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273. Chrysler's New Logo

Normally, my goal for Graphicology is to be more in-depth, more reflective on design than just posting quick links to design stuff. There is more than enough of that going on, but this entry is a admittedly different. Chrysler filed a few patents and paperwork recently and are about to give a 5 year plan presentation and it appears that this might be a their new identity. This is the biggest and clearest version of it that I can find, so I'm posting it. (Right/Control click on the image above to download a larger though still pixelated version.)

Most people will come out hating this, I think. Maybe justifiably. For me however—even though it feels a bit Aston-Martinish (as reported via AutoBlog)— I like it's stance. I like the long, squat & anchored feel of it. That's not necessarily an approval by any means. I just think the 'feel' of the mark communicates something automotive on a instinctual level that I like even though the wings have very little to do with anything and the elements once broken down, break down. This early image isn't good enough to evaluate the typography, but I bet it's respectable enough. As soon as we have a clearer version, we'll go more indepth. Or I'll just link you to Armin's thoughts over at BrandNew. Ha. More new identity design will be forthcoming from Dodge too.

On a somewhat unrelated note, anyone else notice how handsome the new Ford Taurus is looking these days? Especially the SHO. It's come a long way since 2000/01 when my friend and I coined the Taurus Wagon and the Pontiac Aztek the two ugliest cars in the world. Well done Ford. Well done.


272. The Made in Oregon Soap Opera. 

I love the neon Made in Oregon sign located at the west end of the Burnside Bridge heading into downtown Portland. I think my first trip to Portland was in 2000 and although I had no idea that it was actually an ad for the Made in Oregon store—I had assumed that it was a pride in being from Oregon thing—i just loved the retro design and scale. Fast forward nine years later and I'm back in Portland for a trip and seeing the sign as I ride in still gives me a nice feeling. This time around however, I thought I would do a little research and find out more about my favorite sign. And boy am I glad that I did. There's been a regular design, political, corporate, grassroots soap opera going on in the Rose City over the last 10 months and I had no idea 'my sign' was at the center of it all.

First a short history lesson.

The Made in Oregon sign hasn't always been the Made in Oregon sign. From Wikipedia: "The original sign was installed in 1940 and said “White Satin Sugar” inside an outline of the state. In 1959 a white stag was added to the top, and the sign was changed to “Home of White Stag Sportswear”, a former apparel manufacturer based in Portland. In 1997 the sign consisted of the outline of Oregon, with a leaping deer at the top and "Made in Oregon" as the text to promote products that originate in the state. The sign has become one of the identifying landmarks of Portland. In 1978, the sign was even designated as a City of Portland Historic Landmark. (More on just what that means in a little bit.)

The original White Satin Sugar sign & White Stag Sportswear Revision:


The original sign manufacturer interestingly enough is still in business. Ramsay Signs was established in 1911 by A.G. Ramsay who was also the President of the Brilliant Neon Corporation. According to their site, Ramsay and Brilliant merged in 1933 to become Ramsay Signs, Inc and is still one of the leading sign companies in the Northwest. To give you an idea of how important this sign is to the company - it is still featured prominently on their website's homepage.

The building this sign sits on top of has had a few tenants over the years, White Stag Sportswear of course being one of them. Originally it was designed in 1907 as a manufacturing and warehouse facility by the Willamette Tent and Awning Company. But in September 2006 The University of Oregon accepted the keys to the building from long-time owner, the Naito Family. The university (based in Eugene not Portland - this is important to remember for later too) planned on renovating the landmark building and consolidating their Portland branches into the location by January 2008. It didn't take the University of Oregon too long after that to propose changing the sign to read “University of Oregon.” The official pre-application request was submitted to the city on December 9th. And that's when all hell broke loose.

The Proposal Design and Notice:


So at this point residents began to freak out a little bit. Over 68 years the sign went from being a mere marketing billboard to being a historical and beloved landmark. In the winter they even go through the trouble of giving the White Stag a red nose and transform it into Rudolph for the Holiday Season. Think of it as the Northwest's version of the Welcome to Vegas sign. It's prominently used in advertising for the region and is a very recognizable welcome to visitors. Since the sign was designated a historical landmark by the City of Portland, any changes to it would need to be approved by the Landmark Commission, thus the notice by the Bureau of Development Services you see above.

