All The News That’s Fit To Click

In March, The New York Times announced that it had been working on a complete redesign of the NYTimes.com. Since this is the newspaper’s first attempt at redesigning their online presence since 2006, the big focus is on creating a user experience that works well across all platforms and correctly displays in different media.

 

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The new NYTimes.com article experience (top) versus the old (bottom).

 

The first prototype released focuses on the article experience: featuring minimal content on the sidebars and a three-column layout, the full article is now the centerpiece of a clean page. A header image is accompanied by the article title and byline, similar to the way articles are presented in print.

 

Mobile applications have changed the way users interact with content and their behavior towards scrolling as changed. These modified behaviors have made the jump to the desktop, and we now see websites using scrolling as part of the user experience. The NYTimes.com articles are no longer divided between multiple pages so as to prevent the user from having to scroll through long bodies of text, as used to be the norm.

 

NYTimes.com on an iPad

 

The new NYTimes.com uses scrolling to show full articles but also to disperse the sidebar content throughout the page so it no longer takes attention away from the main article. As you scroll you also notice the main header change.  The first iteration appears when the article loads and it encompasses the way the user can interact with the whole site from within that particular article.  The related content disappears as you scroll below the fold and only the main buttons stay, which I think helps keep focus on the content and minimize distractions. The main navigation is at the top left, under what The Verge calls “the now-familiar three-line ‘hamburger’ icon” we see across mobile apps.

 

Personally, I love the focus that has been given to the content, with the article header across the width of the window and the body copy centered below. The secondary content shines because of the white space that surrounds it as you scroll down the window. Because every element of the sidebar has its own little area; as people interact with the site, sidebar items will become less obtrusive until you need them and know exactly where to find them.

 

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Overall, the prototype released is leaps and bounds better than the current NYTimes.com, and a fine step in the right direction. Back in 2006, it was hard to envision the web would look like this. The conceptual decisions to clean up the interface and use a mobile-first user experience foundation are a reflection of the era we are living in. And the New York Times is finally jumping both feet in.

 

By: Emilio Servigon, Web Designer

The Tea on Your Cup

The Tea in your cup might not be changing, but the letter T on your cup will be. Tazo Tea has quietly introduced a new look to their packaging and overall branding.

 

Tazo Cup soloTazo new vs. old

 

At first sip, the brands look quite different. It seems that the main objective was to polish up the look making it more presentable with a cleaner typeface, brighter colors, and an overall more modern feel. The teabag shape wasn’t reinvented and the name hasn’t changed—Tazo has just turned over a new leaf.

 

Although the visuals are different, there are a few things that remain constant. The logo itself carries a strikethrough in the letter Z, consistent with the previous logo. This alone gives it a “I am the same, but I’ve graduated” look. Daniele Monti, Creative Director at Starbucks Global Creative, said one of the goals was to “…bring the brand into the 21st century, and not to lose its soul.”

 

One way this was achieved was with the clever lines of text on the packaging. The old packaging had a mystic feel with the text. It reads, “Tazo happens when one combines amazingly flavorful teas with a fertile imagination and some other good things from nature.” In contrast, the new brand uses humor and wit to describe the tea flavors. “New white tea buds in the splendor of youth swing from the branch of an apricot tree, giggling delicately in the sweet-fruited air. Tahitian vanilla dances and twirls in creamy intoxication.” These new quips help describe the explosion of ingredients blended, which is what Tazo is known for.

 

Tazo tea bags

 

The old logo and branding has been largely unchanged since Starbucks purchased the brand in 1999. I’ll be honest, the old look didn’t really bother me. It was strikingly odd, but seemed to fit the world of tea. It was dark, gothic, and felt like it belonged at a Cirque du Soleil performance. It’s exactly what I pictured when I thought of a typical tea drinker–intriguing and mysterious.

 

In my opinion, a typical tea drinker has an arrogance about their decision to drink tea over coffee. It seems like they think they are making a much more healthy choice and they should be joined by the nearest intellectual to speak of intellectual things (which usually means they say normal things and stare off into space while saying them slowly). So, tailoring a look all on its own for this niche market seemed to work, propelling the Tazo tea drinker to think they were unique and different.

