March 2nd, 2011

Designated Design Houston: Nurit Avni has Eyes for Houston

Living in Houston, I find the creative community, to be quite elusive. When writing for The Loop Scoop we’re telling Houston’s story. Houston’s design, marketing, and artistic societies and what’s being done within them, is part of that story. That being said, we bring you this month’s Designated Design featuring Nurit Avni and her thoughts on a number of issues pertinent to Houston’s vibrant and diverse aesthetics.

The Loop Scoop: Hello, Nurit! Thank you for agreeing to answer this batch of questions. I’ve got a penchant for run-ons, so I appreciate your patience. Would you tell us what it is that you do here in Houston?

Nurit Avni: I am a freelance graphic and web designer. I also photo blog on the AIGA Houston blog.

TLS: What is your favorite period of art or design history?

NA: I like a lot of different design styles but if I have to choose one period in design as my favorite it would have to be the International Typographic Style. Some favorite designers include Alexander Girard, Charley Harper, Paul Rand, Frank Chimero and Jason Santa Maria.

While not from that design movement, but from an overlapping time period, Colargol is a French/Polish TV series that I think is absolutely amazing.

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TLS: Nurit, you write about the different faces of Houston. Do you find that because of the quirky nature of this city, the diversity of those faces is more scattered than other great metropolitan areas? Is this a negative or positive attribute?

NA: Houston is certainly a very scattered city. I moved here from Boston and I was pretty confused by it at first. You can’t really get anywhere without a car and the few walkable areas are small. Boston, in comparison, is a city that you can get to know completely by foot.

Despite that, there’s a lot of diversity that occurs within small areas of Houston. Neighborhoods like Midtown or Montrose have a lot of interesting things going on in a compact area. You have to know where the quaint, unique areas are.

I think a lot of the quirkiness comes from the lack of zoning laws and I see it as a positive thing. For instance, one of my neighbors raises Llamas in his yard. I doubt that that can happen in a lot of other great metropolitan areas.

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TLS: What’s one project or challenge no matter how unlikely, that you would gladly take on if given the opportunity? There is nothing too outrageous. Perhaps a branch of the local government or the identity of one of Houston’s many museums—similar to what you’ve done to the Boston Children’s Museum.

NA: I’m really impressed with the identities of a lot of the museums here. I don’t think I can improve upon logos like the MFAH (Designed by Vignelli and Associates). I also like the Children Museum of Houston’s logo.

I enjoy going to the library so an overhaul of the identity and website design for the Houston Public Library would be an amazing project. If only to remove the part in the website where it says “optimized for IE6”…

TLS: People outside of Houston don’t know much about the artistic community that thrives here. What might be keeping the city off the radar? How might we change that?

NA: The city is strongly associated with oil and NASA and cowboys. Maybe that doesn’t leave enough room in the public’s consciousness to associate it with something different. It’s not an iconic place like Manhattan where people from all over the world know about specific buildings and streets.

Thanks to the web it’s easy to put lots of information out there about unique things that happen here. Hopefully the perception will change over time.

TLS: What is one image you’ve come across in Houston or the Greater Houston Area, that simply captures what it is to be here?

NA: I live right next to the train track and a colossal amount of power lines. For me, being next to such a huge amount of energy and perpetual buzzing represents what it is to live here.

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TLS: What in Houston inspires you? Architecture? People? Music?

NA: I recently went to the new Citizens for Animal Protection facility. I was at the old facility before, which was in a tiny strip mall. It looked more like a thrift shop than an animal shelter. The new facility is a huge improvement—it’s much bigger and more organized and the interior is covered with detailed, imaginative murals.

I’m inspired by the murals and also by the fact that CAP is 100% funded by private donations. There are a lot of people here who really care about animals.

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TLS: What work formerly or currently being created in Houston humbles you as a designer?

NA: There are too many to list! I meet a lot of talented people through the AIGA. Two people in particular that I know through the AIGA whose work I admire are Monica Yael Garcia and Judith Uzcategui. I love to see work that looks like someone really enjoyed making it.

TLS: What area in Houston do you see as underrated? Why does it deserve more attention?

NA: I don’t even try to pretend that I know this city as expertly as a true Houstonian. I think that the gems I know are not underrated at all. A partial list of said gems: the Houston Arboretum (I’ve been seeing a lot of armadillos there lately, not the roadkill variety), the Menil Collection, Domy Books, the Heights Theater, River Oaks Theater and that crazy waterfall next to the Galleria—Williams Waterwall.

TLS: Where is the best place to create outside of the office?

NA: Right now my “office” is about two feet from my bed. Sometimes I just really need to go somewhere else. I find that I’m least distracted when I go to the library. I also tried working at the Japanese Garden in Hermann Park and that was fun but unproductive.

TLS: How do you or would you as a designer use your skills to better your community?

NA: I try to be the best designer that I can. The community is made up of individuals, so by simply trying to be the best you can, you improve it as a whole.

TLS: What’s one current or past creative trend you just can’t bring yourself to follow?

NA: Buying a Mac.

TLS: What’s your take on the Jack or Jane of all trades, master of none argument?

NA: Logically, I would say it’s best to specialize. That way you become an expert at one thing and develop a reputation among the group that you target. However, I think it’s very tempting to be a master of all trades because of curiosity and ego.

TLS: You’ve brought a ton of good resources to my attention. Just when I think I’ve got a handle on Houston’s vast wealth of compelling experiences, I’m inundated with more. Some things I was not at all aware of, you’ve brought to my attention—the work of Monica Yael Garcia, the Japanese Garden in Hermann Park, Citizens for Animal Protection, and Houston Public Library’s IE6 Website optimization—all of which deserve further exploration. Thank you, Nurit.

NA: Thanks for letting me ramble on your site!

Top Image courtesy of BLANKA. The full image by Josef Müller-Brockman can be found here.

— Richard

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