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.
In many ancient cultures, traditional patterns are imbued with symbolic meaning that turn the objects on which they appear into amulets believed to bestow powers that protect a person from danger or harm. What better place to add this extra measure of safety than on a bicyclist’s headgear. Korean designers Kim Jungwoo, Kim Yoonsang and Park Eunsug found that the dramatic Sun Ja Mun pattern, a symbol for love, living and luck, was well suited to the cut-out design of a bike helmet, and also appealed to the bike rider’s philosophy of life.
A logo is widely considered the most important visual expression of retail brands, corporations and institutions. The symbol is a graphic “stand-in” for the entity, communicating its personality and values through a unique and memorable combination of colors, shapes and typography. The latest episode of PBS’s Off Book web series explores “The Art of Logo Design,” with designers Stephen Heller, Sagi Haviv of Chermayeff & Geismar, Kelli Anderson, and Gerard Huerta commenting on the role of logos today.
“Why Asian advertising is strong and mystic” was the theme of AdFest 2011, an exhibition of the best ad work in Asia. Commissioned by the Yoshida Hideo Memorial Foundation/ Advertising Museum Tokyo to promote this pan-Asian event, Dentsu Inc. in Osaka developed a poster series with lavish illustrations that reminds one of a reflexology foot chart or, in the case of the open palm, like a spiritual mudra (a hand gesture that symbolizes divine manifestation).
Car emblems have existed almost from the inception of automobiles. Early cars had radiator caps that rested on top of the hood. At least one automaker got the idea of turning the cap into a hood ornament. Soon every automaker had an emblem or mascot adorning the hood of their car. In addition to giving the vehicle a decorative flourish, the emblem served as a brand identifier. Early carmakers based their designs on everything from national flags, family crests, coat of arms, constellation of stars, and animals that embodied the traits they admired. Today with the profile of cars looking so much alike, the emblem is often the only way we can identify the maker. See if you can recognize these. (Answers on the next page.)
Given the fact that so many people emailed us articles about the Museum of Modern Art in New York “acquiring” the @ symbol for its architecture and design collection, we believe that others made the connection to us as well.
Actually, the origin of the @ symbol is rather murky. One theory is that it was invented by scribes around the sixth or seventh century as an abbreviation of “ad,” the Latin word for “at” or “toward.” Then @ resurfaced on the keyboard of the first typewriter, the American Underwood, in 1885, as a shorthand way of stating “at the rate of” on accounting documents. With the exception of bookkeepers, few people used the @ key, which apparently was the reason why an American programmer named Raymond Tomlinson decided to appropriate it in 1971 when devising a system to state the first email address. Tomlinson concluded that a succinct way to let email senders identify themselves was by separating the user name from the host computer from which it was sent with the @ sign. That made perfect sense and quickly became the language of the global email realm.
In 1994, when we were trying to come up with a name for our new business and design journal, the @ symbol seemed like a clever way of implying that we were at the cutting-edge of contemporary issues. Little did we realize that in 2009 when we launched ourselves as a magablog, we couldn’t register “@Issue” as our url and had to go with the annoyingly awkward “atissuejournal” if we wanted to keep some semblance of our name. But, in our heart, we will always be @Issue. Now, we are proud that half of our logo has been inducted into the MoMA collection – we’d be even prouder if MoMA would take the other half of our logo too.