Chances are if you are a graphic designer even your mother doesn’t know what you do, and certainly your grandma doesn’t have a clue. Graphic design is a profession that baffles even business executives who hire graphic designers. Some believe that if they can get their office manager to learn InDesign and Photoshop, they could dispense with the need to hire a graphic designer and do everything inhouse for a lot less money. The lack of respect that graphic designers command is wonderfully presented in this video assembled from TV and film clips by Ellen Mercer and Lucy Streule, two graphic design students at Central Saint Martins in London. If you feel unappreciated and misunderstood, take comfort; you’re not alone.
Years ago the CEO of a company I was working for was hospitalized at the time the board of directors’ group photo had to be taken for the annual shareholders report. Another executive who was roughly the same built as the CEO was recruited to stand in his place. Later a photo of the CEO’s head was pasted and airbrushed onto the stand-in’s torso. It looked okay, but anyone who knew the CEO found something about his pose unsettling.
For another annual report cover, we had a shot of a logging truck traveling on a freeway past a forest of gorgeous fall colors. Due to reasons I’ve forgotten, the photograph had to be flopped, so the freeway sign made it look like the truck was driving on the wrong side of the road. If I remember right, a print had to be made of the photograph so the retoucher could fix it, and then it had to be converted back into a transparency.
That was in the days before Photoshop. Because significant manipulation of a photograph was such a big deal back then, it used to be said that “the camera never lies,” Now designers are often overheard saying, “Don’t worry. We’ll photoshop it in (or out) later.” Photography has become an “impressionistic” art form. Seeing isn’t believing. Changes can be made in an instant on a computer by virtually any designer. The airbrushing and retouching professions have all but disappeared. Through Photoshop, a hybrid art form has emerged that is producing some incredible images. More and more, designers have assumed control of the photograph, and taken it out of the hands of the photographer.
Sweden has joined the ranks of a tiny handful of countries that have adopted their own national typeface. Called Sweden Sans, the font is very Scandinavian in its modern, functional, minimalist look. Created by type designer Stefan Hattanbach in collaboration with design agency, Soderhavat, the font is meant to communicate in a single Swedish voice and in a style evocative of the nation’s design taste.
Hattanbach describes the branded font as “very geometric and modern” and inspired by old Swedish signs that were popular in the 1950s and ‘60s. In an interview heard on PRI The World, Hattanbach said he was particularly pleased with the outcome of the letter “S,” which he explained is a “hard letter to make because it can really fall off and look unbalanced.” He thought that the straight down tail on the letter “Q” looked “pretty cool” too. Overall, Hattanbach felt that Sweden Sans could be described as “lagom,” a Swedish expression meaning “not too much and not too little.”
Sweden Sans does look versatile, but it is still unclear how broadly this national font will be applied. Will it appear on Swedish currency? On official government documents? On government office signage? If regular Swedish citizens decide to use it, will they be violating any legal restrictions. Or if they do adopt Sweden Sans as their default font, will it be viewed as a sign of national pride? The concept of a national font is intriguing, so stay tuned to see how it is used.
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The death of Kenji Ekuan, a Japanese monk-turned-industrial designer, last week is reason to recall his most iconic design — the ubiquitous red-capped Kikkoman soy sauce bottle. Omnipresent in Japanese restaurants and in most Japanese homes worldwide since it was introduced in 1961, the soy sauce dispenser is as much a dining table fixture as salt-and-pepper shakers. Globally, more than 300 million bottles have been sold to date. The teardrop-shaped bottle with a red plastic cap is synonymous with soy sauce. Ekuan reported that it took him three years and more than 100 prototypes to come up with the smooth contoured glass form that could be held firmly between two fingers and had a screw-on cap that integrated into its design a double-sided dripless spout. The choice of clear glass, too, made it possible to see how much soy sauce was still inside without unscrewing the cap. As with so many commonplace objects that we take for granted, Ekuan’s dispenser design deserves to be considered more closely and appreciated for its simple elegance and intuitive functionality.
The beauty of this appeal by Oro Verde Rainforest Foundation is its humble low-tech innocence. It doesn’t smack of big budget glitz, high-tech digital manipulations, and pre-launch market testing. The idea is everything. Its charm is in its simple, direct, homemade look. A high school student could have produced it… but didn’t.
