How familiar are you with brand and generic names? Probably less than you realize. Some revolutionary trademarked products have achieved such market dominance that their name has become synonymous with an entire category of product or service. Particularly for breakthrough products, consumers spontaneously use the pioneer brand name generically, even when referring to later entrants in the field. Occasionally companies lose their proprietary rights to a trademark if they let competitors use the name as a common “descriptor” of a category of products and not linked to any one brand. At that point, the word can no longer be registered, a phenomenon known as “genericide.” In other instances, the trademark owner decides not to renew registration and simply lets the trade name expire.
This quiz challenges you to identify whether the name is: 1) trademarked (registered to a specific company), 2) generic (never trademarked), 3) genericized (once trademarked but now a common noun) or 4) former TM (trademark allowed to expire). Answers after the jump.
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.
Clocking in at two minutes, this Honda commercial would be a very expensive ad buy on prime-time TV, but thanks to the accessibility of YouTube and Vimeo, audiences are seeking it out online. The Honda “Hands” ad starts with a cog, just like its award-winning Cog commercial (see July 24 post below). This time Honda teamed with Wieden + Kennedy London to “celebrate the curiosity of Honda engineers” who have made Honda the world’s largest engine manufacturer and racing company since it was founded in 1948. Through “slight of hand” and brilliant animation, the cog morphs into a dazzling array of products, from motorcycles and jet planes to solar-powered cars and robots. The making of this video, directed by Smith & Foulkes and Nexus Productions, is a technological feat in itself. For brands that think they don’t have the budget for such an ambitious production, consider this: Is it better to do something middle-of-the-road and run it on prime time TV or to create something awesomely original that people will “google” to see on their own. If it is good, it will go viral.
There are some retail brands that we can spot a mile away, driving 65 miles per hour, even before we can make out the letters in the name or the logo. We recognize the brand by its signature colors. Color is a critical part of any graphic identity system. Some designers reformulate colors by tweaking the hues –making shades richer, darker, lighter or more orange, green or purple, etc. — to strengthen their proprietary link to a brand. Others simply choose “off-the-shelf” colors but display them consistently in the same combination –e.g., red, white and blue and a certain North American country. This quiz challenges you to match these color swatches with the brands they represent. Good luck! See answers after the jump.
This skit from “Burnistoun,” the comedy sketch show broadcast by BBC Scotland, reminds me of all the devices that, at first, seem like marvelous inventions, but still need work. An example is a recent exchange with that annoying automated iPhone twit, Siri. She keeps calling me “Del-fiend-E,” even though I’ve corrected her multiple times. Last week I asked Siri for the cross street of Gump’s, San Francisco’s venerable luxury home décor and jewelry store. Everybody in the Bay Area knows the 150-year-old Gump’s — except Siri. She said, “There are three dumps in San Francisco, which one do you want?” I enunciated more slowly, spelling out G-u-m-p-’s. She ignored me and started telling me the addresses of the local dumps. I finally asked a passerby for directions.
To introduce its new Maps game, Google+ built a real-life version of Google Maps in the shape of a gigantic yellow cube, and had two players navigate the urban maze by rolling and tilting a little blue ball across the thoroughfares to reach its destination. Created by San Francisco-based Venable Bell & Partners with New York-based 1st Ave Machine, the “Explore Your World” video promotes the online version of this game by demonstrating how it works if it were life-size.
From the bestselling author Jonah Lehrer comes “Imagine: How Creativity Works” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). Lehrer explains that his latest book “is about our most important mental talent: the ability to imagine what has never existed. We take this talent for granted, but our lives are defined by it. There is the pop song on the radio and the gadget in your pocket, the art on the wall and the air conditioner in the window. There is the medicine in the bathroom and the chair you are sitting in…” He gives real world examples from Pixar and Second City to Bob Dylan and Yo-Yo Ma. He goes on to say that “creativity is not a gift possessed by a lucky few; it’s a variety of distinct thought processes that we can all learn to use more effectively.” Here he offers five tips from his book on how to increase your creative potential.
