Food for thought‘[...] do not think that good design can make a poor product good, whether the product be a machine, a building, a promotional brochure or a business man. But [...] good design can materially help make a good product reach its full potential. In short, [...] good design is good business.’
Thomas J. Watson Jr., IBM CEO

Hustling the greats — cheap bravado or a genuine “naked emperor” shout?

January 28, 2011, 12:41 PM

While reading Adrian Shaughnessy’s interesting review of Kenneth FitzGerald’s Volume: Writing on Graphic Design, Music, Art and Culture book (on the Design Observer), a paragraph caught my attention especially:

It’s not only his students FitzGerald wants to refrain from gazing admiringly at the great and the good of the design world. His own combative approach to criticism means that he doesn’t shy away from roughing up representatives of design’s elite: Alan Fletcher (“The Art of Looking Sideways … a formless data-dump of quotations, aphorisms, diagrams, reproductions, commentaries, and folderol”); John Maeda (“sterile, programmed ornamentation”); Paul Rand (… students will become even more marginalized and disenchanted with their work and status if they attempt to define themselves by Rand’s fallacies); and Stefan Sagmeister (“Made you Look … a fatiguing compendium of almost every optical, production, and advertising-creative artifice devised since Gutenberg”).

I don’t think I need to tell you that this is the design’s equivalent of whistling bare-assed inside the church on a Sunday morning. Does Mr FitzGerald really mean that? Or is he just saying it to shock and draw attention? What should we believe in then, if role models or mentors are over-rated? It’s easy to say “do your own thing”, but so few of us can actually do that.

It has always been one of the best ways to get fast on top (either in gang fights or in public opinion): pick someone bigger than you — hell, pick the biggest of them all — and make him bite the dust. Should you succeed, you’re the man (until another does it to you, of course). Should you loose, do it in style and at least you’ve made the news — more or less.

It seems these days that almost everybody worships individualism. You can see it in almost everything — large businesses are slowly fragmenting, everybody tries to be a “freelancer”, everybody wants to be their own boss — an understandable thing, after all, who likes to take orders all day?. Marriages are shorter and shorter, single parentage slowly gains ground and becomes the “normal” way of growing up a kid. It’s all fine-tuning as the ultimate self-centred society. A planet of “every man for himself only”. Well, to be more precise, a “western” civilisation of loners. And these days — go figure — most of them (us) seem so bewitched by iStuff.

Well, if Mr FitzGerald wanted attention, he’s surely got it. And maybe that’s a good thing. Shouting out that “the emperor is naked” might prove a lie, but it did make you look thoroughly, didn’t it? I still think that apprenticeship as a way of learning was one of the good things we lost during the last fifty years. Having role-models can be very useful, but only as long as we never forget that role-models are meant to be surpassed.

As post scriptum, the cover of the book looks rather nice:

And while we’re at it, here’s another quote from Mr FitzGerald’s book:

It is a delusion that the activity of fine artists is divorced from commercial considerations. It isn’t even a matter of degree. All that separates art and design is the kind of marketplace one chooses to operate in.

Now that’s something with which I totally agree.

Further reading & links:
• Adrian Shaughnessy’s review of the book on the Design Observer;
• Kenneth FitzGerald’s blog post about his book.

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On creative “un-aired” gems and Russell Brand’s jaw-dropping skills

December 18, 2010, 1:03 AM

Any creative — whether they’re a musician, actor, architect, designer or any other — can tell you that, more often than not, the best things they come up with never get published. And the more commercially you’re involved, the worse it gets. Lone-wolf-like artists might get away with it from time to time, since they’re supposed to be working for their own ego, pleasure, spirit or whatever you want to call it. Or at least that’s the theory. In real life however, even Balzac had to “write” off his debts from time to time.

As a designer, I’ve seen plenty of great ideas that never got out of the agency (“pitching” inside the team is a great way to keep the creative fire burning, but it can lead to frustration sometimes, especially when you’re doing it between more than three good designers), or lost to other lesser ideas due to client’s uninspired choices — unfortunately, we’re not Paul Rand to present just one idea. So by the time you’ve been in the business for a few years, I bet you’ll have quite a collection of great ideas that “never made it”, one reason or the another.

