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This Way to the Excess

Recently New York City has been festooned with a series of breathless, sometimes obvious, often cryptic, epigrams; written in multi-colored type on black backgrounds. Unless you notice the logo for New York’s 2012 Olympics bid, the slogans seem to have a Think Pink utility.

From Funny Face:

MEN [painters, with NYC accents] —
Think pink! think pink, it’s the latest word, you know.
Think pink! think pink and you’re Michelangelo.

WOMEN —
Feels so gay, feels so bright.
Makes you day, makes you night.
Pink is now the colour to which you gotta switch!

MEN—
Do what you gotta switch!

WOMEN —
Every stitch!

MEN —
Every stitch you switch!

MAGGIE —
Think pink! Think pink on the long, long road ahead.

WOMEN & MEN —
On the road… think pink!

MAGGIE —
Think pink and the world is rosey-red

WOMEN & MEN —
Everything’s rosey.

MAGGIE —
Everything on the great horizon,
Everything that you can think—
and that includes the kitchen sink,
Think pink!

The NYC 2012 graphics have an equally optimistic tone:

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Street banners: (L-R) “every neighborhood will celebrate”, “olympic legacy is forever”, and “there will be no strangers”.

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Back-lit phone booth signs: (L-R) “people will speak your language” and “somebody will fall in love”.

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A collage of screens in Niketown, on 57th Street: (L-R) “we’re in an olympic state of mind”, “there’s room for everyone” and “records will break”.

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A screen outside Niketown: “athletes will lead the way”.

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Back-lit signs at subway stations: “humanity will shine”.

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Posters in subway stations: (L-R) “every neighborhood will celebrate” and “there will be friends and friends of friends to guide you”.

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Large sign on the Pennsylvania Hotel across the street from Madison Square Garden: “we’re in an olympic state of mind”.

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Large building-sized sign across the street from both Macy’s and Penn Station: “peace is the dream”.

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Another large building-sized sign in Times Square: “peace is the dream”.

The copy was written by Brian Collins, Executive Creative Director of Ogilvy’s Brand Integration Group (BIG). I had a chance to discuss the project with him at an Oscar-viewing party, and during our conversation he described the Olympics as the closest thing to Star Trek’s Federation of Planets — an idealistic representation of man’s potential — and how this was the model that, in his mind, the project aspired to. Instead of laughing, I quickly nodded in agreement and appreciation of Brian’s ability to size me up as a Star Trek geek, and quickly convey such a complex idea.

He went on to confirm that the appearance of the NYC 2012 branding campaign was timed to coincide with a visit by the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) Evaluation Commission. Everywhere they went, the IOC was bombarded with a unified brand message ranging from banners and posters to sidewalks full of Olympic supporters. During a visit to Times Square, hosted by Deputy Mayor Daniel Doctoroff, they were bombarded with layers of synchronized graphics on Jumbotron screens, ads on the sides of busses passing by, and banners hanging from light ploles.

Lynn Zinser in The New York Times (Feb. 15, 2005) wrote:

Deputy Mayor Daniel L. Doctoroff described the details of next week’s presentation to the International Olympic Committee’s evaluation commission, he made it clear yesterday that he would do everything shy of personally installing the NYC2012 banners that will drape storefronts, buildings and utility poles around New York City.

Of course, if needed, he might do that, too.

Doctoroff is tackling the four-day visit with the same full-throttle energy that I.O.C. members have come to know during his extensive lobbying efforts.

Doctoroff estimated that he was in eight countries in the past few weeks. In the past year and a half, Doctoroff said he had 300 meetings with I.O.C. members and had gotten to know almost all of the 117 members who will select the 2012 Summer Games host city on July 6. New York, Paris, London, Madrid and Moscow are competing for the prize.

The evaluation commission’s visit will be pure Doctoroff; his now eight-year-old dream to bring the Olympics to New York will be presented in the finest details.

“We’ve planned it down to the minute,” he said. “And in four days, there are a lot of minutes.”

(snip)

For an hour yesterday, Doctoroff outlined the agenda, from the commission’s arrival on a flight from London on Sunday through its final news conference Thursday. It will be the commission’s job to probe the plausibility of New York’s bid, to scour Doctoroff’s details for strengths and flaws.

For two days, the commission will be largely holed up in a conference room at the Plaza Hotel, albeit one with a grand view of Central Park and the exhibition “The Gates.”

“It’s kind of like what you get during a Ph.D. presentation and defense,” Doctoroff said. “There will be 13 people on one side of the table and us on the other side, making presentations and answering their questions.”

On the two other days, commission members will be escorted to the proposed Olympic sites, where experts will highlight their Olympics and post-Olympics uses. Their travel routes will be lined with NYC2012 banners. There will be flourishes: fencers will compete on the steps of the New York Public Library, and a public rally will be staged Monday afternoon at Rockefeller Center.