Portland Commissioner Randy Leonard, Mayor Sam Adams and Commissioner Nick Fish then co-sponsored an ordinance Leonard introduced that would seize control of the sign away from the university and give it to Portland, therefore preserving the sign’s design. As it stood at that time only the deer, size of the board, and the typeface used were protected by the historical designation and precedent was set in 1997 when the commission passed the change to Made In Oregon from White Stag Sportswear by "recognizing that the sign's ultimate survival depended on its commercial viability." There was a similar uproar about changing the sign back then too, and although the commission passed the change they did rule that, "any future alterations cannot significantly change the sign’s historic appearance."

Since moving into the building The University of Oregon was actually paying to maintain and keep the sign lit, although it was doing nothing to promote the institution at this point and was still owned by the sign manufacturer, Ramsay Signs. By submitting the proposal the university was merely offering to buy the sign and use it to promote their school and by doing so possibly saving the sign from being taken down. It's easy to understand why they would want to change the sign. Several months earlier, Ramsay Signs President Darryl Paulsen wrote an editorial in the Oregonian expressing his perspective on the matter and here is an excerpt:

"By accepting the UO's offer, we can guarantee the sign's presence on Portland's skyline for years to come, and the UO will not only keep the sign lit, but also will keep it in good repair. The UO's desire to put its own mark on the iconic sign is in keeping with the spirit and history of the neighborhood. The university's presence in Portland predates that of the sign by more than 50 years. I can think of no better way to use the sign than to recognize the identity of an institution woven into the fabric of this city and this state. The UO itself is every bit the icon for the state that the "Made in Oregon" sign is for the city. Together, the sign and the UO will form an even greater icon, one that honors the past while pointing toward the future."

The residents of Portland were less understanding and many joined several grassroots efforts to stop the proposal from going forward. There's even a Facebook group (Keep the Made in Oregon Sign the Way It Is) dedicated to the effort - which I just joined as the 10,877th member.  When the proposal was heard in March, the city planners ruled against the new design stating, "that there would be too many letters, and that the changes would make the sign inconsistent with its historical character." But the proposal just shined more light on the possibility of change and things continued to get more interesting as spring progressed. By early April it was a mess.

Politics As Usual:

After the University's proposal, Portland Commissioner Randy Leonard tried to use the City's power to condemn a property to ensure that the council could control what it said. However, the university would have had to give up their right to the property on which they had a lease-purchase option signed with Ramsay Signs. University of Oregon President David Frohnmayer however was set on changing the sign and a stalemate ensued. Not deterred, Leonard then tried to use eminent domain to take over the property by offering to pay fair market value for the sign, estimated at roughly $500,000 plus maintenance fees and a small lease of the space it takes up on the roof of the building. Acknowledging that this latest move was fairly aggressive, City Attorney Linda Meng said in an article here that "...the use of eminent domain is warranted if the taking serves a public purpose. "It's not your ordinary condemnation, but the ordinance does a good job explaining what the public purpose is," she said. Frohnmayer responded to this threat with a threat of his own, suggesting that the school just let the sign go dark. Things were getting ugly.

How did the public respond to this? Well, once outraged that the sign was going to change at all they were now more than a little irritated that the city was going to spend over half a million dollars to keep the sign using somewhat dubious means during a severe budget and economic crisis. That led to a division in the hearts and minds of the residents. How much was the sign worth to people in hard cash? Could changing the sign in effect save the sign and was this better than totally losing it?

While all this was going on, a certain institution of higher learning was getting increasingly infuriated at the notion of seeing the words University of Oregon in lights across the most identifiable landmark in the area. If you are unfamiliar with Portland you may not know too much about Portland State University. PSU is actually the college that is most identifiable with downtown Portland as the University of Oregon is based in Eugene, (now with the aforementioned branch downtown), and Oregon State is based in Corvallis. PSU President Wim Wiewel criticized the proposal in a Business Journal story, saying the sign shouldn’t “promote any particular product or institution.” In the same story, Ty Kovatch, chief of staff to City Commissioner Randy Leonard summed up PSU's perspective by stating, “What if PSU or Oregon State (University) came into Eugene and ... put a big PSU or OSU sign there?” he said. “I don’t think the citizens of Eugene would view that as any more appropriate as citizens would view a University of Oregon sign here.”

