Designers love to say that they hate Comic Sans. It makes them feel sophisticated and discerning. To admit any fondness for Comic Sans is the equivalent of saying you like to eat canned string beans and fried Spam sandwiches. You might, but you don’t tell anyone. So, it is refreshing to learn that designer Vincent Connare drew Comic Sans while he was Microsoft in 1995 and is proud that it has become an iconic symbol familiar to designers everywhere. Indeed, there are thousands of unknown type designers around who produce respectable fonts that no one uses, can recognize on sight, or can name. Comic Sans will live on, just like Helvetica and Bodoni.
How do you sell a product that is basically the same no matter the brand? You give it a personality. You imply brand preference. You make it fun and entertaining and arouse a fondness for the brand among shoppers. Such is the case with the UK’s Cravendale milk. Wieden & Kennedy ad agency in London did not try to compare Cravendale with other dairy products or talk about milk’s many health benefits. The Cravendale commercials, released in 2010, looked at a “consumer” segment that lusted after the product, which was doled out to them sparingly by oblivious overlords. In their frustration, they fantasized how they could seize power if only they had opposable thumbs. Then the milk would be there for the taking any time, any place. My kingdom for opposable thumbs!
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Last November Apple debuted a commercial for its new MacBook Pro. Created by Los Angeles-based ad agency, Media Labs, the commercial celebrates great inventions and discoveries that transformed the life of mankind. To the galloping pace of Rossini’s “William Tell Overture,” a path of illuminated light bulbs successively explode to mark civilization-advancing bright ideas over the millennia, from the discovery of fire and invention of the wheel to the steam engine, flying machine, eyeglasses, the zipper, paper clip, space rocket, robots, microscope, and toilet paper. The important contribution that each new invention made to civilization is indisputable. Certainly, Apple’s introduction of the Macintosh personal computer in 1984 was transformative too. Not sure that the MacBook Pro’s new Touch Bar falls into that category, or is deserving of being compared to the discovery of fire. The commercial is great, but implied analogy probably should be saved for Apple’s next big breakthrough.
Move over Paris, you are no longer the “city of lights.” In the 21st century that title goes to Sydney, Australia. Its annual Vivid Sydney festival transforms the city into a magical wonderland of light art sculptures, cutting-edge light installations, and gargantuan projection mapping extravaganzas. Vivid Sydney engages lighting artists, designers and manufacturers from around Australia and the world to illuminate, interpret and transform Sydney’s urban spaces through their creative vision. A contemporary music program matches the mood of the surreal display. No need to paint buildings in psychedelic colors or shoot fireworks into the night sky. Light is a malleable art form that treats Sydney Harbor as an inviting canvas morphing, evolving and bursting into a kaleidoscope of hues that vanish with the dawn. The 2017 Vivid Sydney festival is slated for May 26 to June 17, and is the largest show of its kind in the world.
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We don’t know what the actual programming is like on the French premium cable channel Canal+ (meaning “channel plus more”) but if the entertainment value and production quality are half as good as its advertising, then sign us up. Made by French advertising agency BETC, the Canal+ commercials are engaging and fun. They are crafted like a feature film, no scrimping on budget here. The spots are cleverly conceived 60-second comedy sketches == worth searching on YouTube for other Canal+ commercials.
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In every big city, more pedestrians run red lights than motorists. Impatient and confident that no driver would purposely run them over, they dart across the red lights or inch off the curb and into the intersection to get a head start when the light turns green. This doesn’t happen much in Los Angeles where automobiles are “king,” and pedestrians know that they have few rights.Cars speed down city streets, daring a walker to step into their path. On the other hand, San Francisco has always been more pedestrian lenient. Motorists get annoyed with “red light jumpers” and jaywalkers, but perhaps are more forgiving because they know how steep the hills are and recognize that trudging across a hill is an ordeal for the elderly, disabled, and anyone carrying a heavy bag.
In Lisbon, Portugal, the company behind the Smart car successfully tested a novel deterrence, and it didn’t do it by stationing traffic cops at every crosswalk, handing out fines, or constructing barricades. It used entertainment. Smart Company installed “dancing traffic lights” that projected moving pictographs of passersby dancing in real time in a specially designed booth. The dancing signal was so engaging that red-light jumping was reduced by 81%. Now the question is how to get pedestrians to move along and cross the street.
There once was a time when bookbinding was a craft and an art form, not a mechanized process at the end of a press run. This tale of such bookbinding is fraught with the unrelenting pursuit of perfection, passion, tragedy, perseverance, and plain old rotten luck.
