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Archive for the ‘Creative’ topic

Mapping Belgium’s Absurd Borders


It’s finally out: The Strange Maps book by Frank Jacobs, the man behind the wonderful Strange Maps blog. The book itself has become a hefty anti-atlas bringing together some of the strangest, weirdest and interesting maps ever created or found.

I’m also glad to say that it contains two maps of my own.

Continue reading…

Imagining a New Color – Part I

A rainbow Over the Mongolian Hills


Is it possible to imagine a truly new and distinct color? A color that cannot be derived from any of the existing colors we already know?

I’ve tried, and to date, I’ve failed. But I haven’t quite given up yet. And so the goal of this article is to detail my quest in search of this unknown and illusive new color. To do so, we must delve into the world of colors and learn how we perceive them all around us. But first, I want to make clear what it is I’m trying to do.

I want a new color.

I’m not talking about discovering a new tint of red, or giving name to a peculiar shade called ocean-green-berry-blue. No, what I want is an entirely new primary color. Let me clarify:

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Short Film: World Builder

Woman walking down a the streets of a virtual world created by a man that loves her

Synopsis: “A strange man builds a world using holographic tools for the woman he loves.”

Really well done and how I would love to have a tool such as the one as in this short film. Then again, I would probably risc creating my own world and never ever leaving it again. The short was done by Bruce Branit, the same person that also worked on another wonderful little film several years ago: flight 405 (and its official site). Using only cheap off-the-shelf soft- and hardware, it was ground breaking at the time. It opened the door to any creative with a good idea and lots of hard work, to create a hollywood style production from the comfort of their home at a reasonable budget. (via kottke)

Why I Drew Cartoons to Subvert the System

Cartoon of a boxing match gone wrong

Improvising My Way Through School

The biggest culture shock I’ve ever had to experience in my life was when I had to return to my own country. I was thirteen when I was sent to a strict Catholic school in my new home town. Until then, most of my youth had been spent in international schools abroad. In comparison, my previous schools had been very lax and easy going. To add to the difficulty and after for years of living in an English speaking environment, I had pretty much forgotten how to speak Dutch and had to relearn it for the third time in my life.. I was given a crash course over the summer with a private tutor. But even then, it would take years before I actually mastered it well enough to take part in conversations. It was a frustrating experience. By the time I had found the right words to say, the conversation had long moved on to something else.

And if the communication problem wasn’t enough, I quickly discovered I had little in common with my most of my fellow students. Frankly, I found them to be close minded. Not that it was their fault. They had simply lived very insulating lives. While I had already seen half the world by then, most of them had rarely ever left the villages they had lived in all their lives.

I also had a serious problem with the strictness of the school system. Being in a position to compare, I found that the way they went about things to be very counterproductive. And to make things worse, I was not only subjected to the normal school curriculum, I also had to spend an hour after school every day in study. It was a moment where one was supposed to do their homework and review the subjects they had seen that day. Doing my homework was rarely a problem, but I was never one to actually study. I simply didn’t have the patience to take the time and memorize stuff. If the subject matter was interesting enough, I would automatically remember it. Otherwise I couldn’t really be bothered. That meant that in practice, the subjects I enjoyed, I usually past with flying colors (Do colors actually fly?). And the subjects that couldn’t hold my attention didn’t get my attention either. When faced with tests and exams, I simply improvised my way through it. This is probably also the reason why I always failed in French. You can’t invent new words and grammar in an existing language spoken by two hundred million people around the world. They simply won’t stand for it, and my French teachers shared the same sentiment. My lack of effort in certain domains showed in my grades and is it’s probably also the reason I was forced to follow study in the first place. What goes around, comes around.

Cartoon of a lost arc

Subverting the System

I had to fill an hour every day in which I was not aloud to leave my desk or even make a sound let alone talk to the others around me. The only thing expected from me was to do my homework and study, and that posed a serious a problem. I really had no intention of wasting my precious time on this planet with such silly things. So I tried to make the best of my less the stellar situation and started to improvise my way out of it. On my first day, I decided to write a book.

Big mistake!

