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Archive for June, 2008

I‘ve learned (the hard way) not to do it, but if random strangers – like taxi drivers, or whoever’s sitting on the next airplane seat – ask what I do and I’m rash enough to confess to being a design critic, they invariably follow up with: “So what is good design?”

The stock answer is that good design is generally a combination of different qualities – what it does, what it looks like, and so on. But as our expectations of design change, so do those qualities and the relationship between them. Let’s look at what they are – and where they stand – right now:

1. What it does This is the nonnegotiable. Whatever it is, and whatever other great qualities it has, it can’t be well designed if it doesn’t do something useful. Even better is if that something couldn’t have been done before. That’s always been so, all the way back to the early 200s B.C. when Emperor Qin Shihuangdi conquered China equipped with a very early example of good design. The armies of the day were led by archers who made their own weapons, with the result that each archer’s arrows could only be fired from his own bow. Qin insisted that all arrows be made to the same length with identical, replaceable tips. If an archer ran out during a battle, he could use his colleagues’, and if he died, his ammunition wasn’t wasted.

Even today it’s possible for something to qualify as good design simply by fulfilling its function efficiently. Take Google’s logo. Stylistically, it’s awful with a dodgy font and the twee illustrations for the customized “holiday logos” with which Google marks special occasions such as Christmas Day, St. Patrick’s Day and landmark birthdays. But those tweely illustrated logos are so much fun – like a gift from Google – that they make us think more fondly of it. Job done.

2. How it looksFew things enrage design purists more than suggesting that good design is all about looks. It isn’t. But Qin’s arrows and Google’s logo are exceptions, because function is seldom enough either, and there’s nothing wrong with enjoying eye candy. That’s why textbook examples of good design – such as Marcel Breuer’s 1920s chairs, or Dieter Rams’s 1950s electrical products for Braun – tend to score highly on form and function. But our perception of what looks good is becoming increasingly complex, and often contradictory.

Once we sought beauty in art, but now we tend to prize it for being challenging or provocative, and feel more comfortable admiring beauty in things that are also useful, like Apple’s gorgeous digital products. We’ve also grown suspicious of beauty in an era when we know that so many “beautiful” images are literally optical illusions, the result of digital retouching. Perhaps that’s why the jolie laide aesthetic of the German designer Konstantin Grcic has become so fashionable in furniture design. Its ungainliness seems authentic.

3. What’s newThe belief that the new is better than the old was a central tenet of 20th-century design culture, and it’s still seductive today. Geeky though this sounds, I love the styling of the new Coca-Cola Classic can, but love it even more for knowing that it’s the product of the latest printing technology.

But innovation isn’t enough on its own. Take the glue invented in 1968 by 3M, which could stick paper onto a flat surface but wasn’t strong enough to do so permanently. It was a useless innovation until one of the company’s scientists was in church and realized that the glue could have stopped his bookmark from slipping out of his hymnbook. Cue the very useful Post-it note.

Our faith in the new has also been shaken by environmental concerns (though more about them later). We still see innovation as being beneficial, not least as it’s our best chance of tackling our environmental problems, but we’re more skeptical about it. Take the Nano, the cheap five-seater car launched by Tata in India. Once we’d have raved about a people’s car selling for as little as 100,000 rupees, or $2,400; instead we grouch about its ecological impact.

4. How it worksThis has always mattered. No one likes things that are tricky to operate, but how they work (or, to be specific, how we work them) matters much more today; at least it does when it comes to digital products. You can guess roughly how to operate an electronic object, like a TV set or record player, just by looking at it. But how could anyone be expected to know what to do with an inscrutable box of tricks, like an MP3 player or a cellphone, from its opaque appearance?

That’s why the user interface software (“U.I.” in geek-speak), which determines how we operate digital devices, is now so important in shaping our experience of using them, and whether or not we consider them to be well designed. Lousy U.I. design spawns irritatingly overcomplicated products. The inspired variety produces ones, like the iPhone, which are so easy to operate that you don’t need an instruction manual, or like the Wii, which are pure enjoyment.

