Lope Visual Autopsy

Future Shock’s Alvin Toffler on mental models

November 14th, 2006

English book cover Future Shock was written in 1970 by Alvin Toffler. It takes a stab at trying to understand how we (back then) would adapt to the future. In some of his predictions, Toffler was remarkably prescient. Gay marriage is a fact of life in many countries, and ‘homosexual daddies’ are a feature of today’s society. Yet on other points it has been quite wrong; there are no underwater cities, for instance.

I’ve included one quote I thought pertained to visual literacy and culture. Toffler here is talking about the way we must constantly update our ‘mental models’ of the world.

A new image that clearly fits somewhere into a subject matter slot, and which is consistent with images already stored there, gives us little difficulty. But if, as happens increasingly, the image is ambiguous, if it is inconsistent, or , worse yet, if it flies in the face of our previous inferences, the mental model has to be forcibly revised. Large numbers of images may have to be reclassified, shuffled, changed again until a suitable integration is found. Sometimes whole groups of image-structures have to be torn down and rebuilt. In extreme cases, the basic shape of the whole model has to be drastically overhauled.

Spanish book cover Thus the mental model model must be seen not as a static library of images, but as a living entity, tightly charged with energy and activity. It is not a ‘given’ that we passively receive from the outside. Rather, it is something we actively construct and reconstruct from moment to moment. Restlessly scanning the outer world with our senses, probing for information relevant to our needs and desires, we engage in a constant process of rearrangement and updating…

It requires high energy to keep the system operating…. To maintain our adaptive balance, to keep the gap [between what we beleive and what really is] within manageable proportions, we struggle to refresh our imagery, to keep it up-to-date, to relearn reality. Thus the accelerative thrust outside us finds a corresponding speed-up in the adapting individual. Our image-processing mechanisms, whatever they may be, are driven to operate at higher and higher speeds. (Page 178-179)

I find that this passage, written some 36 years ago, is still relevant to today’s world. On page 180 Toffler goes on to conclude:

French book cover The process of image formation and classification is, in the end, a physical process, dependent upon finite characteristics of nerve cells and body chemicals. In the neural system as now constitued there are, in all likelihiood, inherent limits to the amount and speed of image processing that the individual can accomplish. How fast and how continuously can the individual revise his inner images behore he smashes up against these limits?

Nobody knows. It may well be that the limits stretch so far beyond present needs, that such gloomy speculations are unjustfied. Yet one salient fact commands attention: by speeding up change in the outer world, we compel the indivuidal to relearn his environment at every moment.

Monthly Logo Update: October

November 7th, 2006

Below are are a few of the more interesting logo changes for the month of October.

The province of Newfoundland & Labrador (in Eastern Canada) updated its provincial logo. Out is the provincial flag, in is the provincial flower; the pitcher plant.

Newfoundland old logo
welcome to Newfoundland!
Newfoundland new logo
we will eat you up!
Little Shop of Horrors
kinna like Little Shop of Horrors

Pretty on the outside, the pitcher plant also happens to be carniverous. And everyone has a fascination for flesh-eating plants, so how can this not be a good change… Tourists are attracted to what they think is a pretty flower, but don’t realize they’ll be eaten up by hungry Newfies. I like.

On a more serious note, Fiat , the car company, has updated it’s logo.

Fiat old logo
blue blooded
Fiat new logo
red blooded
1932 logo
1932 logo

The introduction of red, the shield-shape embedded in a circle, and the use of the elongated font harks back to the logos the company used from the early 30s to late 60s. See here for a good overview of this history. If I wasn’t familiar with the Fiat name, I would read this logo as Firt. Don’t know if I’d want to drove a Firt.

The new logo of the Buffalo Silverbacks - a minor league basketball team - is interesting because it shows how logos can get caught up in racial politics.

Silverbacks old logo
gorilla with a silver back
Silverbacks new logo
a cat with a silver back

Team management chose to change the logo in response to criticism that their logo was rascist, portraying an angry African American as a basketball-playing gorilla. The logo, oddly enough, was created by one of the players on the team, an African American. Note that there is no such thing as a silverback tiger, or silverback cat. An entirely new species has been discovered in Buffalo.

