Design Communications

W-a-a-a-y Before Pantone

A fascinating post appeared recently on the Colossal blog about a color matching guide that predates Pantone by well over two centuries. The Dutch color guide, produced in 1692 by a person who identified himself as A. Boogert, was virtually unknown until a Medieval book historian named Erik Kwakkel at Leiden University in The Netherlands happened upon it while looking through a French database. In nearly 800 pages of handwritten Dutch, Boogert meticulously explained how to change the proportion of water and paints to achieve different tones. Along with detailed notations, Boogert individually painted swatches of the exact shade on the facing pages. In his introduction, Boogert said he prepared the book for educational purposes – which would have been a wonderful gift to the arts except that color offset lithography did not exist yet. As far as we know, Boogert was only able to create one copy of his book. Hopefully he was able to share his manual with other Dutch painters in his vicinity. It would be nice to think that Boogert played some small role in making the 17th century “The Golden Age of Dutch Painting.”

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Brand Logos

Urban Stimuli or Graphic Assault?

City-dwellers know that we are constantly bombarded with graphic messages. It’s the “white noise” of urban living. Most of us tune it out like the omnipresent sound of traffic and pedestrian chatter.

This 2006 award-winning film, made by Netherlands-based Studio Smack for Museum de Beyerd in Breda, has become a classic. Like an x-ray, the film “Kapitaal” zeroes in only on the graphic stimuli encountered by an “unseen commuter” waiting on a platform for the train, riding the subway and walking through the city. Everything but the graphic information is reduced to black silhouettes. Signage, logos, ads, train timetables, graffiti, posters and packaging labels stand out in stark white contrast. There is no voiceover commentary, just the claustrophobic visual assault pressing in from every direction. It begs the question: How much do people really notice in a world of information overload? How can designers and advertisers avoid adding to the visual clutter and give the public something they really want to see?

Information Graphics

How Happy Are You?

The World Database of Happiness (WDH) at Erasmus University in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, has been conducting scientific research on happiness levels worldwide, in some cases taking measurements over a 30-year period. The WDH arrived at their happiness quotient by surveying their subjects’ overall satisfaction with life as well as their mood day-to-day. In addition to having the subjects self-rate their contentment level, the interviewers even conducted sight inspections, rating their subjects’ “cheerful appearance” based on eight aspects, including whether their mouth was turned up or down in a smile or frown and whether their movements looked relaxed or withdrawn. The data was basically broken down into not at all happy, not very happy, quite happy, and very happy. (WDH had lots of other happiness measures too complicated to understand, much less try to explain without becoming very unhappy.) Fortunately, Good and Open took WDH’s data and worked with Dorian Orange to create an infographic of happiness by country, using the familiar yellow “happy face” to illustrate the point.