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Beneath the Surface Blog


Thursday Salute to Originals: Pantone Beer

GPI Design - Thursday, October 16, 2014

Precision. Categorization. Differentiation. Found both in a hearty microbrew and calculated Pantone colors, these concepts are a designer’s dream. So what happens when these two seemingly unrelated mediums are paired? Yes, you’re hearing us right, you dedicated office happy hour attendees… the result is Pantone Beer!

Pantone Beer Bottle Color Design

We found this post on The Dieline listed under “Concepts We Wish Were Real”, and the truth couldn’t be more spot on. Packaging designers at Txaber developed a theoretical packaging system for beer that categorizes it by color. The composition of the whole set of beer cans creates a striking gradient that is more than visually appealing – the wash of colors actually helps categorize the beer by type.

Pantone Beer Packaging Design

For connecting flavors with a measurable color scale, today we salute the creatives at Txaber for tantalizing our eyeballs and our taste buds at the same time. Next time you saddle up to the bar at a design event, you could be flipping out your Pantone deck instead of a menu!

Image credits: The Dieline, Txaber

Thursday Salute to Originals: Construction Couture

GPI Design - Thursday, October 09, 2014

Take a look at the structure you’re in right now. What materials comprise it? Unless you’re in the jungle on a survivalist reality show, we’re betting you’re in a building that has wood, concrete, glass, metal, brick, nuts and bolts, etc. in a number of different combinations. None of these are unusual building materials, of course. This is exactly what you’d expect to find defining a structure. But what happens when these building blocks of construction are used in a different way, in arenas not associated with architecture?

Fashion is no stranger to pushing boundaries. And some pioneering designers have begun infusing traditional building materials into their clothing and accessory designs, in beautiful - and sometimes questionable - ways.

Take for instance wood. A well-known and utilized staple in the construction sector, the fashion world has begun to take notice of its versatility, as well. With all its prized character – warmth, subtle grain, rigidity, tonality – its no wonder wood is being used in place of lux fabrics.

Nike Wood Shoes Eames Design

Wooden Wallet

Wooden Bow Tie Fashion

And concrete - something we’re betting you wouldn’t normally connect with fashion - is getting some time on the runway. Its neutral color palette and subtle textures define the structure of select pieces while providing a contrasting raw edge to the design.

Concrete Purse

Clutch Made From Concrete

Mechanical fasteners are even being incorporated in the couture, where the true functionality of screws and nuts literally keeps clothing and accessories fastened together in a more refined format.

Screw Hardware Cufflinks

Today, we salute those fashion designers who ignore traditional material categories and transcend structural building materials into the fashion realm.

If fashion can take a cue from architecture by using construction materials as couture, how can architects and interior designers, in turn, combine fashion in new buildings and spaces? We’re not sure, but there does seem to be an overlap between the two worlds. And who knows, maybe the CAD drawings of our backlit onyx feature walls will serve as inspiration for the next high-end textile print? Keep your eyes peeled for it on the runway!

Image credits: Swag Chasers, Haydanhuya, Oddity Mall, IvankaSusan Tabak, Tom and Lorenzo

Thursday Salute to Originals: Creative Crayoning

GPI Design - Thursday, October 02, 2014

It is estimated that the average American uses 730 crayons by the age of 10. We designers in the office who have led rather creative childhoods are all betting that we’ve used at least double that amount! But there is one artist who we’re pretty sure has us all beat with her use of this favored childhood tool, in both quantity and application.

Diem Chau uses crayons to create her fascinating works of art. No, she doesn’t use them as traditional drawing utensils as you may think. Instead, she uses the actual crayon as a medium to sculpt a variety of intricate forms.

Now, sculpting with traditional materials alone – like a block of clay and putty knife, for example – takes precision, finesse, and patience. But the need for those mannerisms is only magnified when using this unconventional material and managing its unique properties: skinny, slippery, and susceptible to cracking. Taking hours to delicately whittle the waxy sculptures, this is no certainly easy process. But Chau’s skill, dexterity, and impeccable attention to detail make these pint sized sculptures look effortless, almost as if this was the original intended purpose of the crayon.

