Saturday, December 13, 2008

Stereotips (Holiday Edition): "Big Boned" Baristas (Easy on the syrup pump)

Stereotips (part of speech, Shermanism): coined to describe useful bits of advice based on ethnic, cultural, or general stereotypes.

The holiday season is upon us and in these cold winter months I like to switch it up and order the occasional white chocolate mocha from Starbucks. Over the years I've noticed something, that a "big boned" barista manning the Starbucks espresso station often serves up a moca sweeter that a mouthful of smarties.

My theory: Fatties are fat because they live lives of reckless nutritional abandon. It's sugar-on-sugar all day long. They wake and eat Three Musketeers and Mars Bars for breakfast, Fruity Pebbles for dinner. Years of a corn syrup rich diet have altered their taste buds so much that Skittles are the baseline. Everything has to be twice as sweet just so it registers that there's something in their mouth.

Before I caught on to the source of the problem, I wouldn't realize I'd been handed a beverage that could quite possibly trigger the onset of adult diabetes until it was too late. I'd be walking away from the crowded pick-up station when that first sip sent a shockwave through my endocrine system.

After number of these assassination attempts, I began to watch anxiously as their chubby hands pumped the chocolate flavored syrup into my cup, wincing if they proceeded past 3 squirts.

I've learned to specify the number of pumps in my mochas and white chocolate mochas. Those damn drink are just too expensive and the holiday lines too maddening to get a botched beverage.

This holiday season I encourage you and your loved one's to drink with caution. This stereotip is our gift to you. Season's Greetings from "The Foundation".

Stereotip: Always specify the number of syrup pumps in your Starbucks moch if the barista preparing the drinks is fat. They tend to be ham-handed at the pump as a result of their own preference for sweet tasting things.

Tell your "big boned" Barista: "Easy on the syrup pump".

Friday, December 12, 2008

Smashable Brands

One of the most fascinating design insights that I've come across recently is from Martin Lindstrom, author of Buy•ology.

In 1915 the designer of Coca-Cola's bottle was given a simple yet brilliant brief: design the bottle systematically and so distinctive that, if smashed, a single piece of glass would be recognizable as, and signify the Coke brand. Lindstrom describes this approach as designing "smashable components".

(This is a rather large fragment but you get the point. The ridges and overall shape make even a small piece very recognizable.)

Tiffany's signature blue box dates back to 1837 and is an excellent example of a brand that stands up to the smashability test. All you need to see is a hint of the telltale hue. Even at a considerable distance that Tiffany color is unmistakable. An interesting fact: On average, a woman's heart rate will increase by 22 percent when she is exposed to this color.

Distinctiveness gets talked about a lot in design and marketing but rarely gets implemented with any bravery. Most brands play follow the leader. Remember about 10 years ago when a slew of financial services firms redesigned their identity's in red. Red, given its negative connotations in finance ("in the red") had long been a big taboo, but when a leader in a category makes a bold move, the rest stupidly follow. Even Chase got on the red wagon following the merger with JP Morgan.

I remember first seeing GE trucks with the logos running off the vehicle's edges in the early 90s. Cropping into a logo, in any way whatsoever, has always been a serious violation of identity design principles. However, it does make for a much more dynamic look and breathes a little life into a recognizable logo that has been around for a very long time.

There is one another important thing to consider in partial displays, like the GE logo above, and recognizable fragments of a brand's design, they give the viewer's mind a more active role in the perceptual process. Instead of just recognizing an image or object, the viewer must fill in the missing details to compete the perceptual process of creating "meaning".

The Collapse: Aesthetic Themes: Vacuums

I've been thinking about themes arising from the "salient features" of the ongoing economic (and social) collapse. One of the things I've been seeing more and more of are empty storefronts. They are, obviously, indicators of hard times for business, especially small businesses. As these pockets of vacuous, empty space open up and pockmark our social landscape there is a growing sense of expulsion and emptiness. These spaces, devoid of people and things are visible to daily life and metaphoric to our psyches. Invisible to plain sight are the factories and office buildings which blow jobs and roles out their doors along with the people that once filled them. It's starting to seem as though everything around us is being sucked away into a void.

