Q & A

Exclusive Q&A » DEERDANA

October 23, 2012

Clockwise from top left: DEERDANA Pablo, Kanye, Harry, and Yves tees

DEERDANA’s minimalist portrait tees have been on our fashion radar for some time.  But when Jay-Z broke out their Basquiat for his now-famous subway ride to Brooklyn a couple weeks ago, we knew the NYC brand had hit the tipping point. Featuring a mötley crüe of iconic characters hand-scrawled onto classic white cotton tees, DEERDANA takes a wardrobe staple and gives it the tastemaker treatment. They also have their finger firmly on the pulse. From Rick Ross to Frida Kahlo to Maggie Smith’s Countess on “Downton Abbey,” their subjects transcend pop- and sub-cultures, and can best be qualified as, quite simply, cool.

We caught up with founders Dana Veraldi and Kevin Tekinel to learn a little more about the line, including what their actual criteria is when emblazoning those tees:

What’s the criteria for showing up on a DEERDANA limited edition tee?

Sometimes we think about the selection as people we’d like to have dinner with. Martin Scorcese, Frida, Basquiat, Bieber singing…can you imagine a better dinner party?

RSVP us please! So who creates the images?
Where do the visuals come from?

I draw them with Kevin – we work together. We source from a number of different places. Some are more well known images, like the drawing of John Ford which from a Richard Avedon photograph.

Are most of your tees commissioned via collaborations (ie the kickass new Opening Ceremony line) or of your own choice?

None of our shirts are really “commissioned.” All of the shirts we do with outside people are true collaborations. From OC to Sean Sullivan to Miguel we go through a process of talking about ideas, going through images to draw from and then a number of drafts that we both are happy with. Most of our tees are our own line, but we love our collaborations!

Do you have to get the subjects’ approval or do you just go for it?

We go for it! Everyone has been very supportive, they should be flattering to the subject. We try to get them to the subject if possible.

Can you give us a heads up on a few portrait subjects we’ll be seeing soon?

New faces include Choupette Lagerfeld (Ed: Karl Lagerfeld’s beloved cat with 21,000 Twitter followers and counting), David Lynch, Hitchcock and Raf Simons.

Can’t wait! The line is so fresh and your cast of characters delight and inspire. All the best DEERDANA!

Bookworm » Q&A with Infographics Whiz David McCandless

March 11, 2010

Lo's List /// David McCandless' Information is Beautiful UK Hardcover EditionA few months back, while splashing around in the happy bookstore mud that is Amazon, I came across David McCandless’ infographics atlas, The Visual Miscellaneum (also titled Information is Beautiful for the UK hardcover edition). As a total graph & data junkie I immediately sleuthed up some details around the author/designer, and found that, aside from the two books under his belt, the writer has contributed visual information & great writing to the likes of The Guardian, Tank, and one of my all-time favorites, Wired. Well, lucky for me, I got the chance to dissect The Visual Miscellaneum / Information is Beautiful page by page and ask David some questions about his approach to visualizing data in a world of rather staggering & bleak stats. Read on…

Lo's List /// The Visual Miscellaneum Calories In vs. Out
Copyright David McCandless, Courtesy of HarperCollins, from The Visual Miscellaneum

Q. First off, I would love to hear more about your creative process. Can you map out the steps/stages you go through when creating a visualization?

I find a subject that I’m curious about and research it. Or sometimes I have a question I want answering. I particularly love mashing up different sets of data to find hidden relationships between things: the story behind the story. Then I’ll spend a while mulling over different design styles. I try to link the design to the subject in some way. What color is this subject? What are the shapes of this subject? Sometimes it takes a few drafts to find the right metaphor. I usually do some hand-drawn sketches. Then I move onto screen work, creating images by hand in Adobe Illustrator CS4. It’s an amazingly powerful drawing package. Data visualization wise, it can output a few basic graphs, but otherwise, it doesn’t render data. That means, yes, I have to hand position every data point on every single image I create. And, yup, I am that anal.

