Author Archives: Laura Grekoski

Jerry Seinfeld accepts his CLIO

Comedian Jerry Seinfeld accepted his CLIO, the highest award given in the advertising industry, last Thursday. To say his acceptance speech is worth watching is an understatement.

Yes We Can. But Should We?

Great essay from Allison Arieff positing that makers and designers have a heavy duty—even responsibility—when creating for the world.

In Why Things Bite Back, Edward Tenner writes of what he calls the “ironic unintended consequences’’ of human ingenuity, ranging from antibiotics that promise the cure of disease but end up breeding resistant microorganisms, to a new football helmet, designed to reduce injuries, that actually encourages a more violent style of playing, thus creating the risk of more serious injury. We’re experiencing some of these ironies now as we use technology to solve the wrong problems. We’re in a period where almost anyone has the tools to make almost anything – but are we making the right things? Or too many of the wrong ones?

What we leave for the world when we leave this world is all we have. No subordinate motive, whether it be money, power, or fame, matters in the rear view.

Developing an NHL team logo

Developing an NHL team logo

Great coverage over at NHL uniform blog, Icethetics, highlighting a recent segment on Hartford local television, on how one of the smartest sports logos, the now defunct Hartford Whalers, came to be.


So I said, what do we have to work with? I have the letterforms ‘W’ and ‘H’ and I have a whale. And whales are kind of amorphous creatures. They’re not like a tiger where you could characterize it very simply. But the whale’s tail is very, very formally interesting. It’s symmetrical. So you have three symmetrical elements to play with. This was a gift.

Professional sport teams are now often times billion dollar companies. It so often surprises me how little focus and effort is put into crafting a team’s identity. It’s refreshing to see truly brilliant design in the industry every so often. Incredible that a defunct sports team still sells so well.

Make sure you watch the video in the linked piece.

Universal sign design

But what would you put on the door?!” said a facility manager at an airport, his concern echoed by an administrator at a university: “When people are looking for a restroom, they look for the ‘man or woman’ icon. It’s what we know to look for that means restroom.

Taking a step back and uncomplicating what was already there is sometimes all you need.

Form over function? Fashion, design, and the crossroads

Incredibly thoughtful piece from Khoi Vinh pondering the various meanings of the word design, through the lens of a rumored wearable product from Apple, Inc.

Things that you wear are a wholly different proposition. There is almost literally no reason why we need collars on a shirt, frills on a blouse, pleats on a pair of pants (actually, there is no good reason for pleats on pants for men, at least until the winds of fashion decide the opposite), or any of the countless design details that make what we wear compelling to us as things that we want put on and walk out the door with. These things are designed from the outside in; they’re fashion first and goods second.

When technology companies look at goods that are built from the outside in, they generally see irrationality and inefficiency, a broken market just waiting to be corrected and “disrupted.” They believe that they can engineer so much value into these items that people will be swayed to buy goods built from the inside out, that the promise that drives hardware and software—“adopt this and benefit from its utility”—will convince people to upend their sartorial habits. This is how you get products like Google Glass, which assumes that consumers prize utility so much that they’re willing to look like they have no interest whatsoever in having intimate relations with another human being.

We often say at The Carmichael that making something pretty isn’t our goal. I think this piece gets more at the heart of what we mean by that. Of course designers approach projects from an ideal, hoping to beautify the world. But beauty without function often times is narcissistic and indulgent. But then again, the opposite risks feeling banal and dogmatic.

Good design transcends these two approaches.

RIP Mossimo Vignelli

Vignelli was a true giant in the design industry. Best known for the NYC subway redesign, his creations still shape the world today.

Going backwards isn’t a magic fix

Charles Rashall, President of BrandAdvisors, the firm behind the JCPenney brand transformation in 2012 opens up about JCPenney abandoning their design and returning to the pre-2011 logo.

Agency Behind J.C. Penney’s Axed Logo: Going Backwards Isn’t a Magic Fix

Going back to “the good old days” of sales and coupons puts J.C. Penney back in the sea of sameness, competing with brands like Walmart, Sears and Kmart, where price is the tool of choice to drive traffic and sales. At a time of financial crisis and a need for focus, changing the logo for the third time in as many years is a distraction.

The real challenge for the company: defining a strategy that allows J.C. Penney to stand for something meaningful and distinctive, and to that end, coming to grips with and staying focused on the ideal target customer.

We’ve been watching JCPenney with interest since Ron Johnson took reign (and his prompt overthrow the moment the board of directors became nervous that his transformation would lead to big changes, and some short-term financial woes). Ron Johnson held a vision for JCPenney that excited the brand for the first time in memory.

Rashall’s commentary strikes at the heart of why companies rebrand: communicating change and symbolizing a vision to the world. Unfortunately for JCPenney, their fear of thinking differently damns them to being no different than the tens of other retail stores that compete on price alone. JCPenney had an opportunity, but the fear of the short-term prevented them from obtaining the possible huge benefits of the long-term.

I don’t know what anyone is saying anymore

Dan Pollotta, of the Harvard Business Review, on the “PR Speak” of most business today:

I’d say that in about half of my business conversations, I have almost no idea what other people are saying to me. The language of internet business models has made the problem even worse. When I was younger, if I didn’t understand what people were saying, I thought I was stupid. Now I realize that if it’s to people’s benefit that I understand them but I don’t, then they’re the ones who are stupid.

PR Speak, the art of speaking around your audience through use of highfalutin language, is nearly impossible to decipher. Oddly, it also seems to be the standard in the business world today. Take a look at any recent Press Release. Each sound like the company is hiding something from the reader. Why?

There is a value to clearly and effectively communicating complex ideas to your audience. Companies who speak effectively develop a sense of trust with their consumers. The public trusts politicians who speak directly to them. Organizations build relationships when they create a dialogue with their community. But this doesn’t come easily. Copywriting is difficult. It’s a skill that only develops over time, and through careful editing.