Saturday, May 17, 2008

Last Post

I passed a couple of ads in a McDonald's window that were absolutely ghastly. Huge tomato. Lopsided apple. Half an eggshell with the yolk inside. The yolk was an odd color. Lots of green somethings...lettuce, leaves, not very clear what was in the background. As I looked at the ad I wondered who did the ad and who signed off on the ad. The ad was terrible. No hierarchy as every item was practically the same size. Odd colors made nutritious foods look oddly unappetizing. I cannot find the ad, but here is a link to McDonald's website:

Now the website does a good job of highlighting each type of nutritious food and listing the ingredients. So, I am puzzled at the amateurishness of the print ads.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Levy's Jewish Rye

I read a blog everyday called: I found it through another blog...coincindentally written by her daughter:

I opened it up yesterday and saw this staring back at me. The person in the ad is Buster Keaton. I thought it was funny to see an ad that we had discussed in class embedded in a post from a blog that I read. The blog post is about rye bread, so I can see how the blogger came up with this image.

Buster Keaton was an actor in the 1920s known for his blank expression. He was called "Stone Face."

Girls v. Boys

This poster reminds me of the McQuade chapter, which highlighted symbols designating male and female bathrooms throughout the world. I like a funny poster.

An Oldie, But Goodie

This Honda Accord commercial has been out for a year or two, but I think it is amazing. The commercial shows all parts used to construct a Honda Accord set up in a domino formation, where one cog starts a chain reaction. Just think about the logistics of coordinating all the parts used in this commercial. The commercial cost $6 million and took 600 takes to get right. What patience.

And, then there is this parody...not hysterical, but humorous.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Go Speed Racer, Go

It was a rainy yesterday today...the perfect day to catch a movie. We saw a matinee of Speed Racer. There was a time when I saw a movie a month with my husband. Those days are a distant memory since having children. We are down to a movie every 6 months, if that. When we do see a movie it is a kiddie film. Last month my husband took the children to see Horton Hears a Who. I did not join them as I was doing projects for this class. It is difficult to find a movie that a 12-year-old girl, a 9-year-old girl, and a 5-year-old boy want to see. The 12-year-old thinks she should be able to see PG-13 movies...uh, no, I don't think so. Speed Racer appealed to everyone in our family.

Speed Racer is a fast-paced movie. The car race scenes are dramatic and eye-catching. The Wachowski brothers, known for originating unique film techniques in movies such as The Matrix, based their movie on the original Speed Racer TV show, but added a couple of extra characters and expanded the backstory of the behind the scenes plot of intrigue and espionage between the different racing teams. One film technique, in particular, is the technique of having two actors in a scene with a previous scene shown in the background. The closeup shot of the actors talking is interspersed with a dramatization of what the actors are talking about. The viewer is drawn in to the action of the scene by watching the actors talking about a car crash and seeing the car crash unfold behind them. It is an example of showing and telling. The Wachowski brothers also used many closeup shots of actors.

The film sets are visually appealing as well. Many colors. Costumes are bright and garish--yellow Chuck taylors, bright red walls, brightly hued race track, etc. I don't recall the TV series very well, but the use of color works well in this film.

It was a long film, but kept my 5-year-olds attention for over 2 hours.

Here's a review from the New York Times:

Many of us who grew up watching television in the 1960s and ’70s have fond if vague memories of “Speed Racer.” Those big-eyed characters (Trixie! Speed! Racer X!), their mouths never quite moving in sync with the dialogue; those bright colors and semiabstract backgrounds; those endless, episodic story lines. Whether we knew it or not, the series was a primer in the aesthetics of Japanese animation, the love of which we could later pass along to our children. Failing that, I suppose we could subject them to Warner Brothers’ new live-action feature film, also called “Speed Racer,” which was written and directed by Andy and Larry Wachowski, the maestros of “The Matrix.” Like so many other expensive, technologically elaborate big-screen adaptations of venerable pop-culture staples, this movie sets out to honor and refresh a youthful enthusiasm from the past and winds up smothering the fun in self-conscious grandiosity. — A. O. Scott, The New York Times

Why Didn't I Think of This?!?