Now, I’ve disliked Russell Brand from the first time I saw him. It was pretty much obvious: a “oh-look-at-my-pretty-hair” attention-whore that probably spent more time in front of the mirror than his girlfriend, the kind of guy that doesn’t have any kind of decency and respect for anything except for his own self-centered ego — thus, the perfect show host, the kind of celebrity two-dime tabloid journalists would not have to invent stories about, they’d have plenty each week. The successful kind.

Having such a good opinion on Mr. Brand (oh, the irony), it was only out of boredom that I watched “Get Him to the Greek“. Even if Russell seemed to just be playing his own self, not a fictional character, I did enjoy the movie. A good popcorn one, not great like “The Hangover“, but still enjoyable enough.

So, cutting it short, I definitely wasn’t prepared for the following effortless, jaw-dropping proof of uncanny acting talent from Russell. This is a raw, behind-the-scene gem, and I doubt that his finished-film performance will top this. Here are the details about how and why we have the pleasure of seeing this:

Famous for his onscreen improvising, Russell Brand has to stick to the Shakespearean text in Julie Taymor’s film The Tempest, where he plays the jester Trinculo. Still, an antic comedian like Brand needs some sort of outlet for his verbal flights of fancy, and so it is that when Taymor asked Brand to expound on his character during rehearsals, he responded with a dizzying, dazzling monologue delivered in character for almost five minutes. Vulture’s got exclusive video of the moment, which rendered Brand’s co-star Alfred Molina practically speechless.

But enough ranting, just see for yourself:

No need to tell you that I’m really looking forward to watching this film, first of all because of Alfred Molina’s class, but now also hoping to see some of the above Russell Brand “magic” in the actual, published film. Being an american one, however, my hopes aren’t very high — American films are so much like “design by commitee” projects.

§

Since we’re on the subject, there’s another great British actor that’s usually underrated, Tim Roth. These days he’s ‘conducting’ a TV series called “Lie to Me“, which is already in its third season. He plays the role of a specialist in reaching the truth through applied psychology: interpreting micro-expressions, through the Facial Action Coding System, and body language. I know, sounds boring, but, believe me, you’ve rarely seen such a high-class performance in a TV series (the way Tim walks, tilts his head, grins — all in character — is simply wonderful). Here’s a third’s season poster, as an apetizer:

§
LATER EDIT
If you need any more proof that Russell Brand is a smart fellow underneath all that show that he puts on, watch this BBC interview with Jeremy Paxton: Paxman quizzes Russell Brand on the cult of celebrity.

§

Credits:
• Russel Brand video via Joshua Blankenship, from NY Mag;
• Thanks Peter for the BBC interview.

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Beauty — how ‘human’ or ‘normal’ should it be?

December 12, 2010, 10:13 PM

Few of the ‘normal’ people don’t feel their soul cringe when they see a disabled person. Whether out of pity, guilt, fear, anger towards fate or just because of the strange gut feeling, you can’t feel comfortable unless you take some time to get used to it. It’s actually quite a natural, biological reaction. We are ‘set’ to search for the genetically-best representative of the opposite sex, more or less. Anyone that looks different gives us a sense of discomfort, usually requiring quite some will power to overcome it. Unlike animals, who let their disabled to die or be eaten, humans do benefit from the “mind over body” thing — or at least try to.

Biological ‘settings’ are not the only ones to blame. Most human societies have outcasted handicapped people for most of our history (in spite of the recent 20th and 21st century ‘enlightenment’, everyday life is still far from easy and ‘normal’ for a disabled person). Also, thousands of years of art are more than enough proof of our cultural & social notions of beauty. Ancient greeks, the Renaissance (to name just a few) tried to portray the perfect human, homo universalis. Even if art from the last two centuries has taken more abstract forms, we still strive for the “greek standard”, more or less. Just take a look through most magazines: 100-m-athletes-like and 90-60-90 models everywhere — no wonder anorexia and bulimia are some of the most common problems these days. Even regular people feel disabled when comparing themselves to ‘society’s standards’.

So it’s no wonder that art (or sports) performed by disabled people seems so strange, almost out of this world, sometimes.

Meet David Toole, a professional dancer — don’t be fooled by the absence of his legs (of which he says the only good thing is that they come in pairs):

David Toole, CandoCo dancer.

And that’s just a hint, watch this promo for “The Cost of Living” film, made by the DV8 Physical Theatre (definitely wait for the second part):

No matter how awkward it first seems, you can’t deny the artistic value. It might look different, you might even find it hard to watch, but by the end, it surely does make you think that beauty might lie outside the comfort zone as well.

