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New Work: Ablixa for ‘Side Effects’

Emily Oberman designed the branding and commercial for Ablixa, the drug in the new film ‘Side Effects.’ (That’s Emily’s voice in the ad.)

Feeling tired, depressed or not like yourself? Perhaps you’d like to try Ablixa, the wonder drug at the center of “Side Effects,” the new film directed by Steven Soderbergh and written by Scott Z. Burns. In the film, a psychological thriller, Emily Taylor (played by Rooney Mara) is a depressive who is prescribed Ablixa by Jude Law’s Dr. Jonathan Banks, with deadly results. Opening today, the movie also stars Channing Tatum and Catherine Zeta-Jones and is Soderbergh’s “final” film as he retires to other pursuits.

The fictional drug Ablixa plays a pivotal role in the film, and the filmmakers turned to Pentagram’s Emily Oberman, a friend of Burns, to create a realistic identity and branding for the anti-depressant. Oberman and her team developed a program that has all the hallmarks of big pharma branding, including an scarily upbeat logo that appears everywhere in the film; pill packaging, marketing literature, a website and promotional items like mugs and pens; and a commercial for the drug, narrated by Oberman herself in its online version. Pentagram’s New York office briefly appears in the film as Mara’s workplace, where her character Emily sits at Emily Oberman’s desk. (Spooky!)

In his review of “Side Effects,” A.O. Scott of The New York Times gives the ad a rave: “The embedded commercial is a perfect parody of something that has become very familiar in recent years: a vague and seductive montage of sad and happy scenes accompanied by new-agey music and, interrupting the inspiring sales pitch, a sotto voce recitation of warnings and possible complications.” The Ablixa identity is so authentic it merited a critique on Brand New, where many commenters thought they were looking at an actual brand.

“We take a great deal of satisfaction from reports that most people in the audience seem to believe that this imaginary drug is real,” says Oberman.

Preview: Milly

Pentagram’s Natasha Jen has designed a new identity for Milly, the fashion label of the designer Michelle Smith. Milly’s collections are both classic and contemporary, and have earned a devoted following that includes Gwyneth Paltrow, Victoria Beckham, Beyoncé, and Thandie Newton.

The new identity embodies Smith’s unique design sensibility, which juxtaposes modernity—clean, elegant silhouettes and impeccable details—with feminine flair: vibrant prints, bold colors, and luxurious fabrics and textures. Recently announced in WWD, the new identity will launch in full with Milly’s pre-fall collection this June.

With This Logo I Thee Wed

When Pentagram Austin partner DJ Stout and his girlfriend Lana McGilvray decided to get married last summer she asked him for a logo and a website design instead of the traditional wedding ring. The marriage ceremony at the Mean Eyed Cat, a former chainsaw repair shop turned into a Johnny Cash tribute bar, was a bit untraditional to begin with, but this request really took the cake (there wasn’t a cake either, by the way). McGilvray had recently joined a public relations firm called Blast as a partner and needed a new identity and website. Stout enlisted the help of his colleagues Stu Taylor, who was the lead designer on the wedding project, and Hunter Cross, who developed and programmed the website.

“I think that put a lot of pressure on my guys,” says Stout. “The state of my marital bliss was riding firmly on their shoulders.”

On the flight back from their honeymoon in Paris, Stout scribbled the idea for the new logo on the back of a barf bag, and that was all it took. Lana loved it, but the website took a bit longer.

Daniel Weil’s Chronoscope Installation by the River Thames

Unveiled for the first time for public viewing is Daniel Weil’s E20 Story Chronoscope, which has been installed in front of More London, by Tower Bridge. The installation will remain in this location until the end of February. Weil created the Chronoscope to celebrate the planners vision for the lower Lea Valley area that hosted the London 2012 Olympic games, and will culminate in the development of neighbourhoods that will weave this previously isolated and empty area into the fabric of the city.