Doctoroff promised as much fanfare as is allowed under the new I.O.C. rules, which were created to curtail over-the-top wooing. The events will include a horse-drawn carriage ride, a performance at Jazz at Lincoln Center and a dinner at Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s home.

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Dan Doctoroff (center) leading the IOC committee on a tour of the 1964 World’s Fair site in Queens.

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Olympic supporters on the streets of New York. It was rumored that some of them were tourists who spontaneously found themselves part of the Potemkin rally.

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Large LED screens in Times Square.

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The grand finale at the Jazz at Lincoln Center gala. This large window overlooks Central Park and Christo’s The Gates.

One comment that struck me during my conversation with Brian Collins was that the main intention of all this (mostly donated) effort was to demonstrate to 13 IOC representatives, New York’s appropriateness and ability to host the 2012 games. But beyond that, an additional benefit was to (for lack of a better word) promote the concept to New Yorkers — certainly a hard sell, especially after the pain and anguish of last summer’s Republican National Convention.

kingsley_2012_rnc.jpg

Anti-war protesters under arrest; September 2004.

In this light, the NYC2012 effort comes off as what I once heard Thomas Sebeok, a major figure in semeotic studies, describe as a Barnum Statement. Also known as the Forer Effect, such a statement is vague enough and complimentary enough for the reader to accept it as meant specifically for them — newspaper horoscopes are an ideal example.

For a Barnum Statement to be accepted, there should be some sort of confirmation bias, or belief that the message has been specifically meant for the reader — making it harder to reject because of doubt and skepticism. And this is the reason why, ultimately, the NYC2012 branding efforts are not as effective as they could be: because there was a pre-existing atmosphere of doubt and rancor.

I have either the blessing or the curse of a pretty good memory for trivial details. And for some reason an item in the New York Post’s gossip pages, noting a dinner between friends Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Robert Wood Johnson IV (around the time of Bloomberg’s election), struck me as odd. Bloomberg was a relatively unheard-of billionaire until 2000, when he switched to the Republican party to avoid the intrenched Democratic Party system, and entered the race to replace Rudy Giuliani. After spending 70 million dollars of his own money, and sending several waves of direct mail to just about every New Yorker, he won. Fellow billionaire, Robert Wood Johnson IV is heir to the Johnson & Johnson fortune and sits on the Board of Trustees of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. In 2000, Johnson purchased the New York Jets for 635 million dollars and immediately began petitioning for a home stadium in New York City. (The Jets shared Shea Stadium with the New York Mets from 1964 to 1983, when they moved to Giants Stadium in New Jersey — pledging to return to New York if a stadium could ever be built.)

kingsley_2012_woody.jpg

He hates publicity, but then, it is Mary Richards: Robert Wood Johnson IV with Mary Tyler Moore.

One of Mayor Mike’s grand schemes visions for New York City is a new Jets stadium atop the Metropolitan Transit Agency’s (MTA) rail yards on the west side of Manhattan. The original arrangement called for the Jets to offer the MTA 100 million dollars and a promise to build a large retail area (including a community market, museum, and river-front cafe) either in or nearby the stadium; the City would promise to build a large platform over the railyards. In a feeble attempt to deflect cries of cronyism, it was introduced as all things to all people:

1. a prerequisite for winning the 2012 Olympics
2. a much-needed jump start for economic development
3. a much-needed expansion for the Jacob Javits Convention Center, which is across the street
4. a much-needed place to assemble 40-odd thousand people (huh!?)
5. a reason to extend the #7 subway line all the way west

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The west side MTA railyards, proposed site of the Jets stadium.

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The same site, looking west over the Hudson River.

The stadium’s proposed location puts it only a couple cross-town blocks from Madison Square Garden; who’s owners, Cablevision, took issue with a competitor so close to their front door — and probably had some other issues too; Cablevision owner Charles Dolan was outbid and lost the Jets to Johnson. Ugliness ensued.

For almost a year now, the Jets and Cablevision have been fighting it out in public — even as far away as Buffalo. Cablevision’s television ads feature various public servants — firemen, teachers, etc. — asking why public money was being diverted away from needed services in order to build a stadium that would only be used for eight home games a year. The Jets came back with ads starring their unofficial mascot, Firefighter Edwin Anzalone, a thick-necked rough who on game day leads — well… screams, actually — the unofficial Jets cheer, which goes something like “J! E! T! S! Jets! Jets! JETS!”. In these ads, Fireman Ed stands in front of his fire station in Harlem (making a tacit, and tasteless, connection to the Fire Department’s 9-11 victims), screams how the stadium will rain money on public services, and finishes by yelling “BUILD IT!”.

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Game Day: Fireman Ed in action.

