Tale of Two Kleenex Packages

Repackaging is a popular way to refresh an existing product, and sometimes capture more off-season sales. Take the case of Kleenex tissues, which enjoy the greatest sales during cold and flu season, but during the warmer months, not so much. Kleenex looked to spur year-round demand by designing packaging with decorative seasonal themes. Last summer it introduced wedge-shaped “fruit” boxes at Target stores. Offered with colorful watermelon, orange and lime illustrations done by Los Angeles-based artist Hiroko Sanders, the novelty boxes were a huge hit with customers who wanted to add a happy slice of summer to their décor. This year Kleenex has extended its award-winning fruit packaging to major retailers nationwide.

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Sapporo Legendary Biru Commercial

If you have to take a bathroom break, do it during the program because you won’t want to miss this TV commercial for Sapporo Beer – or “biru” as the Japanese would pronounce it.

Developed by Toronto-based Dentsu Canada, the commercial represents the Japanese beermaker’s first full-scale ad campaign in Canada. Co-directed by Mark Zibert of Sons and Daughters and Gary Thomas of Crush, the film was shot on location in Guangzhou, China over the period of a month.

A mythological tale of how Sapporo beer is crafted, the two-minute film has an other-worldly epic quality like “Lord of the Rings.” It combines photography, animation/CG, and 2D art/matt paintings onto geometry, developed by Crush’s Sean Cochrane. Three dedicated artists were assigned to create each of the transitional rooms, with illustrations by James Zhang guiding the way. The cast too was composed of authentic trained martial artists, taiko drummers, and sumo wrestlers, along with actors playing samurai warriors and geishas. All in all, it’s an elegant departure from the “male-bonding, jock-humor” beer ads shown on American TV.


Point, Click, Shop

From Gizmodo comes this report of how the façade of an entire building in a Tokyo shopping district has been covered in a pattern of QR codes that can be read by smart phones. The N Building AR project by Teradadesign and Qosmo lets passersby view the QR code on their cell phone to enable the display of all kinds of information, including store offerings and interactive ads. It will even allow users to download coupons and make reservations. This is an intriguing concept, but it may meet consumer resistance. Without in-your-face advertising, it may be hard to draw the attention of people who don’t want to be bother holding their cell phones up at QR patterns on a building to see what they have to say. Still, like many other inventions that were initially discounted as futuristic fantasy, QR codes as a communication device should be ignored at your own peril. In recent years we have seen too many “safe” communication design/marketing professions disappear for lack of demand. If QR advertisements on buildings and billboards catch on, who will that affect, how will it change our jobs, and how do we get ahead of the trend rather than be trampled by it?


Coke Appeals to Fashion

Of course, every brand wants to suggest that its product is the rage among trend-setting consumers. But Coca-Cola is doing more than just suggesting that it is fashionable to drink its product; it is linking its brand to the world’s top fashion designers and putting its name on beauty products too.

Last fall Coca-Cola Light and eight renowned Italian fashion designers — Donatella Versace, Alberta Ferretti, Anna Molinari for Blumarine, Veronic Etro, Silvia Venturini for Fendi, Consuelo Castiglioni for Marni, Angela Missoni and Rossella Jardini for Moschino — teamed up to present specially decorated contoured bottles for the opening of Milan Fashion Week. Showcased at a Coca-Cola Light “Tribute to Fashion” runway event, the original bottles were later auctioned by Sotheby’s with proceeds going to aid the victims of the devastating 2009 earthquake in Abruzzo, Italy. Collectible bottles were also produced in limited edition and sold in Europe. Some are even finding their way onto eBay.

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Book Excerpt

The Story of Graphic Design

“For all graphic design’s importance, it is only within the last three decades that the subject has been considered worth studying in the round…” relates UK-based designer/historian Patrick Cramsie in the introduction of his newly released book, The Story of Graphic Design (Abrams, 2010).

“Part of the reason for this lack of attention is that graphic design’s role as a service provider masked whatever artistic merit it might have possessed. However, much artistic skill was brought to a particular design, the design always had a job of work to do. It was either selling or informing, or sometimes doing a bit of both. This lack of clarity about the status of graphic design has been compounded by its ephemeral nature. Are posters really meant to be hung in galleries long after the events they promoted have passed? Is there really any social value in collecting beer mats or luggage labels? …The range of objects under its purview is vast and with every innovation in information technology the range only increases. These factors make graphic design a rich and rewarding area of study, but they also make it a difficult one.”

