Posts Categorized: Think Tank

Iconic Designer Susan Kare Explains How ⌘ Came to Be

Posted by & filed under Think Tank, Typography.


The trash can. The pouring paint bucket. The disc. The happy Mac (or sad one). Susan Kare designed them all. In creating these and most of the other icons on the original Apple Macintosh, she established the framework for modern visual communications: The Point-and-Click Era. Here, Kare, icon of icons, talks about the creative decisions behind some of the best-loved symbols of the past four decades.

Kare delivered this presentation at last year’s Layers Design Conference in San Francisco, but the video was only recently posted online. It’s full of fresh observations about the creative process, insights about her time at Apple, and advice for designing with accessibility in mind; so even if you’re familiar with Kare and her work, I’m willing to bet you’ll find something new here. I learned from Kare’s 2013 book, for example, that the command icon (⌘) was originally a symbol used to denote interesting features at Swedish campgrounds, but the story of how she stumbled upon the symbol in the first place, and how she weighed its merits at the time. (Her description of her first trip to Sweden, decades after she copped the command icon for Apple, is also pretty damn charming.)

Her talk’s about half an hour long and well worth watching in its entirety. The second half of the video, a Q&A between Kare and Daring Fireball’s John Gruber, is also worth a watch.

Hayao Miyazaki and the Essence of Humanity in Animation

Posted by & filed under Brand Marketing, Think Tank.


Sometimes, people call the filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki the “Japanese Walt Disney” (even though he’s said to hate it). In his 40-year career, Miyazaki has created such films as Castle in the Sky, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Howl’s Moving Castle, and Spirited Away. In this 17-minute video essay, Lewis Bond takes us through Miyazaki’s genius and how he excels at bringing three-dimensional characters to his two-dimensional films. “His aim wasn’t to make films that spoke down to children. His aim was to make films that would help us all understand the human condition,” Bond says. Video essays like this and more of Bond’s work can be found on his YouTube channel.

— Video by Lewis Bond, originally appeared in The Atlantic Videos.


America’s First Political Cartoons

Posted by & filed under Think Tank.

We’re roughly a year away from elections and it may be argued that the political season is in full swing for the 2016 race. It just felt right for me to scour the web and find an interesting collection of America’s first political cartoons that graced the pages of Puck magazine, America’s first satirical magazine to portray politics and social issues of the day.


The Modern Collossus of (Rail) Roads


Illustration shows William Henry Vanderbilt, president of the New York Central Railroad and several other railroads, Cyrus West Field, of the New York Elevated Railroad Company, and Jay Gould, of the Union Pacific Railroad and other western railroads.

Year: 1879


The Duty of the Hour


Print shows a female figure labeled “Cuba” holding the Cuban flag, caught in a frying pan labeled “Spanish Misrule” that is being held above flames labeled “Anarchy” raging between fighting factions labeled “Insurgents” on the left and “Autonomists” on the right, on the island of Cuba.

Year: 1898


The King of the Combinations


Illustration shows John D. Rockefeller wearing a huge crown and robe, standing on an oil storage tank labeled “Standard Oil”, and glaring at the viewer. The crown is adorned with railroad cars, oil tanks, and the names of four railroad companies: “Lehigh Valley R.R., St. Paul R.R., Jersey Central R.R., [and] Reading Rail Road”, and topped with a dollar sign “$”.

Year: 1901


The Central Bank


Illustration shows a gigantic J. Pierpont Morgan clutching to his chest with his right arm large New York City buildings labeled “Billion Dollar Bank Merger”; in the foreground, a young child puts a coin in a “Toy Bank” as Morgan’s left arm reaches around the buildings to grab the toy bank for himself.

Caption: Why should Uncle Sam establish one, when Uncle Pierpont is already on the job?

Year: 1910


The Awakening


Illustration shows a torch-bearing female labeled “Votes for Women”, symbolizing the awakening of the nation’s women to the desire for suffrage, striding across the western states, where women already had the right to vote, toward the east where women are reaching out to her. Printed below the cartoon is a poem by Alice Duer Miller.

Year: 1915

Why City Flags May Be the Worst-Designed Thing You’ve Never Noticed

Posted by & filed under Brand Marketing, Corporate Identity, Think Tank.

Roman Mars is obsessed with flags — and after you watch this talk, you might be, too. These ubiquitous symbols of civic pride are often designed, well, pretty terribly. But they don’t have to be. In this surprising and hilarious talk about vexillology — the study of flags — Mars reveals the five basic principles of flag design and shows why he believes they can be applied to just about anything.

–This talk was presented at an official TED conference, and was featured on

A Very Danish Map of the World

Posted by & filed under Think Tank.

Biblical literalists claim the world was created in six days. More scientifically minded folk say it took around 4 billion years. Either way, they’re all talk and no action. Unlike Søren Poulsen, the Danish farmer who single-handedly built his own version of the world, in exactly a quarter century. Completed in 1969, Verdenskortet (“The World Map”) is the main tourist draw in Klejtrup, a small village 10 km southwest of Hobro in Jutland, the mainland of Denmark.

Read more from Frank Jacob’s original post on Big Think.

Explaining Graphic Design to Four Year-Olds

Posted by & filed under Think Tank.

In a very creative way, Dean Vipond was able to effectively communicate graphic design to a small group of children thanks to design’s simple notion that it is about making something easy to use and understand. What better challenge than designing a design lecture for children.

