We had a tree limb come down across our driveway last weekend--some freak weather thing, who knew?--and needed to rent a car for a couple of days.


The checkout guy at National Airport was working off of this beauty, the Foreman's Shop Desk, by Relius Solutions.

At under $200, it looks like the cheapest decent foreman's desk out there, no finish fetish or unit construction, or whatever brings the double-to-triple prices. But to my eye, it has a winning simplicity. Had I rented an SUV, I might have just slipped the guy a Hamilton and loaded it into the back. Oh well.

August 28, 2011


michael appleton for nyt

Such a great shot, such artful product placement. While it's unfortunately still true that you cannot buy publicity like this, only the most foolish brand evangelist will find himself unprepared when disaster coverage strikes.

hiroko masuike for nyt

The truth is, news photographers want to include your store or brand in their hurricane coverage; it can add excitement and content to the shot. The trick is to help the journalist by making that sexy storefront/logo shot not just easy, but irresistible.

reuters via daylife

Be respectful, not demanding. Craft your message with current media standards in mind, if only to increase your chances of actually getting it on the air.

Most brand messaging during a disaster buildup often feels impulsive, improvised.


Which works great for a nimble, inherently creative brand like agnes b.

reuters via daylife

But let's face it, executing on-brand on the fly is tough. Even if guy from Reuters takes a picture of your defiant but slightly odd scrawl, the benefits to your brand are limited if readers have to rely on the caption to learn that Lush is actually the name of your irreverent beer and winé shop.

But it shouldn't always have to be so ad hoc. This scaffolding covering the glass cube at the Fifth Avenue Apple store looks absolutely fantastic. Those guys really are brand geniuses.

Apple Store 5th Avenue - open 24 hours a day, except when a hurricane is coming
via johnrevill's flickr

Except it's actually for an ongoing renovation project. They got lucky. Here's Getty coverage of a very high-quality boarding-up underway at the Georgetown Apple Store:

Thumbnail image for getty_apple_gtown_hurricane.jpg
getty via daylife

A barrier which, however strong physically, utterly failed from a brand standpoint. The raw OSB--and not just OSB, but mismatched OSB!--is almost as detrimental as the hidden logo.

Must Buy Apple Products
"Must Buy Apple Products," image m.v. jantzen via flickr

In fact, a quick survey shows, with the exception of a few strikingly on-point, silver sandbags in the Meatpacking District, hurricane preparedness design is a glaring weakness in Apple's heretofore vaunted retail strategy.

jeremy m. lang for nyt

Another tenet of disaster coverage messaging is to balance long and short term objectives. On the one hand, there's marketing to do and money to be made. On the other, you don't want to be seen as exploiting either the situation or your customers. So make sure the statement about fair plywood panel pricing is in the shot with the helpfully upselly hurricane shopping list.

"WOWOW look at what Best Buy is doing! Selling cases of water for over 40 bucks!" via @AConDemand

And remember, a hurricane is no time for business-as-usual, and that goes for branding, too. So instead of squeezing out full, point-of-sale retail for every bottle in inventory, be creative. Offering a case of water free with purchase of every flatscreen could build goodwill toward the brand, which may pay off immediately by mitigating any effects of post-storm looting.

There will always be naysayers who think that putting even a little thought into your brand's disaster coverage presentation is crass and exploitative. Or who are willing to just hand over complete control of the presentation of their brand to freelance photographers and shiftless twitterers.

To these people, I would say simply, "Follow the experts."

Monocle's artfully, pointlessly taped storefront, via eric etheridge's awesome hurricane retail roundup

Not the branding experts who, in their obsessive preservation of brand essence, apparently miss the entire point of taping a window in the first place.

No, the other experts, the ones who live and breathe disaster coverage; the ones whose job it is to stand ready to help, to be prepared to move in wherever The Weather Channel's satellite trucks may roll. When you're wondering what your hurricane brand strategy should be, ask the important question first, "What would the Red Cross do?"

colin archer for nyt

August 26, 2011



Since I was researching the family murder last night--an 11-year ranchers' feud, irrigation wars, shovel fights, gouged-out eye, yearlong revenge plot, shotgun ambush, an old guy named "Boss"--this alternate spelling of OK'd, which I came across in a little story, tacked onto the bottom of a regional news roundup in The Richfield Reaper, c. about 1948 or '49, is only the second most shocking thing from the past that no one had ever told me about.

