Bitter Grounds - espresso fueled ramblings

Friday, March 23, 2018

A little blast from the past complete with a natty little mustache

Image of an ad from Aerial Age Weekely Magazine 1918 advertising goggles

Interesting isn’t it?  Although the basics of ads hasn’t really changed much over the decades, font styles and fashions do. Not the best laid out ad I’ve ever see. It looks a bit slapdash in the layout department. But that mustache! All you need to see is that little, stylish Poirotesque ‘stache and you feel compelled to look. The ad does scream early 20th century but in 1918, when it ran, the pilot would have been quite fashionable. Flying was still a gentleman’s obsession – it took money and time to pursue and this ad is definitely targeting gentleman pilot market.

What’s equally interesting is the font. Not sure what it is, but it pops up in Aerial Ace Weekly a fair bit during WW1. It seems to be their font de jour and it's a mess of inconsistencies.  Just the title alone seems to use 3 seperate fonts.  It’s a bit of an odd pairing in my opinion. The font is fun and erratic, the pilot is dashing and whimsical, but the product is pretty much life and death. Whimsy, cheer and a bullet to the eye – bit of a mixed message here.

As well, the advertiser squeezed far too much info into the space and it came out lopsided. It’s like the layout department lost their rulers and eyeballed everything. But somehow I suspect the reason doesn’t lay with the printers. What makes me think the ad was ready for press and the customer decided to add more details. The last paragraph looks shoe horned in … “just one more paragraph, come on, you can squeeze it in”. Nothing changes.

So, what do you think? Does it work for you? I’d like to hear opinions on this, especially about the main font.


A look at Guinness’ recent logo redesign – a nod to tradition & craftsmanship

I have an excellent redesign for you. The instantly recognisable Guinness logo was refreshed in the spring and the designers have done a fine job. I often look at logo changes and that little intransigent part of my brain instantly rejects the alterations. It usually takes 3 or 4 examinations before I make up my mind and quell the boring part of my thinking. The Guinness logo is different – love at first site. It retains all the best features of the original – tradition, Ireland, culture and pride.  

As expected, the company kept their classic harp design. I suspect if Guinness had a fit of madness and did away with it, there would be a rebellion in Ireland.  

Guinness Logo 2005 Revised Guinness logo 2016


Guinness has done a number interesting things: they moved the date onto the harp, where original tradmark was back in 1862 and gave the harp a rich engraved look.  While everyone else has been moving towards minimalized logos, Guinness swam against the tide with this nod to their past.

The second big change that is the font.  Something in the back of the brain says “that’s new” – it is and it isn’t. They are using the same crisp serif font, it simply isn’t elongated any longer.  It’s wider, plumper, adding to that sense of depth. The focus is squarely on the harp. The eye is immediately drawn to it – and why not. It’s the very definition of iconic.  It has that instant brand recognition most companies would sell their souls for.

The logo is far less fussy, doing away with the superfluous lines. The eye moves in a nice fluid line from the harp to the name. Perfect. Clean. Simple... and yet the engraved harp is still complex enough to be intriguing.  As a bonus, that jarring red signature is gone. Guinness opted for a consistent gold colour throughout, adding a sense of continuity to the entire design.  

I like the change. Let’s be brutally honest, the previous logo was bland to the point of lifelessness. It was simplified it to such an extent, it risked becoming clip art. In the same space, Guinness now evokes tradition, craftsmanship and quality.  Rather well done, n’est pas?




Another corporate logo update - Sears

I’ve seen a bit of chatter this week about Sears’ new logo so I decided to wander yonder and take a look. Here’s the old:

 Sears logo  1994 2004

Ok, yes, the new logo is better. Sears went with a clean, simple font that is nicely spaced.  At first I was underwhelmed:

New Sears Canada

After seeing the two on the screen, side by side, I have to agree, it's quite an improvement. The new logo is far easier to read, especially on a computer screen. The old blue logo was a neonesque nightmare on computer screens. So this is a nice move. It remains legible on small screens unlike the previous blue one which was a nightmare to look at.

I don’t think there’s a Sears in Toronto anymore, they’ve pretty much gone the way of the dodo in Canada and I doubt this logo is really going to help much. The thing is, when I think of Sears I think of a place my mum shopped  … and I’m in my 50s. The old logo screamed outdated and stodgy. Not that my mum is stodgy … this entire paragraph just didn’t come out right.  Apologies to my mum. At any rate, Sears feels old and tired - nothing about the store or their new logo has that come hither feel to it. The company has way too much baggage for a logo to make any real impact.

Pissy little rant on misconceptions about old printing styles

I’ve been chewing over a font that is getting under my skin lately. Take a look: Photo of Old Printing Press font from Font Factory

It’s Old Printing Press, created by Font Café in 2011, or as I call it Olde Printy Presse (OPP for short). I’ve used some of their fonts in the past, and like their work, they do great stuff, except for OPP. They promote it with this “Stop the press! Bring back the Renaissance with this old style typeface, great for documents needing an enduring antique look”1. ARRRRGGG! Nothing in Olde Printy Presse is remotely similar to Renaissance printing. Here's the font table:

Old Printing Press alphabet

Read more: Pissy little rant on misconceptions about old printing styles

Filters on Flatiron building - Classic Toronto architecture

I was back downtown, around the St. Lawrence Centre and the Flatiron building last week. I have dozens of photos of the Flatiron, none really turn my crank and I don't post many of them. But I love the building. I took a few more photos when I was down there, sweltering in the heat and looked at them over the weekend. I have a nifty filter on my phone that applies some great special effects (I'll review the app this week) and made me start thinking about what filters would bump up a rather mediocre photo into a posterworthy one. 

I really like photos that have slightly over saturated reds and the Flatiron lends itself beautifully to this: Toronto Flatiron building - filtered and posterized

I upped the reds along the building using a NIK filter first.  I focused the saturation on the right side between the 4th and 5th and 2nd and 3rd floors. I pulled the orange on the sign way down so it didn't stand out like a sore thumb. I tossed in a filter to bump up the edges and then posterized it a bit. Then used a couple of Photoshop tricks like multiply and overlay to get the effect. I especially love the little tourists at the foot of the building.  They lend something to the photo, giving it a bit of life. I'm playing withg throwing in a large TORONTO along the bottom or on the left side. So far, I haven't found a satisfactory font, I think it needs to be a classic older one. I'll let you know if I wander down that particular path and show you the results.

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Catpaw with a pint & a typical bad haircutTime for a new look - the venerable cat on a postage stamp is now retired. As much as I loved him, it was time for a face lift - bad haircut & all. 

"The purpose of a writer is to keep civilization from destroying itself."

- Albert Camus

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