A Work in Progress: The 2012 NAI International Conference Identity

People who communicate for a living have to be ready for a variety of reactions when they put something out there for public consumption. As a visual communicator, I have created things that people hate (see my first attempt at a logo for last year’s NAI National Workshop in Las Vegas) and some things that have been more well-received (see the identity for last month’s NAI International Conference in Panama). The one reaction I do not know what to do with is silence.

When NAI announced the location and dates of the upcoming NAI Pacific Islands International Conference (Kailua-Kona, Hawai’i, May 8-12, 2012), I posted a link to the conference website on the IBD Facebook page and asked for feedback. Perhaps I posted it at a moment when there were not a lot of people online, or perhaps Facebook’s popularity is fading and people just aren’t using it as much as they used to, but when I checked back later in anticipation of a handful of comments, there was very little—a couple of likes and one, “Looks good. Sign me up!”

We know from our surveys that one of the reasons people attend the NAI International Conference is its location, so each year, I focus my design decisions on the site of the event. In the identity for the Pacific Islands International Conference, I used an iconic Hawai’i photo by Gregory Runyan (which I found on stock.xchng, my favorite source for free, high-quality photography) in part because it establishes a sense of place and in part because it fits with the color palette that I wanted to use. (I’m calling the color palette “pastel primary”—a sort of tropical, relaxed blue, yellow, and red.)

One problem with the photo is that it raises questions of whether the palm tree is native to Hawai’i. (The answer is not simple: Palms are not technically native to Hawai’i, but some of them have been there for a really long time, since the days of the early Polynesian settlers.) Another problem is that one person’s “iconic” is another person’s “boring” or “predictable.” That second person is my wife.

The words “Pacific Islands” are set in a distressed script typeface called Marcelle Script, which I found on DaFont, another great resource. I’m using Marcelle Script because I feel it reflects the relaxed, comfortable environs of the event. If you visit the link to that typeface, you’ll notice that it’s “free for personal use.” If I stick with Marcelle Script in the final version of this identity, I’ll be sure to make a donation to the designer.

And on a technical typographic note, because we’re honoring the indigenous spelling of the name Hawai’i, you’ll see it spelled with that diacritical mark before the last I, which it turns out is not just an apostrophe. Because I have Adobe InDesign set to use smart (curly) quotes and apostrophes (as you should, too), I have to jump through some hoops to get the appropriate, straight-up-and-down mark. In InDesign, I select Type > Insert Special Character > Quotation Marks > Straight Single Quotation Mark. (Unfortunately, there is no way to do this online that I know of, so I’m using an apostrophe here.)

So that’s the thinking that has gone into this website so far. And while the reaction has been generally positive, it has also been luke warm, which fills me with angst. So I set about looking for some other options.

This image by Margan Zajdowicz shows the distinctive lava rock of the Hawaiian beach, but with this cropping, as my co-worker Jamie points out, it looks like it’s promoting a conference about oil spills. (Also, if you visit the link to the image, you’ll see that this cropping eliminates the endearing word “Aloha” written in the sand.)

I like the color palette and general feeling of this image by NAI Executive Director Tim Merriman, but I hesitate to use it because most of the conference will be held above the surface of the water.

The same goes for this photo, also by Tim Merriman.

So that’s where I am now. They say that a graphic designer never finishes a project, but is sometimes forced to stop working on it (like when it goes to press). With this event nearly a year away, I could spend 11 months tweaking the identity and never be completely happy with it.

And as you may have guessed, I welcome your feedback.

QR Codes: Know Them, Use Them

Shea and I are not exactly cutting edge when it comes to, well, anything, really. For instance, I still own a VCR, Zip disks, and tapered jeans. Shea still has that haircut.

Bearing that in mind, this post is about technology that is not widely used just yet, but it’s coming. It’s completely free, extremely useful, easy to use, and—get ready for a cutting-edge technical term—kinda neat.

You may have noticed that QR Codes, the bar code-looking squares like the one here, are popping up in print and online more and more. QR (“Quick Response”) Codes direct people with smart phones to whatever kind of information you choose to provide—contact information, narrative text, or a URL, to name a few examples. The code here directs you to the Interpretation By Design website that you are currently reading. It’s not the most creative thing I could have posted here, but I figured some of you would want to use this image as your Facebook profile picture.

Like tapered jeans, QR codes have been around for a long time—in this case since 1994—but with the increasing popularity of smart phones, they are just now poised to really take off. QR Codes were developed in Japan by the company Denso-Wave primarily for industrial use. But pop culture has gotten hold of them, and now you can see them in Pet Shop Boys videos or even create your own QR Code T-shirts on sites like zazzle.com. The codes are starting to pop up more in the visual environment at varying scales, as with this photo by Nicolas Raoul taken in Japan in 2009:

From this we can learn two important things: 1. Technology can be used in fun and creative ways, and 2. The Pet Shop Boys are still making videos.

It’s easy to create a QR Code. Just visit one of the many website that generate the codes, such as zxing.appspot.com/generator or qrcode.kaywa.com (just to name two of the many that come up when you search “QR Code Generator” on the internet), plug in your information, and tell the site to generate the code. What you get is an image file that can be downloaded for use in print or online.

