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2004’s Best & Worst

With the Holidays smack upon us it is time to reminisce on this year’s goings and doings of our profession — and all its plausible ramifications. What was the best and worst? The upliftingly smart and the �berly stupid? The sad? The surprising? The hopeful?

Two Thousand and Four: What Happened?

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PUBLISHED ON Dec.23.2004 BY Armin
Rob ’s comment is:

Love it or hate it, 2004's boldest move had to have been Landor's work for the YWCA. In taking a tagline and making it 'the logo' was a bold and brave move on their part. While one can argue back and forth on the strength or weakeness of the typography, the concept itself is one of the best of moves of the year.

On Dec.23.2004 at 03:53 PM
John’s comment is:

Bruce Mau.

I'm not a Mauist, and after an ultimately disappointing trip to see "Massive Change" I reflected back on his books (if difficult to parse, they make excellent doorstops) and his ultimately uninspiring design (I admit, some of the material he has to work with is bone-dry, so I don't take him too much to task for that) but Bruce is an excellent example of someone who talks long and loud and can't help attracting a crowd. This time, though, I was in the forest, I saw the tree fall, and it didn't make much noise at all.

On Dec.23.2004 at 05:33 PM
Dino’s comment is:

The best thing this year for me was finding this website. The articles are the best and the comments from everyone have been great. Excellent year of writing, humor and design topics. Keep up the good work gang for the new year.

On Dec.23.2004 at 06:54 PM
heather’s comment is:

i second that, dino

On Dec.23.2004 at 07:27 PM
DesignMaven’s comment is:

I was going to Post Visuals. Don't think its neccessary.

Best Identity and Revitalizations:

1. Bahamas, Joe Duffy.

2. Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism, Cummings & Good.

3. United and Ted, Pentagram, Bierut & Partners.

4. United Way, FutureBrand, me compadre David Weinberger.

5. New York Olympic Identity. Concept by my compadre FELIX SOCKWELL. Executed by Jim Darling.

6. BASF, InterBrand Zinxmeyer Lux.

7. AOL, Desgripes Gobe.

8. Aflac, FutureBrand.

Television Commercials:

1. Nike, Commercial paying homage to cyclist and/or Lance Armstrong.

2. Apple ipod Chiat/Day.

3. NBA, Let's Get It Started.

4. Boost Mobile, Kanye West.


1. ywca, Landor.

Sorry TAN, Out of Friendship, Mutual Respect and Admiration. I must remain forthright.

GOD knows I love Landor and Margaret Youngblood.

One entry, in as much as I tried to warm up to Landor's ywca Identity. I cannot, I'd be lying if I stated I thought Landor created a stellar Identity.(far from it) Furthermore, understood the intent or rationale. My writing in reference to Identity and Design is about HONESTY and TRUTH. Without either as a Guiding Light for astute and fertile commentary and discourse. Serve an injustice to the recepient. Landor's ywca Identity address two of the four qualifications that Govern a Good Identity.

Albeit, being Sterile and PROSAIC, Uninteresting and Simplistic.

In fact it is not an Identity; rather a Visual Statement.

While Landor must share the blame for this debacle. Ultimately, I fault the client the Board Members that chose this Diaster of a Visual Statement. Poor Choice, Poor Judgement, Poor Taste. LACK OF VISION !!!!!!!!

1. Memorability and Usability.(40.5/60.5)

2. Livability and Propriety. (00.0/00.0)

ywca fails miserabally in the above category.

Criteria that Constitute a Good Identity.

1. Memorability: self explanatory

2. Livability: will it be around 10, 20,30 years or longer.

3. Usability: Can the Identity by implemented in all media? Does the Identity have the same visual strength in one color or two color as it does in full color? Can it be reduced to the size of a dime for advertisemen? Yet blown up to the size of a wheather ballon for storage tank. Without loosing any quality.

4. Propriety: is it professional ?

Does it properly address the Goals and Aspiration of the entity ?

As stated Last year. Will reiterate again this year.

Best Monogram Ever, SAUL BASS Biography slated to be released Autum 2005.

