The Curse of “The Great Omar”

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The luxurious but cursed Great Omar version of the “Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám.”

There once was a time when bookbinding was a craft and an art form, not a mechanized process at the end of a press run. This tale of such bookbinding is fraught with the unrelenting pursuit of perfection, passion, tragedy, perseverance, and plain old rotten luck.

Our story begins in 1901 with the renowned British bookbinders Sangorski and Sutcliffe, who resurrected the Medieval art of binding books with intricately inlaid multicolored leather set with real gold, jewels, and gems. As fortune would have it, their services were sought out by Sotheran’s Bookshop in London, who asked them to create opulent binding for the “Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam,” which soon became known as “The Great Omar.” The only instructions from Sotheran’s manager were that “it has to be the greatest example of bookbinding in the world…. put what you like into the binding, charge what you like for it, the greater the price, the more I shall be pleased; provided only that it is understood that what you do and what you charge will be justified by the result.” Read More »

Video Mapping Entertainment on a Plate

No longer just a mind-boggling novelty trick shown large-scale on building facades, 3-D projection mapping technology is being integrated into everything from live concerts, advertising, gaming, theater performances, product launches, and fashion shows. Now it has gone mini and personal, performing to an audience of one.

In Belgium, animation artists, Filip Sterckx and Antoon Verbeeck, from Skullmapping, have given new meaning to the term “dinner theatre” by putting the entertainment on the plate itself. Like a scene right out of the Disney film, “Ratatoille,” the well-known Le Petit Chef in Belgium amused diners by having a little chef personally prepare their meal right before their eyes. This example of spectacular precision videomapping isn’t just dazzling audiences with its new “gee whiz” technology, but has taken projection mapping to a new level by treating it as a tool to tell a story.
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An Eye-Rolling Presidential Election

It’s not just Americans who are aghast at this year’s bizarre Presidential election. In Copenhagen, this bus broadside, paid for by Socialistisk Folkeparti (SF), urged the roughly 8,700 American citizens living in Denmark to make sure they vote. Created by Uncle Grey agency in Copenhagen, the bus ad took a neutral public service stance with its “Americans Abroad Vote” message, but slyly slipped in its partisan preference by turning the back wheels into crazy Trump eyes.
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Philips Everyday Super Hero

Royal Philips, an advanced technology healthcare company, displayed its softer side in this 30-second spot just released in Australia. Created by Ogilvy & Mather London, the commercial was inspired by a real-life window cleaner who dressed up in a super hero costume and rappelled down a hospital facade to surprise and delight young patients in the children’s ward. In a twist on that story, the Philips video humanizes Spiderman by catching him when he is not fighting grime and showing that his life has the same hassles as the rest of us. The underlying message for Philips is that its focus isn’t simply on providing cutting-edge medical devices; they look at healthcare more holistically, recognizing the healing power of joy and laughter. The tagline for the ad says: “At Philips we see life differently. There’s always a way to make life better.”

Subway Refreshes Its Brand Identity

OLD SUBWAY LOGO

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NEW SUBWAY LOGO

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Subway, the world’s largest submarine sandwich chain with more than 44,000 locations around the world, has refreshed its identity with a new logo and symbol. A brighter, cleaner, bolder version of the chubby outlined wordmark that Subway has been using for the past 15 years, the new logo maintains the equity of its two color wordmark, but this time the “Sub” is a richer yellow-orange and the “way” a bright green. The signature arrows remain, but look more whimsical and less like a freeway turnoff. What’s really special about Subway’s rebranding is its new symbol – two opposing arrows shaping an “S” inside. Subway plans to install its new graphic identity in all of its restaurants in 2017. According to a Subway spokesperson, the design work was a cross-functional project led by an inhouse creative team, working with a variety of design partners.
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Turning Names into Visual Art

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Donor recognition walls are a common feature of museums, schools, public parks, and other places that are made possible by generous benefactors. Unfortunately, most donor displays look like boring lobby directories that list columns of names with no thought to aesthetics. So, it is always refreshing to see a donor wall that can be appreciated as a unique piece of decorative art.

