Category Archives: Design

The rendering of the completed Wilshire Grand Tower contrasted against Syd Mead's prediction of LA in 2013.

Happy Birthday, Syd Mead!

By | Design | No Comments

Today is Syd Mead’s birthday. You may not know his name, but you’ve definitely seen his work. Syd Mead is one of the most celebrated concept designers of our time, and has been responsible for many memorable designs – from feature films to concept cars, even exhibits and interiors. His style is lush with often-fantastical mechanized vehicles and devices or high-tech interiors offset by being placed in a natural environment. His most well known works include production design for Blade Runner, Aliens and, of course, TRON. Most recently he worked on the Matt Damon film Elysium.

In 1988, he also shared his vision of future Los Angeles (CommonGround’s home town) in the far off year of 2013, commissioned for an article in the LA Times Magazine. The article predicted a mandatory staggered work plan for Los Angeles, personalized newspapers printed by laser-jet printer, home robots with synthesized Southern drawls, school desks with built in CD-ROM’s and the staple of all predictions of the future—the computerized refrigerator. I don’t remember my home robot saying “Y’all come back now, ya here!” when I left the house this morning. Come to think of it I don’t remember having a home robot at all.

Other predictions were less tech-related. The article discussed a housing and school shortage for LA, along with new skyscrapers and urban renewal in downtown, all of which is coming to pass. The future doesn’t look quite as cool as Syd Mead’s designs predicted, perhaps, but his influence can be felt when you see giant video billboards at LA Live or a rendering of the completed Wilshire Grand Tower.

Happy Birthday, Syd! We look forward to many more years of your visionary design work.



IGN’s Museum of Mario an interesting look back.

By | Design, Just For Fun | No Comments

There’s no question that the video game industry has had huge influence on modern design. The gamers amongst us will tell you that Mario is inarguably one of the greatest video game stars of all time, rising from a simple arcade game to global mega-franchise. “IGN presents Museum of Mario” is a new website examining the 30+ year history of the world’s most famous Italian plumber, and for those of us who grew up with him, a nostalgic trip down memory lane. (Where is the minus world? How do I get there? Does it really exist at all??) Read More


Political Bridge to End Shutdown Blocked by Trolls?

By | Design, Trends | No Comments

Let me be clear upfront, this post is totally non-political. I mention this because I’m about to reference the political tsunami of our time – the government shutdown. Like many Americans, once the shutdown started I began reading news articles from more sources than I usually do, and I began to pay a little more attention to the reader responses. Comment scrolls are a relatively new innovation, and they introduce an opportunity for mature, insightful discourse. Needless to say, this opportunity is often squandered, with comment threads reading less mature or insightful than an episode of The Jersey Shore. Read More


BBC makes a (pretty) mess

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The BBC frequently uses interesting visuals throughout their family of networks. I’m not sure if this article about BBC Asian Network’s Summer of Music identity work appeals to me because it’s a really cool design idea, or because they made it by putting colored powders on top of speakers and exploding them all over the place. The end result is strikingly beautiful, though, and worth sharing. I asked my coworkers about converting a section of the office to a space where I could blow up powder bags and photograph them. They say no, or at least not until I find a client willing to pay for it.

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The (design) world is flat

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Our Creative Director, Aaron, is always telling us how ecstatic he is that flat design is the dominating trend in our industry. As proof, I’d point out that when I told him I was posting an article about flat design he created the above flatly-designed visual representation of flat design, ha. Anyway, I loved this article as an exploration of flat design and its historical roots. I have to wonder, though – is flat design really here to stay, as the author thinks? There seems to be a constant fluctuation between the minimalist and the ornamental, as was the case with Streamline Moderne giving way to the more flourished design aesthetics of the atomic age. So what will apps and websites look like once people get bored of flat? I suppose CommonGround’s designers should get to work figuring that out, working hard to help design evolve while maintaining our standard all-out ban on the use of the Curlz MT font.


Los Angeles Metro Rail Map

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I’ve always liked maps, ever since I was nine, when one spring afternoon we discovered a world map from 1917 in a building my father’s company was helping renovate. I recall poring over that map endlessly, comparing it to a contemporary one and wondering about the disappearance of the Ottoman Empire and addition of the Soviet Union. Urban metro maps aren’t quite as exciting, but they’re still pretty cool, and in a way they stand as the original “infographics,” visually representing important information in a manner that’s useful and intuitive.

When LA Metro released their latest “under construction” map, I had to check it out. There’s just something fun and fractal about it. Comparing the additions to the system over time reminds me of the way new plants in our garden grow in. And the fact that LA Metro put the planned future stations for the purple line on the map is reassuring – granted it may take thirty years to complete, but I really look forward to someday taking the subway from downtown to the beach.


Washington State Designs Legal Marijuana Logo

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Agree or disagree, shifts in public policy often create unique design challenges. Voters in Washington State recently legalized marijuana, leaving state legislators with the task of determining regulations. Where to start? In a move very appropriate to the digital age, they began with a logo, which will soon be used to label legal marijuana-related products. From a design perspective, it definitely visually conveys “Washington” and “marijuana.” And I have to wonder – given how much was produced there when it was illegal, are they also trying to subliminally recommend how much area in the state they’d like to set aside for pot farms?


Ha…High Design AND Game of Thrones – Win/Win

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Within the company we have on ongoing (sometimes heated) debate about whether HBO’s Game of Thrones is great television or utter nonsense. I’ll stay out of that conversation completely, but I was totally entranced by the website, a graphic tribute to the hit show. If you’re a fan – or even if you’re not – the site presents an impressive homage to the hit series.


MoMA in New York Acquires 14 Video Games

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We know video games are big business, the industry’s annual profits adding up to more than movies, television and music combined. But MoMA recently lent credit to the idea that they’re art too, acquiring 14 titles for their collection. At CommonGround Creative, we know full well how much effort goes into the design of a great game, so we appreciate the recognition of the work as an art form. And given that we played most of those titles in our childhood, we also appreciate them being included in a museum of modern art, and not the natural history museum.