NY-based multidisciplinary creator Joe Doucet strikes again: this deck of regulation playing cards called MINIM is an exercise in editing and stripping things down to the edge of comprehension. The already fairly straightforward and classic signs for hearts, clubs, diamonds and spades have been reduced to minimalistic geometric symbols. My personal favorite is the spades, and the diagonal mark across the back of the cards is so brilliantly simple it could’ve always been there. The deck will be available as a limited edition along with seven other products at Doucet’s Play exhibition in the Wanted Design NYC pop-up store in from May 17th-20th.
There isn’t anything quite like the pleasure of beholding the careful and considered crafting of a beautiful, solid object, and that is exactly the sensation brought by watching this video for the construction process of London-based luxury accessories brand Oliver Ruuger‘s umbrellas. The incredibly sleek and elegant line of umbrellas was comissioned by LN-CC, a progressive retail concept comprising of clothing, music & books. After honing his craft producing exclusively made-to-order pieces, this is the first retail collection from Oliver Ruuger. The collection launches with four distinct umbrellas, in a custom range of materials. The umbrella is such a traditional, everyday object that it has almost been forgotten in design, but this brand reintroduces the familiar item as something luxurious and indulgent, with an according price range.
Designed with a very specific purpose — to separate the owners from a loud, busy street in downtown Miyasaki, southern Japan, into their own private sanctuary — architect Michiya Tsukano of Tsukano Architect Office delivers this monolithic white structure with only a narrow vertical slice to interrupt it. The home was designed around a private courtyard, that provides natural lighting for the interiors and is overlooked by every room. Concrete walls and surfaces are balanced with light-colored timber panels, warm ceramics, white plaster and glass. My favorite part is where the concrete dining table meets the white pebbled courtyard floor at the same level, a flowing continuity barely interrupted by a large glass pane. The design exudes the calm and peacefulness of its statement of purpose and is an interesting contemporary hybrid between traditional Japanese design and Western standards.
Young Frankk is a jewelry line launched in 2011 by Virginia-based US artist turned jewelry designer, Christine Young, drawing inspiration from simple and minimal designs, yet infused with bold graphic, geometric, and even organic shapes. As a graduate of Parsons School of Design for Illustration, she incorporates her drawing experience into her designs by translating line work onto metal. Every piece is made by hand by the designer, creating one-of-a-kind and unique pieces. I’ve always enjoyed the simplicity, minimalism and geometric quality of Young Frankk’s lookbooks. Every piece has a boldness and completeness to it, like a story being told with each one.
There have been many exercises in paring down the wallet to the ultimate minimalistic design, but I believe London-based Taiwanese designer Chieh Ting Huang has arrived at that ideal quite successfully. Nothing Fancy is a collection of non-stitched minimalist solutions for the wallet, re-imagined for the contemporary lifestyle. Using only a foldable leather hide template and rubber bands and eliminating everything else (stitches, snaps, zippers, etc.), Chieh delivers a wallet, a coin case, an iPhone holder and a passport holder within the same principles. The result is a well thought, beautifully executed and impeccably styled range of products that has left the design blogosphere wishing for one of their own. My personal favorite is the passport holder and I’m especially in love with the customized rubber bands!
AaPFAFF is the artistic project of Catalan painter Guillermo Pfaff. His GRADO:0 exhibition in the prestigious La Taché gallery in Barcelona is an exploration in concise, self-contained geometry. His Portable Paintings, canvases that can be folded and stowed away at one’s leisure, are quite a pragmatic and maybe even revolutionary approach to art as a consumer product. I had the opportunity to ask the artist a few questions and was fascinated by his system and methodology, very minimalistic and sustainable in nature, consisting basically of producing art with minimal gestures and materials, as well as only producing work that has a specific finality. Quite the example of precision.
idea ink is a series of Japanese books focusing on the theme of “ideas of the future”, published by Asahi Press and designed by Tokyo-based design studio Groovisions. The books focus on themes from gastronomy; environment and social issues to information graphics and even love and the quest for marriage outside of Japan. The graphic design for each book is clean and crisp, yet colorful and alive at the same time. A refreshing approach considering the excess of graphic information in a city such as Tokyo, yet still coherent with Japanese philosophies of simplicity and elegance in style. Groovisions also have Muji as their clients, another Japanese company notable for its minimalistic products. I particularly love the monoweight lines of the illustrations and the pastel color pallete. One of the things I love in Japanese design is the potency of “silent” designs, and to me this definitely falls into that category.
