Even successful graphic designers like Ken Carbone of Carbone Smolan Agency in New York City aren’t at liberty to do whatever they please on an assignment. Corporate clients dictate marketing objectives, brand parameters, visual subject matter, point-of-view, deadlines, budget, and a myriad other criteria. Ultimately, the client has to sign off on what you create, and the verdict on how wonderful your work is hinges on ROI, market results, elevated brand visibility, etc.
It’s not unusual to hear of designers who wrap up a long, hard day at the studio by creating for their own personal satisfaction. Designer/illustrator Jessica Hische assigned herself the task of drawing a Drop Cap a day and posting it online. Pentagram partner Paula Scher has devoted her off-hours to painting intricate maps of the world as she sees it. Ken Carbone has just concluded 365 days of creating one apple art piece every single day. Curious to know why, we sent him a list of questions. Here are his answers.
Palmitas, about an hour-and half drive from Mexico City, was like so many other poor, nondescript Mexican villages. The community of about 2,000 residents had suffered its share of youth violence and low employment when the Mexican government decided to spruce things up a bit by hiring local artists to paint the entire town in a rainbow of colorful murals. The village brought in a group of prominent graffiti artists called “Germen Crew,” and put them to work with buckets of paint and brushes. The crew repainted 209 houses covering a 20,000 square meter area. The macro mural project took five months to paint, and when it was done, Palmitas stood out for miles around. The cheerful colors had a positive effect on the community, helping to reduce youth violence, create jobs, and turn the hillside village into a scenic attraction. Read More »
Commercials run on the Super Bowl have become their own cultural phenomenon. Costing about $5 million to air a 30-second spot (or $166,666 per second), the commercials reach an estimated 115 million American viewers, and millions more outside of the U.S. Advertisers throw big budgets and top talent at making these spots. In past years, the entertainment quality has been so high that some viewers only watch the game to see the commercials. After the game, people turn to YouTube to see the commercials they missed. This year, however, many advertisers aimed for a pre-game viral buzz by releasing their commercials in advance on TV, YouTube and online platforms.The commercials kinda dribbled out over the past month. The buzz created by millions of people seeing the ads simultaneously for the first time on the Super Bowl was missing. The Super Bowl ads were no longer an event. Without a doubt, there were some terrific ads on the Super Bowl (like the ones shown here), but the thrill of the shared experience is gone. People aren’t coming into the office the next day and chatting with co-workers about their favorite Super Bowl commercial the way they used to. Read More »
Confession: Even as a pre-teen, I resented Barbie. She was too blonde, too shapely, too well-dressed, too popular with the right boys (Ken), too comfortable and self-assured in any setting. She rode around in a red convertible, while the rest of us had to slump down in the back seat of the family station wagon. Her boobs were perky enough to look good in an evening gown and swimsuit. Never in our wildest dreams did most young girls feel we could grow up to be like her. She wasn’t a role model; she was an in-your-face taunt. It’s one thing to aspire to an ideal and another to reach for the unrealistic and impossible. It’s an instant inferiority complex at age 10. In retrospect, I realize that Barbie was very shallow, self-absorbed, and not likable at all. She probably was the type who would never read a book or have an opinion on anything other than the latest fashion.
So, I suppose it is a good thing that Mattel has issued updated Barbie dolls in different body types – tall, petite, and curvy. This is a follow-on to last year’s introduction of 23 new Barbies, with different skin tones, hairstyles, outfits and flat feet (not meant for high heels only). It’s a start. Now to accessorize her with books and turn her into a team player. Read More »
A few days ago Meta Design/Font Shop founder Erik Spiekermann expressed his displeasure in a tweet: “Cannot stand that Trump uses my #FFMeta @ FontShop: (only in the background, but still) he only deserves Arial.”
That led Roger Black to tweet: “Trump does not deserve Arial.” Others chimed in that wingdings and dingbats were more appropriate for The Donald. From the incensed outcry of type lovers, one would think that Spiekermann had been violated or defamed by Trump. Type-loving tweeters had very specific views on what kind of personality deserved to use a humanistic sans-serif font that conveyed a calm, reasonable presence, and it wasn’t the bombastic candidate. For the sake of truth-in-typography, we suggest a more suitable option for Trump – Comic Sans.
