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Visual communications in an infinitely busy world

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In a world filled with infinite information, how do we achieve mindshare?

Visual communications. Designers seek to create clarity in their communications so viewers will accurately interpret the intended message. We work to guide the viewer’s eyes to where we want them to go. If the visual elements are all fighting for attention, there is a good chance we will lose our viewer.

Through a thoughtful placement of elements we establish a visual hierarchy to direct the viewer’s eyes. The goal is always to attract and gain mindshare.

How do we achieve this?

We create:

appropriate color schemes

grid-based layouts for coherency in presenting information

type orientation for optimal reading

visual cues

a hierarchy of information with drill down for additional detail

spatial relationships of all objects

All to move the viewer through a piece to facilitate the absorption of information while focusing on the central message and its intended action.

Surprisingly, this is standard for any print or web visual communication. Doesn’t visual communications seem easy?

A simple visual solution for your complex brand?

Understanding how the mind synthesizes visual information is crucial in creating a visual that instills recognition. And recognition is everything in branding. The first thing we recognize is color. Then comes shape, symbol and finally words. These visual cues are important in conveying the subliminal underlying concept.

Here are some things to keep in mind when developing a visual brand.

Keep it simple. Simplicity builds recognition. When a visual is too busy it distracts the viewer from the overall visual, its message and the brand.

Be identifiable. Simple shapes are easily identified.

Be memorable. Connect subliminally with the viewer.

Be meaningful. The vision behind the visual speaks volumes about the company.

Be significant. Use positive and negative space effectively. This easily ties into the above four.

Be recognizable. Easy visual recognition should transfer between black/white or color.

Be scalable. The visual must be easily recognizable sized very large and very small.

Developing a visual brand is creating a visual concept of your company. Behind your company there is a concept of who you are and what your objectives and goals are. Convey that clarity and the better your visual translation can be.

Put yourselves in your customers shoes for a good perspective. Know that your customer is visually and culturally evolving. Their visual sensibilities have been elevated by the much improved visual effects in all media. So help your brand evolve. Stay current and relevant to your customers visual world.

Here is an example of a visual exploratory developed from the client’s vision.

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Our work involves synthesizing the concepts our clients convey to us. The final chosen visual is below.

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2016 Summer Olympic Logos

On October 2 the location of the 2016 Summer Olympics will be revealed. For two years, cities around the world have been vying to be the events host. It is now down to Chicago, Madrid, Rio de Janeiro, and Tokyo.

Here are the “bid logos” for these cities.

chicago1Chicago, United States

Meaning behind the logo: The Chicago logo’s central element is the Chicago star, the symbol on the city flag. It is said that the six points on the star represent hope, respect, harmony, friendship, excellence and celebration. It has also been said that the logo’s six-pointed Chicago star represents a compass pointing out in all directions of the world. The colors of the star represent the colors used in the Olympics rings.

Organizers statement: “A star tells a story of hope, universally seen as a guiding light for people everywhere. Placing the Chicago star at the center of our logo symbolizes our desire to put the athletes at the center of the Games — since they’re the real stars — and celebrate their accomplishments in the heart of our city.”

Designer: VSA Partners

Bid slogan: “Let friendship shine”

tokyo2Tokyo, Japan

Meaning behind the logo: Tokyo’s logo takes the form of a traditional Japanese knot known as “musubi”.  “Musubi” has long been utilized in Japan to signify blessings during times of celebration. It integrates the five Olympic colors into its design of  decorative knotted strings.

Organizers statement: “This logo, our MUSUBI knot, integrates the values that underpin both the Olympic Movement and Tokyo 2016. It ties together sport and culture, urban and natural environment, Japan and the world, the world and peace”

Designer: Kenji Ekuan of GK Design Group

Bid slogan: “Uniting our worlds”

madrid3Madrid, Spain

Meaning behind the logo: Madrid’s logo is the shape of the palm of a hand using the Olympic colors. The design features a hand traced in the colors blue, yellow, green and red with an “M” drawn into the palm in black over “Madrid 2016.”

Organizers statement: The hand is a symbol to welcome foreigners to the city and its people, with the colors representing the nationalities and cultures living within the city.

Designer: Argentine Joaquín Malle. This design was one of 2,700 received by the Madrid bid committee before a short list of 10 were submitted to the public on Sept. 3. The logo received 31.96 percent of the vote, more than double received by the runnerup.

Bid slogan: “Hola everyone”

rio2Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Meaning behind the logo: Rio de Janeiro’s logo suggests their natural rich landscapes with a yellow sun rising behind the green hills and valleys of Rio (highlighting the Sugar Loaf, the city’s best known icon), and blue sea. The logos overall heart shape  represents the Brazilian’s passion and enthusiasm for sports. Through its repetition, a stylized clover is formed, associated with the luck for everyone seeking to surpass limits, without any artifices other than the strength and heartiness of the person who brings along his people’s dreams. It incorporates an exclamation mark into the number “1″ to suggest the expectation and excitement for the opportunity to host.

