Typographic Tuesday: grafisches Büro

Dogs as Type by Grafisches büro

This week’s episode of Typographic Tuesday is brought to us by Vienna-based design studio grafisches Büro with their playful exploration of dogs as fonts. Kind of a fun project, this limited edition poster makes you look at your own dogs and wonder where they might fit in the wild and wacky world of typography. But please, whatever you do…please don’t assign your pup to the horrors of Comic Sans! Why, that would just be cruel.

Happy typesetting!

Image courtesy of grafisches Büro.

Dognition & The Genius of Dogs

Dognition Badges

I’m lucky enough to live near some of the best universities in America where interesting studies and programs of all kinds are always going on. There’s one program in particular often featured in the local media that always gets my attention: Duke University’s Canine Cognition Center, which is often looking for people to bring their dogs in for evaluation. Dr. Brian Hare is the director of the program and he has recently published a book titled The Genius of Dogs, so there is now a lot of national and international interest. Personally, I think that if you’re a dog person, once you hear about some of the findings, you’re going to say “Of course, I’ve always known that!” But what I think is really important is that now there’s scientific data to support what dog folks have known all along: dogs are much smarter than most people think. And because of this, maybe people who didn’t give dogs much of a chance before will realize what they’ve been missing out on. Take that, cats!

Dr. Brian Hare

Basically Dr. Hare has found that unlike any other species (besides us), dogs are able to infer meaning from unspoken communication. It’s true: they watch us, observe us and understand gestures…even when we don’t realize it. Dogs that I’ve had over the years have learned to monitor my intonation when I’m on the phone during long conversations (mother), realizing that when it rises that’s a signal that I’m getting ready to (finally) hang up, which means they’ll get my attention back. Another example from my house would be when Chappie connected that when I groan it means I’m picking up a ball to throw for him, so if he hears me groan any other time he goes long. I didn’t actually realize that I was groaning during playtime after a long session in front of a computer. Thanks for pointing that out, Chappie. Sheesh.

Besides the book, Dr. Hare has been working to develop a website and mobile app with the talented McKinney Advertising agency called Dognition that anyone can use (and he’s hoping everyone will because it’ll help his research studies) to help develop your own dog’s personality profile with details on his cognitive strengths and weaknesses. You can check out the dognition site here. And a good newspaper article about it can be found here.

If you’d like to learn more about the Duke Canine Cognition Center, go here. They are offering summer internships (with a stipend!) if you’re interested, but you’d better make it snappy because application submissions close March 15.

Last but not least, I’d just like to say that I think Dr. Hare must be a cool guy, because how many other Harvard PhD’s feature their portraits rolling around in the grass with their dog and describe themselves as “scientist, author, dog guy”? His own personal site is here. If you’d like to listen to a great interview with Dr. Hare, the local National Public Radio station WUNC broadcast is here.

So dogs can even make science better—now I wonder what they can do for algebra.


Typographic Tuesday: Best Friends

Best Friends Animal Society Ad

It’s Typographic Tuesday, and today I’m featuring a message from Best Friends Animal Society. They’ve cleverly packed some good facts into this puppy head about pet overpopulation here in the US, and the importance of spaying and neutering. Not only did they do a great job with this project, they always seem to hit the mark with their communication efforts. Ah, the power of good design.

Architecture for Dogs

Hara Design Institute

Architecture for Dogs is a very cool collection of structures designed by some incredible architects and designers. Not necessarily houses, these projects for dogs examine other variables and dilemmas. Within each project description you’ll read about design considerations that are normally never addressed, such as the goal of equalizing scale so that a small dog can be on par with its people. Or incorporating the use of your clothes so that your dog can feel comforted when you’re not around, aw. Or building with aluminum tubes to help cool down an otherwise too-hot pal. And the best part: the blueprints for all 13 projects are available to download for FREE and you can build any of them yourself! What’s better than that?

Architecture for Dogs

Designer Kenya Hara is the Director of Architecture for Dogs. Among other things, his work includes art direction for the awesome Japanese store Muji (which I always make time to visit at the JetBlue terminal at JFK), and he also designed both the opening and closing ceremonies of the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympic Games. As he explains:

“Architecture for Dogs, invented by architects and designers, is an extremely sincere collection of architecture and a new medium, which make dogs and their people happy. By looking at the diagrams or pictures or watching the videos, people all over the world can make these themselves. Dogs are people’s partners, living right beside them, but they are also animals that humans, through crossbreeding, have created in multitudes of breeds. Reexamining these close partners with fresh eyes may be a chance to reexamine both human beings themselves and the natural environment. As our first project, we present 13 pieces of architecture. Please take the time to carefully examine the details of these elaborately designed ingenious structures, and because it’s free to download the blueprints, if you find one you like, make it yourself for your dog.”

