27 February 2010

Excuse me, your shoulder is in my way


Although it would be fun to post about cramming shoulder to shoulder onto the NYC subway, (I think) this post is about another kind of shoulder, a font shoulder, and about what typographers really see when they create wayfinding for a large complex labyrinth like a subway or roadway signage. The shoulder by the way is the curved stroke of the h, m, and n letters.

Here's a tiny piece of background... it is a common misbelief that Helvetica is the signage typeface of the New York City subway system. You see, a few years ago Paul Shaw wrote an article for the AIGA Voice about Helvetica and its subway roots. The essay turned into a book published earlier this year called 'Helvetica and the New York Subway System: The True (Maybe) Story.' But I'm not here to write in length about the history of subway signage itself, (you can click here to read it). What I really want to point out is how the minute subtleties of a font can sway a typographers choice of font for various applications, like subway systems. The untrained eye doesn't see these details, but a typographer sees every little speck of difference. The difference can mean one that is easier to read over another or one that can be set very tightly because it has no shoulders. All of these subtleties play a major role when an artist is designing wayfinding.

For example, the standard Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) typefaces developed in the 1940s, were designed to work with a system of highway signs in which almost all words were capitalized. But over the last decade, the Texas and Pennsylvania Transportation Institutes started developing mixed-case signage to find a more legible existence for roadway signs. The differences between the old and new are much larger counted spaces, the enclosed spaces in letters like the lower case e or a, and a higher x-height, the relative height of the lower case x to the upper case X (smaller counter spaces in the original FHWA fonts reduced legibility, particularly when the letters glowed from headlight illumination at night).

In 2004 the result made its debut when the Clearview Type System was officially released. Clearview was developed to increase the legibility and improve ease of recognition of road sign legends while reducing the effects of halation (or overglow) for older drivers and drivers with reduced contrast sensitivity when letters are displayed on high brightness retroreflective materials. It is also the first federally approved road guide sign font system by the FHWA for use in all states. Some early adopters of Clearview are Texas, Pennsylvania, British Columbia, Toronto and other parts of Canada. Unfortunately, it could take years before it appears elsewhere, as individual states must decide whether or not to make the switch because they are not required to do so. Wouldn't you think it should be mandatory for all states to adopt highway signs that are more legible? Understandably, the economy, lack of funding and next to nothing budgets, make it difficult for states to upgrade to these potential money-saving signs. I would like to assume using Clearview could mean fewer freeway incidents during normal and inclement weather alike.

The bottom line is fonts are not chosen because they just simply look good. They are chosen for a specific use and purpose in mind, and potentially life-saving when it comes to road signage. My hope is that someone sees the absolutes of changing the signage nationwide and in the future we'll start seeing Clearview more and more. Safer signage for all!

Photos from clearviewhwy.com and idsgn.org websites.

26 February 2010

And the movie poster Oscar goes to...



As you might already know, I'm a big poster nut (my posts on posters are plentiful). In this high tech wired age there's nothing like a great poster to stop me in my tracks dead, that includes movie posters of course. Just when you think you've seen it all in a movie poster, something new comes along. Obviously each and every movie is different, so the poster content is different, but to add to that, posters are designed differently for each country as well. The Auteurs (a magnificent site for all things film related) put together their picks for Movie Posters of the Decade and Movie Posters of the Year. They showcase some of the most amazing, though-provoking designs, so it's a must to peruse the collections. Posted above are some of my favorites. Let me know yours, I'm always curious what others find eye-catching.

Also, be sure to check out The Auteurs Notebook section for all the latest in movies.

Images from The Auteurs website.