And how about Aimee Mullins? Yes, her TED talks are inspiring, to say the least. But you can’t help wondering, would she had come so far if she wasn’t such a hot babe beautiful woman? Of course her looks didn’t help her olympic career or learn walking at the age of two in spite of her handicap, but I doubt Alexander McQueen used her as a model because of her performances. Nevertheless, her story is fascinating and makes you think that it might not be long before the existence of Motoko-Kusanagi-like cyborgs (the Ghost in the Shell series is one of the few franchises that really explore the idea of a technologically-enhanced human society, with its social and psychological implications).

Aimee Mullins (athlete, actress and fashion model)

Come to think of it, would Venus de Milo be just as beautiful if she hadn’t lost her arms? Would she look more ordinary?

Venus / Aphrodite of Milos, (created somewhere between 130, 100 BC).

So what is beauty? How normal or human should it be?
Would we be able to acknowledge ‘alien’ beauty?

Let’s not forget that even for fellow humans, a Zulu for example, beauty might mean something completely different, almost like from another planet for the rest of us. Impressionists had to hold their ground for a some years before they were taken seriously; Pollock‘s paintings might look just like mindless splashes of paint; Christo‘s environmental works of art might seem just like the wrappings of a big child that somehow managed to get the funding for his play. Or even Warhol‘s works — are they actually beautiful? Or just strange enough to be considered art?

There is no final answer. No undeniable truth. Saying the old “beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder” is just politically-correct bullshit — trying to be nice to everybody. Beauty exists, just as ugliness. They just come in so many different shapes that it’s sometimes impossible to tell them apart.

And why should we need answers anyway?
It’s the questions that got us humans so far, haven’t they? We just have to keep our eyes (and minds, of course) wide open — you never know where beauty might come from, least its form.

Credits: David Toole photo taken from his website, Aimee photo taken by Howard Schatz, Venus image taken from The Independent.

Further reading:
— “Racing on carbon fibre legs: How abled should we be“, by Aimee Mullins

Michel Petrucciani, pianist and composer

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Solving problems — On Stray Dogs and David Abbot’s excellence in advertising

December 1, 2010, 4:20 PM

Browsing around from one article to another on Mike Dempsey’s excellent blog, one poster really knocked me off my chair: an ad done by David Abbot for a RSPCA unwanted dogs awareness campaign back in the 70s (I think):

The reason why this poster struck me so hard is that most Romanian cities have had this problem for decades now, stray dogs wandering around almost everywhere (it actually feels strange not seeing any stray dogs since I’ve moved to London, after being so used to them in Bucharest). Some of them are living on the mercy of various people, becoming something like a neighbourhood’s dog, usually having a rag to sleep on near the entrance of the block of flats where his benefactors live, while others just prey on whatever they can find through garbage. Most of them are beggingly friendly, wagging their tails in hope of a small piece of bread for their backbone-glued stomach, few are aggressive and rarely attack (like in the case of the unlucky Japanese man that died a few years ago after being bit by a stray dog).

Anyway, the above poster shows yet again how effective good advertising can be, as I’m sure something like this would have great impact even with the ever-untrusting and uncaring-enough Romanians. But unfortunately, Romanian advertising is just as bland and afraid of shocking — therefore delivering the message — as the people that it’s meant for (and I’m ashamed to say that some of that social-numbness has rubbed off on me as well — hopefully, living in the UK will cure that in time). Problem-solving advertising (and design, too) has become rare these days, as the majority seems to be much more interested in following trends and looking / talking just like the competitors. Those that dare stray from the well-known path are usually labeled as fools and booed in public (Wolff Olins seem to enjoy this, though :) ).

I’d really love to see this kind of bold ads in Romania (and not only), as there are so many problems that people need to wake up to. But the brave ones to approve such work are yet to come.


You should definitely read Mr. Dempsey’s beautiful article about David Abbott’s career: David Abbott, A Man of Letters. There are a few other great ads to see as well, and his career is truly inspiring.

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Designing for Retail Brands: 6 Key Considerations

September 12, 2010, 11:20 AM

An article written in collaboration with Adam Rotmil — a fruitful exchange of ideas and a refreshing experience. Also available on the Adam Rotmil Partners blog.

Companies that have a strong retail presence require a powerful, memorable, and positive brand. It must be different from the competition and visible in the urban space. These are six things we have learned.