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Fireman Ed with ex-Jet Bruce Harper at a March 30, 2005 rally in front of MTA Headquarters.

Over time, other individuals and public officials took advantage of the controversy; using it as fuel for their own media attention.

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“This is not about fun at the stadium; this is about jobs at the work site.” Reverend Al Sharpton at the same March 30, 2005 rally.

Even some fellow designers joined the fracas; deftly critiquing both the branding campaign and the probable reasons for the Olympic initiative.

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An official NYC2012 bus shelter ad with commentary: “every billionaire will get home field advantage”.

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An official NYC2012 subway ad with: “democracy will come in last”.

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“democracy will come in last”

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“people will lose their homes”

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“you and your friends and their friends and their friends will pay for this”

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“every billionaire gets homefield advantage”

Sadly, it seems inevitable that the effectiveness of the NYC2012 branding program would suffer from the brutality and heat of such a public argument. Currently, BIG features some of the brightest and best designers around — including Barry Deck and Allen Hori — so any failure to rise above the fray and convey the aspirations of the Olympics must be credited to their client, Mayor Bloomberg and Deputy Mayor Doctoroff, who have a rather large public relations mess on their hands.

Yet, Bloomberg and Doctoroff are savvy enough to hire the best designers. The architecture firm responsible for the stadium design, Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates (KPF) have approached the project with an impressive amount of sensitivity, considering the heavy burden of required additions (convention center expansion, restaurants, shops, cafes, etc.) — which obviously exist to pander to as many people as possible.

KPF has applied a degree of design school didacticism in making the stadium look like neighboring piers. The supporting structures along the upper facades both suggest existing piers and double as energy-generating wind turbines. Considering how much energy will be required to to heat such a large space if the stadium hosts a convention, I guess every bit helps.

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KPF rendering of the proposed stadium.

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A neighboring pier.

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Pier architecture celebrated in a local sports facility logo.

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The KPF team presenting their vision of New York’s west side. Hey! What’s Bruce Mau doing there? Actually, he’s designing the wayfinding signage (this way to the egress).

Subsequent developments have been an announcement that New York City signed an agreement for all the outdoor advertising space in the City for Summer 2012; then Cablevision entered a much larger bid than the Jets; which forced the Jets to raise theirs, which raised the degree of public bickering; and the MTA’s board — comprised of political appointees, four from the Mayor’s office — selecting the Jets’ proposal. Lawsuits and more posturing are expected.

But whatever happens, you can rest assured that somewhere… somehow… Records will break, someone will fall in love, and neighborhoods will celebrate.

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ENTRY DETAILS
ARCHIVE ID 2269 FILED UNDER Critique
PUBLISHED ON Apr.04.2005 BY m. kingsley
WITH COMMENTS
Comments
szkat’s comment is:

i was feeling rather warm and squishy about the campaign until i saw "somebody will fall in love" and that just ruined it. that one echoed in my head for the rest of the article. the rest of the copy is pretty nice, in my opinion.

this is the first i've seen of the NY2012 campaign, and i'll admit i'm a fan of it. i might be an even greater fan of the adbusters-esque work :)

i love "humanity will shine,"

and i love "there will be no strangers."

nice work, Kingsley. thanks for all the visuals!

On Apr.04.2005 at 03:31 PM
ps’s comment is:

its kinda cute, but sure not the most international approach with the campaign. (in startreck they would at least use some symbols so even aliens would get the message.) good thing all the committe members are fluent in english. the europeans probably complained that the type was running from top to bottom. seen as giving a "negative" message. i remember one of my fellow design students in switzerland had his work thrown out a window by an instructor for the blunder. but then, this is nyc.

nice post mr kingsley.

On Apr.04.2005 at 04:48 PM
marian’s comment is:

I love the way they've made something that is so easy to parody ... and which can blend in so seamlessly to the original it can create massive confusion in the eye of the public. GO underground NYC designers!!!

Everyone will have an opportunity.

No one will know what's going on.

Humour will create excitement.

Skepticism may just win Gold.

On Apr.04.2005 at 04:53 PM
M Kingsley’s comment is:

> the europeans probably complained that the type was running from top to bottom. seen as giving a "negative" message.

ps, I had a grand thesis that there was some sort of rationale to set the type on the side. It was either a strategy to get the viewer into an "athletic" frame of mind by forcing them to balance on one foot while reading the banners; or it was a reference to the banners flying in front of many NY stores:

I was wrong on both counts. Brian Collins told me they look that way simply because the banners are vertical.

On Apr.04.2005 at 05:19 PM
Armin’s comment is:

Related: NYC 2012 logo design.

