Sunday, April 24, 2011

Journal 9: Jakob Trollback

Trollback + Company is a creative studio that using motion graphics and live action techniques, create compelling narratives for advertisement and entertainment industries. This company is lead by Jakob Trollback and Joe Wright and their past and current clients include HBO, CBS, ESPN, Nike, TED, AIGA, and The New York Times Magazine. They are all about immersive storytelling and their approach to narration is that "a focused, compelling message is essential for successful communication." They are all about the message, and the best way to communication that message.

I found several points made in the video compelling, however, these are the points that I most connected with:

When you are self taught, you are liberated from conventions.
I think this is such an important point, even though it is inevitable to be inspired by another designs or art, there is something intrinsically desirable to define your own style, your own visual language yourself to achieve something that is more uniquely your own. I think this also applies to having the initiative to teach yourself new technologies and techniques as design changes inevitably as new technologies are introduced. It's about being in the moment in this constantly evolving field, and not losing the desire and need to learn new things.

Originality is difficult but liberating.
I'm not going to lie, I think true originality is a little hard to achieve, but this might be because of the conversation I had the other day with Alexander about Nietzsche and the his ideas of no unique originality. However, with that said, I don't think it's impossible. And I do that as designers that is what we all need to be working towards. Because though it is difficult, I think the ride will finally take you there.

Just because you are a designer does not mean you are an adept storyteller. The best way to learn how to tell stories is to write.
As graphic designers we are storytellers, and whether that is in the form of print or motion graphics, or what not, the core of our message is a story communicate to our audience. I think this semester has really showed me how important writing is for me to develop my ideas, whether it is mind mapping using concept maps, word maps, free writing, or just brainstorming simple statements or mission statements on paper, this is where I can freely figure out my message without the pressure of visual shapes or objects. The projects that have come to me the easiest are the ones where I spend the most time on the front end, developing a story on paper, sketching down my concepts, creating image boards that express the moods and emotions that I know I am trying to invoke. Which also means that I have a lot of writing to do tonight, because of the speech project and the branding project that I need to get a better grasp on.

Journal 11: Debbie Millman

Debbie Millman is the host of the podcast, "Design Matters," and writes these great blogposts on Design Observer on different subjects on design or design inspiration, from an interview with massimo vignelli, to The Art of Poetry, she critiques and expresses her opinions about different works by design intellectuals or just elaborates on some interviews with designers. Either way, she's the partner and president of the design division of one of the leading brand identity firms in the country, Sterling Brands. Which is precisely why I read her post, Obsessive Branding Disorder II, which has this cheerful looking baby plastered with different brand identities' trademarks:

Millman basically is critiquing this book by Lucas Conley called "Obsessive Branding Disorder," who, through the voice of Millman, has this semi-paranoid, conspiracy theory-esque deep-rooted emotions about how the normal consumer are zombies to the brands of today. We're talking about Nike and McDonald's, Miller Lite, and Apple, and whatnot. How we've come to place where it's difficult to distinguish between our beliefs and our brand preferences, that branding has become this epidemic, how there is a new phenomena of the brand church, where brands are so established in our hearts that they resonate with us on a spiritual level. Etc. etc.

So, a few weeks or so ago, my boyfriend Alexander made me watch this really horribly directed film about something along the lines of "Masters of Manipulation" or something equally scary sounding, to be honest, I'm not entirely remembering the title because it felt like the longest twenty five minutes of my life, watching this one guy talking about his anti religious, paranoid, and super "I hate the Man" beliefs. Just him though. Oh, and clips of movies to offer supporting material for his argument. Nonetheless, I was super grumpy afterwards. And Alexander was grump that I couldn't even give the guy a chance. Here's the dealio though, there was one part of the movie that I found super enlightening.

It was about how the brand identity team of this car corporation researched the interaction and devotion of cult members and their particular group-think beliefs in order to research how to create a brand that would influence their consumer enough for them to buy, buy, and keep buying. Just like cult behavior, brand identity is all about belonging. Branding is more about the consumer, and their perception of the brand than what the company does to brand itself. Granted, obviously there's a lot of research that is done about what a corporation wants its brand to be interpreted as, but a lot of it is the personal, intimate interaction between consumer and brand. In that sense, Conley's idea of a brand church and a brand tribe should honestly be replaced with the idea of a brand cult.

This reading also reminded me of the documentary that I watched last night, State of Mind, which is a documentary of North Korea's 2003 Mass Games, which is the world's largest annual gymnastics performance. The movie was an incredibly interesting look into the socialistic culture of North Korea, how in an "equal" society of three different but equal classes of the peasants, workers, and intellectuals, governed not by capitalistic brands and consumerism perspectives but by the state. Where people are given rations and there is only one channel of state propaganda, one radio station, and there is no concept of brand or brand affiliation. It was so bizarre because it was culturally unlike anything I could have ever imagined. Identity that was formed not even by one's own individuality (which is how many people form from the brands they most connect with), but group identity as a North Korean, as a socialist, as a daughter or son of the Great President or The General (Kim II Sung).

