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Archives: January 2006

Empty Box Awards Getting Kinda Full-Ish

We’re catching up to last week’s unbeige-a-thon, and catching you all up in meantime. The Empty Box Awards, which Steve announced last week, are on, starting today. From the boxes:

Let the “Empties” begin. (All the other awards have a nickname, why not the Intramural Awards of Advertising?) It’s topic day creatives. Since we are the worst awards in advertising, we are going to do things a little differently.

You will not be creating an ad for a specific product, service, or company. Instead, your box (entry) must sell the advertising industry something it needs.

Maybe you want the return of the three martini lunch, or the prolonged death of that quirky, corporate mascot that annoys the creativity out of you, or maybe you simply want more clients who understand when to get out of the way and allow creatives to be, well…creative. That last one’s impossible, we know, but wouldn’t it be heavenly? Whatever you come up with, slap it in a box and email it to us at Who will be wearing the crown in March? Stay tuned.

We’re so entering. Teammates, anyone?

We’re Back, But Just For A Week

We left last week not–as it might have seemed–to go on vacation, but to give us the necessary resources to contemplate how we were going to inform you, our dear readers, that this week–this one, right here–would be our very last week as Unbeige 2.0. But Corporate beat us to the punch.

Still, we wanted you to hear it from us.

Regularly scheduled programming TK.

A Little Uneasy After That Bagel


Feel a little uneasy, a little hopeful, and a little more knowledgeable after reading this terrific essay by Susan Kirkland: Proctecting Intellectual Innovation. It’s of particular interest to designers who are doing complete branding packages, doing everything from the look and feel of the client’s product or location, to everything else, like logos, uniforms, business cards, etc. Interesting to know the limitations, even when they seem so impossibly distant or absurd. Here’s a bit of it:

Last year, three guys in NYC transformed a vacant storefront into F Line Bagels, using props, color scheme, and icons familiar to any subway rider as a draw to passing traffic. They put their heads together (and their money and sweat) and made their store look like a clean, modern subway car with hanging straps, straddle poles and Euro-style signage. They used the almost generic symbols of a single san serif character in an orange circle–the same signs subway riders use to pinpoint stops. They added 2 neon signs for a heads-up to transit seekers too preoccupied to notice they were entering a space clearly not on tracks and incapable of moving them to any destination short of the nearest bagel. If you’ve ever been in a NYC bagel shop, there are big clues everywhere that you are not in a subway car; the aroma of hot baked goods, big bins of fresh baked bagels, and the flurry of activity as the paper bags are whacked open in the air. Try to get a bagel for a token–can’t be done.

About a month after they opened, a lawyer for the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) stopped by, told them to cease and desist; that their atmosphere (the tiles, the straps, the signs) was the authority’s intellectual property. In fact, the authority found itself fending off questions about whether it was in the bagel business. True, the store owners bought their props from the online store operated by the MTA, “but this did not entitle them to display the items for commercial use” without agency permission. I wonder just how much a hanging strap contributes to the value of a bagel.

Money for Love, Art Love


An interesting bit of information from earlier in the week: Art4Love, a site which was previously dedicated to selling individual pieces of art and semi-expensive reproductions of things by more famous artists, jumped onto the stock meal ticket by opening up all of its 35,000 images to licensing. If you look through their catalog, you wonder if it’s really such a great idea, but then it hits you that every time you’ve looked at Corbis and Getty, you wonder “who is buying some of this?!” So there you go. Here is the big statement from the beginning of their press release:

Art4Love Inc. (ALVN.PK) today announced the creation of Art4Love Images Inc, its digital rights licensing subsidiary. Art4Love Images will manage the licensing and distribution of digital images from the works within the Art4Love fine art catalog. Over 15,000 fine art images, by Art4Love member artists, will be available for licensing to advertisers, designers, publishers, corporate communicators and commercial marketers. The Company has set a goal of 35,000 images in its digital inventory within the next six months.

Reconsidering Design


If you are semi-young, have found one of those career-type jobs, and have been doing a lot of rexamination lately as to where it is you are in your development as an artist, a designer, a businessperson, etc., this is the one essay you must read: Reconsidering Design. Maybe it’s just a similar period in this guest editor’s life, or maybe it’s just a very universal feeling (probably a mix of both, really), but it just hit dead on. Really just a nice thing to read. And to not ruin it by droning on any further, here’s the first bit of the opening:

In the first years of our studio, I was happy all of the time. No amount of work was too much. I had been unhappy for so long in the role I had previously held that the business was inspiration in itself. We were broke, and I mean really, really broke. We were also invigorated though. We were thrilled by the possibility we saw in our studio, and as a result, I was in love with every moment I could put in to the work.

Having always been a rather emotional person, I often fall into bouts where I am unsure of my direction. In my early years of art school, I nearly quit to pursue a business degree. Thankfully, UBC didn’t accept me, and as such, I was forced to follow through with the only pursuit that ever really mattered to me.

My partner at smashLAB often notes that he and I are similar in the way that we like to learn. He noted that he’s only interested in things until he starts to succeed, at which point, he feels the need to change careers. (Paradoxically, this is often the same point at which one is actually earning a survivable wage.) He has also noted that this pattern often runs in five year cycles. I share this tendency, and by last fall, I was starting to question where we were at.