A Night of Art, Awards and Antony Gormley

For the eighth year running, Pentagram hosted the Arts Foundation’s annual awards, celebrating talented, up-and-coming artists in a range of disciplines. Renowned artist Antony Gormley, a trustee of the Foundation, presented the following awards, to an all-female winning line up:

Composition for Musicals supported by the Lionel Bart Foundation: Pippa Clearly
Printmaking: Isabel Rock
Yoma Sasburg Fellowship for Sculpture: Rachael Champion
Screenwriting: Regina Moriarty
Still Life Photography: Eugenia Ivanissevich
Design for Performance: Chloe Lamford

New Work: Robert Welch Store in Bath, UK

Best known for their classic modern silverware designs, Robert Welch have recently opened a new store in Bath, England, with designs by Lorenzo Apicella and his team in San Francisco.

Located in Broad Street, in the heart of Medieval Bath, the store’s interior design language builds on Apicella’s Robert Welch flagship studio store in Chipping Campden, completed in 2009. There, a series of sparsely lit cottage rooms were opened up and connected to a central Design Studio and a story wall featuring the life and work of Robert Welch.

In Bath, the same focal displays are also at the heart of the store, this time scaled to suit a space typical to this part of the city—long and narrow with a busy street on one side and a small public courtyard on the other.

Happy 100th Birthday, Grand Central!

Today New York’s Grand Central Terminal celebrates its 100th anniversary with a rededication ceremony and day-long party that includes ballroom dancing, a LEGO replica, and shoe-shines at 1913 prices (10 cents). Over the past century the historic landmark has helped transport up to a million travelers a day and survived possible demolition (and imaginary Hollywood destruction) to become one of New York’s most beloved icons.

Pentagram’s Michael Bierut and his team created the anniversary identity, a graphic interpretation of the famous Tiffany clock that sits atop the information booth in the center of the station’s Main Concourse. The stylized version of the clock has its hands positioned at 7:13, or 19:13 in trainmaster’s time, a nod to the opening year. The graphics, originally announced last March, can currently be seen all over the terminal and city at large.

Here’s to another 100!

New Work: Hackney Laces


Hackney Laces is a community club that gives 12-17 year-old girls in London an opportunity to play football. There are many football clubs for younger girls, and many football clubs for women, but almost nothing in London for teenagers who love the beautiful game.

Originally known as Just Another Football Club, the club was named “Hackney Laces” by Pentagram’s Naresh Ramchandani. It needed to be a name that drew attention to the fact that the club was for girls, but since girls like to play football as competitively and as aggressively as boys do, the name also needed to sound tough. “Hackney Laces” struck that balance and also allowed the concept to be replicated in other parts of London if it took off – so Highbury Laces, Barnet Laces and so on.

New Work: Formica Anniversary Collection

Found on millions of surfaces in homes, businesses, schools, restaurants, hotels and virtually every other kind of interior, Formica® Laminate is one of the most ubiquitous materials in the world. (Chances are you are sitting at a desk, table or counter topped with it right now.) This year Formica celebrates its 100th anniversary with a special campaign designed by Pentagram’s Michael Bierut, Abbott Miller and Daniel Weil that pays homage to the making of this remarkable brand and its century of innovation, design and cultural impact.

The campaign kicks off with the launch of the Anniversary Collection, a series of new Formica laminates designed by Abbott Miller. The collection features patterns that explore the material’s seamless quality, long history and limitless potential. The collection was introduced this week at the International Builders Show in Las Vegas. Miller has also designed Formica Forever, a commemorative book that chronicles the company’s 100 years, to be published later this year.

New Work: ‘Billboard’

Today’s data-heavy, chart-loving, list-friendly media owe a great debt to Billboard, the trade bible of the music industry that is packed with rankings for the week’s Hot 100 singles, Top 200 albums, and dozens of other categories. Pentagram’s Michael Bierut and his team have redesigned Billboard and its graphic identity, including its famous charts, with a new format that helps make the magazine and its in-depth information more accessible and engaging. The new look launches with this week’s issue, on newsstands today.