Ben Was Here


Deliciousness #5 – Dr. Seuss

We all know the books of Dr. Seuss: The Cat in the Hat, Horton Hears a Who, Green Eggs and Ham, The Foot Book. But what many people may not know is that Dr. Seuss (aka Theodor Geisel) illustrated advertisements before his books became popular. The Mandeville Special Collections Library at the University of San Diego houses the Dr. Seuss Collection, which includes Seuss’ advertising artwork and political cartoons, as well as other materials related to his work.

The illustrative style used in the ads and cartoons is instantly recognizable as Dr. Seuss, albeit in a much different context than most would be used to. Much of the work during his advertising career was done for Flit, an insecticide, and Standard Oil, but Seuss also did ads for NBC, General Electric and Ford.


Filed under: Deliciousness

On Technology and the Loss of Tactile Sensation – Music

The tactile experiences associated with music are the ones I miss the most, and therefore the reason I go back to old technology the most. Opening iTunes and pressing play is just not the same as pulling a vinyl record from it’s sleeve, placing it on the turntable and dropping the stylus onto the spinning platter – or removing a cassette from its case, checking the tape to see where it was stopped last and popping it into the tape deck – or, even, putting a compact disc into a discman or the top of a boombox.

Seeing a one inch square image of an album cover on my screen is certainly not equal to seeing the contents of the windows change on Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti as you pull the inner sleeve out or opening and closing the working zipper on the Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers. Of course, much of this interaction was already removed from the music experience with the advent of cassette tapes and CDs. But the act of opening the jewel case and paging through the inserts still provided some level of interaction. CDs also offered more opportunity for creative album artwork, such as Tool’s 10,000 Days with its stereoscopic lenses through which the artwork could be viewed, or Pink Floyd’s Pulse, which featured (in its first runs) a blinking, red led light.

Purchasing music has also changed with new technology. While shopping through iTunes definitely has its upsides (everything is always available), it lacks the experience of flipping through LPs or CDs in a real store. There is less likelihood of stumbling across something unexpected, such as a rare bootleg or first printing of special artwork. However, iTunes does add the feature of offering up recommendations based on the artist or album you are looking at (this used to be the job of the employees at record stores).

All of these sensations related to the purchase and playing of music have led to somewhat of a resurgence of LPs. Although not near the levels of yesteryear, there are people, stores and record labels that still cling to the idea of physical albums. A sign that LPs are making a bit of a comeback is evident in Best Buy’s decision to carry vinyl.

Filed under: social commentary,

On Technology and the Loss of Tactile Sensation

As a member of the tail-end of “Generation X,” I have lived through most of the advancements in the technology of media and communication. I have dialed rotary phones, listened to music on record and eight-track players, played games on the Commodore 64 and Atari, developed photographs in a darkroom, read magazines and newspapers, written letters by hand and walked up to the television to change channels. I have been a witness to all advancements in these technologies since.

Recently I have had reason to pause and think about the tactile sensations that we have lost due to the advancement of technology. The eminent death of traditional newspapers, the Kindle’s revolution of book publishing and reading, a mother/writer’s suggestion to stop teaching handwriting and the exponential advancements in phone technology have all led to this series of writings.

I am by no means against the advancement of technology. I get most of my news on the internet, I own a cell phone, I use email, blogs, facebook and twitter, I have all my music loaded into iTunes and I design websites for a living. But part of me misses the experiences granted by older technology. Of course, these new technologies also grant new experiences and conveniences.

Future posts will be linked to here: Music.

Filed under: social commentary

Deliciousness #4 – Coolville Supermarket

Another Deliciousness post about a flickr set, this time Coolville Supermarket, an uber-nostalgic set from Neato Coolville. This set consists mainly of product packaging from the 50’s throught the 80’s, and some photography (both vintage and recent) of supermarkets.

There are too many images to comment on all, but highlights include the Kool-Aid packets (featuring Fred Flintstone and Bugs Bunny), Hostess Fruit Pie packaging, and the variety of cereal boxes (which remind me of the retro cereal boxes at Target). Also be sure to scroll down to the comments for witty remarks and links to similar flickr sets.

When you’ve finished checking out the goods at the Coolville Supermarket, be sure to visit some other sights provided by Neato Coolville, an seemingly unending parade of nostalgic imagery.

Filed under: Deliciousness, design, , ,

Deliciousness #3 – Variations of the Letter M

Public transportation has a large presence in every major city in the world. Even those that don’t use it regularly, are aware of it and reminded of it often, by signage, advertising and the sight of trains and buses everywhere. Many public transoprt systems share one thing in common (besides moving people from one place to another): the letter M (for Metro). has collected many of the logos for metro systems from around the world, and put them all together in a great sea of M’s (and to a lesser extent T’s and S’s). The site also features the logos listed with their associated city or metro area, as well as groupings based on similarities. An overwhelming trend in metro logo design is simplicity. This arises, of course, from the need to quickly recognize the icon while navigating busy downtown and commercial areas. Another commonality in the designs is arrows pointing down, a result of the most important function of the signage – marking bus or train stops – and an inherent feature of the letter M.

