Sunday 12th Sep 2010
Definitely catching up with old news with this one; I’ve had this Brand New article on the new Royal Opera House identity by Someone bookmarked for a while. If you’ve not seen it already, the new identity centres on a fantastic new cut of the royal crest by Christopher Wormell and is supported by new type and image guidelines. The new typeface is Gotham Light, which is lovely and works wonderfully with the new brand, but I can’t help but feel a little sad to see the Caslon-esque old wordmark go. Still, if it had to go, it had to go, and given how Covent Garden looks and feels nowadays Gotham is a good choice — it’s a fresh clean and light companion to the dense complexity of the crest, and works perfectly with the more modern layouts and imagery they’re using, but was Gill really just too much of a cliché?
The new crest itself is wonderful. The old one had a certain old-time charm to it, but next to the new one it looks distinctly shabby. Like Armin Vit, I’m especially impressed that they produced two versions for use on light and dark backgrounds, rather than simply inverting the image. The work is so well done that it’s hard to work out what’s actually different between the two images — they’re not just outlined or trimmed, the thickness, detail and density of each image is different, but designed to give the impression they’re the same. Clever and skillful work by a true master of engraving:
This new sign for the V&A is wonderful. The museum commissioned Troika to make a sign for the tunnel connecting the museum and South Kensington tube station, and it’s bloody gorgeous. It’s a kinetic sculpture, rotating parts of the museum’s logo (in itself a wonderful thing, by Alan Fletcher in 1989) so that it reads at first from one side, and then from the other. I did wonder at first whether the V and A on Fletcher’s original logo were actually rotationally symmetric, and no, of course they aren’t, but for a sculpture like this the alteration to make them work like that isn’t at all noticeable. Go and watch the video (or of course, visit the museum) to see it in action. It’s so simple and yet so clever, whoever came up with the idea must have been quite pleased with themselves, and justifiably so.
It looks like the UK’s Financial Services Authority, theoretically responsible for making sure financial institutions (like banks) stick to the law, don’t do stupid things and don’t rip people off, is to be shut down, or merged into the Bank of England, presumably because it didn’t do enough of those things well enough and often enough. This will make everything OK again, we are led to assume. Such is life. I guess this is the beginning of the end for the FSA logo though, which is a bit of a shame. The lettering is crushingly dull, but the scroll-and-circle device is lovely — a real I wish I’d done that kind of thing. It’s drawn to resemble a continuous scroll such as you’d find on a certificate or banknote, but is just cleverly constructed to look like that. It’s just so beautifully and simply done it’d be a shame for it to disappear altogether.
John Beohm of Idents.tv posted the six new idents for Australia’s ONE HD tv channel — I don’t have much to say on them other than they’re lovely and simple and I really like the logo. As John points out, it’s good that they avoid the crass overdone clichés of floodlit stadia and huge billboards, generally I don’t find myself watching sports channels but of what I’ve seen their idents (and identities) are all pretty much of a muchness. Lots of glassy, glossy, glittery effects, dramatic perspectives across giant dystopian stadia-cities shrouded in perpetual night; the impression you’re supposed to get is that this is epic, this is a clash of titans, a great battle to end all battles, an extraordinary experience that will resonate through time and space, this is it, and then, just as you’re (theoretically) driven to the very peak of excitement and anticipation, here’s the golf. Woo.
So yes, it’s nice to have a set of idents that have some of the actual sporting action in them. The logo looks to be a very slightly tweaked Helvetica Black — the version I have has a slightly wider aperture in the lowercase e (but it could just be the 3D rendering creating the illusion). The curve cut out of the bottom hints slightly of the epic view-over-the-horizon style of usual sports channel logos, but it’s subtly executed and provides a perfect frame for the HD suffix. Anyway, slightly more than I was intending to write on this one. It’s nice. Go and watch the videos on Idents.tv.
