TIME Design

Designer Who Created the Iconic ‘Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas’ Sign Has Died

Tourists take pictures on Feb 12, 2009 in front of the "Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas" neon sign in Las Vegas. Betty Willis, the woman who designed the iconic neon sign that has welcomed countless visitors to Las Vegas since 1959 has died.
Jae C. Hong—AP Tourists take pictures on Feb 12, 2009 in front of the "Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas" neon sign in Las Vegas. Betty Willis, the woman who designed the iconic neon sign that has welcomed countless visitors to Las Vegas since 1959 has died.

Betty Willis was 91

Nevada graphic designer Betty Willis, who created the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign that became a globally recognized icon of hedonism, died Monday at age 91, according to the Neon Museum.

Her design, gifted to Las Vegas in 1959, is emblematic of Googie architecture, with its characteristic futuristic motifs. Although the sign is formally owned by the Young Electric Sign Co., its image remains perennially in the public domain, with reprints adorning all manner of Vegas memorabilia from coffee mugs to T-shirts.

“Visitors see the sign with the twinkle in it and know they’ve got a license to enjoy themselves,” former Las Vegas mayor Oscar B. Goodman told the New York Times in 2005.

Willis was brought up outside Las Vegas and worked at Western Neon in 1952, after attending school in Los Angeles in 1952. “We thought the town was fabulous, so we added the word,” she once said.

TIME Design

The Minions Get Their Very Own Color From Pantone

Pantone Minion Yellow
Pantone Pantone Minion Yellow

This is color that will make a lot of people 'Happy'

For the first time in three years, the Pantone Color Institute has revealed a new color — and it has some despicable origins.

“Minion yellow,” inspired by the tiny creatures from the Despicable Me franchise and the upcoming prequel Minions, is the latest addition to the company’s color matching system, which is used by designers and artists. The company says the color came about after Pharrell Williams, who sings the song “Happy” from the Despicable Me 2 film, first came up with the idea and the Pantone team worked with animators at Illumination Entertainment to nail down the specific shade of Minion yellow.

“Color is contextual and right now there is a desire for colors that are more vibrant and uplifting,” Pantone Color Institute vice president Laurie Pressman said in a statement about the new color. “This is especially the case with the yellows, so given the worldwide popularity of the Minions, it seemed only natural to name a color after a character for the first time in our history.”

Minions hits theaters on July 10.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: April 9

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. The truth is, California doesn’t have a water problem. We all do.

By Steven Johnson in Matter

2. Uber isn’t selling rides. It’s selling data.

By Ron Hirson in Forbes

3. A blind scientist wants to reinvent how the vision-impaired ‘watch’ movies.

By Chris Colin in California Sunday

4. Cute little details may make an app “delightful,” but they’re crowding out thoughtful design.

By John Pavlus in Co.Design

5. These giant robot traffic signals/red-light cameras are actually making the streets of Kinshasa safer.

By Mark Hay in Good

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Money

See the Most Beautifully Designed Currencies From Around the World

From Costa Rica to Nepal, here is a selection of the most stunning bank notes in circulation

TIME technology

There Are Now Martini Glasses Designed for Space Travel

The designs for a space-friendly cocktail glass and drinking glass are seen from the Zero Gravity Cocktail Project kickstarter campaign.
Cosmic Lifestyle Corp The design for a space-friendly cocktail glass and drinking glass are seen from the Zero Gravity Cocktail Project kickstarter campaign

Houston, we have stemware

For the stylish space voyager, sucking liquids through a straw out of a foil bag is never going to cut it. But a new Kickstarter venture hopes to smarten things up by raising money to produce a zero-gravity-friendly martini glass.

Created under the Zero Gravity Cocktail Project, the glass is designed with a series of grooves that prevent the liquid inside from forming into a floating blob and instead guide it neatly towards the mouth.

“The glass is a stepping-stone to say that, Hey, this is possible, you can create these things for space,” Samuel Coniglio, COO of Cosmic Lifestyle Corp., the company designing the glass, says in a promotional video.

Cosmic Lifestyle is hoping that this new product can be the beginning of a wider project to create a lifestyle brand for anyone wanting to travel to space in style.

Presumably a zero-gravity cocktail shaker is on the drawing board next, or else nobody is going to get served their cosmic martini any time soon.

TIME the big picture

The One Thing That Makes Apple a Totally Different Company Now

Apple's focus on design means it's free to make all kinds of new products

In my 34 years of closely watching Apple, I’ve seen it go through plenty of life stages. For most of Apple’s life, it has been a technology company. But after Steve Jobs rejoined the company in 1997, it began to take on a new persona.

I met with Jobs on the second day he was back at Apple, during a very dark time in its history. When Jobs returned, Apple was in the red to the tune of $1 billion and only two months from bankruptcy. When I asked Jobs how he planned to rescue Apple, he told me the first thing he would do is take care of his core customers, meaning Mac owners using them for graphics design, desktop publishing and engineering.

But the second thing Jobs told me startled me: He said he would start focusing on industrial design. I remember scratching my head at his statement — I just couldn’t imagine how industrial design could save Apple. Of course, just a year later, Jobs introduced the candy-colored iMacs, forever changing what a personal computer could look like. Jobs then went on to make design a core tenet of Apple’s future, making the iPod, iPhone and iPad into sleek works of art, undoubtedly helping turn Apple into the behemoth it is today.

