29 May 2010

Font Selection is Important

To most people, fonts are just another useless choice in their Word document. To designers however, fonts are an integral element in communicating ideas and emotions.

There are thousands of fonts, thousands of beautifully created fonts, each designed with a feeling or purpose in mind - some are very versatile.

When a typeface is used in design, an association is made by the consumer on the look of the product or brand and how it makes them feel about it. Consumers when presented with a consistent looking look that is associated with a brand will come to remember it and the feelings they have of that brand will be rekindled, in some small way.

The image above contains 9 words all with different word marks. Most of these word marks have been derived from actual fonts and then modified by a graphic designer to better suit the brand and what it represents. What's cool about this, is that without even saying the brand (or band) names on this document, most people could tell you the names of all 9 brands represented here. If this does not demonstrate the importance of proper font selection and graphic design as part of brand building, I don't know what does.

A good graphic designer should take great care and spend a good amount of time in learning about your brand and what it represents in order to craft a word mark or logo. One of the first things that a designer will do is select the fonts to be used on the project (for use in logo, stationery, packaging etc.) this can take several hours to select the right fonts for each of these. But the result is an effective part of your communications strategy - putting across information is important, but good design and proper font selection can associate emotions to that information.

Graphic designers are trained to communicate ideas and information in a visual way, utilizing fonts is part of this process. The next time a designer presents you with a design or word mark for review, ask them to explain why they chose the one they did - you may be surprised what went into their descision. As a client, you should challenge the rationale behind the design to ensure the designer really understands what he/she is communicating - with a professional creative team and good creative direction, a design is rarely wrong unless the rationale and understanding of what needs to be communicated behind it is wrong.

Bottomline: A well crafted brand comes from understanding the customer then taking the time to ensure all visual elements align with what needs to be communicated.

Please note that I found the image above online with no credit, I left the file name intact so that whoever put it together can find it on my blog and request proper credit.

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New York City - Day 1 - The Arrival

I can't believe that I haven't posted anything about New York City yet. Well, if you are a friend of mine on Facebook, you probably know quite a bit about my trip, but for my avid blog readers (hi Mom) I will divulge a bit more of my experience in the big apple.

OK, we landed in Newark, NJ in the late afternoon on Sunday - our limo driver was waiting with our name on a card, just like in the movies only our card also had our logo on it! Danté was our driver's name and a fitting one at that, considering it's use in literature and that we were heading to the BEA (Book Expo America). Danté was a fun guy and was pretty knowledgeable about the city, which was appreciated as we'd never been to New York before.

The one hour drive went by quickly as there was so much to see on the way to our hotel - it took an hour because of all the traffic, despite it being Sunday, the roads were full. We arrived at our hotel through the back entrance (unbeknownst to us there wasn't much of a front entrance). The hotel was the Crowne Plaza, and it is located in the heart of Times Square, on Broadway there is a sliver of an entrance with an awning, it's easy to miss - but behind the tacky tourist shops and billboards is a rather nice hotel. Upon checking in, we were asked if we were afraid of heights, an unusual question by any standard - we said no, at which time, we were placed in a room on the 46th floor, the penthouse. In Calgary, there would only be about 5 buildings taller than this... in New York, well, let's just say we weren't the biggest kids on the block.

Our room looked out over the Hudson River and Hell's Kitchen, where we ate on our first night in New York - the restaurant was called Taboon and was absolutely delicious. We walked to and from the restaurant which was about 10 blocks away - it was a beautiful night. At this dinner were Wayne Logan, Jeff Buick, Celia Rushford, my wife and me.

Being new to New York and walking through the various streets, one of the things that I noticed were the very strong smells, some good, some bad... they changed about every 5-10 feet or so. After being there for a couple of days, I didn't notice it the way I did on the first two nights... but it was very much something that I will associate with the experience. There are no alleys in New York City, at least none that I found - land is too precious a commodity to waste the space - buildings are backed right onto each other and no space is wasted. We saw some 50 floor buildings that were 15-20' wide at the base.

We've all seen New York on TV and in the movies and it's citizens are often portrayed as rude and abrasive - this could not be further from the truth. From the locals that I met, and I met quite a few, they were kind, generous (with their time) and very much down to earth. I felt safe walking about and approaching people for directions. Great people. And, fit too. The average New Yorker walks 5 miles a day I was told, and I believe it - my pedometer was off the charts every day.

