Pop Culture

Twitter Gets Manga-ized

It was bound to happen. Publisher Shogakukan in Japan has just issued the second of two manga Twitter comic books, explaining the benefits of social media. Drawn by cartoonist Yoko Gendai, the first Twitter manga called “Mitaka no Chushin de Nau wo Tsubuyaku” – or “I Tweeted Now at Mitaka” – depicts in manga cartoons the artist’s experience in registering with Twitter and mastering Twitter protocol. The second manga Twitter book, released September 25, called “Koma de Tanoshimu Tonari no Twitter” – or “Twitter – Joy of Twitter in 4-Frame Cartoon” – is drawn by Ajiko Kojima and relates amusing incidents that Twitter users face regularly. These two manga Twitter books follow on the heels of a Twitter novel called “Twitter Shousetsu – 140 ji no Monogatan” – or “Twitter Novels – 140 Letters Stories,” published by Discover Twenty-One. It features very very short 140 letter stories by ten established Japanese authors. One reviewer pointed out, however, that Japanese characters can convey roughly double the information possible in equivalent 140 English letters, so maybe that isn’t as impressive as composing a Twitter novel in English. Then again, the Japanese invented the 17-syllable haiku and the 35-syllable tanka poetic forms, so literary brevity is an inherent part of the culture.

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Printing Techniques

Laser Print Your Latte

Laser printers can work on virtually any substrate these days, including stenciling a design onto the foam of your latte. Even though the technology has been around for a few years now, probably it hasn’t become widespread for two reasons. One, the process is relatively slow, which wouldn’t work in a high-volume coffee house. Two, professional baristas who take pride in drawing leaf patterns, swans, smiley faces and swirls on the foam would probably take offense if an automated machine one-upped them by drawing Mocha Lisas and Macchiato Mondrians. The relentless march of technology, however, says that barista artistry may someday be replaced by a robotic arm. The way it works is that precise dots of caramel food coloring are dropped onto the foam dot-by-dot to draw logos, brand taglines, web addresses, holiday greetings, and even very detailed pictures. This doesn’t require unique talent, just a latte art machine. The thought of seeing a marketing pitch imprinted on my latte isn’t very appealing. Still, when placing your latte order, prepare to someday specify caf, decaf; foam, low foam; printed or unprinted.

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Information Graphics

How Happy Are You?

The World Database of Happiness (WDH) at Erasmus University in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, has been conducting scientific research on happiness levels worldwide, in some cases taking measurements over a 30-year period. The WDH arrived at their happiness quotient by surveying their subjects’ overall satisfaction with life as well as their mood day-to-day. In addition to having the subjects self-rate their contentment level, the interviewers even conducted sight inspections, rating their subjects’ “cheerful appearance” based on eight aspects, including whether their mouth was turned up or down in a smile or frown and whether their movements looked relaxed or withdrawn. The data was basically broken down into not at all happy, not very happy, quite happy, and very happy. (WDH had lots of other happiness measures too complicated to understand, much less try to explain without becoming very unhappy.) Fortunately, Good and Open took WDH’s data and worked with Dorian Orange to create an infographic of happiness by country, using the familiar yellow “happy face” to illustrate the point.

Product Design

Finally, A Bright Idea

“It’s strange that the bulb, an object synonymous with ideas, is almost entirely absent of imagination,” comments Plumen on its website. The UK-based compact fluorescent (CFL) bulb maker is determined to change that. Calling its product the “world’s first designer energy-saving light bulb,” Hulger, the British electronics company that designed Plumen, has challenged the notion that CFL light bulbs can only come in three shapes and must, by necessity, look unattractively utilitarian.

Plumen — which draws its name from “plume,” a bird’s showy feathers — is bending the gas-filled tubing the way a glass blower manipulates molten glass into sculptural forms. Like other energy-saving bulbs, Plumen products use 80% less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs and last about eight times longer. The savings may not just be in the electricity usage; consumers may decide to forego the cost of a lampshade and just enjoy the decorative style of the bare bulb. Right now Plumen bulbs are only available in the UK and Europe, but the company says they will be introduced in the U.S. soon.

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Product Design

Over the Moon Cakes

The must-do gift of the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival season, mooncakes have become more luxurious and lavish in their presentation than ever. In China, mooncake gifting is a multi-billion dollar industry. Opulently packaged mooncakes, typically sold in boxes of four, cost upwards of $45, with each cake elegantly displayed or nestled in its own container. As pricy as this is, Chinese social etiquette pretty much demands that everyone give these sweet delicacies to friends, family, co-workers, clients and sometimes even government officials during the Mid-Autumn Festival, also known as Moon Festival.

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Pop Culture

Pantone Forecasts Spring Fashion Colors

With the kick-off of New York Fashion Week, Pantone has come out with its report on spring 2011 color trends. Their survey of prominent fashion hues suggests that apparel designers have been influenced this season by colors evocative of exotic destinations like Africa, India, Peru and Turkey. Pairing warm-cool complementary shades that are opposites on the color wheel, the spring palette is lively yet muted.

Fashion color trends do not necessarily cross over into other product categories such as household goods or wall paints, but many designers find them useful to track because they help them coordinate everything from point-of-purchase displays and packaging to editorial layouts. Being aware of the most up-to-date fashion colors helps suggest a contemporary look and keeping the Pantone formula numbers handy makes it easier to match what’s “in.”


