Rob Giampetro on ‘Stereotypography’

Posted in advertising, brands, graphic design, typography, visual culture by adoxographist on March 5, 2010

Neuland (as well as its doppelgäanger Lithos) is one of those typefaces I feel like I’m always bumping into. These display faces are highly recognizable and appear on everything from Trader Joe’s Organic Coconut Oil to the on-screen graphics for Big Buck Hunter Safari Edition and in wordmarks and logos from the Subaru Outback to Jurassic Park.  Notice a trend? 

Neuland Black, 1923

Lithos Pro Black, 1989

I wanted to give props to an interesting article by design writer Rob Giampietro that attempts to explain how Neuland and Lithos Inline have become adopted by designers as the default typeface for all manner of African/jungle/primitive/exotic-themed graphic applications. 

Neuland was hand carved by German typographer Rudolph Koch in 1923 to serve as an expressive, modern interpretation of traditional German blackletter type.  Lithos, designed by Carol Twombly in 1989, is also a display type, but one which draws heavily from the simple geometric letterforms adorning ancient Greek temples (the Inline variation, however, has come to usurp standard Lithos in popularity.) 

Because of their blocky sans-serif letterforms and coarse, rough-hewn appearance, both Neuland and the similar Lithos Inline are often used interchangeably to convey an ethos of the “primitive” or “exotic,” and are frequently used within African or Native American contexts.  (An article here theorizes on the visual conflation of the expressionist Neuland with the archaic Lithos.

Neuland Inline


In his investigative essay, “New Black Face,” published in 2004, Rob Giampietro probes the histories of Neuland and Lithos to better understand their perpetual affiliation with the visual aesthetic of African- and Native American cultures.  Giampietro traces the origins of  Neuland to locate it  within both the visual and advertising culture of Black Minstrelsy, and the taste for primitivism that resurfaced in stylistic trends of the 1920s.  He then identifies the role of Neuland and Lithos in their use by designers to perpetuate a “stereotypography,” a clever portmanteu describingthe stereotyping of cultures through typefaces associated with them.” 




Giampietro’s aptly titled article poses some interesting questions about the typographical politics of race.  He culls a diverse breadth of visual evidence to support his inquiry, from historical advertisements for tobacco products and circus shows, to the design of contemporary book covers, be it trashy pulp fiction or Native Son.  The author touches briefly on the absence of Neuland and Lithos from African American-designed publications and graphics, but only piques my interest in learning more about how type- and graphic designers of color have responded to the use of these fonts to evoke problematic cultural concepts.  For anyone who’s ever wondered why The Lion King, Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa, and Jungle 2 Jungle share a similar logotype, Giampietro’s essay will prove insightful and a reminder never to take type at face value. 





Beyoncé Goes Banjee Bettie Page

Posted in fashion, hip hop culture, music videos, streetwear, trends, visual culture by adoxographist on February 18, 2010

A little slow on the uptake here, but WHY DID NO ONE TELL ME OF THE EXCELLENCE OF THE ‘VIDEO PHONE’ VIDEO??

Beyoncé dropped this joint in November off her I Am…Yours album. The video features a cameo by Lady Gaga and the Midas touch of auteur director Hype Williams.

Gaga intentionally toned it down to let Beyoncé’s styling and choreography sing, and sing she does–in, like, 12 different outfit changes/personas.  New York Magazine briefly breaks down each style in a slideshow here.

Amidst the futuristic vinyl bustiers, metallic lipstick and superhero getups, two retro looks stand out to capture the true diva’s requisite coupling of hotness and swagga.

Holy crap.  I’m not usually feelin’ the Bettie Page pin-up vibe, but, just…holy crap.  That red lipstick, the fringe bangs–Beyonce serves face in this look.

This throwback look is awesome and I’m obsessed with it. Beyoncé’s stylists channeled that 90s TLC/Salt N’ Pepa/oversized Looney Tunes shirt/Cross Colors thing and mixed it up with Chola badass femininity.




You can cop the sequined alien dress as part of Gerlan Jeans‘ debut collection, Peace and Love, Inc., pictured above, from F/W 09.

