On 11, Dec 2018 | In Uncategorized | By plaidtractor
As a designer I’ve always been fascinated by the ampersand. It might’ve began as a kid, admiring my mother’s workspace and her collection of U&LC (Upper & Lowercase) Magazine. Here John Brownlee reveals its history as a unique glyph, and why it’s the darling of type nerds. I love it for many of the same reasons, particularly how it invites and inspires exploration.
One additional explanation: out of all the characters of a large family, the weirdest one is often the most interesting!
While all letters and punctuation marks look similar enough in abstract, the ampersand feels unique, like a shape-shifter that could transform at a moment’s notice. For type designers and aficionados both, it isn’t so much a character as it is a character, “usually a tirelessly entertaining one, perhaps an uncle with too many tricks,” as Simon Garfield wrote in his 2012 book, Just My Type.
On 28, Feb 2017 | In Uncategorized | By plaidtractor
Amidst all the disaster and gaffe precautions the Academy Award ceremony attends to, apparently human error prevention (while the world cliff-hangs on your next cold read) isn’t one of them. If only a graphic designer had been tasked to apply one of their most essential skills, basic typography, Warren Beatty might’ve caught the error on the spot.
Let’s have a look at the interface he was tasked with navigating, stone cold. The first (and largest) item commanding attention is the most useless: the Oscar logo. Perhaps this would be useful if a major star ‘Gary Busied’ and suddenly forgot where they were. Next, as if to avoid getting stuck in the traffic of “more words” we leap headlong into the title of the film, with no mention of category. Do they figure they’ll shed precious time unclaimed by the flashing “wrap it up” sign and play-off music? Sometimes formalities are appropriate. Particularly if the award ceremony is, you know, significant. Finally, the category the reader is announcing for is buried at the bottom in small print, italicized. For “emphasis”.
Here’s a version an experienced graphic designer would insist upon, that is if only one of the trillion or so designers in LA had been available.
Only the bare minimum is employed to ensure clarity in the event Murphy’s law barges in. Then it’s organized into a simple, intuitive hierarchy. From the top, only a split second glance is required to check the category (a sort of “you are here”). This is the “ounce of prevention” that could’ve saved Beatty, the Academy, and PwC from many pounds of embarrassment. Then the main point of focus, the film title is handed to the reader by way of its emphasis. Underneath it all (with the exception of the film title) is the beautifully invisible feature of readable, lowercase typography. Unlike the all-caps Oscar card, lowercase type recognizes we humans read the shapes of words, not the letters of words.
So shape up, Oscars, and stop giving Gaffers a bad name.
Website redesign on the way for Grantmakers in the Arts, national thought leaders in arts philanthropy
On 20, Jul 2016 | In Uncategorized | By plaidtractor
I’m honored and excited to announce that Plaid Tractor Design has been selected to partner with Grantmakers in the Arts (GIA) to redesign their web presence, their most critical communication tool.
GIA is a champion of racial equity and arts education, providing valuable professional development for arts grantmakers through conferences, workshops and webinars, and research and policy work across the field of arts philanthropy. The new design will support a substantial back-end upgrade, and provide a more intuitive user experience, allowing the public and members to take full advantage of the vast resources on the site. The design process will focus on usability, illuminating their community of practice and membership resources, and advancing the GIA brand. Very excited to support this organization and their vital work in advancing the growth of arts and culture.
A great lineup of how designers think (and work) from the big picture inward. One of the most significant problems relating to current trends in DIY design is being too close to a problem to see how it needs to be solved. This all too often leads to, as it’s put here, “chasing the wrong rabbit”.
On 16, Jun 2016 | In Uncategorized | By plaidtractor
“Under no circumstances would I do a job for Trump today,” Milton Glaser, the legendary designer says.
In 2008, after only 2 years on the market, sales dropped 81% and only got worse from there. Several years later Trump reportedly sued the failed distillery after it closed.
“I’d say this is appealing to the lowest level of human activity,” he says. “Envy and status.”
These beautifully composed photos come across like some hybrid between graphic design and graphic illustration, and makes me want to own one just to stare at it.
