Friday, January 30, 2015

Art Imitates Life

Here's another new logo for you: Sonos.

I was scrolling past this image when I realized that there's something really special about it. It vibrates as you scroll up and down over it! Debatedly, it's supposed to act like pulsating sound waves of a speaker, but I'd argue that it works even if you don't know what Sonos is. You may know that Sonos makes high-end speaker systems, or you may love the aesthetic of the brand enough to find out what Sonos is. Goal achieved, either way.

The effect reminds me of a moire pattern, which happens when the image is so detailed that pixels on your screen interfere with it. The lines begin to vibrate because they are being rounded up or down to the nearest pixel every time the screen changes. I actually attempted something similar in a project of my own.

The ideation behind the vibration lines is – you may have guessed – amplification. Of course this relates to the sound that the speakers produce, but it also points toward Sonos as becoming an umbrella to all cloud music services, such as Spotify and Pandora. You can read more about that here.

I suppose there is an argument for the fact that this only works on screen, but that seems to be the way the advertising world is going. So why not make use of an interesting effect that wouldn't work as well with print? The brand is still very beautiful even without this. Not to mention the other aspects of Sonos' new brand.

For a company that produces products in solely black and while, they sure have a lot of colour in they brand. Not that that's a bad thing, it's actually quite smart. The brand has become iconic enough that colour, arguably the most recognized design component, is no longer necessary. Now that is a strong branding scheme. And don't think I've forgotten about the beautiful symmetry that is the palindrome of the word. It's spelled the same backwards and forwards, allowing for fun repetitions of the word such as the one above.

I am all for the use of thought-out design rationales and hidden double meanings that will become more prominent in future as a brand continues to reinvent itself. Flexible branding for a changing world is always a great asset to have.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Weekly Update - User Experience All Around Us

Music: LCD Soundsystem
This is no new information, but James Murphy is basically a one-man band with a lot of dancey tunes. Yes, his record label DFA records did force Death From Above to add the 1979 to their name, but I still love his music. And today, I listened to every song I have by him. That's the thing with LCD, once you get started, it's hard to stop. Before you get too excited, though, you should know that James has hung up his LCD hat in favour of the occasional DJ set. He's 44, after all. Man's gotta get some sleep.

Check out this little diddy.

Accomplishment: Favourite Things website
Note that I did not include a link. Yes, it is up. No, it is not responsive. I just needed to get it out as fast as I could, so the website will probably look wonky on most screens until I fix it up right. But you should know that my Favourite Things website has been coded and exists on the interwebs as we speak (read)! And just in time to start the D3.JS coding for realz. Wish me luck.

Goal: MADE Logo
My grad show is looming on the horizon and this week, I am going to make myself (at least two) MADE logos! See some of the great ones already made below. My ideas so far:

  • play-doh
  • something with processing
  • melty beads
  • sandwich (open face to show the delicious red meat)
  • chewing gum

Random thought: User Experience
It's not just for screens anymore. There are so many lessons in user experience that can be used throughout the facets of life. My mother was telling me about an experience she had at a restaurant. Her breakfast tasted delicious - but it was all piled on a sourdough bun that was hard as a rock. She couldn't cut into it with her butter knife, or probably even a steak knife. Chefs can create taste combinations that come together to make something delicious in your mouth, but if a strange texture gets in the way of that, it's not a very good experience, is it? When the waiter came over to ask how my mother's meal was, she admitted that she had had some trouble eating the food. The waiter seemed a little surprised, but thanked her for the feedback. I wonder if she will use that information to improve the dish. I also found the following image which explains the same point through the magical form of photography.

Inspiration: Come Up To My Room
I had the chance to join a program-wide Gallery Crawl down Queen Street on Saturday in conjunction with the Toronto Design Offsite Festival. Amongst all the hidden window displays and art galleries, the definite highlight of the crawl was Gladstone Hotel's annual Come Up To My Room 'Alternative Design Event". Basically, a bunch of hotel rooms are remodelled to become fantastical art installations, along with hidden treasures throughout the building. One of my favourites was an interactive laser harp that would change sound frequencies as the user blocked the light forms with their hands. Essentially, one could shape the sound of the harp through light beams. How futuristic! Not to mention the smorgasbord of beautiful art and design that was mine to view for a small five dollar entry fee.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Bulk Barn Rebrand

It's no secret that I love Bulk Barn. It's honestly my home away from home. Anyone who knows me knows that my favourite things in the world are snacks. That perfect mixture of sweet, sour, salty, creamy, Bulk Barn's got it all.

