Final Journal Entry

The Decoder Ring:

About: Each project Decoder tackles, large or small, is crafted carefully by hand and treated as their definitive creative effort. The result is communication that not only creates culture, but affects the bottom line. The list of folks who have benefited from that shot in the arm includes Leo Burnett Worldwide, Levis Jeans, Toyota Yaris, HBO, Sony BMG & Epic Records, The New York Times, South By Southwest, Modest Mouse, Dave Matthews Band, Erykah Badu and Wilco.

Why I Chose It: The Decoder Ring is responsible for the branding and advertising of a lot of my favorite artists, including The Hold Steady, Modest Mouse, and Built To Spill. They are also located in Austin, TX, my favorite city and future-dream-place-to-live. Their work is very simple, understated, with a hand-crafted look, and uses a lot of texturing and effects to give it a vintage feel, an aesthetic I’d like to employ in future projects.

Moxie Sozo:

About: A brand is many things. It is a living, growing, evolving organism that has personality, values and a unique identity. It is also the collective experience of consumers in relationship to your company. Strong brands are cultivated slowly and with care. Brand development is more than just a logo or a tagline: it is the consistent, impactful use of many elements working in unison to distinguish your company from the competition. Whether developing a name, website, packaging or an advertising campaign, Moxie Sozo has helped build highly distinctive and memorable brands.

Why I Chose It: Moxie Sozo’s work employs a lot of meticulous illustration details and collages that fit together to make these lavish, flowing, organic looking designs. Since I like to do a lot of meticulous, intricate illustrations myself, Moxie Sozo is one of many companies I would like to work for some day.


About: In a crowded marketplace, people gravitate emotionally toward companies and products that project a distinctive style… We constantly look for new ways to move our clients forward by applying design to identify and strengthen their niche and unique personality.

Why I Chose It: I think Turnstyle’s mission statement puts, very succinctly, what the goal of all branding design firms should be: Distinguishing a product in a heavily crowded market by selling the product’s unique personality as its strongest suit.


Journal Entry #6

Dansu: Kiss

This ad for Dansu production design draws on humor, depicting Stalin and Churchill, two opposed world leaders representing vastly different ideologies, kissing. The copy says “capitalist quality meets communist price,” explaining the depiction of the unlikely romance in an intellectually satisfying humorous way.

DLKWlowe: Smoke

This ad encourages people with elderly and forgetful relatives to seek counseling on dementia by playing on fear and familial concern. It implies that forgetting a person’s name can be a slippery slope towards burning the house down, and shows an elderly man looking like he’s trying to remember something super-imposed over a smokey frying pan that’s been left on.

Staff: Rainforest Protection

This ad plays on fear and concern for our own livelihood by insinuating that the more resources (in this case rainforest trees) we consume, the more advanced our civilization becomes, but the closer we get towards wiping ourselves out (the tree falling and crushing civilization being the metaphor for that).

Journal #5

  1. I’ve learned that the marketing industry is becoming both more desperate AND more laser-like in their targeting as technology improves.
  2. I’ve learned that I find people in the marketing industry insufferable and conniving (though I’d never tell them that to their face).
  3. Personally, I don’t watch Television content with advertisements. Also, not having a lot of disposable income means a lot of advertisements outside of food and drinks don’t really apply to me. Posters for clothes and food and drinks don’t bother me so much since the product is in close proximity and conveniently fits with my plans. I’ve never made plans though to go out of my way for a chain restaurant. If one’s in close proximity, though, I don’t mind it.
  4. I think as technology and information access improves, the fact that people are becoming more self-aware and conscious of  the advertising industry sort of cancels out the effect of an increase in advertising.
  5. I can’t say there are any particular brands I “Love,” since that sounds stupid. There are some stores local to me that I’m fond of, though.
  6. Maybe they’re uneducated about the effects and industry of advertising, or they’re ignorant as consumers. You can’t really fault anyone for that, though. Why would you go seeking that information if you don’t know it exists?

Journal #4

Designer Spotlight: Turnstyle 

Turnstyle is a Seattle-based design start-up that produces work for minimalist advertising and branding campaigns. Their mission statement neatly summarizes their unique approach to branding:

In a crowded marketplace, people gravitate emotionally toward companies and products that project a distinctive style… We constantly look for new ways to move our clients forward by applying design to identify and strengthen their niche and unique personality.

While most of the bigger corporations like to play it safe when it comes to branding, using a lot of copy-cat homogenized design, the designers at Turnstyle realize uniqueness and distinct personality are ways unknown brands can stand out and make a name for themselves. Their minimalist branding design of ____soda makes it pop out among less distinctive brands, giving it a personality people feel they can connect with.

Even their minimalist design for a Haiti relief fund poster puts a more present, distinct face on charity, which is often treated with a cliched sanctimoniousness that can be an emotional turn-off for many.

Designer Spotlight: Benjamin Dooling

Benjamin Dooling is a packaging designer that tends towards an understated connection between physical design and visual design. Rather than creating simply a visual concept, Dooling considers how visual concepts interact with handling a physical product in a satisfying way.

