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.

Brave New World for Cats

If cats were 13th century cartographers, this is probably how they would map out their known world. Or so it is suggested in this series of print ads for Whiskas pet food, created by AMV BBDO in the UK and illustrator Dave Hopkins. The vintage-style maps were drawn from a cat’s perspective, with feline significant names given to landmarks in the Living Room Plain, the Garden Outback and The Kitchen Valley. Ottoman Overlook, Settee Ridge and Magazine Mound are key features called out in the living room. Toaster Volcano, Sore Paw Crossing stove zone, and Shelf Highlands are marked in the kitchen, and in the garden, the area beyond the Great Wall is labeled “Here There Be Monsters” with two unfriendly dogs stationed nearby. The compost heap is named Pew Gardens. The sepia-toned maps are a delight to study, and they are presented with confidence that viewers are sophisticated enough to know the Whiskas brand and a fair amount about typical cat behavior. The only real branding in the ads is the Whiskas name in its familiar logotype set in a shield that vaguely looks like a silhouette of a cat’s head. The signature purple color of Whiskas packaging is completely absent.

Read More »

Milton Glaser’s Groovy “Mad Men” Poster

To promote the seventh and final season of the “Mad Men” series, AMC asked the acclaimed Milton Glaser to design a poster that encapsulated the late 1960s. Set in a New York advertising agency, the popular TV drama spans the decade of the Sixties, beginning with the Eisenhower-Kennedy years when women wore bouffant hairdos and sweater sets with pearls and men wore grey flannel suits and hats, all the way through to the youth-obsessed counterculture era of mind-altering drugs, mini-skirts, bell-

The All-Important Sketching Stage

Without a strong concept, illustration is just glorified doodling. The same can be said of design as well. Those entering these professions need to exhibit more than technical skill; they need to engage their minds and imaginations to get at the crux of the story they want to tell.

I was reminded of this while watching Craig Frazier’s video. A prolifically talented illustrator who still sketches thumbnails with pen and ink and cuts his final image out of rubylith film, Craig explains. “If there is anything magical about making illustration, it happens at the sketch stage. That’s when the idea comes out of the pen. The DNA of the illustration exists right in the sketch. If it is not there, it is not going to show up later on.”

Read More »

Type in the City

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.

Read More »

Kilroy Was Here, There and Everywhere

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.

Read More »

Illy’s Brand Positioning on the Arts

Explaining its views on coffee, illy argues “If coffee is experienced with all five senses, the very objects that hold coffee should please the eye.” Given that brand philosophy, the Trieste, Italy-based coffee company sought to elevate the humble coffee cup “to meld the sensory pleasures of coffee and art.” In 1992, it commissioned renowned architect Matteo Thun to design what is now the iconic illy espresso cup. From there, illy asked some of the world’s foremost artists to use the white ceramic surface as a canvas for their original art. The illy Art Collection was born. Over the past two decades, some 70 artists, including such contemporary masters as Robert Rauschenberg, Jeff Koons and Julian Schnabel, have contributed to the collection. The cups and saucers in the illy Collection can themselves be appreciated as works of art worthy of display in galleries and exhibitions.

Read More »

Eco-Friendly Paperboy Challenges Wine Traditions

Wine packaging is steeped in tradition and sometimes unfounded biases, and connoisseurs are quick to form opinions about the quality of wine inside by the bottle’s shape, color and design. The cork versus screw cap debate, for instance, has been going on for well over a decade. So, it will be interesting to note the wine-drinking market’s response to Paperboy, packaged in a bottle made entirely from compressed recycled paper. UK packaging producer GreenBottle teamed with California wine producer Truett-Hurst to unveil the world’s first paper wine bottle. It is being sold in Safeway supermarkets on the West Coast now, with plans to offer it across the U.S. soon. London/NY-based agency Stranger & Stranger designed the Paperboy label graphics, which were printed with natural inks.

GreenBottle reports that the paper bottle, with a liquid-tight insulated plastic bladder inside, has a carbon footprint that is one third of an equivalent glass bottle. The bottle is feather-light, weighing about an ounce when empty, thus reducing shipping, handling and energy consumption costs. Despite its lightweight, Paperboy bottles are said to be rigid and strong, and ice bucket safe for three hours. Sounds good. Now let’s see if wine snobs can get past the fact that they’re drinking a brand sold in a paper bottle.

Read More »

Day of the Dead – Canadian Style, eh!

Corona Canada is going all out to celebrate the Day of the Dead (Dias de los Muertos), an annual Mexican holiday (November 1 and 2) commemorating the lives of loved ones who have passed away. It has just issued special limited edition designs for its tall-boy cans, further extending its “Live Mas Fina” (Live the good life) campaign launched in March. Toronto-based design agency, Zulu Alpha Kilo, created the concept and design for the marketing promotion, which features artwork inspired by Day of the Dead sugar skull candy treats. Illustrated by Jenny Luong, the decorative skull artwork integrates a line of text that urges people to live life to the fullest.

The Canadian Day of the Dead campaign encompasses more than special packaging. Zulu is promoting the Day of the Dead design in out-of-home and print ads, magazine inserts and on social media. In addition to giving out tear-away posters at select locations across Canada, Corona is staging a social media contest that offers fans the chance to win a numbered, limited edition silkscreened print of the sugar skull posters. The Day of the Dead Corona cans are available in stores across Canada for one month only.

The Good and Bad Side of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde

Every year the Indianapolis International Film Festival invites local designers and illustrators to create a poster for select movies, which it uses as a build-up to the festival. The posters are then exhibited at the Indy Film Festival and sold as limited edition prints. Lars Lawson served as designer and illustrator for this “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” poster, along with contributing artist Monty Sheldon and Timber Design. Not only did Lawson capture the character’s strange split personality, he managed to draw the typography so that it reads “Dr. Jekyll” from one direction and “Mr. Hyde” when turned upside down.

What Are You Looking At?

Leo Burnett ad agency made clever use of negative space to communicate Fiat’s Don’t Text and Drive message. Those who focus on the large alphabet letters often miss the silhouetted image in the negative black space. It’s a matter of perspective and where your attention is centered: On the letter “R” or the girl with a balloon? The “F” or the bus? The “N” or the dog? The subjects in the negative space are hiding in plain sight, but you have to be alert to see them.

Read More »

Comic Book Depiction of Volkswagen Emergency Brake System

Anyone who has read an action comic book knows what a cataclysmic impact looks like. Splat! Pow! Blam! Swoosh! Clouds of dust, explosive rays, stars. Adam&Eve DDB London worked with illustrator John Rogers to demonstrate how Volkswagen’s City Emergency Brake system can avert disaster by using a comic book illustrative style and visual sound effects. It certainly beats the more realistic approach of showing blood and gore, police cars and the message “don’t let this happen to you.”

Read More »

Branding of Dripp Coffee

The visual identity system for Southern California-based Dripp Coffee Shop is intriguing for what is fixed and what is flexible. Designed by Turner Duckworth San Francisco and London, the Dripp branding system centers around a hand-drawn script logotype which angles upward. The rest of the visual content is structured within a grid of color blocks with minimal flat-graphic images. The flourished style of the letters sets the logo apart from the rest of the visual content and, by contrast, draws attention to itself. The silhouetted objects themselves can be changed to suit the product, season or event, as long as they retain the stylized look and simplified color palette of the brand – as shown in the set of posters below created by Turner Duckworth. This graphic system also accommodates changing needs and uses, including this sleeveless hot paper cup design by Istanbul-based designer Salih Kucukaga.


Read More »

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.

Read More »