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 »
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.
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.
For centuries, wall posters have been a favorite means to publicize events, products, causes, political movements and the like. It is a sad commentary on the 21st century that we need to use this public vehicle to draw attention to an idea as basic as Tolerance. Unfortunately, we do.
“Tolerance” is the name and theme of a traveling poster show that is now circling the globe. Organized by Bosnian-born and now New York-based, Mirko Ilic, the Tolerance Traveling Poster Show features the contributions of renowned designers including Milton Glaser (USA), Chaz Maviyana-Davies (Zimbabwe), Yuko Shimizu (Japan), Manuel Estrada (Spain), Tarek Atrissi (Lebanon), Jianping Ha (China), and some two dozen others.
To keep the exhibition accessible to a broad audience, the posters are shown in public plazas, shopping malls, parks, and other open venues instead of in art galleries and art museums. Conceived to be electronically produced and hung anywhere in the world within a week, the Tolerance posters show is expected to run for two years. To date, it has been shown on nearly every continent, with illustrators and designers from exhibiting countries contributing their own Tolerance poster to the show.
Pantone, the authority on all things color, has announced that Ultra Violet – aka, Pantone 18-3838 — will be the Color of 2018. Pantone didn’t come up with this pronouncement arbitrarily, although it would seem that funereal black or pukey orange would be more fitting to the times. Pantone color gurus, however, are more philosophical and optimistic – and less snide. The Institute describes Ultra Violet as associated with “mindfulness practices, which offer a higher ground to those seeking refuge from today’s over-stimulated world.” Pantone vice president Laurie Pressman says, “Pantone Color of the Year has come to mean so much more than ‘what’s trending’ in the world of design, it’s truly a reflection of what’s needed in the world today.” Considered in that light, I would nominate “Pussy Hat Pink” or Fire Rescue Red” instead.
At the end of every harvest season, farming communities around the world celebrate with festivals, parades, and the crowning of harvest queens. (e.g., in 1948, an unknown actress named Marilyn Monroe won the title of Artichoke Queen in Castroville, Ca.) These festivals are usually the most exciting local events to happen all year. Except for folks from neighboring farm communities, they don’t draw many out-of-towners, much less real tourists. But in the rice-growing region of Northern Japan, tourists flock in for the Wara Art Matsuri.
Macondo Chocolate is a single origin chocolate line handmade by Kernow Chocolate Company in the UK. According to Kernow’s website, the flavor of cacao beans, like that of coffee beans and wine grapes, is affected by where the beans are grown, the regional temperature, annual rainfall, and nutrients in the soil. It’s said that chocolate connoisseurs are familiar with the appellations of cacao beans and have their preferences. Hence, Macondo Chocolate set out to appeal to their discerning taste by sourcing its cacao beans from different corners of the world, and processing each batch separately to maintain the distinct and pure flavor of their country of origin.
When I was a toddler, my grandmother, who spoke mostly Japanese, taught me how to mimic the sounds that dogs, cats and horses make. So imagine my confusion when my kindergarten teacher asked what a dog says, and I quickly raised my hand and said, “Wan, wan.” She shook her head and asked the class, “Does anyone else want to guess?” All of the other 5-year-olds yelled out, “Bow wow” and “woof woof.”
It was then that I realized that every culture has its own impression of how animals sound. As graphic communicators, we should be mindful of this when translating a book into another language. It’s not just words that differ; it’s how sounds are heard too. Manchester, UK- author James Chapman made this point in a charming illustrated book called Soundimals, presenting 19 animals “speaking” 32 different languages.
View James Chapman’s language based art on his Tumblr and purchase his work on his Etsy Store.
On the national branding front, the big news is that the Czech Republic has just adopted the shorter, friendlier name Czechia for all but formal occasions. The name change has been under discussion since the break-up of Czechoslovakia in 1993. Czechia is not the first nation to limit the use of “Republic” in its name. The Slovak Republic goes by Slovakia, the Federal Republic of Germany goes by just Germany. “Cesko” is what many Czechs call their country, but it didn’t make the cut because people like former Czech president Vaclav Havel said the name made his “flesh creep.” So, Czechia it is. Now it is up to Czech designers to promote the national brand on T-shirts, coffee mugs, soccer jerseys, and all kinds of tcotchke.
