Very powerful photo on the cover of Sports Illustrated of 78 year old Bill Iffrig who we all saw fall down in the first videos of the bombing. He got up and finished the race. That’s the spirit we need to embrace!

Very powerful photo on the cover of Sports Illustrated of 78 year old Bill Iffrig who we all saw fall down in the first videos of the bombing. He got up and finished the race. That’s the spirit we need to embrace!

What’s In A Logo:  Logo designs take a lot of heat. Especially if its a rebrand. Its very popular to comment on why a logo is “stupid”, “boring”, “looks like they did it in two minutes”, “my three year old son could have done that” without ever giving a constructive criticism on why a mark is successful or unsuccessful. 

Recently the University of California underwent a full rebrand moving from a logo that is over 100 years old to an extremely modern one. Since then there has been a petition going around as well as a Facebook page dedicated to killing the rebrand and returning to the original, 100 year old, logo. Armin Vit from Under Consideration wrote an excellent letter to to the Director of Communications to see past the criticism and stick it out. I couldn’t agree more.

A mob mentality that attacks a mark without any merit can lead to stagnation in the design community. I’m all for healthy criticism, even if its harsh, but it does no good to simply sling mud because you think you hate something you probably didn’t notice a day earlier. 

If you find yourself hating a logo consider if there is sound design thinking behind the strategy of the logo. I hesitate to quickly criticize a design.  I was not a part of the discussion between client and designer. I have no idea if better ideas were presented but the weaker design was chosen. What I want to know is if there is a strategy with the design I see. Weight Watchers recent redesign is a good example. Personally, I do not like this new design. The new logo was designed by Pentagram who certainly excels at brilliant design strategy and execution. Its hard to believe that this was the best design presented. But, its a vast improvement on the old logo. There is thinking behind the design (even if it is elementary) and the executions of the mark are well handled. 

In Armin’s letter he smartly points out that a logo is a “nothing”. It derives meaning from the product it represents. Thats what matters most. If the product is good and the connection between consumer and product is formed, the logo will thrive. A good logo helps solidify that connection. A bad logo can distract from a product, especially if its becoming out dated. 

The University of California logo is not great but its a smart ligature of a U and C with the book extrapolated from the original mark in the negative space. It fronts a great product with a west coast feel. It separates itself from a sea of seal-like logos that are everywhere in universities across the country and establishes itself as unique mark within its arena of operation. 

Client and designers need to trust the process and believe in their work. Be open to criticism but resilient against insults. 

The news that Apple is trademarking the leaf in its logo has finally led me to acknowledging the ever so subtle hair line crack thats been forming in my undying love for Apple products. My trust in them always was based on thinking “they know best”, and for the most part they did. Even when I initially was unhappy with something they did (although I am still adamantly opposed to the glossy displays). I’m starting to wonder if by “they” I really meant Jobs all along. It seemed like upon his death and release of his biography a little more than a year ago, designers and the like were tripping over each other in quoting him. Any one of his quote could easily be a mantra for designer for at least a week or two until the next trend pops up.
All that said we have the latest OS which eliminated RSS feeds from Mail (annoying) merged all of my Chats into an annoying jumble, the smaller iPad which is a direct reaction to competitors (something Apple never worried about) the whole iPhone 5 Maps issue which now is capable of apparently killing people (see Australia)… and now they want to trade mark the leaf on their logo?
Its one more thing that makes me wonder: would Jobs have done this? Maybe he would have. He did a lot of weird things back in the day. Made some weird mistakes. But this past year has been such a drastic contrast in how Apple is operating I can’t help but wonder…
Back to the leaf. A every so slightly asymmetrical oval with pointed ends hanging on a diagonal. The trademark is for the obvious industries but also for footwear and jewelry. Ironically when I see the leaf by itself it instantly make me think of Adidas. Well, All Day I Dream About Apple taking care of its culture and continuing to make industry defining products and not worry about someone using a diagonal oval on a jewelry box. 

The news that Apple is trademarking the leaf in its logo has finally led me to acknowledging the ever so subtle hair line crack thats been forming in my undying love for Apple products. My trust in them always was based on thinking “they know best”, and for the most part they did. Even when I initially was unhappy with something they did (although I am still adamantly opposed to the glossy displays). I’m starting to wonder if by “they” I really meant Jobs all along. It seemed like upon his death and release of his biography a little more than a year ago, designers and the like were tripping over each other in quoting him. Any one of his quote could easily be a mantra for designer for at least a week or two until the next trend pops up.

All that said we have the latest OS which eliminated RSS feeds from Mail (annoying) merged all of my Chats into an annoying jumble, the smaller iPad which is a direct reaction to competitors (something Apple never worried about) the whole iPhone 5 Maps issue which now is capable of apparently killing people (see Australia)… and now they want to trade mark the leaf on their logo?

Its one more thing that makes me wonder: would Jobs have done this? Maybe he would have. He did a lot of weird things back in the day. Made some weird mistakes. But this past year has been such a drastic contrast in how Apple is operating I can’t help but wonder…

Back to the leaf. A every so slightly asymmetrical oval with pointed ends hanging on a diagonal. The trademark is for the obvious industries but also for footwear and jewelry. Ironically when I see the leaf by itself it instantly make me think of Adidas. Well, All Day I Dream About Apple taking care of its culture and continuing to make industry defining products and not worry about someone using a diagonal oval on a jewelry box. 

