- [from julienorvaisas] STRANGEco MR. SPRAY – Shepard Fairey [strangeco.com] – [I was not considering purchasing one of these original-artwork/advertising-appropriation figures in the latest limited edition by Mr. Fairey... until I read about the 4 points of articulation. $84.99] We're pleased to announce MR. SPRAY, a new limited edition vinyl figure designed by internationally renowned artist Shepard Fairey! Mr. Spray is an original character created by the artist in 2004 as a street-art appropriation of an advertising character design of the 1950s. Mr. Spray is the first original vinyl figure design by the artist in eleven years and will be released in mid-July 2010. Mr. Spray is a rotocast vinyl figure, 11 inches tall. 4 points of articulation and packaged with an OBEY mini stencil.
- [from steve_portigal] Money in the Bank? No, Sandwich in a Can [NYTimes.com] – An SEC lawsuit says that Mr. Wright promised returns of up to 24% on real estate investments, but that he put the money instead into Candwich development and other equally untried ideas. Along with sales of canned sandwiches Pepperoni Pizza Pocket and French Toast in a can Mr. Wright’s companies, under the banner of Waterford Funding, also invested in a company selling rose petals printed with greeting card sentiments and another selling watches over the Internet. Meanwhile, the Candwich concept perseveres. The president of Mark One Foods, Mark Kirkland, who said he patented the idea of putting solid food in a beverage container with the slogan, “Quick & Tasty, Ready to Eat,” said Mr. Wright promised full financial backing for Candwich production that never really materialized even as investors did. He said he believed that canned sandwiches would ultimately sell, and hoped to go into production later this year. The shelf life of a Candwich is excellent, Mr. Kirkland said.
- [from steve_portigal] Reading in a Whole New Way [Smithsonian Magazine] – [Kevin Kelly reflects on the history of reading and the changes new technology has brought to this essentially fundamental activity] The amount of time people spend reading has almost tripled since 1980. By 2008 more than a trillion pages were added to the World Wide Web, and that total grows by several billion a day. Each of these pages was written by somebody. Right now ordinary citizens compose 1.5 million blog posts per day. Using their thumbs instead of pens, young people in college or at work around the world collectively write 12 billion quips per day from their phones. More screens continue to swell the volume of reading and writing. But it is not book reading. Or newspaper reading. It is screen reading. Screens are always on, and, unlike with books we never stop staring at them. This new platform is very visual, and it is gradually merging words with moving images: words zip around, they float over images, serving as footnotes or annotations, linking to other words or images.
- [from julienorvaisas] New Artisanal Pencil-Sharpening Project [Details Magazine] – [It looks like the artisanal food and craft movement may be fading in cultural relevance if it's subject to this level of brutal skewering.] "What better to complement your collection of limited-edition notebooks, small-batch liquors, and locally sourced honey than a pencil sharpened by a true artisan? David Rees, author of the comic book series Get Your War On and My New Fighting Technique is Unstoppable, discovered his passion for sharpening pencils while working for the U.S. Census Bureau. Now he's parlaying his old-school skills into a mail-order artisanal pencil-sharpening business."
- [from steve_portigal] An App for ‘Despicable Me,’ to Use at the Theater [NYTimes.com] – [Is there a difference between multimedia enhancement and advertising-supported distraction?] Best Buy Movie Mode is being released in connection with “Despicable Me,” an animated 3-D movie in which an aspiring supervillain named Gru inherits three little girls. The marquee feature of the app is called the Minionator, which translates the gibberish of Gru’s little yellow henchmen called Minions. In theaters, the Minionator will work only during the closing credits, but on Blu-ray disc throughout the movie. “It is disturbing to have people doing things that take people out of the movie,” said Patrick Corcoran, director of media and research for the National Association of Theater Owners. Many theaters warn patrons to turn off their phones. Movie Mode tries to appease those who dislike distractions. The app automatically turns off a phone’s ringer and dims the screen to discourage texting. It does not disable the phone. It will still vibrate.
- [from steve_portigal] Black Taxis offer tours of Belfast [SF Chronicle] – The Black Taxis of Belfast grew out the height of the Troubles. City buses were subject to bomb and sniper attacks as they passed through the strife-torn neighborhoods. Safe passage had to be arranged via taxi, and the taxi drivers could only operate within, never across, each neighborhood's boundaries, The ads for Black Taxi tours promise a neutral historical narrative. That's a tall order, as many drivers have a genuine history on one side of the conflict or the other. Some lost family members. Everyone lost friends. Still, the mere fact that the murals are now a tourist attraction, rather than a touchstone for violence, may signify that peace has actually arrived in Belfast. "We debated whether to encourage this trend or to downplay it," said Bernard McMullan, a representative of Tourism Ireland, of the popularity of the Black Taxi tours. "But in the end, we decided that it was an important part of our history. There's no point in denying it. Besides, it's interesting."
