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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
Lucida Sky with Diamonds. Bauhaus (in the Middle of Our Street). Rock the Caslon. I Wanna Bold Your Sans. No, this isn’t the set list from designer Chip Kidd’s latest Artbreak gig -- they’re fontsongs, a Twitter thread (#fontsongs) that challenges pun-loving design types to insert typeface names into popular song titles. Call it Textual Healing. The typographical phenomenon is going strong, with recent gems such as Goudy My Dreams, Get into my Car, and Garamond (My Wayward Son), but don’t delay in Tweeting a fontsong of your own soon, before the trend changes cultural course: One Twitter user is advocating a switch to fontfilms. First on the list? Back to the Futura, of course.