It's been a while, hasn't it? That's not to say I've stopped observing, though. I've just been doing it quietly while other things kept me occupied.
And, as I do every February, I spent a full three days recently observing interesting work at the Design Indaba conference. So I'm kicking things off again with a special Design Indaba-themed edition.
Design: Where You Are
Ross Cairns and Tommaso Lanza presented their work in the digital realm, including an in-depth look at After Dark, a night-time remote control robot-guided tour of the Tate Modern's art collection. But I was particularly interested in Where You Are, a website collecting essays on the meaning of maps for Visual Edition's book of the same name, with a different presentation of each essay. I especially enjoyed their recursive design for Peter Turchi's essay, Roads not Taken.
Dutch designer Teresa van Dongen presented her research into bio-luminescence and pendulum physics, which culminated in a lamp, dubbed Ambio. A light touch to set its glass tube in motion activates the bio-luminescent bacteria that populate it, giving off a pleasant blue light. There's interesting potential for this if questions about the strength of the light and the sustainability of the bacteria can be adequately answered.
Book: How To by Michael Bierut
One of my favourite graphic design thinkers and writers and speakers, Michael Bierut, has been MC-ing at Design Indaba since he last spoke in 2009. This year he took the stage as a speaker again, in characteristic self-deprecatingly modest style, and for the first time in the years I've attended the conference, my annual identity crisis was averted. He eloquently talked us through some highlights of his recent work, with an emphasis on the thinking behind it, and I nodded along with a sense of validation that we graphic designers do have something worthwhile to offer the world. Thanks, Mr Bierut!
Dominic Wilcox's work is so rich with warmth and whimsy, it's hard to pick a favourite. I came home and sat with my 8-year-old son, scrolling through Wilcox's crazy ideas and ridiculous inventions, watching as he laughed at the thought of toothbrush maracas or a pot plant umbrella. But his watch sculptures combine the witty with the meditative, tiny delicate figures looping through absurd moments on repeat.
Israeli musician Yoni Bloch blew the Design Indaba audience away with his interactive Choose Your Own Adventure-style videos, which he's developed into a platform with potential for advertising, educational material, music videos, films, and more. It's a great example of ingenious artistry made functional and commercially viable.