We can certainly appreciate the delicacy and fragility of her craft, so today we give an enthusiastic salute to Diem Chau. Not only for using this childhood staple in an unusual way, but for reminding us of the hidden potential in everyday objects, no matter what their size or typical use!

Knowing that it would probably take us at least 730 crayons just to try and come close to replicating one of Chau’s intricate sculptures, we’ll stick to coloring, and leave this unique craft solely in her hands.

Image sources: Tiny Haus, Diem Chau

Thursday Salute to Originals: Seeing the Positive in Negative Space

GPI Design - Thursday, September 25, 2014

Positive and negative - in the spatial sense - are very intriguing concepts. And when you pair this unique visual phenomenon with the human brain, you can get some pretty interesting interpretations! What your mind sees compared to what is actually there can be two completely different entities.

Inkblot Test Positive Negative Space

We’re all familiar with the famed “inkblot tests” used for psychological evaluation. What you see in the splotchy black and white supposedly holds the secret to your personality and emotional stability. But how is this phenomenon being applied to and shaping trends in the modern design world?

Take the above work of Japanese artist, Kumi Yamashita, for example. Comprised of solid objects, light, and shadow, Yamashita’s sculptures blur the line defining positive and negative space. While the physical objects would ordinarily be the main focus of traditional sculpture, the addition of light in Yamashita’s work causes the shadow (which would typically be viewed as negative space) to be looked at as the defining subject of the piece instead. By flip-flopping the role of shadow vs. object, Yamashita persuades our brains into seeing the positive in what would normally be considered negative space.

Buildings Made of Sky Peter Wegner

Or from a photography standpoint, take a peek at the work of Peter Wegner (above). In his Buildings Made of Sky collection, Wegner uses the negative space between structures to create the silhouettes of buildings, underscoring the importance of seeing the positive in the negative.

And positive vs. negative space has transcended into the realms of graphic design, too, with graphic designers capitalizing on creative ways of manipulating that forgotten area. Many logos, marketing material, and promotional signage now cleverly obscure hidden images and messages, creating a whimsical game of hide-and-seek within the graphic.

But what can we take away from this trend? And what does it mean for the world of design? We think the key lesson is to remember that when designing, it is important to look at every angle of the design process. Because, after all, what you see may be completely different than how others interpret it – and you may be surprised at how those different viewpoints can shape your design.

So today, we salute those who are able to find the positive in the negative, and mold it into the focal point of the piece, not matter what the medium. Because sometimes the best part of design is surprising and challenging our brains in refreshing, unexpected ways - intentional or not!

Image sources: Mustache 7Kumi YamashitaWired, Bored Panda, Creative Bloq

Thursday Salute to Originals: Designing Illusions

GPI Design - Thursday, September 18, 2014

“Inception” as a noun is defined as a start or a beginning. In science fiction, it is instilling an idea into someone's mind by entering their dreams. In architecture, it is designing spaces that have a suggestion of familiarity, and letting the mind create the rest of the framework.

Although the film Inception has been out for quite some time, it is one of our office favorites. Watching it again this past weekend, it spurred a frenzy of thoughts about the spatial impacts of our current projects and design for entertainment's sake.

The production designer for the film, Guy Hendrix Dyas, was born and raised in London. He received a Master’s Degree from the Royal College of Art in London and a BA from the Chelsea School of Art and Design. He began working in Tokyo as an industrial designer for Sony. He was then invited to work for Industrial Light and Magic in California where he became the visual effects Art Director on a number of films including the most memorable, Inception.

Inception Rotating Room Design

The most complicated and defying architectural structure built on the set of Inception was a specialty corridor to serve as the stage for the fight sequence. The 120 foot by 30 foot revolving space was engineered to create the illusion of weightlessness or zero gravity during the battle. The corridor was constructed of wood and backed by steel tubing. There were seven steel I-beam rings with roller wheels every 16 feet along the length of the corridor, connected to two 55-hp electric motors monitored by a computer to conduct the rotation of the room. A single rotation spans approximately ten seconds and can go both clockwise and counterclockwise.

