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Field report: 6 stillframes from New York City

For the longest time, Akira’s post on graffiti in New York City was the most popular one on this blog.

I had the digital camera with me on my October trip, but I was drawn more to the feel of the streetscape than the coloring on its walls. Resigned to documenting what I knew could never top the graffiti post, I snapped these in a streak on a walk by NYU.

This is New York as I see it.

Blades in Helvetica.
Of course we are going to notice typefaces, logo designs, color schemes. That’s just what we see first. Like in Mito, Japan. Or in Venice.

Superdry あさひ。
I liked seeing some Japanese on the street, and not having to be in Tokyo to see it.

New Ownership sign in a very typical New York style typeface
This reminds me of all the type you see if you spend more than a week in New York.

Madam Geneva in New York by NYU
They have their own unique sense of humor up there. It’s markedly different from the ironic humor you find in Seattle. It’s more about… quirkiness. Isn’t it?

Last Newspaper show at New Museum
The only museum I went to was the SANAA-designed New Museum. The building was super cool. The programming for the show called the Last Newspaper was really quite dull. It was so disappointing, in fact, I had to let somebody know.

So when the guy in the elevator, wearing an official-looking tag, pressed a button and we started moving, I go, “Disappointing curation, isn’t it?”

He agreed, he said. And then, “You should see the top floor. Wait, here.” And the elevator switched directions. Up we went to the balcony floor, where you could really appreciate the work the architects did to think through this exact view. Standing there for five minutes was worth the admission ticket. Had I missed it, I would have been kind of annoyed.

Fame in New York
Who remembers the 80s? Fame! I wanna live forever!…

Field Report: Palo Alto sun vibes

To get out of the gray for a bit, Design Kompany headed to Palo Alto, California on a recent last-minute deal.

Here are some pics:

Waiting for the Caltrain in the Bay Area

I love taking trains, so of course we had to go up to San Francisco by the ol’ Caltrain. It’s changed so much since the days of the early 1990s, when I was last there. No more little tickets to put above your seat, no more clunky dusty yellowing compartments. Although I have to admit, I liked the clunky dusty yellowing compartments. Very different from the superclean bullet trains of Japan, they felt more home to me. Rough around the edges Americana. Like wearing plaid.

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Field report: Design Kompany hits Boston, um, this past March

Glass plant sculpture

Earlier this spring Design Kompany went to Boston to be on the East Coast for a bit to get some inspiration.

You might remember my lament about Dunkin’ Donuts.

Wanted to share some other things from that same trip. Like this picture. We wandered into a museum on the Harvard campus that features a lot of really intricate glass representations of the reproductive parts of many kinds of plants.

And other things, like this sculpture, and also a bazillion butterflies and beetles.

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Field Report: DK gets Up Close at Tacoma Art Museum

Design Kompany took its second field trip to Tacoma ever to check out the Tacoma Art Museum’s exhibit of Chuck Close… um, tapestries.

We’re working on a total rebrand for a company that’s 110% open to our creative input (dream job!). So we’ve been investigating a million typefaces to see what could be a good match.

So it’s no surprise that half the time we were at Tacoma Art Museum, Akira, a groupie of Helvetica the movie, was conspicuously scrutinizing this one:

Tacoma Art Museum

I noticed one of the museum people noticing him checking out all angles of the gallery wall’s raised letterforms and mumbling something to himself.

“He’s really into typefaces,” I said.

Leaving Akira to muse over this, I zoomed ahead to Renoir and some woodblock prints and on to the section of large (these are big pieces of artwork for anyone who’s not familiar) Chuck Close stuff.

Chuck Close: A Couple of Ways of Doing Something

And I loved it.

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Short field report: Lars Gemzøe and Jeffrey Ochsner architecture lecture doubleheader at UW

Just back from two not-quite-back-to-back but double-booked lectures on architecture at University of Washington’s Kane Hall.

The first was Copenhagen-based public space designer Lars Gemzøe of He’s a partner at Gehl, a Danish firm that consults with cities across the globe on how to make better public spaces.

