These days Software As A Service (SaaS) is taken for granted, as evidenced by the proliferation of cloud-based apps delivering digital publishing output from your phone to your social page quicker than you can say Instagram. The unbelievable transformation from carving text into metal to clik-send blasted out of the gate in the late ’80s and hasn’t let up since.
By the late 1990s, less than a decade later, the conversion from analog to digital was all but complete.
Stroh’s was a legacy beer brewed in Detroit for decades before turning toes up in 1999 when the 150-year-old company sold its labels to Pabst and Miller. Ten years earlier this transitional ad ran and though cutting edge for its day now appears quaint by comparison. Continue reading →
Logos, logotypes, and trademarks have become integral to everyday life, from the pictograms used to order your lunch at Mickey Ds to finding your way to the next road trip gas stop.
This six-minute primer from the PBS Off Book series looks in on the history, tradition, and uses of a visual identity and establishes the argument for professional design versus the DIY approach that’s emerged as a result of desktop publishing empowerment.
Properly done, visual identities are a powerful marketing tool that work to fulfill an observers expectations. When that design is poorly developed, communication suffers.
With a masthead that reads like a Who’s Who of popular consumer oriented bike books from the last 30 years (give or take), Barnett’s BikeCraft officially stepped into the deep end this month with the print version of their previously announced custom moto mag. At a time when print’s hold on the American psyche is under intense pressure, the decision to assemble a team of high-profile displaced editorial and creative types seems counter-intuitive. But it works.
Publisher Mike Barnett’s appreciation for print extends back to when the El Paso based Harley dealer popped the cork in the late ’90s on their first vanity press project, the no-cavier-for-me beer and bbq crowd Barnett’s Magazine. Originally styled as a new and used classifieds pub pushing dealer inventory in times of scarcity, the glossier than rival Motorcycle Trader dealt mainly in V-Twin pedigrees. This lasted until the economics of sustaining a print model against a global glut no longer made sense and the move to a dot-com online edition was finalized.
At about the same time, the moto journalism talent pool was suddenly bursting at the seams, courtesy mainly of HFM’s decision to scale back – way back – on most of their North American titles before ultimately putting them on the block. With staffs at all the genre pubs slashed razor-thin, competent, experienced, premium print skill was suddenly on the market. Serendipity knocked, and a new print publishing venture featuring a fair number of Cycle World alums shepherded by long time former editor-in-chief Dave Edwards, along with notables from CW competitors, was suddenly viable.
back to basics – take the long way home and you’ll get there sooner
How important is it to have experienced pros in your corner, especially for a startup? Take the treatment of all the product announcements, career snippets, random ricochets, and anecdotal memos that accumulate like dog hair under the living room sofa. Notice the runacross header with the catch-all title “Goggles”? Lacking the equivalent of refrigerator magnets, it serves as a frame for the collected odds and ends ranging from Post-Its to short essays. This took thought and skilled graphic design to arrive at a clever solution done well that looks easy yet escapes so many others.
Just eight pages in finds So-Cal designer-builder Denny Berg (left, above) profiled for his unique body of work designed and built during his tenure with aftermarket parts manufacturer Cobra. For nearly 20 years this graduate of Pasadena’s Art Center College of Design has created one innovative custom after another, each an exercise in form following function. Denny’s long been one of my favorites, widely regarded for his effortless style and laid back demeanor. Will the affable, accessible N. Dakota native ever get his own “reality” show? Uh, no. Which only means he’ll continue to inspire serious devotees of the craft with his dignity intact and his intellect secure.
looks familiar – for a reason
Barnett’s BikeCraft features art direction courtesy of CW expat Elaine Anderson, whose signature style after nearly three decades at the helm of America’s most popular bike book is unmistakable. The inaugural (No. 1, Summer 2012) issue of the seasonal quarterly takes advantage of plenty of editorial elbow room to hilite over a dozen richly illustrated features – bobbers, trackers, cafe racers – with inspired photography. There’s plenty of room for white space friendly, easy on the eyes, open leading type design that actually encourages rather than challenging readership.
With editorial, design, and content of this caliber and the small luxury of publishing as a quarterly, I’d have liked more attention to repro specs. Stepping up to a premium paper would add an extra dimension of crispness and detail this level of creative deserves. And the glaring lack of a robust supporting web site that’s less ’90s archival and more contemporary – I’d settle for a look that’s anything this side of 2006: Rolling Stone, anyone? – means an inexplicable squandered opportunity to connect, engage, and convert. Not porting the print concept online means turning one’s back on a market the size of, well, the planet. Not to mention the whole ePub thing going on these days.
Otherwise, it’s a worthy effort for a seasoned crew embarking on a challenging voyage. Here’s hoping they can stay the course.
Several years ago I put together an easy to follow guide that offers solutions for three of the most common errors made by DIY publicists. Since then I’ve noticed a significant increase in the number of powersports announcements distributed under the hi-jacked heading of FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE! So poorly constructed they’re cause to wonder if a Kazakhstan goat herder isn’t ghost writing for the crowd source marketplace, they neither inform nor promote. No offense to my herder friends.
