March 30, 2006
Yesterday was one of those days that makes those of who live in Los Angeles say "this is why we live here". I wrote a while ago about the glow to the light in LA that is different than anywhere else. The clear skies in LA after a rainfall are another one of those things I've never seen anywhere. After a rainfall here (which generally only happens between December and March), the sky gets this crystal clear quality - the sky is a rich blue, and objects look like they are all incredibly close and almost within reach. Snow capped mountains out in the San Gabriel Valley seem to spring up behind downtown. They're calling for rain again tomorrow. Should make for a beautiful Saturday.
Posted by Jon Berry at 11:07 PM
March 29, 2006
For anyone just finding this blog now, I spent the last couple months in Europe. One month working the Olympics, and then about three weeks traveling around. It is truly one of the best things I have ever done, and I can't stress enough that if you have never traveled overseas and you have the means to do so, do it! I have always traveled a fair amount within the US, but overseas travel is truly a different world and rewarding on so many levels. Open your mind and your heart and soak it in. And WHEN you do, here are some tips to help make it easier:
- Pack light, pack light, pack light. Its worth it not have to haul stuff around - even if its only on the train and to the hotel. Use undershirts under tshirts so you can wear tshirts or overshirts more than once. Pack lots of clean undershirts, but re-use the shirts you wear over them. And if you need more space, throw the old undershirts out. If you're going to several cities, you'll find you wear your favorite clothes over again anyway. No one will know you wore the same outer shirt 3 days ago.
- Get to know the metro system. In almost all cities they are easy and convenient to use. Route maps for most cities can be found online if you google "metro [city name]". Most offer day passes that are a worthwhile value instead of single tickets, even if just for the ease of not having to figure out the ticket machines more than once. Most day passes cover all public transport - subways, trains, trams, busses - with one pass.
- Write down the address of your hotel and its name - and how to say it in that country's language - and keep it in your pocket. If you find yourself needing to grab a cab, you can then give him the info even if he doesn't speak english.
- Trains are wonderful. Having a rail pass lets you go when you want. Trains are hassle free and line free, and generally a very comfortable rest between stops, plus great views of the countryside. German and French trains are nicer than Italian trains. My sister says Switzerland has amazing trains - I didn't get to try them. Use your time on the train to regroup and rest, as well as to read up on your next stop. Take note of whether you are in a smoking or nonsmoking compartment if you don't have a reserved seat.
- Before boarding a train, grab a baguette sandwich and a soda to take on the train from a food stand in the station. They make a great snack/quick meal and are cheap and usually pretty tasty.
- Most trains require a seat reservation. The track platform has a diagram of the train to show you where your car number and seats are located.
- Learn the basics of the languages. If nothing else, so that you can make an attempt to speak their language out of respect. If they know English, most are happy to then move to English after you've made the attempt to speak in their language. Please, Thank You, Excuse Me, I would like, and, and I'm sorry - can go a long way.
- Spend some time surfing the internet ahead of time to look for local festivals or events that may be going on when you are there. They are a great way to experience the local flavor and customs.
- Be adventurous with your eating. Look for things you've never seen before or don't know what they are - even at streetside stands or markets. Don't expect things the way you're used to them in the states. Find the way they have coffee or make pizza (or even better, their own foods that you don't find here) that you enjoy.
- Museums and train stations are good places for clean and well kept public restrooms. Train stations usually have a 50-75 cent charge for the restroom.
- If you are able to, keep your plans flexible. If you like a city, stay another day or two. If you don't, go ahead and move on to your next stop.
- Research ahead of time if you can. There are many sites that offer bulletin boards and user reviews. I personally like tripadvisor.com for advice on making selections because of its user reviews and quickcheck feature. A good site for booking hotels abroad is bookings.org.
Posted by Jon Berry at 10:49 PM
March 27, 2006
Today was my friend Dave's birthday. (Happy Birthday Dave!) We were talking in the evening when he mentioned that his dinner plans with his brother might fall through. I've had a couple birthdays where I didn't have anything to do on the evening of my birthday, and it just plain sucks. What almost makes it worse is that I really could never complain because I had birthday plans with friends on the weekend - but as far as the night of the birthday itself, nothin. I remember one year sayin 'well I'm not just goin home' after a day at work with everyone asking what my plans were that night, so I went to a bar for a beer, looked around at the 3 other people there, and didn't exactly feel so good about being 'out' on my birthday. With that in mind, I was glad to be there for a friend.
