Thursday, February 23, 2012

Downton Abbey Paper Dolls from Vulture

Dang, I wish I had thought of this. Of course, I've only managed to see the first episode from Season One, but these are hilarious!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Lugete, O Veneres . . . Catullus Postcard No. 2

On a day already populated by so many “Venuses and Cupids”, it seems fitting to unveil this self-promotional postcard design, the second of a series of such inspired by the work of the classical Latin poet Catullus. (More background on both the project and on Catullus can be found here.)

This poem is a classic example of melodrama, though without any real hint of sarcasm: Catullus manages to convey genuine sympathy for the loss of the sparrow and the distress that it causes for his lady love, while at the same time, the reader can detect at least a faint curl of the lip and a wink of the eye that would seem to say: “Oh come on, already! Seriously?!”

For those familiar with the Scottish poet Robert Burns, Catullus has frequently been compared with him. The works of both, though nearly two millennia apart, display a correspondingly gentle (though playful) sensitivity, combined with a devotion to the quaint colloquialisms of everyday speech and conversation that the average person in their respective cultures could readily identify with. (This poem, by Burns, serves as a fine parallel example.)

Below is the full text of Catullus’ poem in Latin, followed by an English rendering in the style of Robert Burns by G. S. Davies, taken from A First Book of Latin Poetry (which is a really delightful volume, if you can manage to get your hands on a used copy).

Lugete, O Veneres Cupidinesque,

Et quantum est hominum venustiorum:

Passer mortuus est meae puellae,

Passer, deliciae meae puellae,

Quem plus illa oculis suis amabat.

Nam mellitus erat suamque norat

Ipsam tam bene quam puella matrem,

Nec sese a gremio illius movebat,

Sed circumsiliens modo huc modo illuc

Ad solam dominam usque pipiabat.

Qui nunc it per iter tenebricosum

Illuc, unde negant redire quemquam.

At vobis male sit, male tenebrae

Orci, quae omnia bella devoratis:

Tam bellum mihi passerem abstulistis

O factum male! O miselle passer!

Tua nunc opera meae puellae

Flendo turgiduli rubent ocelli.

Weep, weep, ye Loves and Cupids all,
And ilka Man o’decent feelin’:
My lassie’s lost her wee, wee bird,
And that’s a loss, ye’ll ken, past healin’.

The lassie lo’ed him like her een:
The darling wee thing lo’ed the ither,
And knew and nestled in her breast,
As ony bairnie to her mither.

Her bosom was his dear, dear haunt—
So dear, he cared na lang to leave it;
He’d nae but gang his ain sma’ jaunt,
And flutter piping back bereavit.

The wee thing’s gane the shadowy road
That’s never travelled back ony:
Out on ye, Shades! ye’re greedy aye
To grab at aught that’s brave and bonny.

Puir, foolish, fondling, bonnie bird,
Ye little ken what wark ye’re leavin’:
Ye’ve gar’d my lassie’s een grown red,
Those bonnie een grow red wi’ grievin’.

Monday, February 6, 2012

The New JCPenney Catalogs Are Here!!!

When I was growing up, JCPenney was the go-to retailer of my dear grandmother. The arrival of their tome-like seasonal catalogs tended to get her rather, shall we say, worked up. And the Christmas catalog—well, its appearance always caused a stir amongst the entire household, especially the younger members, as we pored over its pages, each individual dog-earing, initialing, and notating items of particular interest, confidently hoping to stake out our claim on a small-but-generous share of the unfathomable bounty displayed therein.

But alas, that was decades ago. Never in a zillion years would I have expected to be even mildly excited again about a JCPenny catalog. But when I saw the newly redesigned look sported by their February “book” on my parents’ coffee table this weekend, it was the Death Star, and I was the Millennium Falcon.

While not quite the debacle that Gap hurled itself into back in 2010, when they made an abortive attempt at re-branding via a logo redesign that relied heavily on crowdsourcing, JCP drew corresponding ire from the design community last year for using similar methods which yielded, if not quite so ghastly, undeniably mediocre results. But rather than slinking off, tail between legs, back to the familiar same-old-same-old (as its aforementioned competitor has done, for the most part) JCP clearly managed to regroup and press forward (not backward) with much better results, no doubt owing to much sounder methods (i.e. hiring some real designers to tackle the problem with proven craftsmanship).

The new logo is certainly very smartly iconic: the company’s initials, placed within an arrangement of red, (white), and blue squares, which unmistakably but not too heavy handedly evokes the U.S. flag. That’s clever enough, but what really impresses me is the comprehensive re-brand considered as a total package. Of course, the classic motif of the logo-derived square weaves itself into the overall design readily enough. But beyond that, I really enjoy the way this design pulls off the clean, uncluttered, sans-serif-dominated look without the cold, uninviting, and antiseptic blah! that contemporary devotion to that particular canon so often engenders. The strategic interspersing of ample white space with splashes of bright color, the inventive but radically economical use of a single typeface (Gotham!) in contrasting weights and sizes, and the thoughtfully balanced implementation of models, clipped-out objects, and product beauty shots, all combine to create an atmosphere that is both sharply clean and warmly inviting, reassuring in its lack of complexity and yet alluringly playful. And there’s just the right amount of friskiness, where it seems called for, without the crass, voyeuristic enticements that other major brands have aspired (or rather, de-spired) to.

A comparison of the print catalog and the website leads me to believe that the former was definitely driving the latter and received more attention. That’s not just a print vs. web sideswipe (though I am admittedly somewhat biased): I think the translation onto the web could have been better (rather too much white, and rather too caged-in, it seems to me), and there’s no reason why it couldn’t have worked in the other direction with equal success. We’ll see, maybe that angle will improve.

Apparently we don’t yet know who to credit for this handsome effort, but one thing is clear: as some companies continue to experiment with the notion of placing their brand’s direction in the hands of technology-spawned fads such as crowdsourcing and other on-the-cheap gimmicks, the results produced by an individual designer, or team of individual designers, with eyes trained carefully on the bigger picture as well as the details, continues to stand out, even amidst a consumer culture that all too often seems to have lost whatever ability it may have once had to distinguish between a thoughtfully executed master design and a hacked-up mish-mash. And they always will.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Is That Really Reggie Jackson?!

I was thumbing through an old (August, 2010) issue of Print today, looking for inspiration on a project, and ran across this short but laugh-out-loud hilarious article on the history of baseball card design, from the adept pen of Drew Dernavich, who also posted a follow-up here. Take a laugh break from whatever you're doing and enjoy.