Love is in the air, and no one is more enthralled with Valentine’s Day than florists, chocolatiers, and greeting card vendors. Consider these Valentine’s Day statistics for the U.S. alone: 110 million roses are sold February 14, 58 billion pounds of chocolates, and 145 million Valentine’s Day cards. Named for St. Valentine who died on February 14 after being tortured and beheaded by a Roman Emperor, Valentine’s Day, in the romantic sense that as we think of it today, did not catch on until the Victorian era and owes much of its popular success to rapid advances in printing, paper and mass production technologies. Over the ages, Valentine’s Day evolved its own romantic ideographs – the color red, stylized heart shape, Cupid shooting arrows dipped in desire and erotic love, birds chirping to attract a mate, and typographic flourishes bursting with rapture. The Victorian card, on the left, is overlaid with a delicate doily that reveals embossed, die-cut printed images on the paper beneath. The contemporary card, on the right, designed by lettering artist Jessica Hische, expresses the exuberant complexity of love by the way the letterforms are drawn.
Gung hay fat choy! February 5 kicks off the Year of the Pig, but you probably already know that. Even nations that don’t celebrate the Asian Lunar New Year pay homage to its significance by issuing their own commemorative Pig postage stamps. The Pig is the 12th and last animal symbol on the Chinese Zodiac calendar, which runs in 12-year cycles in approximation to the 11.85 year orbital period of Jupiter, the largest planet in the solar system.
According to Chinese mythology, the Jade Emperor organized a race and invited the animals in his kingdom to participate. Twelve showed up. The emperor told the contestants that he would name a year of the zodiac after each one, according to who came in first. The cunning Rat saw it didn’t have the stamina to swim across a rapid stream and convinced the kindly Ox to let him ride on his back. Once across, the Rat leapt off the Ox without even saying thanks, and scurried over the finish line. The easily distracted Pig got bored and stopped to eat and nap, coming in dead last. That’s why the Zodiac calendar begins with the Year of the Rat and ends with the Year of the Pig. The Pig is a symbol of wealth and good fortune as well as jovialness and honesty, but it is also known for being a bit of a slob. The Pig symbol applies to those born in 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, and 2019.
Gung hay fat choy! Especially if you are a Pig, this is your year. Read More »
Why try to describe the product with images and words, when you can die-cut the package and give shoppers a peek inside? Especially when it comes to pasta noodles, it is helpful to see what the actual noodles look like instead of trying to recall the difference between fettuccine, rigatoni, vermicelli, macaroni, etc. This concept packaging by Moscow-based designer Nikita Konkin used the different shapes and textures of pasta noodles to create silhouettes of fanciful hairstyles in the die-cut windows. The noodle hairstyles framed a simple one-color line drawing of a woman’s face in a memorable and playful way. Read More »
Most people won’t even notice, but Dunkin’ has dropped the word Donuts from its name. The change is probably long overdue. The average millennial has no clue how the name originated or what made “Dunkin’ Donuts” so descriptive of their offering. The name is alliterative and fun to say, for sure, but only old-timers know how cleverly the name describes the favorite way to enjoy the snack. The practice of dunking doughnuts in steaming hot coffee or hot cocoa became popular around 1934 after movie idol Clark Gable showed Claudette Colbert how to do it right in the hit film “It Happened One Night.”
In 1950 when Bill Rosenberg opened the first Dunkin’ Donuts shop in Quincy, Massachusetts, the name was an accurate description of how to enjoy the snack. Since then the number of Dunkin’ Donuts franchises worldwide has shot up to more than 11,500, and the menu has expanded to include croissants, muffins, bagels, frozen drinks, sandwiches and wraps, hash browns, and 50+ kinds of donuts. The old name was limiting and misleading and needed to be retired.
For decades, ramen has been considered “cheap eats.” Dry ramen noodles with a flavor foil packet could be bought for less than 30 cents a box. Just add a cup of boiling water, steep, and eat. More than one college student has subsisted on instant ramen for months at a time. Ramen wasn’t featured on the menu of fancy Japanese restaurants. That’s no longer the case. Now Americans are being exposed to the delicate yet complex flavor of true ramen. Freshly made ramen noodles is served with a wide selection of broths, including pork, chicken, seafood, and beef, and served with artfully arranged toppings such as vegetables, mushroom, seaweed, meats, egg, and the like.
Trendy ramen bistros are popping up all over the U.S. One of the most notable upscale ramen houses is Afuri in Portland, Oregon. The sleekly modern restaurant, which seats 90 diners, features ramen as its main specialty, and is renown for its signature ramen dish made with a citrusy yuzu broth.
Portland-based Murmur Creative was commissioned to develop a sweeping design branding program for Afuri that combines the Japanese aesthetic with the Pacific Northwest’s inviting style.
