I’ll get to the regularly scheduled links in a bit, but I wanted to lead off with some recommendations from my 2019 media diet (a term I’ve borrowed from Jason Kottke, whose blog always makes for tasty consumption).
The wildfires have barely been extinguished here in California, but it’s already word-of-the-year season across the pond, where three prominent dictionaries chose words or phrases with a common theme: climate change, or preventing it. Cambridge Dictionary went first, with upcycling: “the activity of making new furniture, objects, etc. out of old or used things or waste material.” Collins Dictionary chose climate strike: “a protest demanding action on climate change.” And Oxford Dictionaries picked climate emergency from an all-environmental shortlist that included “climate action,” “climate denial,” “eco-anxiety,” “extinction” and “flight shame.”
Let the record show that lexicographer Jane Solomon, recently of Dictionary.com, spotted the trend back in September.
A study of 597 logos found that “descriptive logos more favorably impact consumers’ brand perceptions than nondescriptive ones, and are more likely to improve brand performance.” (Harvard Business Review)
Old descriptive logos (left) vs. new nondescriptive logos (right).
So many candidates! Twenty-five at last count, although by the time I click “publish,” six or seven of them may have thrown in the towel. (Rep. Eric Swalwell, who took part in the first round of televised debates, in June, dropped out earlier this week. His slogan was “Go Big. Be Bold. Do Good,” but three short verbs didn’t sufficiently activate his supporters.)
More than two dozen candidates, but few signs of originality in their messaging. Nine candidates—Cory Booker, Bernie Sanders, Amy Klobuchar, Beto O’Rourke, Pete Buttigieg, Tulsi Gabbard, Wayne Messam, Joe Sestak, and Tom Steyer—use only their first names in their logos, a trend that goes back as far as 1948’s “Give ’Em Hell, Harry” and 1952’s “I Like Ike,” but which got a big boost in 2016, with “Jeb!,” “Hillary” and “Bernie” as first-name-basis contenders.
Beyond that major theme, I see a bunch of other trends. Here are my evaluations and letter grades for the 2020 Democratic slogans; you can see all of them, organized alphabetically by candidate name, with their respective logos, on Ballotpedia, the nonprofit “digital encyclopedia of American politics and elections.”
When I’m asked to rename a brand, it’s usually for one of two reasons: a legal challenge (someone has a prior claim to the name) or a major shift in the organization’s direction (we used to sell housewares; now we sell jewelry).
Neither of those scenarios applied to Resourceful HR, a 10-year-old Seattle human-resources consultancy that approached me last autumn about a name change. The company was thriving. It had successfully registered RESOURCEFUL as a trademark. And its business plan involved a refinement, not a revolution.
Still, company founder and CEO Jennifer Olsen told me with a sigh, it was probably time to change the name. For starters, her graphic designer had “taken the brand imagery as far as it could go.” And the brand strategist she’d hired, Catherine Carr of Vitamin C Creative, had done some interviews and concluded that “what she was hearing from us was more exciting than what she was seeing in our materials.”
The 2019 Deadspin Name of the Year is down to the Elite Eight. Vote for your favorites in a field that includes Pope Thrower, Pretzel Monteclaro, and Jizyah Shorts. Yes, they’re all real names. (Deadspin) For background, see my 2018 Visual Thesaurus column about the tournament.
How great writing begins: an analysis of the opening paragraphs of “the 94 most compelling articles” in The Atlantic, Fast Company, and the New York Times op-ed section. (Better Humans)
In English, it’s “Once upon a time.” How do other cultures and languages begin their classic tales? (Chitra Soundar)
Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana—the youngest and gayest candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination (so far)—also has the coolest campaign logos. (Note: Not a political endorsement.) (Brand New)
You’re probably heard of babies named after brands: Porsche, Chanel, Armani, and, lest we forget, Tiffany. Now the Baby Name Wizard blog tells us about three baby names from the 1980s and 1990s that were inspired by TV advertising.
“An examination of today’s American skull logos shows a variety of businesses exhibiting crude expressions of menace, juvenile assertions of badassedness, and more than a little fascist iconography.” (Emblemetric)