Rand Paul’s logo is very good.

Yes, pundits and proles, Rand Paul has a very good campaign logo.
There is a lot to praise in this logo. It’s simple. It’s bold. It’s strong. It bucks the red, white, and blue for black, white, and red. It avoids the trite stars and stripes. It uses the space created by the A and N for a clever figure-ground reveal of the torch handle. As for it’s message, is clearly an iconic proclamation and promise to carry the torch for Paul’s cause and his constituency.
In his interview shared the AIGA blog, Milton Glaser criticized Rand Paul’s logo. He claims the mark isn’t clear whether it’s for a candidate or corporation. I would ask, in this era of corporate control of politics, what’s the difference?

17 Apr 2015

Fairly Frequent Finn Fan

The pixels in the orange circle are me. The big heads belong to Neil and Liam.
April 12, Danielle and I made another trip to Largo. Largo at the Coronet is a magical place. It’s a smallish theater on La Cienega Boulevard in Hollywood that plays host to some of the planet’s most talented people. That night the two headliners were the father and son duo – Neil and Liam Finn.
setlistIf you want to reenact the set list from Sunday’s show, listen to this Spotify playlist. It’s shy two songs, the elusive Spill the Light and Gentle Dave. The Finns played two covers that bookended the show. They began with a guitar and piano version of the Game of Thrones theme. The encore was Bowie’s Moonage Daydream.
I became enamored with Neil Finn’s music in college. Back then Neil had joined his brother Tim’s band Split Enz. They created some of the best early 80s pop art rock. One of my favorite Enz songs is Neil’s ballad to Message to My Girl, written for Liam’s mother, Neil’s wife Sharon. At a show we saw years ago, Neil played Message at the request of a young man for his new fiancé. Neil made the couple take the stage and dance while he played the song.
My Finn fandom began back when I lived in Boston, but I didn’t see Neil live until I had moved to Los Angeles in the 90s. Crowded House played the Universal Amphitheatre – a mammoth venue that no longer exists. They were playing in support of the Woodface album. I’ve seen Neil Finn live more times than I can count on my hands. I would use most of my toes if I enlisted their support.
Crowded House. Solo. Finn Brothers (I left a Red Sox Angels game early for that one). Solo again. Many times.
This was the first time I’d seen Liam live. I am a fan. Their work together is beautiful. Their love and respect for one another is obvious. It’s in their harmonies. It’s in their banter. And it’s in the way they so obviously enjoy each other’s music.
They were backed by Sebastian Steinberg, Mark Hart, Jon Brion, Connan Mockasin, Ceci Herbert, Matt Eccles and Mama Sharon.
Brilliant stuff.

17 Apr 2015

URX AppViews Debuts

XK9 worked with the good people at URX to help them debut AppViews. This new tech takes advantage of deep links, allowing mobile browsers and apps to access contextual links based on their content. To understand what that means, watch this video XK9 made with URX.

16 Apr 2015

A Tale of Eighteen HH’s

18-HHLate last year I worked with the Beverly Hills real estate firm Hilton & Hyland. I wrote about the logotype and the final symbol previously.
In light of that other H logo in the news, I decided to share 18 of the many Double H symbols I developed for Hilton & Hyland. These were the ones I shared with my client. You may click on the image to see a larger version.

15 Apr 2015

New Facts Have Come to My Attention

When I ruffled the feathers of one of the nicest people in design, it was clear I needed to do a little self-examination and admit my mistakes and misrepresentations. I am guilty of a bit of junk food journalism, where I let my desire to tear something down run over any sense of fairness.
First off, Rick Wolff is the designer of the Hillary Bold font, also known as Hillvetica. It was created as a joke, as I originally suspected. Mr Wolff was poking fun at the design of the H-arrow logo of the Hillary campaign. I think any humor in his joke was lost when Hillary Bold was adopted by the Hillary campaign. It seemed to me, and I’m sure many others, that this was a real component of the Hillary 2016 graphic design. I was mistaken.
I was stunned to find out that Michael Bierut, partner in the New York office of Pentagram is responsible for the design of the H-arrow. It leads me to believe that this mark is part of an expansive system that has yet to be revealed. But if that is the case, revealing it without context was a whopper of a misstep. The credit was revealed on Brand New, one of my favorite blogs.
I stand by my criticism of the mark. But I am scratching my head that this could come from one of the foremost brand identity specialists working today. I almost wonder if it is the cornerstone of some brilliant plot to win Mrs Clinton a deluge of free press, only to pull a switcheroo and replace it with a much better solution.
Not everything that comes out of Pentagram is gold. Of course, the same is true of any designer or design office, including my own. I have lauded Mr Bierut and his team for their peerless work on the beautiful Penguin Random House identity. And I’ve shot a few arrows at his lesser work for Grand Central Terminal’s centennial.
I am actually glad to have not known the creators of this logo prior to weighing in on it. Perhaps I might have been better informed. Maybe I might have been able to uncover some of the thinking behind this mark and the campaign for the campaign. Or, perhaps I might have softened my tone given that the creator was such a respected expert in the field. Still, I believe my critique remains valid. On its own merits, this is an inferior piece of brand identity for a massively public campaign.
I will await the next bits. I will be more diligent in my research.

