Ah yes Outer Space, one of my favorite subjects. Ross Bernes does it justice here in his Under the Milky Way series. These have been floating around the blogosphere for some time, but I only recently discovered Mr. Berens and his many talents (and at such a young age!). As he mentions on his site, these were each done in 2-3 hours — I wonder what he could do with a whole day. I was also very impressed with the logo for his blog, NVSBLTY.
The little penguin made his iPhone debut last week with the release of the Plancast iPhone app. Everyone is at SXSW right now spreading the word and drumming up support. I designed some emergency t-shirts and business cards for the excursion and I’m excited to hear how it all went. Should have some pictures of that material this week — I’ve yet to see them in person due to the time/production constraints. Plancast also had a big article in the New York Times a few days ago which was exciting to see. If you look closely, you can see a wee version of the logo in the screenshot. Too bad the penguin didn’t hit the front page!
When I wrote about this project last week, I forgot to mention how different the post-production time has been compared to my normal project routine. For just about every one of my process posts I’ve written here, the work has always been completed in school for an assignment. Once the project is complete, it’s over as far as just about everyone is concerned. It’s been exciting to see this one continue to evolve in the real world — like winding one of those wind-up toys and setting it on the table.
My rebranding Playboy project came to a close last week with the end of our fall semester. If you read the last article, you are familiar with the first part of this project, which was the new logo for Playboy. While it is absolutely the flag bearer of the entire project, the logo development represented a small amount of the work we were required to do for the overall project. The final deliverable for the class was a book in which we the explain history of the brand, walk through our rationale for the new identity, explore the process of the logo development, present brand standards and guidelines, and show example brand implementations and extensions. Other than this required content, there was no specific criteria for the book. Each student also gave a short final presentation explaining their rebranding and the choices they made along the way. Everything was created for the Nature of Identity class at the Academy of Art, as part of the graduate graphic design program.
I really enjoyed the conversation the first post on this project generated. I was excited to see that the new logo was as polarizing as it was — I feel like these types of solutions are the most exciting and rewarding for me. I noticed that many people were up in arms about the idea of Playboy removing nudity and becoming an all article magazine. While I would like to note that the new strategy was purely a conceptual exploration constructed in an educational environment, I actually do think they might be well served to switch things up this drastically. Playboy was once irreverent and boundary shattering. They are no longer. I can think of no better way to recapture this audacious spirit than by doing something this extreme…
A little while ago, I wrote about my current class assignment to reinvigorate a brand that is “dead, dying or defunct”. As we are nearing the semester’s end next month, I thought it would be a good time to begin describing the process of this project. The final deliverable is a book, in which we describe the history of our chosen brand (and why it’s time for a update), outline the new identity guidelines (visual standards manuals, usage considerations etc), and show potential extensions (mock ups of storefronts, products, etc). For this process post I’ll describe my brand choice and eventual logo development.
(project permalink on my site)
When I wrote the first article, I was considering No Fear as my primary option. With such a versatile name, I figured I could take the brand in a number of different directions. However, as much fun as it would have been to revisit the dominant clothing of my middle school years (along with LA Lights), I was concerned that the project would not really extend anywhere beyond a basic brand overhaul (new logo, visuals, products, etc). I saw little opportunity for humor or much conceptual work, and I opted to move in a different direction.
I decided to rebrand Playboy — a brand that many might say is arguably not dead, dying or defunct. Like many magazines, they actually are “dying” (financially), but for my project I focused on the decay of the overall perception of the brand. The graph below displays how I feel the brand has progressed in a more abstract fashion. Basically, these days, I would say most people would be embarrassed to say they read Playboy. A baseless assumption perhaps, but when was the last time you saw someone reading Playboy in public?
To keep up with the increasing trashiness of the American Men’s magazine, Playboy has been forced to reposition itself as “one of the boys” as it were, and is now indistinguishable from the Maxim’s of the world. Rather than hold on to the sophisticated standards of their early years, Playboy has come to embrace its unfortunately crude place in the magazine world. This evolution (rather, devolution) is tragic and the original soul of the brand has been lost. Maybe not “dead, dying or defunct”, but Playboy has certainly lost something along the way. I saw an opportunity to bring some of the original classiness and sophistication back with a drastic repositioning…
The University of Brighton has a nifty website up displaying the work of their Spring 2009 design and illustration graduates. I’ve placed some of my favorite pieces above, but there is a lot of impressive work to be seen. I think it’s great that the school puts this together for the graduates. While each student seems to be very web-capable (at least in terms establishing an online presence), this kind of collective resource allows each student to benefit from the aggregate buzz of the project. This institution-sponsored online portfolio presentation is something I think we will be seeing more and more of (in conjunction with, or probably as a replacement for, the onsite end-of-semester shows).
