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Tuesday
Jun192007

106. A Courageous Post from Armin.

Go to this post by Armin Vit of SpeakUp. It's one of the most courageous and introspective posts by a designer I've read in a long time. In it, he breaks down his recent logo designs (not selected by the client) and objectively categorizes and evaluates them in order to explore or discover his own design perferences. Quite thoughtful and interesting to say the least. I love it and want to try it on myself.
Monday
Jun112007

105. AICP's The American Commercial.

The Association of Independent Commercial Producers, or AICP have published the winners from their annual show of the best spots produced in the US, in a collection called The Art & Technique of the American Commercial. Browsing each year's category winner is a good resource for beginners (and veterans) to see the potential of great storytelling. The surprise spot I liked � and hadn't seen before � was for Sears and called Arboretum... it's great. Check it out. Link via Rm 116.
Tuesday
Jun052007

104. Wieden & Kennedy Website.

As some of you know, Wieden and Kennedy has taken a beating lately on their lack (perceived) of interactive ability/integration. Read this article about their long time client Nike and you'll begin to understand how the agency's 'new media' reputation is affecting their business. I think it's silly really - an agency like W&K hires smart, creative people that regardless of the medium, will produce ground-breaking work. I think they have led the industry in interactive applications of creativity too, but somehow they are not getting credit for it - at least from CMO's and the like. Eventually, they'll be fine, but I recently noticed that they changed their website from their long-time, understated, uber-negative space, black and white, spartan website in favor of a new, flashy, time-line oriented, modern, whiz-bang interactive experience of their work. I bet they did this to counter the heat they've been taking lately � and it will probably help; but I wonder if it will have the longevity of their previous version? �nd I wonder if internally, they feel like this reflects their culture or if it was just a big middle finger to all the critics? (FYI: their London branch's blog is a great peak into what I consider one of the best pound-for-pound agencies around.)
Tuesday
Jun052007

103. London 2012.

There's a great discussion going on about the identity for London's Olympic bid in 2012, on Speak Up. Check it out. Personally, I think it's ugly - although it does generate an entire system of graphic communication as well as stand out from the normal crowd... sometimes two out of three aint bad. Compare it to Chicago's recent Olympic bid, which is really beautiful. (Done by VSA Partners as pro bono.)

UPDATE: Check out what Coudal Partners has to say here. They make great points.

UPDATE 2: Yet one more thing to considering when designing.
Friday
May252007

102. Seventy-Nine Short Essays on Design.

Michael Bierut's new book, 79 Short Essays on Design, was released today on Amazon. (A lot of the content has already been released as essays on Design Observer � where he discusses why he was compelled to compile this material into a book.) But I think it'll still be well worth the Jackson. I've already purchased mine and will update this post with highlights.
Friday
May112007

101. BMW Art Cars.

I recently had the opportunity to visit the BMW manufacturing plant's Zantrum (that's German for museum;) in South Carolina and saw an exhibit of art cars designed by such greats as Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Rauschenberg, Matazo Kayama, Frank Stella, and Andy Warhol - of whom I'm not a big fan just so you know. Apparently every year from 1975 and 1999, BMW commissioned one artist to paint one car. The cars provided a great medium for which to show off their unique styles and I hope that they restart this tradition soon. Check them out here, and here. (And for diecast versions - click here.)
Tuesday
May082007

100. Cross-Country Design.

Over the past week, I had the privilege of driving cross-country from San Francisco to Greenville, SC. This country is amazingly beautiful, but when I wasn't admiring the scenic views or stopping for a bag of these - I had time to think about two almost-design-related items. First, I believe that Tennessee has the best (standard) license plate of the states. It's pleasing, a lot of the state looks just like the image, and as a bonus - the numbers are quite legible too. Also, as I passed all of those U-haul trucks I wondered which state had the best mural (U-Haul calls them supergraphics by the way.) You've seen them on the sides of their trucks. Though none are well-designed per se, I have to give the nod to Louisiana, with the worst design by far going to Arizona. I have to admit that they are a guilty pleasure for me, I was forced to look at each one as I passed. (I have always liked what Budget does with their trucks too. But where's the D in this one?) I promise to get back to serious design matters within a few days.
Friday
Apr272007

