The book publishing industry may be shifting tectonically and perhaps irrevocably as we speak, but, as with vinyl, the cover endures as a canonical canvas for graphic design. The follow-worthy Casual Optimist recently brought a series of Gunter Rambow's amazing book-centric posters to our attention. Designed for the S. Fischer Verlag publishing house in the 70's, these graphics exemplify the light touch required to pull off visual self-reference. These book posters tread between clean forms and surrealist art, walking the delicate line of sight gags without crossing into the crap zone.
Magritte would be proud...
It should go without saying that Rambow created these works of art before the advent of Photoshop and its epiphenomenal 'bombardment,' though it's worth noting that the clever visual puns still hold up today.
Cheesemaking is a millennia-old industry, full of straightforward food science as well as dark corners of tradition and biological happenstance. Understanding the variety of traditional cheese production can make for a very long grocery trip, but some of the salient details may have escaped you by hiding in the packaging. Many cheese counters prominently display the reserve wheels of cheese that haven't been parceled out into dinner-party-sized chunks, and almost every counter sells wedged cheeses with clearly visible rinds. This isn't just to conjure delicious old-world charm. If your cheesemonger is nowhere to be found, or if you're generally foodie-shy, here are a few fun facts you can find built into the hard rinds of fine cheeses.
Country of origin. Like many wines, some types of cheese are regionally specific. Parmesan, or Parmigiano Reggiano (the so-called King of Cheeses), hails from a land of salty paternalism—Italy and Italy alone. Because by law it must be produced in the provinces Parma, Reggio Emilia, or Bologna, that wheel of cheese must sport at least one prominent D.O.P. stamp to be legit. On French products you'll see an A.O.P (possibly A.O.C), and regional American makers (like those using Wisconsin milk) use their own stamps too. Some cheeses give more subtle clues, like Spanish Manchego which virtually always has a basket-weave rind, having been historically pressed in grass baskets traditional to the La Mancha region where it is produced.
Cheese type and region. Though we rely heavily on our local cheese counter for proper labeling, most rind-bearing wheel-born cheeses do what they can to clear up the basics. It's very common for the basic info about type, brand and region to be carefully written in multiple orientations around the perimeter of the wheel, so it can be seen even in small segments. Bold dotted-line letters are often used, likely because stamps and dyes used on living, breathing cheeses tend to become less distinct as the rounds age, like that tacky text tattoo you got in college. Certain shapes often correspond with cheese type too. Pecorino Romano often uses a repeating dot pattern, along with a sheep's head icon within a dotted diamond. Grana Padano is completely covered with ovaloid "lozenge" symbols and four-leaf clover icons.
Our initial report may have echoed Airbnb's hyperbolic enthusiasm about their new identity, and despite criticism that has metastasized in relevant corners of the web—an equal and opposite reaction, if you will—here is a more nuanced take on Airbnb's new logo, Bélo.
Let's start with an experiment: Grab a piece of paper and try drawing the damn thing freehand. In fact, give it a couple tries. And no cheating—don't try and make it look more butt-like or yonic than it needs to be. Maybe it doesn't look as good as the now-infamous image of the marque drawn on fogged-up window ('fingered,' as one GIF crudely suggested), but it wouldn't be mistaken for genitalia. No one in their right mind would draw a body part like that. (This is why the Tumblr consists not of peoples' drawings of the logo itself but embellished versions of it.) It's arguably just as easy to draw a cock-and-balls, but that's not what it is.
For my part, I didn't see the intended allusions (the person or the location marker) at first; nor did I see any kind genitalia—just a fairly unremarkable logo. The point being that it's a highly abstracted symbol, to the degree that the somewhat regrettable choice of 'vibrant salmon' inextricably influences one's first impression as much as its mildly suggestive shape. As a graphic representation, it certainly invites free association (actually my first thought was rocket ship), but as a glyph, Bélo is one degree removed from the letter "A," itself a grapheme, which is doubly abstracted: A signifier of linguistic import.
But it's not just a matter of semantics. Armin Vit (who, as always, provides unparalleled analysis) notes that "it's a deceivingly simple icon that is easy to reproduce, recognize, and propagate." In this regard, it succeeds where few marques do. Just look at the logos within your field of vision or the icons for the apps on your phone. Could you draw any of them, freehand, with a single stroke? Only the likes of Nike, Chevy and maybe a few others come close. Now, in fairness, 'drawability' is not a criteria for logos these days... but maybe it should be (this is why teenagers of my generation inscribed so many desktops with Stussy and Wu-Tang iconography: ease of approximation). After all, this is true of the most enduring symbols of our time, from Basquiat's iconic three-pointed crown to the @ sign (notably 'acquired' by MoMA) to the anarchy symbol... to a Christian Cross.
