The I. M. Pei Pyramid at the Musée du Louvre is one of the most architecturally distinctive buildings in Paris, and draws a lot of its meaning from its centrality within the Louvre. It is the entrance pavilion, the exit pavilion, the hub at the center of the museum’s diverse galleries and exhibits. The pyramid is an icon—both for the Louvre, and, cleverly, for the exit:


This is brilliant because it introduces a literal meaning to pictograms. All too often, pictograms are abstracted idealizations: An exit is a figure moving, a door, an arrow. In the Louvre, the pictogram for “exit” literally means “exit”. It is both universal and place-specific, balancing between the need to speak to a specific audience and the need to speak to the multinational members of the audience. The pyramid, already an icon for the museum, is abstracted and flattened into an icon of itself.

That the Louvre can invent its own pictograms speaks to the strength of the institution. You can do it, but it’s not a good idea, because it tends to hurt wayfinding significantly while aiding branding very little. The cleverness of the pyramid-as-exit pictogram is that it’s smart graphic design, but it’s not merely smart graphic design. It’s also smart wayfinding.


Boardwalk Candy Palace is a candy store in the Main Street USA section of Disneyland Park. The store is an example of the park’s culture of caricature, a result of the park’s filtering of information. Disneyland Resort Paris (1) filters out information incompatible with the resort’s family-friendly image, (2) heightens information in line with the narrative it is presenting and (3) tints the information to make it palatable (or more palatable) to a European audience. You see all of this in Boardwalk Candy Palace—which is essentially just a candy store in a pedestrian mall. 1, incompatibility: The store is decidedly upper-middle class (poor people are very un-Disney, unless they become rich through grit and determination) and the candy presents no health risks. 2, heightening: The neo-Victorian styling is over-the-top, but not out of place in a Disney theme park; the staff wear exaggerated versions of early-20th-century American garb. And 3, tinting:


American flags in stained glass, wall-sized Atlantic City murals: The store is a testimony to the enduring power of American capitalism (or something). It’s not clear what the store’s message is, just that it is unquestionably American—because America sells. Boardwalk Candy Palace is also an example of the complicated, overlapping influences felt throughout the park: It is a French store (Disneyland Resort Paris) sponsored by a Swiss company (Nestle), selling an American product (Disney candy) to an international audience. Pico Iyer would have a field day.

The entire resort is this weird blend of Europe and America: Ornately and fastidiously detailed (to counter prevailing European concerns that the park would be merely cheap Americana) but selling hyper-Americanism (because cheap Americana sells, and sells well.) It’s a fascinating mish-mash of cultural and aesthetic concerns, manifested as they so often are in architecture.


What do you do with a successful brand? You push it, and push it, and push it.


How disconnected these four women are from their fairy-tale origins! 

The possible downsides of inviting your consumers to eat semolina representations of your characters.


The sheep-skins and disguises in which our global brands wrap themselves. Above, one of the cars on Main Street U.S.A. Disneyland as a kind of cell, ringed with a semi-permeable membrane, selective about what enters or exits or exists. This car can exist only inside the park; the brand itself necessarily floats both inside and outside of it. There’s data, and then there’s skin.


And HERTZ again, on the streets of Paris. Product as billboard.


Four papers, two delayed flights, an internet outage, and six inches of snow later: We’re back! Expect a return to our regular posting schedule.


They’re everywhere, man. The infectious power of visual memes.

Notice also the Disney typeface and their attempt to humanize this barricade by draping a beige cloth over it.

Two papers down, two to go.


At a gift shop in Disneyland Resort Paris, a different take on name mugs: Dealing with an international audience by only providing the vastly-more-flexible letter.

The adaptations our environments make on our behalf; the extent to which we expect them. Adaptations or compromises: The extent to which we accept them. Does one-size-fits-all internationalism detract from the individual user experience?

Previous examples of knowing thy audience.

One paper due tonight, three due in the following week. We’re plugging away.


HSBC has a tendency to advertise in or around transit systems—usually airports, but I’ve also seen their ads in the NYC subway. This is advertising as performative demonstration: You say you’re a global bank, but now prove it. And they do, by targeting their advertising to reach self-consciously global consumers, who are, of course, found in transit. In one of their more clever advertising moves, HSBC painted their red line on the outside of airport Jetways. Their ads always show it moving through the world, and the Jetway is a close/appropriate metaphor if you’re trying to breathe physical life into an ephemeral brand.

This is all in the same vein of yesterday’s post: How pools of global capital swirl and concentrate where the return is likely to be greatest, unevenly distributing themselves. These pools are creating an archipelago of global metropoli as they both follow and reinforce a network of global capital. What are the implications for the future (international?) city?

Tokyo, 1964

The first Olympic Games to be held in Asia premiered on October 10, 1964, in Tokyo, Japan. The Tokyo Games were rife with symbolism: The Olympic torch was lit by Yoshinori Sakai, who was born in Hiroshima the day the city was destroyed by the atomic bomb, and the Games were regarded as Japan’s announcement of its successful reconstruction following World War II. 

But the symbolism was also literal: To communicate with Olympic visitors who didn’t speak Japanese, the Tokyo Games invented a set of pictograms, a method of communication designed to be “independent of language and culture.” The Tokyo pictograms were regarded as groundbreaking, and every Summer Olympics since has featured its own unique set of pictograms.

The Tokyo pictograms were one of 28 pictogram families from around the world selected for study by the United States Department of Transportation as part of an effort to create a system of unified transportation pictograms. The pictograms used at the Tokyo Games are part of a historical continuum but also represent a shift in modern visual communication, both in the design of the pictograms and the reasons for their use.


You already drink Gatorade, right? So why not drink it in the morning?

Effective redeployment/unfortunate dilution?

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