Blackbird: 1 Year +

One year. It’s really not that much, even in one person’s life. There are whole years in my own life from which I probably couldn’t recall one clear moment. And yet, when I look at Blackbird, I am stunned at what one year has brought.

Can it have been so little time? Can that little span of time have been so vast? Has this past year* been a good one? Is she happy? Who is she? Is this her that I’m beginning to see? Am I seeing Blackbird, or am I seeing myself through her?

Am I happy? Would the me of a year ago see this as happiness? Or am I a different person for whom the old definitions no longer apply? Has she changed me or have I changed myself for her?

After one year, I couldn’t say for sure. But this isn’t about me, so let’s look at Blackbird.

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Squeezed Out

It’s official: Tropicana is ditching the Arnell redesign.


It was a shoddy rebrand that ditched common sense and brand equity for a meaningless sub-brand update/unification project. You can see a side-by-side at Brand New here and here. I’m just happy they had the sense and fortitude to dump it. I wonder if what really made them do it was flagging sales figures or, more likely, an overwhelmingly negative response. Though we’ll likely never know. It makes them look so much more magnanimous to say they’re responding to consumer outpouring of love for the brand.

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Winner of the Least Scary Font for Horror Movie Title Card Ever Award

Serpent and the Rainbow!

I don’t remember the name of this kooky faux-African woodcut font (anyone?), but Taco Salad (kindly identified by Stewf) is the exact wrong typeface for this kind of thing. I typically see it attached to kid’s programs and ads for low-rent Caribbean packages. I’m having a hard time figuring out who thought this would communicate “scary” or “not featuring muppets”.

The Design of the Airplot Logo

The Airplot logo, which is a hand printed patchwork of letters and rectangle in varying greens, made with cardboard letters and rectangles, creating a patchwork effect like a group of fields seen from above.

Airside, a creative agency, has posted a synopsis of their process for designing the Airplot identity (announcement here). It’s a fantastic example of a typical and successful (in my opinion) design process. They hit the nail right on the head with the following statement:

“On the occasions Airside has presented its process talk ‘I Don’t Like It’, [we] were puzzled by the audience’s surprise at just how many sketches and worksheets contributed to a finished design.

We hope that by presenting the ‘scrappier’ parts of a project that most agencies would seek to hide, a lot of the mystery behind the design process can be swept away and reveal the work that goes into such an undertaking.”

Design, at its best, is an amalgam of very directed, purposeful thinking and editing, combined with creative, brave, and insightful exploration. Their post gives a hint of what that looks like from the inside.

I encourage those in decision-making positions at any organization, the typical clients for designers, to appraise a given designer’s work against examples such as this one. There’s a dash of black magic in any creative process, but graphic design is not a wishy-washy thing whose fruits are determined by whimsy and arbitrary flights of fancy. Your designer should be able to articulate, either in writing or in person, the reason(s) for any given decision. If not, consider rethinking the relationship.

However, it’s also important to keep in mind the less-apparent but crucial lesson of Airside’s post: a bulk of the design process is laying out all of the ideas you don’t use, and deciding which ideas those are. This is one of the many reasons I rarely present more than one logo or layout concept to my clients. It’s my job to determine which ones are worth consideration, and to have the foresight to select those that will best achieve their goals. Logo presentations that contain more than one solution often reflect ambiguity in the project goals or client’s directions, rather than an abundance of ideal solutions.

(This story came to my attention via Brand New.)

Adobe InError

At this point, Adobe may as well make this InDesign CS3’s official quit dialogue box.

I can count on my hand the number of times in the last month I didn’t see a warning like this one when shutting down for the night. I gather the response to persistent problems like this one is:

“Well, CS4 is out now. Why not upgrade?”

That is not acceptable.

The Death of Music DRM?

Apple announced today that 8 million songs on iTunes will be DRM-free, and by the end of this quarter all 10 million will be.

Between Apple and Amazon (who are already DRM-free), we may have just witnessed the beginning of the end of music DRM. No one offering DRM’ed music will be able to compete. I hope this trend continues as the savvier companies realize that DRM punishes lawful consumers far more than pirates.

Update: My mistake. It’s the iTunes Plus library that’ll be DRM-free. Well, it’s a start. I still think they’re idiots for clinging to DRM at all, even though I understand why they do.

Blackbird: 9, 10 & 11 Months

An important date has come and gone: Blackbird has now, officially, spent more time kicking around the outside world, learning and developing, than she did chillin’ in the womb, wedging her little butt into mom’s pelvis.

But another date, a very auspicious date, has also arrived. With little ceremony, but great fanfare, Blackbird crossed the threshold and asserted herself on the world. Her power of self-determination is now manifest. Behold! Blackbird can stand up.

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To Preserve Life, Unless I Disagree

Another terrible, terrible idea, brought to you by the Bush administration:

The Bush administration today issued a sweeping new regulation that protects a broad range of health-care workers—from doctors to janitors—who refuse to participate in providing services that they believe violate their personal, moral or religious beliefs.

This silliness will not prevent abortions, first off. It’s a first step in a long march toward larger legislative actions based on religion; specifically Christianity. But if that’s not bad enough, let’s all play a game: count the days until someone whose personal beliefs involve racism, sexism, homophobia, or another intolerant views ends up getting a patient killed.

Can this administration get any worse? Well, I guess we’ve got a month more to find out.