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Magic Potion

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Mark Your Territory

A new online database promises to help designers avoid cases of mistaken identity: The Identity Archives Project (IdAP) aims to be "the most complete online keyword-searchable database of logos and brand identity designs from around the world." Developed by San Francisco graphic designer Gabe Ruane, IdAP is a free resource that relies upon the contributions of designers and branding gurus. Active or antiquated logos, logotypes, icons, brand identities, brand marks, and corporate identities are all fair game, providing that they were approved by the client, have been used publicly, and are submitted by their creators. The key, however, is in the keywords, on which the value -- and searchability -- of the database will depend. Ruane advises those submitting designs to consider subjective and conceptual aspects, including the emotions a logo conveys, whether it's masculine or feminine, and what it represents. "Don't hold back!" He notes on the site. "The more info you can associate with the logo design, the better!"

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Art & Copy

Hate advertising? Make better ads. Filmmaker Doug Pray shows how it's done in the documentary Art & Copy. Now playing in select cities, the film spotlights influential advertising creatives such as George Lois, Mary Wells, Dan Wieden, and Lee Clow, and legendary campaigns, from "I Love NY" to "Got Milk?" But Art & Copy is no history lesson. "In my interviews, I stuck to emotions, creative motivation, and big-idea philosophies of the ad creatives rather than 'how-to' stories, industry-insider talk, or the politics of their clients' products, which is a different film altogether," notes Pray, who secured sponsorship from The One Club to realize the project. "By interviewing these icons, they became real for me, and I saw advertising as an art form with enormous potential -- when done well."

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Paper Cuts

Print may be dying, but paper endures, whether cut, torn, shredded, scribbled on, or sculpted into elaborate art installations. David Revere McFadden examines the medium's creative possibilities and artistic achievements in a new book, Slash: Paper Under the Knife, out next month from 5 Continents Editions. The lushly illustrated tome highlights the work of paper-loving artists such as Olafur Eliasson, who in 2006 reproduced a cross-section of his house (at a scale of 85:1) on 900 sheets of laser-cut paper in a sort of anti-pop-up book, and Kara Walker, whose painstaking paper cut-outs explore themes of race, gender, and the shadier side of American history. Don't bother looking for Slash in hardcover; naturally, it's available only in paperback.

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On the Front Lines

"Cigar, cigarrettes, school supplies" reads the creatively spelled line of text squeezed below the hand-lettered sign of Katy's Candy Store, in business from 1969 to 2007. The Brooklyn shop and hundreds more timeworn New York City storefronts are lovingly preserved in Store Front: The Disappearing Face of New York (Gingko Press), a new book by photographers and authors James and Karla Murray. An ode to the endangered species of the mom-and-pop shop, Store Front takes the reader on a technicolor walking tour of humble neighborhood haunts (Ideal Dinettes) and New York institutions (Katz's Delicatessen), all captured in stunning oversize images alongside interviews with shop owners. The bittersweet chronicle of the urban retail life cycle doubles as a fascinating atlas of street typography.

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Get RIPT

In a world of shrinking attention spans and contracting markets, a new breed of e-commerce company is banking on the one-shot deal: Here today, gone tomorrow. One of our favorite newcomers to the fast-paced e-tail scene is RIPT Apparel, a Chicago-based online T-shirt shop that showcases one unique graphic T-shirt per day (yours for $10 plus $2.50 shipping in sizes ranging from small to 3XL) along with information about the artist behind the design. After 24 hours, each shirt "rests in peace forever," explains TJ Mapes, RIPT's Web director. Think of it as Threadless with ADD. Since the site's launch in June, we've been impressed by the diverse bunch of wearable graphics, including a Romanian illustrator's Frank Kline-y take on the Japanese flag, an aviating platypus, a killer popcorn popper, and robots -- lots and lots of robots.