The only thing Bulk Barn doesn't have is a good branding scheme. Don't get me wrong, we all know that red and yellow is the perfect mix to make your tastebuds salivate (it's true, look it up - think McDonalds and Burger King), but sometimes your seasoned snacker (see what I did there) needs something a little nicer to look at as they scoop three pounds of peanut M&M's into a bag and wonder how they'll sneak it into the movie in half an hour.

Well, we don't need to worry about that atrocious red and yellow Helvetica any more kids, because Bulk Barn got a rebrand! And it's SUAVE. It's all black and white and there are candy icons and little funny quips and the cutest little mantra hidden throughout the store that looks like the picture below:

I'm sure you noticed the red and yellow peeking out from the top right corner of that picture. Hey, no body's perfect. But I do hope they rebrand all the stores soon! Okay, let's look at some more fun little things they do. Look at the bags!

All icon-y and stuff! I really liked the repetition on the roll of bags too, as you can see. Yep, you got your spices, soups, pretzels, gum balls, candy, cheese, tea, noodles, the list goes on. Perfection. And the icons don't stop at the bags, oh no they do not. Check THIS out:

In theme for Valentines Day! I am actually dying of design joy. Did you see how nicely typeset the bin labels are? Let's get a closer look at those.

Oh, what's that? Is it a little joke on the bin lid? YES IT IS. I have a lot more because I knew you would love them as much as me. Let's check them out.

Listen to the sign, it knows best. Okay, are you sold yet? Here, look at the soups. They're so organized!

And I'll leave you with a beautiful panorama. It's easy to love Bulk Barn! Though I should mention that it's only the location at Bloor and Bathurst for now. I hope they bring this to other stores. Although they just put a new one in near me and it's the boring old red and yellow still. I wonder if they think the world isn't ready for such wonderful design? Perhaps.

I apologize, dear reader, but I really can't seem to find the creator of this wonderful design phenomenon. I assume the information will be made more public as more stores begin to look like this one.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Weekly Update - Mikenesses

Music: Flying Lotus - You're Dead!
Flying Lotus is AMAZING. Lately, I have been trying to find intelligent music with a good beat and oh man, did I find it. Steven Ellison is his real name, and beautifully complex and thematic music is his game. He has five albums under the moniker of Flying Lotus or FlyLo as his fans like to call him, as well as some rap stuff that is equally good under the pseudonym Captain Murphy. I also found out that he does a lot of the bumper music for Cartoon Network's Adult Swim programming block! That's so cool.

Well, anyway, the album is about death and the cycle of life. Kind of morbid, but it's actually very beautiful and interesting. The songs range in emotion from happiness to sorrow to acceptance and more with help from Kendrick Lamar, Angel Deradoorian, and Snoop Dogg. There's some really cool jazz fusion mixed in with hip-hop and electronic elements. I really enjoy the mixture of analog and synthesized sounds. I heard that he also synthesizes all of drum beats, but offsets them by fractions of a second to make them sound human-made.

The album cover.

Check out the first single featuring Kendrick Lamar. Did I mention that the video is gut-wrenchingly wonderful?

Accomplishment: I finished the D3.JS book!
Yep, I finally finished the entirety of Interactive Data Visualization for the Web by Scott Murray. I am in no way an expert in D3 now, but I feel more confident in my abilities to actually make some web-based data visualizations now.

I'm going to start in on the code for my Favourite Things website this week, which will put me on the way to creating a finished piece for my thesis project. I've already created the wireframes and visual comps ahead of schedule (which is an accomplishment in itself), and it's time to get crackin'. I must admit that it's really nice to create a brand or aesthetic to a project before you dip into a website version. Having the assets in place before you code is a wonderful thing. You can probably connote that I don't normally work this way.

Random Thought: Music in movies
I've been watching some period movies lately and I've been noticing some interesting things about soundtracks. I can always appreciate a good selection of music that matches the age of the piece itself, but there's something really special about period pieces with modern music. Take Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette. That movie visually screams 14th century France, but audially it's another story entirely. Siouxsie and The Banshees, Gang of Four, the list goes on. I found that the modern spin really helped the movie with its stark contrast. It framed the events of those times in a new light. Now, whether or not that movie was 100% accurate is another story entirely, but I suppose that's not the point of movies. Further, I remember when Mad Men was in its infancy and there was a big kerfuffle over an episode where a song was used that had been written four or five years after the episode took place. Guys, cool your jets. It's fine.

