Looks like nipple to me

Looks like nipple to me

I sat for at least 5 min, chin on hand, pondering an ad that popped up on my Facebook page. I cocked my head a few times and thought “dear, oh dear, oh dear, where was their proof reader?”

  Screen capture of Ripple "milk" font that makes the world look like Nipple

I’m having a mini debate with myself whether the choice of font was deliberate or just unfortunate and someone didn’t spot the obvious. I had to read the product writeup to find out the name is Ripple not Nipple.  My brain simply couldn’t process the first letter as “r”.  And, to be brutally honest the font makes the product a little off putting. Not quite sure I want a bottle of nipples sitting in my fridge.

This year’s Pantone colour is …

This year’s Pantone colour is …

This year’s Pantone colour has been announced. Oh lordy! It’s pink on steroids.  Living Coral, or as those of us who survived the colour palettes of the 60s and 70s, it’s a bad flashback.  2019 colour of the year It looks like salmon to me.  I’m sure I’ll be raked over the coals (wonder what Pantone colour coal is) for that, but it is too reminiscent of bad colour schemes of my youth – avocado appliances, salmon coloured bathrooms, shag carpets and rec room panelling. Whoa, I feel dizzy with the flashbacks.  In the late 90s my sister bought a house that  was painted in a similar colour.  When I say painted, I mean all over the inside – the kitchen, the living room, the halls. When she found plastic containers left behind in the dishwasher that matched the walls, she quickly dubbed the place The Rubber Maid House until she repainted.  Overwhelming would be an understatement. 

I understand the rational behind the name, it does have the colour of a certain type of coral. But I don’t feel the “vibrant” or “life-affirming” qualities. It screams staid, old and dated.

“An animating and life-affirming coral hue with a golden undertone that energizes and enlivens with a softer edge…. Vibrant, yet mellow PANTONE 16-1546 Living Coral embraces us with warmth and nourishment to provide comfort and buoyancy in our continually shifting environment.” Pantone Website  

Prepare for a year long onslaught of salmon pink Living Coral. 


Design to die for – Saha’s ad makes my heart palpitate

Design to die for – Saha’s ad makes my heart palpitate

This is a design style I adore & wish I could create:

Saha's post card advert showing a busy, colourful design

I grabbed this postcard a few weeks ago because I needed something to job my memory about some marinades I tried at a farmer’s market.  I’ve pulled it out and looked at it repeatedly, pouring over details since tossing it in my backpack. It’s the type of graphic design I wish I could do. Oh, I’ve tried over the years, but no, it’s not something I can pull off with any success. I lack both the training and the unique creational bend.

When looking back over things I’ve created, I see a linear pattern in pretty much everything. Creating visual explosions of colours and conflicting patters takes a talent that is way out of my league. Part of me is envious of such talent. But, the other part of me takes a childlike thrill in being able to sit back and  appreciation the talent.

The Saha International Cuisine postcard accomplishes the goal of conveying the companies philosophy in a small 6×4 space. The artist evokes India, natural foods, vibrant flavours & colours and a sense of adventure without falling off the cliff of clutter overload. I’m a huge fan of white space. A friend once said the simplicity of white spaces can speak louder than an over complicated design. And that has stuck in my mind for decades. With the passing of years I’ve grown to appreciate minimalism more and more.

…. but this ad! It speaks to me in a way I can’t quite explain. I said it isn’t cluttered and I know a few people raised an eyebrow (or two). It’s busy but each item has a purpose and tied together by the large circle n the middle. It avoids the “death but clutter” design trap quite nicely.

The flip side is equally well done. The colours and fonts make the content easy to read, despite the lack of white space and overall busyness.

Saha International Cuisine's post card

Everything is there – clear content, how to connect, company philosophy and a personal note. I tried to do a mock up using my own business as a model to stretch my mind a bit. I tried for a pastiche but ended up with a grab bag lacking a clear mission statement.  I moved back to what I do best – minimalism. When  my new rack cards come back from the printer next week, I’ll put one up to show you what I mean. I like my new ad, don’t get me wrong. As a matter of fact, I really love the simplicity, but that doesn’t stop me from admiring the elegant design of ads like Saha.

The fellow I spoke to at the Saha booth talked about how they were proud to use a stripped down taste – no fillers, no additives, just the flavours. And oh those flavours. Did I use the word explosion earlier? A spoonful was eye popping-ly fresh and pleasingly warm. Don’t know if the ad designer tasted the marinades & bases before creating the advert, but I’ll bet my bottom dollar they didn’t wing it without knowing about both the company philosophy and tasting everything. The post card compliments the products.

I occasionally do small jobs for customers, simple things, but I normally tell them to hire a professional designer for large, complex projects. I know my limits. Putting an ad  in a magazine or on a website? You have one chance to grab the reader’s eye before they flip the page. A good graphic designer knows how to get the reader’s attention and drive them to your product. In the end, a  professional is worth every penny.

If you’re curious about the marinades and curry bases, check out Saha’s website. I still haven’t gotten around to order any, much to my embarrassment, but the flavours are embedded in my memory. They have some kick ass recipes online to explore as well so it’s worth a wander over.


Free travel posters from NASA? I’m there!

Free travel posters from NASA? I’m there!

Did you know NASA created travel posters? I didn’t until today.  Check out the artwork created by the Jet Propulsion Lab team. The hi-rez  “Visions of the Future” series is available to download in pdf and tiff format. And they are HUGE.