Although ironic 90s hip-hop revival is nothing new (check the selection of Taz/alien/skull t-shirts my dude DJ Kingdom has had in his rotation for years, or the snap-back Starter caps favored by the younger urban set) it’s gratifying and exciting to see Beyoncé dipped in it for her ‘Video Phone’ video.  Props to whoever styled the shoot, and the hair and makeup genius who laced Beyoncé with such a fierce look.



Design Review: ‘A Single Man’

Posted in colors, design review, industrial design, production design, visual culture by adoxographist on February 17, 2010

Tom Ford’s 2009 directorial debut A Single Man is exactly the kind of film one would expect the menswear mogul to produce: warm and sensuous, modern but with reverence for tradition, unapologetically androphiliac, and, like the designer himself, talkative without much to say.

Ford’s adaptation of James Isherwood’s 1964 germinal gay liberation novel is unforgivably laden with hackneyed tropes, clumsy flashback sequences and plodding dialogue that leave it stranded far from cinematic excellence.  Preciously artsy underwater scenes and prolonged, full-body vanity pans further contribute to a gestalt that is, at times, terribly self-conscious and more than a little indulgent. However, in triaging Style over Substance, A Single Man sure is a pleasure to watch—especially for the design enthusiasts and menswear mavens among us.

George Falconer (Colin Firth) is a middle-aged British expatriot teaching English at a California university. The sudden death of his longtime partner Jim, killed in a car accident, renders George emotionally shattered and contemplating death.  The film follows one day in George’s life and charts the events that lead to his transformation from hopelessness to redemption.

To believably locate the story in 1962 Los Angeles, the director called upon the period know-how of production designer Dan Bishop and set decorator Amy Wells—the team that styles AMC’s hit drama Mad Men.  Bishop and Wells’ production design channels the chicness of Southern California at mid-century, but their trademark realism and genericizing aesthetic reminds viewers that furnishings from this era weren’t all about pop and plastic.  The team’s sets for Mad Men and A Single Man trend more toward Florence Knoll’s corporate minimalism than Verner Panton’s mirthfulness.  With tasteful understatement, Bishop and Well’s authentic period look establishes an appreciably classy backdrop that deftly adapts to support different characters and changes of mood.

As a designer, Ford’s signature touch is most perceptible in the film’s earthy palette and architectural sensibility.  Scenes set in George Falconer’s fictional Santa Monica home were actually shot in Glendale, in a gorgeously modern, glass-and-wood residence designed in 1949 for the Schaffer family by Frank Lloyd Wright understudy John Lautner.

In a nod to Isherwood’s own progressive sexual politics, Ford literally exposes his openly gay protagonist behind the plate-glass walls of this house: in one comical scene, George is spotted by a neighbor while on the toilet in his ultra-modern bathroom. The warm, rich tones abundant in the house’s wood construction also evince Ford’s aesthetic predilection for sophisticated masculinity, and even recall the bronzed vistas of bare skin from 2007’s racy Tom Ford for Men ad campaign.

Inside the house, the furniture seems carefully curated (indeed, most of it belongs to Ford himself, as he revealed in an interview with Filmmaker magazine.) Expanses of dark leather and wood combine to lend a luxuriously masculine feel to the interiors that harmonizes with the architecture.  In fact, it’s the humane and livable modernity of Bishop and Wells’ design for George Falconer’s domestic environment that gives the viewer a glimmer of hope for this suicidal character. If set amidst the bleakness and rigidity of concrete and steel, it’s clear his will to surmount depression wouldn’t stand a chance.

George’s emotional devastation after the death of his longtime partner is palpable in the melancholic palette of brown, beige and gray that drapes over the mise en scene like a pall, literally precluding any color from enlivening his gloomy worldview.

When permitted, the eye gluts on festive orgies of pattern and color in the Hollywood Regency interiors at the home of George’s close friend Charly (Julianne Moore.) Charly is a woman of a certain age whose own post-divorce despondence is a little more charismatic, and colorful, than George’s—she smokes pink cigarettes while downing gin cocktails at dinner.

In an overused visual device, full saturation returns to the screen periodically when George experiences sensorial jolts that stir up memories and restore his tenuous morale: a fresh faced male student in his English lecture, the dewy petals of a rose, the aniline acquamarine of the neighbor girl’s dress.

