When I was a toddler, my grandmother, who spoke mostly Japanese, taught me how to mimic the sounds that dogs, cats and horses make. So imagine my confusion when my kindergarten teacher asked what a dog says, and I quickly raised my hand and said, “Wan, wan.” She shook her head and asked the class, “Does anyone else want to guess?” All of the other 5-year-olds yelled out, “Bow wow” and “woof woof.”
It was then that I realized that every culture has its own impression of how animals sound. As graphic communicators, we should be mindful of this when translating a book into another language. It’s not just words that differ; it’s how sounds are heard too. Manchester, UK- author James Chapman made this point in a charming illustrated book called Soundimals, presenting 19 animals “speaking” 32 different languages.
View James Chapman’s language based art on his Tumblr and purchase his work on his Etsy Store.
On the national branding front, the big news is that the Czech Republic has just adopted the shorter, friendlier name Czechia for all but formal occasions. The name change has been under discussion since the break-up of Czechoslovakia in 1993. Czechia is not the first nation to limit the use of “Republic” in its name. The Slovak Republic goes by Slovakia, the Federal Republic of Germany goes by just Germany. “Cesko” is what many Czechs call their country, but it didn’t make the cut because people like former Czech president Vaclav Havel said the name made his “flesh creep.” So, Czechia it is. Now it is up to Czech designers to promote the national brand on T-shirts, coffee mugs, soccer jerseys, and all kinds of tcotchke.
When Grey Group opened a new Singapore division of its ad agency earlier this year, it wanted to communicate that it had assembled a team from a dozen different countries to handle business in 106 national markets. It was truly multinational in every sense of the word. The challenge was how to suggest its global outlook visually without resorting to tedious clichés. Luis Fabra, Grey Singapore’s senior graphic designer, chose the most recognizable symbol of any country – its national flag. From there, he deconstructed each flag into geometric shapes – stripes, dots, triangles, half circles, etc. – and rearranged the color scheme on each flag to form a single letter of the alphabet. Grey Singapore’s multinational typeface actually has 106 letters in the alphabet, with some letters repeated to give each country equal representation. Abstract yet country-specific, the letters in combination suggest a strong communication program that is sensitive to all cultures.
It’s not always as simple as applying a single set of graphic standards across the board when a brand expands into foreign markets. In some cases, the brand name may be difficult to pronounce in the native language or the letters may translate into a word that is negative or obscene. Or the graphic mark may include a detail that may be perceived as insulting or culturally taboo. The challenge for brand designers is to adapt the logo to the region, while preserving enough elements to make it recognizable in every part of the world. Ideally, travelers to a foreign country will recognize the brand identity on sight even if the letters or image differ from what they are used to in their own culture. See if you can name these brands. (Answers after the jump.)
Show Us Your Type is a design project created by Neue, a thrice-yearly online magazine that focuses on two things that the Neue founders say they “adore” – typography and cities. Each issue is about a different capital city, and designers are invited to submit their interpretation of the chosen city through posters that are primarily typographic. It is interesting to note what each artist sees as iconic of the culture. To look at a broader selection, go to showusyourtype.com.
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.
Reading about this website publication, which describes itself as a “global community for people over the age of 50,” brought to mind a recent news story about the rise of “marijuana parties” thrown by aging baby boomers living in retirement villages. The 50+ crowd is a lot more youthful and hip than it used to be. Its ranks include some of the world’s most celebrated “hunks” – Brad Pitt, Colin Firth, Johnny Depp, to name a few. So, it is interesting that the only 50+ publication that comes to mind is AARP’s. Its story content feels aimed at soon-to-be geriatrics, and its advertising weighs heavily toward adult diapers, chair lifts for stairs, arthritis drugs and walk-in bathtubs. Both the design and content of the AARP magazine feel like they were meant to appeal to the generation who lived through the Great Depression and World War II. Age 50 was probably set as the dividing line for seniors around 1950 when life expectancy in the U.S. was 65.
For those of us who have been glued to the television all week watching the London 2012 Olympics, here’s a little quiz to do during commercial breaks. According to modern Olympic tradition, the host country for the Games is responsible for creating an emblem to be used on promotional materials, by sponsors of the Olympics, and on the uniforms of every Olympic competitor. Over the decades, these logos have integrated the cultural symbols and patterns, national colors and artistic styles of the host country into the design. See if you can name the year and location for each of these emblems. A bonus point if you can recite the Olympics motto. Click “Read More” for answers.
Coca-Cola has just unveiled six limited-edition cans to cheer on Team USA at the London Olympics this summer. San Francisco-based design agency, Turner Duckworth, combined three of the world’s most recognizable icons to communicate the entire story –the stripes of the American flag; the five interlocked rings of the Olympic logo and silhouette of an athlete, and Coca-Cola’s signature red and Spencerian script logotype. The effect is succinct, direct and graphically powerful. Coca-Cola is rotating the can designs throughout the summer, with a new one appearing every two weeks, culminating with a special composite logo timed for the opening of the Olympic Games.
