Friday, January 29, 2010

Call for help: I need pics from the subway

Hey New Yorkers, I need some assistance. I’d like to collect as many pictures of these “Train of Thought” and “Poetry in Motion” posters as I can.

If you see one and are able to snap a photo and send it, I would be hugely grateful. And it will hopefully lead to a really incredible blog post in the coming weeks.

You can email pics to

Times Square Church and Women's Bible Society

I’m not particularly qualified to know, or interested in, what constitutes a successful expression of religious faith. But I think language plays a huge role. So why shouldn’t typography be a natural extension of that? These aren’t fonts that I would choose, but the overall effect is still quite lovely.

The type treatment here could be worse. It’s that acid trip on the far left that I find to be a clumsy and weak attempt at giving CMYK life to “God’s light.”

Odd that they both use rainbow-ish palettes. Hmmm.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Photobooths: Face Place and Van Gogh's Color Workroom

It’s perhaps a goofy conceit that this booth looks like a big camera. But you can rest assured that it takes a nice photo of you.

Whereas this, well, this takes your soul... and pins it down on that lovely striped carpeting and makes it slap itself upside the head while chanting, “Stop hitting yourself!” And every third millennia it doles out an atomic wedgie for good measure.

Images submitted by P*S* Reader Mark Onusco. Way to stay focused, Mark!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Wednesday Waffler: Ike & Sam's Kettlecorn

I like the little characters. They’re quirky and cute. And I can even appreciate the logotype in all its (appropriate) roughness. But other aspects of this start to irk me.

“Kettlecorn” is typeset in some ugly Lucida Typewriter lookalike. And if you look closely, they’ve repeated the S in “Sam’s” which negates some of its handmade charm. Also, I think this might be better if the popcorn character was to scale with the kettle character: extra wee = extra cute, no?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Earthjustice and Starlight Children's Foundation

Simple message. Decent type. Cute, smiling kid. And I happen to really appreciate the earth-on-a-pedestal concept behind their identity.

I admit, it’s some cold-hearted sh*t to pick on something like this, but even well-meaning non-profs need a kick in the pants when it comes to their communications.

The design is junk, the headline is poorly conceived (“Send a bear, make a smile” is more to the point), the typeface (Dalliance Roman) is homely, and that logo freaks me the eff out... Why on earth is that poor child’s arm ligatured to the L?!

Monday, January 25, 2010

BAM Bridge Project and Valentine's Day

What’s not to love about a grid of beautiful black and white photographs and typography? What’s even better is that this manages to be hugely engaging even when the people photographed here are totally unknown to me. (Photos by Evan Kafka.)

This, on the other hand, is a grid of people I do recognize, and yet I couldn’t care less. Too many faces; a heinous heart-framed grid; and insulting pink and blue type for the girls’ and boys’ names.

There was once a time when beauty went hand in hand with love. Apparently we needed one more reminder that that is no longer the case.

Friday, January 22, 2010

AFC and NFC Conference Championship predictions

This Sunday, four NFL teams play to determine who will be going to the Super Bowl. The NY Jets will play the Indianapolis Colts for the AFC Conference Championship, and the Minnesota Vikings will play the New Orleans Saints for the NFC Conference Championship. Those of you betting on these games, take note: I’m about to tell you who will win these Championships.

Believe it or not, I like football, but since I haven’t paid much attention to it for a few years now, I’ve decided to base my predictions solely on the teams’ identity designs. I’ll be using the following factors to determine not only the winners, but the scores: the name; logomark/iconography; logotype/typography; color; and helmet graphics.

First up, the AFC. Jets vs. Colts:

NAME: The name “Jets” really has nothing specific to do with NY (except maybe West Side Story), but neither does “Colts” with Indianapolis. But “Jets” is kind of aggressive and tough, where “Colts” is kind of a funny word that isn’t used much colloquially. People just call them horses. The Jets just won the coin toss and have opted to receive.

