Writing

A few selections:

On alt-text and describing the web The New York Times feature 2022

An interactive piece on alt text, the image descriptions tucked away in a website’s HTML, which people who are blind or have low vision often rely on when navigating the web. There are billions of images online, and only a small fraction of them are accessible in this way. Together with Ilaria Parogni, we talked to the people who are working to change that.

Link →

On Ruth Wolf-Rehfeldt Desired Landscapes essay 2022

"Holes in the Wall" is an essay for Athens-based Desired Landscapes magazine, on Ruth Wolf-Rehfeldt, the "typewritings" that she mailed all around the world from behind the Berlin wall, and growth. Wolf-Rehfeldt believed in a future better than the bordered one she lived in, which is why she made and mailed her artwork, making the wall “full of holes,” to quote curator Valerie Hortolani.

On design and local food ecologies Mold column 2022

For Mold, I write a column about the ways graphic design can help support local restaurants, establish deeper roots for food sovereignty, and nourish local food ecologies. Each is illustrated by Companion—Platform, designers I admire a lot. Find the published columns here:

On graphic design and local food ecologies
On restaurant design during the pandemic
On making Baltimore’s food web visible
On alternative economies
On tropical futures

On algorithmic apparitions The Broadcast essay 2021

For several years, Aarati Akkapeddi has been collecting hundreds of photos from family members, scanning them, and sorting them—a process combining both automation and manual labor—then training a Generative Adversarial Network (GAN) on them to produce a composite of each person’s digital likeness. Inputting several decades’ worth of photos of their mother, for instance, results in a morphing portrait that bears a striking resemblance to the subject, while still seeming to search for her features. Fuzzy and unfixed, a spectre more familiar than accurate, the composite image looks uncannily close to how memory feels.

Link →

On Soft Protest Digest Mold interview 2021

For Mold’s Urban Ecologies series, I interviewed the Soft Protest Digest, a research collective founded by Nickie Sigurdsson, Robin Bantigny, and Jérémie Rentien Lando. For the past two years, they’ve been developing “environmentally and culturally resilient” dishes that take into account both the environmental footprint of the ingredients and the food’s cultural resonance. With each of their projects, The Soft Protest Digest shows how a sense of place and connection to the local is essential for forming new food traditions, and why forming new food traditions is so necessary in our current climate crisis.

Link →

On Karen Blixen’s flowers Are.na essay 2021

Karen Blixen was a baroness and a Danish author best known for her books Seven Gothic Tales, Out of Africa, and Babette’s Feast. She wrote under the pen name Isak Dinesen, wore ornamental hats and giant fur coats, and was one of the 20th century’s most essential authors, per Margaret Atwood. She was also, apparently, a gardener, as well as a talented, intuitive, somewhat unhinged arranger of flowers.

Link →

On Aarati Akkapeddi’s memory work The New York Times feature 2021

A piece for the "Surfacing" column at the Times on artist Aarati Akkapeddi’s work "I know if I walked in your footsteps, it would become a ritual," a series of machine-generated images of their mom, Sudha Akkapeddi. The images are deeply saturated and slid softly out of focus, more painterly than photographic, with a haziness that hints at the elusiveness of memory. I love this memory work that Aarati is doing with GANs, which they relate to the process of remembering—in each case, it's an approximation.

Link →

On art that dismantles language Eye on Design feature 2021

In 1967, Robert Smithson wrote in a press release for an exhibition of language-based art (which he famously described as consisting of “Language to be Looked at and/or Things to be Read”) at the Dwan Gallery in New York, “Here language is built up, not written.” Art that dismantles language, isolates it from its meaning, and treats it as object has proliferated ever since. In a non-comprehensive survey of artists who work with typography, I explore how with these works we can defamiliarize ourselves with how language is made and used, and lose ourselves in the letters and the expressive possibilities of language and the many ways it can live in the world.

Link →

On Benedetta Crippa Eye on Design interview 2020

Intrigued by the title of the course she teaches at Konstfack University, “Quantum Thinking: Sustainability in and Through Visuality,” I reached out to Benedetta Crippa to talk about a session I was planning around ecology and design for the AIGA Design Conference. I wanted to ask her about a term I’d seen her use for her course: visual sustainability. She explained that it was her way of thinking about how graphic design can be sustainable, not just through its messaging or materiality, but through its form. She started the course because she’d witnessed fellow designers struggling to reconcile a commitment to sustainability with the demands of their chosen profession. But for Crippa, visual design is crucial to sustainable co-existence, not a claim I’d heard many designers make—so I sat down with her for a conversation at the conference. This is a transcription of our talk.

Link →

On Christoph Knoth and Konrad Renner Lerchenfeld interview 2020

For HFBK Hamburg’s Lerchenfeld magazine, an interview with designers Christoph Knoth and Konrad Renner of Knoth & Renner about digital publishing, the handmade web, the unlikely endurance of the PDF, and websites that replicate, then disappear.

