Friday, May 10, 2002

Writing for the Jerusalem Post, Barry Rubin observes that a remarkable new development seems to have taken place: The Bush administration is now speaking of Arafat in the past tense. What's more, the CIA(!!!) is apparently planning to take an active hand in reshaping the Palestinian security infrastructure.

Rubin notes that Bush's policy change came about, not coincidentally, in the aftermath of his Crawford tete-a-tete with Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah. This raises some interesting questions:
"So [is Bush] saying that the Arab leaders are going to demand Arafat reform or else? Or [will Bush] go to Palestinian leaders and say that we will give you lots of money if you get rid of Arafat? ... Have the Saudis volunteered to get the Arab world to dump Arafat? ... Either this is going to develop into the most creative and courageous initiative the region has seen in a long time or American policy makers have become shockingly disoriented."
Curiouser and curiouser...! The rope-a-dope theory is starting to look more promising again.

Thursday, May 09, 2002

EMOTICON BOMBER FOILED: "[Luke] Helder told authorities he was planting pipe bombs in a pattern to show a happy face during his spree."

The question is, what should we rush to ban, to prevent anyone from being inspired to commit such a dastardly deed in the future? Should we, as a nation, rise up and demand that AOL Messenger disable its emoticon feature? Or should 20th Century Fox immediately recall all 3.5 million home video copies of Fight Club, which I'll go out on a limb and guess was Helder's favorite movie of all time?

Mischief. Mayhem. Soap. ;-)

NOT A DREAM, not a hoax, not an imaginary story ... or any other sort of cop-out:

Well, we'll see...

Wednesday, May 08, 2002

FLAGGING INTEREST: The new flag under consideration for use by the European Union, designed by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, is being nicknamed the "barcode flag" for obvious reasons -- although, personally, I think it looks more like the little raggedy carpet they gave me in Kindergarten to lie down on for my afternoon nap:

What's wrong with this picture?

I am a self-employed graphic artist by trade. Part of my job description is to satisfy the demands of the client. The other 90% of the job is to ignore the client's demands and steer them away from imposing ill-considered, whimsical design decisions that will, in the long run, cause them more grief than satisfaction.

Did the EU Flag Committee get their money's worth? Ummm ... well, they sure got a lot of colors. But herein lies the problem:

There's a reason why corporate identity materials are usually limited to one or two spot colors. It's this: Printed stationery and business cards can be produced quite handsomely and economically on a 2-color duplicator-class printing press. Whereas, full-spectrum process color requires a large 4-color press, which automatically elevates your printing budget for every single printed piece -- every envelope that's torn open and discarded upon receipt -- every lousy personalized memo pad -- into the stratosphere.

(The minute you see a company or organization adopt a logo design element that requires process color reproduction, you can infer that their directors are more concerned with impressing one another with their design sensibilities than in controlling expenses and preserving shareholder value.)

Admittedly, I've never designed or manufactured a flag, but the economics are surely similar to that of any other corporate identity concept. Imagine the logistics of purchasing dyes, threads and fabrics in 45 different colors -- and certifiying that each is an accurate match for the required color specifications! -- as opposed to only two or three.

If Koolhaas simply gave the EU what they said they wanted, then he's a hack. A professional would have guided them toward a more economical design. But if the "barcode" design concept is fundamentally Koolhaas' own, he is guilty of gross professional negligence for allowing it to see the light of day.

I have no doubt that the EU Flag Committee feels they got their money's worth. (I mean -- gosh, look at all the pretty colors!) But when they eventually figure out that they've made a mistake -- and they will, just as soon as they start seeing some manufacturers' invoices -- they might want to consider solicting competitive bids for the next flag.

H.D. Miller of Travelling Shoes has some other practical concerns as well:
My advice to the European Union is don't be too hasty in accepting this new design. A few years down the road you might find yourselves regretting the barcode, with all of the anti-individualistic connotations that implies. You might find yourselves longing for something a little simpler, a little easier for school children to draw.

(Note to prospective flag clients: You like complexity for its own sake? You like pretty colors? I like money! Here's a few of my own alternate design comps, gratis.)



UPDATE (from BBC News): "Already unfavourably compared to wallpaper, the TV test card and deckchair fabric, the stripe design is only one of the proposals submitted by the Dutch 'brainstormer'." [So why is this one particular proposal getting all the press? -Ed.]

UPDATE: Grasshoppa proposes his own alternative flag design. Who says irony is dead?