Thots and observations about design 2007
By Jim Watson
You know how, when you get a margarita, sometimes there is too much salt to sip? Sean has a great solution - he just slides the lime around a bit and it cleans the glass. When you're out drinking margaritas (or in drinking margaritas) you don't want any more hassles than necessary; you want life to be easy, hence, the lime glass cleaner. March
This doorhanger is a great application of an ambigram - a word or phrase that can be read right-side-up or upside-down. Even the package design is an ambigram. No matter how the store stocks the products on the shelf rack, it will be oriented correctly. A brilliant way to communicate how it works. More on ambigrams by John Langdon. Website to order the door hanger This Grandfather Clock is one of many great products from Thwart Design. Click on Progress on the home page and click on the product headings. Each category is worth a look: Break the Blob, The Living Room, Design w/o Reach, Apparel, Three-D, and Two-D. If you like Thwart's stuff, you might also check out Droog. March
The shelf display looks like a big bowl of ice cream with photo-realistic images of scoops of ice cream on the top of the bowl package. There are slots for the scoops to sit in that support them for display - beneath the photo is a layer of styrofoam. The shopper gets to view the product and see it in 'use'. It is also more eco-friendly since each scoop doesn't need its own box or label. I saw this in an outstanding natural/organic food store in Lawrence, Kansas, the home of the University of Kansas and the new home of good friends, Lon (former UCO Professor) and his wife Janet.
Spent an afternoon visiting and touring the Hallmark Cards design offices with Casey, a UCO grad and former adjunct teacher. We then drove around KC and shot fotos of the two houses that Walt Disney lived in after his family moved from the small town of Marceline, Missouri to Kansas City. Other KC sights: the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art (see below) and Country Club Plaza, one of the first shopping centers built in the USA. Later in the weekend, I had coffee with Brandon, another UCO grad, who works at an ad agency in Lawrence. Lawrence is a great town and KC is a great city. Fun weekend - and the New York Giants won the Super Bowl. Febuary
The new Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City
Looking from the office suite towards the main entry and the Cafe beyond. The ramp on the right leads down to the galleries. From left to right: the information desk, ramp to the new galleries, doors to the Sculpture Park, and facade of the original building.
A fountain sculpture in the new Noguchi Court. The Sculpture Park and the original building can be seen outside. Rush Hour, a sculpture by George Segal greets visitors. New building on the left, original building on the right.
The fotos above are of the great new addition to the classic Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City. Designing an addition to a building can be a tough task - how to respect the existing and yet provide new spaces. Options:
1. Mimic the original structure
2. Encase or disguise the original
3. Visually overwhelm the original with a more powerful new structure
4. Convey a few original elements in a subtle new building
5. Ignore the original completely
6. Build a new structure that has minimal visual ties to the original but respects its style and mass
The addition to the Nelson-Atkins by Steven Holl Architects works well - the structures are such a departure in their asymmetry, clean lines, and masses of walls and glass that they do not even try to fit in with the classic building. The new entry joins the sections quite well and allows each to hold its own importance for the visitor. Febuary
Great new word: trendscendent. Definition: will last over time and not be dated to one trend, from trend and transcendent. Developed during a discussion by Graphic Design 2 students, spring 2008, about the word 'timeless' and how it didn't accurately convey one of the criteria that successful logos should meet. More newords. January
Household ladder that is flat and easy to store Coffee cup with a built-in cookie holder.
Some new consumer products that are legitimate enough to be produced and promoted but are certain to fail in the marketplace:
• Silicone thigh implants
• Fire alarm with snooze bar
• Nuclear hand grenades
• Jarvik-7 artificial appendix
• Inflatable dartboard
• Salted bandages
• Dyslexics edition of Scrabble
• Pocket Wasp & Hornet Teaser
• Spray on mildew
• Flavored ear drops
• Hookless lures
This is so cool. The classical Haussmannian building in Paris is being renovated and the owner hired Athem, a specialist in temporary architecture, to create a screen to hide the renovation. The trompe l'oeil (literally - 'fool the eye') facade is made of printed canvas and bas-relief sculpture of polystyrene, resin, and metal. The wavy windows and twisted balconies are an architectural equivalent of Salvador Dali's Persistence of Memory. Cool because it allows us to see familiar surroundings in a new way - to see possibilities and to make connections. Located at 39 Avenue George V in the 8th Arrondissement, Paris. i November
Entry to the exhibits, store to the right n Hordes of kids n View across Hudson Bay to Manhattan - I can see this museum from my apartment window
The Liberty Science Museum across the Hudson River in New Jersey recently reopened with an impressive new addition and new exhibits. The day I went, however, was also the day that 2,000-3,000 kids from the Police Athletic League went. Despite that noise and crowd, I observed some neat stuff:
• In the IMax theater (where I saw a big movie about Hurricane Katrina and the loss of wetlands in Louisiana) a chaperone was telling his charges, "Move down" (he meant move down the row). The kids looked confused. That had just climbed up the steep aisle stairs looking for seats. The chaperone could have meant "Move down" (to another row). 'Move down the row' and 'move down a row' are very similar commands. Often, the context helps us determine which is meant, but, in this case, the context didn't help much - "Move down" could have easily meant either option. He had to keep repeating himself and gesturing before the kids understood exactly what he meant.
