Friday, September 16, 2005

Pantone 368, a Symbol of Growth

Seems there's some embarrassed throat-clearing down at Quark World Headquarters these days. Their trumpeted unveiling of a new logo and visual identity, meant (in the press release's words) "to signal that the company is leaping forward into the future of creative communications," has instead signaled a leap forward into the future of trademark-infringement, as the new logo bears an astonishing resemblance to that of the Scottish Arts Council, whose logo has been public since February of 2001:



In his dreary workaday life, your Ned toils not a million miles away from the sort of people whose job it is to impress corporate-communications bods (and especially, oh dear me yes, each other) with the sort of verbal tohu-bohu that sells corporate-identity design to gullible SVPs of marketing. I've managed to put a nicely unbridgeable moat between us, and so it's only with the warmest nostalgia and a gratifying sense of better-you-than-me, that I read this, from the Quark press release:
According to Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute, renowned color psychologist, and author of five books on color, “PANTONE 368 was the perfect choice for an innovative company such as Quark. This yellow green, a symbol of growth, is invigorating and revitalizing, and breathes new life into a brand, in addition to drawing attention to it. By embracing this color for its new logo, Quark is giving its customers the connotation of the continuing growth of ideas and concepts, and that it is on the edge of new technologies.”
(Still trying to parse that last clause. Failing.)

Think of it, children: Only a world drowning under Himalayas of festering bullshit would confer prosperity on a "renowned color psychologist" who has authored five -- five! -- books on color, a person capable of uttering, without a hint of shame, howling inanities like "Pantone 368...[gives Quark's] customers the connotation of the continuing growth of ideas and concepts...." Yes, my naive and uninitiated friends, there are actually people who are paid very well indeed to shovel horseshit of this magnitude. And you thought Paris Hilton was a waste of carbon.

This Quark imbroglio does remind me, though, of an incident I was lucky enough to watch from the sidelines many years ago. The company I worked for, a small three-letter Beltway Bandit that reached liquidity during the Reagan Yard Sale of the mid-Eighties, decided the logo that had been hand-drawn by the CEO back when the company had consisted of three employees and a typewriter, needed a complete rethink. A gang of cutpurses from Rockville was hired -- the question of by whom, exactly, caused many a finger-pointing exercise later on -- but hired they were.

In the late Eighties, these people were still an absolute novelty. They filled their offices with plush toys and beanbags, flew gliders and Frisbees about the place, and encouraged barefoot brainstorming sessions on the floor of their cushion-strewn common areas. I participated in a few of these things, gaining just enough experience to inculcate a grudging admiration of their snake-oil skills while giving in to a growing conviction that the company's Corporate Communications office was paying through the nose for expert flim-flammery.

After long and stunningly expensive consultation, this is (approximately) the logo we were given:



Hmmm, we thought. "Equals PDQ." "Nothing Equals PDQ." By principle of inversion, "PDQ Equals Nothing."

No-no-no-no! Everything Equals PDQ! Expand your mind! Don't be so closed!

Hmmm.

The CEO of PDQ (by the way, Not Its Real Name), a Jewish gentleman of skeptical bent, thought he detected something wrong with that equals-sign bug. Something, you might say, spoke to some sort of Racial Memory -- can't quite put a finger on it, but... Better do the Due Diligence, he thought wisely. Asked for a trademark search.

Oops! Yikes! Jinkies! Boomps-a-daisy!



The...Austrian...flag. Oh, dearohdearohdearohdear.

Bullshit artists.

20 comments:

Nobody said...

The first thing I thought of was a Magnetic Fields song:

"Reno Dakota
There's not an iota
Of kindness in you
You know you enthrall me
and yet you don't call me
It's making me blue
Pantone 292"

If you want to see a pissweak logo, check out the Australian Commonwealth bank website

http://www.commbank.com.au/

See that square to the left of the name? The advertising company charged them $500,000 for something that could have been doodled by a schoolkid in 10 seconds. The other $499,999.90 obviously went on 'fact finding' trips to the bahamas, involving alcohol, pot and hookers.

Neddie said...

<<
http://www.commbank.com.au/>>

Oh, come on, Si!

You're obviously missing the highly fraught interplay between negative and positive space inherent in the strong geometric lines of the pedestrian diamond shape versus the emotionally evocative minor-key undertone of the black irregular rhomboid, which speaks of battles hard-fought and won, positivity about the present, and a rich optimism for the future. Plus a rich cherry finish, with notes of blueberry, oak and Marmite.