***

This NYC 2012/NY Jets story is one of the few that I have — strangely — followed religiously on the paper since moving here. Strange, because I don't care about football, nor live near the yards, nor have strong feelings about it. I guess I was attracted to the power struggle and how that snowballed into the media and ultimately the face of the war was public with BIG's banners. Which I thought were good, mostly because of the open-endedness Mark talks about. It allows anyone a chance to connect with it and I think the bad associations might be minimal compared to the good ones.

The fact that it is Adbustered means it reached a coveted iconic level among New Yorkers — no small feat. It has become such a recognizable language that it can be succesfully mocked. Whether one agrees or not with the message or the expected result of the message the effectiveness of BIG's work is quite an achievement.

On Apr.04.2005 at 05:41 PM
Michael B.’s comment is:

I have to admit, no matter what else one might say, Mary Tyler Moore looks fantastic.

On Apr.04.2005 at 05:45 PM
M Kingsley’s comment is:

> the effectiveness of BIG's work...

Armin, this is where you and I disagree. If branding is the establishment of a relationship — or a promise — to the public, then one has to ask: what are they offering? The Bloomberg administration is offering gossamer dreams of broken records, people falling in love and eternal peace. In reality, the City will get: greater traffic in and around the Lincoln Tunnel, public money diverted to build a stadium that it really doesn't need, back-room land deals outside of public scrutiny, and if the Olympics actually are awarded; another high-security police state on the level of last year's RNC festivities.

BIG's work is visually stunning and their attention to detail beyond compare; but the results of every branding campaign depend on the client and — in this case — some sort of a confirmation bias. So Armin, BIG's work is effective to the designer in you because it looks good; to me, it isn't because Robert Wood Johnson, Dan Doctoroff and Mayor Mike smell so funky.

And it's because of that funk that the parodies which appeal to Marian work so well.

On Apr.04.2005 at 07:41 PM
Robynne Raye’s comment is:

Great post Mark.

I can't help it,

I love the parodies.

On Apr.04.2005 at 09:49 PM
Armin’s comment is:

> The Bloomberg administration is offering gossamer dreams of broken records, people falling in love and eternal peace.

Isn't that what Olympics are about? The unreachable? The romantic? The glory? But reached only by a few, of course.

Let's face it: branding's goal is to focus on the positive — on the possibility of achieving the branded product, service or event's best possible traits. And — as flighty or vacuous as that may be — that is how branding is deemed effective. Should NYC 2012 be branded as a continuous traffic jam? A headache to NYC's population? A parade of automatic weapon-carrying, bulletproof vest-wearing cops? That's not good branding, Mark. That don't put asses in the seats. Or stadiums on the West Side.

On Apr.04.2005 at 10:26 PM
M Kingsley’s comment is:

Armin, the gossamer dreams of the Bloomberg administration's Olympic bid are a smoke screen to the real desires of that particular clique of billionaires. Let's think about it for a minute; what would Robert Wood Johnson benefit from this development plan? This new-fangled stadium will probably have greater corporate suite potential than the Meadowlands; the Jets would probably get a better cut of ticket sales and concessions; and they would be the landlords for future conventions and retail shops.

According to the offer accepted by the MTA, the Jets are obliged to spend just over $250 million for a property that the MTA estimates is worth over $900 million. The City and State get to spend about $600-700 million, including (depending on who you listen to) $200-350 million to build a big deck over the rail yards and the rest in sacrificed taxes. The NFL will pay about $150 million.

We're told that we'll have jobs, but according to the Independent Budget Office, the public gets to pay over $160,000 for each job created; and many of those jobs are temporary construction gigs.

All this is for what? Eight Jets games a year, and maybe two weeks of Olympics? And we need this, why?

...and don't get me started on the whole retail, restaurant, convention center, stadium, Swiss Army Knife approach. No wonder they need Bruce Mau to make the signs.

Paris has the right idea. After the multi-billion dollar tab that Athens woke up to, their proposal was to build seven temporary structures. They already have a huge stadium, left over from the World Cup, which is in the northern suburbs — and not in the middle of the city!

After New York builds the stadium and/or develops the west side, that's it. You're not going to do it again for quite a long time. This whole grand concept is being pieced together in back rooms without public input — unlike the World Trade Center. There, at least, you got the sense that the Billionaires' Club was at least pretending to listen.

Armin, you are absolutely right; branding's goal is to focus on the positive. But this is yet another one of those cases where the means do not justify the end.

It's perfectly fine to admire BIG's work on a formal level — I certainly do — but remember that there is also an ethical dimension to what we do. Contrary to the time we spend in cyberspace, we don't work in a vacuum.

On Apr.05.2005 at 01:43 AM
graham’s comment is:

"the europeans probably complained that the type was running from top to bottom. seen as giving a "negative" message."

? never heard of this one . . . although the u.k. is more like the 51st state than part of europe . . .