Gehl Architects consult with cities on how to make better public spaces

The second was UW professor Jeffrey Ochsner. His information-packed slideshow lecture ‘History of Seattle Architecture and Urbanism: 1880 – present’ was dense and yet intriguing. [Significant note: Power point was not used!]

One person asked Ochsner if Seattle design had somehow influenced architecture in other places. “I hate to puncture balloons,” the professor replied. “But yes. The shopping center.” Northgate shopping center—the first design to set buildings close together with a thin arcade between them and parking spaces all around—set an example for shopping malls across America, he said. See Northgate design essay at

I learned in Gemzøe’s lecture just upstairs half an hour before that shopping malls really took the wind out of the sails of public spaces. Malls replaced public squares. Yet they administered private rules. Shirts and shoes required. No playing radios. No sitting on the lawn, planters or sidewalks. “If you go to a city, these are the places people sit,” Gemzøe said.

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Field Report: Can arts and condos co-exist in Capitol Hill?

'Design Kompany Says Yes:'That's the question a panel of government folks and community arts advocates started to tackle earlier this evening.

Tonight’s meeting called out the problem of rising real estate prices that are forcing out lower income residents from Capitol Hill.

Like artists.

It was partly sponsored by a subgroup of 4Culture, partly by Capitol Hill Arts Center, and partly by the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce.

Here’s what came out of the discussion…

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Field Report: Dansk Design Center’s ‘Time for Each Other:’

Time for each other

I’m putting the final touches on Out of the Blue, a travelogue of my trip to Denmark, and thought I’d share this one photograph as a sneak-preview. I took this at the bottom of the Dansk Design Center in Copenhagen in October. This exhibit, “Flow Market,” was really fantastic. The whole thing was setup like a shop, and you could “buy” stuff like “empathy” and “exploitation free produce” and “clean air.” This is a permanent exhibit, and you really should check it out.

By the way, 30 krona is about $5.78, or Euro 4.02.

The Flow Market at
The Flow Market website

Design Kompany’s field report: the Venice art festival ‘La Biennale’

If you don’t know what La Biennale is, well, neither did I. But one of our clients, architect Joji Minatogawa, mentioned it this summer. It was really cool to hear about this convergence of really new and varied art in one location.

And not just any location–a city of canals, lovely architecture, history, and beautiful light. So I decided to veer a bit from a planned Scandinavia tour to study modern graphic design, and trek south to Italy, too.

Not bad.

Death in VeniceOf course once you get it into your head that you’re going somewhere you start conjuring up every tidbit you’ve heard or read about a place. Venice… the only thing surfacing was ‘Death in Venice’ by Thomas Mann. Ah… the melancholy, the despair, the stuff of that space you go into when you read Albert Camus’ ‘The Stranger.’ I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Death in Venice. Death in Venice. Woe! Hopelessness! That terrifically terrible scene at the end of ‘Apocalypse Now~!’ No wonder no one sat next to me on the plane.

Wait, sorry! This is Design Kompany’s blog and not Dipika Kohli’s personal travelogue. That’s for Out of the Blue. So I’ll get back in gear.

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Field Report: “Take Your Time” Olafur Eliasson and art as the future of democracy

360 room for all colours, installation view

I stumbled onto this exhibit by Ólafur Elíasson at SFMOMA last month, while in San Francisco. A whole top floor is dedicated to showcasing his work to date, while on the first floor there’s a frozen BMW in an icebox (picture here, though if you are planning to be at SFMOMA, you should wait to step into the freezer and see it for yourself).

Elíasson’s work is simple and accessible. He combines common materials such as mirrors, colored plexiglass, water, soil and lights, with simple shapes — rectangles, circles and polygons — in a nuanced, measured composition, to create an experience that makes seeing visible. For example, there’s a little window as you come up to the floor, looking out. Something you might ignore. However, if you pop your head in the recess of the window, you see that he had attached a mirror-lined box around the window, so if you look up, side or down, you see the reflection of yourself, the landscape outside, and the little yellow disk suspended in the box, in a mesmerizing kaleidoscope. You wonder what it’s about, and then realize, he just made your act of looking at a window interesting. Continue reading