Advertising

Cupcakes for Grown-Ups

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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.

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Design Communications

NYC Subway Graphic Standards Manual
Becomes Kickstarter Sensation

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More than four decades have gone by since acclaimed designers Massimo Vignelli and Bob Noorda of Unimark International were hired by the New York Transit Authority (now the MTA) to modernize and unify the look of the subway signage, which by Noorda’s own account “was a mess.” Cluttered with varied typefaces of different sizes and rendered on different materials from mosaic tile to a paper sign stuck to the wall, the old signage system confused more than aided travelers. In its place, Vignelli and Noorda developed a cohesive subway wayfinding system designed to promote intuitive understanding — so much so that they promised: “The passenger will be given information or directions only at the point of decision. Never before. Never after.” It did all that and more. The New York Transit Authority’s wayfinding system is still considered a masterpiece of clarity, logic, consistency, and elegant modernist design.

The accompanying 174-page Graphic Standards Manual was as brilliantly written and produced by Vignelli and Noorda. One day in 2013, two young designers at Pentagram – Jesse Reed and Hamish Smyth – stumbled upon an original copy of the manual in the basement of Pentagram’s New York office. The pair found the manual so awesome that they wanted to share it with friends, so they created a dedicated website (thestandardsmanual.com) and posted scanned pages online. The site instantly went viral. Within 72 hours, more than a quarter million people visited the site. Although delighted, Reed and Smyth felt strongly that an on-screen viewing didn’t do justice to the beauty of the real Standards Manual. To truly appreciate it, they felt people should see it full size in print, and they set out to produce a book with an introduction by Vignelli protege and Pentagram partner Michael Bierut and an essay by New York Magazine’s Christopher Bonanos, author of “Instant: The Story of Polaroid”.

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Advertising

What Pet Cats and Great Athletes Have in Common

At first this commercial for Temptations Tumblers cat treats by [email protected]/London seemed like a brazen effort to hook viewers in by combining two of the most popular subjects on YouTube — top athletes and adorable cats. The first half of the “Time to Play Ball” Temptations commercial did look like an ad for Nike or Adidas, with not a furry paw in sight. But then the shared attributes of jocks and cats came into focus. The athletes looked steely, determined, alert and focused. Even the hairs on their neck stood at attention. The cats, presented in elegant slow motion, exhibited the same kind of single-minded concentration. Nothing distracted them from the tiny Temptations Tumblers tossed their way. The comparison came together nicely and worked. (It didn’t hurt to be able to feature cute cats and buff jocks either.)

Design Quizzes

Script Logotypes

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Hand-drawn script logotypes convey a lot about the personality of a brand. The letter may look breezily dashed off, elegant, relaxed, energetic, confident, approachable, quirky or playful. The thicks and thins of the letterform, the extra embellishment, or lack thereof, hint at how the company wants to be perceived. Script letters feel more like personal signatures – individual and unique. This quiz is to see if you can name the brand that owns these logotypes. See answers after the jump.
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Announcements

Massimo Vignelli, 1931 – 2014

We recently lost one of the giants of our profession, Massimo Vignelli. An internationally acclaimed modernist, Massimo left a strong mark on our collective culture. Having had the privilege to know him personally, I also came to appreciate him as a warm, personal and extremely generous individual. Massimo was highly principled, joyous, robust, and thoughtful, but above all, he was a man of great passion who lived deeply. I saw this last year when I asked Massimo, along with 14 other designers, to describe how he sees San Francisco for a promotional project. I expected remarks about cable cars, steep hills, great restaurants, the Golden Gate Bridge,etc. Massimo’s response was lyrical, elegant, insightful and heartfelt – like the man himself. I held onto his description to remind myself that at the heart of visual arts is a poetic soul. Here is Massimo’s impression of San Francisco:

“Summer temperature, suddenly a chilling wind, a drastic drop in temperature and awesome clouds billowing over the hill toward me. A preview of the end of the world. A city inside a cloud. Would I survive? Is it real? The rampant clouds are rolling one over the other, gradually absorbing the city, vanishing it around me.”

Massimo, we will miss you.

