The idea of the book, cont’d: Book-like sculptures

LIBRAIRIE. Click for more info.

LIBRARIE. Click for more info

“CONRAD BAKKER: Untitled Project: LIBRAIRIE [Geneva] is a simulated bookshop made of hundreds of hand carved and painted copies of used paperback books from the 1960’s and 1970’s whose subjects range from social issues and existential philosophies to DIY crafts and self improvement. These representations of vintage paperbacks reveal their status as public things in the gathering of persons/things around a specific issue or matter of concern. The very space of the constructed bookshop/librairie reiterates the objective of public things as it becomes a literal platform for considering the relationships between persons, things and ideas.”

LIBRARIE. Click for more images.

Pictures of Stuff, cont’d: Object-clumping

Tower of Drawers, by James Nizam. Click for details.

Entanglement of Chairs, by James Nizam. Click for details.

Like many other entries in this occasional series: via Junk Culture.

The idea of the book, cont’d: The coverless era


Among other changes heralded by the e-book era, digital editions are bumping book covers off the subway, the coffee table and the beach. That is a loss for publishers and authors, who enjoy some free advertising for their books in printed form: if you notice the jackets on the books people are reading on a plane or in the park, you might decide to check out “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” or “The Help,” too.


Some readers expect makers of electronic devices to add functions that allow users to broadcast what they’re reading. “People like to show off what they’re doing and what they like,” said Maud Newton, a popular book blogger. “So eventually there will be a way for people to do that with e-readers.”

Perhaps what will happen with e-readers will be an option for displaying the cover of the book you want people to think you’re reading — a mobile version of the digital “bookshelf” I proposed here.

See also: “Destroyed Copy of ‘Buying In’ as Kindle Holder.”

This post is part of an occasional series.

Pictures of Stuff, cont’d: house stuff; sneakers

Via The Design Cubicle

Via The Design Cubicle

Both from this post (artists not named). Pictures of Stuff is an ongoing series.


  • Hurricane imagery in New Orleans: “Though the storms have always played a role in the mythology of the city, hurricane imagery increasingly has part of what defines New Orleans. I’ve spent quite a lot of time there recently, and I can attest that the hurricane is everywhere: in jewelry, in art, and on bodies, for example.” That’s someone’s claim. Thoughts, New Orleans people? True or false? Examples?
  • Really good fakes: The work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction — is a tourist draw! “Replicas made with a palette of high-tech tools are changing the way tourists see art. [T]hese faithful fakes are the work of Madrid-based Factum Arte, a company that employs high-resolution 3-D scanners of its own devising to reproduce artworks.” Speaking authenticity and art: good story about the Rogue Duchamp Urinals.
  • Gentleman’s bulletproof pocket square: “Reykjavik designer Sruli Recht is selling a limited number of these kevlar pocket squares made from “military grade lemon aramid” fiber.”
  • Silence & Deafness: Disquiet previews “In Pursuit of Silence: Listening for Meaning in a World of Noise” by George Prochnik, which sounds quite interesting.
  • The most useless machine ever!
  • Google Ads Will Now Follow You Across The Web: “Launched what it calls ad “retargeting.” If someone visits a page on an advertiser’s own site or YouTube channel, Google can now show a related follow-up ad to just that person when they visit another site which shows Google ads. Since there are millions of sites in the Google Content Network, chances are Google will see them again.”
  • Fast food logos unconsciously trigger fast behaviour: “Subliminal exposure to fast food symbols, such as McDonalds’ golden arches, can actually increase people’s reading speed. Just thinking about these foods can boost our preferences for time-saving goods and even nudge us towards financial decisions that value immediate gains over future returns.” Via the invaluable Mindhacks.
  • These links compiled via delicious, and repurposed here with plug-in Postalicious. Not enough stuff? Not the stuff you wanted? Try visiting,, and/or the Consumed Facebook page.

