Facing The Big Squeeze

I can pack a bag like nobody else. I inherited this skill from my dad, who had an uncanny ability to fit huge amounts of stuff into a suitcase, a car trunk, a boat locker, or wherever.

When I’d pack up the family car for vacation, my kids used to just stand back and let me do my thing, marveling at my ability to get it all in there. My son Sam has inherited the family trait. You’ll find him tooling around Boston on his bike, messenger bag stuffed with gear, from laptop to extra layers to water bottle to the kitchen sink. That’s my boy!

That kind of efficiency and economy is essential to effective design. I love to create breathing room and allow the message to shine through. But every now and again I’m faced with a project that can’t be edited down. That’s when I call on my packing skills.

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The Quiet Genius Of Adrian Frutiger

Adrian Frutiger died a couple of weeks back. You may not recognize the name, but chances are you’ve experienced the clarity of the deceivingly simple and iconic typefaces (including one named after himself) he designed over the course of his long and distinguished career.

“Frutiger is basically the best signage type in the world because there’s not too much ‘noise’ in it, so it doesn’t call attention to itself,” Erik Spiekermann, a prominent German type designer and friend of Mr. Frutiger, told the New York Times in a recent retrospective. “It makes itself invisible, but physically it’s actually incredibly legible.”

Here’s Frutiger himself from an interview on the Linotype Company’s website: “The whole point with type is for you not to be aware it is there. If you remember the shape of a spoon with which you just ate some soup, then the spoon had a poor shape. Spoons and letters are tools. The first we need to ingest bodily nourishment from a bowl, the latter we need to ingest mental nourishment from a piece of paper.”

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The Positive Power Of Negative Space

Maybe you took notice of the over-the-top pullout ad for the new biopic “Steve Jobs” in this week’s Sunday edition of “The New York Times.” It was certainly hard to miss. But considering the splashy, oversized approach, this folded, 8-panel ad contained a surprisingly small amount of actual information, with the inside four panels featuring only full-page photographs of the film’s four main characters.

Why would Universal Studios spend so much money and occupy so much real estate while sharing so little actual information about the film? This is a great example of less is more. In so many ways, that lack of clutter says so much. The abundance of white space is an intentional reference to the classic, clean-and-simple look of anything Apple, and it communicates far more than mere words could ever express.

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The Power Of “The Power Of Intention”

We talk a lot around here about the importance of keeping clarity in our work and in our lives. This week we lost a real-life champion of clarity who helped a lot of people find meaning and inspiration day to day.

The passing of Dr. Wayne Dyer may not have garnered superstar media attention, but for all of us here at Cronin Creative, and for countless others who have benefited from his teachings, it is a very big loss indeed.

I first became aware of Dr. Dyer in the early 1980s. Back then, I was a full-of-myself, full time musician. So, of course, I had to have a day job. I was lucky enough to find one at a local bookstore, where Dr. Dyer’s first book, “Your Erroneous Zones,” was flying off the shelves. It is now firmly established as one of the bestselling “self-help” books of all time, but back then, as a cocky 20-something guitar player, I had no use for what I viewed cynically as “pop psychology.”

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Reasons We Love Lists (In No Particular Order)

Standing in the checkout line at my local grocery store the other day, I was struck by the magazines stuffed into the racks on either side of me. Fully a third of them sported headlines featuring lists –100 Best Beatles Songs of All Time, Hollywood’s Top Ten Leading Men, Five Ways to Lose Those Extra Pounds, etc. Just when I started wondering cynically to myself why people insist on having everything boiled down to something as simple as 1-2-3, I remembered what I was holding in my hand – a very long grocery list.

In the cluttered, crowded, media-mad world we live in, we need lists. Maybe that’s why they seem to be the number one way (oops, sorry) that people communicate in the blogosphere. Lists keep us together, on time, and on task, on a daily basis. They skim, they filter, they summarize, they distill. In a world saturated with more information than we can possibly begin to process, lists help us sort through the junk and get to the good stuff.

Lists also interrupt and engage on the newsstand. In a recent article in The New Yorker magazine, author Maria Konnikova suggests that sometimes it all comes down to numbers.

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