- [from Dan_Soltzberg] Swedish Artist Michael Johansson’s Shipping Container Art [Inhabitat] – [What makes this 3D collage so appealing: is it the scale? The playfulness? The clever conversation between shapes?] Shipping containers are often repurposed as houses, apartments and studios, but Swedish artist Michael Johansson sees them as building blocks for his sculptures.
- [from Dan_Soltzberg] Saad Mohseni Is Afghanistan’s First Media Mogul [NPR] – [Afghan Star producer Saad Mohseni is seeding culture change in Afghanistan by broadcasting shows depicting alternate social mores] Through reality TV, dramas, and soap operas, Afghans are able to see things they hadn't been able to watch for years. Women talking to men, for instance.
- [from Dan_Soltzberg] Tesla Raises Shocking Amount in NASDAQ Debut [Fast Company] – [Tesla takes it public. I have only anecdotal evidence as to the performance of their vehicles - the last time I was on the road next to a Tesla Roadster, it effortlessly smoked my turbo Miata - but Tesla seems like they're doing things right] For all its ambitions to revolutionize the electric car industry, Tesla Motors has only posted a profit once, back in July 2009. It has released just one car (the Roadster), and sells 10 vehicles per week. And yet Tesla's first day of public trading on the stock market has been an indisputable success.
- [from steve_portigal] Nicolas Hayek, 82, Dies – Introduced Swatch – Obituary (Obit) – NYTimes.com – By the 1970s, the vaunted Swiss watch industry was in jeopardy. Japanese watchmakers had begun to undercut Swiss prices. And public tastes were shifting from the finely wrought analog timepieces in which Swiss artisans had long specialized to the pale flickering faces of mass-market digital watches. In the early 1980s, with no apparent remedy in sight, a group of Swiss banks asked Mr. Hayek to compile a report on how the watchmaking industry might best be liquidated. Instead, he merged two of its former titans, Asuag and SSIH, which between them owned brands like Omega, Longines and Tissot. Mr. Hayek bought a majority stake in the reorganized group, known as SMH. In 1983, SMH introduced the Swatch. Lightweight, with vibrantly colored bands and breezy novelty faces, it was remarkably inexpensive to produce. (with 51 parts, as opposed to the nearly 100 needed to make a traditional wristwatch.) It retailed for less than $35 when it was first marketed in the United States later that year.
Harley-Davidson is probably close on the heels of Apple as one of the brands most cited as an admirably authentic brand, with people who aren’t merely customers purchasing product, but rather fans evangelizing and incorporating/reflecting the brand into every aspect of their being…
…and employees/executives who walk the walk and talk the talk.
True cred all around. But Harley-Davidson is a bit of a schizophrenic brand. It’s impressive that the brand is able to credibly support two sets of core customers who seem like they would be at best uncomfortable with each other: hard-core lifestyle biker dudes and chicks (anti-establishment, subculture) and weekend-warrior gentlemen or gentlewomen hobbyists (well-to-do, mainstream).
Across from the Harley-Davidson museum in Milwaukee sits a new high-end boutique hotel to draw motorcycle enthusiasts. The Iron Horse clearly caters to the income bracket of the weekend-warrior…
…but holds bike events there that celebrate and attract hard-core bikers. These pictures, courtesy of Stefanie Norvaisas, were taken at a recent “Bike Night” at the Iron Horse.
Then again, perhaps I’m being unfair. Maybe there’s more overlap between these two types of “users” than just looking at the extreme points of the scale would suggest. So often we think we have the customer figured out only to have those assumptions shaken up after a bit of fieldwork. It’s easier to pigeonhole and design for one imagined (probably exaggerated) type of customer, or persona. Harley-Davidson has shown that by celebrating the blurry lines between customer types a brand can invite strange but surprisingly comfortable bedfellows.