5. Guilt What’s the point of designing something gorgeous and useful if it makes us feel guilty, because we know that it’s ethically or environmentally irresponsible? Once such concerns were dismissed as the hang-ups of a cranky minority. Not now. Just think of how quickly the plastic bag has become taboo in many countries.

How can we consider something to be well designed unless we feel confident about the way it was designed and made, and will be eventually be disposed of? Tata’s Nano is a prime example. Yet guiltlessness alone isn’t always enough. Think of the compact fluorescent light bulbs, which consume much less energy than their electricity-guzzling incandescent predecessors, but are so ugly, both in themselves and their soulless light, that they couldn’t possibly qualify as good design.

What it does: This is the nonnegotiable. Whatever it is, and whatever other great qualities it has, it can’t be well designed if it doesn’t do something useful. Take Google’s logo. Stylistically, it’s awful with a dodgy font and the twee illustrations for the customized “holiday logos.” But those tweely illustrated logos are so much fun that they make us think more fondly of it.

How it looks: Few things enrage design purists more than suggesting that good design is all about looks. It isn’t. Once we sought beauty in art, but now we tend to prize it for being challenging or provocative, and feel more comfortable admiring beauty in things that are also useful, like Apple’s gorgeous digital products.

We’ve also grown suspicious of beauty in an era when we know that so many “beautiful” images are literally optical illusions, the result of digital retouching. Perhaps that’s why the jolie laide aesthetic of the German designer Konstantin Grcic has become so fashionable in furniture design. Its ungainliness seems authentic.

What’s new: The belief that the new is better than the old was a central tenet of 20th-century design culture, and it’s still seductive today. Geeky though this sounds, I love the styling of the new Coca-Cola Classic can, but love it even more for knowing that it’s the product of the latest printing technology.

But innovation isn’t enough on its own. Take the glue invented in 1968 by 3M, which could stick paper onto a flat surface but wasn’t strong enough to do so permanently. It was a useless innovation until one of the company’s scientists was in church and realized that the glue could have stopped his bookmark from slipping out of his hymnbook. Cue the very useful Post-it note.

Our faith in the new has also been shaken by environmental concerns. We still see innovation as being beneficial, not least as it’s our best chance of tackling our environmental problems, but we’re more skeptical about it. Take the Nano, the cheap five-seater car launched by Tata in India. Once we’d have raved about a people’s car selling for as little as 100,000 rupees, or $2,400; instead we grouch about its ecological impact.

How it works: This has always mattered. No one likes things that are tricky to operate. Take the iPhone, which is so easy to operate that you don’t need an instruction manual.

Guilt: What’s the point of designing something gorgeous and useful if it makes us feel guilty, because we know that it’s ethically or environmentally irresponsible? Just think of how quickly the plastic bag has become taboo in many countries. Yet guiltlessness alone isn’t always enough. Think of the compact fluorescent light bulbs, which consume much less energy than their electricity- guzzling incandescent predecessors, but are so ugly, both in themselves and their soulless light, that they couldn’t possibly qualify as good design.

[Source: IHT]

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This year, there has been a change in the nature of trends themselves. It’s harder and harder to trace the rhizomatous spread of ideas anymore – which truly is a good thing.

What follows are 15 trends that have indeed popped up all over the world. Overcasting them all are prevailing winds that are worth noting first:

  • We saw less emphasis on sustainability or general “greenness” in logo design. There’s plenty of natural imagery, but being “green” doesn’t seem all that unique anymore.
  • Colors are becoming more vivid. Desaturation has drained away, and the chroma factor pumped up.
  • There’s an overall move toward cleanliness – in type, in line, in color – as if ideas are getting more and more succinct. It may be an indication of the degree of seriousness with which branding is now regarded.
  • Less is more common: less calligraphy, less Photoshop tricks, less artificial highlights.
  • Found pattern and illustration hang on and on and on. With a bottomless treasure chest of visual history constantly at the ready through retail collections and over the internet, it’s a direction that’s not likely to run its course soon, if ever.