 

Tazo product line-upTazo cannisters

 

Overall the new brand seems to fit better under the Starbucks umbrella. It now has a consistent feeling to the parent Starbucks brand–corporate, clean and clever. Was it the right direction? I’m not convinced. It does look good–really good. But the overhaul has taken away most of the original, unique tea feeling. Maybe it’s like watching your children grow up: you wish you could still have the younger version, while at the same time enjoying how their personality and quirks turn them into the grown-ups they are destined to become. I guess it’s time to watch the Tazo brand grow up and let go of the past. There’s always the memories right?

 

By: Justin Leatherman, Art Director

Houston, We Don’t Have A Problem

Houston Logos

As the Houston Astros prepare to start the next season in the American League, they are also vamping up their look. Recently, the baseball club unveiled new branding across the board, including new logo, uniforms, and even a mascot. The best thing about this new look (other than the vintage-esque simplicity) is the insight that went in to the final product. After months of research and focus groups, fans resonated with logos of the past, using a the simple “H” and Texas star.
Houston Logos Secondary
Houston Orbit
“We made it a priority early on to just engage as many fans and season-ticket holders as possible, and the more we talked to people, the more we got the idea there was probably an opportunity to make a change in a way that resonated with the fans,” Astros president and CEO George Postolos said. (press release)

 

As a designer who gets much inspiration from vintage typography and branding, I was extremely excited to see a professional athletic team going in this direction. In a generation of sports logos where everything seems beveled, embossed, and shiny, the Astros have taken a cue from the past with bold simplicity, strong colors, and classic heritage. The new logo is based almost directly on the team’s logos used during the 60s and 70s, with a slab serif “H” placed above a Texas star. The logo uses a very small amount of beveling, which actually works perfectly through the use of subtle color shades.

Houston New Uniforms
Houston New Uniforms

Every element is very tastefully done in a simple, elegant way. One surprising element was the almost boring, expected approach to the team name on the jersey, but at least they are classic and minimalistic. On the other hand, seeing a retro style jersey with the multiple shades of orange along the side puts a smile on my face. In a discreet way, the Houston Astros have created a modern look using a vintage mentality. Even the return of Orbit as the team mascot speaks to this mentality, which fans are obviously excited about.

Houston Old Uniforms

Houston Jersey Hat

All in all, the Astros club seems to be very successful in their entire design and strategy. “The response has been unanimous, people love it. They say, ‘Yes!'” said Astros vice president of marketing and strategy, Kathleen Clark. The use of fans and focus groups to create the design mentality is a token to the club’s culture and respect for it’s hometown. Seeing a wide base of fans responding to a classic, simplistic approach is refreshing for any designer to see.

Looking forward, hopefully other teams take orbit alongside the Astros and their design decisions. Giving the fans ownership in the new look gives them loyalty and admiration for the team, which can only create a recipe for success.

By: Neil Ryan, Senior Designer

 

A First Class Rebrand Takes Flight

American Airlines new livery

American Airlines has revealed a new brand identity from Futurebrand, replacing the work of Massimo Vignelli who in 1967 created the iconic logo that was utilized for over 40 years. Some believe this rebrand was unnecessary, however others believe American was ready for a transformation. To American Airlines, this brand signifies advancing and challenging themselves to renovate, innovate and place their customers at the center of everything they do.

 

American Airlines new logotype 2012
American Airlines isn’t completely abandoning their proud past though—in fact, their rebrand is inspired by it. The goal of the rebrand project is to honor the airline’s “Uniquely American” heritage. According to American’s press release:

“Our new logo and livery are designed to reflect the passion for progress and the soaring spirit, which is uniquely American,” said Virasb Vahidi, American’s Chief Commercial Officer. “Our core colors — red, white and blue have been updated to reflect a more vibrant and welcoming spirit. The new tail, with stripes flying proudly, is a bold reflection of American’s origin and name. And our new flight symbol, an updated eagle, incorporates the many icons that people have come to associate with American, including the ‘A’ and the star.”

 

American Airlines’ new contemporary look symbolizes their plan for progress and improved customer service by incorporating colors and symbols that the public has come to connect with American. Their new logomark, also known as the Flight Symbol, contains a suggestion of an eagle, a star, and an “A,” as well as a patriotic color scheme. Together they exemplify a modernized version of the core elements of the company for the future of American and America. The Flight Symbol is shared with the airline name, which is set in a custom sans serif typeface named “American Sans.” American has changed, and they want everyone to know it.

