Random Logo Puzzlement

So, I was sitting on an interview panel this morning, the third interview for the position we’re currently trying to hire for, and before me was a clipboard that I’ve been using, not only for each interview, but off and on for a good 5-6 years, and for the first time after all that usage I noticed the logo of the company, Charles Leonard, Inc., from whom the clipboard was purchased, who knows how long ago:


And I thought to myself, “What the HELL is that?!”

Seriously, it seemed to be made up of three elements, none of which were immediately identifiable, from the top down:

  1. some kind of vaguely gun-shaped thingy?
  2. a kitchen measuring tablespoon?
  3. a very flat shoe?

…and, certainly, nothing really resembled anything related to office products.

By the time my lunch break rolled around I knew I wanted to blog about this, and I couldn’t wait to do some research. My blog post, I was sure, would be all about how the logo fails, how a logo should decidedly NOT be puzzling, that a company’s brand should be immediately recognizable and tightly associated with the company’s business.

And so, my first stop was Google Image Search, where I found this Charles Leonard logo:


Now, regardless of whether or not a trained graphic designer (which I’m not) would consider this a good logo, or even whether or not anyone would find this aesthetically pleasing, it IS abundantly clear what it is: CLI = Charles Leonard, Inc.

But then, a funny thing happened.

As I was pulling together the two versions of the logo for this post — taking a photo of the clipboard and editing it, downloading the other version, looking at them closely, comparing them — I suddenly and shockingly noticed something best displayed with my embarrassingly rudimentary Photoshop skills:


I’ll wait as you scroll up and down and it all sinks in.

I happen to have some experience with logo design, having served on several committees charged with developing new logos, and one of the things we always included in our development process was a stipulation that the final design must work well in a variety of applications: in print, on the web, on t-shirts, with one color, grayscale, or multi-color. And so, in this very narrow regard, and with the aforementioned need for the logo to be immediately obvious as to what it says and is, you could determine that the clipboard application of the CLI logo failed…

…OR…you could say that it’s a VERY cool optical illusion!

As with most optical illusions, once you’ve figured out the trick being played on the eye you’ll never NOT notice it again. Check it out. Scroll up now and look at the first photo of the clipboard and you will not be able to miss the “CLI”.

So, ultimately, is it a successful logo?

Well, it got me to spend a good half hour of my lunch break thinking about Charles Leonard, Inc., something I never saw coming.

Therefore, I’d have to answer with a resounding, “Yes!”

Upcycling: Awesome Piano Bike!

piano-bikeAs a blogger who LOVES bicycles, and who has the word bicycle in the title of his blog, how can I not write about this?

Via grist.org:

What would you do if you had an old $80 piano and a big tricycle? Would you throw them out? Not if you were San Francisco musician Gary Skaggs. He turned this seemingly useless combo into gold…

Since 2008, Skaggs has been taking his bike to San Francisco’s hopping tourist area, the Embarcadero, to perform. And he gets lots of tips. Take that, recession/supposed recovery!

Upcycling at it’s finest, zero emission transportation, exercise, and musical entertainment all in one package!

That’s awesomeness.

Here’s a video about Gary and his wondeful piano bike. Pedal on, Gary!

Upcycling: Iris’ Recycled Skateboard

back-to-the-futureRemember that scene from the 1985 movie Back to the Future, where Marty McFly, in a panic to get away from a gang of thugs in pursuit, “borrows” a scooter from a kid, rips the crate/handlebar assembly from the platform, and gets away on what appears to be the first skateboard any of the onlookers have ever seen?

Well, that’s one unique way to make a skateboard, and now George Rocha at Iris Skateboards in San Francisco has come up with another method, one that is supremely satisfying from a sustainability, reduce-reuse-recycle perspective:

iris_skateboardVia Wired.com:

George Rocha turned his life-long skateboarding passion into a career of building massive concrete skateparks. Now he’s added another product to his repertoire: artisan-quality wooden skateboards assembled from strips of used and broken boards.