Our story begins in 1901 with the renowned British bookbinders Sangorski and Sutcliffe, who resurrected the Medieval art of binding books with intricately inlaid multicolored leather set with real gold, jewels, and gems. As fortune would have it, their services were sought out by Sotheran’s Bookshop in London, who asked them to create opulent binding for the “Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam,” which soon became known as “The Great Omar.” The only instructions from Sotheran’s manager were that “it has to be the greatest example of bookbinding in the world…. put what you like into the binding, charge what you like for it, the greater the price, the more I shall be pleased; provided only that it is understood that what you do and what you charge will be justified by the result.” Read More »
No longer just a mind-boggling novelty trick shown large-scale on building facades, 3-D projection mapping technology is being integrated into everything from live concerts, advertising, gaming, theater performances, product launches, and fashion shows. Now it has gone mini and personal, performing to an audience of one.
In Belgium, animation artists, Filip Sterckx and Antoon Verbeeck, from Skullmapping, have given new meaning to the term “dinner theatre” by putting the entertainment on the plate itself. Like a scene right out of the Disney film, “Ratatoille,” the well-known Le Petit Chef in Belgium amused diners by having a little chef personally prepare their meal right before their eyes. This example of spectacular precision videomapping isn’t just dazzling audiences with its new “gee whiz” technology, but has taken projection mapping to a new level by treating it as a tool to tell a story.
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It’s not just Americans who are aghast at this year’s bizarre Presidential election. In Copenhagen, this bus broadside, paid for by Socialistisk Folkeparti (SF), urged the roughly 8,700 American citizens living in Denmark to make sure they vote. Created by Uncle Grey agency in Copenhagen, the bus ad took a neutral public service stance with its “Americans Abroad Vote” message, but slyly slipped in its partisan preference by turning the back wheels into crazy Trump eyes.
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Royal Philips, an advanced technology healthcare company, displayed its softer side in this 30-second spot just released in Australia. Created by Ogilvy & Mather London, the commercial was inspired by a real-life window cleaner who dressed up in a super hero costume and rappelled down a hospital facade to surprise and delight young patients in the children’s ward. In a twist on that story, the Philips video humanizes Spiderman by catching him when he is not fighting grime and showing that his life has the same hassles as the rest of us. The underlying message for Philips is that its focus isn’t simply on providing cutting-edge medical devices; they look at healthcare more holistically, recognizing the healing power of joy and laughter. The tagline for the ad says: “At Philips we see life differently. There’s always a way to make life better.”
Subway, the world’s largest submarine sandwich chain with more than 44,000 locations around the world, has refreshed its identity with a new logo and symbol. A brighter, cleaner, bolder version of the chubby outlined wordmark that Subway has been using for the past 15 years, the new logo maintains the equity of its two color wordmark, but this time the “Sub” is a richer yellow-orange and the “way” a bright green. The signature arrows remain, but look more whimsical and less like a freeway turnoff. What’s really special about Subway’s rebranding is its new symbol – two opposing arrows shaping an “S” inside. Subway plans to install its new graphic identity in all of its restaurants in 2017. According to a Subway spokesperson, the design work was a cross-functional project led by an inhouse creative team, working with a variety of design partners.
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Donor recognition walls are a common feature of museums, schools, public parks, and other places that are made possible by generous benefactors. Unfortunately, most donor displays look like boring lobby directories that list columns of names with no thought to aesthetics. So, it is always refreshing to see a donor wall that can be appreciated as a unique piece of decorative art.
C&G Partners created this stunning installation for Advisory Board Company, a Washington D.C.- based research, technology, and consulting firm focused on health care and educational institutions. Asked by the Advisory Board to come up with a way to showcase the names of its member clients, C&G created an installation out of thousands of slender, translucent rods, each engraved with a single member name filled in silver. A single silver set screw affixed each rod to one of hundreds of numbered wire strands, which were strung together to form a luminous curved, floor-to-ceiling curtain. The installation in the Advisory Board’s member collaboration space in Washington D.C. creates an aura that is elegant, ethereal, and dynamic. The design offers the flexibility of adding more member names in the future while maintaining the sculptural quality of the display. C&G also assisted those who want to find their names by incorporating a touchscreen directory that accesses a database of member names, quickly matching them to the numbered wires.
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More Th>n, a UK-based company that insures cars, homes and pets, commissioned British artist and inventor Dominic Wilcox to create the world’s first interactive art exhibition for dogs. In addition to paintings and drawings created in a dog’s color spectrum, primarily yellow, blue, and gray, the show features the “Cruising Canines” exhibit, giving visiting dogs an interactive open window car experience; “Dinnertime Dreams,” an oversized 10-foot dog bowl filled with hundreds of “food-colored” balls, and “Watery Wonder,” an arrangement of dancing water jets that jump from one dog bowl to the next.
