Pentagram Papers 38: The Russian Garbo

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In the early 1930s Samuel Goldwyn brought the Russian silent film actress Anna Sten to Hollywood. Hoping he had found his Garbo equivalent, Goldwyn failed to recognize that as the silent movie era was quickly fading, Sten was unable to speak English. Before this realization, and upon her arrival, Sten and her husband commissioned Richard Neutra to build them a house in the Hollywood Hills. Virtually unknown, this modernist masterpiece had had only two owners before Pentagram Architects’ James Biber and Neutra house specialists Marmol Radzinger began a restoration. Aimed at balancing Neutra’s original vision, Sten’s demands and the current clients’ desires, the ensuing process was “a live experiment in mediating between the past and the future,” says Biber.

Pentagram Paper 38: The Russian Garbo is a documentary of the Sten-Frenke House that tells the stories of its evolution, architect and owners through reproductions of Neutra’s original documentation and the post-renovation photography of Julius Shulman. The prodigious 95-year-old photographer had never shot the house before, adding yet another story to the history of the residence. “The process of restoring the Sten-Frenke House involved research of the most intimate kind,” recalls Biber. “The extensive documents tell one story, and quite a personal one, the house tells another and the photographs by Julius Shulman tell yet another.” Together they form a portrait of the creation and restoration of this remarkable house.

We have adapted the paper’s content online here:

Go to the Pentagram Paper 38: The Russian Garbo site

New Work: ‘O, The Oprah Magazine’

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In collaboration with O, The Oprah Magazine’s design director, Carla Frank, Luke Hayman has developed a fresh face for the popular magazine. The new design launches with the June 2008 issue.

O, The Oprah Magazine celebrated its eighth anniversary with the May issue, so June felt like a new beginning and the perfect time to make tweaks. Oprah has appeared on the cover of every issue since its launch and has been photographed in a studio or in various settings—at home, walking on the beach, riding a bike or posing with her dogs.

New and exciting elements were added to the June issue reflecting the magazine’s vibrant spirit and unique philosophy of “Live Your Best Life.” The cover displays a design that is simple, spirited and engaging. Winfrey is still the focus, but with a more direct photographic approach. The typefaces Vectora and Hoeffler continue to be used for cover lines, but the type treatment is varied and playful, utilizing a variety of colors and a scale change for hierarchy and contrast.

“The goal was to make the covers feel spontaneous, dynamic and engaging, to capture Oprah’s personality,” says Hayman.

O, The Oprah Magazine is published monthly by Hearst Magazines, a unit of The Hearst Corporation, and Harpo Print, LLC.

New York Photo Festival Opens

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Luke Hayman and Shigeto Akiyama have designed the identity for the inaugural New York Photo Festival that opened last night with a raucous block party in Dumbo, Brooklyn before it takes over the neighborhood for the coming weekend. Local landmarks like the Tobacco Warehouse and St. Ann’s Warehouse have been transformed into “pavilions” for exhibitions of contemporary photography curated by the photographer Martin Parr; Lesley A. Martin, the publisher of Aperture Books; Kathy Ryan, the photo editor of the New York Times Magazine; and Tim Barber, the former photo editor of Vice. Amazingly it is the first international photography festival to be held in the U.S.

New Work: Detroit Institute of Arts


The suite of interactive interpretive installations created by Pentagram for the Detroit Institute of Arts.

Founded in 1885, the Detroit Institute of Arts recently underwent an extensive six year, $158 million renovation that sought, among other things, to rethink the display of the museum’s permanent collection. As part of the renovation, Lisa Strausfeld and her team worked with the museum's education and interpretation department to develop a suite of permanent media-based interactive exhibitions that would help make the collection more accessible through the use of technology.

Michael Bierut Wins National Design Award

Michael Bierut has won the Design Mind Award in this year’s National Design Awards presented by the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, Smithsonian Institution.

“The Design Mind Award recognizes a visionary who has affected a paradigm shift in design thinking or practice through writing, research and scholarship,” states the NDA release. “Bierut’s ability to articulate and deconstruct the design process has raised the consciousness of an entire field and sparked a national dialogue.” Bierut is a cofounder of Design Observer and his book Seventy-nine Short Essays on Design was published last year by Princeton Architectural Press. (And he deejayed the NDA After-Party in 2006.)

