Author Archives: Trasaterra

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Graphic patterns from Southern Spain

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Recently we traveled through Southern Spain visiting the major landmarks in Seville, Cordoba and Granada. The details of the decorative style of many of the sights was very graphic. The style of architecture and decoration is called Mudéjar and it dates back to 12th through 16th centuries. It’s a product of Muslim and Christian cultures living side by side. Western styles were infused with Islamic influences. The geometry and simplicity drive the style and the effect is striking and sophisticated.

The photos below are from the Cathedral of Seville, Alcazar of Seville, Mezquita de Cordoba and Alhambra. It’s a selection of tiles, decorative patterns, plasterwork and domes.


Book covers at Trinity College

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Few weeks ago we briefly visited Ireland. One of our stops was The Old Library at the Trinity College in Dublin. Main attraction for most visitors is The Book of Kells exhibit which examines in detail the history and symbols of this manuscript (c.800 AD) and the book-making techniques. After seeing The Book of Kells, the unexpected treat for us was  the magnificent Long Room of the library which houses 200,000 of the Library’s oldest books in its oak bookcases. At the time of our visit the Long Room had a conservation exhibit with some beautiful antique book covers. Below are some examples.

Here is a link to The Old Library and its exhibitions:


Best and most unexpected Vine you’ll see this month

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DUMBO has been treated as a movie set for many years and we got quite the treat the other day as we witnessed the movie production of Spiderman outside of our window. Jason captured one of the most dramatic scenes from the weekend of shooting via a Vine video. Looking forward to finding this scene once the movie is out. Enjoy!

Book Launch Party for ‘Simple: Conquering the Crisis of Complexity’

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simple-bookA few days ago we attended the book launch party for Simple: Conquering the Crisis of Complexity by Alan Siegel and Irene Etzkorn at the New York Times Building. The authors have been championing simplicity for businesses and organizations around the world for decades. The book discusses three principles of simplicity: Empathize, Distill, and Clarify, and a host of examples of companies streamlining their processes. Many examples are also brought up where simplicity is badly needed (medical field, user agreements, tax code, etc.). Our average everyday experiences are inundated with overly complex things and confusion. We’ve been conditioned to expect complexity and many people are too afraid to ask questions when presented with muddled language or technical jargon. The consequences of this are far reaching and affect every facet of life. The book aims to inspire the reader to stand up for simplicity.

From our perspective the book is an affirmation to an honest design process. For us the simplification principles are part of the intuitive process of designing. We go through a process of simplifying client’s information each time we design an interface. At the level of design we bring the three principles of Empathize, Distill and Clarify into one: Organizing Information (User Experience). Critical to our process when designing an interface is putting ourselves in the shoes of the user.

As a side note, one of the biggest complements anyone can pay a designer is by saying a piece of design is simple, clean and easy to use. Even more so when this comes from someone who is not a designer. They usually don’t even realize they are paying us a compliment. It’s usually a gut reaction they are having to whatever we are showing them and it tells us we did well.

Shape halves

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Did some explorations recently in breaking up shapes and offsetting each half. Also combined a few similar shapes in this exercise. Results can produce some unique combinations. Perhaps not surprisingly this exercise not work that well with any shape.


Mobius and 3-D printing

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3-D printing has been appearing in the news more frequently in recent months. This amazing technology will allow for printing very complex forms in variety of materials. I came across this article recently about an architect who plans to ‘print’ a house. The form of the house would consist of a endless Mobius strip. Here is a link to the original article: building-3-d-printer

Definition of Mobius from

Möbius strip, a one-sided surface that can be constructed by affixing the ends of a rectangular strip after first having given one of the ends a one-half twist. This space exhibits interesting properties, such as having only one side and remaining in one piece when split down the middle.

I always found the Mobius to be a very interesting shape in 2-D graphics. It lends itself to very fluid logo forms and great illusion of three dimensionality. It can be executed in a variety of shapes. Below are a few possible rendering of a Mobius strip.

