Seeing as web trends are even more capricious than the weather patterns we've been experiencing here in NYC, the backlash to Squarespace Logo has tapered off by now, but seeing as it launched just two weeks ago, the democratic logo design tool is still worth considering as symptom of how we define design today.
Somehow, I doubt that Squarespace encountered such unanimous antipathy when it debuted as a user-friendly website-building tool, ten years ago; after all, the dog-eat-dog CMS game has come a long way in the past decade, and I've only heard good things about their flagship product. But graphic design, including but not limited to branding/identity/visual communication/etc., is another story. Co.Design rounded up the pithy rejoinders—a few more have trickled in on the de rigueurdata exhaust Tumblr—and garnered a slew of comments, as did the Wired post, so I'll concede that someone else has probably already made this point.
Having only dabbled in front-end development and graphic design in my day, I won't pretend to be an expert in either domain. But as a knowledge worker who spends most of my day tending to an at-times fickle CMS, regularly troubleshooting various glitches as they inevitably arise, I know all too well that an intuitive backend is a bridge between the 'dirty work' of coding/scripting and public-facing content.*
Contrary to its name, 'web design' is not design in the same way that graphic design is—a subtle distinction, perhaps, but a critical one. Web design is largely dictated by best practices, at least when it comes to creating a functional, navigable container for content. Which is not to say that web design is not creative, but rather that the hard constraints of HTML/CSS/etc. (not to mention browser/OS compatibility) are precisely why CMS's and templates make sense: Just tweak the font size and column width, add a social media widget, and you're good to go. "Just another Wordpress site," as the saying goes.
Logos, on the other hand, are meant to express an identity—the very heart and soul of a company—in a painstakingly-kerned font and/or ideographic vector illustration. Graphic design is a creative endeavor; as such, it is more than a matter of simply dragging and dropping elements or picking your favorite color. Think about it: Websites hew to a half-dozen standard layouts, where details such as fonts and colors evoke a general look and feel but rarely, if ever, denote a specific brand—which is why you look to the top left corner or center of the page for a logo.
The latest designer to throw his hat into this (suffe)ring is Peter Smart, who famously tried to solve 50 Problems in 50 Days using design. That project necessitated a lot of travel, meaning Smart dealt with a lot of boarding passes, and eventually stretched his design muscles during a long layover.
Smart had at least one brilliant, simple insight: A boarding pass contains multiple bite-sized chunks of information, and you don't need them all at once. But you do need them in a particular order—figuring out which gate you need to head to is an earlier priority than locating your seat on the plane. And by turning the boarding pass sideways, Smart instantly reduces the visual clutter to a series of easy-to-read lines, like the way a movie script reduces the width of dialogue blocks to make it easier on the eyes.
You can read Smart's full analysis of existing boarding passes and explanation of his redesign here. (Unsurprisingly, the web page is presented in an extraordinarily clear, well-designed manner.)
...and the backlash begins: Yahoo unveiled their new logo this morning, following their 30 Days of Change marketing campaign, an interesting publicity stunt that came across as a mass-market (i.e. less rigorous) version of, say, the Brand New IDEO Make-a-Thon.
I'll defer to Armin Vit of Brand New for a full analysis of the new logomark—will.i.am was unavailable for comment—but I must say I find it uninspired and uninspiring. Line-weight and non-obliqueness notwithstanding, something about that "Y" and the subtly flared lines evokes watered-down YSL, and the tweaked humanist typography feels a bit design-by-committee to me (it was, in fact, designed in-house by Marissa Mayer & co.). Current brand usage guidelines include the punctuation mark, but sadly it's not quite the same without the so-called "9-degrees of whimsy"—at least not until browsers support the CSS 'rotation' property—and in any case, we'll stick with regular-ol' unexclamatory "Yahoo" in common parlance.
Move over, Best Made Co., there's a new outdoors-inspired design company in town. Montreal-based Norquay Co., a brand "dedicated to camping vibes," has just launched with a line of vibrantly painted canoe paddles. "Founded by a camping enthusiast obsessed with the great outdoors and equally for great design," the five collections—also named after places in Canada—are sure to make a splash in the design world (albeit perhaps less so in the hardcore canoeing community).
