Preview: ‘Dress Codes’ at ICP


Abbott Miller has designed the installation and graphics for Dress Codes: The Third ICP Triennial of Photography and Video, opening today at the Museum of the International Center of Photography in New York. The triennial is the only major US survey devoted to contemporary photography and video. Dress Codes closes out a year of fashion focused programming at the museum and explores ideas of identity, production and consumption through the lens of fashion, style and image, from uniforms to haute couture, to dress as a celebration of personal identity or as a religious or political statement. The exhibition features the work of 34 artists including Stan Douglas, Barbara Kruger, Martha Rosler, Cindy Sherman, Lorna Simpson, Zhou Tao and Thorsten Brinkmann. Miller worked on the show with ICP curators Kristen Lubben, Christopher Phillips, Carol Squiers and ICP adjunct curator Vince Aletti. Dress Codes is on view through January 17, 2010. More about the exhibition’s design coming soon.

New Work: The Art Institute of Chicago


The Art Institute of Chicago recently opened its Modern Wing, a stunning 264,000 square foot expansion designed by the Pritzker Prize-winning architect Renzo Piano. The wing is devoted to the museum’s modern and contemporary art, photography and design collections. The Art Institute has long been one of the world’s great encyclopedic museums, and the addition of the wing officially makes it the second-largest art museum in the U.S. As part of the expansion Abbott Miller was commissioned to create a new identity for the museum as well as a comprehensive program of interior and exterior environmental graphics.

New Work: Bard Graduate Center


Paula Scher has designed a new identity for the Bard Graduate Center: Decorative Arts, Design History and Material Culture. Founded in 1993 by Susan Weber, BGC’s director, the school is an important academic institution devoted to the study of the history of the material world, the objects that people make to transform their surroundings: architecture, craft and design. It is one of the only programs of its kind in the country and a top school for scholars and curators of the decorative arts. The center is affiliated with Bard College and is located in a pair of townhouses on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

Scher designed BGC’s first logo when the center opened in 1993. The original logo was a monogram of three letters set in Baskerville with a decorated “G” and was applied to letterhead and the covers of brochures without any established format or system. It was pretty, and it communicated that the school was devoted to the decorative arts. But in the years since, BGC has grown in size and stature, and the logo began to seem precious and no longer conveyed the breadth of the center’s programs. The launch of the new identity is timed to a major renovation and expansion of the school by Polshek Partnership Architects. The center has also officially changed its name to the Bard Graduate Center: Decorative Arts, Design History, Material Culture, lengthening it slightly from the already long Bard Graduate Center for Studies in the Decorative Arts, Design, and Culture. The school needed a new institutional identity that communicated its importance. A simple, static logotype was no longer enough for the institution; its identity must function as a flexible system that supports broad applications across multiple platforms.

New Work: ‘Weeds’ Dining Room


“Weeds” is all about the sacred and the profane. Or maybe the sacred and the mundane.

In the Showtime series a California housewife played by Mary-Louise Parker turns to selling marijuana after the death of her husband. The darkly comic mix of suburbia, naïveté and family dynamics is portrayed against a background of drugs, death, deceit and personal demons. The amount of killing, death, pain and humiliation surpasses even recent mob-themed shows; and this is a comedy!

This year’s Metropolitan Home Showtime House consists of twin penthouses at the luxury Tribeca Summit loft condominiums. James Biber and his team at Pentagram Architects were one of 14 designer teams invited to create rooms inspired by the network’s original programming.

Biber and his team, working on their first showhouse design, referenced a comic climax from “Weeds” for their design of the dining room. For those not up on the show’s past seasons, the scene was an eye-rolling reveal of a stolen rooftop lighted cross lifted from a new local religion-based community’s church. The enormous crucifix finally appears, lashed to the ceiling of a hastily assembled “grow house.” The stolen cross has become a lighting fixture over a bed of marijuana plants!

Letters of Warning


A Homeland Security task force will soon review and possibly change the system of color-coded terrorism alerts implemented in the U.S. after the 9/11 attacks. For an Op-Art exercise in Sunday’s New York Times, four graphic designers were asked to develop a new, better system of alerts. Paula Scher created a two-letter system that uses C to stand for Caution and A for Alert. (The A gets an extra slash across its form for added emphasis.) Kurt Andersen provides online audio commentary and judges Scher’s submission to be the most effective because it acknowledges there are really only two states of warning when it comes to terrorism: Caution (“We will always need to be cautious,” says Scher) and full-on Alert.