Purple(ish) haze

So Pantone have announced their Colour of the Year for 2022.

Pantone Color of the Year 2022Pantone
With trends in gaming, the expanding popularity of the metaverse and rising artistic community in the digital space PANTONE 17-3938 Very Peri illustrates the fusion of modern life and how colour trends in the digital world are being manifested in the physical world and vice versa.

There’s that M word, again.

Pantone reveals 2022 Color of the Year: Very Peri, a symbol of creativity and the metaverseARTnews
According to Pantone, Very Peri’s selection was also a response to a burgeoning sector of the digital sphere in which hues such as this one can be seen with some degree of frequency. Its statement referred to the metaverse, a catch-all phrase for a world in which the boundaries between digital and physical have fully imploded.

Pantone Colour of the Year 2022 is a brand new colour, to reflect our “transformative times”It’s Nice That
It’s the most colourful time of the year for Pantone, as the company makes inevitable global headlines announcing its Colour of the Year: a tone it believes will define the following year’s visual landscape. For 2022 it’s Very Peri – no, not a saucy orange, all you cheeky Nando’s lovers out there – but a periwinkle blue with violet-red undertones which apparently holds “courageous presence” that “encourages personal inventiveness and creativity,” Pantone says. Not content with any of its thousands of existing hues, Pantone has created this new colour specially for the occasion, symbolic of the societal “transition we are going through”.

Perhaps not as calming as in previous years. And not that far off 2018’s. But at least it’s not this horrid colour.

World’s “ugliest” Pantone colour 448C is being used to deter smokersIt’s Nice That
Over 1,000 smokers took part in seven studies to choose the most unappealing colour, which resulted in Pantone 448C — named opaque couché — being chosen for its association with dirt and tar.

It’s such a strange concept, this Colour of the Year. Is it supposed to be an award or something? Is this colour cheaper to buy this year? We’ll probably never see this colour again, after this.

At least it’s just the one colour this time, not like last year.

Pantone picks two colors of the year, and they’re complete oppositesFast Company
Alone, a gray would be stagnant and depressing, while a yellow would be overly ebullient. Together, Pantone argues, the pair is meant to be both optimistic and thoughtful. “[Illuminating] is definitely an aspirational color, no question,” says Eiseman. “But I think with the solidity of the gray . . . when you juxtapose those colors against each other, the concept is clear, ‘Here’s what we’re hoping for. And this is the solid grounding to get us there.’”

Do you want a bag for that?

Remember Aaron Thompson, the Carry a Bag Man? Here’s another high street historian.

A celebration of the humble paper bagThe Guardian
Graphic designer Tim Sumner was introduced to the idea of paper bags as a cultural artefact a decade ago by his tutor at the University of Central Lancashire. “I’ve since amassed over 1,000 bags of my own from around the world.” Now he plans to showcase his collection – the largest in the world, he thinks – in a book, To Have and to Hold, which he’s funding on Kickstarter. “The bag designs document not just social history, but the rise and fall of our high street and changes in culture and fashion.”

If you think paper bags are mundane, Tim Sumner asks you to think againIt’s Nice That
It’s not news that we’ve all become rather consumption-obsessed these days; we must buy the latest and greatest of everything. Tim wants to reflect on our “relatively recent consumer past, social history and the changes in our visual culture”. As a designer, he says that he can’t help but enjoy looking through the archive: “The bags are very nostalgic to everyone, not just designers. They are a smorgasbord of typography, colour, patterns, and illustration spanning over 100 years.” The archive includes recognisable identities from places including Selfridges, Fortnum & Mason, The British Museum and the National Portrait Gallery, as well as lesser-known and perhaps even more rich designs like “a hand-crafted design that has been created by the local green-grocer”.

Ephemera from a buy-gone era?

What makes a classic?

Are all these articles I’m sharing about covers of books, rather than the books themselves, making me look a little shallow? So it goes.

