Iconiq

Iconiq Blog


A Cautionary Tale

By: Robert

I am writing this to all small business owners who are looking have a website built for their businesses for the first time. Regardless of how computer/internet illiterate you think you are please, do not work with a web designer or company that insists on buying your domain name and/or hosting for you. The person or company may be great at what they do, they may produce amazing work, they may even be nice people, but if they want to purchase your domain name and hosting for you they are bordering on what I consider unethical. Now obviously there are exceptions to this, but as a rule of thumb you should not have your designer also host your website and you should NEVER let anyone else own your domain name. A good designer can walk you through this process (perhaps for a small fee), and should want you to own your own domain and have your own hosting account. Consider the following: Recenty I began working with a client who is the type of business owner who implicitly trusts the people they hire. Which can be a great trait to have. Unfortunately in the case of her web designer, her trust betrayed her and the designer was unethical in his practices. The client hired a "web designer" to build a website, the designer overpromised, had to sub-contract the site, and even then underdelivered on what was promised (no contract was ever signed). The client was justifiablyupset and tried to get the designer to fix the issues with her website and her designer became unresponsive. At this point she began the search for a new designer. Enter Iconiq. After we went through the quoting and contract process my first questions were fairly standard. Did she have the current ftp/account information for...

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Orphan Initialism

By: Robert

It is an extremely technical sounding set of words. But simply put, Orphan Initialism is when a company takes an acronym by which they are known that USED to stand for something and drops the actual meaning of the words so that their brand BECOMES the acronym. Below is a list of some of the most well know of the Orphan Initialized:1 AAA: Formerly the American Automobile Association. AARP: Formerly the American Association of Retired Persons. ACT Assessment: Formerly the American College Test. AT&T: Formerly American Telephone & Telegraph Co. FFA: Formerly Future Farmers of America. KFC: Formerly Kentucky Fried Chicken. SAT: Formerly Scholastic Assessment Test, and before that, Scholastic Aptitude Test. Initialism can be done for a variety of reasons and in most cases these Initialisms are long overdue and have been the company's de facto brand for long before the company officially adopts it. In the case of AT&T, the name no longer fit the company's core competencies. KFC wanted to disassociate themselves with the idea of "unhealthy fried food". The AARP expanded their lobbying efforts to include more than just the retired people. All of the reasons above are more or less good, if not a bit self serving, reasons to rebrand with Initialism. But all were behind the curve. The companies should have made the leap long before they did, but fear and inertia often hold a company and a brand back from making a move that they should. Brands often become slow and stuck in the image in which they were created. Companies outgrow their initial purpose, they change course, find new missions, and often times large or old companies are afraid to allow their brands to evolve along with their company. Orphan Initialism is one way that today's companies can evolve, move quickly, and...

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A Stroke of Genius

By: Robert

I find this type of advertising refreshing. It is clever, honest and well done. What am I talking about? Its Playboy's latest ad campaign, titled "Pleasure in Your Hands". It is simple, so simple that anyone could have thought of it. But to have the guts to do it…that is something that not many people could have done. The audacity, even more so than the design, is what I admire the most about this campaign. Playboy is far from what has become "mainstream" pornography, yet it is still pornography; to embrace a well known yet rarely acknowledged application of said pornography is something with which our culture tends to have a problem. At least in public. I have no doubt that the men that have seen these ads have quickly sent links to all of their friends and had a great laugh, as well as perhaps a reminiscing to their early adolescence. For the embrace of that facet of Playboy's business, I applaud NEOGAMA, the Brazilian agency that produced this campaign. But onto the design, the real reason we are here. Along with the idea, the design is simple, mixing two elements that are at the core of the audience. The elements are also used in a very tasteful way. The hands are (as expected) a models hands; clean, attractive, proportionate, and the women are drawn well, some nudity is used, and drawn simply. They look like real women, attractive, well-proportioned women, but real women (which is the one area where the campaign is a bit dishonest). The ads, and the video, are tasteful, fun, flirty, and I dare to say innocent. In the end, these ads don't promise anything they can't deliver. They are simple, strait forward and something that Playboy and NEOGAMA should be very proud of. NOW...I...

