Over the past 30 years, we have seen many professions in the graphic arts replaced by technology. Sign painting is one. Sign painting was a trade that existed in every community to adorn storefronts, banners, billboards, street signs, and buildings. The really good signs were one-of-a-kind works of art, produced by a steady hand, discerning eye, and aesthetic sensibility. Hand-painted signs revealed the pride and skill of the craftsmen. Their execution took human judgment and an active collaboration of eye, mind and hand. On a subliminal level, viewers could feel the effort of the maker. Now signs are mostly computer-designed, die-cut vinyl lettering. Undoubtedly, this is faster, cheaper and more uniform in quality, but like so much of our urban landscape, it lacks the warmth, soul and touch of human hands. “Sign Painters” is a documentary film (and also a book) by Faythe Levine and Sam Macon that celebrates the vanishing art of sign painting. The film is currently being shown in select locations in the U.S. and other parts of the globe. If it comes to your area, do see it.
The product used to be called NutsOnline and its packaging identity was totally generic and forgettable. So, when the New Jersey-based online retailer secured the domain name “Nuts.com,” it set out to change its image by hiring a powerhouse team to design a new logo and packaging. The result is an identity that looks like it was created by precocious third-graders – but in a good way. The letters were hand-drawn by Pentagram partner Michael Bierut and digitized by type designer Jeremy Mickel. Illustrator Christoph Niemann made line-drawings of the gang of playful nuts. The effect is fresh and charming, and unconventionally nutty. As breezily executed as this design looks, it takes skill to make it appear spontaneous and carefree and not amateurish and crudely done. A closer looks shows there is a hierarchy to the information on the box and an organization to the design. Even the see-through nut personalities give consumers a glimpse of the product inside. This is sophisticated design made to look naïve.