Archive for May 2014


Cuba’s automotive time warp

29.05.2014

My friend Stephen Smith filmed the following in Cuba, looking at the pre-1959 US cars that are still running (mostly on non-original engines) there. It’s also interesting for the odd non-US car that you see: various Ladas (the original Zhiguli shape), a Volkswagen Gol in one scene, and an Emgrand EC8. Steve and his wife Ilona Kauremszky have more travel stories at their website, www.mycompass.ca, and more videos at their YouTube channel.

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Posted in cars, China, media, TV, USA | No Comments »


A tribute to Massimo Vignelli

29.05.2014

The below ran in Lucire today, though it is equally suited to the readers of this blog.


RIT

Massimo Vignelli, who passed away on May 27, was a hero of mine. When receiving the news shortly before it hit the media in a big way, from our mutual friend Stanley Moss, this title’s travel editor and CEO of the Medinge Group, I posted immediately on Facebook: ‘It is a sad duty to note the passing of Massimo Vignelli, one of my heroes in graphic design. When I was starting out in the business, Massimo was one of the greats: a proponent of modernism and simple, sharp typography. His influence is apparent in a lot of the work done by our brand consultancy and in our magazines, even in my 2013 mayoral campaign graphics. A lot of his work from half a century ago has stood the test of time. There was only one degree of separation between us, and I regret that we never connected during his lifetime. The passing of a legend.’
   This Facebook status only scratches the surface of my admiration for Vignelli. There have been more comprehensive obits already (Fast Company Design rightly called him ‘one of the greatest 20th century designers’), detailing his work notably for the New York subway map, and—curiously to me—glossing over the effect he had on corporate design, especially in the US.
   Vignelli, and his wife Lella, a designer in her own right and a qualified architect, set up the Vignelli Office of Design and Architecture in Milano in 1960, which had clients including Pirelli and Olivetti. In 1965, they moved to New York and Vignelli co-founded Unimark International (with Ralph Eckerstrom, James Fogelman, Wally Gutches, Larry Klein, and Bob Noorda), where he was design director. It was the world’s largest design and marketing firm till its closure in 1977.
   The 1960s were a great time for Vignelli and his corporate identities. He worked on American Airlines, Ford, Knoll, and J. C. Penney, and the work was strictly modernist, often employing Helvetica as the typeface family. Vignelli was known to have stuck with six families for most his work—Bodoni was another, a type family based around geometry that, on the surface, tied in to his modernist, logical approach. However, there were underlying reasons, including his belief that Helvetica had an ideal ratio between upper- and lowercase letters, with short ascenders and descenders, lending itself to what he considered classic proportions. The 1989 WTC Our Bodoni, created under Vignelli’s direction by Tom Carnase and commissioned by Bert di Pamphilis, adheres to the same proportions.
   Although my own typeface design background means that I could not adhere to six, there is something to be said for employing a logical approach to design. American corporate design went through a “cleaning up” in the 1960s, with a brighter, bolder sensibility. Detractors might accuse it of being stark, the Helveticization of American design making things too standard. Yet through the 1970s the influence remained, and to my young eyes that decade, this was how professional design should look, contrary to the low-budget work plaguing newspapers and books that I saw as I arrived in the occident.
   When the Vignellis left Unimark to set up Vignelli Associates in 1971 (and later Vignelli Designs in 1978), their stamp remained. The MTA launched Vignelli’s subway map the following year, and like the London Underground map by Harry Beck in 1931, it ignored what was above ground in favour of a logical diagram with the stops. Beck was a technical draftsman and the approach must have found favour with Vignelli, just as it did with those creating maps for the Paris MĂ©tropolitain and the Berlin U-bahn.
   New Yorkers didn’t take to the Vignelli map as well as Londoners and Parisians, and it was replaced in 1979 with one that was more geographically accurate to what was above ground.
   In 1973, Vignelli worked on the identity for Bloomingdale’s, and his work endures: the Big Brown Bag is his work, and it continues to be used by the chain today. Cinzano, Lancia and others continue with Vignelli’s designs.
   Ironically, despite a rejection of fashion in favour of timelessness, some of the work is identified with the 1960s and 1970s, notably thanks to the original cut of Helvetica, which has only recently been revived (a more modern cut is commonplace), and which is slightly less popular today. Others, benefiting from more modern layout programs and photography, look current to 2010s eyes, such as Vignelli Associates’ work for the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.
   The approach taken by Lucire in its print editions has a sense of modernism that has a direct Vignelli influence, including the use of related typeface families since we went to retail print editions in 2004. Our logotype itself, dating from 1997, has the sort of simplicity that I believe Vignelli would have approved of.
   Vignelli was, fortunately, fĂȘted during his lifetime. He received the Compasso d’Oro from ADI twice (1964 and 1998), the AIGA Gold Medal (1983), the Presidential Design Award (1985), the Honorary Royal Designer for Industry Award from the Royal Society of Arts (1996), the National Lifetime Achievement Award from the Cooper–Hewitt National Museum of Design (2003), among many. He holds honorary doctorates from seven institutions, including the Rochester Institute of Technology (2002). Rochester has a Vignelli Center for Design Studies, whose website adheres to his design principles and where educational programmes espouse his modernist approach. It also houses the Vignellis’ professional archive.
   He is survived by his wife, Lella, who continues to work as CEO of Vignelli Associates and president of Vignelli Designs; their son, Luca, their daughter, Valentina Vignelli Zimmer, and three grandchildren.

