This is Alex.
Alex is a part of the design community at Sametz Blackstone Associates — and a very talented one, at that.
He is smiling in this photo because he is getting married in two days! He and his bride, Carly, are hoping that the (currently 30%) chance of precipitation on Sunday doesn’t dampen their big event.
But rain or shine, we think this is something to get excited about.
That’s why we surprised Alex with a little party first thing Wednesday morning, right in the middle of the design community’s weekly meeting. I brought my iPhone along to snap some pictures, and quickly noticed a theme emerging in the festivities:
This shindig was all about design.
Now, not everyone here at Sametz Blackstone works as a designer. Not even close! We have strategists and web developers and production specialists and project managers and finance directors and marketers and writers, too.
But as a group, we’re somewhat known for liking things to be just so… if by “just so,” you mean “exceptionally well-designed.”
The first “element” of note was the cupcakes:
Not just ANY cupcakes, mind you, but the vibrant and delicious creations of Party Favors in Brookline, handpicked for their complementary color range by Michael, our esteemed Director of Production… who has more attention to detail than a microscope.
And, since the cupcakes had pink and tangerine-colored flowers on top, it only made sense that any drinks we served would need to fit the theme, too:
Floral logo? Check. Complementary color / flavor picks? Check.
But the truest indication that a design-savvy group was celebrating was found in Alex’s card (which he is holding in the photo at the top), created by our own very talented Director of Design, Joerg.
You can see the card’s front image displayed on the screen in our conference room, the Claremont, below:
The lovely reddish birds went beautifully with everything else in the room (including the ubiquitous Sametz red square), but that wasn’t why the image was such a perfect fit for Alex.
Do you recognize something special about this particular cover (found on Alex’s site)?
Clearly it was Joerg’s source of inspiration — and Alex couldn’t have been more delighted.
But that’s what happens when design geeks celebrate: life gets a little more beautiful.
And so, from our entire community to Alex and Carly: HUGE congratulations on your (rapidly approaching) marriage! May life bring you all the beauty your eyes and heart can handle, and many more years as two love birds.
I’d heard of “philately” (the hobby of collecting stamps) and “philematology” (the science of kissing), but I just ran across these lovely examples of Czechoslovakian uncut matchbox labels and in turn learned a new word: “phillumeny,” the hobby of collecting match-related items. The word phillumeny isn’t found on merriam-webster.com, but phillumenist is: phil- + Latin lumen light. So, a love of light.
Like stamps, matchbox covers are appealing for their diminutiveness and creative license (though I’m disappointed at the USPS offerings right now). But there is something else special about them: in collecting them, one is collecting memories of a place, a time, a mood. So taking the time to design them is a worthwhile endeavor.
Postage stamps may be a dying art, but I hope the matchbox/matchbook will be long-lived—and with as much attention given to design as in these early examples.
What are we, after all, without fire? (Or great design?)
One of the biggest challenges causes and nonprofits face is creating programs and initiatives that resonate with the people they’re trying to reach—especially given the hugely competitive landscape they’re facing today. There are countless charity walks and rubber bracelet offers and “drives” happening every month of the year, and it’s easy to lose track of the things you genuinely want to contribute to, no matter how valuable each cause might be. And they are valuable.
That’s why we get excited when we see an organization doing something new — something that speaks in a unique way both about those they’re supporting, and to the people whose support they’re seeking.
And as a designer, I’ve found a project that definitely speaks to me.
Yesterday, Design Ignites Change, a collaboration between the Adobe Foundation and Worldstudio, launched an initiative to help support its efforts in encouraging students to use design thinking to help solve existing challenges in their communities.
The books went on sale yesterday with a special storefront on Felt & Wire Shop. The proceeds—100%, in fact, which is cause enough to celebrate!—will be used to support the School: by Design youth mentoring program.
Picking one for myself is going to be too hard; I might need three (or seven). But it’s nice to know that indulging in one of my loves—great design—will help foster a similar passion in someone else.
The release of a new iTunes icon last Thursday has had the Interwebs a-buzz. From twitter profiles to its very own Facebook page, from articles on Forbes.com to Job’s reaction to the buzz posted almost everywhere, this little icon has a world of users… well, unsatisfied.
The ruffled feathers over this redesign—possibly as fraught with disappointment in the digital sphere as the Tropicana brand disaster of 2008 (okay maybe not soo boisterous!)—seems to us a bit over the top.
I asked some (might I say, often opinionated!) colleagues what they had to say about the new mark. With respect to execution and style: a resounding “what’s the big deal?”
We all have aesthetic opinions (we started as a design firm, after all), but is there more to this topic than just jabs at bevels, gradients, and (overuse of) Photoshop?