There’s a phrase common enough to pr practitioners (hack) that’s either a label of shame or badge of some distinction, if only among peers. Without naming names – and, sadly, you probably don’t know who you are – I’m gobsmacked at what the aftermarket seems willing to accept under the guise of published, presumed to be positive, information about products, services, and events by the former.
This isn’t about the errant comma, occasional misplaced modifier, or missing apostrophe. I’m raising the alarm over the wholesale abandonment of fundamental principles of grammar, any notion of style, and the essentials of literacy. Who needs complete sentences when an odd lot assortment of disjointed words strung randomly together into incoherent phrases passes as sense.
“air quotes” run amok amid out of control malaprops
I’m usually not a hard-core stickler for AP style, but. The increasingly sloppy gibberish masquerading as product praise not only offends my professional eye, but to the point does serious damage to a manufacturer’s online reputation and in-store brand. Unless, that is, the brands footing the bill think LOL ridicule is a desirable goal.
And it’s permanent. Once published to the web, these unintentional examples of no-talent hilarity circle the internet forever, ghost ships of puff piece silliness showing up on Google search “doh!” in perpetuity.
If you can’t hire a pro – and by that I mean someone possessed of a) basic writing skills and, b) a fundamental understanding that English, not Farsi, is North America’s marketing lingua franca – please take advantage of my basic tips for improving reputation and readership.
When I first started building bikes one of the first things to go was the worn out wiring harness. When it was time to reconstruct, the tech manuals really weren’t that helpful so one of my early experiments with desktop publishing was to create my own made to order schematics, then publish them as a PDF in 1999.
This little booklet, designed for an earlier era of builds without turn signals and digital electronics, can be used as is or adapted as needed. Download your free copy here.
Just noticed YouTube’s updated favicon. Cleaner? Yes. Better? No. Favicons are one of the web’s finest tiny treasures, used to impart individuality and brand identity at the most basic browser URL address level. It’s a mini-logo that IDs the site as original and authentic.
The process of favicon creation is a definite art, not just the result of taking a logo or trademark and shrinking it down to a 16 x 16 pixel square. Roughly comparable to building a sailboat in a bottle, the successful digitalization of a mark is done at the pixel level; the harsh limitations of bitmap art that will eventually live as a rasterized facsimile.
In the case of YT, it’s pretty obvious that Google is in the process of homoginizing their various properties. I never thought the original YT worked, but it was identifiable. The new favicon is simply a reskinned play button that, while cleaner, doesn’t communicate anything unique.
to be successful don’t do what you love – love what you do
edit: Since this original post, MailChimp’s been acquired by Intuit, best known for the Quicken line of financial software.
MailChimp founder Ben Chestnut talks about his path to success as the creator of one of email marketing’s best known brands in this enjoyable, entertaining, and informative 40-minute Creative Mornings video. What works for Ben might not work for everyone, but he makes a great case for including creative as part of a business that succeeds using a non-conformist approach.
Here’s the thing. I don’t run marathons. I don’t run distance. Some might question – with good basis – whether what I do three times a week is more jog-trot, less run. But I wear Asics, currently 2160s, and that’s that affinity thing kicking in. And I’m a sucker for clever advertising.
So when Creativity Online shared my brand’s latest work in support of the 2011 NYC Marathon, I thought hey, my 5K training routine measures miles in single digits, but they’re still miles, regardless. It wasn’t until Ryan Hall’s stride was revealed – are you kidding me! – the same stride that carried him to the fastest marathon ever run by an American (2:04:58), that I got the memo: you’ll never be that good. But I can wear the shoes, and for me, it gets me out the door and on the trail. So see you in the park, maybe. Running just like Ryan, only slower.
Khol Vinh is a designer. Not that unusual, but his previous job as design director for nytimes.com makes him unique and his skillful accomplishments considerable.
He publishes his highly refined blog ‘Subtraction’ on the Expression Engine platform, which alone qualifies him for a spot at the podium. Khol takes what might be the long tail view of publishing content for consumption when he predicts that he, “…just can’t see the end-to-end magazine format surviving.”
In a short, insightful interview on digiday, he challeges the cultural tradition that starts on C1 and proceeds to C4, digital pages turning at regular intervals like scheduled stops on a train trip.
Read more of Mr. Vinh’s insight into digital magazine publishing here. Originally sourced in a posting at Poynter.
Our speaker at the August 2011 CreativeMornings/London was Chris Bangle, formerly design director at BMW Group and now running Chris Bangle Associates. (chrisbangleassociates.com/) The event was generously hosted by Buro Happold (burohappold.com) and Sense Worldwide (senseworldwide.com). Breakfast was provided by the amazing folks at L’Eto Caffe (155 Wardour Street, Soho) and Vantra (11-13 Soho Street, Soho). Finally, a big shout out to ‘Femi T for providing her photography services on the day.
CreativeMornings is a monthly breakfast lecture series for creative types. Each event is free of charge, and includes a 20 minute talk, plus coffee! You can currently join us in New York, Zurich, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. (creativemornings.com)
A big thank you to Nick Culley (nicecreation.co.uk/) for filming and editing the talk.
chris bangle presentation promotes design accessibility
This provocative August, 2011 Creative Morning/London presentation argued the benefits of extending the design decision loop beyond the purely economic realm of client-designer, and the potential effects a new style of style and design involvement could have on driving societal change.