The Architecture for Dogs website is very entertaining, dogs walking through and interacting with the various structures. Each project includes a description by its designer, info on the designer, a difficulty rating and estimate of time to complete, and also a helpful diagram animation of putting it together. Even if you don’t see yourself as the DIY type, it’s worth taking a look at all of the various approaches and thought processes involved. You might even be inspired to dream up something yourself.

Visit Architecture for Dogs here. And turn up the volume!

Typographic Tuesdays

The average dog is a nicer person than the average person.

Welcome to Typographic Tuesday here at Dogs Make Everything Better. I’m hoping to have a new quote each week to mix things up a little bit. The first one here is from Andy Rooney, and I chose it because in the past week I’ve encountered a few very vocal anti-dog people. And besides, I think it’s true. Thanks, Andy Rooney.

Westside Story

Westside German Shepherd Rescue, Los Angeles

UPDATE: Not good news, folks. I checked with Westside German Shepherd Rescue today and discovered that the group did indeed lose their funding and so now they’ve lost this beautiful facility. I’m leaving the post up because it’s still a beautifully designed space, but more importantly because WGSR is an amazing and dedicated group that deserves attention. And even more important than that, this development serves as a reminder just how delicate budgets are for rescue groups. If you’re thinking about donating money this year as holiday gifts, please consider a shelter or rescue organization. :-)

So it turns out there’s something else that makes everything better, and that something else is DESIGN! I’m not only saying this because I am a designer, but also because it’s true. And, in my opinion, one of the areas where design really moves mountains is when it’s applied to projects that are typically mundane and just a little too darn utilitarian. Case in point: the beautiful new design for Westside German Shepherd Rescue in Los Angeles, designed by RA-DA. Instead of a sad, depressing shelter, they’ve created a comfortable and beautiful environment with a Cape Cod flavor for some special guests while they get ready for their new homes. Of course dogs love comfort, but if you’re thinking that dogs don’t care about beautiful environments, think again: if it means a shelter is more inviting to potential new families, I think they’re all for it!

As RA-DA states about the project: “This project reconceptualizes the environment surrounding the adoption of pets. Replacing the concept of adoption is an idea of ‘re-homing’. With this term comes the implication that these animals are well-adjusted and just going from one home to another home. The design responds directly to this and although the site is in an industrial area, the architecture is more residential from the exterior siding to the interior design. Past the front lobby area is a gallery that is designed to resemble an outdoor boardwalk. The kennel rooms line the edges of this boardwalk as a series of separate ‘houses’. A training yard at the end and large doors connect the space to the back of the property, used every day for exercising the dogs and on Saturdays for adoption events.”

Westside German Shepherd Rescue exterior

Westside German Shepherd Rescue exterior

Westside German Shepherd Rescue lobby

Westside German Shepherd Rescue boardwalk

Westside German Shepherd Rescue offices

So big high-fives to RA-DA for designing such a beautiful stopover home for German Shepherds on the move, and also for just using their design power for good!

If you’d like more information on Westside German Shepherd Rescue, click here. There’s also a wonderful video about this rescue organization and its founder Robin here.
For more information on the West Hollywood-based architecture firm RA-DA or to see more of their stunning work (which includes some other animal facility projects–yay!), click here.

All photographs courtesy RA-DA. Photography by Ralf Strathmann.

San Francisco Artist Mark Ulriksen

Jack Russells by Mark Ulriksen

As a graphic designer, you’re pretty much constantly bombarded with self-promotions from illustrators and photographers. And your desk is always buried with 3-inch thick directories of the same (that really only get used for either flattening something that’s being glued down for a presentation or, in the case of one firm where I worked that shall remain nameless, as trivets for hot and steamy pizza boxes on the conference table). So when you come across someone’s work that’s really great AND memorable, it definitely makes an impression and you keep all manner of pizza toppings far away from it.

I remember the first time I saw something by San Francisco-based artist and illustrator Mark Ulriksen (and yes it’s because the subject matter was dogs, you got me there). I had picked up a copy of a newsletter titled The Berkeley Bark at the vet’s office, in Berkeley no less. At that time the newsletter was a black and white folded tabloid, with Mark’s work on the front cover. It wasn’t too many pages in length but it was good and so I would always eagerly await the next issue. It wasn’t long before The Berkeley Bark became the now-famous Bark Magazine and I’ve loved seeing Mark’s work there and other places, like The New Yorker where he’s a regular contributor, ever since. His work is also in the permanent collection of The Smithsonian and the Library of Congress. High fives.

Images of work from San Francisco artist Mark Ulriksen

Now I should probably mention that not all of Mark Ulriksen’s work is about dogs, but I like them (and I’m pretty sure he does, too) so I’ve gone to town here. In addition to his illustration assignments he also does private commission portrait work, so one day I plan to send him an enormous shoebox full of photographs of all my dogs and a giant sack of coffee for the long haul.

If you’d like to check out his site and more of his work, click here. If you’re interested, under “Show-and-Tell” click “Work in Progress” of the dalmatian painting featured above. Gosh, it almost makes you think you can do one yourself. But no.