Pop Culture

Marketing a Pagan Holiday

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In the United States, Halloween is an $8 billion a year industry – and growing. It is second only to Christmas in terms of generating sales, and it ranks No. 1 in candy sales, topping even Valentine’s Day. Halloween is also the third largest party occasion, after New Year’s and the Super Bowl. And it is not just kids who celebrate. More than 62% of American adults between the ages of 18-24 say they wear Halloween costumes; 44% between the ages of 25-34, and 40% between the ages of 34-44.

The demographic spread of Halloween revelers gives mask and costume makers a lot of latitude. Adults tend to favor masks of the real heroes and villains in the news; teen boys go for gore and gorillas, and little girls are drawn to storybook heroines like the Little Mermaid. Celebrities rating their own mask is nearly the equivalent of being honored in a wax museum.

The reason we find this relevant to our business/design blog is that Halloween is a tribute to marketing genius. It’s not a patriotic holiday, not a religious holiday, and not an historic commemoration. Like Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day, it’s a “merchant-promoted holiday” devised largely to sell more products.

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Humor

The Art of Sheep Herding

This video raises several deep and perhaps unanswerable questions. Is it the secret desire of every Welsh shepherd to be a designer? How would the Hollywood shepherder pig, Babe, and his barnyard friends have handled the making of this video? What are the limits of LED technology? Do Welsh shepherds have too much time on their hands? Some of the players behind this three-and-a-half minute spot for Samsung TV are The Viral Factory ad agency and Welsh national sheep herding champion Gerry Lewis. No famous sheep were used – or harmed – in the making of this film.

Posters

Proposed 2012 Olympic Transport Posters

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Graphic, minimalist and understandable in any language, this set of posters for the 2012 Olympics in London was designed by University of College Falmouth graduate, Alan Clarke. The design proposals were actually meant to brand the Transport of London, with text on each poster identifying which underground station links to each Olympics event. “My thinking behind these posters was to convey the movement and energy of the games in a simple abstract way,” Clarke explains. Clarke’s images are evocative of the visuals created by the legendary German designer Otl Aicher for the 1972 Munich Olympics. Clarke, who now works as a designer at Gendall in Falmouth, was a D&AD Best New Blood Winner for 2009.

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Awards

Fast Company Celebrates the 2009 Masters of Design

Fast Company named this year’s Masters of Design: David Butler, vice president of global design for Coca-Cola; David Adjaye, architect and CEO of Adjaye Associates, David Rockwell, interior architect and head of Rockwell Group, Alberto Alessi, head of the famous Alessi Design Factory, and Lisa Strausfeld, new media design and partner of Pentagram in New York. This is a brief interview with three of the recipients. In future weeks, we hope to bring more indepth remarks by the 2009 Masters.

Book Excerpt

Empathy: Standing in the Shoes
(or Lying on the Gurneys) of Others

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Editor’s Note: In his new book, Change by Design, Tim Brown, CEO of the celebrated innovation and design firm IDEO, steps back from focusing on creating elegant objects and beautifying the world around us, to examining design thinking itself. The best designers, he says, match necessity to utility, constraint to possibility and need to demand. Most people are “ingenious at adapting to inconvenient situations that they are often not even aware that they are doing so,” Brown claims. “Traditional research techniques such as focus groups and surveys, which in most case simply ask people what they want, rarely yield important insights…Henry Ford understood this when he remarked, ‘If I’d asked my customers what they wanted, they’d have said a faster horse.’” This is an excerpt from the chapter where Brown talks about three mutually reinforcing elements of any successful design program – insight, observation and empathy. We asked to present the section on empathy.

It’s possible to spend days, weeks, or months conducting [ethnographic and behavorial] research, but at the end of it all we will have little more than stacks of field notes, videotapes, and photographs unless we can connect with the people we are observing at a fundamental level. We call this “empathy,” and it is perhaps the most important distinction between academic thinking and design thinking. We are not trying to generate new knowledge, test a theory, or validate a scientific hypothesis—that’s the work of our university colleagues and an indispensable part of our shared intellectual landscape. The mission of design thinking is to translate observations into insights and insights into products and services that will improve lives.

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Typography

Entrepreneurial Design:
Turning a Passion into a Product

The Pentagram 365 Typography Calendar now celebrates its tenth year, prompting us to ask its originator Kit Hinrichs what drove him to create this now popular product.

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What was your inspiration for the calendar?
I’ve long been an admirer of Massimo Vignelli’s iconic Stendig calendar, introduced in 1966. It’s classic Helvetica typeface is boldly graphic, contemporary and easy to read. If I may speak for Massimo, it was “Perfetto!” Yet as someone who loves and uses type, all kinds of type, I felt there was room for a wall calendar where the typography was in more than one face. So many people, designers included, have no idea who designed the beautifully crafted typefaces that are very much a part of our everyday life. I wanted to enable people to become more aware of type as a designed object.