- Steve discusses Harley in Interactions magazine. Ships in the Night (Part I): Design without Research
- [from steve_portigal] Ring Pops Inspire Mariah Carey Fragrances [ NYTimes.com] – [Perhaps this is the future: multi-layered endorsement/licensing/line-extensions/cross-promotions] Mariah Carey’s Lollipop Bling, three fragrances that Elizabeth Arden based on candy flavors and that will appear in stores soon, is the product of a partnership with the Topps Company, which makes Ring Pops. “Topps sells tens of millions of units of candy,” said E. Scott Beattie, chief executive at Elizabeth Arden, which also has fragrance licensing deals with celebrities including Britney Spears, Danielle Steel and Elizabeth Taylor. “Combining their customer base with Mariah Carey’s fan base and our fragrance base is a great way to cross-promote all the brands.” While the scents “take a candy element as a thread to be woven in a fragrance,” they do so in a way that “elevates candy into a prestige environment,” she said. (Thanks, Gavin!)
- [from Dan_Soltzberg] Bowman vs Google? Why Data and Design Need Each Other [OK/Cancel] – [Tom Chi's thoughtful post on how engineering and design need to work together] "Design is really a kind of multi-variate optimization of extreme complexity…I’ve often said that 'Art is about freedom while Design is about constraints.'”
- [from Dan_Soltzberg] INTERVIEW: Sougwen [Design Noted from Michael Surtees] – [Nice reframing of drawing from a method of artifact production to a way of creating experiences] "I’m pushing a process with my work that counters the preciousness that some designers find fascinating. My performances are expressions of drawing as an activity, not about making a pristine or perfect image."
- [from julienorvaisas] David Brooks Defends the Humanities [NYTimes.com] – "Let me stand up for the history, English and art classes, even in the face of today’s economic realities. Studying the humanities improves your ability to read and write. No matter what you do in life, you will have a huge advantage if you can read a paragraph and discern its meaning (a rarer talent than you might suppose). You will have enormous power if you are the person in the office who can write a clear and concise memo. Studying the humanities will give you a familiarity with the language of emotion." [Brooks veers into strange territory with his idea of the Big Shaggy, but makes a compelling argument for how powerful an education in the sometimes seemingly-pointless Humanities can be in the world of business (a message well-received by the girl with a degree in Art History).]
- [from Dan_Soltzberg] Does the Internet Make You Smarter? – WSJ.com – "The case for digitally-driven stupidity assumes we'll fail to integrate digital freedoms into society as well as we integrated literacy. This assumption in turn rests on three beliefs: that the recent past was a glorious and irreplaceable high-water mark of intellectual attainment; that the present is only characterized by the silly stuff and not by the noble experiments; and that this generation of young people will fail to invent cultural norms that do for the Internet's abundance what the intellectuals of the 17th century did for print culture." [Clay Shirky's article is peppered with great insights about the intersection of information-sharing platforms and culture.]
- [from steve_portigal] Banana museum splits for new digs [SFGate.com] – The 17,000 items, everything from a "rare" petrified banana to a banana-shaped boogie board, was lovingly collected over 38 years by Ken "The Bananist" Bannister. The Bananist, who sells real estate for a living, kept it at his International Banana Museum in the Mojave Desert town of Hesperia. Plans are for the museum, listed by the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest collection dedicated to a single fruit, to reopen in January in this dusty town on the edge of the Salton Sea. Garbutt, who unlike Bannister was never much into bananas, is busy learning everything he can about the potassium-rich fruit that can be served in a variety of ways, including fresh-peeled, deep-fried or frozen and dipped in chocolate. He plans to open the museum next door to Skip's Liquors, which his family has owned since 1958. He says he hopes it will boost business there.