25 February 2010

Not as easy as it looks

Here's a great look into the time it takes to create what appears to be a simple process; the creation of a Macworld magazine cover from ├╝ber talented photograher Peter Belanger (that's him on the right in the image above). It's a fantastic overview of just how much time and effort it ultimately takes. Unfortunately, the video is not available for download or I would have posted it, but click here to find it on Vimeo.
via Vimeo; Peter Belander - "After working on the latest cover for Macworld Magazine I wanted to show what is involved in making a cover. I focused on the three main areas: the photography, photoshop and design. I chose a time lapse format to convey lots of information in a small amount of time. The only drawback of time lapse is that since half a day goes by in 30 seconds, the whole process seam so easy! Lots of details were left out of the design process (like the cover meetings and rounds of layout options). I began to photograph the design process after the layouts had already been narrowed down to just three cover designs."
Watch more cool videos like the Macworld cover at Fuel Your Creativity.

Image from Vimeo website.

24 February 2010

I'm still an extrovert, sort of

After reading an intriguing headline yesterday on FastCompany, I couldn't help but to be sucked in to take the Myers-Briggs test. You know the one, we've all done at one time or another. I can't remember the last time I took it. But I do remember I was a bone fide 'E' (extrovert), the other letters I don't remember and didn't really care at the time. I consider myself a very outgoing person and always see the world as positively half full. I make friends and conversation easy and have had a smile on since the day I was born. So what has driven me to the dark side? I took the test yesterday and turns out I'm not as extroverted as I thought. I'm an introvert! An INFJ to be exact. Introvert? Me? I'm still in shock by my new 'I' label.

Seems I'm not alone in the creative realm when it comes to my letters however. Michael Roller challenged the idea that ISFJ was the ideal Myers-Briggs personality type for designers. He asked 65 designers to take the personality test, offering a window into the way designers actually think, and the meaning of "design thinking." In other words, designers are less akin to the stereotypical touchy-feely artist, and more like engineers who always keep the big picture in mind. The results; #1 INTJ, #2 ENFJ and #3 ENFP. I'm a close 4th with INFJ. While there wasn’t one personality that was most popular, the results did show a strong level of Intuition and Judging among the group.

Imagine that, me, an engineer and an introvert. Did something happen during college? Where along the way did I become an introvert? It all seems a little suspicious to me. Either way my NFJ side tells me I'm still an extrovert and since that's over half of what my personality is suppose to be, I'm overriding the (I). It's a (J)udgment call.

Photo from Michael Roller website.

23 February 2010

London's getting a facelift, soon...

In August of last year, the Greater London Authority asked for help to reclaim London's brand (see my post here). A few weeks ago, the agency who will command London's new visual identity was announced. Saffron Brand Consultants, an international branding and design agency headed by British brand identity guru Wally Olins, was chosen to take on the monstrous job of unifying the city.

While no designs have emerged yet from Saffron, many designers have gone on to design their own London brand. New York based designer Prescott Perez-Fox did one, as did Moving Brands of London.

It will be interesting to see just what Saffron deems visual appealing for London. We are all waiting on pins and needles for London's new face!

Photo from Perez-Fox website.

22 February 2010

Photo of the week


Bali, Indonesia. Bali is one of the most inviting places in the world. Beautiful scenery, rich in culture, and friendly smiles everywhere. It's also an island of temples, with at least eleven thousand. High on the slopes of Mt. Agung is the Mother Temple of Besakih or Pura Besakih, the most important temple complex on the island. It is an amazing place of worship and solitude, and considered the most sacred on the island dating back to the fourteenth century.
via Wikipedia on Pura Besakih; The temple is actually a complex made up of twenty-two temples that sit on parallel ridges. It has stepped terraces and flights of stairs which ascend to a number of courtyards and brick gateways that lead up to the main spire Meru structure, which is called Pura Penataran Agung. All this is aligned along a single axis and designed to lead the spiritual upward and closer to the mountain which is considered sacred.
It was amazing to take part in the Balinese culture and watch the ceremonial Odalan, whereby Balinese ascend the volcano to bring offerings to the gods and pray at Pura Besakih. I just might have to post a series of photos I took. The ritual is as serene and peaceful as it gets.

21 February 2010

Clean(ing) packaging

I don't know who designed these very clean (no pun intended) and beautiful cleaning products, but they are fabulous. The idea of giving them a product name cum personality to describe what they actually do is fun and memorable. Check out more memorable package designs like this here.