Inspiration: Mikenesses
Mike Holmes, a Toronto-based illustrator, has created over a hundred drawings of himself and his cat through the styles of some beloved illustrators. It's crazy, if you are familiar with the work of the artist he is channelling, you can see it right away. This really makes for a versatile skillset, to be able to draw in so many different styles. It also shows follow-through. Imagine taking an hour out of ech day to draw something for no reason other than personal satisfaction. For over 50 days. Some of my favourites are below.

Steven Universe!

Hope Larson.

NES! I love gifs.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Little Baby's Ice Cream

I get the feeling that I missed out on some kind of social phenomenon. Have you ever heard of Little Baby's Ice Cream company? Seems normal enough, you may think it's a cutesy name for an ice cream company, right? Well, I did too.

Based in Philadelphia in 2011, three former musicians somehow decided to turn their main career focus into selling frozen treats off the back of a home-modded tricycle. Maybe a little abnormal, but not too crazy so far. After gaining some popularity, they were able to expand and build four more tricycles.

Then, in August of 2012, Little Baby's Ice Cream uploaded some very interesting promotional videos to coincide with the grand opening of their World Headquarters Shop in the East Kensington section of Philadelphia. That's when things began to get weird.

I think you can start to see my point now.

The above photo is a frame from one of the promotional videos. Look at those eyes! So intense! You can view the whole commercial here, or the other one here.

After this, the company took off. It's crazy what a bit of publicity in the right forum can do for your business. With the above video claiming over 8 million YouTube views to date, the tricycles became a staple at music festivals and large-scale events.

Unfortunately for me and anyone else who enjoys this walk-on-the-wild-side kind of marketing, their website is aesthetically unrelated to the commercials. It boasts exactly what you'd expect: pastel colours, bright patterns, cursive typography, the list goes on.

But it's not all bad news. Their flavours are RIDICULOUS. My favourites include sushi, pizza, cucumber dill, Irish potato and pumpkin curry. There are over forty crazy flavours, and then there's plain. It's literally the only 'normal' flavour.

On the bright side, there is a new commercial out (August 2014) that is just as crazy as the first two. At least they haven't forgotten their roots! Check it out here.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Washing Machine Blues

The knob on the washing machine broke today.

Well, it was the dryer, to be exact. We've lived in this house for fifteen years, and the washing machine/dryer set has lived with us for that entire time. They're hardworking appliances. That said, I can't see how four people could use a dryer so frequently in fifteen years (and gently, mind you) that the knob could break right off on a Sunday afternoon. We noticed that there is a crack in the connector between the knob and the port that holds it. My mother had the idea of switching it out with a knob beside it that we never use, so we took that one off. Lo and behold, that one had a crack as well! I think we've collectively turned this knob about five times in its entire life.

What's my point to this whole shenanigan, you may ask? Well, it's a little something called planned obsolescence. People make big purchases on washing machines and household appliances in the hopes that they will last a lifetime. Lately, it seems that these appliances are being made to break after ten or twenty years so that you are forced to buy a new one. How in the world could a knob that is barely touched in its fifteen year life, be beginning to break nearly as badly as a knob that is used almost every day?

Of course, with the introduction of 3D printers, we will soon be able to make replacement parts for our items when they break. Filament is pretty inexpensive, and there are even blueprints freely available online to make your own 3D printer with cheap parts from Home Depot. Or maybe you could borrow someone else's 3D printer to make the parts for your own! What an exciting time we live in now.

Of course, the only missing piece of the puzzle is the file that contains the specs of the knob, which would be fed into the 3D printer. There's no way that Frigidaire, the company who made the dryer, would release such *covert information* as the specs of a knob for their dryer so that people could replace a broken one at home. There's just too much money in the six dollar-knob market. Yep, my dad went to Reliable Parts to replace the knobs and they were six frickin' dollars each. Almost $7.50 with tax, all said and done. And what did the sign in the window say? "Buy only real Frigidaire parts here!" Now you know why Frigidaire will never release the files for their precious fragile knobs.

In the future, I would venture to guess that new appliance companies will appear on the market with 3D printer files as a selling point for their product. "Buy this dryer! If the knob breaks, here's the information to print a new one!" Not only does this save money, but it also saves resources. There is no longer any gap or overproduction between supply and demand. You can now supply your own demand, and nothing more.

Will this happen in the realm of my lifetime? Most decidedly. What about my parents' lifetime? For their sanity, I hope so.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Weekly Update - A Little Ambiguity

This week, we delve a little deeper into the cold weather and some ambiguous patterns.

