Monday, January 19, 2009

The Design Matters

Clean, clear designs are appealing whether they were made in the early part of the century or just last year. We are drawn to a brand new retro looking design as if it were an old book unearthed in a antiquarian bookshop. The graphics, lettering and design affect our emotions before we may even have time to read the title and digest the subject. Our highly developed sense of aesthetics guide us to pick up that book with the beautiful cover or that product with the striking label. Great design makes the identity of a product enticing.

The work of Louise Fili, whose cover art appears above, takes her viewers into a world of exquisite design with references to typography and layout evoking a different place and time while creating a strikingly clean, clear and modern identity. She makes her products so appealing, it's hard to imagine living without them.

Here are a few inspiring examples from her recent work.

Images courtesy of Louise Fili Ltd.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Seal of Approval

One hundred years ago, the Good Housekeeping magazine first published research on approved products for the modern homemaker. They went on to create an Experiment Station in 1900 to study food and household products against false advertising claims. The approved products were listed on an honor role. In 1909 a new testing facility with a model kitchen and domestic science laboratory was built as the Good Housekeeping Institute. The list of tested and approved products and machinery was published in December 1909 with the first seal of approval.
A version of the first seal design was in use until 1941, when the magazine added the guarantee that if a product was not as advertised, a replacement or a refund would be provided to the consumer. The appearance of the seal changed several times over the next six decades of consumer protection as the wording of the promise evolved.

To celebrate the big anniversary and the 1911 purchase by the Hearst Company, Louise Fili, the very talented and prolific graphic artist, book cover designer, food product designer and restaurant and logo designer, was brought in to update the Good Housekeeping seal.

A recent New York Times article quoted the designer on this project. "The thing about doing any kind of redesign of something that well known,” Ms. Fili said, “is that you have to keep at least one element so people can make the leap. In this case it was the oval and the star, so not just the baby boomers would be able to recognize it.”

Her redesign was so convincingly timeless that there was a little confusion on the Today show where the blue and red 1990s seal was mixed up as the newer one and her design referred to as the old design. Fortunately, she took it as a compliment.

Images courtesy of Good Housekeeping and the New York Times.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

London's Red Bus Goes Green

The iconic image of the Routemaster double-decker bus of London has been preserved and reinvented for the 21st century. The Mayor of London announced the winners of a design competition, A New Bus for London, sponsored by Transport for London. The competition, open to all interested parties, was seeking stylish (as good looking as the old favorites) and imaginative (green and greener) designs for a new and better bus for the city of London.

Well-known British automaker Aston Martin worked together with architects Foster+Partners on their winning entry pictured above. They share the top prize with the entry from Capoco Design Ltd., pictured below.

Upon its introduction as a prototype in 1954, the Routemaster was considered the most modern double-decker bus in the world. The Routemaster remained in regular service throughout the city until 2005. Vintage Routemasters can still be found on at least one heritage route in London. Of course, the beloved design image can easily be found on souvenirs all over the city.

Photos courtesy of Transport for London

Monday, January 5, 2009

The Twelfth Night Brings One More Chance to Give

The holiday season isn’t over just yet. On the Twelfth Night of Christmas in cities and towns throughout Italy, children leave stockings and shoes out in hopes of a gift on January 6th from la Befana, the old beneficent witch, who flies through the sky on her broom. She leaves gifts of toys and sweets for good children. And for those naughty ones? You guessed it: Coal.

On this last night of a more-than-a-little-uneven holiday season, why not pick out that one rotter on your list and let them know how you really feel? Remember, it’s 354 days ‘til Christmas comes around!

Carbone dolce (sweet coal) is a black candy that looks awful, but tastes sugary sweet. It turns your tongue black. It’s widely available in Italy in the weeks leading up to the Feast of the Epiphany. Most candy shops here sell Santa’s coal, or something like it. Your recipient will get the hint.