(Here are couple of other recent leaps in 3-D printing world:
A 3-D scanner was just introduced by MakerBot at SXSW article link. This device will allow you to scan any object smaller than 8 inches and then print it with a 3-D printer. It circumvents some obstacles in 3-D printing being utilized by many people — basic knowledge of mechanical engineering and experience using AutoCAD. Another is this 3Doodler by WobbleWorks which is the world’s first 3D printing pen article link. This pen will allow you to ‘draw’ 3-D forms.)


Recycling of old clothing and Aeon project

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Earlier today I came across an article about H&M’s recycling program which allows you to trade in any of your old clothing for a store discount! It’s a great idea which has a potential to alleviate the environmental burden of millions of pounds of old clothing that end up in landfills each year. It’s also very encouraging to see a large company such as H&M get involved in sustainability efforts. Here is a link to the article:

Finding about this program compelled me to post a project of mine from several years ago. While I was still in school I came up with an idea of a recyclable textile and created an identity for it. Below is my original description and some images of the brand:

Aeon proposes a solution to the problem of recycling used clothing. It’s a zero-waste recycling system. The project assumes a fully recyclable synthetic fiber is invented and used by a fashion label. Once the apparel created out of Aeon fibers is worn out, or out of style, it’s to be returned to the label for a small rebate towards the purchase of new items. The used clothing is then fully recycled into new textiles.

The logomark encapsulates an ‘infinite’ circular movement. The brand name ‘Aeon’ alludes to the infinite lifespan of this fiber. Textural fiber imagery is explored in the branding components. The brand colors are blue for clear sky and brown for soil symbolizing the widespread positive impact this product would have on the environment.


Jersey Shore Relief Project

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We recently helped create a site to promote a fundraiser for The Jersey Shore Relief Project. All monetary proceeds from this fundraiser will be donated to the New Jersey Red Cross to help support the families who lost their homes and the efforts to rebuild the Jersey Shore. To learn details go to the site:


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We recently spent some time in Iceland and drove the entire Ring Road around the country. Iceland has one of the most unique landscapes, distinct cuisine and very simple but elegant stylistic touch in architecture and decor.

Design of the ‘Making Art with Autism’ book

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Ewa recently completed a book design for the New York Center for Autism Charter School. The 24-page book contains a compilation of the drawings by the students at the Center. The themes of the drawings are butterflies, flowers and tracings of leaves. There are also a few black-and-white butterfly images that were colored-in by the students. The book celebrates the creativity and the remarkable details of these art works. Few images were included showing some of the children drawing. Description pages of the works are in complimentary or accent colors of the works. The drawings were laid out full-bleed and some across two pages to accomodate the shape of the drawing. In few instances photographs of the butterflies were included for comparison.

We were very happy to contribute in showcasing these beautiful drawings.

The book can be purchased through Amazon, click here.


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We recently visited Panama and came across this very unique and vibrant art form. Molas are created by the Kuna Yala culture indigenous to Panama and residing in the autonomous region and archipelago islands of San Blas.

The word mola literally means ‘shirt’ and traditionally is part of the female attire where two panels form front and back of the shirt. The patterns of the molas were originally painted on women’s bodies and were mostly geometric. Kuna Yala started creating the designs in fabric once Europeans brought cotton. In the last half century or so more realistic elements such as flowers, fish or birds started appearing.

Creation of molas is quite interesting. Several pieces of cotton are sewn together and then the design is created by cutting away parts of the layers. The largest pattern is usually cut from the top layer showing the smaller pattern and the colors of the layers below. Edges of the molas are then turned under and sewn. Often the stitches are made almost invisible, especially in the higher quality molas.

The picture on the bottom shows the mola we purchased. To us the colors resembled the art of the 1980s, a bit in the style of Keith Haring and the geometric patterns of the Op Art of the 60s.

