Name one major company founded or headed by a designer? (Apple doesn’t count since Steve Jobs wasn’t actually trained as a designer.) If you can’t come up with one, you’re not alone. Designers create, they invent, they innovate, they make products and brands more successful, more visible, more desirable, but other than running their own design studios, they typically don’t lead businesses. “30 Weeks: A Founders Program for Designers” in New York City is determined to change that. Operated by Hyper Island, a Swedish educational company, and supported by Google in partnership with the SVA, Parsons, Pratt, and The Cooper Union, the experimental program wants to transform designers into founders through a 30-week course in start-up mentorship, discussions with industry leaders, group critiques, tools, hands-on help, and an environment where participants can focus on their own products. Enrollment for the 2014 program, which starts in September, is closed, but it is worth following nonetheless to see if designers can be trained to take the lead.
When evaluating the visibility of a logo design, most designers consider how it will look in all kinds of situations — printed on advertisements, cast in metal, embossed on letterhead, foil-stamped on packaging, blown up to a mega-size for environmental signage, etc. Logos for apps, however, are different. The most important test is how the mark will look at less than a quarter-inch high when viewed on a smartphone or laptop screen. Here’s a quiz to see if you can name these app brands, shown here larger than they are normally seen.
It is nice to see that Apple is still channeling Steve Jobs in this new ad campaign by TBWA/Chiat/Day. The “Intention” video is classic Apple. Like Apple’s products and its packaging, it feels elegant, devoid of fussiness and ostentation. It communicates simply, directly, softly. It doesn’t provide boastful descriptions of its own engineering prowess or gee-whiz features. In fact, it doesn’t show or name its products at all. It tells you how it strives to deliver what you want to feel when using Apple products. It’s all about you… your desires… your pleasure. If iMac was a guy, he’d have women swooning at his feet.
There are many reasons why corporations update, revise or simply abandon their logos. The old mark may feature antiquated technology or not be politically correct by today’s standards. It may no longer reflect who they are, the size of their current business or what they sell. Or it may have been drawn by the founder or a promising art student when the firm was a cash-poor startup. Whatever. The result was a logo that looked amateurish and generic. This is a tough quiz, made harder because we had to remove the brand names on some logos so they didn’t give away the answer. When you pair the logo with the brand however, you’re likely to be surprised. Good luck!
If this thermostat looks like something that Apple would have designed had it been interested in home heating, there’s a reason. Tony Fadell, who conceived of the iPod and then went on to work on the iPhone while at Apple (he left in 2008), came up with this household device through his own company, Nest Labs. The clean Apple aesthetic and intuitive ease-of-use are evident in the Nest Learning Thermostat. The temperature is displayed in bright, clear numerals, and the rim ring acts as the dial. The LCD-lit center turns red if you are raising the temperature and shows blue if you are lowering it. A green leaf appears under the number to indicate a setting for optimal energy savings. Not only that, the Nest programs itself, using software to analyze and track your usage patterns over time. Once it learns your preferences, it adjusts itself automatically, and even turns itself down to the “Away” mode, if it doesn’t sense any movement in the house. The Nest also comes with a mobile app that lets you change the temperature and schedule remotely by laptop, smartphone or pad.
Programmable thermostats, even ones that can be controlled remotely, are not new to the marketplace. What makes Nest exceptional is that it is designed for the user. You don’t have to squint to read the temperature gauge or gnash your teeth when trying to figure out the instructions to get it to do all the things that the ads promise it can do. It doesn’t try to impress consumers by displaying the complex engineering of the product. That’s more intimidating than impressive. What good design does best is create an interface with the user that makes the complex simple. Given the large number of consumers (including me) who don’t know how to program their existing thermostats, a device that is pleasing to view and as easy to use as an iPod is a welcome advance.
Elegant. Simple. Intuitive. Graphic. These are descriptions not applied to technology until Steve Jobs dazzled the world with the Macintosh, the iMac, the iPod, iPhone, iPad and more. He understood the purpose of design on a visceral level and not only transformed the way designers work, but elevated public awareness that design is not merely an aesthetic marketing device, but the heartbeat of innovation. Thank you, Steve. Well done. Rest in peace.
Apple identifies itself with an apple; McDonald’s with its golden arches, and Nike with its swoosh. Does Starbucks’ green mermaid enjoy the same graphic brand recognition without accompaniment of its name?
In unveiling its new no-name logo yesterday, Howard Schultz, Starbucks’ CEO, explained that the 40-year-old company had moved away from its core coffee offerings and the new logo was “more suitable” for the future of its business. Signaling that the company has broadened its branded product line by dropping the word “Coffee” from its identity makes sense, but why drop “Starbucks” too?
Microsoft is taking the fight back to Apple with a series of commercials, by Crispin Porter & Bogusky, that spoof the Apple ads that spoofed it. The Apple ads, by TBWA/Chiat/Day, feature comedian John Hodgman portraying the sincere but dull office “everyman” extolling the PC while his tech-savvy, youthful friend, “Mac,” played by actor Justin Long, comments good-naturedly. Instead of ignoring the Mac ads and changing the subject, Microsoft found a Hodgman lookalike right in its own office – a program engineer named Sean Siler – and had him protest that Apple has reduced him to a stodgy stereotype in spots titled “I’m a PC”. The witty response, free of the usual corporate-cliche slogans, makes Microsoft seem surprisingly cool. To see one of the Mac ads that started it all, click to the next page.
Sometimes less is more. Elegance is simplicity. Trying to say everything may ultimately communicate nothing, as this parody shows.