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The challenges of parenthood, especially in the early days, often include how to keep one’s profession healthy while also having the time and energy to be a good parent to your kids. For creatives, often this means trying to work from home and fit both lives together into one harmonious blend. One illustrator met such a challenge when her 4-year-old found a new sketchbook and insisted that mother “share.” The result is a genius mix: a level of kookiness that no adult could simulate, with a lovely level of quality from a skilled illustrator.
It’s a good reminder for creative professional parents that sometimes it’s a good thing to let the left hand meet the right.
Illustrator draws faces, lets 4-year-old draw bodies
Via Twenty Two Words

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Recently our city was all abuzz about a group of people running a shock campaign holding signs with graphic images on them that would be enough to turn the stomach of even the most jaded of us. Their goal was to show the “truth” about abortion by displaying gory images of dead dismembered babies, and to therefore sway people to their point of view.

The problem with this campaign is all it seems to do is piss people off.

I heard from people on all sides of the issue and the only thing people were talking about was how awful it was that these people, who claim to be doing this “for the children,” were displaying these horrific images in public places where all ages were subjected to them. Even people who agreed with their basic message disagreed with their methods.

There is a history of lawsuits and uproar concerning this kind of shock advertising, and time and time again it has been protected under the first amendment. Freedom of Speech. One of our most valued freedoms. And yet, we seem to forget sometimes that what we CAN do isn’t necessarily what we SHOULD do, much less what will be successful in getting our point across. When trying to generate buzz on a topic or a product, the last thing you want to do is have people across the board talking negatively about your method, rather than discussing the real issue at hand.

Is all buzz good buzz? I say absolutely not, and it’s a lesson we should all keep in mind during a time when “viral” is everyone’s goal.

If you haven’t yet seen this video, you absolutely must. Right now. It will make you smile, it will make you happy, it just might renew your faith in the future of humanity.

It’s a student-made music video to Black Eyed Pea’s “I Gotta Feeling,” and it is all done in one long unbroken shot. 172 students at the University of Quebec at Montreal participated in this feat of organization, each one taking their place in front of the camera and passing it on to the next in perfect sequence, each with genuine smiles and coming together like a mosaic in perfect unity.

The amazing thing is, if you compare it to the original video done by professionals, the student-made video wins hands-down. The original video has a lot of skin and seems at least at the beginning, to show a group of dancers getting ready to take the stage at a strip club. It doesn’t reflect the happy, carefree mood that the song wants to express. Thank goodness for the freedom of expression of students!

Well done, bravo and all that. I hope this inspires more groups to take on self-made challenges like this.

Rebranding old favorites

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So at this point, anyone who is a fan of Pepsi will have noticed the major overhaul that has been done. The old red white and blue “swash ball” logo with the sans serif block font has been replaced with a new, slimmed-down look with lower case thin lettering and a renovated swash on the ball. This change seemed to come out of nowhere to me, and I was surprised at first, and not really sure what I thought of the new look. 

Now, the more I see it, I’m thinking I agree with a lot of the commenters here. The new typeface is elegant, understated and clean; but the crooked white swash in the icon is really annoying. It’s not a smooth curve and one is left wondering what exactly that shape is meant to invoke. The old shape was a simple, even curve through a ball, but the new shape has a fat part and a thin part, and angles in such a way that one wonders if it’s supposed to be a sail, a ribbon, a road? Some have even compared it to a smirk, which is not a very positive association to make.

I discovered today on Pepsi’s website that the swash ball actually changes from can to can. Now that, to me, seems like a colossal branding mistake. Your icon is your image – why throw off your consumers by making it fluctuate? I think I see what they’re trying to do, by communicating “Pepsi Max” with a fatter swash and the low-cal options with a thinner swash. But the problem here is you probably wouldn’t notice the difference unless you were comparing the cans side-by-side, so they end up looking like they couldn’t decide between logo versions 1-4 during the design process and decided to just use them all. 

What do you think? Some have compared the icon to the Obama campaign logo or even Girl Scouts of America. Do you see any other similarities?

New President, New Website

Some less enthusiastic viewers of our new president’s transition into office have pointed out that “Change” isn’t a very unique platform – that most candidates from the opposing party of an incumbent throughout history have run on a similar platform just because they figure the people are tired of the old. Time will tell how well Obama will uphold the hopeful and uplifting message he’s delivered so far, but one major change has already taken place, and it’s an important one. 

The digital face of the White House got a makeover.

Gone is the texty static site from the Bush era. The new website features a brilliant, clean blue-on-white design with red accents, a classic but modern typeface, up-to-date photography and an inviting interface. There’s a blog, a flash interface with featured information, lots of video and a very nice site map right on the front page.

The new president seems to be emphasizing the point that one of the benefits of being a young president is that he understands digital communication. But I think what he’s also underlining is the importance of carefully planned design in that communication. Clean, beautiful design invites exploration. It draws you into the information which is served up in small bites, brevity is king, media is queen. 

I, for one, see this change in our government as one leading in the right direction.

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It’s a committee thing

Well, I’ve taken a bit of a hiatus from posting on this blog, but what better way to come back than with another witty holiday skewering of life as an advertiser by the folks over at World Wide Wadio. Last year I enjoyed their “Make the Logo Bigger” video. This year, they have a more musical take on things with a rousing Christmas carol created by committee. Spare but well-timed animated type accompanies this timely commentary on the frustration of the cut & paste client. Enjoy!

Movie Branding

When the big summer blockbusters hit, the average citizen is as unlikely to notice as if an atomic bomb went off in their living room. Typically the movie is accompanied by promotions by fast food, candy, soda, beer, chips, car companies, cellular phone carriers, vacation destinations… the list goes on and on. And on the same token, the average citizen is unlikely to question these pairings, as they’ve become an accepted and expected part of the moviegoing experience. Do these huge movies really need product placements in order to make their money, when their box office sales often run into the hundreds of millions?

An article on Advertising Age today discusses this topic, suggesting that while the movie benefits from the increased exposure created by the hype, the real winner is the advertiser who benefits from being associated with the movie, as well as the “event” surrounding it. Who doesn’t want to be part of the biggest party on the block?

So my question is, who decides which products are right for a movie? There are the legends of product placement that often happen by accident – E.T. and Reese’s Pieces, for example – but lately it seems to be pretty random. Apparently Dr. Pepper is going to be one of the big advertisers for the new Indiana Jones movie. But I can’t think of a moment in the previous three movies where Indiana Jones said anything about preferring that particular brand of cola. So it becomes a forced association, along with M&Ms, Expedia, Kraft Lunchables and Burger King. At least BK is giving their Whopper the nickname “Indy” for the time being, making it seem at least somewhat connected. 

It seems the bottom line is that the big guys talking about each other gets the word out, and nobody really cares if it’s relevant. You think Indiana Jones, maybe Dr. Pepper pops into your head (pops… get it?) and you’d be more likely to buy a super-grande combo Dr. Pepper drink at the concession counter on your way to see the movie. Or maybe not. But it must work, or it wouldn’t be worth the trouble.

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