In an age when so much design is digitally generated and has the look of being manufactured, it is refreshing to see beautiful display type letters drawn freehand with chalk. Not the kind of hastily written “daily special” menus seen on chalkboards in neighborhood cafes, the chalk lettering of Brooklyn-based designer Dana Tanamachi recalls the lost art of early 20th century storefront sign painters with their mix of outline and script letters, decorative flourishes, and subtle shading.
Anyone who has ever driven in San Francisco knows how hard it is to find parking, metered or otherwise. San Francisco drivers regularly pray to the “parking gods” and sometimes feel obligated to eat at a certain restaurant — “the food is so-so, but the parking is good” — simply because there’s an open spot nearby. This situation is exacerbated because the hills are so steep that it’s preferable to use a quarter tank of gas looking for parking than having to walk up or down hill. Now the city is trying to guide drivers to open spots by graphically showing them open spaces on their mobile phones. They claim that the parking map is updated every five minutes. Ha! Since when did a parking space stay open for a full five minutes in San Francisco! Many of us are beyond skeptical, but a designer in Kit’s office says that he has tried SFPark and it works.
Since 1998, Google has been regularly posting doodle logos on its homepage, which is why today it put up a playable and recordable tribute to guitarist Les Paul on what would have been his 96th birthday.
The custom reputedly started when Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin designed and posted a doodle of the Burning Man Festival in 1998 to alert users of their absence in case the servers crashed. Since then, doodle logos have appeared to honor the birthdays of famous figures from Gandhi and John Lennon to Michael Jackson and Edvard Munch and to celebrate significant holidays and events worldwide. Lately the doodle logos have become more elaborate. On February 8, Google ran an interactive doodle honoring sci-fi writer Jules Verne’s 183rd birthday, and on April 15th, it commemorated Charlie Chaplin’s 122nd birthday with its first video doodle. As far as we know, the homage to Les Paul is the first playable doodle. As if we don’t have enough reason to go to Google; now it’s to check out its doodle logo for the day.
A clever bit of collaborative advertising between Google and Pixar, the latest Google search story video was timed to the release of “Toy Story 3” and features the familiar voices of Andy’s toys. It runs just one-minute long and is devoid of any fancy animation. A mini-preview of the next “Toy Story,” the video introduces us to key characters and hints at the plot and happy outcome.
Google search stories originally started out as a series of online videos about the product and its users. One search story, “Parisian Love,” got so many hits during the first three months that it played on YouTube that the company decided to break its rule about not running TV ads and aired it on the 2010 Super Bowl. What’s brilliant about the Google search stories are their utter simplicity and charm. The “searchers” always remain faceless and anonymous, yet their stories unfold through letters clicked into the search box, forming words that reveal tales of romance, adventure travel, job changes, health concerns, and personal passions. Viewers become voyeurs to the searchers’ life, yearnings, paranoia, interests, peccadilloes, and wild imagination, following their logic to delightful conclusions. “Every quest is its own story,” claims Google’s YouTube channel, which invites visitors to create their own search story. Actually, that is something we do everyday, often unaware of how much that says about where we are coming from.
Since time immemorial kids have developed their own slang language to communicate amongst themselves and make the older generation feel really out-of-it. If you want to be gnarly, you have to get with the program. Gotta know what’s phat to be cool. Dig it! Same goes with type fonts. Certain faces are so closely associated with an era, that like zoot suits and Nehru jackets, they become signatures of a decade. For designers, such typefaces serve as graphic devices to subtly evoke images of an era without going overboard with clichés. See if you can match these slang phrases with the decade in which they were most popular, and if you are really feeling sharp, name the typefaces too.
About 12 years ago, we presented a quiz titled “Alphabet Soup,” (Vol. 3, No. 2) to see if our readers could identify a company simply by the first logotype letter in its name. Since then, new companies, and whole new industries, have risen to the forefront. Some of the brands featured in that quiz don’t exist anymore. So, we have created a new alphabet quiz out of logotypes from some of today’s best-known companies. Keep in mind that the most recognizable letter is sometimes in the middle of the name. If you’re stumped, take a peek at the answers.