Archive for April, 2009

The work of Elizabeth Avedon

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

Elizabeth Avedon does beautiful design work.

Since I’m sure you’re wondering: No, I don’t know if she’s related to Richard Avedon, but I doubt the name is a coincidence. Avedon didn’t have any daughters so if I had to guess, I’d probably say she’s his daughter-in-law. She makes no mention of it on the site so I’m guessing it’s just none of my business.

Celebrity relatives aside, she does a brilliant job of framing the work of fine artists the world over. Do yourself a favor and struggle through her flash-based site to take a gander at a tremendous body of work.

Elizabeth Avedon Design

Elizabeth Avedon Design

Elizabeth Avedon Design

The Espresso in Action

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

A little while back I mentioned the Espresso Book Machine as the new Harbinger of Awesome for our industry.

Just ran across a video of it in action. Somehow a lot less impressive now. I was expecting a little more Star Trek and lot less Henry Ford.

Via The Book Design Review‘s twitter feed

The Art of Penguin Science Fiction

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

Wonderful collection of vintage Science Fiction books from Penguin. It’s a shame they don’t provide larger images.

Via The Casual Optimist

The Skinny on using NASA Images

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009


(source image @

Between its 20 different sites, obtuse categories, mediocre search results, and questions of general legality, the search for the right NASA image has always been a frustrating one.

I recently stumbled upon, which has provided the most user-friendly and comprehensive image collection to date. As a designer, space-afficionado, and general cheapskate, I emailed the site and asked a few questions. To my surprise, Jon Hornstein, the Director of the NASA Project, responded that same day. We’ve exchanged a number of emails since then. As it turns out, is the end-all source for all media that NASA currently has to offer. It is, in other words, the mother lode.

In the hopes of cutting down on general confusion and frustration the industry over, here’s the meat of our exchange, shoehorned into a friendly Q&A faux-format. Some of this is from Jon, some of it is from various online sources:

The short version: All publicly available NASA images are on, which is co-operated by the Internet Archive. It is most likely legal for you to use them for any purpose (commercial or otherwise) unless there’s someone famous in the image. Keep reading for more detail.

Q: So what’s the deal with

NASA is an extremely huge and diverse organization. Historically the various NASA Centers have created and managed their media independently on a Center or project basis. There is some overlap in the sites you list but each site was created for a specific purpose and no entity has previously been responsible for creating a central repository for all NASA media.

NASA has 21 major public-facing media-intensive Web sites, and over 2000 sites altogether. The reason NASA entered into a Space Act Agreement with The Internet Archive is to bring together as much NASA media as possible (from existing sites, media repositories that are not online, analog media from the vaults and capturing newly created media) to create a single source for all of NASA’s publicly available media.

The Internet:
NASA Images is a service of Internet Archive ( ), a non-profit library, to offer public access to NASA’s images, videos and audio collections. NASA Images is constantly growing with the addition of current media from NASA as well as newly digitized media from the archives of the NASA Centers. (source)

Q: Is everything on here in the public domain? Can I use this on commercial work?

All of the media produced by NASA is public domain, meaning that anyone can use it any way (as long as they obey restrictions of publicity and privacy).

The Internet:
As a government entity, NASA does not “license” the use of NASA materials or sign license agreements. The Agency generally has no objection to the reproduction and use of these materials (audio transmissions and recordings; video transmissions and recording; or still and motion picture photography), subject to the following conditions:

  • NASA material may not be used to state or imply the endorsement by NASA or by any NASA employee of a commercial product, service, or activity, or used in any manner that might mislead.
  • NASA should be acknowledged as the source of the material.
  • It is unlawful to falsely claim copyright or other rights in NASA material.
  • NASA shall in no way be liable for any costs, expenses, claims, or demands arising out of the use of NASA material by a recipient or a recipient’s distributees.
  • NASA does not indemnify nor hold harmless users of NASA material, nor release such users from copyright infringement, nor grant exclusive use rights with respect to NASA material.
  • NASA material is not protected by copyright unless noted. If copyrighted, permission should be obtained from the copyright owner prior to use. If not copyrighted, NASA material may be reproduced and distributed without further permission from NASA.
  • If a recognizable person, or talent (e.g., an astronaut or a noted personality engaged to narrate a film) appears in NASA material, use for commercial purposes may infringe a right of privacy or publicity. Therefore, permission should be obtained from the recognizable person or talent. If the proposed use of the NASA material could be viewed as a commercial exploitation of that person. However, if the intended use of NASA material is primarily for communicative purposes, i.e., books, newspapers, and magazines reporting facts of historical significance (constitutionally protected media uses), then such uses will generally be considered not to infringe such personal rights.
  • Some NASA audiovisual material may incorporate music or footage, which is copyrighted and licensed for the particular NASA work. Any editing or otherwise altering of the work may not be covered under the original license, and therefore would require permission of the copyright owner.
  • NASA audiovisual material may include visible NASA identifiers (e.g., the name of the vehicle and the NASA Insignia or Logotype in photographs or film footage of Space Shuttle vehicles). Use of such materials is generally non-objectionable, provided the NASA identifiers appear in their factual context. (Source)

