The Ideas Box – A Library for Refugees

Libraries without Borders asked French designer Philippe Starck to create a pop-up library to serve refugees from the Congo.  What he and his team came up is a beautiful, functional set of information treasure chests called the Ideas Box.

Each set is comprised of four boxes – Connect, Learn, Play and Create -which contain among other things: 15 tablets and 4 laptops (internet connected), 50 e-readers and 5000 ebooks, 250 hardcopy books, a cinema modale, 5 HD cameras, board games, videos, craft materials and more. Tents and tables are also included.

Read more about it and check out the video!

Article: How To Draw Critical Design Insights From A Single Photograph: Lessons From Frog

How To Draw Critical Design Insights From A Single Photograph: Lessons From Frog

This is a great little article about research, both data-driven and visual, and the design process –

Designers taking photographs at Frog

Designers at Frog

Color Me Informed!

Our response to color is almost primal.  Color can make us desire something or recoil from it.  Color as symbol is an admixture of culturally rooted meaning and deeply personal experience, and it is always evolving.  Yet color is perceived differently and with varying subtly by each of us.  In fact, it is all in our heads – it’s our brains that give objects color.  For all these reasons and more, using words to talk about color, or to search for it on the web, or to communicate it to another person can be very, very difficult.  Which is ironic fitting, as color itself can communication much more than words can say.

Color by Number


Munsell Color Tree

Over time, various systems have been devised to describe color for the purposes of understanding its power, for pigment mixing, printing, color matching and most recently web design.  Of the systems still in use today, like MunsellPantone, CMYK, RGB, and Hexadecimal, many can be used to search for color online, too.  The following online tools use color systems for discovery and creation.


Find images by color or palette

TinEye Labs – Multicolr Search Engine
Allows users to click colors on a palette and uses the hexadecimal system to retrieve Creative Commons images from Flickr.  Provides users with the hexadecimal number of the colors they have chosen.
Copper Hewitt Museum – Our collection by color
Like the TinEye search, users can click on colors from a square palette and the search uses the hexadecimal system to retrieve matches (or near matches) from the museums extensive collection of textiles, posters, and other design & decorative arts items.
hm74g4[1]Hermitage Museum – Search by Color and Color Layout
The former palace of the Russian Czars, The Hermitage is one of the world’s grandest and greatest art museums.  Teaming with IBM you can now search their collection by color and multi-color layout. кру́то!

Create and find palettes from a color or from an image


Color Hunter
Color Hunter is a website where you can find and make color palettes created from images.To find color palettes on Color Hunter, enter a search term in the box at the top of the page. You can search by tag or hex color code or image URL. If you have an image or image url, you can upload it and get a color palette based on the colors in the image.
The makers of the ColorMunki spectrometer have created an online color palette creation tool, which give users access to both the Munsell and Pantone systems.  You can also brown photo generated palettes and user generated, and when you click on the color chip it will find a match in Munsell or Pantone!
COLOURlovers is a social network, as well as a place to find tools for create and sharie color palettes, seamless patterns, and palettes from from photo graphs.  Registration is required for access to some of the tools


Color ‘n Books (including coloring books)


If you want to find books about a specific color or about color in general, chances are that you would like a expert overview about the history, symbolism, or use of color in a certain fields,  Here are some hints for searching our catalog (or any library catalog) with some precision.

  • Add one or two defining terms to your keyword search.  Some good ones for our collection at FIT include:  art, design, fashion, theory, psychology, symbolism, consumer behavior, marketing 
  • If you are still getting a lot of false hits, try searching for your words in the Subject Headingof the catalog, instead of searching everything.  This will go a long way to eliminate off-topic books, like Green is the New Black or Famous for Fifteen Minutes by Ultra Violet, which have little or nothing to do with color.colourhunting
  • Think of alternate terms that relate to color.  Books about Pigment or Dyes might not have the word color in the title or subject, but might still be very relevant.  Books about Trend Forecasting definitely will have great information about color trend cycles.
  • And, yes, we do have coloring books . . . and we also have scanners and photocopy machines.  Just sayin’


Marion Fasel – Jewelry Author, Expert, Journalist and Friend

Rescheduled for March 14th at 3:00 PM in the Katie Murphy Amphitheatre.

