Happy Old Year! I guess it's not a new year anymore, but hope your 2020 is off to a great start one sixth of the way in. I've spent the year redoing my website, looking for management, and spending time with my son who somehow already has teeth. Man, time flies. Anyway, here's a newsletter for you on a Saturday. I'm wondering if sending them on the weekend will result in more people reading... so here we go!
MAGNETO: Nazi Hunter. When we meet Magneto (aka Holocaust survivor Erik Lehnsherr) in the movie X-Men: First Class, he's in Argentina hunting down a Nazi. It's the best scene in the entire film.
PLEASE MAKE THIS AN ENTIRE MOVIE.
Nazis are bad, anti-semitism is on the rise, and as the new Amazon show Hunters is currently reminding me: hunting Nazis is fun to watch. Set it in the 1950s-60s leading up to his appearance in X-Men: First Class. Cast Michael Fassbender. Feels like a no-brainer to me, whadya think?
Most Americans agree that gerrymandering is a huge problem and a 2017 index of voting fairness run by the Electoral Integrity Project listed the U.S. last among all Western nations.
But, how do you fix it? The Supreme Court has ruled that they have the jurisdiction to rule on gerrymandering, but have stayed out of the issue for lack of a clear way to measure whether or not district lines are partisan.
This Scientific Journal article is about the mathematicians who are developing objective ways to calculate fair district maps. It's fascinating, if a bit disheartening when you consider it's from 2017 and very little has changed.
Mmmmmm pancakes. Also, you keep thinking they missed a row, but then the back up flipper gets it!
This is not the first time I've posted about Swing Left and it won't be the last. They've built one of the most comprehensive, ambitious, and accessible engines for progressive change around. Whether you've got an hour a week, or five minutes, they'll give you concrete next steps for how to defeat Trump and the GOP.
NOTE: This is a shortened version of a piece I wrote on Medium.
Comedy specials are (relatively) cheap to produce content and develop relationships with talent so streaming companies make a lot of them. BUT they also fit an age old design challenge: how do you market a group of similar but different items to be a clear set, while maintaining their individuality? Let's look at Amazon, HBO, and Netflix...
First up, Amazon. There is an obvious and consistent visual language that is adaptable enough to fit any input of title or comedian... but it's ugly and boring as hell. Instead of anchoring each comedian with Amazon's branding, the branding oppressively homogenizes the comedians – effectively erasing their unique voice.
The key art doesn’t tell potential fans anything about them other than “they are a comedian.” To be honest, I’m not sure if someone holding a microphone and putting the words “STAND-UP SPECIAL” below the image isn’t doing most of that work for us anyway.
Next up, let's look at HBO. They basically created the mold for stand-up specials. Here's some of their recent branding:
Great, right? But... of course it's easier when you kind of invented the televised comedy special. What if you're newer to specials (like Amazon) but want to look polished (like HBO). That's where Netflix comes in:
Gorgeous. It's the opposite of everything Amazon is doing wrong. Specific (in some cases, custom) typography, original artwork, photography – every image tells you a story, which lets you know (even if on a subconscious level) what to expect from the special.
Hasan Minhaj, beautifully hand-painted by Sam Spratt, seems wistfully out place in the suburbs. John Mulaney has visual cues to the polished 1960s comedy of Nichols & May. Bill Burr is going to help us navigate the maze of our own neurosis and everyday life. Motherhood has turned Ali Wong into a Godzilla-sized force to be reckoned with.
As best I can tell, Netflix uses multiple creative agencies (and presumably some in house teams) to give each special a distinct look while unifying them with the red envelope letter treatment.
This is what happens when you can throw money (and good taste) at a problem. And speaking of money...
They create COMPLETELY DIFFERENT VERSIONS of the key art for each special to use as thumbnails targeted at different viewers. These four options were created by agency Midnight Oil.
Thanks for reading! I'd love to get your feedback. Favorite segment? What's working? What's not working? What do you want to see more of?