Friday, February 27, 2009

Un-Ugly: The Tropicana Rewind

So, by now you might have heard, or maybe you haven't. Or maybe you didn't know about it in the fist place. If so, here's a little background.

Back in January, Tropicana unveiled its new packaging design to go along with parent company PepsiCo's total image overhaul. The change was met with varied opinion. Some thought the change was a fresh, new approach to a tired field of design, others though the switch was unjustified and the design ugly. I fell into the latter of the two categories. I still find it hard to understand the logic behind PepsiCo's new look but that is another rant for another time.

In the month's time since the unveiling, Tropicana has received a slew of letters from concerned customers, criticizing the new packaging. On February 23, Tropicana announced that it was halting production of the newly designed cartons, reverting back to the old design. In an interview with the New York Times, Neil Campbell, president of Tropicana North America claimed "It was not the volume of the outcries that led to the corporate change of was a fraction of a percent of the people who buy the product." Instead, Campbell insists that the fact that that "fraction" was made up of their most loyal customers that caused Tropicana to rethink the switch.

First of all, are there really "loyal customers" for orange juice. I picture orange juice fanboys with T-Shirts. I suppose saying "Oh, not everyone complained about our terrible packaging, just our favorite customers" is their twisted way of downplaying the fact that Tropicana scewed the pooch. It would have been "refreshing" to actually hear some acknowlagement of the mistake but few corporate execs have the guts for that.

Personally, I'm glad that they've decided to switch back. I never had any issue with the iconic straw-in-orange design and I felt that the typography and color pallet of the old design was rich, classy and fitting. Don't get me wrong, I'm a huge fan of minimalism but sometimes it can be taken too far and Tropicana's is clearly a case that did just that.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A Closer Look: Half-Blood Prince Posters

Okay, now that I have had a few days to really look at the posters recently released for the upcoming Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince film, I must say the initial excitement has turned into a slurry of questions about composition choices, the handling of typography, excessive Photoshopping and overall laziness in terms of design.

I hate to be a downer, and let me be fair in saying that these posters aren't bad. I simply have to question why a multi-billion-dollar company the likes of Warner Brothers would tamper with an obviously successful brand by hiring designers that cut corners to the quick.

Okay, here's my first complaint. In the close-up poster of Harry, you'll notice what amounts to a gratuitous bit of photo-retouching. I understand that nobody likes a pimple, especially when advertising for a huge summer blockbuster but, seriously humans have pours. As far as I can tell, Dan Radcliffe has fairly clear skin to begin with so was the excessive digital dermabrasion really necessary? Also, I'd be willing to wager that a large chunk of Harry-cheek was sliced off to create that masculine jawline, there.

Now, you might say, "Jordan, these kinds of retouches happen all the time. It's standard and really, you're looking too deep into this." And to that I would say. You are absolutely right. I am looking too deep into this but I have to wonder what kind of message WB is trying to send to the flocks of brooding, hormonal, pimply, pudgy-faced kids who will flock to the theaters to see this film? This sort of thing hearkens back to the now infamous retouching of an advertisement for the IMAX version of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (in which Emma Watson's [Hermione's] chest was significantly enlarged and her stomach trimmed).

My final qualm comes at the realization that the exact same "rain effect" was used on both the poster of Harry and Dumbledore. Again, to many this is a minute and seemingly insignificant detail but to a designer like myself, I have to wonder why. With posters like these, every element we see as an audience sprang from a decision made by a designer which tells me someone, somewhere along the line said 'Oh, just use the same one. No one will ever notice.' C'mon, guys. You're dealing with Potter fans, we will always notice.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

At Last, Posters.

It's no secret that I am a big fan of the Harry Potter series. I joined in the frustration of millions when Warner Brothers announced that they were postponing the release of the next film, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, by a staggering eight months. Along with a delayed film came delayed releases of everything from the teaser trailer to the international trailer to the movie's posters. On February 5, movie posters for the Half-Blood Prince were dispersed across the Internet. Have a look:

Continuing the theme established by Chamber of Secrets, these posters depict only one character in a pose that suggests something about them or something they will go through in the upcoming film. They are monochromatic with a cool, blue-green cast, similar to the Order of the Phoenix posters.

Overall, I think they are nice posters. The slanted logo and title are welcome changes to the usual template. You'll notice Dumbledore's reflection in Harry's glasses in the first poster. It's a nice touch if you overlook the fact that it's the same image from the third poster Photoshopped into the frames. I'm not sure what's going on around them. Is it raining? I'm pretty sure the scene depicted in these posters takes place in May so it's not snow. There are a few minor continuity issues (Dumbledore's hand not being charred and black or the continuing absence of Harry's iconic scar) but I won't sit here and nit pic.

I've always had a problem with labeling movie sequels with numbers. It comes off as lazy and uncreative. "HP6" isn't so bad because we all know it comes from a book with it's own, unique name. It still strikes me as odd that they would start labeling the films this way all of a sudden.

I'm anxious to see if they release posters featuring Draco Malfoy and Severus Snape as they both play big roles in the next part of the story. In the mean time, I'll continue to wait patiently with the rest of the fans for a film that is now 86 days overdue.

Let me know your thoughts about the posters in the comments.

Friday, February 6, 2009

First And Foremost

Welcome to my web log.

Isn't it funny how no one really ever called them "web logs"?
"What are you doing?"
"Web logging."

Web logging. It almost sounds boring, doesn't it? Logging used to be a boring, repetitive thing: logging data, logging hours, logging...well, logs. It was a boring, repetitive thing done by boring, repetitive people. Then comes along the good old American English language where enunciation is clearly a thing of the past. Either through a need for speed (saying "Web log" simply takes up too much time) or shear verbal laziness, Web logs became "Blogs."

Now everyone who's anyone does it. We blog about everything and that is not an exaggeration. If you can think of it, someone, somewhere in the world has probably blogged about it. This Blog is not a special one. It is not unique in any way. In fact, four similar Blogs exist within my Bookmarks Toolbar. This Blog is intended to be a Design Blog.

Just exactly what do I mean by that?
Well, to be honest, I'm not sure. Most other design bloggers crawl the Internet looking for news or interesting tidbits about current events in the world of design and I intend to do the same. No one is really sure where the news originates because everyone steals everything from everyone else. Again, I intend to follow suite, however I will try and offer some glimmer of originality through commentary and critique on whatever tasty tidbits float my way.

I am a graphic designer. I find it interesting so I predict the vast majority of posts will fall within this category. I have a special interest in logos, brands and graphic identities. You will see lots of these. Here and there, I may pepper in some package design or an interesting painting or sculpture but who knows how often this will happen.

I'm excited to get started and to see how far I can take this (or for how long). My first priority is schoolwork (although recently, all evidence points to the contrary) so expect long drought periods because they will happen. My first post should arrive shortly.

Nice to meet you,