Monday, June 30, 2008

Chubby Bunny Show

A few interesting, dark pieces from the Nucleus Art Gallery's Chubby Bunny Show

See Also: Bunnies Are Everywhere


Monster Rabbit Stalks U.K. Village (But No Sign of Wallace or Gromit)

Friends with Benefits: Benifits Summary Prospectus

Special thanks to MM for piping this in.

TUMBLR. The Documentary.

tumblr. - The Documentary from DaveAOK on Vimeo.

If you didn't already know it Nixta Rolls Rules!

Of Montreal, of Princess D and some thoughts on aesthetics for your Monday morning.

So. Yesterday Princess D made apple pies and I love apple pies and I ate a lot at her place and she gave me one to take home and I had trouble waking up today because of all the sugar. So I ate more apple pie this morning thinking it would help, like "hair of the dog" but with pie, but it didn't help and now I feel worse!

But Princess D never closes a door without opening a window and the window she gave me was turning me on to the band "Of Montreal" and the track "Heimdalsgate Like A Promethean Curse." It's really helping to even out the brain chemistry this morning... "come on chemicals"!

There were a lot of criticisms of user-generated media for lacking in quality, slickness and professionalism back in 2006 as the rise of things like YouTube was taking place. Far from being a negative that had to be overcome it often appears to me that an "amature" aesthetic has been embraced for its resonance.

I had a very interesting talk with Don M last week about "contrived communications" and "manufactured contexts". TV show and advertising are the big examples of both. The more traditional in format and aesthetic, the more contrived they tend to appear.

I wasn't sure if the video above was the "official" band video for the track at first. It's got a very Sparkle Motion meets Napoleon Dynamite thing going on that makes it feel very natural to the "theater" of YouTube. It lends it an air of authenticity despite how very pop the track is. It's similar to the way that Tom Petty's goony looks make him seem more "real". If he had been a pretty boy his music would have been taken far less seriously.

In a very similar way, the street-art look of the Converse outdoor seems very at home in NY's subways. The Converse brand fits this "theater" much better than Nike ads would. I think these sort of sensitivities to resonance and contexts are becoming more important factors for producers of "contrived communications.

John McCain's Pork Invaders

Help John McCains slaughter pigs??? OK, I guess????

Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Underminer

A big sunrise salutation to The D Princess for turning my third eye to this.

How do I put this in a western way... effin funny.

Stanley Steamer

I've heard of a "cleveland streamer" but I was just turned on to the Stanley Steamer by following television commercial.

Apparently,it's when you drag your ass across the rug.

Bugs Bunny's Penis

I've been getting some static for all of the recent posts on subjects sexual in nature, especially all the posts relating to "penis". I told myself I would lay off for a bit but how could I not share with you a video that features Bugs, hanging out like a Mandingo Warrior. Deal with it.

Here is a still of the animated rabbit's package.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Lost in Emoticons

My favorite "personal" blog is a site called Lost in Emoticons . The posts are short instant message conversations between the site's creator and her mother.

The sites description: Online conversations between a mother and her daughter. The mother is from China. The daughter was born in America. The language barrier gets wider by the day. Thank god for emoticons.

They posts have a haiku-like quality to them, elements of beautiful confusion. Many of them start out with Y trying to decipher what her mother is trying to say but quickly resolve in charming moments between a mother and daughter. I like that there is little added context. The oblique exchanges are a little like the shadows cast in Plato's cave, indirectly telling the story, and asking you to piece it together over time.

I also like that there are few picture, but this one is priceless.

Shirt collars are a way of putting the head on a pedestal without removing it.

I was asking myself why shirts have collars recently but couldn't really come up with an adequate answer. Then today, I saw a portrait of someone donning an Elizabethan collar and it hit me. Collars are a way of focusing attention on the head, on esteeming it, metaphorically placing it on a pedestal or platter (without removing it).

Fahrenheit 451 with Asbestos Cover

Apparently the first edition of Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 was bound with asbestos boards. That's badass. I would love to get my hands on one of these and display it with one of the lead painted Curious George toys.

On the subject of product oddities and mishaps I came across a site devoted to Fisher Price's Little People. There is a page devoted to rarities like the orange Grover, yellow Big Bird and upside-down face bus driver among others.

Chariots of Hummus

The Segway scooter never quite lived up to all of hype surrounding its release. In fact, I would argue that no one had come up with a reasonable use for it until I saw this yesterday in Union Square, Roman soldiers petaling a "Greek" brand of hummus or yogurt or something. I think someone needs to sort out their understanding of history.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Words are just funny, funny sounds

Jimmy on Pictures and Television
I was out to dinner with Jimmy, his mother and his cousin. Towards the end of the dinner his cousin takes out the camera to get a few pics. When she points it at Jimmy he objects and turns his head "No, no, no. No Pictures.

He mother quips, "your always talking about how you want to be on television, but you won't let people take your picture?"

"Mom, on TV I have a chance to explain myself"

A friend of mine owned his own business. An employee who worked the night shift was a sweet guy but a little slow. One night my fiend calls into the office to see how things are and the employee answers the phone in a flustered state, "Mark, Mark, the whole place is in Shamrocks."

That's stuck with me for years. There is something about substituting shamrocks for shambles that is indded very Irish.

In the news: Union anger at "Dickensian" toilet policy
LONDON (Reuters) - A meat company has been branded Dickensian after forcing its employees to clock-off every time they want to go to the toilet.

The union Unite has criticized the meat processor for "essentially stopping staff pay when they visit the toilet."

The company, based in Dumfriesshire, insists anyone wanting to be excused from the system has to provide medical evidence, the union added.

The best part of this is the company name: Brown Brothers

F is for Friday F is for Pineapple Express

This is the apex of the vortex of dope smoking funny business.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Some loser douchbag's phone messages to a girl

This is going around VIA the following email about "Dimitri the stud":

Okay guys here is the info on this voicemail. One of my friend's from work and her friend were out one night in the SF Marina district and were hanging outside of the bars trying to find a cab. One of the girl's, Olga ends up meeting this guy Dmitri and they talk for at the most 2 minutes. She hands him her business card and says call me.

Well attached is the actual voicemail that this guy left her. Wait till you hear it you will be laughing so hard you'll fall out of your chair.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Gatorade Ball Girl Stunt

Ball girl catches fly ball and shows up left fielder! This is amazing!

Except that it isn't. It's a really well done stunt faked by Gatorade.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Google Video ads and Music Industry team up for inexcusably crude online digital idiocy.

I was on YouTube watching the video forLiz Wright's "My Heart" when an in-video ad disrupted the experience. Way to get in the way of what should have been a positive first experience with an artist with a disruptive pitch for another "product".

A female R&B artist and a Steve Carell comedy, what's the connection? There isn't one, except that they're both are on Universal. I doubt that they use any behavior information to serve these insertions, they just insert randomly without thinking about relevance or synergy.

