Archive for the ‘Thoughts’ Category

Is Advertising Getting Dumber?

Do you look at ads? I do.

I check them out in magazines, newspapers (what’s left of them), television and when I’m somewhere they haven’t outlawed outdoor, I check them out too.

I also look at the annuals, CA, Art Directors and One Show.

What I wonder is, where the heck do all the great ads in the annuals run? They sure aren’t out there for Joe Public to see – at least in the media I get hold of. They seem pretty flat. And by flat, I mean they lack an idea or concept. Rarely do I see an ad any more that turns a phrase, does a word play that says something positive about the product or service while making me smile, or nod in agreement.

This isn’t breaking news here. It started back in the 80’s and in my mind seems to be drifting back into the 50’s. I think we once called it hitting you over the head with a 2 x 4; and the idea that the American public is stuck about 8th grade… Sorry. I always did, and still do think people like a solid idea that makes them think, smile and react.

It’s interesting, because I see much better stuff being done by the kids in art school! Perhaps it’s because they aren’t burdened by research and focus groups and fear. (Don’t get me wrong research people. There is a time and a place for research. Just let it be useful information, not a dictate to creative solutions). What happens to those kids and their great work once they get out of school?

Actually I know the answer to that question because I’ve been there. I think it would really be refreshing to see and hear advertising that isn’t just shocking for shock sake, loud for the sake of noise and tasteful rather than gaudy or crass. Not all comedians make you laugh with every other word an “F” bomb.

That’s what I think. What about you?

Gangbanging a logo

I recently entered into a project to redesign a logo for a rather large, international company via crowdsourcing. I have never joined in on one of these “gangbang” ventures before but it sounded like it could be interesting. And at the time I was between my own projects, so, what the heck.

The hook was, if you were fortunate and were one of four people to make the cut there was a $2500 reward – they said. I didn’t make the final cut so I have know idea if they paid out or not. One of the criticisms is that crowdsourcing gets a lot of work for free.

There have been quite a few differences of opinion about the concept of crowdsourcing.
Cliff Kuang, in the October 29, 2009 issue of Fast Company magazine leads off his article by saying “Crowdsourcing: A one-way ticket to blah”. On the other hand, a group of ex-Crispin folks have started their own crowdsourcing agency. They obviously think it is a terrific idea.

I had a lot of fun. Mostly because I love designing and I think I’m not half bad at it. I’ve even won an award or two.

I felt the process was very anonymous however and void of any of the give and take that one gets when working directly with a client. It felt like I was part of a large pot of spaghetti and if one of my ideas happened to stick to the wall… but they didn’t.

I’m curious if any of you have taken the crowdsourcing route and if you feel it was a successful and rewarding experience for you or not.

What in the world has become of the art of typography?

Typography and type setting have gone through quite a migration over the last 40 plus years.

When I started, the use of lead type was no longer being used except in newspapers. However, we still counted every character (letter for those of you who think a character is the guy next door) and massaged every line so that the block of text looked exactly like we wanted.

Headlines were usually hand drawn with a magic marker on our layout and then everything was sent to the type house. The next day we would get back a printout with our text and headline in the fonts we requested. Then the fun began.

With X-ACTO in hand, we’d cut and paste. Sometimes each line. Sometimes between each character until the color of the words and the line were even and read exactly the way we wanted it too.

Maybe it was the hours we spent under the tutelage of masters like Mort Leach and Doyald Young that made us so acutely aware of letter spacing, word and line color and rivers of white running down the body of text.

In the words of Gene Federico, “When the designer doesn’t read the copy to catch the sound of the words, he runs the risk of misusing the typography. If the rhythm of the words is disregarded the copy is likely to be laid out incorrectly”.

Somehow the computer replacing the drawing board has given rise to some really bad, often cute use of type. Don’t get me wrong, I couldn’t live without my computer and the amazing programs.

But it does make me wonder if a lot of art directors and designers today ever had to hand draw a group of letters with pencil, pen, ink and use a brush with black and white paint for touch up? It is an art form. And in my opinion, learning the art would improve the looks of things.

Branding. Can I Afford It?

I have several small clients and when I suggest they brand their product or service they often ask, what is branding?  And it’s a good question.  What it isn’t, is it is not a logo, a business card, an advertisement or a website.

It is all of the above plus.

It’s a culture.  It’s how you answer your phone, your e-mails, your texts.  It’s how you approach a conversation at your local Chamber After Hours.  It’s how you design and create your product or service so that it is unlike any other in your category or even your town.  It is how you convince the customer that you and your product or service is the only one that can solve their need.  It is even how your stock boy or girl talks with their friends about your business.

Can you do it?  Of course.  But it takes time and patience.  It takes guts.  It takes desire.  I say again, it takes patience.

Can you afford to brand your product or service?  The better question is, can you afford not to?

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