- [from steve_portigal] Nissan adds noises to Leaf electric vehicle as safety precaution [WaPo] – [The design challenge of creating new, yet familiar feedback cues] After exploring 100 sounds that ranged from chimes to motorlike to futuristic, the company settled on a soft whine that fluctuates in intensity with the car's speed. When backing up, the car makes a clanging sound. Nissan says it worked with advocates for the blind, a Hollywood sound-design company and acoustic psychologists in creating its system of audible alerts. Nissan's sound system is the first created by a major manufacturer. The company says it is controlled by a computer and synthesizer in the dash panel. The sounds are delivered through a speaker in the engine compartment. A switch inside the vehicle can turn off the sounds temporarily, but the system automatically resets to "on" at the next ignition cycle. At speeds greater than 20 mph, any car, electric or not, makes significant noise because of the tires slapping on the pavement, engineers say. The noises for the Nissan operate only at the lower speeds.
- Texting in Meetings – It Means ‘I Don’t Care’ [NYTimes.com] – For more than a decade, my colleagues and I have gathered data on incivility from more than 9,000 managers and workers across the United States, and we’re continuing this work internationally. We have learned a great deal about the problem’s causes and consequences. I define incivility as behavior, seemingly inconsequential to the doer, that others perceive as inconsiderate. Electronic devices lead to more incivility because of their powerful ability to claim our attention — no matter where we are or what we’re doing. No one likes to be snubbed, of course, but the offense can take on a new edge when the winner is a machine.
- Putting Customers in Charge of Designing Shirts [NYTimes.com] – “The value proposition of customization at retail prices was a cornerstone of our company from the very start,” Mr. Bi tells me by phone from Shanghai, where Blank Label shirts are sewn to customers’ specifications and delivered anywhere in the world in about four weeks. But Blank Label, his Web start-up based in Boston, offers something else that off-the-rack doesn’t: “the emotional value proposition: how expressive something is.” “People really like a Blank Label shirt because they can say, ‘I had a part in creating this.’ ”
- Google Restricts Ads for ‘Cougar’ Sites [NYTimes.com] – Last week, CougarLife.com, which was paying Google $100,000 a month to manage its advertising, was notified by the company that its ads would no longer be accepted. When notified by Google of the decision, CougarLife proposed substituting a different ad for the ones that were running, picturing older women and younger men together. Cougarlife said it would use an image of the company’s president, Claudia Opdenkelder, 39, without a man in the picture (she lives with her 25-year-old boyfriend). But the advertising department was told in an e-mail message from its Google representative that “the policy is focused particularly around the concept of ‘cougar dating’ as a whole,” and asked if the company would be open to changing “the ‘cougar’ theme/language specifically (including the domain if necessary).” CougarLife forwarded the e-mail messages to The New York Times. Google would not comment on the messages but did confirm that they were consistent with the new policy on cougar sites.
- Rest in Peas: The Unrecognized Death of Speech Recognition [robertfortner's posterous] – Progress in conversational speech recognition accuracy has clearly halted and we have abandoned further frontal assaults. The research arm of the Pentagon, DARPA, declared victory and withdrew. Many decades ago, DARPA funded the basic research behind both the Internet and today’s mouse-and-menus computer interface. More recently, the agency financed investigations into conversational speech recognition but shifted priorities and money after accuracy plateaued. Microsoft Research persisted longer in its pursuit of a seeing, talking computer. But that vision became increasingly spectral, and today none of the Speech Technology group’s projects aspire to push speech recognition to human levels.
