Sunday, November 15, 2009

Brands leave their mark on children's brains

Truncated excerpts:
The idea may be "unpalatable", but companies seeking an edge over their rivals should ensure that children are exposed to their brands as early in life as possible.

This was demonstrated by presenting students with a range of real and fictional brand names and asking them to indicate as quickly as possible whether a brand was real. If a brand had been experienced from birth, the students were quicker to recognise it as real than if it had been encountered from age five and up. A second experiment showed that students were also quicker at accessing information about early encountered brands compared with late-encountered brands, as indicated by the speed with which they said a product was or was not made by a given brand.

These findings resemble classic "age-of-acquisition" effects, in which people are more proficient at processing words they encountered earlier in life.

Combined with prior research showing that people generally feel more favourable towards words and pictures that they find easier to process - a phenomenon called the "fluency effect".

BPS Research Digest: Brands leave their mark on children's brains

Soviet Deep Sea Garbage Dump

A spectacular image. I would love to see big high-res stills, the video's is a bit obnoxious and the quality is iffy. Still, it's an amazing sit. My next dive trip?

Via Colors Magazine

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Visual Miscellaneum

Picked up a copy of The Visual Miscellaneum (website for the book) this evening, one of the best books of data visualization I've seen in some time. , Very well designed, amusing topics explored, a very fun and interesting book.

From the author's site: Reduce Your Odds of Dying in a Plane Crash

Amazon Link

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Between the Folds (a Documentary on the art and science or origami)

Another fascinating look at how engaged minds can take something simple and beautiful. In this case the folding of paper. Below, a video from the Filmmakers@Google series.

About: Between the Folds chronicles the stories of ten fine artists and intrepid theoretical scientists who have abandoned careers and scoffed at hard-earned graduate degrees - all to forge unconventional lives as modern-day paperfolders.

Official site for the film: Between the Folds.

A full list of featured artists can be found on this site.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Quote Pull: Endless Summers

A great paragraph from a piece called Endless Summers (on Larry Summers) for the December issue of Vanity Fair

"People plant a little wheat. People demand to eat a little more bread, and the thing self-stabilizes. But it was [economist John Maynard] Keynes’s central insight that it’s not always that way. And it’s not always that way in particular because leverage [i.e., borrowing] can create situations where, when prices fall, then people have to sell, and so they fall faster. When asset prices fall, capital values fall, and, therefore, people are in less of a position to lend, and, therefore, other people are forced to sell. And there’s a whole set of these vicious cycles. You can also have a change in gestalt where people who had perceived things as safe all of a sudden move things from the concept of being safe to the concept of being risky, and if they’re risky, they don’t want to hold them. And so you see a large scale of abandonment. And I think in one way or another the leverage, the vicious cycle, the change in gestalt, the unwinding—that’s the financial crisis.”

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Deep Water (Documentary Film)

In 1968, 9 men set out to be the first to sail, non-stop and single handedly, around the world. The film, Deep Water documents the attempts of these men to complete their voyages.

The chronicle contains none of the themes and story lines one would expect to find in documentary about a great race. There is no classic rivalry played out between two men until the bitter end, no come from behind victory by an unlikely contestant no harrowing survival and no man against nature overcoming. Instead, the narratives turn inward as these men are absorbed by their isolation over the 10 months at sea. The end is an unexpected and heartbreaking anticlimactic tragedy and the best documentary I've seen in a long time. Tt is "a movie which will reduce the hardest of hearts to a shipwreck" (The Daily Telegraph).

I was tempted to write a summary of the story but I think I've said too much already. Just watch it.

Wikipedia entry: Deep Water

IMDB: Deep Water

On a related note there is a good piece in this month's Vanity Fair by James Wolcott, "I'm a Culture Critic Get Me Out of Here: Amid the smoldering wreckage of popular culture, the author blames Reality TV, which has not only ruined network values, destroyed the classic documentary, and debased the art of bad acting, but also fomented class warfare, antisocial behavior and murder." (December, p.146)

Inforgraphics: Resurrected, Feared and Seeking Converts

Via Rufus Via Nixta

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Heritage as a theme in fashion and brands

Given all the talk of the decline of America's preeminence as well as all the chaos and uncertainty in the world right now it should come as no surprise that people are looking back at earlier times in American life with nostalgia. A recent piece in the Wall Street Journal reported on the "American Heritage" trend in fashion. Varsity sweaters, newsboy caps, tweed, argyle sweater vests, checked shirts and shawl-collar cardigans are all on the comeback.

(WSJ:Designers Mine American Heritage for Rags and Riches)

This may be more accurately described ads the peaking of trends that have been in play for several years now. Things like argyle, have been around for several years now. Lacoste's comeback and Pan Am bags are old news. In New York City bars and restaurants the "hunting lodge" has been in full effect for many years.

Ralph Lauren has always been the master when it comes to capturing and romanticizing American Heritage.

I actually have a theory about the aesthetic narrative of Ralph Lauren for women.
There is a cliche moment in many films, a morning after moment between couples, the woman is dressed in the button up shirt the man had on the night before. There are many ways to read this: symbolic submission, a symbol of their coming together as one. She on some level has crossed over INTO his world

The aesthetic narrative behind Ralph Lauren is that moment on a larger cultural scale. Ralph Lauren leverages iconography and symbolic imagery more effectively than any other fashion brand. It is a storybook narrative of a classic, eastern-seaboard America. A folklore or industrious and wealthy men who's patriarchy is so powerful that even the women's clothes seem fashioned from "his" world from things pulled from "his" drawers.