As the above examples indicate, Dooling considers packaging design beyond just the content of a label and looks instead at how the visual design interacts with the physical space of the package.







Journal Entry #3

Sucker for Socker by Zoran Lucic:

This poster from Zoran Lucic’s “Sucker for Soccer” series makes good use of proportion in its design in order to be both visually pleasing and to draw our eye downwards from the “Denis Law” title to the illustrated figure. The typography creates a flagpole effect that fluidly divides the page into thirds and draws our eye to the left by putting the majority of the content on the lefthand side of the flagpole:

The poster design also loosely follows the Fibonacci sequence of proportion, making a nice visual hierarchy that starts with the typography and ends with the illustration:

“Spider & I” Film Poster:

This poster for the “Spider & I” film sequence (whatever that is) found on Julian Montague’s blog creates an unexpected visual hierarchy that draws one’s eye not to the film title, but to to the man’s face in the top left photo on the poster. The poster is arranged by a strict grid dividing the page into thirds vertically and halves horizontally:

Furthermore, the majority of the photos featured on the poster are rigidly symmetrical in their composition:

This allows the asymmetrical Fibonacci-inspired composition of the top left photo to dominate the poster’s arrangement, creating a striking contrast in visual proportion that draws one straight to the man’s eye featured in the photo:

It is in this way that the poster visually prioritizes the promise of drama offered in this photo over all else, including the film title, which takes second stage through dark color choice that does little to stand out against the poster’s black background.

Journal Entry #2

Nicholas Blechman is an Editor and Designer for the indie publication Nozone, as well as Art Director for the New York Times OpEd Page. His interview in Becoming A Graphic Designer is particularly useful to me as I’m entering my studies of Graphic Design as a self-proclaimed illustrator and cartoonist (my webcomic, “The Youth,” can be seen here). In the interview he describes illustration as a component of editorial design, existing “in the context of a magazine, a layout, or a book,” and always being “at the mercy of designers and art directors.” In so many words, he describes illustration as constantly being in dialogue with editorial design, that “the most successful illustrators have a design sensibility,” which helps said illustrators to “package their work for art directors and be attractive to designers. Some illustrators even solve design problems using illustration (hand-lettering, using patterns, icon systems, and other graphic devices.)” Indeed, many of Blechman’s illustrations themselves are designed as incomplete editorial components, clearly intended to be used as supplements to larger editorial designs. Rather than trying to be center-stage to an editorial statement, his illustrations are understated and complimentary, which is undoubtedly an alluring distinction to editorial designers and art directors. Even for the two Nozone covers featured on Blechman’s site, where the illustrations are more central to the design, said illustrations exist as compliments to the magazine covers’ titles. In both designs, the illustration could not exist and make sense without the title, and likewise the title would not have the same impact without the illustration. Blechman’s interview, and the designs featured on his site, have taught me that all aspects of editorial design, including illustration, must exist together in a concurrent, symbiotic dialogue with one another. As such, I’ve gleamed that it is important for illustrators to remember that their work must exist as a compliment to the editorial design within which it is to exist in order to be attractive and useful to Designers and Art Directors.

Journal Entry #1

Right Brain Design Examples:

Page from IDN Magazine

This is the first page of an article in IDN magazine that discusses the benefits of accidents in design done on computers and electronic devices. It purposely eschews a traditional magazine page layout in order to communicate the visual concept of chaotic design and manipulates readers into playing detective, piecing blocks of disjointed and non-uniform text into a logical argument in their own heads. The layout exists as an argument against the necessity of a grid-like structure in digital design, suggesting that noisier, more chaotic design can be rewarding to readers in a way that standard design can not.

"Rocky" movie poster by Olly Moss

This “Rocky” movie poster communicates a very strong, instantly recognizable visual idea for the film. It shows both the title character’s trial and triumph in running up the steps to the Philadelphia Museum of Art in very blunt, simple, non-verbal symbols. It immediately evokes an iconic moment in the film and the feelings that go with it without explicitly stating anything beyond the film’s title.

Left Brain Design Examples:

"The Little Drummer Girl" Book Cover by Matt Taylor

This book cover plays with a semi-rigid grid structure that, while highly organized, is dis-organized by the figure in the empty chairs slightly enough so as to be visually enticing. The illustration is much less abstract than the “Rocky” poster above, creating a visually logical and explicit depiction of a scene from the book (even though there isn’t any text explicitly stating “this is a man in an empty theater with flowers,” there can be little argument that that is what’s being depicted).

"Tinker-Taylor" movie poster by Matt Needle

A very logically organized visual and verbal definition of the words making up the film’s title. The hyper-rigid and explicit organization of the poster’s elements becomes quite intriguing when you realize that the poster offers no clues as to how these disparate identities might combine into a single person, suggesting that the main character in the film might be greater (more complex) than the sum of his parts. Though this piece uses the structure of a Left-brained design, it evokes a Right-brained idea in what it leaves out.