On Apr.05.2005 at 04:28 AM
Armin’s comment is:

> All this is for what? Eight Jets games a year, and maybe two weeks of Olympics? And we need this, why?

Wasn't one of the reasons that Cablevision was so upset that the new stadium would also house concerts? Initially it wasn't in the proposal and when they said they would do concerts — taking them away from Madison Square Garden — that's when Cablevision got uppity. So: eight Jets games, maybe two weeks of Olympics and, who knows, U2's 2007ish world tour.

> It's perfectly fine to admire BIG's work on a formal level — I certainly do — but remember that there is also an ethical dimension to what we do.

Ah, but you can't paint ethical on a black background with colorful type. The thing is, I agree with you, but I don't think we could enjoy anything these days if we were constantly concerned with how branding is benefitting anyone behind the scenes — and, invariably, branding looks to benefit the people in the back rooms. I guess that's why have protests.

On Apr.05.2005 at 08:59 AM
Bryony’s comment is:

First of all, this is a great post. I have to wonder though, how many weeks/months in the making?

As in many cases, this is a matter of big money with big people with big interests and big visions (personal and selfish maybe, but visions). While personally I don’t agree with the need for a new stadium and the way it’s financing is being handled, you can’t really completely strike out BIG for taking on such a project. They are not pushing questionable products (cigarettes, and the like), they are not pushing a true to form political agenda, and in the end a lot of people do see the value of what this could do for the city and future incoming monies. (You don’t need to agree with this…) In many ways this is comparable to huge corporate take-overs that diminish competition and raise consumer prices. We don’t seem to mind creating identities for that kind of client, and they surely have “hidden” financial agendas of their own.

On Apr.05.2005 at 09:51 AM
M Kingsley’s comment is:

First off, in my last comment I probably should have added:

We don't work in a vacuum. Our work affects and is affected by society.

I am not attacking BIG, and I would hope that a close reading of my essay would indicate that I see a certain leakage of the public sphere into our perfect hermetic design world — in this case, the specious logic of stadium building colliding with the idealism of the Olympics.

... but I am attacking Mayor Mike and Deputy Dan — who's only job as Deputy Mayor of Economic Development has been the Olympics and absolutely nothing else. (Seriously, you gotta read some of the links in my essay. They're amazing.)

> ...I don't think we could enjoy anything these days if we were constantly concerned with how branding is benefitting anyone behind the scenes — and, invariably, branding looks to benefit the people in the back rooms.

Armin, our profession has a social utility — to use a phrase from my comments in the http://www.underconsideration.com/speakup/archives/002243.html#002243" target="_blank"> Critique? thread. Do you know the phrase "the cost of freedom is constant vigilance"? The cost of being a designer is constant awareness — from type size to politics. If you don't recognize the role design plays in the social realm, then how can you properly serve the client? How can you claim self-awareness?

> In many ways this is comparable to huge corporate take-overs that diminish competition and raise consumer prices. We don’t seem to mind creating identities for that kind of client, and they surely have “hidden” financial agendas of their own.

This is a great point.

> ...great post. I have to wonder though, how many weeks/months in the making?

Many weeks of perfectly good billable hours down the drain. Thanks for noticing. Don't tell my partner.

On Apr.05.2005 at 01:19 PM
Armin’s comment is:

> The cost of being a designer is constant awareness — from type size to politics. If you don't recognize the role design plays in the social realm, then how can you properly serve the client? How can you claim self-awareness?

I couldn't agree more and I think it's not coming across that I am not advocating turning a blind eye to the social (and other) consequences of what we do. I'm assuming it comes down to the oft quoted 12 steps to hell by Glaser, where do you (me, them, whoever) stop?

But, I think I'm veering off the original discussion: if I'm responding to BIG's work as a designer or citizen? Obviously, on a professional level, yes, I respond well to it, it's a well crafted, well targeted campaign; as a citizen, sure I see the incongruity of it, yet it's easy to feel empathic to the enthusiasm and optimism of the campaign. Now back to the graphic designer role, what can I do about it? Do some more adbustering? Start a (well-designed) web site protesting the stadium? Say no if — per some cosmic chance — I were asked to work on Olympics/Stadium work? Or is being aware enough?

On Apr.05.2005 at 01:57 PM
M Kingsley’s comment is:

> Or is being aware enough?

It's a start... after that, personal choice and standards.

On Apr.05.2005 at 02:22 PM
Jason Tselentis’s comment is:

I have to admit, no matter what else one might say, Mary Tyler Moore looks fantastic.

Am I missing something here, Michael?

On Apr.05.2005 at 05:30 PM
M Kingsley’s comment is:

Jason, you are so outted!

You non-reader, you!

Skimmer!

There's a picture of her next to "Woody" Johnson in the essay.