LOGOMARK/ICON: Here the Colts have a huge advantage. The horseshoe, while a missed typographic opportunity as a letter C, is over-the-top iconic with lots of old school cred. The Jets, oddly, have no icon to speak of, except maybe Gameface. But really, no jet symbol? The Jets have fumbled the kickoff return, and the Colts have recovered it for the touchdown.

TYPE: No question here. The Jets have a highly considered typographic identity (by Michael Bierut, m’kay?). The Colts type is, well, horsey by comparison. The Jets have rallied and drive down the field, eating up the clock, and scoring a touchdown of their own.

COLOR: Blue and white. Green and white. Both simple and unassuming. Blue has nothing to do with horses. Green has nothing to do with jets. But I think the Jets green is a nicer color (by a bit). They’ve battled back and forth, with lots of head to head football. It’s now late in the third quarter and the Jets have managed to kick a field goal from 45 yards out.

HELMET: It’s down to this. The Jets logotype vs. the Colts logomark. That horseshoe is just so damn iconic. Sorry Jets. Peyton Manning just threw an effortless down field bomb for a huge touchdown in the final seconds of the game.

FINAL SCORE: Colts: 14 – Jets: 10

Next up, the NFC. Vikings vs. Saints:

NAME: This is a tough one. “Vikings” certainly suits the nordic history of Minnesota. And vikings were pretty badass. But “Saints” is such a nice sounding word. And they have organized religion on their side. In an unprecedented coin toss, the coin lands on its edge on the turf, wobbles momentarily, and the noise of the Superdome crowd causes it to topple, miraculously, in favor of the Saints who choose to receive.

LOGOMARK/ICON: While there are worse NFL team logos, the Viking character cannot compete with the long (and I mean long) iconic history of the fleur de lis. It’s been a steady and calculated first drive for the Saints, and they march into the end zone halfway through the first quarter.

TYPE: I don’t exactly love the Saints’ typography, but let’s face it, the Vikings’ is effing abysmal. Are they vikings or cattle? The Vikings have fumbled and the Saints capitalize with a field goal in the second.

COLOR: Ordinarily I don’t dig on gold as a color. But I think it works for the Saints, especially paired with the black. The Vikings once again are at a disadvantage... honestly, purple? Are they Vikings or big goofy dinosaurs? The Saints, fresh from half-time, waste no time scoring a decisive and demoralizing touchdown early in the third.

HELMET: There’s no question, the fleur de lis is powerful iconic, and the Saints do themselves a favor by just running with it. But the viking horns are truly inspired. Good on ya, Vikings. Brett Favre is the consummate leader. He rallies the team for a stunning series of passes down field. But the resulting touchdown late in the third only serves to bolster the Saints defense in the remaining quarter, which ends scoreless.

FINAL SCORE: Saints: 17 – Vikings: 7

There you have it. Place your bets.

If any of this turns out to be remotely correct, I’m quitting my job and becoming a psychic. Maybe I’ll read people’s business cards instead of their palms.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Time Warner Cable: Rule Your Kingdom and Mike O'Malley

This is the newest commercial in this campaign, and I think it’s the best so far. The writing is remarkably clever, especially given some of TWC’s other campaigns, such as...

I suppose Mike O’Malley is the quintessential average Joe. But just because he’s the kind of constituent Sarah Palin would hurdle a dead moose to blow, doesn’t qualify him as a cable pitchman. Seriously, in-law jokes?

See more of the Rule Your Kingdom campaign here, and here.
And if you want to ruin your day, watch more O’Malley here, here, and here, for starters.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Wednesday Waffler: Maoz Vegetarian

I should probably love this. But there’s something about the M-leaf mark that doesn’t quite work for me. Something about the combination/ratio of roundy bits to squarey bits is awkward.

It’s safe to say that if this isn’t entirely Pr*tty, it certainly isn’t Sh*tty. But I’ll stick with convention...

