Typography

Sweden Adopts a National Font

Swedish_Typeface

Sweden has joined the ranks of a tiny handful of countries that have adopted their own national typeface. Called Sweden Sans, the font is very Scandinavian in its modern, functional, minimalist look. Created by type designer Stefan Hattanbach in collaboration with design agency, Soderhavat, the font is meant to communicate in a single Swedish voice and in a style evocative of the nation’s design taste.

Hattanbach describes the branded font as “very geometric and modern” and inspired by old Swedish signs that were popular in the 1950s and ‘60s. In an interview heard on PRI The World, Hattanbach said he was particularly pleased with the outcome of the letter “S,” which he explained is a “hard letter to make because it can really fall off and look unbalanced.” He thought that the straight down tail on the letter “Q” looked “pretty cool” too. Overall, Hattanbach felt that Sweden Sans could be described as “lagom,” a Swedish expression meaning “not too much and not too little.”

Sweden Sans does look versatile, but it is still unclear how broadly this national font will be applied. Will it appear on Swedish currency? On official government documents? On government office signage? If regular Swedish citizens decide to use it, will they be violating any legal restrictions. Or if they do adopt Sweden Sans as their default font, will it be viewed as a sign of national pride? The concept of a national font is intriguing, so stay tuned to see how it is used.
Read More »

Industrial Design

Designs That We Take for Granted

Kenji_Ekuan2

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.

Sustainability

The Idea Is Everything

Tree_Sign
The beauty of this appeal by Oro Verde Rainforest Foundation is its humble low-tech innocence. It doesn’t smack of big budget glitz, high-tech digital manipulations, and pre-launch market testing. The idea is everything. Its charm is in its simple, direct, homemade look. A high school student could have produced it… but didn’t.

Actually, the campaign was created by ad giant, Ogilvy & Mather, in Frankfurt, Germany. Hand-written placards were posted on more than 600 trees in Germany and helped OroVerde raise cash donations by more than 27 percent.
Read More »

Brand Language

Students at Goethe University Discover Seoul

Korean_Film_1

Project K, a Korean Film Festival, has turned into a popular annual event at the Bockenheim campus at Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany. Dubbed “Four Days in Seoul,” the festival is co-hosted by the Korean consul general of Frankfurt; KGN, an organization of second-generation Korean Germans, and the University’s Korean Studies Department. In addition to screening Korean box-office hits and experimental, shorts, animations and indie Korean films, the festival features activities that give students a chance to learn about Korean pop culture and traditions.

Read More »

Product Design

Irresistible Trade Show Treats

Chocolatexture_1

Tokyo-based Nendo creative agency was just awarded “2015 Designer of the Year” at the Maison & Objet (M&O) trade show in Paris. Nendo won for designing a special chocolate lounge and candy named “Chocolatexture.” Instead of basing the names of the Chocolatexture line on the usual attributes – e.g., country of origin, flavor, percentage of cocoa butter content, technique, etc., Nendo based the names on shape. The nine different chocolates are about the same size, but differ in texture. The product names use Japanese colloquial terms to describe the specific shapes. Thus, “Tubu Tubu” implies tiny chunks of chocolate drops; “Goro-Goro means that there are 14 connected points; “Suka-Suka” means a hollow cube with thin walls, etc. The packaging features shape silhouettes as well.

The Nendo chocolate lounge was open for a limited time only during the M&O show in January. The design delegates who attended the event probably wanted to take the well-conceived packaging home to show their staff, but it is questionable how many were actually able to resist the delicious treat.
Read More »

Advertising

Schick Got You to Look

Schick_1
Is the fact that an ad is memorable the same as it being effective? This is a discussion that I had with the young designer who works with me on this blog. He loved this Schick razor print ad, created by Y&R in Auckland, New Zealand. I found the furry creatures clinging to the models’ chins kinda creepy.

Young hip male designer argued: “It’s very effective; it’s gone viral.”

Old female editor said: Who are the target customers? Lumberjacks, mountain men and Arctic explorers? The average guy in an office doesn’t have that much facial growth. In fact, they like to have a little stubble like they were out partying all night and didn’t go home to shave.

Young design argued: It got you to look. It drew eyeballs to this ad.

Old female editor said: Show me what the men look like after they have shaved and I’ll tell you whether I like the product or not. Show me the sales spike.

And so it went. Here it is. The vote here is a tie. Is an ad that lots of people look at and tweet about better than one that shows the effectiveness of the product? The jury is out on our end. Decide for yourself.
Read More »

Advertising

The Face of Max Shoes Customers

Max_Shoes_1

Except for the fact that this print advertisement for Max Shoes calls to mind the American idiom “Put your foot in your mouth,” it is a clever way of putting a face on different shoe styles.

