Master of All He Surveys
Thursday, December 22nd, 2022

David Stairs Early Bell System ad In the 1920s, before such things developed a predatory sheen, the advertising world promoted the theme of the man who was on top of the world. Modern, accomplished, wealthy, this contemporary Babbitt looked out the window of his 40th floor office at the world as it lay at his […]

Hell on Wheels
Thursday, October 20th, 2022

David Stairs I was in Detroit last weekend. Of all the cities in the realm, Detroit has the best claim of “first in freeways.” The first mile of paved road was laid in Detroit in 1909, just in time for the revolution in transport Henry Ford was planning to visit on the nation. This was […]

Annals of Design: A Better Lunch
Wednesday, September 21st, 2022

David Stairs Did you ever have to “brown bag” your lunch? If so, you know about the things that can go wrong, from torn bag to sogged-out paper from a leaky drink container.

Master of Inappropriate Comments
Wednesday, May 25th, 2022

David Stairs Load your Potato Guns boys ’n girls! Yogi Berra once said, “It’s like déjà vu all over again.” Back in the days when Trump was the undisputed Twitter Queen, I never thought we’d be free of his unhinged rantings. It was a surprising relief when he was finally dethroned. But, as in a […]

Annals of Design: Hydrox vs Oreo
Tuesday, March 22nd, 2022

David Stairs There are two treats I remember from childhood, and they were both manufactured by Sunshine Bakers: Cheez-Its, and Hydrox. Cheez-Its are still around in many updated variations, now a Kellogg’s brand. Hydrox dropped from sight for awhile, the result of several changes of ownership, only to reemerge in 2015.

Capitalization of the Body
Friday, January 21st, 2022

David Stairs Quannah Chasinghorse by Nathaniel Goldberg; Emily Ratajkowski from Instagram A recent article in Elle Magazine online by Terese Marie Mailhot (Photographed by Nathaniel Goldberg and Styled By Alex White) introduces us to Quannah Chasinghorse, a nineteen-year-old native American runway model of Hän Gwich’in and Sicangu Oglala Lakota descent. (Corset, $1,295, pants, $2,295, Christopher […]

Annals of Dumb Design: Convenience
Monday, December 20th, 2021

David Stairs The only good use I’ve ever found for disposable diapers, a 1976 poster. (Note the pins I added. Talk about double-entendre!) I know I’m supposed to say that prize-winning financially successful ideas are examples of great design, and I wish it was always true but……. let’s get real. In the commercial world we’ve […]

Land of the Free, Home of the Influenced
Saturday, November 20th, 2021

David Stairs Dick Clark at the Moulin Rouge by David Stairs In a land governed by capital, it comes as no surprise that so much value is attached to celebrity. One of the first great modern personalities, Oscar Wilde, said, “Ambition is the last refuge of the failure.” Thus, it would seem the cult of […]

Summer’s Peeping Toms
Sunday, July 25th, 2021

David Stairs While China installs a nationwide video surveillance system, people in the West fret about the potential damage to their privacy by CTV cameras. But, apart from high profile failures, like Toronto’s “smart city” project, we’ve actually been normalizing surveillance for decades. Just consider reality television.

Designing Mayhem
Saturday, April 24th, 2021

David Stairs Another day, another mass shooting. We’re led to believe by television that Mayhem is a guy in a suit, played by actor Dean Winters, who causes mass upheaval wherever he goes. If only it were that simple. Glock semi-automatic pistol designed by Gaston Glock

Is Fashion Unnatural?
Monday, March 15th, 2021

David Stairs Tom Tierney’s Rita Hayworth paper doll published by Dover As I sit by my Thermopane picture window reflecting on the wintry scene outdoors, I am distracted by the arrival of a mated pair of songbirds. A male cardinal hops onto my bird-feeder while his subtle mate shelters in a nearby bush.