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Posted in branding, business, design, marketing, typography, USA | No Comments »


This government’s comedy of errors lately—and few to capitalize on them

07.05.2014

Polity has gone through the MFAT OIA documents relating to Judith Collins’s visit to China, where she met with Oravida thrice.
   I’ve been reading them but out of order (the second bunch only) and their summary of what I have read gels with my take on things.
   These matters have been covered better on political blogs, but I can’t but help drawing comparisons between the stubbornness of this government with the days of Neil Hamilton, Jonathan Aitken and others in the UK Conservatives in the 1990s.
   The Minister’s latest, that the Greens were quick to capitalize on (as they did with Simon Bridges—which begs the question of where Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition is), is this quotation: ‘Does that have anything to do with me? Am I the minister of wetlands? Go and find someone who actually cares about this, because I don’t. It’s not my issue 
 I don’t like wetlands—they’re swamps.’
   This Cabinet has opened itself up to media attacks because of the relatively large holes in its conduct, of which the above seems typical.
   The odd one, at least to 21st-century eyes, has to be the PM’s defence of Collins, as reported by Radio New Zealand: ‘Meanwhile, the Prime Minister blames Twitter for the stress Ms Collins has faced over her involvement with Oravida 
 Mr Key said Ms Collins had been under a lot of stress and much of that was driven by comments on Twitter.’
   One of my friends responded, ‘If he’d ever seen the abuse she dished out in her tweets, he’d know she was the instigator of most of it, not the victim.’
   And the PM makes one critical mistake here: he seems to portray social media as some sort of foreign world, where specialist knowledge is required. It’s certainly one that certain members of the old media fraternity love to use.
   The truth is social media aren’t that different: they are merely extensions of what one already knows. If you have been in business or in public service, you should know how to write and communicate. If you’re a reasonably competent writer in your everyday life, then it’s a cinch that you’ll be good at communicating with social media.
   I might get sucked in by the odd troll every now and then, but Twitter stress isn’t a valid enough excuse in my book.
   However, the PM is a smart guy. He knows that most of us will forget in a short space of time and there’ll be another scandal that will surface. So the disappearance of Collins through a time-out might be a good calculated move—at least that’s what he’s counting on.
   But the fourth estate might not be as forgiving this time. Duncan Garner wrote (also noting she needed a Twitter break): ‘The truth is, her story about what she was doing in China with Oravida has completely collapsed. She has lost all credibility. What started as a pop-in cup of milk and a private dinner turns out to be a turbo-blasted official dinner involving both Governments, their officials, a senior Minister (Collins) and a National party donor (Oravida).’
   The problem with all of this is: where’s Labour, in the midst of the greatest gift an opposition has been given for years?
   One friend of a friend noted that maybe Labour shouldn’t be attacking, because we Kiwis don’t like whingers. It is the charge I hear from friends on the right. Labour should, instead, be coming up with solid policies and leave the attacks to the Greens (which is doing a marvellous job) and Winston Peters (need I say more? He remains a great political wordsmith).
   For me, I’d like them to do both if they are to stand a chance. The job of the Opposition is to oppose.
   And failure to oppose strongly may suggest to the electorate that the same thing could happen under Labour.
   Six months out from the election I contested, I had my policies published—which one blog noted was unusual but welcome. That meant my policies were out for twice as long as my opponents’.
   We’re talking about a party that has been in opposition for a long time, long enough to know what it wishes to do should it be handed the reins of government.
   And yet, apart from a few policy announcements here and there, it has been silent. You’d think the names of the Shadow Cabinet would be in our consciousness by now. Embarrassingly, I even forgot David Cunliffe’s name recently in a conversation. I could only call him ‘not-Robertson’. (It is better than the PM calling Grant Robertson ‘Perry Mason’ today, I hasten to add.)
   It makes me wonder if Labour isn’t working and whether the anti-National vote will, indeed, head even more to the Greens this year.

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Posted in business, China, internet, media, New Zealand, politics | 3 Comments »


How can the Yamaha Motiv make it into the top 10 British cars in Autocar?

07.05.2014

Anyone notice the anomaly in Autocar’s top British cars? Let’s not debate what is British—let’s simply consider what is and has been on the market. Antony Ingram spotted this:

Firefox_Screenshot_2014-05-07T08-51-20.660Z

Apparently this is a reader survey but I agree with Antony: how on earth can a car that is not even produced, the Yamaha Motiv, wind up in the top 10? There are 100 in the full list—in other words, there are many more likely candidates of cars that readers have, well, seen and heard about. How strange that something previewed once at last year’s Tokyo Show can make it.
   On Twitter, Autocar deputy digital editor Lewis Kingston tells me, ‘We’ve run a few big stories on it before’.
   While I don’t know the methodology, I still find the odds of the Yamaha getting there very, very slim.
   Incidentally, the Austin Metro didn’t make it.

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Posted in cars, media, UK | No Comments »