Friday, March 27, 2009

Brain Spa

Brain anatomy. 16th century diagram of the anatomy of the human brain and the nerves associated with the senses of hearing, taste, sight and smell. The diagram, which is labeled in Latin, is from Magnus Hundt's Antropologium (Leipzig, 1501).

Have you been multitasking so much you feel you are losing your power of concentration? Treat yourself to a brain spa and sit in on a lecture from a great university. You don't need to take notes or prep for any exams, just find a seat, absorb the knowledge and stimulate your brain.

This week two new services, Academic Earth and YouTube EDU, have been launched to make your access to university classes even easier. There are no registration lines, no need to audit, no early classes, and no tuition fees. Try it and rejuvenate your brain!

Image courtesy of Sheila Terry / Science Photo Library

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Photo Cube - DIY with Paper

Photo cubes for Mother's Day by Perri Lewis. Photograph by Natalie Naccache/Guardian

Perhaps spring is inspiring you to get crafty. With 6 photos, card stock, scissors, a ruler and glue, you can whip up a little 3-d gift and practice your geometry skills, too! I'm sharing this from Perry Lewis at the Guardian. She tells it best:

Like any handmade present, it can be personalised and it shows you've done more than dropped into Tesco on your way to visit. What's more, it might bring back floods of happy memories of all the wonderfully rubbish stuff you made for her from egg cartons, washing-up liquid bottles and crepe paper as a nipper.

If you're not going to see your mum on Sunday, don't worry. Make a small photo cube and send it, unfolded, with instructions on how to assemble it.

Photo cube

What you need

A piece of thin card
Craft knife or scissors
Six photos
Spray mount or a glue stick
Double-sided tape
Sticky back plastic (optional)

What to do

1. Draw a cube net on to a piece of thin card, or download one of these ready-made ones (pdf) and print it out.

2. Cut the cube net out: a craft knife and ruler will give you the cleanest cut, but you can use scissors if you don't have one to hand. Score each line carefully.

3. Choose six pictures for your photo cube. As each photo needs to be the same size as the face of your cube net, you need to either a) use photo editing software to make each picture the same size, then print them out, or b) print the photos out first, then cut them to size.

4. Glue one photo to each face of the cube net, on the side without the black lines. I thoroughly recommend that you use spray mount for this rather than a glue stick - you will get a better, more even coverage with no little lumps, so your pictures will have a smooth finish. A can costs about £7, but it lasts for ages and can be used for all sorts of paper craft. Of course, if you don't have any spray mount, use a glue stick or double-sided tape.

5. This step is entirely optional, but if you want make your photo cube a little more study, cover the whole cube net in sticky back plastic.

6. Add strips of double-sided tape to the tabs and assemble the cube. Again, I prefer not to use a glue stick – double-sided tape is far less messy - but use whatever suitable adhesive you have to hand.

Thank you Perry and a very Happy Day to all Mothers in the U.K. and other places celebrating Mother's Day this weekend.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Keep Calm & Consider Alternatives

If the original Keep Calm and Carry On message doesn't suit you, here are but a few alternatives to consider:

For more info on any Keep Calm and Carry On parody featured above, just click on the image. See the previous blog entry for the story of the design sensation and original WWII poster saved from obscurity.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Keep Calm & Carry On

Keep calm and carry on is a great message and a very timely one for us at this exact point in history. It's also a great poster design. The baronial graphic of the crown and the clear Gill font in caps further expresses the simple focus of the message. Well, sure, we can be optimistic with such a thoughtful and charming mantra and a pleasing graphic design to view. I'm feeling better about the world already.

The timelessness of the message and the beautiful simplicity of the graphic elements do not reveal the artist who designed the poster. Now available throughout Great Britain on t-shirts, tote bags, tea towels and door mats, to name just a few, what little is known about it is that it was created as part of a British Ministry of Information propaganda campaign in August of 1939 to alleviate fear of a possible German invasion.

A series of three posters were created under the crown of King George VI, yet only the first two were widely released, appearing on billboards, train stations and shops throughout England. The third design, Keep Calm, was held in reserve, and, thankfully, never needed for its intended use.

Somehow, somewhere, a copy of the unused poster was saved for about 60 years. It resurfaced in a box of old books purchased at auction in 2000 by booksellers Stuart and Mary Manley of Barter Books in Northumberland. They hung the poster in their shop and started to research its origins. Frequent requests to purchase it led them to reproduce the poster and offer it for sale. Some 40,000 copies have been sold through them.

In spite of its wartime origins, the message of resilience is welcome. The archives of British history and design gained a document almost unknown and the rest of us gain the benefits.

Special thanks to Jon Henley for his article Keep Calm and Carry On in the Guardian on March 18, 2009 and Mary Manley's blog entry on March 4, 2009.

Friday, March 13, 2009


frugalista (froog'gal-ees-ta) n. "person who leads a frugal lifestyle, but stays fashionable and healthy by swapping clothes, buying second-hand, growing own produce, etc."

It may not have made the New Oxford American Dictionary's 2008 Word of the Year, but it is a deserving strong finalist. As we face the hard facts of the surround-sound economic crisis crumbling around us – frugalista appears to be a word with staying power. It is a power we’ll need to use as we tighten the belt once again, dust off the sewing machine and serve up dinner of rice and beans for hungry family and friends.

I'm not sure of the protocol regarding new words if they don't yet appear in a dictionary. But it’s such a good word I’m excited to add it to my vocabulary. I would also like to expand its definition. After all, it is such a recent addition to our language certainly the word is still evolving and malleable.

There are plenty of us all over the globe who have learned the art of stretching the wampum, by necessity and practicality. We (hereafter known as frugalistas) know how to make do, quite stylishly, with less. We are not only managing and discovering new ways to do it better, we are also eco-conscious in our choices. From time to time, we might even be a little eco-chic. We reduce, recycle and reuse to the limits of our imaginations.

Special thanks to William Safire for his article On Language - Frugalista in the New York Times Magazine, November 23, 2008 and Natalie McNeal for her blog, The Frugalista Files.

Good looking and sturdy market and tote bags made of earth-friendly materials each sell for under $1.50.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Typewriter Style

The height of modern industrial design and portability were exemplified in this new design of the Olivetti Lettera 32 typewriter in 1963. Weighing in at about 13 pounds, this diminutive beauty was a great convenience for students and journalists. With a flick of a switch, the type changed from black to red or no ink for carbon copies.

Design conscious from early on, Olivetti was founded in Italy in 1908. From the 1940s to the 1960s Marcello Nizzoli, (1887-1969) one of Italy's most influential designers, directed product design including the iconic early Letteras. In addition to his role as head product-design consultant, he also worked for Olivetti as an architect, designing housing for employees (1948) and office buildings (1960s).

Click here for a delightful gallery of Olivetti's portable typewriters at the Portable Typewriter Reference Site.

Below are some vintage images of earlier brands of typewriters and their typists/writers and assemblers.
Typing pool, circa 1890

Sales office, circa 1900

Assemblers, circa 1911

These images appear courtesy of The Virtual Typewriter Museum. Please click on over to see all their collections.

Back at 973, the little Olivetti sits out with a piece of paper in the roller at the ready. The grocery list grows; a reminder to return a call is added; and other terrifically important notes are kept in one convenient place in our writing machine.

It's still a great way to communicate!