Looking for a Christmas present that a designer will appreciate? Try “PANTONE®: The 20th Century in Full Color” (Chronicle Books) by color experts Leatrice Eiseman and Keith Recker. The book takes readers on a color-palette tour of the last century presenting a decade-by-decade account of fads, fashions, films, social and art movements, objects, and events and the colors associated with them. Each subject is presented with color chips of the palette, complete with exact Pantone numbers — e.g., Buttercup Yellow (PANTONE 12-0752), Nile Green (PANTONE14-0121), Lipstick Red (PANTONE 19-1764). Perusing this book, it becomes apparent that color is very much a part of our collective memory, evoking a sense of time and place and the emotional climate of the era. It’s a unique way of seeing the 20th century.
Here authors Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute, and Keith Recker, Pantone color and trend consultant, join us for a brief interview.
Extending a brand into global markets isn’t a straightforward process. Product makers have to consider all kinds of cultural and language barriers. Can the letterforms be read? Can the name be pronounced? Does it have a pleasing or harsh sound when spoken? Does the name mean something else in another language? (An example is the famous case of the Chevy Nova, which in Mexico translates to “doesn’t go.”) Then there is the challenge of trying to maintain some graphic consistency so the brand is truly global and not the same product that looks different in every regional market.
Consider how Carlsberg Beer and Coca-Cola graphically translated their logotypes into multiple languages, for example. LogoDesignLove brought the Carlsberg comparisons to our attention. With Carlsberg, note the way that the designers tried to carry over the signature style of the brand — the flat-top squared-off “C,” tri-leaf accent pattern, the swash decorative flourish under the type, the brushstroke-like serif on the last “r.” Although the letterforms differ dramatically from language to language, the various logotypes have a family look that suggests their roots stem from the original Danish Carlsberg logo.
Monday the world reached an important milestone. The global population hit seven billion people, with the birth of a 5.5 pound baby girl in the Philippines. In anticipation of topping the seven billion mark, National Geographic Magazine has been presenting a year-long editorial series on population, with articles and videos on how this affects demographics, food security, climate change, fertility trends and managing biodiversity. This is one of its videos. By the way, since Monday’s historic event, the world population has gone up by more than a half million people and is climbing by about five births a second.
Today design trends ricochet around the globe instantaneously, thanks to the Internet. But a look at these posters, advertisements and magazine covers produced in Japan in the 1920s and 1930s show the integration of art movements from European cultures, including Constructivism, Surrealism and Cubism. The graphic works — which appeared in “Modernism on Paper: Japanese Graphic Design of the 1920s-30s” by Naomichi Kawabata – represent a period when communication design was emerging in Japan. The posters and ads from this period are sometimes referred to as “city art,” because merchants wanted to appeal to urban consumers by departing from traditional pictorial naturalism and embracing message-driven avant-garde visuals that implied that they were keeping pace with styles from the West. The aesthetics and composition communicated this awareness of the larger world and established many of the principles of early graphic design in Japan.
When it comes to branding commercial aircraft, the tail comes before the nose. The tailfin is the tallest part of the plane. It’s the last thing people on the ground see as the plane lifts off. And pretty much the only part they see when the plane is parked buy adobe acrobat nose first at the gate. It is a flying billboard, which is why airline branding experts focus most of their attention on designing memorable graphics for the tail. See if you can match the airline with these tails. Answers on next page.
With the global population expected to top 7 billion people in 2011, National Geographic magazine has produced a 7-part year-long series providing a profile of the world’s population. The information is fascinating, and from a design point of view, it shows the effective graphic use of the magazine’s yellow and black brand colors and yellow rectangular frame logo, which has been around since the magazine began publishing in 1888. From a marketing strategy perspective, it gives us a lot to think about.
Over the next few years, it is likely that many countries will be redesigning their travel passports. The purpose isn’t to make them more attractive, which certainly they can use, but to deter increasingly more sophisticated and dangerous counterfeiters.
Along with hi-res micro images, encrypted biometric information, hidden data chips and other security devices, passports are being issued with different full-color images on every page. They aren’t just any kind of image, but ones using microprinting, holograms, fluorescent dyes, thermochromatic inks, ornamental patterns made with a geometric lathe, intaglio, watermarks, and magnetic inks, among other techniques. All this is for public safety, but since nations are investing millions of dollars anyway, it would be nice if they gave some thought to the aesthetic quality of the new design while they are at it. Like currency and postage stamps, passports can be used to communicate the beauty, style and uniqueness of the issuing country.