Design Communications

NYC Subway Graphic Standards Manual Becomes Kickstarter Sensation

NYC_Subway_0

More than four decades have gone by since acclaimed designers Massimo Vignelli and Bob Noorda of Unimark International were hired by the New York Transit Authority (now the MTA) to modernize and unify the look of the subway signage, which by Noorda’s own account “was a mess.” Cluttered with varied typefaces of different sizes and rendered on different materials from mosaic tile to a paper sign stuck to the wall, the old signage system confused more than aided travelers. In its place, Vignelli and Noorda developed a cohesive subway wayfinding system designed to promote intuitive understanding — so much so that they promised: “The passenger will be given information or directions only at the point of decision. Never before. Never after.” It did all that and more. The New York Transit Authority’s wayfinding system is still considered a masterpiece of clarity, logic, consistency, and elegant modernist design.

The accompanying 174-page Graphic Standards Manual was as brilliantly written and produced by Vignelli and Noorda. One day in 2013, two young designers at Pentagram – Jesse Reed and Hamish Smyth – stumbled upon an original copy of the manual in the basement of Pentagram’s New York office. The pair found the manual so awesome that they wanted to share it with friends, so they created a dedicated website (thestandardsmanual.com) and posted scanned pages online. The site instantly went viral. Within 72 hours, more than a quarter million people visited the site. Although delighted, Reed and Smyth felt strongly that an on-screen viewing didn’t do justice to the beauty of the real Standards Manual. To truly appreciate it, they felt people should see it full size in print, and they set out to produce a book with an introduction by Vignelli protege and Pentagram partner Michael Bierut and an essay by New York Magazine’s Christopher Bonanos, author of “Instant: The Story of Polaroid”.

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Announcements

@Issue Print Archive Is Back…Again

@issue_Print

Those of you who clicked on the Print Archive only to find a photo of covers (seen here) and nothing else, we are happy to report that you can now access the back issues online. Previously only key stories had been posted because Kit needed the intern who was scanning old articles for other tasks. Finally, everything has been scanned and you can view them in their entirety here. We are also pleased to report that for those who want the real printed publication, past editions are available while they last from Corporate Design Foundation; email peter@cdf.org. (For the record, yes, we miss the print editions too, and would be thrilled to return to ink on paper.)

View the Print Archive Here →

Design Quiz

Fashion Monograms

A monogram perhaps may best be described as a logo with attitude, a certain snob appeal. It’s more than just graphic shorthand for a brand name. In the fashion world, the right monogram says luxury, refinement, and discerning taste. Consumers like being associated with these qualities and usually don’t mind if the monogram is prominently visible on their shirt or purse for all to see. How many of these monograms can you name? Answers on the next page.

Fashion_Monograms

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Design Education

Design Project Mood Swings

While thumbing through Austin Kleon’s book “Steal Like An Artist; 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative” (Workman Publishing), we happened upon a graphic sketch that Kleon admits he “stole from his friend Maureen McHugh.” It spells out seven phases in the “life of a creative project” from an emotional perspective, not the usual process steps – e.g., concept development, research, storyboards, etc. It shows that for most of us in creative fields, projects proceed along two parallel tracks: one cerebral and dedicated to problem-solving, the other moody and erratic. Because we at @issue can’t leave well enough alone, we decided to steal McHugh’s — via Kleon’s – idea but let Kit Hinrichs embellish it with his own doodling drawings. Here it is.
The_Life_of_a_Project_Animation

Humor

IKEA Marvels at the Wonders of Bookbooks

This promo could just as easily have been made to promote printing papers, instead of IKEA’s 2015 home furnishings catalog. Created by BBH Asia Pacific, the IKEA marketing video channels the Apple brand persona in style and tone with its uncluttered, plain white background and its wide-eyed, uncynical spokesman explaining the amazing features of IKEA’s bookbook catalog – touch interface, eternal battery life, instant loading with zero lag, fully charged, no cables, expandable interface, preinstalled content, touch browsing, fast scrolling, easy bookmark and sharing capabilities, and voice activated password protection. The bookbook has everything you’ve ever desired in a modern information delivery system. So simple, so portable, so intuitive, it’s a wonder that Apple hadn’t thought of it before. But let’s give credit where it is truly due – to Gutenberg and medieval bookmakers. Steve Jobs didn’t invent the “wheel”; he invented an elegant means to adapt the desirable features of print to a digital platform. The attributes that consumers seek in an information delivery device have been around for at least 600 years, and tech giants have spent the last several decades trying to replicate the kind of ease-of-use offered by paper.

