Monday, July 30, 2007

Somewhere, time is being wasted at an ad agency

Often, I post successful design and communication because I like to see what's going right.
I have a particularly strong opinion that design and advertising that has no message is a phenomenal waste of energy.
Sometimes the vernacular of advertising can be used in excessively stupid ways. Here is an example of that.
Since we can assume that this is a spec ad, let's try to decipher what message the originators (whoever they are) were trying to communicate:
A) Smith & Wesson makes great guns.
B) Nothing is sacred anymore.
C) We're a couple of assholes. Yeah, you can close our book now.
D) Maybe this is deeply anti-gun and I'm too dumn to see it.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Type Making Sense

In the 15th and 16th century (though it still occurs, but rarely) all books were handset with lead type. One can understand that a printer, who undertook the massive task of setting every single page of a book, by hand, could use a shout-out somewhere. And so a colophon page served this purpose.
The colophon (example at left) is a portion of books which is rarely included these days. One could view it as a prose version of a copyright page. The most comprehensive colophon outlines the typeface, paper and manner of printing used, and the printer or printing house, and publishing house responsible for the book's existence.
I have set type by hand. In fact, I do so with some regularity and I really enjoy it. But having dealt with business cards, greeting cards and various pieces of correspondence, I have only a vague idea of what it would be like to set an entire book.
It takes a special passion. Setting type is a very mechanical undertaking with a final product that is a piece of art. So the process of production requires a person with not only the patience and diligence to get through it, but someone who can evaluate a typographic layout, and adjust it according to an artful eye.
This scan was sent in by Peter Ahlberg, a great designer who I have known for many years. He thought that the last line was really important.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Let me tell you a great story.

Jamie Reid is an extremely important designer. He designed the cover for "God Save the Queen", the pivotal Sex Pistols album from 1977, which was released to coincide with the Queen's Silver Jubilee Celebrations, and was subsequently banned from all airwaves. At the time, it was all seen as a pretty fucked-up thing to do.
In 2001, a panel of English judges (composed of editors and artists) agreed that it was the "best record cover ever produced." Apparently, over the Beatles White Album. The point is, times change, and revolution metamorphoses into art. That's how stuff happens.
So here's what I want to tell you about Jamie Reid. Whether this is true or not, I don't know. But lore is sometimes more powerful than reality.
When Reid was doing the bulk of his punk, DIY work; when he was fighting uniformity; he wrote a manifesto. The first copy of this manifesto was produced on a typer. The next copy was a photocopy of the first. The next, a photocopy of the second, and the ninth, a copy of the eighth. You have gotten the picture. If you have ever played with a photocopying machine (especially an older one), you know that as you copy things, they degrade. So as each copy of this manifesto was produced, it was more and more corroded and destroyed-looking. But then, to wrap it up, he bound it in sandpaper. So as it was shelved, being removed and put back in place, it would destroy the shelf and every book it touched. It corroded the other books. It destroyed the world around it. It had a vicious personality.
And there.
One of the most complete, most satisfying conceptual executions ever created.
That is design at its apex. That is thinking.

Design Excellence Compiled Week 2: 07/04 - 07/11

I had a teacher in college who said that a great ad was something you could describe to a friend at a bar and elicit the same response as the ad itself. This teacher was not Paul Sahre, but Paul designed this book cover for Killing the Buddha - A Heretic's Bible.
A friend told me about it before I ever saw it. It gave me chills then and so it did when I finally saw it myself.
The book is a collection of 13 reinterpretations of bible stories by 13 different writers. They were given "a solo, a single book from the Bible to be remade, revealed, replaced, inverted, perverted, or born again, however the spirit so led them."
The solution for the cover is genius. Paul Sahre is one of the rare individuals who works hard at, and has the talent to, achieve conceptual profundity while maintaining aesthetic excellence.

Christian Helms is really good.
I know him personally and I know he's really good, but if you look at any of his work, you'll know it too (link at left).
I was looking through a Communication Arts annual at Barnes & Noble one day, depressed about being under the fluorescence at B&N, and depressed about the state of design. It happens. Sometimes everything is bad.

Then I came to this poster, read the line, swooned, read the credits, closed the annual, and walked out of B&N.
And THAT'S the power of good design. It makes you FEEL good.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Rdfnng Rdng - rk Spkrmnn

The function of typography is to communicate messages effectively. Erik Spiekermann, a VERY well-regarded designer, communications expert, and pioneer in the field of typography and type design, has created a typeface that reevaluates how we access information.
The typeface, FF Mt, as you will read below in an excerpt from, uses some innovative tactics to economize messages, and physicalities such as paper, ink and signage.

"April 1, 2007, Berlin — FSI FontShop International proudly announces FF Mt™, Erik Spiekermann’s most economical typeface ever. Employing obscure but powerful techniques like vwl mmssn and cap reduction, FF Mt uses up to 50% less paper, screen real estate, and wall space than other text faces without a single condensed letter.

The German government has already incorporated FF Mt in their road sign system.

German road signs using FF Mt

Before (left): Inconsistent hierarchy. Is Mönchengladbach less important than Münster or Dortmond? After (right): Clean hierarchy, increased legibility, 15% smaller sign saves costs.

In addition to its conservationist benefits, FF Mt also enables the generation of buzzwords, product names, and Web 2.0 domains as the user types.

FF Mt prepares us for the future. English is changing. With the popularity of MMS and internet chat, spelling reform is occurring at a quickened pace. FF Mt accommodates this new condensed written language now. Any copy set in this advanced font will conform to next-generation standards, yet still pass present-day spell checkers.

FSI FontShop International believes this tool is so revolutionary and beneficial to the Earth that access should not be limited to the few. Starting today, April 1 2007, the cross-platform OpenType font is available for free at"

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Origami Freak Out -- Yes, that's paper

Hojyo Takashi

Giang Dinh

Design Excellence Compiled Week 1: 06/26 - 07/03

Occasionally, we are graced by really beautiful design. This past week we featured three relatively stark, simple designs. First, Tibor Kalman's mark for the New York fusion restaurant, China Grill. I remember turning a page in the book TIBOR, and seeing this mark for the first time -- chills. A lot of Tibor's work is that way. It's all so refreshing, simple, and honest, and completely endearing.

Then, Peter Saville's design for Kilgour French and Stanbury Ltd. When you go to their website,, I have a hunch that that is Saville himself on the opening screen. According to a photographic essay in Purple Fashion (Peter Saville's Estate by Donald Christie) he shows many pieces from Kilgour. The point is that through and through -- the connection, the design, the interests, the loyalty -- are all in line. Everything makes sense, including this beautiful logotype.

And last, I came across this great piece by Eric Gill on Wikipedia. It is from 1931. I assume it is a chapter header from The Four Gospels. Another of these headers appears in the book, Typography (Friedl, Ott, Stein). I don't know what to say. It's beautiful -- succinct and stylistically appropriate. Gill is one of the more eccentric among typographers, who happen to be a group famous for their eccentricities. Gill is responsible for the typefaces: Joanna, Perpetua, Gill Sans, and Solus. To find out a whole lot more about his typefaces and eccentricities, go to-->