Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Ok, here's a post for my fellow-design nerds, from the New York Times. Apparently I'm not the only one who gets bent out of shape when I see typefaces used inappropriately. Enjoy.

Mistakes in Typography Grate the Purists

Dirt. Noise. Crowds. Delays. Scary smells. Even scarier fluids swirling on the floor. There are lots of reasons to loathe the New York City subway, but one very good reason to love it — Helvetica, the typeface that’s used on its signage.

Seeing the clean, crisp shapes of those letters and numbers at station entrances, on the platforms and inside the trains is always a treat, at least it is until I spot the “Do not lean ...” sign on the train doors. Ugh! There’s something not quite right about the “e” and the “a” in the word “lean.” Somehow they seem too small and too cramped. Once I’ve noticed them, the memory of the clean, crisp letters fades, and all I remember are the “off” ones.

That’s the problem with loving typography. It’s always a pleasure to discover a formally gorgeous, subtly expressive typeface while walking along a street or leafing through a magazine. (Among my current favorites are the very elegant letters in the new identity of the Paris fashion house, Céline, and the jolly jumble of multi-colored fonts on the back of the Rossi Ice Cream vans purring around London.) But that joy is swiftly obliterated by the sight of a typographic howler. It’s like having a heightened sense of smell. You spend much more of your time wincing at noxious stinks, than reveling in delightful aromas.

If it’s bad for me (an amateur enthusiast who is interested in typography, but isn’t hugely knowledgeable about it), what must it be like for the purists? Dreadful, it seems. I feel guilty enough about grumbling to my friends whenever I see this or that typographic gaffe, but am too ignorant to spot all of them, unlike the designers who work with typefaces on a daily basis, and study them lovingly.

“I think sometimes that being overly type-sensitive is like an allergy,” said Michael Bierut, a partner in the Pentagram design group in New York. “My font nerdiness makes me have bad reactions to things that spoil otherwise pleasant moments.” One of his (least) favorite examples is the Cooper Black typeface on the Mass sign outside a beautifully restored 1885 Carpenter Gothic church near his weekend home in Cape May Point, New Jersey. “Cooper Black is a perfectly good font, but in my mind it is a fat, happy font associated with the logo for the ‘National Lampoon,’ the sleeve of the Beach Boys’ ‘Pet Sounds’ album and discount retailers up and down the U.S.,” Mr. Bierut explained. “I wouldn’t choose it as a font for St. Agnes Church even as a joke. Every time I go by, my vacation is, for a moment, ruined.”

Choosing an inappropriate typeface is one problem. Applying one inaccurately is another. Sadly for type nuts, movies often offend on both counts. Take “Titanic,” in which the numbers on the dials of the ship’s pressure gauges use Helvetica, a font designed in 1957, some 45 years after the real “Titanic” sank. Helvetica was also miscast in “Good Night and Good Luck,” which takes place in the early 1950s. “I still find it bizarre to see type or lettering that is wrong by years in a period movie in which the architecture, furniture and costumes are impeccable, and where somebody would have been fired if they were not,” said Matthew Carter, the typography designer based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The same applies to TV shows, including the otherwise excellent “Mad Men.” It is rare to find a review of the show that does not rave about the accuracy of its early 1960s styling, yet the “Mad Men” team is woefully sloppy when it comes to typography. Mark Simonson, a graphic designer in St. Paul, Minnesota, blogs about typographic misdemeanors on his Web site, www.marksimonson.com, and he once catalogued the flaws in “Mad Men.” The 1992 typeface, Lucida Handwriting, appears in an ad in the opening titles. Gill Sans, a British typeface designed in 1930 but rarely used in the United States until the 1970s, is used for office signage. A lipstick ad features one wholly appropriate 1958 font, Amazone, but two incongruous ones, 1978’s Balmoral and 1980’s Fenice. He noted lots of other clunkers too, but admits that he has spotted fewer new errors in the most recent episodes of “Mad Men.”

“I guess they must be doing a better job,” Mr. Simonson said, adding that the same applies to other TV shows and movies, with the unfortunate exception of the animated feature film “Up,” in which he espied Verdana, a font designed by Mr. Carter in 1996 specifically for use on computers, in scenes set in the 1930s and 1940s. “But I’m not sure how picky you should be with a cartoon.”

Yet another common blunder is the misuse of the individual characters in a typeface that includes obscure versions of letters and numbers as well as more familiar ones. These gaffes often occur when lazy designers confuse one character with another, thereby making the typographic equivalent of a spelling mistake.

The British typography designer, Paul Barnes, remembers seeing one on a poster in a Gap store. “It was set in Adobe Caslon and was supposed to say ‘Your first clothes,”’ he recalled. “Rather than use an ‘f’ and ‘I,’ they decided to use a long ‘s’ and dotless ‘i,’ thus spelling ‘sirst’ rather than ‘first.’ ” He is equally irritated by similar errors in the use of historic fonts, like the archaic black letter typefaces that date back to the invention of the printing press in the 15th century.