To read a QR Code, all you need is a smart phone and an app called a QR Code Reader. I have an iPhone and use a free app called QR Reader. There are plenty of similar apps for other smart phones. When you open the app, it will activate your phone’s camera. Just point the camera at the code and your phone will do the rest.

Beginning with the November/December issue, Legacy magazine will include a QR Code directing readers to the National Association for Interpretation’s website, www.interpnet.com. You could use a QR code on an trailside panel to provide visitors more information on a topic. You could place one on your business card or nametag at a conference to easily share contact information, in a newsletter to direct potential donors to a website, or in a blog to direct readers to a photo of an adorable puppy, which I have done here.

When you use QR Codes, not everyone will know what they are, but for the ever-increasing number of people who do know what they’re looking at, you’ll have created the opportunity to engage with your media at a deeper level.

Unicorn Punching?

I have recently come to the conclusion that I’m not as young as I think I am. I’ve heard that working with seasonal interpreters helps keep you young. I’m now thinking they are great at making you feel old. It is possible to stay young at heart and hip, right?

I have a brother who is less than half my age. I think it is awesome to have a little brother, Lee, who helps me “keep it real.” Right now he is blushing after my mentioning him and the phrase “keep it real” in the same sentence. On several occasions I have had conversations with Lee immediately following a conversation with a seasonal interpreter that I didn’t fully understand. Sometimes you just need a translator. I’m a good actor, so I pretend that I know what they are talking about, and then I ask for a clarification of terms from Lee before embarrassing myself any further. This keeps me from finding myself in a strange location, using phrases inappropriately or ordering something for lunch that is not fit for human consumption.

Let’s face it, I’m out of touch. But I’m willing to work at relating to this younger generation even though most of my connection to pop culture is filtered through episodes of Hannah Montana and SpongeBob SquarePants. It is not uncommon to hear me say things like “Oh, sweet niblets” or “Ah, barnacles.”

The moment that you have to ask someone what “woot” means or what “goml” means in a text, you are officially un-cool. If you don’t know what a text is, don’t worry about your standing in society because you are ahead of Paul.

Thankfully for people like me there are websites out there like Trend Central and Trendwatching that also help keep me up to date. Both are worth subscribing to and are efficient at keeping you down with the current nomenclature. (If you ever use the word nomenclature, you are un-cool.) Trend Central puts out an annual list of terms that are gaining popularity in the types of places that use slang and that rarely ever discuss the serial comma. This year’s list has some keywords that could be used in or related to the community of IBD and interpretive design.

Trend Central – New Slang

Epic Fail: n. a frequently used term in the video game community that quite simply means you really messed up and/or something/someone is an utter failure. The logo that I just spent 26 hours working on for the NAI Region 6 Workshop in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, February 28 – March 3, 2011 was an epic fail (not that I am resentful).

Geequals: n. two people who are equal in depth of arcane knowledge. Paul has no geequal.

Alt-worthy: adj. A term used to describe people or things considered to be cool or trendy. People whose computers have a full ALT key and not a function key are alt-worthy.

‘Kward (kwerd): adj. Awkward. Most of my conversations (outside the topics of Star Wars, baseball and type), primarily with the opposite sex, are ‘kward.

Trend Central – Slanging Out

Jam It: v. a retort used to tell someone you do not like what they are telling you; similar to “shut up.” It is not uncommon for readers of IBD to say “I wish you guys would just jam it about Helvetica!”

Unicorn Puncher: n. a term used to describe someone who, in the face of cute overload (whether it be in a blog or conversation), undermines their adorableness with something gross. After carefully choosing the perfect typeface, that unicorn punching editor, suggested the use of Papyrus.  

Trend Central – Slang Decoder

Gen Pop: n. term used to describe the general population when “bridge and tunnel,” yuppies, tourists or “undesirable” individuals “intrude” upon an event, outing, club or local restaurant. I was once a member of the general population while being detained for questioning, ever since then anywhere I go I feel like part of the gen pop.

G.O.M.L.: v. acronym for the phrase “Get on My Level;” said when one person both wants to imply that someone else can’t keep up and wants to urge them to catch up. My wife is constantly telling me to turn off the computer and GOML (which I found extremely hurtful as I first translated it as get out of my life).

Curl: v. a new way to crop your pants without cuffing; best for skinny jeans, curling is when you roll the bottoms of your pant legs very tightly two or three times, creating a delicate cinch above the ankle. I don’t know how to use this word in a sentence for the simple fact that I have never worn skinny jeans and I can’t believe that anything will ever be cooler than pinch rolling your pants.

guacamoleGuacamole: n. money, cash, or funds. Working in the field of interpretation the only guacamole that I see is literally guacamole.

Post-Zuckerberg: adj. term used to describe the era of Facebook ubiquity. Dad, I would have called to tell you Happy Birthday, but in this post-Zuckerberg world I thought that commenting on your wall was enough.

Blow the mind of the Millennials you know by dropping some of these words/phrases into you daily conversations to prove that you are hip, relevant, and current. Improper use or the use of too many at any given moment could have an adverse effect.