I was lucky enough to get a sneak peek at the not-yet-released Mohawk Maker Quarterly #5, and my conclusion in a word is: Wow! I absolutely can’t wait to see it in person. Replete with printed inserts and lots of lush photography, the PDF I’ve reviewed just does not do it justice!
Graced with an Lisa Congdon illustration that you can see on the left hand side of the image below, the theme is perception. Since the René Magritte painting The False Mirror has long been an inspiration to me — it features in an extreme close-up of an eye with clouds in its blue iris — this issue is right up my alley! You can see how the insert features Thomas O’Connor’s letter one side, the table of contents on its back. How I wish I thought that up!
O’Connor points out that for most people, their perception is their reality — although the two are not the same. Perception is colored by personal interpretation — which in turn is informed by culture, life experience, education and bias. Not only does perception shape design, but design shapes our perception of the brands and designers we love. He finishes, “Our work — every choice we make, whether typeface or tool, photo or paper — has the power to create impressions and change minds. It’s the power of perception.”
There’s a lot of food for thought here, and so that this is not just a summary that pales next to the real thing, I’m picking just a few of my favorite parts. The first piece interviews Debbie Millman, writer, educator and consultant, on how successful brands shape consumer perception. “Branding is a process, a discipline,” she explained. “It’s a mashup of four related disciplines that come together to create the most engaging result: cultural anthropology, behavioral psychology, economics and creativity.”
So whether you are selling Buy Nothing Day or a can of soda, the same principles apply.
That’s all very well and good, but the next piece takes it to the next level with a case study of a classic American brand — Levi Strauss & Co. — to show how it has reflected our culture for well over a century. The San Francisco brand first outfitted Gold Rushers in their patented riveted denim fabric, creating a new category of clothing — the Blue Jean — but by the freewheeling 1960s, its products had become highly individualized canvases for personal identity.
“Patches, embroidery, embellishment and expression become a way to make your clothes into a personal statement — from miners and cowboys to hot-rod rebels, hippie activists and heavy metal warriors, no two people, no two generations and no two garments are ever worn the same, each as unique as the people and time that they come from. In Levi’s, Americans begin to see themselves,” the article reads.
The piece takes you through the evolution of the humble pocket on a Western shirt. Who knew something so simple could have so much variety? First up: the Smile Pocket from the 1930s.
Next is the diagonal off-center pocket with pearlized snap from the 1940s.
That evolved into the two-button diagonal pocket with pearlized diamond snaps, 1950s.
And here we see 1959’s border town with synperl snaps.
Here is the Ogden with diamond pearlized snaps, 1960s.
The two button Custer city with pearlized snaps, 1962.
The Timberline with pearlized buttons, 1965.
Sawtooth with pearlized snaps, 2013.
And finally, curved off center pocket with metal snap, 2013.
Next up is a piece by Bryn Mooth on one of my all-time favorite subjects, color, and how it relates to brand perception. “According to KISSmetrics, 85 percent of shoppers cite color as a primary reason why they buy a product,” she writes. “People perceive color before they perceive shapes or words.”
Color plays a big part in logos — financial institutions favor blue for stability, organic companies prefer green to reference the earth and plant life. When you partner two colors, things can get a little complicated: A strong color with a subtle neutral can connote boldness rooted in strategy, while two cool hues might feel serene.
Paper plays a big role here, Mooth emphasizes. “Think of paper as a fifth color—whether overlaid with ink or left bare, the surface becomes an integral part of the message.”
Speaking of which, the entire piece is awash in Lisa Congdon’s dazzling work.
Other articles focus on SFMOMA’s On The Go program. The museum is being renovated for three years, so its collection has left its familiar walls behind to mingle with the community in unexpected ways. How much a role does environment play in our perception of art, the piece wonders, and what happens in a new one?
Also not to be missed: a compendium of favorite products from Neal Whittington and Mark Smith of Present & Correct. Their London shop (and online version) offers new and vintage items for desk, office and correspondence — and the wee vignettes they share in Mohawk Maker Quarterly elevate everyday items into something special.
I always love discovering who is featured in the Champions of Craft section, and their thoughts on the issue’s topic. One of my favorite letterpressers, Ladyfingers Letterpress, literally jumped off the PDF. “There are a lot of obvious ways in which the hand-crafted materials that we make differ from a digital experience, but there are ways that we’re not so far apart,” their section reads. “Our work shares a thread with some of the most successful digital experiences: a common spark of curiosity. Whether you are untying a Ladyfingers Letterpress package and navigating the pieces inside, or opening a new game on your iPad and discovering the many layers of interactivity and function, you’re using the same part of your brain. The ‘Christmas Morning’ part of your brain, you know?”
Also in the Champions of Craft section is Lisa Congdon. The Oakland-based artist and illustrator writes, “The art world is a scary place for a lot of artists because the value of your work is completely subjective. So you have to find value in the process of making, of being inspired, and even in making mistakes. If we bring all of our experience to our work, it will be more meaningful, even if it has no value to others. I try to bring my whole experience to my work. If I’m having a bad day, I try to use that. Or if I’m feeling really inspired by something I saw the day before, I try to use that. But it’s not always easy.”
I love the idea of using whatever you’re feeling that day in your work — my approach has always been to try not to let my mood get in the way of producing, producing, producing. But I am always up for a new perspective!
I’ve written a lot in this post, but believe me, it barely scratches the surface of this issue. First off, I want to actually hold it in my hand and experience it. We edit proofs of Stationery Trends digitally, and when I get my physical issue, I always perceive it so differently from the proofs I’ve reviewed over and over online.
In Mohawk Maker Quarterly’s case, I can’t wait to see the paper it’s on and especially those fun inserts. And, I see the Mohawk Live icons throughout, but I have no idea what actually happens when you bring their Augmented Reality App into it. To get your very own free copy, sign up here — and you may well find yourself perceiving the world a bit differently!