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London Design Festival 2014: 100% Norway Preview

Three standouts from the forthcoming exhibition at Tent London this September

by Cajsa Carlson in Design on 20 August 2014

London Design Festival, Norway, Design Fairs, Exhibitions, Furniture, Scandinavian, Tent London, Wallpaper

Bergen, Norway, has a reputation for being the rainiest city in Europe, but it’s also one of the prettiest—colorful, historic wooden houses overlook its harbor and the city is set in a picturesque valley surrounded by green mountains. Additionally, Bergen might just be one of the most creative places in Europe. Norway's second-largest city, just under 275,000 people live in Bergen, but its design influence is that of a much larger place. Thanks to the Bergen Academy of Art and Design—which nurtures young talent—the location has become a hotspot of creative agencies and design studios. Cool Hunting visited Bergen and the Academy as a number of current and former students were preparing to take part in its 100% Norway exhibition at the upcoming London Design Festival.

Norway is catching up with neighboring countries Denmark and Sweden when it comes to promoting its design talent, says Dave Vikøren, professor in furniture design at the Bergen Academy and, together with Petter Bergerud, one of the project managers for 100% Norway. The academy works hard to keep its talent in the city, which has created a network of designers who all live locally, making it easy for those working in the creative industries to collaborate and draw inspiration from one another. And the Norwegians are not just promoting home-grown talent but also home-grown materials—the use of wood is encouraged, which forms the base in many of the designers’ work.

For this year’s London Design Festival, 100% Norway has divided its exhibition into three parts—Experiments, Exploration and Results—that come together to create an overview of the whole design process, a "lifetime of design." We met the designers and took a look at some of the works that will be on display in September; below are a few of our favorites.

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Of a Kind

One of the ways in which the Bergen Academy continues to support students after they have graduated is through its “design incubator” program. The initiative gives former students start-up support and a workspace in the beautiful USF Verftet, an artists’ community and creative venue with an impressive water view. Here, the designers receive help setting up their companies and have a studio in which to work for two years—during that time they can also use the Academy’s workshops. Two of the five designers currently taking part in the incubator, Hanne K. Ravndal and Mikael Pedersen, have been chosen to exhibit their work in London.

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Their design studio Of a Kind will present Argus, a flexible desk lamp made of metal and wood. Light is directed through a glass dome that lets the user switch between a warm everyday light and a more focused light for detailed tasks. The elegant lamp is a classic example of Scandinavian design, combining the practical with the stylish. Of a Kind focuses on Nordic materials and quality and aims to create functional and environmentally friendly solutions, and Ravndal and Pedersen have already been able to give up their part time jobs to design full-time. Their work will be part of the “Experiments” section of the show, which is dedicated to mock-ups and prototypes created by young Norwegian designers.

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Scandinavian Surface

Many of the designers who take part in 100% Norway have years of industry experience behind them, yet still keep close ties to the academy. Among them are Åsne Midtgarden, Ann-Tove Engenes, Kristine Dybwad and Elisabeth Ellefsen, partners in design studio Scandinavian Surface, founded in 2004. The studio has a store in Bergen, Norden & Verden (translating to The North and the World) which sells the designers’ own creations and a collection of products from around the world. The designers explain that “Nordic nature and colors” often inspire their work, as seen in their “Mosaic Forest” wallpaper, which will be part of the 100% Norway exhibition.

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The dreamy, abstract representation of forest treetops consists of small water-colored squares that create a mosaic effect, which is equally striking from a distance and up close. Scandinavian Surface’s wallpaper is designed to be a good backdrop for furniture, and the group’s work has been used as murals in hospitals and in interior designs for art galleries and museum, where their calm, yet intricate patterns can really add interest to a room. In London, “Mosaic Forest” will be on display in the “Results” section, which gives an overview of the best contemporary work produced by designers living, studying or working in Norway, or Norwegians working internationally.

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KnudsenBergHindenes

KnudsenBergHindenes designers Petter Knudsen, Anders Berg and Steinar Hindenes are all Bergen Academy alumni (Hindenes is an adjunct professor at the school) who have stayed in the city to work. Among their latest designs is an inflatable frame that can be used for trade show displays, photographers’ backgrounds and projector screens. In London, they will show two furniture pieces, one of which is the “SayO” chair, a perfect example of how Norwegian designers experiment with natural materials to create contemporary designs.

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The striking chair, which is produced by Danish company SayO, is made using a 3D veneer production technique that folds layers of plywood to create both greater strength and a thinner seat base. It will be on display in the “Results” section in London and is available with different bases, woods and colors. KnudsenBergHindenes will also show its Cup table, which consists of a steel plate surrounded by an integral foam that rests on beech legs. The combination of the table’s light or dark grey hues and its wooden legs creates a simple, unmistakably Nordic design that would look good in most living rooms—Scandinavian or not.

100% Norway will take place from 18-21 September 2014 at TENT London during the London Design Festival.

Images courtesy of 100% Norway

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The Signs of Italy: Grafica della Strada

Louise Fili's decades-strong obsession with the country's diverse typography compiled in a fascinating photo book

by Hans Aschim in Design on 20 August 2014

Books, Italy, Sign Design, Typography, Design Inspiration, Photography Books, Signs

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It's something of a rarity for a designer with such a storied career as NYC-based Louise Fili to trace the foundations of her career back to one single memory. The 2014 AIGA Medal-winner and self-described Italophile's career in book design and food packaging all started on a trip to Italy at age 16 when Fili became transfixed by a billboard for Baci Perugina chocolates. Over the past three decades, Fili has documented her favorite signs throughout Italy, culminating in the new hardcover photography tome, "Grafica della Strada."