If you're a manufacturer of writing utensils, but touchscreens are becoming all the rage, what do you design to avoid obsoletion? The obvious answer is a pen with capacitive ability, hence Bic released their Cristal Stylus last year, a regular ballpoint pen with an added nub on the butt end for working that iPad.
This year Bic is going a step further by designing not a device, but a font. Or more specifically, they're letting you all collectively design it. Bic's Universal Typeface Experiment asks users to hit up their website on your smartphone or tablet and draw letters in boxes, which they then average out to create something like a universal finger-written font.
What's interesting is that whether or not you participate, the site lets you look at the results, which you can sort by gender, age, country, handedness, and even industry. Unfortunately it doesn't drill down deep enough to specify industrial design, though their catch-all "Creative Industry" field had, at press time, some 183,089 characters contributed (second only to "Students," who've donated 296,884 of their hard-earned letters).
If a client wants six drawings, how do you get away with delivering just three? In this clever bit of illustrations done as advertisements for Jeep, the French outpost of ad agency Leo Burnett has produced what appear to be simple animal mugshots:
However, flip each one over and presto, new animal:
Speaking of IKEA hacks, the Russian division of the Swedish brand has cleverly 'repurposed' Instagram to transform a profile page into an online catalog for their new collection. Developed by ad agency Instinct, the @ikea_ps_2014 'website' is optimized for mobile, made up of a dozen tiles in the social media platform's signature three-column grid. Individual items are tagged to link to product pages (also in Instagram).
Canny though it may be, the website is subject to a drawback of Instagram itself: No outbound links—how am I supposed to buy that "Wall shelf with 11 hooks, birch" from the non-retail confines of my Instagram feed? And although the video description boasts that the campaign had "zero media and production budget," the proper IKEA PS 2014 homepage suggests otherwise: Perhaps they spent their rubles on the ultra-hip, globetrotting sizzle reel:
A well-executed infographic will not only clearly communicate an intricate process, concept or body of data, but also look really good doing it. As in the vintage nuclear reactor cutaways we spotlighted a few #TBTs back, we can't help but appreciate when every last infinitesimal detail is drafted the old-fashioned way: by hand. Not only does John Philipps Emslie's artwork originates from several eras before Photoshop. This series of beautiful diagrams predates the storied milestones of the Space Race by upwards of a century, dating back to the mid-1800's.
Without the concrete data or advanced imaging that we take for granted today, Emslie sticks to natural phenomena like mountain formations, atmospheric transitions and the moon's geography. As such, these infographics are perhaps better suited for a living room or bedroom than a reference book.
While writing my book Graphic icons: Visionaries Who Shaped Modern Graphic Design, I was impressed by how many of the legendary designers I was profiling pushed themselves and branched out to other disciplines, such as industrial design and architecture. Such explorations can inspire creativity and bring fresh perspectives to each area of practice.
Catalog cover for Cuno Engineering Corporation, 1946; Build the Town building block set, c.1942
Influenced by the functional Constructivist and De Stijl movements, Sutnar always worked at developing a visual language that communicated directly. Charts, graphs and images simplified information, helping busy people save time. The way, Sutnar steered readers through complex information sounds much like what we now call information design or information architecture, which has been further developed by Edward Tufte and Richard Saul Wurman, as well as by digital and web designers everywhere.
As someone who believed that design should influence every part of daily life, Sutnar designed pretty much everything: furniture, fabrics, glassware and dishes, even toys. His colorful and geometric building block set, "Build the Town," was never actually produced, in spite of Sutnar's efforts to design packaging and promotional materials for it.
Magazines, interiors, book jackets, packaging, fabrics, hotels, mall signage, the opening credits of the cartoon Mr. Magoo—even a helicopter—Alvin Lustig designed all of them. He always felt the title "graphic designer" was too limiting, and it's clear why: He designed everything. And he did it all before dying at the young age of 40.
Lustig started designing interiors while working for Look magazine in the 1940s. Work like this inspired him to design the total package for his clients, from corporate identity to office environments. Though he is best known for his book covers, his experience among many disciplines gave him more freedom and opportunities.
