Sunday, June 28, 2009

Transformers 2: Revenge of the Prepositions

This article goes to show how little importance most of the country puts on even remotely acceptable grammar. With one of the worst literacy rates in the industrialized world, director Michael Bay is here to remind us that in America, the ability to speak or write coherently is not required. Amusingly, he does this all while lambasting his marketing team for failing to perform up to the last Transformers movie's numbers. Perhaps, Mr. Bay, it's because your instructions were unclear. Or perhaps it's because the GM doesn't have as much money to spend on the tie-in as they did for the first Transformers know, the kind that includes lots of co-op advertising dollars, in-store merchandising and the like? That fact won't, however, stop me from going to see the new movie. I just hope this hot little pink/purple number to the right is in it.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Just a little more expensive than expensive

Someone I know recently got a new (or at least new-looking) Honda Civic. As usual, the dealer put some badges and whatnot on the car to promote the dealership family. What words did this sage dealer choose to entice people to its lots full of gleaming new vehicular devices?

Just north of high prices

On a purely geographical level, this works. The dealership is in fact north of Houston in the suburbs. And if you consider the city inherently more expensive than the 'burbs, you're saying that the dealership is north of the expensive part of town. Kudos.

Unfortunately, the phrase doesn't work that way. Any time you deal with price, "costs just north of" translates to "is slightly more expensive than." If you're talking about a Civic that costs just north of $20,000, you're saying it's a Civic that is slightly more than $20,000.

So, translated, the slogan says that this dealer "is slightly more expensive than high prices."

I don't know about you, but I'm not going to any dealer that claims to have prices higher than high prices. It was a clever play on words with north, but the existing usage of north in reference to price puts this dealership in a tight spot. You could conceivably say "just south of high prices," but it's still not that enticing a claim economically and then you risk confusing folks as to where you dealership is located. All in all, it's a noble attempt that almost works, but ends up meaning exactly the opposite of what the dealership intended.

Monday, June 22, 2009

In reach, out of touch

I love some good modern design. It's one of the reasons I got so excited when I found out there was a place called Design Within Reach. Really? Modern furniture and accessories that are affordable? Sweet! WRONG.

Alas, Design Within Reach is anything but. I'm not sure exactly whose reach it's supposed to be in, but it certainly isn't mine. With items like the Artichoke Lamp pictured here for around $7,700 and the Eames Lounge for around $2,500 without the ottoman and nearly $4,000 with it, I hardly think allusions to affordability are justified.

The name of a business is important. In the best cases, it's supposed to say something alluring about your company and communicate the essence of what you do. In the worst cases, it can be confusing, unclear or in this case, outright misleading. Don't get me wrong, I'm looking forward to the day when I can buy some of the wonderful wares from this posh shop. But seeing as I don't come from money and I'm a young buck in the biz, I'm going to have to hit the lottery to seriously peruse their store any time soon.

I guess it shouldn't be any surprise though. Here in Texas, you can often get homes for $70/sq.ft., including the land, homes by modern prefab home builders that claim to make affordable housing usually run between $200-$400/sq.ft. not including site prep, foundation or land.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Don't talk about things you don't now about

I'm going to skip the whole part where I talk about how little I like most of McDonald's advertising. I believe that even with the best creatives in the world on the task, the executives at McD's would continue to demand the unbelievably optimistic and contrived spots they currently produce, but the McCafe spots are by far some of the worst offenders in my book. Don't get me wrong, it's an interesting concept- transforming something bland into something cool with use of the accent mark. However, the examples they offer up tend to fall flat. But the radio is what gets me the most.

In one radio spot, the announcer is talking about how McCafe can jazz up your life and cause you to spurt out "evocative sentence fragments like 'That's chill dog.' " First of all, "That's chill dog" is hardly evocative. Second, and more important to grammar hounds, "That's chill dog." is a complete sentence. It has a subject and verb, not to mention an indirect object and an adverb. The sentence makes sense and stands on it's own. IT'S NOT A FRAGMENT. All I'm sayin' is if you're going to thrown around grammatical terms on the radio, at least know what you're talking about.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Too much of a good thing, Part 7- THE POINT

One of the main reasons this approach has worked for so long is because it was fairly uncommon. However, as it becomes more and more common, it becomes not the antithesis of homogeneity, but becomes homogenized itself. It’s boring. It has no personality. It has no character or voice. It tells you nothing about the brand but that they hired a designer who’s more interested in their own design perspective than in creating something appropriate for the brand. Minimalism and its elements have their time and place, especially when combined with other interesting, more dynamic styles. However, the bottom line is that if we get enough of these redesigns, the style will be just as ubiquitous and unoriginal as suburban white carpet and just as trendy and flat-footed as neon-colored fanny packs. Everything in moderation.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Too much of a good thing, Part 6- Stop and think

I’m not saying this sort of design has no place. It certainly does, but not with every brand nor with every application. Design should not get in the way of function, but use some judgment and use it where it’s appropriate, not just as a lazy default or because you have some sort of design mantra that demands it. If your theory of design demands the same solution for every problem, you’ve missed the boat entirely.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Too much of a good thing, Part 5- Not a new problem

This is a problem that has already long plagued the modern home industry. Many complain on modern home tours that they’re not shown a thing but uncomfortable, unlivable stark white boxes with giant windows. What’s to tell one white box from another? But evidently that’s high design.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Too much of a good thing, Part 4- Failure to communicate

And on a less design-related note, Target really dropped the ball when it came to informing anyone about the change. Many employees weren’t even informed until a month after products were on the shelf.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Too much of a good thing, Part 3- Dogma over design

Why? Because a minimal purist got their hands on one more project with which they can slowly homogenize the world with their design manifesto. The “RE” brand of home items prides itself on what it calls a revolutionary use of turquoise. News flash: the native Americans were using turquoise beads for hundreds if not thousands of years before a designer ever set foot here, and my grandmother had a closet full of turquoise that was all the rage in the 60s. The turquoise is jarring at best and fails monumentally at communicating comfort, home or style. And best of all, the way the packaging is designed now, they’ve managed to strip it of any boxes or separated areas, erasing any hierarchy of information that might assist a real consumer in decoding important information at a glance. But I suppose that is all part of the utopian design future.