A Tourist Destination Made of Rice Straw

At the end of every harvest season, farming communities around the world celebrate with festivals, parades, and the crowning of harvest queens. (e.g., in 1948, an unknown actress named Marilyn Monroe won the title of Artichoke Queen in Castroville, Ca.) These festivals are usually the most exciting local events to happen all year. Except for folks from neighboring farm communities, they don’t draw many out-of-towners, much less real tourists. But in the rice-growing region of Northern Japan, tourists flock in for the Wara Art Matsuri.

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Overdramatic Edeka Grill Commercial

Berlin-based ad agency, Jung von Matt, has produced a wildly over-the-top ode to grilling meats that could be a scene from “Game of Thrones.” Made to promote the German supermarket chain Edeka, the ad titled “Men of Fire” relates the affinity of fire to meat through the ages. British actor Christopher Fairbank narrates with Shakespearean gravitas the importance of fire as he walks us through the centuries. “In the beginning there was fire kindled by lightening from heaven,” he roars, taking us past cavemen gnawing on “slain” charred meat. Fairbank’s scorns the modern barbecue fare – the “ridiculous sparkling drinks, the fussy pretentious artisanal salads, breads, and sweet dips too.” The one eternal truth he tells us is that “meat was meant to be charred.” The ad was a wonderful spoof, although since Edeka isn’t an American brand, it was unclear what the ad was plugging. Still it was memorable and fun.

Stella Artois Ice Skating Priests

This two-minute commercial for Stella Artois Beer, shot in 2005, is as engaging to watch as a Harold Lloyd black-and-white silent comedy from the 1920s. Directed by UK-based Jonathan Glazer for Lowe London, the Stella Artois “Ice Skating Priests” ad says a lot about the history and reputation of this Belgian pilsner beer without actually saying a word. We get the idea that Stella Artois has been around since the 1920s by viewing the action in grainy bxw. The film imitates the look and feel of an old silent picture with its use of flat, even light in every scene and the minimal use of camera angles. The soundtrack is the Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 by Listz.

The exclusivity of Stella Artois is conveyed by the sight of humble priests surreptitiously pooling their funds to send a young priest off to buy a case to make their ice skating outing an extra special occasion. The ad campaign’s slogan simply reads “Reassuringly Expensive.”

Color-Coding the Weather

To understand how unprecedented and extreme Hurricane Harvey was, consider this: The National Weather Service ran out of colors on its rainfall scale and had to add two more shades. The old rain gauge had 13 colors, starting with light green to indicate 0.1 inch of precipitation and ending with dark purple, to indicate 15 inches, the most rainfall it could envision in a single storm event. The over 40 inches of rain that Harvey dropped on portions of southeast Texas was unfathomable – until it happened.

The NWS quickly added two new shades of purple to its rainfall maps, but even the two new colors only show rainfall that exceeds 30 inches. Harvey has been called a once in a millennium rainfall event (let’s hope so).
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Fontgate: Foiled by a Font


Pakistan’s ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif thought he had “dotted all the i’s and crossed the t’s” when he presented Pakistan’s Supreme Court with supposed exculpatory documents that disproved corruption charges against him. The seemingly ironclad evidence was signed and dated February 2, 2006. The fake document would have been credible, except for a subtle oversight that forensic experts quickly spotted. The text was printed in Calibri, a font that was not widely available until 2007 –a full year later.

Created by Lucas de Groot, a Dutch type designer based in Berlin, Calibri had been around for a number of years, but was little known until Microsoft adopted a modified version of it to be the default font for its MS Office suite. After that, Calibri had become so ubiquitous that it probably didn’t even occur to the forgers to change the font. That likely was the case in Turkey too when the government accused about 300 people of plotting a coup, based on documents printed in Calibri and back dated to 2003.
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This Is No Yolk! Humpty Dumpty Was a Cannon, Not an Egg!

Most of us grew up believing that Humpty Dumpty was a big clumsy egg that fell off of a wall and couldn’t be put together again. This notion was drilled into our consciousness by illustrators who came up with their own interpretation of what Humpty Dumpty looked like. But when you go over the actual words of the 18th century rhyme, nowhere does it state that Humpty Dumpty was an egg.

That depiction was introduced in 1872 by John Tenniel, who drew Humpty Dumpty as an egg in Lewis Carroll’s “Through the Looking-Glass.” The egg characterization was picked up in the 1902 “Mother Goose” storybook illustrated by William Wallace Denslow and in the 1916 version of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” by artist Milo Winter. Maxfield Parrish even painted a Humpty egg on a 1921 cover of Life Magazine. Pop culture came to embrace the persona of Humpty Dumpty as an egg — but it wasn’t.

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Gourmet Coffee Packaging

Blend Station

Consider this: The retail coffee market in the U.S. is estimated to be $48 billion annually (NCA). Worldwide 151.3 million 60-kilogram bags of coffee were consumed in 2015-16 (ICO), and gourmet varieties represent more than half of overall consumption. Americans love their caffeine so much that 52% of coffee drinkers say they would rather skip their morning shower than forego their cup of joe (Huffington Post).

