Friday, August 2, 2013

the adobe creative cloud. good or bad, is here to stay.

to say the least, there has been much controversy over the new adobe platform since they launched the creative cloud last year. and it hasn’t stopped. just this week i was reading a post and not one single person wrote a positive note in the comment section. some were even plain nasty. of course, except for maybe a couple of readers, none had a membership to the new creative cloud either.

so why are people having such disdain for this new platform? as far as i can tell, no one has even tried it. where is all the hatred and aggression coming from? is it really aimed at adobe, or is it just fear of another corporate dependence? i for one read a ton about it before making the choice about a year ago between purchasing the creative suite 6 (CS6) premium, or getting a membership to the creative cloud (CC). having just purchased a new macbook pro, about half the software on my old powerbook were not compatible with my new intel processor. that included my creative suite. sounds familiar?

for one, i have to say i really wasn’t crazy about the idea of renting a software — never mind multiple software. and honestly, i still have some issues with that, though i guess it’s no worse than leasing a vehicle. but a quick run of the calculator made me look at it more closely.

here are the choices that i (that’s me, with my needs) was facing:
these numbers do not include taxes

now i’m no warren buffett, but this seemed like a slam dunk to me.

now here are some criteria to also consider:
• depending on your system upgrades, be it hardware or operating system, an upgrade on your creative suite is necessary maybe once or twice at the minimum over a 10-year period. (i upgraded mine twice, inclusive of the CC)

• an upgrade from two consecutive suite is about half price. an upgrade from nonconsecutive suites is full price (same as purchasing anew).

• the creative cloud is not just the premium suite (sold for US $1900), but it is all of adobe’s software, sold as the master suite for US $2600. that is a huge distinction.

• looking at the other services included in your membership, like typekit (1000 fonts for the web), a membership to behance prosite (a web platform designed for creative portfolios), 20GB storage space (for hosting up to 5 websites or for file-sharing)... what is the value of all these extra bits to you? (for me, in cash savings, $200+ / although the value is a lot more)

if you are the type of person who upgraded your suite every single time one was available (about every 18-months), this may be a huge saving for you. and then again, maybe you really don’t give a hoot about that since obviously you were able to afford it.

on the other hand, if like me you couldn’t justify spending $800+ every 18-months just to keep your software up-to-date, and managed to keep your creative suite functional for as long as you could, then crunching the numbers is the only way to actually make a sound decision on the issue.

and that’s what i did. i figured with no upgrades whatsoever, after 5 years the game is even. but can we know for sure we can last this long without an upgrade? and remember, we are getting a lot more for our money too — we are getting all of it. the answer i came up with works for me. adobe may be making more continuous income from me ($50/mth), but i am also getting a lot more from adobe on each of my dollar spent. it’s a fair game.

here is a fact: 
change is always hard on people. it’s a human fact: some people take change with opened arms and a smile on their face, and others kick and scream all the way. that’s just life.

here is another fact:
adobe has no plans for future releases of creative suite or other CS products (ref). so good or bad, the new adobe creative cloud is definitely here to stay.

better get used to it...
hopefully with a smile on your face...  :)

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

how much is a logo really worth?

have you seen the logo for the 2012 london summer olympics? that awful thing with awful colours just below... well this is it. (official website)

seriously, i had to google it to make sure it wasn’t a prank. it really is hard to believe that a professional designer created this. i don’t think i’ve ever seen such an ugly thing, one no less that apparently sold for £400,000 — about $620,000 US. that’s right.

the controversy for high profile logos is nothing new — but this one beats them all. of course everyone has an opinion, but the lack of any design quality remains something quite obvious to those practicing the trade. hell, even a child can see it as rubbish. (ref. the gardian)

the debate remains why did london pay so much for such a crapy design? is it really what it costs? of course not. logos are usually priced in proportion to the size of the company that commissions it and the exposure it has. when there is a lot at stake, a lot of research and development goes into it. the olympics’ stakes are not as high — good or bad logo, the olympics will always retain their popularity. after all, this logo is only used for the purpose of this two-week event. that sure puts the ridiculous price tag into perspective, doesn’t it?

vancouver 2010
for all the controversy the vancouver 2010 olympic logo received, it now seems trivial in comparison. vancouver organized a logo design contest and paid $25,000 CND to the winner. many talented designers (some whom i know) submitted what i am sure were excellent logos with solid conceptual and strategy. the winner was a young lady who essentially drew an inuksuk (or inunnguaq). everybody thought it lacked creative, was infantile, and had nothing to do with the olympics. furthermore the brief explicitly said to avoid focussing on any one community — such as the natives. hence the controversy.

