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185. Type Transitions.

Earlier this summer, I had the privilege of co-teaching an advertising concepts class at Furman University with Ross McClain, the Associate Professor of Art at the South Carolina institution. (Furman has a beautiful campus located just outside Greenville.) The class was completely enjoyable, the students a lot of fun, and Ross was both patient and supportive of having another voice in his classroom. I hope to be able to do it again.

One day during class, Ross mentioned a typography project that he undertook as part of his sabbatical research. The project tried to interpolate a final typeface from the original typefaces throughout printing history. Basically he chose 20 typefaces, paired them together, and combined them into a single typeface over and over until there was only one typeface left standing. The process worked much like the way a family tree does and the result wasn't meant to end in a useable font so much as it was to see what would happen. A simple video slideshow (which loads fairly slowly,) a few images, and further explanation from the professor after the jump.

Click to read more ...


184. Ad Of The Week. If It Were An Ad.

WebRidesTV recently raced a Mini Clubman against a go-cart, to see if the Mini truly had "go-cart-like" handling. I'm not going to spoil the ending, but the action is actually pretty good and would make an excellent ad. Are you listening Butler, Shine, Stern and Partners? (Not that they do a bad job with Mini.) The first half of the video is more car review - the good stuff happens around the mid-point. (Note: contains mild-language.)


183. A Call to Arms.

patriot.jpgI’m liking this work from Michael Bierut and the Canary Project, that was posted on the buses of Cleveland – his hometown. Riding the bus, for a long time anyway, was something that poor people who couldn’t afford a car or college students did. But this call to be a green patriot gives people permission to feel good about it as well as empowering others to do the same. I also think there is an undercurrent contrasting this type of patriotism versus the ‘patriotic’ ribbons adorning the eye-level bumpers of SUVs across America, though I’m unsure if this was intended or merely happenstance. The design is understated yet bold and implementing the green militiaman sillhouette gives the project the immediacy it deserves, a call to arms as it were. (Images via Pentagram where you can see more samples.) There is also a website, where others can join in and make a poster, get involved, donate or take action in their community in the name of energy independence and climate change.

Be A Green Patriot:




182. AMC's MadMen.

madmen.jpgWhen I first heard about AMC's MadMen, I was pretty determined not to watch it. Working in advertising, the last thing I’d want to watch is more advertising. But while visiting a friend I caught the first episode and was intrigued enough to buy the first season on dvd a few months later. The packaging (shots below) for the first series is great, coming in a larger version of a zippo lighter – appropriate for the immense amount of smoking that goes on in the offices of Sterling Cooper, the fictitious agency set in 1960 Manhattan. (The zippo sponshorship is brilliant product placement as it's not annoying and becomes a key visual element throughout the storyline.) I’m hooked. The attention to detail in the props/sets not to mention the portrayal of the advertising industry is enough to keep me watching; but the plot and characters are equally compelling. I’m eagerly waiting season two, which begins on the 27th. There have been several articles written about the series, none better than the two posts on Design Observer: Michael Bierut weighs in on the creative pitches and William Drenttel talks about being a madmen himself. But I couldn’t help compare and contrast the agency life as presented in MadMen with my own experience in advertising of about ten years.

Just a few thoughts, with no spoilers.

  1. Integrated campaigns. I don’t remember the last time we pitched business without pitching ambient, interactive, and alternative media to go along with broadcat and print. Watching Don Draper pitch an account using only three print ads seems downright neolithic. This underscores how much the industry has changed in the last forty years – you can’t serve your clients with a mere magazine campaign. I can’t help but wonder how they would pitch a new micro-site or how well they’d work with product placement.
  2. Presentations. I’ve worked with creative directors who were just as confident when presenting as Don Draper, though none had quite the amount of arrogance. I know they are out there, but I don’t think that approach would work very well anymore. I'm not sure if that’s because clients are more demanding and suspicious or if the industry is simply more transparent. Draper is smooth but not very empathetic in most pitches, with the beautiful Kodak presentation as an obvious exception.
  3. The drinking and the smoking. Thank goodness I don’t have to work in an environment where everyone smokes. I think you can still smoke on some floors at Leo Burnett (agency of record for RJ Reynolds), but like most other business – it’s a thing of the past. The drinking however is still very much evident but most often is done not during business but afterwards. I have never seen anyone offer scotch or gin during the day, but we’ve often had a few beers out during a longer client meeting or on Friday afternoons.
  4. Dress Code. It’s interesting to watch the creatives run around the agency in suits. This is strange as I don’t think I’ve ever seen any of my creative directors that I’ve worked with wearing a tie; let alone an entire suit. Most often my uniform is a tshirt and jeans. The attitudes have completely changed on this, as the best agencies are usually the most casual. Though a part of me would like the dress code to come back. Maybe for a week. Or just a day.
  5. Women. The woman at Sterling Cooper are looked at as second-tier people. They are secretaries and paper-filers and none of the important jobs at the agency are filled with women. I’d like to say that this still isn’t the case, but I simply haven’t seen many women in the creative departments of the agencies of today. Women have made more grounds in the account executive roles, but not so much in creative or management. Maybe that is changing.
  6. Art Department. The art department was secondary to the copywriters. The ideas came from the writers and the art directors simply slid the layouts under the door. Yikes! Today, the writers and art directors usually work together on the ideation and are more of a team throughout the creative process. I’m glad that I wasn’t an art director at Sterling Cooper, working in the dungeons.