PDF ↓

On social networks as small communities Eye on Design feature 2020

On the possibility of individual-run, small-scale social networks, off of Darius Kazemi’s excellent guide “Run Your Own Social.” At a time when large swaths of the internet are owned by corporations, a community of artists and designers are encouraging people to create their own social networks for their friends, run on their own server, free of advertising and data mining. As Danielle Robinson, director of Code for Science & Society, puts it in the piece, “I think there are often projects that assume that everyone is okay with having their data live on an Amazon data center somewhere, and that’s increasingly not the case.”

Link →

On The New Women’s Survival Catalog The New York Times feature 2020

In 1973, Kirsten Grimstad and Susan Rennie quit their jobs, rented a green Plymouth Duster, and drove 12,000 miles across the country to document a nationwide network of feminist alternative culture and resources. They visited feminist bookstores, printers, divorce co-ops, credit unions, dropped in on Rita Mae Brown and Judy Chicago, and in one case, tracked down an agriculture collective in California by asking around for the “women goat farmers with an octagonal barn.” The result is The New Woman’s Survival Catalog, the “feminist Whole Earth Catalog,” which was a bestseller in 1973 that all but disappeared before getting a recent reissue.

Link →

On Anna Della Subin The Creative Independent interview 2019

A talk with writer Anna Della Subin on the virtues of idleness, procrastination as its own form of productivity, and the mythological power of sleep.

Link →

On Prem Krishnamurthy Eye on Design interview 2019

“On the one hand, we often approach art in terms of authorship. But graphic design is inherently a facilitating medium, in how it works relationally and socially. It is collaborative. Almost any piece of graphic design requires multiple agents involved in it. So rather than approaching graphic design in terms of “problem solving” or “functionality,” which are by now pretty outdated frameworks, how might graphic design work as a kind of positive excess?”

I talk to designer, artist, and curator Prem Krishnamurthy about design as a thing that unfolds over time, his admiration for those who "contribute to the ecosystem," and his predilection for word play.

Link →

On restaurant websites (and why we’re all going to miss them) Are.na interview 2019

An interview with Toph Tucker and Jasmine Lee on restaurant websites as the last bastions of personality on the web, the tyranny and possibility of Squarespace, and the unseen labor of restaurant webmasters. Conducted with Laurel Schwulst as the part of a series of interviews hosted in our kitchen. H/t to Leo Shaw for the descriptors.

Link →

On Claire Evans Are.na interview 2018

An interview with journalist and musician Claire Evans on her book Broad Band, how “female mental labor was the original information technology,” why women are often early adopters, and hypertext as narrative form.

Link →

On seeing and being seen Eye on Design Essay 2018

For Eye on Design issue one, themed Invisible, an essay on Alvin Lustig, who designed blind in his last years of life, and Elaine Lustig Cohen, who served as his eyes and hands before becoming a well-known designer in her own right. “I always say that either I would have remained this shy, unproductive person, or I would have grown up and divorced [Alvin] if he hadn’t died. I don’t know, because the person that I became would have never put up with what I was doing. But we’ll never know.”

Link → PDF ↓

On Sheila Levrant de Bretteville Riposte feature 2018

“I’m much more a connector than a resistor. But when push comes to shove, I’m definitely a resistor.” A visit to the circular home of Sheila Levrant de Bretteville to talk about the Woman's Building in L.A., the shortcomings of the second wave, and design pedagogy seeped in activism. For Riposte magazine in London.

PDF ↓

On spelling spelling The Serving Library essay 2018

An essay for The Serving Library’s Translation issue on the 19th century attempt to create a universal language by Alexander Melville Bell and the resulting alphabet of cryptic, otherworldly symbols codifying the articulation of speech sounds. Also includes: the Blue Ridge Mountains, Fran Ross’ Oreo, the placelessness of written speech, and the commendable effort to translate all the various "shades of sound."

From the Google books scan of *Visible Speech: The Science of Universal Alphabetics* by Alexander Melville Bell...

Link → PDF ↓

On grids, graphs, and reigning in the chaos Quartz essay 2017

An essay for Quartz about the origins of graph paper—which sounds kind of boring until you think about how much of the world we order into tiny squares, from pixels to prison cells to the longitudinal and latitudinal coordinates.

Link →

On Rachel Rosenfelt Are.na interview 2017

"When people think the stakes are high, they’re like ‘How could you have the conceit to start a magazine and act like it’s real?’ and I’m like ‘No, but no magazines are real!’"

An interview for the Are.na blog with Rachel Rosenfelt, founder of The New Inquiry, on what it means to run an Internet magazine versus a magazine 'that you put on the Internet.'

Link → PDF ↓

On Mierle Laderman Ukeles Are.na essay 2017

For the Are.na blog, an essay on Mierle Laderman Ukeles, who was an artist-and-resident at New York City’s Department of Sanitation for three decades, on how her work drew a parallel between private domestic work and low-paying public maintenance work. Her Work Ballets, in which excavators, dump trucks, and street sweepers become graceful beings, bowing to commune with the ground, regarding each other curiously, or weaving in-between each other in a choreographed street dance, are some of my favorite pieces of art ever.

Link →

On the representation of women in movies and books The Atlantic feature 2016

For The Atlantic, an article that explores how the representation of women in books and films is effected by the gender makeup of the industries that produce them.

Link →

return