Monday, 21 March 2016

American Greetings disrupts SXSW with analogue

While the perennial South by Southwest interactive festival has always been about being on the bleeding edge of digital, a much more traditional company came along to offer a reminder that sometimes it's good to just take things slow.
"To get this message across, the brand took over 325 E. 6th Street in downtown Austin, Texas, for a three-day promotion aptly titled #Analog. It ends today and features paper crafts plus speakers like designers Stefan Sagmeister and Aaron Draplin. 
Festivalgoers can try their hand at do-it-yourself printmaking and pop-up cards (American Greetings calls this "paper engineering"). They also can learn about lettering techniques from an American Greetings' artist, get a selfie stitched with thread by fashion designer Michael-Birch Pierce, fill in a coloring-book mural by Kelsey Montague, or create an analog GIF and then record a video to share on social."

You can read the full article on Adweek.

Saturday, 19 March 2016

Analogue revolution: why is stationery so popular?

Over here in the UK, supermarket goliath Sainsbury's has announced it will be stocking vinyl records for the first times since the 1980s. The news comes off the back of a surge in demand for the antiquated format, largely from the Gen Y demographic who are after something more tangeable than a Spotify stream. 

It's not just analogue music that's seeing a revival: there's a trend in switching off and getting back to basics. It seems that we've reached peak digital. Sure, apps and software can be useful - even superior in some aspects - but if the immense success of New York-based Baron Fig is to be an indicator, stationery isn't sounding its death knell anytime soon. 

There's something satisfying about putting pen or pencil to paper, especially if the tools you're using are of high quality. While an online to-do list app can synch to the cloud and inject your homescreen with various push notifications, it can't be reprogrammed at a whim, or torn out and passed to a colleague, or receive a rewarding strike-through when the task is complete. It's not about usability most of the time - it's a bit more primal than that. A paper notebook has the weird trait of heightening your senses - the feel of the paper, the smell of the pencil cedar, the sound of the thump it makes when it hits the desk. 

 "It's not about usability most of the time - it's a bit more primal than that"

You can't be immortalised in a digital note. Not really. Some day a server will crumble into the cyber wasteland or a device will become obsolete. Meanwhile dust-nosed archaeologists are dredging up the illuminated tomes of long dead monks from Wiltshire fields and discovering just what the abbot was up to that day. 

Stationery is deeply personal. My Word document may use different fonts or colours than yours, but it's just as clinical. With a notebook and pen, I get the infinite choice of combinations of the two, and that's without getting onto the subject of ink and crafty embellishments you might bring to the table. Currently I'm making notes with a Lamy Al-Star rollerball (in purple) and a lined Field Notes New York County Fair edition, while it's highly unlikely you're using the same combination. 

I love digital tools like Evernote. I use it on a daily basis for work. But I'm never more satisfied than when I'm scratching some notes into a favourite Rhodia or sketching on a pad. 

Have we reached peak digital? Maybe, but even if technology makes stationery all but obsolete, I guarantee that we will still crave a physical writing tool over anything else.

Palomino Blackwing 1138 review

In 1902, while mankind made its way to the most southern of points on the globe, the blossoming film industry presented a vision of humanity reaching a new frontier. Le Voyage dans la Lune, or A Trip to the Moon, became the spectacle to watch: the first science fiction film and one of the greatest film achievements of the 20th century due to its innovative special effects.

Imagine the reactions the filmmakers would have if they knew that just 100 years after their masterpiece, people would be using their film to sketch and write with. While unfathomable to the mind of the early 20th century, Palomino has made it a reality with the release of their Blackwing Volume 1138.

Using a process called 'barcoding', the venerable pencil-maker has distilled A Trip to the Moon down to squeeze onto the barrel of their latest 'Volume' release. 

This is actually my first Blackwing and I've been aching to try one since I first saw a review some years ago, and being a sci-fi fan this version fits me to a tee. 

But what can I say that hasn't already been said? The lead is fast and smooth, requiring only a relatively light touch to achieve a solid line. The ferrule is a shimmering silver that fits in nicely with the 'silver screen' theme, and the black eraser clears the page nicely. 

More than that, the pencil is a story in and of itself. It's a conversation piece - a slice of film history in the form of a tool used to create art. If that's not poetic, I don't know what is, quite frankly. 

For this review I used a Rhodia A4 No. 18 pad.