Fluoride for Truth Decay
Thursday, February 11th, 2021

David Stairs Deep fake of the Queen’s Christmas address; courtesy Channel 4 A man walks into a pizza parlor in Washington, D.C. armed with an automatic rifle determined to free children he believes are victims of a peadophilic sex trafficking “deep state.” People interviewed at a Stop the Steal rally in Atlanta tell interviewers a […]

Death’s Trombone
Saturday, January 9th, 2021

David Stairs Steve Zdep is dead, that much is certain. He passed away on November 6th, 2020 from causes not revealed in his obituary. The author in more innocent times

Have Yourself a Merry Little Covid
Wednesday, December 9th, 2020

David Stairs With states reporting record numbers of infections, there is no doubt that this Christmas season will be one many will find hard to forget. The malls and retail centers we so precipitously abandoned way back in March do not have the same attraction of earlier years. Since Covid is THE story of 2020, […]

Don’t Regret November 3rd
Monday, November 2nd, 2020

Maxed Out
Monday, October 26th, 2020

David Stairs Max is over, thank God. And by Max I mean Adobe Max, that brightshiny overripe bells-and-whistles software tradeshow masquerading as an allconsuming excuse to be pretentiously jejeune.

Masks! Of Course!
Friday, July 3rd, 2020

David Stairs America has finally caught mask fever, fifteen years later than Asian people. There are still many who refuse to “suit up” including Covid deniers, those suffering from claustrophobia, and some who claim medical excuses. But the possible reasons for not wearing a mask are narrowing, with major airlines rejecting travelers who renege.

The Tribble With Troubles
Thursday, May 14th, 2020

David Stairs Courtesy Wikipedia America’s got troubles. I don’t mean the song lyric kind, but, you know, serious troubles. And they’re not the soft purring type you might find on a now infamous classic sci-fi show. Those are tribbles, the sort that pundits and wags like to compare to Donald Trump’s hair.

Alternate Coronas
Sunday, April 19th, 2020

David Stairs Are you just about sick and tired of seeing pictures of viruses? Courtesy NIH

A Good Bookstore Deserves a Good Bookmark
Monday, March 2nd, 2020

David Stairs I suppose bookmarks are a personal thing. Some are woven; some are printed; some are just bits of stuff. My son uses a piece of red thread. I won’t say that I collect bookmarks either, but when I am in a bespoke store I will not leave without one. In honor of my […]

Resistance is Futile
Sunday, January 19th, 2020

David Stairs Paramount “We Are the Borg.” With these words, Maurice Hurley, writing for the Star Trek TNG episode Q Who?, unleashed one of television’s most implacable adversaries on the world. But, as with much speculative fiction, Hurley and his co-writers were only mining the literature of science and engineering probability.

The Tyranny of Development
Monday, October 8th, 2018

David Stairs Economic growth is one of those hot-button issues politicians are always promising to support. In fact, almost the surest way to a failed career in politics is to preside over an economic downturn. This land in NE Portland won’t be empty for long

Repurposing Dinosaurs
Tuesday, January 23rd, 2018

David Stairs Ruin porn is everywhere. Photos of Detroit’s semi-preserved Michigan Central Station abound, and photographers continue to document while critics and journalists debate the pros and cons of what Dora Apel in her recent book Beautiful Terrible Ruins: Detroit and the Anxiety of Decline (2015) terms the “deindustrial sublime.”

Designing Death
Sunday, October 29th, 2017

David Stairs I was recently in Prague, which in June 2017 celebrated the 75th anniversary of one of the most heroic and daring commando actions of the Second World War. On June 4, 1942, Reinhard Heydrich, the Protector of Bohemia and Moravia was attacked on his way to work when his Mercedes slowed at a […]

Design IS the Problem
Monday, October 2nd, 2017

David Stairs courtesy The iconic images of Houston under 10 feet of water should have by now burned themselves into your brain. “How did we get to this point?” you ask. With one word: Design.