Is this a mischievous prank played by Pixar animators when their bosses aren’t watching? Or is it a type of subliminal advertising? Or is it a bonus game inserted into films for the Pixar movie obsessed? For a while now Pixar has been hiding so-called “Easter eggs” in their films, slipping a character from Finding Dory, Toy Story, Monsters Inc., Cars, Ratatouille, The Good Dinosaur, Inside Out, etc., into a new film release without fanfare or warning. These quick cameo appearances happen so quickly, they may go unnoticed or trigger a faint sense of the familiar. Now Disney/Pixar has released a video montage of characters who were hiding in plain sight. Pixar calls them “Easter eggs,” but the game is more like Where’s Waldo?”
How do you sell a product that is basically the same no matter the brand? You give it a personality. You imply brand preference. You make it fun and entertaining and arouse a fondness for the brand among shoppers. Such is the case with the UK’s Cravendale milk. Wieden & Kennedy ad agency in London did not try to compare Cravendale with other dairy products or talk about milk’s many health benefits. The Cravendale commercials, released in 2010, looked at a “consumer” segment that lusted after the product, which was doled out to them sparingly by oblivious overlords. In their frustration, they fantasized how they could seize power if only they had opposable thumbs. Then the milk would be there for the taking any time, any place. My kingdom for opposable thumbs!
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No longer just a mind-boggling novelty trick shown large-scale on building facades, 3-D projection mapping technology is being integrated into everything from live concerts, advertising, gaming, theater performances, product launches, and fashion shows. Now it has gone mini and personal, performing to an audience of one.
In Belgium, animation artists, Filip Sterckx and Antoon Verbeeck, from Skullmapping, have given new meaning to the term “dinner theatre” by putting the entertainment on the plate itself. Like a scene right out of the Disney film, “Ratatoille,” the well-known Le Petit Chef in Belgium amused diners by having a little chef personally prepare their meal right before their eyes. This example of spectacular precision videomapping isn’t just dazzling audiences with its new “gee whiz” technology, but has taken projection mapping to a new level by treating it as a tool to tell a story.
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TheAtlantic.com has been running a series of charming infographics on topics ranging from hairstyles in the 20th century to the history of weapons over the ages. Created by Jackie Lay, a designer, illustration and art director for The Atlantic Magazine, the brief animated timelines combine flat-graphic illustrations with one inconsequential element in the picture showing subtle movement. A wisp of hair gently moving out of place. A cloud slowly passing across the sky. Steam lazily curling up from a hot cup of coffee. The movement isn’t part of the storyline, but it entices the viewer to pay closer attention. It carries the viewer into the next frame. Without that almost infinitesimal movement to grab the viewer’s interest, the image would be what it actually is: A still illustration. Animation doesn’t always have to be a full-blown Pixar-like extravaganza. Sometimes a little movement makes all the difference between stagnant and intriguing.
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When the product is as commonplace as facial tissue, there’s no need for advertising to explain its benefits and uses. Civilized people know. So, Japanese ad agency, Dentsu, found a more compelling way to promote the Nepia paper brand by making origami animals out of Nepia tissue. The video performance feels like a magic act, with sheets of tissue transformed before your eyes into elephants, snakes and frogs and back into tissue. The white tissue and austere background help to suggest the clean, soft and feathery lightness of the product. This stop-motion animation was directed by Fuyu Arai with creative direction by Hitoshi Sato.
Clocking in at two minutes, this Honda commercial would be a very expensive ad buy on prime-time TV, but thanks to the accessibility of YouTube and Vimeo, audiences are seeking it out online. The Honda “Hands” ad starts with a cog, just like its award-winning Cog commercial (see July 24 post below). This time Honda teamed with Wieden + Kennedy London to “celebrate the curiosity of Honda engineers” who have made Honda the world’s largest engine manufacturer and racing company since it was founded in 1948. Through “slight of hand” and brilliant animation, the cog morphs into a dazzling array of products, from motorcycles and jet planes to solar-powered cars and robots. The making of this video, directed by Smith & Foulkes and Nexus Productions, is a technological feat in itself. For brands that think they don’t have the budget for such an ambitious production, consider this: Is it better to do something middle-of-the-road and run it on prime time TV or to create something awesomely original that people will “google” to see on their own. If it is good, it will go viral.
Print or digital? That’s a debate that is roiling the publishing business. Here’s an example of a book that can live comfortably in both realms. Back in 2000, New York-based Brazilian designer Roberto de Vicq de Cumptich created a charming ABC picture book as a present for his then two-year-old daughter. Known for integrating typography into his illustrations, deVicq called his book “Bembo’s Zoo,” after an elegant serifed font named for the 16th century poet, Pietro Bembo. DeVicq used the Bembo typeface to create a zoo full of alphabet animals, from Antelope to Zebra. He spelled out the creature’s name in Bembo and then rearranged all the letters in the name into the shape of the animal. It was all Bembo all the way through, and irresistibly clever!
A few years later, deVicq took this exercise a step further by building an interactive website that featured animation (by Mucca design) and sound (by Federico Chiell). The zoo roared to life. It was a natural design evolution, from the word for the animal, to the animal figure built out of those letters, to jungle and ocean sounds, including the yodeling cries of Tarzan. Imaginative, fun and educational. (Click on the illustration above to start the animation.)
It’s tempting to turn this story into a string of crappy jokes, but the subject is no laughing matter. In Seattle this week, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation hosted a two-day “Reinvent the Toilet” fair, attended by scientists and entrepreneurs eager to demonstrate their wares. To put these inventions to a credible test, the Foundation placed an order for about 50 gallons of fake poop. The Gates also offered over $3 million research grants, which were part of a $370 million grant initiative to improve the world’s water, sanitation and hygiene.