Clicking on the inserted annoyance plays the trailer for Get Smart in-window. Even if it were relevant it would still be clumsy.

The Liz Wright page that this video is on is what is called a "partner page". They could have gone to greater lengths to make is a more fully "branded experience", but they didn't. In the right sidebar, instead of an ad for another R&B artist there is one for a country musician, Phil Vassar.

I clicked to see what the Phil Vassar page looks like. It is a more robustly designed custom page but done in the grotesquely messy style of a MySpace page. Disgusting and disorganized.

I could rip this shit apart all day long but I can't be bothered. YouTube should be helping their partners to do better and smarter programs online. This makes them both look bad.

Here is topper, I would love to be able to embed and share with you Liz Wright's fantastic track but the douchebags at Universal have that feature disabled. The music industry continues to demonstrate why they don't deserve to be in business.

I normally don't digress to the tone I've used in this post but this shit is so bad it makes me angry. Thanks YouTube (Google) and Universal for irritating me and wasting my time. In exchange for the lessons in digital media I fully intend to spend the rest of my evening stealing your label's music online. I'm owed it.


...on Facebook.

SEX is the name of the group I started on Facebook over the weekend. Initially as a joke, who after all doesn't want to "join group sex"? Then I got to thinking that the intersection of technology and sex is a very fertile and worthy area of inquiry. One that deserves more attention.

The links between technology and pornography is a frequently discussed subject. See my essay entitled Snapshots of Humanity

In my essay I give great txt (Courtship Revisited) I wrote about elements of courtship that have been renewed by digital technology.

Back when Friendster first came out I would jokeingly refer to the social networking model as "f*** your firend's friends (becuase you can't f*** your friends). There is a serious insight embedded in that snide framing. Sex is a powerful individual drive and social force. Any context of social interaction is going to have sexual or sexualized components. Sex is a big part of our lives.

An interesting evaluation of how useful social networks are is how well they facilitate flirting, dating and other "sexual behaviors". This is complicated given sensitivity to decorum and the obvious wish to keep children protected from inappropriate content and undesirable people. These issues and concerns are mirrored in life. How we balance these things is important?

My hope is that entertaining content will be a draw that leads to useful examinations of these topics.

Here is a link to the Group Page

I'm looking for contributors and administrators. Anyone interested, shoot me an email.

If you haven't alreadt seen this, it's a must: Vagina Power & Penis Power!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

On Style-Making Behavior: Pacing and Destabalization in Fashion

As readers of my blog know I am fascinated by mass behaviors and mildly obsessed with trying to ask simple questions that reframe how I/we normally think about those behaviors.

Recently I have been thinking about the human need for novelty and the destabilization impulse and using them as lenses through which to view collective, style-making behaviors, in particular fashion.

There are some qualifications that are worth making at this point. My thoughts have been formed largely from empirical observations. I don't read fashion magazines very often and I don't work in that industry. That said, my daring intellect isn't afraid to speculate in areas outside of my expertise.

I live in New York City, a very densely populated, fashion-conscious city and home to many parts of the fashion industry. Its is a perfect setting for observing the way people engage in fashion behavior.

Scales of differences in manners of dress
The differences in types of garments worn from one culture to the next shows us how broad the possibilities are for styles of dress. Yet within any single culture at any given time, most individuals stay within a narrow range of fashions. This range however, is not static, it is a process in constant flux. Although trend-based retailers have accelerated the pace, a review of history shows that evolving change in manner of dress is not a modern phenomenon.

From season-to-season and year-to year the styles, colors and shapes of the things we wear go through stylistic permutations. These changes are adopted en mass, collectively. This process can be described as migratory, a constant pacing of one another, a feedback loop in which each individual monitors and responds to the ongoing changes within the group.

Two years ago, women were wearing shoes with long, pointed toes in Manhattan. It was a noticeable shift when the "ballerina" style of shoes became so popular last year. I was shocked at how quickly the migration took place. It was as if New York women went running from one style of shoe to the next.

Manufactured Consent
It would be easy to frame such widespread adoptions of style as mindless consumerism and that wouldn't be an entirely unfair criticism. (See my posts on: Non-Creative Consuming) Fashion retailers have gotten very good at organizing and focusing their efforts.

As effective as fashion's marketing machine is it is not infallable. Three or four years ago I remember seeing velvet blazers in all of the Fall fashion guides for men. Sure enough, when Autumn rolled around every store from the Gap on up through the fashion food chain had velvet blazers on their racks. You saw them worn on the streets that season, but judging from the heavy inventory in stores the industry seriously overshot on this one. Did they really think EVERYONE would buy a velvet blazer.

This Spring I saw shirts with ruffled fronts in most designer's lines but I haven't seen many on the streets. Where do all the rejected garments go. I'd love get a sense of the waste that is produced by this industry. (What has the greater "volume", the self-righteous fronting of fashion causes like Project Red and models in support of PETA or the waste generated from forced fashion trends that fail?)

Transgression and Destabilization
The fine balance between how narrowly we pace one another and our attempts to push outside the norms to differentiate ourselves is of particular interest to me. Few people are so unique in their style of dress that they stray very far outside of normative behavior. Most of us operate within the narrow consensus margins of this changing, stylistic flow. The more daring amongst us perform creative acts that deviate and innovate just outside of current boundries, stretching and puncturing the perimeter of current trends.

They few with an outstanding knack for style (creating unique and interesting deviations against current modes)are influencers within the process.

Andre 3000

"Best dressed", "worst dressed" and "what's hot" lists function as positive and negatve behavioral reinforment. The wildly popular blog Go Fug Yourself is dedicated to monitoring and addressing uncomfortable deviations from the fashion mean. (They beat the piss out of people that make poor fashion choices.)

Chloe Sevigny, multiple offender and aesthetic outcast.

As is shown by the example of Chloe Sevigny (from Go Fug Yourself) it's doesn't take much to fall too far outside the current stylistic margins. Her maner of dress isn't really that extreme or outrageous. Simply failing to keep up with seasonal change is enough to take you outside of the play of cultural conversation. In the case of the "Tron Guy" his behavior is no longer considered fashion, it would be more likely described as costume. If it were not for the fact that his outfit has a point of cultural reference it would be considered bizzare, indicative or mental instability. Anyone pushing things that far would probably be sent home from school or work. Their behavior would illicit disciplinary measures.

Tron Guy

Trends and trendspotting are all about riding the tension between what is in bounds and out of bounds and having some predictive insight into the trajectory of mass behavior.

I often describe stylistic behavior as those things we add to survival behaviors. We all need clothes for warmth and protection but we don't necessarily need "fashon", not for biological survival anyway. We create systems of support and predictable structure to meet our base needs and when those are in place, when life is good and things are stable, something happens. We get bored and we get anxious. So what do we do? We find ways to rock the boat, to stir things up to inject an element of destabalization and make things interesting again.

