Film

Lesser Known Design Professions: Film Propping

When people think of becoming a designer, they usually think of print graphics, industrial, digital, environmental, interior, software, etc., but design encompasses a lot more territory than that and has many subsets. This is an interview with Dublin-based designer Annie Atkins who specializes in creating authentic-looking props and graphics for such films as Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel. Here, Atkins talks about her craft and the importance of paying attention to seemingly insignificant details.

Quiz: Brand Name Origins

Many companies pick brand names for reasons that only they understand. Some names just feel good on the tongue or will look strong on packaging. OXO, for instance, was named by kitchen tool founder Sam Farber, because it was easy to pronounce in any language, spelled the same in any direction – forward, backward and upside down, and fit on any size packaging. This quiz challenges you to match the brand name with the clues below, and then identify the original source for the names.

Clues
  1. Founder’s daughter
  2. African animal
  3. Store hours
  4. Danish king
  5. Founder’s name
  6. Buddhist goddess
  7. Danish word
  8. Digestive enzyme
  1. Writing tool
  2. Moby Dick character
  3. Communications product.
  4. German car
  5. A product perfected on its final try
  6. Character in Gulliver’s Travels
  7. Japanese word for danger.
  8. Roman god of fire

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Global Trends

2018 PANTONE Color of the Year

Pantone, the authority on all things color, has announced that Ultra Violet – aka, Pantone 18-3838 — will be the Color of 2018. Pantone didn’t come up with this pronouncement arbitrarily, although it would seem that funereal black or pukey orange would be more fitting to the times. Pantone color gurus, however, are more philosophical and optimistic – and less snide. The Institute describes Ultra Violet as associated with “mindfulness practices, which offer a higher ground to those seeking refuge from today’s over-stimulated world.” Pantone vice president Laurie Pressman says, “Pantone Color of the Year has come to mean so much more than ‘what’s trending’ in the world of design, it’s truly a reflection of what’s needed in the world today.” Considered in that light, I would nominate “Pussy Hat Pink” or Fire Rescue Red” instead.

Technology

Biomimicry: Learning Design from Observing the Birds and the Bees

Noted science writer Janine Benyus, who coined the term “biomimicry” in 1997, has provided convincing evidence that there is a lot that designers can learn from nature. Often times designers aren’t so much innovating new forms and technological concepts as they are shamelessly stealing what the animal and plant kingdoms have worked out over the span of millions of years.Through biomimetics, designers are adapting nature’s best practices into products, systems and processes that are revolutionizing our lives. This video, co-produced by Vox Media (Christophe Haubershin) and 99% Invisible (Roman Mars and Kurt Kohlstedt), explains how biomimicry underlies discovery of exciting new ideas. A highly recommended must-read is Janine Benyus’s book ”Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature.”

Information Graphics

Birds of North America Poster


Some design feats deserve to be recognized. This “Birds of North America” poster by Pop Chart Lab is such a remarkable accomplishment. The aviary chart features all 740 feathered friends that inhabit North America, from barn owls to bluejays to whooping cranes and California condors. The chart includes both native and introduced birds on the continent, as designated by the National Audubon Society and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. It took a team of artists more than 400 hours to draw the birds in intricate detail, organize them by species and arrange them in relative scale. Included on Pop Chart’s poster are some 14 species that are on the endangered list, and that is not counting the 46 million turkeys that will meet their doom this week so we can contentedly consume them on Thanksgiving Day. Above is a picture of a turkey in happier times.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Illustration

Political Cartoons: No Laughing Matter

Op-ed columnists write copious essays laying out carefully reasoned arguments to support their point of view; editorial cartoonists sum up their take on current events in one iconic, thought-provoking, and often humorous image. A case in point can be seen in Barry Blitt’s new book, “In One Eye and Out the Other.” A long-time cartoonist and illustrator for The New Yorker, Blitt uses analogy, exaggeration, and irony to make people think about events of the day.

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Animation

Clues to the Disney/Pixar Easter Egg Hunt

Is this a mischievous prank played by Pixar animators when their bosses aren’t watching? Or is it a type of subliminal advertising? Or is it a bonus game inserted into films for the Pixar movie obsessed? For a while now Pixar has been hiding so-called “Easter eggs” in their films, slipping a character from Finding Dory, Toy Story, Monsters Inc., Cars, Ratatouille, The Good Dinosaur, Inside Out, etc., into a new film release without fanfare or warning. These quick cameo appearances happen so quickly, they may go unnoticed or trigger a faint sense of the familiar. Now Disney/Pixar has released a video montage of characters who were hiding in plain sight. Pixar calls them “Easter eggs,” but the game is more like Where’s Waldo?”

Folk Art

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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Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.”

Information Graphics

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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Typography

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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Advertising

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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Packaging

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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Architecture

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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