Thursday, September 26, 2013

This Week's Crap On the Street Award

The Golden Deuce 

goes to...


For this improbable promotional poster for the School of Visual Arts (yes, an ART school), as seen in a city subway station. I am not sure what it means, or what it is intended to do, other than creep people out.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Yahoo Indeed!

Nothing to Shout About

Apparently Yahoo CMO Kathy Savitt and CEO Marissa Mayer believe the best rebranding strategy is an in-house, throw spaghetti at the wall and see what sticks approach.

And the idea of polling the public for votes on the different designs is as stupid as the idea of letting the designs be done internally. Let's just call this the 'American Idol Approach.' Marketing peeps feel this 'engagement' creates buzz. But the public are not arbiters of good design.

And in the ramp up to the 'big reveal' they let virtually every runner-up design have its one 'day in the sun' to create momentum, in what ended up being a font parade of blah.

If the idea was to make the winning design look great by comparison to the multitude of losers, this was a 'brand fail' from the get-go.

Here are some of the runners up...

Drum roll please.

And the winning logo is...

Yep. And when you log on to Yahoo! the logo has a cute and tiny animation whereby the exclamation mark gestures or does a little dance. Whoo hoo Yahoo! — an effect wasted at such a small scale.

That's it? Really?
Yep. That's what we waited 30 days for.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Rocky Mtn "Are You High?"

Just the Tip

Earlier this month Colorado launched it's new brand. Why they needed a brand is not known. Other than the fact that others have done it (and why not?). An investment of nearly a million dollars netted a staid and boring icon and a tagline.

The new brand has not been well received by the state's residents so far. But the state's CMO is hopeful and expects people to come around in 6 months to 3 years after they get used to "seeing it on things," as the state prepares to brand products made in Colorado with the new logo and integrate it into tourism advertising.

Some comments were that it "looked like a street sign." Perhaps they should have used yellow instead of green, which after all is the color "owned" by the state of Vermont, in a way. Maybe it will be mistaken as a 'Danger: COBALT' sign, given that Co is the symbol for that element.

Perhaps one of the most heinous state brands ever is the now ubiquitous and eternally co-opted Milton Glaser piece of 70s crap: The <I Love(Heart) NY> logo.

Replete with the gaudy (even then) American Typewriter Bold, this little turd can be bought on any object or article of clothing in every damn souvenir shop in New York City and beyond. It has even found it's way into the broader lingua fraca with often feeble results. e.g. Why is the company called 'iHeartRadio' when it is meant to say: iLoveRadio. [message and usage lost]

Uncle Miltie revised this bastard child after 9/11/2001 when he felt compelled to comment (and capitalize) on the lives of hundreds to sell t-shirts to the bereft and mourning (I don't care where the money went: bad idea). Clever little smudge there. Genius!

The CO triangle both benefits and suffers for it's own simplicity. I am attracted to and respect it's pared down economy, and yet am disappointed with it's dry utilitarianism.

It essentially looks like the tip of a pencil more than a mountain top.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Rain Delay

U.S. Open: The Brand
Some years ago, in the modern/Open era, the U.S. Open ball/flame logo was introduced. It was a refreshing, very hip, almost prescient, tattoo approach to a 'ball in motion' graphic. It was successful in its absence of extraneous, precious detail (even eliminating the periods after U and S). This logo/icon lockup held up solidly in may sizes and applications. 

Then at some point in the modern, Nike era, (that being the dark times in branded America when the Nike swoosh became the hip-vernacular graphic) the swoosh began to make its ubiquitous appearance as an attachment/add-on to many existing brands (this the subject of a later, more detailed post).

So, yes, the US OPEN too, just couldn't help themselves, tacking on a swoosh/half oval that wrapped around the right side of what was an already pleasingly balanced brand. (below)

To add insult to injury, other elements were added in the absence and violation of any clear space criteria, often with a multitude of fonts, making matters worse for the clutter.

Because the swoosh tail is thinner, and it is connected to and running into the ball, the implication is that it is the trail of the ball as it zoomed up from that thinner arc. But if that were the case the arc would be on the flame side...

The more the merrier...