Inception had many challenging sets to illustrate abstract concepts, opening up glorious design opportunities. One of the visual inspirations in the movie was the Penrose Staircase - steps based on an optical illusion that was referenced in the film. According to the infamous Escher's Drawings, the ever-ascending staircase can never be truly functional in the real world, though this illusion was formed by removing supports and executing clever camera shots.

Inception Endless Staircase Illusion Architecture

Designing for a film set seems to be a stimulating type of design, requiring a delicate balance of both imagination and logic. From a conceptual standpoint, the liberty to simply dream up a setting limited only by your imagination seems like it would be freeing. But when it comes to actually representing that dream in the physical realm, things become much more complex (a pesky little thing like gravity can really throw a wrench in things when trying to replicate a weightless environment!). That’s when the real ingenuity comes in: real-world constraints, clever building techniques, and artistic editing joining forces to capture a fictional world and bringing it to reality from concept through execution.

Kudos to those who take conceptual design to the next level by morphing dreams into reality (and for making some superb entertainment while they’re at it). We salute you!

Sources: Popular Mechanics, Guy Hendrix Dyas, Youtube

Thursday Salute to Originals: Waves of Grain

GPI Design - Thursday, September 11, 2014

Layers are inherent in our creation process at GPI. We meticulously study rippling veins in our naturally formed onyx materials. We artfully craft walls from combinations of structure, lighting, and surface. We stack lighting diffusers to bend light within slim cavities. Much like architecture itself, our perception of layers is linked to ideas of solidity, tangibility, and an additive approach. How often do we get to witness the “un-making” of layers?

In Waves of Grain, filmmaker Keith Skretch poetically captures the destruction of a single wood block. Planing down the wood layer by layer, the grain shifts in organic waves over a three hour period condensed into a few minutes. Secret patterns are revealed in striking images, then sanded to pieces seconds later. The ebb and flow of the imagery is mesmerizing, a choreography only made possible by Mother Nature herself.

Waves of Grain from Keith Skretch on Vimeo

While watching the video entrances the viewer just as much as gazing into a flame or enjoying the ocean waves, it ends abruptly. The pattern suddenly turns to black and the video comes to a hasty halt after all of the wood material has been consumed. We’ll leave this angle open to interpretation... what do you think it could mean?

This Thursday, we salute Keith Skretch for jarring us into thinking about the process of “un-making” at the macroscopic level. Our perception of materials within the building process has shifted, as we imagine how a manmade tool can unravel even nature’s creations, coming undone in a beautiful script.

Source: The Creators Project

Thursday Salute to Originals: Hair Today, Chair Tomorrow?

GPI Design - Thursday, September 04, 2014

Finish selection can be the best and worst part of a project. Finding a material that balances performance and durability while still meeting aesthetic criteria, can be extremely challenging, especially since there are nearly endless options to consider. (It’s difficult for our clients to select the perfect onyx for their backlit features, and that’s only ONE element of a design!) If you’re suffering from finish fatigue or need some fresh inspiration, don’t worry. We have a new material for you to specify on your next project: HAIR.

Human Hair Between Fingers

Yes, you heard us right. Human hair is beginning to make its mark on the map as a legitimate material choice in everything from jewelry, to décor, to furniture, and more.

Sounds pretty disgusting right? Well turns out, while most natural resources are in drastic decline due to booming human population, pollution, etc., human hair is virtually the only natural resource that is actually INCREASING with the rapidly multiplying populace of man. But high volumes of hair aren’t the only perk. Hair is extremely fast at regenerating - 16 times faster in comparison to other materials like wood, for example - and it’s quite strong, too. A single strand can withstand almost ¼ of a lb. (100 grams); now imagine that strength when multiple strands are combined.