On Dec.24.2004 at 03:50 AM
Jason T.’s comment is:

Design Observer adds three new contributors. By introducing new writers into the blog media, it surprised me.

On Dec.24.2004 at 10:29 AM
Rob’s comment is:

Landor's ywca Identity address two of the four qualifications that Govern a Good Identity.

Albeit, being Sterile and PROSAIC, Uninteresting and Simplistic.

In fact it is not an Identity; rather a Visual Statement.

As much as I respect MAVEN and his knowledge of both design history and the rules and regulations of branding/identity, I must disagree in some part that the YWCA identity is not an identity.

Yes, it is a visual statement. But, that being said, it is also an visual identity. Clearly it breaks the 'rules,' whatever those may be, and it creates something worth much discussion but nevertheless, it is the YWCA's visual identity. Personally, I'm still not really sure how I feel about it as such, and whether it not it will succeed as a visual identity is still to be determined, but I do think that it was, reitierating my previous post, one of the boldest moves of the year in terms of identity and design.

One of the YWCA's biggest issues was that no one really knew what they did/represented nor how they differed from the YMCA. Right or wrong, the visual identity takes that issue head-on and solves the organizations largest communications problem. And in a way that hasn't really been done before. And considering the complexity of the issues, there may have not been a better way to meet the needs of the client.

In the 'traditional' sense, the solution probably wouldn't qualify as a 'logo' and I haven't had a chance to study the identity system to see how is the driving element. But in any case, I don't think one can not call it a visual identity just because it breaks the mold.

I for one, would love to see how the research comes out after the identity has been in use for awhile to see how much recall the identity had generated. More significantly, how the big question that seemes to have driven the solution is now answered, What does the YWCA do?

On Dec.24.2004 at 07:47 PM
Tan’s comment is:

I certainly respect your opinion on the YWCA, Maven — and the traditionalist in me sees your point.

But I still contend that the ID system is one of the freshest, most unique identity I've seen in a while. It fits the organization, and more importantly, it doesn't feel forced or contrived. It just feels right.

It's not blind loyalty to Landor either — because one of the worst ID of 2004 in my opinion is FedexKinko's.

As far as the rest of the year goes design-wise, I think it's been a very lackluster year filled with mediocrity and derivatives. Nothing I saw blew me away nor disgusted me. I think we were all more concerned with the election and the war in Iraq rather than the state of affairs in our own design world. It seemed that design in 2004 was about survival, not breakthroughs.

For me personally, it's been a tumultuous year filled with changes, uncertainty and challenges. I feel like 2004 was a tornado that swept me up, but somehow put me back down on my feet safe and sound. And not only did I survive, but I was better for having gone through it.

I guess the saying is true — "what doesn't kill you, only makes you stronger."

On Dec.27.2004 at 01:36 PM
Armin’s comment is:

I have been racking my brain to find some glaring examples of good and bad but, like Tan, I feel there weren't many extremes this year. A few highlights:

› The book Push Pin Graphic. For a generation — that includes me — unfamiliar with the work published in the pages of the Push Pin Graphic this is an excellent and inspiring collection. And the accompanying event wasn't that bad if I may say so myself.

› Personally, the poster contest we had. Just a lot of things learned.

I.D.'s Jan/Feb Issue featuring the I.D. 50 and, if I remember correctly, the redesign of their magazine. All around, I.D. has been producing the best designed design magazine of the year. Even their Design Annual is a notch above the rest.

› Not much in typeface design happened this year… I think. Well, Veer's Umbrella collection has a nice mantra and a nice roundup of indie fonts.

Bad stuff…

Other than the stuff we have blasted over the year (United Way, FedEx Kinko's, Cingular Wireless, etc.) there wasn't much that made me cringe, except…

› The AIGA 365 show. There will be more on this I'm sure, but I do have to briefly mention it now. The winning entries were not representative of a national organization, a lot of the choices seem very questionable and it was nowhere close in being a standard to live up to. Plus, the exhibition itself was rather mundane; it could be defended under the idea of "letting the work speak for itself", unfortunately not even that would be valid or compensate for the show's lackluster quality.