On Apr.05.2005 at 09:21 PM
Armin’s comment is:

Not to pre-defend Jason… but I think his comment was in regard to Michael's assertion of MTM looking fantastic. Apparently Jason, like me, has other definitions for fantastic-looking. But that's just my assumption.

On Apr.05.2005 at 09:28 PM
M Kingsley’s comment is:

Ahh... understood.

In that case, perhaps Michael B. and I are showing our age and looking at MTM for what she represents. Because she certainly can turn the world on with her smile...

On Apr.05.2005 at 09:42 PM
Rob’s comment is:

On the MTM fantastic looking...for a woman who's almost 70, I'd have to agree with Michael B. How many other women her age look as good as that? (Obviously one has to have a particular perspective on this.)

Great post Mark and some really great links to go along with it. It's really interesting to see how much big money has gone into the fight over the new Stadium and how much the politics of it all dictated taking the lower bid (over the much higher bid made by Comcast).

As far as BIG's role, I assume their must be political rewards, or business (is there really a difference) for them as a firm, or Brian in particular, somewhere down the road. Let's face it, most of us do our pro bono work out of the good of hearts and the potential for either new business or making important connections that can lead to more business.

From a strictly design perspective, the campaign is an impressive use of typography. The language and the promises seem a little too high and mighty considering the world we live in today, despite the origins of the Olympic games and their goal of uniting all the peoples of the world.

But as long as their are schools without gyms, homeless people on our streets, abanoned and boarded up houses in our neighborhoods, the Olympics, as well as the stadiums the are buitl for them are merely commercial playthings for the rich. And even great graphic design doesn't change that.

On Apr.06.2005 at 02:10 PM
Steven’s comment is:

The language and the promises seem a little too high and mighty considering the world we live in today

This is my criticism of the campaign, as well. I mean, come on! These totally predictable and overly-optimistic messages immediately make me roll my eyes.

"somebody will fall in love"

"every neighborhood will celebrate"

Pah-lease! Give me a freakin' break!

The question I have is, aren't there more compelling narratives to tell? NYC is such an amazing city and all that's offered are a bunch of generic platitudes that could apply to almost anywhere. This is especially obnoxious when considering all of the exploitive backroom scheming.

I can't help but feel rather cynical about the whole Olympic lobbying process. Weren't there a number of questionable shenanigans during the Salt Lake CIty lobbying, as well. Ideally, the Olympics should be about athletic achievement. It's just sad that there are so many other nefarious agendas that come along with it.

On Apr.07.2005 at 03:23 AM
brian’s comment is:

Sharp piece, Mr. Kingsley.

Although the NYC2102 logo was first unveiled alone, I think the identity system can now be judged the way it should be - in context and as part of a larger design idea. While a dialog about the formal qualities of individual logo design can be interesting, I would rather be judged on how effectively the design system works - from website to ads to events - to inspire the visiting IOC members and the citizens of New York about the city's commitment to the Olympic Games.

Also, I did not write this campaign. I served as its creative director.

This means if you don't like the result, you can blame me.

If you do like it, however, then please credit the following people for their smart work:

Charles Hall: The writer. Without him all would have been lost. He never misses.

Rob Giampietro and Kevin Smith: The designers. Although they did not craft this campaign, they developed the concept with Charles. I had invited them to create the crucial international, multilingual brochure for NYC2012. They are first class players we were lucky to have with us.

Jennifer Kinon and Stuart Rogers: The designers at NYC2012 and superb former students of mine from SVA's graduate program . They executed the campaign across everything. I don't think they slept for two months.

Ann Harakawa: Spiritual support and cheerleader from 212 Associates, the original strategic design consultants for NYC2012.

Rick Boyko: Chief of the NYC2012 Creative Council. Referee and coach.

Amy Stanton and Chad Blankenship: The marketing leadership at NYC2012. Clients who get it. Hope springs eternal.

Dan Doctoroff: Client and founder of NYC2012. Say what you will, he's the man.

Thought everyone should know who did the work. It was hard to specify to you, Mr. Kingsley, in a quick conversation between my Grey Goose and glimpses of Nicole Kidman in Channel.

Now she's the one who is most truly fabulous.

Onward,

Brian

P.S. The swipe campaign is brilliant. The bastards.

On Apr.07.2005 at 04:21 AM
Gunnar Swanson’s comment is:

Because she certainly can turn the world on with her smile...

And in Peignot.

On Apr.07.2005 at 09:11 PM
M Kingsley’s comment is:

But Brian... Nicole Kidman did not attend the 77th Academy Awards — neither presenter or nominee. Perhaps you're thinking of Hilary Swank in Guy Laroche (hello!) or Charlize Theron in Christian Dior.

Unless... I'm not sure, but there may have been tape from last year's red carpet; where she wore an embroidered Chanel that people are still talking about.

Peace out.