[Speech recognition comes up all the time in user research. It represents some idealized version of "easy-to-use" though people typically recognize the demanding social norms that talking-to-tech evokes and reject the ideal they moments ago requested /SP]
- As Seen on TV – a tribute to doing it wrong [YouTube] – A collection of supposed Epic Fail moments from our daily lives recreated by TV commercials as a precursor to the solution being offered /SP
- Books Travellers Read in Mumbai Locals [Windy Skies] – This is Part I of my ongoing attempt to note the books my fellow travellers read in Mumbai local trains on their way to work and back. I ride the infamous Mumbai local train network to work each day, unconsciously observing my fellow passengers when I’m not squeezed breathless or pounded into submission in the surging crowds that bring a new meaning to the concept of pressure. While it is not always easy to move around once inside the train, it is sometimes possible to pull off a picture of the reader and his book. The readers will rarely look up from the books they’re reading. They don’t need to, tuned in as they are to approaching stations from years of travelling on the local train network.<br />
(via Dina Mehta)
- Duncan Hines Brownie Husband – [Saturday Night Live] – "The perfect blend of rich fudge and emotional intimacy." Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant. (via Design Observer)
- Inc. Magazine Staffers Works Remotely To Make April Issue – [NYTimes.com] – Away from the office, some staff members struggled to adjust, as minor technical hiccups arose and parents working at home had to find ways to separate their work from their children. But in the end, most employees discovered that they could and should work out of the office more often — though they did not want to eliminate the office entirely. Mr. Chafkin found himself working more hours than usual in February and pining for the company of his colleagues. “I was way more productive, but way less happy,” he said. “I think one of the reasons people get into magazines is that it’s collaborative.” The collaboration that did happen needed to be arranged in advance, like setting a time for a conference call, rather than relying on an encounter in a hallway or chatting at a desk. Only once during the month did the entire staff gather, at Ms. Berentson’s home on the Upper West Side. When everyone got together, she said, it was “exactly like seeing old friends.”
- OgilvyOne Uses Contest to Promote Salesmanship [NYTimes.com] – A contest from OgilvyOne asks participants to market a brick so their sales techniques can be judged. The prize is a job at the agency for three months. Participants submit their ads for the red brick via YouTube. The ad agency's contest is a nod to David Ogilvy, who offered straightforward opinions on the high importance of good salesmanship.
- The Medium – Trust Busting [NYTimes.com] – A company shows anxiety on its face — that is, on its Web site, which has become the face of the modern corporation. Visit sites for recently troubled or confused enterprises, including Maclaren, Toyota, Playtex, Tylenol and, yes, John Edwards, and you’ll find a range of digital ways of dealing with distress.
- Topeka, KS changes its name (for a month) to Google, KS – I wrote about this sort of bombastic advertising in interactions (http://interactions.acm.org/content/?p=1231) referencing the dot-com era's Half, Oregon, and the classic Truth or Consequences, NM
- Toy Traveling – Travel Agency for Teddy bears and cuddly toys – [Productizing the" trend" of taking pictures of your stuffed animals on your vacation] Is your darling exceptional? Give him extraordinary present – trip to Prague – the beautiful heart of Europe. Except amazing experiences, he will bring back home many great photos and other presents. Do you collect stuffed toys, dolls or other fun “non-living” friends and you believe they also deserve rest and vacation or an outstanding experience in an interesting country? If you do, pack up its suitcase, wish it a nice trip and send it to the Czech Republic where your friend can enjoy the historic beauty of Prague as well as other services that will leave both you and your friend satisfied. Let it go on cool trips, group events and wellness therapy in the heart of Europe – done with respect to your friend and loving care. We are tolerant and unbiased. We will be happy to welcome all kinds of your toys regardless nationality, race, religion, sexual preferences, age or handicaps.
- A list of UX-related sessions at SXSW Interactive [Nick Finck] – There's a great deal happening at this event! Here's one attempt to filter (including our session on UX methods!)
- DEVO – Focus Group Testing the Future [YouTube] – Filled with brilliantly sarcastic soundbites, this is definitely pushing on post-modernism/post-irony. DEVO doing focus group testing (or so they say) on every aspect of their 2010 offering (brand, logotype, instrumentation, clothing). Interesting also to see how this appears in the press with varying amounts of the irony removed.
- Theater Preshow Announcements Take Aim at Cellphones [NYTimes.com] – In a production of “Our Town” the director, David Cromer, who played the Stage Manager, took a minimal approach because he wanted to stay true to Thornton Wilder’s desire to forgo conventional theatrics. “In that show we had this issue, which is that there was to be no theater technology. The whole act of my entrance was that you were supposed to think it was someone from the theater,” Mr. Cromer explained. “We didn’t want the Stage Manager to come out and say, ‘Please turn your cellphones off,’ because that would be rewriting Wilder.” Instead Mr. Cromer simply held up a cellphone upon entering at the beginning of each act and then turned it off and put it away, casually showing the audience what to do without talking about it. “The first time I was watching another actor take over in the show as the Stage Manager,” Mr. Cromer said, “he came out, held his cellphone in the air, and the woman next to me said, ‘Oh, someone lost their cellphone.’ ”
- Confessions of a Book Pirate [The Millions] – I own around 1,600 physical books, maybe a third of which were bought new, the rest used. I buy many hardcovers in a given year and generally purchase more books than I end up reading, so I have not chosen to collect electronic books as opposed to paper books but in addition to them. My electronic library has about a 50% crossover with my physical library, so that I can read the book on my electronic reader, “loan” the book without endangering my physical copy, or eventually rid myself of the paper copy if it is a book I do not have strong feelings about.