Perhaps the worst offense to the original, core brand element, was the insertion of a flag motif into the flame, eroding it's look/feel and, especially on a white background, negating the flame shape entirely. It begins to look like a New England Patriots logo that exploded. When will they learn: it is best to leave well enough alone?

Tuesday, August 20, 2013


VERIZON LOGO (not exactly) Redesign

Update September 2015

After much analysis and speculation as to the meaning/intent of the CHECK/V mark in my original post from approximately 2 years ago, Verizon has launched a new brand. It is basically "the same as the old brand." This amounts to an incredible amount of money spent with expensive firms: Pentagram/design, Siegel+Gale/implementation, and others, to basically generate a typographic "tweak," and for the company to finally commit to the check mark being a check mark.

In the end amounting to a not very convincing, weak "re-brand." 

The Check element, which was broadly "overplayed" in it's original and confusing application, now feels an afterthought, or carry-over. It is at its very least indicative of a "choice." So that much was accomplished. But in a juxtaposition that reeks of "design by committee," it is not an active player in the design whole, so much as a superscript notation in an invisible box. 

Visibility and readability have improved as the revised and finessed font steps away from italic, and thankfully eliminates the inconsequential Z object. With nothing much else to work on/with I daresay the lowercase text was tweaked well and with precision. But as the implementation begins to take place. Usage on colored backgrounds makes the red Check often disappear.

The brand footprint is no longer a sprawling mess, with multiple production and layout versions needed, so I suppose Michael Bierut can console himself on that front, and S+G will have an easier job. But the "check" remains an abysmal failure as it feels like a vague afterthought in weight,application and placement.



In a follow-up to my last telephony post, let us now visit one of the weakest and convoluted telecom brands in the U.S.— Verizon. Could someone please tell me the origins of this wonky mash up? Or what the hell it means?

                                                            VERIEST      ZONE
                                                            VERACITY   HORIZON
Do they even know? Did they simply drink the Kool-Aid that some agency sold them? Since the Z is red in the tag, the implication is that it indicates a break or division. So is it simply: VERI-ON, which could be read as one (black) slogan and the Z means nothing? Or is the Z just a decorative zig zag, or a reference to napping? 

Then there is the confusing top element also in red: a decorative/redundant V for Verizon and/or a stylized check mark? 

There has always been just too much going on here. What is the point of having two different focal points?


The other trouble these two fighting components created was to make the whole lock-up not very compact. To exacerbate the issue they created a alt. horizontal layout with the check mark hanging off the left side creating a cumbersome layout in both renditions.

From a production standpoint, the fades/gradations at the two ends of the Check and the one end of the Z tail created problems from the start. First, they were not effectively rendered to fade the graphic to a white background. The end edges can still clearly be seen. Second, the reverse rendition and screen printing conceits were never considered. Despite the seen edges, the effect is fairly convincing against a white background. But the designers did not effectively fade the red ends to transparent, they faded them to white!

So that when the same art was applied to a dark background it did not fade (to black), 
and the gradation effect was lost.

When there was an attempt to remedy this, instead of recreating art for this application, it was just dodged and botched, merely making the ends appear dirty, thereby ruining the effect.

This in turn created challenges for third party vendors, who often hadn't the space to accommodate all the who-ha and (in this sample) eliminated the Check entirely and didn't attempt to recreate the gradation either. Consistencies of brand cannot be realized.

There are indications of a thinning of the V checkmark, or perhaps there was just more than one version.

Eventually someone cried uncle and a half-assed solution was applied to more recent versions of the brand whereby the fade was eliminated and the ends merely come to a narrowing point. Which simply means that on a national scale ALL of these versions (esp. on signage) will continue to co-exist.

They dumped the 'wireless' tag in 2010 and have been running as just Verizon ever since.

The 2010 adopted slogan: Rule The Air! finally killed the "Can you hear me now" guy.

In an interesting bit of irony, a broadcast/web ad I saw just last week, which has customers talking about their need to switch to Verizon, includes dialog, "I had my reality check when..." along with a footer tag on the bottom left of the screen. Finally at long last making an actual reference/exploiting the V/checkmark. I guess THEY have now officially said: yes, it's a checkmark. Who knew?