The idea of the book, cont’d: Edible

“Booklava,” by Chuck and Cara Matteliano, the winner at the 2009 Western New York Book Arts Collaborative Edible Books Contest

More on Edible Geography. Via @nicolatwilley.

“Eating Words – Winston Churchill,” by Richard Kegler, 2009 (wafer board, chocolate, Twizzlers)

Much more at the Edible Books Gallery.

Pictures of stuff, cont’d: The back of art

This is a departure for the Pictures of Stuff Series, but having just posted those images of stuff shot from underneath, this seemed worth mentioning: Artist Simon Menner would like to do a series of images of the backs of famous paintings, like the one below. But as his statement explains: “Unfortunately it is almost impossible to get any permission to take such pictures. So I will see if this project ever continues. I haven´t lost my optimism yet, so currently I still say that it is ‘in progress.'”

By Simon Menner: The back of Salvador Dali's "Portrait der Madame Isabell Styler-Tas," 1945.

Via Junk Culture.

The idea of the book, cont’d: As planter

As planters.

Assessment: “Here’s a line of brilliant eco-planters: recycled book pots from Italy’s Gartenkultur. The concept — old books with holes carved into the middle to accommodate soil and a small houseplant — is simple enough (perhaps even enough for a DIY job) and quite beautiful.” Via.

In The New York Times Magazine: Why Starbucks can’t duck the gun controversy

–> Hey! Consumed is back! It’s in tomorrow’s issue of The New York Times Magazine, so go buy the paper, even though you can read the column below.

Starbucks would prefer to be left out of the latest gun-rights debate. Here’s why it can’t.

Drawing a line between official institutions of lawmaking and the daily sphere where citizens move about is not so easy. And one thing the pistols-and-Frappuccino moment has demonstrated is that this is acutely true for a business with an image carefully devised to blur the line between public space and commercial space.

Read the column in the March 28, 2010, New York Times Magazine, or here.

Discuss, make fun of, or praise this column to the skies at the Consumed Facebook page.

Graphic argument

Maybe you’re aware of the controversy about this map. If you’re not: What does it communicate to you, visually? Does it look like a graphic from some movie about a violent assault on the United States? Or just a mundane political-strategy graphic?

If you are aware of the controversy, then you know that’s pretty much what he controversy boils down to. The full map below was published on Sarah Palin’s Facebook page, and critics say it’s sending a dangerous visual message in a moment when lawmakers are reportedly receiving death threats about their positions on health care reform. Palin, I gather, says such critics are making a phony argument and the imagery is benign.

An interesting design-interpretation disagreement. And one that seems pretty hard to hash out, because it’s hard for any observer, I suspect, to separate what one sees from one’s politics.

In defense of “how it looks”

Raise the subject of aesthetics when you’re wondering aloud about design, and somebody is sure to pipe up and say something along the lines of “Design isn’t how it looks; it’s how it works.” This is true — but false. True: A great-looking product that does not work is indeed Bad Design and will fail in the marketplace. And yet: Please show me a product or object hailed by the design elite as Good that doesn’t just so happen to be aesthetically pleasing. (To the design elite, anyway.) “How it looks,” in other words, matters, both to the critics and to the market.

Julie Lasky has an essay on Design Observer, Superbeauty, that is very much about “how it looks.” She contends that “beauty” has made a comeback in the 21st century, and evidence can be found in the design world; the essay is in connection with an exhibition called The State of Things: Design in the 21st Century, for which she co-curated a set of objects under the heading Super Beauty:

The category is based on the premise that nothing in today’s domestic environment is too modest or obscure to be prettified: sink strainers, dish soap packages, extension cords, humidifiers, radiators, computer components, fire extinguishers. It is as if contemporary designers have vowed to make an utter sweep of domestic inventory and leave nothing unpleasing to the eye.

The rest of her essay is here. I can’t speak with the sort of authority that Lasky can about this subject in the broader context of design and art criticism, so I was interested to get that perspective.