As these things go, Day One of the 2014 Design Indaba Conference was a bit behind schedule from the get-go. Experimental Jetset acknowledged as much in their regimented presentation that morning: after introducing themselves by way of banter, Marieke Stolk, Erwin Brinkers and Danny van den Dungen explained that they'd be spending the rest of their 40-minutes time slot by sharing their influences from A to Z, spending one minute on each topic. Taking the notion of a timed talk to its logical extreme, the Dutch trio went so far as to include 60-second countdown timers on each slide—a nod, perhaps, to their cerebral approach to graphic design.
Of course, it didn't play out that way: Stolk clocked in "Anarchy" in exactly 60 seconds, but from "The Beatles" on, it was clear that the concept was a tad overambitious. (On the other hand, when it seemed that one of them would finish earlier than the 60 seconds on a couple of the letters, he or she would knowingly stretch the explanation.) Still, anyone familiar with their work could have guessed what "H" would be: they've been typecast (in a manner of speaking) as strict Helveticists since their memorable turn in Gary Hustwit's 2007 documentary on the ubiquitous typeface. Adherents to this day, van den Dungen duly noted that "We signed our own death sentence... in Helvetica."
Dean Poole, on the other hand, gushed about letterforms as archetypes; the self-effacing New Zealander's presentation which followed lunch on the third and final day of the conference, was rife on wordplay and visual puns, his understated punchlines deadpanned to a tee. Indeed, language and its mode of mechanical representation figure heavily into his work (where Sagmeister turns things into typography, Poole does the opposite) as the founder of Auckland-based studio Alt Group. Hence his rather more rapid 'characterization' of the letters of the alphabet—set in Futura, if I remember correctly—as ideograms, which, when juxtaposed with the Amsterdammers' ABCs, results in a series of non sequiturs:
I didn't catch Dean's versions of "P" and "U" and I haven't been able to get in touch with him; leave a comment if you happen to know what they are...
Now that the digital era is upon us, the trope of mechanical reproduction has become a condition of contemporary culture, and machines in themselves are embedded at an even deeper level. Meanwhile, artists and designers increasingly incorporate maker/hacker/DIY approaches into their multi-disciplinary practice; together, these trends point to generative design as the logical progression of production. If digital fabrication offers a horizon of possiibilities beyond art-school experimentation—we've seen at least a couple of permutationalprojects of late—so too do everyday machines hold a kind of primitive potential of their own. From an alarm clock to a electric razor to a Walkman, Echo Yang's 2013 Thesis Project, "Autonomous Machines," at the Design Academy Eindhoven explored the creative capacity of commonplace household items.
When working with digital tools, the value of generative design is in its ability to deal with complexity; as with analog tools, the value will be in an object or a behavior possessing internal algorithm itself. It does not deal with complexity because its internal algorithm has already handled it.
I see the mechanical system inside the machines as a unique language. Machines are produced, as they are demanded and required in particular circumstance or era, they act as a witness to history. By making use of the specific mechanical movement of particular machine, I attempt to transform them into a drawing machines in the simplest way. Base on this process, only few machines can work really well and produce beautiful outcomes.
This design proposal is not meant for creating a new tool to achieve a particular purpose. Instead, by showing how machines speak in their own language, based on their internal logics, the proposal is about bringing more awareness to the algorithm inside the ordinary objects around us. It is an inspirational way that helps broaden the notion of information design.
In other words, even the simplest machine contains an internal logic that can be expressed visually, even if its signature is abstracted from its mechanism. It's something like a cross between Rickard Dahlstrand's 3D-printer tunes and Eske Rex's Drawingmachine: The process is systematic only to the degree that the motors generate cyclical movements, but the results vary greatly.
Valentine's Day wasn't always about the pearly pinks and rosy reds. Well, one of the two has shown up every decade almost since the culmination of "Single Awareness Day," but there have been quite a few unexpected players in the Hallmark holiday. For instance, in the 1890s, you'd likely see more gifts and cutesy greetings in neutral browns and goldenrod than you would royal blue or grey (which make an appearance in the 1950s).
The Valentine's Day palette of the 1890s.Color swatches via Brandisty
Valentine's Day colors from the 1950's
We caught up with Leatrice Eiseman, author and the Executive Director at the Pantone Color Institute to tell us a bit more about the changing colors of Valentine's Day and her own personal palette for the holiday (whom we chatted with last year at the 2013 International Home + Housewares Show). See what she had to say:
Core77: If you had to define your own Valentine's Day color palette, how would you describe it and which colors would you choose?