Advertising

What Pet Cats and Great Athletes Have in Common

At first this commercial for Temptations Tumblers cat treats by adam@eveDDB/London seemed like a brazen effort to hook viewers in by combining two of the most popular subjects on YouTube — top athletes and adorable cats. The first half of the “Time to Play Ball” Temptations commercial did look like an ad for Nike or Adidas, with not a furry paw in sight. But then the shared attributes of jocks and cats came into focus. The athletes looked steely, determined, alert and focused. Even the hairs on their neck stood at attention. The cats, presented in elegant slow motion, exhibited the same kind of single-minded concentration. Nothing distracted them from the tiny Temptations Tumblers tossed their way. The comparison came together nicely and worked. (It didn’t hurt to be able to feature cute cats and buff jocks either.)

Advertising

Moms Demand Action Through Ad Campaign

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Moms Demand Action, a gun-control group backed by former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, has launched an advertising campaign asking retail chains to refuse service to shoppers who openly carry assault rifles into their establishments. In response to retailer claims that doing that would violate their customers’ civil liberties, the ads point out that retailers have had no qualms about enforcing a ban on shirtless shoppers, eating ice cream cones and skateboarding. This series of ads targets Kroger, the largest grocery chain in the U.S. So far, nearly a half dozen national restaurants and stores have reversed course in response to Moms Demand Action advertising and publicity campaign. No word yet from Kroger.

Moms_Against_Violence2

Design Classic

Band-Aid®: How a Brand Became a Generic

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People have forgotten – or hadn’t considered it in the first place – that Band-Aid® is a trademarked brand registered by pharmaceutical and medical device giant Johnson & Johnson (J&J). For most of us, Band-Aid generically describes any kind of adhesive bandage with a gauze pad in the center. The term has even become part of our colloquial language –e.g., who hasn’t called a temporary fix a “band-aid solution.” Actually, Band-Aid was invented in 1920 by Earle Dickson for his wife, Josephine, who was a bit accident-prone around the house. Dickson, a New Jersey cotton buyer for J&J, noted that his wife often used tape to hold cotton balls over her nicks and burns, but the tape usually fell off as soon as she returned to her task. Dickson devised an easier method; he placed squares of surgical gauze at intervals on a strip of tape and used a length of crinoline to keep the tape from sticking to itself so it could be stored rolled up. All Josephine had to do was unroll the tape, cut off as much as she needed and dress her own wound. Dickson mentioned his little invention to colleagues at J&J and his boss thought it was so ingenious that Dickson’s idea was put into production. At first, Band-Aid Adhesive Bandages had to be made by hand and were an awkward 2 ½ inches wide by 18 inches long. In 1924, J@J moved Band-Aid into mass machine production and resized the product to ¾ inch wide and 3 inches long, with a thin red thread to pull off the paper wrapper. Targeted to young families, J&J promoted Band-Aid by donating the product to Boy Scout troops across the U.S. Sales took off. By World War II, Band-Aids were standard issue in soldiers’ mess kits. Band-Aid products became so ubiquitous, the brand was not only the market leader for this category of adhesive bandages, it became synonymous with all products in this category, much to the chagrin of Band-Aid’s competitors.

Illustration

Lufthansa Makes Advertising a Game

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Lufthansa Airlines came up with a fun way to get consumers to pay really close attention to their online “Passengers on Tour” promotional campaign. It turned each advertisement into a “Where’s Waldo” – like game, inviting viewers to find the Lufthansa tourist(s) in each picture for the chance to be entered into a raffle for daily and grand prizes. Lufthansa’s Munich-based online marketing agency, Plan Net, commissioned 14 illustrators from around the world to capture the attractions and excitement of 14 specific destinations that the airline serves. With so much to see and so much going on, each picture begs to be explored from edge to edge. The campaign took its inspiration from German “wimmelbilder” (hidden object) books, children’s picture books teeming with details, people, animals, and things. Each image features dozens of vignettes of everyday scenes that are connected by the shared environment. The Lufthansa ads took the meaning of hidden objects literally by inviting viewers to click on the Lufthansa tourist in the picture. Choose right and you’re in the daily raffle. The more often you play, the greater your chances in the grand raffle – incentive to keep coming back to look at all 14 ads.

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Interviews

Business Strategy Behind Newell Rubbermaid’s New Design Center

Newell Rubbermaid’s new Design Center in Kalamazoo, Michigan, marks a monumental shift in the company’s design thinking and practices. This consolidation of design functions in a single location addresses how design in the 21st century has become a team activity that pulls in disciplines beyond design.

Chuck_Jones
In 2012, after Newell Rubbermaid adopted its Growth Game Plan strategy focused on four winning capabilities, including design and R&D, it brought in acclaimed designer Chuck Jones as its first Chief Design and Research & Development Officer to make the company more agile and responsive to consumers through design. Jones’ reputation preceded him, having successfully built global design and development teams that boosted sales and won awards for innovation at companies including Whirlpool and Xerox. Here, Jones talks about how Newell Rubbermaid is creating a brand-and-innovation-led company that is famous for design and product performance.
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Advertising