14 Apr 2015

A Tale of Two H’s

Earlier today I posted the logo on the right to my Pinterest Logogenius board. It is the brand mark for Houzz an interior design and home furnishings retailer. Later I wrote a critique of Hillary Clinton’s campaign logo. It wasn’t until I was out running errands that I realized the startling similarity of these two marks. Both H’s. Both drawn from simple geometric shapes. Both comprised of 2 colors on a white field. And both contained arrows.
They have similarities in their structure. But they are diametrically opposed in their merits, both aesthetically and as pieces of graphic design and brand identity. Hillary’s H on the left is weak. Houzz’s H on the right is excellent.
I knew little of Houzz. I knew they sold home furnishings and they are a consumer-facing interior design resource. I had seen them featured as a charitable contributor to a family in need, on a segment on Ellen Degeneres’s talk show.
I knew quite a bit more about Hillary Clinton.
The basic recipes of these two marks are the same. And yet the Houzz H is the equivalent of a delicious soufflé, and Hillary’s has all of the taste of a burnt biscuit.
Some might suggest that my opinion is subjective. I would respectfully disagree. My expertise in this arena entitles me to weigh the relative merits of these brand identities and to offer a learned critique. I can tell you from my years of experience that one fails and the other succeeds.
You may choose to disagree with me. You may also choose to disagree with your doctor when he says you should immunize your child. In both cases you are valuing your opinion over that of someone with the training and experience to prescribe treatment, or to pass judgement. We have developed into a social mass where impulse trumps knowledge – where the facility for expressing opinion gives voice to ignorance. I am not saying that anyone who would disagree with me is wrong, I would just ask them to qualify their opinion as I am doing here.
The Houzz H creates an interesting, attractive shape.
The Hillary H appears heavy, imposing, and lifeless.
The Houzz H is dynamic, expressing dimension and structure.
The Hillary H is unbalanced.
The Houzz arrow is subtle but present, it adds to the evocative gestalt of the mark. It expresses forward thinking without having to shout it.
The Hillary arrow has all the subtlety and sophistication of a 300 pound gorilla. It is so obvious, that it almost feels condescending.
The Houzz H feels new and fresh.
The Hillary H was past its prime before it was released.
I feel as though it would be wrong to compare the colors, because red, white, and blue are de rigueur patriotic shorthand. Any presidential candidate would be a fool to try anything else (see also John McCain). But I will offer that the great contrast between the green, black, and negative space of the Houzz H makes it infinitely more effective

14 Apr 2015

“Which Way to the Hospital?”* or H as in “Huh?”

On XK9 and campaign brand identity – This presidential sweepstakes season I plan to limit my comments to campaign graphic design. Not ideology. Not policy. I will also do my best to keep those comments apolitical and nonpartisan. I will have no reservations about calling their brand identities ineffective or poorly conceived – if that is what they are. Any politico is capable of that.
As for the new Hillary H-arrowing H, my left-of-center viewpoint will not make me like her logo any more or less.

14 Apr 2015

My $5 Strategy Sale

In my time working in marketing and design, I have seen buzzwords posing as business trends come and go. Generally these trends involve renaming something you were doing already, and proclaiming your expertise in this shiny, repackaged discipline. You can add a new intangible line item on your invoice – a side benefit. Or is that the intent?
One of the best-selling of these magical, invisible, empty boxes is STRATEGY.
I can define your business STRATEGY.
It will cost you $5 sent to my PayPal account at – pay me as your friend.

11 Apr 2015

Comics and Commerce

Click on image to see how the illustration was used.

Click on image to see how the illustration was used.

On Tuesday March 31, 2015, a pop culture website created a post to mark the tenth anniversary of the untimely death of the brilliantly funny comic Mitch Hedberg. The site used a cropped version of a Hedberg portrait I made as their lead image.

I received no credit nor compensation.

02 Apr 2015

Happy Birthday Harry Marks

Harry Marks
I created this portrait as a birthday gift today for the great Harry Marks.

11 Mar 2015
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