Adobe Illustrator Story Tells It Like It Was

When Adobe Illustrator was being released back in 1987, skeptics abounded and the designers who would most benefit from the vector graphic software were most leery that it would destroy the profession. Adobe co-founder John Warnock remembers, “Everybody said, ‘You’re going to ruin good design because now anybody can do it.’” But Warnock believed differently, “The cream rises to the top. The creativity is in the designer. The creativity is in the person who uses the tools.” This brief documentary by Terry Hemphill and produced and directed by Ami Capen looks at how Adobe Illustrator transformed the world of design, so much so that younger designers today can’t fathom what it was like to work with leaky Rapidograph pens, rubdown text and other labor-intensive tools. That’s history recounted by aging designers who want to describe the hardship they endured and how lucky today’s generation is to live in the age of digital graphics.

Schwartz’s Explosion of Flavors

How do you make herbs and spices tantalizing on a visual and auditory level? Asked by Schwartz Flavour Shots to create an ad that turned its seasonings into a complete sensory experience, Grey London unleashed Schwartz herbs and spices in an explosion of colors choreographed to a classical arrangement by M.J. Cole of Soho Music. Directed by Partizan’s Chris Cairns, the Schwartz Flavour Shots commercial used pyrotechnic designers to trigger 140 separate explosions of spices. Several sacks of black peppercorn, turmeric, cardamom, paprika, ginger, cumin seeds, chili and coriander were synchronized to blast off on cue to the notes and chords of Cole’s piano score. Filmed at Pinewood Studios in the UK, the commercial had to be shot in one take. The final result was an exciting visual feast.

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From Performance Art to Practical Application

Until now, 3-D mapping has largely been used to project dazzling special effects onto the facade of buildings at outdoor events. The display of colored lights, towering cascading images and shadows of dancing giants enthralled crowds. But as awesome as these performances were, they felt random and experimental, a new invention that had potential but, as yet, no defined purpose beyond a gee-whiz demonstration of its possibilities. That’s why this 3-D court projection produced by Virginia-based Quince Imaging in partnership with the Cleveland Cavaliers basketball team is so interesting. It uses 3-D mapping to enhance the excitement by integrating it into its regular program. Using a combination of 3-D mapping techniques and video content produced by the Cavaliers’ QTV team and Think Media, Quince transformed the court surface and surrounding screens into an immersive video environment. The system was comprised of 16 HD projectors, creating a pixel space of 3600×1878.

Redefining Billboards

Less than a decade ago, a billboard was essentially a printed image blown up to a gargantuan size. The picture didn’t move, respond to what was happening in the environment around it, nor interact with passersby. How times have changed, and with it, the types of skills designers need to execute their ideas. Even printed pieces are not static anymore, what with the option of Augmented Reality movement and sound.

Stopp of Stockholm produced this subway billboard for a Swedish cosmetic line called Apolosophy by Apotek Hjärtat. Connecting ultra-sonic sensors to the billboard screen, Stopp made what appeared to be a “still photograph” of a young model come alive. Calibrated to react to arriving trains but not to passing passengers, the sensors made it look like the breeze from the passing trains were tousling the model’s hair. After the train went by, the model returned to her “still” repose. What a delightfully simple idea and brilliant use of technology.

Greek EcoNews Intro

Anthimos Xenos in Athens, Greece, produced this animated introduction for the Greek environmental television network, EcoNews. For the 30-second video, Xenos served as art and creative director, motion designer and 3-D animator, and completed the project from start to finish in one month. Music and sound compositing was by Xenakis Lefteris and additional direction by Nikos Tsimouris. In February 2013, Xenos founded his own firm, Darling Creative Motion, in Athens, to focus on TV branding and advertising.

Throwback to the Future

How do you grab the attention of jaded creative directors? By arousing their curiosity. In a campaign for Kontor, a dance music label in Germany, Ogilvy Deutschland developed a “Back to Vinyl” direct mail piece that used high-tech gimmickry to promote the new Boris Dlugosch release. Ad agency recipients got a large flat package that contained a vinyl record inside, instead of the usual CD or USB. The vinyl came with instructions to place the record on the printed turntable on the back of the envelope, then activate the QR code with a smart phone. Recipients could listen to the latest Dlugosch track and “move” the needle to play other tracks as well or to contact Kontor via the connect icon. Needless to say, the vinyl promo often became the talk of the office and didn’t get thrown away.

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A Big Hand for Honda “Hands”

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.

Advertising Made Complex a la Rube Goldberg

Over the year, Rube Goldberg-type devices have popped up in a diverse array of TV commercials, from a promo for the “Elementary” mystery series, an ad for Beneful dog food, and the 2003 classic “Cog” film for Honda Accord. Unlike commercials that demonstrate or tout the product outright, these get their message across in the most tangential way. There is no story line, no spokesperson pointing out product features, not even a lot of voiceover commentary. But the viewer’s attention is riveted to the commercial and the product it is trying to sell.