Q. Describe your workspace!

You probably don’t want to know about my workspace. Trust me. If I say: “piles of stuff” is that enough? Books, magazines, clippings, photos. Stuff. Lots of Macs. I’d like to say I work in a minimalist, airy studio, but I don’t. The beautiful design concept of my book is at odds with my working environment. (Should have probably kept that secret.). It’s more of an engine room than a design studio. Smells like one too.

Q. Clearly a person in infographics must have a love affair with mapping, charts, factoids – were you always this way? Can you look back at your childhood and recognize the signs of your current career?

My youth was dominated by video games (I was a video game champion). So, I guess navigating virtual environments, mapping dungeons on graph paper, and looking at blocky graphics and pixels all influenced me.

Although, I got bored of playing video games pretty early. I started hacking them instead. I would rewrite the code to give myself infinite lives or to walk through walls. I sent my hacks to a magazine and they gave me my own column. That’s how I started out as a journalist at the age of 14.

Since then I’ve written about technology, the web, web culture and pretty much anything else that’s aroused my curiosity. Journalism taught me about story and how to structure information to keep it interesting.

Design is a more recent thing for me. I’ve been designing for around four years. The weird thing is that I’ve had no formal design training – I just “knew” how to do it. I guess it comes from being such a web/information junkie and looking at visual media all the time.

Lo's List /// The Visual Miscellaneum Types of Information Visualization
Copyright David McCandless, Courtesy of HarperCollins, from The Visual Miscellaneum

Q. I love your glossary of Types of Information Visualisation (above). Are there certain charts that prove more challenging to design and why? Are there some graphing structures that readers interpret with more ease than others, and why?

One of the most challenging graphics was Timelines: Time Travel in TV and Film. It’s such a tricky concept to visualize. I went through 36 drafts!

People tell me that graphs with recognizable symbols/icons/etc are the easiest to interpret. For example, anything that uses a world map, a human body or a silhouette of a face… My Salad Dressings visualization is popular because you get the info in a second – no need to look at a conventional recipe. Silhouettes are also a good convention. Because your big old pattern-recognizing brain can understand them in a millisecond.I think it’s getting easier to use experimental or highly graphical displays of information.

I think, generally, we’re bored of line charts and pie charts – years of dull graphs in school and even duller powerpoint presentations have worn these forms thin. We’re hungry for anything new.

Q. Your Left vs Right concept-map created quite a spirited string of comments on your site. Do you ever feel that mapping (based on stats and exactitudes) looses the very real area of gray that a subject such as politics carries?

Fair point. Like any map, an infomap just renders the contours of an area. You can’t get too detailed or you overwhelm the reader. I sometimes think of them as satellite photos of subjects. A 50,000 foot view, so you can see the rough layout and some of the detail. That can help begin your own journey into a subject. Your own zoom-in. The Left vs Right has some flaws for definite. Not least my own left-leaning bias! But it excites me because it’s a way to give shape and form to immaterial things like relationships, ideas and connections that only really exist in the “group mind” or inside peoples’ own stories and beliefs.

Q. Charts like International Number Ones and Stock Check display some pretty grim facts about today’s world. Do you ever find yourself recreating the same maps with your own, more optimistic statistics? if there was just one spread from your book that you could alter, which would it be?

If I could recreate any graph about climate statistics and substitute positive info – that would be the stand-out choice I think. But, if you look, the evidence is unflaggingly grim.

Lo's List /// The Visual Miscellaneum Poison vs. Remedy
Copyright David McCandless, Courtesy of HarperCollins, from The Visual Miscellaneum

Q. Fortunately, your book does have several light-hearted interludes. Let’s talk about The Poison and The Remedy diagrams: the source says Google… but were you curious enough to engage in some hands-on research? If yes, what was your personal favorite poison/remedy?

Martinis are my favorite poison. (I watch far too much Mad Men.) My favorite remedy? Full British and Medical. The only combo.

Q. Many of the topics in your book focus on the plight of countries, environment, individuals: has your awareness of these tough facts changed how you live your life? What do you hope others will do with this knowledge? Is there a way for readers who are particularly moved by an issue in your book to get involved and help change the numbers?

