Category Archives: Design

CLOUDY: SKYWRITING “#AMERICA”

Look up in the sky! It’s … it’s a … it’s a hashtag! Yes, right there, in the air, under the scorching mid-day sun, in our view, it’s a gosh-darn hashtag — skywriting of #AMERICA — letters fading and floating apart, ephemeral, as we walk the back streets of Venice in Los Angeles on July Fourth, America’s Independence Day holiday.

CAFFEINATED: “BUT FIRST, COFFEE”

“But first, coffee.” Truer words were never spoken, or at least that’s what I think in the few minutes between awaking and that first cup of coffee in morning.  The phrase  has become a slogan for the boutique Los Angeles third-wave coffee chain Alfred Coffee. Picture here is the Alfred in Brentwood, a neighborhood in West L.A.

DESIGN FOR DANGER

How do you sufficiently inform people of danger? Usually warning signs use visually strong graphical elements and bold lettering in all caps and bright colors — reds, oranges and yellows. But sometime the opposite can attract the same attention: Clean, sober and ultra -plain signage can get the idea across that the message is both important and serious, and can provide official credibility. Last week we went surfing at San Onofre Beach, an historically and culturally significant surf spot about an hour and a half south of Los Angeles. A shark had been spotted earlier in the morning and  California state beach authorities planted warning lines (pictured here) along the beach. The signage certainly looks official and the design is a simple black-and-white graphical treatment with a universally understandable icon of a shark swimming below the waterline.  It at a distance, a casual view of the sign doesn’t convey danger in an obvious way. If the sign hadn’t been planted precisely in front of where we had parked and camped out for the beach day, we wouldn’t have seen it at all.

DESIGN WTF: THE RETRO-FUTURE WANTS ITS JUNK BACK!

Hey, the retro-future is calling. We’re guessing from sometime between 1973 and ‘79. It wants its junk back including this car that’s kind of a cross between a Lamborghini and a golf cart. But seriously, this obscure, tangerine-colored, three-wheel vehicle is called the Bond Bug, a “microcar” produced in the early 1970s by Reliant, a U.K. company that had purchased the firm Bond Cars, Ltd. Only about 2,300 Bond Bugs were ever built. We found this one parked next to an art gallery in Solana Beach, near San Diego, California.

MOVIES: CLIPS RELEASED FROM UPCOMING DOCUMENTARY ON DESIGN GOD DIETER RAMS

Documentary filmmaker and producer Gary Hustwit has a new film about German designer Dieter Rams coming out in 2018, and we can’t wait to see it. The director of the doc films “Helvetica,” “Objectified and “Urbanized” has released some teaser video clip online for this new documentary, which is titled “Rams.” Brian Eno has reportedly created the original soundtrack music for the film. Rams’s always has something interesting to say, but one quote that struck us is when he said: “If I had to do it over again, I would not want to be a designer … There are too many unnecessary products in this world.”

SIGN OF THE TIMES: LAIDBACK SURFER HAND GESTURE GETS A SPICY UPDATE

“Shaka” or “Shaka, brah!” Maybe you’ve heard this expression. Maybe you’ve uttered those words in earnest salutation or ironically. Maybe you’re a core surfer living on the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii, and these words are your go-to, standard form of salutation. You use it all time without even really thinking about it. (For example, when you stride into Ono’s in Haleiwa for a pork sandwich, you offer a shaka to staff at the counter.)

In any case, the word “shaka” and its utterance are but only part of the communications protocol here. Those words are said with an accompanying hand gesture that might be more familiar to many readers than the words. 

The shaka hand gesture, sometimes referred to as the “hang loose” sign, is similar to the “devil horns” gesture associated with heavy metal music. But with the shaka, the pinky finger and thumb are extended outward from the palm while the index, middle and ring fingers are bent down into the palm.

With fingers configured as such, the hand is then raised or extended and often given a little back and forth wiggle or shake, a motion functioning like a wave of the hand, to emphasize and visibly highlight the message to its intended audience.

The gesture is one of positivity. It’s loved by most surfers but also loathed by some surfers, hence the use of the “ironic shaka.” The shaka is undeniably a part of surf culture and has its modern usage and cultural origins in the birthplace of  surfing: Hawaii.

But culture and its symbols evolve. The shaka in the pic above is part of a two-page graphical spread in the zine Can’t Steal Our Vibe that show the gesture altered as a mash-up with the standard “f*ck you!” middle finger gesture.

In this new versions, the extended pinky of the shaka is pulled in, and the middle finger is extended. On first try, it’s not an easy gesture to make with natural fluidity, compared to the shaka.

But no matter. It’s what the gesture means that’s important here. And what does it mean? That’s the beauty of it: For now it’s subject to interpretation. And if the creators have a denotation for it, its esoteric.

We love  that the “F-You-Shaka” hybrid brings together the insouciance, anger and insult of the middle finger with the friendly, laidback “everyone’s a bro” vibe of the trad surfer shaka. These are opposing sentiments and may confuse.

The mashup, we think, is more ironic and captures even more accurately the contemporary core of surf culture: Its rebel semiotics and its knowing cues and tribal codes.

Can’t Steal Our Vibe, BTW, is a zine published occasionally by Lone Wolfs (sic), a surf brand and shop and music studio in Venice, Los Angeles, that uses the new “F-You-Shaka” as a kind of logo on stickers. The title of the zine is taken from a graffiti-like, spray-painted message written on a panel that covered a door that had been shattered in an attempted burglary at Lone Wolfs in 2016. The shop has also spray painted the phrase as a tagline on the side of the store.

RADICAL: COCA-COLA CHANGES ITS TYPEFACE, BILLIONS AFFECTED

This shit for real, y’all. Coca-Cola, the global mega-brand and carbonated soft drink, is getting a slightly new look. It’s changing the typeface used in all its branding and design to a new, bespoke font. It’s big news, so sit down and take moment, if you need one, savvy reader. 

It’s the first time in Coke’s 130-year history that the brand has created its own font. The new typeface is called TCCC Unity (see examples of it above and below). Continue reading