Photo from the GraphicsAlert website.

19 February 2010

Just plane funny

Now this is a flight that starts with a smile and a little humor. When was the last time you felt that way about a US airline? But if you happen to be in Africa, may I suggest flying Kulula, South Africa’s first no-frills commuter airline, on your flight from Johannesburg to Cape Town. The great looking lime green planes are painted with callouts identifying each part of the aircraft, including the cockpit area “the big cheese”, the “loo” (lavatory) “or the mile-high club initiation chamber.”
via @issue; The inflight instructions are equally irreverent, with the flight attendant advising passengers to make sure they have all their belongings with them when leaving the plane, but if they have to leave anything behind “make sure it is something the cabin crew can use. Preferably not children." Or telling passengers before takeoff: “If you have a child with you, please be sure to fasten their seatbelt first. If you have more than one, please select your favorite now and fasten their seatbelt.”

Time to step it up Southwest!

Photo from @Issue Journal website.

18 February 2010

Pasta, wine and design

Ahhh, it's that time of year again. The dream of jetting off to Venice and Rome to study the Western typographic tradition in it's birthplace. Magnifico!

The School of Visual Arts (NYC) is hosting it's annual summer program in Italy from 30 May-12 June, 2010; a 2-week Masters Workshop in design history, theory and practice of visual communication, especially in typography. And rejoining the program this year again, will be the great Louise Fili.

Watch the video here on the program, then get ready to pack your bags! Application deadline is March 15, 2010.

Photo from Louise Fili website.

Stamping nice stamps


When was the last time you took notice of a stamp on an envelope? Not lately right. Probably because it wasn't worth the time looking. If we had any good looking, well designed stamps, we would surely take another gander. There was a time people actually collected stamps because they were interesting enough to keep. Now all the USPS does is give us American flags and deceased celebrities. Therefore when I saw these fun Dutch architecture stamps, I couldn't help but to showcase them. The series of five vintage postage stamps are from the Netherlands depicting 20th century buildings and architects released back in 1969. The stamps are also shown on first day cover postcards with photographs that coincide with each of the buildings. See more images here. So when will we get cool stamps like these?

Photo from Design Related website.

17 February 2010

Super new logos?

As a follow up to my post on the not so super Super Bowl logo (read here), I was very pleased to learn the NFL association and Landor (one of the top design agencies in the world) came together recently and concurred there should be some consistency and standards to the Super Bowl logo from here on out, starting with Super Bowl XLV next year. I'm not so sure the Vince Lombardi trophy is the way to go (Brand New agrees), but I agree with adding some element(s) of consistency.

Forget molding the logo to the host city, with cute little accents and adornments. This is THE game of the year for most of America and Super Bowl Sunday is practically a holiday for us! Bottom line it's about the game and the teams, and the logo (whether or not anyone really pays attention to it) should reflect the importance of this huge yearly event.

via Landor; “The focus of the new identity for the Super Bowl is the Vince Lombardi trophy, which is the most logical and iconic expression for the overall brand,” said Nicolas Aparicio, executive creative director at Landor. “The trophy has never been used on any previous identities and it accurately represents the passion, stature and preeminence of one of America’s greatest sporting events. The new identity system will also allow for celebration of each future Super Bowl, with the roman numerals continuing to be indicators of the specific event.”
Finally, the right approach for the Super Bowl after all these years. Congrats to the NFL and Landor for recognizing the need to change the logo for the better. And Landor has experience, they created the logos for Super Bowl XL in 2006 and Super Bowl XLIII in 2009. I think they'll score big. Not sure what the spread is yet, but my money is on Landor.

Photo from Brand New website.

16 February 2010

I want my MTV back

It was only a matter of time really before MTV made the decision to remove 'Music Television' from its logo. However nice it is to see some companies remain true to their brand yet evolve with the times, for others, things simply do need to change. As a teenager in the 80's, I grew up watching music videos on MTV and I'm saddened to see the evolution of videos into reality shows, but that's life and the entertainment must go on. Is anyone really interested in music videos anymore anyway? Most likely not. Spidey, Snookie, teen pregnancy, over indulged teens and monstrous celebrity homes have taken over what was once a cutting-edge video channel, with all due respect to VH1.