Panels Cast from Human Hair

The designers at Studio Swine take us through a video journey through the process of fabrication with hair. In order to transform the hair into a useable material, the strands are brushed, assembled into layers, and then encased with a natural resin. Once hardened, a durable surface that can be cut, finished, and fashioned in a variety of ways is created. And surprisingly, the physical attributes of this end product is quite beautiful. Channeling the gentle ombres and grain-like textures prized in natural materials, the hair remains subtle while providing depth and delicate movement.

Watch the video below to see the full process of how this material is created, from scalp to finished product.

[Hair Highway from Studio Swine on Vimeo]

Now, we’re certainly not saying hair is a material choice for everyone or every design. There are some applications where we can see this as a good fit, and others where that simply wouldn’t be the case. (We personally don’t think it would be very appetizing to dine on a table top made from human hair, for example). For being willing to make an avant-garde material choice, we salute those who embrace human hair as a viable finish - to Studio Swine for bringing this material to our attention, and to the creatives who bravely implement taboo materials to “finish” off their designs.

Sources: Studio Swine, Design Milk, Sacramento Hair Doctor, MM Hair Fashions

Thursday Salute to Originals: Alternative Media

GPI Design - Thursday, August 28, 2014

ARTISTS. Reading this one word can conjure up a number of different thoughts and genres. Some may think in terms of music, others in terms of dance, or even cuisine. But for those of us with design training, we tend to think of artists in the traditional sense, with some of the greats, like Picasso, Pollock, or Warhol, coming to mind.

While these three artists are very different in style and technique, they all share a common bond: choice of medium. These artists (and many others) work[ed] on canvas, paper, and typically with paint, art’s traditional workhorses. However, since art is about expression and pushing a conceived idea to the next level, using alternative mediums can very effectively redefine the meaning of a creation.

Tim Noble and Sue Webster have been working in unique mediums since 1996 when they attended British Rubbish in London. Since then, the couple has been very successfully creating art from what others may refer to as “Rubbish.” But these trash sculptors are exceptional for more than just the fact that they work with garbage. The true beauty of their work is realized in the shadows, with the sculptures casting silhouettes of realistic people, animals, plants, and more. Noble and Webster found a way to take use trash to create sculptures that evoke feeling through the medium alone.

Webster Garbage Shadow Art

An artist’s ability to control the medium they are working with is vital. This is why Erika Iris Simmons stands out as a one-of-a-kind artist. Simmons, commonly referred to as iri5, is a self-taught artist who has always enjoyed working with “strange experimental materials.” The most prevalent of these materials is cassette and VHS tapes. Iri5 removes the tape from these cassettes and shapes them to resemble relevant characters from bands, movies, and shows. For example, a cassette tape of London Calling by The Clash has been repurposed as a piece of cassette tape art depicting Paul Simonon smashing a bass on the ground. Others included a John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction and John Lennon.

Bob Dylan Cassette Tape Art

While painting has been widely used in art for thousands of years, painting with light is a relatively new idea. In 2007, artist Janne Parviainen made a discovery that redefined the way he created his art. While working with long exposure photography, Janne happened to bump the camera. A streetlight in the photo created an interesting “brushstroke” and Janne decided to start manipulating and using light as a brush. He now paints by attaching a series of LED lights to his fingertips and painting in front of an open lens. Janne stated that he believes his work is, “in an interesting intersection of photography and painting". These “light painted” images are not altered through use of computers. They create an eerie and beautiful piece of art that is both unique and effective.

There are many other artists that work in unusual mediums - Dominic Wilcox (tin foil), Scott Wade (dirt on cars), and Maurizio Savini (bubble gum), just to name a few. But while all the artists listed above use unorthodox materials, the effect of their art would not be nearly as compelling if they were unable to harness the unusual medium and use it to its fullest ability.

Whether the chosen medium is typical or off the wall, what truly matters is the manipulation of that material and the quality of the work. And while we’re sure people will continue to ask the difficult question of “What defines art?” even after reading this blog, what we’re hoping to accomplish here is an acknowledgement that the line between art and not is very blurred at best.

So without further ado, we give our most sincere salutes to the artists who dare to distort this line even further, ultimately proving that a change in medium can completely redefine the way art is viewed.

