Category Archives: Around Calgary

News, better design and technology tips for living a more interesting life in Calgary are posted in “Around Calgary”.

If you have grandparents, you have been to Swiss Chalet. If you haven’t, your grandparents lives could possibly be devoid of all meaning. For those with grandparents living desolate, lonely lives subconsciously longing for the quarter chicken dinner that will complete their existence, Swiss Chalet is a restaurant that commonly looks like a Chalet and may or may not have originated in Switzerland. It is stereotypically frequented by the elderly but will also hospitably accommodate younger people as well, without bias.

Perhaps something they are not well known for is graphic design. Recently, however this all changed as a hungry representative of Elbowruminations had the opportunity to visit Swiss Chalet accompanied by the token grandmother who stubbornly refuses to eat anything not made of chicken. Upon being seated it was immediately apparent that the menus where not only new but they were very well designed! Perhaps the most creative approach to restaurant menus seen in quite some time.

Swiss Chalet Menu

This menu was more like a food based fairy tale detailing the experience you were about to have rather than a linear inventory of available items. The front and back of the menu was printed with a brickwork similar to what you might find on a classic rotisserie oven. It opened out-wards, like double doors, revealing removable current specials on inside panel – a practical solution that serves to highlight what customers should see first. The size of the menu was also unusual, being a square shape rather than a traditional tall rectangle.

Inside flap

Clean layout

The interior pages of the menu were comprised of classic, simple text treatment and a clean, open layout. A straight, square, two column layout made reading about eating easy. The lack of clutter and consistent style sheet – red titles and black descriptions on a white background – was quick to navigate.

The photography chosen for this menu was bright, powerful, and plentiful. Every odd page contained a full page photo that was not only relevant to the food listed next to it, but it was also complementary in colour. The careful planning of each detailed shot exposed the food’s flavour to its fullest visual potential and told a tale of texture and taste in each crisp pixel.

great photography

From the non-traditional format of this menu, to the great photography, and the elegant layout, Swiss Chalet has created a perfect sales pitch that could intrigue even the most fickle eater enough to find himself with a fork in his fist. We give it five stars. The food was pretty good too.

Library Signage

Neat is not a word you hear frequently as a term of endearment these days. Perhaps “neat” is not even something your parents would choose to use in an effort to describe something favourable in nature. In fact, according to the good folks at Merriam-Webster, the word “neat” dates back to the year 1649. Why is it being used as a centerpiece of an advertising campaign in 2008? That’s a good question.

It seems there are a lot of questions you could ask about this advertisement designed for the Calgary Public Library. For example, why choose black and blue as the palette for the ad? This colour combination carries negative connotations, primarily the bruised and battered feeling of placing a distant second in a two person punching contest. It’s not bright enough to attract the attention of a busy motorist rushing home to dinner, and it certainly does not give the impression that your local library is a vibrant centre of modern culture.

Furthermore, there are a variety of questions that also need to be asked about the design execution in this advertisement. The first inquiry being why so many fonts were used. Typically, as a graphic designer, you should attempt to keep your font choices to a minimum. Perhaps two fonts should suffice in most situations – a serif and a sans serif. In this case, at least four fonts are used in addition to bold, italics, and a hand written signature at the bottom. That’s too many.

The construction of the ad is also problematic. There is no flow in the layout. Your eyes are required to sweep the entire ad to gather information you’ll need to comprehend the message, and by that time it may be too late, especially in a car. A good graphic designer will engineer information in a way that gives your eyes a chance to see what needs to be seen one element at a time in order of importance. With the Calgary Public Library logo balanced precariously near the centre and everything else thrown in wherever it fits, efficient visual navigation is difficult.

From the archaic and non-relevant terminology, to the poor layout, and the dull colour scheme, this advertisement is a few letters short of a bad first novel and it’s unfortunate. Our library system deserves a better image. It’s a great resource that the majority of people ignore for the preconceived notion that it’s a bland, beaten down institution frequented by people who think books are “neat”. Now where would they get that idea from?

Saskatoon: Blades of Glory

One could argue that my selection for best design contribution of 2007 could have been chosen in a patriotic effort to showcase some quality Canadian content.

True, this logo could have been nominated due to my undeniable personal affinity with the discipline of corporate identity development. I may have also selected it just to be different, knowing that none of my fellow contributors would choose such an unlikely small town candidate. Although none of these motivations lack validity, I am proud to present the Saskatoon Blades logo for your consideration based on the simple fact that the brilliant new design is magnified by decades of absolute repugnancy.

Previously, in Saskatoon: Absolute repugnancy

The simple construction of the logo combined with layers of meaning is what I think makes it great. To have the vision to associate the “S” and the “B” with a 3- dimensional skate blade and combine it with the powerful imagery of the hilt and blade of a dangerous looking knife is uncommonly clever. The combination of three simple colours is effective and clean. The precise vertical balance of the elements used, makes the threat of being sliced up abundantly clear.

Even as a self-proclaimed swoosh-hater, the swooshes in this logo not only add knife wielding movement to the design, they also fit right in as skate laces.

After appreciating this design for some time I got to thinking that perhaps if I was the client, I would have requested to see a version of the logo with the skate/knife handle act as the “A” in “Blades”. I feel that might be another great opportunity to add some interactivity between the text and the visual elements.

The only other comment I have is the related to the positioning of “Saskatoon”. With the team name being the “Saskatoon Blades”, it’s a little counter intuitive to have it convey “Blades Saskatoon”. I have decided it’s something I can live with.

The symbolic relevance of the elements that compose this logo are harmonic and seamless. The meaning runs deep and the overall look is powerful. Those are the reasons why I’m a big fan. If you do not share my admiration, you are more than welcome to adopt an earlier iteration as your favourite.