AIGA Design Resource Expo
I caught two interesting presentations at yesterday's AIGA Design Resource Expo at the Puck Building in Soho.
The first, titled "Sustainability Doesn't Have to Hurt," was given by representatives from Mohawk Fine Papers, one of the Expo's sponsor companies. Mohawk is known for its commitment to sustainable practices (you can read more about this in the latest issue of STEP inside design), and the talk was designed to establish the company as the paper supplier for businesses that aspire to environmental responsibility.
Listening to the talk and perusing the accompanying handouts, I was struck by the enormity of sustainability as a business goal. Mohawk has incorporated eco-friendly measures at every stage of production. By July 1, all of its papers will be made with wind-generated electricity, and the company is ahead of current EPA standards governing percentages of postconsumer (recycled) fibers. Mohawk even purchases Al Gore-style "carbon offsets" to counteract its greenhouse gas emissions.
These measures are laid out in detail in several booklets and brochures (themselves, of course, produced in line with eco-conscious principles). Designers can break down the benefits of these practices with the "environmental calculator" helpfully provided on Mohawk's website. You plug in the size of the job, and the calculator tells you how many trees, BTUs and pounds of waste you would save by using paper made with renewable energy and recycled fibers. The calculus that turns Mohawk's measures into real-world improvements comes from the EPA.
The second seminar was led by designers from Freestyle Collective, a 15-member studio that makes multimedia ad campaigns and interstitial content for clients such as Comedy Central, Samsung, and Dirt Devil. The designers took us through several recent projects, beginning with a series of spots the Collective produced to promote the upcoming third season of A&E's Criss Angel Mindfreak. I liked the grungy urban surroundings that were digitally created for the commercials as well as the moment when "rock star illusionist" Angel, after performing a card trick, tosses his deck into the camera as though contemptuous of both the cards and us. (I like it when the magician is too cool for the room.)
Most notable, though, was the Collective's just-completed campaign for Turner Classic Movies' cult-film show, TCM Underground with Rob Zombie. As a guide, the designers were handed a few doodles of midnight-movie monsters, from which they extrapolated an environment (in branding parlance, a "world") inspired by underground comic books and vintage DIY punk flyers. Hand-drawn animation, digitally altered video footage, and Xeroxed images were thrown into the moving pop collage. I was surprised to learn that these anarchic commercials were carefully scripted in-house, a first for the studio and, as the designers explained, a possible indicator of how the Collective will evolve. The esthete in me vastly prefers the ads to Zombie's own films and the schlocky drive-in fare he presents on TCM Underground.
In addition to presenting their own projects, the designers showed us clips from work that influenced them, including Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, Terry Gilliam's Brazil, and Chris Cunningham's video for Bjork's "All Is Full of Love." Pretty common reference points, but the enthusiasm with which the Collective members introduced and explicated the clips proved that to the designer's eye, good design is ever new.