Archive for the 'Design' Category

Flatstock

Toyota has been a huge SXSW sponsor this year with their Yaris car. Every official SXSW banner has the Yaris logo on it. The Yaris is an under-$15,ooo car, featured as a hatchback or sedan, and the price is a sweet spot for young professionals. Yaris also was the official sponsor of Flatstock, the hugely popular rock poster convention featuring some of the best poster artists in the country, many of which have a presence on Gigposters.com.

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It’s a snazzy little car and it was prominently on display. I also liked how there were little “pop up” posters all over the vehicle calling out particular features, and that the design style of these displays looked like mini-gigposters.

posted by Bryan Keplesky

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Film Review: Helvetica

There is perhaps a no more polarizing typeface than Helvetica. If you read the previous sentence and have no idea what I’m talking about it’s definitely worth a trip to see this documentary from (first time) director Gary Hustwit. Helvetica is the most widely seen typeface in the world. Designed in the mid 1950’s, it’s become a default font on every computer in the world and used accordingly.

People interested in graphic design or typography will love the film for the interviews with some of the titans of design, from Erik Spiekermann, Matthew Carter, Massimo Vignelli and Stefan Stagmeister. They provide good insight into their love/disdain for Helvetica and also commentary on the design field in general.

So what’s the problem with Helvetica? The main issue is that its ubiquity has stripped away most of its impact. Having been seen in such disparate places as run-down parking garages to the subways signs of major metropolises, Helvetica has reached a point where it’s basically coded into the brain of every person in the developed world. Everyone sees Helvetica, often several times a day.

I was interested in the film’s coverage of the so-called “Grunge type” era, emulated by David Carson (who is perhaps as polarizing as Helvetica). This period was a direct reaction to the standard of Helvetica and also was a time when hundreds and thousands of new typefaces were being created.

The film ended with an interview designer/writer/publisher Lars Muller, who noted that because of the new social media (he specifically refers to MySpace) everyone is able to customize the typefaces around them. This indicates that the Helveticas of the world will always be there and depended upon. But an individual’s need for self expression is also equally needed and will continued to be explored.

posted by Bryan Keplesky

Red River Street

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posted by Bryan Keplesky

Why Web Typography Sucks

Typographers get a bad rap. No one (except other typographers) understand them. Typography in the print world has precedent and history to back it up, with everything from the Chicago Manual of Style and Robert Bringhurst’s formative treatise The Elements of Typographic Style. But the established typographic rules can get muddled up with html coding and browser defaults on the web and end up looking less sophisticated.

Granted, most people don’t know the difference between a dash, en dash, and em dash. But a designer should, and should not let browser defaults take care of the details of type design.

The panelists provided a few websites that are a good resource for designers who work with type on the web:

Webtypography.net

A List Apart

SimpleBits

posted by Bryan Keplesky

SXSW Film Trade Show

Ah, the trade show… how do you compete for visual space, and win? I’m guessing there were some restrictions for the floor here, because I was expecting some pretty out-there booths. But there were a few that still stood out to me.

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This one from Acutrack is a standard floor display, but the graphics are cool and make sense, brand-wise. They provide flexible production options for indie bands, and every indie scene in the country has a stretch of street with a wooden fence with black and white flyers stapled all over. It makes me wish I was at Emo’s right now with a Lone Star tall.

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Tucked away in a corner was the Google booth. It’s deceptively simple. But Google can get away with that. Just a nice bright logo, a few inviting chairs and some wood flooring. It felt like hanging out in a nice kitchen, just being at home and leisurely checking the gmail.

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And then there was this one, from a group called Couriers of Ruin. This booth looked like it fell out of another dimension, and I’m sure the guys running this would be cool with that. The booth is equal parts trippy outer space, old west carnival and fantasy heavy metal. As for what they do? From what I can tell they are creating a massive, multi-sensory, high-concept, chapter-based narrative available on CD or download. Uh, huh. Also, putting together their entire trade booth cost only 500 bucks. Now that’s pretty smart, and definitely down-to-earth.

posted by Bryan Keplesky

Static Ads for the Web

“Online Advertising: Is it Worth It?” was a brief, and pretty straight-forward half hour panel. But it got me thinking about designing static ads for the web. By static ads, I mean the “standard” click-through banner ads, usually situated along the top and down the sides of a website. Of course, being the standard has its inherent advantages, but the disadvantages are starting to pile up. This seems to indicate that the traditional click-throughs are slowly losing favor for other alternatives.

Despite being convenient (banner ads are essentially templates), there’s little room for design customization. There’s also the potential for banner blindness… users are so accustomed to “seeing” web banners in their standard locations that they can be completely ignored or forgotten immediately. With the web becoming more and more niche, it’s a greater challenge for advertisers to really target their audience, meaning there’s a better chance of placing ads on a site with the wrong demographic. Web sites that offer ad space should be able to provide very specific details, down to age, gender and location, of the people who access their site.

So where is online advertising going? A next generation version of the traditional web banner ads actually emulates the same idea behind “top shelf” placement at grocery stores. Take a look at Virb.com. It’s much more aesthetically pleasing then a traditional web page, in fact you almost can’t even see the ads. That’s because in this case the music labels are paying for top-shelf exposure. The danger, of course, is that the line between original content and the ads is starting to blur. A sophisticated web user can probably tell the difference, but that implies that there are others who won’t.

posted by Bryan Keplesky

The Influence of Art in Design

This panel focused on how the arts, being painting or architecture or music, for example, can help shape the way products are designed. Each of the panelists took turns giving brief mini presentations regarding this theme. A few of them stood out to me.

Glenda Sims, an interactive designer affiliated with the University of Texas and the Blanton Museum, talked about designing an interface experience for a particular painting. The painting, by Byron Kim, is a series of 20 8.5 x 11 canvases, each one a “portrait” of a person based solely on their skin color.

Sims designed a hand-held interface that let gallery attendees select one of the 20 paintings to represent the closest match to their own skin color. From there, the user could darken or lighten the skin color to get a personalized color. Then this final color could be uploaded and archived in a Blanton database.

This is a great example of technology enhancing the user-experience of a piece of art. The hand-held application makes the experience more personal, when you select your skin color, and more collective, when you upload your personal color swatch into the database.

Here’s Glenda’s original paper on the project, and an online version of the user-experience.

David Shea talked trends of commercial photography, particularly how amateur photography has changed the landscape. Digital photography continues to get better, and traditional film has remained static. This means that costs are lowering. With professional-grade digital cameras available for less than $1,000 almost anyone can produce commercial-quality photographs. In fact, it’s not unreasonable to avoid purchasing a stock shot from sites like GettyOne and searching Flickr instead, finding a photograph, contacting the photographer directly, and negotiating a much cheaper usage rights agreement.

Finally, Patrick Haney presented a unique slide show of various screen captures of websites he gets inspiration from. He has his whole collection on his Flickr page.

posted by Bryan Keplesky


What’s Behind the Door?

SXSW is an Austin event. And Door Number 3 is an Austin advertising agency. We're interested in how new ideas in advertising, media and branding will be presented during these 9 quick days. From inside the lecture halls where top specialists present their thoughts, to out on the streets where advertising is put to the test on tens of thousands of festival-goers. We'll be there with the complete coverage, reports, photos, editorials, and perhaps some tricks on how to sneak into a few sweet afterparties.

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