How Penguin’s Modern Classics dared us to judge a book by its coverThe Guardian
“From the beginning, built into the DNA of Penguin, has been this idea that the books need to be beautifully designed,” [says Henry Eliot, author of The Penguin Modern Classics Book]. “If anything has characterised the Penguin design ethos, it’s a kind of elegant simplicity – there’s something deceptively simple about a Penguin cover. It takes a huge amount of work to put them together.” […]

More unsettling is the work of Hungarian-born French cartoonist André Francois. Eliot singles out his cover of William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury, “where each eye of the face is made up of a mouth with another set of eyes. It’s just such a scary, striking image. It reminds me of Escher or one of Borges’s short stories – there’s something queasy and vertiginous about it.”

Faking it

Handwriting can be bold and mad, or beautifully meaningless, but always personal and genuine, right? Designer Jon Hicks wanted to convert his dad’s “distinctive architect’s handwriting” into its own typeface.

Bryan FontHicks
There were several stylistic choices my dad made in his handwriting that were vital to reproduce in the font. For example, the shape of the lowercase T altered depending on whether it was written cursively or on its own.

It’s very cool, though the motivation behind it could be seen as a little … morbid?

I’ve had a focus for getting this font ready, as I wanted to use it on the Order of Service for his funeral.

That reminded me a little of Bobby McIlvaine’s diary and the desire to hold on to something handwritten by a lost loved one. Except that this Order of Service has been kind of faked — you don’t write your own, surely?

Anyway, here’s another.

Creating a handwritten font for Culture AmpUX Collective
If you think about your own handwriting, there are always letters that you customise and (whether consciously or subconsciously) have become distinctly yours. I remember that era in school where many of my friends customised their handwriting with little love heart or open circle dots on their i’s ….ah simpler times. But I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about little quirks that come from the way you hold your pen badly (as I am notorious for) or because you the way you learnt to construct a letter was backwards. Those are what moves handwriting from feeling like anybody’s to yours. That’s what this typeface needed.

Ubiquitous book design

Noticed something blobby these days? (No, not that one.)

Behold, the book blobPRINT Magazine
This design trend, well into its third or fourth year in the major publishing houses, has attracted plenty of nicknames and attendant discourse online—culture critic Jeva Lange calls it “blobs of suggestive colors,” while writer Alana Pockros calls it the “unicorn frappuccino cover,” and New Yorker writer Kyle Chayka once referred to it on Twitter as “the Zombie Formalism of book covers.”

As the article goes on to say, spotting such trends in book cover design is far from breaking news.

Why do so many book covers look the same? Blame Getty ImagesEye on Design
This summer, Morrison, who goes by Caustic Cover Critic at his @Unwise_Trousers Twitter account, posted a collage of 20 Fog Men on 20 book covers. They comprised but one subset of a folder on his computer, titled, “One Image, Many Covers.” Over a few mid-June days, he emptied that folder all over Twitter, drawing the attention of authors, designers, and readers alike. Among the members of the One Image Many Covers All-Star Team: Some askew knees (three covers); a 1933 George Hoyningen-Huene photograph of model Toto Koopman in evening wear (eight covers); a woman expressing despair on the prairie (10 covers); a spectral, Victorian-ish lass toting an empty birdcage (10 covers); a top-hatted man lurking in the middle distance alongside a wrought iron fence (nine covers); a naked woman asleep on gravel (11).

That was from 2019, this next article is from 2015.

Why do so many of this year’s book covers have the same design style?Slate
But lately, another cover design trend has been popping up on this summer’s crop of beach reads: the flat woman. Inspired by the “flat design” that’s become standard on the Web, these covers take on a minimalist style characterized by bright colors, simple layouts, and lots of white space. Several different designers and publishers have used this approach on hardcovers and paperbacks alike, especially those aiming for the upmarket-but-still-commercial-fiction-for-ladies sweet spot.

And this one’s from 2008.

Chick lit cover girls, without headsGawker
On one hand, we can understand obscuring the faces—it’s less specific and makes the female protagonist easier to project oneself onto. (It’s probably been focus-grouped to death.) On the other hand—they look weird when put all together in a gallery, don’t they?