Telling “The Man” Where It Was Stuck


If you happen to work for a large company, this posting about brand extraction may sing to you. Perhaps it doesn’t relate directly to your position, but it’s not hard to situate it in a way that will fit. The idea, brand extraction, is just that: an concept. A business model really. It’s a method of finding all of the good that comes from within a company that never sees the light of day because it’s killed before it ever gets the chance (sound familiar, designer folk?). It’s a fun idea, refreshing even, but it’s potential is probably limited, given that it’s more a battle of ego than anything else, but you can just imagine a world where something like this would be in place. Unless maybe it means that the idea you think is brilliant gets turned down twice then, instead of just once. Here’s a little from the intro:

Here’s a startup idea: a consultancy that goes into corporations to discover ideas and innovations that languish there. The job: to extract brands.

Let’s be honest. The corporation has many great ideas that it never manages to harvest. These are notions sitting in reports from consultants, buried in internal committee work, neglected on the lab bench, ideas taken up and then let slip.

The culprits are clear enough. Some ideas are murdered in committee. Some are destroyed by the roller derby punishments of politics. Some drop between stools as personnel come and go. And some merely get lost in the very considerable shuffle of corporate life.

The corporation is now so good at mobilizing to address the present opportunity that it sometimes has a hard time keeping an eye on the alternative ones. What doesn’t get operationalized straight away tends to disappear from view.

No Logo


The Logoworks fiasco has been an ongoing, very interesting read. The story is kind of your basic good vs. evil, except, like all things in real life, very muddled. Comes down to this company, Logoworks, who will design a logo for your company on the cheap. Really cheap. Some designers on a HOW Magazine forum, already kind of bewildered by these kinds of companies, like most designers are, started seeing duplicates in Logoworks’ catalogs, i.e. they were copies of ones already in use by other companies, i.e. plagerism. That, of course, starts everyone looking for what else might be stolen. And more images are found. But then it goes back and forth, with some legitamacy and some just chocked full of that “let’s get really fired up!” energy you see so much of on the internet. For the whole story, including all the links and quotes and whatever else you’d need to wrap your head around this case of good design vs. cheapo logos, or originality vs. plagerism, this site has all you need to know.

Typographer Laureate, Rod McDonald


One more typography post and then it’ll be given a rest of a couple of entries. This one comes from the current issue of Step Magazine; a story about Canadian designer and magazine-proclaimed Typorgrapher Laureate, Rod McDonald. It’s a terrific short piece about this brilliant artist’s history, as well as short discussions about three of the typefaces he designed. It makes for a very interesting story, given that he’d been such a large figure in type, but had not yet put his hand to creating a new typeface until fairly recently. It’s also one of those articles you read where someone is talking about type as this amazingly personal, beautiful thing, which, even if you are in design, you don’t always hear all the time. Makes you appreciate it a lot more, even if you’re still relatively clueless about it all. Here’s an excerpt from McDonald talking about Smart Sans:

McDonald’s next typeface is a personal tribute to Leslie (Sam) Smart, the first type director to be hired by a major typesetting house in Canada. Smart was a design pioneer who was instrumental in raising the standards of Canadian typography in the middle of the last century.

Shortly after Smart’s death in 1998, McDonald decided that something should be done to commemorate his life and achievements. A typeface family turned out to be the perfect answer. According to McDonald, “I had first thought of establishing a scholarship in Sam’s name, but a typeface design soon replaced this idea. Once I decided to design a typeface, however, it became a forgone conclusion that it would be a sans serif—for no other reason than it could carry the name Smart Sans.”

Pride Yourself on Your Leading!


Let’s stay on this type kick for a second and keep to that earlier half-promise of providing Unbeige readers with valuable tools today. So without further ado, here is The Elements of Typographic Style Applied to the Web. Basically a copy of Robert Bringhurst’s book of the same name (with the exception of “Applied to the Web”), only with very detailed, very intelligent discussions and instruction about how to make type serve its purpose correctly and effeciently, while making sure to look damn good while doing it. It’s heavy reading for anyone not already fairly familiar with site design or the general principles of design, but for those who can follow along, it’s very interesting and terrifically useful. Here’s a bit from the introduction:

For too long typographic style and its accompanying attention to detail have been overlooked by website designers, particularly in body copy. In years gone by this could have been put down to the technology, but now the web has caught up. The advent of much improved browsers, text rendering and high resolution screens, combine to negate technology as an excuse

Of All Shapes and Kernings


Apologies for letting the consistency of this guest editing stint fall off a bit earlier today. You run into days like these in no matter what field you work in, where there are mistakes that have been made to projects you were working on. But it seems more awful when you work in any form of design or media, wherein it is not just your coworkers who see that you are an idiot, but an entire, sometimes national, audience. This is what happened today.

But let us turn away from the unplesant realities of this business, and focus our attentions on something wonderful: exotic flavors of type found all over the world. Yes, this flickr set, One Letter, is a cornucopia of all sorts of different type, from the hand written, to spray painted, to Dave Gorman’s brilliantly captured storefront lettering. Not so much a site that will serve as a direct resource (unless you’re only dealing in single letter designs or are extremely lazy), but it should provide plenty of inspiration to both your serious type junkie and your casual type admirer in need of quick, ingenious solutions to avoid using Comis Sans again.