Design

“The Finish Line”. Honda’s Amazing Formula One Racing Promotion.

Four things I like. Good Design, auto racing, animation/motion graphics, and high-quality video production. When these elements combine into something that epically leverages all of them it’s hard to contain myself. 

I love this video. I’m not sure who the production company was behind it, or if Honda did this in house but the end result is spectacular. The video showcases Honda’s involvement in Formula One racing opening with racing legend Richie Ginther at the wheel of the Honda RA272, which won Honda’s first F1 race at the 1965 Mexican Grand Prix. The car then morphs into Ayrton Senna’s iconic MP4/4 from 1988 making its way around the narrow corners of the Monaco Grand Prix. Then the animation jumps all the way to 2006 when Jenson Button won the Hungarian Grand Prix at the wheel of Honda’s own F1 car and team. From there we cut to Max Verstappen and his heroic win at the 2019 Austrian Grand Prix, and then again at the German Grand Prix.

The piece is interlaced with live-action footage from the races, highly stylized animation, nice use of typography, all built on a limited color pallet of red, black, yellow, blue and white. The style of the animation has a nice graphic novel look, that is matched perfectly to the driving music and soundtrack of engine sounds, crowd, and announcer overlays that help pull the whole thing together. The small details like the speed lines that emanate from the bold titles and the insertion of the Japanese text is a really nice visual design touch that is carried throughout the entire video.

Well done Honda. This is one of the better promotional pieces I’ve seen for Formula One. I’m not sure where this is going to run but I have a feeling during broadcast F1 races. It has a run length of 60 seconds and could be edited down to a 30, or even a 15-second spot if needed.

The high production value on this is sure to pay off. So a solid spot.

Advertisements

A Case For Art and Architecture Books

When most people think of a book, rarely do they think of it as a work of art. Most of us think of books as a tool for the communication of ideas and information. If the layout, typesetting, and design are well executed the book becomes a seamless experience. You might be attracted by the cover, subject, and writing style, but it’s still just a book. The publisher Taschen has found a way to transcend this concept by producing limited edition books that elevate the content to a true art form. 

I often turn to the Taschen website for design inspiration simply because their book designs are so good. Page layout, use of typography, color pallets, etc. When it comes to visual design, Taschen nails it. Lately, I have been returning to the Limited Edition section of the site, not for inspiration but out of pure lust for what can truly be called works of art. Case in point “Piano Virtuoso” a $1250.00 limited edition, 200+ page tome on the life work of architect Renzo Piano. 

This book is limited to a run of 200 and comes delivered in a hand-built wooden crate that is identical to the ones his studio uses to deliver architectural models to his clients. It has a hand-pulled lithograph of an original drawing by Piano that is signed and numbered of the Menil Collection Foundation in Houston, Texas that also elevates this to a status beyond what we typically consider a “book”.

With this being limited to an edition of just 200, and a price point of $1250.00 I’m going to have to be content either browsing online and dreaming or opt for the less expensive version of the book with no hand-built case or lithograph. One of the local Barnes and Nobel stores actually has a copy of the non-limited edition books so I had a chance to actually see to see it in person last week. 

Like everything Taschen produces, the quality is top-notch. Beautiful page spreads that built a visual rhythm as you scan from page to page. There is an elegant use of photography, illustration, and type that helps to anchor the body copy and showcase Piano’s genius. Gatefold spreads are used to show the architecture in the context of its surroundings allowing for panoramic views. The copy is crisp and concise giving just enough information without becoming overwhelming or granular. The book does a great job of building the story of Piano’s career to date and the many existences of his singular aesthetic.

As for the Limited Edition version f the book being a work of art, I would contend that it’s close. It’s definitely a piece of fine craft when you think about the hand-built case and the limited edition print that come with it. Maybe not a work of fine art but a highly collectible hand-crafted object showcasing the art of a genius. If I could justify it, I’d add it to my small collection of Taschen XXL books. From the photo’s I think it looks absolutely amazing. That wooden case is exquisite. 

The Look of Things to Come?

I spend a lot of time looking at other people design work. It’s the nature of my job and something that helps to keep me current with design trends that are emerging. Over the last few months, something I’ve noticed with more frequency is the emergence of minimalist 3D animation paired with pastels that leans almost to abstraction. I have a feeling this is going to become a hot look over the next 18 months and will run the risk like so many other trends of jumping the shark as it gets picked up by every agency and marketing firm in the world. It looks cool now, and I’m really liking it, but that feeling may change if it becomes oversaturated the way the sketchbook look, the retro 80’s look, the ugly design look, the you name it you’ve seen to much of it looks did.