Where does it all go?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Neuromarketing: Buyology by Martin Lindstrom

In the new book Buyology, Martin Lindstrom expolores what many in advertising have always know, that most purchases are driven by emotion at a subconscious level. The problems and shortcomings of traditional consumer insight and focus groups have long been debated. Neuromarketing research uses advanced FMRI brain scanning to see what parts of the brain are activated in response and decision making processes.

Here are a few of the claims and insights that I pulled from 2 interviews with the author:

Most people will select Pepsi over Coke in blind taste tests. However, when allowed to see what brands they are drinking the numbers for Coke rise dramatically and the preference for Pepsi plummets.

60% of the time the selecting of a product brand in a supermarket takes place in less than 4 seconds, not an adequate amount of time for the purchase to be the result of rational decision making.

In the course of the average life, 2 million commercials will be viewed. The equivalent of 8 hours a day, 7 days a week for 6 years.

The practice of squeezing a lime slice into a bottle of Corona was started by 2 California students just to see if they could get the idea to spread.

Product placement rarely works.

Warning labels on cigarettes, even the very graphic labels used in Europe lead to an increase in smoking. I'd never seen those labels... wow.


USA Today: 'Buyology' offers a peek inside buyers' heads

NPR Interview: The 'Buyology' Behind The Way We Shop

KERA THINK Interview (iTunes Link)

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Revisionist Shermanism: How the Grinch (tried to) Save the World

The Sherman Foundation feels that it's about time that this tale was finally told, honestly, and with a happy ending.

In truth, the Grinch was a misunderstood loner who rejected popular notions of conspicious consumption and was a forward thinking champion of environmental issues and energy conservation. Willing to defy the masses and brave enough to stand up to Santa in an effort to stop the needless slaughtering of trees and the squandering of natural resources and electricity.

The Grinch was, in reality, a modern day Chicken Little, attempting to warn anyone that would listen, that the sky is indeed falling. The time has come to honor this man and reanimate the film from a fresh, new modern perspective.

The Christmas Tree

Via The DMC

The Collapse: Tribune Files for Bancrupcy

I'm shocked because, 1, I didn't see this coming and 2, It's thus far receiving little media attention.

One of the top media companies in the United States has filed for bankruptcy, sending shockwaves through the ranks of journalists and editors.

The Tribune, which owns flagship dailies like the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune, as well as 23 television stations across the US, has been hit by falling readership and bad business decisions.

ABC News Australia

Monday, December 08, 2008

Post No Bills

Via Nixta Via Rufus

Sunday, December 07, 2008

1 Million copies of a Fake New York Times Newspapers Distributed

Given the amount of news I absorb I am shocked that I didn't see this when I happened. I'm not sure what NY coverage was like on this but I didn't see a thing here in Los Angeles.

On November 12, The Yes Men, a group of "culture jamming" activists circulated 1 million copies of a fake New York Times Newspaper with headlines like "Iraq War Over", "Universities to be free", "Bike paths to be expanded", Thomas Friedman to resign".

I can't think of a more appropriate response to the lack of credibility in controversy-plagued journalism, the levels of disinformation in television media and the pervasive amount of spin in our culture. Bravo gentleman.

The logistics of pulling this off obviously required a lot of preplanning, time and the work of many volunteers. Gawker has a good breakdown of how things were coordinated on the day the papers were distributed

Laughing Squid has links to the online and pdf versions of the paper.

The Yes Men website

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Scent, Birth Control and Women's Taste in Men

I believe that Tom Robbins writes in one of his books that love is 85% smell. I have always believed that scent plays a powerful role in attraction. A recent study reported by Scientific American suggests that birth control may effect a woman's sense of smell and the type of men they are attracted to.

An excerpt:
This year 2.25 million Americans will get married—and a million will get divorced. Could birth control be to blame for some of these breakups? Recent research suggests that the contraceptive pill—which prevents women from ovulating by fooling their body into believing it is pregnant—could affect which types of men women desire. Going on or off the pill during a relationship, therefore, may tempt a woman away from her man.