Keeping with the rest of the film’s design, the costumes styled by Arianne Philips toe the modernist line without going over the top.  While Charly favors graphically-forward prints on her party dresses and flourishes of makeup that fortify her public veneer, George opts for a smartly classic uniform (designed by Ford, naturally) that remains dependable, even when nothing else in his life will.  The director’s background as a menswear designer is evident in the loving attention he lavishes on George’s meticulous presentation. Several scenes detail the character’s elaborate morning dressing ritual or show him compulsively arranging his personal effects (including an outfit to be buried in) while he prepares to make a suicide attempt.

Visually elegant and sensuous, A Single Man unfolds, in the words of my screening companion, “like a long perfume commercial,” not necessarily a negative assessment if you like that kind of thing.  Ford has succeeded in making a film that displays his trademark ‘classic modern’ style and his obsession with masculinity and all its material trappings. As a director, his style is clearly rooted in the dramatic interiors and sexualized aesthetic of the fashion editorial.  Ford contracted one of the most talented production design teams working today to bring his vision to life, and the work of Dan Bishop and Amy Wells imbues A Single Man with the compelling period style that carries the film’s paltry substance.

The ‘it’ color of 2010

Posted in colors, trends, visual culture by adoxographist on February 6, 2010

Turquoise will reign supreme as the “Color of the Year” for 2010.  In a December press release, color magnate Pantone crowned the “inviting and luminous” shade (PMS 15-5519) the hue de rigeur, succeeding 2009’s Mimosa (PMS 14-0848) and 2008’s Blue Iris (PMS 18-3943.)

While Pantone is well-respected in the design industry as an authority on color standardization, their forays into trend forecasting may need to be taken with a grain of salt.

I’m glad to see this decree validating a proclivity for turquoise I started noticing in 2009. A quick scroll back through my [admittedly lean] archives reveals my affection for aquamarine in all its recent manifestations, from the shop windows and catalogs of Crate and Barrel, to the colorways of Nike footwear.  Here’s a shot of my bedroom wall, painted “Tropical Skies” last spring:

Pantone’s 15-5519 is a little too delicate and pastel for my taste, so here’s hoping 2010 sees shades of turquoise more “Tropical Skies” than Tiffany box.

Blog struggles to maintain seriality

Posted in advertising, brands, colors, fitteds, footwear, sneakers, streetwear, visual culture by adoxographist on January 13, 2010

The Adoxographist apologizes sincerely for the regrettable paucity of content in recent weeks. An absence of public comment in no way reflects a dearth in subjects suitable for discussion, however.  Rather, the author’s mental faculties have been consumed of late by those matters deemed by some as more “pressing” than the expository postulations generally explored herein. School marks perhaps the most demanding distraction, but fulfilling the requirements necessary to obtain my Masters’ degree (and, as one could extrapolate, necessary for obtaining relevant employment in my field) constitutes a worthy endeavor in my estimation, and has thus monopolized my attention with little resistance. My academic sojourns over the course of this semester have allowed me to research such fascinating and personally relevant topics as:

Stereographs in American Culture (for my Material Culture of NYC in the 19th Century Class)


Eames Office information design for the IBM pavilion at the 1964 World’s Fair, including their Think multi-screen presentation (for my Politics and Design of World’s Fairs course)

and, uhhh….

…Qasr Kharana, a mysterious,  8th-century Islamic structure built in the Jordanian steppe (for my Islamic Art and Architecture Survey.)

Digressions aside (or, should I say, “asides aside”), some obligatory content to sate the legions of readers hungry for my ruminations on visual/material culture:

As a frequent patron of New York’s most useful cultural institution, the public library, I saw an interesting link on its newly-redesigned website recently:

The image should link to Brand New‘s “Best and Worst Identities of 2009” feature.  Some of the choices may surprise, and if you can stomach the snarky banter of know-it-all designers, the comments section might prompt a LOL or two.

I’m embarrassed by the fact that it took a library, of all places (albeit a hip one whose reworked identity garnered praise from the editors at Brand New), to clue me into this resource.  It’s like my ideal topic for an animated-cocktail-party-conversation-with-stranger, only in website form!  I’ll be sure to check it frequently during all the spare time I will have in this, my last semester of grad school…

I don’t have any sexy DSLR pics to prove it, but I did cop that coveted pair of Nike Air Max Lebron VII sneakers I reviewed a few months back, amidst all the hype surrounding speculated colorways and release dates.