Gourmet coffee, by any measure, is big business, and the industry is appealing to budding connoisseurs with new specialty blends and descriptive coffee lingo that rivals that of wine. Some of the latest trends include nitrogen-infused coffee, cold brews, and frozen blends. Millennials see the beverage as a social experience enjoyed with friends in cafes. They take delight in being the first in their crowd to discover new brands. That has made designing eye-catching brand packaging more important than ever.

Here are some coffee brand packages that we like.

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It’s a Bridge! It’s a House!
It Unfolds Before Your Eyes!

Ten Fold Engineering in the UK is bringing a 21st century twist to the concept of portable housing. The Ten Fold building unfolds and is walk-in ready in just ten minutes. No foundations, builders or cranes are required. Delivered to the site on a flatbed truck, the structure self-deploys using a hand-held battery-powered drill. Better yet, the process is fully reversible, so if you want to move, you can fold up your house as fast as it takes to dismantle a pup tent.

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Global Mass Marketing Before Photoshop

This early 20th century postcard producer, probably based in Europe, set his sights on making global sales in the most economical way. He only customized what he had to to appeal to customers from different nations. Unless you are a postcard collector, you probably were unaware that the comely woman draped in a flag wasn’t “loyal” to any one country. The postcard maker simply hand-painted different flags on her, leaving her face and pose the same. No extra photo sessions necessary, no finding models who looked British or Chinese. The postcard producer’s approach to mass customization was to standardize everything he could and keep differences to a minimum.

Happy Independence Day, Americans!

Making of a Magazine Icon

With the exception of The New Yorker’s Victorian dandy, Eustace Tilley, American magazines haven’t had any memorable mascots. The haughty fop, peering at a butterfly through a monocle, debuted on the cover of The New Yorker’s very first issue in 1925. He was drawn by Rea Irvin, the magazine’s first art director. Irvin, who also designed the New Yorker’s distinctive font, based his illustration on an 1834 caricature of the notorious social gadfly, Count Alfred d’Orsay.

The New Yorker’s icon acquired the name, Eustace Tilley, from a series of tongue-in-cheek articles called “The Making of a Magazine: A Tour through the Vast Organization of The New Yorker,” written by Corey Ford in 1925. Ad buys were slim in The New Yorker’s early years (along with subscribers), and Ford’s humorous articles published in 20 installments were used to fill pages that advertisers weren’t buying. Ford named his fictional expert on magazine-making “Tilley” after his maiden aunt and “Eustace” because he thought it sounded good with Tilley. In time, Eustace Tilley and the top-hatted dandy on the cover of premiere issue became identified as one.

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Nike Unlimited Stadium

Nike opened a new pop-up running track in the heart of Manila, Philippines. Designed by BBH Singapore, the Unlimited Stadium installation is shaped like the sole of Nike’s new Lunar Epic shoe. Lined with LED screens, the 200-meter racetrack invites runners to run alongside their own digital avatar. But first runners must attach a radio-frequency sensor to their shoe to record their initial track time. With this individualized data, runners are challenged to outdo their avatar, besting their own record with each lap. The temporary running track is able to accommodate 30 runners at a time.

NatureBridge Auctions Original Giclee Prints

Six internationally recognized artists contributed original works for this year’s NatureBridge gala fund-raising auction in San Francisco. A nonprofit educational organization, NatureBridge provides hands-on environmental science experiences to some 30,000 students and teachers annually. Their “classrooms” are six of the most magnificent national parks on earth.

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Two Images Eclipse One Stamp


Print fans, philatelists, and astronomy lovers are in for a treat this summer, thanks to the U.S. Postal Service. To commemorate the first total eclipse of the sun to be visible across a swath of the mainland U.S. since 1918, the USPS is releasing a first-of-its-kind stamp that changes appearance when you touch it. Printed using thermographic ink, the photo of the sun responds to the heat of a finger, turning the solar disk into a black moon with only the corona of the sun glowing around it. Pretty cool, huh!

To make this stamp even more fun, the USPS is hosting the first-day-of-issue ceremony at precisely 1:30 p.m. on June 20 at the University of Wyoming Rotunda Gallery in Laramie. As if heralding the summer solstice, the sun is then slated to shine directly down through the solar tube in the Rotunda ceiling casting a single beam of sunlight onto the silver dollar embedded into the Rotunda floor, setting it aglow.
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Macondo Chocolate’s Sense of Place


Macondo Chocolate is a single origin chocolate line handmade by Kernow Chocolate Company in the UK. According to Kernow’s website, the flavor of cacao beans, like that of coffee beans and wine grapes, is affected by where the beans are grown, the regional temperature, annual rainfall, and nutrients in the soil. It’s said that chocolate connoisseurs are familiar with the appellations of cacao beans and have their preferences. Hence, Macondo Chocolate set out to appeal to their discerning taste by sourcing its cacao beans from different corners of the world, and processing each batch separately to maintain the distinct and pure flavor of their country of origin.

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