BoyDog Design
Design and more…

I suspect that as I get into this it may turn a bit snarky. I’m at a point right now where I vacillate between my genuine love of design and my disappointment in some of the absolute crap I see out there. I can’t help but notice the design that is born from an educated eye and respect for design. It is then coupled with a complete ignorance for design principle and put out for consumption simply because “they can” and with no regard for what preceded them in the design world. Yes, I am a design snob. And I can’t “get over it”.

I shake my head sometimes as I see a new commercial or print ad (albeit a print ad that I see on my iPad because I admit I read magazines online via a really cool app). I have to wonder how the pitch went for some of this stuff. Wouldn’t it be great if we did some really stupid stunt and combined it with some inane copy. Better yet, let’s crowdsource and pull some online babble. It’s so relatable to the public and it’s bound to be a hit. Speaking of hits – it’s bound to be “liked” by tons of people. This is when I start to wonder why this bullshit is tolerated.

When I was learning the ins and outs of advertising in college we had a few categories that our ads were put in. The point of these categories was to weed out the crap and leave the cream so ads could be refined and have some sort of plausible basis for being considered for presentation to a client. It was a brutal process at times. Ads pinned up on the wall and each one was critiqued by some of these standards:

  • Excellent
  • Good
  • Bad
  • I Don’t Get It
  • I’ve Seen It Before
  • Bullshit
  • Too Cute

It was not uncommon to put your ad up for review and have it torn to pieces during the critique. That’s how we all learned. It helped develop a mindset that wasn’t in a rush to put out crap for public consumption. (I’m reading through this now and I realize I use the word crap a lot. If it offends you, “get over it”.)

Now I know that business is all about making money. Money, money, money. I also know that there a some designers and artists who have made a very comfortable living putting out sub-standard work. For some reason they’ve caught on – they trend, they fascinate, they entice, they are provocative. Oooohhh! Unfortunately I’m not one of them. I can’t get those design principles out of my head.

I know that thinking out of the box will bring along innovation and a unique perspective. I’m all for that. Times change and the things that people relate to change with them. I get that. Demographics change. The economy takes its toll. People leave the industry and new people step in. Change is inevitable. I get it. At some point though I can’t help but wonder what happens when little by little we let basic design principles become eroded and disappear. I’ll use my local newspaper as an example. Some months back they set out to redesign the paper. One day I opened the paper and wondered, “What the hell happened here?” My eyes were having trouble focusing on the articles because they had used multiple fonts in multiple type sizes. HUGE headlines and then teeny tiny copy for some while others had whacky font choices and big spaces (kerning) in the copy. It takes a few days and finally the editor writes that they are in a redesign process and, yes, they’ve heard from people about how bad it looks. OMG! To date it’s not uncommon to see widows and orphans in the typeset. Articles just end in mid-sentence. And those pesky fonts keep showing up now and again. I suppose if the most important goal is to keep those circulation numbers up you’ll let a few things slide.

It’s no different online. Some websites were fantastic for their navigation. Then one day for whatever their reasoning they’ve changed things and now it takes more clicks to get to where you want to go. It isn’t intuitive anymore. I find myself just staring at the page – I can’t figure out where I’m supposed to go. I love animation. I love slideshows. I also like the ability to read. Simply read the information I’m interested in. It doesn’t have to move. It just needs to sit there and be readable. I understand that there are many ways to construct sites these days. They each have their own perks. Some just look cool. Some can be maintained by their administrators. I know companies like that. There are the ones with the latest bells and whistles – what’s trending in tech design at the moment. Not always a bad thing I must say. It’s not for me to figure out why they do what they do. I do know that I’m going to notice things. I’m going to notice the inconsistencies, the lack of continuity, the navigation issues, the use of art and the way it’s all composed on the page. I am, as I’ve already confessed, a design snob. I will ultimately wonder where we’re headed if the lack of design standards appears to be the way we do things in the future. Will anybody notice the sloppy work? Will anybody question the composition of an ad? Will online and print media turn into a mere scrapbook of ideas, art, and type that are put together disguised as professionally designed media? If the public doesn’t notice, who will care? If the money keeps rolling in, why bother? If the future of design devolves into what’s the quickest, easiest, and cheapest way to communicate then I’m going to be very sad. For me it all comes down to design. I love it. I want to preserve the best of design. No shortcuts. No sloppy work. No babble for copy. No crap.

