Steve Douglas on May 13th, 2014

H.R. Giger Painting

The art world lost a master today.

While’s he’s most famous for creating the Alien creature (and designing some of the sets for the original movie,) I first learned of H.R. Giger way back in 1974. I was a kid of 13, just starting to explore music and I picked up a copy of Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s Brain Salad Surgery album, for which he had designed the cover. Coming full circle, he also designed the logo for the band, something for which he was never paid. (I wrote about that a few years back.)
ELP Brain Salad Surgery H.R. Giger
I was also just starting to explore the world of illustration at the time, found the artwork fascinating yet disturbing and needed to know more about the guy behind it. I signed out a couple of books about Giger from the local library, spent hours pouring over the pictures inside and reading little anecdotal stories about this strange, yet obviously genius, Swiss painter and sculptor. Since then, I’ve always been mesmerized by his sculptures, acrylic and air-brush paintings and he’s either my first or second favorite artist depending when you asked (Pat Nagel is the other.) In a world where there’s very little originality, Giger’s work is instantly recognizable – unique and sometimes frightening. His style would eventually be copied by many, but nobody could touch his disturbing, weirdly erotic masterpieces. The creature from Alien may be his most famous and commercially successful creation, but that’s just a tiny bit of his immense portfolio and volume of work.

Sad to read today that he’s gone.

Steve Douglas on March 12th, 2014

new mississauga logo

With Mississauga approaching its 40th birthday, the city decided it was time for a new logo and brand. Rolled out a few weeks ago, the design has received mostly positive reviews, while others compared it to Melbourne’s logo and a paper clip.

The City of Mississauga’s old logo design had been featured on official documents, billboards and buildings for 25 years, but when challenged in focus groups, many city residents couldn’t remember what it looked like. When reminded, and then asked to describe the old logo, participants referred to it as “industrial,” “conservative” and “boring.” The old design also featured some weird typography work that I always found kind of jarring.

old mississauga logo

The city has now discarded the arguably outdated logo (featuring the Mississauga Civic Center and the 90′s era tagline “Leading today for tomorrow”) and launched a new design as part of a complete rebranding campaign. Designed by an in-house team, the new logo is a linear rendering of an M, created with 3 triangles and features the city name in a sans serif, mixed-case font. The cost of creating the new logo and “brand story” was $170,000.
new mississauga logo business cards
Reaction to the logo has been mostly positive but some wags have compared the design to an office paper clip, while others claim a striking resemblance between the new mark and Australian city Melbourne’s logo (a bit of a stretch methinks).
new mississauga melbourne logo
Mississauga is now Canada’s sixth-largest city with a population of 745,000 and is home to 54,000 businesses, 62 Fortune 500 companies and a pair of hospitals and post-secondary institutions.
“The time is right for Mississauga to review, revitalize and refresh its visual identity and brand reputation to better reflect and promote the dynamism and change that is taking place in Mississauga,” reads the official brand roll out literature. You can visit the official Mississauga Brand Story website here.

Steve Douglas on January 10th, 2014

canada 150 birthday logos

How a supposedly uniting logo – to celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary – kicked off a firestorm of protestation, internet skirmishes and a whole lot of jostling for attention. And let’s not mention those $40K focus groups.

Anniversary logos are actually quite common. On special occasions, 10, 25, 50 years and the like, companies add little celebratory flourishes to their logos all the time. We’ve done quite a few over our years, including several for major companies like Exxon for refinery birthdays. Not a big deal.

