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Monday Music Muse: Rachael Cantu

Cross-country coolness and how to go down with the devil’s thunder.

Rachael CantuRachael Cantu is an indie music poster child.

Off-mainstream mindset? Check — a SoCal native, Rachael decided to go against the grain and move… gasp… east on her 21st birthday, where she quickly made her mark on the Boston indie music scene, then victoriously returned to California. Touring with indie icons? Check — Tegan and Sara, we’re looking at you. A “whole package” deal? Check — this singer-songwriter comes with haunting vocals and a deeply human lyrical sensibility.

And since it’s time for the obligatory comparison to put Rachael’s music in context, we’ll just say she’s part Ingrid Michaelson, part Iron & Wine, part something else entirely, all dipped in the vocal magnetism of an early Sarah McLachlan.

Rachael Cantu: Run All NightWe recently caught one of Rachael’s most powerful songs, Devil’s Thunder, on an episode of ABC’s Private Practice. The song, unfortunately, is yet to be released — but you can hear it on Rachael’s MySpace or settle for this crappy YouTube version.

Give Rachael’s latest album, Run All Night, a spin for a taste of this up-and-comer.


Animation Spotlight: Big Buck Bunny

Seven months in Amsterdam, a very fat rabbit, and some really, really mean rodents.

In October 2007, the Blender Foundation decided to invite seven of the world’s best 3D animators to Amsterdam, where the team was to spend 7 months collaborating on a short film licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license.

bunny_logoDubbed the Peach Open Movie Project, the effort resulted in Big Buck Bunny — a delightful animation showcasing both world-class talent and the ability to create phenomenal content through collaboration.

So if you’re a believer in this kind of idea propagation, do scroll down to the bottom of this page an make a modest PayPal donation.

Meanwhile, the film is also available to download in a variety of free formats. Or, you can buy the DVD, which includes a number of super sweet extras besides the HD film — the original script and story files, all models and textures used to animate the characters, commentary tracks by the animators themselves, and more.

Here’s to the power of creative collaboration.

via Abduzeedo


Show & Tell: Mapping Obama’s Speech

Obama’s inauguration speech, graphically facilitated in (almost) real time.

Graphic facilitator Brandy Agerbeck has hit another home run with Obama’s inauguration speech, wonderfully illustrated in nearly-real time. And while the experience was a first for Brandy — she normally facilitates messier conversations between multiple people, not succinct monologues — it was a true exercise in illustrating history.

Obama's Inauguration Speech

Graphic facilitation is the art-science of mapping a conversation as it occurs. It comes particularly handy during meetings and brainstorming sessions where ideas are being rapidly thrown around, bouncing off and copulating with each other to produce new, better ones — that’s when the graphic facilitator, madly drawing a huge real-time mural of what is being said, really… well… facilitates.

See more of Brandy’s phenomenal work over at Loosetooth and/or download a PDF of the Obama facilitation.

via Coudal


Famous Designers on Design: 5 Beautiful Book Covers

What the hate of Helvetica has to do with Nine Inch Nails and a three-legged lemon juicer.

It’s often said that the true measure of how famous you are is how many books you’ve published in your area of expertise. Surely enough, when it comes to design, the most iconic designers have bookshelves worth of design wisdom they’ve bestowed upon us mere mortals.

Today, we look at how well they’ve put their money where their mouth is with our selection of the five best covers of books by the world’s most famous designers.


For a designer whose career was shaped by the violent hate of the Helvetica typeface, Paula Scher has done quite well for herself, becoming one of the most iconic magazine and theater graphic designers of our time.

Make It Bigger, a much-detested client refrain for all graphic designers, is a delightful exercise in switching sides: A look at design from the vantage point of the business community it serves. The indisputable stride-stopping power of the cover, as we cringe at its intentionally awkward grotesqueness, makes the book’s point before we’ve even opened it.

(On a bit of an aside, we’re be remiss to talk about Scher without mentioning her phenomenal Maps project — do check it out.)


David Carson is perhaps best known for his groundbreaking magazine design and his passionate affair with typography. In trek: david. carson. recent. werk, Carson does what he does best — he sweeps us up with unexpected typography and hurls us into nearly 500 pages of turbulent impact with graphics that tug at our most polarized gut reactions.


The book also includes Carson’s work for Nine Inch Nails, whose design sensibility we’ve praised before, so we’re tres happy.


Philippe Starck is, in our subjective opinion, the designer who has made the most dramatic, convincing leap between greatness and genius. (In what’s easily our favorite TED talk to date, he shares profound insight about the distinction between the two.)

His self-titled book, Starck, captures every ounce of genius and quirk and revolutionary vision of the eccentric French, revealing over three decades of his groundbreaking work. The cover itself is brilliantly appropriate — personal and odd — as every piece of Starck’s design work is so loudly stamped with the designer’s quirky personality.


From Starck’s infamous three-legged lemon press to the fast food shop in Nimes, Starck also includes architectural projects, furniture, and interior design. Mostly, it fully lives up to the promise of the cover design — to take us on a journey into the liberty of vision, to help us believe again that as designers, we’re bigger than the sum of our work because every piece of creativity we offer to the world is deeply and unmistakably infused with our own unique personas.


Karim Rashid‘s prolific work in interiors, fashion, furniture, lighting, art and music has landed him multiple MoMA gigs and just about every cultural praise there is. But he is perhaps best known for his advocacy of “democratic design” — the idea that even the best of design should be accessible to the masses.

Driven by that conviction, his book Design Yourself is a brave exploration of design’s role as a social actor rather than a mere aesthetic feature.


From socialization to work to sex, Rashid dispenses radical advice on how to handle the self, all framed by the breadth of his user-centric work. Essentially, Design Yourself is a book about optimization — optimizing all areas of life, from the aesthetic to the spiritual, in a way that leaves our physical, emotional and cognitive environment in a better state than we found it in.


Stefan Sagmeister is often considered the most important living designer. His design has helped define some of music’s most iconic personal brands — Lou Reed, David Byrne, Aerosmith, The Rolling Stones.

Things I have learned in my life so far grew from a list in Sagmeister’s diary from his year-long commercial hiatus. The book is a reflection on life, being human, and the meaning of happiness, all communicated through the medium of design at its most powerful.

In Things I have learned in my life so far, the very medium is just as playful and enticing as the message — Sagmeister’s relationship with design doesn’t unfold on the first page, it begins at the book’s cover itself.

Things I have learned in my life so far invites us to come along for a rollercoaster ride of tongue-in-cheek facetiousness and profound human truth, all reflected on through deeply impactful imagery and brilliant typography.

On a final aside, more confirmation for Sagmeister’s brilliance: He is one of the few cultural icons who have spoken at TED not once, but twice — both talks are more than worth the watch.

Update: That’s thrice now — we had the pleasure of seeing his third TED talk at TEDGlobal in July 2009.


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