Actually, the campaign was created by ad giant, Ogilvy & Mather, in Frankfurt, Germany. Hand-written placards were posted on more than 600 trees in Germany and helped OroVerde raise cash donations by more than 27 percent.
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Project K, a Korean Film Festival, has turned into a popular annual event at the Bockenheim campus at Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany. Dubbed “Four Days in Seoul,” the festival is co-hosted by the Korean consul general of Frankfurt; KGN, an organization of second-generation Korean Germans, and the University’s Korean Studies Department. In addition to screening Korean box-office hits and experimental, shorts, animations and indie Korean films, the festival features activities that give students a chance to learn about Korean pop culture and traditions.
Tokyo-based Nendo creative agency was just awarded “2015 Designer of the Year” at the Maison & Objet (M&O) trade show in Paris. Nendo won for designing a special chocolate lounge and candy named “Chocolatexture.” Instead of basing the names of the Chocolatexture line on the usual attributes – e.g., country of origin, flavor, percentage of cocoa butter content, technique, etc., Nendo based the names on shape. The nine different chocolates are about the same size, but differ in texture. The product names use Japanese colloquial terms to describe the specific shapes. Thus, “Tubu Tubu” implies tiny chunks of chocolate drops; “Goro-Goro means that there are 14 connected points; “Suka-Suka” means a hollow cube with thin walls, etc. The packaging features shape silhouettes as well.
The Nendo chocolate lounge was open for a limited time only during the M&O show in January. The design delegates who attended the event probably wanted to take the well-conceived packaging home to show their staff, but it is questionable how many were actually able to resist the delicious treat.
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Is the fact that an ad is memorable the same as it being effective? This is a discussion that I had with the young designer who works with me on this blog. He loved this Schick razor print ad, created by Y&R in Auckland, New Zealand. I found the furry creatures clinging to the models’ chins kinda creepy.
Young hip male designer argued: “It’s very effective; it’s gone viral.”
Old female editor said: Who are the target customers? Lumberjacks, mountain men and Arctic explorers? The average guy in an office doesn’t have that much facial growth. In fact, they like to have a little stubble like they were out partying all night and didn’t go home to shave.
Young design argued: It got you to look. It drew eyeballs to this ad.
Old female editor said: Show me what the men look like after they have shaved and I’ll tell you whether I like the product or not. Show me the sales spike.
And so it went. Here it is. The vote here is a tie. Is an ad that lots of people look at and tweet about better than one that shows the effectiveness of the product? The jury is out on our end. Decide for yourself.
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Except for the fact that this print advertisement for Max Shoes calls to mind the American idiom “Put your foot in your mouth,” it is a clever way of putting a face on different shoe styles.
Created by Swiss ad agency Jung Von Matt/Limmat, based in Zurich, the tagline for the Max Shoes ad campaign reads, “You are what you wear.” The model’s wrist is dressed up like a neck collar to suggest the type of wardrobe that works well with that shoe style. It also suggests the personality of the wearer and the social occasions for which it may be suited, and it gives the prospective customer a facial identity. It says a lot in a single shot. The campaign was art directed by David Hanselmann with creative direction by Alexander Jaggy and photography by Mierswa & Kluska.
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Years ago last century when I was communications manager at a forest products company, my boss used to call Kit Hinrichs “that gray designer” because he always managed to use 402 Gray in every job he designed for us. Then Kit outgrew his gray period and developed a fondness for 032 Red, which to him is the most wonderful red he’s ever seen. He didn’t use it on everything, but you knew he loved it. Now he is passionate about 123 Yellow. Never try to engage Kit in a discussion about using 035 Red instead of 032, or try to sneak it by him. He’ll know. The guy’s color perception is like a dog’s sense of hearing. Very keen and nuanced.
When it came to designing a graphic identity for the city of Porto in Portugal, one visual symbol wasn’t enough. Porto-based design firm, White Studio, brainstormed what made Porto memorable and unique, and asked people on the street how they viewed the city. No two answers were alike. White Studio concluded, “We felt we needed to give each citizen their own Porto. We needed to show all of the cities that exist in this one territory….It became clear to us that Porto needed to be much more than a single icon, much more than a single logo. It needed complexity. It needed life. It needed stories. It needed personality.”
