When people think of becoming a designer, they usually think of print graphics, industrial, digital, environmental, interior, software, etc., but design encompasses a lot more territory than that and has many subsets. This is an interview with Dublin-based designer Annie Atkins who specializes in creating authentic-looking props and graphics for such films as Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel. Here, Atkins talks about her craft and the importance of paying attention to seemingly insignificant details.
Is this a mischievous prank played by Pixar animators when their bosses aren’t watching? Or is it a type of subliminal advertising? Or is it a bonus game inserted into films for the Pixar movie obsessed? For a while now Pixar has been hiding so-called “Easter eggs” in their films, slipping a character from Finding Dory, Toy Story, Monsters Inc., Cars, Ratatouille, The Good Dinosaur, Inside Out, etc., into a new film release without fanfare or warning. These quick cameo appearances happen so quickly, they may go unnoticed or trigger a faint sense of the familiar. Now Disney/Pixar has released a video montage of characters who were hiding in plain sight. Pixar calls them “Easter eggs,” but the game is more like Where’s Waldo?”
Berlin-based ad agency, Jung von Matt, has produced a wildly over-the-top ode to grilling meats that could be a scene from “Game of Thrones.” Made to promote the German supermarket chain Edeka, the ad titled “Men of Fire” relates the affinity of fire to meat through the ages. British actor Christopher Fairbank narrates with Shakespearean gravitas the importance of fire as he walks us through the centuries. “In the beginning there was fire kindled by lightening from heaven,” he roars, taking us past cavemen gnawing on “slain” charred meat. Fairbank’s scorns the modern barbecue fare – the “ridiculous sparkling drinks, the fussy pretentious artisanal salads, breads, and sweet dips too.” The one eternal truth he tells us is that “meat was meant to be charred.” The ad was a wonderful spoof, although since Edeka isn’t an American brand, it was unclear what the ad was plugging. Still it was memorable and fun.
Most of us grew up believing that Humpty Dumpty was a big clumsy egg that fell off of a wall and couldn’t be put together again. This notion was drilled into our consciousness by illustrators who came up with their own interpretation of what Humpty Dumpty looked like. But when you go over the actual words of the 18th century rhyme, nowhere does it state that Humpty Dumpty was an egg.
That depiction was introduced in 1872 by John Tenniel, who drew Humpty Dumpty as an egg in Lewis Carroll’s “Through the Looking-Glass.” The egg characterization was picked up in the 1902 “Mother Goose” storybook illustrated by William Wallace Denslow and in the 1916 version of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” by artist Milo Winter. Maxfield Parrish even painted a Humpty egg on a 1921 cover of Life Magazine. Pop culture came to embrace the persona of Humpty Dumpty as an egg — but it wasn’t.
Last November Apple debuted a commercial for its new MacBook Pro. Created by Los Angeles-based ad agency, Media Labs, the commercial celebrates great inventions and discoveries that transformed the life of mankind. To the galloping pace of Rossini’s “William Tell Overture,” a path of illuminated light bulbs successively explode to mark civilization-advancing bright ideas over the millennia, from the discovery of fire and invention of the wheel to the steam engine, flying machine, eyeglasses, the zipper, paper clip, space rocket, robots, microscope, and toilet paper. The important contribution that each new invention made to civilization is indisputable. Certainly, Apple’s introduction of the Macintosh personal computer in 1984 was transformative too. Not sure that the MacBook Pro’s new Touch Bar falls into that category, or is deserving of being compared to the discovery of fire. The commercial is great, but implied analogy probably should be saved for Apple’s next big breakthrough.
We don’t know what the actual programming is like on the French premium cable channel Canal+ (meaning “channel plus more”) but if the entertainment value and production quality are half as good as its advertising, then sign us up. Made by French advertising agency BETC, the Canal+ commercials are engaging and fun. They are crafted like a feature film, no scrimping on budget here. The spots are cleverly conceived 60-second comedy sketches == worth searching on YouTube for other Canal+ commercials.
