Saturday, July 21, 2012

Presidential nostalgia

Obama's fonts

Yay! Lovely. Well done sir.

With so much focus paid to the fabulous campaign design by Shepard Fairey for Obama's last run, the new look and feel for 2012 has been highly anticipated. I must say I really do enjoy the snappy typography. The campaign fonts are Zeitgeist and nostalgic; folksy, yet clean and soberly presidential. They evoke the farm and community, Victory garden chic and the belief in the possibility for the quality of American products from a bygone age. — Erin Kavanagh {Design craft Lab}

*above: 2008 campaign
*below: 2012 campaign

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Here’s to shattering ceilings

The Atlantic Magazine
A Tour of the Self-Contained, Design-Happy City of Obamaland
"Obama doesn't just denounce outsourcing on the stump. His campaign HQ is a living test of the theory that everything can be done best in-house.

by Nancy Scola
CHICAGO -- Out on the campaign trail, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are at the moment engaged a spirited rhetorical debate over what it means to be an "outsourcing pioneer," a phrase borrowed from the Washington Post's coverage of Romney's Bain Capital past. For the most part, it's been discussion waged in generalities. But a tour of Obama's headquarters half-seriously suggests that the president might just want to point to his own campaign as a demonstration of doing things in-house. The scene on this floor of downtown's One Prudential Plaza is of waves of hundreds of staffers working amid a sea of college banners, rubber therapeutic balls, cardboard boxes turned into standing desks, and a visitor is struck by how much their five-year-old political operation has come to believe in rolling its own creative work.
It's as if, should the Obama campaign end tomorrow, you'd have the minds, skill sets, and tools ready to power a decent-sized tech company. Maybe even a small sovereign nation.

According to the story floating around, campaign manager Jim Messina took a year to tap the brains of tech world luminaries like Apple's Steve Jobs and Google's Eric Schmidt and came away with a few new ideas about how to run an organization. One was the belief in the "pod." Rather than distribute staffers in offices according to job function, this time around much of the Obama campaign is organized around five regional clusters. A few senior staffers have offices -- national field director Jeremy Bird and battleground states director Mitch Stewart pore over maps in one, Teddy Goff and Joe Rospars plot digital strategy in another -- but in a switch from 2008, staffers generally sit in an large open room, at long tables arranged in row after row. In one corner of the open space are a few of your more traditional political teams. The policy shop is smaller than last time, befitting a situation where much of that agenda is set by Washington. The surrogate team is bigger. It makes sense: the campaign principals, and the president and vice president in particular, have fairly demanding day jobs. 
That's all well and good, but what particularly jumps out is the way in which the Obama campaign has focused on setting up the sort of creative operations that weren't in the past traditionally associated with a political campaign. It's a lesson, perhaps, that Messina took to heart from the experiences of Jobs and Apple: Keep the means of production close, and the ability to iterate at the ready.

What does that look like in practice? At Obama campaign headquarters, it means dozens and dozens of staffers with expertise in the digital space grouped into dedicated teams, with the ability and responsibility to tackle meaty challenges in their particular space. In one back corner is the Technology team, charged with building out a robust infrastructure for making the campaign run,like the Dashboard software that aims to bridge online and offline organizing. But the Tech team is not to be confused with the Digital Development team, which, as the campaign tells it, handles the dreaming up of new ways to use digital tools. Digital Advertising gets its own row close to the team that produces the campaign's wide-ranging online video work, from national ads to targeted training videos. (Almost all of the campaign's video is produced in-house, though Davis Guggenheim's 17-minute docu-advertisment was a high-profile exception.)
Then there's the team known simply as Outbound. That group of staffers is responsible for writing the words that come out of the campaign in electronic form, from emails to texts to tweets to Facebook posts to Pinterest pins to Instagram captions. Outbound didn't exist in any cohesive way in 2008, says the campaign. There's simply a far larger universe of digital content to be filled this time around, and tasking a single team with managing the campaign's voice is a bid to create consistency across online platforms. 
Down the hall and off the main room sits the Design team. Obama campaign HQ is demonstrably a place where the creatively inclined are allowed to let their design flag fly.

