Design History

Shift Happens: A Forthcoming Book Catalogs the 150-Year History of the Keyboard

February 7, 2023

Grace Ebert

A spread from 'Shift Happens' showing the early QWERTYkeyboard on a Sholes & Glidden typewriter

A spread from ‘Shift Happens’ showing the early QWERTY keyboard on a Sholes & Glidden typewriter (photograph by Eremeev). The layout established on that typewriter led directly to the layout of every keyboard today. All images courtesy of Marcin Wichary, shared with permission

What if QWERTY wasn’t the standard keyboard layout? A forthcoming book by Chicago-based designer and writer Marcin Wichary examines the now-ubiquitous format and how it came to dominate modern technology.

Fully funded a few hours after launching on Kickstarter, Shift Happens documents 150 years of keyboard history from early analog typewriters to the pixelated versions on our phones. The 1,200-page book is split into two volumes that encompass a broad array of innovations and feuds from “the Shift Wars of the 1880s (and) Nobel-prize winner Arthur Schawlow using a laser to build the best typo eraser (to) August Dvorak—and many others—trying to dethrone QWERTY (and) Margaret Longley and Lenore Fenton perfecting touch typing.”

Seven years in the making, the book features 1,300 photos of devices and typists at work, some of which document collections and archives that have never been seen before. Wichary emphasizes the cultural implications of the commonplace objects, saying he focused on the people behind the technology. “I wanted a book that told all the personal stories about keyboards tied in with a historical, social, and political context,” he shares.

To grab a copy of Shift Happens, head to Kickstarter, and follow Wichary on Mastodon for updates on the project.


A spread from 'Shift Happens' showing the author’s photos of the Olivetti Praxis 48 electric typewriter

A spread from ‘Shift Happens’ showing the author’s photos of the Olivetti Praxis 48 electric typewriter. Praxis 48 is regarded as one of the best-designed typewriters in history

A spread from 'Shift Happens' showing various Olivettitypewriters, universally regarded as some of the best-designed typewriters in history

A spread from ‘Shift Happens’ showing various Olivetti typewriters, universally regarded as some of the best-designed typewriters in history. Photos courtesy of, Mr. & Mrs. Vintage Typewriters, and Georg Sommeregger

A spread from 'Shift Happens' showing examples of modernmechanical minimalistic keyboard layouts

A spread from ‘Shift Happens’ showing examples of modern mechanical minimalistic keyboard layouts. Image courtesy of Nathanalphaman

A spread from Shift Happens showing various IBM beamspring keyboards from the 1960s

A spread from ‘Shift Happens’ showing various IBM beam spring keyboards from the 1960s. The beam spring keyboards were a predecessor to modern mechanical keyboards and are highly regarded by today’s collectors. One photo courtesy of Tekniska Museet

A spread from ‘Shift Happens’ showing the author’s photograph of the popular Underwood No. 5 typewriter from 1901, the typewriter industry’s first bona fide hit

A spread from Shift Happens showing variants of the IBMModel M keyboard.

A spread from ‘Shift Happens’ showing variants of the IBM Model M keyboard. The Model M keyboard from the mid-1980s set the tone of most computer keyboards that followed. Photos courtesy of Eric Keppel and Dmitry Nosachev

A photo of two books on a table

Volume 1 shows a juxtaposition of typing classes in the 20th century. Volume 2 cover shows Rolf Hagedorn at the Culler-Fried On-Line System computer at CERN




Art Illustration

Fairytale Scenes Nestle Between the Covers of Isobelle Ouzman’s Altered Books

February 7, 2023

Grace Ebert

A photo of a book opened to reveal a cut-paper forest scene

All images © Isobelle Ouzman, shared with permission

Open one of Isobelle Ouzman’s books, and you’ll be transported to a whimsical world of flora and fauna. The Bratislava-based artist (previously) carves pages of found novels and other tomes into intricate paper labyrinths of forests and meadows. Often occupied by a lone hare or fox, the fairytale scenes are imbued with a quiet, calm sense of mystery about the machinations of the imagined environments and their inhabitants.

