McSweeney's No. 13 and the Revenge of the Nerds
The McSweeney's phenomenon is a force to be reckoned with in American graphic design. It began as - and still is - an online journal
with an admirably understated visual presentation: while website designers worked themselves into grand mal seizures of hyperactivity in the late twentieth century, McSweeneys.net never abandoned its plain vanilla format. But it was when founder Dave Eggers moved into the world of conventional publishing with McSweeney's Quarterly Concern
that the design world took notice. Simultaneously intricate and restrained, the dense-packed all-Garamond pages of the Quarterly
refracted Victorian foppishness through a prism of ironic cool, and provoked Andrew Blauvelt to take to the pages of Eye
to proclaim the arrival of a new movement: Complex Simplicity...
India Switches Brands
Like many other insular Americans, I was only vaguely aware that India was holding elections this past week. Listening to an account of the historic upset via BBC World Service
on my car radio on Friday morning, I found myself a bit confused by an interviewer's question: What role did India Shining play in the election? Did India Shining have more appeal in progressive urban areas? Did India Shining alienate less affluent people?
What? India Shining? Was this some kind of political movement? A new party? Some kind of special government program? Some kind of insurgent group? I had never heard of it before.
This was not true for the citizens of the world's biggest democracy, who had not only heard of India Shining, but had found it an inescapable part of their lives for the weeks leading up to the election. Until last Thursday, that is, when the voters decided to escape it.
India Shining, I know now, is not a movement or political party, but that even more important holy grail sought after by institutions around the world: a brand.
Created by Grey Advertising's
India division for the ruling Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP), "India Shining" was the tagline for a $100 million media campaign intended to emphasize the role the popular BJP had played in India's economic upswing. The campaign was so dominant, according to the Wall Street Journal, that it "worked its way into daily life, headlines, and even other ads." The BJP, in effect, attempted to consolidate its power in India by rebranding the country itself, and it seems to have come pretty close...
My Democracy Was Irretrievably Undermined by Reactionary Idiots and All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt
When Design Observer reader Sam Potts first emailed me about DOTWHO, the Designs On The White House Organization, my initial reaction was slightly exasperated bemusement: when the going gets tough, designers have a t-shirt contest. A group of celebrity judges, including Milton Glaser, Chip Kidd and Todd St. John along with more conventional celebrities like Margaret Cho, Al Franken and Moby, are slated to help select the best pro-Kerry t-shirt designs in a number of categories, including "funniest," "most stylish" and "best retro shirt," with proceeds from sales of the winners going to help the Democratic campaign.
This is all fine and good, and certainly the "official" Kerry t-shirt
is pretty awful (if there were a Geneva Convention for typography, horizontal scaling would be a capital crime at my tribunal). Yet with the news getting worse every day, I wondered if designing t-shirts was anything near a sufficient response to the crisis in leadership we're facing...