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Alexandra:  

Graphic Designer, treasurer hunter, reader, Meryl Streep enthusiast.

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What differentiates you from Kyle?

Not much, we are actually siblings — twin spies genetically engineered and sent by [edited for legal reasons] to infiltrate your company and corrupt your files.  Our operation is going well — so far.

Where did you go to school?

Wellington Exempted Village public schools K-12

That sounds made up.

When is your birthday and what embarrassing thing about you can we ice on a cake?

October 31st  — I know that has to set me up for something good, I have high expectations.

What terrifies you most about Justin Tokos?

Any type of food he tries to put on my desk. (Especially when he waits there and stares at me to see if I will or wont eat it.) Suspicious.

We were thinking you would say something more along the lines of “everything.”

Nope, just the food thing.

Aw, that’s cute.

So, what brought you to 427 — besides the extravagant pay check, two day work weeks and free kittens (we don’t have any of those things here, by the way)?

4 plus 2 plus 7 equals 13, the unluckiest number?

I’m not as good at math, but what does 4 + 2 + You’re Fired equal?

Still 13.

In “427 Design: The Movie”, who would play you?

[Edited for legal reasons], for obvious reasons. 

Who is your favorite Ninja Turtle and why?

Venus, because she is the most hated. 

I’ve never heard of her, but she sounds awesome.

So, what’s with all the vests?

They hold in my soul. 

Don’t tell Justin.

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So, Kyle — what’s it feel like to be the second of three “K-named” people we’ve hired in a month?

Kinda like being the middle child. But a lot better than being the third (sorry Kevin).

What differentiates you from Kaitlyn and Kevin?

That’s probably the hardest question honestly. I don’t really know Kaitlyn or Kevin that well yet.

Neither do we.

But Kaitlyn is shorter than me and Kevin is taller than me. I know that much.

Where did you go to school?

I went to Manchester High School in southern Summit County and I graduated from the University of Akron last May.

When is your birthday and what embarrassing thing about you can we ice on a cake?

My birthday is February 7th. The most embarrassing thing I have ever had happen to me in my life (so far) was when I accidentally used a women’s restroom in college and was almost caught, so take that as you will I guess. But I find it hilarious now.

Now. We’ll talk again on February 8th.

How do you feel about not having a window in your office?

Well, I do have a window.

Oh.

But I am forced to absorb all my sunlight for the day secondarily through Brad’s office.

What brought you to 427 — besides the extravagant pay check, two day work weeks and free kittens (we don’t have any of those things here, by the way)?

I WAS told about the kittens so that played a big part until I found out it wasn’t true. But the history, talent, and expectations 427 has makes working here a fun and challenging experience.

In “427 Design: The Movie”, who would play you?

Ryan Gosling

Who is your favorite BK Kid and why?

BK Kids may have been a little before my time, but from what I vaguely remember I’d say Kid Vid because of how much he loves videogames and his cool goggles.

Well, now that I feel officially old, can you explain to me how this Internet business works to me in five words or less?

A series of everlasting tubes.

So just like Discovery Zone?

Exactly.

Cool.

Look at this design!

By now I’m sure you’re aware that there’s this thing called an “election” going on today, but instead of comparing the candidates on important issues such as the economy, foreign affairs and social policy, I thought I’d talk about what really matters: each campaign’s respective graphic design.

From logos, to websites, to social networks, each campaign has literally spent millions (possibly billions) of dollars in hopes of securing your vote. So how did each campaign do? Until we know the actual results, here’s how they stack up from a purely visual standpoint:

LOGO

Infinitely adaptable, clever and just plain nice to look at, Obama’s logo has been a game changer from the start. Thankfully, this time around, the campaign had the good sense to leave the ‘O’ mark alone — if it ain’t broke.

Romney’s mark on the other hand is a bit of a yawn. That is until you realize that it also very closely resembles the Aquafresh toothpaste squiggle. I’m all for dental hygiene, but even that connection doesn’t make sense for Romney — if we’re comparing teeth to teeth, the Obama/Biden ticket is clearly the leader when it comes to their pearly whites.

LOGO INCORPORATION/TYPOGRAPHY

Typography

With a custom, slab-serif version of the typeface Gotham updating his look for 2012, the Obama campaign really understands beautiful typography. They could have very easily fallen into the trap of replacing the ‘O’ in Obama with his circular mark, but they are smarter than that. Yes, his yard signs are a bit hard to read from a distance, but the teeny-tiny-type-loving designer in me applauds the effort to keep it classy.

By contrast, the Romney campaign apparently had no qualms about replacing the ‘R’ in Romney with his toothpaste squigg, which creates its own readability issue (Omney for President!). The supporting, serif typeface isn’t terrible, but it’s not exactly a thing of beauty. The large ‘i’ in ‘IN’ is puzzling, and the combination of the e and y serifs is a bit sloppy. The ‘m’ and the ‘n’ are also awkwardly joined, but the ‘n’ and the ‘e’ are not — consistency is key, and is something the Romney campaign doesn’t seem to care much about.

WEBSITE

While both websites get my kudos for being well-designed, especially as far as governmental/political sites go, BarackObama.com is simpler, more consistent and feels more current than MittRomney.com. The Obama campaign keeps things easy with their main navigation broken into three categories. Romney has four up top, and then an additional four below.

The “Get the Facts, Get the Latest, Get Involved” language of Obama’s site is clear and direct and a lot more motivating than “Learn About Mitt.” It should also be said that the Romney campaign should hire a new photographer — almost every photograph they use in their materials is average at best, especially when compared with Obama’s striking (and well-edited) imagery.

FACEBOOK

Social Media has become an important and integral part of each campaign, with frequent Facebook updates on both sides. A quick visit to each candidates official page reveals an instant difference in style. While the messages (VOTE!) and elements (photo of candidate, American flag, text) are basically the same, the designs are radically different.

Once again, the Obama campaign presents a simple, clean and elegant design. They use two words to say essentially the same thing that the Romney campaign says in eight — plus a url.  Their image of Obama is clearly a professional, quality photograph, while the rally photo of Romney (is that even Romney? Why isn’t the focus more on him, and less on the billowing American flags?) is as ordinary as can be.

The Obama typography is bold and consistent with their branding. I get what the Romney campaign is trying to do with the script/sans serif combination, but they’re not quite there. They also throw in an italic and serif, for a total of four different type styles, none of which come close to being as pleasing as Obama’s one.

VIRAL GRAPHICS

Each campaign has also tried to create individual, easily digestible, post-able graphics for  Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram. Once again consistency is key in the Obama campaign, and I’ve found myself envying their beautiful creations on numerous occasions. They’re informative, to the point, and just plain nice to look at.

By contrast, the Romney graphics are a bit all-over the place, in terms of style and general design. The photos are ho-hum (dark, poor quality, outdated — how many of you not only have a land line at home, but two??), the typography is sloppy (or hard to read) and they’re generally just… ugly.

Nowhere is the contrast between the two design styles more evident than when you compare these two graphics — both are intended to deliver a message about the candidate’s platform. The Obama campaign demonstrates a clear understanding and mastery of color usage, hierarchy, typography and readability. Which of these would you rather hang on your wall? Can you even stand to look at the Romney plan long enough to read it? Strange, unrecognizable silhouettes, gradients, stars, banners, speech bubbles, arrows, so many stripes — even those scissors are patriotic.

I think that no matter how you feel about Obama the candidate, there is no doubt that his campaign not only churned out some wonderful designs, but managed to maintain a quality and consistency level to which all future campaigns should aspire. Now go vote, if you haven’t already done so, and may the best man design win!

I’m Alexandra Charitan, and I approve this message.

Andrea!

So, Andrea Brown — that’s a fairly common name. Maybe too common. Is it fake?

Yes. I’m in the witness protection program. If anyone asks, I have nooooo idea who killed Tupac.

Don’t worry, no one will see this interview.

Are you related to James Brown? Jackie Brown? What’s your favorite color? What is your favorite Cleveland football team?

I am not, but I think that if James Brown and Jackie Brown were to reproduce…I am what you would get. As for football, I prefer to keep my allegiances private…for my safety and that of my family (but there may or may not be a Terrible Towel hanging in my office come football season).

*Editor’s note: Andrea did not provide an answer to “What’s your favorite color?” thereby indicating to us, and the world, that she in fact, has no favorite color.

When is your birthday and what embarrassing thing about you can we ice on a cake?

February 5, whatever year makes me eternally 29. And why on earth would I tell you that?

So, you share a birthday month with Paul, John and Brad — that makes one less cake we need to get. Thank your parents for us.

No problem.

What brought you to 427 — besides the extravagant pay check, two day work weeks and free kittens (we don’t have any of those things here, by the way)?

Time to get serious…that’s easy. There is crazy talent here. CRAZY talent. And I had to be a part of it.

So you think we’re crazy?

My suspicions have been confirmed.

Now that you’re our new Account Executive, can you tell us exactly  what an “account executive” does every day? Because I don’t think anyone here knows.

I have no idea, either, that’s why I changed the title to Client Service + Business Development (Brad said Sr. VP of Awesomeness was a little over the top).

If you were casting “427 Design 2: Lost in New York”, who would play you?

Betty White. Duh.

Were you nervous about occupying an office whose previous occupants have included a web programmer and a Sam Karlo?

No one told me that this was Sam Karlo’s office? That explains all the porn… At least the programmer was smart enough to wipe the system clean.

Do you have any advice for aspiring “account executives” out there, currently coveting your job?

Marry for money. Work for love.

Who is your favorite Golden Girl, and why?

I cannot possibly pick one. Its like asking me which color of M&M tastes better. Each they are all equally awesome!

Did you eat my lunch?

Nope, it was Joe. I saw him do it. And he said he is not afraid of you.

He should be.

If you’ve ever changed the handles on your cabinets, or moved a wall clock, you know that we are creatures of habit. We gravitate towards the right (unless you’re that one, slow a-hole blocking rush-hour stair traffic) and buy our beverages based solely on the color of the can.

We’d like to think that we’re incredibly self-aware, able to make informed choices and possess open minds, but if the recent Coca Cola s-can-dal has taught us anything, it’s that we’re anything but. Basically, as an attempt to call attention to a partnership with the World Wildlife Fund, the powers-that-be at Coke released a special holiday version of their classic red can — something they do every year — but this one was, wait for it … white. GASP!

Mayhem ensued, with diabetics unknowingly guzzling the classic (read: sugar-filled) formula — duped as they were by the white can. “It was too similar to the Diet version!” they exclaimed. “It tasted differently“, others insisted. Never mind that the can clearly shows the “Coca-Cola” logo — much different, aesthetically from the Diet Coke branding — and that the iconic script occupies nearly a third of the can. Also, ignore the fact that the outside packaging remained red. America had had enough and demanded that the hoighty-toighty design-conscious snobs stop messing around with their beloved can.

So, they did. Coke is pulling their “bastardized” cans from shelves and replacing them with different, more consumer-friendly (red) designs — a plan they claim was always in the works (how convenient).

Aside from highlighting the incredibly finicky nature of the American consumer, this recent s-can-dal only reinforces what most designers already know: change is a difficult sell. No matter how much of an improvement, or how much more aesthetically pleasing a design may be, re-branding a product (or company, or person) can be an enormously difficult and touchy undertaking.

Aunt Mae’s corner cupcake shop is one thing. Huge, well-loved and well-known brands face the ire and criticism of the whole world, or at least it can seem like it (especially with the advent of that every-man’s soapbox, Twitter). Just ask the marketing departments at Tropicana or the Gap — both companies rolled out “drastic” (and I’m sure, very expensive) redesigns of their beloved brands this year, only to say out with the new, (back) in with the old, as a response to the outcries each respective design received.

People don’t like change, or at least most people don’t — whether they’re aware of it or not. Just because something is new, however, does not mean it is inherently evil — although I could argue that there have been plenty of re-brands that should have been scrapped, or at least immediately re-worked (I’m looking at you, Pepsi).

As designers, we generally have pretty amazing jobs. We’re not working in a coal mine, or operating on hearts —  at the same time, our profession is legitimate and some times (if we’re lucky) even influential. We have to be thoughtful and respectful with our ideas, whether they be for Aunt Mae or an industry titan like Coke.

And then, we have to stand behind our choices as professionals, or be prepared to crumble and suffer the often-times, very public (and expensive) indignity of a “just kidding” (Qwikster, anyone?).

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