Among the many criticisms leveled against New York City's new bikeshare program, I'm particularly perplexed by the notion that the stations are a blight upon Gotham's otherwise pristine streetscapes—at worst, they're conspicuously overbranded, but, as many proponents have pointed out, they're no worse than any other curbside eyesore. Although the city is making a conscious effort to reduce the visual overstimuli at street level, it's only a matter of time before static signage simply won't suffice.
While Maspeth Sign Shop continues to crank out aluminum signs, BREAKFAST proposes an entirely novel concept for interactive, real-time wayfinding fixtures. "Points" is billed as "the most advanced and intelligent directional sign on Earth," featuring three directional signs with LEDs to dynamically display relevant information. However, "it's when the arms begin to rotate around towards new directions and the text begins to update that you realize you're looking at something much more cutting-edge. You're looking at the future of how people find where they're headed next."
Imagine, if you will, a design exercise in which the primary constraint is simply to answer a brief with ideas that have never been dreamt of. The themes range from Global Warming to Time, and are selected based on passion as much as relevance and timeliness, and as such, design teams are expected to come up with ideas that meet those criteria as well.
These are the guiding principles behind IDEO's "Designs On—," an ongoing internal project that has taken off since IDEO Associate Partner and Industrial Design Director Blaise Bertrand introduced it in 2008. The global design consultancy has just launched a dedicated microsite for the fifth annual edition, which tackles the seemingly mundane (or otherwise overdone) issue of Packaging. And while the topic is ostensibly more pragmatic than past themes such as Food and Birth (as well as the two mentioned above), it's not so much a departure from the spirit of the platform as it is an affirmation of its breadth.
The idea of "Designs On—," according to Bertrand, is to "let designers pick a personal perspective" on the topic at hand. The goal is "to push the edge of a particular content area [as well as] to constantly question our assumptions about design." IDEO employees organize themselves into teams as they see fit, developing, iterating and ulimately packaging their ideas over the course of four to five months.
"The 'Expired' concept is one of my favorites," says Bertrand. "It feels natural—to take a simple analogy of a banana, [which has] a very powerful emotional aspect."
Bertrand excitedly noted that "Biomimicry is a growing domain."
I don't know much about the enigmatic fellow behind Death Spray Custom besides the fact that his given name is David Gwyther and he's based in London, and his morbid moniker is simply "an identity that is used to front my adventures in surface design. It is intended to be a playful riposte to an often serious world of art, design etc." Per the same interview with CycleEXIF last year, he's "mostly self taught," and contrary to McLuhan, he believes that "the medium isn't the message, the painting part is a small fraction of the process. I'd like to add I'm not a bicycle painter by any means, just an artist who likes two wheels."
I'd known about his custom paint work for bicycles for some time, but true to his word, he comes up with wicked paint schemes for a variety of mostly speed-related objects—auto, helmets, tools, etc.—and executes them to dazzling effect. His portfolio is well worth a visit, from the Tool Box (featuring a slogan that is unprintable here) to a NASCAR-worthy Chevy Silverado and all variety of helmets and bicycle-related objets d'art.
An architect and environmental designer by training, it should come that Jerome Daksiewicz's visual sensibility tends towards cleanly presented schematics. Under the moniker Nomo Design, the Chicago-based jack-of-all-trades offers everything from interiors to advertising to photography; he also had a hand in a noteworthy bicycle light project last year. (Regarding Sparse, he notes that the team is "making a few final revisions to the lights but we should be cutting tools in the next week or so (just slightly behind our original schedule).")
His latest Kickstarter venture is rather less ambitious than a new product launch... which, as Daksiewicz notes, means it will ship in time for Father's Day. Disappointed with the quality of extant golf-related artwork, he's designed a series of Golf Course serigraphs (a fancy word for screenprints) for the discerning fan.
I want to create a series of prints to celebrate the world's top golf courses but in a simple way that still captures the unique character of each course and is at home in any interior. I'm starting with the hosts of the 2013 Major Championships, Golf Magazine's #1 Course in the World - Pine Valley and one of the top US public-access courses in Pebble Beach.