The original logo, once adorned with funky graphic patterns on the big block M, has been revamped to include images of narcissistic reality stars and a cleaner version of the famous graffiti spray painted 'TV'. You can read more from MTV's head of marketing Tina Exarhos at Brand New and read what George Lois, the ad man behind the original "I want my MTV" campaign, has to say about the new logo at FastCompany.

The removal of 'Music Television' is a sign of the times and a good move on MTV's part, I just wish it wasn't for a bunch of no name faux celebrities.

Photo from Brand New website.

Posters do good

This beautiful infographic was created by Emily Schwartzman (see her portfolio of magnificent work here) for Design For Haiti as a way to graphically interpret the devastation in Haiti and it's aftermath. In conjunction with GOOD Transparency, the Design For Haiti contest is the second brain child of Aaron Perry-Zucker, creator of the Design For Obama campaign. After the success of Design For Obama, Perry-Zucker realized that poster art was not a dead medium in the United States. It also showed how much of an impact a single poster could have and he experienced what a fully engaged, passionate, creative community could do.

via Design for Haiti; "On that occasion, we were eager to lend our creative talents to a movement calling for change and inspire others to do the same."

Design For Haiti uses the same platform as Design For Obama, which allows users to upload, share, download, and print high quality posters. 'Design For... ' revolves around a diverse community of concerned citizens designing and disseminating images that increase awareness and/or understanding, and in this current case, information graphics that increase understanding of the plight of Haitians affected by the earthquake. There are many more engaging designs at Design for Haiti, check them out here.

On a side note, Leif Steiner of Moxie Sozo, who organized The Hurricane Poster Project for New Orleans (which raised $50,000 for victims of the hurricane) and The SoCal Fire Poster Project for California Wildfires, has also started The Haiti Poster Project. They are currently accepting submissions, so get yours in today! Find the details here. Just think, your poster could end up in the Louvre! Exhibitions of the Hurricane Poster Project appeared around the country and in Europe and many of the posters are now in permanent collections of several major museums, including the Library of Congress and the Louvre.

I truly hope these amazing citizens continue the same rewarding work to engage designers, as well as citizens, to get involved and help out wherever we can in the future.

Who said poster art was dead anyway?

Image from Design for Haiti website.

15 February 2010

Photo of the week

San Francisco, CA. After watching a few moments of the Pro Am on the tube this weekend, I couldn't help but to sigh slightly, as I felt a little longing for Monterey and all the beauty Northern California has to offer. I lived in the Bay Area for few years and think San Francisco is as beautiful as they come. It's a photographers dream!

14 February 2010

Valentine's Day treats

Made some of the most unbelievable brownies for sweethearts day. It's one of the best recipes I have found for dense, chocolaty brownies. They are delicious warmed with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream! The recipe is from Gourmet and you can find it here. Enjoy!

12 February 2010

Not so super logo

If there is one thing I do watch for during the Super Bowl, it's the logo. I would suspect not too many people care about yearly logo however. The game itself and the commercials certainly garner more attention and certainly more entertainment value. But if you're like me, you can't wait to see how those roman numerals have been cleverly (or not so cleverly) placed together with color, form and perhaps a little personality and excitement. Last Sunday when I saw the logo, I must admit, it didn't give me that 'Wow!' factor. In fact, I thought it was rather boring, had ugly colors and the 'L' stuck out like a sore thumb... it bothered me it wasn't quite centered. It just didn't do anything for me. Alas, time has passed and I've given it another peek... and truthfully, it hasn't grown on me. I really want to like it, but I just can't get over the "should I be here or not 'L' ", the drab colors, and the ominous Armageddon-esque shadow. It doesn't exude the excitement other Super Bowl logos have in the past (see 1995, 2002, and 2006 Super Bowl logos here). The 2009 sits heavy like a big wart that will never move. It's powerful yes, but it should also embrace movement and/or action reminiscent of game day excitement.