On February 28th at 3:00 PM, FIT students and faculty are invited to a Love Your Library 2014 interview with Marion Fasel, jewelry author, expert and journalist. As the person interviewing her, I have to admit that I’m more than a little nervous. Not only is Marion Fasel incredibly accomplished, she’s also an old friend. Somehow this makes the task all the more daunting.

I’ve known Marion since childhood.  Our families attended the same church.  We went to the same high school.  We even briefly shared a BFF, believe it or not. But It was in New York City, after about five years of my moving here that our current friendship really began.  I was working at  St. Martin’s Press in Flatiron building and was visiting a friend for lunch, who worked close by at the soon-to-be-gone Bettman Photo Archives (but that’s another story).  Afraid of being late for a meeting, I was scurrying out of the Bettman offices when whom should I run into but Marion, whom I hadn’t seen since my first days in the city.  She was there to do image research, as it turned out. She and her writing partner, Penny Proddow, were putting the finishing touches on a book, Diamonds: A Century of Spectacular Jewels, which would be published the next yeardiamonds.  I remember being so impressed.  Working in the publishing, rather than the writing end of things, I knew how hard it was to get a book contract. And this was to be Marion’s second.  We were both in hurry, so we quickly exchanged phone numbers and promised to get together. And we did.  And we still do.

Over the years, through all manner of ups and downs, Marion has been a good and constant friend. In fact, when I think about Marion, the first thing I think of is what truly decent and delightfully genuine person she is. I don’t think automatically think about the accomplishments. Could it be that this is why I feel a little less than ready to interview her about her career?   In preparation for the Love Your Library event, I have been researching my friend as a writer, journalist and fine jewelry expert. It has been quite interesting to learn about things that she has done, which she justifiably could have bragged about, but which she has never divulged or volunteered in our conversations.  I was not surprised, however, to see one blog describe her as the “kindest most joyful jewelry journalist.”  Kindness?  Joy?  In the fashion industry?  In the magazine business?  You bet.  Perhaps, that’s the secret to her success.

The interview will cover how she started in the industry, what inspires and motivates her as a writer, her views on contemporary jewelers and jewelry trends, the future of fashion journalism, and time permitting, questions from the audience.   I hope to learn a lot.  Please come, because I think you will learn a lot, too.


Marion Fasel has been the Contributing Editor of Fine Jewelry and Watches at InStyle for over fifteen years. She has also authored or co-authored seven books about twentieth century jewelry design history. For a list of books in the FIT Library’s collection authored by Marion Fasel, click here.

How do I look . . . when it’s not in Vogue?

Locating specific articles and images from pre-1970’s fashion and “women’s interest” periodicals can be difficult.  Many of these magazines were given late or spotty coverage by the big publishing companies that provided periodical indexes to libraries (precursors to library databases).  For instance, it wasn’t until the mid-1950’s that the Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature  began selective coverage of some women’s magazines: Vogue, Ladies Home Journal, McCall’s and the like. The coverage was far from comprehensive and not especially good for image research. Harper’s Bazaar didn’t get picked up until the early 1970’s and Women’s Wear Daily, was largely ignored by all indexers until the late 1970’s.  As a result, if you wanted to find something specific  – like an early Irving Penn photo in its original editorial context or a society article about the Marchesa Cassati -you either had to browse through issue after issue, or hope to find a reference in a secondary source such as a book.

That’s why the 2011 launch of the Vogue Archive online — with its full-text, full-image coverage of every page of Vogue from 1892 to the present — revolutionized the way the research is conducted the area of fashion history (and popular culture, photography, illustration, communication design, etc).

But what about all the other influential magazines from across the decades and around the world? Well, FIT Library’s subscription to General OneFile will let  you to search for articles (text only) from many fashion and women’s interest magazines back into the 1980s or 90s, but if you need anything earlier little has changed.

So if you’re looking for Women’s Wear Daily articles about Nan Kempner lunching with Chessy Rayner, or if you’re hoping to find Warhol’s fashion illustrations as they originally appeared in Harper’s Bazaar, you might find yourself asking, “How do I look when it’s not in Vogue?”

Three Tips for “Looking Good”

1 . Do some informed browsing

The Educated Guess. Whether you’re looking for images, advertisements or textual information, remember that certain topics are going to get better coverage during certain times of the year or (in the case of newspapers) during certain days of the week.  Just knowing a little something about a magazine’s intended audience and what might interest them seasonally can be a good place to get started.  For example:  If you’re looking for swimwear images from a particular decade in a magazine intended for a general female audience, you might ask to see the June or July issues.  However, if the magazine is aimed toward individuals the fashion industry, you will likely find previews of summer swimwear in spring issues.