On Dec.28.2004 at 09:30 AM
Darrel’s comment is:

I can't say I saw anything that blew me away...though the iPod marketing campaign was fairly memorable.

On Dec.28.2004 at 09:43 AM
Bryony’s comment is:

for good or/and bad: PRINT July/August 2004: The Sex Issue

On Dec.28.2004 at 01:08 PM
szkat’s comment is:

i think part of what made it bad was that STEP had the same thing at the same time...

On Dec.28.2004 at 05:27 PM
DesignMaven’s comment is:


You never have to QUALIFY your rationale during Best and Worse. And certainly not to me. As well, I respect your opinion and in depth analysis. Which is why I didn't answer you back. I didn't wan't to turn this into a discussion about Landor.

I've been in Love with Landor as long as I have been in Love with Bass and Rand.

Quite certain, I'm the only person writing in Cyber Space that own a copy of the only book written about Landor published in Japan.

I qualified my answer to TAN out of Mutual Respect and Friendship.

Truth be known, ywca, has been on my worse list for quite some time.

TAN, you're absolutely corretomundo. It has been a pretty Dismal Year.

Any BETS which Consultancy will handle Identity Council for Sprint and Nextel ??? I haven't read anything in depth of the merger.

Will a new Identity by Developed ? Or will each entity keep their own separate Identities ?

One more entry to my list. Armin, mentioned

ID Magazine. In the January 2004 issue of ID featured an Article on Paula Schers revitalized Identity for ADC, Art Directors Club New York. I'd like to add Paula Scher's revitalized Identity to my Best List.

Admittedly, TAN the NBC and Universal Identity is actually Worse than Landor's ywca. Perhaps NBC and Universal combined Identity was created inhouse. Four competing elements, utterly ridiculous.


BTW, My vote for Best Call To Entries Poster is Art Directors Club New York. Anybody that has a copy doesn't have to ask me why.

Occassionally we even give out gold.

Genuinely Funny, because none of the imagery showcased ever won gold from ADC.

Without question, one of the images is the most Powerful, Revolutionary, Omnipotent, Ubiquitious, Memorable and Original Designs in the History of Visual Communication.

On Dec.28.2004 at 09:27 PM
Armin’s comment is:

> featured an Article on Paula Schers revitalized Identity for ADC, Art Directors Club New York.

Funny… I would have added that one to my worst list. The ADC has not managed to produce a comprehensive identity in ages. Not even with D�rer's elegant signature.

> PRINT July/August 2004: The Sex Issue

Definitely! And it wasn't so much the issue itself but the upraor it caused. The letters to the editor in the following issue are very telling of how conservative even designers — self-lauded for our open mindedness — can be. And, please, sex does not equal porn.

On Dec.29.2004 at 08:27 AM
Darrel’s comment is:

The letters to the editor in the following issue are very telling of how conservative even designers — self-lauded for our open mindedness — can be.

Or, rather, it simply shows how much conservatives like to write complaining letters to editors.


On Dec.29.2004 at 01:08 PM
Michael B.’s comment is:

It already seems like a million years ago, but let's not forget Typographygate: proportional letterspacing as front page news, detailed accounts of the history of Times Roman, Jonathan Hoefler on NPR. Best? Worst? Maybe we should just vote.

On Dec.29.2004 at 01:41 PM
Ryan Peterson’s comment is:

My opinion on the Freshest ad campaign of the year, is Quiznos and their Sponge Monkeys.

Love 'em or hate 'em, you probably remember them, and that they "Love the Quiznos Subs, cause they are good to us."

After these ads ran I noticed networks like VHI taking other homemade flash creations like the spongemonkeys and kittens from rathergood.com and other sites and using them in their promotional tv spots. I think it introduced a new aesthetic... umm.. a crappy homemade kind, which no one had seen before.

On Dec.29.2004 at 03:42 PM
Ryan Peterson’s comment is:

Best Graphic Design move of the year...