August 14, 2011

On Being Karl Lagerfeld

Everyone was so hyped up about the extraordinary, long New Yorker feature detailing the hunting and killing of Osama Bin Laden, that well, obviously, I couldn't post about it at the time. But I was so pissed at Helmut Lang for shredding his 6,000-piece clothing archive and turning it into mediocre sculpture, I knew I had to put things into context. See the bigger picture. Figure out what's really important. I had to go back and re-read John Colapinto's extraordinary, long New Yorker feature on Karl Lagerfeld from 2007. Specifically this scene:

The fitting model strutted forward in a new outfit and posed in front of Lagerfeld. He scrutinized her through his dark glasses and frowned. He said that he did not like the way the assistant had arranged the neckline of the sweater the model wore. Several assistants converged on her and began to tug uncertainly at the fabric.

"Non, non!" Lagerfeld said.

He uncapped a black marker and, rings clacking, made a quick sketch on a pad in front of him. Lagerfeld derisively describes many of his colleagues as "playing the designer," because they drape fabric on a model or a dummy; he conceives his collections at a kind of platonic remove, in multicolored drawings on paper, and only rarely touches fabric. The picture he produced--a swift hash of lines suggesting a soignée woman--reflected his skill as an illustrator. (His work has been published in numerous books and magazines.) An assistant looked at the drawing and hustled to the model to make adjustments. Lagerfeld ripped the drawing from the pad, crushed it in his hands, and tossed it into a large wicker hamper, which, over the course of the evening, filled with similar small masterpieces. "I throw everything away!" he declared. "The most important piece of furniture in a house is the garbage can! I keep no archives of my own, no sketches, no photos, no clothes--nothing! I am supposed to do, I'm not supposed to remember!" He smoothed a gloved hand over the empty page in front of him and visibly relaxed.

The whole piece is just a mutant rollercoaster ride of journalism, down to the last "hmm?" Here's another awesome scene:
Finally, Lagerfeld stopped talking and agreed to give a tour of the house. After warning, "You will think I'm a madman," he led the way up a grand curving marble staircase. The second floor is composed of huge rooms with soaring ceilings, ornate plasterwork, wood panelling, and fifteen-foot-high mirrors. The furniture, a mixture of antique and modernist pieces, was almost impossible to see, hidden under hundreds of magazines, CDs, photographs, promotional brochures, and books, which lay in heaps spilling on every surface, including the floors. Scattered through the rooms were dozens of iPod nanos of every hue. Each one was loaded with songs that Lagerfeld listens to when designing his collections, which he does, he says, usually in the mornings, while dressed in a long white smock. Surveying the scene through his black glasses, Lagerfeld said serenely, "Normal people think I'm insane."
He says that again later, after visiting his dressing area and the room with his five hundred suits, and then, "He shrugged. 'I don't know what 'normal' means, anyway.'"

In Colapinto's telling, Lagerfeld's voracious excesses of cultural consumption are designed to stave off boredom. The sustained investment in financial, human, and emotional capital required to keep Karl Lagerfeld entertained--and entertained enough to produce a new mountain of luxury goods year in and year out--is staggering.

And in a way, a good way, boredom was part of Lang's stock in trade. His clothes felt like an antidote to relentless fashion stimulation. At least they did at the time. For a customer. For Lang, though, who can say? He may have had some issues with the whole thing. Here's what I wrote about his first artwork, a giant disco ball which was exhibited in 2007 as "found," but which actually came from Lang's shuttered SoHo boutique:

Which completely changes the question of the disco ball from, "Where the hell'd he find it?" to "why the hell'd he keep it?" A glittering symbol unceremoniously yet sentimentally hauled out and dumped on an 18-acre beachfront estate in East Hampton and left to weather away in over-fabulous isolation. With a 4-foot disco ball in tow. [ba dum bum.]
Ultimately, Lang's problem maybe is not boredom, or not even that he's too normal, whatever that is, but that he's not Karl Lagerfeld. And for that, I imagine Lang is thankful.


June 22, 2011

Ro/Lu Lo/Go

Ro/Lu is en fuego these days, in case you didn't know, and I've been lucky enough to get warmed by their fire.