I found this promotional ad for Post-It Education notes at my daughter's school. Post-It has created a range of flash cards for ABCs, numbers, sight words, and Spanish. I am in my third go-round of teaching a child to read. This product would be a good addition to my education basket. I have flash cards purchased from WalMart or educational stores. The added bonus of these cards is that the cards can be stuck to a wall or fridge. I generally write sight words on index cards and tape them to the walls/door. I saw a product display at Staples.

The blue and yellow on the front cover is eye-catching. The ad is a trifold displaying different representations of the product: a photo of the product in use on a wall, a photo of the product in its packaging, etc. The back of the product shows photos of the other products in the series.

A small set of sight words is included with the ad. For me the addition of the product is a slam dunk. The potential consumer does not need to wonder what the product looks like in the flesh. Once I tore of the first card I was sold on the product.

Catchy Design

My 4-year-old turned 5 on April 3. He received mostly action figure toys. This is new to me since I am used to the world of Disney princesses and American Girl dolls. His favorite toy was a Mr. Potato Head--Spider Spud Collector Set for Spider-Man 3. He knows that Spider Man is an action hero, but has never seen any of the films or the cartoons.
The design of this box is unique. The product contains two Spider Man potato heads in two boxes connected in the middle. The two boxes are connected by plastic in front and velcro in the back. The velcro pieces when split apart reveal a comic entitled "The Amazing Spider Spud Proudly Presents: Back in Black or In the Red?" The front of the box shows the two products, while the back shows the individual potato head parts and photos of the product dressed in the "red" or "black" versions.

The packaging is eye-catching for parents and children. Kids love velcro--the feel and sound of it. My son liked looking at the comic. He stored his toy in the box for a few days.

The comic is quite funny. It tells the story of good and evil in a kid-friendly manner. Spider Spud must decide which suit to wear. Both the red suit and the black suit "talk" to him. He finally decides to wear both suits. The story is sugar-coated for kids, which works in the context of a product for kids.
The product was purchased from Costco. The toy aisle at Costco is stacked with many toys and games at Christmas and Easter. An eye-catching product such as this one is sure to have curb appeal.

Call to Action

I found three ads for local institutions of higher education. Each ad has a call to action.

The main focus of the UMUC ad is the photo of the group of people. The grouping reminds me of the old Sesame Street song..."One of these things is not like the other." The two women and the one man are all in business attire, while the male firefighter is in turnout gear. I realize that UMUC is appealing to local adults in a wide range of careers, but the photo makes me think that the university is trying too hard to appeal to everyone. The ad would work better if there was another person in a uniform of some sort or drop the "dress code" and simply have four people dressed in everyday clothese. The text of the ad is informative. There is too much white space, which could be minimized by increasing the typesize of the text of the ad.

The head profile with "Great Minds Think KOGOD" is ugly. The symbols surrounding the profile are too small and hard to read. The ad is cluttered with the name of the business school, a huge opaque "AU," information session dates, etc. It is hard to tell what is the most important element of the ad since there is so much listed in different sizes and styles of type. The ad would work better in a 2 column format since the single column leads to short, chopped lines.

The UMBC ad is colorful. The photo (even if it is possibly a stock university photo) is a more representative grouping of prospective students than UMUC. The older students are tucked in the back, which I don't like. I am the demographic that universities could be appealing to...woman, second career, returning to the workplace after raising children, available money to attend graduate school, etc. The placing of the three older people in the back seems to minimize these students. The focus is on the four younger students. The use of color is good. The eye is drawn to the name of the graduate programs due to the use of red. The orange border encloses the information.