Postscript: I wrote this almost a year ago. Never posted it because I thought it might be a bit much. Looking at it now, I have to say my thoughts are the same — so here it is…

 

orchid-226x300 Radiant Orchid has been chosen as the IT color for 2014. As stated in Pantone’s press release, this shade of purple has “an enchanting harmony of fuchsia, purple and pink undertones, Radiant Orchid inspires confidence and emanates great joy, love and health. It is a captivating purple, one that draws you in with its beguiling charm.”

I couldn’t be happier as this is one of my favorite colors! Let’s see how this choice influences design in the coming year.

 

photo by Campbell Soup Company

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of Andy Warhol’s 1962 32 Campbell’s Soup Cans piece, Campbell’s released a limited edition collection of soup cans featuring pop art labels from original Warhol artwork. It’s amazing to see a well-known product take on a new persona with the addition of some new colors and a bit of tweaking to the type.

If you’d like to read a little more about it Laughing Squid posted an article with more photos and links to check out.

 

While I’ve know about Pinterest for some time now I never really took the time to get into it and see if it was for me. On the suggestion of a friend I spent some time on there and I have to admit it – I’m hooked.

Unlike Delicious and StumbleUpon, which I use daily, Pinterest allows me to collect information in a more visual form. And isn’t visual what graphic design is all about? It’s really amazing how your boards start to take shape. At first you aren’t quite sure what type of things to post, but you pick it up quickly. I will always be looking for anything that relates to design or that I find inspiring in some way. But… Pinterest also lets me put a bit of myself on my boards. I get to save recipes, craft projects, and whatever else hits me at the moment.

I have decided to share my Pinterest boards with you all. Take them at face value, literally. They are all pinned because something about them interested me. Me. If you see something that connects with you, repin it or leave a comment.

One last suggestion. If you are already using Pinterest or decide to finally check it out, I recommend that you click on different user’s boards and view their profile as a whole. It’s amazing how you get a feel for the person based solely on the visual impact of their pins. Some people are drawn to design and color. Others have a very muted take on what they like. From a visual standpoint, I find this fascinating.

So go check out Pinterest! See if it’s something that interests you. You can check out my boards at http://pinterest.com/gretboyd/.

As they say on the site… Happy Pinning!

photo from Soulsight/Projects page

Have you noticed the recent updates and new package designs lately? Seems like crisp, cropped and to the point design is trending. I just came across this article, Less Calories, More Crop/via Brand New, and it is a perfect example of the “less is more” concept.

As you can see, the new design continues to promote the brand’s identity, but in a more modern way. If you’ve been a fan of Miller beer prior to this redesign you surely will continue to recognize your favorite beer. For those who have not been introduced to Miller beer, this new design is a refreshing alternative to the old logo and package design.

Give both six-packs a quick glance. Which one was the easier read? The new design will easily stand out in the beer aisle. Its bold use of a cropped logo is sure to catch your eye. In a world of some very creative beer labels, I know that a giant red “Miller 64” will get your attention.

If this new branding can gain some traction with an established audience and bring in a new dimension to their target market , I would say they’ve met a goal or two. It will be interesting to see how future ad campaigns help develop this new image.

 


Ron Paul's "What If?" speech - Remastered

I came across this video via a Rachel Maddow post on Facebook. All politics aside – I find this video interesting. In an odd way. There is something just a little bit off with this video. Typographically, it’s a masterful design. The music adds an additional layer. The speech flows to match the ever-changing typographic design. But, there’s something here that bugs me and I can’t explain it just yet.

First off, let me give you some background information about this speech. It was given February 12, 2009 on the House Floor. The actual speech can be viewed on YouTube. As for this video, the font used is Bleeding Cowboys and the music used is Metallica’s “To Live Is To Die”.

I think I’m going to explain my immediate feelings about this video and then come back and add to this post… as I stated up front, I’m not sure how to explain what’s “off” to me yet. But in the interim I would love to hear some commentary. What do you think?

Let’s get started — As a fan of typography, this video caught my eye from the instant I clicked it on. It wasn’t the music or the speech that I was paying attention to, it was the black, white, and red type. Using a very ornate font and putting it through its paces. Using every angle. Smooth movement. Precise timing with the speech. I think I would have been totally satisfied with the typographic experience without the speech included. Just dancing type with a musical accompaniment. Oh, I think I’m hitting on something here… let me run this around in my head a bit more…

Added on top of this typographic ballet is the speech given by Ron Paul. I have no commentary to offer about its content and prefer to view the speech only as an integral part of a designed piece. Do you think the added typographic display makes it easier to understand the contents of this speech? I think I’m at a “which came first” moment. Did the speech inspire the type? Or, did the type inspire the inclusion of the speech? (Duh, I know the speech is the source for the words used, but perhaps any words would have worked as well for this typographic ballet.) When you are concentrating on the type does the content of the speech truly resonate? Do you get its full meaning? Are you able to walk away and remember the speech for its content? Right now, I’m thinking – no. I think this video works more as performance art than political ad.