Designer: Ana Soter

Bid slogan: “Live your passion”


Advertising Genius

For those of you who are as intrigued as I am by creative ad genius, Art & Copy (2008), the advertising documentary directed by Doug Pray, was released last Friday, 5 days after the T.V. season premiere of “Mad Men”.

In Pray’s film many ad slogans and revelations are discussed with the creators and those surrounding the campaigns.

jdi1The synthesis of “Just Do It”

According to the film, Gary Gilmore, the notorious spree-killer, uttered the words “Let’s do it” just before a firing squad executed him in Utah in 1977. Years later, the phrase became the inspiration for Nike’s “Just Do It” campaign.

Dan Wieden, a co-founder of Wieden & Kennedy, tweaked Mr. Gilmore’s last words thinking it would make a good slogan for Nike. He said the resonance of “Just Do It” was completely inadvertent and unforeseen. In the film, Mr. Wieden recalled the moment it dawned on him to use the phrase. “None of us really paid that much attention. We thought, ‘Yeah. That’d work,’ ” he says, adding, “People started reading things into it much more than sport.”

Are these random creative coincidences or creative genius at work?

Mr. Pray, the film’s director, is a documentarian who has also directed commercials. He said part of his reason for doing the film was to shed light on the people behind ads that have left a mark on American culture. “There’s a beauty to things like ‘Got Milk?’ or ‘Just Do It’ or ‘Where’s the Beef?’ — this incredibly simple writing that seems to kind of say more,” he said. “They seem to work on some kind of a different level that has nothing to do with the product.”

I don’t see the creative process as random. I see it as genius. The brain, with its unknown complexities, can take any information and synthesize it in a way that appears completely random. If one is paying attention, the cues are there. You just have to let them surface and spark!

Now… just do it!

Microsoft is square

Microsoft has developed a new logo to visually brand its soon-to-open retail stores. Once again, a reminder of the perpetual competition between Microsoft and Apple.

I am not sure this new logo is consistent with Microsoft’s overall visual brand and logo. It is consistent with their brand colors, but other than that, people may have difficulty making the visual leap between the two. Maybe this is what Microsoft wants?

The new Microsoft retail store logo, shown at left below beside the Windows logo, seems reminiscent of the work of Josef Albers.

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Josef Albers was chairman of the Department of Art at Yale University. The MS logo is reminiscent of his paintings and prints titled Homage to the Square. From these color studies came his visual exercises published in Interaction of Color which has been used in many graphic design teaching curriculums, including the Color Theory course I had as part of the Graphic Design program at University of Bridgeport. Anyone working with color today should familiarize themselves with Albers teachings.

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Shown above, Josef Albers, Homage to the Square, 1970

Color is constantly changing. A color is subjective to its surrounding colors. It is almost impossible to see a color by itself without it interacting with its surroundings.

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This image above appears as two very different greens even though both of the squares are the same color. The green is interacting with its surroundings.

Has Microsoft ever done anything totally ”different“? Apple prides itself on “being different”. Microsoft prides itself, it seems, on following Apples or anyone elses lead. When have they ever been original? So why begin now!

How good stories get distorted

It’s like the old game telephone – you whisper something in someones ear and they pass the message along. The last person conveys what they heard and it is totally different than what was originally spoken. Telephone, rumors, whatever, so goes poor communication on the internet.

An image is being thrown about that has Pepsi logos on the left and Coca-Cola logos on the right and the comparison which many are commenting on since my post “Some things never change”. Well, this is just a bad story gone haywire.

I have tried posting comments to other blogs on this issue but they really are not receptive to anything other than their side of the story. And it is, indeed, a story.

The truth is…. The Coca-Cola logo is really a logotype. The logotype has not changed much since its early beginnings. What has happened, is, the logotype has been placed inside a fishtail, rectangle, and circle amongst other things, changing its look slightly on each usage. The logotype does remain the same.

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I think my artwork on my post (“Some things never change”) may have been misconstrued. This is not meant to be a progression of the logo. It is meant to show the logotype between 1885-2009 remains pretty much the same. The uses of the logotype are what has changed through the years.

So in an effort to clear up a bad story. Let’s just begin over. Read this blog for clarification. And please feel free to comment on this story! It is open for discussion.

Creativity at its best

The Coca-Cola Company changed its advertising campaign slogan in 1969 from “Things Go Better With Coke”, to “It’s the Real Thing”. “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke” was sung in advertising all over the world in 1971.

“I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke”  has an interesting story for those who recall the T.V. commercials which focused on masses of people singing, what has been dubbed, the Coca-Cola song.