For the 50th Anniversary of Man on the Moon I Picked Up the NASA Graphics Standards Manual

On July 20th, 1969 I was seven and a half years old and I still remember being glued to the TV as the first live broadcast from the lunar surface was beamed back to Earth. The family was downstairs in our family room/office. Walter Cronkite was giving the play by play and then they cut to a grainy picture of Neal Armstrong as he stepped off the ladder and spoke his now famous line. ” That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”.

I have always been a bit of a space nut. I think being born at the beginning of the space race helped solidify that in me. I’ve been fascinated with everything from the space flight itself to the amazing illustrations produced for NASA.

With this year marking the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing, I decided to break down and pick up a copy of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Graphic Standards Manual. It’s been out for a few years and has been on my short list so I finally decided to pull the trigger and pick it up.

For a designer and self-professed space nerd, this is pure heaven. This is a few hundred pages of the design systems put in place by Richard Danne, Bruce Blackburn, and the staff at Danne & Blackburn in 1974.

This reissue is a modern spin on the original which was a series of bound documents designed to be distributed to internally and externally to coordinate the NASA brand for the world. The reissue book is all about faithfully reproducing what Danne & Blackburn while infusing history and additional details. Details like the anti-static foil sleeve that it arrives in.

The book is an authoritative reference compiled from scans of 35mm slides presented to NASA in 1974, normally shielded from those without clearance.

The manual covers everything from spaceship graphics to brochures, including specific details on how to type a letter using the NASA letterhead.

This is the ultimate “brand bible” for the formidable application of a graphic identity system in an otherworldly institution. The NASA Graphics Standard Manual is a meticulous facsimile of Danne & Blackburn’s 1974 re-branding of the agency. An authoritative reference compiled from scans of Danne’s own personal copy, the book also includes an introduction by Danne, alongside an extended essay on the culture of the agency by Christopher Bonanos.

Modernica Case Study Ceramics

I have been a huge fan of Modernica products for more than 20 years. I remember getting the paper catalog in the mail and coveting the Case Study Day Beds and Fiberglass chairs. I never purchased any of the furniture, although I wish I had. What I have purchased though is the Case Study® Pearl Lamp, the perfect ellipse™, and most recently 4 of the Case Study Ceramics® series planters.

The Case Study Ceramics® series is inspired by the prolific period in architecture and home furnishing designs immediately following WW2. All Modernica’s Case Study Ceramics® are high fired, hand-made, using a jiggering tool for shaping, and are finished on a potters wheel.  I love this because they could have easily slip cast them to save time and money. By opting for this approach each one is unique.

I have to admit, that the whole reason for my purchase was because these went on sale. We need new planters like we need a hole in the head, but I love them and they were 40% off at the time.

I ended up buying the Medium Apex planters in both white and pebble. The two next to each other make for a nice contrast. The third and fourth are the Table Top Diamond in reactive blue. All four come with the Brazillian Walnut bases.

From a quality and design standpoint, these really are quite wonderful. The wooden base for each fits together with precision. There is no wiggle or wobble to the stand at all. The ceramic planters are heavy with a wonderful texture. The subtle color palette blends well with the surroundings, and the overall look of each is really quite timeless.

There is a quality about the glaze that really reminds me of Heath Ceramics. I think it is the hand made quality of the planter and the application of the glaze to the Table Top Diamond planters that really brings that forward.

For me, this truly is a timeless design. While the aesthetic is anchored in Mid-Century Modern it feels quite classic and able to withstand the test of time.

Now that spring is here, and the temperatures are starting to warm into the 70’s it looks like I’ll be doing some repotting and planting this weekend.

The Zodiac Aerospace GMT

It’s been quite a while since I posted anything to this blog. I think it has been about 17 months to be exact. Life sometimes gets in the way and in this case, it has prevented me from being able to post here for quite some time. That all changes today.

The Zodiac Aerospace GMT

Recently I had the fortunate chance to acquire a Zodiac Aerospace GMT in Burnt Orange and Sky Blue. I’m not going to write a review of the timepiece itself. Instead, I’m going to speak to the entire package. The watch, the packaging, the presentation, because it all adds up to the overall experience. In addition, I haven’t had enough time (yes I know) to spend with the watch at this point to get into things like performance.

I’m going to talk about this in sort of a reverse order, not focusing on the watch in the beginning. Instead, I’m going to start with the way the recipient engages with the product. I’m going to start with the packaging and move forward from there.