Up There is one of those things that’s been linked to like crazy across Twitter and most of the sites I read, but I’d not got around to watching it. I find that with a lot of online video, I mark it to watch later when I’ve a bit of time to devote to it and then, well, don’t get around to it. So, if you’re like me and haven’t seen this yet, I do recommend watching it. It’s only 12 minutes, very well composed and edited and really gives you an insight into the work of people who hand paint signs and adverts on the sides of buildings. It’s a craft that (not surprisingly) is dying out, but one that can be kept alive by commissions from a few enlightened companies and agencies. The film was sponsored by Stella Artois who, as JJ from Graphicology points out, are producing more narrative-based advertising lately. Kudos to them for this, I’ve a lot more respect for Stella Artois the company now. Less said about the lager.
Wednesday 5th May 2010
It’s been around for millennia, but concrete is a building material that pretty much defines the architecture of the modern era. The reconstruction efforts after the second world war really got the world interested in concrete in a big way — it allowed for rapid, economical construction of vast numbers of apartments, factories, malls, roads and more, and made tall buildings commonplace.
Of course, while not exactly a new building material, the uses we put it to often were. We know all too well the grey, crumbling monoliths, the remains of ill-conceived and badly built projects blighting our cities and towns, but too rarely do people celebrate the truly wonderful concrete buildings we have — from cathedrals to offices, shops and homes to soaring bridges, roads and basic utilitarian buildings, it’s an incredibly flexible and often beautiful building material. This is, I guess, what the Concrete Quarterly was designed to highlight. I’ve only read some of the earlier editions, but right from the first issue it talks of the diversity of uses of concrete; bridges, home developments and motorways all built with the stuff. Perhaps this variety is what’s influenced the design of the magazine over the years. Not until the 60s does it gain any kind of design consistency — in the 50s barely three or four editions are alike. Not that that’s really a bad thing, as some of the early covers are just gorgeous:
I was browsing through wondering if I could spot any familiar projects, and lo, in the Winter 1962 issue there’s a cover article on Coventry Cathedral, one of my favourite buildings, which I’ve written about before here.
Even within the same issue the headline styles vary considerably, and sometimes even the body type too. It makes for a slightly odd effect, but on the whole I think it works — it all ends up being rather charming. This one is wonderful on so many levels. Belgian Roads! What a subject!
It’s worth having a look through the archives as there are many beautiful photos in there. I was delighted to see some photos of Liverpool Cathedral, which I visited many years ago and loved right away — I gather it’s not really all that popular locally but I think it’s great. Perhaps I just like anything with lots of stained glass in it.
I was reading the latest post on The Art of Hand Lettering earlier and found the stages in the process fascinating, in that I preferred some of the sketches to the end result. I do really like the final logo, but there was something about one of the on-screen workings of the logo that I thought really brought the word alive — it’s the one in the detail I cropped from the article at the bottom right below. There’s something really playful about it, like the rest of the word is being bounced along by the K. Still, that’s my impression and it most likely wasn’t the client’s intention — and that’s the difference between doing stuff for yourself and doing stuff for paying clients!
I’ve been thinking for a little while that the text on Ministry of Type is maybe a tad too small, making me guilty (perhaps) of that terrible designers’ conceit, small type syndrome. I’ve been designing sites for clients lately with much larger text, around the 13-15pt range, and coming back to my own site with its small text gives me a bit of a jolt. So here goes, bigger text, and a switch to FF Dagny Web Pro from FontFont, delivered via Typekit. I like FF Dagny a lot for its own characteristics, but I have to admit I’m fond of it too because it reminds me of Univers and Folio. Of course, if either of those two Linotype faces were ever to be available for online embedding (ice-skating through Hades, anyone?) there’s no guarantee they’d actually work well in the browser anyway. Perhaps right now type designers at Linotype are working on web versions of their entire back catalogue?
Oh, and yes, I was thinking of this when I wrote the title.