Dave is a local buddy who also happens to love sushi, so we went to my favorite local eatery, Katsu! It was good night of stories and sushi and a few large bottles of Orion beer. I'll write another post about Katsu after the next time I go, but if you're in the area check it out - Rosecrans and Highland. And tell Katsu I sent you!
Posted by Jon Berry at 11:08 PM
March 26, 2006
With my fondness for junk tv like Laguna Beach and Project Runway, I'm reluctant to post a recommendation for a television show. Since this is one that doesn't have the publicity of other deserving shows like "24", I'm doing it anyway. My friend Todd turned me on to the new "Battlestar Galactica" when he was visiting in January, and it has just begun its third season. I grew up watching the original, but this one really has next to nothing in common with the old one. Its a wonderful example of how to recreate a series for today instead of just 'remake' an update of the old one. I'm not really a Trekkie, but I do love "serial" type television. The story is thick and complicated, so give it a couple episodes. They include a pretty detailed "previously on" at the beginning of each episode so you'll find it easier to pick up the storyline than you might expect. Originals debut on Fridays on the Sci Fi network, but I would imagine it repeats other times as well. Maybe I just love that they use a quiet almost operatic vocal for the open instead of the big horns/orchestra type score you would expect. Who knows. Tivo it. Enjoy it while it lasts.
Posted by Jon Berry at 5:55 PM
March 25, 2006
There's something about patterns in architecture that really intrigue me. I find it kind of odd because I rarely use a lot of pattern in my work, or even in my home. And pattern is often something I'm not a big fan of in design (of course, that's such a general statement that I could easily prove myself wrong). Rarely do patterns in nature fascinate me as much, just in architecture.... This is kind of one of those posts that really doesn't have a point I guess, just sharing an observation. The bottom pic above is from yesterday outside the barber shop I go to - the others are from Paris, Oklahoma City, and LAX. Maybe it's just how they pop up when you least expect it - one of life's little man made surprises that you could easily pass by without noticing - that I get some joy out of.
Posted by Jon Berry at 8:54 PM
March 23, 2006
I never cease to be amazed at the fun stuff you can find on the web. I found this thanks to a blurb on Current TV (DirecTV channel 366 or check your local listings - its a great network and I can't help but wonder if they aren't the future of tv). This is a site where you can build your own South Park character - so I did a self portrait. My favorite thing about this is that this is someone's personal site. Apparently she did build a couple other games for the South Park folks, and there is a similar version of this on the South Park Studios site, but it isn't as good. Check it out and have some fun:
Posted by Jon Berry at 11:20 PM
March 22, 2006
Every Wednesday the street in front of my house is a no parking zone from 1-3pm. Since my big ass truck juts out halfway into the street, it means I have to make sure I've moved it or am away during that time. So today I went off to run some errands and go to the grocery store. I forgot about the whole no parking thing until I turned onto my street and looked at my clock - 2:35. damn. So I started driving around a little to kill time (especially as I passed the meter maid in her cart) and ended up in what they call the downtown/village area of Manhattan Beach.
I passed by a new shopping center downtown that opened in December and decided to check it out. The shopping center is on the former Metlox Pottery site and uses the same name - I think the whole thing was pretty controversial. I don't know if it was the concept of having a hotel and shopping complex in "old" downtown or if it was some kind of funding issue that created the issues - or both. I moved here after most of the controversy had passed.
I was surprised how well it fit in with the surrounding neighborhood. Had it not been for the Design Within Reach store on the corner (I still want to know who's reach?!), I barely would have noticed it as I drove by. To Metlox's credit, it has no signage for the shopping center itself beyond that of the individual storefronts on the street. Unlike centers like The Grove that create a false streetfront inside but create large walls on the outside, this one has true storefronts on the street that blend in with the rest of the community. Inside seemed to be mostly restaurants and a hotel (I barely even noticed it was hotel it blended in so well) with a lot of public communal space. And for a Wednesday afternoon, there were a lot of people communing. Mothers talking, kids playing, people reading. Nothing about it stood out as 'great' design; but it was all very nice, clean, good modern lines and spaces and surprisingly understated. Combine that with how well it blended with its surroundings - and maybe that IS good design. At least good design lite.