I can't even come close to pretending I know enough about golf to offer any insight into the accuracy or appeal of the prints, but the imagery strikes me as conceptually compelling as abstracted topography.
Americans can be a little hard on Canada. A rebranding for the benefit of the United States seems a little extreme, but it does seem difficult for the average American to discuss much about Canada beyond hockey, moose and maple syrup. To help Americans, Studio 360 with Kurt Andersen recently asked Bruce Mau Design to give the USA a short lesson on Canadian culture as part of their series "Redesigns." While recent controversy surrounding the redesign of the $20 dollar bill doesn't bode well for Canadian graphic design, this concept does away with the maple leaf completely. You have to admit, if we owe the walkie-talkie, peanut butter and 20% of the worlds freshwater to Canada, maybe they do deserve a little more respect.
"In our redesign, we begin with an assertion that Americans simply don't understand Canada. Our view is that Canada doesn't need a redesign; rather, Americans need to be educated." -Bruce Mau Design
In 1977, Chevy ditched the "sunburst" design for their Corvette logo and went with (above) this clean, graphically-stylized update on the original crossed flags. The fleur-de-lis from Louis Chevrolet's family crest is still up front on the red flag, with the Chevy "bowtie" partially obscured behind it.
1978 was the Corvette's 25th Anniversary, and cars released that year got this fancy badge:
Corvette's from '79, however, reverted to the design of the '77.
In 1980 a new decade arrived, bringing with it more angular designs. The '80 Corvette saw a weird kickback to the 1963 design by arranging the flagpoles in such a way that they formed a "V." Conspiracy theorists will see a Firebird or Thunderbird logo in their mind's eye, but I don't think those cars were truly competitive fears, as the former wasn't in the same price range and the latter wasn't in the same performance category. In any case, the logo persisted through '81.
Buyers of the 1982 "Collector Edition" Corvette had this special badge with the throwback circle from the '63 or '73 ot '76. It's also unusual in that the fleur-de-lis is dispensed with altogether, and for the first time in years we see an unobstructed bowtie.
For 1983 to '84, the fleur-de-lis again takes a hike, and the bowtie reigns supreme. The graphic treatment of the waving flag is dispensed with and the flags switch sides; I have no idea why, but it screams "focus group." The circle also makes a comeback.
When Chevrolet was preparing their new Corvette sports car in the early '50s, the task of designing the logo fell to Chevy interior designer Robert Bartholomew. Bartholomew's design (above) featured two crossed flags: One, the checkered flag that symbolized race victory, the other, the American Stars 'n Stripes.
However, using the American flag to promote commercial products was illegal at the time, and Chevy execs reportedly decided at the last minute to nix that part of the design. (It's not clear why they waited until four days before the car's unveiling, but you can practically picture Bartholomew sitting at his drafting table going goddammit.) Bartholomew's last-minute replacement was a flag sporting both the Chevrolet logo and a fleur-de-lis, a French symbol that was reportedly part of Louis Chevrolet's family crest. (See our post on heraldry here.)
New badges were whipped up based on Bartholomew's drawings, and the Corvette debuted in 1953 at New York's Waldorf-Astoria hotel.
Sadly, after that story, all mention of specific designers associated with subsequent logos are nil. What we do know is that Bartholomew's design stuck around until 1957, then underwent multiple tweaks and changes throughout the years. Amassing a photo list has proved trickier than expected, as there were multiple emblems for the hood, tail and fenders, but we've tried to put together a visual chronology focused on the nose badges.
In 1956 and '57, a Chevrolet chevron was added to the design:
In 1958 we see a typographic update that persists until 1961:
The last significant change to U.S. currency I can remember is, we added purple to the fives (in homage to Prince, I believe). Canada's gone way further to foil counterfeiters, rolling out polymer bills a little over a year ago. Now that they've had time to circulate, this month Canadian TV personality Rick Mercer expressed his displeasure at the ergonomics of the plastic bills in this video, stating they won't fold properly and have a tendency to stick together.