Created by Swiss ad agency Jung Von Matt/Limmat, based in Zurich, the tagline for the Max Shoes ad campaign reads, “You are what you wear.” The model’s wrist is dressed up like a neck collar to suggest the type of wardrobe that works well with that shoe style. It also suggests the personality of the wearer and the social occasions for which it may be suited, and it gives the prospective customer a facial identity. It says a lot in a single shot. The campaign was art directed by David Hanselmann with creative direction by Alexander Jaggy and photography by Mierswa & Kluska.
Read More »

Pop Culture

A Game Made for Graphic Designers

1000_Colours_Puzzle

Years ago last century when I was communications manager at a forest products company, my boss used to call Kit Hinrichs “that gray designer” because he always managed to use 402 Gray in every job he designed for us. Then Kit outgrew his gray period and developed a fondness for 032 Red, which to him is the most wonderful red he’s ever seen. He didn’t use it on everything, but you knew he loved it. Now he is passionate about 123 Yellow. Never try to engage Kit in a discussion about using 035 Red instead of 032, or try to sneak it by him. He’ll know. The guy’s color perception is like a dog’s sense of hearing. Very keen and nuanced.

Read More »

Typography

Typography by the Homeless

Sadly, the sight of a homeless person holding a hand-scrawled sign asking for spare change has become all too familiar in cities around the world. Barcelona-based Arrels Foundation and The Cyranos McCann ad agency found a novel way to respond to such handwritten appeals. They created Homelessfonts.org to market typefaces drawn by the homeless in Barcelona to businesses for use in advertising and packaging. In different workshops, volunteer design professionals led homeless participants through various typographic exercises, which were then scanned and converted into usable fonts. The fonts are being sold on the Homelessfonts.org website, and collected funds are being used by Arrels to offer shelter, food, and social and health care services to the indigent in Barcelona. Arrels reports that about 3,000 homeless are currently in Barcelona, 900 of whom actually live in the street. Type design is an unusual charitable fund-raising initiative, to say the least, but it has given Arrels the resources to care for nearly half of the homeless in Barcelona.

Advertising

Cupcakes for Grown-Ups

Petit_Gateaux1

When you think about it, a cupcake is just a tiny cup-size cake, but for decades, it was thought of as just a treat for children. Serving cupcakes at a wedding or formal reception, say, would be viewed as gauche. In the 21st century, however, cupcakes have come of age. They come in “mature” flavors like chai latte and cost about what a small cake would. Public perception of cupcakes is changing, and Petits Gateaux, a cupcake boutique in Canada, is repositioning cupcakes as an elegant, sophisticated dessert suitable for grand occasions. Montreal-based creative agency Pheromone developed this print ad campaign for Petits Gateaux, pairing cupcakes with romantic and celebratory moments.

Petit_Gateaux2

Illustration

Je Suis Charlie

Je_Suis_Charlie_1

First hearing that masked terrorists gunned down four French cartoonists in Paris yesterday seemed like a bad Monty Python joke. Sadly, that wasn’t the case. The brutal terrorist attack on the offices of the French satirical weekly “Charlie Hebdo” left the world shaken. The immediate reaction from editorial cartoonists and illustrators around the world was to express their grief, anger and insights with the most powerful weapon they had– their pen.
Read More »

Poster

Nordic Surfers Poster

Fish_Shark

This poster was created by Spanish artist Xabier Ziriklain for Nordic Surfers Mag (NSM). The publication targets those who prefer “to surf the wild and raw north where the sea is rough and you need a thick wetsuit to survive in the arctic climate,,” according to the online plug for Nordic Surf’s film festival In Sweden. NSM’s slogan is “No palm trees.” Surfing in frigid Scandinavian waters while dodging glacial icebergs is a sport that involves a different kind of endurance than riding the waves in balmy Hawaii. Just getting in the water takes steely courage. Ziriklain, a mechanical engineer turned artist, is a cold water surfer himself. His collage of a fish wearing a shark fin (or is it a surfboard?) on its back is delightful – a little fish living out the larger-than-life fantasy of swimming with the sharks.

Father Time

Old Father Time

FatherTime

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.

Design Quizzes

Quiz: Brand or Generic?

How familiar are you with brand and generic names? Probably less than you realize. Some revolutionary trademarked products have achieved such market dominance that their name has become synonymous with an entire category of product or service. Particularly for breakthrough products, consumers spontaneously use the pioneer brand name generically, even when referring to later entrants in the field. Occasionally companies lose their proprietary rights to a trademark if they let competitors use the name as a common “descriptor” of a category of products and not linked to any one brand. At that point, the word can no longer be registered, a phenomenon known as “genericide.” In other instances, the trademark owner decides not to renew registration and simply lets the trade name expire.

This quiz challenges you to identify whether the name is: 1) trademarked (registered to a specific company), 2) generic (never trademarked), 3) genericized (once trademarked but now a common noun) or 4) former TM (trademark allowed to expire). Answers after the jump.

Generic_Quiz
Read More »