In my book Color Messages and Meanings, I illustrate how to use color combinations specifically for packaging, print and web design to create a mood. Falling under Provocative are a variety of different combinations all of which include "come-hither" colors that cajole the user into what psychologists would refer to as a "high arousal mode." Advancing forward in the line of vision, a range of colors that prove to stimulate appetites of all kinds in energetic red based shades of cherry, tangerine, cranberry, raspberry, sparkling grape and sno-cone purple. This fresh and modern approach to Valentine's Day is fun-loving, titillating, flavorful and a little bit flirty—the perfect recipe for a romantic day.
My palette might change ever so slightly if I were going to create this same radiant mood within a home environment. Here I may look to the shades in our PANTONE fashion, home & interiors palette called Hot Pink, Pink Flambé, Lipstick Red, Sunset Purple and Orchid Bloom. A wonderful compendium of red, pinks and purple tones that speak of heat, intensity and passion.
From L to R: Hot Pink, Orchid Bloom, Pink Flambé, Sunset Purple and Lipstick Red
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.
If you're anything like me (and some studies suggest that as many as 20% of you freaks are like me) you have a terrible time reading. Not due to disinterest, but because your eyeballs approach written language like two mice gathering snacks from an open field. Dyslexia and other learning disorders, while obviously difficult to deal with, are often linked to creative problem solving and artistic expression. With that in mind, it's a little surprising that Dyslexie is the first font designed with dyslexic reading patterns in mind. More intriguing, it now appears it might be a failure.
As the video below notes, dyslexia often results in an unconscious misinterpretation of letters by confusing them with similar counterparts. This is often blamed on dyslexics' "3D thinking," where each letter is treated as a physical form, rather than a concrete symbol. Due to this, one letter is often mistaken or rearranged with another through transposition, mirroring or false equating. (For a dyslexic's attractive take on how it looks and feels, check out I Wonder What It Feels Like To Be Dyslexic, a typographic book project that went supernova on Kickstarter last year.)
Why the frustratingly unreadable block of text at the beginning? Let's chalk it up to the video team's "creativity"
Fonts like Dyslexie (and now Open Dyslexic, and others) aim to reduce the slippery flippy action of letters that look like other letters... by making them not look so alike. In Dyslexie, the symmetry of the letterforms is reduced, spacing is more deliberate, and every letter gets a pear-bottom treatment, supposedly reducing errors. Individual mileage will always vary, however, and actual studies (done by actual people who know how to study actual people with dyslexia) have largely questioned the effectiveness of Dyslexie. Reading speed isn't mentionably improved, and comprehension couldn't be said concretely to improve either. Breaking even in legibility is a basic typographic goal, but it's probably not enough when you're trying to give a specifically impaired group a leg up. Personal experience, while useful, isn't all it takes to make a problem-solving product.
Left: A community map with measured dimensions. Right: Iso-metric illustrated version of the community based on reference photos. This was developed to make the map more engaging and fun. Righthand illustration by Boyeon Choi.
In the field of design and technology today, deeply understanding users in their local context is an essential part to the design process. A holistic understanding of users generates empathy and a specificity of experience that enables designers to create valuable solutions for markets, communities and individuals.
In our field work in Uganda's rural north and Kampala, its capital and largest city, we took the unique opportunity to conduct research, as designers, into informal technology usage from a more complex and discovery-based perspective. Jeff focused on informal electricity bypassing in an urban community in Kampala, and An looked at how youth transfer media files via Bluetooth in northern Uganda. These are the stories that emerged after a hybrid approach of design, ethnography and other research methods to understand the systems and structures in place and build relationships with individuals working and living in these contexts.
In an increasingly globalized world, local contexts matter more than ever before. Rich, deep ethnographic stories can communicate the complex conditions under which communities and individuals make decisions regarding technology use in their everyday lives. These stories in turn inform design decisions around technology development and practical use. As Jessica Weber and John Cheng recently argued in UX Magazine, "Ethnography reveals how digital and physical processes work together to help businesses address gaps and focus on the entire customer experience."