In addition to this possible materials science gaffe, there may be a graphic design fail to boot: Botanist Sean Blaney, of the Atlantic Canada Conservation Data Center, reports that "The maple leaf (on the currency) is the wrong species." Canada is known for the Sugar Maple, which has leaves that look like this:
Norway also has an indigenous maple tree (which has been exported to Canada) and its leaves look like this:
What's the diff? Not just botanists, but any designer, we feel, ought to note the difference. The leaves of the Norway maple have more lobes; in layman's terms, they're pointier. This is pretty obvious when looking at the Canadian flag whose leaf, albeit stylized, is clearly a Sugar Maple:
A Bank of Canada spokesperson has denied the allegations, and given a cloudy explanation that the leaf is meant to be an amalgamation of maple leaves, which doesn't make much sense given Canada's flag. "I think it's just an after-the-fact excuse," says Blaney. "...The maple that they've drawn is quite clearly a Norway maple." Looking at the leaf above the "20" in the topmost photo, we have to agree.
At risk of overexposing conceptual bicycle components today, this reader submission was too good not to post. Taylor Simpson is one short semester away from completing his baccalaureate in communication design at Brooklyn's own Pratt Institute, and he recently sent in a branding/packaging project that he completed last year. A riff on bullhorns, MONIKER is a concept for a set of "handcrafted bicycle handlebars made of genuine deer antler and recycled metal."
I originally came up with the concept of Moniker Cycle Horns while participating in the World's Longest Yard Sale on Route 127 in 2010, an event I look forward to every year. While traveling the sale, I found a pair of genuine deer antlers a local man was selling somewhere in Kentucky. As a cyclist I thought it would be clever to create bicycle handlebars made of animal horns and antlers.
Thus, the bars consist of a set of antlers from a six-point buck, bonded to what I assume is a short length of pipe to form the clamp area and painted in a black satin finish. (For better or for worse, the second edition of Bikesnob's cockpit contest has come and gone; there was actually an antler category the first time around.)
The 6,300 signs that DOT will replace in Midtown and Lower Manhattan include 3,300 commercial parking signs and 3,000 other signs for nighttime and weekend parking for the general public, hotel and taxi stands, street cleaning and no standing areas. The new signs reduce the number of characters needed to explain the rules from 250 to about 140, making the sign appear less visually cluttered while reducing five-foot-high signs by about a foot. The new design also places the day of the regulation before the hours of the regulation, eliminating abbreviations and retaining all necessary parking information while making it easier to read.
Once again, JSK—Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, for the uninitiated—turned to Pentagram for their graphic design prowess as the DOT hopes to build on the success of their previous collaboration with the design firm, the previously-seen "LOOK" campaign... or, as Pentagram Principal Michael Bierut speculates, perhaps they were just chagrined by this Louie C.K. non sequitur:
I'm kidding, of course—longtime New Yorkers are well aware that it can take years for initiatives to work their way through the bureaucratic labyrinth of lobbyists and legislators. It so happens that this particular proposal dates back to 2011, when City Council Member Daniel J. Garodnick asserted his commitment to "syntactic clarity" in the public sphere; of the new signs, he dryly notes that "You shouldn't need a Ph.D in parking signage to understand where you are allowed to leave your car in New York."
From NPR via Mashable: "As many had expected he would, the president did sign the fiscal cliff agreement with an autopen. The bill was back in Washington, D.C., while Obama was in Hawaii on vacation. So, it was signed by an autopen machine that produces a copy of the president's signature." Beltway commentators have questioned the, er, Constitutionality of his vicarious inscription, but Obama's autograph-by-proxy apparently passes muster, obviating the need to send a physical document par avion. The issue first came up back in June 2011, when CBS published a side-by-side comparison of the two signatures (on an earlier bill) for armchair graphologists:
This time around, Mashable has posted a short promo video of the Autopen of Interest.
Want to 3D print, but don't have the scratch for a 3D printer? A Polish company called Pixle has released a fun-looking iPad app called Foldify, which lets you print 3D designs out of a regular printer...sort of. Check it out:
Obviously the $1.99 app is not going to revolutionize your design firm's rapid prototyping capabilities, but at the very least, Pixle has just cut the homework time in half for every design student taking Package Design 101.
