When the product is as commonplace as facial tissue, there’s no need for advertising to explain its benefits and uses. Civilized people know. So, Japanese ad agency, Dentsu, found a more compelling way to promote the Nepia paper brand by making origami animals out of Nepia tissue. The video performance feels like a magic act, with sheets of tissue transformed before your eyes into elephants, snakes and frogs and back into tissue. The white tissue and austere background help to suggest the clean, soft and feathery lightness of the product. This stop-motion animation was directed by Fuyu Arai with creative direction by Hitoshi Sato.
Clocking in at two minutes, this Honda commercial would be a very expensive ad buy on prime-time TV, but thanks to the accessibility of YouTube and Vimeo, audiences are seeking it out online. The Honda “Hands” ad starts with a cog, just like its award-winning Cog commercial (see July 24 post below). This time Honda teamed with Wieden + Kennedy London to “celebrate the curiosity of Honda engineers” who have made Honda the world’s largest engine manufacturer and racing company since it was founded in 1948. Through “slight of hand” and brilliant animation, the cog morphs into a dazzling array of products, from motorcycles and jet planes to solar-powered cars and robots. The making of this video, directed by Smith & Foulkes and Nexus Productions, is a technological feat in itself. For brands that think they don’t have the budget for such an ambitious production, consider this: Is it better to do something middle-of-the-road and run it on prime time TV or to create something awesomely original that people will “google” to see on their own. If it is good, it will go viral.
Print or digital? That’s a debate that is roiling the publishing business. Here’s an example of a book that can live comfortably in both realms. Back in 2000, New York-based Brazilian designer Roberto de Vicq de Cumptich created a charming ABC picture book as a present for his then two-year-old daughter. Known for integrating typography into his illustrations, deVicq called his book “Bembo’s Zoo,” after an elegant serifed font named for the 16th century poet, Pietro Bembo. DeVicq used the Bembo typeface to create a zoo full of alphabet animals, from Antelope to Zebra. He spelled out the creature’s name in Bembo and then rearranged all the letters in the name into the shape of the animal. It was all Bembo all the way through, and irresistibly clever!
A few years later, deVicq took this exercise a step further by building an interactive website that featured animation (by Mucca design) and sound (by Federico Chiell). The zoo roared to life. It was a natural design evolution, from the word for the animal, to the animal figure built out of those letters, to jungle and ocean sounds, including the yodeling cries of Tarzan. Imaginative, fun and educational. (Click on the illustration above to start the animation.)
It’s tempting to turn this story into a string of crappy jokes, but the subject is no laughing matter. In Seattle this week, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation hosted a two-day “Reinvent the Toilet” fair, attended by scientists and entrepreneurs eager to demonstrate their wares. To put these inventions to a credible test, the Foundation placed an order for about 50 gallons of fake poop. The Gates also offered over $3 million research grants, which were part of a $370 million grant initiative to improve the world’s water, sanitation and hygiene.
According to the Foundation, four out of every ten people around the world have no place “to go.” That adds up to 2.6 billion people without access to a toilet. Poor sanitation results in half the world’s hospitalizations. It is the cause of 2.5 million cases of diarrhea in children under five and 1.5 million child deaths a year, according to a United Nations report. Even in industrialized nations, the amount of water consumed each flush puts pressure on the environment.
In sponsoring this cash competition to come up with a toilet of the future, the Gates Foundation set several requirements. The toilet must operate without running water, electricity or a septic system. It must not discharge pollutants, preferably capture energy or other resources, and operate at a cost of 5 cents a day.
This week’s toilet fair resulted in some very promising solutions, including using soldier fly larvae to process human waste to produce animal feed. Other approaches turn human waste into charcoal and fuel. In announcing the cash prizes for the best designs, Bill Gates said, “If we apply creative thinking to everyday challenges, such as dealing with human waste, we can fix some of the world’s toughest challenges.”
Although coming up with the next toilet isn’t as glamorous as, say, creating the next Eames chair, it shows that design runs deeper than cosmetic solutions.
This video was produced by Loaded Pictures, with illustrations by Jay Bryant.
Origami (which means “to fold” + “paper” in Japanese) is one of the oldest and humblest art forms around, dating back thousands of years, and stop-motion 3-D animation is one of the newest and most technologically advanced art forms. It’s interesting that the two mediums have found each other and it was love at first sight. As time-consuming and difficult as some origami forms are to fold by hand, paper as a construction material is sturdy but flexible, buildable at a small scale, and relatively cheap. In the case of this video ad for Hamburg’s charitable lottery, Deutsche Fernsehlotterie, a whole village with inhabitants and vehicles were brought to life out of paper. Hamburg-based agency, Zum Goldenen Hirschen spearheaded this ad, with Hans-Christoph Schultheiss directing.
De Lijn, the public bus company run by the Flemish government in Belgium, has launched a new ad campaign showing that it is smarter to take the bus or tram than travel alone. The concept for these commercials came from Duval Guillaume Modem in Antwerp, and the 3-D production was done by CC (Creative Conspiracy). Don’t know if there is safety in numbers by taking a bus in Belgium, but in the U.S., it’s crowded and a good way to get elbowed by strangers and attacked by psychopaths. Still, the ad is memorable and cute.DeLijn plans follow-up campaigns that will “focus on the nature friendliness of public transport and the fact that taking the bus gets you faster through traffic and helps you to get rid of the stress of finding a parking space.” DeLijn is also working on a smartphone game featuring the ants in the commercial –- a nice distraction while riding the bus.