Spanning 264 pages, the diverse signage ranges from posh hotels to corner stores, capturing the charismatic typefaces that bridge classical and modern. One of the most notable aspects of signage featured is the wide array of mediums and materials employed. Everything from neon, ceramics, carved wood, marble and brass to enamel and more are intricately used in the work collected throughout the country. Fili even visited the last gold leaf sign-maker living in Rome—a testament to the fading craft.

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Many of the signs featured in "Grafica della Strada" no longer adorn the shops and restaurants they once did, making the publication a treasure for all—especially those seeking inspiration in typeface and art direction. With a wide release scheduled for 2 September 2014, "Grafica della Strada" is currently available for pre-order from Amazon for $29. Check out the slideshow for a few of our favorites.

Images by Cool Hunting

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Christopher Willits: OPENING

The Ghostly International artist pushes the album format into a new space with an enhanced meaning

by Hans Aschim in Culture on 19 August 2014

California, Concept Albums, Film, Ghostly, Ghostly International, Landscapes, Meditation, Musicians, San Francisco, Interviews

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We've come to expect Ghostly International to push boundaries. The independent label excels in everything from product design to lo-fi house records, and their roster of artists is deft in crossing creative lines. San Francisco-based multimedia artist Christopher Willits is a shining personification of the curatorial house's DNA. Willits—known for his innovative blend of acoustic and electric methods—created a cohesive seven-piece narrative of visual and sonic art called OPENING, in which the listener and viewer is given a sort of meditative landscape to get lost in and experience anew with each visit. Shot, edited, color adjusted, performed, mixed and mastered by Willits himself, OPENING is a project of many layers. We caught up with the artist to learn more about the project. We're also pleased to offer the premier of part six, "Wide" included here.

What inspired you to release this album as a film?

I've always imagined creating something like this and I'm so excited that it's all coming together. For a very long time I've been thinking about this and now is the time for it to happen. It's tools, my understanding of those tools and my intention in using them and where I'm at in my life all coming together. It's a convergence of all that I love, my ability to hold it all together and—technologically—the ability to capture, edit, mix and distribute something like this is just amazing to me. I would not have been able to do this on a technical level until recently. The tools I use are a big part of the creative process. I try to limit my tool set and work within those constraints.

Your blend of electric and acoustic techniques lends itself well to the film. Did the filmmaking inspire the music or vice versa?

The sound and the image definitely emerged together. I usually begin with sound. I'll have a general idea or feeling that I'm going for and explore all angles of it, and just let things happen. There's a lot of improvisation that happens and then I begin to attach images to the sounds that were beginning to live.

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What's your creative process like for each medium?

I set an intention about why I want to create something, and form a clear idea of what that is going to be in my imagination. Then I improvise and play and let things take shape within this kind of environment I've set up in my imagination.

The intention is to create a space with sound and light that can be used as a tool for being at peace and recharging with; something that you can breathe into, open up into.
There's a meditative energy to the tracks I've heard and seen. Is there a narrative?

OPENING is a film and album that are completely connected. The intention is to create a space with sound and light that can be used as a tool for being at peace and recharging with; something that you can breathe into, open up into. Everyone is going to have their own unique experience of these overlapping sounds and images, but the intention is to create a space of opening. The word "opening" was really fitting for this project. The piece is about consciousness opening and expanding and, for me personally, it's the opening of a new stage of my life and creative process.

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The story is designed to be subjective: anyone who watches it can come out with their own reading of what it means. For me, in general, it's an abstract narrative about the processing of opening—opening in the sense of letting go and being sensitive to everything around you, the energy that you are made of.

The piece as a whole is extremely cohesive.

I wanted the whole seven-scene, seven-track experience to be one connected vibration. I intentionally made the imagery and music weave into themselves. The tonality of the music, like movements of one large piece; the images like dreams that reoccur and echo. I like this idea of telling stories of personal transformation on a metaphorical and highly subjective level. I think the story can stay open and continue to change as we change.

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Was doing everything yourself especially challenging?

This was the most challenging album I've ever created, and the most challenging film I've ever created. And it was the most fun and exhilarating project I've ever worked on. I really feel like this has set a new path for myself and I'm excited to approach another visual album like this.

This project taught me about so many technical details, but the main thing I learned was patience. Working with video to this magnitude, doing everything myself, opened up another process of planning and doing. Sometimes the idea would be completed in my mind, but the details of rendering and color and editing still needed to happen. It took a lot of patience to see this whole thing through.

What's next?

My main projects after OPENING are continuing to develop my new member service at Drip.fm, finish a bunch of remixes, begin more work with aquaponics and urban food growth. I have some documentary ideas, I'm going to develop new classes to teach out of the Overlap Studio, and I want to just keep creating new work in the vein of OPENING.

OPENING is set to release 2 September 2014. Pre-order the special edition, a clear vinyl version with limited print, for $30.

Portrait courtesy of Tomo Saito, additional images courtesy of Christopher Willits

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