In Budapest two friends Bihari Akos and Himmel Oiver, both engineers, indulged their love of craft beer by setting out to make the country’s “craziest, freshest” artisan beer. Their creations led to going commercial in 2014, establishing the Brew Your Mind Brewery to introduce an inspired variety of craft beers, including some with aromatic tropical fruit flavors.
To position the unique originality of their beers and ales in the marketplace, they hired Budapest-based Classmate Studio to design the brand identity and packaging for Brew Your Mind. Classmate bypassed traditional beer packaging designs and created labels showing 3-D lines and optical illusions. Each beer type was given its own name – Yellow Haze, Peach Please, Evermind, Endless Waves, Bright Lies, Money Cannon — and its own abstract package design and signature colors. The impact was eye-catching, fun and contemporary. For the Brewery logo, they placed a line-drawn eyeball on a silhouette of an old-fashioned beer bottle cap with crimped edges, kind of like eyelashes. Online the logo appears to blink, altering from looking like a simple bottle cap to a winking eye. In a few short years, the sophisticated branding has helped to make Brew Your Mind the top craft beer brewery in Hungary. Read More »
Some brand graphics are so familiar and entrenched in our memory that our brain often registers the name based solely on the logo’s shape and color. Our mind “fills in the blank,” even when the name is hidden from view. The color and shape of the logo are part of the brand’s identity. They often have as much equity and recognition value as the name itself. In certain circumstances when a company wants to signal major improvements in quality, product offerings or reputation, walking away from or tweaking old brand elements may not be a bad idea. But it shouldn’t be done casually.
See if you can guess these brand name from the shape and color of their logos. (See answers at end of article.)
Setting a film title in the font Trajan is a can’t-go-wrong choice.–cheaper than commissioning a titling face from scratch and not as mundane as picking Helvetica or Times Roman. Typewise, it is the equivalent of the “little black dress” that fashion magazines tell us should be in every woman’s closet for special social occasions. Whether the film titling is for a comedy, romance or thriller, Trajan is refreshingly appealing and appropriate.
A serif all-caps typeface designed in 1989 by Carol Twombly for Adobe, Trajan is based on the letterforms carved into the Trajan’s Column in Rome in AD113. The classical Roman letterforms actually predate the inscription on the Trajan’s Column, and first appeared in 43 BC, making it the world’s oldest typeface. Twombly’s crisp and faithful digitalization of Trajan has given it new life, and has become the ubiquitous font for the film industry. This video on Trajan was produced by Vox and designer/ typography blogger Yves Peters.
On the 200th anniversary of the Flag Act of 1818, the U.S. Postal Service has released a first-class stamp designed by @Issue founder Kit Hinrichs.
The Flag Act of 1818 gave the country the basic design rules that dictate the look of the flag today– namely, 13 stripes representing the Original 13 Colonies and one star for each state in the Union. This 1818 Act superseded the Flag Act of 1794, which decreed that each state in the Union be represented on the flag with one stripe and one star. The folly of the 1794 design quickly became apparent when Kentucky and Vermont joined the Union and the stripes had to be made thinner and thinner and the stars smaller and more cramped. With more states slated to join the Union, it quickly became clear that the American flag would soon become a mess, with the number of stars and stripes changing so frequently that the public won’t recognize it as an official emblem, much less an iconic symbol of the U.S.
This stamp commemorating the Flag Act of 1818 displays 20 stars, the number of states in the Union in 1818. It is the second in a set of Forever flag stamps designed by Kit.
How better to illustrate how frustrating and isolating it feels to be a foreigner who can’t communicate with locals than to use a “real” alien. The funny commercial, made by Wieden & Kennedy London and directed by David Shane, features a tourist named Alexi from who knows what planet explaining how Babbel, the language learning app, transformed his travel experience. He went from being treated like a strange alien to the gregarious, likeable individual he really is. The advert was charmingly “convincing,” except for the fact that on first meeting Alexi, the locals remained infinitely polite and patient and didn’t threaten to call the cops. Must not have been made in the U.S.
Film director Dougal Wilson and Furlined, a global production company with offices in Los Angeles, New York and London, are sweeping the 2018 ad awards shows, including medals from the Art Directors Club, One Show, Webby Award, D&AD, and British Arrow. Their winning entry is “Barbers,” a quirky commercial promoting the Portrait mode on Apple’s iPhone 7 Plus. Previously available only on DSLR cameras, the Portrait mode uses the iPhone’s rear cameras to separate the foreground subject from the background, to secure impressive studio-quality lighting effects.
The location for showing the iPhone’s Portrait is set in a funky New Orleans barbershop, enlivened by “Fantastic Man” by Nigerian synth pop artist William Obyearbor. Apple says it had to do 24 haircuts to make the advert. It donated the shorn hair to Locks for Love, a nonprofit that helps provide hairpieces to disadvantaged children in need.