That said, even the type-savvy Mr. Barnes claims to have become more tolerant — or less intolerant — of such howlers over the years. “I’m not sure if it’s a case of growing older, or maybe I have lower expectations,” he explained. “In France recently, I drank some nice Côtes du Rhône wine with a fairly dreadful typographic dress. I was less bothered than I used to be; after all, it’s the wine that’s important!”

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Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Women of Design

There are a handful of "rock star" designers in this world. People that most people in the design world are aware of, in awe of, or in envy of. Most of these tend to be men. And this is due to the fact that there are simply more men than women in the roles of creative directors and business owners. But now there is a book out from HOW celebrating the women of design. While I think it's a bit silly that we need such a book in 2008, I acknowledge that we do. It's nice to see some familiar and not-so-familiar names gracing it's pages. This is a great gift idea for any designer you may know. Ahem.

Here's a write up and sample pages from
Under Consideration:

The immense body of work produced by graphic designers around the world is astoundingly varied, rich and widely celebrated. Yet in publications, conferences and other public realms, women designers tend to be outnumbered by their male counterparts whose appearances, work and achievements are constantly in the spotlight. Luckily, it’s a reversing trend. While this book does not attempt to relieve the imbalance, it does bring full attention to the wonderful work, careers and contributions of women designers, writers, teachers and entrepreneurs around the world.

The women in this book have been divided into three groups, representative of the time in which their influence was most heartily felt: Groundbreakers, Pathfinders and Trailblazers. These three generations have helped shape the modern landscape of design. Explore the work, ideals and ventures that have helped define the last fifty years of the graphic design profession. Learn about the women who helped establish design’s relevance, importance and impact — and the ones who carry their tradition into new territory.

Sample Spreads
Sample, Louise Fili

Sample, Chapter Introduction

Sample, Carin Goldberg

Sample, Fanette Mellier

Sample, Debbie Millman

Sample, Irma Boom

Sample, Quote Alice Twemlow

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Sunday, December 7, 2008

So long gone

Sorry for the lame lack of posting lately. I'll blame it on work, and vacation, and choosing sleep over blogging. But I'm back on it.

I guess I'm still missing London, so I just had to blog about these UK stamps celebrating icons of British design. I love the simplicity of these stamps and how they really hero the object. No fear of white space here. Yay! From Creative Review:

Stamps of Approval
Posted by Mark, 26 November 2008, 10:43

A set of first class stamps are to be issued in January next year commemorating ten icons of British design. The Royal Mail’s new series offers up a discernably nostaligic look at some British Design Classics, largely culled from the 1930s and 1960s.

RJ Mitchell’s Spitfire, George Carwardine’s angelpoise lamp, Harry Beck’s map of the London Underground network and Edward Young’s designs for Penguin (below) all originate from the 1930s.

The series of ten also includes Sir Giles Gilbert Scott’s telephone box (his K2 design is from 1926) and Robin Day’s polypropylene chair for Hille Seating from 1963.

While the design of the Mini (originally launched in 1959) has moved with the times and the 1965 mini skirt is still a classic of contemporary fashion, classic designs like the Routemaster bus (manufactured between 1954 and 1968) and Concorde (1969-2003) have been retired relatively recently.

The stamps will be issues on 13 January 2009. A “prestige stamp book”, issued alongside the stamps, will provide a more extensive background and history of the designs.

To mark the Mini’s 50th and Concorde’s 40th birthdays, Royal Mail is also issuing a “generic sheet” of 20 stamps (Mini series designed by Magpie; Concorde by Neon) and “medal covers” for each which have been designed by the Royal Mint Engraving Team. All stamps and sets will be available from royalmail.com/stamps.

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Saturday, November 8, 2008

Dear Mr. President

1. Spend election night with Barack Obama. Watch the slide show tell the behind-the-scenes story of how the Obama family spent such an historic and emotional night. Enjoy. (Click)

2. Click here to see an interesting array of headlines from around the world the day after the election. The world was certainly watching.

3. Check out this chart highlighting what the last 12 President's did their first 100 days in office. (click)

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Self Analysis

I recently came across an interesting article from UnderConsideration.com. Designer, Armin Vit, took an honest look at some of his logo designs that "never made it" for one reason or another. In the process, he noticed quite a lot of similarities between the logos. This would be an interesting, and perhaps frightening, exercise for most designers to go through. What does it say about us, our preference, our likes and dislikes. How much were we designing for ourselves instead of for the brief.

Here's a snippet of the article:
As a respite from the pristine show and tells of finished work sprinkled with anecdotes that support the fabulous work on screen I wanted to focus on the unglamorous side of graphic design. The endless revisions, the variations, the changes, the odd requests — “I like turtles, can my logo have a turtle?” — and the inevitable doom of much of the work we do as bezier- and pixel-based compost for piles of archived CDs, DVDs and 200-gigabyte hard drives. For my slide show I went through almost ten years of archives looking for all the files that never quite made it… the good, the bad and the ug…

Below is the flow chart analysis (click on the chart to enlarge). Click here to read the full article and see the logos.

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Friday, August 15, 2008

Olympic Fever

Everyday since the Olympics began, I run home to watch some live action, check Michael Phelps' medal count, and pray the woman's gymnasts stay n the beam.

