Tag Archive for 'graphic design'

the forgotten paper cabinet

Paper cabinet

Paper Cabinets A Relic Of Times Past

As a freelancer for most of my career and an agency and publications creative director on several occasions, having a paper cabinet wasn’t just an item of convenience. It was a necessity.

Cabinet wasn’t a euphemism either. More carpentry than not, they were close to one-offs assembled out of board stock and covered in turn with a premium stock, intended to house that company’s product line. My favorite for functional storage was from Zellerbach, then a Mead company, that served as home to a wide variety of samples from various manufacturers.

When it was time to present, the swatchbook (and a couple of alternates) was pulled from the cabinet and joined the comps at the conference table, along with PMS swatches in a separate pile. All in all a formidable display of design competence.

Paper reps called on a regular basis, loaded down with their employer’s latest sample swatchbooks that needed a home in your paper cabinet. They plied you with gorgeous printed spec, and swayed you with stacks of examples that were often graded by sheer weight and mass.

Coated, uncoated, text, cover, specialty, premium – these were just part of the extended lexicon of labels that described the various functions of unique products produced by a number of paper manufacturers both domestic and imported.

Pick Paper First, Then Design For Effect

From basic newsprint to duplex card stock, creative directors, art directors, and designers would often reach for their samples box first, then design a project to match the latest product.

Champion Colorcast and Kromekote were two such unique surfaces that in turn dictated a design that could best address the visual properties of the paper. It wasn’t quite cart before the horse, but close enough.

One metallic coated paper I wanted to use wound up being printed as a spot color using a silver metallic ink to good effect.

A side benefit of the competition between what were then independent paper manufacturers was the deluge of design aids in the form of spec books filled with examples of an endless variety of techniques to enhance the paper used for demonstration.

It’s Time To Pitch

When it was time to present, the swatchbook (and a couple of alternates) was pulled from the cabinet and joined the comps at the conference table, along with PMS swatches in a separate pile. All in all a formidable display of design competence.

And then came digital, and web ordering, and overnight shipping, and print-on-demand. Today’s paper cabinet like this version from Neenah is a nifty app – technically superior, but lacking the warmth of tactile feedback.

Ideas and progs are these days mostly presented digitally (PDFs) – faster, cleaner, and ready to finalize. Physical comps are themselves more a vestige of bygone days, having given way to the export from a close to final design document of a ready for approval two-dimensional screen display.

Most of what’s printed today – defined by ink on paper – is arrived at without the messy necessity of one-time, handmade comps created by pros.

Desktop publishing’s local democratization of the process has dumbed down the workflow to a couple of barely considered steps: crappy, template driven layouts, cheap looking overused fonts with applied effects, and a couple of paper choices. Presto! Everyone’s an expert!

Truthfully, I wouldn’t want to go back to the way things were. And truthfully, I’m glad I was around for the experience.

the power of graphic design

Eiffel tower peace sign

How Visuals Convey Meaning

Jean Jullien is a French graphic designer and illustrator. Following the murderous November 13th attacks on Paris civilians, he did what he does best – illustrate.

The simple graphic that emerged from his brush and ink rendering was instantly adopted by social media as the world’s rallying symbol against the horror unleashed by lunatics intent on carnage. Recognizable, emotional, symbolic, evocative. Follow your heart.

how logo design affects brand

Aligning Your Look With Your Mission

When it com133es to promoting a business, nothing is more critical than the brand logotype. Getting it right goes a long, long way towards making an impression on a distracted public that sees thousands of visuals on a daily basis.

To be successful, a corporate mark requires design integrity, repetition in the marketplace, and a connection to the goods or services it represents. Whether abstract or literal, the Nikes, Apples, and Coca-Colas of the business world rely on a recognizable visual that connotes quality and trust.

Emoticon, Meet Emoji

Looking at the before and after (above left) of IHOP’s haircut and a shave, it’s difficult to imagine how the approval process resulted in what struck one reviewer as a “sinister” smile beneath the word mark.

It’s arguably more legible, but only slightly, and that’s about where it starts and ends.

The IHOP acronym, in case some may have forgotten, stands for International House of Pancakes. But that’s not what I see when I try to decipher the new and improved visual. Emoticon, meet emoji.

HOW Design recently interviewed Siegel+Gale, a New York based branding agency known for their standout work, on the recent spate of chain restaurant logo overhauls. For anyone who follows corporate design, the candid remarks by the agency’s designers are for the most part an indictment of the perils of lackluster graphics.

A couple of things stand out in this collection of shareholder dependent corporate eateries. First, it’s more than okay to overhaul the corporate brand on an as needed basis. Nothing says stay away like an aged, dated, and most importantly irrelevant logotype. Second, once having decided on a freshening, make sure you’re just not slipping sideways.

Design updates should – probably – include references to historical looks that over time successfully represented a company to its public. But don’t let fear of letting go put up unnecessary barriers to a truly fresh, inspired interpretation that acknowledges the past while extending the future. Bon appétit!

need social visuals? find a designer!

For Effective Design Get Professional Talent

graphic design is fundamental for great visual contentI can say with full confidence that every list ever written promising content tips for improving your social media message, including blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and Google+, will include a requirement for “great visuals”. It’s not a heavy lift to reach that fundamental conclusion. And it usually ends up as simple lip-service from the aesthetically challenged herd of faux authorities.

How Might One Find Great Visual Content?

Achieving that lofty goal gets real murky real fast. There’s very seldom a follow-up suggestion as to how exciting art is actually created, or how to make the design judgements that are the DNA of an art director’s job description.

Your friends won’t tell you, but I will: ugly doesn’t improve with time.

