2007 Pumpkin

It’s that time again…

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Proofreading = Good

If discovering typos out in the real world were an Olympic sport, I would have multiple gold medals. Sometimes, typos don’t get picked up by spellcheck because it’s actually a real word, just the wrong word. In cases like the one below, the typo is not even a real word. Even my blogging software picks this one up as a misspelled word.

Sure, it’s sloppy on behalf of so many people who looked at this artwork before, during and after the creation of this sign, but it does make life interesting. I wonder if SHOP RITE supermarkets all across the NY/NJ metro area are all sporting the same misspelled sign, or if it’s only localized to my SHOP RITE…


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Ah, to dream…

I read Seth Godin’s blog a lot – or rather, I read his RSS feed a lot. He’s never short of great marketing ideas and thoughts of how this system we live in can be improved. Today, Seth blogged about the right way to list items on ebay, and used his latest auction listing as an example… A Chestnut Brand cedar strip canoe. It’s beautiful. I want it. But alas, the opening bid of $1,000.00 is way out of my budget.

However, if anyone wants to get it for me… (hence, the title of this blog)

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Invisible No More

My buddy Greg Kendall-Ball lives in west Texas, but don’t hold that against him. He spent most of his formative years (4th-12th grade) growing up in, and traveling throughout South Africa, which has provided him a unique world view, and a tremendously compassionate heart for the underprivileged of this world. I met Greg through the blogosphere, and we formed a fast friendship.

Greg is also a budding photographer – and a great one at that – and has been offered the chance of a lifetime to travel to Gulu, Uganda (just south of the Sudan border) to shoot a series of photo-documentary essays for the organization Invisible Children. Unfortunately since Greg is volunteering his skills, IC can’t pay for his travels, and so he needs financial help. Please don’t stop reading…

All I ask is that you follow the link below to his blog, read about his trip and if you feel moved to throw a few bucks his way, please do so. Just click on the donate button in his sidebar. If not, at the very least drop him a quick e-mail of encouragement.

His photos will have the potential to help so many people in need.

Greg’s trip details: http://kendallball.com/ic-trip/

Greg’s blog: http://kendallball.com

Greg’s photo portfolio: http://kendallball.com/portfolio/

Photo copyright Greg Kendall-Ball

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Interview: Jason Isbell

This is the first of a series of interviews that I am conducting. I’ve asked select friends that are either artists/designers, or in a profession where they may have particular and unique views on the role graphic design plays, to answer a few questions

Our first interview reflects the latter. Jason Isbell is the Youth Minister at the Manhattan Church of Christ. He excels in one of the toughest professions I can imagine, working with NYC teenagers on a daily basis. He loves his job. He loves New York City, and he loves the kids he works with. Below are his answers to a few questions I asked him this week.

What would you consider the toughest part of your job to be?

JI: Watching young people suffer at the hands of the adults who were meant to protect, guide, and love them to adult hood. Nothing is more frustrating than seeing how great a particular kid is, and having their parent, uncle, teacher, or other adult think they are nothing but trouble or a failure.

What do you think the role of today’s culture in NYC youth is? Have you noticed any shifts?

JI: It’s widely accepted that youth culture is a real driving force in our society. Everything from what we watch, wear, or listen to is influenced by the youth demographic, and for good reason. No other time in history has so many young people had so much access to disposable income. Couple this with the phenomenon of extended adolescence and you can see why marketers cater to the adolescent among us. Trends in New York City however are much more fragmented than they are in the rest of the county. A lot of this has to do with the inherent diversity of culture, influences, and marketing available in the city. So, youth culture in NYC reflects both the more commonly held aspects of youth culture, and the emerging youth culture.


Is MTV still the king of youth culture and trends, or have I already dated myself?

JI: If you are asking does MTV serve as the vehicle by which music (always the biggest influencer of youth culture) impresses itself onto young people, no it doesn’t. MTV rarely plays videos any more and is more invested in reality programs. MTV is still very popular, but it has shifted from pushing youth culture to reflecting youth culture. Which in my opinion is worse because if you get stuck looking at what you think is your reflection all the time, then you might start to believe what you see.

What is the value of graphic design to the average New Yorker?

JI: On a basic level, without good design, we couldn’t get anywhere. The average New Yorker is very dependent on finding their way around the city using public transportation. The public transportation system in NYC is the largest and farthest reaching system in the world. The fact that up to five million people use the system everyday and get to where they need to go without problems has a lot to do with design. Although interestingly enough, when there are changes to routes that need to be made, there is not good design and implementation during for those instances. Perhaps that’s the achilles heal of good design, it takes a lot of thoughtful time to make happen.

How does graphic design help you do your job better?

JI: Graphic design is a key component in communication. Communication is the single most important thing for me to do well and having good graphic design is a vital component of that. Where design becomes problematic for me is when its use or composition seeks to merely copy what’s already there in the secular world as opposed to existing in it’s own space and purposes for the sacred. Fortunately churches are starting to realize the benefit of creating and implementing good, original, design in everything from flyers about programs to how the Sunday message is communicated.

What would your message be to advertisers who target teens and help shape youth culture?

JI: I actually don’t have a lot to say to advertisers. The nature of their profession is to do whatever it takes to get people to make a purchase. It’s inherent to the system and cannot be changed. I do, however have a lot to say to parents and adults who are influential in the lives of teenagers. What I would want those people to hear is that young people are just that…young. We adults have made a big mistake in assuming adulthood on 15, 16, 17, even 18 year olds. If we abdicate our roles as navigators for young people then the distortions of a mass marketed culture will ultimately leave young people feeling abandoned and alone. Which is what they will be.