nothing is extremely creative in that logo, understandably making those who worked really hard on coming up with a solid creative a little bit outraged.

sochi 2014
here lies another controversy: apparently the best ones do not always finish first. for some reason russia commissioned two logos with two large branding agencies — one being a large international player. one of the logo and its brand development is simply outstanding, but it did not win (see it here). totally unfair, i say. instead, this is the one that won:

this logo was designed by interbrand (a large international branding agency, part of the omnicom group — which office, we don’t know) and is the winner, becoming the official sochi 2014 olympic logo. a bit blah wouldn’t you say?

the logo on the left was designed by transfomer studio and is far superior to the one above. alas, it was tossed out by undoubtedly some corporate suits with no taste. the logo on the right is a "candidate city" logo, also superior to the chosen one, designed when a city is considered as a future host of the games, its sole purpose being "to sell" the city to the olympic committee. here you can see more candidate city logos.

back to london
sadly we sometimes have to live with the bad choices of others, and so we’ll have to endure this ugly little thing for a couple of weeks this summer. understanding that the beauty of something will always remain of subjective nature — except when most everybody can agree on it (sort of like brad pitt). as for the outrageous price tag, i say london just has a heck of a lot of money to waste. period.
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on a parting note
i leave you with some other olympic logos which i think are pretty nice — i particularly love the one for rio 2016 for which you can see how it was created here. do you have a favourite?

Sunday, January 22, 2012

how to use social icons

it is a generally well known fact that social websites are now an intrinsic part of our cyberspace experience. hence it is no surprise that social icons have become an inherent component to any personal or professional website associated with them.

as these icons are increasingly showing up on websites, i notice many basic errors in the way they are being used — probably more so on personal websites than on larger corporations’ where they have access to professional designers. so if you are of the former, without talented help on your side, here are a few things you should know.

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note: many web designers are actually not educated in the art of design communication, but rather come from more technical backgrounds such as coding or programming. without discredit to their expertise, this lack of branding and marketing education is often what is at cause behind many of these types of errors. my goal today is simply to let you know what is in your best interest to do, or not to do.
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placing your social icons in an appropriate place
there is quite a bit of flexibility on where to place your social icons, however they should be in an easily visible area of your website, depending of course on how important this social aspect is to your company. the best place for visibility is in the top part of your webpage, the part that is visible upon landing on your site.

as a best option you can place the icons in the sidebar, provided your layout has more than one column. second-best options are below the header just beside the navigation menu (provided there is room for them), and if social websites are less important to your company, the icons can also be placed in your footer area at the very bottom of the page. see image below.

one important rule: the only place where social icons should never ever go, is inside your header (also called masthead). the reason is simple: the header is a sacred area reserved for your logo and branding message. social icons are a distraction, hell a nuisance even, to the integrity of that space. even if you think "but there is extra room" — the answer remains NO. most likely the header was not well designed and/or your logo is too small (something i don’t say lightly).

the four little squares indicates possible locations for your social icons: beside the navigation menu, in the sidebar column, or in the footer area.

one developer i worked with placed the icons just above the header outside the actual page, also referred to as the padding area. it is not something i recommend by far, but i suppose it is a possibility should one be stuck.

in this example there is no header per se, but simply a small corner block for the logo. it may be appropriate to place your social icons in the space available on the right, depending on how many are required. remember that keeping a layout airy makes it easier to read and to navigate.

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alterations to social icons
i have noticed on a few occasions social icons that have been modified in their colours. that is an absolute no no. the primary reason is that you should never, under any circumstance, alter a company logo — and that includes its colours. even if these little icons are only a portion of their logo, they fall in the same category.

secondly, popular brand logos have a lot of equity built in their form and colours. hence a facebook icon in any other colour than blue loses its effectiveness. that means you are less likely to notice it, or it will take you longer to do so. as an example, imagine driving through an unfamiliar city looking for a starbucks. a signage by any other colour than green would likely go past you unnoticed.

these are unacceptable because you lose the brand recognition and you break the basic no.1 rule: don’t screw around with other people’s logos. more diplomatically said, don’t do unto others what you don’t want done onto you.