I held out for the “Red Carpet” colorway with that alluring turquoise hue–technically called ‘Glass Blue’ by the heads at Nike–since none of the other palettes held as much appeal. Curiously enough, a poll conducted on LBJ sneaker fansite suggests the original release colorway (red, black patent leather and white flywire…snooze) remains the most popular of the VII releases to date; the Red Carpet iteration ranks at third place. In any case, it’s a visually stunning sneaker, and in addition, I’m reminded of the comfortable and lightweight 360º air technology with every step.

This new footwear acquisition finds me in a position to augment my collection of headgear accordingly. My brain instinctively envisioned a two-tone Florida Marlins joint kinda like this one, but minus the contrast stitching (sartorial pet peeve numero uno):

But that would be too simple…and besides, the colors don’t quite match up as perfectly as I wish they would. The good folks over at Strictly Fitteds suggested this link up, a custom Vancouver Grizzlies 5150 produced by MyFitteds, but for some reason, the logo just reminds me of a swollen embolism or tumor.  Gross.

Instead, I may just top off the kicks with this Seattle Mariners New Era from, customized for the Air Max Griffey re-release a few months back.  Its deeper shade of teal is more akin to the Fresh Water color used on the Griffeys, and also the color on the Red Carpets, and furthermore could go well with the pair of Fresh Water Air Max 95s I hope will materialize in my future:

However maybe it’s the San Jose Sharks’ shade of turquoise that will match up the best:

This might also be the perfect opportunity to dip into the world of Minor League MLB fitteds and all the wacky logos and wild customizations that obtain in that realm, such as this Clearwater (FL) Threshers piece…but before I get ahead of myself, MiLB logos are another blog post in the making…

Naturally, as soon as I got home with the Red Carpet LeBrons, I started reading about the Dunkman version set to drop in March:

Even with the profusion of amateur flics floating around the internet, these already look like a must-have.  In this pair, the use of that undesirable Flywire material is neutralized, even trumped by that sexy patent leather–a touch of class missing from my Red Carpet pair.

It never ends…

In other sneaker news, it just dawned on me why I grew so fond of the Phoenix Suns Dunks from Nike’s NBA pack–they resemble the Storm Pack Air Maxes I’ve coveted since I saw them on the feet of an old coworker, same anthracite-abyss-orange colorway:

A moody color combination (“stormy,” even) that would bring that fiyah to a casual Friday scenario when worn with some black or dark blue jeans.  Since the Air Max 1s illustrated above are listed on Flight Club for over $300 (price reduced), I’m glad I grabbed the Dunks to tide me over.

advertising addresses information overload

Posted in advertising, internet culture, visual culture by adoxographist on November 5, 2009

I saw an ad for HTC Phones the other night.  I’d never heard of them before (I blame it on a limited attention economy that prevents me from checking in on CNET as often as I should).  The minute-long spot I saw from their “You are Different” campaign caught me by surprise.  It’s a series of stylized vignettes culled from the diverse breadth of the human experience: working late at the office, seeing a live show, a solo traveler returning home, a sentimental moment with some music, a lovesick dude, a fighting couple, high school girls sharing a laugh–each episode or emotion facilitated and mediated by an HTC device.  “You don’t need to get a phone, you need a phone that gets you. And you. And you. And you.”

A simple, quick, clear, and compelling advertisement, to be sure.  What’s most salient about HTC’s campaign is the ‘realness’ with which they choose to portray the role of technology/information access in our accelerated lifestyles, that is, the good times as well as the bad.  Yeah, phones help us stay connected to loved ones, be more productive, and, increasingly, allow us to both produce and consume more and more information and media.  But the HTC ad attempts to depict the lived experience of technology in a media-saturated context, and acknowledges that phones can be the bearers of bad news, mitigate our privacy, stress us out, offset a work/life balance, and generally contribute to a world that can feel more complicated than it ever has before.