At a time when online retailers are driving bricks-and-mortar stores out of business, Korean eyewear brand Gentle Monster is transforming the concept of what a retail space should be. Gentle Monster’s retail interior closely resembles an abstract art exhibition that happens to sell stylish, futuristic eyewear. Founded in Seoul in 2011 by Hankook Kim, Gentle Monster has attracted a cultlike following, including renowned celebrities and fashion designers, and has spurred the opening of more than 41 Gentle Monster stores in South Korea, China, Hong Kong, Thailand, and the U.S.
Gentle Monster’s décor is surreal and experiential. Wild art displays provide the aesthetic theme for each space. The Singapore store is an interpretation of Nietzche’s “Thus Spoke Zarathustra.” In Chengdu, China, the retail space imagines the creation of a post-apocalytic world. The Los Angeles store leads shoppers through the stages of “Harvest,” and the Daegu, South Korea, space is disguised as a laundromat.
If you think that when you’ve seen one Starbucks cafe, you’ve seen them all, you need to visit the Starbucks Roastery and Reserve Tasting Room in Shanghai. The Starbucks signature mermaid and green brand elements are underplayed to the point of not being noticeable. Elegant wood and gleaming copper finishes adorn the 30,000-square-foot establishment, staffed by 400 employees. The place feels like “Disneyland” for caffeine lovers.
The sights are awesome and entertaining! A towering copper cask, adorned with more than 1,000 traditional Chinese chops (stamps) hand-engraved to narrate the story of Starbucks and coffee. A ceiling made out of 10,000 handmade hexagonal wooden tiles, inspired by the locking of an espresso shot on an espresso machine. A Roastery featuring three wood-carved bars, one of which is 88 feet long, where customers can watch beans being roasted and baristas brewing coffee using six different methods and beans from 30 countries. If that isn’t enough, an integrated AR system, built with an Alibaba web app, lets customers immerse themselves in the space through their smartphones. There is also specially crafted nitrogen-infused teas at the tea bar, and an on-site bakery offering scrumptious artisanal baked goods by famed Italian baker, Rocco Princi acclaimed from Milan to London.
With a population of 24 million people just in the city of Shanghai, even a gigantic Starbucks store can’t serve all the locals. Shanghai already has 600 other Starbucks cafes in the city, and 3,000 locations in 136 Chinese cities, with one new Starbucks location opening in China every 15 hours.
“Keep Calm and Carry On” is the most famous British World War II poster that few people knew about until a half century later. Virtually all of the 2.5 million copies printed in anticipation of plastering the UK with them when war broke out, never saw the light of day.
It all started in the spring of 1939, as England braced itself for a German invasion. To prepare citizens for that inevitability, the UK Ministry of Information (MOI) formed a Home Publicity Committee made up of civil servants, volunteer academics, publicists and publishers to plan a campaign urging citizens to keep a “stiff upper lip.” The committee met weekly over lunch hour and suggested various slogans — e.g, “England Is Prepared” and “We’re Going to See This Through.” The committee proposed a series of seven or more morale-boosting posters, which the Treasury vetoed due to cost, giving them less than half of their requested budget. Ultimately, the MOI settled on three poster messages: “Your Courage, Your Cheerfulness, Your Resolution Will Bring Us Victory”; “Freedom Is In Peril, Defend It With All Your Might,” and “Keep Calm and Carry On.” Someone suggested “Keep Calm, Don’t Panic,” but that was nixed.
Plastic may be cheap and convenient, but there is mounting evidence that it is killing the planet and all the inhabitants on it. According to Ecowatch, today there are 500 times more pieces of microplastic in the sea than there are stars in our galaxy. By 2050, it is estimated that there will be more plastic in our oceans than fish. Enough plastic is thrown away each year to circle the earth four times. Plastic constitutes about 90 percent of the trash floating on the ocean’s surface. One million seabirds and over 100,000 marine mammals are killed each year from plastics in the ocean. Plastic chemicals can be absorbed by humans too – 93 percent of Americans age 6 and older test positive for BPA, a harmful hormone-altering plastic chemical. Some retailers are not giving up in despair, but are addressing the disposable plastics problem one aisle at a time.
Lacoste’s familiar white polo shirts is swapping out its signature embroidered green alligator logo temporarily for ten endangered animals to raise awareness and help conservation efforts. The limited edition “Save Our Species” polos made their debut at the recent Paris Fashion Show, and include the Vaquita porpoise, Sumatran tiger, Anegada ground iguana, California condor, Kakapo parrot, Saola ox, Northern sportive lemur, Burmese roofed turtle, Javan rhino, and Cao-vit gibbon.
Created in partnership with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (ICUN), the Save Our Species Lacoste shirts have been produced in very limited number – 1,775 in total. The number of shirts produced for each species corresponds with the population of each species still surviving in the wild. For instance, only 30 polos will be made featuring the Vaquita porpoise, and 67 for the Javan rhino. The extremely scarce polo shirts, costing roughly $183 each, will be available for as long as they last from ICUN’s Save Our Species site.