Phantom Logos

Have you ever had a condition that you were afraid to talk to anyone about? Good, I’m glad I’m not the only one. Some (my wife) might say that I’m a hypochondriac, which I know is a very serious (that’s right I said very serious) condition that will eventually lead to my end. I’m too afraid to even look it and its symptoms up online.

She says this because I once thought I had rabies. I still stand by my thoughts, which seemed to be a perfectly rational conclusion after being bitten by a raccoon. I would say I wish I did have rabies, just to prove it to her, but I don’t want to jinx myself. Did I say I was bitten by a raccoon?!

Back to my current condition, I’ve been thinking I was losing my mind. At times I felt things that were unnatural. I better bring this home before it really gets weird.

I have phantom vibration syndrome. I call it PVS. I have a work phone and a personal phone. Both are very busy. I primarily keep them on vibrate and one in each of my front pockets. There are times I hear one of my phones vibrating. I reach in my pocket, and my phone is elsewhere. I don’t even have to hear it. Sometimes my thigh simply vibrates. (Insert you own joke here.) It happens on a very regular basis, even after my diagnosis. It wasn’t until I heard about this on NPR’s Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me and I looked it up online that I felt I could tell someone else about it, including you. Now I feel normal again. Paul, you are on your own.

According to a USA Today article, “Phantom cell phone vibrations can be explained by neuroplasticity — the brain’s ability to form new connections in response to changes in the environment. When cell phone users regularly experience sensations, such as vibrating, their brains become wired to those sensations.” I like this because it also proves to my wife that I have a brain. I may have not had rabies, but at least I now have proof that I do have a brain. The sad part is that there are no treatments available at this time for PVS, but I plan on persevering.

The cool part about PVS is that the brain draws connections to something that may be absent. This can come into play in interpretation and design as well. We ask visitors to make their own conclusions and fill in their own blanks all the time. In fact, we encourage it. Storytelling and personal interpretation are great at exercising the brain.

We know graphic design is capable of this. A few logos that I have recently seen do this as well.

A Kolner Zoo in Germany well know for its elephants capitalized on that in there counter-form logo (I would normally say negative space but Paul constantly warns me not to be unnecessarily pessimistic).

Lands originally owned by the royal family for hunting, the Royal Parks have a modern identity that represents the natural and cultural side. They even have a cool winter version of the the logo currently on their website.

My Fonts is a website that we have discussed here on IBD, used ourselves, and shared in many presentations. I love the hidden counter form here. It is so friendly.

This is the second elephantesque logo in this post. I like this one as well. Elefont is software tool that aides in the creation of fonts.

Hold on. I’ve gotta run, my leg just vibrated.

Truckload of Turkey…logos

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.

I ♥ Whatever

I arrived at work one day not too long ago to find this “I ♥ Nepal” sticker taped to my office door.

I’ve never been to Nepal and have no emotive response to the country one way or the other, so I was confused by the sticker’s meaning. I put on my Indiana Jones mystery-solving fedora, which I keep handy at all times, and set about decoding this cryptic message. At the time, the National Association for Interpretation’s national office, where I work, was hosting 26 people at a training course, so anyone could have been responsible.

The first thing I noticed was a Post-It note attached to the sticker with the following message:

do a blog post about this!
Phil Sexton

Well, I’m no Indiana Jones, but I had narrowed down my suspects. It turns out that Friend of IBD Phil Sexton wanted me to do a post on this “I ♥ Nepal” sticker. If this were an Indiana Jones movie, it would have been called Indiana Jones and the Sticker on the Office Door. It would have been really short and not that interesting, but it probably still would have been better than Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

Though the mystery was not great fodder for a movie, it did raise this important question: Why did I keep thinking about Indiana Jones? Well, any loser with too much time on his hands knows that Nepal is where Indiana Jones finds that his bitter ex-girlfriend Marion, who owns a bar and can handle herself in a drinking contest, is in possession of the headpiece of the Staff of Ra that Indy is racing to keep out of the hands of the Nazis.

It’s possible the reason I was thinking of Indiana Jones was that the “I ♥ Nepal” sticker features what graphic designers refer to as the “Indiana Jones gradient blend.” This, of course, is the vertical blend from red to yellow featured in the logos for all of the Indiana Jones movies. (Every time I use a phrase like “Indiana Jones gradient blend,” it fills me with wonder that I have any social life at all.)

Other graphic elements of note in the decal are a hot-pink iconic heart shape and a rounded sans serif italicized typeface. The heart shape could be the subject of a whole other blog. That shape is believed to have originally represented something other than a heart—and it’s a discussion not really fit for polite company. Maybe we’ll save that one for Valentine’s Day.

The “I ♥ …” phenomenon was popularized in the 1970s with the beyond-famous “I ♥ NY” campaign. The logo, designed by graphic-design legend Milton Glaser, is one of those “so simple anyone could have done it but no one did until a famous graphic designer did it” phenomena. It’s incredibly simple: three letters in a typeface (American Typewriter) that someone else designed and a symbol that’s been around for centuries composed in a rough block shape. But like a catchy tune, it captured the imagination of the public, caught fire, and has spawned countless imitations and permutations.

To me, one of the great things about the story of this logo is that Glaser designed it for free to help promote a city he loved. One of the ridiculous things about this logo is that, according to a story in the New York Times, when Glaser designed a logo that read “I ♥ NY More Than Ever” after 9/11, the city threatened to sue him for copyright infringement.

Because of Milton Glaser (who is the subject of a documentary called To Inform and Delight, which sounds like a great definition of interpretation to me), the use of the heart symbol to mean love has become so ingrained in popular culture that now any symbol used in this composition is roughly understood to mean love.

If Glaser’s “I ♥ NY” campaign had never existed, this Apple laptop skin, a logo designed for a new Apple store in New York City, wouldn’t make sense. Out of context, “I Apple NY” conjures images of mischievous teenagers throwing rotten fruit at Manhattan from across the river in Newark, New Jersey. But in context, it’s yet another example of Apple’s sophisticated and elegant marketing (right down to the use of the appropriate typeface).

On the other hand, the most nonsensical use of this vernacular that I’ve seen is this “I Jack LA” found on a site called Karmaloop. The composition is an obvious reference to the “I ♥ NY” campaign, with a close-but-no-cigar slab-serif typeface, a color scheme derived from the Los Angeles Lakers’ purple and yellow, and the face of noted Laker fan Jack Nicholson replacing the heart. This is one of those instances where the viewer understands the point of the composition, but it’s just too big a mental leap to correlate Jack Nicholson with the word love.

There are other examples of this composition in which symbols represent words other than love. For instance, Bob Barker would approve of the “I ♠ My Cat” shirts available all over the internet. Perhaps the best example is this contribution from Gary Larson’s The Far Side:

Though he had a long and distinguished career in graphic design, Milton Glaser is most famous for a simple composition he designed for free out of love for a city. More than three decades later, the composition has, to borrow a word from a horrible person I used to work for, impermanated the visual landscape, from the Massachusetts native who shamrocks Boston, to Friend of IBD Phil Sexton, who clearly hearts Nepal.