The Monocle Minute

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The week ahead, opportunities and observations
Saturday 31 March 2018

Design

Written in the stars

A new font that celebrates Lithuania’s century of independence has captured the nation’s buoyant climate.

Sometimes how you write something can say as much as what you write, and this is certainly the case with a new font commissioned to mark the centenary of the restoration of Lithuania’s state this year. Vilnius-based firm Folk created Signato based on the cursive lettering used in the 1918 drafting of the Act of Independence of Lithuania (with gaps filled from the personal archives of signatory Jurgis Saulys). But this small studio in the postcard-pretty old town probably didn’t realise the stir that its six-month research project would cause. Embraced by everyone from president Dalia Grybauskaite to Lithuanian publishers at regional book fairs, the font is even in demand with elderly people who have purportedly requested that young relatives install it on their computers. Just as Helvetica leaves clues about attitudes in mid-20th-century Switzerland in which it was created (an ordered society yearning for modernity and clarity), so Signato has captured an upwelling of pride in Lithuania, as well as the buoyancy of its nascent graphic-design industry. It’s clear that the next chapter of Lithuanian nationhood will be written with a knowing nod to the past and in a manner that celebrates the country’s ingenuity and design.

Exhibition

Image is everything

A London exhibition is exploring what works – and what doesn’t – when design and politics meet.

Politics and design seem to be increasingly linked. Recent political history has been marked with intense symbolism and visually engaging campaigns. With this in mind London’s Design Museum has this week launched ‘Hope to Nope: Graphics and Politics 2008-2018’, an exhibition split into three parts – Power, Protest and Personality – highlighting those visual moments when design has met politics over the past decade. While smart design doesn’t always influence the power of the people (Hillary Clinton’s campaign logo was acclaimed by design critics but failed to impress voters) there’s clearly a link here and across the exhibition this idea is unpacked in both positive and negative cases. It’s not all ‘Hope’, like the famous Barack Obama tagline, but those pondering the past can learn a lot from this smartly presented visual summary.

Transport

Image: Getty Images

Saddle up

After three cyclists’ deaths so far in 2018, New York has changed the rules of its roads to give riders a head start on cars.

New York is set to be safer for cyclists – and just in time for spring. The city has launched a pilot programme allowing cyclists to follow new “leading pedestrian” traffic-light system. This system works by simply giving pedestrians the walk signal a few seconds ahead of the traffic light changing, essentially giving them a head start and allowing them to get out of the way of cars intent on turning. Until now cyclists have had to follow the same signals and road rules at cars so allowing them to get their own head start could have a big impact. The pilot could not have come at a better time as this year alone there have been more than 350 recorded cyclist injuries on New York streets, including three deaths.

Sculpture

Image: Getty Images

Raging bull

London’s latest Fourth Plinth sculpture remembers a work of art destroyed by Islamic State – and will raise awareness with millions.

London’s Trafalgar Square has a Fourth Plinth commission worth keeping now that Michael Rakowitz has unveiled his ‘The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist’. The work recreates, celebrates and mourns a sculpture of a lamassu, an Assyrian winged bull with a human head, that was hewn into the rock of the Mesopotamian city of Nineveh in 700 BC. The bull was drilled out by Islamic State in 2015 not just because it is iconographic, you’d say, but because it illustrated a civility, craft and sophistication that made the current band of illiterate terrorists plain jealous. Rakowitz is an Iraqi-American artist who practises Judaism, so the piece and its meaning is not without complexity; although maybe that is best summed up as, “let bygones be bygones”. Twenty million people will see this sculpture. Power to Rakowitz for his stunning work.

From Monocle Films

The secret to putting on perfume

In our ‘Secret to...’ series we look at the best way to wear a fragrance with Frances Shoemack, founder of Abel perfumes.

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