A failed, unofficial proposal by Ramsay Signs:


A complicated issue for sure. So in April there was another meeting after the initial proposal was refused in March and there was an actual compromise made between the city, the University of Oregon and the sign owner - still at this point, Ramsay Signs. As reported in the Business Journal on April 8th of this year, the parties agreed that the new sign will "instead just include the word Oregon in the main section. A banner below the single word will read Old Town - Portland on a green background. Also, the city of Portland will have the first option to buy the sign if the university leaves the building." Of course, the city’s Historic Landmarks Commission would still have to approve the new design which was submitted soon thereafter, sometime in June or July. The University of Oregon would use surrounding features to connect the word Oregon with the O logo of the university as seen in the composite below.

The New Proposed Design (You can see an animation in the update far below.)

So, everyone's happy right? Well everyone except the people who wanted to leave the sign alone, those that felt too much money was being wasted by the political back and forth, those who didn't care about the sign at all, and those embarrassed by how everyone was acting - which was a large swath of the public. People fighting the change figured if it was worth fighting for, an icon if you will, then any change to the sign was wrong and the process wasted valuable resources. The whole situation became a joke of sorts spawning all kinds of humorous versions of the sign mocking the entire process, like this one below found here:


This little issue continued through September via a few proposal extensions — the Oregon design being roughly approved since July but being held up on some related issues involving signage on nearby buildings and parking lot ownership. But by the end of September the university had changed their mind about wanting to use the sign. As reported in the Oregon Daily Emerald, University Provost Jim Bean said, “The financial situation has changed since we began this discussion" after announcing to the city that the university will not renew its lease on the sign. And just two days ago (October the 8th) Ramsay Signs officially withdrew their application leaving the sign under their ownership. (You can follow the full convoluted timeline here.)

So the sign purists seemed to have won, except it's only a temporary victory. The ultimate fate of the sign and it's Made in Oregon design rests on the market. News Channel 8 in Portland has quoted Darrell Paulson (still President of Ramsay Signs) as putting the sign back up for sale. "They will now start knocking on doors to see who might like to see their name in lights" and that he "...expects there are several large companies that would like to have their name on the sign -- and sponsor the red-nosed reindeer that’s brought a little cheer to Portland’s holiday season for many years." Oh boy. To maintain the sign for a month would cost a new owner only about $1500 and these funds would prevent the company from simply turning the sign off, which as of late last month was highly likely. Selling the sign to a new company would ignite the whole process all over again pitting corporations and the government and the residents and their respective interests all against each other. But for the time being the sign remains lit and looking just as it has since I first visited Portland and for that I'm thankful.

Enjoy it while you can:


271. Brand Consistency.

I'll hand one thing to the folks at Volvo. They picked safety as their core value and have stuck to it through thick and thin. And that consistency really does matter and helps support their loyal consumer base. You think Volvo and you think Safety. Few brands are as clear and dedicated to their brand. Case in point the brouhaha (brewhaha, bruhaha, or brühaahaa?) over distracted driving. Distracted being a kind word for texting or calling or buying stocks or downloading a new iPhone app while you're supposed to be watching where you are commandeering your 3000 pound vehicle at 70 miles per hour—you know who you are. Well Volvo took a stance in support of legislation by placing full-page ads in the USA Today and Washington post. The timing took advantage of the US Department of Transportation's Distracted Driving Summit being held this week in Washington, DC. I had trouble finding a whole print ad, so I simply asked their PR team to send it to me. (Very responsive folks, I might add.) I thought others might be interested in seeing the whole thing too. Though not the most dynamic Volvo ad ever, it did its job and was very well timed of course. Read the official press release available on their corporate site for more complete information.

Outside of political action and lobbying, it's rare to see a corporation take a stand on a political issue, let alone call for legislation - so this ad is worth discussing. It's a very public and political decision to state their case in this way. And while I am certainly against businesses paying for their influence over 'my' government, this does seem to be a genuine effort on behalf of drivers everywhere. Not only do I think it's a good example of brand consistency, it's also a good PR move providing a rallying point for others who see this as a problem. It's also bit courageous from a marketing perspective to publicly dip their toes into politics and I like it. Especially compared to how most companies do it in private.

I do wonder—since Volvo also manufactures trucks and semis—how they come down on commercial drivers using their computer systems while driving. Interesting. Read more about that here.

Volvo's Distracted Driving Ad: (Click for larger view.)