Over the past four decades, New York-based designer Louise Fili has returned often to Paris, camera in hand, to document the signage of the Parisian streetscape. Graphique de La Rue is what Fili calls her “typographic love letter to Paris.” From the classic neon that illuminates bistros and cafes to the dramatic facades of the Moulin Rouge and the Folies Bergere to Hector Guimard’s legendary art nouveau metro entrances, Fili shows us the sensuous elegance and dazzling beauty of Paris street signs. This book is a sequel to her Graficadella Strada: The Signs of Italy, which is equally sumptuous. Read More »
Anyone driving on a dark winter’s night knows that pedestrians and cyclists are difficult to see, especially if they are wearing dark colors. That is why Swedish car maker Volvo has introduced an innovative new safety feature that isn’t part of their vehicles, but is on the cyclists and pedestrians who may cross their path. Developed by creative agency Grey London and Swedish startup Albedo100, LifePaint is a water-based spray-on reflective paint that is invisible in daylight but lights up at night when encountering the glare of automobile headlights. LifePaint can be sprayed on any surface – bikes, helmets, clothes, baby strollers, pet leashes, shoes, wheelchairs, backpacks – without affecting the material or color. Completely transparent by day, it only glows when a headlight shines on it. It wears off in about a week, and washes out completely. To promote its new Volvo cx90, the car maker is giving away free LifePaint samples in bike shops in the UK before rolling the product out to a broader market. Read More »
This 90-second plug for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” on Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show is as ingenious as it is entertaining. Featuring Fallon, house-band The Roots, and the Star Wars cast, the video shows the performers singing as an a cappella choir. Arranged in a grid a la Hollywood Squares or the Brady Bunch, each performer is shot against a plain background while giving their own solo rendition of the film’s most familiar tunes. By shooting at different times and places to accommodate the performers’ schedules, the producers were able to make Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver, Lupita Nyong’o, Gwendoline Christie, BB8, storm troopers, 3CPO, and R2D2, part of the all-star chorus. The juxtaposition of colored squares and overlapping of a capella voices turned the video into a spontaneous jam session, with performers playing off each other even though they were in different parts of the galaxy.
The rice-growing region in Japan’s Niigata Prefecture is renowned for its excellent sake (made from fermented rice) and its colorful ornamental carp fish, called Nishikigoi, or koi for short. Tokyo-based design agency, Bullet, was inspired by this regional icon when developing the packaging for a recently released sake product produced by Imayotsukasa Sake Brewery, based in Niigata. The sake brand named Nishikigoi features the distinctive bright red and white mottled patterns of the carp on its bottle and a white box cut-out in the simple silhouette of a carp. Stunning and stylish, the packaging displayed together in a retail setting look like a school of swimming Nishikigoi fish.
The ornamental carp originated in Niigata around AD 1500 when rice farmers began using the common carp as fish food, raising them in the reservoirs above the rice paddies. Around 1800, farmers began seeing colorful mutations of the fish and cross-bred them to create and stabilize new strains in vibrant colors and patterns. The ornamental carp were largely unknown outside of Niigata until they were sent to the 1914 Tokyo Taisho Exhibition as a unique product of the prefecture. By 1938, they were being exported as decorative objects to other parts of the world. Today they are prized as their own unique living art form gracing the ponds of many home gardens — and on the bottles of premium sake. Read More »
SKYY, the American-made vodka, is transforming cities across the country into a knitted wonderland by taking everyone’s favorite ugly holiday sweater and wrapping it around everything from city buses in San Francisco, to bus shelters in Boston and downtown Chicago, to art installations in Manhattan’s Union Square and the Meatpacking District. Available for a limited time during the holiday season, SKYY’s iconic cobalt blue bottles are actually wrapped in blue and white Fair Isle knit sweaters. “Ugly sweaters have become a big pop culture trend, with people theming entire parties around them, and vodka is the number one spirit consumed during the holidays. It was a natural fit to combine the two, ” explains Umberto Luchini, Vice President of Marketing at Campari America.