Pizza Cats – Lost in Translation or Just Lost; Editor’s Mea Culpa Revisions

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Editor’s excuse: Let me be frank; mistakes were made. In my defense I think that the misunderstanding proves my main point — i.e., this Pizza Hut ad campaign is very much aimed at consumers in Japan. However, according to my Japanese authority whose credentials are that she grew up in Tokyo and is Japanese, the concept is based on a well-known Japanese idiom, “I’m so busy there are not enough hours in a day. I’d even ask a cat to lend me a hand.” Neko no te mo karetai. Of course, cats are notorious for not doing your bidding. You know the American saying: “Dogs have owners; cats have staff.” Another translation error is that “Pizza Boss” Tencho was born on a riverbank, not under a bridge, and he wasn’t adopted by a poor loving family, but is now part of a poor but loving family. My authority also advised me that as a rule, advertising marketing messages in Japan are less direct than in the U.S., and the Pizza Cat-o commercials are very well conceived, very funny, and everyone in Japan gets it. Below is the post as I first wrote it:

“Aim global, market local” is probably this Japanese Pizza Hut campaign’s takeaway lesson to ad creatives everywhere. Those of us outside of Japan find that not only is the text in a foreign language, so is the humor. Cats dressed in Pizza Hut uniforms are cute, but the link to pizza is baffling. The cats in the commercials were not given people-like traits nor were their movements animated with motion graphics. They just did catlike things, and mostly seemed bored and oblivious to being in a pizza kitchen.

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Branding Guideline

A Brief Look at Brand Naming Briefs

Brand_Names

Naming is a discipline that strikes many as part voodoo, part marketing strategy, and totally mysterious. We suspect it was easier a century or so ago when founders named the brand after themselves — e.g., Ford (Henry Ford) and Wells Fargo (Henry Wells and William Fargo) – or simply described what they made – e.g., International Business Machines (IBM). Now, it is not so easy, and companies usually turn to professional naming firms to come up with effective memorable brand names that will resonate with consumers. On top of that, they have to make sure the name can be trademarked, pronounced easily, have positive connotations around the globe, and stand out on a retail shelf, on a website and on its own. Here are some tips from David Placek, founder and president of Lexicon Branding, the firm that developed the familiar names you see below.

 

Brand_Logos

 

1. A Brief for the Development of a Name Is Different
Than a Brief for an Advertising Campaign.

(1) A naming brief makes sure that distinctiveness is a primary goal and that risk will be rewarded.
(2) A naming brief answers this fundamental question: How can the name help this new brand to become a winner?
(3) A naming brief defines a specific role for the name rather than the product itself, messaging or design.
(4) A naming brief tells the story of the brand so that the brand name becomes an essential part of the story — better yet, the title.

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Architecture

Krumbach Bus Stops for Tourists

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In some ways, these fanciful bus stop shelters in Krumbach, a tiny village in Austria’s Bregenzerwald (hunchbacked world) region, look like an architect’s idea of three-dimensional doodling, but they have managed to make the town a tourist attraction by boasting the world’s most unusual bus stops. Krumbach, which has a population of about 1,000 people spread across acres of scenic farmland, recently formed an association to promote itself as a cultural destination. To foster an international exchange of ideas, it unabashedly invited seven world-renowned architects from Japan, China, Norway, Spain, Belgium, Chile and Russia to each design one bus stop in the village.

“The aim of this project is to link design achievements of international architecture with the know-how and skills of local handcraft-based businesses in Bregenzerwald,” one organizer explained. “This is made possible by involving regional architects as a kind of mediator between foreign creative work and the abilities of our craftspeople.” Although the selected architects were used to being commissioned to design mega-million dollar buildings with doors and windows, they accepted the humble assignment. In lieu of money, the architects were offered a free holiday in Krumbach’s 11th century castle-turned-hotel. The bus shelters were unveiled to the public last May. Without doubt, they put Krumbach on the cultural map. Finding Krumbach’s newest art installations is easy; just hop a bus and get off at the stop.

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Professional Profiles

Profile: Delphine, @Issue Editor

Delphine_Hirasuna
From time to time, @Issue will run brief profiles of people you may know in design communications, asking them what attracted them to the profession and how they view their work and process. We thought we’d start with Delphine, @Issue’s editor, and then Kit, @Issue’s design director, before broadening our scope to others in the business.

Name: Delphine Hirasuna
Profession: Writer/ Editor of @issue
Home Base: San Francisco, CA

When did you know that you wanted to pursue the profession you did?
I think I was around 6. I was tiny for my age and lousy at playground sports; I hated recess, but I loved to read. Nancy Drew, The Bobbsey Twins, Eddie’s Red Wagon, etc. But the stories felt formulaic and I decided I could write better. My bedroom had a vanity with a frilly yellow chiffon skirt around it, and I’d crawl inside and write my stories in that private space. Even then, I was a realist. Afterall, I was 6 years old, and lived on a little farm in the middle of nowhere, and didn’t know how to contact a publisher, much less have an adult one take my writing seriously. But I didn’t give up. In grammar school and high school, I was the editor of the school paper, and by college, I was determined to be a journalist.
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