Kent Wang is a small company founded in Austin, Texas dedicated to making high-quality, classic menswear at reasonable prices. Founded in 2007 out of a frustration with the difficulty of finding even basic linen pocket squares at local retailers, they have since expanded into several product lines offering classic, timeless designs. One of my favorite products from their range is the Sneaker white. An absurdly clean design, beautifully finished in leather, make these sneakers into desireable pieces – even for girls! In the 1960-70s, shoemakers used to make simple, minimal shoes like these. Today, they only make excessively sporty designs plastered with logos. Let’s go back to a simpler time. A simpler time, indeed.
Designed by typically minimalistic, contemporary-modern Brazilian architect Marcio Kogan and his StudioMK27, Casa Osler is composed primarily by two prismatic volumes in reinforced concrete, glass and wood, positioned in such a way as to leave plenty of open space for a swimming pool and garden. The downstairs prism contains the rooms and living areas, and the upper storey houses a kitchen with a privileged view. The house is fit for its location in Brasilia, with its tiled mural designed by Athos Bulcão, who had long years of collaborating with Brazilian modernist architects such as Oscar Nieyemer and Roberto Burle Marx. Photography by Zuleika de Souza & Claudio Dupas.
Stiff is a product design company based in Sweden, focusing on plastic as the core material of their designs. Launching themselves initially as pipemakers, they’ve recently uncovered the Stiff Pipe, the world’s first plastic pipe cast in one piece using polished thermo plastic. Tobacco smoker or not (not, in my case), you can’t help but appreciate this product’s sleek design and beautiful swanky colors. The pipe is equipped with a briar wood tobacco chamber and is a result of the mixture of industrial know how and hand made techniques, a hybrid that is always appealing and refreshing in an industrialized world. The Stiff Pipe Billiard limited edition was launched in Tokyo November 3rd, sold in numbered wooden boxes and coming in three minimalistic color combinations. According to the designers: Pipe smoking is a guilty pleasure, one that isn’t necessarily good for you but brings a certain quality to life. It should be approached with a Dieter Rams-like ‘less, but better’ attitude, making sure that every drag counts.
Chopping boards can be usually fairly straightforward objects, but there are interesting variations in the market using illustrations and patterns on glass and wooden boards. These designs by nionio design put an interesting, geometric spin to the business of cooking and serving. Apart from the chopping boards, Nia designs trivets and trays made of wood from Scandinavian forests and produced by hand in a family company in Sweden. Inspired by Scandinavian design, her philosophy is to keep things as simple as possible and to create a timeless look. I enjoy the clean, monochromatic pieces she’s created – as simple as the idea is, I haven’t seen products like these around before. Beautiful!
In the summer of 2011 the Ratio 3 gallery organized the first solo exhibition in San Francisco of Margaret Kilgallen’s (1967–2001) work in 13 years. Considered by many to be one of the most influential, yet under-recognized, Bay Area artist of her generation. Kilgallen, along with a handful of other artists came to emergence in the late 1990s, as part of an art movement that is now commonly referred to as the Mission School. The artist’s imagery includes her iconic motifs such as leaves, trees, topography, and female figures, all executed in a delicate and adept hand. Her style is beautifully simple and humble, almost folkloric, at times working with basically abstractions of color, lines, and repeating shapes. She was an avid reader and thinker, looking to Appalachian music, signage, typography, letterpress printing, hobo train writing, and religious and decorative arts to inform her work. In addition to her comissioned mural work, she was also a graffiti artist under the tag names “Meta” and “Matokie Slaughter”, the latter used specifically for freight train graffiti. Kilgallen was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 33 and decided to forgo chemotherapy so that she might carry a pregnancy to term. She died in 2001,...