On Apr.07.2005 at 09:59 PM
M Kingsley’s comment is:

> And in Peignot.

...or in a peignoir

On Apr.07.2005 at 11:43 PM
Shahla’s comment is:

Interesting how the parody logo

NYC20$12BILLION

tilts one of the torch-holders over making it possible for the statements to be more easily readable as text when plastering them all over the city. The logo becomes upward-reading then. The figurative visual communicates that this campaign would really like to burn down all the stadium plans!

On Apr.08.2005 at 02:17 PM
freelix’s comment is:

The meat of an identity design always rests with the logo. The rest is potatoes. Interestly, Brian forgot who designed his (Bill Darling). Possibly because Bill is now gone as is everyone else from Team Brian. I was the first of Team Brian and have relished every day since leaving in 98.

Brian loves Team Brian. In a recent article for Graphis, he reportedly had his employees photographed for the article but at the last minute opted to reshoot it as Team Brian (Brian). If there were a medal handed out for extravagant, black clad account exectutives we know who would stroll in 1st. Oh, those golden Brian stories. There are many. Too many to tell. But heres one:

Recently Christopher Simmons interviewed me for a book on logo design. I chose my fake identity work for NYC2012. It was fun. At the end of the article I mention how Brian called me in and hired me to "take a look" at Bill's new 2012 logo. You know, put an illustrator's touch to it. Only Bill was oblivious to Brian's method of teamwork. Unethical? Not neccessarily.

But what happens next surely was; Brian got a call from Christopher that I was showing the real and the fake NYC2012 work and theatened to sue the publisher unless the story was entirely beneficial to Team Brian.

Well it worked. the publishing house was scared shitless and gave the entire article over to Team Brian. It was an olympic effort I tell ya.

btw- Mark, it comes as no suprise that Brian wrote the copy. Hehe heh. I nearly fell outta my chair. Great piece!

On Apr.08.2005 at 03:40 PM
M Kingsley’s comment is:

> The meat of an identity design always rests with the logo. The rest is potatoes

Felix, I'm from the school of Wittgenstein — meaning comes from the use. Good identity programs have "bad" logos and vice versa. After that: Branding, i.e. the relationship between the company and the public. Meaning is in the use there, too.

On Apr.08.2005 at 04:31 PM
Mitch Kanner’s comment is:

As per Freelix's comment... Knowing the truth is important to all. We should all consider the source -- this angst ridden individual...

On Apr.09.2005 at 08:52 PM
freelix’s comment is:

Good identity programs have "bad" logos and vice versa.

true. but this whole thing wasnt concieved and implemented in part and parcel. its a marketing effort. it works fairly well, as I've always said. Bill Darling deserves props. Another interesting tidbit; this mark wasnt presented as such. It was a poster design that Doctoroff himself changed into a logo... so hats off to him too.

consider the source...this angst ridden individual..

yes. heh heh. very true indeed. angst ridden like a motherfucker. i know i should just fall in line and accept the evils in our business. I'm probably an incredible liar. Go work for BIG and give me an update on how youre fairing. Its not easy to get a job there these days... due to Brian being a genius and all.

On Apr.11.2005 at 05:44 PM
Christopher Simmons’s comment is:

But what happens next surely was; Brian got a call from Christopher that I was showing the real and the fake NYC2012 work and theatened to sue the publisher unless the story was entirely beneficial to Team Brian.

Actually, what happened next is quite familiar to the parties involved. For those not involved (but now drawn into the fold by way of the blogosphere) this is what happened:

Basically, HOW's legal dept. needed to get one of the grant of right forms Felix signed from BIG as well. When it came across Brian's desk he balked, saying NYC2012 was a BIG project and that any representation otherwise would be a disservice to his team.

Brian was emphatic that he specifically did not want to steal Felix's thunder (his words) or in any way interfere with Felix's inclusion in the book — save for the fact that he would actively resist any representation of the 2012 project that didn't clearly tell it from the perspective of BIG's involvement, management and contribution (off-the-record telling me the sum of their donated time and materials, which I must say was a staggering figure).

At this point the book was already quite behind schedule, and the last thing anyone wanted was a delay. I don't have to tell you that design books are not a lucrative enterprise for authors, and in the midst of the holidays, my marriage just weeks before, teaching, and running both a new business and the San Francisco AIGA, the last thing I wanted was to have to redo work I thought I had checked off my list. I also felt that Felix's chapter — like Art Chantry's — provided a refreshing break in the tone and pace of the book, telling the logo design process from a more artistic/less strategic standpoint. It was positioned as such in the book.