Posted by Jon Berry at 11:25 PM
I've mentioned it before on here, but I watch a lot of mtv. I guess its my guilty pleasure or vice. Of course, its just research to keep up with trends and a younger audience. Yeah, that's it. Mtv does perplex me in terms of their visual image. Their look seems to be: 'no look - anything goes'. I can only guess that this is intentional, because if anyone knows how to market to an audience, mtv does. Their current Spring Break campaign is the most consistent and universal that I've seen on their air in a long time. But my mtv viewing is also educational. Today on Room Raiders I learned that the rag that a guy keeps in the underwear drawer is a 'spankerchief'. I love it.
I also love the new Burger King commercial that runs all the time. "Big Buckin Chicken" is the latest part of the "Have It Your Way" campaign done by Crispin Porter + Bogusky, a Miami-based ad firm that does great work. CPB did the advertising for the Mini automobile, the Truth anti-smoking campaign, and the new Volkswagen campaign. A Google search yields that this ad is getting a lot of talk, both positive and negative, but either way, it has people talking. That equals successful marketing. Personally, I think its hilarious. What suprises me is that not only is there no mention of the ad on the Burger King website, but that there is no "big buckin chicken" website of its own. CPB is great at non-traditional advertising and savvy to viral and web campaigns as being more important than traditional advertising. (A good example of this - not by CPB - is cowabduction.com. This led to a lot of web and email chatter for several weeks before the television ads began running, revealing that it was part of the California 'Happy Cows' campaign. Its still a fun website - check it out.) And if satire is a form of flattery, then I guess the folks at CPB can't be too upset about another website that popped up - "like Crispin Porter". Seems CPB isn't loved by everyone.
Oh look, '8th & Ocean' is on...
Posted by Jon Berry at 12:00 AM
March 20, 2006
We have all probably heard of the term 'ugly American' referring to American tourists. Over my travels, I have to say that I was dismayed to see just how common this behavior actually is. So while I don't mean to sound anti-American here, please indulge me in a little bitch session - and take these as tips when traveling abroad. The first thing I notice about many Americans is, we are loud! On trains, in restaurants (especially with alcohol), and in shops and streets. We shout to each other and laugh raucously and loudly, without deference to whether others are bothered or not. And often with commentary that isn't complimentary ("what, is it too much to ask to have salt and pepper on tables here?" "They sure make pizza weird here.") Don't assume the Europeans around you can't understand what you're saying. Secondly, many of us immediately speak English to everyone with a tone of expectation that they will understand and speak English back. Funny how offended we would be by this by foreign tourists in America. Learn a few words and phrases - 'yes', 'no', 'thank you', 'please', 'hello', 'I'm sorry', 'excuse me', 'I don't speak ___', 'do you speak english', and 'how do you say (english word)' are probably enough to get along easily for a long time in most situations. Even just knowing the first couple of those are enough. And if you begin and stumble, most seem to clearly appreciate the attempt and try their best to speak whatever english they know while you fumble through their language as well. Don't assume an unfriendly person or even an unfriendly city makes for an unfriendly country. And maybe they are just having a bad day - it may have nothing to do with you.
One positive note on Americans is that we do seem to be very generous. We are anxious to tip and tip well, even when tipping isn't customary.
This is their country, the more you respect it, the more you'll enjoy it.
I was discussing movies with a guy in Munich (Brokeback is huge in Europe and just opening in Germany.) He mentioned how 'Crash' flopped there, and I said that I could understand that. 'Crash' is about internal conflicts and issues and problems that I would guess most Europeans just don't have or understand. He agreed. I said that with the things that Americans have issues and problems with, Europeans must just think that we are ridiculously silly. He smiled said, "We do. But we like you anyway."
Posted by Jon Berry at 11:57 PM
March 19, 2006
The Olympics were a formative event in my design career. It was 1984 and the Games were in Los Angeles. I was a kid in Virginia. Something about the look of those games was unlike anything I had ever seen before. I remember watching on television and how the colors and patterns and symbols seemed to flood the screen everywhere - not the on-screen television graphics, but the graphics on the venues and in the stadium and even the backgrounds of the shots. While commonplace today, at the time, they were bold and colorful and distinctive. And what I liked best, they said "America" without ever using the colors red, white, and blue.