In order for this video to be considered an ad it would have to be somewhat apparent who it was being marketed to. I find it difficult to come up with a singular target market that includes people who would be compelled to engage in the design, musical background, and of course, the message. Is it possible that a singular market exists for this video? More likely, the piece is an attempt to hit all the buttons at once. Something that rarely proves successful. And if it is not an ad at all then there is no concern for the message in and of itself. What matters then is the perfect balance of each design element. The result being a pleasing display of type as it dances across the screen aided by the tempo of a musical layer. If you happen to engage in parts of the message as well, that is a bonus. I would then say the main focus is to catch your attention and provoke a conversation afterwards. Just as I’m doing here…

My apologies as this is not a typical post. A bit rambling perhaps. I did warn you upfront that I have not formed my thoughts fully. I rarely come across examples like this video and would love to hear some feedback. What do you think?

 

I highly recommend the new book, Saul Bass: A Life in Film & Design, by Jennifer Bass and Pat Kirkham. To celebrate the release check out this brief visual history of some of Saul Bass’s most celebrated work, by Ian Albinson. Even if you’re not familiar with the name, Saul Bass, you will know these film clips. And if you’re a designer, you better know who Saul Bass is. Period.

The Title Design of Saul Bass (a brief visual history)

Check out the video: http://www.artofthetitle.com/2011/11/12/the-title-design-of-saul-bass/

 

Sept 29, 2011: New packaging for Ivory soap brands on display at Procter & Gamble's Cincinnati headquarters. (AP Photo/Tom Uhlman)

What does this brand’s evolution mean to you?

Seriously,  I’m curious – what do you think about this new packaging? Obviously, it gave me pause and that is why I’ve decided to explore it in this post. The more I think about it – more levels of consideration come to mind. Let’s reflect on a few now:

Brand Recognition

Few products have enjoyed widespread recognition as Ivory soap. It is iconic in that it represents soap in it purest and basic form. No fuss – just soap. Years of positive consumer feedback have secured Ivory soap’s place among its competitors.  As long as Ivory can continue these branding benchmarks it should expect continued success based on its marketing strategy.

With the introduction of new package design, do you think Ivory will suffer a change in brand recognition?

Package design today requires the use of color, type, and shape that will bring attention to your specific item. Anyone who walks down the aisle of a supermarket quickly sees that package design has evolved into a rainbow spectacle of products vying for your attention.  There are two ways to look at Ivory’s new packaging. In one way they have joined the masses to compete using the same media. I’m wondering though if their product would stand out from the crowd even more if it had retained it’s white (as in pure) packaging? Speaking for myself, I have often overlooked a product with a new package design simply because it was new. I was not aware of the change and my eye simply overlooked the product. Even items that I use regularly I have overlooked and assumed it was out of stock on the shelf at that time. Eventually I’d discover that it was there, right in front of my nose. Will that be the case for Ivory?

Below are some examples of how Ivory packaging has changed over time. If you’d like to see more examples they can be found on Photobucket and Google.

New packaging for Ivory soap

Demographics

Without any knowledge of the specifics of Ivory’s marketing plan, I will presume (based on my personal perspective) that the market reach is for any age group that wishes to use soap in its purest form, at a competitive price, and that is easily accessible for purchase. No bells or whistles. No fancy claims. Just soap – use it and it successfully cleans what it is applied to.

Will the new package design negatively affect a current user’s opinion of Ivory soap? Conversely, will the new package design positively entice a non-user to give it a try? Will the new colorful package bring it to the attention of a new customer base? Will the new package design imply a change in the product’s performance to both past and potential consumers? Does a change in the use of color, type, and package shape wield that much power in the minds of a consumer?

It’s a battle between “if it ain’t broke – don’t fix it” and “out with the old and in with the new”.

Economics

Let’s face it, the economy is a tough nut right now. People are more aware than ever of how far their dollar goes. I know that some pricey product lines establish their identity with the use of specific fonts and colors and the materials they use for packaging and the product itself. Things that shine give off the aura of expense. There is a certain luxury attached to the softness of fur, fine leather, cashmere, etc. We can all tell the difference in the package design of a brand name product when compared to a knock off sample or even a dollar store brand. Most likely it doesn’t have the same presentation and impact. It is in fact a step down from the originating brand.