Not long after the HTC spot aired, I saw another similar advertisement for Microsoft’s Bing search ‘decision’ engine. The tech-critique of the “Search Overload Sydrome” series is delivered with a dose of humor. When a simple question comes up in conversation (a wife asking her husband if he purchased their plane tickets to Hawaii, a woman asking her pregnant friend about prenatal dietary restrictions), respondants afflicted with Search Overload Syndrome spew forth a jumble of tangentially related news results, travel tips, recipes, definitions and classifieds  results, much to the consternation of their befuddled interlocutor.  “What has search overload done to us?” the narrator asks.  What indeed.

Does the partially unflattering nature of ‘internet realism’ provide an arable context for the marketing of tech products and services?  Clearly, representations of the messy end-user realities of web 3.0 are required if Bing is to be marketed as the antidote to an overabundance of information.  For HTC, their “we-get-your-lifestyle-and-subsequently-your-love/hate-relationship-with-technology” strategy is a little more subtle, a little more disingenuous.

Internet/tech realism in advertising is complex and creepy but also compelling.  I guess there’s something universalizing and humbling in the frustration of an HTTP 404 File Not Found error message, in checking your phone compulsively for a response to that loaded text you sent, and wading through pages and pages of “not it” looking for any shard of text from a search result that looks promising. This is a reality that nobody is immune from: not me, not the CEO of HTC, not the editor of the Bing spot, not the actors, and not you.(…and you…and you…and you)

I wonder if this is a sign of tech marketing moving beyond an imagined internet utopia where there’s a widget for anything that ails you and perpetual connectivity is paramount?  I’m looking forward to more media and marketing that addresses real issues experienced by the real consumers of their products and services.

Design Review: Nike Air Max Lebron VII ‘Red Carpet’

Posted in design review, footwear, industrial design, product design, sneakers, streetwear by adoxographist on October 24, 2009

I love sneakers. However, aside from a burgeoning appreciation for certain Air Jordans–just IIIs, IVs and Vs, thanks–I devote little time to collecting basketball shoes, retro or contemporary.  My sneaker closet shamelessly reveals my devoted patronage to Nike’s ACG, Air Max and Sportswear lines, and I will readily cop to being blissfully ignorant in my erstwhile eschewage of the brand’s basketball-specific footwear.

That all changed this August when I got a sneak peek at the upcoming Air Max LeBron VII posted as part of Freshness’ ongoing coverage of the latest ‘Bron releases.

Nike Air Max Lebron James VII Red Carpet colorway

Nike Air Max Lebron James VII "Red Carpet" colorway

Hold the phone–now there’s a basketball shoe I can really sink my feet into.

Designed by sneakerhead-cum-footwear-designer Jason Petrie, LeBron’s latest signature shoe features a few new technological innovations that really inform the gestalt of the sneaker. (Petrie waxes specific on these technical novelties and the lifestyle cues used as inspiration for his shoe in a video from KixandtheCity, on site at the LeBron VII launch and media summit.) In brief, the LeBron VII boasts a redesigned and basketball-specific 360º Air Max unit (now with 80% more air!) visible inside the length of the midsole, in addition to the incorporation Nike’s Flywire composite material in the upper for tensile yet lightweight support on most models.

LeBron puts his design priorities plainly in the above Nike-produced video, stating that “the first thing is, I want it to look good.” Not playing basketball myself, I can’t agree more. Recently, SneakerNews published some detailed shots of the much-hyped Red Carpet colorway (drawing its material inspirations from LeBron’s “red carpet” lifestyle), and after a closer look, I can imagine LeBron was mighty satisfied with the final manifestation of this, his seventh signature shoe:

The simplistic silhouette and organic curves of the form provide a soothing visual counterpart to the anxious, futuristic technology of materials on display. In profile, the sneaker’s surface area is broken up into several horizontal passages of texture and color that gently transition visually and anatomically from weightless, translucent midsole, to heel and toe swathed in pebble grain leather, up through the body of the sneaker executed in a woven textile (that’s tactily and aesthetically superior to the mutant skin of Flywire), and finally at the top, a Mowabb-inspired soft ankle cuff.

Design Predecessor: Air Max 97

Design Predecessor: Air Max 97

Part of the appeal of the LeBron VII is the full-length Air Max unit.  It’s what perpetually draws me back to Air Max 97s no matter how badly Nike designers may disgrace their iconic form with garish colorways and materials,

Design Predecessor: Air Terra 90

Design Predecessor: Air Terra 90

it’s the design feature that most attracted me to the Air Max Terra Humara (even when nobody else felt ’em and they were on clearance shelves),

Design Predecessor: Air Total Max Uptempo

Design Predecessor: Air Total Max Uptempo

and it’s what lured me to almost cop a pair of Air Total Max Uptempos a few months back.

