Thursday, February 26, 2009

Modernizing the Art of Tea

Totem cups from Imm Living

I love it when designers take an unvarying tradition on a fun and modern spin. The art of preparing and drinking tea is rich in history and culture. This ancient herbal beverage is associated with elegance, sophistication, and tranquility, but today, artists are cleverly redesigning various facets of this tradition to suit our modern taste for inspiring and effective designs.

Totem cups

Terrorist Tea Pot from Miss & Lady

Many of these innovative designs are functional as well. The Terrorist Tea Pot comes with a ski mask cozy to keep its contents warm for longer, while the colorful Tea Dam Cups enable you to drink your tea while allowing it to steep slowly.

Tea Dam Cups from Holycool

Sharky by Pablo Matteoda

What I love about the design behind the Sharky tea infuser concept is that it effectively utilizes the natural properties of diffusing tea to create a fun Jaws-themed environment in your teacup.

Smilecup by Studio Psyho

Tea bag coffin by Jonas Trampedach

How clever! After steeping, my tea bag usually sits awkwardly on a platter—if I have one—or drips inconveniently as I struggle to find a good place to place it. Jonas Trampedach observed the awkwardness of dealing with a used tea bag and came up with this wonderful solution. The Tea Bag Coffin provides a thoughtful and respectable resting place.

These are all some really clever ways to put some fun into our daily routines. I drink tea a few times each week, and can definitely see myself using something like the Sharky infuser. My favorite tea is mint tea—made from dried spearmint leaves—but I will go for black tea whenever I need that extra boost in the morning. I'm pretty caffeine-sensitive, so I only drink herbal teas later in the day.

Do you drink tea? What's your favorite kind? Do you have your own way of steeping and drinking?

Monday, February 23, 2009

Packaging Design - Chocolate

Who doesn't love chocolate? Everyone who says they don't is lying to themselves, in my oh-so-humble opinion. Therefore, it is ideal when the covering for this incredible sweet confection perfection is just as wonderful. Here are some great packaging for the chocolaty goodness that we all love (or should).

The Brooklyn Brothers is a design company with loads of personality. They have a distaste for the general style of advertising, and created a design for a chocolate that has no ego, and loads of chutzpah. I love the graphic snout on the top of the chocolate squares, so plainly snouty in spite of its simplicity. The name "Fat Pig" is also hilarious, which makes it even more awesome.

TCHO has an extremely simple design for their chocolates. It looks incredibly natural and biodegradable, with an effective minimal design.

Miller Creative uses delicate lines and feminine grace in this redesign for NYC's Lush Toffee. I like the color palette chosen and the tabs on top. The L is especially beautiful with its flowery embellishment.

Meg Gleason is a student who came up with an innovative design for her chocolates. The strawberry shapes are adorable little containers for the sweet treat, while the matching box with curvy window has the shapes and colors to suit my fancy. I especially enjoy the strip with colorful writing.

No matter how tasty the cocoa based treat may be, it can always be made more delicious when wrapped in a confection of colors, shapes and textures. 

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Watercolor Wednesday 3

I am sorely out of practice at drawing human anatomy. Clever readers may have inferred this from the complete lack of human beings gracing Watercolor Wednesday thus far!

Never fear: it's time for a sketchbook adventure!

I pulled out a small moleskine sketchbook and made some attempts to bust out of my doodling funk. When in doubt of where to start, I draw cowboys. I don't know why, but it's a good way to break the ice. Sometimes I start off with the occasional hag. And, in this case, the top half of The Phantom's face.

The results of sketching with watercolors this time around: a bunch of disembodied heads, one of which is filing for separation from her neck.

Eventually the allure of drawing people in period costume and heads floating in empty space wore off and I went back to drawing angry cartoon animals. The fellow on the right is supposed to be leaping over a train seat but instead it looks like he's angrily dancing or stretching, neither of which sound like safe activities for someone wearing an eye patch! Be careful, crazed anthropomorphic rabbit.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Sketch Sunday 6

Today's sketch is inspired by the animated film I saw last night, Coraline. I first heard about the movie after learning that some artists I follow worked on it, but I had no idea that the entire movie was in 3-D! I had never seen a movie in 3-D before, and I was excited to seize the opportunity to do so (even though renting the glasses cost an extra $2).

Stop-motion animation is incredibly impressive when it's done well, and Coraline completely surpassed my expectations. The 3-D aspect of the movie definitely adds a "wow" factor. I remember back in the day when 3-D meant dorky red-and-blue glasses that completely distorted your vision and left you nauseated, but the glasses from last night worked so well I barely noticed them the whole movie!

The story follows Coraline, who had just moved into a haunted house and explores a magical "other" world. It was developed from a fantasy horror novella written by Neil Gaiman and there are definitely some really creepy themes present. I say this because a lot of parents associate animation with kids-friendly movies, but a lot of animated films nowadays are aimed at a much older age group.