It’s as if those great visuals so easily referenced as the mother’s milk of social media marketing are created with the wave of an intern’s magic kittens and string GIF wand or by HR invoking a binding PNG spell.

Reality? Effective art isn’t an off-the-shelf commodity. It’s specialized talent that knows there’s never, ever a time to use Comic Sans. Or that Bevel and Emboss with Texture, added to an obscure Microsoft Office font derived logotype of sorts, doesn’t so much sing in glorious brand originality as cry out in eyeball searing pain that’s simultaneously embarrassing to everyone but the creator and destructive to the goal of encouraging commerce.

Your friends won’t tell you, but I will: ugly doesn’t improve with time.

Original Graphic Design For Great Content

Within the context of social media, visuals are usually derived from photographs, illustrations, or a combination of the two. They can be used as is or modified, combined, or sampled and combined with type elements and shapes. This series of PRSA event promos I designed illustrates the point.

Colors can be shifted, shapes and objects distorted. The best visuals are unique to their specific environment, not sloppily used warmed over leftovers. From social cover art and profile badges to press release supplements and web site assets, creative visual is not only desirable, but essential.

The Difference? Superior Engagement Versus Abandonment

And where are the sources for that exceptional visual content everyone is looking for? Begin with a creative director for concepts and execution. Art directors turn an idea into a finished product using various visuals, distinctive styles, and element arrangements. Pick a copywriter for a well turned phrase or snappy tagline that can catapult a campaign. Graphic designers. Illustrators. Photographers. Typographers. All play a strategic role in creating effective content of value.

So while everyone pretty much understands the role of visual content and what it brings to a message, greatness is achieved through actual talent and training, not just by proclaiming the task done and hoping for the best.

As the saying goes, go big or go home.

animated gifs enjoying comeback

animated GIFs have been around for awhile

baby cha cha and spinning globes

GIFs, or Graphic Interchange Format, was an early graphic format (dot-GIF) that demonstrated how different digital media was from print by offering flip-book like animation. One of my first attempts at the medium (READS, above) was constructed in Photoshop, while another early effort (HEADLINE!, below) was built with Fireworks.

My first recollection of the wow factor was of Baby Cha Cha, which easily holds the distinction of being the first viral internet/web sensation.

The GIF file was used extensively by the bulletin board ancestors to the web like CompuServe, which originated the format. When you see a GIF it’s most often in animated form (although there’s nothing in the file suffix to differentiate between animation and still), delivering economic motion characteristics in a sparse, somewhat choppy loop.

panic

gifs aren’t all cats blinking or presidents winking

GIFs definitely have their place as a banner ad upgrade. Unlike Flash movies, GIFs are perfectly compatible with Apple iOS mobile devices and easily jump email barriers that often stymie attempts to pass along Javascript effects. (How can you tell whether an image is a Flash movie or an animated GIF? GIFs can be selected and saved directly from your browser.) Because of its small footprint (depends entirely on complexity – large authoring files will generate large .gif output) and quick creation, GIFs are finding renewed popularity.

Programs used to render animation include imaging applications like Photoshop (top) and Fireworks (above) at the high end, freeware by the truckload directly off the net at the other. Production is easiest with the latter, more complex – and versatile – in the former. They’re often (and perhaps unfairly) thought of as the poor cousins of Flash (SWF) movie elements.

Awarded the distinction of being the 2012 US Word of the Year by the Oxford American Dictionaries, GIFs are enjoying a resurgence as a unique art form. There’s even talk by global PR firm Burson-Marsteller of resurrecting the medium as an actual tool for business communications. As if it ever went away.

I’ve put together a  vintage collection of animated GIFs over on my web site that shows how effective the medium is at maximizing a small space with a big message. No mischievous cats allowed.

mailchimp founder credits creative

to be successful don’t do what you love – love what you do

MailChimp founder Ben Chestnut talks about his path to success in this easy to enjoy Creative Mornings video. What works for Ben might not work for everyone – more’s the pity – but he makes a great case for the role creative plays as part of a business that succeeds using a non-conformist approach.

To view more entertaing and, yes, educational content, make sure you’re subscribed to Tina Eisenberg’s swiss miss newsletter.

temp tattoos from tattly

no committment, no worries

Tattly, the latest effort from talented designer and founder of Swiss Miss graphics blog Tina Eisenberg, offers witty, low cost personal entertainment and a tempting opportunity for powersports brand and marketing managers.

The collection of expertly designed messages and icons includes “knucks,” the answered prayer for every personal injury attorney who enjoys masquerading on weekends as a Sons of Anarchy patchholder. Add fighting rings and you’re done.

fresh twist in online ads

Got caught up reading a link from Poynter Institute’s Daily Beast RSS feed and noticed this tasty fresh approach to presenting online advertising – note the word wrap to the ad’s outline.

For all I know this technique’s been around awhile but it’s the first time I’ve noticed. End result: eyecatching integration and another step closer to replicating print sex appeal in an increasingly flexible online framework.

living in the truman show

ehsan maleki is a tehran photographer and bloggerI entered “iran election photos” to get a sense of how, in a little over two decades since the collapse of the Soviet Union, communication technology has changed the face of the world.

The first page of hits included Ehsan Maleki’s appropriately title Iran Election Photos, which led me to his wonderfully entertaining self-titled photo blog.

Just two weeks ago I posted new content that attempted to parse the world of emerging/social media in terms readers would find relevant in a tumultuous business climate. Nothing could better demonstrate the incredible gulf between old and new media than the events surrounding the Iranian elections – and the cellphone driven technology (twitter) that’s responsible. Continue reading ‘living in the truman show’




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