270. A Little Design Process via Hawse. 

I love it when designers are open with their process behind a project. Oftentimes, the mess and chaos of creating is as interesting as the final result and it's nice to see how others approach a design problem. I stumbled upon a little project by Hawse Design out of Charlotte when I was reviewing my site traffic as I occasionally do—if they read Graphicology they are obviously good people of high moral standing just like you—and although it's not a rebranding of a large multinational corporation it does shed light on the importance of sketching. Even in our digital age a designer's ability to put thought to paper is essential to creating a well-executed visual solution. Even if those initial sketches are sloppy sharpie scribbles like mine tend to be. There is something magic about that doodling that lets the mind figure out all the details as you go along. It usually takes some time, but it works. Starting on the computer - at least for everyone I know - just doesn't have good results.

Omni Academic Logo Before and After:

For the Omni Montessori School Hawse had designed a pretty nice academic logo (above) and they were tasked with producing an equally solid athletic identity for their Owl teams. And their process of Owling went something like this.

1. Research.

This is a step that all too often is skipped, but research done up front helps the final design have integrity. Of course Hawse was designing an owl - so it helps to know what an owl looks like. Not what you think it looks like, but what it really looks like. I am usually surprised by some little detail that is dug up during my research and bet this was the case with this project. From the creative team, "The next few images show some of the images we referred to more often. We were paying very close attention to the shape of the eyes and different hallmarks of owl anatomy that we could exploit when creating the mascot. Remember, the mascot we design has to be easily produced in a variety of materials and colors." And research doesn't have to be so literally graphic either - it can be demographic, an exploration of artistic methods, figuring out all the pieces your creation will be printed on and limitations, or simply what the competition is doing. Regardless of type, do your research. Early and often.


2. Initial Sketch Stage

For a designer this is where you work and rework your approach until you feel confident about the concept. For a logo such as this, it's all about positioning, angle, personality and bringing the mascot to life. For a more general project it can be something vague like, "What's the big idea?" or "How is this all going to tie together?" Using a journal and doodling is the artist's way of figuring it all out. If you don't keep a journal and go straight to adobe, you'd be surprised what you are missing. The design team had this to say, "As we studied the owl references, we constantly kept up with sketches. These were really more for studying the shapes and relationships, rather than really clean illustrations. This part in the process helps us to build up a mental rhythm of how owls are built." And after two days straight of drawing they began to feel like they had something from which to work. (Below.)


3. Digital Work.

Here's where the craft and skill come to play. What up to this point is a general concept becomes a more final version of that idea. Everyone has their own method and style of how they develop sketches into final or more final artwork. From Hawse, "After we felt we had a good direction from our sketches, I hopped right into Illustrator to begin working on the concepts that we would show the client. Why is the work in magenta? I have no idea. It's just a habit that I started years ago. I think mentally it helps me keep focused on trying new things and not "falling in love" with whatever I've just drawn. My brain: magenta = work in progress // black: finished illustration." Magic can happen during this stage too. Working on several versions of a piece can help each individual concept along. The problem with the image above according to the team was that it still looked too much like a hawk. Pulling from some other artwork they eventually solved this problem.


4. Further Artistic Additions.

Every project is unique and the team needed to address typography that matched the tone of the school as well as that of the mascot. Not only was typographic style important, but also the physical placement and relationship between the owl and word became something that had to be solved. Color was of course crucial and a lot of different palettes were manipulated to see which worked best. (I really dig a couple of these.) And at some point during all of this the hawk became a real owl. (Note the difference in the 'ears' or top of the mascot's head. It's in the details.)

5. Options.

Along the way the team showed three identity options and out of those options came this little guy, which would become an alternative 'detail mark' which I really like. Look for it above in the sketches - do you see it? Keep the journal handy.

With all the hoopla surrounding spec work or logos on the cheap, it's this kind of process that will keep your design work from becoming a mere commodity. If you are only getting paid $5 for a design, you simply cannot afford to put this much effort into the art - which of course makes it far inferior, because it's the combination of talent, time, passion and personal accountability that makes a design something special and you worth being hired. I don't think a stock logo would be as nice as this would you? Well done Hawse, this is a nice example of how process and THE process work behind the scenes during a small (yet loved) identity project. You can view more on their Flickr page here.


