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Rediscovering Apple’s 1987 Identity Guidelines

Arun Venkatesan is a designer and co-founder of Carrot.   In this blog post, he talks about his long-standing interest in brand guidelines, starting with the 1970 New York City Transit Authority Graphics Standards Manual made by famed designer Massimo Vignelli.  In 1967 the New York City Transit Authority hired Massimo Vignelli and Bob Noorda from Unimark to design a signage system for the subway, including a graphics standards manual. In 2012, two designers at Pentagram discovered a rare copy of that manual in their office’s basement and in 2015, with the MTA’s blessing, they republished the manual on Kickstarter.

Venkatesan ordered a copy and says he was hooked from the moment he opened it.  A few years later, he found and bought a poster version of Apple’s Corporate Identity Guidelines on eBay.  The poster was from 1987, two years after Steve Jobs had been ousted from Apple.  It provided a peek into a very different Apple – “one that distantly trailed its competitors and was still a decade away from its shift towards the multimedia market that made it the household brand it is today.”

The Apple Guidelines Poster, 1987, that Arun Venkatesan bought on eBay. Used with permission.

The poster Venkatesan bought is cluttered and it is unlikely that Apple designers would approve of it today. Yet, the DNA of Apple in 1987 very obviously still endures in its logo, corporate signage and product packaging. This is in stark contrast, Venkatesan points out, to companies like Microsoft, whose redesigns have suddenly and completely broken any relation to its past identity.

Heinz Gets a Rebrand After 150 Years

Heinz recently revealed its rebranding exercise by John Knowles Ritche – the first in 150 years. The exercise is one of unification and creating a master-brand identity, under which the large range of products is visually aligned.

Image: John Knowles Ritchie

Iconic assets, like the Heinz keystone, have been preserved and are now used in new and interesting ways, like framing ingredients or the finished product. Inconsistencies have been weeded out and most products now use the brand typeface Label Sans.

Avoiding Common Portfolio & Resume Mistakes

Stephen Gates, Design Head, Invision, has looked at thousands of resumes and portfolios over the course of his career. In this episode of his popular YouTube channel, The Crazy One, he points out the biggest mistakes he sees designers make over and over again.

The Basics

  1. Don’t be generic: Instead of accepting what the industry gives you, Gates says designers need to identify what they are really good at and what sets them apart. Sometimes people are scared of doing this because not everybody will relate to it but that’s fine. If you try to appeal to everyone, you appeal to no one.
  2. You are not your school or your job: School and past work is not enough to get you hired. If that is all your resume highlights, you are not giving the hirer reason enough to call you in.
  3. Make a strong first impression: The top of your resume, the home page of your portfolio, the first blurb on LinkedIn – all matter greatly. Gates provides an example of a LinkedIn blurb he liked, which said ‘The best way to describe me is 40% design, 40% strategy, 20% barb-e-que.”
  4. Don’t quote someone else: Many designers think of this as expressing themselves, but using Jobs’ or Musk’s or Einstein’s words does not express your individual creativity.
  5. Use spell-check and tools like Grammarly: Typos and errors show lack of attention to detail.
  6. Do not use application percentages: What does 40% Figma and 80% Photoshop even mean?

Resume & LinkedIn

  1. Do not lead with your education: That seems to say you are proudest of where you went to school and have done little since then.
  2. Limit personal information: If it’s not relevant, leave it out.  Cater to short attention spans.
  3. Don’t over-customise:  It’s good to have the hirer in mind but do not end-up sounding like someone you are not.
  4. Do not use buzzwords like ‘thought leader’: No actual thought leader ever does.
  5. If you make a claim, back it up: You need to qualify all claims with actual accomplishments.

Portfolio

  1. Do not show everything you have ever done: It is much better to showcase two or three well thought-through projects.
  2. Do not just share screenshots of a project: Take the time and trouble to clarify your role and contribution.
  3. Make it work on mobile: Be sure to test your portfolio across devices and platforms before you send it in

Watch this episode of The Crazy One by Stephen Gates here

The Pitfalls and Potential of the New Minimalism

In this long form article, author Jia Tolentino, sets out to understand and analyse the current, aspirational wave of minimalism. She sets herself a formidable ‘syllabus’, including:

At first, Tolentino says, “she feels the cleansing fire within,” as she starts to ‘Kondo her sock drawer’ and give away bags of possessions. As she digs deeper, however, she finds that minimalism has become an increasingly aspirational and deluxe way of life, associated with an Instagram-ready, monochromatic, aesthetic language which asserts a form of walled-off luxury –“a self-centered and competitive impulse that is not so different from the acquisitive attitude that minimalism purports to reject.”

No minimalist guru ever acknowledges that millions of people have the lack of possessions thrust upon them by poverty.  Even the sleek devices produced by Apple, rely on a hidden “maximalist assemblage,” of electricity-guzzling server farms and underpaid labour.

“The worst versions of life-style minimalism frame simplicity not as a worthy end in itself but as an instrument—a tool of self-improvement…It is a vision shaped by the logic of the market: the self is perpetually being improved; its environment is ready for public display and admiration.”

To truly understand minimalism, Tolentio points to the doctrines of Marx and Engel, who rued “too much means of subsistence, too much industry, too much commerce.” She also mentions Richard Gregg, a lawyer from Colorado who coined the word ‘Voluntary Simplicity.’ Interestingly Gregg travelled to India to meet Gandhi and learn about peaceful resistance. In 1936, Gregg published “The Value of Voluntary Simplicity”. 

Tolentino does not deny the need for minimalism, but advocates a less-superficial understanding of it; certainly one that goes beyond Kim Kardashian’s US$ 60 million ‘monastic monastery.’ She quotes sustainability expert Duane Elgin who says, “In the end, the most convincing argument for minimalism: with less noise in our heads, we might hear the emergency sirens more clearly.”

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