Friday, May 9, 2008

The 80s Were Good to Me

So after much deliberation I have decided to bring in my collection of 80s junk. I Loved the 80s...high school, college, first job, post-graduate program, traveling, met my husband, got engaged, applied for U.S. citizenship, bought my first house, and the list goes on. Looking back I had no responsibilities except getting myself from point A to point B. All in all a fun time for me.

Here is an 80s ipod...mine is the one on the right...very clunky. I wore it on a strap across my shoulders. The constant banging of the Walkman on my hip was annoying as I exercised. I found the Walkman at:

At beginning of the 80s I was in England, then I moved with my family to Italy, and then I moved to Pennsylvania for college. A common thread was pun intended. I discovered Benetton in Italy, quite some time before my American classmates had discovered it. Clothing at Benetton ranged from V-neck sweaters in bright colors with matching scarves and gloves to rugby shirts and blazers.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Graphic Design Blogs

I found these two graphic design blogs:


The author of the first one is a guy called Gino. He is a graphic design student. He will graduate soon and hopes to find work in NYC. His blog seems informative.

The second one is English. I feel connected to this one for nostalgic reasons, but it does have entries from various designers on a wide variety of subjects.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Collectors Anonymous

I'm a bit like Mike ( when it comes to collecting. I like to have the whole set of whatever it is I decide to collect.

As a child I would obsess over not having a certain stamp for my stamp collection. I really wanted this really rare stamp called the "Penny Black"--I did not know at 9 years old that this stamp was so rare it could only be found at the British Museum. I also collected sticker cards for a book of U.K. soccer teams. The cards were sold in a pack of 5, very much like baseball cards. I remember purchasing dozens of packs of soccer stickers for the cards needed to finish my collection. I needed to have a sticker card for each soccer player on each Division 1 team plus the team logo and the full team photo. I had many duplicate cards. I have done the same thing recently when trying to get the entire set of Happy Meal toys for a particular series, like all the cars from Cars the Movie. I even went so far as to purchase one car from e-bay. I was thrilled to have the whole collection. My son loves cars, so he appreciated the effort...I think!?!?

My favorite collection would be a series of wooden houses from Sheilia Co. featuring buildings found in the Amish Country of Lancaster, PA. The houses and other pieces are less than 5 inches tall. I found them at Christmas Tree Hill at the Rehoboth Outlets...phew, no need to go on e-bay.

I have several collections of Hallmark Christmas ornaments--the tin houses, the kitchen appliances, and Winnie the Pooh. My fave collection would have to be framed sheets of stamps...a childhood passion come full circle to adulthood...I have a varied selection of sheets from stamps commemorating 9/11 to Jane Austen to baseball legends to Jim Henson to Super Heroes. I often go to the post office to check out what is new. I don't get every new sheet of stamps, but when one catches my eye I buy it.

Not sure what I will bring on Saturday...

Monday, May 5, 2008

Me and My Blogs

I first started reading blogs about 4 years ago. A preschool friend of my daughter developed leukemia, was in remission, relapsed, and then had a bone marrow transplant. I followed this boy's journey to good health through his mom's blog. I left messages of encouragement for them on the blog guestbook. I joined the bone marrow donor registry in honor of this boy. I did my campaign on bone marrow donation. This cause means a great deal to me.

Reading one blog leads to another and another. I read quite a number of mommy blogs on a daily basis. Some are entertaining to read, some are not. I stick with the entertaining ones. I have my own mommy blog, but don't post very often. I prefer reading other people's blogs. Two of my favorites are:

This blog is all about a mom of 4 children who lives on a cattle ranch in Oklahoma. She homeschools her children. The kids all participate in the workings of the ranch...branding, rounding up cattle, etc. Ree's life is so different from my own, yet I love to check in on her.

This blog is written by a person who was home with her children for short period, but is now back teaching high school. She grew up in the East and is now living in Texas. She is a very good writer.