In the magical world of Coraline, Coraline's "Other Mother" is obsessed with sewing buttons onto her eyes. For this movie fan-art, I wanted to incorporate the creepy buttons into the drawing somehow.

First I laid down my usual rough layer in red and drew in the final lines with a regular graphite pencil (top image). I then inked the drawing using bleed-safe pens and erased the pencil sketches (second image). The final picture below is colored with alcohol-based Copic and Tria markers which I find excellent for blending.

I normally do not use references for my drawings, but each time I do so, I recognize how they help me visualize the characters or settings. Even though I don't copy the drawing style, pose, or composition, references help by adding an extra layer of thought.

Here are a few pictures that I found pretty cool:

The photo above was probably the most inspiring. It gives you a great sense of scale of the movie—both how grand, in terms of the amount of work that was put into making each doll and facial expression, as well as how small and miniature the entire production set is.

All in all, it was a great movie.

Have you seen Coraline? If you did, what were your impressions about the set? Characters? Plot?

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Saturday, February 14, 2009

Playground Love from Above

Playground Love by ABOVE

Capturing innocence, ambition, and affection. How far high you go for your love?

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Friday, February 13, 2009

Adventures at Mealtime

For those of you who like exploring new and exotic foods, here's one that may pique your interest.

Last night we had the root of a plant known as the edible burdock (niupang). The taste and texture of the raw root is similar to a coconut but not creamy. It is mildly sweet, and crunchy like a daikon radish.

This cross section looks like the classic textbook image of a dicot root system. I do believe the pink ring is the cork cambium. This segment of the burdock came from a plant my parents planted last summer. The ones you usually see in supermarkets have much slimmer roots—about 1-2 inches in diameter (this one was probably 4-5 inches)—but are probably more tender.

For those of you familiar with the taproot system, you can imagine how large this plant was before we dug it up. Here are a couple of pictures I took of it back in July 2008:

Burdock on the right, onions on the left.

I tried to stick my foot in for comparison. The leaves were HUGE!

After cutting it all up, it was still a lot of fiber!

We stir-fried it with broccoli stems and made a salad. (The salad dressing was home-made honey mustard) A delicious and fibrous meal!

Speaking of broccoli—here's a little critter I found while chopping the flowers off for the salad. It was so well camouflaged that I didn't see it until I was cutting off the stems immediately next to it. I think it's a crystalis of some sort.

The broccoli also came from my parents' garden, and these little guys are just another sign of pesticide-free produce! I had a bug-eating experience once (I'll blog about that some other time) so I'm no longer freaked out by critters on my food. Except earwigs. (EWW)

I placed it in a clean spice jar because it was small and had holes in the cap. I'm hoping that a butterfly will eclose (emerge). The broccoli had been sitting in my fridge for about a week, so I wonder if bringing it out will simulate the arrival of spring...

To anyone who has read this far—what's an interesting food experience you've had? Tried anything new recently? What were your thoughts about eating something you've never ate before?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Oh, hey look at me!

Enjoy a new minty-fresh inspirimint design!

For those of you tuning in via RSS, be sure to check out the site!

Watercolor Wednesday 2

The weather in Chicago goes through a number of radical changes during the transition from one season to the next. Last week we experienced blistering cold, and at some point during the past couple of days it shot into summer and then reverted back into fall.

In honor of this temporary fallback (PUNS!) I painted this scene to remind me of milder weather—the kind that does not make me feel like I should crumple under the weight of infomercials and purchase a Snuggie.

For this one the trees were the first to be drawn and painted, followed by the birds and then the faint silhouettes of trees in the background. I've been painting on handmade cotton paper from a class I took a couple of years ago. They give me an interesting texture to work with, but since some of them were loft dried, they've warped a bit and have a tendency to scan with messed-up light levels and colors that aren't quite right.

My solution?

Textures! In this case, an understated paper texture with a faint yellow tint, placed over the original image as a "color burn" layer in Photoshop. It's a quick, easy fix that can help the feel of your work.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Packaging Design - Getting Ideas

A piggy bank. (Atypyk)

I once read an article that inspired me to keep designing. How? It wasn't all about how to make contacts, and how to make sure you kern, or who knows who. It wasn't about a specific artist and how cool they are, or the issues in the art world. It directly related to me. She explained how she goes about getting ideas.

I don't know where the article is now, and finding it would involve rifling through the hundreds of art and design magazines piled up in my room, but the concepts are still in my head.

One. Take an object. Anything random - a pencil sharpener, a banana, the box of toenail shavings you have saved in your drawer.

Two. Look at it.

Three. See it not as it is, but as it could be. A pencil sharpener can be a pencil stand, a banana can be made into a boat for Barbies.

