September 19, 2013 | by Justin Alvarez
How does one document his or her life? Do you track the minute details of each and every day in a diary, like Ned Rorem, or measure it out with coffee spoons, as J. Alfred Prufrock declared? When digging through the last boxes and cases from his grandfather’s home, Justin Bairamian found an old suitcase, full to the brim with thousands of matchbooks. They were from the Savoy in London to the Marineland Restaurant in California, and many had his grandfather’s own scribbles noting the location and year on the inside cover. Bairamian had discovered a beautiful record of a life well lived.
Bairamian has allowed designer Ben Stott to catalogue a sample of the collection, one day at a time, on the blog A Life in Matches. It is a brilliant tribute to one man’s life, as well as insight into the evolution of graphic design.
December 24, 2012 | by Aaron Gilbreath
We’re out this week, but we’re re-posting some of our favorite pieces from 2012 while we’re away. We hope you enjoy—and have a happy New Year!
Because my grandfather owned a men’s clothing store and my dad briefly worked for him, I spent a lot of my childhood in malls. Hanging around malls is already a tradition in Phoenix, Arizona, where I grew up. It’s as central to life as driving and eating Mexican food, a habit stemming from a mix of materialism, a reflexive tendency to “pass time,” and a very practical need for air conditioning. But it was also a habit born of an era when malls adorned themselves in gaudy architecture and country-and-western motifs, presented themselves as shopping experiences rather than just places to shop, and capitalized on Americans’ aspirations toward glitz and glamour. I can’t enter one of the predictable, interchangeable modern retail spaces without thinking of the heyday of the mall, a period when, to borrow the title of a Time magazine article, malls were “Pleasure-Domes with Parking.”
I saw none of these touches of class in person. I was born in 1975, and by then malls had changed. As I experienced it, my Grandpa Shapiro’s store, The Habber Dasher, was adjacent to the food court, an echoey hall enlivened by the greasy orange aroma of Pizza D’Amore and the sweet froth of Orange Julius, as well as Kay Bee Toys, the Red Baron video-game arcade, and the movie theater. My time at the mall was spent buying shockingly lifelike diecast metal cap guns at Kay Bee and then eating free samples of slow-cooked meat from the tiny gyro stall, staring in horror at the hard, sunken eyes of the whole smoked fish in Miracle Mile Deli’s cold case, or looking up at the tall escalator that led into UA Cinema. When I walked through the open, indoor plaza where Santa Claus sat in a huge Styrofoam Wonderland, surrounded by polymer wads of fake snow while the sun shone outside, I had no clue that malls could be anything but what they were then, that they had any history at all.
In fact, shopping arcades and centers existed in the Western World as early as the 1920s. The classic, fully enclosed form now known in America as “the mall” debuted in Edina, Minnesota, in 1956. An Austrian-American architect named Victor Gruen designed the so-called Southdale Center, and it became the de facto prototype for a wave of enclosed, temperature-controlled shopping complexes structured around big name “anchors” and interior garden spaces. Read More »
January 18, 2012 | by Perrin Drumm
Modest, natural, and snazzy—those were the three directions Mother Mary Magdalene gave artist Julia Sherman for designing the habits for the Community of Compassion, Mother Mary’s new Anglican Catholic order in Fort Worth, Texas. “You can’t just go to the store and buy a habit,” Mother Mary wrote to me. “Every order has to have a distinct one designed by the foundress, and you’re not supposed to copy anyone else.” The difference between two orders can be as simple as a few extra pleats in the skirt or as noticeable as Mother Teresa’s blue-striped, sari-inspired head covering.
But Sherman’s habits are something entirely new. Moreover, the JF & Son store in New York has partnered with Sherman to produce and sell the habits for secular customers. So while Mother Mary is praying in her peach-colored harem pants in Forth Worth, a young New York woman might be traipsing across Fifth Avenue in the very same design.