It originated with Bill Backer, the McCann-Erickson creative director on the Coca-Cola account at the time. By chance, the idea came to him through an experience while en route to London. Passengers were compelled to stay together overnight when, due to bad weather conditions, their plane landed in Ireland. The following day, passengers gathered in the airport coffee shop sharing stories and camaraderie over bottles of Coke. He saw Coke, rather than it’s original intent – to be a liquid refresher – as a tiny bit of commonality between all people. Something universally liked and for all to share… in unison. (Bill Backer wrote about this in his book, The Care and Feeding of Ideas). Read the full story here.

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Advertising surveys consistently identify the “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke” ad as one of the best commercials of all time.

Some things never change.

Coca-Cola Logotypes

Coca-Cola Logotypes

Why has Coca-Cola’s logo remained virtually the same for so many years?

The original logo was developed in 1885 using the iconic red and white color scheme still used today.

The script logotype has remained relatively unchanged, but the way it has been used has changed.

Currently, the logotype is placed within a square. In the past it has been placed within a circle, a fishtail and a rectangle.

Coca-Cola keeps its authenticity by remaining the same. The statement it makes is, we are and always have been the same Coca-Cola you know and love. Some brands don’t need to change or evolve. Part of Coca-Cola’s allure is the fact that you can always count on it to taste like, well, Coca-Cola*.

*This does vary from country to country due to the localization of the bottling process, subject to elements such as water and often resulting in a compromise of the brand. But that is another post for someone else.

Although Coca-Cola released a new formula in 1985, the logo remained the same.

Like they say, if it’s not broken why fix it?

Opinions are like… well, you know. Everyone has one.

What happens when you ask someone for their opinion?

You get it. Their subjective – not necessarily expert in the subject – opinion.

What happens when you set up the ”approval by committee” process? People most often give a critical assessment, as if this is the preferred answer. The person lending the opinion feels like they’re the expert and they feel validated. It is an ego-stroker. And we all like our opinions to be valued, dont we?

Visuals and words are subjective. People’s perceptions and interpretations always come into play. Asking opinions doesnt work – you can never please everyone. Design by committee is expensive and is often unsuccessful.

Here is an easy 3-step process to the opinion phase.

We believe this to be ideal for all involved, if and when it is doable. It is a process we love to work within when we can. The process is simple.

A company team is chosen and the process begins.

The company team:

1 gathers information from chosen parties internally who want to have a say in the project;

2 assigns a project leader to interface with the company team and the design team;

3 meets and conveys all the gathered information including opinions, perceptions, likes and dislikes to the design team.

Not as easy as 1, 2, 3. If teams are not excessively large, this can be very successful. Cohesiveness within the group is ideal and often needs some work before the team can reach maximum potential. If the design team observes disagreement amongst company team members, they will need to flush this out right away. Find out where the disagreement points and work through it until there is a consensus on how to move forward. If this is not done it will continue to be a thorn in everyones side.

Something to strive for. When achieved, it’s a win-win for all.

Marking Cattle or Masterful Marketing?

The word ”branding” is thrown around pretty readily today. In fact, at this point, it’s been used so many times that people have probably forgotten that it’s also a process for marking cattle with a hot poker, in addition to the relevant meaning in marketing speak.

A logo is the visual representation of what a company does, as well as what a company is about from a conceptual standpoint. But a BRAND is more than that.

A BRAND is the perception of the company that the world sees. It is everything a company puts out there visually, conceptually, and sensually, as well as in words. Logos, labels, promotional material, web communications, TV, advertising and anything connected to the company – including its people – should speak the brand.

So how do you make this happen, you ask?

Quite simply, really.

1. The brand must be stated clearly;

2. It must be conveyed concisely through the vision, mission statements and corporate values, and;

3. The leaders of the organization must have a good understanding of what all this means;

4. It needs to be implemented consistently with guidelines.

When this is executed successfully, it helps unify a company’s employees with common goals. These common ”things to aspire to” help build a sense of community throughout the organization. There are few things more powerful than a cohesive group of people working together toward a common goal. When they live the brand, it filters through the organization by osmosis. It has to. If everyone around you thinks, speaks and acts in a certain way, there is no choice but to internalize the unified vision.

So typically a logo is designed in tandem with “branding.” The visual representation needs to have meaning, which comes from the company’s vision – the brand.

We have worked on many logos for organizations, large and small. And one thing I can tell you is that a group that conveys their brand concisely and cohesively gets the most appropriate logo, and gets it quicker. Not because we work faster. (It is not about us, the designers!) But rather, we are more efficient because our work becomes targeted to communicate the most powerful concepts on which all stakeholders agree.

I recall one project where we presented five logo designs and all decision-makers agreed on the same one design. It is somewhat miraculous, but it does happen. I can tell you that it is because they were all on the same page about where the company was, where it was going, how they were going to get there, and most importantly, because they conveyed it to us (the outsiders) so clearly. It was a synthesis of their concepts into visuals – it’s as simple as that! Or is it?