Superfluous Songs and Steak

If Paul can write about something as superfluous as an NBA team mascot this week, since no one is reading, I’m going to take the opportunity to write about something near and dear to my heart, rap music. That’s right, for those paying close attention, (at this point, no one), Paul wrote on Monday about Hip Hop the Philadelphia 76ers mascot. Today, I’m write about hip hop the music genera. This is no coincidence. Paul grew up eating Philly Cheese Steak sandwiches, where is has recently been confirmed that the “steak” in those sandwiches is actually Hip Hop. That’s rabbit, for those not really paying attention.

You see, I was trying to be funny by making a connection between Paul’s random post and my random post, too. But since everyone one is on vacation or doing things much more important than reading this blog, my weak attempt at making fun of cheese-covered “steak” is unwarranted.

Prepare yourself. One of the greatest segues in the history of IBD, taking something random and turning it into today’s interpretive design topic, is about to happen. Here it is (perhaps I over-billed it).

Cheese is a good thing. Steak is a good thing. Is combining them into one item a good thing? I’m not so sure. On August 8, 2011, Kanye West and Jay-Z released their collaborative effort known as Watch the Throne. I have written about both artists on IBD before. My post on Kanye West’s new album was about centering text and my post about Jay Z was related to authenticity.

I admire both of them as artists but their combination leaves me with unresolved issues. If you like mayonnaise on your cheese steak sandwiches, I would guess this is not a problem for you. (By the way, I’m not sure what that really means either.) This is not the first time that they have collaborated. Both have been featured on songs by each other. But in the past but it was obvious whose song it was and that the featured artist was secondary to the primary artist. A few of the song are great but some are screaming for someone to take the lead.

I’m not saying that Kanye is the steak and Jay Z is the cheese, since that wouldn’t be true and Jay Z would clearly dispatch someone huge to my house in quick order to kick my keister (actual rap term) in front of my wife and children. They are both amazing alone, and together in small doses. But too much of them together and you find yourself confused, in ketosis, and faced with the urge to run several miles. (Of course, while you are running you would be listening to the Carpenters.)

I tell you all of this to remind you of the importance of hierarchy in your designs (okay, so maybe that segue was the single greatest leap in IBD history). Let’s say you are designing a program flyer on your historic tour of two Philadelphia institutions like Geno’s Steaks and Pat’s King of Steaks. Both may claim to be the best cheese steak, but don’t let the cheese cloud your judgment. Remember your theme, emotional connections, and the intangible elements that are going to bring visitors to your program. While laying out the document, make sure you place emphasis on the most important element. I like to separate the most important element and group the lesser important elements. Also keep in mind that too many elements can be distracting. I try to focus on three key elements, and if the information exceeds that I try to use odd numbers of elements such as five or a maximum of seven. Remember the hierarchy should visually guide the user through the piece.

Perhaps that’s why the song Otis works so well on Watch the Throne. The trifecta of Otis Redding, Kanye, and Jay make a virtual triangle. Maybe that’s why onions are also perfectly acceptable on a cheese steak sandwich as well.

The 76ers New Mascot: You Are Not Reading This

It’s the day after Christmas, so the chances that you are reading this have never been lower, even considering that I once wrote a post about letter spacing. So given that you are off doing meaningful things with your family instead of reading this, I’m going to take this opportunity to write about the new mascot of the Philadelphia 76ers. (That’s a basketball team, in case you were wondering.) (Basketball is the one with the bouncing orange ball, in case you were wondering that, too.)

The 76ers, named for the number of fans they have in attendance during each home game, have never been known for their sophisticated design sensibilities. In the early 1990s, Sixers player Charles Barkley said this about his team’s new uniforms: “They look like my daughter got ahold of some crayons and designed them.”

Recently, the team asked fans to vote on a new mascot to replace their old mascot, Hip Hop. Hip Hop, pictured above, is notable for being unbearably stupid, possibly the worst mascot in all of sports, and that’s saying something because there are a lot of bad sports mascots (all of them but two, by my count). Anyway, the three new choices the 76ers presented were not much better than Hip Hop. According to a story on ESPN, “A poll by the local ABC affiliate found more than half of voters opting for ‘None of the above.'”

The first choice is “Big Ben,” modeled after Philadelphia hero Ben Franklin, if Ben Franklin were played by a drunken Nick Nolte in a sleeveless undershirt.

Choice number two is B. Franklin Dogg (“The extra G is for ‘Gah, what is that thing?'”). B. Dogg is basically what you’d get if McGruff the Crime Dog and Poochy from the Simpsons got together and had a puppy.

The final choice is “Phil E. Moose,” who, if he is selected as the new mascot, will be the first moose within 300 miles of the city.

We talk a lot on this site about the importance of design decisions being meaningful. I’d argue that the three mascot options the Sixers presented failed precisely because they were not meaningful. The moose and the dog(g) really have nothing to do with anything related to basketball or the 76ers. And while Benjamin Franklin is iconic of the city, I don’t think anyone wants to see him belittled in a tank top or a circus costume.

Personally, I think it would be fine with most fans if the 76ers did not have a mascot at all, because, as I mentioned above, most mascots are terrible. The only two who are not unbearably annoying are the Phillie Phanatic (by far the best) and the San Diego Chicken (a distant second). Also, mascots in NBA basketball are a bit superfluous because any break in the action is filled with fans taking half-court shots for a lifetime supply of turtle wax, short guys doing weird acrobatic routines with trampolines and basketballs, and “dance” teams performing routines that make parents shield their children’s eyes

But if the Sixers are determined to have a mascot, I hope they’ll listen the growing legion of fans calling for the return of Muppet-ish guy Big Shot, pictured here, who was retired by the team in 1996. I’m not sure why he appeals to me. Must be that we have the same physique and hair color.

Now get back to your families. Happy holidays!