What The Canadian Flag Could Have Been

Arcade has a great piece on the creation of the Canadian flag as we currently know it, spurred by an effort to distance themselves from Britain during a political crisis in the 50’s.

In the summer of 1964, with construction of the groundbreaking Montreal Expo underway, a new national symbol was seen as key to the modernization of Canada. The creation of a new flag was meant to be a truly public and participatory process in which citizens were invited to take part in the profound reshaping of their country’s national image.

I found it fascinating that their flag was designed so recently. In my mind flags have such a provenance and iconic nature that they seem like they’ve been around forever.

Below is my favorite rejected flag design. I love the simplified version of the maple leaves, the gaggle of geese, and the Japanese aesthetic it embodies. In fact, when you do a Google Image Search of the image you see primarily Japanese sumi ink paintings. Anyone know who created this version?

Canada Flag Design - Japanese

Bobby Solomon

January 30, 2015 / By

The Craftsmen of Ireland

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At the end of last year, I was delighted to hear that Jameson had invited me to Ireland to interact with some of their local craftsman, tour their incredible distillery, and—of course—enjoy some delicious Irish whiskey.

Never having been to Ireland before, I knew I was in for a treat. Telling friends and co-workers about my journey I was told stories about cozy, old pubs that buzz until late into the night, lusciosus green hills that seem to last forever, and encountering folks who were some of the nicest they’d ever met. This was one of the elements that still stands out so vividly to me: how kind the people are.

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The first craftsman we visited was a burly man named Garvan de Bruir, a leather crafter working in the quaint town of Killdare. We drove almost directly from the Dublin airport to his studio and was greeted with a spread of sandwiches, salads, and good beer, which was much needed after a 14+ hour flight. Garvan’s kindness matched his creativity as we snacked in an impressive studio he designed himself, not content only creating objects with leather.

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The De Bruir line of leather goods are fantastic, too. He makes a little bit of everything such as luggage, bags, wallets, keep-all trays, and, most surprising of all, bow ties. I believe hearing the words “leather bow tie” might induce a cringe amongst most but his design is flawless and, when you see Garvin himself wearing one, you suddenly see how well it works.

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We were given the opportunity to make leather aprons for ourselves using De Bruir designs. Watching Garvan and his apprentice work looked simple but in actuality is a lot like watching cooking shows on television: “I can do that, no big deal,” you say in your head. As I learned, leather crafting is not simple. Thankfully we had expert teachers who led us through process with ease as we chatted about other small leather good brands from around the world. It was two days of hard work that led to a beautiful product that should last me forever.

After this, we took off for the town of Waterford, Ireland’s oldest city and home to a number of glass blowers. Waterford might sound familiar and that’s because it was the home of Waterford Crystal. Well, that was until 2009 when they declared bankruptcy and laid off most of their artisans. Still! That didn’t stop companies like The Irish Handmade Glass Company from filling the void with their very in-demand skills.

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If you’ve never seen glass blowing in person, it’s hard to fully understand the beauty of the process. We were treated to Richard Rowe showing us how a master glass blower goes about his craft, tranforming globs of molten glass into precious pieces of art in minutes. It’s an intimdating craft that has an element of danger—or at least you think this from the view of a spectator, which is a part of it’s allure.

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The last leg of our trip was a tour through the Jameson Distillery in Cork, a facility that’s been around since 1795. The distillery is indicative of what I saw a lot of in Ireland: a rich history and heritage now being augmented with contemporary design and architecture. As you walk around you’re overwhelmed by the age of the place, that has been the brand home for hundreds of years.

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They’ve been plying their craft, slowly but surely moving toward the present and future of whiskey. The grounds are mostly lined with old building made of stone and wood, like a Dickensian setting of some sort. This setting continues in the past until the near end, where you’re guided to the new wing of the facility a state-of-the-art complex that resembles a Bond villains lair (but in actuality, distills golden, whiskey goodness).

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They even have (what I would call) a whiskey labratory officially titled the Irish Whiskey Academy. It offers a number of courses on the history of whiskey, how it’s produced, and—yes—extensive tastings. The tastings were particularly interesting because of the variety of flavors and nuance a whiskey can take on. Some had fruit notes, some where quite smokey; others were younger and thus quite potent, a specific taste for specific people. Getting to soak up the details of a whiskey like that is not something that happens very often—especially in such a storied place like the Jameson Distillery.

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In all, Ireland was a fantastic place to visit. The weather was warm, the people were warmer, and the whiskey never stops flowing. You can’t ask for much more than that.