Apple Senior Vice President of Design Jony Ive was recently profiled by The New Yorker in a piece that made clear Apple’s focus on design has become a strategic piece of its mission. But even with Apple’s focus on design, I still consider it a tech company first and foremost. Still, a good friend of mine, Ben Thompson of Stratchery, recently wrote another excellent piece (subscription required) that puts Jobs’ 1997 comments to me into a new perspective.

“When I stated previously that Apple has always been a personal computer company, that is because Jobs believed so deeply in the potential of the computer to change people’s lives. If Ive, as this profile argues, now serves Jobs’ function as the soul of Apple, my characterization is surely obsolete: perhaps we need to think of Apple as a design company with a specialty in computers, not the other way around. And it’s much more plausible to imagine that Apple building a car.”

Thompson was primarily referring to rumors Apple might be working on a car, but his overall perspective is important. As Thompson writes, if Ive is now driving Apple, that could turn the company into a more design-focused firm free to create products outside its historical business model.

I still have trouble believing Apple is building an entirely new car instead of just working on car software. But if Apple’s top leadership has fully embraced industrial design, Apple could be free to create not only cars and watches, but anything that could be tied into Apple’s app and services ecosystem.

After more than three decades of understanding Apple by following its history, I have to admit that we could be witnessing the birth of a new Apple. For a lot of us, that means giving up our preconceived notions of what Apple is today in order to understand where it’s going tomorrow.

Tim Bajarin is recognized as one of the leading industry consultants, analysts and futurists, covering the field of personal computers and consumer technology. Mr. Bajarin is the President of Creative Strategies, Inc. and has been with the company since 1981, where he has served as a consultant providing analysis to many of the leading hardware and software vendors in the industry.

Read next: The Biggest Misconception About Apple

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Video Games

This Is the Incredible Game President Underwood Is Obsessed With in House of Cards Season 3

It's called Monument Valley and it's pretty great

Francis Underwood, Kevin Spacey’s Machiavellian character on the Netflix series House of Cards, has always allowed himself a few good video games. These have tended toward the violent, first-person-shooter variety. But in Season 3, which became available on the streaming service on Friday, a beautiful, somewhat esoteric indie game for mobile devices becomes a minor plot point.

That game is Monument Valley, created by UsTwo. The title—available here for Android and here for iOS— was ranked one of TIME’s 10 best games of 2014. Here’s a description of the game by its designers, part of which Spacey alludes to in the show:

In Monument Valley you will manipulate impossible architecture and guide a silent princess through a beautiful world. Monument Valley is a surreal exploration through fantastical architecture and impossible geometry. Guide the silent princess Ida through mysterious monuments, uncovering hidden paths, unfolding optical illusions and outsmarting the enigmatic Crow People.

Or as TIME’s reviewer put it: “Monument Valley celebrates non-Euclidean geometry, beautifully bizarre architecture and the art of silent storytelling. Combine royalty with optical trickery, trajectory-fiddling with bonsai pruning, aesthetic contemplation with tactile interaction and you wind up with something like designer ustwo’s delightful, enigmatic puzzler.” Worth checking out, no matter where you are on the road to world domination.

TIME Google

See Google’s Absolutely Stunning New Headquarters Design

Google wants to build a new Mountain View campus with sweeping glass structures

Google has unveiled its ambitious new plans for a sprawling, modern Googleplex. The new facility, being developed by architect Bjarke Ingels, features a series of glass, canopies the size of city blocks, new biking and walking paths and an emphasis on green space. Renowned designer Thomas Heatherwick is also involved in the project. Google hopes to complete the first stage of development by 2020, but the company will first have to win approval from Mountain View’s city council amid growing concern over Google’s control over the development of the community.

TIME Apple

This Is What Apple’s ‘Titan’ Car Could Look Like

One of the company's famed designers has already taken a crack at designing a car

iGiant Apple is reportedly working on a much bigger smart device: a car. After rumors of such a project began making the rounds online earlier this week, the Wall Street Journal reported Feb. 13 that the Cupertino, Calif.-based company has dedicated several hundred employees to creating an Apple-branded electric vehicle. The project is supposedly codenamed “Titan.”

If that is the case and the company proceeds—Apple is notorious for deeply investigating potential products but, ultimately, not bringing them to market—it will have something going for it beyond its massive cash hoard and broad-based brand loyalty. One of the company’s star designers, Marc Newson, has already had his hand at designing a concept car. Newson joined Apple last year.

Newson’s Ford 021C was a concept car first shown at the 1999 Tokyo Motor Show. Produced purely as a styling exercise and not intended for production, it was named after the Pantone orange color. Inside, the vehicle featured seats that swivelled on pedestals and extensive LED lighting (then a novelty). The London Design Museum put the vehicle bask on display a few years ago, dubbing it “a neat illustration of Marc Newson’s approach to design: don’t just tinker with existing typologies, but take a long lateral look at them and imagine how the perfect version would be.”

The Journal suggests Apple’s prototype is a minivan-like vehicle, but the 021C’s design philosophy could be a hint of ideas to come.

 

TIME Innovation

Check Out This Gorgeous Throwback iMac Concept

It's weird and beautiful, but it isn't real

Remember Apple’s original, boxy desktop computers like the Apple II series? What if Apple designed a modern iMac taking design cues from those old machines and fusing them with the slim aluminum unibody of modern day iMacs?

That’s exactly what the designers at Curved Labs had in mind when making this throwback iMac concept. Their design puts a present-day face on the Apple computers of yore, while ripping out a bunch of mass out of the back.

While it’s not a real product, the Curved team says their concept iMac would have all the fixings of a modern desktop, like an 11.6-inch touchscreen, 128GB of solid state storage, an SD card slot, camera and microphone.

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