In the midst of all the action, is the beautiful artwork surrounding it all. Below is an interesting article by the AIGA with the commissioned artist for the '08 Games: Mark T. Smith.

The Olympics of Illustration: An Interview with Mark T. Smith

What does it mean to be an “official” artist? In the old Soviet Union it meant being sanctioned by the state to produce what the state wanted. In China during the Cultural Revolution it meant adhering to the aesthetic dictates of the government. But as an official 2008 Olympic artist selected by the U.S. Olympic Committee, Mark T. Smith—who has previously created original artwork for Rolling Stone, Absolut Vodka and Chrysler, among others—is responsible for producing a gallery of art to be used as posters and promotional materials for the Summer Games in Beijing. In this case, Smith’s official status allows him the freedom to express himself and interpret this major international event in his own style, with his own imagery. Here, Smith discusses the line he has to toe and the one he refuses to cross.

Smith’s dragon poster for the Beijing 2008 Olympics.

Heller: How did you get the job as an official illustrator of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games?

Smith: The Olympics project came to me through a series of professional contacts. Several different agents and galleries represent my artwork; it was through these connections that I was presented to the U.S. Olympic Committee and selected as an official Olympic artist.

Heller: What exactly does this officialdom entail?

Smith: I was commissioned to create an image for the Beijing 2008 Olympics. In addition to the creation of the artwork, I have commitments to some promotional related activities, such as poster signings and personal appearances.

Heller: Will your work compliment the official identity of the Olympics?

Smith: The artwork is scheduled to be included in the presentation of the American experience in the Olympic village. I view the artwork as a stand-alone piece of the larger identity campaign.

Heller: Have you ever done anything like this before?

Smith: This commission is unique in that it the first piece of artwork that I created for a truly global market. I have created many images that have been seen by very large numbers of people, advertising campaigns such as the “Absolut Smith” commission in 1996. The Olympic commission will dwarf that audience in sheer numbers and global reach.

Smith’s previous work includes a cover illustration for Miami Skyline magazine (left) and a commission for Absolut.

Heller: Did you develop a style exclusive to the Olympics?

Smith: No. Within the breadth of my visual language contains a variety of platforms to communicate a concept. This is just one of the many paintings that I created this year.

Heller: Judging from the abstract, symbolic look of your imagery, you seem to have had creative freedom, but how much?

Smith: I had complete freedom to design the image. Because of the consistency and quality of my images, I am always called on to “do what I do”—most commercial projects that I participate in have a larger amount of input in terms of imagery from the client. The image for the Olympics was presented as a sketch; after the approval of the sketch, the final artwork was created, along with a series of related works. The U.S. Olympic Committee approved the artwork without any changes.

Heller: The Chinese allow art to flourish, but within distinct proscriptions. Were you given any guidelines?

Two-color version of Smith’s Olympic dragon poster.

Smith: Because the commission came from the U.S. Olympic Committee there was no input from the Chinese government. Any guidelines or parameters were placed by me on the design of the image. For example, I wanted to create an image that was universal in appeal and an image that could transcend languages and cultural divides.

Heller: Should you run up against censorship, what is your plan?

Smith: It would be an understatement to say that the Chinese are in an unusual and difficult transitional period in their country’s history. I expect that they will have many other, more pressing issues at the time of the games to deal with than my painting. That said, if my artwork were censored, I would have to rely on the voice of the global free press to assist my efforts to have a well-earned place at the event.

Heller: What do you hope to achieve?

Smith: I have used this commission as a platform to discuss larger societal issues surrounding the Chinese government policies toward Tibet, Darfur, the environment and the impending global integration of China into the world and its markets. However, my artwork has seldom been created with an activist or political agenda—this Olympic piece has neither. This commission comes at a time when China is being examined under the spotlight of international media attention surrounding the games. The intense interest in China’s internal and external policies has fostered an environment where these topics are being discussed frequently. I hope to contribute to the public discussion on these issues.

Heller: So, is there an agenda for your artwork?

Smith: My participation in the Beijing Olympics was to create a piece of artwork that visually bridged the gap between China and the United States and raised funds for the U.S. Olympic team. This project has afforded me the opportunity to speak about issues that are normally left to political pundits, ambassadors and the like; for an artist—and more importantly, a citizen—to have this platform is a rare occasion. I have the responsibility to speak on topics that I have a strong opinion about and a responsibility to use this time in the media spotlight to be an agent of change. I am not beholden to any Olympic sponsor or political agenda and I am not the spokesperson for any particular cause or movement. I can and do only represent my views on China-American relations.

Heller: What, in fact, is your position regarding these relations?

Smith: I believe very strongly that the United States and the world must continue a dialogue with China. It is precisely because of this that events like the Olympics are of the utmost importance. It starts dialogues where there was none, or it can offer a safe topic to start a deeper relationship between nations with conflicting interests or large cultural gaps.

A sketch (left) and painted variation on Smith’s dragon theme for the 2008 Olympic Games.

