Robert L. Peters

20 January 2008

Designing Design | Kenya Hara






Tokyo, Japan

Kenya Hara recently sent me a copy of his latest book, Designing Design, a remarkable new title (in English!) from Lars Müller Publishers (ISBN-13: 978-3-03778-105-0)… elegant, thought-provoking, and contemplative. Read a Core77 book review by Robert Blinn here.

Hara’s been called “Japan’s preeminent art director at the beginning of the 21st century” (John Maeda), and has been described as “precise and rigorous… both the timely delivery-boy of communication and the inventor of exformation, struggling and toying with acquiring knowledge and deleting excess in both disciplines…” (Li Edelkoot). I had the pleasure of working closely with Kenya Hara over the course of several years (re: the development of themes, branding, and marketing of VISUALOGUE, the 2003 Icograda World Congress in Nagoya)—I can certainly attest to his remarkable capacity for deep reflection re: all things design, and I’d highly recommend Designing Design to anyone interested in the essence of Japanese aesthetics and simplicity in modern design.

Photos: book cover; Shigeru Ban’s “re-design” of toilet paper (the squared center tube generates resistance thereby reducing consumption—also helps rolls stack well); light designer Kaoru Mende’s natural-twig “re-design” of the match (he calls them ‘Anniversary Matches,’ for special occasions); and Hara’s own clever design of “floating watches” for the new Nicolas G. Hayek Center building, the Swatch Group’s branch office on Ginza Street in Tokyo (a myriad of watch images projected from the ceiling above tell time accurately and come into focus at the exact height of the passersby [on the rough stone floor the projections appear only as dim red spots of light]).

18 January 2008

Art criticism…


Winnipeg, Canada

We had a wide-ranging discussion re: art criticism appreciation at Circle this afternoon… somewhere in the space between factious and affable I think we came across some interesting perspectives. Time will tell…

Monkeys as Judges of Art, 1889—Gabriel Cornelius von Max (1840-1915)

16 January 2008

Brazilian posters… travelling exhibition.



São Paulo, Brazil

Designer Rico Lins has put together an impressive exhibition of “the best Brazilian posters produced since the 1950s” as an international show that debuted in the show Brésil à l‘Affiche in Chaumont, France in 2006—it’s considered to be the most important exhibit of Brazilian graphic design to date. I met Rico recently in Havana and he asked whether I would help promote this exhibition, which is now available to tour worldwide (interest has already been expressed in Canada, India, and Cuba). The show would be of particular interest to graphic design associations (the 80 posters are easy to ship and to mount, and a resource-rich DVD is available to help promote the exhibition) and could act as the focus for a member event.

You can view much of the work at the dedicated exhibition website (in French/Portuguese) and obtain additional information here: If you’re interested in Brazil and Brazilian graphic design, read the feature article that I wrote for Communication Arts magazine (online) here

15 January 2008

Keep trying. Keep serving.


Seattle, Washington

I read a great interview today with author, storyteller, conservationist, and avid fly-fisherman David James Duncan. The piece entitled ‘By Hook and By Book’ is featured in the environmental journal Grist/InterActivist. Here’s Duncan’s inspiring answer to the Grist editor’s question at the end of the interview: “If you could have every InterActivist reader do one thing, what would it be?”

“Keep trying. Keep serving. Worrying is praying for what you don’t want. Keep trying to feel grateful for what is beautiful, even as you’re trying to change what is deadly. If you can’t change what is deadly, bitch—as eloquently and lovingly and effectively as you can. But then: listen! Then take the time to renew your peace, enjoy having five senses, watch the clouds move, until you feel your inner being return to gratitude—the basic daily stance of all those who realize we did not create ourselves. You’ll win some, you’ll lose some, but above or beyond or within all of those efforts, you might now and then enter a mysterious clearing (if it hasn’t happened already) and suddenly feel loved.”

Read the Grist interview here.

Duncan and a variety of compatriots were photographed in 13 colorful dories, rowing and casting lines—into a golden field of wheat. The image appears on a poster distributed by Save Our Wild Salmon, a collaboration of conservationists, fisherfolk, and others interested in the removal of four dams on the Lower Snake River in Washington state.

Corporate Responsibility and greenwashing…


London, UK

I’ve grown increasingly skeptical over the past years regarding the efforts of large multinational corporations to tailor and polish their images by means of questionable re-branding (e.g. BP > beyond petroleum), deceptive Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) reporting, and “green relations” campaigns—and we’ll be seeing more rather than less of this in the days to come (the CSR industry is already worth an estimated $31.7 billion per year, and growing).

Graffiti from CAM BUENOS AIRES

14 January 2008

What? Clay Art & Curios


Winnipeg Beach, Manitoba

My beautiful girlfriend Evelin Richter is a talented ceramist. This past year she “hung out a shingle” and officially launched her home-studio business under the name ‘What? Clay Art & Curios.’ Well traveled, a lifelong bookworm, and an avid nature lover, Ev’s works draw on diverse stimuli triggered by wonder, cultural enigma, and erotic surprise. Inspired by “the vagaries of nature and the human condition,” her characteristic ceramic style is typified by an engagingly tactile “sense of play” and an expressive “exploration of the curious.” Ev’s creations are in various private collections, she fulfills commissions, and her pieces are available through select galleries. Contact Ev via her website here. Read a backgrounder (4.8 MB PDF re: Ev and her new studio) here.