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Royal Philips, an advanced technology healthcare company, displayed its softer side in this 30-second spot just released in Australia. Created by Ogilvy & Mather London, the commercial was inspired by a real-life window cleaner who dressed up in a super hero costume and rappelled down a hospital facade to surprise and delight young patients in the children’s ward. In a twist on that story, the Philips video humanizes Spiderman by catching him when he is not fighting grime and showing that his life has the same hassles as the rest of us. The underlying message for Philips is that its focus isn’t simply on providing cutting-edge medical devices; they look at healthcare more holistically, recognizing the healing power of joy and laughter. The tagline for the ad says: “At Philips we see life differently. There’s always a way to make life better.”
The making of “Loving Vincent” is truly an act of love. Everything from its Kickstarter crowdfunding to eschewing CGI in favor of painstakingly painting every frame by hand makes this 80-minute film a monumental homage to the life of Vincent Van Gogh and to fine artists everywhere. Polish painter Dorota Kobriela and Oscar-winning British filmmaker Hugh Welchman of Breakthru Films began work on the world’s first feature-length painted animation in 2011, and with an infusion of Kickstarter funding are pushing forward to bring their labor of love to fruition. In an interview with Voice of America, Kobriela says they were inspired to undertake this project after reading Van Gogh’s letter to his brother saying that “we can only speak through our paintings.”
“Loving Vincent” integrates 120 of Van Gogh’s greatest paintings into a storyline pulled together from some 800 letters written by the artist in the latter years of his life. The film’s plot unfolds through “interviews” with characters closest to Van Gogh and through a dramatic reconstruction of events leading up to his sudden and still mysterious death.
Commercials run on the Super Bowl have become their own cultural phenomenon. Costing about $5 million to air a 30-second spot (or $166,666 per second), the commercials reach an estimated 115 million American viewers, and millions more outside of the U.S. Advertisers throw big budgets and top talent at making these spots. In past years, the entertainment quality has been so high that some viewers only watch the game to see the commercials. After the game, people turn to YouTube to see the commercials they missed. This year, however, many advertisers aimed for a pre-game viral buzz by releasing their commercials in advance on TV, YouTube and online platforms.The commercials kinda dribbled out over the past month. The buzz created by millions of people seeing the ads simultaneously for the first time on the Super Bowl was missing. The Super Bowl ads were no longer an event. Without a doubt, there were some terrific ads on the Super Bowl (like the ones shown here), but the thrill of the shared experience is gone. People aren’t coming into the office the next day and chatting with co-workers about their favorite Super Bowl commercial the way they used to.
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This 90-second plug for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” on Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show is as ingenious as it is entertaining. Featuring Fallon, house-band The Roots, and the Star Wars cast, the video shows the performers singing as an a cappella choir. Arranged in a grid a la Hollywood Squares or the Brady Bunch, each performer is shot against a plain background while giving their own solo rendition of the film’s most familiar tunes. By shooting at different times and places to accommodate the performers’ schedules, the producers were able to make Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver, Lupita Nyong’o, Gwendoline Christie, BB8, storm troopers, 3CPO, and R2D2, part of the all-star chorus. The juxtaposition of colored squares and overlapping of a capella voices turned the video into a spontaneous jam session, with performers playing off each other even though they were in different parts of the galaxy.
How do you describe in words what autism feels like from the perspective of the person afflicted with the disorder? Sometimes verbal explanations seem inadequate, incomplete, superficial. It’s better to show it and hear it from their eyes and ears. Rattling Stick Production Company made this public service video for the National Autism Society in the UK to help viewers feel the sensory way that some autistic people experience the world. Sounds that most people don’t even notice affect them with the jarring impact of a pile driver. The video was directed by Steve Cope, with creative direction by Kit Darayam. Turn up your sound to get the full effect.
Designers are always in search of ways to convey a message visually without the need for lengthy explanatory text. That’s the charm of this Greenpeace advertising released to coincide with the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris last week. Created by London-based Stine Hole Mankovsky, the video and print ads communicate through a shorthand of visual metaphors that are widely understood by the public. Iconic Russian nesting “dolls” tie the story to Russia; stylized icy blue peaks suggest Arctic glaciers, and the decreasing size of the dolls serve as a metaphor for the ever- shrinking habitat of polar bears, which are fast vanishing in numbers. The only text is “Save the Russian Arctic. Greenpeace.” That says it all. Today the gravest threat to polar bears and the Arctic is the unmitigated release of greenhouse gases, which are warming the planet and causing the climate to change.