And now, the trends. Please remember that they are gathered here to chart long-term movement or change, not to offer design suggestions. It’s a living history. The key is to study the trends, then evolve forward – as far forward as you can leap – from them.

Supernova

Imagine what astrophysicists would label a supernova or the eruption and attendant explosion of a star. In a light show reminiscent of the jump to hyperdrive in the original Star Wars, these logos attack the challenge of motion head on. For years we’ve seen marks that have created the impression of motion from a profile perspective using streaks or blurs to signify speed.

These examples drive a field of elements toward or away from the viewer using a variety of methods. The LodgeNet logo (by Jerry Kuyper) advertises the company’s in-room movie service by flying a picture at you with a smart explosive technique. This blast is simple in construction and void of halftone – particularly interesting considering the product is an online commodity that could easily have justified overboard solutions replete with RGB trickery.

1. Jerry Kuyper for LodgeNet 2. Gabi Toth for Halo Consulting 3. Crave Inc. for IQ Beverage Group 4. Mirko Ilic Corp. for Dr. Zoran Djindjic Fund

Fine Line

Consistency of line weight is one of the tenants of good logo design. It builds rhythm and ensures legibility at first glance. Forget this rule for this category. Turn your line weight down to hairline and start drawing. Most of these logos live on two levels: first glance, and then second glance, with reader glasses. Typically, a heavier image with message one serves as a background field. The more profound message two is generally encrypted over the top of or knocked out of the heavier image.

Fine strokes weights may read as no more than pattern initially, but they can also carry the dichotomy of a counter message. A variation on this is the use of linear art en masse to create enough weight to define a message as in the PULSE logo. This yin yang process tends to captivate the viewer and lends a sense of intelligence to a mark that doesn’t require a hammer to impart a subtle message.

1. Louis Fili for The Mermaid Inn 2. Hula + Hula for Cartoon Network Lainamerica 3. Unit for Artists for Peace 4. Point Blank Collection for Pulse

FoldOver

Imagine being asked to design a logo with a long strip of paper as your only tool. These quasi origami style solutions craft out a sense of dimensionality despite staying relatively flat. The material from which these are created range from (but are not limited to) transparent film, metal, and paper. There seems to be a message of cleverness and economy of stroke in many of these.

Sometimes the simplicity of the folds takes on additional meaning when the substrates demonstrate unique properties. Note how the opposite side of the material changes to a different color at every fold in the TURN logo. Or see how transparency enforces the visual overlap of material. In some ways, this technique creates a bit of a puzzle effect. It engages the viewer as it tempts them into tracing out the path of the mark or trying to determine if the folds could really occur as offered.

1. PMKFA for Yes King 2. Gardner Design for Liberty Capital 3. A3 Design for Urban Architectural Group 4. Addis Creson for Turn

Global Expansion

What a refreshing outlook this trend presents. Time was that any company involved in international commerce gave some passing consideration to a globe as their logo. It’s a solution that has become terribly challenging to address with an original perspective. These logos at least have the honesty to step back and say, “Hey, we may not be fully global yet, but give us time.” All of these marks rely on a centric pattern that diminishes at the edge and then warps out to wrap the sphere in symbolic expansion.

Cato Purnell Partner’s diverse group of solutions for Dubai Airport succinctly communicates a key message. Commerce, travel, and tourism have made Dubai a true crossroad for international travelers, and this world-class logo has found a unique way to express the point. Using the Islamic sacred symbol of an octagram, or eight-pointed star, the logo starts to envelope the global sphere with its spreading tile mosaic. The dissemination of a culture is no accidental message in this mark.