When Grey Group opened a new Singapore division of its ad agency earlier this year, it wanted to communicate that it had assembled a team from a dozen different countries to handle business in 106 national markets. It was truly multinational in every sense of the word. The challenge was how to suggest its global outlook visually without resorting to tedious clichés. Luis Fabra, Grey Singapore’s senior graphic designer, chose the most recognizable symbol of any country – its national flag. From there, he deconstructed each flag into geometric shapes – stripes, dots, triangles, half circles, etc. – and rearranged the color scheme on each flag to form a single letter of the alphabet. Grey Singapore’s multinational typeface actually has 106 letters in the alphabet, with some letters repeated to give each country equal representation. Abstract yet country-specific, the letters in combination suggest a strong communication program that is sensitive to all cultures.
It’s not always as simple as applying a single set of graphic standards across the board when a brand expands into foreign markets. In some cases, the brand name may be difficult to pronounce in the native language or the letters may translate into a word that is negative or obscene. Or the graphic mark may include a detail that may be perceived as insulting or culturally taboo. The challenge for brand designers is to adapt the logo to the region, while preserving enough elements to make it recognizable in every part of the world. Ideally, travelers to a foreign country will recognize the brand identity on sight even if the letters or image differ from what they are used to in their own culture. See if you can name these brands. (Answers after the jump.)
Show Us Your Type is a design project created by Neue, a thrice-yearly online magazine that focuses on two things that the Neue founders say they “adore” – typography and cities. Each issue is about a different capital city, and designers are invited to submit their interpretation of the chosen city through posters that are primarily typographic. It is interesting to note what each artist sees as iconic of the culture. To look at a broader selection, go to showusyourtype.com.
It looks like a gigantic tumbleweed rolling across the plain, but its purpose is deadly serious. Massoud Hansani, a designer and Afghan refugee, created a landmine detonator as his final graduate design project at the Design Academy in Eidenhoven, the Netherlands. For Hassani, whose native Afghanistan is one of the most heavily mined countries in the world, a minesweeper seemed like a practical object that would be in widespread demand. According to the UN, more than 110 million active mines are scattered across 70 countries, with an equal number stockpiled waiting to be planted.
Reading about this website publication, which describes itself as a “global community for people over the age of 50,” brought to mind a recent news story about the rise of “marijuana parties” thrown by aging baby boomers living in retirement villages. The 50+ crowd is a lot more youthful and hip than it used to be. Its ranks include some of the world’s most celebrated “hunks” – Brad Pitt, Colin Firth, Johnny Depp, to name a few. So, it is interesting that the only 50+ publication that comes to mind is AARP’s. Its story content feels aimed at soon-to-be geriatrics, and its advertising weighs heavily toward adult diapers, chair lifts for stairs, arthritis drugs and walk-in bathtubs. Both the design and content of the AARP magazine feel like they were meant to appeal to the generation who lived through the Great Depression and World War II. Age 50 was probably set as the dividing line for seniors around 1950 when life expectancy in the U.S. was 65.
For those of us who have been glued to the television all week watching the London 2012 Olympics, here’s a little quiz to do during commercial breaks. According to modern Olympic tradition, the host country for the Games is responsible for creating an emblem to be used on promotional materials, by sponsors of the Olympics, and on the uniforms of every Olympic competitor. Over the decades, these logos have integrated the cultural symbols and patterns, national colors and artistic styles of the host country into the design. See if you can name the year and location for each of these emblems. A bonus point if you can recite the Olympics motto. Click “Read More” for answers.
Coca-Cola has just unveiled six limited-edition cans to cheer on Team USA at the London Olympics this summer. San Francisco-based design agency, Turner Duckworth, combined three of the world’s most recognizable icons to communicate the entire story –the stripes of the American flag; the five interlocked rings of the Olympic logo and silhouette of an athlete, and Coca-Cola’s signature red and Spencerian script logotype. The effect is succinct, direct and graphically powerful. Coca-Cola is rotating the can designs throughout the summer, with a new one appearing every two weeks, culminating with a special composite logo timed for the opening of the Olympic Games.