Studies suggest that females prefer the scent of males whose MHC genes differ from their own, a preference that has probably evolved because it helps offspring survive: couples with different MHC genes are less likely to be related to each other than couples with similar genes are, and their children are born with more varied MHC profiles and thus more robust immune systems.

A study published in August in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, however, suggests that women on the pill undergo a shift in preference toward men who share similar MHC genes. The female subjects were more likely to rate these genetically similar men’s scents (via a T-shirt the men had worn for two nights) as pleasant and desirable after they went on the pill as compared with before.

Scientific American: Birth Control Pills Affect Women's Taste in Men

Friday, December 05, 2008

Theatricized Reality: Petroleum Town

Much of what we call culture is the creation of different worlds or realities, theatricized versions of reality. It's always interesting to note what the salient or common features of those realities are. In literature, genre can be thought of as as the or theater of expectations.

Is it an accident that both Mobil and Chevron would choose to depict themselves and the world they exist in as clean, bright and green? The oversimplified illustration have a childlike quality. One is in fact a game.

Mobil's "Real" Energy World

Chevron's Energyville

This week, I drove by Chevron's refinery in El Segundo, California. Not even the aerial shot fully conveys how massive, sprawling and dystopian this thing looks.

This is a comment on visualization not criticism of the oil industry. Those companies and their products are a necessary, albeit complicated parts of our real world. To malign them, wholesale, would be oversimplistic.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

"Trample the Children Sale" at Toys R US

Given the recent trampling at a Long Island Walmart you would think that Toys R Us would pull a spot that promotes a DOORBUSTERS sale. Unreal. For Gods Sake, think of the children.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Non-Verbals: Love, Lust and Facial Expressions

Members of the opposite sex can spot whether someone is after a one-night stand or something more permanent just by looking at their face, scientists said on Wednesday.

On men, a square jaw, large nose and small eyes are more likely to betray the look of lust than of love.

Women found men with softer features more likely to opt for commitment.

But the Durham University-led research found that while men can judge whether a woman is footloose-and-fancy-free or not, there is no common facial detail to explain it.

About 700 heterosexual people took part in the survey carried out by Durham, St. Andrews and Aberdeen universities.

In one study, 72 percent of the 153 participants correctly identified the sexual attitudes of a group of men and women in their 20s after being shown photographs or facial images.

Published in the journal "Evolution and Human Behaviour", the research also showed that women who were open to short-term sexual relationships were usually seen as more attractive.

VIA Reuters: How to identify the look of love... or lust

Additional Links:
University of Aberdeen: Face
Research Lab

Guardian UK:Love at first sight just sex and ego, study says

Written by a 9-year-old. "How to Talk to Girls".

9-year-old Alec Greven is the author of "How to Talk to Girls".

Excerpt: NY Post

The fourth-grader from Castle Rock, Colo., advises Lothario wannabes to stop showing off, go easy on the compliments to avoid looking desperate - and be wary of "pretty girls."

"It is easy to spot pretty girls because they have big earrings, fancy dresses and all the jewelry," he writes in Chapter Three.

"Pretty girls are like cars that need a lot of oil."

He advises, "The best choice for most boys is a regular girl. Remember, some pretty girls are coldhearted when it comes to boys. Don't let them get to you."

Amazon: How to Talk to Girls

Disgusting. I'm not sure that's the right word, but it's the word that comes to mind.

And lazy. They sell these in 7_Elevens in Los Angeles. Cheap plastic spoons with "tamarind" on them. Rubber-banded together in a plastic bag. Do they sell spoons with Nutella in London? I never saw that when I lived there.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Headline Brilliance: "Bush Sends Rice To India"

His heart was in the right place...

From Eyewitness News

Monday, December 01, 2008


A freaky Kinder commercial from the 80s.

Rethinking the details: Muji Design Awards

No waste, straw straws.

Outdoor Trash Packs. Opens into a triangular self-supporting shape.

Grandpa's nail.

See the other winners at: Muji Award International Design Competition