There are definitely brands that I favor over others, I love my Apple products to an unhealthy sense I do sort of associate that with my identity of being a design. I do judge people who wear Reebok or those ShapeUp shoes and myself prefer Underarmour and Puma the most. I trust in Kitchenaid because I feel like it has the same homely aura of a 1950's, pearls-wearing housewife. And if I could only drive Toyota cars, I would because they are loyal and practical like me. And honestly, I don't care. I don't care about what that says about me as a consumer, I think that everyone has come to that point. I agree with Millman in the sense that even though I might currently have some sort of emotional attachment to my MacBook Pro because it is an Apple product, or my Kitchenaid Stand Mixer in persimmon, I am still in charge of what I do and do not buy. If Apple or Kitchenaid released bad products, my brand loyalty would obviously not outweigh my desire for quality products. The comment that Millman cites in her post sums it all up for me:

“Consumers are like roaches. We spray them with marketing and for a time, it works. Then, inevitably, they develop an immunity, a resistance.” Consumers are still in charge of what they buy and don’t buy (and what they buy or don’t buy into).

Come on, Conley, give us some credit.

Journal 10:

After watching two specific videos on, "The Hidden Cost of War" and "The State of the Planet," I realized how similar a lot of typographically dominate motion graphics seem to blend together after awhile. Granted, the content of the two videos were really interesting because of its political content, I found the transitions and sound effects of "The State of the Planet" to be distracting, and the first minute of "The Hidden Cost of War" with its collage, changing camera effect typography done and done. But, I did like "The Hidden Cost of War" when it incorporated type and simple illustrated objects, specifically how words moved in accordance to the illustrations. But let's be real, I mainly appreciated the intro "Transparency" productions snipet, just because of its wittiness.

I appreciate Good for its infographics mainly though. For the fact that they are neatly organized in different categories like food and politics, business, and action and whatnot. I have a soft spot for a nicely done graph like the next person. My favorite, however, would include a few of the following:

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Type Project 4: The Perils of Indifference

Typography 02, Project 4
Creating a print and motion interpretation of an important speech from the 20th Century.

Speech Chosen: The Perils of Indifference by Elie Wiesel


_ Who is speaking?
Elie Wiesel

_ Why was/is the speech important to society?
Holocaust survivor and Nobel Laureate, Elie Wiesel, gave this impassioned speech in the East Room of the White House on April 12, 1999, as part of the Millennium Lecture series, hosted by President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton.
In the summer of 1944, as a teenager in Hungary, Elie Wiesel, along with his father, mother and sisters, were deported by the Nazis to Auschwitz extermination camp in occupied Poland. Upon arrival there, Wiesel and his father were selected by SS Dr. Josef Mengele for slave labor and wound up at the nearby Buna rubber factory.
Daily life included starvation rations of soup and bread, brutal discipline, and a constant struggle against overwhelming despair. At one point, young Wiesel received 25 lashes of the whip for a minor infraction.
In January 1945, as the Russian Army drew near, Wiesel and his father were hurriedly evacuated from Auschwitz by a forced march to Gleiwitz and then via an open train car to Buchenwald in Germany, where his father, mother, and a younger sister eventually died.
Wiesel was liberated by American troops in April 1945. After the war, he moved to Paris and became a journalist then later settled in New York. Since 1976, he has been Andrew Mellon Professor in the Humanities at Boston University. He has received numerous awards and honors including the 1986 Nobel Peace Prize and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He was also the Founding Chair of the United States Holocaust Memorial. Wiesel has written over 40 books including Night, a harrowing chronicle of his Holocaust experience, first published in 1960.
At the White House lecture, Wiesel was introduced by Hillary Clinton who stated, "It was more than a year ago that I asked Elie if he would be willing to participate in these Millennium Lectures...I never could have imagined that when the time finally came for him to stand in this spot and to reflect on the past century and the future to come, that we would be seeing children in Kosovo crowded into trains, separated from families, separated from their homes, robbed of their childhoods, their memories, their humanity."

_ Why do you feel in is important or interesting?
Indifference and global apathy is something that has marked our modern society in the past and in the present. Global indifference during WWII contributed to the carnage of the Holocaust, what other events are being ignored today that we will look back on in the future with great shame? Indifference is a punishment far greater than hate or anger, it is diminishing a human being to nothingness, for to not care, to not rise up against persecution and hate is to ignore the freedoms that all humans fundamentally share. I think this is important because oftentimes indifference is comfortable, it is inconvenient after all to take a stand, to make a statement, to show pity and empathy. Of all of the videos and speeches I could find, this is was the one that made me stop, and think. Think about my actions. My motives. My beliefs. And Wiesel's ability to make me question myself is powerful, and makes me want to do this project for that reason.