99. Miami Ad School, Thank You.

For the past few quarters I have had the privilege of teaching at the Miami Ad School here in San Francisco. I met some fantastic people and worked on some very interesting projects all the while enjoying myself tremendously. The cliche is right, when you teach you end up learning more than anyone in your class. Thanks to all, especially Denise and Sachie for giving me the opportunity. (Kaan, Jake, Denise #2, Bryan, Dave, Matt, Amy, Charles, James, Addy, Roberto, Jess, Niklas, Josh, Andrew, and Sam � Good luck and remember to use your talents for good.)
Thursday
Apr262007

98. Campaign Logo Designs.

Some applications of design seem more void of creativity, craft, and inspiration than others. Cereal boxes. Grocery store inserts. Local car dealer spots. All usually terrible and mostly unbearable. The set of presidential candidate logos for 2008 provide another such example. One would think that given the visibility of the campaigns and the sophistication of the people working behind the scenes (not to mention the budgets,) the identity work for their efforts would be more professional and meaningful. Take a look at this blog which compares and contrasts the campaign designs of the major Republican and Democratic candidates. I wouldn't pay too much attention to the written critiques found on the site - but it does serve as one-stop window shopping to form your own opinions. I find Obama's to be the most crafted, though still quite amateur when compared to the best corporate design. At least there's some sort of expandable graphic mark. I also think McCain's decision to use black in lieu of good ole red, white, and blue is daring - and in the right hands, potentially powerful - though in this execution it only exemplifies the Senator's reputation of being somewhat out of touch. (One website reviewer recently wrote that he must have 'joined the Oakland Raiders.' Ha. Though more color has since been added to the homepage.) Seems to me if you are a great designer and politically motivated, your services could be put to good use backing a candidate of your choice. (Does anyone else miss Perot's charts by the way?)

Politics being what it is, this is all that I can find about who did what.: Sol Sender of Sender LLC and five others in his firm created the logo the Illinois senator is using for his 2008 presidential bid. (source: Chicago Business.)

Anyone know anything about the others?
Tuesday
Apr242007

97. I Love Pinstriping.

Pinstriping combines some of my favorite things: applied design, attention to detail, craftsmanship and an interesting medium. Even if you are not a car person per se - you can easily appreciate how talented some of these artists are and how intricate and amazing some of this eye-candy can be. I particularly like this skull design (shown above.) Take a look at this wiki page, this video (which I posted long ago,) this video, Herb Martinez � one of the more web-recognized artists, a flickr group on the subject, a couple books, as well as some helpful how-to articles to get you started by a fellow named Rocky Jr. I'm thorough if nothing else. Enjoy.
Monday
Apr232007

96. Type Specimens.

On a fairly mundane afternoon I decided to search Flickr using the words 'type specimen.' Below are some of the best surprises.

1. Artistic Hebrew Type, 2. 1923 ATF Specimen, 3. 1971 Photolettering, 4. Type Con 2006, 5. Fellow Typophile, 6. Design Things, 7. More Type Specimens, 8. I love Merga, 9. Type and Lettering, 10. More Type Goodness, 11. Signs and Type, 12. Any Type, 13. More Typography, 14. Matt Desmond, 15.Typographic Findings, 16. Typographie, 17. Typostammtisch, 18. Lots of Cool Specimens
Wednesday
Apr112007

95. Type Directors Club Annual Winners.

The Type Directors Club just released the 2007 annual winners with images from many of the designers and scans of the entries from others. Of course, low-density scans cannot do complete justice to the high quality of the printed material. No rankings are assigned in the TDC competitions; listings are categorically alphabetical. Olga, Subtil, and Nassim are my favorites. I think they would prove to be a useful addition to any type library. Enjoy. (Olga is the specimen featured above.)
Monday
Apr092007

94. Dynamic Identity.

Recently, I was sent this article written by Alice Rawsthorn at the International Herald Tribune (which has a great style and design section by the way.) In this article she discusses the trend for companies to have dynamic, seemingly ever-changing identity systems instead of one static logo. She uses Sak's Fifth Avenue new identity (we blogged about it here,) MTV, Google's versatile logotype and others to demonstrate this newer design trend and concisely discusses the pros and cons. I offer up Snickers (see this and this) and Perrier (download this pdf) as two recent examples of not just versatile identities but dynamic logos that are actually the advertising message in themselves. The article is food for thought for anyone designing an identity system, though I think it's pretty easy to decide when this makes sense and when it doesn't. Ask youself: does the added versatility serve a longterm purpose?
Monday
Apr022007