Fly Away Home

On the hard-packed sands of California’s Mojave Desert stands a surreal sight. Hundreds of decommissioned commercial jets are lined up row after row, in the middle of nowhere. Their engines are taped shut with Mylar to keep out drifting sands. This is a graveyard for retired jets, many of which originally cost hundreds of millions of dollars to build. Now they only serve as awnings for rattle snakes and reptiles that take shelter from the unrelenting sun. Some planes may be stripped of useful parts that can be reconditioned. Others may be bought by a third-world country or short-hop commuter startup. And still others will simply languish there for years – a kind of “Stonehenge” of the 21st century.

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Art History Homage…or Revenge
by Hold Your Horses

Having trouble relating Western art history to contemporary culture? Watch this video that the French-American band Hold Your Horses made for its track “70 Million,” produced by L’Ogre. Apparently, the entire video was filmed over two weekends in a parking garage in Paris. See if you can name the painting and the artist.

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Public Art Programs

London Elephants Join Public Arts Parade

This summer it wasn’t hard to see elephants on the streets of London; they were everywhere. Created to support endangered Asian elephants, the public arts campaign placed 260 brightly painted fiberglass elephant sculptures all over the city to highlight the plight of Asian elephants, whose numbers have declined by nearly 90 percent over the past century. Each elephant was decorated by a well-known designer, artist or celebrity and then auctioned off, raising more than four million pounds for 20 conservation charities in the UK.

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How Much Ink Does Your Font Drink?

Most designers know that typefaces like Poster Bodoni take up more physical space on a page than, say, News Gothic Condensed, and that choice of typestyle not only affects readability but the credibility of the message as well — for example, never, ever typeset the CEO’s letter to shareholders in Comic Sans. One thing that designers probably haven’t thought about is how much ink each typeface consumes on an office printer. Well, a Dutch company called Printer.com did. It compared 10 of the most frequently used typefaces on a Canon inkjet and a Brother laser printer (both set at 600×600 dots per inch), using Arial as the baseline font.

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Industrial Design

China’s Straddling Bus

Urban transportation planners everywhere are grappling with the question of how to move traffic faster, cleaner, greener and cheaper. They have urged people to ride bikes, telecommute, buy hybrid vehicles and mini-cars, but here’s a concept from China that is truly original – a super gigantic bus taller than an overpass that straddles the road creating a moving tunnel that regular cars can drive through. Bus passengers board on the upper level from elevated platforms, while smaller vehicles drive under and through the bus. Ultrasonic waves alert trucks too tall to fit to go around the bus on another lane. A stop light activates to stop cars in the tunnel when the bus needs to make a turn.

The “straddling bus” was exhibited at the 13th Beijing International High-Tech Expo in May and a pilot model is being built in Beijing’s Mentougou District by its developer Shenzhen Hashi Future Parking Equipment Co. Powered by electricity and solar energy, the straddling bus can carry between 1,200 and 1,400 passengers at a time and travel at speeds of up to 60 km per hour. Developers claim that it will reduce traffic jams by up to 30% on main roads and can be built in a fraction of the time that would be required to construct a new subway. The bus is also projected to save up to 860 tons of fuel annually, reducing carbon emissions by 2,640 tons. There is also no need to build a parking lot to house buses out of service; they can be left straddling the road.

Global Trends

Social Media Revolution Refreshed

We happened across a video on social media done by Erik Qualman and were blown away. Then we noticed that it was produced in 2009, which is so last year! Fortunately, Equalman Productions came out with this revised version in 2010 – probably also outdated, but less so.

The takeaway message is that traditional consumer research, advertising and marketing methods are quickly becoming ineffective and irrelevant. If we aren’t factoring social media into our marketing plan, we’ll be left behind.

Pop Culture

Dom Perignon Goes Pop…Art

Turnabout is fair play. Andy Warhol used pop stars, pop culture and pop products to create pop art, and now Dom Perignon has returned the compliment with advertising in homage of Warhol’s iconic silkscreen stencil style. The ad was inspired by Warhol’s March 8th, 1981, diary entry in which he talked about getting together with 20 friends and buying 2,000 bottles of Dom Perignon that they would keep in a sealed room until the year 2000. In an aside comment, Warhol wrote, “the running joke is who will be around and who won’t…” Warhol, who died in 1987, didn’t live to see the day, but he certainly drank plenty of Dom Perignon in his time.

Recently, Dom Perignon commissioned the Design Laboratory of Central Saint Martin’s School of Art and Design in London to reinterpret its famous champagne bottle in a manner that Warhol would love, using Warhol’s signature red, blue and yellow color combination.

Two questions: What happened to the 2,000 Dom Perignon bottles that Warhol and friends stashed away in 1981? And did anyone break them open in 2000 and toast in the new millennium?

Brand Logos

WWII Military Logos by Disney

Logos are not just for corporations and sports teams. During World War II, virtually every unit in the U.S. military adopted logos that they emblazoned on aircraft, ships, boats, jeeps, tanks, bomber jackets, trinkets, and bombs and torpedos. The main provider of such insignias was the Disney Studios in Burbank.

First asked to create a humorous logo for a Naval Reserve Squadron stationed at Floyd Bennett Field in New York, the Disney Studios quickly found itself inundated with requests to draw emblems for other military units kamagra online australia as well. Disney had to assign five artists full-time to the task, but never charged a dime. “The insignia meant a lot to the men who were fighting…I had to do it…I owed it to them,” Walt Disney explained later.

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A Very Short History of Film

Feature films are a universal language as the media design students from Hannover, Germany, who put together this animated video prove. Felix Meyer and Pascal Monaco picked 35 of their favorite blockbuster movies from over the decades and distilled them down to an iconic sight or sound from each. The answers don’t seem to be posted anywhere online, so you might have to email them to find out if you guessed right.