This time of year, it seems you can't read a magazine or go online without tripping over lists of the best "blank" of the year. As a general rule, I try to avoid absolutes. There is no best anything, especially in design. Instead, I thought I would highlight five designs from the year now past that made me stop and think. This is not necessarily a commentary on whether they are good or bad designs. What each of these five designs offered me was a lesson about design, one way or another.
Designed by Oslo-based design firm Neue, the new passports for Norway have drawn instant and seemingly unanimous praise from around the world. It is a bold design that uses the color blocking and simplicity found in the celebrated Scandinavian design traditions.
While I find the designs beautiful in their simplicity and clear organization, I wonder if this is a design that will last. Is this the type of design that will be cherished and used for generations, or will it look out-dated in 5-10 years? The outcome of these passports design permanence is subject to so many forces that is impossible to know, only time will tell...
NEW YORKER FERGUSON COVER
Bob Staake's cover for the December 8, 2014 issue of The New Yorker is a powerful image that captures the struggles that are putting so much pressure on the United States. In a single image, Staake manages to show both the growing divide and the hope for unification, and coming out of this even stronger. A picture is worth a thousand words, but I'm not sure any amount of words can do this image justice.
THE NEW LIGHTSABER
When the trailer for the new installment in the Star Wars franchise was released, the nerd in all of us got a little giddy. Despite the trailer being filled with various people, places, and things new and old, it seems all anyone wants to talk about is the new lightsaber. Some love it, some hate it, some question it, some defend it...but they're all talking about it. Stephen Colbert even chimed in on the lightsaber controversy. Whether the new design is supposed to tell us something about the character, or is just new for the sake of being new...it certainly has had the effect of creating buzz. And that's probably more than the designers could have ever hoped for with their new lightsaber.
This device is intended to improve the quality and capability of your smartphone cameras. Its creation is a reaction to the ease of use of smartphone cameras. We always have them with us, therefore they have become the primary camera for many people. The smartphone has essentially made stand-alone cameras obsolete for all but the most hard-core photographers. It is a reminder of how quickly design needs can change, and how even the most long-held thoughts and ideas can be replaced in the blink of an eye.
SOUTHWEST'S NEW PLANES
At first glance, it doesn't appear Southwest did a whole lot to change the look of its airplanes, known as the livery. Southwest is a very popular airline, recognized as a friendly company that focuses on the customer. It's a well-earned reputation, and its quirky livery is part of that reputation.
There is an interesting phenomenon when success is experienced in a certain color or logo; that design becomes untouchable. Sports fans might recognize this in teams like the Green Bay Packers. The rather unfortunate uniforms of the legendary team will likely never be changed as they are associated with many Super Bowls. Southwest might be in a similar situation.
While their livery might not be cutting edge or sleek, it is associated with a well-liked airline. Southwest is obviously smart in not ruining that association. They're even playing it up with a friendlier font type and more prominent heart logo. In keeping their quirks, Southwest has shown that the history of a design can sometimes be more important than the apparent aesthetics of that design.