I now know that these games were designed by Deborah Sussman of Los Angeles design firm Sussman/Prejza. I don't know for sure, but I believe these were one of the first games to utilize a complete visual identity system that covered everything from stadiums to hot dog wrappers, from signage to flower arrangements and medals and contestant numbers.
It spurred my original interest in graphic design, and even led me to an independent study in 'environmental design' in design school. It also was probably an influence in my love to this day of complete identity systems and packaging that unify all kinds of disparate elements with one look.
In 1998, angered by unauthorized elements in Atlanta in 1996, the International Olympic Committee established the Olympic Games Identification Project, which established guidelines for the "look of the games" - mandating that such a visual system be designed for every games. While lacking in some places as far as being completely comprehensive (surfaces left uncovered or elements not incorporated fully), the Torino 2006 games did have a nice design system. It was meant to symbolize and reflect the concept of the Piazza as well as the mountains and light coming from them through the use of transparency, perspective, and contrast. There was a palette of warm colors as well as one of cool colors, both of which coexisted nicely when side by side. It was clean and energetic and consistent. I could not find any credit for who designed the look for the 2006 games.
On a side note, I am referring here only to the on-site graphic design of the games, not the on-air look and design. I don't know if it is not permitted by the Olympic Committee or if it is a conscious choice not to, but I wish television networks would use the look of the Olympic games as a basis for their on-air design as well. The last time I can find that this has happened was in 1996, which was also far and away the most impressive and effective on-air package for an Olympics as well, in my opinion. When the on-screen matches the on-site, they work together as one unified package. This would make it look like the stadiums are covered by the television networks graphics and that the Olympics really 'belong' to that network, while also enhancing the visual design goals of the Olympics themselves by echoing them in the on-air presentation. Its a true win-win situation.
Posted by Jon Berry at 8:22 PM
March 18, 2006
March 17, 2006
Something I noticed in Italy, when ending a phone conversation, it ends fast. I didn't really have any phone conversations in other countries, but it did seem from hearing cell phone conversations that they did the same. I don't know if its an American thing or a Southern thing, but my phone conversations take forever to end. There's a very long transition that eventually leads to 'bye'. "Okay, well I better get going. I'll talk to you later. Have a good day. Seeya. Bye." In Europe, "I'll cook chicken. Bye." Although in Italy I do hear a lot of "Ciao" followed by "CiaoCiaoCiao", but there is no transition between the last statement of conversation and the first Ciao. Another interesting bit - in Bavaria, the German greeting for goodbye is "ciao". I asked a few people about this and no one seemed to know why, but their best guess was that was just that "aufweiderszein" was too long and clumsy to use, so they adopted ciao. Someone in Rome told me the Germans spell it "Tsao" and there is an ongoing battle over whether the word is originally German or Italian.
I'm anxious to get back - I so miss my friends and my home and my beach. But this has been the experience of a lifetime, and the thought of leaving makes me tear up. I've made incredible memories and I've met some good people, some who I am sure will remain friends. I intend to be back soon. Ciao. CiaoCiaoCiao.
Posted by Jon Berry at 1:07 AM
This forum has become a travelogue of late, and even before coming to Europe, it still had become more of a personal journal than I ever expected it to. I did however always try to include some design-related content occasionally, often with nod to good (or bad) design.
I don't drink coffee, but I do drink diet cola like a fiend. I'm a Pepsi guy (the 'choice of a new generation' campaign and the logo redesign that accompanied it still rings true to me), but I am just as happy to down a Diet Coke. In Europe, Diet Coke is Coca-Cola Light. A better name, I think, when diet drinks have always tried hard to be palatable to a male audience. (There must be a marketing reason though - remember Diet Pepsi began as Pepsi Light in the states, it still is Pepsi Light in Europe.)
More notable for Coca-Cola Light is the logo. I have never felt that the diet Coke logo worked. Its clunky and awkward and just doesn't fit. The Coca-Cola typeface is terrible as a font for long bits of copy, but as a logo itself, it has been refined over the years to be a true thing of beauty. Coca-Cola light simply uses the same typeface tucked neatly and pleasantly in with the Coca-Cola.
Posted by Jon Berry at 12:55 AM