Bobby Solomon

January 27, 2015 / By

Sonos Doesn’t Have A New Logo, It Has A Beautiful New Visual Identity

Bruce Mau Design's New Sonos Logo Isn't A Logo

It’s been nice to see Bruce Mau Design’s work for Sonos get the recognition it deserves, the team has done a beautiful job. Of particular note has been how the lines radiating outward from behind the logo resembles sound waves thanks to the moire pattern used – except it’s wrongly being called a new logo. By many. The Sonos logo hasn’t changed, only the visual identity has been refreshed. From Bruce Mau Design:

This new iteration of the Sonos visual identity advances the idea of the modern music experience – not singular or monolithic but a rich diversity of expressions. Performance imagery from Sonos Studio, new product photography and the introduction of three big graphic tools that can be mixed and remixed, deliver a creative and variable language while still providing the stability of a recognizable system.

As designers we should do our part in educating the folks who don’t understand on the difference between logo design and visual identity. At the very least it’s good for people who aren’t as fluent in design speak to understand what it is we do exactly (and why they’re paying so much for it). Hat tip to Bryan Byczek for pointing this out.

Bobby Solomon

January 26, 2015 / By

Bold, Folksy Branding for Mibici, A Used Bike Non-Profit

Really like the boldness of this brand identity for Mibici, a small non-profit that brings used bikes from the U.S. and distributes them in rural communities in Costa Rica. It was created by Pupila Sestudio along with with Matti Vandersee who did a great job of making a non-profit that may have gotten list visually stand out from the pack. The hand-drawn bike illustrations are especially charming.

Bold, Folksy Branding for Mibici, A Used Bike Non-Profit

Bold, Folksy Branding for Mibici, A Used Bike Non-Profit

Bobby Solomon

January 26, 2015 / By

Sufjan Stevens Releases New Album ‘Carrie & Lowell’ on March 31

Sufjan Stevens Releases New Album 'Carrie & Lowell' on March 15

Incredibly it’s been five years since the last album from Sufjan Stevens came out, the challenging, sprawling Age of Adz. That album to me is his pinnacle, a masterpiece that he may not be able to trump. This statement will be tested soon enough as his new album Carrie & Lowell is being released on March 31.

The preview below sounds like a return to his older work, with sort of an Illinois or Seven Swans sound to it. It’s quite lovely though I hope he still plays with the experimental side of music making as well, like the fantastic “Impossible Soul” from Adz. Clocking in at over 25 minutes and it’s an incredible song hat hits about every high and low you can imagine.

Bobby Solomon

January 13, 2015 / By

Typefacts Chooses The Best Fonts of 2014

Typefacts Chooses The Best Fonts of 2014

Christoph Koeberlin is a Berlin based typographer, graphic and type designer who on the side runs Typefacts, a blog dedicated to the world of type. Recently he published a post highlighting what he thought were the best fonts of 2014. I’m not usually a fan of lists like these but Christoph’s is spot on with an eclectic number of typefaces that I hadn’t seen before. The list is numerous with eleven of the fonts being highlighted because they stood out more to him.

I’m a big fan of Ryman Eco by Dan Rhatigan & Gunnar Vilhjálmsson, GT Sectra by Grilli Type, and Caponi by Paul Barnes, Christian Schwartz & Miguel Reyes. You’re sure to find a least a few gems in the list.

Bobby Solomon

January 12, 2015 / By

Daily Routines of Famous Creative People, Told Interactively

Daily Routines of Famous Creative People

By now you’ve probably seen or heard of Mason Currey’s Daily Rituals: How Artists Work, which explores how famous creatives structured their days. This interactive infographic takes that concept one step further by charting out said creatives and gives you a clear way of visualizing their time. To me, Franz Kafka seemed to be the most messed up, while personally I would love to have Picasso’s schedule.

Bobby Solomon

January 12, 2015 / By

An In-Depth Look At Why Colonizing Mars Will be So Difficult, with Beautiful Illustrations by Josh Cochran

All Dressed Up For Mars and Nowhere to Go

A well-known effect on astronauts out on long missions is the dip at the halfway point, when the excitement has worn off and the return home seems unbearably distant. There is no way to know how a human mind will encounter passing the threshold of no return, when the Earth recedes from sight, and the pitch black enormity of deep space and the impossibility of ever turning back sinks in.

That’s an excerpt from an exceptional long read piece by Elmo Keep titled All Dressed Up For Mars and Nowhere to Go, which explores the company Mars One, a “start-up of sorts that intends to send people on a one way trip to Mars. He writes about the company, it’s co-founder and CEO Bas Lansdorp (who’s a bit of a weirdo) and highlights many of the numerous challenges that colonizing Mars would present.

Mars Illustration by Josh Cohcran

What really sells the article for me are the incredible illustrations by Josh Cochran, a long time friend of TFIB. He masterfully communicates a number of complex concepts in the simplest ways, things like eating insects, the effects of cosmic rays, what the lack of vitamin D can do to you. Funny enough Josh did a space/astronaut themed wallpaper for the site back in 2008 which you can still download. It’s cool to see how his style has changed, he’s become more confident I feel, and he’s really hitting new highs with his work.

Bobby Solomon

January 8, 2015 / By

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