C&G Partners created this stunning installation for Advisory Board Company, a Washington D.C.- based research, technology, and consulting firm focused on health care and educational institutions. Asked by the Advisory Board to come up with a way to showcase the names of its member clients, C&G created an installation out of thousands of slender, translucent rods, each engraved with a single member name filled in silver. A single silver set screw affixed each rod to one of hundreds of numbered wire strands, which were strung together to form a luminous curved, floor-to-ceiling curtain. The installation in the Advisory Board’s member collaboration space in Washington D.C. creates an aura that is elegant, ethereal, and dynamic. The design offers the flexibility of adding more member names in the future while maintaining the sculptural quality of the display. C&G also assisted those who want to find their names by incorporating a touchscreen directory that accesses a database of member names, quickly matching them to the numbered wires.
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Contemporary Art Show for Dogs

More Th>n, a UK-based company that insures cars, homes and pets, commissioned British artist and inventor Dominic Wilcox to create the world’s first interactive art exhibition for dogs. In addition to paintings and drawings created in a dog’s color spectrum, primarily yellow, blue, and gray, the show features the “Cruising Canines” exhibit, giving visiting dogs an interactive open window car experience; “Dinnertime Dreams,” an oversized 10-foot dog bowl filled with hundreds of “food-colored” balls, and “Watery Wonder,” an arrangement of dancing water jets that jump from one dog bowl to the next.

The exhibition was created as part of the #PlayMore campaign to encourage dog owners to give their pets more quality attention. More Th>n invited owners to take the #PlayMore Pledge to spend 15 minutes more time daily playing with their pet, and promised to donate £1 to the RSPCA if they do. That’s more th>n any other insurer has offered.

Taking Trump at His Word

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Trust Cargo is a Latin American freight forwarder that specializes in delivering live cargo such as fresh fish to the world’s top restaurants. In print ads, created by TBWA/Buenos Aires in Argentina and illustrated by Cristian Turdero, Trust Cargo humorously stressed that its freight deliveries could be relied on even in regions of the world that are in political turmoil.

Considering GOP Presidential candidate Donald Trump’s “promise” to build a 1,000 mile border wall between the U.S. and Mexico, the ad took Trump’s words literally and re-drew a map of the Americas with a Trump Channel separating the Southern United States from Mexico.
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Does Ugly Packaging Turn Off Consumers?

Left to right: Transitional packaging, 2012; current packaging
Left to right: Transitional packaging, 2012; current packaging

We all know that beautiful packaging helps sell products, but what is the effect of a package purposely designed to be ugly — not just ugly, but gross and icky?

In December 2012, Australia took an unusual approach to curb smoking. It didn’t ban cigarettes outright, but it did ban all design branding devices on cigarette packs. It outlawed any evidence of brand distinction and personality. Gone are iconic images of rugged, independent men on horseback and slim, stylish women who look like they know how to have fun. Instead Australia imposed what it described as standardized, or plain, packaging on tobacco products. Based on the premise that great design is persuasive and sells products, Australia used reverse psychology to change attitudes. It outlawed brand design elements including bright colors, logotypes, slogans, and taglines. It ruled that packs can only use Pantone 448c opaque couche, which market researchers deemed the world’s ugliest color, and the brand name now has to be shown in a specified generic font, size and location. Health warnings have to cover 60 percent of the pack’s surface, with photographs of diseases brought on by smoking. Instead of glamorizing the “coolness” of smoking, the plain packaging aims to get people to think twice about how smoking affects their health, and discourage youth from taking up the habit at all. In the first 36 months of Australia’s program, it is estimated that there are about 118,000 fewer Australians smoking as a direct result of standardized packaging.
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Budweiser Renames Itself Temporarily

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Every summer since 2011, Budweiser has touted its allegiance to America by rolling out packaging with patriotic themes. Its beer cans and bottles have featured the Statue of Liberty’s crowned head or raised torch. The red, white and blue stars and stripes have been presented in various slanted angles and patterns. This summer the self-proclaimed “King of Beers” has boldly gone where no brand has gone before. It dropped the renowned Budweiser logo completely and replaced it with the generic name “America.” Before you decide this is branding suicide, consider the rationale.

Budweiser was founded by Anheuser-Busch in St. Louis, Missouri, around 1870. Adolphus Busch named his beer Budweiser to appeal to German immigrants like himself. He modeled the beer after a Bavarian lager made in the German town of Budweis, founded by King Ottokar in 1245. King Ottokar actually coined the slogan “The Beer of Kings.” Also, in what is now the Czech Republic, the name Budweiser name had existed in Budějovice since the 16th century. In fact, there is still a Czech beer called Budweiser Budvar.

All was well for decades since beer was mostly a local product, which didn’t travel well over long distances. But pasteurization and refrigerated freight cars turned the St. Louis-produced Budweiser into a brand known throughout the land. This forced the St. Louis brewer and the two European brewers that all called their beer Budweiser into a trademark dispute, which was resolved in 1938, with the agreement that Anheuser-Busch could use the brand name Budweiser only in North America.