First off, they've been doing this Simple Chair project, an exploration of how and where our stuff is made. It's making its second appearance at Mass MOCA. I was planning to just write about it more when I saw the publication [to which I contributed a brief article of my Enzo Mari X Ikea table project], but Ro/Lu just keeps on doing stuff, so I can't sit silently by.


And then, as if reading my mind--or my blog drafts, or maybe communicating telepathically with me through the minimalist/modernist/design/art ether--they posted a link to an awesome-looking 1980 exhibition at The Renaissance Society in Chicago, "Objects and Logotypes: Relationships Between Minimal Art and Corporate Design".

Whoa. It's fascinating to see how Minimalism, modernism, and corporate branding were perceived and presented thirty years ago. They all feel digested and processed now, but I get the sense that what curator Buzz Spector is talking about in his essay is not quite the same thing we use those terms for today.

Which may be a way of saying I take issue with many of Spector's definitions and points, but I'm not quite able to articulate why I think he's wrong. I mean, I can say that I think Greenberg's Minimalism-as-"mannerism" does not seem related at all to the principles of usage in corporate visual design. Or that the ubiquitous, homogenizing proliferation of a corporate logo seems like the diametric opposite of Robert Morris's sculptural gestalt, not its twin.

But Spector's show still seems like an interesting, important first step for the coming revisiting of Minimalism. And siting avant-garde art practices in parallel to mid-century corporate marketing is pretty compelling to think about. And I really like the idea Spector hangs his show on, that these designers and artists are alike in conflating form and value, i.e., that they "reflect a common faith in the efficacy of form as a means of restructuring society through public exposure to works executed within particular systems of use."

As I sit here in the middle of a mild obsession with the Netherlands government's new, painting-inspired rebranding and centralized visual identity system, this idea feels as relevant as ever.

So thanks, Ro/Lu!

Last year about this time, after seeing Jeff Koons's BMW Art Car, I tossed off the idea that artists could be cranking out vinyl wraps as artworks.

Which I will happily assume is why designboom and Porsche had this contest last winter to create vinyl wraps for the Cayman.

Which, hrm. Even as I randomly take full credit for the idea, I gotta say, it's just as likely it's entirely wrong.

So when I first published the Richard Prince Canal Zone YES RASTA book in March, I got some nice responses from people, including a couple of folks who suggested I look at joining ABC, the Artists' Book Co-operative. ABC is an interesting-looking coalition of artists and photographers who come together to support and discuss print-on-demand publishing and to bring attention to their projects.

As it turns out, Printed Matter is hosting a reception and conversation tomorrow night with active members of ABC, which is in conjunction with an exhibition of ABC/POD titles that runs until June 30th.

It should be positively informative and delightful, and I look forward to going, to meeting some of the folks there, and to possibly seeing a reader or two as well. At this point, I think I will not endeavor to join ABC, but to continue to admire them from a distance.


Seeing as how they already have at least one guy who copies jpegs of Richard Prince cowboy photos in volume, and another who just released a collection of Google Maps images showing of the peculiarly aesthetic polygonal camouflage technique used to obscure sensitive sites in the Dutch landscape, maybe a little more distance would be better for all concerned.


ABC Artists' Book Co-operative conversation and reception, Thursday, June 16, 5-7 PM []


As part of their project Caché-Exposé, investigating the Netherlands' largely invisible detention and deportation system, the Amsterdam art & design collaborative Foundland documented obscure, anonymous detention sites around the country. Then they used a highly official, public system to distribute their images: design-it-yourself postage stamps.

What with the domes, the minimalist/industrial architecture, these stamps, and--hello, this awesome flag they shot in 2008--I can't help noticing how beautifully designed the Dutch immigrant prison system is. So thoughtful.


That is the Ministry of Security & Justice flag there, flying over the Zaandam waterfront dome prison. The biomorphic shape is a perspectival view of the scales of Justice, a fragment of the Ministry logo, which is an abstracted, blindfolded Justice.


Is, or was. Because on Google Streetview, the flag is different. Much simpler.


That is the new Rijkshuisstijl, which is officially called the Central Government Visual Identity, but which I gladly transliterate as the State House Style, a four-year effort begun in 2007 to centralize and redesign the Dutch government's corporate identity. Part of that initiative was the 1 Logo Project, a replacement of 125+ separate ministry and agency logos with a single logo, the national coat of arms on a vertical blue bar.