Q: I’ve noticed that NASAImages doesn’t always offer the highest resolution version of a specific image. What’s the best way to make sure I’m getting the highest quality image available?

[We] have a hi-res version of most, but not all of the images. If the NASA site we got it from had a hi-res, we have it but many sites only had low res. Currently, even if we have a hi-res it’s not downloadable directly from our site but will be sometime within the next few months. For now though, if you find an image you want a hi-res of, in the Details view on the left-hand side is a field called “Original URL.” Clicking on that link takes you to the original NASA page where we acquired the image from. If a hi-res exists at all, it will be available there. Bandwidth and storage are not issues for us. It’s a purely a limitation in the software we use to serve up and we are working on eliminating that limitation.

Q: In the past, I’ve searched for NASA images on or other similar stock photo resources, assuming that they had access to some images that the rest of us just couldn’t get ahold of. I’ve only recently realized that this is not the case, (for example, compare this photo of spiral galaxy M101 to the same image found on Corbis). How is it that stock houses can sell work that’s public domain? Is there any reason I should be using their services?

Anyone can resell public domain images as long as they obey restrictions of publicity and privacy.

So the media these stock houses offers that comes from NASA is at least theoretically available for free directly from NASA and from People may pay to license NASA images from Corbis because 1) they make it easier to find; 2) they will warranty the availability of the image for use (relieving the buyer of any potential liability for using an image that might have legal restrictions); or 3) simply because people are unaware that media from NASA is pubic domain and available from a variety of free sources.

Q: Is there any reason that I should be visiting the various other sites if I’m looking for images, or does NASAImages have the full collection? If not, when does it expect to?

Hornstein: launched last August with the contents of all 21 sites included. Since then, we’ve been adding new content not on those sites and in many cases, not on any other site.

Thanks a ton Jon!


Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

A lot of kooks thought the end of the world might happen around Y2k; now we’re approaching the end of another historic cycle of sorts, and I’ve been wondering if the world really did and we somehow didn’t notice.

This isn’t unheard of. There was a Holy Roman Empire for entire centuries after anything Caesar-like disappeared, all the way up to Archduke Ferdinand. Who are we to tell ten million Hungarians that they aren’t Roman?

These thoughts kept bringing me back to J.G. Ballard. So I’ve been re-reading the Best Short Stories anthology. I’ve been emailing friends about him. Empire of the Sun was even playing at a bar I stumbled into. Ballard’s theme was that we were on the cusp of the apocalypse, and there was no place he’d rather be. Front row for the grand finale, cue the fat lady and get me another drink, the real restaurant at the end of the universe.

I’ve also been sitting on a draft of this post regarding covers of Crash for a while. I don’t think “apocalypse” is too tough to visually depict, but Ballard’s lustful giddiness and wanton abandon to a blasted future are something else altogether. Henry Sene Yee did a pretty good job with the cover you see on shelves today, and his original concept (above) was even closer to the mark. Rick Poynor wrote an exhaustive review of the many editions of Crash for Eye magazine, but arrives at the early conclusion that “image-makers have been defeated by Crash.”

J. G. Ballard died from cancer last Sunday. Whatever it was that ended, Ballard survived it, and I think had the last word on it.

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Daniel Gray of the excellent Binky the Doormat notes that There was/is a competition by The Times to design the cover for a new edition of Crash… It was to be judged by Ballard himself, so it’s possible that the delay was due to his poor health. Not sure what’s going to happen to it now, but basically The Times are sitting on who knows how many concepts for the cover and aren’t making any moves to do anything with them.

Anyone know what’s going on here?

Daniel’s own entry into the competition:

Henry Sene Yee – Flying

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

Henry Sene Yee’s latest post about his cover for Flying is pretty incredible. A truly impressive amount of work went into this cover. Head over to his blog to read up on the process.

Meg Paradise

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

Meg Paradise, formerly of Mucca, is a freelance designer working out of Brooklyn. She’s got the chops if you’ve got the work.