The designers also needed a way to create a single unified look that would serve as Porto’s one graphic identity. The answer came in the decorative blue ceramic tiles seen throughout the city for centuries. The line drawings and illustrations on the tiles depicted visual stories about Porto’s history, landmarks, and natural surroundings. That inspired White Studio to create 70 pictograms that represented Porto and its people. The pictograms were designed to fit on a grid that could be combined into a network of images or used individually. The logotype itself is a simple blue sans serif against a white background within a blue boxed border. The beauty of this visual system is that it allows elements to be changed out frequently and still be recognizable as Porto’s graphic identity. It works.
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Sadly, the sight of a homeless person holding a hand-scrawled sign asking for spare change has become all too familiar in cities around the world. Barcelona-based Arrels Foundation and The Cyranos McCann ad agency found a novel way to respond to such handwritten appeals. They created Homelessfonts.org to market typefaces drawn by the homeless in Barcelona to businesses for use in advertising and packaging. In different workshops, volunteer design professionals led homeless participants through various typographic exercises, which were then scanned and converted into usable fonts. The fonts are being sold on the Homelessfonts.org website, and collected funds are being used by Arrels to offer shelter, food, and social and health care services to the indigent in Barcelona. Arrels reports that about 3,000 homeless are currently in Barcelona, 900 of whom actually live in the street. Type design is an unusual charitable fund-raising initiative, to say the least, but it has given Arrels the resources to care for nearly half of the homeless in Barcelona.
When you think about it, a cupcake is just a tiny cup-size cake, but for decades, it was thought of as just a treat for children. Serving cupcakes at a wedding or formal reception, say, would be viewed as gauche. In the 21st century, however, cupcakes have come of age. They come in “mature” flavors like chai latte and cost about what a small cake would. Public perception of cupcakes is changing, and Petits Gateaux, a cupcake boutique in Canada, is repositioning cupcakes as an elegant, sophisticated dessert suitable for grand occasions. Montreal-based creative agency Pheromone developed this print ad campaign for Petits Gateaux, pairing cupcakes with romantic and celebratory moments.
This Pepsi Max commercial has almost nothing to do with its soda products, but if its purpose is to get people to watch, it succeeded. London-based creative agency Harriman Steel constructed this Pepsi Max promotional stunt to celebrate the New Year. They did that not with the usual New Year’s fireworks but with an explosion of ping-pong balls and mousetraps. As a symbolic gesture, they set up 2014 mousetraps and 2015 ping-pong balls, using one to trigger a chain reaction of snapping traps and ricocheting balls. One ping-pong went like a hole-in-one down the center of the Pepsi logo, and set off a festive confetti-like rain of balls in Pepsi’s signature colors of blue, red and white. Except for one Pepsi Max can on a shelf in the “background,” no product was shown. But the spot was fun to watch and there was no doubt that it came from Pepsi.
First hearing that masked terrorists gunned down four French cartoonists in Paris yesterday seemed like a bad Monty Python joke. Sadly, that wasn’t the case. The brutal terrorist attack on the offices of the French satirical weekly “Charlie Hebdo” left the world shaken. The immediate reaction from editorial cartoonists and illustrators around the world was to express their grief, anger and insights with the most powerful weapon they had– their pen.
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This poster was created by Spanish artist Xabier Ziriklain for Nordic Surfers Mag (NSM). The publication targets those who prefer “to surf the wild and raw north where the sea is rough and you need a thick wetsuit to survive in the arctic climate,,” according to the online plug for Nordic Surf’s film festival In Sweden. NSM’s slogan is “No palm trees.” Surfing in frigid Scandinavian waters while dodging glacial icebergs is a sport that involves a different kind of endurance than riding the waves in balmy Hawaii. Just getting in the water takes steely courage. Ziriklain, a mechanical engineer turned artist, is a cold water surfer himself. His collage of a fish wearing a shark fin (or is it a surfboard?) on its back is delightful – a little fish living out the larger-than-life fantasy of swimming with the sharks.