For what it’s worth, since the early days of Consumed I’ve addressed how I think “how it looks” makes a discernible difference in the marketplace. Read more

Welcoming the new Unconsumption Tumblr contributors

The recent call for new contributors to the Unconsumption Tumblr has yielded some very fine results: Joining Steve Chaney, Tom Hosford, Brian W. Jones, and myself are:

  • Clifton Burt, graphic designer in Portland Oregon. His site is here.
  • Chelsea Rogers, art and design enthusiast and brand researcher in New York, NY. Her site is here.

They’ve already started adding items, and good ones, too.

Still sorting through some of the other replies and deciding whether to add one or two more folks, but I’m thrilled to be off and running with these new volunteers. As always if you have feedback about the Unconsumption Tumblr — what it needs more of, or less of — speak up. Below or at unconsumption @


  • The Social Media Bubble: HBR blogger takes a business view on “thin relationships” online: “If the “relationships” created on today’s Internet were valuable, perhaps people (or advertisers) might pay for the opportunity to enjoy them. Yet, few, if any, do — anywhere, ever. Conversely, because those “relationships” aren’t valuable, companies are, it is said, forced to try and monetize them in extractive, ethically questionable ways.”
  • Talk Deeply, Be Happy?: “People who spend more of their day having deep discussions and less time engaging in small talk seem to be happier.” Implications for social media version of “conversation”?
  • Defictionalized Goods: Examples; clever term. Via @muzellec.
  • YouTube your way to college – “Students’ ‘infomercials’ are the latest way to say ‘pick me out of this crowd, please!'”
  • Haul videos: Slate piece. Interesting how much attention haul videos are getting. For what it’s worth I talked about them on Marketplace Money a few weeks ago, but that was their story, I’ve never written about the phenomenon.
  • Curious Sound Objects: “A detergent bottle gains theremin-like capabilities, a simple canvas shoe amplifies the sound of foot-tapping by tenfold, a messenger bag becomes a cavern of echoes.”

The idea of cassettes: Quick rewind

Okay, so, I think I’ve more or less fully updated the monster post on The Idea of Cassettes, with the many, many suggestions and tips from readers. (Example left.) Probably I’ve missed some stuff.

Quick notes:

It looks like someone has started a Facebook page called Cassette, that seems to have been inspired by the post? I’m merely a reporter. But if you’re a cassette fan, be A Cassette Fan.

Also: It was great to see the post get noticed by MetaFilter, and Coudal (“Now that’s a blog post”), but for some reason I was particularly amazed to be noticed by Needless to say I was ID’d as “Some Guy”:

Also needless to say, the post was not a “history of the audio cassette tape.” But I’m thrilled to see it tagged “interesting.” Zero complaints.

Anyway there are a crazy number of additional items and links added to the original post. But I recommend just perusing the comments and reading what those who didn’t have a link, but had something to say. It’s really amazing, I think, how evocative the cassette clearly is to many — memories, romance, nostalgia. All from such a crummy hunk of mass-plastic!

Finally: Disquiet, which played no small role in inspiring this whole thing, happens to have a great post up that notes this cassette discussion and segues into some great info and observations about other music-object events and insights of the moment. Recommended.

Thanks again.

Pictures of stuff AND the idea of books, cont’d.

Randy Ludacer/Box Vox points to the work of Brock Davis, which includes some really great pictures of stuff taken from below. (“In designing packages,” Ludacer writes, “we usually think in terms of how a product will look “on the shelf” — but this is surely an unforeseen angle.”)

By Brock Davis; click pic for more.

Apparently Davis set out to do “One piece of creative work made every day for 365 consecutive days,” cataloging the results here. A mini-series of shots-from-underneath is just one of many ideas he explored; if you check out the full results search for “under” to see more of these. But check it all out while you’re there.

By Brock Davis. Click pic for more.

I had to include coffee mugs. And of course I have to throw in one more, since it involves books.

By Brock Davis. Click pic for more.