And tucked off a back hallway is the lab they need to do it. It might not be Jony Ive's cave of experimentation at Apple headquarters, but after too much time and money spent working with outside print shops last time around, the campaign decided to set up its own production facility on site. They call it the "Chop Shop;" its logo, as you can see below, is a pair of X-acto knives crossed over an Obama rising sun logo. The facility gives the campaign's creatives the ability to dream up and quickly produce the materials that provide the look and feel of the campaign.
What happens when you put creative talent within easy reach of the means of production? In this case, you get an environment that's a little signage-happy.
But there's more advantage to it than that. Certainly the Romney campaign has been staffing up in the last few months, but back in January the Republican candidate's digital director was testifying to the campaign's belief in staying small. Their tack: "We go out and find companies whose size we can leverage, experts we can work with, that let us be much larger than our size."
Arguably, the Obama campaign's in-house approach frees it to experiment. Without drawing up any big project spec sheet, staff time can go to producing products that might only reach a handful of people. Take, for example, this data-heavy YouTube video produced by the campaign in March. In three months, the campaign's two-minute update on how many field offices had been opened, phone calls made, and "team leaders" appointed has been watched fewer than 10,000 times. If it's a few thousand of the right people, though, you can begin to see why it might be worth the staff time.
Then there are posters whipped up on site that, often, don't seem to travel much beyond the campaign's doors. One hanging in headquarters (and seen below) riffs off the president's 2012 proclamation for Women's History Month -- 
'As we make headway on the crucial issues of our time, let the courageous vision championed by women of past generations inspire us to defend the dreams and opportunities of those to come.'
-- and is turned into a visualization with a mapping of famously accomplished women like soccer great Mia Hamm, the New York Times' Jill Abramson, and, yes, Michelle Obama. The poster to its left displays the Obamaesque slogan, "The definition of hope is you still believe even when it's hard." But a Google search reveals that, in a bit of Outbound/Design team synergy, perhaps, that saying is only known to the world through a Pinterest pin of a photograph of the poster itself.
But that's not to say that the campaign's free-flowing creative experimentation is for naught. Whether the Obama campaign's heavy focus on its home-grown creative operations is sound strategy is probably a judgment to ultimately be made on November 7. But from one angle, though, while the Obama operation won't talk specific numbers, all signs suggest that merchandising has been a fundraising boon for the campaign. The Obama online store sells nearly 300 items, from the pedestrian logo buttons and pints to rather more whimsical items. There's "I like Obamacare" t-shirts for thirty bucks a pop. For $22.50, you can get a mug bearing Vice President Biden's mug that reads "Cup of Joe." Have a kitten? Get yourself a "I Meow for Michelle" cat collar, just $12. The campaign rather famously turned around mugs featuring the president's long-form birth certificate, under the tag line, "Made in the U.S.A." The Romney campaign has an online store too, sure. But theirs is about a tenth the size. A T-shirt that says "Super Fan" on it as about as edgy as things get.
Merchandise gets whipped up and sold, one piece after another -- including in one particularly unique offline shop. The Obama campaign headquarters has a paraphernalia shop right on site. And it's not by the front door. Instead, it's deep in the bowels. 
According to the campaign, senior management decided that giving away bumper stickers to staff was so 2008. This time around, the merch shop is open a few times a week, solely for staff and the occasional visitor. (Staff do, I'm told, get a discount.) This is where Obama campaign aides can pick up their "I Bark for Barack" car magnets and Obama-Biden coaster sets. Sometimes they get things before anyone else does, as was the case with the custom-made Obama iPhone cases listed at $40 a piece.
Do Obama campaign staff really spend their hard-earned paychecks buying swag emblazoned with the campaign's logo or their boss's name, no matter how well-designed it might be? Deputy press secretary Katie Hogan assures me they do. The line, she says, has been known to be out the door. With the campaign office rather packed with bodies and equipment, the organization is pressed for meeting space. But with the staff swag store, says Hogan, "it's lucrative enough to not turn it into a conference room."
Now that's keeping things in-house."