In the case of fashion it is easy to see how pacing and destabalization also allows for games of social interacton. By pacing we can establish a sense of connection, acceptance and belonging within the larger group. Destablization on the other hand, allows us to be defiant, differentiate ourself and play pecking order games with one another (who's hot/who's not).

I believe that the desire to create destabilization exists on a deeply rooted impulse level. Here are a few other examples:

Soap operas are an injection of metaphoric, emotional destabilization for people with boring lives. When there isn't drama in our lives we create it or seek it out.

Boardgames, particularly the ones for small children that involved phusical skills or dexterity (stability maintenance) often have "impending doom" as their narrative theme. Examples that come to mind include Operation, Don't Spill the Beans and Don't Break the Ice.

Tempting fate. The Jaws Game required players to carefully remove pieces from the sharks mouth until it inevitably slams shut.

This destabilization impulse borders on the self-destruction at times. Adolescent males provide plenty of examples of this on YouTube.

I was discussing these ideas with a friend and he said "yea, you can picture a guy a couple of thousand of years ago saying "I wonder what will happen if I throw this rock at those Visigoths?".... and bang! human history is changed forever.

Sunday School at The Sherman Foundation: Diapers and Redemtion

There are a few themes you see over and over again in diaper commercials. The first one I refer to as "little man". Infants are dressed in little suits and are shown doing things like getting the paper from the lawn or rolling across the sidewalk on their bigwheel, mom waving from the porch as if he is leaving for work.

The second theme is "redemption". I remember a particular Huggies commercial that I saw years ago. In the spot a little boy is playing catch with someone off camera. He isn't very good. The first ball rolls between his legs, the next toss flys past his mitt. Our little boy is unsuccessful and unhappy, he keeps "messing up". Then, Huggies are introduced. We get the product shots and "sell" on the brand. When we return to the game of catch our boy is transformed and happy. He's all smiles as he fields the ball perfectly.

Drawing upon these themes I've written a treatment for a short film about redemption, diapers and a man's life.

A man arrives home from work. He opens the front door, walks through the foyer and stops at the dinning room table. He sets his keys down and picks up a note. It's from his wife. Holding the letter in one hand and loosening his tie with the other, the man begins to read. He walks to the wet bar at the far end of the dinning room table, picks up a tumbler and a bottle of Dewars and walks to the kitchen. He pauses at the refrigerator door uses the ice dispenser to drop three cubes into the glass.

He enters the family room and sits on the couch. We see the note he is reading from his perspective. It ends with "I've taken our son and I'm leaving". He looks up and scans the room. We see children's toys and pictures of the once happy family on an end table. The man sits and cries and drinks and drinks and drinks.

We dissolve forward. He's removed his clothes and is on the family room floor among his sons toys. He has his drink in one hand and a framed picture of his son in the other. The once nearly full bottle of Dewars is two-thirds empty. He is very drunk.

The man struggles to his feet and walks out of the family room and to the bathroom, the bottle of Dewars and picture frame in hand. He's at the sink staring at himself in the mirror. He places the bottle on the sink and opens the medicine cabinet. He reaches for a bottle of pills and fumbles as he tries to open it with the picture frame under his arm. He knocks the bottle from the sink, glass and whiskey explode across the tile floor. The man, startled, slips on the wet floor, banging his head on the sink as he goes down.

We see the man from above. He is unconscious, naked and sprawled out on the floor. His forehead and feet are bleeding into the pool of whiskey dotted with scattered pills. The picture frame is cracked and lies near a wicker basket that the man kicked over as he fell. A diaper, dislodged from the basket, is lying in the blood and liquor.

The camera continues to rise, pulling slowly from the mess on the bathroom floor. As it does we can see the bloody liquor being drawn into the diaper and we fade to black.

We hold on a black screen for 15 seconds then the bathroom ceiling appears on screen. The screen flickers as the man blinks. He gets to his feet. There is no blood, no pills, no glass and no liquor. Everything is fine.

He puts on his bathrobe and looks at himself in the mirror. It's morning. The sun is coming through the window and his wife through the door.


Saturday, June 21, 2008

Teen Brutally Beaten for His iPhone

Via Gizmodo

As reported from an NBC affiliate, this surveillance video (from May 21st) has just been released that depicts a particularly vicious attack on a Columbus, OH, bus—all to acquire an iPhone. A hooded teen lunges at a man who was wearing headphones on his way off the bus. No one did anything to stop the attack (not that you can blame a woman with child for not stepping in). Surprisingly, despite sustaining injury from blows to the face and body, the passenger did not lose his iPhone. Anyone with info on the teen is asked to call 614-645-8477.

Trevor Paglen: The Other Night Sky / MATRIX 225

The Other Night Sky, a series of photographs by Trevor Paglen documents 189 U.S. spy satellites that officially do not exist.

Trevor Paglen is interested in the idea of photography as a kind of truth-telling, but his pictures often stop short of documentation, with their blurry subjects and barely discernible detail. Paglen’s nearly constant subject is the “black world” of the United States government, and through research and visualization he attempts to outline the edges and folds of this hidden world of military and intelligence activities.

Friday, June 20, 2008

On the Social Media Revolution: Part 1: Charlatans and Fools

The simplest and most important insight I can offer to those interested in understanding the current "social media revolution" is that it is NOT a revolution in advertising, marketing or media. It is a SOCIAL revolution enabled by technology. This is a subtle difference in framing but it is an important one.

In my 2006 series of posts on social media I stressed the importance of putting people and bahavioral insight at the center of any framework that seeks to understand what is happening in these areas. In What Are We Talking About? I discouraged the use of the terms "Consumer Generated Content" and "Consumer Generated Media". The use of these terms by people in marketing and advertising to describe technologically enabled human interactions is assumptive and stupid. Most social media interactions don't involve marketers and are not monetized. If no money is exchanging hands who the hell are they calling consumer? They talk as if they have a place in this world. They don't, and this is precisely the dilemma that these industries face.

Starwberryfrog's Scott Goodson on CNN recently said "The advertising industry is going through a huge revolution right now and the internet is behind it". This reveals the same flawed framing and assumptiveness.

Are the energy and transportation industries going through a revolution? No, they are in crisis, as is advertising, marketing and media. The use of the word "revolution" makes a claim to the glory that belongs to and is in the hands of "the people".

Scott, along with everyone else in those industries have thus far been locked out of the revolution. "The people" are partying their revolutionary asses off on the other side of the wall those industries are facing, completely oblivious to the crisis on the other side.

Guess what else? Your client's brands are in there with them and so far, it's looking like you can't do a damn thing about it.

In the next post in this series I will provide up a proper and accurate way to frame the technological and social disruptions that are taking place. After that I will give up some ideas on getting invited to the party and over the wall. Right now, I'm gonna go running in Central Park. After that I might go eat some hot dogs, not sure yet, but it's a beautiful day out there.

Viva La Revolución!!!!

F is for Friday, F is for Funny

Thanks Nick.

