Pop Culture

And the Monopoly Winner Is…

The votes are in: The iron is out; the cat is in. Facebook followers have spoken. Let it be so.

Anyone who has played Monopoly over the past 78 years knows of what I speak. Invented by Charles Darrow in 1935, Monopoly is a board game where players roll the dice for the chance to move his/her token across the squares on the board. The square their token lands in gives them the chance to wheel-and-deal, buy properties, collect rent, pay taxes, build, earn dividends. Fake paper money changes hands. Fortunes are won and lost. Banks repossess and auction off assets. Bankruptcies are filed. Players land in jail. Only the dapper banker, Uncle Pennybags, stays rich. You know, kind of like real life.

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Viral Marketing

AKQA’s Interactive Party Trick

To celebrate the holidays, AKQA, the San Francisco/London-based digital creative agency, teamed up with members of the Pacific Chamber Symphony and Music Director Laurence Kohl to produce an interactive arrangement of “Carol of the Bells.” They are assisted by “shadow orchestra members” led by a “shadow conductor” who coordinates the performance by linking to Mobile Orchestra.com via wi-fi to get a unique web address. From there, up to 12 people may sync their smartphones, each choosing an instrument played by one of the real musicians. Once the “conductor” sees that all the mobile instruments are ready, he/she presses a key to let the music begin.

Humor

Co-Branding from Middle Earth

Co-branded marketing has long been a part of the film business. Tacit endorsements – a star holding a brand label-legible soft drink can or a box of cereal sitting prominently on the kitchen table as the TV family eats breakfast – register subliminally in the viewer’s mind. Better yet, aligning your brand identity with a sexy, daring superhero raises desire. Lately, video shorts and YouTube have brought another type of co-branded marketing to the forefront. The one above is timed to the release of Peter Jackson’s new “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” filmed in New Zealand. It’s a concept that works beautifully, from its tie-in with the title “Unexpected Journey,” to the on-board safety instruction for Hobbit passengers heading to Middle Earth, to its plug for Air New Zealand. The airline is also offering a global sweepstakes. Count the Elvish codes in the original safety video, visit the website to unlock the code, and you’re entered to win a round-trip ticket for two to attend the world premiere in New Zealand, along with other Middle Earth prizes. It all works – and travelers may even pay attention to the safety video rather than take a snooze.

Motion Graphics

Projection Mapping Feat

Directed by Filip Sterckx for a Belgian band named Willow, this music video for the song “Sweater” is a tour-de-force in 3-D projection mapping. Three projectors were used to beam backgrounds onto the floor and two blank walls, while the singer feigned movement by “strolling” on a treadmill. The video seamlessly takes the guy through multiple settings, down an escalator, across a park, on a boat and into the water with air bubbles rising from his scuba diving gear. Great concept, optical illusions and execution.

Fashion

Herself Magazine: Fashion Make-Believe

Herself Magazine is a bi-annual, all-illustrated fashion publication produced in the UK. Virtually every image shows celebrity “models” (living, dead and animated) wearing high fashion apparel and jewelry by the likes of Valentino, Yves Saint Laurent, Prada, Gucci, Chanel, Boucheron and Faberge. The models’ poses and background settings all look like they were copied from high-end fashion photographs – and maybe they were. Every illustration is drawn by a person named Lula, who identifies herself as editor in chief and creative director, with art direction by Annual. No other staff credits are given.

A very text-light publication, Herself includes fictitious Q-A interviews between Herself and stars including Marilyn Monroe, Coco Chanel, Frida Kahlo, and Susan Sontag. Another article in Issue 2 features Disney fairy tale princesses, including Pocahontas, Cinderella, Belle, and Snow White, modeling contemporary fashions. As concepts go, Herself is intriguing, unique, and surreal.

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Pop Culture

Soup as Art; Art as Soup

To mark the 50th anniversary of Andy Warhol’s famed “32 Campbell’s Soup Cans” painting, the soup company has just released a limited run of pop art soup cans in select Target stores around the country. The commemorative packaging is a collaboration of the Campbell’s Global Design team and the Andy Warhol Foundation.