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The Ultimate Brand Extension

Recently a number of Pantone-color inspired products have been introduced into the marketplace. There’s the Pantone chip mug by W2, the Pantone cufflinks by Sonia Spencer, the Pantone stationery and bags by Alpha, and now there is the new Pantone Hotel in Brussels, created in a licensing partnership with a British developer.

Designed by Belgian interior designer Michel Penneman and Belgian architect Olivier Hannaert, the seven-story boutique hotel is alive with chic, contemporary colors, all matched to Pantone’ color swatches. Guestrooms are appointed with white walls and bedding to create a neutral backdrop for Belgian photographer Victor Levy’s photographic installations featuring a spectrum of vibrant Pantone colors. The public spaces equally reflect Pantone’s skill at applying color psychology and design trends to create an environment that is at once convivial, happy, and relaxing.

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Zuckerman’s Bird’s Eye View

“When you take anything out of its context and put it against a white background, you see something different” explains photographer Andrew Zuckerman. “It forces all attention on the subject….It’s the absence of space and color…in the end, all you’re left with is the form and range of colors contained in the subject.”

Like his previous books “Creature” and “Wisdom,” Zuckerman’s latest book, “Birds,” is shot entirely against a white background. Using a Leaf Aptus 75S digital camera along with high-speed strobe lighting, Zuckerman caught details that would be impossible to see if the birds were photographed in their natural environment. Instead, Zuckerman set up a mobile studio, mostly at zoos, in four countries and coaxed 74 species of birds into the camera’s range. The result is microscopically crisp detail and dazzling nuances of color. To see more Zuckerman birds and a behind-the-scenes video of the photo shoot, visit Show-Off, a virtual nonprofit gallery conceived and curated by San Francisco/Newark, UK-based design firm Dowling Duncan.

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Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Photoshop

As we in the United States celebrate Independence Day (aka Fourth of July), those of us in design communications can marvel at the freedoms that technology now allow. The living photograph here by Mole and Thomas was taken decades before the invention of Photoshop or even 35mm handheld cameras.

Around 1918, during the height of World War I patriotic fervor, Arthur S. Mole, a British-born photographer based in Zion, Illinois, joined forces with John D. Thomas, a choir director who liked to position choir members to form various religious icons-a talent that made him the perfect photo choreographer for Mole’s grandiose ideas. Together the two set about creating gigantic patriotic symbols by using military personnel essentially as “human pixels” and then photographing them.

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Google Stories One Letter at a Time

A clever bit of collaborative advertising between Google and Pixar, the latest Google search story video was timed to the release of “Toy Story 3” and features the familiar voices of Andy’s toys. It runs just one-minute long and is devoid of any fancy animation. A mini-preview of the next “Toy Story,” the video introduces us to key characters and hints at the plot and happy outcome.

Google search stories originally started out as a series of online videos about the product and its users. One search story, “Parisian Love,” got so many hits during the first three months that it played on YouTube that the company decided to break its rule about not running TV ads and aired it on the 2010 Super Bowl. What’s brilliant about the Google search stories are their utter simplicity and charm. The “searchers” always remain faceless and anonymous, yet their stories unfold through letters clicked into the search box, forming words that reveal tales of romance, adventure travel, job changes, health concerns, and personal passions. Viewers become voyeurs to the searchers’ life, yearnings, paranoia, interests, peccadilloes, and wild imagination, following their logic to delightful conclusions. “Every quest is its own story,” claims Google’s YouTube channel, which invites visitors to create their own search story. Actually, that is something we do everyday, often unaware of how much that says about where we are coming from.

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Product Design

E-Mook: Buy the Mook to Get the Gift

The e-mook has become all the rage in Japan. An enhanced version of a mook (cross between a magazine and a book), the e-mook, published by Takarajimasha, expands the hybrid concept a step further by including a premium gift inserted in a box attached to every mook. Typically focused on a single trendy fashion label, e-mooks are brand specific, containing articles about the designer, manufacturing process, celebrity customers and a catalog of the latest collection.

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Product Design

Moleskine for e-Book Notetakers

Corporate anthropologists who observe consumer behavior watch out for “workarounds” — solutions that people rig up to overcome shortcomings in the design of a product. These are typically one-off designs that are sometimes ingeniously clever and sometimes humorously strange and barely workable.