Jason Isbell, his wife and two sons live in NYC. His personal blog can be found at http://j-wild.blogspot.com

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Be My Guest

One of our soccer teammates has been hospitalized with a fractured tibia and torn meniscus. As bad as that sounds, it gets worse… As I was iChatting with her last night, I mentioned how glad I was that she was, at the very least, able to get a wi-fi connection since she was going to be in the hospital recovering for a while. Well, she wasn’t actually. She had to use dial-up.

I’m not talking about a rural hospital. I’m not talking about a suburban hospital. I’m talking about New York – Presbyterian, The University Hospital of Columbia and Cornell, in New York City. One of the world’s leading, most groundbreaking Ivy League university hospitals.

Yet, they don’t provide their doctors, staff, patients, or their visitors, with wireless internet.

Why make such a big deal about it? Well imagine you are my friend in the hospital. A young, high-powered NYC attorney with a broken leg, stuck in the hospital. We don’t communicate the same way we used to – even five years ago. Today, pre-teens all the way up to adults as old as 80+ years old e-mail, text and iChat with their friends. There’s even a cute 30 second spot on TV now for AT&T where the grandmother is texting her “BFF Rose.” So you have the hospital patient uncomfortable already, and not being able to communicate in a way they are accustomed, not to mention all the missed work piling up that could get worked on with a high-speed connection. Oh, and imagine the convenience if a doctor needed to look up some medical question and didn’t have to go back to the 9th floor of the B wing to his little office to find an answer to a simple question.

Exeter Hospital, in Exeter, New Hampshire, got it right as far as patient comfort is concerned. They do many things other hospitals have overlooked. And yes, they offer free wi-fi throughout the entire hospital with clearly marked signage. Their patients aren’t patients. They’re guests.

What would happen if every company and organization treated their customers as guests, instead of as customers, clients, vendors, members or patients?

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Ask.com Missed the Point

While watching Top Chef last night with my wife, I saw an ad for ask.com that stuck with me… Even as I woke up this morning, I was thinking about the ad.

The ad was very aggressive and went after the big dog on the block: Google – not specifically by name, of course.

The ad’s only message was to say that your search shouldn’t be boring, ala white background, sparse graphics, etc… like Google. Instead, check out all the cook “skins” (background photos) that you can apply to our search page to make searching… fun?

Ask.com has totally misjudged their audience. Their audience consists of people searching for information, and they’re going to go to who – in their mind – can deliver the most accurate results. That is the position ask.com should have taken, not the frilly stuff that has no realĀ  bearing on the user’s visit.

Am I being too harsh?

I looked briefly on youtube and ask.com’s website for a clip of the commercial and came up empty.

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Bad Business Cards

I posted in early July about The Art of the Business Card. Seth Godin posted today about contemporary business card design. He has a short list of common mistakes made when designing business cards (i.e. using Avery cutout sheets, making your type size too large, etc..)

I personally think he hits the nail right on the head when he writes, “I think the point of your card should not be to demonstrate that you are creative. The point should be to demonstrate that you have good taste.

There’s certainly no lack of creativity out there, but I’m afraid that too many business cards do, in fact, lack good taste.

Read more at Seth’s blog.

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Life is a Highway

My buddy Joe Hays sent me a link to this New York Times article – The Road to Clarity.

It’s about Don Meeker, an environmental designer’s quest to improve the legibility of typography used on American highway signs. The article chronicles Meeker’s typeface, Clearview Gothic, and his attempts to convince the U.S. bureaucracy to replace the clunky “Highway Gothic” font.

Joe sent me the link because the article mentions Don Meeker went to Pratt Institute, as did I, and he thought I’d like to read it, which I did.

However, the real gem (for me) was the designer who Meeker found to improve the rough draft of his typeface. Meeker tapped James Montalbano, a brooklyn-based custom font designer, and one of my typography teachers while at Pratt (Type III, 96-97).

It’s a great article, highlighting how important good design is. In this case, it could even save lives.

Article Link [via Joe]

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Everything Communicates

Alright, so I’m fully aware that most of my life I have seen things and looked at things slightly askew. Things would always seem funny to me that nobody else thought was funny. Or I would see shapes in ordinary objects that nobody else could see. I’m sure this is somehow connected to my arithmomania and has most likely led to my success in design.

That being said… I was flipping through ESPN magazine this afternoon and came across this full page ad for McDonald’s new Chipotle BBQ Snack Wrap(TM). It’s a harmless enough ad with some well written copy.

But this ad HORRIFIED me.

Horrifed. Me.

I didn’t see the jam-packed flour tortilla. I didn’t see the brown ceramic plate, or the yummy spiced chicken breast and crisp greens. Instead, the first thing I saw was a decapitated torso. Yup. A decapitated torso.

The dark plate came to the foreground and became a suit jacket. The flour tortilla became the crisp white shirt tucked neatly under the jacket. And all that lovely chicken, cheese, lettuce and BBQ sauce? Well, you know.

The negative space above the photo, where the copy resides just happens to be the perfect amount of room for this unfortunate torso’s head to occupy. It took me a good couple minutes to refocus on the ad and see what their ad agency wanted me to see.

It could be that I watched too many ‘B’ horror movies in college… Or that I saw the golden arches logo and immediately associated it with an untimely death. I don’t know. Maybe the designers stared at this ad too long and didn’t step back to see it with fresh eyes?

The lesson? Everything communicates. It’s not just the witty copy, or the beautiful photography. It’s not just the logo placement or the layout. Even the generalized geometry, the incidental shapes that your layout creates, communicate SOMETHING to the viewer.

I’m not lovin’ it.

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