1. HOW WAS IT FOR YOU?
Even with the most visible, most advertised brands, it’s about a positive experience. Big media purchases may bring a spike in sales, but does that equate to positive reputation? Brand engagement with company employees has shown more long-term value. Having your own mini-army of proud, confident and helpful employees means connecting with customers at the most vital touchpoint: human contact. While price is one major element in customers’ decisions, most of us would rather go where we feel we are treated better, even if it costs a little more. For this to happen, employees must understand the brand and feel like part of its culture. Take for instance Apple. With rare exception, they’ll do almost everything to earn your satisfaction. Even if that means bending rules. It is a proven axiom that the most effective advertising is positive word-of-mouth. With the advent of social media, this is even more the case.

2. PLAN FOR TRAFFIC WITHIN THE RETAIL SPACE.
Where do you want customers to go first? Graphic elements are valuable in wayfinding, helping the customer get what he wants faster. But think about why grocery stores put the milk in the back. It’s so you’ll spend more time inside, discovering more, and buying more. Think about IKEA and their amusement-park approach to retail spaces. People who shop there feel that the space is meant for them, that they can stay as long as they like, and have everything they need.

3. COMPETITION INFORMS COLOR CHOICES.
Choosing colors requires first investigating the brand’s competition. What’s the most used color? the second? What’s the primary color of the biggest competitor? For food products, red might be the easiest color to spot. If everyone else is using red, doing the same thing can be a missed opportunity. Using blue often makes sense, since it is liked by men and women and implies trust. But, it may not help you stand out if most other brands are using blue. It is an important balance for the brand to look like what it is (whether coffee or life insurance), and to stand out. Some of the most memorable brands, such as Kodak, have colors that same-class competitors do not. And when I say Kodak, you instantly recall the Kodak yellow. When you think Cisco, you recall the Cisco teal.

4. THE BIGGER, THE BIGGER.
Does size really matter (in retail)? Many clients ask for “the bigger, the better strategy.” These people are smart business owners. And big does work, at least in theory. But, check if it really helps. Urban spaces are extremely crowded most of the time. Imagine a completely white fascia or a large mesh ad on a building. Everything around it would be all images and big type. But you’d be the quiet space everybody would turn to. You’d stand out because you’re different: you’re not shouting. Designer Bruno Monguzzi reminds us, “If you continue shouting, you are not communicating better. You have simply removed whispering from the system.” Think about the Beatles’ release of The White Album. When it hit retail stores, it was an oasis.

5. ARE YOU IGNORING SENSORY CUES?
Best-in-class brands have cues that can be dialed up or down. These cues include the senses. Everyone can recognize a Tiffany’s box. Failing to integrate lighting, color, shape, touch — even smell — means missing opportunities. Developing brand properties, or attributes, is the best way to gain top-of-mind relevance in your customers’ minds. It also gives customers a beacon toward the brand. The shape and color of Sephora’s striped entrance, for instance, makes it easy to recognize from far away. Lighting is sometimes more important than the logo outside or the posters in the windows. The flooring is an opportunity to connect with customers emotionally. How does it feel: cold, soft, textured, solid, reliable? These attribute choices will influence how the customer feels about the brand, and how they will remember the retail experience. Remember stepping inside an Adidas shop. You know the smell, you recognize it right away. Memory takes many forms. It starts with specific experiences and gradually crystalizes to a general association with a bundle of promises and expectations. Triggers to recall these memories include scents, music, materials, lighting, furniture, being offered a cup of tea, and more with a well-thought retail brand.

6. BATHWATER GOES. BABY STAYS.
New brands usually start from zero, with the luxury of getting it right in the first place. Redesigned brands, however, are much more complicated and require caution. Unless a brand is toxic, don’t throw out the brand’s entire DNA. The core of its visual identity has gained years of equity. The essence of brand properties (colors, symbols, a mascot,…) may be of great service to the revitalized brand. With Cisco, the bridge-in-a-box became a more open and abstract symbol. But the core DNA of the bridge, all of its implications, and the literal connection to the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, remain. Reinventing a brand, while keeping the merits it has earned, helps ensure customer loyalty, while expanding the customer base.

Many of the general principles about brand strategy and design apply to designing for retail. But these are some considerations we think you should bear in mind. These are just starting points. Talk about these issues with your colleagues and your clients. We hope this helps you build a better brand expression.