Shown above is a sampling of Ev’s recent work featuring low-fire glazes.

12 January 2008

Alpinist resources…


Jackson, Wyoming

The venerable Alpinist magazine suffered a significant setback last month when a warehouse in Oregon, Illinois that housed all of its inventory (back issues, hats, shirts, water bottles, stickers, coffee mugs) burned to the ground. Nothing was salvaged. Read more details here. Alpinist is an archival-quality, quarterly publication dedicated to the world of alpinism and adventure climbing. They believe in “sinker jams high off the deck, a bomber nut, the crescent moon, your partner’s whoop, sand-washing the fry pan, road trips, one-swing sticks, remembering to breathe, alpine starts (more for the alpenglow than the early hour), espresso in the desert, the plungestep, lenticular cloudcaps, rest days, the focus of a runout, and a cold beer at the end of it all.”

Visit the Alpinist magazine website here. Check out the incredible videos available via Alpinist TV here.

Alpinist wallpaper: Climbers on the Breithorn (4146m) in Switzerland shot by Menno Boermans

11 January 2008

Sir Edmund Hillary…


Auckland, New Zealand

Sir Edmund Hillary, the unassuming beekeeper who (together with Sherpa Tensing Norgay) was the first to successfully climb Mount Everest, passed on yesterday. Though he considered himself a simple man (“Adventuring can be for the ordinary person with ordinary qualities, such as I regard myself,” he stated in a 1975 interview) he was known for his unbounded enthusiasm for life and adventure, his decades-long campaign to develop schools and health clinics in Nepal, and his role as an ardent conservationist. Revered by Kiwis, Prime Minister Helen Clark had this to say: “Sir Ed described himself as an average New Zealander with modest abilities. In reality, he was a colossus… an heroic figure who not only ‘knocked off’ Everest, but lived a life of determination, humility, and generosity… this legendary mountaineer, adventurer, and philanthropist is the best-known New Zealander ever to have lived.”

Climb on, Sir Edmund…

Hillary and Tensing Norgay summited Mount Everest, the highest point on earth, on 29 May 1953. He remains the only non-political person outside of Britain to have ever been honoured as a member of Britain’s Order of the Garter (bestowed by the Queen on just 24 knights and ladies living worldwide at any time) and was the first foreign national to ever be conferred with honourary citizenship by Nepal. Hillary has also appeared on the New Zealand $5 banknote since 1992—the only living Kiwi to ever do so.

10 January 2008

Worth a thousand words…


Source: The Economist

“A good graphic can tell a story, bring a lump to the throat, even change policies…” read the opening lines of a feature piece in the December 19th edition of The Economist. Cited by author Edward Tufte as “the best statistical graphic ever drawn,” the chart above also tells the story of a war: Napoleon’s Russian campaign of 1812. “It was drawn half a century afterwards by Charles Joseph Minard, a French civil engineer who worked on dams, canals and bridges. He was 80 years old and long retired when, in 1861, he called on the innovative techniques he had invented for the purpose of displaying flows of people, in order to tell the tragic tale in a single image.”

“Minard’s chart shows six types of information: geography, time, temperature, the course and direction of the army’s movement, and the number of troops remaining. The widths of the gold (outward) and black (returning) paths represent the size of the force, one millimetre to 10,000 men. Geographical features and major battles are marked and named, and plummeting temperatures on the return journey are shown along the bottom.”

“The chart tells the dreadful story with painful clarity: in 1812, the Grand Army set out from Poland with a force of 422,000; only 100,000 reached Moscow; and only 10,000 returned. The detail and understatement with which such horrifying loss is represented combine to bring a lump to the throat. As men tried, and mostly failed, to cross the Bérézina river under heavy attack, the width of the black line halves: another 20,000 or so gone. The French now use the expression “C’est la Bérézina” to describe a total disaster.”

“In 1871, the year after Minard died, his obituarist cited particularly his graphical innovations: ‘For the dry and complicated columns of statistical data, of which the analysis and the discussion always require a great sustained mental effort, he had substituted images mathematically proportioned, that the first glance takes in and knows without fatigue, and which manifest immediately the natural consequences or the comparisons unforeseen.’ The chart shown here is singled out for special mention: it “inspires bitter reflections on the cost to humanity of the madnesses of conquerors and the merciless thirst of military glory.”

Read the full The Economist piece online here. Download a high resolution JPG of the Minard Map (568 KB) here.

9 January 2008

Let it Flow…


Johannesburg, South Africa

I’ve recently heard from Tiffany Turkington-Palmer, now running a dynamic journalism and design company named Flow Communications in South Africa. Tif served as the Secretary General of Icograda (the International Council of Graphic Design Associations) during the two years that I was President (2001-2003)—a time in which we became close friends. Flow works on an interesting range of projects for organizations such as the Nelson Mandela Foundation and Earth Touch. Check out Flow’s website here.

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