one exception to that rule is changing the icons to black and white. although digital media has no cost associated to colour like printing does, you can if you feel it necessary within your design parameters, make the logos black + white or in greyscale. know that their effectiveness will be thwarted but there is no disrespect to those brands.

the last distinction refers to the background shape itself. because the icons are designed as buttons, you see them generally in a square or round shape. this button shape is not part of the logo, and this is why it can be altered, leaving some room for creativity.

lastly, you may have seen hand drawn versions of the social icons. i am not totally sure this would be acceptable in other more serious contexts, but because they are actually colour-accurate and easily recognizable, they do retain a certain brand equity. so i think these are okay to use. they are kind of cute too.

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never take your audience for dumb
spelling out the name of the social website beside the icon is like saying to your visitors “btw, if you haven’t figured it out, this is a facebook icon” — duh. there really is no need for that. if a small percentage of your visitors are unfamiliar with facebook, what is the worst possible outcome if they click on the icon? nobody gets hurt. however the silly explanation can have a subtle condescending effect to many other visitors. besides, spelling it out totally defeats the purpose of using an icon; so should you feel the need to do so, drop the icons and use their complete logos.

my philosophy in the art of treating your audience is simple: always assume them as an intelligent and educated crowd — as they most probably are. that is treating them with respect.

social icons for dummies : not required

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call to action
for a similar reason as above, it is not necessary to tell your audience what to do besides the social icons, like "follow me here" — people do know to click on the icons to get to your social websites where the actual subscription to follow takes place.

now having said that, if you want to encourage them to join your social page, put the call-to-action message on the page in question. it is also a good idea to tell them what benefits may come their way by doing so, as people are getting more picky with what they want to join.

here are some examples which are both pointless in my opinion. of course the example on the left is more sexy, but it takes more real estate and there’s really no added benefits. the example on the right, on top being at the bottom of the page, is really losing impact by using its real estate for words instead of making the recognizable social icons bigger.

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using high resolution icons
last word of advise: there are thousands of high resolution files on the internet for social icons, and all are available for free. hence there is absolutely no reason you should ever use icons that are in low resolution and look bitmapped. just sayin’... -;)

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for effective graphic communication on your website or any of other corporate or marketing pieces, contact us.

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Saturday, April 16, 2011

designers help japan

great posters communicate powerfully. here are some examples of great designs created to support various fundraising venues for the aftermath of japan’s earthquake on march 11.

credits as per submissions’ username: 1-carlos | 2-rerylikes | 3-linda yuki nakanishi (yasixu) | 4-unknown | 5-imasamurai | 6-andré müller | 7-gorg | 8-robospeaks | 9-mycyclopeye | 10-patrick beauchemin | 11-dancingdead | 12-houseofrenai | 13-mildred | 14-alex liebold | 15-teknowblog | 16-samuel crag | 17-rob dobi | 18-unknown.

to view all submissions, submit your own design, or find a venue to donate, visit design for japan.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

loving typography : there’s an app for that

if you are an iphone owner and have suffered chronic insomnia like i have, you may have spent many hours in the app store in those wee hours of the morning. no kidding, i used to know pretty much all published apps for the first six months after the app store opened in 2008. but then the content increased exponentially, my insomnia subsided, and i just couldn’t keep up.

x: published by andritchie, new york

so i was very happy yesterday when a client sent me a link for a new typography application i didn’t know about. it made me plunge directly into the app store looking for other cool design applications. i did find a few, downloaded them, and here are some i found blogworthy.

typeplace is a new application where you can share cool, interesting typography you see in your daily life. you simply take a picture, upload it to typeplace and publish it. if you wish, it can simultaneously connect to your twitter account and publish it there as well.

exibit: by jrdelboux, são paulo (brasil) : at the moma: by julienlevy, new york

probably more interesting for designers, but definitely for everyone with an eye for beautiful and/or quirky type explorations, this app is simple, fun, and also geotags the picture’s location.

shower curtain: published by andritchie, nashua (new hampshire)

dirty energy source: by topfife, birmingham (uk) : kraliçe’s a: by chriak, salt (spain)

z: by mrmartineau, greenwich (uk) : pay me in advance: by itsmematt, los angeles
please note: all photo credits are given as per the usernames registered on typeplace.