Counter point to USA Today logo redesign. 

The Presenting One Design Theory. Been thinking a lot about this lately… I’m wondering if the very nice rebrand of USA Today by Wolf Olins isn’t an example of a “one design solution” presentation. The new circle logo and its ever expanding graphic language is perfect in its execution and theory. So much so that I could not imagine what the other “solutions” might have been. My guess is you show up with this design and say “your welcome”. Inspiring. 

This is quite brilliant. Tiny oil paintings on Pennies… via Quips

This is quite brilliant. Tiny oil paintings on Penniesvia Quips

A little push for those just starting out in the creative field from Ira Glass via Put This On.

A little push for those just starting out in the creative field from Ira Glass via Put This On.

The Sky Cowboys: Great photo essay/video of the iron workers building the Freedom Tower by Damon Winter. via NYTimes

This past weekend the Iowa State Cyclones matched up against the Iowa Hawkeyes in their annual rivalry game dating back to 1894. I don’t watch a lot of college football but what caught my eye while getting my quick daily dose of Sports Center was the hilarious (in my opinion) story about the Cy-Hawk Trophy. I instantly made a connection to the story of this trophy to something I deal with daily in my graphic design business. Lets start with the trophy…

The original Cy-Hawk trophy was designed in 1977. It depicts a football and a running back in the cliche/classic stiff arm pose. Its nothing special by any means. At best, it has equity built over time to go along with the built in rivalry. In 2010 they retired this trophy and designed a new one. The new trophy depicts a farmer kneeling over a bushel of corn along with a woman and two children. The farmer is handing an ear of corn to the family. It was commissioned by the Iowa Corn Growers Association which I suppose makes sense given the final execution. Dean Taylor, president of the Association said the trophy is, “a work of art that represents Iowans and their hard work.” Thats a really nice sentiment except neither his trophy or what it represents have anything to do with football.

Both teams rejected it and it suffered major ridicule in the local media. Iowa coach Hayden Fry summed it best by saying, “The farmer, family and corn is all wonderful, but I don’t really get the relationship to a football game.” In the end the trophy was scrapped due to negative public opinion. An interim trophy was quickly designed and in a classic bit of irony was accidentally destroyed (pulled together a little too quickly?) by the winning team during the celebration. The new plan is to design a new permanent trophy that will involve public input.

My point is not to share this story, although I enjoyed it, but to point out how some clients often make these same mistakes when working with a designer. It seems to me that the Iowa Corn Growers Association created a design for themselves rather than the client. When you read this story its easy to think how foolish of them to not see this but often times clients will base their direction or feedback on what THEY want and not make any considerations for what the consumer might want. The reasons for this vary: ego, arrogance, ignorance, self-glorification or simply bad taste, which we know there is no accounting for. With any brand we’re trying to design that “trophy” that people, the customer, want to be a part of and own for themselves. That means we all must remember who the client is and have a good idea of what they’re going to want, not just what we might want.

This is where designer/client trust comes in. A designers job is to take the vision of the client and craft a unique brand experience, a worthy “trophy”, that reaches out to a target market and stays true to original client vision. For clients it can be really hard to relinquish some of that control. They feel that no one knows their brand better than they do and therefore they would rather art direct the project rather than collaborate. If this is what you want I would advise hiring a production artist and not getting upset if no one likes the finishes piece other than you. What prospective clients may not realize is that as a designer we know how to take an idea and expand it, add to it, so it becomes an enhanced client vision with a pure intensity defined to communicate effectively to a targeted audience. Thats where trust in a designer’s ability comes in, and its what we’re being paid to do. 

Lets be clear, the design cannot bend fully to make only the consumers happy either. The real tragedy to the Cy-Hawk trophy is that they are now swinging the other way on the pendulum and are going to bring in public opinion to help design the new trophy. This is just as bad as designing something solely for yourself. This approach is an attempt to craft a design that pleases everyone. Usually this leads to a watered down, at best tepid result. If no one really hates it, it’s considered a success. These kinds of clients are just as tricky to work with as the other. They usually have a lot of self-doubt, no confidence, indecisive, and of course no taste. They dread that one bad review. Apple (I know, everyone uses them as an example to make a point these days) is famous for not user testing any of their design decisions. They simply trust their vision and their designers to create something the they think is cool and therefore we get to benefit from purpose driven designs that are advancing technology in leaps and bounds. Does the iPhone look like a design that took into account the opinions of 100 people of varying age, gender and education levels?

In the case of the Cy-Hawk Trophy, after its all over, they will have spent time and money on developing three versions. The first based on pleasing their own tastes. One thrown together really quick simply because they needed something for this year and was subsequently destroyed (designing something with very little time to serve as a band-aid is another story for another time) and the one to be revealed next year which will be the product of many opinions forced into one trophy. Suddenly that cliche running back is looking real good. And, a designer asking “what’s wrong with what you have now” is not a bad starting point in the process of a redesign.

The best end results are the ones were the collaboration between designer and client is open and trusting. I believe getting there is knowing that part of your investment in hiring a designer is buying into their expertise of effective communication. A designer needs to know that their client knows their industry, product, and company best and learns all there is to know from that client. Once there is trust between designer and client they will create a trophy worth winning… or at least paying for. 

I hope for the sake of the Iowa football teams they get something worth winning cause thats what we all really want at the end of the day.

I had little interest in seeing Contagion but this poster for the movie is pretty intense. Type with some pop!