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Big Ideas

Hop Down My January 2018 Design Rabbit Hole

Our journey includes stops at: Chilling out, Rubbish Famzine, Mickey Mouse cameras, Rhyme Crime, death apps, and gray matter. It doesn’t make sense now, and it may not later, either.

A monthly trip through a land of design and nonsense with executive editor Perrin Drumm. Opinions are most definitely her own.

Let me be the 3,759th person to wish you a Happy New Year. HNY! We’re already three weeks deep into 2018 so maybe you’re tired of hearing it, but by now you’ve probably discovered that some people have nothing better to say to one another in passing than HNY!, and frankly there are worse things to wish upon someone. Also, I bet there are people, close friends even, who you still haven’t seen since 2017. So it’s valid. Okay? HNY will be perfectly acceptable next week, too. Within 48 hours I guarantee it will be said again to you. Be nice. Say thanks.

We’re also three weeks into all our resolutions, which means I already have six-pack abs—what have you done? Fine, it’s a four-pack, but I have a short torso so that’s all there’s room for. Actually I have no idea how my torso length ranks on the global average. Where does a torso even start (top of shoulders? under boobs? below ribs?) and stop? This is probably very Googleable, but this year I’m resolving to invite more mystery into my life. Last year was good practice; I think we all got better at living with the question, which was What the hell is happening to the world?!? but now that we know there isn’t an answer, we can all chill. That’s something I could stand to get better at, too: chilling out. Never been a strong suit of mine, though I am amazing at the art of distraction. Some people call this procrastination, but those people are wrong (and rude). They are two different things, and I happen to be incredibly gifted at both.

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One thing that is helping to distract me is the latest issue of Rubbish Famzine, a biannual magazine lovingly created by the even more lovable Lim family, a mother-father-son-daughter team from Singapore. Issue #7 is a multi-format experience that tells the family’s story through its photographs, unfolding as a series of mini booklets of various sizes, and stuffed with fun little stickers, Cyanotype paper for making photo prints, and handmade tip-ins (like a teeny photo attached with the world’s smallest paperclip) all alligator-clipped together. The exposed Coptic binding alone will make you weep.

As with each issue before it, this one, titled “Flash and Blood,” is a meditation on a theme. Here the Lim family asks us to consider what the photos we take reveal, not of the subject, but of ourselves. All the photos are taken with a 35mm camera, which “in turn makes every single picture authentic, pure in its moment as we cannot ‘delete’ it nor try to recapture it again,” as one entry reads. It’s the perfect medium of choice for a family dedicated to all things analogue. There are errors in exposure, lens flares, blurs, and other inexplicable aberrations of development that every film lover will be familiar with. The most beautiful images in this issue are in the mini booklet called “My Private Universe,” a quiet ode to Claire Lim (the mother) by Pann (the father), who’s photos capture the small, intimate moments of domestic life. She is looking out a window, or across the room, unwitting that her picture is being taken. It’s a thoughtful pause in an issue otherwise packed with vibrant colors, busy patterns, and lively moments captured on film.

I bet Pann, an avid collector of weird, defunct, and outdated cameras, would love the Mick-A-Matic, a Mickey Mouse-shaped camera made by Disney in 1971, which is on display in MoMA’s fantastic exhibition of Stephen Shore’s work from the past five decades. Shore notes that when you take a picture of someone with a Mick-A-Matic, they always smile. You can’t not, right? I bought one on eBay after seeing the show, and I smile just looking at it on my shelf.

Illustrations from Rhyme Crime by doodle bear Jon Burgerman

Something else that’s making me smile (getting the hang of my seamless transitions yet?) is Rhyme Crime, the new kid’s book by self-described doodler Jon Burgerman, who I was lucky enough to get to work with a bit last year and has since become one of my favorite living people. Bright cartoony things are not usually my taste, so I think it speaks to Jon’s talents for all things weird and wonderfully tongue-in-cheek that I’m such a fan. Do yourself a favor and watch his Instagram Stories @jonburgerman. I promise you’ll never see your work commute the same way again.

Sweet nothings sent from death to me, via the WeCroak app

The only other worthwhile thing I’m doing on my phone right now is reading text messages from death, and paying for it. For just .99 cents, you too can download the WeCroak app and receive five daily reminders of the transient nature of your life and its inevitable end. These messages are sent “at random times and at any moment, just like death,” the app’s website explains. It’s apparently based on an ancient Bhutanese notion that in order “to be a truly happy person, one must contemplate death five times daily.” Maybe it’s my dark sense of humor, but as someone who’s given all kinds of mindfulness apps and daily practices a fair shake, WeCroak is the only thing that works this immediately and this effectively. Uplifting messages make my eyes roll; but starting the day with, “The grave has no sunny corners,” just makes me smile (that and Mickey Mouse, apparently). Thanks to the miracle of modern technology in our busy lives, because I could not stop for death, he kindly stopped for me.

via the New York Times

If my new death-reminder app is the most exciting thing going on in my phone life, perhaps it’s a positive sign that I’m finally breaking my iPhone addiction? And just in time, too. I really didn’t want to have to go gray.

But let’s end this on an high note. How about something that looks really good gray (also published by the Gray Lady, no less), like these pencils. No dumb attempt at a witty comment here, just oohs and ahhs from one of the earth’s few remaining pencil users (and lovers).

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See you next month for more seemingly random connections between design and other things that aren’t design. HNY!

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