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Foreign Correspondents

Why Branding Africa Is the Design Goal

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Editor’s Note: Martin Miruka is the founder, CEO and lead strategist of ATOM, the first indigenous brand strategy design firm in Kenya. Based in Nairobi, Miruka is also chairman of the Diversity Africa Foundation and KenyaOne, a nonprofit organization founded by ATOM to champion issues of diversity and the creation of a value-based national brand for Kenya. He is the author of The Passion of the Brand, a handbook distributed free to business leaders by ATOM to increase awareness and action around the fundamental role of brand strategy in building African businesses into global African brands. This interview continues our Foreign Correspondent series on the state of design in nations around the world.

How long has the design profession existed in Kenya?
Design has been around since 1967. It started with the creation of Kenyatta University, which was hived off the University of Nairobi (UON) to become a constituent college for training teachers. At that point, Design and Fine Art were created as Bachelor of Arts courses. Fine Art went to Kenyatta and Design remained at UON.

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Book Excerpt

Customer Wooing Styles

Editor’s note: People often ask the difference between how a public relation expert goes about wooing customers versus an ad agency, a designer, etc. In his top-selling book Zag: The No. 1 Strategy of High-Performance Brands, Marty Neumeier summarizes the differences in this tongue-in-cheek visualization. Neumeier is the author of several books on branding, lecturer and Director of Transformation for Liquid Agency, where he helps companies build their brands from the inside out. His book was published before social media caught on, so we don’t know how Twitter would fit into this comparison? Maybe a courtship between two emoticons.

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Industrial Design

Dyson Reinvents the Fan

Sir James Dyson continues to innovate with his bladeless fan, “The Air Multiplier.” Using the same technology from his “Airblade” hand dryer to create an addition to his long list of unique products. Although not available in stores until next year, you can get into the queue at Dyson.co.uk.

Typography

Designing a Font to Preserve a Vanishing Language

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In the state of Washington, type designer Juliet Shen has been working with a Native American tribe, called Tulalip, to create a font for the Lushootseed language. At the time, the Lushootseed was near extinction. Only five tribal elders were known to be fluent in the language. This was largely because the U.S. government launched an ill-guided program in 1912 to “assimilate” indigenous people into American society by sending their children away to boarding schools where they were forced to adopt European ways. Under threat of punishment, the children were forbidden to speak their own native language. Since Lushootseed had no written tradition, the history of the culture had all but vanished by the 1960s.

It wasn’t until Thom Hess, a University of Washington linguistics graduate student, started recording the stories told by elders in 1967 that an effort was made to devise a written language for Lushootseed. His field work led him to a Tulalip woman named Vi Hilbert, who embraced his interest in preserving the stories of the indigenous people who lived around Washington’s Puget Sound. Using a variation of the International Phonetic Alphabet, a system of symbols used to record every sound the human voice can make, Hess taught Hilbert to phonetically write out the Lushootseed words. Together, the two produced two Lushootseed dictionaries and worked tirelessly to write down cultural lore told by the elders.

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Book Excerpt

What Goes Into a Brand Brief

Editor’s Note: Alina Wheeler’s book, Designing Brand Identity, just released in its third updated printing, is a reference for anyone involved in branding. A comprehensive review of branding fundamentals, Wheeler’s book showcases best practices and pares away complexities so that common processes are easy to understand. It is a great guide for those entering the business, and for old pros, her book can be used in the same way that experienced cooks consult a cookbook to make sure that they haven’t forgotten any essential ingredients.

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Here’s Wheeler’s schematic of components that go into preparing a brand brief. “Many entrepreneurial companies have visionaries who walk around with this information in their heads; getting it on paper helps anyone who has the responsibility to execute the vision,” she says. “The best briefs are succinct and strategic, and approved by the most senior levels in an organization early in the process. If these briefs are approved, the balance of the project is more likely to be on track and successful.”

Advertising

Read All About It! NYT Goes to Turkey

This one-minute commercial was produced by Leo Burnett to announce the launch of the Turkish edition of The New York Times. Actual pages from the first edition of the newspaper were used to “wallpaper” the façade of recognizable landmarks in Manhattan and Istanbul, giving viewers a quick tour from New York Harbor to the Bosphorus. Notice how the financial pages were used to create the NYSE and Wall Street and the entertainment pages Times Square, etc. The clever ad was directed by Quba Michalski, with 3D and compositing by Dreambox.