The 10 Biggest Cocks in Advertising

Charlie Brooker runs through the ten worst blokes in current UK TV advertising. From Charlie Brooker's Screen Wipe.

Gray Kunz is a god.

I had dinner last night at my friend Jimmy's father's restaurant, Cafe Grey, in the Time Warner Building. I'm still not over it, literally. As I type this I'm sipping tea and eating the desert treats I brought home for my friends (sorry Matt).

I've eaten many great meals in amazing New York restaurants: Daniel, Danube, Jean Georges, Per Se, Le Bernardin, Le Grenouille not to mention all of the great steak and shop houses. (My friends had a surprise dinner for me at Del Friscos on Tuesday. Far exceeded my expectations for it. Except for the humorless waitress.) I had begun to feel a bit jaded and thought that maybe by the time you've had 6 or 7 world class tasting menus that the world was exhausted of culinary surprise. The last "high expectation" meal I had like that was at Per Se and to be honest, as excellent as it all was, I was a bit bored. I really didn't think I would ever be really blown away by a "meal" again.

Last night I sat down to diner at Cafe Gray with Jimmy, his wonderful mother and beautiful cousin Natalie. Gray Kunz and his staff opened up my third eye and blinded me with the magic.

Im a fois gras junkie, his was THE BEST I've ever eaten and the braised short rib of beef with soft grits and meaux mustard is one of the most magnificent things I've ever had my mouth on.


You can see what you've been missing out on by going to Cafe Grey's website, unfortunately you may not be able to try it for yourself. The restaurant serves its last meal on Saturday night.

All is not entirely lost, I understand that he has plans for other ventures and many, many surprises in store for us in the future.

Thank you Gray (and Jimmy, mad love to you brother!) for a spectacular evening.

Having Fun with Your Small Penis (The League of Extraordinarily Small Gentlemen)

I know that it is terribly adolescent of me, but I get a snickering delight in saying inappropriate things. One of my favorite things to do is admit to having a small penis in front of a group of people, preferably mixed company, the bigger the better. (Whether or not the statement is true is inconsequential). It is particularly fun to do it in front of one or more couples in the early stages of dating someone new.

Here is how it's done. Wait for a natural point at which to slip it into conversation (pun intended). For instance, if another guy makes some jocular boast about being well endowed you simply say something like "I wouldn't know anything about that".

You don't need to use an explicit term like penis, dick, cock, schlong, etc in the phrasing, but if you can pull off a very matter-of-fact "truth of the matter is, I have a very small dick" that is loads of fun as well. Be inventive, combine it with a cliche, "we're all stuck with the hand we're dealt and the small penis that goes in it". There aren't any rule as far as I know. Play jazz and develop your own style.

After you've deployed your little mouth missile just sit back and enjoy the reactions.

When the admission is casually slipped into conversation using indirect phrasing the responses are usually mild short-circuits. You can see people pause slightly, sometimes shaking their heads a bit, internally questioning themselves "did that guy just say he has a small penis?".

Some guys, no matter how its phrased will involuntary interject with something like "whoa not me!" or "I'm ok in that area!". Internally, I'm laughing my ass off as I've just outed all the guys in the room with small dicks.

If there is a sufficient level of comfort and rapport in the room and you haven't crossed the line into vulgarity the responses and subsequent interactions with women can be very amusing. (It helps to be handsome and charming as well.)

They say you never get a second chance to make a first impression, bullshit, but you need a powerful pattern break. Admitting that you're packing a half calorie tic-tac is just that.

Women almost never buy it at face value. After all, what kind of man admits to having a small penis? Women are used to men artificially inflating their net worth, esteem and the size of their ding-dings. By covertly offering up this minuscule admittance you play against expectation and differentiate yourself in a move of dash cunning. The looks you get as they re-evaluate their impressions, looking you up and down for signs of the truth say it all. "Is this half-wit painfully honest? Is he a cocky well-hung prankster? A madman, recklessly toying with social taboo? or a confident, socially savvy guy having a little fun?" There is just no way for them to have any certainty at this point. You've disarmed and destabilized the conversation, the floor has been cleared and it's time to dance. You can take it anywhere you want from here.


So next time your find yourself amidst tedious socializing and slow circling conversations throw caution to the wind, your small penis into the proverbial room and join me on an adventure of The League of Extraordinarily Small Gentlemen.

I'm Thomas Sherman and I approved this message. Ka Kaw!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Comcastic Bus Commercial

aaaaaaah..... wow?????

Documentary: Living With Large Male Genetalia

Normally I don't post so many things about sex and genitalia but this week has seen a large number of items in this area. I'm not sure if it has something to do with Father's Day or I'm tapping into a larger trend in the collective (dirty-minded) unconscious. Speaking of large posts...

A short documentary about a man, his big penis and his understanding wife.

From The Sherman Foundation Archives:

Penis. The Other White meat

Vagina Power and Penis Power

From Wang to ejaculation target in no time flat.

Sherman Foundation Prophecy (for Bank of America)

In 2005, I worked for IPG on the Bank of America account. When it went into review many people criticized the "Higher Standards" brand platform for not being "creative" like the CitiBank advertising. I always felt those criticisms were misguided and failed to see the bigger picture.

I wasn't involved in the creation of "Higher Standards" but I believed, and still do, that it was a very smart and strategic platform that informed how the brand should be articulated in every channel and behave at every customer touchpoint.

As clever as Citi's tv spots and outdoor ads were, "Live Richly" didn't have a life beyond those executions. For example, it didn't provide a "script" for interaction with consumers in the branches or in call centers. Where were the glib witticisms when I called to ask about the confusing fees I was charged?

My fear at the time, was that the work that went into building such a strong platform would be slowly destroyed or wiped out wholesale when the account was moved from IPG to Omnicom. I made joking predictions about the terrible spots that would inevitably be produced, "Hello, I'm Lou Diamond Phillips for Bank of America..." (BBDO's approach of using celebrities in their spots is widely recognized and joked about.) It became a gag I repeated through the transition period as we handed the account over to Omnicom and BBDO.

This evening someone sent me the following link: Kiefer Sutherland: Out of Jail and In the Bank.

Lou Diamond Phillips isn't the new spokesperson for Bank of America as I had predicted years ago, but I wasn't far off. It looks like his Young Guns costar, Kiefer Sutherland will be the new voice of the brand. (I thought my head was going to pop off like a spring loaded grape when I saw this.)

From the Mediabistro post:
"We hear Kiefer Sutherland is set to be the voice of Bank of America. To my recollection, BoA has an in-house staff that handles their ads, correct me if I'm wrong. But if the spots are anything like these old spots, they'll suck, cuz Sutherland sounds like someone is squeezing his testes."

Whether this is proof positive that I am a seer, a vessel, a channel through which the subtle forces of the universe flow, or much of the world is simply tediously predictable, is yet to be decided. I suspect that both are true.