That ain't no woman, it's a man, baby!
-Austin Powers
(From my essay: The Aesthetic Narrative of Ralph Lauren for Women)

A few years ago Canadian Club wiskey ran a heritage campaign that celebrated dad with the tagline "Damn right your dad drank it". It didn't do very well. I think they were on to something but missed the mark by centering the campaign on dad. Grandpa, more often than dad is the guy esteemed and revered as cool in a young mans eyes.

Related Previous Essays:

Life's Sweet Revenge. Part 1

Life's Sweet Revenge. Part 2: Decadence

Life's Sweet Revenge. Part 3: Pop Decadence, The Candy Macabre and Bourgeois Estate Sale

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Facebook and Twitter Stats

Both pieces below Via Hitwise Intelligence:

Facebook accounts for 1 in every 7 UK page views
Facebook accounted for 14.5% of all UK Internet page views during September 2009, equivalent to 1 in every 7. The social network is the second most visited website in the UK after Google UK, but because users view a much larger number of pages per visit, Facebook is the clear leader in terms of page views. As the table below illustrates, it currently receives more page views than Google UK, eBay UK and YouTube combined.

Twittered Out?
On the heels of yesterday's rumor that Twitter is close to securing an additional $100 million in financing, which would place the company's valuation in the $1 billion range, I decided to take a quick look at Twitter's market share of visits to see if the hype is matched by site traffic.

Another angle on measuring new user adoption is to track the volume of searches on "Twitter." As we can see in both visits and searches, Twitter appears to have hit a resistance point as of April 2009.

To explore the hypothesis that slowing and now decreasing market share of visits may be attributable to the drop in new users, we can turn to our Experian Hitwise Clickstream report that shows new versus returning users from the top Twitter traffic sources. Here's a table for those traffic sources in April 2009.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Talking the Talk (The language of your target audience)

Pepsi AMP's “Before You Score" iPhone app categorizes women into predictable, unimaginative stereotypes and gives guys pickup lines tailored to each "target". I'm really surprised by the apparent controversy and backlash (Via Mashable: Pepsi and AMP: We Apologize If Our App Was In Bad Taste). It's not shocking. In fact, it's very lame. The stereotypes themselves are cliche and pedestrian: Aspiring Actress, Artist, Bookworm, Goth, Nerd, etc. The girls in the cruddy illustrations — this may be the most revolting element — look like trannys. The copywriting is utterly stupid (the first pickup line for the "princess" type is "I'm so rich my driver has a driver". This is controversial? I wouldn't be surprised if the controversy is manufactured PR.

AMP Energy Website

This does however give me the opportunity to discuss something I've been thinking about, the widening gap between the language of consumers and that of marketers.

Coded language has always served the purpose of creating a differentiating identity that bonds insiders of a group as well as a membrane that keeps outsiders shut out. In general, verbal expression in contemporary culture has become increasingly loaded with color, profanity, shock and appall.

The language of advertising, which always presents a kind of theatricized reality, is constrained not only by federal law but the desire on the part of marketers to say nothing that could possibly offend anyone. The result is an unwillingness or an inability on the part of marketers to speak to their audience the way that members of their audience speak to one another. This becomes painfully apparent when a product or brand aspires to be edgy or is targeted at youth or urban markets. One of the reasons the ironically-sexist advertising for Axe deodorant has been so successful is that it "talks the talk" of its target audience. It talks about what their young male audience talks about — girls — and it does so in a way that makes you feel as if you're listening in on the banter of these kinds of guys. Most advertising, including that bullshit for Pepsi's AMP, doesn't tread anywhere near the reality or voice of their audience. It doesn't even dare to be as provocative as an episode of Entourage, Weeds or even Sex in the City.

See also (previous posts):

Axe Deoderant

Ironic Sexism

Graphic Designer vs client

100 Greatest Hits of YouTube in 4 Minutes

The web-video version of a "clip show". Short form video content condensed and compiled.

Via How It Happened

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Technology: Foreseen/Unforeseen: (Mobile Phones & The Segway Scooter)

One of the most fascinating aspects of technology is it's unpredictability. We are about as good at predicting what will stick as we are knowing what will be a smash-hit pop song or movie. Even more confounding are surprising ways in which technology is ultimately adopted and used.

See my previous essay:
Technology and Culture: The foreseen and the unforeseen.

A piece in last month's Economist: Eureka moments: How a luxury item became a tool of global development, discussed the remarkable impact of the mobile phones on developing countries.
How did a device that just a few years ago was regarded as a yuppie plaything become, in the words of Jeffrey Sachs, a development guru at Columbia University’s Earth Institute, “the single most transformative tool for development”? A number of things came together to make mobile phones more accessible to poorer people and trigger the rapid growth of the past few years. The spread of mobile phones in the developed world, together with the emergence of two main technology standards, led to economies of scale in both network equipment and handsets. Lower prices brought mobile phones within reach of the wealthiest people in the developing world. That allowed the first mobile networks in developing countries to be set up, though prices were still high.

