough to have not yet hit ground. Before I hit, I’d like to find an equilibrium and halfway point between the two. Read the rest of the interview here.

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