is a blog about design, technology and culture written by Khoi Vinh, and has been more or less continuously published since December 2000 in New York City. Khoi is currently Principal Designer at Adobe, Design Chair at Wildcard and co-founder of Kidpost. Previously, Khoi was co-founder and CEO of Mixel (acquired by Etsy, Inc.), Design Director of The New York Times Online, and co-founder of the design studio Behavior, LLC. He is the author of “Ordering Disorder: Grid Principles for Web Design,” and was named one of Fast Company’s “fifty most influential designers in America.” Khoi lives in Crown Heights, Brooklyn with his wife and three children. Refer to the advertising and sponsorship page for inquiries.+
The High Price of Transparency
Somehow I got it into my head that a clear DVD case and a sleeve inkjet-printed on transparency film would make for an attractive package for this round’s contribution. That idea came to me one day back in May, and I wouldn’t let it go, even as the costs started adding up.
The DVD cases were reasonably priced, but the shipping was exorbitant. Then I realized that the transparency film would be even more expensive than the cases themselves, but I’d already bought the cases, so I wasn’t about to print sleeves for them on plain old laser paper. When I realized that branding-free CD-Rs were impossible to find at a retail store, I had to special order those. And then of course I had to buy a certain kind of label (luckily, another Squat member was kind enough to tip me off to those) to inkjet-print and affix to those CD-Rs, so as not to spoil the increasingly fussy nature of my design. And on top of all of that, I burned and labeled about thirty copies of my mix with the wrong track order.
How Fun Was That?
It’s not clear to me why I put so much effort and money into this round, but in spite of all the hassles and all of the hoops through which I had to jump, it was a lot of fun. Though this was hardly a traditional print design job, it did entail working with physical objects, at least. In that respect it was engaging, and not at all riddled with the excruciating technicalities of print that I’ve complained about in the past. I think the difference was that producing the final design was my responsibility, and it wasn’t necessary to hand off my production efforts to a printer to see that final product. That makes all the difference in the world.
That said, I’m pretty sure that, after this fourth round, I’m going to opt out of future Squat exchanges. It’s not just that I fear the expense and complications that I might take on for a fifth round (I do). Rather, I think that my musical tastes aren’t particularly in line with the other club members… maybe they never were, but I’ve noticed that, with this round, I’m less enthused by the music I’ve received than ever before.
I don’t mean to dismiss them all out of hand; there’s always something interesting in these CDs, and that’s true this time, too. I just know that I don’t need to hear any more CD compilations that include songs by the Magnetic Fields — or any Stephin Merritt side project — ever again. I actually like the Magnetic Fields (in measured doses) and own a few of their CDs, but I think I’ve more or less come to the end of the line in my relationship with indie music as an exclusive listening library.
Not that the other music I’m listening to is so much more hip, either. You could poke a Swiss-cheese number of holes in the street cred of “The Invisible Girl,” and I know that. But it’s as good a snapshot of what entertains me these days as any: semi-obscure oldies, some IDM, and plenty of over-sexed hip-hop. I’m okay with that.
The Track List
- Miller, Jacob Tenement Yard
- Costello, Elvis Seconds of Pleasure
- Dexy’s Midnight Runners This Is What She’s Like
- LL Cool J That’s a Lie
- Antipop Consortium Place the Face
- The Libertines Tell the King
- Eve Irresistible Chick
- Large Professor w. Busta Rhymes On
- Iglesias, Alberto Cucurrucucu Paloma
- Steward The Man with the Tiny Hands
- Chameleons, The John, I’m Only Dancing
- Sulkowicz, Ted Kid_Newtown
- Mouse on Mars Stereomission
- Sebastian, John Theme from Welcome Back Kotter
- Lil’ Kim The Jump Off
- Mr Projectile Less Math, More Music
- Nilsson, Harry The Beehive State
- Supergrass Eon