Ok, so those are terrible ideas, but you get the picture. Make it your own by looking at the packaging in a new way. Turn it upside down, lick it a little.

Fast forward to today. I was looking at a few designer's websites for blog ideas, and I came across Atypyk, a French "idea" group that had an incredible imagination-filled portfolio. They took that brainstorming guide and made an entire company out of it. Below are some pictures from their site - you can find more by going to the link on their home-page entitled "watsdat?".

A picture frame.

A candle.

A doormat.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Sketch Sunday 5

Collective nouns in animals:

shrewdness of apes
dissimulation of birds
quiver of cobras
weyr of dragons
memory of elephants
fesnying of ferrets
glint of goldfish
bloat of hippopotami
scold of jays
mob of kangaroos
lounge of lizards
stud of mares
watch of nightingales
parliament of owls
ostentation of peacocks
bevy of quail
mischief of rats
harem of seals
knot of toads
generation of vipers
descent of woodpeckers
herd of yaks
zeal of zebras

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Friday, February 6, 2009

More Creative Book Designs

Hugs by Thomas Keeley

No matter how much the digital age expands, we will never rescind our love for books. Books are an integral part of human history and they continue to play an important role in shaping our culture. Today, their usage shifts from an instrument of information storage to a much more versatile design medium. Earlier this week, I showed you the well-designed ABC3D and today I will share with you a few more contemporary creative projects that reinterpret the book's look and its uses.

Hugs by Thomas Keeley (via)

Thomas Keeley makes modifications to everyday objects and turns them into art. His statement here? Who knows—perhaps that books love each other as much as we love them.

Book Ring by Ana Cardim (via)

Books as jewelry? The book ring by Ana Cardim is interesting because most people do not intuitively (if at all) associate books as something that can be worn. I think that truly innovative design defies any preconceptions we may have with a pre-existing object and takes it in a whole new direction.

The Neiman Marcus Pop Up Book (via)

DIY Matchbook Notepads by D*S

I really like this creative notepad project from Design*Sponge. It's simple, useful, and a creative way to reuse scrap paper. It reminds me how much fun making a booklet can be. Why are they called matchbooks, when they only carry matches? To me, this easy DIY is a better use of the term "book."

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Watercolor Wednesday 1

Hello, and welcome to Watercolor Wednesday! I'm Snoozy, and this week I'm going to walk you through the steps I take to complete a small painting.

First, the sketch: When I start off I sometimes find myself intimidated by the sheer blankness of the paper in front of me. To dispel my anxiety, I drew a small frame, followed by the miserable bird-person and his immediate surroundings. Then I confronted my arch nemesis, Perspective, with a series of frantic lines.

This is what I like to refer to as the "I don't know what's going on!" stage of the drawing. Around this time I realize that I've forgotten what something looks like, or my brain and hands are suddenly not on speaking terms. Backgrounds aren't exactly my strong suit, but I managed to sketch out what vaguely resembles the interior of a restaurant, apparently named "Eats."

Here I've taken a few cautious steps into adding shadows to the picture. Most of the construction lines have been removed for this stage.

After the shadows I tackled the large areas of color in a series of light layers. Then, after gently erasing some of the darker pencil lines, I used a thinner brush to more clearly define the outlines and details such as the pattern on the tables.

In retrospect, I could have done with more planning - the composition is too centered, and the figure in the background is stiff and lifeless. Why is she staring across the table if there's no one else there? Did the waitstaff neglect to bring her a menu?

For a long time I was reluctant to take up watercolor painting. It took time to build up the patience to use them after becoming so used to the shortcuts offered by painting programs. How do you approach a medium you're new to? Do you find you prefer working on digital or real media art?

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

ABC3D: Reinventing the Pop-up Book

ABC3D prototype demo

Although ABC3D came out only a few months ago, it's popularity rose quickly, even during its test print days. The design by Marion Bataille is so simple yet innovative and completely transforms how we approach the pop-up book genre. When I first saw the video, I knew I had to get one when it came out.

This 3D book is fun and interactive. From A through Z, every letter has its own unique design. The simple act of turning each page transforms each character out of the page and brings hidden pieces into view. I love the clever typographical change as a smaller G twists 90-degrees and unfolds into a larger G when the page is opened up completely.

ABC3D explores the 3-dimensional possibilities of shapes and space in each of the 26 letters, as well as each character's intimate relationships with those surrounding it.

Our familiarity with the sequence fuels our anticipation for each subsequent letter, and we are always pleasantly surprised by the resulting delightful design. ABC3d is a mechanically clever and beautifully crafted work of art. But perhaps even more impressive was their ability to mass produce it!

Even if you don't feel like shelling out $20 for this amazingly designed piece, I highly recommend finding a copy at a bookstore just to experience how exciting re-learning the alphabet can be.

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