Print magazine accidentally sending me 3 regional design annuals in the mail. Thanks for making Xmas so inexpensive for me this year Print.

On Dec.29.2004 at 03:51 PM
Kurt’s comment is:

favorite typography: the title sequence (if one can call it that) for LOST

On Dec.29.2004 at 04:17 PM
Jeff Gill’s comment is:

I'm not sure where this fits in the grand scheme of things, but it struck me as a Best & Worst moment:

The Jan/Feb Commarts (326) "Review" of the AIGA Power of Design conference eschewed journalism & criticism in favour of a load of quotes, a large percentage of which were lifted directly from Speak Up.

Select, copy, paste. Boom! It's an article.

Unfortunately, my subscription didn't run out for four more issues.


On Dec.30.2004 at 10:11 AM
Michael Surtees’s comment is:

The Worst:

“How Would You Redo the Google Interface?” Four designers share their (re)visions. Which was discussed at Google, Googled, Googling, Googleth…

The Best:

NYT and its Sunday Magazine, around this time of year it creates some fascinating lists of the past year. The one that really gets my attention that is in it's fourth year is “The Year in ideas”.

On Dec.30.2004 at 12:07 PM
Tan’s comment is:

>Select, copy, paste. Boom! It's an article.

In CommArts' defense, Jeff — one of their editors approached Armin and I at the conference, along with other attendees, and asked if we would contribute to the review article. Yes, part of the reason why we were asked was because of SU, but both of us developed and wrote separate reviews for each forum.

Understandably, the fact that the language and POV of both of our reviews were from the same people made some of CA's article seem similar to SU's. But that's not the fault of CA, nor is it evidence of their lack of journalistic due-diligence.

It's my opinion that among a number of fine design magazines out there — CommArts continues to be the leader year after year.

On Dec.30.2004 at 01:37 PM
Jeff Gill’s comment is:

Thanks for the clarification, Tan.

The thing is that the reviews of the AIGA conference on Speak Up got me very interested in what happened at the conference. The assemblage of quotes in Commarts made me wish I had my ten minutes back.

Multiply that times a year and - it's just interesting to compare the the overall strength of the writing on Speak Up with the overall anemia that in my opinion characterises the writing in Commarts.

This observation may have come about because these were the only two design publications that I read consistently in 2004.

Anyway, Commarts is about the pictures not the words.

On Dec.30.2004 at 05:47 PM
Kurt’s comment is:

Best mag redesign: Luke Hayman, New York Magazine.

Design media overexposure (yes, there is such a thing): Sagmeister (the book came out in 2001, people!), Mau (blah blah blah), Saville (hate to say it, but...) Do the current design activities of these people merit the coverage? To paraphrase Ms. Janet Jackson, who knows from overexposure in 2004: "I know you used to do nice things for me, but what have you done for me lately?" (No, exhibits in Canadian museums don't count.)

On Dec.30.2004 at 06:44 PM
Nick’s comment is:

› Not much in typeface design happened this year

Pearls before swine.

On Dec.30.2004 at 07:01 PM
danielle’s comment is:

My opinion on the Freshest ad campaign of the year, is Quiznos and their Sponge Monkeys. Love 'em or hate 'em, you probably remember them, and that they "Love the Quiznos Subs, cause they are good to us."

Darn it! I did a search for the ad half an hour ago because I had only heard about it.... and NOW I CAN'T GET IT OUT OF MY HEAD!! Just so I'm not the only one subjected to this kind of torture, if anyone else wants to see it again, it's here.

Could that one be classified as the best and worst of 04?

On Dec.31.2004 at 12:05 PM
Armin’s comment is:

> Yes, part of the reason why we were asked was because of SU, but both of us developed and wrote separate reviews for each forum.

Just for added clarification… in my case, the editor simply asked if she could reprint a comment I made in Tan's review, or it was part of my review, I can't exactly remember. Anyway, point being that I did not write anything new for CommArts.

> “How Would You Redo the Google Interface?”

Yes, very good nomination. Completely superficial effort.