Packaging Shots:



Be sure to check out the title sequence for the show too. It’s quite well-done and worth watching on it’s own merit.






181. Old Ad of the Week.

Something funny to end the week. I believe this spot is about a year old (or maybe a touch more), but somehow I must have missed it. It’s for Altoids chocolate-dipped mints and was produced by Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners in Sausalito, CA – or at least that is my best guess. We were reviewing some directors’ reels this afternoon and when we got to Biscuit’s Tim Godsall, the director, we came across this beauty. It’s not the most intellectual of spots, but it sure made us all laugh out loud. And here’s the magic words, “I wish I had done that.”


180. Penny-pinching Chevy Ad.

aveo.jpgJust so you see it. I'm not saying it's good or bad, just that it's an interesting example of participatory/immersive advertising.

Apparently, a billboard in London posted by Chevrolet created quite a scene recently. The billboard featured A new Chevy Aveo, and was covered by 20,000 pennies to promote the 769,500-pence asking price. Not so surprisingly, once pedestrians took notice the billboard didn’t last long – it took only 30 minutes to be completely stripped bare. Much like a Chevy Aveo. (That's a joke by the way.)

Carscoop quotes Chevrolet's Les Turton: "There have been some great car adverts before, but none that has stopped traffic and actually put money back into the motorist’s pocket so this is certainly a first. We’re glad we’ve topped up lots of people’s wallets, purses and, in some cases, rucksacks, but it would have been nice for the billboard to last a little longer than 30 minutes.”

Try that stuff in the states and you'd have a riot on your hands. We'll wait six days in a line outside a gas station just for a chance to win a $10 gas card.

Via Autoblog via Carscoop.

Here are some pics:





179. 2008 TDC Winners.

kimera.jpgA little late on this one, admittedly, but it’s always an important award to review. The 2008 winners of the TDC2 contest are up on the site and this year’s winners are more global than past years – or so it seems. There are a couple arabic winners to go along with a few other non-latin faces, all worth checking out. It's great to see such an international vibe to the winning entries. I always have a personal favorite, and this year it’s Presidencia by Kimera Design (really the work of Gabriel Martinez Meave) out of Mexico City. This is a great find, because it lead me into their website, which led me to their type website, which has a lot of unique type-related information and links. I love that they have sketches of their process to review, in addition to a slew of great custom type families at which to gawk. I’m more than happy to help this work get more publicity and I love going down a link trail to find such good stuff at the end.

A sample sketch:



An early sketch of Lagarto, a favorite face from Kimera:



Full type specimen of Presidencia, the TDC2 2008 winner:




178.'s Big Picture.

bigpicture.jpgPerhaps the best thing to happen to online journalism since - - online journalism itself. The Boston Globe's Big Picture. Large, amazing photography and concise, informative captions all on timely topics. It's a simple concept, and I'm hooked.



177. EconoLodge New Identity.

econo.jpgIt must be logo season or something. One more major identity redesign has surfaced, though not nearly as big-name as Wal*Mart. Econolodge launched a new logo design in May at Choices’ 53rd Annual Convention. (Choice Hotels International owns hotels under the names of Comfort Inn, Comfort Suites, Quality, Sleep Inn, etc.)

The new design is being promoted by a somewhat awful, animated ad that you can see here and is part of an 18-month rollout.( The very similar banner ad is embedded at the bottom of this post.) By December, a ‘comprehensive brand re-imaging package’ will be introduced. I can only assume this means new interior/architecture design for the hotels that will somehow match the new logo. All of the identities within the entire Choice hotel line are fairly... well, fairly bad. Most feature these odd swooshes and arcs that mean nothing and communicate little about their particular way of doing business. So, I didn’t expect much from EconoLodge, which is a good thing.