Iancu Barbărasă is an experienced graphic designer specialised in brand identity design. He has previously worked for the leading Romanian branding and design company Brandient, taking part in large rebranding projects like Dedeman and CEC Bank, internationally awarded (Best of Awards and Merit at Rebrand, 2009, Rhode Island, USA). His experience covers a multitude of design fields, from identity, retail, packaging to print and web design. As of September 2010, he is living and working in London, UK. Iancu believes that good, idea-driven design means good business and a more enjoyable life for everyone.

Contact Iancu via E-mail
Visit Iancu on the web at www.iancul.com

Adam Rotmil runs the Japan office of Adam Rotmil Partners, specializing in brand strategy and design. He has 15 years of brand and design experience with companies of all sizes. He held a senior creative position at Marsh and McClennan Companies, the premier global services firm. Adam later designed at Brown Brothers Harriman, the largest private bank in the United States. Adam lives in Japan and partners with experts worldwide, sharing projects and talent. His singular vision is to improve brand value through strategy, exploration, and discovery. Adam knows good work implies social awareness, dedication, honesty, and integrity.

Contact Adam via E-mail
Visit Adam on the web at www.adamrotmil.com

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On quitting the best job & taking on world’s best: London

, 5:46 AM

A DESIGNER’S COMING OF AGE

After three years and a half, Friday (September 10) was my last day at Brandient. I remember that during the first year, I was quite unsure if I had made the right decision, of quitting advertising. Gone were the large creative department with the big TV, the couch and the tennis table, the all-night free-bar parties followed by oversleeping, the sexy girls from the PR department, the “cool” factor that surrounded me whenever I said “I’m an Art Director”. Being a designer felt much more serious — less fun, more thought. And it felt lonelier. Fewer and fewer understood what I was talking about now: typography, grid, guidelines, packaging strategy etc. Not to mention the increasingly hard to answer parents’ question: “What do you do exactly?” Sadly, in my country, when I say “I’m a designer”, most still assume I’m in the fashion business.
Oh, the pain…

After two years though, gone were the doubts. Sure, I’d still envy from time to time my art director best friend’s living la vida loca style, but there I was, a 25-year-old, working on large national rebranding projects, having his designs produced in almost all the cities around the country. And those were not simple six-months-lasting outdoor campaigns, but large retail solutions, built to last for at least five or ten years. And it was all thanks to the small group that ‘angrily’ wants to make work that would rival the world’s best in a country that constantly tries to hold them back — and in a market where competitors would rather shoot themselves in their own foot than help build branding and design as a highly-valued and respected profession.

Three years and a half later, I’ve been part of some of the biggest rebranding projects ever to take place in Romania, I’ve learned more than ever and I’ve settled on what I like and want to do for a living. Projects with full responsibility have given me more confidence in my skills and in my decisions while working along the other designers has made me understand that any design approach can be valid, as there is no absolute truth in design, but a multitude of solutions. We are not saving people’s lives, even though we sometimes act like it’ll be the end of the world if the deadline isn’t met. That doesn’t mean that we are less important, as our work influences everybody’s lives, day after day. That comes with its moral responsability, and you can easily fall down the 12 Steps on the Graphic Designer’s Road to Hell, as Mr. Milton Glaser wisefully advises against. But here I go, raving again about the greater impact and  importance of design — but that’s just another important thing I’ve learned in these years: thinking like a designer and living like one, 24/7. Being a designer is a way of life, not just a job.

Some might say that writing all this is a little pathetic, overdramatic or just lame. But it has become a habit these days to forget the people you owe to. Everybody is so self-centered that few remember to even say thank you. Nobody is born all-knowing. And don’t be fooled, nobody got wise all by themselves. It takes a lot of confidence and shared experience from the older ones for you to get any smarter.

So here it is, my pledge to Brandient for giving me the best job by far a designer can have in Romania: thank you.

•••

AIMING SKY-HIGH: MOVING TO LONDON

A few years ago I was quite the unforgiving with those that chose to leave the country. There is so much here to do that I hardly could understand the ones that left in search of the better life, that few ever got. But as usual, the wheel turned around and I became just like them: eager to leave. There are many reasons*, but I’ll name just a few.

First, the challenge
Who wouldn’t dream of working together with the best in the world? Pentagram, Wolff Olins, Brand Union, Landor and so many other top companies that I look up to — why couldn’t I be there? They’re human, just like everybody else. Just as I’ve dreamed while in college of working at Brandient, the best in Romania, my dream these days is to succeed in working and learning from the best in the world. You’ll never get very far if you don’t aim high enough.

