Friday, November 18, 2011

Life Lessons as a Designer

by Christa Zinner

We can preach the mantras of design night in and night out, but there will always be greater issues at play that many designers overlook. Although we are not artists and we should not think of ourselves as an artist (for as a designer, as we grow and learn and become immersed within our work, design suddenly overwhelms our lives and begins to take root in everything we do), we should be aware of our own personal shortcomings in life. Perhaps everyone struggles with these issues in life; there may be points in time where we struggle with our own identity or why we are pursuing such life-long studies while we toe the fine line between work and passion.

I've always been a huge fan of Stefan Sagmeister. Maybe he's not for everyone; he does do a lot of conceptual design that's hard to understand and can seem silly or worthless. There's a great world he tends to live in where he speaks about great life-lessons and philosophical ideas through his designs that can sober you and bring you out of the clouds and down to reality. Thinking realistically is a huge part of my life, it really touches base when a designer speaks to me about life-lessons I can understand and I really like seeing that outlook from other people as well.

If you've never seen the whole Hillman Curtis' Artist's Series he did a few years back, I would highly recommend watching all of them. I remember watching them myself my first year in college when they were brand new and watching these videos of advice from highly successful designers completely changed my outlook on my life as a designer. I began looking at myself and my work subjectively and the different ways I approached ideas and solutions changed as well. There's some other great sagely advice from Milton Glaser, Pentagram Studios and Paula Scher if you like the video of Stefan Sagmeister and want to see more.

There's also a fantastic book that I picked up about 4 years ago written by Stefan Sagmeister called “How to be a Graphic Designer Without Losing Your Soul” (which is something we all struggle with even in school, let alone the real world) that I also would highly recommend picking up if you have some extra money. He gives some great, realistic advice about how to land jobs, start up your own studio, work with clients and how to in general keep yourself somewhat sane. The design world is an insanely fast-paced jungle and as both new and old designers we can quickly become overwhelmed and swallowed whole in the hustle and bustle.

While I understand the merit of looking at “pretty pictures”, inspiring design, beautiful type-faces and how discussing these things as designers is important, I think sometimes we need to tackle the harder subjects and shouldn't forget about them. It will be extremely difficult (unless you're bizarrely lucky) to find your dream job if you don't work hard and push yourself and set goals every single day. You will have to choose one day between losing sleep or going the extra mile on a project. Those choices are yours, and yours alone. Deciding where you go or how far you want to push yourself will end up reflecting upon where you end up in life. You can never, ever give up. You may have to submit your portfolio and resume to 200 different studios before you even get an interview. But if design has completely consumed your life, then these struggles should be small obstacles to living out your passion. Failure is inevitable at some point in time; but we should learn and grow and never give up. Design isn't a 9-5 job. It exists every second in your life, waking or sleeping. Your life as a designer doesn't start the moment you get your diploma and leave school; it started the moment you decided you wanted to be a designer and you should be actively working towards it every day of your life.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

One Step Backward, Many Leaps Forward

by Sally Yacovelly

I have a slightly different perspective than most students here at PCA&D when it comes to discussing revising or updating a company’s identity. Mainly because I am not just viewing the older logo identity, as it was once referred to; but I have experienced it. It was a time when identities were pasted across billboards, in magazines spreads and the largest form of communication, of course, was the television. Almost every house had one, but there were not many with color. Therefore your designs, in order to be affective, had to project in black and white.

There was no Internet to blast images and product names in front of their audience of every minute of the day.

Branding, as it is known today, is just that. It puts a mark from a company on everything attached to them. We become so saturated with this visual mark that alone it becomes the focus. The name of the company, in many instances, becomes secondary or is no longer even necessary.

Note some of the following: the Nike swoosh being one of the best examples.

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Why rebrand one might say. Well, it could be there was a company takeover and the new management wants their influence shown. Or a merging of two corporations might generate creating an additional name that combines their influences. Or there may have been an unfortunate circumstance that caused a negative outlook on business and they just want a fresh start.

Change is constantly occurring in our electronic world of today, so updating one’s company image seems to go along with this fast pace idea of change. However, there are some products or company names, that no matter what, outstand the times and remain constantly popular. And they still sell, even though their branding hasn’t changed in over one hundred years. And I might add, that their nearest competitor has changed their logo eleven times trying to catch up in the standings.

With all this said, whether change, revise or altogether new, when considering your company’s image remember it remains your unique fingerprint in the advertising world and should well thought out.

Friday, November 11, 2011

NY State of Mind Pt. 2: Standard Deviations

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The new New Typography

by Pat Mendoza

Life’s wanderings recently led me back to New York City. While many situations varied from the last trip, most notably the weather, the premise still remained the same. Find a source of creative stimulus in the city that bleeds motivation. Sounds easy enough right?

This trip to the big town led me on an adventure through Central Park, the subway system, and the chicest restaurant I will ever step foot in. The park had many beautiful sights to cherish, the subway is the city in its purest form, and the truffled mac-and-cheese was exquisite, but I still lacked the creative spirit I was on a mission for. Enter the Museum of Modern Art and its magnificent collection. My journey had led me on a return visit to my favorite art museum and this time it was personal. While I had a memorable experience the first time through, I felt like the visit fell short of my expectations. Due to some minor time constraints and an entire sector of the collection not on view, I knew I had to return and return immediately. So when my friend presented me with an opportunity to return to New York, just six weeks removed from the first trip, I knew MoMA would take priority.