Modern skateboards are made of plywood. It gives them both strength and flexibility — the perpendicular placement of each wooden layer helps the overall board withstand cracks, while the complex curvatures are made possible by pressing the individually pliable sheets of wood into a mold while being glued. As plywood decks became the norm, manufacturers began to color layers to add a visual element. Strips of red, blue, yellow, pink or various combinations could be found between the light hues of natural wood, with splashy graphics on the board’s bottoms and black grip tape on top, sometimes cut into artistic patterns.

Rocha assembles new decks using the remnants of broken and discarded skateboards, laminating them together and slicing the resulting stack sideways to create his material. The result is gorgeous and always unique, turning the distinct patterning of the thin multicolored ply into the standout feature of the decks’ tops and bottoms.

Rocha also uses ground recycled glass to create a course traction surface for the top of the deck.

Check out this cool video, showing how the boards are made.

Eyecatchers: Upcycling: Heather Kocsis

heather-kocsis-lead-2At first glance, it’s not at all immediately clear exactly what you’re looking at when you’re looking at the work of Ontario, Canada artist Heather Kocsis.

Her pieces look a little bit like paintings, but there’s so much texture and depth of perspective.

So, what the hell are they?!

The answer makes for a great installment in both my Eyecatchers and Upcycling recurring series.

Via Inhabitat:

If the measure of a truly successful piece of art is its ability to draw the viewer in, Heather Kocsis’ entrancing vignettes of New York City life certainly fit the bill. Handcrafted from reclaimed pieces of wood that have been broken down and painted to resemble miniature fire escapes, brick walls and windows, each diorama offers a new little world to be explored.

Most of the wood Kocsis uses to create her pieces is salvaged or given to her by others. Any wood that is dry and in good shape is utilized.

What I love the most about Kocsis’ work, besides the clever technique and the amazing attention to detail, is how these pieces capture the unlikely beauty of aging urban structures, a kind of beauty that stands in stark contrast to the clean, minimalist designs of modern architecture.

And, of course, that the artist uses mostly reclaimed materials appeals to my treehugging sensibilities.

Be sure to check out the more complete galleries at Inhabitat and Heather Kocsis‘ website, but in the meantime, here’s some more of her work. Enjoy!






Eyecatchers: Transient Sand Art

Tony Plant
Tony Plant
In past posts, I’ve twice mentioned one of my favorite artists, Andy Goldsworthy (Post 1, Post 2), both times in the context of art works that were intentionally designed to be impermanent.

Well, today, via Colossal, I’m pleased to share the work of three artists who embrace the idea that all things must pass, creating amazing works of art in the sand, on beaches, where tides assure a lifespan for the works of only a few hours.

Several things are striking about these artists, but the thing that sticks out the most to me is that their work is BIG, and they seem to be gifted in their ability to be on the ground, working with precision, while keeping the big picture in mind. It would be totally impractical, too time-consuming, for them to hike up to higher ground with any regularity to check on how things are going. That’s mind-boggling to me!

Anyway, I’ll let their work do the rest of the talking.


Tony Plant





Jim Denevan





Andres Amador





Upcycling: Plank Sofa Table

sofa-table-1It’s been a LONG time since an installment in my Upcycling series featured a project of my own making. (See: More Fun With Shipping Pallets)

I’ve done a few small projects since then, nothing really post-worthy, but today I’m excited to share this simple sofa table, made entirely of recycled building materials, obtained at the RE Store here in Bellingham.

The plank for the top was actually purchased nearly a year ago. I was browsing around the reclaimed lumber shed, spotted this wonderfully weathered, thick hunk of wood, knew instantly that I wanted it, took it home, stored it in the garage, and there in the garage it embarrassingly remained for WAY too long.

In the meantime, I’d made numerous trips to the RE Store and elsewhere, looking for additional materials, originally thinking I’d make a bench, deciding instead on a sofa or side table, but, alas, the design for the legs eluded me.

You can’t tell from the photos, but that top plank is frickin’ HEAVY, and every time I thought about how tall this table would need to be and how narrow the plank is, I knew four screw-in legs weren’t going to cut it, and I just wasn’t finding the materials or the inspiration for another solution.