Compare the mobile phone initially "regarded as a yuppie plaything" and the Segway scooter. The Segway at the time of it's unveiling was declared a revolutionary invention that would transform the world (in particular developing nations) but has thus far turned out to be a rather silly plaything. In most of my sighting the scooter is being used for marketing promotions. Of course, it may be too early to tell what will become of the Segway. Afterall, if history teaches us anything, it's that nobody knows anything.

Image above from my post titled: Chariots of Hummus

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Rory Sutherland: Life lessons from an ad man

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Participation = Destruction #5 (Ok, I've destroyed my television. Now what?)

2 interviews with authors related to my theme of Participation = Destruction.

KERA Think interview with Bob Garfield, author of "The Chaos Scenario, Amid the Ruins of Mass Media, The Choice for Business is Stark: Listen or Perish". I agree with Bob Garfield's somewhat bleak outlook. The disintermediation caused by technology will create more economic destruction and general chaos in the coming future. That said, his lament over the end of the ad supported content model makes me cringe a bit.

I've been thinking about the classic, harsh criticisms of traditional media. Books like Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television by Jerry Mander and Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman.(Paperback). It will be interesting to view all of this again in 10 years. Was television evil? Was it great? Was it a great loss? As the techno-media landscape continues to go through this incredibly disruptive period of change the perspectives get more and more confusing. And interesting.

NPR's On the Media: Digital Delusion: an interview with Matthew Hindman the author of "The Myth of Digital Democracy".
"Conventional wisdom says that the Internet has democratized politics by giving a direct voice to citizens. And while the bar for publishing - via blogs, podcasts and YouTube videos - has never been lower, there’s a difference between speaking and being heard."

Destroy Christmas!

This morning on NPR: Ho Ho No: Retailers Open Christmas Season Early. Despite, and because of the weak economy and growing unemployment, Christmas is already hitting retail shelves.

This trend continues year after year getting ever more ridiculous. In 2006 I wrote:
...the 3rd week of July and they already had some Halloween candy and Autumn decorations out. The shelf-life window for holidays keeps getting opened wider and wider. Where does it end? Holidays overlapping one another? Maybe we'll start to see holiday mash-ups. Wearing costumes and going house to house to exchange gifts. With the divorce rate what it is and the remarrige configurations getting more and more complicated many people are already do a house-to-house visitation style on Christmas. We already have the evil stepmothers why not add costumes. (Holiday Mashups)

It's a greedy "kill the goose that lays the golden eggs strategy" that retailers are engaging in. There is only so far you can stretch symbols and traditions before they break. They either become meaningless and collapse or become shells of their former selves. Santa could come simply to stand for "sale". The ultimate potential outcome is the destruction of Christmas. Which I find a rather delightful thought to entertain.

Anyone care to entertain a guess in which year Christmas will slam up against the 4th of July?

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

Saturday, October 10, 2009

"Civic Pride Product"

Last night at dinner someone described beer to me as a "civic pride product". By this he meant that people in different cities, parts of the country (and perhaps world) embrace, identify with, and defend this type of product as a part of their cultural identity. What else could be framed from this perspective? Newspapers? Baseball teams?

Un/Certainty: (Lack of) Ethics in Documentary Filmmaking.

NPR's On The Media Posdcast, True Enough: Ethics in Documentary Filmmaking. An interview with Patricia Aufderheide on her study of (and problems with) ethics and truthfulness in documentary films.

Some of the revelations:

"Winged Migration": The birds were not wild birds but raised for the intended purpose of filming them.

"March of the Penguins": Penguins are not monogamous and mate for life, as the film would lead us to believe. (They mate seasonally.)

In "Mighty Times" Supposedly historical footage was reenacted.

From a wildlife documentary shoot:
We tried to shoot a few, and missed both of them. Unbeknownst to me, the [animal wrangler] broke the next rabbit’s leg, so it couldn’t run. So we got one. On the next take, they then asked, “Should we break its leg again?” . . . the DP [director of photography] was sitting there, saying “No, I’m sure you wouldn’t want to do it,” but nodding his head yes. I made the decision, let them break it. I regret it. It eats me up every day. I can sort of rationalize this, that it might be killed by a natural predator. But for us to inflict pain to get a better shot was the wrong thing to do.

Un/Certainty: Apollo Moon Missions

It appears as if the veracity of the Apollo Moon Missions have been confirmed by Indian satellites. I kind of liked being uncertain about this, the debate over whether or not this actually took place was the most interesting part of it's history.

No Conspiracy in U.S. Moon Mission
Panaji: In a considerable downer for space conspiracy theorists, Chandrayaan-1's terrain-mapper camera has recorded images of the landing site of U.S. spaceship Apollo 15 and tracks of its lunar rovers that were used by astronauts to travel on moon's surface nearly four decades ago, a scientist said Wednesday.

Prakash Chauhan of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) said the images captured by the hyper-spectral camera on board Chandrayaan-1 debunked conspiracy theories that have claimed that the Apollo 15, the fourth U.S. mission to land on the moon was a hoax.