So how will the public perceive a product that evolves from a predominantly white package to one that incorporates color? Will there be any perceived change in the brand’s value? Will there be a change in the perceived return on investment when buying Ivory soap? I  must admit I’ve never contemplated the repercussions of a change like this before. I would be interested to know if any metrics become available that give us a answer.

So what do you think?

I’m confident that hours and hours of discussion were involved in this package design change. It was accomplished by utilizing the skills of the highly acclaimed agency Wieden+Kennedy of Portland, OR. Time will tell if this new package design will enhance or detract from Ivory’s brand. I will continue to monitor my media sources for more information. If you have any thoughts on this, please feel free to share.

If you’d like to read more about the roll out of this new package design, here is a recent post on Yahoo.

Poster for documentary "Urbanized" by Gary Hustwit

I came across a post on Laughing Squid today with information about the documentary, Urbanized, by Gary Hustwit. The film is about the design of cities. An interesting topic for sure, but not what caught my attention. I was stopped dead in my tracks by the poster for the documentary (appears above).

As an avid fan of symbols I was completely drawn in by the design of this poster. It is simple and yet quite capable of speaking volumes about the documentary it advertises. Without the clutter of copy you can easily understand the many points that are focused on. Without a rainbow of colors it succinctly tells the story of the documentary as your eye moves across the poster. I don’t know who the designer is (I did post that question on Facebook and wait for an answer).

Designers know the phrase “Less Is More” and in this case – I agree.

By now most everyone has been introduced to the world of social media. You know the players – Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc – and most likely you’ve either done some research or signed up. Social media is an ever-changing playing field that continually offers new, revised, and expanded options. If you are paying close attention you soon realize that it can be a daunting task keeping up with what’s new and what works best. There is one thing that is a constant throughout all of social media, especially if you are a business, and that is your website.

It doesn’t matter how often or sporadically you post, your objective should be to direct viewers back to your website. It doesn’t matter how much or how little you say, you should be encouraging viewers to visit your site for more information. Under those circumstances your website is home base. Contained within its pages should be all the information needed to understand what your business or service offers, how to contact you, specific product info and photos, an option to purchase if that applies, and whatever other information is pertinent to allow a viewer to form an opinion, an interest, a need to contact you, and best of all the decision to purchase your product or service.

Now I know many of you already have a website up and running. You’ve had it for years and as far as you’re concerned it works just fine, thank you. But, does it?

When was the last time you reviewed your site?

Here are a few things to consider:

  • Is all of the information accurate? Have you revised a product and not changed the info on your site? Did you add a product or service but did not add it to your site?
  • Are all of the photos current? Sure you offer the same item, but is that a photo of the current item? Maybe you changed your packaging, logo, or colors.
  • Are all of your links active? If you refer viewers to outside sites, are you sure those links still work? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been on a site, click a link and… nothing.
  • And don’t forget about email addresses. Are you sure that all of the email addresses you have posted are current (and not for a former employee). I know of some sites that to this day have an email address posted that is for me at an old employer. I know I’m not receiving those messages and I doubt the company is either.
  • Has your content undermined your navigation? If you’ve had a site up for a while most likely you’ve added to it. A page here, a photo there. A new sub-category with more pages. I bet you didn’t realize how much you’ve added to your site. Sit down with the eyes of a fresh viewer to your site and experience how well or how poorly your site navigates.
    • Are your pages crowded with bits and pieces of information? Too many bits and pieces.
    • Are your links intuitive? Meaning – are the placement of your links easy to find or do you have to hunt for what you’re looking for?
    • Did you remember to cross-reference information?
    • Are your pages very very long? Have you been adding and adding to your pages until they require scrolling and scrolling?
    • Was your site created with SEO (Search Engine Optimization) in mind? If the answer is yes, does it need a little tweaking? If the answer is no, what are you waiting for?
    • Site analytics. What tools are you using to measure your website traffic?

I hope I’ve got you thinking about your website by now. How well is it performing? Can I make it better? And I hope your next step is to contact a design professional. BoyDog Design can assist you in a review of your current website. Let’s explore ways to update and improve your site. One of the benefits of web-based communication is that you don’t have to be local to BoyDog Design. Utilizing current technology it is easier than ever to work on projects together – even if you live across town, in another state, even another country. Think about it – is now the time to review, revise and reap the rewards?