Fast forward to 2008, when a Belgium-based beer giant acquired the St. Louis-produced Budweiser label and changed its corporate name to Anheuser-Busch InBev. That made Budweiser’s American roots even more confusing – this at a time when other U.S.-made beer brands were heavily cutting into Budweiser’s market share.

Budweiser decided to strengthen its American heritage by launching a major campaign during the peak beer-guzzling summer months. The New York-based design firm Jones Knowles and Ritchie was asked to create limited edition packaging for a summer-long campaign called “America is in your hands.” The 2016 marketing effort runs from May 23 through the November general election.

Temporarily replacing the Budweiser label with “America” was a bold move, but one that probably won’t confuse consumers. The graphic styling of the cans and bottles look identical to the usual packaging. Only the text has been swapped out with phrases like “Land of the Free, Home of the Brave,” “e pluribus unum,” and the lyrics to the “Star-Spangled Banner.” The bottles look eerily the same as the regular ones, except for arousing an inexplicable urge to salute and sing “America the Beautiful.”

Motorola: It Only Takes One Letter

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Consider this: One out of every four car accidents in the U.S. is caused by texting when driving. Texting while driving is now the leading cause of teen deaths. The problem is prevalent anywhere on the planet that has cell phones and distracted drivers, as is evident by this print ad created by F.Biz in Sao Paulo, Brazil. This skid marks public service message wasn’t done by a car manufacturer or the highway patrol; it was sponsored by mobile-phone maker, Motorola.
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National Park Service Celebrates 100th Birthday

The National Park Service turns 100 years old on August 25, 2016, and it is marking the milestone with an ad campaign aimed at raising awareness of just how diverse and magnificent America’s national parks are. More than forests, waterfalls and geysers, the National Park system actually encompasses 411 sites, including national monuments and designated historic landmarks such as the infamous federal prison on Alcatraz island in San Francisco, the Statue of Liberty in New York, the Iolani Palace in Hawaii, the World War II Japanese American concentration camp in Manzanar, California, and the gold mining town of Cripple Creek, Colorado. No matter where you live in the U.S., there is a National Park site nearby.

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Kentucky Derby Violates (Almost) All The Rules of Naming

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Horse racing fans were on pins-and-needles watching the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs last Saturday, but brand naming experts were probably rolling their eyes and guffawing every time the announcer called out the contenders’ names. The Derby’s naming protocol violates the most basic rules of name development. As anyone in the branding business will tell you, successful names have to be unique, memorable, pronounceable, simple, easy to spell, evocative, and trademark-able. In other words, just the opposite of Triple Crown thoroughbred names.
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Lee Broom’s Salone del Automobile

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Food trucks and pop-up stores are proliferating all over the world, but this is the first time we have heard of a mobile lighting showroom. Created by British designer Lee Broom, the Salone del Automobile is located in a moving van that stops in key urban design districts between London and Milan. From the outside, the vehicle looks like an ordinary delivery van, but when the back door is open, it looks like an elegant Italian palazzo with Corinthian columns and decorative stucco details. The interior is painted a subtle gray with an illuminated floor for effect. It provides the perfect background for Broom’s new lighting collection Optical. The idea of a traveling showroom has many appealing, cost-effective advantages. It literally places itself directly in the path of target customers, can quickly relocate to other promising geographic markets, and limits security risks by offering the ability to park the “shop” in a garage.
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Ford Kuga Appeals to Consumers with Great Taste


Israeli ad agency BBR Saatchi & Saatchi in Tel Aviv took the claim “great taste” literally in demonstrating the quality materials that go into the making of the new Ford Kuga. It served Canadian illusionist Eric Leclerc savory hors d’oeuvre bites of the seat, steering wheel, window glass, and engine belt on an elegant silver platter, which Leclerc sampled with euphoric pleasure. The implication is that only the most scrumptious ingredients go into the making of a Ford Kuga. Whether this translates to a superior driving experience or not is debatable, but it got you to watch.

Czechia: New Name, Old Country

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On the national branding front, the big news is that the Czech Republic has just adopted the shorter, friendlier name Czechia for all but formal occasions. The name change has been under discussion since the break-up of Czechoslovakia in 1993. Czechia is not the first nation to limit the use of “Republic” in its name. The Slovak Republic goes by Slovakia, the Federal Republic of Germany goes by just Germany. “Cesko” is what many Czechs call their country, but it didn’t make the cut because people like former Czech president Vaclav Havel said the name made his “flesh creep.” So, Czechia it is. Now it is up to Czech designers to promote the national brand on T-shirts, coffee mugs, soccer jerseys, and all kinds of tcotchke.