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Old Bay Seasoning and Stop & Shop Bacon Bits

Aside from the unfortunate pluralization of CRAB, the design of this classic, understated package is worthy of some admiration.

It’s maybe a little too easy to pick on Stop & Shop bacon (flavored!) bits, but sometimes even the scrawny weakling needs a good push into the mud.

What ya gonna do about it bacon bits? Huh?

Didn’t think so.

Thanks to P*S* reader Allison Gustavson for the images. Clearly a woman of good taste.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Au Bon Pain and Hot & Crusty

I have no idea how to properly pronounce this. Which pretty much means the baked goods must be delicious, in all the right (i.e. pretentiously french) ways. Also, the Futura Black lettering is lovely.

There a very fews ways this name could be less appetizing.* Sadly, the multiple sizes of widely tracked Copperplate Gothic aren’t really helping matters.

*Let’s see who among the P*S* readers can come up with the best/worst derivation! Grand prize: An “Ask me about my blog” button, and bragging rights. Submissions will only be eligible via today’s comments (Jan. 17, 2010).

Friday, January 15, 2010

Sick day

Sorry dear readers. Not feeling well today. Look for regularly scheduled programming to resume on Monday. In the meantime...

... dog in a shopping cart.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

J'Adore and Fantasy Commercials

There seems to be a lot more perfume commercials on TV around Xmas. Most of them are pretty bad. But this J’Adore spot is stylish, smart, and yes, pretty damn sexy. I do hate that J’Adore logo though.

This is also stylish, but incredibly far from smart or sexy. The best/worst bit is the overtly labeled “Magic Love Arrow.” I don’t know about you, but I don’t tend to have fantasies like this. Hunky guys hunting me in the woods, yes. Labeled props, no.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Wednesday Waffler: Kindle commercial (and Amex faces redux)

This is a beautiful ad in almost every possible way. The visuals and the music are simply lovely, and that actress is very easy on the eyes.

But I can’t help but think it’s largely inspired by the very viral Oren Lavie music video for Her Morning Elegance. Not that I consider it a direct rip-off (I don’t believe it is). I just wish the folks in advertising could bring a little more originality to the table. Or least let the source of inspiration age awhile before they offer up their own version of it.

This topic has been similarly covered here, too, which is a link I found via the comments here. That link goes to a blog post by Steven Heller that addresses the source of inspiration for the Amex faces ads, which I never even doubted was Francois and Jean Robert’s famous photos. In fact, it seemed so obvious to me, I didn’t even address it in my post about those ads, other than to quietly mention its conceptual unoriginality. Oddly enough, with their newest incarnation (see below), I think they’ve attempted to capitalize on the success of the first and only managed to wear out their welcome. I guess that makes today’s Waffler a two-fer.

What say ye? Pr*tty or Sh*tty?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

School of Visual Arts and FIT

This is a fun series of posters/ads designed by the great Gail Anderson and illustrator Terry Allen. One might question the use of the Obama quote for an art school ad, but since these exist in the broader city scape, they do an admirable double duty as public service announcements. You can learn a bit more about these here.

All in all, these ads don’t look so bad. But the copy writing here is so unsophisticated, that they always bore/irritate me when I see them. I also don’t like that they misuse the FIT logo by cramming it in the corner like that. Graphic standards, fellas... use ’em.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Yogi and Kashi Cereals

Proof positive that cereal packaging doesn’t have to look like a crazy mess. If I ate cereal that doesn’t turn the milk chocolatey, I might actually consider buying this.

This follows pretty much the same formula as the Pr*tty package, but manages to screw it up with zany typography, gold coins, flying cereal clusters, and a wholly unnecessary exclamation point. That holding shape in the Kashi logo also irritates me... enough asymmetry already, you hippies!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Separated at Birth: OTB Signs

I’m a huge fan of these old-school, super simple signs that you see all around the city. (Stuff like this is what inspired Gotham.) Here the ratio of stroke-weight to depth is especially handsome, even if the OTB is a den of inequity.

