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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Jessica Hische on the Art of Procrastination

If it seems like design darling Jessica Hische’s rapid ascent in the design world came easy, she’ll be the first to tell you that she worked her ass off to get where she is today, pulling all-nighters pursuing her passion. And she’s still kicking ass and taking numbers.

Known for her illustrative hand-lettering, Hische has worked for an impressive roster of clients including Starbucks, Wes Anderson, The New York Times, Target, Tiffany & Co., and Samsung. Last year she released her first book, In Progress, for Chronicle Books, which details her exacting process for drawing type. Part information, part inspiration, part eye candy, this is a fun romp through her sketchbook and how she approaches her projects.

Always one to share (or as she says, “over-share”) on her website, Hische offers great advice when it comes to creative burn-out, getting paid, and being productive. Here, we talk to her about her penchant for procrastination and how it’s actually benefited her over the years.

You’re a self-described procrastinator … in fact, you’ve coined the term “procrastiworking.” What does this mean, exactly and how bad are you?

To me, procrastiworking just means putting off the work you’re supposed to do by working on something else [that is also productive / challenging creatively]. It doesn’t always mean putting off work until the last minute—sometimes I procrastiwork by hopping around on different projects in a single day (when I start losing steam on one, I’ll work on another, assuming I don’t have an immediate impending deadline). Sometimes it means rearranging my schedule so that I can fit in passion projects. When I am really fired up about a personal project, I work on it during the work day, and work on client work in the evenings (because I know I HAVE TO stay up to finish it, because of a deadline, versus the personal work).

I do it quite a bit. But the thing that’s odd is that the more I do it the more productive I am. I’m probably more likely to hit a client deadline and make great work if I have bounced around on a lot of things in the process of getting there. Read the rest of the interview here.

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Marty Neumeier on the Transformative Branding Industry

You could call him the boss of brand thinking, with six notable books on the subject and more than 45 years of experience in the design field, or you could just call him Marty—which is what he likely prefers. Branding is under his skin, part of his DNA, and it’s something he constantly thinks about, and rethinks, as consumer habits change.

How did an Art Center drop out become such an enigma in the world of brand positioning and strategy? Well, as you’ll learn here, through hard work, intuition, and failure. Seven years ago he sold his brand design think tank, Neutron to Liquid Agency, where he serves as the Director of Transformation. In this role he helps companies transform themselves through brand strategy.

Neumeier recently updated his bestselling book, The Brand Gap, and retitled it The Brand Flip to account for all the changes that have happened in the past 13 years since the book was released. But he believes the core ideas he communicated in the original still hold true, as he explains below.

How did you become such an expert on Branding?

I’ve been thinking about branding since design school at Art Center. I love the aesthetics part, but surely it’s not important to anybody unless it connects with a business result. It took me a long time to connect the dots and the role for designers to be strategic thinkers.

Back in 1970, a booklet came out called Positioning: The Battle For Your Mind, and it was a little orange booklet you could stick in your pocket. I read it, and was like, “Oh wow, this is what we have to do.” It’s better than all that advertising stuff that had come before. This is solid, logical stuff. I started thinking about the designer’s role in creating a position for a company vs. the competition. The more I thought about it, the more I was able to sell that to clients. I’d say, “I know what you’re trying to do, and this is who you want to be. You need to make some changes, and this is how I can help you.” That was the start of my branding career, but it was a long-time coming. Read the rest of the interview here.

Ti Chang: Designing Desirable Products for Women

In the past few years, a sexual revolution of sorts has been happening globally, with female designers leading the charge in developing beautiful and functional products in the adult toy industry, specifically for women. One of them is Ti Chang, cofounder and lead designer at Crave.

For decades, men were the primary product designers in this industry, and it showed. There seemed to be a catchall design in women’s products—large, pink vibrators that didn’t always deliver the punch they promised. The designers overlooked one vital point: All women do not derive pleasure the same way. There was also a shameful stigma attached to the purchase of such products, which were usually sold at seedy adult toy stores.

Thankfully, the landscape has shifted tremendously, with women leading the way. They are designing better products made with safer and more comfortable materials, sold at retail and online shops that are now socially acceptable for women to peruse. Here we talk to Chang about how she and her business partner sold their first Crave product via Crowdfunding, and her journey into designing pleasure products for women.

Chang studied industrial design at Georgia Institute of Technology where she received her BS, and she earned a Masters in Design Products from Royal College of Art in London. She worked with large consumer brands such as Goody and Trek, designing the Ouchless Hairbrush for the former, and a tandem bicycle for the latter, among other things.

What inspired/motivated you to design intimate products for women?

There has been such a dearth of well-designed products for women, not just in sex toys but in general consumer products, and I decided that I wanted to help change that. Women should not have to put up with bad sex toys. Read the rest of the interview here.

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