Art & Design Archives
Destroying the Death Star
After a long road of deregulation leading to rapidly recombining Baby Bells, SBC has completed its merger with what was left of AT&T, and assumed the former parent's name. And, to announce the completion, they have decided that it is time for a rebranding.

out with the old, in with the new
Never mind the decades of brand equity in the "death star" mark created by the legendary Saul Bass... out with the old, in with the new! As imagined by InterBrand, this new mark is a lackluster, hurried solution that weakens the brand and will be outdated in about 30 seconds. Where to begin?

I'll start with the type. AT&T is the ULTIMATE in upper case companies. When you think of three inital corporations, it's one of the first. Even the press material introducing the new identity refers to the company with upper case letters. The press release says, "Lowercase type is now used for the "AT&T" characters because it projects a more welcoming and accessible image." Actually, in this case, lowercase type projects weakness and capitulation to fleeting trends and marketing droids. In fact, to quote from the USA Today article,
"We agonized over the letters," says [Ed] Whitacre [Chairman & CEO], who made the final call on the name and the logo.

He says marketing people finally convinced him that the new look was more evocative of the Internet generation: "They tell me it's more trendy and modern."
The day that "trendy" matters to an international corporation like SBC (or AT&T for that matter) is a sad day indeed. IBM has not changed their logo for nearly 50 years, despite being at the forefront of technology for even longer, because of the strength of the logo's design, and the value to the identity of the brand. They may have new campaigns and products, but through it all, that heavy, striped Clarendon IBM is on it all.

Since when is AT&T's primary customer base trendy teenyboppers anyway? 14 year olds don't pay phone bills, even on their own mobile phones. Using typography typically targeted at that generation does little to attract their parents and grandparents, who DO pay phone bills.

Those generations also remember the Saul Bass AT&T logo and the Bell logos before it. So, while I think it is a good idea for SBC to become AT&T, I don't think that rebranding was in their best interest. Especially puzzling was their purchase of AT&T Wireless customers, converting them to Cingular customers, only now to reconvert them back to AT&T Wireless customers again. If I was a shareholder, I would be demanding some kind of refund...

Now, on purely technical merits, this logo is shockingly bad. There are a few good 3D logo solutions, but this really isn't one. Follow the lines around the 'globe.' They don't line up. They aren't consistent. The bw version looks the most egregiously lumpy, but they all look misshapen. It smacks of being rushed, and done without care or much skill. It's also very difficult to reproduce 'accurately,' with all the gradations and tones.

These are not images any company wants, much less one of this size: trendy, ephemeral, rushed, inconsistent, difficult. Yet this is what the new AT&T logo conveys. Not the strong, efficient, coordinated world of Bass' original logo. Which telco would you trust? The old AT&T or the new at&t? I'm switching.

Other interesting links on the topic: Return of Design | Engadget AT&T Merger Guide | Press Release | NYT Article [registration required] | Speak Up! comments.

21 Links About Web Design
I often get asked for suggestions for good information about designing websites. Here are twenty-one links that I recommend.
37 signals' blog | ajax blog | a list apart | be a design group | best practice web design examples | boxes and arrows | css tutorial 1 | css tutorial 2 | css zen garden | designing with type | design observer | kaliber 10000 | position is everything | real world style | snook | speak up | typeophile | veer ideas | web developers' handbook | web graphics | xplane's blog

Gentry Magazines

I found some Gentry magazines at the Alameda Art and Antiques faire last weekend, and they are pretty stupendous. I got issues 1, 2, and 4, and I have issue 3 on the way via USPS. The magazine was a competitor to Esquire and GQ back in the early 50's, but at a price of $2 per issue, it was probably aiming at a different clientele. Lots of feature and advertising pages have swatches or other items added in by hand; this was clearly not a cheap magazine to produce. I'll be spending some time trying to find out more about the magazine and its publisher, Reporter Publications. Click the magazine cover to see it, and other pages, closer-up.

I've been playing around with posterization techniques on a couple of my photos, and I am pretty pleased with the results:



A short list of MFA Design Programs
Academy of Art (SF)
Art Center College of Design (Pasadena)
Art Institute of Chicago
CalArts (L.A.)
CCA (formerly CCAC) (SF)
Cranbrook (Michigan)
Minneapolis College of Art + Design
Parsons (NYC)
Pratt Institute (NYC)
RIT School of Design (NY)
Savannah College of Art and Design (GA)
School of Visual Arts (NYC)
Yale School of Art

The Museum School of the MFA in Boston does not have a graduate program, nor does Cooper Union, so these are the sixteen domestic programs that I have found so far that look interesting.

The Little Things...
I just got my Kick the Cheat plush toy from Homestar Runner, and it totally made my day. When you kick it, it emits Cheat-like noises, but basically it sits around looking cute. I'm glad to pitch in a little to help those folks; their site is one of the best free content sites on the InterWeb.


That was one hell of a show. It's clear that the reviewer of tonight's show left part way through the second set, because he neglected any mention of the real highlights of the show. Prince --there is no other word for it-- schooled Led Zeppelin with his cover of "Whole Lotta Love." Just amazing. He also closed with an extended version of "Purple Rain," not one of my favorite songs, but seeing it live was really powerful.

There were also some other fun song choices, from "I Feel 4 U," popularized by Chaka Khan, to "Soul Man" sung by one of the keyboard players, to an acoustic rendition of "A Love Bizarre," and, suprisingly enough, "D.M.S.R." from 1999. He managed to perform most of Purple Rain while skimping on other albums like Parade, Around the World in a Day, and nothing at all from the Batman soundtrack.

