How Offices have Changed since 1900s


Office planning is critical – get it right and everyone’s productivity can improve. Get it wrong, and the effectiveness can nosedive. Historically, it’s a see-saw balance between openness and privacy, oversight and autonomy, free-form and grid. WIRED has an article on it chronicling the major trends in the past century or so, showing how various arrangement may reflect the attitude and zeitgeist.

Vector Drawing in 1963

For those of us who dabble with vector programs like Illustrator day in and out, here’s an interesting piece of history – Ivan Sutherland’s Sketchpad, developed way back in 1963. Looking at the video, it seems quite advanced too (considering the computer itself was pretty much still in an infant stage).

Too much (poorly designed) Information?


Came across this interesting design commentary by Joseph Logan, describing how a transparent window in the milk carton (ostensibly a good idea to have a quick, real time, reliable way to tell how much milk is left) degenerated into something that is a whole lot less elegant, simply by adding more and more visual elements (inappropriately too):

A designer suggested adding a little window on the carton to provide something easier for making a shopping list than a rough weight estimate.  The first round of design review probably added the volume markers, which are innocuous enough but unnecessary for the majority of milk drinkers.  Subsequent rounds probably added the wholly useless picture of the milk jugs and the placement of all this visually distracting detritus.

Is there anything beyond the little windows that substantially improves your ability to make decisions about the volume of milk?  Of course not.

What is actually happening here is that a potentially useful addition to the good old milk carton becomes something cluttered and misleading, and it smacks of committee work.  Will any harm come of it?  Probably not.  At most, it might be a little more confusing than necessary to anyone who bothers to look at it, which probably won’t be too many of us.  Imagine safety diagrams on an airplane or in a chemical plant, though;  how much distraction or confusion would be necessary to cause an accident?

Hear hear~ that is also something that I come across once in a while in my day-to-day job. It’s quite easy to slip into the chasm of  “isn’t more of something good better?”, and forget the delightful balance and restraint that must sometimes take priority instead. Or to push design concepts all the way to the extreme ends of a cross-matrix – where subtlety is erased and diminished.

Problematically, these are also typically calls that you can’t rationally make a rule of. How do you know when ‘too much’ is, in fact, too much? In these times, it simply boils down to good judgment, clarity of intent and experience.

Learning Chinese Characters Through Illustrations

The Chinese language is composed of characters that have descended from sets of pictograms – stylized, simpflied drawings of the mountains, the sky, etc. into a few key strokes. With this as foundation it grows on to a full set of thousands of character.

It was thus quite interesting for me when I came upon Christoph Niemann’s “The Pet Dragon” work, which tells the story about, well I suppose, a pet dragon. However, unlike other story books, the illustration blends itself with Chinese characters, helping children learn and associate those (potentially) unfamiliar characters with something much more easy to understand – a picture:



I thought the form-association between the characters and the illustration makes a great bridge for Chinese-language learners, and certainly less boring than simple rote learning (plus, you get a free story to ride along!).

Daily Design Inspiration

Just discovered yet another nifty design aggregator called “The Design Inspiration“-



The site covers a few domains: logos, illustrations, websites, photos, and patterns. I’m not sure exactly how frequently it  updates – judging by a quick glance at the contents it seems pretty good, though I’d say its application is more likely towards whiling away time, browsing away.

It’s just too easy to get carried away munching these eye candies – the challenge really lies in whether you are able to internalize or really ‘get inspired’ by browsing like this. Still, a good find!

The World of 100


We have seen quite a few “if the earth was 100 people” type of illustrations, typically to make us realize the actual proportions of various metrics if we talk globally rather than our typical Western-centric impressions.

Here’s yet another set. Graphic artist Toby Wong used simple vector graphics to communicate the various metrics about the global population through a series of posters.

Pepsi – the rationale behind the new logo


It has been some times since Pepsi launched its new logo and identity. In the old design, the blue-red sphere sits above the can with various (blue-toned) graphic designs behind it that were launched every 3-4 weeks, in an attempt to reflect the fickle-mindedness and lack-of-attention of today’s generation. Apparently that didn’t work out well enough – they’ve now come up with a much more toned down can design, removing all the distractions (ala Coke) to leave a flatter, much more graphical and in-focus Pepsi globe, adorned with a new twist in the white partition.

Most of the reaction I see on the web expressed disapproval over the makeover, feeling that much heritage was destroyed in an uninspired stroke. I stumbled across a brand identity file that was supposed to support this new brand direction and was surprised by the amount of “inspiration” for this new identity – of how this new Pepsi Globe is basically going to be the center of the universe after the re-branding:



Personally I thought – hey, it’s great that you have an inspiration. But to me it seemed in this case the inspiration went really hyperbolic – contrived scaffolding (weakly) attempting to persuade and hold up the new identity. It is trying to make linkages between the visual identity and the ‘cool concept’, but often where there is none.

And at least for Lawrence Yang, it seemed the notions of the Pepsi Globe supposedly bending the space-time continuum doesn’t quite carry through:


Modern Day Proverbs

The Graffiti's On The WallOut of Fashion Out of MindThe Blog is Mightier Than the Sword

Nikki Farquharson, a graphic designer-illustrator took some of the age-old familiar proverbs and adapted them into something that may be more reflective of modern times – it’s quite interesting to see how the usual statements get twisted and yet strangely still describe truth (somewhat? perhaps with less enduring wisdom)…

More here at the portfolio site (under ’65 modern proverbs’).