"We managed to identify the landing site of the Apollo 15 shuttle on the basis of the disturbances on the moon's surface. Our images also show tracks left behind by the lunar rovers which were used by the astronauts to travel on the moon's surface," Chauhan, who is presently attached to the Space Applications Centre at Ahmedabad, said.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Where on Earth...

have I been?

I haven't posted much lately. I've been traveling a lot, working long hours. I have lots and lots of things to write about and will get to them soon. In the meantime, some shots from the glamor that is my life these days:

A 50 something year old businessman playing solitaire on the plane. For real?

A 50 something year old businesswoman eating a Fiber One yogurt type thing. In plain sight. For real?

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Participation = Destruction #4: 50 things that are being killed by the internet

A list compiled by the Telegraph UK: 50 things that are being killed by the internet. The big one I think they missed is the value of trivia knowledge. Here a just a few of my favorites from the list:

1. The art of polite disagreement

11. Music stores

13) Memory

16. Hoaxes and conspiracy theories
The internet is often dismissed as awash with cranks, but it has proved far more potent at debunking conspiracy theories than perpetuating them. The excellent continues to deliver the final, sober, word on urban legends.

32. Chuck Norris's reputation

34. Mainstream media

50. Your lunchbreak

Previous essays in this series:

Participation = Destruction (1 Billion Internet Users, The Tyranny of the Masses and the Death of Digital Culture)

Let's Play Lord of the Flies! (Participation = Destruction #3)

Creative Surplus & Virtual Unemployment (Participation = Destruction)

Saturday, September 12, 2009

God's Special Creatures: Ranked by Human Fatalities

An amusing little list I found on BlurtIt: The 10 most dangerous animals in the world based on the number of fatalities per year. I love the range and spread on this list. Starting with bears and a meager 5-10 kills a year. Sharks and Crocodiles are to be expected but the number of kills for crocs is a little surprising. Taking the number one spot, Mosquitoes, trouncing the competition with 2-3 million fatalities a year. Edward Deming, one of the few human beings that deserves to be described as a "management guru" once said that most organizations are destroyed by things that people don't even recognize. Such is life. Inserted into the list are links to a few relevant pieces from The Foundation.

10. Bears: 5-10 fatalities per year
Read my essay: On Anthropomorphism: Bears

9. Sharks: About 100 fatalities per year

8. Jellyfish: About 100 fatalities per year

7. Hippopotamus: 100-150 fatalities per year

6. Elephants: 300-500 fatalities per year

5. Crocodiles: 600-800 fatalities per year
Read: An excerpt from my memoirs: Tears of a Crocodile Clown: Sick Days (early bouts with megalomania).

Read: Words, Crocodiles and My Red Man-Whore Belf

Read: Mother Nature, Bloody Bitch: Gustave (the giant crocodile) Burundi's "Man Removal Machine".

4. Big Cats: About 800 fatalities per year

3. Scorpions: 800-2000 fatalities per year

2. Venomous Snakes: 50,000-125,000 fatalities per year

1. Mosquitoes: 2-3 million fatalities per year

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Ikea Ignites Typographic Outrage Among Graphic Designers

Graphic designer's can be very pissy, but that's the nature of their calling. For the finest practitioners of the craft, sweating the tiniest of minutia and detail is at the core of their vocation. The latest company to ignite pissy designer outrage is Ikea. I just read in the Guardian: (Verdana: Ikea's flat-pack font) that they've changed the font used in their catalog from a customized version of Futura to Verdana.

I went to the Ikea site to take a look at the online version of the catalog, and must admit that I did recoil a bit. It's obvious that the decision must have been one made on the basis of economic efficiencies. Verdana was designed for Microsoft as a default system font in 1983. It was created specifically as a free and widely distributed font that would look good at reading sizes of the relatively low resolution of computer screens. And it does. It was created by one of the greatest modern typographers alive, Matthew Carter, who also designed such modern classics as Meta and Myriad. Where I cringe a bit is the way it looks used at large sizes. This is a screenshot of a spread from the new catalog's online PDF version:

Although originally trained as a graphic designer, I believe these situations should be framed in a way that is broader than simple aesthetics. The role of aesthetics in design is to create resonant meaning. Most people don't care what font Ikea uses because it affects them in ways that are too subtle to break perceptual threshold and cause notice. That said, these things do matter because they creates different meanings and different experiences.

Although much of it is quite cool, quirky and well "designed" the furniture Ikea makes can at times border on being junk (from a quality perspective). In his novel Generation X, Douglas Coupland referred to it as "semi-disposable Swedish furniture". What design and the brand do is augment this fact and create an experiential value that compensates (and perhaps masks) this reality. The customized version of Futura that Ikea used (called Ikea Sans) has a quirkiness and history that is not only tied to the brand's history but to European design history as well. The switch to Verdana, becuase it is modern and has strong computer and utilitarian connotations undermines this function of design for the brand (and it does look gross when used at large sizes on those spreads).

An Ikea catalog from the mid 60's.

Related links:
Now Public: IKEA Font: Futura to Verdana, What Changed and Why?

The Guardian: Verdana: Ikea's flat-pack font.