Warhol, who died in 1987, had an eye for what was iconic in American culture, albeit a soup can, Brillo box, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, or Mao Tse Tung. The founder of the Pop Art Movement, Warhol began his career as a commercial illustrator, then manipulated our view of everyday objects so we could appreciate them as high art.

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Packaging

Olympic Branding Champions

Coca-Cola has just unveiled six limited-edition cans to cheer on Team USA at the London Olympics this summer. San Francisco-based design agency, Turner Duckworth, combined three of the world’s most recognizable icons to communicate the entire story –the stripes of the American flag; the five interlocked rings of the Olympic logo and silhouette of an athlete, and Coca-Cola’s signature red and Spencerian script logotype. The effect is succinct, direct and graphically powerful. Coca-Cola is rotating the can designs throughout the summer, with a new one appearing every two weeks, culminating with a special composite logo timed for the opening of the Olympic Games.

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Architecture

Oberhausen’s Slinky Springs Bridge

If this bridge in Oberhausen, Germany, reminds you of a slinky toy, that’s exactly what inspired it. German artist Tobias Rehberger spiraled 496 coils around a rainbow colored walkway that crosses over a canal to connect two existing parks. Rehberger collaborated with structural engineers Schlaich Bergermann and Partner to realize his design. The structure consists of pre-cast concrete plates, spiral bars and railing made of steel and net cable, all attached to high-strength steel stress ribbons connected to the inclined supports on both sides of the canal. The 1,332 foot walkway has a synthetic finish that kind of bounces when you walk. It is presented in 16 different colors, matched in color on the underside of the bridge which is made out of a different material. The Slinky Bridge is luminous with color and definitely puts a spring in your walk.

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Packaging

Mexican Pop Culture Branding

For the packaging of Mexico’s premium craft beer, Cerveceria Sagrada, Mexican designer Jose Guizar built a brand identity around the nation’s legendary luchadors enmascarado (masked wrestlers). A beloved pop icon, the masked wrestlers were the first superheroes of Mexico. The colorful stylized masks they wore were designed to represent ancient heroes, deities, and animals — sacred identities that wrestlers assumed during their performance. The ferocious-looking masks reinforced the impression that the wrestlers were more than ordinary mortals. The most famous luchador, known simply as El Santo (the Saint), never removed his mask in public even in retirement. He was even buried wearing his silver mask.

In the 1950s, masked wrestlers became Mexico’s first pop culture icons, with El Santo turned into a comic book hero by artist Jose G. Cruz. The popular comics quickly led into a series of lucha libre action films in which the silver-masked El Santo defended the common people against supernatural creatures, evil scientists, vampires, secret agents and other villains. To this day, the masked wrestlers of Mexico embody the mystery, mystique and machismo of the culture.

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Interviews

Interview with Authors of
“Pantone: The 20th Century in Full Color”

Looking for a Christmas present that a designer will appreciate? Try “PANTONE®: The 20th Century in Full Color” (Chronicle Books) by color experts Leatrice Eiseman and Keith Recker. The book takes readers on a color-palette tour of the last century presenting a decade-by-decade account of fads, fashions, films, social and art movements, objects, and events and the colors associated with them. Each subject is presented with color chips of the palette, complete with exact Pantone numbers — e.g., Buttercup Yellow (PANTONE 12-0752), Nile Green (PANTONE14-0121), Lipstick Red (PANTONE 19-1764). Perusing this book, it becomes apparent that color is very much a part of our collective memory, evoking a sense of time and place and the emotional climate of the era. It’s a unique way of seeing the 20th century.

Here authors Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute, and Keith Recker, Pantone color and trend consultant, join us for a brief interview.