- Google’s "Search Stories" advertising – Very powerful quick ads made of screenshots only, show how using Google for search (and other) is an element – perhaps integral – of the stories that our lives are made of.
I posted a few months ago on on design studio Blu Dot’s New York leave-behind/Big Brother-is-watching-you (and wants to know what you did with that chair) marketing campaign.
For anyone interested in the aftermath, Rob Walker’s latest Consumed column in the New York Times includes a few anecdotes about what happened to the Blu Dot chairs that were the campaign’s focus, and some interesting backstory from Mono, the marketing agency that put the whole performance piece/stunt/campaign together.
- Waldo Hunt, 88, dies; repopularized pop-up books in 1960s – "He was such an important publisher of pop-up books who really advanced them technically. The pop-up designers who worked for him were amazing creative engineers," said Cynthia Burlingham, director of the Grunwald Center for the Graphic Arts at the Hammer Museum of UCLA.
The first golden age of movable books began in the late 1800s, when European publishers crafted elaborate books for children, and ended with the onset of World War I. With Mr. Hunt's epiphany, the second golden age was about to begin.
"I knew I'd found the magic key," Mr. Hunt said. "No one was doing pop-ups in this country. No one could afford to make them here. They had to be done by hand, and labor was too expensive."
He started Graphics International, and produced a series of pop-up ads featuring zoo scenes as part of a magazine campaign for Wrigley's gum. Soon, his company was creating pop-up table decorations and greeting cards for Hallmark.
- Electronic Popable Books from MIT – Electronic popables integrate paper-based electronic sensors that allow amazing interactivity — turning on lights and moving images at the touch of a finger. Will it catch on or will the line between printing on paper and electronic media become so blurred that consumers will opt to watch the story on a screen?
- StoryCorps: National Day of Listening – On the day after Thanksgiving, set aside one hour to record a conversation with someone important to you. You can interview anyone you choose: an older relative, a friend, a teacher, or someone from the neighborhood.
You can preserve the interview using recording equipment readily available in most homes, such as cell phones, tape recorders, computers, or even pen and paper. Our free Do-It-Yourself Instruction Guide is easy to use and will prepare you and your interview partner to record a memorable conversation, no matter which recording method you choose.
Make a yearly tradition of listening to and preserving a loved one’s story. The stories you collect will become treasured keepsakes that grow more valuable with each passing generation.
- London 2009 – a set on Flickr – My London pictures from our recent visit
- Every year, The Harris Poll asks a cross-section of adults whether they think about 20 leading industries do a good or a bad job of serving their consumers. – Note that the cable industry regularly appears on this poll as doing a bad job.
- Time Warner insincerely and manipulatively asks customers to "vote" if it should "get tough" or "roll over" – Facing expiring deals with a number of key programmers, the nation's second-largest cable operator is launching a Web site, rolloverorgettough.com, which it says is designed to give its subscribers a voice in what it calls unfair price demands by content suppliers. Time Warner says those who operate broadcast and cable networks are asking for "incredible price hikes," as much as 300%. Customers will be able to vote on whether the operator rolls over, or should get tough, about price increases.
"You're our customers, so help us decide what to do. We're just one company, but there are millions of you. Together, we just might be able to make a difference in what America pays for its favorite entertainment."
Michael Cannell posted yesterday at Fast Company on design firm Blu-Dot’s fascinating new campaign, in which they are going to give away chairs by leaving them on the streets of New York, and then use GPS embedded in the chairs to track them down. According to Michael Hart of Mono, the ad firm that developed the idea with Blu-Dot:
If all goes according to plan, the video crew will use the GPS to find the chairs a few months from now. They’ll knock on doors and interview the owners–homeless people, Apartment Therapy readers, whoever they turn out to be–about why they took the chairs and how they use them. “Where does great design end up in New York? What sort of a person invites these chairs into their homes?”
Wow – there are so many layers to this. The brilliant experimental marketing layer, the Big Brother-ish invasion of privacy layer, the genius “guaranteed-to-get-talked-and-written-about” PR layer, the “no-marketing-message-included” layer reminiscent of “no-brand” brand Muji, the Chris Anderson “free” layer, and finally, the anthropological, archeological, design research find-out-where-the-chairs-go layer, which in and of itself would be a great conceptual art project or social experiment.