Heller: There was talk about boycotting the Games. By virtue of doing this art, I presume you are not in favor?

Smith: To boycott the Games would end this dialogue, and boycotts that have been used in the past have never been effective at achieving their stated goals. All we have to do is look at our relationship with Cuba to see an example of an ineffective boycott.

Our Olympic athletes should have the opportunity to represent the country on the world stage—the United States has produced countless Olympic champions that have dedicated their lives, literally, to the pursuit of excellence in a specific athletic contest. These people have spent countless hours, days and years preparing—they deserve the right to complete against the world’s best. In some ways these athletes become unofficial ambassadors for the country of their origin. There are so many other ways to effect change on the world stage; to use these Olympic athletes as a pawn in that game would be a shame.

Heller: Do you believe in some way your work will contribute to the dialogue?

Smith: I believe that the primary purpose of art is to ennoble the public. This ethos is always a large part of my commission selection process. I look for projects that will touch as many people as possible. In addition, I believe that artists have a responsibility to communicate to the public on a wide variety of topics. Being an artist means in a larger sense being a problem-solver. Most artists have an unusual way of looking at problems and challenges. This can be a useful and interesting contribution to a dialogue such as this one. I hope that the artwork can be a small example of how two cultures can be interconnected in a productive and positive way, and that this will lead the viewer to think of other manners to make these cross-cultural connections.

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Friday, July 4, 2008

Logo Trends

Logo Lounge had released it's 2008 trends. There are some interesting changes around. Here is a reprint of the article.

Current Logo Trends
By: Bill Gardner

Trend-watching, until recently, has largely been an exercise in watching connections form between direct associations. Photoshop releases a new filter, and voila - entire raft of logos take on that effect. A particular illustration style is featured in a successful advertising campaign or movie, and in what seems like minutes, the flavor of that art starts to enhance corporate identities.

Periodically, something truly surprising and unexpected pops up. Finding those little treasures are one of the great perks of categorizing 27,000 logos, as LogoLounge and a talented panel of judges just did in preparation for our fourth book. But there's always that natural undercurrent of influence that touches this design and that, a drift of scent, a faint change in air temperature. It's there, but almost not.

This year, however, it seems as though there has been a change in the nature of trends themselves. Instead of a hub-to-spoke relationship in which trends fan out from a central source, prevailing tendencies in logo design now seem to send out long underground runners that poke through the dirt in unrelated, unexpected places, anywhere in the world. It's harder and harder to trace the rhizomatous spread of ideas anymore - which truly is a good thing.

What follows are 15 trends that have indeed popped up all over the world. Overcasting them all are prevailing winds that are worth noting first:

  • We saw less emphasis on sustainability or general "greenness" in logo design. There's plenty of natural imagery, but being "green" doesn't seem all that unique anymore.

  • Colors are becoming more vivid. Desaturation has drained away, and the chroma factor pumped up.

  • There's an overall move toward cleanliness - in type, in line, in color - as if ideas are getting more and more succinct. It may be an indication of the degree of seriousness with which branding is now regarded.

  • Less is more common: less calligraphy, less Photoshop tricks, less artificial highlights.

  • Found pattern and illustration hang on and on and on. With a bottomless treasure chest of visual history constantly at the ready through retail collections and over the internet, it's a direction that's not likely to run its course soon, if ever.

And now, the trends. Please remember that they are gathered here to chart long-term movement or change, not to offer design suggestions. It's a living history. The key is to study the trends, then evolve forward - as far forward as you can leap - from them.


Imagine what astrophysicists would label a supernova or the eruption and attendant explosion of a star. In a light show reminiscent of the jump to hyperdrive in the original Star Wars, these logos attack the challenge of motion head on. For years we've seen marks that have created the impression of motion from a profile perspective using streaks or blurs to signify speed.

These examples drive a field of elements toward or away from the viewer using a variety of methods. The LodgeNet logo (by Jerry Kuyper) advertises the company's in-room movie service by flying a picture at you with a smart explosive technique. This blast is simple in construction and void of halftone - particularly interesting considering the product is an online commodity that could easily have justified overboard solutions replete with RGB trickery.

1. Jerry Kuyper for LodgeNet 2. Gabi Toth for Halo Consulting 3. Crave Inc. for IQ Beverage Group 4. Mirko Ilic Corp. for Dr. Zoran Djindjic Fund

Fine Line

Consistency of line weight is one of the tenants of good logo design. It builds rhythm and ensures legibility at first glance. Forget this rule for this category. Turn your line weight down to hairline and start drawing. Most of these logos live on two levels: first glance, and then second glance, with reader glasses. Typically, a heavier image with message one serves as a background field. The more profound message two is generally encrypted over the top of or knocked out of the heavier image.

Fine strokes weights may read as no more than pattern initially, but they can also carry the dichotomy of a counter message. A variation on this is the use of linear art en masse to create enough weight to define a message as in the PULSE logo. This yin yang process tends to captivate the viewer and lends a sense of intelligence to a mark that doesn't require a hammer to impart a subtle message.

