Incite by Design

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


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On the heels of the Manitoba rebrand comes this spiky beast. Three figures severed at the torso, with their truncated lower halves floating alongside them. Hardly an improvement on the original. Does the committee strike again?


A Spirited Rebrand

Manitoba's spirited new brand
So Manitoba has a brand new look

I have to admit, that I was a bit skeptical when I heard about it. Branding a province or city means dealing with a committee, and nothing kills a good idea like a committee.

Besides that, while I have been to Manitoba, and found some funky places in Winnipeg, I still couldn't get over the idea that it was a rural, out of the way province. Sure there are really creative and cutting edge things going on there, but on a small scale, and never by any administrative or governmental body.

Well, was I proven wrong. Their new logo, something akin to Veers, is funky and more forward thinking than the maligned Toronto identity. While a bit frail, the concept of the ligatures on a chunky sans is a good one. They didn't white-wash it until it looked like every other logo created 10 years ago (10 year old trends are benign while giving committee members the illusion of a fresh and new logo, without actually producing one)

My only complaint is that the images on their website freak me out. The patterns on the peoples clothing extend into empty space. It's a bit like the rose petals on American Beauty, a bit like the stomach bursting scene in Alien.


Colour Study #2

What colour would the word culture be?


A compromising position

We just got wind of an event which started in Vancouver, and has migrated to Montreal.

Called “Design and Dash”, it’s a 24 hour blitz which was held over this past weekend. Selected projects for non-profits are provided to volunteer designers. Over the subsequent 24 hours the designers are expected to provide finished pieces.

I have a problem with this.

Now, volunteer work for charity is one thing. We do a lot of work for non-profits and, with the exception of the invoice, we treat them like any other client. There is a rigorous process, including options for and feedback from the organization.

However, in graphic design we are constantly battling with the perception that our work somehow carries less value and is fun, so we should want to work for free, and the opportunity to work for someone should be a reward in itself. I doubt plumbers have this problem. This contest gives no indication of process, or of invoicing. But wait, it’s free you say? Yes, but the organization should know the value of what they are receiving. Otherwise, it can be as damaging to our profession as spec work.

There was a great discussion on ideasonideas a while back about spec work and there were two really great comments that put it very well:

I think the integrety (sic) of the profession would be in better shape if non-profits and charaties (sic) would ask for help rather than dumb down the process by holding an event that shares more in common with hitting pinatas (sic) and eating the most hot dogs than crafting an experience or improving a process though creative and critical thinking. Designers deserve more dignity than this. – “Greg”

I do *alot* (sic) of work for charities, but I don’t do it on spec. I treat working for charities the same as working for any other organization — I do a project bid and follow the same rigorous planning and design process. The big difference is that I often donate some, most, or all of my proceeds back to the non-profit — the exact amount is put right in to the contract up front. They then know the value of the work that I have done for them and I get a tax break. Win/win. Just giving it away is plain bad business practice. – “Tim”

Of course, they weren’t talking about the Design and Dash event specifically. (See original context here.)

From what little information is available, this design marathon seems to give little to no opportunity to the client to provide feedback in process, and the only reward for the designer is "an opportunity to break free and stretch their creative muscles as they give back to the community." There is never a shortage of non-profits looking for probono work, without forcing both parties into a compromised position which benefits neither parties involved, nor the quality of the work.


Visual Hegemony

said, Wikipedia:

Hegemony, is the dominance of one group over other groups, with or without the threat of force, to the extent that, for instance, the dominant party can dictate the terms of trade to its advantage; more broadly, cultural perspectives become skewed to favor the dominant group. Hegemony controls the ways that ideas become “naturalized” in a process that informs notions of common sense.

Throughout history, cultural and political power in any arena has rarely achieved a perfect balance, but hegemony results in the empowerment of certain cultural beliefs, values, and practices to the submersion and partial exclusion of others. Hegemony affects the perspective of mainstream history, as history is written by the victors for a sympathetic readership. The official history of Christianity, marginalizing its defined “heresies”, provides a richly-exampled arena of cultural hegemony.

Jás Elsner, in Imperial Rome and Christian Triumph (1998), has written:
“Power is very rarely limited to the pure exercise of brute force.... The Roman state bolstered its authority and legitimacy with the trappings of ceremonial – cloaking the actualities of power beneath a display of wealth, the sanction of tradition, and the spectacle of insuperable resources.... Power is a far more complex and mysterious quality than any apparently simple manifestation of it would appear. It is as much a matter of impression, of theatre, of persuading those over whom authority is wielded to collude in their subjugation. Insofar as power is a matter of presentation, its cultural currency in antiquity (and still today) was the creation, manipulation, and display of images. In the propagation of the imperial office, at any rate, art was power.”

Having said that, who then controls the images? Are large corporations dictating the evolution of visual language? This isn’t a stroke of genius on my part, but the point here is who do they employ to carry out this visual hegemony? Are designers really the dancing monkeys in this downward spiral, or can they be held accountable? One can’t argue that we are now accustomed to increasingly ‘stimulating’ imagery, leading me to question what the long-tem effects are of this over stimulation and awareness. It seems that with technology amplifying the efficacy of imagery over the last 50 years, we are only beginning to see the ‘groupthink’ neurosis of western society. The industrialization of most of our natural functions, including even leisure time – the factory setup of most gyms – smells like one grand scheme.

Unfortunately, our obsessive nature is not only restricted to body image, we have a certain affection for shiny objects and any type of commodity that will get us closer to the gospel according to Guess, that we see on the bus everyday. I suppose the moral of the story here is to be happy! Stop and think, relax, enjoy, and question everything you do. Make sure you are doing things because you truly want to, not because you should. Focusing too closely on details and objects is just a distraction, and in some ways repression. I feel the need to counteract the system I have abettednd abedded. And so I filter this on to you, being satisfied only when we get there, where ever and whatever that entails, is just an image. Since designers and advertisers have created this visual codex, I will do everyone a favour and let the secret out.