Wednesday, December 03, 2014


Submitted without comment.

Monday, December 01, 2014

Forever isn't what it used to be

You say "Permanent" and I say "Forever." Let's call the whole thing off.

Business is slow for the people who hand-deliver personal letters and bill payments. But the postal services of the world (okay, United States, Canada and the United Kingdom) have come up with a way to encourage people to buy postage stamps to make mailing letters less annoying.

Since postage rates are going up on a seemingly yearly basis, postal services now sell stamps that don't have a price on them (called, according to Wikipedia, "Non-Denominated Postage"). The stamps are good for first class letters now and into the future, even if postage rates increase after the stamp was purchased.

In the U.S. they are called Forever stamps, in Canada they're called Permanent stamps, in the U.K. they are simply called First Class stamps. And there's not a price on any of them.

And while I think the idea is good I think some of the executions of the idea are better than others.

The United Kingdom has opted to print "1st" on every stamp. That, in combination with the Queen's silhouette, is all there needs to be on a U.K. stamp. The U.K. doesn't even print the name of the country on the postage. That's confidence.

The United States puts the entire word "Forever" on every stamp. Along with the letters USA. And sometimes the name of whatever is on the stamp. I gotta say I think it gets a little crowded on the U.S. stamps.

Canada's stamps have a very small "P" inside a maple leaf on their stamps. Along with that symbol, stamps must always say, "Canada." (Not to mention the English/French language thing.) The word "Canada" is a bit of a longer word than "USA," so it's for the best that Canada decided against spelling out "Permanent."

A few more examples:

I think the U.K.'s solution is pretty cool. Just having the silhouette and three characters on a stamp can really open up the small space for some fun stuff. And while the silhouette doesn't always work with the subject matter on the stamp, it's generic enough to eventually blend in and be ignored.

A very standard treatment here. The info is there, but it doesn't compete with the artwork.

And when the Queen profile is the main image on the stamp -- then it's the most simple a stamp can be. Clean and classy.

Canada's solution is pretty flexible. The three elements of Permanent logo, country and subject matter label allows for some fun designs.

Again with the unnamed Queen.

This Chinese New Year stamp downplays the symbol. (The English word "Dragon" must be "Dragon" in French, too.)

Lotsa logos here, but the Permanent logo doesn't clash. (Zamboni postage!)

More type on this stamp than most -- including the guy's jersey number. The Permanent logo again, doesn't clash.

The Permanent logo on this one is really downplayed. Because of its size and coloring, it's almost just another letter in the word, "Canada." (Canada and the U.K. have no problem putting living people on stamps. It's a bit of a shock to a born and raised U.S. stamp fan.)

While the U.K. and Canada opt for compact solutions, the United States "Forever" is big and bold and -- sometimes -- a bit much. Putting a label of "Forever" on something implies immortality or invincibility. That can be overbearing. These flag designs, for example.
With the Reagan stamp, the "Forever" is downplayed -- and that's good, in my opinion. Still, the "Forever" hints at the eternal.

The Janis stamp plays up the immortality angle.

The Jimi stamp just lets it kinda fade away into the background.

"Batman / Forever / USA." The "Forever" is getting pretty big play here. Batman forever? Yes, if Warner Bros. has anything to say about it.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

No longer made in China

Picked up a cool-looking screen cleaner thing at Staples office supplies. 

I bought it because it looks cool. The cleaning liquid is in a little sprayer that is wrapped in the cleaning cloth material and the whole thing is snug inside a clear plastic holder.

When you take it out of it's holder it looks like this.

The cleaner is named Mist and it's available in variety of colors. (At the time of this writing, the online store appears to be sold out of all products. A nice-looking website, though.) Here's what the packaging looks like.

One point of interest is the country-of-origin fine print. Instead of the expected "Made in China" credit -- it says "Made in PROC."

Of course I've heard of China referred to as The People's Republic of China, but swapping out "China" for "PROC" seems either intentionally misleading or … overly specific. In any case, it's something new to me. 

Sunday, November 09, 2014

People magazine cover design 1974 and 2014

People magazine did one of those things I just can't resist. A throwback version of an old cover. 
It's People's fortieth anniversary and they did two fun things -- a throwback cover and a flip-and-read-it-from-the-back second cover. I'm not going to discuss the flip cover. I didn't like it at all.