My most recent assignment for my MFA program is a pretty exciting one. Our task this semester is to pick a dead, dying or defunct brand and revitalize it. We are free to choose pretty much whatever we want so long as we can make a case for its need of a makeover and/or repositioning. The goal is not only to develop a new identity system for the brand, but also to extend its focus into untapped commercial avenues. For this part especially, we are encouraged to let our imaginations go wild. At the end of the project we will have an overhauled identity system, new product extensions, and an imagined history starting from wherever we picked up — the only thing that must be carried over is the original name.
Pan Am, a most beloved brand, would be a great example of something that would work really well for this project. Picking something that is familiar to people and in the public consciousness is always a good strategic choice. Although, you do run the risk of competing with a powerful history and a previously very effective identity. Another good example that Scott and I discussed was General Dynamics.
Today in class we went over everyone’s choices and there were some pretty cool ones; some very random, and most with lots of potential for sure. I am still on the fence with my choices, but I think I’ll come round this weekend when I have more time to think of potential futures. Right now, I’m thinking it might be fun to try and make No Fear cool again. They obviously aren’t an extinct brand, but if you visit the website you’ll see there is room for some…improvement.
Anyone think of other brands that are in desperate need of a renovation or rebirth? We found this list, but most I had not heard of. I’m sure there must be some others out there just screaming for an overhaul. Sound off in the comments.
Note: I wrote this process post a while ago about a project I completed last November. There has been so much going on these days that I forgot about it in the depths of my terribly cluttered hard drive. As I have transitioned to thesis mode now, there are less of these sorts of projects in the pipeline. This is one of my favorites I have completed at the Academy thus far and it was interesting to revisit. This is the article in its original form, as I wrote it last December.
This semester we were asked to immerse ourselves in one topic and research it through a series of week long projects. The content of each project would be the result of our extensive research, and we were expected to pick a topic robust enough to be worthy of 15 weeks of study. Each project encouraged us to explore different design solutions and helped us hone in on a visual style that we could use for the final project, which would synthesize all of our work into one deliverable.
For the last month of the semester, we were tasked with compiling all of our research into a book that we would write, design, and bind ourselves. It was to have a minimum of 48 pages (6″ x 9″), a hardcover, and provide some meaningful insights about our topic which we uncovered during our semester of research. In addition to providing a worthy and refreshing commentary, it was to be a covetable piece of graphic design that felt visually appropriate for our topic.
The topic I chose for the semester was Mega Cities (urban areas with a population over 10 million people). The original focus of the project was an examination of what makes a city successful — what it is about a massive city that makes it unique. It eventually dovetailed into an exploration of the ways these cities are confronting the problems they face and how increasing populations make solving these problems more complicated and time sensitive. These problems are becoming increasingly relevant as the world’s urban population continues to grow at an unprecedented rate. I flirted with numerous other topics, some of which I thought were quite interesting, but I found that Mega Cities would provide me with the most interesting and engaging material.
As of this summer I am officially halfway through my graduate design program at the Academy of Art. Unlike a BFA degree, the MFA requires the completion of a thesis, and the second half of the graduate program is dedicated to the development of this. The most recent checkpoint I had to clear was Midpoint; basically a review of your work and skills to date, as well as a clearing ground for your upcoming project. It’s a pretty exciting meeting actually; you place all your work on the table, in front of a faculty committee, and they determine whether you are fit to continue. The main focus of the meeting is your thesis proposition. Before they allow you to embark on a 1-2 year thesis project, they want to make sure your idea is viable and worth pursuing.
I am past the Midpoint stage now and am in a class called Thesis Development this summer. It is a very different class than those that I’ve written about previously. Rather than creating a series of graphic design based projects, we are spending all of our time researching and strategizing how we are going to go about the next few years. I always picture that scene in Apollo 13 when they are trying to get back to Earth and only have one chance to fire their rocket boosters to enter the atmosphere at the correct angle. It is extremely important that they get their aim correct, else they bounce off the atmosphere and careen into space and die. I think of this class as that moment in the space flight; we are aiming where we want to go before firing our boosters over the next year and trying and pull off a successful project.
Above you see a piece created for the class. It is a piece of design, as everything we bring to school must be, but the main purpose of the document is to chart my progress over the next year. It divides the weeks up into sections and outlines what I should be doing when. I expect it to change many times over the course of the coming months (it’s already way off base), but it really helps having a checklist like this to keep tabs on my progress. I have never pursued a project of this magnitude before and the planning involved is unlike any design challenge I have been faced with previously. Most of the time I just open Illustrator and start drawing lines and scribbles until things look cool.
A graphic design thesis is a very interesting concept. The biggest thing I struggled with, as I decided on a topic, was whether my thesis would implement graphic design, and pursue an issue outside the field, or whether it would be about Graphic Design itself, and aim to make waves within the design community. Most projects do the former. We are lucky in this way — because design really can be used to solve just about any problem — but there is the concern that this strategy will be of no relevance to the actual field of study. I still don’t know quite what to make of this dilemma. I have tried to meld the two directions with my project (I’ll discuss details in later process posts), but I am unsure whether it will end up being that much more effective because of this, or if it will fail because I never decided which path to pursue. I guess it’s still too early in the process to know.