Charlie Harper

Nipponpaint Automotive “LOOP”

Director/animator Kakeru Mizui has created an animated short for the Nippon Paint Automotive Coatings division that develops new paint colors for the company. I’m not going to claim to understand the logic behind this. It’s titled “Loop” and is being presented as a “brand film”. I don’t get the brand part of it, and that’s OK. Maybe it’s something that is getting lost in cultural translation between my American Brain, and his Japanese creativity. None the less it is a wonderful animated short that feels heavily influenced by the late illustrator Charlie Harper. It also has some 1980s color pallets and gradients going on which pair nicely with the illustrative style of the animals and other nature elements. Does it make me want to buy paint from Nippon Paint Automotive Coatings? No. It does however have me watching this for the third time now.


WEF: Top Ten Emerging Technologies.

It’s Friday, watch something cool and learn while you are at it. I have to admit I had watch this a few times to get all the information because I kept looking at Felipe Vargas animation and illustrations and not paying attention to all of the text on screen. The video below was commissioned by The World Economic Forum to highlight the top 10 emerging technologies. Vargas, and Pablo Gonzalez directed the short which features illustration work by Vargas who was also the primary animator, along with small but very talented animation support team. It’s a great little short with a look that really reminds me of Charlie Harper ( not the character from Two and a Half Men ).

“A diverse range of breakthrough technologies, including batteries capable of providing power to whole villages, “socially aware” artificial intelligence and new generation solar panels, could soon be playing a role in tackling the world’s most pressing challenges.
The World Economic Forum requested a short Animation conveying this important message. A short deadline demanded simple, but attractive animations and graphics that could tell the story without a voiceover.”
Directed by Pablo Gonzalez and Felipe Vargas at SMOG
Creative Direction by Pablo Gonzalez at SMOG
Design and Illustrations by Felipe Vargas.
Animation direction by Felipe Vargas.
Animations by: Felipe Vargas, Patricio Molina, Berni Bruner, Spiro Bunster and Francisco Castro.


Cabins / Huts is a new book from Taschen that combines beautiful photography, illustration by Marie-Laure Cruschi, and insightful text about the idea of what a small refuge building is. I absolutely love the style of the illustrations, which remind me of classic Charlie Harper works.

Over the past decade, as our material existence and environmental footprint has grown exponentially, architects around the globe have become particularly interested in the possibilities of the minimal, low-impact, and isolated home.

This book explores how this particular architectural type presents special opportunities for creative thinking and showcases some of the most inventive and forward-looking contemporary architecture today. The book features works by Renzo Piano, Terunobu Fujimori, Tom Kundig and many fresh young professionals all embracing such distilled sanctuary spaces.

The cabins selected for this publication emphasize the variety of the genre, both in terms of usage and geography. From an artist studio on the Suffolk coast in England to eco-home huts in the Western Ghats region of India, this survey is as exciting in its international reach as it is in its array of briefs, clients, and situations.










Design Friday. Everyone is Going Retro

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Recently while scanning the pages of  The New Yorker Fast Company or The Economist I’ve noticed a new series of advertisements for IBM’s “Conversations for a Smarter Planet” campaign. It’s a series of ads that tries to position IBM at the forefront of technological thinking, ironically by using some very retro design styling.

With the use of Swiss type styling, extensive white space and Paul Rand or Charlie Harper, inspired flat graphic illustrations, these ads look more like IBM circa 1964. The design thinking behind these is perhaps trying to evoke  a memory of when IBM was thought of as a more progressive company than they are now. The fact is that the target audience they are selling these ideas to was probably born in the 1970’s, and has no relation to the referenced design style here.


The idea of a “Conversations for a smarter planet” green campaign is well intentioned, the execution is clean and the over all design well done. There is a great use of color and the icons themselves look fantastic. From a design perspective I love them. From a brand advertising perspective I’m not so sure they work. Ad images are meant to be relevant and engaging, they need to grab your attention and pull you in. They help set up the editorial, and hopefully cause you to take additional action like visiting a website, buying a product, bonding with a brand. These images, although eye-catching,seem to lack relevance and will probably be lost on the target audience. The question for IBM is will your viewers take the time to figure out the meaning of an abstract icon, and will they relate it to what you are trying to sell? Looking at these images, I wonder if most readers will venture further and read the copy heavy ads. The highly stylized visual IBM is gets in the way of the communication rather than leading to it.


Now lets compare the IBM campaign to Shell’s recent “Energy Future” Print campaign. Shell uses the same flat graphic stylistic look as IBM, but Shell hits the mark. The illustrations are bold and colorful. They offer a touch of humor that helps pull you in and invites you to read rest of the ad copy, and more over they are easy to understand. These ads succeed in communicating the complexity of Shell’s innovations and help build the Shell brand via straightforward communication and an honest feel.


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