Business Card Design: Billionaire Stewart Rahr

"The front of the mock billion-dollar bill shows a picture of Rahr golfing with Donald Trump and Bill Clinton, and bears the slogan, "If I don't tell you how great I am, who will?" The back includes a picture of his $45 million Hamptons home, where he hosts charity benefits." (New York magazine: Introducing Stewie Rah Rah, Bearer of Awesome Business Card)

You're a total cock, but a funny one. I applaud you Stewart, well done!

Friday, August 28, 2009

"Yes, a secret man" is an anagram of...

"Yes, a secret man" is an anagram of Caster Semenya's name, the controversial, South African female athlete suspected of being a man. (The 18-year-old ace is said to have very high levels of testosterone in her body.)

Via NixtaDaily Star UK

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Why one wife now chooses to shop alone

Thank you Rufus.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Night of the Adeaters


A film about people who have been laid off from the advertising industry:

Lemonade The Movie, website

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Pepsi Logo Redesigns / Coca-Cola's Brand Consistency

The blog that I pulled this from had this titled as "Brand Logo Consistency". That probably isn't the most useful way to think about the comparison. Both are in fact true to the nature of each's brand. Coke's position has always been about authenticity, it is the original, "The Real Thing". Coke's logo should and has always been true to that. It's a timeless and iconic symbol. Pepsi on the other has always played hip, upstart to reframe Coke's position as stodgy heritage. Pepsi is the brand of youth, their latest tag "The Voice of a New Generation" has been the fundamental theme for years. No matter what year it is, Pepsi is that generation's cola. Now that I think about it, the new logo makes Pepsi look a bit like an old tart in hot pants. Somehow she's still getting away with it.

1992–1993: "Be Young, Have Fun, Drink Pepsi"

1997–1998: "Generation Next" - with the Spice Girls.

1999–2000: "For Those Who Think Young"/"The Joy of Pepsi-Cola" (commercial with Britney Spears/commercial with Mary J. Blige)

Even more amusing than the Pepsi logo changes is the list of slogans from the Wikipedia entry on Pepsi. It's like looking through a high school yearbook. Some truly embarrassing, insipid shit.

Mark Borchardt on the whole Coke/Pepsi thing, in an outtake from American Movie (perhaps the greatest documentary ever made.)

Thanks Meruleru!!!

The Economy Where You Live (Interactive Map of the US)

From NPR, Interactive Map: The Economy Where You Live. (Foreclosure, jobless rates and household income by county.)

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Mr Hobbs needs a Moonman!

Please Vote for Passion Pit's video for The Reeling! Nominated in the MTV 2009 Video Music Awards in the Breakthrough Video Category.

Click here to vote: MTV Video Music Awards, Breakthrough Video

My friend John Hobbs along with directors Sam Stephens and Ariel Danziger created the video. They way they went about creating it is pretty incredible. After they shot the footage for this new video he and his partners printed out every frame, thousands, manipulating/distressing them then glued them into thick bricks. They then built custom animation stands so they could rip/tear/animate the transitions etc., reshooting frame by frame then reimporting it all.

Congrats John! Will see you in a few weeks!

VOTE! DO IT NOW! Please.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Resonance: a film about design strategy

My irritation with IDEO publications is that they all talk around process and never discuss in detail or reveal specific process techniques. What you end of paying for is an expensive piece of PR for IDEO. This film, Resonance (a film about design strategy) by innovation consultancy Continuum also "talks around" process but is still a great, short watch with a couple of quote gems:

"...a good design strategy is actionable, you look at it and you know what to do next, and sometimes the things that are called strategy end with the insights and not the ideas, and you don't know what to do with them, you read it and you say "that's really interesting, I understand my customer so much better now... now what?"

"an insight is a really good question and an idea is a really good answer"

"were trying to come up with something that you can't think of today, but tomorrow is obvious."

Resonance from Continuum on Vimeo.

One of the primary process used in uncovering peoples explicit and tacit needs is called contextual inquiry, it involves direct interviews as well as the observation of people in the natural, actual setting of their lives and work. There actually aren't very good resources about this online (Usability Net, Wikipedia) but a great (although not quick) read on the subject of contextual design is Contextual Design: Defining Customer-Centered Systems by Hugh Beyer & Karen Holtzblatt.

Dispute Finder .022

Intel Research Labs has come up with a Firefox add-on called Dispute Finder that "highlights disputed claims on web pages you browse and shows you evidence for alternative points of view. Watch the Videos to learn more."

Users can also submit to Dispute Finder "snippets to highlight and what evidence to present for alternative viewpoints. You can create a new disputed claim, mark new instances of a claim on the web, and add evidence that supports or opposes a claim."

Monday, August 03, 2009

Product innovation: Beer in a box

In a effort to raise sluggish beer sales Miller is test marketing a home draft beer system. Beyond the unique packaging innovation the strategy is clearly meant to drive increase consumption. The 1.5 gallon unit is small enough to fit standard refrigerators but large enough to be a big, obvious reminder that there is beer on tap waiting to be consumed.

WSJ: MillerCoors Tests a Draft-Beer Box for the Fridge

MillerCoors, the second-largest U.S. brewer by revenue, has begun testing the 1.5-gallon "Home Draft" for its biggest brands -- Miller Lite and Coors Light -- in about a half-dozen cities, including Dallas, Phoenix and San Diego. The boxed product, which is designed to fit into refrigerators for drinkers to consume periodically, rather than for one-time party use, comes amid packaging overhauls by the U.S. units of Heineken NV and Anheuser-Busch InBev NV.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

New Developments in Web Typography

A good article on typography and the web, from Slate magazine (of all places): Down With Verdana! Typography on the Web is basic and dull. A startup called Typekit will fix it.