This project–what do you even call it? Is it a project, a campaign, an experiment?–really takes the openness and creative potential of contemporary marketing and runs with it.
- Amazon’s Kindle app for the PC – (Is it still an app if it runs on a computer?) While it seems to be tied to the launch of Windows 7 this week, it will also run on XP, etc. The Kindle experience starts to become platform independent. So what it is? A UI? An OS? An ecosystem? Or a store?
- Advertising – The People Spoke. In Windows 7, Microsoft Says It Listened – Microsoft asks PC users for feedback. But after the debacle with Vista, they realized that the concept of consumers as an intrinsic part of the development process could be an effective selling point for Windows 7. And so was born a campaign carrying the theme “I’m a PC and Windows 7 was my idea.”
“Our customers co-create the product with us,” said David Webster, GM for brand and marketing strategy “We’re using the customers’ voice to tell our story.”
In one ad, these words are superimposed over a photograph of a woman: “I asked for it to use less memory. Now it uses less memory. I’m a tech goddess.”
In another ad, these words appear over a photo of an older man: “I suggested they make it less complicated. Guess what? Now it’s less complicated. I so rule.”
In commercials, Microsoft engineers say, “Bring it on; what do you got?” PC users fire back with pithy phrases like “Less clutter, just less clutter.” And the engineers reply: “Loud and clear. We’re all over it.”
Although the principal conceit of Apple’s latest Mac vs. PC ad is, as always, “PCs suck,” the ad does a nice job pointing to the difference between innovative thinking and the mere creation of features.
While the cupholder suit that appears at the ad’s end is presented as a joke, many companies do have an unfortunate habit of burdening their products with clunky, grafted-on features as they try to push their ideas into new territory.
Compare the cupholder suit to Apple’s breakaway MagSafe cord, which the ad references. While there’s some debate over how well the Magsafe cord actually does what it’s supposed to, it at least intends to address a real issue that computer manufacturers had previously ignored (people’s cords get tripped on, yanked out).
Discovering that aspect of the user experience – however Apple may have done this – and recognizing it as one worthy of design intervention is the real innovation here.
- The Product Is You, No. 12 – Rob Walker does a series of advertisements that reveal a customer segmentation and the associated characteristics. Similar vein to my postings about personas leaking outside the enterprise
- Please vote for our SXSW panel "Culture Kicks Our Ass: How To Kick Back" – The conference lineup is chosen partially based on input (i.e., voting) from the community. Even if you don't attend, you still have a voice about what the discourse should be in our various fields, so please vote for this panel from Steve Portigal and D. P. Haine, of Obvious Design.
We’ll explore the different cultural challenges that breakthrough products must overcome: emergent usage behaviors that are impossible to predict, a global customer base and cultural barriers inside the corporation that suffocate innovation. We’ll also share best practices for addressing each challenge.
- Please vote for our SXSW panel "FAIL: When User Research Goes Horribly, Horribly Wrong" – The conference lineup is chosen partially based on input (i.e., voting) from the community. Even if you don't attend, you still have a voice about what the discourse should be in our various fields, so please vote for this panel from
Steve Portigal, Portigal Consulting
Nate Bolt, Bolt|Peters
Dan Saffer, Kicker Studio
Aviva Rosenstein, Ask.com
Mark Trammell, Digg
Best practices for user research are not hard to come by, but experience is the ideal way to develop mastery. And with experience inevitably comes failure. Embarrassing, awkward, hilarious failure that gives the gift of self-improvement. We’ll share our own unvarnished examples and what they taught us.
- Do programmers still buy printed books? | Zen and the Art of Programming – Likewise, when I’m holding a book or have it open on my desk, I’m in “book reading mode”, which makes it far easier to immerse myself in it. This means that I’m focused on the task and can proceed quickly. The only context switch that happens is between the book and the editor/shell, if it’s the kind of book that warrants typing along. If you are reading a book in a browser tab, it’s very easy to think, “I’ll just check my email for a second”, or introduce similar distractions. I’m sure I’m not alone in this respect.
When I buy a physical copy of a book, I feel psychologically more obliged to at least try to get through it. Online I experience a paradox of choice of sort. With hundreds of interesting books available there in front of me, I’m more inclined to excessively multitask, and end up checking out different books while I should still be reading the current one.
(Thanks @onwardparam and @chirag_mehta)
- New study suggests people from different cultures read facial expressions differently – East Asian participants in the study focused mostly on the eyes, but those from the West scanned the whole face.
They were more likely than Westerners to read the expression for "fear" as "surprise", and "disgust" as "anger".
The researchers say the confusion arises because people from different cultural groups observe different parts of the face when interpreting expression.