1. Lippincott for XOHM 2. Cato Purnell Partners for Dubai International 3. Futurebrand BC&H for Transpiratininga 4. FIRON for Novatel

Loops

Continuous bands, yes, but not all of these marks have that certain mojo of the Mobius strip. Moving away from the universal sign of infinity, this group of logos seems to celebrate the flow of a closed cycle. No doubt more than a few rubber bands were called into action for their modeling services, but a ribbon-like figure was not mandatory.

There is something personal about the lack of perfect symmetry displayed here. The flexible nature of these logos signifies the ability to transform to meet the needs of the moment. Some appear to be snapshots of motion captured in a millisecond, of an object tense with energy.

The Peugeot 307 loop reflects the profile of that specific car but also seems to hover weightlessly above the ground. The chromed appearance of the mark takes on a surrealistic quality while conveying a certain technical prowess as well.

1. Lippincott for IBM & Freescale 2. Angelini Design for Peugeot International 3. Miriello Grafico, Inc. for Qualcomm 4. Double Brand for Long term car rent

Jawbreakers

Anyone who’s ever torn up his or her mouth grazing on a jawbreaker or Gobstopper can attest to the concentric rainbow displayed on a perfect cross-section of the confection. There is a certain childhood joy associated with the perfect cleaving of these orbs that is akin to discovering hidden treasure. The 70’s op-art quality of these marks is accomplished with little regard for a reserved palette. Generally, brilliant color is a must and often cross-sections are as unique as Technicolor snowflakes.

There is a youthfulness to these logos that addresses a certain vitality in the market. You can’t help but smile at the visual joy they seem to capture. Influences could include Target’s inventive use of its own logo in marketing efforts, although the red and white of their mark seems sedate in comparison to examples shown here.

1. Form for Dazed & Confused/Topshop 2. MacLaren McCann Calgary for Telphonic 3. Volatile for Antidote 4. Volatile for Pod

Strobe

Animation in the static environment of print is challenging at best, but with some sequential stop-motion images, a solution is at hand. Remember those flip-books that with a riffle played out a short animation? Now, take the images, place them on a single surface, and this is the result. These marks have a slinky-like, fluid nature that lends a graceful aesthetic to their associated companies.

The Nikon logo crafted by Interbrand some years ago may have signaled the introduction of this process with a major brand. Sprint’s adoption of Lippincott’s logo, a representation of the stop-motion animation of pin dropping, opened the gates for deeper exploration and solutions in a similar vein. Nokia Siemens’ new animated logo, created by Moving Brands, successfully plays out the strobe concept when adapted to print.

1. Interbrand for Nikon 2. Moving Brands for Nokia Siemens Networks 3. Lippincott for UMW 4. Lippincott for Sprint

Nimbus

Shield your eyes and pull out the 30 spf sunblock. It’s not a sunburn you’ll fear, but you may need to protect yourself from overly bright ideas. There is a certain glorification associated with all of these marks. The central core of the image is usually a bright tunnel out of which great light emanates. If this sounds a bit like the parting of clouds and the appearance of deities, you may not be far off.

Dissemination of light or energy by the use of rays is far more than an astral aura. This indicates a central subject or capability and the prospect that it holds the key or the solution to whatever the question is. Light also connotes knowledge and guidance. Even distribution of these spokes ensures a fairness of distribution and equality of access. As a moth will attest, there is an attracting radiance to these logos, regardless of color.

1. Gardner Design for Catalyst 2. Glitschka Studios for Proctor & Gamble 3. Circulodiseno, SC fr New Venturees 4. Chris Herron Design for Marimon Inc. & Kelly Swofford Roy

Stitch

Over the last several years, designers have taken refuge with a variety of appropriated patterns. Design backgrounds have become shrines for wallpaper swatches, Victorian patterns, organic flora, faux wood grains and any other rococo-retro surface that is not nailed down or otherwise copyrighted.