One closing note. Given the current economy and recent credit-crisis I've thinking about how much better Bank of America would be served by "Higher Standards" than it is by the campaign that replaced it, "Bank of Opportunity". There is plenty of opportunism afoot these day and so few examples of higher standards but it's beyond my control... it's beyond my control... it's beyond my control...

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Aesthetic Abnormalities: Runaway Masculinity in Heavy Metal Hair Bands

"Fisherian Runaway" describes a process of sexual selection in which a random trait evolves. By random, I mean a trait which is desirable but not a functional in terms of reproduction or survival.

For Example, the peacock's tail:
the peacock's tail requires a great deal of energy to grow and maintain, it reduces the bird's agility, and it may increase the animals visibility to predators. Yet it has evolved, indicating that birds with longer tails have some advantage. Fisherian runaway explains that if a peahen selects a peacock with a longer and more colorful tail, then her male children are more likely to have long and colorful tails and are more likely to be sexually successful themselves, because other peahens have the same preference for longer tails. Therefore, in a circular fashion, having a preference for longer tails gives an advantage. (Wikipedia)

I've written many times about "escalated aesthetic distortions", elements of style that get pushed to the point of abnormality. for instance the Ganguro & Yamanba girls in Japan that have taken the tanning thing way to far.

I had been thinking about stylistic displays of machismo and hyper-masculinity when I stumbled upon the concept of "Fisherian Runaway". It's interesting that the peacock is cited as the example in the Wikipedia article because I had been thinking of examples in which displays of masculinity are pushed so far they become an aesthetic that is fully feminized.

I noticed this in the case of guido's with blowouts, spray tans and waxed eyebrows.

Perhaps the best example comes from heavy metal hair bands. Even the bad boys of Motley Crue were dolled up like a precious cross-dressers. A lot of words come to mind but "tough" isn't one of them.

Motley Crue


Celebrity Shamanism and Gossip Mythology. Part 2: Consumerism and Mythologic Bankrupcy

Part 1: Celebrity Shamanism and Gossip Mythology: What is this really about?

The reason that tabloid narratives are so powerful is that they retain the absurdity of life and the irrationality of human behavior. Those troubling existential bits that are scrubbed from commercially sponsored storytelling. It's not just the cheap tawdriness and profane expletives that make it impossible for mainstream media to compete, the subtleties, contradictions and complexity of irreconcilables are closer to classic mythology and Shakespeare than television drama. What is frightening and painfully missing is the lack of humanitarian values and elevated ideals. It is a model of consumption that consumes and empties itself.

On a personal level, the accounts and pictorials of these displayed lives become mirrors with which many judge and evaluate their own bodies, relationships and lives. Instead of connecting us outward and binding us together into larger social structures, the values promoted in the living mythology of celebrity culture plunges individuals inward toward isolation, narcissistic reflection and obsession with personal need fulfillment.

The shamanistic stories of gossip mythology are messages sent back from the "dream world" about the "fantasy lives" of celebrities. They inspire and taunt us with the possibility of becoming an inhabitant of that just out-of-reach "other world".

Nobody reads the fine print and there is always a catch. To be granted access, you must fulfill a quest and find a powerful treasure. The ugly truth however, is that the quest is never ending and just like magic, more and more things appear on the list. Sneakers, a new phone, Rolex watches, a new phone, a Porsche, a new phone, a pair of Manolo blahniks, a bigger house, a Chanel handbag, Kabbalah classes, new tits, fake hair, a new husband, another mistress and an African baby... For some reason the crossover just never "takes place" and we never wake up in that dream world. We get the magazines and we read the websites and we buy the right things but the only that changes is to the credit card balance and the time on the clock.

It's fascinating to compare the "promise of eternal life" (heaven in exchange for a moral obedience in life) and the promises of secular consumerism... it's the same game. The "life of your dreams" (dream home, dream jobs, dream vacations) in exchange for your life's blood, sweat, and tears (and the right combination of and endless list of magical baubles and cheap shiny crap.)

RandomKitty's "Design-A-Vagina" Contest

A few days ago I posted a graphic charting women's preferences for penis length and circumference. I thought I would create a post for RandomKitty's "Ideal Vagina" Contest and give equal attention to the female genitalia.

The acceptable categories for entries to the Design-a-Vagina will be as follows:

1. 150-1000 words on your personal feelings regarding the “ideal vagina” and your thoughts surgery or other modifications to attain an ideal visual appearance. You may express this in fiction if you include a brief opening statement which declares it a fictional piece, and hopefully states the goals of the piece in a short and clear fashion. Please state if you are male, female, mixed gender or transgender. Post your entry in the comments, or on your blog and link to it from the comments.

2. An original visual representation of what to you constitutes the “ideal vagina”, preferably with a brief description on your overall concept and thoughts surrounding the image. Photos, drawings, computer generated and mixed-media images appropriate. Link to your image (html image tags supported in the comments also) and share your comments. Please state if you are male, female, mixed gender or transgender. This category will rely on the honor system in part, however we will be doing background checks on every image submission.

3. Personal (i.e. of yourself) audio or video submissions between 1 and 5 minutes, discussing what you consider the “ideal vagina” and your thoughts surgery or other modifications to attain an ideal visual appearance. Please state if you are male, female, mixed gender or transgender.

The deadline for the contest is 06/30/2008, 12:00 pm EST.

Jim Victor, Food Sculptor

Below are just a few of the works featured on
Jim Victor's website

Portrait of Barbara Wilkerson and Barbara in the flesh.

Horses, sculpted from butter.

Life-size butter & chocolate sculpture of Milton Hershey and cows.

Big shout out to optimal zen for sending me the link.

TV spot for the new Ikea coming to Brooklyn (Build it and they will come)

This is a follow-up to the piece I posted last week on the tv spots for the new Ikea store coming to Brooklyn directed by friend and colleague , John Hobbs.

I was in his loft just after the over 6,000 boxes had been delivered and were stacked everywhere. I really regret not going to the shoot because I have no idea how he pulled this off. He talks a bit about the complexity and challenge in the this NY Times piece: Thousands of Boxes in the Cardboard City

“I honestly naïvely believed it wouldn’t be that difficult,” said John Hobbs, a Brooklyn artist who embarked on this project in is Williamsburg loft. “They’re boxes. They’re rectangles.” –John Hobbs

I can't wait to see the spots on tv, the version on YouTube is low res and small so don't get a full sense of the scale and challenge of the undertaking. Its much more evident in the shot that was run with the NYTimes piece.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Celebrity Shamanism and Gossip Mythology. Part 1: What is this really about?

Why is there such a strong craving for descriptions and pictures of the private lives of stars, actors, models and musicians as featured in the pages of tabloid magazines, gossip rags and celebrity info-tainment websites.

What is our obsession with gossip and celebrity culture?

