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The New USATODAY.com

Re-imagined is a term usually reserved for remakes of curious 1960’s movies and second acts of flamboyantly-colored Dodge automobiles. Re-imagined is a histrionic way of asking us to give something a second pass. Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes was re-imagined with a bewildered Mark Wahlberg in place of Charlton Heston and the result was a very long first date for me that turned out very badly indeed. Dodge re-imagined their Charger as a heavy, brutish road predator that the police now use exclusively, it appears, to harass yours truly for excessive speed (court dates pending).

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USATODAY.com has alerted us to their redesign with a slog of banners and videos and social networking efforts containing the buzz-word reimagine, which according to my spell check, isn’t a word. I don’t concern myself with that any more than might I watch a video explaining a website redesign to me. Let’s just dive in, rather, and see what all the ruckus is about.

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I have entered the site, moving quickly past the new logo (which may require some discussion as well) in default view (versus cover view) and the initial pass is pretty impressive. I’m used to the big picture/story, top-heavy layout for a news site and I think that style makes sense, but I think this new idea might work out just fine. The big story, in this case Mitt Romney’s head, is high and tight and yet still unobtrusive because I have an additional 10 (and with a click, 20) headlines at eye level as well. There are a lot of choices above the fold and new visitors may find this experience a bit like fighting through a low end diner menu, but I’m willing to put up with stock info, unending layout options and other goofy add-ons to get through the experience (and this required blog post).
You can customize your experience here at USA Today. I get that.

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One of the options I might actually use is the cover view tab that allows for that top heavy view I’m used to. The photography is outstanding, as expected, and for certain stories the photography would be the draw. Below the fold are Today’s Lead Stories, presented either visually in a grid or as more traditional headlines. Right Now is a rather urgent title of the more frequently updated content that runs the entire sidebar. The bottom of a page is a truest test of a complete web design, I think, and USAToday.com finishes off their effort pretty well. Besides unobtrusive and attractive icons for feedback, applications, staff index, etc., the site index link brings up a full footer that completes the page design beautifully and usefully.

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The sub levels are not in any way watered down designs of the home, but content-packed homepages themselves. There is no real hierarchy in the site. Part of what makes this redesign attractive to me is the amount of real content on every page above the fold. Deep vertical scrolling has been acceptable in news sites for a while and will continue to be but having as much new content where I can see it immediately has been done with great care on this site and never overwhelms the user.

USA Today never capitalized on what their paper’s core strengths were, in my opinion, but I feel like they have taken a significant step here. This is a big news site now and a good upgrade for the online news experience. For USA Today, it’s huge and positions them at or near the top of the current crop news site designs.

Logo Design Versus What’s In Our Budget

Last week stocklogos.com posted a listing of popular logos and revealed the cost of each. As I’m sure was the plan, the post successfully elicited the expected sentiments of disbelief. Or mine

That 2012 Olympics thing ran someone 625 grand. That seems perhaps excessive. New Zealand Banking Group at 15 mil? Pinch me I guess.

I have to admit the numbers really mean very little to me. Companies spend what they can. No one was hoodwinked here. Part of what designing a logo entails is justifying the cost. Several of these designers are the best in the business at this lost art form. The document that accompanied Pepsi’s latest logo ($1,000,000) was a laborious, bewildering masterpiece. Ten percent of the justification made sense (it’s a smiling face, basically), the remainder can be described as brilliantly rendered hogwash. I would have bought off on it as well. It’s a very smart logo. Another wildly successful logo is Nike’s mark. The company was brand new, so the logo was designed for 35 bucks in 1975. As a side note, my parents bought my first suit in 1975. It also cost $35 (and weighed 35 pounds).

Even though the costs here are relative, mostly (BP, what the hell?), I thought we could go through the designs and score them for success versus price tag.


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PEPSI
Cost: $1,000,000
This is a big winner for me. I love the design, appreciate the insanity, yet curiously have Coke in my refrigerator. I’m sort of old though and fear change. And loud noises.


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NEW ZEALAND BANKING
Cost: $15,000,000
15 million for a bank? If New Zealand’s banks are as angelic as ours, then I assume there were sufficient funds for this weird, healthcare-looking symbol. I’m not a fan of this effort. Congrats to the designers though on getting what I assume was a giant, novelty-sized cardboard check accompanied by balloons and New Zealand’s version of Ed McMahon.


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ACCENTURE
Cost: $100,000,000
I like this logo and would have paid dearly for it. Dearly for me would have been 2 grand though. Landor Associates did the work in 2000, I just now read, and they seem like a pretty substantial group. The price is pretty outrageous though and sometimes the logo looks like a programmer left some html markup in the text.


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BBC
Cost: $1,800,000
I’m guilty pretty sure I’ve borrowed this idea on more than one occasion, so it would be unfair to bad mouth this logo. It’s one of the most recognizable logos in the world, but to be honest, it’s just a redesign of the old italics logo. Still, well worth the money.


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BP
Cost: $211,000,000
This is a very complex and probably brilliant idea, perfectly rendered. It was purchased by a company that does not have a budget. Still, it just makes you shake your head and want to ride a bike to work. Except me, because I live far from work and am older, as I mentioned in the earlier Pepsi briefing up there.


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ENRON
Cost: $33,000
Paul Rand was a graphic design genius and is partly responsible for a lot of what you watched while your parents went out and left you with the “remote control baby-sitter”. Most of his work is absolutely inspired and this Enron logo is in that category. For 33 grand, this was a steal.


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GLASGOW 2014 GAMES
Cost: $95,000
Yeah, me neither. I had to look up what these games are. Then I got bored too, but I did see the branding statement and it’s a doozey. Sample:
The next ring of the brand identity, in an orange-gold – ‘Triumph Yellow’ from the CGF palette – that echoes the ore of the medals, represents the number of sports. It’s just over three quarters of the full circle.

Do yourself a favor and read the full screed. It’s adorable.


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GOOGLE
Cost: $0
I’m sure there’s an interesting as hell back story here…hold on…no. No there isn’t according to my second monitor. One of the founders threw it together. So, considering Google is profitable, as far as I know, this was a great buy.


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COCA COLA
Cost: $0
Another freebie. Frank Mason Robinson, a bookkeeper designed it and named it in the olden days, before branding statements were a thing.


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LONDON 2012 OLYMPICS
Cost: $625,000
Bad logo. I don’t take joy in disparaging design work, but this one is a straight-up punch in the face. Ordinarily I would admit that I’ve designed worse at this point in the sentence, but no. That’s not happening today. Nothing about this garish pink fiasco makes sense.


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CITY OF MELBOURNE
Cost: $625,000
Landor Associates again, but this one works so well. I love this logo and in this version, the palette in particular. How Melbourne got this price tag through their Town Hall Meeting or whatever they do down there is a wonder though.


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NeXT
Cost: $100,000
There’s an interesting story behind the negotiations for this Paul Rand logo, but let’s instead focus on how it really sucks. You can’t hit every one out of the park, but deep down I believe Paul Rand might have been having some fun getting away with murder in this case. Evidence of his skills here.


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NIKE
Cost: $35
Another case of the new company getting their first logo for near nothing and never really needing a redesign. Maybe the most recognizable logo out there, it may will never need an update.

Nike Fun Fact: I owned the very first pair of Nikes and carried them around in the box, putting them on for sports, then re-boxing them. I had few friends.


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TWITTER
Cost: $ 15
Artist Simon Oxley is an exceptionally gifted illustrator who drew and uploaded this bird to istockphoto. The Twitter nerds grabbed it up for 15 bucks and it became the logo (for a time). As someone who does this for a living, that’s the kind of heart-warming story that drives me to consider shoe sales.

Let There Be an HTML 5 Logo

imageThe branding of HTML 5 is upon us. Logo designer Michael Nieling came up with an html 5 logo that someone inexplicably asked for. It also has its own website. Like your mom’s cat has his own Facebook page. The logo is good and it will work as a mark on any background, scaled as big or as small as you would need and looks great in black and white. The palette used is trendy and why not? HTML 6 is on the way, I suppose in some engineer’s nerd-dreams, nestled between Big Bang Theory Fan-fic and Olivia Munn. I especially like this logo for what it doesn’t try to do. It doesn’t attempt to speak to what html 5 promises for the future, or how it will transform the user experience, or any of that silliness. Just an orange shield with an S on it. I mean a 5. It’s a 5.

As always, what I really like about a big, goofy logo roll out is the marketing gibberish language that is attached to it. I remember Pepsi’s latest logo redesign came with a bewildering 15 page explanation of the process that was at once hilarious and yet totally acceptable. If you spend that amount of time and money, you need to show and tell. So, take a pull on this:

“It stands strong and true, resilient and universal as the markup you write. It shines as bright and as bold as the forward-thinking, dedicated web developers you are. It’s the standard’s standard, a pennant for progress. And it certainly doesn’t use tables for layout.”

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I felt like Thor when I read that. Funny though, the developers I know would not be described as “shiny”. Our new developer’s shirt could be described that way, however. Clearly, this is tongue in cheek and whoever wrote it has a pretty good sense of the absurdity of these puffy, cringe-inducing logo mission statements as descriptions. At least I hope so.

The classes’ logos are a little less successful at least for me, but there is a definite cohesive suite here.

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So there you have it. One big bold logo perfect for branding and a bunch of odd supporting logos that serve little purpose really. I give the whole set high marks and am a fan. Let us know what you think and feel free to send me a logo shirt (they actually sell for 22 bucks on the site). Ladies medium, thanks.

5 Senate Campaign Websites That Could Use a Little Design Help

As a required companion piece to this post, I have grudgingly crafted a review of the 5 sites that are on the lower end of the design scale. Some of these campaigns have no budget, and others are just a few years behind the times. Some others are just lazy. Although none require any real commentary, I need to take up some space on this blog and I think you’ll agree that I’ve done just that.

Kevin Scott

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“Congress is broken and we need to fix it”, states Kevin Scott. At least it says that on his campaign site. This is where I might make a broken site joke, high five Todd and call it a day. But I’d rather focus on the awesome stars and stripes bastardization and glimmering flash treatment that Team Scott chose to waste time on rather than put some actual content on this little gem.

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Top 5 Best Senate Campaign Website Designs

In putting together the report we released last week, The Use of the Internet by 2008 Senate Campaigns, my co-workers took the time to identify the websites of everyone running for the Senate this year.  Since my co-workers already did the hard part in finding the sites, I figured I’d cruise through the list and pick out my most and least favorites from a design perspective.    Presented below are the best designed homepages of the group, in my opinion.   I’ll write up the worst later in the week. 

(5) Mark Warner (D-VA)

There is no shame in coming in 5th place. My father said that to me after a disappointing 11th place finish in the Pinewood Derby.

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Although there is a hint of Obama-borrowing here, I liked this site for its generous use of white space and logical placement of content/actions. The splash page sign-up is of course a real slap in the face but at least the skip through link is not hidden. My eye goes directly from the (only mildly annoying) logo to the contribute option to the actions. Everything on this homepage is easy to instantly recognize and quick to find (and then dismiss in my case).

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