Grand Classic revisited

“It’s an exclusive design competition – Per-Ole, we would like to invite you to join”. Intriguing, don’t you think? The invitation was from Gyldendal, Denmarks biggest, most prestigious publisher.

It got better. The subject was none less than a redesign of the grandmother of all Danish cook books, “Frøken Jensens kogebog”. If you form a sentence involving classic Danish food, the chance of mentioning Miss Jensen is about 1 to 1.

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I was excited. For a bit. Then I got nervous. Who was in the competition? … I researched all the publishers freelance designers and narrowed it down to a sizeable group. It looked grim. Skilled designers on board. Some of them former in-house folks. I’m always ready to compete on skills, but on the relational? I was way behind. It had been more than 10 years since I had created with managing director Lise Nestelsø.

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Then, I got competitive. I submitted biweekly design process documents, for the team to follow my research, sketches and preliminary ideas. I got feed-back on the go, analyzed the existing and former versions in detail. Meanwhile, I grabbed any occasion for more phone meetings, to hone in on the projects aspirations and limitations. I jumped into a maelstrom of ideas and executed like a kamikaze pilot. Deadline was grinding against my forehead, adrenaline pumping.

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Weeks of excited anticipation followed. I knew, my chances were slim. Still: I had a blast doing this. I was, honestly, quite honored for the invitation in the first place. This is the cookbook my grandmother, Rena Lind snr. absolutely loved.

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I had a few cards on hand. A textile + gold foil simple / classic, a classic porcelain inspired Indigo on damask table cloth pattern background and a fun, folksy frying pan iconic design on red-checkered background.

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I had tested numerous typeface combinations, to ensure a careful balance between traditional and fresh. If you go all-classic, you end up with old hat. If you push the innovation-button too hard, you miss the mark. I had to make it look classic, yet new. Express the grand story that the book withholds, while exciting new generations.

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One thing was in place: the interior. My analysis was in check. The existing design had forth-running layout, all recipes running one one after the other in two columns. I had tested 14 pages worth of a dynamic layout instead, splicing up ingredients, recipes and headlines and found that the page economy could handle it:

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And a version with brown ink on beige paper. Brown ink, baby.

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I fanatically checked my email. Inbox-silence. Eventually, my confidence dropped. No word so close to national holiday. Oh, well. It was still a blast to give it a shot, and … Oh, an email from the editor … Hmm … ambiguous … Oh, another one: I read it 4 times: I got the gig. My competitors had gone either too classic or to innovative. I had, in the editor, Ulla Selfort‘s words “managed to bridge the two”.

A month later, I submitted an updated process-document, based on the first feed-back:

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The old-school logo on damask had most traction. For the interior, brown ink on natural paper. Silver foil: Optional. The cutlery icon as a branding element got some attention.

500+ pages of forth running recipes to be carefully dissected and rearranged. 1200+ recipes.

As the layout progressed, it became clear that cover did not match the interior design. Blue on white against brown on beige? … Not exactly integrated design. Imagine a stately classic blue Mercedes. Would beige interior work? Absolutely. Indigo on damask had the right Grandmother feel.

Yet, great design grows from content. And in this case, the calm care of the recipes, not decades but a century of testing in the kitchen. It was also clear, that indigo was too much a remake of the previous publication. This one needed it’s own voice. The answer was in the icon.

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Silver cutlery on discrete damask simply made sense. The color for the type carried over from the interior. 53 versions of the typography was tested, before this handheld, rounded version held over.

The final result:

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Bonus: Tests of logo designs, final stage:

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What is branding?

This is one of those hot questions with many different explanations. Here’s one:

Branding is a common visual language for your project/organization/business.

If you can, use this same language in everything you do. The same three typefaces across all platforms, the same icon’s and logotypes in various formats on all platforms. In order to stand out, to differentiate. To let the world know/see/experience what’s unique about what you do.

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Speaking of brand-value: Once you have a familiar identity, your audience will add the positive (or negative) experience they have had with you. If they like you, they will like your logo, as they would your face.

If possible, attempt to include your brand values in your design. This requires designers with experience and insight. As design can add value, it can also do significant damage. Good design pays off.

What is graphic design?

Perhaps, this question is not as straight forward as it sounds. Maybe a little clarification won’t hurt. “Never assume”, as designer Paul Smith says it.

“Graphic design … is the art and practice of planning and projecting ideas and experiences with visual and textual content” is how AIGA – the professional association of design – defines it. It is also well described as a process of visual communication and problem-solving through use of space, image, tyopgraphy and color.

A designer combines photos, illustration, symbols, typography and textual content, while adjusting various factors such as style, (cultural, historical, contemporary etc.) and composition (modern, classic, innovative etc.) in order to communicate the values of the project at hand and that of the brand in question.

A graphic designer’s most important task is to communicate and visualize what’s there. If he or she is doing magazines, the number one job, is to make the reader engage with the text, not the design. Too often, designers tend to push their own style, in order to market themselves. It’s a pity, but often related to creative work being pushed in the area of budget. If you are engaging with designers, dear reader, please treat them well (while you insist on the communication part).

Did this help? Send a line, if you have comments or questions.

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What is Art Direction?

“Art Director” sounds pretty fancy, don’t you think? In reality, it is less about being head of a department that it sounds like. The director part refers to the responsibility of managing various creative specialists, supervising and unifying.