In coming up with a Moleskine cover for an Amazon Kindle e-book, Moleskine admits it eavesdropped online when bloggers posted workaround suggestions or wrote wistfully of the satisfaction they got when jotting notes on paper.

“The very idea of this new cover came from ‘notebook hackers,’ who create their own custom-made accessories weaving together paper pages and digital tools,” Moleskine says on its website. “Throughout the web, hundreds of communities and discussions can be found where such Moleskine ‘hackers’ publish their own invention.”

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RSA Animate: Moving Motivation

Teachers often write important points on a whiteboard to emphasize things they want students to remember. This is even better.

The Royal Society of Art (RSA) in London has collaborated with illustrator Andrew Park to animate talks given at RSA. This video takes an excerpt from Daniel H. Pink’s lecture on “Drive: The Truth About What Motivates Us” and visually brings Pink’s key points to life. In addition to “Drive,” Pink is the author of “A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future” — both recommended reading.

Yes, this video is long (10 minutes), but Pink, as always, has thought-provoking things to say, and Park’s sketches are fun and fascinating to view.

Public Art Programs

Art Exhibit for the Birds

Placing manmade installation art in a national park seems counterintuitive since national parks were established to preserve and protect wildlife habitat. But the 1,491-acre Presidio is unlike any other national park. Set in San Francisco’s tony residential area, it overlooks the Golden Gate entrance into the Bay, the reason why it served as a military outpost for 219 years (successively under Spain, Mexico and U.S. rule) until Congress closed the army base in 1994 and made it into a national park. Today, the Presidio is a mix of forested hiking trails and historic buildings converted to other uses, including the Walt Disney Family Museum.

Its proximity to urban surroundings has also resulted in some interesting collaborations. In 2009, For-Site Foundation (a nonprofit dedicated to the presentation of art about place) in partnership with the Presidio Trust invited 25 designers, artists and architects worldwide to propose custom-designed habitat for the wildlife living in the park. From there, 11 concepts were chosen for a site-based art exhibition called “Presidio Habitats: For the Place, Of the Place.”

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Sasquatch Festival Posters Leave Big Footprint

The remote reaches of the Columbia River Gorge in the Pacific Northwest are rumored to be Bigfoot country — the place where a gigantic creature, called Sasquatch, has been photographed by people with vivid imaginations and blurred-focus cameras. Every Memorial Day weekend since 2002, music lovers have descended on Bigfoot’s stomping grounds, setting up tents and RV’s near the lake to enjoy the three-day music festival. The closest town is George, Washington (yes, you read right) — population 528, give or take one or two people, about a three hours drive from Seattle and five hours from Portland, Oregon. The music is lively and eclectic, the scenery sublime, and the posters made for each performing act are the next best thing to a Bigfoot sighting. Here are just a few.

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Barcodes That Make You Smile

You’ve heard of vanity license plates; now think of vanity barcodes. In the U.S., Vanity Barcodes, a business started by Reuben and Yael Miller of Miller Creative in New Jersey, has turned these boring UPC codes into decorative elements. They have a number of barcode designs in stock or will customize one to your preference.

The idea of disguising this inventory management device into something else is believed to have originated in Japan with Design Barcode in 2004. The agency made the barcodes an integral part of the packaging design, tying it into the brand or cleverly building the stripes and digits into a line drawn picture.

As simple as this concept may seem, it’s not one that designers should try on their own. As both Vanity Barcodes and Design Barcode emphasize every manipulated barcode has to be thoroughly tested to make sure it gives accurate readings when passed through a retail scanner.


ESPN FIFA World Cup Murals

ESPN took a different approach to promoting its coverage of the 2010 FIFA World Cup to be played in South Africa from June 11 to July 11. Through its ad agency, Wieden & Kennedy, New York, it commissioned a Capetown artists group, called Am I Collective, to paint 32 murals that spoofed each of the countries participating in this year’s soccer tournament. The paintings integrated cultural themes, caricatures of real players, and visual commentary on each team’s World Cup standing. Soccer fanatics may understand the symbolic meaning of some of the depictions; the rest of us take pleasure in viewing the images.

This take-off on the famous painting of George Washington crossing the Delaware during the Revolution against Britain alludes to the fact that Team USA will face a formidable challenge in the opening group stage matches against England. The team USA boat bears the nation’s motto “E Pluribus Unum,” Latin for “Out of Many, One.”

The heist film “Ocean’s Eleven” inspired this poster showing coach Martin Olsen and the team from Denmark ready to steal the trophy.

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