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Target: Design for All

Target: Design for All

The latest edition of Communication Arts (offline only) lays out pretty thoroughly the how’s and why’s of design and branding over at everyone’s favorite retail store, Target. It’s clear that the company conciously chose to rise above the fold by speaking clearly and consistently about design. Just take a look at the thought that went into their prescription bottles. Their television spots also uniformly show a deep understanding of co-branding like no one else on the planet. It’s as if their intimate knowledge of the products they sell make you want to experience them the same way on your own.

No doubt, there’s a ton of stuff any designer, or any company wanting to communicate with design for that matter, could learn from the red and white people over in Minneapolis. They are making waves in the design world by demonstrating how good design creates a good customer experience, not to mention good revenue, in a creative class economy.

Some of my favorite quotes from the article include:

- If Target is a good experience for shoppers, it’s even better for designers: for the 300 employees who work in the advertising department and on the design of store-branded and co-branded merchandise, and for the 40 or so design firms and agencies that work with Target.

- Design for All means that the kind of stuff that was once exclusive in the purview of the rich and design-educated is now available to ordinary folk who aren’t yet patrons of the Museum of Modern Art or owners of a Case Study house.

- Design is part of Target’s DNA.

- The message is simple: With Target, my life will be easier, smarter, better. I can look fabulous, ahead of the curve, without spending a fortune. And maybe I should be organizing my closet. Maybe I should have a toothbrush with a better handle.

- Target’s approach is more European. Americans rarely get to experience good design at low price points, [...] but now they are ready for it.

- They really think about design as a verb.

- We did a style guide used by 60 manufacturers around the world. There were 50 different patterns, a color palette, templates for labels and packaging. It was beyond design. It was mission control.


Cindy as a Shahn-esca

Cindy as a Shahn-esca

I started this just wanting to see what the Bensfolk Font looked like in the context of a Ben Shahn protest piece. Then I wanted to see if I could reproduce some of his famous line work in Photoshop using a Wacom Tablet. Appropriating a timely image and a quote from Cindy Sheehan, the entire concept is a shameless lift of Ben’s famous Sacco and Vanzetti poster.

Really, it’s nothing but an unimaginative study, and while I can’t claim to be that impressed with my own results, I do want to leave it here to ponder another thought. Ben’s true talent as an artist was his ability to connect to the common man. He was primitive and direct, and sometimes (as the name of the font suggests) was considered “folk” in his style, which is probably the reason his message largely hit home. In his day, he was one of the most popular and well-known names in modern art.

I have to wonder, though, where all that went in visual communication. There seems to be nothing today that tries to connect to the populous the way Shahn or any of his contemporaries did with Social Realism (not be mistaken for Socialist Realism). If anything, the populous itself is nothing but a target for division these days. And as it always has, the dominant elitist attitude towards art and culture does nothing but further that division.

So, at least in my mind, there does seem to be a great need for a style that encourages some kind of unifying energy.

Why? Because without such a visual vocabulary, so to speak, the “common” world-view is too easily dismissed. Michael Moore can make all the brilliant polemics he wants and inspire scads of other documentarians into doing the same, but the full message won’t stick without a true movement supporting it. There needs to be something else, something beyond a look-I-told-you-so message—something to lift the essence up and keep it pertinent over time. Such a movement could connect the tiny little dots into a lasting impression and burn like tiny embers in our collective psyche.


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A Bigger Geek Than Me

As if I needed to prove that I’m willing to bite the hand that feeds me, or at the very least deliver small jabs at his apparently vulnerable geeky side, I’d just like to point out that PennLive’s Dillsburg Journal is blogged by none other then my real life boss. I learned this little tidbit recently, along with the discovery of the fact that my four month old has kept me far and away from my usual blogging routine—writing this blog, reading other blogs, and attending Harrisburg Blogger Meetups.

That’s not the greatest insult to my ego I can think of right now. Blogging was never really a top priority for me, even when I was doing it before they found a name for it. (No damnit, really, I was!! And I was listening to Green Day before they were popular too!).