The Editorial Calendar. Along with making your best guess, you should be aware the most magazines and newspapers have “editorial calendars”.   For magazines these calendars might vary slightly or broadly from year to year depending. But for many daily newspapers the weekly calendar is adhered to strictly decade after decade.

For example the Women’s Wear Daily  weekly editorial calendar has been roughly as follows for years, if not decades:

Monday – Accessories
Tuesday –  Textiles
Thursday – Menswear (since the folding of the Daily News Record in Nov. 2008)
Friday – Beauty

Therefore, when a researcher came to the reference desk recently looking for information on a lesser-known handbag designer from the late 60s and early 70s who specialized in canvas totes, she was told to browse the spring 1969 to 1971 Monday issues for previews of summer accessories.

Finding current editorial calendar for magazines is pretty easy and can give you insights into what past calendars may have been like. Simply search the web with the name of the magazine and the words “editorial calendar.”  If that doesn’t work, look for

the magazine’s media kit.   Here are examples of how widely editorial calendars can vary based on the intended audience.

Harper’s Bazaar
Town & Country

For a complete list of our periodical holdings in print, visit this page.

2. Use the New York Public Library’s databases.

You may want to get yourself a New York Public Library card to search for content earlier than 1980 or for content from foreign publications. The two databases below, both accessible from, should be used in conjunction with our print magazine holdings, as they will not necessarily provide you with page images or .pdf files of the articles they retrieve.

Reader’s Guide Retrospective (New York Public Library card/barcode required)

The FIT Library owns the Readers Guide to Periodical Literature in print format, but the New York Public Library provides online access to the Readers Guide Retrospective database which is much more comprehensive in its coverage than its print counterpart (click to see title list and date coverage). and includes Harper’s Bazaar from 1899-1982 & Mademoiselle from 1953-1982.

Design and Applied Arts Index (New York Public Library card/barcode required)

We used to subscribe to Design and Applied Arts Index until quite recently, but budget matters forced us to drop it.  Like Readers’ Guide Retrospective, however, it is available online from the New York Public Library.  It provides indexing coverage of Elle UK, Vogue UK and other foreign fashion magazines (no full-text articles).

3. Free magazine archives on the web

Historical magazine content is increasingly available for free online, but the quality of the images and the accuracy of search vary greatly from archive to archive. Coverage is also very spotting. The following are some of my favorite online archives, because they provide excellent indexing, full-text or/and full-image access to “womens’ interest” magazines.

Hearth from Cornell University Libraries – The Journals

This amazing online archive allows you to browse and search a wide range of materials related to home economics.  In the listing of journals you will find Harper’s Bazaar 1867-1900 and Good Housekeeping 1885-1950.

Hathi Trust

HathiTrust is collection of millions of titles digitized from academic libraries around the world. To locate and exclusively search the contents of fashion or women’s interest magazines, forego using the “full-text” search.  Instead, click on the “catalog” search tab and search for either “fashion periodicals” or “women periodicals” in the Subject field. 

Titles include: La Moda elegante ilustrada, Woman’s Home Companion, and Repository of arts, literature, fashions.  Dates of holdings vary widely, but the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries are well covered

Les Editions Jalou – Archives

French fashion magazines publishing house, Les Editions Jalou, made the bold and generous decision to make the archives of all their magazines either fully or partially available, including L’Officiel de la Mode 1921-2013 and L’Art et la Mode 1883-1965.  The magazines can be searched and browsed by decade. Pages can be printed out but not downloaded.  This video illustrates how the browsing feature works.

Google Books – Magazines

Ebony magazine 1950-2008 can be accessed from Google Books, as can Elle Girl 2001-2007, Working Mother, 1978-2008, and other general interest magazines.

Leave no page unturned!  My suggestion is that you give all of these options a try and certainly don’t cheat yourself out of the experience of looking through our older magazines.  And if you ever need any help, come by the reference desk on the 4th floor of the FIT Library or contact us via our Ask a Librarian services.

DIY Infographics for Business Students

Would you like to turn this  . . .

Source: “Fall 2011 Product/Health & Beauty Aids” MRI+ Mediamark Internet Reporter database 2011,


  . . . . into this?