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A Word From Our Sponsor

Watch out YouTube, because wacky wedding videos have nothing on vintage commercials. From Duke University comes AdViews, a growing online archive of television commercials that date from the 1950s to the 1980s. Alongside ads for familiar products such as Crest, Pampers, and an array of breakfast cereals ("Honey-Comb’s big! Yeah, yeah, yeah!") are those for brands that have been lost to the ages, including Studebaker, Fluffo, and sinister-sounding Sugarcane 99, the Splenda of its day. The newly-digitized archive contains commercials created or collected by ad agency Benton & Bowles and its successor, D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, and can be viewed and downloaded for free via iTunes.

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Name That Font

You can spot Helvetica a mile away and have an entire theory on why Woody Allen can’t bear to make a film without somehow deploying Windsor Light Condensed, but where do you turn when confronted by a typeface of unknown provenance? Try Identifont, the Web’s largest independent directory of typefaces. Among the site’s multiple ways to filter information from 558 font publishers and 149 vendors is its tool enabling users to answer a series of illustrated multiple-choice questions about the appearance of a particular font (even if a sample is restricted to a handful of letters in a logo or heading). What type of tail is the uppercase “Q” sporting? Is the question mark dotted with a circle, square, or diamond? Click to provide answers and before you can say “ascender serif oblique,” Identifont has winnowed down the set of nearly 7,000 possible fonts to the very one you're seeking to name.

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Work Up an Appetite

While we’re still waiting for Zagat to add graphic design to its restaurant rating rubric, nonprofit culinary society the James Beard Foundation has long appreciated the power of a delicious brand identity: Its 2009 award for outstanding restaurant graphics went to Korn Design for the sassy visuals it created for Denver's Corner Office restaurant and martini bar. Designers Denise Korn, Javier Cortés, and Bryant Ross played with contrasts—work and play, retro and contemporary, black-and-white photography and boldly colored illustrations—to imbue the restaurant and martini bar with a slick, but playful, vibe (think Mad Men, with a touch of The Office). In addition to the restaurant's menus, signage, and Web site, Korn masterminded the interiors, which feature signature supergraphics and a rubber band wall by local artists Joseph Sipe and William Hodges. Lastly, to allay any guilt that may come with sampling full slate of saucily-named cocktails (whether a “hole punch” martini or a vodka drink rimmed in grape Kool-Aid dubbed “the secretary”), the clock on the wall reads five o’clock at all times.

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Gallery of Wrap Rage

Package design can be like nuclear power or a pet chimpanzee: easy to take for granted until it goes terribly, terribly wrong. As Amazon.com strives to minimize both its environmental footprint and customer complaints, the online retailer has created “The Gallery of Wrap Rage,” a user-submitted collection of photos and videos that shine a light on aggravating packaging. Scroll through to see a baby in tears after a first run-in with twist ties, a couple of Spanish-speaking gentlemen struggling with cheese marked “abre facil” (easy open), and the meta-frustrating “Open-X,” a device designed to cut through plastic clamshell packaging that comes wrapped inside one.

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Important Artifacts

Postcards. Paperbacks. Mix CDs. A heart-shaped ice cube mold. Dried and pressed four-leaf clovers. Through photographs and terse descriptions of these items and hundreds like them, Leanne Shapton depicts a relationship gone south. Designed as an auction catalog, her new book chronologically records the Important Artifacts and Personal Property from the Collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris, Including Books, Street Fashion, and Jewelry. An illustrator, writer, publisher, and the art director of The New York Times op-ed page, Shapton encourages readers to imagine subplots through the stuff accumulated and exchanged by the erstwhile couple (think: Griffin and Sabine, the estate sale). A leather backgammon set (lot 1246) has a “slightly charred” corner (was Harold smoking again?) while a white noise machine (lot 1306) bears “irreparable damage to top and sides, as if struck by a hammer.” Maira Kalman, who knows from heartbreaking whimsy, professes to be "nuts about" the book: "This is the stuff of life, literally. Oh, love. Oh, despair. Oh, stolen salt shakers.”

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