Editor’s Note: Although branding expert Marty Neumeier claims that he compresses his thoughts to be quick-read “airplane books,” his insights are so thought-provoking and inspirational that they are best read in short segments so you can chew on what he has to say. This is a chapter from his latest book.
Excerpted from “The Designful Company” by Marty Neumeier The discipline of design has been waiting patiently in the wings for nearly a century, relegated to supporting roles and stand-in parts. Until now, companies have used design as a beauty station for identities and communications, or as the last stop before a product launch. Never has it been used for its potential to create rule-bending innovation across the board. Meanwhile, the public is developing a healthy appetite for all things design.
One survey by Kelton Research found that when 7 in 10 Americans recalled the last time they saw a product they just had to have, it was because of design. They found that with younger people 18-29, the influence of design was even more pronounced. More than one out of four young adults were disappointed in the level of design in America, saying, for example, that cars were better designed 25 years ago.
Editor’s Note: The global marketplace is real. Some brands are as familiar to consumers in Rio de Janeiro and London as they are to shoppers in New York City and Mumbai. That does not mean that the world now speaks a common design language nor approaches design in a universal way. What resonates in one culture may be rejected as odd, irrelevant or ignorantly offensive in another. In some cases, consumers may find the product appropriate, but the sales pitch tone-deaf and riddled with cultural clichés. Designers working across cultures confront the challenge of understanding differences in business and social customs, technologies, and typical design assignments as well as aesthetic preferences.
In the interest of broadening our knowledge, we are launching a “foreign correspondents” feature, beginning with our dear friends, Anita Luu and Sing Lin, two American designers who opened their Affiche International Asia office in Shanghai two years ago. An innocent question about the availability of Chinese typefaces led to a fascinating discussion, which is presented here.
Molo Design is tearing down rigid beliefs about what walls should be. The Vancouver, Canada-based creative firm , founded by architects Stephanie Forsythe and Todd MacAllen, has come up with an innovative family of soft architectural products made from paper and non-woven textiles. The core of molo’s collection is softwall and softblock, a modular space shaping system that allows users to form a wall or partition off an area without need of nails or construction tools. Like party decorations made out of honeycombed crepe paper, molo softwalls are based on a honeycomb cellular structure that can be expanded or compressed at will.
“When we originally designed softwall, we were looking into a solution for making homes smaller and flexible,” explains MacAllen. “The idea was that a home could consist of one main space that could be divided into smaller, more intimate spaces when required.” The pair began experimenting with lots of small paper models and discovered that the structure of honeycomb itself gives paper amazing strength that could be scaled up to large sizes.
With text messaging, Twittering and typing with two thumbs on your cell phone, spelling is becoming an inexact and undervalued skill. The question is how far can this go before the human mind fails to comprehend? Too far, we’re afraid, as this fictitious Cambridge study proves.
A new series of engaging commercials for Sprint, done by Goodby Silverstein & Partners, turns factoids and data that would typically go into flat charts and graphs into motion pictures. Real people populate demographic maps. Flow charts flow. Kinetic infographics breathe life into what is actually a bunch of dry statistics.
For Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, the humble pencil holds special significance as an instrument of creativity. Traditionally, it has been the way that designers first give visual expression to raw ideas surfacing from their subconscious. The erasable-leaded pencil gives artists and inventors permission to test concepts, doodle and sketch without committing anything to the permanence of ink.
For decades, Art Center has used the pencil as a symbol for creativity and artistic endeavors. Each year it recognizes the outstanding achievement of alumni with Gold and Silver Pencil Awards. For its donor wall, it has made a display of oversized pencils etched with the names of donors to the College. This year when Art Center launched its fund-raising effort, it asked one of its most illustrious alumni, Michael Schwab (Advertising, class of 1975), to create a poster for the campaign. Although Schwab’s strong graphic illustrations have become the brand identity for countless companies and for the Golden Gate National Parks, he admits that being asked to create something for his alma mater was both a “proud moment…and daunting assignment.”
Describing a cupcake as sophisticated may seem like an oxymoron, but in the case of Sprinkles, it applies. Long the favorite finger food of preschoolers, cupcakes aren’t just for kids anymore. In fact, everything about Sprinkles defies how we think of cupcakes, beginning with the fact that the flagship cupcake-only bakery café got its start in upscale Beverly Hills.
When founder Candace Nelson and her husband decided to establish a cupcake business using all-natural, high-quality ingredients, they brought in Austrian modernist architect Andrea Lenardin Madden to design the shop and provide creative direction on everything from the retail displays and packaging to the look of the cupcake. Lenardin Madden avoided cutesy kids’ décor and designed an environment with the exclusive feel of a chocolate truffle shop or a Eurostyle cafe, with white oak paneling and wire bar stools for the window-facing counter eating area.
The cupcakes themselves were made to appeal to adults, with flavors like chai latte, ginger lemon and the wildly popular red velvet. Color-coded wafer dots on the swirled icing of each cupcake identify the flavor – an ID system carried out on the printed flavor cards too.
Let’s admit this upfront: atissuejournal would not have been our first choice for a domain name. Unfortunately, we couldn’t register “@Issue” and “at-issue” and “atissue” were taken.