 

The old and new American Airlines Eagle compared.When I first saw the new Flight Symbol, I was instantly impressed by its polished and minimalistic qualities. Initially, I thought the mark was supposed to be peeling away, as if the airlines were emphasizing their timeliness and quick trips. The gradients and 3-D effects of the symbol are done tastefully, however the “American Sans” typeface seems to be an afterthought. The two certainly don’t relate to one another and the type doesn’t reflect the consideration and refinement demonstrated in the mark. Overall, I feel Futurebrand was successful in creating a fresh spin on the elements of the American Airlines brand that everyone has come to know and love.

 

I look forward to watching how Americans respond to American Airlines’ new look as the company continues to extend their updated identity across the brand’s platform. The fresh look is definitely first class, but it m­ust be tied with a successful marketing strategy if American really wants to see the new brand take off.

 

By: Ashley Faubel, Designer

Let the Games Begin

As I watched the opening ceremonies of the London 2012 Olympic games recently, I felt excited, and maybe a bit nervous, to see how the widely disliked logo would extend through the games. Designed by International brand consultants Wolff Olins, the London 2012 logo has undoubtedly made an impression. The branding project, started in 2007 for a mere $800,000 has caused some to wonder how a logo such as this was so expensive. One week in to the games, I am starting to see just how cohesive and integrated this brand is.

London 2012 identityLondon 2012 grid

 

 

At first glance, the logo appeared as a clunky mess with neon colors (not the typical signs of a successful brand.) This is exactly what, five years later, is making this logo a success. The overall wackiness and undeniable freshness creates an instant reaction that is hard to ignore. Regardless of your preference in color choice, the bright, over saturated colors of the brand are cheery and sporty which fit well with the feel of the Olympic games. A custom typeface was also created for the games, using angular, sharp letterforms to create the feeling of movement and energy.

 

London 2012 wayfinding signage

 

After the past few years, LOCOG has put hundreds of people to work creating thousands of visual elements for the games, from the signage to the torch design to the color of the seating. The high energy of the brand was aimed at younger generations with the intention of including everyone(although Iran may not feel the same.) To put things in perspective, organizing the design for the Olympics games means creating visuals for 26 olympic sports, 20 paralympic sports, 14,700 athletes, 21,000 media, and 10.8 million ticket holders which is the equivalent of staging 46 world championships simultaneously. Not a small task.

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stadium

 

 

In my opinion, this is the type of brand that may look silly and unorganized, but seeing the visual elements expertly placed throughout the games gives it the credibility it deserves. So after all this work going into the brand, it makes me wonder why NBC has decided to use a different logo for their coverage of the games. This is the one channel in which the majority of US viewers will witness the games and it is fogged by a typical shield shape logo using the Big Ben and Union Jack as the focal point. This instantly throws off the feeling of the brand that should, in my opinion, be used throughout all media coverage of the games. Perhaps NBC couldn’t gain the rights to use the London 2012 logo in their coverage, but it simply disappoints to see a cohesive brand cluttered by a completely different look and feel.

 

NBC on air identity for London 2012 games

In closing, I have to give credit to Wolff Olins and LOCOG for defending and sticking with their logo for the past five years. It is paid off and I’m sure is creating an unforgettable experience for everyone attending the games. Hopefully in coming years, the Olympic brand will be pushed through to every media outlet in order to create a seamless experience for everyone around the world.

 

By: Neil Ryan, Senior Designer, Indicia

Nets & Hoops to Brooklyn

Brooklyn Nets Identity

 

The Nets are moving. No, not waving in the wind–the NBA team formerly known as the New Jersey Nets have a new home. And with the move to Brooklyn they are getting a new brand.

 

Unveiled on April 30, the new brand is inspired by 1950’s style New York subway signage. The brand colors are black and white, which aids in the classic feel. The primary logo kept to its predecessor by using the same shield shape and basketball with the iconic Brooklyn ‘B’ imposed over it. The throwback, retro brand was supposedly ‘designed’ by minority owner Shawn Carter (a.k.a. Jay-Z). But how much involvement he actually had in the process is unknown.

 

The new look is said to be different than other teams’ looks, just as Brooklyn is different than anywhere in the world, says team CEO Brett Yormark. He also says they will be the only NBA team with only black and white as colors and describes the new look as simple, crisp, classic and urban.

 

I agree that the classic look and colors will differentiate itself from the rest of NBA teams. It is refreshing to see a sports team go away from the pack of swoosh-whiz-bang visuals to a place uncharted for decades by using simple, non-obtrusive branding. It’s a nicely designed opposite-thinking type of design; one that looks like it is having a positive effect on sales, as NBAStore.com reported that sales of apparel on the unveiling day alone were higher than it sold all of last season.