Houndstooth and herringbone aside, designers on more boutique projects are dipping into their grandmothers’ baskets of sundries and notions. This is often not as much about textile patterns as it is about the elements that hold a garment together. Zig zag, whip, and cross-stitch are a few of the strokes in the sewing arsenal. Bric-a-brac, fishnet, fringe, and tassels are also working their way into these solutions. This common language of mundane elements takes on a refreshing, often feminine beauty when layered together with great taste. Just remember that the difference between a tablecloth and a haute couture gown is not the material, but knowing what to do with it.

1. The Woodbine Agency for Lamp 2. tenn_do_ten for chico 3. The Pink Pear Design Company for Rummage 4. Hammerpress for Natasha’s Mulberry & Mott

Colorblind

Sometimes clusters of a logo technique surface with little if any rationale. For this bracket, it’s as if National Geographic just reported the recent unearthing of a series of Ishihara color plates for color blind testing. The influence is obvious but the timing is unexplained. You have to admire the chutzpah of a client willing to adopt a logo that 7% of the male population and 0.4% of women won’t be able to understand.

Maybe this is exactly the point. These marks represent a quirkiness associated with entities that only a certain percent of the population will be able to really appreciate. Even for individuals without color blindness, these visuals can be a bit challenging to decipher. But that adds to their mystique and helps to build affinity for the logos when the viewer realizes he has passed the test. Either way, there is a joyful, reminiscent charm at work here – either that or this report is entirely wrong and these companies all sell Dippin’ Dots ice cream.

1. Colorblind Chameleon – Self Promotion 2. Range for Dennis Murphy 3. Pearpod for Razoo 4. Cricket Design Works for Creme Cafe

Amoeba

These are soft, inflated blobs without any sharp corners to fall and hurt yourself on. Their friendly shapes are generally unstructured and much like an amoeba under the lens of an electron microscope, fluid and in motion. Amoeba comes from the Greek word amoibe, meaning to change, and this trend is about flux. The elements that compose these logos are anything but static. You can imagine a relationship between the parts of a logo as if they have just divided from one another.

This process of morphing and motion give us a clue about the structure and processes of the businesses represented here. Flexibility and an agile nature allow businesses to adapt in mercurial industries. These are entities that embrace the value of evolution. If you’re evolving, chances are you’re a living organism, and there aren’t too many of those with corners.

1. Tactix Creative for DJ Eddie Amador 2. Double Brand for Poza Showroom 3. Mola for EDP 4. Yaroslav Zheleznyakov for Promotion

Facets

Ali Baba and the 40 thieves knew what mattered in a cavern laden with jewel-encrusted treasure. In these precious gems, there is an intrinsic value of which legends are crafted. Whose eyes are not stopped by the alluring refractions of a precious bobble? What a perfect substance from which to carve an identity.

To create the greatest value in a material as base as a stone, one has to first recognize potential worth. With exacting efforts, a trained eye can cut away the precise amount that will best maximize value. All of this is done with the looming specter of complete failure if the action is not correct. With great risk comes great reward.

These logos can also address the multifaceted nature of a business. By arranging these facets in their optimal positions you create the greatest clarity and light. Or maybe it’s not that deep and we just like bright and shiny things.

1. Kitsh for Clay Saphire 2. Thomas Manss & Company for VCC Perfect Pictures 3. Gardner Design for Lavish 4. BFive for Solo Company

Doodles

There is a base honesty to an image that has never been shoved in one side of a computer and back out the other. There is still some soul attached to the mark and even a little sweat and blood from the originator. No attempt is being made to deceive the consumer and certainly there was no upper level management committee to quash the innocence of the humbly crafted logo.

Immediacy is an important justifier for these marks as well. The Rebuild logo, developed after Hurricane Katrina sends the message, these people need your help now. There is no time to finesse a corporate solution to the problem here: We need the help and response of everyone, and we need it now.

Personal messages and a sense of humanity are associated with these marks. It is the assurance the middleman has been cut out, and that this message is between me and you and no one else.