Mother Mary found Sherman after she saw the artist’s work photographing nun dolls from the Nun Doll Museum in Indian River, Michigan, a shrine to more than five hundred dolls and mannequins, each dressed in the traditional garb of men and woman from religious communities in North and South America. Sherman, whose previous photographic work has focused on the intricate process of creating wigs for Jewish women, clearly has a thing for religious accessories. Read More »
September 12, 2011 | by Rosamond Bernier
When the French fashion houses began to open again in 1946–47 after World War II and the occupation, American magazines thought it worthwhile to send people over to report on them. I was one of those people. I edged into the fashion world almost sideways. I thought I was going to write art features when I was recruited by Vogue. But Mrs. Chase thought otherwise, and her word was law.
I found myself on one of those first transatlantic flights that stopped over for the night at Gander, Newfoundland, to refuel. You rested, fully dressed, in one of a line of cots in a kind of barracks. My immediate neighbors were a group of Dominican monks—Italian, no English. I had studied Italian a long time ago in college but had had no opportunity to practice. I could only remember a few lines of Dante, about returning from hell, not much of a conversational opener. I tried it out, anyhow, and got a gratifying response.
My traveling companion was a small, angelic, and gifted artist who was the magazine’s dessinateur. He went under the name of Eric. My entire professional training was a hissed injunction as I left for the airport: “Keep Eric sober.” Keeping Eric sober turned out to be a major project, but if his gait was sometimes unsteady, his line never wavered. Read More »
March 11, 2011 | by Thessaly La Force
Our wonderful art editor Charlotte Strick took some time to talk to The Atlantic about her work as a graphic designer:
What’s a design trend that you wish would go away?
It’s not so much a design “trend”: the lack of quality in trade book publishing. Because of the rising costs of printing, many publishers are now using thinner paper stocks for book interiors. The paper feels cheap and there's more "show through" of the text from the previous page. Those of you who still enjoy holding a good old-fashioned book in your hands will know what I'm talking about. You really can feel the difference.
What’s an idea you became fascinated with but that ended up taking you off track?
Do ex-boyfriends count?
I’d say so! Read the rest of Charlotte’s interview here.
September 22, 2010 | by Thessaly La Force
You may have noticed that our Web site looks different. It's prettier, less cluttered, easier on the eyes—it's a delight to click on every page. Meet Jennifer, the Web designer with Tierra Innovation who was crucial to envisioning our redesign. Who better to explain our magical transformation? She recently answered some questions about the site via e-mail.
For those unfamiliar with the old site, what has changed?
Well, a big change is that the site now features a mix of evergreen content from the issue and more ephemeral content from The Daily and Twitter. You might drop in to check out something on the blog and then ten minutes later find yourself reading an interview from 1978.
Another change is that it’s easier to browse the archives of The Paris Review. For the first time, you can browse by genre, which is a whole new way of looking at the work. The new site pulls a lot of amazing pieces from the archive to the surface. I hope that it excites your readers!
What were you thinking about when you designed the new look?
When we first met to discuss the look and feel of the Web site, Lorin described a vision of the publication—and by proxy the site—as “rough and ready.” That turned out to be a pretty provocative and inspiring idea that we kept drawing from over the course of the design. What could be considered rough and ready online is really open for interpretation. Ultimately our take was a design that’s well-considered without looking too polished. Simple background shades and rules. No textures or finishes to make things on-screen look tactile and juicy. An environment in which text can stand out. And most significantly, a design that is loose enough to change with regularity. Specifically, the color palette of the site will change based on each new issue’s cover.
We also really wanted to embrace certain design elements of the print magazine, like the hand-rendered logotype, some of the mid-century-modern typography and the frontispiece illustration by William Pène du Bois. It was an interesting challenge to integrate those elements into a Web site in a way that feels natural and modern rather than anachronistic.
The Paris Review has undergone many changes from 1953, when it was founded, to today, as realized by our new art editor, Charlotte Strick. In your research for the site, was there a look you liked the most? The least? Read More »