Ah, I'm told it's a ribbon. Here's the English version of the style guide.

Oh, man, the color palette, 16 colors "inspired by the colorful Dutch landscape painting," plus five gradients. Get me Colby Poster on the horn.


I am kind of geeking out over this. On the one hand, it's a normal redesign gig, tastefully done, but typical to the point of banality. On the other, because it's the state, I can't help but read every platitude in the mission statement and objectives, every justification of every design decision and element, through a politicized filter. Without knowing really anything about the details or shifts in Dutch poltiics beyond recent surges of right-wing populism, I can't help but interpret the identification of problems the Rijkshuisstijl was intended to fix as criticism of the parties and governments then in power.

Partly, it's the Rijkshuisstijl's incredibly bold assertions of design's importance and function. And the grand assertions of meaning:

"The symbol exists of a blue ribbon with the coat of arms. Subtle and unpretentious, an authority without being authoritarian."

The color of the logo is Rijksoverheid Blue. Inspired by the Dutch skies and Dutch light. Blue for calm and reliability. Blue for tradition and enduring values. Blue for harmony and balance."

"The wide variety of logos previously used by various government organisations made them less recognisable, causing confusion among the public and business community. People were no longer able to see the wood for the trees. Central government organisations seemed to be competing rather than cooperating with each other. This approach compounded the widely held view that central government was fragmented."

"The mission statement and the motto both underline what central government stands for. They give the central government logo (Rijkslogo) real meaning."

And then there's the irony of context, the subjective happenstance of discovering the Rijkshuisstijl while looking at an exposé criticizing the Netherlands' unjust treatment of immigrants, a project which I'd discovered in turn while reading about the current populist government's massive cuts to the country's arts infrastructure. Is this what modernism and Good Design signed on for? Because it's what they got.

Oh, and there was a symposium, and a book, De stijl van het Rijk/ Style and the State, produced last fall by the Stichting Design den Haag.

Foundland []
Rijkshuisstijl guide in English []
UPDATE: So the work was actually done by Studio Dumbar in Rotterdam, announced on their site in 2007 []


They may not be able to create an art ecosystem that can withstand the whims of populist demagogues, but I tell ya, back in the day, the Dutch sure could make the hell out of a birch writing cabinet.


Cees Braakman for Pastoe writing cabinet, birchwood cabinet with original colour-painted flap door (scratch), EUR1300 [ via anambitiousprojectcollapsing, also previously, reflib]

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Since 2001 here at, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting that time.

comments? questions? tips? pitches? email
greg [at] greg [dot ] org

find me on twitter: @gregorg

about this archive

Category: etc.

recent projects, &c.

Our Guernica Cycle, 2017 –
about/kickstarter | exhibit, 2017

Social Medium:
artists writing, 2000-2015
Paper Monument, Oct. 2016
ed. by Jennifer Liese
buy, $28

Madoff Provenance Project in
'Tell Me What I Mean' at
To__Bridges__, The Bronx
11 Sept - Oct 23 2016
show | beginnings

Chop Shop
curated by Magda Sawon
1-7 March 2016

eBay Test Listings
Armory – ABMB 2015
about | proposte monocrome, rose

It Narratives, incl.
Shanzhai Gursky & Destroyed Richter
Franklin Street Works, Stamford
Sept 5 - Nov 9, 2014
about | link

TheRealHennessy Tweets Paintings, 2014 -

Standard Operating Procedure
about | buy now, 284pp, $15.99

CZRPYR2: The Illustrated Appendix
Canal Zone Richard Prince
YES RASTA 2:The Appeals Court
Decision, plus the Court's
Complete Illustrated Appendix (2013)
about | buy now, 142pp, $12.99

"Exhibition Space" @ apexart, NYC
Mar 20 - May 8, 2013
about, brochure | installation shots

HELP/LESS Curated by Chris Habib
Printed Matter, NYC
Summer 2012
panel &c.

Destroyed Richter Paintings, 2012-
background | making of
"Richteriana," Postmasters Gallery, NYC

Canal Zone Richard
Selected Court Documents
from Cariou v. Prince (2011)
about | buy now, 376pp, $17.99