Fourteen years ago when we were tossing around names for a journal focusing on issues that concerned both business and design, we wanted one that did not appear biased toward one point of view or the other. (I would share the rejects with you, but they are stuck on a 3 ½” disk.) Admittedly, we were short-sighted, but in our defense, the World Wide Web was just catching on at the time; most companies did not even have websites. Making the “@” sign part of our name struck us as clever and progressive. Plus it looked good as a masthead. Little did we realize that @ couldn’t be part of a domain name. You can’t even do a Google-search because everything with the word “issue” in it pops up instead.
So, in picking a Web address for our blog, we confronted the dilemma: Do we call ourselves something else and tell readers it is from the same people who brought you @Issue? In fact, it is @Issue under a different name. Or do we try to salvage the equity built up in the brand and call it atissuejournal? Obviously, you can see what we decided. Whether we made the right choice is open for debate. You all can weigh in. You can disagree and you might be right, but we are not going to change it. The print edition will forever remain @Issue. The blog domain name will be atissuejournal, and when you get to the site, the masthead will read @Issue. That’s our decision and we’re sticking with it. (sigh!)
For illustrator Craig Frazier, Drawords started as a welcome “relief from a day job where I’m given copy and am supposed to draw to it. Every stroke has to communicate something.”
“This is the reverse,” he says. Instead, as a way to keep his head and his drawing skills sharp, Frazier gave himself the assignment of producing a whimsical sketch a week, which he decided to email to contacts with an invitation to give it their own captions. “It was a way to connect with clients and give them a peek at the way I work and the way I see,” he explains.
The drawings were outside of Frazier’s commercial illustrations, experimental and surreal. He says that he discovered if he put enough “silly elements” in, then people let their imaginations take over from there. “They have come back with things that I would never have seen in the drawing. There is a collaboration going on that is very innocent and satisfying.”
Pie charts and bar graphs are the crude “stick” drawings of the Power Point world — unimaginative and dull, yet easier to grasp than spreadsheets and algorithms. But in the hands of designers, infographics can be so much more.
The adage “You can’t judge a book by its cover [jacket]” is only partly true. It’s not for lack of trying. The look of a book cover jacket is an important aspect of market positioning. It is what first catches the attention of retail buyers at major book fairs, reviewers and readers. It can persuade bookstores to display your book more prominently or, at least, give it more than “spine-out” (where only the spine title is visible) shelf space. It can also give readers a sense of the genre, subject and tone of the content. And, for the sake of truth in advertising, it shouldn’t over promise or under promise what the reader will find inside.
In the case of my book, “The Art of Gaman,” published by Ten Speed Press in 2005, coming up with the book title and cover jacket design proved as hard as developing the content for the book. The subject of “Art of Gaman” was fairly straightforward. It featured arts and crafts made by the 120,000 Japanese Americans who were forcibly removed from the West Coast after Pearl Harbor and imprisoned in internment camps for the duration of World War II. Since they were only given a week to settle their affairs and only allowed to take what they could carry, the objects they made in camp were largely fashioned from scrap and found materials. Tossed and forgotten in storage sheds and attics, most of the objects had never been shown in public until I started asking friends and family who had been in camp what they had saved.
Understanding where the market is and where it is heading is critical to every aspect of design and business. Savvy marketers look for clues everywhere and draw connections to launch new products, tailor their brand messages, and determine which industries will thrive. This intriguing video provides statistics that are shocking and thought-provoking…but what do they mean? What are the ramifications for commerce and design, mar-com and management? We don’t know, but we feel they are important to consider.
Corporate-speak, designer-speak, printer-speak. Industry terms defined.
Triple bottom line: In business, “bottom line” refers to the line at the end of a financial statement that shows net profit or loss. Now when companies calculate the bottom line of a product or program, they factor in social, environmental and financial results to determine whether the overall return was positive or negative. One out of three is no longer good enough.
Strikethrough: When editing in Word software, a strikethrough means a line drawn through text meant to be deleted. In printer-speak, strikethrough is a chemical reaction caused by putting an overall gloss coating over a spot dull varnish. Varnish neutralizes the gloss coating and stays dull while the rest of the sheet turns glossy. This technique gives designer the ability to make shapes or words appear ghostlike out of a solid color or create the effect of multiple finishes on an image.
Style and aesthetics don’t even enter the conversation when it comes to the hospital gown, a garment that only someone too sick to protest would agree to wear. “It makes you feel more naked and exposed than when you’re actually naked,” says one former patient. Another claims, “They’re put on patients to cow them and make them compliant.”
What’s obvious is that hospital gowns were designed only for medical convenience, with no thought to fashion or the dignity of the wearer. They are purposely thin to keep patients from overheating. Made of cotton so they can be sterilized by washing in boiling water. Loose and shapeless, so medical staff can check vital signs quickly and protect any sutures from rubbing. And open in the back for injections and trips to the bathroom.
This is a garment that flatters no one – and certainly not a person who is deathly ill. The hospital gown ranks No. 1 in things that need to be redesigned. We invite you to nominate others that should be added to this list.
Mattel’s Barbie doll, the beloved ingénue role model of every little girl, is 50. If she were a real person, she’d undoubtedly have strands of gray hair, a hint of midriff flab, and hot flashes. Given her propensity for the latest fashion, by today’s standards, she would also be considered shallow – the Paris Hilton of the doll world. Fortunately, Barbie will forever be the fantasy woman of our youth.
From a commercial perspective, Barbie is as successful and enduring as Oprah. She has outlasted Cabbage Patch kids, Beanie Babies, sock monkeys and Raggedy Ann.