Good questions! If I’ve got the choice out of plane or train travel I’ll try to choose the latter, but in general I’m like anyone else: I try to maximize the “good” things I do and minimize the “bad” things – without getting too righteous about it. I think some of the environmental issues are overwhelming and it’s hard to know how to respond to them on an individual, practical level. Having an informed awareness of a difficult issue is the starting point. Often actions can naturally flow from that. I’m not very good at being prescriptive though.

Q. Did the results of any charts take you by surprise? Have you added or taken away any day-to-day rituals/products/foods based on your findings?

Yeah, doing Snakeoil and rifling through 3000 scientific studies on the effects of dietary supplements opened my mind. There’s so little evidence for the efficacy of supplements. Every time I walk past a health shop window I’m aghast at how much ineffective, overpriced bottles of snake oil are being sold. It’s outrageous.

Lo's List /// The Visual Miscellaneum Body By Insurance Value
Copyright David McCandless, Courtesy of HarperCollins, from The Visual Miscellaneum

Q. The Insurance Value Body is ROTFL hilarious!! How did the concept for the Body By… chart come about? Where and how does the format of each graph take shape? What kind of data makes for a good visualization? is there a set criteria that a topic must have to be an effective graph?

I can’t remember where that came from. I wanted to do a set of bodies visualized by different criteria. Insurance seemed like an obvious choice.

Often, it’s not the data itself that makes a good visualization, but the comparison with other data. Striking comparisons make brilliant graphics. So just one image of a body visualized by insurance would be quite interesting. But put it alongside three other datasets and you’ve got a page.

Lo's List /// The Visual Miscellaneum Selling Your Soul
Copyright David McCandless, Courtesy of HarperCollins, from The Visual Miscellaneum

Q. It would be fascinating to see how charts such as Selling Your Soul (above) would evolve over a longer period and if trends based on time, location, politics etc would emerge. Are you continuing to gather data for some of these? Any plans to turn certain charts into larger long-term investigations?

Yes! Selling Your Soul is a project that fascinated me. I’d love to collect long-term data and see what emerges. There’s scope for quite a few more books in that!

Q. Any plans for The Visual Miscellaneum posters? I saw a mention about it in the Left vs Right post and got very excited.

Yes! You’ll soon be able to buy my Left vs Right visualization in poster form. And a bunch of other posters too. Stay tuned! (I’ll keep saying that).

Lo's List /// The Visual Miscellaneum Pass The...
Copyright David McCandless, Courtesy of HarperCollins, from The Visual Miscellaneum

Q. There are oodles of facts in your book that would be very useful in the day to day: Which Fish are OK to Eat? Taste Buds, Not Nice, Pass the… Any plans for a portable version of these diagrams? An Information is Beautiful app perhaps?

That’s a great idea. I’ve yet to think about the range of possible spin-off products, but it’s exciting. I’ve got some interactive projects looming. Stay tuned!

Q. I’m assuming that the data for Making a Book is autobiographical. In retrospect do you still find the chart accurate?

Yes, although I guess it would be interesting to add a bits of data on say, amount of prosecco consumed during the week of publication. Or magnitude of flinch when I spot misprints in the finished copy. That’s getting less by the way. The making of the book was so intense, for a good few months after publication, I couldn’t look at the book without feeling sick. Now I look at it and think wow – it’s actually a pretty cool book. Mad, but cool.

David McCandless Closing Icon

Kawaii! » Q&A with Jon Knox of Hello, Brute

February 26, 2010

Lo's List /// Hello, Brute Pepper Figurine by Jon Knox

Hello, Brute’s newest addition, Pepper, by Jon Knox

A few months ago I discovered the whimsical world of Hello, Brute: a collection of hand-cast polyurethane resin toys brought to life (with a very fashion-forward and bright coat of paint) by Portland designer Jon Knox. Jon describes his creations as “an all-boy crew who are often stuck somewhere between the best and worst moments of their lives.” I totally fell in love with the character Danny, a discombobulated-looking nerd with slightly stoned doe eyes peering out from behind thick black prescription frames and decided to dig deeper… I was honored to have had the opportunity to ask Jon some questions about his design career and the newest addition to his shop: Pepper (seen above) of which 5 signed, limited-edition 9″ figures are up for grabs (for a wee sum of $175) in the Hello, Brute shop!

