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195. PostSpectacular Dynamic Book Designs.

London-based design studio, PostSpectacular, has a great post on their site about a new set of generative book covers they designed for Faber & Faber, a British publisher. The studio was commissioned to design a software system that would generate complete (and unique) book covers on demand, within predetermined design specs. They worked with Marian Bantjes - who is somehow involved in everything that is cool right now - to design a template, and then basically dissected it into little pieces that the software would rearrange. Crazy - but an interesting collaboration between artists and technology. Read more here.

A Few of the Covers:



194. Design in Denver.

Apparently, a Political Design flurry hit Denver during the Democratic Convention that was held this week. The Denver Egotist (a local, and shall we say, alternative media outlet) has an interesting article up about just that. Political affiliations aside, the Obama campaign has the underground artist and aboveground designer support that McCain simply cannot match. Whether this will matter come election day - a day when young people typically do anything but vote - remains to be seen. It will also be interesting to see what happens in the Twin Cities next week when the GOP rolls into town. Here are few samples:

The NOPE Poster. Even though less well-designed, a funny satire:

The Obama Progress Poster Looking Good:

And A JFK Reference:


193. Ad of the Week: Harvey Nichols.

So much of fashion advertising these days consist of scantily clad prepubescent, oversexed kids romping around on beaches or whatever, and it’s getting old. (Can you tell that I don’t like it?) And usually what’s missing in all of this hormonal mess is charm. Yes, sex can sell, but charm might just be able to build a longer, more healthy relationship between company and customer. Take for instance the recent work of British retailer, Harvey Nichols and a collaboration with artist Nick Park of Aardman Animations, using the famous Wallace & Gromit characters as fashion models. The goofy clay characters become transformed into sophisticated Haute Couture, by simply changing clothes. The campaign, by DDB London with photography by Giles Revell, is full of this almost naïve charm. (And don't discount the photography when evaluating why this campaign is a success. It had to be just right.) Though they are wearing the latest from HN, you can’t help but get a classic, 1950’s vibe from the campaign. It’s thoughtful because it is introducing a store-opening in Bristol, home of Aardman Animations. And it’s just pleasing to look at. There’s also a behind-the-scenes look, which if you read this blog often, you know that I like. When Wallace met Harvey. (All images and charactes are property of Harvey Nichols and/or Aardman Animation.) I LOVE this campaign. It's sweet (as in cool) and sweet (as in – you know – nice.)

Wallace & Gromit:

Lady Trottington:

Wallace & Gromit wide:

And for your information, here's what they're wearing:

From the HN website: "For the photo shoot, Wallace wears a navy cashmere jacket and silk tapered trousers by Alexander McQueen, Dolce & Gabbana fitted white shirt and Giorgio Armani tie. Gromit wears navy silk Paul Smith scarf. The second outfit for Wallace is a woollen Prince of Wales check grey two-piece suit by Paul Smith, whilst Gromit wears a pair of Ray-Ban Wayfarer sunglasses and purple stripe silk scarf by Duchamp. Lady Tottington is wearing a black draped jersey 'Acorn' dress by Alexander McQueen, red patent 'Triclo' shoes by Christian Louboutin and metallic bronze 'Puffy' bag by Zagliani. Hat, models own."


192. New Ford Mustang.

This is a logo update of a slightly different sort. Today, Ford announced a new look for their 2010 Mustang badge. It's fairly unusual that a car company would send out a press release for a simple identity update, but they did. The car won't be released for quite some time, but the new Mustang logo may hint at what's to come in the vehicle. The badge is more crafted, with crisp edges and a more modern profile - the horse has apparently been to they gym. There's nothing here to dislike, it's both respectful to the car's heritage as well as competitively designed for today's auto/design landscape.

From the press release, "We wanted to give the Mustang pony a more realistic feel,” said Douglas Gaffka, chief designer for the 2010 Mustang. “We lifted the head to make the pony more proud, tipped the neck into the wind to give it a feeling of greater speed and better balance. It’s more chiseled and more defined and looks more like a wild horse,” Gaffka added. “It’s more realistic in terms of proportion to an actual Mustang.”

A comparison:


The Original 1964 Pony:



191. Fox Sports Design.

This is great. It’s always better to have a peek into the process behind a design, than simply the design itself. Fox Sports Design group has their own site – who knew? - where they display some of their recent motion graphics work, of which they do a ton. A recent promotion for the Nascar Daytona 500 is located here, and you can view a concept sketch (above), a few screenshots, storyboard art, and the video itself. Be sure to check out their 2008 reel, which is quite an impressive collection. Though they tend to get a little crazy with their promotional graphics that you see during a show or game, their portfolio is filled with interesting and imaginative work.

One Storyboard Image:


The Final Result:





190. Everything is OK.

I really like this design/social experiment called Everything is OK. It’s both a positive reaction to all the problems in the world, as well as a condemnation that we’re not really doing enough, all at the same time. The activist kit includes stickers, decals and a few other elements, but most notably it takes the form of police barricade tape, except the words ‘do not cross’ are replaced with ‘everything is ok.’ The kit encourages social commentary depending upon where it’s used, making the medium but also the environment the message. The design itself is really strong, borrowing from caution signage and warning language – but the sarcasm directed towards mediocrity is the more powerful and important element. After all, who wants to be just OK? Imagine this placed around a New Orleans neighborhood still struggling to cope with the after-effects of Katrina, and you begin to see the point. Sort of a design - meets commentary - meets interactive - meets art piece. Anything that can help foster a real conversation about the more challenging topics of today, I like.

