French Typography & Signage

Signage is one of my favorite aspects of travel, so much so, that sometimes it feels like it’s all I take pictures of. Upon moving to Paris, I knew to expect a lot from the food, architecture, art, nature, etc, but I completely forgot how wonderful the typography is! The above is a short video by Live the Language highlighting Paris through its typography, I suggest checking out their videos for London, Barcelona and Beijing as well.

PS. French handwriting? Off the hook!

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Hyper Island Videographic

This clever piece by Claudio Salas, Robin Günther, and Madeleine Fia Matsson paints a nice picture. As you may know, I’m part of Hyper Island’s Interactive Art Director program (art director huh?) —  fifty students of varying backgrounds, from twenty countries. We grappled and grew together over the past nine months in Stockholm, where we worked collaboratively on real creative briefs, encouraged by industry experts who came from all over to hold workshops and lectures – the nearest thing we had to teachers. Now, we’re on internships around the world. I’m at Ogilvy Paris working under creative director Simon Mogren, who also went to Hyper Island, and whose Fun Theory campaign you may know. Chesley and I think it’s pretty OK to be in Paris in the springtime.

Alfred Hitchcock

Hitchcock’s droll irony crafts one of the better pitches I’ve seen.

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Himmelriket + LunchLaget

The lounge area, I love that all of the work spaces are clustered off but the overall vibe is open.

My workspace behind the cubbyholes, with a skylight above. There's a courtyard up there, and sometimes children knock on the window and wave. It's cute.

LunchLaget, Moa (right) made spanish tortillas inspired by a recent work trip to Madrid.

My search for a co-working space in Stockholm was short and sweet. Believe it or not, there are way more options then googling in english will find you. Upon moving here, I came across a number of frilanskollectivs, The Hub, Coffice and Kolonien being a few, but none of them had everything I was looking for: a central location, the ability to have my own desk and a sense of community.

Recommendations from Swedish friends (Gustaf and Heidi), kept bringing me back to Himmelriket, or Heaven Below. It’s a subterranean cave-like den in the heart of Södermalm with a mix of photographers, musicians, graphic designers, and fashion people. While my old studio in Brooklyn had huge windows with a truly amazing view, here there are only a few skylights dotted around. At first, I wasn’t sure how I felt about this lack of light, but then I realized, if it’s going to be dark most of time I’m here, it’s probably better for my psyche to not know it. Himmelriket also came with my own desk, and more drawers and shelves than I could ever fill, especially because I came here with only two bags (one of which is dedicated to winter clothing).

The best part of this studio is LunchLaget, or Lunch Team. Every day, one member of the team makes lunch for the other 15 or so of us. Not only is it money-saving, it’s delicious — I leave every lunch thinking “Damn these Swedes can cook!”. And I mean seriously, many pick their own mushrooms and bake their own bread! As I’m just learning to cook, my first few turns were terrifying and somewhat disasterous: pots were ruined, large holes were burnt into rugs, meals were…weird. And yet somehow I’ve actually begun to look forward to my cooking day, thanks in part to my jazzy new recipe pinboard!

Advertising, Immigration, and Swedish Elections

Stockholm was subject last month to a political ad blitz, where more more than seven parties competed for and virtually roadblocked the TunnelBana ad space

Advertisement for the Social Democratic Labour Party of Sweden

"We Can Not Wait," says an ad for Sweden's oldest political party, the mainstream-left Social Democrats. This campaign targets students and recent graduates, calling for an elimination of the employment tax.

Ad for the Moderates

"The Moderates" are Sweden's center-right party. "Only a worker's party can fix jobs" read one ad. I repeat, this is Sweden's center-right party.

Ad for the Green Party

The Green Party's typographic ads focused on social issues like equal rights for gays and more substantial investments in renewable energy. The difference between the US and Swedish green parties is that the Swedish one has 25 seats in parliament.

Sweden’s swift Autumn has come and gone since my last post, so have the Swedish elections. You could say that my excuse for not posting, and Swedish election’s upset, are related.

You’ve probably heard about the Swedish Democrats. They’re conservative nationalists who swept into 20 of 349 Swedish parliamentary seats a few weeks ago. While the name “Swedish Democrats” sounds left, the party is actually far-right — comparible to America’s “Tea Party” — and their platform centers on limiting immigration. Founding members of the party, now regarded for their anti-Muslim rhetoric, publicly brandished Nazi uniforms just twenty years ago.