The French philosopher Jean-François Lyotard described the use of stories for the transmission of knowledge by myths and religion as "narrative knowledge". This type of knowledge as well as political and social ideologies are known as "master narratives". In "The Post-Modern Condition", Lyotard argues that these master narratives have broken down and lost their authenticity. The result is the errosion of unified value systems and social cohesion.

The divisiveness within the Democratic party during the recent primaries, the "culture wars" and the red state/blue state battles are indicative of the erosion of shared values. The zero-sum games of reality television and gotcha journalism are just part of a larger trend that has made contentiousness a dominant mode of interaction.

Gone are the broad templates for meaning and valuation. The shared maps people once used to guide them through life are fading. As community and family structures become less stable and less relied upon, individuals increasingly find themselves left to figure it out for themselves. It's every man for himself and God against them all.

Over the past 60 years, Mass Media exploited, exacerbated and attempted to fill the gap left by the decay of "master narratives", but those days are numbered. Without preeminence, reach and control over a limited number of channels, the content they produce cannot create cultural consensus. The theatricized versions of reality no longer have the power to move people in any meaningful way.

The innate attraction to narrative storytelling persists as does the need for guides in answering the questions posed by life (who am I, where am I going and what is this all about?). Celebrity gossip info-tainment has emerged to fill the voids left by the collapse of master narratives and traditional mass media.

Because it is an organic and unintentional response to the needs it fulfills it has gone largely unexamined in this context.

Celebrities are our shaman. They exist outside the bounds of ordinary life. They are perceived as having gifts or birthright that place them beyond the tribal fold. Not unlike witch dotors, they are afforded things beyond the reach of ordinary members of society and rewarded lavish resources for their services. They live "dream lives" that are free from the survival struggles associated with "getting by", at times they are beyond the laws that apply to everyone else. Celebrities and shaman are able to do things and live lives that the rest of us are not.

A Zimbabwe witch doctor and Madonna are really the same thing. Music, more than any other artistic or cultural practice, induces a change in neurological and emotional state. Creating "state change" is a traditional function of tribal witch doctors.

The real lives of celebrities (as opposed to the roles portrayed by actors or the personas of musicians) have become our aspirations. They provide the scripts for social behaviors and our highest ideals. The give us the "models" for what one's "crib" should be like, how one should behave and what one should look like and wear. Lists and more lists of "what's hot", "what's new" and "what's now" are assembled and shilled like miraculous, voodoo cure-alls. Think about fetishistic shoes and automobiles and their associations of sexual desirability.

The tabloid-chronicled tales of celebrity lives are much more effective at creating (disorienting) cultural experiences than manufactured, industrial storytelling. (For a more complete explanation of the role that disorientation plays in art see my essay on: Culture, Chaos, Control (and Canine Companionship). I believe that art and aesthetics provided disruptive experiences that fulfill a psychologically need for novelty, physiological release, and disorientation (intellectual and sensory) that is necessary for "re-experience". This process of "re-experience" has parallels in the visions of shamen (to illuminate the unseen) and the use of drugs to defamiliarize ordinary sensory perceptions.

Gossip narratives challenge mores and test morals. They push the limits of believability and violate expectations far more powerfully than what is dared or imagined in the sanctioned and "crafted" narratives of tinseltown. They are "real", authentic in the sense that master narratives no longer are. They are real-time, continuous, ever-refreshing, open-ended stories filled with unexpected endings (the death of Heath Ledger), astonishing tales of never-ending folly (Britney Spears) plays against character type (OJ Simpson) and reversals of fortune (Michael Jackson). They are stories that studios wouldn't make, focus groups would hate and audiences wouldn't watch if they were manufactured media products, but the appetite for this fodder is ravenous and growing. In its ability to hook and emotionally connect massive audiences, the media world can't compete. The death of Princes Di cold crushes the last 10 Super Bowls and World Cups combined.

For better or worse, the function of myth and religion, the stories that we model and compare lives to, that help us to make sense of our world and create meaning for our existences, is performed by the pages of People and US Weekly.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Automotive Design: BMW's Gina

Interesting video on BMW's rethining of surface and materials as it applies to automotive design.

Misogynistic Monday: He's not daddy...

From the movie Roger Doger.

Am I Close? from TheShermanFoundation on Vimeo.

Infographics: The Perfect (Penis) Fit

A chart that shows women's preference for penis length and circumference.

Where is the chart for gay dudes?

How about a chart that tracks words per minute out of a woman's mouth and concept's per hour that a man gives a crap about. If they talk about "Preferred Penis Size", "Burgers", "Cars", "Hookers", "Shopping", that might be 2 out of 5 concepts I could care about even slightly. (This was Nixta's idea, I can't take credit or responsibility)

Via Design Notes

Giant Pink Furry Testicles

Darren Couchman's Testicle Tour to raise awesness for testicular cancer.

Via BBC News

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Nerd Porn

An amusing bit on "nerd porn". I get where he's coming from, in college I'd joke that my ideal woman would be a stripper/Joyce schola... dare to dream.

Ask me about my priapism

I was doing some research for self diagnosis to figure out whether I am a well oiled sex machine or a "high-functioning" sufferer of priapism when I came across (no pun intended) this little curiosity.

I don't know about you but hiding penises in innocent looking household objects seems inappropriate to me. That said, it does give me some product innovation ideas. No one wants their dildo or vibrator to be discovered by others. Why not conceal then in the handles of umbrellas and canes, place them in the wicker caddy in the foyer?

It seems that PRIAPISM was (a chronic erection, female Priapism is better known as Clitorism.) named after the Greek god Priapus "a minor rustic fertility god, protector of livestock, fruit plants, gardens and male genitalia. His Roman equivalent was Mutinus Mutunus. He was best noted for his huge, permanently erect penis, which gave rise to the medical term priapism.

Have you ever noticed that the words affection and erection are very very similar.

There are many fascinating posts in the category of "penis". Click on the label below.

Sunday School at The Sherman Foundation: What We Are

Clocking in at 3 minutes and 50 seconds this is probably the densest and most compact summaries of human existence ever created. I believe I've posted this before it's worth reposting from time to time.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Advertising is a Substitution Game

From the film Roger Doger.

Advertising is a Substitution Game from TheShermanFoundation on Vimeo.

Friday, June 13, 2008

F is for Friday

F'in funny f*****

Happy f'in Friday to King Friday for brightening my Friday,

On Value Creation and Billing Madness in Advertising

For better or worse the advertising industry pioneered consumer culture by inventing a new form of value that enabled other industries to charge a premium for the magic wrapped around commoditized products in the form of branding and branded communications.

So, why is it that advertising doesn't get compensated for what its true value contribution is, the creation of that "magic". The "magical service" that great advertising and marketing produces is not a commodity yet the compensation model is increasingly one of billing hours against tasks. We're getting paid like plumbers and electricians.

We wouldn't recommend the "cost of labor and widget manufacturing model" to any client, so why are we strapping ourselves to that bomb? I don't know who is responsible but I'm quite certain that it wasn't a creative.