Travel the cosmos and visit Europa – illustrator Liz Barrios De La Torre

Free NASA travel poster for Europa - illustrator Liz Barrios De La TorreThey print out @ 30″ x 20″, so you might need to trot down to the local print house to make a poster sized copy, but, the quality is worth it. Of course you can always shrink them down, but the posters deserve a full size printing and framing. The series also makes kickass wallpaper, by the way.  Under each poster is a small write up about the planet and NASA’s work regarding it.

 Astonishing geology and the potential to host the conditions for simple life make Jupiter’s moon Europa a fascinating destination for future exploration. Beneath its icy surface, Europa is believed to conceal a global ocean of salty liquid water twice the volume of Earth’s oceans. Tugging and flexing from Jupiter’s gravity generates enough heat to keep the ocean from freezing.
On Earth, wherever we find water, we find life. What will NASA’s Europa mission find when it heads for this intriguing moon in the 2020s?
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Get frosted on Saturn’s moon – illustrator Joby Harris

Visit Titan and be awed - another travel poster from NASA - illustrator Joby Harris

Frigid and alien, yet similar to our own planet billions of years ago, Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, has a thick atmosphere, organic-rich chemistry and a surface shaped by rivers and lakes of liquid ethane and methane. Cold winds sculpt vast regions of hydrocarbon-rich dunes. There may even be cryovolcanoes of cold liquid water. NASA’s Cassini orbiter was designed to peer through Titan’s perpetual haze and unravel the mysteries of this planet-like moon.
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

There are 15 in the series, and again, free to download and enjoy.  An absolute must is a visit to the “learn more” page to see the thinking involved in the creation process.  They have a great retro, 1950s  feel to them. The colours, design and content made me immediately flash onto my all time favourite sci fi movie  Forbidden Planet (1956) and travel posters of the era.  Turns out there’s a reason: “As for the style, we gravitated to the style of the old posters the WPA created for the national parks. There’s a nostalgia for that era that just feels good. David Delgado, creative strategy”.

Movie poster from Forbidden Planet 1956 - courtesy MGM Travel poster "Visit the Pacific Northwest" from 1950s

See what I mean – colours, style, fonts and concept certainly evoke the era.  It would have been amazing to sit in on the creative process.  Check out all the posters at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab’s Vision of the Future page – https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/visions-of-the-future/ You can download individual posters (each about 200megs in size) or download all of them at once.

It may be pink, but it’s an effective ad

It may be pink, but it’s an effective ad

While standing on the subway platform last week, my eye was drawn to an ad that screamed out “Look at me!”.

Ad seen on the subway platform for Links of London - "Oh Darjeeling!"

The design is simple, simple, simple! And you can’t ignore it. The pink, while terribly over done regarding targeting women, is successful in this setting.  Against the dull subway grime and grey, it’s eye popping.  The fun play on images/words – “Oh Darjeeling” and the cup of tea – plus clean graphics and colour creates a sleek and sophisticated feel.

Whoever came up with “Oh Darjeeling” had a true stroke of marketing genius.

Blog title generator test – um no, just no

Blog title generator test – um no, just no

I was poking a big stack of articles I’ve been meaning to read and something interesting fell out.  I’d bookmarked an article on writing a better blog title to attract readers.  One of the hardest parts of writing is finding an attention grabbing title, which, often takes longer to create than an entire post.

Most of the links led to sites that do nothing more generate generic content ideas to blog about.  I rarely have an issue finding things to burble on about. On the contrary, I don’t have enough time to keep up with my ever growing list of topics.  One of the links did lead to something I thought might have potential, SEOPressor. The site hosts a blog title generator that allows the user to plug in a topic and it’ll spit out appropriate blog titles.

I gave it a spin and figured out pretty quickly this is where all those generic blog titles come from.  I assumed people were cribbing the same basic titles “7 useful ways to [insert idea]”, “15 common tasks [insert idea] or “5 simple (but important) things to remember about [insert idea]”. After running  through about a dozen topics,  it was obvious, they were all pretty much uniform, cookie cutter titles. It didn’t matter what idea was inserted, the same bland headlines were offered.

The software doesn’t really know what the content is about. It can only offer up the same basic catch phrases that are the current SEO flavour of the week. Plunk in any content, no matter how outrageous, and the generator rotates through the same basic titles.

Let’s have some fun writing a blog title 

I decided to test the generator to prove my point. I began plugging in increasingly ridiculous topics to see the results. This, by far, was the best:

An example of silly blog title generated by the Blog Generator

I think I see a small problem. A title like “10 easy ways to facilitate Kill Everyone and Hide the Corpses” might draw a bit of attention from the wrong places. Mind you, if you’re stupid enough to write about that, well, I think you should have a lawyer on speed dial.

I gave the generator a spin using pogo stick. Again, up popped titles that don’t really tell the audience anything about the content. It’s pretty much SEO pop word bingo:

Another example of silly blog title generated by the Blog Generator using the word pogo sticks

Mind you, I’d love to read an article on how pogo sticks are going to change my business strategy. But I don’t think I’m ready to know the entire truth about pogo sticks, at least, not this week.  I tapped “generate more titles” and the results were much the same. “Learn all about pogo stick from this politician”, “The death of pogo stick”, etc.  The titles were hitting the buzz words and sometimes created grossly misleading titles.

This underscores my point – writing blog titles is tedious, difficult and not something that can be automated, unless the author is going for a generic feel to their site.  Looks like I’ll have to struggle with the task on my own.