_ What is the emotion, mood, tone, personality, feeling of the speech?
There is deep sorrow and fear for what has happened in the past, but nevertheless, there is hope that our society has the ability and leadership to change our ways and cure our global disease of indifference. There is something haunting about Elie Wiesel's voice, since I have read Night, and the stark memory of that book cover with its hanging bodies is something as familiar to me as the day that I first read it, I immediately got goosebumps when I heard his voice. This speech is grave, it is thoughtful, it has remarkable credibility because of Wiesel's experiences during the Holocaust, and he honestly acts like a speakerphone for the voices lost because of global indifference.

_ What is intonation, emphasis, what is loud, stressed, or soft. Where are there pauses...
There was a lot of pauses, just grew emphasis in Wiesel's voice. He starts off so strong, and sounds so much younger than he really is, and as he continues to talk, he becomes more human I guess, as he recounts his experiences and the events occurring in the world during that time, the deaths in Rwanda, in Kosovo, in Ireland.

_ What do you FEEL should be loud or soft, long pause or rushed?
I feel that his recounts of his past should be soft, slower, because the impact of the words themselves are so haunting that his memories are truly the essence and the proof of his statements against indifference.

_ Is there a call to action? When listening to it what are key/emphasized words?
This is a call to action for the global eradication of indifference, the eradication of the apathetic disregard for what is happening not only in the world, but also in our country. His words applies to ever person, to every situation.
"Indifference, then, is not only a sin, it is a punishment."
"We felt that to be abandoned by God was worse than to be punished by Him. Better an unjust God than an indifferent one. For us to be ignored by God was harsher punishment than to be a victim of His anger. Man can live far from God—not outside God."
"Over there, behind the black gates of Auschwitz, the most tragic of all prisoners were the "Muselmanner," as they were called. Wrapped in their torn blankets, they would sit or lie on the ground, staring vacantly into space, unaware of who or where they were -- strangers to their surroundings. They no longer felt pain, hunger, thirst. They feared nothing. They felt nothing. They were dead and did not know it."
"Indifference reduces the Other to an abstraction."
"Of course, indifference can be tempting -- more than that, seductive."
"But this time, the world was not silent. This time, we do respond. This time, we intervene."

_ How does it make you feel?
Ashamed by past mistakes, ashamed of my own indifference, hopeful than we can rise above this.

_ How do imagine that the audience felt?
I imagine that Wiesel's words were extremely powerful within the context of the situation, his comments about the children being persecuted in Kosovo was certainly applicable due to the events occurring at that time, and probably influenced others to have a more sympathetic opinion about the world events at that time.

_ Could there be another interpretation of the speech?
He does make a few negative comments about FDR and I could see that having different consequences, and I wonder if placing the Holocaust of the greatest crime against humanity could turn some people away from his overall message.

_ Write/find a short bio, of the person giving the speech.
From his first book, Night, which records his experience at Auschwitz:

Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, which has turned my life into one long night, seven times cursed and seven times sealed. Never shall I forget that smoke. Never shall I forget the little faces of the children, whose bodies I saw turned into wreaths of smoke beneath a silent blue sky.
Never shall I forget those flames which consumed my faith forever.
Never shall I forget that nocturnal silence which deprived me, for all eternity, of the desire to live. Never shall I forget those moments which murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to dust. Never shall I forget these things, even if I am condemned to live as long as God Himself. Never.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Journal 9: Design Observer

On the subject of Futura, I've been seeing it everywhere. And because I read the article, Type Means Neve Having to Say You're Sorry from The Design Observer a while back, each time I am more determined to not fall to the popular Futura wave. I'd rather use Akzidenz Grotesk, or Univers.

I also read Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Typeface by Michael Bierut and Ten Graphic Design Paradoxes by Adrian Shaughnessy. I loved how Michael Bierut became a type slut after leaving Massimo Vignelli, a designer who only uses Helvetica, Futura, Garamond No. 3, Century Expanded, and Bodoni. After going through a crazy wild phase of type experimentation, he discovered that limiting himself to a five-typeface sobriety was the way to go. And he describes 13 reasons why people choose a certain typeface. My favorites were number 12—Because you believe in the typeface, and number 1—because it works. I think number 1 is pretty self explanatory, however, number 12, and the idea that you believe a typeface so much (or you are a type fundamentalist enough) that you only choose one to use. I think it's an interesting concept.

Adrian Shaughnessy's paradoxes were really great elements of advice, I especially agree with number 5—for designers, verbal skills are as important as visual skills and number 8—the paradox of "all the good jobs go to other designers." I thought number 8 was interesting way to think because honestly, there is no such thing in good or bad projects in design, only good or bad responses. And honestly, I take Shaughnessy's statement to include not only good and bad responses in the form of a physical project outcome, but also just attitude. I think that with a better attitude, bad projects can become good responses. Also, I really think that the ability to sell yourself, not only your project or idea, and the ability to communication successfully and with confidence and clarity is a vital skill for all designers. In a field where we have to communicate visually, shouldn't our ability to shock our audience with the sight of a well-designed project be coupled with our ability to shock our clients with our ability to speak thoughtfully?


Science has made us gods even before we are worthy of being men. ~Jean Rostand