Second, the right time
I’m 28 years old. I’m not married (but I am in a stable relationship, and yes, we’re moving together). I do not have kids, nor do I plan to in the next three or four years. Even though I might be old by Alexander The Great standards, I think I still have much to learn and experiment. Just as Siddhartha, the best way to learn about life is to go out and experience it by yourself, in as many ways as you can, to see what you’re really made of. So, as O-Ren says: “Now’s the f***ing time!”

Third, the political, economical and social situation
There’s been more than 20 years since the fall of communism in Romania. Sadly, we’re still ruled by the left-overs of the dictatorial regime — corrupted politicians incapable of putting together even the slightest plan for economic stability. Local businesses are striving for survival while the government seems to excel at punishing any succesful entrepreneurship. Socially, the large majority of the population slowly sinks into cheap, mindless consumerism and cultural vulgarity. Worst thing of all, people have lost the pride in their professions, everybody just hopes to hit “the jackpot” somehow. There is no real self-respect, no trust in anything whatsoever.

Why London?
Because Marry f***ing Poppins, that’s why :)) It’s one of the biggest metropolises in the world and one of the most diverse. People’ve been gathering there for centuries, and those who make it are among the best. Sure there are plenty designers there (some 40k, from what I hear), but intelligent, hard working people are never enough, no matter how big the city. I don’t think I have to tell you about the artistic, the architectural, the ever-moving London. Last but not least, since almost everyone’s usually from some place other than London, moved in recently or having lived there for decades already, the differences between ‘locals’ and newcomers are easily overcome, unlike in other big capitals (Paris, for instance).

What will it take?
Luck, mostly — and patience. The cold hard truth is that it doesn’t matter so much how talented you are, but how well connected you are. Most of the time it’s just about being at the right place, at the right time. However, the good news is that luck can be ‘helped’. Sitting on your ass all day never got anyone very far, that’s for sure.

What’s left behind?
A huge need for design, for education, for sincere art, for competent and upstanding professionals, for succesful entrepreneurs. But that won’t happen without visionary leadership. Until then, Romania remains pretty much a no man’s land, where everyone is fighting for himself and nobody wins.

All in all, moving to London is a big gamble — but then again, I don’t want to look in the mirror twenty years from now and ask myself “Why didn’t you try at least? Were you too scared? Were you too comfy?”.

In the end, I’m hoping for the best, but getting ready for the worse. I’ll be living and working in London from September, 25th.

*Disclaimer: the idea of moving to London came first as a personal decision, but this is another story for another time :)

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On succes with three top creatives — or how designers & photographers can be a lot funnier than Seinfeld

March 15, 2010, 12:22 AM

If you ever thought that a bounch of old creatives couldn’t be even half funnier than Jerry Seinfeld, you’re dead wrong. Watch Michael Wolff, Erik Spiekermann and Oliviero Toscani ‘chit-chatting’ about success in one of the DBA‘s The Edge talks:

_

Knowing Mr. Toscani’s work and the fact that he’s such a flamboyant italian (say what you will, but the obviousness of their nationalities is very funny), it’s no wonder how easily he steals the show, giving headaches to Erik and Wolff :)) Every gesture is priceless, and the bit about the European union just made me burst into tears laughing :))

Here’s a favourite quote from Toscani: “Creative Director? Not even God directed creativity.” And while I’m at it, one wise word from Mr. Wolff: “Our species is both as brilliant and as thick as it’s possible to imagine.”

/via Sorin Bechira, i think :)

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And Snow Covered The Land…

February 8, 2010, 11:18 AM

Such a wonderful thing to draw aimlessly on a torn paper, randomly picked among the piles of books and papers on your desk, never knowing what you’ll eventually get to — and not even suspecting that it’ll be related in any way to future events. If Mr. Glaser says ‘drawing is thinking‘, could it be that drawing is also a small peek into the future? I wonder…

(also on flickr)

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Jay Jay in Bucharest — a city with no respect

December 5, 2009, 3:15 AM

Jay Jay in Bucharest

Jay Jay Johanson sang tonight.
A voice out of this world.
An immense joy for the soul.

•••

If only had I had the pleasure of listening to him somewhere else. I can’t yet describe in words the anger and the desperation that overwhelmed me while watching the people around me. Jay Jay’s music may have trip-hop and electro elements, but in its essence, it’s very close to blues, or old school jazz — a melancholic man singing from the bottom of his heart. How can one trample underfoot such sincere music?