We present two examples of user stories from our research into informal systems, as well as the visual forms we developed to communicate it. It was essential to use visualization to engage the designers and researchers in a developed, U.S. context to translate the unique characteristics of the informal systems for those who couldn't experience them firsthand. Visualizing the conditions and the systematic influences at work through user-generated drawings, maps, videos and photographic documentation placed them in context, helping to reframe these stories in a manner that permitted audiences in the United States to make judgments based on local values and their emergent informal usage of technology.
Once again, our friends at Cuppow are pleased to present an enlightening (see the 2012 numbers here. We've been following their story since day one and it's always good to hear from Aaron Panone, who has diligently kept us abreast of new developments from Cuppow HQ in Boston. Here's the latest from Fringe Union:
2013 has been a great year for Cuppow! We started the year by transitioning all of our products to a 100% recycled and domestic plastic supply, we hired our first (and only) employee, released a new product (BNTO lunchbox by Cuppow), refined our wide mouth drinking lid to more readily accept straws, and continued to develop our network of charitable organizations (adding Living Beyond Breast Cancer and Cradles to Crayons), through which also releasing two new product colors! With the support of our fantastic customers and retailers, we've stayed true to our commitment to be as responsible as possible and make the most minimal impact on the environment that we can—all while growing a business committed to American-made products and working with other great American companies.
This year's installment of our annual infographic project is a single year snapshot showcasing the impact that Cuppow—through utilizing a local supply chain and totally recycled material sources—has on the environment. We used our actual manufacturing and performance data collected over the last year to calculate freight emissions and the amount of recycled material that we were able to reprocess and reuse to make our products. We consulted with shipping experts and studied up on EPA emissions factors to provide a comparison between our supply chain and a hypothetical supply chain originating from Shenzhen, China. (Although we are not sure exactly what percentage of imported consumer products originate from Shenzhen, it is noted as one of the largest manufacturing cities in the world, so it serves as a good comparison for our study.)
We hope that you enjoy our infographic below, it is a collaboration with our long-time colleague and designer Natalya Zahn. If you like it, share it with your friends! And please let us know any feedback that you might have for us—we're always happy to hear from you!
We love open air marketplaces because they mix economic and social transactions between people with a variety of purposes: business, leisure, tourism, and daily shopping. At the heart of every market is the energy of entrepreneurship. Vendors use makeshift tools and ingenious techniques to move their goods efficiently, while customers haggle with expert price negotiators to determine true market price. Many of these markets have been in operation for decades and directly reflect the cultural spirit of their locale.
As designers, we are interested in the way that all the minute details of an environment add up to create a rich and lively atmosphere. We wanted to produce a series of drawings that would represent this, and invite others in as observers.
The series is launching on Kickstarter with three markets in Asia-Pacific region: Raohe Night Market in Taipei, Muara Kuin Floating Market in Indonesia, and Tokyo's Tsukiji Fish Market (if the campaign is a success, they'll expand to other continents). Given their axonometric perspective and infinitesimal level of detail, I couldn't help but think of Li Han and Hu Yan's equally beautiful A Little Bit of Beijing, though the latter work is more expressly concerned with inhabited architecture. The "Marketplace Posters" take a more anthropological perspective, portraying various individuals interacting with each other and their surroundings.
We had the chance to chat with Smith about the captivating artwork and how the project came about.
Core77: What was the inspiration for these posters?
Lisa Smith: Caroline and I traveled to Taiwan together in 2010, where we spent a lot of time at the night markets. The kernel for this idea developed then—we often reminisce about the special atmosphere of the night markets, and have always wanted to formulate a project based on our experiences.
The project started off with kids in mind. We like the "Where's Waldo" feel of each scene, and wanted to encourage kids to appreciate observation as a way of "reading" an environment. As the drawings evolved, however, it was clear that they appealed to all age groups, so we aren't being specific about who or where its for, and let the viewers decide.
Typography is one of those underappreciated art forms outside of the design world. While a movie like Helvetica brought attention to the craft of type, and the regular selection of fonts on Word processors has made everyone aware of the subtle differences of type styles, few can articulate what makes Times New Roman different from, say, Times.
I came across a site recently that's so simple it's brilliant. Produced by New York design firm OKFocus, Arial VS. Helvetica* is just what it sounds like, a comparison of perhaps the two most popular sans serif Roman fonts in the world. It takes an animated GIF approach: in one moment it shows Arial, in the other moment it shows Helvetica. We're not told which is which, but that's not the point: what matters more is that we can see just how subtle the difference is, and where the most critical distinctions lie (hint: Q, G and R are the best giveaways).