Thanks for commoditizing an industry that doesn't have a commodity product, way to think it through.

In this morning's New York Times: Ad Agency Abolishing Fixed Fee. The article describes the demise of fixed commission compensation (15% of the media buy) and a new trend towards compensation based tied to product sales performance.

Decisions, weighted too heavily from account and corporate finance (agency and client side) can be seen in the awkward compromises and questionable decisions.

For example, last year I was working on a pitch for Johnson & Johnson and learned that not only do they take ownership of any ideas that is pitched to them, regardless of whether the agency is awarded the work, the agency remains legally responsible for any litigation that results from the ideas use. (Johnson & Johnson... innovations in insult and injury.)

Tying compensation to market performance is dangerous for an industry that doesn't have the steel to call foul on things like the example cited above let alone defend and sell through work that isn't riddled with client compromise. There are plenty of other reasons not to go with this model but don't expect agencies to stage a fierce resistance.

What's clear is that the advertising world isn't doing a very good job of managing its own mystique. Take the recent slight on the Fashion Meets Finance website (a dating site that brings the vapid world of fashion and the douchey world of finance together):
FashionMeetsFinance facilitates destiny by purifying the dating pool bringing together only the most appealing populations in the New York dating game… Ladies, you no longer need to worry that the cute guy at the bar works in advertising.

What is noticeably absent is the presence of strong creative leadership. I'm not sure whether it's been boxed out or isn't knuckling up on these areas. There was a time (before mine) that creatives, not account people, ran the business. I've heard stories about creatives handing work to account people and telling them not to return to the office if they couldn't sell the work through.

(I was talking to Bunny this morning on this topic and she expressed a desire to re-reverse the model and treat account people like creatives are treated: "we should have them all lined up in boxes and depending on the "technique" needed to sell the work, we should be able to pick them out (like a theory suit or a DKNY jumper) and say "go do this"... "I swear... the leash is on the wrong neck".)

The "creative product" is at the center of all of this. If all agencies were producing stellar work, the industry landscape for these issues would be quite different. For agencies with strong track records and the aura of magic it isn't quite the mess it is for everyone else.

I do have a strong sense that the industry is underrepresented and under-embracing the creative spirit. A creative's pride over work would never allow it to be sold off for hours against task, everyone in an agency should front such arrogance, it wouldn't be a bad thing.

From The New York Observer (October 2007):
Why Have Admen Lost Their Mojo? The advertising business used to be the high-pressure playground of visionaries and scoundrels. Where’d they all go?

And as for the 3 martini lunches, we need to bring some theater and a few props back on the advertising world's stage.

Ikea Brooklyn

This spot for Ikea's new Brooklyn location was created by a friend I attended art school in with in Detroit, John Hobbs.

When I saw the THOUSANDS of unassembled boxes on flats in his loft my initial thought was holy shit!!! what has he gotten himself into. Well done John.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

It's Guac Time!

Featuring my newest greatest friend Jimmy Kunz.
Jimmy you're hilarious! Big love brother!

Jimmy's father Chef, Gray Kunz and the kitchen in his lovely country home is featured in this month's Gourmet Magazine.

Sprite Court/Pool

As Stupid as a Graphic Designer:
The Slippery Subject of Style.

Where do I begin?
The title of this post is a play on a quote by one of my influences and heros, Marcel Duchamp. The original barb was "as stupid as a painter". Duchamp said that he wanted to take painting out of the realm of the visual and put it "back in the service of the mind". Graphic design, despite the surplus of verbose, self-important aggrandizing from it's ranks has always underwhelmed me with its ability to "meta-frame" what it does and participate in a dialog with a broad cultural context.

The discourse, more often than not, is defined by petty points of taste and the inflated importance of ones's own milieu. Take for example the high-modernist proclamation that only a handful of typefaces are needed (because so few good ones exist). A desire for control and self-righteousness go hand in hand. Many in that camp would probably go so far as to ban the use of more than the classic cannon if they could. When I hear words like "good" and "bad" I know that the person talking stopped thinking about the subject they are speaking on a long time ago.

Talking about aesthetics, especially in the visual realm, is an incredibly difficult task. It's much easier to point your finger and make grand vacuous verbal gestures. Easier still is dispensing "good" and "bad". Asking questions and figuring out how the sub-surface mechanics of an elusive phenomenon operate is hard as shit.

Massimo Vignelli from the film "Helvetica".

vignelli from TheShermanFoundation on Vimeo.

The unfortunate side-effects of aping high culture
A core strategy within the fine arts has alway been to define an extreme position, identify that position's "opponents" and then spend a lifetime defending and proselytizing. Many graphic designers have modeled themselves on that very strategy. Stefan Sagmeister's infamous "style = fart" (which he later recanted) was a classic example along these lines. A bit of bold divisiveness with a usefulness limited to creating hype.

Last year's documentary film, "Helvetica", by taking as it's subject the typeface of the same name, calls out into the open many of design's oldest contentions, in particular, the modernist idea that design can be neutral vehicle for the delivery of meaning. Helvetica, stripped of ornament and reduced to clean, simple forms was seen as the ideal typeface for carrying out modernism's mission.

Positions on that particular brand of modernism are extremely divergent. Helvetica divides and creates ideological street fights like nothing else in the graphic design world. What constitutes a "good" typeface is as disagreed upon as what design's "mission" is. My disappointment isn't that these debates rage on, it's that the answers offered up usually aren't very interesting. Usually, they're defenses of what has become one's trademark style, delivered as lofty posturings that lack insight or usefulness.

In my favorite scene from the film Erik Spiekermann speaks with a refreshingly blunt rationality while providing some historic context on the notorious font and colorful observations regarding "bad taste".

Erik Spiekermann from TheShermanFoundation on Vimeo.

Shitting on the phenomenon that feeds you
"Style" as a psychological phenomenon and cultural mechanism remains woefully unexplored. Graphic design lives and breathes off of style yet no serious understanding of it beyond historic classifications and categorizations has been contributed by designers or design historians.

"Style" seems to be at the heart of many of graphic designs uncomfortable irreconcilables. A shamefulness about style is another thing that it has inherited from institutional high culture (museum culture) that saddles it with dysfunction and an inability to confront the subject in an open, direct and thoughtful manner.

That shame comes from East Coast institutional culture's disdain for things that are populist and narrative. I would include as things in that category mass packaging design (but not luxury), comic books, and anything rooted in character-driven, narrative art direction. The car designs of George Barris (it's unconscionable that the MOMA hasn't had a retrospective of his work) and children's cereal box designs (one of my favorite design artifacts) are two excellent examples of this.

"Character-driven, narrative art direction" is theatrical and theme oriented. I most strongly associate this type of design thinking with the Hollywood motion picture and television industries. That's right, its another East Coast versus West Coast battle.