 

Brooklyn Nets LogoI applaud the original look and intent to differentiate. I enjoy the visuals from a distance–not overdone and perfectly simplified. But does it have what it takes to be timeless and sophisticated? Looking closer at the primary logo, it seems to have some odd tendencies. The text NETS feels steamrolled and thrown on (the S looks as if it has been steamrolled twice in opposite directions). The space to the top left of the N and to the to right of the S is very strange–the whole word would feel crisper had it followed the shape of the outer shield. The basketball lines, although accurate, would fit better with the iconic look if the line weight was the same throughout. With the addition of BROOKLYN placed under the shield, it makes the whole logo feel like it is going to tip over due to the relationship between the shield and BROOKLYN text being disproportional. Decreasing the size of the shield would benefit the look.

 

Although most of the elements in the primary logo don’t have the cohesive quality that an NBA team deserves, I still rather enjoy it. I like it for the fact that it doesn’t look corny, cheesy or multi-shadowed. It could use some fine-tuning, but the overall feeling of the retro throwback brand makes me feel like they know where they came from. I give it a B for effort (and Brooklyn).

 

Will the required footwear will be black and white Chuck Taylors?

 

By: Justin Leatherman, Art Director

Responsive Web Design

In recent years, we have seen a steady growth of mobile devices being used to surf the web, and as a result, a steady rise in clients requesting to have a mobile version of their site. Designers and developers alike responded by creating a desktop and mobile version of a website. This approach was effective for a while, but with the ever-growing landscape of the web, it became more of a problem than a solution. Ethan Marcotte explains:

 

Responsive Web Design Illustration

 

“Mobile browsing is expected to outpace desktop-based access within three to five years. Two of the three dominant video game consoles have web browsers (and one of them is quite excellent). We’re designing for mice and keyboards, for T9 keypads, for handheld game controllers, for touch interfaces. In short, we’re faced with a greater number of devices, input modes, and browsers than ever before.”

 

Enter responsive web design. The dictionary defines “responsive” as reacting quickly and positively. In web speak, responsive design refers to a website that reacts according to the screen size, platform, device and even orientation. The advantages are centered around cost-effectiveness and user experience. For designers, it allows us to streamline the design and development process by using a mix of flexible grids and CSS media queries. Creating one design and a few stylesheets allows us to shorten the time it takes to create a web site.

 

For clients, visitors enjoy an improved user experience no matter what device they use to view a website. Gone are the days when slideshows looked beautiful on big screens but become a nightmare to navigate around when using mobile devices. Now we control what information is delivered and what is hidden within the same page depending on the size of the screen.

 

Responsive design is continuously evolving, and new projects aimed to improve upon it are developed everyday. Ultimately, the decision to have a responsive site is influenced by factors that go beyond the technology, such as overall web strategy. Just because something is cool doesn’t mean it will be effective. Designers and clients should not treat web site design like pet projects where we test out things and hope it works out in the end.

 

By: Emilio Servigon, Web Designer, Indicia

Best Made in America

For the past several years, consumer attitudes towards American-made products seem to be improving. The public seems to be more conscious of where things are made and aware of the positive impact that it can have on the good ol’ U.S. of A. Lying largely in the high end sector of the market, the American made trend is finding comfort in the clothing, furniture  and food industries. Larger companies like Pendleton, Woolrich, and L.L. Bean play up their heritage which plays in to the trend. In fact, in a survey of 1,300 affluent shoppers conducted by Unity Marketing, the US ranked highest on the scale measuring quality in luxury goods manufacturing.

bestmade3

 

On an unexpected side of this industry, Best Made Co. has turned a simple chopping tool in to a strikingly sought after product. When Peter Buchanan-Smith and Graeme Cameron founded Best Made Company in 2009, the operation was strictly about axes. Handcrafted from fine grain steel, Appalachian hickory and painted with bright, vibrant handle stripes, these axes have become as popular with designers as they have with real lumbermen. Even in this digital age, Best Made’s founders argue that everyone should own an axe—regardless of its use. “The axe is a symbol,” says Cameron. “It forges our building and quite possible our thinking blocks.” And what better way to honor the age-old tool than by enhancing it with attractive design?

bestmade8_copy

 

 

Buchanan-Smith is an award winning design director at Isaac Mizrahi, which explains the thoughtfulness behind the Best Made Co. brand in every aspect. This is the type of experience that shows how impactful a brand can be when it has been truly considered before implementation.