New Work: ‘Superheroes: Fashion and Fantasy’

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Summer equals superheroes, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art has its own summer blockbuster this year in Superheroes: Fashion and Fantasy, presented by The Costume Institute. The exhibition explores the symbolic and metaphysical associations between fictional comic book characters and fashion and features popular icons such as Superman, Spider-Man, Hulk, Wonder Woman, Alexander McQueen, John Galliano and Jean-Paul Gaultier. The show will be celebrated tonight at the Institute’s spring gala—co-chaired by George Clooney, of Batman & Robin nippled Batsuit infamy—before opening to the public on Wednesday, 7 May. It remains on view through 1 September.

Abbott Miller’s design for the exhibition catalogue affirms the alliance between fantasy and fashion through the juxtaposition of fashion imagery, comic book details and film and TV stills of superheroes in a comic book frame format. These images have been closely cropped and break the frames to heighten the sense of interconnection. “Comics pioneered the fragmentation of time and space with multiple-frame compositions,” says Miller. “Our design uses this comics strategy to show multiple details and perspectives of a single garment.” The catalogue also features a pressed tin front and back cover that adds a tactile, three-dimensional element to the design, and of course doubles as a kind of armor or chest plate (think Iron Man).

Although nostalgic—the tin cover is reminiscent of a superheroes lunch box—the catalogue avoids a profusion of obvious comic book mimicry. There are no speech bubbles, allowing the images to speak for themselves, and instead of newsprint, the pages have a high-gloss acrylic coating that make the colors pop from the page. In an effort to differentiate the introductory essay by Michael Chabon (Secret Skin: An Essay in Unitard Theory) from the rest of the catalogue, the commentary has been designed as a book within a book and printed with a silver border as opposed to white.

Superheroes: Fashion and Fantasy is published by the Metropolitan Museum of Art and distributed by Yale University Press.

A look inside the book after the jump.

This Monday: Abbott Miller at Central Saint Martins

Abbott Miller will present a free lecture on Monday night at Central Saint Martins. He will discuss recent projects as well as give a preview of work in progress, including his exhibition design for the Harley-Davidson Museum, his catalogue design for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s summer exhibition Superheroes: From Fashion to Fantasy and his Brno Echo exhibition for the Brno Biennale. Abbott’s introduction will be provided by Alice Rawsthorn, design critic of the International Herald Tribune and columnist for the New York Times Magazine. Monday, 28 April from 6:30 pm at the Cochrane Theatre, Southampton Row, London. Tickets are free and available from the Cochrane Theatre Box Office.

Font Selection ‘08

Michael Bierut remarks on John McCain’s use of Optima in a group critique for the Times’ Campaign Stops. Of the parsing of campaign logos, Michael says, “In a campaign season that seems to have an endless appetite for minutiae, I’d rather talk about the candidates’ graphic design tastes than, say, their sex lives!”

Michael also recently commented on the branding of Barack Obama in a piece on NPR.

Previously: Probama, Obama Wins

New Work: ‘My Wall Street Journal’

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Wall Street had a new tabloid this week as My Wall Street Journal appeared—and quickly disappeared—from newsstands all over the country. Paula Scher consulted on the design of the new satire from Tony Hendra, the former editor of National Lampoon. Timed to tax day and the new recession, the single-issue parody of the News Corp-owned Journal has incurred the wrath of Rupert Murdoch (or at least his lookalike) and comes complete with a WSJ-style stippled illustration of a topless Ann Coulter (NSFW). Get your copy here.

Michael Bierut and Marian Bantjes Go Rococo

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The Seduction symposium poster designed by Michael Bierut and Marian Bantjes for the Yale School of Architecture is currently on view at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum as part of its Rococo: The Continuing Curve 1730–2008 exhibition. The show examines the lasting impact of the Rococo period in design of the last four centuries; the poster, with the sinuous lines of Bantjes’ calligraphy, is one of twelve objects chosen to represent the 2000s. The exhibition remains on view through 6 July 2008.