I do wish you'd come to the focus groups on Tuesdays. You'd learn so much! But no, you've got more important things, you and your hospital stays. Philistine.

Bobby Lightfoot said...

What a cosmic load of wank.

Look at the time I'm posting this. I just rocked ass for 4 hours solid. I have no fluids left in me. I look like christing Ben Gunn.

Got a hundred.

what a chumpo I am.

devil's rancher said...

Things could be worse:
http://b3ta.com/features/phalliclogoawards/

At least the quark logo is just a vapid rip-off, and not phallic, or suggestive of paedophilia:
http://www.boingboing.net/2005/03/25/pediatric_centers_ba.html

But seriously this is the Oh, Ohs. No Pantone number that begins with anything lower than 5 should be found in any forward-leaning design work.

Also, an aside: Remember the 90s, when verbing reached its peak? Now we've got a new class of linguistic atrocity being proffered by the same folks who brought us the phrase "to office," only new, they're nouning adjectives. I had an art director announce the other day that he would be "forwarding the creative to me via email." The creative? These ... people... give rise to the almost uncontrollable urge to rip their lungs out through the phone. The upside: we've been referring to any scrap of art (bevnap, stolen web gif, .ppt file, what have you) as "the creative" and laughing roundly, for the last couple of weeks.

blue girl said...

As the owner of a small ad agency, married to a talented art director, I can relate to the huffing and puffing in this post and comment thread.

Many, many times we've met with new clients who are asking us to rescue them because their former agency has totally ripped them off. Unfortunately, the phrase "We don't have much money left" is always the last thing said as I'm walking out the door with a pile of work.

Jeddie, "gullible" is a nice word to describe most marketing directors I have to deal with day in and day out. "Make the logo bigger" is normally the only thing they know how to say when trying to give direction for an ad, etc.

Simon, if you know of a company willing to pay $500,000 for a logo, please let me know. I'll do it for much less than that...and I'm really fun to work with on top of it.

And devil's rancher, "No Pantone number that begins with anything lower than 5 should be found in any forward-leaning design work." Why do you think there are "rules" in graphic design? That's another huge problem I have to deal with. Someone read a book or went to some seminar and bought into that sort of thing...

And I always call our work "the creative" because it's not "the research" or "the strategy" or "the media" or "the printing" etc. -- feel free to rip my lungs out if it makes you feel better.

julia said...

omigod YES! That's IT! It wasn't the insanely punitive site license policies or the obscene price or the way your license times down if you have to use the program when the buggyass server system isn't working or the cosmically stupid pissing match with Adobe which has made it a career sub-specialty figuring out how to get around all the bugs they've arranged for us to have to deal with when we're using their programs together! It was the LOGO! My GOD!

Kind of a shame my eyes weren't opened before the studio I work in followed pretty much every other studio in New York into not upgrading Quark and switching over en masse to InDesign.

No Pantone number that begins with anything lower than 5 should be found in any forward-leaning design work.

Speaking as someone who has to deal with the consequences of this paradigm (I work on a lot of pharmaceutical advertising), I would very much like to hunt down whoever originated it and slap them until their ears ring er speak to them sharply in a loving but corrective way.

devil's rancher said...

Blue Girl, It was facetiousness, implying that we've "moved on" from the primaries into the earth-tones since the nineties.

I mix all the ink at my print shop, and have 1200 cans of ink, half custom and half Pantone matches. I can tell you two things (as far as customers go, anyway-- we're a custom shop)-- purple and pink are out. Waaaaay out. Teal, pretty much out, too. Grey is the new teal, and one can't have too many browns these days.

My can of 368c used to get a workout in the golden days of tropical hues, but not so much any more. Quark have missed the boat, there, I'm afraid.

Pssst. anybody wanna buy 5 gallons of Pantone 210c cheap? Anybody?

devil's rancher said...

Speaking as someone who has to deal with the consequences of this paradigm (I work on a lot of pharmaceutical advertising), I would very much like to hunt down whoever originated it and slap them until their ears ring er speak to them sharply in a loving but corrective way.

Please don't take me seriously-- I suffer the consequences of color fashion trends as badly as anybody-- I was merely poking fun. You-all do the Creative. I'll just facilitate the decorative. (smile, people-- it's Saturday.)

julia said...

oh, don't mind me. You can just only look at forward-looking melanges of hospital wall green and maroon before you start to snap a little.