Art Directing means being in charge of an overall appearance of a project, brand or organization. An AD is trained in how design communicates, how it stimulates emotion and ultimately how it helps an audience to engage and relate with a brand.

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Various professional artists might have a hand in how a project looks, but it’s the Art Director who makes sure that all elements play well together. This often means careful consideration of various factors that creatives otherwise don’t need to worry about: decision process, business partners, budget consideration and brand manuals.

It is an Art Director’s responsibility to take all factors into consideration, before copy writers designers, photographers and other artists are set to work. It is often the Art Director’s job to formulate the creative briefs to other creatives involved.

An Art Director does not merely design, but orchestrates all creative input and outputs. It is the responsibility of the AD to translate desired moods, messages, ideas and concepts into imagery. An Art Director need therefore not only to have considerable creative skill and experience (with both designing and copy writing), but also diplomatic sense and a fair amount of business-oriented insights.

Did this help you? Please get in touch, if you have any comments or questions.

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MORE is sometimes MORE

You’ve heard it: “Less is more”. We still say it. We still kinda love it … Because it’s as close to a truthful self-contradiction as you can get. When we trim our living room down to the bare minimum, we not only appreciate the architecture better, but all of a sudden, we notice the art on our walls.

But Minimalism has it’s limits. You cannot simplify unless there’s something to leave room for. Minimalism works, when there’s something else than the aesthetics to put the focus on.

It worked for Giorgio Armani, because, like italian food, the raw materials were of exquisite quality. It works in classic Japanese architecture for the same reasons. The clay on the walls. The hand-imprinted paper in the sliding doors. The straw in the Tatami. The artwork and flower arrangements in the Tokonoma.

It worked for Dieter Rams, because he recognized the sublime functionality of Braun’s products. Simplifying made space for the function to come alive. The design did not compete with the experience. The record player was about the music, not the object on your shelf. The design was humble and thus elevated. IBM learned that lesson with the ThinkPad – then Apple got on board.

Simply put: Minimalism works, if the function excites. Otherwise, other tactics are needed. You cannot reduce, if there’s nothing to enlarge. My all-time favorite Art Director Bob Gill, put it like this: “If you have boring content, make interesting graphics. If you have interesting content, make boring graphics”.

The Guinness Doctrine: You can’t have your Minimalism, unless your content or function excels. Until then, you will have to do with “More is More”. If that doesn’t convince you, check: GuinnessWorldRecords.com.

What’s the damage?

How much? You don’t pay me pr hour or page. You pay for 20+ years of design insights. Sometimes, that means close to going rate, other times not. Premium quality might mean premium purchase, other times, it just means the right price.

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Designers don’t like to talk about money. That’s fair. It’s not good business manners to do so. But without having an idea of a price range, it might be hard to find the right creative to team up with. I might scare you off. That’s not the intention. Please feel welcome. And also welcome to return, if you you burn your fingers elsewhere.

It needs to be said: You can find design cheaper out there. It’s really true. Designers hate to talk about it, but the web has changed how things go. You can easily find online services, where design students and laptop designers bids for projects. Which, on one hand is fine, since it has made low-cost designs look a whole lot better than it used to. On the other: There’s a lot of repetition out there. But if authenticity is less important, why bother?

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In the 70’ies a head honcho of Carlsberg met with an estimated type designer for lunch. The manager explained an idea for a new product. The designer took a napkin and did a quick sketch. When the Carlsberg guy saw it, he was amazed: “That’s it! That’s exactly it!”. Talking about what to do next, Mr. Carlsberg was shocked when he heard the price. “But that only took you 30 seconds to make!” the designer replied: “You don’t pay me pr. minute, you pay me for 25 years of experience”.

A design project varies greatly in cost, depending on the size, type and variety of a project. A variable that at times surprises business partners is estimated exposure. The more work the design does, the higher the value.

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Here are a few prices to give you an idea:

Variables: scope, size, count, colors, exposure, and complexity

Identity Design (Branding, logo design): 2.000-20.000$ (Average 4.000$)

Book cover (Editorial design): 1.000-1.500$ (Average 1.200$)

Book cover (Commercial design) 1.500-2.000$

Book project (Art direction, cover and interior): 8-15.000$ (Average 12.000$)

Poster design: 1.500-5.000$ (Variables: Size, count, colors)

Digital design (Home page, apps): 2.000-8.000$ (Often 3.500$)

Flyer design: 500-1.500$ (Usually 800$)

Promotion video: 1.500-3.000$

 

 

 

 

National treasure

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Rarely do you get to promote a nation. Rarely are you asked to do a logotype, that signifies a country. Rarely, do you get to design for royalty, but in this case, it was nothing less. After this project, I could easily retire, saying I’ve done my bid for my country, my future king and my trade.

(But yes, you guessed it: I love what I do, so no I won’t stop just yet).

Below is the process from sketches through mock-ups to final product. As presented behind the Japanese Emperor Family, the Greenland Prime Minister and the Royal Danish family.

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A1 Poster Design

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Façade Design, embassy front

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Postcard Design

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Event Backdrop

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Logotype

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Logotype integrated with official Greenland Icon

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Japanese curtain design (Noren)

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Signpost Design