Now, I'm not saying I could do a better job, these kinds of logos are harder to design than they look honestly, but I just might have to give it a go to see how exciting I can make one. Contrary to my dislike, Brand New likes the logo. Don't get me wrong, overall I like the creative thought behind the logo, which was created by Attik of SF and London, and the 'Own the Moment' mindset used to develop it. And I agree with Brand New's opinion on the logo feeling more bold and powerful than any in the past and that it wasn't forced to look like Miami, with a little art deco sun and umbrella motif. But even so, I'm still not excited.

Unfortunately, I'm not in the majority of people who found the logo appealing, which is fine, to each their own. This year's game was exciting enough for me to forget the logo once the game started. Hooray Saints! But next year I hope I can't take my eyes off the 'super' logo.

Photo from Brand New website.

10 February 2010

Peace out

I wanted to post this incredibly beautiful graphic by Daniel Chang called 'Peace'. His poster is one of the many ideas to surface in design education programs around the county that focus on social impact and the pivotal role designers have in creating tangible solutions that make a lasting difference in people's lives. Learn more here at Core77.

Image from Core77 website.

08 February 2010

Photo of the week

Santa Maria, CA. There is nothing like a summer day, relaxing with a glass of wine in Santa Barbara. The views amazing, the wine spectacular... especially at Foxen Winery. Aside from their winery property, they have an adorable 'shack' on the side of the road that is the most down home place to enjoy an afternoon (or at least a few hours) of wine tasting. And the barn adjacent to the property is rustic and beautiful. It's a must stop on a Sideways adventure!

07 February 2010

World Design Capital 2012


Following up on an earlier post a few months ago (WDC post here), the question was, would it be Eindhoven or Helsinki... who would be honored with the World Design Capital biennial designation for the 2012 year? The decision went to Helsinki Finland!

Appointed to cities based on their accomplishments and commitment to design as an effective tool for social, cultural and economic development, the WDC designation is an ambitious project initiated and managed by the ICSID to promote the impact of design on the quality of life. Since its inception in 2004, the project has developed into a tangible venture and is being recognised internationally for its ability to showcase the merits of design-led initiatives within various municipalities. Past honors have gone to Torino (2008) and Seoul (for 2010).

via WDC; Helsinki is a vibrant community - a great place to work, live and explore. A modern landscape where talented individuals encompass every sphere of international and Finnish society, it is a hotbed for innovation and a positive environment for creative industries.

Like most Scandinavian countries, Finland has an extraordinary community of artists, in architecture, interior, urban, sustainable, industrial and communication design, making Helsinki a true World Design Capital. Check out the Helsinki WDC website, Open Helsinki and a great YouTube overview here. Congrats to Helsinki!

Top photo from Open Helsinki website, bottom photo from Galen Frysinger website.

03 February 2010

Imagine that





There are some days my creative juices just don't flow well and I sure wish I had a little boost. Since there are a gazillion other pills on the martket to choose from, wouldn't it be interesting if there was one to get your imagination kick started! Well, the Creative Method had one, but just for Christmas. They designed an engaging invitation to their Xmas party called Imaginitol. They wanted it to not only illustrate what they do, but also create a high level of interest and anticipation for the party. After the festivities it worked as a secondary promotional piece to engage new business.

via The Die Line; "We based the idea on an imaginary pharmaceutical tablet that would solve their creative issues. Initially they were emailed a doctors prescription, followed by the package in a discrete paper bag. The invitation and the tablets were located inside. The party included staff dressed as doctors & medicinal shots administered by transvestites. The box and invitation are used as a new business teaser."

It's the most inventive, clever piece I've seen in a while! Ahhh... if it was only real. Back to the drawing board...

Photos from The Die Line website.

01 February 2010

Photo of the week

Venezia, Italy. Mondays are not a bad day in my book, rainy days and Mondays never get me down. But strolling about in Venice with clouds overhead and a light sprinkle falling would be nice. I just love the color palette in this photo, if it was sunny and bright the colors would be completely different.
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