Just who was this Rube Goldberg? And how did his crazy inventions inspire 21st century advertising creatives to design TV commercials to market their products so circuitously? Let me introduce you. Rube Goldberg (1883-1970) was an engineer-turned-cartoonist whose primary cartoon character was one Professor Lucifer Gorgonzola Butts, an inventor of gadgets that accomplished the simplest tasks in the most complicated, elaborate roundabout way. For those unfamiliar with how Goldberg started a chain reaction of copycat inventors, here’s an example. Goldberg’s cartoon above explains Professor Butts and his Self-Operating Napkin, which was activated when a) the soup spoon was raised to the mouth, pulling a string, b) which jerked a ladle, c) tossing up the cracker inside, d) past a parrot, e) causing the parrot to leap for the cracker, f) thereby, tilting the perch, g) which tipped a bowl of seeds into a pail, h) which, due to its added weight, pulled a cord, i) which ignited a cigarette lighter, j) setting off a rocket, k) which caused a sickle l) to cut a string, and m) freeing a pendulum and causing an attached napkin to swing back and forth, wiping the diner’s mouth.

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A Cabinet That Rube Goldberg Would Love

Two things to learn from this video: 1) No matter how fascinating the subject, nearly all videos benefit from a voiceover narrative and an appropriate soundtrack, both lacking here. 2) Although the term “industrial design” did not emerge until the 20th century, the design and engineering skills to produce incredible objects that utilized the principles of applied science and engineering existed long before then. Centuries before CAD systems and 3-D modeling devices, Abraham Roentgen (1711-1793) and his son, David (1743-1807), made ingeniously engineered and mechanically complex cabinetry that incorporated drawers that opened automatically at the touch of a button, hidden compartments, and drop-down writing surfaces – all behind elegantly decorated panels. This walnut-veneered masterpiece was commissioned by King Frederick William II of Prussia in the late 18th century and is housed today in the Kunstgewerbe museum in Berlin.

Nice Idea, Try Again

This skit from “Burnistoun,” the comedy sketch show broadcast by BBC Scotland, reminds me of all the devices that, at first, seem like marvelous inventions, but still need work. An example is a recent exchange with that annoying automated iPhone twit, Siri. She keeps calling me “Del-fiend-E,” even though I’ve corrected her multiple times. Last week I asked Siri for the cross street of Gump’s, San Francisco’s venerable luxury home décor and jewelry store. Everybody in the Bay Area knows the 150-year-old Gump’s — except Siri. She said, “There are three dumps in San Francisco, which one do you want?” I enunciated more slowly, spelling out G-u-m-p-’s. She ignored me and started telling me the addresses of the local dumps. I finally asked a passerby for directions.

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Industrial Design of a Minesweeper

It looks like a gigantic tumbleweed rolling across the plain, but its purpose is deadly serious. Massoud Hansani, a designer and Afghan refugee, created a landmine detonator as his final graduate design project at the Design Academy in Eidenhoven, the Netherlands. For Hassani, whose native Afghanistan is one of the most heavily mined countries in the world, a minesweeper seemed like a practical object that would be in widespread demand. According to the UN, more than 110 million active mines are scattered across 70 countries, with an equal number stockpiled waiting to be planted.

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AKQA’s Interactive Party Trick

To celebrate the holidays, AKQA, the San Francisco/London-based digital creative agency, teamed up with members of the Pacific Chamber Symphony and Music Director Laurence Kohl to produce an interactive arrangement of “Carol of the Bells.” They are assisted by “shadow orchestra members” led by a “shadow conductor” who coordinates the performance by linking to Mobile Orchestra.com via wi-fi to get a unique web address. From there, up to 12 people may sync their smartphones, each choosing an instrument played by one of the real musicians. Once the “conductor” sees that all the mobile instruments are ready, he/she presses a key to let the music begin.

One in Four Million Bottle Design

As renowned for its creative branding as it is for its premium vodka, Absolut continually tops itself with fantastic new visual expressions. In this case, the Swedish vodka-maker, owned by French company, Pernod Ricard, teamed with Swedish ad agency, Family Business, to give new meaning to the term “limited edition.” The idea was not just to make each Absolut bottle seem unique, but to actually be unique. To do that, Absolut had to reconfigure its bottling production line to recreate artwork with splash guns, 38 colors, and 51 patterns. A complex computerized algorithms program orchestrated these elements in a randomized fashion so that no two bottles were decorated alike. In fact, Absolut estimates that it would take 94 quintrillion bottles before two identical designs resulted. The company is not producing that many, but it did individually number each of the four million bottles in its limited edition line, which it appropriately named “Absolut Unique.”

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