?How did Hello, Brute begin? What’s behind the name?

I was in college for graphic design and was getting kind of tired of the idea that 75% of a graphic designer’s job was to take other people’s images and typefaces and slap them on a poster or in a book. I had been drawing since I was a child and really wanted to incorporate that into my work. All but about two of my professors were less than thrilled with the idea, so I began developing a body of work outside of my studies at design school. One of my professors introduced me to vinyl toys in 2005 and I took to it almost immediately. It was when I began making toys that I decided to brand myself as Hello, Brute.

The name came from my interest in outsider art, and my drawings are typically kind of wobbly and unedited. Brute seemed like the perfect word to describe it and it was an added bonus that it rhymed with the word “cute” which my work has been described as, which I like. I think sometimes people gravitate to my work because it usually comes off as cute at first, but once they spend some time with the characters and notice their idiosyncrasies, they like them because they’re kind of weird.

?Take us through the process behind creating a Hello, Brute toy. Where/how does the idea take shape? What are the mediums you use – from concept to completion? How long does the process take?

I actually don’t do that much sketching. I think doing dozens of iterations of something can make it look too labored over and wring out its personality. That’s fine for a car seat, but I like the story that the dents in my toys tell. Sometimes the toys stem from a drawing I’ve done, but often I just start sculpting them without a solid plan. I start with a foil and wire armature (which determines the size, proportions, and gesture), and I build on layers of polymer clay from the inside out. Their clothes and facial details are the last things I sculpt. Even once the sculpting is done, the character is still somewhat abstract, and isn’t fully realized until he’s painted. In terms of media, I start with the armature and polymer clay to make the original character, silicone to make a mold of the original, and polyurethane resin to cast reproductions. After that, each toy is painted by hand with acrylic paints and coated with a varnish. Realistically, it’s about a week and a half’s worth of work to go from initial idea to the first prototype of a toy.

?Your characters are little hipster fashionistas! How on earth do you pick what they’re going to wear for the rest of their lives? Do you sometimes wish you had given a character a different outfit?

Yeah sometimes it’s difficult to pick what the characters wear. Because I paint each one by hand, I typically like to sculpt something that’s more versatile and I can alter the clothes with the paint job. That’s why they’ll often have a basic t-shirt, or a hoodie or something like that. Lately I’ve been adding some more detail in the sculpts and I’ve been happy with how it’s turned out.

I’m definitely one of those people that struggles not to discredit their work from 6 months back. It’s not that I’m not proud of my body of work, but I’m always thinking of where I’m going to take my work next and I always want to put my best foot forward. So it’s not that I regret doing one thing or another, I look back on previous work and think about what I can do to make the next one better.

Lo's List /// Hello, Brute Pepper Sketch by Jon Knox

A concept sketch of Pepper by Jon Knox

?So, Pepper: tell us about his personality, his name, his Velcro shoes… When and why did he get the sailor tattoo? Is Pepper part of a click of Hello, Brute characters like the Klepties?

I’ve found that with back-stories, people are much quicker to judge what type of artist you are and make vast assumptions about your skill level and personality. I am not a writer, so I like to tell stories with images instead of words. I think when I write complex stories about my work, it dumbs it down. My characters develop through a bit of an organic and abstract process, so I don’t set out to make good guys and bad guys. I like when people try and guess what they’re thinking, and I really like when they start to remind people of their friends and family.

In my mind, Pepper is a loner. The name was a result of hearing the name in several different places at the time I was sculpting him. Like most of my characters (and me), he’s one of those people that’s into fashion but kind of afraid of it too, so he goes with the bare minimum. He hasn’t committed buying new shoes yet. His hands are posed to show off his boner in his shorts.

?My personal favorite toy you’ve done is Danny because, well, he reminds me of me. Do you take custom requests? Have you modeled any of these characters after real people?

