Observations

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Designing the future is tricky

When talking to other designers or listening to designers speak at conferences, I often feel uncomfortable when I hear them talk about the role of design solutions being “the vision of the future”. It sometimes comes across that solving many of society’s problems is really just a matter of creating a better and more contemporarily designed world.
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Color-of-the-year

The Rise of the Secondary Colour

Every year Pantone – a leading source of information on colour trends and management – designates their “colour of the year”. They determine this colour through extensive research into trends and fashions across a wide range of industries. This year’s colour is Radiant Orchard – otherwise known as bright purple. Purple’s fortunes have risen quickly, as only last year style guru Tyler Brulé labeled it the “colour of compromise” in the New York Times. An informal survey of both high and fast fashion retailers just before Christmas found that if you were looking for woman’s fashions in a colour other than purple your choices where quite limited.
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The true value of partners

Without partners, many of a designer’s ideas would remain just that – unfulfilled ideas.

Over the past 6 months, Projektor has been working with Switchback Cyclery to help bring their brand to life. Located in the Riverside neighbourhood, just east of downtown Toronto, Switchback is a bike store a founded on a strong social purpose – providing “street” people a hand up by offering them meaningful employment through the store and getting Torontonians out of their cars and onto a bike.

It was apparent though, that this venture would only succeed if people heard and more importantly, talked about it. As a start up with limited funds for marketing, Switchback needed to find ways of getting their name out in an efficient yet visually engaging and dynamic way. So we made a decision to produce a limited run of high quality cycling fashions – not really for sale but in order to create living, mobile billboards for the brand.
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Looking back on a year of uninvited rebrands

An opinion column I wrote has just been published in the May/June issue of Applied Arts Magazine. I felt compelled to write after reading Fast Company’s ridiculous year-end article on the best branding of 2012 that claimed that 2012 “was the year of the unofficial, uninvited, branding campaign.”

In the column I make the case that branding projects undertaken without permission or client involvement may end up looking pretty but that they serve no real strategic or business value.  As a design profession, we talk all the time about “strategic process” and work very hard to taken seriously by businesses. But then at the same time, as creative professionals, we get all excited and lavish attention on these made-up projects. We need to make up our minds what is really important to us.
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Seeing Double

While riding the streetcar recently, I noticed two ads placed side-by-side that looked as though they were from the same organization. Education en langue francaise en Ontario and Le Centre francophone de Toronto both had prominently used their logos – stylized human figures holding their arms – as a focal point of their ads. Upon closer inspection and a quick internet search, I found out that the former group was set up by the Ontario government to provide information and encourage enrollment in French language schools in the province, the latter is a not-for-profit organization that assist francophone’s who come to live in Toronto. Two different organizations, two different mandates, two different target audiences… two very similar brand identities.
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Logos in the age of the app

An article recently I wrote on how digital media is changing the way we need to approach the development of logos has just been published in the December issue of Design Edge Magazine.

In it I talk about how rise of mobile digital devices, such as smartphones, are changing the way we view and interact with logos. It looks to provide a framework to assist organizations in answering the question: is my logo ready for the age of the app?

Ironically the article is only available through the print version of the magazine. However a PDF file of the article can be downloaded by clicking on the following link – DE_app_age.

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When an icon becomes a meme

There are probably very few people left in the English-speaking world who haven’t seen the “Keep Calm and Carry On” image in one form or another. Over the past decade it has been copied, reproduced and altered to fit almost every possible message and communications platform. So my question, for the last of my icon posts, is why did this image become more than just another symbol? And how does an image become a meme?
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Am I a brand hypocrite?

Some of my strongest influences back when I went to design school were the music of Joy Division and New Order with their record covers designed by Peter Saville. So I was horrified last year when I saw that Disney was thinking of creating a Mickey Mouse T-shirt version based on Joy Division’s 1979 album Unknown Pleasures. While I knew that the icon had become a visual meme for the art school students past and present, looking around further I was surprised at how it had become part of our commercial culture as well.

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The cost of an icon

If one of the goals of a brand – and particularly a luxury brand – is to charge a premium for their goods and services, Harry’s Bar in Venice must have a very strong brand. Last week on a trip to Venice, five of us dropped in for a quick afternoon drink and came out almost 100 Euros lighter. My quick “back of the napkin” math told me that our five 8 ounce Bellinis would have most likely cost them less than 10 Euros to make. Which meant that they were making approximately a 1,000% markup on these drinks – which is impressive for any business.
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