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

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...

The End of Print? Not So at This One-Man Recycling Studio

It is estimated that the average worldwide per-capita use of paper is 110 pounds per person per year. On Isla Mujeres, Quintana Roo, a laid-back Caribbean island off the coast of the Yucatán Peninsula—best known for good snorkeling and for sipping a slow cerveza under a palapa—Emilio Sosa Medina recycles ten times his annual...

Say Yes To The Dress

I remember the professor in Art History 102 at UCLA pointing to the slide in the darkened lecture hall, telling the students that the painting was satire. She pointed out the relatively huge sizes of the dog and the dwarfs—the five-year-old Infanta Margarita’s playmates—compared to tiny King Philip IV of Spain, and his wife,...

Kiko Farkas Talks About His Curvaceous “Marca Brasil”

You may have been seeing a lot of the BRASIL logo lately. In 2014, Brazil will host the World Cup, and last July, the Brazilian Tourism Ministry (Embratur) embarked on a worldwide campaign aimed at tripling tourism over the next decade. The campaign, which includes videos, graphic novels, print, TV, and social media, including...