...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.
DesignCrowd is the name of a graphic design crowdsourcing venture that bills themselves as "The world's #1 custom design marketplace." Businesses seeking designs for logos, websites, T-shirts, flyers, brochures or business cards submit design briefs, then the site's 133,000-plus designers submit concepts; DC estimates that concepts start rolling in within hours of posting a brief, and that they will typically add up to over 100 submissions per project. Businesses can then request changes of their selectees, and eventually money changes hands. The cynical ID'ers among us can think of it like a version of Quirky where you don't need to know anything about injection molding. In any case, here's how it works:
To draw publicity, DesignCrowd recently held an informal, internal design competition asking its users to re-design iOS 7. The submissions are different enough that they're bound to be divisive. But it makes me wonder if Apple would ever let iOS users choose their own icons, and if people would be willing to pay others for them, as with ringtones.
A week and a half ago, we saw some striking images of the Burj Khalifa, reportedly captured with "the best digital still image equipment money can buy." In which case Google's Trekker might be an example of superlative photography equipment that is beyond a mere bankroll.
The imagery was collected over three days using the Street View Trekker and Trolley, capturing high-resolution 360-degree panoramic imagery of several indoor and outdoor locations of the building. In addition to the breathtaking views from the world's tallest observation deck on the 124th floor, you can also see what it feels like to hang off one of the building's maintenance units on the 80th floor, normally used for cleaning windows!
While I understand the appeal of the golden ratio as a rational approach to aesthetics most people would probably agree that it's impossible to reduce beauty to a series of numeric relationships. Yet the myth persists, and it should come as no surprise that these putatively ideal proportions might hypothetically inform graphic design as well—after all, the very premise of digital software is to allow us to create vector images with mathematically unerring accuracy.
And of all the countless logos that we see on a daily basis, Apple's ideogrammatic fruit is a leading candidate for a hypothetically golden (or hypothetically rational, as it were) logomark. Fed up with the conjecture, Quora's David Cole recently decided to investigate. We won't ruin it for you, but it's a fascinating read, not least for Cole's highly systematic approach.
Lapka is a set of "artisan electronic devices" for gathering data about one's immediate surroundings: each of the four building-block-like sensors can be attached to one's iPhone through the standard headphone jack. Coupled with a free app, they can provide detailed information on radiation, organic matter, electromagnetic fields and humidity—interesting features in themselves, enhanced by the product's quasi-organic, vaguely totemic form factor.
To complement Lapka's effort to make the product look more like jewelry or tabletop sculptures than gadgets, Burgopak notes that "The products themselves are luxury tools that convey their connection with nature. The packaging, we felt, should do the same."
From the beginning this was not intended to feel like an, 'Apple' product. It is intended to disrupt preconceived expectations about consumer electronics. Brown kraft board, single colour print and incredibly limited product information were all intentional features.
The devil, as they say, is in the detail; using precise harmonious proportions (derived from the product) Burgopak created a simple tray to protect and frame the product. This was wrapped in a sleeve with an integrated lock and finished with a single tamper evident seal.
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."
Tokyo is futuristic, but maybe not this futuristic... yet.
I spent a little time in and around Roppongi neighborhood during my first trip to Tokyo last June, but (as is the case with most work-related travel), I didn't have much time to explore the city on my own. Given the diverse texture of the city and the overflowing stimuli of a new and different urban setting, it didn't occur to me that Roppongi Hills is a relatively new construction, some $4 billion and three years in the making. Centered on the 54-story, Kohn Pedersen Fox-design Mori Tower—named after the developer behind the entire project—the 27-acre megaplex opened its doors in April 2003... which means that this week marks its tenth anniversary.
To commemorate the milestone, Mori Building Co., Ltd., has commissioned Creative Director Tsubasa Oyagi to create a digital experience, the very first project for his new boutique SIX. Working with a team of media production all-stars, Oyagi created "TOKYO CITY SYMPHONY," an interactive web app that combines projection mapping with a simple music composition engine to create user-generated ditties with brilliant visuals.
"TOKYO CITY SYMPHONY" is an interactive website, in which users can experience playing with 3D projection mapping on a 1:1000 miniature model of the city of Tokyo. The handcrafted model is an exact replica of the cityscape of Tokyo in every detail.