1. Louis Fili for The Mermaid Inn 2. Hula + Hula for Cartoon Network Lainamerica 3. Unit for Artists for Peace 4. Point Blank Collection for Pulse


Imagine being asked to design a logo with a long strip of paper as your only tool. These quasi origami style solutions craft out a sense of dimensionality despite staying relatively flat. The material from which these are created range from (but are not limited to) transparent film, metal, and paper. There seems to be a message of cleverness and economy of stroke in many of these.

Sometimes the simplicity of the folds takes on additional meaning when the substrates demonstrate unique properties. Note how the opposite side of the material changes to a different color at every fold in the TURN logo. Or see how transparency enforces the visual overlap of material. In some ways, this technique creates a bit of a puzzle effect. It engages the viewer as it tempts them into tracing out the path of the mark or trying to determine if the folds could really occur as offered.

1. PMKFA for Yes King 2. Gardner Design for Liberty Capital 3. A3 Design for Urban Architectural Group 4. Addis Creson for Turn

Global Expansion

What a refreshing outlook this trend presents. Time was that any company involved in international commerce gave some passing consideration to a globe as their logo. It's a solution that has become terribly challenging to address with an original perspective. These logos at least have the honesty to step back and say, "Hey, we may not be fully global yet, but give us time." All of these marks rely on a centric pattern that diminishes at the edge and then warps out to wrap the sphere in symbolic expansion.

Cato Purnell Partner's diverse group of solutions for Dubai Airport succinctly communicates a key message. Commerce, travel, and tourism have made Dubai a true crossroad for international travelers, and this world-class logo has found a unique way to express the point. Using the Islamic sacred symbol of an octagram, or eight-pointed star, the logo starts to envelope the global sphere with its spreading tile mosaic. The dissemination of a culture is no accidental message in this mark.

1. Lippincott for XOHM 2. Cato Purnell Partners for Dubai International 3. Futurebrand BC&H for Transpiratininga 4. FIRON for Novatel


Continuous bands, yes, but not all of these marks have that certain mojo of the Mobius strip. Moving away from the universal sign of infinity, this group of logos seems to celebrate the flow of a closed cycle. No doubt more than a few rubber bands were called into action for their modeling services, but a ribbon-like figure was not mandatory.

There is something personal about the lack of perfect symmetry displayed here. The flexible nature of these logos signifies the ability to transform to meet the needs of the moment. Some appear to be snapshots of motion captured in a millisecond, of an object tense with energy.

The Peugeot 307 loop reflects the profile of that specific car but also seems to hover weightlessly above the ground. The chromed appearance of the mark takes on a surrealistic quality while conveying a certain technical prowess as well.

1. Lippincott for IBM & Freescale 2. Angelini Design for Peugeot International 3. Miriello Grafico, Inc. for Qualcomm 4. Double Brand for Long term car rent


Anyone who's ever torn up his or her mouth grazing on a jawbreaker or Gobstopper can attest to the concentric rainbow displayed on a perfect cross-section of the confection. There is a certain childhood joy associated with the perfect cleaving of these orbs that is akin to discovering hidden treasure. The 70's op-art quality of these marks is accomplished with little regard for a reserved palette. Generally, brilliant color is a must and often cross-sections are as unique as Technicolor snowflakes.

There is a youthfulness to these logos that addresses a certain vitality in the market. You can't help but smile at the visual joy they seem to capture. Influences could include Target's inventive use of its own logo in marketing efforts, although the red and white of their mark seems sedate in comparison to examples shown here.

1. Form for Dazed & Confused/Topshop 2. MacLaren McCann Calgary for Telphonic 3. Volatile for Antidote 4. Volatile for Pod


Animation in the static environment of print is challenging at best, but with some sequential stop-motion images, a solution is at hand. Remember those flip-books that with a riffle played out a short animation? Now, take the images, place them on a single surface, and this is the result. These marks have a slinky-like, fluid nature that lends a graceful aesthetic to their associated companies.

The Nikon logo crafted by Interbrand some years ago may have signaled the introduction of this process with a major brand. Sprint's adoption of Lippincott's logo, a representation of the stop-motion animation of pin dropping, opened the gates for deeper exploration and solutions in a similar vein. Nokia Siemens' new animated logo, created by Moving Brands, successfully plays out the strobe concept when adapted to print.

1. Interbrand for Nikon 2. Moving Brands for Nokia Siemens Networks 3. Lippincott for UMW 4. Lippincott for Sprint


Shield your eyes and pull out the 30 spf sunblock. It's not a sunburn you'll fear, but you may need to protect yourself from overly bright ideas. There is a certain glorification associated with all of these marks. The central core of the image is usually a bright tunnel out of which great light emanates. If this sounds a bit like the parting of clouds and the appearance of deities, you may not be far off.

Dissemination of light or energy by the use of rays is far more than an astral aura. This indicates a central subject or capability and the prospect that it holds the key or the solution to whatever the question is. Light also connotes knowledge and guidance. Even distribution of these spokes ensures a fairness of distribution and equality of access. As a moth will attest, there is an attracting radiance to these logos, regardless of color.