Boy did I get that one right. Upon finalizing the logistics of the trip I began to plan our itinerary. Immediately I jumped on MoMA’s website to franticly explore any notable current or upcoming exhibitions that would corroborate with my desired date. Coincidently enough, on view was an exhibit aptly titled “Talk To Me” and was a display of objects distinctive in the sense that they were items that engaged the viewer to interact and communicate with the pieces. Projects ranged from graphic user interfaces to video games. Now don’t get me wrong, this exhibit was unique and compelled me to look at certain objects in a different light, but something was still missing. So after perusing all other levels of the building we made our way to the design collection. Jackpot!

For the first time the Museum of Modern Art has acquired twenty-three digital typefaces to be on display as part of a special exhibition. Through an exhibit interestingly titled “Standard Deviations”, I was able to examine typefaces in a way that was different than situations past. I found myself analyzing the typeforms in a similar fashion to the way I studied van Gogh’s “Starry Night” or Cezanne’s “Bather”, which was surreal in its own right. It was at this moment that I realized typography’s impact in art, design, and culture as a whole. Typography is everywhere. It’s unavoidable and it’s undeniable. Moreover, when it’s executed perfectly, it’s invisible. Never once did I expect to mention Hoefler & Frere-Jones in the same sentence as Picasso and Pollock, but therein lies the magnitude of typography. Typefaces and letterforms are just as much a part of art as paints and canvases. And it should be given as much consideration as colors, compositions, and content.

This second trip to New York proved to be just as meaningful as the first, albeit for different reasons. Different sights, sounds, and smells. Okay, well maybe not smells, but you get the idea. I find it ironic that I frequently take trips to New York to “find” inspiration. And every time I do, I leave finding myself believing the notion it’s the city that I find the most inspiring. The museums and restaurants are exciting and the parks are beautiful, but it’s the city herself that moves me the most. The people. The buildings. The hustle and the bustle. That’s what I find the most stimulating. It’s the city of dreams and I don’t want to wake up yet.

For more, go here.

The Cold War of Design

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by Gene Testa

For a sociology presentation I have been working on I was researching North Korean propaganda. As I gazed at the images on my screen the thought crept into my head that these posters looked strikingly similar to others I had seen before.

Upon opening another google window and a few dozen key strokes I was comparing side by side (sort of) the art of Soviet Russia and North Korea.

While the era's are relatively different in terms of when they take place the feelings behind them are the same. They show in almost unrelenting ways distinct hatred towards whatever subject it is they oppose.

For North Korea it the US for the majority of Soviet Russia, it's capitalism as a whole and Nazi Germany. It makes sense seeing as Russia was the first Marxist state to be born and actually survive for more than a few years before an upheaval. During the Korean War even, Russia fed the Communist North Korean's guns and money via China who aided by sending troops. So seeing similar styles in their posters is not surprising.

What is surprising is exactly how powerful these often simple images have on us. Even when it's written in a language we don't understand or if it's just a simple image. A good example is the image of the German soldier standing over top a fallen Russian woman while her still living daughter clings to her in fear. The image though simple defines clearly with very few words which are kept to the bottom off the image who is the enemy. It points a finger deliberately at the German infantryman of the time. In a similar manner the North Koreans have depicted American soldiers as monsters through a series of slanderous images.

It is the job of these images to evoke emotional response in opposition to the depicted message on the poster. Some of these posters have no words or words written in tastefully small pt sizes and tucked unobtrusively in a corner. While the messages and images are politically driven it is in its own unique way a form of design. A form of design that I personally feel should be studied more in depth in the art curriculum. Not because it's historical but these people who designed these posters know how to manipulate the minds of their viewers. And that is something every designer should want in their personal “tool kit”.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Young Jerks: Dan Cassaro

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by Mindy Tang

Recently, my friend told me about an awesome freelance designer, Dan Cassaro. When I visited his site for the first time, his portfolio was already right in front of me! (laughs) I looked at almost all of them so far. I was fascinated by his work and even though his styles are really similar, they all have different looks and feel on them. On his Profile & Contact page, he listed lots of links related to him. If you read some of his interview, you can tell that he's an interesting and fun guy.

On December 12, he'll be talking at Apple Store SoHo, NYC for free! For more information, go here. I hope you guys enjoys looking at his site more than I do.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Gap Crap

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by Jessica Messerschmidt

Considering were currently tackling a project on rebranding, I’d like to chime in on the outrage with the GAP stores rebrand. When I say outrage, I mean like this was social media frenzy. I’m sure some of you have seen it or maybe heard. I’m sure everyone knows what the logo Gap has been using for years and years. Gap switched out their logo for a different approach where they used Helvetica spelling the word “Gap” no longer in all caps and a small blue square, off center, placed behind the “p.”

Everyone went crazy about it. Designers, customers, twitter … etc. Gap’s response to the feedback was basically a thanks for the input and they love the passionate debate that is coming about because of their new logo. BUT, although a representative said that they loved their new look, they said they’d like to see other ideas from the public. What? Right there, it seems to me that they know that it was a lazy attempt at a rebrand and they are looking for the answers from the public.

Needless to say, One week after the introduction of the new logo Gap returned to their roots and reinstated the original Gap logo.

I obviously was not there in the meetings talking about the process and ideas for this rebrand but I can’t imagine it being intelligent. I know I’m not a professional by any means but this logo just failed in so many ways. They used a typeface that anyone has easy access to for a new look with so many already loyal customers. What does that say to your customers? They basically took their old logo of a serif font in all caps and decided that doing the opposite was the best solution. They underestimated the consumer’s knowledge on design. Honestly, I’m pretty curious what the process behind the rebrand was and how they came to this conclusion.

By all this media attention, they at least got people thinking about their store. Whether it was loyal customers or new people who may be future customers.

[Ed. – I maintain a similar sentiment as Jess, as you can see here.]