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It’s the Stupid Economy

Over the past few years I have made the transition to non-linear television viewing. Whether it be the internet, Hulu or Netflix, I prefer being in control of the content that I consume. Recently, I have been trending toward documentaries, more specifically, economic history documentaries. One of my favorite speakers of late has been Niall Ferguson, the Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History at Harvard University. After viewing The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World, I was hooked. Check out one of his latest shorts on The Daily Beast, a powerful piece with beautifully animated type and illustration.

The Architect and The Painter

Charles and Ray Eames

I’ve been a huge fan of Charles and Ray Eames—the husband and wife dynamic design duo, best remembered for their mid-century modern furniture—since I was first introduced to them on a high school field trip to the Museum of Modern Art. So, I was really excited to see that PBS’ American Masters series was premiering a film about them called “The Architect and The Painter” on December 19th. Unfortunately, life got in the way and I forgot to set the DVR, so I missed it. Luckily, PBS has the full length film available on their website. It’s worth a viewing to learn more about this fascinating pair and their influence on American culture.

Note: This happens to be my second post involving them… See Ice Cube and the Eames.

New York’s Curbside Haiku

Haiku is a short form of Japanese poetry, begun sometime in the 1600’s, that is characterized by three qualities: use of three lines of 17 or fewer syllables; use of a season word; and use of a “cut” to contrast and compare two events, images, or situations. A creative new campaign from the New York City Transportation Department is using haiku to spread messages of safety to areas where a high percentage of accidents have taken place. Developed by artist John Morse, the twelve different signs have been placed in areas near cultural centers and schools in Brooklyn, Queens, and Manhattan.

Ice Cube and Eames

Before he became a rapper and an actor, Ice Cube studied architectural drafting, so it’s not completely out of left field that he agreed to pay homage to this revolutionary husband and wife design team and the art and architecture of Los Angeles in a promotional video for “Pacific Standard Time: Art in L.A. from 1945 – 1980.” Over sixty cultural institutions across Southern California are celebrating the birth of the L.A. art scene, including the various L.A. art movements of the postwar era and their continued influence on art and design today.

What impresses this proud South Central native about Charles and Ray? Their resourcefulness. “…Got off-the-shelf factory windows, prefabricated walls…They were doing mash-ups before mash-ups even existed.”

Trashing Your Brand Part I: Penn State University

Plenty has been said over the past few weeks about the Penn State scandal. Although minor compared to the ugly allegations, the damage to the institutional brand is profound, but not often discussed in the media. It’s true that students protested Joe Paterno’s termination, but they weren’t condoning the actions of their beloved coach or the sordid behavior of Mr. Sandusky. The intense collective reaction was due to the sudden absence of pride as they witnessed the brand collapse beneath them. Penn State—like Duke, UCLA, Harvard and others—worked hard for decades to build enviable brands that inspire trust, excellence, and passion. In an instant (although as we have learned, the indiscretions happened over many years), that powerful identity evaporated. I can hear the Penn State stickers being peeled off car windows to avoid the associated shame. So, will applications start falling? Will enrollment drop? Will alumni stop giving? It’s too early to tell. But one thing is certain—it will be years before the Penn State brand regains its former luster.

Create Jobs for USA

Starbucks has recently launched Create Jobs for USA, a campaign designed to create and sustain jobs across the country, collaborating with GOOD/Corps, a social innovation firm in Los Angeles affiliated with GOOD Magazine. Create Jobs for USA is an initiative to collect funds for job creation through grassroots community businesses.

One of the elements of the campaign is another really GOOD animated commercial created by the team at GOOD/Corps. I’m a sucker for infographics.

U&lc Magazine Lives On

U&lc (Upper and Lower Case) magazine, edited and designed by Herb Lubalin, was published by the International Typeface Corporation (ITC) in 1973 and ran until 1999. It featured a range of illustration, cartoons and type design from notable designers and artists. As a young designer, it is always great to have these influences to reference, which is why I was so pleased to come across this link from the fonts.com blog. Being inundated with requests, they decided to scan the back issues of the magazine and make them available in PDF form. Check it out and learn a bit more about this excellent mag.  read on

A Day in the Life of a Star Wars Imperial Army Soldier

Stormtroopers fishing

Swedish photographer Kristina Alexanderson created an interesting challenge for herself 332 days ago: take a picture every day for a year of Star Wars stormtroopers—new and old—in a variety of daily life activities. Using only the action figures, tiny props, and cleverly, a LEGO figurine as a child stormtrooper, Alexanderson images sweetly humanize these not-so-nice foot soldiers of Darth Vader and the Dark Side.

Going the Extra Mile

Too often, designers take the easy way out. We Photoshop images, use pre-made textures, make things look like “this” without actually being “this.” It’s not as if we mean to be phonies, but a shortage of time, energy, and resources forces one to take the quickest, most efficient route. Usually it leads us straight to the computer. This is a shame, since there is something to be said about the authenticity of good design. We should be taking the time to carve that logo into a plank of wood if that’s what the project calls for. Or scan that filleted fish to get the perfect background. As designers, we are responsible for the integrity we create. Every effort should be taken to execute a concept in all of the glory from which it originated in your mind. The details are key and every element of a finished piece is telling of the process, as well as the eventual worth of the piece as a creative artifact.

Director Dulcidio Caldeira of ParanoidBR had details in mind when he shot this video for MTV Brazil (though the sound track may be one detail he overlooked). The video is a clever animation with the tagline “A Musica Nao Para” (Not for the Music). The cartoon captures that idea by depicting some of the more notorious characters in rock music history. Caldeira takes this simple animation a step further by using the unique properties of a balloon to create a tactile and dynamic flip-book effect in quite an unusual way.

The time and resources it must have taken to create this one minute video had to have been extensive. Yet without that effort, the payoff would not have been nearly as satisfying. The moral of the story: Don’t cheapen your design efforts by taking the easy way out. Go the extra mile—even if it’s made up of balloons.

Georgia and Verdana Go Pro

After what seems like decades (in internet time anyway), two of the most prominently used web-safe fonts have finally expanded their families. Not only do Georgia Pro and Verdana Pro offer Light, Semibold, Black, and even condensed versions, but Webtype has also been so bold as to create Small Caps, oldstyle figures, and other OpenType options for web embedding (as has Font Bureau for print). So, if you like to stick to the classics, the days of trying to fit the entire typographic hierarchy of your website into two font weights are over.

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