Besides the list of metro logos the site has examples of font usage, architecture, and many other features associated with metro transit systems.

Filed under: Deliciousness, design,


I was going to do a Deliciousness post about the online home of Alvin Lustig, one of my favorite designers from the mid-century era, only to find that is apparently no longer functional. A visit to the URL redirects to a GoDaddy page stating that the domain is parked. A quick Google search delivers few alternatives to see his work, none of which contain more than a fraction of his portfolio. I can only hope that the site is merely changing hosting, redesigning, or experiencing technical difficulties.

Some of the site is accessible through the Internet Archive, albeit sans full-size images. The best remaining source for Lustig’s work seems to be the AIGA page for him, but this features only a handful of pieces (click on the numbers beneath the photo). A Flickr search returns 168 pieces, but few of them are his actual work (many seem to be photos of a re-creation process).

It would be a great disservice to all designers – professionals or students (especially students) – as well as art lovers everywhere if this website were gone for good. If anyone has more info on the status of or additional sources of his work please let me know.

Filed under: Deliciousness, design, ,

Deliciousness #2 – Blue Note Jazz Albums

A great passion of mine (and what led me into design) is the art of the album cover. In my opinion many of the greatest album covers come from the collections of Blue Note Jazz. A large number (over 1000) of these covers have been collected on Pixagogo.

Home to jazz greats like Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderly and Thelonious Monk, Blue Note has been releasing phenomonal jazz albums for seventy years. While constantly setting the bar for music, the albums also became canvases for some of the greatest artwork associated with music. Combining great photography with even better typography, the covers have become just as iconic as the artists and music they represent.

Cannonball Adderly’s Somethin’ Else is a great example of how powerful typography can be in and of itself. The river created by the names of the supporting artists breaks up the block of justified type just enough to add visual interest, but not distract from the hierarchy of the design.

A recurring theme in Blue Note covers is the marriage of monochromatic photography and strong typography, as shown in this Sonny Rollins cover. Another common style is typography set to fit into the photography, as in Joe Henderson’s Page One and the Ornette Coleman Trio’s Golden Circle.

I urge anyone interested in design, jazz or album covers to take some time to flip through this amazing set of images.

Filed under: Deliciousness, design, ,

Deliciousness #1 – Vintage Cassette Inserts

I’ve been meaning to post about my Delicious bookmarks for a while now, and here is the first installment. I have an ever-growing collection of bookmarks, and I thought I’d share some here.

Up first is a Flickr collection of vintage cassette tape inserts posted by Jubru. I first came across this wonderful set via Grain Edit. These are not inserts from pre-recorded albums, but rather the packaging for blank tapes used for mix tapes and computer data, among other things.

Seeing this collection brought me back to my youth, when making mix tapes was a favorite pasttime of mine. Even after CDs arrived, I still had a tape deck in my car, thus mix tapes were of vital importance. It also reminds me of my older siblings recording songs off the radio, using a second tape recorder to capture the music, waiting with a finger on the pause button for a song to come on, the whole time hoping they would get it started soon enough to catch the entire song. Though not shown in this collection, I’m quite sure all these inserts feature space for notes on the inside for listing the contents of the tape (which I often used for a catchy title for my mix, as well as hand-drawn graphics to match the mood of the mix).

Besides the nostalgia, I also love the designs. Being of a minimalist nature myself, the simple graphics strike a chord with me. The slight changes in color schemes for different capacity and quality make for easy reference when shopping for blanks to replenish the supplies at home. Some of my favorites are the Bonsonic, Phillips,  and EMI inserts.

Stay tuned for more Deliciousness.

Filed under: Deliciousness, design, ,

YouTube Remix Goodness

One trillion YouTube remixes/mash-ups have been made, but there are finally some that are actually good. I’m not talking about a funny juxtoposition of sound and images. As Joshua Bearman put it, “a step toward art.” I would say not just a step toward art, but full-fledged art. Kutiman, a man of unfathomable patience, has created seven (very good) original songs from pieces of YouTube videos featuring all sorts of musical talent. ThruYou is the result of countless hours of searching YouTube and countless hours of remixing the video to create something new.

What I find most impressive about this project is that the songs he pasted together are excellent pieces of music. Many popular and successful musicians would sell their souls to make music this good. At first glance, I thought it may be video pieced together to fit prerecorded music, but a visit to the ThruYou website reveals links to the original videos used in each song.

If you haven’t seen these videos, take a few minutes to look through the seven tracks and their source videos.(via BoingBoing)

Filed under: Uncategorized, , ,


Visit the new

Filed under: Uncategorized,


Ben's flickr favorites