Welcome to the social design: loose lessons from the stylized representation of the social in cinema and print. A blog very often about the interior design, fashion, social manners, and music created for and reflected in vintage cinema and print. Especially from the Sixties and Seventies, especially Italian, and especially from swingin' party scenes. We're awfully big on disco hippies and the OpArt accent here. Guaranteed, of course, to wander off on the occasional tangent into (maybe?) related subject matter, with plenty of tongue-in-cheek commentary for your consideration along the way. Comments are welcome, so please consider yourself invited...

Saturday, January 28, 2012


Commissioned by de Service Garage

So one of the things I love most about the age in which we live is the rapid pace and expansive breadth of discovery that the Internet allows.  It truly is a world-wide web, and it succeeds in widening my own web of consciousness daily.  Today, for instance, I post in praise of a recent "discovery" (and I think for reasons fairly obvious to any regular social design reader): the Dutch graphic artist Michiel Schuurman, whose very groovy, eye-popping posters can often be found ornamenting the Amsterdam cityscape.   

It's no secret we're keen on the graphic zip of an Op-Art accent around here.  In fact, it was my very first post a year ago - one that celebrated the Italian Giallo starlet Rosalba Neri in a particularly arresting black & white number in the film Amuck -  that advised to "USE GRAPHIC OP-ART PRINTS TO ENLIVEN AND CONTEMPORIZE AN INTERIOR, EVEN IF YOU HAVE TO WEAR THEM YOURSELF..."  Well, really, it was good advice then - and by then I mean last year and the Early Seventies - and it's still good advice now. 

Schuurman's work calls into play all the classic, retina-tickling Op-Art tropes - but he very successfully integrates them into compositions that are in result electrifyingly contemporary and, in my esteem, without any particularly detractive sense of the derivative.  Says the artist's website: Schuurman’s personal work specializes in typography and poster design which often boasts a rather maximalistic approach. His practice of combining bright colors, warped glyphs, harsh perspectives, and acidic patterns creates some awfully intriguing eye-candy, which he often screen prints himself. 

Well, needless to say, I think his posters are terrific.  Actually I'd very much like to enliven my own interior space with one - and really, I am very seldomly a framed poster kind of guy, so I hope that the extent of my endorsement of Schuurman's work is fully realized.  But enough of me.  A look at more of the artist's very stylish, very switched-on work...



CURRICULUM VITAE - Written portraits - Louis Behre, 2011
Commissioned by the  De Centrale Bibliotek Den Haag

Commissioned by Jan van der Ploeg. 
This one was very appealingly hung in multiples, creating a continuous color-stripe effect.

Commissioned by de Service Garage, an Amsterdam gallery space


We Need a Whole Lot of Flowers, 2010
Commissioned by de Service Garage

Commissioned for Graphic Design Festival Breda

Some of these editions are still available for purchase.  Michiel Schuurman's website is at www.michielschuurman.com

Thursday, January 12, 2012




Perhaps you've noticed that I sometimes tag posts for a category called "please stop dancing like that".  Videos that feature silly or strange or oddly groovy dancing receive the distinction -  but of course the title is really quite ironic since mostly I just want to see more dancing like that!  Maybe it's time for a change to "oh god, please keep dancing like that"?  Well either way, I'm pleased to say today that I have a fine new addition to the club, and is it groovy!

My friend Eddie shared this video not too long ago - after hearing the music on the radio and then spending considerable time first trying to figure out exactly how it all might be spelled and then where it might be found.  The beautiful, more-than-asked-for reward for such tenacious dedication to the absurd is this YouTube video : "Solla Solla Enna Perumai".  I haven't the faintest idea what that means or what it's about, but I do know it's a hoot-and-a-half to watch.  Not only do you get a groovy soundtrack and kooky floor show, but then everything breaks out into slapstick hilarity!

You'll notice there's a little English thrown into the script - mostly ornamental - but the predominant tongue is Tamil.  Apparently akin to the Hindi-based Bollywood film industry, there is also in India a Tamil-based Kollywood, based out of Kodambakkam in the southern state of Tamil Nadu.  The kooky, gold-booted star of the show is Kamal Hassan - who's big business in his native Tamil Nadu - and from what I can detect the film is called "Ellaam Inbayam".  IMDB says it was filmed in 1981, which almost blows my mind as much as that soundtrack since the film is so heavy with the 70s (and even seems to be trailing a bit of 60s) that I would have easily put it six years earlier. Well, there is something to be said for being behind the times...

An animated tonic for your January blahs.  Enjoy!

- a.t.s.

Thursday, January 5, 2012


I think most of us were profoundly influenced by an early experience with a party scene.  With a cinematic vision of what life could be: wild, sophisticated, crowded, chic, merry, trippy, free - whatever you like.  Maybe for you it was Holly Golightly's raucous cocktail party in the film adaptation of Truman Capote's Breakfast at Tiffany's.  Maybe it came later, in the alien-studded cantina scene from Star Wars.  I know a lot of my generation (well, the cool and/or gay ones anyway) are pretty unanimous in citing the Star Wars cantina scene as a thrilling, early idea of life's vibrant, if surreal, potential.  One old pal readily admits to using his action figures to recreate the element during playtime at home.  And I am willing to add that we certainly endeavored and oft-times succeeded in reflecting this early adoration of the socially surreal in the club culture of our times and generation.   Disco 2000 anyone?

So now I like to "collect" vintage party scenes.  True, they are not actual parties - and don't I wish they were. But rather they are stylized representation of the social, and as such are so often constructed with an abundance of terrific clothes, zany music, over-the-top décor, and whatever else the designers called into their orchestration.  It's one of the reasons I originally started The Social Design - as a showplace for these little cinematic beauties.  Of course now I blog on whatever catches my fancy - art and design wise -  but I am always pleased to present a new (old) party scene.  Which brings me to the point of today's post: there's a new addition to the collection and it's a good one, too...

The film is called The Mephisto Waltz and it's from 1971.  (Any regular reader will have already guessed it had to have fallen between 1968 and 1972 by default since it's on here; though in my defense I'll add that we didn't actually see the film until late 2011.)   Plots are usually beside the point in films like these, but just to set the stage for you, Alan Alda and Jacqueline Bisset play a young pianist & boutique-owning wife who unwittingly become entangled with some rich L.A. satanists - with dark, twisty results.  Of course in true Hollywood form these satanists are not just supernaturally powerful but preternaturally chic, as well.  They even conduct their black rites in French, and having myself once worked for a French family for two years, I can honestly say it must be a common language in hell.  So there's authenticity for you.

In this scene, Alda and Bisset attend a masked costume party chez santanistes, and apparently Bisset just isn't keen on seeing Barbara Parkins - of Valley of the Dolls fame - plant a sloppy, wet one on her own father.  Or is he her father?  Well, either way, it's too bad she'd let something like that spoil the party.  But for the rest of us, there's scads of retro style:  I'm talking gowns, costumes, masks - even a gay unicorn at 1:37!  The soundtrack, for not being the usual period-y electric organ, is frankly swingin' just the same.  There's also plenty of drug use and well-dressed hedonism, and if there's anything we really love at The Social Design, it's well-dressed hedonism...

If you're interested in seeing the film in full - and I'll add that the pre-M.A.S.H. Alan Alda is frankly kinda lovable and sometimes shirtless in it - the last I checked it was still viewable in its entirety (though serialized) on YouTube.  I also posted a clip there from a boutique scene in the film where Barbara Parkins walks in wearing this black and white coat that'll warm you up for sure.  Look for Seventies Chic Boutique, from "Mephisto Waltz" (1971)...

Enjoy! xoxo

- a.t.s.