Oct 23 2016

Ineffective ads

I saw this ad on a programming website. I’m not sure why they thought that having a bored, sickly, stick woman would want to make me buy a sweater, but hey, whatever floats your boat.

Your heroin boat, obviously.

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May 17 2014

Ace Days: Jerry’s big ad campaign

Years ago I when I was at my first full time graphic design I was at a company called Ace that made and sold radio control cars, boats, planes, and other accessories.

Our meager design and marketing team of four was swamped making catalogs, logos, stickers, ads, and packaging, so we hired a new marketing / graphic design guy that was going to to help. Let’s call him Jerry. Jerry’s first assignment was to create our new big ad campaign.

We didn’t have enough computers so Jerry brought his own in and got to work. Jerry worked furiously over the next month on The New Big Ad Campaign. I never saw what he was doing over that month, I just saw the finished product.

Jerry pitched his campaign. It was so simple, so obvious, how had we missed this?

Here was the pitch:

Plain background.


Wearing bikinis.


Holding our products.

I tell you what, that guy was a marketing genius.

Anyway, for some unknown reason Jerry didn’t stay with us long.

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Sep 6 2013

Quotable: John Moltz

“As for the Surface, Microsoft was forced to write off its unsold inventory to the tune of $900 million, which is a really lousy song. Like Coldplay, Nickelback, and Creed all got together and collaborated on a song.” –from his MacWorld article on device philosophy

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Aug 19 2013

Goo is my co-pilot

Goo is my co-pilot. This is a prime example of why it is important to choose an appropriate font when you design something. It is equally important for fonts to be designed well in the first place. Why make a font where the O and the D are virtually identical?

Of course, speaking of design, the “is my” is absolutely impossible to read. What, am I supposed to somehow tailgate you from the front to read the tiny words embedded in those tiny wings above ‘co-pilot?’20130819-122139.jpg

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Feb 18 2013

This is how you respond to allegations…

Oxo responds to allegations that they are thieves with humor and style.

via Daring Fireball

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Jan 27 2013

VBS 2013 Development Diary: #8: Logo

This is a pretty graphic-heavy post.

When I first start working on a logo, I trial several fonts in Linotype FontExplorer, then I try them out  in Illustrator to see which ones I like best, looking for things like readability, tone, and flavor. This lets me see which fonts I might want:









—as well as ones I absolutely don’t want—specifically fonts that have that cheezy, clichéd ‘rikki tikki’ Chinese feel to them:









Once I have selected a few possibilities, I make a text box with the title in Adobe Illustrator and then copy it about a dozen times, then apply the different fonts to the text.











My first logo concept, like almost all first logo concepts, stunk. It looked like a very boring book:

Black Mantis1














Going back to the desk I decided on my favorite font: KingThings Conundrum. It looks amazing, just like it was drawn with a Chinese calligraphy brush.






However, it has a major problem: it’s not very readable. First I converted the font to outlines so that Illustrator sees it as a series of objects instead of type. My next step was to clean it up, getting rid of most of the ornaments:
















And here is the font all cleaned up. Notice something, however: the kerning. My friend Brenton taught me to use Illustrator. Back when I was first learning to use it, one of the first things he taught me was one of those tricks that separates the noobs from the pros–-kerning.

Kerning is the horizontal space between the letters. Notice how the spacing between the letters is uneven and crummy looking. The vertical space between the lines of letters called leading (pronounced LED-ing), is pretty bad too.








Now you can see the comparison between the cleaned up version and the original unkerned, unleaded, unreadable font.












I have applied a stroke effect to the letters to look for any problems. Notice on the crook of the L part of the stroke has not applied, meaning I have a break in the shape of the letter.









When I apply the stroke, I actually group the entire logo, copy it, and then past it behind, then apply the stroke to the behind-most copy. Below you can see how it looks when composited, next you can see the unstroked copy, and then the copy with the stroke applied.


There are still some tweaks to do. As you can see below, the default corner type looks kind of lame on certain points. You can adjust them to be sharper or more blunt, but in the end I just went with a rounded corner.










I wanted to go with a gradient for this logo (I usually don’t) to give it more of an action/adventure feel. However, it still looks kind of flat, so I applied a thin, bright stroke to the front-most objects, which really made it pop out more:













Next I made a  drop shadow behind the logo by making a copy, pasting it behind the original, filling it with black, and shrinking it by ~2%.








I decided to bring back my kind of Chinese brushstroke mantis from my early design, to give kind kind of an ominous shadow to our heroic logo.














I also wanted to incorporate some sword iconography, since it’s the story’s MacGuffin.

The mantis and the sword are just lines with a brush effect applied. You can see them below, as well as a box with a few more brush-effect lines added.













And here is the completed logo with bonus background (OK, so it’s not totally complete–the Chinese inside the green ribbons is just placeholder text):


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Oct 15 2012

Dipstick design

It might not be readily apparent from this photo of my dirty engine, but you are looking at an example of very good design. The small sliver of yellow you see is the dipstick. It was handy enough coloring it yellow for ease of finding it among all the black and gray of the engine compartment, but more important is the piece of metal obstructing it. The designers appear to have intentionally place the prop rod for the hood right in the way of the dipstick so that you would be forced to prop the hood up properly (and safely) in order to check the oil, just in case you might be otherwise inclined to simply lift the hood with one hand and pull the dipstick with the other.

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