More than half of the ‘audience’ was talking loudly, chitchatting like grocery sellers in the market, backs turned from the scene, smoking their fetid cigarettes and drinking their beer. No respect whatsoever for the few that were all-ears, no respect for the few that felt shivers down their spines whenever Jay Jay’s voice sighed or trembled. No respect for themselves, the ones that are the ‘educated’ young hope for the romanian future. We all know each other more or less — advertisers, journalists, so called modern artists, musicians, entertainers, djs, vjs and so on. Small world. Crème de la crème. The ones present at every hip, cool, trendy, ‘indie’, ‘underground’, ‘alternative’ music event. Muse? They were there. Massive Attack? Of course. Placebo? Cohen? Goldfrapp? IAMX? You bet. All there. Sitting around, chatting and drinking. Like they just got there by mistake. Like it didn’t matter whether the singer was singing about his lost love or the last three burgers he just wolfed down while watching the game. Too bad Jay Jay didn’t have the strong enough sound system to cover up the truth: there is no real cultural demand in Romania. It’s all a façade.

Fuck you very much, hipsters and yuppies. You just proved once more that Romania doesn’t deserve to be european. Not now and not in the next ten years. And that’s being optimistic.

— iancu

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Steal or copy — treading the fine line

October 30, 2009, 3:41 PM

“The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources”
—Albert Einstein

“Bad artists copy. Great artists steal.”
—Pablo Picasso

“Instinct […] is memory in disguise—works quite well when trained, poorly otherwise.”
Robert Bringhurst

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iancu-design-challenge-15-bike-ride

Last night I couldn’t go to sleep before making this poster (larger here)—it stood as a sketch in my Moleskine for two days. It is one of my works for the 15th Design Challenge (the theme being a bike-day-or-ride poster with the title “I want to ride my bicycle”). The concept is great: a giant, red-striking, italic B (Futura UltraBold, of course) suggesting the word “bicycle”, helped by the small bike icon (InfoPict Two) and being part of an already very well known song line, “I want to ride my bicycle” from Queen. Add that big red letter over a black&white photo (bikes in their urban environment) and you have a clear winner. Looks great (I actually have people that can testify, so please excuse the self-praise :P)

However, this poster—most likely—wouldn’t have been born without seeing another poster three days ago, browsing Flickr. This one was made by Gabriel & Svoboda, exibited at the A:Event—larger here.

Gabriel-Svoboda

Now, the obvious troubling question is: how much is my poster mine?
Sure, they only have the big italic B in common, and the black&white poster is obviously not the first or the last one to make use of a huge, dominating letter as the main focus of its composition. Just as I’m not the first to use red Futura UltraBold over black&white photography—Barbara Kruger did this way back, and she’s in most design books so almost every designer has seen her work at some point, even if only by visiting Centre Pompidou.

Usually we don’t really remember our influences, mostly because we always filter everything we see and learn through our own personality, through our own creative talent. I didn’t think of Barbara Kruger at all when I designed the poster, I only remembered her while writing this analisys. God knows how many other influences I had. But I did know about the other poster, I specifically wrote down in my sketchbook to use the big italic B to illustrate my own ideas.

In the end, I guess it comes down to how much the work is your own, to how well you’ve managed to bring it close to your soul, to how much you believe in it. To how much you’ve “stolen” it or made it your own, as Picasso says. Do I like the poster? Of course, I’m proud of it. Is it mine? I think so. But being an intelligent person, I’m never completely sure of anything (“Only fools are 100% sure, son” “You sure, dad?” “Of course, son”).

This having been said, in commercial work there’s a pretty different story. The last thing you want is to find out that your design resembles another—your whole effort for differentiating your client can be ruined just because somebody somewhere had a similar idea. This is why market research is important, just as keeping yourself informed on other fellow designers’ work is (but this also influences your work—feel the irony?)

Come to think of it, there is this recent case that touches the same problem: Wolff Olins’ Docomo vs Pentagram’s MAD. Many hurried to cry “copy-cat”, but that’s just plain thought-less reaction. All designers, consultants and advertisers (the serious ones, that is) know how many elements are involved during a project. And we all know that you can’t reinvent the wheel. The basic shapes will remain the same, nobody can “own” them, just like T-Mobile can’t own magenta—that’s just against common sense.

(quotes reminded by Adi – RO link)

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