Eric replied with this, “…if anything, there might be an interesting discussion based on the fact that the program is a lot more than a music player—it’s an opportunity for communication design (name + logo) to encapsulate and symbolize not only what it is now, but what it could be in the future….”
Says Roger: “The issue is not how you do the notes but whether the notes even make sense.” Roger added, “the mark could complement the program rather than illustrate it.”
Tamsen felt like it was a missed opportunity to take advantage of what iTunes has evolved into from its origins as a way to create and manage personal mp3 libraries: a program that, in many ways, has become a comprehensive facilitator of our listening / entertainment lives. In other words, she says, “Why not reflect what it is, rather than what it used to be?”
(And on that note: in addition to missing the boat on pushing it past a simple connection to music, Apple seems to have missed an opportunity to elevate the mark beyond its two-dimensional iconic form. Why not extend their HTML5 and CSS3 creativity to their thinking on icon design?)
Meg’s take: “I think the new icon reflects the reality that music comes to us in multiple forms nowadays—mp3s, CDs, the resurgence of vinyl, streaming programs, etc. All the old icon brought to mind was a CD or DVD—and I don’t own many of either anymore. I’d likely have chosen something more monochromatic, but it definitely stands out on my dock. Really, though, I don’t think anyone is going to not use iTunes because they don’t like the icon, and it’s not going to change anyone’s relationship with the brand.”
One of our developers, Matt, immediately saw the icon as “sticking out from the rest of the OSX default set. Unsure if this was a direct move to separate it away from the pack or to use the bolder blue to make it stand out and create more of a ‘home’ for users.” Otherwise he felt iTunes 10—like its player—is nice and smooth in visual execution.To Matt’s point, if Apple had a simple design refresh in mind, why not stick to a systematic approach and update the icon to sit happily among its OSX cousins?
So you can see, our reactions to Apple’s design choice is mostly rooted in its concept. We may not all like the way the icon looks, but does it matter? As Meg pointed out, none of us (and we might suggest, none of you) are going to stop using iTunes in protest over design decisions about its icon.
Perhaps Apple’s icon design woes are of its own making: We (the world—not just us here on Blackstone Square) have come to expect Apple to unleash technology and design that exceeds our expectations, often wildly. So an unremarkable design? Pretty remarkable.
What do you think?
It was an innocuous tweet, the ultimate example of what Twitter non-believers decry:
I didn’t think much about it, though a few other evening tweeters chimed in with their love of Nutella. But the next morning, I got this:
I checked the Pretzel Crisp profile to see if they were legit, and then figured, What the heck? So I sent off the address of our office brownstone, and true to the Pretzel’s word:
Yep, three bags of Pretzel Crisps (Classic, Supreme, and Cinnamon Toast), a Pretzel Crisp tote, t-shirt, and coupon… and a jar of Nutella.
While Pretzel Crisps are based out of New Jersey, they have a Boston-based marketing rep who clearly keeps her eyes peeled for snack-related tweets. Sustainable as a marketing strategy? Probably not. But remarkable? Absolutely. (I’m writing this post about it, aren’t I?)
Think about it: they essentially made a promise, and were willing to put themselves out (literally) to back it up. They found me on Twitter, so the probability of my making my reaction public, positive or negative, was high. But they reached out, and (again, literally) delivered. How many companies or organizations can and do the same?
The proof will be, of course, in whether or not I think of — and buy — Pretzel Crisps the next time I’m looking to restock the snack bin at my house. But it’s likely: my toddler son loves cinnamon toast (and pretzels!), and I have to agree… they taste GREAT with Nutella.
Categories: Outside the Square
For the third year in a row, I’ve been volunteering with a few stellar folks to help make the annual Human Rights Campaign golf tournament a success. The HRC is civil rights organization that works to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. Our New England chapter puts together an annual gala and golf tournament to raise money and promote these values.
Though I play only a small part in getting this project together, I’m proud of the design materials that have come out of this collaboration. (Of course, it helps that I’m spoiled by my peers — volunteering is always so much more rewarding when you are eager to please your colleagues!)
This year we decided to refresh the design approach and update our tournament lockup. We achieved texture with the use of turf in our original designs, so I knew I wanted to keep this moving forward.
For the updated invite I created a layered pattern, with a little help from Photoshop, to emulate the craters of the ball. I knew what I wanted: saturated color, overexposed light but no loss in contrast, and slightly yellow to suggest a little vintage. (Did it work? You be the judge.) Hopefully this got me something a little unexpected.
The display typeface on the ’08 – ’09 designs felt harsh with this imagery adjustment, so instead I chose Avenir — a clean, soft, round face — something that paired well with the circular pattern. The 2010 lockup has a smooth round “swoosh” with a double line for movement expression, while its two-year-old sibling needed only one strong line to suggest the ball’s path. You can see the updates in the images here.