Alan Peckolick

Early this month logo designer Alan Peckolick died:

Alan Jay Peckolick was born on Oct. 3, 1940, in the Bronx to Charles Peckolick, a letter carrier (actual letters, not the kind his son would work with) and the former Belle Binenbaum.

“I never knew anything about design or graphics or any of those fancy words,” Mr. Peckolick recalled in 2015. “But I used to draw. I used to draw everything. When my mother used to send me out to get groceries, by the time I was back there were little drawings on the grocery bags.”

He graduated from Elmont Memorial High School on Long Island, just across the Queens border, after which, he said: “My mother put together a portfolio which was made of anything I drew on — handkerchiefs, scraps, whatever — and put it literally into a brown paper bag. She sent me out into the world to go to places like Cooper Union and the School of Visual Arts. Both schools, he said, “immediately saw there was no talent here, and they rejected me.”

I’ve been working as a graphic designer for 18 years and I admittedly didn’t know about Peckolick until I read his obit.

I am, though, very familiar with his mentor, Herb Lubalin, and if you look at Peckolick’s work the influence is clear as crystal.

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Identity

The dirty little secret us designers don’t like to admit…

Eli Schiff is a design critic that popped up on my radar around a year ago.

His latest target (back on May 18th) is Instagram’s new logo and he dismantles it in a three-part series.

This is from Part 1:

The team considered 300 icons in all–that’s one hundred more than Uber did in their meandering logo design process. According to Ian Spalter, Instagram’s Head of Design, the rejected icon drafts shown in Instagram’s launch materials were only a “small sample.” One wonders, why were hundreds of options even necessary?

I like Schiff. I don’t always agree with him, but I respect the time he takes to construct his analyses and critiques (trust me, they take time). If you’re lazy and you just don’t give a shit, you just post a flippant comment on another person’s website or you tweet about how bad a logo sucks. On the other hand, if you’re a curious, thorough professional, you sit with your thoughts and write a meaningful piece on your subject matter.

Here’s bit more:

Ellison continued discussing the critical response,

reminder: a lot of people don’t care about making things better. They care about showing how clever they are. Approaching things meaningfully and critically is about genuinely wanting things to be better.

Here, Ellison is unintentionally on to something. Instagram’s appeal to cleverness in over the top video introduction was indeed used as misdirection with regard to the icon. Instead of the nine-month process being seen as evidence of the designers’ disorganization and lack of agency, it was transmuted into a virtuous example of prolific creativity.

The dirty little secret us designers don’t like to admit to non-designers is what ends up getting printed or posted online is many times based on the whims of someone much higher up than us in our company or our client’s. It’s not based on design thinking or logic or design process. Some VP or CEO said the wordmark has to be ALL CAPS and bright red, so the designers make ALL CAPS and bright red.

This is why I always tell junior designers to always keep the good stuff for their portfolio—whether or not it made the cut. It’s important for designers to showcase the work they’re proud, the stuff that was integrated and not only looked great, but had great ideas behind it, before some asshole derailed the project.

When you read a company blog post about their new logo and it sounds like bullshit, this usually means the logo was designed by a committee and the solution they arrived at was arbitrary so the team had to actually work backwards to construct a phony story on the “process” behind the logo.

I’m not saying this to shame any designers, this is just reality. It’s a hard pill I’ve had to swallow on occasion in my own career.

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Identity

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Just Wait

Michael Bierut reacts to the reactions to the new logo for The Met by providing an analogy to how it took time to appreciate the genius of Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew:

But I can pinpoint the moment my mind was changed about what music was and what music could be. It was when I heard the first song, disc one, side one, on Bitches Brew. “Pharaoh’s Dance” didn’t sound anything like Chicago. It didn’t sound like anything. It didn’t seem to have any structure, no verses, no bridges. I hated it. But I listened to it again, and then again. I started absorbing its dense, subterranean patterns. And I realized, for the first time but not the last, that something truly new takes time to appreciate and understand.

As Beirut says, the social media we use to consume and create content encourages snap judgements.

This one of the reasons I choose to react to things on this site. I gives me time to sit with my thoughts and decide on the most accurate words to explain myself. This is also why I never use the comments section below articles I’ve read.

Sit with your thoughts. Let them marinate. Sometimes they’ll go sour like milk, and other times they’ll age like wine.

Bud

Budweiser is one of the worst-tasting beers ever made, and unless it’s 100 degrees and there’s nothing else to drink at a barbeque, I won’t go near it. I have a few friends who can afford any beer they want but they’ll get a Bud if we go out to a bar and I just don’t understand how they can enjoy the taste of it.

All this dislike being said, this can redesign by Jones Knowles Ritchie is sharp.

Uber’s New Identity

Eli Schiff on Uber’s new identiy:

The iconic U icon is not something trivial to be discarded on a whim. When used as a sticker on the outside of an Uber vehicle, it needs to be totally visible in all lighting conditions. Unlike a marked taxi cab where there is a sense of safety, getting into a stranger’s car requires users to have some sort of overtly legible marking that indicates security. This oversight is a massive failure that affects Uber’s customers. But it also affects the drivers. If a passenger cannot find the car, that is lost gas, money and time for the driver.