• Exhibits that were 'hands-on' were much more popular than those with just text, images, or stuff to look at. Kids even punched 'buttons' that were actually just bolts or circles. This generation has gotten used to a push-button world that was the stuff of science fiction not too long ago.
• In the Communications exhibit, a father was getting impatient with his girls who were at a busted exhibit. "Come on girls, that's not working." "Come on." he repeated. He probably couldn't understand why anyone would stay so long at an out-of-order exhibit. Finally, one of the girls turned to him, "We're pretending". How cool - the girls found a way to make the exhibit work - just use your imagination. Old guy couldn't see it cuz he probably lost his inner child a while back. The girls played a bit longer, then joined dad and the rest of their party who had moved on.
• Some of the exhibits had a phone number listed next to them so you could call on your cell phone to hear an audio tour explanation about that exhibit. August
Here are some symbols from a tray liner at McDonalds. What the heck are they? Without the accompanying caption labels, they are too abstract to convey any clear meaning - except for the Cal symbol which is just silly. Since the text must accompany them, the symbols are useless, even negative as they add infoclutter for the viewer to wade through. A good symbol should clarify information content, overcome language barriers, and aid comprehension. These 'symbols' do none of that. The listing of the categories in Spanish is also inefficient since nothing else on the 'nutrition facts' sheet was in Spanish. And, if so, they should abbreviate Carbohidratos to Carbs, as it is in English - I suspect Spanish-language readers would understand what Carbs means. These bad symbols are a symptom of a problem the graphic industry faces - a major corporation paid a design firm or in-house designer to develop this tray liner and, consequently, these symbols - and they are pure crap, useless art. The public becomes numb to bad design, thinking it must be okay and the norm. July
Spec (short for speculative) work is submitting design solutions to contests or requests for artwork that might result in a paying job. Submitting this spec work cheapens the profession and encourages the public to perceive that design is just art - pretty pictures.
The NO!SPEC campaign unites those who support the notion that spec work devalues the potential of design, cheapens the profession, ultimately does a disservice to the client, and encourages the public to perceive that design is just art - pretty pictures. Peruse their website for more information and ways you can help: No!Spec campaign. July
Here's an ad campaign for a new show on LifeTime called army wives. The foto to the immediate left is of an ad on the side of a bus stop for pedestrians walking by. This ad is okay - it must grab and intrigue people who have only a second or two to scan images they pass. The other fotos are from a subway car. These are weak because the ads do not give us enough information - why should the viewer change his/her schedule to watch this show? Great ads provide benefits for the reader, some reasons why we should change our attitudes - the show is sexy, intriguing, empathetic to interesting people, something to make one go, "Hmm, that might be worth a watch." So much competes for our time and attention today that marketers need to break thru and grab us with some appeal. Because this campaign is on a subway car - LifeTime bought the entire side of the car - these ads have a captive audience: hundreds of people who are searching for something to read, something to occupy their time. These ads should have had full copy - we have the time and desire to read it. Include copy about the characters - describe them in such a way that the reader wants to get to know them better. Copy about the storyline - what neat issues will be addressed, what relationships will be messed up, etc. Anyway, poor attention to the medium and to the reader's needs; an expenditure that was not made the most of. June
This foto is a good example of why one shouldn't put text on the front of a booth or counter. People will stand there and obscure the text.
Edgar Tafel was one of Frank Lloyd Wright's apprentices at Wright's Taliesin school in Wisconsin. When Wright was commissioned to build Fallingwater in the forested countryside outside of Pittsburgh, he assigned 3 apprentices to oversee the design and construction of the house. Edgar was 24 years old at that time (he was born in 1912.) Well, I went to his 95th birthday celebration at the AIA (American Institute of Architects) Gallery near SoHo/Village. But not too impressive since I had no idea who Edgar Tafel was until I held the door open for him and his caretaker. I was going to the AIA to see 2 films about Fallingwater, one of which starred Edgar. The birthday party was just a nice surprise - it turned out to be pretty neat. One of the films was a reunion of the three apprentices talking about the building of Fallingwater; the other was about the process of rebuilding the cantilevered terrace that juts out over Bear Run Creek. A fun, educational, and inspiring evening out in the city. March
From the Not what it seems department: According to recent research studies - wearing a seat belt allows drivers to feel more secure and confident and, therefore, take more risks and drive more dangerously. Wearing a bicycle helmet allows automobile drivers to feel the cyclist is more experienced and more in control of their bike and, therefore, can be approached with less caution, resulting in more danger for the cyclist. March
Some names that were originally trademarked but lost their legal trademark status: aspirin, cellophane, dry ice, escalator, heroin, kerosene, linoleum, nylon, raisin bran, shredded wheat, trampoline, zipper. March
Mornfo - I'm still digesting this one - a combo new word for More Info. On websites, linking to another site for more information is quite common. Usually written just as More Info, it is becoming a single entity - visually and orally. So, maybe a shorter word - morinfo was the first suggestion, but then, mornfo based on the pronounced phrase, like 'seeya' for 'see you' and 'sup' for 'What is up'. January
ARCHIVED DESIGN BLOG POSTS
2006 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
Home • Email Jim Watson • Filename to share: http://www.jamesrobertwatson.com/blogdesign2007.html