The Designer So Nice They Named Him Thrice

Monday, April 20th, 2009

After a brief exchange with the incredibly talented Mr John Fulbrook III, I am pleased to say that I now have pile of covers of his that need posting. For the rest of the work week I’ll be putting up a new pile of his stuff on a daily basis.

Did You Know #1: John is the CD at Collins? The only reason I know this is because Brian Collins is one of the few notable alumni to come out of my alma matter, The Massachusetts College of Art and Design.

Did You Know #2: John is also the Art Director behind a number of the best covers in our collection.

Mendelsund over at FaceOut Books

Thursday, April 16th, 2009

(Yeah, we make a lot of posts about Mendelsund. Wanna fight about it?)

The excellent FaceOut Books has a new entry up wherein they interview Peter Mendelsund about his work with Vertical Press.

Interview Highlights:
- Scratch & Sniff cover
- Lots of glorious images by Mendelsund and others (Gall, Mark Melnick, etc)
- Treatment of manga that isn’t retarded.
- Reading about the budgetary compromises and restraints that Mendelsund has to deal with.

A couple ancillary notes:
- Don’t miss the fact that a lot of the images have mini-navigations above them. I didn’t see it the first time around.
- Cool to see FaceOut Books using the Cargo Collective platform. We haven’t seen it used in this kind of blog format before.

Science and Tech Ads

Monday, April 13th, 2009

Do yourselves a favor and spend a spell over at the amazing Science and Tech Ads collection, (nabbed from Draplin during my daily DDC tractor pull).

Reminds me of Kidd™’s cover for The English Patient, (one of my favorite covers of all time).


Paul Sahre’s AIGA talk now online

Monday, April 13th, 2009

Paul Sahre’s AIGA/NY A Designer and His Problems talk is up on Vimeo. Haven’t watched it yet. Something to look forward to.

Thanks to Sam PottsTwitter feed for the headsup.

Mendelsund’s quest for T&A (no really)

Friday, April 10th, 2009

Peter Mendelsund tracks down how many clicks it takes to get from one of his covers to a picture of a naked woman on

I’ve been a big fan of the popular website FFFFOUND! since it’s inception. The site is chock-filled with interesting design, curated (for the most part) by users with wide-ranging visual interest and impeccable taste. … Here’s the rub: this associative system invariably leads me, without my knowing it, to an image of a naked lady.

Of course the write-up is accompanied by an infographic.


The whole thing is pretty hilarious. Read the full write-up here. (His blog doesn’t allow deep-linking, so you’ll just have to scroll down a bit.)

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Also, as a bit of self-whoring here, General Projects has a small utility which allows you to download the images in anyone’s ffffound account to your hard drive: It’s not the fastest service in the world (works on a queue system), but it works!


Friday, April 10th, 2009

“Mo-books (this is how I call e-books for mobile devices)” says author Nick Podpisany, (you guys can thank me for not title this entry “Mo Books Mo Problems” later). Nick just wrote in saying:

I am a tech-fiction writer. This is my e-book, which is supposed to be a first one dedicated to users of mobile devices. What might be interesting for you is that a cover was designed specifically to look great on a screen of an iPhone.
I’ve designed the cover myself having in mind 5 goals to achieve:

• to keep the proportions of the iPhone screen
• to design in RGB mode, not CMYK mode – it opens the mind in terms of using much brighter colours
• to use iPhone-specific design elements – f.e. the middle oval flash
• to have black as a dominant colour – by this the book cover could actually become a part of the iPhone front
• to refer to the iPhone’s tech clean style – being at the same time a good illustration of the idea of the book itself

Password Incorrect

(read more about his book here.)

It’s an interesting question.
Do covers need to be designed differently for mobile devices? I suspect not. Book covers are already designed to catch a buyer’s eye from across the store, so reducing them in size shouldn’t detract from their poster-qualities.

Case in point:

mobile book covers

Though I will say that designing covers in RGB would be a nice non-constraint.

Christopher Brand

Thursday, April 9th, 2009

You may have noticed that I’ve been posting a lot of Christopher Brand stuff to the Archive lately. This is because he has a portfolio site now. Chris has worked with Paul Sahre and Rodrigo Corral, is currently at Penguin Books, and is just way too talented for his own good.

The Smell of Books

Thursday, April 2nd, 2009

Time to give up on the whole paper book industry. It’s over, stick a nail in it and call it a day. Smell of Books has overcome the last remaining barrier to widespread e-book adoption, and it comes in “crunchy bacon.”