Incite by Design

Caustic visions and shared thoughts on design, marketing, creativity, philanthropy, pop culture and business philosophy by Toronto design firm, Ricksticks Inc.


Taking our own advice...

One of the biggest challenges for our firm and for our clients is keeping the blog alive during "crunch times." The fear of not being able to produce content on a regular basis has been the main culprit behind blog skeptism for our business clients (for whom a blog would be beneficial).

While I don't think it's necessary to blog every day, I do think you should schedule the number of posts you want to make per week and stick to it.

Why am I bringing this up? Well, because we are currently in the midst of a tidal wave of work and, as you may have noticed, we have not posted in a few days (she says sheepishly).

So we are going to remedy this! We'll see how well we can tackle an onslaught of project demands while balancing the delicate ecosystem of our day-to-day operations. Not easy!

We'd like to know, to all you zealous bloggers out there, what helps you keep the content coming when in the middle of deadlines? Tips will certainly be passed on.



Now how am I going to get rich?

Blogger ads are gone!

I'm wondering why Blogger chose to remove ads on its Blogspot-hosted blogs last week. The timing of the switch coincides with less than spectacular results from the Google public offering.

The new navigation bar has a functional aspect, and I'm guessing many bloggers are happy to see those eye-sore ads disappear, but I suspect the reasons were financially driven.



Happy Monday!

My wife and I spent this Sunday at the Canadian National Exibition. Or, as we call it here in Toronto: the Ex. It's a massive carnival style fair.

We skipped the rides this year, electing instead to stick to junk food, games, and exhibits. I considered munching on a bit of beaver meat provided at the fire circle while visiting the 1st Nations Pow Wow -- but thought better of it when a large grizzly of a man move in for the kill.



Food for thought...

More US election heehaw. I just caught Will Ferrell's mock commercial clip. Funny stuff.

Also, a must read for designers: designbyfire.

It's a blog by Andrei Michael Herasimchuk. He's one of the original interface designers on industry standards Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, and Adobe InDesign. In recent months there has been an ongoing "dialogue" between he and another guru, usability expert Jakob Nielsen. Guys, can't we all just get along.

I'm of the belief that a web site must be searchable for human beings and search vehicles. I think that usability as an ergonomic consideration of functionality is crucial -- re: flash is for movies, not whole web sites. But, as a designer, usability also means that the experience is appealing to the user, not just intuitive.

A web site can (should) evoke feelings consistent with the subject matter. Usability need not strip a web page to a sterile academic exercise. Experience must be contextualized by function. The function of every web site is to communicate information, but the information itself is the qualifier of how the information is to be disseminated. hmmm. I'm entering a rant now. Time to relax -- it IS Saturday.

Food for thought though....



The Blog as Your Daily News Source

There is an interesting idea here concerning the concept of blogging as publishing. There are different expectations -- ie linking back -- when sharing commment/ideas among bloggers than there are among traditional media outlets.

Though newspapers grew out of the desire to share information between those in a community, clearly, blogging goes a step further. The blogging community spans the globe. It is not confined by borders or bodies of water. It is editorial, but interactive as well.

If found it interesting that bloggers covering the recent Democratic convention in Boston were viewed as a curiosity -- they were part of the news.

How long will it take before bloggers are reporting on the news in as influential a manner as the mainstream media? Soon, I suspect.

Til then,

Generation X/Y making the art of business cool

There are a host of new reality shows coming out in the same vein as The Apprentice, including the Matt Damon / Ben Affleck produced, American Start-Up, to be premiered on Spike TV, and entrepreneur, Richard Branson's softer approach, The Billionaire: Branson's Quest For The Best.

As with any trend, the backlash against the anti-corporate attitude of the 90's is giving way to a new wave of youth-looking-for-their-big-break. The "no pain, no gain" creed of the 80's is back as a nation of Republican rule ushers in a breed of youth with dollar signs in their eyes and credit card debts to pay off.

With advertising agencies paying close attention to kids as young as..., well, still in the womb, it's no wonder we're seeing a continuing rise in young consumers, debt-ridden twenty-somethings, then educated young professionals seeking quick solutions to mounting debt and the desire for "more." Becoming upwardly mobile is no longer just a cool notion for the educated, it is essential for debt and standard of living maintenance.

With heroes now being found in the Wall Street and self-made-man arena, I wonder what this newfound entrepreneurial trend will bring forth, and how the push for wealth will shape the coming years, economically? Is your business marketing to youth? How do you think the next generation of consumers will approach the services/products you offer?

We'll soon find out...And whatever did I do with my power suit?