Ouzman shares that she gravitates toward mass-produced volumes in poor condition. “Book size, depth, and paper texture play a big role in my decision as well, and I often need to hold a book in my hands before I can visualise a new artwork,” she says. The carving and drawing process depends on both the physical object and the intended narrative, taking between three weeks and three months to complete.

Find an archive of Ouzman’s works and glimpses into her process on her site and Instagram, and shop prints on Etsy.


A photo of a book opened to reveal a cut-paper forest scene

A photo of a book opened to reveal a cut-paper forest scene

A detail photo of a cut-paper forest scene

A photo of a book opened to reveal a cut-paper forest scene

A detail photo of a cut-paper forest scene

A detail photo of a cut-paper forest scene

A photo of a book opened to reveal a cut-paper forest scene

A detail photo of a cut-paper forest scene




Anthony Theakston’s Elegant Sculptures Imbue Ceramics and Bronze with Avian Spirit

February 7, 2023

Kate Mothes

Ceramic sculptures of owls.

All images © Anthony Theakston, shared with permission

Known as silent predators of the night, owls possess the beguiling ability to swoop within inches of their prey undetected due to specialized feathers that make their flight almost completely inaudible. It’s no wonder that for millennia, the enigmatic creatures have represented wisdom, helpfulness, and prophecy in myths and folklore around the world. Lincolnshire-based artist Anthony Theakston has always been fascinated by birds and flight, and he summons the mystical beauty of the avians’ elegant wings and tender faces in ceramic and bronze.

Theakston prizes out the essence of each living being in a way that is neither purely abstract nor representational, transforming an inanimate hunk of plaster, ceramic, or bronze into a form poised to launch from its perch at any moment. “My work is as much an abstract sculpture or design that contains some spirit of life in general, and the bird form seems like a pure way to represent this to me,” he tells Colossal. “The barn owl has a particular place in my work, I think, partly because it has an obvious beauty but also because it in some way has a human quality to its facial characteristics and structure.”

To begin a new sculpture, the artist starts by discerning a mood that he wants to convey and searches for imagery that captures that feeling. After sketching loosely, he refines the idea into a formal design. “I am most happy with a simple, uncomplicated expression of the idea, and so much of my time is spent refining and altering every small detail until it seems to work perfectly,” he says. “I like to think of it as an equation which has been expressed in its simplest form.” Once the design is finalized, he sculpts the minimal lines of legs, heart-shaped heads, and beady eyes from a solid block of Herculite plaster and adds a variety of surface finishes to produce an array of patinas and patterns.

Theakston will release a new bronze edition at the end of May and is exhibiting work at Affordable Art Fair Brussels between February 8 and 12 with De Kunst Salon. Find more of his work on Instagram.


Sculptures of owls.

A sculpture of an owl.


A sculpture of an owl with wings spread.

A sculpture of a cormorant-like bird.

A minimalist sculpture of a heron.

An abstract sculpture of a bird.




A Prismatic Installation of LED Lights Mimics a Chameleon’s Color-Changing Scales

February 6, 2023

Grace Ebert

An animated photo a colorful LED-lit wall changing color

All images © SOSO, shared with permission

Hundreds of individual cells shaped like bursting stars comprise a new kaleidoscopic installation by the creative studio SOSO. A project for a San Diego real estate company, “Chameleon Wall” imitates the small reptile by changing color in a dynamic dance of pigment and light. As seen in the video below, the LED-illuminated work seamlessly shifts from gold to teal to bright pink in an array of organic patterns. SOSO shares that “Chameleon Wall” also has an interactive component and is capable of interpreting SMS messages from viewers and crafting a pixelated field of color related to the prompt.

For more of the studio’s digital projects, visit its site.


A photo of three people standing in front of a colorful LED-lit wall

An animated photo of two people standing in front of a colorful LED-lit wall

A photo of a colorful LED-lit wall

A photo of a woman standing in front of a colorful LED-lit wall



RISD Continuing Education Offers 170+ Online Courses for Adults and Teens

February 6, 2023


Artwork by RISD Pre-Collegiate Advanced Program Online student Erin S.