Most of Sweden was shocked that the SD’s actually got parliamentary seats and a voting influence on policy. Sure, my friends here in Sweden (even the immigrants) acknowledge that immigration poses real and complex choices for Scandinavia, and they’re familiar with their grandparents’ rants. Still they’re still shocked that the bigoted wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing earned parliamentary seats. They’re also thankful, that the other parliamentary parties — the Social Democrats, Center Party, Christian Democrats, etc. — have agreed to lose a few seats to each other, to effectively nullify the Swedish Democrats’ votes. The anti-immigration debate here, like anti-Mexican, anti-Muslim rhetoric in the US, is emerging from the shadows. On the other hand, maybe Sweden won’t have it in the long run. There’s a feeling that apathy and complacency let this happen, and now daily protests against the party signal vociferous opposition in next election.

I suppose I should tell you then about my little immigration drama, even if by now it bores Chesley and me and some people around us to tears. Of course, we’re not victims of ethnic or religious bigotry (even the American embassy mistook me for Swedish.) We’re victims of terribly bureaucratic, inflexible immigration policy. Immigration policy that Swedish Democrats, like those lost souls who patrol the US-Mexico border, would like to see become more stringent, and less flexible.

Last May, Chesley and I applied to Sweden, in accordance with the Migration Board’s laundry list of requirements. At first we were told we were approved, and then told we were denied, because I hadn’t proved payment of my school tuition — never mind that I hadn’t even been invoiced yet from my school, or that it’s not a written Migration Board requirement. We came anyway on tourist visas because I had to start school. From Sweden we submitted an appeal to our rejection which was arbitrated by the Swedish Court. They sent the case back to the Migration Board, saying that the Migration Board should have kicked us out of the country because we came to Sweden with an open visa application. Lots of paperwork ensued. Lots of pleading. Lots of me saying, “what can I do to be allowed to spend my money here for a few more months?” I’ll spare you the boring details, but two days ago when Chesley and I squeezed onto a RyanAir jet for London, we didn’t know if we would be coming back. Finally, yesterday, after corresponding with one of the first human beings we’ve encountered at the Migration Board, Chesley and I were granted our visas.

I’ll say this: I love London. We’re eating really well. I also love Stockholm, not for this experience, but for everything else. We’ll be 100% legal and returning next week. Sometime soon I’ll tell you about this educational utopia called Hyper Island.

English phrases overheard in the middle of Swedish conversations

(A running list)

Junior size
Airbrush tanning
Civil rights defenders
Hands-on
You win some you lose some
Happy days
Super simple
Off you go
Quick and dirty
Highly appreciated
And we have a winner
Like when I’m really drunk
Sounds like Aerosmith, no, in the style of Aerosmith
The best things in life are free
Cute as cute can be
You have a boyfriend, what the hell!
An “It Girl”
Yo Bitch!
Thank you for always saving my ass
Dance like no one is watching
Can of worms
Bo-ring
Size matters
ah, business and pleasure
cat fight

How to Open a Milk Carton in Sweden

How To Open Milk in Sweden

A few weeks ago I was in the kitchen sawing through a milk carton with a knife, which was actually my go-to method for opening them. The Swedish milk carton has beguiled us for months now, it’s looks simple and it tells you where to tear, but it’s doesn’t tell say that you need to first squeeze the carton in a certain is-this-milk-going-to-explode-if-I-do-this kind of way. The cartons are small, so we go through them quickly, which has afforded me many an opportunity to ponder ideas like If Swedes are known for considered functional design, how can this be a Swedish product? Is it possible that this package design predates that school of thought? The cartons are also slippery, so when a particularly big splash of milk hit me after a fairly aggressive saw, I took a moment to stop and officially resign myself to the fact that I might never know how to correctly open one of these cartons, and should instead start asking myself how I might learn to saw it open more gracefully the next time.

