The flag gate, above, was created for the 1876 American Centennial, and is now housed in the American Folk Art Museum in New York.
In honor of America’s Independence Day, also know as the Fourth of July, we have created a brief quiz to test your knowledge of Stars & Stripes history. For those of our readers not based in the U.S., we will handicap you two free answers. Good luck! Happy Fourth.
1. Who designed the American flag?
a. George Washington
b. Betsy Ross
c. Thomas Jefferson
d. Francis Hopkinson
2. The Star Spangled Banner, America’s most famous flag, has how many stars and stripes?
a. 13 stars and 13 stripes
b. 15 stars and 13 Stripes
c. 15 stars and 15 stripes
d. 18 stars and 13 stripes
3. What year was the Stars and Stripes adopted by Congress?
4. Is it illegal to burn the American flag?
c. On occasion
5. On what date are new stars added to the flag?
a. January 1, after a states’ admission to the Union
b. June 14, after a states’ admission to the Union
c. July 4, after a states’ admission to the Union
6. How many stars are on the flag that has flown the longest over the United States?
This crime story has all the makings of a wonderful BBC Masterpiece Theatre episode. The real-life tale of passion for typography and revenge began in 1916 when an elderly gentleman walked onto London’s Hammersmith Bridge after midnight and began tossing tiny metal pieces of the font used exclusively by The Doves Press into the Thames River. This destruction of typographic art was perpetrated by printer/bookbinder, T.J. Cobden-Sanderson, to keep the font out of the hands of his former business partner, Emery Walker. Both leaders in the Arts and Crafts Movement, Cobden-Sanderson and Walker co-owned the renowned Doves Press, revered for creating exquisite fine arts books set in Doves type. In the contentious process of dissolving their business partnership in 1909, the two men fought bitterly over the rights to the Doves font. Rather than see Walker gain ownership, Cobden-Sanderson laid a plan to make sure that the font could never be used again. Over a period of about six months, the then 76-year-old Cobden-Sanderson set off each night under the cloak of darkness with bits of Doves font hidden in packets and pockets and surreptitiously sprinkled about a ton of the metal slugs and matrices onto the Thames. In all, he made about 170 trips from his bindery to the bridge to avoid arousing the suspicion of passersby.
In this short film by Tom Beal for BBC News Magazine, type designer Robert Green picks up the story a century later and recounts his obsession with recreating Doves accurately and his heroic effort to rescue the sunken metal type.
Did you know that drinking Snapple can make you more knowledgeable? For nearly two decades, Snapple has added “food for thought” to their beverages by printing Real Facts inside their bottle caps. Quirky and curious, these facts feature amusing trivia that people often read aloud to share with companions. Occasionally, the fact seems so unlikely that people have been driven to do their own research. Invariably, the Snapple fact is true. Snapple Real Facts have to be verified by two authoritative sources and approved by a legal team before appearing on a bottle cap. To date, more than 1,030 Real Facts have been printed – including the fact that “humans share 50% of their DNA with bananas” and “In the state of Arizona, it is illegal for donkeys to sleep in bathtubs.” Snapple Real Facts have become like the coveted prizes in Cracker Jack boxes to some nerds. When forced to choose between a Snapple and a Coke, they’ll choose Snapple because it comes with Real Facts. Read More »
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.
Every New Year’s editorial cartoonist depict the passing of the old year by drawing pictures of an elderly bearded man, dressed in a robe and carrying a scythe and often an hourglass. Who is this geezer and why is he resurrected by the media at the start of every new year?
The ancient Greeks called him Chronos (the root of “chronology”) and the Romans knew him as Saturn, son of Uranus (Sky Father) and Gaea (earth mother). In the middle ages, he was thought of as the Grim Reaper, but now we simply call him Old Father Time. In all of these myths, he symbolizes the inexorable flow of time, both its destructive and constructive effects. But even as his physical vitality dwindles, like an inverted hourglass, it is replenished with serenity, wisdom and the awareness of being part of a continuum. That is the gift of time. Happy new year.
In the realm of classic comic book heroes, there is Spiderman, Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, the Hulk, the Green Lantern …and Tintin the baby-faced boy reporter. A comic strip introduced in 1929 by Belgian cartoonist Herge (Georges Prosper Remi), “The Adventures of Tintin” relates tales of a Belgian teenager with a round head and a dorky quiff hairstyle who is dispatched by a youth newspaper called Le Petit Vingtieme (the Little Twentieth) to file investigative reports from hot spots around the world. Unassuming and good-natured, Tintin gamely goes wherever he is assigned, taking his little fox terrier, Snowy, with him. His travels often put him in the midst of political upheaval in the land of the Soviets, the Belgian Congo, China, Chicago, Latin America and elsewhere, and in trying to get to the bottom of a mystery, he is forced to deal with ruthless special agents, diamond smugglers, Al Capone gangsters and other villains who want to run him over, shoot him, torture him, kidnap him and feed him to crocodiles.Tintin and Snowy deal with each encounter without fear and get themselves out of each jam through quick-thinking action and sometimes through sheer dumb luck. What has kept Tintin so beloved over the decades is that he isn’t presented as an egotistical super human like Spiderman and Wonder Woman, but as an average young man who doesn’t seek out danger but doesn’t run from it either. In Brussels, Tintin and Snowy are honored with a life-size bronze statue, and they are even commemorated on a euro coin, which is legal tender in Belgium. An unlikely action hero, Tintin is probably the most admired fictional Belgian in recent history.