Monday, August 12, 2013

The Bell and the Brand

The name: American Telephone & Telegraph, should never have been allowed. I don't believe anyone should be able to co-opt the brand of the country by calling themselves American Airlines, U.S. Airways, American Broadcasting Company... unless they are an actual agency of the government. (though for a year—1918-1919, during WWI, AT&T was nationalized)

Was the Bell System, back when the country HAD a system, a de facto monopoly? Check. Did it also have consistency of service and unified national infrastructure? Check. But it was a government-sanctioned monopoly, validated by the Kingsbury Commitment, basically a variance issued in response to an anti-trust challenge brought against the company in 1913.

The transition away from the 'bell.' The last time the company had a solid, recognizable brand. Though I never embraced the brutish all caps, which offered no hierarchy or contrast to the icon weight, setting the whole thing oddly out of balance.

My father worked for the phone company when it was AT&T, then New England Tel & Tel, then NYNEX, and before it became Verizon. He would occasionally reference his youth in the company as the era in which he "climbed poles."

The issue of monopoly seems absurd evidenced by today's loosey goosey, under-regulated environment. For example, ISP markets are regionally divided in New York. No competition. Rates rigged. Drop a service and suddenly your cost for the other two goes up. Price fixing is the norm. Again, no government oversight/protection. In the 20s the government allowed the purchase by AT&T of most all local carriers to consolidate the 'system' and with the FCC creation in 1934, the government regulated rates. This was an approach that worked.

World travelers will attest to the fact that service in smaller countries is superior to the U.S. by virtue of smaller land area and unified infrastructure. The grand bargain to sell or cede the national telephony infrastructure to the government, but still do the business of maintaining and selling equipment and service was an opportunity that was quashed. But had it been executed properly, for the good of the public trust (something we don't hear much of in this country), service in the U.S. would now be the best in the world. 

The introduction of new national land line services such as MCI and Sprint, who wanted to be able to tap into the (un-nationalized) network infrastructure, was what prompted the divesture. Cellular services came later.

AT&T, as it spread its wings as a 'global company' responded with a graphic, optical sphere that, with AT&T letters, could be stacked or side by side. But apparently they did so without any underlying thought for usage and application. Soon after they had to address the question, "What if it's on a dark background?" Suddenly realizing that when reversing the original art, the top and bottom edge would be lost. Their afterthought made clear by the fact that they actually added additional lines top and bottom to retain their circle in the reverse version, instead of just making new art.

Then things got worse. They had to address optical distance. Logos that would be printed smaller had to have less, thicker, simpler lines. Designers and vendors now to had to manage pos/neg, a 12 line logo, and what, an 8 line version... 6 line version... 4 line version... dunno. Oy!

Scalablity is key. Why would they design something that wasn't scaleable? Because they didn't think about it and then had to reverse-engineer it in versions that would be readable at smaller sizes and that were readable on black.

ABOVE: This version seems to be a transition (adding shadow) that presaged the full-blow optical/dimensional hybrid version to come.

When the sphere was rolled out (PI) it oddly kept the old, optical interpretation of the earlier version, adding a shaded back layer revealed though the slats, and a shaded exterior shell. This joined a cluster of modern spherical industry icons. But immediately something seemed off in its geometry. Though realized from a downward angle, the back layer lines do not seem of equal number to the front and the top and bottom (polar) caps do not see to be attached to the same pole. The few times I have seen it in rotation in broadcast, it was not created as a rotatable object. The rotation was faked.

The new art, because of the exterior shading, seemed capable of separation off of dark or light backgrounds. The friendlier lowercase at&t was a breath of fresh air. But the production of store signage became more expensive for the complexity of the art. And backlit was preferred. This made it difficult for consistency among 3rd party companies/vendors printing one color. 

Finally they had to reverse-engineer a one-color version for the current logo as well! For positive and negative, adding a heavy-handed line around the whole thing. What a mess. It now looks like a croquet ball.

The notion of AT&T using a slogan seems beneath them. Even as a cellular entity. To add insult to injury this one (above) sounded like a Fed Ex slogan.

AT&T's recent slogan is a linguistic misnomer.

Because 'Possible' is good right? So why would I 'Rethink' that? 

What they mean to say is 'Rethink Impossible.'

(AT&T, are you paying people for this crap?)