There’s a scene in the buddy cop movie Rush Hour 2, starring Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker, that takes place in a crowded Las Vegas casino. After some tense action, a small bomb goes off near one of the roulette tables and money flies everywhere. A company named ISS Props had provided the money for that scene (and several others) to the filmmakers. The fake money amounted to nearly a billion dollars in fake bills — and the company was surprised when one day, during the filming, two men from the Secret Service showed up to their office. The Secret Service was there because some of the fake cash had gone missing from the set and had started turning up on the Las Vegas strip. CEO of ISS Props, Gregg Bilson Jr., was now facing a serious charge: counterfeiting. The U.S. has strict penalties for counterfeiting that can be traced back to the 1860s. Around the time of the Civil War, there was a lot of counterfeit money circulating through the country. The federal government needed to assure faith in its currency, so it got serious about cracking down on counterfeit bills. All reproductions of U.S currency became illegal, including […]
Design is everywhere in our lives, perhaps most importantly in the places where we’ve just stopped noticing. 99% Invisible (99 Percent Invisible) is a weekly exploration of the process and power of design and architecture. From award winning producer Roman Mars, KALW in San Francisco, and Radiotopia from PRX.
In 1960, the designer furniture company Herman Miller formed a research division and began examining how offices actually work. Under the direction of inventor Robert Propst, mathematicians, psychologists and anthropologists were consulted and layouts were examined with an eye toward worker behavior and performance. Out of this endeavor came a modular Action Office system. Made to modernize work environments, this system included a key design element that would fundamentally reshape offices: the cubicle. Open Plans Open office layout from the late 1800s As a space-saving strategy, open plans dominated offices up through the middle of the 20th century. Like Henry Ford’s assembly lines, open layouts with rows of desks were seen as an organized and efficient option as office work expanded in the early 1900s. SC Johnson open office design by Frank Lloyd Wright with custom furniture and skylights Frank Lloyd Wright also championed open space designs, first in his residential projects but later also for office environments. Of course, he also designed special furniture and created plenty of space between workstations — things missing from many open offices today. Buero Landschaft (office landscape) layout of the 1950s In the 1950s, German designers began developing what was dubbed an “office […]
The city of Paris recently held its third iteration of a “Day Without Cars,” this time banning vehicles from around 40 square miles of the city. This isn’t their only car reduction experiment — around the city, other tests are taking place and major intersections are being redesigned to prioritize cyclists and pedestrians, in some cases blocking cars entirely. Around the world, other countries are also looking at new ways to reduce or eliminate car traffic in downtown areas, aiming to reduce collision danger as well as air and noise pollution. London famously levies a “congestion charge,” Barcelona is developing car-free “superblocks,” Hamburg has a 20-year plan to eliminate cars downtown and China has talked about building a city free of cars from scratch. But this drive to eliminate cars from urban areas is not new, and places like New York City illustrate the long-standing debate over the role of vehicles in cities. As far back as the 1970s, NYC had car-free champions — people like Gridlock Sam (so nicknamed for coining the term “gridlock”). A traffic department employee, Sam Schwartz was excited to be part of pushing back against the rise of urban automobiles. The city even got as […]
When a new movie comes out most of the plaudits go to the director, the producer and the lead actors, but there are so many other people involved in a film, and a lot of them are designers. There are costume designers and set designers, but also graphic designers working behind the screens on all of the designed objects that shape a film’s aesthetic and help tell its story. Annie Atkins specializes in graphics for filmmaking, including lettering, illustrations and more — she has designed all kinds of graphic props, including “telegrams, vintage cigarette packaging, maps, love letters, books, poems, labeling, passports [and] fake CIA identification cards.” All of the small design decisions she makes contribute to the creation of a cohesive visual world, establishing a film’s period and place. These graphics can also tell subliminal stories of their own, she explains. “For example, if you see a sign in the background of a New York subway scene that says ‘Walk, Don’t Run’ you can bet [that] the characters are actually going to start running.” All of these little details are carefully designed to help move stories forward. Atkins’ first job was on a television show, The Tudors, a Showtime […]
A distinguished visitor arrives on a flight deck, a call is made to “muster the rainbow sideboys,” and a colorful gauntlet of U.S Navy personnel assembles in response — but what do those colors mean? Staffed with hundreds to thousands of crew members, there is a lot to keep track of on aircraft carriers. In response, the United States Navy has evolved a handy visual system for identifying different deck personnel using brightly colored jerseys, float coats and helmets. “What seems like near total chaos is actually a ballet of steel, explosives, gas and flesh,” Tyler Rogoway writes of carrier operations, “orchestrated by the Handler and their team, as well as Primary Flight Operations, both located inside the safety of the carrier’s island super-structure.” Meanwhile, “the deck crew is really the nexus between the carrier’s internal command and control,” receiving orders from above and enacting them in a sophisticated dance on the deck below. Yellow is worn by aircraft handling, catapult and arresting gear officers as well as plane directors responsible for movements on deck. Brown covers air wing plane captains and leading petty officers, the people in charge of preparing aircraft for flight and keeping vehicles maintained between missions. […]