From my phone and email conversations with Brian, and separately with the publisher, it was clear we had four options:

1. Ignore BIG's position, and rely on Felix's signed grant of rights form as legal backup for publishing the work.

2. Modify the chapter somewhat to more clearly reference BIG's role in the process.

3. Go back to Felix for a different project and scrap the 2012 story altogether.

4. Replace the chapter with a re-written 2012 chapter, as told by BIG

The publisher (and I) were understandably nervous about option 1. The publisher more so since they are the ones with the deepest pockets in this scenario and would almost certainly be the subject of any legal action, Felix's signed grant of rights notwithstanding.

My initial suggestion was option 2, but that was not considered a remedy by BIG.

My second suggestion was then option 3, but the publisher felt that the 2012 project was one of the book's signature projects, and I believe was already doing some marketing based on that project as a highlight of the book.

Option 4, then, was what I was asked to do by the publisher (my client) and, after much discussion, I obliged willingly.

For the record, Brian had many very positive things to say about Felix. He specifically did not want to be included at Felix's expense, and went out of his way to say as much. Neither, though, did he want the 2012 project to be publicized in any way that came short of fully acknowledging the six months of work put in by BIG's creative team, and their leadership on the project —´┐Ża position that should not be confused with opportunism or selfishness. In fact, Brian was quite liberal with his praise of the work of others (including that of the many notable designers against whom BIG initially competed). In fact, I'm looking now at three rounds of edits, in which Brian requests that his role be downplayed and the focus be shifted more toward members of his team. FYI.

So that's how it all went down. For the record, I was totally happy with the book as it was. I thought Felix's chapter was fun, funny, inspiring and refreshingly different from the others (all of which are interesting and different in their own right). I'm also happy with the book as it stands now.

Anyone who reads the book will be able to appreciate the full context within which the NYC2102 identity was created, the contributions of those involved, and the unique challenges one faces when working on projects of this magnitude.

On Apr.19.2005 at 12:55 PM
freelix’s comment is:

Chistopher, I respect your efforts to accomplish goals, balance family, get good work, etc.. but when you waste several days of someones time interviewing, designing, writing, e mailing the first thing one should expect is "Man I apologize" not "Oh btw we didnt use you". All of this post-happenstance is intensified knowing Brian conned you (and publisher) with the greatest of ease.

I recently had another of these "designer books" offer to include my work in an edition. The first question that passed my lips was "If you decide not to publish the work, can I get paid for the lost time?"

I'll be in SF this July for ICON if you want to chat in person about it. cheers, f

On Apr.19.2005 at 10:14 PM
Christopher Simmons’s comment is:

It's pretty well documented that NYC2012 was a BIG project, so I think "conned" is overstating it. But this is neither the time, nor the place. If it's still on your mind in July I'd be happy to treat you to dinner.

On Apr.20.2005 at 12:09 AM
Armin’s comment is:

Not trying to add fuel to the fire but, Felix, with the hundreds of logos that you have done, why would you choose to show one that you know would have many, many strings attached?

Maybe I should just buy a ticket to San Francisco and meet you for dinner…

On Apr.20.2005 at 08:40 AM
freelix’s comment is:

NYC2012 was a BIG project, so I think "conned" is overstating it.

you misunderstanding me. when i say conned I'm not generalising on the bidding procedure. I'll explain it later, should we met in SF (we'll be at Hotel Nikko for the Roadshow)

why show one with so many strings attached?

Good Question. I had an 8 page article with Simmons. I showed the fake NYC2012 ("I heart olympics/NY) Logo and explained its influence on my work for years after (stikfiguz). There were around 20-30 pieces. At the very end I showed the exploratory illustration - I should have left Brian out, but the real irony wouldve been lost.

It is accepted that these high profile projects are done for one reason; press/ portfolio/ prestige, more work, ego, etc. If BIG chose to use the color schemes in my exploratory why shouldnt I be able gain something? I never signed anything and its all documented. With this kind of whoring takes two to tango.

He shouldnt have offered it and I shouldnt have taken it.

On Apr.20.2005 at 11:05 AM
JonSel’s comment is:

Recently unveiled, the new logo for the Vancouver 2010 games.

On Apr.25.2005 at 05:59 PM
freelix’s comment is:

"When we first saw it, it was 'what the heck is that,"' said Cumming, of Richmond, B.C. "It was like a bunch of Leggo blocks stacked up.

"But when they explained it to us it was really cool. It has its arms wide open to accept the rest of the world."

The design was chosen by a panel of nine judges from over 1,600 submissions.

I'd kill to find out what kind of prize was doled out here. Graphic designers, we do love punishement, eh?

Didnt Maven send out something for this "competition"?

The mark is pretty good. It doesnt rock but

looks to try.

On Apr.25.2005 at 07:14 PM
Armin’s comment is:

Even more New York excess in the way to the excess:

The Metronome in Union Square is now counting the days until July 6, when the IOC makes their decision on where the 2012 Olympics will be held.

On May.02.2005 at 02:43 PM