Image credits: Twisted Sifter, Janne Paint, Tim Noble and Sue Webster

Thursday Salute to Originals: Wall Evolution

GPI Design - Thursday, August 21, 2014

The wall is a surface plane integral to architecture. Encloser of space, divider of exterior and interior, delineator of territory, threshold of privacy. The wall is a ubiquitous form, often overlooked for being so utterly commonplace. But taking an x-ray look into a wall section can actually tell quite a history. From ancient masonry blocks to modern lightweight structures, the wall has continued to evolve as a reflection of current materials and construction methods. So what will tomorrow’s walls look like?

Architectural firm Barkow Leibinger built walls of the impending future in this “Kinetic Wall” installation at the 2014 Venice Biennale. Set amongst a constructed timeline of ancient walls through stone, brick, wood, and glass partition, the kinetic walls extend into the utopian future, pointing towards an idealized architecture.

AD Interviews: Barkow Leibinger / Kinetic Wall from ArchDaily on Vimeo

Constructed of two layers of gridded fabric animated by motorized points, the wall ebbs and flows with robotic fluidity. Moving along the wall is an experience in compression and release, activated through real motion. The wall is both massive and lightweight, dynamic in its interpretation and experience.

This Thursday, we salute the under-appreciated wall plane. For being a blank canvas in expression of form, material, technology, or even movement, if walls could talk they would speak for eons. How do you envision the walls of the future?

Thursday Salute to Originals: What is a Photo Worth?

GPI Design - Thursday, August 14, 2014

A picture is worth a thousand words, or so they say. But lately, with the inundation of photography and image-capturing technology around us, photos seem to be a dime a dozen; we don’t even recognize them as special moments captured in time anymore. Sadly, most photos today are worth only one word: apathetic.

When we came across two photo series that actually made us stop and think (in very different ways), we were instantly intrigued. And when we realized that these collections, though vastly different at their core, actually embodied a common message, we were even more enthralled.

Take for instance, the History in Color series of color-restored historical photographs by artist Dana Keller.

Coney Island, New York, ca. 1905

Looking strictly at the black and white original, it's easy to disconnect from the picture; the content seems unrelatable, dated, alien. But when Keller restores these historical photos in full color, she completely alters the perception of the image.

Waldwick Train Station, ca. 1903

The dichotomy of the black and white photo and its color counterpart brings the past to life, abruptly reminding us that history was not experienced in desaturated monotone. The world was perceived just like it is today in bright, vivid colors, textures, and patterns. And often, that simple likeness is forgotten or underestimated. But these photos remove that misconception, and reveal a startling – and vibrant! – connection between generations.

CONVERSELY, the Digital Ethereal project by designer Luis Hernan, reveals something entirely different. Instead of highlighting similarities of the world past and present, Hernan’s photos expose an invisible realm that exits around us, one we can’t see, touch, or directly experience.

Using a slow shutter speed camera and a phone app, Hernan is able to create a visual representation of these covert Wi-Fi fields. The app, which indicates Wi-Fi strength by color, shows signal locations and their respective intensities when captured on film. So not only do Hernan’s photos reveal that are we constantly surrounded by an invisible technological cloud, of which we are blissfully unaware; but more importantly, the photos force us to acknowledge the fact that just because we can’t see something with the naked eye, doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

Now you may still be scratching your head, wondering how these two polar opposite photo collections relate; what is their common worth? After all, one highlights the past in a revived historical context, while the other displays the advancement of technology in a sci-fi kind of way. But their semblance and value lies not in the subject of the photos. The similarity is really in the underlying message at the heart of each collection: The way in which you perceive a photo at face value, may be vastly different from the reality of how that moment was and is actually experienced.

For providing a refreshing reprieve from the overwhelming swarms of monotonous imagery we’re inundated with day in and day out, we salute both of these thought-provoking series. Hopefully the next time you pose for that selfie, you’ll remember the underlying message of these two collections, and consider the face value of your photo versus its fundamental worth.

Image credits: Dana R. Keller, Peta Pixel