269. The Tale of How Book & Prints.

This is gorgeous stuff, this project by The Black Heart Gang out of Cape Town. Called, The Tale of How, it is a beautiful animation about "...a giant octupus whose desire is to consume every dodo resembling bird there is in sight, until Eddy the Engineer โ€” a little white mouse โ€” saves the day." The artwork seems to have a Japanese or at least Asian vibe with a modern and occasionally dark touch and is stunning storytelling.

Here's the original animation:

Even more impressive are the prints and coffee table book of the project they've just released for sale. I think the prints capture all the detail that tends to whiz by when in motion. They are definitely my favorite part and worth studying. It's hard to pin down exactly who is responsible for what, but I believe the animation and still work was by Jannes Hendrikz and Ree Treweek, the principals at Black Heart. You can order the book of stills with the original animation included on a DVD for about $40, and soon you'll be able to order single prints.

Sample Set of Prints:

The Black Heart Gang is a commercial director group / sound house doing work for several big agencies. From the tone of their site they are just as fanciful as their work. In the states they are represented by Duck Studios. (Who by the way were kind enough to send me a couple personalized reels for my forthcoming Title Design Show.) To get a better idea of their aesthetic, take a look at a United Airlines spot they produced called Sea Orchestra. Keep an eye out for more of their stuff.

United Airways Sea Orchestra:

Sea Orchestra from Shy the Sun on Vimeo.


QuickPost #5: Update on Site Structure.

Just wanted to let the readers know that I'm currently working on some updates to the site's structure. There are a few bugs yet to be fixed (such as weird spacing before links, and image wrapping) but I think I'll have that all worked out soon. Thanks for reading and come back early and often. Thanks as always for sharing Graphicology with your friends, but going forward it will be easier to share each article using the 'share' link at the bottom of the post.


268. What I Learned at CreateAthon '09.

Last Thursday at 8am began my first foray into CreateAthon. I had been threatening for years to be involved in some way, and I finally made good on that—learning quite a bit along the way.

First, you should know what CreateAthon is. CreateAthon is (from the site)"...a 24-hour, work-around the clock creative blitz during which local advertising agencies generate advertising services for local nonprofits that have little or no marketing budget. Since the program’s expansion from a single market to a national effort in 2002, 73 agencies have joined the CreateAthon network, holding CreateAthon events in their cities. This effort has benefited over 1,000 nonprofit organizations with 2,248 projects valued at more than $10 million."

So yeah, it's like anything that is followed by -athon. You do it, nonstop until the job is done only instead of money we're raising ideas that can live long past the event. You drop everything for 24 hours and focus on a problem or two that can be helped with a little design, writing, some creative thinking, strategy, multimedia or whatever you can give. Time being the key gift. And you give that gift to a select group of nonprofits. The nonprofits that we were assigned had to go through a thorough application process and be approved before the event.

CreateAthon was started 12 years ago by Riggs Partners, a much cooler than you can imagine group out of Columbia, SC. I've known Cathy Monetti, Teresa Coles and Kevin Smith for several years now and finally got down there to participate. I wasn't sure what to expect. I have turned around a project or two in less than a day during my career, but nothing like this. We were going to go from creative brief discussion at 8am to concept to execution to presentation to driving home without much sleep all in 24 hours. Yikes! But I couldn't resist being included and knew that because of the time limit on the process that much would be learned. And what thing learned isn't even more powerful when shared?

What I learned during CreateAthon '09.

1. The effect of ego. Immediately upon walking into Riggs early on Thursday morning, you knew there were no egos. Everyone was an equal part in the process and was equally respected. We were all coming together for a cause and that spirit was palpable. That had largely to do with the founders at Riggs, but let's just say everyone there were the nice people with which you would like to work. This was a good thing come 4am when you might otherwise freak out. This absence of ego was refreshing.

17 people. Zero Egos? Yep. (With me in the back as usual.)

2. What is your title / responsibility again? Every team had a strategic AE, an art director, a writer and one senior person person from Riggs to make sure everything was okay, but to be honest I could hardly tell who was responsible for what. If you want a model of integration or collaboration or whatever fancy word is being thrown about these days, this was it. The AE took strategic thoughts form the art director. The art director took design input from the AE, the writer helped choose a strategic plan, the student on our team killed an idea (wisely) and was as free to speak his/her mind as one of the Riggs partners. This and the ego thing above went a long way to make this an enjoyable effort. I think replicating this spirit on a normal project, consistently over time, with regular employees would make the creative/strategic product better for sure. Not to mention the effect on morale.