More Olympics

Funny thing, I've not watched more than 5 minutes of Olympic coverage (synchronized diving -- what's that all about?), but I'm writing about it (them) again. Since they have an "OFFICIAL" Olympic fontface, I thought it worth mentioning. The font is AGFA's Gill Sans. Good choice, I think.

Makes me wonder though: To what extent will the host country go to designate "official" items in branding the Olympics -- re: $$$. They have a couple Schoos (thanks Kim) for "official" mascots. I'm certain that there is an "official" Athens Games Sports Drink and they've likely added an "official" Bank of the Games. Is there an "official" pencil manufacturer? How about an "official" diaper provider for the games?

Speaking of the Olympics, uses the instantly recognized rings to illustrate a simple Photoshop technique using layers to make element appear to be woven here.



Olympic Games Mascots

Now that the Olympics have opened, I have one question:

What's up with those freaky mascots?



Monkey Gone To Heaven?

The Pixies are reuniting. Monkey gone to hell-in-a-hand basket.

For those of us in our late 20's - early 40's, this may mean something. My university years were flavored by bands like the Pixies, Dinosaur Jr., Nine Inch Nails. I can look back fondly on the almost anthem-like quality of Pixie's album, Doolittle. But I suppose that's where it ends for me. There's something sad about a sober, 30 something standing in a mosh pit. Are mosh pits around anymore?

Everyone knows the woes of recording artists in today's musical piracy environment. If you can muster up some sympathy, which I suppose I have a little bit, considering I am in the creative biz, then you can understand the need to come up with less coop-ed forms of selling yourself. It's no longer solvent for an old rocker to sit around and rake in the dough from past albums, when people are downloading them for free. This is where the concept of survival of the fittest comes in--those who can still rock out in a live venue, will. (Didn't I see something about a Beach Boys tour recently?) Rock dinosaurs are emerging from their long hiatus and hitting the tour trail, desperate to maintain their lifestyle and annual property taxes.

According to an Associated Press interview with Mr. Black (aka Black Francis, Frank Black Francis -- whatever) "the business is with the real customers, the fans." The legendary Pixies will now focus their energies into touring, singles, loads of merchandise, and live albums of the concert. Instant, fast cash. We'll see where it takes them, and what new forms of product will emerge out of the record industry's current plight.

As for me, I'm a little frightened about the trend-- frankly, there are some musicians who should stay hidden away in their California estates. Good memories are better than bad realities, I always say.



What is Graphic Design?

I'm often in situations where I'm asked: what do you do for a living? And invariably, I respond "graphic design and marketing communications."

For some time, I thought that was a clear explanation. I create visual messages that sell, inform, and hopefully, inspire. Yet, so many people these days look at me blindly as if I just told them I dress up in a monkey suit and fly around on a magic carpet.

Has it always been this way? Have I just never noticed before?

I understand that creatives are often misunderstood. That, "what we do" seems to be plucked out of the ether. Why else would one be asked to reproduce 3 advertisement concepts for 3 different, unrelated products "by the end of the day?" No problem, yes?

But could it also be that "what we do" is so blurred by evolving technology based media that no one -- including graphic designers -- has a good, clear definition anymore? Is a web designer a graphic designer, maybe -- however, web DEVELOPERS generally aren't. Now that there is a PC in every home, everyone has access to the professional tools of the graphic designer. I could point out endless examples of where the line continues to blur (and I probably will at some point)!

I mean, when my father was a graphic designer, many years ago, he sat at a desk with a pencil and exacto blade, moving type around. It was pretty obvious what he was doing.

Anyway, here are some cool examples of how two extreme styles can be executed in web format:

Brazilian design student Eduardo Recife: misprintedtype
Kaliber: k10k



Rick James RIP

Rick James died on Friday.

What a legacy. He, the Super Freak, who spawned the stellar music careers of the Mary Jane Girls, Eddie Murphy, and MC Hammer -- doo do do do, da do, da do -can't touch this! -- made an indelible mark on popular culture. I'll admit it, I've got at least 1 RJ mp3 on my HDD.

I even have a 45 (re: vinyl) in a box somewhere in the basement with the track "Give it to Me Baby" on it. I don't know where I picked it up, but I don't have anything to play it on, so it'll likely remain there until we move or have a yard sale.

How does any of this relate to graphic design or marketing? I don't know. But, out of the concepts of legacy and graphic representations, I'm reminded of a photo of Paul Rand's headstone I found here.

Clean, graphic, fitting:
1 9 1 4
1 9 9 6

Makes me wonder, as a designer, what of my own monument? And at this time, more fittingly, what of the Super Feak's?

Can't touch this...

Your funkster,


Keep short term memory sharp

Here's a fun little memory game for your lunch break (ahem):

ZeFrank's Memory Game