Activist Kit:

(Top photo courtesy of a creative commons license – link.)



189. Revised ADA Symbol.

Perhaps one of the most simple and elegant demonstrations of good design vs. bad: take a look at the redesigned Americans with Disabilities Act symbol by Brendan Murphy. You couldn’t ask for a more powerful statement on the importance of design, and it comes from 1994. So 14 years later and all I see is the old pathetic-looking ‘handicap’ logo, which is a real shame. The revised mark gives dignity and energy to this population, and the design obviously shows respect to its audience. Mass implementation should have followed, as the old mark is bordering on offensive, but obviously that has not been the case. (I believe Brendan Murphy may be the Brendan Murphy from Lipponcott fame, but I am not sure. And the document linked to below appears to have been in collaboration with the SEGD, the Society for Environmental Graphic Design.)

The design is good. The negative space alludes to the chair, which is really nice. I do have a little issue with the areas where the wheels end and the person begins – they don’t quite match the other angles and shapes – but it’s a huge step forward. The rationale included in the pdf, however, is spectacular. This proves that not only is the design important, but also how it is presented.

So we have a good design. A great rationale. But very sporadic implementation; even government documents feature the old identity system. So this may be an example of how a designer may need to partner up with agencies or non-profits or other entities in order for the design to be successful. Even when a design is clearly superior, we may need to assemble a coalition of supporters to change the status quo. 

Anyone have any more information on this?



188. Benny Cooperman Covers.

Penguin Canada recently hired HandsDesign to freshen up the look of the popular detective series Benny Cooperman written by Toronto author Howard Engel. Penguin is re-releasing the 12 books and hoped to have a design that modernized the somewhat dull reputation of the genre.

The Series:

Karin Hands, Creative Director of HandsDesign, describes the inspiration behind the project - a direct quote from DesignEdge – Canada: “I had the idea of a kind of Saul Bass style, as he’s renowned for his kind of detective style movie credits and things he’s done,” says Hands. “I though it fit in quite well, a quirky fun version of that detective feel. The style of writing is kind of a Dick Tracy-style writing anyway where it’s more poking fun at the genre, kind of riding along with it in a fun romp kind of way. I thought I’d do the same with the design by riding along with it and having a bit of fun with it.”

The Series, whole covers:

Each book has an illustration and type design that works for the singular story, but also fits into the group as a whole. What I like best about the cover design, is that you can just tell that the designers had a blast working on this project – and that is always a good thing. You can read more on Design Edge or on The Canadian Design Resource. And just to be thorough, this is what the covers looked like beforehand. (Pun embarassingly intended.) I wonder which ones I'd be more likely to pick up off the shelf?



187. Greenville Folk-Type.

I've driven past these signs so many times, that I finally had to stop and document them. It's not NY - or even close - but Greenville has a ton of folk-type and vintage signs and I hope to keep adding to this collection.
Get the flash player here:

Gallery courtesy of PictoBrowser.


186. The Essential Principles of Graphic Design.

Debbie Millman has come out with a new book, The Essential Principles of Graphic Design. The book is split into four parts; Essential Principles (type, color, layout, and style), Principles of the Creative Process (visual strategy, research, working with imagery, account management and production), Principles within Disciplines which is the meat of the book–featuring the process and thinking behind many of the best design projects in recent years, and the final section is called Sound Bites–concise thoughts from the contributing designers on all sorts of subjects related to practicing graphic design.

The Principles within Disciplines section is much like a lot of the ‘best of’ books you see on the shelves these days only the projects are better chosen and the peak behind the curtain more enlightening. The reader gets involved in the process behind the Delta Airlines redesign, Target’s ClearRx pill bottles, Martha Stewart’s Identity, and many many others including the VM World Conference 2007’s amazing event branding work by Brian Rea & Nicholas Blechman; a personal favorite. This section could be a book by itself and still be better than most case studies / design annuals.

VM World Conference 2007

Lippincott's Delta Identity Upgrade


The Sound bites are great, but only about four pages. It seems to me that these were little gems thrown out by the contributing designers that although didn’t fit into the final project write-up, were too good to throw away. They feel somewhat like a continuation of Millman’s previous book, How to Think Like a Great Graphic Designer.

The opening 47 pages (the first two sections of the book) are what really grab you. It’s a whirlwind of quick overviews of basic principles we all manipulate when we practice design as well as passionate pleas to pay attention to the importance of each. The articles written by some of today’s best designers are an important read for the beginner, but they are also equally relevant for the pro. The Boston Celtics still do basic layup and ball-handling drills to stay sharp – and these primers are the equivalent for the experienced designer. You may not learn something you didn’t already know, but you’ll be more focused the next time you start a project. Marian Bantjes' rant on primes versus true quotation marks, dashes versus hyphens, and paragraph spacing and indentation is way overdue. Cheryl Swanson’s visual strategy essay provides inspiration as well as a basic recipe for a brand personality. And Satoru Wakeshima’s contribution on account management and workflow is a quick overview of how a design job typically flows through a studio and should be read by every design account person. And that's the just the beginning.

Marian Bantjes on Typography


Millman's Essential Principles isn't so much a textbook as it is a text supplement. It's not nearly in-depth enough to really instruct a classroom on all things graphic design. (And that wasn't the intent either.) However, I would suggest going over the first 47 pages would be a good way to begin a design course and the other 209 pages will become more important to each designer as their career progresses. And if you are way past your student years, you'll find room on your shelf for this book because of the insight shared through three-dozen case studies of high-profile projects. You can read what the author says about the book on her blog here.