Coming from schools with a relaxed attitude, the concept of punishment essays was completely alien to me. In my previous schools, you really had to misbehave before a teacher would intervene, and at worst, that meant being sent to the superintendent’s office. Not so in my new school. Any behavior that deviated from what was expected of the ideal student was enough to get you punished. Talking in class? A two page essay on why not to talk in class. Chewing gum? A five page essay on why gum chewing is an abomination of civilization. Not paying attention? Rewrite the school rules three times. Even not knowing the correct answer to a question could at times be punishable by essay.

And each lesson would begin with the students – whom had previously been punished – coming forward handing in their essays. And each lesson would end with a role call of all the students that had received punishment during the lesson as a reminder of how much and when their essays where due.

Cartoon of an airfieldcartoon_11

Metro Cartoon

And there I was, on my first day at study, confidently writing the first pages of my first book. As they saw me write, some of the students around me started to react in excitement pointing their fingers at me, sniggling and giggling. Puzzled by their reactions, I continued writing, but without a clue of what all the fuss was about. Alerted by all the commotion around me, one of the study masters walked up to my table. Once he saw what I was doing gave me a frown. He then asked me if I was writing an essay. Well, actually, I was writing a book. But fearing I had to explain myself in a language I didn’t quite master yet, I went for the obvious answer and replied with a simple ‘yes’. Little did I know right then that ‘essay’ was actually code for ‘punishment’. Unwittingly, I had gained the reputation of a troublemaker on my very first day of school.

I quickly gave up on my idea of writing a book and concluded that if I was going to survive in this environment, I would have to outfox the system and everyone in it. It’s here where I discovered the ninety/ten rule. If you appear to be good ninety percent of the time, people around you will automatically assume you’re also being well behaved in the remaining ten percent of the time. Of course, no one can possibly always be a saint 100% of the time. But in practice, most people never question this assumption unless given good reason to. We generally don’t like unpredictable and complex world views.

And so I was quick to learn how to become a mischievous little bastard without ever getting caught. Especially considering some of the things I pulled off where quite public affairs. I would skip school on occasion, get into fights, commit acts of creative sabotage, sneak my way out of ever writing punishment essays, psychological manipulation, signature forgery, trespass, gamble with money, indulge in chalk graffiti… all while maintaining the image of a boy that would never hurt a fly. As I said before, it was counterproductive system. I was much better behaved in the schools that showed more tolerance.

Cartoon of a clown and balloonsCartoon of a toilet by the meterCartoon of wallpapering the chinese wall

Art School

But back to my problem: how to spend an hour in study without actually studying? I learnt how to pretend. Turns out, it’s really easy to fake. It’s sufficient to just stare at a page to fool a study master that has to keep a watchful eye on a fifty other students. And instead of making notes, I made little drawing instead. And it was during this time that I started dreaming up all kinds of funny situations and translating them into to cartoons.

Predictably, while I was having fun during study, some of my grades suffered. When I passed my second year there, it was deliberated that my scores where ok, but not good enough to continue in this particular school. I was thrilled. I had always wanted to continue studying in an art school, but they had denied me that option on the grounds that I was too intelligent for such a thing (In Belgium, a school education is mandatory until you’re 18 years of age. As a result, art school had a reputation as a place for students who would have otherwise dropped out if it weren’t for this law). But thanks to my laziness and my grades not up to standards, I was finally able to do what I always wanted to do: learn something at school that I actually enjoyed. Add to that, it wasn’t Catholic and it wasn’t strict. It was perfect. It was also a relief. I knew that if I had to remain in a strict school, that eventually, the only thing I would learn was how to be become an accomplished petty criminal.

Cartoon of an operation part one

Cartoon of an operation

But things turned around. The predictions that the lack of discipline at my new school would further make my grades suffer, were proven wrong. It was actually quite the opposite. Though I must admit, I was still not able improvise my way through French, but at least I was passing, though just barely.

The Cartoon Collection

My published cartoonBut after two years of study at my old school, I had managed to accumulate quite a lot cartoon sketches. And it was during my first year at art school that I brought them all together, redrew them in a formal format and started to ink them in. A year later, I had created about eighty such cartoons. I even managed to get one published in a national newspaper. My biggest dream at the time was to one day win a place at the International Cartoon Festival of Knokke. It had even become a yearly pilgrimage to take a train to the coast and visit the festival exposition.