the font game
this app is actually a game, but one that is definitely for graphic designers, and more specifically for those who not only love typography but also know typography. that includes recognizing the font families, their various styles, and if you can remember from your school days, the terminology for the anatomy of type. so you think you can handle the challenge?

stay tune as i further explore my other applications! and for now, as we all have a visual memory, here are the icons for those two great apps:

typeplace sells for $0.99
developed by killbot collective
the font game sells for $1.99
developed by i love typography

have fun people!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

something’s brewing at starbucks : a new logo

yes, it is indeed a new logo, scheduled to be launched this march. and the critics are already at work on this one. no doubt there will be as many good reviews as bad ones, but the bottom line will speak for itself, and that is the reception of the new emblem by its true audience, possibly including you: the coffee drinkers.

unlike the critics, my intent is not to attack the new mark, nor highlight what i think are the good or bad points ~ we all have opinions, i will leave you with yours. i will simply say that overall i think it is a fine attempt at moving the company into the future, and i will also remind you of why they are doing this change in the first place, notwithstanding the fact that it is their 40th anniversary, an occasion worth celebrating (especially if you remember how hard it was to find a decent cup of java in the US before they came along).

the starbucks logo evolution from 1971, 1987, 1992 and 2011. some trivia: the rumour goes that the exposed belly and opened legs became controversial hence their removal. even the 1992 logo had its belly button removed (i own coasters which include it, a proof that this is in fact true).

the whole purpose of any logo revamp is always about moving a company forward into the future. there is simply no way around it: as society evolves, companies must also transform themselves in response to the market changes and/or in anticipation of those changes; the latter being the more pro-active approach. that means they have to continually look at where they are and where they want to be as a corporation, and take the necessary steps to move forward. in that process, yes, it is possible they may make mistakes. and if they do (as gap recently did), they can rectify them, most often with minimal damage. but there are no gains without venturing into new territories, which means that yes, there are risks ~ even with a simple logo redesign.

for starbucks, one of the primary reasoning behind the simplification of their icon, as stated on their blog, is that now that they are more than just a coffee company, they wanted to drop the word "coffee" from the logo. since they now sell food (beyond cookies and muffins), coffee machines and accessories, and even gift items as varied as journals and board games, this seems like a logical direction. not to say that they are moving away from being a coffee company, but rather an expansion of it. amazon comes to mind as a large example of such expansion: they will always remain at the source an online bookstore but their inventory now goes beyond imaginable.

now the key in redesigning or revamping a logo is always to create a new look without breaking the brand. hence most logo revamps are quite subtle. some people might not even notice the changes at first glance. in some ways that is a good thing. recognition is very important. if you are driving down the street looking to grab a quick coffee, no doubt you will be looking for that green starbucks emblem. you don’t want to change that. the impact would be immediate if you didn’t recognize it. companies that make a faux-pas always see it in the numbers, and they see it very fast. they also rectify their mistakes just as fast (yes, money always speaks the loudest).

let us look at some logo evolutions of well known brands and the subtle ways into which they moved through the years. btw, there are many great evolutions to look at, and a simple google search of logo evolution will give you a bucket-load of examples. but here are a few good ones:

both coca-cola and pepsi did a great job in their logo evolutions. there may have been some less attractive marks at times, but we ought to remember where society was at back in their times. this pepsi evolution does not include their very latest, which i personally think is a disaster.

both bmw and mastercard are excellent examples of subtle changes over years. in the bmw evolution, there was definitely a glitch in the 4th rendition, however it may have been somewhat appropriate in its time. in the early mastercard example, there was a huge design and name change which is a perfect example of when it is appropriate to do so.

the volkswagen evolution is a little more obvious and each step more drastic. however when everything is said and done, the V and the W are very much integral to their original design, something that can also be said of the starbucks siren.

since i always try to include some personal work in this blog, here is an engineering firm whose logo i revamped. this is also a good example of when to redesign versus when to revamp. sandwell being a 20+ year corporation when they came to us, i recommended we do not change their mark but rather bring the one they had into the present day. we accomplished that with a font redesign, spacing, and the incorporation of their tagline. subtle, but fresh and clean.

however well any of these logo changes were received or how many debates they may have caused, it goes without saying that looking at those marks in the present time, they were necessary evolutions. and as easy as it may be for you to dismiss the new starbucks logo, criticize it as you may, try jumping into the future and looking at the bigger picture. when coming back to the present, smell the coffee as it is, and enjoy what’s on the cup not only what’s in it.