In this model, the Air Unit is seamless, flush with the midsole, smooth and streamlined.  Its full-length visibility, unfettered by incursions of the foam surround, flatters and flaunts the shoe’s singular profile. A squishy bubble of air sitting sensuously beneath the simplistically designed but technically advanced basketball upper feels like a natural and harmonious hybridization of Nike’s design innovations, both aesthetic and athletic. In fact, it’s such an effortless marriage of forms, I almost wonder what took them so long.

Speculative LeBron VII colorways

I’ve chosen to focus on the so-called ‘Red Carpet’ colorway since after this summer, when turquoise proved to be the official hue of the season, I’m just such a sucker for any and all applications of Nike’s ‘Fresh Water’ treatment. Thus far, none of the 6 or so colorways that have been previewed have held my attention…well, except maybe the black/neon green variation pictured on the right (again with the Air Total Max Uptempo reference.)

Another distinction held by the Red Carpet release is its NFW (that’s No Flywire) construction that instead employs a Woven-esque material on the body of the sneaker and an embroidered swoosh outline.  This subtle touch, both tactile and visual, helps humanize the shoe’s futuristic composition by adding this whimsical, “archaic” quirk.

I feel the Red Carpet colorway could definitely have benefitted from a little patent leather love, a luxury not spared on the other versions shown above. Pebble grain leather feels so matte and dull on this otherwise forward-looking design, and patent might have been better suited for this secular, street-oriented NFW colorway.

Overscaled LeBron logo = too much

Overscaled LeBron logo = too much

Both Petrie and James cite the shoe’s detailing as one of its design strengths.  Naturally, a signature shoe should feature some LeBron branding, but both designer and namesake went a little overboard with the application, demonstrated in the gaudy, overscaled LeBron logo on the medial heel.

Ok, ok, we get it.

Ok, ok, we get it.

Another minor design misstep was the “Twenty Three” text detailing on the already clumsy toe bumper.  Not only is the piquant red text jarring against all that serene blue (although I suppose there needed to be some red in the “Red Carpet” colorway), but hasn’t Michael Jordan culturally secured lifetime exclusive rights to emblazoning the numerals 23 on a basketball shoe?

Tongue section

Tongue section

Smaller LeBron logo and incised script detailing

Smaller LeBron logo and incised script detailing.

Generally, the detailing concentrated on the tongue, and rear portion of the sneaker is successful.  Small swatches of black patent leather in both sections provide a teasing touch of luxury,  while the perforated mesh tongue creates a material link to the woven textile body. The smaller LeBron logos on the external heel tastefully convey the identity of the shoe’s patron, as do the subtle, incised “L” and “J” on the white foam of the left and right heel, respectively.

My last gripe with Petrie’s design of the new LeBron VII concerns the sole of the sneaker.  The quadrisected planes of turquoise and black radiating from a central LeBron-branded medallion disrupt the established horizontality of the rest of the sneaker.  Petrie may have done better to leave it uniformly black and abandon the sort of spiderweb motif suggested by the concentric circles and radiating diagonals. (Not pictured are the even worse variations on sole treatment I saw on other colorways of this model.)



To make it clear, I’m solidly impressed with the beautiful industrial design of this sneaker.  I think Petrie, James and Nike have managed to craft a basketball shoe with a broad aesthetic appeal that caught the eye of even staunch running/lifestyle sneaker devotees like myself.   In my estimation, the real success lies in the execution of the artfully-designed sneaker that surpasses its specialized function/market appeal to unite different camps of sneaker consumers and enthusiasts under the universal recognition of good design.

Select colorways of the Nike Air Max Lebron VII are scheduled for release today, Saturday, October 24th, however there is some confusion about the availability and release date of the Red Carpet edition concerned in this review.

Nike Blazers ‘blaze’ a path for sneakers into boot territory

Posted in colors, footwear, sneakers, trends by adoxographist on September 23, 2009

Nike sure gave their hi-top Blazer model a lot of play this summer, from the deplorable Jackie Robinson series to a pair executed in this summer’s popular turquoise hue (Nike’s designers decided to call it Fresh Water, and then proceeded put it on everything.)