93. Viktor Koen's Toyphabet.

Another reason to subscribe to Baseline, the latest issue (#50) highlights artist Viktor Koen and his toyphabet. This alphabet is an amazing collection of somber letterforms comprised of toys, machines, spare parts and other mechanized junk. His 2005 cover of the New York Times Book Review (here) showcases this peculiar take on typography and is awesome(!!!) Be sure to visit his website and peruse his artwork � it's definitely worth the time.
Thursday
Mar292007

92. Ad of the Week. I think.

I have walked past this board everyday for the past three weeks. And because I'm an ad/design nerd, I've asked myself several questions: Do I like it only because it features a skull? Do I not like it because the designer didn't use the Economist font (a proprietary, Erik Spiekermann designed font family, I believe. Originally called Ecotype but now something like "The official Economist, you only wish you could buy it Font Family?") I think the Economist font would look more spine-like, though I recognize that it's easier to set a monospaced font vertically. Back to my questions: do I like it because it continues the economist tradition of very clean, quick (and red) communication? Do I not like it because it betrays that witty copy-driven tradition by going all vector-art on us? (Though they've gone visual many times before. View what is possibly my favorite ad of all time here.) Do I like it because of the clever way of using the magazine's masthead as the logo? Do I not like it because this also bucks their usual logotype sign-off? Do I like the headline or do I think it's a cliche? (The economist ads always walk a fine line between pun and clever word-play; most often on the good side.) Do I like it because it's almost impossible to ignore due to it's size and location? Do I not like it because someone felt the need to over-explain what they do with 'Insights on the world, weekly' which is only vaguely related to the 'having an opinion' thing? Ultimately, after three weeks, I think I have decided that I don't really like it � mainly because it could easily have been better. That's always frustrating to see. Or maybe I like it.
Tuesday
Mar272007

91. The Good. The Bad. And the Ugly.

Here are two new logo design examples that contrast good design with bad. Dairy Queen's logo was probably in need of a little 'freshening, sure. But the new version can be summed up in one word: ugh. To balance things out in the design universe, however, the redesign of Portland State's identity system (by Sockeye Creative in Portland) is elegant and beautifully executed.

I haven't been posting too many new logo designs mainly because Armin Vit's Brand New (a spinoff of Speak Up,) does such a great job. Be sure to read his thorough reviews of both of these examples as well as future identity projects.
Tuesday
Mar132007

90. Kerning Online.

Today, a former production artist that I worked with asked about a site that I had sent to him over a year ago. On this site � by the University of Delaware's Department of Visual Communications � you can test and train your kerning eye against the experts using various typefaces. This little exercise demonstrates the importance of kerning and is a great tool for aspiring designers. (Login using guest.) Though, I'm not too sure about the professional recommendation for BEAD, most examples are dead-on.
Monday
Mar122007

89. Picasso Exhibit.

This weekend I went to an exhibit at the SF Museum of Modern Art focusing on Picasso and his influence on American Artists. (I all to easily forget how powerful it is to be so close to such great works of art, especially by an artist I would consider a favorite.) I left better understanding the large shadow Picasso's talent and prolific output of masterpieces cast on other artists. If you are in town - check it out - it runs until late May.
Friday
Mar092007

88. Ad of the Week.

So, I'm walking near the Ferry Building here in San Francisco and came across these mobile billboards. ( 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 ) They are most certainly attention-getting and very, very well done. The image retouching is grade-A hollywood type stuff and quite powerful, especially when you walk past these buildings everyday. I just don't like using fear as a motivational tool. Maybe it's a powerful and effective device; but I don't leave these boards thinking what a great job the Red Cross does during unimaginable circumstances (which is true) - I just walk away thinking they don't have much taste. Maybe the copy could be stronger to make that point - what do you think? Despite this error in strategy, they are still a great cause to support. (Images by Jason DeFillippo as posted on flickr, here.)
Thursday
Mar082007

87. Nike's Fitted Uniforms.

Nike recently debuted a radical uniform design for four NCAA men's basketball teams. The design features a fitted jersey top, larger/longer shorts, and long-sleeve fitted under shirts � ala Under Armour. The materials and construction of the uniforms seem too extreme for me (especially the long sleeves,) but what I do like are all the little design details. For instance, the dark Florida jerseys feature a subtle alligator pattern, the Syracuse version incorporates a logo used on their very first uniforms, and some of the tights feature the names of alunmi players.

Team uniforms are a great place to watch design trends and are always controversial. If like me, you are into such things, visit Paul Lukas' UniWatch.