Take for example the Metropolitan Museum's current show: Superheroes: Fashion and Fantasy. The show's subject, Superheros and their costumes has been wrapped and suffocated in a blanket of high-fashion artiness. It's as if they felt compelled to "doll it up", remove it's populist taint, so as not to embarrass themselves before the museum set. The result is ham-handed and classist. There is little trace left of the comic world from which these this originate. The subject of Superheros, costume, identity and the heroic in art are such rich areas for cultural analysis. What an embarrassing mess why did they bother?

The Superman, costume/alter-ego commentary from Kill Bill is brilliant insight on this topic.

I think there are some interesting parallels between Superheros, costuming and modern forms of shamanism and superpowers. (Think Madonna in the Gautier outfit with the tit cones). This subject will have to wait for a future post.

It's all about style, stupid
The structures and themes of pop music change surprisingly little. What changes is the character of the sound, the instrumentation and the approach to voicing and vocals, in short, the elements of style. This play of variations drives the creation, purchase and enjoyment of the massive volume of songs that are created and consumed. Popular music, the juggernaut of a cultural force, is largely an exercise in styling.

I like to think of culture as all the things we do after were done doing the things we "have to do". Think about all the things on Maslow's Needs Pyramid. Shelter + Culture = Architecture. Food + Culture = Cuisine.

Fashion is the style-making behavior applied to our need for clothing. Closets are added to, emptied and refilled with a relatively narrow range of variation over time, yet the sensitivity to the nuances of style is incredible.

Style can be simplistically described as "how you do, what you do". In this clip Eddie Izzard supplies one of the best explanations of "what style is" that I have ever heard. (Think about it, is there any way to quantify the value that James Earls Jones' voice brings to the character of Darth Vader?)

Darth Vader's Voice from TheShermanFoundation on Vimeo.

Signs of intelligent life
I believe that the roots of style are firmly hardwired in mammalian "display behavior" and a neurological need for the disruptive effects of novelty. Despite the massive cultural role that style-making behaviors play in our lives questions about style aren't seriously asked and intelligent answers are rarely formulated.

Why do people spend so much time, money, energy and invested value on the creation of "style"? (You can read one of my theories in Culture, Chaos, Control (and Canine Companionship).)

Despite graphic design's almost complete inability to contribute to an understanding of style on this level there are people in other disciplines that are. Product designers have the savviest functional understanding of style, one that is rooted in evolution and biology.

In 2005 Casey Carlson of 3M gave an amazing talk at the 2005 AMA conference called "Seeing The World: Experiential Design in New Product Development". (The links to the podcast are now dead unfortunately. Thanks a lot MNAMA.) In it he talked about how product designers tap into emotion by modeling designs after forms found in nature. An example he references is the menacing form of sharks and the "gill slits" that were directly applied in the designs of early Corvettes.

You don't need to teach anyone that the shape of the Corvette is menacing. Evolution took care of that over millions of years.

In his talk Carlson references George Nelson's amazing and under-read book.
How to See: A Guide to Reading Our Manmade Environment. It is a must-read for anyone in the visual arts.

Admittedly, there is an understandable difficulty in using words to capture the subtleties of style, of the visual, of the tacit, of things we are often not even consciously aware of. In this clip from "Helvetica" Jonathan Hoefler and Tobias Frere-Jones discuss Typography's "poverty of terms". Their observations speak equally well to the broader challenge of using words to understand and illuminate visual experiences.

Hoefler & Frere-Jones from TheShermanFoundation on Vimeo.

Visual Literacy
When we process visual imagery we assert our cultural belief systems and socio-demographic baggage into the interpretation of images. With images, much more so than with words we are engaged in processes of selection and interpretation in an active creation of meaning.

On June 6 & 7 the first International Conference on Critical Literacy and Visual Culture

Kris Boyd interviewd the organizers on the Think podcast. (iTunes link). There are some interesting thoughts and examples on the use of images to quickly shorthand rich sets of association. It's the age old aphorism "a picture is worth of thousand words" but a more graphic way to think about this is the use imagery to carpet bomb neurological and conceptual frameworks.

Images and the Subconscious
When it comes to an understanding of how visual images are subconsciously processed and the role they play in metaphor construction no one has a better understanding than Harvard University's Gerald Zaltman. The image-based metaphor elicitation techniques described in How Customer Think are fascinating. His work is a bit narrowly focused within a marketing context but still worth taking a look at. See the FastCompany piece on him: Metaphor Marketing. Harvard Business School professor Jerry Zaltman makes pictures that reveal our deepest feelings about your favorite brands. Can he scan your brain and unlock the images that lie within?

Graphic Design fiddles while Rome burns
We are living in a period of phenomenal technological and social disruption/invention. With so much possibility and upheaval upon us it always infuriated me to hear graphic designers talk about how desktop technology, by putting design tools in the hands of anyone, was "destroying the world" with hideous non-professional design. (There was talk for a long time of trying to make graphic design a licensed practice, like architecture, law or medicine.) Over the last 20 years, while many graphic designers bemoaned desktop publishing or argued about fonts or fretted over what was cool there were people exploring technology, changing the world, blowing minds and reinventing "design". The work of Jonathan Harris is one of the finest examples along these lines: conceptual thinking, information-based, dynamic and aesthetically powerful. Beyond that there is a outward looking humanism to the lines of inquiry his work follows.

Relax, it's just me, rattling my sabre
30 years ago Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown published a book called Learning from Las Vegas. The book embraced vernacular architecture, was an examination of pop culture and explored the mechanics of non-professional design. Although the book was embraced by intellectual circles within architecture and graphic design, I can't help but feel like the lessons to be learned from it never really were. It became highly-revered, intellectual fodder that failed to change very much.

It often seems that the critical discourses in the design world stagnate within it's closed communities and fail to transmit beyond its walls to other disciplines to become part of a broader cultural conversation.

The Sherman Foundation (my personal obsessions manifest) exists to ask the unasked, to explore the pervasive facets of our lives that go unnoticed and unexamined critically. Style and aesthetics are two of the big ones for me.

I was trained as a graphic designer but never realy fully embraced it. You would think that graphic design, being a visual discipline, one engaged in the production of mass culture ephemera would provide a great position from which to explore what style is. You would think that graphic design would be ideally suited to contribute to a cultural understanding of the mechanics of aesthetics. But it isn't and it hasn't.

Instead, graphic design sought self-validation by aligning itself with institutional museum culture. (Think large printed tomes celebrating the work of Pentagram on the shelves of the MOMA bookstore.) Adopting museum cultures prejudices and inheriting their classist notions of aesthetics has prevented it from contributing intellectually and participating in a broader cultural conversation. Its narrow selectivity of what is worthy of celebration and consideration is stifling. A proper conceptual framework for the understanding of style should be broad enough to apprehend the work of a sign painter, ancient cave drawings and cereal boxes as well as the IBM logo designed by Paul Rand.

Give me some time, I'm working on it.


post date: 5/29/08 5:55 AM