This some of the same data made visual using

Video of making an infographic with

Back in September 2012, I wrote about the ready-made infographics that can be found in library databases like Mintel.  Since the time I posted that blog entry, both Hoovers and Business Insights Essentials have added some nice new data visualizations and interactives to their services. Clearly, the database companies that serve industry are getting the message that effective visual communication is highly important in today’s business environment.

But while many industry and market research databases are adding visuals (or at least making graphics easier to locate), business researchers are still more likely to encounter statistics and demographics in the form of raw data.  That’s why, if you’re a business major trying to give this information full impact in a presentation, you might be interested in some of the free DIY infographic and data visualization tools that are available on the web.  Here are some of my personal favorites:

  • – Very easy to use and very clear navigation.
  •  Also easy to use, if you can figure out what to click on to begin the process.  The folks at have created a navigation that leads you back to their fee-based services, unless you know where to click.  After logging in don’t click “Create.”  Instead click “Marketplace” and then click the pink “Start Project” button on the upper right has changed considerably since my posting.  It is now mainly a commercial site connecting designers with clients.  There are a few “instant” infograhic tools left, which are easiest to get to if you use the following address:   You might want to use Piktochart or as an alternative
  • Many Eyes – A little more finicky than the others, but worth it.  Many Eyes from IBM allows you to create interactive data visualizations as well as textual analysis charts.  It also includes a lot of useful information about what types of charts or graphs to use for various purposes.
  • Piktochart – A much richer selection of options than is offered for free from and  Includes graphics and templates that are useful for expressing qualitative information.

These services make it relatively easy to create informative and compelling visualizations of both numeric and non-numeric information.  All of them allow for uploading data sets for the creation of charts and images for use as illustrations.  Many Eyes also allows for the upload of text for the creation of Word Clouds, Word Trees and other interactive visualizations.  Also of note are Wordle, Google Charts and the more complex Google Fusion Tables (which is still in beta).

Like anything DIY and free on the web, these infographic tools are no match for the services offered by skilled graphic or communication designers.  Even though these online services can produce something eye-catching rather quickly, using them well still takes time and some basic visual literacy.

If you need evidence of the rising interest in visual literacy and visual communication in the business world, a quick search of Business Source Complete will bring back a wide assortment of articles advocating visual thinking and visual language curricula for students in business programs. I thought I would include a link to a recent article from the Global Journal of Business Research as an example.

Siu-Kay, Pun. “Visual Language Skills – Do Business Students Need Them.” Global Journal Of Business Research (GJBR) 4.2 (2010): 85-96. Business Source Complete. Web. 5 Apr. 2013.





An idea

Every year at about this time, the FIT Media Design Club holds an exhibition of their works at the Museum at FIT.  Last year it was entitled Death 2 Pie Charts and featured some truly stunning  information graphics.  This year’s kinetic  4th Dimension exhibit, currently on display, is equally as impressive.

Digital Junkie – Information Overload

When attending these exhibits, I always am struck by the sheer amount of talent, skill and work ethic our design students possess. Being a librarian, however, I am also always curious to know more about the research that went into the project and the sources of the data that are being illustrated.  Like most people, I have a great deal of admiration for those who can transform dry numbers into compelling arguments and narratives, especially when the medium is visual.  I think revealing the data sources would only enhance the exhibit and would more genuinely reflect the real world situations faced by those in the communication design industries.

Shortly after viewing the Death 2 Pie Charts show last year, I stumbled upon a YouTube video about a program that brings together visual communicators and data producers – with beautiful results.  Visual Rhetoric is a collaborative endeavor between two separate educational institutions with ostensibly disparate missions:  the London School of Economics and the London College of Communication.  Essentially, graduate students in the social sciences from LSE pitch their research projects to graduate students from LCC, who then create presentations “as visually striking as they are epistemically credible”

Visual Rhetoric

It seems to me that a similar interdisciplinary initiative could take place here at FIT.  We are business school as well as a design school, after all.  Right now “Big Data” is king in the fashion merchandising world.  The capstone projects of our Global Fashion Management students are rich with statistics and demographic figures.  And our Home Products undergraduate senior presentations require in-depth exploration niche markets and trends. So while it might not all be original data that is being collected by FIT students and faculty, as is the case with the Visual Rhetoric project, there are local data sets that could be worked with by Communication Design, Graphic Design, Advertising Design, or Illustration students.