Anyway here are the three front covers. The original cover -- from March 4, 1974 -- uses a supplied (I'm guessing) publicity photo of Mia Farrow in "The Great Gatsby." Okay, it probably was taken on the set of the movie for the magazine by a very professional magazine photographer, but it looks like a publicity shot. A movie still, not a cover photo. And the other two covers use highly-styled original photos of current pop sensation Taylor Swift by Martin Schoeller.

I've scanned the 1974 and 2014 subscription covers from small images in the 2014 newsstand issue.

The 1974 original cover is a pretty formal design. The logo characters are all kerned together in 1970's style -- making space for the word "Weekly" in the collision area. The logo is pushed to the very edge of the top and right hand side. The logo is also in black. I don't think they ran with a black logo for very long. It almost doesn't look like People magazine with a black logo. People has a white logo now and forever more.

The headlines are all very small and undifferentiated. All in Helvetica, all black.

It's a bit of a slog to try to read all the type on that cover.

The 2014 subscription cover kinda halfway tries to reproduce the look of the 1974 original. The designer could have gone all-out Helvetica, but stayed with People's current (wonderful) typeface, Metro. The small version of the original cover is a nice touch of variety and a needed explanation as to why Swift is munching on pearls like that. The big gap at the bottom left is for the mailing label. I'm guessing the printed versions have a very large white rectangle there. 

The 2014 newsstand cover takes what it wants from then and now. On the left is the cover homage -- with a little bit of color in the type treatment to add excitement and bring out Swift's eyes (and Swift is looking at the camera -- it's a much better shot). Note the position of the original cover thumbnail. That small cover is positioned to cover up the unattractive, non-floofy area of Swift's hair that's visible in the 2014 subscription cover.

White logo.

And on the right hand side, the cover design is completely today's People. Many colorful photos, colorful type. Something for everyone. Ugly, but that's the way it's done.

I think the People designers did a pretty good job playing off the so-so original cover. Too bad Telly Savalas wasn't the first People cover.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

One Edmonton newspaper on 27 October 2014

The tabloid Edmonton Sun -- one of two daily papers in town -- seems to be doing quite well indeed. On a Monday, often a slow newspaper day, it was 76 news and entertainment pages and 28 sports pages. Tabloid pages are smaller than regular newspaper pages, yes. But still -- 104 pages. 

Edmonton Sun on Monday, Oct. 27, 2014. Click for larger view.
Sports pages are in a pull-out section in the middle. They are numbered separately from the rest of the paper.

Sports editorial content.

Of 104 pages, 36 pages were vehicle ads.

Car and truck ads.
Not a whole lot of other regular advertising (shown in blue) or classified advertising (in green). Some of these ads are house ads promoting the newspaper itself.

Cars and trucks in red, other ads in blue, classifieds in green.
I have no idea how the finances of the Sun are, but this looks like a pretty healthy Monday paper.

Vehicles = red, other ads = blue, classified ads = green, Sports section = yellow. Click for larger view.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Cavellini 1914-2014

The once-ubiquitous"Cavellini 1914-2014" sticker. 

I must apologize to Guglielmo Achille Cavellini (b. 1914 d.1990).

He authorized me to mount a centennial celebration exhibit at an American museum this year -- but I didn't do it.

I am authorized to organize a Cavellini centennial celebration at an American museum.
Long story.

In late 1984 I was working at TWA Ambassador -- a glossy in-flight magazine -- as an associate art director in St. Paul, Minnesota. (Best job I ever had, by the way.) I was encouraged by my boss, art director Barbara Koster, to come up with visual one-page story ideas. I'd previously had a page published in Ambassador about rubber stamps.

In 1984, Minneapolis and St. Paul seemed to have a lot of round, green-white-red "Cavellini 1914-2014" stickers everywhere. I must have been fascinated by the stickers and I must have done some research and got an address. I wrote to Cavellini about the possibility of doing an article about the sticker.

I was delighted to get back -- via mail, of course -- a bunch of stuff. Including many of the round stickers and a huge variety of other stuff. Books. Photos. Post cards. And an authorization.

Proposed page layout for TWA Ambassador magazine. January 1985. The type is from another story -- put in there to give an idea of the amount of writing I'd hoped would be done for the article.

I did a page layout -- it expanded to two pages -- and sent it and all the stuff over to an editor to have some words written to accompany the visuals. This was in January of 1985. The article was never published, however, because of Carl Icahn. Carl bought TWA and in his effort to squeeze as much money out of it as possible, he took the publishing contract away from the company I worked for and gave it to someone else.