I am enjoying writing/posting to my class blog more than my other blog. I like the instant feedback from the comment section. I feel validated when someone makes a comment on one of my posts. I have found that I get very few comments on my other blog.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

A Graphic Designer Friend

Several years ago I met a new friend. Our second born children were both at the same preschool. We talked at pickup and dropoff times. We would get together for playdates with the children during the day. We were both in a scrapbooking group one night a month. She mentioned that her husband worked at home as a graphic designer. I was working from home as a freelance editor at the time, so I could definitely relate to his work-at-home situation. I remember talking to her husband about his business and his clients. Here is his website:

Over the years I have thought about what to do once I rejoin the workforce. The freelance editorial production work I did is now mostly handled in house. I began to think about other areas of the publications business. I started to develop an interest in graphics. After investigating UB's program, I realized that this is the business I want to be in. I like the combination of writing and design. My friend's husband's work is inspirational to me. He is a talented designer.

You Can't Judge a Book by Its Cover

My last years as a cubicle dweller, I worked for a health care publisher. I was in charge of the production cycles for 4 quarterly journals, 3 monthly newsletters, 10 annually supplemented manuals, and several books. I also wrote and edited the company newsletter. In my spare time (kidding), I managed a database of freelance copyeditors. My job consisted of overseeing the production cycle from an editorial perspective only. My only involvement with graphics, other than using Pagemaker to typeset the 3 newsletters, was supervising the creation of the covers for each of the manuals and books. The journals used the same cover for each issue, with the addition of a listing of articles within that issue of the journal.

The process for creating a cover involved researching the subject matter of the publication, talking to the author(s) about their preferences, and meeting with our inhouse production department. The cover would then be sent out to a graphic designer or an illustrator. I would next see a rough draft of the cover. I would then send it out to the author and our inhouse editorial acquisitions staff for approval. Sometimes the draft covers were a hit and sometimes the covers were universally detested.

I was looking through my collection of publications from my last job. The covers are overall O.K. Some are good--see the cover for Integrated Women's Health (top right). The cover for Pediatric Home Care (see top left) is just awful. The authors' names are not even aligned with the second block! I can't believe everyone signed off on this one. I can't believe we actually paid a graphic designer (?) to do this cover.

These publications usually sold for over $100 each. The company line was that our audience did not care what was on the cover...they were more interested in the content. The publications were only sold online and at trade shows, not in stores. Several years later the company was merged with its parent company. I can only hope that the book covers have improved.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Field Trips Are Not for the Meek

Stained glass window from the Saint-Germain-des-Pres monastery in Paris commemorating the life of St. Vincent

It is springtime, which means that schools across the country are heading out for field trips. My sixth grader went to NYC last week to visit Ellis Island as part of her English unit on immigration. This week it was my 4th graders' turn. I volunteered for and was chosen to chaperone her class field trip to the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore.

The bus ride up deserves its own post. Suffice it to say I sat on a school bus with 40 9/10-year-olds in different states of excitement. I had the back seat of the bus, which meant I had a front row seat on the madness. On the bus ride to the Walters a handful of kids were loud, but most stayed in their seats. The ride back was noisy and I pitied the teachers that had to teach these kids in the afternoon. I think kids in general do not do well with a change in routine. These kids were in fun mode not learning mode by the time we got back to school.

The museum field trip was a mixture of a docent-led tour of the museum preceded by a visit to the Family Art Center to do a craft. The students were given a circular piece of styrofoam and craft supplies. They were asked to create a scene on the styrofoam. All the kids enjoyed this activity.

Our group spent quite some time in front of a stained glass window devoted to St. Vincent (see above). The docent explained the story of St. Vincent to the students in great detail. The window was originally in the Lady Chapel at the monastery of Saint-Germain-des-Pres in Paris. Each panel of the window had a part of the story of St. Vincent, who was tortured and his body eventually ascended in to heaven. For me the most interesting aspect was the fourth panel from the top on the left. This panel does not depict a scene as it is just a collage of broken stained glass. The docent explained that art historians do not know what scene should be there, so the collage was added to fill the empty space.