Nothing lasts forever #2

After 25 years, the original Space Jam website has been replacedEsquire Middle East
The original website, launched in 1996, became a viral phenomenon in the early 2010s, as an internet that had evolved far past the 56k dial up modem found the site completely untouched from what it had once been. In an online world in which it often seems nothing is preserved, visiting the website felt genuinely like discovering the Tomb of Tutankhamun.

Web designer Max Böck compares the resources and loading times of the two versions. Progress?

Space JamMax Böck
Although connection speeds and devices keep getting better and better, the web is actually getting slower. We see the increasing bandwidth as an invitation to use more and more stuff in our websites. More images, more videos, more JavaScript. We just keep filling the available space, jamming up the pipes in the process so nothing actually gets faster. Well, at least the dial-up sound is gone now.

Here’s something from the Web Design Museum for those in the mood for more movie reminiscences.

Flash websites of Hollywood moviesYouTube Playlist
Via B3TA – “The Web Design museum are collecting flash intros to film websites, should you want to remember what the Memento site looked like in order to tattoo it on your leg so you never forget again.”

More creepy corporate cuteness

I didn’t realise this blandly cute, aggressively friendly, dumbed down graphic design style we see absolutely everywhere on the web has a name.

Why does every advert look the same? Blame Corporate MemphisWired UK
It’s an aesthetic that’s often referred to as ‘Corporate Memphis’, and it’s become the definitive style for big tech and small startups, relentlessly imitated and increasingly parodied. It involves the use of simple, well-bounded scenes of flat cartoon figures in action, often with a slight distortion in proportions (the most common of which being long, bendy arms) to signal that a company is fun and creative. Corporate Memphis is inoffensive and easy to pull off, and while its roots remain in tech marketing and user interface design, the trend has started to consume the visual world at large. It’s also drawing intense criticisms from those within the design world.

“It really boils my piss to be honest,” says Jack Hurley, a Leeds-based illustrator who says his main output is “daft seaside posters.” Hurley was familiar with the style from Facebook’s login page, but had started to see the illustrations, with their sensible, slightly strange characters, while walking around his neighbourhood as well. “I live in a student area and there are some real scumbag letting agents,” he says. “Suddenly they’ve got all this marketing with the bendy-arm-people.”

There’s just so much of it, as this collection curated by tech writer Claire L Evans shows.

Corporate MemphisAre.na
Tracking the illustration style of choice in our tech dystopia.

But perhaps a better name for this style is Alegria.

Facebook AlegriaBUCK
A new style guide, illustration and animation system for the entire Facebook ecosystem. There’s many imitators, but there’s only one Alegria.

This video from Solar Sands explains more.

It starts with a critique of a ludicrous food delivery advert before going into more detail about this style and where it’s come from. But stick around for examples from the 1920s of this flat geometric style done right.

Let’s go shopping down Memory Lane

You wouldn’t think the humble carrier bag would be such an evocative thing.

Plastic fantastic: Vintage carrier bagsThe Guardian
Hull-based artist Aaron Thompson’s Instagram project Carry a Bag Man is a trip down memory lane. … So far, he’s photographed more than 250 for Instagram, from shops such as WH Smith, Topshop and HMV.

Many of them are likely to bring back fond memories of the shopping sprees in January sales from years gone by. “The effort put into advertising back then was so much more creative and out-there,” he says. “It’s great to look at a bag and get that burst of nostalgia as soon as you see a design you’ve totally forgotten about.”

But what shall we buy with our hundreds of carrier bags? Thousands of beer cans, of course!

The archaeologist who collected 4,500 beer cansGastro Obscura
Maxwell’s work blurs the line between rubbish and relic, raising the question of when beer cans become valuable artifacts worthy of study and preservation. But in many parts of the country, any object on public land that is at least 50 years old is considered historic and therefore eligible for protection under the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966—as long as they meet certain criteria. This makes the ability to date beer cans a useful skill for archaeologists.

For Maxwell, this trash was a treasure trove. “The cans were weird and old and mysterious looking,” he says. “They had punches to open them instead of pull rings, and all I knew was that they predated me.” Maxwell learned to decipher their stories by pouring over collectors’ guides and trade magazines, and summers spent hunting along the highway developed into a lifelong passion for collecting and studying beer cans. Over the decades, Maxwell amassed 4,500 cans, which he recently cut down to 1,700 due to a lack of storage space.