It was only recently, at a Swedish friend’s apartment, that I finally learned how these cartons are best opened. The solution feels neither elegant nor “Swedish” in my  2-month-old view of what “Swedishness” is, but it is certainly better than “the saw”, and it’s with some shame that I admit it was unlikely I was going to put it together on my own. So, in the spirit of everyone who has ever contributed to a forum, written a blog post, or answered a Yahoo answer about how to deal with the little things as an American in a Sweden (there are many and I reference them quite often), I submit my own minor contribution, a guide to opening the Swedish milk carton.

First Look Stockholm

I'm on a dock

Chesley at the beach

There is law in Sweden called Allemansrätten, which essentially guarantees your right to hike, swim, bike, or - wait for it - pitch a tent, almost anywhere public and private. Somehow this law, which harkens back to a less populated Sweden, still works. Stockholm's water is clean everywhere. So people swim, everywhere.

Nate on dock

Find a dock, join the crowd and jump in. We've been making use of the good weather while we have it.

Stockholm beach house

Small beach houses on Söder were once awarded to working families who couldn't afford their own pied-â-terre

Stockholm public pool

When you're hankering for a little more structure, you can also swim at the public pools. Eriksdalsbadet was built in 1962 for the European Aquatics Championships. Wish I had been there.

Airstream cafe

Swedish kitsch defined

Cafe lunch

Summer in Stockholm: is this Noon, or 21:00? We find the daytime-all-the-time thing very bewildering, but pleasant too.

Nate with Dagens Lunch

Dagens lunch, or the lunch special, is how you can score "cheap" meals for about $15

Strömming on the street

Food is expensive in Stockholm, but you can get fresh Strömming (herring) from a stand in Söder for about $6

T-Bana

Chesley, in the T-Bana/Bat Cave. (A rare appearance, since we get around by bike almost exclusively.) The city's transportation systems are encouraging.

Gamla Stan

Gamla stan isn't just for tourists, people continue to live and work in the old city center. Tucked into the narrow cobblestone streets are residences, shoe repair shops, and some of the city's best restaurants.

Chesley on her City Bike

Before we bought our own bikes, we got City Bike cards at $40 for the whole season. You pick up a bike from a station (there are hundreds around the city,) and drop off where it's convenient.

biking

Djurgärdsbron (the King's old hunting grounds) is a massive park replete with museums, victorian manors, community gardens, outdoor cafes, and an amusement park. About fifteen minutes' walk from city center.

Hammerby

Hammarby Sjöstad is a planned neighborhood, restored from an old industrial marina. Algae projects, light rail, and a public library meet condo Williamsburg and High Line design aesthetics. A bit cold maybe, but a - "cool" idea!

Stockholm bridge

Sometimes referred to as the Venice of the North, Stockholm is a series of islands bridging Lake Mälaren to the Baltic Sea

Trādgården

Back in Söder, Trädgården cafe/bar/club feels close to Brooklyn

beer!

If food is expensive, great beer can be had for $4 or $5

Nyfiken Gul

Nyfiken Gul, or Neverland? You Decide.

“Travel Like a Human”

airbnb la

Los Angeles loft for $75/night

If you don’t yet know about airbnb, and like to travel, then welcome to something really marvelous! Called “Ebay for space” by Time Magazine, airbnb is a service that allows you to rent out your extra space (a couch, a room, your whole place, etc) for short or long periods of time. Or you can forgo hosting, sign up as a traveler and stay at these places, which are usually nicer, cheaper and way more interesting than a hotel room.

N and I have done both the hosting and traveling, and can’t recommend this service enough – in fact Heidi is hosting us right now in Stockholm, and it’s wonderful to stay with someone who knows the city.

I could go on and on about airbnb, but I think their (really great) website speaks for itself. I’ll just leave you with this, if you’re in San Francisco, Ivan and Wendy’s is amazing!

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Farewell to Our Favorite Places In New York

We’ll miss New York dearly: the Brooklyn neighborhoods of DUMBO, Fort Greene, Prospect Heights, and Cobble Hill/Caroll Gardens; Prospect Park, the Brooklyn Bridge and Pier 1 on the waterfront; Washington Heights and Fort Tryon and downtown Manhattan; Astoria, Queens; the beaches at Breezy Point… the list goes on. Here are some of our favorite places, the ones that aren’t obvious hits like MoMA. It will be interesting to see what still resonates when we’re back.

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