I'm much worse than this if you get me started on Avenir or Akzidenz (the Avant Gardes of the aughts)

Neddie said...

Well... Any Shakespeare scholar will tell you that allowing the verbing of nouns is precisely the aspect of the English language that makes it such a vivid thing. So let's not automatically flame all such constructions. That said, there are good noun-verbings and ugly ones, no?

I've heard "creative" used as a noun referring to artwork for quite a few years, but it's recently enjoyed a vogue. The OED doesn't list it, but I'd suspect Gray-Flannel-Suit Madison Avenue as the source for it -- a hotbed of very many nasty language innovations.

GlueBirl, the kind of designer-horseshit I'm calling onto the carpet is not the daily give-and-take between a small agency and a floundering marketing director. All design must be discussed verbally, and when one or another side doesn't have the linguistic chops to state their desires or critiques directly, all sorts of trouble can arise. I have no problem with a marketing director who says "make the logo bigger" when what he's trying to say is "magnify the prominence of the brand" -- as long as the art director is brainy enough to translate that request into concrete results.

The horseshit of which I speak is when designers try to impress each other with their theoretical knowledge, their fluent conversance with some Platonic Design Ideal that just plain doesn't exist, no matter what they might tell you in design school.

I'm a user-interface designer, and thus I have the luxury of a relentlessly empirical criterion to judge the success or failure of a design: Does the user succeed or fail in the task at hand? No other criterion is useful.

Unfortunately, other kinds of graphic design must be judged on criteria that are far, far more slippery. Attempts to apply objective criteria to these kinds of design are fraught with so much hocus-pocus that they appear to the outside observer to be completely indistinguishable from utter, rank bullshit.

That's where "PANTONE 368 was the perfect choice for an innovative company such as Quark" comes in. It's completely impossible to negate such an assertion, and proving it true is equally impossible by any measurable, repeatable criteria. Thus, it's at best argumentative, and at worst it's simply bought-and-paid-for bullshit.

But since the claimant has set herself up as a "renowned color psychologist" she lends the weight of pseudoscience to an unscientific assertion. This is where we cross the line from mere harmless bullshit into truly pernicious bullshit -- bullshit that slanders true science.

Hey: I just remembered a funny story. There used to be, at the place I work, a group of very clever UI designers who amused themselves by coming up with completely meaningless terms of art and trying to get senior executives to adopt them. The one that finally made it to the top was the magnificently addlepated "controlled scroll" -- as in, "The user will eventually reach the bottom of the screen, but through the attention-getting mechanisms we have employed we have successully inculcated the controlled scroll."

Payoff came with a Very Famous Person Indeed -- trust me, you've heard of him -- used it in a live demo of a new product to stockholders in 1997.

blue girl said...

Jeddie, I think you might have felt the need to explain the point of your post to me because I wrote the first paragraph of my previous comment PDQ. And in this case, PDQ = Georgey.

(Neil Shakespeare, in an attempt to stop swearing, is now substituting "George" for the word "shit" in all of his posts. Above, I am using "Georgey" which = "shitty.")

I've known for a long time that a lot of people in this industry -- not only designers -- are full of George.

And while I don't think this is a verbing of a noun -- more times than not I am yelling -- "Get me the file! I've got to email the effing thing now!" (Sometimes I never use the term "the creative.")

The reason I freak out is because my client has been focused on making the logo 1/16" bigger for weeks, or has been harping on making the body copy 24 pt. (because she's in her late 50s and can't see, and after all just because her target audience is in their 20s -- what difference does that make anyway?) then realizes at the last minute that the dates to the event or some other such info she/he gave me was wrong from the start. Georgehead.

...."he's trying to say is "magnify the prominence of the brand"

Oh how I would love to work with someone who truly meant that...I just picked up a new account (Big, well known national account, too! Yay!) and the guy is smart. Hopefully, he won't focus on size of logo, but the actual message.

blue girl said...

And just in case devil's rancher comes back to this thread -- the reason I'm usually screaming, "I need to email the effing thing now!" -- is because I try my best not to totally screw the printer every single time. Hanging with the pressman is one of my favorite parts of a job.

And he'll tell me horror stories of Georgehead designers who come on press checks and stand there as every sheet is pulled off the press with a sharpie. And they'll continue sheet after sheet to circle every little hickey they find!