As any graphic designer surely knows, the Internet is home to at least as many bad (or non-) infographics as it is a source for clearly-articulated, visually-compelling ones. This twofold criteria is the subject of Chad Hagen's "Nonsensical Infographics": they're certainly a treat for the eye... but the mind, not so much. Rather, as the title of the series suggests, the vibrant geometries are intended to be metacommentary on the opacity of these purportedly digestible graphics.
The science of infographics is an interesting beast. Infographics' level of success is always based on how much and how well they communicate their data—the classic form follows function. In this series, I reversed these roles—form is king and dictates what the infographic communicates. Welcome to the world of fictional visual information.
In other words, these infographics convey information about infographics themselves: inscrutable though they may be, they are often more beautiful for it. Thus, despite its aesthetic affinity with the work of, say, Andrew Kuo, Hagen's work probably has more in common with Tatiana Plakhova's data visualizations, which express the same sentiment through radically different execution.
In the photo below, of the Frank-Lloyd-Wright-designed Hoffman Auto Showroom, at right you can see the large planter in the center of the rotating car platform. And atop that planter you can see a box with the now-familiar Porsche logo on it. But back then, in 1955, that logo was brand new.
You'll recall that the Hoffman Auto Showroom was intended to sell Jaguars; so why, you ask, is it filled with Porsches during its 1955 opening? Hoffman commissioned the space in 1953, but just two years later his business arrangement with Jaguar had evaporated. This wrinkle happened close to the Showroom's launch date; Frank Lloyd Wright had designed a leaping Jaguar statue to go onto that planter, in the center of the showroom, and Jaguar craftsmen had completed it and shipped it over to New York. After the Jaguar/Hoffman relationship evaporated, the statue was shipped back to Coventry, so the only thing it really leaped was the Atlantic. Twice.
Now back to the Porsche logo. Porsche was a logo-less company until (rumor has it) Ferry Porsche—son of company founder Ferdinand—had lunch in New York with Max Hoffman. The suspiciously colorful story, which contains at least one geographic error, goes like this:
In 1952 while dining in a New York restaurant, Max told Dr. Ferry Porsche all cars of some standing in the world have a crest. "Why not Porsche, too?" he asked. "If all you need is a badge, we can give you one, too!"
Ferry then grabbed a napkin and began to draw the crest for the state of Baden-Wurtremberg [sic] with its curved stag horns. He added a black prancing horse from Stuttgart's coat of arms and the word PORSCHE across the top and handed it back to Max asking, "How about something like that?" With a bit of refinement and color, the famed Porsche Crest was born and today remains true to Ferry's original sketch more than half a century ago.
(The error is the attribution of the crest to "Baden-Wurtremberg," which is both misspelled, and the incorrect region.)
The Internet being what it is, another story has it that Hoffman penned the logo himself. The needle on my BS meter is quivering.
Remember the camo-dipping technique we looked at last month? To refresh your memory, it's a good way to get a complicated pattern (provided you can acquire the material) onto a complicated surface. Well, turns out you can use the technique for really complicated surfaces—like the human hand:
While it's true I couldn't think of any practical reason why you'd need the inside of your hand to look like carbon fiber, hydrographics still has plenty of useful applications. There have been lots of times when I needed to stash my deer skulls in nearby forests where the neighbors wouldn't spot them, and this stuff really saved my bacon.
If they had this coating in the first place, they wouldn't have ended up like this. Oh, the irony
Wish I could make it out to Cali for this one: Rapha San Francisco Cycling Club is pleased to present All Chips On the Table: The Bicycle Art and Design of Garrett Chow, an exhibition featuring Chow's work as Lead Graphic Designer at Specialized, as well as his graphics for MASH, the urban cycling brand which he co-founded. Per Rapha:
From the co-creation of MASHSF to bicycle paint schemes for cyclocross star Zdeneck Stybar and Tour de France winner Alberto Contador, Garrett has been a continual inspiration in the bicycle industry with designs, illustrations and paint jobs over the years. The exhibit is your chance to see all of this live and direct.