But those dreams came to an abrupt end once my second year at art school commenced. Play time was over. Faced with being creative against constant and extreme tight deadlines plus a very tough grading process to boot, everybody’s stress levels skyrocketed. Those who couldn’t take it bailed out and probably still have nightmares from that period. I managed to hang on long enough to see the light. But it left me with little time for other things. Especially after I quite by accident started publishing my own weekly class newspaper (which I continued doing until I finally graduated from secondary school). Somehow by then, I had lost interest in drawing cartoons. Instead I had discovered I had new passion: though I couldn’t spell, I loved to write.

The Year 2000 as Predicted in 1910

Illustration: French flying firemen trying to put out a building fire.

It must be quite a feat, trying to imagine what the world will look like in 90 years from now. A French illustrator did just that in 1910 when he drew up these illustrations. They depict the world as he believed it would look like in the year 2000. Keeping in mind that fashions have changed, he did get some things right. As for other predictions… well, we’re still waiting for our personal flying devices. But there are also other notable things to be seen in these illustrations. Or to be more precise, what is not seen. It’s a testiment to Apples tight secrecy prior to new product launches that even in 1910, no one could possibly predict the coming of the iPod.

The Ephemeral Nature of Design

Last Friday, Bert asked me to name a few cool projects we had created recently. My mind drew a blank. Not that we hadn’t made anything cool, far from it. It’s just very rare to ever look back. Once a project is delivered, we’re usually already too busy working on the next one to sit down and contemplate on our achievements. As they say over here: Out of sight, out of heart.

For the past fifteen years, I have, as a graphic designer, worked on all kinds of internet projects. And if there is one thing I understand, it’s that a lot of what I create is ephemeral. Some of the designers I know never wanted to make the switch to digital, because when you design for print, you at least have something substantial that you can touch and feel at the end of the day. With digital, everything remains virtual. Add to that, I work in a fast paced sector and much of what I create will soon quickly become outdated or obsolete.

Continue reading…

Sex, Porn and Authenticity

A blond woman experiencing an orgasm in a Durex commercial

It looks like Durex has been very busy of late. First, we were introduced to a trio of latex bunnies taking tips from the Kamasutra. Now we are being treated to an orgasmic opera. Though this may not be one of their best creations, and certainly not as funny as the bunnies, some of the scenes in the opera ad, as seen in the image above, reminded me of one of the more peculiar sites I’ve stumbled upon on in one of my many adventures on the internet.

But before we continue, I must warn you. We are about to venture in to the shadier parts of the internet. A place where sex is no taboo and pornification runs free. A place where for every fetish imaginable, someone, somewhere, has taken the time to dedicate a complete site around it. So that no matter how picky you may be, even your wildest dreams or most exocentric desires can be fulfilled if only you know where to look. Some of you may know these parts of the internet quite well. And for those of you who don’t, now is either the time to stop reading, or maybe not.

Unfortunately, much of what we will find on the net these days is quite explicit. You could even say tasteless or downright disgusting. There are those who claim that sex has to be dirty to be good, but some of it is so extreme that I really question how it could fuel anyone’s sexual appetite. Much of it is primarily based on lust and has little to do with eroticism. But like it or not, in the last decade, even the mainstream perception of how we view and experience sex in the real world has for a large part been influenced by the porn universe. It’s as if our sexuality is determined not so much by what we feel ourselves to be right, but by what we see and read in the media. It is as if we would prefer to conform to our peers in the hopes of meeting their expectation rather then discovering what we enjoy most for ourselves. I just hope we don’t ever reach the point that in order to become a good lover, you have to sing a sonnet while you come.

So it’s always a joy to stumble across something that goes against the grain. I was left mesmerized when I first discovered Beautiful Agony. It’s one of the most erotic things I’ve come across which for a site is quite a feat. Especially if you consider that you won’t find any nudity on their site. Beautiful Agony apparently doesn’t advertise any free examples anymore that would do it justice, but you can find a few of their videos out in the wild here and there on the net.

The setup is simple. A woman, or a man, films themselves from the shoulders up while they are masturbating. All we get to see are their facial expressions as they go through the different stages of warm up, build up, orgasm and relief. It comes across as authentic and is probably one of the most intimate and vulnerable things we could ever reveal about ourselves. And it’s probably what makes these movies so appealing.

