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The Devaluation of Stock

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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.
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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.

The Building of 24/7 Main

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24/7 Main, the blog that Taylor Design built, is here at last. What started as a meeting with Dan Taylor over a year ago has become a reality. It was largely a group effort, but special thanks goes to John Rudolph, who was the mastermind behind the design, as well as Dan Taylor, for keeping the project chugging along. Despite the busy nature of Taylor Design, Dan allowed John and I the time to work on this lovely blog and get it done!

I would like to discuss the process and challenges that went into turning John’s vision into reality on the web. I’m mainly a front-end web developer, so my job was to write the code that initially shaped the blog’s “bones” (HTML5) and the “clothing” (CSS), and then after that was squared away, I also wrote the code that integrated the HTML5, CSS and Javascript into a customized WordPress installation that allows us to run everything neatly and efficiently.
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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.

Point Judith Compositions

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I have been visiting Point Judith, Rhode Island since I was an infant and I return each summer with my family. Yes, it is known for the Block Island Ferry and great clam chowder shacks, but it’s also a true working fishing town. In fact, Point Judith is one of New England’s few remaining deep-sea fishing ports. Hulking vessels with names such as the Captain Bligh, Perseverence, and Stormy Elizabeth come and go, day and night, fishing for tuna, bass, cod, flounder, lobster, and scallops. While mooring their boats, the men throw their nets, floats, and equipment on the docks, unintentionally forming beautiful compositions of texture, color and pattern. I neither arranged nor art directed these photographs, just pointed my Nikon down and shot. To see a professional photographer’s take on this subject, visit Markam Starr’s timeless study “Endangered Species: The Commercial Fishermen of Point Judith.”  read on

Someday, Iceland. Someday.

I have a mild to medium obsession with all things related to the homeland of Björk. It is a country of extreme contrasts—a place where fire and ice co-exist, where the Aurora Borealis meets summer’s midnight sun. It is next on my list of far away lands to visit and things like this breathtaking time-lapse video from photographer Joe Capra fuel that desire. Made over 17 essentially sleepless days in June, Capra shot 38,000 images and traveled 2900 miles across the spectacular landscape capturing Iceland’s amazingly vivid colors, unusual shapes and beautiful light.

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