On 08, Jun 2016 | In Beautifully Weird | By plaidtractor
Thoughtful thinking is about thinking, and about how we think thoughtfully. What things are we left thankful for in the theater of our thoughts? A thirst for thorough thought thinking is the thrust of this thesis, which throws out the theory that thoughtful thinking is more thermostat than thousands of threads in a thorny thicket.
I’m a big enough Bryan Cranston fan that I’d probably tune in to hear him read nutrition labels off cereal boxes.
Here he thoughtfully explains his successful shift from mere ‘job seeker’ to a more fully engaged professional by focusing his efforts squarely on the need at hand.
Creatives don’t audition the same way, thankfully, but the analogy neatly relates a script to a creative brief: understand exactly what the job demands, demonstrate your expertise, and show how that will serve goals and interests in that moment.
Words to work by. Thanks, Mr. C.
A company’s reputation is one of its most critical assets. A brand identity system is the vehicle for its expression, comprised of a logo or brandmark, and all other media touchpoints that support it.
Successful logo and brand identity design depends on seizing clarity about the present, including an understanding of a company’s legacy, values, strengths, culture, and competition (to name a few). This level of understanding brings fuel for a constructive and collaborative design process that can now shift to test bold ideas oriented to the future. Thinking, preparing and designing with the future front of mind shapes a result that’s built to connect, compete, and endure for years.
Whether you’re embarking on a new venture or revitalizing your brand, here are 6 key steps towards success now, and lasting success down the road:
Showing what you’re genuinely about builds trust. That starts by identifying the true nature and vision of your organization, culminating in bold, clear expressions that represent those genuine aspects. Providing access to that integrity pays dividends over time. The more that visual and verbal brand expressions match real-world behaviors (then reflect back on the identity again), the better. Authenticity helps an identity endure, and endurance wins the race.
The best brands stand for something. Brand identity is the access point. What is the essence of your organization? What is its higher purpose? Early on in the process it’s imperative that the big idea or strategic position unifies leadership and builds consensus. Rallying around a single point of focus will ensure its expression is consistently carried through the process.
Be different (within your market).
Boldly expressing distinction shows you command the field. Keep to authentic strengths but push a unique value proposition. Show how you stand apart. Know your competitors and their positioning motives. Pushing against creative boundaries reveals where they are. This imperative holds the most value potential because it’s typically the most underused by competitors.
Design for flexibility.
Organizations grow and evolve. Flexibility (in terms of meaning) leaves space for a company to grow and shift with it over time.
A portable, cohesive design across different types of media shows a commitment to detail, and sends a signal of organization and dependability. Incongruent elements, quality, or color (like a typo on a resume) can undermine your message. Consistency is a brand identity’s ally over time as its meaning builds equity.
Play to the savviest in the crowd.
Stronger design and computer portability means your audience is more design-educated than before. Most of us shape our perceptions and behavior around the language of design and its subtleties (often instinctually). Assume your audience understands that language fluently, and that the savviest amongst them may be your most passionate advocates, whether you’re B2B or B2C.
Design that speaks with distinction, clarity and authenticity is the most immediately relatable. However, the endurance of an organization’s reputation behind its logo makes successful brand design more about winning a marathon than a sprint.
David Bowie’s passing is such hard, sad news. Tough to come to terms with and to process; all the spaces in my life and imagination that he touched are now left hurt by his departure. But I’m thankful. Read more…
One of the great underappreciated giants of typography has passed at 96. “Mr. Zapf’s genius lay in his solutions to the central problem that type designers, like industrial designers, face: expressing creativity while being circumscribed by practicality.” -Mathew Carter Via. NY Times
On 21, May 2015 | In Uncategorized | By plaidtractor
One of my favorite things about designing for print media is the press check! That great smell of offset printing presses hard at it, and the first glimpse of hard work realized in vibrant, crisp detail. On this occasion it’s a new, beautiful raw cheese packaging label for Paradise Springs Farm, and printed by TCC Printng and Imaging.
From startups to businesses that need to reposition themselves, individuality is expressed through identity. Brand expressions are born out of a need to connect and be kept front of mind amidst countless indistinguishable services and products, as well as competitors. Read more…