Calming colours

Almost a year ago now, Pantone chose its colour of the year for 2020.

Color of the Year 2020Pantone
Suggestive of the sky at dusk, the reassuring qualities of the thought-provoking PANTONE 19-4052 Classic Blue highlight our desire for a dependable and stable foundation on which to build as we cross the threshold into a new era. Imprinted in our psyches as a restful color, PANTONE 19-4052 Classic Blue brings a sense of peace and tranquility to the human spirit, offering refuge. Aiding concentration and bringing laser like clarity, PANTONE 19-4052 Classic Blue re-centers our thoughts. A reflective blue tone, Classic Blue fosters resilience.

I had picked a blue too, back in January, but obviously, with such a subjective topic, not everyone agreed with the choice.

“In choosing blue Pantone has missed the mark once more”Dezeen
Certainly, the dominant narrative in many other 2020 COTY camps has been green. Whether dark or bright, neon or dusky, colour companies and trend forecasters from Dulux and WGSN to the US-based Behr paints, plumped for the colour intuitively associated with regrowth and rebirth. Green reassures us at a primal level and speaks of optimism. Crucially, it’s representative of the wider ecological story that’s top of the cultural agenda right now. In this way, green chimes with the zeitgeist and its ascension of the colour charts is born of authenticity, not marketing.

Interestingly, that critique was written back in December 2019, before we knew the full extent of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on all our lives. They were focussing on greens because of environmental connections, not realising what 2020 had in store for us.

The surprising power of color to ease quarantine anxietyARTnews.com
Global sales of Curator’s three most popular greens—Fisherman’s Boat, Dock Leaf, and March Day—increased by 59 percent during the pandemic while a few of its neutrals—Scalloped Silk, Soft Bisque, and Stoney Way—increased 57.8 percent. Rather than urban excitement, the selection conjures an outdoor adventure, or perhaps the waiting room of a well-appointed doctor’s office. We want to be reassured, not overstimulated, by our wall colors. It’s a contrast to Pantone’s 2019 color of the year, the electric Living Coral, which was described as “vivifying and effervescent.” “Everyone is a bit upset; they want things clean,” Cohn said. “They’re choosing positive colors because when things are negative, you want to be out there with something positive.”

What will 2021 bring?

The perils of DIY book cover design

Well, at least they’re trying, I guess.

The worst book covers on AmazonDesign You Trust
Who needs a professional designer when you can save money and make a book cover by yourself, right? Wrong.

But are the professionals doing a better job?

Horror books have lost their identityIn Praise of Shadows

Tasty type

You don’t normally associate McDonald’s with minimalism, but these new billboard ads are pretty cut back, to say the least. No photos, no logos, no branding.

These ads make you think of McDonald’s with just 5 words and 5 coloursDigital Arts
The messaging is equally simple. It isn’t introducing ‘healthy’ options, a new burger, offer or competition – or putting the idea of McDonalds as comfort food in your mind. It’s just designed to catch your eye, bring a moment of delight at the recognition of what you’re seeing and make you think of picking up a McDonalds on the way home or stopping during a long journey.

tasty-type-1

I admit I find these ads quite appealing. The product, not so much.

tasty-type-2

Lorem ipsum, but for images

I wish I had more of a use for this, it’s a cool little resource from Stefan Bohacek.

Generative placeholders
Use generative art as your image placeholders.

There are lots of different styles to choose from.

Keep hitting ‘refresh’ to generate new versions. And in case you were wondering, this is what lorem ipsum means. Possibly.

Lorem ipsum translated: it remains Greek to meThe Guardian
The apparently random Latin placeholder text, used to help design pages, has been translated. Despite the absence of meaning, it’s weirdly mesmerising.

Moving away from paper monitors

Thinking about the old web again, and how different web pages looked back then, compared to now. In a word, tiny.