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Pop Culture

Ice Cube Raps on Eames and Architecture

Famed rapper Ice Cube (aka O’Shea Jackson), who once studied architectural drafting, riffs on Los Angeles’s quirky landmarks such as the Cockatoo Inn and Five Torches, freeways and the Eames House for a video series produced by Pacific Standard Time, a collaborative effort among Southern California cultural Institutions to spotlight L.A.’s art scene between 1945 and 1980. Ice Cube avoids the lofty language of architectural experts and gives his take in terms that the street can understand. Talking about The Eames house, Ice Cube reflects that with Charles and Ray Eames “it’s not about the pieces, it’s about how the pieces work together,” and notes that they did “mashups before mashups even existed.” Way ahead of their time, he adds, “The Eames made structure and nature one. This is going green 1949 style, bitch. Believe that.”

Pop Culture

Asterisk Superheroes

Polish designer Filip Lysyszn, who dubs himself a “wannabe type designer,” took the typographic asterisk sign and transformed it into different Marvel and DC Comic Superheroes. What’s amazing is how easy it is to identify each Superhero simply by the color of the costume and a few signature details – Batman’s ears, Mr. Fantastic’s stretchy arms, Superman’s cowlick, and Wolverine’s claw hands. Lysyszn even suggested relative size by showing the Hulk as a bulging asterisk and Storm as a more petite asterisk. Aside from being a clever exercise, the asterisk Superhero caricatures show us that every exact detail does not have to be captured to be recognizable – a few iconic elements will suffice. It also suggests that most of us have spent far too much time reading comic books.

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Brand Logos

Urban Stimuli or Graphic Assault?

City-dwellers know that we are constantly bombarded with graphic messages. It’s the “white noise” of urban living. Most of us tune it out like the omnipresent sound of traffic and pedestrian chatter.

This 2006 award-winning film, made by Netherlands-based Studio Smack for Museum de Beyerd in Breda, has become a classic. Like an x-ray, the film “Kapitaal” zeroes in only on the graphic stimuli encountered by an “unseen commuter” waiting on a platform for the train, riding the subway and walking through the city. Everything but the graphic information is reduced to black silhouettes. Signage, logos, ads, train timetables, graffiti, posters and packaging labels stand out in stark white contrast. There is no voiceover commentary, just the claustrophobic visual assault pressing in from every direction. It begs the question: How much do people really notice in a world of information overload? How can designers and advertisers avoid adding to the visual clutter and give the public something they really want to see?

Advertising

Museum of Communism (Really!)

The fact that the Museum of Communism in Prague is next to a casino and above a McDonald’s burger restaurant is an ironic “thumbing one’s nose” at the oppressors who kept the Czech Republic under nearly a half century of totalitarian rule. The museum, which has as its slogan “Communism: The Dream, the Reality, the Nightmare,” is dedicated to relating what daily life was like living behind the Iron Curtain, right up to the Velvet Revolution that led to the overthrow of the Communist government in 1989. It includes everything from video clips, Soviet memorabilia, and a replica of a Soviet interrogation room.

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Brand Language

How Not to Brand a Country, but Succeed Anyway

The occasion of America’s Independence Day on July 4th offers a good time to reflect on how the Star-Spangled Banner became the official flag of the nation. It all started back in 1777. A ragtag army of American colonists was engaged in a fierce battle for independence from Great Britain. Designing an aesthetically pleasing flag to represent themselves was the last thing on their mind. Outnumbered, outspent and outmaneuvered, the Continental Congress had more urgent matters to deal with.

But an emissary from a pro-colonist Native American tribe forced Congress to act by requesting a banner of sorts to display so that scouts would not come under “friendly fire” while on missions for the Continental Army. To prove they were willing to “pay” for such a flag, the emissary included three strings of wampum. Congress hastily put a flag design on its agenda, and 11 days later: “RESOLVED: that the flag of the United states be 13 stripes, alternate red and white; that the Union be 13 stars, white in a blue field representing a new constellation.” This resolution was one of many passed that day. The committee obviously didn’t give the matter much thought, but “borrowed” liberally from several sources, including the Sons of Liberty red-and-white “stripes of rebellion” banner and the 13-star blue canton of the New Hampshire Green Mountain Boys and Rhode Island Continental Regiment.

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