Firstly, I couldn’t rest on my laurels and rely on some of the brands I’ve worked with, to win me any kudos, like it might with the older kids — “Yeah, I’ve worked for Channel 4, and the BBC, and Diesel, and the BRIT Awards, and I even designed a website that got me an imdb entry (even though I share same entry with some dude who was in Xena: Warrior Princess). Whatevs…” That doesn’t fly with reception age kids. So I really needed to explain, in the simplest possible terms, what I did, and why it’s important.

Read the full blog post by Dean Vipond at Medium.

Chip Kidd: The Art of First Impressions — in Design and Life

Posted by & filed under Print Advertising, Think Tank.

Book designer Chip Kidd knows all too well how often we judge things by first appearances. In this hilarious, fast-paced talk, he explains the two techniques designers use to communicate instantly — clarity and mystery — and when, why and how they work. He celebrates beautiful, useful pieces of design, skewers less successful work, and shares the thinking behind some of his own iconic book covers.

–This talk was presented at an official TED conference, and was featured on

Kicking Off the New Project

Posted by & filed under Brand Marketing, Corporate Identity, Think Tank.

1. Gathering the Brainstorming Team

Before you send out the group invite, sit down and think hard about who belongs in the first meeting and the last. Decide which thinkers are the best for all aspects of the project at hand and keep it light. Too many people bring too much to the table that could clutter and bury the idea that works. We all know the sooner we get the creative edge we need, the project rolls off. This is where that starts.

A good group should consist of three to five creative minds and can definitely expand to near seven and eight when more technical and marketing approaches must be considered for the scope of the project. The goal is to make sure the right people are there so it isn’t a waste of time for anyone.


2. Make a Good First Impression

The invitation should consist of a clear mission statement for the project to come. It will briefly outline the agenda. What you don’t want to do is just roll up into the meeting and expect everything to go your way and be completely fine. The brainstorm team may be a very intelligent bunch, but no one wants to walk into a room and not have a single inkling on what this whole gathering is about.

Make sure the invitation is absolutely clear on the objective of the meeting. Ensure you’re synced with your clients. Sometimes a meeting is really just a glorified meet and greet, and sometimes that’s fine. Though keep in mind if you want to make the meeting useful, the agenda must include what you think the first and next steps should be on the project. Plan out whatever it is you need to make it happen.


3. Set a Clear Agenda

Once you’ve defined your objectives for the kick-off meeting, work on developing an agenda which allows you to meet those objectives.

When running kick-off meetings we’re trying to answer the basic questions:

  • Why – Why are we doing this project in the first place? What business need does it satisfy? How does this project meet a consumer need?
  • What – What’s the solution? What are we going to do / make?
  • How – How are we going to work together to make the project happen?
  • When – When are we going to do it?
  • Where/Who – Where is the starting point for kicking things off? Who’s going to do what?


4. Kickoff with a Pre-Kickoff

This is a two step process. First, and foremost, go over the agenda with the team. Break it down, examine your next steps and outline what you all will handle during the meeting with the client. Designate rolls for discussion topics and make sure the team is fluent in the who, what, where, when and why of the project specifics and the next few steps toward completion.

Lastly, meet up with the client, one-on-one, and explain the agenda and where the team will be directing the client’s project. Our goal is to not blindside the client with information and get a feel for how this will play out. Prepare the client to come to the table with an open mind. Gather feedback, examples, and talking point suggestions from your client and update the agenda as necessary. Follow through with the team after the client is satisfied in the dialogue to come and project at hand. The kickoff will actually be after two or three small gatherings independently with the client and the whole team. The discussion will have already started and the work is half way done.


5. Keep It Fluid

The kickoff meeting has finally started and your team and client’s team are all gathered in one room. Keep the meeting going and allow the conversation to organically grow. Above all else, continue spurring the communication to allow the team and client to collaborate and create the winning solution. To help you along definitely prepare and show a presentation deck, handouts, and any visual material the team can prepare that will help bring the discussion to life and carry it forward.

Finally, don’t forget to write a contact report as you go along to capture the focal points of your meeting.


Citizen Science: Star by Star We Can Make a Galaxy

Posted by & filed under HTML + CSS, Think Tank.

Help us to fight against the light pollution and discover the Earth at night. Science has limited resources to study the incredible amount of light pollution data that we have. But working together, we can change the world.

Since 2003, almost 2 million photos have been taken from the International Space Station of Earth and the University of Complutence in Madrid (UCM) has decided to shed some light on light pollution with a collaboration effort of universal proportions. All the images taken by astronauts were provided by NASA, ROSCOSMOS, ESA, JAXA and CSA-ASC. Due to light pollution, we don’t really know all the places photographed and that’s where the citizens of Earth come in to help science with science.

Cities at Night is the website developed by UCM that highlights solutions and scientific evidence to light pollutions effects on life here on Earth. It also brings it down to our past-time of stargazing. The night sky is forever changing but we can do something about that. We have the technology. And you don’t need to be Steve Austin to help.

Crowd Crafting the Globe

The projects main coordination and develop came from Alejandro Sánchez de Miguel, José Gómez Castaño, Jaime Zamorano, Sergio Pascual and Jesús Gallego of UCM with support from Crowd Crafting which hosts the majority of Dark Skies and allows you to take a tutorial and begin sifting through images and tagging based off of your expertise in various sciences and just life in general. You see, algorithms cannot tell the difference between stars, cities, and other objects. People can and that’s where we all come in on this grand project.

There’s Even an App for That

Dark Skies has even released two apps to help georeference known cities and find unlocated images. The apps icon is courtesy of NASA/ESA JSC. You may also use Lost at Night and Night Cities ISS and just start contributing.

Loss of the Night

To better understand our lighting issues and the work that can be done to use light at night more efficiently for all of our health and for the planet itself, watch the video below that has been created by the team to promote this project.