Just an idea.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that I know how we would pull it off.  But I would love to be involved if we ever do!  In the meantime, kudos to the members of the Media Design Club and Prof. C. J. Yeh for all their good work.

There’s a Map For That

For some time now, I have been planning to write an an article on my favorite map sites and mapping tools, but it was Hurricane Sandy that motivated me to push the project forward. Whether needing to find gas stations that still had gas or trying to plot my commute into Manhattan on public transportation, maps were of far greater value to me these past weeks than #nygas twitter hash tags or text message updates from the MTA website.  Maps also played a huge role in the news these past two weeks, helping people understand the extent of the damage in the Caribbean and the United States or who had won key “battleground” states in the presidential elections.

Maps are arguably one of the oldest forms of information visualization, and while there is much dispute over what would qualify as the oldest map in the world (do pre-historic petroglyphs count if there is a chance we might interpret intent wrongly?) there is no dispute that they have been with us for a long time (at least since 2,500 BC). And now, needless to say, most people expect instant access to interactive maps and directions  using such tools as HopStop or Google Maps.

Customization and Mapping API

What a lot of folks don’t know is, that with a little familiarity with Javascript (and the patience of master weaver) this mapping technology can be manipulated to fit their precise purposes – far beyond what can be done using standard versions of Google Maps or MapQuest.  Many companies offer mapping API – in fact, the API directory on the website Programmable Web lists well over 100 mapping APIs that are either open source or commercial enterprises.  One of the most popular and widely used is the API from Google Maps, of course, which you can learn more about at the Google Geo Developers blog.   If API is not in your comfort zone, however, there are services that offer menu-driven customizations.  For example, image to the right is of a map that I put together in about 5 minutes using a free MapBox account.

Racist Tweets Map

A college friend of mine, Matt Zook, and the team at recently created a map of post-election racist Tweets using a database they’ve developed called DOLLY and the menu-driven map building site, GeoCommons. Click here for interactive map and here for an explanation of how they did it.



Library Databases with Interactive Maps

Whenever I can, I like to mention the fantastic resources we have at the FIT Library, and it just so happens that a number of our databases come with map features of one type or another.   Opposing Viewpoints in Context offers maps that illustrate trends in current social and ethical issues facing the United States.  SRDS Local Market Audience Analyst and Passport GMID offer US and World maps that correlate to general demographics,

Singapore Map – WGSN City by City

pyschographics, and market forecasts. And WGSN has a section called City by City, which includes interactive maps of major cities that are tailored for those in the fashion, design, or retail industries. Here’s Singapore, for example.

By far the most powerful mapping tool we have in our possession, however, is found in the database Demographics Now.   With this database you can map data from the Census and the Bureau of Labor Statistics (Consumer Expenditure Survey), and

Columbia, MO Book Expenditure Map from Demographics Now

display it by a wide array of geographic categories ranging from ZIP code to broadly defined metropolitan areas in the United States.  The image you see is a map of my hometown

displaying the current average expenditure on books by block groups (higher expenditure is indicated by a darker hue).


The Flat File and the Curio Cabinet

Buy Buy Baby/266 Seventh Avenue today and 1903

Technology has made it easier than ever to map data, directions, and locations, but what about personal narrative or history. One of my very favorite map sites, History Pin, attempts  do exactly that by allowing individuals and institutions to upload photographs of particular places to matching coordinates and street addresses, and to allow these photos to overlay the Google Maps “Street View” mode.

If history is your thing and you love the beauty and character of old maps, then you will also really enjoy the following two sites.  The first, simply titled Old Maps Online, is a portal to digital maps collections from libraries and archives around the globe.  One can search by place, as well as date. One of the digital collections whose maps turn up in the search results is the New York Public Library’s Map Warper collection, which is an incredible site all by itself.  NYPL Map Warper allows you to take historic maps from the the NYPL’s digital

West 27th and 7th with 1819 overlay depicting building plots

collection and layer them over and reshape them to fit contemporary maps of the same locations, an action that they call “rectifiying.”  If you don’t wish to rectify any maps yourself you can also browse or search the collection for maps that have already been rectified.


I would love to see some of the mapping tools listed above incorporated in teaching lessons or student projects.  If you are a professor or a student at FIT and would like to know more about using some of these tools, please feel free to contact me via this this blog by posting a comment below.