The exhibition was created as part of the #PlayMore campaign to encourage dog owners to give their pets more quality attention. More Th>n invited owners to take the #PlayMore Pledge to spend 15 minutes more time daily playing with their pet, and promised to donate £1 to the RSPCA if they do. That’s more th>n any other insurer has offered.
Trust Cargo is a Latin American freight forwarder that specializes in delivering live cargo such as fresh fish to the world’s top restaurants. In print ads, created by TBWA/Buenos Aires in Argentina and illustrated by Cristian Turdero, Trust Cargo humorously stressed that its freight deliveries could be relied on even in regions of the world that are in political turmoil.
Considering GOP Presidential candidate Donald Trump’s “promise” to build a 1,000 mile border wall between the U.S. and Mexico, the ad took Trump’s words literally and re-drew a map of the Americas with a Trump Channel separating the Southern United States from Mexico.
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We all know that beautiful packaging helps sell products, but what is the effect of a package purposely designed to be ugly — not just ugly, but gross and icky?
In December 2012, Australia took an unusual approach to curb smoking. It didn’t ban cigarettes outright, but it did ban all design branding devices on cigarette packs. It outlawed any evidence of brand distinction and personality. Gone are iconic images of rugged, independent men on horseback and slim, stylish women who look like they know how to have fun. Instead Australia imposed what it described as standardized, or plain, packaging on tobacco products. Based on the premise that great design is persuasive and sells products, Australia used reverse psychology to change attitudes. It outlawed brand design elements including bright colors, logotypes, slogans, and taglines. It ruled that packs can only use Pantone 448c opaque couche, which market researchers deemed the world’s ugliest color, and the brand name now has to be shown in a specified generic font, size and location. Health warnings have to cover 60 percent of the pack’s surface, with photographs of diseases brought on by smoking. Instead of glamorizing the “coolness” of smoking, the plain packaging aims to get people to think twice about how smoking affects their health, and discourage youth from taking up the habit at all. In the first 36 months of Australia’s program, it is estimated that there are about 118,000 fewer Australians smoking as a direct result of standardized packaging.
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Every summer since 2011, Budweiser has touted its allegiance to America by rolling out packaging with patriotic themes. Its beer cans and bottles have featured the Statue of Liberty’s crowned head or raised torch. The red, white and blue stars and stripes have been presented in various slanted angles and patterns. This summer the self-proclaimed “King of Beers” has boldly gone where no brand has gone before. It dropped the renowned Budweiser logo completely and replaced it with the generic name “America.” Before you decide this is branding suicide, consider the rationale.
Budweiser was founded by Anheuser-Busch in St. Louis, Missouri, around 1870. Adolphus Busch named his beer Budweiser to appeal to German immigrants like himself. He modeled the beer after a Bavarian lager made in the German town of Budweis, founded by King Ottokar in 1245. King Ottokar actually coined the slogan “The Beer of Kings.” Also, in what is now the Czech Republic, the name Budweiser name had existed in Budějovice since the 16th century. In fact, there is still a Czech beer called Budweiser Budvar.
All was well for decades since beer was mostly a local product, which didn’t travel well over long distances. But pasteurization and refrigerated freight cars turned the St. Louis-produced Budweiser into a brand known throughout the land. This forced the St. Louis brewer and the two European brewers that all called their beer Budweiser into a trademark dispute, which was resolved in 1938, with the agreement that Anheuser-Busch could use the brand name Budweiser only in North America.
Fast forward to 2008, when a Belgium-based beer giant acquired the St. Louis-produced Budweiser label and changed its corporate name to Anheuser-Busch InBev. That made Budweiser’s American roots even more confusing – this at a time when other U.S.-made beer brands were heavily cutting into Budweiser’s market share.
Budweiser decided to strengthen its American heritage by launching a major campaign during the peak beer-guzzling summer months. The New York-based design firm Jones Knowles and Ritchie was asked to create limited edition packaging for a summer-long campaign called “America is in your hands.” The 2016 marketing effort runs from May 23 through the November general election.
Temporarily replacing the Budweiser label with “America” was a bold move, but one that probably won’t confuse consumers. The graphic styling of the cans and bottles look identical to the usual packaging. Only the text has been swapped out with phrases like “Land of the Free, Home of the Brave,” “e pluribus unum,” and the lyrics to the “Star-Spangled Banner.” The bottles look eerily the same as the regular ones, except for arousing an inexplicable urge to salute and sing “America the Beautiful.”