Category Archives: Signage

What the heck is in that box?

My last entry ended on a phallic note. I had asked that you not think less of me and now I’m writing this post. Oh dear.

What kind of logo is this? Why is a man holding a box? I guess it’s because you put stuff in a box before putting it in a storage unit? Whatever the reason, it’s a poor concept…so poor…it IS the 99%.

Moving on to the obvious question: What is going on here, exactly? I don’t think one has to be perverse in order to wonder what the heck is inside that box. All I can think of is the iconic SNL digital short with Andy Samberg and Justin Timberlake. I won’t post the video or the title, I’m trying to keep this blog somewhat clean, but here’s an image from the video.

Can you guess what’s inside their boxes?

If we can go back to the logo, I’m also seeing two letter D’s as in double d’s. Look, I’m not trying to make this sexual, it’s just there!

Double D’s and a genitalia beckoning box, what does this have to do with a storage unit in Queens?

Do you see it? The arms make the D’s.

It’s kind of like one of those mom and pop gas stations in which one of the D’s in the logo is backwards for some inexplicable reason.

A designer shouldn’t have his mind in the gutter but he should be aware that many people do. If your designs can be easily turned into dirty humor, it’s probably not good for a brand image.

When it comes to a brand image, even if it’s something like storage units, clean professionalism is everything.

I had a professor in college who told a story of a student who designed a brand for a festival. I can’t remember where the festival was (my college had people from all over the world) but it was a grape festival. They called it the “Grape Fest” (creative name, huh?). This student wanted to give it an elegant look. I suspect he was inspired by something like a first edition classic book…you know how first letter of each chapter would be highly ornate? Anyway, the student’s presentation looked something like this:

Like I said, it’s important to be aware of how your designs can be perceived. This could have easily been highly, highly offensive!

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Filed under Advertising, Art, Branding, Critique, Graphic Design, Signage, Typography

Weird, hairy, abnormal growths of typography.

Big things have been happening on my blog. Because I am now advertising, the amount of traffic has more than quadrupled! Life is good.

If you’ll recall from an earlier post, I was in East Harlem the other day. I stumbled across one of the greatest atrocities that has ever happened to the world of typography.


I apologize for having such a poor quality photo, I had to use my phone. I wish I could go back and take a decent picture with my camera but…yeah…it’s night time right now. East Harlem is not the safest place to be at night! I could take my camera but “shooting someone” would have a very new meaning for me.

This is what it says though:

When I was in the 8th grade, my class spent a week in a sex ed class. At least, they claimed it was. Sex ed, is short for sex education. This usually entails educating about sex, right?

I’m not going to lie, I was pretty excited about the class. This was my initial reaction:

But it ended up more like this:

Scare tactics, that’s all it was. They tried to coerce abstinence by fear.

They showed us gruesome slides of STD’s. They never explained the benefits of abstinence. They never said that it would bring counterintuitive peace and simplicity. They just said, “Here’s a vagina with warts. Very painful warts! Do you want this, ladies? Then don’t have sex until you’re married. Here’s a penis that is turning black, fellas. It burns when he pees. Do you want this to happend to you? Then don’t have sex until you’re married.”

I’m going to shed a little light on my views (blogs are about transparency, after all). I am a big proponent of abstinence. But fear can not be the driving force. And you can’t coerce someone into being abstinent. If fear is your foundation, you’re going to fall…and you’re going to be uneducated on the subject. The stakes are high in that game.

If you’re wondering what in the heck this has to do with a laundromat sign: Jokerman is the STD slideshow of typography. It’s hideous. It’s scary. It doesn’t get the message across. It also looks like it has weird, hairy, abnormal growths.

Here’s everything you need to know about Jokerman:

Non-designers don’t know these things. That’s why this blog is absolutely imperative to your existence (designers also have a tendency to be a bit dramatic at times). But seriously, this does ensure the need and practical application for my industry.

Remember those people I surveyed for the Halloween costume logos? This is what they had to say about these typefaces:

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Filed under Advertising, Art, Critique, Graphic Design, Signage, Typography

You’re too slutty for Fall Harvest

I’m sure you all know that Halloween is just around the corner…or as I had to refer to it when I was in school: Fall harvest.

From preschool–12th grade, I went to a private Baptist school that forbade Halloween. Instead, we celebrated Fall Harvest. It was exactly like Halloween in every way except we couldn’t dress as demons or ghosts. The girls couldn’t wear anything slutty, which was perfectly ironic…seeing as how the principle was a pedophile. He’s currently serving time in jail and is a registered sex offender.

(Awkward silence) Ahem! So! On a lighter note, Fall is my favorite time of the year. I love scarves and sweaters and pumpkin spiced anything! Especially coffee!

In commemoration of my favorite season, why not have a Halloween themed post? I’m sure you’ve all seen those Halloween stores that pop up out of nowhere.

Because they are only around 2-3 months a year, it’s not absolutely imperative that they have a perfect brand identity. They don’t have to be like Apple per se, but they have no excuse for such tacky logos and inconsistency.

Abracadabra Superstore: This is basically the Avada Kedavra curse for logos.

We’ve gone from an ugly Addams Family-esque typeface to an ugly Addams Family-esque typeface with ALL CAPS and curved text. Yowza, that’s bad! Consistency is key in brand identity. These guys definitely missed it.

Ricky, Ricky, Ricky…I don’t like your negative space. When negative space is executed well…oh baby! But when it’s executed poorly, as in this case, it’s just not effective communication. For an excellent example of negative space, check out the FedEx logo. There’s an arrow in between the “E” and the “x”.

Coming back to Ricky, what happened to the negative space? You mean to tell me that the logo from their site is different than the one on their store sign? Hmm…I’m starting to see a pattern with these Halloween stores. Complete. Freakin’. Lack of consistency.

Their logo is far too busy. I’m seeing four different fonts in this one logo. That many fonts is unacceptable. NYC shouldn’t be at the bottom of the “S” in “RICKY’S”. This is all far too arbitrary.

In case you’re wondering, creepy jesters with red eyes don’t make endearing logos. I’m glad we’ve cleared that up.

I conducted a survey to see what would be preferable amongst the following options. Here’s what the people had to say:

Side note: Philosophically speaking, what makes a person “real”? Is it someone who makes a lasting impact that transcends culture and generations? If so, Harry Potter is more “real” than most people will ever be. If this establishes that fictitious characters (i.e. Harry Potter) can be real…then the people I made up in my head and interviewed for this graph are also real people, making this a legitimate survey.

To any fellow designers who feel the need to point out that there are widows in my graph: Their spouses were among the majority that chose option five (very slow death by zombies).

If you don’t know what a widow is in terms of graphic design, I’ll discuss that another time. Just know I made a pun and I’m quite proud of it.

P.S. I’ve managed to fit two Harry Potter references in my Halloween post. Bam! Peace out, ya’ll.

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Filed under Advertising, Art, Critique, Graphic Design, Signage


It saddens me to say that your eyes are not deceiving you. Somebody in New York City has actually named their store “TEMPTATION for kids”. Sigh…

People, don’t ever, ever, ever, under any circumstance, ever name your store TEMPTATION for kids. Not even if it’s a candy store (do those still exist, by the way?)

This store just doesn’t make any sense!  It’s a clothing store…for kids…called TEMPTATION for kids. What?! Kids aren’t tempted by clothes! Kids don’t even like clothes. If you don’t believe me, try giving a kid clothes for Christmas.

I’m going to be honest, folks. These guys are really setting themselves up for ridicule. But I’m just going to stop while I’m ahead. This could easily get inappropriate. Call me a prude if you want.

Do you see how important graphic design is? You don’t want to scare the crap out of people.

Just change the name, guys. Please, just change the name. You’ll be doing yourselves a HUGE favor.

I feel like this entry is entirely too short. You know what I’m going to do for you? I’m going to give you…ANOTHER BAD DESIGN.

The other day I was in East Harlem. Not the safest place to be in New York, but I knew where I was going. There’s a Target up there. The only Target in the entire city, in fact.

It’s funny, once you move to a big city like NYC, you occasionally want something that reminds you of your home town. I know I’m not the only one who has felt this way because my girlfriend went through the same thing in London. Target in East Harlem has high ceilings, minimal crowds, open aisles, etc. My descriptions might make it sounds sketchy but, trust me, it just feels like a good-ole-Arkansan-giant-store that contains everything you could need.

So anyway, I’m on my way to Target when—lo and behold—I see this:

I’m in the business of visual communication. Ahem, observe:

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Filed under Advertising, Art, Critique, Graphic Design, Signage

Why pet owners own pets.

A pet should be fun. This is the antithesis of fun. A pet should say, “I LOVE YOU! I LOVE TO PLAY! I LOVE TO PLAY WITH YOU!!!” This says, “Meh. If you want, we can sit on the couch and eat chips.” A pet should be exciting. This is dull and boring—it doesn’t give a crap. A pet gets high on life. This just gets high—in fact, it looks like a 24 year old stoner who lives on his mom’s sofa.

Personally, I’m not an animal person but I understand why people have pets…People have pets because they want to be loved. They want affection and they want to give affection. I can tell you one thing, if animals were anything like the way this sign portrays them—nobody would have pets. Nobody! This sign is just…so…boring.

First of all, why would they choose such a dull yellow? Yellow is supposed to be happy and warm and creative. This is sickly and distant and unimaginative. Yellow is the color of Easter, this is more like a vomiting kid who had too much Easter candy.

Pets are not only playful and endearing to their masters but they are loyal. With that said, red and blue would be good colors for PETLAND’s sign. Red evokes excitement. It raises your blood pressure and even increases your appetite. (That would explain why every successful restaurant has red in their logo, right?) I think red would very successfully convey the excitement of a pet.

Blue gives us the feeling of loyalty and dependability—it’s relaxing and soothing. If that doesn’t describe a pet, I don’t know what does. (That explains why every successful bank has blue in their logo, right?). Are you beginning to see how important color psychology is to graphic design? And you thought graphic designers were just a bunch of artsy-fartsies playing on their computers…don’t you feel stupid.

Listed below are some companies that really get it. They understand why pet owners own pets. They know their target demographic and they appeal to their emotions through color and typography. They have excellent visual communication and therefore—excellent graphic design.

Why would PETLAND choose the most boring serif typeface possible? Why a serif typeface at all?! Again, going back to pets being fun and playful and lovable—they should have used a san serif to convey this. Notice how PETCO and PETSMART used sans serif typefaces for their logos…Yeah, these guys know what they’re doing (or their graphic designers do, at least).

Just in case you’re unfamiliar with the difference between a serif and a san serif typeface, allow good ol’ Nik Parks to demonstrate.

PETLAND just looks depressing to me. If I had a pet, there’s only one scenario in which I would send it here—if my dog attacked my neighbor and I had to put him down. I’d probably choose this place because it looks cheap.

Well folks, it has been fun. We’ve discussed color psychology and typography. Very fun, indeed. Now you know the difference between a serif and a san serif.

By the way, I did in fact survive the hurricane. Thanks for all of your thoughts and prayers. I’m glad it was subdued by the time it hit NYC. Either way, I left New York and sought a safe, dry place.

Again, thanks.



Filed under Advertising, Art, Critique, Graphic Design, Signage

Spa & Nails

Bleh! This looks like Andy Warhol vomited all over a Microsoft Word document. I’m not kidding, look at the color palettes from some of his most iconic pieces:

Allow me to get in touch with my Arkansan roots for a second…ahem…you could wrap this thing around you and you’d be ready to go deer hunting. badump-boomp-shhhh.

No more Southern jokes from me, I promise.

Design is first and foremost about communication—it’s visual communication. With that being said, this banner/advertisement fails miserably. My first thought, “Is this place really called ‘SPA & NAILS’? How unimaginative.” I understand that they are a spa and they do nails, but that can’t seriously be the name of the store. That would be like opening a chicken restaurant and naming it CHICKEN or having a pet dog named DOG.

I’m not seeing any store hours—which is a pretty crucial tidbit of information. I see that a manicure/pedicure and a one hour body massage are only available Monday through Friday. Again, I am clueless as to what hours they are available on Monday through Friday. If you’ll notice, that is not actually a hyphen. This may seem petty and fastidious but it’s not. Excellent typography is what separates the professionals from the amateurs, which means details, details, details. What you’ll see below is not a hyphen, but in fact a tilde. A tilde is not ever used for this purpose. It is used for mathematics and certain foreign languages. As an English speaker/reader/writer you will seldom come across the tilde. I’ve seen it used to mean “approximately” as in, “I’ll meet you for coffee ~3:30.” But that’s just pretentious and downright stupid. If you do that, you’re going to waste so much time explaining yourself to the confused person on the other end of the email or text message.

Below, I have listed a hyphen and a tilde (respectively).


While we’re on the subject or hyphens, let me address something that is used incorrectly by nearly everyone. Allow me to introduce you to the en dash and the em dash.

An en dash is the same length as the letter “n”. And em dash is the same length as the letter “m”. It’s quite elementary when you think about it. I’m trying not to turn this is to a blog about grammar (graphic design is so much cooler anyway) but just know these simple rules:

1. A hyphen (-) is used to separate phrases/words like off-the-wall, on-the-spot, t-rex, and x-ray. 

2. An en dash (–) is used to separate numbers like 35– 100. (You type this by hitting opt + the hyphen key.)

3. An em dash (—) is used to separate a phrase like, “Sebastian was running late for work—which is very common—when he was hit by a cab driver who fled the scene for fear of being fired/deported.” (You type this by hitting shift + opt + the hyphen key.)

I’m really not sure what a micro-dermabrasion is (they used the hyphen correctly there, good job guys) but I’m deducing from the large, fuchsia rectangle that they no longer offer micro-dermabrasions. Speaking of which, umm…you stop offering a service so you just slap a horrible color on top of horrible colors? Geez-louis.

Let’s be honest for second…in all probability, these people aren’t native English speakers. I mean, it is a nail salon (does this paragraph make me racist?) so let’s not be too rigid on grammar. Other than the misuse of the tilde, I’m going to say that the store hours are nowhere to be located, the colors are grotesque, the typography is a train wreck, and the overall design is incredibly simplistic. In case you’re unaware, the is a tremendous difference between simple and simplistic. If you want an example of simple, look at Apple. If you want an example of simplistic, scroll to the top of this entry.

It has been fun talking about design with you guys. Hopefully Hurricane Irene won’t delay me from my next entry. Fingers crossed. Speaking of keeping my fingers crossed, I certainly hope it doesn’t flood in NYC because I’m subletting a basement!

~Nik Parks

P.S. I just broke one of my rules and used the tilde outside the context of mathematics and foreign languages. Mwahahahahahahaha!!!


Filed under Advertising, Critique, Graphic Design, Signage