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designing obama February 28, 2008

Posted by KG in 2008 Elections, arts/culture, design, news, politics, style, tech.
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andrew romano interviews graphic designer michael bieruit on the branding of obama:

Obama’s success owes a lot, of course, to his message–the promise to pass Democratic policies by rallying a “coalition for change.” But watching Obamamania over the past few weeks, I’ve become convinced that there’s something more subtle at work, too. It’s not just the message and the man and the speeches that are swaying Democratic voters–though they are. It’s the way the campaign has folded the man and the message and the speeches into a systemic branding effort. Reinforced with a coherent, comprehensive program of fonts, logos, slogans and web design, Obama is the first presidential candidate to be marketed like a high-end consumer brand.* And for folks who don’t necessarily need Democratic social programs–upscale voters, young people–I suspect that the novel comfort of that brand affiliation contributes (however subconsciously) to his appeal.

Seeking expert opinion, I tested my hypothesis on leading graphic designer and critic Michael Bieruit, who was kind enough to dissect Obama’s unprecedented branding campaign–and show me how it’s helping his candidacy. Excerpts:

What do you see as the “philosophical implications,” to use a highfalutin phrase, of Obama’s design choices?
There are a couple of levels. There’s the close-in parlor game you can play about what all these typefaces actually mean. Gotham was a typeface designed originally for GQ magazine, so it’s a sleek, purposefully not fancy, very straightforward, plainspoken font, but done with a great deal of elegance and taste–and drawn from very American sources, by the way. Unlike other sans serif typefaces, it’s not German, it’s not French, it’s not Swiss. It’s very American. The serif font that he often uses to write Obama is delicate and nuanced and almost, not feminine exactly, but it’s very literary-looking. It looks very conversational and pleasant, as opposed to strident and yelling. It’s a persuasive-looking font, I would say. But that’s putting these things on couches and pretending they have personalities.

Right. It’s sort of hard to imagine in a voter in Cleveland (or a Newsweek political blogger from New York, for that matter) interacting with Obama’s design on that level. How does it affect those of us who aren’t graphic designers?
Well, I’m teaching this class at the Yale School of Management, and we were just talking about brand management and politics–exactly this thing before we got on the phone. And one of the things that came up in the conversation is, if you think about it, the challenge for someone named Barack Hussein Obama is that he’s such an unprecedented figure in American politics–so much so that everything he’s trying to do is, in a way, trying to make him look smoother and more normal. Someone said, “Well, why shouldn’t he have revolutionary looking graphics–graphics that make him look like grassroots, like an outsider? Things drawn by hand, things that look forceful and avant-garde.” But I think he’s using design in a way to make him look as normal, as comfortable, as inevitable as a brand can look in American life. Those are really deliberate, interesting choices. Whether or not a sans serif font like Gotham looks more “American” than a Swiss font like Helvetica, that’s in our imaginations to a certain degree. I think it’s much more incontrovertible that he’s actually using the seamlessness of this branding to convey a candidacy that’s not a dangerous, revolutionary, risk-everything proposition–but as something that is well-managed and has everything under control.

new yorker 2012 conference November 11, 2007

Posted by KG in arts/culture, berkeley, books, econ, environment, international, interviews, media, misc, music, news, politics, science, style, tech.
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gladwell.jpg

video archives from the “inaugural New Yorker Conference, ‘2012: Stories From the Near Future,'” which took place this past may.

“…a variety of exclusive interviews, vivid presentations, and in-depth discussions, as New Yorker writers and editors introduce you to the minds that will make a difference in the coming years”

there’s seventeen of them and they all look really interesting, and the three that i’ve watched so far (the malcolm gladwell ones) definitely were worth it. most of them seem to be around 30 mins. the “genius” malcolm gladwell talk is about “the nature of genius” and whether effort and persistence should be encouraged over innate intelligence in solving today’s problems (btw, he gets a cafe strada reference in there). the music intelligence discussion was also really interesting; platinum blue mathematically analyzes songs for “hit” qualities and uses that technology to recommend songs in what seems to be a more complex and accurate fashion than pandora.

Genius: 2012
Malcolm Gladwell on the importance of stubbornness
and collaboration in problem-solving.
watch this video
Solutions: 2012
A panel on environmental entrepreneurship, featuring Dan Barber, Marianne Cusato, and Adam Lowry. Moderated by Larissa MacFarquhar.
watch this video
Music Intelligence: 2012
Mike McCready and Malcolm Gladwell discuss how technology that analyzes the mathematical patterns in songs can help the music business identify potential hits.
watch this video
Design: 2012
The industrial designer Yves BĂ©har talks with Judith Thurman about design and presents new commissions, as well as the One Laptop Per Child project.
Regenerative Medicine: 2012
Dr. Anthony Atala, the director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, talks about his latest achievements in growing new human cells, tissues, and organs.
watch this video