Latest versions of most browsers no recognize the CSS rule @font-face that allows for the embedding of fonts in web pages. This page (screenshot shown below) demonstrates what can be done with @font-face (displayed in Firefox 3.5)

The company Typekit offers subscription based service for the licensing and use of fonts online.

The advertising/editorial blur

This quote is from an essay by Rick Poyner titled Branded Journalism. It appears in the excellent collection of essays on design and visual culture called Obey the Giant.

It would love to see what this really looked like. It would be interesting to track connections between advertising and editorial content digitally across media channels, particularly if you could tie it all the way up to the media holding companies.

In reality, the divide between editorial and advertising has rarely been absolute, especially in the fashion and shelter titles. "Some years ago Henry Wolf, the magazine art director, took a copy of Vogue and attached a colored thread to every ad that related to some editorial mention within the issue," says Milton Glaser, editorial designer and co-founder of New York magazine. "When he was done the results looked like a small Persian rug."

The Body Lexicon

From The Globe and Mail, and article on the slang used to describe the body parts of middle aged women. Funny and horrifying at the same time: Obsession with aging female parts has created a new body lexicon

The Bitch Wrinkle
Also known as Chapter Eleven (an appropriate illusion to bankruptcy, given the cost of Botox). It's that wrinkle - some have two parallel lines - between the eyebrows.

Quilting Pattern
When wrinkles start to form in a horizontal pattern along with the vertical ones. Found primarily on the lower cheek.

Vampire Dinner Lips
We could call the lines around the lips by their quasi-medical term, perioral wrinkles. But that's not much fun. Better to follow Diana Athill's lead. In her recent memoir, Somewhere Towards the End, she wrote of the aging process with an admirable sense of humour. "One of my dearest old friends could never get it into her head that if, when doing herself up for a party, she slapped on a lot of scarlet lipstick, it would soon come off on her teeth and begin to run into the little wrinkles round the edge of her lips, making her look like a vampire disturbed in mid-dinner."

Ringed Tree Trunk. Also known as the Ropey Neck. We have Nora Ephron to thank for drawing our attention here. In her book, I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman, she observed, "You have to cut open a redwood tree to know how old it is, but you wouldn't have to if it had a neck."

Gludgeons. Otherwise known as Dewlaps. The little bulge of skin where the arm meets the torso. Vogue named the body part in their August 2008 Age-less Issue.

Bingo Wings Or Dinner Lady Arms. Even Madonna, a super-fit 50-year-old pop star, was revealed to have them - the flabby undercarriage of the upper arms - when she waved to fans earlier this month.

Crepey Cleavage
Not worth displaying with the same confidence the area once inspired.

Also known as The Pooch.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Top 10 Ironic Ads in Advertising History

The Consumerist has put together an amazing collection on this one: "Remember when you could buy barbiturates for the baby? Cover your house with asbestos? Or get heroin from the doctor? Okay, probably not, but thanks to the immortal beauty of advertising, you can take a trip back in time. Here's our pick of some of the most ironic ads in American history."

The Consumerist: Top 10 Ironic Ads in Advertising History

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Economist : Thinking Space

Thinking Space, a A promotional feature from The Economist profiles creative individuals and their work or "thinking" space. I've seen lots of publications do promotions that feature readers, particularly prominent or famous readers but this goes a little further than an image and a quote. It's always interesting to see someone's work space and the objects that are highlighted in each space are fun, anecdotal bits. Each profile also includes links to favorite pieces from the magazine and well as interesting things external to the economist. The 3D mosaic effect in the "space" explorer is just dope.

If you've never listened to The Economist's podcast they are worth checking out, both the "week ahead" and the special features. One of the top podcasts in my weekly list of things I listen to.

Get Get Get - Grapes! (Can I Get a Little Closer?)

This post goes out to BTS who sent me this and is for some reason does not want to post it to his FB profile. Great animation, really quirky and odd. I was beginning to get nervous as I knew it must be leading up to "something", but the end is a bit disappointing. Still, god fun.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Reflections on the Moon Landing (Hoax)

Monday marked the 40th anniversary of man's first steps on the moon and/or the greatest hoax ever pulled off. Either way, its a powerful story with an important message. If indeed the moon landings took place, it's an amazing feat of engineering and technology as well as a testament to collective achievement. If it was faked it is a triumph of stagecrafted perception over reality on a massive scale. Either way, the message of the moon landing is that anything is possible.

In the end, the goal of the moon landing and what is achieved by its faking are the same. There were no urgent, scientific reasons for a going to the moon. There was no Armageddon-like threat to the planet that the astronauts were saving the human race from. It was about bragging rights and being the first to do something that seemed impossible. The goal of the mission was the demonstration of scientific superiority. It was about creating and solidifying collective, cultural belief. It was about controlling minds.