Nike Blazer Jackie Robinson pack

Nike Blazer Jackie Robinson pack

Nike Blazer Fresh Water (!!)

Nike Blazer Fresh Water (!!)

Nike Blazers Summer 2009

Nike Blazers Summer 2009

Fall/winter preview pics have been out for a minute and no doubt some of the pictured shoes are already in stores.  Check out the green one, it’s part of an upcoming monster pack for Halloween.

Fall/Winter 2009 Blazers (via

Fall/Winter 2009 Blazers (via

Fall/Winter 2009 Blazers (from

Fall/Winter 2009 Blazers (from

Can’t say I’m a huge fan of the Blazer (though I did just cop a modest pair recently), but it is kind of cool to see Nike going off with colorways and fabrics on mens’ versions this model for once.

I’ve got to wonder if Nike’s recent Blazer-pushing agenda has anything to do with  the Doc Marten revival I started seeing last fall and documented here, here with a Yoshi Yamamoto makeover, and again here in a Raf Simons collab.

Both brands seem to be exploring (or revisiting) the notion of a playful, yet tightly-laced (har) high top model.  We’ll see what pans out by Spring 2010.

Monochromatic Doc Martens, Spring 2009?

Monochromatic Doc Martens, Spring 2009?

Come to think of it, here‘s a Spring 2010 Doc Martens preview.  Hypebeast commenter Andy nails it by calling them on the clean, simplistic Japanese vibe, but I also wanna diagnose the effects of a little Desert Boot mania in there, too.

Doc Martens Spring 2010

Doc Martens Spring 2010

Clarks Desert Boot

Clarks Desert Boot

the future vs futura

Posted in Uncategorized by adoxographist on September 8, 2009

Friends keep sending me links to articles about Ikea’s recent decision to switch typefaces in their print and web catalogs from Futura to Verdana. I love the politics of type design and the role typefaces play in articulating and supporting brand identity, but I can’t help but feel that this whole debate is somewhat silly.

“Good” design is a lot about functionality, and if Futura wasn’t functional enough to serve Ikea’s evolving needs, than it needed to get the old heave ho. Futura, though beautiful and endearing in its optimistic egalitarianism and sans serif insouciance, was released in 1927, before the age of complex web layouts and catalogs printed in dozens of languages, each with unique characters and symbols not always available in every font. Award-winning typeface Verdana was designed for Microsoft Corporation by Matthew Carter in 1996, and was engineered with digital legibility at small point sizes in mind.  Its primary liability in the eyes of detractors is its generic look and ubiquity (on- and off-screen) in American visual culture…a sentiment frequently reserved for such hackneyed pieces of Ikea-designed furniture as the ever popular Lack side table, Billy bookcase, or Malm dresser.

The new version of Ikeas print catalog featuring Verdana

The new version of Ikea's print catalog featuring Verdana originally spied at

For their 2010 catalog, Ikea felt ready to look beyond Futura’s avant garde cache and accept the fact that the technological versitility of a typeface is perhaps more relevant to consumers’ contemporary lifestyles and the corporation’s (commercial?) concerns than its radical typographic politics.  Did they sell out by scrapping Futura’s iconically artful simplicity? If required to flip through an entire catalog in one sitting, I might have to agree.  But in addition to any romantic spewings floating around about the company selling the world a sense of good design, let us not forget Ikea is in the market of selling, period. To them, Verdana provided an appropriate design solution for their percieved problem with the layout of print- and web-based copy and its translation into the native scripts of the multitude of nations to which the company would like to sell its products.

Ikeas old catalog with Futura (L) and new one employing Verdana (R)

Ikea's old catalog with Futura (L) and new one employing Verdana (R)

It makes sense that Ikea, not always a “font” of radically innovative design solutions and more a purveyor of economical, functional goods would select a typeface so utilitarian and lowbrow (while still elegant) as Verdana. Like their trademark flat packaging, switching typefaces provides another way Ikea can strive to keep the costs of their goods low, and their products accessible internationally–and shouldn’t that be the larger concern of the good design police currently clamoring for the brand to reinsate a technologically obsolete and uppity typeface to market those goods?