This early 20th century postcard producer, probably based in Europe, set his sights on making global sales in the most economical way. He only customized what he had to to appeal to customers from different nations. Unless you are a postcard collector, you probably were unaware that the comely woman draped in a flag wasn’t “loyal” to any one country. The postcard maker simply hand-painted different flags on her, leaving her face and pose the same. No extra photo sessions necessary, no finding models who looked British or Chinese. The postcard producer’s approach to mass customization was to standardize everything he could and keep differences to a minimum.
Years ago the CEO of a company I was working for was hospitalized at the time the board of directors’ group photo had to be taken for the annual shareholders report. Another executive who was roughly the same built as the CEO was recruited to stand in his place. Later a photo of the CEO’s head was pasted and airbrushed onto the stand-in’s torso. It looked okay, but anyone who knew the CEO found something about his pose unsettling.
For another annual report cover, we had a shot of a logging truck traveling on a freeway past a forest of gorgeous fall colors. Due to reasons I’ve forgotten, the photograph had to be flopped, so the freeway sign made it look like the truck was driving on the wrong side of the road. If I remember right, a print had to be made of the photograph so the retoucher could fix it, and then it had to be converted back into a transparency.
That was in the days before Photoshop. Because significant manipulation of a photograph was such a big deal back then, it used to be said that “the camera never lies,” Now designers are often overheard saying, “Don’t worry. We’ll photoshop it in (or out) later.” Photography has become an “impressionistic” art form. Seeing isn’t believing. Changes can be made in an instant on a computer by virtually any designer. The airbrushing and retouching professions have all but disappeared. Through Photoshop, a hybrid art form has emerged that is producing some incredible images. More and more, designers have assumed control of the photograph, and taken it out of the hands of the photographer.
This poster has a history that spans decades and continents. It started in 1952 when American photographer Harold Feinstein created a photomontage of Brooklyn’s Coney Island Boardwalk that looked like a music score. Sixty years later on the other side of the planet, someone at Havas Worldwide Turkey in Istanbul flashed on Feinstein’s photomontage while brainstorming ideas for a print ad for Acik Radyo, the only non-state-owned radio station in Turkey. Acik Radyo covers global social and cultural issues and airs all types of music from around the world. Its motto is “Open to all sounds of the universe.” Feinstein’s artistic photomontage perfectly expressed the theme “Music of the People.” The poster was a big hit and went on to win multiple prestigious international honors, including the Cannes Gold Lion and Epica Grand Prix award.
One of the most inventive and experimental minds in the arts, Vik Muniz has made portraits out of sugar, dirt, dust and chocolate sauce, and now he has made portraits out of photos. Based in Brooklyn, Muniz started out in advertising in his native Brazil, redesigning billboards for greater readability. After picking up his first advertising award at a black-tie gala, Muniz attempted to break up a fight between two gala attendees, and was accidentally shot in the leg by one of the brawlers. The shooter paid Muniz not to press charges and that gave Muniz enough money to move to New York where he took an interest in sculpture and photography. Muniz, who says he has an interest in making pictures that “reveal their process and material structure,” made this series of portraits out of old photographs and then photographed the portraits.
Since 1888, the National Geographic Society has explored the scientific and natural wonders of the planet in magazines and books that are now published in 39 languages. The yellow border that frames its magazine covers has been adopted as its official logo, but most readers have a clear impression of the kinds of photographs and images that they associate with the National Geographic brand. This print ad campaign for National Geographic Arabia certainly fits that model. Conceived by Classic Partnership Advertising Dubai with creative direction by Satyen Adhikari. the ads depict exotic far-off places on the planet to excite the viewer’s wanderlust. A closer look, however, reveals that the images are localized to appeal to consumers on the Arabian Peninsula. The creatures, people and landmarks shown don’t include anything from the United Arab Emirates that I can tell. There are polar bears, a gorilla, buffalo and dolphin, an Eskimo, American Indian, Spanish flamenco dancer and astronaut, and there’s the Hollywood sign, Easter Island statues, Taj Mahal and Leaning Tower of Pisa, but nothing that seems iconographic of the Arabian Peninsula. That makes sense since the local sights are not particularly mysterious if you happen to live there. The tagline, too, is quaintly translated as “Stay Curious Always.” Interesting how the ads for National Geographic Arabia are consistent with the global brand, but tailored for a specific market.