Music: Classixx - Hanging Gardens
An oldie but a goodie. I had my iPhone on shuffle and a song from this album popped up. It wasn't one of the ones I had really loved the first time around, but I have to say that I can't stop listening to it now. It's weird how tastes can change so drastically in such a short span of time (about 6 months).

Listen to the song, Rhythm Santa Clara, below.

Not to mention, smooth dance music makes you move without your prior knowledge (or consent?) which will keep you warm through these days when the wind hurts your face. Which leads me into the next item on our dandy list:

This one's a bit crazy. I have been searching for a specific set of sold-out pyjamas for about three months. These winter months will make people go to great lengths to stay warm, and I knew in my heart of hearts that these pyjamas would be the answer to all of my cold-weather woes. Well, I found them and bought them and put them on and will not be taking them off until the thermometer hits plus ten. I must add that the extra-special accomplishment bonus was the fact that they were less than half-off. Thank you, overstock gods! Design-relatedly, who doesn't love a bit of Canadiana? I've got Mounties fever.

Yes, they have a trap door.
No, I will not be using it.

Goals: Learn D3JS
I'm going to take it upon myself to learn D3JS (a JavaScript library for making web-friendly interactive data visualizations). I am learning the basics in an upper-level course at the moment, but I would like to further these skills through a practical outlet. This tool, with a bit of JavaScript knowledge, will allow me to make work that can be easily seen and shared through any current web browser. After all, what's the point of making something beautiful, engaging and informative if no one can see it?

Random Thought: I was at an emo rock show the other night and noticed something peculiar. First of all, as soon as I walked in, the place was full, and full of people all dressed the same. Now, I don't know much about emo rock, but is there a dress code? And is it from 2005? It was a sea of black oversize hoodies, skinny jeans and beanies. A lot of them even bunched and the nape of the neck. You know what I mean. Anyway, I do have a point here. During one of the sets, there were three guys in front of me and all three of them had a different band (that I had never heard of, natch) on the back of their shirts in HUGE letters. You could read them from the back of the room. So I realized, this is probably a huge thought process for the shirt designer. These bands, with what I assume is a small budget for shirts, can't afford a big design on both sides so they choose the back as the focal point. I assume the wearers of these shirts go to a lot of shows, and it is customary to wear a band shirt (albeit under no circumstances should that shirt display the band playing the show, as we know). Therein, a lot of people will be staring at the backs of the people in front of them. People generally don't stand face-to-face that much, as they are looking forward at the stage. What a weird little thing to consider when making a band shirt.

Inspiration: Letters Become Patterns
I really love this little feed of beautiful patterns, made in risograph by Sigrid Calon, each one made only of a letter from the alphabet and up to four colours. The way all of them are layered and repeated gives them so much energy and life. It's really beautiful and shows that something wonderful can be made from almost anything. Something as simple as the letterforms we take for granted (like right now, as you read this blog post) can be used as tools for beautiful image-making. It's very interesting when the actual identity of the letter becomes unclear, as seen below.

I want to say...Z?

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper

I recently joined a Facebook group called "Weird Websites". It delivers exactly what it promises; websites that are definitely out-of-the-ordinary and sometimes nonsensical to the point of absurdity. But that's just the kind of thing I am into these days, it seems.

I found a website that would definitely belong in that group, and I am sharing this little gem with you as well. You may have heard of Animal Collective, a band from Baltimore that came together as naturally as the fresh snow and makes sounds as unnatural as pink grass. Anyway, one of the members, Panda Bear, has come out with a new album and the promotional website is just about as weird as his fans will expect.

Alright, go look at it. But come back! Please!


So, like what? That was crazy, right? You've got all these weird vignettes that seem endless and nonsensical, but they kind of fit together, and definitely follow Panda Bear's style of deranged yet somehow mystifying daydreams.

Although I'd have to say that my favourite part of the website is the fact that it is totally mobile-friendly. You just don't really find that in these weird websites. I mean, we only just started making responsive content for boring old normal websites, so I can't really expect much. Sometimes you get some of the same experience but not the full thing. But not here. I just wouldn't recommend trying to check it out on the bus. I've noticed a lot of bored commuters looking over my shoulder at my texts lately. Like, come on guys, I am not that interesting. Check your own texts.

I was so in love with this website that I actually went snooping around for the people behind its masterfuly wackiness. Those slightly insane identities are based in The Uprising Creative. According to their shiny new website:
We're a boutique creative agency with a few offices around the world. We're also a group of passionate thinkers, makers, & doers who are constantly discovering new ways to tell stories and come up with awe inspiring ideas. We concept, we design, we build, we produce, we create for brands and artists, and we're out of our minds. Create and Destroy. We can do anything.