As much fun as it was seeing him perform with his full band, it was really great to see him sit alone with his purple acoustic guitar and play simple versions of some of his most popular songs. Prince really seemed to enjoy himself, bantering with the crowd and cajoling them into clapping and singing along, while not being afraid to chastise the crowd for singing the wrong lyrics. "Go home and practice in the mirror," he said during one song, "That's where I wrote it, in the mirror." My favorite line of the night was during an acoustic blues progression that he played: "I used to use dirty words, now I use caller ID."

The tone of the evening really felt like a party and Prince was our host. He ran from end to end of his runways, giving face time to each quadrant of the crowd, getting them involved and making them all feel welcome. During the last couple numbers of the second set, he invited a bunch of women from the audience up on stage, and then it really felt like a party, with all these happy women dancing in and around the musicians.

The crowd was pretty diverse too; I saw everything from FUBU clothing to full arm sleeve tattoos to some guy in a pink Izod with the collar turned up and bermuda shorts. The crowd was interracial, intergenerational and intercultural, and everyone had a great time.

Susan and I agreed one one point most of all about tonight's concert: no one wears a guitar better than Prince. And, if you get a chance to see his show, GO! He's coming back in September, and I think I'm going to have to catch the show.

Phish is Phinished
I've been to about a dozen Phish shows, the last one back in 95 when I first moved to the Bay Area. That's when I lost interest; it was like a mini-Grateful Dead show, complete with <Cartman> dirty hippies </Cartman> wandering the parking lot selling doses, burritos and orange soda while needing that miracle ticket. Now Trey has announced that after this summer tour, the band is splitting up at the end of the summer tour, at a show in Vermont. I guess it makes me sad in the same way that realizing other doors in my life have closed. I never got to see "David Bowie" played live, so I might have to suck it up and go see them when they play locally. and since they're not coming west of the Rockies, I never will.

Oh well. I'll never forget going to see them at the Living Room in Providence, when I was in college. It cost $3 to get in, there were only a couple hundred folks there, and we ended up drinking with the band after the show. Jon even agreed to give me drum lessons if I was willing to go up to Burlington. Other memorable shows include New Years in Boston and the epic journey to Vermont with Jessica, a fantastic outdoor show, and then a creepy ride home (chauffeured by Bags, wherever he may be...)

Jam bands are really not my thing most of the time, but what I love about Phish is their irreverence and ability to span multiple genres and styles of music. Where else will you see a short man with a beard in a dress, playing a masterful drum kit, and soloing on an Electrolux canister vacuum cleaner? Or the lead guitarist and bass player boingying away on mini-trampolines, willfully out of time with the song they played. Or their Halloween shows, where for a 'costume,' the band would come out and play some other band's album from start to finish, note for note. The sing-along lyrics, often simplistic, were always evocative... everyone knew them and joined in. "The tires are the things on your car that make contact with the road..." "Set the gearshift for the high gear of the soul... You've gotta run like an antelope, out of control." "That time then and once again, I'm boucing round the room..." "WWWWWWIIIIIIILLLLLLL-SSSSSOOOONNNNN!" "...And the lizards, they have died..." and so on...

What I think of first when I think of Phish, however, is Trey's guitar. From the opening lick of "David Bowie" to the squeal of "The Landlady" or the meticulously picked lines of "First Tube," Trey has a unique style that is immediately recognizable. Maybe it's just a Phish thing, cause �ysterhead didn't really jazz me as much.

There are hundreds of their live shows recorded, many released commercially, but their whole career has been documented. That's a good thing, because we all need music to listen to on sunny days, and Phish is one of the best choices around. So long, Henrietta. Good night, Wilson. The helping friendly book is closed.

AndyWatch 2004
One of the greatest comedians ever died ("died?") on May 16, 1984... and claimed that he would return 20 years later. Now everyone is getting as excited about his return as they were 20 years ago. Andy is expected to resurface for an anniversary show (with Tony Clifton, among others) and say it was all a joke. I am not a comedian or actor, but Andy influenced me and what I do as much as any other artist I admire.

As Laurie Anderson put it best in 'The Rotowhirl,' "I have never been one that hoped that Elvis is still hanging around somewhere, hiding, but I will probably always expect to see Andy reappear, someday."

Me too.

"It was a dark and stormy night..."

i have entered this year's Bulwer-Lytton contest, which celebrates the worst opening lines to novels that never existed, much like Snoopy's quoting of Bulwer-Lytton whenever he typed "It was a dark and stormy night..." I have three ghastly submissions so far, and I am working on some more...

"Henrietta, who, if only she had been born with the appropriate chromosome, would have been called Henry like her four brothers, father, several uncles and grandfather (not to mention countless great-uncles), but, through the fickle fingers of fate, was instead endowed only with X chromosomes, grabbed lustily at her crotch (where any of the Henrys� cups would have been, had she been a Henry and not Henrietta), spat her well chewed grapelicious bubble gum into her hand, affixed it to the end of her aluminum bat, and awaited the first pitch of the East Lansing Girls� Twelve and under Slow-Pitch Softball League championship."

"It was close to quitting time on a quiet, sunny Mid-western afternoon when Stewart discovered that the throttle on his weed-whacker was stuck in the open position."

"I had my feet up on the desk, contemplating the great beyond, taking languid pulls from the bottle in my hand, content in the knowledge that I was at peace with the universe, when my mother came in to change my diaper."

Wish me luck!