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Expanding Models for Annual Reports



The traditional 64-page, full color printed Annual Report stands at an interesting junction. On one hand, the Annual Report is an excellent device to inform company shareholders of their intelligent investment. On the other, it often takes more than 64 glossy pages to convince investors, institutional or individual, that their hard-earned dollars were put to good use — especially when corporate earnings don’t exactly beat analysts’ expectations. Certainly, company profits could be spent more wisely than printing these 64 pages, thousands of times. read on

Thank You, Hillman

Hillman Curtis wrote the book on Flash web design, designed some of the earliest animated websites, and then left the technnology completely to focus on much larger corporate websites. For those of us who always feel one or two steps behind the ever-evolving web, Hillman managed to stay one or two steps ahead. When he felt satisfied with his contribution to web design, Hillman then moved on to making short films, specifically for the web. He interviewed some of design’s most important contemporaries, including David Carson, Paula Scher, and Stefan Sagmeister. He made commercials for IBM and SVA. He made a feature film and was working on another. And I watched every one of them, just as I have followed his entire career, wondering how one person can constantly redefine his own work and redirect his own life’s path. Did I mention that, before all this, he was in a rock band for 10 years? That sense of autonomy is what makes people like me envious of people like Hillman. Hillman lost his battle with cancer last Wednesday, April 18, 2012. He is still my hero, and I know he will be missed by many.

Dress Code Conundrum

What to wear, what to wear… Most professionals habitually ask themselves this deceivingly simple question each and every weekday morning. It’s a valid question, with a solution usually made infinitely easier by looking for helpful cues around the workplace; construction workers throw on jeans and work boots, accountants select between a black or blue suit, and nurses slip into their scrubs. Graphic designers, on the other hand, have had a difficult time throughout history defining an appropriately unique look, and have, for the most part, resorted to inheriting the fashion trends of other professions. In an industry whose practitioners solve complex visual problems on a daily basis, it might come as a surprise that the most perplexing visual problem is what to put on before heading to work. Even so, designers remain undoubtedly confused when it comes to personal attire, and this isn’t simply a problem of individual identity; evidence suggests the dress code conundrum has been an underlying crisis for an entire occupational demographic since graphic design’s inception.  read on

Designing with Less, Part I: Paper


Did you know that fifty thousand trees are cut down to print the New York Times every day? Wait, that can’t be right. The fact is, I haven’t a clue how many trees it takes. I don’t even know where one would find that sort of information. For all I know, it could take just one tree, but at three hundred sixty-five times a year, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that more trees are used than we care to admit. Even if it did take just one tree to print one issue of any newspaper, that would still be pretty hard to swallow. It makes me sad.

As a graphic designer, I create a lot of waste. In spite of that fading phenomenon know as the web, many of the projects I work on are multiple-page print documents. Flyers, brochures, and magazines—they don’t look or feel the same on screen as they do in your hand, and they never will. Designers review each and every layout many times, in addition to presenting alternative layouts to colleagues and creative directors, long before a client sees anything and recommends changes of their own. If I printed each page as many times as I made edits, whether a change in image, layout, type size, color—you name it—I could probably collect the equivalent of a small forest of paper myself, each day. And I used to. read on

The Devaluation of Stock


On Monday, March 2nd, 2009, the Dow Jones Industrial average fell under 7,000 for the first time since 1997. NPR had assured me of this as I was packing up for the day. Since I rarely concern myself with the stock market, the numerically sound fact struck me as something that surely related to design, but I couldn’t remember what that was. I wrapped a scarf around my neck and headed out, one foot in front of the other trying to reconnect-the-dots in the frigid winter air. As soon as I entered my apartment, I began fervently shuffling through papers in the recycling bin. Whatever complacent connection I was trying to make was in there somewhere.

Earlier that day, I received an email from a well-known stock photography site that announced the sale of photographs for as low as one dollar. This was nothing new—other sites have offered similar prices for a couple of years now. But the email brought a feeling of contempt deep within that I could not, at the time, explain. In my mind, the stock house was devaluing its product. This particular web site offered a better-than-normal selection of stock photographs. You might find a handshake, let’s say, that doesn’t look like most handshakes. After I did a few quick image searches, however, I realized that the site was not selling more images for a cheaper price. Rather, it was cheapening the quality of more of its images, a depressing thought.
read on

The Booooom! + Adobe Remake Project = Not Appropriate


Adobe’s latest “Imagination Challenge” in the UK asks students to “remake” a famous work of art through photography. Apparently, the people at the blog Boooooom! thought it was such an original idea, they decided to hold the exact same competition. Originality, what’s that?

Of course, there is nothing new about appropriation, as its use is commonly regarded as one of the primary facets of Postmodern art. The only problem is, it’s been done. In the late 70’s, Re-photography practitioners like Barbara Kruger, Cindy Sherman, and Sherrie Levine, each employed appropriation in their art. Richard Prince is probably most famous for his early 80’s “Cowboys” series, in which he re-photographed Marlboro advertisements straight from the magazine. These photographs were then hung in a gallery, completely changing the context of the image. One could also argue that Marcel Duchamp accomplished a similar task of questioning the role of art in the 1920’s, with his “Ready-Made” pieces. You might recall, “Fountain,” a urinal turned upside-down.

The problem, then, with the Adobe project is context. Re-using, or re-purposing art in the context of a competition – especially when the event is being held by a company whose products are used for commercial design — leads to very little insight. The competition becomes merely an exercise. And judging by the submissions on Boooooom!’s web site, an amateur exercise at best. This sort of experiment is to be somewhat expected from Boooooom!, but higher standards should be held at Adobe. Don’t get me wrong, unlike Apple, I love Adobe. My workflow, and hence life, is made infinitely easier with the help of their software. Might I suggest that the competitive platform they employ to showcase the Adobe Suite of product be more appropriate? It should be design-centric, in my mind, and of course, it should charge its competitors to be, yes, more original. Maybe then the participants can truly showoff their talents and, in turn, understand why Adobe is at the forefront of creativity and innovation.

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