A short history of body copy sizes on the WebFlorens Verschelde
Ten and 11 pixels may seem puny today, but in the early 2000s that was deemed readable for two reasons:

  1. the 800×600 and 1024×768 screens of the late 1990s and early 2000s had biggish pixels, so the result was on the small side but not as small as it might look today;
  2. designers and their clients were accustomed to 9, 10 and 11 point sizes for body copy in print (books, magazines, leaflets…), and the prospect of using bigger values felt like shouting at readers.

It took quite an effort to pull web designers away from this assumption that screens should be treated the same way as print.

moving-away-from-paper-monitors

In November 2006, iA’s Oliver Reichenstein ran a simple experiment: he compared a magazine’s body copy at arms’ length and a typical site’s body copy at a common, eye-to-desktop-screen distance. The website’s text looked much smaller. Oliver argued for setting the body copy to the browser’s default, or 100%, which by convention is 16px in common browsers. In 2006, and even a few years later, it was a revolutionary proposition. Web designers and clients thought it was extreme. Five years later, we still had to fight for the death of 11px body copy (example, in French).

It’s been interesting to see how text has been treated over the years, not only on the various default WordPress themes but on blogs like Jason Kottke’s, and my own when it was on Blogger. Layouts like Swiss Miss’s look anachronistic now.

Verschelde’s exploration into this aspect of web design is full of links to examples and other articles about typography and layout, including Jeremy Keith’s Resilient web design, a online book that uses CSS to smoothly vary the font size depending on the width of the screen. It’s a great read, especially the opening chapter’s review of the intertwined history of interfaces.

Resilient Web Design – Chapter 1
The hands on a clock face move in a clockwise direction only because that’s the direction that the shadow cast by a sundial moves over the course of a day in the northern hemisphere. Had history turned out differently, with the civilisation of the southern hemisphere in the ascendent, then the hands on our clocks would today move in the opposite direction. […]

These echoes of the past reverberate in the present even when their usefulness has been outlived. You’ll still sometimes see a user interface that displays an icon of a Compact Disc or vinyl record to represent music. That same interface might use the image of a 3½ inch floppy disk to represent the concept of saving data. The reason why floppy disks wound up being 3½ inches in size is because the disk was designed to fit into a shirt pocket. The icons in our software interfaces are whispering stories to us from the history of clothing and fashion.

The quote used in the introduction to that online book seems appropriate here.

We look at the present through a rear‐view mirror. We march backwards into the future.
Marshall McLuhan

Claiming colour

Whilst colours can be strange sometimes, they all have names, right?  From red, green and blue to maroon, mint and midnight. The designers at the paint shop Farrow & Ball come up with some great names: mouse’s back, skimming stone, elephant’s breath. Now you can get in on the act and name your very own colour.

Kolormark – The world’s leading color naming platform
The Kolormark project aims to name all the colors in the world. There are 16,777,216 colors, but only a handful have a name. We believe that every color has its own unique personality and deserves an original name.

This platform is designed for people and colors. We want to allow people to leave a colorful legacy by taking part in the Kolormark project. Participating in the project means more than naming a color. It’s giving a color a loving home.

Sounds a little scammy, though I’m sure it’s legit. It reminds me a little of that million dollar homepage selling off its pixels. Or naming and claiming your very own star. There isn’t a real, physical product for sale, and you don’t really get anything concrete or tangible for your money.

So of course I had to buy one.

claiming-colour

If you’re struggling for inspiration, they have an AI colour matchmaker (because of course they do), “powered by a proprietary set of algorithms fine-tuned to match you with that perfect hue.”

Red and black have already been taken, unfortunately.

Why red means red in almost every languageNautilus
The results revealed two remarkable patterns, which Kay and Berlin laid out in their 1969 monograph, Basic Color Terms. First, almost all of the languages they examined appeared to have color words that drew from the same 11 basic categories: white, black, red, green, yellow, blue, brown, purple, pink, orange, and gray. Second, cultures seemed to build up their color vocabularies in a predictable way. Languages with only two color categories chunked the spectrum into blacks and whites. Languages with three categories also had a word for red. Green or yellow came next. Then blue. Then brown. And so on.