The exhibition poster features the ancient Chinese character for kome.
A fascinating exhibit is currently on display at 21_21 Design Sight in Midtown Tokyo. Created by renowned Japanese designer Taku Satoh and anthropologist Shinichi Takemura, “Kome: The Art of Rice” presents 35 design pieces by leading Japanese artists and experts in rice cultivation. What makes this show so intriguing is that a food staple as humble as a grain of rice (or “kome” as the Japanese call it) could be shown with such aesthetic sensitivity and with such a thoughtful exploration of the role that rice played in the historical, cultural and spiritual traditions of Japan.
Show Us Your Type is a design project created by Neue, a thrice-yearly online magazine that focuses on two things that the Neue founders say they “adore” – typography and cities. Each issue is about a different capital city, and designers are invited to submit their interpretation of the chosen city through posters that are primarily typographic. It is interesting to note what each artist sees as iconic of the culture. To look at a broader selection, go to showusyourtype.com.
Kombucha Dog is one of those “only in California live-your-passion” stories. According to the Kombucha Dog website, the beverage company was started in L.A. by Michael Faye, a successful commercial photographer who loved traveling the world on assignment, until he found that the photo business was beginning to require spending more time on the computer than on location. That’s when Faye sold his studio and set up DogIsArt, a dog portraiture business, combining his avid love of dogs with his professional talent.
The kombucha link comes in because Faye, who was raised as a strict vegetarian by a mother who even made her own yogurt, was strongly into the raw food movement and yoga. An early adopter of kombucha, Faye started drinking the fermented tea back in 2005, but had to stop when actress Lindsey Lohan failed an alcohol test. Lohan’s attorneys launched a “kombucha defense” saying that drinking lots of kombucha caused a false positive on the test. The controversy caused L.A. retailers to pull kombucha from the shelves, forcing Faye to experiment with brewing his own.
The other day we were lamenting that good art-directed, concept-driving original photography has become a rarity when we happened upon this Washington Life Magazine piece on the Washington Ballet’s production of “Alice in Wonderland.” Photographed by Dean Alexander with creative and art direction by Design Army’s Jake and Pum Lefebure, the photo essay presents a consistent and cohesive story line, communicated through thoughtful choice of lighting, scale, pacing, mood, poses, typography and layouts. Everything hangs together as a piece. The photos have a subtle narrative flow, beginning with the lost look of Alice in an innocent baby-blue dress, all the way through to the playful mid-air leaps of Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum and the White Rabbit, to the darkly surreal portraits of the Mad Hatter and the Queen of Hearts staring provocatively at the camera. Although Lewis Carroll’s tale of Alice in Wonderland is well-known, this photo shoot reveals strong art direction by Design Army to ensure that the make-up, hair and costume stylists, the photographer, and models are all working toward the same vision on how the story should be told.
Designing a book cover is an exercise in balance. The image or graphic has to distill the story without giving away the plot. It has to create “shelf presence” to entice shoppers to pick up the book for a closer look. It has to avoid false advertising, but can’t be boring, even if the content is. It should give shoppers a sense of the genre – suspense, sci-fi, romance, self-help, current events – but imply that the author has a unique and fascinating take on the subject. While it is true that “You can’t judge a book by its cover,” it is also true that you can design a cover that makes shoppers want to buy the book. This video from Random House features interviews with book designers from its publishing groups (Random House, Knopf Doubleday and Crown) providing insights into the complex process of creating compelling, eye-catching and meaningful book cover jackets.
