U.K.-based artist Brendan Dawes channels the infinite crystalline shapes of snowflakes in a new collaboration with Field Notes. For its 49th limited-edition series, the Chicago-based notebook manufacturer tasked Dawes with designing an algorithm that mimics the atmospheric process that forms the icy grooves and feathered shoots. After a lengthy development inspired by the work of physicist Kenneth G. Libbrecht, Dawes created 99,999 unique snowflake illustrations to wrap around the deep blue covers. Just like the real crystals, no two are the same.
Support Colossal by picking up a three-pack of Snowy Evening in the Colossal Shop, along with Field Notes’ United States of Letterpress, which features notebooks designed by nine printers across the nation.
Share this story
Japanese artist Yasuhiro Suzuki long has wondered about what lies beneath the surface of Tokyo’s Sumida River, a question he’s symbolically remedied with a sleek vessel that unzips the middle of the waterway. Suzuki’s “Zip-Fastener Ship” mimics the ubiquitous closures as it separates the central river with a wake that splays out just like the teeth-lined tape.
Completed in 2004, the silver vessel grew out of an idea Suzuki had in 2002 after he watched a ship glide down the waterway while flying overhead. “The undertow of the boat, which travels back and forth between Azuma-bashi Bridge and Sakura-bashi Bridge, opened up the water like a zipper to connect the other side of the river,” he says. “(I hoped) that it would change the way we look at the city landscape.”
Share this story
There’s one question looming over Keetra Dean Dixon’s designs: “To color or to keep?” Based in rural Alaska, Dixon is behind the bespoke crayon manufacturer, Retoolings, which has been melding primary hues, muted tones, and black-and-white waxes into asymmetric chunks and spiraled cylinders that are as much design pieces as they are creative instruments.
In a note to Colossal, Dixson writes that she first thought of the scaled-down objects after creating large sculptures with her partner. “While making the works, we followed the wax’s lead, letting the nature of the material guide the final form. So many beautiful bloopers happened alongside the main sculpture. It was difficult to keep myself from chasing the potential of those moments,” she says. The result is a quirky collection of crayons with distinctly contemporary aesthetics: terrazzo-style pillars, marbled crescents, and the now-ubiquitous squiggle.
All styles currently are out of stock, but Dixon plans to release more—along with a ballpoint pen—at the beginning of 2021. Follow her progress on Instagram.
Share this story
Using the Brico System for letterpress printing requires thinking of every possible combination from A to Z. The simple method involves just four shapes to create typographic forms and geometric renderings, and it founded a recent collaboration between artist and printmaker Anthony Burrill, designer and printer Thomas Mayo, and Oli Bently, who helms the Leeds-based studio Split and the People Powered Press, a non-profit printer that’s the largest letterpress operation of its kind in the world.
Together, the trio created one monochromatic print of every letter, which span 1.5 meters. “With near endless possibilities of letter forms, weights, sizes, and styles, it was created so that anyone can share in the joy of type design,” they say.
The group is selling the monochromatic pieces to fund the work of People Powered Press—email Split to see which are still in stock and make a purchase—and pick up the book documenting the entire process from the studio’s shop. You also can try your hand at the Brico System with this simulator.
Share this story
Artificial Blooms: Digital Botanics Showcase the Fractals, Tessellations, and Repetitive Features of the Natural World
From tessellations to spirals and symmetry, the Cologne-based duo behind Shy Studio has been reproducing the mesmerizing patterns of the natural world through a series of lifelike botanics. Artificial Bloom is an ongoing project by Misha Shyukin and Hannes Hummel that features still-life florals and animated clips of petals slowly unfurling.
The digital renderings showcase the complexity of organic structures while also highlighting the fractals and endless intricacies inherent to nature’s designs. “We are only two artists, and when one of us had some spare time, we would pick a flower or plant from our Pinterest board as a base and start developing our own artistic interpretation of it,” Shyukin shares with Colossal. “It was fascinating to find that a lot of floral and plant structures follow certain mathematical rules, which we could replicate and apply to our own structures.”
Share this story
By day, Scott Reinhard designs graphics for The New York Times. Recently, he created a United States map detailing where city-dwellers fled during the pandemic and another showing how the Pantanal wetland in Brazil has transformed into a massive inferno. Incorporating an ever-growing swath of data, his daily tasks are connected to the fluctuations of news cycles.
But in his off-hours, the Brooklyn-based designer takes a broader look at the state of the nation. He merges vintage maps and contemporary elevation data, creating stunning digital works that flatten the differences of time and space into hybrid objects. While his graphics for The Times are rooted in the ever-changing present, his personal work is nestled within historical contexts.
Reinhard’s interest in data and map-generation grew while he was pursuing a master’s degree in graphic design at North Carolina State University, particularly during an introductory course centered around geographic information systems. “I basically became aware of all these cartography tools that I had no idea about. Because I wasn’t coming from that background, I was free to play around… and approach visualizing geographic data in new and interesting ways,” he says.
That experimental period spurred Reinhard’s ideas of fusing historical maps and contemporary land elevations, and he began exploring filtering, a cartographic method that calculates a theoretical sun and provides data about corresponding landscapes. “It’s pretty crude, but it really fascinated me that from a flat, black-and-white image, which is basically what elevation data looks like, you could interpolate this scene,” he shares, noting that he began to work with 3-D renderings around the same time. “That data that’s stored in a paper map can still be activated.”
Since 2019, Reinhard has refined his focus and shifted to larger series. “I’m still interested in these USGS (United States Geological Survey) maps as graphic objects and as really beautiful works of graphic design. What I’ve really been enjoying is to build these out,” he says. The more comprehensive collections have included studies of Alaskan maps from the 1950s, one series focused on the Oregon coast, and another considering south-central Indiana where he was raised.
A macro-view captures the intricacies and histories etched into the landscape of a region, showcasing glacial formations, seismic activity, and how a mountain range emerged during a period of years. “I realized once I started visualizing the landscape that, on a day-to-day standpoint when you look around you, you see elevation changes, but you don’t really see patterns. We’re just a little too small,” he says. Because USGS maps utilize coordinates, they also circumvent more political orientations found in documents outlining territories or other cordoned-off areas, offering an opportunity to correct false narratives that have been perpetuated by cartographic objects in the past. The historical maps hold additional information on trends and periods in design, which manifest in aesthetic choices like style and color.
Reinhard currently is working his way through producing a collection of USGS-recommended maps from the 1950s, a novel project that’s rooted in exploration and curiosity. “All maps are exaggerations, to some extent,” he says. “You can push and pull what the map says and what the map tells you.” Explore Reinhard’s extensive collection of digital works on Instagram and his site, where he also sells an array of prints.
Share this story
Editor's Picks: Design
Highlights below. For the full collection click here.