While the exhibition opened two weeks ago, a couple image sets hit the web earlier this week—shots from Mike Martin of MASH (reproduced here with permission) and Bike Rumor as well—a welcome dose of pure bike porn to supplement the tantalizing teaser photos from Rapha.
We had the chance to talk to Garrett about his inspiration and what drives him in the studio and on the road.
Core77: You're clearly as passionate about cycling as you are about design. Which came first for you, bikes or design?
Garrett Chow: The tired cliché that as a designer, one's job never really "shuts off" sadly holds more truth than a lot of us would prefer to admit. Devoted cyclists seem to hold a similarly unflagging sense of commitment and allegiance to their two-wheeled pursuits—whether it's through constant training, watching one's diet, or wrenching on bikes, it seems like there never enough hours in the day. I'd say that both pursuits intertwine to occupy the larger focus in my life, and seemingly in equal measure.
I've been doing both for as long as I can remember. I grew up riding and drawing and making/publishing a skate 'zine as a kid—these inclinations precipitated in my study of Illustration and Graphic Design in college. I was tangentially involved in the bike industry for many years having worked on corporate-identity and branding for a friend's bike shop, Wrench Science, but it wasn't until MASH and then Specialized that I 'formally' entered the industry.
With NBA season underway here in the states, ESPN has shifted from baseball jargon to more bombastic neologism such as 'lob city,' 'highlight factory,' etc. Not that they'd know anything about it, but Dublin-based creative duo Mark+Paddy have invited fellow Irish creatives to 'posterize' clients—or at least their inane bromides—in "Sharp Suits," a series of limited edition prints for Temple Street Children's Hospital.
Ireland's creative community have gotten together to release a lot of pent up anger and sadness through the medium of the A3 poster, all in aid of Temple Street Children's Hospital.
Ad creatives, designers, animators, directors, illustrators and more have taken time out to dress up their favourite worst feedback from clients, transforming quotes that would normally give you a twitch, into a diverse collection of posters.
The resulting graphics are a mix of Coretoon-worthy visual puns and cheeky graphic treatments—I've posted some personal favorites here, but all of the 70+ designs can be seen in the online gallery. The group exhibition at the Little Green Cafe & Bar wrapped up two days ago, but the prints are still available online as of press time, at the very reasonable price of €10, with all proceeds going to the children's hospital.
Core77's affinity for producing and following technology that blends old and new, analog and digital, was directly inherited from our new-media design shaman Tom Klinkowstein. Tom—whose tales from the 70's, of applying analog film techniques to videotape editing (with the help of iron filings to identify otherwise invisible tracks) still inspire us—now has an example of that ethos enshrined in the hallowed archives of the MoMA permanent collection: a poster from 1980 for Laurie Anderson which synthesizes a number of totemic technologies in a fashion that suits the eclectic performer. This marks an excellent score for everyone involved—Congrats!
Alexandra Baker is one half of Asheville, NC-based studio DNA Illustrations, specializing in medical graphics for editorial and commercial clients. Along with partner David Baker, she has some "20 years of experience working with images dealing with surgery, anatomy, disease process, patient education and immunology."
Baker's been on track to be a medical illustrator—a highly specialized niche which requires an eye for detail and a steady hand, not unlike medical practitioners themselves—since her undergrad days at UGA, and her work has garnered many accolades over the years.
Seeing as our sister site Coroflot hosts portfolios from the world over, It's always interesting to see where members hail from. Karl Mynhardt is a perfect example: he's one half of Cape Town, South Africa's K&i Design Studio, which he and his wife Ida (hence "K" and "I") launched last year. They've since won a Design Indaba Emerging Creative award alongside a growing list of local clients, as well as campaigns for international brands.
Although 'zines have been a popular format for artists, writers and provocateurs since the '70s, in China, an independent arts press is a relatively new phenomenon. Welcoming visitors at The Factory in the Dashilar hutong design district was a collection of over 100 Chinese zines on display. The exhibition, PAPER INSTINCT, takes an interesting look at the bubbling DIY youth culture in China.
Art and literature chapbooks were displayed side-by-side with more polished lifestyle catalogs. I particularly liked the illustration and comic books, although the photography books have more cache in a multi-lingual context.