At first, you are presented with a black box embossed with the Zodiac logo on the top. This is nothing fancy, a simple cardboard box that is nicely styled that fits with the price point of the timepiece. The top of the box slides off to reveal the interior which holds a folded microfiber timezone map, a quick start guide in colors that match the watch and an image of a retro-styled world map at the top. The Zodiac logo and Aerospace GMT sit in the lower half. The phrase “The world traveler’s watch” is styled in a nice script that adds to the retro feel of it. There is a pullout tray beneath the watch box that contains instructions on how to set the time, change the date, adjust the 24 hour hand and adjust the bracelet.

The quality of the printed material is about what you would expect. This is not a Rolex or a Heuer. It’s good but it’s not luxe by any means.

Zodiac’s parent company is Fossil and you can definitely feel the Fossil influence in the packaging materials. Fossil’s retro aesthetic is all over this, and I have to say it works. I think the packaging and support materials look great. The retro feel plays well considering that this is a reissue of a Zodiac classic.

Opening the box you are presented with the Zodiac Aerospace GMT a time, date, and GMT watch that nods heavily toward the vintage models from the 1960s. The case has been upsized to a more contemporary 40mm size. There are two versions of the watch, grey and black bezel, or in my case sky blue and burnt orange bezel. The watch is seated on a neutral grey synthetic pillow, surrounded by a grey synthetic buffer. The grey absolutely makes the orange and blue pop and the watch look absolutely stunning. According to Zodiac the blue and orange represent the sun and water.

The watch itself feels solid. It’s too early to tell about the quality of the stainless steel, but the watch has heft to it.
It feels like a quality timepiece. The orange and blue bezel have a high-gloss appearance. The markers are bright and easy to read and they have carried over from the printed material the cursive “Aerospace GMT” to the watch face.

The back of the watch shows the limited edition number, serial number, the iconic Zodiac logo, reference numbers, and the name. The logo is also presented on the deployment clasp on the bracelet.

The deployment clasp is something I am having to get used to. Unlike my other watches, it is a two-step process. You lift the front quarter of the clasp to open the mechanism and then pull the remaining portion up to fully release it. I have to say that this part of the watch seems delicate. I’m being careful every time I open it because I feel like I might bend or break it. I know the likelihood of this pretty small, but it still makes me nervous.

Zodiac is using the tried and true ETA 2893-2 movement in this watch. The ETA 2893 features time/date with added GMT functionality. It’s a 24 jewel movement that ticks away at 28,800vph and claims a 38-hour power reserve. While not a true GMT it is a “Caller” the GMT hand itself is quick-set, while the local hand stays static. I’m OK with this. I know true horologists are probably scratching their heads wondering why Zodiac didn’t develop a GMT movement of their own. I’m thinking it was to keep the cost below the $2000.00 threshold.

The watch feels great on my wrist and the color combo really stands out. Zodiac has really nailed the vintage aesthetic and produced a stylish watch that won’t break the bank. Parent company Fossil has definitely put the time and effort into reviving the Zodiac brand. It’s obvious from the quality of this watch that they have a desire to get things right and it shows.

If you are familiar with Zodiac watches then you obviously know about the Sea Wolf reissue that was released last year. Zodiac has taken the Sea Wolf case and used it for the Aerospace GMT. In effect, they have simply put in a new movement and replaced the count down bezel with a GMT one. In addition, they have added a new dial and four hands with the update. That’s it. None the less the Aerospace GMT is a stylish retro watch that is well worth the cost.

Each version of the Aerospace GMT is limited to 182 pieces.

Paper Machines

Anyone from Hallmark that might be reading this, raise your hand if you remember “T-Ink” from 2004 and the products Hallmark produced for less than a year with the technology? T-Ink had so much potential and it simply withered and died on the vine. The T-Ink project was one of the first things I worked on when I returned to Hallmark. It was such a cool product, and could have been huge if they could have figured out how to market it better. Fast forward to 2017 and check out Papier Machine from French Designers Marion Pinaffo and Raphaël Pluvinage.

Papier Machine is a set of 13 paper-made electronic toys. Each piece of paper can be cut and folded and assembled into the final toy. Another intriguing component of Papier Machine is that while there are instructions that come with the kit, the steps are not clear cut. According to Pinaffo and Pluvinage they still want users to interpret the instructions themselves, opening up the pathway to more possibilities, especially for kids.

 

Like T-Ink, the printed paper is equipped with reactive, conductive, and thermosensitive inks, which actually complete the electronic circuits and allow the toys to function. The toys are designed for kids of all ages and don’t require any special tools, skills or training. The designers want Papier MAchine to be all about fun, and exploration.  The 13 toys can create multiple projects that include Switches, a Gyroscope, Playing Track, Writing Track, Tilt Switch, Humidity Sensor, Wind Sensor, Mass Sensor, Power Reverser, Photoresistor, and Color Sensor. Pretty cool if you ask me.