Put a feature front and center like Instagram or Facebook Stories and it’s nearly impossible not to click.
Keep a smartphone around while you’re doing work or eating and you’ll fight the urge to pick it up.
Listen to enough conspiracy theories and you’re bound to think that they’re true regardless of the evidence.
Design strips the will of its own control. But it also provides a two way street.
Design gave Macs an identity. Before Apple, computers looked like refrigerator units. SATs are designed to filter out lazy students. International airport queues divide national and international passports.
Design regulates everything from impulse, order, to culture. Knowing what’s marketing, what’s propaganda, and what’s pragmatically useful is a practice in design.
When you step back and reset the framework, all the design features are up to you.
The design for Animal crackers just got an update.
Due to mounting pressure from animal rights group PETA, Nabisco removed the cages from its iconic cracker box. The updated version shows the animals roaming free.
The redesign of the boxes, now on U.S. store shelves, retains the familiar red and yellow coloring and prominent “Barnum’s Animals” lettering. But instead of showing the animals in cages – implying that they’re traveling in boxcars for the circus – the new boxes feature a zebra, elephant, lion, giraffe and gorilla wandering side-by-side in a grassland. The outline of acacia trees can be seen in the distance.
Said PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman:
“The new box for Barnum’s Animals crackers perfectly reflects that our society no longer tolerates the caging and chaining of wild animals for circus shows.”
This is the first significant redesign since Nabisco launched the crackers in a 1902 partnership with the now-defunct Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey circus.
The show’s curator Marie Foulston wants to illustrate the concept work behind mid-2000s video games by showcasing the notebooks and paintings that influenced the designers. She tells the Financial Times:
“We’re trying to position games as design,” says Foulston. But how do you display games? Surely the point is to play them, and that hardly needs a museum. Wouldn’t it be better suited to a website?
“As with all design,” says Foulston “the process usually begins with a notebook, with pencil sketches. Games designers are always looking at other parts of the culture: at film, painting and architecture. We have the Magritte painting ‘The Blank Signature’ [from 1965], which influenced the design of the game Kentucky Route Zero. Then there’s the controller for the game Line Wobbler, which was inspired by its designer watching a cat on YouTube playing with a sprung doorstop. It’s such a tactile thing.”
What digital art could museums adopt next? My guess in addition to video games and iMacs, iPhones, and Angry Bird could be the worldwide sensation of the invisible digital, like Bitcoin.
Dutch artist and kinetic sculptor Theo Jansen builds wind propelled sculptures that live on beaches.
Each sculpture contains a rotating spine that allows it to rotate forward and backward. Even more interesting, these moving pieces of art can detect and avoid waves when they get too close.
But don’t expect to see these mesmerizing “mobile animals” on a beach near you any time soon. You can only find these skeletons in the Netherlands.
Over time, these skeletons have become increasingly better at surviving the elements such as storm and water and eventually I want to put these animals out in herds on the beaches, so they will live their own lives.
There’s a fantastic piece about the history of camouflage in Topic Magazine this week.
Before camouflage hit the runway, French artists (camoufleurs) in World War I used creative techniques to disguise soldiers and protect them from aerial reconnaissance and long-range enemy fire.
To learn how to blend in, the French military turned to an unexpected group—the people who knew best how colors and textures could be used to trick the eye, a resource France had in abundance: artists. Known as camoufleurs, these artists became part of a special military unit that provided camouflage services to the Allied armies during World War I. The camoufleurs would join soldiers in the trenches, painting camouflage patterns directly on weapons, or painting canvas covers with disruptive patterns: brown, black, and green splotches or bold stripes, to make it difficult to see where the weapons’ edges started and stopped. Sometimes devotion to this artistry was dangerous, and in one instance, an artist was shot in the hand when he left a trench to put the final touch on a camouflage pattern.
The camoufleurs also provided the army with color charts that showed different tones of the terrain, depending on the area and season. One such color chart, featured in Tim Newark’s 2007 book Camouflage, looks like an impressionist painting, with golden hues that resemble the sun hitting leaves in the fall, or white and brown tones, like peeking through the leaves of a tree.
A Nelder Plot, also called a Nelder Wheel or Nelder Fan, is a systematic planting design in which plants or trees are planted at the intersection of circular arcs and linear spokes. In general, Nelder Plots allow many different planting densities to be examined in a single plot.
The story goes that he developed his “fade-away” technique as a money-saving exercise. Upmarket magazines would typically print covers in full-colour, but Phillips’ style allowed them to print a single or two-colour cover and have their magazine still look great.
