Unifying the Darks: How an Art Director Makes an Image Pop

 Cornelius Dämmrich - Mercury
Before

Today, I’m picking on a talented German artist who works in 3DS Max.

His rendering’s crisp CG details draw me in, but then send my eyes to flit back and forth across the image in want of a strong focal point to stick to. Poor tonal organization=no focal point=weak visual punch. I respect the self restraint the artist displays with a limited palette, but he needs to organize, unify, and simplify these tonal shapes.

In a highly-complex image such as this, only focal points should have such severe light/dark contrast.

Violating this rule yields a too-busy image. That in mind, I spent 15 minutes retouching the image in Photoshop. (I’ll confess it’s rude of me to do this to a stranger’s work, but wait until you see the difference.) Notice how now the tones look correctly and coherently grouped, thereby uncluttering the image.

After
After

Continue reading “Unifying the Darks: How an Art Director Makes an Image Pop”

Gallery

Dolce & Gabbana’s brand positioning from an American Perspective

You’re not a billionaire designer, so what cautionary lessons are you going to take from DG’s tax scandal? Leave that story for the shock-starved tabloid hounds. DG’s brand positioning is so much more instructive and compelling.
__
Dolce & Gabbana brought Americans a modern Mediterranean aesthetic that’s more ornate, colorful, and sexually charged than Armani’s. I can absolutely appreciate the talent driving the DG brand. I want to float the idea that, for an American, “Mediterranean” is not the reason for DG’s appeal. This side of the Atlantic, I think consumers buy DG to go after an aesthetic I’d call Urban-Exotic, and Mediterranean imagery is a lukewarm expression of this quality. DG could broadcast its urban-exoticism with more impact. Urban-Exotic means sensuous, foreign (including but not limited to Mediterranean), modern, exclusive, finely tailored and a bit dangerous. And Urban-Exotic casts competitors as generic by comparison, since Hugo Boss and Band of Outsiders won’t go to the ends of the earth to bring home uncommon designs to New York clientele.

Joshua Eckert That’s the vine Nasturtium at the foot of the mannequin. While this scene triggers an audience’s emotional reactions to faraway places, it maintains the Mediterranean’s bold, clean lines and flooding light. Here’s a second concept, less modern than the first: Dolce & Gabbana Retail Design Concept ____ On a side note, DG’s decision to print retro-Americana shirts with Tyson, Coca-Cola, and Robots was bizarre, and WAY off-brand. Viewing these shirts from outside the company, I can’t make sense of how they are sexy, creative, or exclusive. They aren’t all bad-looking, but they dilute and decay DG’s brand.  I suspect that there’s an on-brand way to drive the same short-term revenues. Think Urban-Exotic.

Dolce & Gabbana’s brand positioning from an American Perspective

Retail Design Concept for a Mens Watch Store: Buoys and Feather Reed Grass

Boutique Watch Store Design Concept

The chrome lanterns are at once beautiful and industrial because they look like links of a chain.
The chrome lanterns are at once beautiful and industrial because they look like links of a chain.

The concept hasn’t been done before, and it’s perfect for a watch boutique with light foot traffic. The design diverges from the sort of Peter Marino glitz that usually characterizes luxury watch stores. Buoys, feather reed grass, and chrome give the space a “luxury missile silo” feel.

The contractors who would build this imaginary space would simulate the water with resin on plexi. Real water would be logistically challenging, messy, and expensive.

Retail Design Concept for a Mens Watch Store: Buoys and Feather Reed Grass

Earning the Right to Critique

a-protestor-outside-the-parliament-in-nicosia-cyprus-1772520-3

On two occasions, I sat in on discussions where brand positioning gurus dissected John Carter‘s box office failure. In both venues (one was a lengthy LinkedIn discussion while the other was a live panel in Manhattan), participants agreed that the movie’s poorly chosen name generally caused its failure. Yet, nobody had the bravery to suggest another name. Not a single branding consultant in either discussion!

Every movie needs a name.

Every brand needs an identity and a voice. Every team needs a uniform. You might not like what’s in place, but for us to Continue reading “Earning the Right to Critique”

Earning the Right to Critique

The Sweet Spot: When Retail Design is Modern but not Minimalist

Milan bakery interior by Daniela Colli

If I link particular emotions to a desert—warmth, vast open landscapes, solitude, quiet and stillness—the Milan bakery will coax the same feelings out of me, albeit to a lesser degree. These feelings partially displace ones of tight space and clutter I’d feel at an ordinary bakery.

Compared to this Milan bakery’s interior, a minimalist interior is a little cheaper and a lot less challenging* to design. A minimalist bakery would be clean, spare, and maybe even elegant. But because it doesn’t reference anything other than itself, it can’t contend with a modern-theatrical interior’s power to rouse emotions.

Are good feelings sufficient ROI?

Riddle me this: how might the bakery’s costly interior change consumer behavior? Ideally, this retail environment should (1) draw consumers Continue reading “The Sweet Spot: When Retail Design is Modern but not Minimalist”

The Sweet Spot: When Retail Design is Modern but not Minimalist