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Sainsbury’s, the UK’s largest supermarket chain, has made a holiday TV commercial starring Mog the accident-prone cat, the beloved character in a series of popular children’s books by author Judith Kerr. Although categorized as advertisement, the 3 1/2 minute “Mog’s Christmas Calamity,” is a charming storybook tale narrated by acclaimed actress Emma Thompson in a voice akin to her role in “Nanny McPhee.”
Sainsbury’s ad agency Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO persuaded the 92-year-old Judith Kerr to write and illustrate a new Mog story for the Christmas campaign, despite having “killed off” Mog of old age in her 2002 book, “Goodbye, Mog.” Published in partnership with HarperCollins, the “Mog’s Christmas Calamity” book is being offered for purchase by Sainsbury’s with all proceeds going to Save the Children, a nonprofit dedicated to improving children’s literacy in the UK. Only on the market for a few days, the book has already sold in the thousands.
The Christmas advertisement program itself also has been a huge success with adults who fondly recall reading Mog books when they were young. The Sainsbury’s Mog ad campaign was written by AMV BBDO’s Alex Grieve, art directed by Adrian Rossi, and directed by James Rouse through Outsider.
To get the humor in this visual pun by PES, the acclaimed motion graphics artist, it is best if you speak English. Sponsored by Lipton Iced Tea, the video centers around a homophone – meaning a word that sounds the same as another but has an entirely different meaning and spelling. Example: Flower and flour. In this case, PES based his pun around the homophone “mussel,” the shellfish that tastes great grilled and dipped in lemon and melted butter, and “muscle,” the body mass that men flex to flaunt how buff they are. It’s a clever visual pun, but only if the word for “mussel” and “muscle” are phonetically identical in your spoken language — otherwise, you’ll chuckle and wonder what that’s all about.
How do you design a film poster that suggests how humans come to inhabit a different body over time? This is the subject of a new documentary called “The Many Sad Fates of Mr. Toledano,” which premieres at the Tribeca Film Festival this week. The film was produced by filmmaker Joshua Seftel who has produced and directed several award-winning documentaries for television, radio and theater release. “The Many Sad Fates of Mr. Toledano” is about famed photographer Phillip Toledano’s effort to envision the ways his life would change over the next 40 years. The project is a continuation of an exploration of aging that Toledano presented in a photo journal on his father’s final years. Called “Days With My Father,” the journal visually tried to reconcile the active, handsome man his father once was with the decrepit old man plagued by severe memory loss. In this film Toledano “fast-forwarded” himself through theatrical makeup to picture how he would be at various stages of his life.
The discussion of an appropriate poster design for “The Many Sad Fates of Mr.Toledano” began between Seftel and Kit Hinrichs while they were on a long flight to Saudi Arabia. When Kit returned to the States, he developed several poster options, three of which are shown here. The top one was the final choice. The one at bottom left simply shows Toledano’s face. At bottom right, the collage of rectangular pieces shows abrupt facial changes, whereas the top image, with the thinly sliced horizontal strips, seem to vibrate Toledano’s facial features, suggesting a gradual, constant change.
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Designers, in my humble opinion, are a self-congratulatory lot. They constantly hold juried competitions and give themselves awards, produce publications to pat each other on the back, and freely call elder designers “icons” and “legends.” Copywriters, on the other hand, (of whom I count myself among them) never refer to anyone in the profession as a “copywriting legend” or “copywriting icon”. We don’t put out magazines reprinting the best corporate brochure text, direct marketing paragraph, or pithy headline. As a group, copywriters are usually unsung and ignored. That said, there is one designer who genuinely deserves to be called a “legend”: Milton Glaser. He is to be admired for his originality, talent, contributions to art and design, and because he comes across as a sweetie. That makes us happy to present this short video interview of Milton Glaser, put together by the New York Times.