This Week's Challenge: Trompe L'Oh Wow

I think every child is obsessed with magic. From the large-scale illusions of David Copperfield all the way down to the local magic-shop owner palming coins before a crowd of two adoring twelve-year-olds, the practice of magic is a wide-eyed delight for millions—and an exclusive club for those who choose to explore its secrets.

Designers can be magicians as well. The FedEx logo immediately comes to mind, with its witty placement of an arrow within the mark. With just a pencil and paper, we can conjure up similarly surprising illusions that bend our perceptions of space and time. But no matter what methods you choose to employ, your visual trickery must be simple enough to disguise with a little sleight of hand—and smart enough to metaphorically act as a representative of the whole. After all, the most effective illusions are those whose expressions vanish softly into the fabric of a well-formed idea.

In this challenge, you’ll get a chance to practice your craft on the one audience that will most appreciate your efforts.

In 90 minutes, create a logo for the Global Magic Society, a national invitation-only group of upper-echelon magicians. As part of your design exercise, you must incorporate an optical illusion into your mark.

The above logo magic is courtesy of Dave Fletcher, creative director at theMechanism in New York City. “I’m a fan of presenting multiple uses of a logo when appropriate … just like there are multiple ways for the magician to approach an illusion. The idea is to use the word ‘global’ along with traditional magician props—in this case, the hat, the rabbit, and the dove. The dove and rabbit are transformational objects as shown in the version with the continents transforming into the dove/bunny combo—transformation is the cornerstone of magic. Instead of a magician pulling the rabbit out of the hat, the shapes—the rabbit being pulled out of the hat by the dove—all nicely fit into continental shapes to create a bit of an optical illusion or trickery for someone who looks closer.”

For the stationery package, Dave’s idea was “to print on slightly translucent paper. The use of the paper for the envelope, letterhead, and business card serves several purposes … When folded, the back of the letterhead displays the logo in the center—the translucency of the envelope allows the logo to show through slightly, creating a really nice watermarking effect. There are three possible uses of the logo—all achieving the same effect.”

In Dave’s initial explorations, he played with “the idea of bitmapping a familiar magician prop until it was unrecognizable—forcing the audience (much like they do while watching a magician and trying to ‘figure out the trick’) to squint to see what it is.”

Every week, I’ll be sharing with the design community a creative challenge, alongside sample solutions from working designers and students. The above challenge is from my forthcoming book for HOW Design Press, Creative Workshop: 80 Challenges to Sharpen Your Design Skills, which is out in late November.

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  1. Pingback: Working at the Creative Workshop – Magical | theMechanism