Why must this be so complicated? It’s three words and a logo, and I have no idea where to look first. And would it have killed them to include an actual circle in their thinking behind this? Although that shape around the word “circle” makes me think of the classic Chicago eatery the Weiner’s Circle.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Wells Fargo and Innovative Bank

I love a good slab-serif, especially with some tasty ligatures. Don’t try to fix it, ’cause that sh*t ain’t broke.

I know what you’re thinking, this can’t be real, right? Alas, it is. Easily the worst bank logo I’ve ever seen, and that’s from a field that spawned the Capital One identity.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to have a brain hemorrhage treated.

All credit goes to P*S* reader Aaron Stienstra for these images. Thanks.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Wednesday Waffler: Farina Creamy Hot Wheat Cereal

For some reason I’m showing hot cereal packaging two days in a row... caught my eye I guess.

Anyway, I’m pretty sure that kid is effing creepy as hell. And good luck fitting that shovel-size spoon into your mouth you little aryan bastard! But am I wrong for still loving this?

Is it Pr*tty or Sh*tty?

Also, happy birthday Mom!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

McCann's and Hodgson Mill Oatmeal

A busy layout to be sure, but pitch-perfect retro charm.

The new “dog’s breakfast”: Oatmeal.

And what’s up with this bit of writing: “Hot Cereal and So Much More!” Maybe I’ll use it to fill that pothole in front of my house.

For all the nay sayers

Monday, January 4, 2010

An Open Letter to James Cameron From Papyrus

Dear Mr. Cameron,

A letter such as this can hardly do justice to the overwhelming gratitude I’m hoping to express herein. Your most recent film, Avatar, has finally legitimized my work in a way I’ve only ever dreamed of.

Goodness knows I’ve worked hard the past 26 years to make a name for myself. And it’s felt great coming to the aid of New Age spa owners, suburban party planners, and young couples looking to save money by making their own wedding invitations. But only now, by appearing in your movie, have I been given mainstream, high-level recognition as a serious typeface. And for that, I thank you.

Imagine my delight so many months ago at seeing the trailers and posters for this, your much anticipated return to science fiction movie making. To see the title AVATAR (all caps!) typeset in yours truly. Well, I practically wept. And to be rendered in such an artificial luminescent way... finally, in the hands of a true visionary such as yourself, my potential to look totally badass had been realized.

Little did I know that that was only the tip of the iceberg (no Titanic reference intended!). After seeing the finished film (in Imax 3D of course), I can easily say it is the greatest movie ever made! To think, among your many bold choices as a filmmaker—soldiers who fly helicopters despite mastering interstellar travel; inexplicable floating mountains; and humans still petty enough to commit genocide in order to acquire precious minerals such as the very cleverly named unobtainium—that I would be one of them. Kudos to you for not spending a single cent of your massive budget on an expensive, attractive font for the subtitles, and opting to put me to the task instead.

Shockingly, as if you hadn’t already done enough for me, when the title card appeared at the end of the picture, there I was again! Chills, I tell you, chills. I hardly have words, even now, to describe my sheer admiration for this final master stroke: glowing, green letters filling every inch of the screen. A lesser director man might have settled at filling the screen left to right, but not you. You saw me, in my humble proportions, and said No, not big enough. Undoubtedly, a few mouse-clicks later, your most talented technician had me soaring to new cap-heights. Let me never come back down.

Thank you Mr. Cameron, thank you!

Yours in friendship and wanton servitude,

Please note, Pr*tty Sh*tty was chosen as the forum for publication of this letter because of its long standing impartial, and unbiased stance on matters pertaining to design. The views expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the views of the author of this blog. They are the views solely of the author of this letter.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Year End Top Ten List: Number 1

Happy new year, everyone!

And now, finishing my list of the ten Pr*ttiest and Sh*ttiest items featured on the blog this (now past) year...


Original post here.


Original post here.