- [from steve_portigal] G.M. Backtracks on Chevy Memo [NYTimes.com] – [The nickname, when authentic (we're looking at you "The Shack") is a powerful way of people to take ownership of a brand meaning. GM inadvertently unleashed some real passion around this issue] Responding to negative reactions to an internal memorandum discouraging use of the word Chevy, General Motors moved on Thursday to explain its strategy and to reassure consumers that it still valued the popular nickname for Chevrolet. The memorandum asked employees to “communicate our brand as Chevrolet.” For decades, Chevrolet and Chevy have appeared interchangeably in advertisements, and the Chevrolet Web site uses both terms. But after a strong public reaction to a report in The New York Times on the note, G.M. issued a statement on Thursday that said the memorandum had been “poorly worded.” The statement said that the memorandum reflected Chevrolet’s strategy as it expanded internationally, but that the company was not “discouraging customers or fans from using” Chevy.
- [from steve_portigal] Angry clowns decry armed robbery by impostors [ajc.com] – [An interesting and surprising example of protecting brand identity] About 100 professional clowns who make money by performing on public buses marched through Salvadoran capital Thursday to protest the killing of a passenger by two imposter clowns. On Monday, a man was shot five times in the face and stomach when he declined to give money to two assailants dressed as clowns who boarded a public bus. No one has been arrested. The protesters — wearing oversized bow ties, tiny hats and big yellow pants — marched down San Salvador's main street in an effort to both entertain and educate passersby. Several held signs insisting that real clowns are not criminals. "We are protesting so that people know we are not killers," said professional clown Ana Noelia Ramirez. "The people who did this are not clowns. They unfortunately used our costume and our makeup to commit a monstrous act." (via BoingBoing)
- Virtual Seminar: Deep Dive Interviewing Secrets by Steve Portigal [IxDA Munich] – “Deep Dive Interviewing Secrets: Making Sure You Don’t Leave Key Information Behind”, Steve Portigal’s virtual seminar will be shown in our next meeting. The seminar lasts 90 minutes and it will be followed by a discussion. June 30th 7 p.m., IDEO, Hochbrückenstraße 6, 80331 Munich
- IndieReader – For Self-Published Books and the Readers Who Love Them – IndieReader is a venue for you to find and purchase books published and produced by the people who wrote them. Think of these books like handmade goods, produced in small numbers, instead of the mass-marketed stuff you'd find at a super store. And every book on the IndieReader site is reviewed prior to acceptance, guaranteeing that you'll find the "cream-of-the-indie crop". Why is this so important? Because today more than ever, almost everything we produce gets co-opted by corporate culture, turned into a business model, reformulated and churned out like soap with the simple intent to appeal to as many people as possible. In a world where almost everything is packaged by committee, IndieReader offers you books with a single voice: the writer's own.
- The Expanding Definition of Craft Beer [NYTimes.com] – In a world where Nabisco sells “artisan” Wheat Thins, the designation of Samuel Adams as a craft beer seems perfectly fair. But the Boston Beer Company, the brewery that was founded in 1984 and makes Sam Adams, is on the verge of outgrowing its coveted craft status — at least according to the Brewers Association, a national trade group that defines craft brewers in part as producing fewer than two million barrels a year. The federal government defines small brewers similarly, imposing a lower excise tax on those that stay under the two-million-barrel threshold. Mr. Koch predicted that Boston Beer would surpass the two-million mark by 2012. But help may be on the way: John Kerry introduced a bill last month that would increase the yearly production limit for small brewers to six million barrels.
- Icing, a meme drinking game with Smirnoff Ice [NYTimes.com] – The premise of the game is simple: hand a friend a sugary Smirnoff Ice malt beverage and he has to drink it on one knee, all at once — unless he is carrying a bottle himself, in which case the attacker must drink both bottles. Amid suspicion that the trend is an elaborate viral marketing campaign by Smirnoff, which the company has denied, new icing photos are posted daily on various blogs, Twitter and Facebook — including scenes from graduations and weddings — and sent directly to a Web site, BrosIcingBros.com. The game has exposed the mercurial line between guerrilla advertising and genuine social media trends, raising questions about how young consumers can know when they have co-opted a brand for their own purposes, and when that brand has co-opted them.