Packaging

A Perfect Gift of Pencils

Who would have thought that a box of No. 2 pencils could exude style, sophistication and Art Deco flair? But leave it to New York-based designer Louise Fili to use her mastery of typography, pattern, color and all things Italian to create a product that you would be proud to present as a gift – and thrilled to receive. Invited by Princeton Architectural Press to design a line of elegant gift products, Fili came up with a boxed set of 12 double-tipped pencils. Fili felt that the two-sided pencils seemed perfect, thus the name “Perfetto.” On her website, Fili explains that her design was inspired by her collection of 1930s Italian pencil boxes. “Our most preferred are the two-color, double-sided pencils, commonly in red and blue, for teachers to correct homework…red for a minor infringement, blue for a serious offense.” Fili says that they chose not to use blue because it was our least favorite color. Instead she says, “We opted for our signature red and black.” There’s no eraser because that would spoil the beautiful symmetry.

Typography

2014 “365” Typography Calendar Now Available

When you think of it, words get in the way of appreciating typography. You find yourself reading what’s said and paying scant attention to the characters from which the words are composed. In fact, idiosyncratic typefaces can be distracting and irritating if you are trying to read long passages. Type should affect the reader on a subliminal level, adding to the reader’s enjoyment, not stressing the eyes or competing for the reader’s attention. But as graphic forms, typefaces can be beautiful, elegant, whimsical, futuristic, historic, geometric, sculptural, and even funny, if you count Comic Sans. Used as a design element, quirky fonts can add a lot of spice to a page.

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Advertising

Intentionally Designed by Apple

It is nice to see that Apple is still channeling Steve Jobs in this new ad campaign by TBWA/Chiat/Day. The “Intention” video is classic Apple. Like Apple’s products and its packaging, it feels elegant, devoid of fussiness and ostentation. It communicates simply, directly, softly. It doesn’t provide boastful descriptions of its own engineering prowess or gee-whiz features. In fact, it doesn’t show or name its products at all. It tells you how it strives to deliver what you want to feel when using Apple products. It’s all about you… your desires… your pleasure. If iMac was a guy, he’d have women swooning at his feet.

Information Graphics

BBC Explains DNA

BBC Knowledge & Learning (K&L) is exploring a range of topics, from social history to science, in a series of three-minute online Explainer documentaries. In this case, London-based Territory Studio was commissioned to produce an animated film on the subject of DNA. The Territory team, led by art director/ animator William Samuel, chose a primer-like retro approach that didn’t veer off into futuristic complexities. The graphics are kept simple and elegant, using mostly circular shapes, a limited color palette and mostly circular movements to explain the double helix of DNA. The information also is succinct and accurate, with molecular biologist Dr. Matthew Adams teamed with writer Andrew S. Walsh to distill the text to the most fundamental elements required to understand how DNA functions and affects living beings.

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Advertising

Louis Vuitton Origami Invitation

The opening of a new location in Osaka, Japan, was occasion for luxury retailer Louis Vuitton to ask Italian design studio Happycentro to produce an appropriately elegant invitation card.The result was a printing and folding tour de force involving offset printing, transparent, silver mat, pearl and rainbow foils, dry embossing, silkscreen and die-cuts. As if that wasn’t complicated enough, the square sheet was precisely folded by hand origami-style 34 ways. One has to believe that the designer Federico Galvani has a fiendishly clever mind to devise something that tested the skills of printers and origami artists alike, but the team pulled it off and the result is lovely and unique.

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Typography

Do Some Fonts Worsen Learning Disability?

One in five Americans suffers from dyslexia, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health. Essentially that means their brains do not process or recognize certain letterforms and symbols. When looking at words, dyslexics tend to rotate, swap, twist, mirror and flop certain characters, making it difficult to comprehend what they are reading. The word “saw” may be read as “was,” for example.

It doesn’t matter how beautiful a typeface is; dyslexics still find them hard to read. In fact, probably the most elegantly fine typefaces are the toughest to make out.

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Product Design

A Soft Drink for Grown-Ups

Two guys from the London brand/design consultancy Wonderland WPA walk into a classy bar and ask for a soft drink that is not the kind you can get out of a vending machine or in the refrigerated section of a truck stop.

That may seem like the set-up for a joke, but it is how Story beverages came to be invented. Finding the choice of alcoholic drinks in fine restaurants and bars limitless, but the availability of upscale nonalcoholic ones few and far between, Wonderland WPA saw a market niche begging to be filled. They defined a new category of soft drinks that would be offered exclusively in bars, restaurants and hotels, and created a brand identity that looked stylish and grown-up. The simple, elegant packaging enhanced the perception of being sophisticated and worthy of drinking on a special night out. Launched in August 2011, Story will initially be sold only in the UK, with plans to introduce it into export markets in 2012.