With the right technology (and talent), there’s no such thing as still photos anymore. The technique in this video is called “parallax effect,” which makes it appear that objects closer to the viewer move faster than those that are farther away. Joe Fellows from Make Productions in London made this film using still images from the World Wildlife Fund archives. As quoted in SLRLounge.com, Fellows explains, “We used Photoshop to cut out individual parts and then animated them in After Effects…There was no 3D mapping, all in 2D. There are many layers per shot, the ears, the teeth, the whiskers, the head, the body, the background are all separate layers. Then the layers are parented to one another and moved either by position or by using something called the puppet tool.” Set to the music of “What If This Storm Ends” by Snow Patrol, the result is a “high-speed” slow-motion parallax sequence film that presents a poetic, dreamlike study of nature in motion.
Preferred by über rich and famous men, E. Marinella neckties have been worn by aristocrats, global leaders, titans of industry and movie heart throbs. Founded in Naples in 1914, Marinella began as a tiny shop that catered to men with elegant taste and deep pockets. Throughout the 20th century, the family-owned business let its clientele from around the world beat a path to its Naples store, without spending a lira on advertising. Marinella himself (now the grandson) would advise customers on colors, patterns and measurements, and then have his artisans custom-make each necktie to each customer’s specifications. Only in the past decade has E. Marinella established boutique shops in a few fashion capitals outside of Italy. This has led to the launch of an advertising campaign telling elite clientele where its shops can be found. Playing off of the brand’s tagline “Since 1914, the taste of elegance,” the ads created by Footbite agency in Monza, Italy, feature neckties folded like an iconic food for which each location is known – Lugano chocolate, London tea, Tokyo sushi, Italian (Milan and Naples) espresso, and Parisian croissant. The campaign was art directed by Paolo Guidobono and Michele Sartori.
One of the most famous fashion photographers of the 20th century, Berlin-born American Erwin Blumenfeld took more photographs for Vogue Magazine than anyone else before or since. His style was classic yet innovative and experimental. Among his most memorable photographs is the January 1950 cover for Vogue, which captures the essence of model Jean Patchett’s beauty through just her eyes, lips and beauty mark. Blumenfeld’s photograph served as the inspiration for Norwegian fashion photographer Solve Sundsbo’s new video for Chanel’s Rouge Allure lipstick line. Sundsbo removed everything except model Barbara Palvin’s luscious lips, green eyes,eyebrows and fingernails. The effect is flirtatious and alluring. Although the voiceover is hard to hear, it’s advice from Coco Chanel: “If you are sad, if you are heartbroken, make yourself up, dress up, add more lipstick and attack. Men hate women who weep.”
Anyone who has witnessed a food photo shoot knows that there is a vast difference between making food look delicious through the lens of a camera and actually making it taste great. This is true of both gourmet dishes concocted by renowned chefs and fast foods sold from a drive-thru window. Under hot studio lights, fresh vegetables wilt, peaches turn brown, hot foods coagulate and moist foods dry out. Photographers use “stand-in” foods during set-up and have back-ups in case the “star dish” proves not to be photogenic. Food stylists have an arsenal of tricks to simulate, imitate, and enhance ingredients to create a “just-made” illusion. Styling this hamburger shoot for McDonald’s is tame compared to most food shoots. What it didn’t show is what a Big Mac looks like after it has been wrapped in paper flattening out the bun and squashed into a bag with fries on top.
How do you convey to designers and publishing customers that you have a stock photo/illustration for any and every subject, medium and use? In the case of Getty Images, it has more than 38 million stock images in its database to choose from. The question isn’t if Getty has the right image, it’s how you want to tell the story. This 60-second marketing video by Brazilian ad agency AlmapBBDO zips through 873 stills from Getty’s archives piecing together a universal tale of life, from first love to old age. Each frame is up for a fleeting nanosecond – kind of like life itself.
Delhaize, a supermarket chain in Belgium, issued its own private label brand of regional wines and commissioned Spanish design studio Lavernia & Cienfuegos to create a label that looked festive and fun and great for casual entertaining. Quirky characters carved out of cork represented the regional origin of each wine in a playful, unpretentious way. The label design positioned the house brand as a value product with personality.