Sunday, February 28, 2010

Sunday School at the Sherman Foundation: Roger Ebert is a man. You are most likely a big pussy.

This month's issue of Esquire magazine has an incredible profile piece on Roger Ebert: Roger Ebert: The Essential Man. This man has a rare and beautiful inner strength and a hell of a lot of hearth. I am humbled, inspired and in awe.

t has been nearly four years since Roger Ebert lost his lower jaw and his ability to speak. Now television's most famous movie critic is rarely seen and never heard, but his words have never stopped.

Roger Ebert can’t remember the last thing he ate. He can't remember the last thing he drank, either, or the last thing he said. Of course, those things existed; those lasts happened. They just didn't happen with enough warning for him to have bothered committing them to memory — it wasn't as though he sat down, knowingly, to his last supper or last cup of coffee or to whisper a last word into Chaz's ear. The doctors told him they were going to give him back his ability to eat, drink, and talk. But the doctors were wrong, weren't they? On some morning or afternoon or evening, sometime in 2006, Ebert took his last bite and sip, and he spoke his last word.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Campbell's Soup Can's Neuromarketing-Led Redesign.

Via Fastcompany (I love the title of their piece: "Waiter, There's Pseudo-Science in My Soup" Magazine )

The Wall Street Journal reports that Campbell's has just unveiled a rebrand of its canned soups, spurred by two years of "neuromarketing" analysis. The new cans hit supermarkets this fall. Campbell's said traditional customer feedback wasn't telling the company why soup sales weren't doing so hot. "A 2005 Campbell analysis revealed that, overall, ads deemed more effective in surveys had little relation to changes in sales," the WSJ says.

So they turned to "science." Campbell's hired Innerscope Research Inc. to conduct tests on a whopping 40-person sample to see what design elements produced the most "emotional engagement."

The team clipped small video cameras to the testers at eye level and had them later watch tape of themselves shopping for soup. Special vests captured skin-moisture levels, heart rate, depth and pace of breathing, and posture. Sensors tracked eye movements and pupil width.

I would have really liked to watch how the neuromarketing research was translated into actionable recommendations that fed into the design process. In my experience, even processes as seemingly straightforward as usability testing for websites run into problems of interpretation. For instance, you can observe that most visitors to a website click on a narrow number of links when visiting a site and searching for something but it doesn't really tell you "why" they did or directly offer up answers to solutions for design problems. (The last thing any designer wants is a nerd with a clipboard standing over their shoulder directing the design.)

Focus Groups
Something that should have died a long time ago but ignorantly persists is the use of focus groups in advertising and corporate design initiatives.

Several books have come out in recent years with fascinating insights into human decision-making processes. Among them: Jonah Lehrer's "How We Decide" and Dan Ariely's "Predictably Irrational". In one example from "How We Decide" Jonah Leher describes a study by University of Virginia psychologist Timothy Wilson. He had a group of students taste and rank several brands of Jam. The students were able to rank the jams very much in line with the results of a consumer reports study. A follow-up group of students were asked to fill out a questionnaire and explain their choices. The results were inconsistent and correlated poorly with the consumer reports study. It seems that thinking too much and being forced to rationalize decisions leads people to consider variables that are unimportant and confusing to what one actually experiences and feels.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Upside Down Celebrities

You can view the entire series, and there are a lot of them, here. Thanks Allan

"I don't have freckles, they're little cancer kisses"

Today's Shermanism: Cancer Kisses (freckles)

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Aesthetic Definition and Reversal of "Grape".

Grape, more than any other artificially created flavor lacks verisimilitude. It never tastes anything like grapes. It actually tastes like "purple". (Dave Chappelle's brilliant bit on grape drink (sugar, water, purple) touches on this.)

Two of my nieces both hate grape flavored things. They both say that it tastes like "medicine". My theory is that, in a beautiful irony, the attempt to use grape flavoring to make medicine appealing to children actually did more to destroy the appeal of grape flavoring in food products. Could the food manufacturing industry sue the pharmaceutical industry for destroying the equity of a flavor?

The Poetry of Destruction: Aerial Shots from 9/11

These newly released aerial shots from 9/11 capture more than anything else I've seen how massive and devastating the fall of the towers was. Horrific and breathtaking.

You can see the entire set of photographs here: Newly Released 9/11 World Trade Center Aerials. Props to Quinn for posting on FB.