3. Time constraints can be your friend. The impossible was done, going from brief to presentation in under a day, but there is a hidden lesson to be learned and that is the fact that a lack of time forces one to trust their creative instincts more. We had to think about it (concept), ask someone for his or her feedback, and then decide. (This was one of the taglines for the day, written down and everything.) There simply was no time for waffling or indecision. The clock was at once our friend and enemy. I could be wrong, but I believe Milton Glaser is quoted somewhere as saying that the more parameters he is given, the better his work becomes. I think Glaser would like CreateAthon.

I just need to: 1. think about it. 2. Talk about it. 3. Decide.

 4. Insight versus problem reiteration. Raise your hand if you've ever been given a strategic brief that simply reiterated an obvious problem, and gave you nothing new with which to work. Ok, put it down. You would have loved the briefs we were given during CreateAthon. They were simple. Clear. Concise. And most importantly provided a strategic platform that helped focus the creative work. As a matter of fact, most of the briefs were every bit as creative as the final work. Working from these documents was a joy and saved a lot of that valuable factor we mentioned in lesson #3. I believe Katy, Kevin, and Teresa were responsible for all the briefs and they were great.

Katy presenting her brief and organizing our effort.

5. Sharing. This is slightly different than mere collaboration. Around midnight on Friday morning, we took some time (time that maybe—technically—could have been wrongly argued to be better spent actually working,) and got around a table to present our progress to all the teams. Seeing all the work from the other teams gave us a chance to applaud the good, nudge things that might need a little change, prepare for our final presentations a mere 8 hours later, but overall be encouraging to those laboring on other projects. It was inspiring to see what everyone else was creating and to show off what we were up to. This was as close to a creative community as I have witnessed. Sharing your work in process and being open and sensitive (the good sensitive, not the bad) to the reaction it garners is more than beneficial. It's also fun. Below, George, a photographer mind you, presents some of his copy and a design from Ryon - who by the way can really make typography sing like it's supposed to.

Our Third Quarter Progress Presentation.

6. Trust. Because there was no time we had to rely on each other. When someone gave you negative feedback on something, you really had no choice but to trust it. And by you - I mean me. There was a point on our project when I was very close to nailing a design but something wasn't quite right. What I was hearing was negative feedback, or at least constructive criticism, and they were right. Trusting people that I had not known very well (at least this intimately or creatively) in something as important as I consider design was not difficult in this environment. I took the feedback. Made a change. And the creative was better for it. You can try to be as collaborative as possible, but if you don't trust the people around you it's impossible.

7. How to use down time. Normally, if I am working on a project and get a little burnt or tired of working on it, I'd walk away from it. Go for a walk. Hit the gym. Grab a coffee or whatever. And this isn't necessarily a bad thing. But I also learned that maybe the best thing to do when stuck on something is to go help someone else. This was surprisingly an effective means of recharging my own efforts. I am not sure just how helpful I was to the other teams, but there were a couple of times I tried to give my two cents and help solve a problem that wasn't mine. When I came back to my own little hole, it was much easier to dig myself out of it. And I should have done this even more. Imagine if everyone at your agency or studio did this regularly.

Me trying to payback all the mojo by helping Lauren before her presentation.

8.  Fun. This might seem like a little thing, but there is a difference that can be seen in the work when people that are having fun produce it. I believe the entire team had fun on every project and that's why you should get your agency and or studio to join next year. It's never too early. You'll have a blast, especially if you can replicate the environment and spirit present inside Riggs headquarters last Thursday/Friday.

Cathy being cheerful even at an ungodly hour.

Also, don't forget to bring a few toiletries as you do not want to look and smell like I did come 8 o'clock presentation time. (More proof that the Riggs folks are nice, they never mentioned it. Ha.) Try to work with people who are not as photogenic as our group, because you end up looking like the homeless person in the crowd. (I'm not offering photographic proof of this, just take my word for it.) And for goodness sakes get some sleep built up beforehand unlike me. You'll need it.

Thanks everyone for letting me play a part this year. I'll be back for sure.

The entire gang post -athon.