1. Gardner Design for Catalyst 2. Glitschka Studios for Proctor & Gamble 3. Circulodiseno, SC fr New Venturees 4. Chris Herron Design for Marimon Inc. & Kelly Swofford Roy


Over the last several years, designers have taken refuge with a variety of appropriated patterns. Design backgrounds have become shrines for wallpaper swatches, Victorian patterns, organic flora, faux wood grains and any other rococo-retro surface that is not nailed down or otherwise copyrighted.

Houndstooth and herringbone aside, designers on more boutique projects are dipping into their grandmothers' baskets of sundries and notions. This is often not as much about textile patterns as it is about the elements that hold a garment together. Zig zag, whip, and cross-stitch are a few of the strokes in the sewing arsenal. Bric-a-brac, fishnet, fringe, and tassels are also working their way into these solutions. This common language of mundane elements takes on a refreshing, often feminine beauty when layered together with great taste. Just remember that the difference between a tablecloth and a haute couture gown is not the material, but knowing what to do with it.

1. The Woodbine Agency for Lamp 2. tenn_do_ten for chico 3. The Pink Pear Design Company for Rummage 4. Hammerpress for Natasha's Mulberry & Mott


Sometimes clusters of a logo technique surface with little if any rationale. For this bracket, it's as if National Geographic just reported the recent unearthing of a series of Ishihara color plates for color blind testing. The influence is obvious but the timing is unexplained. You have to admire the chutzpah of a client willing to adopt a logo that 7% of the male population and 0.4% of women won't be able to understand.

Maybe this is exactly the point. These marks represent a quirkiness associated with entities that only a certain percent of the population will be able to really appreciate. Even for individuals without color blindness, these visuals can be a bit challenging to decipher. But that adds to their mystique and helps to build affinity for the logos when the viewer realizes he has passed the test. Either way, there is a joyful, reminiscent charm at work here - either that or this report is entirely wrong and these companies all sell Dippin' Dots ice cream.

1. Colorblind Chameleon - Self Promotion 2. Range for Dennis Murphy 3. Pearpod for Razoo 4. Cricket Design Works for Creme Cafe


These are soft, inflated blobs without any sharp corners to fall and hurt yourself on. Their friendly shapes are generally unstructured and much like an amoeba under the lens of an electron microscope, fluid and in motion. Amoeba comes from the Greek word amoibe, meaning to change, and this trend is about flux. The elements that compose these logos are anything but static. You can imagine a relationship between the parts of a logo as if they have just divided from one another.

This process of morphing and motion give us a clue about the structure and processes of the businesses represented here. Flexibility and an agile nature allow businesses to adapt in mercurial industries. These are entities that embrace the value of evolution. If you're evolving, chances are you're a living organism, and there aren't too many of those with corners.

1. Tactix Creative for DJ Eddie Amador 2. Double Brand for Poza Showroom 3. Mola for EDP 4. Yaroslav Zheleznyakov for Promotion


Ali Baba and the 40 thieves knew what mattered in a cavern laden with jewel-encrusted treasure. In these precious gems, there is an intrinsic value of which legends are crafted. Whose eyes are not stopped by the alluring refractions of a precious bobble? What a perfect substance from which to carve an identity.

To create the greatest value in a material as base as a stone, one has to first recognize potential worth. With exacting efforts, a trained eye can cut away the precise amount that will best maximize value. All of this is done with the looming specter of complete failure if the action is not correct. With great risk comes great reward.

These logos can also address the multifaceted nature of a business. By arranging these facets in their optimal positions you create the greatest clarity and light. Or maybe it's not that deep and we just like bright and shiny things.

1. Kitsh for Clay Saphire 2. Thomas Manss & Company for VCC Perfect Pictures 3. Gardner Design for Lavish 4. BFive for Solo Company


There is a base honesty to an image that has never been shoved in one side of a computer and back out the other. There is still some soul attached to the mark and even a little sweat and blood from the originator. No attempt is being made to deceive the consumer and certainly there was no upper level management committee to quash the innocence of the humbly crafted logo.

Immediacy is an important justifier for these marks as well. The Rebuild logo, developed after Hurricane Katrina sends the message, these people need your help now. There is no time to finesse a corporate solution to the problem here: We need the help and response of everyone, and we need it now.

Personal messages and a sense of humanity are associated with these marks. It is the assurance the middleman has been cut out, and that this message is between me and you and no one else.

1. Steve's Portfolio for www.thehurricaneposterproject.com 2. Stubborn Sideburns for Hipposchemes 3. Fifth Letter for Shawn Lynch 4. Studio Oscar for Levi Strauss


Take a piece of relatively unassuming typography, water and fertilize with insane pixie dust, and let it grow. These logos could be relatives of the Flora and Embellish trend identified over the last two years, but they are definitely about type on steroids. Imagine type with hair that has been coiffed for fashion week in a Fellini movie.

Credit the stunning work of Si Scott and the unbridled design of Marian Bantjes as primary influences on this work. Scott specifically has developed a signature look that is being emulated a bit too close for comfort, in some instances.