- Rethink the Book project from Berlin University of the Art – In cooperation with the schoolbook publisher Cornelsen Verlag a student group of the „New Media Studio Class” experimented with the digital possibilities to think anew the book as media. They linked the book by visual codes with methods of "Augmented Reality". They embeded sensor technology for new forms of interaction and used new methods of production engineering like "laser cutting" to model the book as an object or to publish personalized schoolbooks. In the exhibition they show several prototypes like electronic origami paper or an interactive periodic table.
- Cupidtino: Meet An Apple Fanboy Or Fangirl – Cupidtino is a beautiful new dating site created for fans of Apple products by fans of Apple products! Why? Diehard Mac & Apple fans often have a lot in common – personalities, creative professions, a similar sense of style and aesthetics, taste, and of course a love for technology. We believe these are enough reasons for two people to meet and fall in love, and so we created the first Mac-inspired dating site to help you find other Machearts around you. [They claim it's not a joke /SP]
- 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.
- 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.’ ”
Vegan jerky, brand name: Primal Strips
Jerky with real beef in it? The Jerky Kids! Yee Haw Original Flavor!
Ironically, both packages feature demonstrations of affection between human and cattle.
- Social Change: Women, Networks, and Technology by Natalie Quizon [interactions magazine] – [I'm working as a contributing editor for interactions magazine and some of the first articles I've been involved in are starting to appear!]
More than 35 years ago, Laya Wiesner first came up with the idea of convening a workshop at MIT University on Women In Science and Technology (WIT). In her role as the wife of Jerome Wiesner, then the 13th president of MIT, she immersed herself in what she recognized was a critical educational issue. The subsequent report introduced the above questions, the guiding objectives of the WIT Workshop held at MIT in 1973, which focused on the challenging dearth of women in the science, technology, engineering, and math fields (STEM).
- Operationalizing Brands with New Technologies by Denise Lee Yohn [interactions magazine] – [I'm working as a contributing editor for interactions magazine and some of the first articles I've been involved in are starting to appear!] New technologies-like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, social networking, augmented reality, tagging, wikis, social indexing-and the applications they make possible have affected our culture in a profound way. Still, I hope they will have an even greater impact going forward.
Truth is, the use of these new technologies has been quite limited when it comes to the way companies build their brands. To date, most technology-enabled, brand-building approaches have focused on brand expression and communication…
- Stereotyping people by favorite authors – In our Reading Ahead research, we heard about how people were both exploring and communicating identity through their choices of reading material. Identity is a complex internal and external mechanism, where we (explicitly or implicitly) project outwards to imagine how we might appear to others…an internal act that feels or draws from the external. So the existence of lists like this, while tongue-in-cheek, validate that this process is real.
- Scott Baldwin on the fine art of listening – Try changing how you listen. Try to capture the message (listen with your ears, mind, eyes and heart). Make eye contact, use an open posture and be attentive to body language, volume, tone and pace. Look deeper than just the meaning of the words and try to understand the reason, feelings or intent beyond the words. Be empathetic, objective and analytical.
- An iPhone app for ethnography – Really? I haven't tried it but I am not encouraged by the description. What we're looking for doesn't always fit into predetermined categories (indeed, how are you to be innovative if the type of data you are gathering is already classifiable?) and there's a danger in conflating data with insights (or as the blogger here writes "outcomes"). Raw data is overwhelming and takes time and skill to process, if you want to find out anything new. Now, we spend a lot of our time just wrangling (copying, renaming, organizing, sharing, etc.) all sorts of data, so I'm up for tools that can help with that; but I think it's easy to go overboard and create tools for uninteresting – or unreliable – research results
- Lisa Loeb Eyewear Collection – Not an SNL parody ad from 1997, it's a real product line for 2010 (via @CarlAlviani)
- Daniel Stillman of ECCO reviews my IxDA-NYC talk on Improv and Creativity – Thanks, Daniel!
- LEGO architecture series – Including Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater and Guggenheim, as well as Hancock and Space Needle.
