When you think of it, words get in the way of appreciating typography. You find yourself reading what’s said and paying scant attention to the characters from which the words are composed. In fact, idiosyncratic typefaces can be distracting and irritating if you are trying to read long passages. Type should affect the reader on a subliminal level, adding to the reader’s enjoyment, not stressing the eyes or competing for the reader’s attention. But as graphic forms, typefaces can be beautiful, elegant, whimsical, futuristic, historic, geometric, sculptural, and even funny, if you count Comic Sans. Used as a design element, quirky fonts can add a lot of spice to a page.
Ottawa-based McMillan Agency got straight to the point in this direct mail piece. Recipients first read how the creative agency would help clients stand out from the crowd, and when they unfolded the sheet, they could read a lengthier discussion about the challenges facing companies today. Attention-grabbing. Succinct. Minimal production costs. Great idea.
Have a sore throat? Can’t swallow without wincing? Hard to talk, much less sing? The packaging of Ricola Herbal Throat Lozenges understands. The Ricola Music Edition product wrappers, created by Hamburg-based ad agency Jung von Matt, with illustrations by Julian Canaveses, features distressed singers who represent different styles of music, from pop and opera to rap and rock ‘n roll. It’s possible to recognize Luciano Pavarotti and Elvis Presley, but not sure about the others. The tagline “Unwrap Your Voice” implies quick relief. No need to read the small print about what soothing ingredients are inside. One look at the pictures tells consumers that Ricola knows what a sore throat feels like and that relief is just a twist away.
Here’s a new twist on an old Japanese folk art – painting kokeshi doll faces on matches. The original kokeshi figures, introduced a couple centuries ago, were inexpensive souvenir items that visitors to the onsen (spa) villages of northern Japan would buy to give to friends back home. (Even in California, we used to have a half dozen kokeshi, along with snow globes from New York, native American trinkets from the Grand Canyon, and seashells from Hawaii – don’t know what happened to any of them.) It’s the kind of gift that would merit a T-shirt that read: “Grandma went to the onsen and all she brought me was this wooden kokeshi.” Kokeshi dolls were distinguished by their simple rectangular torso, lacking arms and legs, and their enlarged round wooden heads, minimally painted to indicate eyes, hair and maybe a mouth or nose. (Think “Hello Kitty,” who is also missing a mouth.)
Designers are not just ordinary consumers in the battle against suffocating the planet with litter. They are the best prevention and the last defense. Aesthetic sensitivity, retail presence, brand positioning, ease-of-use, safety, etc. are critical considerations when designing, and much more fun than thinking about the packing materials used. As important as it is to recycle and minimize waste that goes to landfill, more pressing is what gets blown away as litter. Fast-food takeout boxes probably kill more creatures than the high-fat junk food they hold. Bad typography may be annoying to read, but you never hear about seagulls strangling on overextended serifs, nor about coral reefs stomped to death by insensitive use of graphic standards. There should be life after design. Design for the afterlife. Happy Earth Month.
Korea’s largest retail chain, Emart, found that slumping sales at midday were casting a shadow over its revenues and came up with a clever way to attract lunch-time shoppers. At its 38 locations throughout Seoul, Emart installed three-dimensional QR codes on outdoor pillars located to catch the sun. Like a sundial, the shadows on the QR code moved as the sun changed position, and passersby were alerted that they could only read the QR code’s message between 12 noon and 1 pm. Consumers who scanned the code were directed to the Emart online store where they received $12 coupons for products that would be delivered to their homes. Thousands of consumers claimed Emart vouchers, and sales increased by 25% during the lunch hour.
Extending a brand into global markets isn’t a straightforward process. Product makers have to consider all kinds of cultural and language barriers. Can the letterforms be read? Can the name be pronounced? Does it have a pleasing or harsh sound when spoken? Does the name mean something else in another language? (An example is the famous case of the Chevy Nova, which in Mexico translates to “doesn’t go.”) Then there is the challenge of trying to maintain some graphic consistency so the brand is truly global and not the same product that looks different in every regional market.
Consider how Carlsberg Beer and Coca-Cola graphically translated their logotypes into multiple languages, for example. LogoDesignLove brought the Carlsberg comparisons to our attention. With Carlsberg, note the way that the designers tried to carry over the signature style of the brand — the flat-top squared-off “C,” tri-leaf accent pattern, the swash decorative flourish under the type, the brushstroke-like serif on the last “r.” Although the letterforms differ dramatically from language to language, the various logotypes have a family look that suggests their roots stem from the original Danish Carlsberg logo.
One in five Americans suffers from dyslexia, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health. Essentially that means their brains do not process or recognize certain letterforms and symbols. When looking at words, dyslexics tend to rotate, swap, twist, mirror and flop certain characters, making it difficult to comprehend what they are reading. The word “saw” may be read as “was,” for example.
It doesn’t matter how beautiful a typeface is; dyslexics still find them hard to read. In fact, probably the most elegantly fine typefaces are the toughest to make out.
Aside from the fact that these are charming images embroidered by New York-based illustrator Jillian Tamaki, the covers of Penguin Threads Classics signal yet another move to define non-electronic publishing as more than a vehicle for communications. Traditional publishers can no longer assume that readers will stay loyal to print because e-books are harder to read due to screen glare, not offered in full-color, crippled by short battery life, limited in availability of subjects and titles, etc. Over the past year, the iPad, Kindle, Nook and other e-readers have proved otherwise, and are getting better with each iteration.