I used to tell people that I didn't believe the moon landing was real, that I thought it was all faked. It started out as a thought experiment. A facetious, philosophical instigation. A way to get people riled up. An intellectual inquiry into the mechanics of "why" we believe what we believe. Given the fact that everything is spun on its axis in order to achieve some political and/or financial end, consciously considering what to believe as truth and what to reject as deception is a fundamental intellectual capacity required for consciously navigating one's way through life. Failure to do so renders one's self into an easily available resource available for domestication and harvesting by others.

Over the years these types of thought experiments have evolved into a theoretical perspective that I refer to as "quantum epistemology". In physics the concept of "superposition" refers to the collective combination of all possible states any given system might take. Subatomic particles are believed to occupy many simultaneous position at once (a superposition) and that it is the act of observation or measurement that collapses it in on a single position. Truth, to me, is often better thought of as a superposition of possibilities rather than a discoverable, stable, graspable possession. It is the act of belief collapses in on an isolated perspective and fixes it in the mind as truth.

A long view of scientific history makes it seem silly to take and defend a position on something such as the beginning of the universe or the origins of man. Science never quite gets to the bottom of anything. On the contrary, it is closer to a never ending process of revising what we though we already knew and pushing the number of things we don't know upward. The lesson of science is that everything is more complicated than we thought it was. Despite this, the most popular application of science if the forming of vehemently and aggressively defended certainties.

The cultural battles that rage over the issues like evolution and climate change aren't about truth, they're about control. History shows clearly two things. One, that people have a endless willingness and capacity to battle for control. Two, everyone who has ever lived has been wrong about almost everything that they believed. If time has a lesson it is that everyone is wrong.

So, do I believe that man has been to the moon? So many years entertaining both possibilities has completely "unfixed" any sort of position on the matter for me. There really isn't anything at stake or anything pressing me to decide either way. Someday, maybe something will happen happen, a super-powerful telescope will be invented that allows me to peer upon the surface of the moon and either see the flag and that little golf cart, or not. On that day it will be like opening the box and finding out where or not whether schrodinger's cat is alive or dead but until then I really don't know, not in any absolute, certain sense. And neither do you.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Strange Bedfellows: The Dirtbombs, The Smiths & Elvis Presley

Maybe it's the badass nature of the city that imbibes its people with such a powerful streak of individualism. Maybe it's because they don't ever expect to be famous and hence don't obsess over success and "perception" like people do in New York and Los Angeles. Regardless, I do love how my brethren from Detroit just do things, just because, or just because they want to.

I was on The Dirtbombs website and saw that in addition to the classic "blackula" tshirt they now have one featuring Morrssey.

My favorite rock n roll poster of all time is The Smiths poster for the release of the single "Shoplifters of the World". (I happen be in possession of a rare "subway size" version.) Such a strange intersection of 3 very different bands that happen to be among my favorites.

If you haven't heard of The Dirtbombs you owe it to yourself to check out the world's greatest rock n roll band.

More "banned", sexually themed ads.

For Sprite in Germany. What's most shocking about this one is how slick and cheesy it is. It's pretty clear that these are created knowing that they will be running on YouTube. I think we ned a term for the tired, sexually-explicit ads created to spread under the sensationalistic heading of "banned". These really aren't banned or controversial ads. They're spots created knowing that the target audience is male, young, online and responds well to this type of content.

I wonder how long before advertisers like Sprint are called out on this tactic. It really isn't any different than Camel cigarettes using a cartoon camel in their ads.

And a Dutch spot for coffee creamer.

Via Nixta

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Grotesque and Gluttoness Gastro-Alchemy

Last week I posted a link to a site called This is Why You're Fat, a celebration of grotesque and gluttoness gastro-alchemy. The site features culinary submissions like "The Flapjack Fiasco" (layers from bottom to top: pancake; cookie dough; pancake; peanut butter and jelly; pancake; chocolate and bananas; pancake; caramel, oreo, marshmallow, sprinkles, M&M’s; pancake; caramel buttercream frosting granished with Trix cereal.)

It seems that there a few food advertisers that, in an effort to drive increased consumption of their products, are dusting off that age-old tactic of supplying recipes and preparation tips. It makes perfect sense for Campbell's to offer up a casserole recipe on the back of a can of cream of mushroom soup but suggesting novel ways to consume Pop-Tarts and Eggo Waffles seems off category. I always thought these products sold themselves and if anything, required effort and strategies to prevent over consumption. These are food products specifically designed for immediate, no-fuss consumption. For many consumers heating Pop-Tarts or bothering to spread anything on their Eggos is a needless expense of effort and time consuming, frilly fussiness.

Do children really need to be encouraged to crumble warmed Pop-Tarts over ice cream or to make a "sandwich" by spreading yogurt between 2 heated Pop-Tarts? This print ad, titled "Made for Summer" does exactly that. And more. What happened to concerns over childhood obesity and the new stricter guidelines for marking to children.

The new TV spots and the website for Eggos are a srubbed for mass consumption version of "This is Why You're Fat". The creations are more restrained, the photography better and instead of over-the-top titles the novel Eggo creations are presented as the personal expressions of child creators. Megan's Master Splatterpiece is "splattered with as many kinds of jam and syrup" as she can find.