Will these sports teams be forced to adopt the formidable silverback tiger as their emblem?

Atlanta Silverbacks
Atlanta Silverbacks, soccer
London Silverbacks
London Silverbacks, football
Miami Silverbacks
Miami Valley Silverbacks, indoor football
IFL Silverbacks
IFL Silverbacks, fighting

Visual literacy link: Reuters photo fraud

November 2nd, 2006

I stumbled on the Zombietime website last month and have been periodically returning to it to reread what it has to say.

Basically, this summer a handful of bloggers discovered that various incidents reported by the Western media during the Israeli-Lebanese conflict of this summer had been fabricated.

reuters fraud
original reuters photo of burning city
reuters fraud
photoshop to add more smoke

Zombietimes deconstructs this reporting and is an excellent example of visual literacy in use. In the end Reuters was forced to apologize and fire the photographer responsible for the falsified images.

Also of interest is the extremely detailed visual autopsy of the photos claiming to portray the Red Cross Ambulance incident , I’d say this autopsy pretty well verifies that the event was staged.

reuters fraud
the bomb hole…
reuters fraud
actually meant for the siren

This is only a fraction of what is described on the website. For an eye-opening exercise in the analysis and deconstruction of photos, check it out.

Using images to show how Coke is classic and Pepsi progressive

October 24th, 2006

The current Coke and Pepsi logos use very different colours, fonts, and imagery to capture our attention.

Pepsi current Coke current

What is interesting is that the look of these two logos was not always so different.

early 1900s

They look similiar, don’t they? Both Coca Cola and Pepsi Cola originally used decorative red script with long flowing banners extending from certain letters to describe their brand.

Also notice how Coca Cola’s script, taken from an 1899 advertisiment, is quite similiar to the current script, whereas Pepsi’s early logo is completely different from the one it uses now.

early 1900s to late 1930s

Over this time frame, Pepsi had begun to simplify the script in its logo. Gone is the ornate A, for instance. Coca Cola had begun to formalize their script with a few small changes, including the shortened tail of the first C.


In its new logo, Pepsi dropped the “drink” and “delicious” from the P and C. Blue was introduced as a colour. Coca Cola removed the words “trademark registered” from the tail of the C and listed “Reg. US Pat Off.” below. The C’s tail shrunk to today’s size.

It was in the next two decades that Pepsi’s logo would dramatically change.

1950s, 60s and 70s
In the 1950’s, the “epsi” and “ola” were no longer written decoratively, but in plain text. The double hyphen was replaced by a single hyphen, and the P and C lost their dramatic decoration. This lasted till the early 1960s

A second logo used in the 1950s and early ’60s completely abandoned script for a serif font. Yikes. Also introduced were lower-case letters.
This logo introduced around 1962 used a sans-serif font for the first time.
From here it was a short skip and a jump to this logo, which integrated the bottle cap look, the blue and red colour format, and the plan sans-serif text. This came out in the late ’60s and early ’70s.
While all this was happening, Coca Cola introduced one small change, and this not till 1969: the wave. Coke’s classic text stayed unscathed.

1980s and 90s

In 1991, Pepsi updated its logo by adopting a new high-techish font, italicizing it, and moving it out of the bottle cap image. In the early 1980s, Coke updated its logo by moving the wave up and into the text. To see the newest logos, scroll to the top of this post.

Through this entire evolution, Coca Cola’s text has stayed constant and unchanged, preserving the same look it had in the 1800s. Updates have been cursory and cosmetic. Pepsi, on the other hand, has evolved multiple times; from fancy script, to plain script, to serif print, to lower case, to sans-serif, and italics.

At certain points in their history, each logo incorporated a new image - Pepsi the bottle cap, and Coke the wave. But Coca Cola’s text has stayed central to the company’s image, whereas Pepsi has ventured inside the bottle cap, to the top of it, and below it.

What this shows is that Pepsi has tried to be ‘new’ to each generation that consumes its product, whereas Coke has been content to stay loyal to its classic origins. We all know this from the marketing slogans, but this is way to see the same thing in a visual way.

independent testing 2009