What Committees Do

Our friend at Graphicology is redesigning the flags of the United States on his blog. This post gives a brief and interesting history on the Arkansas flag. He shows how this…

Became this…

Someone needed to add a fourth star so one group wouldn’t be offended. And, of course, the name of the state had to be prominent in case couldn’t figure out which state the flag belonged to. It’s pretty amusing to see that we’re not the only ones who’ve had clients giving their suggestions and mandates to clutter up clean design.

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Threadless by Jake Nickell

I have a book recommendation for you:



Threadless.com might be the perfect example of how to launch a dot-com company in the post dot-com bust era. It was founded on a simple idea and a strong community—the idea of an “ongoing t-shirt design competition” in which the winning designs, selected by the community, would be produced. It also allows for community input—people can comment on submissions, make suggestions for improvement, etc. And the profits are shared between the company and the winning designers.

This book tells that story, from the early days in which the founders of Threadless were just a couple of design students, through the current state of the company, with a global following, 80 employees and a bricks and mortar store. But as Seth Godin puts it in his short description of Threadless, “This is not about t-shirts.” To him, it’s about an attitude, “about being willing to fail and relishing the idea of being different…If you page through this book, you’ll see example after example of love, art and joy…but not a lot of fear.”

In addition to capturing the Threadless history and philosophy, the book is a retrospective of some of the best designs, along with stories behind those. And this is where I find the most inspiration—flipping through and seeing all of the brilliant concepts.

I have an assignment that I like to give students in my advertising class once they have figured out how to do ads: Now make a t-shirt for your brand. Because beyond conveying a message, a t-shirt has to be something that people want to wear. Something they love enough to want to wear as a part of what identifies them. That’s a hard thing to do. But page after page in this book, I see dozens of examples of t-shirt designs that make me laugh, smile, or that I’d like to wear. And that’s inspiring.

We all gotta learn something

I was just flipping through the Communication Arts first ever Typography Annual and came across this quote from one of the judges:

“We need to teach designers to be better readers. Once they respect the text, they’ll want to set it well.”

I buy that. Here’s my open question to you readers: What do copywriters need to do to better respect design and art direction?

"Constantly Being Out There"

Last week, I got to work with a musician who was at RISD about the same time Shepard Fairey was there. He said he remembered Fairey printing his Andre the Giant stickers and bringing boxes of them to the small concerts he loved attending. He’d give them to the band or to their road manager for free, provided they take them on their tour with them. That’s why, after a few years, with no paid advertising, these little stickers made by some design school kid in Providence began to appear all over the country.

I was in portfolio school the first time I heard about Fairey. It fact, I don’t even think I heard about him. What I heard was, “There’s this guy who makes these Andre the Giant stickers and gives them away for free. They’re pretty cool. Look, there’s one on the back of that stop sign over there.”

Years later, he’s the guy who designed the first presidential portrait to be purchased by the United States National Portrait Gallery before the President had been sworn into office.

What this former schoolmate of Fairey’s told me was this: “I honestly don’t know if ‘Andre the Giant has a Posse’ is a great concept or not. It could be brilliant. It could be absurd. Maybe both, I don’t know. What I do know is that never quitting, and constantly being out there can make all the difference.”

The Wrong Idea

T.26 has some nice fonts. About once a month or so they send me an email with some of their latest creations. I’m a writer, but I appreciate nice typography.
I just received an email about SketchType, which they boast “makes it easy to incorporate the texture of hand-drawn lettering into any project without ever picking up a pencil.”
I find this a little ridiculous, and I hope you do to. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing with passion. And that means picking up a pencil. Use these fonts as inspiration. But do not use these fonts.
Please aspire to be art directors and not just ad directors.