This is the dietary equivalent of mixing dopamine-jacking drugs and sex. Once people bring ecstasy, meth or coke into the bedroom there's almost no going back. Missionary at the tail-end of a blockbuster night just doesn't stimulate arousal anymore. Do you really want to start an arms race of dietary overstimulation? No one wins in this war, least of all our children.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Mighty Boosh: DVD Release, US Tour Dates

Finally! My favorite show in recent years, The Mighty Boosh, is being released on DVD for US audiences. All 3 seasons will be released by BBC America on July 21. (BBC America online store - click here)

To promote the DVD release the cast is touring the US.

NEW YORK — July 21/22
Wednesday July 22: Late Night with Jimmy Fallon

Tickets available at Ticketmaster and Club Box Office

LOS ANGELES – July 27-29
Monday, July 27: Chelsea Lately
Tuesday, July 28: 6-8pm signing at Amoeba Music

Limited Edition T-Shirt, available only at Comic-Con :(

The Mighty Boosh: YouTube Channel

The Mighty Boosh, on Flickr

Tron Reboot

Tron Reboot. A series of shorts by my friend Ben Hansford

Monday, July 13, 2009

Short Form

In this age of texts and tweets it seems only natural that expressive forms follow suit and reduce themselves to the bare minimum. Some example of super short-form expression and entertainment formats.

NPR's Three-Minute Fiction, Summer Writing Contest! Original short stories that can be read in three minutes or less (500-600 words). Listeners have already submitted over 3,000 entries.

Texts From Last Night (Remember that text you shouldn't have send last night? We do.)
"he spent the whole night trying to convince me into a2m. i won't even use the pb til i clean the jelly knife. i love him but it's not going to happen."

3 Frames: a blog devoted to animated gifs crafted from 3 frames from a motion picture.

One Sentence: True Stories told in one sentence.
"It was perfectly in character for me as a child, when I maintained to my first grade teacher that my favorite animal was not a giraffe or tiger, but grass."

Jim Bishop. Castle Builder

The 15th Hole

Another great New York Times interactive feature, an interactive, 3D exploration of the 15th hole of the US Open Golf Tournament.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Swedish Armed Forces: Online Recruitment Test

The Swedish Armed Forces have developed an online recruitment test that consists of 9 interactive exercises that test memory, logic, impulse control, ability to detect threat, etc. Some of my friends have commented that it's a bit creepy. I think it's one of the best pieces of interactive web theater I've seen in a long time.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

What's Jamming My Radar?

I haven't been writing as much in the last month so I've decided to share some of the things that are "jamming my radar", some great books, podcasts, etc.

On creative process. Two great podcasts with screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects, Valkyrie). He's an amazing talker and storyteller. Both of these are great listens.

Christopher McQuarrie discussing the process of tackling a historical piece (Valkyrie), the struggle of authenticity, and the power of Tom Cruise.

Creative Screenwriting Magazine podcast with Christopher McQuarrie. Great stories about The Usual Suspects, filmmaking and Valkyrie.

WNYC's Radio Lab: Stochasticity
This hour, Radiolab examines Stochasticity, which is just a wonderfully slippery and smarty-pants word for randomness. How big a role does randomness play in our lives? Do we live in a world of magic and meaning or … is it all just chance and happenstance? To tackle this question, we look at the role chance and randomness play in sports, lottery tickets, and even the cells in our own body. Along the way, we talk to a woman suddenly consumed by a frenzied gambling addiction, two friends whose meeting seems purely providential, and some very noisy bacteria.

From "This American Life": Origin Story
TAL producer Sarah Koenig tells the story of her father, Julian Koenig, the legendary advertising copywriter whose work includes the slogan “Timex takes a licking and keeps on ticking” and Volkswagen’s “Think Small” ads. For years Sarah has heard her dad accuse a former partner of stealing some of his best ideas, but until recently she never paid much attention.Then she started asking her dad for details of this fight for his legacy, and what she learned surprised her. (20 minutes)

I won't go into reviews of each but they are all great reads. I actually read Clay Shirkey's book a while back but re-read the first four chapters last week. One of the better books on technology and social change. I was introduced to all of these books, and most of the non-fiction I read these days, by the KERA "Think" podcast hosted by Kris Boyd, still one of my favorite podcasts.

The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Bozo Sapiens: Why to Err is Humanby Michael Kaplan and Ellen Kaplan

The Age of the Unthinkable: Why the New World Disorder Constantly Surprises Us And What We Can Do About It by Joshua Cooper Ramo

Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations by Clay Shirky

Drunken History. A series that consists of historical events told by someone who is really drunk and edited together with theatrical reenactments. The idea of having really drunk people retell stories is brilliant. People loose the self consciousness they normally have when they're drunk. In some ways it feels like sitting with a funny, drunk friend as they prattle on. This is my favorite, the girl telling the story is really funny and and has a certain drunken charm about her.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009


I really like these. From a Flickr set titled: Metasystem Transition by Etherhill. There isn't any info about the artist or images other than the tags: apparatus assisted photography, generative, man-machine, stochastic, Autopoiesis.

This reminds me of aboriginal dot paintings (an Spirograph). Very cool.

I've always really liked photographically generated abstract images. The photograms of Man Ray and László Moholy-Nagy are favorites of mine.

Photgrams by László Moholy-Nagy