The Nchiwe Map


There are still some finishing touches to be done on the Pangaea Expedition site before it is ready for prime time. But in the mean time, I’ve finally completed the Nchiwe Map. It depicts the settlements of the Nchiwe civilization some 75 thousand years ago. Creating it was one thing. Exporting it to a 90×60 cm image was another matter. It was a real test in patience. Now I’m investigating which services are best suited to sell it as a poster. Lulu seems to offer the best quality prints at 300 dpi. That’s a 10800×7200 pixel image (77 mega-pixels). I’ve heard a lot of good reviews about the site. But while they may be great for books, the whole process of purchasing posters seems rather complex and not always very clear. Another problem is the fact that they offer the posters in three different formats. But for some reason, they don’t share the same aspect ratio. So if the buyer doesn’t choose the intended format, he’ll get a trimmed version instead. In the case of the Nchiwe map, choosing a smaller format means bye bye New Zealand (Aotearoa on the map). And Lulu doesn’t offer the publisher the option of only selling one particular format instead of all three.

The other alternative is Cafe Press. Their shop is more polished and clearer to use. At least you know exactly what you’re purchasing. My only doubt is the quality. While they do except 300 dpi images, they seem to prefer 200 dpi ones. Does this mean that they are printing it at max 200dpi or are they rightly assuming that for photo enlargements, up-scaling it beyond 200 is useless? I guess I’ll just have to purchase my poster and do a quality check before I actually start selling them.

Update: Looks like my choice has been made for me. I just got a mail from Lulu. They will soon no longer be offering posters for sale.

The Mayoka House

The Mayoka House

Lately, passive buildings have been getting a lot of press. The technology behind it has finally reached the point where such buildings are insulated so well, extra heating is hardly necessary. A notable example is the zero emmision Prinsess Elisabeth Station in Antarctica.  But with insulation also comes isolation from the outside world.

But isolation is generally excepted here in Europe as a good quality to have for your building. A house should protect you not only from the elements, but nature in general, such as wild animals and insects. It must keep out sounds and smells. It should afford privacy from nosy neighbors. In other words, the perfect home should keep everything out with the exception of invited guests and sunlight. So much so that we simply take this for granted.

Returning to Malawi was therefore a revelation. I had forgotten what it was like to live in an open house. You notice the difference the moment you step inside. Most of the places I stayed at in Malawi where mostly built with one goal: to protect you from the rain. People here live most of their lives outside anyway. Cooking, eating, washing, socializing, it’s all done outside. It not only makes you feel healthier, constantly being exposed to the elements probably also builds your resistance. In that sense, we are quite spoilt here in the west. I came to this conclusion when I realized I could, live, work and do my groceries without having to spend more then three minutes outside in a single day. The rest is all spent inside, isolated from the rest of the world.

The Mayoka House

The Mayoka House

Living in an open house on the other hand is like living in a tent, only with a bit more room and comfort. Even though you are inside, you can sense the changes in the weather. You can hear everything around the house loud and clear, as if you weren’t surrounded by four walls. Mayoka Village, a hostel where I stayed went even a step further. Taking a shower was a real sensation. You could do so while enjoying the view of the bay. You could even hold face to face conversations with passerby’s without fear of exposing the rest of your body. Basically, you’re half inside, half outside.

And it was inspiring. With that in mind, I’ve created the Mayoka house. It has no windows and no doors that can be opened and closed. Everything is left exposed. It simply functions as a placeholder in our lives. A sort of marker that states this is sort of the space where we live around. The layout itself is very basic. It has bed, a table, a built in shelf and a washing area that is a bit more protected to offer its occupants some privacy. But even in this enclosed area, one can always maintain complete contact with the outside world.

In other words, it’s not a space to live in, but more to live around.

The History of Visual Communication

Art Nouveau

Art Nouveau

From cave drawings to computer design. The History of Visual Communication sums up several thousand years of design with a few nice examples. It doesn’t focus on art history itself, but in fact how graphic design has evolved as a way of communication and how it has been influenced by its time and technology at had.

There are some nice examples such as the evolution of alphabets, the printing press, poster design, cartography and so and on and on. It’s probably impossible to classify everything, but it’s a good place to start if one is looking for some inspiration from the past.

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T-shirts with the god Shiva print