On another front, here is a piece by The Design Observer; not quite as convinced ...
by Alexandra Lange

Image by Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images (via BuzzFeed)

Over the weekend, Zeke Miller posted an item at BuzzFeed about the new Obama typeface. Rolled out during the president's recent Midwest bus tour, the fonts were chosen to present the Obama 2012 campaign's new slogan, "Betting On America." This only counted as political news because "America" was set in what looks like Revolution Gothic Extra Bold, from MyFonts, described as follows:

The original font is inspired by retro propaganda posters and wallpainting in Cuba from the 60s to 80s. And the original PAG Revolucion is the most popular font from Prop-A-Ganda.In other words: a Communist typeface conspiracy theory in the making.
More striking to me than the name of the font, and even its tenuous Cuban connections, was how ugly this poster is. I know ugly is not a term of criticism, so let's unpack. Obama's current campaign strategy seems to be to paint himself as a champion of the working and middles classes, and Mitt Romney as an out of touch rich guy. The Camp David vacation, the bus, the diners of early July all send that message. Who is betting on America? He is, by not cutting jobs and offshoring industries. And we are, by rallying around the largest word on the poster, America. Uncontroversial when spelled correctly.

The curved square corners, the low-riding bar, the slanted ends of the arms all suggest a pre-digital, possibly hand-drawn typeface, not 1980s but 1940s [or maybe 1920s]. When paired with the script [identified in the comments as MVB Mascot, designed by Mark van Bronckhorst in 2012], the combination suggests to me early advertising, printed but "personalized" with a script message. My first thought was fruit crate labels, which often combine block letters, script, and images of fruit orchards and fields. What could be a better association for a trip to the heartland in summer, when strawberries, if not apples, might be consumed?
And yet, something is missing here. I see the possible references, but the result is mechanical, cold. The color palette, white on midnight, doesn't help. The American flag field, so effective when combined with Obama 2008's large Gotham O, is shrunk to the size of a button at the top. Gotham appears in both its 2008 (sans serif) and 2012 (slab serif)versions, but also shrunken. Compare the mixed messages and mixed fonts of "Betting On America" to the simpler, bolder "Change." Change, in word and font, was forward-looking and sophisticated. The script and the block letters are both awkward, angular versions of their kind. Without the landscape, without the energy of a softer, realer script, it looks like an ersatz version of American nostalgia.

The result lends itself to a critique of Obama's campaign poster similar to the current critique of Obama's campaign style: the words are all appropriate, but some feeling is lacking.

the handmade gift + card

diy | Design*Sponge:
"Despite living in the technology age — or perhaps precisely because we’re in the technology age — the act of writing and receiving letters in the mail holds the same appeal and excitement for me as I imagine it did for Henry James or John and Abigail Adams. Though I couldn’t dream of matching the beauty of such eloquent correspondence, I do enjoy getting to practice my penmanship, and I appreciate that “snail mail” is one of the few things we still have to wait for. I never I thought I’d say this, but sometimes I love waiting.
I think handmade gifts have the potential to be loved and cherished far longer than any store-bought present. This is not to say that everyone wants a bar ofhomemade soap more than something they could really use or some boutique item they’ve been coveting all year. But if you’re stumped for ideas, and you’re about to reach for a blank gift card in a panic, consider setting aside a little time one weekend this month and making something instead. — Kate"


Zabars | display font  by K-Type

Painter’s Tape Contest! | Design*Sponge:

Design*Sponge:   "Attention DIYers and crafters! We wanted to have a fun interactive event on the site this summer, so we’ve decided to throw a Painter’s Tape DIY contest with $1K in cash prizes. Just in case you missed the announcement last week, we decided to share the details again. The entry can be any home-related DIY, and the only requirement is to use painter’s tape or masking tape as one of the materials. We’re really hoping to see some inventive projects, so grab your tape and let your creativity run wild!"  — Kate
Here are the details. Please read carefully!
  • Contest: Painter’s Tape DIY
  • Description: Create a unique and inventive DIY project that uses painter’s tape in some way, ANY way! It can be anything home related: textiles, furniture, decorative objects, stationery or paper based, lighting . . . there are no limits! You can use any materials, but painter’s tape must be one of them. The tape can be a tool for making designs, but it could also be the material the project is made out of. I had a friend in college who knit an entire pillow out of masking tape, and it was awesome!
  • Details: What do you need to turn in? 2–3 styled shots of the finished project, 3–4 process shots and a short description of the project (how you came up with it, why you like it, etc.). Great photos will go a long way with your fellow voters, so here are a few tips: Shoot from a straight-on perspective (no extreme angles), try to shoot the project during the day with plenty of diffused natural light and make sure the shots are in focus!
  • Due Date: All entries must be received by 7pm EST on Sunday, July 29th. (I wanted to make sure that everyone has time to dive into this project and make something they love!)
  • How to Enter: Send your email to SUBMISSIONS AT DESIGNSPONGE DOT COM with the subject line “Painter’s Tape DIY Contest Submission.”
  • What to Include in Your Email: Your full name, phone number and email address (this will only be used to contact you in the event that you are a finalist and for no other purpose). In addition to your contact information, you need to include the images as individual JPEG attachments (or in a zip file), and the text, which can be in the body of the email or in a text doc. Images need to be at least 500 pixels wide. Again, please attach files, do not embed them in the email body.
  • What You Win: We will be awarding three cash prizes this year: $500 to 1st place and $250 each to 2nd and 3rd place.
    Once the winners are selected, we will confirm your address and send you a check in the mail.
Also, here are a few answers to questions we’ve received regarding submissions:
  1. We know not everyone has blue painter’s tape in their area. For that reason, we are allowing any kind of masking tape.
  1. You can submit multiple entries.
  1. We will not accept projects that have been featured on our site or other sites besides your own personal blog.
Okay, that’s it! Good luck everyone — we can’t wait to see what you come up with!
A huge thank you again to ScotchBlue Painter’s Tape for sponsoring this contest.
ScotchBlue Painter’s Tape is bringing awareness to the ways in which artists, interior and fashion designers, stylists, DIYers and creators are using ScotchBlue tape in unique ways. Recognize and reward creative people and creative projects at ScotchBlue brand’s Facebook page.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Easy Drawstring Bag - the purl bee

The Purl Bee

A custom gift wrap alternative, a travel bag, a knitting project bag and the list goes on and on. It sews up in less than an hour and works with any kind of fabric. A perfect use for those fabric scraps you've been wondering what to do with.


To make a x-small (small, medium, large, x-large) drawstring bag, measuring 5 1/2 (8 1/2, 11 1/2, 14 1/2, 17 1/2) inches wide:


The Trim

Cut two 20 (26, 34, 42, 48) inch pieces of trim for each drawstring bag. Place these to the side for now.

The Fabric

Using your rotary cutter and non-slip rulers, cut a rectangle of fabric measuring: 
6-inch wide by 12-inch long
9-inch wide by 18-inch long
12-inch wide by 24-inch long
15-inch wide by 30-inch long
18-inch wide by 36-inch long
For more help with this step, please see our Rotary Cutting tutorial.
Fold the rectangle of fabric in half the long way with right sides together to make a 6 (9, 12, 15, 18) inch square.


Starting at the fold, sew up the left and right side of the bag with a 1/4-inch seam allowance.  Stop 2-inches from the top on each side.

Drawstring channel

Working on only one half of the bag at a time, *fold and iron a 1/4-inch hem on the 2-inch portion of the fabric where you did not sew the seam (on the left and right sides).
Fold and iron a 1/4-inch hem along the top of the bag.
Fold it over another 3/4-inch as if to make a hem and iron (this will be the drawstring channel).
Sew along the bottom edge of the hem with a 1/6-inch seam allowance.
Repeat from * for the other half of the bag.

Make Gusset

Fold both corners of the bag so that the side seam of the bag is running exactly down the middle of the corner point. (Note: You will be sewing your gusset seam exactly perpendicular to the side seam.) You will want both gussets seams to be sewn at the exact same angle so that the gusset isn't askew.
Line up one side of your non-slip ruler with the drawstring channel edge. Using your water soluble marker, draw a line approximately 1 (1 1/2, 2, 2 1/2, 3) inches down from the point of the corner.  Repeat on other corner making sure your marks line up with the first corner.
Sew along the marker lines. Cut off the fabric corners below the seam to reduce bulk. Turn the bag right side out.

Thread ribbon through channel

Attach a large safety pin to the end of one of your alphabet ribbons.
Thread it through the drawstring channel on one side of the bag and then back around the other side so that you have both ends of the ribbon on one side.  Repeat with the other ribbon starting on the opposite side of the bag.  Leaving approximately 4 1/2 (4 1/2, 5, 5 1/2, 5 1/2) inches of the ribbon on either side, tie the ends in a knot and cut off excess.
The bag will cinch when you hold the knots on either side of the bag and pull outwards.