exxon birthday logo

Countries do it too, but unlike their corporate counterparts, there’s often no official logo to speak of. With nothing to add the flourish onto, the birthday designs get a ‘ground up’ treatment. In all instances, the design is supposed to mark the celebration of a significant milestone – in this case, Canada’s 150th year, starting July 1, 2017. Like most logos, the design is used to promote celebratory events, sell widgets, trinkets and generally create a good buzz that people can rally round. The country’s no stranger to the concept either, having been down this road before for Canada’s 100th back in 1966. That centennial logo (below,) a stylized maple leaf (the symbol from Canada’s flag) made up of 11 multi-coloured equilateral triangles representing the 10 provinces and the territories, was lauded as brilliant work. Still is. Designed in 1966 by Hamilton-born Stuart Ash while at the firm Cooper & Beatty Ltd, the design is a classic example of design simplicity, with enough of a back-story to make it representative.
canada centennial logo design
This time shouldn’t have been any different. Canada boasts a ton of talented designers, firms and several graphic design organizations from which to glean expertise and consultation. You’d have thought coming up with a decent design wouldn’t have been an issue. However, things have changed since 1966. Everybody has a copy of Adobe Illustrator so everyone’s a designer. That makes everyone an art critic too. And Canada’s attempt to brand its upcoming sesquicentennial birthday got a little weird. And continues to get weirder.

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Steve Douglas on October 4th, 2013

People are totally not going to be able to tell the difference from TV network FXX and ExxonMobil’s logos. The proof? Someone said it on the internet.

Scraps between companies over similar (and sometimes not so similar) logos aren’t anything new. Happens all the time, but occasionally, there’s a dust-up that I find interesting. This one for example.

Seems ExxonMobil has filed suit against 20th Century Fox asserting that their newly-launched FXX network is using a logo that too closely resembles the Exxon interlocked ‘X’s. One of their claims is that the logo sows “marketplace confusion.” Sure thing. Cause every new Tee Vee network, especially a comedy-centric one like FXX, wants to be associated with a big oil and gas company. In fact, the biggest oil and gas company.

According to Variety, ExxonMobil is claiming that the new logo “makes it look as if FXX is affiliated with Exxon.” Their proof? As part of the suit, the oil company submitted screen captures and quotes from several websites where folks were kvetching about the new design. On page 8 of its complaint, ExxonMobil cites their internet postings:

A comment on by user GungHo copying the FXX logo from a previous post and asking, “Were they inspired by the Exxon logo?”
A comment on by user The Enchanted Goatee, stating “It looks like a misprinted Exxon logo. ”
A comment on from user JT_Kirk who says, ”That FXX logo has to go, that is awful on a plate,” adding “Exxon is going to be pissed.”
A comment on from user lee4hmz, asking, “[W]ho thought it was a good idea to rip off Exxon?”

Cause you know, if you read it on the interwebs, it has to be true. As could be predicted, FXX sez that the complaint is total codswallop: “We are confident that viewers won’t tune into FXX looking for gas or motor oil and drivers won’t pull up to an Exxon pump station expecting to get It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia,” a rep for the company said in a statement emailed to the Deadline website.

Steve Douglas on June 4th, 2013


If nothing else, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban’s recent foray into design crowdsourcing illustrates its inherent arrogance as well as the power imbalance between designers and those that hope to exploit them.

Back in the day, I wasn’t terribly opposed to fan-based design contests for posters, logos and what have you. Used to be a nice way for bands and sports teams to develop a sense of community among their fans and to give those fans a chance to support their favorite causes. Hell, my first paying gig – a princely sum of $100 – was designing a logo for my high school radio station as part of a school-wide contest. I get it.
mark cuban twitter mavericks design
Of course, that was before the rise of exploitative design contest websites, when companies like Crowdspring and 99designs began to cash in and commercialize a previously organic concept, offering design contests for every purpose imaginable – from logos to websites, T-shirt designs to posters. All for a percent of the winning designers’ wages and a contest listing fee. After that, all design contests became taboo – a sort of ‘zero tolerance’ – at least among a good chunk of the design community, and now every contest – regardless of its intent or participant – runs the risk of being scorned and protested via social media, blogs and websites. It was into that landscape that Dallas Maverick owner Mark Cuban wandered, announcing a contest to design the Mavs’ new uniforms on Twitter (above) and via his blog here (fair warning: there are hundreds and hundreds of comments so the page takes forever to load.) The criticism was swift, in the comments section of the blog announcement, on Twitter, design blogs, and even articles in the mainstream sports media.

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