Some Of The Choice Hotels:


I have very fond memories of EconoLodge. It’s one of the few places cheap enough for my somewhat-cheap dad to stop and stay during summer vacations or long trips that didn’t include a relative’s living room floor. (And when we didn’t just camp out in the back of the pickup.) Even when we’d stop at EconoLodge, he’d only buy a one-bed room, and we kids would sneak in and get the floor. The EconoLodges we stayed at were always bare-bones rooms with mis-matching curtains and ugly carpet; but that was part of the fun. In our world we couldn’t have imagined a Wyngate let alone a Four-Seasons. They were all too fancy for our econo-lifestyle. And that’s probably why I have a bad reaction to the new logo. It’s trying to be something it’s not: a glossy, shiny, modern place to stay. I can understand the decision to try and elevate the brand, make the hotels nicer and the rooms more comfortable, but as long as it’s called the EconoLodge, the identity should in some way reflect that name and the experience. The old logo could have easily been updated a bit to build on the strengths of the chain itself. A simple place to stay. But instead, it comes off like it’s pretending somehow.  

The New Identity Design:


Some particular gripes have to start with the little sparkle on the icon. Things have gone too far when we actually get a sparkle designed-into the logo itself. This is not a good thing at all people, and I feel like it’s only the beginning. Also, the new typeface (some sort of myriad condensed?) set in one word, isn’t an improvement over the old and feels squished into the red field. The icon/mark doesn’t add anything at all to the logo itself, besides tying it into the Choice family and lending a superficial quality to the whole thing. Here’s a snippet from the news release, which sheds some light on the subject: “The more inviting, bright logo, a result of extensive consumer research, is a culmination of a wealth of enhanced brand standards and guest satisfaction programs geared to position the brand for long-term growth and success.” Inviting. Bright. Consumer Research. Eek. Somehow this solution is lacking the intangible something that makes a mark feel like it belongs to the brand and is a huge missed opportunity. There was a better approach to take with this brand, though it would have required more courage from the company itself. And surprisingly, I think I miss that left-justified type. (No word yet on who is responsible for the new look.)



176. Wal-Mart Identity Redesign.

walmart.jpgThe Memphis Business Journal is reporting that a new Wal-Mart prototype store is being proposed in the area. And although this is interesting by itself, hidden in the article is the mention of a new logo. I must admit, that I do not shop at Wal-Mart – and oftentimes refer to it as the Great Wal of China. Actually, you would be hard-pressed to find someone more against their way of doing business. However, a new logo for one of the largest (the largest?) retailers in the world is big news. The article describes the logo, “The new logo featured on the store will read "Walmart" written in white letters on an orange background, followed by a white starburst, according to new documents submitted to the OPD by Wal-Mart this week. Documents also show its corporate logo in blue letters followed by an orange starburst. Wal-Mart's new corporate logo will officially be unveiled next week...” Unfortunately, I have no idea who is responsible for the identity update. NOTE: The BrandNew folks think it might be New York-based Lippincott. (They were the team behind Delta Airline's recent and excellent branding work.)


Generally, I think Wal-Mart’s brand reputation will have more to do with their corporate behavior and less to do with their new identity. Specifically however, there are a number of changes. Gone is the hyphen/star in their mark. Gone is the red/white/blue color palette. And gone is the all caps type treatment. In place of all that is a safe, ‘we’ve seen it before’ revision into a mainly lowercase sans serif typeface with a happy little asterisk as a sidekick. Boring, safe, predictable and definitely not interesting in any meaningful way. It is the perfect summation of a hundred mediocre identity revisions we’ve seen over the last few years. And probably what you’d expect to buy, if you bought branding at a store like Wal-Mart. (Or Buy-n-Large.) It is somewhat friendlier and less monolithic, so it is not without merit just void of anything remarkable.

The asterisk has been used well in Wal-Mart's 'Spend Less. Live More.' television and collateral campaign over the last year or so, though only as a graphic completely separate from the brand mark. This broadcast work is being done by one of the best ad agencies in the country, Martin out of Richmond,VA and is extremely smart and well-produced. It will be interesting to see how the new mark is used across all mediums once introduced officially.

(Imagery courtesy of The Business Journals and Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.)