Facebook knows (us) best

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This was originally published on Jason’s blog

Of all the top social networks Facebook most successfully satisfies our vanity. We’ve all gone online. We want our existence reinforced. Facebook has claimed a monopoly on our actual personal networks. Twitter, Google+ and Diaspora are biased to connecting outwardly, helping us forge new networks. While this is a more noble premise if you believe in the potential of the world wide web, it also makes these networks much more disposable.

I recently allowed my birthday to appear for my Facebook friends. I received over thirty birthday wall posts. This personal and very human connection got me thinking that this is where Facebook’s advantage lies. Only Facebook virtually guarantees feedback on the signals we put out now matter how small our networks. This is because for most we’ve replicated our real life social networks on Facebook and nowhere else online.

I really like Twitter but I rarely use it for social purposes. My following is currently too small to give me much feedback on what I put out there. I do appreciate that so many reputable periodicals and notables use it to broadcast their links and links they find interesting. Twitter is life support to my Flipboard. The greatest paradox I find in Twitter is that nothing is better for receiving signals yet nothing is worse for sending them (for the average individual). I think Twitter will need to become more authentically social or the jig may be up very soon. I’m actually surprised Apple went with deep Twitter integration for the latest iOS release. I rarely use it. For photos I prefer Instagram as it sends out to several social services simultaneously. Why would I just Tweet photos when it’s nearly a guarantee no one is looking for my personal stuff there? Not saying I don’t do it but I’ve learned not to expect much feedback from Twitter. Thus far Apple hasn’t demonstrated many successful ideas for social media as relates to their software and devices.

I can see a counterpoint argument suggesting I just need to put more effort into Twitter. But why should I? My existence on Facebook is validated with minimal effort. Interestingly I’ve been getting decent feedback on Diaspora.

My Google+ profile has been floundering. My Facebook friends just did not migrate over. I dislike so much about Google right now that I can’t bring myself to invest more of my time in what feel like mediocre/unfinished products.

To circle back I don’t want to leave the impression that I’m pro-Facebook. I’m just pointing out that they will continue to be on top because they are better at finding ways to use our personal data to deliver the most meaningful signals to us. To leave off on a critical note, the Facebook paradigm feels too simplistic. The Like button has likely done irreparable damage in over-simplifying a complex world. Facebook’s presentation often feels much more superficial than the other networks.

I think the answer is not to have one network to rule them all, but to open up the ports so they can start to talk to each other. This comes back to the Promise of Diaspora. Many Diaspora users have closed out their Facebook accounts. I won’t be closing any social accounts until the day comes when I can communicate and interact with Facebookers without needing to actually be on Facebook.

Trasaterra launches

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We recently redesigned and launched the website of the ARTnews magazine, which is the oldest art magazine in the world. This was an exciting project for both of us as we have been reading this magazine since we were teenagers. We both have training in fine art and this publication helped foster our interest in art. has not undergone any redesign initiatives for a number of years. The project required a great deal of planning including migration of 15 years of magazine articles. We restructured the content to work within a contemporary content management system. To create the optimal User Experience and retain the traditional print magazine feel, we incorporated elements of print magazine layout and editorial design. The design and the structure is scalable and it can grow over time as new technologies become available.

Read our case study from our portfolio. And please visit the website.

Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty, Met Museum

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We recently went to see this extraordinary exhibit at the Met. We did arrive on an early Friday evening so the crowds were probably at their maximum capacity. Took over an hour of standing in line to get in, but it was completely worth it. Met had done a beautiful job customizing each exhibit room to showcase the collection pieces. With work so unique, intense and expertly crafted, it’s impossible to have a favorite. Most pieces were accompanied by quotes from the designer who very direct and articulate about his work. The work seems to almost exist in its own space blurring the lines between fashion and art, and the deliberate, timeless and genius nature of it is undeniable.

The exhibit is running through August 7th at the Met Museum: