New Orleans Branding Different Here

Roof Copy
Roof Copylines
Water is Rising
Water is Rising
Katrina
Katrina

“It’s New Orleans. You’re Different Here.” Or are you? How does one ‘brand’ a place that has just been devastated? Where does it even start? Does the process of design or visual communication even matter at this scale of suffering? To the people of New Orleans–who depend on tourism after major economic shifts in the 50s and 70s–it does.

After the physical devastation of Hurricane Katrina, the ensuing media maelstrom resulted in a tarnish settling over the image of the South’s multi-faceted and multi-cultured gem. So the problem is then very specifically a branding one. The people of New Orleans and Louisiana would take care of the physical space. Peter Mayer Advertising would help handle the image with a multi-faceted campaign explained in part here.

http://www.aminworldwide.com/showcases/details/41/

Though this is not a full look at the incredible body of work Peter Mayer produced for its city it brings to mind some intriguing questions about the role branding places in defining place, or redefining it. Commercial art has not ever been shy about its role in manufacturing image. When combined with the discipline of design and the psychology of Peter Mayer’s public relations team, the city of New Orleans was beneficiary to a positive aspect of branding. A real physical city with real and tangible and hurting people needed real help to bring the tourism dollars back.

Youre_Different_Here_Logo
You’re Different Here Marque

I have heard arguments on the impossibility of branding something as public and multi-variabled as a modern city. In this case, we see undeniable evidence of success. Though we in America will forever remember the travesty of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, some songs ultimately go unsung when things are being rebuilt. In this case, New Orleans is still standing and probably stronger than ever. The city’s people are survivors. The campaign to keep the economy going through tourism dollars was not only a success in branding, but also a shining example of the benefits of commercial art in our society.

I was privy to a lecture fully explaining this body of work through my local Pensacola Bay Area Advertising Federation. Though I understand the ethical implications of generating this type of work for something as ephemeral as a city and its people, it was an incredible experience to witness firsthand the effect the work could have. The potential for art and creative thinking to influence people around the world into visiting a specific region is no small task. It was a pleasure to more fully empathize with the reasoning behind attempting such a task, but also in grasping that ‘re-building’ a city is not always about plywood and nails. Our cities are complex. Keeping them going often requires complex systems of communication and influence that have a global reach. Who better to attempt this mammoth task than a local and passionate agency with Peter Mayer?

Follow their work here. They’ve grown with their city. What type of relationship do you have with yours?

 

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The Bahamas c/o Duffy & Partners & Co.

Bahamas Marque
Bringing Together Distance and Diversity through Design

“Every island in the Bahamas needed to be represented and their independent personalities expressed within the overall message. The graphic design solution of the Bahamas identity was the foundation that brought the Bahamian islands a common message that could be broken into differential parts as needed.”

–Bart Cleveland, Adage.com

In 2008, I had the uncommon experience of seeing and meeting the indubitable Mr. Duffy for the first time as a student at SCAD. I watched his presentation, listened to his thoughtful careful words and viewed his breathtaking work with hungry eyes. This chapter meeting of the AIGA in Jacksonville was what graphic design was supposed to be all about. But what was this word ‘branding’? What did it take to ‘brand’ an island chain as disparate and uncommon as the Bahamas? There were so many of them. They all had their own unique characteristics, culture, music, food. And yet, they were all politically and economically connected. Much like any other place. Is it even possible to ‘brand’ something as ephemeral and meaning-packed as a place?

Duffy and Partners work, in cooperation with Fallon Worldwide, raises many questions about place. How do we define ourselves as part of a nation? Can we describe the process of what it takes to become a Floridian, an Ohioan, a Cincinnatian, a New Yorker, a Madrider, a Havanite? What do these places mean to us? What does it mean to grow up there? To eat there every day? To work there? To sleep there?

Think on all these questions and then attempt to think about how the people in the city 50 miles away might answer them. How are they related? Is there some common or shared experience? Now think if this place, this city were an island separated by many dozens of miles of water. These are not just tangible, physical challenges, but problems of identity and boundary, politic and economy. These are the things that make us similar and at the same time, make us alike as humans. The best solution is part of Duffy’s holistic approach to branding. Go there. Meet the people. Listen to them. Allow them to provide the solutions. Allow the work to flow from what they say, what they do, how they do it, and who they are as people and citizens and brand ‘partners.’

Setting the mood of the Bahamas
Setting the mood of the Bahamas

In commercial art, we are often presented with a client and a communication problem whose undertaking may seem impossible. Bringing together so many islands in the Bahamas might have seemed that way on first glance. Patience and the open minds of thinking designers proved different. Here is some of the evidence. However, I highly recommend Duffy’s Book, A Brand Apart, for a more complete and wholesome elucidation.

Bahamas Patterns
Bahamas Patterns
Range of Materials
Range of Bahamas Materials
Full range of islands
Full range of islands

South African Tourism and Choices

On 5 November 2009, BizCommunity.com reported that South Africa’s Cabinet approved a new and official international marketing logo that would replace some 70 logos used in the past for the quickly rising nation.

South Africa Marque designed by Grid Worldwide
Brand South Africa designed by Grid Worldwide

The importance of this marque to a nation is perhaps second to none in their preparation for the 2010 World Cup. But the execution, as seen on BizCommunity’s comment board, gets mixed reviews. Something else is present not in the work, but in the commentary itself.

As a designer, I feel the execution could have been better. There are certain things I enjoy about the marque. The directionality of the gestalt, the looseness of the typography, the iconic nature of the reference and deference to the flag and its colors and their meanings. (It is subtle, but this is not the actual flag. The geometry references the shape of the actual flag in a very sophisticated way, however.) It’s readable, it’s fun, and it performs the function of inciting people’s curiosity about a nation. The color palette specifically emphasizes the black which symbolizes the people of the nation, its most important resource and the best reason to visit any nation not your own.

Pick up any airline’s in-flight magazine, you might notice its fitting in nicely with other brands from around the world. It has that distinctive ‘this belongs here’ emotional quality to it that takes time to craft and requires engagement to initiate. And yet, it retains its distinction. Some of the commentary shows confusion

“Isn’t there a law that prohibits any writing on the flag? it looks good though.”

-energy guide

The execution is such a simple solution it gets confused for the historical flag. It is not. For a simple breakdown of the symbology of the flag read here… http://www.vexillologymatters.org/south-african-flag.htm

As for the execution, Eek says it best

“Its shockingly bad, even if it was OK, the placing of the ‘South Africa’ is too close to the left hand side and it shows absolutely no creativity, this is the first and most obvious solution!”

There is a paradox there. Sometimes, the first solution is the best. Think on the CitiBank logo and its now-famous napkin rendering. There is nothing wrong with finding something right the first time. It doesn’t happen often–but when and if it does–why would that decrease its inherent value? It’s communicative of a place and a people and the South African people’s elected representatives made a decision they were elected to make. Perhaps, in this case, we would be wise to look more closely at how design happens. It is not about one person, or even a small group of people and all their little combined idiosyncrasies. Design often occurs “by committee” and, Beirut’s “Poor, Lonely Obvious” is the proper solution.

All controversy aside, the marque works as seen during the now famous World Cup 2010. The flexibility of the brand unfolds and now we have a narrative of “1,001 Unique Experiences.” This book is beautifully crafted with much hand-rendered typography, beautiful illustrations, stark photographs, and insight into the unique mythos surrounding some of South Africa’s heroes and artists.

"1001 unique experiences" by Grid Worldwide
“1001 unique experiences” by Grid Worldwide
"1001 unique experiences" by Grid Worldwide
“1001 unique experiences” by Grid Worldwide
"1001 unique experiences" by Grid Worldwide
“1001 unique experiences” by Grid Worldwide
"1001 unique experiences" by Grid Worldwide
“1001 unique experiences” by Grid Worldwide
"1001 unique experiences" by Grid Worldwide
“1001 unique experiences” by Grid Worldwide
"1001 unique experiences" by Grid Worldwide
“1001 unique experiences” by Grid Worldwide
"1001 unique experiences" by Grid Worldwide
“1001 unique experiences” by Grid Worldwide
"1001 unique experiences" by Grid Worldwide
“1001 unique experiences” by Grid Worldwide
"1001 unique experiences" by Grid Worldwide
“1001 unique experiences” by Grid Worldwide
"1001 unique experiences" by Grid Worldwide
“1001 unique experiences” by Grid Worldwide
"1001 unique experiences" by Grid Worldwide
“1001 unique experiences” by Grid Worldwide

The people here as with the color black in the marque play a starring role again. Through simple ideation, Grid Worldwide fleshes out a concept not easily rendered. But now I am confused, both as a designer and a simple viewer. The bottom right of the book displays another marque. Bolder, more textural, more dimensional, but still representative of both South Africa as a nation and its myriad peoples.

End Frame of commercial by Inition
End Frame of commercial converted to 3d by Inition

We now have choices as a viewer, a strange and disconcerting thought in the land of Nike, FedEx, and the NFL. This gives the identity a specific flexibility that translates across multiple mediums as seen in the work of Inition, here.

Specially commissioned geodesic dome in London's Broadgate circus.
Specially commissioned geodesic dome in London’s Broadgate circus.
Specially commissioned geodesic dome in London's Broadgate circus.
Specially commissioned geodesic dome in London’s Broadgate circus.
Specially commissioned geodesic dome in London's Broadgate circus.
Specially commissioned geodesic dome in London’s Broadgate circus.
specially commissioned geodesic dome in London's Broadgate circus
Specially commissioned geodesic dome in London’s Broadgate circus.

Note the beads of geodesic dome referencing the beads of the marque at the end of the 3 minute commercial. Though Inition was responsible for bringing the commercial to the 3rd Dimension in video, the additional brand experience of being surrounded by the ‘beads’ of the South African people and the essence of their video adds another layer of brand inception.

Love it or hate it, I have more friends that have been to South Africa than to London. Perhaps this is the true test of a brand’s strength. Regardless of the logo, I want to visit South Africa. Perhaps it is a sign of our times that brands–especially for nations–will become more and more simplified as individuals making travel decisions move away from the travel agent and into their own research. At times it may seem branding goes over the top, but for the people of South Africa and their rich culture and resources, no dome goes unturned.

All work © Grid Worldwide, 2012. For an exciting look into the conversion of video from 2d into 3d, check out Inition in the UK and their exciting work.

The Graceful Teaknique of Ekawit Lekviriyakul

Sainam I
Sainam I

Bangkok Metropolis, Thailand   FOLLOW HIM

These lively and quiet, but illustrative forms were designed to express the nature of the people of Thailand and their waterside lifestyle. The color palette simply uses three organic qualities of the physical environment that flow through the blood and daily lives of the Thai people. All these forms and their animations seem to trickle around the idea of more than just a place and grow into the idea of a people. The Na’vi in Avatar come to mind with their deep-rooted connections to nature and their very real physical and spiritual world.

Wood, Water, Belief
Structure, Transit, Glue
Sainam
Sainam

The baseline of the typeface references the water, a surface to travel upon and live life within. The glyphs are the Thai people themselves, above the water, but in constant interaction with its surface. Each glyph and its corresponding motion design brings the form and lifestyle of the Thai people into a pleasing resolution. Even the layperson, ignorant of the meaning and subtlety of the beautiful Thai letter forms can appreciate their fluidity and grace as they move. Though the two-dimensional representation of these aspects of Thailand may have been enough, the animation takes the project to another communicative level, increasing our understanding gently, almost musically. The third dimension comes with ease and in turn, increases our grasp of a specific meaning and a unique people.

Thai Glyphs
Thai Glyphs
Latin Glyphs
Latin Glyphs

It was cogent of Ekawit to bring the Latin forms into this project for the student of design, but something else also happens here. We are confronted with the beauty and simplicity of letters as they are literally. These Latin forms in relation and contrast to the Thai again become ‘pictures.’ We see the primal hieroglyphs. We see language being formed in situ.

Nowadays, we read so much. Our current culture is incredibly inundated with the forms words take that we forget how they were formed. We forget the process. Ekawit’s rendering of this ‘new alphabet’ confronts us with the exotic while simultaneously bringing us into the familiar.

Sketches I
Sketches I
Sketches II
Sketches II
Sketches III
Sketches III

Ekawit’s sketches show a thoughtful process as well as potential for motion. The intimate breakdown of form and geometry is in step with his endgame. Ekawit’s studies and the final work highlight both a region and its beautiful people through letter form, but also bring into high definition the patient and time-consuming practice of the intensely intimate discipline of typography.

Please visit Ekawit’s site on Behance for the videos showing the animations of these beautiful type forms.

From Solitude, in Walden

by Henry David Thoreau

“I find it wholesome to be alone the greater part of the time. To be in company, even with the best, is soon wearisome and dissipating. I love to be alone. I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude. We are for the most part more lonely when we go abroad among men than when we stay in our chambers. A man thinking or working is always alone, let him be where he will. Solitude is not measured by the miles of space that intervene between a man and his fellows. The really diligent student in one of the crowded hives of Cambridge College is as solitary as a dervis* in the desert. The farmer can work alone in the field or the woods all day, hoeing or chopping, and not feel lonesome, because he is employed; but when he comes home at night he cannot sit down in a room alone, at the mercy of his thoughts, but must be where he can ‘see the folks,’ and recreate, and as he thinks remunerate, himself for his day’s solitude; and hence he wonders how the student can sit alone in the house all night and most of the day without ennui and ‘the blues;’ but he does not realize that the student, though in the house, is still at work in his field, and chopping in his woods, as the farmer in his, and in turn seeks the same recreation and society that the later does, though it may be a more condensed form of it.

Society is commonly too cheap. We meet at very short intervals, not having had time to acquire any new value for each other. We meet at meals three times a day, and give each other a new taste of that old musty cheese that we are. We have had to agree on a certain set of rules, called etiquette and politeness, to make this frequent meeting tolerable and that we need not come to open war. We meet at the post-office, and at the sociable, and about the fireside ever night; we live thick and are in each other’s way, and stumble over one another, and I think that we thus lose some respect for one another. Certainly less frequency would suffice for all important and hearty communications. Consider the girls in a factory,–never alone, hardly in their dreams. It would be better if there were but one inhabitant to a square mile, as where I live. The value of a man is not in his skin, that we should touch him.”

There is a reason I’ve read this book so many times. I wonder if part of the modern condition is that we are all afraid to be alone. Even here in the great wilderness of the American South, we seek this constant interaction. Perhaps each and every interaction we have is a part of this greater fear of not having more interaction, like social junkies. At least in the South, we drive further for ours…

The Beauty of the Vulgate PT. II

The few lines in Part One from fashioningarchitecture‘s post contain a richness not seen in average everyday conversation. The metaphrasis that occurs during translation is such that a type of poetry of association occurs. As we swim through the language–in keeping with the previous metaphor of a fish–we not only feel the thick water passing over our fins, but we also feel from whence we came. We feel the ‘now’ water as well as the ‘then’ water. At the same time.

Soul Energy from Donnie Darko
The liquid asset of a soul in Donnie Darko

While it’s not time travel and not evidence of a soul, the use of the words now and then describe the physical act of translation that happens. We hear a Chinese phrase. If English is our first language, our first instinct when learning Chinese (or any new language, for that matter) is to translate everything heard to the original, the one we knew before, or English.

This phenomenon is perhaps extreme with Chinese and English. The grammar of both is exceptionally different. The pronunciations are more intricate in Chinese. There are ten different duns, for example. In English, we might just have ten different and entirely separate words.

One thing I’ve noticed about our English language is that having so many words creates a massive library of stored information and associations. This thing is a rockThis rock is graniteThis granite is gray and brownThis gray is like the Long Island sound on a winter’s day crashing into Block Island. This brown is like the rich earth underneath the leaves in a forest.

This fish moves with the fluency of so many a tuna. Think of all those countless associations above and the millions of offspring associations they can and do all make. Then imagine multiplying that exponentially with a second language and all the dialects languages naturally beget. Not only does the form of the grammar shift, but also the nature of the associations.

Everything is Illuminated
Everything is Illuminated

I once watched the film Everything is Illuminated with a Russian sitting next to me. There are two languages in the film and much of the struggles Elijah Wood’s protagonist Jon-fen goes through have to do with things lost in translation. However, listening to the English, reading the subtitles (and their version of a translation), as well as having the benefit of a native Russian present to speak the English out loud was an immersion I will never forget. The Russian’s commentary on the poor translation was another level of filter that not all of us have access to every day in hearing another language.

This four-fold experience of language no. 1, language no. 2, the print (and established) translation of language no. 2 into language no. 1, and the oral translation of language no. 2 into language no. 1 imprinted the film into my mind as evidence of something I hadn’t noticed before. Even within my one language of English, this happens every day, no matter what the grammar mavens (Steven Pinker’s term) say.

Think of it within the context of moving as a kid. Especially if you moved from one language region to another. Imagine your surprise if you moved from South Carolina into the heart of New England’s language cradle (Boston). Trading one accent (markedly different and distinct even from other accents within the South) for another can be quite a culture shock.

Now imagine this same principle, this same feeling of ‘otherness’ as further enhanced by an entirely separate language with its own thousands of years of distinct evolution in descriptive subtlety and shift in accent.

Same feeling. Maximized effect. More variables. Total immersion in another culture.

Beijing, as the newest of the world’s capitals might be the perfect place, as a non-Chinese speaker to experience this phenomenology of language.

Look at the cliche, but French unwillingness to acknowledge foreigners in Paris (though they often speak English themselves). Are we becoming the same in NYC? Are servers going to start ignoring foreigners who make the attempt to learn our own elaborate tongue? Maybe if we start paying them more than 3.30 an hour.

I think the people in these environments will determine the parameters of their acceptance as well as their boundaries for the allowance of foreign tongues to ‘contaminate’ their own. One thing that shouldn’t be overlooked, however, is the richness that follows a culture’s acceptance of the many.

Remaining stagnant or gaining the attribute of bigotry in a world that is becoming ever-more global and increasingly infused with more dialects, both hybridized and pure, may not be an intelligent choice. If the nature of language is fluid, then this pond should remain murkish.

It has been said the vulgate of the Roman Empire was a form of French. Perhaps the true legacy of Empires is the languages of its peoples. The most honest forms of exchange and the purest makers of culture and ideas are happening all around us in the streets. With the words we choose to speak and to share, we consciously participate in the formation of something greater than ourselves.

After cities have dissolved. After buildings become skeletons, stories will still be exchanged by some distant and future campfire. Even if we mutate beyond the necessity for an oral tradition, the language of the people will remain the most honest.

The vulgate will be the most beautiful then as it is now. I only hope we enjoy the language of the #rightnow in the present tense.

The Beauty of the Vulgate PT.1

I’ve been wondering of late about the nature of language and our constant desire to make it a static thing that doesn’t move or change or evolve. The longer I speak, the more I write, the more I immerse myself in language–the more I realize it is a slippery fish, perhaps not meant to be caught.

James-Jean-RIFT-digital-folded
Check out James Jean’s SCULL from 2009. Thanks to MonsterFresh.

Most recently, I’ve become fascinated with my girlfriend’s changing method of speaking as she spends more and more time in China. Rather quickly (within two months’ time), her language has begun to flip-flop. She will place predicate before subject, etc.

“At the very least I hope you are impressed at how syntax is a Darwinian ‘organ of extreme perfection and complication.’ Syntax is complex, but the complexity is there for a reason. For our thoughts are surely even more complex, and we are limited by a mouth that can pronounce a single word at a time. Science has begun to crack the beautifully designed code that our brains use to convey complex thoughts as words and their orderings.” (p. 116, The Language Instinct, Steven Pinker)

To continue the metaphor of the fish, her syntax goes back and forth through “the water” of a day depending on how she needs to communicate during that space and time. Much like the fins of a fish change and undulate depending on where the fish needs to go and how the water is behaving around it.

While this is humorous to me, without any context for its occurrence, it is beautiful evidence of her “swimming” with language. I am only observing the trails she’s leaving behind and smiling. A photograph would capture it as a blur.

This does not mean that she is devolving, or that she is losing her English. It means she is gaining a new form of grammar that she previously did not have. She is constantly immersed in Chinese, but also its hundreds of dialects and accents –not to mention the hundreds of misinterpreted and amalgamated forms of English we ourselves are privy to every day. (Twitter. #thenewgrammar.) For her and for those in her situation, these strangers in a strange land, I nod my head. She is fearless in her enthusiasm and insatiable curiosity.

http://fashioningarchitecture.wordpress.com/2012/05/28/feel-the-vicissitudes-of-history/

However, within the framework of Chinese society, these strange versions of our language are not ‘incorrect’ though striking. Our language has changed in China, but that does not make it poor grammar, or even ‘incorrect,’ if such a thing is possible. While I am not sure I have ever attended a

“Dinner tasting the Pingyao”

or that the dinner only (or that you can ‘taste’ a city)

“features snacks”

or what it must have felt like (or how a main course of granola bars looks)

“swim two hundred years ago, Wall Street”

or how that fish swam towards the (have you met my friend, Wall Street)

“– the Ming and Qing Dynasties ancient street.”

I am sure that a snack at dinner sounds a little too light, but if I was a hobbit?Needing 14 meals a day, I might enjoy both the main course and a snack at dinner. Never forget your audience, no matter their stature.

I am sure that I would love to travel back in time just to swim, but I suffer a unique and chronic water addiction.

I’m not sure I’d like to swim on Wall Street, but I am sure there used to be a Wall there and I’m pretty sure it used to keep the flood of English colonial rats away from the civilization of New Amsterdam several hundred years ago–a drop in the bucket as far as the Chinese are concerned. But I thought Wall Street was only New York City?

For certain, language is a changing, amoebic thing. We, as a specie would do well to remember this an asset. Instead of hanging on to old paradigms that call for order out of chaos (and yet still that pesky chaos rears its ugly head), we might want to observe and experience the world as is. Hanging prepositions and all.

The fish keep swimming all around us, despite our attempts at phylogeny. Will we keep trying to order them, or we will learn to swim?