BMW unveils “blackest black” car sprayed with VantablackDezeen
“Internally, we often refer to the BMW X6 as ‘The Beast’,” said Hussein Al Attar, designer of the BMW X6. “The Vantablack VBx2 finish emphasises this aspect and makes it look particularly menacing. We often prefer to talk about silhouettes and proportions rather than surfaces and lines,” he added. “The Vantablack VBx2 coating foregrounds these fundamental aspects of automotive design, without any distraction from light and reflections.”

Hiding behind cuteness

Earlier, I shared an article about the cute infantilization of corporate logos. It seems there’s a corresponding drift towards patronising, cartoony blandness in illustration too.

Don’t worry, these gangly-armed cartoons are here to protect you from big techEye on Design
How do the cheerful, Mastisse-like illustrations that fill up the corners of any given Facebook page temper the expectations of people using these platforms? Their palpable joy is friendly, approachable, inviting, even—all of which translates to trustworthiness. Facebook has of course, proven to be one of the most untrustworthy public-facing companies in the world, repeatedly spying on users and leaking private data with impunity. Between the Cambridge Analytica scandal and other outrageous mishandlings like Facebook’s role in inciting genocidal violence in Burma, the company’s public persona is now more than ever in need of a face-lift. As a quasi-monopoly, Facebook seems to never pay for its sins in terms of usership decline—we’re all still there, staring at pages that have become cuter and bubblier as the company they represent grows more and more powerful.

hiding-behind-cuteness-1

A long time ago, a logo far far away

The reviews for the upcoming Star Wars movie are now appearing, ahead of its general release tomorrow. Will it live up to the hype? Is ‘fan service’ a thing, now? Which spelling of cannon should I be using?

But never mind all that now. Let’s go back to the beginning, and take a look at the evolution of the franchise’s logo (though back in 1977, of course, they probably wouldn’t have used that word), with this wonderful collection of images, care of Alex Jay’s typography blog.

Anatomy of a logo: Star Wars
During the film’s pre-production, a decal was produced. … “It was done as a symbol for the film—to go on film cans and letters. George [Lucas] had had one for American Graffiti, and wanted one for Star Wars.”

long-time-ago-7

Lucas referred to the crawl used in the Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers serials. … Dan Perri designed a logo, with a vanishing point, for the opening crawl, but it was not used. Instead, it appeared in print on posters and advertisements.

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Suzy Rice, who had just been hired as an art director, remembers the job well. She recalls that the design directive given by Lucas was that the logo should look “very fascist.”

“I’d been reading a book the night before the meeting with George Lucas,” she says, “a book about German type design and the historical origins of some of the popular typefaces used today—how they developed into what we see and use in the present.” After Lucas described the kind of visual element he was seeking, “I returned to the office and used what I reckoned to be the most ‘fascist’ typeface I could think of: Helvetica Black.”

long-time-ago-2

Suzy Rice’s original logo was tweaked a little by another designer, Joe Johnston. You can see that both versions have accidentally made their way onto this book cover; Rice’s original on the back, Johnston’s on the front. (And Luke and Darth Vader are left-handed now?)

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Alex has gathered together a fantastic range of 70s and 80s publicity material, for the movies, books, games, comics, posters, calendars etc etc. You must check it all out.

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And when you’ve finished, check out what this strange tale would look like if it took place, not long ago in a galaxy far away, but in a 1980s high school.

The sea and the Kroner

The inspiration behind the redesign of the new Norwegian banknotes.

Norwegian banknotes: Original design and main conceptMetric
Norway is a coastal nation. The Norwegian coastline is unique on a world scale; it is Europe’s longest and extends over 13 latitudes. 90% of Norway’s population live within 10 km of the ocean. When it comes to productivity, diversity in species and distinctive character, it is unparalleled throughout the world. The Norwegian livelihood is the ocean – it is the origin of our most important resources. It is our food basket and our major source of income. It is also the origin of our shared history and knowledge – a source to our worldview and our identity.

The banknote motifs are all about how Norwegians use the ocean; about how we combine our access to resources with knowledge and how the ocean affects the Norwegian way of life and social model – both politically and socially.

the-sea-and-the-kroner-1

I love the way black and white photography is used here, to contrast with the macro shots of the notes themselves.

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