According to the Foundation, four out of every ten people around the world have no place “to go.” That adds up to 2.6 billion people without access to a toilet. Poor sanitation results in half the world’s hospitalizations. It is the cause of 2.5 million cases of diarrhea in children under five and 1.5 million child deaths a year, according to a United Nations report. Even in industrialized nations, the amount of water consumed each flush puts pressure on the environment.
In sponsoring this cash competition to come up with a toilet of the future, the Gates Foundation set several requirements. The toilet must operate without running water, electricity or a septic system. It must not discharge pollutants, preferably capture energy or other resources, and operate at a cost of 5 cents a day.
This week’s toilet fair resulted in some very promising solutions, including using soldier fly larvae to process human waste to produce animal feed. Other approaches turn human waste into charcoal and fuel. In announcing the cash prizes for the best designs, Bill Gates said, “If we apply creative thinking to everyday challenges, such as dealing with human waste, we can fix some of the world’s toughest challenges.”
Although coming up with the next toilet isn’t as glamorous as, say, creating the next Eames chair, it shows that design runs deeper than cosmetic solutions.
This video was produced by Loaded Pictures, with illustrations by Jay Bryant.
Origami (which means “to fold” + “paper” in Japanese) is one of the oldest and humblest art forms around, dating back thousands of years, and stop-motion 3-D animation is one of the newest and most technologically advanced art forms. It’s interesting that the two mediums have found each other and it was love at first sight. As time-consuming and difficult as some origami forms are to fold by hand, paper as a construction material is sturdy but flexible, buildable at a small scale, and relatively cheap. In the case of this video ad for Hamburg’s charitable lottery, Deutsche Fernsehlotterie, a whole village with inhabitants and vehicles were brought to life out of paper. Hamburg-based agency, Zum Goldenen Hirschen spearheaded this ad, with Hans-Christoph Schultheiss directing.
De Lijn, the public bus company run by the Flemish government in Belgium, has launched a new ad campaign showing that it is smarter to take the bus or tram than travel alone. The concept for these commercials came from Duval Guillaume Modem in Antwerp, and the 3-D production was done by CC (Creative Conspiracy). Don’t know if there is safety in numbers by taking a bus in Belgium, but in the U.S., it’s crowded and a good way to get elbowed by strangers and attacked by psychopaths. Still, the ad is memorable and cute.
This stop-motion video by Lynn Kiang isn’t so much about letterpress printing as it is about where typesetting terminology came from. To understand the nomenclature, it helps to see how type used to be made out of wood or metal. Terms like “upper case” and “lower case” harken back to the days of handset type when capital letters were stored in the upper section of the typecase and small letters in the lower case. Around 1886, the invention of the Linotype speeded up typesetting, letting typesetters keyboard in the text, which was cast out of molten metal one line of type at a time. Depending on the design, these hot-metal “slugs” would either be “leaded out” by placing thin sheets of metal between the lines or closed up by “taking the lead out.” When all the type was set in layout form within a metal frame (“chase”), the printer “locked it up” and “put the job to bed” on the bed of the letterpress. These terms have become industry jargon, but in the age of digital typography, their origin has become lost. This video, set to the soundtrack from “West Side Story,” is a great little primer. Lynn Kiang, an M.F.A. student in graphic design at the Rhode Island School of Design, named her video “Type High,” which means the height of the type from the face to the foot.
When Nickelodeon sought to tout its new HD network in Europe, its parent company, MTV International, hired ManvsMachine agency in London to brand the channel. What they got back was a logo identity study that playfully took Nickelodeon’s screaming orange brand color and morphed it from one texture to another, from faux fur to plastic to globule bubbles, all reforming themselves back into the Nickelodeon logotype. It’s fascinating to view.
Years ago designer Saul Bass explained how he approached film title sequences to me when I interviewed him for an article. “Find an image that will be provocative, seductive yet true to the film,” he said. “It has to have some ambiguity, some contradiction, not only visually but conceptually. Not just isolating the prettiest frame, but finding a metaphor for the film.“
Beginning with his 1955 work on Otto Preminger’s “The Man with the Golden Arm,” Bass transformed the way film title sequences were perceived forever. He approached the task with a graphic designer’s eye, so that stills from his title sequences easily translated into a powerful iconic poster for the movie.
For a Central China Television (CCTV) promotional commercial, Chinese ad agency, MMIA, undertook to retrace the history of China in an animated version of a traditional Chinese ink-and-wash landscape painting. Ink-and-wash is an art style that developed thousands of years ago and is noted for brush strokes that range from bold forms to faint ink washes that render scenes in a dreamlike mist. To simulate this liquid effect, MMIA turned to Troublemakers.tv, a production company based in Paris, and German director Niko Tziopanos of weareflink. The result is mesmerizing, a merging of design, computer graphics, visual effects and live action blending seamlessly together to appear that an ancient ink painting has come to life.
Lacoste has borrowed a page from real printed books, and gone one better, with this engaging online pop-up book dedicated to its founder Rene Lacoste. The six-chapter story is set to a lively ragtime tune and sound effects. Clicking on a chapter prompts visuals to pop up, and following the finger-pointing tab reveals a “gatefold” sidebar with explanatory text, old photos and vintage flim clips. A hybrid of different communications media, the online pop-up book tells the corporate story in a fresh way.
When Dr. Martens celebrated its 50th anniversary, its agency, Exposure Communications, decided to launch a website featuring 10 contemporary artists interpreting 10 alternative music tracks from the past 50 years. Vanessa Marzaroli from the Los Angeles -based multimedia design studio, Blind, was asked to create the music video for “Lilac Wine” by the Cinematic Orchestra. Marzaroli captured the “sweet and heady” lyrics in the delicate, fluid lines of Spencerian calligraphy – a perfect melding of music and images.