Designer Milton Glaser, who passed this week on his 91st birthday, left a body of work that transcends the decades. His “I love NY” logo, psychedelic Dylan poster, and Mahalia Jackson album cover will forever remain part of our cultural iconography.
His love of design remained strong to his final days. For Milton, design wasn’t a profession or merely a means to accrue wealth and fame. It was a process of observing, learning, communicating core ideas. It is fitting that the last piece that he was working on when he passed was a graphical treatment of the word “Together” to encourage the public struggling through the covid 19 pandemic.
Confronted with irrefutable video evidence that an unarmed black man in Minneapolis was violently killed by police, George Floyd’s death has touched off an outpouring of grief, rage, protests, and calls for an end to police brutality. It has also produced some incredibly powerful graphic posters and street murals, mostly done by unknown artists. Interestingly, these images do not depict the shockingly cruel manner in which Floyd died, but afforded him the dignity of a portrait that presented him as a martyr for social justice – justice that is centuries overdue.
April 22nd marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, which most years focuses on how mankind is endangering the environment and the creatures that inhabit the earth. This year illustrator Craig Frazier created a poignant reminder that humans are also an interconnected part of this ecosystem. With the coronavirus pandemic threatening our very existence, it behooves us to remember that we are all part of one earth. Explaining how he arrived at this year’s Earth Day theme, Craig said, “At this time, we need to take care of those who are taking care of us all over the world. I designed this poster to honor the health care workers who are doing the heavy lifting.” Indeed.
With the novel coronavirus exploding around the world, medical authorities are telling us that one of the most effective deterrents is to wash our hands often (same order our mothers gave us when we were five). The advice is that we should wash our hands thoroughly with soap and hot water for at least 20 seconds, equivalent to the time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” slowly twice. It is not enough to just perform a cursory rinse, but to actually scrub our hands – top, palm, and between the fingers. Rather than lecturing people to perform this basic hygiene, some countries are releasing entertaining public service announcements to keep our attention. Two of our favorites are this orchestral spoof from Iran, performed by comedian Danial Kheirikhah and a choreographed demonstration from Vietnam by Quang Dang. Enjoy the video but take the advice deadly seriously, as if your life depends on it. It does.
Until very recently, it was common to see people carrying shopping bags boldly printed with the name of the store where they made their purchase. These branded bags were like walking endorsements, broadcasting where the person liked to shop.
That’s becoming less the case now. More people are shopping online and receiving their orders by mail in plain padded envelopes stamped UPS or FedEx or with an Amazon arrow. More importantly, many municipalities are trying to cut down on litter, conserve resources and keep plastic pollutants out of waterways by charging for single-use shopping bags. In cities like San Francisco, responsible shoppers never enter a store without bringing their own reusable cloth sack. This is much to the chagrin of marketing pros who long considered shopping bags a handy surface to plug their brand.
Now it looks like the only marketing opportunity left is the humble hang tag. Not worthy of much design effort, hang tags have been a place to relate facts like size, price, care instructions, manufacturing materials, website, UPC code, etc. Display of the brand name and logo is often perfunctory, with the expectation that the buyer will immediately cut off the tag and toss it out. But what if serious effort went into designing the hang tag? What if it exuded style and brand personality? What if it was printed with special effects like embossing, fluorescent inks, and foil stamps? What if the text was interesting to read? Maybe then shoppers would take a moment to appreciate the marketing effort – and remember the brand.