Rhode Island School of Design Continuing Education (RISD CE) is thrilled to open registration for over 170 online courses this spring for adults and teens. Programs include online certificates for adult learners, RISD’s pre-collegiate Advanced Program Online, and new teen online courses.

Continuing Education students at Rhode Island School of Design can take classes from anywhere in the world, at any time of day or night. Courses are taught by academics, creative practitioners, entrepreneurs, and industry leaders who advance our mission to provide an art and design education for everyone!

With no entry requirements, the non-credit online adult certificate programs allow you to learn with motivated peers to develop your portfolio, broaden existing skills, explore a new career path or life pursuit, or start your own business — and build the network that will help you do it.

Teen online courses represent 11 visual arts and design subjects and allow students to engage in a community of makers while crafting their own stories. Students ages 13 to 17 attend weekly live Zoom meetings, receive narrative assessments with written personalized feedback in place of grades, and gain support and guidance from RISD undergraduate student teaching assistants. When students join teen online classes at Rhode Island School of Design, outstanding artists, designers, and educators will lead them toward inspiring career paths and creative problem-solving skills.

At RISD Pre-College, rising high school juniors and seniors can live like RISD students and work alongside hundreds of other creative, highly motivated students who will inspire them to push their limits and produce their best work. Students will follow a college-level curriculum with day-long studio classes, visits to the Nature Lab and RISD Museum, critiques, and projects that will forever shape the way they approach art and design. The Summer 2023 session runs from June 24 to July 29.

RISD’s Advanced Program Online is a year-round online intensive and designed for high school students interested in pursuing art and design in college. This certificate program is for changemakers who want to develop their art practice, learn new ways to collaborate, and create a future they’re excited about. The Spring 2023 term runs from March 4 to May 21, and the Summer 2023 term runs from June 17 to August 13.

Both pre-collegiate programs offer a college-level curriculum that provides a strong foundational understanding of drawing and design principles. Whether on-campus or online, students will participate in courses led by professionally practicing instructors, learn to manage time and self-motivate, and develop a portfolio of concepts, sketches, and finished pieces that can be included in or inform their college application.

The Spring 2023 term starts February 27. For more information, visit

Apply for the RISD Pre-College residential summer immersive, and register for RISD’s Advanced Program Online year-round intensive.



Art History Illustration Science

Explore Hundreds of Exquisite Botanical Collages Created by an 18th-Century Septuagenarian Artist

February 5, 2023

Grace Ebert

A scan of a botanical collage made of paper

All images via The British Museum

At age 72, Mary Delany (1700-1788) devoted herself to her art practice, taking up a form of decoupage to create an exquisite collection of botanical collages from dyed and cut paper. She interpreted many of the delicate specimens she encountered in Buckinghamshire while staying with her friend, the Duchess of Portland, through layered pieces on black backdrops. From the wispy clover-like leaves of an oxalis plant to the wildly splayed petals of the daffodil, the realistic works are both stunning for their beauty and faithfulness to the original lifeforms.

Known for her scientific precision, Delany labeled each specimen with the plant’s taxonomic and common names, the date, location of creation, name of the donor, and a collection number, the latter of which was used to organize all 985 collages in her Flora Delanica series. Together, the works create a vast and diverse florilegium, or compilation of botanicals and writings in the tradition of commonplace books.

The British Museum houses most of Delany’s collages, which you can explore in an interactive archive that has information about the plants, artworks, and the option to zoom in on images of the pieces. You also might enjoy The Paper Garden, a book that delves into the artist’s work and what it means to foster a creative practice.


A scan of a botanical collage made of paper

A scan of a botanical collage made of paper

A scan of a botanical collage made of paper

A scan of a botanical collage made of paper

A scan of a botanical collage made of paper

A scan of a botanical collage made of paper

A scan of a botanical collage made of paper

A scan of a botanical collage made of paper

A scan of a botanical collage made of paper