I was out of a job.

But more importantly, the Cavellini article didn't run!

Here we are, thirty years later, I'm looking through the boxes of stuff I can't seem to throw out and I come upon this Cavellini treasure trove.

And the reminder that I am not going to be mounting a centennial celebration for the guy.

But hey -- I can mount a celebration on the internet, right?

Hey, Mister Cavellini! R.I.P.! Happy 100th!

In conclusion, here are a couple more interesting bits sent to me by Cavellini.

Cavellini's ten commandments. A postcard. I believe he broke every commandment. (As always, click for a closer view.)

Self portrait with stickers. He had a lot of stickers . . . 

. . . an awful lot of stickers.

A sticker. Cavellini loves the postal service.

Self portraits with a clown theme.

A sticker illustrating Cavellini's place in the bull of art history.

"Operation Round-Trip No. 2897" -- the front. Cavellini doing the mail-art thing. He dressed up and sent back an envelope that I originally sent to him (probably sending him some sample magazines). 

"Operation Round-Trip No. 2897" -- the back. "A work of Art by Cavellini to be framed and hung on the wall. 30 1/2 x 45 1/2." (I haven't framed it yet. Another regret.)

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Two "M"s. 3-D.

Picked up a Mike McFadden button at this year's Minnesota State Fair. McFadden is trying to unseat U.S. Senator Al Franken. I think it's a nice enough design. Following on the Barack Obama lead of using a logo for political candidates. The McFadden logo even makes use of the three stripes from the Obama logo.

But the McFadden button and logo caught my eye because of it's use of old-fashioned 3-D colors. Almost as if the two "M"s are one "M" that stands out from the surface of the button -- if you are wearing 3-D glasses.

Looking at the button closer, I noticed that the overlapping brown color is not actually made of overlapping colors. It's a third printed color that simulates the overlap.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Post-Science Museum

I took this picture of the Church of Scientology in St. Paul, Minnesota in September of 2012. Until 1999, this building housed the Science Museum of Minnesota. Before the Church moved in, I believe a business school was there.
Church of Scientology, St. Paul, Minnesota, 2012.
I'd meant to post this picture at the time I took it -- with a matching picture of the old Science Museum, but after scouring my photos I could not find one image of a similar view. Today, as I'm going through my junk in preparation for a move to Edmonton, I found something to use! This postcard from the '80s or '90s. Note the logo on the back of the postcard. The name of that little honeycomb thing is "The Exuberant Man." 

Postcard of the Science Museum of Minnesota, St. Paul, Minnesota, circa 1990.
Back of postcard of the Science Museum of Minnesota, St. Paul, Minnesota, circa 1990.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

The ends

Andy Sturdevant's very entertaining book, "Potluck Supper with Meeting to Follow," devotes a chapter to the death of publications. He reprints the final notices -- and some suggestive articles that, read the right way, predict the end of the publications.

He quotes two publications I am familiar with -- and I actually remember reading these final notices myself.
Metropolis issue from July 12, 1977.
Photo by Paul Shambroom.

Inside spread from Metropolis, February 1977. Illos by (left
to right): Glenn Wolff, Michael Karn and Mark Simonson.

Here's the one from Metropolis. Metropolis was a very well designed weekly newspaper in Minneapolis/St. Paul. It did everything better than its weekly rival, the Entertainer (soon to be renamed Twin Cities Reader), yet it did not prevail.

Machete #8 from 1979. All of the issues
looked like this one -- except the final
issue (#16). Fall photos are by
Paul Shambroom.

The final issue of Machete (#16) from
1980. Photo by Paul Shambroom.
Here's the one from Machete. Machete was a monthly four-page, oversized paper put out by a couple of the same people who worked on Metropolis. It seemed more like a hobby than a real going concern, so I wasn't surprised when they called it quits.

But Andy left out a couple other suggestive articles. These two are from publications that I happened to work at when they went out of business.

Here's the one from a monthly music publication, Musician's Insider. That the Insider bought the Mad City Music Sheet doesn't automatically lead to the Insider going out of business. But, out of business it went. July 1979.

Here's the one from the weekly newspaper, Twin Cities Reader. This little news bit doesn't say that Stern Publishing bought both the Reader and its fierce rival, City Pages, at the same time. Stern immediately stopped publishing the Reader. City Pages is still published, though it may be owned by someone else now. March 12, 1997.

Update: I've added images of Metropolis and Machete courtesy Mark Simonson.