I’ve just come to accept that I have a higher purpose than ranting about, well… anything. While not goodbye, or in any way a cut to the fine people who continue to uphold the fine tradition of blogging (yes, after like 5 years or so, it can be safely called a tradition), I may be trying to lower your future expectation here.

But back to my boss. In addition to being the “Baddist Bassist in Amish Country” (a statement one can only assume is entirely accurate, but perhaps a Jack Black style “bass off” is in order) he also claims to be the inventor of the word “retrosexual” which is a not so indirect way of saying that certain people point backwards in time when it comes to their attitude towards sex. At least, I think that’s what it’s supposed to mean.

I don’t know. Maybe I’ll ask him at work tomorrow. That is, if he doesn’t fire me for trying to steal his thunder first.


Hitchens 360°

Just a small follow up on my last Christopher Hitchens post. Somehow I knew once I posted about him, I’d find it hard to stop. This interview on Bush’s response to Hurricane Katrina is significant because it might be the start of his rhetorical ambandon ship, or as close to one as he’ll ever get.

But just to make sure that it’s really him speaking, he’s still using that looking-down-at-you elitist tone.

TONY JONES: Pitch ahead for us, if you can. What lasting effect do you think this will have on the Bush presidency?

CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS: Well, in terms of political psyche, shall we say, it’s good for the Democrats in about five different ways. One, it reminds people of the existence of the underclass, which tends to be downplayed, shall we say, by the Republican Party. Second it reminds people of the importance of government spending and government services, again, I think the same intuitive or subliminal point applies. Third it makes it at a populous level anyway harder to make a solid case for Iraq, though it doesn’t really alter the case about whether you think the war is a just or necessary one. And then fourthly, it reflects very badly on the personality of the President himself. So this is not, I think, a transient story. This is not something that is going to be confined to the Weather Channel, shall we say. I think it will be remembered as a hinge event in the second term.

TONY JONES: If it is a hinge event, is there any way he can use it to his advantage, as he ultimately did after a very shaky start immediately after September 11?

CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS: Well, no, I think people forgave him for blundering around on that day, and not quite knowing what to do and making what must have been one of the worst speeches ever given by any politician. That could, as it were, be forgiven because everyone felt I’m sure, my God, how would I have held up on a day like that? This is worse because, a) it could be seen coming and b), I might just add, by the way, I mean, these States that have been devastated, Louisiana and Mississippi and Somerset and Alabama, they’re all in the Republican column. The President is supposed to care about and nurturing the South, so is Karl Rove. What were they thinking? What were they thinking? I have no answer to that question that doesn’t come up with a revelation of the most, really, catastrophic incompetence and insouciance.


Facing Down Incompetence

General Anthony Zinni may have said it best.

In the lead up to the Iraq war and its later conduct, I saw at a minimum, true dereliction, negligence and irresponsibility, at worse, lying, incompetence and corruption.

Just replace Iraq with Hurricane Katrina response and it still holds true.

Those complacent with the most responsible powers, who wish to turn our heads away and plug our ears from the blatant incompetence of the current administration, both at home and abroad, might do well to remember this. Their rationale, that it’s always somebody else’s fault, only highlights an ugliness which will sadly never go away—no matter how many lives are disintegrated and lost in the aftermath.

After four long years, their tactics have become old hat. Blame anyone, even the victims, and distract using any trivial piece of information available. It doesn’t matter how weak or irrelevant the point is either, or if it’s even true, just sandbag the argument with distractions and hope that reality becomes diluted. But the inescapable truth this time around is that our government has never been more inept at doing its job. And it’s never been more costly a mistake. To point this out on the four year anniversary of 9/11 should only demonstrate the immediacy needed to ask a simple question: Have we learned nothing?

We, the people, need to face down and deal with incompetence in our government where it stands. U.S. citizens and journalists alike have seen first hand the way the administration sells contradictory talking points to the media in an effort to literally block out reality in a disgusting act of cynicism.

We have to demand better.

I will continue to ignore what I consider to be Dennis Miller’s snide and ultimately losing view of the world. It’s never been valid. The time for questions and answers couldn’t come soon enough.

And somewhere in the wake, between hell and reality, humanity has to get back on its feet.


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