This stop-motion video by Lynn Kiang isn’t so much about letterpress printing as it is about where typesetting terminology came from. To understand the nomenclature, it helps to see how type used to be made out of wood or metal. Terms like “upper case” and “lower case” harken back to the days of handset type when capital letters were stored in the upper section of the typecase and small letters in the lower case. Around 1886, the invention of the Linotype speeded up typesetting, letting typesetters keyboard in the text, which was cast out of molten metal one line of type at a time. Depending on the design, these hot-metal “slugs” would either be “leaded out” by placing thin sheets of metal between the lines or closed up by “taking the lead out.” When all the type was set in layout form within a metal frame (“chase”), the printer “locked it up” and “put the job to bed” on the bed of the letterpress. These terms have become industry jargon, but in the age of digital typography, their origin has become lost. This video, set to the soundtrack from “West Side Story,” is a great little primer. Lynn Kiang, an M.F.A. student in graphic design at the Rhode Island School of Design, named her video “Type High,” which means the height of the type from the face to the foot.
When Nickelodeon sought to tout its new HD network in Europe, its parent company, MTV International, hired ManvsMachine agency in London to brand the channel. What they got back was a logo identity study that playfully took Nickelodeon’s screaming orange brand color and morphed it from one texture to another, from faux fur to plastic to globule bubbles, all reforming themselves back into the Nickelodeon logotype. It’s fascinating to view.
Years ago designer Saul Bass explained how he approached film title sequences to me when I interviewed him for an article. “Find an image that will be provocative, seductive yet true to the film,” he said. “It has to have some ambiguity, some contradiction, not only visually but conceptually. Not just isolating the prettiest frame, but finding a metaphor for the film.“
Beginning with his 1955 work on Otto Preminger’s “The Man with the Golden Arm,” Bass transformed the way film title sequences were perceived forever. He approached the task with a graphic designer’s eye, so that stills from his title sequences easily translated into a powerful iconic poster for the movie.
For a Central China Television (CCTV) promotional commercial, Chinese ad agency, MMIA, undertook to retrace the history of China in an animated version of a traditional Chinese ink-and-wash landscape painting. Ink-and-wash is an art style that developed thousands of years ago and is noted for brush strokes that range from bold forms to faint ink washes that render scenes in a dreamlike mist. To simulate this liquid effect, MMIA turned to Troublemakers.tv, a production company based in Paris, and German director Niko Tziopanos of weareflink. The result is mesmerizing, a merging of design, computer graphics, visual effects and live action blending seamlessly together to appear that an ancient ink painting has come to life.
Lacoste has borrowed a page from real printed books, and gone one better, with this engaging online pop-up book dedicated to its founder Rene Lacoste. The six-chapter story is set to a lively ragtime tune and sound effects. Clicking on a chapter prompts visuals to pop up, and following the finger-pointing tab reveals a “gatefold” sidebar with explanatory text, old photos and vintage flim clips. A hybrid of different communications media, the online pop-up book tells the corporate story in a fresh way.
When Dr. Martens celebrated its 50th anniversary, its agency, Exposure Communications, decided to launch a website featuring 10 contemporary artists interpreting 10 alternative music tracks from the past 50 years. Vanessa Marzaroli from the Los Angeles -based multimedia design studio, Blind, was asked to create the music video for “Lilac Wine” by the Cinematic Orchestra. Marzaroli captured the “sweet and heady” lyrics in the delicate, fluid lines of Spencerian calligraphy – a perfect melding of music and images.
This animated video on climate change comes from the WWF Brazil. It’s part of a trilogy titled “Pense de Novo,” or “Think Again.” Without voiceover or text, the 30-second video shows how humans have managed to pollute the planet. As we commemorate Earth Day on Friday, it is something to think about…again.
“Madagascar, Carnet de Voyage” (Madagascar, a Journey Diary) is one of five animated short films nominated for an Academy Award this year. From a purely artistic standpoint this animated short by French filmmaker Bastien Dubois is compelling to view. Colored pencil and watercolor drawings come to life, so that viewers feel like they’ve stepped into the pages of a traveler’s diary. Dubois undoubtedly achieved this using a rotoscoping technique in Adobe After Effects — a process of drawing masks, animating the path and then using the masks to define a matte.
Complex technological concepts can be intimidating and daunting to most people, which is why this animated diagram is so appealing. Directed and produced by Buck/Antfood for the NYTimes.com, the video uses simple geometric shapes and a soft palette of colors to explain how the turbine-free wind power technology proposed by Dr. Francis Moon of Cornell University works. In just one minute and three seconds, it explains the problem, solution and advantages of turbine-free wind power. The more traditional way of telling the story may have been through photographs of wind farms, industrial shots of real turbines, disturbing images of maimed birds, graphs of wind velocity in urban areas, a detailed explanation of how the mechanism produces power through a grid of pads that attach to piezoelectric materials, yada yada. Instead, this animation tells a seamless story in a cinematic way.
In-person portfolio showings used to be the way that illustrators and photographers got their work in front of designers and art directors. No longer. Now design firms only want to view portfolios online. Often illustrators and photographers don’t even know if their work is being viewed. It’s a case of “don’t call us; we’ll call you.” But some illustrators are finding a way to draw attention to their work by creating online presentations that entertain and amuse. This one by Elwood H. Smith communicates his style and humor and makes designers look forward to seeing more.