Decorative flourishes gone wild identify these entities: They give more than you anticipate and are conscious of the frills and excesses necessary to carry you to satisfaction. These designs are exoticand unexpected but with enough whimsy to avoid being overtly feminine.

1. Lucero Design for Project 240 Apparel 2. United* for Bar Carrera NY 3. Team Manila Graphic Design Studio for Neu Media 4. Distrubancy Graphic Treatment for Eclipse Streetwear


Twisting threads travel in tandem or are spun together to form a twine with even greater strength. Or you see the tendrils of a vine traveling outward from a single source. Maybe it's the ebb and flow of a rhythmic group of fine fibers acting in concert to create the illusion of a solid mass. These are just of few of the descriptions that help define this category.

A collective acting in unison to maximize action and create strength in numbers is at the heart of these logos. These are not lines in perfect step with one and other. Unlike the grooves of a record, these elements show a degree of independence and celebrate the diversity of the components as they unite.

Uniting elements for a common good has become a prevalent theme of late. This trend transcends the corporate world and is seen in social efforts as well. Respect of individuality and honor of uniqueness are admirable pursuits.

1. Guillermo Brea & Associates for Argentina 2. Najlon for Town RIJEKA 3. Mattson Creative for The Collective 4. AtomicasStudio for 2 excite

Minor Trends

Some categories emerged this year that did not qualify for their own lanes, but which are still worthy of mention.

Animotion: What makes these designs unique is that they are designed to be in motion. They are not static designs that were juiced up later. You can view some excellent examples in action at www.LogoLounge.com.

Moving Brands for Swisscom
Braille Words: Imagine words, numbers, or letters formed out of Braille-like dots.

Pearpod for Plus 3
Stacks: These logos are like transparent sandwiches that have shape stacked upon shape upon shape.

Bukka Design for Neven Vision
Contact Drop: If a contact lens dropped on top of a logo, you'd have the same effect that these logos have. They are generally lens- or circular in shape with a hard outer edge and a soft inner edge. Think of the Barrack Obama logo.

FutureBrand for MasterCard Worldwide
Psyche Type: If you want to know what is going to happen in any kind of design, look back to what was happening 30 years ago. It's a never-ending merry-go-round of style. Witness the groovin' psychedelic type treatments that are so popular today. It's Haight-Ashbury all over again.

Yaroslav Zheleznyakov for Lemonades from Arbuzov
Pathways: There are also plenty of motion lines to be seen, going up and down, back and forth, or around and around. These are like tracers — sometimes transparent like light, bouncing around or bending in space. The Tennis Australia logo is an excellent example. Where the ball goes, the logo goes.

FutureBrand (UK) for Lakshmi N. Mittal
Warped: If you take a gridded piece of paper and start to fold or twist it, the printed grid will begin to conform to whatever motion you're applying. But in this category of logos, the substrate is more pliable, more flexible than paper. There's more give and stretch, so that lines on the x and y axis become contorted.

thackway+mccord for FINRA

Finally, it's worth noting that there's a reasonably reliable place to look every day for the very latest in logo design (in addition, to LogoLounge.com, that is): television promo graphics for any of the major "style" channels — Food Network, Discovery, HGTV, the Travel Channel, and more. Because they have the money and the ability to get work out there quickly, the channels tend to be progressive forecasters and trendsetters. And designers, just like the rest of the unwashed masses, are home on the couch, watching.

Bill Gardner is principal of Gardner Design and creator of LogoLounge.com, a unique web site where, in real-time, members can post their logo design work; study the work of others; search the database by designer's name, client type, and other attributes; learn from articles and news written expressly for logo designers; and much more. Bill can be contacted at bill@logolounge.com.

2008 Logolounge Inc.

Click: Logo Lounge

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Sunday, June 22, 2008

Branding is Like Dating

At the HOW Design Conference last month, I was lucky enough to meet Marcus Hewitt, CCO of Dragon Rouge USA. (Ok, so perhaps I stalked him via email for a few weeks beforehand… but it was all for good reason.) Marcus was kind enough to share his presentation with me so that I could, in turn, share it with you.

Marcus actually delivered 2 presentations rolled up into one. The first was called “branding is like dating.” The second, “bonus” presentation, was all about the macro trends Dragon Rouge compiles each year through their international offices. I’ll share the first bit with you today. As you will see, branding really is like dating. It requires a work, truth, self-confidence, and growth. Here are the 7 steps that Marcus outlined for “successful packaging design.”

Step 1: Love Yourself
The brand should be confident in itself and stand proud.
Example: Perrier. Even in the redesign, Perrier stays true to its essence and is not trying to be anything else.

Step 2: Dare to be Different
Let your personality shine through. Be unique. Don’t try to be like everyone else.
Example: Soupline laundry detergent (France). Why does laundry detergent have to come in a box or a jug? It doesn’t.

Step 3: Get to Know People
Take the time to know your audience, their aspirations and desires. Be it your client or the consumer – find out what makes them tick.
Example: Martell packaging – Dragon Rouge created numerous mood boards and pulled inspiration from classic Japanese imagery, modern Sake bottles, gorgeous craftsmanship, and technology. You can see these influences in the final design.