In an interview with Fader Magazine, Nike FC’s Design Director Pete Hoppins says the Nigeria kit was actually the easiest one to design:
Nigeria was actually the easiest! That’s everyone having fun. We worked closer with the players and the Nigerian federation to make that happen. The hardest were Brazil and England, just like always. It’s got to be a yellow kit and a white kit, respectively. You have to deliver that. Otherwise, you’ll be shot. [laughs] How do you move those forward every two, four years? Especially when you’re trying to innovate the performance. We’re not just going to add things to the kits for the sake of it.
What Nigeria is hopefully going to allow us to do in the future is show that some of the more traditional teams that if you are willing to be creative in the partnership, you can ultimately have something more culturally relevant that connects with the youth.
The design of the classroom is a technology, and you can interpret that in a lot of different ways. Architects can make that look more, and less, typical. But the point is the instruction, the interaction in the classroom, not that it looks more like a circle or more like a square or whatever else.
Luxury fashion house Balenciaga knows how to nail the type of ugly design that gets people talking.
In Fall 2017, it debuted the Bernie Sanders-inspired logo he used for his 2016 campaign. But this time around, the company once referred to as “the master of all” by Christian Dior, will release a double-shirt as part of its Fall 2018 lineup.
Said its creative director Demna Gvasali on the rule-breaking t-shirt shirt:
“I think it’s very interesting, the definition of ugly. I think it’s also very interesting to find this line where ugly becomes beautiful or where beautiful becomes ugly. That’s a challenge I like. I think that’s a part of what fashion stands for and I like that people think my clothes are ugly; I think it’s a compliment.”
Ugly can be beautiful. Prada’s head fashion designer Miuccia Prada agrees: “The investigation of ugliness is, to me, more interesting than the bourgeois idea of beauty. And why? Because ugly is human. It touches the bad and the dirty side of people.”
RIP Bill Gold, considered one of the best movie poster artists of all-time. Below are a couple snippets from the obituary in the New York Times but the whole article is worth reading.
Long before poster artists turned to photography and computer-generated images in the 1980s and ’90s, illustrators like Mr. Gold billboarded movies with freehand drawings, based on scripts and first screen prints, that hinted at plots and moods and mysteries, without giving away too much — priming audiences for love, betrayal, jealousy, murder.
“Classic movie posters are memorable; they are held in as much affection as the movies themselves,” Lars Trodson wrote on the film website The Roundtable in 2009. “When a classic movie is matched by a classic poster, you’re held in the thrall of a distinct and pleasurable memory. The poster image becomes part of the movie experience, and is, in the end, another of the reasons why movies are so essential to us.”
In 1972, Tom Wolfe criticized companies for creating logos for no other reason but to look modern:
The abstract total-design logo is the most marvelous fraud that the American graphic arts have ever perpetrated upon American business. Contrary to the conventional wisdom, these abstract logos, which a company (Chase Manhattan, Pan Am, Winston Sprocket, Kor Ban Chemical) is supposed to put on everything from memo pads to the side of its fifty-story building, make absolutely no impact–conscious or unconscious–upon its customers or the general public, except insofar as they create a feeling of vagueness and confusion….Yet millions continue to be poured into the design of them. Why? Because the conversion to a total-design abstract logo format somehow makes it possible for the head of the corporation to tell himself: “I’m modern, up-to-date, a man of the future. I’ve streamlined this old baby.” Why else would they have their companies pour $30,000, $50,000, $100,000 into the concoction of symbols that any student at Pratt could, and would gladly, give him for $125 plus a couple of lunches at the Trattoria, or even the Zum-Zum? The answer: if the fee doesn’t run into five figures, he doesn’t feel streamlined. Logos are strictly a vanity industry, and all who enter the industry should be merciless cynics if they wish to guarantee satisfaction.
I can’t top Tom Wolfe–but I’d add just two more observations to his own:
1. Paying a Pratt student $35 to make a logo is. . .pretty much what Nike did to create the swoosh in 1971, the year before this criticism was printed. Wolfe surely would not have heard of the tiny Oregon shoe company yet, meaning his criticism was, at least partially, prophetic.
2. You could replace “logo” with almost any overrated trend and “business” with “the American people,” and this whole excerpt still sings. Try “fancy hamburger” or “wide leg pant.” Wolfe makes an almost algebraic argument in this passage that any product that one must rub their chin whilst critiquing is almost surely a fraud.
Of course, logos are ubiquitous. Branding is critical. We think in logos. We associate items with certain brands.
Businesses will hop at any chance to flash their latest logo on stationery, a building, football club jerseys, whatever, to impress. No siren nor Jumpman goes unnoticed.
Hearing impaired photographer Kate Fichard teamed up with a former design school classmate at the Paris-based F&D studio to create a fashionable hearing aid.
Called the H(earring) project, it just won first prize for accessories at the most prestigious festivals for young designers, The International Festival of Fashion and Photography in Hyères, France. Kudos to the F&D team for injecting some style and design into hearing aids, what some would consider high-fashion.