Fast forward to this past Saturday, when, browsing at the RE Store, I found four black metal brackets with pre-drilled holes, I have no idea what they were originally used for, but they finally gave me the idea I was looking for. All I needed to do was go back to the lumber shed, pick out some weathered 2″x2″ material, and I was off.

(In all fairness, some credit for this project should go to my wife, as she provided invaluable input, helping me tweak the design for the legs when I got stuck at several points.)

It’s estimated that the total cost of materials for this project was less than $10.

Needless to say, I’m pretty happy with the outcome!


Tweet of the Day: @Inhabitat – Ice Hotel

Listen, it’s cool-looking, no doubt about that, and maybe it’s just because it’s a cold January day as I write this, but I can’t imagine actually sleeping in a hotel room made of ice, much less paying nearly $600/night to do so.

To their credit, the folks at IceHotel do include this disclaimer on their website:

We strongly recommend that you combine only one night in cold accommodation with several nights in warm.



Nice Timing, Gorilla Glass. Thanks.

gorillaSuch is the pace of advancement in technology, it either enamors or pisses off.

I was enamored enough to buy an iPhone 4 in April 2011, as I wrote about at the time.

Then, this morning, I learned of another latest, greatest technological advancement, Corning’s new scratch and crack resistant Gorilla Glass 3.

But, it wasn’t just any ordinary morning. It was the morning after I dropped my iPhone 4 on a rock, cracking the forward-facing glass, repairable for $80, when a new iPhone 4 with a 2-year contract is, by now practically free.

So, like I said, enamored one day, pissed off the next.

Eyecatchers: Beth Ann Magnuson’s Eggs

eggs1See that first photo here?

Those are eggs, people!!! Real eggs from real birds, carved by Beth Ann Magnuson using an engraving tool! (via designboom)

I know. Unfrickinbelievable!

As I’ve been curating my Eyecatchers series, I’ve come across a number of artists whose work stands out for either minute attention to detail, a painstaking/gentle approach, or both: Dalton Ghetti’s pencil carvings, Michael Grab’s Balancing Rocks, Andersen M Studio’s carved book and cut paper animations, Valerie Buess’s rolled paper sculptures, Claire Brewster’s birds cut out of old maps, just to name a few.

Well, Magnuson’s eggs definitely belong in this company.

Using ovum from turkey, chicken, duck, peafowl, pheasant, partridge, and quail, she draws out her intricate, lace-like designs with pencil, and then incredulously carves them out without shattering the fragile eggs.

Here are some of my favorites, followed by a video of Beth Ann’s amazing process.





Best of Fish & Bicycles: Hot Metal Action

Originally Published: May 24, 2010

This past Saturday, the family unit and I attended what may be the coolest event in a town that has a thing for cool events.

The Welding Rodeo, held at Bellingham Technical College, is, if anything, a celebration of creativity. For I would wager that most people, when they think of art, don’t think of suede-clad teams of individuals wearing masks and wielding sledge hammers and welders. The Welding Rodeo shatters the cliché of the beret-wearing, palette-holding intellectual, dabbing oil paint delicately at a canvas with sable brushes.

Think of it this way: In high school, you’d usually have no problem distinguishing between the kids in metal shop and the kids in life drawing, the former destined for an auto repair shop, the latter for an art gallery. No such segregation at the Welding Rodeo.

The event’s format is simple. Teams of four have eight hours to fabricate a metal sculpture using only the scrap metal available to them at the 8am scrap dive:

The teams retreat to their booths with their materials and go to work, sparks and hammers a-flyin’.

Slowly but surely, the sculptures start to take shape, all of them, in some way, representing the theme chosen ahead of time. This year’s theme: Human Form.

One of the teams has traveled to the Welding Rodeo five years in a row…

…from Denmark!

A bonus for the day: anyone who wanted to try welding could sign a waiver and get a taste for the metal-on-metal action. Here’s my son Julian going for it:

These few photos really can’t do the event justice, so you either need to come to the rodeo next year or check out the extensive photo galleries they already have posted.