When my characters remind people of themselves, it’s one of the best compliments I can receive.

Though I’m busy at the moment, I take custom requests when I have the time. It’s always really fun trying to turn one of my toys into a portrait of someone else, which I get requests for quite a bit. Sometimes the characters are inspired by real people, but it’s maybe their mood more so than their appearance. There’s always a good bit of myself in them. My mom tells me all the time she thinks my characters look like me.

?What kind of commercial projects do you feel passionate about working on? If you could work with anyone or any company – who would it be and what would you create for them?

I’m always have an open ear when commercial projects knock on my door. I typically only take the ones where the client is interested in collaborating rather than beating me to death with rules. The bigger the client, the more I might be willing to bend obviously :) I don’t have any specific companies in mind that I’d like to work with, but I really think it would be cool to design prints for cut and sew clothes.

?Do you have any shows coming up? Where in the world can people see your work in the flesh? What’s coming up next for Hello, Brute?

My next solo show is at Rotofugi in Chicago. I’m going to have paintings, drawings, resin toys, and a collaboration with an insanely talented plush artist by the name of Felt Mistress. That’s the place to be to see my most current work all in one place. There are boutiques and toy stores that carry some of the stuff I make. I’m working on more merchandise including new clothes, fine art prints, odds & ends, and of course more toys. What’s coming up next? Definitely not sleep.


Big Screen » Q&A with Beijing Taxi’s Miao Wang

February 8, 2010

YZ and I have been busy working on the title sequences for Beijing Taxi, a documentary by Miao Wang’s 3 Waters Productions which will be world premiering at this year’s SXSW festival in the Documentary Features category. The film is stunning – telling the stories of three Beijing taxi drivers as they face the tremendous changes of the pre-Olympics city. Miao, the film’s director and producer, took the time to answer some of our questions about the film and what it takes to drive a cab in the Chinese capital. Find out more on the film at Beijing Taxi the Film or head over to the doc’s Kickstarter page and make a pledge to help the filmmaker complete post production. Each level of pledging comes with great goodies like limited edition flip books, official Beijing Taxi tees (more on that to come), even a VIP dumpling-making workshop with Miao’s mother! I’ve had those dumplings – they’re insane!! Make a pledge of $25 or more and we’ll even add a Lo’s List goodie bag to the pot! Just email us your pledge confirmation!

QHow did the concept for Beijing Taxi begin?

The concept of taxi drivers as the central characters of the story did emerge out of a conversation I had with one of the subjects (Zhang Hongtu) from my previous documentary Yellow Ox Mountain. Chatting one day, Hongtu and I had a lively conversation about the gregarious characters of Beijing cab drivers. They are such quintessential Beijingers in their personalities. I knew I wanted to make a film in Beijing, and I wanted to make a film about how the common citizens of that city are experiencing the changes. Taxi drivers seemed to be a perfect conduit, since it also lends to very visual images.

Since leaving Beijing in 1990, I only went back to visit every five years. Each time I couldn’t believe how drastically the city of my childhood has changed: by leaps and bounds. Then the big announcement came that Beijing was selected to host the Olympics in 2008 and Beijing entered into a phase of hyper accelerated change. I was anxious to go back to Beijing as soon as I finished Yellow Ox Mountain and to start documenting these changes in the run-up to the Olympics. In some ways you can say a small seed of the project was subconsciously sowed the moment I left Beijing at the age of 13 and moved to the US. Going back to film Beijing’s shift is very personal because it is a way for me to revisit the city of my childhood.

QOkay, so, what are the character traits of a bona fide Beijinger?

Well.. . there’s this word in Chinese that describes it quite perfectly: 豪爽. But there isn’t a simple, good translation. Essentially it says straightforward, bold, and with a big character. Beijingers are known to be laid back, very warm and hospitable: brotherly. Of course, as my film begins to explore, city and personality traits are changing with the times and the shift in society.

QHow do you think Beijing cabbies need to change in order to survive the shift?