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”.
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 [email protected]. (For the record, yes, we miss the print editions too, and would be thrilled to return to ink on paper.)
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, [email protected] 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.
Sometime during World War II, graffiti of a man with a long nose peering over a wall and the message “Kilroy was here” began popping up in the most unlikely and often dangerous places. It was boldly hand drawn on rocks and trees on the battlefields of Europe and the South Pacific, painted on the side of warplanes, on U.S. troopships, Army jeeps and bombed out buildings. The little Kilroy man became the logo of American GIs, and a way to taunt the enemy that there was no safe place to hide. The more remote and inaccessible the location, the more likely a GI would paint the graffiti to announce they had been there first.
It is with sadness that we note the passing of our friend, OXO GoodGrips founder Sam Farber, who died Sunday at the age of 88. Farber, who received the “Design of the Decade” award from the Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA) and BusinessWeek magazine in 2001, proved that ground-breaking innovations don’t have to be based on cutting-edge technology nor even have mechanical parts.
Most people don’t know this product by brand name, but they know exactly what you are talking about when you describe the pine tree-shaped air fresheners that dangle from rearview mirrors of taxicabs and long-haul trucks all over the world. The product is trademarked under the name “Little Trees” and manufactured in the U.S. by the Car-Freshner Corporation, but the shape is far more recognizable than the name. In fact, unlike the contoured bottles that people immediately associate with Coca-Cola and the Golden Arches that is synonymous with McDonald’s, these cut-out tree silhouettes don’t recall a name so much as a particular scent, location and purpose. That hasn’t hurt sales a bit; Little Trees trees have sold in the billions since they came on the market in the mid-1950s.
What better way to showcase the newly released Eames Century Modern font collection than to print each letterform on a Mid-Century Modern LTR (Low Table Rod) table designed by Charles Eames? A collaboration between type designer House Industries and Herman Miller Japan, the Eames alphabet table is a limited edition series of 80 tables adorned with A to Z letters, numbers and ornaments from the Eames Century Modern font. House hand-printed each tabletop at its Grand Rapids, Michigan, factory and then returned the tops to Herman Miller for attachment onto the metal rod base and packaging in a special House-designed wooden crate. House owner Andy Cruz says, “As with most House Industries projects, I tried my best to make the packaging for this limited edition something you wouldn’t throw away once the table was removed. Who doesn’t like a printed wooden crate that can do double duty as a storage container?” Good point.
Now for the bad news. The custom Eames LTR tables are probably sold out by now, since only 80 tables were made in total. Forty were offered at the Herman Miller Reach Exhibition in Hong Kong in September and the other 40 at the HM Tokyo Showroom in October. If there are any leftover crates, I’d be willing to settle for one of them.
How do you brand a banana? It’s a generic fruit, like an apple or peach. right? If you live in the tropics, you can grow bananas in your backyard. Still, for the past 65 years, only one banana has a brand identity, not to mention, a name, a face and a personality – Chiquita.
Back in 1944, Chiquita charmed consumers by turning a caricature of Carmen Miranda, the flamboyant Brazilian samba singer/dancer with the tutti-frutti hat, into its brand icon. Then to reinforce its slogan “Quite Possibly the World’s Most Perfect Food,” it created a little blue sticker that to this day it affixes by hand onto every single banana it sells.
In cafeterias and restaurants around the world, the coffeepot with a distinctive orange band around the neck is immediately recognized as the one containing decaf coffee. Today most people don’t know how that tradition began. Actually, it was once one of the world’s most effective branding campaigns, even though these days consumers don’t associate the color with the product that started it all.
The orange label premiered in 1923 when Sanka, the first commercial decaf coffee, appeared on grocery store shelves in America. In 1932, General Foods bought Sanka (a catchy contraction of “sans caffeine”) and set out to promote the brand to restaurants and diners by giving away free “Sanka-orange” coffeepots and a few samples of the product. Customers and waiters came to recognize that orange signified Sanka, and over time it became the generic color-code for any and all decaf coffee brands.
Hello Kitty turned 35 on November 1; in human years that would make her around 150. She is still innocently cute (or kawaii as the Japanese would say) – and very rich, earning more than a billion dollars a year for licensing her image. She has got her little paws into everything, from toys to backpacks, hair clips to jewelry, writing pads to Airstream trailers, wedding rings to tattoos, assault rifles to adult massage devices, Stratocaster guitars to an Airbus jet, theme maternity hospital in Taiwan to bank debit cards. She has her own theme park, TV anime cartoon series and video games. All this for a little creature with two dots for eyes, a yellow button nose and no mouth at all. Even after 35 years, we don’t even know her name.