I visited numerous places and took in two tours, but most of my trip was business; Going to the BEA to learn more about the future of publishing as well as to secure a partner in distribution of our first title, One Child. For the most part, we're new to the publishing industry, which from some established view points may be considered a minus, but we believe our business model and our approach to releasing books will be revolutionary. We've already got large commitments from retailers based on our unique marketing strategy and feel that our first book will turn some heads. We anticipate a line up to work with us on our second book... which is already underway.

After walking back to the hotel, we decided to wander around Times Square for a bit - very interesting. Madison Avenue is kept busy with these billboards alone, some 12 floors high - and they change out about 3 every night. We visited many of the tacky shops and took some pictures - like everyone else in Times Square, we were tourists.

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19 May 2010

Not Everything is Rated E for Everyone

Two of my favourite writers of all time are very well known for their writings of children's material... and both of them have written and published adult material. And I don't mean grown up material, but ADULT material - as in behind the swinging doors of the video rental store.

Roald Dahl is perhaps one of the most brilliant writer of children's stories the world has ever seen. There's no other way to describe his writings other than just plain brilliant - there's little wonder why so many of his stories have entered our kids lives as movies. Growing up, my mother read me and my brother nearly every Roald Dahl book she could find in the library. That's right, back then we didn't just go to chapters and buy what we needed, we went to the library every two weeks and rented them (records too!).

When I first learned about e-Bay, back in 1998, I began collecting Roald Dahl books (first editions, naturally) for my own kids to read. Since I began receiving them, I have read my kids several of the stories and they are simply fascinated with them. The characters, the adventures and the outlandish tales are just too much to ignore, even for sufferers of ADD. I just about have the entire set of Roald Dahl books, and although, some of them may have been in pristine condition when they arrived on my doorstep, it didn't take long for the 40 year old first edition copies to start looking their age. They are timeless stories however and I hope that someday I can read them to my grandchildren.

In my acquisitions, I came across a collection of short stories called, Switch Bitch, by Roald Dahl. It is a collection of 4 erotic tales, just as fantastic as the children's books, but with an adult theme. It's not a genré that I typically read, so I don't have anything really to compare it to, but I can say that the stories were very entertaining and solidifies my feelings about Roald Dahl as a first class writer. He is truly brilliant.

Shel Silverstein is another great writer who is perhaps (depending on who you ask) best known for his collection of children's books, which themselves are each a collection of poems and creative puns and thoughts. Now, reading my last sentence doesn't give Shel justice, his writings were brilliant as well and imaginative, very, very imaginative. I have also secured hard cover copies of Shel Silversteins's children's books to read to my kids. They love when I bring out Where the Sidewalk Ends and Falling Up and beg me to read them a "long one" when it gets past their bed time, his poems are really fun to read.

As a boy, I never heard of Shel Silverstein, I know now that I had heard his material, but I didn't know who wrote it. As a young adult I learned of Shel through MacLean and MacLean, a Canadian Comedy duo (RIP Gary and Blair) that did a skit on Mr. Silverstein. Now, MacLean and MacLean didn't do any children's material... not even close, but they did pay tribute to Uncle Shelby, as he was known to friends.

As it turns out, Shel Silverstien was a prolific song writer, penning tunes for Johnny Cash (Boy Named Sue), Dr. Hook (Cover of the Rolling Stone), The Irish Rovers (the Unicorn Song) and many others. In addition to writing songs for radio, he wrote a number of songs that couldn't be played on the radio, not even today. They are very much considered Adult content, just listen to The Father of the Boy Named Sue one time. Shel was also a contributor for Playboy magazine for several years, which I think is where he got his big start. Shel Silverstein wrote hundreds and hundreds of poems and songs for both children and adults.

Both Shel Silverstein and Roald Dahl had no problem going from Children's material to Adult material they did both very well and used their imagination and creativity to stimulate audiences of all ages. I know that I enjoy both of each of their offerings and am amazed at their talent... I just wished they were both around to continue writing for me, well yeah... and everyone else.

True talent has no boundaries.

My favourite Roald Dahl story is, Danny, The Champion of the World.
My favourite Shel Silverstein story is, A Front Row Seat To Hear Ole Johnny Sing.

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