1. Steve’s Portfolio for http://www.thehurricaneposterproject.com 2. Stubborn Sideburns for Hipposchemes 3. Fifth Letter for Shawn Lynch 4. Studio Oscar for Levi Strauss

Flourish

Take a piece of relatively unassuming typography, water and fertilize with insane pixie dust, and let it grow. These logos could be relatives of the Flora and Embellish trend identified over the last two years, but they are definitely about type on steroids. Imagine type with hair that has been coiffed for fashion week in a Fellini movie.

Credit the stunning work of Si Scott and the unbridled design of Marian Bantjes as primary influences on this work. Scott specifically has developed a signature look that is being emulated a bit too close for comfort, in some instances.

Decorative flourishes gone wild identify these entities: They give more than you anticipate and are conscious of the frills and excesses necessary to carry you to satisfaction. These designs are exoticand unexpected but with enough whimsy to avoid being overtly feminine.

1. Lucero Design for Project 240 Apparel 2. United* for Bar Carrera NY 3. Team Manila Graphic Design Studio for Neu Media 4. Distrubancy Graphic Treatment for Eclipse Streetwear

Fibrous

Twisting threads travel in tandem or are spun together to form a twine with even greater strength. Or you see the tendrils of a vine traveling outward from a single source. Maybe it’s the ebb and flow of a rhythmic group of fine fibers acting in concert to create the illusion of a solid mass. These are just of few of the descriptions that help define this category.

A collective acting in unison to maximize action and create strength in numbers is at the heart of these logos. These are not lines in perfect step with one and other. Unlike the grooves of a record, these elements show a degree of independence and celebrate the diversity of the components as they unite.

Uniting elements for a common good has become a prevalent theme of late. This trend transcends the corporate world and is seen in social efforts as well. Respect of individuality and honor of uniqueness are admirable pursuits.

1. Guillermo Brea & Associates for Argentina 2. Najlon for Town RIJEKA 3. Mattson Creative for The Collective 4. AtomicasStudio for 2 excite

Minor Trends

Some categories emerged this year that did not qualify for their own lanes, but which are still worthy of mention.

Animotion: What makes these designs unique is that they are designed to be in motion. They are not static designs that were juiced up later. You can view some excellent examples in action at http://www.LogoLounge.com.Moving Brands for Swisscom
Braille Words: Imagine words, numbers, or letters formed out of Braille-like dots.Pearpod for Plus 3
Stacks: These logos are like transparent sandwiches that have shape stacked upon shape upon shape.Bukka Design for Neven Vision
Contact Drop: If a contact lens dropped on top of a logo, you’d have the same effect that these logos have. They are generally lens- or circular in shape with a hard outer edge and a soft inner edge. Think of the Barrack Obama logo.FutureBrand for MasterCard Worldwide
Psyche Type: If you want to know what is going to happen in any kind of design, look back to what was happening 30 years ago. It’s a never-ending merry-go-round of style. Witness the groovin’ psychedelic type treatments that are so popular today. It’s Haight-Ashbury all over again.Yaroslav Zheleznyakov for Lemonades from Arbuzov
Pathways: There are also plenty of motion lines to be seen, going up and down, back and forth, or around and around. These are like tracers — sometimes transparent like light, bouncing around or bending in space. The Tennis Australia logo is an excellent example. Where the ball goes, the logo goes.FutureBrand (UK) for Lakshmi N. Mittal
Warped: If you take a gridded piece of paper and start to fold or twist it, the printed grid will begin to conform to whatever motion you’re applying. But in this category of logos, the substrate is more pliable, more flexible than paper. There’s more give and stretch, so that lines on the x and y axis become contorted.thackway+mccord for FINRA

Finally, it’s worth noting that there’s a reasonably reliable place to look every day for the very latest in logo design : television promo graphics for any of the major “style” channels ” FTV, Discovery, Discovery and Living, NGC, and more. Because they have the money and the ability to get work out there quickly, the channels tend to be progressive forecasters and trend setters. And designers, just like the rest of the unwashed masses, are home on the couch, watching.

Source: Logo Lounge

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