5 important things that happened in design this week

A new logo for YouTube, an exhibition on “life-saving” graphic design, and a Fitbit smartwatch – the news from the last seven days.

YouTube revealed a new logo and app design

This week, video channel YouTube revealed a fresh, new app design, which aims to be “cleaner” than the previous one with a logo that can be reduced to a play button icon.

The minimal, icon-based rebrand has been a popular choice for social media, app and online brands in recent years, with the likes of Instagram, WeTransfer and dating app Tinder all taking on flat, line-drawn logos.

YouTube’s branding no longer has the red square around “Tube”, and instead features a red and white play button to the left of the logotype.

The company’s chief product officer Neal Mohan says the new logo is better suited to a “multi-screen world”, and is more “flexible”, with the ability to use just the icon without the wordmark on social media and on “the tiniest screens”.

The updated app design includes more white space, and menu options at the bottom of the screen rather than the top, to be “closer to people’s thumbs”, says Mohan.

It also includes nifty new functions, such as a gesture-based one that means a double tap on the left or right hand side of a video will fast forward or rewind it by 10 seconds, and one which will see YouTube draw inspiration from its younger, dating app contemporaries, with a “swipe left/right” function to see the previous or next video.

The desktop version of YouTube has also been updated in line with the rebrand, with a “cleaner” and “intuitive” look.

The new logo, app and browser version have rolled out.

We took a first look at a new exhibition on “life-saving” graphics

Eight different designs of dual language TEVA packaging in Hebrew and English, 1986, Dan Reisinger. Courtesy of Geigy

“We think graphic design is quite important, and it often gets overlooked. Because it’s ephemeral, it can end up in the bin, even though it has value.”

These are the words of Lucienne Roberts, founder at design studio LucienneRoberts+ and one of the curators behind Wellcome Collection’s new exhibition, Can Graphic Design Save Your Life?, exploring the pervasive power of graphic design in medicine and healthcare.

Roberts spoke to Design Week and showed us round the early stages of the exhibition this week, which will contentiously ask visitors to question their perceptions of design and consider its impact.

Public money spent on design projects has been a controversial topic in recent years. Just this year, the NHS fell under fire from medical professionals and critics for spending resources on updating its visual identity guidelines, and encouraging the roll-out of standardised branding and signage across trusts.

Can Graphic Design Save Your Life? picks up this debate and looks at everything from Geigy’s classic Swiss pill packaging from the 1950s and 1960s through to plague and ebola prevention information posters, colourful hospital interiors, medical charity campaign material – and even pro-smoking campaigns from the 1980s and 1990s.

“We thought we would be lying if we didn’t put our hands up and show that designers have also been instrumental in selling cigarettes and making them look glamorous,” says Roberts candidly. “And though dodgy, some of these campaigns were ground-breaking for their time.”

The graphics and communications for the exhibition have been designed by LucienneRoberts+, while Universal Design Studio was commissioned to complete three-dimensional design and do the fit-out. Smart, graphic tricks help with storytelling throughout the show, such as plinths shaped as various symbols to match the six thematic sections of the exhibition.

The main aim of the show is to demonstrate the power of graphics, and through its contentious title, ask visitors to question its importance, says Roberts.

“Obviously, graphic design cannot save lives on its own but I do think its key,” she says. “People think it is just something that is added on at the end, but it shouldn’t be.”

Can Graphic Design Save Your Life? runs 7 September 2017 – 14 January 2018 at Wellcome Collection, 183 Euston Road, London NW1 2BE. Entry is free. For more info, head to Wellcome Collection’s site.

Fitbit entered the smartwatch race

Fitbit is best known for its calorie, sleep and step-tracking wristband – but it could be moving beyond fitness and stepping (sorry) on Apple and Samsung’s toes with the launch of the new multi-functional Fibit Ionic smartwatch.

The Fitbit Ionic has multiple, fitness tracking capabilities, and can also stream and store music, complete contactless payments and download and run apps such as Facebook, Gmail, Instagram and Snapchat.

Its launch coincides with the launch of Fitbit’s own operating system Fitbit OS, rivalling iOS and Android, as well as its own app store and payment system.

The new product could see the fitness brand move away from wearable technology and towards devices that are more all-encompassing.

It’s far from becoming a smartphone manufacturer at this point – the watch currently has no capability to make calls or send messages, keeping it a step behind its competitors.

But, with apps such as Facebook Messenger and Whatsapp beginning to dominate the messaging market, communication through apps rather than traditional messaging and calls may not be too much of a hindrance for Fitbit, if it gains the licence to have these apps available through its store.

Fitbit Ionic is currently available to pre-order for $299.95 (£231.85) from various online retailers.

The RCA announced its annual, anonymous postcard competition

There is a certain charm in buying artwork without being aware of the prestige of its creator, but instead basing the decision purely on what you like the look of.

London’s Royal College of Art (RCA) holds an exhibition and sale based on this concept every year.

RCA Secret sees over 2,000 postcards created by various designers, illustrators and artists – some high-profile and some new graduates – which are then exhibited anonymously, leaving visitors to choose their favourites or perhaps hazard a guess at a particular artist based on its style.

Each postcard is priced at £55, and art fans can buy their chosen one online, and will only find out the identity of the designer or artist after purchasing. Previous, elusive designers have included the illustrious Margaret Calvert, Thomas Heatherwick and James Dyson.

All proceeds go towards the RCA Student Award Fund, which funds student scholarships to the postgraduate arts college.

To take part, buyers must register on the RCA Secret site to gain a buyer’s ID from 8 September onwards.

They can then buy throughout the duration of the exhibition, which takes place 9-15 September at the RCA, Dyson Building, 1 Hester Road, London SW11 4AN. Postcards can be collected or will be posted following the exhibition.

The V&A Dundee looked to inspire young, Scottish designers

V&A Dundee’s Scottish Design Relay © Alan Richardson Dundee, Pix-AR.co.uk.

The Victoria and Albert (V&A) Museum of Design Dundee is set to open next year, and will create another huge design hub outside of London that will aim to attract and retain talent within Scotland.

This week, the V&A Dundee launched an outreach programme, which will travel different regions in Scotland, engaging young people in briefs with professional designers.

The Scottish Design Relay will travel from Dundee to Orkney, Caithness, Shetland, Govan and Aberdeen, where teams will design prototypes of products that will then be on show at the V&A Dundee when it opens in 2018.

Dundee’s team, which is made up of young employees from the Michelin factory plus professional designers, will explore the ship RRS Discovery, then use it as inspiration to design a product for travel or world exploration. This could be anything from a piece of equipment to an item of clothing.

The project aims to engage young people from various communities and “inspire and nurture a new generation of designers”, according to V&A Dundee communities producer Peter Nurick.


Got a design story? Get in touch sarah.dawood@centaurmedia.com.

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