I have to say that I was inspired this week. Perhaps you heard the story of rappers Lil Wayne and Birdman coming home to New Orleans, Louisiana to pass out a truckload of turkeys, to those less fortunate. In an MTV online article Wayne was quoted saying, “Now it’s a totally different feeling, because I can actually give you that and say, ‘Here, happy Thanksgiving.’ I can do that, and I can provide that for you. That’s a different feeling in general, and it’s a beautiful feeling overall.” (Paul, that doesn’t require editing, even though it may look like my writing.)
I wanted to have a “beautiful feeling overall,” so I decided to pass out turkeys today. The problem is, this blog has not made me as wealthy as the songs Lolipop or Drop the World, and this is a interpretive design blog. But for the record I’m still so street. Instead of mailing turkeys to the twelve people that read this today, it is my plan to share with you a smorgasbord (yes, that’s gangsta nomenclature, though the word nomenclature is not) of turkey logos. Here they are:
Okay, so maybe that’s less like a smorgasbord and more of an appetizer. There aren’t many turkey logos out there. I did qualify my search by avoiding the easy finds of food companies. As a birder (not to be confused with Birdman), I like the more realistic representations.
If anything this post has done it has made you thankful. Thankful that it is over. Paul and I both wish you a happy Thanksgiving. We are both thankful to have you as an audience.
One of my favorite episodes of Seinfeld, titled “The Pool Guy,” deals with worlds colliding. In the episode, George is concerned about Jerry introducing their friend Elaine to George’s girlfriend Susan. The mixing of “relationship” George and “independent” George was just too much for him to handle. For George, keeping elements of his life separate was the best approach for self-preservation. In the episode George says to Jerry, “A George divided against itself cannot stand!”
Much like George, I find it difficult to keep elements of my world separate and in many cases have given up trying. Now, I try to look at organizing elements of life differently and try to see worlds colliding as a positive. I seem to have the most difficulty in enjoying elements of life and how it conflicts with design. I have to realize that design collides with everything in one way or another and that I need to get a life. I have learned that in some cases passions colliding can be a great thing.
I’m a passionate birder (birdwatcher). I’m also overly conscious of design issues. These two worlds, both taking up valuable and limited real estate in my head, make me really hard to please when it comes to finding bird-related publications. For the longest time I wasn’t pleased with field guides for many different reasons. Some guides provided too much information, were too large or too heavy or the pictures/images/drawings were too small, maps were on separate pages from images, all leaving me carrying multiple guides on birding trips. My design conscience was even more frustrated because the designers of the field guides were not following the “form follows function” approach. I don’t know if those responsible for designing those guides were birders providing layout priorities to the designers or if the guides’ original purposes for the books just weren’t meeting my needs, but I found myself searching for that perfect guide.
The American architect Louis Sullivan has been given credit for coining the phrase “form follows function.” (I am known for coining the phrase “I can sing that song.”) In Sullivan’s designs of structures he took his mantra to heart by creating buildings that met the needs of users as well as the materials that he had available. An interesting side note (for Paul and me) is that Sullivan’s apprentice was Frank Lloyd Wright, who took the “form follows function” to an entirely different level.
As interpretive designers we too should adopt this approach to our products. Too many brochures, websites, exhibits and other interpretive products have been created by placing too much emphasis on the message and not how the message is conveyed. The message is the most important part but if it cannot be effectively received all is lost.
Since I was unusually harsh on Paul with one statement in last week’s post, I will try to circumvent retaliation by making the following statement. One of the best examples that I have seen in recent years that reflects the form/function approach is Paul’s design of the pocket program schedule for the NAI National Workshop. If you haven’t made it to an NAI National Workshop in the last few years, Paul has digested the daunting event schedule for the week into a quad fold brochure that folds in half to fit into the name badge holders provided at the workshop. All of the workshop participants need the information available for quick reference, and the form of the brochure follows function. I have now adopted this approach for a quick reference guide to my children’s names.
After several years of me complaining on birding trips, a friend gave me a copy of Kenn Kaufman’s first edition of the Field Guide to Birds of North America and all of my problems were solved. From a birder’s standpoint, the guide is well organized and simple to use. Pictures of the birds are located on the right-hand page and their range maps are located on the left-hand page with a brief description and key information. An appropriately designed grid aligns the images, range maps and information. The layout allows for quick referencing and fast information finding. From a designer’s standpoint, the above-mentioned applies along with crisp digitally enhanced images. Many birders initially criticized Kaufman for using Photoshop to remove distracting backgrounds, apply drop shadows, fix color variations and even enhance key field marks. The approach is successful and most importantly the guide fits in my back pocket.
“Anybody knows…You gotta keep your worlds apart!” George Costanza