The biggest culprits of this sort of madness? The ones from a "highly respected" design firm here in town that charge anywhere from $75,000 - $250,000 for a logo.

I won't bother you with anymore comments today. Afterall, all this George actually begins for me first thing in the morning.

Kevin Wolf said...

Thank goodness I've taken enough art and computer courses to know what in the hell this is about.

Commenters: You do work that I simply could not do. One week on the job and next thing you'd see me in the police blotter.

Neddie: Remember that the same thing happened with the NBC logo in the 1980s? They dumped the peacock for a "flashy" (i.e. boring) corporate "N" half red and half blue only to find that a local NBC affiliate somewhere or other already had the exact same logo designed for them. Luckily the station was already part of the NBC team: coupla cameras and news trucks later they were allow to go ahead with the logo on a national scale.

Do the pros who make their living on this design thing also consult the Tarot?

devil's rancher said...

Blue girl: And just in case devil's rancher comes back to this thread -- the reason I'm usually screaming, "I need to email the effing thing now!" -- is because I try my best not to totally screw the printer every single time. Hanging with the pressman is one of my favorite parts of a job.

Designers who give a flying ... george, is it?... about the way something prints are a dying breed, so hats off to you for that. I've been in this business long enough to remember the last days of the Pre-Cambrian, when designers used to provide us with physical separations. Yes, that old. *ahem.* The attitude nowadays leans way too far toward "make it look good on screen, then send the printer a PDF" with little to no regard for spread, trapping, spot or bump plates, or gamut. I find myself rebuilding jobs from scratch frequently, just so they'll print.
An anecdote to brighten your day: As I busied myself one day explaining CMYK gamut to a web designer, he interrupted me part way through to ask rather tersely, "Well, why don't you just print it in RGB?" You probably recall the condescention rampant during the dot-com boom of the late nineties. Well, I comfort myself with the thought that that ass is probably now flipping burgers somewhere, but that's a whole nuther thread.

Neddie said...

Ooooh! OOOOOH! Me! Call on me! Mememememeeeeee!

Grandpa Devil's Rancher! I can say it with pride: I am old enough to remember having provided physical separations to a printer.

I'm also old enough to know what a horrendous pain in the ass it is to do graphic design without computers. I'd never go back.

devil's rancher said...

I'm also old enough to know what a horrendous pain in the ass it is to do graphic design without computers. I'd never go back.

Sorry to be so late responding-- I had to drive downtown for another sheet of Letraset Garamond Extra Bold Condensed, 36 point-- I ran out of apostrophes in the middle of a typesetting job. Now, where's that burnishing tool?

There's two things I lament-- the serious artists who did the real hand-lettering, and designers who took a real interest in how their stuff should print. You'll pry my Macs from my cold, dead hands, though. I had a real breakthrough about 4 years ago when I permanently mothballed my camera, too. My image setter was the best $5000.00 I ever spent, productivity-wise.

blue girl said...

"I am old enough to remember having provided physical separations to a printer."

Me too.

Big honkin' keylines all marked up! Overlay after overlay! Specing type and getting it back in 3 days!

Good times. Good times.

"...I comfort myself with the thought that that ass is probably now flipping burgers somewhere..."

Probably not devil's rancher -- we're livin' in George Bush country now. He's probably been promoted several times since he asked that question...

blue girl said...

devil's rancher -- listen to this story. Many, many moons ago there was a type rep -- an older guy who had been in the business for years running type around to all the agencies in town.

As he's driving like a maniac to make a delivery, he wrecks his car. He's hurt -- bleeding from the head -- blood running down his face --

The cops get there -- and he's kind of slumped in the front seat -- with the envelope of type in his hand -- with blood on it -- saying to the cop -- please. take. this. to. Stern. Advertising. It's a. rush. They. need. it. fast.

I was maybe 23 when that happened and pretty much realized right then how full of George this business was.

(He was ok -- just a little crazy up top, I guess.)

Anonymous said...

Put three stars on top - and then you're talking! Wonder if the designers thought of that.

XTCfan said...

Whee!! I remember all that, too. And yes, computer are a Good Thing when it comes to copy, layout, design, and production.

But c'mon ... doesn't anyone miss being able to say, "Sorry, sir, you're too late to add/change that ... it's already gone to the printer's," etc...? Yes, the Digital Revolution has given us power, but with power comes responsibility. Harking back to Ned's lawn-watering post, sometimes I miss not having so much responsibility.