Step 4: Don’t Overwhelm
Everyone needs a little space. There is such a thing as too much information.
Example: Rituals bath and spa products. The design of the line is simple, and the product information is easy to find and identify.

Step 5: Keep them Engaged
Don’t let the relationship get stale. Keep them on their toes with new products or visuals.
Example: Perrier limited edition bottles.

Step 6: Stay in Shape
Brand relationships are hard work. They require discipline. Don’t get out of shape or lazy when your relationship is going well. Your consumer is in high demand and can always leave you for a more attractive, more responsive brand.
Example: HP Steak Sauce was updated and modernized for the times, but also remained faithful to its English roots. They also created a limited edition bottle by the popular British clothing designer Paul Smith.

Step 7: Think About Tomorrow
Consumers will grow and evolve. Anticipate their needs and have a solution before they even realize they have a problem. This requires and active effort to follow and utilize macro trends. The most prevalent example lately is global consciousness. We have an influx of eco products and most major companies are now trying to leverage this in their portfolio of brands.
Example: Clorox Green Works

The End.

(Thanks, Marcus!)

Note: Originally Posted by me on the theDieline.com

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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Ted Talks – Awesome!

TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, and Design.
It's tag line is: Ideas worth spreading.

Every year, since 1984, the worlds most preeminent thinkers get together to discuss, share, learn and grow ideas that can change lives, and the world. More than 1000 people now attend this conference, and 50 speakers are required to give the best 18 minute presentation of their lives!

We're talking about hobnobbing with the likes of Al Gore, Jane Goodall, Amy Tan, Yves Behar, Bill Clinton, Bono and Richard Branson. Unreal. The clip playing above is of Bill Strickland. I was privileged enough to hear him speak at the HOW Conference last month, and I'm so happy I can share a bit of his inspiring story with you here.

From their website:
The Ted Conference, held annually in Long Beach, is still the heart of TED. More than a thousand people now attend -- indeed, the event sells out a year in advance -- and the content has expanded to include science, business, the arts and the global issues facing our world. Over four days, 50 speakers each take an 18-minute slot, and there are many shorter pieces of content, including music, performance and comedy. There are no breakout groups. Everyone shares the same experience. It shouldn't work, but it does. It works because all of knowledge is connected. Every so often it makes sense to emerge from the trenches we dig for a living, and ascend to a 30,000-foot view, where we see, to our astonishment, an intricately interconnected whole.

You must be approved to join the TED conference. The fee is about $6,000
(though a regular membership is free and anyone can join). It's out of the realm for most, but us "little people" now have access to some of the most insightful speeches ever given through Ted Talks. They are free and you are encouraged to share them. I, for one, am completely addicted. It is time well spent.

Click: TED

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Monday, June 9, 2008

J. Otto Seibold

Here's a great post of an interview with J. Otto Seibold... illustrator/author. I'm such a fan of his work and off-beat style. with lines like...

"I also distract myself playing music or laying on the floor." and "I sound like an angry hippy. Be nice to everyone…"

...It's worth a read.

Click here for the full article.


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Fug Style

Interesting article by Eric Karjaluoto of SmashLAB via his "ideas on ideas" blog. It really made me think about my approach to design. I think designers often fall into the trap of thinking that a "style" is a "solution." Sometimes it is, but usually it's not. Below is an excerpt from the article. Click here to read the full post.

Design is such a multi-layered practice that it’s often difficult to define. That being said, I believe that the word “design” is increasingly confused with “style”. For example, to most “I like the way it’s designed” means that they like the way that something looks.

The visual aspect of what we do is highly important, and style has a place in that. For example, if we want to connect with a particular audience, employing a style can sometimes be helpful. That being said, it seems that style often leads efforts. We have to break this habit.

Searching for the next cool new thing

This season we have “glowy” vector/bitmap collages and rather cute hand-drawn patterns. The following season will inevitably bring something equally novel on first sight, which we will quickly tire of as we are inundated by it. In the pre-web world, things rolled-out more slowly, and as such didn’t hit with the same force; however, better distribution systems allow this eye-candy to be dispersed rapidly. As soon as a particular style is hot, legions of designers reverse-engineer the treatment, and imitate it until it’s everywhere.

The challenge here is that as we are bombarded by these styles, designers, by their own accord and that of their clients and peers, gravitate towards reiterating whatever the style-du-jour happens to be. (Think of the swoosh logos of the late 1990s.) It’s easy to do, the pay-off is immediate, and for a short while, one’s portfolio seems deceptively strong. Most times though, this work is void of the research, strategy, and logic that are necessary to do something effective. As a result, it’s in fact a big pile of shiny bullshit.

In turn, we’re left with scads of generic work that doesn’t hold-up for any length of time. There’s no design there, just polish that quickly tarnishes requiring another coat. In the meanwhile, budgets are exhausted, clients are left to with an out-of-date “look”, and designers are seen as stylists: kooky kids who like to do fun, pointless things. At the risk of being melodramatic, I believe that this approach diminishes the value of our industry and limits our opportunity to contribute to higher-level discussions.

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