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Framing the Issue

By: Robert

Seth Godin recently wrote about Scott McCloud’s book on comics as it relates to marketing. As a huge fan of comics i just couldn’t let the opportunity pass without adding my two cents. Godin’s focus is a take on McCloud’s thesis that much of the action takes place “between the frames” and how that relates to marketing. I would agree that marketing is the action that takes place between the frames, but i believe Godin glosses over the importance of the frames themselves when he says “It’s the in-between frame stuff that matters. And yet marketers spend 103% of our time on the frames”. The action that takes place between the frames COULD NOT EXIST without the frames themselves, and without the ability to extrapolate what happens between the frames there is no context to what we do. Both elements live in symbiosis with one another, and while we have no control over the “in between” the frames are within our complete control. The frames allow for a smooth transition of idea, of story, which is precisely why we should focus on them. Design allows us to visually craft that message, so that the consumer can fill in those blanks, so that “marketing can occur”. An example most of us can relate to is shopping. Imagine an orange juice company who’s juice you have loved since you were a child. To your mind the juice tastes like you are drinking an orange. Almost like you put a straw in the orange itself and could just suck the juice right out of it. Then, one day you go to the store, looking for that orange and your beloved juice and it is nowhere to be seen. GONE. Disappeared from the shelf. Marketing is taking place like Godin says “in between the...

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The Empire’s New Clothes

By: Robert

July 1st marked the beginning of Levis new campaign “Go Forth” which places a huge emphasis on American Exceptionalism, our fight for independence and manifest destiny. They have invited us to take part in the campaign, the illusion they have created (and make no mistake it is an illusion). They have declared us "generation denim"… The design is rough (intentionally) with lots of hand written text and it spans the gamut from print to web to video. It follows all the new dictums of branding, touch everyone everywhere. Technically, with few exceptions, the campaign is astonishing. It is visually beautiful, inspirational, and conceptually rich. Levi’s (or more aptly their agency Wieden + Kennedy) has co-opted the voice of Walt Whitman to tell us that we are pioneers (if we wear Levis). The design strikes an emotional chord. It is not an appeal to rationalism, it is an attempt to link an idea of patriotism, American spirit and rebellion with a pair of jeans (which are manufactured in the Northern Mariana Islands and Costa Rica, not America). This campaign has waded into murkey waters. Design communicates, that is its primary purpose, it sends a message to an audience. That message can be almost anything and with the ability to communicate in so many ways, in such vivid realism, that message can truly be limitless. To that end there is a responsibility inherent in design to use its power to communicate, influence, and sway opinion for the good of society, or at the very least to do no harm. Now as a designer I am the last one to say that design should be governed by laws (I would support a design license of some sort). If that happened i think creativity would be hampered greatly. But there is a huge difference...

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K Street Revival

By: Robert

You can’t say ‘restaurant’ in Sacramento without saying Paragary’s. The two have gone hand in hand for longer than I have been alive, and Paragary’s Restaurant Group (PRG) latest foray into the restaurant business is simply swinging! I am not talking about the food, Paragary’s seldom misses on that mark, what I am talking about is the identity. The logo. Paragary’s has created a modern day “Rat Pack” feel right in the heart of Sacramento. Bottom line, Cosmo is cool! Without even setting a foot through its doors I already have a solid feeling of what kind of place it is. It is hip, swingin’, and a place that respects history, and I am guessing a place with one hell of a martini. The modern twist on the retro look and feel tells me I am in for a treat! But what is it that makes Cosmo so cool? The answer, LOTS! To start colors of the logo are very gender neutral and bring to mind a relaxed, yet lively environment where everyone in the room has something interesting to say, and they are all interested in you! The palette also gives a great feeling of depth. Using just two colors and various tints and shades they have created a feeling of space and movement. The subtle change and movement is reminiscent of a bar with patrons moving back and forth, bumping into one another stating conversations, grabbing another drink, making connections… I also have to applaud the designer for NOT using a color palette influenced by a drink of the same name. If they had, the logo may have looked something like this… Not quite the same. The pink is trying too hard. It screams, and is more suited to a crowd not quite old enough to drink. Whereas...

