Author Archives: Ellen Shapiro

About Ellen Shapiro

Print contributing editor Ellen Shapiro is principal of Visual Language LLC in Irvington, NY. She has been designing for her whole life and writing about design for more than 20 years. She blogs about design, gardens, food and travel at dig-it-blog.com

Photography’s Silver Age—Now Showing on Broadway, Free of Charge

“There was a time, before photography got discovered and revered as art, that everybody knew who the good photographers were. The people who cared about photography and knew all the photographers knew who the good ones were. And you could rank them in order, and move the order around according to what they had...

The Ultimate Brand Extension?

Product packaging spotted at the Wumart (I kid you not) in Beijing. Are these REAL Pepsi briefs, or is this the ultimate in knockoffs? I asked Lisa Francella, senior director of Visual Identity and Branding Extension at Pepsico, Inc., in Purchase, New York. “I know this is not a package that I approved!” was...

La Dolce Vita, Domani

I got to my local Target store at the Palisades Mall in Nyack, NY, just before 11:00 a.m. yesterday morning to check out the limited-time Missoni collection on opening day. I was three hours too late. Every shelf and rack of Missoni merchandise was empty. Well, there were two sweaters in the children’s section...

Increasing the Happiness Quotient

What makes you happy? Is it how much money you make, who your partner is, your clothes or car? What makes you unhappy? Is it the weather, your too-small apartment, things your partner does (or the fact that you don’t have one)? Graphic designer Stefan Sagmeister has been busy seeking the (often surprising) answers....

Their Slogan is We (Heart) Technology and Design

Where do technology and design intersect? Increasing numbers of people say on Broadway between 20th and 21st Streets. I first read about General Assembly in a column buried on an inside page of the New York Times’ real estate section. It was presented as a place for technology and design entrepreneurs to rent desk...

Enduring Symbols

There was a line—a line snaking down the block. More than 300 people waited in the rain for half an hour on Wednesday evening for Tishman Auditorium to open so they could get a seat at an AIGA/NY event. About a book. Well, maybe it wasn’t about a book. It was about A-list design...

Taking (Some of) the Mystery Out of The East

So my son is getting married. In Bejing. To a charming young Chinese woman. And I’m designing the invitations. The first place I turned to for inspiration was my Longman Chinese-English Visual Dictionary of Chinese Culture, an essential reference tool for anyone visiting the People’s Republic. And it’s possibly one of the greatest pieces...

Mandela Mandalas (and Other Garth Walker Artifacts from South Africa)

“What makes me African, and what does that look like?” That is a question that Garth Walker, a third-generation white South African of British heritage, tries to answer in his graphic design work for clients, in his personal work, and his photography. Walker—Mister Walker, as his Durban studio is named—was in New York last...

Art Brut: An Inside Look at "Outsider Art"

It was found in attics and closets. It was drawn on ledger pages at turn-of-the-century mental institutions, made at tables in day treatment centers, and put together after a day’s work at the factory from junk scavenged from dumpsters. It’s called Art Brut—a term coined by Jean Dubuffet—raw art, survivor art, visionary art, vernacular...

Soda Bottle Island

Other people build houses on land. Richart Sowa, a carpenter and former British rock-band guitarist, has designed and constructed a whole island. This self-sustaining environment for living, about 20 meters (66 feet) in diameter, floats just off Isla Mujeres, Mexico, on 115,000 empty plastic one-liter soda bottles anchored by 11 concrete-filled car tires. When...