On Dec.31.2004 at 12:16 PM
Feluxe Socksmell’s comment is:


1) End Credits for Leminy Skickets by ILM. Dare I say better than

Cooper's Seven? You bet. This is pure magic.

2) The new Times Op Ed Page, via Brian Rea. Its restored to its old glory.

3) Hayan's New York redesign.

Looks effortless doesnt it?

4) Duffy's Bahahas ID. They called me to work on this. Unfortunately, they had no budget and were arrogant as hell.

5) anything from Christoph Niemann.

He is the new Glaser. There I said it.

6) Trio ID via Open and No 17


1) Cingulair lowering the bar

2) Fox News On Air Graphics Dept is horrendous.

3) John Kerry's logo (shouldve used the Kennedy-esque one from convention)

4) YMCA- for once I agree with Wavy Mavey!

5) designers who who prefer their last name and in 3rd person.

On Dec.31.2004 at 01:31 PM
Feluxe Socksmell’s comment is:

also on worstSmithBarney CitiGroup hijacking? Restack type, remove Pentagram design element and regress to umbrella... and eureka! another CEO-come-designer collabotastrophy. Why cant Hoefler write up something on this one?

On Dec.31.2004 at 01:43 PM
Agrayspace’s comment is:

I just thought of this one!

My favorite new identity has to be the new BP brand. That green and yellow starburst makes me feel so damn warm and fuzzy when I fill up my tank. As if the fuel is greener and better for the planet than other. I have a core emotional attachment to it that I just can't describe.

I wonder if it appeals to me as a designer or do consumers as a whole react the same way.

On Jan.02.2005 at 09:31 PM
Armin’s comment is:

Agray, unfortunately, BP's rebranding took place a while ago, last century even… the merger of BP and Amoco was in 1998 and the rebrand by Landor must have taken place that year or the year after.

But still, yes, one of the best rebrandings in a long, a very, very long time.

On Jan.02.2005 at 09:48 PM
Agrayspace’s comment is:

Intresting. I guess it only really started to manifest itself in these here parts recently.

On Jan.03.2005 at 08:32 AM
jo’s comment is:

favorite typography: the title sequence (if one can call it that) for LOST

I second that! So fitting.

On Jan.03.2005 at 02:34 PM
graham’s comment is:

the godlike genius of mans swanberg at pistachios (pistachios.se)

the gently dirty kustaa saksi(.com)

champion reverse weave sweatshirts (classic design) at weplay.com (can't find them anywhere+dirt cheap)

arvo parts 3rd symphony revisited

thirteen senses "the invitation" cd

handsome boy modelling school comeback

being able to watch all 3 extended lord of the rings in a row

william vollman 'rising up and rising down'

scott walker

new york

all best, no worst

On Jan.04.2005 at 12:25 PM
graham’s comment is:


modern toss.

especially mr. tourette.

moderntoss.com, click cartoons, scroll down to mr tourette.

On Jan.05.2005 at 04:54 AM
munki’s comment is:

I loved the Lemony Snicket end titles too.... 5 magical minutes of holding my breath and not blinking. It was beautiful and managed to overshadow the entire movie.

Illustrations created for The Incredibles. oooooh.

The neon orange AIGA 2004 datebook. I loved that thing to death, almost literally, wore it out to the point that all of the pages finally fell out in mid-december. It got me so addicted to datebooks that i bought a Moleskine yearly planner at Design House in Victoria and have been busily filling it up.

YWCA logo - the designer in me loves it and the illustrator in me hates it. Its a new approach, which is cool, but just doesn't give me the warm fuzzy feeling of a friendly and human organization.

Anthropologie - the colors and intricate details in their catalogs, stores, and found items have been a constant source of inspiration to me. Its something fun to drool over now that Starbucks' scrapbook style of illustrations have gotten kind of stale and repetitive.

School of Visual Concepts in Seattle - Yay, i went back to school for cheap to learn neatoh stuff like letterpress and meet awesome seattle creative giants AND was still able to work a day job. :-)

On Jan.10.2005 at 07:59 PM