Sunday 7th Mar 2010
I was browsing through the AIGA Design Archives and was attracted right away to this book cover for Design and the Elastic Mind. Irma Boom designed the cover and the beautiful lettering was done by Daniël Maarleveld, you can see more of his lettering and some background info here (thanks to Sean Kelly for the info). I’ve been experimenting with creating letters from guilloches, so I wanted to look a bit closer at how the designer had done these. It’s pretty interesting, though I’m guessing it’s software filling paths with a basic guilloche than any kind of mathematical derivation of the letters themselves. It’s still very attractive and effective, and I’m wondering what software was used to make it — exploring Excentro I’ve not seen any path-filling options — so I shall ask.
I had a look round for more info on the book, and found that it’s supporting an exhibition of the same name at MOMA. There’s a website devoted to it including this Flash ‘interactive’ thing, which grandly introduces itself thus:
The exhibition highlights designers’ ability to grasp momentous changes in technology, science, and history—changes that demand or reflect major adjustments in human behavior—and translate them into objects that people can actually understand and use.
Now, after a while poking around on the site I can say that it’s somewhat lacking in that regard. The typography is unremittingly dreary; a set of very long lists set in microscopic low-contrast text with odd arrows that imply function but give none, bullets all over the place and thoroughly opaque labelling of everything. There’s an animated overlay that briefly shows images from the extended info for each of the list entries (which of course obscures the title and brief intro to it), and traces lines to other things that it’s apparently related to. You can click each of the things and find some actual interesting information in there, and some really nice imagery, but the sense of confusion never really goes away, you’re left with questions — where am I in the site, what is this, what are these connections for and about? If the intention is to show that there’s loads of stuff out there, that it’s hard to read and that finding out about any of it is an onerous task and that following the connections between things is baffling and involves you having to do work to even find out what it is and is connected to, then the site is a blinding success. And what is it with those arrows?
Shame really, because the book cover is quite lovely.
This post falls squarely into an imaginary new-to-me category, as it’s apparently been around since 2004 and I’ve never ever seen it before. I’m not sure how, I’m convinced I’ve looked at stuff related to Liechtenstein in the last 6 years, and this is exactly the kind of thing I like. So yes, the other day I was emailed a link to the portal of The Principality of Liechtenstein with a message to have a look at their ‘new’ brand (I think my correspondent may have seen it here on Creative Roots). I’m wondering whether the brand just hasn’t been promoted much — or maybe I’ve just missed it. That website doesn’t do it any favours that’s for sure. Anyway, big surprise: it turns out the brand was designed by Wollf Olins, so I can only assume that their work from 2004 must predate whatever decision they made to push ugly and huh? as brand virtues, as this is rather lovely.
The type is essentially made from dots (an idea I love) and this presents a nice twist on that, using stages on a morph between a flower and a star, theoretically including a circle as one of the steps. According to the brand documentation, the flower represents the agrarian roots of the Principality, the circle is the financial side and the star is ‘industry’. I’m a little unconvinced by that, as I’m pretty sure that industry wasn’t the endpoint in Liechtenstein’s development, nor was finance merely a step along the way. Perhaps it’s best thought of as a device to indicate the range of things you can find in Liechtenstein. Regardless of that, it makes for a pretty story and an attractive logo. The overall effect is of something encrusted in diamonds (or at least Swarovski crystals), though looking at it again I’m reminded a little of early-20th Century theatre illuminations, the old ‘name in lights’ thing. Certainly the associations are of glamour and wealth, which seems to suit the Principality just fine.
The crown is a nice touch as well, and if I’m honest was what caught my eye at first — one of the perils of using a crown as your own logo I guess. Again, as is apparently unavoidable with country branding, the elements of the crown have particular meaning related to aspects of how Liechtenstein would like you to think it thinks of itself as having (sorry). Made of symbols for nature, dialogue, finance, industry and rootedness the crown works well and forms a recognisable little device when used on its own or with the abbreviated LI mark. The component symbols are used across brochures and other materials as a rather refreshingly retro pattern. I doubt I’m alone in being reminded of 1970s wallpaper, but all in all it works well and compliments the other decorative elements — the flowers, mountains, trees and (especially) that nice illustration of Vaduz Castle.
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