Monthly Archives: March 2012

We’ve been on a Charles Dickens kick lately. Confession: the only Charles Dickens book I’ve read is A Tale of Two Cities. Like Shirley Jackson, symphonic band music, and the musical Into The Woods, Charles Dickens is one of those things that’s difficult to appreciate without awakening traumatic memories of junior high school.

Thankfully, there’s Masterpiece Classics. Now that Downton Abbey‘s over for a while, we’ve been making our way through other MC shows. We started with Oliver Twist (which I liked a lot) and now we’re deep into Little Dorrit, a 5-part miniseries about a family’s journey from fortune to poverty and back again.

It’s a story with a huge cast of characters and a lot of plot, so I won’t try too hard to summarize it here. But the general gist is that a wealthy family falls deeply into poverty and the patriarch is confined to a debtors’ prison. The “Little Dorrit” for whom the story is named is his daughter Amy, who was born in the prison itself. The prison is known as the Marshalsea, named for the fact that it was designed to house men under court martial for crimes at sea.

The Marshalsea was a real prison in London, and in fact the very one in which Charles Dickens’ father was imprisoned for debt. Just like Amy Dorrit, Dickens was sent out to work to support the rest of the family at a young age. In fact, there are shades of Dickens’ shitty childhood all over Little Dorrit, including Arthur’s icy mother (it is believed that Dickens never forgave his own mother for making him keep his brutal factory job even after their debts were cleared).

And you thought your family was messed up.

One of the side characters is Pancks, a debt collector and amateur PI. Curious about whether he was based on anyone in Dickens’ personal biography, I did a quick Google search…


I say, without shame, that I enjoy a good Internet meme. I know, I know — it’s hip to hate on the ones that have been done to death. But I dare you not to crack a smile after a few pages on quickmeme. Hilarious, crude, immature…it’s exactly the thing to pull you out of a rotten mood.

To join in the fun, I made a meme of my own. Star Trek: First Contact was on TV this morning and I quickly abandoned the morning news to catch the first 20 minutes. It’s a dreadful movie, of course, but I love TNG too much not to cut it some slack. Nemesis, on the other hand…

Anyway, enjoy! And feel free to vote it up on quickmeme.

This pizza/box combo came from a little place called Dial-A-Pizza. You heard me right: Dial-A Pizza. I totally love it when a business chooses a novelty name (say, to capitalize on the new and exciting concept of pizza delivery) without realizing they’ll be stuck with it FOREVER. We did in fact dial the order in, so I guess at least it’s still accurate.

The meal itself was enjoyed among rum and friends, making it one of my favorite pizza experiences. But this is a serious design blog (cough) so we should get to the box analysis.

Overall Design: I’ll come right out and say it: this is somewhat of an ugly pizza box. The colors, the generic font, the sloppy linework — it just doesn’t do anything for me. Another issue of concern is the pizza toppings. I’m seeing line drawn mushrooms and…abstract blobs. Having gone to art school, I know artist’s fatigue when I see it: You’re drawing some boring still life (like pizza toppings) and getting kind of tired. So you stop rendering and start slopping on geometric shapes, telling yourself it will look good once you step a few feet back. It doesn’t but you’re so sick of it you just hand it in anyway.

Yes. That’s what has happened here.

Italian Stereotype: I looked long and hard at this one. My conclusion is that, even though there’s a puffy chef’s hat in play, this is NOT an Italian Stereotype. The chiseled jaw…the mostly straight hair…this is a white dude. Maybe when the graphic designer went for the folder of rotund chef clip art he accidentally grabbed the one of 50’s milk delivery men.

Generic Product Claim: One of my favorites: Oven Fresh. Not only is it incredibly generic, but it’s also essentially meaningless. All pizza is not only made, but also reheated, in an oven. By the logic of modus ponens: If the pizza is hot it must be oven fresh. The pizza is hot. Therefore, the pizza is oven fresh.

Ideally, it goes something like this: it’s dinner time and you decide to skip the bla-ness of cooking your own food and eat out. You remember there’s a brick oven pizzeria just minutes from home. You choose something classic and classy – a Margherita or a white pie with garlic. You pop open a bottle of cheap wine and, voila, inexpensive perfection.

But then there are those times when you’re trying to leave the house for a long weekend. You’ve overslept and haven’t even begun to pack. You’re throwing a bunch of stuff into your toiletry bag and hollering at the cats to stop chewing on the suitcases and thinking,  “We cannot be any more late than we are right now…”

…until Mr. Max tells you that a wild animal has somehow gotten into the attic and died, and you’re looking at three hours of unplanned DIY decontamination before you can even think about leaving.

For times like these, there’s Original Pizza of Boston.

Why? 1) It is food and 2) It’s right on the highway.

Mr. Max thought it tasted like the pizza you get at Chuck E. Cheese. I’ve never been to Chuck E. Cheese, but it did remind me of pizza I had once at a roller rink. Because it was late afternoon and we hadn’t eaten anything all day, it was automatically delicious…in a gross, rubbery sort of way.

The box is what you would expect from highway fast food: thin, disposable, and single use.

Visual Assessment: Red and white = classic pizza. Red, blue, and white = Dominos. Red, green, and white = Sbarro. This pizza was basically a Sbarro knockoff, so the packaging was accurate, if a little derivative.

Italian Stereotype: There’s no generic product claim (Hot, Fresh!), but the Italian stereotype’s got enough character to make up for it. He’s fat, he’s got a chef’s hat, and he’s throwing a pizza pie (with sauce, no less) into the air.

Wait, what’s that?

Is that a little…QUESTION MARK hidden in the sauce pattern?

Wherever you are, subversive graphic designer,,,you rock.