Three visual motifs are projected onto the city in sync with music: "FUTURE CITY," conjuring futuristic images; "ROCK CITY" that playfully transforms Roppongi Hills into colorful musical instruments and monsters; and "EDO CITY," or "Traditional Tokyo," which portrays beautiful Japanese images. Users could play a complex, yet exquisitely beautiful harmony on the city by pressing the keys on the computer keyboard. Each key plays a different beat along with various visual motifs, creating over one hundred different sound and visual combinations. Each user is assigned a symphony score of eight seconds, of which could be shared via Facebook, twitter, and Google+. The numerous symphony scores submitted by the users are put together online to create an infinite symphony.
Cyclepedia on-the-go! (NB: Mounting an iPad with a Turtle Claw is not advised.)
We covered Michael Embacher's Cyclepedia back in 2011, when it made its debut in print, and the Viennese architect/designer's enviable bicycle collection was exhibited behind glass, so to speak, shortly thereafter. Although the iPad app—developed by Heuristic Media for publisher Thames & Hudson—originally came out in December 2011, they've since launched a new version on the occasion of the 2012 Tour de France, with substantially more content beyond the 26 new bikes that bring the total to 126.
The bikes themselves are indexed by Year, Type, Make and Name, Country of Origin, Materials and (perhaps most interestingly) Weight, for which the thumbnails neatly arrange themselves around the circular dial of a scale. Different users will find the different options more useful than others, though the small size of the thumbnails makes it difficult to differentiate between about 75% of the bikes, which are distinguished by more fine-grained details. (The lack of search feature is also a missed opportunity, IMHO.)
That said, the photography is uniformly excellent—the 360° views alone are composed of over 50 images each, as evidenced by the lighting on the chrome Raleigh Tourist—and the detail shots are consistently drool-worthy. Each bike has been polished to perfection for the photo shoot, yet the perfectly in-focus photos also capture telltale signs of age—minor dings, paint chips and peeling decals that suggest that the bicycle has been put to good use. (The rather gratuitous bike porn is accompanied by descriptions that are just the right length for casual browsing, as well as technical details such as date, weight and componentry.)
A couple of years ago, Core77's Dave Seliger dug up History of the IDEO logo, in a post by Scott Underwood, former IDEO jack-of-all-trades. Scott's post shows a clear evolution from version one to version two—and makes it clear that we were ahead of the curve with our identity in both 1991 and 1997. Look at our current logo. It was on the edge of complex expression via combinatorial geometry. This wasn't a popular corporate idea until the mid Aughts, when the redesigned AOL logo was released. Since then, there have been lots of great combinatorial logos, many of which are on our Tumblr. (Just a note on this, we weren't the first. The most famous expressive logo I can think of is MTV's first and that was several years before IDEO.)
Now we're exploring version three. Why? In part, because our current logo is a location-based system. It's not designed to adapt to new situations. For example, look at IDEO U and "design by IDEO" in Scott's post. Today, look at IDEO.org and OpenIDEO. Put those four logos next to our corporate logo, and you'll see some of the same DNA, but the differences are bigger than the similarities. They're primarily static signs or flags, like most logos. They indicate presence, but not intent.
This is the big idea we're interested in: an evolution of our identity system that responds to new organizational needs and new experiences. How might we move from a system of rules to a system of behaviors? How might our identity system transform to communicate presence (like all logos and flags) as well as intent (e.g., are we in learning mode or authority mode? are we a service or a product? are we serious or fun?). I can't think of any identity system that does this yet, though maybe the new USA Today identity is trying.
I think this is going to be the direction most identity systems go in the future. Why? In part because new technologies make it possible. Monolithic solutions are a necessity of yesterday, because of the permanence and cost of communication. Now we're in an ephemeral and affordable age, and mass distribution at low cost is possible thanks to the digital revolution.
Now if all this is too academic, check out the Six Themes Tumblr for a visual expression of these ideas and more details about the process we've gone through so far.
There are interesting implications here for global identities and sub brands. This idea of designing behaviors makes sub brands feel like an old idea now. We are exploring what's next, not just for us, but for strategic identity design broadly.
Stay tuned to Core77.com/IDEO as we prepare to launch the Make-a-Thon from our Tokyo office later today!
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Brand New IDEO centers on a 24-hour global Make-a-Thon taking place on Monday, March 25th in IDEO's eleven offices around the world, starting in Tokyo and ending in San Francisco.