You can see the appeal. I looked through their deck and they have some pretty cool projects. They made album brands for a lot of the bands I listen to, and they even make motion graphics for a lot of famous musicians.

I especially liked their work on Edward Sharpe's Big Top event. They branded the whole thing, plus all the digital initiatives and a beautiful website. So cool. It also looks like they have a really fun atmosphere in their workplace, which only makes sense when you look at their work. It's all a huge labour of love. Oh, to work here!

Monday, January 5, 2015

Weekly Update - The First!

In keeping with the start of the year, I thought I would start something new of my own. Each week, I am going to make a little check-in post about stuff that's happening on the creative side of life. Nothing too earth-shattering, just a little way to get back into blogging again! Alright, let's see how this goes.

Music: Miami Horror - Illumination
Sometimes you just need a little nu-disco-house in your life, right? This DJ duo from Australia brings the smooth vibes. I like to listen to something a little upbeat while I code, and this matched up with the sweet finish of my new website really well. I also loved their Mashed Mix for Ministry of Sound in 2009, so it would only fit that this album is just as delicious from a year later.

The video for my favourite song - Moon Theory

Accomplishment: New Website
What a segue! Well, yes. I have finally finished my website redesign. It took about a month (although we all know December is the busiest month of the year) and I am finally happy with everything. Although I worked on it so much that whenever I scroll my mouse down to my dock, I immediately click on the Sublime Text icon no matter what I was attempting to open. But that'll go away eventually...right?

Don't click it again!

Goals: Music Infographics
Among all the schoolwork that will be mounting up soon, I think I would do myself some good to leverage out the school stuff with some personal design work I've had on the backburner a while. And the projects are twofold! On the way:
  • An in-depth look at Daft Punk's Alive 2007
  • More flow chart than you ever thought you needed concerning the many side projects of the now-defunct band Wolf Parade
I truly can't say which will be harder to make, but so far it seems that Daft Punk is easy to research and challenging to visualize, while the many faces of Wolf Parade are exactly the opposite. Who knew four young dudes out of Montreal could make such a racket of beautiful noise?

Random Thought: Finder Working Modes
This will be hard to explain, but I'm gonna try, by glob! Imagine you're working on two different projects with files located in very different places in your Finder setup. You decide to switch gears from one to the other, and begin to open your files in Illustrator, Photoshop, upload them to Dropbox, whatever. The point is that you're using Finder. Unfortunately for you, all of the 'last visited places' in Finder for all of these programs are related to the project you were working on before, not the one you're working on now. Problems. So here's my crazy thought: what if we could set specific Finder locations as the 'homebase' for specific projects we are working on. And when we switch from one project to another, Finder dialog windows will always begin at that location instead of 'last visited'. Is that crazy? Probably. Is it useful? Who can truly say unless we experienced it?

Inspiration: Geometry Daily
I didn't know this before, but all I ever wanted was a tumblr full of beautifully simple vector shapes. A man named Tilman made one of these wonderful creations every day from January 1, 2012 through to the middle of 2013. He still makes them to this day, albeit a little less frequently. A man's got things to do, I suppose!
Delicious or what!

Oh, yuh hurd that right. One half of the amazing and defunct rap duo Das Racist is now spewing out horoscopes for any-and-everyone. Much as I do not usually go for such sappy tripe, I couldn't resist reading up on that old Aries I was born under or whatever. When some wisdom spills out of Kool AD's mouth, you had better listen. Here's what he said for me:
Watch that documentary on Ai Wei Wei that's on Netflix then go to an art museum with a Cancer. If you can't find a Cancer, then a Taurus, Aquarius, Gemini or Scorpio will do. If you didn't trip on a psychedelic drug last month like u were supposed to, then do it this month with a Cancer, if possible. A Taurus, a Gemini, a Scorpio or an Aquarius would also work. I highly recommend tripping on acid in an art museum if you've never done it. Keep a glass of water in the corner of ur room that is closest to the direction of the Hejaz region of Saudi Arabia. Try to empty and refill it everyday, but if u miss a few days here and there it's no big deal. Mail a postcard to somebody u haven't talked to in a while.
Done and done, Kooly. Although I couldn't find any Cancers I liked enough to take to a museum so I took my favourite Gemini. But it was on the list of approved star signs so I think I'm all good.

Who wouldn't love a mug such as this!

So, that was fun. That's your update until next week, kiddies!