267. Divergent IQ and When a Brick isn't Just a Brick.

I have been assigning divergent IQ excercises as an adjunct professor for years now. Of course, I didn't really know that's what they were called until a few months ago while reading Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers. In the book, Gladwell discusses the difference between convergent IQ (you get a problem and whittle it away until you are left with the one correct answer) and divergent IQ (where you try to come up with as many solutions as possible for a problem.) When I first read about this topic, I quickly realized that it was the basis for a lot of the problem-solving I had been doing in my career as well as what I was trying to convey in the classroom. So at least now, all of that chaos has a fancy name.

It can help to be able to generate a wall of concepts, er bricks.

To illustrate the idea of divergent intelligence, Gladwell discusses the KIPP program, a network of free open-enrollment college-preparatory public schools in poor, mostly urban neighborhoods throughout the US. In this program they use a little test to gauge a potential student's divergent IQ. They simply show a student an image of a brick and ask them to list all the potential uses of that brick. Student A—with possibly a higher convergent IQ—might say things like "Building a wall. Paper weight. Door stop." While Student B—with possibly a higher divergent IQ—would say things like, "A way to make my toilet more efficient. An urgent message delivery mechanism when thrown through a window. The means to make my wrestling weight..." They simply take the purpose of a brick into new and more interesting territory. Having the ability to look at the ordinary and see the extraordinary is a benefit in most careers and is being more and more appreciated outside traditionally creative jobs.

In my classroom, one favorite and attention-getting divergent exercise is a take off of The Book of Bunny Suicides, by Andy Riley. As an exploration of creative thinking, I show them a few dozen examples of Riley's cartoons - which feature novel and occassionally gross methods in which the hero bunnies try to kill themselves. (I know, I know.) Then I ask them to spend an hour or so sketching up new ways for the bunnys to do this. The students have a lot of fun working with this macabre material and usually come up with some great concepts. For instance, in a design course for seniors, one student illustrated the bunny wedging himself between the door handles of a Macy's department store, just before the Sale on Black Friday begins and a huge crowd waiting to rush through those doors. Divergent IQ indeed. I'll try to find this gem and post it.

The Bunny Suicides: (Property of Andy Riley, buy them here.)

Most recently I gave the brick test to a graphic design 1 class, and just to share, listed below are a few that showcase that type of thinking the best. My belief is that this type of intelligence should be developed whenever possible. It's not just a silly excercise but can lead to a more open problem-solving process. And what business or company can't use more of that?

Example Uses for a Brick:

  1. Memorabilla from an historic building
  2. A way to practice good posture
  3. Inspiration for retro cell phone model
  4. Industrial decoration for an aquarium
  5. Inside a teddy bear - it's a secret fitness tool for kids
  6. What less fancy spas use instead of hot rocks
  7. Way for short preachers to appear taller behind the pulpit
  8. A challenge for expert rock skippers
  9. A coat of gold paint away from being a gold brick
  10. Ghetto bling to attach to your chain necklace
  11. Percussion instrument
  12. Long-lasting nail file, etc...



266. More Arabic and Western Identity Design.

The blog posts have been few and far between this month as I have been on holiday and traveling quite a bit. But I'm excited to announce a few new additions to the very popular gallery of arabic and western identity design comparisons. You can view the gallery via flickr here. Highlights include Krispy Kreme (above), Au Bon Pain (beautiful) and Ikea. Enjoy.

I promise to get back to my more regular posting schedule over the next few weeks.


265. Ad of the Week: Lee Jeans

Not sure I would ever have thought Lee Jeans would be highlighted here on Graphicology, but this timely gem is worth discussing. It doesn't need too much of a lead-in unless you didn't see our Commander in Chief and his mom jeans during the MLB All-Star Game earlier this month. This was a big deal as you can read here. and here.

The Offending Mom Jeans:

Yesterday, the Lee Jeans company jumped on the opportunity to write a letter to The President, extolling the virtues of their jeans in an ad that ran in the New York Times. Now, I think the ad would have been far more powerful had it run a couple weeks ago and the copy could have been a bit more punchy โ€” but it's still a nice, visible way to get a little buzz for their brand. Maybe this will go a long way to convince consumers that Lee doesn't actually make mom jeans; which I thought they did. (In all honesty, I didn't think his jeans (Levis) were all that bad, simply ill-fitting, but then again I'm not much for high fashion.) Photo above Courtesy of NY Mag, and the tip came courtesy of @SwissMiss and @JuliaHoffman.

Here's the ad:
And their 'placement' during the Early Show: