Archive for May, 2006

Good point, well made

Tuesday, May 9th, 2006

(Via Advertising Ourselves to Death.)

More Women’s Masthead Mayhem

Tuesday, May 9th, 2006

The second story about women’s magazine mastheads this week:

Spot the difference between these two magazine covers:

On the face of it, they appear different (in as much as any women’s magazine cover looks different) but the similarity between the masthead design led the publishers of ‘Red’ to take the publishers of ‘Real’ to court. the case was settled before it came to trial, which is a shame as it means there’ll be no case law to add to that already in existence through previous ‘passing off’ cases. (An explanation of why ‘passing off’ remains a civil matter in the UK is provided here).

I have to admit I was confused by these covers, assuming some link or mixing them up, although that’s just in passing, but the legal test is whether any ordinary person would make a connection so I think that counts and is probably why the offenders gave in.

But the story doesn’t end there. Condé Nast, the publishers of Vogue have warned The Mail on Sunday that the typeface used for ‘You’ magazine, which has just gone from being a supplement to a paid-for news-stand title, is likely to cause confusion in the mind of consumers. The issue here, I think, is not that people will think ‘You’ is ‘Vogue’ but may think it is in some way associated with it (this is the issue that caused Apple Corp’s action against Apple Computer to fail, I think – no one in their right mind thinks iTunes is anything to do with the Beatles).

Let this be a lesson to you: imitation is not flattering.

Real magazine will be forced to completely redesign its masthead after agreeing an 11th hour legal settlement to a copyright action brought by rival title Red.
Red, owned by Hachette Filipacchi UK, which also publishes Elle and Psychologies, took legal action against Real magazine for copyright and intellectual property infringement.

Both magazines have mastheads that feature a capital letter R in a cursive font on a red background.

The action was due to be heard in court today, but Real settled late on Friday, agreeing to redesign its logo within 12 weeks and pay Hachette’s costs.

Hachette Filipacchi UK, which was represented by the firm M Law, took legal action against Burda, the German group that acquired Real when it bought UK company Essential Publishing last month.

Real was originally owned by German publisher Bauer, which redesigned the title before selling to Essential. Burda was represented by Marriott Harrison.

“I am thrilled that Hachette has finally reached settlement at the 11th hour, literally before going to trial. I wish new owner Burda every success with the rebranded title when they relaunch it,” said Kevin Hand, the chairman of Hachette Filipacchi UK.

Red magazine, aimed at women in their 30s, for which it coined the term “middle youth”, was originally a 50-50 joint venture between Hachette Filipacchi and Emap.

When Hachette Filipacchi set up in Britain in 2002, the two companies held an auction for the sole rights to the magazine. Hachette Filipacchi UK won, paying £34m, out bidding Emap by £17m.

Earlier this month Hachette Filipacchi UK closed B, its monthly glossy for young women, after a sharp decline in sales.

In February, lawyers representing Vogue magazine wrote to the Mail on Sunday complaining that the newspaper’s You magazine masthead’s typeface was “virtually indistinguishable” from the fashion magazine. The next month You launched as a paid-for newsstand weekly with a £1 cover price.

Condé Nast, which owns Vogue, requested that You take “all steps necessary” to ensure that readers did not confuse the two titles.

“We note that the typeface in which the word You is written is virtually indistinguishable from the typeface in which our client’s Vogue magazine has for decades been presented,” the letter said.

“In addition, like our client’s magazine, You magazine generally features a fashion model on its front cover to indicate the fashion-related topic on which the issue in question focuses.”

(Via The Guardian.)

Destroy all the satellites and we might have some proper news for a change

Tuesday, May 9th, 2006

Only 18 months to go and we will be drowning in ‘ten year anniversary’ programmes, books and no doubt musicals about the death of Diana, Princess of Wales (no, I can’t believe it was that long ago either).

I was discussing Diana’s death recently with students when discussing the speed with which news spreads around the world. Although instant alerts of events from the other side of the globe are touted as a ‘good thing’ I can’t help but wonder if the price we pay is authority and consideration. What I mean by this is that news programmes are filled with speculation (usually prefaced by the phrase ‘of course we shouldn’t speculate’) and commentary from people who are ill-qualified to do so. For example, if you want to get on TV, set up a pressure group, membership 1, appoint yourself media spokesperson, and let the news channels know you are there. If you correctly guess the next big thing, you’re bound to be called up to fill a few minutes while the real experts sit down and have a think.

Having said that, the quality of TV reporting these days, with patronising graphics and metaphors, is beyond a joke. Last week’s local council elections were covered by the BBC having a graphic pop up in the middle of the studio floor showing ‘the evolution of Tory man’, with ex prime minister John Major slouched like an ape, and each successive Tory leader getting gradually more erect (cue pun about John “two shags” Prescott) ending with David Cameron as ‘homo sapiens’. Crass, childish and rather disrespectful of the audience. The poor turnout in elections and mistrust of politicians isn’t the fault of politicians, it’s the fault of people who think that is an intelligent way to represent politics.

Anyway, back to the plot…

During the discussion I mentioned that people in America heard about the death of Diana before people in Britain, because of the time it happened and satellite communication. One student put her hand up and said she had been in Paris at the time on holiday with her family and didn’t hear about the accident until the end of the day. Staggering, but entirely believable.

Maybe I’m feeling my age, but it would be great if we heard about news stories properly, rather than when they were ‘breaking’ because few of the stories that are flashed up on screen turn out to be as dramatic as they seem to be at the time, with breathless reporters rushing in to the studio to tell us how little they know, and then being flown to the scene for a live satellite hook-up where they tell us nothing is happening and no details are emerging. If they’d stayed in the studio maybe they’d have been able to research a proper story, you know, like journalists used to do.

However… the term ‘journalist’ seems to be applied rather loosely today. Citizen journalism is another term for uninformed gossip (yes, I’m aware of the irony of a blogger complaining about such things. Leave me alone!) and another problem with news programmes these days is they spend far too much time reading emails from idiots instead of, oh I don’t know, talking to politicians and experts. Half the problems the UK government is facing come not from genuine problems but from the bullshit spouted by ‘Derek from Tonbridge who emails in to say “Tony Blair is a disgrace, he has no idea what he is doing and he is responsible for releasing murdering rapist foreigners into the community”‘ – or some-such. Er, Derek’s opinions aren’t news, they’re bollocks. If I wanted to listen to Derek and people like him I’d go to the pub – or get in any cab that’s passing.

I seem to have strayed somewhat from my original point. Where was I? Oh yes, Diana.

Well, she may be long gone but as anyone who ever casually passes the news-stand to see what drivel the Daily Express is ranting on about (and it takes a ranter to know one) will be painfully aware that as far as some ‘newspapers’ are concerned, she is still alive and well and busy selling copies like there’s no tomorrow (which sometimes I wish there weren’t).

The Guardian (sometimes guilty of proper journalism, and long may it continue) published a list of Diana-led headlines from the Express today. Read them and weep, not for Diana, but for the poor sods who buy into this crap.

While, for many people, Diana Princess of Wales died nearly a decade ago. But for the editors of the Daily Express, it seems, she lives on. As the following list of headlines from the newspaper over the past six months attests, the disappearance of the Princess of Hearts from the physical realm has not diminished her ability to make ‘news’.

05/12/05: “Diana’s death threat”

08/12/05: “100k for Di’s spare gown”

08/12/05: “Questions on Diana need to be answered”

12/12/05: “Diana’s death: poison expert called in”

12/12/05: “Charles is asked: did you kill your wife?”

19/12/05: “Diana’s grief for her piano man Pryor”

23/12/05: “Diana mother’s priest father flash vanishes”

03/01/06: “Dirty tricks wont airbrush Diana”

04/01/06: “We’ve long suspected a cover-up”

09/01/06: “Death squad has to tidy loose ends”

11/01/06: “French finally being made to cooperate”

30/01/06: “Why did spies visit the morgue?”

01/02/06: “Perhaps Diana should have worn seatbelt”

06/02/06: “Spies flashed laser beams”

07/02/06: “Diana was stupid, says Lagerfeld”

07/02/06: “Diana inquiry chief’s laptop secrets stolen”

09/02/06: “Theft of Diana laptops proof she was killed”

11/02/06: “Film tells of Diana’s murder”

13/02/06: “50,000 to marry at Diana’s home”

18/03/06: “Diana fountain condemned by MPs as a costly fiasco”

20/02/06: “Diana’s name used in scam”

22/03/06: “£250,000 a year bill to run Diana fountain”

23/02/06: “Spy started car death chase”

27/02/06: “Spies bugged Diana’s last calls”

04/03/06: “Queen’s new snub to Camilla – Diana ousts duchess on birthday website”

06/03/06: “Diana’s death – yet another lie exposed”

09/03/06: “Diana’s death ‘dirty’ tricks by MI6”

13/03/06: “Diana’s death inquest a sham”

17/03/06: “Queen’s anger at insult to Diana”

05/04/06: “Diana: Queen’s secret anguish”

05/04/06: “Diana seatbelt sabotage probe”

06/04/06: “Queen cam can’t replace Diana”

21/04/06: “Diana butt of sick jokes on TV”

25/04/06: “Diana seatbelt sabotage probe”

26/04/06: “Wife quoted Diana before stabbing husband’s mistress”

06/05/2006: “Diana death: truth at last”

· Research by Luke Waterson


I was right! (Manic laughter)

Monday, May 8th, 2006

Although I don’t like to revel in other people’s misfortunes I can’t help but smile wryly at the news that Silicon Graphics are filing for bankruptcy. Back in the late 90s I had several, erm, ‘conversations’ with finance directors and others at the company I worked for who insisted our request to purchase new Macs was pointless, as they would soon be bankrupt or (the old myth) had been bought out by Microsoft. (To give one ludicrous example I was told to stop developing our new website on my Mac because ‘it won’t be compatible with PCs’. In jest, when my Mac crashed inconveniently during this conversation I blamed my mousemat, saying it was for PCs, and it was only half an hour later that I realised they’d believed me…)

In my first teaching job the then principal had ordered that no more Macs be purchased (though he was talked out of that by several leading graphic designers, threats of strikes, and just about every student) and instead invested heavily, and publicly (he got the Mayor in to cut the ribon) in row upon row of SGI machines with the intention of taking Hollywood by storm based on a (rather impressive) demo reel of a former student.

Seven years on and the scene has changed. For one thing, the real geeks love Linux, not Windows, the ubergeeks love Mac OSX, Apple is the darling of the stock exchange while Microsoft are being criticised at every corner for the late delivery of Vista (something that seems to lose features at every beta) and the piss-poor performance of the tablet computer and the new UMPC (which managed to have one of the most successful viral campaigns that unfortunately promised far, far too much).

So the smile on my lips is not because I’m glad a company has gone bankrupt but because, once more, I am able to recall a heated argument that I won. True, it took seven years and the people I beat are hundreds of miles and several career moves away, but I’d like to think they’re lying awake tonight thinking ‘damn, he was right after all’.

I know revenge is a dish best served cold but this is downright freezing. Nice on a summer’s day, though…

Silicon Graphics files for Chapter 11: “

We can’t help but feel a twinge of melancholy as we ponder Silicon Graphics’ announcement today that the company is filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. However, the SGI of today is a mere shadow of it former self, with a mixed bag of products that range from overpriced, Linux-based, Intel-powered workstations to overpriced, Linux-based, Intel-powered supercomputers. But it wasn’t all that long ago that the SGI Indy was considered the hottest thing on the market, and seemed to herald the future of multimedia computing. Of course, that future was pre-empted first by cheaper Unix and Linux options, and later by Mac OSX and even Windows, which was hardly a factor in the graphics industry back in the early 90s when the Indy debuted. So, best of luck emerging from bankruptcy, SGI. We’d like to see you stick around for a bit just for old time’s sake. But if we want one of your boxes, we’ll skip the new ones, and hunt down an Indy on eBay.

(Via Engadget.)

Should a smile cost nothing?

Monday, May 8th, 2006

The best bit about this story is the detail about the creator of the World Smile Foundation (“making the world better one smile at a time”) taking someone to court because they used a similar logo. Oh the irony…

It’s enough to wipe the smile off anyone’s face. The world’s biggest retailer is locked in a bitter court battle with a French trademark entrepreneur over the rights to the smiley logo, writes David Fickling.

The smiley, which readers may associate with anything from instant messaging emoticons to terrorism to, inevitably, ecstasy pills, has been the subject of bad-tempered courtroom battles for years.

The latest is a dispute between Wal-Mart, which uses the logo in its superstores, and Franklin Loufrani, a former journalist who claims to have invented the invented the symbol in the wake of the 1968 Paris evenements as a way of designating cheery news stories to readers. (An ironic footnote: Wal-Mart sponsors a similar happy-news segment on America’s ABC television, although it does not use the smiley logo for those stories.)

Added to the mix is American advertiser and graphic designer Harvey Ball, who claims to have designed a smiley logo before Loufrani and set up the slightly pollyannaish World Smile Foundation to “improve this world, one smile at a time” before his death in 2001. In that positive spirit, in the late 1990s he threatened to take Loufrani to court for his copyright activities.

Coming at the same time as today’s judgment of a dispute between the Beatles’ Apple record label and Apple computers over the use of the Apple trademark on iPod music players, the smiley news seems a further step towards the copyrighting of everyday life.

Without wanting to make any extravagant claims for the peacemaking potential of the icon, you have to wonder whether all this litigation is what smileys were really meant to be about. Can’t we just be nice to each other?”

(Via The Guardian.)

Heads up!

Friday, May 5th, 2006

Here’s a great lesson in being very, very careful where you place the model’s head when designing magazine covers:

So I was in a fabric store purchasing some sort of unit of fabric for a dress for my mother, as a favour.

I was waiting at the checkout line trying to look like I knew what I was doing there, when I looked at the one magazine that was on sale, as one often does when stuck in a checkout line.

Now being a guy who doesn’t often frequent fabric stores to purchase units of fabric for dresses for my mother, as a favour, I had never seen this particular magazine, and so was quite surprised to see the word ‘Butt’ in giant pink type across the top of it.

It took me a second to figure out what the actual name of the magazine was really supposed to be, until I saw that their website was

Needless to say, as soon as I got home I went to their website and found that this was not the first time they had placed a model in a bad position on the cover”

(Via / blogzilla – the Blog of Nick Fruhling.)

Kate Greenaway Medal Nomination

Friday, May 5th, 2006

A former student, Emily Gravett, has been nominated for the Kate Greenaway illustrator’s medal for her book ‘Wolves‘.

I mentioned Emily a few months ago here after the Guardian made her author of the month. Good luck to her:

“When the Kate Greenaway medal – for illustrations for younger children – was launched 49 years ago, its first winner was Edward Ardizzone.

Among this year’s finalists is Emily Gravett, an ex-traveller who is not long out of a Brighton University art course. She began drawing to stop herself ‘going up the walls’ after moving off the road into a house when her daughter was born.”

(Via The Guardian.)

The Greenaway medal is an interesting award as it doesn’t bestow riches on the winner, instead giving them £500 to purchase books for a library of their choice – quite a fitting reward, I think.