Locavore iPhone app
Locavore (also localvore) is someone who eats (or tries to eat) food from within a certain radius, typically 100 miles. In 2006, Google opened Cafe 150, a restaurant on its Mountain View campus that only uses ingredients that come from within 150 miles. The 100-mile diet is a book, a website, and a movement.
This is a powerful idea that, as it has taken hold, has entered our vocabulary and shifted our mindset. Even if we don’t do this, we consume the idea. It’s a meme.
Now, here come the electric vehicles. A similarly urgent effort to create change that asks us to fundamentally revisit how we do a primary activity. The fully electric Chevy’s Volt has a much-discussed 40-mile-without-recharging-capacity, based on some data (which of course, is disputed) showing 80% Americans drive less than 40 miles per day.
These two ideas are not parallel. At 41 miles, imagine that your car stops dead by the roadside and you’re stuck with a AAA situation. At 151 miles, your radicchio isn’t quite as local – but you don’t go hungry. Even so, the food people have done a much better job at creating a new story that quickly captures the essence of a new behavior.
Do you know how many miles a day you drive? The EV people, and Chevy especially, would do well to help create awareness at a general level (that people drive this much, on average) and a personal level (here’s how to figure out how much you drive, or how to map a 40-mile capacity against your typical usage). There’s potentially a gap between how well the Volt would work for most people and how well those same people believe the Volt would work for them.
We’ve seen people wearing pedometers to track another unknown distance: how far they walk in a given day. Why not give away car pedometers (yes, cars already contain equipment that provides that information, but the point here is to celebrate and raise awareness)? Where equivalent term to locavore for the daily driving case? 40-milers? loca-motives? Where are the use cases or archetypes that help translate into something familiar? How far does a mom in the ‘burbs drive? How about someone in the exurbs? Or a traveling saleswoman/road warrior? There’s a lot that can be done just on expanding the idea itself, to help set the stage for the coming solutions.
- Drowning in Data in Kathmandu – Exchange between me and Dave Robertson about how to process the overwhelming amount of experiential and visual stimulation that comes from spending time someplace very foreign.
- Obituary: Ray Browne / Scholar who pioneered the study of popular culture – Ray Browne, an Ohio university professor who was credited with coining the phrase "popular culture" and pioneering the study of things such as bumper stickers and cartoons, has died. He was 87.
He developed the first academic department devoted to studying what he called the "people's culture" at Bowling Green in 1973.
"Culture is everything from the food we've always eaten to the clothes we've always worn," he said in a 2003 interview.
- Disney offers refunds for Baby Einstein DVDs – Canadian and U.S. parents who feel duped by claims that Baby Einstein videos were brain boosters for their infants and toddlers can now get a refund for old merchandise from the Walt Disney Company.
The company agreed after a lengthy campaign by a coalition of educators and parents, who complained Disney's marketing materials implied their videos for babies under 2 years of age were beneficial for cognitive development.
The move to compensate some customers comes after Disney's Baby Einstein stopped using some claims following a complaint lodged with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood.
The group alleged deceptive marketing.
"Disney took the word 'educational' off of its website and its marketing, but we felt that parents deserved more," child psychologist Susan Linn, co-founder of the organization, said yesterday.
As a followup to yesterday’s KISS post a reader emailed me to suggest some makeup brands that KISS shouldn’t endorse. Of course, the band did do their own makeup product, back in 1978.
It’s not until you look back to their heyday that you really realize how far the brand has collapsed. While it’s still a goofy commercialization of a rock band, the KISS Your Face Makeup Kit enables us to imitate the band’s look, while the ad also shows kids miming to KISS songs with tennis rackets. The ad and the product tell a story that is authentic to how people were experiencing the brand. Skip to 2009 and you have to ask just what relevance (or resonance) does KISS as M&Ms have?
Steve Portigal (center) and friends miming to KISS songs with badminton rackets, Burlington, ON, 1978 (without the use of KISS Your Face Makeup Kit)