Values (in many different aspects) are changing. The Beijing lifestyle used to pride itself in an almost Zen-like mentality. As one driver said, growing up, ambition was not considered a good trait; it was better to seek beyond worldly needs. But now it’s different. With modernization comes competition, and to survive in the new world order you have to have ambition. The old Communist ideals of a social system didn’t lead to a society of everyone enjoying the riches of life but led to everyone having equal amounts of nothing. There is now a large gap between the rich and poor.

The older driver in my film, Bai, has experienced a lot. He lived through a time when no one had anything to eat, but, there was a strange equality of nothingness. He is now left behind, having missed out on the education and skills needed to survive in today’s society. In the end, it’s a bit of a lose-lose situation for him. The woman character, Wei, is the one I consider the most modern of the three. She’s young and ambitious. Her mentality is influenced by modernization and the changes in social values. She wants a slice of the booming pie. She questions her marriage. She questions the old values. Zhou Yi, the third character, represents the old Beijinger mentality most. Somehow he’s managed to hold on to those beliefs and is content with simple pleasures.

QFunny, he was the one I most admired: fishing & laughing through his days…

Yes. Well, who said modernization and the rat race is the key to happiness in life? I definitely want to emphasize that, in spite of hardships and struggles, there’s heart and humanity. And what measures the quality of life is not necessarily the GDP. But at the same time, I don’t want to idolize the “good old days”. Life was not easy back then and that now, just because the economy is developing, life is not all rosy. China is full of contradictions

QHow did you find the drivers profiled. What were their initial reactions to the project?

Basically just through riding in plenty of cabs and hanging out in cabbie lunch spots on my first research and casting trip! Their initial reactions were somewhere along the lines of “what’s this about?” and “is this for TV?”. Ian Vollmer (my cinematographer for the first two trips) and I would just hop into a cab: I would sit in the front, he would sit in the back, and we’d just turn the camera on and start shooting out of the cab. Nobody would believe that I was Ian’s boss. I would chat with the driver and explain that I’m working on a documentary about cab drivers and the changes in Beijing. Most of them reacted favorably; curious. It was hard for most of the drivers we approached to understand that what we were filming wasn’t for CCTV (the government-run television station). The CCTV dominates what people in China watch on TV and the general public thinks that, if you’re on CCTV, you’ve made it.

QHow do you think a Beijing cabbie would hold up in say, NYC?

Ha! It’s hard for me to imagine a Beijinger driving a cab in NY: that would be…. culture shock. New York cabbies in Beijing would definitely be lost. I would advise them to avoid the Xizhimen bridge. They might never be able to get off. It’s the most notoriously badly designed bridge – a maze – and a many out-of-towners can’t figure out how to exit!

QWhat does a Beijinger have to do to become a taxi driver?

Many Beijing cabbies now are from the outerburbs, a new development in the last couple of years. It’s changed a lot, the taxi industry in Beijing. Back in the 80’s, when Bai first started to drive, there were very few cabs on the road. No one could afford it! Cabs were luxuries for officials, rich businessmen, and foreigners. In the 90’s there was an influx of cheap, “breadbox” cabs: little Citroëns that felt like they were about to fall apart. If you tried to put on a seat belt you would get a black line across your shirt. In the last few years, all cabs had to be upgraded for the olympics and it became less and less viable to be a cab driver.

QWho paid for the upgrades?

The drivers. The costs of these upgrades were so high that fares steadily went up. The government subsidized these costs but not enough. On top of that, cab companies take huge fees and do nothing for the drivers. Many drivers used to be farmers so they can take more hardship than inner city drivers like Zhou Yi who quit the profession because of these upgrade costs. But, being farmers means that many of them know nothing about the city roads! There are tons of people getting driven around in circles resulting in mad customers… Drivers are supposed to be tested for geography but these rules are not very strict. Also, now that the subway system got developed for the Olympics, even less people take cabs for longer rides.

QIs there a Beijing cabbie lingo?

Beijing cabbies are very chatty. They love to talk up a storm about politics and are full of jokes too. They’re always listening to the radio and some of them even read the paper at traffic lights!

Make a pledge to help bring Beijing Taxi to SXSW!Later this week: Miao’s Top Ten Beijing Indie tracks!

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