 

Upon entering the Best Made Co. website, expect a greeting with white space and a no-nonsense approach. The Best Made logo is a bright red X which stands out because of its simplicity and utilitarian approach. The X is also used as a way to spell AXE on their products, which provides a subtle, yet powerful brand extension. The product photography is simple, and perfectly shot on a white background to flow with the website.

bestmade2

 

In a different setting, this site might be considered bland, but for the manly, utility-type goods, it only intensifies the function of the brand. Best Made Co. sells products ranging from first aid kits to badges to maple syrup and of course, axes. Many of these items are manufactured by different artisans throughout the country who specialize in crafting each tool. Even the first aid kits are manufactured right here in Kansas City.

 

bestmade6_copy
So next time you’re looking to buy some new gear for your outdoor toolkit, or even if you just need an excuse to get something down right cool, visit bestmadeco.com to see how American made is making a stand…and a good one at that.

 

Neil Ryan, Senior Designer

 

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“Wipe” with a Towel.

Flipping through WOOD Magazine, a simple column ad layout caught my eye. The ad said “TUB O’ TOUGH” and the full background was yellow. The main visual was a large cylinder ‘TUB’ of towels. I thought to myself, “well, that’s cheesy.” But because of the ad’s simplicity and undertones of a construction feel, I was intrigued to find out more.

 

Tub O' Towels packageWith a quick search I found out that these are heavy-duty wipes and have a pretty hefty claim—taking off anything from adhesives to lipstick, tree sap to permanent marker. The website gloats a bigger (10 inches by 12 inches), tougher (muscle-weaved) and soaked with a knock-your-socks-off cleaning solution. I guess these aren’t for cleaning your kids’ diaper messes. If I heard these claims and saw the previous package design, I might have laughed. But with the new design, it makes me think these are all plausible.

 

The new package is bold, bright, and eye-catching in a simplified way. The logotype uses a thick slab serif font which gives it a heavy-duty feel. The typography is large and in your face, and some dimensionality is portrayed with two large liquid drops in the background. The use of yellow is an interesting color choice—it makes me think of a dingy stain, but paired with black it helps the brand exude a ‘get-it-done’ feeling. It makes me want to puff up my chest and boast about using a wipe (for a greasy stain of course), even though  the brand’s advertising says, “Don’t call ’em wipes, wipes are for wimpy jobs.”

 

The aesthetics of the package make the brand claims believable, while the use of clever slogans and advertising makes me want to try them. Whatever I’ll be cleaning, I’ll be sure not to call them a wipe.

 

—Justin Leatherman, Art Director

A Cheerful Tear

On a recent trip to Target, I was taking my usual route to grab the essentials: toilet paper, paper towels, and laundry detergent. As I entered the laundry aisle, I knew I would be grabbing the name brand that was on sale, or at least whichever was cheapest. As I reached down to pick up a bottle of Gain detergent, I literally did a double take as I noticed the midnight blue Cheer bottle resting on the shelf.

 

Cheer

 

For the first time, I had actually noticed that Cheer existed. Apparently, the P&G brand tried to be noticed several times in recent years, as this redesign was their third attempt at a different look. I’d have to say that this is definitely the best rendition, and in my opinion, the best looking bottle on the shelf.

 

The new design is clean and simple with a beautifully bold color palette to liven things up. The teardrop label contains a triangulated pixel pattern of the color palette, the refined Cheer logotype and a small tagline that reads “Stay Colorful”. The bright colors pop perfectly against the dark blue of the bottle, while the white space with the Cheer logotype provides just the right amount of simplicity to contrast the colors. Typically, I would disagree with the use of the lowercase “e” in the Cheer logotype, but in this case, the angled crossbars seem to add the necessary “cheerful” touch.

 

Cheer logotype

 

 

The folks at Landor provided the brains and skill to create the revamped Cheer brand, striving to connect with the untapped Gen-Y consumer. It seems smart, in my opinion, to grab hold of a younger demographic in an industry where it hasn’t necessarily been done. Gaining loyalty among college students could easily result in a lifetime connection with the Cheer brand. Landor has managed to create the brand by utilizing classic design sensibilities with a modern, bold approach to color and package design. Overall, I think they’ve married the two very well and have gained a new customer on this end. Oh yeah, did I mention this stuff smells incredibly good?

 

Neil Ryan, Senior Designer

 

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Cheer shirts

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