For Amin, none of this mattered. When asked why the Uber U on the icon was abstracted, he made the following argument:

This should be a wake up call to all international companies: ignore that English is the lingua franca of the world. Accordingly, banish all references to the Roman alphabet in your branding.

The problems with the logo for The Metropolitan Museum of Art pale in comparison to the problems with Uber’s logo.

I love how Uber CEO Travis Kalanick got involved. This reminds me of when Marisa Mayer helped fuck up Yahoo’s iconic logo.

Sigh

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Identity

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“There’s just so much THE.”

Over at Brand New, Mark Kingsley reviews the new identity for The Metropolitan Museum of Art (aka The Met):

This seems strange. I call it The Met. My friends call it The Met. But this is most likely specific to residents of New York City. As Parisians call it “le Beaubourg” while the rest of the world says “Centre Georges Pompidou,” I suspect most of the world knows it as the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This was generally confirmed over the weekend as I polled friends and students with international backgrounds.

Basically, an odd, if not solipsistic, naming choice for such an international destination.

And Armin Vit in the comments:

The new logo… Yeah, it’s very VERY weird. The first time I saw it, my gut reaction was to smash the banana I was eating into my eyes and then put my face in front of a hungry monkey. Over the past days, as criticism has mounted and I was waiting for either Wolff Olins or The Met to release something better than a blurry photo of the logo, I came to not hate the logo. I don’t love it by any stretch of the imagination and I don’t think it’s traditionally good in any way, but in its uniqueness it really is just a matter of time before it becomes familiar and normal. Still, it’s a weird logo, and it still makes me cringe because those letters were not meant to be in a ligature, much less a double-decker of a triple-ligature. The “T”s in particular, with the half serifs on the bottom are unacceptable and the “E” with its tilted middle serif would have looked great on another wordmark but here it creates a striking imbalance.

I agree with Darrin Crescenzi in the comments. There’s a lot of THE going on in that logo.

Hierarchy anyone?

Cocaine Falling From the Sky

Armin Vit on Google’s new logo:

So… THE logo. If the plan is to signal revolution instead of evolution, where do you go from a serif logo? A sans serif, of course. This is not revolutionary on its own and even less so in these last two years when every other major company is switching to some interpretation of the same style of sans serif. There is nothing special about the new logo. Even the tilted “e” is a tried and true mechanism. In essence, yes, the new logo is boring but it’s not like the old logo was a party with cocaine falling from the sky and male and female strippers grinding on everyone’s groin while Jay Z performed a secret concert. What’s important is that the new logo is exactly right and perfectly calibrated for what it needs to do. It retains the color system that has far too much equity, it keeps a sense of quirkiness through the “e”, and it reads perfectly clear at every single size — perhaps to a fault. As I was working last night on a couple of Google Sheets I couldn’t help but be distracted by the highly visible new logo.

Any other solution to the logo — anything more effusive, more visible, more different, more visually explosive — would have been met with terrible anger. This “boring” solution is safe and almost expected but it’s extremely appropriate.

I appreciate the the thought that went into the overall system—workmark, animation, lettermark—more than I dislike the new workmark.

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Identity

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Hillary

Armin Vit on Hillary Clinton’s new campaign identity:

When considering the range of work for the Obama campaign — from Andy Keene’s logo (done as part of Sol Sender’s team), to Scott Thomas’ applications, to Shepard Fairey’s plagiarized poster — we see room for creativity within a managed system. But so far, for Hillary, all I’ve seen are missed opportunities. All the arrow applications are flat and simplistic. A pointing finger rather than a metaphor for progress. A visual tic rather than a passionate call for action.

Vit sees a missed opportunity to take cues from legendary graphic designer Lester Beall:

Which is a shame. Because within those two blue bars and red arrow lies a connection to a powerful and authentic visual language that comes from a pivotal moment in history: Depression America and the WPA.

In 1935, during the depths of the Great Depression, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt used the Emergency Relief Appropriation Act to create the Works Progress Administration, an ambitious agency which employed thousands of unemployed people for numerous infrastructure projects. One of these projects was the Rural Electrification Administration, whose charter was to bring electricity to rural areas that had yet to be wired.

At the time, only 10 percent of rural households had electricity. And while to us electricity is a basic need, in 1935 that concept needed some convincing. Enter Lester Beall, a well-respected New York graphic designer who received the commission to help promote the project.

Image is everything.

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Identity

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Now Do You See It?

I’ve been pointing this out to people ever since I learned about it in my college graphic design class 20 years ago.

I’m amazing how many people still have never seen the arrow.

A common response after pointing out the arrow is, “Wow! So that arrow is deliberate?”

Yeah, you see, graphic design is about composition. Negative and positive space working together to activate the page or the screen you’re looking at, making you an active part of the message decoding…. ah, nevermind, you don’t care.

via Brand New

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Identity

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