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STORI-Book Design

By: Robert

Recently I stumbled across a series of ads produced in 2006 for a men’s clothing company by the name of Stori. I have to admit that the first thing that caught my eye was an image of Spiderman getting dressed, but upon further inspection I noticed a few other things that I thought made these ads worthy of the awards they won.     What is it about these images that are so striking? Why do we remember them forever once we see them? One word. Contrast. The studio has created a number of layers of contrast and used each one to add to the perception of the product. CONTRAST 1 – Color For the most part these ads are very neutral in their color palette. The two page spreads ads are very monochromatic, using greys whites and beiges to create a very restful place for the eye. Then we get a punch of color, a red chest, a blue suit, a black mask (ok so black ISN’T a color, blame Bob Kane for that) that draws our attention to not only the intended focal point but also to the next layer of contrast… CONTRAST 2 – Subject There are a million clothing ads out there all of them trying to sell us on their brand. Utilizing images of sexy, or comfortable, or practical, or economical situations that resonate with their target the clothing company tries to draw us in, to create a feeling with their ads, making us believe we could be the person in that ad. Stori takes a slightly different approach. The make believe approach, with images that are beyond the realm of posibility. And recognizeable ones at that, what young man didn’t have a dream of growing up to become batman, spiderman or superman? The contrast...

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Socially Transmitted Design

By: Robert

Identities get redesigned, that is just the nature of design evolution. A company starts with and an identity and five, ten, fifteen years later the company has evolved. Their mission, their audience, their culture is different. Their original identity no longer reflects where they are, let alone where they want to be. Naturally the thing to do is to redesign the identity. And when an identity is redesigned a host of things will come into play. From competitor logos to what is “expected” from your field in terms of color, form, image, symbol, even type. Audience must come into play as well. Who will see this? What impression would you like them to take away from it? Where will they see it? All of this is in some part determined when the redesign is done, and what is going on in the culture at that time. Logos always seem to follow the trends of design, almost marking an era. Our current era, the one of social media and user generated content has finally crept into the mainstream of design. Do you see it? Every one of those logos includes a translation of an “emoticon” a cute little smiley face that winks or smiles or frowns that are made from combinations of keyboard symbols. The language and meaning that these symbols contain are myriad and go far beyond the three examples above. However the important thing is that they have started to make their way into mainstream design culture. In each example the logo has incorporated the “smile” from emoticons in one way or another. If you don’t believe me take a look at Pepsi's explanation of their new logo. Pepsi’s agency outlined multiple instances of emoticon equivalency for their new logos. An average consumer might not see the smiles when...

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Speak Without Words

By: Robert

That is what design is all about. How does one communicate a feeling, a thought, an idea to a wide range of people who have different experiences, different understanding, different points of view purely through a visual representation? And what happens when that idea becomes more and more complex? Take wine for example, it is complex, it has all manner of classification and variety, each with a surprising number of subtle nuances. How would one explain wine, a topic of much interest here at Merlot, to a relative novice? This is how. This information map was crated by Carl Tashian of NYU in order to explain the complexities and characteristics of various wines. It is an exceptional piece of design, explaining a hugely complex subject with a fair amount of organization, ingenuity and a system that allows for quick assimilation of the information required for understanding of the complexity that wine has to offer. The piece began with research of more than 5,000 published wine tasting notes over five years. This gave the designer a base of words from which to create the foundation of this map. Foundation is important, especially in this case as it give the viewer a boundary, a limit to the amount of information that they will be asked to keep track of at any given time. A complex system like this is actually made less complex by presenting all the information at the onset and not by bringing in new information at each new step of the process. So we have our foundation, our language library from which we are going to describe the wines. But not all of these words are directly comparable, how does “powerful” compare to “spice”? They aren’t necessarily describing the same type of sensation one would get from the wine....

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