This is a promotion for a fitness exercise app called 7 Daily Moves by Singapore-based physical trainer Sonam Mehra, founder of Small Spoon Pte. Ltd. Mehra worked closely with tech partner Prakas Donga from India and motion graphic designer Martin Kundby Nielsen from ccccccc in Denmark to demonstrate 48 basic exercise moves in a single GIF. The tiny animated figures are charming to view, and a great condensed version of all the workout moves you need to do to stay fit.
How do you describe in words what autism feels like from the perspective of the person afflicted with the disorder? Sometimes verbal explanations seem inadequate, incomplete, superficial. It’s better to show it and hear it from their eyes and ears. Rattling Stick Production Company made this public service video for the National Autism Society in the UK to help viewers feel the sensory way that some autistic people experience the world. Sounds that most people don’t even notice affect them with the jarring impact of a pile driver. The video was directed by Steve Cope, with creative direction by Kit Darayam. Turn up your sound to get the full effect.
Designers are always in search of ways to convey a message visually without the need for lengthy explanatory text. That’s the charm of this Greenpeace advertising released to coincide with the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris last week. Created by London-based Stine Hole Mankovsky, the video and print ads communicate through a shorthand of visual metaphors that are widely understood by the public. Iconic Russian nesting “dolls” tie the story to Russia; stylized icy blue peaks suggest Arctic glaciers, and the decreasing size of the dolls serve as a metaphor for the ever- shrinking habitat of polar bears, which are fast vanishing in numbers. The only text is “Save the Russian Arctic. Greenpeace.” That says it all. Today the gravest threat to polar bears and the Arctic is the unmitigated release of greenhouse gases, which are warming the planet and causing the climate to change. Read More »
Pigment in the Shinagawa district of Tokyo is the kind of art supply store that fine artists dream about. Pigment carries art supplies that are considered rare throughout the world. It offers over 4,200 colors of pigment, more than 200 antique ink sticks, 50 types of animal glue, traditional “washi” papers, and brushes for every technique. The store is staffed with experts to advise customers on the unique features of each painting tool and how best to use it, and holds workshops taught by art professors and supply manufacturers. Designed by world-renowned architect Kengo Kuma, the modern and spare interior is constructed using organic curved surfaces inspired by bamboo blinds. The bamboo stretches from the roof to the eaves, with the environment displaying products in a manner that seems more like a museum exhibit than a show of retail wares. This is a store that has reverence for the arts and treats the tools of the trade as works of art in themselves. Read More »
Sainsbury’s, the UK’s largest supermarket chain, has made a holiday TV commercial starring Mog the accident-prone cat, the beloved character in a series of popular children’s books by author Judith Kerr. Although categorized as advertisement, the 3 1/2 minute “Mog’s Christmas Calamity,” is a charming storybook tale narrated by acclaimed actress Emma Thompson in a voice akin to her role in “Nanny McPhee.”
Sainsbury’s ad agency Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO persuaded the 92-year-old Judith Kerr to write and illustrate a new Mog story for the Christmas campaign, despite having “killed off” Mog of old age in her 2002 book, “Goodbye, Mog.” Published in partnership with HarperCollins, the “Mog’s Christmas Calamity” book is being offered for purchase by Sainsbury’s with all proceeds going to Save the Children, a nonprofit dedicated to improving children’s literacy in the UK. Only on the market for a few days, the book has already sold in the thousands.
The Christmas advertisement program itself also has been a huge success with adults who fondly recall reading Mog books when they were young. The Sainsbury’s Mog ad campaign was written by AMV BBDO’s Alex Grieve, art directed by Adrian Rossi, and directed by James Rouse through Outsider.
Simply adding another blog post in light of recent horrors seems wrong. The terrorist attack in Paris last Friday, along with the twin bombings in Beirut the day before, and the downing of a Russian civilian jetliner two weeks earlier cannot pass without acknowledgement. We join the world in mourning the loss of humanity, and pray for peace.